Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

National Myth of the American Indian (National Museum of American Indian's exhibits are explored)
The Claremont Institute ^ | March 4, 2005 | Diana Muir

Posted on 03/08/2005 3:53:07 PM PST by Stoat

National Myth of the American Indian

By Diana Muir

-----

The National Museum of the American Indian is an architectural triumph. Walking close to the walls conveys the vertiginous sense of hiking the rock canyons of the American West. The galleries inside are punctuated by windowed spaces offering spectacular views of the National Gallery and the United States Capitol, and prism windows near the top of the dome paint rainbows on the walls of the atrium. Step a hundred yards away from NMAI, however, and the building turns into a yellow sandstone affront to the white granite unity of the National Mall. As with the container, so with the contents. It is as though the architect and curators together are saying, "You want to know how much respect we have for your European heritage of architectural symmetry, historical causation, and scholarly standards of evidence? None."

The permanent exhibits are arrayed in three large halls, each featuring eight kiva-shaped spaces in which one of the Indian Nations tells its story. Our Lives features "survivance," a term coined by Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor to mean, "doing what is necessary to keep our cultures alive." Our Peoples is about "how eight communities understand their cultural identities." The third hall, Our Universe, which is the place where most visitors will begin, explains how "Traditional knowledge shapes our world." None of the three halls portrays Indian history and life with anything resembling the kind of scholarly standards envisioned by James Smithson when that gentleman, chemist, mineralogist and Member of the Royal Society, left his fortune for the foundation of an institution for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge."

Our Universe is a marvel of a-historicism. In it, visitors learn not only that Indian "ceremonies, celebrations, languages, arts, religions, and daily life" are timeless, unchanging and unchanged for thousands of years, but that contemporary Indians continue to believe in and practice the rituals of an animistic faith in which "Everything in the...world is alive. Everything has a spirit and everything is interconnected." Contemporary Hupa Indians of Northern California believe that "three ceremonial dances...keep life in balance." And "In our songs and dances we (K'apovi Indians of New Mexico) call on the clouds, the directions, and the Mountain Spirits to help us." The exhibit places each of the eight featured tribes on a helpful map. Displays then mix photographs of contemporary Indians performing timeless animist rituals with artifacts collected a century ago and artifacts produced yesterday, depicting both beliefs and rituals as though they were unchanging since the beginning of time ("During the Jump Deer dance the spirits of the ancestors watch from behind a cedar-plank house"), and still the focus of Indian worship ("Sasquatch teaches honesty.... His honesty encourages people to be honest with themselves").

Only one of the eight Indian Nations featured in Our Universe is depicted as having encountered Christianity. The Yupik explain that "Just as we believe in God, our ancestors believed that everything we received from the land came from Elam Yua." A visitor to the museum who explores all of the twenty-four rooms featuring Indian nations, will see, in addition to the Yupik exhibit, only a panel describing the coming of the Jesuits to the Tohono O'Odham tribe, along with a panel describing a contemporary Anglican Indian church in Chicago, to balance an overwhelming array of photos, music, and voices depicting a Indian world of practicing, believing animists. The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the City University of New York found that the religious profile of Indians in the U.S. is actually about the same as for white, non-Hispanic Americans: 20% of American Indians self-identified as Baptist, 17% as Catholic and 17% indicated no religious preference. Only 3% indicated their primary religious identification as an "Indian" or tribal religion.

The 80% of Indians who identify as Christian are given very little voice in this museum. Where they do appear, as in a lone panel on the San Xavier Mission at the Tohono O'Odham reservation, Christianity is paired with animism, in this case a panel headed, "Birds Teach People to Call for Rain," and viewed from the animist perspective: "For a long time our people had a hard time understanding Christian ideas. To us, the house of God is the whole environment. But Kino told us the mission church was the house of God. How could the Church be the only place to make contact with God? Our people were persecuted for practicing our religion and ceremonies." "Kino" is a reference to Jesuit missionary Father Eusebio Kino who arrived at Tohono O'Odham in 1687; in many circles he continues to be admired as an evangelist, explorer, and agriculturalist who introduced numerous Old World crops to the Southwest. He built the San Xavier del Blanc Mission, the White Dove of the Desert, a masterpiece of mission architecture, its dazzlingly carved, gilded and painted interior presumed to have been the work of Tohono craftsmen. There is no hint in the exhibit that San Xavier del Blanc is the sort of active parish that runs a flourishing parochial school and requires three masses on Sunday to accommodate all its congregants. Such facts would not fit the timeless, animist world of the NMAI.

The melding of past, present and future into an unchanging whole is deliberate. "Europeans," an exhibit informs us "emphasize a sequential presentation of events or ideas," but "for Native nations of the Americas...the circular manner of perceiving past and present, rather than seeing one event simply following another, is most important as a way to think about Native American history."

No scholar understands the past as "one event simply following another." Quite the contrary, historians regard the sequence of the past as revealing complex chains of causation. They insist that evidence-based study of the past is a powerful tool for understanding both the past itself and why contemporary people define themselves and their communities in the infinitely varied ways that they do. Eschewing any sense of historical development, NMAI curators refrain from asking why things are the way they are, or how they came to be that way.

