Saturday, March 17, 2018

Musings of a Seventy-one Year Old History Teacher Inspired by "The Art of Loading Brush." #2


                Chapter 2 of "The Art of Loading Brush" is a letter to scientists that includes economic as well as technological sciences. In the letter, Mr. Berry points out the failure of economists and scientists to create a better tomorrow because of two major fallacies:
  • ·         Exploiting the producers (farmers) by destroying the local farmers who have a relationship with the land and creating agribusinesses that use machines to overproduce in order to sell as cheaply to the consumer as possible with little return to the farmer or the land.
  • ·         Growing one crop exclusively so that when overproduction occurs resulting in surpluses the farmer is left without income. Mr. Berry calls this lack of diversity.

In addition to this, Mr. Berry points out the fallacy in believing that any entity or group can ignore the past as an indicator of the present (the future of past events and behavior) to focus on well-controlled studies that predict a better tomorrow. In terms of the basis of any economic system (the production of food, clothing and shelter) the focus needs to be on the present and what local resources are available at this time for this production. This includes not only the water, soil, weather, air, and sunlight but also the living creatures including those we call our neighbors who rely on the same “raw materials.”

As rural communities decline and become no more than bedroom communities for farmers who have left farming to become blue collar workers, children have lost sight of this dependence on nature and how it functions in their very survival. Mr. Berry says, “I wish its children (rural America) might be taught thoroughly and honestly, its (local natural history), and its history is part of American history.” According to Mr. Berry, this is where change in education should begin. The new system would be based on the idea of “provision” which is at the heart of what Mr. Berry believes is agrarianism. Provision, as defined by Mr. Berry is, “caring properly for the good you have (now), including your own life.” Provision is “now oriented” and diverse. Mr. Berry cites the old adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and says that answers don’t come from the future.  We need to study the past and present as the future of the past.

Therefore, Mr. Berry suggests that these are the solutions to the challenges that face the myriad of domestic problems facing the country today.
  • ·         Realize our dependence upon nature and the natural world instead of science and technology. This realization would bring about voluntary stewardship of the land and the environment around us.
  • ·         Realizing that the success of the American economy is dependent upon the local economies of farming, ranching, forestry, and fishing and mining.
  • ·         Realizing that the national economy is made up of local economies that are complete and self-sustaining – not dependent upon what happens globally.

·         In terms of production and waste, we must realize that production itself must not reduce productivity – no overproduction and no waste.
My own contribution to this would be that this is the kind of “nationalism” needed in the United States, not the jingoist, competitive, military dependent nationalism in operation under the current Administration. In regard to making statements about the current Administration, we all need to realize that what has happened recently is not the result of the actions of a particular political party that is “wrong;” according to provision this is what has happened as a result of past mistakes and that’s where we need to focus to make the changes that will benefit us today and lead to a sustainable way of life for all.  

How does agrarianism fit into this? Mr. Berry states that agrarianism is the practice that has resulted from a “primal wish for a home” that results in putting the highest value on the care of the land. In terms of provision, we must ask ourselves how much can we ask of this land, this farm without a diminishing response?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Musings of a Seventy-year Old History Teacher - about The Art of Loading Brush #1

In the midst of all the controversy and loud discussion about safety and gun rights, I started reading "The Art of Loading Brush" by Kentucky poet and essayist Wendell Berry. I have only read a few pages but the book has been written to begin a conversation about agrarian culture, especially in the South, its beginnings, its relationship to racism and perceptions outside the South and how a dialogue based on local, neighborly economic systems and changing the pursuit of one's life work from job to vocation can make significant strides in reversing an out of control military as well as a materialistic, corporate controlled economy that is at the root of the continual destruction of our physical environment as well as the peaceful, social fabric in this country  So far, and I have only started, the book seems to be in line with what I attempted to write about when I wrote “The Peacemaker” and its sequel “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World.”
Berry begins the book with a series of quotes and assessments of the misperceptions prevalent in American society based on the loss of any basic knowledge of agrarian society due to the rise of urban economies based on accumulation of money and wealth from a job as opposed to a vocation. As I read these initial quotes and intellectual musings I thought of how Hitler rose to power by shutting down institutions of learning and muting the voices and writings of the intellectuals attempting  to get the people of Germany to remember. Hitler captured the youth of Germany with his propaganda about Aryan superiority and the need for “lebensraum” all the while burning books and sending those intellectuals to concentration camps along with the Jewish population. So much of that is happening in our society today. I read with horror President Trump’s appointment of the new CIA director who has been shown to support water boarding and other tortures while interrogating our “enemies.”
Although I have great compassion for the trauma of high school students rising to action against a fear for their safety in school, I am hesitant to think they should label themselves as leaders and voices of the future when they are so disconnected from their past and rely on social media and peers to move through this trauma instead of looking for the causes of this disease that is sweeping our nation and cannot be cured simply by getting rid of the National Rifle Association and its control over our legislators preventing sensible gun control. As leaders and parents of those killed at  Columbine and Newton have discovered over the years, the cures lie in the creation of a school culture and climate that promotes values of dialogue based on reading and critical thinking, accountability for actions, respect for all living beings and the value of life in general. Addressing these issues in their microcosm of society would send a larger message to society as a whole and after graduation from high school they can be the leaders of a new revolution of meaningful change.
Therefore, I offer some quotes and assessments of our society presented at the beginning of “The Art of Learning Brush” for you to think about as I have done so over the past twenty-four hours that have not been free of noise and conflict from neighbors living in the apartment across the hall from me and, in conjunction with the school walk-outs have prompted me to share these thoughts with you as our nation and families continue facing violence and loss on a daily basis.
·         “You had to be here then to be able to don’t see it and don’t hear it (anymore) now. But I was there then, and I don’t see it now . . .” Ernest J. Gaines, “A Gathering of Old Men.”
·         “We are responsible for what we remember.”  Professor John Lukas talking with students at the University of Louisville, March 9, 2011.
·         “Whatever agrarianism is, it is too important to be a movement. Movements leave little room or dissent.” Wendell Berry
·         Leaders of movements have tunnel vision- their ideas are right and the others are wrong. They leave no room for debate to come together to create meaningful solutions.  Wendell Berry.
·         Agrarianism is about home, field, garden, stable, prairie, forest, tribe, village . . . and cottage rather than castle. It is not about money, it is about culture and how that culture sustains itself with its relationship to land and community. No public conversation about this exists now nor has it existed for the last 60 or 70 years.  Wendell Berry. Therefore, if our young are to know about this, they will have to read and study history and relearn these relationships. Brenda Duffey.
·         Our language needs to develop into a local, neighborly language that speaks about a vocation instead of a job and a local instead of global economy. Wendell Berry. This means we need to initiate programs and methods of food production and jobs that begin within individual neighborhoods and communities and neighbors need to come together for the good of the neighborhood first. Brenda Duffey.
·         “. . . it has now been a long time since an agrarian or any advocate for the good and economic and ecological health of rural America could be listened to or understood or represented by either of the political parties.” Wendell Berry.
I intend to do a series of blogs as I read “The Art of Loading Brush” to share with you my thoughts, my remembering and stimulate your thoughts and remembering as well that you might like to share with me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Well Regulated Militia and The Federalist Papers

