The Josephy Library at the Josephy Center

Many of you in this blog-land get other information about the Josephy Center and our programs through newsletters, press releases and letters—including fundraising letters. Thanks to those of you who have made donations, attended exhibits and workshops, and brought children to Josephy Center classes. Thanks to all of you who read the blog posts—and sometimes even comment on them.

What follows is a brief account of what the Josephy Library does beyond the blog—and a specific appeal for Library support.

First and most importantly, we live the legacy of Alvin Josephy. Every day we tell people that American Indians are still with us; that Indians have always been agents and actors, and not wooden standbys in American History; that the history re Indians we’ve been fed in school texts is incomplete at best and often wrong; that Indian treaty rights are real and legal; and that Indians continue to contribute to the common good with activism and hard work, especially Read The Article

Indian Art is American Art

A recent piece in the New York Times described a large collection of “modern” and American Indian art being donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The headline is telling: “Native American Treasures Head to the Met, This Time as American Art.”

Alvin Josephy talking in my ear again: “Indians don’t have biography or history; they have anthropology and archeology.” To that we can add “art.”

Peter Rindisbacher Circa 1822

Alvin scoured the country for art by and related to Indians, finding, for the first Indian book he edited, The American Heritage Book of Indians, the earliest European depictions of Native Americans. He wrote a book about Peter Rindisbacher, the European artist who introduced the world to Plains Indians in the early 1800s with drawings and paintings that were taken back to Europe by Hudson’s Bay people, engraved and sold across the continent. In 500 Nations, Josephy easily mixed the art of John White, Read The Article

The Great White Father

The Dakota Access Pipeline says they have drilled under the water and have just a bit of work to do before oil begins to flow. Earth Justice has filed an appeal on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux, and other tribes have filed other suits, but there is no word that the courts will step in and halt this threat to water and affront to Indian sovereignty.  

This after: years of deceptive practices by the oil companies in obtaining clearances for the pipeline; years after another route, one above the town of mostly-white Bismarck, was rejected; months after Obama’s executive order to halt construction and the Army Corps of Engineers’ agreement to do a full environmental impact study (rather than the cursory, expedited one they did in the first place) halted construction; and weeks after President Trump erased that effort with another Presidential executive order contravening the previous one and demanding a speed-up of the whole affair. And this Read The Article

Two World War II Heroes

Gwen Coffin with Senator Bob Packwood

February 19 marked the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military then defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. And although race or ethnicity were not mentioned in the order, the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast—citizens or no—were targeted for removal.

In the middle of a “just war” against Fascism and Imperial Japanese expansion over peoples across the Pacific, Gwen Coffin, the editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain, rose to challenge President Roosevelt and Executive Order 9066. From his far outpost in Wallowa County he spoke to remind people of who we are and why we were fighting. It was a brave thing to do. I remember him saying once, with a chuckle, that the barber would not cut Read The Article

Continuing outrage over Standing Rock

(submitted, but not printed, as Op-ed to New York Times)

Recent decisions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline deserve outrage. How is it that the Army Corps of Engineers, having recently agreed to a full environmental impact statement and search for an alternate pipeline route, can, in two weeks of Trump Time, decide that they have enough information to allow the digging to begin on what NYT writer Jill Turkewitz labeled that “disputed patch of land”? Anyone who has half-followed the events at Standing Rock over the last year knows that an alternate route, which would have put the line closer to mostly white Bismarck, N.D., was scrubbed early in the process. And knows that news of “water protectors” representing over 200 North American tribes and indigenous people from Hawaii and the other Americas being shot with rubber bullets and hosed with water cannons in freezing weather has brought veterans groups, churches, and ordinary Joes and Josies to join the protest. Read The Article

Before Alvin wrote about Indians–Denig’s Demons

Denig awards Alvin Bronze Star

Before he met the Nez Perce, before he wrote about American Indians, Alvin Josephy was a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent in the Pacific in World War II. He traveled with a typewriter and a wire recorder, wrote thousands of dispatches to local newspapers from the front lines, and the Library of Congress lists over 90 recordings made on Guam, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima. A 15-minute version of the Guam landing recording played nationwide on all three radio networks.

