Wednesday, August 21, 2019

MEADVILLE/LOMBARD PRESIDENTS

Even Wikipedia is nervous about this term, but below is part of what they have so far.  They limit the idea to Christianity, so I don't know why they don't use current jargon and call it "trans-Christianity."  In my childhood it was called community churches and I read novels about it, like "The Calling of Dan Mathews" and "The Shepherd of the Hills," both by Harold Bell Wright. (1872-1944)  They were a pastoral small-town version of innocent white supremacy, what used to be called "community churches" which assumed a basic consensus in that parish..  Billy Graham sort of stuff.  The impulse also leads to Bible-based congregations that have no denomination.

"In Christianity, postdenominationalism is the attitude that the Body of Christ extends to born again Christians in other denominations (including those who are non-denominational), and is not limited just to one's own religious group. Its focus on doctrine distinguishes it from Ecumenism.  Many of the fastest growing Evangelical churches in the world do not belong to any "established" denomination, though the tendency is that over time the larger ones form their own organization (typically without calling it a "denomination").

"According to David Barrett, there are an additional 60 million Americans who are born again believers and do not attend any church. Though this is often due to faults in the church (some cite visionless leadership, unresolved sin issues amongst church bodies, lax morals in the pews, money mishandling, etc. in their reasons for not attending), postdenominationalists consider that the Church is at the center of God's plan for the world."  

What follows is doctrinal points based on popular American Christian doctrine.  Strangely, for a denomination that claims not to have dogma, the 2019 "UU Scholars and Friends" who attend the AAR/SBL [American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)] will be presenting a panel called "Post-Denominationalis and Its Implications for Unitarian Universalism: A Conversation in Honor of Lee Barker."  Barker was in the class just ahead of me at Meadville-Lombard so I recognize him when I see him, but I have no idea what he thinks.  He seems to have been qualified by non-commitment, which -- I guess -- turns out to be a virtue in personal terms as well as the dogmatic.  The speakers, mostly recent M/L grads, claim "transformative, counter-oppressive work".  Barker will respond.  November 23, 2019, San Diego.
The new president of M/L, Dr. Elias Ortega claims to have "expertise disrupting white supremacy in the most humble sensible way".  It never worked for me. 

There is a Facebook page, defying all news about Facebook's corruption and misuse of information. Typical UU websites are on Facebook.  Dr. Ortega also places papers at Academia.edu (as do I) which is a sort of Wikipedia for unmediated scholarly papers.

VOCABULARY CHANGES LIVES

it is a matter of great concern to a lot of people to figure out what a "reservation" is and how one qualifies for it, as in "enrolled."  Absolutely no one is going to listen to what I say, but I'll try to nail it down a bit anyway.

First, to preserve the original inhabitants of a land while occupying their territory is a very unbiological thing to do.  Normally the original inhabitants reduce or extinguish themselves due to conditions either brought in from outside or pre-existing, which prepared the way for the new population.  This suggests that the moment Euros set foot on America, the immunity problem was going to have as much impact as plague from Asia and African diseases from domesticated animals had on historical Europe.

"The origin of smallpox as a natural disease is lost in prehistory. It is believed to have appeared around 10,000 BC, at the time of the first agricultural settlements in northeastern Africa. It seems plausible that it spread from there to India by means of ancient Egyptian merchants."  

"Smallpox was introduced to Europe sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries and was frequently epidemic during the Middle Ages. The disease greatly affected the development of Western civilization."
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/

Bloody battles recur in the history of this long-rolling American invasion, but they preceded and post-dated the vacuums and crippling from microbes.  The Blackfeet massacre of a camp full of sick people would have had quite a different outcome if the men had been healthy and present.  As it was, when the cavalry discovered the women and children with smallpox, they mixed war with disinfection by burning the food and shelter.

When specialized scientists try to understand hominin fossils, they often see that one population is replaced by another, sometimes by absorbing them, sometimes by evidently using violence, and probably most often simply by being better suited to the reigning conditions.  The only possible reason that last is operative here is that Euros, through the doctrine of Empire, asserted that they were able to subjugate everything, even the people.  Future scientists studying the Now, if there are any, will note that this approach was time- and resource-limited, but that original culture of the people in the Americas was not, partly because of variousness when the Euro idea was conformity.  In other words, the naturally evolved culture that pre-existed the Euro invasion, was ultimately better and not dependent on exploitation with limits.

