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Posts Tagged ‘tribe’

Photo: BBC.
“In the extreme northwest corner of the contiguous US,” reports the BBC, a 1970s storm uncovered a forgotten village.

If Lewis Carroll’s “boiling hot” sea becomes a reality, if the ocean doesn’t overflow from melted icebergs but instead dries out, will the lost Kingdom of Atlantis rise up?

Something like that already happened in 1970 on the west coast of Washington state.

Brendan Sainsbury wrote at the BBC, “In 1970, a violent storm uncovered a Makah village that was buried by a mudslide more than 300 years earlier. A newly re-opened museum tells the fascinating story of the ancient site.

“Coming to the end of a short, winding trail, I found myself standing in the extreme north-west corner of the contiguous US, a wild, forested realm where white-capped waves slam against the isolated Washington coast with a savage ferocity. Buttressed by vertiginous cliffs battling with the corrosive power of the Pacific, Cape Flattery has an elemental, edge-of-continent feel. No town adorns this stormy promontory. The nearest settlement, Neah Bay, sits eight miles away by road, a diminutive coast-hugging community that is home to the Makah, an indigenous tribe who have fished and thrived in this region for centuries.

“The Makah are represented by the motif of a thunderbird perched atop a whale, and their story is closely linked to the sea.

” ‘The Makah is the only tribe with explicit treaty rights to whale hunting in the US,’ explained Rebekah Monette, a tribal member and historic preservation program manager. ‘Our expertise in whaling distinguished us from other tribes. It was very important culturally. In the stratification of Makah society, whaling was at the top of the hierarchy. Hunting had the capacity to supply food for a vast number of people and raw material for tools.’

“After reading recent news stories about the Makah’s whaling rights and the impact of climate change on their traditional waters, I had come to their 27,000-acre reservation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to learn more, by visiting a unique tribal museum that has just reopened after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19.

“Due to a trick of fate, Makah history is exceptionally well-documented. In contrast to other North American civilizations, a snapshot of their past was captured and preserved by a single cataclysmic episode. In 1970, a brutal Pacific storm uncovered part of an abandoned coastal Makah village called Ozette located 15 miles south of Cape Flattery.

Part of the village had been buried by a mudslide that was possibly triggered by a dramatic seismic event around 1700, almost a century before the first European contact.

“Indeed, recent research argues that ancestors of the Makah – or related Wakashan speaking people – have been present in the area for at least 4,000 years, which, if proven, would change our understanding of prehistory in the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.

“Miraculously, the mud had protected embedded organic matter by sealing it off from the air. As a result, thousands of well-preserved artifacts that would normally have rotted – from intact woven cedar baskets to dog-hair blankets and wooden storage boxes – were able to be painstakingly unearthed during a pioneering archaeological dig. …

“The Washington Post called it ‘the most comprehensive collection of artifacts of a pre-European-contact Indian culture ever discovered in the United States.’

“Anxious the material might be engulfed by the sea and lost, the tribe called in Richard Daugherty, an influential archaeologist at Washington State University who’d been involved in fieldwork in the area since the 1940s. Having good connections with Congress, Daugherty helped secure federal funding for an exhaustive excavation.

” ‘Dr Daugherty was instrumental in the excavation work,’ recounted Monette. ‘He was very progressive and interested in working alongside the tribe.’ …

“The Makah, like many indigenous groups, have a strong oral tradition, with much of their history passed down through storytelling, song and dance. The evidence unearthed at Ozette affirmed these stories and added important details. …

“While much of the material dated from around 1700, some of it was significantly older. Indeed, archaeologists ultimately determined that multiple mudslides had hit Ozette over a number of centuries. Beneath one of the houses, another layer of well-preserved material dated back 800 years. The oldest finds so far have been radiocarbon-dated to 2,000 years and there are middens in the area that are at least 4,000 years old, according to [archaeologist Gary Wessen, a former field director at the site who later wrote a PhD dissertation on the topic].

“From the outset, the Ozette dig was different from other excavations. Tribal members worked alongside university students at the site, and, early on, it was decided that the unearthed material would stay on the reservation rather than be spirited off to distant universities or other non-indigenous institutions. In 1979, the tribe opened the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay with a museum to house a ‘greatest hits’ of the collection. The 500 pieces currently on display represent less than 1% of the overall find.

” ‘The tribe was very assertive of their ownership and control of the collection,’ said Monette. ‘A lab was developed in Neah Bay. For the museum, we hired Jean Andre, the same exhibit designer as the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.’ “

More at the BBC, here. Doesn’t it sound like Pompeii, only with the preservative being mud instead of volcanic ash?

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Photo: Far Western Anthropological Research Group.
Archaeologists and members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe worked together on a project that revealed the longstanding genetic roots of some of the region’s Native peoples. 

As I learn more about what our dominant culture has done to native tribes, the thing that really gets me is how recent some of the travesties have occurred — and for what stupid reasons. For example, a 1927 California official deciding they “didn’t need land.” Read on.

Jane Recker writes at the Smithsonian Magazine that “for decades, a misperception that the San Francisco Bay Area’s Muwekma Ohlone Tribe was ‘extinct’ barred its living members from receiving federal recognition.

“Soon, however, that might change. As Celina Tebor reports for USA Today, a new DNA analysis shows a genetic through line between 2,000-year-old skeletons found in California and modern-day Muwekma Ohlone people.

“The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, flies in the face of more than a century of misconceptions about the tribe and its people’s long history.

“ ‘The study reaffirms the Muwekma Ohlone’s deep-time ties to the area, providing evidence that disagrees with linguistic and archaeological reconstructions positing that the Ohlone are late migrants to the region,’ write the authors in the paper.

