May 10, 1805 – Thirty Point Buck?

 

This is why you should support your local National Park. Help a volunteer out.

This is why you should support your local National Park. Help a volunteer out.

 

A slight delay in getting this written, as I spent the weekend wandering my little town with my grandma and going to see my mom in celebration of Mother’s Day. Although, maybe I should feign a bit of planning as today, May 14th, marks the 210th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s departure of Camp DuBois.

(Note: As usual, all spelling and grammatical errors in quotations are the theirs. The rest are mine.)

Thursday, May 10, 1804

In just four days time, the Corps will leave Camp DuBois for the vast, uncharted Western expanse. I imagine this is the reason that entries are brief and discuss only the basics: weather and preparation, but the dramatist in me would love to know the inevitable tensions of camp, the fears of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, but all the latter gives us on this day is:

“…continued to fix Tents Covering, adjust the Load & c. order every man to have 100 Balls for ther Rifles & 2 lb. of Buck Shot for those with mussquets…”

Unfortunately, I will not be volunteering on the 14th, the genesis, but I read the entries for the 14th and found much the same in way of detail and tone. Perhaps the most anxious statement by Clark indicates a readiness to begin the trek:

“…fixing for a Start.”

Friday, May 10, 1805

Near Garfield or Valley County, Montana, at this point, the journals reflect the uneasiness that accompanies the Corps, as they criss-cross land owned, hunted and inhabited by Natives:

“we still believe ourselves in the country usually hunted by Assinniboins, and as they are a vicious ill disposed nation we think it best to be on our guard…”

It seems that despite the ominous potential of an encounter on the hunting lands it does not deter the group from hunting for their necessary protein. They regularly record the type and number of animals killed, but, on this day, Lewis sermonizes…lengthily…on the differences between the Mule deer and the common deer. Size, antler characteristics, general habits. Going so far as to describe in the Mule deer,

“the inner corner of each eye there is a drain or large recepicle…which gives it the appearance of weeping…”

(The Mule deer being the name Lewis uses in describing what the French referred to as the black-tailed deer. He finds this name irritating and “…by no means characteristic of the anamal as much the larger portion of the tail is white.” Those damn French.)

One can imagine if a simple tear in time and space were to find Lewis bellied up at any dim, wood-paneled bar in Smalltown, USA, can of Old Style in hand, his strong opinions and vast knowledge of the hooved beast would find him right at home.

In addition to this lengthy biological study, Lewis includes a short note about the human biology of the Corps. Specifically, that nearly a year in, the camp has become a roving cesspool.

“Boils and imposthumes have been very common with the party. Bratton is…unable to work with one on his hand; soar eyes continue also to be common…”

It’s hypothesized by some, that these ailments are the result of malnutrition due to a the predominately meat diet. It appears the Corps could have done with advertising for a few competent gatherers to join the ranks of sharpshooters.

It’s in this few days that I wish William Bratton would have kept a journal, though a depressing read it may have been, as only a day after this entry about his pustulous hand, he is chased and nearly attacked by a bear.

Saturday, May 10, 1806

“This morning the snow continued falling…8 inches deep on the plain…”

Still low on provisions, the returning group went to a village, Tunnachemootoolt, near present-day Lawyer Creek (originally called Commearp Creek) in Lewis County, Idaho. A previously established relationship, formed on their way West, with a

“…cheeif at whos lodge we had left a flag last fall. this flag was now displayed on a staff…” 

led to a very generous gift of horses for consumption. Lewis wrote,

“This is a much greater act of hospitality than we have witnessed from any nation or tribe since we have passed the Rocky mountains.”

An interesting insight, considering the five months the Corps spent at Ft. Clatsop. No attack on the fort was made during their winter encampment and while there may have been rightful tension, the Corps was camped on land previously inhabited for many years. I’d argue an extended, uninvited stay would be the epitome of hospitality, but Lewis seems to have had higher expectations.

(Indicative of the tenuous relationships expected or, actually developed, are the two entries regarding encounters (or possible encounters) with local Natives exactly a year apart.)

