Black Robe : Indians, not as savages

Indians, not as savages

I recently watched Black Robe with a friend. He was angry because he felt the film depicted Indians as savages, but I saw them as warrior. They did what they had to in order to survive. All the rituals, battles, and executions were done by tribes to ensure their survival by occupation of land and resources, and I see nothing wrong with that. At the end of the movie I remembered Once Were Warriors; even though that film is about the Maori in New Zealand it made me think of what happened to the Indians in the US. By forcing us into reservations or urban barrios they've made us lose who we are: warriors, nomads, people who live off of the land that we honor still today.

With that said, I feel the film shows how 2 sides of the New World exploration and colonialism were intertwined, the Catholic European alongside the Algonquin-speaking group (I'm not sure which group exactly). My favorite scene is when Father Laforgue gets lost in the woods and when his guides come across him he is thrilled but the guides only laugh at him and wonder why he couldn't find his way from the trees. As if a city-boy is going to be able to tell one tree from the next.

What do others think of the depiction of Indians (or Catholics)?

Re: Indians, not as savages

I think its the best depiction of the first peoples of that continent, Black Robe reminds people that the first people of America were very human and very natural human beings. Black Robe portrays this in a bold no holds barred way.

This is what may have angered your friend! Its like when Young Daniel calls the Uriquoi 'animals' (he says: "but the Iroquoi are not men'), and the character played by August Schellenberg (who was also the chief in The New World) corrects him that they are no better than them but of a different extremity in nature.

Once were Warriors is a nice analogy film for the reservation plight of tribe-peoples forced to be modernized, and the consequences, another film that might cause a similar reaction in some Maoris’ for being so naked in depiction but more importantly it is HONEST in its depiction.

I thing The New World is a nice alter ego film to Black Robe for the discussion that swirl around The New World I think it is well depicted in on a faithful level for what life might have been like if not on a historical level - soulfully faithfulif not total in hisotircal narrative.

It’s also an excellent and very conscientious portrayal of the high minded Christian missionary converter type, not celebrating, not demonising, but showing ACCOUNTABILITY.

My fav scene/shots is when La forge remembers the faces of the people he travelled with, long since killed, with mixed emotions, fondness, guilt, confusion and clarity. You can almost see an Jesuit priest no longer high minded and very much on the edge of having lost all or a portion of his faith, and no in a quandary position, knowing that he now has to follow through it, otherwise a whole family would have died for nothing and knowing that he can by no means abandon the Huron tribe who have become vulnerable, so he continues to do what he was taught even though, I think he knows it will do no good for the Huron' future, which of course it didn't.

In the end La forge is passionate, well meaning has good faith but is ultimately disasterously misguided, which refelcts on the whole idea of colonisation.


Pathfinder (2006) will be another one to look out for when it comes out, the original film will undoubtedly be superior Ofelas (1987).

Also like A Man Called Horse but Black Robe is the best.

My favourite lines are around the end of the film


"This world is a cruel place but it is the sunlight" -Black Robe(1991)

Re: Indians, not as savages

What is left out of the depiction of the ferocity of the Iroquois is the underlying reason for their hostility. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, contact between the Algonquians and Iroquois was fairly limited. No doubt there were territorial conflicts, but with resources plentiful and the land more or less wide open the conflicts were on a local scale and only occasional. With the Europeans arming the Algonquians in exchange for peaceful passage and guide services in North America, the Algonquians could be more assertive, hunting in lands they previously would have stayed clear of. The Europeans also brought coastal tribes into the interior of the continent as they explored rivers, which was another source of conflict between the various tribes. Meanwhile, the Europeans were often able to set up one tribe as its ally in probing into lands traditionally left to other tribes. Thus, the Iroquois became ferocious enemies of the French and of the Algonquians, whom the Iroquois came to view as traitorous collaborators with the invaders. These were the conflicts portrayed so vividly in "Black Robe." The native peoples of North America were not portrayed so much as savages, but as people coming into conflict with other people of very different cultural outlook. I though Bruce Beresford was careful not to show European culture as superior, just different. Father LaForgue's assistant, Daniel, wonders how it is that the tribes are better off because of the French presence in the New World. Ulitmately, LaForgue wonders the same thing.

Re: Indians, not as savages

Indians in pre-Columbian North and South America definitely were not living in nice utopias. The warlike nature of many tribes and their emphasis on torture pre-dated the arrival of Europeans. Cannibalism was also common in several Indian groups. This knowledge is based upon archaeology, information that was passed down in tribal culture, and information recorded by literate individuals who were the first to encounter various tribes. Just look at much of the art in many of the Mesoamerican societies for very clear, gruesome examples. Warfare was also an integral part of many North American tribes before the arrival of Europeans. Many tribes had very warlike traditions that pre-dated White contact.

