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Sunday, June 15, 2014

I'm Glad the Comanche Lost and Other Things You Are Not Supposed to Say about Native Americans, Their Marketers, Scholars, and Fans

Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanche Source: Wikipedia 
I used to, on some level, accept the popular notion that Native Americans were more spiritual and in tune with nature than European Americans, and that it was European Americans who brought war, sexism, and environmental degradation to an otherwise innocent, peaceful and Edenic Native America.

As a kid I bought slim paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Club that taught me that Native Americans planted dead fish in their agricultural fields in order to fertilize them. I learned that North American Indians didn't have the wheel, bronze, iron, or steel, or writing. They cooked acorns by dropping hot stones into holes dug in the ground and filled with water. The acorns had to be soaked in advance in order to leech them of toxins. I thought of how cumbersome and time-consuming that cooking method would be, and how bland a meal a soaked acorn would provide.

In popular culture, Native Americans were the spiritual and natural corrective to modern Americans, who were seen as greedy and divorced from nature. On TV, Iron Eyes Cody witnessed American pollution and a visible tear flowed down his creased and weathered cheek. Of course Iron Eyes Cody was actually Sicilian but hey. The commercial meant well.

Chief Seattle was alleged to have given an eloquent speech about protecting the environment. He compared the Native American harmony with nature and the White Man's greed. Chief Seattle's environmental speech is a hoax. The version most people know was written by a white, Christian man from Texas.

My environmentalist and Politically Correct friends were deeply offended by the "kill theory" of megafauna extinction. How did wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers disappear? Native Americans probably wiped them out. That's one theory, the "kill" theory. Other theories are the "chill" theory – cold weather killed the megafauna, and the "ill" theory. They died from disease. The kill theory depicted Native Americans as just like all other humans – not "in harmony with nature" but eager to exploit nature and heedless of the long term consequences of such exploitation.

Christy Turner is a forensic anthropologist specializing in teeth. Native Americans have different teeth than European Americans. Their teeth are shovel shaped.

Turner was working his way through a box of bones in an Arizona museum in the 1970s when he said to himself "Holy Smokes." He suddenly realized that these human bones were the remains of a meal. These Native Americans had been butchered, cooked, and eaten. The bones showed typical evidence like cutting at key points to remove meat from bone. Diners had lopped off the tops of human skulls and placed them, face out, around fires in order to cook up and gain access to tasty brains. Before eating these peoples' brains, the diners had gazed at their agonized, slaughtered faces staring out at them from the cook fire.

Turner dated this horror repast, this cannibal cafeteria, between 900 AD and 1150 AD – three hundred years before Columbus arrived in North America. He found seventy-two sites with cannibal remains. Tons of human meat.

At one site, the cannibals slaughtered a family, butchered them, cooked them, ate them, and then crapped their remains out into the most sacred and beloved spot in a home – the family hearth – the source of heat, light, sustenance, and companionship. A coprolite, or fossilized feces, was found in the family hearth. It contained human remains, proof positive of Turner's cannibalism theory.

Turner published his research. He called the cannibals "thugs" and "Charles Manson types"

He was demonized. How dare you, you nasty white man named "Christy" as in the evil Christian Church (yes Turner's critics did say things like this), how dare you vilify Native Americans? Turner is hated to this day.

I was shocked when I read Turner's research. On some level I really believed that Native Americans were kinder and gentler and more spiritual.

I went to the National Museum of the American Indian run by the Smithsonian Institution. I learned there that Pizarro was able to conquer the Inca Empire with fewer than two hundred Spanish soldiers. Native American soldiers fought with him against the Inca. There must have been some mighty hatred for the Inca on the part of their Native American neighbors.

The Aztecs bragged of sacrificing 80,000 victims at the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487. A review of a museum show of Aztec art called it "chilling" and "terrifying." Writing in "The Guardian," journalist Laura Cumming called Aztec art

"the most alien of all art. There are no images of moving animals, as in the caves of Lascaux. There are no accounts of great deeds, or commemorations of great leaders as in the art of the Pharaohs. Unlike just about every other culture in history, the Aztecs did not represent women, or women with babies, or, indeed, children at all. Nor, to be fair, did they ever depict men except as priests or warriors half-skeletonised in the jaws of death.

