REMARKS

Since in my own mind many of these posts have been "chapters," I'm splitting some of them out to separate blogs. But also, my audience is divided and quite different, one part from another. Many have dropped out and many have newly arrived. There are recognizable paper "book" versions of some of the posts that fit together.

I find that some people still assume that a blog is a sort of diary. This one is not. It is not for children, either in terms of subject or writing style. It's not written "down." Think academic magazine or column without footnotes.


SOCIAL MEDIA

My name shows up on google+ and twitter, but I only monitor and will not add you. I do NOT do Facebook though someone with the same name does. Please use plain email. My phone landline is in the phone book. I have no cell phone.

Other Blogs by me

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART OF BOB SCRIVER, PLEASE GO TO: www.scriverart.blogspot.com.

Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at www.Krausenotes.blogspot.com


TWO REBLOGS:
Fiction about Indians at www.willowsticks.blogspot.com
Essays about Indians at www.siksikaskinitsiman.blogspot.com



Friday, August 31, 2007

MONTANA FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK: Preview

This quoted from the Montana Festival of the Book website:

The 2007 Montana Festival of the Book--September 13-15 in Missoula--will feature scores of the region’s writers in a variety of readings, panels, exhibits, demonstrations, signings, workshops, entertainments, receptions, and other events. More than 6,000 visitors from across the state, the nation, and Europe are expected to attend.

As in years past, the Montana Festival of the Book will feature some of the most important voices of the West, including award-winning authors James Lee Burke, William Kittredge, Deirdre McNamer, Ron Carlson, Larry Watson, Mary Clearman Blew, Pete Fromm, Aryn Kyle, Christy Leskovar, Kat Martin, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Kevin Canty, Alyson Hagy, and many others.

Featured events include:

A Thursday evening Define-a-Thon with master of ceremonies Steve Kleinedler, editor of the American Heritage dictionaries and featuring celebrity teams of “definers.”

Several events celebrating the 2007 One Book Montana selection, The Last Crossing, including a session with the author Guy Vanderhaeghe

A celebration of the publication of a new poetry anthology, Poems Across the Big Sky, featuring many of the book’s contributors

A staged reading of The Story of Mary MacLane, adapted by Joan Melcher, with the Montana Festival of the Book Players

Friday night’s traditional author’s reception and silent auction.

Governor Brian Schweitzer & First Dog, Jag, reading and signing books for kids in Caras Park at 10AM on Saturday.

Panels on fiction of the old and new west, the short story, Shakespeare, and non fiction, writing and publishing workshops for children and adults, book appraisals, exhibits, and much, much more.

Schedules and locations online at http://bookfest-mt.org/Webschedule07.pdf.
******


The poster for this year shows Montana scenery pouring out of a book, mountains and buffalo slipping from the pages. Events are recorded for the radio and broadcast later in Montana NPR stations.

I’m scheduled for Saturday morning at 9:30AM at the Holiday Inn Parkside. The title of the panel is not well-considered (“Down Memory Lane”) but the subject is books about memoir and autobiography -- I suppose biography as well since my book about Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out,” is billed as a “biographical memoir.” No one can read it in advance because it won’t be on the shelves until October, except that Richard Wheeler read it long ago in manuscript and I emailed a couple of chapters to Sue Hart, who will be moderating. You know that I always post a review of events afterwards, but I thought this time that I’d post some advisories ahead of time for the sake of some folks who read this blog and might attend.

The major memoir will be Richard S. Wheeler’s “An Accidental Novelist: a Literary Memoir.” I’ve read it and reviewed it on this blog. He’s written over sixty Westerns and historical novels and is well-established and respected as attested by many awards. You wouldn’t pick him out of a crowd as a cowboy -- he’s given to blue blazers and stingy-brim hats -- and his “oaters” are far more than run-of-the-mill genre, though he would defend genre as a literary category. (Sunstone Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-86534-563-8 and ISBN-10 0-86534-563-5)

Richard’s wife, Sue Hart, a long-time professor of Montana lit at MSUBillings, will moderate. She has yet to write a memoir, but we look forward to it.

Dan Aadland’s book "The Best of All Seasons: Fifty Years as a Montana Hunter" (U of Nebraska Press, 2007), has a teaser on Amazon: page 208: "... that somewhere the elk gods have conferred and concluded that Dan Aadland will be denied. He will see many big bulls when ..." The review posted gives the book five stars.

Ivan Lynn Bowman
’s book is a tough tale of Vietnam: “Who’s My Enemy? Memoirs of an American in Vietnam -- 1969” which got an excellent long review by T.J. Giles (much admired by many Montanans -- where’s HIS memoir?). Bowman sells the books on his website. (Just Google or bowman@mtintouch.net. In case the link doesn’t work, the Giles review is at: http://newbillingsoutpost.com/news//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=391&Itemid=0)

Merle Aus, a just-about retired rancher, also sells his own book, “It’s Better to be Lucky Than Good,” which sounds rather as though -- like most ranchers -- he’s had a bit more experience being good. (At ausbooks@midrivers.com or mail at 454 Road 544, Glendive, MT, 69330.)

Both Merle and Ivan have undertaken self-publishing, a very controversial and newly exploding way of getting books to market when publishers ignore you and you feel strongly about your subject matter. These two authentic writers in particular live far from the all-consuming Manhattan publishing controversies that have gripped headlines for the last year or so. Individuals have written shocking memoirs about combat, drug addiction, abuse, and other challenges to sanity and identity, and then have turned out NOT to have experienced these things -- only to have invented them from friends’ stories or from research and imagination. The publishers, who were willing to pay a lot more money if the books were “authentic,” were aghast at these developments, and such stalwarts as Oprah were quick to desert the authors. But few publishers come to Montana looking for the "real thing."

All of these authors are going against the popular tide in some way: Wheeler against Manhattan’s disdain for Westerns, Aadland against the PETA fueled opposition to hunting, Bowman against war in general but particularly when it’s corrupt and incompetent, and Aus against the gods who somehow doublecross ranchers. My own biography of Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out” from the University of Calgary Press, is against the marketing strategy of “Roy Rogers Syndrome” in which all cowboy artists are considered strong, good-looking and country-loving -- therefore good painters. Not that Bob was weak, ugly and unpatriotic, but that that’s not what made him a complex and interesting person. This is why I say that “Down Memory Lane,” is probably a pretty weak description of the writing on this panel. We’re ridin’ high trails on half-broke broncs, baby. This here’s Montana!

But maybe I’ll change my mind after reading these books. Maybe I’ll decide that these are cheerful, power-of-positive-thinking works that “nice” people would enjoy. I’ve ordered all the ones I haven’t read, so I’ll post reviews as I plow through them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

KATHY FUSON'S FLAMING CHALICE

When I began to write about Meadville/Lombard and enumerated the entering class, I kept thinking that I was overlooking someone but didn’t go look up who that might be. Might have been Mike A., who joined us even later than Kenner and with whom I had a problematic relationship. When the story hit the news about Mother Theresa’s private journal and letters, it suddenly dawned on me. I’d been repressing Kathy Fuson, now The Reverend Doctor Kathy Fuson Hurt. Now to figure out why and why it was that Mother Theresa prompted remembrance.

Kathy was the most classically “minister-like” of us with by far the best mind and education. She was also a Southerner to the core and not inclined to step entirely outside the Christian context. A mystic, she introduced us to alchemy and Ol’ Joe Campbell. (I just like to call him that because it irritates some people and he IS a sort of poor-man’s Mircea Eliade -- whom we had in our attic.) VERY useful concepts. She knew her literary nature theology better than our faculty did. (Abrams’ “Natural Supernaturalism," for instance.) I still use that stuff. But she had two big battles interfering with her: one was depression and the other was anemia. Maybe they were two aspects of the same thing.

Anyway, when I got a preaching gig where there was no organist, I’d ask her to come along to earn a few bucks as accompanist. It wasn’t fair, since she was pressed into being second fiddle -- I thought entirely too often and not just by me. But she was docile and competent. I recall one snowy Sunday morn when we set out in my van for some small burg with only a map to guide us. She agreed to be navigator on the nearly deserted icy road. When I slid, a little out of control, she just hung on. I cut a few cookies, swapping ends, and out of the corner of my eye I saw her patiently turning the map to keep it in accordance with the territory. Once I realized we were going the wrong way and gambled that the grassy median was frozen enough to recklessly drive across it and head the other way. It worked and she never said a word. After church we’d go spend our booty on a nice meal -- or I did. She was a vegetarian so she always had scrambled eggs. At least she would eat eggs. Some won’t.

When I left seminary, I wept when I said goodbye to Kathy but didn’t quite fathom why. There was something not spoken. Now, looking her up in her newest pulpit, I see what it was. She was lesbian (not knowing that or maybe not there yet) and I was not. (I have never left the spell of Bob Scriver.) But it was a little early to even discuss the subject. In fact, she married and had a son before things got sorted out -- I’m sure rather painfully as is often the case. In her present photos she looks well and the son, now grown up, is a handsome man. Both she and her partner look very happy. I love her candidating sermon for this new church she’s accepted. (First Granville Baptist, Granville, Ohio.)

Kathy’s theme has always been the gains that come through pain and struggle. Her salvation has been devotion. Her message sounds the same as it did in seminary. She is known for her devotional manuals for the UUA, but -- interestingly -- she has come back to the Baptist context though the church is actually no different from UU congregations. At least she has a fabulous spire on her church, which she can justify and value theologically. (I love spires but prefer mountains.) And grace -- she has found grace.

Mother Theresa, it now is apparent, acted out her good works in an endarkenment, a loss, a cold and empty void. This is not the way it’s supposed to be, we think in our reward-focussed culture. Only by belief are we supposed to be saved and belief is supposed to make us light-hearted, not to say prosperous. (We forget all about what it was like for Jesus, or even Peter.) St. Theresa, who is the patron saint of the Browning Catholic Church, also had a troubled path to tread.

