Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


Not Your Cleveland Indians

WIF Into History

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #241

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #241

… “So, is Laura Bell alive or dead?” is an appropriate question for a lawyer to ask…

Dead & alive

Dead & Alive by Alison Chaplin

Today would be “one of those days” for the good doctor. He has learned not to shoot from the hip, so-to-speak trying to handle situations by himself. All that that ever got him was a smelly dose of blackmail, something that may have ruined him and his wife, before they had established themselves socially. Things would have turned out very differently had they been restricted to practicing solely in the black community; no staff position at Florida A & M, no opportunity to offer care for those unable to pay for his services. The latter would be his greatest legacy and he was a month or two away from allowing unsubstantiated accusations to steal that from him. He has since learned the workings of the “waiver of liability” form.

“So, is Laura Bell alive or dead?” is an appropriate question for a lawyer to ask.

“I don’t know, James. I had a pretty white woman come to me tonight, over at the house, after we had gone to bed, tellin’ me that she had found Olla beaten and robbed. When we went back, there was no sign that anythin’ had gone on… but it was awfully dark out.”

“It happens every time the sun goes down, Alpha,” he looks out a window, “… sorry, but you left that door wide open.”

          “I will laugh at that joke when I know where Olla is,” he proclaims sincerely. “I am so used to her traipsing in and out that I don’t know what to believe.”

“What aren’t you telling me, Doc?” He rightly concludes that there is more to this story. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with that Wilson girl, would it?”

A.O. nods. “The Fenwick lady said she saw four or five white men running away. By the time she got me out from bed and down there in Frenchtown, well… I ain’t sure what to do. I am sure that the police would do a half-hearted investigation into this monkey business, hell they would rather watch me like a hawk, likely waiting for the first and best reason to throw me in jail and steal my land.”

“It’s Maggie’s land and no one is going to steal anything from her or you, not as long as I am around.”

A.O. should be lighting candles and praying novenas at Saint Matthew of the Pines Catholic Church for James Ferrell’s long life.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Cobblestone (olla)-001

Episode #241


page 227

Scientology – Let’s Make Up a Religion

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February-18,-1954--Church-of-Scientology-Founded-by-Sci-Fi-Writer

A Brief History

On February 18, 1954 Los Angeles, California hosted the establishment of a new religion.


Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find The Church of Scientology founded in December of 1953 and its first church located two months later in L.A..

Founder L. Ron Hubbard (Lafayette Ronald Hubbard) was a science fiction writer and a self-help proponent of his system he called Dianetics.  Hubbard’s best known science fiction story is Battlefield Earth, which was also made into a movie starring church member John Travolta.

Prior to succeeding with Dianetics and science fiction, Hubbard served in the U.S. Navy in World War II.  According to church documents, he served in combat all over the world, was severely wounded and highly decorated, having commanded a flotilla as “commodore.”

Navy records indicate otherwise, with Hubbard only briefly going to Australia and spending the rest of the war in the continental United States.  Having briefly commanded a small vessel twice, Hubbard was relieved of command both times, once for accidentally leaving U.S. waters and shelling an occupied Mexican island for “practice!”  If that is not cracked enoughHubbard also claimed he once lowered the American flag on his ship and tied up at a Japanese port, not noticed by the Japanese while he walked around for a few days!

Scientology accounts claim Hubbard was a great explorer, war hero, and nuclear physicist among other things, and that he wrote the screenplay for the movieStagecoach, although critics claim that these assertions are false.  There is enough written about that for you to decide for yourself.  (We do not take sides.)

Scientology counts famous actors John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Gloria Swanson among its adherents, and has gone as far as to initiate Project Celebrityto recruit famous people into the church.

Controversial from the start, Scientology has had and still has strident critics, with many countries refusing their boats entry and refusing to recognize Scientology as a religion. France even indicted Hubbard for fraud.

Hubbard died of a stroke in 1986, but Scientology lives on. There are numerous books about L. Ron Hubbard and about Scientology, and as we do not have the room here to discuss the beliefs, teachings, and controversies, interested people should consult the reading list.  We welcome your opinions in our comments!

 Scientology

– Let’s Make Up a Religion

Buddhism 101

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Religion-001

10 Misconceptions about Buddhism

Buddhism is extremely fast growing and estimates put its adherents at somewhere around one billion. Even though Buddhism is so popular, many in the western world, where it is barely practiced, have a very poor understanding of it. Not only have many people gained a completely incorrect understanding of it, but some attempt to practice without proper guidance and do it completely wrong. Now while these people’s hearts are in the right place, it might be wise to find a Buddhist teacher, they do exist in the western world, and learn from them. You may also have noticed that nowhere in this introduction have I actually referred to Buddhism as a religion or as a philosophy, the reason for this is explained below.

10. Religion.

religion-buddhism

Misconception: Buddhism’s status as a religion.

Buddhism’s status as a religion is easily one of the most misunderstood aspects. The answer to the misconception is that it depends on who you ask, and what their definition of religion is. Buddhism doesn’t require a belief in God, or require you to give up your religion, and the original Buddha was not appreciative of the priest’s, many of these things would contradict any argument about it being a religion.  However, some people who practice it perform it in a way that is similar to a religion, and they might not appreciate having you tell them that their belief system is just a “philosophy”. The best answer to this question is to ask the individuals who practice how they personally view it.