There are accounts passed down to early White settlers of genocides committed by various Indian tribes against other Indians, and not just by the Iroquois. There seems to have been much friction over territory which caused tribes to migrate large distances, before any Europeans arrived. Honor and prestige were also important causes of warfare amongst Indians. Its true that trading with Europeans exacerbated some conflicts, but things were not peaceful in America before Columbus. This applied to eastern North America, the Great Plains, and western North America. A myth seems to have developed that Iroquois tribes were the only violent ones before European contact, which is a great falsehood. Many tribes probably brought to America warlike and violent traditions from where they came from. A few academics and others have tried to argue that there was a pacifism prevalent among prehistoric groups extending back into Neolithic times and earlier, but archaeology has uncovered mass graves and individual burials which show violent warfare existing in prehistory in many parts of the world.

Also there is physical evidence that Indians were responsible for wiping out much woodland throughout North and South America, and doing much else that would be considered environmentally damaging today. Some scientists believe that some parts of North America are more heavily wooded now than before Europeans arrived. Some scientists also believe that at least parts of North American plains were wooded before Indians moved in and wiped out forests.

The prevalance of politically-correct attitudes in Hollywood towards Indians does a disservice to Indians in general. It is extremely condescending. It also gives a terribly distorted view of the past. I give "Black Robe" a lot of credit for showing that there were good and bad people amongst Indians and Whites, and for attempting to closely capture the look, attitudes and priorities of people in the 17th Century. It shows the truth that there were misunderstandings, compassion, sympathy, kindness and cruelty on both sides.

If you're interested in reading more about this kind of thing on the Web, try anthropologist Roger Sandall's excellent website The Culture Cult, at http://culturecult.com/ He discusses the damage done to our concepts of the truth by the myths of primitive cultures living in supposedly utopian societies, and the related political ideologies and academic follies. Sandall calls this "romantic primitivism," and has many examples of the awfulness of primitive life compared with modern civilization. There are also non-ideologically driven histories and archaeological accounts available in print.

Re: Indians, not as savages

Word, excellent post indeed.

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Re: Indians, not as savages

That's no different than the Europeans penchant for torture. No one calls them savages or barbarians.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

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Re: Indians, not as savages

The use or enjoyment of torture is not an indicator of whether a culture is civilized or not. The Chinese, one of the oldest civilizations, frequently used torture during Mao Tse-Tung's rule and at other times, and the French regularly used torture against terrorists in Algeria in the 1960's.

Clearly the Indians in 17th Century North America were not as civilized as the Europeans. Some Indians and Whites committed atrocities against each other, and some Indians and Whites were also kind to each other. Nevertheless, the Whites had more highly developed cultural and social systems, in addition to more advanced technology. This is not to say that all Whites as individuals were superior to Indian individuals, but one cannot reasonably say that the Indians were more civilized, unless one ignores the real meanings of civilization and barbarism. If you're interested in this question, Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" TV series and book are good sources to start with.

Anyone who thinks the Indians were more innocent should read the historical sources. Many sources from the period of early European exploration and the Colonial Period make it very clear that several Indian tribes had already developed methods of torture into a very intricate and horrible art. Pre-Columbian art in the Western Hemisphere also confirms this. And it wasn't just a few renegade individuals conducting the torture. In some tribes, women and children often participated in torturing captives, along with men. There were also times when Indians initiated violence against White communities. Today's politically-correct stereotypes preach that it was just the Whites who initiated violence, and that is inaccurate. "Black Robe" does a great job of showing the compassion, the misunderstandings and the violence that were really present on both sides.

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Re: Indians, not as savages

"Clearly the Indians in 17th Century North America were not as civilized as the Europeans"

Whoa, hold on a sec. As a Mohawk of the Iroquois myself, I take exception to that statement.

-The Five Nations (later Six) of the Iroquois formed the first true democracy in North America. It was a successful form of government, eventually inspiring elements of what would become the American constitution.

-But unlike the later American approach to politics, Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee, as they called themselves) resolved internal issues via actual consensus, not just majority vote. Clearly, the Five Nations had the more patient and definitive approach in that regard.

