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Helen Hunt Jackson

HelenHuntJackson
Helen Hunt Jackson
Picture credit: Wikipedia

 

Watching the B/W version of the 1936 film  Ramona  last night, was a double-edged sword, it was such a beautiful story of love and devotion, but it was also extremely sad.

It was wonderful at last, to see the visual of the world-famous classic on the big screen.

The film starred Loretta Young as Ramona, who is completely captivating and steals every scene that she is in.

This book and the movie, spawned an annual event  that now brings thousands to the re-creation every year.

They also did so much to express the horrors of the oppressed lives of the California Mission, actually all Indians, in America at the time and the reaction to it was immediate.

Helen Hunt Jackson,  a name that she desperately tried to have removed from her writings,  as she believed it was ” rude ” to keep a former marriage name, was to become the most famous/infamous American female writer of her time, in spite of the fact that she chose a highly unpopular, even dangerous subject:  civility towards American Indians by the US Government.

One of the things that she did,  that made her unforgettable and evermore endearing to me,  was her brazen delivery to every single member of Congress,  a copy of her Cultural/Political blast,  A Century of Dishonor.

This single act made her an instant enemy to nearly every politician in America.

Her hope was that this book would expose the wrongs and help to correct them.

When this failed to achieve her goals, she went to California and became entrenched in Native life there long enough to learn all that she needed to write an even more important work that WOULD finally achieve her goal.

She wrote Ramona!

 

But I digress, here is an earlier Biography that I wrote about her when I was taking books to the masses all over this country, to enlighten the, for the most part,  poorly, culturally educated,  general public about the truth concerning the History and Culture of Native Americans.

 

Helen Maria Fiske was born October 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Her father was a strict minister/professor at Amherst College and both of her parents died when she was barely in her teens.

She was educated at the Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Brother’s School in New York City.

Fellow classmate Emily Dickinson became a lifelong friend.

Although Jackson’s personal life was filled with tragedy, her first husband was killed and her two young sons both died, the strength of her legacy remains in her passionate writing about the maltreatment of Native Americans.

 

An excellent full length biography of her life is here.

 

The glass ceiling biographies, a wonderful place that has now gone away, wrote this about Helen:

“Helen wrote many books, articles, poems and stories, but her place in history was secured with her 2 most famous books,

Ramona, a romantic tragedy that quickly became a best-selling novel about a young California Indian couple and A Century of Dishonor, a searing exposé on the shameful treatment of Indians by the Government.

After completing it, Jackson delivered a copy to every member of Congress, chastising them with these words, written in red:

“Look upon your hands: They are stained with the blood of your relations.”

The book did not make her a celebrity, on the contrary, it was to be years efore it was appreciated or applauded by most of her contemporaries.

Jackson’ s writing was courageous and many women since have followed her example by also writing about contemptuous Indian issues.”

 

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Got Books?

Ezra_Cornell's_first_book

An Open Book
Ezra Cornell  annotated the first book he ever owned.
Image: Public domain

 

Something in my email this morning gave me cold chills.

There was a story about the ” decline of reading books.”

I clicked on it instantly and although it was happening in another country, it delivered the point quite quickly.

Children and yes, even adults it said,  are rapidly moving away from reading books.

The entire civilized world it seems, would prefer to do anything and everything on a hand-held,  electronic device of any sort, rather than read a book.

Now my introduction into the wondrous world of the written word,  began quite early, at the tender age of six months, in a playpen with my first tiny,  little book made of cloth.

It was a joyous experience and a happy habit that has lasted my entire life.

I consider books and reading to be the single most important part of any human beings education, without books, without reading, we are simply just another animal on the planet.

This one Human ability, reading,  is truly, what sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

My passion for reading compelled me to ride a  bicycle every single day as a young child, many blocks to the public children’s library in Indianapolis, where I would joyfully fill up the entire basket, take them home, devour them all and then return the next day to do it all over again.

Yes, I was a voracious reader.

This continued until I reached High School, where at last, I was finally surrounded by books everyday, as a monitor in the Reference Reading lab.

Later when I went to College,  after raising my three children, I was once again to revel in the glory of libraries, always looking for just the right book to use for one of my classes.

After College and leaving California to go live in the East, my luck and love affair with books would continue with a cultural book business, for nearly seven wonderful years.

During this time,  I had the great fortune to travel to some of the finest Universities in America with my humble little book business, and yes,  I had the enormous pleasure of being at  Cornell  several times.

At each event, I was thrilled to talk to the eager learners,  who like me, wanted to stretch their minds.

Some of my very best customers were staff and faculty at the schools.

