The Disneyfication of the America Indian

College textbook representation of American Indian religion falls short of the reality

“Before Columbus…the people living there practiced, for the most part, various forms of animism, and related rituals. They viewed themselves holistically, as one part of the wider world of animate and inanimate nature. Shamanism, in which spiritually gifted people are believed to possess the power to control preternatural forces, is one important aspect of the belief system that existed among Native Americans…”Human Geography, Places and Regions in Global Context, p. 158

“When a child my mother taught me the legends of our people; taught me of the sun and sky, the moon and stars, the clouds and storms. She also taught me to kneel and pray to Usen (God, the Great Spirit) for strength, health, wisdom and protection.” Geronimo, his biography as dictated through an Apache interpreter to S.M. Barret

“It would be below the truth (understating) to say that the Indian has one hundred thousand gods. The Hindus worship their multiform gods of the earth, air and sea. The North American Indian only believes in them. He worships the Great Spirit.”

Henry R. Schoolcraft, The American Indians Their History, Condition and Prospects, from Original Notes and Manuscripts, 1851

That the first Americans prayed to the spirits of rocks and trees, is true. So did our pre-Christian German, Celtic and Viking grandparents in Europe. But do you think from the quotes above that maybe there is something about the Native American religious practices that the textbook doesn’t want to share with you?

In this day and age, on secular college campuses and in the media of our post-Christian culture, nature worship is cool- old theistic religions like Christianity or Judaism are out. And despite the fact that “everybody knows” that all religions are equal, and it would be like totally non-diverse and intolerant to say anything else, our secular colleges favor certain religions above others. Asian religions are cool; liberal Christians are tolerated- fundamental (historic) Christianity is decidedly uncool. In fact, any religion is better than biblical Christianity and I’m afraid that this barely hidden bias has a devastating effect on the way they teach on almost every subject.

The other college textbook also goes on and on about animism, in Africa, and makes it sound like the most enlightened culture and religion ever. They don’t mention the common practice of twins being left out in the jungle to die because the animists were sure that one of them was a demon but couldn’t discern which one. I mean there are just a lot of things they don’t tell you. They give you sort of a Disney version of an animistic society and leave any negative aspect out. And the fact that the Native Americans had a wide-spread faith in a Creator God, who was supreme, and flood stories similar to the Noachian flood account, is a negative because it lends credence to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

And giving credence to the historic Christian faith is one thing they most definitely don’t want to do. Let’s look at another quote by Schoolcraft;

“There is one particular in which the Indian tribes identify themselves with the general traditions of mankind. It is in relation to a general deluge (flood), by which races of men were destroyed. The event itself is variously related by an Algonquin, an Iroquois, a Cherokee, or a Chickasaw, but all coincide in the statement that there was a general cataclysm and that a few persons were saved.” Schoolcraft, History of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1857, 571.

Schoolcraft was an Indian agent who spent his life living among the Northeast tribes, learning the languages and studying their cultures and histories. He was driven by his desire to make the Indian people better understood by the Europeans invading their land. He felt that if the new Americans understood the Natives, perhaps they would show them more respect and deal with them more fairly. He also was in constant contact for over a half a century with other anthropologists and Indian agents all over the North American continent who shared his zeal and also exchanged information about other tribes with him. His massive books are well known and corroborated by many others and the Native Americans themselves. A book written about the history of the Cherokees, written by the Cherokees, can be found in the local library which backs up Schoolcraft on all points. When Sequoya created the Cherokee script, the first book ever put into Cherokee was the Holy Bible.

