Re: Native Americans & Tribal History - Reply to R.J.

Mario Rabey (Pathcpis@AOL.COM)
Sat, 26 Aug 1995 01:25:30 -0400

In a reply to me dated 95-08-25 01:48:32 EDT, R.J. writes:

>History serves the living, not the dead or those who conducted
>Your assumption that history is defined by what survives the
>ashes, or the "valiant" but ultimately doomed to failure "efforts"
>of indigenous peoples to resurrect the cultural "history" they
>have "lost" and "never be recovered," only betrays your ignorance
>or "benign" racism which still seeks to define indigenous peoples
>by their "win-loss" record.
>Your's is the typical "white-liberal" apologetics for the continuing
>disenfranchisement of indigenous history. You wish to appear
>"sensitive" and "concerned" has no effect on the inclusion of
>your unasked for judgements on the "efforts" of indigenous peoples
>to "historically" define themselves.
>When will you realize "history" no longer resides with the "victor?"
>...No matter what his "heartfelt" concerns.
>Robert Johnson
These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past;
wisdom is of the future.
Vernon Cooper, Lumbee Medecine Man, Wisdomkeepers

>My concern is for historical truth and knowledge, not marxist doctrine
applied to Native American peoples and disguised as "academic philosophy".
You deny the problems of reconstructing culture and ethnohistory of
particular groups caused by space-time systematics. To define "Indianess"
for any aboriginal group must take into account the history of that
particular group and its relationship to white contact and its effects on the
evolution or devolution of the group's culture.

The historical record for any native group (living or extinct) is frought
with inaccuracies and distortion of events, actions and content that become
entered into the written record as fact. The historian or ethnohistorian's
job is to reconstruct the particular history and culture to approximate as
closely as possible cultural reality as it originally occurred. Our view of
tribal history, as it is currently written, is comparable to that of looking
through a glass darkly colored. The view is not reality, but a distorted
perception of that reality. The written record or history and the details of
material culture for any group is not fixed or constant, but shifts with the
passage of time because human memory and history is subjective. The human
mind regularly sifts through experiences selecting those that are congruent
with the beholders' perception of reality. History based on, or in part of,
memorial knowledge is altered by transformation of details through time.
Events, actions, and material content of culture become part of the
historical record through acquisition (addition), modification (alteration)
and loss (deletion). In some cases, we do not know when we are dealing with
memories of actions, events. or content or the recollection of memories
(i.e., remembering the memories of actions, events, and content).

The bottom line is that we must recogzine the problems caused by space and
time on history and culture and devise methods to sift through primary
documents and sources to reconstruct the history and culture of a Native
American group and chart its evolution or devolution to be able to specify
what it means for example to be an "Odawa" or "Wyandot". Being of Indian
blood is not the sole criterion, nor for that matter a criterion, to speak of
historical truth and knowledge.

Pat Tucker