Homework: The Pristine Myth

Your homework tonight is to read, annotate, and comment on the article I handed out in class today– an interview from The Atlantic involving the author of 1491, Charles Mann.  Use what you have read to answer the following discussion points:

  • One of Mann’s central points in his book 1491 is that there is evidence that the population of the Americas prior to European contact was much, much higher than previous studies suggested.  Why does Mann say that this is a contentious issue among historians and environmentalists?

  • What is the “pristine myth” Mann and the author of this article, Katie Bacon, are referring to in the title?  Why might it disturb or upset some people to think of native American peoples radically altering their environment?

  • In what way does Mann think Amerindians were a “keystone species?”  What does he mean by that?

  • Do the Americas Mann describes– one filled with people who radically altered their environment by regularly burning the prairie, managing woodlands, and possibly even planting the Amazon– match with your existing ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia?  Why or why not?

Remember, normal commenting rules apply: one good comment which adequately addresses all of the above points can earn up to 95%, while a comment AND a reply to a colleague can earn up to 100%.  Also, I’ll be working at the Magnet Open House this evening, and will therefore not be on my phone every moment– so if you post a comment and don’t immediately see it, don’t panic.  I probably just haven’t had a moment to read and approve it.

 

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71 thoughts on “Homework: The Pristine Myth

  1. 1. A particularly apparent reason (or so many believe) is that agriculture could not have been sustained by such a large population without absolutely destroying the environment. Mann counters this by stating that there were multiple ways of working around this, and that the soil was still very rich when Columbus arrived.

    2. The so-called “Pristine Myth” is the idea that before Columbus arrived, America was sort of an “untouched Eden” (Mann 1) where animals were plenty and people were few. Many listen to this myth because they are disturbed by the idea of Native Americans “messing up their environment”, the reason for this being that they want to think of Pre-Columbus america as an untouched land, or “Nature as it oughta be” (Mann 2).

    3. Mann states that the Amerindians were a keystone species in the same way that Europeans were a keystone species. “They were Human beings, and human beings are extremely powerful at shaping the environment around themselves” (Mann 5). He believes that because they shaped the environment (though in this case without obliterating it), they are a keystone species.

    4. I can’t definitively answer yes or no to that. While I definitely believed there were more people than the “pristine myth” claimed there were, 112 million people does seem like a bit of a stretch. But hey, then the Europeans happened, and as we all know from the black plague, disease can be devastating. While i’m not 100% on either side, I AM more inclined to go with Mann’s argument than I am to go with the Pristine Myth.

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    • I definitely agree with your first point about the debate surrounding agriculture, however I also feel it is important to recognize that it inflicted upon many individual’s views of the European explorers, and they refused to accept the new ideas for fear of turning the explorers into the villains of the story.

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    • I do appreciate your idea of how the Americas were before contact with Afro-Eurasia. I do agree that 112 million can be a stretch, but if Europe and Africa can grow to be such large regions, it’s only logical for the Americas to have that same potential too, yes?

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    • I was also taken aback by the count of 112 million people in the Americas. I do not entirely doubt it, but it did seem like a reach to me from how drastically different it was from my initial perception of the population. I think this major difference in viewpoint today has something to do with the way native populations are portrayed in the media, education, etc.

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    • I agree with a lot of your views on the subject how you see this topic from your own point of view and analyzing the article. And I believe the same for your response, but especially the part i was interested was on the last question how you can go either way had me thinking as well.

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  2. Mann Believes that the debate over whether or not large populations existed in the Americas before Columbus arrived is so controversial because many claim that if it were true, it would label the europeans of the time as mass murderers. Others refuse to even consider the theory because it contradicts their ideas that the Americas were some perfect, untouched piece of land before the european explorers arrived. There are also many arguments over whether or not the sort of agriculture needed to support such a large population was even possible, considering the poor soil quality yet potential tree-based food supply. Supposed “monuments” are also questioned seeing as they may have occurred naturally, however many find this claim incredulous.

    The pristine myth referred to in the title of this article is the idea that the Americas were completely untouched by man before the arrival of the european explorers and acted as a sort of paradise on earth. Some modern day individuals might find the idea of Native Americans drastically altering the land off-putting because they previously thought of them as passive conservationist. The reality of the situation however, is that the Native Americans most likely burned down a large portion of the Great Plains in order to make it more suitable for the larger animals of the area, therefore increasing their food supply.

    Mann Believes the Amerindians were a keystone species because they were the only species capable of altering the land such to the extent that they did: humans. A keystone species is simply a species who has some degree of control over whether or not other species survive or thrive.

    The Americas that Mann described do not fit what I previously envisioned them to be like before Afro-Eurasian contact. This is mostly due to the fact that I have been underestimating the Native Americans and their abilities. I used to envision the native peoples as a few small tribes here and there; definitely not over one hundred million inhabitants. I also pictured them as tree-hugging hunter-gatherers with primitive tools and no means of altering a landscape to any significant extent, let alone burning an entire prairie.

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    • I absolutely agree with your point of underestimating the power of the Native Americans. I personally think that current American society has tried to suppress the abilities of the past and present Native Americans, almost as if their history was a shame and that we, as a country, should not really focus on it due to the fact that its so “depressing”. However, the Native Americans should not be known just for their illnesses; they flourished in the arts and linguistics, developed semi-complex societies and shaped the land to what it is today. In comparison to your experience, I learned that the Native Americans were either warriors or peaceful environmentalists, and that there was no in between. After reading this article, i feel that it opened my eyes to the actual impact of the Native Americans on what is now the United States.

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    • I most definately agree with your first paragraph about why this claim cause so much conflict. We like to look at history and think of it as preetty or not as ugly as it actually is. We also want to spare ourselves from the guilt and the damaged ego that come with knowing that there is a possiblity that our people completely annihilated another race of tens of millions of people. This resulting in a case people just not willing to face the horrifying possibilty and just ignore the idea all together, sticking the pretty, not as ugly “Pristine Myth.”

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  3. Mann thinks that the idea of lots of Indian population living in the Americas prior to European settlement was a controversial one. He states it is an “academic left wing attack on western civilization as inherently murderous”. Some other historians don’t like the high death count because they want to view the environment as a ecological touchstone.

    The Pristine Myth is that the Americas were very open and grassy with not a large human population. The idea that the land t was tampered with by humans upsets people for several reasons. Historians wanted to view the land as pure and untouched so the idea of human influence on the land took away the Natural Wholeness of the land. Also, calling the land “Wilderness” makes it economically appealing to people. This made settlers want to move to the grassland areas and settle on “new” land.

    A keystone species is a species that affects the survival and abundance of many other species. The American Indians were the keystone species of the Americas because they had a huge environmental and natural influence on the land and those living there. They cultivated the land and hunted and gathered which shaped the environment. They were considered to be the alpha or apex species.

    Before reading this article, I did not think that there were nearly that many people living in the Americas. I knew that there were civilizations but I had no idea that the population was estimated to be in the millions. This changes the way that I view the colonization of America. Rather than European exploration being a discovery of new land, it was more of a repossession of already occupied land. Knowing this information makes me have a much different view of European colonization in the Americas.

