Posts Tagged ‘indigenous’

Photo: Whitney Eulich.
Angel del Rosario Hau Paat, who raps as ADR Maya, is seen here with his mother in Tulum, Mexico. He grew up resistant to speaking Maya but now embraces it.

When a new generation decides that the old folks’ way of speaking could actually be cool and even powerful, a language that is in danger of dying out may get an extension.

Whitney Eulich writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Angel del Rosario Hau Paat leans over the rainbow-colored hammock where his grandmother lies and speaks directly into her ear: ‘What do you think of my singing?’ he shouts in Maya, the Indigenous language of Mexico’s Yucatan.

“Hard of hearing, she strokes his face as she responds. ‘She’s happy,’ he translates, with a bashful laugh. ‘She says my Maya is good.’

“Growing up in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Mr. del Rosario says he wasn’t interested in learning Maya, the only language his grandmother speaks and which his mother grew up speaking. Spanish is what was useful for him at school and among friends.

“But today he is part of a growing trend among young people – here and across the Americas, from Canada to Chile – who are rapping in Indigenous languages. It’s strengthened his connection to the language his mother raised him speaking (and to which he grew up responding in Spanish) and to his family’s traditions.

“ ‘I never imagined myself using Maya so much. I’m making more connections with my culture and with people from other countries also rapping in Indigenous languages,’ says Mr. del Rosario, a pool technician in the resort town of Tulum who records music under the name ADR Maya in his free time. ‘It feels really good.’ 

“Mexico is home to more than 60 officially recognized Indigenous languages. Many of them, and their associated cultures, are at risk – despite a 2002 law protecting the right to use one’s Indigenous language and education reforms in recent years that require some languages be taught in public schools.

“At least 40% of the world’s Indigenous languages are also in danger of disappearing, according to the United Nations. But, for young artists like Mr. del Rosario, the discovery of rap in Maya is serving as a motivation to double down on learning more. …

“Says José Antonio Flores Farfán, a professor of linguistics and anthropology at the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology in Mexico City, ‘Treasures that human beings have accumulated for centuries are encrypted in language. … It’s these kids, these rappers, these artists who give me hope. … They are talented, doing something about it from the bottom up, and they’re inspiring younger kids and new generations to see value in the language in the process.’

“In the Yucatec-Maya-speaking region of southern Mexico, Jesús Cristobal Pat Chablé, more popularly known as ‘Pat Boy,’ could be considered the Johnny Appleseed of Indigenous rap. The artist, in his early 30s, started playing music when he was 5 years old and experimented with different genres, from rancheras (Mexican ballads) to rock to reggae, launching his solo rap career in 2009. 

“Today, he travels internationally, rapping in Maya; collaborates with artists who speak other Indigenous languages; and encourages young Maya speakers to write and record their own music, some of which ends up on albums he produces through his label ADN Maya. He’s currently building a recording studio in the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, about 140 miles south of Cancun. 

“Themes of daily life in Maya communities – customs, education, love, and traditions – populate his lyrics. His efforts have won him international recognition, including the 2022 Linguapax Award.

Last year, a song Pat Boy collaborated in writing and singing was featured on the ‘Wakanda Forever’ soundtrack.

“[It brought] the Maya language to theaters around the world with lyrics like: ‘They say we disappeared from this earth, what do you think? / It isn’t true … years passed, we became stronger. / Today I treasure the Mayan culture.’

“It’s a far cry from how he started.

“ ‘It was tough. I’d try to get a spot in a public festival and people would say, “But what do your songs say?” ‘ he recalls of his early years performing in Quintana Roo. ‘I was in my right to speak and sing in my maternal language, but there was this fear [among organizers] that I was motivating people to do things against the government, to rise up, because it was written in Maya and they didn’t understand the words,’ he says.      

“ ‘People in the city say, “You can’t achieve things if you’re Maya, you come from the countryside. You can’t be an artist or a painter or a writer,” ‘ he says. ‘When I started there wasn’t a lot of interest in what I was doing. Now, everywhere I go I meet young people dreaming of singing in Maya.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Dave Herasimtschuk, US Fish & Wildlife Service/Wikimedia.
In Washington State, the Yakama Nation Fisheries crew routinely teams up to catch lamprey at an “eeling” hole that’s fed tribal members for generations. Lamprey use the suction of their oral discs to climb rocks at the eeling hole.

I like to explore social media and recently added Mastodon to the places I visit. At Mastodon, you have to join a group (what they call an instance), and I chose the Climate Justice instance. Being with Climate Justice has exposed me to people I haven’t followed before on social media. You won’t be surprised to learn that a topic like climate justice has attracted quite a few indigenous people. They are from all over the world: Sámi from the Nordic countries, Aborigine people from Australia, among others.

B. “Toastie” Oaster is one, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. From Toastie, I learned about a publication called High Country News and an article on the Pacific lamprey, an ugly fish with a long, important history.

“Lamprey have lived on Earth for 450 million years. To them, dinosaurs were a passing fad, and the North American continent is a fairly recent development. Lamprey swim out to sea as juveniles, looking for hosts like salmon to parasitize until they are mature enough to swim up some other river to spawn. Adult lamprey are calorie-dense and slow, protecting their hosts and cousins, the salmon, by acting as a predation buffer in another gesture of reciprocal care. 

“Though lamprey play a key role in Pacific watershed ecosystems, they remain understudied outside of tribal fisheries. They’re the target of misplaced disdain, in part because they’re easily confused with sea lamprey, an Atlantic species that caused ecological havoc in the Great Lakes after a 19th century shipping canal allowed them to invade. Pacific lamprey are a different species, in a different ecosystem; they belong here, just like the people they sustain.

“As far back as the memory archive reaches, people have fished for eels in this watershed. Lamprey climb wet rocks with their sucker mouths, so waterfalls are good places to catch them. Celilo Falls was a dangerous place for eeling, so people went to places like Willamette Falls, Celilo’s younger cousin. In its heyday, it was an international destination for summer eeling. Elders remember elders who remember trails that connected the falls to central Oregon. Camps lined both sides of the Willamette and the Clackamas River, which branches off below the falls. 

“Wewa [an elder and tribal councilman of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs] and other elders are clear that their ancestors were not nomads. Families returned to permanent homes, making seasonal trips to where food thrived. This non-European approach to agriculture ensures that both people and ecosystems flourish. In its healthy state, the Willamette Valley was a food-producing white oak savanna, bright blue in springtime with flowering carpets of delicious camas roots. That’s where it got its name: ‘Willamette’ is a French corruption of lámt, the Ichishkíin word for blue, Wewa said. ‘They ruined it.’

“For the millions of lamprey that returned from the ocean to spawn in the Willamette Valley, the first obstacle they faced was Willamette Falls. In the late 1800s, settler accounts described the 1,500-foot-long, four-story-high falls as ‘completely covered‘ in eels during the summer runs — three layers deep, in some places. Historical photos give an idea of how the rocks looked blanketed in eels, some latched onto each other’s backs, rendering the boulders as shaggy as mastodons. In the 1940s, European settlers commercially harvested as many as 500,000 lamprey a year, but tribal harvests until that point had kept the population in careful balance. …

“Since industrialization, lamprey numbers have dropped by 90%, largely because of dams. According to some Natives, public antipathy toward the species hasn’t helped. Willamette Falls is one of the last places where there are still enough lamprey to harvest. There, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe — all of whom retain treaty fishing rights at Willamette Falls — boat upriver between industrial structures to harvest lamprey at the falls. These four tribes comprise the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), an organization that enforces treaty rights and promotes conservation of the basin’s aquatic life. Every year, CRITFC coordinates eeling trips with tribes.

“Eeling teams consist of at least two people: one to hold the net, the other to catch the eels. Plucking them off the rocks is easy enough with cotton work gloves, which provide the best traction against eels’ dolphin-smooth skin. …

“To work a waterfall, crews start at the bottom; eels will spook and stampede if they sense danger or smell blood in the current. Sometimes, eelers use this to their advantage, sticking a net or a trap at the downspout of a rockpool and scaring the eels into it from behind. When a dipnet is full, the crew transfer the catch eel by eel into burlap bags, then carry the pulsing, writhing sacks over the boulders to the boat. …

“While any tribal member can organize eeling trips, the fisheries department conducts its own trips to get eels for elders, those in need and ceremonial uses. The boat’s driver, a teddy-bear-faced man in his mid-50s with a bandanna tied over a loose knot of gray hair, lit a cigarette, apparently the only person unfazed by the cold or the early hour.

