When Resolution Meets Revolution

JUST OPEN A CAN

I miss the days when we made garlands with strips of colored paper folded into rings and glued together for the Christmas tree.

In winter we would crack nuts that arrived with their shells intact.

My father would split walnuts by gripping together two in one fist.

Some nuts were impossible to break—like macadamias—whose shells resist bashing and end up whole in the rubbish.

One year, four of us older girls (my youngest sister and brother were still in diapers) discovered we could shuck nuts by placing them underneath the rocking chair.

We created an assembly line Henry Ford would admire: one of us would direct traffic, another sister positioned the nut on the floor, one of us rocked, one of us would gather the remains, and we then shared the sweet meats.

Just Open a Can

As a college student I tried many times to make pie from pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes.

The father of my boyfriend at the time asked me: “Why don’t you just open a can?”

Why not?

Because I liked the sport of wrangling pumpkin flesh: of trying something new, and I wanted to feel more connected to the task.

Kitchen chores and cooking now appear so seamlessly streamlined that a food’s origins vanish.

Spinach comes washed and dried while broccoli arrives in bags with individual florettes.

Peas are stripped of their pods, carrots are skinned, cabbage is sliced and fish are gutted.

Asian Markets

When I visited Hong Kong on a writing assignment in the 1980s, I ventured out one day to explore Kowloon, and found myself at an open-air farmers’ market.

The street teemed with wildlife: frogs of all shapes jumped in grass baskets while chickens and ducks strutted between the legs of vendors.

I tripped over a six-foot eel wriggling on wet concrete.

The best thing about the market was the fish.

They were alive, swimming in tubs, awaiting their fate.  

I bought a pound of shrimp that the merchant poured into a bag full of water.

My palm opened so the vendor could choose whatever coins she needed.

Then I heard my name: “Cynthia!”

Diana [a pseudonym], who worked for the CEO I was interviewing, saw me at the market and seemed incredulous I would spend the morning bargaining for fish.

Best part of travel is to wander and explore, and to be prepared for…anything.

I speak no Mandarin and no Cantonese, but found my way through the thicket of the market.

The shrimp pitched around in the bag as I walked home to the guest house, eager to cook my lunch on one of the two electric burners of the stove-top in the smallest-kitchen-in-the-world.

Revolutionary Resolutions

Today, when I want to eat fish or mollusks in Portland, I venture out to the Asian markets for crab or crayfish or mussels or cockles: anything alive.

Once home, I name the creatures, place them in the bathtub, and prepare a boiling broth or hot grille for a quick slaughter.

My treatment of the living comes from Indigenous relatives who have taken time to show me their respect for the lives they seek for sustenance.

One of my great-uncles, who was raised near Pine Ridge in South Dakota, set traps as a young lad for critters: squirrels, rabbits and the occasional bird.

Uncle John would fashion a box-trap, with twine attached to a stick that would trip when a critter entered the trap, which would then ensnare dinner.   

My grandmother—raised on the Osage reserve in Oklahoma—told me squirrel was greasy.

But she liked rabbit and would send my mother to the butcher to bring home bunny for supper.

My mother said skinned rabbit looked like a dead cat, which she carried, wrapped in newspaper, with her schoolbooks.

Today’s Milieu

My husband and I buy almost all of our food at a neighborhood grocery store and our Saturday farmers’ market.

In spring and summer we grow lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, beans, squash, potatoes, peas, garlic, onions, berries and herbs that we cook with gusto.

We enjoy a marketplace of abundance.

Still, we acknowledge our separation from farm to table: a journey of weigh-stations and exchanges.

What we don’t see is where we try to place our attention.

For example, my husband now feels he should be a full-time vegetarian due—in part—to animal slaughter: something we don’t witness.

The Revolution of Resolution

I do my best to honor his resolve, which I see as revolutionary.

He revolts against the harm caused when animals are slaughtered for our pleasure.

My resolve is to become more mindful of my flesh-eating habitus and of what we cannot see.   

I look around my home.

I see oranges on the kitchen table, wood in the chairs, a gas fire and woolen rugs on the floor.

Each has been built, woven, polished, grown, harvested and shipped to bring comfort to me and my family.

My resolution for 2023 embraces Buddhism: pay attention.

Start a revolution.

In that vein, I hope the new year—2023—brings you a connection to the creation and context of creature comforts, and that you feel the linkage with herbs, flowers and plants; and with the two-legged, four-legged and eight-legged critters that are part of the network that makes life meaningful.

###

Photo credit: Stock image from Dreamstime.com

Sunday 15 January 2023

For my pals Jackleen and Dave, who often share their table with us, my husband, and to my families in South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, California, Illinois, Washington, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina…other pockets of North America, and Thailand and beyond.

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest.

#2023

#breaking

#foodsovereignty

#framing

#indigenousfood

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#newyear

#newyears resolutions

#oglala

#osage

#resolutions

#revolution

#sioux

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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When Vegetarians and Meat-eaters Break Bread

CHRISTMAS DINNER 2022

Chacun à son Goût

Uncredited linocut from the website Zazzle.

Uncredited linocut from the website Zazzle

Today: I’m laundering cloth napkins.

And ironing them.

This is my kind of housework: I like to see things clean and shine.

A tiny red streak on white fabric catches my eye.

My thumb is dripping blood onto the freshly ironed cloth.