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    • I agree with your points here. As kids we are taught of the few Indians who occupied the Americas rather than the vast complex societies that were destroyed through the explorations of Afro-Eurasian people. However, I really wouldn’t classify the conquest and large death totals of the Americas as a repossession of occupied land. Europe was just arriving and its hard to take back something that was never theirs in the first place.

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    • I agree with your points here, especially what you mentioned in your first paragraph of how many scholars avoid discussing the high death counts of the Amerindians due to European settlement. This can be looked at as a negative impact to the environment in more ways done than the population of the Amerindians themselves (which was rarely harmful).

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    • i agree with your points made especially the one made of the American colonies. It is very weird to think that there were millions of Indians pre- exploration period and that most of them were wiped out due to europenan diseases. It makes one think what would have happened if the Indians didn’t go through the demographic calamity. Would we all still be of European decent or of native Indians?

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  4. 1) The reason why the population of the Americas was a problem was because there is little archaeological evidence and too much gray area to conclude how many people were actually there. Also, the archaeologists and people of the debate state, “they want to view the pre-contact environment as an ecological touchstone.”(Bacon 2) which basically means that there would be too many Native Americans to not have an undisturbed environment. Plus, the rain forest is not an ideal place to start a civilization due to poor soil.
    2)The “Pristine Myth” that the author is referring to is that the Americas were simply untouched until the Europeans arrived. The reason why people may be upset about the Native Americans altering the environment was because there is no way the environment can be restored from 10,000 years ago so historians and educated people just assume that the Americas were prairie grasslands where the buffalo grazed.
    3) Amerindians were a keystone species much like how there were keystone species in Europe. They cultivated and built the landscape. The Amerindians shaped the grasslands all the way into the Amazon rain forest.
    4) My vision of the Americas matched with the prairies filled with grassland and buffaloes and the Amerindians hunting them down. I visioned not very many people living there, and there was big open spaces. After reading this article, it would make sense having this huge population because the land was fertile and because why not? Also, I thought that the native Americans did not really impact their environment by not cutting trees and using everything they had.

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    • What do you mean by not cutting down trees? Like the whole last sentence confused me. But besides that last part I agree with most of everything else.

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    • I completely agree with your points that you made. It is true that since there is a lack of evidence that can prove the Native americans could alter the land, historians and people tend to think that the Americas were an open grassland or wilderness area.

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    • I agree with your analysis on the article, particularly on Question 4. You say, “I visioned not very many people living there, and there was big open spaces”. I can see why people would have this sort of rhetoric about the native peoples because that’s really how society makes us believe, in my opinion.

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    • I agree with all your points, especially your first one. The environmentalists want to view the Americas as an ecological touchstone but a high population of Indians living there interferes with this.

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  5. Mann suggests that the reason that the idea of the Americas being heavily populated before the arrival of Europeans is contentious among historians and environmentalists because it ruins the idea of a perfect wilderness. Bacon states that Mann surveyed the contentious debate, and concluded that it has became a problem because of the “important ramifications for how we manage the ‘wilderness’ we still have left, and if indeed it really is wilderness, untouched by the hand of man” (Bacon 1). Having too many Indians around interferes with the “ecological touchstone” of nature and all of its glory (Bacon 2).

    The “pristine myth” that both Mann and Bacon are referring to, is the idea that the Americas – in 1491 – “were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land” (Bacon 3). People become upset with the idea of native Americans altering the environment because humans seek a natural, non man-made environment on Earth that is open for exploration and discovery. The thought of native Americans tampering with the natural region disturbs the idea that people wish to hold on to.

    Mann believes that Amerindians were a “keystone species” for the same reason that Europeans were a keystone species in Europe: because they were humans, and “humans are incredibly powerful at shaping environments around themselves” (Bacon 5). A keystone species, in other words, is a species that “affects the survival and abundance of many other species” (Bacon 5).

    The Americas described by Mann do match my existing ideas of the Amerindians prior to outside contact with the outside world. I believe that if Europe, Asia, and Africa all had existing populations that grew to be very elaborate and powerful, it only makes sense that the Americas did, too.

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    • I agree with you all the way on your comment to this article. I believe your keystone species are just humans that shape their environments around themselves because that’s what people today in our community an dithers do in order to survive. I also agree with you on why people get upset or offended because they want it natural and not man mad because it lacks a meaning and special purpose to some cultures.

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    • Caitlyn, I agree with your first three prompt answers but the fourth really surprised be because it is controversial to what we were taught as children, but it is logical. Your view of the Americas is different from the majority of the classes’ view in terms of the population of the America before European contact. But did your previous ideology of the Americans coincide with the article’s information concerning the agricultural aspects of the Amerindians?

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  6. Question 1:
    Mann says that this is such a controversial issue because large populations interferes with people’s belief of the Americas as a “pre-contact environment” and that the increased death rates would make the Western pioneers murderers.

    Question 2:
    The Pristine Myth is the idea in which the Americas were filled with sparsely scatted Amerindians, with the land unmarked. This idea is unsettling to many people probably because they are afraid the Indians ruined their image of how the environment. For example, say someone was hoping for the Americas to be large forests with little open space, the Amerindians burned quite a bit of forest for farming.

    Question 3:
    Mann thinks that the Amerindians are a keystone species in the way that they drastically changed the environment. This is due to their role in maintaining the environment while changing it.

    Question 4:
    The idea I was taught and grew up on, was that the Americas were sparsely filled with Amerindians and that most of the terrain was untouched before the arrival of Afro-Eurasia. This does not match with the Americas described by Mann because of the amount of people present and their impact on the environment.

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  7. Alli Moss:

    1.
    I believe that this debate is contentious due to the fact that historians must look at how we currently manage/ managed the wilderness. As well as the fact that people do call Europeans murderers for going to the Americas.

    2.
    The ideology of pristine myth is the idea that before European colonization, grasslands for wide and sparsely populated.Some may find the fact that natives altered the environment disturbing because it goes against the person’s preconceived ideology that natives were travelers who didnt due anything with the land other than hunting and small scale agriculture.

    3.
    Mann believes that the Amerindians were a keystone groups because they were the only group able to directly affect the life of other creatures and plants in the extent that they did. Mann defined a keystone group as a group that had a significant and long lasting impact on the present or future populations.

    4.
    Mann’s perception of the early Amerindians does not fit my earlier schema of an Amerindian because in previous courses, i was told that they were more like pastoral nomads who had no interest in altering the environment. As a child, we learned simply about the bigger bands of native Americans (like the Mississippians or the Navahos ) and not about any other groups with different cultures or agricultural styles. Therefore, my perception on the Amerindians may be skewed for what they actually were like.

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    • Keara to Alli
      I agree with your view on the Americas before Afro-Eurasian contact. Due to the implied references in previous classes that the area was just one large land mass with little groups of people here and there living off the land, but barely affecting it. The America that Mann presents is one that does not fit my previous thought in that I do not see the widespread populations however they were the stereotypical pre-European peoples.

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    • I totally agree with your responses and I can totally relate to how your childhood skewed your perception of Amerindians.

