Monday, February 24, 2020 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Peter Farb (1925 – 1980)


American author, anthropologist, linguist, ecologist, naturalist and spokesman for conservation, and free lance writer for 30 years in the areas of the natural and human sciences.
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Peter Farb
In 1680 the Pueblo Indians, led by a prophet named Popé who had been living in Taos, expelled the Spaniards. ...About one fifth of the Spanish population of 2,500 was killed outright, and the rest fled to El Paso, Texas. Everything of Spanish manufacture or ownership ... was destroyed. The god of the Spaniards was declared dead, and the religious ways came out into the open again. ...The Pueblo confederation broke apart and the people warred among themselves. In 1692 the Spaniards marched back to victory.
Farb quotes
Only a few years after the permanent settlement of Virginia, some fifty missionaries arrived to begin the massive task of converting the heathen. The Indians on their part, did not respond with alacrity to the idea of adopting a culture that to them, in many cases, seemed barbarous, indeed.
Farb
General Phil Sheridan... had urged the destruction of the bison herds, correctly predicting that when they disappeared the Indians would disappear along with them; by 1885 the bison were virtually extinct, and the Indians were starving to death on the plains. ...the Indian Wars finally ended; and with the enforced peace came an economic recession in the West, for the United States government had spent there about one million dollars for every Indian killed by 1870.




Farb Peter quotes
The desire of Whites to occupy Indian lands, and the constant rivalry between French and English traders for furs gathered by the Indians, led to many skirmishes and several bloody wars, all of which involved Indians on both sides. The Whites were determined to fight it our with each other --down to the last Indian. These battles culminated in the French and Indian War of 1763, which represented a disaster to many Indian groups in the northeastern part of the continent. In May, 1763, an Ottowa warrior by the name of Pontiac fell upon Detroit and captured the English forts, one after the other. Lord Jeffry Amherst, who commanded the British military forces in North America... distributed among the Indians handkerchiefs and blankets from the small pox hospital at Fort Pitt--probably the first use of biological warfare in history.
Farb Peter
There are strong parallels between the hope for salvation of the Jews and the hopes of the Indians who followed native prophets, between the early Christian martyrs and the Indian revolts against United States authority, between the Hebrew and the [native American] Indian prophets. ...the Jews and early Christians have served as models for oppressed peoples from primitive cultures... Almost everywhere the White missionary has penetrated, primitive people have borrowed from his bible those elements in which they saw a portrayal of their own plight...They regard the arrest and execution of a native on charges of being a rebel against White authority in the same terms as the trials undergone by the Hebrew prophets or the passion of Jesus.
Peter Farb quotes
One of the things that amazed the earliest explorers, almost without exception, was the hospitality with which Indians received them. When the Indians later learned that the Whites posed a threat, their attitude changed, but the initial contacts were idyllic. ...Hospitality and sharing were characteristic of all Indian societies.
Peter Farb
Almost every messianic movement in the world came into being as a result of hallucinatory visions of a prophet. One point must be emphasized about the prophet of a messianic movement: He is not a schizophrenic, as was so long assumed. A schizophrenic with religious paranoia will state that he is God, Jesus, the Great Spirit, or some other supernatural being. The prophet, on the other hand, never states that he is supernatural--only that he has been in contact with supernatural powers. (Of course, after his death, his disciples tend to deify him or at least give him saintly status.)
Farb Peter quotes
The Puritans in New England were not immediately presented with an Indian problem, for diseases introduced earlier by trading ships along the coast had badly decimated the Indian population. Yet when the Pequots resisted the migration of settlers into the Connecticut Valley in 1637, a party of Puritans surrounded the Pequot village and set fire to it. About five hundred Indians were burned to death or shot while trying to escape; the Whites devoutly offered up thanks to God that they had lost only two men. The woods were then combed for any Pequots who had managed to survive, and these were sold into slavery. Cotton Mather was grateful to the Lord that "on this day we have sent six hundred heathen souls to hell."
Farb
After the Spaniards settled the Southwest, the Navajo began another burst of cultural borrowing--or, more actually, stealing. Spanish ranches and villages were so depleted of horses--not to mention sheep--that by 1775 the Spaniards had to send to Europe for 1,500 additional horses. After the Pueblo Rebellion against the Spaniards was put down in 1692, many Pueblo took refuge with their Navajo neighbors--and taught them how to weave blankets, a skill for which the Navajo are still noted, and to make pottery. During this time the Navajo probably absorbed many Pueblo religious and social ideas and customs as well, such as ceremonial paraphernalia and possibly the Pueblo class system.
Farb Peter
Europeans had often thought that somewhere in the world must dwell a noble race, remnants of that golden age before man became corrupted by civilization. As reports of Indians filtered back to Europe, a distinguished French philosopher of the late sixteenth century, Michelle de Montaigne ...concluded that the Noble Savage has at last been found, for the Indian "...very words that import a lie, falsehood, treason, covetousness, envy, detraction, were not heard among them." Montaigne presented the idealized notion about the aborigines ...that foreshadowed the Noble Savage of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Peter Farb
Before the passage of the Removal Act of 1830, a group of Cherokee chiefs went to the Senate committee that was studying this legislation to report on what they had already achieved... They expressed the hope that they would be permitted to enjoy in peace "the blessings of civilization and Christianity on the soil of their rightful inheritance." Instead they were... denied even the basic protection of the federal government. The Removal Act was carried out almost everywhere with total lack of compassion, but in the case of the Cherokee--civilized and Christianized as they were--it was particularly brutal.