Museum Director Richard West explained to a conference at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra that he has deliberately rejected control by the "narrowly defined and largely self-appointed museological priesthood," more usually referred to as to scholarly curators. His is a "museum different." Curatorial voices are confined to a reservation of several long showcases displaying artifacts. The cases mix artifacts from every era and region. Some are labeled. Others, like the long case displaying a mixed multitude of objects with animal themes, require the visitor who wishes to know if a particular carved animal is a 3,000-year-old artifact, or the work of a modern sculptor, to use a computer display, requiring a minimum of three clicks to find information on any one object. Back click and at least three more forward clicks are needed to find a second object. And even then it's not easy, since the need to match objects with black-and-white schematic drawings makes the search for information take on the quality of a round of "Where's Waldo." I observed few visitors willing to go to the trouble, perhaps because the rewards were so meager. The computer will tell you where and when the object was made, not how it relates to other objects, what it meant to the people who made it, or what features make it worthy of admiration. This effectively reduces the cases of children's dolls, statuettes, swords, cult objects of uncertain application, mixed arrow, spear, and dart heads, and bits of unidentified gold, to so many meaningless things.

A long case displaying Bibles, treaties, and guns is the only part of the museum to put artifacts into a context that enables the visitor to learn something a scholar could regard as a well-supported by the evidence from the objects on display. It was put together by curators and displays both a sense of historical development and the application of careful scholarship. It is given about the same amount of space as is devoted to the Pamunkey Nation and its devotion to "Tribal sovereignty," defined as "Native people's inherent right to self-government."

The latter exhibit explains that the Pamunkey Nation consists of "thirty-five households of closely related extended families" living on a reservation in Eastern Virginia recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia, albeit not by the federal government. It is clear that the Pamunkey themselves view their heritage as something that is both real and worth preserving. And, certainly, the idea that self-defined cultural or national groups have an inherent right to control or "govern" institutions of cultural perpetuation is compelling. The great difficulty seems to be identifying what is meant by Indian culture.

According to the exhibit, the entire distinctive cultural heritage of the Pamunkey Nation consists of pottery making. "Pottery is our identity. From the very beginning we made pottery and we've never stopped. Very few eastern tribes can say that." A display case shows pieces of unglazed nineteenth and early 20th-century earthenware with incised decorations, and contemporary pots with brightly painted glazed designs. I could perceive no continuity between the designs of the two eras.

Panels and a film playing on a television monitor explain that in 1930 the Virginia Board of Education established the Pamunkey Pottery School. Although the exhibit does not say so, it appears that this was an attempt to alleviate poverty on the reservation by producing something that tourists would buy. We are informed that the Pottery School introduced the Pamunkey to painting and glazing techniques, developed "a new style of Pamunkey pottery," and "gave potters...a stronger sense of community."

A look at the two tribal web sites reveals that in addition to the Pottery School, the reservation has both a new museum and the Pamunkey Indian Baptist Church. The web sites make clear that Indian identity in recent centuries has largely consisted of "a subsistence lifestyle centered around pottery-making, fishing, hunting and trapping," with cultural cohesion assisted by isolation before the first good road was built in the 1920s. What will define Pamunkey culture in an era when almost everyone commutes to jobs in Richmond or Williamsburg is not clear.

The cultural heritage of most Indian nations in the United States consists of a language that is no longer spoken, attachment to a particular land, a few handicrafts, some customary foods, and an array of traditional ceremonies with costumes, songs and dances. According to the Kumeyaay, the Nation's "bonds" consist of "singing, dancing, basket making, and pottery making." And, in the words of one Kumeyaay, "We don't even know the meaning of some of our Bird Songs anymore...."

The young people featured in the NMAI displays are dedicated to sitting respectfully at the feet of their elders to learn how to preserve these cultural traditions. In the real world, it is exceedingly difficult for small cultures to hold onto their youth. Unlike the model youngsters in the exhibits, real teenagers choose between learning the Kumeyaay Bird Songs and joining a rock band.

 

* * *

The complexity of defining Indian culture in a time when Indians live in cities, attend universities, and own televisions is only one of the many issues that this museum ignores. According to Curator Gabrielle Tayac, some Indians take the position that only those who follow traditional lifestyles are Indians. "Can you be an indigenous person and have a university education? Some people would say no." But that was in a Washington Post interview. The Museum exhibits do not grapple with such issues. Nor does the NMAI offer an informed introduction to Native American history and culture; the topics covered here are narrowly focused and idiosyncratic. The purpose of this Museum, according to a billboard-size panel in the Our Lives hall, is not so much to showcase Indian culture as to serve as a "Call to the People," to make us all understand that "We are ancient nations seeking recognition and respect from modern nations."

