Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HUM 221: Values (Attention, Kmart shoppers ... midterm writers)

I promised you some heavy-duty, industrial-strength hints about what's going to be on the midterm ... which is in class Monday, March 5. It'll be an essay test, open book (which means you can bring in notes, use the Internet, just about anything short of bringing in a ringer to write it for you)!

If we're still having trouble with the wireless connection, BTW, you might think about photocopying the stuff ¥ou need from the Internet.

There will be three questions. All essay questions.

A 50-pointer. I don't have the question framed yet, but it will have something to do with the "First Thanksgiving" myth and the webpages on values of the Haudenesaunee people, Alaska Natives and especially a page from Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota on the differences between Lakota and European-American values. What were the Pilgrim's values expressed in the historical fact, in the legend? What were (are) the Wampanoag people's regarding Thanksgiving. What purpose does the myth serve in helping us sort out our values now as 21st century Americans?

A "self-reflective" 25-point question. In this one, you talk about what you knew about Native American cultures when you started the class, what you know now (clearest point so far) and what you want to learn next (or the most confusing point). Here's what I say in a tip sheet on reflective essays linked to my faculty page. (You can find it way down on the blue page, under "Writing and Editing" links. It mentions other courses I teach, since it's written for all my students, but you can adapt it to our course content in HUM 221:
A "content" course is a course in which you learn about a subject area -- like American Indian cultures and the history of their interaction with European-Americans, for example, or the basic principles of advertising and public relations. So you focus on the course objectives: What did you know about the mass media, U.S. history, the newspaper business, advertising, public relations or integrated marketing strategies at the beginning of the semester? What, specificaly, do you know at the end? What, specifically, have you learned? How does it fit in with what you already knew, as a media consumer or a college student?
To get ready for this, think about what we've learned so far. What was the clearest point? What still needs to be explained?

A second 25-pointer. This one will have something to do with the Trail of Death. What does the information we read in class, especially the Sangamo Journal article from 1838, tell you about the attitudes of European-Americans toward the Potowatami people at the time of the march, and during the commemorations in recent years? How have attitudes changed? What does this history tell you about America as a multicultural society?

Extra credit? Sometimes I'll add a goofy little question to see if people have been listening in class. Sometimes not.

You'll be writing a lot in class Monday ... 750 words (2-3 pages typewritten) on the 50-point question and 250 words (1 to 1-1/2 pages) on the 25-pointers. To study for this kind of test, read over the material and be ready to find it fast so you can quote it when you start writing. These midterm essays are like English 111 essays -- if you make a point, you have to back it up with facts. Unsupported generalizations are sudden death in college writing.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

HUM 221: Kickapoo village and pow wow

Not far from Bloomington in McLean County, a pow wow, or Native American dance competition, is held every year to commemorate a Kickapoo Indian village located there before the Kickapoo were moved out in 1832. It began with a McLean County farmer and his wife, who wanted to block a hog farm on the adjacent property, and has evolved into a 501(3)(c) corporation called the Grand Village of the Kickapoo Park. Since 1998, Kickapoo Indians from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico have returned to the ancestral homeland for the Grand Village pow wow. You can read all about it on the Grand Village website. But there's more.

In 1998 an anonymous member of the Midwest SOARRING Foundation (a public education and advocacy organization which stands for Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group) posted an account of the Homecoming of the Kickapoo Nation Pow Wow and Dedication of the Grand Village of the Kickapoo Park. And syndicated newspaper columnist Patrisia Gonzales, who is of Kickapoo heritage, wrote about what it felt like to return to her ancestors' home for the pow wow. Watch the Grand Village website and the Midwest SOARRING Foundation's calendar of events for more information about this year's pow wow, which is scheduled June 2-3.

Background.One of the main bands of Kickapoo Indians lives now in Texas. And Texas anthropologist R.E. Moore has a website on Texas Indians that profiles several peoples, including the federally recognized (since 1983) Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. Moore points out the Kickapoo started out in Michigan, and kept moving south and west rather than blend their culture in with that of white Americans. Other bands live in Kansas and Oklahoma, but none in Illinois. Today theirs are considered one of the most traditional of American Indian cultures. Says Moore:
... the Kickapoo still spend a lot of time on their traditional land [adjacent to the Texas community] in Mexico. It is in Mexico that they are able to maintain their traditional way of life. They perform all their important ceremonies there and their houses are set up according to tribal custom. The Kickapoo have come a long way in order to maintain their own customs and beliefs. Kinda like the pilgrims did.
Pilgrims. Indians. Customs and beliefs. Something to think about. How are the Kickapoo like the pilgrims? How are they different?