However, nations and their convictions are never ultimate and a certain amount of compromise is necessary.  The problem that the indigenous people face now (to the degree that they still are indigenous) Is how to exist in the moment so as to be present in the future.  Hitler and Trump would like to kill everyone of them, women and children included.  Or at least create circumstances that would cause them all to die.  But Hitler drove the most potent scientists and humanities stars to America where they have thrived and strengthened the Euro aspects.  Trump has simply imploded the standing order.  At best, some hope, he makes way for renewal.

There are no reservations in Europe.  "The name "reservation" comes from the conception of the Native American tribes as independent sovereigns at the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified."  (1787)  It comes in part from the idea that the indigenous people were nations, requiring negotiation and treaties.  But also from an assumption that the easiest solution was separation, boundaries, and that the continent was so vast that there was room to just push the tribes onto unused land.

There was not one universal treaty for all indigenous people but rather a patchwork as time rolled along.  Eventually, the idea of the indigenous being nations weakened, so now there were "agreements."  As the old ways weakened, more force became practical to the point of closing off sources of food, both by killing all the buffalo and by punishing individuals by denying them commodities.  This was Empire thinking, going back to the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, 2,000 years BC, but in that example, the two demographics were allowed to merge and kept both languages.

In contrast, there were two warring factions in the Americas, rooted in early assumptions about what the new country was.  On one hand, a group that forgot indigenous people were as human as anyone else used education and appearance to claim that they were a separate race, something like species.  But the indigenous also used education and the malleability of appearance to ignore the reality. Demographics began to blend until a much bigger and less identifiable kind of person was everywhere and could "pass," thus dumping the reservation idea.

The contrasting assumption came from German romantic ideas about nature as the pristine source of virtue and value.  Though also confining and stereotypical, the idea of the superiority of the natural people of the Americas was strong and remains a "third rail" killer-response in defense of indigenous people.  The expectations this idea imposes are a mixture of idealism and entitlement to pass judgement.  They have blended with the high value of wilderness and offer a way to resist resource domination.

Neither of these factions comes from the original peoples themselves but greatly confuse the issue of reservations, a territory staked out as either a confinement like a concentration camp or a preserve like a wilderness preserve, as for animals.  As well, it's very hard to detach the idea of resource-based Empire which imposes resource-grip on an isolated area, from the laws imposed at state and federal levels, both of which exclude the reservation-affiliated.

The overwhelming question of what a human being is, which carries in its answer the key to morality, is joined by the question of what a descendent of the indigenous people is, esp if they leave the reservation and "pass."  Another complication is that identity comes from something mysterious in "blood," so that we speak of people's blood as though it could be fractionated.  In fact, a person -- like any mammal -- is made according to the directions of DNA, molecular interactions within every cell EXCEPT blood cells, which have no nucleus.  DNA at conception is separated and then re-united in a way that makes each individual unique.  

In turn, as usual, the DNA of a person is affected by the environment by developing epigenetic modifications and local mini-mutations.  Thus a person who stays on the rez will react to local geology and climate by subtly including them in their bodies, but a person who moves far away will interpolate different isotopes of elements.  This sort of thing is almost undetectable without modern science, but cultural change will be more definite and drastic.

So what is an "Indian" and how does he or she relate to a "reservation"? The discussion is going to be intense and vital for a long time.  Concepts and their vocabularies are suddenly crucial, life-changing.  Ideas, like microbes, are contagious and travel the land, changing everything.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WOLF STORY (fiction)

(PREVIOUS:  Changed away from first person.)

When her agent called to make a pitch for a deal to illustrate a book by a semi-famous writer, she didn't want to do it.  She hated commissions like that.  They killed any creative desire she had, but she could always use the money.  She had her expenses minimized, which meant living in a little old log cabin up near the top of a ridge near Starr School.  It wasn't high enough to be hit by the high winds, which is probably the only reason it was still there, but it was high enough that her cell phone worked.  Mostly. 

So -- reluctantly -- she agreed.  In preparation she got her good friend Max to put up her tipi near the cabin.  It wasn't big and she hadn't gotten around to painting it yet, though she had some designs sketched.  She didn't want it to be tribal -- since she was white, already trespassing to be living on the rez.

Scribblescribble, as she called the writer, would fly in, using a pilot since the small plane would have to go back to the county seat to be safe.  Anyone who uses this little Starr School airport will soon be surrounded by kids and then the old pickups will begin to gather.  Maybe a few older kids on horseback.  Not a good idea to leave an airplane out there overnight.

Her phone rang.  It was the sheriff saying that he'd just gotten radio contact from the pilot bringing the scribbler.  She should go to the airport, even got there soon enough to run off a half-dozen cattle.  The landing was without incident.  The guy only had one bag and even as he hiked over the grass to meet her, the pilot left again.  Maybe the flier was a little spooked and anxious to get back to the county seat where there was a motel and a decent bar.  There are neither in Starr School.  The only amenity is a Pentecostal church.


Scribblescribble wore a classic blue-striped shirt with jeans and carried a jacket that wasn't black leather.  She was surprised: he himself was Black.  Though he stretched out his hand in greeting, his own eyes were going up and down her in equal surprise.  She was old, female, and white.  Had he expect someone indigeous?  So?  If he wanted to call it off, the plane would have to come back.  He'd best take the chance this would work.

(End of PREVIOUS)

"Scribblescribble" -- as she thought of the writer who had come for these few days to discuss her illustrating his book -- was about to throw his bag into the back of her small pickup, but he hesitated when her dog, riding there, came over to inspect it first.  It was a typical rez dog, a big shepherd mix.

"Not a biter," the old woman reassured him.  "Just my house wolf. Likes to supervise."  As soon as he was mostly in the cab, she slowly pulled out of the circle of kids and curious who had come to see what was happening.  "I don't live far away."  He settled the shoulder case that held his laptop safely on his knees.  He had stored a print-out and a thumb version of his wolf manuscript at home, but it was good to be careful.  He valued his work.

They side-eyed each other, the old woman painter who had not dressed up for the occasion and the elegant Black man who was not certain what he was getting into.  Through the windshield were gentle tawny hills up close; dull purple horizon jagged with mountains, not so distant.  No sign of wolves, just the dog treading back and forth in the bed of the truck as they raised dust on the little two-track road, hit highway, then again turned onto a two-track up to a cabin at the edge of a tree line.  No people were around, but there was a tipi in the yard, white because it was unpainted.

"Do I stay in the tipi?"  He was hopeful.  He'd never been in one but always loved the way they looked.

"Nope."  No explanation.

His bag went into the only bedroom in a lean-to at the back of the cabin.  Then they settled on the front porch.  The artist gave him a sandwich and a mug of milk, which he sipped cautiously since he hadn't drunk milk for many years.  It was pretty good after all.  Agnes, the artist, had set up her easel at the other end of the porch, turned so he couldn't see what she was doing, which she resumed.  In a while he lay back flat on the porch floor, replete and loosened after the tension of the sequence of airliner and then small plane.

When he woke up, the dog was sitting against him, watching his face as it moved in his dreaming.  She didn't lick him until his eyes opened and then she went to work on neck, ears, head -- pausing for only a moment at his unfamiliar close-cropped fuzzy hair -- then going on as though he were her pup.  He couldn't help giggling but he didn't try to stop her.  The artist tried to pretend she didn't notice so she could hide her smile.

By this time Agnes was ready to clean brushes and put away the canvas for the night.  She made quick work of supper and coffee.  He was not allowed to dry dishes.  She preferred to leave them upside down to air dry in the rack.

They settled in two old armchairs with bright slipcovers.  She had been sent his manuscript through the computers and had read it.  "Wolves," she said.  "Full of clichés and psychotherapy, to say nothing of Hollywood."

"Are wolves here?" he asked.  "It surely looks like a place with wolves."

"They were probably watching us on the porch."  Hearing the word "wolves," the dog rose from her favorite thick throw rug and came to sit upright beside them.  "In fact, the last batch of puppies were probably half-wolf.  We're more likely to see deer come out onto the meadow in the dusk."

"But they do call that the wolf hour."

Scrib looked quickly at the dog as if he could tell whether she mated with wolves, but she innocently gazed back.  "Well, the point of my book is to explore all the ways to think about wolves to see what they can tell us.  Science with its DNA studies and investigations of pack dynamics; humanities with its ideas about culture informed by wolves; religion with its projections of good and evil; mythology of wolves raising humans . . ."

"Yes, I get all that. What point of view do you claim as your own?  Or do you wander among them?"  Clearly she didn't recommend wandering in any circumstance.

But it was one of his most cherished theories of thought, that persons should deliberately wander among the alternatives without getting locked into one idea.  This didn't seem the time to defend that.  "I guess that because you are a realistic painter, the point of view here should be sensory and concrete: the deep fur, the alert ears, the strong jaws, the . . .

She cut him off.  "Right.  Well, what are talking here?  Cover, frontispiece, color insertions, marginal sketches?"  They went back and forth for an hour, then separated for sleep.  In her tipi was an old carpet, a foam slab and her sleeping bag, a familiar set-up.  She lay for a while looking up through the tops of the poles at the stars.  Then it seemed a wolf was talking to her -- until there was an explosion.  She opened her eyes to see stars through a hole in the tipi skin a few feet above her head.  Clearly a bullet hole.  The rifle was firing again.  Her dog was going crazy, then went silent.  A truck motor was roaring.