It is hardly unusual for nations telling their own stories to omit the distasteful and embarrassing episodes. When the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa first opened, I walked through an elaborate suite of galleries displaying the history of Canada in which the French discover and settle Canada, then British officials appear. I did a double take and walked back through the rooms. Sure enough, the curators had omitted the British invasion and conquest of Canada. Too hot to handle. France is simply replaced by Britain with no explanation offered, and certainly no exhibit on the conquest of French Canada. In this context it is not surprising that American Indians have produced a museum in which no mention is made of Indian Nations that practiced slavery, cannibalism, or human sacrifice. Nor did I notice any hint that, long before Columbus, Indians used natural resources to supply short-term needs in ways that resulted in species extinctions, deforestation, and other forms of environmental degradation.

At NMAI, the omissions are joined by myth. Salient among the myths is the portrayal of all Indians as "manag[ing] our environment to make sure it provides for us today and in the future." Not only are all Indian Nations depicted as model environmentalists today, not only are they all shown as having been model environmentalists since the beginning of time, but environmentalism, according to NMAI, is actually central to Indian religion. Nation after nation in the permanent displays makes a statement like these: "The Yakama Nation is a leader in the protection and restoration of resources. We're a leader, not because we want to be, but because the Creator put us on this landscape to be just that—stewards of the land." "Every time the elders talk, they tell us we were given responsibility to look after Mother Earth. That's our job, the Anishnaabe people."

This is fictionalized history of a kind common to all national revivals: think of the Scottish invention of the clan tartan and of the elaborate regalia of the full kilt costume. But national myths can play important roles in shaping national character. The impoverished, young Dick Whittington, having failed to make his fortune in the big city, was walking home defeat when he was stopped at the edge of London by the sound of the Bow Bells which, instead of merely chiming, distinctly spoke to him, saying "Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London." Napoleon's "nation of shopkeepers," was shaped by generations of British lads who walked to London in the hope of making their fortunes, some of them surely inspired by the story of Dick Whittington to keep trying when prospects looked bleak. Making environmentalism a central pillar of Indian culture and anachronistically claiming it as a central tenet of traditional Indian religion, gives Indian nationalists an ideology far more appealing to modern sensibilities than animism. If the legend of How Raven Stole the Sun cannot compete in the contemporary marketplace of ideas, the idea that Indians have a unique calling as guardians of the environment just might.

And if an evolving dedication to ecological ideals and a conviction that "each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation" produces young Indians with a particularly high value for the ecological health of the planet, that is surely a good thing. It is not, however, the same thing as pretending that ecological values have characterized native American culture since the Year One. We do know, after all, that the three-term Lord Mayor of London was not quite the "poor boy" of legend. Whittington was the younger son of Sir William Whittington, Lord of the Manor of Pauntley in Gloucestershire, who arranged a very good apprenticeship for his younger boy with a prosperous London mercer—the equivalent of a modern parent sending a son to Columbia and on to a consulting job with Mackenzie. Knowing this undoubtedly robs the myth of the Bow Bells of some of its power; does that mean that we should refuse to know it?

What we know about Indian religion is that it has as many variations as there were tribes, but few of them had anything that can be stretched to resemble modern ecological ideas. According to Sam D. Gill, Mother Earth: an American Story, the concept of Mother Earth entered Indian religion in the 1960s, as part of the Indian national revival. Archeological evidence reveals that Indians depleted resources, were constantly forced by growing population and diminishing resources to eat further down the food chain, and not only drove species such as the flightless California duck (Chendytes) to extinction four millennia ago, but depleted ecosystems in ways that caused such populous, complex societies such as Anasazi and Cahokia to collapse. In short, Indians behaved pretty much like people everywhere, with the caveat that in most of the Americas Indian populations were sparse enough and had sufficiently limited technology to preclude ecological devastation. Indians, moreover, had that deep empathy for nature characteristic of animism; they perceived naiads in the streams and dryads in the forests. To put this forward as proof that pre-contact Indians thought in terms of ecosystems and sustainability is intellectual laziness, or a deliberately anachronistic falsification of history—a falsification of a kind familiar to nationalist movements worldwide.

The insistent claims in room after room at NMAI that the Indian Nations "preserve and protect natural resources in keeping with our ancestors' traditions" should be placed in a category with Alphonse Mucha's Slav Epic, the invocation of Demosthenes and Pericles by the leaders of the Greek War of Independence, and the role of Jeanne d'Arc and Marianne in the emergence of a French nation. Such constructs are the building blocks of nations; as constructs they are the appropriate objects of scholarly study. The fact that nations can be touchy about having their myths analyzed does not mean that scholars should not proceed with such study. Except, apparently, in the case of Indians.

One of the leading works in this field is Shepard Krech III's 1999 Ecological Indian: Myth and History. Some critics of Krech's work attack not his scholarship but his right to apply scholarship to the constructs of Indian identity. According to Adrian Tanner, Professor of Anthropology at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, "The kinds of claims made about ethnic identity are not appropriately treated as hypotheses put forward as historically verifiable." Indians, in other words, are entitled to assert, as fact, that ecological principles have been part of their religion and culture for thousands of years, and scholars cannot legitimately examine the historicity of the claim because, according to Tanner, Indians were politically oppressed by their European conquerors. "If the Ecological Indian is a social construction, it was constructed partly by, and by reference to, the colonizers...." And so we have a National Museum of the American Indian where modern social constructions by contemporary Indians are anachronistically projected into the remote past and these assertions, constructs of Indian nationalist ideology, are presented as historical fact.