“Members of the tribe, scholars and the public are hailing the work as a chance to correct the record — and perhaps open up opportunities for the tribe to regain federal recognition. …

“The tribe’s history mirrors that of other Native Californians. After more than 10,000 years in the area, Native people were forced to submit to colonization and Christian indoctrination — first by the Spaniards, who arrived in 1776, and then, beginning in the 19th century, by settlers from the growing United States.

“As a result, the Ohlone and other Native groups lost significant numbers to disease and forced labor. Before European contact, at least 300,000 Native people who spoke 135 distinct dialects lived in what is now California, per the Library of Congress. By 1848, that number had been halved. Just 25 years later, in 1873, only 30,000 remained. Now, USA Today reports, there are just 500 members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

“The Ohlone people once lived on about 4.3 million acres in the Bay Area. But federal negligence and anthropologist A.L. Kroeber’s 1925 assessment that Native Californians were ‘extinct for all practical purposes’ caused the federal government to first strip the Muwekma Ohlone of their land, then deny them federal recognition, writes Les W. Field, a cultural anthropologist who collaborates with the Muwekma Ohlone, in the Wicazo Sa Review.

“Even though Kroeber recanted his erroneous statement in the 1950s, the lasting damage from his diagnosis meant the very much not-extinct members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe never regained federal recognition, according to the New York Times’ Sabrina Imbler.

“The new research could change that. It arose after the 2014 selection of a site for a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission educational facility. The area likely contained human remains, triggering a California policy that requires developers to contact the most likely descendants of people buried in Native American sites before digging or building. When officials contacted the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, its members requested a study of two settlement areas — Síi Túupentak (Place of the Water Round House Site) and Rummey Ta Kuččuwiš Tiprectak (Place of the Stream of the Lagoon Site).

“Experts from Stanford University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, cultural resources consulting firm Far Western Anthropological Research Group and other institutions led the research. But members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe were involved in every aspect of the study. …

“Researchers and tribe members alike commented on the unique nature of the collaboration.

“ ‘When you’re a student doing the work, it’s not common to have this kind of direct connection to the people who are “the data” that you’re working with,’ says lead author Alissa Severson, a doctoral student at Stanford University at the time of the research, in a statement. ‘We got to have that dialogue, where we could discuss what we’re doing and what we found, and how that makes sense with their history. I felt very lucky to be working on this project.’ …

“The team analyzed the DNA of 12 individuals buried between 300 and 1,900 years ago, then compared the genomes to those of a variety of Indigenous Americans. They found ‘genetic continuity’ between all 12 individuals studied and eight modern-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe members. …

“Tribe members hope the new evidence of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s longstanding connection to the land — and their ancestors — will spur politicians to finally recognize the tribe. According to an official tribal website, Muwekma Ohlone families started the reapplication process in the early 1980s and officially petitioned the U.S. government for recognition in 1995. Despite filing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe is still not recognized by the U.S. government.

“Co-author Alan Leventhal, a tribal ethnohistorian and archaeologist who works with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, tells USA Today he’s hopeful this new research will help cut through some of the bureaucratic red tape that’s been delaying the tribe’s petition.”

There’s more at the New York Times, where Sabrina Imbler notes, “The Muwekma can trace their ancestry through several missions in the Bay Area and resided on small settlements called rancherias until the early 1900s, Leventhal said.

“The tribe had once been federally recognized under a different name, the Verona Band of Alameda County. But it lost recognition after 1927, when a superintendent from Sacramento determined that the Muwekma and more than 100 other tribal bands did not need land, effectively terminating the tribe’s formal federal recognition, Mr. Leventhal said. ‘The tribe was never terminated by any act of Congress,’ he added. …

” ‘The cost of living is pushing us out,’ Ms. Nijmeh, the tribe’s chairwoman, said. ‘Recognition means that we will be able to have a land base and have a community village and have our people stay on our lands in their rightful place.’ “

More at the Smithsonian, here, and at the Times, here.

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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: 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: Nathanael Coyne, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Native tribes have wonderful stories about relations with animals, including “man’s best friend.”

This morning I got a kick out of talking to Stuga40 in Sweden about my post on dog research and the entertaining corroboration that Hannah sent. So I decided to continue the theme with something from the radio show Living on Earth.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: Many Native American communities belong to a clan which identifies with an animal. There are bear, deer, and loon clans to name a few. Those animals are featured in their traditional stories. So, to hear some of them I called up Joe Bruchac. He is a storyteller and musician with the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe of Vermont and Upstate New York. And Joe carves and plays traditional flutes. …

“JOE BRUCHAC: We say that the flute came to be when a woodpecker made holes in the hollow branch of a tree that was broken off at the end and the wind blew over it and created that first flute music. So when we play the flute, we try to keep in mind, it’s a gift of the trees and the wind, and the birds. A flute could be played for pleasure or to keep yourself from feeling lonely. …

“BASCOMB: I hope to hear some more of your flute music a little later in this segment. But first, can you get us started with a story? I understand you’re going to tell us a traditional story about dogs.

“BRUCHAC: That’s right. They say that long ago, the one we call Gluskonba, the first one in the shape of a human being was walking around. This was the time before the people came to be on this land. Now one of the jobs Gluskonba had been given by the Creator was to make things better for those humans when they got here. And so he thought, I wonder what the animals will do when they see a human being for the first time. I better ask them.

“And so Gluskonba called together a great counsel of all the animal people. And then as he stood before them, he said, ‘I want each of you to come up and when I say the word for human being, tell me what you will do.’ Now the first one to step forward was the bear. In those days bear was so large, he was taller than the tallest trees. His mouth was so huge, he could swallow an entire wigwam. And when Gluskonba said the word ‘alnoba,’ which means human being, the bear said ‘[bear grunt] I will swallow every human being that I see!’

