Roger G. Kennedy talks with Studs Terkel
BROADCAST: Sep. 22, 1994 | DURATION: 00:53:17
Roger G. Kennedy discusses the book "Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization." Includes quotes from the book.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Roger G. Kennedy "As George Washington said, 'These are traces of the country's having once been inhabited by a race of people more ingenious at least, if not more civilized, than those who at present dwell here'."
Studs Terkel That's a provocative opening if there ever was one, that was the voice of Roger Kennedy, whose most recent book, well, a word about Mr. Kennedy in a moment. His most recent book from which he just read a passage, and it's talk about early America, you talk about pre-Columbia America too, about Native Americans before the Europeans came, and that comment will come on that. It's an excerpt from his book called "Hidden Cities", and the subtitle really is operative: "The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization", Macmillan the publishers, and we start, we should point out that Mr. Kennedy and I have, are acquainted.
Roger G. Kennedy Studs
Roger G. Kennedy Museum
Roger G. Kennedy That's a, that's a passage which manifests how the Founding Fathers, founding mothers of this country came over into the Ohio and Mississippi valleys where we now are, you and I. And they found here the evidence that they were not the first civilized people to be here, that there were great cities before they were, those that they were then in the process of creating, and it excited them enormously, and I think most important for folks like you and me, Studs, they respected the evidence that the Indians that they were then supplanting had been capable of great things over the centuries before them.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah, I'm describing ordered monumental architecture on a grand scale. The easiest place for most of us to find it is to drop into St. Louis and go about ten miles to the east to Cahokia in Illinois where there is one plaza bounded by these great works of architecture of earth out of the 11 at least plazas that were there in the 12th century, at a time Studs in which there were more people there in Cahokia in St. Louis than there were in Rome or in London.
Studs Terkel Yeah, that's the astonishing passage too that I came across. We're talking about Cahokia, there's a race track there in St. Louis called Cahokia Downs, it's just a town that's an adjunct of St. Louis.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes, a big one. If you look at the pictures of St. Louis from the river and from 1810 on every decade or so, you can see the vanishing of the ancient city as the new city, our city replaced it. Cahokia, because it hasn't been developed as intensely as St. Louis itself, still has vestiges of this, and it's big. The big mound that is at the north end of the plaza in Cahokia is bigger in area than the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt. We're talking big.
Roger G. Kennedy What's happening is that we are rediscovering this evidence which underlies every major city in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. Nashville. Columbus, Ohio. Cincinnati. Knoxville. St. Louis especially. Memphis, [Natchitoches?], all of these places are built on ancient ruins of earth, some of stone but mostly of earth. And what's happening because we've got our own cities on top of them, is that every time we drive a highway through, or something new gets below the surface, we are now beginning to pay attention to what our forefathers paid a lot of attention to. Let me just give you an illustration of this. In 1816 or '17, when they build a new road through the center of Cincinnati, the town fathers stopped and they paid scrupulous attention to the evidence of antiquity that they found under Cincinnati at that time a pretty good collection of stuff. We down in southern Illinois are building highway networks and about the only way you can finance decent archaeology these days is to get somebody to put a highway through something, destroy it and just before the bulldozer comes, you can find out what was there.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes, well we have been destroying this past and then getting sentimental about it after the fact. This is a very old American trait. It, this business of you destroy it and then you say, "Oh, my
Studs Terkel By the, your book covers all sorts of history and certain figures in it whom we know. But revelations about them and attitudes toward this. You say early, those who came European explorers
Roger G. Kennedy No.
