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Commenter Whoever writes:
in reply to prole:
Funny how so many North Americans claim native American ancestry, despite no evidence
Not really funny. Especially when you acknowledge that there are two countries in North America (or more specifically British North America) that have very different histories regarding Amerindians.
In Latin America, the Indian civilizations collapsed quickly and the survivors became an underclass ruled over by a European-descended elite.
In Canada, after the end of French rule, there was not much in the way of Indian resistance and they didn’t contribute much or detract much from the development of the country. They were just there.
But in America, the Indians fought back with everything they had not for years, not for decades, not for generations, but for centuries.
And the resistance began at the beginning, so to speak, as they were whipping the Spanish at least as early as 1513, when the Timucua drove Ponce de Leon off near present-day St. Augustine, Fla., and later that year the Calusa drove him out of San Carlos Bay, Fla. Four years later Hernando de Cordoba’s fleet, returning from a campaign against the Maya, dropped anchor in San Carlos bay to replenish water and supplies, but their landing party was driven off by the Calusa, who were described as “very big men with very long bows and good arrows.”
Ponce de Leon and Cordoba returned to San Carlos Bay in 1521 with 200 soldiers, settlers and supplies to establish a colony. The Calusa again defeated and drove them off, killing both de Leon and Cordoba.
Then there was the disastrous Navaraez expedition into northern Florida in 1527 with 600 soldiers, where the Spanish crossbows were no match for the Indians 7-foot long bows, as thick as a man’s arm, that could penetrate six inches of wood at 200 yards. Only four Spaniards survived the catastrophe.
In 1539, Hernando de Soto, who had been Francisco Pizarro’s chief military adviser and among the 168 who conquered the Inca empire, and a veteran of 15 years of warring against south-of-the Rio Grande Indians, landed in Tampa Bay with 330 infantry and 270 cavalry, most veterans of the Spanish conquests in the south. They had given up European armor and adopted Aztec quilted cotton armor covered with leather as more effective protection.
They marched north reaching the Choctaw town of Mabila on the present site of Selma, Ala., which they assaulted and took after prolonged fighting, estimated having killed 2,500 inhabitants.
But no Indian surrender ensued. Instead, they forced the Spaniards to retreat and harried them, the Chickasaw attacking and burning de Soto’s winter camp, inflicting severe losses. Ultimately, only about half of de Soto’s force survived the expedition — not including him.
And so it went for hundreds of years, into the 20th century, if we count the 1911 Shoshone uprising, which was not called a “war” but a “riot,” as nomenclature was changed after Wounded Knee.
It is remarkable that some 350 years after the Calusa crushed Ponce de Leon and Cordoba, the Sioux defeated Crook and annihilated Custer.
So the American Indian earned respect and a place in our history that he does not have in Latin America or Canada. That’s even reflected in our language. Only the American armed forces to this day speak of going into Indian Country, and mean it ominously. Only American paratroopers legendarily shout “Geronimo!” as they leap from airplanes. Only a famous American general was named after an Indian. We speak of being off the reservation, and on the warpath. We Indian wrestle and walk Indian file. Indians are a part of, in today’s parlance, who we are in a way they are not in Canada or Latin America.
Americans, at least those of old-settler stock, are not like Canadians or Latin Americans, either. They have an ornery character, especially those of Scotch-Irish ancestry who were our most legendary Indian fighters, a natural antagonism to the powers that be and a take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude. To them, Indians have a lot of admirable characteristics, real or mythical: stoicism, refusal to stay down or stay put, defiance, resistance… And many of those whose people were here from the beginning did fight Indians and some percent did marry into tribes.
It’s interesting that no white would proudly say (well, until very recently) that he was part black, certainly if he actually had no black blood. If he did have black ancestors it would be something to be ashamed of and hidden. No old-stock Californian would boast that he was part Chinese — again, especially if he actually had no Chinese ancestry. But lots of white Americans, as you say, claim Indian ancestry even when they don’t have it, and have done so since long before there was affirmative action or any official advantage to doing so, and long after the fierce warrior of forest and plain had been replaced by the rez drunk.
That is telling us something important about our country and our history. And I think it’s rather a good thing — that we don’t disparage those we displaced, but empathize with them, acknowledge their loss and try, in some way, to assuage it by claiming that we, too, are Indian, one with them, and one with our mutual land.