Alexis De Tocqueville came to America in the early 19th century and made an intense study of everything American; religion, politics, slavery, Native Americans, commerce; all aspects of American life. Here is a quote from his resulting book called, Democracy in America published in 1838;

“Like all the other members of the great human family,” he noted, the Indians, “believed in the existence of a better world, and adored, under different names, God, the Creator of the Universe,”

Here is one example of a flood story, by the Pawnee Nation, as told to Buffalo Bill Cody by his chief scout, a Pawnee. Cody was fluent in Pawnee and the scout was fluent in English;

“While we were in the hills scouting the Niobrara country, the Pawnees brought in some very large bones, one of which the surgeon of the expedition (it was a college funded expedition for fossils) said was the thigh bone of a human being. The Indians said the bones were those of a race of people who long ago had lived in that country…These giants, they said, denied the existence of the Great Spirit. When they heard thunder or lightening they laughed and declared themselves to be greater than either.

This so displeased the Great Spirit that he caused a deluge. The water rose higher and higher till it drove these proud giants from the low lands to the hills and thence to the mountains. At last even the mountain tops were submerged and the mammoth men were drowned…This story has been handed down among the Pawnees for generations.” Buffalo Bill Cody, autobiography, public domain

Sitting Bull and Geronimo even used their faith in and knowledge of the Great Spirit to lay out a defense for their lands;

“The cities arose and always the White man’s lands were extended and the Indians pushed farther and farther away from the country The Great Father had given them and that had always been theirs.” Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill Cody’s autobiography, Ch. 11

Geronimo did the same;

“When Usen created the Apache he also created their homes in the west. He gave to them such grain, fruits and game as they needed to eat. To restore their health when disease attacked, he made many different herbs to grow. He taught them where to find these herbs and how to prepare them for medicine. He gave them a pleasant climate and all they needed for clothing and shelter was at hand. Thus it was in the beginning: the Apaches and their homes were created for each other by Usen Himself. When they are taken from these homes they sicken and die. How long will it be before it is said, ‘There are no Apaches?” Geronimo, S.M. Barret

Compare this to the statement in the book of Acts, New Testament;

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and determined the times set for them and the boundaries where they should live.”

Book of Acts, 17:26

And furthermore, our own Supreme Court eventually agreed with them;

“[I]n decisions of this court, the Indian right of occupancy of tribal lands, whether declared in a treaty or otherwise created, has been stated to be sacred. . . It is to be presumed that in this matter the United States would be governed by such considerations of justice as would control a Christian people . . .”

Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 553, 565 (1903). See also the same language in Yankton Sioux Tribe of Indians v. U. S., 272 US 351 (1926); U. S. v. Choctaw Nation, 179 U.S. 494 (1900)

Note that the Supreme Court ruled Americans to be a Christian People, as late as 1903, and later. Real history just conflicts everywhere with the Academic view; but it really does appear that the State funded colleges and federally funded halls of learning are more interested in  (to use one of their own words}propagandizing than educating.

These kinds of flood stories are found all over the world, in China, Burma, Mexico and elsewhere, as is the knowledge of a supreme creator god, often called “the Sky God”, among the animistic indigenous peoples. When I was a young child in elementary school back in the fifties, our textbooks occasionally mentioned one or more of these stories so common among America’s indigenous people. Not anymore.

If Atheism is such a superior world-view, why are its purveyors so averse to telling the whole story? Why the relentless exclusion of any data that contradicts it?

“…We had no churches, no religious organizations, no Sabbath day, and no holy days, and yet we worshiped. Sometimes the whole tribe would assemble to sing and to pray; sometimes a smaller number, perhaps only two or three…Sometimes we prayed in silence; sometimes each one prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person would pray for all of us. At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other and to Usen.”

 “Since my life as a prisoner has begun I have heard the teachings of the white man’s religion and in many respects believe it to be better than the religion of my fathers. However, I have always prayed, and I believe the Almighty has always protected me.” Geronimo, Ibid

Geronimo never saw the insides of a modern secular college Geography text. Poor fellow.

But it might be quite lucky for our modern textbook authors that the Apache leader cannot see what they are doing to history and the history of his people; or there might be a few new scalps hanging from the ridge pole of the venerable old warrior’s lodge. And Geronimo is one man I would not have wanted to cross.

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About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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