Thursday, November 17, 2016

"I Welcome Questions - I Hate Assumptions," by Chris Clarke - *cough-cough* - I mean by 'Red Haircrow'

Untold History: The Survival of California's Indians
by Science Writer, Chris Clarke
Chris Clarke
Today I read an interesting article (lesson) on the history of California Indians by Science Writer/Author & Poet, Chris Clarke of Joshua Tree California. I've been following Chris for some time now ever since I first discovered through google an article on the Mojave River Chub which is a rare desert fish. Although once more common than now, Desert Fish in general are becoming more and more rare as their riparian stream or spring fed pool habitats are rapidly disappearing like most everything else on Earth. Chris writes numerous articles on various environmental issues, but his desert pieces are closest to my heart. See, I'm by nature a desert rat like Chris and for the past 10 years I have lived in a Scandinavian (Göteborg) Boreal forest environment which for a desert rat is something like a sort of Frozen Hell. Well, that's how the middle eastern refugees here in Sweden & Finland describe the place where they've been relocated in those far north wilderness detention camps far away from the contemporary Scandinanvian designed utopian centres to the south. His article on California native Indians had two opening paragraphs which immediately captured my attention. About a week ago, when talking to my Swedish wife about what first got me interested in California native plants, so I googled an old classic 1964 docu-drama film about the Nicoleños natives who once lived on San Nicolas Island off the Southern California coast who were evacuated in the early 19th century by the Spanish padres of the California mission system. These people were molested and many killed after an attack by Alaskan Fur Traders. But one lovely young woman remained behind and the account in the film documents her survival. Chris' words were similar to an article I read a few years back by a native American born in Germany who also writes about his hertitage from the same perspective as Chris Clarke. But first, here are Chris Clarke's two opening paragraphs from his latest article: 
If you grew up in California, you probably learned most of what you know about the history of California Indians while you were in fourth grade. All that several generations of Californians learned of the state’s Native peoples can be summed up thusly:   
California was originally populated by people who did not farm but made very nice baskets. The Spanish padrés arrived, and California Indians moved to the Missions to learn farm labor. Some of them died there, mainly because their immune systems weren’t sophisticated enough to handle modern diseases. By the time Americans arrived Native Californians had mainly vanished somehow. The Gold Rush happened and California became a modern society with factories and lending institutions. Finally, in 1911, Ishi, the last wild California Indian, wandered out of the mountains so he could live a comfortable life in a museum basement.
That was my experience as well. The fourth grade class in my elementary school gave us all a picture of the seemingly simple idyllic life of the average Mission Indian under Spanish colonization and domination. Why, we even went on some of those Pepper Drive Elementary School sponsored field trips to the original Mission in San Diego just above the present day Mission Valley overlooking the San Diego River. I was also interested in native American Indians because we had several ancient native settlement sites in and around the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain between El Cajon & Santee where I grew up. When climbing and exploring on that mountain, I'd often ponder away at what life must have been like for those unknown Native families and how they must have survived. But the film, Island of the Blue Dolphins , changed all that for me. First, even though I was a child in elementary school, it angered me to come to the realization of truth that life for the Mission Indians was actually no picnic. To be honest, most of the world of mankind who have heard of the American Indian probably have in their heads the more romanticized version of Natives dressed in Plains Indian attire. They are probably only familiar with more written about culture of Indian Nations such as the Souix, Cheyene, Crow, Blackfoot, Comanche, Apache, Arapaho, Navajo, Hopi and so forth. Admittedly, we only have early historical paintings which reveal the early encoutered Native Californians as having a kind of primitive half naked appearance by comparison to the tribes of the other states. Early photos are not helpful as they show California Mission Indians already adapting to Euro-culture and dress. Even in the Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza & the Padre Pedro Font documented in their respective journals of the many smaller clans of tribal outcasts thay encountered and their pitiful condition. But the docu-drama I watched as a kid did a couple other things for me that I now admit looking back was extremely important in the way I view things at present. It made me more fascinated about life of the natives and how they lived off the land. It also made me hungry for more historical writings not only of this region of Southern California, but also expanding my horizons well beyond to other areas around the globe when it came to my developing interest in native plant communities by those early original world  explorers who first encountered them and how whole plant ecosystems must have worked and functioned prior to human disruption. Chris in his opening introduction on his Facebook page also wrote about how his research on the subject made him feel, which also triggered another memory of something similar I read in an article back in 2013 by a fellow named Red Haircrow and the German people's obsession with American Indians. First, here is what Chris wrote:
"It offers me solace because the descendants of those who suffered the unspeakable evils I fleetingly describe here, who knew this history all too well already and didn't need to sit down and research it, are still willing to work with non-Native people to set things right. Eager to work with them/us, even, provided we non-Native people do a little bit of elementary learning and display a little bit of elementary sensitivity."
Yup, most of the native peoples don't have to dig and scratch in various libraries for research to understand what they've known for decades about the plight of their ancestors. The gentleman to the right here is Red Haircrow. He is a writer, filmmaker, chef, counselor. BSc Psych, Grad Student Native Studies of Apache/Cherokee descent. He lives now in Berlin, Germany. I found some of his interesting articles in an online journal called, "Indian Country - Today Media Network." Take a look at the Meme photo with quote below. When I first read this, my first thought was, "This is like something Chris Clarke would coin." Notice the uncanny similarity of thought in both paragraphs from Chris Clarke and Red Haircrow. Hence the silly title I chose for my post:

