9 Teaching Resources That Tell the Truth About Columbus.

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9 Teaching Resources That Tell the Truth About Columbus.

The times they are a-changing for Christopher Columbus 

Finding good teaching materials for Columbus Day is like searching for a needle in a haystack. States and cities are increasingly recognizing Indigenous Peoples, but appropriate and readily available lesson plans have fallen behind the trend.

 

The times they are a-changing for Christopher Columbus. In 1990, only three states failed to honor the genocidal and delusional navigator. The word is getting out, though, and this year, 16 states will not celebrate him. One by one, cities are also taking matters into their own hands. Seattle will now recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, following Minneapolis and San Francisco.

 

But still, even reputable organizations like the National Education Association don’t offer a single online Columbus Day lesson plan we’d recommend. There are a few decent videos out there, but most of them say Natives came from Asia. Others gloss over the genocide as if worried about the delicate ears of the children they teach. But is it the children or the adults who feel the need to insulate their thin-skinned patriotism?

 

Consider the thoughts of Wisconsin high school student, Savana Stuhl, 17, who said, “I was probably in fifth grade when my mom told me about Columbus. At first I didn’t believe her because at school he was called a hero, he found America, he came here first. Then my mother read me a book about the true story that he wasn’t the first one here.” Stuhl now feels even very young children should be told the truth. “I think younger kids could handle it. It is important they know he wasn’t a hero.”

 

In Prescott, Wisconsin, AP History teacher Jeff Ryan agrees. “I would argue that anyone who thinks students aren’t capable of weighing different perspectives, boy that’s a dangerous way to think,” he said. Ryan’s lesson plans include the writings of Friar Bartolome Las Casas, who detailed the atrocities after Columbus’s arrival in horrific detail.

 

Describing the resistance of some people to accept the truth, Ryan said, “If factual information is so brand new, something they have never heard before, and if it is the opposite of what they believe, then they think it is biased. The challenge as a teacher is not about trying to change minds. It is about opening minds, and doing it rationally.”

 

In Wisconsin, ACT 31 makes Native Studies mandatory. “And it is filtering its way into primary and elementary grade levels,” Ryan said. I have an 8-year-old who came back from her first grade class—she told me, ‘You know Columbus was an explorer, but he did some really bad things. He did mean things to the Native people.’”

 

In this new era of honesty in history, where can teachers go for good information? We came up with a list of nine resources: good ideas, books and one lesson plan that work even for very young children.

Rethinking Columbus

The most highly recommended reading, by Oyate.org and American Indian Children’s Literature, is Rethinking Columbus. The book offers this summary: “…the Columbus myth is a foundation of children’s beliefs about society. Columbus is often a child’s first lesson about encounters between different cultures and races. The murky legend of a brave adventurer tells children whose version of history to accept, and whose to ignore. It says nothing about the brutality of the European invasion of North America.” Writings from N. Scott Momaday, Cornell Pewewardy, Barb Munson, Rosalie Little Thunder, Winona LaDuke and many more. It is a readily available source that offers a real Native perspective.

Wikimedia Commons

 

A whitetail deer in winter.

Putting Columbus on Trial

Teachers in McDonald, Pennsylvania, celebrated Columbus Day by putting Columbus on trial, where students gave Columbus a life sentence of imprisonment. In Texas, students learned not only of the import/export trade of gold and jewels, but also of smallpox blankets.

 

Lies My Teacher Told Me

 

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus, What Your History Books Got Wrong by James W. Loewen, is the perfect antidote for teachers who want to show not only the truth about Columbus, but see a chart showing how textbook historians have hidden the truth from students. It’s a double lesson that teaches about Columbus and encourages students to do their research.

 

Wikimedia Commons

 

A whitetail deer in winter.

 

The American Discovery of Europe

For high school students, the book The American Discovery of Europe by Jack D. Forbes presents the refreshing news that Natives were already traveling the world, and were met in Ireland and other countries more than a decade before Columbus arrived on these shores.

 

 

Wikimedia Commons

 

A whitetail deer in winter.

 

Videos

 

There was not one YouTube video about Columbus that was found to be suitable. Avoid them. The only decent video we found was on the paid subscription site Brain Pop. The video, activities, and additional reading on The Columbian Exchange do more than gloss over the subject of Natives, and gives serious weight to the genocide and slavery.

 

Columbus Day Books

There are two books, both named Columbus Day, that are suitable for young children. One by Holiday Histories and the other by Vicki Liestman. They are not thorough, but are fair.

 

Wikimedia Commons

 

A whitetail deer in winter.

 

Wikimedia Commons

 

A whitetail deer in winter.

 

Columbus’s Journals

 

Columbus’s journals offer many ideas for lesson plans. Exploring stereotypes, cultural norms, religious freedom, are all lessons that could be drawn from his journals.

Protests

 

Showing students a slideshow of anti-Columbus Day protests by modern day Natives shows mainstream children that indigenous people are still here and have strong feelings about the celebration.

Two Perspectives

 

Columbus Day From Two Perspectives offers students in grades 4-6 an opportunity to learn about what happened to the Taino people who suffered at the hands of Columbus and his men. The Lesson Plan website even asks for Columbus Day lesson plan submissions, admitting they only have a very few.

 

“The truth shouldn’t be hidden. Instead of hiding it, people should be able to learn from it,” said Anton Wazlawik, 17, a senior at Prescott High School in Wisconsin. “I feel grateful that our school hasn’t censored that information. Instead of tempers flaring, we should look at the facts. There are too many people who feel their way is the only.”

Source: https://bit.ly/2lBg8cq

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Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance.

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Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance.

On the morning a debt collector threatened to rape his wife, Andrew Therrien was working from home, in a house with green shutters on a cul-de-sac in a small Rhode Island town. Tall and stocky, with a buzz cut and a square, friendly face, Therrien was a salesman for a promotions company. He’d always had an easy rapport with people over the phone, and on that day, in February 2015, he was calling food vendors to talk about grocery store giveaways.

Therrien was interrupted midpitch by a call from his wife. She’d gotten a voicemail from an authoritative-sounding man saying Therrien was in some kind of trouble. “I need to verify an address to present you with your formal claim,” the man had said. “Andrew Therrien, you are officially notified.”

