The Confederate Monuments Must Come Down

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As you may recall, during the weekend, white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park. And as you know, they clashed with a group of counter-protesters which resulted in 3 people killed and at least 35 wounded. Nevertheless, since the 2015 Emmanuel AME Church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, there has been more attention on Confederate symbols in public spaces. Two years ago, I wrote a post arguing why the Confederate flag is racist and why it should be removed. But it’s not the only Confederate symbol you see in the United States. Across the nation hundreds of Confederate memorials, plazas, and markers dot 31 states standing in public parks, courthouse squares, and state capitols. Plenty of cities, bridges, roads, parks, schools, counties, military bases, and other public areas are named after Confederate icons. And as of 2017, six states observe 9 official Confederate holidays. Since the Charleston shooting, at least 60 of these publicly funded Confederate symbols have been removed or renamed according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, as of 2016, the SPLC has documented that over 1,500 of them remain on public property including more than 700 monuments and statues.

Attempts at removing these monuments or renaming public spaces have generated considerable controversy and backlash. Some of these monuments like the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville have become rallying points for white supremacists. Yet, opposition to Confederate monument removal isn’t just limited to the radical right fringe. Southern state lawmakers have proposed legislation banning local governments from removing these controversial landmarks and symbols. One state representative from Mississippi even called for those removing Confederate statues to be lynched. Also, most of these plaques, statues, and monuments are still up thanks to the support of local residents, town councils, and even state governments. Many critics say removing a monument or flag, renaming a public place, or ending a state holiday is tantamount “erasing history.” Proponents often state that these landmarks and emblems represent history and heritage and that efforts to remove them is just political correctness gone too far.

Yet, the “heritage not hate” rationale used to justify public Confederate displays ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in the South. It also trivializes their pain, their history, and concerns about racism. Not to mention, the “heritage” argument conceals the true history of the Confederacy and the 7 decades of Jim Crow segregation and oppression after Reconstruction. There is no doubt that the Confederacy was founded on white supremacy and that the South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery. Its founding documents and leaders made it perfectly clear. After all it was Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens who said in his 1861 “Cornerstone speech”, “Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” And by defending slavery with gunfire and cannons, the Confederates prolonged the life of an institution which brought indescribable suffering and horror to millions. Through waging war against the Union, they betrayed the United States and killed thousands of their fellow countrymen.
However, despite that Civil War history is well-documented, legions of Southern whites still cling to the Lost Cause myth as a noble Southern endeavor fought to defend the region’s honor and its ability to govern itself in the face of Northern aggression. This is of course, bullshit but it’s a deeply rooted false narrative resulting from many decades of revisionism in the lore and even Southern textbooks seeking to create a more acceptable version of the area’s past. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, 48% of Americans cited states’ rights as the reason for the Civil War despite which doesn’t hold up when you include the Fugitive Slave Act, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott Decision. Not to mention, all the pro-slavery and white supremacist sentiments in Confederate documents. Still, these Confederate monuments and symbols in the South are very much a part of that effort. Historian Thavolia Glymph noted that the Lost Cause became so endemic that it passed, “off legend as history so successfully that the legend came to be remembered as the history.” Though Southerners started honoring the Confederacy with statues and symbols almost immediately after the Civil War, most dedications of Confederate monuments and other symbols took place during the early 20th century which lasted well into the 1920s and from the early 1950s all through the 1960s. Why these periods? Well, the first spike happened during the period when states enacted Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise newly freed blacks and re-segregate society. This period also saw the dramatic resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan thanks to D.W. Griffith’s 1916 film The Birth of a Nation. The second spike in Confederate dedications happened during the civil rights movement, leading to white segregationist backlash. Even in the 21st century, these monuments keep cropping up, including 35 in North Carolina. Therefore, it’s very clear that many of these Confederate monuments and symbols exist not to honor history, heritage or the fallen but to enforce and perpetuate white supremacy through legal and even violent means.

Not only do these monuments instill white supremacy on the American landscape, they also perpetuate myths that screw up the American historical narrative known as the Lost Cause myth. When you erect a monument for someone or group, you also determine how they should be remembered as well as enshrine everything they stood for as noble and just. These Confederate monuments conjure images of resplendent generals and brave soldiers fighting for a noble but lost cause. Memorials to Confederate soldiers extol their heroism and valor or sometimes details of particular battles or local units. But some go so far as to glorify the Confederacy’s cause. One notable example is a monument in Anderson County, South Carolina reading, “The world shall yet decide, in truth’s clear, far-off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray, and died with Lee, were in the right.” But in reality, their cause was white supremacy and slavery which are anything but noble. They also conceal the economic exploitation, political oppression, and widespread violence black people faced when these monuments were built.

But while dedicating Confederate memorials for fallen soldiers is one thing, leaders are another. Many of these statues of Confederate leaders conjure a perception of them as gallant and noble heroes fighting for what was right. As an activist in Memphis told Al Jazeera, “Kids see these statues and think they’re for great people. These statues don’t say anything about the atrocities.” And they don’t usually reflect who these leaders are. Robert E. Lee is clearest example of this since he’s had more monuments and places with his name and/or likeness than any other leader in the Confederacy. And he’s certainly its most admired champion who’s continually praised as a brilliant strategist as well as a kind, benevolent figure who hated slavery and secession. But he fought for the South out of duty to the Virginia he so loved. Except that’s not the real Robert E. Lee. Lee did make some grandiose sentiments in favor of liberty on occasion. But he was not only fine with owning slaves, he fought a court case to keep his father-in-law’s slaves who’ve been promised their freedom after the old man died. He lost Documents show he was anything but the kind, benevolent man he’s portrayed as, at least as far as his family’s slaves are concerned. In fact, Lee opposed virtually any pro-emancipation cause that would’ve actually freed slaves and harshly condemned abolitionists. During his invasion into Pennsylvania, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would abduct free blacks for enslavement. His men also massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender during the Battle of Crater and paraded the survivors through the streets of Petersburg, Virginia. Lee never discouraged such behavior because he didn’t believe blacks shouldn’t be treated as human beings. And he certainly believed in white supremacy after the war since he argued against black enfranchisement, raged against Republican efforts to enforce racial equality in the South, and allowed students at Washington College to establish their own Klu Klux Klan chapter, rape black schoolgirls, and attempt lynchings. Besides, when the Civil War broke out, Lee first asked permission to sit out of the war altogether. While he did anguish whether to maintain his oath of loyalty to the US Army or fight on behalf of his state and slavery, he chose the latter. Fittingly enough, he sent a letter of resignation to the War Department via slave. Lee then wrote another letter expressing that he didn’t believe Virginia yet had full justification to secede, he knew he chose against the wishes of his wife and children (as well as several other family members). Besides, Virginians like Winfield Scott, George Henry Thomas, his own cousins Fitzgerald and  Samuel Phillips Lee, future West Virginians, and 40% of Virginia’s officers remained loyal to the Union. As for being a brilliant strategist, well, despite being an accomplished tactician and winning individual battles, many historians consider his decision to fight against a more industrialized and densely populated North as a fatal strategic error. But even if he was as great military commander, Lee was still responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of black people. Lee’s elevation as hero is a key part of Lost Cause mythology designed to erase slavery as the cause of the Civil War and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. Perhaps the most fitting monument to General Robert E. Lee is the national military cemetery on his lawn at Arlington. If you want a Confederate general to idolize, may I suggest James Longstreet? At least he embraced equal rights for blacks after the Civil War and took on white supremacists in New Orleans with an integrated police force. But that’s why Lost Cause folks hate his guts.

Even more disturbing is that many of these Confederate monuments aren’t just in the states that seceded from the Union. You have plenty in border states fighting for the Union, in Union states, and states that in 1861 were mere territories. One particular example is Kentucky whose government didn’t side with the Confederacy and two thirds of Kentuckians fought for the Union. But you wouldn’t know that from a state swamped in Confederate monuments. And one of these has to be a 35-story obelisk at Jefferson Davis’s birthplace in Fairview. In Arizona, the oldest Confederate Memorial was dedicated in 1943 while the newest went up in 2010. Of course, they were erected by the thousands of white Southerners who moved there and took their fondness for intimidating blacks with them. In Helena, Montana, a Confederate Memorial Fountain has sat in its Hill Park since 1916 which author James W. Loewen said, “tells that the Confederacy should be revered even as far north as Montana.” You might wonder why there are Confederate monuments outside the former Confederacy since they seem to no reason to exist there. But when you figure that segregation wasn’t just restricted to the South but stretched across a nation more concerned about unity in the face of foreign threats than rights for black people, it makes a lot more sense.

Nevertheless, these enduring tributes to white supremacy and black enslavement still stand in a nation that hasn’t moved past America’s original sin and has refused to address racism’s pernicious and ubiquitous nature. To say that these Confederate monuments only as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said, “immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks. But as the immense presence of Confederate monuments and symbols show there’s a lot of love for the losing side of an unjust cause. There should be nothing but condemnation and dishonor for those who seceded from the Union and fought for the privilege of keeping black people under involuntary servitude. Removing Confederate symbols and monuments will not erase history nor does it denigrate anyone’s Southern heritage. But the effort to topple them is about more than symbolism. Rather it’s about starting a conversation about a community’s shared values and beliefs along with our understanding as a nation. It’s about acknowledging, understanding, and reconcile past injustices as we address those of today. And lastly, it’s about us as a people being able to choose a better future for ourselves and make right what was wrong. Our historical monuments not only depict our history but also enshrine value we choose to promote. As a nation founded on the principles of liberty, equality and democracy, these Confederate monuments stand to extol values anathema to such ideas. Confederate monuments don’t belong on a pedestal in a public space. So it’s long past time to take them down.

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Hands Off My PBS and NPR: Why We Still Need Public Broadcasting

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Established by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has ensured universal access to non-commercial, high quality content, and telecommunications services. And does so by distributing more than 70% of its funding to more than 1,300 locally owned public radio and television stations along with the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. The CPB is part of our nation’s commitment to ensuring culture, learning, and the arts are available to all Americans.

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This cartoon from the Indianapolis Star shows Trump slashing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from the federal budget. And here we see horrified Sesame Street muppets look on.

This March, President Cheetohead unveiled his federal budget plan proposing to ax the federal funding from several government programs, including the CPB. The reason? According to Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” His justification to cut public broadcasting in order to increase defense spending by $54 billion makes absolutely no sense. The CPB receives about an annual $485 million from the federal government, consisting of about .00006% of the federal budget. By contrast, annual US defense spending is about $500-$600 billion, consisting of half the federal budget at least (estimated). Yet, Mulvaney also has the audacity and the stupidity to state that we can’t ask a West Virginia coal miner or a Detroit single mom whether we can keep funding public broadcasting programs. It’s like he thinks that public broadcasting plays no role in ordinary Americans’ day to day lives. Does he have any idea parents and children are a key demographic for shows like Sesame Street? Or that PBS Kids is the only educational resource for 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents can’t afford sending them to preschool? And that local public stations may be the only source of free local news and programming in many rural areas? Or when West Virginia’s governor proposed cutting state funding to its public media from its budget, only to change his mind afterwards? Besides, it only costs the average American $1.35 each year for it. People have paid more for overdue library books for God’s sake. And given PBS and NPR’s penchant to air quality program that have been on for years, I consider it an investment well spent. Thus, I think asking single moms and coal miners to pay for public broadcasting is fairly reasonable. Of course, I may be a little biased since I watch PBS on a regular basis because I’d rather watch intellectually stimulating shows than meaningless crap. And I will defend PBS and NPR with my life. But don’t take my word for it since 73% of all Americans oppose cutting federal funding for the CPB including 83% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans.

