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Why did the Boston tea-party members dress like Native Americans?

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posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 10:01 PM
Somebody, please help, I've been wondering about this since I was a boy looking at history books.
I assume it was members of a Masonic Lodge who marched to the Boston waterfront. But why Indian outfits? Some say it was Mohawk Indain dress.
All I've superficially read on this is that the costumes were not true attampts at disguises. Nobody thought that Mohawks would sneak into a huge colonial town to ditch some tea.
Some say the disguises were symbolic. The creole (local born) settlers were identifying with the land as natives, as well as native defiance and bravery. Were the costumes an act of cutting British ties?
It must have had some point, but what was it?
Was it an attempt to valorize Indians, or was it a racist protest at British trading with the "savages"?

posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 10:11 PM
reply to post by halfoldman

It wasn't just Masons, and only a few of them dressed like Mohawks.

From a brief over view, it seems more like they just didn't want to get caught.
Some wore costumes to make them selves look like Indians, others just wore ragged clothing and tried to disguise their looks.

posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 10:23 PM
reply to post by RuneSpider

Thanks for that, but I'm not entirely convinced.
Surely in the US, if you DON'T want to get caught you won't dress like a racial minority.

posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 10:29 PM
reply to post by halfoldman

This wasn't the US of today.

And, realistically speaking, at the time the Native were the majority, and people were on guard against attacks from natives.

posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 10:46 PM
reply to post by RuneSpider

In the vicinity of Boston, Natives were the majority?
Yeah in the expanding frontier areas there were still powerful tribes.
I still think it had a great significance that some of these rebels dressed like Indians.
I mean they weren't dressed like "Turkmen", or black slaves or known costume dress from the period (I suppose).
Even if they donned the Indian dress just to get away, it was done purposely.

posted on Dec, 13 2009 @ 11:57 PM
The entire community was behind the "tea party"; there was no need for disguise to evade identification. The "Mohawk" costume was intended to identify the participants as Americans, NOT British subjects, and not subject to taxes intended to bail out a failing trading company.

The "Mohawk" costume was used in subsequent tea raids for that symbolic purpose.

[edit on 13-12-2009 by John_Brown]

posted on Dec, 14 2009 @ 01:32 AM
reply to post by halfoldman

I once read that the (forgive spelling) Haudenosaunee, or Iriquois confederation influenced the the US Constitution. Perhaps it was significant that the Mohawks were a central part of that ideal of federation.

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 09:51 AM
reply to post by halfoldman

One wonders how many of the local settlers would have had some native admixture at that point? This may have had additional meaning.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Mohawks weren't taxed? Maybe there was some hoped-for Mohawk-settler alliance?
I've read that the British soldiers of the time were not really English, but were often sold by European nobles to the Brits. So maybe it was to remind German soldiers that they were also in costume. Perhaps the sentiment was: You are dressed up as something you're not (to defend something that doesn't concern you), so we can do the same. A parody on empire?
Strangely, the other memorable time when US whites dressed like natives as a sign of social distress was probably in the late 1960s.

[edit on 15-12-2009 by halfoldman]

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 01:42 PM
Yep, I figured it was just for was probably normal to see natives in small boats in the river and the British guards wouldn't think about watching their backs. Never thought to question it any further than that really

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 02:14 PM
Are you suggesting they donned native attire in order to peg the blame on the natives?
I've never thought of it in that context!

posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 08:01 PM
reply to post by John_Brown

I believe you are correct, by donning superficial symbols of native dress they were demonstrating an allegiance to the identity to their new home and its inhabitants.
However, this is very complex, because this sentiment seems to be the historical exception rather than the rule. It possibly had multiple meanings.
The Masons at least were very exposed to Payne and French revolutionary literature. Especially the latter focused on "the noble savage" as being free and unfettered by feudalism.
I think the Iriquois were always keen to include the new settlements as part of their native confederation. So it seemed to say: we'd rather take sides with a native confederation than be slaves to a foreign colonial power. If that is a possible meaning then it is hardly mentioned in histiography.
Of course the outcome for tribes that backed either power was not good, which is perhaps why this instance of dress-up is so unusual.

posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 08:11 PM
I was hoping the tea baggers were going to try and take over Alcatraz as a protest. Then we could of just locked them all up there.

posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 08:42 PM
From what I can recall and have read it is for several reasons:
1) Was to create a rift between the British and the native americans. There had been alliances since the 7 years war.
2) Part was to prevent the sons of liberty from being identified. Even though they were protesting, most of the docks and govermental offices were still guarded by the British, so a patriot would be identified, but in the middle of the night, if a person is dressed like a native american, it would be hard to disguinish.
3) And as a symbol that the patriots were Americans and not subject to the rule of the British crown, authority, and to protest the taxes on the drink of the day: Tea.

posted on Dec, 19 2009 @ 08:10 PM
reply to post by halfoldman

I recently attended an American history class at the local state university, and the characterization of native Americans was radically different from my high school lessons 15 years ago. No more were they noble savages or murderous treaty breakers. They were people with a sophisticated view of the world, struggling to find a way to survive. The colonists and natives were on common ground, with similar concerns about the British, preserving their way of life, and various people taking sides. It is a tragedy that Americans of the past failed to find a way to live with the people of this continent. So much more was lost than just lives. The America that never was.

posted on Dec, 19 2009 @ 08:31 PM
Actually it was totally unrelated.
People of that time had certain strange fetishes...

posted on Dec, 20 2009 @ 10:00 AM
reply to post by halfoldman

Masons? How wierd is this?