      I completely love how you explained that many people cannot let go of their preconceived thoughts and accept new information found concerning the Amerindians. Many people love to think they’re right, and very few like to admit their ignorance once the truth comes out. I also appreciate your acknowledgement of how your perception was skewed by your childhood environment, and I think many people had very similar experiences.

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  8. 1.) Mann thinks this because the views on the number of people dead vary from historian to historian. This is because while many think that there was a large death count due to a high number of native peoples to begin with. Other historians however believe that the death count was low and that those who think that it was high are simply “self-hating spasm of political correctness” while others want the pre-colonial Americas to be a vast grassland uninhabited by humans.
    2.) “The Pristine Myth” is the idea that the pre-colonial Americas were almost uninhabited and were filled with an ecological wonderland of sorts. People were upset at the idea that the land was inhabited and unaffected by human presence for many reasons. The most blatant one would be a colonial incentive. People like to explore and find new places and things so an entire country that would have been completely “uninhabited” would have attracted more colonists. Also when people hear wilderness they see money that they can make from it from farmland and things of that nature.
    3.) A keystone species is one that affects other species and their environment on a large scale. Mann believes that Amerindians were a keystone species because they were human beings and as he explains “human beings are incredibly powerful at shaping environments around them.”
    4.) They do not because when I imagined that time I imagined small groups of Amerindians that roamed their environment occasionally settling down in an area depending on the tribe.

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  9. 1. It is a controversial issue because some people don’t want to believe and also because there is not a large amount of evidence.
    2. The pristine myth is that prior to settlers the Americas were practically “untouched by man”, when It was actually quite populated.
    It disturbs some people because they have already formed an idea of a few natives working with the nature not changing the surroundings.
    3. they were a keystone species because they shaped their environment to fit their needs, yet in the way her means is they shaped their environment not distorted or destroyed it.
    4. No, because I have understood early America as an “Edenic” place where natives and the environment work in harmony.

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  10. According to Mann, disputes over the volume of Native American populations prior to human contact are rampant among historians and environmentalists. He argues this due to the ambiguity and lack of interpretable archaeological evidence supporting the possible calculation of Amerindians. Though arguments about the population remain common, there is little indication as to whether the Native American population was higher or lower than people believed. Also, the opposing sides of the debate formed their opinions based on the post-Columbus-contact American population demographic collapse. Mann states that, while some believe this paints “Western civilization as inherently murderous”, others believe it wrongly justifies the destruction of the environment.
    The “pristine myth” is the idea that, before the arrival of Europeans, the Americas were untouched, natural, and almost perfect pieces of land on which the Native Americans left no ecological footprint. People cling to this idea and get upset at the idea of Native Americans altering the environment, because it seemingly devalues the standards of the land. People want to see pre-conquest America as a pure, unaltered piece of land so that it can set the standard for the environment after conquest. Even though people idealize this concept, Mann expresses “it is essentially impossible to go back” to that state of pristine land.
    Mann thinks Amerindians are a “keystone species” because they were “incredibly powerful at shaping environments around themselves”. By this, he means that the Native Americans maintained an environment that Americans today perceive as ideal. They were proof that humans can influence their surroundings without excessively harming their land.
    Prior to reading this article, I never would have seen the Native Americans as people that majorly interacted with their environment in the way they evidently did. My idea of native peoples were the same as how Bacon described in the article– Edenic, ideal, and unaltered. This is probably due to the way Mann described that people feel about pre-conquest land. We get upset at the concept of Amerindians burning land rather than peacefully roaming its expanses, so we paint an idyllic version of it instead.

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  11. Mann’s central point in his book, being that population for Indians was much higher than previous studies, is a contentious issue among historians and environmentalists because there is little and not enough evidence in order to see how many Indians lived in the Americas. This is also an issue because there were to many objectives required to calculate their population without having enough evidence. Some people think that it focuses on Western civilization too much and others don’t like the higher numbers because they “view the pre contact environment as an ecological touchstone.” (Mann2)

    The “pristine myth” that both Mann and Bacon refer to in the title means the landscape of the Americas in 1492 or “were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land.(Bacon3). This might upset people to think that Native Americans radically change their environment because it it was untouched nature for 10,000 years but nature took its way and changed the environment after people had moved, they would put a standard of good and bad on those people.

    Mann thinks that Amerindians were “keystone species” in the same way Europeans were the keystone species on Europe. The Native Americans were keystone species “because they were human beings, and human beings are incredibly powerful at shaping environments around themselves.” (Mann5). Mann basically means that any human being in a certian environment is going to be that’s society’s keystone species because that is the species in which can alter its environment around its self Inorder for its community to function.

    The Americas that Mann described in respondent to Bacon, like burning, managing and planting, does match with my existing ideas about Native Americans prior contact with Afro-Eurasia. It does match because last year in AP Human Geography we learned about people and environments in other parts of the world like Africa or the Americas and how they changed and managed their lands and environments to fit their life styles in order to kee living.

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    • Baileigh, I completely agree with the way you explained the second question. I like how you made the comment on nature taking its own way, and how it was the source of change in this region at this specific time. I also agree with the way you explained the fourth question, bringing in ties from last year’s course in AP Human Geography.

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  12. 1. Mann thinks that the idea of a much more heavily populated Americas before European contact is controversial because it would ruin our original view on the Americas as being a perfect, untouched area. It is a contentious idea because there is not enough archaeological evidence to support this. This idea would mean that many mass murders occurred following the European’s arrival, some historians do not like this because they like to think of the Americas as an ecological touchstone.
    2. The “pristine myth” is that the Americas were an open, grassy area with a very small human population. The idea of native Americans altering the environment is upsetting to some because humans look for a natural, untouched environment on Earth, open for exploring.
    3. Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a “keystone species”, or something that drastically effects the way an ecosystem functions, because the Amerindians were the only ones who were capable of changing the land (cultivating crops and hunting and gathering).
    4. The Americas that Mann described do not match what I previously thought them to be like before European contact. I had previously thought of them to be a very small, hunter-gatherer population who were not capable of cultivating land. I was unaware that it is possible there could have been over 100 million people living in the Americas prior to reading this article

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    • I get what you’re saying about about how you were unaware that the Americas could support over 100 million people because it’s funny how we automatically think of the early Americans in little tribes as opposed to a large group. Good job answering the questions too!

