Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giving Tuesday

Dear Friends,

I wrote this and sent it out to people on my “blog list,” a couple of days ago, but forgot to put it up on the blog itself, so that those of you who find these musings by other means can know a little more about current doings and future plans. If you would like email notification of new blog posts, send me an email at rich.wandschneider@gmail.com. In any case, thanks for reading, and best of holiday seasons to you…….

So I understand it is “Giving Tuesday” and the tugs on your giving budget are many. And I know that many of you on my blog list also get emails and/or mailings from the Josephy Center—the big house that holds the Josephy Library and hosts music, exhibits, lectures, art classes and workshops. If so, you got a recent fundraising letter, and this Tuesday missive will just be more specific with a library pitch. If you have already donated this fall—and I know many of you have—thank you again!  If you haven’t heard from us this fall, here is the Library pitch!

The Josephy Center for Arts and Culture is a four-year-old non-profit. It lives in a beautiful log building on Main Street in Joseph, Oregon (causing all amount of confusion: City of Joseph-Old Chief Joseph, Young Chief Joseph, Alvin Josephy). Library books (and soon journals) are cataloged on the SAGE Library System, hosted at Eastern Oregon University, linking over 60 Eastern Oregon libraries (https://catalog.sage.eou.edu).

The Josephy Library is rich in Indian and Western American history and culture, and is growing with donations from collectors and heirs of collectors. We don’t have everything, but we have almost everything that Alvin wrote or edited, and gems of books and articles about Nez Perce War survivors and fine art books featuring the signature artists of the Plains and Plateau tribes. I am buying gloves to handle the portfolio of photos by D. F. Barry of Plains Warriors, Chiefs, Scouts, and Frontiersmen, and putting John W. Powell’s 1891 categorization of North American Indian languages in an acid free box.

We’ll also add a small permanent Nez Perce exhibit, explaining briefly who lived here and how, to the Josephy exhibit built at the Library’s door in 2015. You can now see and read that exhibit on-line— http://josephy.org/library/alvin-josephy-exhibit/. Most of the money for the new exhibit is already raised, and we are talking with Nez Perce elders about its contents. It too will be on the second floor with the Library.

There are rare books and autographed books in the Library, but most of our books and journals should be moving across the land, into hands like yours so that we can all learn and know more about Indians and the country we share. That’s my goal for the next year: figure out a way to make most of this library circulating. I’m told that we can expect 50-100 interlibrary loan requests a month, and at least that many local checkouts. I’m told that we might be able to do it with another $15,000 in our Library budget.

That, in addition to my half-time salary (part of which is paid for by work on overall Josephy Center programming), a small book and journal budget, dues to SAGE, and miscellaneous expenses, will make the Library about a $45,000 item in the $220,000 Josephy Center budget.

You can donate on line-- https://josephy.org/support-the-josephy-center-for-arts-and-culture/ --or send a check to the Josephy Center/ PO Box 949/ Joseph, Oregon 97846. Again, if you have already made a fall donation to the Center, Thank You! We appreciate your gifts, look forward to your visits, and look forward to putting real—or digital—books and journals in your hands sometime soon.

Monday, November 28, 2016

American Indians, water, and the public good

Later, alternate title: “First Lessons From Standing Rock"

The late historian and activist on behalf of American Indians Alvin Josephy believed that Indians in America would solve the drug problem before others figured it out. “Indians,” he said “are still capable of ‘group think,’ of thinking for the tribe rather than focusing on the individual.” Josephy also believed that Indians still had things to tell, especially about the land, because they had lived on and with it for millennia.
from Huffington Post
Standing Rock is Group Think in capital letters. It has  attracted tribal members from Indian Nations across the country, white environmentalists, and veterans of all colors, who are now joining the water protectors in force in uniform. These veterans, schooled in tribal thinking (as illustrated in Sebastian Junger’s book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging), and realizing that Indians have and do serve in the American military in greater numbers than any other sector of American society, are there to support their comrades in the next foxhole and throw their weight against wrongs that have festered from the beginnings of nationhood.

White and black Americans who have always talked about their Cherokee grandmother or some other distant relative tied to the original immigrants—immigrants scientists now tell us came from Asia well over 14,000 years ago, probably not on the “land bridge” that we learned about if we learned anything of First Americans, but on water, along the Pacific Shoreline, hopscotching their ways to South America while settling the lands along the way—are joining the Dakota chorus. Whatever wrongs they have suffered and seen in their own lives are coming into this focus on government mistreatment of Indians and disregard for water, the principle of all life.