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Amendment 2

As I listened to the debate about what the Founding Fathers meant about a well-regulated militia between history teachers and the representative of the National Rifle Association on CNN’s Town Hall last night, I thought I needed to offer something that might give an understanding of what The Founding Fathers meant in adding the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution by using the material I read in The Original Argument which was a complete compilation of The Federalist Papers written under a pseudonym by three of the Founding Fathers.

These papers were written over a period of time as essays to justify the need to have a central, federal government that would have sovereignty over the states in order to create a national economy and a “national police force” (military) that would protect the country from the threats that existed by foreign nations as well as insurrections like the Whiskey Rebellion that occurred during George Washington’s administration. In addition there was a need to have a militia that could support the new settlers in the Northwest Territory against Indian uprisings with arms being supplied by our enemy Great Britain.

 Groups supporting the opinions of the essays were called Federalists. Those opposed were called Anti-Federalists – thus setting the stage for the development of political parties in this country – something George Washington warned about in his Farewell Address. Despite these brilliant, convincing arguments, the Founding Fathers were well-aware of the abuses of the absolute monarchies in England that had used their power and control to deny individual citizens their inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Therefore, they were cautious about surrendering power to a central government.

It is ironic that when the Constitution was written speaking about these inalienable rights, the only people that had these rights were the White Anglo-Saxon Christian males who owned property and could vote. It has taken a long time for the other disenfranchised groups to secure these rights for themselves but the way it has been done is through a Living Constitution that can be amended and the power of a non-political judicial branch of government that can strike down laws that deny people their basic rights and declare them null and void. Such was the case with the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision that declared the separate but equal segregation laws of Plessy vs. Ferguson null and void.

The Constitution itself was structured in such a way to spread the powers of this central government over three branches with each branch having a power that would keep each of the three branches check. But that was not enough for the people in 1791. These men knew only too well how the abusive monarchs of England had abused their powers to deny Englishmen certain rights and despite the explanation of a need for a central government the states were unwilling to ratify the Constitution without a set of amendments known as The Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments that became part of the Constitution. Our history is one in which groups denied these rights and full participation in society have used these ten amendments to incorporate all of the various ethnic and cultural groups that make up our society into full participation. Perhaps the last group of people that will come under the protection of the “right to bear arms” is the African-American black living in urban ghettoes across the nation and subject to abuse by the police force that protects them. The Black Panther Movement of the 1970’s is a good example of this.

The men who met in Independence Hall in 1787 went to revise the first form of government established after the Revolution the “Articles of Confederation,” which by the way, was based on the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy which was destroyed during and after the American Revolution. As they met, the consensus of the Founding Fathers was that the loose league of friendship of 13 sovereign states was not working.

The economy was failing because each state wanted its own currency. Next, there were violent protests like the Whiskey Rebellion that needed addressing. In addition, the new government needed to get rid of the Native American uprisings in the Northwest Territory that were being supported by the British supplying the “terrorist” Indians with guns. The British were supplying the Indians with guns to maintain control of their forts along the Great Lakes which gave them control of vital transportation into the interior of the country. The settlers needed to have their Kentucky long rifles and weapons to use against the Indians in order to settle the land that the United States said, for some reason, belonged to them after the Revolution. So, these Founding Fathers went to Philadelphia to come up with a government that would establish a national economic system and a national army. Neither of these were popular among the Sons of Liberty who had just fought a war to be free of the abuses of an absolute monarch. So, the meetings were held in secret throughout the summer of 1787. Neither was the absured notion that African-American slaves should have the right to bear arms or any of the rights eventually listed in the Bill of Rights considered.

After the Constitution was written that established a federal government that would control the money and have a standing army, the Founding Fathers set about “selling” the idea of federalism to the governments of the 13 sovereign states. Three-fourths of the states had to ratify or approve the Constitution before the new government could proceed. That’s why Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote a series of articles that became known as “The Federalist Papers” under the pseudonym Publius. This debate over a strong central government versus a government of loosely connected sovereign states led to the development of political parties and ultimately to Civil War. 

The Federalist Papers which I read in a book entitled “The Original Argument” set forth all the reasons why the new United States should surrender power to a central government. The arguments were highly contested and even led to several duals between men like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The bottom line soon became apparent. Before any approval of a Constitution that would give sanction to a central government certain rights had to be guaranteed in the Constitution. These rights were listed in the first ten amendments to the Constitution and became known as the Bill of Rights. Amendment 2 was the protection of the individual citizen to bear arms in order to protect themselves against a government that had federal forts and arsenals of weapons that could easily be used against them.  

