Sunday, June 15, 2014
I’m Glad the Comanche Lost and Other Things You Are Not Supposed to Say about Native Americans, Their Marketers, Scholars, and Fans
|Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanche Source: Wikipedia|
I used to, on some level, accept the popular notion that Native Americans were more spiritual and in tune with nature than European Americans, and that it was European Americans who brought war, sexism, and environmental degradation to an otherwise innocent, peaceful and Edenic Native America.
As a kid I bought slim paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Club that taught me that Native Americans planted dead fish in their agricultural fields in order to fertilize them. I learned that North American Indians didn’t have the wheel, bronze, iron, or steel, or writing. They cooked acorns by dropping hot stones into holes dug in the ground and filled with water. The acorns had to be soaked in advance in order to leech them of toxins. I thought of how cumbersome and time-consuming that cooking method would be, and how bland a meal a soaked acorn would provide.
In popular culture, Native Americans were the spiritual and natural corrective to modern Americans, who were seen as greedy and divorced from nature. On TV, Iron Eyes Cody witnessed American pollution and a visible tear flowed down his creased and weathered cheek. Of course Iron Eyes Cody was actually Sicilian but hey. The commercial meant well.
Chief Seattle was alleged to have given an eloquent speech about protecting the environment. He compared the Native American harmony with nature and the White Man’s greed. Chief Seattle’s environmental speech is a hoax. The version most people know was written by a white, Christian man from Texas.