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Commotion: Native American Influence on U.S. Culture

Rebecca Bowen Rebecca Bowen
2nd May 2021
Commotion: Native American Influence on U.S. Culture
Myths abound regarding Native influence on the U.S. government (Getty Images).

The Claim

The founding fathers started with “nothing.”

Emerging story

At the end of April, CNN Analyst, Rick Santorum addressed the Young America’s Foundation and gave a speech called “Standing Up For Faith & Freedom.” During his speech he delivered the following statement: “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” His statement went viral, igniting waves of offense.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar’s analysis finds Santorums’s comments to be completely untrue. When European colonists arrived in what is now the United States there were already 60 million people living here. The arrival of the settlers brought disease, famine, and war and killed millions in what is known as The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, which was devastating both for humanity and the environment. Historians and scientists report that up to 90% of the population of the Americas (among both Natives and settlers) died by disease, causing their agricultural practices to return to a natural state. In doing so they removed so much carbon from the atmosphere that the temperature of the entire planet cooled the Earth. 

Culturally, the U.S. as we know it is dependent upon many of the contributions by Native Americans. We eat food they first grew, and they helped the first settlers survive and learn to grow crops on their own, including potatoes, beans, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, nuts, melons, and sunflower seeds. Many critics of Santorum’s speech also pointed out that the Iroquois Confederacy had a direct influence on the United States Constitution. 

In an editorial for the Washington Post, professor Michael Leroy Oberg pointed out that myths about Native American influence on American culture abound on all sides of the debate. He noted that the peaceful education of the founding fathers to welcome the Iroquois type of democracy is a farce. Oberg, who has written several books on Native American history, claimed that Iroquois leaders sought a consensus rather than a majority rule: mutual agreement and understanding was sought rather than one side bowing to the whims of the other, which is more similar to the U.S. constitution.

Large cities and vast empires existed before the colonists ravaged the Americas. In their journey of persecution and oppression, they began the near-destruction of entire civilizations. 

Native Americans are extremely upset about Santorum’s inaccurate depiction of the founding of the United States but CNN has yet to make a statement or sanction Santorum. Native groups are calling for his removal.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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