So, today, we have Amendment 2 still in operation which, if interpreted as I interpret its meaning, assault rifles are certainly allowed to private citizens to protect citizens from the abusive military. That also means citizens have the means to nuclear weapons and dirty bombs of all types. That’s how powerful our military has become. What should be done about Amendment 2 then? To what extent should the government or even private citizens have access to weapons whose only reason for existence is to kill? Kill whom? Only those the government deems our enemies or perhaps the emissaries of the government who have used these weapons against Native Americans, African Americans, and women for centuries?

As an added note, private citizens in this country are protected by the second Amendment to the Constitution from a powerful military. What about the third world countries that do not have that protection and where citizens face the daily terror of weapons manufactured and supplied by the United States to governments that dole out the weapons at will to all kinds of corrupt and hateful organizations?  The people of these countries live with endless war and death and must flee to other countries that will allow them to enter in order to find security. I find it ironic that our country now sees these refugees as “terrorists” and wants to treat them in many ways like the Native Americans were treated in the 19th Century. Build walls (forts) to keep them out and continue to fuel hate and fear while supplying the hate groups with weapons forged in the United States and supplied to these corrupt factions all over the globe. Some of them even end up back in the United States and when used to massacre our citizens the public outrage begins.

Therefore, the debate that is centered around the 2nd Amendment should start to address the issue of how do we regulate this military that has made the United States a super power with the weapons of mass destruction powerful enough to destroy our planet and in the name of the second amendment people having access to all the methods of making and using any or all of these? Yes, we need to discuss the many complex problems surrounding those to whom no access to these weapons (people like Hitler or the Ku Klux Klan for example) as well as others who are mentally disturbed and amenable to using anything to kill when aroused, but there first needs to be an examination of our own attitudes about the military and the continual idea that having super weapons is the way to make a country strong and that those who disagree with us in any way are the enemy.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pochantas - The First Allegation of Sexual Assault

I did not sleep last night because of the events of the past week. All week I have been sharing Native Hope posts about the tragedy of the indigenous people of North America destroyed by American militarism and what that means for the struggling cultures that remain. On Sunday evening I watched the movie "Wind River"- a fictional account of what is happening to the indigenous youth on 21st Century reservations who are struggling with the impact of poverty, loss of identity, drug use, suicide and sexual abuse at levels far greater than any minority group in this country. I was stunned that this movie has received such little attention from the Hollywood promoters. Once again, my anger rose just like the first time I saw the movie "Billy Jack" in the 1970's when Hollywood and the national media were at last giving some attention to this Scarlet Letter of American history. Once again, however, these stories have been buried behind sensational headlines that are politically motivated by members of both of the two political parties in order to use the indigenous people to gain power, (Navajo Code Talkers - watch Wind Talkers or the story of Ira Hayes or Jim Thorpe) or take away more lands and pass their agendas (Keystone Pipeline, Dakota Access Pipeline or the Tar Sands Pipeline) under the guise of creating jobs and growing the American economy to keep their careers despite the vast needs of indigenous people.

 The latest in these events is the whirlwind of media attention given to Elizabeth Warren who was "racially slurred" when President Trump referred to her as Pocahantas. The honoring of the Navajo Code Talkers would probably have received about ten seconds of air time on the national news if this had not occurred at the ceremony honoring them. It is also ironic that all this resulted from the President's use of the name of one of the greatest indigenous American females in North American history to "slur" Elizabeth Warren. From what I know, this was no slur against Elizabeth Warren only the latest in the demeaning of indigenous leaders in American history and relegating them to a status like that of Mickey Mouse in order to demean someone. In light of what I have studied and learned about Pochantas over the years, I find it ironic that the President chose this name given his history of allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of power in regard to women. In addition, the media blowing this up into a political discussion under the guise of a "racial slur" against Elizabeth Warren without regard for the actual person slurred, Pocahantas, is outrageous to me. I feel compelled to get up in the wee hours of the morning and try to put some words to why I find this so disgusting.

In the farming culture of many of the tribes of the Eastern Woodlands culture, women played a very powerful role. The societies were matrilineal which meant that all property and other wealth were controlled by the female side of the family tree. These woodland cultures did not believe in ownership of property but in rights to the property by a tribe or group based on land stewardship. So long as the tribes fulfilled these duties, however, the land belonged to the tribe that maintained and farmed it and all wealth resulting from that was controlled by the female matriarchs or Klan mothers. The chiefs who attended the council meetings and made treaties were under the control of these Klan mothers who appointed them to office and removed them if they violated the peace covenants. These women also had absolute veto over war, therefore, they were extremely powerful with a great deal of status. The Powhatan tribe of the Eastern Alqonquin Indians is the tribe that was living around the settlement that became the Jamestown Colony in the early 17th Century.  The Chief of this tribe was named Powhatan but he had a daughter that we know from historical accounts was an Indian princess. In that role, Pochahantas probably traveled with her father on delegations to meet with and negotiate with the European settlers who were ensconced at the all male colony of Jamestown.

What we know about these settlers is that they had a less than sterling record in England. King James I had sent Captain John Smith on a mission to the New World to establish a colony there in order to find a way to fill England's coffers the way the Spanish had done with their colonies in Mexico. No one wanted to go on this mission, so he emptied the jails of the bothersome criminals and sent them off to explore and settle the New World for England and the King. The colony struggled and almost did not survive due to the fighting and general behavior of these criminals. Enter Powhatan with his lovely 15 year old daughter at his side bringing food and pipes filled with tobacco to seal covenants of peace. The story of what happened to Pochahantas has been so skewed and twisted, especially by Walt Disney, that any attempt to ferret the truth of her experience could be only allegations that would not stand a chance of being believed in today's court of justice. From the fragments of what has been passed down in history along with the myth about the saving of John Smith I have pieced together what I believe to be the first allegation of sexual assault by men of power in American history.