Lewis continues in his description of the welcome time spent in the village. He mentions the medals brought by the Corps as a sign of good will and a means of open communication to be given to chief’s and other individuals deemed significant. There were various sizes of medals, the

“…one of small size with the likeness of Mr. Jefferson…

was included in the presentation at this occasion. In reality, these medals were gifts with mighty strings attached. They were more a means of subjugation. When accepted, they were unknowingly agreeing to the superiority, the might, the power of the United States.

It’s further written that,

“(Lewis)…directed the men not to croud their lodge surch of food in the manner hunger has compelled them to do at most lodges we have passed and which the Twisted hair had informed me was disagreeable to the natives.”

In my initial reading, I was struck by what seemed to be Lewis’s abominable manners, yet again, and his seeming lack of knowledge of basic social norms and niceties. Clearly, strangers forcing themselves into your home would be considered “disagreeable.” But as the brief moment of naivete passed, I recognized the idea that this practice would be considered acceptable by white men in the villages of Natives.

A sobering reality then and, rightfully applied to other situations, an equally sobering reality today.

 

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Two-thousand Miles I Roam

AstoriaBlog

How was it possible that Marilyn Monroe was satiated for seven years before being incited by that infamous itch? As an adult, two years is the longest I’ve managed to find myself without the nagging need for something new.

New ideas.

New experiences.

New influences.

New views.

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted and, although, it strikes some odd that I turned from writing in these stressful, move-consumed weeks, I found that it coincided nicely with an impassable writer’s block.

After a surprise visit to my hometown in July, I returned to my small Midwest town and found myself distanced from the feelings of quaint easiness that I thought had drawn me there. As it turns out, those feelings and the comfort in simplicity that I had always associated with my time in Wisconsin was, in fact, not confined to the mitten-shaped border of my beloved Badger-land. It was actually, country song cliché be damned, a state of mind that I had grown into.

For the first time in my thirty years, I started considering a move by choice, rather than out of necessity. I did have the two-year restlessness, but in the past my moves have been precipitated by a better job, a shorter commute, cheaper rent. In a matter of weeks, I broke the news, started filling boxes, and relocated my job hunt to the North Oregon Coast.

I’ve always maintained that if I ever moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I would only ever call Astoria home. I spent many spring breaks just 20 miles beyond the cove-d hamlet, but was forever drawn to the jarring colors of the crumbling Victorians and the deep history that could be felt seeping from their weathered siding.

So it happened. I did it. And here I am.

Many applications, a few interviews, but no job yet.

A cozy (double meaning intended: securely comfortable and small in real estate lingo) apartment with a view only possible in one place in the world.

And the knowledge that although it appears that I’m starting over yet again, in reality this life has always been here.

Sitting on the dock, in the rain, waiting for me to call it home.

Why We Fill Our Museums with Lies

Vancouver - Dec 2010 013I have a tiered collection of soap boxes that I like to scale every once in a while and proselytize about all the things the world is doing wrong and the role that you are playing in its downfall.

The tallest, indicating the need for my loudest sermons, is reserved for my rail against the way America teaches history. Beyond out right lies about discoveries, criminality and immorality, our collective history is taught from a singular view-point. The rich, white male. These men are then carved into marble heroes. We’re taught to idolize and accept without questioning the accuracy of what we are taught.

These heroifications are the reason Oval Office extracurriculars dominate headlines and create a morality backlash. We’ve been taught that people in positions of social or political influence are above human behavior. They should not have a history that includes any poor judgment, miscalculated goals, or indiscretions.

Because lord knows we don’t…

Museums and historical sites have a sordid habit of playing into these historical compartmentalization. The majority of a museums’s space is generally dedicated to history as experienced or viewed through masculine, white eyes. Once they have finished teaching you the “history” they will occasionally include black history or woman’s history or, very infrequently, LGBTQ history.

