Native Studies

Explore the Artists of Jessica Horton’s Art for an Undivided Earth


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In Art for an Undivided Earth: The American Indian Movement Generation, Jessica L. Horton explores how the artists of the American Indian Movement (AIM) generation remapped the spatial, temporal, and material coordinates of modernity by placing colonialism’s displacement of indigenous people, objects, and worldviews at the center of their work. Inspired to see the work Horton discusses in person? Read on to learn more about the artists and where their art is on display.

Jimmie Durham

Jimmie Durham (born 1940 in Washington, Arkansas) is an activist, sculptor, essayist, and poet whose works are held in major collections around the globe. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Jessica Horton explains: “Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Durham exhibited alongside, collaborated with, and wrote about the work of fellow indigenous artists. He profoundly impacted a discourse about Native American art and settler colonialism long after he moved to Mexico in 1987 and to Europe in 1994, at which time he cut his ties to U.S. institutions.”  A highly-anticipated retrospective of Durham’s work downloadbegan at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles in January 2017; it is now on display at the Walker Art Center  in Minneapolis, and later heads to The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Remai Modern in Saskatoon.

 

James Luna

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James Luna (born 1950 in Orange, California) is a Payómkawichum and Mexican-American artist known for his photography, performance art, and multimedia installations. According to Horton, “Luna’s work culminated a decade of curatorial efforts in the United States and Canada to enhance the visibility of Native artists at the Venice Biennale, the oldest and some say most prestigious art exhibition in the world.” Luna’s corpus of work is displayed on his website; the site also provides videos of his performance art. You can view Luna’s work, including his famous piece “Half Indian/Half Mexican,” in person by visiting the Denver Art Museum’s American Indian Collection.

Fred Kabotie

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Fred Kabotie (1900-1986) was a Hopi artist best known for his painting, silverwork, illustrations, and pottery. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Horton points out that Kabotie “painted social and ceremonial dances from memory as government-imposed education and widespread bans on ritual practices aimed to transform Native bodies into productive labor for the U.S. economy in the first decades of the twentieth century.” Within Kabotie’s early works, Horton notes, this reveals “a persistent concern with maintaining Hopi sensibilities amid displacement.” Fred Kabotie’s work can be found in the Great Plains Art Museum’s Patricia J. and Stanley H. Broder Collection, the Albuquerque Museum’s permanent collection, and a current exhibit, “Spirit of Creation,” also at the Albuquerque Museum.

Kay Walkingstick

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Kay WalkingStick (born 1935 in Syracuse, NY) is a landscape artist whose later paintings often incorporate patterns from Native American pottery and rugs. These landscapes are particularly remarkable because, as Horton emphasizes, “Walkingstick’s artistic practice refuses a logic of difference that lingered in late twentieth-century debates about modernist primitivism, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, and the Columbus Quincentennial, by forging affective bonds with white artistic predecessors.” Her work is in the collections of museums around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. A retrospective of Walkingstick’s work, “Kay Walkingstick: An American Artist,” will travel to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo MI, the Gilcrease Art Museum, Tulsa OK, and the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair NJ, during 2017 and 2018. If you can’t make it to one of these museums, Walkingstick’s work is also displayed digitally on her website.

Robert Houle

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Robert Houle is a Saulteaux First Nations Canadian artist, critic, and curator who has worked to unify First Nations contemporary artists with the larger Canadian art scene. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Horton explains that Houle’s mixed-media works “revisit the entwined lineages of ethnography and abstraction to tell a survival story” (14). Houle’s work can be found in many public collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto ON, the Heard Museum, Phoenix AZ, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, Sudbury ON, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON.

To save 30% on Art for an Undivided Earth use coupon code E17HORTN at checkout on our website.

Collateral Afterworlds: Sociality Besides Redemption

ddstx_130The most recent issue of Social Text, “Collateral Afterworlds: Sociality Besides Redemption,” moves beyond the binary of life and death to explore how the gray areas in between—precarious life, slow death—call into question assumptions about the social in social theory. In these “collateral afterworlds,” where the line between life and death is blurred, the presumed attachments of sociality to life and solitude to death are no longer reliable.

