Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
7 Myths about Native Americans That Need to Be Corrected
In 'All the Real Indians Died Off,' two scholars take longstanding myths about Native Americans to task.
While not as high profile as the Keystone XL pipeline, the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners have been trying to construct a nearly twelve-hundred-mile conduit through North Dakota. As with countless previous construction/relocation projects across America, this pipeline borders reservation land.
The struggle for land ownership is nothing new. Yet this particular blending of numerous tribal groups, environmental organizations, and celebrities waging war against the oil industry is the latest in joint efforts raising awareness about potential catastrophes—and climate change. As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker write in their new book, “All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans:
In the twenty-first century, Native American political struggles have merged with a global Indigenous rights movement that itself is inextricably bound to the global environmental and climate justice movements.
The authors conclude the book with this sentiment, pointing toward a long-awaited broad recognition of the struggles Native Americans have faced over the last half-millennium. Yet the dawning is slow as misconceptions and sheer ignorance abound. One recent and glaring example is Donald Trump’s mocking of Elizabeth Warren by calling her Pocahontas. (The book does not include Trump’s taunts, though it does tellingly point out that the Pocahontas stereotype is effectively a celebration of child pornography.)
We still have a long way to go to make amends with the most oppressed groups—there are currently 567 federally recognized Native nations totaling 5.2 million citizens—in American history. This insightful book investigates past and continuing struggles. The concepts of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny have wreaked havoc on any culture obstructing a specific, tailored view of this nation. Before actual healing can occur, education must come first. This book is mandatory reading for every citizen, especially those calling themselves patriots.
The following synopses of seven myths merely scratch the surface of this excellent work. As the authors conclude, “colonization dehumanizes both the colonized and the colonizer”—another sentiment perfect for our current election cycle. The polarizing pace of modern politics needs an antidote quickly. That begins with understanding how we got here.
Columbus discovered America. While painfully obvious, the timing of publication—Columbus Day, or as is now known in multiple cities, Indigenous Peoples’ History Day—reminds us of a lesser known tidbit: Columbus enslaved more than five thousand Indigenous peoples, making him the single-most subjugating individual in our nation’s history. What’s worse, he never set foot on what is now North America.
Thanksgiving proves the Indians welcomed the pilgrims. Mayflower riders were not the first to land on the continental US, nor the friendliest. In the four years leading up to the feast somewhere between one-third to 90 percent of the Indigenous population had been killed by an unknown epidemic, making the Plymouth land grab that much easier. The Pilgrims knew this as their forks speared the goods.
The only real Indians are full-bloods, and they are dying off. A perpetual dilemma has plagued Native communities: admitting Indian-ness invites discrimination, yet proving genealogical webs can be impossible. DNA testing has made this process slightly more exacting, but as the authors write,
American Indians are the only citizens who are subject to state-sanctioned legal definitions of identity, obligated to prove who they are as Indigenous peoples.
Sports mascots honor Native Americans. Dan Snyder publicly announced he’ll never change the name of the Washington Redskins, though a number of other teams promote racist imagery and faux war chants at games. Certain tribes have granted permission to teams using their likenesses: Florida State University’s Seminoles, Central Michigan University’s Chippewas, and the University of Utah’s Utes. Yet most have not, granting this bit of cultural appropriation continued social and economic power.
Native American culture belongs to all Americans. I witness this all the time in Los Angeles with the influx of yoga-inspired ‘shamans’ leading all sorts of ritual ceremonies. Cries of foul play are met with First Amendment rights, which pulls from the founding document that Indigenous people had no say in. Likewise headdress-rocking Burners and Coachella glampers. The authors have witnessed this often:
New Agers were far more interested in exotic images and romanticized rituals built on distorted stereotypes of Native peoples than they were in the sociopolitical realities of Native peoples living under conditions of colonialism.
Indian casinos make them all rich. A fascinating suspension of logic: “Native people can simultaneously be represented collectively all on government welfare and rich because of casinos.” Both are false. As goes everything in a capitalistic society, very big winners mingle with a majority skimming by. There are 459 gaming establishments in America on Indian land. Of the $28 billion generated in 2014, ninety-six brought in between $10-$25 million. Eighty-eight saw less than $3 million enter the coffers. Only twenty-six topped $250 million that year.
Indians are naturally predisposed to alcoholism. This is certainly problematic. The authors note the false assumption of predisposition is based on a colonizing mentality: these backwards people need to be assimilated. Numerous variables play a part in substance abuse. Are white people naturally predisposed to opioid abuse? Or do we need to investigate the conditions—poor working conditions, terrible nutritional choices, bad postural habits, the economic downturn, prescription-happy doctors—in writing the story of today’s disastrous epidemic?
You know the answer. To better understand the discrimination, nuance, and strong-arming resting at the foundation of America, as well as comprehending how this centuries-old system perpetuates itself today, Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker have fourteen more myths to tell. Listen, for it is who we are.
Derek Beres is working on his new book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health (Carrel/Skyhorse, Spring 2017). He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.