A 'Native American' Wank?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by sansahansan, May 4, 2010.

  1. sansahansan Well-Known Member

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    Has there been, in AH history, a 'native american' wank, preferably led by the Iroquois?

    If not, I'm thinking a potential TL...
    A stronger earlier nordic entrance around 900ad that still fails, but brings 1) advanced social reforms, 2) ironworking and 3) advanced agriculture to the North East natives.

    With their climate, iron working, advanced agriculture, and possibly advanced childcare/midwifery, a population explosion occurs, triggering an agricultural revolution across North America, stopping only on the great plains, but technology is traded across nomadic hunters of bison into the western mountains by 1400, resulting in early medieval style cities in the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys by 1500... and ocean sailing experimentation by the time Europeans fully arrive in the Caribbean.

    Nasty shock to the early European colonists, isn't it?

    Too much a wank, or possible?
     
  2. GreatScottMarty Stuck with Laurens-Burr

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    I think you are ignoring some recent scholarship on the issues you present.
    1. the Iroquois were a matriarchal society with a representative democracy.
    2. Indian birthrates are not the issue, there is one demographic study that indicates that pre-contact population were much higher than previously thought, a study goes so far as to say that Central Mexico/Yuctan's population in 1492 wasn't equalled again until the 1970s.
    3. The Inca, and Aztecs had metal working but by a quirk of their cultural development really only used it for gold. Much like the wheel being only a child toy. These cultures didn't have a use for it and so ignored the possibilties.
    4. I don't have a cite for this but I remember there being a similar idea posted a feew months ago and one reason their was no metalworking was because of the lack of easily accessible deposits. In Europe a lot of the metal was close to the surface and so easy to find and eventually figure out while in America a lot of mining was exploratory and only after people had been rummaging around for gold did they usually find Iron, Tin, copper etc.
    5. Agricultural development wasn't lagging behind Europe but was in fact very far ahead. Throughout the Amazon and Central Mexican rainforest, there is evidence of man-made arable land. Any Ecologist will tell you that the Amazon is essentiall desert underneath all those tries (as the recent agricultural devastation indicates. The Indians managed the ecology in a way to create farmable islands. In fact this idea has been coming back into vogue recently as a way to combat famine in Mexico.
    6. As for massive cities, It is pretty obivous that these existed in Central Mexico but both amazonia and the mississippi river valley had these as well, the difference is they used wood. the Mississippi river is prone to flooding (until we began putting in locks in the 19th century) so the wooden structures got washed away or could be burned down. as for the Amazon we all know what wet climate does to wood, so any evidence of these massive civs would be literally washed away in a matter of a few years.

    The fact of the matter is that the original settlers of the American continent were not backward or in need of European advancements (except it seems a better immune system) but had figured out a more harminous way to live with each other and with nature.

    Now if you can figure out away for both sides of the atlantic to keep a cultural and therefore up to date immunities than you have a chance.
     
  3. EternalReboot Well-Known Member

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  4. sansahansan Well-Known Member

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    Interesting points... and very well taken.

    I think I misspoke though... I was (in my head) equating 'agricultural revolution' with 'fuedalism'

    So if the Vikings brought iron working, mining, AND prospecting :) (they wanted it, they went and found it) as well as the concept of fiefdom - lord and servant....

    Ah alright fine, I yield :) I don't see how you can do an Iroquois wank and make it reasonable.

    Even as a representative democracy, etc., I had been thinking of their confederacy that included other tribes as well.

    Ah well, goodbye challenge, can't be done lol

    Back to my YD concept & research.
     
  5. Simon Thread Killer Extraordinaire

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    The 'best' situation I can remember seeing the Native Americans in for a fair while was in The Crown and the Tomahawk timeline where after a different War of 1812 they received Michigan, Illinois, and the Indiana Territories to create their own country of Mishigama as a British protectorate. That's pretty far from a wank but it's the one where they seem to have come out as far ahead in the deal as I've seen in any realistic timeline.
     
  6. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    The Vikings could bring a wealth of domesticated animals. The horse, sheep, cow, pig, chicken. Their most useful technology would be runic alphabet, iron and sailing.

