Criticalmick's Reviews > Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America: A History Forgotten

Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America by George F. Feldman
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's review
Jun 12, 2009

it was amazing
Read in June, 2009

Nature is red in tooth and claw. Scholars who have looked past A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving into what really happened with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock will know: human history is equally savage, bloody and brutal.

George Franklin Feldman uses original written accounts and archaeological evidence to illustrate the barbarity that is often cartooned out of American history books. The European explorers we have named parks, highways, towns, counties and
funky cars after were not on a five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. The natives they encountered were far from unspoiled agrarians who would cry at the first sight of litter. In more than a dozen chapters stretching from prehistory to the Indian wars of the Western Frontier, Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America: A History Forgotten highlights select warlike tribes, conquistadors, Puritans, and horrendous individual atrocities which show our lauded forefathers at their worst.

One example chapter covered the Calusa Indians of south-western Florida. Their name for themselves translated as "fierce people." They truly lived up to it. Whether dominating surrounding tribes or massacring Spanish sailors when treasure fleets wrecked upon the Florida Keys, the Calusa delighted in slavery, torture and human sacrifice. One young castaway, Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda, was allowed to survive, and spent twenty years among them. Upon being released, Fontaneda returned to Spain and penned a memoir. Feldman brings its grisly details of life among the Calusa to modern readers. Diaries of missionaries, soldiers, and other original observers are extensively featured. The research supporting the chapter is impressive. These sources even convey an account of the first "mooning" in American history- of Catholic missionaries by the Calusa, who were firmly dedicated to their own religious beliefs! The author's interweaving prose is informed and engaging. A clear impression is conveyed concisely: the Calusa are the natives who shot Juan Ponce de Leon when he attempted to establish a colony in 1521, and whose savage ferocity held off Spanish might for two hundred more years.

Feldman's book is culturally balanced: equal barbarity is illustrated from Indian, English, American, Mexican and Spanish parties. To continue with Floridian examples, Feldman describes the expedition of a conquistador named Panfilo de Narvaez. His force was annihilated, and given their extreme violence, arrogance and inhumanity, that was no injustice. Reading what horrors these nations inflicted upon each other, it becomes easier to understand the genocide which occurred on this continent. Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America lets us know what lessons from history modern man should never be repeating.

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