Our True Heritage

Hello!  Hello!

Perhaps it’s the times in which we live.  Or maybe it’s something else that joggles my memory to recall  things I’ve read, things I’ve experienced.  And my mind turns over and over again to Native America.  To all the things that are a part of our heritage as Americans, each and every one of us, regardless of whether or not we have a drop of American Indian blood running through our veins or not.

But what exactly did the Indians give us.  If you’re at all like me, I don’t recall learning any of these things in school.  This all comes from research.  Yes, we hear of Thanksgiving and of other Indian ceremonies.  But what else did the American Indian contribute to our society that we live in right this very moment?  Can you guess?

Now before we go any further let me mention that I’ll be giving away a book to some blogger today.  All you have to do is come on in and join the conversation.

Okay, so what did Native America give to our society?  Well, probably the most obvious gift is that of names…Mississippi…Iroquois…Illinois…Kansas…Dakota…Iowa, Ohio, Missouri – how about phrases like “bury the hatchet,” we council together,” or organizations like “boy scouts,” “girl scouts.”  Their names for places, their ideas and many of their ideas on government remain with us to this day.

It was the Iroquois who gave us the game of LaCrosse — the Indians of the plains who taught us our most common swimming stroke — the Indians who gave us corn, beans, squash.  Even some of our ceremonies date to the American Indian (Thanksgiving was one of the seasonal celebrations of the Iroquois and Eastern Indians.)

Probably one of the most important things that the American Indian gave to our culture was the idea of liberty of individuals and the sovereignty of the individual.  Remember that the European who came to this continent was escaping oppression and tyranny.  But here in America he met a new being.  A man who considered himself free of all government ties.

In fact, not too many people are aware that the Iroquois had probably the longest running “republic” on this planet.  Yes, the Greeks strived for it, wrote about republics,  so did the Romans.  But these attempts were relatively short lived.  How many people are aware that the Iroquois founded and enjoyed a true “Of the People, By the People, For the People” government (1140 A.D. — dated by the elders of the Iroquois to around 1778 — when they lost their Independence just as we gained ours).

Interesting, too, that after the Iroquois Confederation was formed in 1142, it lasted in a peaceful fashion up until the European invasion.  Europe was at war — often Native Americans were recruited to fight those wars on behalf of the European powers.  But even more important than war — that changed the face of the continent — was that was trade.  Europe had gadgets and things that Native America couldn’t manufacture on their own.  Gadgets that made life easier.

Tribes went to war to secure that trade because whoever had the best trade with the European powers, could control the continent and keep their people free…and most of all, enjoy the comforts that Europe brought.

Personally, I think it was a high price to pay.  Some trinkets, pots, pans, material for clothes.  All, in the end, bought for the price of enslavement…or if not enslavement, then at least banishment from one’s home grounds.  As a result, the Iroquois who so grandly postulated the peaceful end of war forever in this part of the world (America) were scattered all over the American Continent after the Revolutionary war, their land bought up by the large corporations that were already starting to spring up on the Eastern seaboard.

To my mind it was a high price to pay.  Too high.  But then, aren’t we involved in a similar situation today?  Is the price of gadgets and “things to make life easier or more enjoyable” to be paid by the surrender of one’s sovereignty?  Perhaps it’s a mute question — perhaps many have already paid this price already.  But there are still some — maybe us romantics — who remember their history, who remember a time when we were truly free, free to choose our own way, free to speak and to be heard, free to think as one sees fit.  As Nathanial says in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, — “I don’t call myself subject to much at all.”  Indeed, there were no subjects to be found on the American continent.  At least not at this time period in history.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift that the American Indian gave to us:  the memory of a truly free, independent, and happy people.  But more than that, perhaps the idea that America would lead the world to peace — to a world without war, a world where grief was ended forever, and a world where nations could live with one another without the need to try to “change” them into the image of oneself.