Once my mother and I together attended a lecture by a woman who knew she was dying of cancer. The woman had at first run wild, doing all the hedonistic things a person might. But she got bored. So she enrolled at college and began work on a degree, knowing that she would never finish it. (This is the part where she’s supposed to have a miraculous recovery and graduate with honors, but that’s not what happened. She didn’t get great marks, being interrupted by hospital stays and dulled by drugs, and she died. But she claimed she had a great time.)

My mother and I took opposite positions. I felt she did the right thing. My mother felt that the woman’s family should have taken her home and sheltered her, nurtured her, loved her to the end. I said that would be suffocating, treating her like a child. Looking back, I thinhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifk I felt about Kathy rather as though my mother had felt: that she should have been protected, warmed, and -- well, for God’s sake, have a good steak for the sake of your red blood cells! (She’s no longer a vegetarian. The anemia is also gone. And... the depression!) But I sure wasn’t going to take on the job and it didn’t seem to me that she herself or the seminary was helping her prepare for the bitter hard work of parish ministry.

But results tell the story. In the end Kathy has been a successful parish minister, while I broke out the other side of the corral in about ten years, though a case could be made that I went on with the work on my own terms, esp. since I’ve returned to the rez.

The Rev. Dr. Kathy Fuson Hurt (I’m not going to say anything about that last name.) is blogging as “The Flaming Chalice,” http://uufsd.blogspot.com/, staying within the church context and posting chapters of a new meditation manual. I’m going to send her this blog and see what she says. Maybe she’ll post a comment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SCRIVER AT SEMINARY The End of August

This is the first “blog-like” entry in what I called the “Scriver Seminary Saga,” which I composed weekly on the typewriter, photocopied, and mailed to about twenty people. Internet blogging is a whole lot easier and cheaper! But this four-year project explains why it was so easy for me to take to the genre -- I’d been ready for it a long time. I’ll try to post roughly parallel to what I was writing in 1978.


Scriver Seminary The End of August

About 125 years ago my maternal ancestors packed a wagon and headed this way [to Oregon] from Illinois. [In the early 1930’s my father traveled from Winnipeg west to Oregon State College. In the late 1950’s I packed his same trunk to travel to Chicago for my undergrad years at Northwestern. I found my Browning, Montana, heart on the way home after NU graduation.] Now I’m about to pack my van and head back towards the East. This will be the second time I’ve left Portland to go to college in Chicago. The first time was in 1957 to get a degree in theatre (disguised as speech education) at Northwestern University.

This time I’ll have a double registration: University of Chicago Divinity School and Meadville/Lombard Theological School. M/L is very small and most of my classes will be at the Divinity School during the first two years.

The course of study takes four years and leads to a Doctor of Ministry degree. In the first two years I must prepare for and pass with “B’s” two sets of three exams (one per quarter), one set on the history of religion and one set on world religions today. (Fascinating stuff!) I’ll study French for my foreign language requirement. (I got a head start at PSU and really love it!) Also, I must prepare a working paper on my philosophy of ministry (I’ve already started) and defend it to a committee. [It’s typical of a really find education to start by knowing everything and then become increasingly unknowing.]

In the third year I’ll intern and in the fourth year I write my doctorate on some deep and significant subject. As far as I can tell, I’m the first Unitarian-Universalist and the first theological student in my family tree -- a sort of mutant branch! [This turned out to be untrue. My mother had several in-law ministers in her tree.]

My address in Chicago will be 5700 S. Woodlawn, Chicago, IL. I’ll be living in a bedroom and bathroom in what was once the M/L president’s house, right across the street from the school. [This was the best room in the entire assortment. It had always been kept as the “guest” room for important visitors, but Kate R. had persuaded the powers-that-be that the small front room would do for visitors -- who were only there a few days -- while what amounted to a small “suite” at the back of the house upstairs ought to go to a student. I was privileged to live there two years so I owe Kate. It was a great fall from grace to have to cram my books and self into one of the small rooms later.]

Tuition at M/L costs about $1,000 a quarter, but the school has abated $1600 of my tuition for the first year. [Actually this was a scholarship.] I have $1700 in my retirement fund (this is the third time I’ve “retired”!) and have saved close to $2,000 this year, plus my friends at First Unitarian gave me $600. [This turned out to be FAR less than what I would need. The wife of one of the students figured that actual expenses were about $11,000 a year then, or what my annual retirement income is right now. The costs at M/L would be much more now. There was some tension between young students who went into debt and old students who spent their retirement or maybe the proceeds of a house they had owned. No one was prepared to just pay the bills. The stance the school took was “if you REALLY want to be a minister... you’ll find a way.]

I’ve sold, adopted out, and given away as many of my belongings as I could, including the Pipsqueak (my dog) who found a super new home with Virginia, who is a good Leadership School friend from Tacoma. My books will be mailed in whiskey boxes (It’s a family tradition to do it that way -- also it’s the cheapest way) and I’ll just heave my mattress and 3’X8’ desk and files into the van and drive off, probably about September 10. [It turned out that I was seriously overloaded and parked my tall red desk -- which I could not bear to give up but it was oak and very heavy -- with friends. When I came to claim it four years later, they had forgotten that they were only keeping it for me, but gave it up gracefully.]

The drive takes four long days, but I’ll break it up with visits to friends. The first stop will be in Montana, of course, to visit my horse and other personalities from my wild and wooly past on the reservation.

If I have to get a job, here are some of the things I can do: catch dogs, cast bronzes, sell Western art, write almost anything, cast plaster, teach English or how to catch talks, make speeches, make brochures, put out newsletters, guide tours, sew costumes, raise bobcats, sell books... and there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t even tried yet.

[It was all drumming up courage, of course. I never did any of those things, though I did go down and interview at an important Western art gallery. Mostly I typed and one summer was research assistant for Ron Engel while he worked on his book about the Indiana Dunes. That stint has been the basis of my interest in environmentalism ever since.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A DECADE OF MINISTRY 4

Once one has made the decision to enter ministry, there are many more decisions to be made, like which seminary to attend. In 1977 there were three options for UU’s. One was Starr-King, out there in funky Berkeley with all the fun stuff that was going on sexually (in the years between the pill and AIDS), chemically (grass was the main drug unless you were a jazz musician), and doctrinally (anything goes, as long as you’re not hurting someone; war is always bad; American Indians are always good; Eastern religion is the way to go). They only held classes two quarters of the year and there were no scholarships. I figured that was a little rich for my blood. My minister, however, though it would be good for me to loosen up, learn some people skills, etc. Maybe even get laid. (He assumed -- wrongly -- that that wasn’t happening in Portland.)

His own seminary was Harvard Divinity School. I ordered the catalogue and couldn’t even understand the course descriptions. He didn’t push it because he was afraid of being a chauvinist. Or maybe he was worried about how I would reflect on him.

The third option was Meadville/Lombard Theological School, which was attached to the University of Chicago. If one was accepted, money was there for tuition all the way through. It boasted a high standard: a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) as compared to an M.Div. at the other two schools, with an MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School embedded in it. In short, it was a way to go to the formidable University of Chicago without having to meet their higher GRE scores (though mine were high enough to clear the low end) and higher tuition. Oh, the prestige of it all! At Northwestern in my undergrad years we had understood that we were mostly just nice folks in bermuda shorts who had rich parents but had to drag in some blacks to win any football games. Well, except for we theatre majors, of course, who were in touch with real life, brilliantly creative, and living on the bitter economic edge of existence as we would for the rest of our lives in devotion to the More-Divine-Than-Religion Theatre.

I never admitted to anyone that this was way down in my duffel bag of motives, that I had ALWAYS wanted to be an “intellectual” without a real grasp on what that was. I’d slickered my way through the system by being two degrees off plumb with my eccentricities, even before the Blackfeet Reservation years when all whites were considered a little nuts. Even recently, when I’ve tried to explain my longing to be an “intellectual”, I’ve been met with outright hostility. Not only do they not understand what I’m talking about, but also they think I’m just showing off, saying I’m better than they are. I’m still not exactly sure what I talk about when I talk about being intellectual. I’m sometimes suspicious that I’m just talking about prestige, but earned prestige.

Kenner Swain, my classmate who ducked out on the ministry, always described it as the moment when one got one’s MA hood and Hanna Gray, then the president of the U of C, said, “I welcome you to the company of scholars.” Indeed, describing myself as an “independent scholar,” buttressed by that degree, admits me to conversations where I would not otherwise be welcome. Some of it was just a matter of knowing how to find out things, but also there was the issue of “method.” Particularly at the Div School, one always had to be aware of and disciplined by one’s “method.” That meant the approach, the assumptions, the strategy one was using, because one’s method was the compass that pointed to north. Without it, one became hopelessly muddled and discredited all one’s results. It’s an idea from hard science.

It was soon clear that I had no methods but intuition and narrative, which were not “in.” (You couldn’t write your class paper on “Modern Thinkers” on a female thinker either, which was a clue that the method had to be white male Euro method. And lit crit was in the midst of the tyrannical grip of unintelligible “theory.”) To get the MA at the U of C Div School, one had to pass six comprehensive exams. One other older female classmate, whose method was largely poetic, failed every single exam. But I knew none of this in the beginning.

Meadville/Lombard had an “interesting” past. The Meadville part was a little seminary in Pennsylvania, largely based on the career and library of a physically frail young man interested in the ministry, which was an arduous job in frontier days, so he taught. Lombard came from the inadvertent acquisition of the larger college when merging with its smaller internal school of religion. Lombard was Carl Sandburg’s alma mater and when it joined Meadville in Chicago, the state license to teach horse-shoeing and home ec came along with it. I can think of ministerial applications for both.

