Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The "Westerners"

Hello all,

It's been a while since I posted anything new on the blog. Apologies. Still getting used to this new technology. And I am going to pass on the heavy lifting this time to Jo Tice Bloom and the Western Historical Quarterly for a marvelous little introduction to the "Westerners." This is interesting to us right now because our new Josephy Library Reading Group will be looking at Alvin's pieces--and the rebuttal by Francis Haines--on the Appaloosa Horse, which were all published by the New York Westerners in their "Brand Book." We meet at noon Monday, November 15, at the Fishtrap House to discuss.

Alvin had recieved another version of the Appaloosa story--one that did not credit it as the Nez Perce War Horse--from local author Grace Bartlett and her Nez Perce horseman husband Harry. Alvin was involved with the New York Posse of Westerners, so took their story and his own historical research to the Brand Book in 1967.

Alvin loved amateur historians, "history buffs," he called them. And the Westerners across the country--and in England too!--were certainly that. Here's the story from Western Historical Quarterly. Well, the first 600 words or so of a 2800 word piece. I imagine they won't mind my posting it here, as I will encourage you to go to their site, and possibly to enroll so that you can get the whole story.


"Hello Joe, You Old Buffalo: Skulls, Brand Books, and Westerners"
JO TICE BLOOM

For more than sixty years, Westerners have been researching, writing, sharing, and having fun with the history of the American West. Westerners were among the founders of the Western History Association. This article discusses Westerners and Westerners International, the umbrella organization

FOLK HEROES AND THE ROMANCE OF THE WILD have always stirred minds and imaginations—consider Greek mythology or Robin Hood or the Nordic sagas. In our American history, the folk traditions have often been obscured by the written histories of our past. Thus, we have few folk heroes from the early colonial period. The new nation, however, blossomed with Daniel Boone, Simon Girty, George Rogers Clark, and Major Robert Rogers. Consider the homage being paid to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis these days. We love our heroic figures who moved through the West, generating stories of their adventures, the land, and the people they encountered.

Out of this heritage came the Westerners. Founded in 1944 in Chicago by Great Plains natives inhabiting a foreign urban society, the Westerners sought to evoke the romance and the heroes—the Jules Sandozes, the Kit Carsons, the cowboys. But they were also devoted to accurate and unprejudiced history.

Those founders, journalists Leland Case and Don Russell, and professors Ray Allen Billington and Elmo Scott Watson, among others, decided to meet once a month over dinner and to have a paper or talk about the American West. For them, as for us, it was to be an evening of good history, good conversation, good food, and good camaraderie. As the Chicago group organized, they named themselves a corral and elected a sheriff, a deputy sheriff, a keeper of marks and brands, etc., to lead them. A trail boss would roundup new members. There would be no constitution, no bylaws, just a posse to run affairs. When incorporated to conform to Illinois laws, the corral stated their purpose was simply "Fun and Scholarship." Early on, the corral acquired a buffalo skull from the Great Plains, and today members still open in the evening with the unveiling of the skull, named Joe, and a toast, "Hello, Joe, you old buffalo." When the skull is covered and saluted with "Adios, Joe, you old buffalo," the meeting ends.

Naturally, other men heard about the Chicago Corral. Soon, corrals popped up in Denver (1944), Los Angeles (1946), New York, (1952), Washington, DC (1954), London (1954), and other places. As the informal organizations grew, each adopted its own traditions. As David Dary wrote in 2003, the Denver Posse "established the principle that each group of Westerners was to be independent of all other groups." And this has been the case ever since.

By 1958, when Westerners International was born, corrals were active in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, St. Louis, New York City, Tucson, Laramie, Kansas City, and Spokane, along with the Black Hills Corral, the Potomac Corral, the English Society, and the French Corral. Leland Case, who played father, mentor, and overall sheriff to these groups, conceived the idea of an umbrella organization that would keep corrals in touch, help new corrals get started, and offer prizes for outstanding historical contributions by corral members. Thus was born Westerners International (WI).

