M. Kenyon" <email@example.com>
Why is that Americans
don't make any note of the historical significance of the Mississippi
river prior to 1812, or at least prior to European conquest? That is
bizarre to me. No one thinks of the Nile that way. The Nile still evokes
stories of the pharoas, Alexander the Great, Ceasar, Islam and the like.
But when Americans talk about the Mississippi they talk about white
people. It is like a glacier melted in Minnesota in 1800 and poured
down a valley all the way to the gulf.
I live in St. Louis
and just a few miles from here on the rich flat bottom land are two
rectangular hills. They seem oddly located in a landscape that is otherwise
a sea of flatness. They arepyramids built 10,000 years ago by an ancient
native American culture. The larger pyramid has shape reminicent of
those found in South and Central America built by the Mayans and Aztecs.
At this site called Cahoakia Mounds there was once a celestial clock
that functioned similar to Stone Hendge. Scientists estimate that up
to 10,000 people lived in the surrounding city. All this at a time when
the people in Europe were still living in caves and beating each other
with clubs. A few years ago the highway department lopped off a chunk
of one of these pyramids to build a freeway.
The culture that built
these pyramids has virtually no importance to most modern Americans.
The vast majority of Americans would be quite surprised to learn that
there are pyramids in the center of the United States. While not particularly
estranged from our own genetic history we are estranged from the history
of the place where live. It is a history that happened to some other
race. Our history is that we came, we saw, we conquered. There hasn't
been a native American (even that term seems to me to be insulting -
"native people of theplace named after the European man who first
drew a map of it") in the St. Louis area since Buffalo Bill brought
a few plains indians into town with his road show.
When the Romans conquered
Egypt, it did not erasethe history of the Nile. In fact, if anything,
the Romans, in their zeal to prove how great they were, celebrated the
history of Egypt as if to say "here is this great and mighty culture
and we have conquered and it, it is now part of us, its history is our
history." It is as if the Roman Empire in its obsession with itself
had found a way to extend its own history back in time before the first
Roman donned a toga. There is something imminently ruthless in stealing
another culture's history, but something also compellingly humanitarian.
It is to say in the same breath, "we have kicked your ass because
because you were worthy of our conquest and we now make you one with
us." There is both the arogance of domination and the philial compassion
of adoption combined in one cultural expression.
But what about a race
that finds its adversaries so insignificant as to ignore their history?
There is no assimilation of these people. They are not treasured as
an object of conquest, they are despised as an obstacle to expansion.
There is something almost honorable in conquest and assimilation as
the Romans practiced it and something completely vulgar in the erradication
of the American Indian. Here in the Mississippi River valley it was
just genocide, worse yet, ethnocide. We did not fight, conquer and assimilate
thereby adding the value of another culture's history to our own, we
exterminated people we considered to be vermine burying them in an unmarked
graves. We not only took their lives, we deleted their history.
This utilitarian approach
to genocide is a cornerstone of modern American culture. The age of
the cultural machine. Making way for the next best new thing.
Not too far from the
Cahoakia Mounds is another bigger pyramid. In fact, I believe, that
from the top of this man-made mountain you can see the ancient pyramid
at Cahoakia. This new pyramid has four corners just like the one made
10,000 years ago, but is much, much higher. From it future archeologists
will find a record of our lives. It is the landfill serving the St.
Louis metropolitan area.