Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What If Hillary Clinton Had Been A Kumeyaay?

The problem with oral histories is that they can be untrustworthy, particularly when there are few sources.

Listening to an ad on TV about our local Indian tribes and their casinos, I heard a bit about their long traditions and noble behavior and how they loved the land and lived in harmony with nature or something like that. It was all traditional Native American hagiographic claptrap. Triggered by my reading of Churchill's A History of the English Speaking People, which is blunt and straightforward, I began to wonder just how much of what we take for granted about American Indians is true.

Without writing, how much of what they "know" about themselves is accurate? How far back can reliable memory go when it's all handed down by story?

Imagine what the stories would have been like had Hillary Clinton been a Kumeyaay Chieftaness around 1200, prior to the arrival of the Conquistadores. She'd have run the tribe out of a server in her own teepee, sold out their interests for heap big wampum from neighboring tribes and then unleashed her own storyteller flacks to create utter nonsense about how she was noble and good and aligned with the planet and everyone who disagreed with her was part of the Vast Apache Conspiracy (VAC).

With a sufficiently effective terror apparatus, Chieftaness Hillary would have been able to make sure that only her versions of "history" survived.

Here, Chieftaness Hillary's spokes-shaman, Viper Who Lives In Filth, explains how accusations that she sold the tribe out for some goat skins and a bunch of sea shells is old news that no one wants to hear any more. The tribe really needs to talk about policies to move the Kumeyaay forward and stop wasting time on personal attacks.


Ilíon said...

"It was all traditional Native American hagiographic claptrap."


I once read some (willfully) ignorant PBS type enthusing about how the Indians of the Pacific Northwest went about making wood planks back in the day before they got steel tools.

It was (of course) labor intensive -- which is to say, wasteful of human time and labor; and it was wasteful of the natural resources, for the got essentially one plank per tree.

But, hey! the Indians of the Pacific Northwest were not an industrial-society (boo-hiss), so, of course it was good that they expended great amounts of human time and effort, and an entire tree, to manufacture one plank. And, sometimes, the tree even lived! Ahhhh! how awesome is that!

K T Cat said...

Thanks for the info. I didn't know about the Glories of One Plank Per Tree, but it doesn't surprise me.

For this blog, I did a little research on the Iroquois and found them to be at least as sexist as the white, European oppressors.

tim eisele said...

"The problem with oral histories is that they can be untrustworthy"

No kidding. My only quibble with this is that I would change "can be" to "always are". Without writing, "history" quickly becomes indistinguishable from "folk tale". Even listening to one's parents reminisce about the old days isn't very reliable unless they are referring back to diaries or photos - when I compare the childhood stories my aunts and uncles tell, to the stories that my parents tell, it is sometimes hard to believe that they are talking about the same events, or even that they were growing up in the same family. Heck, my own brothers remember a lot of things wildly differently than me. How anyone ever got the idea that "oral history" was worth the paper it isn't written on is beyond me.

I think your hypothetical Hillary Clinton analog in 1200 wouldn't even have any stories remaining by now. Within less than 100 years, I bet the storytellers wouldn't even agree on her actual name, let alone anything she'd done (and assuming that they hadn't just forgotten her entirely)

Ilíon said...

Here is how it worked -- using stone axes (not having iron/steel axes), they would gouge out the tree at ground level and again at some distance up the trunk. Then, lacking cross-cut saws, and indeed saws of any sort, they'd drive wedges into the trunk at the upper gouge, and use stress/pressure to separate the section of trunk from the tree. After that, working the section of tre trunk into a plank necessarily results in most of the wood being useless as anything other than firewood.

It's like with making a dugout canoe -- at the expenditure of a lot of time and effort, you can make *one* canoe from a tree, and most of the material of the tree goes to waste. OR, if you have access to the sawmills of an industrial society, that same tree can be turned into boards from which several boats can be made.

K T Cat said...

Tim, I kind of thought the same thing about remembering the Chiefs of Yore. Unless you were a really big deal, like Alfred the Great or King Arthur, you'd just be one more dude in charge, kind of like the way we think of (or don't think of) Grover Cleveland today.

Ilíon said...

"For this blog, I did a little research on the Iroquois and found them to be at least as sexist as the white, European oppressors."

Also, they were imperialistic 'capitalistic' (*) genocidal war-mongers

(*) in truth, mercantilistic, not capitalistic

K T Cat said...

They only fought those wars because white Europeans goaded them into it. If not for the imperialist whites, they would have lived in peace.

Also, they were brave and feared warriors.

Ilíon said...

I wanted to mention -- that picture of Viper Who Lives In Filth is rather "triggering"

Anonymous said...

Not to long ago, I listened to a woman enthuse about how clever the Miwok were using some root as a brush. As she gazed in wonderment at the root brush. All I could think of was that during that same period, Europeans were making elaborately carved, out wrought ivory put silver or metal out wood brushes set with boar's hair.

Weren't those Europeans so clever?

Ilíon said...

NO! The Europeans we *evil* for hogging boars.

Also, they were *evil* for coming to the Americas (and for calling them that) and bringing boars with them.

K T Cat said...


Jedi Master Ivyan said...

yeah the evil white people should have left those natives in stone age squalor!

Ilíon said...

^ Tut, tut!

You're supposed to say, "living in harmony with Nature"