Illiterate savage crushes noble European in debate

David Wineberg
The Straight Dope

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The 16 and 1700s were a fabulous time for discovering other societies. As European empires took shape, military and religious institutions encountered and recorded the ways of natives all over the world. They took the time to learn the languages and interact with people in their own environments, learning (and rejecting) their ways. Not as anthropologists looking back, but as ethnographers, in real time. Before natives became (legally) subhumans to be removed and eliminated through disease, denigration, displacement and death, they were treated with some level of respect.

In the late 1600s, a young man from France found himself in Canada, working for the governor, Frontenac. He met and spent a lot of time with a Wendat (Huron) indian by the name Kondiaronk. He turned those conversations into a book called Conversations of Baron de Lahontan with a Savage in America, which is still around, 320 years after its publication in 1703. Louis-Armond de Lom D’Arce, baron de Lahontan was on the run for insubordination and crossing some very important people, but his book went on to much fame and glory.

It shows a 35 year old native of great intellect and quickness, able to spot the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of European religion, society, and argument itself. This despite being unable to read or write, and travel limited to where he could walk, as it was the Europeans who introduced horses. Their back and forth is jousting, with Kondiaronk (called Adario in the book) scoring point after point and his…

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David Wineberg
The Straight Dope

Author, The Straight Dope, or What I learned from my first thousand nonfiction reviews. 16 Essays. Free with Prime www.thestraightdope.net