Sapir’s special focus among American languages was in the Athabaskan languages, a family which especially fascinated him. In a private letter, he wrote: “Dene is probably the son-of-a-bitchiest language in America to actually know…most fascinating of all languages ever invented.”
I’ve been doing some work to learn:
- how it was that Navajo got to be classified as an Athabaskan language and
- what linguistic evidence exists for the northern origins of the Navajo.
This is a good journey, but challenging.
Sometimes it leads me to stuff like this:
which: ok, how much can we trust these linguists? Are we sure we’re on solid ground here?
The big categorizing of native American languages was done by Albert Gallatin in the 1830s.
Could he have been wrong? People were wrong a lot back then.
Well, after looking it with an amateur’s enthusiasm, I feel more trusting.
I feel confident Navajo/Dene is connected to languages of what’s now Alaska, British Columbia, and nearby turf.
Navajo / Dene speakers can be understood by speakers of other Athabaskan languages, and most of the words in Navajo seem to have Athabaskan origin.
Edward Sapir wrote a paper about internal evidence within the Navajo language for a northern origin to this people.
Sapir was wrong* about some things, but no one seems to doubt he was a pretty serious linguist.
How about Michael E. Krauss?
After completing a dissertation on Gaelic languages Krauss arrived in Alaska in 1960 to teach French at the University of Alaska.
Krauss’ largest contribution to language documentation is his work on Eyak, which began in 1961. Eyak was then already the most endangered of the Alaskan languages, and Krauss’ work is all the more notable considering that it represents what today might be considered salvage linguistics. While some Eyak data had been previously available, they were overlooked by previous scholars, including Edward Sapir. However, Eyak proved to be a crucial missing link for historical linguistics, being equally closely related to neighboring Ahtna and to distant Navajo. With good Eyak data it became possible to establish the existence of the Athabaskan–Eyak–Tlingit language family, though phonological evidence for links to Haida remained elusive.
If anyone makes any progress on native American language classifications while under precautionary self-quarantine, let us know
* I’m just teasing poor Sapir here, I don’t think it’s fair to “blame” him exactly for the “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,” which maybe isn’t even wrong, and as far as I can tell it was Whorf not Sapir who misunderstood Hopi
I was at the bar in Santa Fe, New Mexico watching the national college football championship game, eating nachos and drinking beer. A small place, the atmosphere was social, and the guy next to me got to talking about skiing. He mentioned a small mountain called Sipapu. They’d just had some fresh snow and he made it sound so good. “It’s real small.” “Almost a local’s only mountain.” “They have great blues.” The only thing I had to do the next day was have lunch at 1pm, so I thought well heck, why don’t I wake up early and drive up there?
So that’s what I did, I woke up and drove up there very early, up past Chimayo and Abiquiu, in the Kit Carson National Forest. The spot was small and nothing fancy, there’s nowhere to stay up there, renting skis was kind of a rickety procedure. But once you got going it was beautiful, the sky was clear and blue, warm and the snow was soft.
I tried out the portrait mode on my phone.
Mostly, I had the place to myself.
I didn’t think much about the name, Sipapu, although I liked it. I said it in my head, alone on the chairlift. Sipapu.
Later I was home I was looking through this book:
From the glossary:
Don’t get too excited by the headline over at Phys.org. What they really seem to have found is that people continued to live in the Cahokia region even after the big population center “collapsed” or sort of dwindled out.
I call your attention to this article because it highlights what I love about archaeology: the extremes of methodology. You read this and you’re like cool, new light on an ancient city. How did they find it out?
To collect the evidence, White and colleagues paddled out into Horseshoe Lake, which is adjacent to Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site, and dug up core samples of mud some 10 feet below the lakebed. By measuring concentrations of fecal stanols, they were able to gauge population changes from the Mississippian period through European contact.
These people are paddling out into a lake, dredging up mud, and testing it for human shit.
You know what? There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. There’s something so deeply funny and human about thinking that maybe in a thousand years or so some archaeologist will be studying your stool to find out what the hell you were up to.
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.
What was it? Who built it? How? What happened? What were they up to? Why there?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
- 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.