The First Americans

Monday, September 9, 2013

I come from good American stock, but it is not old American stock. My ancestors didn’t immigrate from England and Germany and Canada until the 1800s.

The Native Americans were here hundreds of years before that.

Roland and I ended our vacation at Cahokia Mounds near Collinsville, Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is an ancient city built by tribes of the Mississippian culture. From approximately 700 to 1200 A.D., they were the North American version of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Like Americans today, the Mississippians were a diverse population: farmers, craftsmen, fishers, hunters, and traders. With a population between ten and twenty thousand, Cahokia was the largest city north of Mexico. The picture at the top of this post is an artist’s rendering of what Cahokia may have looked like.

Unfortunately, the Mississippian cities did not stand up to weather and intruders as well as the Mayan and Aztec cities did. This is because people tend to use the building materials that are most readily available. In Central and South America, that was stone. Here, it was dirt. So although the Mississippian structures were just as large, they were neither as impressive nor as long-lasting. Still, some did survive. The second picture shows what archaeologists have named “Monks Mound,” which is the largest structure at Cahokia. Those are stairs climbing its face, and there are plenty of them.

Although the Mississippians disappeared around 1200, they were the forefathers of the Native Americans who populated the continent when the white man arrived. Native Americans like the Shawnees.

In the middle of our vacation, we stopped at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway, Kansas. It consisted of three brick buildings, one of which is shown in the third picture. The Mission was a boarding school (1839-1862) founded to “Americanize” the Shawnee children to help them fit into the white man’s world. Apparently the Shawnees themselves were split on whether that was good or bad, but on the whole I think it was a shame that those children lost their cultural identity.

As we look back on the history of this great country, let’s not forgot to honor its original settlers.

No comments:

Post a Comment