For most of human history . . . [i]t was unthinkable to ignore the stars. They were critical signposts, as prominent and useful as local hills, paths or wells. The gathering-up of stars into constellations imbued with mythological meaning allowed people to remember the sky; knowledge that might save their lives one night and guide them home. Lore of the sky bound communities together. On otherwise trackless seas and deserts, the familiar stars would also serve as a valued friend. That friendship is now broken.
The Klerksdorp Spheres found near Ottosdal, South Africa, Moqui Marbles from Utah and Arizona, and the Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast of New Zealand all have something in common: they aren't puzzling ancient artifacts or possibly proof of otherworldly connections, but rather concretions, naturally occurring geologic features that are created in the same fashion as pearls. Archaeology Fantasies debunks the myths of the Klerksdorp Spheres, and also details what is know of the giant stone balls of Costa Rica, which retain some mystery to their creation and purpose. [more inside]
Do You Prefer "Native American" or "American Indian"? 6 Prominent Voices Respond "Wherever I go, from the reservation to the city, through the halls of academia, from younger to older, to the grassroots, and in social media, I hear numerous discussions and debates around how people choose to identify with certain references, e.g., which word is the most appropriate: Native American? Native? Indian? American Indian? Indigenous? My task here was to ask several friends and people whom I (and many others) admire what reference they feel most comfortable with."
"Mushak calculated that for each day in the desert that she drank 3 liters from the pits, she was exposed to uranium at levels nearly 100 times the federal maximum… She also received a dose of radioactive alpha particles that was probably 10 times the safety threshold for pregnancy or more. When Lois drank from the pits, she pumped ‘a witch's brew’ into her womb." [more inside]
The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
In 1906, Caroline Furness Jayne wrote String Figures And How To Make Them - A Study Of Cat's Cradle In Many Lands [Google Books], probably the best-known study of string figures and string games. [more inside]
The various Star Wars movies have been translated into at least 39 languages (as also seen here in a set of 16 international logos for Attack of the Clones), but the Navajo Nation is set to be the first Native American tribe to officially dub the original Star Wars film. [more inside]
Urban Outfitters has stopped selling a line of Navajo-themed undergarments, drinking accessories, and other items whose relation to the tribe is questionable, at best. What caused the kerfuffle, and did UO have any obligation (beyond the obvious PR repercussions) to give way? [more inside]
Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. Two Spirits explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender. (previously)
In addition to being a five term US senator, Barry Goldwater was an accomplished photographer, particularly of people and landscapes of the American West. [more inside]
Blighted Homeland. "From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were dug and blasted from Navajo soil, nearly all of it for America's atomic arsenal. Navajos inhaled radioactive dust, drank contaminated water and built homes using rock from the mines and mills. Many of the dangers persist to this day." A series of articles and photo galleries examines the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo (previously discussed here.) [Via Gristmill, BugMeNot.]
Out along old Route 66 in
Arizona is Canyon Diablo. Best known for its large meteor crater, the
canyon and its surroundings contain another fantastic story. It begins in the mid 1870’s with a
Apache raid on the Navajo that ended in the gruesome death
of some 50 Apaches trapped in what is now called “The Apache Death
Cave”. The story picks up about 10 years later in 1880 when the Atlantic and Pacific railroad ran out of money at the
canyon’s edge. Unable to progress any further a make shift boom
town grew up over night. Said to be more dangerous than Tombstone
combined, the first sheriff appointed at 3pm was dead by 8pm that same night.
The city of Dodge City
lasted 10 grizzly years, ending only when the US Army was dispatched to gain
control over the murder, theft and prostitution that ran rampant. The story
continues in 1920 at the inception of Route 66.
(Indian) Miller, opens up one of
the first and what would become one of the most elaborate Route 66 trading posts/gas
station/curio shop/ tourist attractions. Named Two Guns, it was
complete with Hopi
made buildings, a gas station,
a well-lit “ Canyon Diablo ”
, a “zoo” of filled with the local fauna. and lots of colorful characters.
In a short time, the roadside stop began to take on what many by that time
calling the curse of Canyon Diablo.
Shady business deals, fires,
maimings, and murder abounded. After several attempts thru the 50’s and
60’s to rebuild ,all that is left is a crumbling,
beautiful husk. Death Cave
Faces young and old, mothers and children, dolls; hunting rabbit, making fire, dancing: Archived photographs of Arizona's Indians from the turn-of-the-twentieth. Plus reference materials.
Voices from the Trading Post. You know, you can get a job anywhere, but this is not just a place to make a living. This is a way of life. Life on the Navajo reservation in the 19th and 20th century, in the words of the traders themselves (text and sound).
You've probably heard of the WWII Navajo "code talkers" who managed to baffle crack Japanese cryptanalysts and were credited with enabling US success at Iwo Jima. Civil engineer, journalist and photographer Philip Johnston was the determined mind behind the "windtalkers". The son of missionaries, Johnston grew up on a Navajo reservation and was one of only a handful of outsiders fluent in the Navajo language. A bit of his background is included this article, and you can read a complete history of his plan, view an archive of photos by Johnston, and see copies of his enlistment application letter to the Marine Corps commandant, as well as a recommendation letter from the Commanding General. (more inside...)
Navajo Code Talkers honored As indigenous languages die out all over the world, it's especially nice to see some recognition for the Navajo code talkers. There's also a dictionary here.