The contributors focus on the daily experiences of enduring a difficult present unhinged from any redeeming future, addressing topics such as drug treatment centers in Mexico City, solitary death in Japan, Inuit colonial violence, human regard for animal life in India, and intimacies forged between grievously wounded soldiers. Engaging history, film, ethics, and poetics, the contributors explore the modes of intimacy, obligation, and ethical investment that arise in these spaces.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Interview with Ethnohistory co-editor John F. Schwaller

We recently sat down with new Ethnohistory co-editor John F. Schwaller to discuss his background, how he’d like to shape the journal in the future, and plans for upcoming special issues. To learn more about Ethnohistory, visit dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory.

How did you come to be co-editor of this journal?

ddeh_64_1Matthew Restall [former co-editor of Ethnohistory] is a colleague and friend of mine and when he had served the journal for almost 10 years, he asked me if I would be interested in taking over the position from him. I’ve been a long-time follower and sometime author in Ethnohistory. My work in early colonial Mexico and especially my work in Nahuatl was very close to the journal, so it was a fun opportunity.

How would you like to shape the journal in the future?

What I really want to do is continue to emphasize high quality work on the rest of the Americas. Ethnohistory always has had very strong pieces on British and French North America. For the last ten to fifteen years the journal has included increasingly important pieces on what we now consider Latin America and I want to continue that tradition. Many of the articles have come from Mesoamerica—that’s Mexico and Central America. We have published a little bit in South America and we now have a couple of articles in the queue focused on South America. I would like to expand the offerings for Mesoamerica and South America significantly, so we have a really great presence for both continents in the journal.

What are some under-researched areas that you hope to publish about in the future?

I think, in terms of the profession at large it may not be as underserved, but there are certainly a lot of native peoples of South America that have not been covered sufficiently. We’re only beginning to see some really good studies of some of the native peoples of South America, and I would love to see more ethnohistories of peoples from South America.

Do you have any plans for upcoming special issues?

We have two proposals for special issues right now. One deals with Nahuatl speaking people, and I’m very excited about that. It’s an outgrowth of a panel at the American Society for Ethnohistory meeting in Nashville [November 2016] in which we looked at language and cultural identity in modern Mexico. We had several native Nahuatl speakers who were part of the panel. The organizers of the panel have asked if Ethnohistory would be interested in looking at the papers and the presentations for a special issue and I’ve told them absolutely. If it comes to fruition, at least one or perhaps two of the shorter presentations will be in Nahuatl with English translations.

What are you looking for in submissions?

I’m excited about everything. I really want people to think of Ethnohistory as an important place for their work to appear if they work on native peoples of the Americas.

Obviously with the revolution in languages that we’ve had since the 1970s, many of us are very excited by documentation and works based on documentation in native languages. We need not be blind to the fact that there still are valid and important sources that are only Spanish, Portuguese, English, or French, that can also enlighten us as to the history of native peoples.

To learn more about the journal or to subscribe, visit dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory. To submit your work to the journal, review the submission guidelines.

New Books in February

Can you believe it’s already February? Our Spring 2017 season is in full swing. Check out these new books dropping this month:

misinterpellated-subject-coverIn The Misinterpellated SubjectJames R. Martel complicates Louis Althusser’s theory of interpellation, using historical and literary analyses ranging from the Haitian Revolution to Ta-Nehisi Coates to examine the political and revolutionary potential inherent in the instances when people heed the state’s call that was not meant for them.

Fans of literature and iconic literary theorist Slavoj Žižek shouldzizek-cover enjoy Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask ŽižekThis volume demonstrates the importance of Slavoj Žižek’s work to literary criticism and theory by showing how his practice of reading theory and literature can be used in numerous theoretical frameworks and applied to literature across historical periods, nationalities, and genres, creating new interpretations of familiar works.

dying-in-full-detail-coverIn analyses of digital death footage—from victims of police brutality to those who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge—Jennifer Malkowski’s Dying in Full Detail considers the immense changes digital technologies have introduced in the ability to record and display actual deaths—one of documentary’s most taboo and politically volatile subjects.

Mark Rifkin’s Beyond Settler Time disrupts settler temporalbeyond-settler-time-cover frameworks. Rifkin explores how Indigenous experiences with time and the dominance of settler colonial conceptions of temporality have affected Native peoplehood and sovereignty, thereby rethinking the very terms by which history is created and organized around time by.

magic-of-concepts-coverIn The Magic of ConceptsRebecca E. Karl interrogates the concept and practice of “the economic” as it was understood in China in the 1930s and the 1980s and 90s, showing how the use of Eurocentric philosophies, narratives, and conceptions of the economic that exist outside lived experiences fail to capture modern China’s complex history.