QuoteFancy.com
"As a Native American in Germany, when I am asked honest questions, I give honest answers, and if I don’t know something, I direct the person toward a reliable source of information. When I am dismissed by hobbyists who think they know more about my people and culture than I do, I do not let them bother me. Instead, I try to educate those who are willing to listen and hope they will support causes that help improve the life and future of Native Americans"
(Author - Red Haircrow)
I'm not going to post any other links about Red Haircrow or links to other references which would detract from the message within Chris Clarke's article which I'll link below. There is so much more to say about the native descendants of the California Indians, but I'll let Chris' article say it. For me personally, my own family has a  personal connection to the Sycuan Kumeyaay Tribe east of El Cajon through my Sister and her daughter. While as Chris mentioned in his article, Gaming Casinos have financially benefitted some tribal nations, it has not always resulted in genuime happiness and contentment. This has a lot to do with not only the  general human imperfection common to all cultures, but also a result of the conquest of more technologically advanced foreign nation peoples imposing their will and aggression on indigenous peoples which took a heavy toll on their traditional family and cultural structure. This is also mirrored around the globe everywhere. From personal experience myself living in Anza California and associating with members of the Cahuilla Tribe up there, it was a challenge to get them back in the 1980s to rebuild the forested ecosystems which once existed on some parts of their Reservation. Even when I volunteered to purchase the Forest Service grown bareroot trees and teach them what I had successfully done with a native species of mycorrhizal fungi found in the foothills of Anza Valley which I had collected up there for years, long before such techniques were ever spoken about as they are today, they just had no interest. Mostly I was dealt with suspicion and mistrust. I didn't take it personally, but conversation always ended with "It's the White Man's fault and he should fix it." Back in many remote lesser known Indian Reservations there is a purvasive apathy, lack of purpose and hopelessness that has been around for generations through no fault of their own. But you'll also find this same negative effect in many of the world's inner cities as well. But every so often you will find many individuals who will recognize their hopeless situation and work hard to pull themselves up and out of that dark abyss. Keep in mind, not all tribal circumstances around North America are equal. Just like any European countries. But anyway, below here is Chris Clarke's informative article. Again if you wish any further references on these other subjects mentioned here, Google is your friend! 😑

A young Cahuilla woman in the early 20th Century | Photo: Edward S. Curtis 

Chris Clarke: "Untold History: The Survival of California's Indians"

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