We had our first discussion yesterday, and I thought it went quite nicely. We began with the simple question: what would you do in a contagion? I like the question because as I added on layers of context, different students had different answers. At first, the class univocally said “we would leave.” But then, what if it was your mother who was sick? Oh, now that changes things. Perhaps we would stay. But what if you had a child that you feared could get infected by your parent? Oh, now that changes things even more. And then, where do you go? Do you join another tribe? How would that work? What language would you speak? What rituals would you perform? How would decisions be made, and how in the world can you decide all of this while grieving so much death. As James Merrell so nicely discusses in his article on “TheIndians’ New World,” death is more than death. It transformed every issue, question, and problem for so many tribal peoples.
|John Vanderlyn, "Landing of Columbus"|