Several friends quickly sent me the NYTimes review of a new book on the old subject of human origins in the Americas. The book is ORIGIN: A Genetic History of the Americas, and the author is Jennifer Raff. According to the reviewer, Raff consulted the sciences of “archaeology, genetics, and linguistics” in her book—which I have not read, but have ordered! Read The Article
I’ve been on a history reading jag the last few months. It started with a comment I heard from Alvin Josephy many times—that the “standard” histories of America leave Indians out when they don’t lie about them.
My first book was These Truths: A History of the United States, by Harvard historian and regular and prolific New Yorker writer Jill Lepore; I looked for Indians. Although she has apparently written a book about the Pequot—which I have not read—in her new “History of the United States,” Indians get little mention. She is on a mission to tell us how we got—or are still getting—from the words in the founding documents about “all men created equal,” to the place where non-property-owning whites, former slaves and their descendants, and women are all included under the equality umbrella. Note the presumptuous title of her book—A History of… implies The New History of…. Read The Article
Years ago, when I was the Director of an organization called Fishtrap, we had a conference at Wallowa Lake on “Fire.” Stephen J. Pyne, the McArthur Fellow who wrote the books on fire in America, was the featured speaker. Forest Service and BLM firefighters from across the Northwest come to hear Pyne and talk with each other. But one strong memory of that conference had nothing to do with fire directly; it had to do with ethnicity and digestion. Read The Article
Measles, smallpox, influenza—what a tragic and painful experience the first European contacts must have been for the first Americans! We now know that huge numbers, unfathomable numbers, of American Indians were killed by European diseases.
Imagine Tisquantum (Squanto) coming back to his homeland after years in Europe as a slave, making his way to England and then coming home, where he finds his village deserted, his tribe gone to disease. Read The Article
“The realization has finally begun to dawn that American society as a whole has suffered from ‘forked tongue’ history books… Year after year, the distortions, misrepresentations, and failure to tell the whole historical story foster erroneous and stereotyped thinking about Indians, and lead to still further misrepresentations, prejudice and contempt.”
Alvin Josephy, Learning Magazine, 1973
“…for the most part these revelations—the great antiquity, size, and sophistication of Indian societies—are new to the public… Why don’t intelligent non-specialists, the sort of people who know a bit about stem cells and read contemporary literature, already know something about how researchers think of the Americas before Columbus?… Why isn’t this material already in high school textbooks?”
Charles Mann, Afterword to 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, 2006
In Charles Mann’s brilliant 2005 book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, he scans the results of hundreds of recent ethnographic, linguistic, archeological, anthropological, and biological studies. He calls and visits noted Read The Article