Men had come to illegally spotlight deer along the forest when the animals came out to graze.  It had happened before.  Recklessly she leapt up, realizing her own rifle was in the cabin and running for the open door, only to smash into Scrib in boxers who was too dark to see by starlight.  Pushing past him, grabbing her rifle, she rushed out to the edge of the porch with the gun to her shoulder, ready to fire.  He fell back against the wall to stay out of the way.  He knew gunfire both as a army veteran and as a city-dweller.

The hunters, confident they were out of range, turned off their spotlight and roared away.  She fired after them, hoping for a lucky hit.  There was no dead deer.  Then the two of them got flashlights and looked closer.  There was a dark heap not far away.  Their throats clenched.  They had suspected.

The hunters had shot the dog.  "Oh, nooooo," wailed Scrib and ran to the dog, wanting to hold her even if she was dead, but then pulling back because this was not his dog.

The old woman never wailed.  She had met death many times, always with a stiff spine and braced shoulders, quietly.  Kneeling beside the dark mound, she talked gently to her partner, not quite praying but something more like telling the dog her life of worthiness.  That's when the wolves began to howl, not far away, singing the melody and yipping the chorus.

Much later, all thoughts of books swept aside and the dog wrapped and buried in a special place, Scrib asked the old woman whether she would get another dog.  She smiled, "I thought I would look to find her half-wolf pups now.  Maybe I could get back one of them."

A fine book was assured now.  They had formed an attachment to each other, rather the way wolves do.  Direct experience, intense and uninterpreted, joined them together for the rest of their lives.

Monday, August 19, 2019

THE DEATH OF CODES

Predictions about our current chaos began as soon as the demographics experts realized that growing populations were going to meet social change in a way that put a LOT of insufficiently-educated and uncultured men out of work.  We all knew what "the men leaning against the wall" for lack of work, family, and basic attention would do to public order.  We have never been able to find a way to see them as an undeveloped asset and resource instead of obstacles.

Maybe some people who knew our dependence on international gig workers for harvest and recreation seasons thought that these men could pick up that work.  They refuse, considering it demeaning and underpaid, which it is.  Also not considered is what it means to be people who must constantly move to go where the work is.  In spite of financial arrangements for selling/buying houses, rental furniture, and standardized religious and eating establishments, the cost to humans is major in terms of security, life fulfillment, and building families.

We talk about the Code of Law, and it is the only restraint against taking Trump out of his Oval Office by the scruff of his neck, though he ignores the law, tramples it, reverses everything he can.  What we haven't spent much time talking about is the parallel Gentleman's Code of Decency.  It lies sprawled dead on the White House lawn, wearing a badly fitting rented tuxedo.  We just didn't realize how important it was and how much it made the Code of Law possible, workable, believable.  It was the fish's water, ignored.

Partly this "death" is due to the desire to change the government for moral reasons and cultural fittingness.  Feminists and dark people have been pointing out injustice with increasing power and meaning, but they have made vacuums that were filled by white male resentment and revenge.  Two demographic groups have an interest in throttling democracy.  One is this percentage of men who have no place in the world except rioting in the streets or jobs they think are beneath them.  Younger versions of them have disrupted every classroom where I've ever taught.  The other is arrogant, clever, sociopathic dominators whom I've often met in the religious world where they thrive by victimizing soft liberals.

Trump has always been a moral and economic disaster, a Smoke-and-Mirrors millionaire.  We've been shocked to find out how little he resembles the person we thought he was.  Looking at old vids, now we can see how he was gaming us.  Looking at new vids, we can see that he's rotting before our eyes.

But we had not understood the level of corruption that can be reached by a Senate of lawyers who make a career of becoming wealthy through raiding the government.  Not the work of the country, but all the opportunities that arise when ignoring the Code of Gentlemen.  Why do they tolerate the rules that empower Moscow Mitch?  Now that the female Squad of Color is eloquently able to express that old understanding of gentility that once made order possible -- and even include a little justice --those senatorial seemingly Russia-lovers (whom Russia has not yet realized only love their nice clean fortunes) in the Senate are revealed.

Another systemic factor (and I'm sure there are dozens) is the "greatest generation" who elected Eisenhower, partly out of respect for the military that blocked the Nazis and partly out of the organizing skills that created the national highway system and other engineering feats like dams and the power grid. Losing them lost much of the Code of Honor.  We didn't know in wartime that Ike was sleeping with his pretty chauffeur.  If we had, we wouldn't have seen it as a perfectly logical arrangement customary in many countries.  We're such fucking anthropological narcissists.  The men who have been dying over the last years have taken much with them.  It wasn't money. They were abandoned.

