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Commemorating Controversy


At the NMAI:

In the late summer of 1862, a war raged across southern Minnesota between Dakota akicitas (warriors) and the U.S. military and immigrant settlers. In the end, hundreds were dead and thousands more would lose their homes forever. On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hung in Mankato, Minnesota, by order of President Abraham Lincoln. This remains the largest mass execution in United States history. The bloodshed of 1862 and its aftermath left deep wounds that have yet to heal. What happened 150 years ago continues to matter today.

Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862—an exhibition of 12 panels exploring the causes, voices, events, and long-lasting consequences of the conflict—was produced by students at Gustavus Adolphus College, in conjunction with the Nicollet County Historical Society. The project was funded by Gustavus Adolphus College, the Nicollet County Historical Society, the Minnesota Humanities Center, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the people of Minnesota through a grant supported by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

See the panels in PDF form here.

February 11, 2014 | Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 2 }

Van Arsdale Maps

van arsdale map

I came across these Perry Van Arsdale maps at a small gift shop in Pinos Altos, a nothing town outside the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. They’re absolutely beautiful and wildly detailed, which is hard to see in the poor image above, the only one I could find on the ol’ internets. Van Arsdale made a few maps in his day, including Native American maps and a whole slew of pioneer maps that include old roads, trails, emigrant routes and supply points, railroads, towns, cattle trails, forts, mines, mining towns, stage and freight routes, cattle trails, fur posts, Indian tribe areas and villages. You can find them all here.

A little more info about PVA:

Perry Van Arsdale began his mapping of pioneer history (history prior to the 1900’s) because his 7-year old granddaughter needed help researching the Sante Fe trail. With his obsession for accuracy and his personal knowledge of the trail, he set off to correct the information he thought to be erroneous in his granddaughter’s textbook. Thus began an odyssey which would not end until his death in 1976.

Perry and his granddaughter began by sending postcards to local postmasters requesting information on ghost towns and mining towns. The postmasters put Perry in touch with judges, sheriffs, and descendants of historical figures. Encouraged by the enthusiastic written responses of people, Perry gathered his research tools – clipboard, paper, and pen – and his family to visit the people and places in person. After interviews, he followed up by verifying the accounts in town and court records. All the stories and facts were carefully recorded and transferred to 3×5 cards for future reference.

With a mounting amount of information, Perry decided upon detailed maps as the best way to easily pass his knowledge on to others. Over a period of 15 years, Perry produced a series of 9 hand-drawn and hand-lettered maps that depict the United States of America as she entered the 20th century. By combining names, dates, and events on a map, he was able to present history with the broad perspective that it requires.

In the 1970’s, Perry had copies of his maps made to give to friends and students. The popularity and demand for the maps grew as word of mouth increased. Word eventually reached the Smithsonian Institute which still has the maps on display. Today, his family continues to make his maps available through this web site.

Perry put his life into his maps in order to share with us the history that was omitted because it was ugly, political, or morally unacceptable. He wanted children and adults to learn about history as it actually occurred so he devoted himself to finding and presenting the truth. Each map took at least 2 years to research and draw. This is how he filled his “retirement years.” His final map was Illinois which was completed only a month before his death. His next map would have been California in its entirety, but his life ran out before his enthusiasm.

August 6, 2013 | Native American, Public Lands | Continue Reading | Comments { 3 }

Hunting Bald Eagles

The Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming has won the right to hunt two bald eagles for religious purposes. Before the permits were issued, which is a first for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (though permits have been given in the past for other types of eagles), Native Americans received their eagle parts from the National Eagle Repository in Denver. The repository chopped up and defeathered dead eagles for those tribes who wrote in and requested them. Not surprisingly, the folks in Denver couldn’t keep up with demand.

It’s an interesting story, so go hear and read more at NPR.

March 20, 2012 | Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 2 }

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier is an activist and member of AIM, who, in 1977, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the shooting of two FBI agents during Pine Ridge. Peltier’s supporters (who include Willie, Joni and Kristofferson) present him as a political prisoner due to concern over the fairness of his proceedings. His conviction is the subject of the 1992 documentary directed by Michael Apted and narrated by Robert Redford, Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story, which you can watch in full right here. If you find yourself with 90 minutes to spare, watch it. It’s a humdinger.