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On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would testify before a US Senate committee to defend funding for public broadcasting. His words about how his show benefits young kids still echoes today. Since he’s from Latrobe and his show was based in WQED Pittsburgh, he holds a special place in my area as a local legend.

Critics of public broadcasting often view NPR as a liberal media hotbed and PBS as an obsolete relic of a bygone age. Republicans in particular, don’t think that the federal government should support public broadcasting even if it’s funding represents a miniscule fraction of the federal budget. They believe that we should let the market decide whether it wants science, arts, or music. Besides, if you want quality educational and cultural programming, then cable should be quite sufficient since you have whole channels devoted to education and culture. Or so they say. However, Americans should view their public broadcasting system as a national treasure since it provides a vital public service for local communities as well as the nation. As a media outlet, public broadcasting provides educational and high quality programming for all Americans. Without it, the United States would be a far worse off place. So much that disgraced four-star general Stanley McChrystal called cutting public media for increased military spending, “a false choice.” Nevertheless, American taxpayers pay only a small investment in public broadcasting that pays out big dividends in a way that’s indispensable to society. And as McChrystal said, it should be pitted against the spending more in improving our military. Not to mention, many viewers would miss out on all the intellectual and educational richness public media has to offer. Thus, if Trump should kill public broadcasting, America loses. Because public broadcasting is part of what makes America great. To eliminate federal funding for the CPB would be catastrophic to public broadcasting, especially where local stations rely on CPB funds. And I give you the following reasons why federal funding for PBS and NPR is worth protecting.

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A lot of these educational cable networks may have started off with high quality programming. But they later degenerated into airing crap in order to appeal to a larger 18-34 audience and sponsors. As you can see from these charts, it tells you what The Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel air nowadays.

Most attempts at providing quality educational and cultural programming to cable television have failed.– Out of all the cable stations providing quality educational and cultural programming, only Turner Classic Movies and the Smithsonian Channel continue to do so 24/7. Other channels like National Geographic and the Weather Channel can also have educational content. But they can also feature a lot of crap. Nevertheless, there was a time when cable had a real chance of replacing PBS, but that was back in the early days. We should remember that the Discovery Channel, A&E, The History Channel, and TLC were created to provide such programming. A&E stood for Arts and Entertainment as well as used to show content relating to arts, dance, theater, history, literature, and nature. TLC once stood for The Learning Channel which used to feature science and nature documentaries and was co-owned by NASA. The Discovery Channel also featured science programming while the History Channel broadcasted documentaries on history. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, conservatives could use networks like TLC, A&E, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel, to argue that we don’t need PBS anymore. Nowadays, try to argue that point and all you get is a room full of obnoxious laughter. Today you will find that A&E is best known for airing Duck Dynasty, Dog, the Bounty Hunter, and Love Prison. TLC’s programming centers around trashy reality shows exploiting toddler beauty pageants, obese people, people who need therapy, and families who don’t mind putting children in the spotlight. The Discovery Channel may still have Shark Week but they feature reality shows like Amish Mafia and Naked and Afraid. As for the History Channel, well, basically they’ve devoted timeslots to reality shows as well as programming featuring pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. PBS, meanwhile, still shows the same type of programming throughout its existence at the same quality. So why did these cable networks departed so far from their original programming concepts while PBS didn’t? Mostly because these cable networks are for-profit businesses that exist to make money. Many times a cable channel’s management might add shows they feel that a larger audience wants to see, leading to additional profits. And by producing irrelevant or low-quality programming, they can increase their ratings to a target audience, increase viewership, and increase revenues. This is a process known as Network Decay or Channel Drift. The degree of channel drift may vary with some nonconforming programming retaining some degree of association with the channel’s original purpose like Pawn Stars on the History Channel. Yet, other programming may have no association whatsoever such as whatever you see on TLC. PBS, by contrast, primarily exists to provide programming of social benefit to their viewers that may not be commercially viable to the mass market like public affairs shows, documentaries, and educational shows. Many have been on the air for years, if not decades. In fact, one of the principles of public broadcasting is to provide coverage for interests for which there are missing or small markets. Quality educational and cultural programming would usually fit the bill. PBS’s non-profit status allows them to do so while not being obligated to appeal to the lowest common denominator, advertisers, or profits. Furthermore, PBS relies on government and private funding sources because it strives for the kind of independence in order to fulfill its educational and cultural mission to the public.

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In 2013, WNET New York released a series of ads of fake reality shows both on posters and in commercials. This was at a time when reality shows were very popular. Nevertheless, Bayou Eskimos is probably as realistic as Duck Dynasty or Amish Mafia. But since a lot of cable networks many thought would replace PBS now have hours of reality shows, I think it shows a lot about our culture.

Just because a TV show is commercially viable, doesn’t mean it’s good.– As much as I hate reality shows, I have to concede that networks find them particularly attractive. They’re relatively cheap to produce than a scripted series as well as is often said to be more authentic and engaging to viewers. Reality shows were very popular among audiences during my adolescence with the primary demographic being teenagers and young adults. Sponsors like them since they provide an opportunity for product placement, giving more time to market their products. However, reality shows aren’t quality entertainment as well as be rather exploitative and offensive regardless of popularity. Nor do they reflect “reality” as we know it since such shows use a lot of behind the scenes trickery. Yet, popular reality shows seldom ever get cancelled. Nevertheless, we need to understand that popularity among the masses doesn’t translate into quality. As a writer who enjoys old movies, I understand this concept incredibly well. Not every bestseller becomes a literary classic. And not every box office hit will be held as a cinematic masterpiece. Trash culture has always existed whether it be porn, penny dreadfuls, pulp novels, exploitation films, B-movies, and reality shows. Each generation has its own form of mindless entertainment. Nevertheless, the fact channels like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel switched from their educational programming to sleazy entertainment demonstrates how some good quality shows aren’t always commercially viable. Many of the shows PBS airs like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, NOVA, Nature, and others wouldn’t have a chance on other channels. Nor would they be able to otherwise compete what’s available on other channels if it weren’t for PBS. For example, when Fred Rogers addressed the US Senate in 1969, he’d say that he knew his haircut decision could excite kids once he was in front of them. But he also knew it would be hard to compete for their attention as on-screen violence and special effects became ever more present outside public media. He also talked about how watching two men working through their emotions is much more important, relevant, and dramatic than guns firing. Cable channels may air marketable content but it doesn’t mean such shows are good.

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While the federal government provides some of the CPB’s funding, most of it comes from private along with state and local government sources. And it is because public broadcasting receives money from a variety of public and private sources that it’s able to air quality programming and exist as an independent non-profit entity.

Public broadcasting is not beholden to anyone but its mission and its viewership.– While public broadcasters may receive some funding from state and local governments, most financial support comes from underwriting from foundations and businesses ranging from small shops to corporations, along with audience contributions via pledge drives. They may rely on advertisers, but not to the same degree as commercial broadcasters or at all. Nor are they owned or operated by the government either. Rather many owned by non-profit groups affiliated with a local school district, a college, a non-profit organization, or by state or local government agencies. Stations receiving CPB funds must meet certain requirements such as the maintenance or provision of open meetings, open financial records, a community advisory board, equal employment opportunity, and lists of donors and political activities. And most of PBS’s national programming is produced by member stations, particularly WPGH Boston, WNET New York, and WETA Washington providing most of them. Though my local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh produced the iconic Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. NPR also broadcasts content from national providers like Public Radio International or American Public Radio. Yet, they also can air from other stations as well. For instance, the celebrated “Car Talk” was produced by WBUR-FM Boston while Minnesota Public Radio brings “A Prairie Home Companion.” Nevertheless, PBS is a great station for those who would rather teach lessons and enrich minds than make money. As long as it’s quality programming benefitting the public, PBS doesn’t care much about ratings as it does about access and viewers like you.

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Though kid shows exist on commercial networks, they often don’t alleviate parents’ and teachers’ worries since they may show violence, teach terrible lessons, and advertise junk food. PBS shows like Sesame Street have a great reputation since they aim to put kids’ interests first. And the fact parents and young children enjoy this show so much over the years has made it one of the most beloved on TV.

What’s good for the market isn’t always what people want.– Despite what public media opponents may say, there is a demand for educational and cultural programming no matter how small that may be. While networks like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel weren’t as commercially viable while airing such programs, they did have an audience. When they embarked on the long road through network decay, that audience abandoned them. Nevertheless, a classic example of this is in children’s programming. Though commercial networks often air kid shows as well, parents and teachers have often expressed concern on what children watch on them. The fact cartoons can depict violence while sponsors air ads possibly promoting unhealthy eating habits doesn’t help. But above all parents and teachers worry whether kids are learning the right lessons from the stuff they watch. By contrast, PBS’s educational mission and commercial free programming earns a lot of trust from parents and teachers in regards to children’s TV in preparing them for lifelong learning. Not to mention, public broadcasting often puts kids’ best interests first. Of course, most of their kids’ programming aims for young children. But in a way it makes sense, since early childhood is a very vulnerable age where fostering a lifelong love of learning is vital. And a lot of them aren’t yet in school. Besides, most of PBS’s adult shows are usually appropriate for children anyway. Schools frequently show a lot of PBS documentaries and the network’s website often features lesson plans to go with them. After all, airing shows like Nova, Nature, and the occasional Ken Burns documentary should inspire kids to value learning and make a difference. PBS and NPR also provide news coverage from local events to international affairs and with as little bias as possible. Public radio stations even feature music like jazz, classical, and indie music you might not find on other radio channels. We should also account that PBS currently ranks #6 among all broadcast and cable networks for primetime household ratings, is watched by 82% of American households, and a monthly audience of over 95 million.

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This is a diagram of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s operating budget from 2014. As you can see most of it goes to supporting local TV and radio stations. Many of these are in impoverished rural areas and serve as the only source for local news and other services.

Local NPR and PBS affiliates put local audiences first.– As of 2015, PBS maintains current memberships of 354 stations across encompassing 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 US possessions. This gives PBS the distinction as the only TV broadcaster in the United States, commercial or non-commercial with station partners in every US state. By contrast, none of the 5 major commercial broadcast networks has affiliates in certain states where PBS has members with the most significant example being New Jersey. PBS’s estimated reach is 93.74% of all US households (or 292,926,047 Americans with at least one set). Along with national programming like Nova, Nature, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow, local PBS stations also air a lot of locally produced content they probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. My local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh has aired locally produced documentaries, cooking shows, and film shorts. WQED has also hosted local forums on local issues as well as debates in important statewide election races. In rural areas, local PBS stations serve an important role in their communities that larger state and even national outlets can’t replace. For these residents, their PBS station might be the only place to see their county fair or their neighbors talking about their WWII service. They may also support local initiatives regarding education, adult literacy, and workplace development. In some areas, their public broadcast station might be the only source of news, entertainment, and emergency broadcast service available. And a lot of their poorer residents can’t even afford cable. Since many of these areas don’t have wealthy members like Pittsburgh’s WQED and WESA do, their rural stations rely on government funding for support. Even in the most conservative areas of the country, people usually have high esteem for their public broadcast stations which they might see as a neighbor or friend. And these stations often benefit their communities tremendously.

