Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chaney Caudill Collins: A Woman of Color

Born in present Magoffin, Kentucky, circa 1840 into slavery, Aunt Chaney, as she was affectionately known, touched many lives.

Chaney was born into the household of Benjamin and Abigail Pennington Caudill, but all I know of her parents is that they were born in Tennessee. Benjamin died in 1850 and Abigail freed Chaney in 1856 when she was 16 years old. Not much is known about Chaney’s life between then and 1873. We know that she had several sons but not who their father was. According to Todd Preston these sons were blacksmiths and possibly made a little ‘Shine. I think these sons migrated to the Bluegrass horse farms. Chaney was said to love children and be exceptionally kind to them. She was a noted midwife delivering scores of babies.

Chaney married a black man (actually Native American) named Hiram Collins in 1873 and I find them in the 1880 census in the Meadows precinct. I believe they were living close to the new Civil War Park. Hiram Collins age 50, wife Chaney age 40, children Polly Ann age 20, Oteril age 19, Adam age 11, Emily age 10, Ester age 8, Noah age 6. We can infer several things from this census. First, since they had been married only seven years the only child in common most likely was Noah. Polly and Oteril were much older than the other children and were probably full siblings. Adam, Emily and Ester make up the second group of full siblings. Now the question remains which group belongs to whom. Of course Hiram and Chaney each had other children who were not living with them in 1880. The two older children, Polly and Oteril, I suspect belong to Barbara Auxier whom Hiram married 30th November, 1856, the year Chaney was freed.

Hiram was the son of Shepherd and Polly Collins who are buried at the main fork of Puncheon in an unmarked cemetery. I strongly suspect Hiram and Aunt Chaney are also buried there. The Shepherd Collins family is listed on the guion miller Cherokee rolls and is believed to be full Cherokee.
Towards the end of her life and probably after the death of Hiram Aunt Chaney fell on hard times. It is said that she lived at some point under a rock shelter on Dutton Branch. Slabs (first boards off a log with bark) was used to enclose the front of an overhanging rock shelter. Though primitive this made a reasonably comfortable place to get out of the elements. Rock shelters are cool in the summer and with a fire, warm in the winter.

a rockhouse shelter

Aunt Chaney by all accounts was a good natured, loving soul who came into this world unto bondage. She was freed before the Civil War, a testament to Todd Preston’s 2nd great grandmother, Abigail Pennington Caudill. Perhaps in appreciation Chaney seems to have been especially kind to Todd’s mother who obviously had a great admiration for Aunt Chaney.
There is much we don’t know about Aunt Chaney; many details of her life lay safely in her grave. We do know the color of her skin never hindered the love and respect many had for her. We know in many respects her life was hard and we know she had to be a strong woman to overcome her troubles. Aunt Chaney lived the life that providence spread before her with goodwill and grace. Aunt Chaney was a woman of color born a slave and rightly might have been bitter; she was not. She was in every sense an example of a true mountain woman whose spirit stood the test of adversity with quiet dignity.

There is a cemetery on Puncheon Creek unseen; no monuments, no flowers, not even one sandstone. But it commands a striking view and catches the morning sun; a beautiful point on which rest until eternity is done. Here is the resting place of Shepherd Collins and I think Aunt Chaney too; a place that needs its history remembered with reverence and respect. After all, both Black and Native American history in Magoffin County is represented in this old forgotten cemetery. It is part of our heritage and needs to be preserved along with the memory of Aunt Chaney.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Robert Knox Thomas: Cherokee and Anthropologist

Thomas, Robert Knox
Tribe name: Cherokee
Born: 1925  Died: 1991
Occupation: anthropologist, educator
  From: Encyclopedia of the American Indian in the Twentieth Century.

Eastern Cherokee Lands, Qualla Boundary, N.C.