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, in his latest book Pharmocracyworks atpharmocracy-cover the confluence of politics and racial capitalism. He traces the structure and operation of what he calls pharmocracy—a concept explaining the global hegemony of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. He outlines pharmocracy’s logic in two case studies from contemporary India to demonstrate the stakes of its intersection with health, politics, democracy, and global capital.

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Q&A with Bill Anthes

FAC-Bill-AnthesBill Anthes is a Professor in the Art Field Group at Pitzer College. His latest book, Edgar Heap-of-Birds, is the first book-length study of contemporary Native American artist Edgar Heap of Birds. Anthes analyzes Heap of Bird’s art and politics in relation to Native American history, spirituality, and culture, the international art scene, and how his art critiques the subjugation of Native Americans. Anthes is also the author of Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940-1960 (2006).

When did you first learn of Edgar Heap of Birds and his art? What was the first work of his that you saw?

I first became aware of Heap of Birds’s art in the early 1990s, as a handful of native NorthEdgar Heap of Birds American artists were breaking into the contemporary art world, through exhibitions such as the Decade Show in New York, and in the writing of critics such as Lucy Lippard, whose work has always advocated for artists of color, feminists, and others outside of the commercial mainstream. Heap of Birds’s works were also shown alongside a cohort of native artists in a series of exhibitions in the United States and Canada mounted in 1992 to counter official commemorations of the Quincetennial of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Heap of Birds and native artists including Carl Beam, Rebecca Belmore, Jimmie Durham,  Bob Haozous, George Longfish, James Luna, Alan Michelson, Edward Poitras, Kay Walkingstick, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith exhibited works that were fully engaged with the critical discourses of contemporary art as they mounted powerful critiques of the settler colonialism and its legacies.

The first work I saw would have been either the Native Hosts series – placards which recognize the native nations that claim sovereignty over the places where they are installed as well as defamiliarize the settler names for those places—or perhaps his Building Minnesota, which honors Dakota warriors who were hanged by the United States for their efforts defending their homelands during the Sioux War of 1862. As a descendent of settlers and immigrants, I grew up on what I learned much later was the traditional Cheyenne and Arapahoe homeland along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For a non-native westerner, Heap of Birds’s artworks offered a quick and disorienting American history lesson.

Additionally, these works taught me a lot about contemporary art—as a critical and activist practice—and about what Native American art might be in a contemporary context. Native Hosts and Building Minnesota were machine-fabricated metal placards that, like many of Heap of Birds’s public art installations, appropriated the look and voice of state or corporate authority. Heap of Birds’s projects are sometimes criticized—or more often just misunderstood—because they don’t “look like” Native American art, which means they don’t conform to many non-native viewers’ expectations that art made by a Native person will be made with natural materials. (Of course we usually forget that many of the materials most commonly associated with Native American art and culture were imports—horses, glass beads—that were readily adapted by native peoples as they faced a changing landscape a new political situation. There’s a quote by artist Jimmie Durham that I like to share with my students and which nicely sums up the native ability to appropriate foreign objects, languages, and ideas to use in the struggle to protect and nurture native communities and people: “Every object, every material brought in from Europe was taken and transformed with great energy. A rifle in the hands of a soldier was not the same as a rifle that had undergone Duchampian changes in the hands of a defender, which often included changes in the form by the employment of feathers, leather, and beadwork.”

How did your conversations with Edgar Heap of Birds allow you to understand his work in ways that differed from when you started?

Native ModernsWhen I began this project, I had recently completed my first book, Native Moderns, in which I had tried to argue that Native American artists had produced a kind of modernist art in the mid-twentieth century, and that this was an important episode in the history of American modernism, even as it unsettled certain assumptions and habits of thought about the modernist canon (for example the assumption that modernism is primarily an urban cultural expression). I had also been thinking about contemporary Native American artists who had since the early 1990s begun appearing in some of the major venues and institutions of the contemporary art world, including the new biennials and art fairs that we associate with our current global moment. But despite these appearances on the global contemporary art stage, the work of native artists was not figuring into the discourses that were coming to define the moment—issues of transnationalism and exile, for example, which figure in the work of many artists today from Africa or Asia. I had planned, based on the thinking that had lead me to write Native Moderns, that a book about Heap of Birds’s art would argue first and foremost for his global currency, and to an extent this book still attempts to do that. But based on my being in conversation with the artist over many years, and based on a close study of his practice, and perhaps most profoundly on my experience of being with Edgar and his family as he took part in the Cheyenne Earth Renewal ceremony (sometimes called the Sun Dance) on the Cheyenne-Arapaho homelands in Oklahoma, I wrote a book that focused on the work’s grounding in a specific place and a profoundly indigenous and Cheyenne way of seeing and being in the world. As in Native Moderns, this led me to argue that attention to Heap of Birds’s work—and the work of contemporary Native American artists (and by extension the work of indigenous artists globally)—suggests other key terms and framings of the contemporary than are currently part of the conversation about contemporaneity.

