Ais 102 American Indians and the U. S. Political System Fall 2004

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N.Am Roots

Culture Areas

Lang. Grps.

Trad. Cultures


Contemp. Cultures

D. Deadlines

I. Native American Roots

A. Origins: Myth and Theory

The most controversial issue continues to be involved with the origins of Native Americans, especially with American Indians. It is fairly certain that Inuit, Yupik and Aleut peoples came from Asia about 7-9,000 years ago. However, the origins of American Indian people continues to be muddled in difficult to prove theory and a volatile political circus. Some Native Americans are not terribly concerned about origins or are rather satisfied with their current mythology; while others see origins as a crucial aspect of sovereignty. The non-Indian; especially European American has always been baffled by the existence of an entire new group of people in America and even the existence of America. Their own mythology certainly gave little hint and science has tended to cater to colonial bias and racism. More secure scholars have become more aware of the value of traditional myths and the need to be flexible with very scant evidence. In fact the lack of evidence has been more of an influence on archaeological theories about American Indian origins.

American Indian myths are simply metaphorical stories about human experiences, including origins and migrations. However, myths were never meant to be interpreted rhetorically and their truths are derived from symbolic meaning. Everyone today views myths as 'false history', but history in the Western sense was never their objective and to read a myth as such is simply a misreading of the myth or its language. Native American myths are just as varied as the 700 or more cultures that thrived here in America. However, they do have common themes with the perception of multiple worlds or conditions that humans experience. These worlds usually come about by catastrophic events like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions. Each time a new world evolves the creatures develop new insight how to cope. Humans developed in cognitive ways that are unique, but that is fraught with contradiction; especially as we became self aware and questioned our purpose and source of creation. Two final themes are common as we humans entered this current set of conditions. Among Northern cultures an 'Earthdiver' theme in the myth is prevalent as told by a culture like the Seneca and Mohawk. In Southern cultures an 'Emergence' theme is prevalent as told by the Hopi. In both the experience of flooding and the instability of the earth's surface is common. Such experience is most likely reflected by all human's experience with the Pleistocene or 'Ice Ages'. In some myths the people migrated from the south or north ; and for some they see themselves as always have been in their traditional place.

Western science bases its theory on objective physical evidence or the lack of physical evidence. However, Western science often is burdened by the bias of non-Indian practitioners and institutions that also ignore Native American points of view. There are two premises for American Indian origins that can be generated to address origins and there are various secondary variations.

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