“Gluskonba thought about that. He thought to himself, ‘I do not think human beings will enjoy being swallowed by bears, I’d better do something.’ And so he decided to use one of the powers given to him by the Creator, the power to change things, a power that we human beings also have and often misuse. Gluskonba said to the bear, ‘You have some burrs caught in your fur, let me comb them out with my fingers.’ And so the bear sat down in front of him, and Gluskonba began to run his fingers along the bear’s back and as he did so, combing out those burrs, he also made the bear get smaller and smaller, until the bear was the size that bears are to this day.

“And when Gluskonba said to him, ‘And now what will you do when you see a human being?” that bear looked at itself and said, ‘[bear grunt] I will run away!’ Which is what bears usually do to this day.

“Now the next one to come forward was one we call Kitschy moose: the big moose. Moose by the way, is one of our Abenaki words, it means the strange one, and that moose back then was really strange. It was so large that his antlers were bigger than the biggest pines, they were sharper than the sharpest spears, and when Gluskonba said the word ‘alnoba’ that moose said, ‘I will spear every human being I see, spear them on my horns and throw them over the tree tops, and stomp them with my hooves until they’re as flat as your hand!’

“And again Gluskonba thought, ‘I do not believe human beings will feel much pleasure at being speared and flattened by moose. I’d better do something.’ So he said to that moose, ‘Nidoba, my friend, you appear to be very strong. Let us have a contest, I will hold up my hands and you will try to push me backward.’ The moose agreed, it leaned forward, putting its nose in one of Gluskonba’s hands, its huge horns in the other, and began to push, and push. But Gluskonba did not move. And that moose’s horns got smaller and rounder and the moose itself got very, very, very much smaller than it was before and also his nose got all smushed in. And the moose looked at itself when Gluskonba said, ‘And now what will you do when you see a human being?’ the moose said, ‘Uhh, I will run away.’ Now one after another Gluskonba talked to many animals. There’s almost for everyone a separate story. … But finally, just one animal was remaining.

“It sat there in front of him wagging its tail. It was of course the dog, and Gluskonba said to dog, ‘Nidoba, my friend, are you going to do something to harm the human beings when they arrive here?’ And the dog shook its head and said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting for human beings to come! I want to be their best best friend, I want to play with their children, I want to go hunting with them, I want to live in their houses with them and share their food and even climb in bed with them, I want to be their best best best best friend!’

“And Gluskonba looked at that dog, and he saw that dog’s heart was good. He said ‘Nidoba, my friend, you will be the best friend that human beings will ever have, a better friend than some of them deserve; and so we will know you by this name: Aalamos, the one who walks beside us.’ And so it is that to this day, it is the dog who walks beside us, our best best friend.”

For other delightful animal stories and some Abenaki flute music, click at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Washington Post.
The city of Anchorage sits on the homeland of the Dena’ina tribe. The Anchorage Museum installed “This is Dena’ina Ełnena” on its facade as part of its land acknowledgment efforts to recognize the Indigenous people of a place.

Now that more of us are paying attention to those who were living in North America before First Contact, a tool has been created that lets us check which tribes lived where we live now.

I sent my zip code by text to (907) 312-5085 and learned I live on former Nipmuc and Pawtucket land. The return text (enabled by land.codeforanchorage.org) also taught me how to pronounce Massa-adchu-es-et. Now I need to look up how the Nipmuc and Pawtucket tribes are or aren’t related to the Wampanoag, as I always thought it was Wampanoag land in this part of Massachusetts.

You can find information about the land initiative in an article called “We’re Still Here” at the Washington Post.

I was also interested in an article at the74million.org about the history that Rhode Island’s indigenous children get in public school.

“Growing up in Charlestown, Rhode Island, Chrystal Baker remembers reading a textbook in history class that said the Narragansett Indigenous people, who have lived in southern New England for tens of thousands of years, were extinct.

‘We’re not extinct,’ the young student ventured, nervous about contradicting the lesson, but feeling she had to speak up. ‘I’m a Narragansett.’

“No response came from her teacher or classmates, recalls the Chariho Regional School District alum, who graduated in 1986.

“ ‘It just didn’t matter,’ she told The 74. ‘You were insignificant.’

“Now, decades later, Baker has two children in the same school system who have navigated similar experiences of hurt and invisibility. …

“ ‘In history class, it’s mostly the history of the colonizers,’ said her daughter Nittaunis Baker, 19, who graduated from Chariho High School in spring 2021 and now attends the University of Rhode Island. 

“ ‘We didn’t really talk about Native people that much.’ …

” ‘There is no United States history, there is no Rhode Island history, without Indigenous history,’ the West Warwick mother told The 74.” Read how the state is now handling indigenous history at the74million.org.

Photo: Asher Lehrer-Small/ the74million.org.
Chrystal Baker and her daughter Nittaunis on the water at the University of Rhode Island’s bay campus, where the 19-year old studies marine biology. They belong to the Narragansett tribe.

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Dance at a Powwow

Photo: Linda Dulan.
In July, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers hosted its 42nd annual powwow at New York’s Queens County Farm Museum. Seen here, an old-style men’s dance.

I’ve always wanted to get to the Narragansett tribe‘s summer Powwow in Rhode Island. And I will do it yet — never mind how busy summer gets.

In today’s post, Dance magazine whets my appetite even more with wonderful pictures from a “dance powwow” in New York State.