A few minutes later, Therrien’s phone buzzed. It was the same guy. He gave his name as Charles Cartwright and said Therrien owed $700 on a payday loan. But Therrien knew he didn’t owe anyone anything. Suspecting a scam, he told Cartwright just what he thought of his scare tactics.

Cartwright hung up, then called back, mad. He said he wanted to meet face-to-face to teach Therrien a lesson.

“Come on by, asshole,” Therrien says he replied.

“I will,” Cartwright said, “and I hope your wife is at home.”

That’s when he made the rape threat.

Therrien got so angry he couldn’t think clearly. He wasn’t going to just let someone menace and disrespect his wife like that. He had to know who this Cartwright guy was, and his employer, too. Therrien wanted to make them pay.

At the same time, he worried that the call might not be a swindle. What if some misinformed loan shark really was coming for them? But Therrien didn’t have any real information he could take to the police.

Then he remembered Cartwright had left a number with his wife.

He dialed.

Somewhere—at the top of a ladder of dirty debt collectors that Therrien would spend the next two years relentlessly climbing—a man named Joel Tucker had no idea what was coming.

“You’ll never get your money back. You might as well get blood out of it”

Earlier this year, I met Therrien, 33, at a Panera Bread restaurant in central Providence. He had reluctantly agreed to be interviewed, on the condition that I not reveal his hometown or his wife’s name.

Therrien had been caught up in a fraud known as phantom debt, where millions of Americans are hassled to pay back money they don’t owe. The concept is centuries old: Inmates of a New York debtors’ prison joked about it as early as 1800, in a newspaper they published called Forlorn Hope. But systematic schemes to collect on fake debts started only about five years ago. It begins when someone scoops up troves of personal information that are available cheaply online—old loan applications, long-expired obligations, data from hacked accounts—and reformats it to look like a list of debts. Then they make deals with unscrupulous collectors who will demand repayment of the fictitious bills. Their targets are often poor and likely to already be getting confusing calls about other loans. The harassment usually doesn’t work, but some marks are convinced that because the collectors know so much, the debt must be real.

The problem is as simple as it is intractable. In 2012 a call center in India was busted for making 8 million calls in eight months to collect made-up bills. The Federal Trade Commission has since broken up at least 13 similar scams. In most cases, regulators weren’t able to identify the original perpetrators because the data files had been sold and repackaged so many times. Victims have essentially no recourse to do anything but take the abuse.

Most victims, that is. When the scammers started to hound Therrien, he hounded them right back. Obsessed with payback, he spent hundreds of hours investigating the dirty side of debt. By day he was still promoting ice cream brands and hiring models for liquor store tastings. But in his spare time, he was living out a revenge fantasy. He befriended loan sharks and blackmailed crooked collectors, getting them to divulge their suppliers, and then their suppliers above them. In method, Therrien was like a prosecutor flipping gangster underlings to get to lieutenants and then the boss. In spirit, he was a bit like Liam Neeson’s vigilante character in the movie Taken—using unflagging aggression to obtain scraps of information and reverse-engineer a criminal syndicate. Therrien didn’t punch anyone in the head, of course. He was simply unstoppable over the phone.

When Therrien dialed the number Cartwright had left, a woman answered and said she worked for Lakefront Processing Solutions in Buffalo. She’d never heard of Charles Cartwright, though, and implied he must be some kind of freelancer or bounty hunter. Regardless, she said, Therrien could clear everything up by making a payment. Her records indicated that he owed a payday lender called Vista.

Therrien had indeed once taken out a loan, but he didn’t think it was from Vista. He’d been selling copiers at the time, and when his boss stiffed him on a $20,000 commission, he turned to an online lender to make a car payment. Therrien says he paid back the debt promptly. He was offended by the Lakefront woman’s suggestion that he was a deadbeat. “I’m a person who believes in personal friggin’ responsibility,” Therrien tells me. “I signed an agreement. And I fulfilled my obligation.”

On his laptop, Therrien started digging. He found a securities filing saying Vista had merged with a company called That Marketing Solution Inc. After paying a few dollars to an online people-search service, he got its president on the line. “You sold my personal information to a bunch of thugs,” Therrien recalls telling the man. “I want to know why, and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.” Within hours, the company provided a letter saying that Therrien had never borrowed from Vista.

Armed with proof the debt was invalid, Therrien turned back to Lakefront. More searches yielded a corporate parent, owned by two Buffalo men. Therrien called them, then their lawyer. When the lawyer stalled, Therrien bombarded him with more calls, at home and on his cell—enough to put Lakefront off him for good. (The parties eventually reached a confidential settlement, and Lakefront—whose name I found in a public record—declined to comment.)

By the morning after Cartwright’s call, Therrien’s fears of a psycho collector had been assuaged—no one had showed up at his house. But swatting down Lakefront turned out to be just the first round in a game of whack-a-mole. More collection agencies contacted him, his wife, his brother, even his grandparents. The calls made it clear to Therrien that an overarching force was at play. His name had to be getting on these lists somehow.

Each night, after his wife went to sleep, he cracked open his laptop to comb lawsuits, unearth filings, and uproot the owners of the agencies calling him. When he got names, he’d phone them, often surprising them at home, and make clear that he wouldn’t go away until they’d revealed who supplied their debt portfolios. “Here’s the deal,” he’d say. “I don’t really care about you. There’s a million guys like you out there. You’ll never get your money back. You might as well get blood out of it. Tell me what I need to know to put these guys in jail.”

Sometimes, Therrien would make a small payment on the fake debt, then check bank records to see where it went. He found people with convictions for counterfeiting, stock fraud, drug dealing, and child molestation. He started a spreadsheet, Scums.xlsx, to keep track. On weekends he’d harangue them from his couch while watching New England Patriots games. He used persuasion techniques he’d learned selling copiers, some drawn from a book called Getting Into Your Customer’s Head. On the phone, Therrien is a savant. He has an instinct for when to be a friend—one gruff payday lender tells me, sheepishly, that he simply doesn’t know why he speaks with Therrien so frequently—and when to be a bully.