Not presented is the story of Indians as comprising nations that changed over time, aside from descriptions of their disastrous encounters with Europeans. Omission of the frequent disappearance of Indian cultures when neighboring cultures developed superior technology is particularly notable. In the NMAI, the Dorset people do not vanish from the Arctic when the Inuit arrive with dogsleds, large boats, and the ability to hunt bowhead whales. The acquisition of guns from fur-traders does not enable the Lakota Sioux—who had a reputation as fierce warriors even before they acquired guns—to abandon their ancient homeland in the spruce-poplar forests of the Great Lakes, and move onto the plains, where they attacked and defeated the Omahas, Pawnees, Arikaras, Mandans and Hidatsas, driving them from their homelands, slaughtering the men, carrying off the women and girls to become secondary wives, but permitting some conquered tribes to remain in diminished numbers as long as they paid a useful annual tribute of corn to the buffalo-hunting Lakota. This warrior tribe conquered the entire Great Plains east of the Missouri, before being halted at the Missouri by the agricultural Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa, who had themselves acquired guns and horses, and surrounded their villages with well-defended stockades. In the Lakota exhibit at the NMAI we learn only that the Lakota are victims of history whose reservation "is a tiny fraction of their traditional lands, which once encompassed much of the Midwest."

But it is not only the negative that is omitted here. If the Indians in this Museum do not fight wars of conquest, neither do they develop a sustainable, three-crop system of horticulture in which beans fix nitrogen in the soil to nourish corn planted in the same field. The Navajo do not develop a matrilinial society in which a boy's mother's brother serves as a stable, nurturing role model whether or not a marriage endures. The Inuit do not develop arctic technology superior to those developed by the peoples of northwestern Europe dwelling above the Arctic Circle. To remove historical development from the presentation of a culture is to remove human agency and human accomplishment. The effect is not merely a museum that bizarrely skews that reality of AmeriIndian culture, it is a museum that makes Indians boring.

Washington Post museum critic Paul Richard calls the exhibits "vapid" but allows that "Grand museums often take years to find their way." This misses the point. The National Museum of the American Indian is not lost. It has found its way with verve and confidence to a place where subjective personal narrative is privileged above factual evidence, and the deliberate myth-making of an active national revival trumps scholarship.

The Museum has no exhibit discussing evidence of how Indians came to this hemisphere. Current scholarly discussion centers on the questions of when the first comers arrived, whether they walked over a land bridge or came by canoes along the coast, and how many waves of migrants there were. Evidence on these points is conflicting, but all scholars agree that humans evolved in Africa and reached America later. It is not that the Museum decided that, with limited space, they would do an exhibit on Indian religion instead of one on Indian origins; it is that scholarship on Indian origins cannot be presented at this new Smithsonian Museum because, as Curator Bruce Bernstein explained to the Washington Post, such scholarship would conflict with the belief of native peoples that they have always occupied the land.

Imagine an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History explaining that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..." and that after six days of creation "God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made." This imaginary Smithsonian exhibit would present Genesis not as a culturally influential story, but as a factual account of creation. This is precisely the approach of the new Museum of the American Indian, where in place of scholarship, we are given a story of creation as an Indian Nation sees it, presented as fact. The Tohono O'odham explain how, long ago, Earth Medicine Man and I'itoi, Elder Brother, made the world, including all plant and animal life, and everything else that the world comprises. Elder Brother created the people out of clay and told the Tohono O'odham to remain where they were in that land which is the center of all things. And there the desert people have always lived. They are living there this very day.

And that, O Best Beloved, is how the First Nations came to be, not only in America but in a federally-funded Smithsonian Museum building on the National Mall.



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: americanindian; animism; christianity; god; godsgravesglyphs; history; indian; indians; museum; myth; religion; smithsonian; uglyarchitecture
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-64 next last
National Museum of the American Indian
 
   
   
     
     

1 posted on 03/08/2005 3:53:11 PM PST by Stoat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: All
About the Author:

-----

Related Stories
The Dean Gets a D in Media Coverage 101
Posted on February 17, 2005

The New Urbanism: Friend or Foe of Property Rights?
Posted on February 8, 2005

Maybe Not Such a Paradox After All
Posted on February 1, 2005


2 posted on 03/08/2005 3:56:16 PM PST by Stoat (Rice / Coulter 2008: Smart Ladies for a Strong America)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Stoat

Speaking of myths - Is there a Ward Churchill wing?


3 posted on 03/08/2005 3:57:34 PM PST by llevrok (Don't blame me! I voted for Pedro.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

later


4 posted on 03/08/2005 3:58:02 PM PST by Tax-chick (Donate to FRIENDS OF SCOUTING and ruin a liberal's day!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Stoat

This author describes a phenoma similar to how some still view the few remaining huntergathering tribes (in places like Brazil and Indonesia etc..). Unfortunately, their idealistic perceptions are often far from the truth.