“Over the course of three days in July, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers hosted its 42nd annual powwow at Queens County Farm Museum. Founded in 1963 by members of the Mohawk, Hopi, Winnebago and Kuna (San Blas) tribes, Thunderbird is the oldest resident Native American dance company in New York, and puts on the city’s largest powwow, drawing dancers from more than 40 tribal nations for a series of performances and dance contests, as well as crafts and food stands.

The next morning the mother showed the women how to make the dress, showed them a special dance and sang a very special song for them. Sure enough, her daughter got well.

Dance Magazine joined [a] sunset bonfire to capture some of the competitions, and asked Thunderbird director Louis Mofsie and company dancer Michael Taylor to share their insights on the place of dance within the powwow.”

They write, “The powwow is a social gathering where we get together to dance and sing, to meet old friends and make new ones. Originally a Western/Great Plains tradition, it does not have any religious or ceremonial significance — our religious and ceremonial dances and songs are restricted and closed to outsiders.

“Dancing is the major activity. Over the weekend, there are dance competitions and also what are called intertribal dances, where the dancers from all tribes are invited to participate. Our bonfire each evening during the gathering is there to help us travel back in time to the days when we had no spotlights. It reminds us of our past, our connection to our heritage and how it has survived through all our hardships to this day.

“As Native American people, we start dancing at a very young age. Dancing at powwows is how we learn the different styles of dances and what they represent. It helps us to connect to our roots and reinforces our awareness of who we are. It also reminds us that Native American dance is the original dance in America—and is still alive today. …

“Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance. This dance dates back to around 1945, right after the Second World War. Native American women and men had volunteered for the armed services and traveled all over the world. During their travels they observed how the women in many different countries were dancing. When they returned home, they decided to introduce a different style of dancing. Traditionally, the women did a very slow, graceful movement around the outer edge of the dance circle, and the men would be doing more vigorous movement on the inside. The Fancy Shawl Dance is much faster in rhythm, more vigorous and permits them to dance on the inside of the circle. The women wear shawls with very long fringe along the edges, and as they move, the fringe reminds you of the feathers that the men wear. Although the women do not wear the feathers and bells on their legs like the men do, their footwork and movements are very similar.

“Men’s Fancy Dance. They say this dance also originated around the end of the Second World War. When the men returned home from the war, they also wanted a more vigorous style of movement. Fancy dancing is much faster than traditional men’s dancing. Each of the dancers tries to create as many fancy steps as they can while keeping time with the singing and drumming. The men wear feathers with ribbons attached to each end, and they carry dance wands that are decorated with ribbons and feathers.

“Women’s Jingle Dress Dance. This dance tells the story of its origin. There was a mother who had a very ill daughter. One night she had a dream, and in it she had a vision: She was told to show the women how to make a special dress with little cones or jingles on it, show them how to do a special kind of dance and sing them a very special song. If she did all these things, it would help her daughter get well. The next morning the mother showed the women how to make the dress, showed them a special dance and sang a very special song for them. Sure enough, her daughter got well. The dance started out as a healing dance but has come down to us as one of the more popular competition dances at the powwow gatherings.”

I never thought about it before, but why should any community have an art form that never evolves. I love the idea that indigenous people who returned from WW II incorporated new influences into traditional dance. More at Dance, here.

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Photo: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong.
An aerial shot of the Sts’ailes forest garden. These forests demonstrate the way that First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest have actively managed natural ecosystems to increase the accessibility of preferred food near their homes.

Today’s story is about how indigenous people in Canada have created “forest gardens” to be able to harvest the traditional food the tribes value.

From the radio show Living on Earth:

“BOBBY BASCOMB: British Columbia is home to lush forests that cover almost two-thirds of the Canadian province. And for some ten thousand years, First Nations peoples made the forests their home. The trees provided much of what the people needed to survive and thrive. After asking permission of towering cedars, Coast Salish and other peoples would harvest bark for weaving and wood to carve canoes and totem poles. But they also carved out special gardens in the forest to grow food and medicinal plants. And new research shows that these forest gardens are still home to abundant biodiversity. …

“DR. CHELSEY GERALDA ARMSTRONG: We live in the Pacific Northwest where you have very contiguous conifer dominant forests … cedar and spruce and hemlock and firs. [But the forest gardens are] broadleaf forests, which are very rare here … maple and birch and then sub canopies of hazelnut and crabapple, all deciduous species. One of the big things that kind of sticks out when you’re in these places is at the right time of year, it’s just like a fruit paradise. There’s so many fruits going, kind of around late August, early September. It is an edible forest without question, and also a lot of medicinal species as well in that understory, things like wild ginger. …

“BASCOMB: And these were gardens cultivated by the Indigenous people that lived there, how did they create them? It sounds like they must have had to travel quite far to bring these different species together in one spot. …

“ARMSTRONG: We don’t know exactly how they were started, or when, how old they are, although we are getting closer to some dates. … Hazelnut, for example, [is] a native species to British Columbia, but it’s found far outside its range in certain forest gardens. But also, people were managing for succession. These types of forest management practices are basically utilizing and capitalizing on natural ecosystem processes. So things like wild raspberries, black huckleberries, Alaska blueberry, oval-leaf blueberry, all these kinds of plants that grow in forest gardens are locally available. And so it’s just about letting those things come back, keeping the competitors out, and then enhancing them with new species. …

“ARMSTRONG: Comparing forest gardens with the surrounding conifer forests, or what we refer to as peripheral forest, it was very clear that overall, forest gardens [were] a lot more biodiverse. … So you can imagine that, in fact, the edge between these two ecosystems are incredibly productive areas.

“BASCOMB: Well, that totally makes sense. I mean, you would expect more biodiversity in an area with, say, maybe a field, next to a forest, with a river running through it. If you have several different ecosystems all in one spot. ….

