The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 4 – The Northwest Plateau

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Known as “Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt” in his native Nez Perce tongue, Chief Joseph led his Wallowa Nez Perce band during their most tumultuous period in their contemporary history. Basically, they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Wallowa Valley and relocated to the significantly reduced reservation in Lapwai, Idaho by the US federal government. The usual series of events culminated in episodes of violence led by Ned Perce resisting removal, including Joseph’s band and their Palouse tribe allies who attempted to seek political asylum in Canada. The US Army pursued them for over 1170 miles fighting retreat which would become known as the Nez Perce War. Though such resistance won him great fame and admiration, Chief Joseph would later surrender after a devastating 5 day battle in freezing conditions with no food or blankets as well as leaving the major Nez Perce leaders dead. By this time, 150 of his followers were either dead or wounded.

Between the Subarctic and Northwest Coast regions, you’ll find a small interior cultural area known as the Northwest Plateau. This region is situated in the interior of British Columbia as well as the non-coastal ranges of Washington state and Oregon with some of Idaho, Montana, and California. Topographically, you’ll find it between the Cascades and the Rockies. Nevertheless, this is an area with a very cold but semiarid climate which makes it nowhere near suitable for agriculture. However, it’s also home to 5 major volcanoes as well as 27 known to be active, which may good for soil content but not a place you’d want to live. Still, you don’t really hear much about this region except maybe when it comes to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. But it’s not a happy tale to tell. Yet, famed Native American author Sherman Alexie also hails from this region, too, and he’s perhaps the best known native literary figure to date. Not surprisingly these Northwest Plateau tribes tended to move around a lot following various food sources. But they also lived in a prime trading location and often exchanged goods with other tribes. Oh, and they also were prolific basket weavers, relying on many local fibrous plants to make them.

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The Northwest Plateau may have its share of plants and waterways. But its generally rough terrain, high elevation, and semiarid but cold climate don’t make it ideal for a sedentary agricultural lifestyle. Is also home to a lot of volcanoes, including Mount Saint Helens.

Location: Area between the Cascade, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains that covers central and southern British Columbia, northern Idaho, western Montana, eastern Washington state, eastern Oregon, and northeastern California.

First Peoples: Region has been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years and save for the grinding stone and the bow and arrow, way of life remained mostly unchanged until the 18th century.

Environment: Consists of rivers, lakes, mountainous evergreen forests, and grassy valleys in the Canadian area with heavy rainfall. The US area is semiarid. Though summers are hot, winters are long and cold. Elevation ranges from 5,000 feet to 14,000 feet and is home to 27 active volcanoes as well as Mount St. Helens.

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Like their Pacific Northwest neighbors, salmon consisted of a major part of the Northwest Plateau peoples’ diet. In eh summer, Pacific salmon would swim up river, leading the men to trap the fish. Once caught the salmon would be smoked on a fire, stored underground, or boiled in hot water for oil.

Subsistence: Hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Fish were a main staple in their diets (particularly salmon) along with roots and berries. Also hunted deer, elk, caribou, antelope, mountain sheep, bear, rabbit, squirrels, marmot, beaver, raccoon, porcupine, and other small game. Another major staple were Camas lily bulbs which were dug up (though the white ones are known to be poisonous).

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The primary winter dwelling for the Northwest Plateau people was the pit house. These would consist of hole being dug into the ground with an earthen roof over a wooden frame. Entrance way was through a wooden ladder.

Housing: Pit houses were primary winter residences that were mostly built below ground with an entry via ladder on the roof that could either be flat or domed shaped. Several families lived in these houses while the chief’s could be twice as large. And these pit houses during the winter could sometimes be connected with tunnels. For summer shelter, some would reside in teepees, especially if they lived near the Plains. But unlike their Plains neighbors, they mostly used bulrush reed mat floors. Another shelter was the Tule mat lodge that were essentially large, oblong shaped teepees and constructed with the same materials. Lean-tos would also be constructed from poles and tule brush mats and were very temporary. Sweat lodges were built from grass and earth covering a wooden frame. Those who lived around the Lower Columbia lived in plank longhouses that could be 20-60 feet long and 14-20 feet wide (with each village there consisting about 5-20). These were built over a pit that was 4-5 feet deep and roughly the same size as the dwelling.

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While clothing among the Northwest Plateau Native Americans can consist of the standard buckskin, braids, and beads you’d associate with native culture, the women were also known to wear the distinguishing basket hats. Also, both sexes had braided pigtails (or at least the women).

Clothing: Generally made from bark, grass, animal skins, and fur. Men and women wore breechcloth aprons, ponchos, and moccasins. Men wore shirts while women donned dresses or skirts. Men donned fur leggings in winter while women’s were of hemp. Ornaments were made from shell and bone while beads were derived from soapstone. Clothes were also painted. Headdresses were used to represent a person’s status within the community with the most elaborate being made from feathers and beads. Women were also well known for wearing basket hats. Sometimes the leaders wore feather headdresses. Both sexes left their hair long, sometimes in two braids.

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Pre-contact Northwest Plateau transportation was mainly by canoe if not on foot. These would be made from bark, dugout wood, or animal skins. Once horses were introduce, people in this region would use them, too.

Transportation: Water transport consisted of dugout, animal skin, and bark canoes.

Society: Largest estimated pre-contact population is said to be around 50,000. Primarily nomadic with most groups following regular migratory routes to obtain foods at their greatest productivity to both meet immediate need, build surplus for winter, and trade (the largest being at the Dalles and Celilo Falls, at the head of the Columbian Gorge). Villages were politically autonomous and village chief authority lay more in their ability to persuade and adjudicate than in their power to make rules and enforce decisions. Both men and women can be chiefs of many bands though family chiefdoms were usually inherited. Specialized leaders like salmon and war chiefs only exercised leadership on special occasions. Only the far western groups practiced hereditary slavery and a caste system like the Chinook with the upper castes practicing social isolation. However, there was always a reluctance to engage in warfare.

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Plateau area Chinook tribes were known to head bind their own children’s heads to create a pointed appearance. However, contrary to popular belief, the Flatheads were called such by their neighbors because they didn’t practice this.

Family Structure: Most people married outside their own village and many of these marriage networks survived after a spouse’s death as widows and widowers often married their spouse’s sibling afterwards. Men hunted, fished, as well as had a greater voice in politics, diplomacy, and military affairs. Women, meanwhile cooked, gathered plants, and tended to young children. However, both men and women were considered socially and economically equal in every way. Some Chinook Indians in the area were known for subjecting their kids to cranial deformation. Lower Columbia tribes buried their dead in raised canoes with all their worldly possessions and never spoke of the deceased again by name for fear of summoning a ghost. Boys from 5-10 were subject to a whipping ceremony in order to prevent sickness during the winter months.

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The Northwest Plateau is well known of their art in fine beadwork, carvings, quillwork, and basketry. Like Native Americans from other cultural areas, such art was part of their every day lives.

Practices: Grass baskets, animism, shamanism, bone carving, controlled burning, vision quests, music, dance, rock painting, weaving, quillwork, and beadwork.

Tools and Weapons: Cordage, nets, bow and arrow, spears, clubs, rawhide and wooden slat armor, weirs, deadfall traps, slings, fish hooks and lines, pestles, snowshoes, a variety of knives, and mauls. Tule bulrush was used by these people for almost everything from mats, bedding, nets, rope, house coverings, flooring, and corpse shrouds. Coiled baskets of spruce and cedar root were used for household utensils, water and burden containers, cooking vessels, drinking cups, cradles, and numerous other purposes.

Notable Tribes: Chinook, Interior Salish, Nez Perce, Walla Walla, Yakama, Cayuse, Spokane, Kalapuya, Flathead, Kalispel, Nicola, Nlaka’pamux, Methow, Molala, Palus, Upper Cowlitz, Umatilla, Okanagan, Sanpoli, Wenatchi, Kutenai, Tenino, Fort Klamath, Chelan, Entiat, and Coeur d’Alene.

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The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 3 – The Pacific Northwest Coast

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The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest Coast could just as well be called the “totem pole people” due to their best known art form. However, these monumental structures were said to symbolize or commemorate cultural beliefs recounting familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. They may have also served as welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for deceased ancestors, or as a means to ridicule someone. The complexity and symbolic meanings of totem poles, their placement and importance lies in the observer’s knowledge and connection to these figures’ meanings.

Though the Pacific Northwest Coast is only a narrow stretch from southern Alaska all the way to the northern reaches of California, it’s a region with and abundance of natural resources that these hunter-gatherer tribes usually stayed in one place. It’s no wonder that it was the most densely populated cultural area in Canada before European contact. Nevertheless, the Pacific Northwest Coast is best known for their totem poles and their distinctive art that you might instantly recognize. Their art is also seen on almost everything, including their large cedar plank houses. Because since these people lived in a temperate coastal rainforest, they didn’t need to spend a lot of time like other native peoples did, searching for food so they won’t starve to death. And since they lived in one place all the time, they had plenty of leisure time to kill. These Native Americans also had rather sophisticated societies based on clans and class systems as well as a special centrality on salmon. But it’s not the only food they eat, yet it received a special ceremony when it’s in season that continues today. Then there’s the tradition of potlatch which was a highly complex event of social, ceremonial, and economic importance. There a chief would bestow highly elaborate gifts to visiting peoples in order to establish his power and prestige and by accepting these gifts, visitors conveyed their approval of the chief. There were also great displays of conspicuous consumption such as burning articles or throwing things into the sea, purely as displays of the chief’s great wealth. You’d even have dancers put on elaborate dances and ceremonies which was considered an honor to watch. Still, these events were held on special occasions like the confirmation of a new chief, coming of age, tattooing or piercing ceremonies, initiation of a secret society, marriages, a chief’s funeral, or battle victories.

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Because of the dense resource rich waters and rainforests along with a pleasant climate, the people of the Pacific Northwest Coast had an easier time than Native Americans in other regions. After all, most of them were hunter-gatherer tribes who usually stayed put.

Location: Along the coast starting from southern Alaska through British Columbia, Washington state, Oregon, and northern California.

First Peoples: First humans are said to enter the region at least 10,000 years ago via the Columbia River in the US Pacific Northwest. Evidence in southern Alaska and British Columbia suggests the early inhabitants existed at a basic subsistence level for 5,000 years until 3000 B.C.E. Earliest sedentary villages appeared in 700 B.C.E. with social ranking, woodworking, and regional art shortly thereafter. However, some areas in the US Pacific Coast along Washington state and Oregon continued in basic subsistence mode until possibly as late as 500.

Environment: Consists of dense temperate zone rainforests, rivers, islands, and oceans with abundant natural resources all year long. Climate is mild and rainfall is heavy that includes fierce winter storms and heavy fog. Trees are unusually tall and thick. Springs and glaciers usually flow into rivers that run to the coast.