A Cherokee born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where his mother was visiting, on November 26, 1925, Robert Knox Thomas was raised in Oklahoma. His parents, Florence and Robert Lee Thomas, were both Cherokee, and he was brought up in a traditional Cherokee manner. He was taught Cherokee healing traditions by his grandmother and aunt, who were herbalists and midwives. As a young man, Thomas came under the influence of George Smith, a Cherokee ceremonial leader and friend of the family. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and saw service in World War II. He fought in the battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific and then spent time in New Zealand, where he came to know same customs of the Maori people.
Thomas was mustered out of the service in 1944 and became a horse wrangler in the Midwest and Canada, where he befriended a number of Chippewa and Métís. He moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he met and married a Tohono O'odam woman. He received his B.A. and M.A. (1954) from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he worked with anthropologist Sam Stanley. Thomas was an active member of the Chicago Indian Center, the most important urban Indian center at the time.
Thomas was one of a group of anthropologists and sociologists from the University of Chicago, including Sol Tax, Rosalie and Murray Wax, Robert J. Havighurst, Frederick O. Gearing, and Robert Rietz, who worked to change the direction of Indian affairs during the Termination period in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1956, Thomas and Stanley compiled data for an important map, showing the location and distribution of the Indian population in the United States, that was published by the university's anthropology department. From 1957 through 1958, Thomas conducted fieldwork among the Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Thomas became a leading figure in the summer Workshops on American Indian Affairs, serving as director of the second session in Boulder, Colorado, in 1957, assistant director in 1961, and regular lecturer thereafter. With the same group, he helped organize the famous 1961 American Indian Chicago Conference, and he had a close relationship with Ponca activist Clyde Warrior (an active participant in both the 1961 and 1962 Workshops) and with the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) in the 1960s.
The workshop staff found that most Indian students suffered from confused identity and loss of cultural moorings, knowing little of their history and culture and internalizing media stereotypes. In the workshops, they strove to give students a clearer sense of Indian identity by explaining both Native and mainstream American cultures objectively. The response was very positive. Ironically, it was this mainly non-Indian staff who were able to reawaken a sense of self-confidence in Indian identity and understanding of Native values and history in the largely acculturated students. Thomas, however, actually played the central role. Cree-Flathead social scientist D'Arcy McNickle, who observed the evolution of the workshops from 1960 through 1963, described Thomas as having "most influenced the shaping of the workshop as a center for discovery and understanding. The teaching faculty looked to him for intellectual challenge, while the students responded by improving academic performances… [He was] equally capable of reaching students and encouraging them to stretch their intellectual grasp." Thomas's students would come to form the nucleus of the new Red Power movement.
By 1961, Thomas was professor of anthropology at Montieth College, Wayne State University, Detroit. He coined the term internal colonization to describe the situation of American Indians and other indigenous peoples in the modern world, and his writings, especially the article "Colonialism: Classic and Internal" (New University Thought, 1966/67 issue), played a seminal though underappreciated role in the development of the militant prosovereignty movement of the 1970s.
Thomas helped establish a traditional activist organization in Oklahoma, called the Five County Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee Organization, later known as the Original Cherokee Community Organization. The group began to assert Cherokee hunting and fishing rights and tackle other longstanding grievances.
In 1967, Thomas attended a unity conference at the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation in upstate New York. The conferences, conceived by Tuscarora activist William Rickard,sought to bring a traditional religious slant to activist organizing. Impressed by the combination of spirituality and grassroots organizing, Thomas organized a similar gathering in Oklahoma the next year. He began working in Canada, joining with Wilf Pelletier, an Odawa from Ontario, and Ian MacKenzie, a progressive Anglican priest, in an attempt to establish an ecumenical movement that would embrace all religions, including traditional Indian religions, in an effort to recognize Indian rights.
As a field anthropologist, Thomas worked with the Sac and Fox of Oklahoma, the Sioux of South Dakota, and the Cherokee of North Carolina and Oklahoma. In the 1960s, he was codirector of the Carnegie Corporation Cross-Cultural Exchange Project, studying literacy and education process among Indians, especially the Oklahoma Cherokee. He also edited the monthly Indian Voices, published by the University of Chicago. Thomas was a Newberry fellow in the 1960s, and from 1975 he was an active member of the board of directors of NAES (Native American Education Services) College, essentially a descendant of the workshops; its academic degree program for Indian students has been accredited since 1984. From 1981 until his death, Thomas was director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
In 1991, suffering from a tumor in his lungs and in his brain, Thomas, confined to a wheelchair, took sick leave and returned to Oklahoma, where he stayed for about a month. He was returning to Arizona in August 1991 when he passed away on the road while traveling through the Texas panhandle. According to another passenger, Thomas was looking out the window and the sun was setting; just before he died, he turned and said, "Beautiful."
Robert K. Thomas was in a unique position to aid in cultural communication. As a traditional Cherokee fluent in the Cherokee language, yet well educated in the Western sense and fully conversant in the theories and techniques of anthropology, he was a highly knowledgeable and sophisticated thinker and a gifted teacher. His efforts to combine traditional Indian thought with grassroots social organizing influenced a host of young Native activists and had a major impact on the political movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which in the end transformed the lives of Indian peoples throughout the country.

