Friday, January 31, 2020


I don't know what to say.  Today's vote is just wrong but not unexpected.  It may mean that Trump will consider himself cleared, but we are all abundantly aware that he's as guilty as sin, IS sin.  He's past deserving impeachment.  He has earned damnation.  Even his dementia cannot excuse his determination to serve Putin and erase Obama.  It's all I can do not to throw up.

But there's more.  This is a very long long game.

But not today.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


Twitter is not just for kids making jokes. It is a source and a place for discussion.  Recently individuals have been wrestling with the phenomenon of books written by Indians.  This quote below is not about that, but it sheds some light on why people are so emotional and angry about it.


"Jan 29  TWITTER
Here's a fascinating reflection on the lessons from the 1960s left that can help today's left. Especially: when politics becomes like a religion, it builds fervor but interferes with building a winning coalition. From @JohnBJudis


I suggest a line of thought based on the quote above from Twitter.

This is about Native Americans, not in the Sixties when there was so much ferment and Indians began to participate, but about the 17th-century American social forces, specifically  "the American Protestant sects who imagined themselves as congregations of visible saints in a sinful world."  These are the people who imposed their world view on the quite different understanding of the tribes and who felt they had a license to use force, either as missionaries or as military.  People who wanted to survive came to agree with this point of view.

Writing and the "codex" form of books as sheets of paper between covers, are not pre-white phenomena in the indigenous world.  One of my students from the Sixties accepted the white position that this was a sign of inferiority and when I pushed back with Aztec or Inca writing and even other systems of memory, he would not accept them. He used it like the recurrent nonsense that it was a sign of inferiority like failure to invent the wheel, that oral story was not as valuable as a book, though stories saturate indigenous life.

The codex form of the Bible has become more real than the contents.  Codexes have become symbols of education.  The ability to read meant using English and closing out all indigenous people who could not read the documents that determined their fate.  Reading was power, thus it was forbidden to teach slaves to read.

So it was the mythic symbolizing of the specific form of writing that is a "book" in codex form that gives this fascination with "writing a book" a kind of power.  The power of the missionary is folded into the power of the government.  Creation of a world becomes possible.

"Books" were made accessible by the invention of the printing press, which was an early entry in the industrial revolution.  Benjamin Franklin ran a print shop that employed full blood tribal people who could read and assemble print on "sticks" for the machine to press on paper.  Interacting with "Indians" gave Ben ideas drawn from tribal organization and negotiation.

In the 19th century world when the reservations were formed, which gave the Protestants leverage over the Catholic missionaries, the Bible was prominent, books were valued, but none were produced on reservations except among the Cherokee, who assimilated early.  For the others, they remained something from the "outside" white world that belonged to whites. But for the early visitors, esp in the West, writing a book after visiting the "Indians" in the 19th century convention of exploration, was a way of recovering cost and increasing prestige.  Or, like Emerson and Thoreau, they could give speeches. Even when I was a child in the Forties and Fifties of the 20th century, the public lecture -- possibly accompanied by film -- was popular until TV ended all that.

The rise of the middle class meant that more women could read, they were inclined to read novels, and they were curious about "Indians."  This has continued.  Women like Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maude Montgomery wrote repetitious books about a kind of mythology, that being exceptional could raise people out of poverty.  Women were interested in poverty and the burden of progressive improvement of the state of others fell on them.  Dickens and Mark Twain also profited from this.  They call it "misery lit."

So, the existence of books as a kind of magic instrument, as a sign of prosperity while feeling good about sympathy for lesser folks, and as a way of turning verbal story into a sales object that conveyed merit and virtue, belonged to the class that meant well.  

Today the existence of books is changing rapidly.  Pocket computers make a library invisibly present.  They might be oral.  Reading is taught to many people, but not the habit to sit down and concentrate on a body of print that records thoughts.  The wealth that used to come from major money advances for an author expected to sell well, is now gone, and in fact, though the money-up-front lingered a while supporting "big bucks" in Hollywood, now movies can be made by kids with video cams.  "Bonanza" was only a ranch.

I'm saying the power of books was once the power of the missionary who claimed virtue, the power of the explorer (disguised as an anthropologist) who told wonderful tales in a world before media, the power of the speculating producer of books, and the late dwindling power of the industrial revolution (printing press) yielding to technology  (the computer screen).  That's why this argument is not in books but on social platforms.

DRK used to worry that so few people on reservations actually read, even about themselves.  He used to say that when he went into homes there would be one shelf, maybe on the wall over the bed, holding the most sensational paperbacks of the time, written by the least literary of scandal-mongers.  You can hardly buy a book on the rez. The ones about "Indians" are still read by left-wing, progressive, do-gooder suburban white women.  

A newer category of readers is rez people who have gone to grad schools big enough and concerned enough about Indians to invite (even subsidize) them to study "English" as it is taught now, which is often dominated by French "hermeneutics of suspicion," thus the violent hatred of the colonial pattern of government, dependent on raiding and dominating "lesser" people.  This is a huge source of energy and identity, revision and revenge, but it doesn't exactly offer a path forward.  Neither is it admired by the people back on the rez who are still working out the end of the 20th century in terms of jobs and self-regulation that take up their days. 

I'm saying the days of making a lot of money and garnering a lot of prestige by writing a book are about gone.  That pattern has moved to sports, esp. basketball and bull-riding, but not for girls.  They can pick up a bit of action from romance but the zing has gone out of porn -- it's only kink now.  We need a path forward, on or off the rez, "Indian" or not, male or female, miserable poverty or not.  But one must learn to read in order to have directions.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020




Since there's been a kafuffle on Twitter about autochthonous/indigenous writing, I'll use it to talk about what guides lives once an individual is established as mature (after 26, we're told, for the pre-frontal lobe of the brain where are located the ability to prioritize information, form morality, and make "executive" decisions about who to be and how to act.)  Survival cares less about this than the maturity of the ability to reproduce which comes as much as a decade earlier which turns out to have bad consequences.  Even worse, in some situations, the life span of many people is less than the age of maturity, particularly in times of war when young men are killed in great numbers or in places where there is no gestation and birth care so that many women die young.  They have no chance to write from the wisdom of old age experience.

But if people have longer lives, they organize into families, neighborhoods, clubs and clans, affinity groups, employment groups,  Some want to see groups as tribes, which they equate with species.  The definition of species is in question these days because it was originally based on the idea that if two kinds mated, they would be infertile so they must be organically, genomically, different.  This turns out to be untrue. Now no one is sure what a species is. Some people still think it's like breeds of livestock, but they can cross-breed.

Nor do cultures turn out to be so separate from each other.  Usually there is a central uniqueness created by the time and place where the people have been for a long time, then a circle around them -- maybe their children -- who still identify with that central model, mostly.  Then a looser circle that isn't quite different enough to separate, and another circle outside that who are coming and going with divided allegiances.  

Before the next adjacent cultural circle, there mayl be people who are on their own.  Not a definite line of in and out, but a graded variation.  In the case of African Blacks, defined by skin color, there is a range of size and shape among tribes from pygmy to Watusi, from Nigerian bookkeepers to hunter Masai.  But who can sort them out by culture or even body type when it's not even easy to decide at what point Black skin becomes white enough to pass?  Some people made color cards like paint chips or lipstick shades so they'd have a reference between dark skin and a decent suntan.  Yet we cling to such an iffy way of making distinctions.

When it comes to Blackfeet, in the Sixties when I came it was pretty easy to tell that the oldest ones I knew were full-bloods.  Chewing Black Bone, Old Jim Whitecalf, Louis Plenty Treaty,  Molly and George Kicking Woman, Louis Fish, and so on were plainly quite unlike immigrant groups, Swedes or red-headed Irish and so on.  But now, generations later, some either need documents or explanations to say what race they are and no one can explain what that race means except entitlement to money and voting.

Writing is not a matter of race but a matter of human imagination. It is a print art about getting in touch with what some other being is living through, maybe a different species like a grizzly or maybe a different person like an Auschwitz survivor of great age in Manhattan.  No one says one can't tell the story of a dog, imagining what that dog thinks and remembers, unless one is a dog.  There are famous stories about or "told by" dogs.

And yet they do:  ""What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" is the name of a philosophy paper written by Thomas Nagel in 1974. ... Nagel argues that consciousness has a subjective aspect, and that understanding other mental states is difficult or impossible for those not able to experience those mental states. Nagel chose bats for a reason."  They can fly, they are noctural, and their acoustic sense is extremely sensitive.

Here's a discussion of the dilemma that is so elevated and philosophical that it's not very possible to understand.  Luckily, there are pictures, which help a little bit.  But this is the elevated Ph.D. notion about being able to really understand each other or others not even human.

The idea of preserving the category of "Native American" is a good one.  Even better is the idea that the experience of any human that is close to the forces that created a native of America in the first place will take that person closer to understanding subjectively, even becoming like them.  Those forces are likely to be a specific ecology.  This means that it would be difficult for a Seminole to imagine being a Navajo or a Navajo to imagine being a Chinook, or any tribe of today to understand an indigenous person who lived in the same place before 1492.  But since they are human, they can do it.

For a person who claims an identity as an "Indian," it is meaningless without knowing which one, where, when.  An identity is a process.  Even being one kind does not mean that person has the ability to decide who is entitled and who is not, except by resorting to the same standard as the US government, who found themselves in so much hot water over the attempt to set a standard that they delegated the whole concept to the individual tribes, as if they didn't already have enough trouble.

Having found an identity to inhabit, one that is somewhat mythified into a kind of supra-race (pan-Indian) with special qualities, individuals become invested in keeping others out by whatever means they can find, and don't understand that they are denying a major part of humanness, the empathy of sharing.  They claim for themselves the Euro concepts of "owning," borders, and aristocracy while trying to deny the existence of the Euro idea of wealth privilege, which was imposed on tribes in terms of money, per capita, and subsidies.  Ironically, out of this sense of superior identity comes an arrogance that is quite at odds with the romance of the mythic super-Indian who is humble and humanist, rather like the liberal version of Jesus while all the time acting like a right wing Nero deciding who is in and who is out.

So there is a plot for someone to write into a novel, about a snotty little indigenous girl rebelling against an awkward adoption into a white family who in her resentment-based choices finally discovers her inner continuity with all humans, a pan-humanity.


Wrapped in my own silk wings, hanging securely in the dark with all the others, head down full of blood and dreams.  Someone is unwrapping, flapping, slapping, falling down and out the cave door.  Time to eat. Moon is full. Insects glitter flitter tickle my acoustics.  Dive. Swerve. Pivot.  Pfft. This one's sour. Chase that one moving fast. It's crunchy. Heehee.  Next no taste, fluff, sounded wrong anyway.  Hup. Tastes like blood -- must be a skeeter. Too much traffic -- go higher. Wall. Roof. Chimney. Higher. Tree.  Bugs high in the sky.  Try. No sound. No ping. Silent bugs -- go higher. Not moving.  Bugs too high. Go higher.  Blacking out.  Falling.  Back to the cave.  Wrapped in my own silk wings. Others all around.  Dreaming about bugs that can't be reached.  Silent.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


The most recent science is confounding and terrifying as it tries to completely rewrite what we know about the world.  The 19th century people were so confident that they had found and named most of the living beings and had them all sorted into boxes.  Then the boxes exploded.  All the stuff we thought was unique and assigned turned out to be processes, not even objects with predictable known qualities.  We already knew that the American animals were often misnamed because the Europeans called them according to the Euro experiences, not least being the "Indians" who are not from India.

But the biggest mistake is not understanding that all these categories are processes, even "Indians".  We have to come up with new names for them.  They are time-streams, edited and moved as things unfold.  As individuals, native Americans in the indigenous sense, change as they mature.  We can accept that mostly, though some essentialists want to make early identities permanent.  What's much more difficult is the idea of communities changing.  And more difficult than that is the idea of the planet changing, because the time frames are long. 

Let's take an explosive sub-category of a hot topic: "Indian artifacts."  One of the most interesting books I read when I was researching Sacred Bundles was an old (1904) ethnological research paper reprinted and published by the U of Nebraska Press.  It's called "The Hako: Song, Pipe, and Unity in a Pawnee Calumet Ceremony."  The original was written by Alice C. Fletcher, assisted by James R. Murie.  Both of them were old-fashioned anthropologists and meddlers in governing of "Indians."  Few "disciplines" -- the name-box for kinds of thoughts -- are changing as quickly as anthropology, partly because of scientific reinterpretation of humans and partly because of political points of view.  The book is about the development of Pipe Bundles, how they were first designed, and how they spread.

The story is parallel to the development of the present Catholic Mass when the Judaic idea of studying text while praying was joined to Jesus' directions for Communion.  As the years passed, the natural shape of liminal space for deep meaning developed, taking in new ideas (the Passing of the Peace, genuflecting) and dropping out less important ones.  As the People moved, they picked up some practices and forgot others.

DRK used to speak of the "hydraulics of the tribes" which referred to the named groups of people (identified at first contact by Euros or by "nicknames" from adjacent tribes, not always flattering).  The term meant that as outsiders pushed in from the East Coast, they forced the original people to move West, which bumped other people out of their own territories, and when disease or war decimated a tribe, they sometimes threw in with another.  But if things went well and a tribe expanded, it might split and separate to slightly different territories.  This is true of animals as well.  The "Hako" or calumet, a sacred long pipe with a feathered shaft, was a response to this, spreading through time and space from one tribe to another. 

The original "Hako" of 1904 which is pictured on the original cover of the first book is relatively simple with fewer embellishments and no talk of a Bundle.  The Blackfeet "Thunder Pipe Bundle" in the Sixties was much more elaborate and included skins of animals, each indicating a song and dance.  Materials include the full tail of a Golden Eagle, brass falconry bells, the ribbons, and the skin of a remarkable bird.  The Sacred Pipe we cared for had the green skin of a parrot that had been prepared by a taxidermist.  You can see it in the book Bob Scriver self-published, "The Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains."  The major part of the book does not discuss materials but rather is interested in the structure and content of the ceremonies that went with the Hako.

Scriver's book includes other smaller and simpler Bundles with special significance.  One was full of surgical hemostats that looked like scissors except that they had a clamp at the point that opened and shut.  We were puzzled until a person came along who did quill work and explained that they were very useful for doing quill work.  They were bundled to keep them together.  But since everything creative has spiritual significance, it was legitimately called "Sacred."  Blackfeet had always carried their materials in bundles and parfleches rather than boxes.  Humans have always saved objects with special meaning for them.  

Scriver tried to claim the process of making Sacred Bundles when he made a lodge of his own, the one on the cover of his book. (above)  The theme was the badger and most of the content of the Bundle came from a dream he had, undoubtedly his subconscious as poet.  I wrote a paper about it.  So had he become a Blackfeet?  He was born on the rez, raised on the rez, lived there all his life except for military service and college, but was buried in Cut Bank, just off the rez, when he had asked to be buried about where this Badger Lodge is pitched in the photo.  Was he a pretendian?  His parents had no indigenous genes, if you believe there is such a thing.  Euro-style rather than heart-style, he was buried with his family.

When I was serving as Unitarian clergy, I tried organizing a bundle and asked the people to bring precious things to use in the way Blackfeet used animal skins of various species, forming a kind of hymnal reminder since each species had a dancing song.  My experiment didn't work, because this aspect of religion is a community function, not from individuals.  What did work, almost to the point of overwhelming everything else, was lighting candles dedicated to important issues, people, events.  At first it was the idea of lighting something inside the chalice, a candle or small fire because of the metaphor adopted from John Hus' martyrdom in defence of free speech.  That was our "Bundle."

I'm saying that community-shared religious positions (which only occasionally include "faith" in the sense of commitment) are often centered on an image, a poetic representation with immense emotional power.  Both the Blackfeet Bundle and the flame in the chalice are examples.  Despite morphing over time and space, they are simple and vital enough to survive as long as their meaning is remembered.  They are processes based on place markers, the icons that to some people become sacred themselves.  The objects changed around a core meaning.  The religious task of our time is to find that focus again.

Monday, January 27, 2020


Infinity, eternity, and forever are terms that have changed radically and scientifically.  Yet most people have not realized this because they don't consider those concepts.  Science does, esp. since it is the reason the terms have changed.  We say "deep time" and "thick history" in attempts to talk about these dawning radical and thought-changing terms.  Those who understand see how much we struggle with concepts that have changed meaning.

This is particularly true of the indigenous people of this continent, misnamed "America." Take for example "Blood quantum," which began as a European metaphor for inheritance and battle field valor, but cannot stand for the same things in the revelations of DNA.  It is not even possible to tell who is in which tribe by looking at DNA, though companies make a lot of money pretending that they can.  Two people can marry, one with the DNA marker that is associated with a tribe that may have only formed after the tragic dynamics set in motion when 1492 changed everything and the other without, which will have little to do with their skin.  Each of their children will have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the marker set definable as "indigenous".  If every person in the tribe according to the rolls were given a complete DNA genome test, who is "in" and who is "out" will not match provenance.  People who by inheritance are on the rolls may not have the markers and people who by inheritance are excluded may have the markers.

Luckily, genetics are not the only way to define who is indigenous and who is not.  Genetics are scientific, but the concept of "race" is an uneasy and undependable one, as much a result of culture as flesh.  Malcolm MacFee. anthropologist, in his book, "Modern Blackfeet, Montanans on a Reservation" (1972) explained that some people were "indian" by inheritance, some were "white" by inheritance, but both could be either "indian" by culture or "white" by culture.  He proposed that instead of "half-breed" we think of the 150% man.  DKR, the Harvard Blackfeet, liked this idea and tried to be that kind of "double-breed."

But those who get their genetics from Oprah will not be able to understand  the double helix of 4-formula molecules with their specific chromosomal arrangements and epigenomic selective influences imposed by environment and modifications contributed by the resident parasites, much less the true nature of genes -- not beads on a string but whirling bits of energy interlocking and altering and continuous with the rest of creation except for the container of skin.

There is something unexpectedly central to this whole issue, which is the knowledge and skills taught at Blackfeet Community College.  They know the sophistication necessary to understand today's indigenous identity.  The science building and program there is State of the Art, and the potential for studying specifically the genome and its interactions with the east slope of the Rockies over millennia, is right there.  Who more appropriately to study and OWN the inheritance of the Blackfeet than the Blackfeet themselves?

When I last looked at "story theology", an approach to theories of the world that came out of experience, is was particularly useful to people who did history of religions/comparative religion.  Including but not confined to written materials -- this way of thinking depended on the witnessing and testimonies of people's experience.  Parallel to it was a theology of landscape, which is partly geology -- the stories told by evidence in the very earth which upended the confined and stubborn theological theories of the 19th century by showing fossils on the tops of mountains and traces of events long before the invention of writing or the existence of humans.

When I googled and wikied for "story theology", I found that both social platforms were dominated by conservative Christians, who are only a subdivision of a particular "religion" which takes the name of a prophet they rarely follow.  So now we need to reclaim the term of "story theology" with dimensions that are eternal, universal, limitless, infinite, and conditional -- that last because of the conditions of the perceiving mind.  Here and now are merely vantage points. 

Years ago when I played with "story theology," I did two things.  One was pointing out that we each carry as identity at least three stories:  the one about where we came from and how we got here, one about where we intend to go, and the one that is a kind of ur-story about what it's all  about.  That last might be the same as the one we formed at birth with our  first caregivers.

The other approach I had was revisionism/reversal/revanchism.  That is, playing out the plot from the other end, reversing the terms, breaking assumptions, introducing new concepts.  Science fiction has been doing this for a long time.  Those who like high-flown philosophy investigate Derrida, Foucault, and so on -- the Hermeneutics of Suspicion.  The guys who hang around in front of Ick's in hopes of booze do it all the time, but just don't know it.  It's why I get interested in demographics forbidden as wicked or in writing that is completely innovative, almost to the point of incoherence.  And why I'm interested in psychotherapy that speaks in metaphors.

I should say a word about "revanchement" which is another French interpellation.  It refers to revenge, which is a major response to unjust history and disparate status.  it is real and motivates much of what happens, but we need to think about it a lot more.  Commonly, it is forbidden.

One of the deadliest of confinements is that of a small idea of the world and insistence that anything out of that is crazy.  They say the rez is the cosmos and it's a mistake to look beyond that.  But it's just as much of a mistake to allow the boundaries of the rez to be wiped away because they are a legal map, an arbitrary bit of politics.  As alternative I suggest a boundary based on natural cohesion of land and people, animals and climate, innovation and persistence.  Again, I see that embodied and extended by Blackfeet Community College.

Sunday, January 26, 2020


Someone tribal asked on Twitter, "Why did no one tell me about the Baker Massacre?"  True enough, this event was kept quiet in terms of the oral literature of the Blackfeet.  But it was always present in the written literature that was rarely read by Blackfeet or Blackfoot, each in their own version of Siksika.  James Willard Schultz was said to be married to Natahki, a survivor of the dawn raid.  I attended the burial of his son's ashes.  Lone Wolf's burial is not far from his father on a bluff near the Mad Plume allotment.  Veterinarian and author Sid Gustafson keeps on eye on the place.

Possibly the most impassioned book about this event is "Death, Too,for the Heavy Runner," by Ben Bennett (1982).  At the same time, it is carefully researched, helped by the Montana Historical Society and published by Mountain Press.  It was not read across the country but sometimes turns up on the rez.

"Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown  (1970) was a summary of all the major massacres of indigenous people in the USA.  This book came late in the Peace Corps era and made people suddenly aware of how much work there was to do "at home."  Some dedicated careers in response to the book.  It includes the Baker Massacre, as it was called at the time, and only has a few points of argument.  There were so many massacres.  The book was a true tour d'force.

"Fools Crow"by  James Welch (1986) was the popular book version that caught on widely.  It was the first written by a well-known enrolled person.  It was Welch and friends who researched and provisionally located the actual location of the pre-dawn attack on vulnerable people.  The annual memorial service is based on this place, the reality of it.

"The Red and the White, A Family Saga of the American West" by Andrew Graybill (2013) explores the basics of Malcolm Clarke's family.  It was as retaliation for his death that the massacre was ordered.  He was an overbearing, ambitious man who was murdered on his ranch by a relative of his Blackfeet wife.  Her family is hard to trace except for her daughter, Helen Clarke, who became a government representative, an actress, and an important Blackfeet who lived on her allotment behind the Big Hotel in East Glacier, on the Blackfeet rez.  Graybill is an academic historian.

The newest version of the event is "Blood on the Marias: The Baker Massacre" by Paul R.Wylie (2019).  Wylie is a Billings attorney.

Most of the people who write histories of the Blackfeet do not dwell on the tragedy because it is one bloody event in a long string of starvations, injustices, and irrationality.  The wish is to show the totality of a people who are far richer and more significant than just the bad stuff.  Besides, they are almost all written by white people.  Or lately written by enrolled people who have college degrees and may see themselves as victimized, but also as overcoming hardship.

The time of this attack in 1870 was much enabled by the dregs of the Civil War (1861-65), men who had been brutalized, had no place to go, were in the habit of drinking, and had seen ghastly bloodshed.  Baker was alcoholic, on the edge of disgrace and dismissal, and knew it.  These were not the handsome men of Hollywood depictions.  In the 1970's we were meeting one centennial of massacre after another, though the major prairie treaties were signed in 1850.

The two scouts for Baker were Kipp and Cobell, who had been an Italian sailor on sea-going ships until he came up the Mississippi/Missouri complex that guided many early explorers deep into Blackfeet country where the tribe's back was protected by the Rockies.  The camps along the Marias moved occasionally and they said that when they guided Baker's company the one that contained Clarke's murderers had left, replaced by the camp of Heavyrunner.  They tried to get that across to Baker, who was enflamed by this time, but  failed. Afterwards, they were so ashamed that they  went back to gather children and adopt them.

Distinguishing protections to separate bands who were peaceful from those who were troublemakers were ineffective.  Heavyrunner came out of his lodge waving his paper proving he was a peace chief.  He was carrying his daughter and it was said that the same bullet went through the paper, through the child, and into Heavyrunner's heart.  The soldiers could barely distinguish between who was Blackfeet and who was white.  They themselves undoubtedly included Blacks, the "Buffalo Soldiers".  Washington DC thought they were very clever to involve a different "race."  As far as I know, no Chinese were present.

In some ways, this event was a "perfect storm".  There was smallpox in the camp which scared whites and sometimes killed them as well as tribal people.  The armed men of the camp had gone hunting in the profound cold.  The US soldiers were convinced that this kind of ambush was an "Indian" invention, a kind of guerrilla warfare justified by an otherwise elusive enemy.  It was imitated in Vietnam, which was called "Indian Country."  This particular murder of Clarke was the climax of a long sequence of transgression, banditry, and unjust hangings that had persisted for years around Fort Benton, the main center of other scattered forts.

The pitiful sentimentality of "Wounded Knee" which was fought near enough to a town for the people to come out to witness the body-strewn battlefield, bringing cameras and discovering one baby beneath the protective body of her mother.  They raised her as something between a servant and a toy.  But the worst was when the first barrage had killed most of the surrendered and peaceful people, the soldiers called out to the children who had scattered into the brush to hide,  "It's all over now.  It's safe.  Come out and we'll feed you and protect you."  When the children came out, they killed them as well.

And then there is the Industrial Revolution which moved troupes by railroad and provided mortars and gatling guns to mow down the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph in the Bear's Paw Hills, just short of safety in Canada.

If only they had had predator drones, eh?  We haven't stopped doing it, We're still mafia. saying, "Take her out."  The fire and fury are just below the surface and some have always worshipped it.

Saturday, January 25, 2020


From the beginning of time, before humans or mammals or reptiles or eukaryote one-celled "beings", one differentiated group has overrun another.  Maybe they took the other's "turf" or maybe they just ate them, but that's the fact of it.  But it is not only basic opportunism that affects our thinking about the Euro populations who invaded the Americas and profited so handsomely by capturing their resources.

Since one of the resources was other human beings different enough to either fear or oppress, that's what the invaders did.  Since most of the seafarers were men, themselves a human resource mercilessly used, they "took" the women.  So, let's imagine.  You're a woman who had no idea that there were other continents.  They were as unlikely as other planets.  A whole new people might be a good or bad thing, depending on one's personal situation, but some people, esp. women, are likely to be open to the mystery and adventure enough to get close.

So, in 1492 the first indigenous/Euro babies came 9 months after the landing.  Some people alive now can date and document themselves back to that.  Euro-style thinking gives it high priority, though in the subsequent generations from that first pair probably other proportions of indigenous/Euro people were involved, leaning to the more indigenous people sometimes and more Euro people later.  Eventually Africans and Asians began to mix in.  

If I were a better historian, I would try to write a series of stories to capture each generation -- born in 1492, born in 1515, born in 1535, and so on.  All the while the situation changed, two demographics expanding into a hundred variations.  All the while the story in Europe changed and the story in various parts of the Americas also developed.  It is a time-story and a space-story.  As more Euros were pushed out (the Highland clearances were a rehearsal for the prairie clearances), esp in the British colonies, they crowded into America and though many died in the process, at last figured out how to live here.  They came from parts of Britain packed with poor, suffering, starving, diseased people.  Many died before they ever reached America but their microbes did not.  Before they ever realized what a friend they had in germs, the pandemic was wiping communities off the continent.  

The strength of these communities was in their culture, calibrated to fit their place, shaped to sustain their generations, but the new danger was too abrupt and mysterious to be addressed, much less resisted.  The strength of the invaders came partly from their greed and partly from their desperation, so partly they came to get rich and partly they came because they had no where else to go.  Partly it was a story that unfolded over the next 500 years and partly it was a story of pushing people West, out, away.

So reservations, to some, were cages, wastelands, places where military force could keep the indigenous and the nonconforming in one place.  They would rather have had an island, like Australia or that island where lepers were confined, but in the meantime major spaces and forbidding geography would have to do.  How to do this varied over the years so some treaties were as "between countries" and others were just administrative rules like a company.  One of those was keeping a list and another was tying the provision of food and supplies to those on the list.  

When the Heart Butte kids were given new pencils because they were on the list, they immediately broke them in half and gave part to their friend who was not on the list.  When they grew up, they began to argue with the list.  The whole justification of reservations had to be rethought, not so much in terms of turf and time, but in terms of the people on the list.  The whole idea of self-determination came into it.  The subject was inflamed and expanded because the stories of the culture had made "Indians" into heroes and the last resource to be exploited was their theoretical nobility and embodiment of Nature, which some considered to be God.

So far there are these justifications for being part of a "tribe" which is only unevenly related to the concept of a "reservation."

  • Provable descent from the original list made by the cavalry at early contact and conquest.  Proof is by provenance, which is continuous chain of documentation like baptism, mixing religion with government.  This is at most a couple of hundred years ago, unrelated to "blood" which is a metaphor for provenance, but so vivid that it overspills every attempt to clarify it.
  • In the earliest days people looked different and composed their lives according to their ecosystem, whether salmon, buffalo, wild rice, or desert.  If today's youngsters wanted to look like the early prairie people, they would need to live mostly outdoors and on the move.  It's not a matter of clothing or even food, though that counts.
  • Many people have assumed that DNA can prove a person belongs to a tribe.  This is a merchandizing gimmick for several reasons.  Tribes were defined and named as the groups came to consciousness but they never had rigid boundaries as Euros did.  As tribes were pushed West, they died out, merged, accepted stray people even if they were white, and lost much of their original culture and "fittingness" to the land because they were no longer on the land that formed them.
  • As soon as today's located and confined tribes realized that "scientists" wanted their blood, they began refusing access.  This has greatly hampered transplant technology since there are no records for finding people whose parts "fit."  There is not enough data about the aboriginal people to indicate who was in a particular tribe.
  • At the same time, the participation of "Indians" in World Wars drew them into the mystique of heroism and group allegiance with vivid justification, all tied to battlefield wounds and transfusions according to the four blood protein groups.  NOT DNA, which had not been known.
  • Writers and artists have capitalized on the general population's hunger for identity and nostalgia to form genres and since we have come to value the creators more than the actual creations, the focus has been entitlement which the goal of narrowing those who are provably on the descendants of those cavalry lists.
  • Women in particular have become entangled in the 1492 sailor's access to a new kind of woman that he can impose sex on, regardless of consequences.  One force has been the defining of women of color as undefended, fair game like slaves but better because slaves are "owned" and the owner is likely to object.  
  • Also, poor have always been victimized by rich men or violent men. Many of those women and men have been resourceful enough to organize sexwork. Morality makes it easier to victimize them but also adds value because they are valuable in the way that the black market always is.
  • Because of those to whom sex and death are interchangeable concepts, the toll of murdered women rises.  But another force has been that without the cultural shaping of protecting of indigenous women, being sexy and hot is a form of power, and because of today's convention of advertising such an identity, indigenous women take advantage of social media to show how desirable they are, attracting men.  But now that has become so outrageous that a backlash has formed and is becoming powerful.  The sexual revolution has muddled everything and, as usual, freedom without guidelines is deadly.
I'll come back to DNA later, but the idea that it is "beads on a string" has been traced to a scientist early in the 20th century.  It is not a fact.  The true nature of the swirl of mixed and barely distinguishable organic chemistry is still being discovered.  But as David Quammen explained, it is a sheet of instructions passed on by atoms, molecules, parasites, chromosome organization -- continuously shared among all living beings and mostly organized within "skins" of one kind or another.  "Skins" is a synonym for indigenous people in America, not as the people who watched the Euros come ashore from their huge white-winged ships, carrying microbes and war, but as the People who have persisted across the continent, however was necessary and barely possible.

The people in this video are building the future, one poem at a time.  They will make "Indians" out of any white people who read their poems.  They are powerful.  I've known these names for generations and the faces are familiar.  They cannot be murdered.  They cannot be driven out.  They persist through both turf and time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020



Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Selena Not Afraid, a young Crow woman, has been found dead.  Her death must be marked, attended, mourned, and remembered.  But it is not the whole story.  I do not want Ō’m”kaistaaw”kaa•kii,@mariahgladstone to have that as her only mind picture.  I put against it two other deaths, those of  two Blackfeet, both named Beverly Kittson.  


Beverly Kittson "Sopiiakii"

Browning — Beverly Kittson "Sopiiakii, 90, began her journey home on October 8, 2016, at Blackfeet Community Hospital. Born in a tipi south of Browning on Aug 17, 1926 to James Reevis Sr. & Fannie Middle Calf, she was raised by John & Insima YellowKidney. She attended schools at Cold Feet & Mission Schools, the Cut Bank Boarding School, Browning and Flandreau Indian School where she graduated before studying Business Admin for two years at Haskell Indian School in Kansas.

In 1948 she married Jim Kittson and they made their home at Old Agency where she helped ranch, rodeo, started the Busy Badger 4H group that she was also a leader of. She also worked for the County Extension Office as a liason for the Commodity Program before going to work for the Home Development Program and CHP Program as an Outreach Worker and Director, retiring after receiving many awards in her 31 year career. She received the Appreciation award for outstanding and dedicated services, another for 20 years of service from 1968 - 1988 and was awarded the National outstanding CHR award in Las Vegas. She retired in 1998. However, retirement she found boring and she went to work for Headstart as a Cultural Teacher teaching them to speak the Blackfeet, and then on to Blackfeet Comm. College where she was an advisor to the students in the Indian Cultural Program.

Beverly was a well known and well loved woman, who always had an open door and heart for those who came to visit. She loved to bead, sewing and knitting, bingo, playing the machines and traveling as well as being with family (5 generations) and friends for any and all occasions. She was one of the last members of the Green Wood Burners Society and the War Mothers Society.

She was preceded in death by her parents, siblings Sharon LaPlant, John "Buster" YellowKidney, Russell "Gordon" CalfRobe, Wilbur, Freddy, Herman, Herbert, & Jimmy Reevis; daughter Zelda Kittson and grandson Clint NotAfraid.

Survivors include children Donna Guardipee, Cookie Gonzales, Kathy "Kat" (Darrell) Momberg, Mary Kittson, James (Bunny) Kittson Jr., Donald Kittson, Ronald "Smiley" (Charlene) Kittson, Jerry (Carol) Kittson; numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews, her sister Lorraine WhiteGrass, and extended family.

A wake will be held at NAID Stickgame Arbor in Browning with Rosary on Tuesday at 7 pm. Mass will be held Wednesday at 2 pm in Little Flower Catholic Church in Browning with burial following at the Old Agency Cemetery.


In 1961 the Browning Elementary School grades were "tracked." For the 8th grade there were four tracks.  The highest was for those with the highest grades but also -- without admitting it -- for whites and tribal families who were prospering.  The bottom was for those who didn't care, who were semi-delinquent, and so on.  In the middle two tracks were classes that were mixed in terms of grades and we sometimes moved them back and forth, but it was just bookkeeping with no regard for relationships. There was no counselling. None of it touched who the person essentially and potentially might be.  One of the least responsive in the 4th group was the father of one of the most responsive and intelligent boys I ever taught.

In those days "boarding school" was not the Catholic Holy Family Mission with its religious focus and determination to impose a culture, nor was it the shameful public school north of Browning where conditions were horrible.  The kids I knew were boarding because their families were too far from Browning to get to school reliably and they bused to the Elementary School daily.  They had formed a family of their own among themselves.

Then there was the Speech and Drama class which was all girls, about a dozen.  Donna Kittson was one of them.  Dolores Butterfly Bird was also in that class and she "went on ahead" a couple of years ago.  Dorothy Still Smoking earned a D.Ed. and went to London, England, to read her thesis.  Beverly Bullshoe was devoted to the church but I don't know whether she ever became a nun.  None was murdered.

Donna Marie Kittson Guardipee, 71, passed away at Browning Indian Health Service, in Browning, Mont., on Dec. 14, 2019. A wake was held at College Homes with Rosary on Thursday, Jan. 9; Mass was celebrated on Friday, Jan. 10 at Little Flower Parish, followed by burial in Kittson Cemetery at Old Agency.

Donna was born Jan. 31, 1948, in Browning, to Beverly Reevis-Kittson and James Kittson Sr..  She was raised and educated at the Blackfeet Boarding School in Browning until high school, and then went to Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma.  She graduated from Browning High School.  

Donna married David “Chug” Guardipee in 1968 and later divorced. She worked for the Blackfeet Tribe for 50 years as a secretary and office manager.  She was currently working for the Blackfeet Environmental as an office manager.  Her hobbies included going to the local casino, camping, taking rides, picnicking, and especially spending quality time with family and friends.  

She was preceded in death by her father James Kittson Sr., mother Beverly Reevis-Kittson, son David Guardipee, and sister Zelda Ann Kittson.  

She is survived by her son Clifford (Tammy) Guardipee; granddaughters Donnell Williams and Kaylee Cassidy; two grandchildren and three great grandchildren whom she loved dearly; siblings Jim Kittson Jr., Donald Kittson, Ronald “Smiley” Kittson, Kathy “Kat” Kittson-Momberg, Myrna “Cookie” Kittson, Jerry Kittson, Mary Kittson and all of her nieces and nephews.

When people ask me what "Indians" are like, I can't tell them all the stories or trace out all the families, who are so much a part of the indiividuals they are but once I knew them very well, shared my days with them, ate lunch sitting at the same table eating the same chili with commodity cheese.  They were all funny, full of stories -- many of them about narrow escapes or peak experiences.  This is about time for the celebration of the so-called Baker Massacre and some of them were descendants of youngsters who barely escaped and still lived as their grandmothers.

The man who triggered that revenge killing was Malcolm Clarke who lived on what became the Baucus ranch.  He married a Blackfeet woman.  His daughter, Helen Clarke, was educated in the Midwest, acted on the stage and went to Europe in the troupe of Sarah Berhardt, and became the one who assigned the Indian land allotments.  She gave herself East Glacier and lived in a modest house behind the Big Hotel with her brother.  She's buried up the road to the EG water source.  Her nephew was John Clarke, the famous woodcarver who could not speak.

So, Mariah, that's just on the US side!  Plenty of stories among the Canadian Blackfoot.  Someday they will be celebrating that Gladstone girl who taught indigenous sustainable foods and who could fly on a trapeze, way up high.  There's already been time enough for that.  But we won't forget Selena Not Afraid, a Crow girl.

Monday, January 20, 2020


It's hard to imagine a more contrasting pair of psych experts than Sam Vaknin and Richard Grannon.  But you don't have to -- they exist and they collaborate.  Last night I watched a shared YouTube essay called "The  Toxicity of Social Media," which was filmed at least partly in some quite grand and historic city I could not identify  The point was to figure out the impact of social media (the "platforms" called Facebook, Twitter, and so on) where it came from, the damage it does, why and how, and what to do next.  The two men agree until the end when personality intervenes.  Vaknin wants authoritarian regulation from within the platforms, like shutting a viewer off after a certain amount of time or at least charging a fee for viewing.  Grannon takes the independent and self-reliance point of view one would expect from an Aussie.

But there's the basic agreement, which comes out of the idea of psych as literature, mirroring and making metaphors out of the culture.  The diagnosis is that we have lost our sense of history and place -- we have a loss of direction.  Social media is not a cause, but a symptom, yet it exacerbates the condition.  These two men are experts focused on narcissism.  Vaknin is describing it as a result of a culture that demands each of us stand out, but because identity emerges from interaction with other people and social media cuts us off from this interaction, we are terrified of being dispersed, annihilated.  So we claim a "part for the whole," such as sexism, racism, and other alliances with groups that supply an identity.

Vaknin refers to the formation of identity as a child and how our identity from that time both protects and reassures us.  But we forget how to handle human interactions if all we do is post quips and arguments. In fact, our self-regulation as bodies comes from being with others, but shuts down in front of a glass screen.  For a while about 2007, he argues, there were studies about this, but they ceased when the biggest donors to Academia were social media.

Grannon, with his base in the martial arts, sees this idea of presentation and belligerance as the old fashioned Darwinian idea of survival of the fittest.  He doesn't mention gladiator competitions in the Coliseum but he means  something similar.  He notes that there are so many people, all demanding to hold the gaze of the crowd, that it's almost a form of cannibalism, because it is a zero sum game and based on the lowest values of the watchers, brutal, abandoning, lonely, never in this moment but always in the past or future.  He says he is frightened.  (His kind of martial arts are Asian, based on restraint and elegance.  Their goal is peace.)

Narcisssism to these guys is therefore a metaphor for our whole society, as all the Identified and defined APA theories of psych disfuncation are, which is why they change all the time.  Vakinin is quite eloquent about narcissism failing and then failed narcissism becoming borderline disorder which is worse.  Grannon feels fascism is another response to an emergency, a state of war, and provable with "human fucking history."

Vaknin recommends narrative and feels the usage method of social media is the problem --not so much the content.  He talks about the "stickiness" of the "like" button and how it is a kind of conditioning that makes you think you're actually communicating.  He notes that the human mind wants stories and makes them even from bits and glimpses, so this is a sign of hope.

Here is a cutting point:  social media was invented by teenagers, who didn't really understand what they were doing bit accidentally stumbled  onto something that made them so much money that they are terrified of reform or any change at all, because the whole thing might collapse.  They have no experience, no broad education.  Their users are also loners, misfits, people lurking alone programming repetitive games.  If challenged, they are fierce, have no restraint.  High school teachers know the type very well.

Grannon identifies them with Cluster B characteristics.  "Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder."  ( Mayo Clinic)  He speaks of it as releasing the monsters of the unconscious human mind.

I have two responses to that. One is today's phenomenon of the gun owners demonstration in Virginia in which late middle-aged men with big bellies, red faces, and evidently enough discretionary income to afford a hundred pounds of military equipment including assault rifles, are filling the streets.  The police are nowhere to be seen.  If these bozos really understood, they would realize that if they don't shoot each other by mistake, there are police armored tanks waiting until their water hoses, unbearable sounds, and tear gas are justified.  I saw no gas masks dangling from belts. For every bug there is a bigger bug, until we get to predator drones.

But I have another paradigm to explore.  in the UU congregations there were people who loved to demonstrate to activate their identity and therefore identification with various people.  But there were also alot of people who explored the issue of identity through reading: both fiction (esp among the women) and history.  The two men agreed that there are two potent kinds of identity, one being narcissism or first person stories, and the other -- often demonstrated in social media -- which is the narcissist's victim.  This SM, big/little, oppressive white man/oppressed black man, abusive husband/abused wife, overwhelming patriarch/crippled children is a dependable identity dyad through time.  It prevents reconciliation or even conversation.

Book after book is based on this pattern.  It is a strong precursor for social media and a pattern followed in the stories told there.  What Vaknin and Grannon are beginning to explore is how to get beyond that formula to a new vision. But it's early days.