The environmental community, gloomy with election defeat and their own experiences—or stories they’ve heard—of contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, Portland, Oregon and other urban and seemingly safe places, gradually realizing that the Indians’ fight for water and fair treatment is their fight, have awoken to and in North Dakota.

Maybe there is also guilt over the lack of support of tribes in the 1950s, when the Corps of Engineers bulldozed the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, and built the Garrison Dam on this very same Missouri River and flooded over 90 % of the then prosperous Indians’ agricultural lands. Or in the 60s, when the Corps abrogated the our oldest treaty, the Treaty of Canandaigua, signed in 1794 by George Washington, that established land boundaries and declared “peace and friendship” between the United States of America and the tribes of the Haudenosaunee, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga and Tuscarora, to build the Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania. Environmentalists are on board at Standing Rock.

The mainstream media that has been castigated for not covering Indian concerns is there and reporting. To be fair, we—the general public—have never expressed much interest in current Indian affairs, preferring our Indian stories to be about deeds and misdeeds in the past, before the nation was formed and the West was won. Representatives of the New York Times and television news were actually at Standing Rock in August. The few stories they slipped past editors concentrating on the Presidential campaign and the constant drumbeats of Native media outlets helped raise national awareness. It is now national news, with daily stories from large and small media outlets, social media, and continuing Indian country media. Some days it even cracks the New York Times top ten “trending” list.

It is ironic and fitting that the tools that government used to assimilate Indians—especially the boarding schools, which began in the late nineteenth century and survive in modified from to this day, and the termination and relocation policies of the 1950s, have served to introduce tribal peoples one to another across the entire country. These tools led to AIM in the 70s, and now help bring people from 300 Indian nations in North America and indigenous people from Hawaii and Central America to Standing Rock.

And it is fitting that this attention to water and sustainability come from the first immigrants. Yes, there were tribal mistakes—did the Mississippi Mound peoples disappear because of over use of resources and exaltation of the rich and powerful? How did climate change and wars over resources play out in the Southwest 600 and 700 years ago? But in general the Indians of North America pre-contact lived lighter on the land, acknowledged the need for constant renewal, and eschewed the privatization and exploitation of lands and rersources.

They, like growing numbers of all Americans, realized that water is the key to all life, and that there are times and places when putting private goods over the public good jeopardizes everything. Standing Rock is a symbol—and maybe a beginning.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving--and pass the cranberries

“Wild” cranberries
“America was until this last generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation and it belongs to us."

That’s a quote from Richard Spencer, self-appointed spokesman for the “alt-right” in a gathering of some sort in Washington D. C. last week.

Right now, I am reading A Land So Strange: the Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, an explorer-adventurer in the New World whose party of hundreds was put off course, shipwrecked, stranded, and lost somewhere near present day Florida in 1527. He, along with three others, were the sole survivors of an ordeal on the North American mainland that lasted over seven years and involved starvation, cannibalism, enslavement, and the first detailed descriptions of Indian societies along the Gulf of Mexico. Most likely, few early European arrivals were literate; fewer still had the gift and took the time to describe the New World. De Vaca remarked, for instance, on the size and physical prowess of the Indians--something that startled many Little Ice Age Europeans.

I jump from Spencer to Cabeza de Vaca not because the one is an avowed racist and the other not, or because Spencer speaks from a life of ease and privilege while de Vaca lived through excruciating hardship, but because of the total irony of Spencer’s “America was until this last generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity.”

America was, for the first 12,000 or 14,000 or 16,000 years—the dates keep getting pushed back—a land of Asian immigrants who had populated it from Arctic to near Antarctic and grown in numbers to some 60 or 70 or 80 million by the time the cycles of life and cultures in the place were interrupted by European diseases and culture with Columbus in 1492. This half of the world had developed over 2,500 languages, diverse religions and political systems; had domesticated corn, tobacco, rubber, squash, potato, chocolate, llamas and alpacas. Some of its societies developed writing, systems of mathematics and astronomy. There were skilled sailors, boat builders, whale hunters, fishermen, weavers, potters, wood carvers, artists and artisans.

Societies, cities, and empires had risen and fallen—pre-Inka to Inka, Mayan, Mississippi Mound-builders, plainsmen, coastal tribes—in a kind of dance with far-off and invisible partners in Europe, Asia, and Africa that were doing the same.

The conceit of Europeans in 1492 is that they were the true ones, had the true civilization, culture(s), and religion(s) that deserved to rule everything they found and surveyed. The parentheses are because Europeans ultimately could not agree on what was true, which caused different European nations and religions to war with each other in this new world.