“ ‘All this is pretty tame to me,’ he laughed. He said he used to work ’30-hour days’ running a commercial salmon fishing operation at Lake Celilo, where Celilo Falls used to be. He reminisced about his glory days at Willamette Falls in the late ’80s and early ’90s, claiming, with a sly smile, that he caught so many eels, he’s probably the reason they’re in decline. Five thousand pounds in a day, he said. ‘I’ve been there, done that, 30 years ago, 40 years ago.’

“The boat driver is Evans Lewis Jr., a veteran fisherman now serving as the assistant manager of the Yakama Nation Fisheries’ sturgeon hatchery. … Lewis said he knows the best eeling holes from previous generations, where lamprey still gather by the thousands. He pointed out the best route along the boulders: Don’t hug the ridge, he said. Swing out in a wide arc, closer to the water line. He described techniques no one uses anymore: Drilling drainage holes in a metal trash can is easier, he said, than hauling gunny sacks of eels back across the rocks. ‘Nobody fishes like I do,’ Lewis told me and grinned.’ “

Toastie’s long, fascinating article is at High Country, here. You may read four High Country articles for free each month.

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Photo: Felipe Milanez via Wikimedia.
Fire at the National Museum of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, on 2 September 2018.

Do you remember reading about the disastrous fire at Brazil’s national museum? It was before Covid. Many irreplaceable artifacts were destroyed. I recall, for example, that the curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin, was devastated by the loss of that museum’s priceless insect collection.

Also lost were indigenous artifacts. But since that part of the collection had been created without tribes’ input, the rebuilding is a chance to make something better.

Mariana Lenharo and Meghie Rodrigues report at the New York Times, “In the evening of Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro was closed, and its hallways were empty. Silent activity, however, coursed within its walls. Electricity hummed through wires connected to computers; climate-controlled storage and three air-conditioning units connected, improperly, to a single circuit breaker in the ground-floor auditorium. When one unit most likely received a surge of electricity it couldn’t handle, the overburdened system sparked. The museum’s smoke-detector system was not set. There were no sprinklers or fire doors, and a flame bloomed.

Seeing the news, staff members rushed to the building and pleaded with firefighters to let them enter and rescue something — anything. …

“Much of what was lost or severely damaged was irreplaceable: the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian priestess, a 110-million-year-old fossilized turtle, a vast collection of butterflies, the oldest known human remains in Latin America.

“The fire also obliterated an enormous assemblage of artifacts representing the cultural history of Brazil’s Indigenous populations. Masks, vases, weapons, mortars and elaborately feathered ceremonial capes dating back at least a century from the Ticuna, the Kadiwéu, the Bororo, the Tukano — at least 130 peoples in all — were gone. Researchers worked to salvage what they could from the ashes. Astonishingly, a few ceramic vases kept their original paint. One Karajá animal sculpture was found almost intact. But most ‘were fragments, scraps that would no longer be recognized by the people who made them,’ says João Pacheco de Oliveira, the head of the museum’s ethnology and ethnography division. When Ananda Machado, a social historian at the Federal University of Roraima, told members of the Wapichana people about the fire, they were devastated. ‘To them, these objects were much more than material,’ she said; they carried with them the strength of the people who made them. …

“In 2018, after 40 years with the museum, Oliveira planned to retire. But the fire pushed those plans aside. Even while mourning the tragedy, he saw possibility. Yes, the ethnographic collection was in some ways unparalleled, but he had long been vexed by what was missing from it. Many objects were collected by European travelers in the 19th and early 20th centuries who didn’t grasp the purpose that the objects served. A pot or a cape might have been chosen simply because it seemed beautiful or peculiar to a Western eye. As a curator, he found this lack of cultural context deeply frustrating.

“As an anthropologist, Oliveira was even more troubled. Since the 1970s, he has spent long periods with the Ticuna in northern Brazil trying to understand them on their own terms and to communicate their culture to a wider world. The museum was an important vehicle for his aims, but the institution came with its own inglorious history. As with other 19th-century museums, the National Museum was a repository of items plucked, purchased or plundered from Indigenous communities and had presented the people themselves as curiosities, papier-mâché figures in dioramas alongside taxidermied animals. And sometimes worse. …

“With no building to return to, Oliveira met with his team members on park benches and in cafes and explained his vision for a new collection. Indigenous people would be consulted not only about what items would go into the museum but also on how they should be identified, stored and exhibited. One of the first people he turned to was a former student named Tonico Benites.

“Benites grew up in Mato Grosso do Sul in midwestern Brazil on a reserve for the Guarani-Kaiowá, one of the country’s 305 surviving Indigenous groups. His parents never learned to read and write, but he finished high school and went on to study for a degree in education, picking up work on the side as an interpreter for anthropologists. Drawn to the questions the researchers asked, he applied to a master’s program in social anthropology offered at the museum.

“Benites’s first visit to the museum in 2006 was also his first day as a student there. Entering the ethnographic exhibition area, he saw a collection of spears and arrows and then rounded a corner. He froze, sickened. Covering an entire wall was an outsize reproduction of a woodcut from a 1557 book by the German explorer Hans Staden. The account of Staden’s captivity by the Tupinambá was immensely popular in its day, and some scholars now assert that its sensational depictions of cannibalism were used to justify European conquest of Indigenous peoples. …

“Benites raised his concerns with Oliveira, who was his research adviser. Oliveira sympathized but suggested that Benites use his research to change people’s minds. The image was removed months later, but almost a decade would pass before Benites, who had just finished his anthropology Ph.D. — the first Indigenous person to do so at the museum — began research for what he hoped would be a Guarani-Kaiowá exhibition. The fire decimated his plans. …

“The absence of Indigenous perspectives in exhibitions about Indigenous people has been acknowledged, if rarely remedied, at natural-history museums. … Unlike Indigenous groups in other countries, those in Brazil have traditionally maintained a sense of ownership over the museum, which was conceived as a museum of the nation’s history as well as of natural history, Oliveira says. Even the Wapichana, so distraught by the loss of their heritage, have committed to working with curators. Had there been arguments over ownership of older objects, the fire, in its indiscriminate destruction, made them moot. The National Museum has a unique opportunity, says Mariana Françozo, an associate professor of museum studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Museums in Europe would find it difficult to build a collection entirely based on collaboration, she says, ‘because they still have the old collections that carry the weight of colonialism.’ ”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Piscataway Indians.

Our history with indigenous tribes is dark, and reconciliation must start with facing facts. In this endeavor, archaeology can help.

From St. Clement’s Island, Maryland, Dana Hedgpeth writes for the Washington Post on recent discoveries about a tribe’s long-ago presence.

“The small pieces of oyster shells and ceramic shards in the palm of archaeologist Julia King don’t look like much. But her team’s discoveries of roughly 1,500 pounds of shells and 200 pieces of ceramics bring new and more concrete evidence of the dominance of Native Americans who once lived at St. Clement’s Island and along the surrounding Potomac River shoreline in Southern Maryland. Native American leaders said their archaeological findings shed fresh light on their tribes’ historic presence in the state — which continues to this day but is often unknown, forgotten and ignored.

“ ‘This work is showing a reclamation of the long history of Native Americans in that area and what it means to our people,’ said Gabrielle Tayac. Tayac is a historian and member of the Piscataway Indian Nation, which considers the area its tribal homelands. ‘There’s been a willful and problematic negligence in the record about us.’

“St. Clement’s Island — an uninhabited 40-acre plot of land only accessible by boat — sits where the Potomac and Wicomico rivers meet, about half-mile off the shoreline of St. Mary’s County. There are roughly 4,500 Native Americans who are part of two state-recognized tribes — the Piscataway Conoy Tribe and the Piscataway Indian Nation — who trace their roots to the area. Piscataway means ‘the people who live where the waters meet’ in the Algonquian language.

“To many, St. Clement’s Island is best-known as the spot where roughly 150 European colonists arrived on March 25, 1634, and held the first Roman Catholic Mass in the British American colonies. …

“Few people had explored the sandy shores and grassy lands of the island until King’s research team spent several months this summer carefully digging up grass and sifting through dirt. … They found scores of Native American artifacts at the site and in collections of area residents and of a small museum on the mainland. The items included stone tools, tobacco pipes, ceramics and oyster shells, along with bits of copper, polished tubes and stone beads. All of it is evidence, said King, an archaeologist with St. Mary’s College of Maryland, of the ‘extensive exchange and network of trade’ between Piscataways and tribes from areas now known as Virginia, New York and as far away as Ohio andWest Virginia — centuries before Europeans came. …

“For Native American leaders in Southern Maryland, King’s work is a validation of their long history and continued presence in the area that’s rarely highlighted.