Roger G. Kennedy They did not, and this is, you're, this is so important. The first historic preservation ordinance in this country was in 1789 in Marietta, Ohio and it was about not preserving nice old Georgian houses. It was about preserving the evidence of Indian antiquity. Marietta was full of that. In fact, there's a there's a street now called Sacre Vie, which Sacred Way, a wide double street, that's all that's left of what was in fact a sacred way for the Indians. Marietta was laid out by its founders to accommodate the presence of these great configurations of mounds, ancient buildings because the people who founded Marietta were classically trained people, and they had respect for the past. Subsequently, they have -- the good folks of Marietta have been pretty good lately. But in between the founders and lately, there was a lot of destruction.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah, that's right. That's George writing to General Richard Butler just before General Butler got killed by the Indians it turns out, and as they were defending themselves. Writing Butler saying, "This is important. I, George, I'm too busy because I'm busy being president, but I'm certainly grateful that you folks out there exploring Ohio and Indiana and Illinois are paying attention because I, George Washington would if I had the time." He'd been in the West five times. This fellow knew the Ohio Valley very well and he was writing to Butler to say "Please pay attention." Now, Thomas Jefferson was in constant communication with the folks exploring out here and getting back pieces of sculpture, pots, and images of humans. He was enormously excited about that to the extent that the first museum of the American Indian was the great opening room at Monticello. When you came in the door, you came into what Jefferson called his Indian Hall. It's been sort of scrubbed up and turned into French 18th century lately, until
Studs Terkel But you also point out the contradictions in Jefferson, that is, even though he had respect for what the artifacts and the architecture of the Native Americans, at the same was a certain disdain in that European and scientific, the idea of something ritualistic.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes, they, that's -- there isn't much empathy in Mr. Jefferson. There is a scientific detachment which focuses on the object and not the person. So Jefferson never had an Indian friend. He admired Indian objects and scientifically he did more than any president ever has to pay attention to what they had done. But that's very different than saying to yourself, "The people I'm dealing with on an everyday basis are the descendants of these creators."
Roger G. Kennedy Exactly.
Roger G. Kennedy Exactly. How miraculous that this savage could deliver such wonderful language. He didn't pay a lot of attention to the fact that Chief Logan had spent a couple of years in Philadelphia, and he spoke not perhaps as eloquently as Mr. Jefferson did, but very eloquently indeed. Jefferson had trouble looking at other kinds of people as fully human.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy The French kept writing him saying, "We, you have this wonderful Black poetess, Phillis Wheatley who writes this wonderful stuff," and Mr. Jefferson'd say, " Well, not, not, not really."
Roger G. Kennedy Yes. Washington is one of the most interesting of these founders. When Washington was growing up of course, he grew up in the same Virginia that Jefferson did. But as he encountered Black youngsters learning as well in the North as white youngsters, as Benjamin Franklin did, and as he became acquainted with another kind of America which existed north of slavery or at least north of the kind of Southern slavery, Washington changed his view. And as you know, he manumitted, set free his and his wife's slaves at her death. That's nothing that -- Mr. Jefferson did nothing of the sort. And Washington was active in seeking ways of freeing his slaves even during his own lifetime. There is the astonishing but true fact that Washington attempted to sell his Mount Vernon estate with the Black people that were working here to go as free wage laborers to English investors in the 1790s. That's true.
Roger G. Kennedy They were, they were so uncrazy about it and it's got to be said that the English were so uncrazy about helping out the leader of a rebellion that it didn't quite work. But it manifests what Washington had in mind.
Studs Terkel We'll come back to some of the people of Alfred [sic - Albert] Gallatin is a case. But before that, back to the discoveries, the archaeological findings of the native of various parts of the country. You point out there was a key [phrase?] something circular here, you speak of the magic circle. Perhaps you could talk about that, watered earth and the idea of you bringing the idea of Jung and a tribal consciousness. Suppose you
Roger G. Kennedy Well, Studs, I think our -- your mind, my mind and the minds of the founders and the minds of the people who made this architecture have many similarities. The circle for many of us is a symbol of completion and wholeness. It is for us today, and it was for them. And if we permit ourselves to think as they did, feel as they did, we are comforted by the presence of circles. They made very big ones, a quarter of a mile across or so, and they did so as later Indians did, as a way of keeping certain kinds of spirits out and certain kinds of spirits in. The truth of the matter is that Europeans have done that too, they used to plough a circle around a house when they were setting it up as a, to be free of evil spirits and Rome of course was, it is said in the legend that it was founded by driving some oxen in a circle around a place. We tend to do that. The Irish have a habit of making circles, and in the Jewish tradition the circle is a way not just of making a completion, which it certainly does, but also of saying "Here within this space there is something different from what's outside
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Studs Terkel It's square and angular, it's built in such a way that if someone passes the office where you may be, pass that door, that person is long gone forgot -- there's no way of finding that person.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. That's right. We wanted to find some kind of coming back together. You know, when kids in nursery school want to get together, they join hands and they form a circle. It's in part that we've all shared and joined, but it's also that we in the circle are together and all of that disorder and noise and mess is out there somewhere. Now if you go to Newark, Ohio where the great fairground circle was built around 200 A.D. and you enter this three-story high circle of earth at its one entrance, you feel that you are somehow separated from all of the freeway traffic and the fast food joints and boom boxes and mess that's outside there. You not only feel it because the earth cuts off the high frequencies but you feel it because of the very form itself.
