150-year-old letters give voice to Dakota prisoners

Dakota prisoners /**/http://minnesota.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=minnesota/news/features/2011/01/19/dakotaletters_20110119_64

by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio January 19, 2011
For nearly 150 years, the voices of Dakota men imprisoned after the Dakota Conflict of 1862 went unheard.
But the details of their imprisonment are starting to emerge, in letters written by those prisoners after six weeks of fighting along the Minnesota River Valley that left hundreds of Indians, settlers and soldiers dead.
In a tiny office at North Dakota State University in Fargo, Clifford Canku has spent 10 years poring over the faint handwriting with a magnifying glass.
“One letter would take about a week,” said Canku, a Dakota elder who teaches Dakota language at North Dakota State. Canku is one of three lead translators on the project, which has unearthed never-before revealed details of a turbulent episode in Minnesota history.
Some of the letter writers talk about the war; others describe prison life.
“We’re very cold, and they took the stove away from us,” one prisoner wrote. “It’s way below zero and we’re freezing. A lot of people have died.”
The letters add important first-person perspective to a troubling time in history, said professor Bruce Maylath, one of Canku’s colleagues in the NDSU English Department. They plan to publish 50 of the letters.
“There’s a lot to be bothered by,” Maylath said. “This has been a one-sided story to this point. And for the first time this tells the other side — directly from the Dakota side. And it tells it in the language they were most comfortable in.”
Dakota POW letter The written Dakota language was created by a Presbyterian missionary, Stephen Riggs. When the prisoners wrote to him, he would share the letters with families. The letters, along with other documents, were stored in a box at the Minnesota Historical Society for decades.
Hundreds of Dakota men were imprisoned after the war. Some 300 were sentenced to death. President Abraham Lincoln commuted the death sentence of 265 men, who were then sent to the prison at Fort McClellan in Davenport, Iowa.
Maylath said the letters indicate prisoners were under great pressure to convert to Christianity. Interestingly, while missionaries were trying to save their souls, the Dakota understood being “saved” to mean they would not be hanged. Maylath said the letter writers asked about young men who disappeared from prison.
“There’s speculation in the letters about perhaps the young men disappeared because they refused to convert to Christianity,” he said. “We do know those young men were never seen again.”
Descendants of the letter writers are alive today. Some of the translators recognized names while reading the letters for the first time at the Minnesota Historical Society.
“This has been a one-sided story … for the first time this tells the other side — directly from the Dakota.”- Bruce Maylath, North Dakota State Univ. “One of them would turn to me with a letter and say, ‘Flag this one. It’s by my great-great-grandfather.'” Maylath said. “And to have the voices of the ancestors right there, visible in their own handwriting, that was the most moving thing to me.”
The letters reflect the Dakota prisoners’ concern after Lincoln was assassinated. The men feared they might be killed now that the man who saved them was dead.
Canku said some letters are painful to read. He said the prisoners’ letters tell how at night, guards would rape the Dakota women who worked at the prison camp, cleaning and cooking.
“When they [guards] came after the women at night, they didn’t have any recourse but to sing and let them know, and pray,” Canku said, “to let the women know ‘we’re leaving you in the presence of God. Because if we were able to help we would have stopped what’s going on. But we can’t.’
“When we read these letters to common everyday people, especially the women cry and go through a tremendous amount of anguish, because they have their own stories about what happened to their relatives back then,” Canku said. “A lot of them were killed. Women were raped.”
Canku said the content of some letters is likely to be controversial. Some letters are likely to upset Dakota people, since they identify Dakota men who collaborated with the U.S. Army. Their descendants don’t want that information publicized, he said.
Execution The letters also raise uncomfortable questions for historians.
“What happened? Did they have concentration camps in Minnesota? Even today, people don’t believe that,” Canku said. “People died. They were in prison. They experienced genocide. And when you talk about these things you are going to get opposition saying, no, these things didn’t happen. But they did happen.”
For Canku, the project is about truth telling. He said it’s time for these long silent voices to be heard.
“I think it’s spiritually inspired by our ancestors,” he said. “It’s time to do this and give the information out. I feel a tremendous responsibility to carry this through.”
The 50 letters translated so far were chosen because they represent a cross-section of the 150 letters in the collection.
The letters will be published early next year in book form with the original Dakota language, the literal translation, and the contemporary English explanation.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/01/19/dakota-tribe-letters/

Enough bases to sink the world

The Pentagon’s Planet of Bases … (America’s Pentagon? Yes!)

