[Ed. Note: This is part two of a two-part series. You can read part one here.]
The Noble Redskin, or Blueskin stereotype that James Cameron’s Avatar shoves down historically ignorant sci-fi geeks throats is one of the most damaging myths in our country’s history today. Cameron’s Na’vi are definitely warrior-like and have geographic based clans, the mountain people, the coastal people etc., but there is no mention of previous inter-tribal warfare and inter-culture wounds to mend. The Na’vi are good, noble and courageous while the humans, American type humans at that, except for the scientists are greedy, selfish and bloodthirsty. Michael Medved‘s excellent recent book The Ten Big Lies About America quotes less then politically correct Harvard archaeologist Steven LeBlanc showing that genocides and land raids amongst regional and ethnic groups have always been the norm for native peoples, regardless of ethnicity.
Historian Elliot West‘s award winning 1998 book The Contested Plains also points out that inter-tribal warfare before the white man hit the shores of North America claimed many more native lives then warfare between the tribes and Europeans. I guess Cameron’s Na’vi are just so much more evolved then our own real-life historical Indian tribes. That doesn’t even include the good old cannibalistic Aztecs who managed to make more then a few of the neighboring tribes part of their daily menu. Did you ever wonder how Cortez and his small band of merry Spaniards managed to make allies of almost all of the surrounding tribes? It wound up being pretty damn easy to do when the local bully has been using you and yours as a convenient Burger King for the last few generations.
Gang rape of female captives was also an accepted part of the spoils of war to most of the western tribes regardless of a warrior’s marital status and genocide against ones enemies was the norm. This wasn’t because Indians were evil, terrible people but because they were primitive stone-age warriors. That’s how primitive warrior cultures react to their enemies and if you’re not one of “the people,” i.e. their specific tribe like Cameron’s Na’vi tough luck, you’re out of luck. In 1841 American missionaries traveling with the Sioux were shocked as they watched Lakota warriors casually wiped out a Pawnee Village including all the women and children.
The Comanche on the Southern Plains achieved a reputation for capping off such gruesome “festivities” by skinning the female captive alive, or burning her to death – usually after they had bashed her baby’s head out against a tree. These terrible atrocities had nothing to do with the color of their skin, but everything to do with being a stone age warrior protecting his own resources that he had forced someone else away from by being meaner and tougher. When John Ford’s Texas Rangers in his 1956 classic The Searchers and real rangers went charging through a Comanche village they “didn’t have time to pick and choose their targets,” but when the fight was over the women and children were spared. On a History Channel show I was producing on the Comanche respected Texas historian T. R. Ferenback told me that, “If you’re looking for good guys and bad guys during the Comanche Wars, you won’t find them. It was a clash of two completely disparate cultures that just didn’t understand each other.”
The end game in primitive warfare is if you’re the enemy (anyone who isn’t from your tribal group) you can look forward to winding up face down, staked out, tortured and missing a good part of your hair. European primitive warrior cultures like the Picts in Britain and the Gaul’s reacted much the same way to the Romans. And don’t buy all that claptrap about the European settlers creating scalping, they didn’t. American Indian tribes really did start the practice, after a period of taking the whole head for spiritual reasons well before the white man ever showed up on the shores of North America. Occasional settlers and soldiers took scalps and it was usually considered a case of fighting fire with fire.
When Rogers’ Rangers, the great grandfathers of all modern Special Forces units, snuck 200 miles behind French and Indian lines up into Canada in 1759 to attack the Abanaki village of Saint Francis the streets of the village were lined with scalp poles. There were hundreds of them each with dozens of New England colonist’s scalps, women and children as well, on every pole. The French paid them for those scalps with guns and trade goods, sometimes the Abanaki were even sent on those raids by their Jesuit priests. Funny, many of them were Christian Indians like numerous tribal members allied with their British enemies.
The Ranger’s killed the warriors they found, though most were out with the French looking for them, looted the village of property taken from the settlements and a few Jesuit silver candlesticks, repatriated captured prisoners and told the Abanaki women, children and old folks to tell the warriors to stay out of New England or they’d be back to finish the job. Director King Vidor made a really great movie, Northwest Passage back in 1940 based on Kenneth Robert’s top-notch book on the Rangers and the raid. Spencer Tracy played Major Rogers and the film pulls no punches dealing with the brutal, primitive forest warfare of the French and Indian War.