Studs Terkel Now we're talking to Roger G. Kennedy, circle "Hidden Cities" is the book and those the hidden cities -- [fully?] it's why they hadn't, and as they were a cities, centuries and centuries ago, the subtitle "The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization". [pause in recording] Roger G. Kennedy and the "Hidden Cities". It's always architecture and buildings and planning that was part of your very interested -- the previous one of cathedrals and buildings
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. It's because it's tangible. You and I like to be able to reach out and touch that -- it gives us a kind of a reality. General ideas are wonderful, and history in general is wonderful, but if you can go to a place, feel it the way that the people who made it feel it, that's better.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah.
Roger G. Kennedy Exactly right! That's it. It -- we crave the possibility of entering the world of the people who preceded us. Now, that's why we save old houses, old neighborhoods. It's also why we try a little harder to preserve the evidence of a longer antiquity right here in the Midwest. We -- people go off to Egypt. They go off to Mesopotamia when the Iraqis aren't making trouble. And they go there with the kind of desire to find themselves in a past when that past is right outside the front door for us. It's at Cahokia, it's at Newark, it's at Chillicothe. It's at our National Monument in central Ohio which we call
Roger G. Kennedy Well, they're just Indian people, because their descendants, any of us can claim. they're, they were here in what? In Europe or Roman times and a little earlier. They were -- the work that you can find at Columbus at the Ohio Historical Society or at the Field Museum in Chicago or at the Smithsonian, the work they did is not just kind of simple. It's very complicated and very beautiful.
Studs Terkel You know, as you're saying this more and more of this emerges from your book and findings, too. You point out something rather interesting, there were no moats in some places. M-O-A-T moats, which is therefore protect against an enemy.
Roger G. Kennedy That, not -- not only were there no moats, when there were water circles, the water circles were inside not outside. Which means that they're incantatory, they were there to invoke spirits or keep bad spirits out. You don't put a circle of water at your back if you're in a military mood. You aren't in a military mood, you're in a religious mood.
Studs Terkel Now we're hitting something rather interesting here, of course we, we know, at least history seems to tell us that there a great deal of internecine warfare before the Europeans came. You're saying there was a time earlier than that,
Roger G. Kennedy There was, there is there is no evidence of large-scale warfare in any of the skeletal remains or any of the architectural remains before the 14th century, and very little thereafter. Now, that's not true in Aztec country. It's not true in Inca country, where there is plenty of evidence of large-scale warfare. But even among the seven or eight million Indians, seven or eight million Indians who lived in what is now the United States, that's a lot of people before the great diseases struck them down. They appear to have lived, and perhaps there were certainly some sporadic difficulties, but no big-time wars.
Roger G. Kennedy That's a bird that dives and forms the earth by appearing out of the water. It's a wonderful myth. Incidentally, it's not just Indian, it's part of it, we have a lot of that in our own tradition. The these people not only made very big buildings and very fine sculpture, they paid attention to the skies, and they did so in a very sophisticated way and they must have kept records, because the observations that they made led them to do things with the earth that you could only do if you had watched and noted your watching over decades, perhaps as long as 100 years. My point here is that we are not dealing with simple people. We're not dealing with hunter-gatherers. We're dealing with people who lived in big towns, made a lot of agriculture, and knew exactly what they were doing.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes! That's, I, you can't walk, walk through Chicago without a sense of the wonders of Carson's and of Sullivan. Sullivan, at the end of his life was working in the presence of these great Indian works of architecture in Newark, Ohio. One of the last works he did was a little bank building which now is an ice cream store and not being handled awfully well in Newark. As he would walk away from that job site, Sullivan, Chicago's greatest architect, he would go for walks among the Indian circles, squares, and octagons, and he referred to that experience reverentially. Here's a great 20th-century architect in the presence of great third and fourth-century architecture.
