Cultural Bias Against Native Americans

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Ibad Baig
History 111
Jay Nelson

Red Earth White Lies

“Red earth white lies” by Vine Deloria is by all accounts and standards is a ground breaking book which brings into light the troubling picture of cultural bias against the native American Indians, their origin and historic traditions. In his own words he emphasizes the need of dialog between western science and tribal people and says “corrective measures must be taken to eliminate scientific misconceptions about Indians, their culture and their past”. He goes on to say “there needs to be a way that Indian traditions can contribute to the understanding of scientific beliefs at enough specific points so that the Indian traditions will be taken seriously as valid bodies of knowledge”. Deloria himself being a native Indian scholar and research author truly feels the pain of the blame that the Western scientists and historians levy on the North American Indians for the disappearance and killing of millions of big and small fauna and several other crimes against nature. This book is a result of serious effort by Vine Deloria to highlight the misconceptions prevailing in the western dominated scientific world but he can also be severely criticized for his extreme and sometimes superstitious or blind traditional beliefs. "Red Earth, White Lies" is a wonderfully provocative indictment of how historical sciences, such as anthropology, geology, and ecology frequently fail in practice. Nevertheless, perhaps without realizing it, Deloria relies on the very hallmarks of modern science; alternative hypotheses, critical analysis, and crucial evidence to make his case. Here, unfortunately, is where "Red Earth White Lies" loses much of its power. While Deloria succeeds in casting doubt on many beliefs cherished by entrenched academics, he typically does not subject his own hypothesis to the same treatment. Even more unfortunate, Deloria himself employs some of the techniques he most violently condemns in academics. However Vine Deloria Jr.'s book is a very useful and merited challenge to a whole host of theories, especially the Bering Strait land bridge, megafauna’s extinction "Overkill" and some other things in which U.S. racism, capitalist waste and ruthlessness towards the environment, and scientific narrowness are shown to be the underlying roots of these theories. However, his attacks on Stephen J. Gould are not reasonable at times and as a matter of fact; Gould and others have for years defended allopatric speciation, which would allow a species “gestation” in five to ten thousand years. This type of narrow approach makes Deloria subject to exactly the type of criticism he so correctly levels at western scientists. Also, his knowledge of genetics and evolution seem to leave a lot to be desired, and he clearly does not expect the reader to be scientifically literate otherwise, he would not be able to make some of the peculiar remarks he makes about speciation. Anyone familiar with modern biology cannot be but amazed at how his work is little more than a reworking of Christian Fundamentalist creationism or vice versa. Having said that, Deloria's value as an anti-racist, as a defender of the worth and validity and richness of non-white, non-European sources of knowledge is more than worth the occasional bad science and anti-intellectualism. I would say that this is an essential reading for anyone learning about the native Indians and the material he covers, and for thinking about how racism and power can determine whose knowledge is myth and fantasy as much as it determines who is a rebel and or a freedom fighter. Deloria lambasts Paul Martin and his supporters for their ridiculous theory or belief that prehistoric man wiped out the Pleistocene megafauna in North America and presumably everywhere else in the world. This can of course only be propagated by completely ignoring volumes of geological and paleontological evidence showing clearly that these creatures...
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