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While Pacific Northwest Coast Native Americans had a varied diet, there was no food source more central to them than salmon. When salmon travel up rivers to spawn, they would literally catch thousands of them that could feed their families for a year.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, or fisher subsistence. Salmon was the most important food for the Indians in this region. However, they also consumed halibut, eulachon (candlefish), smelt, herring, and sturgeon as well as shellfish, seals, and whales. They also hunted elk, bear, deer, mountain goat, turtles, and some land mammals as well as gathered berries and roots. Food was generally eaten fresh, grilled, or boiled in a basket with hot rocks or steamed or baked over a pit oven.

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Your standard Pacific Northwest Coast dwelling was the cedar plank house w which could be up to 50-150 feet long and 20-60 feet wide. Each plank house could be home to as many as 30 people.

Housing: Mostly lived in plank long houses of red cedar that was said to be 50-150 feet long and 20-60 feet wide. Each plank house was held together by wooden peg nails, had a large hole in a low roof for smoke ventilation, as well as consisted of a front door to keep heat in. Plank houses were furnished with simple furniture including bunk beds against the wall, storage areas, fire pits, and open shelves as well as dug holes for storing and cooling food. Your typical plank house would be home to several families, perhaps as many as 30 people. They were also commonly painted, often with a family crest. Individuals who built the longhouse usually resided there with their families and their kids would be assigned as space inside upon reaching maturity. But if the village built the plank house together, then it was the chief’s responsibility to assign living spaces to each family. And when the plank house owner died, it was either given away or burned to the ground. Because it was believed if the family stayed, then the dead person’s ghost would haunt the place. Also built temporary shelters made from mats, planks from the main house, or bark.

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While people of the Pacific Northwest Coast usually wore very little under temperate conditions, they tend to be known for wearing their chillkat blankets and decorative woven hats. And yes, these can be highly decorated as well.

Clothing: Usually wore very little clothing except when it was cold or special occasions. In the warmer months, men would go naked while women only wore bark skirts. Clothing was mostly made from softened cedar wood or bark, animal leather, and wool. Bark capes and spruce hats were used as protection against the rain. High ranking class members would usually don chillkat blankets, dance aprons, leggings, and moccasins on special occasions. Adorned themselves with piercings and tattoos.

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The Pacific Northwest Coast had several different types of canoes, mainly made from red cedar. They can be 50 feet long and 8 feet wide while holding up 2-50 people and up to 10,000 pounds of cargo. Of course, passengers have to bring their own oars.

Transportation: Built canoes of red cedar of several different types. They were usually 50 feet long and 8 feet wide as well as can hold up to 2-50 people and 10,000 pounds of cargo. Also had smaller boats for families and short outings. Also had dog pulled sleds for overland transport.

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Potlatch was a major event for Native Americans residing in the Pacific Northwest Coast as a means to reflect wealth and perpetuate social inequality within a village. These were held during a major event as well as hosted by aristocrats. At each potlatch, the host would display their wealth through distributing goods to visitors and others whether they be chillkat blankets, animal skins, or even slaves.

Society: Year round access to food allowed people to live sedentary lives in permanent settlements. Estimates state that as many as 250,000 could have lived in this region at one time. Houses were always grouped together side by side and facing towards the water in small villages, each marked by totem poles. Some even had as many as 1,000 living in only 30 homes. However, some groups had one or more small permanent, semipermanent, or seasonal villages or camping sites as well. Nevertheless, people in this region lived in a society based on hereditary status and the ceremonial winter potlatch was both as a means to reflect and perpetuate this social inequality. These consisted of the nobility, upper class free, lower class free, and slaves (actually not members of society at all). Each individual would also be ranked within their respective groups as well. Since this system was based on inheritance, the classes were fairly immutable though some transfer was possible through acquiring (by trade, purchase, marriage, and war) some inherited rights. Such rights and privileges were owned by the identified group which included songs, dances, performances, and control of subsistence areas identified by crests or design patterns. These patterns could reflect real and mythical family lines and associated incidents, animals, or spirits. The village chief always was always the head of the wealthiest and most powerful family and was a nominal war commanders, often undertaking political and ritual preparations before fighting. Though intragroup conflict was minimal, clan incest and witchcraft were considered capital offenses. Intergroup conflict took place within the framework of feuds and wars. Feuds entailed conflict for legalistic purposes while wars were waged solely for material gain (as in land, booty, and slaves). Northern tribes saw more regular conflict than their southern counterparts. Night raids were preferred strategy and victims’ heads were often displayed on poles as proof of fighting prowess. Also practiced intergroup trade where prices were negotiated.

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In a Pacific Northwest Coast extended family, one’s social rank and wealth intake were usually determined by their relationship to the family chief. Of course, since this was a matrilineal clan that practiced exogamous marriage, this only applied to the people on his mother’s side. Family chiefs were usually the wealthiest and oldest member of the clan.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent. In extended families, family chiefs were usually the oldest and highest ranking individuals while everyone else’s rank was determined by their relationship with the chief.  Family chiefs were primarily responsible for distributing wealth according to social status. Men practiced hunting, building, carving, and fishing while women did housework, raised kids, cooked, wove, made clothes, and dug for shellfish. Marriages were always conducted between people of different clans. When a man decided to marry a woman, he paid her dad an agreed amount before the wedding took place. This amount would be paid back when after the birth of the couple’s first child. After the payment, the wife was no longer obligated to be with her husband (so she could stay or leave him after that point).

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Aside from totem poles, the Pacific Northwest Coastal peoples are also well known for their elaborate ceremonies and their distinctive stylized art. Works of art could range from practical objects such as clothes, tools, transportation, houses, weapons, and what not to the purely ceremonial and aesthetic.

Practices: Totem poles, potlatch, music, dancing, shamanism, animism, storytelling, intricate crafts and sculpture, weaving, basketry, woodworking, masks, bentwood boxes, chillkat blankets, spirit quests, and heraldic art.

Tools and Weapons: Stone axes, adzes, spears, nets, traps, chisels, hammers, drills, knives, wedges, harpoons, traps, seal clubs, sledgehammers, deadfalls, fish line and hooks, and wooden crockery. Coast Salish practiced weaving on a full loom. Blades were made from rock, shell, horn, bone, and a small amount of iron.

Notable Tribes: Tlingit, Nisga’a, Haida, Tsimshian, Gitxsan, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Coast Salish, Chinook, Chimakum, Quileute, Willapa, Nootka, and Tillamook.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 2 – The Subarctic

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Here’s a Subarctic Cree family from early Canada. While the mother and kids are dressed in drab, the father has quite a colorful costume and a gun. He also traps animals and trades their skins and feathers.

Our second stop in my Native American series is the Subarctic region. Now this isn’t as snowy and icy as the Arctic, it’s a pretty forbidding region despite it being a mostly boreal forest region. But it’s a very vast region starting from central interior of Alaska, covering the Canadian Shield, surrounding much of Hudson Bay and the northern Rockies, and ending in eastern Canada and as south as Lake Superior. In fact, it covers most of Canada. Nevertheless, despite that the Subarctic is a huge area, you really don’t see it in movies or on TV much (at least in the US, though in Canada, that may not be the case). Or if you did, you might know have known that they were from the Subarctic region. That, or the movie or show was Canadian made. Yet, many of these people tend to speak Athabaskan languages (though some also speak Algonquin in the east). Whatever the case, the Subarctic region is home to a population known to speak over 30 languages. And this area didn’t have a large population of hunter-gathers either. But what a lot of these peoples have in common is their teepee and wigwam shelters and their dependence on the caribou. Also, many of them wore parkas, too. At any rate, it’s kind of what you get if you put cultural aspects of the Plains, the Arctic, and the Northeastern Woodlands together. But it’s in a way that it makes perfect sense because while it may not get as much snow as the Arctic, it’s nowhere near pleasant enough to support agriculture at all. Not only that, but many of these hunter-gatherer groups dealt with regular periods of starvation as food availability can vary from place to place. So while the Subarctic might have great scenery to put on a postcard (since it’s home to Denali), it’s not a pleasant place to live. Still, since European contact in 1500 with Basques, Bretons, and other Europeans fishing at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, non-native diseases, STDs, malnutrition and alcoholism would reduce native Subarctic population by 90-100% in some regional locations while some didn’t see a white person until the mid 19th century.

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While the Subarctic environment isn’t nearly as harsh as the frigid Arctic, it’s quite a forbidding place. Its rugged terrain, long cold winters, short summers, and generally low precipitation in rain, it’s a very hard place to live.

Location: Most of Canada as well as most of interior, western, and south central Alaska. Stretches from Alaska to east of the Rocky Mountains, and the northern Great Lakes.

First Peoples: The first people of the region possibly entered the region at least 12,000 years ago or even as long as 25,000 years ago. Athabaskan speakers descend from a Northern Archaic culture that existed at least 9,000 years ago. The Shield culture was predominant in Labrador before diverging. The Taltheilei tradition existed 6,000 years ago from Great Bear Lake to Lake Athabaska and the Churchill River. The Laurel culture of Manitoba and northern Ontario lasted from 1000 B.C.E. to 800 and known for their ceramic pottery along with the Selkirk and the Blackduck Cree.

Environment: Mountainous and boreal forest with thousands of streams and waterlogged tundra. East has low hills and rock outcroppings. West has high mountains, glaciers, and plains. Climate is characterized by short, mild to hot summers and long, bitterly cold winters. Precipitation is generally low save in some mountainous areas and coastal Alaska and falls mainly as snow. Short springs experience plagues of mosquitoes, black flies, and other insects as well as ice break up and snow melt. Travel can also be limited at that time as well as the fall freeze up. Soil was often poor and often swampy, making agricultural development impossible.

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Central to the Subarctic tribal existence was the caribou for which they depended on for food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Here is a painting of a caribou hunt.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Moose and caribou were a major part of diets for many tribes, with some groups regularly suffering from hunger or even starvation during shortages. Yet, smaller animals like hare, marmot, beaver, porcupine, and muskrat were also consumed along with fish, roots, and berries. Coastal groups relied on sea mammals and shellfish while western groups even hunted buffalo. Musk ox, bear, lynx, wolf, coyote, fox, mink, weasel, otter, wolverine, wapiti and elk were also hunted where available.

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Teepees and wigwams may not have been the only housing in the Subarctic region. But they were among the most common. Most of these would be covered in caribou or moose hides along with bark.

Housing: Most tribal groups resided in domed and conical lodges consisting of poles covered with skins, boughs, or birch bark. Or in other words, wigwams and teepees but not what you’d see on the Plains or the Northeast. Groups closest to the Northwest Coast tribes built plank houses while some built frame houses partially below the earth as well as bark covered rectangular houses at fishing camps. Some groups built shelters with a double A-ridgepole framework and containing multiple fires as well as sod pit houses. Structures like drying racks, sweat houses, caches, menstrual houses, and others were also commonly built.