-The Iroquois were far more progressive than the colonials when it came to the treatment of women. Family lineage was traced through women, and it was the Elder Clan Mothers who had the most political influence. Knowing the cost of conflict, they had the power to keep Chiefs and Warriors in line when things got heated.
Which is a far cry from the European approach to females. Hell, just look at what the Greeks did to the Amazons -- the white man feared strong women, while the native man celebrated them.

Does that mean that the Iroquois were a perfect, innocent people? Hell no.
The Mohawks in particular had an over-zealous taste for war not unlike the ancient Spartans or Samurai. Many Algonquins and Huron were made miserable by the Mohawk, and it's testimony to the success of the Five Nations Confederacy that peace was made possible. Peace that lasted for centuries prior to white colonization.

Not as civilized, you say? I'd argue they were MORE civilized.

It's ironic that Greeks resisting Persian takeover are viewed as heroes, but Iroquois resisting European takeover are viewed as savages.

We'd think that in the 21st century, the true nature of North American history would be understood by now. But, unfortunately so far it isn't.



Re: Indians, not as savages

Stridergoji66, I still have to disagree with you on a lot of things.

The ancient Greeks gave to us a tremendous amount of good things that we are blessed with today, and many of those ancient Greeks believed in those things wholeheartedly, including valuing the individual person, liberty, freedom of speech, the pursuit of truth for its own sake, the rule of law, democracy, medicine based upon science, the value of gaining knowledge from experience and experimentation, great literature from Homer through the Greek tragedians, history, and the great value placed upon balance in many human endeavors (known as The Mean). They also highly valued generosity, permanence, health and beauty.

The ancient Greeks believed that a good person has a balance of 4 primary virtues: courage, temperance, justice and wisdom. Some Greeks such as Pericles were great examples of these balanced virtues. Sure, there were some American Indians who exhibited these virtues too, but I don't think that any culture in history has equalled or surpassed the Greeks in valuing and promoting these virtues.

And sure, the ancient Greeks were not perfect in the way some might think of perfection today--they were very warlike, they kept most women out of public affairs and they had slavery, but many of the Greeks also recognized their flaws and their limitations, and most importantly they gave their people more freedom than existed among any other peoples before them or during their existence. Almost every other culture that was contemporary with them had institutions such as slavery. With the exception of some such as the Spartans, many of the Greek city states had slaves as a much lower proportion of their inhabitants than did other cultures. It was a great thing for us that the Greeks defeated the Persians in the 5th Century B.C. Today in America and Western Europe many people have lost much of the virtue that the Greeks had, such as courage: we have a horribly large amount of people who don't think its worthwhile to fight to defend ourselves against radical Islam which wants to destroy our way of life.

The greatness of the United States is similar to that of the Greeks: with all of its faults and limitations, the United States from the beginning gave its citizens more freedom and more prosperity than any other culture of the time.

I still insist that Great Britain, Western Europe and their Colonies in North America were much more civilized overall than any of the American Indians. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain and Western Europe had hospitals and great universities, a booming economy and thriving worldwide trade, a hunger for exploration and knowledge, the science of Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton and the great Royal Society of Great Britain, brilliant and practical political philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, a very limited system of warfare (after the Thirty Years War) in which combatants fought in a relatively civilized way with opponents who fought by mostly the same rules, great art, architecture and literature from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and afterwards, including the medieval cathedrals, and such great writers as Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Defoe, great artists including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Bramante and Raphael, great composers including J. S. Bach, Handel and Mozart, the literature and philosophies that were developed from the ancient Greeks onwards, a desire for progress and the Enlightenment's concern for individual rights and the pursuit of truth, the almost miraculous political developments in the United States created by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and many other greats, chivalry from the Middle Ages and gentlemanly conduct promoted by men such as Addison and Steele, increasing promotion of health and education, and I could go on and on. Judeo-Christian values along with ancient Greek and Roman culture played the major roles in promoting the freedom for the individual and concern for justice that bless us today. Christian missionaries tried hard, as seen in "Black Robe," to alleviate the sufferings of others such as American Indians.

It has to be said that no American Indian culture came even close to these achievements. Of course there were good people amongst the Indians, and there were notable achievements, but nothing close to the scale of the West.

The most advanced Indian cultures in the Western Hemisphere still included human sacrifice, and in cases such as the Aztecs they committed a significant amount of cannibalism. These groups also rested in large degree upon slave labor and other forms of coercion, and while slavery also existed amongst the British, Americans and others in the West, it was the British, the Americans and other Europeans who eventually abolished it, and before they abolished it many felt a conscience about it, spurred by ideas from the Greeks, Jews and Christians. Slavery still thrived though in Africa, Asia and among the Indian cultures, as it thrives in some "Third World" areas today.