Text Citation (Chicago Manual of Style format):
Ewen, Alexander and Jeffrey Wollock. "Thomas, Robert Knox." Encyclopedia of the American Indian in the Twentieth Century. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2014. American Indian History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE43&iPin=ENAIT511&SingleRecord=True (accessed August 28, 2015).

Other Citation Formats:
Modern Language Association (MLA) Format
American Psychological Association (APA) Format
Additional Citation Information

Record URL:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Gimlet Eye: Focus China

 Our political satirist turns her attention to the Far East


 Who would have thought that the situation in China was such that they had to devalue the yuan not once but twice and perhaps twice is not the end of it? And what will this mean for sterling?

China has taken this action because they want to bolster their exports and combat deflation.

This action opens the door to tit for tat actions by other countries as they devalue so as to achieve the same aims. It also reduces the likelihood of increasing interest rates in the UK and the US in the expected timescales especially if they want to maintain the competitiveness of their exports.

The outcome for sterling is very difficult to predict. Against the commodity backed currencies we should see further strength for sterling, against the US dollar it is unclear, but I do wonder if against the euro we have seen our best days for a while given how key an export market the Eurozone is for the UK and that the UK economy is probably not quite as “rosy” as our politicians would like us to believe.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dick Cheney's Secret Energy Task Force:

Energy Task Force
On his 10th day as vice president, Dick Cheney established a secret "Energy Task Force," formally known as the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), for the purpose of making recommendations to President Bush on energy policy. In formulating a new energy strategy for America, the task force met secretly with lobbyists and representatives of the petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industries. Many of these individuals work for energy companies which gave large campaign contributions to Bush/Cheney 2000. Environmental groups were mostly excluded from the task force.

Members of Congress demanded Cheney release the names of individuals and corporations who gave information and advice to the task force. But the vice president refused. After pressure from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the independent auditing arm of Congress, Cheney did release limited information about the task force. The GAO issued a report on the information and found several corporations and associations, including Chevron Corp. (now part of ChevronTexaco Corp.) and the National Mining Association, gave detailed energy policy recommendations for the task force.

According to the GAO's report, "senior agency officials" with the Department of Energy met "numerous times" with energy companies to provide advice to Cheney's energy task force. Those companies include Bechtel, Chevron, American Coal Company, Small Refiners Association, the Coal Council, CSX, Kerr-McGee, Nuclear Energy Institute, the National Mining Association, General Motors, the National Petroleum Council, and the energy lobbying firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. In addition, the Secretary of Energy discussed national energy policy with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical, and natural gas companies, among others. The task force even sought and received advice from the now-disgraced and bankrupt Enron Corporation.

The GAO does not know whether Halliburton was one of the companies involved in making recommendations to the energy task force. And Cheney refuses to release all the documents which can prove or disprove Halliburton's involvement, which only fuels suspicion that Cheney has something to hide.

The energy task force members include Vice President Cheney (the chairman) and the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. The remaining members of the task force are the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs.

Note that the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not a member of the task force, but Cheney was quick to report that "110 EPA employees" participated in the task force's "efforts." The EPA administrator and agency staff had met with environmental and conservation organizations to help prepare the task force report, but there is no information on whether such meetings were more common than industry meetings or how often the meetings took place. The EPA had also met with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Edison Electric Institute.

The task force formally convened 10 times between January 29, 2001, and May 16, 2001. Only federal government employees attended these meetings, according to the limited information released by Cheney. But the GAO cannot confirm or deny whether individuals from energy companies met privately with the task force because, the GAO says, "no party [from the task force] provided us with any documentary evidence to support or negate this assertion." Nor will Dick Cheney voluntarily provide the information to prove or disprove it.

Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal court to obtain the release of all of the task force records. The lawsuit argues that in 2001 Cheney violated the "open-government" law, known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, by meeting behind closed doors with energy industry executives, analysts and lobbyists. The lawsuit continues today. A federal appeals court ruled in July 2003 that Cheney must supply all the information requested in the lawsuit. But Cheney continues to stonewall the request. So, on December 15, 2003, the Supreme Court announced it will hear Cheney's appeal of the case. Three weeks later, Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent a weekend together duck hunting at a private resort in southern Louisiana, giving rise to calls for Scalia to recuse himself from Cheney's appeal. So far, Scalia has refused.