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From its debut in 1975, the PBS NewsHour has earned a reputation for excellence in its in-depth coverage on issues and current events. And it’s one of PBS most popular shows as one of the closest to a truly objective news source on the media landscape.

More people trust PBS and NPR than most government and media institutions. – In a nation where public trust in American institutions are on the decline such as the government and the media, PBS and NPR have consistently ranked as among the most trusted. Sure your local PBS and NPR stations won’t cover local sports, weather, and crime, but their commitment to viewers, listeners, and their mission has considerably helped their reputation. Not to mention, both PBS and NPR are among the only media outlets to have high public trust among Americans across all demographics as well as the political spectrum. Though both PBS and NPR have been criticized for showing liberal bias, most can at least name something they like about either. For instance, whenever conservatives criticize PBS and NPR, it usually has more with their national news content than anything. Though it’s not all they do. And there are plenty of conservatives who might think NPR is liberal but would certainly riot if you did anything to their public radio station. Parents and teachers trust PBS have consistently rated PBS as the #1 educational media brand for kids under 18 in the nation for very good reason. Hell, the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed to PBS Kids as a leading resource for educational programming. After all, PBS Kids puts greater emphasis on quality over quantity. As for news, PBS has highly acclaimed programs like the News Hour and Frontline. NPR is currently the most trusted news source in the nation with an audience that doesn’t just consist of white college educated liberals. Furthermore, PBS and NPR have been the only media outlets reporting on climate change during the 2016 election. PBS’s news programming has won 14 News and Documentary Emmys in 2016 which is more than any other organization. And Frontline took 7, which is more than any other individual series.

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PBS plays an especially critical role in educating young children, particularly those in low-income families unable to afford preschool. Without it, there would be no way for many children to prepare for kindergarten.

PBS is highly committed educating all children, especially those most at risk. – As a public station, PBS strives to make sure all Americans have access to free, evidence-based, high quality, and educational programming. Nowhere is their mission more important than in their kid shows that they added the PBS Kids channel available for everyone. As a result, PBS Kids reaches more young children and more kids from low-income families than any other children’s TV network. On air, PBS Kids attracts higher proportions of minority and low-income homes. Whereas more than 2/3 of children from 2-8 watch PBS. Not only that, but PBS also provides over 120,000 Pre-K-12 digital resources along with more than 1.8 million users with registered access to PBS Learning Media. Recent studies confirm that 9 out of 10 parents use PBS Kids resources for school preparedness while three-quarters say their kid engages in more positive behavior and higher critical thinking skills after engaging with the network. PBS Kids programming provides a vital service in school readiness to more than half of America’s 3-4 year-olds who don’t have the opportunity to attend preschool. For these children, PBS Kids is the only source of educational media content supporting school readiness which could boost their long-term educational opportunities. Such PBS Kids content supports a whole child ecosystem addressing core needs such as social-emotional learning, math, engineering, literacy, and science. And early childhood education is absolutely crucial in life that PBS understands. For older children, PBS and member stations have partnered for the “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” initiative. This program brings public media together with key community stakeholders to help students stay on the path to on-time high school graduation and future success. This partnership consist of PBS stations in over 30 states partnered with more than 1,400 community leaders, local organizations, and schools to help students succeed from Pre-K to high school graduation and beyond. Not to mention, PBS Learning Media includes content from award winning shows like Nova, Nature, American Experience, and Frontline that educators and parents could access at any time. PBS’s commitment to educating children of all ages has made the network absolutely essential.

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Cutting funding for PBS and NPR won’t free up a lot of money for military spending. But a United States without public broadcasting wouldn’t be a nice place to live. PBS and NPR have informed, educated, and inspired people as well s made our nation smarter, stronger, and safer. There are so many stories from viewers on how public media has made a positive impact in their lives. The fact Trump and his swamp cronies are willing to eliminate the CPB really illustrates how he values American greatness and values. Like not at all.

Public broadcasting creates makes Americans better citizens. – Though providing early childhood education and molding young children to be intellectually curious, empathetic, and prepared for school and life, it’s only one of the ways PBS enriches people’s lives. Unlike commercial TV stations, PBS treats its viewers as citizens instead of simply consumers as well as promote education, public trust in institutions, and civil discourse. Public broadcasting makes our country smarter, stronger, and safer. PBS and NPR both can inform, educate, and inspire people. And they both push us into elevating us and our sights. They both also encourage us to think and understand as well as bring us together. Today trust among Americans and for many national institutions is at its lowest in generations. Stereotyping, prejudice, and anti-intellectualism have proliferated that the US has elected a narcissistic sociopath as president who thinks little of America and embodies the country at its worst. Since PBS is ranked #1 in public trust, it can help build connections between different groups of people as well as promote a civil society. And we should note that most Americans oppose cutting federal funding for public television. Still, if Congress and Trump eliminate CPB funding, America would be a much more inhospitable place since PBS and NPR have played an essential role in millions of Americans’ everyday lives as well as benefited our country in so many ways. Even Fred Rogers realized this back in 1969 that he testified before Congress to defend PBS funding when Nixon wanted to cut it. More than ever we need a media outlets that value people over profits as well as enrich our lives. $1.35 a year is a small price to pay. Besides, the fact Trump is willing to cut PBS and NPR funding means he doesn’t value what’s great about America.

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Dazzling Masquerade Costumes at the Carinval of Venice

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Next week is Mardi Gras which marks an occasion of parties and parades before Christians the world over take part in their 6 week sacrifice over the course of Lent. And while most Americans think New Orleans whenever they hear about Mardi Gras, it’s actually celebrated the world over. One of the best known Mardi Gras celebrations is Carnival which can last at least a week prior to Fat Tuesday or longer. One of the most famous is the Carnival of Venice, best known for its elaborate masks and costumes. It was said that this festival in the city of singing gondolas and canals was first celebrated in 1162 for the victory of  a victory of the “Serenissima Repubblica” against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven with people gathering and dancing at San Marco Square. Venice would make their Carnival official during the Renaissance and would achieve great renown and notoriety. In the 17th century, the Carnival of Venice was a way to save the city’s prestigious image while it attracted notoriety in the 18th as encouraging license and pleasure and protecting Venetians from present and future anguish. Nevertheless, the King of Austria would outlaw the festival entirely in 1797 while the use of masks was strictly forbidden. But that didn’t stop the famous carnival from gradually reappearing in the 19th century, but only for short periods and above all for private feasts where it became an occasion for works of art. The Carnival would officially return in 1979 thanks to the Italian government making it a centerpiece wanting to bring back Venice’s history and culture. College students redeveloped some of the masks to sell to tourists. And since then, the Carnival of Venice attracts about 3 million visitors each year. They even have a mask beauty contest to boot that’s judged by international costume and fashion designers. At any rate, the Carnival of Venice is well known for its style of gorgeous costumes and masks. So for your reading pleasure, I give you a glimpse into the colorful world of the Venice Carnival.

  1. At the masquerade, it always pays to dress in blue.
For some reason, a lot of couples wear similar colored costumes. And they seem to come straight from the Cavalier Years.

For some reason, a lot of couples wear similar colored costumes. And they seem to come straight from the Renaissance and Cavalier Years.

2. Floral motifs can be customary for spring time.

And I see she's dressed in pink and purple with flowers to boot. She even has a matching tri corner hat.

And I see she’s dressed in pink and purple with flowers to boot. She even has a matching tri corner hat.

3. A fancy hat can sometimes make all the difference.

Well, this one is quite fancy. Love the gold embroidery and skirt.

Well, this one is quite fancy. Love the gold embroidery and skirt.

4. A lady jester should always have a matching hat and dress.

Yes, she may look like a 16th century Harley Quinn. But jesters are common in Venetian Carnival celebrations.

Yes, she may look like a 16th century Harley Quinn. But jesters are common in Venetian Carnival celebrations.

5. Yet, while some go all out, others prefer to dress in black.

Yes, that may resemble Big Bird's evil twin. But he's dressed as a plague doctor who wore a mask like that protect himself against getting sick from his patients. Unfortunately, this wasn't very effective.

Yes, that may resemble Big Bird’s evil twin. But he’s dressed as a plague doctor who wore a mask like that protect himself against getting sick from his patients. Unfortunately, this wasn’t very effective.

6. There’s nothing that brings out the chic like silver.

Yeah, you tend to find a lot of costumes consisting of one color like these two. Still, you might think their outfits would be great for a haunted house. If they weren't incredibly fancy.

Yeah, you tend to find a lot of costumes consisting of one color like these two. Still, you might think their outfits would be great for a haunted house. If they weren’t incredibly fancy.

7. A white snow queen should always make a grand entrance.

Had Frozen taken place in a place like Venice, it might've been way creepier. And there would be no doubt Lady Gaga would play Queen Elsa in the live-action remake.

Had Frozen taken place in a place like Venice, it might’ve been way creepier. And there would be no doubt Lady Gaga would play Queen Elsa in the live-action remake.

8. With these two, their heads are bursting with flowers.

Well, spring won't be long so they might as well wear hats like that. Though their outfits are quite stunning to behold.

Well, spring won’t be long so they might as well wear hats like that. Though their outfits are quite stunning to behold.

9. A dress of hot pink makes one really stand out.

Though the elaborate headdress doesn't do that outfit wonders. But I like the gold trim.

Though the elaborate headdress doesn’t do that outfit wonders. But I like the gold trim.

10. So I guess we have a couple of visitors from Candy Land.

According to their 18th century pastel attire, they seem to be. Though I think the skirts are supposed to mimic a carousel top.

According to their 18th century pastel attire, they seem to be. Though I think the skirts are supposed to mimic a carousel top.

11. A dress of lavender always makes a classy look.

Here we see her with a purple parasol and hat along with an ornate mask mirror. All in all, I think this is try gorgeous.

Here we see her with a purple parasol and hat along with an ornate mask mirror. All in all, I think this is try gorgeous.

12. An orange dress should have floral decor to match.

Apparently, the two seem t resemble very elaborate traffic cones. Though that just might be for the hoops skirts.

Apparently, the two seem t resemble very elaborate traffic cones. Though that just might be for the hoops skirts.

13. Is that a detached boat figurehead or a living statue?

Certainly looks like a golden girl to me. But not in the tradition of Betty White per se.

Certainly looks like a golden girl to me. But not in the tradition of Betty White per se. Also, What’s with the hat?

14. At times, it can be easy to go all out with feathers.

Yes, these costumes could get very elaborate. No, I'm not sure what Lady Gaga would wear to this. Though this is not a bad guess.

Yes, these costumes could get very elaborate. No, I’m not sure what Lady Gaga would wear to this. Though this is not a bad guess.

15. Neon green can always make a presence in small quantities.

Though it works better as an accent color as seen here. Not sure about the veil.

Though it works better as an accent color as seen here. Not sure about the veil.

16. If you’re a traveling minstrel, a short skirt is sometimes necessary.

Though it's just as elaborate with a headdress and lyre to match. Though the headdress contains wild feathers.

Though it’s just as elaborate with a headdress and lyre to match. Though the headdress contains wild feathers.

17. Even Egyptian royals want to get into the festivities.

I'm sure you might see these pop up quite a bit. Though they're both decked in blue and gold.

