At Wounded Knee

The southern portion of Badlands National Park is jointly managed by the National Park and by the Oglala Lakota. The hope was that one day this section of the park would be the first Tribal National Park in the country. Those plans have not yet become a reality. The northern unit of the park hosts the scientific interpretation of the land and holds all of the associated resources you’d expect at a National Park.

The southern unit is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation. At the White River Visitor Center, you can hear the historical interpretation of the people of this area, from paleo-Indians to European settlers to US Army Air Force troops in WWII who used the reservation land for a gunnery range and bombing practice. Just under 350,000 acres were acquired by eminent domain from the Oglala Lakota in 1942 on the pretext that it was “unused, unoccupied, and blighted”. 

Wounded Knee is not within the boundaries of the Park. Its history is told in signs, tombstones, graffiti and the living words of people who live in extreme poverty, mistrustful of neighbors and governments and directly impacted by changes in climate and habitat for the animals that provide their sustenance. I am grateful to Mr. Apple (age 25) and Mr. Fast Horse (age 13) for sharing their story. 

My heart aches for these people, for their wounded dignity, for their invisibility, for their spoiled livelihood. That “living off the land” was ever possible for humans in this place year-round is doubtful, especially after the buffalo herds were decimated by European immigrants. This is an area of seasonal extremes, a place to which you’d make a sacred pilgrimage, spend a time in awe, and respectfully vacate. 

To see the land as sacred, wild, and autonomous allows an attitude of humility to flourish and banishes thoughts of domination, extraction and exploitation.  It brings truer balance and harmony to the relationship. Perhaps from this new understanding, a more sustainable future will develop for our species. 

Happy Interdependence!

And under this costume is, of course, the corset.

The Corset

scillagrace

We survived the festivities at Old World Wisconsin in 104 degree heat!  I wore a very special costume that had only been worn once before.  It was silk and “tropical weight” wool with beautiful accents of military buttons and lapels and florets. 

I was interviewed by Fox 6 News about my experience wearing 19th century clothing in the heat.  I relayed information about what I was wearing and how it felt and then said that I thought people in the 19th century lived more closely in harmony with their environment instead of trying to manipulate or change it.   Therefore, they get used to variations in temperature and become more resilient….or something like that.  Then I went into the church and played a few hymns on the pump organ while the assembly sang.  Then another interpreter took over and I sang descants along to some more hymns.  When that concluded…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

We head out today from Wisconsin toward Utah, where canyonlands beckon. Steve used to volunteer for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument helping with archaeological and anthropological studies, and it ignited in him a passion for indigenous desert cultures. This will be our fourth trip out West together.  Here is a photo from our first trip. This is Mesa Verde in Colorado: 

Here is one I took in the Ojito Wilderness in New Mexico on our last trip: 

On the way back, we stopped at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic site in Illinois where we saw the remnants of a pre-Columbian city of approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Some of those Mississippian peoples also settled in Wisconsin at what is now Aztalan State Park, where we’ve visited several times. 

The more I learn about cultures who thrived in this country long before European settlers arrived, the more I appreciate the relationship they had with the places they lived. Our heritage as human beings is written on the landscape. We need to learn from the evidence of how we’ve impacted the resources of desert, woodland, or any other habitat. What we will pass on to the next generations of Earth inhabitants hinges on this collective wisdom. 

Heritage

Irish Roots

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I woke up with Irish on my mind – soda bread and potatoes and cabbage soup and immigrants.  As a costumed historic interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, I told the story of Mary Hafford, an Irish immigrant, and worked in her house.  She had been widowed in the year 1868 with 3 small children and lived as a renter in a small village near Watertown, WI.  Mary Hafford worked away at her home laundry business and eventually achieved social and economic prominence in her little village.  In 1885, she had a new house constructed on the property that she had bought.  She never learned to read or write, but her children did.  Her youngest daughter, Ellen, studied dressmaking, a skilled trade, and became a live-in dressmaker.  Ellen was married in 1891, and her mother hosted a reception and dinner for 75 guests.  Three months later, Mary Hafford died of dropsy.  I imagine Ellen Hafford Thompson and wonder what stories she might have written about her life in the Little House where she lived.  I have a burning question: what happened to her older sister, Ann, who is conspicuously absent from all records from the mid-1880s on?  Did she die?  If so, why isn’t she buried next to her father & mother?  Did she go into a convent?  Did she elope with a Lutheran?  The mystery remains unsolved!

Mary Hafford’s family has died out; she had one grandson who went into the priesthood, and there her bloodline was cut off.  My children have 2 Irish great-grandmothers, one on my side and one on their dad’s side.  Marion Minto Keefe (possibly O’Keefe originally) was my grandmother.  Mabelle Claire Mahanna was my husband’s grandmother.  I used to wake them up on St. Paddy’s Day with “Top o’ the marnin’ to ya, dear!” at which they’d groan and ask me if I was going to talk in that fake accent all day.  The groans subsided at the thought of the corned beef dinner I always made.  I remind them now of their heritage via text message and think wistfully of the hint of green in their eyes — two daughters with brown eyes flecked with green, and my two middles, boy and girl, with blue-green-gray eyes.   I hope that green will remain on the land and in the eyes of its people for many years. (For a beautiful reading of an Irish Blessing poem, by a real Irishman, visit my friend Jamie’s blog here.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

How did people in the northern land of Wisconsin stay warm through those hard winters in the 19th century, without electric blankets, natural gas furnaces or radiators?  Wood fires, wool, fur and the sauna…naturally.

Seems pretty simple to me. 

(In response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

Oh, boy.  What a theme for a museum geek!  In case you’re new to this blog, let me tell you that I work at 2 museums, one being a living history museum featuring 60 historic buildings depicting 19th century immigration to Wisconsin.  In addition to that, my partner Steve & I sell books and other items gleaned from estate sales.  We have quite an eclectic collection of various ‘relics’ of the 20th & 21st century in our home.  Currently, the very home that we are renting – a duplex built in 1905 – is undergoing extensive upgrading: electrical system, roof, and paint so far.  I am surrounded by relics, and I’m always looking for more!  So….what to feature?

Perhaps a crumbling lime kiln I found at High Cliff State Park.  It was in operation from 1870 -1956 on the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago….

relic 1

Maybe Steve’s hiking boots – they’re not really that old, but they got a lot of wear last year when he worked as a mail carrier for the US Postal Service…

relic 2Or how about this corner of our living room, where we display some of our favorite oddities…

relic 3

Actually, my very favorite photo for this theme isn’t one I took.  It’s one someone else took of me.  Old World Wisconsin runs a photo contest every year, and the first year I worked there, a photo of me won Best In Show.  The featured relic in the photo is the 1839 Cathedral of the Diocese of the Territory of Wisconsin – St. Peter’s Church.  The pump organ/harmonium/reed organ is from 1890.  The stations of the cross are lithographs made in Germany between 1875 and 1900.  The photographer is Jay Filter, and he gave me permission to feature his photo on my blog in 2012.  Here it is again:

St. Peter's Church at Old World Wisconsin.  Photo by Jay Filter

St. Peter’s Church at Old World Wisconsin. Photo by Jay Filter

Yup, that photo is a real winner.  Can’t claim it as mine, but it sure fits this theme!  Thanks, Jay!