The most important conclusion that the individual can come to, with respect to Jane Tompkins' essay "'Indians': Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History," is that it is up to the individual to decide what is true or not true in history. This may seem a daunting task, but that is the major conclusion which Tompkins' herself comes to as a historian. The non-historian individual can say that he or she does not have the time or the resources to study history, or any other area of concern which is "explained" to him or her by others, but if he or she does not take the time and make the effort, it is likely that he is seeing truth and facts where there is primarily individual bias.
On one hand, there is nothing particularly astounding about Tompkins' conclusion with respect to what her study of European-Indian relations has revealed to her:
What this means . . . is that I must piece together the story . . . as best I can, believing this version up to a point, that version not at all, another almost entirely, according to what seems reasonable and plausible. . . . And this . . . is what I was already doing. . . . One encounters contradictory facts and divergent points of view in practically every phase of life. . . . (600).
All Tompkins is saying is that she will have to think for herself as she sifts through the conflicting records and histories on the subject at hand. The amazing thing about this conclusion is that it apparently was never considered before the 1960s, according to Tompkins. Before that time historians never took seriously enough the role which personal and cultural biases played in the recording of history and in research.
Tompkins' essay may not arrive at startling conclusions, but it does provide the reader with a fascinating journey to those conclusions. Most significantly, Tompkins points out that the biases of an historian---whether writing at the time of the event or later---are an integral part of...