As you mention in the book’s introduction, four is an important number in Cheyenne and other Plains Native cultures. How did you come to decide on using a structure of four chapters for your book? Was it clear from the start, or something that you developed during your research and writing?

That decision was very much a product of time spent with the work and the artist and the experience of the Earth Renewal ceremony, which is organized around repeated units of four—referencing the four seasons and the four directions—to ensure the efficacy of the ceremony. It started becoming clear to me after that how much of Heap of Bird’s work is organized in multiples of four, and that his ongoing series of abstract landscape paintings are also called Neuf, or four in the Cheyenne language. I was looking for an organization for the book that would allow me to approach the work in some way other than by chronology, or in terms of specific media (like painting, prints, and public art) as it became clear that Heap of Birds’s artistic thinking travels backwards and forwards in time. Key phrases and ideas appear in various media at many different points in his career, and I began to see this as an artistic practice that was centered in a place, more so than in time, or rather that the timeline one could follow in the work was more a spiral than a future-oriented trajectory. It was “always returning back home,” as Heap of Birds writes in several projects. That’s very much an idea, I think, that is taught in the Earth Renewal and in Plains and native cultures generally, and it was important to me that the book find an organization that come from a native epistemology, rather than the (now standardized and conventionalized) historiography of the contemporary in art history.

The thematic approaches of your chapters—Land, Words, Histories, Generations—provide generous containers for discussing the complexities of Edgar Heap of Birds’s work. For instance Land allows you both the Neuf paintings—abstract paintings inspired by landscape—and Heap of Birds’s conceptual signs in the Native Hosts series. For an artist who works in such a wide-variety of media, what was your process for distilling it down to these themes?

Indeed Heap of Birds has maintained an ongoing practice in a range of media, and it would have been possible, I suppose, to write a chapter on the paintings, and another on the public art installations, and another on the prints, for example. But the main themes—land or sovereignty, the power of language, history and ideas about historicity, and a commitment to the next generations, which is different, I think, than the notions of futurity one finds in modernism, or the “end of history” as figured in much contemporary art and theory—these themes cut across all of Heap of Birds’s practice and conceptual touch stones. I wouldn’t necessarily call Heap of Birds a conceptual artist, or a “post-studio” artist, as there is a daily practice of art making—painting, but often research and writing, as well—in which these key themes are explored and developed and returned to over and over again, regardless of the medium.

Often a drawing is a collection of words or phrases, and Heap of Birds also exhibits works in diverse media together in one space. So it was a matter of finding those themes, and then selecting works that spoke to them in a compelling way. I rearranged my choices for each chapter a few times, and some bodies of work do reappear in more than one chapter—I liked how that seemed to resonate with the idea that Edgar’s artistic trajectory is a spiral, rather than a timeline. There would have been many ways to arrange works to speak to those themes because, I think, all of Heap of Birds’s works speak to each of those four themes. So I tried to find works that would speak in a particularly compelling way, and not worry too much about media, although in the Words chapter, for example, I do follow something like a chronological or biographical path because Edgar has at various points made specific decisions about media and materiality to express those ideas as they evolved in his artistic thinking. And I as wrote in the introduction, I never imagined this a catalog raisonné. I imagined the book as the four interconnected essays that might open up Heap of Birds’s practice for new readers as well as audiences who have followed his work for many years.

You mention how Heap of Birds’s describes his artwork as a ‘puncture.’ Do you think that the provoking and political nature of Edgar Heap of Birds’s work is a factor that causes some museums to shy away from showing it? A contrast to this is Wheel, a large outdoor sculpture commissioned by the Denver Museum of Art, which you also discuss as one of Heaps of Birds’s most ambitious works to date. 

