Cover of “The Heroes of Battle Rock” narrated by J.M. Kirkpatrick and edited by Orvil Dodge, 1904. (Credit: Robert L. Ivie)
In the middle of September, Bill-the-mail-carrier delivered a package containing an old pamphlet and an accompanying note from my brother saying he thought I might find it “a fun fast read.” The pamphlet likely belonged to our deceased mother. She could have picked it up on a visit to the Oregon coast with her historically-minded brother and sister-in-law. The whole family, including my brother and me, is Oregon born.
There is something atavistic about this pamphlet. It manifests a recurring ancestral outlook, the cultural DNA of white settlers, the origin myth gone ironically nativistic in today’s battle of white indwellers against immigrants of color.
“The Heroes of Battle Rock” is what Kenneth Burke calls a representative anecdote “in a bad sense.” Its implications for human relations are anything but positive. It is reductive in its “motivational calculus” and thus simplistic, polarizing, and combative in the attitude it conveys toward non-whites, which would not be a matter of so much concern if it were atypical and strictly historical. (more…)
Picture of the Castle de San Felipe del Morro in the Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the entrance of the San Juan Bay, 28 April 2011. (Credit: James Willamor)
A Return to the Native Land, as we learn from Aimé Césaire’s great poem, is fraught with perils, fortuitous occurrences, fortunate encounters and profound realizations. The island that I call home is magical, and like Caliban’s island, is full of ghostly sounds and ancient voices: (more…)
American Bison in North Dakota, 29 December 2013. (Credit: HalfGig / Wikimedia Commons)
Standing Rock is the reservation where Sitting Bull was killed by Tribal Police. At Standing Rock in the Dakotas, after the visit by the holy prophet Kicking Bear, Ghost Dancers prayed and danced for the regeneration of the earth and the return of the buffalo during the Ghost Dance movement of the 1890s.
In the aftermath of the Fetterman Massacre in 1866 (the Sioux called it the Battle of the Hundred Slain), General William Tecumseh Sherman argued an Indian policy of “peace within the reservation and war without.” The simplest way of bringing Plains Indians to confinement, Sherman wrote to Philip Sheridan, was “to invite all the sportsmen of England and America … for a Great Buffalo Hunt and make a grand sweep of them all.” The buffalo herds vanished from the Northern Plains between 1876 and 1882.
When Sitting Bull returned from Canada and surrendered in 1881, he addressed US military officers: “I wish it to be remembered that I was the last of my tribe to surrender my rifle. This boy [Sitting Bull’s son] has given it to you, and he now wants to know how he is going to make a living.” [i](more…)
In these days of primaries and tawdry rhetoric by presidential candidates, it would be good to evoke the memory of the great orator and medicine man of the Lakota Sioux.
This is how Arthur Kopit, in his play Indians, painted the portrait of Sitting Bull:
I am here by the will of the Great Spirits, and by their will I am a chief. My heart is red and sweet, and I know it is sweet, for whatever I pass near tries to touch me with its tongue, as the bear tastes honey and the green leaves seek the sky. If the Great Spirits have chosen anyone to be leader of their country, know that it is not the Great Father, it is myself.
As we have chronicled in our book Hunt the Devil(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2015), Sitting Bull’s fiery rhetoric, the Plains Indians victory at Little Big Horn, and the Ghost Dance Movement of the late 19th century turned Sitting Bull into the devil we seek to destroy in every war—the evil leader of whichever people we target as our enemy. The death of Sitting Bull would be repeated, at the dawn of the 21st century, in the termination of an Islamic spiritual leader who had inspired — just like Sitting Bull — heinous crimes against the United States.[i](more…)
Fireworks in New York, 2002. (Credit: Jon Sullivan / PDPhoto.org)
Hunt the Devil will take a brief break for the holiday season. We will return on January 5, 2016.
Oscar and I are grateful for our readers. We wish you a happy holiday.
Over the last twenty-two months, we have written nearly 180 posts based on our book, Hunt the Devil (published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press) and building toward a sequel to Hunt the Devil, the working title of which is After Empire.
So far, three articles for academic journals on the After-Empire project have emerged from the blog. Two already are in print: (more…)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Credit: President of the Russian Federation / http://www.kremlin.ru)
Brian Amsden, who teaches at Clayton State University, produces podcasts about once a month answering—one story at a time—the question of how we humans come to believe the impossible things we believe. His show is called Rhetorical Questions.
The most recent episode, Episode 7, is Brian interviewing me about Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture. Brian asks great questions and makes excellent observations throughout the interview. (more…)
Re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, January 2008. (Credit: James G. Howes / Wikimedia Commons)
Walt Longmire is Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming in Craig Johnson’s popular mystery series. His best friend, Henry Standing Bear—aka The Cheyenne Nation—owns the Red Pony bar at the intersection of town and reservation. The bar is empty, except for Henry and Walt, on a cold Thanksgiving night. Henry is cooking the holiday turkey and fixings out back while Walt sips a beer (or two) and watches a football game on TV between the Chiefs and the Broncos. The Chiefs are losing, again.
Thanksgiving is not The Cheyenne Nation’s favorite holiday. He calls it Thankstaking.
A stranger enters the bar and orders a beer. He’s a “bearded young man in stained, frayed Carhartt overalls.” After serving the stranger his beer, Henry goes outside to check on the turkey and to check out the stranger’s pickup truck. He sees a woman and small child asleep inside the parked truck.
Henry returns to the bar just as the young man pulls a gun on Walt, saying he needs money for gas and food. “I don’t normally do this kind of thing . . . I’ve got a wife and kid. I mean this is not who I am. I lost my job and I need to get back to Elko.” (more…)
“Penn’s Treaty with the Indians,” oil on canvas by Edward Hicks (c. 1830-40). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (1881) should be considered one of the most important American books of the 19th century. Jackson, author of the popular novel Ramona (1883), considered her chronicle of broken treatises between the United States and Native American nations as “only a sketch, and not a history.” Her object, stated in the opening pages of her book, was “simply to show our causes for national shame in the matter of our treatment of the Indians.” (7)
Jackson dedicates numerous chapters to detailing injustices committed against the Delawares, Cheyennes, Nez Perces, Sioux, Poncas, Winnebagos, Cherokees and Apaches among other tribes. One witness account collected by her of an exchange in 1852 between Alexander Ramsey, Territorial Governor of Minnesota, and Red Iron, Chief of the Sisseton Sioux, at a gathering “crowded with Indians and white men,” is a typical example of Indian councils: (more…)
Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture is now available for purchase, and our publisher — University of Alabama Press — has provided us the opportunity to offer our book to our readers at a 30% discount through October 31, 2015!
Simply order the Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture directly from University of Alabama Press using a special discount code, and you can get this “timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture” for just $35.00 USD.
Five copies of the book, thanks to Atticus (see previous post), arrive. I open one copy to make sure they have the dedication right before showing it to my wife, Margarita. I leaf through the pages and am glad to recognize the names of old friends always with me: Shaw and O’Neill, Las Casas and José Martí.
As always close to Father´s Day I think of my father, of his time in Vietnam, and wish he were here to see this. I remember the lines by Martí through which I always evoke his memory: