Atypical Native American perspectives

…on Indian and European cultures past and present, and on racism/mascot controversies.  Food for thought!


I am not an “Anglo”

A way to insult both the Irish Catholic in me and the Native American in me would be to call me an Anglo!  I don’t care if my first language is English or my skin and hair are relatively light!

Ironically, I found out a couple years ago that I am 1/4 English by ancestry.  But I wasn’t raised with it, and although I’ve learned alot about America, Canada, law, history, literature, etc., via British stuff, I grew up too Irish Catholic to be comfortable with that.  What happened, I presume, is that my Episcopalian grandmother married my Irish Catholic grandfather, but was apparently not very religious, and of course their kids were required to be raised Catholic.  Plus, I think in those days “the mother’s side” was degraded in family-culture or identity alot.  Therefore, I only learned it recently as a factoid that doesn’t fit well with the rest of me, and doesn’t do anything for me.

Even funnier is that I think we actually talked more about Indian stuff than Irish stuff, when *I* was growing up — my mother and I, anyway … she’s the part-Indian.  The Irish stuff was there enough to influence me culturally, though not much because ‘we couldn’t afford any culture’!!  For that matter, we didn’t talk too much about Indian stuff either.  (My family … don’t ask!!)  Mom’s grandmom also said her dad was Welsh, but we didn’t have much grasp of Welshness in the ’70s, or I guess not even the ’40s.  I didn’t really become aware of Welshness until the nationalist movement started getting U.S. media attention in the ’70s-80s, though that wasn’t much either!

Just don’t call Michael J. Fox “chicken” … and don’t call me Anglo.  Yo soy ingles un poco … pero no soy “anglo”!

IQ and Thanksgiving

I just read here about Inuit (Canada Eskimo) traditional knowledge being called (in the Inuit language, Inuktitut) Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or IQ.  LOL!  That’s so cool!  I know *I* couldn’t pass this IQ test!!!  Hell, if what we laughably call civilization collapsed tomorrow, I’d probably unknowingly eat some noxious weed growing out of the ground and croak!  That’s right, we’ve all been “taught” how to survive in a supermarket – or worse yet, McDonald’s – and Heaven forbid we should ever find ourselves without one!  Seriously, we should all learn some Native knowledge about wherever we live, in case we need it someday;* we probably need it NOW!  It might help us more to “walk lightly over the earth.”

(*–Interestingly, it took the Peanuts gang to remind many of us that when Squanto, one of the last Patuxet Indians after a British smallpox epidemic devastated “New England” and the Maritimes, taught the Plymouth “Pilgrims” and Co. how to survive in their accidental new home in Massachusetts [vs. New York], he was passing on to them the traditional knowledge of his by-then-dead village nation, something not done lightly by Indigenous Peoples today because they usually end up regretting it.  Had he not done so, the colonists might have died, or abandoned the colony.)


Weird names, not just Black after all

this piece from Salon (you can tell I’ve just been there) reminds us.  Although the author should’ve come across the fact that even the ancient Romans sometimes named their children numbers after their birth order – Secundus/a, Quartus, Quintus, Septimus, Octavius – which sounds alot more impressive if you don’t know Latin – Second, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth…!  (I’d give in to the temptation to claim that Augustus and Julius Caesars were named after months, but of course it’s the other way around!!)  The only thing weirder is George Foreman and his five sons named George.  But understanding the “weird Black name” phenomenon as liberating, yeah, I get that.

Electa, Valantine, and Zebedee are religious names: one or more of St. John’s Epistles were formally addressed to a parish he called the Lady Electa (ie, Chosen, or perhaps Elect, ie, predestined, from Calvinism); Zebedee was father of the Apostles Sts. James and John; and Valantine is just Valentine, the early Christian martyred bishop and patron saint of February 14.

