NY Pow Wow: Thoughts On Trade And Culture

ΩΩAll across the planet, indigenous cultures are collapsing under the assault of modern industrial production.  The World Made By Hand cultures are yielding internally as well as externally to the World Made By Machine (often in foreign countries).  The odds and ends created to service the markets of the first world have exploded across the planet and taken over the ‘native culture’ parts of society, that is, tribal societies and whole continents like Africa, for example.

ΩΩEven as many cultures try to fight this torrent of modern production and modern entertainment and cultural values, they succumb to it nearly totally, perhaps, more so than ‘first world’ citizens who are tourists seeking ‘authenticity’ in say, native North American Indian cultures or Tibet.  The mix up of cultures and the internal collapse of any real social meaning or culture of these nativists societies is often both sad and amusing to watch.


ΩΩThat is, where these cultures have been defeated, the ability to protect or regain the past is turned into a caricature of its former self and yet, the nativists trying to retain the past, cannot see how their efforts are self-defeating.  We see this in all cultures such as the desire for Scots or Irish to define themselves as a unique culture, or the French Basques and Spanish Catalonians struggling to differentiate themselves from their fellow citizens while at the same time, watching the same sports, TV shows and movies and wearing nearly exactly the same, nearly uniform mishmash of ‘modern clothing’ which comes mostly out of variations of the ‘gangsta/gay/urban youth riot’ clothing of the major fashion cities (NY, Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo).  Clothing which is mainly manufactured in a few Asian centers, of course.  Then shipped abroad and consumed.


ΩΩI went to the local ‘5th Annual Rock, Rattle & Drum Pow Wow’ music festival in Stephentown, NY.  This is only 10 miles from where I live.  It was a bright, dry, sunny day.  The jet stream has been flowing over poor Pakistan this month, drenching them and the Chinese, but it has swung far to the north of NY just as it flows above the Russian plains and both we and the Russians are having a bit of a drought lately.


ΩΩThis ‘pow wow’ would have been rather fun for photographers except the performers wanted to control picture taking too much and thus, there was maybe three or four people attempting to take pictures, I being one of them.  It take some degree of being brazen to take pictures in this climate and I figured the dearth of photographers was a problem for their hopes of an audience.


ΩΩOn reservations, which are people’s private homes, the need to respect the natives who live there is great.  But to demand this in a public setting where they hoped to make money off of people borders on insanity.  Now, on to the photographs I culled from my candid shots with some direct comments:

ΩΩThere was this ‘dance ring’ where the performances took place.  Here are a family of performers going into the ring to do circle dances.  Nearly all of the costumes they wore were costumes, not reproductions of what people wore in the real tribal areas 100 years ago.  Some were more authentic than others but in the main, the materials used were quite modern and often synthetic materials made in Asia.


ΩΩThe flower design comes from post-European settlement days.  Specifically, since the mid-19th century.  As the invasion of the US continent continued and increased, the native Indians picked up the dress and art from mostly central Europe and the Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy.  Merchants sold many bolts of calico flowered cloth to the tribes who liked the effect of this material.

ΩΩHere is a candid view of a lovely young woman who is wearing a real native American Indian deerskin dress with the beadwork done very artfully and fairly true to historic records.  The beads, by the way, used in her dress are also post-1600.  That is, the European traders who wanted beaver pelts and other things from the tribes learned very quickly that they loved the bright, rainbow colors of the European-manufactured beads and these were prized trade goods.


ΩΩBefore 1500, the North American Indian palette was more ‘earth colors’ except for white and black which were used in say, pottery and treating animal skins.  And turquoise, a stone of great value which were traded across the entire continent as were sea shells which have translucent colors and interesting shapes.


ΩΩThe beads were money and so were sea shells, as far as tribes living far inland were concerned.  Porcupine quills were also popular decorative items in the northern tribal areas.  And of course, the eternal beauty of bird feathers.  The further south, the more vivid the colors with the most amazing cloaks and head dresses being made by the Central American and Andean tribes.


ΩΩBut compared to these hard-to-find native goods, European beads were relatively cheap that is, things that seemed not all that valuable (animal pelts) could gain tremendous ‘beauty items’ with minimal effort (at first, before the beavers were hounded too far).

