Here at Saint Peter’s, as we continue to call our newspaper “The Pauw Wow,” we are actively promoting institutional and systemic racism.
Michiel Pauw, the man our paper is named after, helped perpetuate violence against Indigenous communities and actively participated in the slave trade. The term “Pauw Wow” is also a play on “pow wow:” a blatant appropriation of culture.
We are complicit in the white washing of history, in the honoring of a man who does not represent our Jesuit values and in the oppression of Indigenous and Black communities.
The only way to truly demonstrate that we believe in the values we proclaim and correct a past mistake is to change our paper’s name — and do so now.
In 2016, an alumnus at Saint Peter’s wrote an article briefly detailing the history of the school paper’s namesake.
But what kind of person was Michiel Pauw, and why is our paper named after him?
These are two questions I have had since I heard the rumors about Pauw, and those rumors were not pretty. In fact, they were terrifying.
So, I set out to do what any curious person would do — research.
What I have discovered is even more horrific than the rumors.
Pauw was a Dutch man who settled in Pavonia, which included Jersey City, in the 17th century. Pavonia is the Latinized version of Pauw’s name meaning peacock.
At the time, the Dutch West India Company promised land grants and the title of patroon to anyone who could bring a certain amount of settlers to the land.
According to the first edition of our newspaper, Pauw was not only the patroon of Pavonia, but “he was in fact, one of the important figures in the Holland of his day, a member and Director of the West India Company, and a prime mover in her colonization plans.”
In other words, Pauw was a settler-colonialist.
The article goes on to say, “the interesting thing about Pauw was the fact that he had sense enough to buy Jersey City from the Indians in Communipaw in 1630; that he was therefore the first white man who ever owned the property on the Boulevard which is soon to contain the new St. Peter’s College.”
Pauw “bought” the land from the Indigenous community? I found that hard to believe, and, to a certain extent, I was right.
Native Americans have historically had a different concept of land ownership than the one that those of us living in a modern capitalist society likely do. In short, most Native Americans do not believe in private property. Instead, they believe that all land was created for people by the Creator to be shared.
It is likely that the Lenape, the Indigenous community of Jersey City, believed they were sharing the land with the Dutch for a small amount of time when they “sold” it to Pauw.
As Maud Wilder Goodwin writes in her book, The Dutch and English on the Hudson: A Chronicle of Colonial New York, “the Lords States-General and the West India Company Department of Amsterdam, testify to the bargain made with the natives, who are treated throughout with legal ceremony as if they were high contracting parties and fully capable of understanding the transaction in which they were engaged.”
Goodwin goes on to say, in more offensive terms, “it must have been a pathetic and yet a diverting spectacle when the simple red men thus swore away their title to the broad acres of their fathers for a consideration of beads, shells, blankets, and trinkets.”
“But, when they listened to the subtleties of Dutch law as expounded by the Dogberrys at Fort Amsterdam,” she concludes alarmingly, “they may have been persuaded that their simple minds could never contend with such masters of language and that they were on the whole, fortunate to secure something in exchange for their land, which they were bound to lose in any event.”
This would have been enough for me. I refuse to celebrate a man who benefited from the displacement of Indigenous communities. A man who not only benefited from that displacement, but also directed the displacement of other communities as a “prime mover” in Holland’s “colonization plans.”
Want to know what happened to those Indigenous communities?
They were massacred.
William Kieft was the Director-General of New Netherland, the name of the Dutch colony. During what became known as the Pavonia Massacre on February 25, 1643, “the Dutch under Kieft made a surprise night attack on the sleeping Wecquaesgeek villages, killing 80 at Pavonia (current Jersey City), with Dutch soldiers reportedly bringing the heads of their victims back to Fort Amsterdam for use in a kickball game.”
The victims’ heads were used in a game of kickball.
Why do we normalize violence against Indigenous people? How can we learn of this and then go on with our lives as if it is okay?
We knew about Pauw’s unethical “ownership” of the land our university is built on. We knew about his association with the Dutch who slaughtered Lenape members, and yet, we still did nothing.
Yes, it is true that Pauw was no longer in control of Pavonia by 1643; in fact, he may have never even been in New Jersey, but his mere connection to the men who committed those atrocious acts should make us pause and ask ourselves why we celebrate him.
Oh, and, by the way, Pauw lost control of that land because he failed to meet the condition of bringing 50 adults to settle the land. The settler-colonialist we so admire as to name our newspaper after was not even good at being a settler-colonialist!
I knew that this would not be enough to convince our university to change the name. This issue has been brought up many times, but still nothing has changed.
It is unfortunate and a shame on us that the pain and torture Indigenous communities went through is not cause enough for us to change our newspaper’s name.
