[Marxism] Lone Burro Anthros
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 11 06:40:09 MDT 2004
Note by Hunter Bear: The Indians of California were among the many almost
countless Native groups in the Hemisphere hit with devastating consequences
by the "Conquest." Openly sanguinary genocide, the Gold Rush, Euro American
diseases, and much more thinned their ranks and ways, sometimes into
extinction. But, like almost all of us, they resisted -- initially, to
quote the Kiowa author, Scott Momaday, in "their own secret souls" and then
gradually much more openly and directly via education and protest
demonstrations. My oldest son, John, got his MA at 22 and immediately
worked for the Mountain Maidu for several years as Director of the
Roundhouse Council, out of Quincy and Greenville, California. Their
heaviest [and generally successful] emphasis was always justice and cultural
People like the subject of this article, John Peabody Harrington, were not
[and still are not] all that unusual in and around Indian Country. Many
[but not all by any means] have anthro backgrounds. In Northern Arizona,
when I was a kid, Dr Harold Colton of the Museum of Northern Arizona,
charted and mapped thousands of ancient Anasazi ruins in the region north
and east of Flagstaff. Some of these people were obviously unusual [and
good for them!] -- and often like their ore prospector counterparts, "lone
But they do the work of the Creator and the Native people.
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Eccentric linguist left behind priceless hoard of native history
By Mike Anton
Los Angeles Times
Few understood the significance of John Peabody Harrington's work when he
died at 77. For some 50 years, the linguist and anthropologist had
crisscrossed California and the West, finding the last speakers of ancient
American Indian tongues and writing down their words and customs.
Secretive and paranoid, Harrington was a packrat who stuffed much of his
work into boxes, crates and steamer trunks. After his death in 1961, the
papers turned up in warehouses, attics, basements, even chicken coops
throughout the West and eventually made their way to his former employer,
the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
"Six tons of material - much of it worthless," recalled Catherine Callaghan,
now 72, a linguist who sorted through the Harrington papers when they
arrived at the Smithsonian. "There was blank paper, dirty old shirts,
half-eaten sandwiches. The low point came when I found a box of birds stored
for 30 years without the benefit of taxidermy. ... But mixed in with all of
that were these treasures."
Harrington's legacy now is regarded as a Rosetta stone that unlocks dozens
of all-but-forgotten California Indian languages. The work of deciphering it
is far from over.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, backed by a National
Science Foundation grant, are transcribing Harrington's notes - 1 million
pages of scribbled writing, much of it in code, Spanish or phonetic script -
into electronic documents that can be searched word by word. The project is
expected to take 20 years.
"I very much doubt I will see the end of it," said project co-director
Victor Golla, 65, a professor of linguistics at Humboldt State University in
Arcata, Calif. "Like Harrington's original project, you do this for the
future benefit of other people."
Harrington's work has been used by California's Indians trying to establish
federal tribal recognition, settle territorial claims and protect sacred
sites from development. It also has played a crucial role in reviving
languages. The Muwekma Ohlone tribe in the San Francisco Bay Area, for
instance, is using a dictionary compiled from Harrington's research to teach
its members the Chochenyo language, which had been dead for more than 60
"They've gone from knowing nothing to being able to carry on a short
conversation, sing songs and play games. Now they're starting to do some
creative writing," said University of California, Berkeley, linguistics
professor Juliette Blevins, who works with the tribe. "We are reconstructing
a whole language using his material."
Scholars of Indian anthropology are drawn to Harrington's archive as the
definitive work of its kind. There's only one problem: His handwritten notes
are as comprehensible as Aramaic.
"It's impenetrable," said Martha Macri, director of the UC Davis Native
American Language Center and co-director of the effort to computerize
Harrington's papers. "It's too hard to read his handwriting. Few people can
tolerate looking at it for long periods of time."
Harrington pumped his subjects - often the last speakers of their
languages - for everything they knew on topics ranging from astronomy to
zoology. His papers describe centuries-old ceremonies. Medicinal traditions.
Songs, dances and games. Family histories. Even gossip.
Consider the thousands of pages Harrington devoted to the Luiseno Indians of
Southern California. Some of the material, gathered in the 1930s, is
straightforward. "Hu-ka-pish," one entry reads, "a pipe ... made of clay,
and has no stem, it is necessary for a person to lie on his back to smoke
More typical are rambling, hard-to-read descriptions of games, stories and
There's the description of a religious ceremony involving two men who slowly
dance while quickly playing flutes made from the shin bones of a deer. The
legend of a dying man who asks not to be buried and who returns to life as
an elk. The behavior of a particular black beetle that crawls away quickly
when placed in the hand of a generous man - and plays dead in the hand of
one who is stingy.