ΩΩThis young man also strove for authenticity.  He wore very little and it was all deerskin and was constructed the ancient way.  I admired his seriousness and he seemed to be very interested in his past culture.


ΩΩHere is a head shot of another dancer.  He was all decked out and had a mix of authentic and totally out of culture elements.


ΩΩFor example, the two feathers at the top certainly are lovely but these happen to be Chinese pheasant feathers.  A number of ‘Plains Indian’ dancers had glaringly obviously out of character outfits for example, using construction zone tape for decorations.


ΩΩNow, that is amusing in a way: modern forces have taken over the tribal lands with a vengeance but then, I would hope the tribes could challenge themselves with what this means and what should be handled.


ΩΩThe top photo of the boys running around the center of the dance ring which is festooned with many flags shows the strange mental condition of these performers:  the flags are of the people who defeated them!  And this includes the US Army flag!  Many US native American Indians have fought in our armed forces and have good reason to be very proud of their work.  But it is still very strange seeing them trying to regain the past, wearing various attempts at ‘native’ costumes, dancing around the emblems of their own surrender to modern European Industrial Revolution/political power systems.  Very jarring indeed.

ΩΩAnother amusing juxtaposition:  Hawaii had an interesting culture, too, when various ships came by, the Europeans intruded more and more until there was a violent confrontation leading eventually to several more conflicts ending with the total collapse of native rule of Hawaii.  Now, it is a tourist/military base of the US empire.  Conflicts over native versus other American citizens erupt regularly in Hawaii.


ΩΩLike the American Southwest, the conflict between US native Indian tribes, Mexican and Central Americans moving northwards and the European/US population surge into hot, dry climates is causing tremendous political and cultural stresses and problems.

ΩΩThe young women here with the older lady in a corn stalk shawl are preparing to dance.  The girl in the middle was wearing nearly entirely modern synthetic material stuff, the other young girl was mid-19th century/early 20th century stuff and the lady in the shawl was striving for 16th to 17th century NE Indian gear.

ΩΩThis is a frontal shot of two people from my neighborhood, wearing more or less authentic materials (half of which are actually European, of course).  The lady, Jennifer Lee, was virtually the ONLY person there selling real native American goods!  Namely, she would harvest bark from ash, pine or birch trees and make them into baskets.  Quite lovely baskets, by the way.


Jennifer Lee – Native American Bark Baskets

ΩΩHere is a photo from her webpage showing one of her largest baskets as she walks through the woods up here.  Very well made goods!  Bravo on the research required to do this.


ΩΩBelow is the horror show of stupid ‘Native American Art’ which was the sort of junk sold by nearly every vendor there.  Note the seller who is attaching a price tag on one of the zillions of stupid ‘dream catcher’ junk being peddled by so many at this event: it shows a European style bride and groom!  HAHAHA.  Ridiculous and inevitable.

ΩΩSeveral of the dancers painted their faces which was a nice thing and I will note with gratitude, this dancer has a turtle as his icon.  Nearly universally, all of the sellers of ‘stuff’ were peddling the eagle/wolf icons.

ΩΩInstead of worrying about photographers, the people performing in this arena should worry about the stupid wolf/eagle junk!  I grew up on an Indian reservation and the ancient artwork which I saw on the rocks and around me were nearly all about mountain goats, vultures, lightning bolts and mountains.  This was in Southern Arizona.


ΩΩIn the Northeast, the favored animals for identification were turtles as the man above used, bears, especially beavers since they lived in wigwams like the people and felled trees and ‘farmed’…which, by the way, the corn-growing tribes all thought a lot about: corn and gourds!  The Plains hunters thought a lot about…buffalo, elk and again, bears.  They brought dogs with them from Siberia and thus were dog, not wolf, friendly.


ΩΩThey did invoke the wolf in aggression situations, as they imitate the aggressive and dangerous wolves but they really respected and feared the grizzly bears because the grizzlies were the King of the Plains just as the lion is the same in Africa.

ΩΩThis photo shows the odd mix at this event: the man on the left has a Tibetan/Chinese lotus flower design on his ‘Indian’ vest while the man on the right has Chinese feathers.  I saw so much Chinese trade goods at this fair!  HAHAHA….and perhaps they will trade us beads for beaver pelts!  They are the ones running the industrial system that then pours often cheap trade goods into our country which we use to adorn ourselves.