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This Athabaskan family portrait shows a variety of what native peoples in the Subarctic would’ve worn. In winter, they would’ve worn parkas, snowsuits, and other winter items. In the spring and summer, they’d go with tanned leather clothing of caribou and moose.

Clothing: Most clothing usually came from moose and caribou as well as hare and other skins with trim from beaver or other fur. Hides were often tanned and dehaired so they wouldn’t weigh down except winter items like parkas, hats, and mittens. Many people wore leggings with moccasins. Clothing can be decorated with fringe, paint, quills, claws, or down. Women wore dresses while men wore shirts, jackets, and snowsuits. Mothers often carried their babies on their backs with cradle boards. Adornments consisted of noseplugs, earrings, and tattooing.

Transportation: Overland travel was usually preferred and many used sleds, sledges, and toboggans (sometimes pulled by dogs though not always). Though people did build lightweight birch bark canoes and moose hide boats.

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Like most nomadic tribes, Subarctic Indian society wasn’t very authoritarian, formal, or centralized. Extended families usually lived in groups though once in awhile bands would get together to socialize, hunt, and trade.

Society: This was a sparsely populated area with no more than 100,000 living in the region at any one time. So most cultures were nomadic. The basic unit was a local group consisting of 10-20 related people but could be up to 75. Membership was fluid and nonbinding, in deference to autonomy values and need for flexibility in a difficult environment. Leadership was extremely informal and nonauthoritarian, except for the groups most influenced by the Northwest Coast. When conditions permitted (possibly not quite every summer), local groups might come together as loosely constructed regional bands of several hundred people to socialize and renew family ties. Kinship names were used in most tribes as a general term. For instance, elders were addressed “Grandmother” or “Grandfather” whether they were blood related or not. Some groups might conduct memorial potlach with chiefs being recognized as among the clan leaders in the Cordillera. Warfare was mostly a local matter though while some groups seeking women, most people fought over revenge for trespass or prior blood transgression. Yet, warfare was more developed in the far west than in other areas. However, there were no regional groups conducting full scale wars. Trade was widely practiced with goods and services being exchanged as a peaceful reason for travel and human interaction while bands frequently shared resources with each other.

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Though Subarctic tribes mostly practiced matrilineal descent, the treatment of women varied from tribe. Some women were treated as no more than mere pack animals while others maintained relative autonomy and even assumed positions of authority and power.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent, though not always. Women mostly made clothes, prepared food, and looked after children while men hunted the big game. However, it wasn’t uncommon for women to snare hare or fish. Women’s status varied according to local custom with some being treated as essentially pack animals with little to eat and others existing in relative autonomy as well as attaining both authority and power. Female infanticide wasn’t unknown through much of the region while menstrual taboos could be quite rigorous. Yet, both men and women were usually married by 13 or 14 and had some decision power in the bands. Newly married men were required to live with their in-laws for at least a year before establishing their own households (yet, sometimes they could have more than one wife). Exogamy and cross cousin marriage were usually encouraged. Since infant mortality was common, babies were usually not named until it was certain they would survive. Cremation was standard funerary practice.

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The Subarctic tribes were well known for their intricate beadwork and embroidery. After they made contact with the Europeans, these Indians took to using glass beads and sewn floral designs.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, reincarnation, ceramics, storytelling, controlled burning, music, lacrosse, wooden dolls, basket weaving, dance, embroidery, beadwork, and scapulimancy.

Tools and Weapons: Antler clubs soaked in grease, armor, spears, hide containers for holding water, tumplines for carrying, snowshoes, bow and arrow, net traps, gaffs, fish hooks, snares, and weirs. Raw materials usually consisted of bark, wood, root, stone, and sometimes copper. Yet, many groups also liberally borrowed from their neighbors.

Notable Tribes: Cree, Ojibwa, Gwich’in, Dena’ina, Beothuk, Beaver, Mountain, Hare, Han, Tanacross, Yelloknife, Innu, Chipewyan, Eyak, Kuskokwim, Holikachunk, Sekani, Tagish, Ingalik, Ahtna, Babine-Wet’suwet’en, Dogrib, Tutchone, Carrier, Chilcotin, Attikamek, Tanana, Bearlake, Koyukon, Naskapi, Slavey, Tlicho, and Kaska.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 1 – The Arctic

 

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As we have been taught in our history classes, before Europeans arrived to North America, the continent was inhabited by a people called the Native Americans. Of course, those who’ve taken courses in American history in school will probably know that our education doesn’t really touch on these people very much (other than that they later got killed by European disease and relocated to reservations so white people can take their lands). Mostly because an average US history class can only cover so much within 180 days or less. Thus, with the exception of those who took Native American Studies in college or read books about them, most of us tend to learn about the Indians through the media and pop culture. Now your average Native American on TV or in the movies will most likely have long black hair (either free flowing, single thick braid, or loose pigtails) or a Mohawk. Not mention, your average media Native American would have a feather stuck in their hair as an ornament or an elaborate feather headdress (like a war bonnet). If your Indian is a guy, he’ll have on leather pants often lined with fringe along with an age dependent upper wardrobe. Older Indian men usually wear leather tunics and vests while the younger guys have other options of going with just the vest or a bare chest. If he’s shirtless, then expect him to wear some degree of body paint. Yet at any rate, he’ll certainly get his war paint on at the climatic battle scene. If your Indian is a woman, she’ll often wear a single piece leather slip and leave her legs bare. Either way, your average media Native American will wear beaded jewelry as well as soft leather moccasins if they’re not barefoot.

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And it doesn’t help that many Native Americans depicted in classic westerns are played by white guys with blue eyes. Yeah, really makes a convincing Indian (sorry, but the heavy dark makeup isn’t fooling me).

Now is this an accurate representation of Native Americans? Well, some of the time. However, pop culture tends to get the idea of representing Native North Americans with a one-size-fits-all approach of beads, buckskins, and braids. Did all Native North Americans dress this way before Europeans? No. Because North America is a big place with a great deal of variation between Native cultures, especially since the continent has a variety of environments. An Indian from New Mexico did not dress the same way as one from North Dakota. And occasionally, you might see indigenous people in Peru wearing buckskin outfits which is another matter entirely (especially if you account for the llama wool). Nevertheless, such Native North American portrayal doesn’t capture the wide variety while many tribes’ traditional outfits look nothing like the stereotype.

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Yet, they still depict teepees and totem poles on the Playmobil Indian camp play set. Sure it looks cute. But it’s seriously wrong and perpetuates cultural inaccuracies. Seriously, you might as well have a play set of the Norse gods with a Grecian temple.

Then there are the aspects of Native North American culture that you see in the media. Of course, there’s the offensive denigration of Indians as savages but this stereotype has been done to death so I won’t bother to talk about it. Then there’s the magical nature worshipping Native Americans who are just misunderstood because a bunch of selfish white guys want their land. Either way, they’re not going to speak English like a normal person. But that’s beside the point. Anyway, you might see Native American tribes depicted doing things and using stuff that belongs to a myriad of different tribes. A good example of this would be the Indian tribe in Peter Pan which juxtaposes Great Plains teepees and Pacific Northwest totem poles. At a cultural and historical perspective, this is as jarring as it’s inaccurate as portraying Vikings with Grecian temples. Also, you might find a lot of Indians wearing mohawks and war bonnets even when they’re not supposed to. In reality, Native North Americans were and are a diverse group ranging from nomadic hunter-gatherers to agricultural civilizations. And they have adapted to a variety of environmental conditions.

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Type Indian or Native American on any search engine, you’re bound to get results like this. Now while this certainly is a Native American portrait, the guy is most likely a leader of the Plains tribes. And he only wears the war bonnet on ceremonial occasions.

In this series, I plan on showing my readers a rough view on how Native North Americans really lived. However, I’m not going to go with a tribe on tribe basis because that would take too long (since there are over 500 of them). So instead I’ll go according to cultural area. Yet, note that whatever I say about this series will only apply chiefly to Native North Americans before European contact. So if you want to know about Plains horse culture or Navajo sheep herding and silversmithing, this series isn’t for you (though I will show pictures). Not only that, but understand that a one-size-fits-all approach may not apply to all the Indians living in that particular cultural region, even within a recognized tribe or tribal group. I just have it written in because it applies to some of the Indians living there. Also, some tribes might go in more than one region.

Inupiat Family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929, Edward S. Curtis

A family photo of an Inupiat Eskimo mother, father, and son, photographed in Noatak, Alaska, by Edward Sheriff Curtis circa 1929. It’s certainly plausible that they’d be wearing their parkas in every day life. But most of the Inuit have adopted to modern lifestyles. Yet, that didn’t stop Robert Flaherty drom doing Nanook of the North.

Our first North American region is the Arctic, which is often exempt from most Native American depictions. Mostly because the Arctic is a very frigid place of ice and snow. Arctic Native Americans tend to be depicted more accurately as wearing parkas, living in igloos, hunting seals, riding kayaks, and running on the ice in dog sleds. But it’s not quite right. Since not all Arctic Native Americans lived in igloos (and even those who did didn’t live in them all the time). Plant life does exist there and the ice does thaw (and keeps thawing due to climate change). While these Native Americans resided near polar bears, they didn’t live anywhere near penguins (which actually live in the Southern Hemisphere). And yes, they do take off their parkas once in awhile. Sure they may spend their days dogsledding, ice fishing, and seal hunting, but they also hunt whales, walruses, and other animals, too. Oh, and they didn’t always leave their grandmas to die on ice floes. Nor did they just eat blubber. Nevertheless, while the Arctic can be a rather inhospitable place, these people have managed to survive its harsh climate for thousands of years and continue to do so. Most of them reside in the farthest reaches of Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. Yet, they don’t necessarily have a lifestyle that 100% akin to Nanook of the North (which is kind of a documentary of the Inuit showing how they lived when they were 12). Because they do know about modern technology, actually take advantage of it, and think the idea of pining for the good old days is utterly insane (even among those who grew up in the traditional lifestyle). However, you might want to avoid calling them Eskimos because some of them see the term as derogatory. Also, a lot of them don’t like being called Indians either which is partly why we tend to refer to indigenous people in North America as Native Americans.

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This is a figurine from the Paleo-Eskimo Dorset culture who were among the first people in the Arctic region. The Paleo-Eskimos inhabited the area from 6,000 years ago before mysteriously disappearing at around 1500 at the latest. DNA evidence has proven that they were not the ancestors of the modern Inuit, a fact that I hardly believe (mostly because if the Thule and Dorset culture coexisted, you’d expect that they’d be having sex with each other. Because that’s what normally happens).

