Re: [xmca] Interesting book: Review of 'Unlearning the Language of Conquest'

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Fri Dec 01 2006 - 16:43:57 PST

The books certainly looks great, Paul. I have already passed news of it
My impression was that far more Native AMericans died of the diseases
brought by Europeans than their guns!

On 12/1/06, Paul Dillon <> wrote:
> Peter,
> Thanks for the post on this book. The Europeans were barbarians in
> relation to the native Americans. There only advantage was military. In
> all other sciences they were woefully underdeveloped. The contemporary
> crisis we live is a consequence of the subordination of superior science to
> superior power to inflict violence, . Over these larger historical spans,
> there really is no subject separate from its object.. Our contemporary
> science (and all its questions abour empirical proofs) started out on the
> wrong foot and continues to tumble around in confusion, wreaking havoc as it
> goes.
> I'm looking forward to reading this one.
> Paul Dillon
> Peter Smagorinsky <> wrote:
> >Newcomb: Review of 'Unlearning the Language of Conquest'
> >(c) 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
> >you
> >cannot put it down. ''Unlearning the Language of Conquest: Scholars
> Expose
> >Anti-Indianism in America,'' edited by Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), is
> >such
> >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.
> >M'Intosh decision.
> >
> >The prologue, by Four Arrows, deals with the difficult, tragic and
> >heart-wrenching topic of the school shootings at Columbine, Colo., and
> the
> >Red
> >Lake Reservation in Minnesota. The chapter compares and contrasts the two
> >tragedies, partly by addressing the anomie that afflicts much of today's
> >youth
> >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,
> >education, metaphorical
> >
> >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
> >grave
> >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
> >courtesy to
> >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
> >worldviews. In
> >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
> >the
> >cognitive and behavioral basis for a way of life that suggests an
> >ecologically
> >meaningful alternative to the death-dealing, empire-domination model that
> can
> >be traced back to Western Christendom, which continues to afflict the
> planet
> >today.
> >
> >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
> >ever since.''
> >
> >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,
> >and
> >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
> >the
> >Indigenous Law Institute, a research fellow with the American Indian
> Policy
> >and Media Initiative at Buffalo State College in New York, and a
> columnist
> >for
> >Indian Country Today.
> >
> >
> >"Today's Understanding is Tomorrow's Reality"
> >
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