Unlearning the Language of Conquest
Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Editor’s Note on Chief Seathl’s Speech
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I would like to express appreciation to the scholars who have contributed to this book; to the University of Texas Press editorial staff, who were as committed to our message as they were to creating an excellent final edition; to Rick Two Dogs and my Medicine Horse Sun Dance brothers and sisters, who sometimes laugh at my attempt to analyze things and try to ...
Prologue. Red Road, Red Lake—Red Flag! (Four Arrows)
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On March 20, 2005, a seventeen-year-old Ojibwa boy from the Red Lake Indian Reservation (in Minnesota near the Canadian border) murdered his grandfather, his grandfather’s friend, five students at Red Lake High School, a security guard, and a teacher. As of this writing, seven other students are hospitalized. The event has been billed in newspapers as the ...
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The language of conquest is ultimately a language of deceit. It echoes in the corridors of every American institution, building illusion upon illusion while robbing all of us of our collective Indigenous wisdom. This book is an effort to expose and replace this deception. Although it speaks specifically to the colonization and oppression of America’s First Nations and their potential contributions, which have been suppressed by the lies of our dominant culture, no single race of people can lay claim...
CHAPTER 1. Happiness and Indigenous Wisdom in the History of the Americas
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The attainment of happiness has always been a fundamental human aspiration. This is why all traditions of wisdom have made reference in one way or another to how it can be obtained, frequently conceiving happiness as the sumum or pinnacle of human achievement. Happiness as a goal has even been enshrined as a fundamental value for nations or governments. The United States’ Declaration of Independence, for example, specifies “the pursuit of happiness” as one of the new nation’s fundamental aspirations, and the fathers of this manifesto, such as Thomas Jefferson and...
CHAPTER 2. Adventures in Denial: Ideological Resistance to the Idea that the Iroquois Helped Shape American Democracy
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I have long been enamored of Noam Chomsky’s idea that some concepts are defined as being beyond the scope of permissible debate, even in a society that defines itself as devoted to democracy and open discussion. Part of my fascination stems from my involvement during the last three decades with the idea that the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy helped shape the political beliefs and institutions of the United States (and through it, democracy worldwide). Having explored this theme in several books,1 I also have held a ringside seat as the rhetoric on this issue...
CHAPTER 3. Burning Down the House: Laura Ingalls Wilder and American Colonialism
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How do a country and its citizens justify genocide and land theft? How do they transform obviously wrong or immoral actions into something righteous and worthy of celebration? To answer these questions one need only examine the beloved classic Little House on the Prairie3 to observe how expertly Laura Ingalls Wilder crafted a narrative that transformed the horror of white supremacist genocidal thinking and the stealing of Indigenous lands into something noble, virtuous, and absolutely beneficial to...
CHAPTER 4. (Post) Colonial Plainsongs: Toward Native Literary Worldings (Jodi A. Byrd)
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In this chapter, Jodi Byrd extends the discussion of hegemonic literature like Little House on the Prairie, explaining the importance of “reworlding” literary assumptions and definitions so that they can finally speak to the true histories of Indigenous peoples. She tells us that this “worlding of a world” is the work of the settler whose “discursive colonization naturalizes the European order as ...
CHAPTER 5. Conquest Masquerading as Law
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Elizabeth Cook-Lynn has recently identified anti-Indianism as “probably the foremost challenge to U.S. history and art.”1 A discursive and imagi- native violence that continues to shape U.S. intellectual and artistic expressions, anti-Indianism functions as a deep-seated colonial hegemony that vilifies and dehumanizes Indigenous People as a means to justify genocide and support imperialism. In Anti-Indianism in Modern America, Cook-Lynn suggests that a critical analysis of anti-Indianism within the...
CHAPTER 6. Traditional Native Justice: Restoration and Balance, Not “Punishment”
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On July 12, 1994, Judge James Allendoerfer of the Snohomish County Superior Court of Washington state made a historic decision that in essence recognized the legal system of the Kuiu Thlingit Nation by deferring sentencing on two Thlingit youth from Alaska who had been charged with armed robbery in Everett, Washington, thus enabling the Tribal Court to utilize its own justice system. This was the first time...
CHAPTER 7. Where Are Your Women?: Missing in Action
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In 1757, the great Cherokee speaker and chief Atagulkalu (Attakullakulla) arrived at a meeting in Charles Town, South Carolina, but he hesitated to conduct business with its all-male European council. Prodded by the Europeans to get busy, he turned impatiently to Governor William Henry Lyttelton and demanded, “But where are your women?”1...
CHAPTER 8. Peaceful Versus Warlike Societies in Pre-Columbian America: What Do Archaeology and Anthropology Tell Us?
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This chapter will address the question posed in its title, from the findings in my global cross-cultural and archaeological-historical research, summarized in the book Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child-Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World,1 and in a subsequent study.2 This work, a combined geographical and cross-cultural analysis of global human behavior with many maps, is hardly known outside of a handful of specialists, though it remains one...
