The story of the purchase of Manhattan is one of the most contentious and oft-disputed stories in American history. That modest sale has gone down in history as the biggest swindle ever perpetrated.... But what may be the most surprising fact about the whole transaction is that in 1626, and for a long time afterward, both parties were very happy with it.The complexities of navigating the economics of desire, an excerpt from Aja Raden's Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World [Amazon].
The Pilgrims are often depicted in popular culture as wearing only black and white clothing, with large golden buckles on their shoes and hats and long white collars. This stereotypical Pilgrim, however, is not historically accurate. The Pilgrims, in fact, wore a wide variety of colors. Mayflower History and Plimoth Plantation have more information on and examples of authentic Pilgrim and Wampanoag clothing, to correct just a few of the numerous issues with common depictions of early Thanksgiving celebrations (previously) that can be addressed through updated discussions and depictions of Thanksgiving celebrations. [more inside]
"... I love the version of the Thanksgiving story in the movie Addams Family Values, because I get to see the Indians win." [SLGuardian]
In 1960 or so, Professor Perry C. Van Arsdale was helping his 7-year-old granddaughter researching the Santa Fe trail. He found his granddaughter's textbook to have some number of errors. He set off to create a map of pioneer history (prior to the 1900's), using his own knowledge and information from judges, sheriffs, and descendants of historical figures. This was his start in creating the Pioneer New Mexico map, which would contain 300 towns that no longer exist, old trails of all sorts (including the three historic Santa Fe trails and various camel routes), locations of minor squabbles and major battles, and because he couldn't fit everything on the maps, he also included extensive notes in the corner of the map. [more inside]
This iconic photo of the first Aboriginal woman to enlist in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps was used as a recruitment tool, and "appeared all over the British Empire [in 1942] to show the power of the colonies fighting for King and country." Its original caption in the Canadian War Museum read, "Unidentified Indian princess getting blessing from her chief and father to go fight in the war." Its current caption in The Library and Archives of Canada reads: "Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC, 1942." But as it turns out, the two people in the photo had never met before that day. They weren't from the same tribe or even related and Private Mary Greyeyes was not an "Indian Princess." 70 years after the photo was taken, her daughter-in-law Melanie made sure the official record was corrected. Via [more inside]
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube. [more inside]
An Icelandic company called deCODE genetics (previously) has found evidence, though not conclusive, that an unknown American woman traveled to Iceland, possibly against her will, as early the year 1000 but not later than 1700. She had offspring in Iceland with natives. 80 of her descendants are still extant in that country. This finding has been announced in a pre-print online publication of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The work involved explorations of mitochondrial DNA, which are frequently employed to examine humans' centuries-old lineages. One surprising result is that this lineage does not seem to line up with previously known Native American genetic markers, but the authors believe that the explanation above is "[more] likely" than this common ancestor being European or Asian. (Via Daily Mail.) [more inside]
The Shinnecocks have been a fixture in New York State for centuries — their beads became the wampum Dutch settlers used as money in the colonies — but the US Department of Interior never included them on its official list of Native American tribes. That all changed on June 14th. Almost four centuries since their first contact with Europeans and after a 32-year court battle, the 1,300 member impoverished Shinnecock Native American Nation was formally recognised by the US federal government. The tribe's tiny, 750-acre reservation in the middle of the Hamptons (home and summer playground to some the country's wealthiest Americans,) is now a semi-sovereign nation, allowing them to apply for Federal funding to help them build schools, health centers and to set up their own police force, as well as the right to open a casino. [more inside]
Forty Thanksgivings ago Alcatraz Island was occupied by a number of Native American activists as a protest. The occupation lasted until June of 1971 The best place to learn about it is PBS's website for Alcatraz Is Not an Island, Jim Fortier's documentary about the Alcatraz Occupation. Besides an overview of the events it has video interviews with the people involved. [RealPlayer required] Here are photographs of the occupation, mostly from newspapers. For a flavor of how the local media covered the events, here's the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive's Occupation of Alcatraz Collection which has over 40 contemporary newsreports [MPEG4]
Thanksgiving is a difficult time for some people to celebrate. The holiday that Lincoln gave us has been saddled with a wonderful mythology. The real story is a bit more problematic, and involves a vicious, genocidal war. Is it possible to reclaim the beauty of this holiday, or is it too tainted by its history? [more inside]
Native American Sites in the City of Philadelphia is a superbly illustrated exposition of the historical development of Philadelphia, with a focus on those few surviving Native American sites which lie under the urban fabric. Lots more excellent Public Archaeology is available from the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Bonus link: Philly's lost creeks and streams. [more inside]
First Nations Histories is a site with compact histories of 48 first nations, from the Abenaki to the Winnebago, written by Lee Sultzman. They are primarily focused on nations in the Northeast, Midwest, with a smattering in the Plains and the Southeast. It also hosts two articles that aren't part of the project, Manifest Destiny and Western Canada and The Coree are Not Extinct.
In 1545 and 1576, plagues swept across the Yucatan peninsual in Mexico and killed 17 million people, including 80 percent of the native Indians. The traditional view is that American Indians succumbed to European diseases to which they had no natural resistance. A new and subtle theory says that the plagues were not imported but were in fact of local origin. It doesn't let the Europeans off the hook though.