I will take history in any form you serve it up to me. Archeologists all over the world are constantly finding new connections and discoveries that change the way we see the world and what has gone before. It is an exciting and challenging time to be alive.
One of the most fascinating discoveries has been the realization that the continents of North and South America were not “discovered” by Columbus as we were led to believe. There is evidence that Chinese explorers were aware of the west coast and traveled north and south; we have all heard about the Vikings and their settlements in Vinland or eastern Canada. It is believed the Vikings knew of maps from Basque (Spanish) fisherman who for years had followed the ocean currents to the fishing grounds of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. And from evidence discovered around Lake Superior, historians believe people of the Minoan empire in Crete, trading during the Bronze Age used the Atlantic Ocean currents to great mines of copper from that area. There were stories and maps well-known in Europe that led discoverers to try their hand at tracking down the riches that were out there. Rest assured the European voyages of discovery were not for the well-being of the indigenous people, but rather how they could be exploited, enslaved, and their lands stolen for the riches they held.
Indigenous peoples were not “discovered”; they had cultures and histories that were as old as the Europeans they met. Indigenous people include the Aborigines in Australia, the Maori in New Zealand, the Hawaiians in the Sandwich Islands, the Amazon River people, and the complex societies of Native American tribes in Canada and the United States, South and Central America. Evidence is found of a vast network of trade that moved from coast to coast. The "Mound Builder" cultures in the U.S. span the period of roughly 3500 BCE to the 16th century CE, including the Archaic period, Woodland period (Calusa culture, Adena and Hopewell cultures), and Mississippian period.
Columbus did not stumble on a native culture that was in the last stages of decay, but rather met up with a proud people in tune with their environment and living in societies that were great and powerful and had long histories. One of the greatest forces that destroyed or weakened these cultures were diseases to which the indigenous peoples’ immune systems were not able to fight. Smallpox was a terrible scourge as well as measles. In the United States the military and political leaders took on a planned method to destroy the native tribes by wiping out their source of food, the buffalo. The destruction of the great buffalo herds destroyed the ecology of the land and its interaction with the native peoples.
That was followed by a systematic attempt to destroy the family and societal structures by removing the children from their families. The horrific results of that are seen in the recent finds of thousands of bodies of children who died at the boarding schools unknown to their families. Their bodies, found in mass graves, are being discovered throughout Canada at the present time.
Indigenous peoples throughout the world are reasserting themselves after centuries of slavery and horrible living conditions. Our President declared October 11th, 2021, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today. I encourage everyone to celebrate and recognize the many Indigenous communities and cultures that make up our great country.”
There is so much to learn about this world in which we live. That is the great gift of history.