Writing Raven

Writing Raven
Anchorage, Alaska, USA
March 15
I am a twenty-something Tlingit/Athabascan woman. I never plan on leaving Alaska. And - though I wouldn't have thought this was any kind of issue until recent inquiries - am straight, and always plan on being straight, as well. :) I am not married and have no children, so I frequently take children from my friends, spoil them ridiculously, and send them back. I've also begun to write my first book.

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JUNE 22, 2009 4:53AM

Native people may have shown up a bit earlier to the party

Rate: 14 Flag

Found this pretty interesting piece a few days ago in Indian Country Today:

Scholars are pushing evidence of human habitation in North America well beyond the non-Native accepted wisdom that places it at a relatively recent 13,000 to 14,000 years ago...

A perhaps-controversial 33,000 years ago, “and probably long before that,” people lived here, according to Steven R. Holen...

Several scientists, me included, are producing evidence of a much older Native American occupation of the continent,” he said...

Oral tradition is disounted so much of the time, but it is interesting to me that so many times science proves oral tradition correct. The Tlingit people have a history that tells of our people not originally being from the Southeast area, coming from more northern/eastern areas. Thousands of years after the Tlingit began telling this "myth," science showed this to be true.

In an anthropology class, I was amazed to discover how much of what is discovered in archeology must be supposed, gaps filled in. Of course there are solid facts and science, but the further back you go, the more you have to fill in the lack of evidence.

In any case, it will be interested to see what comes of this. As the article says, it is quite controversial, and history and science books would have to be re-written a bit, but the truth is usually worth that. I always hope that scientists will take things like oral tradition a little more seriously, too. Although it may not be "fact," it is shown again and again to be a pretty good guide.

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Over 80% of tribes have a great flood in their oral tradition. You'd have thought anthropologists would have taken that more seriously. The Navajo and Apaches always said they weren't from that region but had travelled from a place far to the north. Later, anthropologists found out through their language that they were athapascan from Canada.

Thanks for this story.
Fascinating! I LOVE this stuff.
There is always truth in folk wisdom; like Troy. Interesting and rated, as a part, little bit but enough, Creek.
Thank you. I can't wait to learn more as more is revealed. Rated.
I always wondered how the natives managed to never advance in any way. They had the best location in the world and when the Europeans came over in their boats with their guns and technology they were still living caveman style. Why didn't they make any advancements in their thousands of years of life? bow and arrows, tents and basic agriculture.....Was it a choice or maybe the isolation from the rest of the world?
Try explaining this to a creationist.
The Van - How do you define advancement? There are cultures who base their existence on something other than "progress". Most native societies focused their attention on sprititual pursuits and finding their role and responsibility in their community and surrounding environment. When the Cheyenne came upon the Black Hills, their first reaction was to give thanks and use the hills as a place to worship. When whites first came to the Black Hills, their first reaction was to exploit them for profit...two completely different worldviews. I leave that up to you to decide which you think is "advancement". One can strive toward "progress" (which is subjective and ultimately a dead end) or toward balance.

Which is stronger...the nation that rules the world for 300 years or the tribe that existed for 1,000?
Van - How frustrating to once again here this refrain about "advancement." As Noahvose said, how d you define advancement?

If it is health and long life, there is irrefutable evidence that people on this continent, specifically some northwest tribes of Native people, regularly lived to see 100+ years. Not the exception - a regular occurrence. Not many can say that today. What's more, as a population, Native people didn't suffer from anywhere close to the amount of cancer, depression, diabetes, suicide, flu, or hundreds of other diseases and illnesses.

If it is wealth, that is certainly in the eye of the beholder. For some reason many people have this idea that the Native people of the Americas were barely scratching out a living. In Western Alaska alone, it is shown that, because of the way they lived, they were able to spend up to 60% of their time in leisure and spiritual activities, and nearly 40% of the food take went for trade and winter festivities. Only the decently rich can talk about numbers like those today.

It is interesting that you only mention the stereotypical Native lifestyle in your "caveman" description of the indigenous people of these continents. Thousands and thousand of miles of cultures, and you can't find any "advancements"? Did you know that today, 2/3 - a majority - of agriculture grown today was first grown by Native people of the Amercas? It took a goodly amount of time for us to develop the tomato, potato, corn, thing the "old continent" didn't have in the pre-Columbian era - and it was no accident.

South American Natives developed a calendar to rival the best European calendars thousands of years before European civilization. My own people, the Tlingit, were living in wooden houses with plank floors hundreds of years before the first popped up on the other side of the ocean. Metal working, pyramids, complex political systems - I think you are basing your assumptions off of not knowing much about Native America.

In your small effort to see what Native Americans did not have, you might add other things we did not have - we did not have widespread pollution, we did not have near the suicide numbers even the non-Native modern population has, we did not have a need for a smallpox vaccine.

Although you might think it was superior techonology that won the continents - in fact it was disease more than anything. Estimates now guess that nearly 90% of the Native population could have been wiped out by disease before most ever saw a European face. There about a few hundred books and a few thousand studies that confirm this. One, 1491 by Charles Mann might be worth a look. It challenges the common assumptions made about pre-Columbian America.
Thank you Raven for your great examples. Let's not forget that Cortez declared that the Aztec city was the most amazing city he had ever seen. It had plumbing when European cities were still pouring their bed pans our the window on the streets below.

But, again, I don't want to get in a contest arguing which was the most technologically advanced, because to me that is irrelevant. It implies that that is the more valid measure of a society...and it isn't.
Oral tradition was once the standard over anything that could be written down at any time.