‘History was not written for us — or about us,’ said Francis Gray, chairman of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe. …

“Archaeological records show Native Americans were in the St. Clement’s Island area as far back as 3500 B.C., according to King. The island itself was once 400 acres, but erosion shrank it. Historians say there were an estimated 5,000 Piscataways living in the Potomac Valley area in the 1600s. …

“Rico Newman, an elder in the Choptico Band of Piscataways, said he remembers when growing up that he heard oral histories from his elders of how Piscataways followed the shad and herring runs along the nearby Wicomico River and went to St. Clement’s Island. Native Americans called it Heron Island after the bird that is fond of nesting in the area.

“ ‘There was no better place to live off the water and the land than there,’ Newman said. He recalled how his grandfather used to tell him, ‘if the heron isn’t fishing, then you weren’t fishing.’ It meant there was ‘something wrong with the fish or the water that day.’ …

“In the early 1600s, Piscataways traded with Europeans from the sister colony in Jamestown, Va. For the Piscataways, the trade meant protection for their homeland from Iroquois. English copper, beads and metal tools ‘made the newcomers useful that they need not be killed or left to starve,’ according to Piscataway leaders and historians.

“The Piscataways’ homeland changed dramatically when in March 1634, two ships — the Ark and the Dove — arrived with colonists looking to create a settlement. To celebrate their arrival, the colonists held the first Catholic Mass in the New World.

“The colonists knew of the disagreements and slayings between Native Americans and settlers at Jamestown, so they planned a different approach. The Calvert family, who founded Maryland as a colony, ‘didn’t want to pay for the costly kinds of wars experienced in Virginia,’ King said, ‘so they made the decision to forge diplomatic relationships with the Indians.’

“They went from St. Clement’s upriver to see the Piscataway tayac — the word for leader in the Algonquian language. They told Wannas, the Piscataway tayac at the time, they’d ‘come not to make war, but out of good will toward them,’ according to records at the St. Clement’s Island museum.

“Wannas, the tayac, cautiously responded to them, saying the Native Americans did not welcome the colonists, but also was not going to force them to leave. The colonists decided St. Clement’s was too small and well-established as ‘Indian country,’ so they returned and went down the river to what would become St. Mary’s City, where they bought land from the Yaocomicos and set up the first English settlement in Maryland.

“By 1650, more colonists moved to the area, and they created a reservation for the Piscataways, but eventually, King said, the Native Americans were pushed out as colonists took over. Some Piscataways went north to what’s now Frederick. Others went to Virginia. And some stayed, but they were ‘no longer considered a sovereign nation,’ King said. …

“Karen Stone, the executive director of the St. Clement’s Island museum, said a major renovation will start early next year with new exhibits that will tell Maryland’s history from the points of view of the colonists and the Piscataways. She said local Native American leaders are involved in designing the materials and exhibits for the new museum to give a more complete story and more accurate history of the Piscataways.”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Matthew Healey/Boston Globe.
Jeremy Garcia, 22, of Providence takes a break from working on a mural at “The Avenue Concept” in Providence, Rhode Island.

Kids love contributing to community murals. I know because Suzanne and John helped paint one in our town years ago. But that mural — about local history — was bland compared with the passionate work of self-expression and healing by urban youth in Providence.

Alexa Gagosz writes at the Boston Globe, “After setting down her paint brush, Deborah Ndayisaba gazed up at the purple-colored protestors who spread across a section of a new large-scale mural on the exterior of The Avenue Concept’s headquarters.

“A senior at La Salle Academy in Providence, Ndayisaba, 17, said she had her own ‘advocacy awakening’ when the Black Lives Matter movement took off in 2020. She joined the diversity club at school, became involved in PVD World Music, which looks to celebrate and enrich traditional African music and arts, and researched how many of the racial injustices of the Civil Rights era are now still relevant today.

“The protestors, for her, are symbolic. ‘It’s unfair how racial discrimination can touch everything. And activism isn’t just marching on the streets,’ said Ndayisaba, who is applying to colleges to eventually go into the medical field where she hopes to help women of color.

“It’s those kind of personal elements that scatter this newly finished collage mural by local youth who are involved with the Nonviolence InstituteRhode Island Latino ArtsHaus of Codec, and PVD World Music — all Providence-based organizations. The effort was led by The Avenue Concept, a public arts organization, and international community-based public art organization Artolution. …

“The Avenue Concept, which is the state’s leading public art program, was founded in Providence in 2012. Since then, artists from around the world have been commissioned to paint mammoth-sized murals across downtown that are part of the city’s skyline today. …

“A few of the Concept’s most notable works address longstanding community issues, such as ‘Still Here‘ by muralist Gaia, which depicts Lynsea Montanari, a member of the Narragansett tribe and an educator at the Tomaquag Museum, as they hold a picture of Princess Red Wing, a Narragansett elder who founded the museum. In September, Boston-based artists Josie Morway painted a new mural in Warren that addresses sea level rise.

“This new project, which was completed after 10 painting days on Sept. 30, is a pilot for a larger community participation program that was identified in The Avenue Concept’s latest strategic plan. The goal of the program, Thorne explained, was to address representation, neighborhood voice, unique cultural perspectives, and community needs in their upcoming projects.

“ ‘Over the last year, we’ve really tried to listen and better understand the stories that are intersecting in our own neighborhood,’ [Yarrow Thorne, executive director and founder of The Avenue Concept] said. ‘We are looking to do more than just the giant pieces of beautiful art in downtown, but to serve the community that surrounds us.’

“Thorne said the Concept, which is based in the Upper South neighborhood of Providence, selected the four local organizations because of how their work makes an impact across a diverse set of communities. Each organization brought four to five members of their youth communities to learn, connect, co-create themes, and eventually execute the mural with the help of Artolution’s co-founder Dr. Max Frieder.

“Frieder, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and former classmate of Thorne’s, brings public art projects around the world — including in refugee camps. Frieder said he trains refugee-artists on how they can work with kids who have been through trauma and teach them to express what’s most important to them through art.

“ ‘With this project, we brought four very different community groups together and it has been remarkable to see them come together and reflect on their similarities,’ said Frieder, who has participated in public art installations on all seven continents. …

“Each participant painted a scene in a ‘memory ball,’ which looked like a golden orb with a scene of their choice inside. Some painted themselves playing basketball, another read ‘stop drug abuse,’ and one painted themselves playing a trumpet.

“One memory ball said, ‘You only get one life. It’s your duty to live it as fully as possible.’ It’s a quote inspired by Jojo Moyes, an English journalist and novelist.

“Each participant talked about the issues they and their families face in South Providence today: their communities getting priced out as the cost of living increases. Others have faced racism and homophobia in school. Some say their family’s generational trauma has prevented their own parents from healing.

“For example, Jeremy Garcia, 22, a self-described ‘proud, Black-Latino,’ described the stereotypes of South Providence being considered an ‘urban hood’ where residents are predominantly people of color. Garcia said many of their neighbors have watched cases of police brutality, such as the killing of George Floyd, and are afraid to call the police.

“ ‘These are the people who are supposed to save us and who we should be able to turn to when we are in danger,’ Garcia said. ‘If you can’t turn to the police, where do you turn?’

“Expressing themselves ‘and letting go of their past is the only way we can can heal and move forward,’ said Cedric Huntley, the executive director of the Nonviolence Institute. ‘We need more of this — in Providence and around the world. We all focus so much on the negative, which certainly impacts all of us, but there’s more to it in these young people’s lives.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. Nice photos. For a no-firewall article on the mural “Still Here,” check the Brown University newspaper.

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On Twitter, I have been following @LakotaMan1, who notes on this weekend that “America wasn’t discovered — it was invaded.”

As I don’t want to take anything from Italians who are proud of the ancestry of Columbus but I need to acknowledge what indigenous people suffered from European contact, I have decided just to talk about corn. We all know that Europeans knew nothing about corn until they opened their minds to learn a thing or two from the continent’s original inhabitants.

Dina Spector wrote at Business Insider, “Glass Gem corn, a unique variety of rainbow-colored corn, became an internet sensation in 2012 when a photo of the sparkling cob was posted to Facebook.

“Shortly after, the company that sells the rare seeds, Native Seeds/SEARCH, began ramping up production to meet the high demand. The Arizona-based company still sells Glass Gem seeds on its website.

“Meanwhile, a Facebook page devoted to Glass Gem allows growers to share pictures of the vibrant corn variety. But the story behind Glass Gem is just as remarkable. It begins with one man, Carl Barnes, who set out to explore his Native American roots.

“The history was largely retold by Barnes’ protégé, Greg Schoen, in 2012, when the corn gained national attention. …

Barnes, who died in 2016, was half-Cherokee. He began growing older corn varieties in his adult years. …

“In growing these older corn varieties, Barnes was able to isolate ancestral types that had been lost to Native American tribes when they were relocated to what is now Oklahoma in the 1800s. This led to an exchange of ancient corn seed with people he had met and made friends with all over the country.

