Welcome to my blog, aka my place to comment and reflect on things I find inspiring, amusing, irritating, or baffling. When I was young, my Stanford PhD, former physics professor, software engineer father used to help me with my math homework, and I, being mentally deficient in all things math, could never quite get it. He would constantly say to me, "Jill, it's not rocket science." (Did I mention the PhD was in Aeronautics and Astronautics??) So I thought it would be an appropriate title for this blog because everything I write about is, indeed, not rocket science.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Mini History Lesson: Native American History

I took a Native American history class from one of my favorite professors at San Jose State, and I just came across my notes from one of his lectures. Time for another mini history lesson! 

Indian history (yes, it's acceptable to use the word "Indian." As my professor explained, Indians don't care what other people call them; they call themselves Sioux, Dakota, Cheyenne, Lakota, and so on) is a challenging field because Indians do not have a written history - it's oral, passed from generation to generation. And oftentimes, one must earn the trust of a person(s) to gain access to a tribe's resources (something about Indians not trusting outsiders - hmmm, I can't imagine why?). Native American history was not my specialty, but I sure did love it. It's complex, challenging, fascinating, and oftentimes frustrating and heartbreaking. 

One of my favorite comments people make when referring to Indian history and the constant, too-often bloody conflict with whites is, "Why didn't all the Indians just band together and fight the Americans?" This would be like asking, "Why don't the Palestinians and Israelis just band together and settle their differences?" We know that that is a ridiculous thing to say, and the same is true of the preceding question. This misguided question assumes that a) all tribes were the same, b) all tribes got along, c) all tribes shared the same interests, and d) all tribes agreed upon the method in which to deal with white intrusion. 

The word "Indian" is all-encompassing, but as you may have gathered, there are hundreds of Indian tribes, each with their own language, customs, traditions, histories, and they are scattered all over the United States. It is ridiculous to think that they could have just set aside their differences (many tribes hated each other), formed a giant army (how would this have been logistically possible?), and fought "the white man" (who had superior weaponry). It's fun to think about, but it is the stuff of fantasy (it reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino movie, on par with Django Unchained or Inglourious Basterds). And don't forget, more Indians died from European diseases (small pox, influenza, plague, etc.) than from bloodshed. 

(Fun fact: we always associate Indians with horses (think every Western movie), riding gallantly towards battle with their faces painted and battle dress on, but it was actually the Spanish who introduced the domesticated horse to the Americas in the 1500s.)

1 comment:

  1. So fascinating. I love Jill's mini history lessons!