HIST 202 – Survey: Canada to 1867
(September 12 2011)
16 century North America
How we know, what we know?
There are no written records to reconstruct the history. The words
we do have are the words of Europeans, people whose texts are
ideologically freighted. They try to do two things. They describe
native society without law, without God, without King (sans loi,
sans foi, sans roi). They use what they know to describe what they
Researchers use archaeological remains, try to recreate native
society, past environments, climates. Oral traditions are another
way of knowing native culture. Understanding the language,
Ethno history: Archaeologists use historical texts to move
backwards, So for example, using missionary texts.
15 th& 16 thcentury North America
The idea of North America is the product of European geography.
The first map to include the name America by a German map
maker (Waldsmueller Map – 1507). He used two sources:
Ptolemy: From Ancient Greece. Ptolemy and others at the time had
Africa, Europe and Asia on the map.
Americo Vespucci: Vespucci went to check up on Colombus and
states that this is really a new place. It’s not Asia.
1582: Gregorian Calendar (year 0 christ birth) which is an attempt
to figure out when Easter was. Catholics are using this calendar
when they come over to America.
Lived in Upper New York, South Quebec. Their calendar was based
on the back of a turtle with 13 segments in it. Each segment
represents a moon, starting with the mid-winter moon, sugar,
green corn. Every three years there’s the lost moon. It’s centrally
implicated in the way they live. Mid-winter moon marks the end of
the fall hunting season and the beginning of the winter hunting.
The midwinter ceremony: There is masked figures who visit all the
abodes, followed by a ecounting dreams and then a dance.
Natives in North America by Numbers
At the beginning of the 20 th century, Crobber guesstimated 8.4
million of pop. In North America originally. Henry Dobbins thought
100 million. Then they realized diseases had hit those populations
without immunity to those illnesses (ex: small pox). Realized that a
high percentage (80-90%) of the pop. died due to epidemics.
Jesuits were keeping daily tabs on the deceased. Dobbins worked
backwards from surviving generations and applying a high death
rate. His figures are considered too high.
Figure most agreed upon: 75 million natives in the
hemisphere(Thornton). Differences among Native Tribes
North America at the time had a lot of language diversity among
the different tribes. There is also a difference in the politics of the
different tribes. Some chiefs take a form of taxes from their tribes
and redistribute It. Some, like the Iroquois were farming societies.
Therefore, different tribes had different forms of mobility.
Cahokia: 20 000 people- city as opposed to village.
There’s a lot of trade going on ok? Copper is important. Shells are
used to send messages (!).
Northeast Corn Frontier
o “People of the longhouse”
Combination of several languages.
Corn is good. It leaves a carbon imprint, so we can tell how much
people ate by their teeth and digesti