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Thanksgiving guilt trip: How warlike were Native Americans before Europeans showed up?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding over recent scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes. When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the "first Thanksgiving," in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a fall feast of turkey, venison, squash and corn. This episode seemed to support the view—often (apparently erroneously) attributed to the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau—of Native Americans and other pre-state people as peaceful "noble savages".

As I’ve pointed out previously, prominent scientists now deride depictions of pre-state people as peaceful. "Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage," the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in 2007, "quantitative body counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with ax marks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own." According to Pinker, the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes "got it right" when he called pre-state life a "war of all against all."

Pinker based his view on books such as War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (Oxford University Press, 1996) by the anthropologist Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois, and Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage (Saint Martin’s Press, 2003) by the archaeologist Steven LeBlanc of Harvard. "The dogs of war were seldom on a leash" in the pre-Colombian New World, Keeley wrote.

Popular culture has amplified these scientific claims. In the 2007 HBO docudrama Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Chief Sitting Bull complains to a U.S. Army colonel about whites’ violent treatment of the Indians. The colonel retorts, "You were killing each other for hundreds of moons before the first white stepped foot on this continent."

Native Americans definitely waged war long before Europeans showed up. The evidence is especially strong in the American Southwest, where archaeologists have found numerous skeletons with projectile points embedded in them and other marks of violence; war seems to have surged during periods of drought. But scientists such as Pinker, Keeley and LeBlanc have replaced the myth of the noble savage with the myth of the savage savage.

In two momentous early encounters, Native Americans greeted Europeans with kindness and generosity. Here is how Christopher Columbus described the Arawak, tribal people living in the Bahamas when he landed there in 1492: "They…brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance…. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

How that passage—which I found in A People’s History of the United States by the historian Howard Zinn (Harper Collins, 2003)—captures the whole sordid history of colonialism! Columbus was as good as his word. Within decades the Spaniards had slaughtered almost all the Arawaks and other natives of the New Indies and enslaved the few survivors. "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide," the historian Samuel Morison—who admired Columbus!–wrote.

A similar pattern unfolded in New England in the early 17th century. After the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth in 1620 on the Mayflower, they almost starved to death. Members of a local tribe, the Wampanoag, helped the newcomers, showing them how to plant corn and other local foods. In the fall of 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day feast with the Wampanoag. The event my classmates and I reenacted in grade school really happened!

The friendliness of the Wampanoag was extraordinary, because they had recently been ravaged by diseases caught from previous European explorers. Europeans had also killed, kidnapped and enslaved Native Americans in the region. The Plymouth settlers, during their desperate first year, had even stolen grain and other goods from the Wampanoag, according to Wikipedia’s entry on Plymouth Colony.

The good vibes of that 1621 feast soon dissipated. As more English settlers arrived in New England, they seized more and more land from the Wampanoag and other tribes, who eventually resisted with violence—in vain. We all know how this story ended. "The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million," Zinn wrote.

The Arawak and Wampanoag were kind to us—and by us I mean people of European descent. We showed our thanks by sickening, subjugating and slaughtering them. And we have the gall to call them more savage than us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image credit: Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of 1621 feast at Plymouth, courtesy of Wiki Commons

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  1. 1. wolfkiss 7:54 pm 11/22/2010

    Your guilt trip is almost effective; "almost" in the sense that it takes pains to mention the names of tribes that were peaceful, while the beginning of the article is correct in pointing out the savagery of other tribe’s activity independent of European influence. But this is the nature of human culture; some are peaceful and some are not, whether European or not. The Hopi, for example, were quite culturally advanced having both a form of agriculture and astronomy. The Apache, on the other hand, survived by routinely attacking and stealing from more peaceful tribes. So it is difficult, if not outright naive, to generalize regarding Native Americans as a whole. Like us, they had peaceful tendencies and horrific tendencies.

    If one insists on averaging things out, however, I still choose the general path of scientific and humanist traits inherent in European and Asian progress. On this score, again on average, these civilizations reduced male mortality before the age of 20 by many times and increased our average lifespan by twice.

    Did our species do horrible things to each other in countless instances? Yes. However, as a whole this article warrants a warning, but not justification for guilt. We remain better off as a species than we did hundreds of years ago…on average.

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  2. 2. wolfkiss 7:59 pm 11/22/2010

    Based on the above accounts, both the article and my previous comment, we are justified in being thankful for our capacity as humans to get along. As evidenced by our exponentially increasing population, it’s reasonable to assert that this along with technology, which are not independent trends, have served our collective species well. The author’s article, however, is a reasonable warning that such gains are not guarantees if we allow our "heart of darkness" to reign unchecked.