This only relates indirectly, but perhaps some might find it interesting. On the effects of Welfare on Native Americans:

http://www.neoperspectives.com/NativeAmericans.htm


5 posted on 03/08/2005 4:04:08 PM PST by traviskicks (http://www.neoperspectives.com/foundingoftheunitedstates.htm)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
May I see a list of the names of the 100% indians who conceived, planned, designed, computed the structural design for, built the machines which put together this building?

Here ya go:

1. ____________________________
2. ____________________________
3. ____________________________
4. ____________________________

I am an optimist.
As a curious aside, since indians never had a written language or a number system, how did they "put this all together"?

6 posted on 03/08/2005 4:05:21 PM PST by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are ignorance, stupidity and hydrogen)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: llevrok

"Speaking of myths - Is there a Ward Churchill wing?"

Yeah, third door to the right, second stall.


7 posted on 03/08/2005 4:07:11 PM PST by laweeks (I)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
I was not impressed with NMAI, as I indicated in this post:


Over the christmas break, I had the opportunity to visit The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It is located in the Imperial Capitol right on The Mall. The architecture is notable in its curvilinearity; there isn't a straight line inside or out. NMAI is able to accomodate a gazillion folks, which reflects its watered down post-modern presentation of so-called Native American life. Consistent with this po-mo approach, there is not a map or time-line in the building. A large wall presentation titled WE ARE THE EVIDENCE, lists the several tribes inhabiting North America in pre-Columbian days. The names are jumbled (more po-mo) and in no particular order, either geographically or size-wise. The NMAI has few descriptions under its sparse collection. For instance, 1,100 arrowheads are displayed without any indication of which tribes produced which arrowheads; like the tribal names, they are a jumble of finely crafted stonework and obsidian. Interpretation takes precedence over artifacts at the NMAI. If you thought you might like to attend, save yourself some time and go right to the Brickskeller for a Belgian ale.

8 posted on 03/08/2005 4:08:25 PM PST by society-by-contract
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961

why is that relevant?


9 posted on 03/08/2005 4:09:46 PM PST by rahbert
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961

"May I see a list of the names of the 100% indians who conceived, planned, designed, computed the structural design for, built the machines which put together this building?"

1. Chief Running Water


10 posted on 03/08/2005 4:10:38 PM PST by laweeks (I)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Stoat

As of the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, out of the hundreds of groups of natives living here, only a handful were still (or had even ever been) civilized. The remainder were still stuck in , or had fallen back into, the stone, or at best, bronze ages. It is not a fault of their genes - it was simply the harsh reality of being too few on too large a land area and without the benefit of all the cultural changes that had swept across South Asia, North Africa and Europe a few thousand years ago, culminating in the Romano-Hellenic secular and Judeo-Christian religious underpinnings of Western Civilization. As for the few groups that were actually nation states, by the time the Euros encountered them, they were well past their peaks and were essentially failed states. The arrival of Europeans was the best thing that could ever happen to the Americas. The Europeans saved the Americas from slipping further into what would likely have been at least 1000 years of the darkest ages ever experienced by the fragments of a former civilization. History is most unfair - and, is always right.


11 posted on 03/08/2005 4:18:02 PM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961

Guess you never heard of a Cherokee named Sequoia? I think there's a park named after him.


12 posted on 03/08/2005 4:29:00 PM PST by wizr (Freedom ain't free.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: GOP_1900AD
The arrival of Europeans was the best thing that could ever happen to the Americas. The Europeans saved the Americas from slipping further...

Bear with me for a second here, if you will. Let's for a moment assume that alien life forms exist and at some future date they make peaceful contact with us.

As a result of that contact they provide to us a cheap, reliable, safe and efficient source of power, which weens us from the tit of hydrocarbon dependency. The down side is that a disease, carried by and unknown (or not harmful) to the aliens, wipes out 70% of the population, before immunities or a cure is discovered.

Would you then say that the arrival of the aliens was the best thing that ever happened to us?

13 posted on 03/08/2005 4:35:54 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: Publius6961

The Kiowas also had a written language.


15 posted on 03/08/2005 4:39:27 PM PST by Tax-chick (Donate to FRIENDS OF SCOUTING and ruin a liberal's day!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
Well, whatever. I'd hope the Mall would continue to move AWAY FROM EUROPEAN stuff and toward more AMERICAN stuff as time progresses.

Interesting that this writer missed out on the existence of the Hirshorn Gallery, which doesn't look all that European, as well as the squirrels running free among the trees, again, a rarity in Europe except in zoos and special zoological gardens, but a common, ordinary American experience.

The writer might be correct regarding all the other stuff he said, but the second you show that you prefer for the Mall to look "European" you lose my attention.

16 posted on 03/08/2005 4:39:56 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Stoat

It is indeed a jumbled mess.

As I sort of foresaw when they were building the thing they'd have to try to cover a zillion tribes and they all get jumbled together, and they do in fact use about half the museum for assorted creation myths, that all sort of run together so I can't remember which tribe believes a Giant Owl farted out the sun and the clouds and which tribe believes the earth is balanced on the back of a giant Prairie Dog...


17 posted on 03/08/2005 4:40:08 PM PST by Strategerist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.