And I have to say that the Iroquois' supposed role in influencing our Founders has been hugely exaggerated by some writers. Our Founding Fathers based most of their philosophy and practices on ideas about the rule of law that were developed by the English from the early Middle Ages onwards, on British common law, and on Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and the Frenchman Montesquieu. They also looked closely at what worked well in the British colonial governments. The Iroquois might have had some comparable processes going on, but they were not used as a major model by our Founders. And if you belonged to a tribe such as the Susquehannocks, you wouldn't think very highly of the Iroquois' consensus decisions.

I'm sorry to write so much, but one has to look at a lot of these things to appreciate the real meaning of civilization, and related things such as individual rights. Clearly these blessings that we have were given to us mostly by Western European and Judeo-Christian culture, with roots stretching back to the ancient Greeks.

Re: Indians, not as savages

If you want to talk about Greek achievement, you seem to have not done enough research. In fact, the very first democracy was in ancient India, about a hundred years before Athens. Also, Athens was a direct democracy, all free men had a say and voted on every policy. Meanwhile, the US is a constitutional republic, where only a very small minority have the right to vote on major policies. The American Constitution was written with the belief that men cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. The Iroquis, on the other hand, did trust all who was a part of the confederacy. It's possible that the Iroquis Nation would have lasted a lot longer if it hadn't of been for European invasion. While Athens only lasted a couple hundred years as a democracy, falling to a monarchy in battle. I bet because Athenian men could not come to an agreement about their strategy during battle.

You also appear to be comparing apples to oranges. Europeans had tons of time to develop and grow, not to mention steal weaponry ideas from Asia. Indigenious groups across America did not have as much time. Anthropologists estimate that Eurasia began to be colonized about 45,000 years ago while the Americas were more around 10,000 years ago. I have no doubt that if the Americas had been left alone, great civilizations would have developed rivaling those in Europe.

Man who fish in other man's well often catch crabs.

Re: Indians, not as savages

You misrepresented me, MihoSaitama. As I said, the U.S. Founding Fathers developed many of their ideas and practices from legal developments and thought in England, and from Enlightenment philosophy, and also from what they observed that worked and didn't work in governments of the past and of their own time. Some of their thought was influenced by the Greeks. The Founders were deeply educated in classical culture. And in Western Civilization we got our ideas of freedom and democracy by way of the ancient Greeks, not from ancient India.

And you're wrong in making the blanket statement that our Founders thought that "men cannot be trusted to make their own decisions." Our Founders had a very healthy skepticism and they did not believe that a perfect society and a perfect government can be created, nor that the majority is right all of the time. Thank goodness they set up a system with checks and balances, and they also created a system in which a great many people could rise to a better situation on their own initiative, and in which diverse elements of society could flourish free of government control, which helped to prevent dictatorship or oligarchy. And while many of the Founders were not in favor of total direct democracy, and few reasonable people today would be in favor of that either, the Founders certainly did believe that a larger proportion of the population should have a say in governing their own affairs, as opposed to a monarchy or a small oligarchy. The Federal system allowed for a relatively large degree of local self-government, which helped many areas to prosper. Of course there were variations of opinion amongst the Founders, but these were pretty common views. And overall our Founders provided more freedom and prosperity in the U.S. than was present anywhere else at the time. Much more prosperity than the Iroquois ever experienced.

There is so much confusion out there about the Iroquois, in addition to the false belief that they had a big influence on the U.S. Founders. Some people suggest that the Iroquois had an almost utopian system. Well, many Indians would not have agreed. The Iroquois continued to be warlike, before and after the Whites arrived. As I said before, look at what they did to tribes such as the Susquehannocks. And the Oneida suffered at the hands of fellow members of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Huron, who were bitter enemies of the Iroquois before any Europeans arrived, were also devastated by the Iroquois. Members of these groups would not have thought that the Iroquois had a great system in place. The Iroquois were also not living in a material paradise. I think that most people today, if they compared the situations, would much rather have lived in a town on the Eastern seaboard during the 18th century, with all its imperfections, than in an Iroquois community of that time.

And in response to your suggestion that I didn't do enough research, one might say that you might not have done enough research yourself: the ancient Greeks still had a great, unquestionably positive effect on Western Civilization, even though their city-states eventually fell to the Macedonians. I outlined many of the Greeks’ gifts to us in my previous posting. Their thoughts and records of their achievements lived on and began to be especially appreciated again during the Renaissance. And Aristotle himself was appreciated by many scholars during the Middle Ages, sometimes admittedly to excess.

