Growing up I was very aware of Cowboys and Indians. My pals and I would play for hours and hours in the fields next door, or in the backyard, or in our livingroom makeshift tepees. I was infatuated with Tom Mix, Hoppy, Roy and Gene. Mom dropped me off at the theater on Saturday, gave me two-bits, with which I saw two full length shoot-em-ups, ten cartoons and had enough left over for popcorn and a coke. For me, the history of America started there.
In High School I remember learning about the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayas, but I always thought of them as foreigners, not American’s. For me the Native History of America started with the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. I remember, during Thanksgiving Holiday, seeing Indians pictured at the Pilgrims Table, but I never really wondered where they came from.
Stumbling through life I recall hearing stories of early Indians like the Iroquois Tribes (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawks). I was born a New Yorker so “Far above Cayuga’s Waters”, Oneida Watches, and the “Last of the Mohicans” had meaning to me. I faintly remember the Seminoles, because they were billed as the good guys from Florida. The famous Apache Chieftan Cochise (Jeff Chandler) was chased by every oater leading man of the 40s, but I just figured he arrived about the same time Hoppy did. Well silly me.
Not until two weeks ago; at age 80 (blissfully ignorant but inquisitive), when NPR aired “Native Americans”, did the real story begin to unravel. Up jumps Cahokia and it;s collection of tribes, who appeared in the Mississippi area around AD 700. Three hundred years later Cahokia was at its Golden Age (pictured above) and by 1600 it faded away. I don’t remember any of this being taught in gradeschool. For these folks to have amassed in the region in AD 700, they had to have come from somewhere. Scientists and Anthropologists seem to think that the Bering Straits were finally habitable enough for Human migration from Siberia around 12,600 years ago, some postulate that humans came to North America 125,000 years ago.
The Facts seem to allow that the Indians were definitely here before Hoppy. They flourished at Cahokia with staggering scientific knowledge of the Sun, Moon and Stars, taught settlers the meaning of democracy, developed Maise (Corn) as a staple, and built ceremonial mounds 10 stories (100 Feet) high. There were one heck of a lot of Native Americans here before Custer went on his killing sprees.
I have no idea how I, or anyone else, could have graduated from High School without knowing something about our Native American Ancestors.
I am going to dig deeper into this. I really dislike being stupid.