Monday, January 07, 2008

History homework help: lessons to learn from Native American experiences...

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Yesterday I was looking over what my daughter had been set for History GCSE homework. She has just started the American West and had homework on Native Americans (or call them American Indians, Indians, Amerindians, Amerinds, or Indigenous, Aboriginal or Original Americans if you wish, since there is quite a debate on the name to use). Very interesting stuff. It reminded me of what I'd read in Clive Ponting's excellent book A Green History of the World on this topic eg how in 1500 an indigenous population of around a million, with widely varied cultures and ways of life had been virtually wiped out within four hundred years, including many forced removals costing thousands of lives (see Trail of Tears for instance). It also brought to mind the words, reputedly of Chief Seathl, that have long been an inspiration to me (great words, whether actually Chief Seathl's or not, that say a lot about Native American beliefs and attitudes). We'd today call such forced displacement 'ethnic cleansing' or genocide. Some would of course argue that the US Govt isn't that much better today.