I think I can understand “unique” names (though the Orthodox Church usually insists on Orthodox Saints’ names, for role models, Holy t/Tradition, and Heavenly intercessors for the named), but do they have to sound as ridiculous as some of them do?  Worse, they often defy English-language spelling conventions, as an old radio hand leaving some doubt as to pronunciation, with or without apostrophes, post-initial capital letters, or strings of consonants without a vowel where needed (outside of Polish, of course!).  (And as an Irishman, I must insist that the correct spelling of one common name or name-particle is Sean! 😉  Though I was impressed to meet a young lady named Shavaun, which is simply Siobhan with the spelling anglicized!  Tho I didn’t realize it until I sounded it out in my head … a problem with innovative spellings.)  In any case, is a name truly “unique” simply by changing one letter?  Computers think so, but I don’t know….

As for Arabic-language names, it’s no big deal in itself, though of course alot of people these days have issues with the religion usually suggested, Islam.  Senator Obama’s name, of course, came from his father, a lapsed Muslim who still wanted his kid named after him.  (My legal name is similar in that respect.)  His native Kenya’s Muslim population, like that of other near-Sahara countries, continues to grow.  (But its Orthodox population even faster!)  But critics seem to forget that King Hussein of Jordan was a great friend of the United States; OTOH, Hussein was Saddam’s last name, not his first name … and neither the king nor the future President were named after him!!!  It just happens to be a relatively common Arabic name in various spellings.  For that matter, as Obama has reminded us, (Ehud) Barack was an Israeli prime minister – so I guess it goes both ways, eh?!!

Some of these names are, or seem like, surnames, being used as given names.  This practice of course is well-known in the White Protestant community, though even Catholics have been known to use them for middle names though rarely first names, like John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Speaking of English Protestants, let’s not forget Praisegod Barebones, and another 17th-century Puritan whose given name was – I swear I am not making this up – “Christ Died To Save Us.”

What’s unfortunate about “Luxury Latch-on” names is that increasingly the original corporate names themselves are totally made up words, and not real names at all, rendering the personal names based on them a second-generation phenomenon, or twice-removed from the real world.

Orencio sounds Shakespearean, like those fake Italian names some of his characters had.

Other than that, my biggest concern as someone who hopes to acquire naming rights over someone someday in the not-too-distant future, is how they’ll deal with the name for the rest of their lives … something that doesn’t seem to enter into as many other parents’ or would-be parents’ minds as I would expect.  Was their own childhood so long ago?  Not longer than mine in most cases, except maybe Dave Letterman and Donald Trump….  But I figure weirdness is for nicknames, totally optional, appearing in no government databases or legal documents (unless they’re in the Mob of course).

“My friends call me Xfrkgyuip.”
“Gee, that’s interesting. Why do they call you that?”

And so on.

Then again, since I learned it, I’ve always thought the Irish Gaelic name for Wednesday, Ceadaoin (Céadaoin), pronounced something like kay-DEEN, would make a pretty girl’s name: hmm, Céadaoin Ó Faoláin….**  [As for its meaning, “First Fast-day,” it refers to the ancient Christian (and continuing Orthodox Christian) practice of cutting-back on food on most Wednesdays of the year; Fridays also, Aoine, meaning simply “Fast-day,” suggesting the Irish didn’t do Wednesdays at first.]  And speaking of Irish names, I dislike the growing trend of giving girls Gaelic boys’ names: Murphy Brown, McKenzie Phillips, even Phelan, an English form of my last name.  I suspect these parents (or writers) aren’t aware that these Irish (or Scottish) surnames are based on (in most cases) ancient men’s given names … witness the constant attention in Irish surname / family history recitations to the supposed derivation of the surname, as faolan, little wolf, rather than the more real and relevant reference to an eponymous ancestor!  There’s also Rory Kennedy, an almost unforgivable sin considering that the last reigning High King of All Ireland bore that name, Rory (Roderick) O’Connor, King of Connacht – variously spelled Ruaidhri, Ruairi.  (Also because she didn’t marry me! 😉  )

But by all means visit this site the Salon writer points to.  It’s so funny you just might cure cancer!  I laughed so hard I cried and had a coughing fit, probably the hardest laugh of my life, no kidding!