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  3. 3. notslic 8:40 pm 11/22/2010

    The violence (not warfare) that is attributed to the plains and southwest Native Americans is a little wrong in the article. The bravest warriors counted coup on the enemy by touching them with a stick or their hand…NOT by killing them. The logic is clear. If you kill them all, then they will not be around for you to raid in the future. This is clearly NOT warfare. It is more like a very violent sport. Killing did happen, but the object of raiding was to steal horses, food, women, etc., not exterminate or enslave.

    We were more noble than the Europeans.

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  4. 4. AcousticYorick 8:15 am 11/23/2010

    @notslic: "The violence (not warfare) that is attributed to the plains and southwest Native Americans is a little wrong in the article…. We were more noble than the Europeans."

    And yet, "at the site of Crow Creek in South Dakota, in what seems to be the year 1325 according to archaeological dating, more than 500 men, women, and children were slaughtered, scalped, and mutilated, and all this … long before Columbus" (Roger Sandall).

    South Dakota would be "plains," yes?

    "Noble," indeed. "Violent sport," indeed.

    Oh, and on the aboriginals not being intent on "enslaving" others:

    "The [coastal California] Chumash … kept slaves, as did some other tribes in California, none of which grew any crops." (Roger Edgerton)

    Coastal California would be "southwest," yes?

    "[T]he Iroquois … took captives home to torture them before death." (Nicholas Wade)

    "Noble," indeed. But hey, what would you expect from proto-New-Yorkers?

    For anyone who wants to see past the politically correct propaganda, Edgerton’s (1992) book "Sick Societies" is very enlightening. Noble, even. Observe:

    "Inuit [i.e., Eskimo] adults, who prized emotional equanimity and nonviolence, nevertheless encouraged children to torture small animals and birds to death … the Inuit were prone to outbursts of lethal violence and in fact killed one another at a very high rate."

    And where would *you* (notslic) be today if the Evil Europeans hadn’t "stolen" land from people who didn’t even the *concept* of land ownership? Not posting on this forum, that’s for sure.

    So show a little gratitude, eh? It’s *Thanksgiving,* after all. Be thankful for what European civilization has given *to you.*

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  5. 5. Bracer 9:37 am 11/23/2010

    The winners and survivors always write history. A commonplace, but it’s important to realize that all of us including all American Indians are descendants of the survivors of long-forgotten conquests. Burgundians, Carthaginians, Neanderthals anyone? Who feels sorry for them now? The Indians should have been left alone, sure. But that was never going to happen. As Hitler’s secretary (Godwin’s law, sorry) said later, "You can’t correct history. But you can correct *yourself.*"

    Look at what is happening in the Brazilian rain forest. As soon as powerful people want something from less powerful people, they take it, even today. Only another power, essentially, can stop them.

    Some of the First Nations were peaceful and admirable, and others, like the Inuit, seem to have tolerated some deeply disturbing behavior as normal. But it’s good on Thanksgiving Day to remember that the impulse of many human beings on meeting new people is to be friendly and helpful.

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  6. 6. cmchittom 9:49 am 11/23/2010

    This article is just as silly as saying Europeans are peaceful because Switzerland likes to stay out of wars.

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  7. 7. stjohnson 12:18 pm 11/23/2010

    It must be very difficult to calculate homicide rates in prehistoric societies. You have to compare the number of violent deaths (murder or war) with the total population. If the bodies of victims of violence were more likely to skeletonize and be preserved, the proportion of violent deaths seen would be misleading.
    On the other hand, inhumation in soft soils or cremation of the victims of peaceful death could be less likely to be preserved.

    I haven’t been so fortunate as to read the works cited, so I can’t know how good the analysis is. I have read Pinker, though. I’m afraid Pinker is like one person above, so determined to rebut a perceived ideology, the judgment is suspect. Claims about human nature have long ago fallen into the extraordinary category and demand extraordinary evidence to support them.

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  8. 8. jtdwyer 3:20 pm 11/23/2010

    The real rape of the Americas occurred in stealing its societies’ accumulated resources valued by European monarchs, especially gold and silver, and the extraction of available natural resources already depleted in Europe, especially fish and timber.

    Then, of course the land itself was confiscated with the intent of solving not only Europe’s resource shortfalls but its overpopulaton by sending settlers to further extract natural resource and reduce Europe’s resource requirements.