Its perfectly appropriate for me to compare Indians in North America with Western Europeans and Colonists. Much of this whole discussion arose because of the question of how civilized were the Indians in comparison with the Whites. Contrary to today's prevalent dogma, not all cultures are equal, and not all cultures develop equally. That is the big issue, and its not "comparing apples to oranges." For instance, how many women today would like to live in an Islamic state as opposed to the West? Not many, if they knew the facts about living under Sharia. You brought up the subject of India. On that sub-continent, "democracy" certainly did not take root until the last few decades, and much of the reason for it taking root was the legacy of the British Empire, which established some relatively consistent basis for the rule of law in the region. And in the West we did not develop our practices of freedom and democracy from India, or from the Iroquois.

Regarding the difference in pace in the civilizational development between Europe and the pre-Columbian Western Hemisphere, those Indians who settled in the Western Hemisphere didn't just arise out of nowhere--they probably came mostly from Eastern Asia and possibly other places. Why then did they not develop to the same cultural sophistication as Europeans? There could be a variety of reasons, but the difference in development is clear, in technology, societal structures, philosophy, art and other elements of culture. Europe didn't have civilization until the Minoans and the ancient Greeks, from the second millenium B.C. onwards. That's long after people had already arrived in North America. Yet Europe rose to great heights of achievement. Two reasons among possibly many are that many Europeans were willing to explore the world and incorporate new ideas, technologies, and other innovations, and to emphasize the value of the individual person more than many other contemporary cultures.

Re: Indians, not as savages

You seem very Greek-centric. There's a whole world out there that begs to be studied. I understand how important the Greeks were to European and US history, but some of their ideas were taken from other civilizations. Athens was the only democracy in ancient Greece, all the rest were monarchies. India had the very first democracy in the world. If you know anything about where the ancient Greeks came from then you'd know that the idea of democracy was in place long before they had arrived in Greece, which would explain why it was also in India, even if for a short time.


'Much of this whole discussion arose because of the question of how civilized were the Indians in comparison with the Whites.'

If that's in regards to my original question then you grossly misinterpreted it. I would never ask to compare two very different groups of people. I wanted to know what people thought of the depiction of the Indians or Catholics. Was it over the top? Accurate? I am a firm believer that every culture is equal to another. People developed based on environment and social contraints that is why no two cultures is alike. You cannot compare ancient Egyptian civilization with the San people of Southern Africa; you would get horribly inaccurate results.


Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Re: Indians, not as savages

Dharmalita, you say that I "seem very Greek-centric." Is that supposed to be a bad thing? It is reasonable for a person to have what you call "Greek-centric" views, because Western Civilization has its roots in ancient Greece, and the ancient Greeks contributed so many good things that we enjoy now. And there was a clear leap in Classical Greece towards higher forms of thought and practice compared to before, and compared with other places. Sadly that development isn't taught much now in primary, secondary and higher education, but it was a stunning leap forward in civilization. The Multiculturalist education that is so prevalent now and which belittles "Dead White Males" has been effective in indoctrinating many students in things that are very distorted and otherwise untrue, and in creating so much ignorance about the benefits of Western Civilization. Of course its good to learn about the achievements of other cultures too, but not at the expense of appreciating the good things about the West.

And as I mentioned before, one of the great things about Western Civilization is its ability to embrace advanced ideas and practices from other cultures. This was done by the West much more, I believe, than by other cultures. And this oppenness in the West was not limited to the Greeks, so I don't think I'm being overly "Greek-centric." Judaism and Christianity, and Roman, British and Germanic cultures have also had huge impacts for good in shaping Western culture. Others in this discussion were denigrating the Greeks, so the latter needed defending!

Democracy was certainly not "in place" in a large part of ancient India, and, once again, we did not gain our ideas of democracy from there. Yes, there seem to have been some democratic practices in parts of ancient India, some of which might have continued locally, but if democracy was "in place" there, where did it go? As a form of state rule, it went away there for centuries, except maybe in little pockets, and it didn't reappear there at the level of the state until the British came and left their mark. Just because two similar entities existed, one before the other, does not mean they are directly linked. Yet thinkers in the West clearly got many of their ideas about freedom, philosophy and science from the Greeks. Extensive records of Greek governing practices survived and were used as inspiration by later peoples. And records of a wide range of Greek thought and achievement lived on in the West up until the present, with some help at times from the Arabs and others. The Greeks set much of the basis for how many in the West have viewed, approached and appreciated the world. As I emphasized in a previous posting, there is much more that we owe to the Greeks than just ideas of governing.