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  13. Mann says that there is an issue in the death tally. People get emotional, especially native Americans themselves, when there are large death counts of people. Environmentalists disagree dislike the high numbers because they like the idea or very natural state. They say that too many native Americans would disrupt the environment.
    The pristine myth is that American was an untouched land for thousands of years. People might find it upset that native Americans because most people are uneducated about the subject matter. I think the uneducated think that there was nothing in America except a few Indians and a lot of nature. So when more educated people tell the uneducated that they are wrong, they do not like that feeling.
    The native Americans are a keystone species because they radically change the environment. Humans change the area around them to benefit them. Animals and plants are usually controlled effectively by humans.
    Yes and no, I do believe that here was a large amount of people in the Americas prior to European contact, maybe not 112 million, but still a large amount. I disagree though that they possibly made the amazon rainforest

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  14. 1.) Mann states that the controversial large populations of early American cities could be to the little archaeological evidence let behind by these people. If a population of a town was very large, it would leave exponential evidence of it once being there. No such evidence has been found in the Americas. Also Mann says if the population of the Americas was ever as large as is being predicted, European diseases soon wiped out most of the population. Western Europe did not want to be seen as a murderous civilization, so the size of the populations was probably extremely underestimated.
    2.) The pristine myth is the idea that most land in the Americas went completely untouched until the European settlers came to America. This would be upsetting to some people because no land has really gone untouched for over 10000 years. Modern day people could have found it difficult to understand that Native Americans might dramatically change their environment because the environment have been seen only as open grasslands with lots of space to roam around.
    3.) A ‘keystone species’ is just people that affect the environment and civilizations around them. Mann says Native Americans were a keystone species because of effect the Amerindians had on the daily life on their environment and the environment of other civilizations.
    4.) No. My preexisting views of early America was not that of large populations with advanced ways of agriculture. I viewed Native Americans as a somewhat nomadic group of people that was vastly spread out through all of the American land.

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    • Kristen, I feel as though your opinions and evidence were well supported. I completely agree with you when you are answering the first question and saying that they underestimated the population because the Europeans didn’t want to believe that they could be mass murders. Also, i felt the same why for question four because anytime someone mentions Native Americans I always think or nomadic people or small tribes consisting of about 50 people.

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  15. 1) Mann states that the historians and environmentalists who study the demographics of the population are being idealistic and dragging their emotions into the argument. He says that they don’t enjoy saying that there was a large population because that would mean that there was an even larger negative impact on the environment and the people by the time the Europeans arrived. The environment itself was viewed as an ideal land filled with nature. This would mean that the people of the America’s would have also have a detrimental effect on the landscape as well, crushing environmentalist’s hopes and dreams.
    2) The “pristine myth” is the idea that the land area of the Americas was an untouched landscape, no interference from humans. The thought of native Americans drastically changing the environment might be disturbing because they know that they would never be able to go back to the environment as they thought it was, not as it actually was.
    3) Mann sees Amerindians as “keystone species” because they were humans that shaped the environment around them. By sayings this he means that they had the effects on the environment that modern society could view as progressive on the area. The “natural state” that they more or less had is one that many would aim for today.
    4) I agree with “Mann’s America” in all areas except the land filled with people. I see them coexisting in the world without Afro-Eurasian contact and adapting all on their own. However I pictured them very sporadically dispersed and not at all the millions he described. With my preexisting notions of the early Americas I can see how they would plant and burn and manage, due to the vast variety of the America’s environment. They got by on their own and probably even thrived, just much more than I previously imagined.

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  16. 1. There is debate on the population of pre-columbus North America for several reasons. The main reason is because the population of north america affects the tally of post-contact losses. Some argue that the population was lower because the idea of the population being higher makes them feel like it’s a left wing attack on Western Civilization. Others argue that the population was lower because they want to use North America as an “ecological touchstone”.

    2. The pristine myth is a myth that indicates that North America was mostly uninhabited and ecologically unaffected before Christopher Columbus arrived. It may upset people to think of Native Americans radically altering their environment because they want to see North America pre-Columbus as an unhampered environment.

    3. Mann thinks Amerindians were a keystone species because all humans are keystone species. He means that all humans impact their environment and other species in it.

    4. In a way, yes. I have always been taught that the Native Americans were complex peoples with great kingdoms/empires/etc. However, I never knew these particular facts. I never knew that the native Americans possibly planted the amazon. I never knew that they altered their environment, but it’s sort of obvious in my opinion that humans are going to alter their environment to meet their desired ends.

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    • I agree with your answer to number 4. Granted, for most of us, including myself, the idea that the native Americans altered their landscape, is surprising. However, as you brought up, this should not be a surprise, as it is quite rare that we see humans completely leaving their environment unaltered. In fact, this should really be a given. One’s environment would be the first place they would look for to try and meet their needs.

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  17. Abbey Milwicz

    The evidence supporting the existence of more Native Americans than previously thought is controversial because without it there’s a way to legitimize the murdering and death of thousands, and there’s a way to ignore possible alterations of the environment. Younger and older historians also have very different views on the inhabitance of the Americas prior to the conquests of Europe.

    The “Pristine Myth” is the idea the Americas were practically untouched and left for the Europeans. Many are disturbed by the idea of Indians altering the environment so much because historically, they had been viewed as people of nature, and the idea that Indians didn’t do everything they could to protect the natural elements is a foreign idea to many.

    Mann thinks of Amerindians as a “keystone species” because of how key the human species is in influencing the environment around them. Amerindians shaped the place they lived in extremely well and created an environment, in the Americas, that would allow them to thrive.

    Mann’s account of these Amerindians definitely do NOT match my previous image of what they were like. As many other kids my age, I was taught of the peaceful, one-with-nature Amerindians, and of course I watched Pocahontas which painted a very different picture.

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    • I agree with with your responses. I liked how you expanded on how Amerindians were keystone species and what they did to be labeled as such. I also agree with the fact that as kids we were taught that Amerindians were one-with-nature.

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  18. •According to Mann, the topic of a higher Indian population pre-European contact is a controversial one among historians and environmentalists. He says that it is tends to be quarrelsome due to the fact that if it were true, the Europeans would essentially be accused of committing mass murder, even if it was unintentional. Others oppose it because they see the Americas before European contact as being an “ecological touchstone,” and that the Indians would have ruined it as being so, if it were even possible, by agriculture.

    •Mann and Bacon’s “pristine myth” that is referred to in the title is the one of the Americas in 1491 were “an almost unmarked, even Edenic land”– at least before the Europeans arrived. Some people don’t like the idea of the Amerindians altering their land because they still want to envision the Americas as an untouched, pure land, and the Amerindians altering it would ruin their view of it.

    •In Mann’s opinion, the Amerindians were a keystone species– a species which is powerful enough or capable to alter their environment– because, much like the ones in Europe did, they shaped the land around them. They were able to cultivate it and profit from what it gave off.

    •The way that Mann describes the Americas was, initially, shocking to me. I had always pictured the Americas as some others had– almost empty of people and full of undisturbed nature, which is most likely due to what I saw on TV and in movies when I was younger. I had always thought that there were only a small handful of people living in them, and that most were more of a nomadic people group, and the ones that weren’t lived in very small settlements with only around 10-15 people at most. I never thought of them to be the type of people to take interest in altering their environment.

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  19. Mann states that the claims of higher pre-European contact population causes emotional effects. Scholars who imply that there was a larger death tole after European contact is thought of by some people as a “self-hating spasm of political correctness” (Mann 2) or dislike the idea of a high death toll because they want to think of pre-European environment as “all natural” and the high population doesn’t allow that.

    The “pristine myth” in the article is the idea that there was no environmental altering by the Native Americans before European contact. Suggesting that this idea is a myth and that the Native Americans did manage the land in North America in ways that make it “unnatural” might disturb people because they are so use to a Native American stereotype that prevents them form altering the Earth in any way.