“ARMSTRONG: We found that forest gardens have a higher frequency of animal-dispersed and animal-pollinated species. So what this means is that forest gardens are the result of animal movement. And of course, humans are included in that category. But on top of that, what this suggests is that after humans left these gardens and villages, in some cases a couple hundred years ago, forest gardens began providing really unique habitat for animals and pollinators seeking food. So what we see here is an example of human land use that actually provides and increases functions across the landscape, rather than depleting it. …

“BASCOMB: Can you tell me about the First Nations people that lived in this area and created these gardens? …

“ARMSTRONG: I worked with two communities, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas. And, you know, the archaeological record of people living in this area is very, very rich. People have been here for, you know, 10,000 plus years. And for Kitselas, we know that [families] have been in the same canyon area for at least 7,000 years. [But] people were forcibly removed from their communities. A lot of times they moved to the coast to work in canneries, which were, you know, kind of slave-like conditions for people. But they returned, a lot of them, to their communities in the ’50s and ’60s. …

“There are elders in Kitselas that always say, ‘Old villages are really good places to hunt,’ … But basically, these places have not been maintained for, you know, 200 years. … A huge part of our research is actually employing different management strategies, clearing the forest garden areas and getting them back to a place where they can be producing lots of food for people locally.

“BASCOMB: And what did you learn about these forest gardens from the First Nation elders that you spoke with? …

“ARMSTRONG: The elders had pointed me in [the direction of hazelnuts, which I was studying], saying, well, it’s not just hazelnut. [It’s] Pacific crabapple, it’s Saskatoon berries, it’s soapberries. And so, you know, they’re the ones that were leading a lot of this inquiry. And of course, we know from them all the different ethno-botanical uses of plants. … A lot of our research is kind of being led by them and the questions that they have about these places that we can answer.

“BASCOMB: Chelsey Armstrong directs the Historical and Ethnoecological Research, or HER, Lab at Simon Fraser University.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM.
This gourd box and ornament, on display at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in New Hampshire, were made by Jeanne Morningstar Kent, an Abenaki artist
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When I was editing the community development magazine for the Boston Fed, I published several articles on the Abenaki people in Vermont. I hadn’t heard of that tribe before and was intrigued to learn they also have a big presence in New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada. Nowadays, they are no longer living their lives below the radar, and a project launched in the middle of the Covid pandemic has helped.

Chelsea Sheasley reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “For years, Darryl Peasley and Sherry Gould, two friends and members of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, heard stories about various Native American sites dotting the region around their small southern New Hampshire hometowns. 

“There was the Indian Tie Up in Henniker, an overhanging rock formation said to have been a site where Native Americans camped or spent winters; a mineral springs sacred site in Bradford; and an old chimney in the woods in Hopkinton rumored to hold ties to Native culture. 

“Before last summer, Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould had visited only a few spots. That’s changed since they launched the Abenaki Trails Project in August 2020 and organized outings to explore each site with other tribe members and community partners. The project aims to create a network of sites and art installations that the public can visit to learn about Native American history and the continued presence of Native Americans in New Hampshire today.  

“ ‘I want to prove that not only did we live here, we still live here,’ says Mr. Peasley, an artist who creates pouches, hats, and dance sticks in contemporary and traditional Abenaki style. He’s mulled over the idea of sharing Abenaki history more broadly ever since he heard state legislators years ago call New Hampshire a ‘pass through’ state for Native Americans, an assertion he and others say is a misconception.  

“Last summer, he and Ms. Gould decided to take action. They approached select boards and historical societies in four towns, asking to work together to better document local Native American history. They’ve held hikes, paddling trips, and spoken at community events, and they plan to branch out to two more towns this summer.

“On June 5 the Abenaki Trails Project and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association launched an art show at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner. On display is a birchbark canoe made in the traditional Indigenous style by Ms. Gould’s husband, Bill Gould, who is Abenaki, and Reid Schwartz, a local craftsperson. They sourced all their materials, including white birch bark, spruce root, and moss, within a five-mile radius of Warner. 

“Even in its early stages, the Abenaki Trails Project is ‘raising consciousness, particularly among non-Native people,’ says Robert Goodby, an archaeologist and anthropology professor at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, who was invited to attend several of the group’s events to offer an archaeological perspective. 

“ ‘The Native people have always known that they have a long history here and that these sorts of sites exist. For most non-Native people, it’s very easy to spend your whole life living in New Hampshire and never really think about the Native presence here, and I think this is a way of bringing that presence into the light, community by community,’ says Dr. Goodby, who has found evidence in archaeological digs of Indigenous people living in New Hampshire for over 12,000 years. 

The Abenaki Trails Project aims to highlight positive relations between historic Native Americans and European settlers and dispel the myth that Native Americans disappeared from New England – or that they were primarily antagonistic toward settlers.

“ ‘We want people to understand that Abenaki weren’t just what you read in history books, the murderers and marauders. They helped the colonial settlers also or they wouldn’t have known how to plant corn, how to survive the winter,’ says Mr. Peasley on a recent afternoon at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum art show, where some of his handcrafted hats are on display. …

“ ‘Because these initiatives are going on all over New England, I’m hopeful that it will help change dialogue,’ says Christoph Strobel, author of ‘Native Americans of New England’ and a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. …

“One of the highlights of the Abenaki Trails Project for Ms. Gould, a basketmaker, is how enjoyable the exploratory outings are, which bring together Native Americans and non-Native community partners like historians, geologists, and archaeologists. … Yet Ms. Gould still struggles, she says, with feeling like she lives in a ‘dual reality’ where friends know she’s Native American, but in broader society ‘a lot of people want to think that’s not true or you’re trying to appropriate someone else’s culture.’ …

“It doesn’t help that there are no federally recognized Native American tribes in New Hampshire. The Nulhegan Band that Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould are members of is headquartered in and recognized by Vermont. …

“The project’s impact continues to ripple out. Heather Mitchell, executive director of the Hopkinton Historical Society, says that seven years ago the society created an exhibit including a paddle trip with points of interest along the Contoocook River. None of the sites included any Native history. This summer, after participating in outings with the Abenaki Trails Project, the society plans another paddle trip that will focus exclusively on Native American points of interest.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Swimonish Tribal Community
An ancient Washington State tribe that relies on a healthy stock of salmon has a climate plan.