Alvin’s boss was BGen Robert L. Denig, and the troop of journalists, photographers, and artists he assembled to get the Marine Corps story back home was called “Denig’s Demons.” It’s my thought that Alvin’s war-time experience was crucial in his quick absorption in Indian history and adoption of Indian causes. He was less than a decade out of the Pacific when he found the Nez Perce story—and the first thing he wanted to know was “where is Read The Article

Standing Rock Outrage!

November- Reuters News

In a brief story in the New York Times this morning, reporter Julie Turkewitz tells us that the Army has approved construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It took Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, two weeks—from the time of President Trump’s announcement that he was going to expedite the building of pipelines—to announce his decision to Congress. Speer said he didn’t need the entire environmental impact statement and news of other potential sites that President Obama had ordered, that he knew enough and is ready to offer the pipeline’s owner a 30-year easement on this  “disputed patch of land.”

I glance at the NYT headline stories daily, then go to the opinion pages for the Times editorials, the regular columnists, and op-eds that relate to the day’s news. Standing Rock is missing this morning. Not one editorial writer or columnist chose to weigh in; not one piece of writing from an outraged Indian at Read The Article

Standing Rock slips away

There’s no word from Standing Rock in the New York Times or on CNN today. Indians slip into the national news on occasion—and then, on most occasions, slip out as quickly.

Both CNN and MSNBC did report yesterday about an oil spill from another pipeline just three hours from Standing Rock. The spill happened more than a week ago, on December 5. According to CNN,

“State officials estimate 4,200 barrels of crude oil, or 176,000 gallons, have leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County. Of that amount, 130,000 gallons of oil has flowed into Ash Coulee Creek, while the rest leaked onto a hillside, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager at the North Dakota Department of Health.”

Had it been in New York or Pennsylvania, the Times would have had someone on it, and it would not have slipped away from its reporters in just a day. In North Dakota and elsewhere in Indian Country, such national Read The Article

American Indians, water, and the public good

Later, alternate title: “First Lessons From Standing Rock”

The late historian and activist on behalf of American Indians Alvin Josephy believed that Indians in America would solve the drug problem before others figured it out. “Indians,” he said “are still capable of ‘group think,’ of thinking for the tribe rather than focusing on the individual.” Josephy also believed that Indians still had things to tell, especially about the land, because they had lived on and with it for millennia.

from Huffington Post

Standing Rock is Group Think in capital letters. It has  attracted tribal members from Indian Nations across the country, white environmentalists, and veterans of all colors, who are now joining the water protectors in force in uniform. These veterans, schooled in tribal thinking (as illustrated in Sebastian Junger’s book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging), and realizing that Indians have and do serve in the American military in greater numbers than any other sector of American society, are there Read The Article

Indians and Environmentalists

This before election results are in, knowing that one candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, and that neither candidate has acknowledged Indian efforts at stopping the Dakota Access pipeline—or, for that matter, having talked at all to Indians or about Indian issues and concerns.

There are three pieces in today’s New York Times that reflect advances and show the need to continue Alvin Josephy’s long-ago efforts at bringing the environmental community and Indian communities together.

The first of course is about the environmental community backing the Indians at Standing Rock in their fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline by targeting big banks that are financing the project (perfect roles for such groups). The second and third articles—and a closer look might have revealed more—were about the smog in Delhi, India, which is literally choking the population with industrial overload, and another about oil companies, that, to varying degrees and seeking to serve their own best economic self interests, Read The Article

Standing Rock and Malheur

Like many, I am distressed about recent events in North Dakota and Malheur. I agree with Bill McKibben that the pipeline’s original route, above Bismarck, N.D. was changed to a route away from the white power structure and to one that might endanger tribal people and others downstream who just maybe would not pay attention–or at least do not have the power that Bismarck, the oil companies, and the labor unions have.

