“Would You Be Interested in Getting (Atty Gen) William Wirt’s Head Back?” | News In The News | Fantasyland and more

Rebecca Roberts describes the theft of Attorney General William Wirt’s skull from his crypt in the Congressional Cemetery.

But no one ever accused Robert White of being a thief. It’s safer to bet that White bought Wirt’s skull for his collection. Perhaps surprisingly, it is entirely legal to sell and possess human bones in the United States. There are some exceptions; the bones of Native Americans are federally regulated, for instance, and certain municipalities (like New Orleans) and states (New York, Georgia, and Tennessee) have local restrictions. But by and large, when human skulls are for sale, it’s legal to buy them. Most buyers seek skulls for educational purposes, so price is driven more by quality than the identity of the skull. When Robert White was buying, a skull could be had for $100-$600. Since then, prices have tripled, because the two biggest sources of human bones, India and China, have both banned exports. If White discovered the existence of Wirt’s skull through his connections in the ‘head hunting’ world, he could have simply purchased it legally, and without breaking the bank.

READ: “Would You Be Interested in Getting (Attorney General) William Wirt’s Head Back?” Rebecca Roberts Brings Us a Tale From the Congressional Cemetery | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress … By the way: William Wirt represented the Cherokee Nation in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, and Samuel Worcester in Worcester v. Georgia.

***NEW BOOK  Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America MORE

***White supremacy is in the DNA of this nation and has left its traces large and small across the commemorative landscape, shaping US history and identity.  READ

***As a society and a polity, the US has never been cured, never been treated, and it has never resolved its murderous racist history.  READ: The Invention of the White People | USA | Al Jazeera

5 ***** Must-read –> The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates has an eloquent essay on Donald Trump’s core ideology: “White supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.” (audio too)

*****

By LT

History repeats like a cycle, a chugging churning wheel. And we can’t seem to grasp or adequately process this. Why? Maybe we are too busy surviving, working our butts off at minimum wages, maybe too tired to notice how this “repeat cycle” is centuries in the making.  (Picking up a history book? I don’t think many people would know where to start, what century or what account or story to trust.) If we know the truth, all of it, then we can see the cycle…

I woke up with this thought: When did we become elephants with chains around our feet? When did we get tricked into not knowing our own past, and America’s earliest days, the plant-the-flag mentality, and our own ancestors in its making? See the book description for Fantasyland below. (DNA is still news and Ancestry(dot) com is making millions for the Mormons – with slick TV ads and blood quantum charts. WOW! People are apparently driven by concern over blood and ancestry? Really?)

Photo (left):  Seated L-R Dr. Thomas Augustus Bland (1830-1908) and Oglala Chief Red Cloud (1822-1909) Standing:  Dr. Mary Cornelia Davis “Cora Bland” (1834-1919), interpreter Randall.  Courtesy of Daniel G.

My cousin Charlie and I started writing a research paper on the editors of Council Fire, a radical publication read by Native people [and our cousin and its editor Dr. Thomas Augustus Bland] – well this paper has grown to almost 200 pages (with footnotes). History is like that. It grows and grows once you start digging and chasing ghosts. (And you send emails to helpful historians who knew more than we did.) I will let you know when we get this novella-book done and how to read it. I never expected to feel so desperately sick in this process, doing research. It’s been a few years of work (but not every day.) I admit it was and is hard to sleep when some chapters are so brutal, violent, graphic and ultimately tragic (all researched and true accounts). I told Charles we might want to put a warning label in the introduction.

Re-reading DIPLOMATS IN BUCKSKINS (author Herman J. Viola) and OUR HEARTS FELL TO THE GROUND: Plains Indians views of How The West was Lost (primary documents collected by Colin G. Calloway), I found the best word to describe many tribal leaders of the last century: resilient.  (My own heart falls to the ground knowing what happened in North America.) That one word “resilient” defines the First Nations in North America in both mentioned books and in our research. Not all history is bad, of course but there are many heroes we’ve never heard of, as they are rarely mentioned in any history textbook or classroom… So if the material in these remarkable books and in our own research makes a tiny dent in the wide world of history, I’d celebrate and invite you all to a big party.