What do we know? We know that Pochahantas was kidnapped and that after her return to her father and tribe, she interceded for John Smith and saved his life. From that story, most of the people I know who even know about Pochahantas associate her with a romantic involvement with John Smith and there the story ends in American history as told by Hollywood. Here is what I think. I think when Pochahantas was kidnapped by whatever villian living at Jamestown, she was most likely raped and not just by one man. Captain Smith, being the civilized leader, probably took her back to her father and when faced with death Pochahantas interceded on his behalf. What happened to Pochahantas after that or as a newsman from the 70's might have said, what is the "rest of the story?" Enter John Rolfe.

John Rolfe was an English gentleman who ended up in Jamestown with John Smith and learned of a desirable drug being smoked by the Indians, called tobacco. Tobacco was in high demand in England and John Rolfe needed land to grow this "cash crop" that sealed the success of the Jamestown Colony leading to the settlement of the colony of Virginia. How to get the land needed without military force? Marry the Indian princess who controlled that land and that is exactly what John Rolfe did. After their marriage, he took "Rebecca" to England and there the couple lived very well on the profits from Rolfe's investments in the New World. What happened after she was taken to England has been lost in American history. Perhaps there might be some of her British descendants who may come to the United States with claims to land in Virginia that is part of their heritage. Who knows? How could any of this be proven in a court of law?

All any DNA test would prove would be that a person has the DNA from the tribes of the Eastern Woodlands people. That would only confirm what many people already know (and I am one of them) from stories that have been passed down in their families about their ethnicity. The faces and voices of these people (especially the females) have been lost and identifying a specific one would take years of research to put a name to these people and finding evidence that would be accepted in a court of law would be next to impossible. Maybe someone might find a piece of clothing that belonged to Pochahantas that could be DNA tested to find out who her assailants were? Or why don't we just accept the truth of the story as it relates to what we know about the treatment of all females in America and stop degrading, exploiting and demeaning any of them in our history and stand together once and for all? We do make up the majority in this country. It will be interesting to see how the women of Alabama vote on December 12th. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fifty States' Bucket List Blog #9 Where the Water Begins and Those Who Protect It

"Don't go to White Earth," said the service man.
 "That's exacly where I am going," I said.
"Don't pick up any hitchhikers," he said.
"I never do no matter where I am. There are risks everywhere," I said.

 I had stopped along the state road to Itasca State Park to get my car serviced and to ask a few  questions of the locals. I had told the man who owned the tire store about where I was headed and asked if I was on the right path. After assuring me that I was, he gave me the above warning. A conversation ensued about the efforts of Winona LaDuke and her Ojibwa tribe to protect the mighty Mississipi, all the beautiful lakes covering Northern Minnesota and the wild rice harvests in the wetlands at the headwaters of the Mississippi from the Tar Sands pipeline. Mr. Davis was underwhelmed to say the least; it was quite clear he wasn't a fan. He turned his attention to a tanned man in shorts who walked in who was obviously a friend. Their conversation turned to the man's property in Florida and Hurricane Irma. The man was one of the so called snowbirds who summer in their homes in the North and spend the winters at their places in Florida.

After a while Mr. Davis told the man who I was and where I was headed.The man went to his car and brought back a map to show me exactly where the roads were that would take me to the State Park and eventually to Minneapolis where I would spend the night. I thanked the man, paid for the service and left. As I drove from the tire store, I thought briefly about the two conversations and the matters of importance that seemed to be so different between the two men and me. I was thinking about Mother Earth and the things that sustain us; those men seemed to be thinking about property. Thoughts of politics and property left me as I became absorbed in the beauty around me. 

 It was a spectacular early fall day and the sparkle of the sun against this backdrop reflected beautifully the slogan "Land of a Thousand Lakes." My first stop was the Native Harvest building located just beyond the entrance to the White Earth Reservation. I was finally here! To my dismay I just missed Winona LaDuke but the lady who waited on me was friendly and helpful. The first thing I did was purchase two pounds of the wild rice and a hooded sweatshirt that said, "Got Land?" on the front and "Thank an Indian" on the back. Claire wrote directions to the Park on a sheet of paper that included sites along the way that might be of interest - many settlements on one of the gorgeous lakes that were still under the control of the Ojibwa. What a lovely conversation we had about our heritage, what movtivated us to do what we were doing and our mutual love and respect for Mother Earth. I left my email with her and requested to be kept up to date on the movement to protect our water. As I drove through the scenic wonder that was around me, I noticed a camp on my left not far from the entrance to the Park. I had seen pictures of this camp on line. This was the center of the resistance movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Minnesota now as well as the Tar Sands pipeline. Since my phone's battery now had sufficient charge, I got out of the car and took a picture from the hilly easement on the road above.  A woman in shorts and hiking boots with lots of tatoos and purple hair walked to the edge of the property and said, "No pictures, please."

 I apologized profusely and said I intended no disprect. I explained that I was on a trip to find out first hand what was happening in these places of resistance so I could blog about the experience and get the information out that was accurate and not shaded with bias. At that, she invited me to come and meet "the property owner." A man dressed in jeans and a faded shirt came out and introduced himself as Bill and explained that the name of the site was Turtle Island. That name would become quite significant when I reached the headwaters of the Mississippi. Bill asked if I minded if he smoked. I said, "Yes, I am extremely allergic to cigarette smoke." His response was quite different from other responses when I say this to other people. He quietly put his cigarette out and offered me a chair in a circle around a campfire and a cup of coffee. When he returned with my coffee, he sat down next to me and the girl "Red Hawk" walked over to us with a smoking container. Bill wafted the smoke as did I. The smoke had quite a peaceful, relaxing quality reminding me of younger days and bon fires lighting the autumn sky as summer's sun waned in the autumn night. Bill told me of his work and that he had been at Standing Rock. When the camp was cleared, Bill said he realized a lot of the people had no where to go, so he brought them to his land where they were staying. He invited me to go with him to the settlement "over the hill," but I declined. I wasn't afraid but the hour was late and I wanted to get to Lake Itasca before dark.

