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Alan Taylor notably discredits the conventional, childlike view of American History in the introduction of his bookAmerican Colonies. In his view, the popular cultural tale of white men escaping from an oppressive monarchy to a land of freedom and opportunity appeals, “because it offers an appealing simplification that contains important (but partial) truths.” (Taylor x) Thankfully, he offers a more detailed description of how Native Indians and Europeans interacted.
I was impressed that the author strove to include the history and background of the native people. Taylor forced me to think not only about the acclamation of the colonists as they came into the new world, but also of the changes this immigration had on the Indians and the environment of North America.
Along with the section in the first chapter on how the Paleo-Indians lived in small groups by following and hunting different herds, I was really interested in how these small tribes grew and evolved into a settlement-like agricultural community. His discussion on the development of horticulture, by the Indians, through crossbreeding maize with wild grass to “create hybrids” (Taylor 10-11) with all of these protective, beneficial qualities sheds light on the innovation and intelligence of the Indian people. It was uplifting to read that not all Europeans thought of the Indians as savage beasts to be tamed and dominated, and that some of them even regarded them “by nature admirably ingenious.” (Taylor 20)
I drew a parallel between the 12th century powerhouse of Cahokia and our own modern world. In discussing Cahokia, Taylor says that as the growing population exhausted natural resources such as trees, animals, and crops, “the environmental strains became exacerbated into a severe crisis…” (Taylor 16) The doubts and rebellions caused by this overpopulation was a factor that led to the collapse of Cahokia. In modern times, we are obviously not dealing with the collapse of our civilization, but we are beginning to face similar problems with overpopulation and the drain on natural resources.