(I remember the Black comic who told us a couple years ago about the crap he took for “fighting the good fight” and then turning to dating White women for a while, before again reversing himself.  “A Loqueeda makes up for two Megans and a Becky.”)

(**–Though in proper Irish she’d have to be Céadaoin ní Fhaoláin.)


Orthodox vision of human rights?

Last week the quadrennial Council of all Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church from throughout the world promulgated a statement, The Basic Principles of the Russian Church Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights, discussed here by Interfax’ religion service.  It’s been a topic of discussion and continuing work since the release of the year 2000 Council’s The Basis* of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as of course ongoing human rights criticism of Russia, Serbia, and some other Orthodox and neighboring countries, the spread of the U.S./NATO/EU eastward into the former Warsaw Pact and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, and threatening in Belarus and Mongolia, as well as notable contradictions in Western human rights and election practices itself.  It doesn’t seem available on the Web in English yet, but Interfax emphasizes its confrontation with what some Russians, using a term echoing the “militant atheism” reference to Communism, are now calling “militant secularism”:

According to the authors of the Orthodox vision of human rights released Thursday, “blasphemy shall not be justified by the rights of artist, writer or journalist.” Under the pretence of human rights protection, civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilization{s}” and the human rights protection “should not {be used cynically to} serve interests of certain countries.”

The right to education provides for gaining knowledge with a view to cultural traditions and visions of a family and a person. Most world {cultures} are based on religion, therefore, any comprehensive education and upbringing should include the basics of religion which created the culture where such person lives,” the Basics read.

The document also states that private life, vision and people’s will should not be subject to “total control”. “Manipulation of people’s conscience and choice by government agencies, political powers, economic and information elites is dangerous for the society. It is also unacceptable to collect, concentrate and use information on any aspects of person’s life without his/her consent,” the Basics’ authors believe.  {Corrections, emphases, and clarifications Tiernan’s.}

Of course, most Russians living today well remember the abuses alluded to in the last paragraph!  I can’t endorse it without seeing it in detail, but I commend its reading, at least, to all of us who seek to deal rightly with Eastern Europe, the Orthodox World, and ultimately the whole Two-Thirds World.

(*–Sometimes translated as Bases, the plural of Basis.)


Two Africas

Speaking of ancient North Africa, haven’t there always been Two Africas,” at least throughout recorded history – a Northern part in contact with Europe and the Middle East, and a Southern part not so much?  This isn’t “race” or genetics or class or wealth, just the intersection of geography and cultures.  Certainly Northern Africa itself was in more touch with southerly peoples than Europe and Western Asia were.

I’m somewhat familiar, but not enough to know where exactly to draw the line.  Mauritania / Sahel / Ethiopia / Horn of Africa?

And it’s not like one was “better” than the other, any more than ancient Western Europe’s “barbarians” were “better” than Eastern Europe’s, or Iroquois were “better” than Salish, or whatever.  Africans had empires all over the continent – if that’s a good thing(!).  Remember the original Zimbabwe?  “Recorded history” has known about the more-northerly ones longer because writing AFAWK started around there, the Near East and all.  Before “the winners wrote the histories,” the writers wrote them!

It’s a big continent, and it’s definitely not a single country, no continent can be.  (Australia is the exception that proves the rule … or something … because the English settlers did that, without consulting the Aboriginal Australians.)  Does stereotyping it do anybody good?

Just wondering.


A New Mother England Taking Over

As in “John Cleese Letter to U.S. Citizens.”  Yes, apparently it’s fake, but I just had to read through this whole thing so now you do too!  Actually the longest, the version I only first saw today here,* is the funniest and most enjoyable (apparently some Yanks – or fake Yanks? – haven’t done enough traffic circles to appreciate Brit humour!); fortunately it’s near the top of the Snopes column, so you can dispense with the rest if you like.

(*–A good Philadelphia Lawyer AND a monarchist; now that’s irony for ya!)