Therrien would threaten to report the collectors to regulators unless they helped him figure out what was going on. “You are either with me in this, or you are against me,” he wrote to one man. Others he tried to shame. “If my intentions are right, I’ll have God on my side,” Therrien emailed one source. “You may not love poor people, but He does.”

The targets were shocked by Therrien’s doggedness. In their world, complaints are common, but most victims give up after being promised they won’t be called again. One shady-debt player tells me he suspected Therrien was an undercover federal investigator because he’d gathered so much information on his business. “It’s an obsession, it’s unbelievable, an outright vigilante crusade,” another says. “It doesn’t seem to equal the harm that was done to him.”

Therrien knew his fixation seemed odd. He didn’t tell his friends and family much about his nighttime activity. But the collectors’ threats brought back feelings of rage and fear that he’d struggled to suppress since childhood. He grew up in working-class Connecticut, where his father was a factory man and his mother had a series of part-time jobs. Therrien says they mistreated him and his brother, and he moved out at 16 after an incident he won’t discuss. He told me he regrets not doing more to protect his brother. (Therrien’s father is dead, and his mother denies she did anything wrong.)

In college, Therrien worked at a J.Crew store, where a customer spotted his talent for sales and offered him a job. Therrien makes a good living now, and he takes pride in being a more responsible person than his parents—paying his bills on time, going to church on Sunday, and taking care of those close to him. “If it’s just about me, I don’t particularly give a f—,” he tells me, with an incongruous laugh. “You call my wife, and you call my grandparents? You just opened up a door that got really f—ing ugly, and now I’m going to make sure that I just ruin your life.”

As more collectors yielded to Therrien’s persistence and talked, he dropped his pursuit of Charles Cartwright, concluding that it was an untraceable alias, and focused on understanding their business. Phantom debt, he learned, is blended with real debt in ways that are almost impossible to untangle.

Americans are currently late on more than $600 billion in bills, according to Federal Reserve research, and almost one person in 10 has a debt in collectors’ hands. The agencies recoup what they can and sell the rest down-market, so that iffier and iffier debt is bought by shadier and shadier individuals. Deception is common. Scammers often sell the same portfolios of debt, called “paper,” to several collection agencies at once, so a legitimate IOU gains illegitimate clones. Some inflate balances, a practice known as “overbiffing.” Others create “redo” lists—people who’ve settled their debt, but will be harassed again anyway. These rosters are actually more valuable, because the targets have proved willing to part with money over the phone. And then there are those who invent debts out of whole cloth.

Portfolios are combined and doctored until they contain thousands of entries. One collector told Therrien that he’d paid cash at a diner for a thumb drive with a database containing Therrien’s name. Some collectors told him they thought the files were partially legitimate; others knew their paper was completely falsified. Yet they continued to trade it, referring to the people they pursued as deadbeats and losers. The more Therrien learned, the more disgusted he grew with everyone involved.

His search for the ur-source rarely traveled in a straight line. For a time, Therrien focused on Buffalo,one of the poorest cities in the U.S. and a hub for the collections industry—home to agencies that work the oldest, cheapest paper. Debt collector is a more common job there than bartender or construction worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As Therrien wore down as many Buffalo collectors as he could, one name kept surfacing: Joel Tucker, a former payday-loan mogul from Kansas City, Mo. By the summer of 2015, Therrien was convinced he’d found his guy.

Therrien needed an ally inside the Kansas City racket. He found one in Frampton “Ted” Rowland III, a middle-aged insurance-broker-turned-predatory-lender whose company was listed as the original creditor for one of Therrien’s supposed loans. When Therrien called, Rowland said he was sorry—and kept talking. His life was falling apart. He’d been sued by the FTC over his lending practices, he’d lost all his money, and his wife was leaving him. Therrien sympathized. He sensed Rowland was a good man who’d made a bad choice out of a desire to provide for his family. They started to speak regularly, and Rowland told Therrien he blamed Tucker for everything.

Tucker had created the local industry with his two brothers. Scott, the oldest, was the brains. He’d served time in prison for a scam in which he’d pretended to work for JPMorgan Chase & Co. The middle son, Blaine, was popular and a talented musician. Joel, tall and handsome, was a natural salesman. But when he was 21, he was selling furniture and working at a mini-mart, so hard up that he got arrested for bouncing a $12 check. (The case was dismissed.)

In the mid-1990s, Scott opened a payday-loan store and gave his brothers jobs. Lending money to people who don’t have any is surprisingly profitable. In states where such stores are legal, such as Missouri, they’re more common than McDonald’s franchises. But in the 15 states where such stores are against the law, there are millions of desperate people willing to pay for fast cash and no one to give it to them. Scott pioneered what he thought was a clever legal loophole that would give him access to that market: He created websites that were owned on paper by an American Indian tribe, which could claim sovereign immunity from regulators. Those sites charged as much as $150 interest on a two-week, $500 loan—an annualized interest rate of about 700 percent.

The loophole was ridiculously lucrative. Scott’s operation generated $2 billion in revenue from 2003 to 2012. He bought a private jet and spent more than $60 million to start his own professional Ferrari racing team. Around 2005, Joel split to start a company that would allow anyone to get into online payday lending—supplying software to process applications and loans and offering access to a steady stream of customers. All the clients had to bring was money and a willingness to bypass state law. Word spread around Kansas City’s country clubs and private schools that if you wanted to get rich, Joel Tucker was your man.

With Tucker’s help, one property management executive and his son, a general contractor, started a lender that saw $161 million in revenue over eight years. An investor presentation from that period shows that Tucker was personally clearing tens of millions of dollars in profit per year.

One of his clients was Rowland, until the gravy train crashed in 2013. Under pressure from regulators, banks stopped doing business with the sketchiest payday lenders, making it hard for them to issue loans and collect payments. In 2014 federal authorities raided Rowland’s office, and the FBI began investigating the Tucker brothers. Blaine committed suicide by jumping off a parking garage in 2014; Scott was charged two years later with racketeering, and prosecutors called his tribal arrangement a sham. (He declined to comment.)

By the time Therrien came looking for Joel Tucker in the fall of 2015, he’d become a hard man to find. Twice divorced, he was moving from place to place, ducking his creditors. A booking photo from the time when he was briefly imprisoned for failing to show up for court in an unrelated lawsuit shows him with bristly gray hair and dark circles under deep-set blue eyes. Therrien couldn’t find a working phone number for him—not even when he reached his 81-year-old mother, Norma. She claimed not to know where he was.