Case lived in Stockton, California, and established the Home Ranch there. Later the Home Ranch moved to Tucson with Leland and then, after his death, to Oklahoma City, where it is housed in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The Home Ranch is WI's "headquarters." Dedicated volunteers keep the Home Ranch running

This story is from the Summer 2008 edition of Western Historical Quarterly. For more info:

http://www.historycooperative.org/cgi-bin/justtop.cgi?act=justtop&url=http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/whq/39.2/bloom.html

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oregon is Indian Country

This is a regular "Main Street" newspaper column for the Wallowa County Chieftain, a column that I have been writing every other week for about 24 years. It will also appear on the Oregon Days of Culture web site (OregonDaysofCulture.org). As you will see in the column, dealing with political issues in Indian Country can be tricky--waters run deep. I hope I have done justice to all parties, but especially to the Nez Perce.
rich

The “Oregon is Indian Country” exhibit currently showing at Stage One in Enterprise was put together by the Oregon Historical Society and the “nine federally recognized tribes of Oregon.” Fishtrap and its Josephy Library, the local hosts, have invited elementary student groups for special programs, and are bringing in speakers to address issues suggested by the exhibit.

Most of the young students have quickly identified the Indians who once lived here, in the Wallowas, as Nez Perce. Few could name other Oregon tribes—even our close neighbors on the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla. But even adults are surprised to learn that the Nez Perce are not a “federally recognized tribe OF Oregon.”

We’ve hung a good map of the Nez Perce War of 1877 on the wall at Stage One. The retreat starts in the Wallowa valley, crosses the Snake at Dug Bar, and becomes a fighting retreat as it meanders through parts of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. It stops at Bear Paw in Montana, just 40 miles short of the Canadian border and freedom. A few Nez Perce did, in fact, make it across the border, but most surrendered, and this is where Joseph made his famous speech, asking leave to look for his scattered, hungry old and young.

The map does not show what happened then to the Nez Perce: the trip to Leavenworth Prison and the years in Indian Territory—land the Nez Perce still call the “hot country”; the eventual return by train to the Northwest and the split at Wallula, where the old and Christian were allowed to join Nez Perce from other bands on the much reduced Nez Perce Reservation at Lapwai, and the young, and specifically the followers of Joseph, were sent to Nespelem in north central Washington to live among Indians of different cultures and languages. Oregon and Idaho were afraid of another uprising by Indians wronged by the broken treaty of 1855, which had left the Wallowa Country to the Nez Perce.

Joseph came back to the Wallowas in 1904, with money in his pocket, but newspapers railed against Indians and locals would not sell him land.

Alvin Josephy, the late dean of Western American and Indian history, and part-time Wallowa County resident for over forty years, explains the “conviction,” from colonial days, “among settler-invaders and their descendents that Indians in their native state and Whites could not live together in peace… If the Indian submitted, cut his hair, dressed like a White, lived like a White, became a Christian—in short, was assimilated and no longer an Indian—he might survive. Otherwise, he was to be pushed a safe distance away from White society [onto reservations], isolated and rendered harmless…, or he was to be annihilated.”

According to Josephy, “these three options ran thereafter like threads through the course of Indian-White relations…” The assimilationist urge reached its zenith when the Eisenhower Administration decided to solve the “Indian question” once and for all by “terminating” all tribes with cash buyouts of old treaties. Ironically, according to the “Oregon is Indian Country” exhibit that now celebrates our tribal neighbors, Oregon led the way nationally, with 62 of 109 terminations—all of the Western Oregon tribes—between 1954 and 1961. Fortunately, the policy was reversed, and Oregon tribes have been reinstated, though now “confederated” into one or another of the nine “recognized tribes.”

Our young students were surprised to learn that there were thousands of Indian tribes and bands living in the Americas when Columbus landed—Josephy says that there were probably more than 2500 mutually unintelligible languages spoken, as many as 90 million people, and cities larger than any European cities of the time. Oregon alone must have been home to over 100 tribes and bands.

