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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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Crispus Attucks, Walkingfox and me, the connection~

Crispus_Attucks

Crispus Attucks  –   “The first to defy, the first to die”
The Poem by Irish Poet John Boyle O’Reilly
Picture credit: Public Domain

 

Crispus Attucks was the first to die,  along with four others, in the Boston Massacre of 1770, which became the impetus for the American Revolutionary War.

He was born in 1723 in Framingham, Massachusetts and died on March 5, 1770 in Boston.

Although he was born a slave, he later escaped, and as a runaway slave he would become a whaler for many years, as well as a rope maker.

Standing at  6′ 2 “,  Crispus was strong and muscular and a good fit to become a whaler.

His father was Prince Yonger,  who was born in Africa and later brought to America as a slave.

His mother Nancy Attucks,  was a Natick Indian from Massachusetts,  who was also forced into slavery, she was descended from John Attucks, of Massachusetts,  who was hanged during  King Philip’s War.

Crispus had a sister named Phebe and perhaps also a brother.

This was all happening at  the beginning of the American  Revolutionary War.

” Nancy Attucks, was an Indian and possible descendant of John Attucks, a member of the Natick Indian tribe. John Attucks was executed for treason in 1676 during the King Philip War.
The word “attuck” in the Natick language means deer.”    from African-American Registry

On that eventful day in March of 1770, Attucks was at the front of a large group of Rebels, which resulted in a confrontation with British troops, that ended with him being killed along with four others.

John Adams, who would later become our second President,  would defend the soldiers who killed him, they were acquitted. This event would later be called the Boston Massacre by John’s cousin Samuel Adams.

This popular phrase was often heard after the trial, “Even a Red Coat can get a fair trial”

Attucks is buried in the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, a precedent set by him being buried with white men.

A Monument to Honor him, was erected in 1888 and stands in the Boston Common.

My vague connection to this man is:

After leaving LA and going to Connecticut to Walkingfox’s home to begin a new life, I found that he already had a wide circle of friends, from every state and every Nation in New England and these places, these names, these people, would all soon become quite familiar and important to me.

We have been to every state in New England as Walkingfox attempted to teach me about his people and their History, one of those trips was to Plymouth for  the Annual day of Mourning or as it is known in the non Native world, Thanksgiving.

We made two trips up to Plymouth for this event, before moving south to Florida. These were wonderful chances to be with others who also came to remember the History of this place. Warm people, warm memories.

plymouth1        sachem5

Left, Walkingfox at Plymouth Rock Monument and Right,  Wampanoag Moonanum James of UAINE

On that emotional day, we stood with others at the place where many captured Native  prisoners had been executed and their heads hung on posts,  in the center of the town. It was a very somber, sad day for all who stood in the frigid cold and prayed for those who had died there so long ago during the King Philip’s War.

firewomanwf       renatowalkingfox

Left, Firewoman was a Wampanoag and Right, Renato is Natick, both were very dear to us.

We have friends of the Natick and Wampanoag Nations that are referred to in this story
about Crispus Attucks, so as you can see, telling it and sharing it is all quite personal.

*One other personal footnote:
When I attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, our long time, biggest rival in Basketball,  was always Attucks High School, an all African-American school known for having the best players in our state and they nearly always beat us and made the state finals.*

 

These are some excellent places to learn more about this most special man:

African-American Registry

The Grio: Remembering Crispus Attucks

PBS:  Crispus Attucks

The Murder Of Crispus Attucks

Short and sweet, just the facts

Crispus Attucks Museum

 

 

 

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