I start a new wash, spraying the bloody napkin with spot remover, find a latex glove for my right hand to prevent the blood from spreading, and then check over my stack of napkins.

The soiled linens are a result of a small gathering we held on Christmas day with friends we cherish.

The blood is fresh, emerging after I washed a newly sharpened knife with a sponge, and sliced my thumb.

Having the sharpest knives comes with caution.

Choosing the Menu

For Christmas dinner, we invited a few friends to join us to celebrate, and I spent days thinking about what I could prepare that would suit both vegetarians and omnivores, and settled on a white bean cassoulet.

Once I’d chosen cassoulet as the main course, the other dishes were easy to prepare without meats: a green salad and a spicy corn polenta-with-peppers-and-cheese to pair with the legumes.

Although I had spent my adult life making countless versions of beans–from Mexican refried pintos to Persian ash soup–this was the first time I tried a recipe for cassoulet with stringent instructions.

The French preparation calls for a long, relaxed warming of the white beans to ensure a fully cooked legume: a process that takes three days.

You don’t just bring the beans to boil: you coax them along, encouraging them to cook–ever so slowly–alternating between a simmer and a lazy stewing.

Purpose is to keep the silhouette of the bean intact, rather than feasting on shirtless beans that bare their nakedness.

Rediscovering the Humble Bean

I had no idea when I embarked on the adventure that the method would bring out the full umami in both meat and meatless dishes.

The recipe urged me to find dried beans if I had no source for fresh beans: that meant beans could be no older than one year.

I live in a hip community and yet I had no way of knowing how long beans have dried and aged.

Best I could do was find a package of beans from a grocer I trust.

Growing up in Iran, we–as children–had the job of picking out the stones from the dried beans and then washing them.

We were instructed to separate bean-from-rock and then rinse the beans three times.

After I returned to the US after graduating from high school overseas, I took my training to heart: When I bought beans, I scoured them for pebbles and washed them three times.

I discovered–over time–that American beans had almost no pebbles and required little washing, unlike those we got in the Middle East.

More recently, I found that technology overtook my vintage bean recipes: you can cook beans in a crock pot or ultra pot and reduce time by-half.

Technology beckoned me, but tradition won out: the cassoulet recipe called for French mindfulness, and I decided to cook the beans long and slow.

My honey-bear, newly vegetarian, helped me out by reading about legumes, and told me the bean-part is called a pulse.

Beans add protein and fiber, plus a host of vitamins to the diet: a recipe for a healthy meal.

Adding corn will supplement the dish with the amino acid methionine, which beans lack.

Uncredited photo from “Krrb Blog” on the website, Thrillist.

Extra Reading

I first read about creating meals without meat in Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet.

Lappé, an Oregon native, writes about the effects of farming and ranching on the environment in addition to ways to eat meatless while meeting nutritional needs.

Indigenous Americans (and other writers) talk about the Three Sisters: beans, corn and squash that, when paired, complement one another as a complete meal.

In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass (2015), Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi) reminds readers that beans, corn and squash nurture each other as they grow, a metaphor reminiscent of the interconnectedness of living beings.

And while most of my diet is meatless, I have learned how to prepare delicious chicken, duck and pork, and savor Oregon’s native fish.

For two days, the beans summered on the beans on the stove top.

On the third morning, I prepared a roux of garlic, onions, carrots and thyme for the cassoulet paste.

I took half the beans for the vegetarians and placed them in a ramekin, and broke two meat-free patties I tucked under the beans, covering them with vegetable stock.

The casserole tasted rich but not too salty: my fear of using meatless creations is they pack too much salt.

I then turned to the traditional cassoulet, and lined a porcelain crock with duck breast pieces that had marinated with thyme, salt and pepper.

Although the recipe calls for pork, too, I stuck with duck alone.

I read that the signature flourish for cassoulet is a duck leg atop the beans, so I layer three legs on the meaty dish after covering the beans with stock.

While the vegetarian dish stewed in faux sausage, the meat casserole steeped in duck juice from top to bottom–and bottom to top–for hours.

Once the duck legs are nearly cooked, I placed them in a cast iron skillet and let them bake some more, after draining the liquid from the pot, and setting it aside to let the fat rise from the stock.

I figure the dish absorbed enough fat that removing the excess seemed sensible if not authentic.

The stock was then reunited with the beans–sans graisse–and melded seamlessly.

The kitchen smelled heavenly, laden with umami, and the casseroles were ready before the guests arrived.

We then made corn grits and tossed a green salad.

Everything was ready when out guests arrived, and we ate homemade bread brought by one guest, drank wine gifted from another, and dug into baked brie-en-croute.

I served both versions of the cassoulet: the vegetarian turned out sumptuous and sage-y, while the duck dish melted on your tongue, full of flavor and spice.

The feast turned out to be a delicious adventure and we talked into the long ours of the night while eating home-made jelled dessert.

As we chatted over cookies, one of the guests held up his napkin, saying, “it is too pretty to use.”

I assure him I don’t mind washing them.

##

31 December 2022

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest.

Blog dedicated to Alistair, Luke & Molly, and, of course, my vegetarian honey-bear.

#cassoulet

#christmasdinner

#duckconfit

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#oglala

#osage

#sioux

#wahshashe #whatstrending

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Making Tamales

Celebrating the Holidays

Uncredited photo from “antique advertising” on the web

I spent Saturday afternoon at a friend’s home learning how to make tamales, a tradition in many Indigenous communities in North, South and Latin America.

