Native Statistics

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Mon Feb 25 06:47:44 MST 2002

Hunterbear note to Marxism Discussion:

Normally I don't load this list with discussional crossposts.  However, this
is an ASDnet spin off from the rather broad Native discussion of
yesterday -- and does have, I think, some relevancy in that context.  H


Some friendly but direct thoughts on the matter of Native American
statistics and related matters:

Don Todd's ASDnet statement, "In fact, I am told, there are more Indians
alive today in North America north of the Rio Grande than there were when
the Europeans arrived" is not, in my opinion, an accurate characterization
in any sense.  And I'm far from alone.

Don is not an adversary and I'm simply clarifying something about which I
happen to know a good deal.

The fact that the Native population in the Western Hemisphere was far
greater than the Europeans realized [Indians were certainly not presenting
themselves for an Anglo census count!], is widely accepted today. The
substantial estimates contained, say, in the wide-roving and early Jesuit
Relations and comparable accounts are now accepted generally as being a
solid guide. Of course, it served the interests of the European invaders to
seek to minimize the Native population.  Even in those days, there was
lethal Spin.

Here's an example:  Other than a few scattered remnants, the entire
Pennacook Nation -- about 30,000  or more people in the southern New
Hampshire and environs region -- was wiped out in a matter of a year or two
when cholera-infested blankets were given them, ostensibly as "gifts," by
the followers of Cotton Mather [ the obviously influential racist preacher
who conveniently saw Indians as either "wild animals" or "offspring of the
Devil." ] For centuries this hideous tragedy was denied.  Now, it's
officially and very broadly recognized.

Further north, a succession of English kings over decades put a formal
bounty on the heads of Abenaki [Wabanaki] men, women and children: so much
for the head of an Indian man,somewhat less for a woman, still less for a
child. When the English head-hunters complained that the heads were heavy
and smelly during the Summer hunting season, the English rulers introduced
scalping.  That practice is known in those parts to this very day as
"kinjamus." Minnesota, BTW, was paying a formal bounty on Sioux scalps in
the early 1860s -- in and around the mass Federal hangings of Natives at
Mankato. There were many, many things like that all over the Hemisphere --
to say nothing of the conventional  but rapidly spreading  deadly European
diseases against which the Natives had no immunity.

Poor health care, economic privation,  alcoholism, suicide, limited life
expectancy and related negative forces are still quite prevalent in Indian
Country today and in urban Indian communities.

 In these contemporary times, some of the anti-Indian organizations still
try to play down Native numbers -- historical and even contemporary -- and
try to take the bizarre position that, even though Natives came over from
Northern Asia many, many thousands of years ago, Native people are still
"immigrants" who have no valid aboriginal title!  This has no legal standing
or validity anywhere.

John Collier, FDR's excellent Indian Commissioner, estimated that 75 million
Native people died in the Western Hemisphere between 1500 and 1900 as a
result of the European incursion.  The numbers would be much higher, now, a
century after 1900. Outright physical genocide against Natives, BTW,
continues right along, for example,  in portions of the Amazon country -- at
the hands of Europeans.

The Native population is definitely increasing in some portions of the
Hemisphere.  In the United States, it's now about 2.4 million as per the
2000 census line for people who listed that as their official racial
identification and gave the primary tribal affiliation. This is up 25% since
1990. In addition to population growth, 2000 was a far more effective Indian
census count than others. [ Incidentally,the greatest majority of Native
people in the Hemisphere are now mixed-bloods to one degree or another. This
was no issue on the 2000 census which, explicitly recognizing the prevalence
of mixed-blood Natives, focused on the official racial identification and
the basic tribe involved. Some uninformed non-Indians ridiculously see mixed
blood as minimization of an Indian person's "Indianess."

A  considerably higher number on the 2000 census listed some Indian
ancestry -- along with one or more other ethnic lines -- but did not list
American Indian as their racial designation.

One of the things that we know about the pre-Columbian situation is that
thousands and thousands of tribal nations existed in a reasonably
comfortable fashion from the Arctic shores down to Tierra del Fuego -- and
that every bit of the Americas was delineated in a careful, land-use
arrangement accompanied by an intricate network of trade routes.  The
evidence for this is overwhelming -- and this was all characterized by a
very substantial population [higher in some areas than others, owing to
geography and climate.]  The European concept of "frontier" in the "New
World" perceived everything in the Native world as "wild" and "savage" and
"lawless" and that on the European side of the line as "civilized."  The
Natives saw it in precisely the opposite fashion.  Given the mess that's
happened to the Western Hemisphere, it's clear who was [and is] the much
more accurate.

Hunter [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]  ( social justice )

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