    Mann’s usage of “keystone species” to describe the Amerindians means that the Native Americans changed there environment so much that the other plants and animals that lived alongside them changed to match that environment. This means the humans were the most important factor in how the environment functioned and how the species in that environment functioned

    No, the Native Americans that Mann describes do not match my pre-existing thoughts of Native Americans. I thought of Native Americans before as people that were very adamant about not altering the Earth in drastic ways. I thought of them with a very similar stereotype that I mentioned earlier.

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  20. 1) Mann states that the mass amounts of exposure by other groups is a contentious idea, in that Europeans would be labeled as mass murderers. The idea varies in different historians and environmentalists in that contact prior to Columbus’ arrival was evident, exposing the natives to more groups of people.

    2) The “Pristine Myth” is the idea that the land was completely untouched, filled with bountiful treasures of nature. It might be a sensitive topic to some, due to the evidence that native peoples were, in fact, existent, and in the idea that the native peoples had altered the environment to fit their needs.

    3) A “keystone species” is a species that affects the survival and abundance of many other species. Mann describes the native peoples as a keystone species in the same manner that Europeans were in Europe. They were human beings, which are incredibly powerful at shaping environments around themselves.

    4) Due to extreme censorship in the public school system when it comes to teaching about the native peoples, I feel extremely uneducated and dumbfounded at the idea that the Americas were full of groups of native peoples prior to Europe’s contact point. I feel as though historians have glorified the expansion of Europe into the Americas, when in reality it was just a raid to put their culture elsewhere. My pre-existing ideas of this group of individuals do not match the ideas that Mann puts out.

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  21. The evidence that the population of the Americas prior to European contact was much higher than previous studies suggested is a contentious issue among historians and environmentalists. Mann says this because the historians think that there might have been higher populations in the Americas due to the little evidence that has been obtained, while environmentalists argue against higher populations in the Americas prior to European contact because then the pre-contact environment isn’t an ecological touchstone and would legitimize corporate assault on the environment.

    The “pristine myth” is the idea that the Americas in 1491 “were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land”. It might disturb or upset some people to think of native American people radically altering their environment because then there would be no “untouched” nature to go back to.

    Mann thinks Amerindians were a keystone species in the way that Europeans were a keystone species in Europe. Mann means that they were a keystone species because they were human and affected the environments around them.

    The America Mann describes does not match my existing ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia. My existing ideas of native people are nomads and hunter-gathers in small villages or a large settlement living by hunting animals and occasionally using agriculture. My idea probably doesn’t match Mann’s idea because of my lack of knowledge on the subject and my pre-concieved ideals.

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  22. The population of the Americas is so controversial because historians don’t want to call Europeans mass murderers due to their exploration. The higher the population, the higher the death tole. Environmentalists believe that the Americas were an untouched region of the world.

    The “pristine myth” is the idea that the land was sparsely populated and unchanged. The idea of natives radically altering the land could disturb people because most people have the belief that they took care of the land and did their best to live on it without disrupting the natural state.

    Mann thinks the native Americans were a keystone species, meaning they were essential the shaping the area around them, because they turned the land into what we like about nature nowadays.

    No, Mann’s descriptions do not match what I had previously envisioned. I think this is because in elementary school, and even middle school, we are constantly told about how natives were so respecting of the Earth and its animal inhabitants. This is also perpetuated by movies and other media that show native Americans as wild, savage people.

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  23. Among historians and environmentalists, views diverge regarding the population of Native American peoples pre-contact because claiming more people died than previously thought would bring stronger negative attention to Western civilization. It is easier to ignore the harsh facts than to accept the truth. Also, the idea that the land was virtually untouched makes the situation more understandable and justifiable.

    The pristine myth is the irrational thinking that the Americas were not filled with many civilized peoples, or that the land was almost untouched and ideal for colonization. If people viewed the environment as being radically altered by previous Natives, it would be harder to accept the entire elimination of once great empires and civilizations.

    The Amerindians are considered a keystone species because they influenced and altered the environment to provide for their needs. Specifically, Mann claims the land was not wilderness, but instead it was planned and kept up by Amerindian societies.

    The image in my mind of native peoples does not match up with Manns’ descriptions. Mostly, my view of native peoples comes from movies like The Revenant and Pocahontas. I see them as nomadic kinships traveling to survive and temporarily settling in scattered villages.

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  24. 1) There are many reasons, according to Mann, why people are skeptical about his reasons for thinking that the population of North America before Columbus was much higher than it actually was. First off, some say that Mann’s estimate of 90 to 112 million is too high. Also, it would contradict prior ideas that the Americas were a wonderful and seemingly untouched land before European arrival. Besides that, it would make the Europeans out to be mass murders because that would mean upon their arrival, a tremendous 95% of the population would have died.
    2) The pristine myth is referring to the theory that the Americas were untouched and was depicted as some sort of utopia. Some people today are very troubled with the idea that Native Americans meddled with the land which cannot be restored from many years ago. Although the reason that the Native Americans had such an impact on the land was most likely due to wanting to increase their food production and modification of the land was needed to do so.
    3) What a keystone species does is they pretty much determine the survival of other species. Mann feels that the Amerindians were the keystone species of the time because they were the only ones who could drastically change the environment and they did so by hunting and gathering or cultivation for food production.
    4) Mann’s description of the Americas is vastly different from mine in regards to the Native Americans. This is because I pictured this time period with the land only taken up in small areas by tribes that were sparsely spread out. Also, I didn’t expect them to have done as much alteration to the environment as they had because of the fact that I thought they didn’t have much in the ways of technology.

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    • I agree with your statement about the depiction of Amerindians that we were taught when we were younger. I was definitely told the Amerindians only lived in small areas. However, after reading this article there is now a different view to look at about the Native Americans.

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  25. 1.) Some environmentalists and historians do not like high death tallies because it would view the Western civilization as “inherently murderous,” others do not like high numbers and say it is the “ecological touchstone.”

    2.) “The Pristine Myth” and the idea that the Americas were “an almost unmarked land,” having small populations and being “untouched” means natural wilderness, and the thought that the natives radically changed the environment would make upset because it destroyed the originality of how the landscaped looked. Once being changed, it could never go back to its same appearance.

    3.) Just as the Europeans are the “keystones species” in Europe, the Amerindians played the role of human beings shaping the environment in the Americas. He means it by environmental goals. To feed the buffalo, create the midwestern prairie. To avoid air pollutants, take out the lead. It is the human thinking shapes the environment around them.

    4.) I was mostly taught about the big, well- known civilizations like the three empires of latin America (Aztec, Mayan, and Inca), and the few small tribes that faced Europeans in North America during the US colonization (Cherokee, seminoles, choctaw…). Until I read the article and searched tribes in the Americas (a few minutes ago), I did not know they were that many tribes all living in the Americas. I thought only a population of 1 million. I also did not expect that they would shape the environment (different from Afro- Eurasian tribes – usually hunt and herd) as I thought they have always been like that from the beginning.

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  26. Mann says that it is a contentious issue because of the debate about how we manage wilderness and whether or not it is really untouched by man.

    The “pristine myth” is that in 1491, the Americas were an almost unmarked land. The idea may upset some people because leaving land untouched is probably highly “unatural”.

    Mann states that the Amerindians were a “keystone species” because they were human and they could shape the enviroment around themselves.