Studs Terkel You're quoting from his work here, "The Grammar of Ornament". This is Louis Sullivan. "These simple forms of ancient discovery and use were given esoteric meaning and occult powers by the men of that day in an effort to control by means of formulas and secret ritual the destiny of man amidst the powers of Nature."
Studs Terkel You know, as you're talking, Roger Kennedy, I was thinking also that you connect, we're talking about what the findings have been and the new discoveries of the richness of a culture and architecture, you also tell the stories of the Europeans, celebrated ones who came we know
Roger G. Kennedy Oh, a real American hero. Albert Gallatin is the is the least celebrated, the least appreciated of the founding fathers. He was secretary of the Treasury under both Jefferson and Madison. He was a Swiss, and throughout his long life, which lasted almost until the Civil War, that's a long time. He was in public life from 1790 through the middle of the 1840s. Albert Gallatin did respect Black people and Indians as much as he respected Europeans. And he's so far as I know the only one of the founding fathers who consistently looked at foreign policy problems in the light of a due respect for other people. He never liked the kinds of warfare that were grounded in a sense that people of color are less valuable or less important than pink, us pink kind of people are. And Gallatin is an astonishing mind. He was the first among other things to pay real attention to the architecture of Santa Fe and of the Rio Grande Valley. Imagine that, here's one of -- here's somebody who slept in the same room one night in, on the Monongahela with George Washington telling us about Pueblo architecture in New Mexico.
Studs Terkel Well.
Studs Terkel But archaeology was one of archaeology was what they were all interested in because they weren't like as we apparently have been able to they weren't able to ignore these things. For them this is the biggest architecture they ever saw.
Roger G. Kennedy Archaeology
Studs Terkel So there was a double thread here as far as the Europeans took over came. There were those like Galli-- interested in, and there others more materialistically inclined, more predatorily and
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. Some people were, were interested in laying the ground for what has subsequently become the empty continent myth, as if there was nobody there and nothing there of any importance. Some people were like that.
Roger G. Kennedy Well, Lewis and Clark were on the other team. They, they expected, because George Rogers Clark, William Clark's brother, had found a lot of this ancient architecture. William Clark, of Lewis and Clark, was enormously excited by what he saw in southern Illinois among other places. The evidence of Indian antiquity, and when they went up the Missouri they were looking for a lot more, some of which they found. It's odd that that part of their story hasn't had much emphasis. It's like all the rest of this story, it just sort of got dropped out of the pages. But Lewis and Clark, at Mr. Jefferson's request, were looking for ancient architecture on their way up the Missouri, and they found some.
Roger G. Kennedy The Moravians were among the folks like the Quakers who thought, and I'd have to say like the Roman Catholic Church even earlier thought that Indians were people whose souls were like our souls worth trying to save. The methods were different among the among the padres early on, and the Moravians and the Quakers, but the intention was the same. And that's, that was a noble intention, however badly [brought
Studs Terkel You mention the padres and that, there's a story by B. Traven, you know the mystery and B. Traven did "Treasure of Sierra Madre", no one quite knew who he was, but he has a story called the "Conversion of Some Indians", and it's about this very theme. There was a kindly padre who came to Southwest, and he was trying to convince -- evangelize the Indians about Christianity. And he spoke for days and they listened very respectfully and quietly, the elders and others did, they listened and listened, he spoke of Jesus and what happened to Him and to the nature of Christianity, and they listened, this is, "We shall return, give you our answer, Padre," and they returned a week or so later after discussion, "Padre, hope you will not feel offended, but did you say your God was crucified?" "He was." "And they spat on him and abused him and killed him at the age of 33?" "Yes." "We don't do that to our God. You see, our God rises in the morning and we just bask in his warmth. And it's, we just admire and look toward him and worship him. And at night when he descends and disappears into the sea, it's cools and we wait for him the next day. So with our God forever and we respect him very much so. If you don't mind, we'll stick to ours." And that was basically, well, what some of the evangel--
Roger G. Kennedy Well, one of the beauties of the of being in the presence of the Indians is that they can remind us of elements of our own tradition which are our more encompassing than the notion of, of its being wholly an individual with a long white beard up there to pray to. In our own traditions, St. Patrick and St. Francis had prayers, some of which they surely learned from Jewish prayers which have to do with seeking a partnership with the sun and the moon, "Hail, Brother Sun and the stars and the earth and the water." Those prayers are part of the Christian tradition just as much as they are part of the Native American tradition.
