The Founders of America: From the Earliest Migrations to the Present

The Founders of America: From the Earliest Migrations to the Present

The Founders of America: From the Earliest Migrations to the Present

The Founders of America: From the Earliest Migrations to the Present

Synopsis

This book traces the history of the American Indians from their early mastery of the wilderness, through the classical era of their great civilizations, and the dark ages that followed European invasion and conquest. Jennings investigates how the Indians struggled to retain their cultural identity against efforts of government and society to force assimilation onto them. He documents the gradual population and cultural revival among Indians in the 20th century after their catastrophic decline in earlier years.

Excerpt

Do the Americas have a common history? To the extent that all the Americas, from their earliest settlement to the present day, have had in occupation the peoples called Indians, the answer is yes. Indians are the link that binds "Latin America" to "Anglo-America." All the Americas are Indian America. Every European invader and colonizer was met by Indians, whether he came from Spain, Portugal, France, England, Sweden, or the Netherlands in the earlier days of Europe's "discovery," or whether he came from Italy or Russia or Germany in the nineteenth century. Whether he was Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist, he came to the land of Indians; and no matter whether he sat down on ocean shores, river valleys, mountains, plains, or deserts, he found Indians there first.

The common history of the Americas should be the history of American Indians. Is it not strange, then, that this common history is always broken up to be portrayed in a reflection of the part-history of some other people? It is as if one peered through a kaleidoscope full of prisms and mirrors of European making in order to see the whole Indian persons standing in front of the tube.

As pioneers, Indians swarmed over the continents and islands from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, creating communities, establishing networks of trails and trade, and adapting the land everywhere to human purposes. Imperial city states rose in Mexico and Peru, and the "Suns" of Mexico extended colonies and cultural influence into North America in ways comparable to the Roman Empire's relations with northern Europe. This was the "classical" era of Indian North America.

European invasion destroyed those classical urban dynamos and brought on a Dark Age for the native peoples which was cursed by their conquerors as savagery and heathenism. A maxim among historians says that the conquerors write the history. True to this adage, European conquerors praised themselves as bringing civilization and salvation to the Americas. Masked by these uninformative hollow abstractions, there were real persons, events, and relationships, empirical realities often widely discrepant from statements made about them.

This book differs from most others, apart from format and organization, in three major ways:

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