An important footnote (parts of which are very, very likely to be on the midterm and final). Moore's website is for elementary school kids, but his writing isn't too annoying, and he tells the kids some things that most adults don't even try to learn. If you want to know how Native American cultures are organized (and you do, because it's absolutely basic to HUM 221), read his introduction to anthropology and Native cultures. It wouldn't hurt to read his introduction for teachers, too. It's good on stereotypes, and equally good on writing for the internet.

Another question. As you read about the Kickapoo Grand Village Pow Wow, does it suggest anything a state university in Illinois might have considered doing if it really wanted to "honor" Native American dance?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

HUM 221: Indigenous people in Russia

Some of the history we are studying this semester played out in other nations worldwide as Europeans fanned out over the globe after the 1400s, established colonies and over the centuries dominated the indigenous people -- that is, the people who lived there before. Read this report by British Broadcasting Corp. foreign correspondent Chloe Arnold on what's happening to indigenous languages in Siberia. She sums it up like this:
The vast expanse of the Russian Federation, from the Kola Peninsula in the north west to the Sea of Chukotka in the north east, is home to 41 indigenous peoples.

They have evocative names like the Saami, the Nganasan, the Itelmen, the Ulchi and the Tuvinian Todzhins. The area they have traditionally inhabited makes up more than half of the entire territory of Russia.

But today their numbers are dwindling, and their languages are dying out. Some have never even been written down.
One of the problems is a Russian-only policy in the schools. Arnold continues:
In most of the tribes ... it is now only the older generation that still speaks the language. Over the last few decades, many of Russia's indigenous people have given up their traditional lifestyles and moved to towns and cities instead.

But Rodion Sulyandzige, the director of the support group [mentioned in the BBC report], says that the rigorous education programme of the Soviet period is also to blame for the demise of so many languages.

"At the beginning of the school year, the authorities would round up all the children of the native tribes and pack them off to boarding schools," he told me.

"They had no contact with their parents or their families, and so they quickly lost their mother tongues and picked up Russian instead."
Keep this in the back of your mind as we learn about boarding schools for American Indians and read what American Indian writers have to say about the experience.

The "Beeb" (as the BBC is also known) had a report on Saami people on Kola Peninsula back in December. (Their name is also spelled "Sami," as it is in the December story.) Read it, too, and compare it to Native American peoples. What is the same? What's different?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

HUM 221 -- links -- Trail of Death

Links to some resources on the Potawatomi Trail of Death below. But first, the questions for today's quiz:
1. At what restaurant in downtown Springfield did people eat lunch while they were retracing the Trail of Death in 2003?

2. Why was the Trail of Death called by that name?

3. What were the Indians promised if they looked presentable when they marched through Springfield?

4. Who was Fr. Benjamin Petit? Where and when did he die? What does he tell you about Potawatomi culture of the 1830s? Why is he important to the story of the Trail of Death?
Now, here are the links ... in no logical order (unless Google has some logic to its directory that escapes me at the moment).

The Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation has a map and a list of historical markers commemorating the Trail of Death. Look for markers near Springfield and nearby cities. Also take a look at the official website of the Prairie Band, and follow the links to their history and the flier for their 2006 pow wow. Notice all the dance contests.

The Fulton County (Ind.) Historical Society's diary of the Trail of Death has a brief, but detailed account of the journey. Read it from start to finish to get an idea of the hardship involved. What do you make of the treatment the Potawatomi received in Jacksonville?

An educational project from Urbana School District 116 has several first-hand or primary sources on the Trail of Death. Read especially the story in The Sangamo Journal (which is misspelled on the website, incidentally). What does the Journal's description of the Potawatomi and their fear of the Cherokee tell you about white attitudes toward Indians during the 1830s?

Indiana's Fulton County Historical Society has posted an account of its commemorative caravan across Illinois in September 2003. What does their caravan tell you about attitudes toward Indians today? The historical society's website also has accounts of the caravan in Indiana, Missouri and Kansas.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Illini -- questions

Here are the questions:

1. Who were the Illini? What tribes made up the confederation?

2. Where did they live? When? What was their lifestyle?

3. How do we know? What are our sources of information?

4. Where did they go? When? Why? Who are their descendants? Where do *they* live?

5. Who moved into Illinois to replace them? When?

6. What does any of this have to do with a sports team mascot dancing in Oglala Lakota regalia?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Brit: Regards to U.S., Broadway