"What will you do when people begin dying on the sidewalks," we were asked decades ago. Now we know. Just step over them.

I want to tell an anecdote.  During the winter of 1972-73 which on the rez was more storm-bombed than any other winters I know, the teachers were trapped in their classrooms.  It was impossible to get to homes in East Glacier where many teachers lived.   High wind made it even impossible to cross the street or to start a pickup with a snow-packed engine compartment.  So I had brought a sleeping bag and stashed it in the closet.  For some reason I left the high school classroom for a few minutes and some jokester -- I think it was Liz Coburn -- had gotten the bag out and was snuggled in it on the floor.  

Just as I opened the door to return, a boy began to kick the girl in the bag. He was yelling, "Heil Hitler" and making the straight-arm gesture.  She could hardly move and no one else tried to intervene.  The boy was "triggered" by the opportunity and was nearly out of control, but I yelled loudly enough to stop him.  Everyone jumped for their assigned seats.  

Now I was triggered.  I was born in 1939 and grew up believing that Nazis were the embodiment of evil, never really gone so needing permanent vigilance and opposition.  I launched into a tirade, becoming more explanatory than enraged when I realized that the kids had no concept of war, Nazis, biological rage, oppression of the vulnerable, etc.  In the twenty minutes before the bell rang, I ripped them as hard as I could, including those who had just stood by and watched.

I expected irate parents on my doorstep the next day but none came.  Instead the kids said,  "Mrs. Scriver, would you lock the door and yell at us again?  That was pretty good."

I've thought about it ever since.  The Stanford Experiment.  The comedy TV series that mocked Nazis.  Rez violence.  A strange thing called "spaniel rage" in which a dog goes berzerk.  Wikipedia:  "In the Old Norse written corpus, berserkers were warriors who purportedly fought in a trance-like fury."  The anonymous writer translates the word as "bear fighters."

Why would the kids want me to lecture them passionately?  At least they felt something.  At least someone was paying attention to them as their parents had not done since they stopped have toddler tantrums.  At least it was real, present, and among them.

We are acting this out on a national level.  We are trapped in a sleeping bag.  So far no one has been able to become a bear warrior but the incels are trying.  Neither has anyone been the eloquent leader we crave -- several are rising, none are there so far.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

BUNDLES

Between 1982 AND 1985 I was the Unitarian Universalist minister of the renewed Helena Fellowship.  At some point in those years some women came to me who belonged in the Presbyterian congregation but had a "spot of bother" with their minister.  Years later, when I met Kenneth Hayes Lokensgard, he told me frankly that minister was his father.  At the point when we talked, he was trying to find a way to be "religious" without being a Presbyterian.  He found it as a scholar of Blackfeet religion.  It was long enough ago that academia would still hire white people to work with indigenous people and he still is doing that.

As nearly as I can tell, this is Ken's only book, an academic technical book, an entirely different genre than I usually read about something I knew rather well.


"Blackfoot Religion and the Consequences of Cultural Commoditization" (Vitality of Indigenous Religions).by Kenneth Hayes Lokensgard
Paperback  $49.49

Besides taking a different point of scholarship, one much more classically encouraged than mine, Lokensgard's approach is as well different from mine because his sources are quite different.  For one thing, he says he's known John and Carol Murray, a married couple, for fifteen years.  My acquaintance goes back fifty years to when I was a high school English teacher in Browning where they were teenagers. My experience sitting in a Bundle Opening and becoming a Keeper is also that early. The ceremony was still technically forbidden, but secret.  Except for Bob Scriver and I, everyone was full-blood and born in the 19th century.  The Murrays became keepers on a new wave rebirth of the ceremony.  I have not participated in this generation.

What I'm saying is that the Blackft international community contains many strands and lines of culture which sometimes overlap and sometimes don't. Ken and I do not follow the same paths in terms of disciplines and sources, but they don't contradict each other.  They sometimes compete or argue.

Lokensgard's highly philosophical approach is through the accepted duality of "gift" versus "commodity", a theory of exchange.  So that's the first difference: the Bundle that Bob and I kept came to us through a dream that Bob had.  Whether one considers that dream to be psychological -- which is easy to defend -- or actually supernatural as the elders seemed to believe, that is not the same as anthropological exchange theory. Pentacostals or Catholics would understand and indigenous people often mix these traditions.

Another dimension of a holy entity like the Bundle is that it is connected to and responsible for the welfare of the entire tribe.  That is, not only is it an Entity, as Lokensgard puts it, but it is a member of the community with effective impact.  Being white, yet all our impacts could be defined as either negative or as positive, since the fortunes of the Tribe are far better now, fifty years later.  We did stay, participate, and wish everyone well.  But commodification is present.