If they had any interest in the human spirit, in friendship, sex or emotion, then they certainly never showed it. The last thing you would expect from them would be anything as human or intimate as a portrait…As far as I can see, pretty much the entire purpose of Aztec art was to scare the living daylights out of everyone who saw it…Even the flea is monumentalised in stone because it lives by sucking blood.

It is impossible to look at all these objects without seeing them as the emblems and tools of a vast, putrid slaughterhouse. Nothing in Aztec art speaks of humanity or beauty. There is no attempt to inspire the sacrificial victim with rewarding images of the afterlife or to celebrate the gifts of the gods."

Obviously Ms. Cumming did not receive the memo on Political Correctness or Cultural Relativism.

Some promote Native Americans as gender heroes. The idea is that sexism is a modern invention, or that Christianity is to blame, and the further one gets from civilization and Christianity, the better things get for women and homosexuals, or "two spirit" people or berdaches.

Others acknowledge that it's not that simple. The Amazonian Yanomami is one of the most remote tribes on earth. They are very violent, including towards women. Gang rape is a fact of life. Husbands beat and burn their wives to establish dominance. According to David Good, who was born of a Yanomami mother and an anthropologist father, the language has no word for "love." When his anthropologist father left the village, his mother was gang raped by over 20 men. She had no husband to protect her.

I recently re-watched John Ford's classic 1956 western "The Searchers." The film is so rich whenever I watch it I simultaneously google various features of the story. "The Searchers" depicts settlers in 1860s Texas. Comanche warriors raid a homestead, murder four family members and kidnap the youngest, Debbie, to raise as one of their own and eventually marry her off to Scar, the chief. The plot is inspired by the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker who was the mother of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanche.

Every American knows how we are supposed to react to "The Searchers" now. Back in 1956, when it was first made, Americans were supposed unquestioningly to accept the film's depiction of the Comanche as scary warriors who did horrible things to captives, especially women captives.

Now we are supposed to doubt and mock that official narrative. We are supposed to understand the Comanche as noble warriors defending their homeland against white, Euro-American Christians, who are supposed to be the real savages.

That's not what I found out through Google. What I found out through Google was pretty nightmarish.

The Comanche were no more native to Texas than the European Americans. They had started out in Wyoming. Europeans brought horses to the Americans, horses that had previously been driven to extinction in North America by kill, ill, or chill.

The Comanche adopted the horse and a mentality of "total war." They made furious war on other Native Americans, including the Apache, whom they "nearly exterminated" according to S. C. Gwynne, author of "Empire of the Summer Moon."

In "The Searchers," John Ford never shows or tells exactly what the Comanche did to their captives and their slaves. One can find out, though, through a Google search. I read material that utterly shocked me. The Comanche did things that even the Nazis, as far as I know, did not do. I don't want to repeat the worst things. I'll just repeat one death – they took a white slave captive's baby, tied a rope to him, and dragged his infant body through cactus plants until he died.

One sixteen year old captive was repeatedly burned over eighteen months until her face was roasted away and her body was covered with bruises and burns.

One captive, Rachel Plummer, turned on her tormenter and began beating the Comanche. Once the captive had the upper hand, she nearly beat the Comanche to death. She reported that other Comanche stood around and watched their fellow tribeswoman being beaten to death by a white captive, and enjoyed it as an entertaining spectacle.

Once the captive had defeated the Comanche woman and she lay prostrate, no other Comanche would help her. The white captive did so, dragging her to a shelter and dressing her wounds. Plummer reported that beating a Comanche nearly to death earned her status in the tribe, and after that she was treated as an equal. S. C. Gwynne characterizes the Comanche as possessed of a "demonic immorality." Their enthusiastically sadistic rapes "border on criminal perversion if not some very advanced form of evil."

After reading about the Comanche, I had a taboo thought. "I'm glad the Comanche lost."

Mind. I'm not saying that the conquest of the Americas was not a bloodbath initiated by Europeans on less developed and often defenseless Native Americans. Of course I acknowledge the massive human suffering and injustice. And most tribes were not the Comanche or the Anasazi cannibals or Aztecs.

But in this one case, the case of European settlers in Texas v the Comanche, I'm glad the Comanche lost. If their way of life is accurately depicted in the accounts I read, a way of life in which constant war, enslavement of non-Comanche, rape and torture were central features, I'm glad that that culture was defeated.

This conclusion is totally at odds with the Politically Correct worldview that insists that Europeans and Christians as the source of problems like sexism, cruelty and war. It's totally at odds with the centuries-old concept of the Noble Savage.

