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Old 26 June 2008, 02:56 PM
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Shifty Eyes Native Americans have a good head for heights?

^ Someone who IS afraid of heights.

I wasn't sure where to put this, so general urban legends it goes!

My husband and I were watching the 1981 film "Wolfen" last weekend (terrible movie by the way, unless you've got a thing for naked Edward James Olmos) and a few of the characters were portraying Native Americans living in New York and being employed as construction workers for a bridge project. This prompted my husband to pipe up with, "It is true though, Native Americans do have a head for heights." This in turn prompted me to go, "Whaa?" because I'd never heard such a statement before and it immediately set my UL alarm bells ringing. He told me that it's well-known that people of Native American ancestry have a natural affinity for heights and are often employed in construction jobs that require working in such conditions. I was doubtful and figured I'd pose the question here. Has anyone else heard such a thing before? If so, can it possibly be based in fact? I'm just having a hard time imagining how someone's ethnicity could automatically make them less-inclined to having a phobia if heights, it just seems too weird to be plausible to me.
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:03 PM
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I've never heard of it, but I can see where it might have come from: cliff dwellings. My guess, of course.

And I know anecdote ! = data, but when I visited the Navajo reservation in Chinle, the Native American guides took us down into Canyon Del Muerto via a pass called "Crack in the Rock". It's a "path" that leads into the canyon that's probably about a mile or so long (or at least it felt that long!) that comes down into the canyon floor. It's sheer sandstone, so climbing it is slippery and scary for those not used to it.

Our guides leapt down it like antelope! Probably because they grew up doing it, but it was pretty neat all the same.
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:05 PM
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I recently read a novel about Native Americans working on skyscrapers. Damnit, what was it called?
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  #4  
Old 26 June 2008, 03:07 PM
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Not a chow as such, merely a thread from the old board on the same subject.
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  #5  
Old 26 June 2008, 03:11 PM
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There is a link here to the history of Mohawk construction workers. I have seen documentary segments made in the 30s praising the fearlessness of native american (principally Mohawk) workers building sky-scrapers in New York.
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:13 PM
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Not terribly useful reply, but I also used to believe this UL. I had a book with photos of workers on the NY skyscrapers and I would get vertigo just looking at them. However, fairly recently I read (or saw on TV) that most of the Native Americans working in NY were from a single tribe in Canada and they did find the heights scary. Apparently though they regarding working at height as a rite of bravery or some such and just got on with the job.

Just need to find a cite for this though...


ETA spanked by Mycroft and others...
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Tea View Post
The thing that makes me cry "UL" from the one on the old board is that they are born without a fear of heights. Sounds ULish to me.
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:26 PM
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I agree, Lizzy. How could you tell if someone was born with a fear of heights? Is that why babies cry when the doctor holds them up?
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:27 PM
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Quote:
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Thanks for that Jay Tea, for some reason I don't recall that thread, it had some good article links though.
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  #10  
Old 26 June 2008, 03:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
I recently read a novel about Native Americans working on skyscrapers. Damnit, what was it called?
Probably High Steel. There was a documentary in the 60s by the same name.
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Old 26 June 2008, 03:39 PM
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Nope, definitely a novel. I'm almost sure the name of the novel was the hotel they were working on.
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  #12  
Old 26 June 2008, 03:42 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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In my elementary school Social Studies books in the 60s, the ability of Indians (none of this 'Native American' stuff back then) to handle the heights to build skyscrapers was stated as accepted. I don't think there was any claim of being born without a fear of heights. My impression was that it was mostly Navajo and other groups that live among canyons, cliffs, and other high areas, so that they would have developed the skills for such conditions.
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  #13  
Old 26 June 2008, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
In my elementary school Social Studies books in the 60s, the ability of Indians (none of this 'Native American' stuff back then) to handle the heights to build skyscrapers was stated as accepted. I don't think there was any claim of being born without a fear of heights. My impression was that it was mostly Navajo and other groups that live among canyons, cliffs, and other high areas, so that they would have developed the skills for such conditions.
Just goes to show the ignorance and racism involved, since it's generally the Mohawk who work high steel, not the Navajo. But they're all the same, right?

Besides, everyone knows Navajos play baseball.

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  #14  
Old 27 June 2008, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
In my elementary school Social Studies books in the 60s, the ability of Indians (none of this 'Native American' stuff back then) to handle the heights to build skyscrapers was stated as accepted. .

... not from a book, but this story was seen as a fact on this side of the pond, too. I remember hearing it when I was a kid in the late 60's... as for "racism" frankly I don't know - people were rather admirative of these Indians' supposed inborn talent.
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Old 28 June 2008, 04:35 PM
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I saw this one on the Straight Dope.
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  #16  
Old 30 June 2008, 08:48 PM
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Am I the only one who read the title of this thread as "Native Americans have good headlights"?
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  #17  
Old 01 July 2008, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Four Kitties View Post
Besides, everyone knows Navajos play baseball.

Don't be silly. Navajos play basketball.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LizzyBean View Post
I've never heard of it, but I can see where it might have come from: cliff dwellings. My guess, of course.

And I know anecdote ! = data, but when I visited the Navajo reservation in Chinle, the Native American guides took us down into Canyon Del Muerto via a pass called "Crack in the Rock". It's a "path" that leads into the canyon that's probably about a mile or so long (or at least it felt that long!) that comes down into the canyon floor. It's sheer sandstone, so climbing it is slippery and scary for those not used to it.

Our guides leapt down it like antelope! Probably because they grew up doing it, but it was pretty neat all the same.
The Anasazi cliff dwellers are thought to be the ancestors of the Pueblo folks, not the Navajo, who arrived later.

Of course your guides can handle the terrain. They have been doing it all their lives, particularly if their families ran sheep.
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