(There’s also They Buried The Heart of Leonard Peltier, which, oh lord, you should watch too. Redford’s narration is substituted for the whitest sing-song narration you ever heard…)

January 24, 2012 | Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 0 }

The Fate of Heaven

“Yosemite: The Fate Of Heaven”:

“Yosemite–The Fate Of Heaven” is a stunning film portrait of Yosemite National Park. Breathtaking cinematography graphically depicts the fragile wonder of the place naturalist John Muir once called “a great temple lighted from above.” The film illustrates how our passion for Yosemite’s beauty jeopardizes the very wilderness we love so much.

Read by Robert Redford, the film’s narration is taken from the diaries of Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who accompanied the Mariposa Battalion in 1851 on a mission to “hunt down Indians.” The campaign brought soldiers for the first time into the sacred valley home of the Ahwahnechee tribe in the Sierra Nevada. “My astonishment was overwhelming,” wrote Bunnell of the valley’s grandeur. “Here before me was the power and glory of the Supreme Being.” Bunnell understood immediately that his small band would be the first and last white men to see the natural wonder of the valley unspoiled.

More than 130 years later, tens of thousands trek to the park from all over the world to enjoy the valley’s magnificent landscapes and wildlife. The film introduces us to hikers and campers for whom Yosemite is a true shrine, including a free-hand rock climber who “dances” up walls of sheer granite and a woman whose family survived the depression by camping at the park and fishing its rivers. Vintage photographs and observations from Bunnell’s eloquent diary remind us that America’s love affair with Yosemite is well over a century old.

Wrote Bunnell on leaving Yosemite. “Those scenes of beauteous enchantment I leave to those who remain to enjoy them.” Today Yosemite is a protected national park, but that may not be enough to guarantee its future. The continual onslaught of nature lovers–over 1,000 cars a day–only intensifies the conflict between preservation and public enjoyment. Sanitation workers remove 25,000 pounds of trash a day. Work crews toil to repair natural trails damaged by wear. Park rangers protect tourists from roaming bears, and curious deer from potato chip hand-outs. Nature rules here, but human beings, we learn, are both the biggest threat to the park’s future and its best hope.

Watch the entire thing, just like I’m doing now, over at The Creak of Boots.

September 7, 2011 | Music/Movies/Books, Native American, The World Is On Fire! | Continue Reading | Comments { 1 }

Bandelier National Monument

Located in New Mexico an hour from Santa Fe, the 33,677 acres Bandelier National Monument preserves the homes of Ancestral Pueblo People. The park is named after Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who researched the cultures of the area in the late 19th century. Bandelier was designated a National Monument on February 11, 1916, while most of its backcountry became a “designated wilderness” in October 1976. .

Above are paintings by Pablita Velarde, which were comissioned by Bandelier under the Works Progression Administration in the early 40s. See many more here.

May 5, 2011 | Art/Photography, Native American, Public Lands | Continue Reading | Comments { 1 }

Blackfeet Indians Of Glacier National Park

Blackfeet Indians Of Glacier National Park is comprised of 24 images by artist Winold Reiss and was published by the Great Northern Railway in 1940. See more photos and buy it on Ebay here.

January 10, 2011 | Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 1 }


From …

This 1986 film examines the traditional Native American craft of split ash basketmaking as a means of economic and cultural survival for Aroostook Micmac Indians of northern Maine. This documentary of rural off-reservation Indian artisans aims to break down stereotypical images. Basketmakers are filmed at their craft in their homes, at work on local potato farms and at business meetings of the Basket Bank, a cooperative formed by the Aroostook Micmac Council. First person commentaries are augmented by authentic 17th century Micmac music.

Watch it at Folkstreams!

November 30, 2010 | Music/Movies/Books, Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 0 }

Painted Buffalo Hides

From Prairie Edge Trading Company and Gallery:

It was traditional in some ancient Plains Indian cultures for women to render geometric patterns and men, pictographic design. Historically, a robe was worn with the head to the left when it was wrapped around the body, and the painting would be displayed on the outside with the fur next to the body for warmth.

September 13, 2010 | Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 2 }

Chief Dan George

Chief Dan George, as Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man, goes up to the mountain to die:

“Come out and fight
It is a good day to die
Thank you for making me a human being
Thank you for helping me to become a warrior
Thank you for my victories
And for my defeats
Thank you for my vision
And the blindness in which I saw further
You make all things and direct them in their ways, oh Grandfather
And now, you have decided that human beings will soon walk a road that leads nowhere
I am going to die now, unless death wants to fight
And I ask you for the last time to grant me my old power
To make things happen.”

Watch it here.

August 12, 2010 | Music/Movies/Books, Native American | Continue Reading | Comments { 1 }