She invited a few pals to snack on hors d’oeuvres (deviled eggs, chips and tinned mackerel) and prepared a host of ingredients in advance: stewed pork, cooked chicken, sliced veggies and chunked cheese.

The guests surrounded our host and daughter, watching them make the corn-flour filling, melding masa with lard.

Then we got serious.

We each grabbed a ball of dough (which feels like raw shortbread cookie-mix) and flattened it with our palms.

We then learned how to smooth one-to-two dollops of dough with our fingers–or pressed the mix with an upside-down spoon–flattening the dough onto a corn husk.

Then, we loaded our ingredients on top of the dough: shredded meat or sliced veggies, or a combination of both.

Next came the rolling of the husk around the lump; perhaps the high-point of tamale-making: what the French call le finissage.

I’m told your skill is measured by how well the filling adheres to the husk.

My first effort looked great: a plump cake surrounded by corn husk.

It went downhill from there.

Each new tamale looked skinny and scrawny.

Yet, not a soul sat in judgment.

Our host stripped pieces from an unused husk, creating ribbons to tie the cakes.

Alas: my cakes needed more padding to make a presentable meal.

A glass of sparkling rosé lifted my spirits as I placed the carnage in a plastic bag, which took me back to a dinner with family at my mother’s reservation in Oklahoma.

A relative–who has been kind to me and my family–made a scrumptious feast for us when we visited one summer.

As we munched on our last bites of the Native feast, she invited us to look under our plates, where we found plastic bags.

She explained that when the Osage share meals with others, the visitors are offered leftovers for their journey.

Traditionally the Osage packed snacks in stacking boxes, and the containers are reminiscent of a miner’s lunch pail which you might find at an antique store (a tidbit I learned from my cousin).

When I rolled tamales in Portland, I found myself back in Oklahoma–and thought about my Eeko’s (grandmother) admonition: “always remember you are Osage.”

My Eeko was comfortable in her skin, and rarely treated us kids with sternness.

But on this point—about our heritage–she ruled supreme.

Eeko breathed Indigeneity, even though she and her descendants made homes far from the Rez: a movement fueled by the US government.

Loss of that connection to your heritage gives me pause.

I have learned to look for the Indigenous linkages in everyday living.

Now that I am an elder, I find most encounters warrant a nod to my Native heritage.

For example, when I recently read a story to my grand-daughter, I translate the words from English to Osage or Lakota (at least, the few words that I know).

When I read her favorite book about animals, I tell her: here is Shonka (dog) and here is Meeka (raccoon).

As an Osage I have responsibilities to my tribe, my community, my ancestors and my children’s children.

Foremost among the responsibilities is simply being, acting, and reminding my kin that we are…Indian.

 ##

Today’s blog is dedicated to my relative Leaf and her family, and to George, Lori and their family

15 December 2022

A note about the photo: Native American imagery, names and customs have long been used to sell products: from butter to tobacco. The Mazola corn oil company, founded in 1911, adopted the image (pictured) early in its marketing, and continued to brand its products as authentic and “pure,” which they paired with Indigeneity, most memorably in the 1970s and 1980s with television commercials featuring Native actors.

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest.

#framing

#impeachtrump

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#oglala

#osage

#sioux

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#newsbreak

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Honoring A Native American Activist

Have a Merry Mankiller

5 DECEMBER 2022
Photo Credit: Painting of Wilma Mankiller by Lauren Crazybull for Time. Mankiller was featured as Woman of the Year by the magazine in 1985, and Crazybull’s rendering appears in the
5 March 2020 edition.

I was thrilled to learn the US Mint issued a 25-cent coin to recognize Wilma Mankiller.

This week I decided to track down some quarters to share with family as a holiday gift that honors an activist’s efforts to uplift American Indians.

Mankiller became deputy-chief of the Cherokee Nation (Western Band) in 1983, and was elected chief four years later, according to a press release from the Mint.

The election launched her into the national limelight as the first woman ever elected chief of the Cherokee, and she became a sought-after speaker, writer and advocate for American Indians, and for women and children.

In 1998, Mankiller was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom: the highest civilian honor endowed by the Head of State.

And in 2022, the Mint issued Wilma Mankiller coins.

Like many Native families in the 1950s, the Mankillers moved from their tribal home as part of the US Government’s relocation program aimed at mainstreaming Indians.

Mankiller described being uprooted from rural Oklahoma to California’s Bay Area as a “shock.”

She told the Washington Post that, as a youth, she had “no way to conceptualize San Francisco or even a city … We’d never been past the Muskogee State Fair.”

“She became the best kind of leader”

~ GLORIA STEINEM

As an adult, Mankiller would become embroiled in civil rights and community activism, which led to a deep commitment to Native American justice.

But she felt she should do more for her kin and decided to return to Oklahoma in the 1970s.

Mankiller worked tirelessly to win the confidence of local residents and “became the best kind of leader: one who creates independence, not dependence; who helps people go back to a collective broken place and begin to heal themselves,” according to an interview with Mankiller’s friend, Gloria Steinem.

I thought of Steinem as I searched locally for Mankiller quarters, venturing out one afternoon to a national bank’s local office.

I asked the teller if the Mankiller quarters were in circulation, and if she had any.

