Martin Luther King Day and Indigenous America

Tomorrow, Monday, is Martin Luther King Day, and I’ve just begun reading Pekka Hamalainen’s new book, Indigenous Continent. It strikes me already that King’s dreams and the Indigenous philosophy as described by Hamalainen share underlying themes: unity, harmony, responsibility, and reciprocity.

The New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote yesterday, not of the famous 1963 “I have a dream” speech, but of “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” delivered on Christmas Eve, 1967, at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King served as co-pastor. Read The Article

Native Languages

President Biden continued his strong support for Native American causes and cultures this week when he signed two bills into law supporting language revitalization and education. The bills were authored by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who, as chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, listens closely to the Indigenous community in Hawaii. (We on the mainland sometimes forget that Native Hawaiians too were pushed aside by invading Euro-Americans, but a friend in Hawaii regularly sends me word of actions and programs by Natives there that mirror the concerns of our Plateau Tribal neighbors here.) Read The Article

December 2022

How could my 80th year have been so good when the world went reeling with craziness and self-destruction? Do I need to list the events? The famines, droughts, floods, fires– volcanoes! And then, in the words of that old Kingston Trio song from the 50s, the human-caused tragedies.

“They’re rioting in Africa, there’s strife in Iran/ What nature doesn’t do to us/ Will be done by our fellow man.”  Read The Article

Women of Iran 2

I have great memories of stern-looking, uniformed women guiding traffic at the center of Tehran’s busiest intersections on my month-long visit in 1968—they were human traffic signals. And fond memories too of beautiful, scantily clad Iranian women with their handsome and strikingly dressed young paramours in the bowling alley next to Tehran’s Hilton Hotel. Read The Article

Native Revival

Yesterday I wrote about the land we live on and with, about a recent journey to Portland from home, and the home-ground itself. I used “spectacular” and might have used “stunning” to describe the Nez Perce Homeland I am privileged to live on. Today it’s a gray sky, and yesterday’s skiff of new snow is evaporating and freezing, as snow does. But the mountains are still there, beyond the gray, wispy with their white snow and yellow-orange larch trees hidden—but there nonetheless. Read The Article

Spectacular!

It was—and is—spectacular

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I rode with friends from Joseph to Portland. I sat in the back seat and spent time just looking. Leaving the Wallowa Valley along the Wallowa River is always a treat; the canyon always changes with weather and seasons. And then emerging out of it and into the Grande Ronde Valley, with rolling fields and patches of timber. Up into the Blue Mountains on the Tollgate road, where a big winter snowpack is promised by the Highway Department’s high orange stakes that will soon be keeping snowplows on the road. Read The Article

New old news on treaties

It’s holiday time, Thanksgiving and I am in Oregon City at my son’s place, reading the morning news on my computer. The house is quiet with people sleeping off yesterday’s meal and working from home on their computers. I got up early and read for an hour in a book that hurts while I read it, The Oppermanns, a novel by a refugee German Jew published in 1934. The New York Times suggested in its review at the time that the world should be reading this fictional account of what happened in Germany in the years 1930-33. “Wake up! The barbarians are upon us.” Read The Article

Indians’ turn

There is much worrying and gnashing of teeth at today’s election. I am tired of the daily solicitations for money from my liberal allies—it seems that once you have given to one political person or cause the money seekers from that edge of politics find you and torment you with requests for more. I am sure my conservative friends get the same treatment. Yet, the amounts of money raised by all sides in the current election cycle means that it works, no matter how offensive many of us at our far ends of the money-raising lines find it. Read The Article

Who is Elouise Cobell?

My friend Betsy Marston of “Writers on the Range” just wrote a wonderful tribute to Elouise Cobell.