For a long time, it was thought that young men who went into the ministry, a large proportion of which were physically underpowered but prodigiously learned, were best off on a kind of monastic model: rural, protected, full of fresh air and the presence of the natural God. But then times changed and it became obvious to some that the core of a learned ministry should be study at a respected university. (UU’s have a learned ministry, which means a graduate degree. Some others have an “enthusiastic” ministry, which means they were simply inspired, grabbed their Bibles and began to preach. All the Pentecostal-type ministers on the Blackfeet Reservation are “enthusiastic”, inspired, though some also have some Bible College.)

What the “learned ministry” was expected to master was the history of world religions, scholarly method, a foreign language, and a certain amount of formal ethics. Also, any of the studies of humans like psychology, sociology, and so on. Literature sort of wiggled in there. The actual business of “doing” ministry, like the protocols of managing a congregation, performing rites of passage like birth and death, the history of one’s own congregation, monitoring buildings, and so on was pretty hit or miss and depended on M/L.

M/L had been started with high hopes and great optimism. “Only the best” was the idea and titans of the UU movement (If that isn’t too amusingly oxymoronic) were hired, one as the president and one as the “prime scholar.” As often happens with titans, they ran athwart each other on ego and theory, and the president fired the scholar, who had tenure and sued, taking the most beloved of the red brick buildings (the one with the dorm and kitchen) with him as the fruits of the law. Then the faculty imploded, leaving a remnant of unripened men who struggled on as best they could. (No women had anything to do with all this.) Bitterness abounded. Also a certain amount of paralysis. All this was hinted to me as “politics.”

Being the granddaughter of a “contentious Presbyterian,” I wasn’t too surprised, but I was disappointed when I finally realized what was going on. By that time, it was too late to quit. It was a far cry from leadership school.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A DECADE OF MINISTRY 3

My mother, bless her heart (as my mother-in-law would add when she was about to say something about a person who exasperated her), was NOT in favor of me becoming a minister. She thought I was over-reaching, hypocritical, and doing it just to aggravate her. “Why can’t you just marry a nice Presbyterian minister?” she pleaded.

In 1973 when I finally gave up on Bob Scriver and migrated back to Portland for lack of another destination, my mother thought this was the obvious thing to do and expected that “now that your marriage is over” I would live with her. Even though she had doubts about my new vocation as a dog-catcher, when I staggered home each sweaty summer night, stinking and sunburned, she cheerfully bought me a guacamole burger and a Margarita at a nearby Mexican restaurant, because she thought we were two bachelor girls together. Well, of course, I was the subordinate: the little sister. She wasn’t pleased when I moved to an apartment. She had a key in case I couldn’t get home in time to take care of my little dog and she’d come kidnap the dog so that I’d have to come to her house to get the dog back and, inevitably, have supper with her.

I gave the dog away. I gave away a lot of stuff, thinking in some weird way that I was joining a convent. Anyway, the seminary told me in no uncertain terms that I could bring NOTHING but my clothes -- except books, of course. My mother refused to give me any encouragement or to contribute any money at all or to store anything.

Just to make sure I wasn’t totally nuts, I signed up with my rat behavior professor for a course of psychotherapy. I told her to talk me out of being a minister. She said she had no idea how to do that since she was a secular Jew. (Also, a few years later she quit psychology to become a torch singer. I don’t know what that means. I had nothing to do with it -- I THINK.) So we talked about my mother and my dreams that she was trying to kill me. Then I started having dreams of meeting the psychologist secretly at the Blue Parrot Bar (There’s a Blue Parrot soda fountain on Last Chance Gulch in Helena and I had once taken my mother there. I had a Green River and she had a Cherry Coke. Never did figure out all the color symbolism, but we were not into booze.) In the dream the psychologist wore tennis whites under a Columbo rumpled trench coat -- I guess that’s fairly obvious. She said she didn’t see why I couldn’t be a good minister. I told her I wanted my money back.

I reminded her that I still had a terrible reaction to bossy older women, etc. but she was unconvinced. Maybe she was just bored with me. The denomination wanted me to go to their psychologist, so I did. This was standard. She gave me a Rorschach inkblot test, but I didn’t see much of anything. There was also a -- gee, I’ve almost forgotten -- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, I think. Said I was very worried. No kidding.

It’s a great compliment to a minister if a parishioner wants to become a minister -- imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. My minister distrusted my motives, I’m sure, but also mistrusted his judgment and didn’t want to close down possibilities. His colleague, the female (as they always were) Minister of Religious Education, was quite different. We mutually disliked each other. She was a very organized, elegant, upper-class sort of woman with rarified tastes. (Made, not born.) But she also wanted it known that she was a “babe” and “one of the guys.” She was working on a “proper” full-fledged ministry credential and was treated by the district ministers as a princess. At that point no one admitted that she was in love with the “real” minister and would marry him. He insisted that I talk to her. It was not a success. If I said something pro, she was sceptical. If I mentioned a con, she was all over it. That really set the hook. Looking back, I don’t think either one of them was very realistic or even knew me very well.

At that time the Pacific Northwest ministers were universally male, terrifically -- even aggressively educated -- and great pals. This was before their physicians shut down the booze and tobacco, so they had outrageous boisterous meetings. (Both my “ministers” were indiscrete, plus the interns told all) They mixed discipline with support, taking the weaker aside for a little coaching or cautioning, and challenging the grandiose to have a little humility. In truth, that’s what I hoped being in the ministry would be like, or even that seminary would be like. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

In the short time that I went through seminary, though it was a four year program, everything changed: minister, home congregation, Pacific Northwest District (the Canadian Unitarian Conference seceded from the Unitarian Universalist Association, splitting the district in half), denomination (California overwhelming New England), and the very nature of ministry. I didn’t learn much at seminary that applied to EITHER the way the UUA was when I entered or the way the UUA was when I came out. Or ran away from it. The middle had burned out of all the maps, just like one of those movie interludes. I wonder whether it isn’t always this way. And I wonder how much it was about the world changing and how much it was about me changing. Both probably. A lot happened between 1978 and 1982.

Mt. St. Helens exploded. My oldest granddaughter (actually Bob’s) died, perhaps in a suicide. My youngest brother fell and hit his forehead so hard that his personality changed. At least then my mother had someone to live with her. But my mother hangups did not help my ministry career.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

STARBOY: JAMES WELCH

Sidner Larson, in “Captured in the MIddle,” does not address either Ward Churchill or Tim Barrus (Nasdijj). Formally, he addresses issues rather than individuals except for Vine Deloria, Jr., Louise Erdrich and James Welch. Much of his attention to the latter is based on “The Indian Lawyer,” which is a much neglected book, partly because it is NOT stereotypical. Sid is uniquely qualified to discuss it because he IS or at least WAS an actual Indian Lawyer, though Welch probably didn’t draw as much on his cousin Sid’s experience as he did on his own many years on the Montana Parole Board, a quiet service to his people not much acknowledged.

These are among the observations I marked:

...”Winter in the Blood” received much more critical attention than have Welch’s later novels. Another important reason for this reception, however, was that the book corresponded closely to the American myth of the “Vanishing Indian.” The unnamed narrator, mired in the most basic considerations of survival, is much easier to eulogize than the potent warriors of yesteryear. From this vantage point of relative safety critics have focussed on imagery, language and tone, with but a few addressing the actual lived experiences of American Indian people.

“Fools Crow” is a safe book to the minds of most whites, though few of them pick up on the ethical dimension which seems to me the point of the plot which is “What should we do to be saved?” to use the Christian version of the question, or in other words, who is a virtuous man? “The Indian Lawyer” addresses the riskier question of who is an Indian. “... the tension that exists between insiders and outsiders in a variety of situations provide much of the conflict that exists in life and literature, fostering an identity crisis when a member of a group undergoes transformation from insider to outsider status... Must one be one-quarter Blackfoot... Must one be raised in a traditional “Indian” culture or speak a native language or be on a tribal roll?”

(Other groups with boundaries that carry major consequences are veterans, gays, physicians... don’t you agree? Cops, pastors, blacks, and so on? When I went to undergrad college, my friends considered me “lost.” When I went to Divinity School, I was also defined as “different.” When I left the ministry, I was again “lost” as former clergy are a different group from clergy. Alienated, an outsider, not just different but a threat.)

Sid notes there’s another real life guy (besides Jim himself) who had the same insider/outsider dilemma as “The Indian Lawyer”: Don Wetzel, a highly successful Blackfeet basketball player. This is a quote within a quote from Gary Smith, writing about rez basketball in Sports Illustrated: “Here was a way to bring pride back to their hollow chests and vacant eyes, some physical means, at last, for poor and undereducated men to re-attain the status they once had gained through hunting and battle.” Wetzel, who was educated, made it as far as the NCAA Division I team, but not to the NBA. When his limits were reached, people turned on him.

Larson analyzes the situation this way: "...Indians play basketball in large part for recognition in their own families and communities, a perpetuation of insider values. They tend not to measure themselves using outside standards, such as college or professional status. Playing away from home may become a lonely task and neither money nor the satisfaction of accomplishment at a higher level of play serves as a sustaining substitution for the adulation of other Indians." Larson allows the real life Wetzel achieved some redemption when he coached a more recent Blackfeet high school team to State Championship.

I doubt that Larson knew about the other undercurrents in Wetzel’s life since Sid’s not from this reservation, but Welzel was also the son of a progressive Tribal Council member who had scars and old scores from many battles and lived to the end of his life in Helena, off the reservation. When Don Wetzel has been down, everyone has piled onto him. When he is up, they are suddenly his best friends. Indian-on-Indian power struggles are far more bitter than Indian-on-White, but invisible to Whites.