9. Pacifists.

pacifism-buddhism

Misconception: All Buddhists are pacifists.

While Buddhists do practice non-violence, this is not quite the idea of pacifism that many of us have in mind. For instance, the Dalai Lama was once asked about the killing of Osama Bin Laden and expressed sympathy with the idea of “taking counter-measures”, if something is “serious”. And the Buddha himself was not a teacher of politics or culture, but a teacher of the individual mind. While Buddhists do as a general rule practice non-violence, not all Buddhists are pacifist.  The misconception was been reinforced by movies with old eastern martial arts instructors who always avoided fighting when necessary. But remember in all of those movies, when they needed to fight, they did.

8. Meditation.

meditation-buddhims

Misconception: All Buddhists meditate.

Many people’s first image of a Buddhist is someone meditating in full lotus position, perhaps uttering a mantra of some sort in another language. But the truth is that only a very small amount of Buddhists meditate on a regular basis, and this is true even among some monks. Even more surprising, among religious groups in America, it was found that Buddhists were less likely to meditate than anyone else. The study also found that over half of the Buddhists who were surveyed, did not meditate any more than once in awhile.

7. Dalai Lama.

dalailama-buddhism

Misconception: The Dalai Lama is the Buddhist version of the Pope.

Many people think of world religious leaders and they think of the Pope and the Dalai Lama, most consider the Dalai Lama to be Buddhism’s version of the pope. The thing is though, that really isn’t true. The Dalai Lama is the head only of one small part of Tibetan Buddhism called Gelugpa. All of the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as all different forms of Buddhism, do not consider him to be an official leader. In his particular sect, he is the highest ranking Lama, but that’s all.

6. The Buddha.

buddha-buddhism

Misconception: The popular fat bald man statue is a representation of Siddhartha Gautama.

When most people hear about Buddha they think of a really jolly looking fat guy with his belly showing, usually sitting in the full lotus position. However, that is not the Buddha, or at least not the original Buddha, whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama. The statue is actually of a fellow known as Budai. Some people think that the “laughing Buddha”, is based on a traveling monk who might have been an incarnation of Maitreya Buddha. There is no evidence that the original Buddha was fat, in fact it is likely he was quite thin.

5. Paganism.

pagan-buddhism

Misconception: Those who practice Buddhism are pagans.

Some people believe that Buddhism is pagan, but it really only fits in that category by the loosest definition of the word. The only way it really works is if you apply it to anything apply it to everything that is not Judeo Christian, but that would be a little offensive. The truth is that even from the Dalai Lama’s writings, it is clear that in Buddhism the aspects that many in the west would consider religious are not very important, and the Dalai Lama has mentioned that religion might be “something we can perhaps do without”.

4. Suffering.

suffering-buddhism

Misconception: Buddhists enjoy suffering.

Many people think that Buddhists enjoy suffering, or put themselves through it as part of a religious practice. The thing is that Buddhists seek to understand suffering as a means to end it permanently, too understand impermanence and realize that life is suffering. However, to the well trained Buddhist this is not a negative mindset, rather it is about optimistic in regards to accepting suffering when it cannot be avoided, and learning eventually to transcend it completely. This is one of the most important parts of the Buddhist path.

3. Diet.

vegetarian-buddhism

Misconception: Buddhists are vegetarian.

Many people are aware of some of the precepts of Buddhism, such as not to kill, and assume that all Buddhists are vegetarian. While there are some Buddhists who practice vegetarianism as a personal choice based on their understanding of the precepts, it is generally frowned upon to make a big deal out of it though. Buddha was never against eating meat; he even suggested certain types of meats at various types and rejected arguments for vegetarianism. There is nothing in Buddhist doctrines that say that meat eating as an act itself is considered to be killing.

2. Reincarnation.

reincarnation-buddhism

Misconception: All Buddhists believe in reincarnation.

Many people assume that Buddhists believe in reincarnation, but as you might have already guessed, that’s not quite the case. The idea of reincarnation as those in the west seem to perceive it has little to do with the belief in Buddhism, and it might be a problem of being lost in translation, as many Buddhists prefer words like “rebirth” or “rebecoming”. It should be clear that the idea of someone dying, and then being reborn into an animal, or another human body and so on, is not at all supported anywhere in Buddhism.

1. Siddhartha Gautama. siddhartha-buddhims

Misconception: Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, is a deity.

Many people are under the notion that Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the original Buddha, was and is a deity to Buddhists. However, there is no deity in Buddhism. In fact, Gautama Buddha himself was very adamant about not being a God; he also didn’t feel that questions on creation or origin were even important at all. In essence, there is no God in Buddhism, though you can choose to believe in God and still be a Buddhist. It is compatible with most religions. Another interesting tidbit, the word Buddha just means “awake”. The Buddha was an enlightened man, but he never claimed to be anything more than that

Buddhism 101

Religion Made For Television

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Edward R. Murrow

“We are in the same tent as the clowns and the freaks-that’s show business.”

― Edward R. Murrow

Craig Ferguson

“You can never talk religion on network TV. It makes too many people angry. You can talk about sex.”
― Craig Ferguson

Marsha Norman

“The theater is a communal event, like church. The playwright constructs a mass to be performed for a lot of people. She writes a prayer, which is really just the longings of one heart.”

― Marsha Norman

Religion Made For Television