August 11, 2009

Human sacrifice "prevalent" among Indians?

Gruesome Practices of Ancient AmericansCivilization arose independently in the new world, evidence that the trajectory of human development was firmly pointed in that direction. I wonder why mass human sacrifice was so prevalent in Native American cultures. I note that the adolescence of human civilization was marked by despotism and bloodshed everywhere and always. It took a long time for us to mature, if indeed we have or ever will.

But I also note that this gruesome confirms, in an odd way, the natural human inclination to think in terms of justice and reciprocity. What were the ancient Cahokians trying to do, by slaughtering so many men and woman, and sacrificing so much bounty? Increase the aura of their upper class, to be sure. But they were also trying to bargain with the gods. In return for all this virgin blood, you big spirits need to make the crops grow and our enemies diminish. It is terrible to say so, but only a basically moral animal could think that way.
Some responses by me and Al Carroll:"Absent for the most part from the religions of the American Indians was the near universal practice of animal and human sacrifice to placate the gods. 'North America had almost no sacrifice, even of animals. Mother Earth did not demand it.'"

--Lewis M. Hoppe, Religions of the World, 1976 (quote from Ruth Underhill, Red Man's Religion, 1965)

Posted by: Rob Schmidt | Aug 7, 2009 7:41:48 AM

I wonder where you got the idea that "mass human sacrifice was so prevalent in Native American cultures." Can you cite a source for this claim?

Besides the Aztecs, Maya, and Cahokians, which Native cultures practiced human sacrifice? These are only three of the thousands of cultures that existed in the Americas. Unless you can list several hundred Native cultures that practiced human sacrifice, your argument fails.

Posted by: Rob Schmidt | Aug 7, 2009 7:47:19 AM

You point to a grand total of two sites. Imagine pointing to Auschwitz and Buchenwald and making the same claim, "Why was genocide so prevalent among Europeans?"

I also didn't see any sign that these sites were of sacrifices. They could've been executions of criminals or captives seized in war. (Which doesn't justify them. I'm personally opposed to the death penalty for anything other than the most heinous war crimes.)

But obviously you think in stereotypes. Indian dead = human sacrifice. Never mind that human sacrifice was common in Europe during the Spanish Inquisition. Never mind that lynching has every feature of human sacrifice except cannibalism, including the collecting of body parts for trophies.

Any good scholar would look at all possible explanations. Obviously you want a reason to imagine Indians are barbaric.

Posted by: Al Carroll | Aug 8, 2009 9:53:50 AM
Comment:  Go to the original posting to see the whole debate. Feel free to post your thoughts there as well as here.

For more on the subject, see Were the Aztecs Murdering "Animals"? and Uncivilized Indians.


Anonymous said...

I don't think its imperative to juxtapose the cultures of Latin and Central America with those of Northern America.
It is obvious that the person citing unsupported claims that North American Indians were engaging in mass human sacrifices, is very preposterously and woefully ignorant on this subject matter. Anyone who is educated on the true history of North American Indian studies will dispute that claim(excluding those who cite the same argument based upon a fallacy).


dmarks said...

Yes, there was a great variance among cultures.

I've read some accounts of old Ojibwe, Odawa, and Sioux customs. Some by whites who were quite contemptious/intolerant, and would not have hesitated to make hay about the human sacrifice thing, if there were any truth to it for these cultures. But I don't recall it being mentioned at all in these accounts.