I don’t think it’s so much that museums and institutions shy away from art that makes a political statement, or introduces a “puncture.” That would rule out all but the most banal and formalist contemporary art. I wrote in the introduction that I think the main reason that Heap of Birds and other contemporary Native American artists lack a certain visibility in the contemporary art world is that their politics are, in a sense, illegible to mainstream audiences. Native (and more broadly and globally indigenous) experiences of settler colonialism and the very powerful and important concepts of sovereignty are just not, or not yet, part of the conversion around contemporary art today. Native artists espouse a connection to place that seems at odds to the always-on, interconnected world of globalization and neo-liberal political economy. Tuscarora artist and critic Jolene Rickard refers to this as a “shared ancient imaginary,” and I think that it’s in some ways antithetical to the ways in which we currently imagine contemporaneity. In some ways it’s the old stereotype that Native Americans are a “people of the past” and thus not part of contemporary art. When native artists do appear on the contemporary art world’s global stage, they often do so under limited and prescribed circumstances and pretexts – as exemplars of a kind of anti-modernity, fulfilling fantasies of a primitive spiritual wholeness or environmentally-harmonious life ways. These one-dimensional representations suggest that native people are not part of the shared time of globalization. I think we need to reframe those notions – of the contemporary and of the key terms for global contemporary art. If Heap of Birds’s political statements strike some viewers or museum or gallery professionals as unthinkable (or unexhibitable) perhaps it’s because it remains nearly impossible for many audiences to imagine a contemporary Native politics.

You write, “Looking outward from a lodge on a hilltop in Oklahoma to the global spaces of the contemporary art world, we might begin a different conversation about the contemporary.” You’re making an important point by writing about art that is made outside of major art centers. Why in our global and virtually connected society is this still such a challenge? These different conversations seem necessary and vital.

I agree, and I think that especially in a global art world it is very important to not grow complacent about what we think we know. There is an emerging historiography of the contemporary and I think the notion that the art world has been decentered might lead us to think that artists and communities everywhere have equal access to its institutions. But of course there are many art worlds and what we think of as contemporary art is really just one, elite sector (with very good PR!). Artists in countless locations and perspectives have taken many different and in some cases mutually incomprehensible positions vis-à-vis contemporaneity. This isn’t to say that the many art worlds are “separate but equal,” which of course is never true. There is of course inequality. And then there are artists who might choose to travel through many art worlds, like I think Edgar has done. The experience of witnessing the Earth Renewal was, for me, one of the most powerful contemporary art experiences I have ever had, but even to say that kind of trivializes it because we have such limited notion of what contemporary art is or can be. The view from a lodge on a hilltop in Oklahoma is, for me, very important because it suggests something about what a contemporary art practice and a history of contemporary art can be, something that is global – and perspective changing—in the most meaningful sense.

You can order Edgar Heap of Birds from your favorite local or online bookstore, or order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E15ANTHE to save 30%!

Colonial Latin American Literacy

ddeh_62_3The most recent issue of Ethnohistory entitled “Colonial Mesoamerican Literacy: Method, Form, and Consequence,” is “overstuffed with expertise and insight, corpulent with many lifetimes of immersion in indigenous languages and cultural traditions,” journal editor Matthew Restall writes in the Preface. This special issue edited by Kathryn E. Sampeck includes ten articles in history, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, literature, and art history. The articles illustrate how all kinds of symbolic communication are part of the matrix of literacy and broadens the notions of canonical colonial writing by showing that formulaic texts were in fact variable and entrenched in local dialects and history. Topics include scribal variation and interaction, pictorial texts, Mayan translations of European astrological texts, change in literacy and literature in Guatemala, Maya medical incantations, and alphabetic literacy. The issue also includes a color image gallery to complement the articles.

978-0-8223-3390-6If you find this interesting, you may also wish to read our books, which focus on literacy in colonial Latin America. In The Cord Keepers, the distinguished anthropologist Frank Salomon breaks new ground with a close ethnography of one Andean village where villagers, surprisingly, have conserved a set of these enigmatic cords to the present day. The “quipocamayos,” as the villagers call them, form a sacred patrimony. Keying his reading to the internal life of the ancient kin groups that own the khipus, Salomon suggests that the multicolored cords, with their knots and lavishly woven ornaments, did not mimic speech as most systems of writing do, but instead were anchored in nonverbal codes. The Cord Keepers makes a compelling argument for a close intrinsic link between rituals and visual-sign systems. It indicates that, while Andean graphic representation may differ radically from familiar ideas of writing, it may not lie beyond the reach of scholarly interpretation.