Therrien’s tactics grew more intense, mirroring those of the debt collectors he loathed. As he had in Buffalo, he developed a network of sources in Kansas City, figuring out who hated whom and playing them off each other. He got a burner app that provided disposable numbers for his smartphone, with any area code he wanted. He called wives, widows, business partners, even a waitress who’d once worked at a restaurant the Tuckers owned. He’d have his sources drive by places where he thought Tucker might be living, to look for his car. He told one broker’s mother-in-law that she should investigate who her daughter was married to. Therrien acknowledges that sometimes he went too far.

By November 2015 he developed a simple theory. Tucker’s business had given him access to a huge database of people who’d applied for loans—including, just maybe, the one Therrien had taken out in his copier-selling days. What if, when Tucker was broke and needed money, he’d taken applicants’ personal information, invented loan balances, and sold the list as a portfolio of delinquent debt?

Therrien took his hypothesis to the FBI and FTC. His emails were breathless and confusing, but the authorities were patient, taking his calls and talking to him at length. It was clear they knew about Tucker, but Therrien got frustrated by what he saw as inaction. “There are millions of people out there being threatened daily by these actions and I’m doing my part to try and stop it,” he wrote to an FTC investigator in early 2016, begging him to hold Tucker accountable.

January 2016 saw a breakthrough: A former employee of Tucker’s agreed to arrange a call between him and Therrien to clear the air. Therrien couldn’t believe his unseen antagonist was willing to talk. So anxious he couldn’t sit down, he set up a recording device in his home office, put his phone on speaker, and called.

Tucker seemed hyper and defensive, telling Therrien that if any of the portfolios he’d sold now contained phantom debt, they must have been doctored after leaving his hands. “F—ing shame on them,” he said. “Wasn’t me. It had to have been them.”

Therrien was trying to hold back his anger, but his voice wavered. He wanted to impress Tucker, mentioning tidbits he knew about his business. Tucker didn’t understand why Therrien, this guy he’d never met, was so extravagantly invested.

“I’ll tell you why I care,” Therrien said calmly. “I’ll tell you why I care. I believe, and I’m just telling you what I believe, you sold my personal information 21 separate times. I’ve gotten close to 100 f—ing calls, and because I’ve gotten those 100 calls from scumbag collectors that you facilitated, I’m going to make sure that that kind of shit ends now.”

Tucker was incredulous: “You think this is my fault?”

“You got desperate because you spent two dollars for every dollar you had,” Therrien said.

“What are you talking about? Are you trying to micromanage my life? You don’t know jack shit about me.”

“I know what happened. You f—ing stole money from people,” Therrien said. “I’m giving you the opportunity to come clean.”

“I don’t know who you are, Andrew,” Tucker said. “Who are you?”

“A person that you f—ed with too many times.”

When Therrien played the tape for me, I was amazed at how fluently he channeled emotion—his own and Tucker’s—to get what he wanted. Incredibly, by the end of the half-hour call, Tucker was offering to help Therrien collect evidence about crimes committed by other people in the payday-loan business. “We need to get this stuff resolved,” Tucker said on the tape, with a sigh. “’Cause this—it’s not healthy for anybody.”

The two men started talking and texting a few times a week. “I think he has a mental illness that allows him to think he did nothing wrong,” Therrien told me. (Tucker didn’t respond to most of my emailed questions and kept putting off interview requests. “Lies are not stories,” he wrote in one email. He said that any debt he’d sold was legitimate.)

Tucker’s denials made Therrien hate him more, but Therrien masked his feelings to keep the conversation going. The one-year anniversary of his quest was approaching, and he wanted real evidence of wrongdoing—something Tucker couldn’t deny and officials couldn’t ignore.

Therrien soon obtained two crucial sets of documents to that end. In March 2016 he flew to California to meet a debt broker, who handed over some contracts Tucker had signed. Separately, Therrien received an email from the manager of a collection agency, to whose conscience he’d spent weeks appealing. The email, whose subject line read “Have faith in the good in heart,” included actual phantom-debt files, with names and Social Security numbers. The metadata yielded a new name: Rob Harsh, Tucker’s IT guy. (The author of the email died of a drug overdose a few months later.)

In May 2016, Therrien emailed his discoveries to the FTC. A lawyer replied right away: “Andrew, we need to talk about this.” Therrien also gave his intel to some private lawyers who were going after Tucker in Texas. They contacted Harsh, and in August 2016 he submitted an affidavit to the court. Harsh, who declined to comment for this story, testified that Tucker had asked him to manipulate a database of almost 8 million payday-loan applications, writing in a made-up lender and adding an amount owed of $300 for each person.

Therrien had been right all along.

Vindication didn’t make Therrien happy, not even when the FTC suit against Rowland’s company took a karmic swerve that drew in Tucker, directing him to return $30 million he’d received in ill-gotten profits from the business. Tucker told the court he was broke.

Meanwhile, Rowland was spiraling. He confided in Therrien that he was considering suicide, and one day that summer he called Therrien to say goodbye. “Don’t do anything stupid,” Therrien texted him afterward. “I may be callous with you lately but I still care and don’t want anything bad to happen.” Therrien told me he’d informed the police of Rowland’s plan and that they had intervened. But that October, Rowland shot himself. His death added to Therrien’s outrage at Tucker and other predatory lenders like him who hadn’t faced any real legal consequences.

Finally, in December 2016, the FTC sued Tucker for selling phantom debt. According to the regulator, everything had happened pretty much as Therrien imagined: Tucker had invented more than 7.7 million fake debts and sold them to a series of middlemen for $4.2 million. This September, a judge ruled for the agency, ordering Tucker to pay back that money on top of the $30 million he already owed.

The FTC has never credited Therrien, and Michael Tankersley, an agency lawyer, declined to discuss their interactions. But Tankersley told me that Harsh and the California broker were two key sources of information establishing Tucker’s wrongdoing.