ΩΩAnd now a photo I couldn’t resist: an exhausted child dancer taking a well-deserved snooze!  I hope my meandering thoughts here provoke some hard thinking.  I littered this story with clues as to our own future in a world we have ceased to make by hand.


ΩΩOr even by our own machines.

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Filed under Free Trade, nature, the arts, war and peace

42 responses to “NY Pow Wow: Thoughts On Trade And Culture

  1. CK

    Lovely large basket that sells for $500, I think I can purchase the same carrying capacity in an imported Chinese backpack for $35.

  2. leavingtheoffice

    I have asked those very same questions of native people and the response is that they don’t feel that costumes have to remain static or perfectly traditional. Rather, they are about individual expression. My understanding is that they see these ceremonies as contemporary and not as some attempt to live in the past like the Amish.

  3. nah

    Below is the horror show of stupid ‘Native American Art’
    I loves the Indians… was like 30 of them that went to high school with me ‘Spokane Tribe’ cool cats, straight fellas… they even did a native dance like i guess they do on the rez at a school con… and let me say that those indians dance for real if you can get 15-20 together
    that and i think great rock and roll honors drums
    bong, bang, yahoo

  4. nah

    Guest Post: Florida – Much Worse Problems Than the Oil Spill
    you will find me concerned with everything materiel… and i do see this oil spill as being a standing concern… for the concerned

  5. nah

    August 15, 2010 at 2:01 am
    some attempt to live in the past like the Amish.
    Romney 2012 LOL… go teaparty L O L
    attempt to live in the past plz between sacred underwear, tar, and feathers…. the indians ARE modern americans… only with more rights/representation
    the Amish are just fantastic

  6. nah

    Obama swims in Gulf, says beaches open for business
    I want to sue Idaho so i can go on Oparah and have her call me a nigger… in front of 1 million homosexuals

  7. nah

    Does Tylenol Cause Asthma in Teens?
    dude, i had a doctor prescribe Tylenol and citrus drinks for an ear infection that made it impossible for me to eat ‘i dragged my feet till i couldnt eat’…. and wala less than 24hrs l8r i was right as rain
    however if i eat much tylenol I get agonizing pain in its own right in my kidneys/liver me thinks… feels like back pain so I TAKE MORE TYLENOL… figured it out and take asprin now so this yung things good
    but wow i think tylenol is dangerous… pain reliever = pain… fuck that
    you have no idea… shaking pain at work… tylenol if its not safe… may not be safe… asprin works great why take tylenol…
    o and eat fish from the gulf while your at it LOL

  8. nah

    UNLESS Congress and President Obama act soon, Americans’ taxes will increase in 2011, when the cuts enacted under President George W. Bush are due to expire. Almost everyone agrees that this makes little sense given the economy’s fragility. But consensus ends there. The president supports permanently extending the current tax rates for all except the highest-income households, while Congressional Republicans want the entire basket of cuts to be made permanent. The prudent middle ground would be to forestall any tax increases in 2011 and to phase in higher rates on upper-income households in 2012, when the economy will be on firmer ground.
    come on…. 1 trillion here 1 trillion there… an raise taxes on the 1/10 of 1% that are the vegetable luck awakened few
    honestly taxes are horseshit… i cannot justify 25% of my earnings plunged into this allowed agenda of earnings… Me loves me Aircraft Carriers, Supersonic Fighters, Tanks, and Highways… but the safety net is just an out for poor leadership
    I.E. the safety net is just a net for the real investment… TANKS, CARRIERS, AND HIGHWAYS… we kill people and win wars… and then what
    swim in the gulf to sell tuna like Obama
    not that war is a strange curse… but 25% government… do we need it…. o thats rite they are loosing 1.5 trillion a year at 25% taxes
    who cares anymore we need slaves

  9. nah

    points have no mass… rock and roll is everything

  10. nah

    ppppost 2.0

  11. nah

    the better half

  12. nah

    This Week’s Selling Indicates Bear Market Still in Play
    dollars are the premium currency…. the transition from dollars -> gold or WHATEVER will be driven from some form of requirement… could be for at least 5 different reasons
    end game is what is our market worth compared to our international competitors… hope and change aint seen as worth all that much if on in the name of stability
    there is PEAK OIL wheres that lame bitch sleep at night

  13. Yes ,i too have been dismayed the aboriginal’s choice of colour. On the other hand our BC native artists are regaining the forefront as our art circles the bowl. Check out one the finest;


  14. Our natives have long been torn between clinging to the remains of a hunter /gather culture or adapting to ‘capitalism’, a cultural resurgance has given them a center and a connection with the past, while they choose the latter. They are sharp business people, with good taste, buy the way.