Well using ETs is not quite the same as the case in the Americas. One thing that's always been inevitable on earth is that those who explore overtake those who don't. In the big picture, even with all the small pox and syphyllis deaths, I still stand by my statement. Even in the most advanced remnents, in Mexico and Central America, they were cutting out the hearts of young girls to appease the gods, as recently as the arrival of the Euros. Where was what remained of civilization headed in the Americas? What would the Americas looked like circa 2005, if the Euros had never arrived, or, even if they had, had left the Americas alone? Think about it.


18 posted on 03/08/2005 4:41:15 PM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961
You are in error ~ there were several different Indian writing systems, and it's quite obvious to anyone who's bothered to look, the Plains Indians sign language is, in fact, Shang Dynasty characters, among the very first writing systems!

What the Indians didn't do is invent paper, therefore whatever they wrote was rare, or very expensive. Until the Moslems passed on concept of paper to the Christians in Spain, European writing was likewise rare and very expensive.

It is almost always an error to view today's state of any population a true reflection of where they were 500 or 1000, or more years ago.

19 posted on 03/08/2005 4:43:21 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961
As a curious aside, since indians never had a written language or a number system, how did they "put this all together"?

The Maya had both.

20 posted on 03/08/2005 4:45:59 PM PST by LexBaird ("Democracy can withstand anything but democrats" --Jubal Harshaw (RA Heinlein))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
There probably isn't a minority subculture in this country that is more brazenly misrepresented than that of the Indians. We're supposed to believe that they were hand-holding sylvians or plains-dwellers living in harmony with all creatures. Sort of Eden in a Teepee.

The truth is their life was brutal in the way only a subsistence life can be. They lived off the land's grace, and when Nature was stingy, they died in hordes. They were preyed on by animals, disease, and other tribes. Their day-to-day existence was one of privation and backbreaking labor, just so they could rise the next day and do it all again. The ubiquitous buffalo hides they used, for example, didn't cure themselves. They had to be preserved to be useful. Salt was a preservative, but there are few raw salt deposits on the Plains. So the Indians supplied the salt by urinating on the fleshed hides. But that wasn't enough. The salt had to be worked into the flesh. How? The women would spend the day chewing on the urine-soaked, maggot-ridden skins. They forgot to show you that in Dances with Wolves.

When two cultures with such disparate technologies collide, the primitive one is doomed. But we're supposed to feel bad about that. We're supposed to believe that that level of crushing primitivism is somehow liberating.

No thanks. I'll take the wheel, sedentary agriculture, and the printed word. Let them go chase buffalo. And watch out for wolves. The ones that aren't dancing are trying to eat your children.

21 posted on 03/08/2005 4:46:45 PM PST by IronJack
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GOP_1900AD
One thing that's always been inevitable on earth is that those who explore overtake those who don't.

The Amerindians settled a 10,000 mile stretch of North and South America in a pretty short period of time. They don't explore?

For a variety of reasons largely having to do with geography and domesticable large mammals Eurasia developed oceangoing vessels first. It wasn't really a choice to "explore" or not, except in the case of the Chinese, who simply and deliberately chose not to.

Probably 90%+ of Amerindian deaths were the result of introduced diseases (non-deliberately) and no matter how the contact took place, it would have inevitably happened, sadly.

22 posted on 03/08/2005 4:46:58 PM PST by Strategerist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: llevrok

Churchill is in the Paleface wing.


23 posted on 03/08/2005 4:48:46 PM PST by colorado tanker (The People Have Spoken)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.
Not 70%, but more like 90% to 95%, or even higher depending on the time of year.

Old World disease destroyed American Indian society in all respects. By 1648 even the least affected Indians, those living in what is now the Northeastern United States, were virtually exterminated by these diseases.

Oh, yes, the Iroquois won their 300 year war with the Mohicans that year ~ the next they adopted the remnant of a few hundred members into the Oneida tribe. They still exist in the Munsee Band up on Lake Winnebago.

From that year on America belonged to the Europeans, and the Indians who were left went to work as professional meat hunters and guides.

A recemt article in Scientific American concerning the possibility of a new Ice Age points to the atmospheric CO2 drop that may be directly attributed to the sudden absence of over 50 million American Indians raising crops.

24 posted on 03/08/2005 4:50:41 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

Many groups that people would stereotype as being uncivilized were in fact very learned people. I am fascinated with the history of the indigenous peoples on America. One doesn't have to be a pc liberal to visit such a museum.


25 posted on 03/08/2005 4:52:43 PM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
Why this unspoken assumption that anything important/worthwhile/meaningful re: Amerindians are those tribes west of the Mississippi River? Take this Museum: sandstone, adobe, etc.

Choctaw, Chickasaw, Blackfoot, Illini, Coushatta, Algonquian...pretty much just footnotes, I guess.

26 posted on 03/08/2005 4:54:24 PM PST by yankeedame ("Born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: IronJack
There were very few people living on the Great Plains until the arrival of the horse.

There were entirely too many buffalo to make any sort of decent life possible. See DeSoto's journal because this is what the Indians at Terre Haute told him.

