November 24, 2010

An Apropos Read for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends. It is a beautiful opportunity to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. In addition to our blessings, the historical basis for Thanksgiving deserves some respectful contemplation.

I recently re-read a favorite book of mine just in time for Thanksgiving, 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which you can purchase on Amazon:

This book is a detailed account of North and South America and its cultures before European presence. The relatively recent research is fascinating and is very different from what most of us learned in school.

Did you know that Native Americans invented the mathematical concept of zero before the Middle East? There are not only multiple written languages but even a recently discovered language that is 'written' three dimensionally in a binary form with intricate knots, colors and beads. One culture in Peru completely dispels the widely accepted theory that agriculture must flourish first for cultures to grow in sophistication. Instead, this culture had such an incredible bounty from the sea, it was sufficient to sustain a sophisticated culture without agriculture.

The Mesoamerican calendar has both circular (weeks and months) and linear (years) parameters and is actually more efficient than the Western calendar- each day has a unique name that doesn't repeat. The tribes in New England formed a sophisticated government that institutionalized individual liberty to such an inspiring degree that many believe our nation's constitution was founded on many of its principles.

Finally, the story of the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag tribe and Squanto (who was actually named Tisquantum, which wasn't his real name and meant 'the wrath of god,' his story alone is fascinating), is written with incredible perspective and detail. The reality was that the Wampanoag needed to align themselves with the Pilgrims to keep the Narragansett at bay- previous to this, no foreign visitors had been permitted to stay.

I was inspired by much of what I read and have a new perspective of our nation and its history. I hope that books like these will lead to a better understanding of the contributions of Native American cultures.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Hilts said...

What a thought-provoking post! I've ordered the book.

How are you?