The teller paused, replaying my request in her brain, and–after several breaths–said she had no idea.

She opened a drawer and fished out a roll of coins wrapped in paper.

“We get them like this, so I can’t see what they look like.”

I was stunned; probably because I figured she could have asked a manager about the Mankillers before shooing me away.

I said thank you and left.

As I played the conversation over in my head, I revised the script and decided to try the local credit union office, which is tucked within a large grocery store nearby.

The teller asked how he could help.

Sweet as pie I asked whether he heard if the “brand new Native American Wilma Mankiller quarters were in circulation” and where I might find them.

Like the first teller, he paused.

Finally he said, “I don’t even know who that is,” and said he didn’t know anything about where to find the new coins.

Coins just … appear.

Clearly the US Mint’s communication efforts miss the folks who work directly with muggles like me.

I decided to change strategy and looked up the US Mint online, only to discover nothing about how to get Mankiller quarters–even though they reportedly began being circulating in June.

A link invites you to “shop now,” where you can find a gallimaufry of collections geared to devotées of all things coinage from John F. Kennedy to Sally Ride.

After a few more searches and I discovered non-governmental sources selling coins.

Amazon will sell you two freshly-minted Mankillers for $9.99 (20-times the face value).

Another vendor sells Mankillers for 75 cents each (three-times the value) or you can buy a five-dollar roll for $10.95 (just over double the face value) –not including the cost to ship to your home.

My brief escapade into the land of coins, commerce and Cherokee politics yielded a Baudrillardian moment.

Philosopher Jean Baudrillard would have described my journey as a melding of the mundane with the hyper-real, where some of the coins in your piggy bank assume a greater-than-their-true value while simultaneously linking commerce with Indigeneity, all wrapped in camouflage.

The Mankiller coin comes full of contradictions, bookended by the upheaval of the Cherokee from their ancestral homelands in the 1830s and by the meaning of cash coins.

The Cherokee territory in Georgia was long coveted by settlers, and the Native people responded by adopting settler customs—including an orthography for their spoken language—and building western-style cabins for their homes in New Echota.

The Supreme Court ruled in the tribe’s favor in 1831, acknowledging the Cherokee as a sovereign nation that is independent from the state of Georgia.

The Cherokee hoped the ruling would curb settler avarice.

But President Andrew Jackson defied the Court and sent soldiers to Georgia and other Eastern territories to forcibly remove all Native peoples.

Cherokee and other Indians were forced to walk at gun-point in bitter weather for more than 700 miles Westward.

Historians contend that some 5,000 Cherokee died on the infamous Trail of Tears.

The Mankiller quarter offers contrasting faces of cultures: one side that appeals to the persistence of Native Americans who survived expulsion, sterilization, poverty and pandemics, and one side that Baudrillard considered a “pure simulacrum.”

Currency—forged from metal or woven from cotton and linen—no longer reflects gold bullion as its nucleus.

Instead, currency “is a sort of ecstasy of value, utterly detached from production and its real conditions: a pure, empty form, the purged form of value operating on nothing but its own revolving motion,” said Baudrillard.

Will the Mankiller quarter diffuse through daily activities or will it fade away like the Sacagawea dollar?

Maybe the Mankiller quarter will invite users to imagine Native Americans in a new light: not as exotic, but as part of the fabric of American society. 

Photo: Uncredited Mankiller quarter image posted on Etsy.com under “2022 New American Women Quarter.”

Post Script: Impeached former president Donald Trump drew scorn from some on mainstream and social media for insulting Native American war heroes he invited to the White House. For the publicized event, television cameras framed images of code talkers against the backdrop of an Andrew Jackson portrait. Trump added insult to injury by including in his public comments to the Native crowd a reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” a racist slur, according to US Senator Tom Udall.

###

5 December 2022

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest.

#americanwomenquarters

#andrewjackson

#baudrillard

#codetalkers

#framing

#impeachtrump

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#newquarters

#november

#oglala

#osage

#pineridge

#presidentialmedalofhonor

#sioux

#thebuddhaway

#timemagazine

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#wilmamankiller

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Native American Heritage Month

NOVEMBER 2022

Image by Alesha Sivartha, Book of Life, 1898

Thanksgiving Floats the Media Bubble

My social media bubble encircles friends and acquaintances who are–for the most part–kindhearted.

I’ve grown weary of folks who shame communities online, drawing attention to someone’s weight, faith, dress and even Indian-ness.

Shaming abounds on my Twitter feed, which I’ve slimmed down so much (to avoid vulgarities) that it is emaciated.

Most of my social media friends who are tribal members and others who have Native ancestors (and those who don’t) celebrate the Thanksgiving feast, judging from the grinning selfies and sumptuous table spreads they post.

My mother and all of her family–dating back to the execution of the Pine Ridge reservation–were raised in tribal communities.

And my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all celebrated Thanksgiving, just like our forebears, who offered thanks for the autumnal harvest.

Rather than dismissing the tradition because of its colonial overlay, I like to think of Thanksgiving from an Indigenous perspective of honoring family and our bounty.

When I see a post from a tribal person that mocks those of us who celebrate the day, I wonder how anger and fear became interwoven with “us” versus “them.”

I am truly tired of the fractures we hear that are bent on dividing communities.

Shameful how some Indigenous folk shame other Native peoples.

