Here Before Us

Earth Natives Have a Day to
Celebrate But Not Much Else

To call ‘indigenous peoples’ those who predate the European rise to global dominance is an insult and a reminder. Their subordination and misery were brutally determined by the so-called civilization. And their very existence is proof that, if it were up to them, the planet wouldn’t be in such dire straits.
Yet they survive. Thus today’s U.N. International Indigenous People’s Day, both a mournful date and a celebration of their endangered wisdom. Since you’re bound to read and hear all about the reasons that there are for grieving over them throughout the day, we’ll rather focus briefly on some of their legacy.
Even ‘packaging’ natives as part of a supposed worldwide collective is an expression of prejudice. Only in North America, there are more tribes and languages than Europe, Asia and Africa combined. And most didn’t even make it to our times. The same about the rest of the world.
A staggering diversity and history, dating back from at least 10,000 BCE, informs their status as the original lords of Earth. With the now nearly impossible virtue of having not spoiled the place, as we did in mere 500 years. All but wasted, though, when they met our truculence.
The fate of the Comanche, Hopi, Cherokee, and Navajo, Maya, Aztecs, Incas, Mapuche and Quechua, the Tupi, Guarani and Kayapó, plus million others, was sealed in 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed on what he called La Española. It’s been downhill ever since.

That’s no reason to dismiss their fight to protect their land, and our own survival, and criminalize their defiance. Indigenous peoples, native tribes, and forest dwellers, equal resilience. Their endurance is a testament to the power that preserved them to our age.
Moken children see 50% better than Europeans; Bolivian Kallawaya healers may speak the language of Incan kings; Sentinelese live on the Andaman Islands for some 55,000 years; Brazilian Awá-Guajá women care for orphaned monkeys by breastfeeding them.
400 years ago, the Incas performed head surgeries with better survival rates than Civil War-era medicine. Ancient cities uncovered under Guatemala City housed millions of Mayans. Aztecs philosophers would advise on matters of moral virtue and (more)
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Three First Timers

A Slave & a Woman Went Around the   
World & Marco Polo Did Get to China

Let’s get something out of the way: we’re not particularly keen in rating people and facts by numbers. So it happens that for every person who’s done something first, there’s probably a crowd who either got there before, or opened the doors for others to do it. As for events, the argument about the chicken and the egg is still cooking.
After all, when was the last time you were told, with a straight face, that Christopher Columbus was the first to land in America? But history does consider Marco Polo, Enrique de Malay, and Jean Baret, pioneers. Marco did get to China, it seems, and Enrique, a slave, and Jean, or rather Jeanne, were first to circumnavigate the world.
We’ll get to their travelogues in a minute, but let’s not make an omelet just yet. Yes, the eggs did come first, because of the dinosaurs and all that. What’s still not completely clear is why, of all sentient creatures, it had to be the chicken the one to cross that contentious road, and become such a scientific ruse. At times, it’s all a mere excuse to win a few rounds of drinks. Whatever.
The point is that most of what we call recorded history commits to paper only the touchdown moment, however precise it may be doing it. All the prep work, and the pep talk, and the agonizing nights spent pondering the what-ifs and the probable consequences are largely ignored, and if there’s no moment to crystalize on the record, chances Continue reading