Friday, November 30, 2018


The first "books" I want to note are not "codexes" -- that is, not printed pages bound in a cover -- because my experience with Canada has been founded on ecology -- the high northern prairie.  

HEAD-SMASHED IN BUFFALO JUMP.  This museum was formed a little late after the others got all the "best" artifacts and the original peoples began to ask for their stuff back, so its displays are highly technological.  The book that goes with this place and explains it in depth and carefully, is published online by Athabasca University Press   

This a foundational book, an insight into community working together in a way far more complex than anyone suspected.

THE TYRRELL MUSEUM IN DRUMHELLER  The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a Canadian tourist attraction and a centre of palaeontological research.  Dinosaurs, mega-mammals, careful video explanations and picturing, all on the same ground where the fossils were found.  There are many books on these topics.


Common & Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains by Theodore Binnema  This book explains how it has all worked together: the people, the land, the animals, through history from the beginning.

The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 by Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council with Walter Hildebrandt, Dorothy First Rider, and Sarah Carter. McGill-Queen's University Press

Hugh Aylmer Dempsey, CM is a Canadian historian, an author and the Chief Curator Emeritus of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. Dempsey has authored more than 20 books, focusing primarily on the history of people of the Blackfoot Confederacy.  I list him instead of his books because there are so many books, about 20.  The is the list printed by Wikipedia.
  • Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfeet, (The Civilization of the American Indian Series, v. 122), Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 1972. ISBN 0-8061-1025-2
  • Red Crow, Warrior Chief, Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1980. ISBN 0-8032-1657-2
  • Indian Tribes of Alberta, Calgary: Glenbow-Alberta Institute, 1979. ISBN 0-919224-00-8
  • History in their Blood : The Indian Portraits of Nicholas de Grandmaison, Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 1982. ISBN 0-933920-32-6
  • (editor) The CPR West: The Iron Road and the Making of a Nation, Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1984. ISBN 0-88894-424-1
  • Big Bear : The End of Freedom', Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 1984. ISBN 0-88894-506-X
  • Gentle Persuader : A Biography of James Gladstone, Indian Senator, Saskatoon : Western Producer Prairie Books, 1986. ISBN 0-88833-208-4
  • Bibliography of the Blackfoot, (with Lindsay Moir), Native American bibliography series, no. 13. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8108-2211-3
  • The Amazing Death of Calf Shirt and Other Blackfoot Stories : Three Hundred years of Blackfoot History, Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8061-2821-6
  • Tom Three Persons: Legend of an Indian Cowboy, Purich Publishing Ltd, Saskatoon SK, 1997. ISBN 1-895830-08-7
  • Charcoal's World: The True Story of a Canadian Indian's Last Stand, Canada Fifth House Publishers, Calgary, AB, 1998. ISBN 1-894004-20-5
  • Firewater: The Impact of the Whisky Trade on the Blackfoot Nation, Calgary: Fifth House Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-894004-96-5
  • The Vengeful Wife and Other Blackfoot Stories, Norman: University Of Oklahoma Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8061-3550-6
  • The People of the Buffalo. The Plains Indians of North America. Essays in Honor of John C. Ewers, vol 1 & 2, co-editor with Colin F. Taylor, Tatanka Press, Wyk auf Foehr, 2003 (vol. 1), 2004 (vol, 2). ISBN 3-89510-101-X (vol.1) 3-89510-102-8 (vol.2)

Adolf Hungry Wolf and his former wife, Beverly Hungry Wolf, are not listed by Wikipedia because the Wikis are snobs who are above the controversies they don't know, but his four-book masterpiece, "The Blackfoot Papers" is expensive but indispensable for studying the tribe.  It is focused on Amskapi Pikuni with original documents and many photos previously unknown.  Every library in Treaty 7 country should have a set. The Canadian and US parts of the original tribe need not be separated.  Hungry Wolf's books began as humble home typed and stapled books sold to tourists but grew in stature over the years.  He lives on the West side of the Rockies in BC in a house he and Beverly built.  It has no running water or electricity.  He runs his computer with a solar panel.  This website lists his books, Beverly's books, and has a link for notifications of new books.  "The Blood People", about the tribe where Beverly is enrolled, is for sale on Amazon for $2.99 hard back.  Christmas present?  Beverly is remarried and writing again.  Adolf has never stopped but likes to write about railroads as well.  Whatever you think about whether he's entitled to write about original peoples, he has a solid university education and his information is from the grassroots.

