[Marxism] Respecting cultural nationalism

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Mon Aug 7 18:49:55 MDT 2006

This is an interesting article on the intertwining of culture and the  
transition of a young woman from childhood to womanhood. Those of you  
from the Trotskyist tradition may be inspired to again look at  
"Problems of Everyday Life" which describes the need to integrate the  
rather abstract ideas of Marxism with the daily lives and life cycles  
of the citizens of the USSR. If you haven't read it, you should.

My own connection is that Pauline Murillo was probably in school with  
me in grammar and junior high school  in Highland, California, a  
small community six miles from San Bernardino and near the cities of  
Redlands and Riverside. However, she must have been in a different  
grade, for I don't remember her.

We may also have in common the events that I describe below, for the  
reservation was small and the incident must have been shared.


The Press-Enterprise, August 5, 2006

Pauline Murillo recalls the day 60 years ago when she awoke with  
unfamiliar cramps.
Her grandmother and aunt dug a long hole more than 2 feet deep, built  
a fire in the pit, and then covered the hot coals with sand and a  
piece of canvas.
Gently they placed Murillo on the cloth. They covered her with a  
blanket and hot sand, placed herbs around her exposed head and  
chanted blessings over the 12-year-old girl experiencing the onset of  
It was the beginning of an all-day ritual that marked Murillo's  
passage from childhood to adulthood among the San Manuel Band of  
Serrano Mission Indians.

FULL AT http://makeashorterlink.com/?C1DE3268D   OR


June 21, 2003

It must have happened in 1948 or 1949. I was a student at Highland  
Junior High School. My mother, Dr. G. W. Shannon, was the Assistant  
Superintendent at Patton State Hospital. There were a few of us that  
lived on the grounds, but because of slight age differences, a school  
bus, and parochial school for the Gericke boys (sons of the  
Superintendent), I usually walked alone to school. It was only a mile  
away. Once in a while an Indian boy from the San Manuel reservation,  
a year or two older than I, came by on his bicycle and offered me a  
ride. I may have sat on the handlebars, but it was probably on the  
cross bar.

We weren't friends. First of all, he was older. I was in the seventh  
or eighth grade and a year young for my grade.
He lived on the Indian reservation next to the state hospital. I had  
friends from Highland that I played with and the Gericke boys lived  
across from me on the hospital grounds. And there were other children  
of doctors and bureaucrats at the large mental hospital (over 5,000  

But I liked him. He seemed very kind. I used to hike up in the hills  
and once or twice came up to the reservation. My memory may play me a  
disservice, but I think that one time I actually asked for him. I was  
firmly but I believe gently excluded. I had no idea of the level of  
poverty that was being hidden.

Then I heard a story. It seems that the bicycle rider had come to the  
school late or decided not to go into class. A younger student had  
encountered him in the dump area of the schoolyard. (In those days,  
there was an incinerator on the school grounds; I'm sure such a thing  
wouldn't be allowed today.) The story was that when the younger boy  
discovered him and went "to tell," my acquaintance threatened him  
with a knife. The consequence was reform school for my "friend."

All of this was rumor, of course--I don't know how true any of it  
was. But I never saw him again. I remember at the time that it didn't  
seem right. He was nice to me and whatever the threat was, the  
punishment didn't seem appropriate to the offense. But that's the way  
things were in the "good old days." I haven't been back to California  
in decades,* but I see now that the Native Americans of the San  
Manuel reservation have some sort of recompense in the form of a  
successful gambling establishment. I'm not a fan of gambling, but its  
comforting to know that some descendants of the original Americans  
are getting some restitution.

And I hope my friend from long ago and his relatives are sharing in it.

Brian Shannon
* I have since been back to Southern California and visited Highland,  
but was unable to personally see the transformation of the lives of  
the San Manuel Indians, which has been immense.

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