“At the same time, Barnes began selecting, saving, and replanting seeds from particularly colorful cobs. Over time, this resulted in rainbow-colored corn.

“A fellow farmer, Greg Schoen, met Barnes in 1994 at a native-plant gathering in Oklahoma. Barnes had his rainbow-colored corn on display. Schoen was blown away. That following year, Barnes gave Schoen some of the rainbow seed. Schoen planted the first seeds that summer.

“Schoen and Barnes remained close friends, and over the years, Schoen received more samples of the rainbow seed. In the beginning, Schoen only grew small amounts of the colorful corn in New Mexico, where he moved in 1999. In 2005, Schoen began growing larger plots of the rainbow corn near Sante Fe, alongside more traditional varieties.

“When the rainbow corn mixed with the traditional varieties it created new strains. Each year of successive planting, the corn displayed more vibrant colors and vivid patterns.

“According to an account from Schoen, Barnes told him that the rainbow seed originally came from a crossing of ‘Pawnee miniature popcorns with an Osage red flour corn and also another Osage corn called “Greyhorse.” ‘ …

“In 2009, Schoen passed on several varieties of the rainbow seed to Bill McDorman, who owned an Arizona seed company called Seed Trust.

“At that time, McDorman was the executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit conservation organization. He brought the Glass Gem seeds with him, and they can now be purchased online.”

Saving ancient seeds is important work. To learn about the Svalbard Island Global Seed Vault in Norway, read my 2015 post, here, and my 2017 update highlighting concern that the protective permafrost is melting there.

For a bit more background on rainbow corn and some lovely photos, click at Business Insider, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Kerem Yücel/MPR News.
Em Loerzel is a graduate student and White Earth Nation descendant who started The Humble Horse, a nonprofit in River Falls, Wisconsin. The nonprofit is dedicated to reviving the Ojibwe horse, a rare breed adapted to the forests along the Minnesota-Canada border. 

Here’s s story that weaves threads such as indigenous life, endangered species, love of horses — and brings along associations with Icelandic ponies and Misty of Chincoteague.

Dan Kraker writes for MPR News from River Falls, Wisconsin, “Em Loerzel grew up hearing stories about the Ojibwe horse from her uncle, about small ponies that would roam free near Ojibwe communities tucked among the forests and lakes along the Minnesota-Canada border, and help with tasks such as hauling wood and trap lines. 

” ‘I think when people think about Native people and their horses, they think of Lakota people or southwest people, but he would tell me, don’t forget that we are horse people too,’ said Loerzel, a descendant of the White Earth Nation.

“Loerzel has taken that teaching to heart. Earlier this year, the 28-year-old graduate student in social welfare at the University of Washington raised money to rescue six of the horses from a Canada rancher who could no longer afford to keep them. 

“She brought them to a farm owned by a friend outside River Falls, where Loerzel moved last year with her husband. And she started a nonprofit called The Humble Horse, to raise awareness about the breed – which is also known as the Lac La Croix pony, and to help revive it. Only about 180 Ojibwe horses remain, mostly in Canada. 

“The horses are small, sturdy and friendly. Last month, Loerzel nuzzled a 2-year-old stud colt named Mino. ‘Short for Mino Bimaadiziwin. That’s our word for “a good life.” All of our Ojibwe horses have their Ojibwe names,’ Loerzel explained. … We Anishinaabe people bred them to be really smart, sweet, docile.’ 

“They also adapted over the generations to survive in the border lakes country. Their small stature made it easier to navigate the forest. …

“Loerzel says her main goal is to keep the horses safe and healthy. But she also wants to help Ojibwe people to reconnect with the horses. …

“Thousands of Ojibwe horses once lived near Ojibwe communities on both sides of the border. They would roam free part of the year, but at other times were gathered to help with labor.  But their population dwindled in the first part of the 20th century. Many were killed and used to make dog food, even glue. 

“By 1977 there were only four left, on the Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario, just north of the U.S.-Canada border.  Word spread that the Canadian government planned to exterminate them. So four men from the Bois Forte Reservation in Minnesota planned a rescue mission. 

“They piled in a pickup truck, hooked up a horse trailer, drove across like beaver dams and portages and frozen ice in the middle of February, said Heather O’Connor, a Canadian author and journalist who spent five years researching Ojibwe horses. 

“It was dubbed the ‘Heist across the Ice.’ 

” ‘I was thinking, well, I’m wondering if this is the last time I’m going to ever see those horses,’ recalled Norman Jordan, a Lac La Croix council member who as a young boy remembers watching the men lead the horses away.  

“ ‘Everybody was so attached to them, in a deep way, a spiritual way. And it was sad just seeing them being taken away.’

“But those four rescued mares allowed the breed to survive. In Minnesota, they were bred with a Spanish mustang, and slowly, their numbers increased, largely among small herds in Canada. …

“A dedicated network of people has developed to help preserve the breed, [Kim Campbell of Grey Raven Ranch on the Seine River First Nation] said. But often, a breeder will retire, or run out of money. She said more are needed for the breed to survive. …

“Dr. Gus Cothran, an emeritus professor at the veterinary college at Texas A&M University who has studied the genetics of the Ojibwe horse, said rare and endangered breeds like it often encounter the same challenge — they need more people willing to take care of them and breed them. 

“ ‘And so one of the things that people involved with rare breeds need to do is create a market for them, and create a demand. And for a horse, that can be very difficult. They’re very expensive and demanding.’

“In 2017, almost 40 years to the day after those four remaining horses were taken away from the Lac la Croix First Nation, the horses returned. 

“Norman Jordan, the boy who watched them leave, became Chief. And he helped bring a herd back to the community. 

” ‘It’s almost like when they left there was a piece of my history that was leaving, a piece of me, like a void that I’ve had for all these years. And then that night they came back, it’s like that piece that was missing was back now.’ ” 

More at MPR, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Stop signs in Cree and Dénesųłiné installed in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada.

Language and culture are important in so many ways, including helping individuals define for themselves and others exactly who they are. I am reminded of the made-up languages my friends and I used in childhood, especially Goose Latin. We were the only ones who understood it, and we liked being special that way.

In Canada, where residential schools once tried to strip indigenous children from their own special language, an effort is being made to give it back.

Chico Harlan and Amanda Coletta wrote about restitution of the Cree language at the Washington Post in July. I got the story via MSN.

“Lucy Johnson never spoke the Cree language when she was growing up. Her father wouldn’t allow it. He called it ‘jungle talk.’ He didn’t elaborate much until he was weeks away from dying of alcoholism. Then he told his children that he associated the language with his experience at Ermineskin residential school. …

“ ‘The more he spoke, the more punishment he received,’ Johnson said.

“It’s a legacy of Ermineskin that Johnson, now 55 and a paralegal, can’t speak the language of her people. Nor can her six siblings. Across Canada, the often brutal residential school system, designed to assimilate Indigenous people into White, European culture, succeeded in breaking the tradition of passing on languages from generation to generation — and put the survival of some in jeopardy.

“But now, 25 years after the last residential school was shuttered, some Indigenous communities [are] reviving and relearning their native languages. It’s a movement fueled by a desire to recover what has been lost, and by a sense that progress is possible. The youngest Cree didn’t attend residential schools. Unlike their parents or grandparents, they didn’t internalize the idea that speaking their language might be wrong.

“Isaiah Swampy Omeasoo, 20, studied and made himself fluent in Cree. His wife is expecting a child in February, he said, and he’ll speak to his son or daughter in the language. …

“In Maskwacîs — an area with four First Nations reserves on the Alberta prairie between Edmonton and Calgary — Cree, the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada, can be found written on stop signs, municipal buildings and emergency vehicles. A local radio station has Cree-speaking DJs. The school district says its mission is about ’embedding’ Cree culture and language into education — a direct response to the damage wrought by residential schools.

“But restoring a language isn’t easy. Steve Wood, the vice principal at the high school, said only six of 54 staff members can speak Cree fluently. Many in the community aren’t conversational. Robert Ward Jr., the radio station manager, says he sometimes runs into ideas on air that he can’t express because he lacks the vocabulary. He’ll admit as much on live radio, he says, with the hope that an elder will call in and help him.

“ ‘This is a language that’s been taken from us,’ he said. …

“The United States also ran what were called Indian boarding schools through much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Interior Department is now investigating abuses in that system. …

“In 2018, the four First Nations in Maskwacîs signed an agreement with the federal government that gave them far greater control over education, allowing them to offer and design a curriculum infused with the Cree language, culture and traditions.

