>Newcomb: Review of 'Unlearning the Language of Conquest'
>© Indian Country Today November 30, 2006. All Rights Reserved
>Posted: November 30, 2006
>by: Steven Newcomb / Indigenous Law Institute
>Once in a while, a book comes along that holds your attention so well that
>cannot put it down. ''Unlearning the Language of Conquest: Scholars Expose
>Anti-Indianism in America,'' edited by Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), is
>a book. A tertiary subtitle reads: ''Deceptions that influence war and peace,
>civil liberties, public education, religion and spirituality, democratic
>ideals, the environment, law, literature, film, and happiness.'' The book,
>published by the University of Texas Press, exposes in a mere 280 pages such
>deceptions while delivering much-needed illumination on many issues dealing
>with indigenous liberation and decolonization.
>The dedication reads: ''In the memory of Vine Deloria, Jr. (1935-2005). May
>his courage, spirit, and wisdom be remembered, and may his belief that we can
>and must unlearn the language of conquest - for the sake of all our futures -
>be realized in time.''
>Deloria's contribution to the book is found in Chapter 5, ''Conquest
>Masquerading as Law,'' in which he deftly explains the connection between the
>''doctrine of discovery'' and federal Indian law, tracing the language of
>conquest back to the infamous papal bulls of 1493 and the 1823 Johnson v.
>The prologue, by Four Arrows, deals with the difficult, tragic and
>heart-wrenching topic of the school shootings at Columbine, Colo., and the
>Lake Reservation in Minnesota. The chapter compares and contrasts the two
>tragedies, partly by addressing the anomie that afflicts much of today's
>in the United States. Four Arrows also discusses how differently the two
>events were dealt with by the media and by society at large. In the
>introduction, he explains what is meant by ''the language of conquest'' while
>providing an insightful overview of the worldviews of what he terms
>''Indigenous People,'' and the various kinds of colonizing and genocidal
>assaults experienced by Native nations and peoples.
>Another chapter was written by Chet Bowers, who was once a professor of mine
>at the University of Oregon and who considerably influenced my own thinking.
>He is an expert in such fields as the sociology of knowledge, philosophy,
>thinking, ecological systems and the current ecological crisis. As a
>non-Indian scholar who deeply appreciates the wisdom and understanding
>embedded in the ''inter-generational'' indigenous knowledge systems, Bowers
>makes a valuable contribution to the book. In ''The Language of Conquest,''
>Bowers explains why the overexploitation of the world's resources and the
>appropriation of ''the commons'' - land, air, water and heirloom seeds - by
>the well-coordinated efforts of governments and corporate powers, pose a
>threat to all the peoples of Mother Earth.
>Bruce E. Johansen, in a chapter titled ''Adventures in Denial: Ideological
>Resistance to the Idea that the Iroquois Helped Shape American Democracy,''
>explores how the orthodox gatekeepers of the academy in the United States
>have, over the past 30 years, refused to acknowledge that the Haudenosaunee
>Confederacy ''helped shape the political beliefs and institutions of the
>United States (and through it democracy worldwide).'' Johansen documents the
>extent to which historians and mainstream commentators on ''the Right'' have
>ridiculed and summarily dismissed this idea without having had the
>take the time to read the historical evidence.
>In brilliant fashion, Gregory Cajete, Tewa Pueblo, provides a summary of
>thousands of years of indigenous science grounded in indigenous
>Chapter 16, ''Western Science and the Loss of Natural Creativity,'' he writes
>in a profoundly poetic manner: ''Native science is a reflection of the
>metaphoric mind and is embedded in creative participation with nature. It
>reflects the sensual capacities of humans. It is tied to the spirit, and is
>both ecological and integrative.'' In my view, Cajete does an amazing job of
>articulating the existence of an indigenous science paradigm that provides
>cognitive and behavioral basis for a way of life that suggests an
>meaningful alternative to the death-dealing, empire-domination model that can
>be traced back to Western Christendom, which continues to afflict the planet
>The book recognizes Lee Klinger as ''one of the world's leading scholars in
>earth science systems.'' Klinger contributes ''Ecological Evidence of
>Large-Scale Silviculture by California Indians,'' in which he provides an
>unusual look at the forests of California. He observes, ''I conclude that the
>California Indians of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges were not simple
>hunter-gatherers, but, instead, were sophisticated farmers who practiced
>sustained silviculture [forest cultivation] that involved the cultivation of
>oaks, buckeyes, bays, pines, and other nut-bearing trees in vast orchards.''
>Part of the evidence that he points to includes the intentional strategies
>that indigenous peoples of California employed in relation to ''the mighty
>coast redwoods and giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world, which were
>apparently planted many thousands of years ago and have been carefully tended
>Barbara Alice Mann, Seneca, contributed Chapter 7, ''Where Are Your Women?:
>Missing In Action.'' She argues that ''women are missing in action in nearly
>all studies of Native America, whether historical, social, or
>anthropological.'' Mann points out: ''This being the twenty-first century, it
>is well past time for scholars to stop treating Native American history as
>though only men saw, thought, acted, and spoke. Women saw, thought, acted,
>spoke too.'' Mann says that ''it is incumbent upon (especially Native
>American!) scholars to rectify the Western obliteration of women from the
>record, surely the most unconscionable of the many misrepresentations that
>have been foisted on Native America by Euro-America.''
>Additional chapters include: ''Overcoming Hegemony in Native Studies
>Programs'' by Devon A. Mihesuah, Oklahoma Choctaw; ''Preserving the Whole:
>Principles of Sustainability in Mi'KMaw Forms of Communication'' by Trudy
>Sable; ''Traditional Native Justice: Restoration and Balance, Not
>'Punishment''' by Rudy Al James (ThlauGooYailthThlee - the First and Oldest
>Raven), lead judge of the Kuiu Thlingit Nation of Alaska; and a number of
>other great pieces.
>''Unlearning the Language of Conquest'' is a must-read. It provides a deep
>appreciation for how the collective wisdom of indigenous knowledge systems is
>able to make a meaningful contribution to the world while providing a
>much-needed means of challenging the destructive hegemony of Western thought.
>Steven Newcomb is Indigenous Law Research Coordinator for Kumeyaay Community
>College and the Sycuan Education Department, co-founder and co-director of
>Indigenous Law Institute, a research fellow with the American Indian Policy
>and Media Initiative at Buffalo State College in New York, and a columnist
>Indian Country Today.
>"Today's Understanding is Tomorrow's Reality"
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