Monday, August 5, 2013


As some of you may already be aware, my brother and I have been working for some time now on a custom Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting called Crossroads: The New World. It's based on mid-1700's North America, with a few "improvements" (like Inuit frost-giants, a still-living Aztec Empire, and Chinese colonies on the west coast).

Naturally, this kind of exercise in world-building has involved a large amount of research into the world of the precolumbian Americas, and the early days of colonization by Europeans. As a byproduct of this research, I learned substantially more about Native Americans in my first two months of casual research in my free time than I did from kindergarten to my senior year of high school.

That's scary. I mean, that's seriously messed up. I realize that I've probably forgotten a lot of what I learned about the paltry handful of tribes we "researched" in fifth grade, but there's no way I used to know most of this stuff, 'cause when I'm reading it now, it's blowing my freaking mind:
  • The road system of Inka Empire was more than twice as long as the fabled Roman road system.
  • Cahokia was the largest city in North American history until the mid-1800s, and most Americans have never even heard of it.
  • The Pacific Northwestern tribes had caste systems and matrilineal nobility, and slavery was common among them.
  • At the time of their conquest by the Spanish, the Triple Alliance (a.k.a. the Aztec Empire) was the only society on Earth (as far as I'm aware) that educated girls equally with boys.
  • The U.S. government has officially acknowledged that the Great Law of Peace (or Gayanashagowa) of the Haudenosaunee ("People of the Longhouse," a.k.a. the Iroquois Confederacy) helped shape the U.S. Constitution, and American ideals of personal liberty and freedom.
I'm not blaming my teachers; I'm not blaming the public school system. I'm not blaming anybody. But there has been a massive oversight in the education of young Americans, and it needs to be corrected.

I pride myself on being a well-rounded, well-read person, with a fairly good grasp of history; not just European history, but all history. But even I was astonished and shamed ay my own ignorance of what had been happening before 1492 in the very continent I've spent my whole life living on.

Not only did I not know what was going on here before white people showed up, I never even thought to ask that question. I assumed, as I'd alwasy been led to believe, that Native Americans just sat around in the dark until white people showed 'em what was what.

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