“Brian Wildcat, the superintendent of the Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission, said educators are planning to pilot a new curriculum in the fall with a heavy focus on the Cree language, identity and way of life. He hopes it eventually will replace the district’s current curriculum, which was written by the province. …

“Wood, the vice principal, called restoring the language a ‘monumental effort’ — and one that requires immersion. So he tries to use Cree as much as he can: when ordering a sandwich at the local Subway or filling his car up at the gas station. ‘The language has to be heard for people to pick it up,’ he said.

“It’s with the young people, he said, where he sees progress.

“ ‘We have kids that come home from our kindergarten schools who know more Cree than their parents,’ Wood said. ‘It’s a product of what transpired.’ ”

More at MSN, here.

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Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM Staff
An Indigenous mural fills the front of a building in the North End of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on May 11, 2022.
First Nations in Winnipeg are rethinking their history with the powerful Hudson Bay Company, says the Christian Science Monitor.

It may take a long time, but it’s possible for wrongs to be righted. At least a bit.

Sara Miller Llana reports at the Christian Science Monitor on how the indigenous people of Winnipeg, Canada, are moving toward a new future as they rethink their history with the exploitive Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade.

“After the Hudson’s Bay Co. department store shuttered its hulking, 650,000-plus-square-foot building in downtown Winnipeg in 2020,” she writes, “Peatr Thomas was asked to replicate one of his murals in the empty windows.

“The Inninew and Anishnaabe artist at first hesitated. If any entity casts a colonial shadow in Canada, it is the Hudson’s Bay Co.

“Established in 1670 by the king of England, the HBC existed for centuries as a fur trading enterprise that upended the lives of First Nations as it aggressively expanded into what would later become Canada. Mr. Thomas didn’t want to be affiliated.

“At the same time, the flagship store in Winnipeg looms large — physically and in historical relevance. Mr. Thomas saw an opportunity to share his vision of a ‘new future,’ he says, ‘built on truth.’

“Today his vibrant mural, ‘Aski Pimachi Iwew,’ reflects back the story of the earth’s renewal. Animals painted in black, upon a red background representing dawn, depict the seven ancestor teachings of ‘Turtle Island,’ what many Indigenous people call North America: love, wisdom, respect, courage, honesty, humility, and truth. …

“His mural would be a taste of what’s to come to downtown Winnipeg. Since April, colorful flags and banners have enlivened the building’s drab neoclassical facade, installed by the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), which represents 34 First Nations groups in southern Manitoba.

“This spring HBC, now a holding company that owns businesses and investments including Saks Fifth Avenue, transferred the building to the SCO. The Indigenous leaders plan to turn it into a multifaceted facility centered around low-income housing for the urban Indigenous community, as well as restaurants, pop-up stores, and space for artists. It will also become the new seat of SCO governance.

“At a time when Canada says that Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is a driving goal at the highest levels of government, the transfer of a colonial icon to Indigenous leaders resonates with symbolism. …

“ ‘I think it was important for us to let it be known that this is the change that’s coming,’ says Jerry Daniels, the grand chief of the SCO, whose offices are currently based on the industrial outskirts of Winnipeg near the airport. ‘This is what Reconciliation is.’ …

“HBC is Canada’s oldest company. It was chartered in 1670 by King Charles II, after two fur traders convinced him that a base on the shores of the Hudson Bay would provide direct access to the beaver pelts so popular in Europe at the time.

“HBC would come to rule over trapping grounds that represent a third of Canada today. And in its pursuit it would drive settlement across the continent, acting as a de facto government and disrupting communities that had been self-sustaining with their own sophisticated trade networks and diplomatic ties to one another. …

“In an elaborate ceremony, Grand Chief Daniels, in a beaded headdress, transferred two beaver pelts and two elk hides, the traditional ‘rent’ under the original charter, to the governor of HBC, New York business executive Richard Baker.

“Sophia Smoke was invited there as the oral historian. She’s an eloquent 14-year-old from Dakota Plains Wahpeton First Nation in Manitoba. … She addressed the crowd in the Dakota language, which her grandmother taught her, before continuing in English. ‘Today there is no mistaking, we are changing the course of history for good,’ she told the crowd. …

“Today, Winnipeg counts the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada with over 92,000 (in a population of 750,000). It has led to a vibrant Indigenous social and cultural scene that is increasingly present on the cityscape. But the economic reality of Indigenous peoples, dispossessed from their lands, also comes into stark view here.

“According to the latest census figures, 31% of Indigenous people in Winnipeg live below the low-income threshold, compared with 13% of the non-Indigenous population. Homelessness is a major problem for the city, and 66% of those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe spaces identify as Indigenous. Child poverty is the highest of any province. …

“Mr. Daniels, from Long Plain First Nation, says he experienced much turbulence growing up, part of the child welfare system for a while. He says providing stable housing will have a ripple effect on the community that’s suffered poverty and intergenerational trauma, especially from the residential schooling system.

“ ‘Families are built on the stability of their grandparents and their great-grandparents who were able to provide the knowledge and the love and support to engage in different areas,’ he says. ‘We didn’t have that opportunity.’ …

“Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn is meant to be a vibrant hub, with two restaurants and community space. It will showcase Indigenous art and culture and include a museum that tells the role that Indigenous people played in the founding of HBC from their perspective.

“The building reinforces a transformation already underway in Winnipeg. There is Qaumajuq, billed as the largest Inuit art center in the world, that opened last year. There is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which dedicates a significant portion of its permanent display to the truth about Canada’s violent assimilationist policies. Indigenous murals, sculpture, and gardens color the cityscape. …

“The new project could become a model for other Canadian cities and landmarks, says Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign minister and former president of the University of Winnipeg who is an adviser on this project. … ‘This project dispels the idea of Native people being dependent on welfare and all those kinds of stereotypes. No, they are entrepreneurs, they are activists doing important things, and they can manage a big project.’

“Stephen Bown, author of the book The Company, which tells the story of the first 200 years of HBC, says the Winnipeg project in some ways takes history full circle. ‘The amount of Indigenous involvement in that business often goes unrecognized,’ he says.

“While run from London, HBC on the ground depended on the knowledge, savvy, and goodwill of the Indigenous inhabitants. ‘That began right from the very, very beginning. … The symbolic significance could be that the company is returning maybe in one sense to its roots as an Indigenous-run thing.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Hyperallergic.
The print of Montaukett Indian Stephen Taukus (Talkhouse) is by Shinnecock artist Norman Smith. Seen here at Hildreth’s Whole Home Goods store on Main Street in Southampton, Long Island, New York.

Ever since indigenous tribes experienced First Contact with Europeans, the newcomers’ culture has run roughshod over the folks who had thousands of years of history here. The only positive thing about the way things are in the present time is that we are hearing more about it. You have to bring wrongs to light before you can start doing something better.

From Long Island, New York, Shinnecock tribal member Jeremy Dennis writes at Hyperallergic that his tribe’s “continued presence as a sovereign nation has been slowly rendered invisible by neighbors in the Hamptons.”

Wouldn’t I love to see “land recognition” statements before every Long Island party! And I know some who might be up for it.

Dennis writes, “The people of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Eastern Long Island in New York State can trace their presence on their land back more than ten thousand years. Shinnecock’s claim is evident through Clovis Projectile Points from the Paleo-Indian Period (15,000–3,500 BCE).

“By 1000 BCE, Shinnecock people and other local tribal communities expressed themselves through clay pottery designs, wood sculptures, and wampum shell/bone beadwork. With the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous artisans incorporated richly colored cloth, glass beads, and blankets into their crafts and regalia. In the early 20th century, Shinnecock artisans loaded their wagons with baskets, caned chairs, beaded moccasins, embroidered table linens, eel traps, corn and herb mortars, duck decoys, wooden spoons, and scrub brushes, and sold them in nearby white communities.

“For thousands of years, and hundreds of years after first contact, Shinnecock artisans and other local tribal communities were best known for their wampum manufacturing and jewelry making. Wampum is manufactured by harvesting and shaping clamshells found only along saltwater sources from New Jersey to the Canadian coastline. …

“After 30 years of contact with European colonists, the demand for wampum waned, and the colonists came to value only Indigenous land and labor. By the 20th century, the historic trove of countless wampum beads, made individually by hand, were discarded — mistaken as gaudy jewelry, as Chief Harry Wallace of Unkechaug in modern-day Mastic Beach described during a public presentation at Guild Hall in 2021. …

“Walking through the East End [of the Hamptons], residents and tourists can find the only acknowledgment of Shinnecock people on Southampton’s Village Seal, which depicts a sole Indian and a mass of Europeans arriving on their boats.