De Vaca and the Spaniards believed that they were designated by God to colonize this new world and plunder its riches for themselves, their European sponsors, and their Church. Their misunderstandings and misdeeds preceded Mr. Spencer’s probable northern European ancestors by decades. But de Vaca in particular gained some appreciation for the marvelous ways that native peoples across hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast and the interior of what is now the Mexican-American border country had learned to manage their environment and carve out lives. And surely some of the northern Europeans, whose visitations on Virginia and New England resulted in similar hardship and eventual displacement, gained the same appreciation.

One wonders at the role of epidemic diseases in both cases, diseases that wiped out indigenous communities without immunities and convinced some of the conquerors—and undoubtedly some of the victims—that God was on their side.

From this distance it appears that some white Americans believe that still, believe that they are the true and only lawful heirs to the work of God and the hard labor of European settlers and later white immigrants.  They are ignorant of or choose to ignore the thousands of years and millions of brown immigrants who preceded them and developed the two continents through their acts of discovery and adaptation, and to ignore the millions of black, brown, and yellow skinned people who, often enduring slavery, scorn, and even death, brought the North American Continent (we’ll assume Spencer is not speaking for the many South American countries and cultures) and these United States to where we are today.

Cranberries, like the squash, the wild turkey that is father to your domestic variety, the potatoes and beans and other accouterments that are on your Thanksgiving table today, were here before Spencer’s forbearers knew there was an America. Maybe he and his white purists should start by stripping their Thanksgiving tables, and everyday tables, of the gifts of others.

The rest of us can give thanks to ALL who have contributed-even some of those like de Vaca who were often wrongheaded about it--to our tables.

# # #

Friday, November 18, 2016

Salmon and Beaver; Politics and Biology

President-elect Trump’s promise to promote coal mining and open more public lands for development of natural gas and oil is not new politics. And the Indian-centered and inspired movement to stop the Dakota Access pipeline is not the first fight by Native Americans against the Euro-American drive to exploit natural resources.

I thought about this as Nez Perce Fisheries workers joined my class (AG 301- ECOSYSTEM SCIENCE OF PACIFIC NW INDIANS) in La Grande last week to talk about salmon and treaties. They explained that the beaver and salmon had developed an intricate symbiotic relationship that had been totally interrupted by the extermination of the beaver almost 200 years ago.

They knew the biology; I could fill them in on the history.

The biology: a series of beaver dams forms perfect habitat for salmon, providing pools for growth and rest, avenues for running up river, and spurts of fast water from the dams’ depths to flush smolts downriver.  Beaver dams also create the hydrology and habitat for flora and fauna on rivers’ extended banks.

The history: One of the peculiar junctures in American history occurred when two countries “jointly occupied” the region the US called the “Oregon Country” and Great Britain’s surrogate, the Hudson’s Bay Company, called the “Columbia District.” The region stretched from the Mexican border (now the California border) far into present-day Canada, and from the Pacific to the Continental Divide. The joint occupation, set originally in 1818 to last ten years, held until an 1846 resolution.

The Americans, hungering for a Northwest Passage and the resources of the region, had sent Lewis and Clark on a reconnaissance exploration in 1804, and in 1811 John Jacob Astor, in consultation with his friend, Thomas Jefferson, had set out to secure a port—Astoria—and establish a foothold for a new state or friendly new country on the Pacific Coast to take advantage of the beaver and otter trade from North America to the rest of the World.

The jockeying for the region went on for some time before Joint Occupancy, with the British Crown’s Hudson’s Bay, the Canadian North West Company, Astor’s American Fur Company, and “free” trappers and traders working the territory, shipping beaver pelts back over the Rockies or around the Horn and eventually on to Europe and Asia. Then there was a war—the War of 1812; The North West Company bought Astor out in 1813. In 1818 the two countries agreed that they would “jointly occupy” the territory. In 1821 Hudson’s Bay absorbed North West, and became the British presence in the region.

The region was, of course, already occupied by Indians of numerous tribes. And the European presence was miniscule—Russian, English, and Spanish ships along the coast, fur trappers and traders inland. But the resources in the territory were tremendous—beaver and otter were the prime targets, but settlement and further exploitation were alive in some eyes. They would come to dominate activities in the Oregon Country until a final resolution was reached in 1846.

The British thought Americans should be held at the Columbia; the Americans lobbied for a boundary further north (Polk’s “54 40’ or fight” election campaign). Hudson’s Bay moved settlers from Red River in Canada to the region and built a fort at Vancouver; the British sent David Douglas to scout the territory and put their stamp on it; American frontiersmen trapped and traded and, eventually guided the missionaries to the Oregon Country.