Location: Near the Arctic Circle, encompassing northern and western regions of Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland.

First Peoples: Assuming that the earliest Native Americans arrived to the continent through the Bering land bridge, the Arctic region was only used as nothing more than an area to pass through before venturing into greener pastures. The first groups who inhabited this region didn’t arrive until 6,000 years ago and in at least 2 migrations from Siberia and it was the last area in North America to be populated. The Paleo-Eskimo cultures first developed by 2500 BCE and consists of the Arctic Small Tool Tradition (who lived in tent camps while chasing seals and caribou 4000 years ago), the Dorsets (walrus hunters from 500 BCE-1500), and the Thule (who sailed in large skin boats and hunted whales who are said to arrive in 200 BCE-1600). Only the Thule have any biological, cultural and linguistic connection the modern Inuit and are often considered their ancestors. However, it is known that the Dorsets and Thule had no genetic connection and barely interacted with each other (at least favorably. However, the lack of genetic connection is highly unusual since these two groups existed around the same time. But even if under the most hostile relations, you’d still expect that members of both groups would have sex with each other. How can these people coexist without having sex with each other? I don’t get it). And the Dorset would mysteriously disappear by the 1500s. Some evidence suggests that the Thule and Dorsets had contact with the Vikings.

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Here’s a scene of Nanook hunting seal from the 1922 Robert Flaherty “documentary” Nanook of the North. The harsh tundra climate and terrain led the Arctic people to hunt sea mammals including seal and whale. By the way, hunting for such animals in the Arctic was a highly difficult and dangerous task that took hours.

Environment: Tundra, which can be better said as a desert of snow that’s cold, flat, and treeless (though Arctic plants do exist). Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures all year round (along with the increasing threat of global warming). Can sometimes experience a white night and midnight sun come summer as well as 24 hours of darkness in winter. But the Aurora Borealis is pretty. One of the harshest environments on earth.

Subsistence: Hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Diet was mostly meat based consisting of ringed and bearded seals, walrus, narwhal, and whales. On land, caribou were by far the most important source of food (and other raw materials) along with musk ox, wolf, fox, wolverine, and squirrel. Also consumed ptarmigan, duck, geese, and their eggs. Fishing was mostly a 3 season activity. Some areas even had people gather berries. Almost every part of the hunted animals were used.

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As you might know, the Inuit are well known for building igloos made of snow and ice. Yet, contrary to what you see in the media, igloos were only used as temporary shelter. Sometimes they could be built close together and connected by tunnels.

Housing: Different types depended on materials available and whether the home wasp permanent or temporary. In the central Arctic region, domed shaped snow igloos were the rule among the Inuit. Many of these would often be built attached to each other for added warmth and sociability. And they even had snow furniture in them, too. But some Inuit tribes built sod houses which consisted of a dug rectangular pit with walls made from sod and rocks as well as wood pieces and whalebone for the roof called a shuswap. Aleut housing consisted of a partially underground house covered with logs, whalebone, or poles before being covered by earth, snow, or moss. This was called a Barabara. Temporary housing included a large men’s ceremonial house called a kashim and its female counterpart called an ena along with summer tents of seal and caribou skin over bone or wooden frames.

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Unlike a lot of Native American cultures, Arctic tribes like the Inuit sometimes still wear their traditional parkas, a lot of times made from caribou fur for added insulation.

Clothing: Most clothing was made from caribou skin though polar bear, seal, wolverine, squirrel, bird, and fish skins were also used. And it was primarily fashioned for insulation from freezing temperatures and wind. In winter, people wore inner (fur side in) and outer fur side garments (fur side out). But only the inner garment was worn during the summer fur side out. The winter outer garment was a heavy hooded jacket, often lined with fur known as a parka. A mother might wear an extra-large parka to shelter babies. Both sexes wore pants, stockings, mittens, seal skin boots, or low shoes. Raincoats were sewn with waterproof gut. Clothes were often decorated with colored furs or fringe. Men wore snowshoes and snow goggles while hunting in the winter. Adornments consisted of labrets (lip plugs), ear pendants, nose rings, and tattoos. Sothern tribes wore close fitting shits and pants. While Aleut women wore seal or otter skin parkas, Aleut men wore parkas of bird skin where the feathers turned in and out depending on the weather. Aleut children wore down parkas with tanned bird skin caps.

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Sleds pulled by dogs and kayaks were the primary modes of transportation among the Arctic Native Americans. Dog sleds for land and kayaks for water. Luckily I found a picture that had both a kayak and sled dogs.

Transportation: Kayaks were closed boats made for one man and used for hunting. Larger open umiaks made from wooden frames and sewn skins for water navigation. Umiaks were employed for either whale hunting or general travel (in the latter case, they’d be paddled and/or rowed by women). Wood and rawhide sleds were pulled by either dogs or people and were used for winter travel.

Society: This was a sparsely populated area that could have consisted as many as 80,000 pre-European contact. Lived a mostly nomadic culture where group members saw themselves tied to the land. Members lived in an isolated existence and would organize into bands on a seasonal basis. Leadership was generally underdeveloped. When strong leaders emerged, there was little formal structure and usually for a temporary situation like whaling expeditions. Leaders were usually older, experienced men who might be leading household heads and probably owned an umiak. Also had a very bloody history of intertribal warfare.

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Another scene from Nanook of the North. This one depicts Nanook’s wife Nyla with their baby playing with the husky puppies. Arctic nuclear families normally consisted of 5 to 6 people at a time. And Arctic family life wasn’t always as happy as what you see in this 1922 film. Still, this moment is so filled with cuteness.

Family Structure: Nuclear families usually consisted of 5 to 6 people. Hunting sea mammals was the primary occupation of most men because it could be highly dangerous and/or extremely demanding. Women sewed up skins, cooked food, tended lamps, and looked after children. Both men and women took part in igloo construction. Descent was generally bilateral. Kinship was of such primary importance so much that “strangers” (those who couldn’t immediately document kin affiliations) were perceived as potentially hostile and might be summarily killed. Other groups subject to willful death were infants (especially girls) and old people. Cannibalism and suicide weren’t uncommon, but only in extreme cases of need. Prospective husbands often served the bride’s parents for a period of time (bride service). Wife stealing (committed in the overall competition of supremacy) might result in death as possibly other conflicts. Murders were subject to revenge. Corpses were generally wrapped in skins and left on the ground. Southwest Inuit and Aleuts practiced mummification. Yupik parents tend to name their children after the last person in the community to have died.

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While the Inuit mostly dominate the Arctic cultural Native American landscape, the Aleut and the Yupik also reside there. These are Aleuts who reside in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands while the Yupik live in western Alaska. Both groups also live in part of Siberia as well.

Practices: Bone, antler, and ivory figurines, amulets, and toys. Wooden ceremonial and dance masks. Basket weaving, animism, shamanism, music, acrobatics, kickball, string games, and storytelling.

Tools and Weapons: Harpoon, bow and arrow, needle, thimble, knife, adze, ax, drill, scraper, spear, and shovel, primarily from bone and antler as well as chipped stone (for points, blades, scrapers, and pots). Other tools include baleen boxes, soapstone pottery, oil and blubber burning lamps with moss wicks, movement indicators (for breathing-hole sealing), throwers, various types of harpoons (with detachable heads), seal nets, clubs, bird bolas, three pronged spears, fish hooks, stone fish weirs, as well as animal traps and snares.

Notable Tribes: Inuit, Aleut, and Yupik. Some of the Aleut and Yupik are known to reside in Siberia.

Evaluating Patriotic Songs of America

The 4th of July is the kind of holiday where one is bound to hear a lot of patriotic tunes expressing patriotic pride. Yet, while some certainly celebrate the spirit of the U. S. of A., others have rather cheesy lyrics. Ever since the US was a country, people have been writing patriotic anthems showing their love for America. However, not every patriotic tune can make an American wave the flag in pride. So here I devote this post evaluating songs expressing love for America.

 

The Best:

“The Star Spangled Banner” – I have to admit since Francis Scott Key wrote down the lyrics while witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry as a prisoner on a British ship, this has been a perennial favorite in the US that it has often served as an unofficial national anthem until it was officially designated as such in 1931. Sure the lyrics might be set to an English drinking song at the time but it’s great as an instrumental for bands as well as for talented singers. As long as you don’t have pop stars butchering it in sporting events.

“America the Beautiful” – Once considered a contender for the national anthem, this one really expresses one’s love for the American landscape that have become iconic images of the American psyche. The Ray Charles version is the best in my opinion. Said to be easier to sing, more melodic, and adaptable to various orchestrations.

“Battle Hymn of the Republic” – Set to “John Brown’s Body,” with lyrics written by Julia Ward Howe during the American Civil War, this song may have religious connotations as well as something you really don’t want to play among certain demographics like Southerners or non-Christians. After all, this was a Northern anthem during the American Civil War and it was written when adding Christian references in such material was acceptable and even encouraged. And the abolitionists frequently used Christianity to justify why slavery was wrong. I also know that it has references to the apocalypse as well as kind of justifies war. However, it’s the very fact that it’s a Christian song with Julia Ward Howe’s style that make this song so powerful, inspirational, and unforgettable that plenty of non-Christian Americans don’t really care if you play it at public events (even if it’s just instrumental).

“You’re a Grand Old Flag” – Famously composed by George M. Cohan who was a pioneer in the Broadway musical. This is definitely one that’s great for grandstanding patriotic pride on the 4th of July.

“The Yankee Doodle Boy”- Another Cohan song even though most people only sing the chorus. Most famously performed by James Cagney in the George M. Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. Of course, Cohan wasn’t really born on the 4th of July, but who cares. It’s awesome.

“Over There”- Yet, another George M. Cohan song that was written to get young men to enlist during the US entry in the WWI. Expect to hear this whenever the US enters a major world war.

“The Stars and Stripes Forever” – Sure this song may not have lyrics to sing to (oh, wait, there are but nobody sings them anyway). But this was composed with the genius of John Philip Sousa and is packed with so much patriotic pep that you’d want to cheer for the USA.

US Military Songs- You can understand why the military takes to bands and marches since a lot of these songs seem to echo a certain badassery, dignity, and courage of each branch making a grandiose entrance. For the Navy, you can’t forget “Anchors Aweigh.” For the Army, it’s “The Army Keeps Rolling Along.” The Marines have “The Marine Hymn” or “Semper Fidelis” (also by Sousa but you’ve probably heard it).  Then there’s “Wild Blue Yonder” from the US Air Force. Finally, there’s “Semper Paratus” for the US Coast Guard. And for all of them, you can go with “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” best played during ship sinkings. All these songs surely make a great American patriotic soundtrack

“Appalachian Spring” – from Paste Magazine: “This wakens a sense of patriotism in us that little else can. It’s an orchestral suite, so it’s not technically a “song,” but the music is so uniquely American (borrowing from the traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”) and so sonically vivid, that it expresses the beauty of our country better than any set of lyrics we know. Copland was undoubtedly the Norman Rockwell of music—both intensely patriotic and populist but in a gentle and agreeable way. The piece premiered as a ballet score during the tail end of WWII, and was rearranged as suite the following year during the height of American patriotism.” However, most people might think of the lines “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” at the end since it was once used in a commercial.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” – Written by NAACP head James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother, this was a major song from the Civil Rights Movement. Seen as an anthem of African Americans for a good reason since it features very inspirational lyrics that surely encouraged blacks to fight for their rights.

