Thread: Native lessons
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Old 10-28-2002, 01:30 PM   #6
JW's Avatar
Location: San Diego CA USA
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 561
wait a second..

Like most Americans, I don't know anything about native american cultures. Bruce, I think what you are suggesting might be an interesting topic, but you have to tell us exactly WHAT cultural beleifs and concepts you are referring to, for a very important reason:

The image of the native american that most non-native americans have in their heads is mostly racist garbage invented in hollywood, and manufactured in the romantic minds of the first western environmentalists. In fact, most "native peoples" all over the world are seen with the same sort of stereotype by the people who have immigrated to those lands. This is the stereotyoe of the wise and spiritual indian who is one with nature and dares not to ever harm his ecological brothers and sisters (the animals and plants he lives among and the land he lives on).

The stereotype has turned out very often to be untrue, the real story being closer to the claim that the real reason native cultures seemed to live so much "in harmony with the land" being that they lacked the technological means to do as much damage as the "white man." This claim has been backed up by accounts of the transfer of technology from western cultures to indiginous societies, wherein the recipient of the technology uses it to his own ends, resulting in the destruction of his wonderful native land and the need for legal restraints on the use of the original technology. Also the native americans were known to waste animal lives by overhunting and overkilling, but the humans were so few in number that the impact was a little hard to see. Even though they COULD have been killing in horrible excess to the best of their abilities.

I think Shepard Krech III wrote a book about this sort of thing, but I don't know if this book is the one I read years ago. About his book:

Oh but hey you gotta read this part:

One thing that is very demonstrative for me is the story of Chief Seattle's speech. This is a famous speech that this old chief gave during the ol frontier times. The chief lamented the loss of the tribe's land to the conquering westerners. The sad thing is, that's all the original speech was: a lament

that "this was our land and now we've been defeated and y'all are gonna take it." An understandable thing to say that anyone would have said. Then later the speech got retold and retold and used in a hollywood movie, and eventually it became The Words of Wise Indian Man Who Is The Only One Who Respects Nature, and Respects It So Well.. and the modern version, which uses the shameless addition, out of nowhere, of environmental and hollywood-indian cliches, is still told today as the original speech, even though in this case we have the history of the evolution of the speech! Check this out for a better telling of the story, and good references in the end (Newsweek even told the true story, apparently?):

Alright, enough babbling! My point being that the wise old indian ways are for many of us stereotypical myths not founded in reality, and we would love to hear the true stories!

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