These are true gifts.  We carry that heritage in our bones, each one of us.  And it’s in the West, the cowboys and Indians, where that tradition is carried on to this day.  Ah, how I love the Indians … and cowboys.

Don’t forget I  have two books currently for sale — both in ebook format for the first time ever — pick up your copy today!  You can order them here:http://store.samhainpublishing.com/karen-kay-pa-1676.html

Come on in and let’s chat!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.

38 thoughts on “Our True Heritage”

  1. The American Indian contributed so much to our society. It really is distressing how overlooked these contributions are in history classrooms.

    It’s sad that I have to agree, Karen, we’ve sold a bit of our independence for the rush and trinkets we’re told will help us be happy and in doing so we’ve lost the simple things and moments that truly lead to joy. And I can’t believe how much worse it is out East. Just being back home for a couple weeks over Christmas I was suprised at how much freer and healthier I felt.

  2. Great post Karen, I guess when you think about it the Indians gave us a lot. I think they should be honored more for what they did contribute.

  3. Excellent post, Kay. I always love learning things when you blog. I didn’t know until I TAUGHT American Lit that our constitution was based on the Iroquois. And I’d studied Am. Lit in college. Boo.

    Love the pictures, too.

  4. Hi Kristin!

    Yes, I really do believe that we’ve sold a bit of ourselves in order to buy the “things” that “make us happy.” When in fact, all the happiness there is lies within us — no in things.

    True history really should be taught so that mankind doesn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. 🙂

  5. Hi Quilt Lady!

    Do you know the story of the chimp — a female, who was pampered and a coddled pet, who was taught over the course of about — gee, I can’t remember how many years to speak — first with sign language and then with sounds.

    Guess what the first thing was that she said — and then said it over and over and over to anyone who would pass by? Can you guess?

    “Get me out.” Freedom — it’s an urge within us that cannot be quelled, no matter the tyranny or dumbing down that the “powers that be” assume to be so needed.

    Interesting true story.

  6. I did a lot of research for my book Wildflower Bride about a white girl raised by indians and the thing that seemed to happen again and again. whites who lived with Indians for any length of time seemed to adapt to the Indian way of life fairly well but had a terrible time adapting back to a white world.
    I find that fascinating and I never could get a real sense of why that was.
    Just the utter freedom of the indian way of life maybe. While the white world had so many restrictions and it was easy to give up those restrictions but so hard to go back to them.

    I’ve thought someone smarter than me should research that….but how?

  7. So much they have shared with us… I love trying to figure out where a name has come from and its meaning… think how many ideas have branched out from a time long ago… always a pleasure reading your posts!

  8. Karen, I wonder if I’m thinking about the same chimp. Although she wasn’t strictly speaking a pet. She had been taught a sign language and at first she lived with a couple of scientists. Poor thing, her life wasn’t easy, but without Roger Fouts and lots of other people it could have been so much worse and ended in one of those places where they make all kinds of nasty tests on animals. You can read about her and some other chimps on Next of Kin and on this webpage:

  9. Hi Mary!

    Interestingly, in history, even at that time, the freedom of the Native American and the spirit of that freedom and liberty was echoed even in the writings in England.

    The people who came here were not free — they were escaping oppression and found a land where one was not oppressed. The fact that some of them felt it necessary to take down those who immulated freedom is a shame.

    Yes, there are so many restrtions on the white world — taxes, taxes and more taxes and unelected bureaus and their leaders who seem to think they own your life and time — and rules and more rules and jails and … the list goes on and on. Indians had none of these things — except perhaps the taxes thing which one tribe might inflict (for a very short time) upon another.

    I do believe that freeom/liberty is a basic need and urge within it all — it might be quelled by fear or by threat of harm, but it can never be kept down — and usually the tyrants perish most horribly — at least that again is what history shows us.

  10. This is taken from Roger S. Sayles new book, FROM SOVEREIGN TO SERF — Government by the Treachery and Deception of Words — one of the best books (non fiction) that one can read — although after reading it, one might wish it were fiction. The book is on sale right now for $10.00 at http://www.serfs-up.com — it’s soon to go up so you might want to order a copy today.