    The sail was unknown to the Americas expect among the Andean peoples. North American sailing vessels could make contact with Amazonia and acquire Terra Preta technology to boost agricultural output. Contact with Africa and Europe from America also becomes possible.

    Iron working would greatly upgrade Indian weaponry. The iron axe is a force multiplier for falling trees and building cities. Iron armor, arrow heads, the list goes on. Perhaps the Vikings can pass on by second hand, the solenarion arrow guide used by the Arabs and Byzantines. This simple device would be very easy to copy for the Indians. And of course the horse would revolutionize warfare and agriculture, especially with the wheel.

    There's no way for me to understate the importance of written text. The creation of a literate class would do wonders.

    The native people in North America perhaps best suited to exploit these advantages would be the mound builders of the Mississippi region. Historically some have attributed Viking contact to their relatively advanced stage of civilization. Imagine if such contact actually happened.
     
  7. Art Well-Known Member

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    There's always H. Beam Piper's "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen", where the Aryans head east instead of west...
     
  8. Umbral Member Monthly Donor

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    There were areas where the Amerindians were ahead, and there were areas where they were behind. Also, they were not a single homogeneous group. Just because the Central Americans had cities and huge populations doesn't mean the inhabitants of Northeastern America couldn't do completely different things with cities.

    Things that the Norse had that the Amerindians didn't:

    Writing
    Domesticated animals; pigs, sheep, cattle, horses.
    The wheel
    Best sailing technology for the area in the world.
    Metalworking. Iron especially, and bog iron is quite accessible in the area.
    And amazingly, the blast furnace!
    Currency
    The stirrup
    Various crops

    Now, iron, sailing, the wheel and the stirrup individually revolutionized warfare. If you dump them all on an area at the same time, you get a sci-fi scenario seen from the other end.

    Also, when you add up the increased food production from better crops, domesticated animals, and sailing tech next to one of the best fishing grounds in the world, it is huge.

    The democratic traditions of the Iroquis league seems like they would mesh well with the Norse Thing practice. And while the Norse were not matriarchal they did have the stronges legal position for women in Europe at the time.

    There are some disputed theories that the Iroquis league dates back to 1142. Sufficiently current to say that "for alt hist purposes I will assume this theory is correct".

    At the time Norse Greenland was independent and occasionally in contact with North America. The climate had not yet taken a turn for the worse, but quite a few would probably have liked more fertile land.

    A contact that gets Greenlanders into the formation of the League could tranfer massive amounts of skills to the Americans, with the Greenlanders small numbers leading to them being subsumed easily over time.
     
  9. GreatScottMarty Stuck with Laurens-Burr

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    Its not a bad concept and I am waiting for someone to do it right. My point basically was that Native Americans didn't necessarily need the technology they need the immune system. The truth is if you go back and read the original sources from Puritans and early Spanish explorers they tell of people as far as the eye can see. One explorer of the Amazon said you could not paddle more than an hour without finding a large village. The point is the demographics were there, the technology to feed themselves was there, the metallurgy knowledge was there. They just couldn't fight off smallpox. If you can find a way to keep up there immune system maybe some kind of trading network between iceland/greenland Norse, a Harold Harddrada rulled England, and some trading posts on the coast of OTL Northeast US and you can have it.

    I will grant you that the Runic alphabet is a pretty good thing but to assume that all Native Americans had no writing system is kind of bunk. The Mayans had pictographic codices and through the use of pictography, became one of the most advanced scientific societies of their time in the world. It seems that the Inca used knots on rope to record their history, who knows what the Mississippi people did there whole civilization was flooded away by massive floods in the 1100s (they built mostly with wood for construction and floated it downriver thus stripping the northern regions of tree cover creating massive floods) that's why you only find their temple mounds.

    I will say one more thing about animal domestication, the truth is they did domesticate what was useful to them. There is some evidence to suggest that the plains Indians used fire to herd the buffalo and keep the woodlands are bay. Another point, one early explorer of the Ohio valley compared it to a tree garden. The thing is some native American people had learned to shape there ecology around their environment. Yes, the stirrup, horses, and iron working would be nice but they need the diseases more.
     
