Monday, October 9, 2017

Indigenous Peoples’ Day?
You Might Want to Reconsider That

The myth of the “noble savage” has given impetus to a rising movement which seeks to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day­—a day which celebrates the contributions of Native Americans and recognizes the enormous historical injustices committed against them by Europeans and Americans. 

But, the history of indigenous peoples is plagued by the same demons that afflict European and American history.  It is no more worthy of celebration than the morally defective Christopher Columbus.
In his book, War Before Civilization, archaeologist, Lawrence H. Keeley, “concludes that the idea of the Noble Savage is essentially nonsense, that in fact primitive warfare was more brutal and intense and probably less ritualized than its civilized counterpart” (New York Times review).

After examining archaeological evidence from numerous tribal societies, including pre-Columbian Native Americans, Keeley tells us that 90%-95% engaged in war.  Among Native Americans, only 13% did not engage in wars at least once per year.  The attrition rate in many, close-quarter battles, which are typical in tribal warfare, produced casualties up to 60%.  Compare that to an average attrition rate of 1% of the combatants in modern warfare.
Massacres occurred among both Canadian and American tribes, including Eskimos.  Pre-Columbian Indians used human scalps as trophies and the Iroquois slowly tortured to death captured enemy warriors. 
 At Crow Creek in South Dakota, archaeologists found a mass grave containing the remains of more than 500 men, women, and children who had been slaughtered, scalped, and mutilated during an attack on their village a century and a half before Columbus's arrival (ca. 1325 AD).  This amounted to more than 60% of the village’s population.  Evidence indicates that the tribe’s young women were abducted.

Historical distance, observes the New York Times reviewer, “has made the heart grow fonder and the mind mushier, and the sentimentalization of the savage has proceeded apace, even in the face of hard contradictory evidence.” 

As Keeler concludes, "If Westerners have belatedly recognized that they are not the crown of creation and rightful lords of the earth, their now common view of themselves as humanity's nadir is equally absurd." 

On Columbus Day you have every right to be thankful that you don’t live in a primitive, tribal society.

NOTE: Max Rosen has produced several detailed graphs of the data based on six sources, including Keeler’s book. See (Wikipedia summary) (New York Times book review)