Jan Morris, British travel writer and author of a provocative book on Lincoln, has a piece in today's Guardian with any number of provocative insights on the "idea of America" -- and an evident love of Broadway show tunes. He begins:
'Whisper of how I'm yearning", sang George M Cohan in one of the great American songs of nostalgia, "to mingle with the old time throng". Well, I'm yearning too, not for the gang at 42nd Street exactly, but for the America that Cohan was indirectly hymning - for the Idea of America, with a capital I, which once made the United States not just the most potent of all the nations but genuinely the most liked.
In fact, Morris likes all the old tunes.
For myself, I responded to them all too sentimentally. Like Walt Whitman before me, I heard America sing! I relished the hackneyed old lyrics - Mine eyes have seen the glory, Thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way, Oe'r the land of the free and the home of the brave, God bless America, land that I love ... Most of the words were flaccid, many of the tunes were vulgar, but as I heard them I saw always in my mind's eye, as Whitman did, all the glorious space, grandeur and opportunity that was America, Manhattan to LA. Sea, in fact, to shining sea.

In those days we did not think of American evangelists as prophets of political extremism - they seemed more akin to the homely convictions of plantation or village chapel than to the machinations of neocons. We bridled rather at the American assumption that the US of A had been the only true victor of the second world war, but most of us did not very deeply resent the happy swagger of the legend and danced gratefully enough to the American rhythms of the time. We thought it all seemed essentially innocent.

Innocent! Dear God! Half a century, and nobody thinks that now. Far from being the most beloved country on earth, today the US is the most thoroughly detested. ...
A lot of it is standard (although I don't think Morris mentions President Bush by name), what what's evident is Morris' essential affection for Americans of 50 years ago:
A generation or two ago, most of us, wherever we lived, loved the generous self-satisfaction of it, if not in the general, at least in the particular. The GI was not then a sort of goggled monster in padded armour, but a cheerful fellow chatting up the girls and distributing candy not as a matter of policy, but out of plain goodwill - everyone's friendly guy next door. To millions of radio listeners around the world, the Voice of America was a voice of decency, and one could watch the lachrymose patriotic rituals of America - the hand on heart, the misty-eyed salute to the flag - with more affection than irony.
Morris says he hopes a new president, an artist no less, will come out of the 2008 elections, and restore what used to be:
All it needs is someone with a key to unlock that Idea again, and I hope it will be that next president, whoever it is, even now gearing up for the election. Please God, may it be a poetic president. Inspiration has been the true engine of American success, and all its greatest presidents have been people with a divine spark. The dullards may have been efficient, respected or influential, but the Jeffersons and the Roosevelts, the Lincolns and the Kennedys have all been, in their different ways, artists.

So may it be a president with the key of original inspiration who can release the Idea from its occlusion. All the ingredients are still there, after all - the kindness, the imagination, the merriment, the will, the talent, the energy, the goddam orneriness, the plain goodness - all there waiting to burst out once more and bring us back our America, blessed and blessing too.

"Give our regards to old Broadway", sang Cohan, "And say that I'll be there ere long." So will we, so will we, just as soon as America comes home.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

HUM 221 -- where did lacrosse come from?

And what was (is) wampaum?

Sheko:li from the Oneida Indian Nation --

One of the six nations in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederation, the Oneida have a website that extends Sheko:li (or Greetings) from Ray Halbritter, CEO of the Oneida Nation Enterprises, and links to resources on the government, culture and history of the nation.

Follow the links to a "digital tour of the nation," which tells about government services, and the "Clan Mothers and Men's Council that serve as the nation's governing body. (The Haudenosaunee are matrilineal, which means families are traced from mother to daughter and women typically have a larger role than in a patriarchial society. If you want a fascinating term paper topic, research the role of women in an Indian nation like the Oneida or the Choctaw that were traditionally matrilineal.) Those pages will tell you about the Oneida today.

Also follow the links to the pages on Culture & History. They will tell you about the origins of lacrosse and what wampaum meant to traditional people of the Long House.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Attendance policy

Crossposted to to my class blogs, The Mackerel Wrapper for communications students and Hogfiddle for students in my interdisciplinary humanities courses.

Last night several students walked out of Communications 317 (mass media law and ethics) during the break without notifying me ahead of time that they had other commitments. Accordingly, they received grades of zero (0%) for class participation; to count them as present would not be fair to those students who did attend for the full class period. The attendance policy is outlined in Section 6, Paragraph A of the syllabus:
Attendance is mandatory. To avoid class disruption, students in COM 317 must be on time. If a student misses class, it is the student's responsibility to get class notes, assignments, etc., from classmates. Missed in-class work, by its very nature, cannot be made up. Absences will hurt your grade.
(Boldface type in the original.)