I agree with those who wonder what the FBI was doing with the Malheur prosecution. Why the conspiracy charges, difficult to prove, when the plain view infractions–trespassing, destruction of federal property and destruction and desecration of Indian sites–were many?

I agree with those who say that white privilege prevails, and that the Indians are being used and abused once again.

I reread what I had written about Malheur and “ownership” of the land in January. Ownership of and responsibility for the land, the water, and all that lives Read The Article

Sebastian Junger, PTSD, and 500 Nations

I liked the argument in Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, but cringed throughout the first chapters as he lumped all American Indians together and made them stone-age hunter-gatherers, “a native population that had barely changed, technologically, in 15,000 years,” ignoring the diversity of economies and cultures, the growth and spread of agriculture, and the rise and fall of civilizations over millennia.

Alvin Josephy would say that this is yet another gross misunderstanding of American Indian history and its intertwined relationship with all American history, that the “standard narrative” once again sees all Indians as hunter gatherers with headdresses.

Sebastian Junger gained fame with a book about the sea, The Perfect Storm, and, after being embedded for five months with troops in Afghanistan, produced a well-regarded documentary film, “Restrepo,” and book, War, based on that experience.

In the new book, he argues that “humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they Read The Article

Geneticists, Linguists, and American Indians

There’s an interesting piece in today’s NYT about genetic testing African Americans. The researchers covered in the article calculate that “the ancestors of the average African-American today were 82.1 percent African, 16.7 percent European and 1.2 percent Native American.”

More interesting than that, by examining the length of matching DNA strands, they claim that the Native American genes got into the African American mix very early, as slaves were first brought from Africa, and that the European genes got into the mix later—primarily during the time just preceding the Civil War.

Furthermore, by tracing X and Y chromosomes—Xs come only from mothers; fathers can pass on Xs or Ys—and the fact that the X chromosome of contemporary African-Americans shows more African ancestry than do the Y, leads them to the conclusion that the 16.7 percent European ancestry is primarily due to white slave owners fathering the children of their black slaves.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/28/science/african-american-dna.html?emc=edit_th_20160528&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=66175474

This Read The Article

Life on Joseph Creek

Joseph Canyon USFS photo

Alvin Josephy talked about Indians’ relationship to land, and how, from the get-go, Europeans did not understand it. Europeans saw land as an economic resource, not just a “home” place to live on and live with.  In fact, the Book of Genesis in pocket and mind, Christian Europeans thought themselves lords and masters of the land, with Biblically ordained dominion over it and all of its non-human inhabitants.

After a long slog through feudalism, during which most Europeans worked the land to the benefit of a ruling class, Euro-Americans saw opportunities to be their own lords and masters. A few years of indentured servitude and then Indian lands theirs for the taking. Thomas Jefferson legitimized it, promoting the idea of a nation of self-sustaining small landholders, free men who would forward humanity’s march towards democracy.

No one paid much attention to Indians’ relationships to land—except to take it. Well, Europeans did pick up the many crops Read The Article

Another painting/statue/book of Chief Joseph?

Fouch photo of Joseph in Bismarck 1877

This week a sculptor who is having bronze work done at the local foundry came into the library looking for pictures of Chief Joseph. He has it in mind to do a bronze of a young Chief Joseph on a horse. He’d seen a picture of a Nez Perce—not Joseph—on a horse that had inspired him, and had seen photos of Joseph as an older man. He wanted pictures of hairstyles and clothing that might help him portray a younger Joseph.

We found his horse photo online, and when he mentioned the Nez Perce and Appaloosas, I pointed out the lack of spots on this photo. And sent him away with the Harry and Grace Bartlett and Alvin Josephy material from the New York Brand Book magazine of 1967. I also suggested a couple of books he might read.