    While that investment strategy wasn’t completely successfull, it did generally allow the excess population of Europe to be supported by the ‘newfound’ resources of the Americas.

    Since we in America have only extended the resource managements methods of middle aged Europe, we have since produced advanced technologies to support global overpopulation and overharvesting of resources. Now all we need is that next ‘New World’ – this one’s nearly been consumed.

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  9. 9. Andrei Kirilyuk 4:30 pm 11/23/2010

    Not only have you spoiled Native American peoples, but you also did it in vain, looking at the resulting state of your science! :) American Indians, rise against the decadent Anglo-Saxon science! You’re their only remaining hope, actually… Just smoke the right pipe and show them the right way.

    You see, Yankees, your problem and their advantage is not really violence or its absence, but your absence of roots in this foreign land. You are classical "déracinés", you’ve lost your European origins but haven’t really found any new ones (contrary to "integrated" emigrants to old-world countries). All those "American traditions", Thanksgiving and the rest, are terribly superficial with respect to true, ancient roots of "genuine" nations. It did give you quick and strong advantages, your "industrial success", but they could only be temporal as it becomes clear today, without any deeper foundation to rely upon in such uncertain epoch of unpaid debts. Maybe it can provide a deeper explanation for those various "nostalgic regrets" with respect to native Indians, your occasional "indianophilia": now you’d wish to have those deeper links to Nature and spirits of ancestors they always had and may still preserve… And it need not be "irrational", can be quite practical actually.

    Return back to the real world, from your virtual money fraud and abstract science trickery destroying our world, the good old world that belongs to all. Or else there will be violence: mother Nature will destroy you.

    With this holiday wish, have a happy celebration, of course.

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  10. 10. bohdan 5:33 pm 11/23/2010

    …like Russians did during the purges or Holodmir?

    If you lived among us, "Russkie", you’d see that it is simply not true. We are very well integrated into this country, whether anyone likes it or not. We are making our own existance, having been kicked out of every decent country in the world.

    Decadent Anglo-Saxon science…please. Can you explain Soviet revisionist history to me? What has the Kremlin admitted to this month? Don’t have the guts to admit it, do you?

    It sounds like a five-ruble-education to me. Lot’s of big words, but no substance. Plus the added "effect" of many "quotations".

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  11. 11. ssm1959 5:34 pm 11/23/2010

    This is generally a good essay however it appears we still can not bring ourselves to accept that people are people with same foibles and desires regardless of the side of the ocean from which ones genetic tree takes root(itself a fallacy). Noticeably missing from the essay is that the reason the Wampanoag sought relations with the Plymouth colony was to help them with their ongoing war with the Narragansett. The Sioux were displace from Wisconsin and Minnesota by the very peaceful bashing of heads at the Battles of the Brule and Stillwater; the end stage of a multi-generational war. A quick review of Alan Eckerts historical narratives, based on the Draper collection of diaries of the Northwest Territories is rife with didies regarding intertribal conflict that will curdle your blood. The 7 nations had never a second thought as they starved the Peoria on a rock precipice along the Illinois River and the neighbors of the Gros Ventres were in a stage of perpetual conflict long before contact with non-natives. Granted, nation state war as such did not exist yet (the Seven nations/Peoria conflict not withstanding), it would have taken its fledgling steps in NA had European discovery been delayed by a few hundred years.
    Yes the exchange of diseases was horrible, two way, and completely unavoidable. Europe/Asia had diseases of population and ultimately they were going to get here. Who can be blamed for a narrow range of genetic variation that put natives at increased risk. Bear in mind the exchange went both ways; our current epidemic of tobacco use can be laid at the feet of Native cultivation of the plant.
    The point is, just a Wm. Cronin posits, humans are human regardless of where we go. We fight and claw out existances at each others expense: no exceptions. Our culture today is manipulated to be consumed by guilt associated with the past that we fail to deal with the real problems that threaten us today. We are a collective Nero and we just keep fiddling.

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  12. 12. Andrei Kirilyuk 7:34 pm 11/23/2010

    Pryvit, Bohdan, I’m actually a Ukrainian (in Kyiv), not Russian, and Kremlin is much more opposite to me here than to you there. But modern, "American" science does have those specific problems of alienation from nature it is supposed to describe. And it has something to do with the general mentality (progressively) separated from its roots. It happens everywhere in "industrial" world, but USA are champions in it and now unfortunately leading the world to the respective, quite obvious impasse. You may still be making very comfortable existence out there but something is seriously flawed with it (I’m not really the first to note it – and not even the second after Horgan). And you’re right about their criminal post-Soviet empire here – but that’s even a too evident impasse. American case is more complicated and seducing – and therefore more dangerous, as its defects may become clear too late (like now). It’s a long talk, of course, especially for matters of "substance". You may have a look at my comments to the previous post.

