Monday, May 09, 2016


The Humanities world, at least the academic part of it, is highly patterned.  The idea originally was the university and that’s still the purported base.  At least the norm is for scholars to be generally people who produce and consume books, which determines their status in the institution.  Native Americans from a rural setting, whether or not it is on a reservation, are not always readers because it’s hard to get books.  But these days if they have access to school and library computers, they can become scholars.  They have to think of it, and they will need a strong guide in the form of a person or persons who can scout territory for them.

A helper for people who are doing “ethnohistory” or working in other Native American related fields is H-Net, which is a loosely organized communication web divided into disciplines.  They announce conferences, which institutions pay for their scholars to attend, but usually they will allow independent scholars to also attend at their own expense.  Part of their distinction is jargon, multi-syllabic words with specialized meanings, carefully organized into sentences trying to evade sandtraps presented by past scholars.  This will make it hard for the uninitiated, but if you keep at it, you can pick up the vocabulary.

There are two barriers to an innocent Native American person wishing to find out more about his own people and wanting to join the conversation among informed people.  One is having a guide and the other is —predictably — money for travel and a place to stay. 

Terri Castaneda

Terri Castaneda is in Sacramento, on the faculty for CSU, and looking for a person to join a panel.  The announcement is below.  To give you a notion of who Terri is and therefore what kind of panel contents might be wanted, here’s the introductory precis of a paper she has presented elsewhere.  Her words:

California Indian Land Claims Activism and Urban Indian Place-Making
TERRI A. CASTANEDA,  California State University, Sacramento

ABSTRACT Peoplehood and cultural belonging have long been primordialized through reference to land and place. The de-territorialization of identity may be a critical hallmark of the 21st century, but ancestral territories and homelands continue to be implicated in a host of cultural conditions and sociopolitical statuses—perhaps especially those that refer- ence being out of, or without, place—whether as immigrant, refugee, alien or expat. This was certainly the case for the Federated Indians of California who mobilized, in the late 1940s, in order to pursue land claims against the federal government for expropriation of their ancestral territory. One unanticipated outcome of their political activism was California Indian place-making and cultural revivification among urban, landless Indians in the greater Sacramento region.

Now I’ll paraphrase as simply as I can.  “People have for a long time identified themselves by a certain location.  Now people float anywhere.  But they remember and are defined according to where they came from.  Much of law and boundaries is about this.  In the late 1940’s the Federated Indians of California sued the Federal Government for taking their territory.  They didn’t expect that the political result would be that Sacramento city Indians would suddenly take an interest, becoming activists.

Here’s a photo of four ethnohistory presenters.
Farina King, Terri Castaneda, Jessa Growing Thunder, and Karin Huebner

What if you were a person with no degrees, but some background in your own tribe?  Suppose you weren’t the usual youngster starting out.  Should you go?  I doubt that anyone would try to stop you.  You’ll have to decide for yourself, but at first you have to know that such an event is even happening.  

Below is a call for a panelist.  The heading is linked to H-Net and the original announcement.

by Terri Castaneda
We are seeking a 4th panelist whose work complements and expands upon themes and papers outlined below:

Engaging with Empire: Mapping Cosmopolitan Lives and Visions—This panel examines individual lives, subjectivities and visions forged at the crossroads of imperial institutions and Indigenous opportunity. Looking beyond narratives that frame elite, bicultural and/or cosmopolitan Indigenous figures and experiences as embodiments of colonial surrogacy, accommodation or means for sheer survival, it takes up the very intentional choices of some individuals to leave home; to venture into—rather than away from—empire. In so doing, it aims to shed light not only on the diverse motivations and pathways by which common individuals crafted uncommon—perhaps even extraordinary—lives, but also upon the methodological and interpretive constraints posed by the challenges of recovering and situating such sojourns and stories within the wider historical context of the overwhelmingly violent and involuntary removals of Indigenous people and nations from ancestral territories, homes and families.

Two papers address these themes by focusing upon cross-country travel, off-reservation boarding schools, and outing experiences as real and imagined sites for the fulfillment of intellectual curiosity, discovery and personal ambition: 

1.  Terri Castaneda explores articulations with empire embodied in the life of Marie Potts, a Mountain Maidu activist, newspaper editor, and Carlisle Indian Industrial School alumna. 

2.  John Gram examines Pueblo engagement with federal boarding schools in New Mexico through the lens of Indigenous values and desires for social, political, and economic mobility during the Progressive Era. 

3.  Nicholas Barron’s paper explores the relationship between applied anthropologists and Yaqui Indians of Southern Arizona during the early 20th century, illustrating how individuals and their movements through imperial entanglements contribute to the construction and representation of distinctly Indigenous places in the present. 

David Dinwoodie will serve as discussant. 

Interested parties should contact Terri Castaneda via email ( by May 15.

Surprisingly, this is NOT about the injustice and compensatory claims for displaced peoples, nor a harangue about imperial abuses.  Rather, this is about how you get back into the dominant system of the country while remaining tribal.  Amazing!  And absolutely crucial!

For a kind of example, here’s the title of a previous paper by Castaneda — NOT about being a shaman, but about how to work with  the foundations and philanthropies who help Indians.  (“Piegan Institute” in Browning is an outstanding example of how well it can work.)  Castenada wrote it in 
1987, but didn’t publish it.  “Families and Foundations: Explorations in Philanthropy and Patronage as Dynastic Phenomena”  Unpublished paper, Dept of Anthro, Rice U.  

Darrell Kipp and that DesRosier Kid

The major insight of Darrell Kipp and Dorothy Still Smoking was that they should avoid both government and tribal sources of support because both of those were invested in control and maintaining the status quo, a deadly combination.  The Latham Foundation was a major contributor to the success of the Cuts Wood School that was part of the Institute.  Individuals often called “trust fund babies,” because they had family money handed down the generations, also helped.  Nowadays movie stars and tech moguls get involved, but their efforts may amount to advertising for themselves.  One must be cautious.  And it pays to keep looking for other resources.

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