Ben Franklin’s World: Episode 82

In Liz Covart’s podcast, Ben Franklin’s World episode 82 she is interviewing Alejandra Dubcovsky. Dubcovsky is a professor at Yale University and wrote the book Informed Power. The episode was about Information and Communication in the Early American South. Dubcovsky first explains what the early American South is. She labeled the region of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina which expands out and up the Mississippi River during the Early 1500s to about the mid 18th Century, the pre-columbian era.

She jumps right in to talk about the Mound Settlement which was built by the Cahokia tribe was the tribe that Dubcovsky focused for a little while. She described how their settlement was between 800 and 1400 people, which during this time was very large for a settlement. Because the settlement was on the Mississippi River, trading was something very common to the Natives. So knowing the languages and dialects of all the different tribes was something they needed to know in order for them to trade successfully.

One of her points that stuck out to me was the fact that when the spaniards came over to the Americas, they really did try to learn the languages of the Natives. Dubcovsky talks about how yes, some spaniards came and enslaved one or two natives for translators. They would bring these Natives back to Spain so they could learn the language and then when they would return to their “land”, the spaniards can communicate with the Natives. Dubcovsky made it clear as well though that the spaniards did in fact try to learn the languages of the Natives so they were able to communicate. This really shows the respect that the spaniards had, and made the effort to communicate, even if it was for bad reasons like taking their land against the Natives’ will.

The Natives are always viewed as the victims in the history books. She agrees that, yes Natives were victims of the Europeans wanting to take all their land and all of their riches in gold, but Dubcovsky says in fact that the Natives had power too. These spaniards and other Europeans who came looking for gold, and riches but they didn’t know where to go. This is how the natives had all the power in their corner. The Natives knew the land better than anyone else who came to the Americas; where the rivers were, where the forests were, and where the gold was. But they were not stupid, so they used that to their advantage. They knew the Spaniards were coming over to the Americas for gold and land-mostly gold- so they were not going to lead them to it so easily. they would simply lead them somewhere and told them that the gold was here, and they can have a great time finding it. To me, this is something many history books for education miss out on. Personally I didn’t know that until listening to the podcast.

With this course being about media and communications, I have to relate the podcast to the topic in some way. I think with the fact that the way the spaniards tried to learn and understand one or two languages or dialects of the Natives shows the way people communicated. It also shows how no language is the same when it comes to the Natives tribes. They will have different dialects or maybe just a different spoken language. It also represents media because once the spaniards had gotten to the Americas and “finding” gold, this information must have been given back to their mother country, then the news would get spread out throughout their country, then eventually spread throughout the rest of Europe. So even though, e nowadays may think that media didn’t go far back to the exploration age, but in fact it did, and hasn’t stopped since.

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