27 posted on 03/08/2005 4:55:23 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: GOP_1900AD
Well using ETs is not quite the same as the case in the Americas.

Go ahead and poke a little fun at the analogy if you will, but it is a good one, in this sense:

The arrival of Europeans on vessels that could carry 100 men, with weapons of steel and vests of armor, would have been as unknown to the Indians, as the arrival of Aliens would be for us.

And what would you think the arrival of a new culture to this planet would think of us. Specifically:

** We allow well educated men and women to cut unborn babies from their mothers womb and then kill them, just as they are able to sustain life.

** We have an entire culture of people who encourage their children to kill themselves, as long as they take others with them.

** We have had experiences, in recent times, where entire nations have grouped together with part of the result being the mass slaughter of millions of other people.

** We have had numerous governments organize themselves in such a way as to actively encourage the starvation of millions of their own people.

** We have millions of people here in the United States willing to vote for Hillary Clinton for President.

OK, that last one may have gone too far. But, seriously, you are trying to weigh the good against the bad. Not all Native cultures were the savages you are portraying them to be. And the death of 70% of their population through disease is a difficult one to overcome with the good things that have then happened.

28 posted on 03/08/2005 4:59:25 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
Until the Moslems passed on concept of paper to the Christians in Spain, European writing was likewise rare and very expensive.

Not to be picking holes in your coat, but the fact of the matter is that there was a great of of writing in (western) Europe before the introduction of paper. The writing was on vellum -- prepared lamb's skin.

The West did not use paper, per sa, not because it was barbaric but b/c it lacked the climatic circumstance to raise papyrus; the same reason as the Middle East at that time used much paper, yet very little vellum. To them, papyrus was easier to grow then sheep were to raise.

29 posted on 03/08/2005 5:01:35 PM PST by yankeedame ("Born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: society-by-contract

I think the building is outstanding and there are some great pieces in the election, but unlike the other Smithsonian buildings, the displays in this are incoherent, difficult to follow and not very useful .


30 posted on 03/08/2005 5:02:58 PM PST by the Real fifi
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: the Real fifi

should be SELECTION, not election..


31 posted on 03/08/2005 5:04:37 PM PST by the Real fifi
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
I picked 70% off the top of my head and was just making an analogy, not trying to be historically accurate with the death rate of those killed from disease.

BTW, I have seen several figures on the estimated number of Natives in NA at the arrival of the Europeans, but have not seen one as high as 50 million. Do you have a link to a source for that?

32 posted on 03/08/2005 5:05:06 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Stoat
The Lakota were one of two expanding military powers on the Plains in the 19th century. We were the other. The Sioux drove the Kiowa (I believe) out of the "sacred" Black Hills around 1775. When we bumped into them, they had just beaten the Absaroka (Crow) in a series of engagements and driven them out of the Powder River buffalo range. The Comanche had driven the Apache west, out of the southern Plains in the 16ht or 17th century. In sum, the Indians weren't a hell of a lot different than us, and certainly no more monolithic. White Mountain Apaches scouted for us against the Chiricahua. Crow,Shoshone, and Pawnee scouted ageist the Sioux. Within a year of the Little Big Horn, Sioux and Cheyenne scouted for us against the Nez Perce.In short, the Indians that were weren't the Indians in "Dances With Wolves" (Wonder where they kept the Zamboni to pick up the horse apples that kept that village so clean?).
33 posted on 03/08/2005 5:08:42 PM PST by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: yankeedame
Here's a clue for you ~ paper is cheap today ~ far less expensive than any lambskin.

It was cheaper than lambskin the day it came out, too, and in those times when folks ate much less meat than they do today, there were not a whole lot of lambskins.

Can you imagine what it would take to produce a 300 page book?!

I said European writing was rare (as compared to today) and expensive (as compared to today). I didn't say it didn't exist!

34 posted on 03/08/2005 5:08:52 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: yankeedame

BTW, the Middle-East, to the degree it incorporated or abutted elements of the former Roman Empire was, in fact, PART OF THE WEST - and for a long time it was the only part that really worked.


35 posted on 03/08/2005 5:10:01 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.
The other day History Channel ran a thing on Cabeza de Vaca. The researchers for that piece credited Mexico alone with having 50 million.

It's hard to get a fix on this, of course, since the Indians died off faster than anyone could get around and count them, but there were several tens of million in South America, several tens of million in Meso-America, and probably as many as 5 million in North America proper (US and Canada).

I grew up about 2 blocks away from an abandoned Indian camp site. They all died off and left their grinding stones and other implements in place. They even left behind their meteorite. Over the years I've thought about how many people could have lived there, but there are not enough clues unless I dug up the entire site.

36 posted on 03/08/2005 5:13:51 PM PST by muawiyah (gonna' be like with the anthrax thing ~ find a guy, harass him, let the terrorists escape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: cyborg

My husband is part Cherokee, and in his history classes in junior college, he was pretty much taught the "noble savage" myth. He was very disappointed when his father told him about the Cherokee part of the family: bootleggers, knife fighters, husband-beaters :-).

I'm looking forward to seeing the American Indian museum. We saw lots of interesting things in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) and heard some original oral tradition from our neighbors and friends. A lady on our street had grown up speaking the Creek language.