“Hail to the Chief” – This is the theme song for the US President when he or she makes an entrance. And yes, it echoes American grandeur. However, I sure hope that this song is played when Donald Trump makes an entrance because that would be really bad.

“Fanfare for the Common Man” – Composed by Aaron Copland, you probably have heard this song in recruitment commercials and previews for movies. Inspired by a Henry Wallace speech during the Great Depression. Definitely a piece for any American patriotic soundtrack on the 4th of July.

“Living in America”- A famous staple from the Godfather of Soul James Brown that was played on Rocky IV as the theme for Apollo Creed. Also inspired Weird Al’s parody, “Living with a Hernia.” Has a very catchy chorus and tune.

“Philadelphia Freedom” –Sure it was written and recorded by Brits. But it’s a catchy song that hasn’t been played enough. Also, was done for Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s friend Billie Jean King who was on the Philadelphia Freedom professional tennis team.

“America” – This Simon and Garfunkel gem was used in a Bernie Sanders campaign ad. And you can understand why. It’s about going on cross country trip. What can be better than that?

“The Washington Post” –You might recognize this song by John Philip Sousa. Yes, he cranked out a lot of these marches of American patriotic goodness. Still, if you want to listen to some patriotic music on the 4th of July, Sousa is your guy.

“We Shall Overcome”- Another unofficial anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement. Yet, it’s one that doesn’t acknowledge perfection as well as inspires that Americans can overcome their problems caused by societal hatred. Truly a gem.

“National Emblem” – Features a march version of “The Star Spangled Banner” as well as got a good write up from none other than John Philip Sousa. In fact, it was one of Sousa’s favorite march tunes that wasn’t composed by him, which says something.

“Ragged Old Flag” – From Paste Magazine: “The intro is almost as great as the song itself—a simple, compelling tune about loving one’s country for what it stands for, and despite its mistakes. No one was ever as earnestly cool as Johnny Cash. My kind of patriot.”

The Worst:

“God Bless the USA” – From Amog: “I didn’t know that this was released way back in 1984, but I do remember it being overplayed during the first Gulf War. Even as a kid, more now as an adult, I’ve always known that this track sucked, for lack of a better word. To add insult to injury, it gets stuck in my head, if I’m subjected to it, which makes me want to gauge my ear drums out with a power drill.” This song is just annoyingly cheesy with clichéd sentiment. Kill it. Kill it with fire.

“Let the Eagle Soar”- From Amog: “Besides this being a horrible, horrible tribute to America, it was written and performed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. As if politicians needed anymore proof that they’re a bunch a clowns and give the rest of the world a reason to mock us. But it gets worse. This atrocity was performed at George W. Bush’s second inauguration. At least Ashcroft had someone else, Guy Hovis, perform it at the inauguration. Actually, that’s a jerk move. Letting someone else take the fall for you in front of millions is rather diabolical.”

“Have You Forgotten?” – From Amog: “Another recording, out of the hundreds of others, to express how an artist felt on September 11, 2001. What makes this a horrible patriotic song is that Worley justifies bombing pretty much the entire world because of 9/11. It’s tacky, contrived and features shameless footage from 9/11 all in the name of making a buck.”

“Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)” – From Amog: “In a way you can’t blame Toby Keith for this. He was feeling like many of us were at the time. Then again, many of us aren’t musicians who will be forever immortalized through their music. Nearly a decade after this song was released most rational thinking people would agree that putting “a boot in you ass” isn’t the American way and really doesn’t help our standing in the global community.”

“Red, White & Blue” – From Amog: “This gem was written by what’s left of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Strike one. It also contains the lines: “My hair is white, my neck has always been red, and my collar’s still blue,” for a second strike. The final strike goes to another masterpiece of a line, “If they don’t like it they can just get the hell out”. They should have just stuck to butchering the band’s classics while on the road with musicians like Kid Rock.”

“Dixie”- Yes, I know that it’s a catchy tune and I know it’s well beloved by white Southerners (and others like Abraham Lincoln, though it was more of a pop song in his day). But it’s inherently racist since it was first performed in blackface minstrel shows (popular 19th century entertainment that was chock full of offensive black stereotypes). It was used as a theme for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. To African Americans, this song is considered offensive since it echoes Old South nostalgia and was played by supporters of segregation.

“American Soldier” – From LA Weekly: “We’re not sure there’s anything worse than starting a war based on blatant lies, then sending young men and women to die for the vanity of elderly assholes who would rather bleed this country dry than actually part with a single dime at tax time. But if there is, it’s the songs celebrating the sacrifices of the people sent to die in those wars, written by people who themselves would never join the military.” Well, I guess “Goodnight Saigon” might be on the same level as this one since it pertains to the Vietnam War since Billy Joel never went there either. But at least he consulted his friends who actually served in Vietnam before he went through with it and tried to depict the conflict through their point of view. Not sure if Toby Keith has done the same.

“Ballad of the Green Berets” – This song was written and recorded in the 1960s and used in the 1968 John Wayne movie The Green Berets which depicted the Vietnam War in a positive light (a war the US never should’ve gotten involved in but was going to anyway). Yes, I get that people want to honor their country and its armed forces. But this doesn’t mean you should use it in a god awful movie that glamorizes a war as well as make George Takei wish he’d stick with being on more Star Trek episodes (because he’s in this).

American Revolution Songs sans “Yankee Doodle” -Yes, our Founding Fathers had their patriotic songs, too like “The Liberty Song,” “Chester,” or “War and Washington.” Have you heard of these? There’s probably a good reason.

“Marching Through Georgia”- Yes, it’s a lively tune that was written during the American Civil War. However, it’s hard for a white Georgian to show patriotic pride while hearing a song about Union soldiers mowing through their state and destroying everything in their midst. Sure this was William Tecumseh Sherman’s strategy of “Total War” which was intended to make the Confederates lose their will to fight. But white Southerners still paint the guy as a villain.

A lot of Patriotic country songs- To be fair, there may be good country songs out there showing one’s love for America. But in contemporary times, this genre has gotten a major bad rap for cheesy lyrics of blind patriotism that’s sometimes tinged with American conservativism. Okay, it’s fine for one to express their love for the US. But please, make sure it’s not a song filled with empty gestures. There’s a reason why College Humor satirized a lot of them with “America Sucks Less,” which might be a better song about patriotism in general.

“This Ain’t No Rag, It’s A Flag” – From Nerve: “The title of this Charlie Daniels single tells you everything you need to know. By the end of the first few verses, he’s mocked the practice of wearing headscarves, explained that Americans “believe in God” (say what you will about Islamist terrorists, but they don’t lack religion), and told “dirty” Arabs to crawl back into their “holes.” As a response to 9/11, the song offers nothing that couldn’t be gained from going down to the corner bar and listening to a bunch of drunk racists.” Sorry, Charlie Daniels, but loving your country doesn’t need to resort to blatant Islamophobia.

Your Mileage May Vary:

“God Bless America”- Yes, it has a great orchestration and I think the lyrics are quite good as well as easy to remember. However, the fact it was used by Christian conservatives in the 1960s to silence dissenters speaking out against US involvement in the Vietnam War sort of ruins it for me. Also, it’s used by the Flyers.

“This Is My Country” – Well, it’s easy to sing. But it doesn’t have a lot going for it and the lyrics seem quite childish.

“My Country Tis of Thee” – Well, it’s a simple song to remember. But it also uses the same melody as “God Save the Queen.” And the American lyrics are fairly childish.

“This Land Is Your Land”- Written by Woody Guthrie, this is an overall decent folksy American song that evokes a sense of patriotism. However, there are some verses that are highly critical about the US and the fact it was to protest the notion of private property. The fact that it was used as a protest song in radical politics during the 1930s, doesn’t help much.

“Hail Columbia”- This song was used as a de facto national anthem in the US for most of the 19th century. On one hand, it has a lovely melody that might’ve been catchy at the time. However, it fails to capture the kind of emotional punch akin to “The Star Spangled Banner” and some of the tune is reminiscent of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” It’s obvious to see “The Star Spangled Banner” is the US national anthem and it’s not. “The Star Spangled Banner” is a song that’s stood the test of the time since it was first written. This one seems very antiquated in comparison.

“America” – From Examiner: “Unlike ‘This Land is Your Land’ Neil Diamond’s ‘America’ highlights the rich history this country has as a beacon for those seeking refuge in a harsh world. It doesn’t make light of the struggles of immigrants that have flocked here for security and opportunity since the very beginning. The song is more than just a sugary spouting of patriotic words haphazardly strung together, its a testament to the American dream and how its always there no matter how irrelevant it seems in the hard times.” However, this isn’t among Neil Diamond’s best songs, kind of cheesy, and hard to take seriously if it’s sung by a guy in a sparkly jumpsuit.

“American Pie”- From Examiner: “Regardless of age, race, gender or creed, everyone who lives in the U.S. can appreciate this song. Something about the lyrics paired with the upbeat sound is reminiscent of things like summer road trips, Coca-Cola, warm nights at amusement parks, drive-in movies and shooting off firecrackers. In short, it’s an awesome feel-good song that never gets old and it’s timelessly American as…well, apple pie.” However, though I really like this song, I have to admit that it’s more about rock n’ roll and the events that happened after Buddy Holly’s death than America in general.

“Yankee Doodle” – Sure there’s an interesting story about this song which pertains to British making fun of Americans during the French and Indian War. And yes, it’s kind of cool that American patriots adopted this song as a “fuck you” to the Brits during the American Revolution. But seriously, it’s kind of annoying and the lyrics are pretty stupid.

“Born in the USA” – Though most people see this as a pro-America rock staple, it’s actually a scathing critique of the Vietnam War and the phenomenon that working class youth have little hope for the future being pushed into military service because they have nowhere else to turn. Also, I am no fan of Bruce Springsteen. Oh, and it was used to torture prisoners at Gitmo (sorry, Bruce).

“Columbia Gem of the Ocean” – Well, it does have a great grandstanding march to be a contender for the national anthem. However, it’s not very well known.

“Home on the Range” – More of a western song than a song about the US in general. But I understand why some people are attached to it.