Public interest groups speculate the stonewalling by Cheney might be proof that the task force records show unprecedented corporate cronyism in the Bush administration, possibly showing an excessive or disproportionate influence over energy policy by Halliburton and other energy companies. The records may also reveal the true reasons for why the Bush administration demanded war with Iraq.

In July 2003, after two years of legal action through the Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch was finally able to obtain some documents from the task force. Those documents include maps of Iraqi and other mideast oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, two charts detailing various Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a March 2001 list of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts."

In January 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported that representatives from Halliburton, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron-Texaco Corp. and Conoco-Phillips, among others, had met with Vice President Cheney's staff to plan the post-war revival of Iraq's oil industry. However, both Cheney and the companies deny the meeting took place.

More Information

GAO Cites Corporate Shaping of Energy Plan

Bush's Energy Plan Bares Industry Clout: Cheney-led task force consulted extensively with corporate executives

Biggest US Power Firm Vetted Bush Energy Regulators

Congressman Waxman demands Cheney release information about Enron's contacts with the Energy Task Force

All about oil: Article explaining lawsuit against Cheney

Democratic Underground: Mr. Cheney, Step Down

GAO report on Cheney's Energy Task Force

Good excerpts from GAO's Report on Cheney's Energy Task Force

Justice Scalia's memo explaining his refusal to recuse himself

Energy task force documents released so far

Coal companies rip off miners' pensions

Coal companies rip off miners' pensions

Bill McKibben

If you go to the website of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri, you can read more than 1,000 letters from retired coal miners and their widows.
Their words are like the lyrics to an endless Johnny Cash ballad, and even more heartbreaking. They tell the eternal tale of the greedy few, this time playing out in real time in our America.
Here’s the story: In the fall of 2007, Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU), the coal-mining giant, spun off all its unionized mines into a new company, Patriot Coal Corp. (PCXCQ) In the process, it got rid of the promises it had made over generations to coal miners and their families.

Or, as Peabody’s chief executive officer put it, “We’re reducing our legacy liabilities roughly $1 billion.” This was such a good idea that another coal giant, Arch Coal Inc. (ACI), unloaded its union mines on Patriot as well, though it cycled them first through yet another front. All totted up, Patriot now had 10,000 retirees and their health-care benefits on its books. This company was designed to fail. Patriot is almost certainly the only five-year-old company on earth with three times as many retirees as employees, 90 percent of whom never worked for the company. And fail it did, declaring bankruptcy last summer. Now it’s going through Chapter 11 reorganization and hoping to emerge freed of its obligations for the pensions and medical care of those miners. [...]

In a corporate sleight-of-hand, the promises won with a lifetime of hard work and hard bargaining disappeared first into a holding company. Now, if the bankruptcy judge agrees, they will disappear into thin air. [...]

And in this case, Patriot is doing nothing to hide its fat- cat heart. Its bankruptcy advisers billed $2,635 for a single dinner; the company is even now seeking court permission to hand out $6 million in bonuses to executives.

I’m an environmentalist. I think we can’t keep burning coal because the carbon it produces is, right this moment, melting the Arctic, acidifying the ocean and raising the temperature of the earth in ways that most climate scientists think endanger the prospects of our civilization.
But part of civilization is taking care of people who have worked hard. That’s why every climate bill proposed in Congress should have extensive sections designed to protect retirees and retrain existing workers. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011GOP Wall Street reform repeal efforts moving forward:
We knew this was coming, the Republicans' latest not-job creating legislation to roll back Wall Street reform. Because, hey, what's a little global financial meltdown between friends? Why should Wall Street have to be accountable? […]

Of course, they're not proposing putting anything in its place. They don't do policy, they only do dismantling. But, as Greg Sargent says, they're approaching this one more cautiously, and certainly more quietly, than they did health reform repeal. That's because Wall Street is still hugely unpopular and untrusted. As Greg says, "[t]his one could provide another chance to draw a very clear contrast between the parties—on turf that may be a bit more favorable to Dems than health care repeal or spending."