John Hellson was another white man embedded in Treaty 7.  He was an oral culture sort of guy, but his papers are in the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

I include these two writers as examples of writing that is overlooked or rejected because of political issues, so it's easy to think that the information doesn't exist.

Turning to fiction novels, visit  This website shows the value of controversy since the arguments over Joseph Boyden gave rise to this list.  They aren't all Treaty 7, but who is or is not from Alberta is as controversial as who is or is not "aboriginal" or even the argument over whether "aboriginal" is a nice word.  The culture in question was always oral until now and they still have a lot to talk about.

I'll pick up some more Treaty 7 books in later posts.  But I'm not Blackfeet, I'm not Canadian, and I'm not male or academic.  I'm just here. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018


This conversation linked below is one I've waited for a long time.  In a way I shouldn't comment so that their ideas will remain theirs and can't be diverted by a white woman.

On the other hand, I taught their parents and that should be worth something, if only the right to comment.  There are only a few of us and I don't know which others would stick their necks out.  Maybe I should point to Barbara W. whose son-in-law created a fat economic niche by organizing "trick riders" to be authentic "Indians" in movies.  She knows more about your parents than I do, but who interviews her?  (Who has written an exciting tale about a trick rider on a movie set?)

What I'm offering is not bossy stuff, but history.  In 1903 Thad Scriver came and built a mercantile store in Browning that supported two families for decades.  When Bob Scriver was told by his parents that Harold would "get" the store but they would pay for Bob to go to school, he chose music and came back to Browning to deliver state champion bands.  Ask Earl Old Person.

When I came in 1961, the political scene in the USA was almost as bad as it is right now.  Been following Rachel Maddow's blog, "Bag Man" about the Nixon corruption and law-breaking?  Did they tell about Martha Mitchell trying to blow the whistle and getting locked up in a "hospital"?  That's when I knew to keep my mouth shut.  Even now.

I never taught Darrell Kipp or Elouise Cobell, but I knew them.  They were only a little younger than me.  Darrell said that every local tribal house he went into had certain photos on the wall and one of them was Martin Luther King, another was JFK, and the third was Jesus.  Of course, all were assassinated heroes.  

Elouise started humbly keeping tribal books, learned finance, learned banking, and made friends with big shots in national banking.  Her lawsuit for the trust money of the American tribes was about as big a deal as possible and one many people thought was impossible.  Darrell and Elouise are dead, but their photos should be on the walls of homes.  The relevance here is that they didn't do this with academic degrees, though they had them.  Rather they just learned from the people who did what interested them, and the ideas interested them because they understood they were important.  They weren't assassinated -- they wore out.  It's hard work.

You don't need an academic piece of paper, though they're a good thing.  You need to learn how to listen and how to think.  The best universities teach that.  Darrell's information came crucially from indigenous people in Hawaii and New Zealand that he got to know at fund-raising events he attended to avoid the government leash.  He saw how to organize Piegan Institute.  When there was trouble, he called them for advice and they knew what to tell him.  Rosalyn LaPier was the spark for the summer seminars showcasing tribal academics.

There is no reason BCC can't have writers' workshops.  Or a publishing arm.  But more than a year ago I ordered a book from Browning Public Schools, one written by a teacher about local animals, and they took my money but no book came.  I called every now and then for months.  But it never came.  Shrug.  Completion is not a high value.

You three men are more assimilated than most people on the rez -- in fact, you're more "assimilated" as in "civilized" than many white kids in Valier or Cut Bank.  That is, you're dependable, you tolerate people of many kinds, you know a lot of jokes and have a lot of relatives, which are both a kind of wealth.  Each of you sees the rez through a different lens, focused on the rez community where you grew up: edge of the wilderness, resort town, coulee ranch -- converging somewhat in Browning, mostly because of athletics.  The internet still won't work in a lot of rez places.

Decades ago I used to shake my head over the tribe letting all the Scriver sculptures get away into the hands of the Montana Historical Society and assorted white crooks.  Then I stopped because the present welded sculptures are more real, more far-seeing, and more accessible.  But you haven't made it a point to discover how Bob putatively left millions to his soon-dying fourth wife -- not how he signed over the accumulation, but how he accumulated it in the first place.  The skills were not academic.  We sat out on the front porch and used a clicker to count every out-of-state car.  If they didn't stop, we put up a tipi.  If that didn't work, we brought in an old wagon running gear.  The next bait was a horse tied out front.  If they came in to the museum's front room, we kept track of how many went into the museum, etc.  That is, we were always analyzing.  It was old salesman stuff, nothing to be proud of.  Most artists couldn't do it.

Some of the success was situational.  Browning's Highway 89 is the beginning of the Al-Can highway, which had just completed when Bob opened.  The many housing projects started by JFK also fed into the economy.  One of the best innovations was Siyeh, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the tribe which was small and nimble and kept good books.  Thunder Radio - KBWG LP - FM 107.5 - Browning, MT -- sometimes streaming online.  Video crews?  Lots of stuff if you think about it.

But there is a cautionary tale from Heart Butte.  Someone got a grant for a small custom sewing business, set up the building and hired the seamstresses.  There was a broker/salesman, an experienced white man who found contracts.  One was for filters for tanks, I remember.  But the need for seamstresses never quite matched the amount of goods to produce -- people took time off, manufacturers went a different route, and eventually the place shuttered.

I do not want the history of all these economic ventures being reduced to one pencil factory and one tipi burner.  Fire-fighting is professionalized and effective -- they will not run out of work in the coming years as the planet warms.  Casinos?  I dunno.

You are very different people than your parents and grandparents were.  I remember them.  I feared a few -- loved a few.  They were real.


As a child I was indignant over the injustice of being told to "go to sleep" when that was out of my control.  Nor did I wake up because I intended to.   Even adults can't always go to sleep just because they want to.  More than ninety per cent of what goes on in a body is not conscious, or is unconscious until we think about it -- like breathing.  Blood circulates, the lumps that are organs do their stuff, nerves and muscles, a little more agreeable, mostly respond to commands, but bones are factories as well as structure. Guts are sometimes called a "second brain" because they are made from the same origin cells as the brain and react to every thought.

So one of the main concepts for managing the subconscious is understanding that it is the whole body that thinks.  The next step is that it "thinks" in concerted interaction with the environment.  Lakoff is careful to suggest that the interaction of metaphorical thought is predicated on the "frame" or context.  "Fire" means one thing at dinnertime and another at the rifle range.  A white bear means one thing at the Arctic and another in the zoo.  But both are conscious thoughts.  What's important is realizing that this context also matters to the subconscious and may be interacting without your knowledge.  Perhaps PTSD is a little too dramatic an example.

The point is that the subconscious/involuntary can be managed by consciously arranging the context.  If one is lying still in a safe place without much light or sound, sleep comes more easily.  Keying into this is habituation.  If one wears the same thing at about the usual time of day goes to a known familiar place, and if this is a repetitious act, the body soon accepts and even asks for it.  Good writers learn that building habits gets one's butt in the chair and fingers on the keys -- a big part of success.  At least there will be print to work with.

Particular postures, gestures, places, words are also part of prayer as a discipline.  If others are joining in, that makes the act more powerful.  The moral content or focus of address is less important.  Lighting a candle, steepling fingers, burning incense, kneeling on a prayer mat, can all be the means of habituation.  The content is conscious and sometimes contradictory in the strange algebra of reasoning:  “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness” -Banksy

The means of subconscious functioning cannot be called "thought" because it is "felt" but not "really" in concepts and words  -- it is really what CAUSES conscious or semi-conscious awareness of something -- is hard to understand when it comes to "thinking" because it is not something that happens in an organ like a purple slippery liver or a pink foaming lung, but rather something that happens WITHIN a cell.  The brain just looks like gray mush except for the white sheathing of fat insulation we call myelin to separate the electrochemical functioning between cells.  It can secrete, it can connect to other cells with filaments, it can accept and send messages.

Within each cell is a capacity to respond to something in or out of the body.  We know by experiment that rat cells can detect blindly and without touching whether the animal is next to a wall or a drop-off.  We know about human empathy in which seeing another human doing something, our brain faintly reproduces that movement in both brain and muscle, the striated kind that we normally use to dance.  But "smooth" or "involuntary" muscle is managed by the unconscious so that empathic emotion, which is usually felt and created by the involuntary muscles, can also be passed through watching or thought, often through the medium of story -- knowing what someone else is doing or feeling, what's happening to them.