In fact, Blackfeet are critical of Welch for using the real names on the reservation and I see their point. The names “Harwood” and “Little Dog” come to my ears with fifty years of personal associations and skirmishes, some fairly consequential. I’ve never understood whether Welch just didn’t realize or knew but had his own scores to settle. Maybe there are other alternative explanations.

But what I missed myself the last time I read “The Indian Lawyer” was the law discussed, specifically the “Winters Case” which has earth-shaking implications in today’s time of drought and climate-change. The Winters Doctrine set Indian water policy on a collision course with itself and the states. It says that when a federal land use such as a reservation is established, then the amount of water for that use is assumed to belong to that entity. That is, Indians are entitled to as much water as they need to run their reservation, however that amount is determined. (In at least one case, there is a federal waterfowl refuge in direct competition with a reservation, without enough water for both. Some poor judge is going to have to address that.) The state law says “first come, first served.” An unauthorized dam established irrigation in Valier before the feds ever got around to completing the reservation irrigation system. (If you assume it’s finished even now.) It’s a highly emotional situation with livelihoods -- possibly actual lives -- on the line. So the NEED for Indian lawyers is very high.

Here’s Larson’s comment: “Relational writing is part of a condition of off-centeredness in a world of distinct but related meaning systems, a state of being in culture while looking at culture. This is responsive to aspects of the modern world, such as overlay of traditions, constant movement between cultures, perpetual displacement, and the necessity of being both locally focused and broadly comparative. The resulting strategies of writing and represenation are subject to change at such a rate that we can now observe how they become constructed domains of truth, or what James Clifford has termed ‘serious fictions.”

We ain’t talkin’ dream catchers or children’s stories here. These novels are serious attempts to understand how to live. They make us feel the injustice, yearn for a better future. They remind us that we’re talking about real people, whether Indian or white.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

COLLECTOR #2


The cover of “Captured in the Middle” is called “Collector #2” and is by T.C. Cannon. It is courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western art. The alert will recognize that the SW “Indian” man has "collected" a famous Van Gogh painting.

Cannon has more than a few Google listings. He has all the necessary Indian artist credentials, including having been killed in a car accident.
]
More about the artist:

A Personal Canon” by Sally Monahan Zogry (An essay from an art show catalogue.)
http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/3aa/3aa430.htm

NATIVE AMERICAN WRITERS: A Constellation?

For a long time I’ve been convinced of the dangers of reducing categories to either/or -- as in either Indian or not -- and have been converted to the doctrine of Bibfeldt (both/and) as in both Indian and not Indian. What that conversion means is a category is more like a continuum or maybe, if one goes onto to an even more radical inclusion than “both,” a kind of constellation. Not the kind of constellation that forms a figure, but a constellation like the Pleiades, which Eldon Yellowhorn pointed out was -- at the time of Jesus (assuming he was a real person) -- the constellation that came up over the horizon in the location of the rising sun at spring equinox, thus signaling that all the bands should gather for the annual ceremonial cycle and hunt. (Nowadays it’s Aquarius that rises through the dawn and in another millennium or two, it will be Pisces. Go head -- make something symbolic of THAT!)

Anyway, what I’m doing right now is pointing out Pleiades of Indian writers: scattered clusters, constellations. In some cultures, the Pleiades have been used as indicators of good eyesight: the more of them you can see, the sharper your vision. But also, the Pleiades are often described in stories as people who have been short-changed or disappointed and who have therefore gone off angry to show their feelings. Go ahead -- apply that to Native American writers, for certainly many have gone off somewhere and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are angry about it. They have seemingly left our earthly lives (or the Publishers’ Pearly Gates have closed) and sometimes I wonder whether they will also fall out of the sky, forgotten and unread. On the other hand, I’ve seen photos of “star nurseries” where new stars are made. Surely that is true in the literary world as well.

I haven’t posted for a few days, in part because of trying to digest Sid Larson’s overview of Native American writing, “Captured in the MIddle: Tradition and Experience in Contemporary Native American Writing.” It’s a slender book (156 pages of text) which is what publishers like these days (maybe readers as well) but it is written in an almost epigrammatic style that sends me off to research concepts. One of the most powerful concepts he is exploring, which leads to a remarkable chapter discussing the difference between the Jewish experience and the Native American experience (a much needed set of distinctions in my opinion) is “post-apocalypse theory.” I’ll come back to that in a later post.

One of the rabbits I’ve been chasing is the practice of defining Indians in terms of blood quantum -- not scientific DNA evidence, but provenance: the presumed parentage back through generations. I think that Sid would grant that people tend to define the “privileged” group with which they identify to their benefit (like being a NA writer) in terms of their own ties to that community. Thus, low-quantum urban Indians who are connected to a tribe by provenance have made it their business to define an NA writer in that way and have attacked and demonized anyone claiming to be an NA writer in any other way, by sympathy or by ruse or by residence on a reservation. Since these LQUI people have often been well-educated, especially in post-colonial theory, they have made a powerful case that has been persuasive to many of the main gate-keepers of the media critics and of academia. The result has often been a kind of blaming of the victim.

To make this clearer, consider Ward Churchill, a man who has a “courtesy” membership in a friendly tribal group so that he can sell art described as “American Indian” without being arrested after the passage of the federal Indian Arts Act, which criminalizes selling art represented as Indian art that is in fact NOT made by an Indian. Churchill, who is not a genetic Indian (whatever that is) or at least has no identified NA ancestors (though many of us have ancestors who were actual but covert Indians), was hired by a Colorado university to participate in a “multicultural department.” Larson is frank (and quite accurate in my observation) that such a department is often considered a “lesser” or “junior” or “remedial” or “political” entity within the larger university and after the early romance of it all tends to apply thumbscrews in terms of requirements and bureaucratic accountability that gradually suffocate the faculty. Thus, Churchill -- who was given a quick look-over when hired -- was suddenly investigated in the strictest terms and found wanting. This was supposed to be his fault -- as though he had deceived the university on purpose, though they had violated their own rules by not either enforcing the same standards as everyone else or giving him a clear waiver of that necessity. It ironically hurts his case now (though it helped in the beginning) that he looks like everyone’s stereotype AIM Indian. Certainly, he speaks like one: in fact, so tellingly that it’s much to advantage of the status quo officials to discredit what he says by discrediting him.

Or take another writer, Tim Barrus, who spent years on the Navajo Reservation, noting the outrages of poverty, cultural holocaust, and bureaucratic oppression, and then couldn’t find a publisher for his narrative about it until he invented a name and implied that he was half-Navajo. Suddenly he was fashionable, and as observers have noted, his manuscript (unchanged) was worth much more money. (One critic told me frankly that he holds this against Barrus as somehow his fault.) At the time, he needed expensive double hip surgery, so he kept his own counsel, though the copyright, his flight tickets, and his publisher all used his real name. The media “revealed” who he “really” was and the scandal blew the publicity up to enormous proportions with most people blaming Barrus and, again, discrediting the uncomfortable subjects he addressed: boys exploited sexually and then again by the medical establishment when they were AIDS-infected.

Adolf Hungry-Wolf has never really triggered the firestorm outrage of these two writers, though there is always simmering criticism of him (as there is always criticism of Michael Dorris and Thomas King) probably because Hungry-Wolf’s focus is on the historical 19th century Blackfoot and he lives that life. Also, he was married to a Blackfoot woman and therefore has half-Blackfoot children. This protection also applies to Hugh Dempsey and similarly to Carter Revard who is genetically white but raised in an Osage family on the reservation. But then, there is also criticism of Louise Erdrich and James Welch, on grounds that they “write like European whites.” Famous people draw more criticism, of course, no doubt because it raises the profile of the critic -- or so they hope.

Larson’s strategy is not one of criticism. Rather he is looking for unity in multiplicity, a cluster of stars that includes the many without letting one outshine the others. Two important streams of thought he uses are “narrativity,” stories that explain and reveal; and post-apocalype theory. Narrativity I “get.” Post-apocalypse theory I need to read about. The blunt instruments of Google and Wikipedia had nothing. But I think that Larson is right in saying the Native Americans are not a “post-colonial” people, but a “post-apocalyptic” people. Their world ended. Now what?

Friday, August 24, 2007

A DECADE OF MINISTRY #2

When I had become active at the Unitarian church for about a year (maye 1976), I was invited to attend Leadership School. By the mid-Seventies many “boomer” Unitarians had gone through periods of high idealism and then been disillusioned, but were now trying community once again. Other older folks had put on harness to save many, many causes and were getting a bit tired of pulling all the time. Some had been Christians who got burned by bad ministers or empty doctrines. People were all over the map and they sometimes tangled. Peter Raible, the minister in Seattle, collaborating with Rod Stewart (our district exec -- as close as Unitarians ever come to bishops), invented a thing called “Leadership School” that was based mostly on the theories of organizational design.

I was terrified of attending. I’d never been to camp as a kid, rarely been with an assortment of unknown peers since starting college and then work, and had mostly played my music through someone else’s speaker. It wasn’t until I was out in uniform as an animal control officer that I began to get a grip on my own authority. But then I had a badge and a role -- which is different. I drove up with one of the steady and experienced women of the congregation and even she was a little spooked. I shook when I carried in my luggage to the Fort Warden, WA, dormitory. This retreat center is a fabulously beautiful old coastal fort.

I want to save much of the description of what happened for a longer piece about the whole experience, but it was literally life-changing. I’d been working on a degree in clinical psychology, which I was slowly realizing was NOT what I’d expected. Rat experiments and social worker ethics -- daunting enough for a romantic -- but also it required statistics and that was very close to impossible for me. I didn’t want to leave Portland -- couldn’t have if I’d wanted to because of lack of money -- or so I thought.