Therrien, as usual, was unsatisfied. He was still getting calls from collectors, for one thing. And he felt that if he’d done a better job investigating, Tucker would be facing criminal charges—not a civil fine he’d never end up paying. Therrien has stayed in touch with the FBI’s Kansas City office. An FBI spokeswoman declines to say whether Tucker is being investigated, but three of his associates told me that agents had contacted them about his debt sales.

After the ruling against Tucker, Therrien heard from him for the first time in months, and they started talking again. Amid their conversations, which were recorded, Tucker’s brother, Scott, was convicted on all 14 charges he faced. Without directly asking Therrien to drop his vendetta, Tucker seemed to be pleading for mercy. “I’ve f—ing had enough harm done,” he said. “I’ve lost a brother. Got a brother going to prison. Put it this way, Andrew. I’m tired, buddy. I’m f—ing tired.”

“I’m tired too,” Therrien replied, “because I’m still getting harassed by these motherf—ers.”

Source: https://bloom.bg/2k0OJzA

Most shooters got their guns legally, didn’t have diagnosed mental illness, new FBI report says.

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Most shooters got their guns legally, didn’t have diagnosed mental illness, new FBI report says

As mass shootings filter in and out of the news cycle at an almost dizzying pace with each new tragedy, the FBI has continued to probe why these atrocities continue and what can be done to stop them.

In a new report released Wednesday, the bureau shed light on behaviors of shooters before they acted out, finding most obtained a gun legally and did not have diagnosed mental health issues, points that run contrary to some popular beliefs.

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

The FBI could only verify that 25 percent of the gunmen examined in the study had any type of mental illness diagnoses, including disorders affecting mood, anxiety and personality.

The study noted, although, that a large portion of shooters, about 62 percent, were dealing with stressors in their lives such as depression, anxiety and paranoia before their attack.

Those symptoms don’t mean the suspect was necessarily dealing with a mental illness and the conclusion that all active shooters are mentally ill is both “misleading and unhelpful,” the bureau said.

“In light of the very high lifetime prevalence of the symptoms of mental illness among the U.S. population, formally diagnosed mental illness is not a very specific predictor of violence of any type, let alone targeted violence,” the study says. “Careful consideration should be given to social and contextual factors that might interact with any mental health issue before concluding that an active shooting was ’caused’ by mental illness.”

Source: https://usat.ly/2lQ1ZrV

A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism.

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A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism.

“Wanting less is a better blessing than having more.” —Mary Ellen Edmunds

Owning less brings great benefit to our lives: less stress, less debt, more time, more freedom.

But wanting less brings even more. Removing ourselves from the culture of consumption that surrounds us allows wonderful habits to emerge in our lives: contentment, gratitude, freedom from comparison, and the opportunity to pursue greater significance.

Breaking free from excessive consumerism is an essential step not just for a simplified life, but for any life that desires to be lived intentionally. How then we can realize this freedom? What steps can we take to break free?

A Simple, Helpful Guide to Overcome Consumerism

1. Admit it is possible. There are numerous persons throughout history and the present who have adopted a minimalist lifestyle that rejects and overcomes consumerism. Find motivation in their example. And admit you can join their ranks. Victory always begins there.

2. Adopt a traveler’s mentality. When we travel, we take only what we need for the journey. As a result, we feel lighter, freer, more flexible… we understand why there is a growing movement to stage our bedrooms like hotel rooms. Adopting a traveler’s mindset for life provides the same benefit—not just for a weeklong vacation, but in everything we do. Adopt a mindset that seeks to carry only what you need for the journey.

3. Embrace the life-giving benefits of owning less. Rarely are we invited to consider the benefits of owning less. But when the practical benefits are clearly articulated, they are quickly understood, easily recognized, and often desired. Of course, these benefits are only fully realized when we actually begin living with less. An important step to overcome consumerism is to embrace the reality that there is more life to be found in owning less than can be found in owning more.

4. Become acutely aware of the consumer-driven society in which we live. Our world will lead you to believe your greatest contribution to society is the money that you spend. We are faced with 5,000 advertisements every day calling us to buy more. As a result, average consumer debt equals $8,000/household, shopping malls outnumber high schools, Americans spend more on jewelry and shoes than higher education, and 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite past time. Recognizing the consumeristic mindset of our world will not immediately remove you from it, but it is an absolutely essential step in the journey.

5. Compare down. Theodore Roosevelt once remarked, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He was, of course, absolutely right. As we begin comparing our lives and possessions to those around us who have more, we lose joy, contentment, and happiness. And we begin trying hard to close the gap. This is because we always compare upward—looking at those who have more. But we could begin breaking through the consumerism-trap if we began taking greater notice of those who need more and spending time with people who have less and remain joyful in their circumstances.

6. Realize your money is only as valuable as what you choose to spend it on. The financial resources we have earned or been given hold great potential. They can be used to provide for those without. They can be used to bring justice and hope to a world desperately searching for both. And we ought to dream bigger dreams for our money than the clearance rack at a department store.

7. Consider the full cost of your purchases. Usually when we purchase an item, we only look at the sticker price. But this is rarely the full cost. Our purchases always cost us additional time, energy, and focus (cleaning, organizing, maintaining, fixing, replacing, or removing). Making a habit of intentionally factoring those expenses into our purchases will allow our minds to make more competent and confident decisions about our consumption habits.

8. Turn off the television. Television glamorizes all that it needs to glamorize in order to continue in existence. Corporations don’t spend $50 billion every year on television advertisements because they think they can get you to buy their product, they spend that much money because they know they can get you to buy their product. Television is an industry built on the assumption that you can be convinced to spend (and overspend) your money. You are not immune.

9. Make gratitude a discipline in your life. Gratitude serves little purpose in us as merely a response to positive circumstances. Gratitude holds its greatest potential as an attitude in undesired circumstances. Embrace it as a discipline during seasons of plenty and seasons of want. And begin focusing more on your blessings than your troubles.

10. Practice generosity. The surest path to contentment is generosity. Giving forces us to recognize all we possess and all we have to offer. It allows us to find fulfillment and purpose in helping others. Remember, generosity always leads to contentment with far greater efficiency than contentment leads to generosity.

11. Renew your commitment daily. We are bombarded every single day with advertisements from nearly every flat surface we encounter. Rejecting and overcoming consumerism is a daily battle. Expect it to be such. And recommit every morning—or every hour if necessary.