David Good, the son of an anthropologist father and a Yanomami mother, reports an anecdote.

"I remember the wife of a very prominent anthropologist — I was 12 or 13 at the time — asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, 'A Nintendo 64 with Super Mario Bros.' She looked at me in horror and said, 'Oh, my God. You're a typical American kid. I thought you'd be different.'"

49 comments:

  1. Terrific essay. I'll post it on facebook. We need more writers with clarity and courage like this.

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    1. You've got more guts than me that's for sure, if I were to post this I'll lose some FB friends

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  2. If only the truth be known, by many. Our history is built on so many myths.

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  3. The Western Age of Enlightenment spawned a reaction led by the likes of Jean Jacques Rousseau who said that science was bad, that civilization was corrupt and that innocence is to be found among primitives. This notion permeated liberal thinking and introduced a certain bias in writing of history and political analysis.

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  4. The Sinagua and Anazazi didn't live in those hill top and cliff face forts for the great view...Imagine hauling your food, water, firewood, & children up those cliffs...They most have had some real incentives to do so.

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    1. or maybe they had slaves doing the hauling.

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  5. This was a great read. Definitely worth a share.

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  6. The one flaw in this otherwise great piece:

    "I'm not saying that the conquest of the Americas was not a bloodbath initiated by Europeans on less developed and often defenseless Native Americans."

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    1. I was upset by that part too.

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    2. Agreed. That addition damages the credibility of an objective writer and in no way, other than word count, aids the article.

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  7. there is two sides to every story

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  8. Wow! Such an interesting read! Thanks.

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  9. An overlooked fact in the conquest of the West was that Indian scouts were vitally important to the army. Most of these scouts were motivated by revenge against competing tribes. Also, in Mexico, Cortes instigated a civil war of the indigenous peoples against the Aztecs.

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  10. " the Empire of the Summer Moon" a must read for any that loves history

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  11. Can we please stop with the "native" American BS?

    THERE ARE NO HUMANS NATIVE TO THE AMERICAS

    Yep, folks, that's right. We are all immigrants here. We have the First Asian Immigrants, the pre-Clovis people. They were totally wiped out, their lands stolen, and their culture eradicated by the Second Asian Immigrants, the Clovis people, who in turn were totally wiped out, their lands stolen, and their culture eradicated by the Late Asian Immigrants, the American Indians.

    And no ... they weren't particularly nice to each other.

    w.

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    1. Can we please stop with the "we are all immigrants" BS? Immigrants come to an already established country.

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    2. I don't know about you, but I know plenty of people born right here in this country. That makes them natives. I'm one of them. This "we're all immigrants" is quite emotionally effective, but it's wrong.

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    3. I saw a sign in 2016 that read "You're all immigrants too." I shouted at the TV, "No, I was born here!" That's when I realized that I am a Native American! However, I'm now going to refer to myself as an American Native so as not to give people the wrong impression. I don't want to be like Warren.

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    4. Can we please stop with the land bridge bs Willis? That theory was established in the 1600’s when most of the world population couldnt read. And it’s entirely based on the Out of Africa Theory. Key word being Theory not fact. There are hundreds of sites older than Clovis in North and South America. And modern DNA tests have separated ancient Native American DNA to be unique. Now why would that be if they came from Asia?

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  12. Great essay. A good follow up is to read the book:"1491."

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  13. I'm related to Cynthia Ann Parker and live near Fort Parker.
    I used to have an old account of a woman captive having her feet sliced between the toes as far back as the ankle.

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  14. I’ve long believed that the accounts of the Indians that I was taught in the 60s and 70s were wildly inaccurate because I was, and am, an avid reader. The truth has always been out there.

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  15. I don't support genocide no matter how its interpreted.

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  16. Excellent article! There's a book entitled "A Fate Worse than Death" about how horrible it was to be captured by the Indians. Horror story after horror story. I wanted to buy it but was fearful of what I would read. Sorry I don't remember the authors - husband and wife I believe.

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    1. It's subtitled Indian Captivities in The West 1830 - 1885, by Gregory and Susan Michno.

