Thursday, December 30, 2010

A snipet from other areas, dealing with "Cultural Memories" within the New World

This is just a snipet of a larger article,

Native American Oral Traditions & Archaelogical Myths

While Pendergast and Meighan have clearly proven oral traditions can span hundreds of years, W.D. Strong has proven they can span thousands of years. In 1934, Strong published a convincing article detailing the Native American knowledge of the wooly mammoth. The Naskapi describe a monster they call Kátcheetokúskw (present in many of their myths) as being very large, having a big head, large ears and teeth, and a long nose with which he hit people. When presented with photos of modern elephants, the informants said they fit the description of Kátcheetokúskw as represented in their oral history. The Penobscot of Maine describe a huge animal with long teeth that leaned against certain trees to sleep (noting that when these beasts lay down, they could not get back up). The Ojibwa and Iroquois note the existence of a large beast that once ranged through the forest and was so strong that it would easily knock down any trees that stood in it's path. These "elephant" legends are rampant in many other Indigenous cultures such as the Micmac, Alabama, Koasati, and Chitimacha. (19)

In the article, Strong anticipates the onslaught of conservative anthropologists and in his concluding argument complains that, "To date, paleontologists have seemed more willing to grant recency to the mammoth than have the majority of American anthropologists to grant any geological antiquity to the American Indian." (20)

Strong's insights are very revealing as it is apparent that the rift between the Bering Strait theorists and the opposition was in place by the early date of 1934. More importantly however, if Native Americans have preserved accurate descriptions of the mammoth, they must represent an oral history going back thousands of years. In 1944, M.F. Ashley Montagu confirmed Strong's finding in an article published in American Anthropologist. The Osage of Missouri persevered a record of an incident that involved the encroachment of a herd of megafauna upon the land of the smaller animals already living there. The Osage of course incorporate supernatural beings into their account and attribute the encounter to the actions of the Great Spirit. At a certain period, many monstrous animals encroached upon the territory (along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers) of the much smaller animals already living there. The Osage were forced to abandon their homes and refrain from hunting because the gigantic animals posed a deadly threat. They remained at a sufficient distance however to witness the courageous smaller animals attack the invading monstrous animals. After a long battle, the larger animals prevailed and continued their march eastward. The Osage then burnt some of the bodies as an offering to the Great Spirit while the rest were buried in the Pomme de Terre (which was later called Big Bone river). The Osage considered this to be a sacred place thereafter and subsequently gave offerings periodically to commemorate the battle. In 1839, American settlers seized the sacred land to the great dismay of the Osage and began the construction of a tub-mill (a machine used to pound corn). After digging, the settlers discovered a mass of bones, which were identified as those of young mastodons. (21)

The fact that the Osage story correlated precisely with the findings made by the settlers is adequate evidence that the oral history of Native peoples goes back into deep time. It can thus be concluded that Native American oral history is very ancient indeed

19. W.D. Strong. "North American Indian Traditions Suggesting a Knowledge of the Mammoth." American Anthropologist 36 (1934): 81-88. Pages 81-87.

20. Ibid., Page 88.

21. M.F. Ashley Montagu. "An Indian Tradition Relating to the Mastodon." American Anthropologist 46 (1944): 568-71. Pages 568-71

No comments: