Week 1 Readings
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.
5/26/2014 11:11:26 pm
"Firsting and Lasting," by Jean M. O'Brien was an interesting look at the history of Indians. O'Brien states his aim on page xii when he says, "understand how non-Indians in Southern New England convinced themselves that Indians there had become extinct even though they remained as Indian peoples- and do so to this day." I enjoy how she organizes her writings from first to last, hence the title, "Firsting to Lasting." She compares and contrasts the lifestyles of Indians and of New Englanders which I think is important to put this into the reader's perspective.
5/26/2014 11:25:19 pm
After reading “The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present”, I have realized that the American people have stereotyped Native Americans for centuries. It’s interesting to know that for so long the white people of America have judged and stereotyped all Native Americans together as one because of the lack of knowledge about the many tribes. According to Robert Berkhofer many Americans stereotype because of their lack of knowledge, “White countrymen continued to speak and write as if a specific tribe and all Indians were interchangeable for the purposes of description and understanding of fundamental cultural dynamics and social organization. Today, most Whites who use the word Indian have little idea of specific tribal peoples or individual Native Americans to render their usage more than an abstraction, if not a stereotype” (26). In reality, not all Native Americans are even close to the same. Even today many people judge Native Americans as one tribe or one colony of people. After reading this article and the other articles assigned, it is apparent that many people don’t know enough about Native Americans to make any kind of judgments. Native American’s and their many different tribes are extremely different. Throughout the years whites have judged and criticized Native Americans for the way that they live. Due to the difference in way of life between the whites and the Native Americans, whites have viewed the Native Americans as morally wrong because they live a completely different life. Whites compare Native Americans to the way they live, because of this the Whites believe what the natives are doing is wrong. This stereotype leads to many judgments, “Another persistent theme in White imagery is the tendency to describe Indian life in terms of its lack of White ways rather than being described positively from within the framework of the specific culture under consideration” (Berkhofer 26). Whites have created an image for Native Americans that most people follow. Native Americans are described as they are seen in the eyes of the whites rather than their own eyes. It wasn’t fair for whites to stereotype the Native Americans, “whites overwhelmingly measured the Indian as a general category against those beliefs, values, or institutions they most cherished in themselves at the time” (Berkhofer 27). In my opinion I think that people still do that today. Some Native American beliefs and everyday life decisions may be different from the general populations. This is not fair but it happens all the time with many different races and life decisions. I hope that this course will help open my eyes to what the Native Americans’ lives are all about. Although I knew that the Native Americans have many different tribes and those tribes are different, I hope to further my knowledge on all the different cultural differences. This class will help further my outlook on the different cultures and lifestyles that people have.
5/27/2014 01:58:20 am
After reading through the articles it is very clear that there is a common theme among most Indigenous writings. This common theme is one of nature, balance, and ownership. The articles “Firsting and Lasting” by Jean M. O’Brien and “Poems as Maps in American Indian Women’s Writings” by Janice Gould both explore these reoccurring themes.
5/27/2014 02:15:49 am
Firsting and Lasting is an interesting look into how the history of the Indians was written and how we see those histories today. The chapter explains how the histories did not start until the English settled in America and the history that was written was mostly just the first things that happened to each settlement. The first church, the first marriage, the first child and the first building are all examples of things these settlements found important. They also happen to be what differentiated the English from the Indians because the English were more civilized and looked at everything the Indians did as uncivilized. The mention of the first three Indians is only related to the first Indians that were friendly and hospitable to the English. That is why those three Indians, Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit, are the most popular to include in American history lessons; they were included in the history of the English settlement.
5/28/2014 04:18:56 am
“The Land has Memory,” edited by Duane Blue Spruce and Tanya Thrasher, included several interesting. Although the points themselves may not be of great significance, they forced me to further my thinking and opened my eyes. I found it very interesting how Native American associations are often times associated with the promotion of global warming awareness. As ignorant as it sounds, I never made the connection between an epidemic involving out earth and the strong association that Native Americans often have with Mother Nature. I think it is a wonderful idea to have a group of people with such a strong connection to the earth, promote its ‘well-being.’ Having that initial personal connection is what speaks to others and can ultimately help to make a positive impact. Yet at the same time it was made very clear that this single [and often stereotypical] Native American portrayal does not apply to all. This is where the importance of education comes is, particularly through exhibits such as museums.
5/28/2014 09:50:30 am
The reading Firsting and Lasting resonates with the modern American mentality of viewing America as the ‘best and most significant’ country because it focuses on the supremacy of the Anglo-American race. The quote from the Massachusetts historian, on page 20, places this idea of ‘Anglo-superiority’ into perspective, both in the past as well as in the present. In America’s past, “The Red Men…hunted the bison and the deer, fished the lakes and streams, gathered around the council-fire” (20). Native Americans created communities based on strong familial ties both with humans and nature itself, which served as a cultural lineage. However, from the European viewpoint, “they [Native Americans] made no history” because “they planted no states, founded no commerce, cultivated no arts, built up no civilizations” (20). Measuring native tribes by European standards reveals the shortcomings of the native people, as seen through Anglo eyes, and devalues the contributions of indigenous people to America’s national story. This idea of Native American inferiority extends beyond the colonial period and can be seen in the contemporary relations among European descendants (Anglo- Americans) and Native Americans. Oppression of the indigenous people continues in present-day America through racial prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Many generations and centuries have passed since the initial encounter between the Europeans and Native Americans, but the American egotistical attitude still remains the same.
5/29/2014 02:03:15 pm
Jean M. O’Brien’s “Firsting and Lasting” was impacting for me as a reader because she develops an intense argument about the way history is taught today. For me, the most persuasive argument she made was against the idea that Indians some how became “extinct”. With New Englanders dominating the culture of print, it is no wonder their self-fashioned providential history was what was accepted as fact (xii). Why aren’t students taught about the nineteenth-century Indian? The fact of the matter is that it is because non-Indian’s “publications formed a vernacular historical sensibility of enduring influence, as their work, however fanciful or downright erroneous, became blueprints for understanding the past” (xvii). This “history” does not account for Indian lives and their part towards the history of our country unless of course it was for the benefit of the Englishmen. O’Brien wrote about how the Indians, “rather than gaining fame as firsts who will be a part of an enduring modernity, they are famous because they set into motion the processes that are the beginning to their end.” (20) Indians kind hearted attempt to form an ally ended up being their biggest failure as they eventually became subordinate and overpowered by the Englishmen.
6/1/2014 12:23:21 pm
Jean M. O’Brien’s “Firsting and Lasting” analyzes the records of the early histories left behind by the colonials and pilgrims. As western settlers immigrated to the New World, they began to record their experiences. They wrote about the building of their town’s first church, the first wedding they witnessed in the New World, their first month, year, decade. However, while it is very clear the colonials had their share of firsts, those who write the histories seem to forget that before 1620 there was a civilization living where they had built that church. They also seemed to forget that the civilization of people, the Native Americans, they attempted to write out had not died out nor had they just disappeared. Jean M. O’Brien’s “Firsting and Lasting” gives insight to first written histories of New England and points out the effort made to erase Native American existence from the texts.
6/4/2014 08:24:32 am
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