Studs Terkel We're talking to Roger G. Kennedy, and I think we know you were head of the for a time and I remember I am sure it still continues in that vein, but you instituted a number of changes there at the National Academy of American
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy I'm called the director of the National Park Service these days. There are 367 of these wonderful places around the country that we have selected to preserve and care for. It's very much the same kind of work that you and I have always been in, which is to try to arrange for there being greater mutual respect among Americans.
Studs Terkel So "Hidden Cities" your most recent one and we're just touching on some of the people involved, one we know the, as well as the Native Americans. You speak of the sacred space "Shiloh." Is that where the battle
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. "Shiloh" means "the temple on the hill," that's what the term means. It's the reason that Shiloh where that terrible bloody battle was fought was called that is because it was named after two things: first, a little white church on a hill. But more important, it was a great religious center on, built by the Native Americans probably in the 10th through the 13th century. It's still very visible there. Anybody who goes to Shiloh to the battlefield can find themselves also in the middle of a plaza bounded by great works of Native American earthen architecture. It's true all the way through our battlefield system. If you go to Fort Necessity, where George Washington fought his battle in southern Pennsylvania, he fought that battle and wasn't wiped out completely, because he made use of a very ancient Indian earthwork which was there ready for him probably built around the fifth century A.D.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. "Poverty" -- isn't that a wonderful name? Poverty Point was the name of a plantation in Louisiana which gave its name to a place built about the same time as Stonehenge, and it's seven times as big. It's sitting there in a very nice state park owned by the state of Louisiana with a good little museum. Not as not as fancy and wonderful as the museum in Cahokia, Illinois is, which is one of the best in the world.
Roger G. Kennedy I call it Caddonia, that's the place of the, where the Caddos live, the Caddos are a Native American tribe in Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas. There are still Caddo around, I mean people, but what is most astonishing is that in that corner where Oklahoma and Arkansas and Texas come together, these were these were pre-capitalist people. They were in trade with the people in the plains, and on the other side of the plains were the people of Pecos in New Mexico doing exactly the same thing. And what we're looking for now is the very first piece of Santa Fe turquoise to be found all the way over there in Louisiana and Arkansas, and I'll bet it's there.
Studs Terkel Then as you're talking about this, we come back to, it's Jefferson fascinates me, the double aspect of his life. He, here's a quote of yours, from Roger Kennedy my guest from the book "Hidden Cities". And this is the chapter "Evangelism and Amnesia: Explaining Away the Mounds", I'll ask you about the amnesia. But this Jefferson eschewed effusions of any sort. He and his contemporaries shown a strange sort of passion of their own in their detachment. That's it. In their scrupulously diffident treatment of the religious objects in architecture of Native Americans. He being somewhat of
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah.
Studs Terkel This is guys like Jefferson. This enthusiasm probably arose from their being themselves assaulted by those who derogated those achievements. They were often called heathen by the same people who rejected art on the grounds that it was heathen. And so, but here's
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. They at least didn't trash it. Now, that's, that's important because after them there were two generations in which people did trash Indian religious objects both in the language they used about them and in the way they treated them. Mr. Jefferson and his contemporaries treated them scientifically with detachment, but they weren't afraid of them. They didn't call them heathen idols; that came later.
Studs Terkel And that came later, there was a predecessor of yours Smithsonian Powell, who had a pretty enlightened view of it, but there's a guy from Chicago Academy of Science named Foster, perhaps we could read that, will you tell a little word about
Roger G. Kennedy From 1840 to about my birth in the mid '20s, 1920s. It was it was unthinkable to many Americans to consider the possibility that anything of great significance could have been done by Indians. Now, the founding fathers didn't take that view. But after them, lots of people did. And it's just in our generation that we're be, be, that us public people, now archaeologists have known better for a long time, but us in the general public, we're beginning to reassess the contributions of the people who were here before us.