“The Liberty Bell”- It’s a grand march written by John Philip Sousa which has been played at US presidential inaugurations. However, if there is any reason why it might not be included on a patriotic soundtrack, it’s probably because it’s better remembered as the theme from Monty Python.

“Goodnight Saigon”- Written by Billy Joel for The Nylon Curtain, it’s about the soldiers’ experience in Vietnam which honors their service while glamorizing absolutely none of what they’ve been through. Though Joel never served in Vietnam, he was encouraged to write and record this song by his friends who did. Nevertheless, it’s more of a song for Memorial Day or Veterans Day than 4th of July because it doesn’t show a lot of patriotic pep.

“Ashoka Farewell” –When you hear this song in the Ken Burns documentary series The Civil War, you’d almost think it was played by American soldiers at their army camps before a battle. Yet, it was actually composed by New York Jews in the 1980s but it has an unforgettable and beautiful melody. However, it’s kind of a sad song that’s more appropriate for Memorial Day than 4th of July.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” – This is a highly adaptable song and can be played in many different tones in instrumentals as indicated by the Ken Burns documentary. However, while the lyrics point to the glorious anticipation of a soldier coming home from duty, remember that many US soldiers didn’t.

“Taps”- It’s a nice song but it’s more appropriate for military funerals and Memorial Day.

“Pink Houses” – From Cheat Sheet: “John Mellencamp is popularly considered to be a patriotic rock singer, who writes songs about good working-class people enjoying their small town lives. From the chorus, it seems as though the song is an ode the classic American dream of living in suburbia with a house, a spouse, and children. “Ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby / Ain’t that America home of the free / Little pink houses for you and me,” Mellencamp sings in the chorus. But, like many of the songs on this list, if you take a closer listen to the verses — and the last one in particular — the song is more critical than it seems. “There’s winners and there’s losers / But they ain’t no big deal / ‘Cause the simple man baby pay for the thrills, the bills / The pills that kill,” he sings in the final verse, drawing attention to this country’s problems with inequality.”

“Fortunate Son” – Had to include this one from CCR since it was used in a Wrangler Jeans commercial as a patriotic anthem. However, if you’ve actually heard the whole thing, it’s about how people in wealth and power use patriotism to get less privileged young guys to fight their wars while sheltering their own kids from combat. To be fair, it’s a great song in its own right. But not one to play at a 4th of July barbecue.

US State Mount Rushmore: Part 10 – Virginia to Wyoming

Well, we’ve come to the last post in our series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have compiling it. I tried to do the best I could even though I might’ve copied and pasted from Wikipedia on some occasions. Well, on a lot of occasions. Well, anyway, in this final selection, I give you the Mount Rushmores I’ve arranged from Virginia to Wyoming. From Virginia we’ll meet 4 Founding Fathers consisting of 3 presidents and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In Washington State we’ll meet a guy known for “Purple Haze,” an Indian you’d mistake for a major city, a famed stripper with a mom from hell, and a Japanese civil rights activist who tried and failed. From West Virginia we have a major early civil rights leader who was quite the manipulative bastard, an eccentric Confederate general, a lady who founded a major holiday, and a decorated lady war hero who’d put Audie Murphy to shame. In Wisconsin we’ll meet a witch hunting senator with a drinking problem, your great-grandpa’s Bernie Sanders, a guitarist whose influence is still felt in the music industry, and a controversial suffragette. Last but not least we come to Wyoming where we’ll get to know a famed artist who paints like a kindergartner, the first woman summoned for jury duty, a lady justice of the peace, and the first white guy to visit Yellowstone National Park.

 

46. Virginia

Who knew that a young man who started a major world war by bungling a diplomatic mission would eventually be seen as a father to his country? While it's said that George Washington couldn't tell a lie, in reality he had established his own spy ring during the American Revolution who used double agents during the Battle of Trenton and was an expert in misinformation.

Who knew that a young man who started a major world war by bungling a diplomatic mission would eventually be seen as a father to his country? While it’s said that George Washington couldn’t tell a lie, in reality he had established his own spy ring during the American Revolution who used double agents during the Battle of Trenton and was an expert in misinformation.

Figure 1: George Washington– First President of the United States from 1789-1797, Founding Father, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and presided over the convention that drafted the current US Constitution that during his lifetime was called the “father of his country.” Widely admired for his strong leadership qualities, he was unanimously elected president in the first two national elections. His administration oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and won acceptance among Americans of all types. And his presidency established many precedents, still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. President. His retirement after 2 terms also established a tradition that lasted until 1940 when FDR won an unprecedented 3rd term and later inspired the 22nd Amendment that now limits the president to 2 elected terms. Gained prominence at 22 as a senior officer in the Virginia militia when he bungled up a diplomatic mission on the banks of the Ohio that was way above his expertise (as well as possibly doomed from the start since it mostly consisted of him telling the French to get out) and accidentally started the French and Indian War, a major global conflict between the British and French over colonial possessions that lasted for 9 years. In 1775, he was commissioned as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the American Revolution. In that command, he forced the British out of Boston in 1776, but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the Delaware River in the middle of winter, he defeated the British in two battles (Trenton and Princeton), retook New Jersey and restored momentum to the Patriot cause. His strategy enabled Continental forces to capture two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. While lauded for his selection and supervision of his generals, preservation and command of the army, coordination with the Congress, with state governors and their militia, and attention to supplies, logistics, and training, he was repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with large armies. Resigned as commander-in-chief after victory was finalized in 1783. Presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 which devised a new form of federal government for the US. As president, he worked to unify rival factions in the fledgling nation. Supported Hamilton’s programs to satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a national bank. Avoided war with Great Britain by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795 despite intense Jeffersonian opposition. Though supported Federalist policies, he remained nonpartisan. His Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue, warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. His use of national authority pursued many ends, especially the preservation of liberty, reduction of regional tensions, and promotion of a spirit of American nationalism. Upon his death, he was eulogized by Henry Lee as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Revered in life as in death he is almost always consistently ranked among the top 3 presidents in American history.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." - from the Declaration of Independence (1776)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” – from the Declaration of Independence (1776)

Figure 2: Thomas Jefferson– president from 1801-1809 who was a Founding Father known as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence as well as a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from Great Britain and form a new nation. Produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level. Besides drafting the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution, he drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator and served as a wartime governor. Was US Minister to France in 1785 and served as the country’s first Secretary of State under George Washington. With Madison, he organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System and anonymously wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798–1799, which sought to embolden states’ rights in opposition to the national government by nullifying the Alien and Sedition Acts. As president, he pursued the nation’s shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. But the highlight of his administration was organizing the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the size of the US. Yet, he reduced the size of the military and began a controversial Indian removal process in the newly organized Louisiana Territory. Second term was beset with difficulties at home such as Aaron Burr’s trial and American trade being diminished with the Embargo Act as a response to British threats to US shipping. Yet, is ranked by historians as among the greatest US presidents. Was a renaissance man who mastered many disciplines which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and inventions. Proven architect in the classical tradition and designed his dream house Monticello. Besides English, was well versed in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish. After his presidency, he founded the University of Virginia. Was a skilled writer and correspondent with his only full length book Notes on the State of Virginia being considered the most important American book before 1800 and more than 18,000 wrote letters of political and philosophical substance during his life.

Though only standing at 5'4" weighing around 100 pounds as well as being exceedingly shy and wearing black all the time, James Madison played such a pivotal role in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution that he's often credited as its primary author. As president, he also led the US through a major war without suspending civil liberties, attacking minorities, or expanding presidential powers. Considering how other wartime presidents handled conflicts, this is very impressive.

Though only standing at 5’4″ weighing around 100 lbs as well as being exceedingly shy and wearing black all the time, James Madison played such a pivotal role in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution that he’s often credited as its primary author. As president, he also led the US through a major war without suspending civil liberties, attacking minorities, or expanding presidential powers. Considering how other wartime presidents handled conflicts, this is very impressive.

Figure 3: James Madison– president from 1809-1817 who was a political theorist and statesman hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” and “Father of the Bill of Rights” for his pivotal roles in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Was one of the most active participants during the Constitutional Convention who spoke numerous times, convinced George Washington to attend and preside, kept a diary of the convention’s proceedings as well as came up with the Virginia Plan that included representation based on population and is seen as the US Constitution’s first draft. His role in drafting the US Constitution was so important, that he’s often credited as its primary author. After the Constitutional Convention, he became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify the Constitution both nationally and in Virginia. Collaboration with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton produced The Federalist Papers among the most important treatises in support of the Constitution. While he initially favored a strong national government during constitution deliberations, he later preferred stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life. In 1789, he became a leader in the new House of Representatives, working closely with Washington, drafting many basic laws and is noted for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution thus, earning him the nickname “Father of the Bill of Rights.” Broke with the Federalist Party in 1791 to organize the Democratic-Republican Party with Jefferson as well as later drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions arguing that states can nullify unconstitutional laws. As Jefferson’s Secretary of State, he supervised with the Louisiana Purchase and was a party in the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison. As president, he presided over renewed prosperity for several years. After failures of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Britain, he led the US into the War of 1812 which was an administrative morass, as the US had neither a strong army nor financial system. At one point, he and his wife Dolley had to flee the White House because the British torched the place along with the rest of Washington D. C. He afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed. And his chief accomplishment after his presidency was preserving the Constitution and holding the nation together through the nation’s first major war without suspending civil liberties, attacking minorities, or expanding presidential powers, which is very impressive.  After his presidency and Jefferson’s death, he was appointed head of the University of Virginia, a position he held for 10 years until his death.

John Marshall may not have been the first Chief Supreme Court Justice but he's very much responsible for shaping the US Supreme Court and the judicial branch as it is today. His ruling on Marbury v. Madison established the process of judicial review. Why we don't talk about him more in schools I have no idea.

John Marshall may not have been the first Chief Supreme Court Justice but he’s very much responsible for shaping the US Supreme Court and the judicial branch as it is today. His ruling on Marbury v. Madison established the process of judicial review. Why we don’t talk about him more in schools I have no idea.

Figure 4: John Marshall– Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801-1835 whose court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and possibly the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. As longest-serving Chief Justice and the 4th longest-serving justice in U.S. Supreme Court history, he dominated the Court for over three decades and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review in, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the constitution in Marbury v. Madison. Thus, he cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. His court would go on to make several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic, particularly repeatedly confirming the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supporting an expansive reading of the enumerated powers. Of course, some of his decisions were unpopular but he built up the third branch of the federal government, and augmented federal power in the name of the Constitution, and the rule of law. Through his actions he gave the US Supreme Court the energy, weight, and dignity of what many would say is a third co-equal branch of the U.S. government and brought to life the constitutional standards of the new nation. His influential rulings reshaped American government and made the Supreme Court the final arbiter of constitutional interpretation. Wrote a 5 volume biography of George Washington and defended the legal rights of corporations by tying them to individual rights of stockholders on property, which might’ve set some negative precedents down the line.