978-0-8223-5044-6Frank Salomon continues his investigation into Andean literacy in The Lettered Mountain. In this book, he and Mercedes Niño-Murcia expand notions of literacy and challenge stereotypes of Andean “orality” by analyzing the writings of mountain villagers from Inka times to the Internet era. Their historical ethnography is based on extensive research in the village of Tupicocha, in the central Peruvian province of Huarochirí. The region has a special place in the history of Latin American letters as the home of the unique early-seventeenth-century Quechua-language book explaining Peru’s ancient gods and priesthoods. Granted access to Tupicocha’s surprisingly rich internal archives, Salomon and Niño-Murcia found that legacy reflected in a distinctive version of lettered life developed prior to the arrival of state schools. In their detailed ethnography, writing emerges as a vital practice underlying specifically Andean sacred culture and self-governance. At the same time, the authors find that Andean relations with the nation-state have been disadvantaged by state writing standards developed in dialogue with European academies but not with the rural literate tradition.

978-0-8223-5128-3In Beyond the Lettered City, the anthropologist Joanne Rappaport and the art historian Tom Cummins examine the colonial imposition of alphabetic and visual literacy on indigenous groups in the northern Andes. They consider how the Andean peoples received, maintained, and subverted the conventions of Spanish literacy, often combining them with their own traditions. Indigenous Andean communities neither used narrative pictorial representation nor had alphabetic or hieroglyphic literacy before the arrival of the Spaniards. To absorb the conventions of Spanish literacy, they had to engage with European symbolic systems. Doing so altered their worldviews and everyday lives, making alphabetic and visual literacy prime tools of colonial domination. Rappaport and Cummins advocate a broad understanding of literacy, including not only reading and writing, but also interpretations of the spoken word, paintings, wax seals, gestures, and urban design. By analyzing secular and religious notarial manuals and dictionaries, urban architecture, religious images, catechisms and sermons, and the vast corpus of administrative documents produced by the colonial authorities and indigenous scribes, they expand Ángel Rama’s concept of the lettered city to encompass many of those who previously would have been considered the least literate.

Rachel Harding Launches “Remnants” in Baltimore

RemnantsToday we feature a guest post by Rachel Harding, about the launch of Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering. Harding worked on the book with her mother, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, for a decade and then finished it following her death in 2004.

The first weekend of May, I was in Baltimore with the Okuu Indigenous Delegation, a wonderful group led by elder Kathy Sanchez from the San Ildefonso Pueblo of the Tewa nation in New Mexico. The Okuu delegation had originally planned to come to the city for the “It’s Time 2015” Women’s Leadership Summit. But when the governor announced the state of emergency, the summit (which was to have been a major conference on women’s political, social, cultural and spiritual leadership for the 21st century) was cancelled. However, many of the Indigenous and African American women who comprised the Okuu delegation wanted very much to be present in the city and be in solidarity with the Baltimore community and offer ritual medicine from our traditions for strength, justice and healing. So, we went.

harding launchWe were women of 8 sovereign Native nations and women who represent African American southern and Afro-Brazilian ritual traditions. We had some wonderful encounters with local community members – including Jason Harris, Lauren Oyabemi Byrd, Shameeka Smalling, Ayanna Barmore, and Camille Weanquoi at The Living Well; and Cecil and Sonya Gray and others at the Northwood Appold Community Academy. In both places, the delegation did ceremonies of blessing and healing for those present and for the Baltimore community as a whole. Many of us also joined the protests at Penn-North and City Hall and were very moved by the spirit of determination, creativity and intergenerational and interracial inclusiveness we witnessed – even in the midst of a strongly militarized police force that felt very much like occupation.

While we were in Baltimore, 20 copies of Remnants arrived – the first box of books, fresh off the press – and I was able to share copies with all of the women in the delegation and some other friends in the city as well. My cousins Gloria and Jean were with me and it was a special blessing to have them in the circle as we honored and celebrated the wisdom, love, protection and fierce resolve of Mother Earth, the Water Mothers, and the mothering energies in women of all nations.

This picture was taken at The Living Well, a beautiful community space in Baltimore where some local activists gathered to prepare food for the protestors, to share stories, and where Sarah Wells Headbird, a young ritual leader of the Ojibwe nation, offered sage, sacred water and prayers to cleanse and bless the folks continuing on the front lines of the BlackLivesMatter movement in the city. My mama would have been so happy and so proud!

