Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at hunterbear.org
Sun Jul 11 12:12:26 MDT 2010


A few weeks ago, I dug into an old file in my little office and took out two century old photographs. Eldri had them copied in town -- and I sent those off to a very pleased recipient acting on behalf of a very good cause.

The good cause is the William James Centennial.  Here is its basic announcement -- commemorating and honoring one of the key philosophers [and a founder of the field of psychology] in this country's history and a man whose splendid all-around social sensitivity reached out to a small American Indian child a long time ago.

Conference Announcement
In the Footsteps of William James, a Symposium

. for honoring-and making use of-

William James

The William James Society (http://wjsociety.org), in cooperation with the Chocorua Community Association and Harvard's Houghton Library, is planning a long-weekend symposium, August 13-16, 2010, to honor the life of James on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. In the spirit of James, the symposium, "In the Footsteps of William James," will be an opportunity to explore the local settings of James's life and to reflect on James's ability to encounter experience afresh and approach problems creatively.

The symposium will be held in two places: in Chocorua, NH, and Cambridge, MA . . .

Many acquainted with our family are aware that my father, a Native originally named Frank Gray, was adopted as a small child and partially raised by William Mackintire Salter and Mary Gibbens Salter -- prominent New England liberals.  William Salter, trained in philosophy [still considered a leading authority on Nietzsche], was a courageous and dedicated social activist on a number of critical [and controversial] fronts over many decades. [Among other things, he was a key and enduring advocate on behalf of the martyred Haymarket anarchists and their families, a signer of the Call to Organization of the NAACP in 1909, was active in the Indian Rights Assocation, and a sparkplug for what became the American Civil Liberties Union.]  

But he was not suited for fatherhood and my Dad's adoption was in some respects an almost train wreck. [Mary Salter was a kind and loving person.]  The one -- and it was a major one -- silver lining in my father's experience in that setting was the presence of William James -- brother-in-law of the Salters -- who lived next door to them at Chocorua, New Hampshire where they all often summered and close by their home at Cambridge, Massachusetts.  William James and his whole family -- including his children -- were strong friends of Dad's and provided an enormous amount of personal support for him. James was especially interested and encouraging in my father's self-developed art abilities.  A day or so before James' death at Chocorua, my father and William Salter visited James.  Dad always remembered the final words of support given him by the dying philosopher and the fact that James remained very cheerful.  In time, the James estate provided the funds which enabled my father -- who had had no high school work -- to go to the Chicago Art Institute and secure a B.A. in fine art.  Later, Dad secured two graduate degrees from the University of Iowa. My father always maintained his American Indian and tribal identities and commitment, working for decades on behalf of Native students and tribal nations. Much of this saga is on our website via:  http://hunterbear.org/James%20and%20Salter%20and%20Dad.htm

Our family's view of William James has been as positive as our view of William Salter was essentially negative. For many years, the framed photos of each hung on our wall at Flagstaff in glass-encased frames.  And then one winter night, with pitchy pine burning in the fireplace, my often temperamental mother yanked Salter off and smashed him into the wall.  Before she swept up the glass, she threw his photo into the small inferno. William James remained quite safe. [I eventually gave that film portrait to my brother-in-law, Arnold Johanson, then chair of Philosophy at Moorhead State University who had secured his PhD at Yale with a specialization in William James.]

Even as a smaller kid, I'd been interested in James' writings and Salter's social justice advocacy.  When, at the beginning of 1955, and just turning 21, I got out of the Army after a full hitch, my intellectual horizons were broadening fast.  When home on visits, I spent a good deal of time reading in the many James and Salter books -- which had wound up with my parents.  In time, my father suggested I take them all personally [along with all of his adoption and related legal papers] and I did so -- and, having survived many moves, all of those are right here with us in Idaho.

And, in time, though not really until May 2003 when I gave the annual Founder's Day address at the Chicago Humanist [Ethical Culture] Society -- which had been directly founded by Salter -- I myself quietly buried the hatchet and made my peace with the ghost of the man whose memory had been, for us, negative -- and for so long a "burning scar".

As I've written:

For my interracial parents and myself and my two younger brothers, in a
small and isolated town in Northern Arizona, the many Salter books in our
family library -- and those by William James, his father [Henry], and his
brother [Henry] which were initially given to the Salters -- were, I have
come to realize, far far more important and enduring than I had once
grasped.  Salter's great courage and commitment played a key role -- along
with our other activist forebears -- in stimulating my parent's social
justice endeavours in Flagstaff [a town with considerable racial segregation
including "No Indians or Dogs Allowed" signs on many restaurant doors].


The man to whom I sent the two photos -- each dated August 1911 -- showing my 13 year old father with William and Mary Salter at their home at Chocorua, was, as I say, most grateful.  He's in charge of setting up an exhibit depicting Chocorua in the Old Time -- when the James and Salter families were a significant part of the scenery.  [We tried to scan the two photos for this message -- but the scanner is, as so often the case, "on the blink."]
He wrote:

Hello Hunter,

The photos arrived!  They are wonderful pictures.  I appreciate you sending them very much.   The photos appear to have been  taken in front of the house on Route 16...located next to the James home...is this correct?   And this property was called "Hill Top" from what I know.  Is this your understanding?   

Thank you for your kindness.

Best wishes,


And I responded:

Dear Kent:

Thanks much for your note.  Glad the photos got there OK -- one never knows in these turbulent times -- and I am delighted you like them.  I was certain you would.  I think you are accurate in your location of the Salter home, which was always called the Hill Top, and it's always been my understanding that it was next to the James house.

By all means, let's keep in touch.

And again, we are very pleased that the photos which we've carefully kept for decades are now, in their high tech incarnation, back where they began.

There is certainly purpose in the Cosmos.

Our very best,


Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk 
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´ 
and Ohkwari' 
Our Hunterbear website is now more than ten years old.
It contains a vast amount of social justice material -- including
grassroots activist organizing. Check out http://hunterbear.org/directory.htm

See Outlaw Trail: The Native as Organizer:
[Included in Visions & Voices: Native American Activism [2009]

And See: Forces And Faces Along The Activist Trail:

See: Culture Heroes: Gray Lands And Gray Ghosts:  The Time Of Flint:

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