“…It was also one of the largest anthropological enterprises ever undertaken by a single man. When he started in 1896, Indians were at their low ebb, with a total population that had dwindled to less than 250,000. Many scholars thought they would disappear within a generation’s time. Curtis set out to document lifestyle, creation myths and language. He recorded more than 10,000 songs on a primitive wax cylinder, and wrote down vocabularies and pronunciation guides for 75 languages.
Along the way, he never denied asking people to pose. He paid them for it. He asked his subjects to dress in the clothes of their fathers and mothers. To me, this is no different than, say, going to Scotland to photograph different family clans, and then asking someone if they would pose in the kilts of their grandparents.
Curtis was looking for the authenticity that the early 20th century was crushing. He urged Indians, many of them his friends, to show him the dances and ceremonies that the government was then trying to outlaw. In essence, he was an accomplice to a crime – urging people who were not yet citizens to show him the old ways.”
An interesting work by Timothy Egan, author of “The Worst Hard Time” (a favorite of mine). There’s a nice photo gallery with the article at the New York Times.
Holidays almost invariably stir up a lot of emotionally-charged issues. The volatile mix of relatives, religion, and politics inevitably leads to a lot of vitriol – and sometimes with good reason. At its worst, a holiday is a cocktail of crass marketing, romanticized idealism, and often, a convoluted view of history. The more commercialized it becomes, the stronger the nostalgia for a simpler, more wholesome past.
In the case of Thanksgiving, gratitude and togetherness are excellent things to celebrate so long as they are not tinged with antiquated political propaganda and racial stereotyping. When this happens – intentionally or not – the results can be damaging.
Thanksgiving as it has come down to modern Americans is the largely the result of myth and happenstance. It resurfaced in different forms each time pivotal events – like the Civil War and the Great Depression – caused Americans to seek solace and solidarity in the “common values” of America’s roots, both real and imagined. In each evolution it reflected different agendas and levels of historical understanding.
In a bitter irony, the story of the so-called “first Thanksgiving” shrouds what is possibly history’s worst case of ingratitude. No retelling would be complete without an account of the horrific sequel that occurred only a generation later. We all know the story of Squanto and Wampanoag chief Massasoit befriending the Pilgrims and saving them from starvation, and later sharing the seminal “first Thanksgiving.” Few realize that many of the same Pilgrims who grew up in the shadow of that festive occasion later murdered Massasoit’s son and paraded his head through Plymouth in a second “unofficial” Thanksgiving. In the horrors that ensued, the very same Wampanoag with whom they had pledged friendship were brutally hunted and killed or sold into slavery.
It’s easy to understand why so many Indians object to the popular form of Thanksgiving. On face value it appears to celebrate the successful European colonization of America and the exploitation of its bountiful resources at the expense of dispossessing an entire race. The complex politics of an era have been condensed and reduced into a popular fairy tale that seems to commemorate the Indians’ generosity in helping the process along. Worst of all, most Americans are completely disconnected with the reality of our past and the true context in which we commemorate it.
Research suggests the total solar eclipse of August, 1142 coincided with the birth of the Iroquois (Five Nations) Confederacy, near modern-day Victor, New York
Eclipses are a great way to document history. But the real item of importance, as far as I’m concerned, is the acceptance of the Peacemaker and the democratic ideals of the Iroquois Confederacy…
Bruce E. Johansen refers to the research done by Barbara A. Mann and Jerry L. Fields, which uses eclipse data as well as oral history to challenge the common notion that the Iroquois Confederacy or Iroquois League started in the fifteenth (1401-1500) or sixteenth (1501-1600) century. They state, “We know this much: During a ratification council held at Ganondagan (near modern-day Victor, New York) the sky darkened in a total, or near total, eclipse. The time of day was afternoon, as Councils are held between noon and sunset. The time of year was either Second Hoeing (early July) or Green Corn (late August to early September). Thus, we must look for an eclipse path that would totally cover Ganondagan between July and September, in mid-afternoon.”
Mann and Fields settled upon the total solar eclipse of August 1142 as satisfying the stated criteria. Bruce E. Johansen even pinpoints where the ratification of the Iroquois League took place: “The ratification council convened at a site that is now a football field in Victor, New York. The site is called Gonandaga by the Seneca.” Read more of this article…
Image: National Geographic
“In the wild, the white Camargue horses are found only on the wetlands and salt marshes of southeastern France. They are thought to be descended from prehistoric horses that lived during the Paleolithic period more than 17,000 years ago. Throughout history, this ancient breed is believed to have been crossed with several other breeds—particularly Arabian horses. This genetic combination permits these brawny animals to withstand the region’s bleak, cold winters and intensely hot summers. They are so strong it is said they are able to canter through mud up to their bellies!”
Another great article from Juliane Jennings:
“Many of us remember learning and singing the bubbly little pre-school nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians” as we sat in a circle with our legs crossed, Indian style. And what appeared to be an innocent way to educate and stir young imagination through “comic” song was also a peculiar way of mental conditioning.
The original version was written by songwriter Septimus Winner in 1868 and performed at minstrel shows…”