Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Piikani Blackfoot People and the K'tunaxa (Kootenay) People at Napi-Oochetaycots (Napi's River)

Barney Reeves
Nature Conservancy Canada

[Blog note:  This article by archaeologist Barney Reeves describes the myths of the Piikani Blackfoot and their friends, the K'tunaxa (Kootenay or Kutenai) in the area of the Oldman River [Blackfoot:  Napi-Oochetaycots (Napi's River)] .  It should be mentioned that the Piikani Blackfoot and Kootenay people should not be spoken of in the past tense, as they are vibrant living cultures.  The article speaks of the Waldron Ranch area, pictured above.  This area is now being acquired by Nature Conservancy Canada.  However, it was always part of traditional Piikani territory for thousands of years and was only turned into ranchland starting in 1883, after Treaty Seven.  According to the Piikani today, Treaty Seven was viewed by them as a peace treaty, not an agreement to cede sacred traditional territory.  In any case, it is good to see this beautiful landscape now being protected by the Nature Conservancy.]

The Piikani Blackfoot People and the K'tunaxa (Kootenay) People at Napi-Oochetaycots (Napi's River)

The Waldron was part of the core traditional over-wintering territory of the Piikani Nation, whose ancestors have called this region home for thousands of years. On the south lies the Oldman River, named by them after the Creator — Napi.

It is said that after completing the creation of the Piikani's world and his People and teaching them how to drive buffaloes over the cliff at Piskun (Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump), Napi journeyed up his river to the highest peak (known today as Gould's Dome). Here, he joined the Up-Above-People and continues to watch over his land and his people to this day.

In mythic time early after the end of the last ice age some 13,000 years ago, Napi and the K'tunaxa's creator met at the Oldman's Playing Ground and gambled to see who would live where. It is said to have been a draw, so the Piikani remained on the Plains and in the Foothills and Front Ranges, the latter of which they shared with their friends the K'tunaxa, who wintered in the Kootenay Valley to the west.

Many sacred "doings" occurred along the River — sacred headdresses, lodges and bundles were visioned and offered up by the Under-Water-People to the Piikani and Okans (Medicine Lodge). As recently as the 1850s, the most sacred of all the Piikani religious festivals were held along the river above what is today Maycroft. The Fish Eaters Band wintered here and a long time ago constructed a fish piskun (trap) downstream of the Hwy 22 Bridge over the Oldman, which proved crucial to the Peoples' survival in the 1880s when the buffalo and all the game were gone from their lands.

Further north, in the headwaters of today's Willow Creek (known to the Piikani as Ghost-Pound Creek after a big piskun on the east side of the Porcupine Hills, also a place name of Piikani origin) the Padded Saddles Band wintered here and north along Stimson Creek. Camps and winter bison kills occur at many locales, and places such as Chimney Rock and the Yellow Paint Place were and remain sacred to the Piikani.

The west side of the Porcupines was in the past a major route for travel along the Rocky Mountain Front, much like today. Here still can be seen in places the old fort paths and dog, horse trails cart trails that make up the Inner Old North Trail. North Piikani Elder Brings Down the Sun describes how in the late 1800s he received many of his visions in the Porcupine Hills — one of the favoured areas for Piikani Vision Questing. The Old North Trail extended from the Ever Winter/Frozen Water Land (Bearing Straits) north to the Ever Summer/Smoking Mountains Land (Mexico). It was used by countless generations of First Nations to travel throughout the lands, beginning shortly after the end of the last ice age some 13,000 years ago or more, when Native Americans people began to move northward from south of the ice sheets along this Ice Free Corridor.

This event is recalled by the Piikani in mythic time in Napi's recreation of the World, in which he travels from south to north along the mountains, putting it all back together again, gathering up the rocks and remaking Mistakis (The Backbone-Rocky Mountains) and every being back where they once were before the Ever Winter came, instructing his People the Piikani of the Sacred Relationships that exist between humans and other-than-human beings and telling them that they/we must always work at these and respect all of creation to ensure our world continues for all future generations to come.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Algonquian-Ritwan (Algic), (Kutenai) and Salish: Proving a Distant Genetic Relationship

Peter Bakker
Aarhus University
(Link) pdf

"A connection between Algonquian and Salishan was first suggested almost a century ago, and several Americanists have mentioned it or briefly discussed it (Boas, Haas, Sapir, Swadesh, Thompson, Denny). However, nobody has tried to provide proof for the matter beyond a few suggestive lexical correspondences (Haas, Denny) and typological similarities (Sapir)."

"In my paper I follow the method used by Goddard (1975) and focus on morphology to try and prove a genetic relationship between the two families. The morphological organization of the Salishan and Algonquian verbs are highly similar. Moreover, some of the pertinent grammatical morphemes also show striking formal similarities. In addition, a number of shared quirks between Salishan and Algonquian point to a genetic connection. There is archaeological evidence linking both Algonquian and Ritwan languages with the Columbia Plateau, where Salishan languages dominate, suggesting a shared history of the three groupings in the Columbia River area."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Henry Louis Gates: If Clementa Pinckney Had Lived

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
New York Times Op Ed.
June 18, 2015

"I have no doubt that had the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney lived, he would have become known — and celebrated — across our country for his leadership, rather than sealed immortally in tragedy, one more black martyr in a line stretching back to the more than 800 slave voyages that ended at Charleston Harbor.
"I know this because I filmed a long interview with Mr. Pinckney — who was killed in his church in Charleston, S.C., along with eight congregants on Wednesday evening — for a PBS documentary series three years ago. It was clear that there was a reason this young man had been called to preach at 13, to minister at 18, to serve in the State Legislature at 23, and to shepherd one of America’s most historic black churches at 26, reminding us of other prodigies — and martyrs — for whom the Good Book has served as a bedrock of public service. He was 41 when he died.
"It was Oct. 26, 2012, shortly before the last presidential election, and I was talking to Mr. Pinckney and to State Representative Kenneth F. Hodges about Robert Smalls, a slave who, at the height of the Civil War, commandeered a Confederate ship to sail to freedom beyond Charleston Harbor and ended up returning home to serve in the State Legislature during Reconstruction — representing the very area these two men now served.
“I think about what it must have felt like to be a young black man in America” back then, Mr. Pinckney told me, “to see the state and the country go through tremendous change and to have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of everybody.” He added that if Smalls, an escaped slave, could make “substantial, systematic changes,” then “I have the same kind of responsibility to work to make a difference.”
"Mr. Pinckney paused to clarify his words."

"“Now, well, do I say I’m Smalls?” he said. “No, because there’s only one, there’s only been one Robert Smalls. But I think, as being a House member who served in the old Beaufort district that he used to serve in and a state senator that serves that same area, I think I ought to give it my absolute best to try to make a difference with the lives of the people I represent and the people of South Carolina, whether it be in supporting public education, supporting our troops, or wanting to see all people do well in South Carolina.”
"All of these things, this quietly impressive man did, and did nobly.

"What makes rereading the transcript of our interview so poignant for me today is the reminder that, for one still so young, Mr. Pinckney was deeply aware of the history he carried within himself, a history of the courageous and the slain, of the triumphant and the terrorized. He was fluent in the lives and careers of brave black people who had served state and church since the Civil War. He was acutely conscious of the missed opportunities of Reconstruction, of the contradictions that could have been settled, of the innocent lives that could have been spared, a century before the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, had Americans following the Civil War only been willing to put racial healing and equal economic opportunity first.
"The “unfinished work” of America — to quote Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — didn’t prevent him from loving the South and his country, and feeling a claim to its blessings. “I think it really says that America is changing,” he said of President Obama’s election, “and I think it signals to the world that the American dream is still alive and well.”
"Today, our interview seems so long ago. I asked him that day if we were still fighting the Civil War in South Carolina. He answered: “I think South Carolina has — and across the South we have — a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s histories. We have, you know, many reenactments across the state and sometimes in our General Assembly I feel that we’re fighting some of the old battles.”

"To know him, even over the course of an autumn Carolina afternoon, was to know a man who cherished the values on which our republic was founded, and who held an abiding faith that the great promise of America could, one day, be fulfilled. He was a unifier who, this past spring, taught us how to mourn in communion with one another, following the police slaying of Walter L. Scott, a black man, just north of his city. I don’t believe that he had the capacity to imagine the depth of malice and anger that came down on his congregation, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Wednesday night.

(read more)