north america isn’t so expansive…

Hey Y’all  –  I’ve been reading a lot lately,  not really writing anything fun,  mostly just proposals and what not.  Anyways,  the post-contact history of North American west of the Mississippi has been on my mind lately, especially the parts related to federally-based fears of Native uprisings and the speed with which Native responses to foreign aggression could be spread. The available readings on Ghost Dance are incredibly interesting – I think its fascinating that the ritual (in its many forms) spread from Nevada to the Plains, and into parts of the Plateau, Southwest, and Great Basin in less than a century.  In a nut-shell, Ghost Dance was a ritual used by a variety of indigenous groups to recreate their world – the ritual often involved sweating, dancing, and fasting for days on end to bring about a specific set of changes. Given the numerous pressures facing native society in the 18th and 19th centuries (such as disease, depopulation, European/American aggression, and loss of tribal lands), Native groups across America were seeking to remake their current world into one in which they could live peaceably. Often this involved removing all foreign trappings from their lives as well as reverting to their pre-contact lifestyles. Of course, with their hunting lands broken up by increasingly numerous American homesteads, farms, and American territorial lands, the return to the “old ways”, to put in systems terms, was a double bind. The American philosophy – Assimilate and be removed or Remain culturally Native and be removed – really paid no heed to the wants and desires of indigenous North Americans.

What I find remarkable is the spread of Ghost Dance through Great Basin peoples like the Shoshone and Arapaho into the Siouan groups of the northern Plains, and the subsequent dispersal of the practice across the West.  The Cherokee of eastern Tennessee also had a Ghost Dance that was documented as early as 1830 – of course, the post-contact landscape of North America was incredibly complex and significantly changed from the days before Columbus,  but still, I like to think indigenous North Americans communicated fairly broadly across the continent (Hopewell interaction sphere anyone?) for most of prehistory.  This may have been easier up and down the river valleys of the Southeast than across the greater plains and SW deserts, but at least one obsidian point from Spiro has been sourced to the Pachuca source in Mesoamerica, and some obsidian from Moundville has been sourced to the Rockies, so humans did move around in prehistory,  quite a bit I think.

Anyways,  my thoughts for today, back to work…



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