“Following the first moment of contact in 1640, in which Shinnecock’s Sachem Nowedonah and other advisors greeted the English, Shinnecock people were understood as friendly neighbors and vital to European colonists’ early survival and industry. Building trust and friendship with the English quickly turned into the English swindling land from Shinnecock and other Indigenous communities on Long Island. Through deceit, insurmountable debt, threats of violence, and Shinnecock signature forgeries, the Shinnecock Nation alone illegally lost more than four thousand acres of its homeland. With the loss of land came the loss of natural resources, places to live, and means of survival. …

“Since the early 1700s, colonists recognized the real estate potential of this idyllic landscape. … This is why the arts are vital to our survival. We are defiant by sustaining our traditional storytelling, dance, beadwork, and wampum manufacturing, along with newer art forms, such as digital photography, videography, and painting, among many other mediums.

“Despite constant hardships, Shinnecock people have prioritized cultural expression through the generations. Artists such as Charles Bunn, Wickham Hunter, Norman Smith, Edward Terry, Dennis King, and Chuck Herman Quinn have found employment and opportunities as they’ve carried on carving and beadwork traditions, and their artworks and names will live on forever in those objects. Later generations of Shinnecock artists, including Denise Silva-Dennis, David Bunn Martine, and Herbert Randall, have explored self-representation in the arts as a means to challenge the stereotypes and caricatures of Shinnecock people from pre-contact times to the present.

“In recent years, Shinnecock artists have received support and recognition through programs such as the Gather series at Guild Hall and artwork acquisitions. The Parrish Art Museum, for example, now has two photos by artist and photographer Herbert Randall, though they were acquired decades after their original creation.

“For many years, Shinnecock art and cultural objects could be viewed at the Shinnecock Cultural Center & Museum, opened in 2001, on the reservation in Southampton — but the museum has been closed since 2017. … The lack of spaces showcasing Shinnecock art represents a need for new Indigenous-led art spaces and transformation in museum structures and collections to truly represent the East End community.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Biosphere2.
Biospheres in Arizona gather ancient wisdom to aid future generations.

Now that we know human activity is the main reason for dangerous global warming, it’s time to turn to indigenous tribes and learn to step more lightly on Plant Earth. That’s the thinking behind a biosphere project in Arizona.

Samuel Gilbert reports at the Washington Post, “Indigenous peoples have known for millennia to plant under the shade of the mesquite and paloverde trees that mark the Sonoran Desert [in Arizona], shielding their crops from the intense sun and reducing the amount of water needed.

“The modern-day version of this can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where a canopy of elevated solar panels helps to protect rows of squash, tomatoes and onions. Even on a November afternoon, with the temperature climbing into the 80s, the air under the panels stays comfortably cool.

“Such adaptation is central to the research underway at Biosphere 2, a unique center affiliated with the University of Arizona that’s part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.

“Learning from and incorporating Indigenous knowledge is important, believes Greg Barron-Gafford, a professor who studies the intersection of plant biology and environmental and human factors. But instead of relying on tree shade, ‘we’re underneath an energy producer that’s not competing for water.’

“On both sides of the Arizona border with Mexico, scientists are planting experimental gardens and pushing the potential of an ‘agrivoltaic’ approach. Thirsty crops such as fruits, nuts and leafy greens — which require elaborate irrigation systems that have pulled vast quantities of water from underground aquifers and the Colorado and other rivers — are nowhere to be found. …

“Southern Arizona is an epicenter of the movement not just because of the intense environmental pressures that the region faces but because of the presence of the Tohono O’odham Nation southwest of Tucson.

“The Tohono O’odham have farmed in the Sonoran Desert for several thousand years. Like many Indigenous groups, they now are on the front lines of climate change, with food security a paramount concern. Their expansive reservation, nearly the size of Connecticut, has just a few grocery stores. It is a food desert in a desert where conditions are only getting more extreme.

“Since the early 1970s, a group of Nation members have run the San Xavier Cooperative Farm and grown ‘traditional desert cultivars’ in accordance with their ancestral values — particularly respect for land, water and plants.

“Sterling Johnson, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, has worked for the past decade to share that expertise broadly. His partner, Nina Sajovec, directs the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a Native American-governed food justice organization that several years ago founded its own seed bank and already has distributed over 10,000 seeds to farmers.

“ ‘We’re all about using what is out there,’ Sajovec said. Among the center’s heirloom varieties: 60-day corn, a fast-maturing desert-adapted vegetable, and the tepary bean, a high-protein legume particularly suited to the climate because of leaves that can fold to withstand direct sunlight during the peak of summer.

“Johnson captures precipitation during the Arizona monsoon season to sustain crops on his field in the desert lowlands. ‘It’s using the rainwater,’ he explained, ‘using the contour lines, using your environment and nature to grow food.’ …

“Perhaps even more daunting than the rising temperatures of climate change are the water shortages that many parts of the world will confront. In Tucson, the Santa Cruz River is now dry because of too much diversion and burgeoning demand, according to Brad Lancaster, an expert on rainwater harvesting.

“ ‘The majority of the water that irrigates landscapes and Tucson and Arizona is not local water’ but tapped from the Colorado River, Lancaster said. Unless severe drought conditions reverse and the river level improves, mandatory federal cutbacks mean farmers will lose a significant amount of that critical resource starting next year.

“ ‘The goal is how can we use rainwater and storm water, passively captured, to be the primary irrigator,’ said Lancaster, who lives in a local neighborhood that has been transformed through passive water harvesting into an ‘urban forest,’ with wild edible plants such as chiltepin pepper and desert hackberry lining the sidewalks.

“He is planning a similar system at Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, using basins and earthen structures to spread water across the landscape and reduce channelized flows. Nabhan, who also is involved in the site’s design, sees it as replicable and, more importantly, scalable. …

“ ‘We’ve had 5,000 years of farmers trying out different strategies for dealing with heat, drought and water scarcity,’ said [Gary Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and agrarian activist who focuses on plants and cultures of the Southwest], walking around his own creation at his home in Patagonia, a small town about 18 miles north of the Mexico border. The fenced space holds 40 species of agave, three species of sotol, prickly pear and other varieties of cactuses and succulents.

“ ‘The key concept,’ he said, ‘is that we’re trying to fit the crops to the environment rather than remaking the environment.’ ”

More at the Post, here. Lots of great photos.

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Photo: Luisa Dörr.
ImillaSkate athletes practice skateboarding on a downhill road near Cochabamba, Bolivia. They use indigenous attire as a statement against discrimination.

We loved the movie Skate Kitchen about female skateboarders in New York. You may have seen my post about it here. Learning how outsiders find their people, their tribe, was a revelation.

My Cousin Claire knows I love stories like that. I think my whole extended family does. Maybe it’s in our DNA. Claire sent me today’s story about female skateboarders in Bolivia and the reasons they are using their sport to stick up for indigenous people.

Paula Ramón writes at National Geographic, “The colorful polleras are a symbol of identity in the Bolivian countryside. But these voluminous, traditional skirts worn by Indigenous Aymara and Quechua women have also been the object of discrimination, some seeing the appearance at odds with modern identity. Now a group of women athletes has brought them back to the city — donning them during skateboarding competitions — to celebrate the cultural heritage of the cholitas.

” ‘The pollerasare very valuable to me,’ says Deysi Tacuri López, 27, a member of ImillaSkate, founded in 2018 in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city. ‘I wear them with pride.’

“Tacuri sees in the polleras not only a cultural expression but also a form of empowerment. … More than half of Bolivia’s population is of Indigenous descent.

“Tacuri and fellow members at ImillaSkate also among those with Indigenous ancestors. Some of their relatives still wear polleras.      

“ ‘They are my mother’s and my aunts’ clothing, and I see them as strong women. Here in Bolivia, many women in pollerasare the head of their families,’ she said in a telephone interview. ‘For me, mujeres de polleras [pollera wearers] can do anything.’

“Tacuri and her teammates spend long hours practicing moves at Ollantay Park, one of two places in the city with ramps and other structures designed for the sport. …

“ImillaSkate was founded by Daniela Santiváñez, 26, and two friends. She learned to skate as a child thanks to her brother, though it was ‘rare to see girls on skateboards.’ …

“Without women role models to follow in the sport in Cochabamba — and growing tired of listening to her mom’s complaints about her bruises from falls — Santiváñez stopped practicing when she was a teenager. She took up skateboarding again after college, where she got a degree in graphic design. By then, Dani, as her friends call her, discovered she was not the only woman with a passion for the sport.

” ‘One day I was having a conversation with the girls about why all the boys get together to skate — why don’t girls do that?’ recalls Santiváñez. …

“Over the past three years, ImillaSkate has grown to nine skaters. Being an active member means making time to practice every week in order to be able to participate in competitions, and also sharing the same principles of acceptance of diverse groups and traditions. Although the collective is based in Cochabamba, the group has generated a wider audience on social media beyond Bolivia, with more than 5,000 followers on Instagram. They also maintain a Facebook page with more than 7,000 followers, and a YouTube channel where some of their videos get thousands of views.

“Santiváñez clarifies that they wear the skirts only for performances, not necessarily as their street clothing. ‘We do it as a demonstration, as a cry for inclusion,’ she says. … ‘Skateboarding is inclusive, it brings all kinds of people together. …

‘It’s a community, and we’ve taken advantage of this to make the world a kinder place.’

“Tacuri says they first challenged themselves to embrace their own roots. ‘We ourselves have decided to get to know our culture and our identity. We have decided to revalue our clothing and encourage new generations.’ …

“The polleras’ origins date back to the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Orginally imposed by colonial rulers as a way to easily identify the native population and also have the attire conform to what was being worn in Spain by the poorer people, the skirts eventually were adapted as part of traditional Andean attire, most commonly associated with cholas — Indigenous women from the highlands. Just as their ancestors gave the skirts their own identity by mixing them with patterned blouses, local jewelry, and hats, the skateboarding imillas are making their own modifications to the garment — and trying to remove a stigma.

” ‘The pollera is associated with the countryside, with ignorant people without resources. We want people to understand that there is nothing wrong with wearing a pollera.’ …

“The group didn’t even know where to get the elaborate skirts, so they turned to their grandmothers for help.

“Not all of them jumped on board immediately, concerned they would be stigmatized. Even as the descendant of a mujer de pollera, Luisa Zurita struggled with getting her family to understand the premise behind the wardrobe. Only after she was invited to participate in a local television program for a skateboarding performance did her grandmother give Zurita her blessing — and her favorite pollera.”

More at National Geographic, here. As you would expect of National Geographic, the photos are terrific.

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Photo: Shawn Miller / Library of Congress / NYT / Redux via the New Yorker.
Joy Harjo, US Poet Laureate, is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Her hometown is Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Are you familiar with the work of our current poet laureate, Jo Harjo? I felt moved to share an article about her today because I’m about to attend for the first time the online version of my local library’s poetry readings.

Jason Berry at the Daily Beast writes, “I started a Joy Harjo reading jag the summer before last in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at op. cit., a magical store in whose forest of books, new and older, I picked up her 2012 memoir, Crazy Brave. I knew Harjo was the U.S. Poet Laureate, the first Native American so exalted, but I had never read her work. Her memoir’s opening scene hooked me right away:

“ ‘Once I was so small I could barely see over the top of the back seat of the black Cadillac my father bought with his Indian oil money. He polished and tuned his car daily. I wanted to see everything. …

“ ‘I wonder what signaled this moment, a loop of time that on first glance could be any place in time. I became acutely aware of the line the jazz trumpeter was playing (a sound I later associated with Miles Davis). I didn’t know the words jazz or trumpet. My rite of passage into the world of humanity occurred then, through jazz. The music was a starting bridge between familiar and strange lands.’

“That bridge runs through Harjo’s impressive trek of 22 books of poetry, six albums as a jazz saxophonist and husky spoken-word poet, two children’s books, two plays, last year’s memoir sequel Poet Warrior, screenplays, and editor of major anthologies. …

“The scenic lilts of self-discovery in her early work never took Harjo far from a steely focus on the dynamics of identity, enduring and transcending government injustices heaped on Indians, a legacy she came, over time, to see as precursor to the greater earth plundered by pollution, heaving from convulsions of the climate. …

“In Poet Warrior, Harjo circles back to devastating childhood episodes initially described in Crazy Brave, with new details on how she survived her early years. The father she initially adored, who came from a family with land generating some oil lease revenues, was an airline mechanic and raging alcoholic who chased women, beat his wife, and terrorized his kids. Joy’s mother sang as she bustled in the kitchen to sweet radio songs, doing a memorable take on Patsy Cline’s ‘I Fall to Pieces,’ getting the girl into jitterbug dancing. …

“The child had a poetry anthology which opened a new world with the kindred spirit of Emily Dickinson: … ‘I liked to read aloud to myself: “I’m Nobody! Who are you?/ Are you — Nobody — Too?/ Then there’s a pair of us!”

“ ‘Two nobodies equal one somebody. Emily’s poems told me she found herself with words. Poetry was a refuge from the instability and barrage of human disappointment. When I read and listened to disappointment I was out of the crossfire of my parents.’ …

“As a teenager [Harjo] found rescue with acceptance to the Institute of American Indian Arts, a high school in Santa Fe where she boarded in the late 1960s, meeting young Seminoles, Sioux, Creek, and Pawnee students among those from other nations, awakening to a Native American renaissance as they found expression in classes on drama, literature, music, and the arts. …

“She fell in love with a Cherokee boy, became pregnant, ended up going to live with the boy and his cloying mother in Talequah, Oklahoma. After working day jobs to cover babysitting for her son while the boy-husband failed to get jobs, she took the baby and moved to Albuquerque, a single mom balancing work and classes at the University of New Mexico.

“She fell in love with a poet by whom she had another child, only to realize that his wild binges, jumping in hotel swimming pools where he wasn’t staying, crawling home with flowers and florid apologies, were a disaster she had to escape. …

“She [had earlier] joined the Creek-Muscogee nation, adopting the surname Harjo in honor of a grandmother whose artworks inspired her. ‘Just as I felt my grandmother living in me, I feel the legacy and personhood of my warrior grandfathers and grandmothers who refused to surrender to injustice against our peoples.’

“In Albuquerque, at U.N.M., Joy Harjo became a poet, charged with a spiritual sensibility given shape by the stories and tribal history she absorbed in the Muscogee Creek Nation. The challenge of poetry was stark, as she writes near the end of the first memoir.

“ ‘I could not express my perception of the sacred./ ‘I could speak everyday language: Please pass the salt. I would like … When are we going … I’ll meet you there./ I wanted the intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors to pass through to my language and my life.’ …

“She experienced a conceptual turning point in 1990 while attending a conference of indigenous peoples in a mountain village near Quito, Ecuador, discussing a counter-response to the approaching celebration in the Americas of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in 1492.

“ ‘I’ll never forget the arrival of the people from the Amazon villages,’ Harjo wrote in a 2010 piece for Muscogee Nation News. ‘They walked up to the encampment barefoot, with their beautiful, colorful feathers and spears. They came to share a story of American oil companies, and how the lands were being destroyed and their way of life irrevocably broken.’ “

More at the Daily Beast, here. I especially liked an insight about indigenous people that Harjo quotes from one of the elders of her tribe: “No matter how small a tribal people may be, each of them has a right to be who they are.”

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Photo: Walter Siegmund via Wikimedia.
The forested western slopes of Washington State’s Fidalgo Island overlook the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The pandemic may have distracted you and me from the environmental crisis, but many indigenous tribes have tackled Covid while also keeping their eye on the ball. In this article from the Washington Post, Jim Morrison explains that for the Swinomish people, it has something to do with their holistic world view.

“For 10,000 years,” he writes, “the Swinomish tribe has fished the waters of northwestern Washington, relying on the bounty of salmon and shellfish not only as a staple of its diet but as a centerpiece of its culture. At the beginning of the fishing season, the tribe gathers on the beach for a First Salmon ceremony, a feast honoring the return of the migratory fish that binds the generations of a tribe that calls itself the People of the Salmon.

“At the ceremony’s conclusion, single salmon are ferried by boat in four directions — north to Padilla Bay, east to the Skagit River, south to Skagit Bay and west to Deception Pass — and eased into the water with a prayer that they will tell other salmon how well they were treated.

“In recent years, though, the tribe’s harvest, diminished by vanishing habitat and warming waters fueled by climate change, hasn’t been sufficient to feed the hundreds of people who come to pay homage to their ancestors and to the fish that sustained them.

“ ‘We don’t have that abundance anymore,’ said Lorraine Loomis, an elder who has managed the tribal fishery for 40 years. ‘To get ceremonial fish, we buy it and freeze it.’

“For the Swinomish, perched on a vulnerable, low-lying reservation on Fidalgo Island, the effects of a warming world have been a gut punch.

“The tribe has responded with an ambitious, multipronged strategy to battle climate change and improve the health of the land and the water and the plants, animals and people who thrived in harmony for generations. In 2010, the Swinomish became one of the first communities to assess the problems posed by a warming planet and enact a climate action plan. An additional 50 Native American tribes have followed, creating climate strategies to protect their lands and cultures, ahead of most U.S. communities.

