Friday, September 30, 2005


Jason over at Wildhunt draws our attention to the Charles C. Mann book, 1491 : New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. This book looks quite interesting. I'll definitely be picking it up, hopefully to fit in over fall break.

The book appears to debunk a lot of ideas about what life was like in the Americas before Columbus landed. Jason highlights this choice quote from the review:

"What's most shocking about "1491" is the feeling it induces of waking up from a long dream and slowly realizing just how thoroughly one has been duped. We all knew there were problems with the old narrative of brave European settlers crossing the Atlantic to find an empty continent, but it's jarring to discover, as Mann tells us, that in 1491 there were almost certainly more people living in the Americas than in Europe -- and that, in many ways, American civilizations of the time were as advanced as anything across the ocean."

Not so shocking for us NDNs, but perhaps shocking for non-Native Americans who never thought to read beyond what they were taught in school.

He also makes mention of the debunking of the European origins of the Kennewick Man and calls into question the whole Landbridge theory - both concepts that Indians have been grumbling about for a while now but which havent gotten much attention in the mainstream.

Go read Jason's review.


Blogger Jason said...

Thanks for reading and for linking to my blog post!

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Edgar Brown said...

I have an issue with the use of the word 'debunk' regarding a scientific theory that cannot be proved or disproved precisely because scientist's further access to the bones and other collected samples has been barred due to tribal rights.

But I am curious about this, I understand that some scientific theories could contradict Native American belief systems (just look at all the fuzz regarding evolution, yeah, I get that), though I don't really see exactly what aspect of it. And I also understand the sacred aspects of the dead. But, do you see the possibility of any compromise towards science?. Even the catholic church has let science examine (and actually debunk the origin) of some of its most sacred possessions.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Even the catholic church has let science examine (and actually debunk the origin) of some of its most sacred possessions.

It has? Do you have any links to specifics?

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Edgar Brown said...

Sure, I had in mind the Shroud of Turin (also here) when I wrote that, and I thought that the Blood of San Genaro was also one of those, but it is a parallel explanation that I had in mind.

And then there are the 'scientific' expeditions to find the Noah's Ark (I quote it because it is in the gray area of belief and paleontology), and to build an Ark of Covenant to prove some ideas of what its purpose and function was (even more pseudo-scientific).

Even the recognition that Galileo was right (a few years ago, finally) and that Evolution does not contradict Christianity can attest to my point (yeah, try to convince the extreme right that Pope John Paul II accepted the theory of Evolution “as an effectively proven fact,” he really did!!)

1:59 AM  
Blogger themarigoldtrail said...

hi edgar

As I mention in my post, I havent read the book yet. But I got the feeling that the whole European thing is akin to urban myth and that myth is what the book debunks, not the proof or lack of proof that anthropology and DNA studies may shed. I could be wrong. I'll let you know once I've read the book.

I do think there is certainly room for compromise between tribal rights and anthropology/archaeology. Unfortunately, for the past hundred or more years it has been the Indians doing all the "compromising" and that has left a lot of distrust and bitterness in the minds of Natives. As the social scientific community begins to become more enlightened in the way they respect and treat Natives, things are changing, but unfortunately a lot of damage has been done and that trust will take time.

Another issue is that some traditional Natives consider the whole anthropological endeavor fruitless. Who needs to measure bones when you know from you stories where you come from. Indians just don't value knowledge for knowledge's sake, like Western culture does. It is still a clash of cultures and world views.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Edgar Brown said...

Indians just don't value knowledge for knowledge's sake, like Western culture does.

It's hard to argue against that, and I really admire that world view, after all we are all just creatures on this earth.

However the realities of 'evolution' are at play here, the dominant world view is the 'knowledge' world view, and it affects everything around us. Trying to fight it is a very uphill battle. In my opinion keeping what is essential of such view without shunning away knowledge is a more sustainable strategy.

8:44 AM  

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