There were four main strands of “curriculum” and we joined or were assigned to a different group for each one. There was a worship group which designed worship for everyone as a whole. This was a new idea to me, that you could “design” worship.

There was an organizational design group that was assigned a concept to teach everyone else by inventing a “happening,” or a game, or whatever else could be devised.

And there was a credo group which met late in the day to share what we truly believed. Each of these groups had members specifically chosen to be compatible -- no scary lions with timid bunnies -- and had an assigned guide.

But there was also an old-fashioned lecture for everyone on the history of the Unitarian movement, which was news to some folks who had abandoned history as irrelevant.

The whole process lasted a week. The first few days were jolly and high-energy. Then, as people began to get tired and to drop their guards, the work shifted to a deeper level. Pretty soon we were “over the threshold,” what Victor Turner the anthropologist called “liminal.” It’s the place in one’s interior organization where real change can happen -- dreams, play, art... religion. People began to burst into tears.

Once we were all supposed to choose partners for an exercise. Everyone chose someone except that there was one middle-aged woman who had just stood waiting -- and no one chose her! She was devastated. We were standing all over a large room and we had a psychologist with us. “Stand where you are,” he said. “You know you’ve all been where she is now, so we’ll all be with her.” He sympathized with her a bit, asking her was it this or that, was there a memory, what did she think might happen because of not being chosen... so on. Then he gave a little lecture: one can relate to others in two ways, by being chosen or by choosing. Both can be active. Both are a skill. Both are an option. I don’t remember whether he assigned her to be a third person or whether he “chose her,” or whether there was someone else left over who had not been noticed, but it was quite memorable.

Another woman, a young mother away from her children for the first time, burst into tears in a “devised” worship. We were sitting on cushions feeding each other strawberries when suddenly a cello, hidden in the room above, played a poignant soul-searching melody. This woman assured us she was shedding tears of ecstatic joy. But she also missed her children.

We really needed the leaders of the credo groups since we didn’t agree and some people were ready to come to blows over what they considered to be the truth. I remember holding up my finger to make a point and someone else grabbing it and bending it painfully backwards, saying “Don’t shake your damned finger at me!” But the group consensus was always for tolerance, multiplicity and good humor.

My organizational design group was memorable because we included both an engineer, who kept making bullet lists, and an architect, who would sketch something -- a sailboat, for instance, and explain its principles.

The point is that I simply had not understood that people could do these sorts of things, both intimate and intellectual, both individual and in sympathy with others. I got a little drunk on the experience. The next year I went back and the third year the leaders tried an experiment. They rented a house instead of the dorms, ordered a lot of food and a cook, and told us to design our own week. What did we want to do? How would we get to it?

Of course, we were all very predictable. Then things got mean for a while. Once things got so tangled up that we could only get out of it by choosing one person we all trusted (an older woman who was always kind), elect her queen, and agree to do whatever she said. She sent us all off to take walks or naps while she thought about it. When we came back, she explained her “decrees” and the logic she used to get to them. We agreed and it worked. (Maybe it would work in Iraq? No. It’s the trust that’s the key.)

At some point in there, I decided I wanted to be a Unitarian minister. Not that I wanted to be queen (though I did want to be trustworthy), but that I wanted to be part of this kind of community and for the first time I saw that it COULD work. Actually, it was rather close to the work my father had done all his life (working with agricultural cooperatives like Tillamook Cheese or the Gresham Berry Growers), but that was veiled in my subconscious. It was interesting afterwards to think about ministers in terms of their father’s work and the unconscious patterning it gave them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

RISING SONS & DAUGHTERS

The Evolution of Culture, though it might at first seem quite a lot easier to accept than the kind of physical evolution that creates new kinds of beings, is just as reprehensible to those who wish to believe that the world IS, that it was created that way, that there is one set of operating rules, one set of achievement (the Canon), one set of methods, and that that ideal set of parameters is the one that the person against change has learned. Even if, as in the case of the Pope, it’s quite outdated and impossible to maintain. (The Pope’s edict that Latin Mass can and should again be performed neglects the fact that younger priests have never been taught the necessary Latin.)

Those who see that life is process, time is inescapable, know that even birds develop “culture” when one has a new idea and the others learn it. Recently there was a study in which crows on one island had learned to use tools in sequence: they were offered a treat that had to be retrieved with a long stick, but the long stick could only be reached with a short stick -- so that’s what the crows did, a two-step strategy. The yam-washing monkeys have been famous for a long time. Crows and monkeys from other places haven’t learned this behavior.

One human exception to resistance to change, might be the notion of Progress -- the idea that it is possible to “improve” things (according to one’s own values) -- though we have a tendency to see progress in terms of technological gimmicks. Lately we don’t seem to be making much progress: holocausts repeat, disastrous wars repeat, and the Depression may be on the verge of repetition, both the dust bowl and the bank crashes. These are not phenomena anyone would call progress.

The changes felt in Valier are resisted because they are the negative ones: global warming, loss of the railroad, two-salary families, high gas prices, drying up of the water wells. It’s unclear how to make progress if resources are diminishing.

I talk to Browning people who are discouraged about progress even as I see major advances, mostly because they haven’t been able to remember how bad it really was fifty years ago. People who had to burn their furniture and even their floors in their little shacks -- not just to keep warm but to keep from being frozen as they stood when it was forty below. High percentages of alcoholism. A small hospital, poorly equipped. Few decent vehicles. And -- excuse me -- a BIA and town dominated by white folks. The only school was the public school: half left when legally able and half left during high school. VERY few went to college. Most of the people who think there is no progress are talking about appearances -- shiny new buildings. Or law and order where drugs have replaced booze.

Most of the changes that I see are ideas rather than material objects: an Indian BIA, the corporation called Siyeh that shields tribal business from the Tribal Council, a wealth of organizations for dozens of purposes from diabetes support to tracing down old Dawes Act allotments. Blackfeet Community College staggers but every year it’s a little better. Dozens of kids go to college and succeed. In fact, even now few people have a grasp of the extended history that was discussed at the Piegan Institute History Conference last Friday. Who would have believed Blackfeet professors discussing esoteric paleoarcheological concepts in a privately built school devoted to teaching the Blackfeet language? Fifty years ago we couldn’t have imagined such a thing. It evolved.

The main reason that people don’t realize how much is happening is that they live in a capsule -- even our national leaders. The view from their hamster cages is through media so highly massaged and commercialized that it only amounts to another capsule. No one really has the time -- or possibly the courage -- to look outside of what they “already know.” A major change, like runaway immmigration, terrifies them, even though it’s mostly already happened. Even something as miserable as our healthcare system is too scary to change, so we piece along in misery.

My neighbor remarked the other day that every time she comes over, my furniture is switched around. She cleans houses for a living and assures me that in this town everyone leaves their furniture where it is. It’s just the mindset -- everything as “in its place” as graves.

There have been several interesting books addressing all this. One was an attempt to account for the fact that about 200 years ago people in England created a middle class which for the first time in known history had enough to eat and a comfortable home. Until this period, one was either a miserable peasant or landed gentry. The author’s premise was that the peasants evolved a new culture, possibly related to Protestantism, which valued saving money, working hard over a long period of time, living conservatively, valuing family and trying to leave a legacy for one’s children. His method was an examination of wills, to see whether this happened. Surprisingly, the peasant children were few and died early, not rising in society. It was the wealthy whose spare children -- they had quite a few -- had to figure out how to make a living without inheriting. They were the ones who formed the middle class and brought their values from those despised overlords, some of whom were pretty responsible stewards. They had been educated and were comfortable with writing, contracts. book-keeping and bank accounts. This was a cultural evolution, not genetic.

It was an evolution that recently took place on the reservation. As the middle class has been shrinking elsewhere, on the reservation it has been growing. The birth rate is still high here, but infants are no longer used up as spares by early death. The communal pressure to go to college, maybe even leave the reservation for a while, sends them on something like the same path as the extra children of gentry. Communal social institutions that care for the disabled, the aged, the orphaned, also free up some of those children to go to college. Blackfeet values would never support the abandonment that happens in our larger society -- not that there aren’t Blackfeet who don’t live up to their own values.

The culture of the Blackfeet is opening while the culture of the small white grain towns is closing, aging, getting smaller. Who knows what will happen with the waves of immigrants from coastal cities invading us, trying to get control, bringing their city culture of wealth and alienation to the prairie? Evolution or destruction or just distraction? Too early to tell.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A DECADE OF MINISTRY -- 1

Until today, when I read the 25th-year talk of my seminary classmate, I hadn’t realized how many years had gone by. At seminary Peter did exactly what he was supposed to do, got a fine suburban church, and has stayed there the full twenty-five years. He is quite a bit younger than I am, so he may get to do the fifty year speech as well. I won’t be there to hear it. (I'd be 118 years old!) But I wasn't there to hear this one either.

There were four of us at the beginning of our class: Now Harris Riordan has a church in Boca Raton, FL. Gary Gallun appears to be doing interim ministry. Kenner Swain came late and left early: he’s evidently selling wine in San Francisco. I haven’t kept up with any of them, so I only know through Google.

But I think that enough time has finally elapsed for me to begin to talk about ministry, esp. in view of the current obsession with religion in its many manifestations. I’ll weave the blogs in with my other preoccupations, but keep the same title, adding numbers.

In the Eighties I had a parishioner/friend who wanted to give me his “Vicar of Dibley” tapes. If you don’t know this BBC series, it’s about a chubby, boisterous, resourceful minister of the Church of England and her slightly crazed and certainly stereotypical parishioners. He said it reminded him of me. I was very glad he couldn’t bear to part with the tapes, because that was exactly the image that finally drove me out of the ministry: the minister as mom, as tour director, as fixit queen, as social director. Argh. At the same time, I recognize the truth of the image, which is my facade when I’m not centered.

