August 29, 2006

Poor Indians cling to the past?

Native languages isolate Indians, keep them from getting jobs

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's hard to take this seriously when the author likes to make fun of the name of the particular native language being discussed.

Rob said...

When Rush Limbaugh calls people "Injuns" and a stadium full of people do the tomahawk chop, it's not enough to say they're silly. These actions are akin to propaganda techniques; they influence people who don't know any better. That's why I take them seriously and respond to them.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
There are some 500 Native languages still extant on the North American continent. Once there were several thousand, as the Native population now is estimated by population archaeologists to have been 105 million in 1492. By 1892, the Native population was less than 1/4 million. Whole tribes, and thus their languages and cultures, were extincted during those 400 years. The ones that remain are the voices and the progenitors of whatever future we Natives have. The US English movement totally disregards that Native languages evolved here first and thus should be allowed to continue among the people who survived the European onslaught. If anything, the fervor to make English the official language of the good old US of A also wishes that German-Americans, French-Americans, Spanish-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, Russian-Americans, and African-Americans forget their root languages and speak the one language of the one single nation that tried to conquer the world. If they get their way, conquest just could happen after all this time...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I hope to help preserve those Native languages eventually with comics and other media. The first step in this effort is my ongoing Pictographs blog.

Anonymous said...

Writer, can you clarify? When you say North American continent, do you mean the actual North American continent? All the way down just a little past Panama?

The 105 million population number pre 1492 seems OK, but are you sure that in 1892, there were only 250,000 Natives, including the Aztecs and related peoples in Mexico? That just seems rather low.

More on topic, I strongly disagree with the "English Only" movement. I find that it conflicts with the First Amendment. Freedom of speech includes what language you speak in, correct?

Rob said...

I think the 250,000 number refers to just the Native population in the US.

The "English Only" movement doesn't literally intend to censor or silence people. But it might end such practices as bilingual education or ballots. It also might end government funding of Native language programs and grants. As someone (you?) said about stem cells, a government ban isn't the same as a total ban.

Anonymous said...

So was he referring to North America with the 105 million number, and just the US with the later 250,000 number? That's comparing apples and oranges. I'm actually interesting in finding out if he did intend the 105 million number to apply to just the US and Canada. That just seems high: wouldn't the place have been crowded with large cities, and require large-scale agriculture to sustain such a population?

Back to the "English Only" topic: there is a current of censorship in the movement. One needs to look no farther than north of the border, to Quebec, where there the language laws DO outlaw some private speech/communication for being in the wrong language.

As for stem cells and bans, we do have a First Amendment. The implication of it to me is that the government should play a fairly neutral role in the language issue.

Anonymous said...

Here is an excellent discussion of the population issue:

http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Chumash/Population.html

"Today the impact of European pathogens on the New World is almost undisputed. Nonetheless, the fight over Indian numbers continues with undiminished fervor. Estimates of the population of North America in 1491 disagree by an order of magnitude—from 18 million, Dobyns's revised figure, to 1.8 million, calculated by Douglas H. Ubelaker, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian"

The high estimate here for the US is 18 million. That's but a fraction of the 105 million mentioned by Writerfella. His number might apply to all of North America and the large population centers in Mexico.

Rob said...

"So was he referring to North America with the 105 million number, and just the US with the later 250,000 number?" Probably. I believe the 105 million number applies to all of North America.

I've seen population estimates ranging from about 1 million to 100 million. I've never heard an estimate greater than 100 million before. That's a new record.

The article did contain this line: "Before Columbus, Dobyns calculated, the Western Hemisphere held ninety to 112 million people." But from what I've read, the best guess for North America is probably in the 10 million range.

Incidentally, Central America is a subset of North America, not a separate region. Check the dictionary on this point if you don't believe me. So all the estimates for North America include the Aztecs, Maya, and other Mesoamerican cultures.

As you may know, Mann came out with a book titled 1491 a year ago. It got good reviews and I plan to read it eventually.

Anonymous said...

"Incidentally, Central America is a subset of North America, not a separate region."

Exactly. This is a pet peeve of mine, and I suspected Writerfella's population numbers shifted back and forth from all of North America to just part of it.

I see many writers forget that Central America is a part of North America as surely as Iberia is a part of Europe. Writers also jumble up anything "south of the border" without regards to continent names. Many times I've heard or seen a variation on this statement: "Reagan's foreign policy meddled in South America". The speakers/writers are always talking mainly about El Salvador and Nicaragua: both of which are not in South America at all.

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