 As we were talking, Bill said this about the work he was doing, "this is the way I can be forgiven." I did not question him about it but I wondered what he wanted forgiveness for. He had told me he was a Vietnam veteran, was it that? Maybe it was forgiveness for his part in allowing so much harm to be done to Mother Earth before speaking up. I certainly need forgiveness for that. As I stood up to leave, Bill pointed to a red jurt I remembered seeing in posts from Standing Rock. He said the jurt was a gift from the people at Rosebud Camp (Standing Rock) because he had provided the medical aid there. He invited me to go in and take a look.The walls of the jurt were lined with bottles and jars of various herbs and other alternative medicines. Bill said he was a spiritual healer and that at present he was treating his wife for multiple schlerosis. I asked him what that involved. His answer did not surprise me. He said he couldn't divulge the spiritual content of the treatment. I understood. As I stood in the jurt, I thought about Mr. Davis' warning about going to White Earth and I thought about Meme in Glacier Bay National Park. I felt a sense of remorse that our western society is so far removed from the ancient methods of holistic healing that keep our pysical bodies strong and healthy by connecting us to he source of our well being. I also felt remorse that our society continues to absorb all the toxins we spread across our air, land and water and then destroy our health even further with so called "health care." I thought about these 21st Century concerns  as I drove once again into the past toward the source of the might Misizehi (river spread over a large area) which the Algonquins knew long before the Ojibwa guide Ozaawindih gudded Henry Rowe Schoocraft to its beginnings in 1832.

 The first monument at the entrance to the historical walk to the headwaters is the statue of Turtle Woman. Unfortunately, I didn't take the time to write specifics about the sculpture itself but I do remember what the piece of art work embodies. It is the sculpture of the "first woman" of what the Ojibwa call Turtle Island who was given the responsibilty of protecting the waters of this precious live sustaining resource. Americans know this well because we took it over from those who had protected it for centuries and now we are destroying it in the name of progress. I thought about Winona LaDuke and her work as I stood there.

 I walked on toward the actual headwaters reading much about the how the United States explorers came to this point and was happy to know that the state of Minnesota is protecting this important treasure. As I walked to the beginning of this mighty river, I thought how easy it was going to be to actually walk across a river that I had only been able to cross on a bridge or boat before. I was filled with a sense of gratitude and brought to tears as I sat down and took off my shoes. When I stepped into the water, I had an unexpected surprise.

The water was pleasantly cool and felt so good against my skin, but the strong current was unexpected. I was also barefoot and became aware of how soft the skin on my feet had become. I had a great deal of difficulty walking over the gravel covering the entire expanse of ankle deep water. As I hobbled across, I smiled for a female tourist who was taking my picture, but my feet really hurt! The light was starting to fade so I only went inside the interpretive center to go to the bathroom before leaving for Park Rapids, the destination the gentlemen had circled on the map along with directions of a "short cut" to Minneapolis. Upon arrival in Park Rapids, a beautiful resort town located on the road to Itasca State Park, I stopped and had a pizza and left for Minneapolis on what was to be a 3 hour trip to Minneapolis, getting me to my hotel in downtown Minneapolis (my one splurge) about 10:00 CDT.

I spent one and one-half hours following the directions given to me at the tire store and after one and one-half hours of driving I found myself back in Park Rapids at the place where I had eaten the pizza! Frustrated, I called the Best Western in Minneapolis and told the desk clerk I would be late and explained what happened. I asked him if he could give me directions to the hotel from I-94 E because I knew how to get there from where I was. I was astounded! He had no idea! Frustrated, I hung up and pulled over and plugged what I thought was the address into my phone and hoped my battery had enough charge to at least get me close to the hotel. I relaxed a bit when I heard Siri's voice starting the directions. Oddly enough, I recognized the state roads I was driving through from the gentleman's directions. I don't know where I went wrong but after two hours I was now leaving Park Rapids on the "short cut" through nice cities but where the speed limit was certainly not 70 mph. I finally arrived at the entrance to I 94 E and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked at the clock and the amount of time left on my phone. My arrival time was now midnight - still reasonable.

What a mess I 94 was! I have never been on an Interstate so torn up for miles upon miles with orange cones and construction. Arrival time? 1:00 am. I learned the next day that the reason for all the chaos was preparation for the Super Bowl. Ugh! My dislike of anything football began to rise adding to my stress level, so I started to breathe and think only about getting to my hotel safely. As I entered downtown Minneapolis, I began to think I was not on the right path. Oh dear! When Siri told me I had arrived at my destination, I saw no hotels only private residences. I looked at my phone; I somehow didn't have the right address. So I called my friendly desk clerk once again asking him for the correct address and explained where I was and that my phone was losing charge - could he give me some directions? No. Heavy sigh. Plugging in the correct address I worked on trying to understand the street layout in case Siri died on me. It was now 1:00 am. My relief and gratitude overcame anything else as I saw the Best Western in the distance. I won't continue with my parking efforts on one-way streets but I finally went to bed at 2:30 in the morning with a wake up call for 8:00 am.

Before I went down to breakfast I looked at this wonderful room that was probably as large as my studio apartment and sighed that all these appointments had such little use. I had taken a luxurious bath the night before - hot baths relax me and this one did help. The breakfast was delicious and the server was efficient and somewhat helpful in telling me how to get to the statue of Mary Tyler Moore which was walking distance from the hotel, but maybe I'm too used to southern hospitality now. I felt the same sense of polite distance I had felt from the men at the tire store the day before. Relaxed and energized albeit suffering from sleep deprivation, I headed toward the statue of Mary Tyler Moore. The sidewalks in downtown Minneapolis were just as bad as I-94 and the statue is no longer outdoors but inside the visitor's center. I felt a bit of a let down as I threw my hat into the air for the gentleman in charge of the tourist center. Although it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be I actually felt after that experience, this end was a fitting finale to my journey and "I think I'm going to make it after all."