Elouise Cobell was, I am ashamed to say, a new name to me. Maybe I had heard it—I was vaguely aware of the lawsuit that consumed her working life. But I had not remembered it. And now Betsy tells us that Montana will celebrate “Elouise Cobell Day” on November 5. Read The Article

The Women of Iran

Excuse me. I am taking a break from affairs of Native Americans and American history. It’s because I think what is happening today with the women of Iran is important—one of the most important things happening in the world today. And it is because I have a deep personal interest in this part of the world, and especially of the women of the Middle East. And it is because of the raw courage of thousands of Iranian girls and women. Read The Article

Fear–and Reconciliation

Old friend Jonathan Nicholas sent me word of an incredible event at his former place of work, The Oregonian. On Monday October 24, the newspaper published a long piece outlining its racist past. Its own investigative reporter, Rob Davis, combed the Oregonian’s files, read its editorials, and concluded that

“The now 161-year-old daily newspaper spent decades reinforcing the racial divide in a state founded as whites-only, fomenting the racism that people of color faced. It excused lynching. It promoted segregation. It opposed equal rights for women and people of color. It celebrated laws to exclude Asian immigrants. It described Native Americans as uncivilized, saying their extermination might be needed. Read The Article

The Josephy Center—Tenth Anniversary

Yesterday the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture celebrated ten years of life as a non-profit, and a few months more of programming. Last year, at nine, we purchased the old log bank building that has been our home since the beginning. Anne Stephens, who first conceived of a new arts center in Joseph, was honored last night, as was Cheryl Coughlan, the Center director for over nine of our years. I too was thanked, and got to say a few words of thanks. And to report on a unique and wonderful gift from the Josephy family. Read The Article

Indigenous Peoples Day, General Howard and the Mountain

Columbus Day has not been an important holiday in my life. Maybe we got out of school. Maybe friends of Italian ancestry celebrated—and I laughed or applauded. Even now, as I think about all the negative things we have learned about Columbus, and think about the nation-wide effort that has made this day “Indigenous Peoples Day,” I have a soft spot for the descendants of Italian immigrants. They have often been mistreated by immigrants who came on earlier boats. And Italians were Catholics—the Republic, formed on lands stolen from Native tribes, was built by Enlightenment free thinkers, deists, and some from various Protestant denominations. Christianity was not written into our founding documents, and Catholics were a further minority from the outset. Read The Article

Biden and Haaland and Indigenous Languages

It’s something new—and mostly good—every day. Today, in Native News Online, we learn that:

“600 people attended the Tribal Language Summit at the Oklahoma City Convention Center to hear from leading educators and policymakers in Indian Country on how to protect, preserve and promote America’s Indigenous languages. Read The Article

“Indigenous-Authored Publications”

The book’s title is long enough and the paperback version is heavy enough to put some people off, but I want to tell you that Resilience Through Writing: A Bibliographic Guide to Indigenous-Authored Publications in the Pacific Northwest before 1960 is a gem.

I have been meaning to write this post for months, from the time its editor, Darby Stapp, sent it to me. I wrote to him immediately, saying that I could pick it up at any place and read it like a novel. Read The Article

Women of the World

I met my first women doctors and agricultural engineers when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey almost 60 years ago. This year, when I went back to Turkey for a short visit, I learned that an Islamist leaning regime has not stopped women from being doctors and engineers, graduate students and professors. And this morning I read about the women leading a revolution in Iran. Read The Article

Northern Paiutes of the Malheur

We recently had the pleasure of having David Wilson at the Josephy Center to talk about his new book. Wilson is not a historian, not a writer of books–until this one. He was, in a long law career, a writer of law briefs. He told us that he had set out to write a book in retirement. After scribbling about 100 pages on the John Day River, he thought what he had written was all pretty boring. So he threw it away, and reading about the Malheur, the Paiutes, and Chief Egan, his lawyerly self told him that history had it all wrong! And he set out to set it right. Read The Article

Wallowa Lake

September 12 might have been my last swim of 2022. The next swim will be January 1, 2023; it won’t really be a swim, but a plunge, a group of holiday enthusiasts getting in and out of Wallowa Lake as quickly as possible on New Year’s Day.

Although in my mind the water has been unusually warm this July, August and into September, Wallowa Lake has a reputation for cold in summers. Many lifelong residents swear they had one swim and that was enough, and although the New Year’s Day plunge attracts scores of young and old, new people and family groups, most of those cold-water believers sit it out. Read The Article