The more the media covers indigenous activities, the more we learn what we’ve been missing. There is so much wisdom embedded in tribal memory, especially wisdom about taking care of the natural world. First step: having the right attitude.

Jim Morrison writes at the Washington Post about a tribe in the Pacific Northwest that has a climate plan.

“For 10,000 years, 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.

Photo: Greater Seattle
Spawning salmon.

“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.

“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. And that really shouldn’t be surprising, because the tribes have shown tremendous leadership in climate adaptation and mitigation.’ “

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Image: Lummi Nation
So far, the Lummi tribe has reported three Covid-19 cases, but they expect numbers to rise as the pandemic progresses. Unlike many constituencies, the Lummi are prepared.

Here are a couple things we can learn from the kind of people who think about the effects of their actions on seven generations: Be generous; act like a grownup.

Consider the Lummi tribal leaders in this article from the Guardian. They began to prepare as soon they heard about the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and now they are even offering help to people outside their community.

Nina Lakhani reports, “The Lummi nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in the Pacific northwest, will soon open a pioneering field hospital to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a wave of strong public health measures which have gone further than many governments.

“Tribal leaders have been preparing for Covid-19 since the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

“The Lummi reservation is located in Whatcom county – 115 miles north of Seattle, Washington, where the first US Covid-19 case was confirmed in January, followed by the first death in February. …

‘We quickly recognised the need to make sacrifices for the greater good, in order to protect our people and the wider community,’ said Dr Dakotah Lane, medical director of the tribal health service, who is in strict self-quarantine after coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient. …

“The tribe swiftly introduced mitigation and prevention measures such as social distancing, drive-through testing, telemedicine clinics, and a home delivery service for the elderly.

“The tribal council declared a state of emergency on 3 March – 10 days before … the US – and approved $1m to prepare and respond for the evolving pandemic, which includes setting up the hospital.

“A community fitness centre, located next to the tribe’s health clinic, has been repurposed into a makeshift hospital, with beds, protective gear and other essential equipment in place. It will open once the pharmacy is fully stocked. The 20-bed hospital will treat less critical inpatients, in order to free up intensive care units in nearby facilities, and prioritize Native Americans from any tribe. …

“The tribe’s proactive response to the evolving global pandemic has been possible thanks to vast improvements to the quality and capacity of its community healthcare system over the past decade.

“Like an increasing number of tribes, the Lummi nation has opted for ‘self-determination,’ which enables greater financial flexibility and clinical autonomy – as opposed to depending on the federally controlled Indian Health Service (IHS) which has suffered decades of severe underfunding.

“As a result, the Lummi health services raises substantial revenue by treating patients on Medicaid and Medicare. … This extra cash has allowed them to invest in infrastructure and build capacity: the tribe now has eight doctors compared with just three in 2013, including three physicians with public health expertise. …

The Lummi want to help. Dr Lane said: ‘The Lummi believe in controlling our own destiny. We don’t count on help reaching us, but the hospital is something we can do to help the community.’

More at the Guardian, here. By the way, do you read the Guardian? It’s free online. It just requests donations. The US coverage is amazing.

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Photo: Blue Lake Rancheria
The Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid powers a number of buildings on the reservation and helped provide energy when California’s Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power during wildfires.

In the following story, disempowered people lacking reliable services not only took action to help themselves but were generous to more-privileged neighbors who suddenly learned what it’s like not to have services.

This is a story about two kinds of power.

Erik Neumann reports at National Public Radio (NPR), “California’s largest electric utility took the unprecedented step of shutting off power to millions of customers beginning last October. The decision was meant to prevent power equipment from sparking catastrophic wildfires.

“Now a renewable energy microgrid on a tiny California Native American reservation is proving to be one solution to this ongoing problem. The Blue Lake Rancheria is located just north of Eureka, Calif. On the 100-acre campus, just behind the casino and hotel, Jana Ganion opens a chain-link fence. …

“Inside, in an area half the size of a football field, are more than 1,500 solar panels, slanted toward the noonday sun. Ganion is the sustainability director with the Blue Lake Rancheria, which includes about 50 members.

[Ganion] helped build this solar microgrid as part of the tribe’s goal to develop climate-resilient infrastructure and to be ready for earthquakes and tsunamis. But then beginning in October, it became useful in a whole new way. …

“As one of the only gas stations in the county with power, the reservation provided diesel to United Indian Health Services to refrigerate their medications and to the Mad River Fish Hatchery to keep their fish alive. The local newspaper used a hotel conference room to put out the next day’s paper. Area residents stopped by to charge their cell phones.

“Ganion estimates that on that day more than 10,000 nearby residents came to the reservation for gas and supplies.

“County officials had been warned about the utility shutoffs, but they didn’t know they were happening until that day, says Ryan Derby, emergency services manager for Humboldt County, where Blue Lake Rancheria is located.

” ‘Our entire planning model for the last 18 months got thrown out the window,’ Derby says. … ‘Humboldt County prides itself on being resilient,’ Derby says, ‘But I think in light of these public safety power shutoffs we realized how dependent we really are on electricity.’

