The Riddle of Chaco Canyon

Sure, we’ve all heard of Chaco Canyon.  It’s one of the 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the USA. But I tended to lump it in with Mesa Verde and the other cliff dwellings and move on.

Then an ad in High West (“for people who care about the West”) caught my eye.  $25 for a year’s subscription to Archaeology Southwest, PLUS the Chaco archaeology report?  Yes!

Once you get going on Chaco Canyon, it’s hard to stop.

Bob Adams at Wikipedia

What was it?  Who built it?  How?  What happened?  What were they up to?  Why there?

Room 170 at source: this Gamblers House post

One of the most important conclusions that leaps out of this book is that most of the societies examined had attitudes toward nature that were fairly compatible with a responsible, sustainable relationship with the environment, but that nearly all of them ended up destroying their environment anyway, either because they lacked the scientific and technological knowledge to know how to act best or because they let their values change as they became wealthier and more powerful through exploitation of natural resources.

from this post.

Sometimes you start looking for something, more information, help, and you find exactly what you’re looking for.  You find a guide who can give you exactly the information you’re looking for, in a digestible way.

That’s what I found when I found The Gambler’s House.  A dense, rich blog about Chaco by a former Park Service seasonal guide, he / she seems to know this stuff at a deep level.  Here are two of the closest I find to autobiography.

source: Gambler’s House

The author, who signs the name Teofilio, writes with clarity, patience, intelligence, respect for the reader, restrained but confident style, and a steady, calm voice, walking us through questions, debates, and controversies within the scholarship:

So if great houses weren’t pueblos, what were they?  Here’s where contemporary archaeologists tend to break into two main camps.  One sees them as elite residences, part of some sort of hierarchical system centered on the canyon or,  alternatively, of a decentralized system of “peer-polities” with local elites who emulated the central canyon elites in the biggest great houses.  In either case, note that the great houses are still presumed to have been primarily residential.  The difference from the traditional view is quantitative, rather than qualitative.  These researchers see the lack of evidence for residential use in most rooms, but they also see that there is still some evidence for residential use, and they emphasize that and interpret the other rooms as evidence of the power and wealth of the few people who lived in these huge buildings and were able to amass large food surpluses or trade goods (or whatever).  The specific models vary, but the core thing about them is that they see the great houses as houses, not for the community as a whole (most people lived in the surrounding “small  houses” both inside and outside of the canyon) but for a lucky few.

In this camp are Steve LeksonSteve PlogJohn Kantner, probably Ruth Van Dyke (although she doesn’t talk about the specific functions of great houses much), and others.

On the other side are those who see the difference between pueblos and great houses as qualitative.  To these people, the great houses were not primarily residential in function, although they may have housed some people from time to time.  Most of these researchers see the primary function of the sites as being “ritual” in some sense, although what that means is not always clearly specified.  In many cases a focus on pilgrimage (based on questionable evidence) is posited.  This group tends to make a big deal out of the astronomical alignments and large-scale planning evident in the layouts and positions of the great houses within their communities.  They tend to see the few residents of the sites as caretakers, priests, or other individuals whose functions allowed them to reside in these buildings.  Importantly, they don’t see these sites as equivalent to other residences in any meaningful way.  They are instead public architecture, perhaps built by egalitarian communities as an act of religious devotion.  Examples of monumental architecture built by such societies are known throughout the world (Stonehenge is a famous example), and this view fits with the traditional interpretation of modern Pueblo ethnography, which sees the Pueblos as peaceful, egalitarian, communal villagers.  There is a long tradition of projecting this image back into the prehistoric past based on the obvious continuities in material culture, so while these scholars are in some ways breaking with tradition in not seeing great houses as residential, they are also staying true to tradition in other ways by interpreting them as a past manifestation of cultural tendencies still known in the descendant societies but expressed in different ways.

(from this post).

While many archaeologists have made valiant attempts to fit the rise of Chaco into models based on local and/or regional environmental conditions, they have been generally unsuccessful in finding a model that convincingly explains the astonishing florescence of the Chaco system in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries.  This has inspired some other archaeologists more recently to try a different tack involving less environmental determinism and more historical contingency.  This seems promising, but finding sufficient evidence for this sort of approach is difficult when it comes to prehistoric societies like Chaco.  The various camps of archaeologists will likely continue to argue about the nature of Chaco for a long time, I think.  Meanwhile, the mystery remains.

from the post “Plaster

I doubt this mystery will ever be totally solved.  There’s just too much information that is no longer available for various reasons.  That’s not necessarily a problem, though.  At this point the mysteries of Chaco are among its most noteworthy characteristics.  Sometimes not knowing everything, and accepting that lack of knowledge, is useful in coming to terms with something as impressive, even overwhelming, as Chaco.  One way to deal with it all is to stop trying to figure out every detail and to just observe.  The experience that results from this approach may have nothing to do with the original intent of the builders of the great houses of Chaco, but then again it may have everything to do with that intent.  There’s no way to be sure, and there likely never will be.  But that’s okay.  Sometimes mysteries are better left unsolved.

