Skip to comments.National Myth of the American Indian (National Museum of American Indian's exhibits are explored)
Posted on 03/08/2005 3:53:07 PM PST by Stoat
Speaking of myths - Is there a Ward Churchill wing?
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:
Here ya go:
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"?
"Speaking of myths - Is there a Ward Churchill wing?"
Yeah, third door to the right, second stall.
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.
why is that relevant?
"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
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.
Guess you never heard of a Cherokee named Sequoia? I think there's a park named after him.
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?
The Kiowas also had a written language.
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.
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...
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.
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.
The Maya had both.
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.
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.
Churchill is in the Paleface wing.
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.
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.
Choctaw, Chickasaw, Blackfoot, Illini, Coushatta, Algonquian...pretty much just footnotes, I guess.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
should be SELECTION, not election..
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
ahmmmm.. Sequoyah. He is mentioned in the museum
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.
Probably only some of those who have traveled to Africa and seen what their free brethren have been able to accomplish....
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
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.
Here's an interesting book that deals with this very subject:
Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa
by Keith B. Richburg
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!