  10. sansahansan Well-Known Member

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    wikipedia, our friend... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox
    The origin of smallpox is uncertain, but it is believed to have originated in Africa and then spread to India and China thousands of years ago. The first recorded smallpox epidemic was in 1350 BC during the Egyptian-Hittite war. Smallpox reached Europe between the 5th and 7th centuries and was present in major European cities by the 18th century. Epidemics occurred in the North American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    So, a few thoughts (and I guess I'm not completely abandoning the thought)

    I agree with iron axe as a force multiplier, and the sailing/fishing areas.
    I wanted to disagree with the 'they had cities', but research proved me wrong. So sure, they had demographics, they did not have the population density of the european cities - but, as I am learning quickly, it all depends on what time you are considering.

    Take Cahokia vs London England

    "In west central Illinois, at the mouth of the Spoon River, they established a large town surrounded by smaller communities, and a large cemetery now known as Dickson Mounds. Near East St. Louis, Mississippian people built Cahokia, one of the largest Native American cities in North America-larger, in fact, than many European cities at the time. Cahokia was a political and religious center of Mississippian life."

    "Archaeologists estimate the city's population at between 8,000 and 40,000 at its peak, with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center. In 1250, its population was larger than that of London, England."

    In 1250... London was only around 25,000.

    But just 200 years later, with the technological & sociocultural edge of London... even the 40,000 of Cahokia's peak in 1250 falls short of the 50,000+ in London, and the gap keeps widening in the years to come as London keeps growing.

    But, consider London versus the richer, far vaster, environs of the Mississippian culture (Cahokia) when added to everything in between them and the Iroqouis confederacy, if the two were on level technological fields, and the edge is given to the Native Americans via the influx of a representative democracy and free market capitalism versus Londons Monarchy.

    Ever played CivI, II, III, etc.? :) Clearly, the Indians would have outpaced and outteched England (and thus, by extension, Europe) in just a few hundred years.

    Now, as for disease... if they had the population densities (or greater) than Europe, yes they would have been devastated by strange European diseases... unless they'd managed to get contact w/ Europe/Africa and developed the immunities (one possibility)

    Another possibility is that they could have their own diseases ready by the time the Europeans arrive, which would then have devastated Europe as well.

    I lean towards earlier contact from west to east though.

    Say 900-1000, influence from vikings brings technology to the Iroquois and other tribes. Social pressures within another 100 years accumulate into virtual city-states w/ representative democracy and the beginnings of mercantilism (which the natives had anyway, at least the beginnings of it). Another 200 years (1400) to unite/combine/merge other tribes across the vast majority of the Eastern seaboard & Mississippi River valley -- mostly seaboard due to sailing & fishing, but interior as well with more easily shaped wood (iron) and improved agriculture. Around 1400-1500, contact to S. America (Aztecs? others?) and full contact with Europe, along with disease and devastation (both ways I wonder?). With greater population though, are able to meet European colonization almost on equal footing.


    At all possible, or still wildly implausible???
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2010
  11. GreatScottMarty Stuck with Laurens-Burr

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    ok the thing that killed the Indians when they contacted the Europeans was the disease. The aztecs lost to Cortez because they were universally hated by their subjects and then they got smallpox or an equivalent. The Inca, Civil war then disease. The Naragansetts (of Squanto fame) met some early colonists got smallpox and were devastated by the time the Pilgrims got there.

    See my point it comes down to disease. I suggest that your Norse bring livestock, a lot of livestock and some of them are sick with cowpox and then you are able to have that active immune system when the Euros come in 400 yrs.
     
  12. 9 Fanged Hummingbird Some Random Guy

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    @Umbral: You could make an argument for the Aztecs and Mayans as having currency. Trading cacao beans for other items does sound more like bartering, but cacao beans were treated as the typical trade item and were pretty standardized, with standards for other objects being the price of however many beans. Like it was pretty set that rabbits were 10 beans.

    @Scott: The Mayan system was more syllabic than pictographic, just a minor nitpick.

    @sansahansan: Again, you make the mistake of assuming all Native Americans were homogeneous. Iroquois had the workings of a democracy, but the Mississippians were a monarchial society with a class system was perhaps even more rigid than that of Mesoamericans, where you could rise above the ranks of commoners by your deeds or riches.
     
  13. St. Just STOP BUMPING STOP BUMPING STOP BUMPING THREADS

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    Easy: no colonization followed by discovery of iron by one or more groups. Continue with llamas being traded for carts so that both Inca and aztec have pack animals and carts, and we're set.
     
  14. imperialaquila Aspiring Thru-Hiker

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    And when all the people that drive said carts are dead of smallpox, where are you?

    IMO, the diseases are the main thing that killed the Indians. However, the Europeans also had great advantages in warfare that made the job of conquest much easier. The biggest ones I can think of are iron weapons and horses. If a group of Vikings can bring horses, cowpox, and knowledge of ironworking across the Atlantic in the 1000s, then 500 years later the Indians will be in a MUCH better position to resist the Europeans.
     
  15. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    I know in the Civ games democracy is considered the most advanced political achievement, but this is not the case in the real world. Democracy is simply the default political state among small primitive tribes. Marx argued that early societies were so unproductive and had so little property that it simply didn't pay to be a tyrant. When there's no division of labour and no surplus of production, the leader has nothing to gain. It's more like a pain in the ass to be chief.
     
  16. othyrsyde Sana ka'aha yo pendejos!

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    I know by this point, its too late, but my archeologist friend told me the Comanche were beginning to make leather armor with adaption of the horse, similar to the stuff in Mongolia and other steppe peoples. It was abandoned as guns were adapted; but I could believe the composite bow and other developments weren't far behind. Sadly, this cultural evolution only resulted because of European colonization, and the steppe empires of Asia were long being beaten back by this point as well.

    Though IMO Marx had a pretty good analysis of European society of his time, with some insights on where capitalism would lead too, he still suffered from a racist superiority complex that was common and encouraged in his era.

    ***

    I have to say it does shock me, the attitude of so many people that Natives need some outside European savior or model to pull a wank. As so many others pointed out, there were some very advanced and sophisticated cultures that could have grown into powers, given more time and immunity to disease.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2010
  17. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    The tribes of the northwest did make composite bows, though not as advanced as those in Asia. The Penobscot Indians of Maine actually had a pretty cool compound bow. In both cases the northwesterners and northeasterners had to innovate to compensate for the poor quality of wood available to them.

    If only they invented the solenarion device, with that and iron arrow heads they could pierce Spanish plate armour.
     
  18. othyrsyde Sana ka'aha yo pendejos!

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    Yeah, I remember reading about the Northwest tribes having them too. It was a record of an old elder, I think from around the 1930s or 40s, who was showing the anthropologist how his father taught him.
     
  19. imperialaquila Aspiring Thru-Hiker

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    Looking through this, it really comes down to smallpox and iron. If the Indians had immunity to smallpox and the knowhow to make iron tools and weapons, they could have been much more successful.

    Now, the trouble is getting immunity to smallpox to the Americas.
     
  20. jycee Well-Known Member

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    Everything here has excellent points and I like the idea of north eastern American Natives receiving a tech boost from the Vikings.

    However possibly the most important (and most likely to end up as a wank) acquisition the Iroquois (or any other tribe could make) would be wheat. If form some reason the Vikings had brought some seeds in their boats and wheat ended up in the Americas the variety of food supply would increase dramatically, resulting in higher population density, which would in turn drastically affect culture.
    Getting the horse would also be a huge advantage.

    Writing possibly in third place, though more importantly a good number system.

    Ironworks, sail, furnaces, etc. Do not matter as much, once you have high population giving you many workers and thinkers you can figure that on your own in a relatively fast time. Higher population density is also good for building a better immune system (having animals around even better), as diseases frequent cities a lot more and a higher population survives it. However you would not be able to develop an immunity to smallpox unless you have a strand of smallpox around. But you could develop immunities to smaller diseases as well other local diseases that would keep the Europeans away.