To exist is to consume. But we were designed to accomplish things far greater.

The sooner we remove ourselves from overconsumption, the sooner we realize our truest potential.

May it be so in your life and in mine.

Source: https://bit.ly/2ILnUty

Ten Lies Distort The Gun Control Debate

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Ten Lies Distort The Gun Control Debate

In a ritual as central to American life as football on Thanksgiving, each new mass shooting spawns a wave of unfocused political energy that quickly dissipates into “thoughts and prayers.” No matter how many people die, no matter the cruelty of the methods or the youth and innocence of the victims, we cannot translate our outrage into sensible gun control measures.

Key to this failure has been a dense fog of misinformation, shrouding debate and thwarting any potential response. Cutting through the gun lobby’s campaign of confusion will be key to building public consensus around reform. Unless we pierce this fog and develop a focused political agenda, Las Vegas will recede from consciousness, one more mass slaughter on our way to the next one.

Here’s a review of the top ten lies obscuring the gun debate.

Lie #1: There is no connection between mass gun ownership and gun deaths.

 It seems obvious that a country flooded with guns will have higher rates of gun deaths than countries with few of these weapons. Why are land mines and hand-grenades forbidden in the so-called “Land of the Free,” despite their obvious value in home defense? Because everyone understands that placing these killing machines in circulation would get a lot of people killed. So why don’t we recognize the same problem with guns?

Obvious answers are never enough for us, so America has been running a deadly experiment on this question for decades. The results are exactly as you would expect. Mass gun ownership leads to higher rates of gun death. Careful regulation can limit that death toll, but not eliminate it.

 We are not the only wealthy, stable country with broad gun ownership, though it’s a small club. Switzerland provides a useful comparison, since it is the only place that comes close to our levels of gun ownership, with about half of our per capita firearm ownership. Their experience demonstrates the obvious realities.

Though gun ownership among the Swiss is relatively common, regulations are tight by American standards. All guns are tracked. Many of the guns in private hands are issued by the government. Sale and possession of ammunition is tightly controlled. With a few exceptions for less-lethal weapons, every private gun sale is recorded.

Thanks to careful regulation and lower rates of gun ownership, the Swiss suffer lower rates of gun related deaths and injuries than the US. Despite these constraints, Switzerland experiences much higher rates of gun death than their less-armed neighbors. In other words, regulation can help, but the connection between gun ownership and gun deaths is unavoidably linear.

Lie #2: We don’t need stronger gun regulation because gun violence is declining.

This lie is fun because of the way it depends on careful framing. Gun violence, defined as crimes committed with guns, has been declining for decades. That makes sense, since crime in general has been declining for decades. However, despite a lower crime rate, guns are now competing with automobile accidents for one of the leading causes of premature death in the US. When accidents and suicides are included in the statistics, gun deaths have been consistently rising while most other causes of death declined. And when gun deaths and injuries are compared to rates in other countries, it is hard to build a chart big enough to properly picture America’s towering rates of slaughter.

Lie #3: We didn’t have this problem “in my day” because people loved Jesus and didn’t play violent video games.

According to Franklin Graham, gun violence happens because Americans “turned our backs on God.” His “kids these days” explanation of gun carnage is a favorite of drunk uncles in MAGA caps all over the country. Though these claims frequently sour Thanksgiving dinners, they lack empirical support.

Mass murder has always been a feature of American life, from the slaughter of Native Americans, to the lynchings of black citizens. We just haven’t always had such broad, unregulated, cheap access to such incredibly lethal toys. There’s nothing new about “lone wolf” killings, either, though our modern flood of unregulated high-powered weapons has made them more common and deadly. School shootings are as old as school. Young Matthew Ward murdered his teacher in front of the class in Louisville in 1853. He was acquitted.

Until fairly recently, our most lethal single instance of “lone wolf” mass murder was a school bombing carried out in 1927 in rural Michigan, killing 44 people. The most lethal era to be a police officer in the US was the first third of the 20th century. Thousands of black Americans were killed in mass-violence in the same era, like the white riot that destroyed Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” in 1921.

In general, we are living through an era of declining crime and mayhem. Gun deaths stand out now against a backdrop of relative public calm.

Lie #4: The Second Amendment blocks gun regulation.

Americans happily place curbs on our rights to religious freedom, blocking people from committing acts of violence, fraud or abuse in the name of faith. Free speech is limited by laws banning libel or incitement. Americans have a constitutionally protected right to obtain an abortion, yet many of the same people advocating Second Amendment absolutism suddenly lose interest in the constitution when the subject turns to reproductive rights. As a general rule, people tend to cite constitutional protections when they don’t want to debate the merits of an issue. Gun advocates are passionate about civil liberties until those liberties become inconvenient.

Lie #5: The solution to gun violence is more gun ownership.

This lie would be too bizarre to earn column space, but politicians are actually using it build policy, putting guns in places like schools, churches and bars. There is no empirical basis for the claim, but it is sometimes accompanied by one misleading data point.

In a twist on Lie #2, gun advocates sometimes point out that a massive rise in gun sales in recent decades has coincided with a long decline in crime rates. Reductions in crime have also coincided with a long trend of rising ocean temperatures, and an increase in the number of black quarterbacks in the NFL. Without some explanation of cause, this factoid is useless.

Further complicating this argument is an inconvenient fact – crime rates have been falling in recent decades all over the civilized world. How has the surge in US gun sales somehow triggered simultaneous declines in criminal activity in Britain, Germany, France and so on? It hasn’t, because there is no connection between US gun sales and declining crime rates.

There’s another interesting dimension to this lie. Gun sales have surged in recent years in the US, but gun ownership is declining. Fewer American households own a gun than at any point in the past half a century. Only three percent of gun owners possess about half of all the weapons in circulation in the US. Today in the US, the average gun owner possesses eight weapons. America has far more guns in private circulation than at any time in its history, but three quarters of Americans do not own one. Mass gun ownership has no relationship to declining crime rates.

Lie #6: Chicago has tight gun restrictions and mass gun violence. Ergo, gun laws don’t work.