Here is a brief look at our research:

As previously mentioned… this was made possible in the dismal final years of 1888-1890, by the liaison between Thomas and Cora Bland with Catherine Weldon who acted as an intermediary with Sitting Bull. Through Weldon, Bland had flyers in the Sioux language distributed urging total resistance and Thomas Bland asked Red Cloud to not even meet with the (BIA) commissioners. Weldon provided maps and documents that explained the implications of these acts for the Sioux and is probably the reason Sitting Bull held out until he was killed in December 1890. These documents undoubtedly made their way to Red Cloud as well, though by then his health was failing, he was losing his hold on the Oglala and was more inclined to conciliation with the U.S. authorities.

(Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain will play Sitting Bull and Catherine Weldon in Woman Walks Ahead, a movie forthcoming in 2017.) (I did read Eileen Pollack’s fantastic book Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull (2002) which gave us a very good look at Thomas Bland’s activism on behalf of Native people.

*****

The Media Is the Villain – for Creating a World Dumb Enough for Trump

Matt Taibbi writes: “We learned long ago in this (media) business that dumber and more alarmist always beats complex and nuanced. Big headlines, cartoonish morality, scary criminals at home and foreign menaces abroad, they all sell. We decimated attention spans, rewarded hot-takers over thinkers, and created in audiences powerful addictions to conflict, vitriol, fear, self-righteousness, and race and gender resentment….  There isn’t a news executive alive low enough to deny that we use xenophobia and racism to sell ads.” Read: The greatest reality TV show on Earth

Fantasyland book description:…What’s happening in America today is not uncharted territory, but the flowering of the DNA that has defined our country from its inception. From an acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author and razor-sharp cultural critic, comes a new paradigm for understanding our post-truth world. There’s a tendency at this moment – this alternative-facts moment – to see our situation as an aberrant new American phenomena. In fact, it is the logical progression of our national character. America was created by wishful thinkers and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is in our bones. From Manifest Destiny to witch hunts to P.T. Barnum to Joseph Smith and the Scopes Monkey Trial, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham, from the birther movement to, yes, Donald Trump, we have proven, again and again, to be uniquely susceptible to magical thinking, delusion, illusion, conspiracy, and bullshit. In other words: what do you get when you mix epic individualism with extreme religion, show business, and everything else; run it through the Great Awakening and the Great Delirium, the anything-goes Sixties and the internet age; and let it ferment for a few centuries? You get Fantasyland, a place where reality and fantasy are dangerously blurred and mingled.

“This is an important book – the indispensable book – for understanding America in the age of Trump. It’s an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories.” – Walter Isaacson

***…afterlives of Soviet monuments

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Photographing the hidden afterlives of Soviet monuments.  Of course, it wasn’t the first time Soviet monuments had been brought low, as statues had been destroyed as early as 1990.  READ: The Hunt for Ukraine’s Toppled Lenin Statues – Atlas Obscura

*** I’m all for anything that helps us get along, and this seems like an exercise that might actually make a real difference and it’s HAUNTING me (so click) Believe by The Oatmeal

 ***

(click)Memo to the Publisher: We Need a “Vehicle of Indian Intelligence”

Excerpt:

One more thing: About that why.

This is a moment in history where the free flow of information is critical. Indian Country needs a vehicle of Indian intelligence. As Elias Boudinot wrote in 1832 (as he was losing his editorship of The Cherokee Phoenix) “I do conscientiously believe it to be the duty of every citizen to reflect upon the dangers with which we are surrounded; to view the darkness which seems to lie before our people— our prospects, and the evils with which we are threatened; to talk over all these matters, and, if possible, come to some definite and satisfactory conclusion.”

That is why.

[Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock) is an independent journalist and a friend.]