For the moment, as evidenced by the Oregon exhibit, Indians and Indian culture enjoy more favorable attitudes from the general population. Indians are allowed to dance and drum openly—things once legally outlawed in attempts at assimilation and Christianization—and we go to see them. We applaud their efforts in bringing the salmon back to the rivers.

Locally, we welcome Indians at Chief Joseph Days, and at the Homeland Project in Wallowa and its annual powwow and Nez Perce Art in the Wallowa show. Although Nez Perce Tribal government is headquartered in Idaho, (and the exiled Nez Perce are governmentally part of the "confederated" tribes at Colville, Washington), the tribe owns land in Wallowa County, and, possibly of more importance, its Fisheries and Wildlife departments work IN Oregon under federal recognition of “usual and accustomed” places acknowledged in the 1855 treaty and in subsequent negotiations.

And, in fact, a 1999 Oregon Legislative Assembly joint resolution offers an apology for the Nez Perce removal, and says that “The people of the State of Oregon welcome the Nez Perce Nation in their return to stewardship in the Wallowa Mountains.”

We are Indian country too.

###

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Alvin at War


Alvin at war

Being a direct participant in World War II was a choice for Alvin Josephy—but not much of one. Born in 1915, he came of age in the depths of the Depression as fascist regimes were gaining power in Europe. He’d been involved with student groups and national politics—meetings and debates on Huey Long, socialism, communism, and the New Deal—while at Harvard, traveled to Mexico to interview Trotsky and President Cardenas in 1937, and was working as news director at WOR Radio in New York on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

Soon after Pearl Harbor Alvin headed to Washington D.C. and Archibald MacLeish’s Office of Facts and Figures—the government propaganda arm. It wasn’t close enough, and connections, contacts, and events soon had him at Perris Island Boot Camp, and then a Marine Corps combat correspondent in the Guadalcanal mop-up, and at the landings and occupations of Guam and Iwo Jima.

He waded ashore at Guam, talking into a condom-covered microphone tethered by 40 feet of wire to a recording machine buried in a landing craft. Most of the men he walked ashore with were hit before they made the beach, but securing the Island and taking Japanese prisoners was every bit as dangerous and as important in Alvin Josephy’s growth as a man and writer. On Iwo he hopped from unit to unit, place to place, often traveling by ambulance—he said ambulance drivers knew the current score on the ground better than anyone else.

Alvin and a few others were called back to the States from Iwo to explain to the American public why over 4,000 Marines gave their lives to take an 8 square mile island a million miles from home. The answer was B-29s. In the first 100 days after the Iwo airfields were opened, 851 planes, coming back crippled from air strikes on Tokyo, unable to make it back to their take-off points in the Marianas, landed safely on that 8 square mile island.

Then came the Atom Bomb—and Alvin did not have to return to battle in the Pacific and the anticipated invasion of Japan. A trunk arrived from Guam with carbon copies of the dispatches he’d sent to ships to send to home town papers across the land—interviews in fox holes, stories of courage, camaraderie, and thoughts of home. He took a month of leave, went to North Carolina, and wrote his first book, The Long and the Short and the Tall.

It was published in 1946, when he was 31 years old. I’d never read it while he was alive, though I’d heard some of the stories as we traveled the Northwest to readings and signings with his memoir, A Walk Toward Oregon. And watched and listened as old Marines came to have books signed and talk about Guam and Bougainville, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.

Some of them cried, as I cried last week, 65 years after the events and the writing about the events, cried at the horror, heroism, dumb luck and tragedy of a war so huge and so different as to make it almost inconceivable now. Today’s wars are their own kind of horror, heroism, dumb luck, and tragedy, but the concept of 800 ships and thousands of men attacking 30,000 enemy soldiers on a tiny island with bombs, shells, and bayonets is a hard one to get around today. But it made the “survivor’s guilt” that Alvin sometimes talked about and that the vets who came to our readings talked about palpable.