In 1975 when I was promoted from a street animal control officer to an office education director (a CORNER office and a county car which was terrific since it was an old sheriff’s stake-out car and had a top-of-the-line sound system), I thought I should find myself a church. While I was mulling over this, I happened to pass a brick wall that had in neat metal letters at the top: “First Unitarian Church.” “Unitarian” raised some distant vibes (my father the self-declared atheist was excited when the annual General Assembly was in Portland in the Sixties) but mainly it appealed to my Puritan minimalist side that this facade was so matter-of-fact, so I went back on a Sunday. It turned out that I was coming in through the back of an addition. The “real” church building might have been designed by Thomas Jefferson, plain (no stained glass, gray-painted paneling) but VERY elegant.

After one service I knew I’d been hooked, partly because the minister, who looked like Tyrone Power, preached in an angry/ thoughtful/amused voice, and wore a bright red Harvard robe, was too easily the object of a white crush. (A Maurice Chevalier term meaning a crush with no sex involved.) This almost involuntary strategy of mine had several times led me to get interested in a strong person and, by following their interests, expand my own. So in those Unitarian years I read a lot of Ernie Gann, whose airplane stories were a true love of this minister’s, and tried to read a lot of esoteric theological books (Ellul, for instance, or Hans Kung) without much success. This minister didn’t leave the Christian context but followed the most liberal and intellectual strands. He often said, “God is too good an idea to surrender to the Fundies!”

Go back much earlier. When my mother had just had me, her first child, she lived between two women: Mrs. Otto to the south was Swedish and Mrs. Hanisch to the north was German. Mrs. Hanisch had lost a daughter to polio and welcomed me unconditionally.


Mrs. Hanisch providing a friendly lap.

Mrs. Otto had raised a boy to be a school principal and remarked to my mother, “You’d better break that one early or you’ll never break her.” My mother tried to break or at least control me right up to the end. Much of my life was a matter of evading or resisting people who wanted to shape my identity, one way or another. Many people had an impact on me, but Bob Scriver was the only one I gave control and he didn’t quite understand that was because I let him. Later, I didn’t let him.


Old Lady Otto casts her spell on me in my baby buggy.


What I didn’t understand going into the ministry was that congregations are often determined to have control of their ministers. I had understood it the other way around -- that the minister was a person who was exempt from social control because of being in a direct relationship with either God or some rational principle of behavior. A minister was a person who could refuse to testify in court, could go into intensive care in the hospital with family, could talk to murderers or sex offenders without being considered a client of them, and who was on an equal footing with kings, professors, and witchdoctors of all stripes. Maybe a superior footing. If you said my notion of my identity had to have been inflated to take on such an agenda, you’d be right. Old Lady Otto, as we came to call her later, was also right. And so was Bob Scriver who said finally that my Indian name, “Iron Woman,” referred to my disposition. I would not be “broken.” But I sure as hell came close.

Loss of one’s identity is a mental condition -- not quite a psycho-pathology because sometimes it leads to transformation but certainly a dis - ease. If it is due to organic causes (head trauma, genetic wiring flaws, infection, drugs) then it’s hard to know what to do about it. If it’s a social condition and on a reservation, then there is plenty to do and the more “ministers” the better. A society that destroys identities cannot but destroy itself. All societies try to control identities.

Beyond the culture is the land which CAN support an identity. Shape an identity. Create a tribal identity. IF one stays in touch with it through the classic means of ceremony, participation in nonhuman life, daily ritual, climatic sensitivity. Unitarians are fond of saying, “We are all ministers.” The phrase is "the ministry of all believers." We minister to ourselves and others. Quite true, but the ultimate church (cathedral) is the land, the planet. No wonder I didn’t get a lot out of Ellul, who thought mostly about the city. I suppose a city can support an identity, but it demands a toll, mostly some kind of human conformity because humans are the environment.

This first Unitarian minister of mine told me two things that I didn’t understand at the time. First, Unitarianism is not a rural denomination. (Univeralism was and the fact doomed it.) Unitarian congregations are in cities or at best university towns.

Second, the true community of the minister is other ministers, but one spends one’s time with parishioners. The minister both is and is not part of that community. I brushed those considerations aside, not realizing what they meant, which was that at the heart of ministry is loneliness. The Christians fill that loneliness with God, a personification of... something. I couldn’t do that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

ROBSON GREEN MOVIES

Robson Green is one of my cousin’s favorite actors, too, which makes me feel a little less like a bobby-soxer when it comes to the guy. I first saw him on Masterpiece Theatre in “Reckless” opposite Francesca Annis, whose series called “Lili” made me absolutely psychotic with the delusion that I was she. Green is a wonderful romantic lead who always plays opposite stunning women unknown in the States, so it’s a little startling that his most powerful roles have been played against transgender or transvestite men in “Wire in the Blood.” (Tortured by being strung up totally naked -- no stunt double -- by his hands behind his back.) I ransack Netflix for Robson Green movies, not least because they are generally filmed in the Midlands of England and along the coast in settings of iconic meaning for a genetic Scot like me. That might account for some of my cousin’s fondness as well.

I’ve only come across a couple of stinkers in the Green oeuvre so far. One was “Take Me,” an appalling portrait of suburbia. “Me & Mrs. Jones” was fun but caused him to be accused of doing “froth” instead of challenging his own ability. This week I watched “Like Father, Like Son” and “The Last Musketeer” which both addressed father/son issues and let Green play against teen girls in a fatherly way. There’s someone out there who keeping banging on about Green being “too old” (b. 1964) but both my cousin and I are old enough to be his mother, so the criticism has no legs with us. Too old for what?

Green has his own production company and does a formidable amount of work. “Like Father, Like Son” is nearly schematic: a single father with a teenaged daugher falls in love with a single mother. (Gemma Redgrave, whom that juvenile critic also considers “past her sell-by date and tiresome to watch” but whom I thought was excellent and quite up to Green’s level of acting -- in fact, she rather stole the show.) The plot develops from the former spouses: Green’s committed suicide and Redgrave’s was a psychotic killer now in prison. Redgrave’s son hasn’t known this but finds out as the intimacy between the two parents deepens and complicates everything. The effect on the son, who has idolized a fantasy father his mother invented for him, is a storm of distrust and a demand to meet his real father in one of those stark all-white English prisons. It appears that the father has called the son over to the dark side. Already on the dark side is a little minx of a female who is pretending to have an love affair with Green and knows enough to simulate fellatio with a banana, invent a steamy diary, and reintepret Othello as sexually overheated. (Green is her English teacher.)

One is sometimes aware that a scriptwriter has sat down with the task of creating a vehicle for Green, never more so than in “The Last Musketeer,” which puts Green, playing a gentle guy forced to become tough, in a setting where he is surrounded by women of all sorts, rather like his fan-base, I should think. The key to this plot is a character who needs to be explored in some depth somewhere but so far I haven’t found a satiSfactory book or film explaining this type: the man who lives a rough, tedious life and out of his own insecurity insists that his son be a “real man” which he hopes to force his boy to become by brutalizing him, in this case beating his son badly enough to be sent to the emergency room. When the young man is well enough, he joins the Royal Marines where he learns fencing as a way of channeling his enormous, overwhelming rage.

He emerges from the military just in time to miss his father’s death -- his father had been calling for him but he couldn’t get there in time. In his rage and grief, surrounded by the “villains” [sic] who attend the funeral for free food and drink, he agrees to do some criminal smuggling but is caught and locked up. A model prisoner, he comes out to compete as a fencer and though he’s excellent, his attitude is so belligerent that he’s not put on the team. In another impulsive decision, he accepts a temporary job teaching fencing at a Scots girls’ school housed in a castle on the coast.

This time his “foil” is Arkie Whiteley as a Ph.D. who runs the school and who wants to save everyone, both girls and Green. He needs a place to hide, since he’s nearly been pulled into a second criminal scheme, and she SAYS she wants a winning girls’ fencing team but that’s only the beginning. Arkie Whiteley died of cancer the year after this movie was made. She’s tiny (Green is smallish), saucy, intelligent, and convincing in a rather dubious role. She’s bracketed by a sympathetic librarian and an unsympathetic disciplinarian, both female.

The fencing team is four girls, two not white, one red-head (the only polite and compliant one!), and a “father’s girl” pushed out into defiant territory by neglect. Green knows what to do with her, and in teaching her how to “ride the anger” into useful aggression, also learns for himself. Briefly he visits his “Mam” who has just had a stroke and his sister, tough, sensible and taking care of family. Clearly they have been his lifeline.

The love scenes (the Ph.D. is sexually liberated and emerging from the grief of an earlier relationship) were remarkable in my opinion. Instead of the SPAM-celebrated medieval battering ram approach, this brief depiction shows a quiet probing for genuine response. I hope kids watch it over and over!

The grand finale overlays the girls’ fencing team competing in that formal referreed way that they do while Green’s character is pulled into an anything-goes knife-fight on the roof of the building. The director has a stuttering style -- playing the same move twice or sometimes a third time from a different angle -- that works well.

This movie spoke to me on a number of levels. Of course it’s fun to watch someone as fluid and skilled as Green with an equal like Arkie Whiteley. (What a major loss!) Of course the plot was interesting and the scenery gorgeous. Once, I took a beginning fencing course, so I could sort of “feel” the moves. I watch these DVDs twice unless they’re stinkers, so I can think about the camera strategy, the editing, the pacing of the scenes, and all that technical stuff while still appreciating the story. The dialogue was uninspired, but I can't resist the accents and vocabulary. ("Emily" refers to the Green character as an "oik!")

