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Month: April 2018

The Coward John White

The Coward John White

The failed governor of a failed colonial enterprise, sent packing from what would soon become the fabled “Lost Colony” of Roanoke, and a pretend aristocrat whose patron procured for him a bargain-basement coat-of-arms, John White was also an “important” and “renowned” artist whose “vivid” and “lifelike” images included an Algonquian woman he depicted with two right feet.  Nearly everything John White touched turned to shit. White did not lack for experience, we are told. He likely sailed aboard one of…

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The Stories We Ought to Tell

The Stories We Ought to Tell

I have always loved Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Her reflections on the historical enterprise in which we all are engaged inform in ways great and small what I try to do in much of my teaching and writing.  “History,” she writes, “is like weather, not like checkers.”  A board game comes to an end, but the weather, “in its complexity, in its shifts, in the way something triggers its opposite, just as a heat…

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Native Lives Matter

Native Lives Matter

One of the items students in my Indian Law class will be reading for next week’s classes is the Lakota People’s Law Project study, Native Lives Matter.  A number of disturbing figures leap out.  “Although Native youth are only 1 percent of the national youth population, 70 percent of youth committed to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as delinquents are Native American, as are 31 percent of youth committed to the BOP as adults.” “Native men are admitted to…

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The Sins You Forget Can Never Be Forgiven

The Sins You Forget Can Never Be Forgiven

And the sins you forget, you may commit again. Are there historical sins that can never be forgiven? Are their historical crimes so great that the guilt can never be washed away? Last week a story appeared in the New York Times  announcing that the “Holocaust is Fading from Memory.” Many adults, according to a recent survey, “lack basic knowledge of what happened—and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18…

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The Allure of the Archives, and the Accompanying Responsibility

The Allure of the Archives, and the Accompanying Responsibility

I recently finished reading Arlette Farge’s The Allure of the Archives. It’s a beautiful little book, written originally in French, translated into English by Thomas Scott-Railton. Farge’s journey into the archives brought her into contact with the denizens of 18th century Paris, ordinary men and women who entered the historical record only because they found themselves dragged before authorities as accusers and victims, witnesses or perpetrators. They came to advocate for their cause, to protect or recover their property, to…

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