Monday, January 19, 2009

Wounded Knee

Speaking of the NPR segment, The Writer's Almanac, the December 29 edition caught my attention and I intended to post it a couple weeks ago but never got around to. It was the story of the massacre at Wounded Knee. I knew next to nothing about this sad episode in American History, but after reading this blurb I think I need to learn more:

The Writer's Almanac--December 29, 2008

Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in South Dakota in 1890. Twenty-two years earlier, the local tribes had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed them the rights to the land around the Black Hills, which was sacred land.
But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken. People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to disappear. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance scared the white Indian Agents, and they moved in to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt.
The next leader they focused on was Sitting Bull's half-brother, Chief Big Foot. He was leading his people to the Pine Ridge reservation, seeking safety there. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia.
Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn't make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot's band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek.
The next morning, federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot.
One of the survivors was the famous medicine man Black Elk, who told his story to John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks (1932).


Many mornings on my drive in to work I catch a 3-4 minute segment on NPR called The Writer's Almanac. The piece is narrated by Garrison Keillor and is an overview of daily birthdays and events of importance to the literary world. Today's piece was a thought provoker. It ends up that today is the birthday of a novelist named Julian Barnes. I'd never heard of him. Keillor usually provides a three or four sentence snapshot of the artist along with a quote. Here's what Julian Barnes had to say:

"The secret of happiness is to be happy already."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

GENESIS-- 2009

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. Too often our best intentions are dashed by our weaknesses. I do like to establish new disciplines around calendar milestones--- birthdays, Labor Day, New Years etc. By new disciplines I mean things like new routines, new workouts, reading regiments or new work campaigns. I have to thank my colleague and friend Bruce Bergwall for the inspiration to start a new regime at the beginning of '08. It was a daily Bible reading regiment, the intent being to read the entire Bible over the course of the year. The adage that " the road to hell is paved with good intentions" was applicable in this case as the discipline stalled out a month or two in. As I approached the end of December, I thought that that effort might be worthwhile to revive. One of the problems last year is that we got a little bit of a late start --thus we were trying to play catch-up right from the start. The other problem was human weakness.

That's one of the reasons I like to try to periodically implement these new routines. Even recognizing slothful tendencies you never know what is going to stick and when a seed will sprout. This year I've even try to get an early start on the Bible reading. We'll see what happens.

The really interesting thing is that there always seems to be a new discovery even in the most familiar reading . Take the story in Genesis where Adam and Eve have just been reprimanded by God for disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Check out these verses: ( Genesis 3: 17-20)

17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Verses 19 and 20 seem incongruent. In verse 19 Adam is being told he will return to dust and right in the very next line, verse 20 we have a complete change of pace. I'm certainly not a Biblical scholar but doesn't it seem here like a patchwork of stories and with this particular verse we are transitioning to another voice or author.