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  13. 13. oldvic 7:11 am 11/24/2010

    I have insufficient information to comment on North American natives, although I’d be very surprised if their behaviour in general had been significantly different from South American, African or Asian people.
    However, I’ve been sufficiently exposed to political correctness to know that it usually denotes the absence of correctness, just as political will often signals the lack of will. Let us strive for correctness, period. It’s a far worthier goal.

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  14. 14. bohdan 9:14 am 11/24/2010

    Pryvit, Andrei, doszhe pryemno. Fello Ukrainian, your use of the word Yankee takes away from any merit your argument has. It has the sound of our blood relatives that were not so nice to us in the past, the Russians. You see, that is how I came to be here in the US. So you see, Kremlin is not so much different between us.

    I am a scientist, a physicist to be exact. And, I am striving to see your point about nature and science, specifically American science. Sure it can be noted, but it doesn’t mean there is any correctness involved. I am thinking that you mean that because our roots are not strong here, that we don’t belong and therefore our science is flawed. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

    Given that our Ukrainian heritage was in some areas one of a nomadic life, as in the Kozaks. Can you tell me how Ukrainian life is any different? What about the hypothesis that native Americans may not be so native? Rather, they could have wandered from elsewhere. What that has to do with science is not very relevant.

    Living in the US as a Ukrainian/American, first generation, does not in anyway mean my science is flawed. Our Vranykyee taste the exact same as yours…we just don’t have Salo.

    Dobrii Dyen!

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  15. 15. Steve D 12:49 pm 11/24/2010

    Notslic said: "Killing did happen, but the object of raiding was to steal horses, food, women, etc., not exterminate or enslave." Wouldn’t stealing women be sexual slavery?

    What’s the difference between a "warlike tribe" and a criminal gang?

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  16. 16. Andrei Kirilyuk 2:05 pm 11/24/2010

    The difference is, for example, in everything referred to as "folk" (or "ethnic"). Mainstream and white-American folk means only "popular" or sometimes maybe "old-style", while in Ukraine folk goes "infinitely" far in the past and deep into subconscious, towards Nature, etc. Today’s Ukrainians are (sometimes) quite modern externally, but they also have various quantities of those deeper levels in operative form (often creating serious obstacles to industrial development, by the way, and making Ukrainian immigrants a little "funny" even in egalitarian Canada). It is as if the absolute majority of Americans were "somewhat Indians" in their mind.

    Yes, Indians had come from elsewhere (as everybody everywhere) but it was not after their species formation as such. They remain therefore "natural" by origin (that’s why they cannot really "integrate" into industrial society), while mainstream Americans are practically "artificial" in their current version: they "forgot" about their true, ancient origins (maybe with some exceptions – because you still remember some Ukrainian habits, in your first generation though).

    I am a physicist too, and you can find a more detailed explanation of modern science problems at http://arxiv.org/abs/0705.4562 (with many references showing that it’s not only me and Horgan who noted those problems). There are also rigorously specified solutions, but they can hardly be applied, for purely subjective reasons, just because of that state of science (and society) they could heal. Maybe American Indians could help.:) Or Ukrainians, if others fail. Every nation should have a mission, after all. Stay alive.

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  17. 17. Steve3 3:18 pm 11/24/2010

    When anything is printed that leans away from science and into more anthropological fields all manner of fools log on and post.
    MOST of the comments above are premium examples of this.

    Pigs and their proximity to humans was to blame both directly and indirectly for most of the deaths suffered by the Peoples of the Americas.

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  18. 18. jbairddo 8:30 am 11/25/2010

    Seriously? you blame the use of tobacco on Native American Indians? Not tobacco companies or advertising, or politics in the face of science that hasn’t outlawed it or allowed insurance companies to charge smokers more (life insurance companies do). Look, argue back and forth about evil historic issues, but whitey ain’t done (and I am white). Before any white person (sorry, to be PC anglo) comments on how the white people were or were not mean to anyone else in the past, visit Wounded Knee SD or any other reservation where a steady stream of addicts don’t fill their coffers every day. Check out the poverty, lack of work, alcoholism and diabetes all thanks to European gentlemen. If anyone can justify what is being done currently, they either are clueless or haven’t spent time on a reservation.

