May 2012

Learning to respect indigenous wisdom

By Art Goodtimes

SCOTT ORTMAN … The Tewaspeaking pueblos near Santa Fe have always claimed ancestry from the ancient peoples the Apache called “Anasazi” – those ancient ones who vanished rather abruptly from Mesa Verde and Chaco around 800 years ago. It’s taken careful work by Dr. Scott Ortman to sort through the web of conflicting anthropological theories, disjunctive material artifacts and complex linguistic, cultural and genetic clues to find a scientific validation for what the indigenous Tewa people have been telling us all along about their ethnogenesis, i.e., where they came from … His Telluride Unearthed lecture at the Telluride Historical Museum last month laid out his case quite elegantly. And his prize-winning new book (derived from his Ph.D. thesis) assembles all the intricate details – “Winds from the North: Tewa Origins and Historical Anthropology “(Univ. of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2012) … For years anthropologists were mystified because, although there was a sudden population increase in the Rio Grande region right around the time Mesa Verde was depopulated, none of the cultural artifacts from Mesa Verde culture (pottery styles, architectural styles, etc.) appeared in Rio Grande culture. Ortman painstakingly delves into the concepts of inheritance and ethnic groups, synthesizing methods and data from the four subgroups of anthropology – ethnography, linguistics, archaeology and physical anthropology. He untangles the presuppositions of previous scholars and brilliantly weaves a landmark story of migration and social transformation, and in the process rewrites our understanding of the history of this place … And in the end, it’s the mythic tales of the Tewa that provide the central clues to solving one of the longstanding mysteries of Southwestern studies … If you missed the lecture and have any interest in the culture that preceded us here in the Four Corners, get a copy of the book. It’s not cheap, nor light reading. But Ortman is one of those new breed of scientists who write clearly and convincingly, so that both lay readers and specialists can follow his crafted arguments and startling hypotheses. “Winds from the North” is sure to become a Southwestern classic.

THE TALKING GOURD

Taking Leave

-for Charlie Richmond, well-loved
GMUG forest supervisor, bumped up
to D.C.

Too soon
for the San Miguel
Canyon narrowleaf

to put on flesh
So we start with
the bare-bone grays

of the Gambel oak
& the sunbleached
Cottonwoods

Their antlers tinged
with a touch of auburn
Enjoying the willows

fiery riverbottom flush
before climbing Dallas Divide
to the evergreens

Spruce Piñon Ponderosa
Spring may not be
here to stay

But let’s always treasure
our forest days on
the great grand Uncompahgre

 

STEERS QUEERS … And Everything In Between … That was the name for the rollicking benefit for Tami Graham at the Mancos Opera House last month. And a grand old time it was. A regional music promoter and cultural powerhouse, Graham developed cancer last fall, and found – like so many condemned by politicians to inadequate insurance (or none at all) – that even though she’s recovered, her bill for treatment was far beyond her means to pay. So, given her large community of friends, people started donating things and a big party was held to raise funds to help offset the debt … I was honored to be asked to emcee. A silent auction with tables and tables of donated goods filled the edges of the worn but impressive old hall, and kickass music and rowdy folks of all shapes, sizes and orientations danced their hearts out to the music of AfroBeat Minons, Diabolical Sound Platoon, the Lindells, John Thomas and DJ Dr. Doom. Probably the high point of the night was the dazzling performance by the Salt Fire Circus and Bare Bones Burlesque – a risqué combo of juggling, dancing, gypsy fiddle, mime, costumery and seduction … Let me say, those Mancos folks really know how to party.

EUPHEMISM … The government is always good at substituting misleading phrases for words that have a harsh ring to them. So, when I was a Vista volunteer in the Sixties, if they kicked you out of the training program (as they did several kids), you were “deselected” … I always found that pretty disingenuous … Well, Colorado State Government has invented a great neologism to describe what happens when they give you a sum of state money for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and then decide to take it back mid-year. It’s called a “Negative Supplemental” … Yeah, right!

K A R E N CHAMBERLAIN Folks from all across the Western Slope flocked to Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre Company last month, where Valerie Haugen and Lon Winston organized the second annual Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival. Bards from all over the Western Slope dazzled audiences with riveting performances by Aaron Abeyta of the San Luis Valley and Bob King of Greeley’s Colorado Poets Center, Pike’s Peak Poet Laureate Jim Ciletti, Seth & Collette of Denver with their “Triangle Man,” the soft-spoken warrior Janice Gould, the well-played David Rothman, Grand Junction’s Wendy Videlock, Fruita’s Danny Rosen, the incomparable Jack Mueller of Log Hill Village, the River City Nomads and more.

GREEN PARTY … Green Party delegates from eight chapters around Colorado assembled in Carbondale’s Third Street Center March 31 for the annual State Convention to cheer on Dr. Jill Stein and six state candidates, including a unanimous endorsement of my own candidacy for re-election. Two new chapters were accepted – one in the Pike’s Peak Region and another in Douglas County (there are currently nine active chapters in the state, including the San Miguel Greens in this county and the Southwest Colorado Greens in Montezuma County …

DR. JILL STEIN … Massachusettsphysician- turned-Green-politician is finally speaking truth to power in this country. You may not have heard her name, but you will recognize her New Deal platform ... Makes more plain sense, from what I’ve heard, than any Repub or Demcrat … Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama – the two-party see-saw makes the lifeboat bankers more secure, as it cuts loose the Titanic’s safety nets … Let’s do more than just hope for change. This time let’s put a woman in the White House who gets it and has a plan … According to Stein, the 1980s began 30 years of what she called “The Stolen Decades” in which the real wages and purchasing power of the average American worker began to flat-line, and the wages of corporate CEOs shot up dramatically. “We need major policy changes to bring economic security to the working people of America,” Stein asserted. “The fundamental flaws of an economic policy dictated by Wall Street are apparent, even if they have sometimes been masked by periods of apparent growth that were actually financed by unsustainable credit card and housing debt. Wealth that should be invested in our local economy to create jobs is being put in the hands of the superrich who build factories abroad instead. Families disintegrate while the income of the richest few surges upward. This is changing America in a way that we must not accept.”

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.