“The county focused on residents who relied on medical devices like respirators or oxygen tanks. At the Blue Lake Rancheria, Anita Huff was directing emergency services for people with critical medical needs.

” ‘We had eight people here who could not have lived without electricity,’ Huff says. ‘So, we saved eight lives.’ …

” ‘Microgrids are very complex. In some ways they’re kind of like snowflakes where no two of them are the same because it depends on where you are on the grid and what your facility is,’ says Dave Carter, the managing research engineer at the Schatz Energy Research Center and the lead technical engineer on the [Blue Lake] project.

“Microgrids keep the electricity flowing to customers even after disconnecting from the overall power grid. During an outage, the Blue Lake microgrid goes into ‘island mode’ and a large Tesla battery system stores extra power and balances the energy supply and demand.

“By comparison, Carter says, conventional solar arrays have to automatically shut down during outages for safety so they don’t electrocute powerline maintenance workers or people who could come in contact with a downed line.

“Microgrids do come at a price. The Blue Lake installation cost $6.3 million. Five million dollars came from a California Energy Commission grant, and the tribe helped raise the rest. …

“Carter’s lab at the Schatz Energy Research Center is looking for ways to lower the cost of microgrids. In spite of the upfront price, he says, communities should consider what it’s worth to stay in control during a natural disaster. …

“Jana Ganion, with the Blue Lake Rancheria, says with future electricity shutoffs, rural communities, and Native American reservations in particular, need to be especially resilient.

” ‘Many, many tribal nations are located at the end of the line in terms of the electricity grid,’ Ganion says. ‘They may have no power. They may have poor quality power. Microgrids are just a way to do an end-run around all of that.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Lex Talamo
Houma artist Lora Ann Chaisson works on palmetto stitch basketry at the Native American Crafts day at Northwestern University. Crafts using palmetto are threatened by climate change.

A recent interview conducted by Tegan Wendland on National Public Radio (NPR) provided new-to-me information on how climate change is jeopardizing an indigenous culture.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro introduced the story thus: “When storms like Hurricane Barry batter Louisiana’s coast and water replaces marshland, people move away. And that puts at risk a unique cultural mix — Europeans, Africans and Native Americans all living off Louisiana’s land and water. As Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO reports, the state is trying to preserve some of their traditions before they disappear.

“WENDLAND: Janie Luster walks through crunchy oak leaves in the humid Louisiana air to a stand of green palmetto in the shade. She reaches her arm deep down into the stems and starts hacking.

“JANIE LUSTER: Takes a sharp knife, pointed knife. And this is where you have to be careful, a little spider there. There’s also ants.

“WENDLAND: She pulls out a stem and unfolds it like a giant fan. … We’re in Houma, about an hour southwest of New Orleans. Luster will dry the leaves out and tear them into strips and use them to weave baskets — not just any basket — the Native American Houma half-hitch.

“LUSTER: We were the only tribe in the whole country to make this type of basket.

“WENDLAND: The art of the half-hitch has already been lost once before, generations ago, when tribal members were forced to assimilate. But Luster researched it and brought it back in the ’90s. Today, she’s brought a big stack of dried palmetto into a classroom in the offices of the United Houma Nation, where about 15 students of all ages are gathered around a table. … It’s a laborious process. It can take several days just to weave one basket. Pretty much everyone’s struggling. But 15-year-old Rhett Williams’ fingers dart fast. … He’s attended a few of these classes. Now his mom gets mad when she catches him weaving instead of doing his homework.

“RHETT: Growing up, you know, you’re not in touch with your elders. Now that I’m getting in more within the tribe and, like, learning culture and tradition, I’ve realized, like, I was, like, deprived of, like, the true tradition and culture.

“WENDLAND: Many in Williams’ family have moved north over the years, joining the exodus after every devastating coastal storm. Some areas have lost more than 40 percent of their population over the past several decades. Hurricanes and saltwater intrusion from rising seas are also killing off the palmetto and other plants sacred to the Houma. That worries Maida Owens, director of the Louisiana Folklife Program.

“MAIDA OWENS: When people move, you know, some things get left behind. And one of the things that frequently is left behind is something that relies on natural materials. … If it doesn’t move with the people, then the tradition may not continue.

“WENDLAND: The state estimates that thousands more will have to migrate as the coastal erodes. But Owens is happy to see that some young people, like Rhett Williams, are embracing these folk traditions.”

More at NPR here and at the Shreveport Times, here.

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Photo: Minot Daily News
Norma Baker-Flying Horse is owner of Red Berry Woman, a fashion designing business that was accepted into Paris Fashion Week.

Yesterday I mentioned that APiermanSister was a blogger whose writing I admired. She says she is shy, but as far as I can tell, one of her personal characteristics is fearlessness.

As a regular visitor to and connoisseur of Paris, she had always wanted to attend Fashion Week. In a recent post, she describes how she wrangled an invitation — finding a publication back in the US that would take an article and help to justify her admission to the show as a writer.

This is from Alison’s February Minot Daily News report on designer Red Berry Woman, an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Nation and member of the Dakota Sioux and Assiniboine tribes.

“Norma Baker-Flying Horse has been having a whirlwind of fashion success.

“ ‘I recently had a dress walk the red carpet at the Grammy’s earlier this month and I’m also preparing to show in France,’ said Baker-Flying Horse of Mandaree, Oklahoma.

“Baker-Flying Horse said she will be the only Native American who will be showing in a show for the opening of Paris Fashion Week. …

“Baker-Flying Horse’s fashion line, Red Berry Woman, incorporates Native American traditional garment styles into contemporary couture garments for both men and women. She also creates different types of Native American traditional-style garments,’ according to her Red Berry Woman website at redberrywoman.com. …

“Baker-Flying Horse also was an invited designer for the international fashion showing in Vancouver, British Columbia, during Vancouver Fashion Week this past September.

