Saturday, September 11, 2010

Native Lessons

Did you know that the Monacans were chosen at random to leave the Ohio Valley when the Aboriginals had over populated the region? And, did you know they were a peace loving and sedentary (meaning they lived in one place and didn't move) tribe? And, would you believe that they were pushed out of their territory in Central Virginia by the Iroqois?

Our class was so fortunate to have a fabulous docent, Victoria Ferguson, meet us at Natural Bridge and share her immense and personal knowledge of the tribe. Victoria, a Monacan tribal member, works with her husband and the other docents to bring authenticity to the village at Natural Bridge. No bigger than rabbit, to quote "Swingblade", Victoria quickly brings authority and dignity to her presentation. She is energetic, interesting, and proud of her heritage. Her research shows in the common sense analysis she brings to her talk.

We learned so many things in the two hours she so generously gave us! Among the most interesting to the class were:
  • The Monacans' oral tradition focuses more on survival than religion. As Victoria stated, "Which would you try to learn? How to pray or how to live? I suspect to live. For this reason, the oral tradition focuses more on how to survive than to pray. I can do that on my own!"
  • Monacans' lived in at-tees which were constructed of saplings strapped to form a foundation and then covered with what appears to be thatch from cattails. They did not use bark or skins as these were not as readily available as the cattails.
  • After contact with the Europeans, the Aboriginals became more possession oriented and began to exploit natural resources to trade with the Europeans. This caused turf wars as well as murder and loss of food goods (such as deer) necessary for survival.
  • And, most tragically, the Aboriginals suffered heavy loss of tribal members (nearly 80-percent) within 10 years of contact with the Europeans. Talk about genocide...

What an interesting day! I will have pictures to share in the next day or so. Our class is constructing an online resource so that we can share our experiences.

Who can guess where we might go in October? I am up for guesses!

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