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  19. 19. bohdan 10:59 am 11/28/2010

    Well, Andrei, it’s amazing the amount of writing you do on this topic. Have you lived here? Have you observed the subjects directly?

    First, you classify ‘white-Americans’. Whites in this nation would probably correct you at some point. It’s extremely biased to do so. For example, I would be a Ukrainian American. Italians, Germans, Irish, Polish, and especially Ukrainians very much hang on to their heritage.

    This would be a similar mistake if you classified and tried to treat as whole all native-Americans, rather than Navajo, Chumash, or Iroquois.

    I think if you lived among us, you’d see Ukrainians living next to Russians, Germans near the Irish, Mexicans near Italians…where in Europe they still live in somewhat apart. There is still a separation. Now, what this has to do with science? I am not sure. I read your paper.

    I have a different theory on science. Science is perfect. It’s the observer who is flawed. Maybe we ask the wrong questions.

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  20. 20. Andrei Kirilyuk 1:58 pm 11/29/2010

    The problem with today’s science system is that the more flawed the results are (accumulating unsolved problems, contradictory explanations), the higher is the support to respective professional "observers", while much more consistent explanations are rejected, for purely subjective reasons. Where else can you find a steadily failing enterprise for which the more it is failing, the more it is supported? Finance come to mind, but even with their scandalous practices of recent times, banks are still useful in usual service operations…

    And yes, you’re right, there are wrong questions and totally wrong approaches, but how can this be changed for better, if they MUST be maintained irrespective of everything? Science has also become a flawed FINANCIAL enterprise having nothing to do with the search for truth, which is still announced at the establishment façade. Just look at the ongoing love story between rich financial benefactors and THIS science without problem solutions: the less it produces, the more it gets from them – and from the state (contrary to provable and consistent problem solutions – but necessarily within qualitatively new approaches and kind of questions). Sorry for the chat, but the situation becomes really strange in science, also on the background of growing practical necessities of new discoveries (of solutions, not new "mysteries" and "dark matters")…

    As to those "social problems" in USA and elsewhere, I think that beyond any free talk we may be producing here they also grow to a "quasi-scientific" level that needs new, deeper solutions and higher level of thinking as much exceeding usual political manipulation as new fundamental science should exceed currently dominating "models" that represent nothing real any more but still unconditionally dominate. That is the universal link: it’s time to grow essentially, at least in most advanced spheres of human activity. Details are available, but one should be interested in it, rather than in continuation of an illusive "nice life" maintained by a nearby money-printing machine. All fallen civilisations disappeared just in this subjectively "paralysed" state of mind… If you still smile to each other and say that everything’s OK, then it’s really OK. Carnegie abused…

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  21. 21. jimboagogo 12:19 pm 11/30/2010

    Kinda late on this topic, sorry, but living next door to the nation that announced the ‘war on crime’, the ‘war on drugs’, ‘Gulf war’, ‘war on terror’, (and forgive me if I forgot a few other wars in there), we see a nation pretty much willing to start a war on anything, anytime, and in anyone’s backyard. Last time I checked there were probably as much aboriginal representation in your Congress as we have in our parliament, that is to say, not nearly enough. I guess they aren’t war-like enough for us these days.

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  22. 22. EoRaptor 12:26 pm 11/30/2010

    Talk to a Texan sometime before you go on about lack of roots, or mythos. Or, talk to a Mayflower descendant, like me. Before I’m anything else, I’m an American! (And, just to nip any comment in the bud, I’m also a Progressive.)

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  23. 23. Andrei Kirilyuk 1:47 pm 11/30/2010

    Yes, EoRaptor, I understand what you mean and know the attitude you’re talking about (which looks attractively). It does exist within a huge diversity of modern America but I’m afraid is not its dominating or even major tendency. Be it science in particular, or social development in general, modern America (and thus largely the world) is dominated by something quite different, over-simplified, separated from any natural origines and inhuman-technocratic but (and that’s why it’s dominating) still illusively – and too often disproportionally – "rich" (though probably hardly "prosperous" any more). It’s very ironic, but also quite sad, to see how the same unconditionally rich money-changers and unfortunately too closely connected state top-managers that destroyed the national and global financial and economical system invest ever growing, surrealistically huge amounts of money in ever more failing and openly futile "research" without any problem solution (for decades!) and especially in its (self-proclaimed) "top scientist" incomes. The same phenomenon is at least denounced in finance and industry, but not in science, which is almost officially permitted to be as inefficient as an open fraud, for decades. Is it because your "progressive" public thinks it’s not really important and will somehow arrange itself in an arbitrary way?

