The first week, you are experiencing the New England area and how Native peoples position themselves in the colonial histories you have likely read in school. The readings are helpful in your understanding of the Native Plymouth Tour and your thinking about the mapping project. I've cut and pasted in some thoughts on the readings. Please enter yours using the comments.
Jean O’Brien writes of how Amer-Europeans use(d) a tactic for erasure in their records of incorporation and historical celebrations. These “firstings” which write the Indians out of the histories. Once the transactions for land were made, the Indians blended into the forest and ultimately (for the colonists) into the past. In the Centennial celebration speech for Bridgewater, MA contained “But it is sad to think that of all the race who then peopled this region, nothing now but tradition remains… not a drop of the blood..was to be found in the veins of any living being” (xi). What? O”Brien’s work explores old documents of incorporation, histories, and reporting from cities and towns in New England. She writes,
Local narrators took up the histories of the exact places their audiences lived, and they rooted stories about Indians in those places. The overwhelming message of these narratives was that local Indians have disappeared. These local stories were leashed to a larger national narrative of the ‘vanishing Indian’ as a generalized trope and disseminated not just in the form of the written word but also in a rich ceremonial cycle of pageants, commemorations, monument building, and lecture hall performance. .. The collective story these texts told … created a narrative of Indian extinction that has stubbornly remained in the consciousness and unconsciousness of Americans (xiii).
Because of this, the schools are filled with reenactments of the Thanksgiving Story keeping Indians in a safe and distant past. A memory that is as vivid to me as if it happened yesterday is from my second-grade class. All the children were dressed in paper costumes portraying Pilgrims and Indians. A white sheet was draped over a makeshift stage and bright lights placed in the back so that only the shadows of the actors were visible to the audience. I alone was in a new dress and sat at a table beside the stage to narrate the play. All the while my legs crossed at the ankles swung back and forth as I read the words which seemed so awkward and uncomfortable to me. Of course, I was praised for my fine reading skills of one of the very kind O’Brien writes about. These pageants are still performed in schools, these paper costumes still made even now when we should know better.
Lisa Brooks A Common Pot is an amazing book. I love her work with Abenaki language and the connections she makes. I love that awikhigawôgan is the activity of writing and “a process, an ongoing activity in which we are all engaged” (introduction). She writes, “The communal stories recorded on birchbark and in wampum would connect people with their relations across time, bringing past, present and future into the same place” (12). This also helps us to think about how time is considered in Indigenous ways of knowing –a continuum rather than a discreet unit.
As we are reminded in another text, the land has memory.”
John Paul Jones writes,
“There is no place without a story. Every plant, every animal, every rock and flowing spring carries a message. Native peoples of the Americas learned over thousands of years to listen to messages, and we know every habitat. We know the earth; we know the sky; we know the wind; we know the rain; we know the smells. We know the spirit of each living space. The spirit of each place is deeply embedded within us; we are connected to something larger than ourselves” (1).
I think of this every time I am at the garden planting, weeding, or even sitting among the three sisters.
But in times of great social and political stress, when spiritual traditions have been undermined or are hard to adhere to, living a ‘reasonable, integrated life’ is not easy. Thus we need maps to help us find our direction, to help describe and explain the kind of spiritual and material terrain that we have walked through before and are walking through even now.( Janice Gould 24)
I love this quote from Janice Gould’s “Poems as Maps in American Indian Women’s Writing.” As Wilma Mankiller rightly states, “the world is spinning out of balance,” more and more each day. I constantly need to remind myself to stay on the path—even when I’ve lost the direction. Gould discusses Selu and Mankiller’s introduction to that book. She also writes, “the need to make our own maps is a reflection of the need to know and love our Mother, to repair our bond with her, and through her, with all our Indian family, all our relations” (25). It is time. Gould brings us to observe a number of poems which act as “poetic cartography” (24). Native peoples open maps to reveal home, grief, survival, direction, memories, stories and more.