Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
By Neenah Payne
November is Native American Heritage Month, an opportunity to learn from the many rich traditions of Native Americans. Native American Day: Learning The Way of Earth explains that Dr. Zach Bush warns we are in the Sixth Great Extinction and human survival depends on the urgent restoration of our soils (earth). So, the world — led by the West — is in very grave trouble now. Where will we find the inspiration to change our relationship to the Earth on which we depend for survival?
There are 500 Native Nations in this hemisphere — many of which have been here tens of thousands of years. Can these ancient wisdom keepers guide us now? Many Americans seem to think so as they flock to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca with shamans. However, although many of our states, cities, and rivers carry Native names, most Americans ignore Native America and know little about these cultures. We were told that Europe had a “Manifest Destiny” to take over this hemisphere because it brought a civilization that was so vastly superior and Native American cultures were “primitive”.
However, Native America’s Gifts To The World shows that physicists discovered that verb-intensive Native American languages better express the concepts of quantum physics than noun-heavy Western languages. It shows some of the profound gifts Native America gave the world. This article focuses on the Inca Empire — the largest in the world in the 1500s with 10 million people — which was performing successful brain surgery 300 years before Europe. We need to learn the truth now.
Philip P. Arnold, a member of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) and associate professor of indigenous religions at Syracuse University, says: “How we in the larger society regard indigenous peoples — who have an ongoing relationship with the living earth — will determine our ability to survive.” The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry of Native Americans.
Native Cinema Showcase
Native America’s Gifts To The World shows that the DVD The Language of Spirituality documents the discovery by physicists and linguists that the verb-intensive Native American languages better convey concepts of quantum physics and consciousness than noun-heavy Western languages. So, these cultures which we have been taught to dismiss as “primitive” have a more sophisticated concept of reality than the West. What Are We Celebrating On Halloween? shows that we now need their insights to survive.
“The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. For this year’s 20th-anniversary showcase, the museum presents the full program online — streaming new films, fan favorite classics, and conversations with filmmakers. The showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers and stories from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and the Arctic. All films are available on demand; please check individual listings for dates and times of availability. Short-format films are grouped in programs and available concurrently at the listed time for each program.”
Social Studies Online
National Museum of American Indian
This article focuses on the Inca (Inka) Empire, its rise, phenomenal accomplishments, and impact on world culture.
The Inka Empire
“While no longer the capital of an empire, Cusco remains the heart of the Inka legacy. Many Quechua people live in the same housing, farm the same land, speak the same language, perform the same rituals, and travel the same roads as their Inka ancestors.”
Engineered to Survive
“Portions of the Qhapaq Ñan have withstood the test of time better than modern roads. The road offers important lessons about sustainability, use of local materials, and building in harmony with the environment. Parts of the road have become the foundations of modern roads. Argentina’s Route 40 and the Pan-American Highway, which extends through Peru and Chile, are built over the Inka Road.”
The Inca road system was the most extensive and advanced in pre-Columbian South America. The network included two north-south roads with numerous branches. The best known portion is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail system was an essential part of the success of the Inca Empire. Including an estimated 40,000 kilometers, the road was built for use in all kinds of climate, moving people and goods — and armies when needed — across the length and breadth of the empire.
Two main roads made up the Inca Trail system, one along the coastline of South America between Tumbes (Peru) and Talca (Chile), and one through the Andes highlands between Quito (Ecuador) and Mendoza (Argentina). Many other short routes led to different Inca provincial centers.
This monumental road could reach 65 feet in width, connected populated areas, administrative centers, agricultural and mining zones, as well as ceremonial centres and sacred spaces. These roads provided easy, reliable, and quick routes for the Empire’s civilian and military communications, personnel movement, and logistical support. The prime users were imperial soldiers, porters, and llama caravans, along with the nobility and individuals on official duty.
The Inca put together a Bronze Age internet, a system of messenger posts along major roads. They used runners — people trained to run long distances in short times — to carry communication throughout the empire. These runners could travel as far as 250 miles a day. Romans thought running 100 miles a day was good, so 250 miles over the high Andes is amazing! Runners used the vast Inca system of purpose-built roads and rope bridges in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. Routes also extended into further reaches of the empire into parts of what are now Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.
Potatoes, Corn, Quinoa Fed The World
“Andean foods changed the eating habits of the world. Corn, potatoes, and quinoa originated in the Andes but now grow everywhere. Potatoes thrived in cooler climates, such as northern Europe and the Himalayas, saving millions from starvation in bleak winters. The outside world has recently discovered quinoa, and the high demand is now depriving Andeans of a traditional food.”
Quinine Cured Europe
“Andean people knew for thousands of years that the bark of the quina tree cured malaria. Catholic missionaries learned this in the 1600s, and quinine soon became a valuable export to Europe. It has saved countless lives.”
How The Incas’ Potato Changed Europe
There Would Be No Fourth of July Without the Iroquois Nation: What We Owe the Aboriginal People of the Americas: A Debt That Cannot Be Repaid, points out:
“With the introduction of the potato and other American crops, the European population exploded. Before Contact all empires in Europe, from Greece and Rome to Persia and Egypt, had based success on their control of grain production. Situated in the warmer southern countries where it was easier to grow grain crops, these empires provided colder northern countries with food. Following the introduction of Aboriginal food crops such as the potato, northern countries such as Germany and Russia rose as world powers because they had gained a food supply independent from these warmer southern countries.”
The Inca understand the vital importance of biodiversity. They plant some potatoes that prefer cold climates, others that like hot ones, dry ones, and wet ones. So, when one crop fails, their survival is guaranteed. When the Irish adopted the potato, they made the fatal mistake of relying on just one variety. When that failed, the famine killed a million Irish and 2 million had to emigrate to survive.
