I’m fresh back from a visit to Disneyworld with my 5 ½ year old daughter. We did all the parks, and we had quite a few dinners in EPCOT.
My daughter LOVED the Spaceship Earth ride/exhibit that went through the history of humanity, from the development of language to facilitate hunting strategies, cave drawings to record important events, then onto the development of papyrus, the first written documents, the creation of mathematics, the alphabet, the printing press, on and on to computers and space travel, and then the opportunity for each rider to use a computerized program to create a portrait of a future with flying carpool systems and furniture consisting of recycled components and urban homes with interior gardens.
It was a spectacular journey through human history. But a selective journey. The Egyptians invented paper. The Greeks mathematics. The USA was credited for most of the later achievements.
It was a very Eurocentric journey.
As I said earlier, I don’t know very much about the Sioux. But I do know a lot about the Mayans. And as I sat next to my Mayan daughter, I felt a real pang of resentment that the spectacular accomplishments of her ancestors were not even noted. Yes, it appears that the Egyptians developed paper first. But the Mayans developed it independently, and used it regularly to document their extensive scientific observations before and during the centuries that Europe languished in the dark ages. And their mathematical system is, in so many ways, superior to the standard system that we use today. Calculations are just easier and more intuitive.
And yet the Mayans did not merit a mention in this exhibit. Nor, of course, did the Sioux. The winners write the history books.
I don’t know what the Sioux accomplished during the thousands of years they occupied the land that would become the Dakotas. I don’t know what they knew of mathematics or the stars or the properties of the native plants or the ways in which they used the resources available to them. I don’t know if they thrived or suffered during the ugliest centuries that my ancestors survived. But I do know that what little is left of their culture is a valuable part of human history that should not be erased.