    In any case, what seems to be needed as a practically unique way to escape from that huge modern impasse is to find a way for practically efficient unification of all such "realist"/"natural" AND "progressive" citizens of USA and the world for creation and support of another kind of science and human development. Nothing and nobody can really be "rebuilt" but it’s time to start buiding something new and provably, really, sustainably progressive. There are enough of detailed and provably efficient ideas about how to achieve it (contrary to occasional Horgan’s pessimism, by the way – he concentrates too much on official science stars), but one should be able to find an initial big enough seed of practical support and enthusiasm for it. Can there be Mayflower bankers :) interested in new, explicitly progressive knowledge support? That’s where the development path becomes very narrow, even there where the world seems to be practically infinitely rich.

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  24. 24. Jack Strocchi 6:16 am 12/3/2010

    Horgan admits that Native Americans were violent then goes onto to recount a couple of charming anecdotes when they werent. As if this refutes the abundant anthropological and archeological evidence.

    Basically first contact episodes (Columbus and Pilgrims, highly unrepresentative, but good for the myth of noble savage.

    Horgan is addicted to Noble Savage myth as this is necessary to build up his anti-genetic world model. Already very shaky given anthropological and genomic evidence.

    I mean, this guy still takes Margaret Mead seriously, thoroughly debunked social constructivist. She believed in parapyschology, okay so did Koestler, but at least he believed in some true things as well.

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  25. 25. redwarrior77 1:26 pm 11/9/2011

    Being of Mohawk descent i can say that our people were vicious. Mohawk people specifically were extremely violent. We tortured and killed people based on our own sadistic pleasure. Yes some of us were gentle, and others not. All people as a species kill to ensure the continuation of their own. Not specifically their own race, but even the survival of their own family. Its time to move forward and to stop revelling in the past. As the species known as ‘human’ we need to stop looking to our past, we all made mistakes as a species, so now its time to move on. No one can hide what happened in the past. The truth always comes out in the end. We were all vicious, we were all gentle to some capacity. Now lets move forward. There is nothing in our past that will benefit our future. It is dead and buried like so many of our ancestors, why do we feel the need to dig up our past? Why can’t everyone just leave it alone? You can’t move forward if you keep looking to your past for answers. That can apply to life in so many ways. Think about it…

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  26. 26. itzpapalotl 11:47 am 05/11/2013

    Can you provide proof? You are a trader to your own people. If you forget where you came rrom, how can you know where you are going? You must decolonize your mind in order to educate and irradicate all of the lies and bs that’s been forced fed to us. We didn’t have slaves. That’s a white word. When people were not able to provide for themselves they solicited their services, you might call it a ”servant” in today’s standards. In any case, the servant had more rights than the employer. If a servant even lied about mistreatment, the employer would be jailed. These white ”anthropologists” will never understand our culture because of their Eurocentric approach. We are nothing alike, nor are our ideals; and their ”scientific evidence” is flawed. They find skeletal remains and assume it was a homicide. Warfare was NOT a way of life; it was rare not long continued and seldom destructive. A few lives lost would end a battle. The Indigenous people were noted as being ”the most sociable and less quarrelsome of men.”. Think about it – if war was common, then why did we have powerful and populous CIVILIZATIONS?! This continent was ”landscaped” with vast, diverse and varied indigenous cultures. So stop generalizing us!

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  27. 27. devriewise 5:33 pm 09/22/2013

    Andrei Kirilyuk, pretty powerful comment, really. I’ve been struggling with that concept for some time. Recently (I know this is an old discussion), I’ve been hearing buzz about people decrying certain individuals not “american enough” for some spotlights (the little kid of Mexican descent who sang the national anthem and the woman of Indian descent who became Ms. America are examples).

    What does it mean to be American? What are our values? How do we work with our unique environment? Cultures are often formed by the surroundings–the natural ones. But we Americans are sort of orphaned. What are we? I have been thinking often of this sense of isolation. I feel minimal connection to my neighbors and the land we live on, yet I have a strong desire for it.

    I’m Polish and Greek, but American, but not really Polish and Greek. Who am I? Who are my children? How do we connect?

    What you said about having an absence of roots is so true and sad and profound. It’s even linked to our obesity! If you think about it, people who eat locally eat what’s available, and it often works to their advantage health-wise. You eat, seasonally, what’s available.

    Silly thought, I know, but I feel disconnected–a loose cannon–in a strange land that has been decorated to feel like a home.

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