[thechat] READ AT YOUR OWN RISK: Open Letter to America from a Canadian

Erika Meyer emeyer at lclark.edu
Thu Aug 22 13:58:00 CDT 2002

Also, you can say Indigenous Americans had "slavery" but it was
NOTHING like what white enslavement of Africans was.

For example, Yuroks had "debt slavery" which actually meant a person
was indebted to another for an amount higher than he/she could pay.
Payment was used as a means for settling conflicts... they didn't
have jails... when one person wronged another they had to pay... once
paid, nothing more could be said about the incident.  Usually payment
was made with regalia or "Indian money" (dentalium), but if that was
impossible, there was debt-slavery.

The word "slave" was created by anthropologists, but the so-called
slave was often treated more like a member of the family.    Yuroks
are not typical of a lot of Indigenous groups, anyway... so maybe not
the best example.  For example they were less tribal, less
matrilineal, and more class-stratified.

As for those mass extinctions, there is debate.  There comes a point,
too, when the question is who is writing your history.  Is it up to
the white anthropologist to define the who the Indian is and was?  Is
that right?  Do we as whites allow ourselves to be defined by what
Indians think of us?  Hardly.

To name another, to define another, is to assert power over another.
The word, the name, is a form of power.

In any case, cultures evolve.  Immediately prior to white contact,
all living Indigenous North American cultures had very strong
traditions which promoted not taking more than you need, using of all
parts of each plant and animal, respect for all living things (this
included trees, rocks, mountains, etc), and living in relative peace
with one's neighbors (conflicts were largely ritualized).

Maybe what defines, not so much (white) Americans as western cultures
(or perhaps simply all nation-states) -- is not that we somehow
inherently "worse" or more "sinful" than any other human (we aren't)
-- it seems to be more this endless bottomless pit of greed for
power.  The more power we have, the more we want... and the more we
abuse others.

Is it perhaps some kind of massive communal spiritual hole?

Osama bin Laden said something interesting.  He said we (America)
didn't have religion or morals to hold us in check (paraphrase).  I
don't agree with him that this is exactly the problem... though I
think it's worth thinking about.

I do agree that there is a problem with the United States of America
in relation to the rest of the world.  And I would like it if
Americans themselves were more widely aware.  Unfortunately, an awful
lot of us are in survival mode.  USA has become a pretty stratified


PS: I minored in Native American Studies which is essentially an
anthropology/history/religious studies combo plate.

Sean, then Tara:
>  > As for how we treat each other, slavery existed in Africa long before any
>  > European knew there was a western hemisphere.
>Actually, there is lots of evidence that ancient Egyptians actually got
>*paid* for their work building the pyramids. IOW they weren't slaves.


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