1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus is a ground-breaking study of the early Americas and Native Americans. This study alters what we thought of the Americas before Europeans arrived and even challenges things school has taught students for years. Mann uncovers new conclusions, made by more recent researches, including the facts that Native American population and arrival in the Americas were probably different than previously thought and cultural advancements were broader. Also, many people believe that when Columbus discovered the Americas, there was only wilderness, although this is false.
Firstly, the main theme of 1491 is that racism, language barriers, and European superiority complexes are what has hindered us from truly learning about Native Americans and their cultures. For example, Europeans believed that they were the superior race, no doubt because of the social darwinism theory, and therefore their culture was "civilized." Later, Native Americans were massacred using this same belief and self-proclaimed land entitlement. In actuality, moccasins were quieter and more comfortable than boots, arrows could be shot farther from a bow than a bullet from a gun and were easier to handle, and canoes were more maneuverable than other boats. Something a reader could learn from this book is how racism shaped the way early America came to be- colonists separated from Great Britain in order to escape oppression, but then oppressed Native Americans.
An interesting fact 1491 covered was that Native Americans had actually been transforming the land they lived on for thousands of years, but Europeans thought it was all wilderness. Europeans were used to 'transforming the land' by building homes, clearing land for farms, as well as spreading information with the use of printing presses; Natives had altered the land differently than what they expected. Instead of what Europeans were used to, Natives cultivated plants differently and intensely and did not have many domesticated large work animals.