The American Mercury Newspaper, 1941
"...Six years before that memorable day, something even more memorable happened in Boston. It has come down in history as the Boston Tea Party. And it is no secret that the "Indians" who dumped the cargo on December 16, 1773, had emerged from the building which housed the St. Andrews Lodge, the leading Masonic body in Boston. Their job done, the "Indians" were seen to troop back to the lodge building -- and no Indians ever again emerged from the lodge. Instead, a lot of prominent Bostonians, known to be Masons, did emerge. And in the book which used to contain the minutes of the lodge and which still exists, there is an almost blank page where the minutes of that memorable Thursday should be. Instead, the page bears but one letter -- a large T. Can it have anything to do with Tea? It is perhaps the only instance in the History of Freemasonry were a lodge, as a body, has taken an active part in politics."

posted on Dec, 20 2009 @ 10:24 AM
Please, out of respect for fellow members: STOP referring to us as 'INDIAN'!

We, speaking as a Native American, ARE NOT from India. Therefore, we are not 'Indians'. To not observe this makes one look ignorant.

The term 'Indian' is a derogatory term USED BY THE WHITE MAN. Exactly like the 'N' word was/is used for African-Americans. NO DIFFERENT PEOPLE!

Its very offensive and must be addressed. Some of you may not know any better. Now you do. Some think we are actually all dead! lol That kills me - very humorous!

My tribe is the Cherokee. Within the Cherokee tribe, there are 7 clans. Should you want to know more about NATIVE AMERICANS, PLEASE, let me know!

Just remember that the terms Indian and 'n-word' ARE EXACTLY the same: terms placed on us by the white man. To call me an Indian is to call my black friend the 'n-word' - same deal.

It's important to know, as some of us will not hesitate to knock a tooth out to set the lesson in. I choose to educate instead. But, I can have it either way.

Indian is JUST AS BAD AS the 'n-word'. No difference. Period.

I will NOT TOLERATE my people being called outside of their name ANOTHER DAY here on ATS... I have tolerated it for too many years. Not a day longer!

[mod edit: upper-case to lower to avoid censor circumvention]

[edit on 20-12-2009 by 12m8keall2c]

posted on Dec, 20 2009 @ 11:43 AM
It was the original False Flag Operation. If we wore disguises we could not be singled out by a witness. also, to cause friction between the british and the local indians who were friendly to the british. I would assume.

Its so crazy in politics today in America. Its only a matter of time before a nasty act will kick starts off a fast conflict bloodless reclaimation. The politicians, bankers etc... are wrong here and I think they will all wont to hit the exits to not face the music. but you never know.. some think their dung does not stink... So the shot heard around the world II is not far off. If they keep going down this wage\debt\slave crap,

[edit on 20-12-2009 by Anti-Evil]

posted on Dec, 21 2009 @ 06:02 PM
reply to post by Little One

Thanks for pointing that out. Not being from America I'm always a bit nervous with the terminologies. I have, however had posts by Native Americans where they refer to themselves as "Indians" (for example see Messages about this appear to be mixed. The term also still appears in literature and politics (AIM, BIA, "Indain Counrty", pan-"Indianism").
Then I've also had other Americans criticizing me for using the term "Native American", since their ancestors had lived in the US for generations and they also feel "native" American.
Especially considering the large Asian Indian comminities in the US, I do agree that the term is a hitorical misnomer that is confusing, dated and perjorative. Where possible the specifc nation can be referred to ("tribe" may also be offensive), but often a collective term is required, and so far there is no clear replacement that doesn't endanger one's teeth somewhere or other!
Interestingly in German, there is a clear distinction between Asian Indian "Inder", and Native American "Indianer".
I wonder if there is a general consensus on whether "Indian" was really always intended in the same vein as calling African Americans the "n" word? "Black" seems to be OK for the African diaspora, whereas "red" would be offensive to Native Americans. That is really for Americans to address. I will call people as they request: some individuals find the politically correct terminology alienating and regard it as further mythologizing the past.
Perhaps some Natives have taken ownership of historical labels, just as gays have taken ownership of "queer", and blacks of the "n" word.

posted on Dec, 21 2009 @ 06:17 PM
reply to post by Little One

Hi there. I'm a Choctaw. I call myself an "Indian" and every single other native American / Indian / first national / whatever I've met refers to themselves as indians as well, at least when they're not referring to themselves as whatever hteir given people call themselves.

Why? 'Cause two syllables is easier than six.

Now the exception is up in Alaska, where the natives call themselves "natives". Not "native americans," just "native." Always said with a strong connotation of "...and you're not"

"Injun" or "redskin" or, in my particular experience, "swamp ni**er" on the other hand... those are three good ways to find yourself in a world of hurt.

So you're a Cherokee (I'll spare the old joke, "who isn't?" - oops! Sorry princess - OOPS AGAIN!). And you dislike the term "indian." well, fair enough, I know black people who hate being called "black". Trouble is, it's much easier to say, it isn't a slur and is rarely intended as such ("indian giver" being such an exception. Chewed my boss out for that one) and a very large number of people simply grew up using that term commonly.

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