With over 500 titles of wonderful books about Culture,  there was always something for everyone that I met.

It was to become, simply the most rewarding job/career/business of my life.

Sharing the knowledge in those books with thousands of people all over this country, who were starving for information,  was a never to be repeated, or forgotten time in my life.

I will always treasure it.

Now today, seeing this story and reading about the apparent huge decline in reading books, I am left wondering, how the world can go on, how can we as a species continue to learn and grow, if we stop reading books?

Will our descendants give up books completely, will ours be the last generation of great readers?

In the future, will we only gather information from smart phones, e-books, iPads or other?

Do we truly believe that a handheld electronic device can offer the same satisfaction as reading a “real ” book?

The current generation obviously seems to thinks so.

Living in Florida now, I wonder just how well these devices will handle lengthy power outages, Hurricanes and the like?

But, as for me, I cannot imagine, nor will ever accept, a world without books.

 

Most of the reference links below are outside of America, but is it really any different here?

The first link, in my opinion, is the most complete, as well as, the one I most related to, it is a student’s Final term paper and be forewarned, a  PDF:

America’s Decline in Literary Reading

Experts bemoan decline in classic book reading

Decline of reading a concern for e-book publishers

Decline in book reading culture

Book culture in decline

Book reading on decline

 

 

 

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April is for Pow Wow’s

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drumgroupdean1renato

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Top: Grand Entry, Middle and Bottom rows, some of our friends, dancers and drums.

 

For the past twenty years or so, this time of the year has always meant that every weekend would be spent at a Pow Wow, somewhere.

For those of you not familiar with the word, a Pow Wow, is a cultural celebration put on by Native Americans all across America.

The best place to find one,  is in your local newspaper, or online, under any of the myriad of Pow Wow listings.

Some of the finest ones that we have been to and taken part in over the years, were at Colleges all across the country from Maine to Minnesota and from California to Florida,  they are a joy to be involved in and to witness.

Most of these Native Cultural Events run from Friday thorough Sunday Evening.

The sights, sounds and smells found at a Pow Wow, are a delicious, delightful feast for the eyes, ears, and nose.

The Pow Wow incorporates much of the rich tradition and culture of the Host tribes and those who come to see it leave enriched.

Each day usually begins with a series of Native Pow Wow Customs, or Events.

First,  the head spiritual leader will begin by removing any trash or litter around or near the circle, or close proximity, then he or she, will smudge the area, while working with the fire keeper.

When this has all been finished,  the Head Veteran will begin assembling the dancers, flag bearers and others who will be coming into the circle, on the East side,  for what is called the ” Grand Entry.”

The spiritual leader will now bring the group into the circle.

Once all are assembled in the circle, the Veterans song is drummed, followed by the Flag song and lastly by a prayer.

The drum group which has been chosen for the entire weekend event, then drums for the dancers who represent many Tribes and Nations, who will follow the Veterans around in the circle and out the East side.

When this dance is finished, the Pow Wow is officially opened and the celebrations may begin.

Often, there will be Special Invited Entertainers, such as singers, flute players or dance groups, who may perform during the day with the other traditional dances occurring in between.

The day will be filled with a wide variety of dances, beginning with the Flag song, then many others will follow like,  ” the Jingle dance,”  which is a specific type of dancer’s regalia/clothing, with tiny jingles sewn on the fabric, that makes a delightful sound as the dancer moves around, and  both men’s and women’s ” Traditional dances,”  ” the Round dance,”  ” the Inter-tribals,”  then later in the evening,  many times there will be a special dance which is called the  “ Friendship dance, ”  which invites all those still in attendance into the circle to say hello to each other, or a Native ” meet and greet. ”

Some very tasty Native foods are usually on hand at each Pow Wow, from the very delicious Indian Tacos, or the ” Three Sisters ” of corn, beans and squash, to special local or regional items from an individual Tribe or Nation’s own menu.

There are of course, many vendors selling their own hand-made crafts, of leather, wood, clay, fabrics, metals and stone to share their own particular Tribal culture with you.

Often at the end of the weekend a blanket dance is done to collect money for the drum group,  who might not receive a great deal of money otherwise,  to help with their travel expenses.

After all of the goods have been sold, the dance prizes awarded and the last songs drummed, comes the closing ceremony which is a beautiful, somewhat bittersweet end to a wonderful joyful weekend for all who came.

If you have the time and the chance, I highly recommend you find a Pow Wow in your area and go have a cultural experience you are not likely to soon forget.

But, be forewarned, like the beginning of Spring and the awakening it brings to the world, your first Pow Wow may bring an awakening to your soul, and you will find yourself looking for them everywhere in the future~

 

 

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