    The Americas Mann describes somewhat fits my previous ideas because I knew the original people of the Americas used nature for their benefit. However, I did not realize that they burned the prarie,etc.

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    • The first answer questions if land his untouched by man, but virtually everything on land has been affected by human interaction. The second answer is a little bit confusing because many areas are set up across the U.S. to preserve the environment there, for example, Yellowstone National Park.

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  27. In Mann’s book 1491, he states that there were way higher population in the Americas before the European contact, and he says that it is a continuous issue among the historians and environmentalist. I think that is because of the difference in the view of the evidences from the past, especially since it is very little and limited. They look at the facts of European history and the Indian oral history and see the low population and the managed landscape and nature and debates on every possible way of that happening which causes debates in this day.
    The “pristine myth” is referring to the concept of the wildered nature with empty populated lands in the Americas before the European contact. It might upset some people to think of Native American peoples radically altering their environment because it would oppose the thoughts of the native Indians being nomads with no agricultural system and developed cities and towns with large population compared the original thoughts.
    Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a “keystone species” in a way that they were the group of people who managed the life and the environment of the Americas before the Europeans, and he means that they were the cause of the biggest impact on the history of the Americas.
    The idea of the Americas which Mann described matches the concept of the Americas I have thought of on Native Americans prior to contact with Afro Eurasia in that they altered the environment and managed lands for living in the nature such as for their agriculture. I think it matches because of we learned some about the Mesoamerica in history but as well as in human geography on how people managed the environment and affected them.

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  28. Mann believes it is a controversial issue because the evidence would
    affect decisions being made in terms of what to do with the environment
    that corporations are trying to get to. People would wonder what was
    there in the first place and if the land is even theirs to take.
    The pristine myth is the belief that before European colonization,
    the earth was completely unaltered and populations were very little
    to none. It upsets people to think Natives would change it because
    people have been pushed to believe that Natives were running around
    in tribes chasing buffalo and living in grass tepees. And some
    Natives did. However that is incorrect to believe especially with
    new found evidence and trends in different cultures of the Americas.
    There had to be more diversity, especially to be isolated so long.
    However, people are conditioned to think otherwise.
    Mann explains that their humanity alone made them a keystone species.
    Humans naturally shape the environment without even noticing it. Things
    as simple as feeding or building can drastically change the environment.
    They did not completely match my ideas however, I was aware of the concept of people
    changing the environment for agriculture, usually through means of
    irrigation and island farming.

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  29. 1. The issue between scholars is how archeological evidence is interpreted. While some scholars say that a high death count is a result of a liberal attack on the West as “inherently murderous”, other conservative sources say that there is no environment that is best for everyone, which Bacon says “legitimizes a corporate assault on the environment.”

    2. The pristine myth is the idea that prior to contact between the Europeans and Native Americans, the land in the Americas was virtually untouched. It may disturb people to know that Native Americans altered land because people want to view the Natives as primitive people who were helped by the Europeans, which was not the case.

    3. Mann thinks the “keystone species” means a biological factor that shapes the environment more than anything else. Amerindians were “keystone species” because they maintained the environment in a way that would keep them rid of pollutants, which led to well maintained agricultural plots.

    4. The ideas Mann has introduced do not match with my pre-concieved ideas of what life was to the Indians before Afro-Eurasian contact because while I realized the Indians were not helpless before the Europeans arrived, I thought they were most likely small nomadic tribes.

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    • 1. What really made this issue more prominent was the fact there were multiple sides to the argument and all sides interpretted the evidence presented differently. One side thought that there were only small civilizations that were found the other thought that there were full on cities found with multitudes of people. Plus the main reason why people apposed to this claim was because that the burst a lot of bubbles that people had about America being the vast wilderness “untouched by man” and only nature made, replacing it with a harsh reality of that not actually being the case but instead many civilizations with tens of millions of people.

      2. The “pristine myth” referred to in the article is the idea that before Christopher Columbus came done to the Americas, it was an “Untouched Eden” that mainly wilderness and very few clusters people scattered across the continental area. This giving people the idea that the Americas were nturally made and untouched by man. The idea of this would upset someone is because once people get a thought in their mind and have all these ideas that back it up in their head so that it’s tied up into a pretty bow, no one likes when take that thought and ruin it with possibility of it being wrong. They get so used to having things one particular way and knowing that way all their lives just to have it torn into peices by a newly found perspective on the same evidence. Also everyone likes to believe that at one point the Americas were the perfect wildlife eutopia that wasn’t ruined by man until the Europeans came, and in a way, we have grown comfotable with the idea that Western culture ruins everything and just leave it at that. When we learn that it wasn’t just us that changed the landscape but the Indians as well, it kind of dissappoints us because we have always thought so much better than the Natives but it turns out in a way they are just like us and aren’t all that different.

      3. When Charles C. Mann said that Amerindians were the keystone species for the Americas, he meant it in the same way that Europeans were for Europe. The Natives took the land that they had and reshaped for their agricultural and societal needs. They were human and the one thing humans did to adapt to an environment was make the environment to adapt to them. However instead of completely destroying everything around them, the Amerindians found a way to shape the land around them without it becoming a huge hazard to the environment. They worked with the land instead of against the land to recieve their desirable results.

      4. Mann’s ideas about the “natarual landscape” not actually being natural at all are completely different from the ideas that I originally had in my head. This is because all my life whenever teachers taught the class about the Americas we would always learn that the Americas were completely natural until the Europeans came along. No one has ever told me that what i was learning was actually wrong or presented me with evidence that could possibly prove otherwise. People always try to preserve the innocence of a child by teaching them things like the “Pristine Myth” and passing it off as real fact. By doing that they don’t acknowledge the fact that one day those naive ideas would be proven wrong by evidence and fact.

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    • I agree with your point about native Americans being a keystone species because of their effect on the well-maintained agricultural plots of today, but I think this is an understatement. There are many more areas and ways that the native Americans altered their environment, and in turn, affected our environment today.

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  30. The evidence of a higher population within America is controversial due to the arguments of the sustainability of the agricultural processes that were used to sustain that size of life, as well as the idea that a higher death count could show the Europeans as “murderous”.
    The pristine myth is the idea that the world was untouched by human civilizations. It disturbs some to think that we don’t truly know the original state an area was in due to the alterations by previous societies.
    Mann believes that Amerindians were a keystone species due to the fact that they shaped America into the environment that they are today. They found some sort of sustainability that is struggled with even today. A keystone species, is one that allows new species to build upon it. The discrediting of humans as a keystone species occurs often.
    No, the Americas described by Mann are not the ones I see in my head. The ideas that are told are seen more as a European idea, due to being taught most of my life that the Indians, were small and few, were there to greet the European explorers, and were small societies living mostly off of corn and beans. I was never taught of the complex societies that the native people had before the Afro-Eurasian explorations into the Americas. The one thing however, was that we were never taught of the potential vast population in the Americas that were killed off by Afro-Eurasian exploration.