“Another event in past months includes being the designer for a fashion show in Cornwall, Ontario, where actor Adam Beach was a guest. His wife, Summer, was Baker-Flying Horse’s guest runway model. One of Baker-Flying Horse’s creations also was worn by Alice Brownotter, an activist from the Standing Rock Reservation, for an event held by actress Jane Fonda who invited young people to participate who have had leadership rolls in their community. …

“Last March Baker-Flying Horse had the special honor of having one of her fashion designs worn at the Academy Awards show, the Oscars. She was the first contemporary Native American fashion designer to have a gown worn at the Oscars.”

More on Red Berry Woman at the Minot Daily News, here, and at the Smithsonian, here. But the most fun piece to read is Alison’s blog post about crashing Paris Fashion Week, here.

Photo: kfyrtv.com
The 2018 Native American Cultural Celebration closed with a Red Berry Woman Fashion Show.

redberrywoman

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Photo: Ann Hermes/ Christian Science Monitor
Judge Abby Abinanti presides over the Yurok Tribal Court in Klamath, California.

There has been a movement lately to restore to tribal courts the adjudication of certain types of crimes committed by Native Americans. The idea is that the traditional ways of handling problems often work better than those imposed by an outside system.

Henry Gass writes about one such court at the Christian Science Monitor.

“The mouth of the Klamath River – the spiritual heart of Yurok country – can be hard to find.  … Ira Thompson is here for his court date anyway, having made the 30-minute drive south from Crescent City. He grew up here, and when he got in serious trouble for the first time – a third DUI and a possible four months in jail – he knew he needed to come home. …

“So he reached out to the Yurok Tribal Court. He reached out to Abby Abinanti. …

“As Mr. Thompson enters, the air tastes of musky angelica root (burned by a paralegal minutes earlier to cleanse the room of pain, anxiety, and other negative energy).

“Judge Abby, as everyone calls her, is not your average judge. She sits at a table across from Mr. Thompson wearing her typical court attire: gray jeans and a crimson turtleneck. …

“ ‘How are things going?’ she asks him.

“ ‘Staying home,’ he replies.

“Mr. Thompson is under house arrest and participating in the court’s wellness program, a treatment employing Yurok cultural immersion. That’s the deal the tribal court struck with the county instead of jail time. He’s been home carving earrings out of redwood, making elk horn purses, and selling them. ‘That sounds good,’ she says, bringing the hearing briskly to an end about five minutes after it started. …

“When Judge Abinanti joined the Yurok Tribal Court in 2007 it operated like a normal state court, albeit on a much smaller scale. When most Yuroks got into trouble with the law they went to local state courts, and they entered a system designed to be adversarial and punitive. Root causes often went ignored and unaddressed, and recidivism inevitably followed.

“Judge Abinanti has taken the court in a different direction: one more communal and rehabilitative. It’s a judicial path followed by other tribes around the country. Personal responsibility and renewal – two pillars of the once nearly extinct Yurok culture – now permeate the court’s functions.

“Incarceration has largely been replaced by supervised release combined with Yurok traditions such as dancing and wood carving. Lawyering up for family disputes and child custody battles has been replaced by mediation. Almost every case is resolved through mediation – victims and perpetrators talking with each other – even if it takes years. Tribal courts resemble the growing U.S. restorative justice movement, which emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and getting all stakeholders involved. Judge Abinanti says it just resembles the old Yurok values system.

“The Yurok were village people, she likes to say. Living in clusters of redwood cabins along the Klamath River, people in the communities were so interdependent that when villagers did something wrong, they couldn’t just be locked away. They had to face consequences, but also become responsible, productive community members again. That’s tribal justice.

“After what she calls ‘the invasion’ by European settlers, the Yurok way of life was lost. By helping revive those values and applying them to modern-day problems – addiction, domestic violence, foster care – the Yurok say she’s not only meting out justice, she’s helping revive the tribe itself. And some U.S. criminal justice reformers are now beginning to explore what lessons can be learned from tribal courts. …

“Any Yurok tribe member is eligible to have their case heard in the tribal court (except for felony cases, which go to state or federal court). Judge Abinanti has expanded the kinds of cases the tribal court hears. … She also negotiates with other judges for alternative sentences for Yuroks convicted in other jurisdictions. …

“To fully understand Judge Abinanti’s approach to justice requires going back to the mid-19th century. … Massacres, slavery, and disease reduced California’s native population to about 30,000 within 23 years of statehood. Some tribes lost 95 percent of their population. The Yurok Tribe says three-quarters of its population died in this period, and the tribe faded into obscurity. …

“Judge Abinanti says that the Yurok history of decimation creates a generational trauma, a mental framework that shapes a cycle of behavior among some tribal members. ‘Until they get that, they feel sort of caught up in something that they can’t control or stop because they don’t know what it is or where it came from,’ she says. ‘We have to take responsibility for acquiring those habits and we have to deal with it….

“ ‘It’s one thing to just stop behavior, but I think it helps to stop the behavior if you know why,’ she says. …

“Understanding the ‘why’ helped change the ballgame for Jon Riggs, who has Yurok, Chetco and Cherokee ancestry. Raised off the reservation in a drug-addicted family, he started drinking and doing drugs at a very young age. He was 18 when he was arrested for the first time. …

“When last year he came back to the Klamath for the Jump Dance – a dance that’s meant to renew the world – he ‘was able to connect with something that was much deeper than I had ever done before.’ In January, he became a wellness case manager for the tribal court.”

More here.

 

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