I’m sure you might see these pop up quite a bit. Though they’re both decked in blue and gold.

18. Sometimes you’ll have to dress to impress.

This woman has puffed sleeves, a hoop skirt, and a fancy headdress. How she keeps her head up, I don't know.

This woman has puffed sleeves, a hoop skirt, and a fancy headdress. How she keeps her head up, I don’t know.

19. To dress in purple is to show a certain degree of grace.

Though this is more of a later 19th century garb than anything which is quite unusual. Though just as lovely.

Though this is more of a later 19th century garb than anything which is quite unusual. Though just as lovely.

20. Golden attire can always shimmer at San Marco Square.

She even holds a rose in her golden dress. Though her headdress sports a golden veil.

She even holds a rose in her golden dress. Though her headdress sports a golden veil.

21. Even men occasionally want to shine like the sun.

Though an outfit like this makes it seem rather ridiculous. Though it all seems to match.

Though an outfit like this makes it seem rather ridiculous. Though it all seems to match.

22. For some couples, it pays to accentuate the shoulders.

Though I'd sure hate to stand behind these two. Like their outfits though.

Though I’d sure hate to stand behind these two. Like their outfits though.

23. To welcome spring, a dress in green is sometimes appreciated.

Though this isn't as bad as the lime green you'd see on PennDOT workers. However, you'd think she'd create a neon impression.

Though this isn’t as bad as the lime green you’d see on PennDOT workers. However, you’d think she’d create a neon impression.

24. A pink dress makes you a darling around the Venetian canals.

Well, she certainly resembles an 18th century beauty. Like the pink hat and flowers.

Well, she certainly resembles an 18th century beauty. Like the pink hat and flowers.

25. A noble lady may occasionally go for a conniving knave.

I can see that both are dressed in black and purple. Love the woman's hat.

I can see that both are dressed in black and purple. Love the woman’s hat.

26. A couple of jesters can enliven the festivities.

Like I said, there are a lot of jesters at the Venice Carnival. Though I think these two really stand out for me.

Like I said, there are a lot of jesters at the Venice Carnival. Though I think these two really stand out for me.

27. With these two, it’s always for the birds.

Sure their outfits might not be period accurate. But you have to admit they have some charm.

Sure their outfits might not be period accurate. But you have to admit they have some charm.

28. Sometimes the more elaborate the robe the better.

You should get the idea this is a guy. But you have to admire his golden staff.

You should get the idea this is a guy. But you have to admire his golden staff.

29. At the Carnival of Venice, there’s no such ting as too much gold embroidery.

Though you might say these two come quite close. Though at least their outfits match.

Though you might say these two come quite close. Though at least their outfits match.

30. Even a radiant beauty needs some shade now and then.

Though how she could get through doorways is the question. Nevertheless, she looks like a queen.

Though how she could get through doorways is the question. Nevertheless, she looks like a queen.

31. Any fair lady can look ravishing in red.

So simple, yet so elegant. Not showy, but just as ornate as some of the others.

So simple, yet so elegant. Not showy, but just as ornate as some of the others.

32. These two apparently have a flowery disposition.

And decked in flowers these two sure are. Like their hats.

And decked in flowers these two sure are. Like their hats.

33. There are some Venice Carnival costumes that can range from the regal to the outlandish.

She may dress fancy but she looks like a queen or fairy princess. The guy on the other hand, well, he kind of puts Lady Gaga to shame.

She may dress fancy but she looks like a queen or fairy princess. The guy on the other hand, well, he kind of puts Lady Gaga to shame.

34. Seems her dress is filled with nothing but hot air.

Okay, she's wearing a hot air balloon skirt. And a hot air balloon headdress. Don't ask.

Okay, she’s wearing a hot air balloon skirt. And a hot air balloon headdress. Don’t ask.

35. These two always go together like the sun and the moon.

Though they may not be out at the same time, they respect each other's personal space. Still, got to admire their costumes.

Though they may not be out at the same time, they respect each other’s personal space. Still, got to admire their costumes.

36. Sometimes it helps to stick to a pattern.

However, I'm not so sure about her choice. Though she does know how to make it work.

However, I’m not so sure about her choice. Though she does know how to make it work.

37. For a simple pattern, perhaps white will suit your fancy.

Not sure if those tall hats go with the outfits. But they surely know how to coordinate with each other.

Not sure if those tall hats go with the outfits. But they surely know how to coordinate with each other.

38. Seems like the clowns love playing on her hoop skirt.

Though you have to admit, the clowns are quite creepy. But this is quite an inventive costume if you think about it.

Though you have to admit, the clowns are quite creepy. But this is quite an inventive costume if you think about it.

39. Occasionally, you might come across a masked Little Red Riding Hood.

Because how else could you explain the red dress and cape? Still, I doubt Little Red would wear such a thing in the woods.

Because how else could you explain the red dress and cape? Still, I doubt Little Red would wear such a thing in the woods.

40. When your costume isn’t up to snuff, perhaps a cool cape might help.

Though I'm not so sure if it goes great with the elaborate headdress. But this guy seems to think so.

Though I’m not so sure if it goes great with the elaborate headdress. But this guy seems to think so.

41. When you’re with a group of friends, it helps if your costumes match.

Well, purple and black are good colors for these 4. Love their hats.

Well, purple and black are good colors for these 4. Love their hats.

42. Near the railings, purple will surely dazzle.

Sure you may not see much of her dress. But her headdress is truly sensational.

Sure you may not see much of her dress. But her headdress is truly sensational.

43. You can’t go to a masquerade ball without donning peacock blue.

Though they both wear wigs for good measure. The woman's coiffe is especially high.

Though they both wear wigs for good measure. The woman’s coiffe is especially high.

44. Sometimes all it takes is an elaborate headdress.

Yeah, I know he looks a bit strange. But you get costumes like this at the Carnival of Venice.

Yeah, I know he looks a bit strange. But you get costumes like this at the Carnival of Venice.

45. When in doubt, it’s best to start simple.

On the bright side, at least they won't be uncomfortable in their outfits all the time. Nice how they use lanterns as accessories.

On the bright side, at least they won’t be uncomfortable in their outfits all the time. Nice how they use lanterns as accessories.

46. A Venice Carnival costume should always be encrusted with jewels.

Doesn't hurt if it's topped with a feather headdress mask. Love it.

Doesn’t hurt if it’s topped with a feather headdress mask. Love it.

47. A pink dress should always come with frills.

And frills this dress surely has. Reminds you of a princess, doesn't she?

And frills this dress surely has. Reminds you of a princess, doesn’t she?

48. Purple Venice hats are all the rage these days.

Well, at least they match in their outfits. Love the lady's hat with all the feathers sticking out.

Well, at least they match in their outfits. Love the lady’s hat with all the feathers sticking out.

49. When in doubt, wear a very fancy hat.

Hers seems all blinged up as far as I could tell. Her dress and fan are no different.

Hers seems all blinged up as far as I could tell. Her dress and fan are no different.

50. The Venice Carnival is always a place for pagentry.

Well, these two are certainly dressed in medieval styles. And in such vibrant colors, too. Still, tights aren't pants.

Well, these two are certainly dressed in medieval styles. And in such vibrant colors, too. Still, tights aren’t pants.

51. This orange explorer is very hard to miss.

And he even has a telescope which was invented in the 1600s. How they didn't come up with it earlier, I'll never know.

And he even has a telescope which was invented in the 1600s. How they didn’t come up with it earlier, I’ll never know.

52. The Carnival of Venice brings endless fun to the whole family.

After all, these 3 are dressed in similar garb. And are wearing similar masks. Love how they're decked in purple.

After all, these 3 are dressed in similar garb. And are wearing similar masks. Love how they’re decked in purple.

53. Here we have an 18th century Vegas like showgirl.

Okay, maybe not. But she's in a rather skimpy outfit with feathers.

Okay, maybe not. But she’s in a rather skimpy outfit with feathers.

54. With these two it’s nothing but butterflies.

They even wear wings to show for it. Even on their masks as you can see.

They even wear wings to show for it. Even on their masks as you can see.

55. With these two women, spring has certainly sprung.

Doesn't hurt if they're dressed in springly attire. And sport flowery headdresses.

Doesn’t hurt if they’re dressed in springly attire. And sport flowery headdresses.

56. Apparently, this couple came straight from the sea.

Well, Venice is a seaside town of canals. So it's only fair. Though I do like the staff with the oyster.

Well, Venice is a seaside town of canals. So it’s only fair. Though I do like the staff with the oyster.

57. With this family, it’s always silver and blue.

The woman's costume is especially stunning. The boy's outfit is very similar to his dads like he's a miniature version of his old man.

The woman’s costume is especially stunning. The boy’s outfit is very similar to his dads like he’s a miniature version of his old man.

58. Sometimes the right costume is as simple as black and white.

Well, this is a lovey dress. Like the hat that goes with it. Seems like she has a fancy feather accessory.

Well, this is a lovey dress. Like the hat that goes with it. Seems like she has a fancy feather accessory.

59. A yellow dress brings out a sunny disposition.

And she certainly stands out in her fantastically large hat and fan. Not want to wear that outfit.

And she certainly stands out in her fantastically large hat and fan. Not want to wear that outfit.

60. Speaking of black and white, these 4 make a haunting scene.

Though to be fair, they all match. Their hats are really something else as well.

Though to be fair, they all match. Their hats are really something else as well.

61. These guys really like to strut like peacocks.

And they have tall feather headdresses to show it. Yet, I'm not sure about the lime green robes.

And they have tall feather headdresses to show it. Yet, I’m not sure about the lime green robes.

62. Orange and black is where it’s at.

Sure they might seem like they're going to a Halloween party. But this is for the Venice Carnival which is in February or March.

Sure they might seem like they’re going to a Halloween party. But this is for the Venice Carnival which is in February or March.

63. A gentleman would like to kiss a lady’s hand.

Though I don't think their brown is a great color. But it's a sweet scene I had to include.

Though I don’t think their brown is a great color. But it’s a sweet scene I had to include.

64. A lady should never forget her fan before leaving her house.

Wouldn't want to wear a dress like this. Because 18th century dresses might be pretty. But they were also pretty uncomfortable.

Wouldn’t want to wear a dress like this. Because 18th century dresses might be pretty. But they were also pretty uncomfortable.

65. Now here we come across a real snow queen.

Even her fan has some semblance of winter. Lovely dress and mask.

Even her fan has some semblance of winter. Lovely dress and mask.

66. Nothing beats a stroll at San Marco Square than being dressed in green.

They can also wear these outfits for Saint Patrick's Day if they wanted to. But it's not a big holiday in Italy.

They can also wear these outfits for Saint Patrick’s Day if they wanted to. But it’s not a big holiday in Italy.

67. Here we come to a woman holding a golden cornucopia.

Though the costumes at the Carnival of Venice are comparable Capitol fashions. I mean both can become quite outlandish at times.

Though the costumes at the Carnival of Venice are comparable Capitol fashions. I mean both can become quite outlandish at times.

68. You can almost call these two a winter king and queen.

Yet, you can guess that they'll leave a trail of feathers in their midst. And those headdresses certainly didn't come cheap.

Yet, you can guess that they’ll leave a trail of feathers in their midst. And those headdresses certainly didn’t come cheap.

69. Say what you want, but these guys are about as different as night and day.

After all, they're dressed to reflect that. And they each have the sun and the moon on their heads.