    Here’s a passage from this book concerning the chimp.

    Let me do it in another post. I’ll be right back.

  11. Of course it could have been one of the other chimps who were taught sign language around the same time as Washoe.

  12. First aired by Paul Harvey on January 1, 1980, here are Mr. Harvey’s own words from that article: (I’m quoting from Roger S. Sayles book)

    I’ve just endured one of the most coldsweat experiences of my life. I heard the ‘voice of an animal.’

    When I relate my experience of having heard an animal ‘talk,’ I am not referring to the mimicry of a parrot. Here’s what happened. My son, Paul, researching a ‘Rest of the Story’ story for broadcast, became acquainted with a research projoect at the University of Oklahoma. There they have been teaching an animal to talk — specifically a 15 year old female chimpanzee named Washoe. This is the basic recognition communication, mostly single unit: big, small, up, down. Since 1966 this chimpanzee has learned 140 signs in Standard American Sign Language. After all this learning and more learning, the project directors decided that Washoe was prepared now to ‘conceptualize.’ In lay language, instead of imitating some human’s words — the chimp was ready to express thoughts of her own. She had learned enough words to cross-reference those words and ‘originate’ expressions of her own. Now, understand Washoe is a pamperedanimal in the University Laboratory — well fed, physically comfortable, safe from harm. She had ‘security.’ And yet — when she was able to put words together on her own into a phrase — these were the first three. And she said them again — repeatedly. To visitors the voice from the cage is saying: “LET ME OUT!”

    Then from Roger himself:

    “Washoe’s cry for FREEDOM says it all. No one wants to live in a cage. No matter how well fed, how pampered you may be, no matter how secure you may feel, the cry for FREEDOM, “Let me out,” is perhaps stronger even than the desire to live…”

    From the book: FROM SOVEREIGN TO SERF — Government by the Treachery and Deception of Words by Roger S. Sayles

  13. It was Washoe — I would so hate to learn that she was later abused.

    Science…though at first used to take off the chains of superstition and thus free the individual — science is now used and abused to justify the most terrible of crimes — and isn’t even science any more — but rather the ravings of some fools who seek money from the “powers that be.”

    Please don’t tell me how it ended, if it ended bad.

  14. Roger Fouts found a safe place for Washoe and some other chimps in what is now called CHCI Sanctuary at Central Washington University. You can read more about it on Next of Kin by Roger Fouts and here: http://www.friendsofwashoe.org/
    A part of Washoe’s life (and Fouts’ life as well) was hard indeed because of this twisted scientist (Fouts compared him to Doctor Moreau) and she lost her 2 babies because of the man’s cruelty. Fortunately, Roger Fouts found a way to get them out of there and Washoe and some other chimps lived as good life as chimps who must live in a big cage can live. After all, they would have been unable to live in a jungle because they had never learned the skills chimps living in a jungle must know in order to survive there. Washoe passed away few years ago after a short illness.

  15. Full Name: Washoe Pan satyrus. Pan satyrus is an old taxonomic classification used for chimpanzees. She was named for Washoe county Nevada where she spent her early childhood with the Gardners. Washoe is a Native American word from the Washoe tribe meaning “people.”

  16. Oh, Minna, thank you so much for letting me know that she was finally able to excape the mad scientist and that she lived a good life thereafter. I figured it was an Indian name because there is a Washoe tribe here in the West — but I didn’t know the particulars.

    Thanks so much for your enlightening info.

  17. I forgot to add she had another baby, not one she would have given birth to, but an adopted one, Loulis:

    Early Childhood/Rearing Conditions: When he was 10 months old, Loulis moved from Yerkes to Oklahoma where Washoe adopted him. He learned his first 55 signs from Washoe and the other signing chimpanzees. For the first five years, humans were allowed to sign only seven signs around of Loulis (WHO, WHICH, WANT, WHERE, NAME, THAT, and SIGN). He was the first non-human to learn a language from another non-human.

