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Indian Books gone wrong......

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The Canadian Guy View Drop Down
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  Quote The Canadian Guy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Indian Books gone wrong......
    Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 06:52
Ok, there is allot of books that talk bout Indians of the Americas, but allot of these books are racist and stereotypical. I noticed that these books are completely wrong in knowledge and are biased. So, if anyone out there find books bout my ancestors, they are written from the "whiteman"and I am not trying to offend anyone and I expect arguments, but  my culture has no written documents and we tallk in stories and tales. We do not know much of our ancesterial past and the little we know is what we use in ceremonies and are not told outside of them. Our ceremonies are sacred and never told to anyone.

P.S. This is only my expressions and complaints of these book, so please try to argue back and prove me wrong. I am open to debate. I know what I was taught by my elders and what I read are like water and fire, they just don't work together.
Hate and anger is the fuel of war, while religion and politics is the foundation of it.
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  Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 10:34
I know what you mean, books about Aboriginies are the same. They are based on a fairytale and heavily altered version of a telegraph operator's book about the Arrunta people (where Alice Springs is now).

If there is any truth in it, it would only apply to the Arrunta.

For that matter the same is true for books about Islam & the middle east (or all Orientalist material) written by "whitemen" they bear very little or only coincidental facts.

You have to bear in mind that when this attitude was developed facts didn't need to be included in the book. Sensationalising and making other cultures conform to European stereotypes (ie, outright lying) was what made a successful book. Those books are now used as reference material, and so the educated masses get fed alot of crap, which they believe because of the references. Even in the case that the original researcher was an honest intelligent man, the secondary scholarship is often a load of crap. Misunderstandings are doubled by people totally removed from the original culture.

Its the old saying, practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice may enforce bad habits. No education is bad, but bad education is worse.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 28-Apr-2009 at 10:41
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  Quote The Canadian Guy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 14:59
It is an unfortunate reality. It is important that I can get people to realize that these books are a bunch of crap. I was taught by my elders one thing and when i read books bout what I was taught, the books made me sick and I threw a $50.00 book into the fire. It makes me sad and a bit annyed. 
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 17:02

Depends on which Indian group. In my country, for instance, there are several books written by the Mapuches. One of them, "Testimony of a Mapuche Chief", by Pascual Coña, it is a full 400 pages, billingual Spanish Mapudungun, which describes very clearly how were the Mapuches of late 19th century and beginning of the 20th.

All over Latin America we have cronicles written by Native Americans, in Spanish, in native languages, or both. We also have pre-Colombian documents, particularly Mayan, that goes back to the beginning of the christian age.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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  Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 17:21
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

For that matter the same is true for books about Islam & the middle east (or all Orientalist material) written by "whitemen" they bear very little or only coincidental facts.
 
I can't believe you wrote that.
 
To try and get back on a serious track, what problems do either of you have with, say, Weston La Barre's The Ghost Dance?
 
Or, if you don't know that, which is the best treatment of (North) Amerindian religion I've come across, could you produce some more specific evidence to support an outrageous claim?
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 18:17
There is a lot of material that is not sound on North American indigenous populations. However, The Middle Ground was a decent attempt at getting to a sound academic piece on Native Americans years ago. Furthermore, there has been a lot of research with a heavy dose of credibility in recent years. One more recent example is Indian Women and French Men by Sleeper-Smith. To conclude I agree with you on the abundance of bad scholarship, but there is a strong movement for decades to amend that, too.
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 23:00
Some of the best reading I found on Indians was in official after-action reports from the military. And Don Hickey's "Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay" gave a pretty good view of the Cavalry during the Indian Wars. Oliver LaFarge's name springs to mind as the author of a very good work on North American Indians some forty or more years ago. "Across the Wide Missouri" is a good look at the trapping Industry and Plains Indians during the 1820s to 50s. But if you're looking for polemic disguised as history, a la "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee", then you're simply looking for entertainment that will make you feel good. That's surprising coming from a "Canuck". You can't get a better look at Indians than "Black Robe", and even Canadian television had a pretty realistic view of modern Indian life in "North of Sixty", something that U.S. television could never have produced.  
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  Quote Jams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2009 at 23:40
Originally posted by The Canadian Guy

Ok, there is allot of books that talk bout Indians of the Americas, but allot of these books are racist and stereotypical. I noticed that these books are completely wrong in knowledge and are biased. So, if anyone out there find books bout my ancestors, they are written from the "whiteman"and I am not trying to offend anyone and I expect arguments, but  my culture has no written documents and we tallk in stories and tales. We do not know much of our ancesterial past and the little we know is what we use in ceremonies and are not told outside of them. Our ceremonies are sacred and never told to anyone.

P.S. This is only my expressions and complaints of these book, so please try to argue back and prove me wrong. I am open to debate. I know what I was taught by my elders and what I read are like water and fire, they just don't work together.
 
Well, if it's secret then it won't be known by anyone but you, right? Why not write a book yourself, and clarify the situation?
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  Quote The Canadian Guy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 00:52
I can't just write a book, the ceremonies are not to be told outside of the sacred grounds. For example; There are male ceremonies just for men and same as go for females. We cannot know of each others ceremonies. I wish I could write a book, but it is disrespect for my ancestors.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 01:12
But you could write a book about language, customs, legends, cousine, etc.. You don't need to reveal secret ceremonies to show the rest of mankind your people.
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  Quote The Canadian Guy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 01:14
I could, that doesn't seem unreasonable.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 01:29

For instance, who is writing the books to learn the language? how to build a canoe, make a flute, follow prey tracks, make a flute and play it, and thousand of other cultural things that are valuable not only for your people, but to all the educated people of the world that appreciate the produce of mankind.