After all, they’re dressed to reflect that. And they each have the sun and the moon on their heads.

70. A lady always prepares for a fancy dress ball this time of year.

Well, she does seem like she could be from the 18th century. Love the beautiful headdress and flowers.

Well, she does seem like she could be from the 18th century. Love the beautiful headdress and flowers.

71. Gold and red always glisten in the sunset.

She has a lovely hat and a fan of lace and gold roses. Quite mysterious as her mask gives a haunting impression.

She has a lovely hat and a fan of lace and gold roses. Quite mysterious as her mask gives a haunting impression.

72. You an be quite regal wearing a jester hat.

Helps if you have a veil of red and gold. Love the dress, by the way.

Helps if you have a veil of red and gold. Love the dress, by the way.

73. A jester in a tutu knows how to frolic.

Well, female jesters anyway. Still, she looks quite sad for a clown in this picture.

Well, female jesters anyway. Still, she looks quite sad for a clown in this picture.

74. A black cape always goes well with an orange suit.

However, you might want to reconsider if you don't want to stand out. Though it does give a creepy vibe with the mask.

However, you might want to reconsider if you don’t want to stand out. Though it does give a creepy vibe with the mask.

75. A silver dress can be very chic.

Now that's very classy. Makes me think of a painting. Love the cross on her skirt.

Now that’s very classy. Makes me think of a painting. Love the cross on her skirt.

76. Could he be a jester or an evil sorcerer?

Either way is a mystery. But yes, some do wear partial masks at the Venice Carnival. And some not at all.

Either way is a mystery. But yes, some do wear partial masks at the Venice Carnival. And some not at all.

77. Even the crazy cat lady dresses for the festivities.

Okay, she may not be that crazy since she only has a couple. But her outfit is obviously cat themed.

Okay, she may not be that crazy since she only has a couple. But her outfit is obviously cat themed.

78. These two women are two halves of the same sun.

Yes, they do group costumes, too as you see here. I know it's crazy but they do make a pretty picture.

Yes, they do group costumes, too as you see here. I know it’s crazy but they do make a pretty picture.

79. In black and gold, these two make a lovely pair.

Sure they may not be Steelers or Saints fans. But their costumes are resplendent to behold. Love the hats.

Sure they may not be Steelers or Saints fans. But their costumes are resplendent to behold. Love the hats.

80. Sometimes a headdress can almost take your breath away.

Yes, you might wonder how these women keep such large headdresses on their heads. But you have to love how they go with their resplendent costumes.

Yes, you might wonder how these women keep such large headdresses on their heads. But you have to love how they go with their resplendent costumes.

81. These two can enter a room like a real king and queen.

They even have some back flames behind them for further enhancement. Love their golden outfits.

They even have some back flames behind them for further enhancement. Love their golden outfits.

82. This woman always has to admire her own reflection.

Yet, she surely shimmers in her creamy white dress. Her headdress isn't that bad either.

Yet, she surely shimmers in her creamy white dress. Her headdress isn’t that bad either.

83. A sorceress has to don the finest gown and cape for the festivities.

She also has to have an elaborate headdress to boot. Because anyone with magical powers has to at least conform to a style akin to Lady Gaga.

She also has to have an elaborate headdress to boot. Because anyone with magical powers has to at least conform to a style akin to Lady Gaga.

84. Queen or knave? You decide.

Either way, her costume is truly an ornate sight to see. Love the mask and dress.

Either way, her costume is truly an ornate sight to see. Love the mask and dress.

85. Nothing makes you stand out in front of the gondolas like a bright red dress.

Since Venice is a canal city, gondolas are a major form of transport. Nevertheless, she looks pretty.

Since Venice is a canal city, gondolas are a major form of transport. Nevertheless, she looks pretty.

86. The Venice Carnival is always an occasion to sparkle.

This woman wears a costume with a jewel encrusted headdress. Is surely a sight from a fairy tale.

This woman wears a costume with a jewel encrusted headdress. Is surely a sight from a fairy tale.

87. Here I present to you the Queen of Hearts.

Well, I call her the Queen of Hearts because of her costume. Hope she doesn't call me for my heading for this.

Well, I call her the Queen of Hearts because of her costume. Hope she doesn’t call me for my heading for this.

88. These clowns always know how to hang out.

Though they might freak out you and your kids in some instances. Like the parasols.

Though they might freak out you and your kids in some instances. Like the parasols.

89. A Venetian Carnival dress should radiate in orange splendor.

That one dress reminds me of what Katniss Everdeen wore in the Hunger Games. Seriously, they don't call her the "Girl on Fire" for nothing.

That one dress reminds me of what Katniss Everdeen wore in the Hunger Games. Seriously, they don’t call her the “Girl on Fire” for nothing.

90. Sometimes it helps to take a mask to spare.

You will find that many of these outfits come with more than one mask. Though only one is used for the face.

You will find that many of these outfits come with more than one mask. Though only one is used for the face.

91. Good friends always wear matching dresses.

And these two are no exception. But their masks are as different as can be.

And these two are no exception. But their masks are as different as can be.

92. Sometimes a headdress must come with a long white veil.

Well, this is quite stunning. Love the peacock blue dress. But the headdress really makes the costume.

Well, this is quite stunning. Love the peacock blue dress. But the headdress really makes the costume.

93. Nothing like parading at San Marco Square decked in a peacock dress.

And of these sure look rather resplendent. Each has a fleur de lis purse.

And of these sure look rather resplendent. Each has a fleur de lis purse and peacock feather fan.

94. These two women are certifiable snow beauties.

Well, you have to like them in their blue dresses and fur trimmed muffs and hats. Lovely.

Well, you have to like them in their blue dresses and fur trimmed muffs and hats. Lovely.

95. Occasionally you might come across a jester wearing a crown.

Well, who says a king needs to look regal? Still, he has a nice black ruff on his neck.

Well, who says a king needs to look regal? Still, he has a nice black ruff on his neck.

96. These 3 beauties would like to do a dance in blue.

Well, this makes for a rather haunting trio. If their costumes weren't so festive and colorful.

Well, this makes for a rather haunting trio. If their costumes weren’t so festive and colorful.

97. There’s a certain kind of elegance having a king and queen in green.

Though you might not see them in this outfit on St. Patrick's Day. Still, like how they match.

Though you might not see them in this outfit on St. Patrick’s Day. Still, like how they match.

98. A feathered mask must always be worn with a purple dress.

Well, you don't see much of the dress. But it sure looks sensational. Beautiful.

Well, you don’t see much of the dress. But it sure looks sensational. Beautiful.

99. A dress like this will make you a belle at a masquerade ball.

Well, the creamy white really goes with the black. Love the feather headdress.

Well, the creamy white really goes with the black. Love the feather headdress.

100. With a dress like this, you can radiate with the sun.

Yes, her headdress is huge. But without it, she can't shine like a queen. And I'm sure she'll cause a sensation.

Yes, her headdress is huge. But without it, she can’t shine like a queen. And I’m sure she’ll cause a sensation.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 10 – The Southeastern Woodlands

A coastal Safety Harbor village at the time of Spanish contact.

The Calusa people of Florida were among the earliest people to have contact with Europeans with the 1513 landing of Spanish explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon. While initial encounters between whites and Native Americans tend to be initially friendly, this wasn’t one of those times since the Calusa knew about what went on in the Caribbean from native refugees and kept driving the Spanish out each time eventually resulting in de Leon’s death in 1521, which didn’t end their hostility to whites though which lasted for a couple more centuries. And it didn’t help they were being subjected to European diseases and slaving raids. Today the Calusa tribe has been considered extinct since the 18th century.

Finally, we come to the Southeastern Woodlands, a region situated from the Mississippi River to the East Coast and from the Ohio River to the Gulf Coast. In this region, contact with the Europeans began in the early 16th century with Juan Ponce de Leon landing in what is now Florida in his hopeless quest to seek the Fountain of Youth. He never found it but he ended up discovering a land that would become a haven for Cuban refugees, rich retirees, major theme parks, astronauts, and outright nutbags. But it’s said that news of Columbus’s 1492 arrival and the effects of such event on the offshore native people such as massive death, mistreatment, and enslavement before Ponce de Leon’s arrival. At any rate, by 1519, these Indian Floridians knew enough to fear the non-native intruders. Yet despite efforts to protect themselves, many of these Indians suffered violence and death from non-native depredation and disease. As European presence became more regular and permanent after the mid-to late 16th century, the Southeastern Woodlands Native Americans were drawn into increased trade with the Spanish and later the British and French who arrived in the 17th century. At the same time the Indians continued to die from disease and were increasingly forced to deal with problems like factionalism, fraud, land grabbing, and alcohol. Aspects of traditional culture like clan and political structure began to break down as overall conflict increased. Though there was a thriving regional deerskin trade by the mid-18th century, many Indians started raising cattle as the deer disappeared. Indians also participated in the regional slave trade where they were buyers, sellers, as well as victims (some even accepted African Americans into their ranks like the Seminoles). Yet, despite that the larger, so-called civilized tribes had adopted a very similar lifestyle to their non-native neighbors such as slave based agriculture, literacy, Anglo-style government and laws, and to some extent Christianity, native land loss accelerated to the point they were almost completely dispossessed in the late 1830s. This was the famous Trail of Tears in which tens of thousands of Southeastern Native Americans were evicted from their homelands and relocated to reservations in Oklahoma with significant numbers dying in transit or shortly after their arrival. Yet, there was a number of Seminole Indians who resisted removal by hiding out in the Everglades. Today most “southeast” Indians live in Oklahoma while traditional culture is preserved in varying ways and to different degrees.

egan_panorama

Like their Northeastern Woodlands counterparts, the Southeastern Woodlands was also dominated by the mound building cultures consisting of the Adena, the Hopewell, and the Mississippian. This is painting depicting a Mississippian mound village in Louisiana.

Location: East of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio that spans to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

First Peoples: First inhabited at around 11,000 years ago either by people from the north or west. But they were mostly hunter-gatherers who lived in family bands. Most groups adopted large scale agriculture by 900. Adena (800 B.C.E.-200) and Hopewell peoples (300 B.C.E.-700) resided in the area in permanent villages with mound burials, earthworks, copper ornaments, extensive agriculture, and stamped pottery. Most tribes at this time lived in matrilineal clans in opposing red and white divisions to counter centralized power. Tribes were often loose aggregations of these clans. And such membership often established one’s role or position in rituals and society. Mississippian societies were highly centralized and hierarchically ranked as well as led by powerful if not absolute chiefs. Members of elite classes received tribute in goods and services from common people. Their cities were palisaded urban centers with ceremonial centers and populations of up to tens of thousands of people. They also built large mounds up to 300 acres as well as had fields that were several square miles in area.

Environment: Often humid with river valleys, forests, mountains, grasslands, saltmarshes, lagoons, and swamps. High precipitation. Experiences hot summers and mild winters.

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Like their Northeastern Woodlands neighbors, most of the Southeastern Woodlands tribes practiced some form of agriculture. While corn was the main crop, they also grew squash, beans, pumpkins, sunflowers, fruit, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, fisher, as well as agricultural subsistence. Grew corn, beans, squash, potatoes, sunflowers, yams, tomatoes, fruit, and pumpkins. Gathered nuts, acorns, persimmons, wild rice, fruit, and mushrooms. Hunted deer, raccoons, opossums, beaver, eagles, otters, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, bear, buffalo, elk, and wild hogs. Also fished.