But what made this movie exceptionally rich for me was having a fencer in the family, in fact, a world-class competitor. Bob Scriver’s grandson, Lane DeSmet, stayed with us for the summer when he was six-years-old while his mother had cancer surgery. His son, Ariel DeSmet, Bob’s great-grandson, is the fencer. Inevitably he’s on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_jDk3GzJg0 He is well-named as he characteristically leaps in the air, something he’s been doing since he could stand up and launch himself off the furniture. His formidable and sometimes overwhelming energy has found the perfect outlet. I hardly know him -- he grew up over in Portland which I left in 1999. Lane spent his earliest years here in Valier -- I sometimes think I’m occupying the space his mother would have taken if she had lived.

All this echo and cross-referencing means that a relatively competent but run-of-the-mill movie had deep meaning for me, not that I could put it into words right now. Maybe it will come out in writing later.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

PIEGAN INSTITUTE NINTH ANNUAL HISTORY CONFERENCE



Yesterday was the Ninth August history conference sponsored by The Piegan Institute in the Cuts Wood School in Browning, Montana. The subject was “Aka: The Ancient Past.” This is the twentieth anniversary of the Piegan Institute, dedicated to the language and history of the Blackfeet People. The school takes up half a block on what used to be “white street.” Officially on the map it’s called “Popimi Street,” but no one knows what that’s supposed to mean. It’s not Blackfeet. Bob Scriver was born and raised in the house next door.

When I parked in front of the formerly Scriver driveway, there was a little girl crying as she swung on the garbage can rack. I thought she might be hung-up there somehow, her sundress snagged or one of her mismatched shoes wedged. Blackfeet are rather “dimorphic” (little women/big men) and little girls can be almost elfin as was this girl. I asked her what the trouble was and thought she said her puppy was hurt. Stricken by the worst possibility, I looked in the garbage cans but there was no fuzzy body in there. I asked her again. Was SHE hurt? Yes, she said. Where? “Me pohpee.” A moment of thought. Then I realized she meant her nose in Blackfeet. I asked, she pointed, I finally got it. The smoke from the forest fires was so strong that it was hurting her nose. Eyes, too. Mine, too.

Ten years ago little girls like that one would probably not have spoken Blackfeet, certainly not to a white person, and the white person wouldn’t have known that one’s “pohpee” was one’s nose anyway. Which is why I put this story in here -- Piegan Institute HAS made a difference. Many of the plans and goals they began with have been fulfilled.

An elder started us off with a prayer in Blackfeet. Our before-lunch prayer was chanted in unison by two Piegan students about nine years old, brother and sister. Both times I teared up, though I could barely recognize a word here and there, and so did Darrell Kipp, who has become a Blackfeet speaker and has put heart and soul into this Institute. Hugh Dempsey, the first speaker, remarked that everyone likes to look at Indians, see where they live. Not many ever have a chance to HEAR Indians in their own language.

The school rooms had just been newly painted in shades of terra cotta, adobe, peach and with the red light from the smoke coming in, we were tinted and blushing. I took notes as carefully as I could, but may have blundered, so corrections are welcome. Anyway, sometimes I got so absorbed I forgot to write anything down.

HUGH DEMPSEY
is an emeritus curator of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and is married to a Blood Indian woman. His son is also a noted scholar. Dempsey is the author of many key books about the history of the Blackfoot nation esp. in Canada where most of the People still live. (Look for them by using www.Amazon.ca) Dempsey started us off with a review of what is known from word-of-mouth information that came from the dog-days. We’re talking pre-white contact and even pre-horse.

Weasel Tail, an informant born in 1859, was used by John Ewers in 1947 when he was working from the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning. Weasel Tail’s information came primarily from two women, Two Strikes Woman who was a hundred years old when he talked to her, and Victory Over All Woman. Both barely remembered the dog days and had heard many stories about them. So the dog days are only two lifetimes in the past. Ewers sketched out what he learned.

It wasn’t possible to move more than five or six miles in a day since the dogs carried what luggage there was and they didn’t always accept their burdens gladly or stick with the projected goal. Very little was carried, but their “stores” were all around them. There is some question about whether they used snowshoes. (The prairie here is so windswept that one can almost always find a bare ridge, so they may have been too much trouble.)

As to the reliability of oral information, Iron or Emiksis(?) said he would tell no lies because lies (including inaccuracies) would cause a person to die. Dempsey remarked that so long as the People were still speaking Blackfeet, accuracy was very high, but it suffered when the languages began to mix and Blackfeet faded. Partly this would have come of not knowing the exact right word and what it meant. Partly it had to do with who was listening.

Lodges in those days might have 5-6 bison hides -- divided in both front and back and pinned together with sticks -- and been transported by two dogs. (That would be BIG dogs with travois, I think. Picking up one bison hide, hair on, is about my own lifting limit.) With horses, tipis could be 12 to 15 hides, and there is evidence that there have been very much bigger ceremonial lodges. They were to some extent “modular” so that people could combine several tipi covers. Poles would have been much shorter so the lodges would not have been the high cones we’re used to seeing. The governing principle was practicality, not what “should” be done.

Dempsey described two methods for making pots. One was to dig a hole in the shape of the pot, grind up a slurry of the materials, pat a layer of this mixture inside the hole and then fill the inside with a fire to bake it. One neat little trick was embedding two knobby stones, one on each side near the top, for lifting the hot pot out. The other method was to make the shape and then put it inside a tipi of sticks which would be burned to bake the pot.

In the earliest days there was no metal at all.

Two methods were used to kill bison. The first was the dramatic piskun which meant that the animals were enticed and driven over a cliff that would kill or cripple them. A corral had been built at the bottom so that boys could relatively safely kill the cripples that survived.

The other method we don’t hear so much about. The women went to some spot on the open prairie downwind of some buffalo and there they made a fence, a blind corral, out of their travoises by tying them together upright. Then the men walked out and pushed the bison into that “surround.” If they were lucky and skillful, they could get the bison confused enough to mill around and around while they were shot with arrows. (This practice is echoed in the Horn Society ritual when the women put up their travoises to make a private place for their ceremony. I used it for a plot point in “Dogwoman” when the women -- some with dogs and some with horses -- had trouble putting the travoises together because of the size difference.)

When there was a kill, the leader of the hunt (which might include several bands) divided up the animals among the people. Women would appeal for hides to make new lodges since they lasted only three or four years.

Women did the camp work. When old people felt they had become a burden, they would ask to be “set out” and left behind when the band moved on. A very valuable and respected person was called an “apo,” a person who could call buffalo.

There were two sorts of “warfare.” One was almost like European war when two lines advanced on each other and exchanged fire. The foot warriors in those days had big shields, wide enough to get behind, which protected them from arrows, but to shoot their own bows meant that they had to put the shield down for a moment -- then they were vulnerable. Sometimes they would work in pairs, so that one person kept up the shield while the other one shot, then traded places. Also sometimes, if things were going badly, they could prop up their shields and sneak away without the enemy realizing they were gone.

The other kind of war was one of total annihilation, when they swooped down on an enemy village and killed everyone. When camp was moved, people were very wary of possible ambush, esp. if they had to pass through a narrow place.

Dempsey told an amusing tale about the First Peoples trying to figure out white people, who seemed to have mystical powers of some kind. The first signs some saw were a lot of cut trees, so they assumed they were dealing with a kind of giant beaver. Then when they saw the people in big woolly winter garb and with huge bushes of hair hanging out of their faces, they thought maybe bears. They seemed to have some relationship with water that allowed them to travel with it. This mystical dimension led them to be called “Napi-kwan” -- Napi being their Creator/Trickster figure who had magical powers. When the first black men came, they were called “Black white men” because it was clear they were not Indian and came with whites. And it was a constant puzzlement as to where the white women were. For a while they thought that the beardless youths were women.

John Monroe remembered via Running Chief that at first the white people were thought to be few and relatively weak. Some wanted to crush them. But then a few chiefs were taken on the train to Winnipeg and realized that there were just too many of those strange people.

Dempsey was specifically scornful about a book called “Blackfoot Physics” by F. David Peat. In the first place, he says, it’s based on Sioux information. (I barely started to read it and then put it aside. “Blackfoot” appears to be a metaphor for a kind of physics that is not so rigorously scientific and tries to find legitimacy through identification with indigenous cultures.)


ELDON YELLOWHORN is Piikani, born and raised on the Peigan Reserve, now known as the Piikani First Nation, in Alberta. (The spellings are different because the Canadian and US translations of Blackfeet have never been reconciled.) His undergrad degrees are in geography and archaeology, he has an MA in archaeology from Simon Fraser University and a Ph.D. in anthropology from McGill University. He is now a faculty member at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, B.C. He has published in the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, Native Studies Review and Plains Anthropologist. He is a co-author of “First Peoples in Canada,” from Douglas & McIntire. None of this captures his personality, which is exceptionally lively and friendly. (It often occurs to me that the main difference between white and red peoples working in these fields is that most whites are very solemn and stiff, nit-picking over details, while the reds are working with huge relish and glee, excited about the Big Picture.)

Red Crow (1880-1950) was Eldon’s ancestor and was born in Fort Benton. One of Eldon’s projects has been excavating that man’s homestead: a log house and some acreage. He said that he’d gone back to his reserve without much hope of finding clues of old-timers, but soon discovered that the people themselves could point out all sorts of locations.

His thesis subject was “Oral Narratives” and how they can be used to extract time-line estimates, which are of concern to archaeologists. He asked “can mythology be organized to be chronological, especially stories that are a thousand or five thousand years old?”

He told the horse origin myth: how they were a gift of the Thunder Beings (not whites) and how the People walked around a lake, as instructed in a vision, then walked east a bit, and the horses appeared out of the lake.