What of the Gambler legend for the origin of Chaco?  Alexandria Witze at Archaeology Conservancy tells us:

Navajo oral histories tell of a Great Gambler who had a profound effect on Chaco Canyon, the Ancestral Puebloan capital located in what is now northwestern New Mexico. His name was Nááhwiilbiihi (“winner of people”) or Noqóilpi (“he who wins men at play”), and he travelled to Chaco from the south. Once there, he began gambling with the locals, engaging in games such as dice and footraces. He always won.

Faced with such a formidable opponent, the people of Chaco lost all their possessions at first. Then they gambled their spouses and children and, finally, themselves, into his debt. With a group of slaves now available to do his bidding, the Gambler ordered them to construct a series of great houses—the monumental architecture that fills Chaco Canyon today.

when I picture The Gambler

What was up with Chaco Canyon’s roads?  They were thirty feet wide, perfectly straight, and seem to go… nowhere?

Once you’re into Chaco Canyon before you know it you’re into Hovenweep.

and where does Mesa Verde fit into this?

So what was the relationship between the two?  The short answer is that no one knows.

source: rationalobserver for wikipedia

This is a great post with a possible Chaco theory:

Briefly, what I’m proposing is that the rise of Chaco as a regional center could have been due to it being the first place in the Southwest to develop detailed, precise knowledge of the movements of heavenly bodies (especially the sun and moon), which allowed Chacoan religious leaders to develop an elaborate ceremonial calendar with rituals that proved attractive enough to other groups in the region to give the canyon immense religious prestige. This would have drawn many people from the surrounding area to Chaco, either on short-term pilgrimages or permanently, which in turn would have given Chacoan political elites (who may or may not have been the same people as the religious leaders) the economic base to project political and/or military power throughout a large area, and cultural influence even further.

The “sexiest” post title:


Hovenweep

What a name for a place.

between 1150-1350 these structures were built in, around, and above this canyon:

Gotta check that out sometime:

Was this era in the American Southwest something like roughly the same period, the early 12th century in Ireland:

To be glib, early medieval Ireland sounds like a somewhat crazed Wisconsin, in which every dairy farm is an armed at perpetual war with its neighbors, and every farmer claims he is a king.

Or was Hovenweep perhaps something more like a monastery?

Some Anasazi taking the Benedict Option?

Thought this was a good trip report from Hovenweep.

Got to Hovenweep trying to read about traditional architecture in the American desert regions. What kinds of buildings have people with few tools and tech built?  What lasts?

This guy took on the challenge of building a pit house and kiva.

Easier than a kiva would be a false kiva:

John Fowler for wikipedia

 

 


Hidden Springs of Crazy Horse-iana

Reread Larry McMurtry’s short life of Crazy Horse.  

Discovered something new: when No Water shot Crazy Horse for running away with his wife Black Buffalo Woman, he borrowed the gun he used from Bad Heart Bull.

This Bad Heart Bull was an uncle of Amos Bad Heart Bull, the ledger artist, who made this drawing of the death of Crazy Horse:

At the time of his death, Amos’ sketchbook was given to his younger sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud. In the 1930s, she was contacted by Helen Blish, a graduate student from the University of Nebraska, who asked to study her brother’s work for her master’s thesis in art. When Pretty Cloud died in 1947, her brother’s ledger book full of drawings was buried with her.

Before they were buried, the drawings were photographed by Blish’s professor, Hartley Burr Alexander, and they’re reprinted in this volume:

Amos Bad Heart Bull was only one of the Ledger Artists.

Much Ledger Art can be seen digitally through the Plains Ledger Art Project at UC San Diego.

Amos Bad Heart Bull’s work is vivid:

A literal translation of the Lakota word čhaŋtéšiče is “he has a bad heart”, but an idiomatic meaning is “he is sad.” Tȟatȟáŋka Čhaŋtéšiče would likely have been understood in the same way “Sad Bull” would be in English. When Lakota names are translated literally into English, they may lose their idiomatic sense.

Crazy Horse, Little Bighorn, these names alone are compelling enough.  Cavalrymen wiped out to the last man on the plains, these stories are interesting, or they have been to me as long as I remember.

This book couldn’t’ve been more what I wanted.  I first discovered it when TV commercials for the miniseries aired.

