Pre 19th century view of the Indian Mounds (week 2)

Pre-19th Century America saw much animosity thrown at Native Americans, they were seen as savages with little use for society, they were presumed so weak that the Spanish wouldn’t use them as slaves. However, the phenomena of Indian mounds was treated a little differently, obviously the general consensus of Native’s being uncivilized was still alive, but the settlers did link the Native Americans to European culture.

American Settlers desired to convert the tribes to christianity in order to ‘save’ them, give them use in society instead of visualizing them as squatters as opposed to rightful owners of the land. These squatters built beautiful ceremonial burial mounds in ancient times, the nature of which is perplexing to the settlers. As stated in my previous entry these mounds are most likely religious in nature as they carry about a certain system of symbols. The settlers equated these mounds to what they knew, and the puritanical settlers believed that they were connected to Christianity as “Knowledge about the world and its history was not as much molded by accumulated data as it was molded by Christian religious views.” It is said that Native Americans were not even considered human until around 1537 through a Papal edict. This was followed by determining their origins as it was widely believed that all humans were descendants of Adam, Eve and Noah.

Hence they used biblical writings to validate the existence of Native Americans and that they were descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel which is a concept similar to that of the Book of Mormon. Later in history this grew arguably more farfetched and some believed that the mounds were built by the ancient Greeks or the Phoenicians but these were quelled. At the time linking the Native Americans to the 10 lost tribes of Israel allows  the white settlers to feel as if they are responsible for the phenomena of the beautiful and mysterious effigy mounds as tributes to the Christian Gods. This view was further supported by the fact that many Native Americans were perplexed by the mounds, which in the book of mormon would explain that the Native Americans lost their faith as the end of mound construction is estimated to be around 1200 AD.

These views on the mounds may be farfetched but different peoples have different rituals. Some which other peoples will have difficulty deciphering but it shows how people seem to make sense of the world around them from what knowledge they have about the world and before the 19th century most Science (or making sense of things) was directly linked to the church hence it was an astute observation albeit misconstrued.

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About mikecrusoe

I am an international student at Lawrence University. I grew up in London, England and I rather enjoy tea and crumpets but that is for another forum.
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