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  Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 01:40
Originally posted by The Canadian Guy

I can't just write a book, the ceremonies are not to be told outside of the sacred grounds. For example; There are male ceremonies just for men and same as go for females. We cannot know of each others ceremonies. I wish I could write a book, but it is disrespect for my ancestors.


I think this would depend upon the tribe and even you stated Native American are made up of many cultures so the Hopi, Navajo or the Northwest Salish might all have different views about this from your tribe. There are a lot of good sources out there today, although, I agree in the past there was a lot of bias. When I worked at Old Mission State Park in Idaho I read the Roman Catholic catechism to missionaries who were going out west to convert natives. That was full of misconceptions, bias and used terms like "The Savage." Hopefully we have all learned from these past mistakes. I suggest reading; The History of the Coeur d' Alene by Chief Gary. Sarhah Winnemucca, in the 1800's, wrote about her tribe the Paiute in what is now the west side of Nevada State. I really suggest reading this one so there are Native American sources.
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  Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 08:40
Originally posted by gcle2003

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

For that matter the same is true for books about Islam & the middle east (or all Orientalist material) written by "whitemen" they bear very little or only coincidental facts.
I can't believe you wrote that.
 
To try and get back on a serious track, what problems do either of you have with, say, Weston La Barre's The Ghost Dance?
 
Or, if you don't know that, which is the best treatment of (North) Amerindian religion I've come across, could you produce some more specific evidence to support an outrageous claim?
As I said in the original post, there is often an initial author and researcher who has lived and asked the people who they are writing about in sufficent detail, and with the right attitude to write a good book. I have never read the ghost dance, and even if I had I have nothing to compare it to as I don't know anything about Native American religion, so I don't have any tools to judge it with.
With the telegraph operator I mentioned, from what I know about him I suspect that his actual work is probably fairly decent (although again I haven't read it), I know for sure however much of the secondly scholarship, and especially the popular understanding, which are based on his book are often highly misleading to say the least. The problem for all non-aboriginal people reading these books is we have no idea which parts are true, and which parts aren't.
 
From my experience of writings about cultures that I am intimately familar with the amount of total rubbish spread in academic work is mindboggling. Good orientalist work is the execption, not the rule. The rule I use is that unless I understand the background and work of a particular author, or they are a member of the ethnic group they are describing, I don't believe a word of what they write. I have found that books written about a culture when a person is there for a different reason are typically better, for example cookbooks are one of the best sources, academic work is just about the worst. I treat it as false until proven otherwise. Usually you'll learn more by using as a fire lighter than by reading it especially if its written before 1970


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 29-Apr-2009 at 08:46
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  Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 12:00
But what makes you think that stuff written by "white men" is any worse than stuff written by anyone else? There is tons of rubbish written about the English by all sorts of people.
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  Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 12:15
I was just copying The Canadian Guy's phrase
they are written from the "whiteman"
 
I certainly don't mean to imply that documents written by Europeans are any worse or better than documents written by anyone else, rather that documents written by outsiders are on average worse than ones written by insiders.
In his scenario the outside is a "whiteman" but that's just coincidental, if we were talking about England it'd be the opposite.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 29-Apr-2009 at 12:18
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 13:47
Originally posted by gcle2003

But what makes you think that stuff written by "white men" is any worse than stuff written by anyone else? There is tons of rubbish written about the English by all sorts of people.
 
Indeed. In Spanish, the best epic of the Conquist of the Americas, La Araucana (The Araucaniad) was written by a Spanish soldier, who painted Spaniards as the brutes they were and the Native as the victims and the most couragious warriors ClapClap
 
Ercilla, the author was very admired in Europe, and it also considered a truthful teller by the Natives themselves.
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  Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 13:48
Originally posted by eaglecap


  When I worked at Old Mission State Park in Idaho I read the Roman Catholic catechism to missionaries who were going out west to convert natives...


You are old! You convert the missionaries then they converted the Indians. I see! Wink (I would insert the word "about" between 'read' and 'the' in your sentence.)


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  Quote Jams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 14:08
Originally posted by pinguin

But you could write a book about language, customs, legends, cousine, etc.. You don't need to reveal secret ceremonies to show the rest of mankind your people.
 
Exactly - someone's got to do it, and it better be an insider, IMHO. Outsiders will always have some kind of tinted glasses which they view a culture with. They will never be neutral, even if they try to be. It is unavoidable that they use their own values and meanings to interpret whatever they may see.
 
Originally posted by The Canadian Guy

I could, that doesn't seem unreasonable.
 
If you're concerned about it, I think it would be a good idea. After all, someone's got to do it, if there's an interest in clarifying certain misunderstandings and misinformation. 


Edited by Jams - 29-Apr-2009 at 14:11
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  Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 15:49
Originally posted by Jams

Exactly - someone's got to do it, and it better be an insider, IMHO. Outsiders will always have some kind of tinted glasses which they view a culture with. They will never be neutral, even if they try to be. It is unavoidable that they use their own values and meanings to interpret whatever they may see.
But no-one sees a culture through more heavily tinted glasses than members of that culture themselves. If you wanted a good account of a Manchester United - Chelse game, would you pick a Chelsea or Manchester supporter? Or would you prefer one from Barcelona?
 
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