For that to happen, Dems—including the White House—need to make a lot of noise about it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Walter Plecker: genocidal white supremacist, ‘Undesirables born amongst us’

Virginia’s Indian tribes have faced numerous obstacles in their decades-old quest for federal recognition. But one person has long stood in their way — and he’s been dead for 68 years.
Walter Plecker — a physician, eugenicist and avowed white supremacist — ran Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics with single-minded resolve over 34 years in the first half of the 20th century.
Though he died in 1947, Plecker’s shadow still lingers over the state, a vestige of a vicious era when racist practices were an integral part of government policy and Virginia officials ruthlessly enforced laws created to protect what they considered a master white race.
For Virginia’s Indians, the policies championed by Plecker threatened their very existence, nearly wiping out the tribes who greeted the country’s first English settlers and who claim Pocahontas as an ancestor. This month, the legacy of those laws could again help sabotage an effort by the Pamunkey people to become the state’s first federally recognized tribe.
Obsessed with the idea of white superiority, Plecker championed legislation that would codify the idea that people with one drop of “Negro” blood could not be classified as white. His efforts led the Virginia legislature to pass the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, a law that criminalized interracial marriage and also required that every birth in the state be recorded by race with the only options being “White” and “Colored.”
Plecker was proud of the law and his role in creating it. It was, he said, “the most perfect expression of the white ideal, and the most important eugenical effort that has been made in 4,000 years.”
The act didn’t just make blacks in Virginia second-class citizens — it also erased any acknowledgment of Indians, whom Plecker claimed no longer truly existed in the commonwealth. With a stroke of a pen, Virginia was on a path to eliminating the identity of the Pamunkey, the Mattaponi, the Chickahominy, the Monacan, the Rappahannock, the Nansemond and the rest of Virginia’s tribes.
Entering the Pamunkey reservation is a sign announcing the tribe. The tribe is the smallest and oldest documented tribe in Virginia. (Timothy C. Wright/For the Washington Post)
The tribal center for the Chickahominy tribe is located deep in the countryside of rural Virginia not far from the small town of Providence Forge. (Timothy C. Wright/For the Washington Post)
“He told us we had no right to exist as people,” said Powhatan Red Cloud-Owen, a Vietnam veteran who belongs to the 850-member Chickahominy tribe. “He tried to destroy a people like Hitler did. It was a genocide inside of this great country of ours.”
‘It was devastating’
Plecker. For Virginia Indians, the name is an expletive.
“I would call him the villain in our sacred story,” says Karenne Wood, 55, a member of the Monacan, the largest of the Virginia tribes with more than 2,000 members. “As soon as you raise his name, people make bad faces.”
Standing in the graveyard adjacent to the Chickahominy Tribal Center, Steve Adkins, the 69-year-old chief of the tribe in Providence Forge, about 20 miles southeast of Richmond, says he is pained by what his people endured as a result of the Racial Integrity Act.

“It forbade giving your child an Indian name,”Adkins says. “And it caused people like my mom and dad to have to go to Washington, D.C., to be married as Indians.”
Others simply left Virginia rather than stay where they could no longer call themselves Indians.
“It caused separations of families,” Adkins says. “It was devastating.”
The devastation lasted decades. Plecker directed registrars around the state to change birth certificates, to cross out Indian and write in “Colored.” He had Indian children removed from white schools and Indian patients removed from white hospitals. He pushed back against Native Americans who tried to maintain their tribal identity, and he rejected federal efforts to acknowledge the existence of Indians in the state.
“Plecker saw Indian identity as dangerous, because he believed it would simply be used as a way station by people who ultimately just wanted to be classified as white,” says Mikaela Adams, assistant professor of Native American history at the University of Mississippi. “Of course, there were many reasons that white classification in 20th century Virginia was extremely beneficial. It meant access to better schools, homes. It meant, essentially, freedom.”
Instead, Indians lost freedoms and very nearly lost their identity. That was Plecker’s goal, as he explained in a 1943 letter that he addressed to “Local Registrars, Clerks, Legislators, and others responsible for, and interested in, the prevention of racial intermixture.”
“Public records in the office of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and in the State Library, indicate that there does not exist today a descendant of the Virginia ancestors claiming to be an Indian who is unmixed with negro blood,” he wrote. In other words, Virginia was rid of Indians.

