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Someone Has Got Our Horses
Research Reflections & Book Review
© 2012 James LaFond
“Someone has got our horses.” -Chief Joseph, January 14th, 1879
Echoes of Human Extinction
When people find out that I am writing science-fiction from the point-of-view of a 16th Century Native American they immediately come across with one of three viewpoints: curiosity; the ‘Dances with Wolves’ ‘Indians were the original hippie martyrs of a world now completely raped by capitalist European war-pigs’ viewpoint; and the ‘screw the savages they got what they deserved and we did it for their own good’ viewpoint.
In my mind I cannot but think curiosity is the proper viewpoint. But the extinction of hundreds of interlinked low-impact cultures is a sad gut-wrenching consideration and it brings out feelings of guilt in some, and of cultural justification in others. I mean, it is not like marveling over the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or Imperial Rome. Sure, they were interesting and frightening societies. But they consisted of millions of slaves controlled by maniacs, neither component being something that we can easily identify with. The Indians were at least social network sized groups of people living according to a consensual life style; something more easily understood by the free-feeling environmentally conscious person of the Information Age. So unlike the mid-Twentieth Century nationalist, the Post-Modern person is as likely to identify with the Native American as he is with his grandfather.
As a writer I have had a difficult time in my attempts to view the Native Americans as they were, forced as I am to consider them through the various prisms available, which range from how their descendents wish them to be viewed to how the descendents of those who engineered their annihilation wish them to be viewed. Even when these ancient stone-age cultures thrived, the European missionaries that left records about their nature were hopelessly infected with religious and cultural bias.
One avenue open to the researcher is considering the records left by the last survivors of this 300-year-long holocaust. In the end, after winning nine out of ten battles and losing every single war to an enemy that apparently could not fight but would not stop coming, the war chiefs were all dead and gone. [Imagine if Tex Cobb had KO’d Larry Holmes after losing every round of their epically one-sided fight.] It was left to the spiritual leaders, many of whom had converted to the worship of the Christian ‘conquest’ God, since their own Original ‘nature’ God had apparently deserted them in the face of the alien menace, to speak for their dwindling people.
Even these tracts can be tricky. The most notorious case is the speech of Chief Seattle which was reworked by a playwright, and then quoted extensively. My personal viewpoint is still predominantly one of curiosity. I am certain that surviving Native Americans will take offense to some of my deductions, and I know for a fact that conservative Americans of European descent will take offense to my depiction of the unwashed Christian savages that came to these shores spreading disease and body odor only to get their asses kicked repeatedly by small post-apocalyptic stone-age bands who actually bathed.
The conquest of North America is the most interesting and protracted extinction event in recent human history and I am thrilled to be able to explore possible alternatives. Before I go onto review a collection of primary sources let me make one observation: in all such clashes between alien peoples—whether the differences are racial, cultural or religious, or total—the group who remains committed to a total war of ideological invalidation, environmental destruction, and comprehensive extermination, has always prevailed over the group that has attempted to understand and coexist with the other and/or fight a limited defensive war.
I know most of you sci-fi buffs and futurists out there are hoping for an eventual meeting with an alien intelligence. I understand your enthusiasm. But if the Alpha Centurions land tomorrow, you go ahead and tour their ship without me. If they are anything like us, our emissaries are probably destined for their version of the pet food aisle.
The Wisdom of the Native Americans
Compiled and edited by Kent Newburn
MJF Books, NY, 1999, 216 pages
A review by James LaFond from September 2012
This is primarily a book of spiritual and lifestyle commentary. What it reflects most is the deep state of sadness among a diverse patchwork of surviving North American aboriginal leaders from various time periods, but mostly from the late 19th Century. In many ways the worldview of the 19th Century Native American visionaries predicted the spiritual and cultural dilemma of the Post-Modern couch potato; but in a cohesive sense, not in our own fractured and politicized sense.
In Post-Modern America the conservative right winger sits pondering the loss of values and above all, the seeming turning away of people from God and God from humanity. Every born-again Christian you meet will be obsessed with the End of Days. The Native Americans in this book had lived through their own End of Days; had seen the death of their nature God, their Great Mystery, at the hands of the conquering Christian ‘trade’ God. In their view the God of Things had supplanted the God of Values. They had seen that truth, tradition and honor meant nothing in the Whiteman’s world, which was unfathomable to members of an egalitarian warrior society. Imagine if aliens came to our planet and killed 95 out of every 100 people around you, and said this was proof that our notion of God was false? Sure, that would be horrible, but it is only half of the sorrow experienced by the men whose words are chronicled in this collection.
The U.S Government was consistently unable to field military forces capable of defeating Native American main forces, even after leveling the Confederacy. The great William Tecumseh Sherman, named after a great Shawnee leader, was reduced to kidnapping chiefs gathered under a flag of truce. For this reason the U.S. Government continued the policies of environmental warfare begun by Pennsylvanians in the 1700s and attacked the land. So, even as Sitting Bull saw his God discredited, and his people exterminated, he saw the natural world that he regarded as the mother of his people, as the Wife of God [You Catholics might find a parallel here.] raped, sodomized, and sterilized. The parallel sorrow in today’s terms would be the whale-loving baby seal advocate voting for the green party and clean air seeing the world being wasted to line the pockets of the rich.
That is the picture this book painted for me, one of total cultural and environmental apocalypse. Imagine one stone-age holy man, experiencing all of the sorrow of a conservative Christian watching internet porn; coupled with the sadness of a left-wing tree-hugger watching the oldest tree on the planet being cut down to buy chewing tobacco for a wife-beater and panel the torture chamber of some billionaire whale-eating Japanese child-fetish-murderer.
That falls somewhat short of the mark, but is the best I can do in a non-fiction context to translate what I understood from these men’s words to be the reflections of their state-of-mind.
For inspiration read it in snippets.
If you are engineering a hostile corporate takeover, than read it and behave counter to all of the advice proffered for living a good life.
If you want a reason to cheer on the anniversary of the Battle of The Little Big Horn, read it from cover-to-cover.
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