“The Swinomish see the tasks beyond addressing shoreline risk and restoring habitats. They look at climate adaptation and resilience with the eyes of countless generations. They recognize that the endangered ‘first foods’ — clams, oysters, elk, traditional plants and salmon — are not mere resources to be consumed. They are central to their values, beliefs and practices and, therefore, to their spiritual, cultural and community well-being.

“Loomis is 80. Every member of her family, from her grandfather to her nine great-grandchildren, has fished the tribe’s ancestral waters. She has watched over the decades as the salmon disappeared and her family turned to crab, geoduck and sea cucumbers. She’s seen the salmon season drop to only a few days per species from the eight months — May through December — of decades past in order to protect populations. The Skagit River is the last waterway in the continental United States that’s home to all five species of Pacific salmon.

“Progress has been slow; some researchers say it could be 90 years before the salmon recover. Loomis is taking the long view. ‘If I didn’t believe we would recover [the fishery], I guess I wouldn’t still be working on this,’ she said.

“In recent years, the tribe has fostered salmon recovery through a variety of projects. It has restored tidelands and channels, planted trees along streambeds to cool warming waters, and collaborated with farmers to increase stream setbacks to improve water quality.

“Restoring salmon populations is just part of an ambitious climate action plan to blunt the effects of increased flooding, ocean acidification, rising river temperatures, more-destructive storms and habitat loss.

“The Swinomish are rebuilding oyster reefs for the native Olympia oyster. They’re planning the first modern clam garden in the United States on the reservation’s tidelands, reviving an ancient practice. They’re monitoring deer and elk populations through camera traps to understand the climate change pressures and to inform hunting limits. And they have ongoing wetland restoration projects to explore preserving native plants and to help naturally manage coastal flooding.

“ ‘They’re doing really innovative climate adaptation,’ said Meade Krosby, a senior scientist with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. ‘They were way ahead of the curve.’ …

“Their plans merge traditional and academic resources. When looking at ways to protect wetlands, Todd Mitchell, the tribe’s director of environmental protection, discovered that knowledge about traditional plantings passed down through the generations was lost. So he turned to the University of Washington, which had archived notes by ethnographers and anthropologists who had interviewed tribe elders in the 1950s and 1960s.

“A tribal member who earned a geology degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree at Washington State University, Mitchell returned to work for the tribe 20 years ago. ‘I think the missing piece [is] how to take this straight-up science in the academic sense and put it together with traditional knowledge.’ …

“Jamie Donatuto, the tribe’s environmental health officer, and Larry Campbell, a 71-year-old tribal elder, have created a tool, Indigenous Health Indicators, that goes beyond typical morbidity and mortality measures and considers ecosystem health, social and cultural beliefs, and values integral to a community. …

“Seen through that lens, restoring ‘first foods’ is important not just for diet and nutrition but for nourishment of the soul. Living somewhere for a long time fosters a sense of place, and a sense of place fosters stewardship.

“ ‘It’s a different worldview,’ said Donatuto, who has a doctorate in resource management and environmental sustainability from the University of British Columbia. ‘The salmon and the crabs and the clams are relatives. They’re living relatives. They’re not just resources. And so you treat them with a symbiotic respect. They feed you because you take care of them. It’s a very different way of thinking about why these areas are important.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Chris Bell/The Culture Trip.
Tourists in La Guajira, a remote part of Colombia. Nowadays the focus is on a vaccine outreach to wary indigenous residents.

John assures me that pandemics always peter out as variants emerge weaker and weaker. I hope he’s right. Meanwhile, some experts are saying we won’t be done with Covid until we vaccinate the whole world.

Samantha Schmidt at the Washington Post wrote recently about an effort to reach a remote corner of Colombia — one step in vaccinating the whole world.

“The vaccination team had spent an hour bouncing and bucking down a dirt road and over train tracks when the van driver issued a warning. The toughest part of the drive was still to come. The two women gripped their seat cushions as the van jolted, climbed a mound of dirt and fishtailed in the slick mud. Driver Toto Girnu honked at passing goats as he followed a path blazed only by tire tracks. In the distance, he spotted dark, menacing clouds.

“If the group was lucky, the drive through this remote desert would take four or five hours. If it rained, as it did when Girnu made this trip a few days earlier, it could take more than 10.

“But this was the only way to reach the Indigenous families who live in this arid swath of land in the northern department of La Guajira, where there are no paved roads, no electricity, no running water and no other access to the vaccines that would protect their communities.

“Travel is only part of the challenge confronting the team, one of many contracted by the Colombian government to deliver vaccines to some of the country’s remotest peoples. There is also a lack of information about the coronavirus, hesitation around vaccines and a general mistrust of authorities.

“The van, ‘Route of Hope’ written across the windshield, came upon a roadblock. Adults and children here string ropes across the road, to be lifted only in exchange for water, food or cash.

“ ‘Are you vaccinated?’ vaccine team coordinator Katherin Gamez shouted to a young man. Girnu gave the man a fist bump, tossed him a small bag of water and translated the question into Wayuunaiki, the language of the local Wayuu Indigenous people.

“ ‘For what?’ he asked.

“Across the Andes, a region that has reported some of the world’s highest covid-19 death rates, teams are traversing deserts, mountains, rainforests and rivers to vaccinate isolated communities.

“Such teams are particularly active in Colombia, a country of more than 48 million people, where about 16 percent of the population lives in rural areas that were often neglected by the government during more than five decades of armed conflict. …

“About 35 percent of Colombia’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry. More than half of residents in major cities — 62 percent in the capital of Bogotá — have received at least one dose.

“But in La Guajira, home to the country’s largest Indigenous population, only 38 percent have received at least one dose. … Years of government abandonment and mismanagement have caused many Wayuu residents to mistrust the health system. Only 4 percent of Wayuu people here have access to clean water, Human Rights Watch reported last year; 77 percent of Indigenous households are food insecure. In Alta Guajira, where the largest number of Wayuu people live, there is only one hospital, and it offers only basic care. …

“ ‘By the time a lot of them get to care, they’re so near death … there’s this perception that maybe the care didn’t help,’ said Shannon Doocy, an associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins who co-wrote the Human Rights Watch report. …

“ ‘We’re getting close,’ Girnu told Gamez and Eliana Andrioly, the team’s Indigenous leader. They sped down a salt flat, their view miles of sand and the distant bay. …

“A team of nursing assistants and a doctor were waiting. The providers spend 15 days at a time living in a dormitory next door, sleeping in hammocks and showering with buckets of water, to stage daily medical missions to the surrounding communities.

“The organization, IPSI Palaima — ‘land of the sea’ in Wayuunaiki — was founded in 2007 by an Indigenous woman who grew up in the area. It is one of the only providers in Alta Guajira with a permanent vaccine refrigerator, in a medical center powered by solar panels.

“The team member in charge of shots this week was Daniela Vergara, a 21-year-old nursing assistant who had never been to AltaGuajira before she applied for the job. Each day, Vergara aims to vaccinate at least 10 people — a modest goal that often requires a massive effort.

“On this Monday, she had not yet reached her target. She packed her cooler — a blue backpack filled with vials of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot that has been a godsend to rural vaccine teams — and set out for a community across the bay. [Then] they drove to a gathering place where they hoped to meet people interested in the vaccine.

“ ‘There’s no one here,’ Vergara said. ‘We got here too late.’

“A local leader suggested they go house to house. As darkness fell, the team members asked anyone who looked 18 or older if they wanted the vaccine. Soon a woman recounted a rumor they had heard many times: Outsiders were pushing a vaccine that was sickening members of the Wayuu community.

“The woman, a teacher who spoke some Spanish, knew what was at stake. She had contracted the virus a few months earlier, after a trip to the town of Uribia. For a month, she suffered chest pains, headaches, an intense cough and the loss of taste and smell. … She worried about a 66-year-old neighbor who had no interest in getting a shot.

“ ‘Many people are dying from this disease,’ Juan Larrada, a Wayuu doctor in the group, said in Wayuunaiki. He said the vaccine could have side effects, but it would protect them from serious illness. He asked Amaita Uriana why she did not want it.

“ ‘Because I was afraid of getting sicker,’ she said. ‘I really feel very sick. I carry pains in my body. That’s why I refused when a girl came here for the same reason. Besides, she was very pretentious. And we had already heard about the experiences of other Wayuu who had been vaccinated and become ill.’

“ ‘The vaccine can have those effects,’ Larrada agreed. ‘Fever, muscular pains, that’s normal.’

“Understanding the doctor as he spoke to her in her own language, Uriana assented. She closed her eyes; Vergara emptied the syringe into her arm.”

Read about the many Wayuu who cannot be persuaded and why that is, here. The photos in the article are terrific, but I can’t share them because they’re blocked. If you have a subscription, you are in luck.

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