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  17. I use to live in northern Arizona Grand Canyon area, try mistaking a Hopi for a Navajo or vice versa, they get livid. Navajos and Hopis despise one another, it goes back to some land dispute plus Hopis are Pueblo and Navajo are more related to A but otherwise they're cool but yeah to this day there's tension there

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  18. Reminds me of this recent Coulter piece: https://dailycaller.com/2019/11/27/coulter-indians-pilgrims/

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  19. This was a good read but I wish people could acknowledge the truth for what it is. This is the reason I find no joy in looking up my history, I believe God and there's no good in any of us including my ancestors. One aspect I had always heard about the Indians is the drunkenness, which is very much true. I was shocked when I drove through New Mexico and seen their alcoholism throughout the city. However, it wasn't my first time witnessing their drunkenness. When I was a child living on the north side of Chicago, in the '60's I lived in a racially mixed neighborhood. Everyone was working class and one of my white friends took me and some other kids over another friend house. The little girls home we visited was native American and she said that I couldn't come in and when my white friend asked her why I couldn't come in the little native American girl said it was because I was dirty. We all looked at each other with amazement then she relented and allowed us to come in. It was my first experience with racism. But what I had seen when I enter her home was even more shocking. There were men leaning against the wall and they all were drunk and there wasn't any furniture in the living room. It looked like a crack house really. Me and my friends stayed for a few minutes then we left and never went back to her home.

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  20. I don't lionize Indians, or ascribe saintly qualities to them, but I believe they had/have a legitimate beef about European settlers taking their land

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    1. As has been done by almost every civilization across the globe at one time or another during history. We tend to empathize more with the Indigenous people of North America because we are living in an era closer to the event. Far greater tragedies have occurred but we don’t relate because they happened so long ago and do not impact us emotionally.

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    2. "War is diplomacy conducted by other means."

      Clausowitz

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    3. If that is true you must condemn the "native" Americans who invaded the Americas and annileated the natives at that time and stole their lands. An anthropologicsl dig in native American lands in the West, yielded European bones Carbon dated to in excess of 40,000 years in age. The "native" American tribe on whose land the bones were found insisted that the site be sealed. HYPOCRISY IS NOT LIMITED TO ANY ONE RACE.

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    4. Oh be specific Mark. You’re talking about Kennewick man. And early reports said he had Europeans features based on a reconstruction ๐Ÿ™„. Later his DNA would confirm he was related to the Native people there.

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    5. The only thing that makes something "yours" is if you improve it. If you did not improve the land, it isn't yours. That is what the foundation of property rights are based on.

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  21. Native Americans had warred, enslaved and conquered their brother's lands for millenia, and now that they have been conquered i am to scream foul? Only an uninformed moron would claim so.war is the ultimate arbitrator of cultural and societal conflict. Sucks to lose. Americans might do well to remember that.

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  22. The history of the world is the history of America, a few people formed a tribe, fought other tribes, the lucky ones were killed, the others were enslaved, rinse repeat...for those who feel guilty, they should sell there houses, property etc and donate the proceeds to the surviving Indians....if one can find one.

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  23. This report parallels the true history of the New Zealand Maori who, prior to 1840, were comprised of a large number of primitive, warring tribes and who practiced both the enslavement and eating of their victims. In 1840, the Maori ceded sovereignty to the British who granted them equality and legal protection as citizens. One common factor amongst the North American Indians, The Australian Aborigines and the Maori was their inability to deal with alcohol which has done immeasurable harm to those people and continues to do so until this day. There are not any full-blooded Maori left.

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  24. wasnt there a chief from central us that had already been to see the european king 2x or 3x times before columbus settled here?

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  25. The Indians were fighting and conquering each other for centuries. The modern apologists are angry because the Europeans beat them at their own game.

    If anyone could make an argument in favor of genocide, it would likely be against the Comanche. They were a despicable and ruthless people. I have an ancestor who, as a boy, was captured by them for several days, until rescued by Texas Rangers after killing the war party. I'm reminded, in stories such as these, of the remark of Tamerlane to the envoys of Baghdad before he destroyed the city: "If God has sent me as your scourge, you must be a particularly awful people."

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  26. read that the spaniards, experts at torture, were horrified when they came to the western hemisphere and found so much cruelty and cannibalism, not to mention human sacrifice. really disgusting [i am also part indian as are many other west virginians]

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  27. 1) Rewriting history is a highly-developed Marxist art, and we Americans are being brainwashed into Marxism.
    2) It may take a reenactment pf 1776 to get our Republic back where it was.

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