Twenty-five years ago, when the internet was still young, I came across a very convincing article about how the song Indian Reservation, a Hot Number 1 hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1970, was actually written by a Lakota soldier in Vietnam. This turned out to be complete hooey. Trying to relocate that article proved futile— it has disappeared from the internet.
Indian Reservation was actually written by a white guy, John D. Loudermilk, and first recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959. Rainwater claimed to be a quarter Cherokee, but he was not an enrolled member of any Cherokee tribe. Loudermilk told some wild stories about the inspiration for the song and claimed to be an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, all of which turned out to be hooey as well.
It amazes me, how easily, how flimsily, people can just brazenly make stuff up, whether white or Native. But what amazes me more, is how readily, even desperately, we want to believe it. But both people, the person who makes stuff up, and the person who believes him, have agendas that suspend ethics for one, and trigger credulity for the other.
Desperate to establish an independent romanticized identity, Native people are prone to distort reality. Just as science has struggled for centuries combating Christian and Muslim superstition, it must now contend with Natives hawking pseudoscience agendas. These Natives acquire credentials which validate them by white standards, and then operationally reject that science in favor of tribal creation myths and oral “history.” You would think they would feel shame at some point and have a deeper commitment to truth than their agenda, but that part of their mind appears to be missing or is critically compromised.
Native pseudoscience purveyors, and their misguided white supporters, believe that by invalidating western science they validate tribal oral histories. Take the horse, many Natives are trying to prove the horse was in North America already when Columbus landed at San Salvador. This is an agenda, and agendas spell bad science, whether you are the person initially peddling it, or the person subsequently defending it. None of them can explain why the western scientific and historic version of horse origin in the New World needs to be deconstructed, or what the agenda would be for western scientific orthodoxy to distort horse origin in the first place.
Western science asserts the horse evolved in North America, went extinct here, but before it did horses migrated into Asia. The horse was then brought back by Europeans tens of thousands of years later. They assert this because that is what the archeological and historical record indicates. Science is not a single, definable group. Only the scientific method is universal, the scientists themselves are as varied as the general population. It is not impossible, although very difficult for science to stubbornly cling to a misguided orthodoxy in the face of mounting contrary evidence. Case in point, dinosaurs. When Yale’s John Ostrom advanced the theory back in the 1960’s that birds were the descendants of dinosaurs, and that dinosaurs might have been feathered, he was met not only with resistance, but ridicule.
When communist China extended a hand of welcome to western paleontologists, absolute proof that dinosaurs were feathered jumped out from the fossil record. While some scientists dispute whether birds evolved from dinosaurs, almost no one disputes they had feathers. This is an example of how orthodoxy can be deconstructed.
But there is a huge difference between that example and what Native pseudoscientists are up to. Ostrom deconstructed orthodoxy by evidence. The fossil record backed him up. But Native deconstructionists hawk their agenda in the face of overwhelming evidence it is pseudo. Because they don’t care about truth. They have blind faith in their agenda, and to advance that agenda, they will throw the scientific method under the bus in a heartbeat.
(Contact James Giago Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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