The play on “pow wow” used to create “pauw wow” is also degrading and offensive to Native American communities considering the fact that a pow wow is a cultural celebration, and this is overt cultural appropriation; we completely disregard that when we instead celebrate a failed settler-colonialist who willingly participated in and benefited from an effort that resulted in the massacre of innocents.
So then, when do we say enough is enough? When do we finally change our newspaper’s name?
Is it when we find out that Pauw also arranged for African slaves to be brought to New Jersey? Because he did.
I asked my fellow students and professors to help me do more research on Pauw.
I was directed to a post on Montclair State University’s website under the anthropology department. There, a report titled “The Black Freedom Struggle in Northern New Jersey, 1613-1860: A Review of the Literature” by Professor Christopher N. Matthews is posted. The report was put together in July 2019 for the Passaic County Department of Cultural & Historic Affairs.
Under a section called “First Slavery in New Jersey,” Matthews describes how “Pavonia was a patroonship, or land grant, under the absentee ownership of Michael Pauw, who in September 1630 instructed a company official in Pernambuco to send the ‘20 men and 30 women, negroes, who were captured in the last prize…[and] convey the said blacks to Pavonia.’”
Pauw was active in the enslavement of Black men and women.
I wanted to find out more about this, so I did what we students do best and used the internet to connect myself with the historian Matthews cites. Timothy Hack just so happens to be a professor and chair of the History and Social Science Department at Middlesex County College.
In an email, Hack told me that “Pauw’s experiment with slavery in NJ is hard to verify.” In the footnotes of the dissertation he wrote, Hack noted that, based on his research, it is only known that Pauw asked for 50 slaves to be sent to Pavonia. There are no surviving records which say these men and women ever arrived at Pauw’s patroonship, and Hack himself doubts that they did.
Regardless, Hack says that “Pauw clearly had no qualms about purchasing slaves as a means to construct a colony.” He wanted those people there.
If the men and women did make it to New Jersey, they were the first Black inhabitants of our state — brought here forcefully on the orders of Pauw.
Pauw, the man who benefited from the domination of Indigenous communities on this very land that we stand on, who enslaved African Americans for his personal benefit, is the man who we celebrate and idolize by continuing to call our newspaper The Pauw Wow.
I am embarrassed by this. The play on words to create our paper’s name is embarrassing and offensive enough, but this is horrifying. We cannot continue to call ourselves men and women for others and celebrate cura personalis while we have a paper named The Pauw Wow.
“The Pauw Wow” does not reflect our values. If I am being completely honest, we are being hypocrites.
We need to take a deeper look into our own institution and practices. It is easy for us to point fingers and say that we are not the ones being racist or discriminatory, but do we take the time to reflect on ourselves? Do we evaluate if we are living up to our values?
Colleges can advocate all they want for justice, being anti-racist and fighting against institutional racism, but what they do not realize is that, too often, they are institutional racism.
And right now, here at Saint Peter’s, as we continue to call our paper The Pauw Wow, we are institutional racism.
And I say WE, because all of us have a responsibility to dismantle institutional racism. Right now, all we are doing is normalizing it and proclaiming to the word that it is okay— that we are okay with it. We are complicit.
But I am not. I hope you are not either. Saint Peter’s is and can do better. That is who we are.
Yes, we cannot change history. But now that we know the truth, what are we going to do?
The Washington Redskins are not better than us. Princeton is not better than us.
In recent years, other Jesuit schools have begun to make internal changes. In 2015, Georgetown changed the name of a few buildings whose namesakes were connected to slavery. In 2018, College of the Holy Cross announced it would make changes to its mascot, and its newspaper made the decision to change its name.
I am not writing this to point fingers, because, as a writer for our paper, I have not taken the time to do the research myself until now. This is a failure and an embarrassment on my part. I refuse to make that same mistake.
I envision a future where Saint Peter’s truly represents the justice and good values we promote. That future includes a newspaper with a new name.
So, I conclude by saying that we can no longer stay silent.
We have no right to proclaim that Black Lives Matter when we refuse to recognize and acknowledge how we are part of the problem.
In fact, how dare we even proclaim that Black Lives Matter and that we are men and women for others while we fail to live up to the values the movement rightfully asserts we must?
We need to change our paper’s name, and we need to do it now. No more excuses.
The truth is right in front of us. What are we going to do now that it has been exposed? What side of history will we be on?
As a Muslim student who came to Saint Peter’s because of its Jesuit values, I leave you with the words of Pope Francis:
“The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that can only say, ‘Then was then, now is now’, is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth.”
I will be on the right side of history as a woman for others. I hope you will all join me.