Part-Seminole and leading Plains’ Indian author and expert Michael Terry describes in his frequent lectures that once European traders made it into Indian country the tribes clamored for the weapons and trade goods that were now available. The Sioux had been pushed out of their Minnesota homelands in the early 1700s by Chippewa’s who made good martial use of French muskets, steel knives and hatchets. And what did the Sioux use to trade for weapons to even up the score? Buffalo robes. That’s right Indian tribes’ East and West killed off more then their own share of buffalo to trade the skins for weapons and goods at the white folks trading posts. For a number of years British military leather was made from buffalo hide, hence the title “buff” leather.
Terry points out that well before the Civil War Plains’ tribes killed off incredibly large numbers of buffalo, usually calves and cows, always the fattest and best tasting without restraint, “The feeling was if God wanted them to have buffalo there would be more next year. Of course ask any rancher today what would happen if you killed off your youngest stock and breeding females and they’ll tell you that very quickly you that wouldn’t have any cattle left.” By the 1840s the Plains Indians had already sewn the seeds of their own destruction well before white hunters hastened the almost end of the buffalo in the 1870s.
Which brings to mind the question, just what do Cameron’s Na’vi eat? I don’t remember it being shown though alien wolf, rhino and cape buffalo-type creatures do menace Avatar/former Marine Jake Sully. They eventually come to the rescue helping to kill American/Earthling transgressors in the film’s final set piece battle. I guess James Cameron is a closet PETA member, too. Though I doubt the Na’vi are vegetarians, I’ve never seen a vegetarian yet with much testosterone or well-channeled aggression, unless it involves saving a whale or taking verbal shots at George Bush. President Bush was the real red meat of the far left. Though the appropriate and quite accurate modern southern and western description of vegan hippy-types as “lettuce heads” still basically holds true. Cameron’s Na’vi do the “we are the world’ bit by escorting the numerous earthling military survivors to their space ships to send them back to their “Dying planet.” Do I detect the heavy hand of Al Gore in a Hollywood fantasy film? God forbid, say it ain’t so.
Ever hear of the Fort William Henry massacre in 1757? That’s the big wipeout in Michael Mann’s excellent 1992 film Last of the Mohicans that had the guts to show Eastern Indian warfare in all its bloody reality. The British surrendered with a promise of safe conduct and safe passage. French officers tried to hold the warriors back, but the massed tribes allied with the French killed, scalped and tortured a good number of the departing British troops as well as members of their families. The only revenge the colonists had for a while was that Huron warriors dug up and desecrated the fort’s graveyard not knowing that some of the dead had succumbed to small pox.
Six years later during what is known as Pontiac’s Rebellion allied eastern tribes wiped out all of the British forts west of the Allegheny Mountains except for Detroit and Fort Pitt. They did it by promising safe passage, “Take your women and children and oxen and go.” Then once the gates of the fort opened tomahawks and war clubs ran red with British and colonist’s blood. For every treaty that white folks broke, this was a harsh reminders of numerous brutally broken promises by the tribes. By-the-by Fort Pitt’s commander had small pox infected clothing left outside of the fort to try to infect the warriors, but it didn’t work. Given the “no quarter” fall of the other forts can we blame him? An outer space massacre might have been a far more interesting end to Avatar, but of course would spoil any chance for future billion dollar plus box-office sequels. Cameron says he has several sequels planned so I guess more “evil” American military types are going to be back and this time they’re going to be really pissed off.
As I pointed out in part one of this essay the whole reason behind my history lesson tirade here is that since we don’t teach history any more, most of the last few generations get their history from movies and television. Occasionally they get it from leftist propaganda like Howard Zinn‘s ridiculous graphic novel The People’s History of the United States. The History Channel recently let Matt Damon turn Zinn’s historical monstrosity into a special with other far left actors like Danny Glover sitting reading that garbage to the audience. We need to start fighting back, talk with you’re kids about films like Avatar. Pick out books that you’ve researched and agree with yourself for them to read. Encourage them to challenge their teachers, but only when they have the facts to back them up. Will they run into the “Even if it isn’t true, it’s still the truth” attitude that is so prevalent on the academic left today, of course they will. But you have to fight the good fight and teach your kids to do the same thing. History and the truth behind the propaganda will help them become well rounded, courageous American’s who believe in the basic truths of the founding fathers.