Following Indians in 2015

Alvin Josephy passed almost a decade ago, but I visit his writing and thinking almost daily. I think about the questions I didn’t ask, the conversations that could have been longer, and tying it all to today. Mostly, I think “Alvin, you are right on.”
Over some time in the 1990s and early 2000s, Alvin was interviewed by friend and Southwest writer, activist, and radio producer Jack Loeffler, and in one of those interviews Alvin reminded Jack and radio listeners that there are many “traditional” American values—think neighborliness, tolerance, and equal opportunity. Few would argue with any of these, but Alvin said that we have largely forgotten them in the frenzied pursuit of and insistence on one value, “competition.”
From the NFL to “American Idol,” high school GPAs and SAT scores to job promotions and juried art shows, we are surrounded by and deeply immersed in competition. Held in check by fair play and good neighborliness, “friendly” competition is benign,
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Alvin and the occupiers

This might be dangerous. Many of you—Alvin Josephy’s friends and followers—might not be political at all, or are primarily interested in Alvin as a historian and advocate for Indian peoples, and don’t care about his politics outside of Indians. But I am reading Alvin material every day, and he was so bound up in the major issues of his times—from the Depression through World War 2, from dignity and self-determination for Indians to a concern for the physical world that he learned from Indians and carried with him to the pages of Audubon Magazine and Congressional Testimony—that it is impossible to look at Alvin Josephy without thinking about politics.

I am going to lean on material from interviews with Alvin’s friend, Jack Loeffler. Most of the interviews occurred in 1995, but there is some later material too, from 2001. In their rambling conversations Alvin recounts some of the major events in his life—in 1995 he was deep into writing the Read The Article

Josephy, Indians, and the Environment

This is from the transcript of an interview that Jack Loeffler did with Alvin in August 1995, File 3, page 37, 38, 40 in the Josephy Library at Fishtrap archives.

Several times in the interview Alvin refers to subjects that he will or will not address in his memoir (A Walk Toward Oregon, published in 2000). Here he describes his conversion from being a “pro-development guy,” who wanted to see the West–the “other half of the country”– developed as the East had been, to seeing the country in an ecologically sounder and more sustainable way. You have to read A Walk Toward Oregon and know something of his extensive work on Indians to get the whole picture, but here is the shorthand: companies and government agencies were screwing the Indians–and oh, they were screwing a lot of other people too in the name of development and profit. At least some environmentalists were taking a longer view of things, Read The Article

Loeffler, Abbey, and Josephy

Dear Friends of the Josephy Library,

Welcome to the first Library Blog! Actually, I am sending the text in a regular email, as I have been doing for the past year or so, but it will now be posted on the the Josephy Library blog, where you are now!

This is all new ground for me, so patience please—and I will appreciate your suggestions.

Best,
rich

Jack Loeffler comes to Fishtrap

Jack Loeffler celebrated his 74th birthday in a hotel room in Baker City on his way to Fishtrap this July. He’d been as far as Joseph before, sat on Alvin Josephy’s deck and interviewed him, but he had never made it as far as Wallowa Lake. He was thrilled with the first sight of it..

On Monday morning we began a conversation that seemed like it had started ages ago, and the time between the phantom conversations of the past and today melted away. From time to time Jack Read The Article