Friday, September 29, 2017

Fifty States' Bucket List Blog #8

The Road to Standing Rock – The Confluence of Past, Present and Future A pink and yellow sun peeked through the trees under which I had parked my car for my overnight stay at a KOA in Miles City, Montana on the eastern edge of the state. The morning was clear and pleasant – a perfect day for my drive through North Dakota to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the north central part of the state. My anticipation and excitement about this visit was equal to what I had felt at the idea of seeing the Alaskan Wilderness. Today, I would enhance my historical, geographical and cultural knowledge of the Lakota (Sioux) people as well as see actual economic and living conditions at present. From this, I hoped to learn what I could do to support the Lakota in their future endeavors in regard to the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as combat the continued disrespect for their land and civil rights. This, along with the abominable sex trafficking of Indian women, has contributed to the lack of hope among native teens and is causing their suicide rates to be the highest in the nation. I had visited Yellowstone National Park on the border between Montana and South Dakota in 2012. I also visited the Black Hills and the Crazy Horse Monument, which I believe to be the only monument worthy of display there, and the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre that ended the Indian Resistance in the 1880’s. This led to the reservation system and boarding school experiment that in effect annihilated the culture that lived in these lands long before the Europeans arrived. Today, I would drive through land taken from the Lakota when this happened as well as drive along the path of the tributaries of the Missouri River to their convergence with the Missouri at Lake Oahu which is just below the Lakota Nation’s headquarters at Ft. Yates. This was the path followed by Lewis and Clark on their Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804 and 1805. Without the help of the native people living there, the Corps would not have survived. What did Lewis and Clark leave in return? Smallpox. The disease so decimated the Mandan and Calipulia people of North Dakota and Oregon that by the time pioneers moved west to claim the land given to them by the federal government, the tribes were too small in number to resist. The name of the trail has changed over the years; today it is State Highway 12. I started driving to the entrance of Highway 12 at 6:30 am. I was still on Mountain Daylight Time so I would not lose an hour of driving time today and the drive was listed at a little over 4 hours but I knew I would be stopping along the way. I decided to take advantage of the 70 MPH speed limit between towns, but I planned to stop at one of these towns for breakfast along the way. Miles City is small but serves the ranching community of that part of Montana. I had had some time to explore the city after my arrival the evening before. There was a cowboy museum, but I had no interest in seeing that. I knew that the small towns I would be driving through were probably towns that had grown up around oases along the trail and would probably be a modern day version of the cow towns seen in Hollywood and television productions. I was right and finally drove through a town that had a hotel with a restaurant and coffee shop attached to it. That’s where I ate breakfast. The country skillet was delicious but the coffee was the worst I have ever tasted and I have a tolerance for coffee. I couldn’t drink it. Not only was it weak, there was a hard water taste to it. The glass of water tasted the same. I couldn’t drink either which was disappointing. r I enjoy a nice, steaming hot cup of coffee to get my day started, so that was disappointing. I took half of the skillet with me, planning on having that for dinner – with a good cup of coffee. I drove for about 30 minutes when I saw a sign announcing an historical marker on the left hand side of the road. There appeared to be a stream running below and a wooden bridge in the distance, obviously not safe to use. I pulled out my phone intending on taking a picture of the explanation on the marker, but I had let the battery die completely. That happens when I leave the GPS on without turning it off (Oops) No pictures today. I would have to take notes as I read. This is the best way to absorb the information anyway. The historical marker was placed above the Powder River – the stream I had noticed. I knew this was where the members of the Corps of Discovery nearly starved to death, eating the candles that had survived when their canoe had overturned earlier in the journey. Lewis described the Powder River as being a mile wide with water only ankle deep. He also described the landscape as “black” from the herds of buffalo roaming nearby a village inhabited by “red men.” These people –Mandan’s- gave them food and told them the path to follow which Lewis called The Red Trail. I drove another 30 miles through grassy prairie land that had fences around it; I knew this was cattle country. I saw another historical marker; this was the part of Highway 12 that had been the Yellowstone Trail – the automobile trail created after Yellowstone became a National Park. In 1912 the trail to the Park was marked with six sandstone obelisks at the six original stops along the way starting at White Butte, ND and continuing to Haynes City Park, ND, Petrified Park in Lemmon, SD, Hettinger, ND, Hidden Wood Lodge Site ( the site of the last Great Buffalo Hunt), and ending at the Yellowstone River. The next marker was at the Hidden Wood Lodge Site – the most interesting of all. This marker was set at the site of the Last Great Buffalo Hunt of 1882. By this date 60 to 75 million buffalo had been slaughtered by men hired to do so by the transcontinental railroad barons. Killing the buffalo had made it easy to destroy this once great Nation. Without the buffalo the whole economy collapsed. Much like what happened in the United States during the Great Depression. The buffalo hunt was the major sustainer of life to the Lakota. During the spring, when the buffalo roamed, the Lakota would move their camp using dog travois originally. This changed in 1740 with the use of the horse. Another change was brought about by the introduction of the repeating rifle which replaced the bow and arrow. This site at