And I am embarrassed that I am part of a network of people who practice and study journalism and communication that often embrace–and encourage–the cleavages among the body politic.

When I become queen of the universe I will require the social and political pugilists to find common ground.

I will require that adversaries meet face-to-face across the Thanksgiving table to talk through their problems.

And they cannot leave the table until they reach a modicum of agreement.

That is all.

###

Thanksgiving

24 November 2022

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest.

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#november

#oglala

#osage

#pineridge

#sioux

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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Native American Heritage Month

NOVEMBER 2022

Pictured: Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota) is a modernist painter who shared his Sioux culture worldwide (1973). Credit: Digital Library of South Dakota (photographer not named).  

OSCAR HOWE

The Dakota Modern Exhibit

Where identity is baked into aesthetics

One of the most respected American painters of the last century–Oscar Howe–was born in 1915; the same year Babe Ruth hit the first in his string of 42 home runs for the Boston Red Sox.

And in 1915, Hollywood saw its first blockbuster film that would rank number one for nearly 25 years, until the epic Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta.

Like David O. Selznick’s cinematic opus based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Birth of a Nation famously championed Southern gentility and virility while denigrating enslaved Blacks as stupid and animal-like.

While some Americans were consumed by baseball and movies, the year 1915 also simulated an erasure of the first Americans.

James Earle Fraser debuted his 18-foot-tall sculpture of “The End of the Trail,” which premiered at the Pan-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, and depicts a Native American slumped over his horse.

Both man and horse keel downward, dejected…collapsed.

The sculpture came to symbolize the death of Native ways of life in North America.

Thousands of prints and photographs of the statue were sold “following the Exhibition,” noted Shannon Vittoria in an article on the statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern of Art (the MET).

Pictured: James Earle Fraser in his studio with “End of the Trail” Sculptures (1910). Photographer not identified. Syracuse University Libraries, New York.

Vittoria writes:

In 1918 Fraser began producing bronze reductions of the sculpture in two sizes. Today, an online image search for “End of the Trail” returns tens of thousands of results, as the work has been endlessly reproduced in paintings and in prints, on posters, T-shirts, pins, bags, belt buckles, and bookends.

It was even featured on the cover of The Beach Boys’ 1971 album, Surf’s Up.

Despite its appeal as a popular American icon, Fraser intended the work as a pointed commentary on the damaging effects of Euro-American settlement on American Indian nations confined on government reservations. Seated upon a windblown horse, Fraser’s figure slumps over despondently, embodying the physical exhaustion and suffering of a people forcefully driven to the end of the trail (Vittoria, 2014).

In contrast, Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota) spent his adult life examining the resilience of Indigenous. peoples and the Dakota culture through his powerful paintings.

What Dakota Culture Wrought

One example, which can be seen now through 14 May 2023 at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, is a painting titled, “Fleeing a Massacre” (1969), which depicts a woman in her buckskin dress, galloping on a bloody horse, set against a black sky, encircled by symbols and shapes.

Pictured: “Fleeing a Massacre” by Oscar Howe, 1969. Photo credit: BankWest, Pierre, South Dakota.

Many writers speculate the woman is Howe’s grandmother, Shell Face, who told Howe stories about their culture–a culture “so beautiful and so precise” and “full of truth.”

Shell Face cared for Howe after he was sent home from boarding school for Indians in Pierre, South Dakota, where he was placed when he was seven years old.

The language spoken at the strange school was foreign to Howe, as were the customs and practices of the teachers.

Howe became ill and depressed, and, when staff learned his mother, Ella Fearless Bear, had died, he was allowed to return home.

Shell Face healed him and shared countless lessons and stories of Dakota history and knowing-ways before Howe returned to school about a year later.

Howe said painting gave him a visual account of Dakota culture:

The formal Indian verbal poetic form is given a visual form. The intellectual impart a truth in culture while the emotive effect esthetic experiences.

The [Dakota] Indians tell of their culture and activities, being actually there and experiencing and enjoying their lives in nature. They described in detail a beautiful culture–so beautiful and so precise with so clear a picture with words and songs.

I have never read a book on Indians that equaled what I heard from these Dakota Indians. I heard the truth from them and responded by painting them in like manner of their words. So you see what my painting is–a visual response in the Dakota language to known facts: the Dakota Indian, his culture, activities, Indian art and processes.

The exhibit in Portland follows the arc of Howe’s artistic style, beginning with paintings from college days in the 1930s at the Santa Fe Indian School’s Studio.

In one of the last articles he wrote for the New Yorker before he died, Peter Schjeldahl called Howe a “leading light in what was dubbed Studio Style, which originated at the school.”

Howe learned the “Santa Fe Style,” and “paint[ed] scenes of Indian life in a flat, decorative way…the type of art being taught to Native American artists at that time,” according to a story from South Dakota Public Radio.

Howe would “reject this way of painting” in favor of a more fluid approach.

Pictured: Woman and Wolves, by Oscar Howe, 1946 (gouache on paper). Image downloaded from South Dakota Public Radio.

In fact, the Dakota Modern Exhibit lets viewers explore Howe’s paintings in their respective periods.

After discovering his Santa Fe Studio artwork, visitors witness shifts in Howe’s creations, which Schjeldahl says reflects “surrealism and abstract expressionism.”

Yet Howe refused labels.