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  31. 1) This is a contentious issue because a large death tally among the natives looks like a politically correct, self- hating viewpoint for western civilizations (to some people). It carves Europeans as murderers. Others believe that arguing that there is no wilderness, preferred state, is a right-wing strategy for not caring for the environment. (Bacon 2)

    2) The pristine myth referred to is the idea that the Americas were untouched by man before the arrival of the European explorers and acted as paradise. Some modern individuals might find the idea of Native Americans drastically altering the land surprising because they thought of them as environmental conservationist. However, the Native Americans most likely burned down a lot of the Great Plains to make it more suitable for the larger animals of the area, increasing their food supply.

    3) Mann Believes the Amerindians were a keystone species because they were the only species capable of altering the land such to the extent that they did. A keystone species is simply a species who has some degree of control over whether or not other species survive or thrive.

    4) No, it doesn’t match with existed ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia because I had always thought the natives had almost a divine idea about nature and their environment. I thought they would perhaps be more interested in pastoral nomad techniques instead of using methods that would alter the environment.

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    • I completely agree with you last response. I also viewed the Indians as a type of people that would not alter their environment in any way and strive to keep it in it’s natural state for as long as possible. I never thought about the possibility of the Indians altering the environment to the extent that the “wilderness” that we now know today is possibly all man made.

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  32. 1. The argument that the population of the America’s was much greater than ever thought is a continuous argument because there is not much archaeological evidence and that there are too many unknown variables to truly know the population of the Americas.

    2. The “Pristine Myth” is the idea that the Americas was in a supreme natural state that was not altered by humans. Some people find it disturbing to think that Indians radically changed the environment of the Americas because people have grown up always thinking that our “wilderness” has always been the way it is now. And people generally assume that when you alter an environment it always causes harm to that environment.

    3. Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a keystone species because they had a great affect on many other species. He thinks this because one they were humans and humans always affect many other species. And two more specifically the Amerindians shaped their environment to benefit their species.

    4. Mann’s claims about how the Americas were before the Europeans arrived is completely different to what my previous ideas were about the Americas. I viewed the Americas as pure wilderness with relatively small bands of nomadic Indians that developed semi complex societies. I had this preconception because that’s partially what I was always taught growing up along with many other students.

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    • I agree with your statement about how we were taught that the Europeans took over the America’s because it was practically inhabited, but when we learn about this it seems like this part of history was tried to be covered up. It only makes you ponder upon what else that we have learned over the years that may not be true.

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  33. 1.) Mann states that the population of Amerindians in the Americas before the voyages of Columbus were much higher than what we had previously thought. Mann says this is a point of contention for historians because it shows Western Europe in a bad light. This could mean that Western Europe was murderous and wanted bad things for the Indians. Other historians thought that the Americas were a new environment waiting to be discovered and with the Indians already being there it ruins that idea for them.
    2.) The “pristine myth” is the idea that the Americas were an unmarked, Edenic land. The “pristine myth” can also explain why some people get upset when realizing that the Amerindians changed their environment to best suit them. This would cause people to be upset because it means that the land was touched and not just a natural wilderness.
    3.) Mann believes that the Amerindians were a keystone species. A keystone species is a species that “affects the survival and abundance of many other species”. This is true because the Amerindians did affect the way the Europeans lived when they arrived in the Americas. The Amerindians affected their life through the environment and its setup and through human health by diseases.
    4.) No, I think that the Native Americans were described much differently than the way they were described in the article. The biggest difference being the amount of Indians present at this time in the Americas. I was taught there was a much smaller amount than in the article and that they only stayed in certain areas. However, there were small similarities between what we were taught and the article. The similarity that stuck out was the importance of agriculture in their lives.

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  34. Mann says that evidence that the population of the Americas prior to European contact was much higher than previous studies suggested is a contentious issue among historians and environmentalists because they don’t like the fact that high death tallies cause the Western civilization to be viewed as inherently murderous. Others don’t like high population numbers because they want to view the pre contact environment as an ecological touchstone, and having too many people living in the environment interferes with this.

    The “pristine myth” that Mann and the author of this article are referring to in the title is the idea that the Americas in 1491 were an almost unmarked and Edenic land. It might disturb or upset some people to think of native American peoples radically altering their environment because this may complicate efforts to restore the land back to its original state because we don’t know what it used to be like. Also, it would be impossible to go back to what it used to be like 10,000 years ago because the conditions have changed too much.

    Keystone species are species that affect the survival and abundance of many other species. Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a keystone species because they were human beings who shaped and affected the environment around them by hunting and gathering and cultivating crops to increase food production. Mann means that the Amerindians were keystone species because they had a great effect on their land and on the survival of others living on their land.

    The Americas that Mann describes doesn’t match with my existing ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia because I thought that the Americas were sparsely populated and that the native people lived in small tribes which consisted of hunter-gatherers. I didn’t think that they had a big effect on their environment or that they even altered their environment due to my previous knowledge regarding the Americas and American tribes.

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  35. 1.) Mann discusses the issue of how many Native Americans were actually living in the Americas before Columbus came. He states that after studies by anthropologists and archaeologists, the population size was very large, estimated 90 – 112 million, in contrast to the false rumor of the land being only sparingly populated.

    2.) “The Pristine Myth” that Mann and Bacon outline was the false belief that the Americas were “almost unmarked, even Edenic land.” They argue against this myth and try to disprove it with theories of developed cities and civilizations that may have been even larger and more complicated than those in Europe at the same time.

    3.) Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a “keystone species” because of their everlasting impact on modern society. Mann believes that these natives built stepping stones for many great creations and were much more than small, simple, non-contributing societies.

    4.) At first, I was a little confused. I accepted this idea quickly however, because it fits my beliefs and it seems possible that the Amerindians could have pulled of innovating societies. I would love to believe that this was true, but I can’t help feeling skeptical about why I hadn’t learned about this earlier or why learning about this was rejected even if it were false.

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  36. Anna Manley:
    1. Mann finds that the idea of America before European contact being a bustling civilization with developed interaction with the land (burning of praries, planting of the Amazon) to be controversial. This is because, in addition to most of us having been taught the idea that Pre-Columbian America is sparse and unsettled from a young age, the more accurate depiction of it as a highly populated landscape implies that the Europeans were responsible for mass murder. Some, on the other hand, don’t like to believe that the Native Americans altered the environment, which they probably did in numerous ways. This is because they want to view their wilderness as “untouched”.

    2. The Pristine Myth is that before Europeans made contact with the Americas, they were this sparse, grassy, open, and unpopulated expanses of land. People don’t like the opposition to this myth because it ruins the idea of a “perfect and pristine wilderness” that’s appealing to many.
    3. A keystone species is one, in E.O. Wilson’s words, that “affects the survival and abundance of many other species”. Native Americans were the keystone species because they were humans that did, in fact, alter and shape their environment in addition to their own culture. Their effect of the American landscape has influenced our agriculture and survival even today. Mann speaks in the article about how it is only possible that the American Indians changed the environment in this way.

    4. No, it does not match, because I had been imagining very sparse and very small groups which survived on hunting and gathering, not intense and drastic altercation of the environment to support large civilizations of settled people. I did not know that the population had been so large and in turn, I did not estimate the need for food would be so much that led to the intense interaction with the environment that Mann describes.