The “Lost City” of Machu Picchu

On July 24th, 1911, American archaeologist Hiram Bingham and the Yale Peruvian Expedition team followed an eleven year old boy to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The expedition sensationalized the area and opened the floodgates of tourism in Peru. Today, tourists, adventurers, and academic enthusiasts from all over the world still flock to Machu Picchu. In honor of this wonder, sample several articles from two journals, Ethnohistory and Hispanic American History Review.

Ddeh_59_2In “Collecting a ‘Lost City’ for Science: Huaquero Vision and the Yale Peruvian Expedition to Machu Picchu, 1911, 1912, and 1914–15,” Amy Cox Hall delves deeper into the rediscovery of Machu Picchu. She examines the practices and collecting technologies of the expedition to suggest that the objects accumulated as well as the practices used in accumulating helped fashion Machu Picchu into a “lost city” that was “scientifically discovered” by Bingham. Read an excerpt:

Although popular myth associates Hiram Bingham and his global unveiling of Machu Picchu in 1911 with archaeology, Bingham was trained as a historian and “had little interest in stratigraphy” or other methodologies associated with modern archaeological research. Instead, what was practiced on the three forays of the Yale Peruvian Expedition (YPE) to Machu Picchu is better characterized as a late antiquarianism-inspired collecting spree—or, less generously, strategic “grave robbing."

In this article I suggest that the expedition’s practices and technologies helped mythologize Machu Picchu into a “lost city.” ̈ It was initially imagined by Bingham as the lost Inca city of Vilcapampa, and the expedition team’s collecting practices and the frame of science, as well as the types of artifacts collected, helped materialize Machu Picchu as both a vestige of the Inca race and a “scientific discovery.” The collecting practices combined prospecting with the notion that science had a sovereign claim on those objects that might contribute to the accumulation of its knowledge. Rather than representing a nation’s or empire’s sovereign claim over a territory and its history, the expedition relied on the universal virtue and sovereignty of science to make its objects collectible.

Read more of “Collecting a ‘Lost City’ for Science” here.

Ddhahr_92_1In “Tourism, Environment, and Development on the Inca Trail,” Keely Maxwell explores how tourism has shaped Latin America by constructing touristic landscapes and impacting environmental problem solving. He utilizes written records and interviews to document the environmental history of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Read an excerpt:

Thousands of kilometers of former Inca roads span the Andes. One 40-kilometer section has become a new type of Andean pathway, a tourist trail hiked by 54,000 foreign visitors in 2008 alone. Tourism has emerged as a potent political economic force in twentieth-century Latin America, with concomitant environmental impacts. Yet despite the importance of tourism in the region, there are few scholarly investigations of its history, particularly its environmental history. Research has centered on how tourism developed as a leisure activity linked to modernity and capitalist industrialization, on the social construction of tourism destinations, and on social relations of hosts to guests. In Latin America, tourism histories have focused geographically on the Caribbean and Mexico and thematically on “sun and sand” or on cultural heritage tourism. The Inca Trail is part of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, created in 1981 and designated a World Heritage Site for natural and cultural heritage in 1983. It is a premiere tourist destination and the center of controversy over environmental impacts, and so it provides a critical case for examining the environmental history of Latin American tourism.

Read more of “Tourism, Environment, and Development on the Inca Trail” here.

Seth Garfield Celebrates the 1994 World Cup with the Xavante Indians

978-0-8223-2665-6_prToday's World Cup guest post is an excerpt from Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil by Seth Garfield. Garfield is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin. Garfield's latest book is In Search of the Amazon.

On the night of July 17, 1994, I joined hands with Xavante Indians in their village of Parabubure in central Brazil as they celebrated a festive occasion with song and dance. Ringed in a circle, the Indians stomped the earth at the center of the village in graceful rhythm, chanting sonorously in their Gê tongue. As men pounded their feet in one step and women in another, the gendered spheres of Xavante society were ritually enacted. The remoteness of Parabubure from Brazilian settlements shrouded the ceremony in eerie seclusion, the starlit Mato Grosso sky offering the only illumination. Had their forebears been resurrected for an instant and accompanied the performance, they might have thought that little had changed, that the Xavante remained undisputed masters of their territory, faithful preservers of ancestral custom.

