This continues my previous post of checking Wente’s facts, followed by some considerations with little more detail to nuances and specificity:
3. ‘North American native peoples had a neolithic culture based on subsistence living and small kinship groups.’
‘Borrowing technology and ideas from the Midwest, the nomadic peoples of New England transformed their societies. By the end of the first millennium A.D., agricultural revolution was spreading rapidly and the region was becoming an unusual patchwork of communities… Each village had its own distinct mix of farming and foraging.’ (Charles C. Mann, author and correspondent for Science and Atlantic Monthly)
As many of us know now, it started a couple of months ago with Dick Pound, a member of the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee and McGill University chancellor, stating that four hundred years ago what we today know as Canada was a land of savages “with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent.” He was making a comparison to China and later, after criticism by First Nations organizations, argued that his words were taken out of context. The AFN demanded an apology, others called for his resignation. British Columbia’s Premier Gordon Campbell called his remarks ‘disgraceful.’ Then on Saturday October 25, the Globe published Margaret Wente’s inflammatory column in which she argues that while stupid, Pound’s remark was correct. She backs her argument up with sweeping statements picked up from a single book that sounds like sloppiest scholarship on Aboriginal people in recent years. The problem is that this kind of haphazard, ignorant and arrogant writing (and scholarship) seems to be gaining ground.
On the Christmas eve, we went to see my grandmother at the seniors’ home in Utsjoki. Inside the building, we walked through a lounge area where the TV was on. Nobody was watching it but the program caught our eyes walking by. It was a Finnish Christmas program, an animation for children. What caught our eyes was a character dressed in a Sami gákti (traditional outfit) holding a Sami drum, govadas. As there is a sad history of stereotypical portrayals and representations of the Sami in the Finnish media – a history that hasn’t quite ended – we had to stop and check the program out.