Hidden Wood was the location of the last hunt by 2,000 Teton Lakota men, women and children who had been allowed to march the 100 miles from Ft, Yates, North Dakota – their reservation home – to hunt one last time before being forced to become farmers on the reservation land given to them surrounding Ft. Yates. There were now only about 50,000 buffalo left. The Lakota word Pahachechacha means Hidden Wood. The area was so named because this grassy plain located around Hidden Wood Creek was hidden from view by a thick forest of trees that surrounded it. Custer camped here in 1874 after being guided to this campsite on his way to the Black Hills. He had 2,000 men, 1,000 horses, 900 mules, 300 beef cattle and 150 wagons. His orders were to find a site for a potential fort on the east side of the Black Hills which was then part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Once that was done, soldiers could explore the area and confirm or deny if there was indeed gold there. The rest of that story as we could say “is history.” From June 20-23 of 1882 the Lakota men, women and children spent three days camped here for the last hunt. The grassy plain, today, is filled with stone tepee rings the Lakota used to secure their homes during the hunt. At the last hunt, 5,000 buffalo were killed. There followed three days of feasting on the tender morsels and the women sliced the remaining meat into thin sheets for pemmican – beef jerky. This site is the only remaining evidence of the last days of the Great Sioux Nation. The last historical marker I saw before entering the Standing Rock Reservation was one at the site of the Bismarck-Deadwood Stage Trail that began operating on the Standing Rock Reservation in 1877 but was abandoned in 1880 when a shorter trail to the Black Hills opened in Pierre, South Dakota. The landscape along US Highway 12 through the reservation was similar to the one outside reservation land. It became apparent that the economy of the Lakota was now much like the one of the rest of the residents in this part of North Dakota. I saw fenced in pasture that was now being mowed and rolled into bales of hay. There were rows of corn next to farming equipment and silos. At one point I did see a farming co-op sign. What is ranching and farming without water, I thought as I entered Ft. Yates and followed the signs to Standing Rock Monument on a hill above the Oahe Reservoir and next to the parking lot below the headquarters of the Lakota Nation. Standing Rock Monument is the petrification of a stone of an Arikana woman with a child on her back. She is said to be the wife of a Dakota man who had a bad temperament. The legend is that this woman “pouted in 1740 and was turned into stone.” The rest of the markers around the stone woman are of the great Lakota leaders who fought for the return of their lands and also negotiated and signed many of the peace treaties in the late 19th Century, most notably the two signed at Ft. Laramie in 1851 and 1858 which are at the heart of the controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline. I had spoken to a lady who delivers the mail at a filling station upon my arrival into Ft. Yates. I had received some not so friendly looks before I spoke with her, but this lady was nice and talked with me about what has happened with the pipeline in the past few months. I told her I was from the Southeast and wanted to visit Standing Rock so I could see for myself what was happening. I told her of my intent to do some blogs and she thanked me for what I was doing. She told me the pipeline was finished, but she wasn’t aware of the ongoing court battles. She was the one who told me how to get to headquarters and as I was leaving I heard a brief conversation she had with another lady about a friendship on face book that ended because of the pipeline controversy. I thought about these things as I looked at the reservoir below the Reservation. If this pipeline leaks, it is going to ruin the water supply for these people, I thought. That’s why the Corps decided to put it here instead of closer to Bismarck. But the ramifications of what we are doing with fossil fuels will not stop here. The role of the Native American is, indeed, to rise to the role of water protector and we need to listen to them. As they have declined we have declined. I thought about the forest fires ravaging the Northwest as I walked inside the headquarters. There was a section with all kinds of information concerning health care, etc., but what caught my eye was a row with information about forest fires. I thought about the collaboration of the Tlingit with the Park Rangers in Glacier Park. Yes, I thought. We need to work with the indigenous land and water protectors and collaborate with them on their knowledge from close contact with the natural world and combine that with what science and technology have taught us. This is the future. I was thinking about the future of the Lakota and what would be the role of Native youth in this as I drove to a market to get some fruit for my drive to Minnesota. Next to the Sitting Bull Memorial Gravesite was a nice looking grocery store, so I parked and went inside. The display of fresh fruits and vegetables was impressive; this store would be adequate no matter where it was located, I thought. The fruit was most impressive, especially the plums. I picked three, rich purple, plump plums and some other fruit. I looked up and noticed a boy of about 9 or 10 observing me and seeming to follow me. I took my fruit to the check out and he stayed close by me. As I was leaving, I held up one of the plums and asked, “Would you like a plum?” “Oh, I’m okay,” he said and then walked away. I walked out of the store and saw him standing at the door. When he saw me approach my car, he walked up to me and asked, “Do you have a quarter?” “I don’t have any quarters,” I said, “only plums.” He said nothing else then turned and walked away. I have been approached like this many times in Portland by adults as well as children. I wondered about that boy. What did he want a quarter for? Had he already asked the store owner? Would he have said anything to me if I hadn’t offered him a plum? Why money instead of food? Where did he go to school? So many questions. I returned to US Highway 12 to continue to Minnesota. Maybe things will be clearer there.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fifty States' Bucket List Blog # 7 A Dip into Canada