Similar policy statements are incorporated in my syllabuses for Communications 150 and 209, and Humanities 221. All contain the warning that unexcused absences will hurt your grade.

For pre-professional students in communications, it is especially important to attend classes or to notify your instructors ahead of time if you will not be able to do so. Professional standards of behavior are just as important for your future success in the field as writing and editing skills. For SCI students taking my classes for General Education or elective credit, it is ordinary courtesy to let your instructors know when you will not be able to attend class.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Why L’il Liza Jane went down to Cairo

Submitted to The Prairie Picayune, newsletter for interpreters at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, for publication in the March 2007 issue (or thereabouts).

One of the songs New Salem’s dulcimer players enjoy performing is “Going Down to Cairo,” a fiddle tune and play party song that has distinct echoes of frontier Illinois. It’s one of at least four we’re brushing up on during this year’s off-season.

Several of us met in October and November, and we enjoyed sharing both the tunes we play and the experiences we’ve had interacting with visitors. We were snowed out before the holidays, but we met again after New Year’s and decided to keep meeting at least through the off-season. Watch The Picayune for further details.

Everyone is invited to join us the first Saturday in the month. Some of us have been playing a while, but we’re very open to beginners. Specific tunes we’re working on are:

"Going Down to Cairo.” A song about the wide-open river town in southern Illinois. Which I’ll get to below:

"Hebrew Children.” A camp meeting song that’s associated with the Rev. Peter Cartwright. Miriam Green has worked out the harmony parts, and I’ve located a shape-note version that tells how Peter Cartwright used the song.

“The Sow Took the Measles.” A 19th-century song collected by Alan Lomax. I first saw it in a cloth-bound songbook prepared for New Salem interpreters 10 or 15 years ago, and it tells how folks used to make do, use it up and wear it out.

“Turkey in the Straw.” The old, old fiddle tune we all learned as children and still hear from ice cream trucks in the summertime. In New Salem days, it was known as “Natchez Under the Hill.” In the old river towns, “under the hill” was the part of town down in the river bottom where saloons and other disorderly houses were apt to be located. So it started as a song about another river town.

In addition to the title, “Going Down to Cairo” has strong associations with frontier days in Illinois. Some of us learned it as “Black Them Boots.”

Whatever you call it, the song is one of the many variants of “Little Liza Jane,” a popular American dance tune in both the black and white musical traditions found wherever fiddles were played or children gathered for singing games. It’s one of “a handful of folk songs native to the state of Illinois,” according to Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, but its tune is basically the same as the bluegrass standard “Eight More Miles to Louisville.”

The story behind “Going Down to Cairo is certainly specific to Illinois. In his book “Folk Songs and Singing Games of the Illinois Ozarks,” David McIntosh said it comes from a “play party” circle dance for eight couples. In spite of its strong association with children’s singing games, it traces back to Cairo’s past as a wide-open river town when farmers shipped corn to market there by flatboat.

“It was pretty hard to find a good place to pass the time away so they began going to the saloons and various other places where they were entertained,” said McIntosh’s source for the song. “The women noticed on the return trips that the men ‘blacked their boots’ and dressed up a great deal more than usual and began to make frequent trips to Cairo.”

The words are:
Black them boots and make them shine,
Goodbye and a goodbye.
Black them boots and make them shine,
Goodbye, Liza Jane.

Going down to Cairo, with a goodbye and a goodbye.
Going down to Cairo, goodbye Liza Jane.
And another verse begins:

I ain’t got time to kiss you now,
Goodbye and a goodbye.
I ain't got time to kiss you now,
Goodbye, Liza Jane ...
As McCulloch heard the story, wives and girlfriends upriver didn’t allow that situation to exist very long.

“As a result of this,” he said, “many of the women began going with their husbands, and the manner of entertainment was somewhat changed.”

I’ll bet it was.

Maybe there’s an echo here of how a rowdy old fiddle tune like “Going Down to Cairo” turned up in southern Illinois as a children’s game.

McCulloch said the story traced back to a bad crop year in the 1850s. But Illinoisans had been going down to Cairo to buy and sell corn long before that – at least since the “deep snow” winter of 1831 when southern Illinois got to be known as Egypt by bible-quoting farmers who remembered the Book of Genesis and joked, “behold, there is corn in Egypt.”

Fiddlers traditionally play “Going Down to Cairo” in G, but dulcimer players commonly tab it out nowadays in DAD. When I’m not playing in a group, I like to tune my dulcimer to DGD and try to “swing” it, or syncopate the melody a little. If you want to hear a really nice version on line, Wilmette Central Elementary School’s Virtual Museum Project has an mp3 file of third-graders singing it with a rollicking piano for backup.

