Friday, May 7, 2010

Truth About Native America And The Effects Of European Colonisation

There has been a persistent myth in American culture that Native Americans were a populous, thriving, peaceful people who's Utopian existence was destroyed by the bloodthirsty white European invaders. Listed below are some facts that give a much more realistic insight into Native American life, and the effects of European colonization.

According to the most current and in depth archaeological and anthropological evidence:

1.) Far from the popular estimates of 50-60 million Native Americans, pre-European migration, the number is in reality somewhere between 8.5 million (highest estimate) and 1.8 million (lowest estimate). The popular, and inflated number, gives the impression that the much lower population figures recorded after the mass European migration were the result of European action.

2.) While Europeans did bring some illness from the old world to the new, it was not a one way street. Many highly contagious forms of diseases were brought home to Europe as well. The popular narrative of European illnesses wiping out vast Native American populations is also disingenuous. Native Americans lived in isolated tribal societies, often in conflict with their neighbors, thus making it difficult for an illness to spread outside of their own tribe.

3.) One startling discovery coming from the research on disease exchange between populations was this: Native American health overall, across the continent, was on a downward decline long before Columbus arrived.
Among the findings:
a.)Native Americans were consistently shorter than previous generations.
b.)Their bones show sings of long term exposure to a plethora of serious illnesses. c.)A marked increase in the graves of children.
All of these discoveries point to long-term societal stagnancy and malnutrition.

4.) Native Americans did not live in a state of perpetual peace with each other. In fact they were often at war with each other, with some large tribes being so dangerous to their neighbors that large coalitions of smaller and weaker tribes were created so the smaller tribes could survive.

5.) Large parts of what we now consider to be "America" were almost completely depopulated over one hundred years before Columbus ever stepped foot on western shores. Particularly in the American south west, where incursions of Mexican Natives and diseases caused many groups to leave, or disappear completely.

6.) While it is indisputable that Native Americans suffered major mistreatment at the hands of some Europeans, especially during the big push west, it must also be recognized that many of Native American tribes actively engaged with European settlers when it gave them an advantage over their traditional Native American enemies, both in combat, and in the acquisition of their enemies land and resources.

As it has been across the great expanse of human history, one more advanced society slowly pushed out, or assimilated, the less technical, stagnant society. The mass European migration to the Americas should be viewed as such.

~" The Indian Population in 1492", William and Mary Quarterly
~"American Journal of Physical Anthropology"
~""Disease and Demography in the Americas", Smithsonian Institution Press

(Update: I have done a little trimming and editing to this post, having wrote it with a head full of flu, and various cough and cold medications, I have found it lacking a little in the grammar department. Apologies to those who read the original. The changes were mostly grammatical in nature, and aside from the second example, added nothing new to the post. ~Philo)

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