Chicago’s seemingly intractable problem with gun violence is one of America’s fondest fascinations. It’s also a myth. Chicago has more gun murders than other large cities like New York and Los Angeles, thanks mostly to its long, unsecured border with North Alabamastan (sometimes called Indiana). However, Chicago’s murder rate still lags far behind the nation’s leaders, many of which are in red states with loose gun restrictions.

America’s capital of gun violence is in deep-red Louisiana. New Orleans suffers from four times the rate of gun murders as Chicago. Such terrifying urban hellscapes as Kansas City, Memphis and Atlanta all rack up much higher rates of gun violence than Chicago. Expand the inquiry beyond crime, to include accidental gun deaths and suicide, and Chicago simply recedes from the frame. The obvious conclusion also happens to be an empirical fact: states with high levels of gun ownership have higher levels of gun death.

With its supposedly restrictive gun regulations, why should Chicago even show up on the list? Only through a determination to avoid the obvious can one struggle with this question.

A Chicagoan can walk across a street into Indiana and purchase firearms from an unlicensed seller with no tracking of that transaction. That person can then walk back across the street into Chicago and commit a crime. This is a common practice. Most of the guns used in a crime in Chicago are originally purchased in Indiana or Mississippi. And of course, Indiana’s rate of gun deaths is roughly a third higher than in Illinois.

In a strictly technical sense, most of those untracked transactions are illegal. However, our gun laws have been crafted to make enforcement virtually impossible, a fine introduction to the next lie.

Lie #7: We should enforce existing gun laws before imposing new ones.

Calls for more determined enforcement of existing gun laws are the most darkly cynical lie in the debate over guns. Our gun laws are carefully crafted to be unenforceable.

One law stands out as the most critical obstacle to enforcement of gun restrictions. A minor provision of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act bans states or federal agencies from building gun registries. Six states already possessed some form of registry, thus were exempted, but further efforts to break the enforcement of gun regulations made it difficult for them to leverage that information in any useful way.

Congress has protected gun companies from lawsuits. Threats from the NRA have blocked the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun deaths. State and federal laws block law enforcement officials from effectively tracking weapons used in crimes.

Chicago’s frustrating efforts to crack down on gun traffickers illustrates the problems with existing gun laws. Absence of tracking makes enforcement impractical if not impossible. This blind spot fosters a rich climate for illegal gun traffickers in Indiana. Even when federal officials catch someone funneling weapons illegally into Chicago, obtaining convictions is difficult. Police invest little in enforcement efforts because prosecutors regularly decline cases. Prosecutors decline these cases because convictions are so rare. Without federal help, local law enforcement in Chicago has almost no means to stop the flow of guns. Without smart laws, even federal assistance has limited value. Calls to focus on enforcement of existing laws, rather than reforms, are a cynical ploy.

Lie #8: We need guns to protect ourselves from the government.

Claims of a Second Amendment right to overthrow the government may be false, but they get us very close to understanding the honest motives behind the gun lobby.

Until 2008, no federal court had ever recognized an individual constitutional right to own a firearm. If anyone imagined that the Constitution protected a right to use violence to overthrow the government, that idea was put to rest in 1794, when George Washington marched an army across Pennsylvania to squash citizens’ “Second Amendment remedies.”

If the Second Amendment was about resisting the government, why have we only enjoyed a personal right to firearms for less than ten years? And why don’t we have the right to obtain other critical supplies for our jihad, like mortars, land mines and fighter planes?

A dark truth lurks in the “Second Amendment remedies” lie. What fuels the most passionate wing of the gun lobby is the American tradition of mob violence. A population armed with infantry weapons is no match against the organization and equipment of a modern nation-state, but with the inaction or complicity of local law enforcement a well-armed population can run riot over unprotected minorities.

What happens when citizens take up arms against the government? Study the history of the Black Panthers. Despite being reasonably well-armed and organized, they were systematically hunted down and killed until the movement died out. Absent some zone of safety, protected by complicit law enforcement or benefiting from a smaller “sub-state,” private use of weapons is ineffective. Reconstruction featured many similar examples. Racist militias failed to capture New Orleans in the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874 despite being reinforced by Confederate veterans and strengthened with weapons captured from US forces. However, these same militias found success in the rural countryside, where they enjoyed the complicity of local law enforcement.

Private weapons are ineffective in resisting the government, but highly effective as an unrecognized extension of government. Well-armed white paramilitaries were the lynchpin of Jim Crow, waging a campaign of terrorism in black communities. Their private activities allowed local governments to impose crippling limits on black citizens while escaping accountability. Many black Americans were armed as well, but their weapons did them little good. Racist militias could operate with the tacit backing of local law enforcement, while any use of force by black residents in self-defense was be ruthlessly punished.

Behind the “Second Amendment Remedies” lie lurks a dark reality: private arsenals have always been the bloody left hand of white supremacy. When gun enthusiasts shrug off the mass slaughter of innocent civilians to preserve “freedom,” they aren’t talking about your freedom or mine.

Lie #9: No legislation can curb gun deaths in the US.

Americans now have more guns in circulation than citizens. No credible regulatory scheme, no matter how smart or ambitious, is likely to bring the rate of gun deaths in America in line with global standards anytime soon. Whatever we achieve politically in the near term can only be a down-payment on a better world for our children.

There are a few smart measures that could begin to slow the carnage and place us on a path to a safer future. If we start soon and persist over time, future generations can enjoy lives relatively free from mass gun violence while preserving their historic right to own weapons. Perhaps our most promising model would borrow lessons from the regulation of our other most dangerous product – automobiles.

No one is permitted to drive on our roads without obtaining a license. Every automobile is registered. Every transaction is taxed. All vehicle owners are required to maintain insurance to cover potential harm. Despite tight regulation, car ownership is ubiquitous. Cars remain a major cause of injury and death, but insurance has played a critical role over the years in driving safety improvements. More than any other force, insurance companies’ advocacy and political pressure has driven the industry to improve safety and curb highway deaths.

Our habit of imposing complicated and confusing restrictions on weapons by type and shape is largely theater, designed to create a sensation of progress while avoiding the fundamental problem. Instead, we should adopt a simpler, more powerful solution. Register every gun and every gun sale. Require gun owners to obtain a license. Make liability insurance a requirement for every gun owner, tracked to every gun. Require proof of insurance for every sale. Track sales of ammunition, just like we track the sale of Sudafed. Make these gun and ammunition registries available to law enforcement. It is a simple, constitutional approach that preserves the right of responsible adults to own as many weapons as they want, so long as they can demonstrate responsible, safe ownership.

