Columbus Absolved of Bringing Lice-Borne Disease to Indians


MummyPeruLice.jpg




“Braided hair is intact on a Peruvian mummy like those used in a study. Scientists say lice in the Americas predated Columbus.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A10) When two pre-Columbian individuals died 1,000 years ago, arid conditions in the region of what is now Peru naturally mummified their bodies, as well as the lice in their long, braided hair.

That was all scientists needed, they reported Wednesday, to extract well-preserved louse DNA and establish that lice had accompanied their human hosts in the original peopling of the Americas, probably as early as 15,000 years ago. The DNA matched that of the most common type of louse known to exist worldwide now and also before Europeans colonized the New World.

The findings absolve Columbus of responsibility for at least one wrong unintentionally wrought on the people he found in the Americas and called Indians. The Europeans who followed Columbus to America may have introduced diseases, namely smallpox and measles, but not the most common of lice, as had been suspected.



For the full story, see:
JOHN NOBLE WILFORD. “Scientists Say Mummies’ Lice Show Pre-Columbian Origins.” The New York Times (Thurs., February 7, 2008): A10.

Omaha’s Westroads Mall Stops Good Guys From Shooting Back

 

John Lott earned his PhD at the University of Chicago in economics.  What he says below is not popular, or politically correct, but it is probably true.  And if it is true, and if we fail to act on its truth, then more good people will continue to be killed, who could have been saved.

 

The horrible tragedy at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb. received a lot of attention Wednesday and Thursday. It should have. Eight people were killed, and five were wounded.

A Google news search using the phrase "Omaha Mall Shooting" finds an incredible 2,794 news stories worldwide for the last day. From India and Taiwan to Britain and Austria, there are probably few people in the world who haven’t heard about this tragedy.

But despite the massive news coverage, none of the media coverage, at least by 10 a.m. Thursday, mentioned this central fact: Yet another attack occurred in a gun-free zone.

Surely, with all the reporters who appear at these crime scenes and seemingly interview virtually everyone there, why didn’t one simply mention the signs that ban guns from the premises?

Nebraska allows people to carry permitted concealed handguns, but it allows property owners, such as the Westroads Mall, to post signs banning permit holders from legally carrying guns on their property.

. . .

The law-abiding, not criminals, are obeying the rules. Disarming the victims simply means that the killers have less to fear. As Wednesday’s attack demonstrated yet again, police are important, but they almost always arrive at the crime scene after the crime has occurred.

The longer it takes for someone to arrive on the scene with a gun, the more people who will be harmed by such an attack.

Most people understand that guns deter criminals. If a killer were stalking your family, would you feel safer putting a sign out front announcing, "This Home Is a Gun-Free Zone"? But that is what the Westroads Mall did.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

John R. Lott, Jr.  "Media Coverage of Mall Shooting Fails to Reveal Mall’s Gun-Free-Zone Status."  FOXNEWS.COM  (Thurs., December 6, 2007).

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

(Note:  I am grateful to Luis Locay, for forwarding me Lott’s commentary.)

 

Not All World Views Can Be Accommodated

 

   1935 photos of painted Caduveo women from Claude Lévi-Strauss Structural Anthropology.  Source of photos:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

I remember in a philosophy class back in the 1970s, the philosopher Stephen Toulmin mentioning that he had once attended a conference with the famed anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.  For a long while Lévi-Strauss sat in silence.  Finally he stirred himself to speak, and Toulmin wondered what wisdom the great man would pronounce. 

His comment was something like:  "It is hot in here.  Will someone open a window?" 

 

News of the death of the philosopher Richard Rorty on June 8 came as I was reading about a small Brazilian tribe that the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss studied in the 1930s. A strange accident, a haphazard juxtaposition — but for a moment this pragmatist philosopher and a fading tribal culture glanced against each other, revealing something unusual about the contemporary scene.

. . .

For Mr. Rorty, the importance of democracy is that it creates a liberal society in which rival truth claims can compete and accommodate each other. His pragmatism was postmodern, tolerant to a fault, its moral and progressive conclusions never appealing to a higher authority.

. . .

The Caduveo founding myth recounts that, lacking other gifts at the moment of creation, the tribe was given the divine right to exploit and dominate others.

. . .

But there was also something else about this tribe that drew Mr. Lévi-Strauss’s attention: “It was a society remarkably adverse to feelings that we consider as being natural.” Its members disliked having children. Abortion and infanticide were so common that the only way the tribe itself could continue was by adoption, and adoption — more properly called abduction — was traditionally implemented through warfare. The tribal disdain for nature extended into its active denigration of hair, agriculture, childbirth and even, perhaps, representational art.

. . .

In reasoning one’s way into pragmatism, in minimizing the importance of natural constraints and in dismissing the notion of some larger truth, the tendency is to assume that as different as we all are, we are at least prepared to accommodate ourselves to one another. But this is not something the Caduveo would necessarily have gone along with. Mr. Rorty’s outline of what he called “the utopian possibilities of the future” doesn’t leave much room for the kind of threat the Caduveo might pose, let alone other threats, still active in the world.