Virginia would eventually repudiate the Racial Integrity Act. The law was effectively canceled out in 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an interracial Virginia couple’s right to marry in Loving v. Virginia. And in 2002, then-Gov. Mark Warner (D) officially apologized for the commonwealth’s role. But some of the damage has been irreparable.
“Plecker participated in an official disappearance of these tribes,” says Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “So he might be discredited and the official policy might be to apologize for him, but since the tribes haven’t been recognized, he still has accomplished something that has not been reversed. He’s still winning.”
‘Undesirables born amongst us’
Walter Ashby Plecker was born into a prosperous slave-owning Virginia family on April 2, 1861, just 10 days before the onset of the Civil War. His father joined the Confederate Army in the South’s fight to preserve slavery.
After graduating in 1880 from Hoover Military Academy in Staunton, Va., Plecker attended the University of Maryland Medical School where he earned his medical degree in 1885. He worked as a public health doctor in Virginia and Alabama before being appointed registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1912. The seemingly functionary title was misleading. It was in that office that Plecker would implement some of the most unapologetically racist government policies of the past century.
At the time, eugenics, a pseudo-scientific philosophy espousing racial purity and white genetic superiority, was gaining favor in parts of the United States, not just as a privately held view, but as a matter of public policy. Virginia was a stronghold of this nascent eugenicist movement.
Plecker was an early member of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America, an organization founded in Richmond by two white supremacists that pushed for laws that forbid interracial marriage and opposed immigration by anyone other than Northern European whites.
For Plecker, who married but had no children, there was nothing lower than a mixed-race child. “The worst forms of undesirables born amongst us are those whose parents are of different races,” he said.
The Racial Integrity Act was just one pillar in the legislative legacy that Plecker and the eugenicists created. They also lobbied for the Eugenical Sterilization Act that was signed into law in 1924. That allowed the state to sterilize individuals “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy.” That law was not repealed until 1974. In February, the Virginia General Assembly agreed to compensate those who were forcibly sterilized, paying each $25,000.

Plecker’s impact was also felt well beyond Virginia. He lobbied the Census Bureau beginning in 1930 to stop using the category “mulatto” to count mixed-race citizens. Indicating that you were of more than one race was not allowed until the 2000 census.

Pamunkey Chief Kevin Brown goes over documents collected from England being used to prove the existence of the tribe to federal officials in Washington. (Timothy C. Wright/For The Washington Post)
Walter Plecker sent this letter in December 1943 to reinforce his views and the laws he drafted. Plecker’s policies pressured state agencies to reclassify most citizens claiming Indian identity as colored. (Library of Virginia)
He was obsessed with genealogy and tracing the racial background of everyone in the state. In her book, “Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries,” Old Dominion University historian Helen Rountree recalls an exchange of letters between Plecker and U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier in 1943. Collier believed that Plecker’s policy regarding Indians was too strict. Plecker countered that his policy was justified because of his extensive research into race records dating back a century.
“Your staff member is probably correct in his surmise that Hitler’s genealogical study of the Jews is not more complete,” Plecker boasted.
Plecker retired in 1946. Despite his outsized role in Virginia’s history, he remains a relatively unknown figure. Though the history of racism and Jim Crow is taught in Virginia’s schools, neither Plecker nor the Racial Integrity Act are mentioned, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
There is perhaps only one story about Plecker that provides Virginia’s Indians some satisfaction. On Aug. 2, 1947, a year after retiring, Plecker stepped into a Richmond street without looking and was hit and killed by a passing vehicle. He was 86.
“That was good for us,” says Adkins, with a wry smile. “He was going strong until the end. He wasn’t stopping.”
Blitz of opposition
There are currently 566 federally recognized Indian tribes, none of which are from Virginia. In order to receive federal recognition, and be eligible for the housing, education and health-care funding that comes with it, Indian tribes need to meet several criteria heavily weighted to historical documentation.
Because Plecker spent almost all of his public life trying to eliminate the recorded existence of Virginia’s Indians, it has made attaining federal recognition all the more difficult for the tribes.

