I got 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus in my big-stack-o-birthday books and I am so glad I picked it up! It was an incredibly good read on the state of the ‘New World’ before Columbus arrived in 1492. Written by Charles Mann and published in 2005-there were still a boatload of things I haven’t ever heard of – or thought of.
In a nutshell, Mann’s argument is that for centuries European, Western and other First World thinkers, scholars and writers have used a reductionist lens through which to view the peoples who occupied the Americas before invasion. Mann posits, and I say-proves, that Native American peoples where manipulating the land, each other, and the invading Europeans for their own motives. For example, the Americas had more people in 1941 than Europe did, including bigger and cleaner cites, namely Tenochtitlan. Amazingly, Native Americans farmed and cultivated the rainforest without destroying it but instead preserving it. Kinda blows the ‘pristine myth’ outta the water, huh?
Because Mann focuses on different tribes, nations, cultures and time periods, it can get a bit hard to follow. I am an incredibly linear thinker so I would have appreciated one of the those middle school timelines to visually see how all the distinct groups interacted with, influenced, and inherited from one another.
If you are interested in catching some good non-fiction, I would recommend 1491 because it really did challenge some of things I had thought I knew about Native Americans.