My own understanding also has a "white man" historical dimension.  "The Hako: Song Pipe and Unity in a Pawnee Calumet Ceremony" by Alice C. Fletcher, assisted by James R. Murie, describes how the concept of a long, decorated pipe became conceived and then spread across the prairie with variations according to the tribe.  "Alice Cunningham Fletcher  1848 - 1923 was an American ethnologist, anthropologist, and social scientist who studied and documented American Indian culture."  She was also notoriously the woman who organized reservations into allotments to be more like homesteading, definitely commoditized.  It didn't work very well, but Helen Clark, half-Blackft daughter of the equally notorious Malcolm Clark whose murder triggered a massacre, was an assistant in this work.  As nearly I can tell, she was never part of Blackfeet ceremonial life.

Because the actual "medicine pipes" are decorated with falconry bells, glass beads, and satin ribbons -- with the occasional "stuffed" bird including a green parrot as on ours or a rooster on another -- alongside ermine skins and the entire tail feather fan of a golden eagle, they can't precede white contact, though to the indigenous people pipes felt like "always."  I don't know what the procedure was for accumulating the wrapped animal skins bundled with the calumet, but they would have been easily acquired in early days.  I always thought of them as a hymnal since their use was as prompters for specific songs and dances connected to that animal.

The colorful central pipestem was appealing to collectors.  Few paid attention to the rest of the Bundle.  In addition, the Bundles in the homes of ceremonial elders were vulnerable to minor theft of bits that could be sold without recognition.  Some of the elders themselves were in the grip of addictions that commodified everything and everybody.  A few became enflamed Christians who came into homes and carried off Bundles to throw on a bonfire as though they were martyrs, which they were.  What remained went underground.

The reason Bob and I went into the Bundle circle in our different way was that he had grown up in Browning, as a child had been at ceremonies with entire innocence but not sent away, could even sing a few songs. When the anthropological understanding came to us it was through John Hellson, who was married to a Canadian Blckft woman, and Adolf Hungry Wolf, who was also married to a Canadian Blckft woman and lived in the old style in a cabin.  Hellson is dead now. Hungry Wolf, an Austro-Hungarian raised in California, put everything he knew into four massive books, one of which is entirely devoted to ceremonial matters.  Ryan Heavyhead is another in this married-to category as well as Canadian.  Narcisse Blood, now dead, was his partner.  

These people are in Lokensgard's bibliography.  So far as I can see, George and Molly Kicking Woman and Richard Little Dog, who were our main guides, are not mentioned.  Mike Swims Under, Curly Bear Wagner, Buster Yellow Kidney, and other accepted shamanic people are not in appendixes as informants, collaborators, or authors.  When the Province of Edmonton, which had bought the Scriver Collection, returned all the Bundles to the Blackft, they put them in the care of Alan Pard.  We didn't know him then, but I talked to him on the phone before his death. He was a well-qualified and aware man.

Technically, the Bundle is kept by both marital partners as a unit and from some points of view I remain a part-keeper of our Bundle.  It was stolen when Bob died --  never sold -- and the traditional way of putting it was that "it left" and that at some point, "it may decide to come back."  It is seen as sentient.

Lokensgard naturally turned to white academic "experts" like William Farr at the U of Montana and "curators" like Kirby Lambert at the Montana Historical Society.  They are white outsiders.  Enrolled Blackft informants were from established families who put emphasis on education, like the Bullshoe/Tatsey complex at the Blackfeet Community College.  Joyce Spoonhunter is related to Earl Old Person, Emeritus Chief of the Pikuni. 

Modern thought asserts that reality is a construct made up of experience and the interpretation of facts.  These differences in our pasts and contexts control how we see something like Blackft Bundles, right down to spelling.  On the Canadian side the "English" spelling of Siksika is Blackfoot and on the US side it is Blackfeet.  I choose to dodge that issue by leaving out both oo and ee.  I don't know how long I will evade the contrast between versions of "Bundles."  Maybe there is no need.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

THREE HONORABLE MEN

In a world  that often seems to be inhabited only by old fat rich white men, we almost lose a sense of what standard men we could respect are really like.  The feminists have seemed to insist that the alternative is blubbering weaklings who must be rescued all the time.  I mean, if even the English Queen's sons are seduced by child-girls and being dissolute in wealthy, corrupt groups, who is a prince?  Only a purple pop singer?  

