Anthros -- Including Hucksters Who Malign

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Sat Apr 21 10:57:23 MDT 2001

I very much appreciate Louis' post regarding the opportunism and hucksterism
of Michael Taussig.

Of course, there are many bona fide things of wondrous and inexplicable
nature in the Creation.  I am  certainly in the front rank of those
[certainly in the very front rank of socialists!]  who will argue not only
for the validity of William James' contention that it is a "pluralistic
universe;" but also that humanity, individually and collectively, cannot be
measured in purely materialistic terms -- and that there are some things
that will never be neatly codified into blackboard formulae. Anyone, for
example, who has seen the intricate  and thoroughly bona fide healing work
of a trained Navajo medicine man -- training that involves about 17 rigorous
years -- never scoffs, and always remembers.

That prologue completed, my bone to pick at this moment, however, is with a
handful of unscrupulous anthropologists who are vigorously engaged in trying
to build reputations by defaming a great people now gone.  This is a letter
of mine that was published a couple of years ago in the Idaho State Journal:

"The mini AP story/review of Christy Turner's "Man Corn:  Cannibalism and
Violence in the Pre-Historic American Southwest," appearing in ISJ Dec. 20,
[1998] warrants comment.

Headlined "Anasazi:  ancient American cannibals?" with a sub-dash head
"Book makes a strong case tribe ate men," the story is heavily slanted
toward Turner's extremely dubious -- in fact, downright defamatory --
account and conclusions.

His book takes the peaceful Anasazi of long ago [800-900 years], dwellers in
a myriad of farming communities in Northeastern Arizona, Northwestern New
Mexico, and Southwestern Colorado and transposes them, through his peculiar
alchemic perversion of anthropology, into a veritable network of monster
creatures epitomizing, to use his phrase, "the darker side of ourselves."

I'm a recently retired professor of American Indian Studies and a
northeastern Indian [Micmac, Abenaki, Mohawk] who, because of the vagaries
of family migration, comes from Flagstaff, Arizona.

In that region -- especially east and northeast of Flagstaff -- there are
hundreds of ancient Anasazi ruins in the cedar and pinon country.  Many,
many decades ago, honorable and distinguished "lone burro" researchers such
as Harold Colton, founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona, mapped and
studied them.

He and his equally capable successors never drew anything remotely
approaching the hideous Turner-type conclusions.  Even by this time, Anglo
grave robbers seeking mythical treasures were digging up Anasazi burials --
scattering bones, artifacts, and fine art to the four directions.

As a young kid, I was often taken hunting by a much older Navajo friend of
our family.  The late Ned Hatathli, who years later founded Navajo Community
College [now Dine' College], was a traditional person, very well versed in
oral history covering many epochs.

He gave me the Navajo view of the Anasazi:  town people, farmers, artisans.
Cognizant of the ancient Navajo animosities with them, he put it simply as a
conflict between nomads and town dwellers, adding that the Anasazi
monopolized some water resources.  He obviously knew nothing of a
"cannibalistic" reputation.

The Hopis -- among the descendants of the Anasazi, whose oral histories are
very much intact, and to whose views Turner gives only transitory
attention -- have certainly never held his perceptions [and, indeed, sharply
dispute them!]

I can recount a myriad of old-time Hopi accounts of their long-ago
ancestors -- none of which carry a shred of cannibalism.  Turner's book
defames a people and a positive way of life -- now long gone.  Perhaps in
some strange way, he is seeking to reduce good people to his own view of

[Signed]  Hunter Gray      "

But the efforts by Turner and a few other  opportunistic, Machiavellian
anthropologists continue -- despite vigorous repudiation by many in the
discipline itself and certainly by all Native Americans.  There are always
people, apparently, who are willing to purchase and swim in nonsense -- even
nonsense utterly vicious in motive, thrust, and effect.

And other very sad things continue:  A very recent national [US] newspaper
story carried the fact that Anasazi burials continue to be rampantly
pillaged by Anglo graverobbers -- despite theoretically strong Federal [and
some state] protective legislation.

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray

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