One tendency of pragmatism might be to so focus on the ways in which one’s own worldview is flawed that trauma is more readily attributed to internal failure than to external challenges. In one of his last interviews Mr. Rorty recalled the events of 9/11: “When I heard the news about the twin towers, my first thought was: ‘Oh, God. Bush will use this the way Hitler used the Reichstag fire.’ ”

If that really was his first thought, it reflects a certain amount of reluctance to comprehend forces lying beyond the boundaries of his familiar world, an inability fully to imagine what confrontations over truth might look like, possibly even a resistance to stepping outside of one’s skin or mental habits.

But in this too the Caduveo example may be suggestive. As Mr. Lévi-Strauss points out, neighboring Brazilian tribes were as hierarchical as the Caduveo but lacked the tribe’s sweeping “fanaticism” in rejecting the natural world. They reached differing forms of accommodation with their surroundings. The Caduveo, refusing even to procreate, didn’t have a chance. They survive now as sedentary farmers. Such a fate of denatured inconsequence may eventually be shared by absolutist postmodernism. The Caduveo’s ideas weren’t useful, perhaps. Some weren’t even true.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN.  "CONNECTIONS; Postmodern Thoughts, Illuminated by the Practices of a Premodern Tribe."  The New York Times   (Mon., June 18, 2007):  B3.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

 RortyRichard.jpg Levi-StraussClaude.jpg   Rorty on left; Lévi-Strauss on right.  Source of photos:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 

Indians Hunted Several Species to Local Extinction

 Researchers at work at the Emeryville Shellmound.  Source of photo:  online version of The Washington Post article cited below.

 

Like the Europeans who came later, the first Americans apparently had a propensity for killing and eating any animal they could lay their hands on without giving a lot of thought to the future, judging by the bones they left behind at one notable site.

"The general public probably buys into the ‘Pocahontas version’ that Native Americans were inherently different and more in tune with nature," said University of Utah archaeologist Jack Broughton.  "The evidence says otherwise."

After studying thousands of animal bones found in a garbage heap on the shores of San Francisco Bay, Broughton concluded that Native Americans living in an area where Emeryville is now located hunted several species to local extinction from 600 B.C. to A.D. 1300.

 

For the full story, see: 

Guy Gugliotta. "SCIENCE Notebook; Indians Depleted Wildlife, Too." The Washington Post (Monday, February 20, 2006):  A09

 

A more detailed summary of the research can be found in a University of Utah press release:

"Early California: A Killing Field; Research Shatters Utopian Myth, Finds Indians Decimated Birds."

 

The full, academic version of the research can be found in: 

Broughton, Jack M.  Prehistoric Human Impacts on California Birds: Evidence from the Emeryville Shellmound Avifauna, Ornithological Monographs, 2004.

 

U.S. Government “spending $3,500 to find out if we handled $1 correctly”

Indian records buried in a limestone cave near Lenexa, Kansas.  The Omaha-World Herald identifies the unhappy gentleman as "Ross Swimmer, a special assistant with the Interieor Department" (see source cited for excerpt below).  The Olympian Online of Olympia, Washington identifies him as "John Allshouse, assistant regional administrator for the National Archives" (see source cited for image).    Source of image:  http://159.54.227.3/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060507/NEWS/60507029

 

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) – Seventy feet beneath the prairie, the government is filling limestone caverns – protected by guards and a bomb-sniffing dog – with truckloads of American Indians’ financial and cultural records.

What is ground zero for an accounting that will take seven years and cost $335 million owes its existence to a bitter class-action lawsuit brought against the Interior Department a decade ago.  Still, it’s only a short version of the historical accounting that Indians demanded but no longer want, because they do not think it can be done properly.

The Indians say the government mismanaged a trust in their names for 120 years and now owes them tens of billions of dollars.

. . .  

Concerns about the how the trust accounts are managed are almost as old as the trust itself.

In 1915, the Joint Commission of Congress on Indian Funds warned of "fraud, corruption and institutional incompetence almost beyond the possibility of comprehension."  In 1928, the Interior Department found Indian trust data unreliable and almost useless.  Dozens of other scathing reports followed.

Finally, in 1994, Congress demanded that the department fulfill an obligation to account for money received and disbursed.  A year later when account statements still had not been reconciled, Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Indian tribe in Montana joined with the Boulder, Colo.-based Native American Rights Fund and others in suing.

"Fractionalization" of accounts is a major obstacle in managing the trust.  As ownership of the 160-acre and smaller land parcels transferred from generation to generation, proceeds from the trust accounts had to be divided among more and more descendants.  Department officials say 90 percent of the transactions are for less than $100.

"In every category it has cost us more to find the errors than the total amount of the errors we found," said departing Interior Secretary Gale Norton.  "When you consider that we have millions of transactions under $1, you’re spending $3,500 to find out if we handled $1 correctly."

 

For the full story see:

"Paper Trail Fills Massive Cave."   Omaha World-Herald  (Sun., May 21, 2006):  10A.

