In every stranger's throat
Every since I heard you liken land acknowledgments to a 'liberal's version of thoughts and prayers' a few years ago my perspective on them shifted. (and continues to shift) I appreciate you sharing so much on the subject--in my next book I put in a LA, then took it out, put it back, lamented how it felt like virtue signaling, took it out again, added a bunch of action items and an acknowledgement that a LA is but one tiny step toward actual necessary change, felt okay about it for five minutes, took it out again, and so on. It ended up being included. I'm still unsure about how I feel about it.
A good thing about 67 is it's easier and easier to be publicly disagreeable. And not even be taken offensively, because you're 67, and basically invisible.
Anyway, I'm not silent when people say things like, " Oh you teach in a prison. That's so nice of you." Bleh. Like education isn't for everyone.
Look forward to 67.
Archaeologists have a lot to answer for, but one good practice I saw encouraged back when I was still actively doing it is to stop collecting stone tools unless you've got a real scientific reason for it. And when arrowheads or awls or other tools made by remote people of the past are lying on the surface, there's rarely scientific value in removing them. Encourage people to leave them where they lie to give witness to the next traveler. If you wouldn't remove a stone on your visit to Salisbury Cathedral, don't remove the signs that others were there before you on the landscape.
That whole "there's no history in North America..." is sometimes ignorant, sometimes intentional erasure (dismantling the pyramid-like mounds in St. Louis, for instance), but never true. Corn didn't domesticate itself after all. Learning what people did on the land before you is part of understanding your literal and figurative place in the world.
Came across my Mastodon feed that Joanna Macy, at 95, is recovering from pneumonia and her friends were asking for thoughts and prayers? good vibes? whatever it is we do when we send out our wishes for healing -- feels like you somehow tapped into that energy out there.
That image of the buffalo made my knees buckle a little: love at first sight. I closed my eyes and imagined standing in all that beautiful quiet, breathing in forever through the soles of my feet. 🙏🏽
We are in the midst of a “snow anomaly” here in southcentral Alaska, and I find myself just wanting to “be” in deep peace and joy. That being said, I turn to your posts for my dose of pensive thought and beauty. Thank you for all that, and more, Chris, to include some great information on Bitterroot. The images feed my quieting spirit, and I thank you for this.
Beautiful words from Joanna Macy. Thank you.
The bitterroot is gorgeous. I did not know that it was a flower. Thank you for the education.
Continue to sharpen awareness of the realities that surround us. Some people just do not think before they talk. Sometimes, people who are otherwise quite intelligent. Chris, just keep writing and speaking the truth in the beautiful way that you do.❤️
Oh my. I remember when I thought Canadian history was incredibly dull because what I was spoonfed in school was the blandest form of propaganda: "Unlike the US, we didn't enslave people!" "In Canada, the British and the Natives worked together to build strong trade routes across this great land!" "Canada is a perfect mosaic of cultures living in harmony!"
I was disabused of this notion by a teacher in high school during the unit when we were learning about South Africa's apartheid. He simply asked us if Canada had an apartheid system and when we nodded solemnly and said obviously the Japanese internment camps were that and he just said, "And what about the reservation system?"
It was mind opening and I'm grateful to him for being one of the few teachers I had to encourage critical thinking and asking questions rather than memorizing the whitewashed "facts" of our textbooks.
That bison photo is from the Bison Range, right? I'm about very nearly almost certainly positive maybe that I'm right.
It's a 'beaut' and a keeper, which by the way, I did. Added it to my pilfered collection of all the other bison images you posted. Thanks
“It’s all out there and it takes a mere tug on a single thread and everything unfurls. Everything. All the terrible. To choose not to do this betrays a staggering degree of entitlement and privilege.” And that’s a choice. No matter how insulated each of us might be in media and social bubbles, it’s impossible to ignore every bit of this and all it means without some level of intention.
I was passing one of those highway signs recently, the “Veterans Bridge Memorial Highway” kind of thing, and was thinking that a land acknowledgment feels similar. A highway sign does nothing to address damage done to veterans or anyone else, or even damage caused by the highway itself. Like telling someone you’ve injured, “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt,” never claiming any responsibility. What, really, is the point of acknowledgment without addressing the harm?
Here for the healing and praising too. LA’s have been a trigger for me for awhile; I don’t like the policing of behavior which is how it sometimes feels by other people - “Show us your woke card! Okay, it’s there, now we can go back to other grandstanding...” I dunno. I certainly don’t have answers but for me, I have to be in thoughtful conversation with myself about how to make change, and a LA just feels to me like a great way to look like we know what the hell is going on without having actual solutions. It’s also a way for corporations and institutions to wear sheep’s clothing while still accomplishing all the slaughtering. I feel nervous even saying this out loud because in many cases I feel like individuals using them genuinely want to be effecting change. It’s like confronting a racist uncle for them? Feels necessary to at least acknowledge the sins of our country, a tiny first step in the long road of awakening?? I DON'T KNOW. I do like this thought, that it’s a country’s way of trying to wake up to native beauty and culture and trying to reconnect. But it’s . . . flawed, and full of peril. And lol trigger warning. I mean, I know you’re actually triggered but I smiled at your play on the subject.
Thank you. I have thought about these same ideas so much lately and you have such an impeccable way of wording them. I too was stuck in a quiet rage recently while my racist white brother in law spewed off anti-indigenous ideals. How people can be well into adulthood and still not challenge what they were taught as children astounds me but I believe it’s because it is uncomfortable. The mere idea that they could be wrong, be aligned with the villain of the story of our erasure, is too much for them to process.
The flowers are gorgeous and I will never tire of seeing your photos and the buffalo. Truly stunning. I would seethe overhearing that conversation too--so tired of such inculcated colonial ideas of what constitutes history and culture, and of shallow statements that virtue signal rather than actually reflect any real knowledge about the actual history of the places on which we live in this country, or any real substantive reparation. "It’s the so-called “honoring” without action that comprises the gaslighting; it is a euphemism for taking without giving back that has been the story on this continent since colonizers first arrived here." YES. It is gaslighting and bullshit, just like so much of this society's performative platitudes--a culture of polemics without action, without awareness, but full of self-soothing and playing to ego. I loved how Reservation Dogs parodied the well-intentioned ideas of LAs, it was perfection. Yours in solidarity and with anger and also in hope, in aspiring stubbornly still to joy. 💜
“It’s all out there and it takes a mere tug on a single thread and everything unfurls.”
Beautiful, and very true, though in my experience you sometimes have to be committed to finding it.
I used to be appallingly condescending about North American history. Having lived most of my life with medieval castles, stone circles and neolithic tombs less than an hour's drive away (#YmweldCymru #VisitWales), it was hard not to smirk whenever I saw "Historic Downtown" plaques on buildings built less than a century earlier. And the tendency of many to act as if history began in 1776 didn't exactly help. (Still doesn't, but for different reasons.)
Visiting (and subsequently moving to) Butte changed all that. There's so much packed into the city's 150 years, an incredibly rich chronicle of working class immigrant history, industrial unrest, unionism, Irish nationalists, Finnish socialists, Jewish anarchists - this isn't the American West I was taught about in school. It was a revelation.
It took a couple of years before I started to sense there was something missing from this narrative. Who was here before those immigrants? And what happened to them? Questions so obvious as to seem banal. But I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be to find the answers. Apart from fleeting references to common hunting grounds, and the "Crees living near the city dump" there was almost nothing "out there", or at least that's how it seemed. A few academic papers provided some pointers (thank you Nicholas Vrooman and Elizabeth Sperry) but other than that I was shocked at the lack of information, and perhaps even more at the lack of interest. I'd heard people talk about the erasure of indigenous history, but this was when I really began to understand what they were talking about.
Sure I don’t need to go into the Oregon Treaty and Louis Riel and the Cree Deportation Act here; but one thing that repeatedly strikes me is how people react when I try talking about these subjects. Eyes are rolled, shoulders are shrugged, the subject is changed. With very few exceptions, people just don’t want to know. My (evolving) theory is that it’s too personal. It’s neither long ago nor far away, and in a place as proud and close-knit as Butte, it’s hard to confront this sometimes eye-wateringly racist aspect of the city’s history. That’s grandpa you’re talking about. And it's perpetuated in the way the city's history is taught and celebrated to this day. Indians? What Indians?
“There are more books about the culinary habits of Irish miners in Butte than publications on the native cultures that once roamed across Montana and still live on its reservations.”
Carl M. Davis, author of “Six Hundred Generations: An Archaeological History of Montana”.
LA statements are patronizing at its worst. Similar statements started appearing when Black Lives Matter activism took off, mentioning how an organization "honored" the necessity of diversity. Women get it all the time: "Don't worry your pretty head. . ." People in wheelchairs also get it: "You are sooooo brave!"
None of us are children, and none of us should accept being subjected to other people's "guilt" about privilege. I had no choice to be born where I was or to whom, but I do have a choice to help wherever I can and not add to other people's misery.
Shout out to Erin O'Regan White, who rules for so many reasons, including photographic ones! It was a neat surprise to open this one up and see both your words (always a gift) and her photos.