Then-Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell joins the chiefs and members of the Pamunkey and Mattoponi Tribes for the annual Tax Tribute Ceremony at the Executive Mansion in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Michaele White, governor’s photographer)
Andrew Tyler, a member of the Cherokee tribe and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, poses for a photograph during a break in dancing at the Chickahominy Tribal Center near Providence Forge. (Timothy C. Wright/For the Washington Post)
The 208-member Pamunkey tribe has chosen to pursue recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a laborious and expensive process that has lasted years. The bureau was expected to rule earlier this year on whether to grant the Pamunkey federal recognition. But at the last minute, following a blitz of opposition, that decision was postponed.
Leading the fight against the Pamunkey bid was casino giant MGM, which is opening a $1.2 billion casino in Princes George’s County next year and does not want competition in Virginia. The Pamunkey have not said whether they would open a casino if they were granted recognition, but MGM isn’t waiting to find out. It teamed up with Stand Up for California, an organization that has fought tribal casinos, to oppose Pamunkey recognition.
In March, Stand Up for California wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs saying that some members of the tribe descended not from Indians, but African Americans, and therefore should not be recognized. For Virginia Indian tribes and their supporters, it was galling to hear the same argument that Plecker once made now being repeated to again challenge their identity.
“The whole spectacle of folks ganging up on these tribes, in my view just promoted and funded by the casino industry, is just outrageous,” said Kaine, the senator. “They’re building off the back of a horrific eugenicist to try and make their argument.”
MGM officials rejected that characterization. “We object to any depiction that we are in any way associated with the despicable practice” perpetrated by Plecker, said company spokesman Gordon Absher. “MGM Resorts is a national leader in diversity and inclusion. Insinuations to the contrary cannot be further from the truth.”
Kaine and members of both parties in Virginia’s congressional delegation have long supported passage of the Thomasina E. Jordan bill, which would provide federal recognition through Congress for six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Upper Mattaponi and Rappahannock. To help win political support, the six tribes gave up the right to open casinos or other gambling ventures.
Kaine says he is encouraged that the bill passed out of the Senate subcommittee early in this legislative session and is hopeful that it will do the same in the House so that it can eventually be voted on by the entire Congress.
For Steve Adkins, the Chickahominy chief, federal recognition would stamp out all of Plecker’s efforts by making a statement: “We are who we say we are.”

Going home
Powhatan Red Cloud-Owen’s mother, Minnie Adkins, was 25 when the Racial Integrity Act was passed. The idea that she would no longer be considered an Indian in Virginia was so distressing that she and her sister left their tiny hometown and moved to New York. There they took jobs cleaning homes, and Minnie eventually married an Indian from another tribe and settled in Queens. She was proud of being a Chickahominy and would help out at the American Indian Community House, a meeting place for Indians from all over the country who had moved to New York.
Red-Cloud Owen grew up in New York, but he spent his summers in Virginia with his cousins and other members of the tribe. At 15, he moved to Virginia so that he could attend an all-Indian school. He decided to stay for good, but his mother would never return to live in Virginia again. She died in 1974.
Before she died, however, she made a request, Red-Cloud Owen says. She wanted to be buried in the Chickahominy tribal cemetery, next to the tribal center and near the small town where she grew up and knew the name of everyone and every tree. Buried in Virginia. Buried as an Indian.

Joe Heim joined The Post in 1999. He is currently a staff writer for the Metro section's Local Enterprise team. He also writes Just Asking, a weekly Q&A column in the Sunday magazine and is the paper's resident Downton Abbey expert.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The true meaning of Paganism

Cernunnos,"The Horned One" - Paganism

The true meaning of Paganism

Detail of Runestone 181
The Triumph of Civilization
An ancient temple devoted to the god Zeus
The word "paganism" has come to refer to various pre-Christian religions belonging to a number of ancient cultures—those from Greece, Rome, Egypt, Scandinavia, and so on.  It has come to also represent, in some circles, the modern ideology of Wicca and the followers of revived versions of the old practices.  The truth about "paganism", however, is that it is a historically inaccurate phrase in the context of these aforementioned faiths.  Although it is now the accepted term for these religions, it is important to examine where the word truly came from and what it initially meant, allowing for a better, all-inclusive understanding of the world's religious past.
The term "paganism" was revived during the Renaissance when writers were trying to differentiate the old traditions from their contemporary Christian faith.  The term itself stems from the Latin paganus translated loosely along the lines of "country dweller" or "rustic"; thus it was initially a word describing a person of locality rather than a religion.  However, because of its usage in ancient texts, medieval authors mistakenly believed it referenced a religious sect and thereby gave it the corresponding connotation.  In actuality, there was a different word used to describe the "pagans" as they are called today, and that word too stemmed first and foremost from the location of the religious supporters.
According to scholar Peter Brown of Princeton University, "Hellene" was initially utilized in place of "paganism".  "Hellene" was a reference to Ἕλλην (Hellas), the native ancient Greek name for what is now called Greece.  Brown explains that when Christianity started making appearances in the eastern communities, "Hellene" was used to differentiate the non-Christians from the Christians.  Those from Hellas tended to remain faithful to the old religions, but with the strife between Judaism and Christianity beginning, the Jewish faction needed to ensure they were not incorrectly associated with them.  As they were not from Greece, "Hellene" became the perfect title.

