Native Studies

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." 


Tiya Miles Wins MacArthur Award

MILES_PORTRAIT_108 We offer a huge congratulations to University of Michigan history professor Tiya Miles, who has won a prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." Miles is a public historian whose research is on the relationships between African Americans and Cherokee peoples in colonial America. Miles is co-editor, with Sharon Holland, of our book Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country. 978-0-8223-3865-9_pr She also contributed a chapter to Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, edited by Ann Laura Stoler. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards $500,000 to individuals of exceptional creativity and accomplishment. Congratulations again to Miles!

Yale University Press Honors Henry Roe Cloud with Book Series

978-0-8223-4421-6_pr We were pleased to learn that our colleagues at Yale University Press are launching a new Native American studies series named for Henry Roe Cloud, the first Native American graduate from Yale College. Those wishing to know more about this fascinating man should read The Yale Indian: The Education of Henry Roe Cloud by Joel Pfister. Though an obscure figure now, Cloud (c. 1884–1950) was a well-known Progressive Era activist. He helped launch the Society of American Indians, graduated from Auburn seminary, founded a preparatory school for Indians, and served as the first Indian superintendent of the Haskell Institute (forerunner of Haskell Indian Nations University). He also worked under John Collier at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he was a catalyst for the Indian New Deal. Pfister argues that Roe Cloud's white-collar activism was entwined with the Progressive Era formation of an Indian professional and managerial class, a Native "talented tenth," whose members strategically used their contingent entry into arenas of white social, intellectual, and political power on behalf of Indians without such access. His Yale training provided a cross-cultural education in class-structured emotions and individuality.

Lee Baker on The State of Things

Baker Cover small Anthropologist Lee Baker, author of Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture, will be on WUNC's The State of Things today at noon (with a repeat at 9 p.m.). In his book, Baker explores how anthropological study of American Indians helped to shape
academic and popular ideas about race and culture—and how those same
concepts informed the discipline's very different treatment of African
American culture in the 20th century. Listen to him today, and check out this interview he did with Inside Higher Ed last week.

Kauanui on the Akaka Bill

978-0-8223-4058-4 J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, has long been an activist on behalf of Hawaiian sovereignty. She has written extensively on the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, better known as the Akaka bill. The bill was first introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka in 2000 and an amended version recently passed through committee in the House. In this editorial in Indian Country Today, Kauanui talks about some of the important changes in the new version of the bill.

Seminole Gaming in the News

CattelinoSmall After months of trying to agree on a gambling compact, it appears that Florida's Seminole tribe and its state government are at an impasse, reports the Miami Herald. At issue is the desire of some lawmakers to expand gambling throughout the state and the refusal of the Seminoles to give Florida $150 million a year in shared gaming revenue if the expansion goes through. But the even larger issue looming behind the dispute is that of sovereignty. The Seminoles claim that Federal law makes them a sovereign nation, not subject to the state of Florida's fines and rules. The Florida House of Representatives has asked the Federal government to step in and halt gaming on the Seminole reservations. These large issue of sovereignty are discussed in detail in Jessica Cattelino's High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty. She argues that the Seminoles have used their vast gaming profits to shore up both their cultural traditions and their sovereignty, and that while states and the Federal government have both been happy to let tribes claim sovereignty when they were poor, the addition of huge gambling profits raises the stakes for everyone. When asked about the current impasse, Cattelino said she is "particularly intrigued by the
potential for the tribe to negotiate gaming terms with the federal
government and thereby cut out the state."