The Fiddler’s Companion, compiled by Andrew Kuntz, is an indispensable resource for tracing the history and provenance of fiddle tunes like “Going Down to Ciro,” “Turkey in the Straw” or practically anything else you ever heard of. For alphabetical links to tunes from a Scots dance piece called “A.A. Cameron’s Strathspey,” to a Welsh air called Ystwffwl (the Doorknocker), go to his index page at

The Old Town School of Folk Music’s website indexes notes on dozens of songs from “Amazing Grace” to “Worried Man Blues. Their notes on “Going Down to Cairo" are at

Wilmette Central Elementary School’s Virtual Museum Project> is at To hear the third-graders singing “Going Down to Cairo," click on the link to “Illinois History through Song” in 2005. One of my goals for 2007 is to learn to play it with their verve at their tempo.

HUM 2212: Assignment for Wed.

Here's a link to the Haudenosaunee Home Page. It is the official source of news and information from the "traditional leadership of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations." The word means "people building a long house," and it refers not only to a traditional type of dwelling but also a "a way of life where the many native nations live in peace under one common law."

In English, the Haudenosaunee are usually known as the Iroquois. Some historians believe the Iroquois confederation was an inspiration for the federal U.S. government.

Read the linked pages on culture, history and the Great Law of Peace.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

HUM 221: "First Thanksgiving"

Today we'll read up on the "First Thanksgiving" myth of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians gathering for a harvest feast, and post our thoughts -- like usual, as comments to this blog post -- on the Thanksgiving story, the story of the Pilgrims and Squanto (the Indian who showed them how to plant corn, beans and squash) and myths in general. Ask yourself these questions as you read, and post your comments below.
1. Is the Thanksgiving story we all heard as children too hokey? Or does it serve a good purpose? (Or, as so often happens, are both statements true at the same time?) What parts of the story are fake? What parts are true?

2. Some people say the First Thanksgiving story, especially as it is celebrated in elementary schools, sugar-coats the tragedy that befell Native people after the English established colonies in the 1600s. Do you agree? Or is it better to let little kids celebrate the myth, and learn more of the history as they get older? What purpose does it serve to teach children the myth? This myth or any myth?

3. Think of your family's Thanksgiving traditions, and/or those of other people you know. Is there anything unique about them? Any ethnic foods (like pickled herring or Swedish potato baloney, and, no, I am not making that up) served with the turkey and cranberry sauce? What is the importance of having a non-religious holiday to celebrate family, food and (of course) football in a multicultural, pluralistic society?
Before answering these questions, read (a) an overview in The Christian Science Monitor that explains how the myth evolved over 400 years, (b) the primary historical sources, consisting of two paragraphs in letters written in 1621; (c) a newspaper story on what Alaska Natives eat along with their turkey and cranberry sauce today and (d) an essay by folklorist Esaúl Sánchez on how the myth celebrates multicultural society. Sometimes people use the word "myth" to mean something that's untrue, but does it have to be?

Historical background

A lengthy survey of the history and culture of the Wampanoag (which means people of the first light, or dawn, or eastern light). Some of the detail will make your head swim, but read about the first few years of relations between the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims, and their relations the Naragansett Indians, the English settlers in Massachusetts Bay colony and others, both European and Native. It is the best history I've seen of the Wampanoag. I thought it gave an unusual insight into the Pilgrims, too, who they were, why they came to America, what some of their early problems were ... and how they and Tisquantum, or Squanto, got together.

The main points I got out of it were: (1) while the scale was smaller, there were the same kind of rivalries between different nations as in Europe; and (2) the Pilgrims, Squanto and the Wampanoag appear to have genuinely liked each other and wanted to help each other in the early days.

The Wampanoag today

The Wampanoag people are still here, still living in Massachusetts. Visit the websites below to see what two tribal governments -- which function a lot like city or county governments but have some sovereign powers as well -- are doing to provide services and to help keep their cultures alive.

Click here to see a quick contemporary overview of the federally recognizedWampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, located on Martha's Vinyard. After reading the summary, follow the link to the tribal Aquinnah Cultural Center. Read especially the goals of the cultural center, which are nothing less than to keep the culture alive by handing it down to future generations:
Aquinnah tribal members hold a cultural vision to return to original Wampanoag lifestyles and values, with a modern lifestyle layered upon the traditional. To accomplish this, it is important to educate or share through teaching Wampanoag material culture and traditions while the center is being developed. This intergenerational focus and the integration of culture with everyday life are critical for strengthening the continuity of Wampanoag culture. (Boldface in the original.)