From a surprising source comes a reminder.  It's actually an interview with Stephen Colbert as interviewee with Anderson Cooper asking the questions.  They are serious, frank, and address both religion and death in grownup terms, quotable.  For instance, Colbert depicts his mother's death as the "quiet closing of a door" to the past and memories.  But what seized the media attention is the fact that Cooper wept.  That says a lot about what this culture believes in as grief.

I've added David Brooks to this group for my own thinking because of his life-trajectory change and where it has brought him, which is no less than a new life.  He may be too liberal or in some way "soft" for others to like, but I do respect that he has found a way to be religious, progressive, and Republican against all tides and signs.  I think about him when I try to understand groups that sustain what I used to think of as culture, meaning that these men are attached to each other and the rest of the world without making them exclude each other.  His approach to the media is analytic but in a different way from Cooper's, which sometimes verges on "gotcha." 

This clip is introductory to the interview that intrigues people.

This is the link to the whole first half of the interview.

Where are we going?  Clip discussing Trump:

"This is a "Tweet" from 'Anderson Cooper 360°.  It's reference to the point in the interview that confronts the most difficult question for Christians, one so prominent in trying to understand theory that it has a name as an entire discipline:  "theodicy."  The question of how a benign and protective god can allow such suffering in the world.

The quote:
You said "what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?" @andersoncooper, choking back tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they discuss grief.

"Yes," replies the comedian. "It's a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that."

Then Colbert goes on to say two things about suffering.  One is the importance of knowing as oneself that one is indeed suffering and that it is part of existence, an inescapable price.  The other is that one's own suffering opens one up to the suffering of others, meaning it sustains empathy which is part of being fully human.  

This is where it becomes relevant that Brooks searches for groups who are fully human and reaching out to others like them.  https://www.ted.com/talks/david_brooks_the_lies_our_culture_tells_us_about_what_matters_and_a_better_way_to_live  I think one could defend the idea that this was something like what Republican conservatism was once about..

Granted that these men are handsome, very well educated, employed and known as high status, and that their suffering has mostly been emotional.  Colbert and Cooper both lost their fathers at around age ten, before they reached the age of struggling with sex in society.  Both had exceptional mothers to whom they devoted themselves without being captured.  There are other differences and likenesses.  Both lost brothers.

"In a recent Ted Talk, published July 3, 2019, Brooks speaks about his views on the state of culture and relationships in America today. In a speech that surprised many long-time followers of Brooks, he shares his experience with loneliness, and how it led to his reevaluation of what is important to focus on in one's life.  Brooks shares about Weave, a social reform project that he is involved in."  He has a degree from the U of Chicago as well as being on their Board of Trustees.  (I have an MA from the U of Chicago.)

Colbert graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in theatre where I graduated from the same department three years before he was born.  That means he missed my two most powerful professors:  Paul Schilpp, a former Methodist humanist, who taught Philosophy of Religion; and Alvina Krause, an acting teacher who ran a summer theatre.  Anderson Cooper would have loved her.  Colbert's personal outlook comes from reading Tolkien completely and obsessively.  There's currently a film but I'm not sure how relevant it is.  Link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZ1vn85iQRE  The official trailer.  It's a bit "Downton Abbey" when it's not "Game of Thrones."

The Brits are in as much embroiled in danger and embarrassment as we Yanks and even the Canadians, which is what Brooks was originally.  All of us need to keep in mind what grown men used to be like, both emotionally and rationally, how they found resources for coping and then shared them with others.  They weren't tempted to spend a lot of money on their houses and airplanes, nor did they find it desirous to torture pretty women in whatever shades of gray,  I don't think they bought paintings of male presidents wearing blue dresses and red shoes nor would they be particularly amused to see one.  They have their down sides but they are not despicable.

These were white public men most of us respect -- they had standards and they became "standards", which became exclusive. That became demonic.  I think about them with affection and respect. We shouldn't forget them even if those of us who are different struggle to find our own strengths.  These three would not turn away people who have honor or are in struggle.


Friday, August 16, 2019

LITTLE GRASS AIRPORTS

The 2% of my brain that is conscious struggles with the rest of my mental and emotional life, which is inconveniently hidden.  Just a bit ago this tweet came up on Twitter.  It's from Virginia Heffernan and very useful.  "As a commenter just pointed out, this emotional connection—the activated parasympathetic nervous system—only happens when two bodies share space. And within a pact of non-exploitation (mocked as “safe space”) that used to be the baseline for any civilized interaction."

"I’d further add, without I hope getting too weird, that this kind of synching is made more difficult when faces & bodies are distorted w/uncanny cosmetics or cosmetic surgery. Trump’s matte orange complexion codes as inhuman (or, for fans, superhuman) . . .

