Silences in Archives

The line that stood out to me came pretty quick on page two of this essay. The thought of “What else is there to know? Hers is the same fate as every other Black Venus: no one remembered her name or recorded the things she said, or observed that she refused to say anything at all. Hers is an untimely story told by a failed witness.” It’s as if what had happened to her doesn’t matter because it is merely unknown to many. That this bit of history is put off merely because it has no witnesses, or was never recorded to be remembered. I think this stood out to me because it is bothersome to think there are bits of history that will never be known. Accounts that may be vital to understanding grand events that will never come to light because at the time they were never intentionally remembered, or just never asked.

The ignorant “failed” witness in my mind is one that mentions the path of The Trail of Tears and how horrible it was but goes on to inform about only how the Natives were unhappy by it but given free land. No asking a direct subject what was lost, or the impact on themselves. The group that moved was so large, that it is much like how it happened to so many yet no one. Then there’s only the hearsay after the event from the natives about how horrible it was, which is only told through someone else’s words a while after. Overall, I guess what I am ranting about is that the idea of a failed witness allows for massive blanks in understanding history. It becomes impossible to know if there were white people angry over the forced removal of thousands of natives if anyone stood by their sides or fought for them. The focus of history was that the treaty caused a tragic event, but it allowed Natives to move to a free land that they had control over. It would be impossible to write an account from the travel the natives had to take to Oklahoma, much of it would be guessing and stringing together different accounts that were passed to others. There is a silence of first-hand events that are caused by lack of education, but also lack of interest.

The words “Hers is an untimely story told by a failed witness” give an impression that it was a time of hard misunderstanding, or miskeeping the facts. It was not a good time for the subject, and the subjects weren’t even something the witness seemed to acknowledge. In a way, this ties into many Native American affairs with the idea of not only an ignorant witness but one that does not care for the subject leaving blanks that might not ever be filled with knowledge. It is like unintentional censorship, though some of it may be entirely intentional it is hard to know for sure.

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