  15. Chorddog

    I think that looking for anything genuinely

    Native American in the Northeast U.S.

    is pretty much like looking for a genuine

    Viking in Denmark.

    The plain histical fact is that the cultures of Northeast tribes were destroyed long ago;

    their remnants subsumed into white society.

    Your photos depict people who made be at least partly descended from Native Americans Indians.

    This means nothing as far as culture is concerned.

    Their culture is unfortunately dead and gone.

    Do you see that if these people moved to Denmark and re-created a Viking funeral,

    and some Danes moved to upstate N.Y. and re-created a Iriquois fertility dance,

    It would make no difference.

    Both groups are re-enacting a period in a cultural history that is not theirs.

    It is no one’s. It is history. The culture of Vikings and Notheast Indians are NO MORE!

    It might as well be a midsummer Celtic Druid festival.

    It’s for fun!

    A “genuine reenactment” is an oxymoron!

    You’re too serious sometimes, Elaine.

    Our leaders in the U.S., whoever they are, are screwing up the whole world,

    while Americans watch NFL preseason and hold protest rallies because state funded insurance programs won’t cover Viagra prescriptions.

    This is American culture as seen by much of the rest of the world:






  16. eso

    A much appreciated blog, Elaine.

    The problem of cultural identity in our civilization is indeed enormous and past anyone’s ability to correct. Since I returned from the U.S. (46 yrs there) to Latvia (now 15 yrs here), I note with great sadness the demoralization of the community vis a vis the no less demoralized and corrupt government of Latvia.

    The demoralization of the community today comes from all around. If once upon a time the demoralizers were the neo-Christian church empowered by secular princes, today the demoralizers are we ourselves, because no one clearly remembers the pre-Christian or arch-Christian times or is able to imagine that we may enjoy (sorry for that word) the sacred outside the circle of corrupt religions.

    One clear difference between native customs (whether American Indian, Latvian, African, or who ever) is that the native sense of the sacred is located in the sacred being (or place) on Earth, not some phantasmagoric being in Heaven, which even Dante, largely its creator, called a “comedy”.

    The great question before us is how do we in America (I am still a citizen of it) and Latvia (I am also a Latvian citizen by origin) get rid of our corrupt governments?

    As one of my blog sites suggests http://melnaysjanis.blogspot.com/ , we can start on it by building our own sacred temples. These may be private, but they do project, hopefully, our personal sense of the sacred in an honest way, and may in the course of time cause corrupt secular and religious governments lose authority. When that happens, it will not make any difference whether the prayer shawl or whatever that I wear or carry is made in Latvia, China, or an Indian reservation in the U.S.

    However, we must bring our divinities back down to Earth. In the case of what I call the neo-Christians, we must help Jesus leave heaven and come back down to Earth, where his original name was (once) John.

    Not so incidentally, John (it has a cognate almost in every language) knew what the word “self-sacrifice” meant and practiced it.

  17. PLovering


    US health care workers will NOT be required to take the mandatory flu shot this fall.

    Gott ist groß

  18. wuen

    The North American Indians have beautiful ornament. I find what they wear on their head are representative of their land. The animal adornment on their head gear show the beauty and richness of their natural surrounding. Chinese people also like to use animal pattern and material to decorate their ornament.

    The North American Indian and Chinese have many potential to exchange idea in the art of adornment of ornament.

  19. emsnews

    The American Indians and the Chinese do have a lot in common since they come from the same ur-tribes during the last Ice Age.

  20. DeVaul


    “Lovely large basket that sells for $500, I think I can purchase the same carrying capacity in an imported Chinese backpack for $35.”

    Yes, until the cargo ships and cargo trucks stop coming. Then, we can do cargo cult dances and incantations to try and bring them back through magic, but this will fail of course. Ultimately, we will have to go out in the woods and peel off some tree bark to make baskets and other goods we need. It will not cost $500 or $35 — just some time and effort. (It also helps to have someone skilled at this to teach you how to do it before you starve to death.)