An ancient temple devoted to the god Zeus. Credit: MM, Public Domain

In the Latin west, it was more common for the various religions to refer to themselves by their ethnic origins rather than by the gods they worshipped—they simply referred to themselves (in their own language) as Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, etc., simultaneously insinuating their religious factions as well.  This form of labeling was largely due to the fact that the political and religious aspects of life were a unified entity.  Thus, the tradition of ethnic titling appears to have been continued by the early Christians.  As far as ancient sources can tell, it wasn't until the Late Roman Empire that the term "pagan" began to be used instead, as it was an easy way to lump all the non-Christians together in conversation, decrees, etc.   It rose to popularity as a matter of convenience rather than of accuracy and respect.
It is important to note that "paganism" is not intended to differentiate the polytheistic religions from the monotheistic.  The number of gods does not apply to the term because many so-called "pagans" would have not considered it important to differentiate themselves based on the number of gods they worshipped.  Followers of the ancient religions did not necessarily have anything against Christianity based on its preference for a singular deity—many cults within each sect had a primary deity at the center of the religion, beneath which subordinate deities were also worshipped.  "Paganism" as a title was intended only to reference the non-Christians (and the non-Jews), isolating them into one solitary category that could be more easily destroyed and replaced.

The Triumph of Civilization’ by Jacques Reattu (Wikimedia). Many ancient religions were polytheistic and believed in a pantheon of gods. 

This effort of combining all non-Christian religions under one umbrella was, in fact, a clever strategy by the early Christians to remove the "pagan" faiths altogether.  Using the Norse traditions as an example, the Vikings of the early medieval period had no true name for their religious following.  In truth, the word religion would have been an unknown, foreign term to them.  The Nordic tribes preferred the word "customs" as—like the Greeks and Romans—their rituals, beliefs, and traditions were undefined and fluidly interpreted, orally passed down rather than rigidly studied.  There was no all-encompassing word for the belief in the Aesir and Vanir, and the various other beings and deities the ancient Norse worshipped, and there was no written text discussing their practices until the Christian author Snorri Sturluson wrote their mythology down in the 13th century.

Detail of Runestone 181, in Stockholm. Norse gods Odin, Thor and Freyr are represented as three men. Credit: Berig, Wikipedia

According to Gareth Williams in Viking: Life and Legend, what is now considered the Norse religion is actually the "legacy of the Christian missionaries", their textual product a "concentrated target" that is much easier to remove and erase than the amalgamation of gods liberally worshipped.  Consolidating the various Norse—and every other "pagan"—tradition into a simplified faith with recorded rules and codes provided the early Christians with a more straightforward target to remove and replace.
Though the phrase "paganism" is widely used to describe followers of the various ancient religions, it is important to understand from where the term originates and the misconceptions behind its usage.   Too many centuries have passed now—the word "paganism" will continue to label these supporters despite its original meaning.  But it is never too late to be informed of the origins of the term, thereby allowing a better comprehension of the history of the ancient followers.
Featured image: Cernunnos,"The Horned One", ancient god of nature and fertility. (Source)
Brown, Peter. Late Antiquity: a guide to the postclassical world (Harvard University Press: Massachusetts, 1999.) s.v. "Pagan".
Cameron, Alan G. The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011.)
Davies, Owen (2011). Paganism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011.)
Robert, P. & Scott, N. A History of Pagan Europe (Barnes & Noble Books: New York, 1995.)
Swain, "Defending Hellenism: Philostratus, in Honour of Apollonius," in Apologetics, p. 173
Williams, Gareth, Peter Penz, and Matthias Wemhoff. Vikings: Life and Legend (Cornell University Press: New York, 2014.)
York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York University Press: New York, 2003.)
By Ryan Stone