These separations teach us that their history is not our history. It doesn’t even run parallel, as subconsciously communicated through the size, depth of knowledge, and attention given to these exhibits. These are histories of less significance and their impact is only slightly felt and, even then, only within the segregated groups.

The labels put on these histories are accepted as necessary qualifiers to identify whose history we are learning. Why do we accept these labels, when qualifiers such as white history or man history seem like silly redundancies? It is assumed that when we use the word history without specification we are talking about the rich, white male story.

By teaching singular history, you are teaching an egocentric, singular view of the world. Putting on those labels creates a history for you and him, her over there and me, rather than OUR history. It becomes a fractured story that we then use in our lives as an excuse to continue to live as a segregated global community. We assume that because we have no collective history that it is impossible to understand each other.

I’m not arguing against the individual histories that help identify a group of people. There are certainly experiences that my ancestors as white Europeans do not share with Africans or people of the First Nations. But the museums that present events or social ideas should not limit their points of view to the majority. By doing this the majority becomes the self-appointed authority, even in situations where population shifts have made them racially a minority.

A culture teaches this way to make themselves appear important and to aid in assuming a role of dominance. A national story of moral righteousness and strength in character portrays an indomitable force. The damaging side effect is the delicate façade created. The nation is now forced to cower behind these paper heroes hoping they will hold. Of course, the obvious irony is the strength of character that comes from accepting responsibility and allowing growth in the wake of errors.

The unfortunate reality is that museums are forced to tell false stories and create heroic portrayals. The concealed truths and, often, blatant lies, are a result of thinly veiled demands. Donors with a vested interest in keeping clean historic reputations will only donate with caveats on how the information is presented and what parts of the story must be left out.

Essentially we are selling our history to the highest bidder. If they would like to stay open, museums have little choice but to accept the money or artifacts within the stipulations. The rich have created our history. And will continue to do so, unless we began to demand otherwise.

First, donate time and money, when you can, to museums, historic sites, and other non-profit preservation organizations. It would take a significant amount for most museums to become independent of large donors with agendas, but…I hate to say it…anything helps.

Secondly, don’t accept that the history that you’ve been taught is, in fact, the truth. When you visit historic sites and museums, ask questions. And then see through the well-crafted and rehearsed answers.

Finally, cultivate your own knowledge. Start with James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America for a more involved conversation on the buying of our history. Then read, research, and explore with a critical eye.

This seemingly out of nowhere post was a result of the incredibly honest, refreshing museums in and around St. Louis. I’m hoping to get a post up soon about the surprising way they presented our history.

Sense of Adventure Scale from One to We’re All Going to Die!

Ngorongoro Crater (picture by Jonathan Dunn)

Ngorongoro Crater (picture by Jonathan Dunn)

I’ve never been comfortable rating one’s sense of adventure. It seems that where a cross-state road trip ranks somewhere near a crocheting injury on the risk scale, swimming with baited sharks is…well…swimming with baited sharks.

While listening to the travel stories of friends and reading blogs of the ever-departing, one begins to invisibly chart that sense. The scale differs. Miles from home, unexpected dining experiences, exotic animal encounters, it all factors into the weight you give their adventuresome ambition.

But why?

Isn’t any adventure simply to stave off complacency?

I realize that it’s inherent to human nature to feel the need to compete. To good, better, best your neighbors and friends. I may not ever be able to rail a successful argument against that need, but as travellists (it’s a word, look it up), our competition should instead be with that complacency.

In my circle there is palpable wanderlust. Each day, my Facebook feed is the equivalent of a “what-I-did-this-summer” photo essay. It makes me jealous. I have gone further than 100 miles from home once  in the last 6 months and that was as an airport chauffeur for someone else’s trip.

This may be one of the reasons why my upcoming trip to St. Louis feels like a bucket list accomplishment. But more than the notion that it is an overdue vacation with my sister, leaving my daily life heightens my sense of adventure.

Wisconsin Polar Plunge

Wisconsin Polar Plunge

I’m a difficult person to travel with if you value things like sleep. I find little point in spending time in a new place doing something that can be done at home. I’ve filled my week in STL with experiences that can happen in no other place.

