P. Allen Smith Gardens
"The glories of winter" apparently includes a bit about "winter solstice for American Indians of long ago." I wasn't sure how an Indian winter solstice would tie in with the home and garden theme. But I was curious to see how P. Allen Smith, who apparently is the Martha Stewart of the gardening set, would handle Indians.
A couple of promos made it sound as if the Indian segment would be substantial. It wasn't. It was only two minutes long, or shorter than a typical TV news report. And it was about as superficial as you'd expect from a home and garden show.
Here's what the segment covered:
Dinosaurs and Indians
Smith starts the segment with a shot of a boy playing with toy dinosaurs. His narration goes:
For starters, the definition of prehistoric is:
What's the difference? You can record history in various ways besides writing: by carving petroglyphs, creating designs in baskets and pottery, or building monuments to gods or kings. The mounds themselves are arguably a form of recorded history.
When we use the word "prehistoric," we usually refer to an era of history. To a "time" or a "period," as the definition says. Being more specific is potentially confusing--e.g., Roman coins were found at a prehistoric British site. If dated items coexisted with the site, how can it be prehistoric?
In other words, "prehistoric" best describes humanity in general. Before people starting recording history with clay marks, the entire world was prehistoric. After that, the entire world entered the historic era.
Calling the oldest Indian cultures "prehistoric" is one thing, but I don't think I've heard anyone say "historic" Europeans met "prehistoric" Indians. Both peoples existed in historic times. European and Mesoamerican cultures both recorded these times in writing, and other Native cultures recorded them with drawings and symbols.
During Europe's Middle Ages, monks were often the only people who could read and write. Would anyone say monasteries were "historic" while illiterate towns and villages were "prehistoric"? No, probably not. Again, "prehistoric" usually applies to a broad period of time when no one was recording history, not to communities, regions, or countries without writing.
More faux pas
So the setup informs us that Indians were "prehistoric." The rest of the segment doesn't do any better.
Without explanation, their methods do sound strange. But a digging stick is just a hoe-like implement, and mixing crops in a field helps replenish the soil. Rolingson doesn't note that Indian farmers were generally as skilled as their European counterparts.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park
Mound groups, such as this one, were religious and social centers for people living in the surrounding countryside. The Toltec Mounds site had a small population, made up primarily of political and religious leaders of the community and their families. This center was occupied from about 600 to 1050 A.D.
So P. Allen Smith Gardens ends up portraying Indians as primitive people of the past--i.e., uncivilized savages. I shouldn't be surprised, but I thought this upscale show might do better. Anyone who has money to blow on home and garden decorations can afford a primer on Indian culture and history.
For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.
Below: A "very different" kind of home and garden?