But they would have been deceived.Whereas the Xavante once danced on land that extended ‘‘to where the earth touches the sky,’’ they now trod on the confines of a reservation, demarcated by the Brazilian government a decade and a half earlier. Decrepit buildings, the administrative skeletons of a defunct cattle agribusiness, marred the natural tapestry of sprawling shrub, the familiar backdrop for communal ritual. Worn-out clothing draped muscular bodies once bared publicly with neither reproach nor shame. Moreover, the Xavante were not honoring an ancient tradition nor performing a long-standing rite. They were commemorating Brazil’s victory in the World Cup.

Earlier in the day, the Xavante were not celebrating much at all. They were struggling, like other historical actors, to make the most of their circumstances. As their village lacked electricity, the Indians had hoped to view the final soccer match on the public television in the central plaza of
Campinápolis, the nearest town, which was a two-hour drive away. On the dirt road to town, the Indianswould pass a succession of cattle ranches whose fenced-off pasture land once served as hunting ground for wild pig, anteater, deer, and peccary.With shattered pride but determination, the progeny of a onetime warrior nation could take their rightful place in the Campinápolis square, brooking the racism and condescension of ranchers and townspeople.

Cirilo, the Xavante driver, planned to chauffeur many of the eighty or so members of his community in the truck that the Fundação Nacional dol ĺndio (National Indian Foundation, funai) had provided some time ago. He regularly transported fellow villagers to town to buy foodstuffs, clothes, and basic household goods, as well as to receive medical treatment and social security payments. But with each attempt by Cirilo to rev the engine, frustration mounted as the Indians sensed that the trip would
be canceled. 

The Xavante might have radioed funai regional headquarters to send a mechanic. Based on long experience, though, they knew that state assistance would not be forthcoming for days or even weeks. Besides, the radio was broken as well, informed Carlos, a Xavante who headed the funai post in the village and earned his pay as an agency employee. For the final match of the World Cup, a portable radiowould have to suffice, and we all huddled around to await the momentous showdown between Brazil and Italy. The nation’s triumph on the soccer field electrified the indigenous community. During that nighttime revelry, their cynicism (and that of other Brazilians) regarding state capacity and national potential appeared to dissipate.

Less than half a century earlier, the Xavante were as much in the dark as the countryside around them that night regarding soccer, trucks, radios, researchers, reservations, the Indian bureau, and nationalism. In short, they knew little about Brazil, whose victory they now cheered. Nor did they have very much interest, for that matter. Had my grandfather ventured off in his youth to a Xavante village to learn about the interplay between state policy and indigenous political culture, he might have witnessed a more ‘‘traditional’’ lifestyle. He also likely would not have lived to tell the tale.

From the second half of the nineteenth century to the mid–twentieth century, the Xavante defended an enormous stretch of territory in northeastern Mato Grosso against Indian and non-Indian alike. Male warriors bludgeoned interlopers to death, strewing their naked corpses as testaments to Xavante supremacy, xenophobia, and masculine prowess. A history of resistance to Portuguese and Brazilian expansionism and of sociopolitical autonomy fueled Xavante belligerence.

Copyright Duke University Press, 2001.

Best Books of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . the time for best books lists! We're excited that several of our books have appeared in prominent year-end roundups. 

Mp3The Village Voice named Jonathan Sterne's MP3: The Meaning of a Format one of its best of 2012. Reviewer Nick Murray writes "As it turned out, the most rewarding music book of 2012 wasn't about an artist, a genre, or (thank the lord) the glory days of punk. Instead, it told the story of MP3, the digital audio standard that author and communications professor Jonathan Sterne traces from early-20th-century telephone research up through contemporary debates over piracy and file-sharing. Along the way, we're taken on fascinating detours through the invention of perceptual coding, the construction (and critique) of the ideal hearing subject, international corporate debates, and an extended discussion over whether or not music should be considered a "thing." All file formats should be so lucky."

Over at Spin Magazine, they chose Natalie Hopkinson's Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a
Hopkinson Chocolate City as one of their best music books of 2012. Hopkinson's book is a social history of black D.C., told through go-go, the party music that emerged in inner-city Washington in the 1970s, generating a distinct local culture and underground economy.

KolodnyAnd Annette Kolodny's In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery was chosen as one of Indian Country Today's best books of the year. They write, "Annette Kolodny did an exceptional job of untangling the myths, politics and conventional history surrounding the 'discovery'of Turtle Island to reveal the narratives of first European contact."