Tobacco entered about the time of the organizing of the Beaver Bundle and the myths are entwined. This was a particular kind of tobacco, “something? ‘attenuata’”, that was grown earlier (800 AD) by Great Basin and Missouri River people. It would not be surprising that it would travel up the river to the Blackfeet, maybe through the Sioux. The custom was to plant it in the soft wet earth near beaver dams, which would help the association with that animal. The idea was to plant in spring the seeds, which are smaller than poppy seeds, then leave them undisturbed until it was time to come back for harvest. The story was that “little people” took care of the plants and when the planters returned, they brought little clothes and gifts for them. Someone would be sent ahead to warn the little people to hide, for you didn’t want to see them. They were very mischievous, like leprecauns or pixies. Eldon joked that they’ve been making a lot more trouble lately because no one grows tobacco that way anymore and they are unemployed. Everyone knows that unemployed people make trouble, so we should plant tobacco to keep them busy. (There are two tubs of ornamental nicotiana -- tobacco -- on my doorstep!)

Eldon said he got curious about tobacco and grew several kinds on his patio in Vancouver. Not only did they supply him with plenty of ceremonial tobacco (he doesn’t smoke), they replanted themselves as volunteers even after he had given away the seeds. Gotta be little people. (I grew a tobacco plant in my window box in Portland which got so big that it looked like someone climbing in my window. I brought it with me to Browning on a trip and left it in Bob’s studio, sitting in a chair like a person.)

When Anthony Hendry, one of the first Hudson’s Bay people to come (1754), arrived at the camp of Little Deer, Little Hill and Sentinel, he brought along Virginia tobacco and before alcohol this was always a good trade item. He wanted them to come to the trading forts on the Bay to trade, but they hated to go over there, partly because they hated eating all that “nothing food” like birds, fish and maybe deer. So a small group would accumulate some furs, take them over to the fort, convert them into metal objects and so on, then come back and use the objects for the winter. In spring they traded their used knives and hatchets for more furs and made the round trip again to buy new.

The Frenchmen were more willing to take goods out to the prairies and the Blackfeet called them “the first White Men.” Sometimes the tobacco was too unfamiliar to be palatable. Indian tobacco was often mixed with red osier dogwood cambium (inside the bark) and bear-berry (kinnikinnick), which was probably what they smoked before the advent of tobacco. In 1775 Mathew Conkling found Blackfeet tobacco gardens in October. David Thompson said the last tobacco grown was in 1800. After that the source was trade. Now there seems to be less interest in smoking pipes than in ceremonial smudging. (The leaves are also good for keeping bugs out of bundles.)

Perhaps you have noticed that on the two “ears” or smoke flaps of a lodge there are patterns of circles. On one side is the Big Dipper (not called that) which indicated the important compass of the north star. On the other side is what we call the Pleides, a cluster of stars. The Blackfeet story is that long ago there was a buffalo hunt and some young boys who had asked for yellow calf hides to make new clothes didn’t get any. So they got mad and went to live in the sky. They disappear when the calves are born and yellow, to show how offended they are.

Eldon related this to the sidereal season indicators: which stars are above the horizon at which times of the year. These change over millenia, so the important indicator now at the spring equinox is Aquarius -- we are living in the “Age of Aquarius.” But moving towards Pisces. (A sign of global warming when the seas rise and we all have to learn to swim?) Two thousand years ago, that star sign was the Pleiades and it was the sign for the really huge communal buffalo harvests. The story must be that old. It was the reason they COULD gather at the same time, guided by that same sign.

Buffalo stones, iniskum, have been marked scientifically as 5,000 years old. (That would be ceremonially indicated stones, not the original creatures that give rise to the fossils, which are much, much more ancient.)


WILENA OLD PERSON
(mother was a Running Crane) is a 1998 Browning High School graduate and has a U of Montana Bachelors from 2004. She’s proceeding on to a Master’s in Archeology and has done work at the Battle of the Bighorn plus now in Glacier Park where a team is re-locating campsites originally found by Barney Reeves so they can be marked with GPS. Much of her talk was photos of that work. We were just happy looking at her bright face, both she and we full of pride that she’s done this.


BRIAN (BARNEY) REEVES
, is an emeritus professor at the University of Calgary, now at Lifeways of Canada. His work has been paleoarcheology and he’s a great favorite among the Blackfeet because he is providing the back-story to contradict David Thompson’s notion that the Blackfeet had moved to this area from the Great Slave Lake. (Once a theory like this is propounded, it is repeated again and again because of the academic emphasis on documents instead of raw evidence.)

TRADITIONAL ELDERS’ ORAL ACCOUNTS

Thompson’s “Narrative” (1799) was written when Thompson was aged and was no longer here. Other writers who said that the Blackfeet were “always here” included Chief Crawford (interviewed in 1860- 80 by Father LaCombe). Pikuni elders between 1880 and 1910 told recorded stories asserting the same.

There are two great early accounts: “Nitzitahpi Ethnogenesis” (the development of the three major subgroups of the nation) and “Splitting of the Nitzitahpi and Arapaho.” These seem to be entwined somehow with the geological event of the last glacier withdrawing 10,000 years ago and the repopulating of the area with plants, animals and people.

One story is near-European. A man sends out his three sons. The one with the most powerful hunting medicine, symbolized by the color black, becomes the founder of Siksika. The one who returns with many scalps of chiefs becomes the Kainah. The one who comes back with a bright spotted robe is Pikani.

One likely premise is that the Blackfeet and Arapajo were one Algonquin tribe that split apart. Traveling Blackfeet were surprised that they could talk to the Arapajo and understand them. Grinnell and Schultz both repeated a story about the people crossing a huge lake or wide river on ice that split, dividing the groups. This would maybe have been the Missouri River, which has remained the natural divider.

SACRED TRADITIONAL SITES AND GEOGRAPHY
Reeves’ idea of the approximate ceremonial dates are:
Medicine Pipe Bundles -- 3,000 years ago
Beaver Bundle 2,000 years
Natoas 1200 - 2000
Okan -- 1200
Iniskim -- 1200
Vision questing 5,000 - 9500 years old. (There are 250 vision quest sites -- rock “beds” -- between Two-Med/Badger and Crowsnest Pass. This practice is very old around the world.)

In the indigenous story of the creation when the “fourth animal” -- sometimes a duck and sometimes a muskrat -- dives to the bottom of the water and brings up primordial mud, the Blackfeet version says Napi walks north and creates everything as he goes. This might be an account of the glacier withdrawing.

McClintock mushed two stories -- Okan and Scarface -- into one. Both stories were connected to the Sweetpine (Sweetgrass) Hills.

The earliest iniskim was found with a Medicine Circle at the Bow River. Originally -- before people dug it apart -- that cairn was, in Blackfeet, “A Big Cairn on the Hill.” An elk rib taken from the cairn was 5,000 years old. It was 12 feet in diameter and six feet high. The Bow River (“The Place of Falling Off”) is associated with the iniskim origin story.

LINQUISTICS, HISTORICAL AND GENETIC
In the late 19th century there was a movement to find the relationships among languages. Horatio Hill suggested an Eastern origin of Algonquin language which then migrated West. After all, that’s what HE did!

Alfred Kroeber was inclined to think that because there was a small and very ancient group in the West that spoke Algonquin-related language, that the origin was near there and migrated east. Truman Michaelson, 1911, working for the Smithsonian and Edward Sapir (1913 and 1916) tended to believe Kroeber. The genetic studies were in the 1980’s.

POPULATION GENETICS
These studies seem to find relationships between Blackfeet and Cree.

ARCHEOLOGY, CUTURAL AND HISTORICAL
Dick Forbis excavated the Ross Site and the Women’s Buffalo Jump. Tom and Alice Kehoe (Alice was present) dug up the Boarding School Buffalo Jump and the Ethridge ware (pots). Brian Reeves did the Head-Smashed-In series of buffalo jumps. Bill Byrne dug the Trout Creek Sites in SW Alberta.

TRADITIONAL CULTURE, ANTHROPOLOGICAL AND ECOLOGICAL
“The Old Woman Phase” is what the period from about 800 to 1800 is called and represents pre-contact culture, but there are medicine circles going back to 5,000.

Barney, whom Darrell rightly described as "effervescent," was sceptical of the more famous medicine circles and their relationship to the calendar in the way asserted by people who knew about some of the Celtic stone circles. Some question arose from the audience about whether tipi circles were really about tipis at all, and Alice Kehoe stepped to the front to say that they used the stones to weight down the liners more often than the perimeter of the tipi itself. Mary Ground, who took great care to be traditional, did this at Indian days. (Tom Kehoe had written about the possibility that tipi circles with radiating lines were accounts of journeys taken, the length of the line being the distance traveled. I used this idea in the story called “Eats Alone.”) Reeves talked about big circles of stone into which buffalo skulls were piled for ceremonial purposes, but that the skulls were taken and ground up in the prairie-wide bone-gathering times early in the 20th century when they were needed for fertilizer and gunpowder.

His final story was about a cave found with a thick layer of horse dung that dated scientifically to 1130! That’s before Columbus if I wrote the date down properly. In his opinion there were individual non-”Indians” roaming around all the time and the Kennewick Man is white. What a great guy to sit with by a campfire in the mountains on a fall evening!

Driving back through smoke with the pickup lights on, the landscape was so veiled it looked like a special-effects dream sequence from a movie, maybe about the old days. Then I drove through a patch where the temperature dropped ten degrees and there was misty rain drawing rich earth and vegetation smells out of the fields. It was like an awakening: a new consciousness.


This painting is a contemporary version of ledger art in which an image is painted onto a page from an old BIA or tribe record page. Sometimes one can recognize the people listed.