My starter for this story about two people interpreting wolves has a old woman artist -- like me, except so far too bland and virtuous -- and a writer whom I've identified as Black.  Which means that I've slipped up. I'm too close to writing something socioeconomic about underclasses.  I've assumed that this Black man is somehow disadvantaged and "coming up," when it would be better to let the old woman be the underclass and build an elite, wealthy Black man, a Matthiessen type instead of a political rebel.

But there are also objects and territories.  Before I woke up the second (or third) time this morning I was dreaming with great reality that I was in Wyoming (the only Western state wilder and less populated than Montana) which had fallen into such chaos that "Tennessee" and Tennessee banks had taken over the state.  In reality it is the state of Montana that threatens to take over the county of Glacier which is practically rez and between Pondera (my county) and Canada. 

So I'm still working on the nature of society and trying to understand how individuals can survive in it.  The wolf pack vs. the lone wolf.  How do we get to "a pact of non-exploitation" as Heffernan puts it.  How can I work into the story a "wolf mask"?  Does it relate to the artist's dog or her friend Max who is indigenous and was asked to put up her lodge?  Is it about painting the lodgeskin with the mask of a wolf?  I don't want faux ndn woo-woo.

At 4AM I woke up and wrote the following about airplanes and artists.  Should I keep it or dump it?  So far it's only raw material, memories.

The Valier "airport" is just a few blocks south of me.  It's just a flat pasture, with a windsock, a newly renewed tight barbed-wire fence, and some shed hangars to keep small planes from blowing away.  A small flock of grouse raises their babies in the grass there in spite of cats.  During WWII it was an active place with a landing beacon that became a "lighthouse" restaurant, now closed after a stellar career as a dinner restaurant.  The lake -- parallel to the airport -- was considered capable of accepting seaplanes.  Today it's a fishing spot, as active for ice fishing in winter as for small boats in summer.  

For a while there was a mysterious unmarked helicopter that would often land there for a couple of hours and rumours about what it was swept the town.  One schizophrenic citizen developed an entire fantasy about black helicopters which rose out of the lake next to the airport and stole children.  Then it turned out that the pilot was a guy employed for something -- I forget what.  Checking irrigation ditches or counting grizzlies -- something like that.  His mom lived close by, and he had gotten into the habit of going to her house for lunch.

No one has ever landed on the grass runway and walked down to my house, but they could.  We think of airplanes now as big commercial airlines with monster machines on elaborate developments.  We forget that barn-stormers like my uncle in South Dakota could keep a small plane maintained and covering territory, except in Alaska where there are no roads.  He delivered the family business of ag machine parts.

In the Sixties when the Scriver Studio was more about taxidermy than sculpture, small planes flew into a field near Starr School, ten miles from Browning.  Bob had painted "Museum" on the roof so pilots could buzz us or we could be called by the Cut Bank sheriff who had a radio tuned to their slightly bigger airport.  Hunters returning from Alaska or coming to fetch their finished products would have enough money to be short on time.  Browning is near the Canadian line, a long drive by highway.  That continued with high-dollar sculpture customers.

The memory that came back when I began to think about this wolf story was not about wolves at all.  Harry Jackson was a "cowboy artist" like Bob and we had just met him in Cody at the Buffalo Bill Museum, not yet the major complex people now sometimes call the Smithsonian of the West.  Harry looked more like Bob than his own brother, and was completely unthreatened by Bob, though Harold McCracken meant Bob to intimidate Harry because of Buffalo Bill politics.  There was no time to talk in Cody, so Harry simply flew up to spend a couple of days.  He and Bob immediately formed a deep bond, not just about the sculptures but also because somehow they were alike.

Harry's past is sort of gussied up in documents.  He was born near the Chicago stockyards but his grandmother did not run just a café.  He was commercially abused from toddlerhood, which contributed to his five marriages, all to prominent and well-heeled women as near as I could tell.  But he was immensely charismatic with a ranch near Cody and a classic atelier in Italy.  During WWII he'd been a combat photographer on a South Pacific island and, suffered a head wound which meant persistent epilepsy.  While he was with us, his Italian foundry foreman ran off with one of his wives.

In the last years before his death, he entered a kind of therapy with a female counselor who inspired him with a vision of the universe.  He put this on CD discs and sent me a set.  I listened, was confused about what to do with them, and simply stored them.  They weren't the sort of thing that sold bronzes.  I should get them out and listen again.

Maybe I was dreaming about small airplanes because of noise coming from our nearby landing strip.  It's a much more welcome sound than the thunder of big C-series planes from Malmstrom flying high to practice because they say the east slope is not too different from parts of Russia.  It was a full moon last night.