Its not clear exactly where the Indo-European tribes from which the Greeks descended came from before they were in southeastern Europe, but there isn't much evidence that they came from India. Many such tribes who entered into Europe seem to have been ruled by war chiefs or small groups of warriors--not very democratic!

You say that "every culture is equal to another." That is just not true. Not only are cultures different technologically but they are very glaringly different in values and how their own people are treated, excepting a few very basic ideas of morality such as not murdering or stealing from those inside the group. Would you give up life in the West with the high value it places on freedom and safety and go live in Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, mainland China, Malaysia, New Guinea, Singapore or North Korea, or live in a hunter-gatherer group without indoor plumbing, modern medicine and a permanent home? If not, then why not? Would you like to live under Sharia law? Would you choose to live in a culture that requires its girls to get female circumcision, or expects and encourages its males to kill girls who have been raped, for the sake of family honor?! Or would you be happy about a culture which encourages its men to have anal sex with virgin girls? Or one that freely allows its men to sexually abuse pre-teen girls?! Would you live in a culture that prohibited criticism of the authorities in power, whether political or religious? If you wouldn't live in these cultures, then why not? These are all examples of some non-Western cultures that exist now and have existed. Its not just a matter of politics--all of these countries and cultures could have embraced the freedoms and protections that we have in much of the West, but they haven't. I hear a lot of supposed intellectuals criticizing the West about its values, but very few of those persons are willing to live outside of the West. I'm not saying Western Civilization is perfect. There has been a lessening of the value of human life during the past few decades in the West, with widespread abortions and pushes for euthanasia, etc., but that's evidence of the breakdown of Western cultures, and the lessening in particular of Judeo-Christian influence. Still, the West has many great elements that are worth defending, and that are not present elsewhere as much, such as freedom, prosperity and respect for individuals.

People vote with their feet: Massive amounts of immigrants have moved to the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand for the past several years, and not to other places. Most of those immigrants see some big benefits in Western culture.

And regarding your statement that I "grossly misinterpreted" your initial question about the depictions of Indians and Colonial French, that's not all that I've been referring to and responding to in my comments--others here have been talking about the question of civilization and cross-cultural comparisons from early on.

Re: Indians, not as savages

wmarkley, good post, well said. You argue your points well. Can't agree with you more. I'm all for honoring all cultures and acknowledging misdeeds by the Whites and others towards the First Nations in the Americas but there seems to be a tendency towards political correctness when discussing history. In most cases in defining advanced civilization I'm sorry to say that Indo-Europeans and East Asians were indeed more advanced in many ways than the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. The statement that all cultures are the same is bunk- more correctly said would be all humans are innately the same. But not all cultures.

Re: Indians, not as savages

Thanks for your kind comments, Turtletommy. Sorry it took me a while to acknowledge them. Your point that all cultures are not equal is very true, and vital, and it is what Politically-Correct people are afraid to admit. Every culture has psychopaths and people who do evil things such as Vlad the Impaler, but not all cultures are equally advanced, prosperous or humane.

I challenge anyone here who thinks that all cultures are equal, or that Western Civilization is villainous, to put their money where their mouths are: go live in a culture that is ruled by Sharia law, or go live permanently as part of a hunter-gatherer group. Or go live in a culture that doesn't value free speech as much as the United States does. If you do, I don't think you'll like it very well, if you survive very long.

I'm moving on to other things. God bless everyone.

Re: Indians, not as savages

You're welcome wmarkley, thanks.

Re: Indians, not as savages

All of what you've written is so drastically oversimplified, I don't even know where to begin!

"The ancient Greeks gave to us a tremendous amount of good things that we are blessed with today, and many of those ancient Greeks believed in those things wholeheartedly"

Who exactly are you talking about here? Are you judging the entire civilization based on the writings of its famous academics, who made up a very tiny percentage of the societies they lived in? Let's not forget that Socrates was sentenced to death for speaking his mind by fellow Athenians. You can't generalize every single ancient Greek, especially considering every city-state had its own cultural outlook, as did every social class within those city-states, and every generation over the course of several centuries of history.

"we have a horribly large amount of people who don't think its worthwhile to fight to defend ourselves against radical Islam which wants to destroy our way of life."

Oh, the irony. Do you realize that a huge part of the reason we Westerners had all of this ancient Greco-Roman knowledge to influence us is because Islamic academics helped preserve it?