Peter Farb quotes
Following the War of 1812, the young United States had no further need for Indian allies against the British, and as a result the fortunes of the Indians declined rapidly. By 1848, twelve new states had been carved out of the Indian's lands, two major and minor Indian wars had been fought, and group after group of Indians had been herded westward, on forced marches, across the Mississippi River.
Peter Farb
Invariably the prophet emerges from his hallucinatory vision bearing a message from the supernatural that makes certain promises: the return of the bison herds, a happy hunting ground, or peace on earth and good will to men. Whatever the specific promises, the prophet offers a new power, a revitalization of the whole society.
Farb quotes
...in 1863, Colonel Kit Carson was ordered to clear the country of Navajo Indians and to resettle any survivors at Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico, where they could be "civilized." Carson's strategy was the same as that applied against the Plains Indians a little later: He destroyed the Navajo food base by systematically killing their livestock and by burning their fields. Carson's "Long Knives" (his soldiers so named because of their bayonets) also cut off the breast of Navajo girls and tossed them back and forth like baseballs. ...Ultimately, about 8,500 Navajos made what they still call the "Long Walk" to captivity at Fort Sumner, three hundred miles away. After they had been there for four years, the Navajo signed a peace treaty that entitled them to a reservation of about 3,500,000 acres, much less than they had held previously.
Farb Peter
A culture that is in the process of being swamped by another often reacts by physically grappling with the outsiders. But it may wage a cultural war as well. Such defensive actions have been given various labels by anthropologists: nativism, revivalism, revitalization, and messianism. All are deliberate efforts to erect a better culture out of the defeat or decay of an older one. ...The reactions of primitive peoples overpowered by Eurasian colonial empires have usually been much more extreme. Their lands appropriated, their social system ripped apart, their customs suppressed, and their holy places profaned--they tried to resist physically but they were inevitably defeated by the superior firepower and technology of the Whites. As hopelessness and apathy settled over these people, the ground was prepared for revivalistic and messianic movements that promised the return of the good old days.
Farb Peter quotes
...five thousand finally consented to be marched westward, but another fifteen thousand clung to their neat farms, schools, and libraries "of good books." So General Winfield Scott set about systematically extirpating the rebellious ones. Squads of soldiers descended upon isolated Cherokee farms and at bayonet point marched the families off to what today would be known as concentration camps. Torn from their homes with all the dispatch and efficiency the Nazis displayed under similar circumstances... No way existed for the Cherokee family to sell its property and possessions, and the local Whites fell upon the lands, looting, burning, and finally taking possession.
Peter Farb
Millions of dollars have been expended to excavate and transport to museums the tools, weapons, and other artifacts of Indians--but scarcely a penny has been spent to save the living descendents of those who made them. Modern man is prompt to prevent cruelty to animals, and sometimes even to humans, but no counterpart of the Humane Society or the Sierra Club exists to prevent cruelty to entire cultures.
Peter Farb quotes
About 1790 the Cherokee decided to adopt the ways of their White conquerors and emulate their civilization, their morals, their learning, and their arts. The Cherokee made remarkable and rapid progress in their homeland in the mountains where Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina meet. They established churches, mills, schools, and well cultivated farms... they adopted a written constitution providing for an executive, a bicameral legislature, a supreme court, and a code of laws.
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