The real mover and shaker over the middle years of Joint Occupancy was Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company. From 1820-1860 Simpson was in practice, if not in law, the British viceroy for the most of Canada. The Columbia District was under the direct leadership of John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver, but Simpson was the law. And his law said:

Strong trapping expeditions should be sent south of the Columbia. These may be called the “Snake River Expeditions." While we have access we should reap all the advantage we can for ourselves, and leave it in as bad a state as possible for our successors.

Simpson chose Peter Skene Ogden to lead the operation. In less than six years, operating with military precision, Ogden and his men trapped the region bare, from the Upper Columbia and Snake Rivers to California and Nevada. The “scorched earth” policy was ruthless. Mountain men were drowned, murdered, starved, and exhausted. Most of Simpson’s own men died along with the beaver.

The beaver were gone, but the dams carried on for some time, and then, in 1866, the canneries took over. By 1886, 39 canneries took over 43 million pounds out of the Columbia with their very efficient fish wheels. Those wheels stayed in the Big River until the 1930s!

One wonders whether beaver trapping and fish wheels—politics and economics—might have bled the region of salmon if a big dam had never been built.

# # #

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Indians and Environmentalists

This before election results are in, knowing that one candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, and that neither candidate has acknowledged Indian efforts at stopping the Dakota Access pipeline—or, for that matter, having talked at all to Indians or about Indian issues and concerns.

There are three pieces in today’s New York Times that reflect advances and show the need to continue Alvin Josephy’s long-ago efforts at bringing the environmental community and Indian communities together.

The first of course is about the environmental community backing the Indians at Standing Rock in their fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline by targeting big banks that are financing the project (perfect roles for such groups). The second and third articles—and a closer look might have revealed more—were about the smog in Delhi, India, which is literally choking the population with industrial overload, and another about oil companies, that, to varying degrees and seeking to serve their own best economic self interests, are exploring alternative energies. Good for them.

In ancient days, when David Brower was the head of the Sierra Club, Alvin said that his and other environmental organizations paid no attention and lent not a helping hand as a high-minded hell-bent-for-development Army Corps of Engineers

"built the Garrison Dam, the largest rolled-earth am in the world, across the Missouri River in North Dakota, ignoring the protests of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians and chopping up and flooding sacred sites and large parts of their reservation. Repeating their high-handedness, the Corps then broke the American government’s oldest existing treaty, made in 1794 with the Seneca Indians of New York State, to build the Kinzua Dam, which flooded the center of the Senecas’ reservation and the burial ground of their famous revolutionary-era chief, Cornplanter, and again forced a heartbreaking relocation of most of the Indians.” (Walk Toward Oregon, pp 275-76)

Weed, California
There were other disagreements, and other cases where environmental groups disregarded issues in Grand Canyon and in Alaska, but Josephy insisted that the two sides should be talking, wrote an op-ed about it in the Times, and actually arranged a New York meeting between Brower, Alan Gassow, and others from Friends of the Earth with tribal leaders. Ultimately, he wrote several articles for Audubon Magazine and a book, Now That the Buffalo’s Gone, which gathered essays and arguments on many of these issues. They are as fresh today as when he wrote them in the 70s and 80s--Kinzua’s still there; the Indians are ahead at Pyramid Lake and on the Columbia, and controversy swirls in the Dakotas.

I told my OSU class in La Grande yesterday about canaries in coal-mines, and how Indian concerns over natural resource issues, especially over water issues, might be seen in the same way. Dakota Access is not the only water issue out there today. Look to see what is happening on the Navajo Reservation with drought and pollution, and the efforts of Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead to tap Indian water in other places.

There is plenty of work to do—from Standing Rock to Delhi—but good environmentally conscious citizens might look close to home for the Indian tribes and their canaries and see where they are pointing.

# # # 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Listening to Indians

I’ve been voting for 50 years—Johnson was my first Presidential pick in 1964. And yes, I’ve learned much about that strong-arming, deal-making, womanizing, self-agrandizing, Vietnam-failing President over the years. He had all of those negative qualities and more, and he wasn’t the first or last president to use questionable tactics or to cash in on the exalted position for personal satisfaction.