Studs Terkel You know it's interesting is, during the Chicago World's Fair and other world fairs, there have been studies of fairs, when they had anthropologists there, certain ones who were respected or something less, hardly was anything non-Caucasian
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy It seems to us astonishing that this could be true until you go into still many museums in this country where the sense that there are primitive people, that primitives are the first and then there's us, wonderful us with our wonderful full knowledge of the world. Fact is, that that wonderful full knowledge changes all the time. That knowledge is incomplete. We keep learning new things all the time.
Studs Terkel That's a very provocative book and a thoughtful one by Roger G. Kennedy. "Hidden Cities: Of Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization", and Macmillan are the publishers. [pause in recording] We know there's quite a controversy when some young new historians came along and spoke of our winning of the West and the usual story is one of great triumph we did and how we civilized the country. And then along came the new historians, say "Wait a minute." And I believe was Daniel Boorstin who was furious about it. Would you mind explaining?
Roger G. Kennedy Sure. Both sets of these people are friends of mine, so I'll try to pick my words with care. We do keep learning all the time. Things that we thought were settled or true or frequently just our interpretations of what were settled and true, and changing our prejudices or preconceptions is painful. It's not easy. And some people have a tough time with it. Now, there are two parts of it. I think. One of them is that when you pounce on something new, I think I've found some new things in this book of mine, it's polite to invite other people into this new knowledge as trusting partners. It's, you don't have to put your fist in somebody's nose and say, "You old fool, you, how could you have been so wrong all these years?" And you don't have to say to your fellow citizens either, "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves for not having understood this before?" At the same time each of us, your age and mine, Studs, one of the joys of being a little bit past 65 is that you can keep on learning and it refreshes your life, and it's that joy of learning which keeps us useful. And therefore it strikes me that when there is a fresh perception offered politely that the polite response is to say, "Gee, I never thought of that," or "I thought about that a long time ago, and that's baloney," which is another way of responding.
Roger G. Kennedy Oh, I don't -- that is a -- once again, this is a little harder than simple. When you've -- there are two things here. New information, new information is always good. New facts are always useful. It depends a little on how you how you handle them. The, the fact is easy. The interpretation is not so easy. I just don't want to stick my thumb in anybody's eye, because I think a little bit of a thumb belongs in both sets of eyes.
Studs Terkel So we've got to come back to hidden -- we're so connected with it, so the findings. Of course, here in 1873, first year that John Wesley Powell, a predecessor of yours spoke of "The blunders we've made."
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Studs Terkel "The blunders we have made and the wrongs we've inflicted upon the Indians have been cruel and inexcusable except on the ground of our ignorance," he says. But in 1873, J.W. Foster, president and this is from Roger Kennedy's book, the Chicago Academy of Sciences contested the Smithsonian's position. He says "The Indian has been signalized by treachery and cruelty. He repels all efforts to raise him from his degraded position. He has never known, been known voluntarily to engage in an enterprise requiring methodical labor."
Roger G. Kennedy That's -- until we get to the symmetrical mounds, you could be reading an English author about my ancestors the Irish. The language is precisely the same, and it is as derogatory on the part of the winner against the temporary loser as it was on the part of Europeans like this wonderful man from Chicago about the Indians. They couldn't they couldn't accept the possibility that people they were kicking around could have had ancestors capable of being fully civilized, or indeed that they themselves were fully civilized. The fact is that the record of Western expansion in the United States is the is the record of one set of people somewhat better armed than another succeeding in, in driving them off the land with the assistance of microbes. If it hadn't been for a European and African diseases, it would have been a great deal harder. The story is one not I think so much of beastliness, but the story is one of our obligations, not how bad somebody else is, but our obligations today to really seize this new information and to lead and to permit it to lead us to a more respectful view of our predecessors.
