Monday, June 29, 2020


In the years between 1492 and 1776, populations grew and crossed over in many ways, most commonly in liasons between European men and indigenous women.  Few mechanisms for recording them existed yet, except as the Catholic church kept records and devout individuals listed their family in their Bibles.  Thomas Conselor (1784-1853) died as the Old Northwest of southern Michigan was filling up, dividing into thrifty farms along the streams.  

Because genealogists have ferreted out the records of wills, censuses, land assignments and sales, for nine generations -- begat by begat -- we know that Elisha Counselor (which might be spelled Counsellers or Councilors or a dozen other variations) had moved his branch of the family to Michigan.  Mitsawokett is a tribal website that has accumulated and organized as much information as they could about that community and have named the individuals in each generation until the present.  Eventually, a descendant of Thomas Counselor married a descendent of Cyrus McCormick in Michigan, but as marriages and children continued, some in the present have lost both patristic names.  Perhaps some genes persisted.  If the causes of schizophrenia are genomic, this is not a happy possibility since several McCormicks suffered it, but they had no descendants.

The Michigan Conselors are descended from Elisha, who could be a son of Benjamin, one of the first to be born in America.  Genealogists are like bird-watchers, obsessed with detail, exerting many efforts, keeping lists and theories,  always provisional, and not really affecting anything.  By the ninth generation the Conselors had met the industrial revolution.  The hard-working farmers were expanding their incomes and know-how by working in the Detroit and Lansing automobile factories capitalizing on Post-WWII hunger for cars, meeting the remnants of the war effort.  One of the ninth generation cleared a field to make a runway and bought a small airplane.  Inevitably, when he had the resources, he moved to California, rather than the New Northwest of Oregon and Washington.   In the nine generations the line of progenitors had reached from one coast to the other.  They had a provenance proving descent, a pedigree. 

The story goes that the first, or at least a very early Conselor was a French pirate. Besides being part of the Lenape complex of indigenous people, at least part of the family was more properly Metis.  Others say that the first Conselor was Spanish.  Mitsewokett was under "Indian control" when that first single man -- however one spells the name and whether or not he was a pirate -- first settled In America.  He married an "Indian".  The next generation all married "Indians."  What lures the researchers on through successions is the usual assortment of scandals, murders, small fortunes, and occasional flares of genius and madness, not counting a small number of religious leaders.  But that small tendril of the family line didn't release their hold on a small Michigan farm along the pleasant stream until very recently, abiding through the generations.

My Twitter feed includes many tribal people from the North and West in Canada.  At this moment at least a few of them are very intense about blood quantum and their status with the Canadian government as well as the Provinces, which have much more control than States.  International corporations, of course, dominate nations.  In spite of the RCMP's story, things get lawless when distances are immense, and powerful international corporations will do almost anything to prevent interference with their hunger for resources.   Values that are present in the laws are deeply based on British assumptions.  For centuries the whole Western half of Canada, though called "Rupert's Land," was essentially the fiefdom of the Hudson's Bay Company which had a mercantile goal.

The identities of the indigenous people on the entire continent were heavily influenced by concepts convenient to slavery, which carried over to the native people as though there were some definitive and universal law about the nature of genetics separating everyone into races.  The idea of culture as also being a trajectory that controls both identity and law was  near-religious in the sense of being a matter of faith in something untrue, rejecting challenge.

Species are separated (until recently) as a matter of definition, meaning inability to cross-breed.  All humans as races can easily (sometimes a little too easily) mix with other races, so humans are all the same species. This is evident but denied by the cultures.  It is also the key to evolutionary "fitness" changing as the environment varied from pleasant to challenging, often unexpectedly.  Only some can cope.

The identities of individuals are created by the pushing of the genome against the resistance and forming of the environment.  Often hard times are the origin of hard people, or at least those resourceful enough to find new ways to live.  It's not a matter of magic, neither things nor stories and songs.  But we rejoice in these familiar things.  Wanting to keep them alive is a near sacred trust.  Even pirates have their uses.

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