Covid-19 and American Indians

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have been struck by the outsized impact of Covid-19 on American Indians, and by the lack of serious discussion of their apparent special vulnerability to the disease. The stories we read and hear are about bad water and poor living conditions among the Navajo and the Ojibwe—and in Black and Latino zip codes. I understand—and want nothing more than to make sure that everyone in America has clean and lead-free water and access to good health care. And I believe, with my liberal cohort, that it is government’s duty to ensure clean water and good health care. We cannot, in today’s world, be our own water testers and doctors. Read The Article

Learning–and teaching–Indian history

“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

How do we keep learning from Alvin?

Alvin Josephy died in 2005. I read something that he wrote—or that was written to or about him—almost every day. And I am continually amazed by what he said and when and where he said it.

In Life Magazine in 1971, Josephy wrote that the US government interpreters were telling visitors at the Custer Battlefield that Custer was a hero and the Indians were savages; in the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 1973, just weeks after the FBI-Indian confrontation at Wounded Knee, he said that the Indians were justified, and published photos of Custer’s troops being buried with high ceremony and Sioux Indian survivors of the battle being slaughtered and buried in a mass grave. In 1992 he reminded—in speeches and a book, America in 1492—that Columbus came to a land of some 75 or 90 million people, over 2000 mutually unintelligible languages, and cities larger than any in Europe at the time. And that the learned clerics
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