Tomgram: Ellen Cantarow, “Little Revolution,” Big Fracking Consequences

English: Historian Howard Zinn speaking in 2009
English: Historian Howard Zinn speaking in 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Back in May 2005, this site posted “Against Discouragement,” a graduation speech by the late, great Howard Zinn.  Though it hardly needs be said, it was, of course, inspiring.  I also interviewed him for TomDispatch and he wrote for the site.  A last book of his has just been published, Howard Zinn Speaks: Collected Speeches (1963-2009).  How could I not recommend it?  After all, he still speaks to us all.
Also a reminder for TD readers: we don’t encourage you to become Amazon customers, but if you already are, and you go to that site via a TomDispatch book link like the one in the previous paragraph (or any book cover image link on the site), we get a modest cut of anything you buy, book or otherwise.  It’s a way to support this site at absolutely no cost to you!  Tom]
To say the Central Intelligence Agency has had an uneven record over its 65 years would be kind.  It found early “success” in plotting to overthrow the legitimate governments of Iran and Guatemala (even if it did fail to foresee the Soviet Union going nuclear in 1949).  Then, it had a troubled adolescence.  The Bay of PigsVietnamLaosSpying on Americans.  As the Agency matured, it managed to miss all signs of the oncoming Iranian revolution — the natural endpoint of its glorious 1953 coup that brought the Shah to power — and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  (It did, however, manage to arm America’s future enemies there, sowing the seeds of 9/11.)  Then there was the Reagan era Iran-Contra affair, the failure to notice the fall of the Berlin Wall until it was on CNN, the WMD “intelligence” of the Iraqi leaker codenamed “Curveball,” the Iraq debacle that followed, and…
Well, you get the picture.  Recently, however, things seemed to be looking up.  The most popular general in a generation or two, a soldier-scholar-superman who could do no wrong, became its director.  Just before that, the Agency helped take out America’s public enemy number one in a daring night raid about which Hollywood is soon to release a celebratory movie.
But just as things were looking up, the rock star general was caught with his pants down, resigning in disgrace after an extramarital affair became public.  That titillating development overshadowed another more serious one: a cry for help about a looming threat from the Agency and its brethren in the American intelligence community (IC).  In late October, the National Research Council was to issue a report commissioned by the CIA and the IC.  Superstorm Sandy intervened and so it was only recently released, aptly titled “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis.” And what a dire picture it painted: security analysts should, it explained “expect climate surprises in the coming decade… and for them to become progressively more serious and more frequent thereafter, most likely at an accelerating rate… It is prudent to expect that over the course of a decade some climate events… will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of the affected societies or global systems to manage and that have global security implications serious enough to compel international response.”
Think failed states, water wars, forced mass migrations, famine, drought, and epidemics that will spill across borders, overwhelm national and international mitigation efforts, and leave the United States scrambling to provide disaster response, humanitarian relief, or being drawn into new conflicts.  That’s bad news for everyone, including the intelligence community.  Even worse, the 206-page report calls for more study, more analysis, and more action — and yet none of that is likely to happen without the assent of Congress.
Keep in mind that Republican members of Congress opposed even the creation of a CIA climate change center and tried starve it of funding while, as Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones noted last year, “Republican lawmakers — including the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees, respectively — have also expressed skepticism about the CIA’s climate work.”
In other words, add Republicans to the list of those who, like Cuban and Laotian communists of yore, have worked to thwart the Agency.  And cross the CIA off any list of potential environmental saviors.  In fact, when it comes to the health of this planet, saviors seem distinctly in short supply.  As TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow reports from the frontlines of a full-scale climate conflict, the only hope for the environment may come from unlikely groups of people in the unlikeliest of places fighting a shadow war more important than any ever waged by the CIA. Nick Turse

Frack FightA Secret War of Activists — With the World in the Balance By Ellen Cantarow

There’s a war going on that you know nothing about between a coalition of great powers and a small insurgent movement.  It’s a secret war being waged in the shadows while you go about your everyday life.

In the end, this conflict may matter more than those in Iraq and Afghanistan ever did.  And yet it’s taking place far from newspaper front pages and with hardly a notice on the nightly news.  Nor is it being fought in Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, but in small hamlets in upstate New York.  There, a loose network of activists is waging a guerrilla campaign not with improvised explosive devices or rocket-propelled grenades, but with zoning ordinances and petitions.

The weaponry may be humdrum, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Ultimately, the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.