Analyzing the Text
The words “villages,” “suburban,” and “camps” have strong connotations. These words cause the reader to think of Indian settlements and lifestyles in terms that we picture modern society having. It makes us rethink inaccurate beliefs about Indians wandering and not really needing or using the land when the Europeans arrived and began to take it.
It creates an impression of a bountiful land that was cared for and cultivated by conscientious Indians with the same sensibilities that we have today toward the land.
The quote from William Wood describing the Indian homes is used to show the excellent craftsmanship employed by the Indians, contrasting it favorably with homes in Europe. The quote from Gookin about the ground maize is used to show the agricultural and culinary skills of the Indians, such that even Europeans found the food delicious. When Wood describes that Indians are stoic in the face of pain or even torture, it conveys a sense of the superior character of the Indians. Williams description of Indian wars being far less bloody and cruel is used to highlight a moral superiority of the Indian.
He includes ecological historian Cronin’s observation of the tremendous variety in ecosystems. The author also cites ethnohistorian Thomas regarding the nature of the various groups along the coastal regions and their relationships with each other. These scientific citations serve to ground the author’s narrative in facts, rather than just a seeming biased or fantastical account designed to convince the reader of the general superiority of Indian populations.
His purpose is to cause us to rethink behavior that seems to be nomadic. The simile reminds us that such behavior is commonplace in our own times among people who have the money to do so. It highlights the desirability of such behavior.
The central idea is that Indians in that time frame were not savages, that they were making use of the land that was claimed by Europeans, and that Indian society was smart and adaptive.
He cites the total population, and the fact that as the population grew, the indian groups had to develop new strategies for allocating resources and interacting with each other. He also notes that Indian society was responsive to the climate and ecology of the areas where they lived.
Mann’s overall purpose appears to be to cause the reader to rethink stereotypical ideas about Indian society and their relationship to each other and to the land. It forces us to understand the gravity of what was later taken from the Indians by imagining that they were uncivilized and did not share our values. In this piece the author highlights the coziness of home life, and the warmth of family to make us understand the Indians’ similarity to our own society. The author also describes the ways that the Indians cultivated the land and smartly adapted to the environment, so that we realize that the Indians had permanence and attachment to the land that was claimed by Europeans. He also describes the moral character of the Indian in enduring and tolerating adversity, as well as their lack of greed and desire to fight and war with others. This contrasts with images of heartless Indians as savages rampaging out of evilness or cruelty against Europeans.