Religious institutions supply both habituations -- coming to church on Sunday morning, pointing one's head towards a sacred spot, singing with others perhaps with lyrics that enforce dogma or story, supplying objects with major implications, impressive architecture -- and empathic morality.  But the same phenomena are supplied by environment and should best be echoed in the institutions in that place.

That is, those who have no closely held environment that is part of the habituation of their bodies to existence, are not as responsive to liturgy.  To those who have always lived in the forest, it is the mandala of looking upwards through branches to a glimpse of sky that has meaning.  To those who have always lived on the prairie with the sky all around and ever-shifting, this is the setting that strikes the chord of holiness.

And yet, quite apart from the known and familiar, it is the mysterious, dangerous, unpredictable unknown that also puts our unconscious into a state of alertness, both a hardening of known resources, and the possible learning of something unexpected.  This must be what drew ancient people deep into caves, accessed only by squeezing through apertures that might crumble closed, that might trap one in rising water.  The approach of death can make us vividly alive.  Or not.  If the cells are not strong enough to make the molecular awareness kindle, then we are numb.

What are we not managing through the subconscious/unconscious/
underconsciousness?  Freud discovered that the boundaries that keep thoughts under a lid will weaken as we transition from the unconsciousness of sleep to the consciousness of waking.  Children have loose and permeable boundaries.  Hippies rediscovered that impacting cells with foreign molecules of various kinds will bring in the previously unfelt and also reconfigure what was thought to be known.  LSD seems particularly effective in restructuring what was taken for granted, even if it was safety and confidence.

So there ARE ways of controlling the unconscious but we don't think of them.  A school of thought directs us to think of what assumptions will structure some things that in the process open up others.  Bars make spaces between.  What are the uses of spaces?  Walls create gates between binaries when they were intended to only preserve a unity without any alternatives.  Evil makes good in opposition.  Violence is often intended to be a wall.

Bodies work between guard rails or stream banks called illness or even death.  Too much water vs. too little water/too much food vs. starvation and so on, are the dangerous edges.  Subtly, molecularly, unconsciously, the unworded inchoate only pushes up conscious awareness when some action is needed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


In the twenty years since I withdrew from the urban world of Portland, OR, in order to return to the rural small town of Valier next to the Blackfeet reservation where I lived in the Sixties, a great deal has changed but in sneaky and surprising ways.  For instance, Browning, the "capital" of the Blackfeet rez, technically no longer exists and Valier has become a bedroom community as businesses wink out.

Browning in the Sixties was a double-yolked egg, on the one hand the locus of the federal authorization and control offices and on the other hand a center of Euro/white/"settler" business that was only there because of the feds, who at that time were white.  The town was defined as a lacuna in the rez in the same way that an embassy is defined as a bit of the sponsoring country's soil existing within the host country.  The laws and practices of the business part of town were regulated as though they were outside the rez, under the jurisdiction of the state.  Now they must relate to the tribe.

The previous order has ended.  Browning is no longer a "town" because that's defined by the state and so what the maps call "population centers" are becoming a rez lacuna in the state.  No one quite knows what that means.  The name of the struggle is "sovereignty" and the problem is whether a tribe can support itself in the face of federal raids on resources and persisting historical invader structures.  

Rez land is controlled by federal law overseeing the workings of the tribe, which is considered to be a cooperative or a corporation with shared ownership by the tribe.  One key problem was defining who the share-owners were since the idea of tribal belonging keeps changing as the generations expand on the baby end while diminishing on the grandparents end.  In turn, this was complicated as the influence of the larger culture diluted the organic unity of an ancient way of life based on fittingness rather than control.  And then the control of the industrial revolution transformed the use of the land -- sometimes the land itself.  The resources of the rez are being redefined.

A continuing tension in all communities is the individual versus the community, particularly when the individuals differ among themselves so much and the community has a hard time making itself a unified vivid entity.  In the case of the rez tribe, it struggles with various internal groups (Metis, Cree, white, and now Mexican) as well as the seductive literary "Orientalism" of fast, feathered, horseback riders from a past that may have never existed.  The domestic horse came as the bison went.

Valier was definitely controlled by the land, the east slope ecotone of altitude from high in mountains where snow accumulated to low and flat where ancient glaciers had scraped the prairie so it was treeless.  This natural architecture created the basis of irrigation that made dryland grain farming into a bonanza, somewhat released from the larger weather patterns like hail and high winds.  No one expected this to change from its steady "governance" of prosperity, but global warming has done that, along with global politics and directly altered genomes.  Wheat is not what it was.

So governance of human life is and has always been a struggle between organic natural order and imposed or derived rules created in a hierarchical manner with size dictating what's at the top.  Federal regulates state which controls county which affects city which imposes on domiciles and businesses.  Still, climate and terrain are bigger than federal.

In the Sixties, partnered with the City Magistrate and Justice of the Peace, who was in a constant struggle with ambiguous laws, irreconcilable justice, frank tragedy, and the assumptions of a white man raised in a red world, I was daily privy to discussions of specifics. In the Seventies I was inside the Portland government, seeing things from "behind the curtain".  This conversation persists in my head and colors what I read on the Internet.

I'm not alone., the scifi publisher posts an excerpt from a time-travel fiction version of this on-going thought question.

Twenty years of the past fifty years of my adulthood have been passed here -- thirty if you count the Sixties.  My personal time-travel.  Many people here have never had experience outside that twenty years or in a different place.  They still have not felt the drastic differences that have controlled their lives.  

Watching the Trump scandal unfold, those of us who are attentive have slowly realized that the problem is not just some evil or faulty individual who doesn't understand any world but his own.  Someone has said that Mueller is not after Trump OR Putin, but the boss of them both.  Behind them stands an alternative and effective government of the world, that of "mafia."  It is not plotted but organic and not so much based on wealth as networks of control.  Much of its power comes from secrecy, happening in plain sight but not recognized, exploiting capitalism in a way that destroys democracy because it excludes everyone who is not "made."  It is not /Jewish/Christian/Islam et al but is an institution just as big and full of assumptions, unconstrained by any oversight or written code.  It's modern history is short, mostly about escaping from nations.

Someone remarked, "Trump has no relationships -- everything to him is a transaction."  To a mafia this is true of everyone who is not "made" but inside the network the old ties of "blood" (genealogy), loyalty, and obligation remain strong.  Though there are prominent individuals who take leadership, the ultimate faithfulness is to the whole "family," so the elimination of individuals is regrettable but occasionally necessary.  Some people are personally safer if they are in jail, but their families are not.  Is their wealth safe?  Maybe not.

All of this becomes much sharper against a background of natural laws and fittingness that are torn apart by modern resource and technical development.  More and more people trying to live more and more apart with more and more elaborate lives have become combustible in the most literal way.  We are looking for systems of preservation.  In the search, nations come up short.  So does the Internet, fascinating as it is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


"The Weekly Sift"is a "Wordpress" blog,  "written by Doug Muder, a 50-something ex-mathematician who lives in Nashua, NH and hates writing about himself in the third person. (So enough of that.)"  He is educated in algebraic math and therefore cannot help seeing structure in everything, which is often enlightening.  It surely is in the book touted below.  Nov. 26, 2018

Muder is a specific kind of UUA from the humanist wing and writes for the UU World as well as other venues.  I consider that to be both progress and a handicap, since the world has moved on since both our Alma Mater, the U of Chicago, framed up its curriculum.  Both are rooted in the Enlightenment and militantly opposed to leaving it, though they'll let mysticism play around the edges.

"To speak of "polarization" is to assume symmetry. No fact emerges more clearly from our analysis of how four million political stories were linked, tweeted, and shared over a three-year period than that there is no symmetry in the architecture and dynamics of communications within the right-wing media ecosystem and outside of it."
- Benkler, Faris, and Roberts, Network Propaganda



Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics

Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts

This book examines the shape, composition, and practices of the United States political media landscape. It explores the roots of the current epistemic crisis in political communication with a focus on the remarkable 2016 U.S. president election culminating in the victory of Donald Trump and the first year of his presidency. The authors present a detailed map of the American political media landscape based on the analysis of millions of stories and social media posts, revealing a highly polarized and asymmetric media ecosystem. Detailed case studies track the emergence and propagation of disinformation in the American public sphere that took advantage of structural weaknesses in the media institutions across the political spectrum. This book describes how the conservative faction led by Steve Bannon and funded by Robert Mercer was able to inject opposition research into the mainstream media agenda that left an unsubstantiated but indelible stain of corruption on the Clinton campaign. The authors also document how Fox News deflects negative coverage of President Trump and has promoted a series of exaggerated and fabricated counter narratives to defend the president against the damaging news coming out of the Mueller investigation. Based on an analysis of the actors that sought to influence political public discourse, this book argues that the current problems of media and democracy are not the result of Russian interference, behavioral microtargeting and algorithms on social media, political clickbait, hackers, sockpuppets, or trolls, but of asymmetric media structures decades in the making. The crisis is political, not technological.


Originally this "left/right" stuff was a Brit invention to "balance" the peers of the realm against the town burghers and other former serfs.  That has evolved until now we have a rightish Senate dedicated to wealth and Ivy League schools which pretends to serve the "Middle Class" and an about-to-be-reimpowered House of Representatives which is close to "know-nothing" but also pretends to serve the "Middle Class."  The joke is that the middle class is in such disarray that it's hard to know who's really being served by anybody.

At least it appears that British Oxford can still get America by the neck and tell us a few things.  What this book does is try to push us all out of the ruts of the same old villains and assumptions and get us to look at the beneath-the-surface way of doing things that had made it so easy for outsiders to invade and persuade voters that they know how to make Paradise happen on earth despite all evidence to the contrary.  This is a data-based look at the way our media functions: trying to be balanced on the polite NPR liberal side (which introduces doubt and confusion) and pounding one strong nail on the volatile Fox right wing side (which sounds like winning to a lot of poeple.)  This is echoed in politics, which welcomed the atypical politicians like women and people of color because they were a relief -- they had made a commitment.

Political correctness took us off on a side-rail about words, encouraged by the idea that fancy educations like the French Algerian revolutionaries who pursued deconstruction was actually all about seeing the meanings under the words.  The words were full of hate, but the hate quickly migrated to the new euphemism -- would even if it were algebraic equations.

There has been failure to analyze and provide alternatives to gerrymandering, electoral college, capitalism, term limits, and demographics.  The white people (meaning old farts with bad eating habits and an unending greed during unending terms in office) feel they are in danger of extinction, which they are because they don't adapt.  The secret to being human, to surviving evolution is adaptation.  NOT power.  But no one can adapt to a moving target as the media presents to keep us interested nor can we go back to a 1950's world these guys love because they were young then.

The first book I read that used the Internet to make this kind of point was "A Billion Wicked Thoughts".  It was an inquiry into people's preferred porn based on a billion viewings recorded statistically.  Everyone was surprised by the results except the people in the business of providing porn.  The Cambridge Analytica scam was based on Facebook preferences the same way.  This kind of thinking is conventional for marketing so they can see what kind of toothpaste you will buy.

The surprise in this study was how different the left and right were politically in terms of METHOD, rather than content.  It wasn't that they thought people would want different things so much as that they responded to different kinds of presentation.  It's a very much needed idea because the media at present is in the middle of chaos in almost every aspect from ownership to financing to venue to social media versus professional reporters.

I keep narrowing the amount of news I have to process.  Facebook, the Great Falls newspaper, the radio (NPR and local), etc. all went.  This made me very atypical.  Am I in danger of becoming smug?  Possibly.

Monday, November 26, 2018


A two-sleep night is an old habit of mine. It dates back to Browning at the beginning of the Sixties when I was madly in love with Bob Scriver and a little scared of life, so I would go to sleep against his warm back in his bed, set the alarm for 3AM and walk home in the snow, then slide back into sleep until time to teach. The kids, of course, figured this out early and followed me, mocking, one night. It made no difference. In Browning there were always people awake and in the streets, walking somewhere. No one made a fuss because Bob was famous and the two of us were tending his art, not showing off or acting out. 

In the summer this far north, 4AM is dawn. Ever since then, I've wakened at 3AM, especially during the three circuit-riding years when I was living in the van and sleeping out there in various places, sometimes up a forest road and other times at someone's curb. There's a physiological element: most of the women in my mother's family need to pee at 3AM. It may be that about that time we also need to clear our subconsciousness. During the second sleep we dream. We have busy heads. 

Sometimes we solve problems in our sleep. The problem I've been struggling with this year has been figuring out what I want to survive my death and how to make it happen. (Just turned 79.) The curious part is that it's not my own personal existence that matters -- I sort of gave that up when I stopped expecting to write a famous book because the conditions in 2018 make that near impossible. But I did transition over to wanting a blog worth reading and maybe saving, which is now complicated by the social media trying to understand what THEY want to survive and how to make that happen. Federal prosecutions will be enlightening. 

Another complication is that most of the things I feel most intensely ought to be preserved are aspects of other people that I have already gone to considerable effort to save. The importance of genealogy and records of work have faded. When first I approached "retirement" my main survival tactic was poverty, to need only a bare minimum of money but to control that, own it. But now this little house may not survive unless I Ieave poverty aside enough to do repairs which means money. 

 When I bought this house it was in part to house some of the family remnants: photos, books, genealogical remnants. This was my mother's last concern: she spent her final years finishing albums, cookbooks (which my brothers burned at her death -- the recipes don't work now, esp. since I am diabetic.) I have some family furniture but it's a matter of convenience rather than sentimentality. 

The social mechanisms of preservation -- museums, archives, younger friends and relatives -- don't work. Museums are being challenged, called capitalist hoarding and white male self-aggrandizement. The archives are choking on papers and must spend money defending themselves against family who are either hiding something or expecting to exploit the materials. The younger people are simply not interested in old stuff. The Blackfeet want no white interference or even participation. 

 In these last years I've discarded a lot of people. Many have died, but many others are clinging to the way things used to be and I'm nothing like who I used to be. The vestiges of cowboy art mania are horrified that I don't keep on being Bob's wife fifty years after divorce and twenty after his death. The UUA is more of a club than a denomination but I take religious issues far too seriously. Environmental people and natural history people have shattered into sub-issues, but I value the broad view. 

So I'm awake at 3AM, wanting to go back to bed in order to warm up. Not troubled by Christmas issues because I'm not observant. Not worried about the fate of my only descendant, a niece, because she's more capable and mainstream than I've ever been. Knowing a full moon is shining on new snow. The cats are curled in sleep but will make room for me. 

At four AM it's 6AM on the East Coast and I'm eager, even anxious, to know what indictments have been unsealed. Who will join the frogmarch today? This both messes up my world-view and keeps me on Twitter, intent on watching Trump fall. Whether or not he comes down hard -- and he is susceptible to death by natural causes -- the rebuilding of the nation will be pretty interesting but it won't be on Facebook. After decades of warning friends and relatives to get off that platform, the evidence is finally coming out. it's indicative of institutional rot that churches cling to being on Facebook. 

Turning the mirror on myself, I realize that I have four books that are 85% finished. Partly, mostly in the book I call the "Flaming Chalice", the science is moving so quickly and deeply that I'm constantly having to rethink and rewrite my manuscript. Society at large is nowhere near keeping up. Churches remain socioeconomic and ethnic: it's in their flesh and bones. The one about water on the East Slope of the Rockies is the most pressing because it is framed by global warming. I don't know how to interface with an agent or publisher except through a finished manuscript, so obviously I'm the one who is preventing publication. 

Several books are framed and "published" as blogs and "Heartbreak Butte" -- which is both online as a blog and circulating as a PDF through a few "academic" sources like "Academia" and "Researchgate" -- are being read but not in America so much. It is also affected by socioeconomic and ethnic factors, some of them based on fantasies about indigenous people. 

Probably it is about time to find an American publisher for "Bronze Inside and Out", the biography of Bob Scriver, which does not appear on the "Montana" lists of books defined by Missoula thinking of friends. 

I could pretend I was at the beginning of a second stage of writing, except that the truth would be that there are many stages. I don't see an end yet, but a narrowing. For instance, I'm moving all posts about the Blackfeet rez to They amount to a book, but nothing like the bound and marketed accounts advertised.  People prefer what they already know.

Friday, November 23, 2018


Much of philosophizing about "religion" is vague, theoretical, and irrelevant, but my own jump in thinking is related to science. so I can make it here-and-now explanatory.  I'm talking about the shift from seeing "life" as a privileged class of entities, each self-contained though related to the generations, and arranged in a hierarchy of lives based on complexity and similarity to humans (anthropocentrism), to a sheet of existence patterned by interrelationships.  I'll consider a little demo based on my episode with a prescription provider this week.

A time glimpse.  In the Forties when I was a child, the doc was a neighborhood feature.  He lived a few blocks away and saw patients there.  He was an MD, highly respected and active in the community.  If you needed observation overnight, you slept in his family's spare bedroom.  When I had pneumonia, he came to our house, flipped me over in my bed, pulled up my nightie and gave me a shot of penicillin in the fanny.  When I had tonsillitis, he cut them out at his house with my mother standing by while I was etherized.  My mother felt she owned me, since she made and controlled me, so was it was product evaluation when he stood me naked on a table and said I had a sway back but high arches.