    Thanks for that diplomatic communique from the party headquarters, Comrade.


    This is a good article about culture and what it really means. The dichotomies that Elaine pointed out above are why I never joined the Deaf Culture Movement. The only real connection that existed between the Deaf in America was the use of ASL. There was nothing else that distinguished us from ordinary hearing people, and like the weird dreamcatchers, the ubiquitous “I Love You” sign was always for sale at Deaf gatherings in every conceivable form.

    To me, a separate culture is way more than just a shared language, although that is an important start since it affects how we think and view the world around us.

    When I realized that the Deaf were not really interested in building a separate culture beyond the use of ASL, I knew that they were not truly serious about it.

    Like the Indians seen above, the Rainbow People, and other groups, the Deaf wanted to wear blue jeans, eat hotdogs, watch TV shows, and hang out at bars and malls just like everyone else.

    I seriously doubt there will be any real cultures or “communities” again until long past the end of the Industrial Age.

  21. nah

    by Eternal Student
    on Sun, 08/15/2010 – 14:40
    The MSM “news” is nothing but one big commercial, paid for by lots of little commercials.
    The MSM “news” is nothing but one big facist advertisement agency, paid for by lots of little commercials.

  22. nah

    The Legacy Continues
    Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 08/11/2010 – 06:32.

    Blizzard is the next porn industry, except they deal with retro cartoon graphics exploded in technicolor. Where the gamer is enthused from senseless violence of repetitive clicking as your buddies yell smack over voice chat.

    Yup Blizzard has set the bar for Zombies in this day and age
    poeple are stoopid hahaha!

  23. nah

    hardcore man

  24. nah

    you tube videos banned huh LOL

  25. nah

    rules are over rated
    cant spell na ked and web VDOz… boaring…

  26. Claire Voyant

    Another very interesting and instructive post, Elaine, and thanks for the pictures. I find your comments about the usurpation of others’ culture for commercial gain reflect your observations about sovereignty, trade and currency values. They are also reflected in my own experiences. As a sideline, I sell vintage Taxco silver jewelry online, along with 2 other ladies. About 5 years ago, the Chinese visited the little silversmithing town of Taxco and bought up everything they could lay their hands on. They then proceeded to copy these designs very faithfully and released them on the market via eBay, QVC and other mass market sites. Seeing the profits realized by these line-for-line imports, certain unscrupulous Mexican silversmiths then began creating their own copies illegally using pre-1980 hallmarks. The flood of high-quality fakes in recent years has confused collectors, causing many to drop out of the market rather than get burned repeatedly. Some clever fakes even have fooled veteran dealers, although others decided to hop on the profit bandwagon, willingly buying the better fakes and selling them as authentic vintage works. The effect has been to destroy collectors’ confidence and devalue the market for everyone. Collectors are understandably leery about what they’re buying; dealers selling genuine pieces can’t realize the prices they paid a decade ago for the real stuff.

    I’m sure all can readily see the parallels of this small example in other markets: mortgage-backed securities, housing, even gold (the amount traded said to exceed actual quantity many times over, and audits are nonexistent) — the list goes on. The point is, when confidence is breeched by the actions of a few who go unpunished, trade suffers. I do see a return to seeking out local, handmade, one-of-a-kind artisanal goods by many in my just-outside-NYC community. Your neighbor’s lovely birchbark baskets exemplify this. We will certainly need to become aware of many more such sources, as well as to develop our own skills for local trade when the price of oil makes cheap imported goods unaffordable!

  27. Claire Voyant

    Chordog, I agree with your remarks on culture and commerce; thoughtful observations by DeVaul and eso on the subject as well.

    Addendum to the post above … apologies for multiple posts:

    Ironically, the designers who created the original vintage Taxco jewelry we collectors covet were mostly American ex-pats appropriating Aztec and Mayan themes, some taken almost line-for-line from ancient clay stamps and architectural ornamentation. Most of the old designers then added their own mid-century interpretation, giving the pieces a Modernist twist or amusing old Hollywood, over-the-top allure.

