This blog will be Part Two of my remedial history of things that matter. Today’s lesson will be about Native Americans and their contribution to the world at large. This particular dissertation was inspired by one of my regular readers who suggested I look into a particular event that is taking place in the Black Hills of South Dakota right now. (See, I do take requests.) The back story she told me is about an auction that will happen on August 25. There are several parcels of land in the Black Hills totalling almost 2000 acres that will be sold that day to the highest bidder. The Lakota Tribe is trying to raise 1 million dollars in the next 10 days to be able to bid on these plots. Here is the link to their site which gives more detail and can accept donations http://www.indiegogo.com/PeSla-LakotaHeartland.
I decided to take some time and do a little research into the history of this tribe and thanks to Wikipedia and a couple of history classes I took in college, here’s all I know about Native Americans. You can judge for yourself the differences in our civilized ways and their less sophisticated traditions. First of all, Native American is only appropriate if we called ourselves Non-Native Americans and none of us has ever done that. They were living on this continent for thousands of years before Columbus inadvertently landed on an island in the Caribbean and mistakenly announced that he had reached the East Indies, thus making the inhabitants “Indians.” Given that the printing press had only been invented in the 1450’s it was still too much trouble to correct his typo and the name stuck. Maybe if he had asked for directions from the locals he could have actually succeeded in his quest.
From there the story jumps to the colonization of the New World by Europeans and their interaction with the First Americans, as I prefer to call them. And yes, that makes us the Second Americans so just deal with it. Frankly, without the assistance of the First Americans the colonists wouldn’t have made it through the first winter. It turns out that the First Americans had developed many good techniques for living off the land. They had been selectively breeding maize for years to improve its yield and this was 200 years before Gregor Mendel improved the pea plant and gave us the science of genetics. The First Americans were just hungry for more corn. They also managed their agricultural and animal resources in such a way as to insure that they would always have these resources for future generations. That management philosophy sounds a lot like sustainability, which is a concept we still haven’t mastered. They never took more than they needed of the bison, deer and fish that were plentiful in the Americas.
They developed a universal language that enabled different tribes to communicate without words.That’s right, sign language is a First American invention and we just improved on it. They exchanged goods by bartering for everything. In the process of bartering both sides agreed to an equitable exchange rate and they kept their word. On the other hand, civilized men invented lawyers to parse the language of contracts into more favorable terms and eliminate the need for ethical behavior, almost. The First Americans were taught the value of lawyers when the U.S. Government forced them to sign treaties for their own good. These treaties were promptly broken by the same Government Agents who signed them and the First Americans were taught the value of contracts forevermore.
The First Americans actually treated the women with the same esteem as men. They divided up the labor according to gender favoritism but respect for each other as people was universally accepted and their roles in the social order were equal in every way. The Second Americans allowed women to vote very early on, 1920 to be exact, and Title IX was granted way back in 1972.
Now, about that uncivilized heathen label that Hollywood came up with for the First Americans. Let’s say you had been good stewards of your land for many generations and then one day a family sets up a tent in your backyard and promptly announces, “This is our land, so get out.” What would be your response? The First Americans didn’t even understand the meaning of ownership. They considered all of life to be part of the Great Spirit and anything that was necessary for the very existence of people like land, water, crops, trees and animals were too valuable to everyone to be owned by anyone. They did not see the world as a separate thing to be possessed but rather as part and parcel of their very existence. The technical definition of this belief is called panentheism which roughly translates into “God is everywhere.” We made them rethink that long held tradition.
Which brings us back to today. The Lakota people are trying to buy an area called Pe’Sla in the Black Hills. They consider this place to be sacred ground and they do not want it developed ever. There is nothing there but earth and trees which is what makes it so important. The Great Spirit resides there and they believe the universe is kept in balance by their prayers there. That sounds like a perfectly good reason to me. Keeping the universe in balance would seem to be more important than a road or a parking lot. Just think of it this way. What if some developer offered to buy the Taj Mahal and turn it into the Taj M-All with stores and a food court and lots of parking. How do you think those Indians would feel about that plan?
At the very least, we can all do our due diligence and check this fundraising opportunity out. We have the chance to give back the very land that these people watched over for centuries. A million dollars doesn’t seem like much money at all when we’re talking about the balance of the universe here. One less cup of coffee for a million people would be enough to make this happen and I sincerely hope it does. When was the last time we had the chance to change the course of history for the better? We may not succeed to the extent we would like but it shouldn’t be because we didn’t even try.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.