Gold and Silver Enriched Spain
“Silver from the mines at Potosí, in present-day Bolivia, made Spain the richest nation on earth in the 1500s and 1600s. This wealth bankrolled Spanish expeditions of conquest around the world, a long series of wars in Europe, and a “golden age” of the arts in Spain. European history would be very different without Andean silver.”
The Incas saw gold and silver as sacred, not as money.
Incan Successful Brain Surgery in 1500s
Inca Skull Surgeons Were “Highly Skilled,” Study Finds discusses a study in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It says that by the 15th century, survival rates for patients of Inca brain surgery approached 90% and infection levels were very low. Inca surgeons had detailed knowledge of cranial anatomy. It says, “These people were skilled surgeons.” Inca healers carefully avoided areas of the skull where cutting would be more likely to cause brain injury, bleeding, or infection.
Trepanation: The Legacy of Ancient Brain Surgery contrasts the quality of life in Europe with that of Peru in the 18th century and earlier to explain the success of brain surgery in Peru while it was failing in Europe. It points out:
“Survival of surgery is a quality-of-life issue. The citizens of pre-Columbian Peru had a substantially higher quality-of-life than their counterparts in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Examination of Peruvian skulls, by today’s physicians, reveals that these cranial surgeries rarely became infected, and most survived. Even more impressive are the skulls exhibiting successful cranio-plasties (plates inserted into the trephination holes) made of silver and gold, which were placed with such skill that the bone healed around them.
In contrast, during the 18th century, trephination of the cranium in Europe reached a nearly 100% fatality rate. Comparing the two cultures may give a clue to why the Peruvian patient’s quality-of-life was better and therefore, he/she was more likely to survive.
The Inca Empire…was by far the largest pre-Columbian state, extending from Peru to Chile including western and central South America…..Historically, the Incas came late on the scene…. Quality of life was improving because of wise and benevolent rulers….Before Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Inca’s, their empire was equivalent in area to France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Switzerland combined…. At its height, the Inca empire had an estimated 12 million people in much of what is now Peru and Ecuador and large parts of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.
At the beginning of the Renaissance (circa 1500 AD), there were about 73 million people living in Europe…. With the fall of the Roman Empire, social structure and public works infrastructure collapsed as barbarian hordes overran Europe. As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, life was not good even in the best of times for the average person…..
Cities in Europe and Peru are not related in structure or function. In Europe, people lived in walled towns for protection. In Peru, the detribalized population was united, cities were cultural and religious centers, people lived in surrounding countryside.
The wall around a town in Europe was its first line of defense. Therefore, the land within was very valuable, and not an inch of could be wasted. The twisting streets were extremely narrow and were not paved. Doors opened directly onto streets which were filthy, urine and solid waste were simply dumped out windows. Sunlight rarely reached the ground level, because the second story of each building always extended out over the first story, and the third story extended over the second, nearly meeting the building on the other side of the street.
The walled town was not typical of Europe though. Between 80 and 90 percent of the population lived in villages of fewer than a hundred people. These villages were fifteen or twenty miles apart surrounded by endless forest. Unless a person was a noble or priest his/her mental geography limited their world to what they knew. If war took a man even a short distance from his nameless village, the chances of his returning were slight, and finding his way back alone was virtually impossible. Each hamlet was inbred, isolated, unaware of the world beyond the most familiar local landmark.
Cities in Peru did not have the cramped population and unsanitary conditions of Europe. Nor did they have the pollution-producing industries emerging in Europe. These people were engaged the cooperative efforts of agriculture, mining, herding, and fishing. They had a rural lifestyle in small villages over the high plateaus and coastal lowlands. Their cities appeared to be cultural centers where people would travel to, they lived in the outlying country side. Because even the remote mountain villages were tied to the rest of the empire with an intricate road system of approximately 20,000 km for rapid messenger service to communicate across the empire, the pre-Columbian people had a much broader mental geography.
In Europe at the end of the Dark Ages, agriculture and transportation of foodstuffs were inefficient, the population was never fed adequately from year to year. Famines, Black Death, and recurring pandemics repeatedly thinned the population of Europe at least once a generation after 1347.
The Peruvians demonstrated knowledge of the contagion mechanisms of typhus (which would be understood in Europe only at the beginning of the twentieth century). They fought it with isolation measures and recognized the role of body lice in its spread. It is also evident that they understood the means by which malaria, endemic on the Peruvian coast, was spread. Houses were routinely built in the high and sandy part of the valleys, outside of the access radius of the mosquito vectors. Tuberculosis, whose cause and spread depends essentially on poor social conditions was not endemic in their culture. Europe was not so lucky.
There are numerous reports in historical chronicles that refer to the pharmacological wealth of South America that was used by the pre-Columbian cultures. Many of these drugs could help the patient survive trepadation. The most obvious would be drugs that could be used for anesthesia. This could have been accomplished with drugs…used by the Incas such as, coca, datura, or yuca. It is known that alcoholic beverages such as chicha, made of fermented corn, was given to patients, causing a relaxed or sedated state.
The next most obvious drug choice would seem to be an antiseptic to prevent infection, such as, Peru balsam, tannin, saponins, and cinnamic acid….It would be prudent to have a good drug to control bleeding. This could have been done with herbal extracts of Indean ratania root, pumachuca shrub, and preparations high in tannic acid….a drug used then as well as today to control Malaria is quinine… they used the bark of the cincona tree as a source of quinine to treat malaria.”
“12,000 years ago, very advanced cultures existed in Peru and Bolivia, and had advanced high technology. They shaped stone in ways that we cannot…”
Neenah Payne writes for Natural Blaze and Activist Post