    Some people would see a sort of karmic justice that others, in turn, have copied these vintage pieces. I don’t have a problem with the copying itself (plenty of unsigned vintage pieces were done off-hours for personal gain by craftsmen employed by the most noted studios of the day). I do have a problem with representing a piece as something other than what it is. Much as our elected officials and economists have pretended that free trade does something other than it has, or banksters represent their “labor” as “highly productive” instead of exactly the opposite — and therefore deserving of a tax break.

  28. emsnews

    Don’t apologize for multiple posts, Clair! I love to read them. Nah can be a problem with multiple posts.

    And thanks for understanding my points here: the devaluing of native cultures due to mass replication is as troublesome as the flood of mass production destroying nativist cultures (everyone wears tee shirts these days, for example!).

  29. CK

    But by the time the ships stop coming, I will have had my carry bag for a few years. No need for cargo cult gymnastics. If you have to go out to the woods to get the raw materials to make your own; that is your bad timing in action. Brain tan your own dear hide and make a leather bag, it ain’t higher math.

  30. melponeme_k

    That world is gone now and it’s not coming back. To study it and know it’s history is important. But my people and their world are extinct in the same way the Dodo is gone.

    The pictures I see are of people play acting and it is pathetic not inspiring. The day I knew we were gone as a culture was when I visited the west. And I saw my cousins enmeshed in gambling hell and pushed to the outer edges of society.

    Fear not all non-Natives, you will experience the same when Asian culture becomes the lingua franca of the world and we will use the internet with Mandarin translators.

  31. nah

    August 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm
    Nah can be a problem with multiple posts.


    ELAINE: No, a warning.

  32. eso

    August 16, 2010 at 9:20 pm
    That world is gone now and it’s not coming back. To study it and know it’s history is important. But my people and their world are extinct in the same way the Dodo is gone.

    You are right, melponeme_k, however, my analysis sees the present system, too, collapsing. What then?

    It is then that the dismissed divinities (to heaven or wherever) will find the human mind receptive to see them walking the Earth again. It is thus that we, through our need for a sense of divinity, take the Earth back.

    At this point in time, I rather leave behind for my heirs a temple to the sacred going to seed than a million dollars.

  33. JSmith

    “This ‘pow wow’ would have been rather fun for photographers except the performers wanted to control picture taking too much…”

    If they set up in a public place, they don’t have much to say about picture-taking.

    That’s an interesting assortment of flags in the first photo: a couple of US flags, and Army flag, a POW-MIA flag (didn’t know those were still around!) and a few others I can’t see enough of to recognize. I can’t tell if the blue one is a NY state flag (“the banner with the strange device Excelsior”), but that is certainly a “gold-fringed” US flag, guaranteed to excite the fringe-element conspiracy theorists out there.

    All in all, that looks like an interesting summer time fair. Did they have the obligatory booths selling flutes and R. Carlos Nakai CDs?

  34. DeVaul


    Yes, you are correct. We can buy the cheap backpack now and use it for many years. No arguments about that. My point is that our children and grandchildren probably will not have that option. What then? How many kids know how to brain tan a deer skin, dry it, and then fashion it into a bag compared with kids who know “higher math”? What’s the ratio I wonder?

    Nah is beginning to remind me of Blues. At first his posts were interesting, but then they evolved into mindless rantings that made no sense and took up much space. Like with Blues, I now fast-forward past Nah’s unlimited postings, some of which are blank, in order to reach the next comment.

    Regarding “copying” of trade goods, this is some kind of obsession with Asians. My wife told me yesterday that her Thai friend asked her if her sunglasses were a “copy” or real. I told her that in America we never asked such questions of each other or even bother to think of such things, but in Thailand, Japan, and Korea it is nearly constant because of all the “counterfeit?” goods for sale. My wife never fails to wonder whether another woman has a real Coach handbag or a copy.

    I want to say “I don’t really give a shit”, but she’s my wife, so I have to feign interest.

    I think people would be much happier if they were not consumed with such thoughts. If I want something real, I commission a craftsman to make it for me by hand right here in America. Simple.