"a booming economy and thriving worldwide trade, a hunger for exploration and knowledge"

Colonialism was such a perfect system that everyone in the world benefitted from, right?

"great art, architecture and literature from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and afterwards, including the medieval cathedrals"

Are you trying to say that Native Americans were inferior in this regard? If you want to see some great Native American architecture, just look at Chichen Itza, Macchu Pichu, Chaco Canyon, or even some Northwestern plank houses and totem poles. Literature? The Popol Voh is a very interesting read, at least, for one of the few texts that didn't get torched by the "superior" Spanish conquistadors. Art? Just check out your nearest world art or anthropology museum. Northwestern painting, Southwestern pottery, Northeastern beadwork, Mayan textiles... It's pretty breathtaking in its own right. As far as music goes, I'm a big fan of North American flute music and Andean folkloric music.

"Christian missionaries tried hard, as seen in "Black Robe," to alleviate the sufferings of others such as American Indians."

And what can be said for the hospitable Native Americans who provided the early white settlers with food provisions, clothing, and cultural knowledge to help them survive and prosper in a completely alien environment? We see how well their hospitality was paid back to them. I think Columbus summed it up best in one of his letters, in which we finishes a description of Taino friendliness with a description of how easy it will be to conquer them.

"The most advanced Indian cultures in the Western Hemisphere still included human sacrifice, and in cases such as the Aztecs they committed a significant amount of cannibalism."

In case you haven't noticed, white people left a lot of blood on their hands, too.

"These groups also rested in large degree upon slave labor and other forms of coercion, and while slavery also existed amongst the British, Americans and others in the West, it was the British, the Americans and other Europeans who eventually abolished it, and before they abolished it many felt a conscience about it, spurred by ideas from the Greeks, Jews and Christians."

Right, the majority of Southern whites in the United States were all too glad to see slavery go. If we're bringing Christians and Jews into this, we might as well mention the passages in the Old Testament that justify slavery, too.

"Slavery still thrived though in Africa, Asia and among the Indian cultures, as it thrives in some "Third World" areas today."

How do you think the "Third World" came to be? Colonialism and capitalism had nothing to do with it, right?

Re: Indians, not as savages

>>>"Nevertheless, the Whites had more highly developed cultural and social systems,"<<<

I know wmarkley is not posting on here anymore, but I would just like to say that, while he/she made many strong points, the one I quoted above would be one that I'd be prepared to take issue with. I don't think such a statement would be made by someone who had seriously studied some of the Native cultural and social systems. A non-Indian who tries to study Native people's cannot help but marvel at the complexities that some of the nations had in regard to social systems, tribal structures, clan networks, inter-clan marriage, linguistics regarding familial relations, inter-tribal and intra-tribal relationships, etc., etc., etc. It gets pretty intricate, and without being too provacative, I think one could make the argument that Natives' comparative lacking in certain technological advancements (keeping in mind that they were also highly advanced in other areas, such as astronomy, irrigation, city engineering and development in places like Tenochtitlan, etc.) had much to do with their investment in social relationships, as well as their concepts of time, space, spirituality, etc., all of which differed greatly from other peoples such as Europeans.

Re: Indians, not as savages

"highly developed cultural and social systems"

Bull. As a homosexual, I'd be much better off living among the Lakota of the 17th Century, where I could be a Two Spirit or the partner of one, compared to living a repressed, closeted life in 17th Century France for fear of being burned alive.

You can compare technology between societies, sure, although I can be certain to tell you that it isn't hunter-gathering cultures in the Amazon Rainforest that are responsible for global warming, overpopulation, and dwindling world resources. Also, are the Tohono O'odham better off today, living Western lifestyles, when well over half of the population suffers from type-2 diabetes? Are the people of Nauru better off now that 80% of the population is clinically obese?

You see the world from a very black-and-white way of thinking. How is it objective to focus only on the bad in Native American societies and only on the good in European societies? "The Aztecs had human sacrifice, but the British had hospitals!" That's not a comparison.

Also, there's a big difference between appreciating indigenous societies and thinking they're "better" than Western society. Just because I don't think Western culture is better than its alternatives doesn't mean I find it worse, either. It's much more reasonable to objectively observe other cultures to see what, if anything, we can learn from them, instead of outright dismissing them as inferior. We all see how well that's worked over the past few centuries.

Re: Indians

Father Laforgue's character was brilliantly crafted throughout the entire film, courtesy of the actor who portrayed him.

