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Friday, April 6, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 29mar25012

Learning to respect Indigenous wisdom

SCOTT ORTMAN … The Tewa-speaking 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 week 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 prove the central clues to solving one of the long-standing 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.

DAVID GLYNN … Kudos to “Indian” for calling the bluff of Denver prosecutor Marley Bordovsky, who had to apologetically dismiss the case against him for his stepping in when police attacked an Occupy encampment in Denver recently. It’s just like the Ophir resident and long-time Tellurider to stand up for civil justice. We should be proud to have citizens like Glynn in our midst, unafraid to speak truth to power.

STEERS QUEERS … And Everything In Between … That was the name for the rollicking benefit for Tami Graham at the Mancos Opera House last weekend. 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!

WEEKLY QUOTA … “The task of a novelist is to deepen mystery, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind.” –Flannery O’Connor


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

Their antlers tinged
with a touch of auburn
Enjoying the willows

fiery riverbottom flush
before climbing Dallas Divide
to the evergreens

Spruce Piñon Ponderosa
Hard choices
even for transplants

taking leave of
the Uncompahgre’s
mountains & streams

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