 

(Note, the online version, has a different title and a day-earlier publication date:   

"Counting Up What Indians Are Owed."  Omaha World-Hearald  (Sat., May 20, 2006).)

Reagan on the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Source of book image:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060957573/ref=ed_oe_p/104-5180402-9681554?%5Fencoding=UTF8

 

Michael Deaver, longtime aide to Ronald Reagan, has written an interesting memoir that documents that in most important respects, Reagan was his own boss, worked hard, and had a focused intellect.  

He also documents what most grant:  Reagan was a great communicator.  One element in his success as a communicator is illustrated below:

 

(p. 71)  . . . he would often recount a fictitious yarn of a sobbing bureaucrat he encountered at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  The man was at his desk, crying into his folded arms when Reagan touched him on the shoulder and asked him what was wrong.  "My Indian died, that’s what’s wrong," came the response.  "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"

 

The citation for Deaver’s book is:

Deaver, Michael K.  A Different Drummer:  My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan.  Reprint ed:  Harper Paperbacks, 2003.

 

Private Property Rights Would Help American Indians

(p. W11) The main problem with Indian reservations isn’t, as some argue, that they were established on worthless tracts of grassland. Consider the case of Buffalo County, S.D., which Census data reveal to be America’s poorest county. Some 2,000 people live there. More than 30% of the homes are headed by women without husbands. The median household income is less than $13,000. The unemployment rate is sky high.

Just to the east of Buffalo County lies Jerauld County, which is similar in size and population. Yet only 6% of its homes are headed by women without husbands, the median household income is more than $30,000, and the unemployment rate hovers around 3%. The fundamental difference between these two counties is that the Crow Creek Indian Reservation occupies much of Buffalo County. The place is a pocket of poverty in a land of plenty.
Maybe we should give land back to the rez-dwellers, so that they may own private property the way other Americans do. Currently, the inability to put up land as collateral for personal mortgages and loans is a major obstacle to economic development. This problem is complicated by the fact that not all reservations have adopted uniform commercial codes or created court systems that are independent branches of tribal government — the sorts of devices and institutions that give confidence to investors who might have the means to fund the small businesses that are the engines of rural economies.
. . .
. . . the real tragedy is that reservations, as collectivist enclaves within a capitalist society, have beaten down their inhabitants with brute force rather than lifting them up with opportunity. As their economies have withered, other social pathologies have taken root: Indians are distressingly prone to crime, alcoholism and suicide. Families have suffered enormously. About 60% of Indian children are born out of wedlock. Although accurate statistics are hard to come by because so many arrangements are informal, Indian kids are perhaps five times as likely as white ones to live in some form of foster care. Their schools are depressingly bad.
Even if casino revenues were able to address these soul-crushing problems — a doubtful proposition — most reservations are too isolated geographically to profit from big-dollar gambling. Yet the rise of the casinos may help point the way forward: Their ability to flourish contradicts the tenured Marxists in ethnic-studies departments who claim that communitarian Indian cultures aren’t compatible with market capitalism. After all, it takes entrepreneurship to run some of the world’s biggest casinos.
What’s more, this modern-day entrepreneurship is part of a long tradition: Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) described the Chinooks as “great hagglers in trade.” I once visited Poverty Point, a 3,000-year-old set of earthen mounds in Louisiana; the museum there displayed ancient artifacts found at the site, including copper from the Great Lakes and obsidian from the Rockies. These prehistoric Americans were budding globalizers, and there’s no reason why their descendants should remain walled off from the world economy.

For the full story, see:
JOHN J. MILLER. “The Projects on the Prairie.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, January 27, 2006): W11.(Note: ellipses added.)

Indians “continually raiding and fighting, band against band”

IndianWarsBK.jpg Image source: online version of WSJ article cited below.

The Indians, as Mr. Yenne shows, were far from peaceful, cooperative peoples living in harmony with each other and with nature. They were continually raiding and fighting, band against band, tribe against tribe. They saw each newly arrived white group — whether English, French, Spanish or Dutch — as just another tribe to contest with. Some Indian tribes were weakened or decimated by these encounters, others were strengthened by getting hold of guns, iron tools and horses. Adopting the horse culture increased the power of the Plains Indians dramatically, making them especially tough foes for the whites moving into the Great American West.

ROGER D. MCGRATH. “Red vs. White, Uncolored by Ideology.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., December 13, 2005): D8.
The book McGrath is reviewing:
Bill Yenne. Indian Wars. Westholme, 2005. (325 pages, $26)

Stealing Indian Land

These lands once belonged to the Kiowas and the Crows, but we whipped these nations out of them, and in this we did what the white men do when they want the lands of the Indians. We met the Kiowas and the Crows and whipped them at the Kiowa Creek, just below where we now are. We met them and whipped them again, and the last time at Crow Creek.

Oglala Lakota Leader Black Hawk, 1851; as quoted in a display at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, designed and built by the National Park Service, and observed on 8/13/05.