    Additional Information: Loulis’s biological mother was housed at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center and used in invasive biomedical research.


  18. Western PA has a lot of names that were given to us by the Native Americans. Especially our rivers such as the Monongahela, Allegheny. Ohio and Youghiogheny. I use to know their meanings.
    I wish Americans had kept the Native American heritage instead of the European!!

  19. Hi Catslady!

    Me, too. Me, too. Unfortunately, their culture was destroyed as many of the native cultures have been destroyed through drugs and a down grading of their morals. There was alcohol originally – whisky and others — now there’s all kinds of drugs on the reservations — legal and illegal and the legal ones are just as deadly in many cases. On the Blackfeet rez, a friend of mine’s sister died from legal drug overdoes — at the time they had her on something like 130 drugs all at the same time — I believe that was the number.

    I can’t help but look at the similarities of what the British Empire has done to Native populations all around the world, which is to carefully get the population hooked onto some kind of drug — opium in the far east — alcohol here in the Americas — and nowadays legal (and illegal) drugs to alter the mind.

    Interesting stuff real history — not what they teach us in school, but delving oneself into the actual writings of the time and actual historical research.

    Thanks for your imput.

  20. Going back to the feelings of Freedom in the early Tribes and how White captives felt that freedom. White society was so rigid in their clothing, religion, cleanliness (or lack of), etc.,that a young boy (white captive) who was being raised by an Indian couple could wear next to nothing, bathe in the river, ride horses and play all day. When could he do that in the white society? He was free! But along those same lines, the way of thinking was free. These same folks weren’t forced to think on the rigid lines of religion, forced to be ‘covered’ at all times. I’m not sure why–might get cold? For girls it was worse being ‘covered’ with the millions of petticoats and corsets and bustles, etc. Too many clothes and never bathing… Summer heat and never bathing… Yuck!The girls were able to wear just a skin dress (in some Tribes) and a little bit more during the Winter. That was freedom!
    It’s no wonder the Indian could SMELL the white men coming across the land. This is fact.
    Kay, your blogs are always so very thought provoking. I love them.

  21. I attend classes with some special ed students and was so happy this year to hear the history teacher explaining some of the things gained from our Native American hosts. The one that really stuck out to me was the fact of the Iroquois Republic model. I have loved reading books about the Native American culture since I was a child and am often sent researching when I read of something I had not heard before.

  22. Kay,

    I love the post…The American Indian gave so much….I have always said I would love to have lived in the 1800’s and among the American Indian…Thank you for such a wonderful post….

    Much love my friend,

  23. We did not learn a lot about the Canadian Indians in school either.. What I learned was from reading about books, and I have a friend who was part native Canadian Inadian.. So I learned things from her.

  24. Hi Mary J!

    What an image that presents, huh? They could smell the white man before he came. Yes, we forget that bathing was often taboo — gosh, can you imagine?

    Thanks for your thought provoking post!

  25. Hi Connie!

    Yes, what’s interesting to me is that they had the longest running Republic that we know of on record — but when it comes to the founding documents and such — it’s always Rome, Greece and the Magna Carta that gets attention — and rightly so — but where do we think all those colonists got the idea of individual freedom? It was unheard of in England. Freedom yes. But INDIVIDUAL freedom and responsibility… Simply unheard of. It takes delving back into history, I think.

  26. Hi Melinda!

    Yes, I think it would’ve been quite something to have lived at that time BEFORE the advent of the white man to the areas. Along with the white man came his vices — liquor, drunkenness, rape and morals that at that time period in Native America were almost unknown.

  27. The Naive American ethic of respect for Mother Earth and Her creatures as well as for family and friends and the governing rules that lead to a peaceful country are the best gifts they could have given us.

    If the country followed these principles, it would be in much better shape than it is now.

    Thanks for another reminder of our Native American “roots.”

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