And I think I found an understanding of something else that he brought back from that War. On Guam they had launched an effort to take Japanese prisoners, and although most of the defeated Japanese committed suicide or fought to their deaths, some did surrender, and Alvin found hope in that. He thought, as he lay in a ship’s hold with a handful of prisoners and fellow Marines after an evening of conversation, that maybe minds could be changed, that Japanese soldiers who thought suicide more honorable than surrender could learn “bigger ideas,” and that the world might embrace” freedom and democracy and justice and truth.”

He spent the next 60 years chasing and embracing those ideas.

p.s., used copies of The Long and the Short and the Tall can be had for five dollars and up. “New” copies—I would guess that means mint condition copies—of the 2000 paperback edition from Buford Books, with a new foreword by the author, are $100 and up!

Alvin Josephy at War



Alvin at war

Being a direct participant in World War II was a choice for Alvin Josephy—but not much of one. Born in 1915, he came of age in the depths of the Depression as fascist regimes were gaining power in Europe. He’d been involved with student groups and national politics—meetings and debates on Huey Long, socialism, communism, and the New Deal—while at Harvard, traveled to Mexico to interview Trotsky and President Cardenas in 1937, and was working as news director at WOR Radio in New York on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

Soon after Pearl Harbor Alvin headed to Washington D.C. and Archibald MacLeish’s Office of Facts and Figures—the government propaganda arm. It wasn’t close enough, and connections, contacts, and events soon had him at Perris Island Boot Camp, and then a Marine Corps combat correspondent in the Guadalcanal mop-up, and at the landings and occupations of Guam and Iwo Jima.

He waded ashore at Guam, talking into a condom-covered microphone tethered by 40 feet of wire to a recording machine buried in a landing craft. Most of the men he walked ashore with were hit before they made the beach, but securing the Island and taking Japanese prisoners was every bit as dangerous and as important in Alvin Josephy’s growth as a man and writer. On Iwo he hopped from unit to unit, place to place, often traveling by ambulance—he said ambulance drivers knew the current score on the ground better than anyone else.

Alvin and a few others were called back to the States from Iwo to explain to the American public why over 4,000 Marines gave their lives to take an 8 square mile island a million miles from home. The answer was B-29s. In the first 100 days after the Iwo airfields were opened, 851 planes, coming back crippled from air strikes on Tokyo, unable to make it back to their take-off points in the Marianas, landed safely on that 8 square mile island.

Then came the Atom Bomb—and Alvin did not have to return to battle in the Pacific and the anticipated invasion of Japan. A trunk arrived from Guam with carbon copies of the dispatches he’d sent to ships to send to home town papers across the land—interviews in fox holes, stories of courage, camaraderie, and thoughts of home. He took a month of leave, went to North Carolina, and wrote his first book, The Long and the Short and the Tall.

It was published in 1946, when he was 31 years old. I’d never read it while he was alive, though I’d heard some of the stories as we traveled the Northwest to readings and signings with his memoir, A Walk Toward Oregon. And watched and listened as old Marines came to have books signed and talk about Guam and Bougainville, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.

Some of them cried, as I cried last week, 65 years after the events and the writing about the events, cried at the horror, heroism, dumb luck and tragedy of a war so huge and so different as to make it almost inconceivable now. Today’s wars are their own kind of horror, heroism, dumb luck, and tragedy, but the concept of 800 ships and thousands of men attacking 30,000 enemy soldiers on a tiny island with bombs, shells, and bayonets is a hard one to get around today. But it made the “survivor’s guilt” that Alvin sometimes talked about and that the vets who came to our readings talked about palpable.

And I think I found an understanding of something else that he brought back from that War. On Guam they had launched an effort to take Japanese prisoners, and although most of the defeated Japanese committed suicide or fought to their deaths, some did surrender, and Alvin found hope in that. He thought, as he lay in a ship’s hold with a handful of prisoners and fellow Marines after an evening of conversation, that maybe minds could be changed, that Japanese soldiers who thought suicide more honorable than surrender could learn “bigger ideas,” and that the world might embrace” freedom and democracy and justice and truth.”