We have two statues of Young Chief Joseph in Wallowa County, both done by Read The Article

First Foods

The water in Flint

As I read headlines about Flint, Michigan’s water over the past months, and of water contaminated by chemical runoff in the farm belts of the Midwest and on irrigated ground closer to home, the notion that the relationship between humans and the land is mutual and more complicated than science and technology have proffered sends me again to Alvin Josephy and the Indians. Recent accounts of the loss of pollinators, which some say threatens global food supplies, leads to the same place.

Josephy told us that by denigrating the values and practices of Indian peoples, by seeing “human” and “natural world” as two domains, the one to be dominated by the other, by a “Eurocentrism” that saw everything from that point of view and all things Indian as “primitive,” we have denied ourselves valuable information and, possibly, tools to heal contemporary problems such as those mentioned above.

Our friends on the nearby Umatilla Reservation give us Read The Article

The land owns the Paiutes

Yesterday, amid the blur of news stories from Burns and John Day about the confrontation between occupiers and law enforcement in this latest chapter of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation, there was an NPR story from Nevada. A reporter and a Paiute tribal member were traveling the BLM ground once leased to Cliven Bundy but now, and for several years, not leased but still grazed by Bundy’s cattle. (Cliven’s sons were leaders in the Malheur occupation and among those arrested.)

The story from Nevada was one of fear and garbage—rangeland and fences left untended, BLM employees absent, and, in other places in Nevada, traveling in pairs with safety concerns. The thing that struck me hardest was when the radio team visited an ancient pictograph shattered by bullets from someone who did not care that they were ancient and sacred to Indians. In Oregon, Ammon Bundy was expressing similar distain for the past, saying that the grazing value on the Malheur Read The Article

It’s Martin Luther King Day

So take courage!

Friends here in Northeast Oregon are upset with the goings on in neighboring Burns. One group “occupied” a local Oregon Wildlife Refuge one evening with binoculars and beer. Most of “my” friends would like to see the government stand up and oust the anti-government gaggle; they’d like the Paiutes to have the biggest say in their ancestral lands. But I understand that some of my neighbors are sending food to the occupiers as well.

In America today, divisiveness is everywhere and hate sells. I needn’t list the shootings and the rancor over guns, the suspicion and hate over color, language and faith; the police conflicts, border walls, the hate speeches of Donald Trump, and the hatred of government that brings wronged ranchers, anti-Semites, anti-Islamists, and other antis swaggering with guns to a bird refuge in Oregon to state their cases and causes.

Many things are discouraging today. In the Middle East, where I lived and worked 50 Read The Article

This is not the year!

2016 will not be the year that the population of the United States of America tilts from white—the year when adding up all the browns and blacks and anyone the U.S. Census counts as not-white becomes a bigger number than the number of those who check a box or are in one way or another counted as “white.” In fact, a quick Google search tells me that this cataclysmic change in demographics is about 30 years away, and if you count Hispanics as white, more than that!

Distribution of U.S. Population by Race/Ethnicity, 2010 and 2050

You wouldn’t know it by the talk of it. It permeates, is everywhere in politics and the media. The talk sets up the fear of it on the one side, and the reasoning of it on the other. Donald Trump stands and harps about Mexicans and Moslems and anyone else not white and (at least in a recent Iowa talk) not evangelical. More broadly, fear of it seems to fuel speeches and votes Read The Article

Alvin at the Holy Days–Indian Freedom of Religion

I had a phone call the other day, from a retired pipe fitter in Seattle who discovered Cayuse roots years ago, made friends with some Lakota people, and now puts on a Blue Mountain Sun Dance near here each summer.

I met him on Facebook—this might be a first for me—when I saw a post about a coat drive for people on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Turns out that Alan Cliff has been collecting coats and blankets and will make a run to the Pine Ridge after the first of the year. Our Rotary Club here does a “coats for kids” program, and I thought we might be able to help.

At any rate, Alan called me, and in the course of the conversation I mentioned that Alvin Josephy was my mentor and that I am now custodian of the Josephy Library. Alan knows all about Alvin, especially about his 1969 “white paper” for the Nixon Administration advocating Indian self-determination. Read The Article