Registration and insurance would not stop every crime, just like they fail to stop every automobile death. They would, however, begin to bring down gun deaths almost immediately. Faced with registration and insurance costs, declines in casual gun ownership would accelerate. It would become very expensive to maintain a gun-nut arsenal of dozens of weapons. Insurance costs would power the spread of trigger locks, gun safes and other safety protections. Registries would empower police to enforce gun laws. Liability suits and criminal actions against irresponsible gun owners would severely constrain criminals’ access to weapons. Instead of waiting for the ATF to crack down on illegal sellers, lawyers representing murder victims would quickly bankrupt today’s crop of amateur gun smugglers. Liability risks on sellers and insurers would make it more difficult for the obviously mentally ill to build an arsenal.

Personal freedom, constrained by personal responsibility, with limits imposed by markets rather than government. It’s an approach to gun control that any Republican should love, right?

Lie #10: Americans oppose tighter gun regulation.

When presented with concrete proposals to regulate guns, majorities of Americans almost always favor them. That support is so universal that it spreads across partisan lines. In fact, a ballot proposal on gun control passed in Nevada of all places. More than 90% of gun owners support universal background checks. A majority of Republicans support a national gun registry.

These ten lies have confused the public and diffused the political momentum of gun control advocates. A clearer understanding and concentrated focus will be key to achieving any legislative progress. We should approach this problem like our lives depend on it.

Source : https://bit.ly/2MUODHr

Black-ish Taught Me More About Slavery in 22 Minutes Than My Entire Education.

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Black-ish Taught Me More About Slavery in 22 Minutes Than My Entire Education.

The whole issue of slavery is one fraught with a legacy of pain, trauma and, yes, white guilt, and this country didn’t even apologize for this mass tragedy until 2009. If you think I found out that little stat from a history book, nope—I learned it from the season premiere of ABC’s Black-ish, which produced one of the black-est episodes of prime-time TV in a long time.

In it, Dre (Anthony Anderson), the patriarch of the family of now seven, attends a school play starring his twins on the subject of Christopher Columbus (first, the straight way, and then the “woke” way—where Columbus is called a slavery pioneer and massacres Native Americans).

During the show, Dre starts grumbling to his dad (Laurence Fishburne) about the b.s. of the notion that Columbus “discovered” America, before he gets up and rants about how racist and historically incorrect the play was.

As usual, there is biting sarcasm woven into the Black-ish storyline, with the teacher of the class saying that she had “bused in minority students after the last incident,” to which Dre responds, “Honestly, if I wanted my kids around this many minorities, I would have taken them to a Tyler Perry play and shamelessly enjoyed it.” Dre then asks the teacher why no “black holidays” are celebrated, and then lies about celebrating Juneteenth, the holiday many black Americans observe on June 19 to mark the end of slavery.

Mulling it over, Dre then takes the issue of Juneteenth to his job at the ad agency, where they’ve brought in singer Aloe Blacc (playing himself) to help them with some new jingles. Blacc then sets up the scene for the most heartwarming part of a most creative episode, a video done by the Roots on how Juneteenth began, a send-up of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill”:

With the episode featuring more musical numbers set during slavery and lines like, “We celebrate the Fourth of July, but not the day all Americans were free,” Kenya Barris and his Black-ish writing team prove that they are some of the most deft comedic writers on the scene today, with the ability to handle thorny, black-ass topics while managing to be honest and funny AF.

In its last three seasons, Black-ish has taken on the subjects of “black names” (the Johnsons’ new baby is named Devonte—yes, like dude from Jodeci); HBCUs vs. predominantly white institutions; and biracial identity, all with depth and humor.

Barris told EW that he was really “proud” of the episode and that it forced him to examine his own scorn for “black holidays”: “Yeah, the episode talks about how talking about slavery makes white people uncomfortable, I get that. At the same time, it’s not indicting of anything contemporary. It really is more indicting, if anything, of black culture and being afraid of making other people uncomfortable, and thus disregarding our own past.”

I may be prone to hyperbole sometimes, but I say that this just may be one of the best TV episodes of all time. It took some of the best of black culture—music and comedy—and explicated a deep, dark reality with historical accuracy, authenticity and, yes, black love.

It was for us, by us, but white folks might learn a thing or two, too.

Source: https://bit.ly/2tC7sHt

Ancient village discovered in Canada is 10,000 years older than the pyramids.

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Ancient village discovered in Canada is 10,000 years older than the pyramids.

The discovery of a 14,000-year-old ancient village in Canada could forever alter our understanding of early civilization in North America. Researchers estimate the settlement is way older than the Giza pyramids, and have found artifacts dating all the way back to the Ice Age. The village is one of the oldest human settlements we’ve ever uncovered in North America – and lines up with the oral history of the Heiltsuk Nation.

Researchers from the Hakai Institute and University of Victoria, with local First Nations members, unearthed revealing artifacts on Triquet Island, around 310 miles northwest of Victoria, Canada. They’ve found fish hooks, spears, and tools to ignite fires. Thanks to the discovery of the ancient village last year, researchers now think a massive human migration may have happened along British Columbia’s coastline.

Archaeologists once thought humans might arrived in North America via a land bridge between Russia and Alaska, and then moved forward on foot. But the recent discovery suggests people moved down the coast possibly in boats instead; the coastal route likely came before the inland route.

University of Victoria PhD student Alisha Gauvreau, who was part of the excavation, told CTV News Vancouver Island, “I remember when we get [sic] the dates back and we just kind of sat there going, holy moly, this is old. What this is doing is just changing our idea of the way in which North America was first peopled.”

The find fits right in with the oral history of a First Nations government in British Columbia, the Heiltsuk Nation. For generations they’ve told stories of ancient coastal villages. William Housty of Heiltsuk Nation told CTV News Vancouver Island, “To think about how these stories survived all of that, only to be supported by this archaeological evidence is just amazing.”

Source: https://bit.ly/2Kj4TU2