But Lyndon Johnson used strength and guile, twisted arms, shamed, compromised, made deals with the NAACP and other Civil Rights leaders, House members and Senators from both parties, to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He did so knowing that Democrats would lose the South for the foreseeable future, hoping that it would mark his legacy for sure, but knowing also that it was the right thing to do (his own gut thoughts about civil rights went back to pre-political school-teaching days):

“On June 19, exactly one year after President Kennedy’s proposal, the compromise bill passed the Senate by a vote of 73 to 27. House approval followed, and on July 2 President Johnson signed the bill into law. The law’s eleven sections prohibited discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations, public facilities, and agencies receiving federal funds, and strengthened prohibitions on school segregation and discrimination in voter registration.” (Library of Congress)

That was “progress,” The notion that there is some glorious past to return to, that somehow “conserving” the words and ideas of the Founding Fathers as they were said and meant in that time is, I believe, absurd. Few current American citizens would embrace a country where only property owning men of European decent could vote. Although women were not explicitly prohibited from holding office, they didn’t. African American were not citizens; they were property. I’ll leave it at that!

The genius of the country—and its founding documents—is that they have always been aspirational. Citizenship has been gradually extended; immigration, necessary from the beginning to fuel the new nation, has gradually if reluctantly made us home for Jews, the Irish, East Europeans, Southern Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Laws have been made—not always followed, and often amended to accommodate new understandings.

The history of the nation’s relationships with Indians, the people who were here when Europeans arrived, the people who were misnamed, enslaved, and killed by accidental disease and intentional action, (and at the same time sent back to Europe to be celebrated as “noble savages” and painted as kings and princes), reflects a troubled, murky, ambiguous journey. Indian-government relations have had their own historical, often troubled and sometimes downright horrible journey.

No one, I imagine, wants to return to a time of slaughter. Some Indians might want to return to the terms of treaties, sometimes although not always negotiated in good faith, which promised particular tribes ancestral lands and the freedom to continue their traditional lives. And Indians too were practiced in adaptation and aspiration before European arrival. They had created great cities, developed agriculture, and come to a close relationship with the horse before they met a European, and their current journey began. (clarification: Plateau and Plains tribes met horses before white Europeans; people in Middle America and what is now the American Southwest met the horse earlier, along with their often fatal meetings with the Europeans.)

Indians today are everywhere. Some are participating fully in mainstream society; others are negotiating lives that straddle worlds and cultures, tribal and American national educational, health, and economic systems that often exist side by side. Many are regular Euro-American and African American citizens who claim some small piece of Indian they’ve discovered through family history or DNA analysis.

Legally, Indians enrolled with tribes participate in a form of “limited sovereignty” defined by Chief Justice Marshall in the 1830s (and ignored immediately by President Jackson and his Indian removal policy). Some of those treaties and that sovereignty apply to lands outside of reservations, called “usual and accustomed places.”

Which brings us to salmon in the Columbia River and the water itself in the great Missouri. Indians today are reminding us that we are part of a bigger world that we must attend to.

In this season of political turmoil, my hope is in Indian eyes, the Indian eyes that shine with the new Longhouse in Wallowa, the drummers’ and dancers’ eyes at powwows that now are held openly, adorned by regalia once confiscated, words in languages once outlawed. The eyes that greet returning salmon and expect the lamprey. Listening to ancient tribal lessons, and with the help of laws and interpretations of laws—Justice Marshall’s interpretation, the Boldt Decision—Indians are often the leading and sanest voices as we plunge into a future where temperatures rise, land is gobbled for development, and water is scarce.

The whole continent was once a “usual and accustomed place” for Indians. Listening to Indians now might make it a better place for all.


# # #

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Standing Rock and Malheur

Like many, I am distressed about recent events in North Dakota and Malheur. I agree with Bill McKibben that the pipeline’s original route, above Bismarck, N.D. was changed to a route away from the white power structure and to one that might endanger tribal people and others downstream who just maybe would not pay attention--or at least do not have the power that Bismarck, the oil companies, and the labor unions have.

I agree with those who wonder what the FBI was doing with the Malheur prosecution. Why the conspiracy charges, difficult to prove, when the plain view infractions--trespassing, destruction of federal property and destruction and desecration of Indian sites--were many?

I agree with those who say that white privilege prevails, and that the Indians are being used and abused once again.

I reread what I had written about Malheur and “ownership” of the land in January. Ownership of and responsibility for the land, the water, and all that lives on and is dependent on it--is at the heart of Pipeline and Refuge. Everything I wrote then is true now for both.

http://josephylibrary.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-land-owns-paiutes.html

I think that we might embrace the Bundys’ calls for return of Federal Lands--TO THE INDIANS, TO WHOM IT WAS ALLOTTED BY THE GOVERNMENT, AND FROM WHOM IT WAS TAKEN.