"For Harrington, it was all about getting the information down on paper, and
he lived in fear that he couldn't get it done in his lifetime," Macri said.
Harrington, born in 1884 and reared in Santa Barbara, Calif., studied
classical languages and anthropology at Stanford University and graduated at
the top of his class in three years. He turned down a Rhodes scholarship and
studied anthropology and linguistics at universities in Europe. Professors
marveled at his flawless ear. He had the ability to write down every word
said to him.
"He was able to take phonetic dictation at conversation speed, like a court
reporter," Golla said.
He returned to California to teach languages at a high school. But
Harrington had a wanderlust. He wanted to follow the ethos of anthropologist
Franz Boas, who promoted the then-radical idea that "primitive" societies
were as complex as those in Europe. As modernity overtook the West,
followers of Boas saw the preservation of Indian cultures as nothing short
of a rescue mission.
In 1915, Harrington landed a job as a field linguist for the Smithsonian's
Bureau of American Ethnology. Over the next 40 years his travels took him
from California and the Southwest to Canada and Alaska as he immersed
himself in a world that was evaporating before his eyes.
"I thought he was a little nuts at times. But I never met anybody who was so
devoted to his work," said Jack Marr, 83, a retired engineer who worked for
Harrington as an assistant, beginning as a teenager. "He'd travel into a
remote area by bus and get off and walk miles by himself to a trading post
and ask, 'Where can I find the Indians?' "
Harrington was a recluse who didn't care about money, dressed in tattered
clothing and slept on the dirt floors of his interview subjects' homes. He
rented Marr's grandmother's home in Santa Ana, Calif., and used it as a base
for several decades, turning it into a warren of papers and boxes that left
little room to walk. He had no phone and routinely would not answer the
While in the field, Harrington routed letters to his bosses in Washington
through Marr's mother, so they would bear a Santa Ana postmark and would not
reveal where he was.
Unlike others in his field, Harrington was not the least bit eager to
publicize his discoveries. Marr said Harrington once told him of a tribe in
the Sierra that had discovered the skeleton of a Spanish conquistador in
full armor in a cave. Fearful that the find would attract reporters and
other anthropologists, Harrington told Marr he had the Indians bury the body
and swore them to secrecy.
Harrington's life is full of contradictions. He was sensitive to the nuances
of native cultures, but revealed himself in his private letters as a fervent
anti-Semite. He was a workaholic who never quite finished a project. A
social misfit who had no close friends, he could charm suspicious strangers
into divulging their most profound secrets.
"He preached it to me over and over: If we didn't do this, nobody else will,
and these languages will be lost forever," said Marr, who hauled a 35-pound
recording machine powered by a car battery around the West during the late
1930s and early '40s, sometimes through mountains on horseback. "We'd be
gone for a month or two at a time, living off cases of dried beef and chili
and crackers. ... It was quite an adventure for a 17-year-old guy."
Harrington's bosses at the Smithsonian accommodated his eccentricities
because of the quality of his reports. It was only after his death that the
extent of his material became known.
It took the better part of the 1960s to bring most of the stuff together.
Managers of storage units shipped boxes of notes to the Smithsonian, seeking
unpaid rent. Forgotten stockpiles turned up in post offices about to be
The material eventually filled two warehouses. Gerald Ford was president
when work began in the mid-1970s to transfer the written collection to 500
reels of microfilm. When the job was completed, Ronald Reagan was leaving
A Smithsonian editor who worked to commit the archive to microfilm wrote, in
a 10-volume overview of the collection: "One can easily fall prey to the
'Harrington Curse': obsession."
After six months separating Harrington's papers from his dirty laundry,
Callaghan, the Smithsonian linguist, had an epiphany. "I could see myself
becoming more and more like Harrington. I had wanted to devote my life to
pure research as he did," she said.
Joyce Stanfield Perry, a Juaneno tribal leader in Orange County, Calif.,
discovered the depth of Harrington's legacy in 1994 as she and others
searched the Smithsonian for documentation to support federal recognition
for their tribe. On a dusty shelf, they found recordings one of Harrington's
assistants made in the 1930s. On them was the voice of Anastacia de Majel, a
tribal elder then in her 70s and one of the last speakers of the Juaneno
"We wept," Perry said. "It truly was like our ancestors were talking
directly to us."
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
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