I imagine Catholics who watched this film did not like how he was depicted or the religious undertones of his religious transformation - we have a disorientated Jesuit who devotes his life to a G-d he has never understood, participates in a mission in order to connect with G-d and to not subject himself any further to the scrutiny of the Church whom he clearly felt uncomfortable with, and paradoxically becomes connected to G-d through his love of the Algonquin (which exposes the hypocrisy of ecclesiasticalism and perhaps scripture, faith, and G-d) and because of his love for the Algonquin rejects his faith in G-d/connection with G-d, but is nevertheless paradoxically saved by his newfound devotion and love for all the Indians.

I thought the depiction of Algonquins and Iroquois was spectacular, and the depiction did not portray them as "savages" at all, the screenwriter and director developed the theme of moral and cultural equivalency between the Jesuits and Algonquins-Iroquois-Hurons and gave the moral advantage to the Algonquins-Iroquois-Hurons.

Father Laforgue's struggle to achieve syncretism - to reconcile the contradictions and Heterodoxy in his religious and humanistic beliefs, was juxtaposed against and made equivalent to the Indians' struggles in determining whether or not to accept the presence of European missionaries, their culture, their gifts, their use of the land and resources, and their G-d.

The brutality of the Iroquois was balanced by the harshness of the geographical region in which they lived - they had no choice but to exhibit aggression and inflict severe violence if they wanted to retain control of the land and resources they had - and by French missionaries' exploitation and colonization and demonization of the land and Indians - the missionaries needed the resources of the region and the trade route, they wanted the region to be the "New France" because they were competing with Britain and Spain and Portugal for regional dominance, and they felt they had to expurgate and convert and "save" the "savages".

Ironically, the French had to do what they did in order to maintain their level of power against their rivals Britain and Spain and Portugal, and to gain access to the raw resources Canada had (fur, lumber, fish, minerals, etc) in order to generate revenue for France and to ensure that new French colonies in Canada would survive.

As Daniel said, the Algonquins, Iroquois, and Hurons did everything they did for each other, while the French missionaries did everything they did for what they believed was G-d's will, and to further France's geopolitical influence and increase France's capitalistic ventures; this, as I mentioned earlier, is the reason why the Indians have the moral advantage.

The film does try to imply that the tribes triggered their own downfall by acquiescing to the materialism and false hopes of the missionaries by accepting the missionaries' gifts and metaphysical promises [Chomina: But we accepted their gifts! We have come to need them. This is our undoing--and it will be our ending... / Huron man at end of film: Do you love us? Then Baptize us...] instead of basically ousting the missionaries, but the implication fails because viewers know that the total number and logistical power of the Europeans was ultimately no match for all the tribes.

Brilliant film

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Re: Indians

Of course it's savage, but so is being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Remember learning about the Salem Witch trials, or any witch trials for that matter? The crowd cheered on as innocent people were hanged. Vlad Dracula liked to torture and execute his victims by slowly shoving a stake up their ass until it came out of their mouth. Ever hear about Countess Elizabeth Bathory? She would kill virgin girls in order to drink their blood and bathe in it too. Savagery is a part of world history. Claiming that American Indians were more savage was just an excuse for Europeans to take over land.

One thing that bothers me is how scalping has become synonymous with American Indians. They learned how to do it from the French. It's not something that they always did, it was something that was picked up by watching Europeans.


So, you've discovered my diamond mine?

Re: Indians

>>>"One thing that bothers me is how scalping has become synonymous with American Indians. They learned how to do it from the French. It's not something that they always did, it was something that was picked up by watching Europeans."<<<

This is simply untrue, but is a common myth these days - one that has come to bother some historians. Evidence (skulls, etc.) shows that scalping did, in fact, exist in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, with many indications that it existed there as early as well before the year 1,000 BCE. The idea that it came from Europeans was part of the 1960s-70s new history movement (sometimes called revisionism). It seemed like it made sense to a lot of people that it came from Europeans, but this has been disproven. There are many articles about it (some which examine digs looking at the material evidence), as well as analyses by the likes of James Axtell (among other ethnohistorians). To be fair, though, scalping was not a universal practice among all American Indians (which makes sense, with the incredible diversity among First Peoples).

Re: Indians

The French colonial term 'sauvages' isn't the exact equivalent of our modern English term 'savages'. In colonial French Canada, 'sauvages' was more equivalent to what we'd now term 'indigenous people' or 'native people'. It wasn't a derogatory term, although it did have a connotation of people who had a primitive culture and didn't read or write.
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