Education | Opinion

Peter d'Errico: Lessons learned from 'Lord Jeff' mascot brouhaha

The "Lord Jeff" mascots observes a game at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Still image from private YouTube video

Retired professor Peter d'Errico, who conducted research into the use of biological warfare against Native people, is happy that leaders of Amherst College in Massachusetts are finally dropping the school's unofficial mascot:
Significantly, the trustee statement made no pretense of any doubt about the root of the controversy, saying, "a central reason [to dislike the symbolism of Lord Jeff] has always been his suggestion, in wartime correspondence, that smallpox be used against Native Americans."

In this, the trustees faced the historical record: letters preserved in the British Manuscript Project, between Lord Jeff and his officers—principally Colonel Henry Bouquet—discussing plans to spread smallpox among the Indians, and "to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race."

As recently as a month ago, commentators in major sources like the New York Times and the New York Review of Books were describing the smallpox letters as "allegations" rather than fact.

It may be ironic that the Amherst College library holds a microfilm collection of the British Manuscript Project. I researched there in 2000-2001 to compile evidence of the smallpox plan and make it available on the Internet: "Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets." My motivation was to make good on a promise I made to Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota), who asked me to "find the proof" about the smallpox plans to counter the many commentators who denied anything like that had ever happened.

Get the Story:
Peter d'Errico: Amherst’s Lord Jeff Out: Lessons Learned (Indian Country Today 1/27)

Related Stories:
College eliminates mascot connected to smallpox blankets figure (1/27)
Peter d'Errico: Time for college to dump the Smallpox General (11/19)
School takes aim at figure who came up with smallpox blankets (11/18)

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