In Sandy’s Wake the Best Survives

New Jersey shore

I promised myself that during Native American Heritage Month I would attend to life through a native lens.

And write about it every day.

During the election blitz, my head got filled with visions of projects created under the Roosevelt administration to create jobs for workers: more than 3 million in the 1930s.

And I’ve felt ambivalent because the labor devised for the poor workers sometimes meant the demise of indigenous traditions.

The mighty Bonneville Dam in the Pacific Northwest meant a paycheck for a hungry cement worker but signaled devastating losses of land and resources for Indian tribes.

I’m torn because the WPA—Works Progress Administration—completed amazing monuments, from Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge to outhouses in Appalachia.

And yet, in the current political climate, Roosevelt’s work has been disparaged by conservative speakers who decry socialism.

How ironic that when we toured the New Jersey beaches in hurricane Sandy’s wake the one thing that remained is a credit to socialism.

We saw miles of new boardwalk ripped from its moorings and brand new homes with water-logged floors.

But what stands fast and lasts?

The cement bearings, some 75 years later, built by hand, constructed by Roosevelt’s laborers, announce, “WPA 1937.”

My photo of the Spring Lake boardwalk, November 10, 2012.

[Day eight of Native American Heritage Month. I pledge one blog per day.]


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in Indian, journalism, Native Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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