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The standard Southeastern Indian dwelling was the wattle and daub house. It consisted of pole frames covered with branches and vines and plastered by a layer of clay. Kind of looks like something you’d see from the Smurfs.

Housing: This region had several different types of homes depending on location, tribe, and availability of natural resources. The classic dwelling was made from pole frames covered with branches and vines as well as plastered by a layer of clay. This is known as a wattle and daub house. Summer houses were usually rectangular with gabled, thatched roofs like the chickee. Circular winter “town” houses could be plastered inside and out with animal skins, bamboo, bark, woven mats, and palm leaves may also be used in outer construction. Some of these homes could even have two stories. There were even house like storage structures in addition to these homes. Large towns would have huge town houses with up to several hundred seats used for conducting rituals or business. Sweat houses were also common. Then you have the Caddo people who lived in the “beehive” thatched grass houses.

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Due to humid weather during the warmer months, Southeastern Woodlands Native Americans usually didn’t wear months. Both sexes also had a lot of body paint and tattoos.

Clothing: Most wore very little in the warmer months. Clothing was mainly made from tanned deerskin though inner bark was used to make hairnets and some textiles. Bear and buffalo robes were worn in the winter as well as ornate feather mantles or cloaks. Men wore breechcloths, shirts, leggings, shawls, or cloaks. Women usually wore short skirts, as well as tunics or mantles. Moccasins were mainly worn for travel. Ornamentation was made from shells, copper, pearls, and beads. Tattooing was widespread and body paint was used for special occasions. A lot of male warriors shaved their heads.

Transportation: Had bark and wooden canoes, preferably made from cypress. Though pine, poplar, and other wood canoes also existed.

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Southeastern Woodland warfare often took a great deal of ritual preparation and during such conflicts, warriors would often leave distinguishing signs to show who committed the violent deeds. Scalping was considered high war honors. Most war were usually over clan revenge.

Society: Primarily sedentary and semi-nomadic, though nomadic at the coast. Estimated to have as many as 150,000 people before European contact. Had vast trading networks, though most exchanges took place along kin networks and related families. Villages and towns were often at river valleys whenever possible which can consist of a social and ceremonial center as well as houses strung out for miles. Many tribes had some degree of social stratification and chiefs married women from allied and subject tribes to strengthen ties. Clan vengeance was a primary motivation for war. But warfare often took a great deal of ritual preparation and warriors often left a distinguishing sign to show who committed the violent deeds. Prisoners were usually tortured and sold into slavery. Scalping was common and constituted war honors. War chiefs often led war parties. Later societies could consist of large confederacies.

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Southeastern Woodland Indians were well known to practice exogamous marriage and matrilineal descent. Incest taboos were strictly enforced while inter-clan marriage was banned.

Family Structure: Practiced exogamous marriage and matrilineal descent. Observed strict incest taboos as well as marriage within a clan. Yet, polygamy was practiced among chiefs and wealthier men who could afford it. Men hunted, fished, fought, built houses, and sometimes farmed while women tended to housework, reared children, cooked, and made clothes.

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From 1817-1842, the Florida Seminoles and their escaped slave allies put up a major resistance against the US Army which led the US to acquire Florida and Andrew Jackson serve as its first governor for a time. However, no Seminole resistance was better known than that of Osceola’s in the 1830s who led devastating guerrilla tactics against US troops even when vastly outnumbered before his 1837 capture and death. A few hundred Seminoles managed to stay hiding in the Everglades where their descendants reside to this day.

Practices: Wood carving, animism, shamanism, pottery, basketry, Green Corn festival, moundbuilding, Southern Ceremonial Complex, tobacco, music, dance, gambling, stickball, chunkey, metalwork, weaving, lacrosse, controlled burning, pictographs, and beadwork.

Tools and Weapons: Bows and arrows, spears, axes, adzes, clubs, fish hooks and line, nets, blow guns and darts, rope, spear throwers, grinding stones, stone pestles, flint hoes, and weirs.

Notable Tribes: Cherokee, Natchez, Choctaw, Caddo, Biloxi, Creek, Apalachee, Arawak, Seminole, Atakapa, Bayougoula, Chacato, Calusa, Chickasaw, Croatan, Timucua, Coharie, Mayaca, Mobila, Mocoso, Yazoo, Uzita, Waccamaw, Mayami, Mikasuki, Sewee, Sissipaw, Tequesta, Santee, Roanoke, Pacara, Pensacola, Quinipissa, Tocobaga, Yamassee, Winyaw, Jaega, Koasati, Machapunga, Mataumbe, Eno, Chisca, Chowanoc, Cusabo, Chitimacha, Cape Fear, Chakchiuma, Catawba, Calusa, Ais, Powhatan, Quapaw, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Cofitachiqui, Mosopelea, and Avoyel.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 9 – The Northeastern Woodlands

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The Iroquois League was an association of 5 (later 6) linguistically related Northeast Woodland tribes consisting of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora peoples. Established between the 12th and 15th centuries, the League ruled on disputes and displace their raiding tradition except when it came to their rivals. Their political cohesion made the Iroquois one of the strongest forces in 17th and 18th century northeastern North America. Played both the French and British in the fur trade as well as sided with the latter during the French and Indian War. Was severely weakened after the American Revolution.

While the Great Plains tribes are the Native Americans you tend to see in western movies, the Northeastern Woodlands tribes are the ones you see in anything relating to early American history, particularly when it applies to Jamestown, Massachusetts Pilgrims, or the French and Indian War. Stretching from southeast Canada and east of the Mississippi River to the East coast and extending south to the Ohio River, these tribes were among the first Native Americans to have contact with Europeans than anyone else which were the Vikings who visited coastal areas from Newfoundland all the way to Cape Cod. However, they didn’t stay long and left little permanent influence. Yet, English and French settlers who arrived in the 1600s introduced these Indians to the beaver fur trade and infectious European diseases (sometimes via smallpox blankets). Sure relations were friendly at first, but they quickly deteriorated in some areas such as in 17th century Massachusetts Bay where they went from the first Thanksgiving to all out King Philip’s War in only a few decades. Yet, initial rounds of European diseases resulted in some tribes losing as much as 95% of their population alone in the early 17th century even before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth (Squanto’s village being one of them). Growing European fur demand led to the New World becoming a center of colonial competitiveness between Britain and France which would eventually culminate into the French and Indian War. Intrusion and eventual domination of the fur trade led to systemic breakdown among these tribes including decline in native arts and material culture, relocation to trading centers even by risking famine, increased social stratification and personal ownership, alcoholism, STDs, increased inter-tribal warfare, increased pressure to convert to Christianity, and eventually Indian removal. By the mid-19th century, many Indian groups in this region had simply disappeared and most of those remaining had been militarily defeated and largely resettled on reservations, some of which were far from home like Oklahoma. On the other hand, there are more Indians in this region today than many people realize. Although they’re mostly acculturated many proudly maintain an Indian identity while Native Americans in both the US and Canada continue struggling for recognition, land, economic development, and sovereignty.

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At its peak in the 13th century, the Mississippian city of Cahokia is estimated to have a population of 40,000 which wouldn’t be surpassed by any US city until the late 18th century. This city was said to have covered 6 square miles and included about 120 human mounds in a variety of shapes, sizes, and functions. But it would soon be abandoned by 1300 and little is known about those who lived there. Today the Cahokia Mounds is considered the largest and most complex archaeological site north of the great Pre-Columbian cities of Mexico.

Location: East of the Mississippi River spanning from south central Canada to the East Coast and Ohio River as well as encompassing the Great Lakes.

First Peoples: Region has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years with the first residents said to come from the Southwest. However, while the archaic period began in 6000 B.C.E., most cultures didn’t become fully established until 3,000 years later due to a dramatically changing environment. The Adena culture from 800 B.C.E. to 200 flourished around Kentucky and Ohio who were known as the agricultural and pottery producing Mound Builders (since they either cremated or buried their dead in mounds). They also used copper tools and red ochre in burial customs. Then there’s the northern Hopewell culture of the Great Lakes from 300 B.C.E. to 700 who also built mounds through their dead as well as performed other complex funerary rituals. Also had stamped pottery, metal work, weaving, large population centers, and vast trade networks. Alongside them is the Mississippian from 700-1500 which was characterized by intensive agriculture, fine pottery, distinctive art themes, stockaded villages, and flat-topped pyramid mounds. Sites from the Mississippian culture include Cahokia near St. Louis whose influence extended as far north as Wisconsin as well as Fort Ancient and Monongahela Woodland in the Ohio Valley. It’s speculative whether the tribes in the Ohio and Illinois Valleys as well as the Great Lakes are descended by their prehistoric counterparts who were gone by the mid-17th century due to warfare and fast-moving epidemics. It was later said to be repopulated by historic tribes from other locations.

Environment: Has many variations in climate, landscape, and natural resources. Much of it thick deciduous and conifer forest, mountains, and wetlands with an abundance in rivers, lakes, and ocean. Flat forests and prairies predominate in the far western areas. Experiences cold winter with deep snows and is often hot and humid in the summer. High precipitation all year round.

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Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans greatly relied on agriculture, growing crops consisting of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and wild rice. Out of all of these, corn was their most important food above all.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, and fishing subsistence, agriculture, and everything in between. Crops were corn, beans, pumpkins, wild rice, sunflowers, and squash. Hunted deer, raccoon, fox, muskrat, rabbit, wolf, elk, turkey, turtles, bear, squirrel, beaver, moose, and caribou. Yet, they also hunted for whale and seals as well as fished. Gathered maple sap, honey, berries, roots, nuts, and fresh greens.

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The standard dwelling for the Iroquois was the longhouse which was made from bent saplings and covered with bark. Longhouses could be up to 20 feet wide and 200 feet long as well as divided into 6-8 two room sections, each housing a family and sharing a fire.

Housing: Algonquin peoples mostly built birch bark domed wigwams with woven mat covered walls and floors. Each usually housed one family. Summer wigwams usually tended to be smaller while structures like menstrual huts, sweat houses, and temporary brush shelters were also built. Iroquois usually built wooden longhouses that were 20 feet wide and up 200 feet long (though most were less than 100 feet) made of bark pieces over a sapling frame with vaulted roofs. These were divided into 6-8 two room sections, each housing one family and sharing a fire.

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Northeastern Native Americans tended to wear a lot of jewelry and body paint, especially the men. In fact, while most Native American men wore their hair long, Northeastern Woodlands men tended to wear mohawks with feathers in them.

Clothing: People in the region mostly wore very little during the summer. Clothing was mostly made from deerskin and other animals. Often tanned. Generally consisted of breechcloths, skirts, leggings, and moccasins. Fur robes were worn in the winter. Women usually wore overdresses and tunics. Clothes were often decorated with softened and dyed porcupine quills and/or paint. Some groups even had fringed outfits. Adornments could consist of stone and shell jewelry, tattoos, and body paint. Shaved heads and mohawks were common among some Algonquin tribes as well as feathers in hair.

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Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans often traveled on river by canoe often made from bark, animal hides, or wood. Canoe styles often depended on water conditions.

Transportation: Algonquins used swift and light birch bark canoes while the Iroquois used canoes made from elm. Small ones were used for rivers while larger ones that could fit up to 10 people were used for lakes. Most were framed with cedar and trimmed with maple. Bark was sewn on with spruce roots and caulked with pine pitch or spruce resin. Dugout canoes were used as well. Styles were also based on water conditions.