When critics defined one of his periods as “cubist,” Howe rejected the notion and explained that geometric designs have long been part of Sioux expression, and that, foremost, his inspiration arises from the melding of existence and essentialism intrinsic to Dakota life.

Schjeldahl aptly described ecclectic, yet consistent, corpus:

A palette of russet, yellow, and black has precedents in the Lakota and Dakota crafts of hide painting and beadwork. But racial identity wasn’t so much asserted as baked into Howe’s pragmatic appropriate, and advancement, of sophisticated aesthetics.

###

7 November 2022

My mission is to honor my Osage (Wah-zha-zhe) and Kiyuska (Sioux) heritage, as well as honoring the Indigenous peoples on whose territories in the Pacific Northwest I now live, as a guest.

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#louisbenjaminlessert

#mahtotatonka

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#november

#oglala

#osage

#oscarhowe

#photography

#pineridge

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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Native American Heritage Month

NOVEMBER 2022

HONORING ANCESTORS

Pictured: My great-grandmother, Eva Agnes Herridge, and her older sister, Mary. Photograph taken around the early 1890s by P.A. Miller. Agnes was born in South Dakota and settled in Oklahoma–in Stillwater and Fairfax (one of the Osage villages)–with her family

For thirty days we honor American Indians after the United States sanctified November as Native American Heritage Month.

I hope you don’t mind if I start my first blog in November looking at my family tree on my mother’s side.

Perhaps the most noteworthy record comes from an East-Coast denizen—who, in his mid-twenties—embarked on an adventure to Indian Country in 1846 and wrote a book that became a best-seller.

The writer, Francis Parkman, hired my ancestor—Henri Chatillon—to guide him on his journey over the Oregon Trail.

Parkman wrote about his adventures in segments for Knickerbocker magazine in 1847 and then published The Oregon Trail as a book in 1849.

Parkman described meeting my ancestor in beatific terms:

His age was about thirty; he was six feet high, and very powerfully and gracefully molded. The prairies had been his school…

He could neither read nor write, but he had a natural refinement and delicacy of mind such as is rarely found, even in women. His manly face was a perfect mirror of uprightness, simplicity, and kindness of heart; he had, moreover, a keen perception of character and a tact that would preserve him from flagrant error in any society.

Henry [also known as Henri, the French spelling] had not the restless energy of an Anglo-American. He was content to take things as he found them; and his chief fault arose from an excess of easy generosity, impelling him to give away too profusely ever to thrive in the world.

Yet it was commonly remarked of him, that whatever he might choose to do with what belonged to himself, the property of others was always safe in his hands. His bravery was as much celebrated in the mountains as his skill in hunting; but it is characteristic of him that in a country where the rifle is the chief arbiter between man and man, Henry was very seldom involved in quarrels….

I have never, in the city or in the wilderness, met a better man than my noble and true-hearted friend, Henry Chatillon (Parkman, 1849).

The Oregon Trail

Parkman recalls meeting Native peoples throughout the months-long trek, most often describing them in unkind terms: animals and savages.

But when Chatillon received word that his wife—Sni Mahto (Bear Robe)—has become mortally ill—Parkman softens his stance:

The squaw of Henry Chatillon, a woman with whom he had been connected for years by the strongest ties which in that country exist between the sexes, was dangerously ill.

She and her children were in the village of The Whirlwind [a Sioux headman], at the distance of a few days’ journey. Henry was anxious to see the woman before she died, and provide for the safety and support of his children, of whom he was extremely fond. To have refused him this would have been gross inhumanity (Parkman, 1849).

Bear Robe—daughter of the Kiyuska warrior Mahto Tatonka (Bull Bear)—died during Henri’s visit.

Henri entrusted their surviving daughter, Emilie (or, Emily), to friends who raised her along with their own children.

Pictured: Henri Chatillon (left) hired an artist to capture Bear Robe’s life and death on a canvas painting that was discovered in the 1960s: hidden in the rafters of the home he shared in St. Louis with his second wife, Odile Delor Lux. Credit: https://www.demenil.org

The Sioux and Osage Connections

As Emilie approached the age to marry, Henri arranged a meeting between Emilie and Louis Benjamin Lessert—an entrepreneur and son of French and Osage families.

They wed, and, within the year, their first child was born: Julia—my great great grandmother.

Although Lessert was Osage, Irma R. Miller (a relative) writes that he embraced his wife’s kinship with the Sioux, and they carved out a life on the reservation at Pine Ridge where he managed a general store.

Indeed: many of the Lessert descendants today are enrolled with the Sioux and only a few of us—my family included—are Osage citizens.

But Lessert found the reservation system at Pine Ridge untenable under the leadership of Valentine McGillycuddy, who served as overseer from 1879 to 1882.

Lessert accused McGillycuddy of starving the residents at Pine Ridge, Miller writes.

Turns out Lessert was right: McGillycuddy cut so many corners that in a few years he was able to impress Washington by saving $50,000–funds that were earmarked to feed the Sioux, according to the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior (1886).

The United States government sent funds to McGillycuddy to secure food, clothing, warmth and shelter on the reserve, and yet the items seldom appeared.

Miller says Lessert and his family were kicked off the reservation for questioning McGillycuddy’s authority.

Lessert would later move to Nebraska, where he raised cattle.

