kw: book reviews, science fiction, interstellar colonization, space aliens
When Columbus discovered Hispaniola (today's Haiti and Dominican Republic), the indigenous people there seemed to be in a "state of nature," almost a pre-Eden condition. He wrote that they were "en Dios", "in God," apparently innocent and lacking any civilization that he could recognize. That didn't stop him from making plans to enslave them.
English-speakers, knowing he'd set out to find India, mistook his epithet and began to use the term "Indians" for indigenous Americans. Regardless of modern PC terms like "Native American" and "Amerind," at least a large minority of Euro-americans (myself included) tend to apply the term "Indians," at least in our thoughts. The fact that I am part Iroquois (1/32 or less) myself doesn't have much to do with my internal life; I was raised entirely Western.
Whatever people called them, the European colonists and their descendants didn't consider pre-European Americans fully human for several centuries...and some still don't.
Of all the interesting ideas in Allen Steele's Coyote series, the most touching, to me, is the status of the natives on the planet Coyote. I've just read Coyote Frontier, a space-opera twist on American Independence. Steele does his best to show that the earthling colonists are the real aliens here. Though they are the focus of the action—this is mainly a political book—the colonists' leaders in the end have just begun to acknowledge that the monkey-like chirreep might be people, too.
The earlier books, Coyote and Coyote Rising, dealt with the exploration of the new planet and the revolution needed to hold it. It pretty much covers a period similar to the Americas from 1491 to 1777, but compressed into a generation. The new book is analogous to the 1789-1815 period, the second war of independence, brought on when the new English mastery of the seas, and faster sailing craft, led them to try to assert sovereignty again in North America.
In Coyote Frontier, the second revolution is brought on by the invention of the Starbridge, which allows a starship to zip through a specially-created wormhole. Now that one can go between Earth and Coyote in days rather than decades, what is the outcome? Steele digs into this problem, producing a solution for Coyote that is still being worked out for America.
The ending takes a sidestep, and the future of the chirreep, for one, is left undetermined. There is plenty left for Steele to write about, should he wish to turn the trilogy into a longer series.