So my basic position on my existence as an entity was that I was faulty and belonged to my mother, who passed me to my husband when I married.  (My father was present but irrelevant.)  When I was married, I was a subsidiary of my husband whose value partly depended on me.  I came through with hard work and vision, but wasn't glamorous enough to suit him.  We both moved on, but I was set free.  And much less conventional.

But I was bonded to this landscape which meant accepting its terms, which can be harsh.  With Bob in the Sixties there were two local doctors: Doc West, a crack calf-roper in spite of the danger to his surgeon fingers, and Doc Marquette, a liberal humanist.  Both worked too hard and both eventually left.  The Indian Health Service had a rotating panel of docs, some time-limited.  None were native.  All were MD's.

In Portland at Animal Control my research was about the area, a confluence of two major rivers, as an interwoven complex of many kinds of life from Douglas fir to rickettsia, a form of life I had never known existed.  Because Portland was a port city, we knew that worldwide entities came and went, often through ship rats.  I didn't know until yesterday that leptospirosis, which we were warned about as AC officers and which is a worldwide soil bacteria often caught by dogs, is theorized as an historic first-contact plague that killed a major proportion of indigenous people on the east coast. We're more inclined to think of smallpox.  Brucellosis, a related zoonose, has been controversial in the management of domestic versus wild animals, notably between cattle and bison.  This was a hot topic in the environmental movement.

About this time Hans Selye's ideas about stress became popular, which led to ideas about resilience, which had a parallel in religion when it is taken as "how to live", so that harmony of heart, clean eating, and respectful movement through the world became keys to ecology, fittingness which is the real evolution rather than power.  And so on.  But the mainstream in the Western world has maintained the original idea of entities, each separate, interacting in a context.  They are fish in water where fish interact with water but cannot control what it is.  Instead they sell water rights.

There is one part of context that humans control and that is the Rule of Law.  Laws about health are meant to protect the community more than individuals.  That is, they are focused on plague, contagion, and -- now that we are a monetary capitalist culture -- on cost.  One is urged to get a flu shot because it is more cost effective in terms of emergency rooms dealing with severe cases.

Montana is a place where nature has coped with illness and insufficiency by letting individuals (fish, bison or humans) die, thereby keeping the community healthy and reproducing.  Humans are not happy with this, but we are not coping in a thoughtful way.  We let the babies in Yemen die of starvation that is unnecessary except politically.

When I was with Bob in the Sixties, it was common for professional health workers to be paid big salaries in independent practices.  A few used their wealth to dabble in art, to become "wheeler-dealers" with galleries.  They were a little shady in this fluid field, and that leaked over to their practises.  The next wave was consolidation of hospitals in the interest of saving money and supplying the major equipment had had become crucial.  Doctors slipped into being salaried employees.  Control went to administrators.  No longer were doctors patrons of art except in terms of high prestige decoration of institutions.

As more and more medical conditions became chronic and sustainable by constant monitoring and supplies of meds, the money moved to pharmacy who wanted to employ dispensing agents.  Newly created were the roles of "physician assistant" and "nurse practitioner" who did not so much diagnose or do surgery as sustain the stream of care for lower pay.  They were extensions of the pharmacist and insurance company.  People didn't die, but they sometimes lost quality of life, the most brutal example being dialysis.  Defining quality of life and accepting death are two concepts of concern to humans that are resisted by most providers of health care, particularly at the sub-professional (non-MD) levels.  Goals are community-conventional rather than independent-individual.

When I began googling through entries about the quality of health care, I was a bit horrified to discover that Montana is considered the WORST of all the states at detecting, regulating, and supplying good doctors.

Here's the evidence:

There are two ways I cope with this shortfall, except for brush-bys like this week's.  One is that I'm separate, individual, and in the sheet of life my behavior doesn't affect my "loved ones" because my extended family is detached and dispersed.  I have no children.  If I die my niece will have to cope -- if she wants to.  Montana is pretty efficient about absorbing the effects of ornery old individuals because there are so many.

The other factor is letting go of the fear of death.  I'm afraid of pain, dishonour, and other stuff that is a product of being alive, but death is only a freedom.  No more decisions, no more struggle, no more resisting control, no more cost.  Just gone.  If people I love are suffering, I let them go.  They are already deeply embedded in me.