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Northeastern Woodlands was a place of violent and frequent tribal warfare that villages tended to have fortifications of dirt and fencing even before European contact (since it was a reason why the Iroquois League existed in the first place). Ritualized torture and cannibalism were both practiced.

Society: Primarily nomadic, sedentary, and everything in between. Pre-contact population density varied. But it’s possible that as many as 2 million might’ve resided there but this is a rough estimate. Increased social stratification existed but not to the extent than in the Pacific Northwest Coast or the Southeast (though they did practice slavery). Some tribes were even part of mass confederacies later on such as the Iroquois, the Powhatan, and the Illinois. Among the Iroquois, male chiefs were elected by clan leaders who were usually female. Village councils often acted in unanimity and some chiefs were stronger than others. Western tribes often had warrior organizations to perform policing activities and some women even held some formal political power such as in the Miami, Shawnee, and Potawatomi. Nevertheless, inter-tribal warfare was harsh and frequent resulting in villages being heavily fortified by fencing and reinforced with dirt. Iroquois even revered war. Ritualized torture was common among the Iroquois while cannibalism and human sacrifice existed as well. Though most captives were frequently adopted into the tribe making up for population losses. Trade was mostly localized.

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Since descent and inheritance was matrilineal, Iroquois women often owned most of the family property even after marriage and kept the children if they divorced. An Iroquois woman can initiate divorce by telling her husband to leave the dwelling with his stuff. Iroquois women were also clan leaders who chose chiefs as well. Also, during marriage, an Iroquois man resided with his wife’s family.

Family Structure: Matrilineal descent among the Iroquois while Algonquins could have either this or bilateral. Bilateral or patrilineal among those near the Great Lakes and Ohio River. Men hunted, fished, and fought, while women made pottery, made clothes, looked after children, farmed, gathered, and other housework. Iroquois women owned property that stayed within their possession even after marriage and kept the kids if they separated. Married couples often resided with the wife’s family. Some Algonquin chiefs, shamans, and other wealthy men were allowed to have more than one wife if they could afford it.

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Lacrosse perhaps originated in 1100 and was played as a ceremonial ritual by the Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans. Teams could consist between 100-1,000 men on a field that could span 1,600 feet to 1.9 miles long. Games were said to last from sunup to sundown 2-3 days straight or longer. Also, it was a rather violent bloodsport where players actually got severely injured or killed.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, dreamcatchers, peace pipes, wampum, storytelling, tobacco, war paint, pottery, basketry, beadwork, metalwork, masks, vision quests, Midewiwin, Green Corn festival, music, dance, feast of the dead, medicine dances, lacrosse, birch bark scrolls, and pictographs.

Tools and Weapons: Bows and arrows, harpoons, fish hooks and line, clubs, tomahawks, nets, hemp and basswood bags, wooden bowls and utensils, snowshoes, knives, hoes, rakes, grind sticks and stones, snares, and spears.

Notable Tribes: Iroquois, Algonquin, Mohawk, Huron, Objiwe, Abenaki, Beothuk, Miami, Massachusett, Menominee, Erie, Ho-Chunk, Patuxent, Mahican, Anishinaabeg, Monacan, Narragansett, Illinois, Mitchiganmea, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Mingo, Delaware, Wampanoag, Susquehannock, Tauxenent, Tunxis, Quinnipac, Shawnee, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora, Ottawa, Tutelo, Oneida, Powhatan, Podunk, Pequot, Mohegan, and Penobscot.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 8 – The Great Plains

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When it comes to Native Americans in popular media, no culture area is so widely recognized as those in the Great Plains. Because Plains Indians tend to be in so many western movies, so many people tend to get the wrong impression that Plains culture was the standard way of life for North American Indians in general (save for those in the Arctic).

Out of all the indigenous peoples of North America, no culture region has been depicted in popular media more than the Native Americans from the Great Plains. Stretching from south central Canada to southeastern Texas and mostly situated between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, this region has given us tribes that have forever been ingrained in the popular perception of Native Americans for good or ill. Let’s just say in western movies, you’re bound to either see a Plains Indian or a Native American dressed as one perhaps due to how widespread Plains culture was or how lazy the screenwriters were in their research. Some aspects that distinguish Plains culture are teepees, dependence on bison, chiefs wearing war bonnets, as well as horses. Plains Indians in movies may or may not use guns. However, such descriptions don’t apply to all the Plains tribes. Not to mention, the Plains tribes didn’t acquire horses via trade and/or raid networks with the Southwestern and Great Basin tribes. But once they got a hold of these animals, the Plains Indians integrated them in their daily lives, developed a reputation for their equestrian skill, and led to the origin of the mustang. The Plains Indians also traded guns with English and French fur trappers in the areas as well (though they were always in short supply so they still depended on bows and arrows). However, while these European imports improved their lives drastically as well as helped them expand territory, they came at a very high cost in the form of European diseases. Not only that, but their dependence on bison would later come back to bite them later in the 19th century with American westward expansion, the Transcontinental Railroad, the rise of the cattle industry, and Indian Wars. At this time, the US federal government set initiatives permitting bison market hunting in order to weaken the Plains Indians and pressure them to either move onto the reservations or starve. This resulted in the bison being hunted to almost extinction. Another major change since European contact was their growing importance on warfare not against whites but also among each other both as livelihood and a sport. Yet, when Plains Indians fought each other, casualties were usually light, attacks were usually ambushes and hit and runs, success was based on quantity pertaining to horses and other property, and highest military honors were for “counting coup” consisting of touching a live enemy.

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The Great Plains gets its name for being mostly vat flat grassland with rolling hills and valleys. However, while some areas in this region are perfectly suitable for agriculture (such as near the Mississippi), some areas aren’t (but most of it is great for ranching making it ideal bison country). Also prone to dramatic weather events like tornadoes, blizzards, and severe thunderstorms.

Location: Between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River that spans from south central Canada to southern Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

First Peoples: It’s said that the first inhabitants of this region moved there between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. The first millennium consisted of tribes with vast trading networks and complex religious practices. But as the region grew drier and less hospitable the nomadic bands slowly followed game and water eastward until by perhaps 1200 when the area was virtually empty. However, the region gradually repopulated due to a moderation of weather conditions as well as a severe drought in the Southwest.

Environment: Mostly flat grassland with many rolling hills and valleys, though not very rugged. Summers are very hot and winters are very cold. Trees are only found by rivers and other bodies of water. Average precipitation is low though there are higher levels in the east. Dramatic weather events such as blizzards, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms are regular occurrences.

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The Plains Indians main source of survival was the buffalo which they used for everything. This diagram from the South Dakota State Historical Society illustrates which part of the animal was used for what.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter and gatherer subsistence though some practiced agriculture as well but didn’t use irrigation. Buffalo was the primary game food source which was hunted by men surrounding the animals and herding them off a cliff into confined spaces. Also hunted other animals like elk, antelope, porcupine, prairie dogs, mountain sheep, prairie chickens, eagles, cougars, wolves, beaver, bear, and deer. More agrarian tribes in the east planted crops like corn, squash, sunflowers, plums, pemmican, prairie turnip, and other wild plants. Gathered nuts, gooseberries, chokecherries, and onions. Some even fished.

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Not all Plains tribes lived in teepees nor did all teepee dwelling tribes live in the Plains. However, the fact so many Plains Indians lived in these things has led many people to mistake the teepee as a standard Native American housing unit.

Housing: Mostly lived in teepees made from animal skins and poles. Each teepee could have 6-18 buffalo skins sewn together and stretched over a frame of poles. The average teepee was about 14 feet high and 14 feet in diameter and held between 5 to 8 people. Had an adjustable smoke hole at the top for ventilation. Less nomadic tribes also retained permanent earth lodges along rivers that could be square, rectangular, or beehive shaped. Each of these could hold up to 40 or more people.

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The warbonnet is perhaps the most iconic Native American headdress from the Great Plains. It was a worn by men in the tribe who’ve earned a great place of respect after completing so many eagle feathers for their deeds. Such feather earning deeds might include courageous acts in battle but also political and diplomatic gains or acts that have helped the community prosper. They were also worn by the tribe’s chosen political and spiritual leaders like Chief Sitting Bull pictured here. However, expect controversy whenever you see a non-native wearing one of these as a culturally appropriated fashion accessory, which many of today’s Plains Indians consider offensive to their culture. This especially goes for sports team mascots.

Clothing: Mostly made from deer, mountain sheep, and buffalo skin. Women wore a 2-piece  dress with optional sleeves. During colder weather, they wore leggings, moccasins, and buffalo robes. Men wore breechcloths and moccasins as well as a deerskin shirt, leggings, and a buffalo robe in winter. Garments decorated with fringe and quill work may reflect war honors. Wore necklaces and earrings made from bone, shell hair, or feathers, as well as tattoos. Important figures would wear elaborate feather headdresses and buffalo hats.War bonnets were sometimes worn into battle by men who’ve earned a place of great respect for the tribe as well as political and spiritual leaders.

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When moving camp, Plains Indians would often load their belongings onto a wooden frame structure known as a travois. While pre-contact Plains tribes often used dogs, they would later pulled by horses by the 19th century. This picture is of a modern travois. Note the dog would’ve been attached to something much bigger and made to drag a much heavier load.

Transportation: Used a buffalo skin and pole travois sled to carry their belongings which was pulled by dogs.

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Most of the nomadic Plains tribes tend to bands comprised of no more than 30 people at a time, mainly extended family members. Several hundred of these groups congregated together would form a tribe. And they only got together during the summer to hunt, trade, socialize, make war, raid, and perform religious ceremonies.

Society: Primarily nomadic though some could be semi-nomadic or sedentary all year round. Were not especially warlike (though this would change with European contact, but this is about pre-contact culture here. Also, some practiced ritualized torture). Shamans were said to have some degree of political and spiritual power. Trade was not as well developed there though there was a degree of sign language communication. The most fundamental unit was the extended family which could consist of up to 30 people. Bands and villages variable constituency were composed of up to several hundred people or related families, formed the tribe. Some of the more settled tribes also recognized clans and/or dual divisions. Bands only came together during the summer, uniting under much more centralized political leadership to hunt, socialize, trade, raid, make war, and perform religious ceremonies. During this time, camp police and other elite warrior societies kept order and punished offenders, especially during the hunt. During the winter, bands often separated back into their constituent families in the winter. Band or kin group chiefs were generally older men but the position was more of an honorific than authoritative. Open societies were age graded and could be entered by anyone of the proper age who could purchase admission. Social order was maintained by peer pressure.

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While Plains women didn’t wield as much political or social power as their men, they did hold enormous power in the domestic sphere. Since Plains practiced matrilineal descent, wives owned almost all the marital property and had sole custody of the kids in a divorce that she could initiate by throwing her husband’s belongings out of the teepee. By the way, frontiersman Kit Carson’s Cheyenne wife Making Out Road divorced him this way.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent. Men hunted and fought while women tanned hides, tended crops, gathered wild foods, cooked, made clothing as well as took down and erected teepees. Women had right to divorce by throwing her husband’s things out of the teepee as well as had custody of the children as well as owned the home. Though they weren’t as engaged in public political life as the coastal tribes, women still participated in advisory roles and through women’s societies. Dead were either buried in tree scaffolds or in the ground (which they cursed before burial in case someone disturbed it, just kidding).

