Indian Legends – Sources & Reliability in Professional Writing

Today I am taking a quick side trip from my Marden family research to bring attention to a history article published by Dick Eastman on July 9. Yesterday I posted my comment on his blog in response to the article. I believe the message is very important and worth repeating and expanding on here.

The title of the article is “Knights in Shining Armor in the 1300s… in Massachusetts?

http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2011/07/knights-in-shining-armor-in-the-1300s-in-massachusetts.html#comment-6a00d8341c767353ef01538fdc864d970b

Here is my comment beginning with the quote that set me off and with a little added formatting for emphasis.


“Micmac Indians of the 14th century told legends of a blond haired, blue-eyed god who they called “Glooscap,” …”

Shame, shame, shame on you Mr. Eastman!

Did you check any of your “facts” before publishing them for the whole world to read?

I have been reading with interest a number of popular genealogy blogs lately discussing the importance of good research and proper citations. Then to see Dick Eastman (an icon of the online genealogy world!) publish unsourced “Indian” information. Oh, but “Indians” don’t count, right! We can say anything about them we want cuz well they are all gone, right, and they didn’t bother to learn how to write so we have no records to check. So, that gives a person the right to say what they want about “Indian”  history. Right?

WRONG!

Why do we continue to treat “Indian” history different from the non-Native history of this land? Why do we accept anything and everything written about them as truth without ever checking the facts? We’ve taken everything from them and we continue by taking their stories and taking their culture heroes and turning them into something of European origin, as if anything good that is “Indian” must have come from European origins?

Certainly, when a person like Dick Eastman says something, well, of course it must be true. He would not pass on questionable information would he, at least not without warning us it is unsourced?

If anyone is ever going to stop this madness it must start with our online leaders. We MUST hold ourselves to the same standards for Native history as we do for our own families.

Please folks, don’t spread unsubstantiated information on the web, not our own family history and certainly not the family history of others, even if they are only just “Injun” stories. Unless the information is told to us by actual Native People who have grown up within Native Communities, or we have done significant original research ourselves (not just repeating what other non-Natives say), we should avoid republishing unsourced “Indian” stories for the world to read and continue believing and spreading into infinity.

Nancy Lecompte
Research and Education Director for Ne-Do-Ba
A 501(c)3 Maine Nonprofit Corporation
http://www.nedoba.org
www.nedoba.wordpress.com


I case you haven’t guessed – I am very passionate about this subject. As a researcher I am constantly dealing with the non-Native need to spread romantic “Indian” stories. How is a novice ever to figure out what is and what is not true Native history if the folks writing “Indian” histories never check their sources, cite their sources, or make an effort to find real sources to begin with?

Stories are the family history of Native People. Perhaps the stories are not your family history but they certainly are someone’s family history. Do you like other people using your family history in inappropriate ways, subverting it and fixing it to fit the picture they want to see? Why should we think Native People will feel any different when they see their history bastardized?

A variety of recent genealogy blog posting by various well known genealogy bloggers have discussed the need for good citations. They are also pointing out how important it is to determine the strength or reliability of the information we use before turning the information into family fact. It should be no different when we are researching history in general or the culture of others.

Think about it! It is irresponsible writing and a terrible affront to Native People. But of course, every good story needs a good “Injun” legend to spice it up. Let’s keep kicking them and taking more from them – it’s the American way.

And we wonder why the Native People of this country don’t want anything to do with non-Native People? They don’t want to help us solve our “Indian” in the family tree mysteries. If they do, we will just take it and run, leaving them to eat our dust once again.

Non-Natives just don’t seem to grasp the true concept of a gift for a gift. There are a few responsible family historians out there, but I seldom hear from them. I am talking about a person who spends time within the actual communities their ancestors may have been a part of, taking time to learn about the community from the community, taking time to gain the trust of that community by their actions, taking time to care about the community and to give something back to it. They are few and far between. Most everyone I come in contact with is just looking for instant answers and romantic tales to add to the family tree.

And then Dick Eastman makes a huge blunder according to his own peers by not properly researching and sourcing his article and the cycle continues.

Sorry Mr. Eastman, it’s nothing personal — but really it is!

CanyonWolf60x60Canyon Wolf 
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