Victoria, British Columbia

            I had been to Canada before, once to Ontario during a visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan and once on my second honeymoon trip that included a driving tour of Niagara Falls, a trip through Maine to the eastern Portland to catch a ferry to Nova Scotia – my second husband’s favorite place to be. It had been ideal and our future plans included moving to the Northwest Coast so we could continue exploring the beautiful states of Oregon and Washington, as well as the coasts of Canada and Alaska. An early death knell brought those plans to a halt shortly after we moved to Florence, Oregon.
Although I lived in Florence for sixteen more years and did explore Oregon and Washington, I had gotten no further than Seattle. This trip that included the Inside Passage of Alaska as well as a stopover into Victoria, British Columbia was the culmination of our dream. I know Tom’s spirit was with me during the entire trip because he is the person who guided me from my urban outlook to one that included all of the natural world and its splendor. As the ship docked in the harbor facing the splendid city of Victoria above, I was still carrying that serenity resulting from, as Thoreau stated, “my time in the woods.” Therefore, I had no interest in any of the tours that included the one to Butchart Gardens which would have taken up most of the time we had at port. Since I was traveling alone, I had no desire for a romantic carriage ride through the evening twilight as the waning sun brought the lights adorning the city to life. Once again, I hoped to lift the romantic veil and try to get to know the character of the people who lived and worked here. I picked up a map of the city center and hopped onto the free shuttle that would take me there. I had no interest in Wi-Fi because I now had my phone service back!
On the drive up the hill to the city, I noticed how splendidly clean and organized this part of the city was. Every piece of land that could be utilized was carved into elegant apartment buildings and condos and everywhere I looked I saw beautiful window gardens and plantings. I saw two parks that advertised hiking and biking trails. It was 6:00 in the evening, so I supposed the people who lived here were having dinner and making plans for this Friday evening. The driver of the shuttle dropped us off at the corner of Government Square and told us the shuttle operated every twenty minutes and we could pick it up at an intersection that was right in the middle of the retail district. Map in hand, I set out to visit the Empress Hotel (named after Queen Victoria and famous for its afternoon high tea). As I walked into the lobby lo, and behold there was a handsome Mountie in full dress uniform (be still my heart) walking through the building. I have always been fascinated with the Mounties and I do love a man in uniform! The Mountie was with a woman so I politely asked if I could take his picture. Not only did he agree, the woman with him offered to take a picture of us together. With that beginning, I felt the courage to ask a few questions.
“Are you an actual Mountie or are you just doing this for the tourists?” I asked.
“I am the real deal. I am actually on duty. I met my girlfriend for dinner and I was walking her back to her car.”
“So, Mounties are really the police force here?”
“Yes, we are a national police force originally formed in the 19th Century to protect the Northwest Territories. Since that time, we continue to provide the provincial police force in eight of the ten provinces and three territories.” Ottawa and Quebec have their own provincial police forces.”
 I remembered the mounted Bobbie I had seen working at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace when I was in London so I asked, “Are you on a horse?”
The Mountie smiled and said, “No, we only ride in parades and formal ceremonies now.”
I noticed another tourist coming up to the Mountie so I smiled and said, “Thank you,” and walked away delighted that I had encountered an actual Mountie.
Twilight had taken hold of the city by the time I left the Empress so I proceeded as quickly as possible to the Parliament Building and the square filled with monuments. The first place I visited was Totem Park. The ensuing darkness made seeing difficult and all the buildings were closed, so I spent the rest of my time in the square looking at other monuments. My curiosity about the indigenous people who lived here never subsided, however, so I did some research on my own about the Kwakiutl people – nomadic people who fished along the coast of Queen Charlotte Strait and never really settled into tribes until around 500 BCE after returning home.
From what I read, the Kwakiutl blended better with the Europeans when they arrived than the other Northwest Coast people. First contact recorded was in the 1830’s when the Hudson’s Bay Company took over the sea otter trade.  The Kwakiutl then became wholesalers to the Company’s post at Ft. Victoria. The Kwakiutl traded the sea otter furs for iron, steel and blankets. Smallpox decimated much of the population of Ft. Rupert in the 1850’s. The disease was carried by the British Royal Navy and Bella Coola traders who destroyed several villages, leaving the disease to take care of the population. By the 1880’s, the Kwakiutl were moved to what the government called “reserves” the equivalent of a reservation. At this time, most of the aboriginal territory fell into the hands of the British government. I wished I had had time to visit one of these reserves to see how the people live today, but the priority of my trip was to visit two reservations in North Dakota and Minnesota on the last leg of my trip.  I still had a couple of hours in Victoria so I left Totem Park to look at the monuments surrounding the Parliament Building.
There was a tall monument honoring the veterans of World Wars I and II as well as the United Nations police action known as the Korean War. There was another, more recent United Nations peace keeping engagement of Canadian forces, but I didn’t write it down. It was somewhere in Africa or the Middle East.
Directly in front of that monument there was a huge statue marking the visit of the Prince of Wales to Victoria in 1914. I knew who this was; this was the Prince who eventually became Edward the 8th in 1936, serving less than a year before abdicating because he found it impossible to serve “without the love and support of the woman I love.” I wonder what will happen when the current Prince of Wales inherits the throne will he too abdicate in favor of his son, Prince William. I am fascinated every time I delve into history and find repeated cycles everywhere. Maybe Parliament will be more favorable toward Camilla – another divorced woman.  As sunlight gave way to street lights, I started walking down Government Street to eventually catch the shuttle back to the ship. I noticed a crowd gathered around an area that afforded a view of the harbor below.
As I took a spot on the wall, I saw a man peering over the easement. He said, “boo” and then proceeded to walk in a backwards handstand down the wall the street below. The man had the appearance of a street entertainer, a bit disheveled but outfitted with some equipment that looked like it belonged in a circus act. There were three men holding a unicycle against a post and a chair and small trampoline with some knives and a hat.  The entertainer began instructing the three men who were audience volunteers as he mounted the unicycle and began his act. “When I am seated let go of the unicycle and then get out of the way.” He instructed one of the men whom he called by name to stay and sit in the chair provided. He then called to a young girl whom he called by name and instructed her to throw him a hat. This was followed by a speech about the importance of the tip to street entertainers.
“The basic tip for this kind of act should be no less than five dollars,” he said. He then pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the young girl who smiled broadly as she returned to her seat. At that point he talked about how dangerous his act was and the fact that he had developed osteoarthritis in his hip. That made me wonder about health care in Canada, but my musings were interrupted when the entertainer threw the extra hat directly at me. He asked me my name and told me I was to be in charge of filling the hat with tips from the audience above. The show continued as he juggled the knives and kicked his hat on his head while balancing the unicycle. He ended the show by inflating a black suit and jumping onto the small trampoline below. I stood there holding the hat and pulled out a five dollar bill and put it in the hat thinking that was all I was going to do, but people started putting money into the hat. At the end of the show, I walked below to return the hat and money. The bravado of the entertainer disappeared as he said, “Thank you, Brenda. I really appreciate this.”
I didn’t know what else to say except, “You’re welcome,” as I continued down the street toward the bus stop. As I had concluded, the stop was located at the entrance to the retail district which was alive with music provided by street entertainers and shops with banners announcing, “Come in we’re open.” I was ready to return to the ship so I boarded the next bus that came along and became lost in wonderment about the street entertainers. Where did they live and where would they sleep tonight? Certainly nowhere close to where I had been. Lost in thought I noticed the final image that would stay in my mind as I left British Columbia. There was a solitary woman sitting on a window seat of one of the retail stores. She looked much like the homeless women I see every day in my walks through Old Louisville and Portland. She was surrounded by bags of clothing and a suitcase and I assumed she was Indian and a Hindu. I decided this because she had the red dot between her eyes on the bridge of her nose. She just sat there, saying nothing, making no moves. I wondered, “Where will she sleep tonight?”