Though much is
know about the Aztec, Maya and Inca in Pre-Columbian Central and South
America, the history of
Native Americans in North America has always been a difficult field of
fact, many historians long believed--and some still believe--that their
field of study is unsuited or inadequate for the task of studying
Native Americans. They argue that prior to the arrival of
Columbus and the advent of a written history of the Americas, Native
American past must be relegated to the fields of Anthropology
and Archaeology--what they sometimes deride as the realm of of Pre-History.
of history changed in the 1960s, new groups were brought into the
history books--women, immigrants, African Americans, and, of course,
Native Americans. But often that history was limited at best, as
the following former West Valley textbooks illustrate:
Excerpt from Freedom
and Crisis: An
American History by Allen
and R. Jackson Wilson (Random House, 1978):
"From a modern
perspective, the European triumph seems to have been an
inevitable result of superior technology. But from the
perspective of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European
foothold in the New World appears to have been the precarious result of
advantages won through daring exercises in ruthless desperation...When
the English managed to establish their first successful settlement in
North America, they did not encounter Native American civilizations as
advanced as those the Spanish found in Latin America. Nor did
they find gold and silver. What they found was land--land
that sometimes seemed impossible to conquer."
Excerpt from Rise
of the American
by Lewis Paul Todd and Merle
Curti (Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, Publishers, 1982):
"The understanding that
enabled the Indians to develop methods for
living in harmony with the land did not prepare them for an invasion by
people of another culture. This understanding was no match for
the guns and other technological developments that the Europeans would
bring to the Americas."
Native Americans were introduced as new characters in the story of
American history, but they typically remained in the backgound of the
story of European exploration, conquest and settlement. And
though the study of Native American history has improved dramatically
in the past few years, it is still difficult for many to understand how
Native Americans fit into the history of the America. Professor
James Loewen summarizes the difficulty of the task quite well:
Over the last few
years, I have asked hundreds of college students, "When was the country
we know as the United States first settled?"...I initially
believed--certainly I had hoped--that students would suggest 30,000
B.C., or some other pre-Columbian date. They did not. Their
consensus answer was "1620." Obviously, my students' heads have
been filled with America's origin myth, the story of the first
Thanksgiving...Part of the problem is the word settle. "Settlers" were
white, a student once pointed out to me. "Indians" did not settle.
My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
paradigms of historical study dominate the study of Native Americans:
American history is
inaccessible to historians
Americant was rather
uneventful, especially when compared to the dramatice changes that
followed European contact;
American is not significant because the arrival of
represented the replacement of one world with another when true
European colonization began in the 17th century.
a lens through which a historian or other scholar views a topic; often
this paradigm is the most significant influence on his or her
interpretation. These paradigms have limited
our understanding of the history of the Americas before Columbus and
have subsequently led to a minimization of the role of Native Americans
in the study of American history.
those you will read after following the Wolf Howl link below—now argue
the history of the Americas, before, during and after the initial
of European contact, represented, in the words of Colin Calloway, “New
Worlds for All.” Clearly Native Americans and Europeans alike
were agents of change in developing a world in the Americas very
different from what either had experienced before.
| Go back to
the Summer Assignment Page.
|Go to the Reading
difficulties accessing the materials? Questions on the
until it's too late & jeopardize your class schedule.
via e-mail any time during the summer.