Siouxland Observer


Monday, January 11, 2016

Martin’s Backyard — Occupation

Martin Montgomery Sr. lived in Northern California.  A Native American, he never talked much about his people.  Whether anyone knew his heritage — whether he was Northern Paiute, Washoe or from another tribe — I do not know.  I simply  remember seeing him in downtown Chico.  Chico was mostly white back in the 1970s, and seeing this sage-like man all over town somehow captured my heart.

When he moved into my apartment complex on Cherry Street we became friends.  I helped him with life sometimes.  I still remember getting angry once with a doctor when Martin stayed in Enloe, the local hospital, for an illness.  I helped Martin navigate his stay there, but for some reason the doctor thought his hernia was a hoot.  My friend was sedated, and the doctor unprofessional.  I told him I did not appreciate the attitude.  (Not that Martin would have cared much what he thought.)

Several days later, I found Martin feeling much better.  He was talking about the “power food” his friend brought him in a mason jar.  It was brown and thick and made from acorns.  It would make him well, he said.  I asked him how his friend made it, but he wasn’t sure.  Or I forgot.  All I remember is he was out of the hospital in no time, and back on his feet.

“Looks like rain,” I said one day when we were out walking near his new place.  “I should get back.”

He looked up at the sky.  “It’s not going to rain,” he said, “the clouds are too high.”  And he was right.  He had moved into an assisted living facility by then and I often walked over there.

I got to thinking about Martin the other day as I read about the Bundy family occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.  The father, Cliven, and Cliven’s Nevada protest, is shared here.  The article about Cliven, seen in full by following this link, is a never-ending story.  What would Martin think?

I still remember the day he and I were talking, or perhaps siting silently, as we often did.  He said he could not teach me all I wanted to learn — or thought I wanted to learn.  I tried to talking him out of this notion (I am sure I wasn’t happy), but he said what he said, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Days later when I visited, there was another man sitting and talking with him, a powerful man whom I felt uneasy being with.  I got the impression he was not used to people like me (or vise versa), but on reflection, I think I was probably too tired to journey anywhere.  I was unemployed, and usually hungry.  I was thinking about returning home to Iowa.

I never did learn who the stranger was, but when I said goodbye, I let Martin know how much our friendship meant to me.  There was no sorrow in our goodbye, not really, just a melancholy understanding.  It simply “was.”  I have never forgotten my friend.  For Martin held the natural world in high regard, we both did, as many do in the Great Basin.

The Great Basin, the place Bundy and his crew believe they belong.  The place where they do whatever they want.  An area that encompasses parts of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and California.  The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has a home here, in Oregon’s high desert, and was once the Northern Paiutes’ traditional wintering grounds. 

The Northern Paiute lived on the land in light green, and could travel south, past Washoe territory.  (The map is from Boise Aquatic Sciences Lab, in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 legal code.)

The Northern Paiutes are not happy.  Long before the Bundy family, and the gunmen who came with them, claimed the refuge for private citizens, the Northern Paiute lived and worshiped in the Great Basin foe millennia.  In 1996, for example, a mummified corpse nearly 10,000 years old was claimed as an ancestor. 

According to The Times, a British daily based in London, the body was found in Spirit Cave in western Nevada by Sidney and Georgia Wheeler: the dry desert climate had preserved the flesh on the upper part of the body, as well as a fur robe, moccasins, and woven reed mats. 

'''We believe this is an ancestor of the Northern Paiutes,' a spokesman for the tribe said of the Spirit Cave find...."  A calm of ownership that dates back at least 10,000 years.  

To be fair, the mummified remains were also claimed by the Fallon Piaute Shoshone tribe, but the people who represents this area is obvious. Petroglyphs have also been found, and estimated, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, dated August 15, 2013, to be 14, 800 years old. Scientists can't say for sure, of course, who carved them, but locals know.

On January 9, 2016, in response to the Burns-Paiute Tribe's news conference, and Harney County residents' public meeting, Governor Kate Brown issued a news released.

“To members of the Burns-Paiute Tribe and residents of Harney County who seek a return to normal life: I hear you,” Brown said in her news release, “and I agree that what started as a peaceful and legal protest has become unlawful.  It was instigated by outsiders whose tactics we Oregonians don't agree with. Those individuals illegally occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge need to decamp immediately and be held accountable.”

The day before her news release, the occupiers got an earful, according to The New York Times. But even the ranchers spoke up.

How ranchers get to use their lands, and how much government should play a role in that question, was a central theme,” Kirk Johnson reported in The New York Times.

'' 'We need to get together and stand up,' said Erin Maupin, a rancher.  'I just want to let people know that no use is misuse.' ''

But there really isn’t a contest between overgrazing and what the Puiate people call "puha," or power, a traditional belief that everything in the universe has a life force. 

It is easy to see.  Yes, a man who believes acorn gruel can heal, and return a life force to him, is unique in the modern world.  But who will dispute this belief?  A medical doctor who cannot understand, or perhaps men with guns? 

