Tag Archives: American Indians

The Invention of Thanksgiving

27 Nov

Autumn is the season for Native America. There are the cool nights and warm days of Indian summer and the genial query “What’s Indian about this weather?” More wearisome is the annual fight over the legacy of Christopher Columbus—a bold explorer dear to Italian-American communities, but someone who brought to this continent forms of slavery that would devastate indigenous populations for centuries. Football season is in full swing, and the team in the nation’s capital revels each week in a racist performance passed off as “just good fun.” As baseball season closes, one prays that Atlanta (or even semi-evolved Cleveland) will not advance to the World Series. Next up is Halloween, typically featuring “Native American Brave” and “Sexy Indian Princess” costumes. November brings Native American Heritage Month and tracks a smooth countdown to Thanksgiving. In the elementary-school curriculum, the holiday traditionally meant a pageant, with students in construction-paper headdresses and Pilgrim hats reënacting the original celebration. If today’s teachers aim for less pageantry and a slightly more complicated history, many students still complete an American education unsure about the place of Native people in the nation’s past—or in its present. Cap the season off with Thanksgiving, a turkey dinner, and a fable of interracial harmony. Is it any wonder that by the time the holiday arrives a lot of American Indian people are thankful that autumn is nearly over?

So begins historian and Native American Philip Deloria’s New Yorker essay on the history of American Indians and Thanksgiving. You may read his entire piece here.

Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?

16 Sep

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Past Mt. Rushmore is another mountain, and another memorial. This one is much larger: the Presidents’ heads, if they were stacked one on top of the other, would reach a little more than halfway up it. After seventy-one years of work, it is far from finished. All that has emerged from Thunderhead Mountain is an enormous face—a man of stone, surveying the world before him with a slight frown and a furrowed brow.

So writes Brooke Jarvis in his astute report on the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. You may read the entire New Yorker piece here.

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Presidential candidate and former pastor Mark Charles confronts American history

12 Sep

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Mark Charles may be the only 2020 presidential candidate who can list working as a Christian pastor on his résumé. But when you ask him how his faith informs his politics, he doesn’t exactly preach.

So begins Jack Jenkins’ Religion News Service report on my friend Mark Charles’ presidential campaign as an independent. You may read the entire story here.

How the Census Changed America

1 May

 

The inventor Herman Hollerith devised a punch-card system to record census information. His invention transformed data-processing technology. Photograph by American Stock Archive / Archive Photos / Getty

In April, the Supreme Court began to hear arguments about one of the central requirements of the Constitution. It’s right there, in Article I, Section 2, clause 3: For a government of the people to function, the people must be counted. The Founders wanted an “enumeration” to occur within three years of the first meeting of Congress, and then “within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” A census, in other words.

So begins Ted Widmer’s brief consideration of some of the history of the U.S. Census. While he rightly notes the partial exclusion of African Americans for much of this history, he fails to note the even longer exclusion of most American Indians. Indians were not declared U.S. citizens until an act of Congress in 1924.

You may read Widmer’s entire New Yorker article here.

Rethinking Pocahontas

13 Mar

A portrait of Pocahontas, 1616.

We all think we know Pocahontas, but her real story is very different from the popular image. Pocahontas was an extremely talented and lively 10-year-old girl when Jamestown was founded in 1607. She was the daughter of the Great Powhatan, who ruled over numerous client tribes in the Chesapeake, the region the Powhatans called Tsenacomaca, and he selected her for a special role because of her intelligence and personality. Captain John Smith said her “wit, and spirit” made her stand out.

So begins historian Karen Ordhahl Kupperman’s summation of her new biography of Pocahontas. You may read her entire Time piece here.

What Poop Can Teach Us About an Ancient City’s Downfall

27 Feb

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

An aerial shot of Cahokia's Monks Mound.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF poop. After more than 1,000 years, it can still have a lot to offer.

Just ask the authors of a new study, out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discusses how fecal remains can teach us about the rise and fall of Cahokia, an ancient city less than 10 miles outside of present-day St. Louis, Missouri. According to UNESCO, Cahokia was “the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.”

So begins Matthew Taub’s Atlas Obscura post on Cahokia. You may read the entire post here.

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Her family farm once belonged to the Kaw Indians. She decided to pay them back.

16 Feb

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Back in 1879, Henrich Gronemann was a German Lutheran who homesteaded on the far southeast corner of McPherson County, near the borders of Harvey and Marion County.

His 320-acres of prairie was filled with creeks and rolling hills that previously had been the hunting grounds of the Kaw, or Kanza, Indians.

Now, 140 years and five generations later, his great-great granddaughter has done something unthinkable.

So begins Becky Tanner’s story for the Wichita Eagle. You may read the rest of the story here.

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