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The Onondagas and the Movies, Part II: John Big Tree

The Onondagas and the Movies, Part II: John Big Tree

On July 7, 1967, Chief John Big Tree died on the Onondaga Reservation.  Born Isaac Johnny John, perhaps in 1877 in Michigan, the Seneca actor appeared in nearly five dozen movies between 1915 and 1950.  He played a scout in “Stagecoach” along side a young John Wayne in 1939, and with Henry Fonda in “Drums Along the Mohawk,” and, again with John Wayne, in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”  That was 1949, his second-to-last film. He played Chief Pony That…

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Patterned Acts of Violence

Patterned Acts of Violence

Brooke Crews butchered Savanna Greywind.  Crews wanted a baby, and her young neighbor was eight months pregnant.  On the night of 17 August last year she lured Greywind into her home. While Savanna was still alive, and passing in and out of consciousness, she cut the child from her womb. When Crews’ boyfriend arrived, she presented him with the baby.  “This is our baby,” she reportedly said. “This is our family.” Together, they cleaned up the blood. Together they disposed…

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Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

I was raised in a Catholic household by parents who are now Unitarians.  I was never confirmed, was withdrawn by my parents from Our Lady of Assumption school after I finished sixth grade, and long ago left the church.  There is nothing that I can accept as true in the Apostles’ Creed I was expected to memorize as a child. I write this to let you know where I am coming from when I tell you I am nonetheless sometimes…

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My Imposter Story: Some Thoughts on Ralph Ketcham

My Imposter Story: Some Thoughts on Ralph Ketcham

A couple of weeks ago I attended a memorial service for one of my graduate school professors, Ralph Ketcham, who had died last spring.  A great and productive scholar and teacher, active up until the end.  A lot to admire. I wanted to finish Ralph’s final book, Public Spirited Citizenship: Leadership and Good Government in the United States, before I wrote more about my experience with him.  As in so much of Ralph’s scholarship, James Madison’s political writings, and Madison’s…

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Apologies

Apologies

This Friday is Sorry Day in Australia.  Though it has antecedents in aboriginal protest and commemoration, Sorry Day has taken place every May 26 since 1998.  It followed in its current form from a May 1997 report by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission called Bringing them Home, which acknowledged that “Indigenous children have been forcibly separated from their families and communities since the very first days of the European occupation of Australia.”  That report was tabled twenty…

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The Trump Administration Keeps Alive Fears of Termination

The Trump Administration Keeps Alive Fears of Termination

In the midst of all the other foreboding news coming out of Washington, it is difficult for me sometimes to follow Indian affairs as closely as I would like. Nonetheless, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently made some comments that caught my attention. Several weeks ago on this blog I suggested that fears of a return to Termination under President Trump are overblown.  The Indian policy of the United States for roughly the quarter-century following the Second World War, Termination included…

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On the Notorious RBG and Sherrill

On the Notorious RBG and Sherrill

Many of my friends have a great deal of affection for United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  My own enthusiasm for the “Notorious RBG,” however, is tempered by a consideration of the 8-1 opinion she wrote in the case of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation in 2005.  Today is the anniversary of that momentous decision. The Oneida Indian Nation had purchased on the free market lands within the small city of Sherrill, New York, in 1997 and 1998. …

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What You Need to Read

What You Need to Read

One of the challenges of producing a textbook in Native American History is keeping up with the enormous volume of scholarship my colleagues in history, anthropology, and archaeology produce.  It is an exciting time to work in this field, precisely because of the high quality of so much of this work.  I regularly check the tables of contents in Ethnohistory, Southern Indian Studies, American Indian Quarterly, and a host of other journals.  But here is a list of some of…

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I’m So Bored with the CSA

I’m So Bored with the CSA

On Tuesday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation stating that his state would no longer commemorate Confederate general Robert E. Lee on the federal Martin Luther King holiday.  It is a nice gesture, as far as it goes. Now only Alabama and Mississippi maintain this callous disrespect for the Reverend King by linking the commemoration of his career with that of a Confederate leader who fought against all that he stood for. The Arkansas bill had wide support.  The signing…

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I Say 1622! You Say…

I Say 1622! You Say…

Sometimes, when the semester begins, I think of that scene in “Back to School” where Rodney Dangerfield’s character encounters an unhinged history professor played by the great Sam Kinison.  It never fails to make me laugh.  Totally inappropriate for use in the classroom but, in its way, it conveys quite well that historians (and others) can disagree at times sharply in their interpretation of historical events. When I teach my own Native American History course, I try to insert as…

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