Roger G. Kennedy It's the most exciting adventure of my life. Here is an America I never dreamt existed. Here is an America with a past I never knew was there. It's as if suddenly somehow we were able to see that before all of these places that we now occupy there were people making love, making sculpture, having full lives, practicing architecture, practicing agriculture, practicing astronomy right here, but thousands of years ago, thousands of years ago. Before there were pyramids in Egypt, people were making big architecture in Louisiana. What a story that is, and what an adventure to find it.
Roger G. Kennedy Well, we have good carbon dates in northeastern Louisiana for 3750 B.C., big buildings. The first stepped pyramids, before they looked pyramidal, but for stepped pyramids in Egypt, come along two or three hundred years later. This is when people in northern Europe were painting themselves blue, in the immortal words of Gunga Din. It's true, this was true thousands of years before the Romans were doing anything of any significance at all. It's before the Greeks were doing anything significant at all. The ancestors of our friends and neighbors, the Indian people, were doing things of importance long before my ancestors were.
Studs Terkel I remember that teacher we had, of a [good man too?] he says, "When our ancestry" he speaks of Europeans and white, "had bull hides on their backs, you know, there was a civilization there."
Roger G. Kennedy Yes. This book had to be stopped on its way to the press as we got those good dates at 3750 or 3800 B.C., just since it's been published, the folks in northeastern Louisiana where this very ancient work is being found have found more of this. They found little pieces of sculpture that may go back, what's that, 4500 years. Forty-five hundred years!
Studs Terkel Again we come to the double thread, the two kinds of people who came here, the Europe here. There were the predators, the boys, and there was 'way back in Cortez's group was Bartolomeo de las Casas.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes.
Roger G. Kennedy Yes, exactly so! There -- that's exactly right. There have always been many kinds of humans, both European and non-European, and it's absolutely true that as the Indians and their cultures were being deliberately exterminated, not just the people but the culture as a whole, there were Spaniards who fought against that process and sought to preserve that culture and to save those people.
Studs Terkel I just thought again coming across another passage, you know the sequence in your book dealing with religion, evangelism, and the various groups and theories about the lost tribes, that might be worth hitting, too, because that connects itself with the nature of architecture. Roger G. Kennedy is my guest, and "Hidden Cities" is the book, the subtitle "The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization", and its word is revelatory. [pause in recording] Talking about the various people, celebrated figures of history, others, anonymous. The theories about these people who were here.
Roger G. Kennedy Yeah. It's as if over and over again in our own more recent history we've found various ways of not admitting that the Indians had done prodigies of work before us, and we invoked lost tribes of Israel, we invoke Welsh travelers, vagrant Vikings, Hindus, and Central American Indians, which is getting a little closer, but still no cigar. The remarkable thing is that we have worked so hard to find some other explanation than the palpable truth.
Roger G. Kennedy That's right! There were these wonderful stories that some of the language that the Spanish chroniclers put into the mouth of Montezuma, who was speaking a language they didn't understand, had a kind of a Welsh-like sound. It's also true that Montezuma was quoted as speaking, let me see: Welsh, English, Hebrew, I think Viking.
Roger G. Kennedy The Mormons have this enormous distinction. They are the only group of Christians who have made Native American history a part of their religious theory and practice. That's an important thing to say. Nobody else has sought to bring you into the Old Testament, so to speak, this whole continent. And the Mormons have.
Studs Terkel Well, you know it's probably not accidental too that the great trek from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, handcarts, you know, "The Handcart Song", its own anthem. You know, walking across, one of the great treks of history along with the Chinese march and the Afrikaner trek.
Roger G. Kennedy It's moved to -- Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, lived in the middle of Indian architecture in upper upstate New York. That's my own country. It was full of ghosts. It was nobody could grow up in that part of New York without being permeated by two things: by the Old Testament, and by evidence of ancient American life. The book of Mormon is a kind of a fusion of those two experiences.
Studs Terkel You know, as we're talking with Roger Kennedy, we're just touching on the findings in the book. "Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization". Is there a base we haven't touched you feel like hitting?
Studs Terkel But I think we have a book here. Macmillan the publishers and thank you very much. And so, I'll see you -- I was about to say out in the parks, but you, you're out in Washington, but you're still making the rounds. More findings I suppose are coming out