CHAPTER 9. Ecological Evidence of Large-Scale Silviculture by California Indians
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The native trees of California are famous for being among the oldest, largest, and tallest creatures in the world. Besides their great age and size, these trees possess various idiosyncrasies in their arrangements and shapes that are revealed in ecological surveys. Indeed, some characteristics, such as the extremely narrow and disjunct distribution of the giant Sequoia groves, appear to defy basic principles of population biology. When taken together, the odd features of California’s ancient trees and forests...
CHAPTER 10. Preserving the Whole: Principles of Sustainability in Mi’kmaw Forms of Communication
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It has always intrigued me that so much of what is written on pre-contact, oral cultures is based on what was previously written. Alternatively, it could be based on archaeological interpretations of the remnants of material culture. These artifacts can offer a gold mine of information, but only on what is found, and based on interpretations made from another faraway time and place. My own research into Mi’kmaw1 culture began this way, in the early...
CHAPTER 11. The Language of Conquest and the Loss of the Commons
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Most people, including college students and their professors, continue to be socialized to think within the traditions of inquiry and knowledge accumulation that are based on cultural assumptions that do not take account of the ecological crisis. The study of environmental issues, whether from the social sciences and humanities or from the hard sciences, does not provide people with the knowledge and values that enable...
CHAPTER 12. Overcoming Hegemony in Native Studies Programs
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Throughout education there are obstacles to teaching topics dealing with Natives. Even university programs in Indigenous Studies usually exist within a colonialist structure. As a teacher, you may have problems with colleagues who expect you to teach in a certain fashion in order for you to receive tenure and promotion. Problems that Native students face in modern universities are similar to what Natives faced at federal boarding schools. Unless professors are well versed in tribal happenings, they...
CHAPTER 13. The Question of Whitewashing in American History and Social Science
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A major theme of this volume has been that the victors have been writing the history (and the social science as well) with regard to the experience of Indigenous People. There is a clear if often unstated bias in much of U.S. social science that implicitly celebrates and apologizes for the onward march of colonialism and neocolonialism, while it slights the perspective of its numerous victims in North America and elsewhere. The history of the American Indian is, obviously, a part of this history of colonial conquest...
CHAPTER 14. Before Predator Came: A Plea for Expanding First Nations Scholarship as European Shadow Work
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In his latest contribution to First Nations scholarship, Kill the Indian, Save the Man,1 the controversial scholar Ward Churchill strives to correct some of the shortcomings of his earlier work, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present.2 Primarily, he explains, that the earlier work exhibited “too great a concentration upon the raw physicality of killing rather than the more insidious cultural dimensions of the genocide suffered by the peoples indigenous to this...
CHAPTER 15. Roy Rogers, Twin Heroes, and the Christian Doctrine of Exclusive Salvation
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In my early childhood, raised to disparage my Indigenous heritage and weaned on early television episodes of white heroes shooting red villains, I saw no clear line between heroes and horses. Hopalong Cassidy and Topper were embroidered on my bedspread and a portrait of Gene Autry and his horse Champion hung on my wall. I do not think I missed an episode of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans television show on our small, black-and-white TV. Images of the rearing palomino, Trigger, and the...
CHAPTER 16. Western Science and the Loss of Natural Creativity
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As we approach the second decade of a new millennium, Native and Western cultures, with their seemingly irreconcilably different ways of knowing and relating to the natural world, must search for common ground and a basis for dialogue. The images for relating to the natural world originating from the modern mechanist paradigm will not work for us in the twenty-first century. Indigenous wisdom might work, if only we could stop dismissing it as being “of another time.” Thomas Berry...
CHAPTER 17. On the Very Idea of “A Worldview” and of “Alternative Worldviews”
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The first thing to be pointed out is that “worldview” is a European idea, specifically German (Weltanschauung = world looked-at [also ideology]). So we must recognize initially that in speaking of an Indigenous worldview we may have already generated an egregiously distorted account, determined in advance by a European bias that gives priority to seeing and vision...
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In his book A Time Before Deception: Truth in Communication, Culture and Ethics, Thomas W. Cooper, a Harvard-educated communications professor at Emerson College, defines “Indigenous People,” with the simplest of words, like “authentic” and “genuine,” and “natural.” Indeed, many Indigenous People refer to the precolonial period as “the time before the ...
APPENDIX. Essays from The Encyclopedia of American Indian History (Four Arrows)
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I requested and received permission to publish my three submissions for the Encyclopedia of American Indian History (2006) as an appendix to this volume. The first essay, “The Myth of the Noble Savage,” will hopefully deflect allegations that our text overly glorifies Indigenous perspectives in the same way that Rousseau and others romanticized them ...
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Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 2 figures, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2006