The New York Times said it best, ''…saying that the protesters, in demanding that the federal property at the refuge be returned to ranchers who once owned it, were ignorant of history. If anyone should get the property back, they said, it should be them. Their ancestors were roaming the still wild and empty reaches of what is now called the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge perhaps as long as 15,000 years ago.

'' 'Don't tell me any of these ranchers came across the Bering Strait,' said the tribal chairwoman, Charlotte Rodrique. ''We were here first,'' she added in a news conference on the reservation. ''We'd like the public to acknowledge that.

“Other tribe members, in even harsher denunciation..., said the protesters were a public menace and an insult to the local people.

'''We as Harney County residents don't need some clown coming in here to stand up for us,' said another tribal council member, Jarvis Kennedy, asked about the protest group's leader, Ammon Bundy….''

Simply, he wanted them all to go home.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Mozart and Steppenwolf

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather it makes things visible”—Paul Klee (1879-1940), Swiss-born artist.

In a novel popular at Cal State Chico in the 1970s, Carl Jung's collective unconscious took center stage.  A protégé of Sigmund Freud, Jung believed a man’s inner self harbored both Anima and Animus: the feminine as well as the masculine.  

In "Steppenwolf," Herman Hesse, a popular German-Swiss author, explored this idea, in part, when his protagonist, Harry Haller, “rejected” Hermine, his Anima figure (the feminine side of his unconscious). 

According to historical accounts, Hesse’s second marriage had tanked, and like the character in his book, Hesse struggled with depression, or as Haller called it, the struggle between laughter and the more ugly side of human nature, the Wolfe der Steppen (which Steppenwolf explored in their rock music).  

Thus, the interplay between conflicting realities (and emotions) creates a struggle between good and evil, and through it all, according to the novel, music offered an escape.

The music recommended, however, wasn't Steppenwolf (not available at the time, of course), but Mozart.  In fact, Mozart was “immortal, " according to Haller.  But readers were also left with the impression that by entering the so-called "Magic Theatre" (For Madmen Only!), a better understanding of life followed.  Haller's guide on this journey was a Jazz musician named Pablo.

“Steppenwolf" was first published in 1927, and the cavalier treatment of Hermine’s death, where life is a journey, and death a game to reach the perfect state of being, cannot be marginalized.  But for many “baby boomers,” who were born just after Hitler died, the quest to find, and accept ones' Anima (or Animus) played out in the novel like a modern-day Bible story.  And for some, the novel’s obsession with Mozart pushed classical music to the fore.

Unfortunately, Mozart does not come easy.  Boys, for example, don't “do” Mozart, and a reporter still remembers his struggle accepting the sissy music, even after years of Mendelssohn and Beethoven.  Without even listening, Mozart's music was just too dainty.

In truth, however, it can be hard hitting and personal. His Piano Concerto No. 20, for example, is cringe-worthy (it was certainly written with an individual in mind — possibly after a row with his father).

Interestingly, one definition of Animus is hostility (reflected in the killing of Hermine).  Thus, conflicting doubts about Mozart, and the avant-garde, created a rage that Haller struggled with on his journey. After all, Mozart is for wimps (how can he be divine?), and certainly this frustration is why Haller sought to destroy Hermine — at least to a Midwestern thought process anyway. 1 

Then there was the wild, jazzy lifestyle Pablo showed him — more masculine, yes, but a sure ticket to hades, according to many at the time.  

“I understood it all,” Haller said after "killing" Hermine.  “I understood Pablo.  I understood Mozart, and somewhere behind me I heard his ghastly laughter. …  One day I would be a better hand at the game.  One day I would learn how to laugh.  Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.”

The death of Hermine was troubling, and the book controversial.  But the "Magic Theatre" was symbolic of a troubled man's emotional and mental struggle.  Simply, there was no "real" murder (although, in reality, Jung believed that dream states such as Haller's could indicate a real homicidal personality).

Today, of course, Jazz is not seen as it once was, and Mozart's music is for men too.  Still, it is not easy to sit through, or listen to, an entire Mozart piano concerto. And for those in doubt, the one shared here is good, but difficult. The encores are remarkable too, but just try watching the entire video.... 2

Or as Klee, the Swiss-born artist said in German, Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar. Buyer beware, the Wolfe der Steppen will not be able to understand the music.

1 It should be noted that individualization, often absent in German Pietism (the religion of Hesse’s family and native Swabia), was a luxury Hesse had to fight for as a young man. Some writers, Christoph Gellner on a web post, for example, have written the possible genesis behind the biblical character, Cain,  shows a radical flight against repression (an original rebel as it were). 

Thus it has been theorized, Hesse, standing against the mind numbing repression of individuality found in Pietism, created his life and works.  The “evil” of Jazz and its “lifestyle,” thus, could well be fictional motive for murder to a man torn between the divine of Mozart, and the “degenerative” nature of Jazz. As history has shown, Hitler, and others, had a problem with "degenerate art,” and even the corresponding lifestyle found in Jazz saloons. 

2 This performance is remarkable, but unfortunately it is constantly shut down.  If gone again, due to "multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement," hopefully a copy will be posted legitimately (this YouTube video, for example, ends before the conclusion of the second encore, but is very high quality).  Another, which is not, is complete.