I was prepared to say exactly zero things about the Mayan apocalypse prediction debacle, until my friend Debbie Reese made a point on Twitter that I’d been turning over in my head vaguely, but hadn’t concretized as well as she did.
The Mayans weren’t wrong.
I can’t repeat that enough. The Mayan’s calendar ending around this time was never a prediction that the “world would end” or anything like that. It’s like the end of the year–your calendar runs out, and you start over. Maya scholars–like Lisa Lucero–have been trying to scream this at us for years.
You were wrong.
Settler colonialists were wrong. This is a classic example of a colonial mistranslation of Indigenous knowledge and culture. God knows we’ve seen this enough.
Outsiders came in, saw what they wanted to see, used their frame of reference to make a claim, and when that claim didn’t “come true,” they make a false claim about the wrongness of Mayan thinking.
The Maya were pretty amazing. Their art is breathtaking, their building skills were impressive, and their mathematical and astronomical knowledge were astounding. To call them “wrong,” when the wrongness really lies with a colonialist misinterpretation of their knowledge, is bullshit. And it only serves to further obscure, erase, and devalue Indigenous knowledges.