India, a rising power, almost had one (but the Tajiks said no). China, which last year became the world’s second largest economy as well as the planet’s leading energy consumer, and is expanding abroad like mad (largely via trade and the power of the purse), still has none. The Russians have a few (in Central Asia where “the great game” is ongoing), as do those former colonial powers Great Britain and France, as do certain NATO countries in Afghanistan. Sooner or later, Japan may even have one.

All of them together — and maybe you’ve already guessed that I’m talking about military bases not on one’s own territory — add up to a relatively modest (if unknown) total. The U.S., on the other hand, has enough bases abroad to sink the world. You almost have the feeling that a single American mega-base like Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan could swallow them all up. It’s so large that a special Air Force “team” has to be assigned to it just to deal with the mail arriving every day, 360,000 pounds of it in November 2010 alone. At the same base, the U.S. has just spent $130 million building “a better gas station for aircraft… [a] new refueling system, which features a pair of 1.1-million gallon tanks and two miles of pipes.” Imagine that: two miles of pipes, thousands of miles from home — and that’s just to scratch the surface of Bagram’s enormity.

Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog visited the base last August, found that construction was underway everywhere (think hundreds of millions of dollars more from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers), and wrote: “More notable than the overstuffed runways is the over-driven road. [The Western part of] Disney Drive, the main thoroughfare that rings the eight-square-mile base,[…] is a two-lane parking lot of Humvees, flamboyant cargo big-rigs from Pakistan known as jingle trucks, yellow DHL shipping vans, contractor vehicles, and mud-caked flatbeds. If the Navy could figure out a way to bring a littoral-combat ship to a landlocked country, it would idle on Disney.”

Serving 20,000 or more U.S. troops, and with the usual assortment of Burger Kings and Popeyes, the place is nothing short of a U.S. town, bustling in a way increasingly rare for actual American towns these days, part of a planetary military deployment of a sort never before seen in history. Yet, as various authors at this site have long noted, the staggering size, scope, and strangeness of all this is seldom considered, analyzed, or debated in the American mainstream. It’s a given, like the sun rising in the east. And yet, what exactly is that given? As Nick Turse, who has been following American basing plans for this site over the years, points out, it’s not as easy to answer that question as you might imagine.

Source: Tom Englehardt
http://www.tomdispatch.com/

zombies and cancer

the zombies are coming

by lara hentz

With all those dead animals reported in January, of course 2011 was a bumper year for zombie insects. Reports of mind-controlled ants and caterpillars creeped everyone out this year.

In May, in the journal BMC Ecology, researcher David Hughes from Pennsylvania State University reported that a parasitic fungus infects forest ants to fulfill its bidding. The fungus fills the ant’s head with fungal cells and changes its muscles so the ant can grab a leaf in a death grip just when and where the fungus wants it — specifically, they all bite down around noon, then all die together around sunset, like some weird fungus-addled ant cult. The fungus then bursts out of the ants’ head and spreads its spores to its next unwitting victim.

Another report in September found the genetic culprit that sends caterpillars to the treetops, where they liquefy and rain infectious death down on their peers. The virus that zombifies these gypsy moth caterpillars also makes sure they grow as large as possible so they spread infectious viruses far and wide, study researcher Kelli Hoover, of Pennsylvania State University, said. They also send the caterpillars crawling up trees in the middle of the day, when they are most vulnerable to bird attacks.

zombie antCredit: PLoS ONE

[My strong belief is cancer is actually a fungus and until drugmakers can make money on a drug to cure cancer, there won’t be any cure.  Cancer treatment now is expensive and makes some people lots and lots of money. Lara]

the zombies are coming

With all those dead animals reported in January, of course 2011 was a bumper year for zombie insects. Reports of mind-controlled ants and caterpillars creeped everyone out this year.

In May, in the journal BMC Ecology, researcher David Hughes from Pennsylvania State University reported that a parasitic fungus infects forest ants to fulfill its bidding. The fungus fills the ant’s head with fungal cells and changes its muscles so the ant can grab a leaf in a death grip just when and where the fungus wants it — specifically, they all bite down around noon, then all die together around sunset, like some weird fungus-addled ant cult. The fungus then bursts out of the ants’ head and spreads its spores to its next unwitting victim.

Another report in September found the genetic culprit that sends caterpillars to the treetops, where they liquefy and rain infectious death down on their peers. The virus that zombifies these gypsy moth caterpillars also makes sure they grow as large as possible so they spread infectious viruses far and wide, study researcher Kelli Hoover, of Pennsylvania State University, said. They also send the caterpillars crawling up trees in the middle of the day, when they are most vulnerable to bird attacks.

zombie ant

Credit: PLoS ONE

[My strong belief is cancer is actually a fungus and until drugmakers can make money on a drug to cure cancer, there won’t be any cure.  Cancer treatment now is expensive and makes some people lots and lots of money. Lara]