 

47. Washington

"Purple haze, all in my brain/Lately things just don't seem the same,/Acting funny, but I don't know why,/'Scuse me while I kiss the sky." - from "Purple Haze" (1967)

“Purple haze, all in my brain/Lately things just don’t seem the same,/Acting funny, but I don’t know why,/’Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” – from “Purple Haze” (1967)

Figure 1: Jimi Hendrix– rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter who, although his mainstream career only spanned 4 years, is widely recognized as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. Began playing guitar at 15, and served as a US Army paratrooper with an honorable discharge, he began playing gigs on the chitlin’ circuit which earned him a place in the the Isley Brothers’ backing band and later with Little Richard, with whom he continued to work through mid-1965. Was discovered by Linda Keith when he moved to London in late 1966. Within months, he achieved 3 top ten hits in the UK with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” Achieved fame in the US after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. As the world’s highest paid performer, he headlined the Woodstock Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival before his accidental death from barbiturate-related asphyxia at the age of 27. Inspired musically by American rock and roll and electric blues, he favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume and gain, and was instrumental in utilizing the previously undesirable sounds caused by guitar amplifier feedback. Helped popularizing the use of a wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock, and was the first artist to use stereophonic phasing effects in music recordings. Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, was a prolific recording artist who left behind numerous unreleased recordings. Influence is evident in a variety of popular music formats, and has contributed significantly to the development of hard rock, heavy metal, funk, post-punk, and hip hop music.

Okay, maybe calling Gypsy Rose Lee a stripper is like calling Frank Sinatra a saloon singer, but her striptease routine made her one of the most theatrical entertainers of her time. Today, she's better known for the musical about her legendary stage mother from hell.

Okay, maybe calling Gypsy Rose Lee a stripper is like calling Frank Sinatra a saloon singer, but her striptease routine made her one of the most theatrical entertainers of her time. Today, she’s better known for the musical about her legendary stage mother from hell.

Figure 2: Gypsy Rose Lee– burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act who was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy. After a childhood of living with a definitive stage mother from hell and her better talented sister June Havoc, she soon discovered that she could make money in burlesque. Initially it’s said that her act was propelled forward when a shoulder strap on one of her gowns gave way which caused her dress to fall to her feet despite her efforts to cover herself. Encouraged by the audience’s response, she went on to make the trick the focus of her performance. Her innovations were an almost casual strip style compared to the herky-jerky styles of most burlesque strippers (she emphasized the “tease” in “striptease”), and brought a sharp sense of humor into her act as well. Became as famous for her onstage wit as for her strip style and was one of the biggest stars of Minsky’s Burlesque where she performed for 4 years and was frequently arrested in raids. During the Great Depression, she spoke at various union meetings in support of New York laborers and it’s said that her talks were among those that attracted the largest audiences. Made 5 films in Hollywood as Louise Hovick but her acting was generally panned so she returned to New York City. Viewed herself as a “high-class” stripper, and approved of H. L. Mencken’s term “ecdysiast”, which he coined as a more “dignified” way of referring to the profession. Authored a mystery thriller in 1941 called The G-String Murders and Mother Finds a Body in 1942. Supported of the Popular Front movement in the Spanish Civil War and raised money for charity to alleviate the suffering of Spanish children during the conflict.

Chief Seattle was a prominent figure among his people who pursued a path of accommodation to white settlers. However, we're not really sure what he said in that highly publicized speech.

Chief Seattle was a prominent figure among his people who pursued a path of accommodation to white settlers. However, we’re not really sure what he said in that highly publicized speech.

Figure 3: Chief Seattle– Duwamish chief who was a prominent figure among his people known for pursuing a path of accommodation to white settlers, forming a personal relationship with “Doc” Maynard. Has a widely publicized speech arguing in favor of ecological responsibility and respect of Native Americans’ land rights attributed to him but what he actually said has been lost through translation and rewriting. Earned his reputation as a leader and a warrior at a young age, ambushing and defeating groups of tribal enemy raiders coming up the Green River from the Cascade foothills, and attacking the Chimakum and the S’Klallam tribes living on the Olympic Peninsula. When his people were driven from their traditional clamming grounds, he met with “Doc” Maynard in Olympia where they formed a friendly relationship useful to them both. By persuading the settlers at the white settlement of Duwamps to rename their town Seattle, Maynard established their support for his people and negotiated relatively peaceful relations with the tribes.

Takuji Yamashita may not have been very successful in challenging unjust laws against Asians regarding citizenship, joining a profession, or owning land. But his arguments in front of the Washington State Supreme Court were certainly solid. It was only due to the judges' racism that he wasn't able to practice law or own property.

Takuji Yamashita may not have been very successful in challenging unjust laws against Asians regarding citizenship, joining a profession, or owning land. But his arguments in front of the Washington State Supreme Court were certainly solid. It was only due to the judges’ racism that he wasn’t able to practice law or own property.

Figure 4: Takuji Yamashita– civil rights campaigner who in spite of social and legal barriers, directly challenged three major barriers against Asians in the United States: citizenship, joining a profession, and owning land. Immigrated from Japan to the US as a child where though he graduated from Tacoma High School in 2 years, received a law degree at the University of Washington, and passed the state bar exam with distinction, couldn’t practice law due to his country of national origin. He appealed, but the State Supreme Court unanimously ruled him ineligible to be an American and unable to practice law. Entered legal waters again when he appealed an alien land law prohibiting Asians from owning property only for Washington’s attorney general maintaining that in order for Japanese people to fit in, their “marked physical characteristics” would have to be destroyed, that “the Negro, the Indian and the Chinaman” had already demonstrated assimilation was not possible for them. Though the US Supreme Court heard the case, it was denied. Later managed restaurants and hotels in Seattle and Bremerton and an oyster business in Silverdale until WWII where he and his wife were interned and lost everything they had. Returned to Japan in 1957 where he died less than 2 years later.

 

48. West Virginia

"In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists."

“In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.”

Figure 1: Booker T. Washington– educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States who was the dominant leader in the African-American community between 1890 and 1915. Was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants who were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Based was the Tuskegee Institute, he gave a speech, known as the “Atlanta compromise,” which brought him national fame. Called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge directly the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South. Mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle-class blacks, church leaders, and white philanthropists and politicians, with a long-term goal of building the community’s economic strength and pride by a focus on self-help and schooling. Was challenged by black militants in the North, led by W. E. B. Du Bois who set up the NAACP in 1909 to work for political change as well as tried with limited success to challenge Washington’s political machine for leadership in the black community but also built wider networks among white allies in the North. Yet, he also secretly supported court challenges to segregation and passed on funds raised for this purpose. Mastered the nuances of the political arena in the late 19th century, which enabled him to manipulate the media, raise money, strategize, network, pressure, reward friends and distribute funds while punishing those who opposed his plans for uplifting blacks which earned him the nickname the “Wizard of Tuskegee.” His long-term goal was to end the disenfranchisement of the vast majority of African Americans, who still lived in the South. Historians are divided on whether to call him a visionary civil rights leader or a political boss.

Though Stonewall Jackson was kind of eccentric, he was nevertheless among the most formidable Confederate generals during the American Civil War. Shortly before his death due to friendly fire, Robert E. Lee once said of him, "You are better off than I am, for while you have lost your left, I have lost my right arm."

Though Stonewall Jackson was kind of eccentric, he was nevertheless among the most formidable Confederate generals during the American Civil War. Shortly before his death due to friendly fire, Robert E. Lee once said of him, “You are better off than I am, for while you have lost your left, I have lost my right arm.”

Figure 2: Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson– Confederate general during the American Civil War and the best-know Confederate commander after Robert E. Lee. Military career includes the Valley Campaign of 1862 and his service as a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee. His Valley Campaign and his envelopment of the Union Army’s right wing at Chancellorsville are studied worldwide, even today as examples of bold and innovative leadership. Excelled as well in other battles such as in the First Battle of Bull Run where he received his famous nickname “Stonewall,” the Second Battle of Bull Run, and the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg. But he wasn’t a universally successful commander, however, as displayed by his late arrival and confused efforts during the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, in 1862. Was rather eccentric as well as a religious fanatic who disliked fighting on a Sunday but that didn’t stop him from doing so who also wrote tender letters to his wife. But that doesn’t stop military historians considering him to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in US history. Unfortunately, during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, Confederate pickets accidentally shot him which resulted in his arm being amputated and dying of pneumonia 8 days later. His loss was a severe setback for the Confederacy, not only affecting it’s military prospects but also the morale of its army and the general public. In death, he became of Southern heroism and commitment, and later a mainstay in the pantheon of the “Lost Cause.”

Though she never married or had children of her own, Anna Jarvis is widely seen as the founder of Mother's Day. Unfortunately for her, she didn't take commercialism into consideration.

Though she never married or had children of her own, Anna Jarvis is widely seen as the founder of Mother’s Day. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t take commercialism into consideration.

Figure 3: Anna Marie Jarvis– founder of Mother’s Day in the US. Inspired by her community organizer mother’s Sunday school prayer: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” 3 years after her mom died, she held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at her church which is today the International Mother’s Day Shrine marking the first Mother’s Day observance. In the ensuing years, she embarked upon a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday, spending significant amount of time writing to countless business executives, church groups, and politicians at the state and national level to promote the commemorative day. She was so involved in the process that she quit her job to incorporate the Mother’s Day International Association (MDIA) in 1912 to encourage national and international recognition of the day. The soon holiday spread throughout every U.S. state and numerous foreign countries, including Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, and throughout South America and Africa. In 1914, her persistent efforts would pay off when President Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday. However, she wasn’t happy with how the day she saw as a sentimental holiday ended up falling to the excesses of commercialism which she should’ve foreseen.

In her nearly 30 year career as a US Army nurse, Colonel Ruby Bradley served in both WWII and Korea with great distinction whether it be surviving a Japanese prison camp or almost getting blown up. She is said to be the most decorated woman in military history.

In her nearly 30 year career as a US Army nurse, Colonel Ruby Bradley served in both WWII and Korea with great distinction whether it be surviving a Japanese prison camp or almost getting blown up. She is said to be the most decorated woman in military history.