He spent the next 60 years chasing and embracing those ideas.

p.s., used copies of The Long and the Short and the Tall can be had for five dollars and up. “New” copies—I would guess that means mint condition copies—of the 2000 paperback edition from Buford Books, with a new foreword by the author, are $100 and up!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The picture at top of the page

I thought that I should briefly explain the banner at the top of the page. The picture at the left is the one that appeared on the cover of Walk Toward Oregon, Alvin Josephy's memoir. It must be Alvin in his early forties, after he had found the Nez Perce story and country of Idaho and northeast Oregon.

The one in the middle was taken at Wallowa Lake Lodge in October of 1965 at the publication party for The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest. Alvin is standing at the left. His wife, Betty, and elder Gilbert Conner from the Umatilla Confederate Tribes (Tamastslikt Cultural Institute Director Bobbie Conner's grandfather!) are seated. Standing behind them is Chester Kerr, President of Yale University Press, publisher of the Nez Perce book.

Alvin had worked on the Nez Perce book for ten years, taking time out to write the book, Patriot Chiefs, and several articles about Indians, including an early one on the "Naming of the Nez Perce" in the autumn 1955 edition of Montana magazine, and a 60 plus page entry on "American Indians" in the 1963 Colliers Encyclopedia. The latter eventually grew into the award winning Indian Heritage of America, published in 1968.

Oh -- on the right is an architect's rendering of a remodeled Coffin House--Fishtrap's headquarters in Enterprise--with a new Josephy Library wing at its left.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alvin Josephy in Mexico--1937

Alvin Josephy Taluca, Mexico, 1937

Doug Erickson, Special Collections Librarian at Lewis and Clark College, just sent me a PDF file of Alvin Josephy’s 1937 Ken Magazine interview with Leon Trotsky in Mexico City.

Which brought a rush of memories and sent me back to the pages of Alvin’s memoir, A Walk Toward Oregon. I first heard the story the second year of Summer Fishtrap, when Alvin was on a panel with Herb Mitgang of the New York Times and Jonathan Nicholas, then at the Oregonian. The panel was about fact and fiction, and, after listening to the two journalists talk, Alvin rose to recall the long ago trip to Mexico.

"When I interviewed Trotsky in Mexico in 1937," he began, and we in the audience looked at him and each other with small gasps and big smiles. Here we were in a meeting room at a Methodist church camp at Wallowa Lake, Oregon in 1989, being thrust back to major events in Twentieth Century history—to the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and a man who was a prime player in the first and a sideline jockey maybe looking for a role in the second.

His interviewer, Alvin Josephy, was a 22 year old Harvard dropout with a stint as a junior screenwriter in Hollywood and a few months coordinating high school essays and WOR radio interviews with newspaper employees for the New York Herald Tribune. At the end of the school year, Alvin had talked his way into a Herald Tribune press card and arranged a trip to Mexico with the intention of interviewing the new President of the country, Caesar Cardenas, and Trotsky. Using political skills he’d picked up in student politics with a national bent at Harvard, and writing skills he’d begun honing as a high school student at Horace Mann, Josephy scheduled an interview—sending several written questions ahead—with Trotsky and began making the connections that would allow him to meet the new President.

Josephy wanted to know whether Trotsky would support a “liberal front” alongside Stalin in Spain, what Trotsky thought of the eventual outcome of events there and in Germany and Italy, where Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise, and whether he was engaged still—or his partisans were engaged still—in battle with Stalin. He came away thinking that Trotsky was “muddled” in his thinking, but that he was also sincere, and saw himself as the true practitioner of Marxism waiting for the proletariat to rise and throw out all despots and capitalist masters.

Ken Magazine later printed Trotsky’s contentious reply to Josephy—he had not included all of his (Trotsky’s) written answers to questions, and he incorrectly asserted that there was a rift between Trotsky and his host, the great muralist Diego Rivera—and noted that they had already heard from the “communists,” who thought the article was biased toward Trotsky. “Ken gets it both ways,” they announced alongside Trotsky’s reply.