  35. CK

    Blues, Nah, Buffalo Ken, scroll scroll scroll your read, swiftly down the page.
    A thing is neither cheap nor expensive except as measured by its useful life and its support and maintenance cost over that life.
    Suppose, that I can get 5 years useful life out of the Chinese backpack for an outlay of $35. The backpack cost me $7/year. I would have to get 71 years of use from the birch bark basket to make it a competitive choice. Now, were I to walk out onto the back 40 and girdle a few birch trees of their bark, and do the sewing, and the finishing. I could make an equivalent birchbark backpack for $0 outlay … and whatever the next best use of my time is times the amount of hours it takes me to make that basket. It had better take me less than 1.5 hour to gather, and make that basket. ( $23 an hour.) My plumber makes $85 an hour, the last time I saw a lawyer his price was $240 an hour.
    The old skills can be refound quickly. Much more quickly than it took to initially discover them. That today’s utes cannot tan a hide today does not mean they can’t tomorrow. Information wants to be free ( unless Verizon or Google are involved) and the information is out there.
    Went to the Coach site just to see what the interest was, $600 for a not very attractive shoulder weight, you are what you spend on lables I guess. It is possible that a Coach bag would last the user for 70 years, but I suspect it would be out of style in 3 and a civilized lady would not be caught dead with an out of style bag.

  36. eso

    CK: “The old skills can be refound quickly. Much more quickly than it took to initially discover them.” …………………………

    I wonder. When I was a child, I knew people who still knew how to make loafers from linden bark; who knew how to make skies by steaming the tips of two planks of I know not what tree; who told when to cut a tree by the moon; etc. Today, some seventy years later, the young in the countryside often do not know a lark, because larks are fewer, youngsters they take pleasure in eating potatoe chips and watching sitcoms brought to them by virtual men and women in the city. That these same virtual beings would quickly learn how to tan skins or make dye for wool (let alone spin it) is a presumption no one experienced with the wild would make.

    I am inclined to think that the question before us is how to deflate the virtual reality of contemporary city life without making its baloon go “bang!” How is this to be done?

  37. DeVaul

    Good question, Eso. One way is to do what the lady who makes the birch baskets does: maintain the knowledge of ancient skills and hopefully pass them on to another before you die. This is what our ancestors did all the time.

    As for the synthetic 35 dollar bag, you forgot to factor in the environmental costs of shipping the bag overseas (how many plastic bags of garbage were dumped overboard during the voyage, how do we clean them up or even find them, how do unpollute the ocean water, how do we keep chemicals from leaching out of the synthetic bag while it rots in a landfill for hundreds of years poisoning the soil and drinking water, how do we keep people away from the toxic landfill for thousands of years, etc.) into your cost/benefit analysis. The birch tree bag can be tossed on a compost pile and left there after it is no longer useful without any worry that it might kill you later on.

    I seriously doubt most kids today would know that a deer’s brains are what you use to tan a hide, assuming they know what “tanning a hide” means or how to remove a hide so that it can be tanned.

    And yes, I loathe paying extortionate sums on fads that do not even produce quality goods, but I lucked out and found her a bag at an outlet store off an interstate and payed a fraction of what it would cost in a store. She got her genuine Coach bag for $160 (she gets to brag about it too!) and I finally got peace of mind after many years.

  38. eso

    These photos from Brazil by way of BBC may help tell where the likes of the NY native festival will move to tomorrow.

  39. emsnews

    Thanks, Eso, for the link. Yes, the Marti-graization of ethnic culture goes onwards as the main solution to social dissolution. The glaring colors, the over-bright/over the top designs shows that what was once culture is now a costume.

  40. dee

    Very interesting article. I have four young dancers on the Northern Pow wow trails. This gives me examples to look for how other cultures and foreign influences have come into our Native culture. Thank you for your insights….A Cheyenne from Minnesota…….

  41. emsnews

    Thank you, I do really admire the dances…WHICH ARE RELIGIOUS…and respect them as what they are…INVOCATIONS OF THE GODS IN NATURE.

    An amazing and rich culture one which we should learn from and not the stupid way some people have chosen. My ‘dances’ are different from yours because I am not your people but my own past…but the impulse, the wellspring inside of us is the same location. Good luck with the dances! May they bring you closer to Mother Earth and Father Sky.

  42. Gentle Storm

    “The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps that is because the red man is a savage, and does not understand.”

    Herein lies our problem. We have become civilized. We need to become “savages” again in order to find our heritage. Oh it will never be the same. The old ones are dead and gone, and cannot teach us as they would have. But it may be the beginning of a new era of our people.

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