He and Emilie had five children: Susan, Benjamin, Ollie and Samuel—who identified, like their mother, as Sioux—and the eldest, Julia, who married an Englishman—Edward Herridge—and brought her family to live with the Osages.

Julia and Edward raised one son and four daughters, including my great-grandmother, Eva Agnes Herridge Grove.    

I’m posting a picture of Agnes and her sister taken by a Kansas photographer who likely made his living “travelling the small towns” and “setting up a temporary studio for a day or a week,” according to a blog in 2021 by the writer of “Cabinet Card Photographers.”

Photographers would shoot an image and paste it onto a 6-1/2 by 4-1/4-inch “cabinet” card.

The cards needed no frame, and they could be placed on tables, desks or cabinets in family homes. 

I have the original cabinet card of Agnes and Mary, which I reckon is at least 130 years old.

Feels good to hold it close.

#

1 November 2022

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest

#bearrobe

#bullbear

#cabinetcards

#charlesgrove

#evaagnesherridge

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakota

#louisbenjaminlessert

#mahtotatonka

#maryherridge

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#november

#oglala

#osage

#photography

#pineridge

#snimahto

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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Taking Steps to Recognize Indigenous Peoples

Let’s Start with Names

Seek-Seek-Qua by C. Coleman Emery

When I returned home from a September camping trip, I opened my book (Night of the Living Rez) and found a plastic knife holding my place.

I had used the knife as a bookmark while reading during a rainstorm in a cabin in the woods.

We rented a two-room shack at Lake Olallie Resort, which is sequestered in what is now called the Mount Hood National Recreational Area, surrounded by firs, cedars and pines, and, of course, a lake.

We brought plasticware as well as silverware, and we tucked away bowls and plates along with a stovetop espresso maker.

We added headlamps, a chef’s knife, napkins, matches and books.

And the dog.

We typically pack light, but, having the car, we loaded up more than we needed.

We had no electricity and no internet.

Turns out the cabins had beds with mattresses (we brought sleeping bags and pillows), a wood-burning stove, table, chairs, and shelves with counter space.

Our friends—who stayed in another cabin—left their camp stove in our hut: a sign of real friendship.

We drank our coffee hot while they sipped cold brew.

I was delighted to find a kerosene lamp in the cabin.

The last time I saw one was in the 1970s, when such lamps were fashioned from blown glass for the hippie-class.

Folks would smoke pot around the glow of the lamp, which—today—has gone the way of soybean casseroles and waterbeds (the lamps, not the pot).

At the cabin, we got water at a spigot outside (the water tasted good) and we’d fill the tea kettle and settle it on the warm stove all day—for washing, bathing and making tea.

Our stay let us unplug and relax.

Whose Viewpoint?

We discovered our cabin has a name: Mount Jefferson’s View.

Although we couldn’t make out the view until our last day, the clouds finally cleared and we could see the mountain.

Our companions told us the mountain—like Wy’east (Mount Hood)—is a volcano, which explains the rocks I purloined while walking around the lake.

In addition to finding skipping stones, I discovered igneous rock with its tale-tell holes made by cooling lava.

I wondered what the peak meant to Native peoples in the area.

Without internet I had to wait until we returned home to learn that the area had been assailed by explorers who re-named everything.

Wy’east became “Mount Hood” and Seek-Seek-Qua became “Mount Jefferson.”

Some internet sites refer to the pre-explorer monikers as “Native American.”

But I learned the mountains had several names that reflected the assortment of people (and their languages) Indigenous to this part of the Pacific Northwest, homelands to:

Molalas, Kalapuyans, Chinookan Clackamas, Shinookan Wascos, Northern Paiute peoples, and Sahaptin speakers [who] all lived within the area…

…until they were forcibly removed.

Wy’east—a name offered by the Multnomah—has gained currency, according to the Cascadia Department of Bioregion, a Washington-based non-profit organization.

Another source reports the Molalla people called the mountain Nífti Yángint—Big Mountain.

Wy’east came to be renamed for a British naval officer who never saw the mountain.

A lieutenant who was part of the Vancouver Expedition in the late 1700s renamed Wy’east to honor a British Admiral, Lord Samuel Hood.

The Vancouver Expedition assumed the task of place-naming in a region occupied for thousands of years by Native peoples.

As a result, many Indigenous villages, communities and unceded territories were named after George Vancouver, the leader of the voyage.

Spurred on by hubris, the explorers permanently inked names on maps: an island and major city in British Columbia and a seaport in the State of Washington are all named for Vancouver.

And Vancouver claimed much of the territory (without permission from the Native peoples) for the British Crown.

He also re-named ancestral volcanoes: one for Baron St. Helens (the British diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert); and one for the tallest peak in Washington for a rear admiral, Peter Rainier.

But I learned that Seek-Seek-Qua was named Mount Jefferson by Meriwether Lewis.

Lewis and [William] Clark’s journey to Oregon (1804-1806) was funded by Thomas Jefferson once he became president of the United States.

Jefferson was eager to lay claim to the Western territories, and

[W]orried that other nations might control the vast Trans-Mississippi region and compromise U.S. political and economic security. He had long feared that Great Britain would try to colonize the Pacific Northwest

According to the website Biography:

Jefferson asked Lewis to gather information about the plants, animals and Indigenous peoples of the region. Lewis jumped at the chance and selected his old Army friend Clark to join him as co-commander of the expedition

Like the explorer Vancouver, Lewis and Clark re-named countless landmarks on their journey.