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  37. `Mann states that the evidence of there being a higher population in the Americas before European contact is a contentious issue because people do not what to think that there was that high of a death count due to European diseases and that the environment was already changed from its original form before the Europeans arrived.
    The “pristine myth” is the idea that before European contact, the Americas were an Eden of untouched land. The fact that this idea is a myth disturbs some people because when they argue that places like the prairie need to be restored to its original state of being, they are referring to how the Amerindians manipulated it and that does not go well with supporting their argument.
    Mann thinks that the Amerindians were a “keystone species” in the way that they affected the survival and population of not just their own species but others as well. Mann thinks that Amerindians changed the environment in which they lived to benefit their survival and in doing so affected the surrounding species as well.
    The Americas Mann describe is almost a complete opposite to my ideas prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia. In school we are taught that that the Americas were made of uncivilized, possibly barbaric people with strange cultures. I was taught that the Amerindians wee few in number and far behind in the developing world. The only similarity is that the Amerindians relied upon agriculture; but even so, not to the degree that was discussed in this article.

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  38. Mann claims that the debate over population of the Americas prior to European contact is contentious due to the lack of evidence supporting it. One source claims there were “ninety to 112 million people, more than lived in Europe at the time…” (Bacon 1). Another source notes that the population was closer to ten million. However, the real issue is over how those demographics affected the environment. It is a “contentious debate” (Bacon 1) because there is no solid evidence that can support a claim of how the “wilderness” was managed prior to the arrival of Columbus.

    The “pristine myth” (Bacon 3) discussed in this article refers to the “idea…that the Americas in 1941 were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land” (Bacon 3). This term was created to give people the option to avoid the idea of Indians prior to arrival of the Europeans, and in turn avoid the possibility that harm was done to the land. Despite the fact that that there could have been an ecologically negative impact from the Indians, their creativity and innovation contributed to the development of society.

    Mann refers to Amerindians as a keystone species, meaning they were “…a species…that ‘affects the survival and abundance of many other species’…” (Bacon 5). He thinks this because, like any other human having an affect on soil, Amerindians simply affected the land because they were there, in the same way the Europeans affected the environment of Europe.

    Yes, they do match with my ideas of native peoples prior to contact with Afro-Eurasia in the way that they relate to my ideas of any contacts that native people have had with the land. No matter what the demographics say of the society, the environment will be radically altered in a variety of ways. This is not due to the specifics of a population, but rather to the simple existence of the population on the land.

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  39. 1. The reasons that historians and environmentalist find the topic of the demographic calamity as a controversial thing is that there it not enough evidence to prove that either argument is correct or incorrect. This event is not very well documented as there not very many if not any documents that cover the topic of the calamity until post- exploration of the Americas. it was stated that as Europeans were exploring they did find many empty villages that would have been most likely dominated by the small pox that was brought over by Europe, but there is still no exact or even close to exact number of people that were killed during the demographic calamity of America

    2. The ” pristine myth ” was an idea that stated that the land in 1491 was completely untouched as if it were an endenic land. This is almost impossible as the Indians that inhabited the land did some major environment projects that shaped the land for many years and some even to this present day. One example is the burning of the grassland pearise so that they could see above the high grass that was there. This sadly did give Indians the reputation to be reckless people that didnt take care of their environment, which is sometimes true, but they did have to do what they needed to do to survive

    3. Native Indians were considered “keystone species” because they were the main causes of the shaping and shifting of the American environment, although this is not necessarily a bad thing. Mann states that it could have been any human beings in the Americas and they would have been the same environment affects and problems because humans are very prone to shaping the environment around them.

    4. i did not expect some of the things like the burning of the grasslands, but other than that they did meet my expectations. Humans had to do what they needed to at that time and if shaping the enviroment was something that need to be done then i would argue that almost any human would do the same as the native Indians.

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  40. 1. Mann thinks that the argument of whether or not the population of the Americas is such a controversial topic is because, if they accepted that the population was as high as it supposedly was, it would make the Europeans look like mass murderers. Considering the spike in death rates once the Europeans arrived, it can make this argument seem more valid.
    2. The “Pristine Myth” that the author is talking about is the thought that the Americas were untouched by man before the Europeans arrived. This idea is disturbing to some people is because people like to explore and adventure. When they hear of a place that has been untouched by man, they think of all the riches that they could get of that land. It’s almost as if they are blinded by greed.
    3.A keystone species is one that affects other species and their environment drastically. This could be to change it so that it could fit their own needs.
    4. My vision of what the Americas looked like was that there were tribes of native peoples dispersed among the land mass and a relatively small total population. This idea does not match that of Mann because of the difference in the total population of the continents and the manipulation of the environment.

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  41. The idea that native populations were much higher than suggested in previous studies is an issue because it paints Europeans in a negative, almost murderous light, and it also ruins our idea of untouched nature. It puts a thorn in the side of almost every environmental conservationist’s argument, and gives a weapon to corporations aiming to destroy the environment for their financial gain.

    The “pristine myth” as described by Mann is a myth that describes the Americas as almost untouched lands, with very few scattered native populations that barely altered the landscape, leaving it preserved and pristine. The violation of this myth can upset people by suggesting that our concept of nature is invalid. For the number of native people to exist as suggested by recent studies to have actually existed completely invalidates the idea of an untouched landscape. This, as I stated above, poses a threat to the idea of environmental conservationism, because the environment that is trying to be kept natural hasn’t been natural since before people arrived there.

    Mann thinks Amerindians were a keystone species because they were human beings, and therefore shaped their environment to fit their needs, altering the lives of themselves and other species. But the Amerindians were so good at it that until recently their work had been regarded as the work of nature, and too perfect and unscathed to be the work of a human. Their cultivation of these lands has done so perfectly, some of it has lasted until present day.

    When I first read this article I honestly wasn’t sure how true this all was. My prior knowledge told me there were very few, scattered Indians who lived in peace and harmony with nature, never altering it. But the more I read of the article, the more I understood how possible this was, and how solid the evidence behind it was. So no, this did not match with my prior knowledge of the subject, but I certainly agree with the article now.

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  42. Mann states that the speculated Amerindian population pre-contact is controversial between historians and environmentalists because a high pre-contact population would mean a higher death toll after European contact, labeling the West as “inherently murderous”. On the other side of the controversy, some people like to imagine the pre-contact Americas as ideal examples of nature. A high Amerindian population would conflict with the belief in wilderness-covered Americas.

    The “pristine myth” that Mann and Bacon discuss introduces the idea that in 1491, the Americas “were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land.” Some people are upset to think the Amerindians changed the environment radically because they hold on to the idea that the Americas should have been wholly untouched pre-contact, probably due to a sense of ownership over the Americas.

    Mann sees Amerindians as a keystone species because “they were human beings, and human beings are incredibly powerful at shaping environments.” The Amerindians helped shape the Americas’ environment, including many environments that Americans value to this day.

    The Americas that Mann describe challenge my original vision of Native Americans, mostly culturally and population-wise. I had no idea Native American populations were in the 100 millions, and I used to think that Native American populations resembled each other in a lot of ways – apparently they all differ immensely. I was also under the impression that Native Americans preferred to let nature do its thing, but Native Americans were much more involved in changing the environment than I thought.

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