The Huffington Post has published a piece lamenting the ignorance of Native American history among students in America. HuffPo tells the story of Sarah Shear, an assistant professor of social studies education at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona, and her research, which supports her claim that American students do not know Native American history and instead are given a history that reinforces the triumphs of colonialism.
The research is to be published in the journal of Theory & Research in Social Education. Shear opined:
I gave a class about indigenous stereotyping. Some students looked perplexed and asked the basic questions: How many indigenous peoples are still alive, what is a reservation, do indigenous people still live on reservations. I wanted to take a step back and, as a former public school social studies teacher, I wanted to see what was going on.
Shear’s data attests that almost 87 percent of state history standards never mentioned Native American history after 1900, and 27 states never named a single Native American in their history.
Shear pontificated, “I think especially in the telling of U.S. history, there is a specific narrative that really does not lend itself to incorporating the voices of people who are not considered members of the dominant cultural group. There always has been and continues to be people from all parts of the education system and greater American community that support a master narrative of the U.S. that’s unified and complication free.”
HuffPo comments, “Only Washington state uses the term ‘genocide’ to describe the experiences of indigenous peoples in the United States.”
Shear continued, “This master narrative presented in U.S. history, it’s as though indigenous people did not matter, which is so far from the truth. This idea that the expansion of the U.S. westward to California was this natural progression, this destiny, that it was meant to happen — the consequences of that are huge, the consequences of that are so often left out of the narrative.”
Shear claimed her students were upset after she informed them of their mis-education: “They’re so frustrated that they never learned and I quote them, ‘I never learned what really happened’ especially given (Thanksgiving). They learned a very specific narrative of Thanksgiving and never learned the greater complex narrative of not only the relationship between the indigenous people of New England and the settlers, [but] how those relationships changed over time.”
Before Shear teaches her students the immorality of the white man, she might want to consult S. C. Gwynne, the author of Empire Of The Summer Moon, which revolves around the rise and fall of the Comanche tribe. Gwynne has said, “No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.” He spoke of the “demonic immorality” of Comanche attacks on white settlers; the Comanche usually tortured, killed, or gang-raped their victims.
Or she could note the discovery in South Dakota of a mass grave containing the remains of over 500 scalped and mutilated men, women, and children that occurred in the 14th century.
As much as HuffPo wants to indict the entire straight white male contingent before Thanksgiving, history is slightly more complicated than they believe.