In my opinion the miniseries is damn good, but the book!  Part of what makes it so compelling is Connell sees how the telling of what happened, the attempt to figure out what happened, is as interesting as what happened itself.  The history of the history is as interesting as the history.

Connell starts his book with the troopers who discovered the stripped and mutilated bodies on the hillside, then takes us on a digressive journey towards how this happened, what happened, and what it all might mean, if anything.

Wikipedia presents this disputed picture of Crazy Horse.  It cannot be him.  He would never.  At Fort Robinson??  A desolate prairie outpost? This was taken in a city.  Etc.  From what we know of Crazy Horse, this is the opposite of what he would do.

But who knows?  Who is it?  Ghosts appear and disappear.

crazy horse

Crazy Horse had a daughter named They Are Afraid of Her.  She died, probably of cholera, McMurtry says, when she was three.

How about the legend of what happened at the Baker Fight:

In the middle of a frantic battle a man sits on the grass and smokes a pipe.

This occurred during what is sometimes called the Arrow Creek Fight, or the Baker Fight.

found that here.

Once spent some time on Google Maps trying to find the site of the Baker fight.

While reading about one of the few white men Crazy Horse trusted, Doctor Valentine McGillycuddy:

I find a reference to a thirteen volume set, Hidden Springs of Custeriana.

The hunt for hidden springs in the long pored-over records of the past.  The ledger photographed, then buried in Nebraska.

more:

 

 


Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, and The Pow Wow Chow Cookbook

What is the deal here when Trump calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas?

At Helytimes, we like to go back to the source.

Sometime between 1987 and 1992 Elizabeth Warren put down on a faculty directory that she was Native American.  Says Snopes:

it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools

This became a story in 2012, when Elizabeth Warren was running for Senate against Scott Brown.  In late April of that year, The Boston Herald, a NY Post style tabloid, dug up a 1996 article in the Harvard Crimson by Theresa J. Chung that says this:

Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.

Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.

Asked about it, here’s what Elizabeth Warren said:

From there the story kinda spun out of control.  It came up in the Senate debate, and there were ads about it on both sides.

A genealogist looked into it, and determined that Warren was 1/32nd Cherokee, or about as Cherokee as Helytimes is West African.  But then even that was disputed.

Her inability to name any specific Native American ancestor has kept the story alive, though, as pundits left and right have argued the case. Supporters touted her as part Cherokee after genealogist Christopher Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society said he’d found a marriage certificate that described her great-great-great-grandmother, who was born in the late 18th century, as a Cherokee. But that story fell apart once people looked at it more closely. The Society, it turned out, was referencing a quote by an amateur genealogist in the March 2006 Buracker & Boraker Family History Research Newsletters about an application for a marriage certificate.

Well, Elizabeth Warren won.  Now Scott Brown is Donald Trump’s Ambassador to New Zealand, where he’s doing an amazing job.

source: The Guardian

The part of the story that lit me up was this:

The best argument she’s got in her defense is that, based on the public evidence so far, she doesn’t appear to have used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook; in 1984 she contributed five recipes to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, signing the items, “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee.”

OK let’s find an Elizabeth Warren one:
Damn that does not sound good!
Lady loves crab!
It’s claimed here that the book was edited by Elizabeth Warren’s cousin?
If this is the worst thing you can come up with on Elizabeth Warren, pretty weak.   It was a family story.  The cookbook suggests she believed it.  All families have odd stories that may or may not be true.  Maybe she got too enthusiastic?
Btw by far the worst recipe in the Pow Wow Chow cookbook is :

“I like my corn with olives!” source

What is the best way to handle it, the best strategy, when the President is treating you like a third grade bully, repeatedly and publicly calling you a mean name?

Best advice to someone getting bullied?  I googled:

We would amend “don’t show your feelings” to stay calm.  We would urge any kid to put “tell an adult” as a last resort. 

A suggestion:

  • if the problem persists, hit back as hard as possible, calmly but forcefully, at the bully’s weakest, tenderest points.

Such a Lisa Simpson / Nelson vibe to Warren / Trump.  Are all our elections gonna be Lisa vs. Nelson for awhile?

 

from this 2003 episode:

Lisa easily wins the election. Worried by her determination and popularity, the faculty discusses how to control her.

 

 

 


Score.

Sweet!  A package arrived!

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Let’s see what I got…

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Oh, it’s Kayak Full Of Ghosts: Eskimo Tales, gathered and retold by Lawrence Millman.  Let’s hear what Millman is up to:

IMG_6736

You know what, let’s just jump right in and read one of the stories:

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Ok…

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Well, lots to think about.  Thanks to Dan Vebber for putting me on to Millman.


Imagine you’re exploring around the Pacific Northwest in 1800

and you see this:

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Pretty scary.  That’s from this book:

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