The important thing to remember is that people are all alike, irrespective of race. Some good, some less good. Some heroic, some horrific. Some situations, like the epidemics and the Indian wars, are simply tragic. It doesn't mean one side was good and one side was evil ... it just means that a lot of bad stuff happens.


37 posted on 03/08/2005 5:19:07 PM PST by Tax-chick (Donate to FRIENDS OF SCOUTING and ruin a liberal's day!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
probably as many as 5 million in North America proper (US and Canada).

My oversight, I thought your 50 Million figure was in reference to USA and Canada only. 5 million is also the number I had in mind for that area (and I would not have quibbled at a higher number, like say 7-10 million). I agree that Mexico had a lot more Natives, but have never looked at the estimates for that area.

38 posted on 03/08/2005 5:22:23 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

When investigating any culture, it's best to have a balanced approach. Schools teach the noble savage myth because that's what evolutionary racialists believed and it's also very PC. However, going the other way and insinuating all the indian people are drunks and the like is just as bad. I liked hanging out with the Navajo students a lot and they were incredibly open and happy.


39 posted on 03/08/2005 5:22:43 PM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

To: cyborg
You're right about balance. I grew up reading biographies about Crazy Horse, Sequoia, Sitting Bull, or Chief Joseph that told about their courage and dedication to their people. All that was true. The atrocities committed by the Indians against the white settlers are also true. Life is complex.

I think we can emphasize the positive and beneficial aspects of diverse cultures without indulging in "victimology." Yes, the Indians lost the war, and there are tragic aspects to that history. But on the other hand, my folks in Ireland lost their war. It's a big picture, and we can't change any of it from this point.

40 posted on 03/08/2005 5:39:24 PM PST by Tax-chick (Donate to FRIENDS OF SCOUTING and ruin a liberal's day!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.
Would you then say that the arrival of the aliens was the best thing that ever happened to us?

It certainly wouldn't be the best thing that ever happened if you were one of the 70 percent that got wiped out. It might very well be a beneficial happening from the perspective of those who survive. A good analogy is the slave trade. A black slave from Africa, taken into captivity and killed horribly on the unthinkably cruel and brutal voyage to the Americas certainly wouldn't have thought the slave trade a good thing. His American ancestors, on the other hand, might perceive things differently. While they still couldn't call the slave trade "good," they could at least acknowledge that its existence benefited them.

41 posted on 03/08/2005 5:44:15 PM PST by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Stoat

FReeper Review

Architectural triumph..... Presentations are obscure. Exhibits contained far too much information, especially written information often written so that glare on glass made it unreadable.

The museum is a failure.


42 posted on 03/08/2005 5:44:36 PM PST by bert (Peace is only halftime !)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.

Good heavens! Hillary as President? Surely that would doom us to a new stone age and lives, like those of the Indians, that are nasty, brutish and short!


43 posted on 03/08/2005 5:46:10 PM PST by sailor4321
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: wizr

ahmmmm.. Sequoyah. He is mentioned in the museum


44 posted on 03/08/2005 5:46:19 PM PST by bert (Peace is only halftime !)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Mr Ramsbotham
His American ancestors, ... could at least acknowledge that its existence (slavery) benefited them.

Interesting analogy. Gosh, I wonder how many Blacks in the USA thank their lucky stars every day that their great grandfathers were slaves. My guess would be, not many.

45 posted on 03/08/2005 5:52:02 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.

Probably only some of those who have traveled to Africa and seen what their free brethren have been able to accomplish....


46 posted on 03/08/2005 6:14:03 PM PST by sailor4321
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: Publius6961

The man behind the project was Douglas Cardinal, a renowned native Indian architect from Canada. He worked with designers from the Cherokee, Hopi, Navajo and Oneida tribes nations, but his name was taken off the project because of a contractual dispute.

Full story here: http://encore.dailyheraldtribune.com/Z01_subtext0810.html


47 posted on 03/08/2005 6:21:06 PM PST by Freemarketman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: sailor4321
LOL.

I do sometimes chuckle a bit about some 'Afro Centrics' who envision life in Africa as being one of a free and happy go lucky existence or who view Africa as the land of their dreams.

48 posted on 03/08/2005 6:27:11 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Someday I will fondly look back on the day Hillary's career ended. Starting tomorrow, I hope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.

Here's an interesting book that deals with this very subject:

Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa
by Keith B. Richburg


49 posted on 03/08/2005 6:32:20 PM PST by duvausa
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]

To: Michael.SF.

You outa see the scam the so called "Indians" in Connecticut have managed to pull off on the entire state. A group of totally related by blood, mostly Black individuals, with no proven Indian Blood have managed to put together a tribe out of whole cloth and open up the biggest money making casinos in the western world! Finally the state wised up and stopped giving these scammers state recognition as "INDIAN" tribes and they are now trying to get the B.I.A. to reverse it's recognition of these Indian wannabes. Which they recognized only because the state set the precedent. UNBELIEVABLE!


50 posted on 03/08/2005 6:46:45 PM PST by ABN 505
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-64 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson