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Native Americans: They Were Seen as Savages

By       Message Kenneth Briggs     Permalink
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According to JUDITH NIES in NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY, "About 800 A.D., a strong Mesoamerican influence appeared in the Mississippi Valley and spread throughout the Mississippi River system, including the cultivation of corn and the building of truncated pyramids or "platform mounds" in the Mexican style. The Natchez Indian tradition attributes this influence to the actual colonization from Mesoamerica.

In 1758, a Louisiana Frenchman published the traditional story of how the Natchez came to the lands the French called Louisiana, told to him by the priest of the Natchez temple:

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Before we came into this land we lived yonder under the sun [pointing with his finger nearly southwest, by which I understood that he meant Mexico]; we lived in a fine country where the earth is always pleasant; there our suns had their abode, and our nation maintained itself for a long time against the ancients of the country, who conquered some of our villages in the plains but never could force us from the mountains. Our nation extended itself along the great water [the Gulf of Mexico] where the large river [the Mississippi] loses itself ; but as our enemies were become very numerous, and very wicked, our Suns sent some of their subjects who lived near this river, to examine whether we could retire into the country through which it flowed. The country on the east side of the river being found extremely pleasant, the Great Sun, upon the return of those who had examined it, ordered all his subjects who lived in the plains and who still defended themselves against the antients [sic] of the country, to remove into this land, here to build a temple, and to preserve the eternal fire.

The Natchez survived as one of the most powerful of the Mississippi nations until the 1720s when the French put down a rebellion by destroying all the Natchez villages and selling most of the Natchez people, including the great Sun, into slavery in the Caribbean."

"Far from settling a virgin continent, Europeans, from the very beginning, moved into preexisting Indian villages and followed Indian trade routes using Indian guides. Without Indian villages, it is entirely possible there could have been no successful European settlements. From the moment of contact, the appearance of white men raised complex choices for native leaders. What the natives did not realize until it was too late was that European Christianity made it impossible for the Europeans to view the Indians in a way that allowed a fair and equitable negotiation. They saw Indians as savages, as a people without a culture, valuable only as a source of slave labor."

However, I believe they were dead wrong, as many short examinations will show.

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Even before the Europeans made contact with them, there were several outstanding Indian cultures that we are just beginning to understand and appreciate. One such was the Iroquois Confederacy, made up of five nations initially: the Onondagas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, and Senecas. It became a six nation confederacy when the Tuscaroras migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century.

Together, these peoples, located in the northeastern region of North America, comprise the oldest participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, provided much inspiration to such central authors of the original United States representative democracy as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life’s liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 years. For example, while we struggled with the Equal Rights Amendment to our constitution and with women’s rights in general we could be looking to the Iroquois and this statement from Exemplar of Liberty, Native America and the Evolution of Democracy, Chp. 11:

We, the women of the Iroquois

Own the Land, the Lodge, the Children

Ours is the right to adoption, life or death;

Ours is the right to raise up and depose chiefs;

Ours is the right to representation in all councils;

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Ours is the right to make and abrogate treaties;

Ours is the supervision over domestic and foreign policies;

Ours is the trusteeship of tribal property;

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An OEN Editor. Born-03/20/1934, BA Pol. Sci.-U of Washington-1956, MBA-Seattle U-1970, Boeing-Program Control-1957-1971, State of Oregon-Mental Health Division-Deputy Admistrator-1971-1979, llinois Association of Community MH (more...)

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