A train trip with one of Cardenas’ cabinet members and a brief interview with the President followed. In his memoir, Alvin remarks that he was unable to get an interview with dissident General Cedillo, who had resigned and retreated, and was reportedly conspiring with American oil interests to overthrow the populist and anti-clerical Cardenas. The great novelist Graham Greene, ascribing his success to his Catholicism, managed the interview with Cedillo a few months later—before Cedillo was assassinated.

The mind boggling thing about all of this is that Alvin was 22 years old, and smack in the middle of his century’s history! The portents of things to come are the incredible amount of research and preparation he did before the trip—about the Russian Revolution, current events in Europe and the U.S., and the history and culture of Mexico, his firm belief in democracy, and his interest in fair play and justice for all citizens, and especially for the indigenous peoples who had been swept aside by European conquerors.

###

picture of Alvin in Mexico courtesy Al Josephy; photo of Trotsky from Ken Magazine article.

and, check out Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Lacuna, a historical novel which follows events in Mexico City in the Rivera-Kahlo household in the time of Trotsky!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Loeffler, Abbey, and Josephy

Dear Friends of the Josephy Library,

Welcome to the first Library Blog! Actually, I am sending the text in a regular email, as I have been doing for the past year or so, but it will now be posted on the the Josephy Library blog, where you are now!

This is all new ground for me, so patience please—and I will appreciate your suggestions.

Best,
rich

Jack Loeffler comes to Fishtrap

Jack Loeffler celebrated his 74th birthday in a hotel room in Baker City on his way to Fishtrap this July. He’d been as far as Joseph before, sat on Alvin Josephy’s deck and interviewed him, but he had never made it as far as Wallowa Lake. He was thrilled with the first sight of it..

On Monday morning we began a conversation that seemed like it had started ages ago, and the time between the phantom conversations of the past and today melted away. From time to time Jack would say that he needed to interview himself about Josephy, and I would think that I should have a damned recorder going while we talked.

Neither happened, but I’m hoping they will.

Jack brought us a disc with a couple of hours of interview time with Alvin, and he brought stories: the time he read Alvin’s testimony defending the Hopis in a fight with Peabody Coal; the camping trip with Alvin sleeping under the pickup until a thunderstorm woke him thumping into the bottom of the pickup bed and scrambling inside. And on and on…

At Fishtrap, in a brief afternoon session, Loeffler played short snippets of interviews—most done for radio programs in New Mexico—on environmental issues with Stewart Udall, author John Nichols, Earth Firster Dave Forman, Sierra and Friends of the Earth’s David Brower, Ed Abbey, Alvin Josephy, and a host of others. There was no name dropping—just 20 second blurbs from here and there to make a point..

Later, I asked him about the Abbey and Josephy exchange about grazing on public lands.. Abbey was of course dead set against grazing; Alvin, informed by friendships and hours on horseback with Wallowa County ranchers like Jack McClaran and Biden Tippett, took a different point of view. Developers were the real problem; ranchers and environmental thinkers should be in league.

It was a friendly dialog, according to Jack. His eyes sparkled with the thought of his old friends, Ed Abbey and Alvin Josephy, in a long-ago conversation that could still stir emotions today. I’ll have to send you that picture of Ed and Alvin on the rim of the Grand Canyon.” But he didn’t need to—it’s in his memoir about Abbey, Adventures with Ed. Clean shaven Alvin between bearded Ed and long-haired Jack, with a small group of anthropologists and photographers all looking very much 1971. I’m sure Alvin had to catch a plane soon to an editorial board meeting at American Heritage or a session with some Indian tribe or government committee redesigning the BIA.

But he looks happy and not completely out of place with this band of 1970s renegade thinkers in the thin Southwest air.

p.s. I found another picture of Ed and Alvin—In Alvin’s memoir! And I am posting it here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

About the Josephy Library at Fishtrap

The Alvin M. and Betty Josephy Library of Western History and Culture at Fishtrap promotes the exploration and understanding of Western and American Indian history and culture. It honors the lives and legacy of the Josephys--Alvin’s work as a historian and Betty and Alvin’s advocacy for Indians and desire that the voices of all Americans be heard and honored.