Olallie Lake

Back at Olallie Lake, I find Seek-Seek-Qua surrounded by an intense azure sky once the weather clears.

White swaths of snow layer the volcano, which last erupted about 1000 years ago.

Seek-Seek-Qua is about 3,199 meters: about the height of nearly ten Eiffel Towers stacked on top of one another.

The view is unforgettable.

I would like the name of the cabin changed to “A View of Seek-Seek-Qua” and I would really like to see the name of Mount Jefferson changed.

As we approach the month of November, the United States celebrates Native American Heritage Month.

The official website notes that government agencies “join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.”

Perhaps we can start by asking Native communities to help such institutions find names that honor Indigenous ancestry and traditions.

Let’s start with the names.

Artwork of Seek-Seek-Qua © Cynthia Coleman Emery

25 October 2022

I honor the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather here in the Pacific Northwest

#Mthood

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#kiyuska

#lakeollalie

#lakota

#lewisandclark

#MtJefferson

#NAJA

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#nodapl

#november

#oglala

#osage

#pineridge

#SeekSeekQua

#thebuddhaway

#Vancouver

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#Wy’East

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Doing What’s Ordinary

Our puppy lived with his brothers, sisters and trainer for five months before we got to take him home.

We learned one important lesson the day the trainer handed over the leash: praise the pup royally when he goes potty outdoors, and don’t lavish praise when he behaves routinely–such as sitting on command.

I thought about the dog as I listened to the live report of the January 6 Commission’s hearing.

The Commission and press praised gutsy folks who have thus far recounted details of the behavior of elected and appointed officials serving under the impeached former president.

I have no doubt these folks show courage, unlike Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who refused to address the American public through the Commission.

Today one of the Commission participants said the former vice president–who also rebuffed the Commission’s invitation to come clean–deserves a medal for confirming the electoral college vote count on January 6, 2021.

Why would you award a medal of honor to someone who is carrying out his or her job as expected?

But…that’s his job, isn’t it?

Mike Pence’s duty as vice president is clearly outlined in the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution.

The vice president’s responsibility, in concert with the Speaker of the House and the Senate, affirm the votes of the Electoral College.

Why would you award a medal of honor to someone who is carrying out his or her job as expected?

True: Pence defied a senile miscreant’s directive to break the law and declare the election rotten.

Like Pence, many have suffered from Trump’s bile including John McCain, a long-serving senator and decorated war veteran: “He’s not a war hero…he was captured,” the former president told a crowd in 2015.

Those who publicly questioned the former president’s sanity, integrity, morality and honesty have suffered, too: Many cling to the lie spread by Trump that Barack Obama was born in Kenya [he was born in Hawaii] while others joined in the disparagement of Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas, the face of the [Democrat] party.”

Context matters.

My pup doesn’t get a treat just because he has learned how to sit.

And Pence should not be decorated for doing what is right and just.

###

13 July 2022

Image Credit: Mike Lukovich, Atlanta Journal and Constitution

With acknowledgement and gratitude to the Native peoples on whose land I live, write and teach: the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and the denizens of all Indigenous nations

#barackobama

#deplorables

#elizabethwarren

#framebuilding

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#january6

#johnmccain

#kevinmccarthy

#kiyuska

#lakota

#markmeadows

#massmedia

#mentalhealth

#mikepence

#nancypelosi

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#nodapl

#npr

#oglala

#osage

#pineridge

#pocahontas

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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Do Media Matter? Maybe, Not So Much….

Image from https://i.pinimg.com/

I get it.

We long for answers.

One step solutions.

But life is complicated, and we can’t solve our problems with shortcuts.

There’s no single pill to make you slim and no simple test to show you’re smart.

Lately I’ve read news stories about the magic pill and the silver bullet as solutions.

But pills and bullets don’t solve problems.

The question is: how do our problems arise?

May I offer my advice?

If you hear a problem stems from one single source—whether rational gun ownership or a woman’s right to control her body—take a breath.

Life is complicated and deserves your thoughtful attention: not your gut reaction.

This week NPR interviewed a fellow academic—someone I don’t know–who looked at American television programs on abortion and their impact.

No surprise to hear that mainstream entertainment (not internet or subscription TV) historically presents two sides of the issue: pro-life and pro-choice.

What caught my attention?

The researcher said such views impact public opinion on abortion.

Wow.

I long for concrete evidence to offer my students that media impact opinion.

I dug deeper.

I looked for the researcher’s findings that show how television impacts public opinion about abortion, but I found nothing—nothing in the communication journals and nothing in the journalism reviews that referenced the researcher’s work.

Today I lost a little faith in NPR.

The reporter took a shortcut and someone failed to fact-check the story.

I teach propaganda and disinformation and misinformation, and I ask students to check the credibility of their sources and to judge according to the source’s agenda.

NPR failed.

And I take a deep breath.

###

With acknowledgement and gratitude to the Native peoples on whose land I live, write and teach: the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and the denizens of all Indigenous nations

#defendpdx

#framebuilding

#framing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#january6insurrection

#kiyuska

#lakota

#massmedia

#mentalhealth

#nativepress

#nativescience

#nativewaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#nodapl

#npr

#oglala

#osage

#pineridge

#rachelmartin

#tanyamelendez

#thebuddhaway

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

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