Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America

By James Axtell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Native Reactions to the Invasion of America

PERHAPS THE GREATEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CoLumbian observances of 1892 and 1992 is that the American natives were virtually absent a century ago whereas today they are clearly at the center of attention. Indian voices loudly and clearly present their own views on the meaning of their ancestors' discovery of Columbus and its deadly aftermath, while even nonnative academics ensure that the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" no longer enjoys the limelight.

The reason is simple: since the late 1960s and the concatenation of Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, the rise of Black Power, the civil rights movement, the woman's movement, and the hothouse growth of a new brand of social history, American society, the media, and the historical profession have rediscovered history's forgotten peoples -- natives, women, and minorities -- the allegedly "inarticulate" who left relatively few traces in the written records so favored by traditional historians. At a time of social upheaval, the nation's and the profession's focus and sympathy shifted from the newscatching movers and shakers of the past to its anonymous victims, the hewers of wood and drawers of water who swelled the ranks and made the elites and their successes possible. Indeed, "success" was redefined to include sheer survival, particularly when the deck was stacked and the odds were overwhelming.

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