We are going to eat our way through The Godfather at Tenacious Eats. Sunday will find us at the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, IL for a 5k and celebratory Bloody Mary contest afterward. A baseball and, subsequently stadium food, aficionado we will be taking in an evening game at Busch Stadium and I’ve talked my sister into a picnic dinner while watching the Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Festival.

Oh, and the arch, the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour, Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site, the City Museum, the zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Scott Joplin House, the Cahokia Mounds, Molly’s in Soulard, Calvary Cemetery, Bogart’s Smokehouse, Left Bank Books..like I said, no sleep.

Flying planes off the Astoria Column.

Flying planes off the Astoria Column.

I know very little of St. Louis. I’m imagining Midwest sensibility layered with that certain Southern charm and inland Eastern grittiness topped with a dash of Left Coast hipster. It’s easy to say that you keep an open mind when travelling to a new place, but media, blogs, friends, and research have forced me to cull certain opinions.

I’ve heard STL is “scary” and “rough.” I’ve been told to avoid certain neighborhoods or, in fact, the entire Eastern part of the city. I know there’s a musically rich history of ragtime and jazz, two genres absent from any of my playlists. Growing up in Olympia and now living in New Glarus, I understand brewery towns on a small-scale, but the way beer tycoons can shape a city.

It’s these preconceptions and questions that are the fuel for adventure. I won’t climb the world’s tallest anything or collect passport stamps , but by getting in my car and driving 300 miles, I’ve topped out on that imaginary sense of adventure scale.

I’ll be blogging about my trip starting next week, so check back for updates on our adventure.

Your Complacency Causes my Unicorns and Rainbows

I won’t ever apologize for my beliefs or for putting them into words. However, this post comes with an apologetic caveat. Included are generalizations presented in a far more aggressive tone than usual. I tried to edit it to lighten it up, but couldn’t manage to balance the humor and sincerity of the argument.

I’ve written a few posts now about the pessimism of people who consider themselves “realists.” They hold the idea that by being optimistic or hopeful, we are disconnected. And, quite possibly, naïvely think we are living in a world of unicorns and rainbows. I write these posts for two distinct reasons.

The first being the need. Not the need for it to be said. There have been disciples of these ideas for centuries, but the need for it to be repeated, reworded and read. What’s new is the individual perspective which ignites new theories and ideas on how to instigate the necessary change.

The second reason I continually write about my personal views on subjects like community or the responsibility of global citizenship is because I can’t see the incredulous faces you make when you read and disagree with it. I get those quite often when I choose to share my opinions in person  By posting, I’m getting to share my opinion without having to tactfully pretend I didn’t see the deep creases set in on your forehead.

I get it. I understand that my ideas constitute a certain amount of desire for tree-hugging in a communal neighborhood. Or that they are somehow considered on the fringe. But unfortunately I also understand the disturbing nature of the ability for people to classify issues with the encompassing blase scoff: “it is what it is.”

You’re right, it IS what it is. But it’s because you choose to respond to issues with that clichéd retort that they are. Instead of acknowledging that the situation is not fair or a disgusting invasion of human rights, you are content with complacency. You shrug and recoil back into your own life. While your ignorance is most definitely your bliss, your neighbors are dying in wars against perceived terrorism, drugs, and the economy.

Teaching empathy is difficult. It may be that it is something inherent and can’t be developed, but one thing that can be acquired is perspective. Challenge yourself by responding to issues. Question how it you can change it or what you can do to help, rather than consider it an ugly, but inevitable part of the world.

Beyond developing new perspective, constantly question the point of view you’ve already developed. How many of your established beliefs are a result of direct experiences in your life and how many are inherited from friends, family, or the media? I’m not promoting a decline to paranoia, but consider where your strongly held beliefs originated. It will be uncomfortable to confront these ideas, but the goal in life isn’t to reach a peak of thought and then recline in comfort. Instead it is a constant pursuit of knowledge. The insatiable nature of wanting to know more and to know why.