Rick Santorum says “there is not a lot of Native American culture in American culture”

Former US Senator Rick Santorum was criticized for his comments last week that “there is not a lot of Native American culture in American culture.”

In remarks to conservative group Young America’s Foundation on Friday, Santorum argued that America’s culture has remained largely unchanged since it was born out of “Judeo-Christian” values.

Santorum, 62, a Republican from Pennsylvania who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and is now a CNN commentator, said there was “nothing here” before the arrival of European settlers.

“We came here and created a blank slate,” Santorum said. “We created a nation out of nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but frankly there isn’t a lot of Native American culture in the culture. American. “

The reaction to Santorum’s comments, which were first transcribed and publicized by Media issues for America, was fast.

Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called Santorum’s comments “hot rubbish.”

“Televising someone with their views on the Native American genocide is fundamentally no different than putting an outright Nazi on television to justify the Holocaust,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians , in a press release. “Any mainstream media organization would have to fire him or face a boycott from over 500 tribal nations and our allies across the country and around the world.”

Sharp said European colonizers found “thousands of complex, sophisticated and sovereign tribal nations, each with millennia of distinct cultural, spiritual and technological development.”

“Over the millennia, they have selected, cultivated and shown the world how to use plants such as cotton, rubber, chocolate, corn, potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco. Imagine the history of the United States without the economic contributions of cotton and tobacco alone. inconceivable, ”said Sharp.

Some have pointed out that Santorum’s comments are simply not historically accurate.

Robert P. Jones, a specialist in history and culture along with the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, called Santorum’s story an “ex nihilo myth” that “is simply white supremacy.”

In fact, Indigenous towns and settlements spread across the American continent before the arrival of Europeans.

Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire until its conquest and destruction by Spanish explorers in 1521 and renamed Mexico City, would have contained more than 100,000 inhabitants at its peak.

A settlement known as Cahokia, in what is now southern Illinois, would have been the largest city before Tenochtitlan, with over 10,000 residents around 1100, which then rivaled the population of some of the largest cities in Europe.

The St. Louis skyline is seen on the horizon beyond Monks Mound at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Ill., July 11, 2019.Daniel Acker / The Washington Post via Getty Images

“We have positive evidence of massive Thanksgiving festivals in Cahokia with many of the same ingredients that Pilgrims were treated to centuries later,” wrote Timothy Pauketat, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and University of Cohokia, in an email.

“I wonder if Santorum doesn’t appreciate that the absence of certain types of Native culture in some parts of the United States – say Pennsylvania – is because the Native people were exterminated there.”

Historians have pointed to the connections between America’s early founding period and one of the largest organized Indigenous governments at that time, which coexisted alongside various European colonies: the Iroquois Confederacy or the “Six Nations.”

A resolution of the House adopted the bicentennial of the United States Constitution in 1988 explicitly recognized this connection between this Indigenous government and America’s own founding documents.

Charles C. Mann, author of 1491, who chronicled Indigenous cultures before the arrival of European settlers, said in an email that “the contributions of Native Americans to American society and culture today are so diverse and comprehensive that they it’s hard to know where to start “.

“Until the end of the 19th century, European visitors (especially the wealthy) complained about Americans’ lack of respect for their social best, American women did not know their place, and society as a whole was ruled by the crowd. Mann wrote. .

“They have often blamed this on the pernicious social influence of the Indians. In my opinion, this is quite correct. Much of what we today see as the ‘American spirit of freedom’ owes its inspiration to to the original inhabitants of this nation, ”Mann said. .



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