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Lecture 1

HIST 2055 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Pseudoscience, Tabula Rasa, Lightning

Course Code
HIST 2055

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1. According to Charles Eastman/Ohiyesa, what, in spiritual terms, does it
mean to be an Indian? Beyond what is spelled out in Soul of the Indian, what
events covered in class and in the main text (America: A Concise History)
exemplify the mutual misperceptions expressed by North American Indians
and Euro-American settlers?
According to Ohiyesa, in spiritual terms, being Indian means that you are one
with nature and carry out daily tasks in an honorable manner. To elaborate, religion
isn’t something that was prominent to Indians; it was something that was done
through all acts of life. Ceremonies were held at events like hunting trips and
marriages, but they were considered “holy” not so much religious.
A big message seen throughout Soul of the Indian is that of Silent Worship.
Ohiyesa emphasizes that the “white man” speaks hypocritically when he talks of
worship yet only focuses on material things like money or land. In the beginning of
Soul of the Indian, Ohiyesa says, “The Indian does not speak of these deep matters so
long as he believes in them…”
Their sense of brotherhood with one another was strengthened through elements
of nature such as wind, fire, and lightning. Some tribes prayed to one God, others
prayed to an assortment of Gods that would control the weather and things involving
nature. To any Englishman, this would be something of pure obscurity.
In Soul of the Indian, we learn that boys and girls at a young age were treated with
praise, as they were learning what upcoming role they would play in their tribe. Some
European kids, however, were treated with more hostility and sometimes reprimanded
violently for bad behavior.
As British-Americans were first observing the Indian rituals, they completely
misunderstood the Indians intentions. The earliest settlers of the new world failed to
understand, and appreciate, the Native Americans customs and their closeness to the
nature surrounding them. The native people had no formal government established,
which was something that early settlers had a hard time grasping. Most aspects of life
for the natives were completely new to Anglo-Saxon Englishmen: art, music, food,
prayer, clothing, and many more were viewed as arbitrary by most from the New
Even though the Indians were of such a different culture, in the 16th and 17th
century settlers of the new world colonies believed that they could assimilate these
people to fall into their own society and practices. Some Native Americans married
the “white people” therefore uniting their ways of living. Those natives of high
intellect were thrown in English speaking schools and grew up learning the ways of
and Englishman. Despite Americas constant effort to change these people, there was
still always a conflict with their way of living, resulting in the depletion of a race that
once flourished on the North American lands.
But there were some peaceful encounters between those of the new world and the
old. We saw in the panting of William Penn making a peace treaty with a tribe of
Indians that some Englishmen were willing to live in harmony with these people.
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