7 Corps of Discovery at a Knife River Village, Vernon W Erickson

It’s worth noting that not all of the Great Plains tribes lived like those you’ve seen in westerns. For instance, the Mandan lived in permanent villages, built round earth houses like these, and farmed. They’re best known as one of the tribes encountered during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, storytelling, medicine bags, Great Spirit, vision quests, Sun Dance, dancing music, tobacco, incense burning, skin painting, stone pipes, common sign language, and beadwork.

Tools and Weapons: Spears, knives, bows and arrows, and clubs. Buffalo horn spoons and cups. Buffalo tail whips and buffalo water containers. Buffalo bone awls, hoes, and other tools. Buffalo sinew bowstrings and thread. Buffalo skull altars and buffalo hoof rattles.

Notable Tribes: Sioux, Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Pawnee, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Crow, Iowa, Kaw, Escanjaques, Mandan, Metis, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Dakota, Lakota, Ponca, Quapaw, Nakoda, Teyas, Tonkawa, Waco, Wichita, Tsuu T’ina, Arikara, Missouria, Gros Ventre, Hidasta, Assiniboine, and Saulteaux.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 7 – The Southwest

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The most distinguishing feature of this region has to be the Pueblo adobe apartment complexes with multiple stories and numerous rooms. These were built with baked bricks of clay and straw and were not held together by mortar. This complex is in Taos, New Mexico.

We now come to one of the more familiar Native American cultural areas in my series with the Southwest. You’ve probably seen stuff from this region since it’s been depicted in westerns and that you’ve might’ve seen an adobe house or a Hopi woman with traditional Padme Amidala buns. Then there are the Apache leader Geronimo who you’ve probably heard of. Like their Great Basin neighbors, the native peoples of the Southwest lived in a land that was dominated by a rocky desert. Yet, unlike the Great Basin, many of these people usually led sedentary lives and even farmed. Not that it was easy, because it wasn’t, especially without irrigation. But we know a lot about these pre-contact Native Americans better than those in other regions because they left an extensive amount of archaeology, particularly the adobe houses and villages which still stand. Not only that, but despite being among the first Native Americans groups to deal with European influence (such as the Spanish in the 1500s), but have shown a remarkable tenacity to retain their land, religion, institutions, languages, and aesthetic traditions while facing vigorous efforts over the centuries to eradicate indigenous culture as well as the people themselves. Today Southwest Indian identity remains relatively strong perhaps to a greater degree than Native Americans in most regions (like California). Today, much of the Native American population in the US is concentrated in this area with one of today’s most populous tribes being the Navajo. Of course, the fact that many Indians in the region were farmers and among the more settled probably worked in their favor as well as the fact that these cultures managed to integrate European innovations within their culture like domestic animals, silversmithing, wool and textiles, wheat and other crops, metal tools, and firearms. That and the fact the Pueblos managed to kick the Spanish out of the region for 12 years starting in 1680, leading them to moderate their demands. By the way, these Indians were also under a mission system during Spanish rule like their California counterparts. But that doesn’t change the fact that initial Spanish contact in the region wiped out 75-80% of the Southwest pre-contact population by the mid-17th century (mostly be European diseases). Or the fact Southwest saw more conflict between Native Americans and the US government than any other Indian region. The famous among them being the Apache Wars which spanned from 1849-1886 and is best remembered for numerous raids in both US and Mexico being led by Geronimo. Another famous Apache was Cochise who led a small warrior band that terrorized anyone who entered their territory as well as fought a bloody war with the US. Oh, and the fact, Native American archaeology and antiquities tend to face a lot of ethical dilemmas in general. So this isn’t a region to trifle with.

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The Ancestral Pueblo peoples are known for their cliff dwelling villages like the famous Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. This part of the Mesa Verde was built and inhabited between at about the 12th-13th centuries with as many as 22,000 living there. However, while they’re said to disappear by the late 13th century, it’s more likely that they simply made a mass exodus to Arizona and New Mexico due to environmental instability as well as economic and social unrest (as evidence of violence and cannibalism have been documented). Their descendants still live there today as the Pueblo.

Location: Spans from the American Southwest to northern Mexico covering Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas as well as Mexican states Chihuahua, California, and Sonora.

First Peoples: Outside Mesoamerica, it’s one of the longest continuous inhabited region on the continent. The first people are said to come to the area between 23,000 B.C.E. and 10,000 B.C.E. and were originally hunter gatherers before gradually making the transition to agriculture at around 4,000 years ago to 500. The region would be dominated by 5 major groups such as the sandstone cliff dwelling Ancestral Pueblo of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, the Mongollon of the Colorado Plateau known for using irrigation and some of the best pottery north of Mexico, the Hohokam known for their extensive irrigation canal system as well as large villages and towns, the Hakataya known for their semi-nomadic villages and small scale agriculture, and the Southern Athapaskans (early Apache) who settled abandoned Anasazi and Mongollon villages between 1200 and 1500.

Environment: Mostly hot and arid desert with dry, rocky land and cactus with canyons, bluffs, rock formations, caves, and plateaus. Has some forests, grasslands, and few river valleys at higher elevations. Experiences little rain but mild to cool winters.

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Unlike a lot of Native American cultures, the Pueblo primarily survived on an agricultural subsistence. Yet, this wouldn’t be possible in a desert environment without some kind of water management, particularly irrigation. Nevertheless, unlike how corn is grown today, the Southwest Native Americans grew theirs in clumps instead of the standard rows.

Subsistence: Primarily agricultural subsistence with techniques including canal irrigation, trincheras, lithic much, and floodplain cultivation. Though some tribes like the Apache hunter-gatherers while the Navajo was somewhere in between. Crops planted consisted of corn, squash, beans, pumpkins, fruit, melons, and sunflower seeds. People living near rivers also fished. Gathered cacti, mescal, screwbeans, mesquite, and grasses. Hunted deer, mountain sheep, buffalo, wild turkey, pronghorn, and small mammals. Those with limited food access usually raided, traded, or received agricultural products as gifts

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While the Pueblo lived in massive adobe complexes, the Navajo lived in clay houses called hogans that could be round, conical, multi-sided, or square. They could also have internal posts as well as be covered in stone or wood such as this one.

Housing: Depended on availability of natural resources in a location, the tribe, and whether the dwelling was temporary or permanent. Farming tribes lived in houses with numerous rooms and stories made from adobe brick (made from clay and straw) and stone that could be built next to each other in villages often at strategic defense positions. These also had flat roofs. Used bone and wood ladders to reach higher buildings or rooms. Also constructed canals, aqueducts, reservoirs, dikes, and dams. They also had ceremonial pits that were called kivas as well as water wells. The Navajo built clay roundhouses sometimes outfitted by logs called hogans as well as underground homes, summer shelters, sweat houses. Brush shelters, teepees, and wickiups were commonly used among the Apache.

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There’s probably nothing that distinguishes the Hopi more from the other Southwest Pueblo than the trademark “squash blossom” buns worn by their unmarried women indicating their eligibility for courtship. Since the Hopi live in a matrilineal clan system, this practice is understandable. Still, Padme Amidala wore this hairstyle in at least one of the Star Wars prequels.

Clothing: Due to the climate, the Pueblo usually didn’t wear much. Though some tribes often made woven cotton clothes for colder weather. Men wore breechcloths, leggings, and ponchos while women wore blanket dresses and robes in these communities. Clothing can be decorated with flowers or feathers. Adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry believed to promote prosperity, health, and happiness. Often wore their hair long. All wore moccasins, however. Apaches usually wore clothing made from animal skins (particularly bison) or whatever else they could get their hands on.

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Even before contact with the Europeans, the Apaches had already established themselves in the Southwest region as traders and raiders. After European contact, they gained a reputation as one of the most hostile groups in the region. Seen here is the legendary leader Geronimo with his half-brother, brother-in-law, and son.

Transportation: The Apaches used dogs to carry their stuff on travois (according to Francisco Coronado in 1541). Recent estimates state that these dogs may have pulled loads up to 50 pounds on long trips at rates as high as 2 or 3 miles per hour.

Society: Primarily sedentary save for tribes like the nomadic Apache and Navajo. Yet, even among the farming Pueblo tribes, there was a certain degree of mobility since growing food often required using many different environmental niches. Was a place of large scale trade between Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache groups. Devised complex systems of exchange to ensure, without risk to their independence and basic egalitarianism that each community received. Though localized raiding and plundering was a common occurrence (by the Apache raiding Pueblo villages), there were few organized wars. Of course, Apache raiding was done by small parties with specific economic targets while wars with large parties were usually to achieve retribution (but both could be quite violent on their victims). Pueblo villages had specialized offices for unique responsibilities required by their lifestyle and environment. One tribe had a chief, a war priest, and hunting chief. Some even had specialized shamans. Pueblo communities also held lands in common with village decisions requiring unanimous consent of all adult men (though women held an influential voice, too). They also had planned villages composed of large terraced buildings with many rooms. The largest of these is said to contain 700 rooms in 5 stories and may have housed as many as 1000 people. Apaches and Navajos resided in extended family units usually consisting of parents, unmarried children, their married daughters, and their families as well as relied on kinship networks. Local Apache groups and bands were headed by a male chief who was chosen due to his effectiveness and influence. He was only as strong as he was evaluated to be, no one was obligated to follow him, and his office wasn’t hereditary.

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While Pueblo marriage and lineage patterns differed among various tribes, this was not the same with the Apache. Apache women lived within the same clan their entire lives as well as inherited the family property.

Family Structure: Pueblo tribes had differing marriage practices as well as lines of descent. Apaches and Navajo practiced matrilineal descent and matrilocal, exogamous marriages. Apache men practiced varying degrees of avoidance of his wife’s close relatives while women generally inherited and owned property. Men generally hunted, fished, fought, and farmed while women took care children, kept house, made clothes, and cooked. A Hopi baby would be named until 20 days after it was born when being held from a cliff by the women at their father’s clan at dawn (like in the Lion King). Though they’d also bear gifts. A Hopi child could be given over 40 names though it’s up to the parents to decide which one to use. They can also change their names if they decide to become members of the Kachina society or after a major life event.

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Another major aspect of Pueblo Native American culture are the Kachina dancers during their religious ceremonies, particularly among the Hopi and the Zuni. These dancers are masked men meant to represent spiritual beings. The Hopi also have Kachina clowns, too.

Practices: Basketry, Kachina dolls, animism, shamanism, prayer sticks, ceramics, dancing, music, sandpaintings, katsina dances, masks, textile weaving, tobacco, murals, beadwork, storytelling, pictographs, lunar calendars, and intricate blankets.

Tools and Weapons: Bows and arrows, spears, knives, grinding stone and receptacle, spindles and looms, hoes and rakes, pump drills, axes, clubs, dibble sticks, and adzes.

Notable Tribes: Pueblo, Apache, Navajo, Pima, Mojave, Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, Zuni, Quechan, Manso, La Junta, Coahuiltecan, Comecrudo, Cocopa, Karankawa, Maricopa, Mamulique, Hopi, Yavapapi, Solano, Toboso, Quems, Tamique, Tompiro, Walalpai, Yaqui, Papagos, Solano, O’odham, Mayo, Opata, Seri, Taos, and Keres.