Figure 4: Ruby Bradley– one of the most decorated women in US military history who entered the US Army Nurse Corps as a surgical nurse in 1934 and was serving at Camp John Hay in the Philippines when she was captured by the Japanese army 3 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Was moved to Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila in 1943 where she and several other imprisoned nurses earned the title “Angel of Fatigues” from fellow captives. For the next several months, she provided medical help to the prisoners and sought to feed starving children by shoving food into her pockets, often going hungry herself. As she lost weight, she used the room in her uniform for smuggling surgical equipment into the prisoner-of-war camp where she assisted in 230 operations and delivered 13 babies. Only weighed 86 lbs when Americans liberated her camp in 1945. Also served in the Korean War as Chief Nurse for the 171st Evacuation Hospital. During a 1950 Chinese counteroffensive, she refused to leave until she had loaded the sick and wounded onto a plane in Pyongyang while surrounded by 100,000 advancing Chinese soldiers and was able to jump aboard the plane just as her ambulance exploded from an enemy shell. The next year, she was named Chief Nurse for the 8th Army where she supervised over 500 Army nurses throughout Korea. Was promoted to colonel in 1958 and retired in 1963.

 

49. Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy is perhaps one of the most insidious figures during the Cold War who ruined countless lives and careers through his accusations of Communism. When a a lawyer named Fred Fisher was among his targets, his employer Joseph N. Welch responded, "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy is perhaps one of the most insidious figures during the Cold War who ruined countless lives and careers through his accusations of Communism. When a a lawyer named Fred Fisher was among his targets, his employer Joseph N. Welch responded, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Figure 1: Joseph McCarthy– US Senator from Wisconsin who, in 1950 became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. Noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. However, his tactics and inability to substantiate his claims led him to be censured by the United States Senate. Name coined the term, “McCarthyism” in 1950 in reference to his practices, which was applied to similar anti-communism and witch hunt activities which ruined so many people’s lives. Today it’s more generally referred to demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents. But the term also works in his case since he used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or homosexuality to attack a number of politicians and other individuals inside and outside of government. Fortunately, by 1954 with the highly publicized Army-McCarthy hearings, US Senator’s suicide, and Murrow making an ass out of him, his support and popularity faded and was censured by the US Senate, making him one of the few to be disciplined in this fashion. Remains a very controversial figure with his share of defenders. However, while most historians agree that while there was some degree of Soviet espionage in the US at the time, they believe that his actions ultimately harmed Anti-Communist efforts more than helped. Is always depicted in a negative light and deservedly so.

Though a Wisconsin politician, Robert La Follette had a national impact on the US political process by introducing the direct primary. Before he came along with his Wisconsin Idea, political candidates were usually selected by party bosses who usually ran the elections.

Though a Wisconsin politician, Robert La Follette had a national impact on the US political process by introducing the direct primary. Before he came along with his Wisconsin Idea, political candidates were usually selected by party bosses who usually ran the elections.

Figure 2: Robert LaFollette Sr.– politician who served as governor and US Senator Wisconsin as well as ran for president carrying his own state and winning 17% of the vote. But he’s best known for being the Bernie Sanders of his day who’s been called “arguably the most important and recognized leader of the opposition to the growing dominance of corporations over the Government” and is seen as one of the greatest politicians in US history. Was a proponent of progressivism and a vocal opponent of railroad trusts, bossism, WWI, and the League of Nations. Championed numerous progressive reforms, including the first workers’ compensation system, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, municipal home rule, open government, the minimum wage, non-partisan elections, the open primary system, direct election of U.S. Senators, women’s suffrage, child labor laws, social security, consumers’ rights, and progressive taxation. As governor, he created an atmosphere of close cooperation between the state government and the University of Wisconsin in the development of progressive policy, which became known as the Wisconsin Idea with policy goals including the recall, referendum, direct primary, and initiative which were aimed at giving citizens a more direct role in government. As US Senator, he opposed the prosecution of Eugene Debs and played a key role initiating the investigation of the Teapot Dome Scandal during the Harding administration. While a brilliant orator given to periodic bouts of “nerves, he made many enemies, particularly for his opposition to WWI and defense of free speech during war time. And a lot of his ideas were met with considerable opposition to some of his ideas, even within his Republican party. Published the ten-volume The Making of America.

Les Paul musical innovations have had a profound influence on the recording industry. Though more popularly known as creating an electric guitar and his career with then wife Mary Ford, he also experimented considerably with multitrack recording.

Les Paul musical innovations have had a profound influence on the recording industry. Though more popularly known as creating an electric guitar and his career with then wife Mary Ford, he also experimented considerably with multitrack recording.

Figure 3: Les Paul– jazz, country, and blues guitarists, songwriter, luthier, and inventor who’s best known as one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible. Also credited with many recording innovations as his early experiments with overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention. Innovative talents also extended to his playing style including licks, trills, chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing, which set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired many guitarists of the present day. In the 1950s, he recorded with his wife Mary Ford, selling millions of records. Is one of a handful of artists with a permanent, stand-alone exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where he’s prominently named on its website as an “architect” and a “key inductee” along with Sam Phillips and Alan Freed. Only person inducted in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

"Everybody counts in applying democracy. And there will never be a true democracy until every responsible and law-abiding adult in it, without regard to race, sex, color or creed has his or her own inalienable and unpurchasable voice in government."

“Everybody counts in applying democracy. And there will never be a true democracy until every responsible and law-abiding adult in it, without regard to race, sex, color or creed has his or her own inalienable and unpurchasable voice in government.”

Figure 4: Carrie Chapman Catt– teacher, superintendent, and women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the 19th Amendment as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association where she increased the size of the organization and fundraised many dollars as well directed NAWSA to support the war effort during American entry in WWI which shifted the public’s perception of the suffragettes in their favor. Nevertheless, her tactics in order to achieve women’s suffrage weren’t without controversy since she sometimes appealed to the prejudices of the time. But some historians consider her stance on women’s rights to be representative to white women only as well find some of her arguments and remarks to be racist. Also founded the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. In 1933, she organized a protest committee of 9,000 non-Jewish women who sent a letter of protest to Adolf Hitler decrying acts of violence and restrictive laws against German Jews as well as pressured the US government to ease immigration restrictions to benefit more Jewish refugees. In 1940, she organized the Women’s Centennial Congress to celebrate the feminist movement in the US.

 

50. Wyoming

With his style of drip painting, Jackson Pollock one of the best known artists in the abstract expressionist movement. However, whether you'd call what he did art is entirely up to you.

With his style of drip painting, Jackson Pollock one of the best known artists in the abstract expressionist movement. However, whether you’d call what he did art is entirely up to you.

Figure 1: Jackson Pollock– influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement well known for his style of drip painting. A major artist of his generation, he enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety who was regarded as a recluse, had a volatile personality, and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. His work has been subject of important critical debates on whether it should be considered art or something created by an adult man that could be easily copied by a 5-year-old.

Eliza Stewart Boyd was the first woman in the US to serve on a jury in 1870 Laramie, Wyoming. Nevertheless, I think this photo is unflattering but it's the only one of her I could find.

Eliza Stewart Boyd was the first woman in the US to serve on a jury in 1870 Laramie, Wyoming. Nevertheless, I think this photo is unflattering but it’s the only one of her I could find.

Figure 2: Eliza Stewart Boyd– teacher who became the first woman in America ever selected to serve on a jury when her name was drawn from a March 1870 voters’ roll to serve on a grand jury which was convened later that month in Laramie. After the grand jury was convened, 5 other women made history becoming the first women in the world to serve on a trial jury. This was made possible since Wyoming’s first territorial legislature granted women full equal political rights even though they still couldn’t vote for president when the territory achieved statehood. Would also be the first woman in Wyoming to be nominated to run for the Territorial legislature but she declined for unknown reasons.

Though she only served a term of 9 months in Wyoming's South Pass City, Esther Hobart Morris achieved distinction as the first American woman to be appointed justice of the peace. She would later have a role in the women's suffrage movement.

Though she only served a term of 9 months in Wyoming’s South Pass City, Esther Hobart Morris achieved distinction as the first American woman to be appointed justice of the peace. She would later have a role in the women’s suffrage movement.

Figure 3: Esther Hobart Morris– first US woman justice of the peace in 1870 in South Pass City, Wyoming where she was appointed to fill after the last guy resigned in protest over the then territory’s passage of the women’s suffrage amendment the previous December. Served a term of less than 9 months where she ruled on 27 cases during her more than eight months in office, including 9 criminal cases. And she held court over a place where men outnumbered women 4 to 1 as well as over a camp of miners, gamblers, speculators, business owners, prostitutes, and rounders. Is even said to have her own husband arrested. Though pointed as a leader of Wyoming’s suffrage amendment, her role in the legislation is disputed. However, it is clear she had strongly encouraged and influenced her town’s saloon owner and representative to Wyoming’s Constitutional Convention to introduce a women’s suffrage clause to its constitution. Nevertheless, in 1869, Wyoming became the first jurisdiction in the US to grant women the right to vote, which wasn’t granted to women nationally until 1920. After her term as justice of the peace, she’d be active in the women’s suffrage movement for the rest of her life and was seen as a Wyoming legend.

During the winter of 1807-1808, John Colter became the first known white person to step foot in what is now Yellowstone National Park. His escape from the Blackfeet Indians is said to make him a legend.

During the winter of 1807-1808, John Colter became the first known white person to step foot in what is now Yellowstone National Park. His escape from the Blackfeet Indians is said to make him a legend.

Figure 4: John Colter– member of the Louis and Clark Expedition who’s best remembered for explorations during the winter of 1807-08 where he became the first known white person to enter the region that became Yellowstone National Park and to see the Teton Mountain Range. Because he spent months alone in the wilderness, he’s widely considered to be the first mountain man and his escape from the Blackfeet Indians made him a legend. In 1810, he visited William Clark and provided details of his explorations since they last met. From this information, Clark would create a map which was the most comprehensive map produced of the exploration’s region for the next 75 years.

US State Mount Rushmore: Part 9 – South Dakota to Vermont

Yeah, we’re starting to wind down here. For those asking me why I had the Wright brothers together and the Perry brothers listed separately. Allow me to explain that. You see, the reason why I have the Wright brothers listed together is because they accomplished controlled heavier than air flight together and were practically inseparable. By contrast, while the Perry brothers were both naval officers, they both achieved distinction separately and are known for doing different things. Maybe it’s best we get down to business. Now in this penultimate selection, I intend to bring you some more Mount Rushmores I compiled from South Dakota to Vermont. First, it’s to the Mount Rushmore state South Dakota where we’ll get to know a holy man who inspired his people to win Little Bighorn, a scientist with his own element named after him, and two Native American women with one who advocated for grave protection and another who wrote an opera. Second, we find ourselves in Tennessee where we’ll meet a man called Old Hickory, a king of the wild frontier who hated him, a man he had evicted, and a woman who might be a descendant of someone he owned who started one of the first “Black Lives Matter” campaigns. After that, it’s down to the Lone Star State of Texas where you’ll find bigger than life personalities like a president known for his Great Society and eccentric ways, a leader in the Texas Revolution who couldn’t catch a break, a teenage boy who went to hell and back, and a germaphobic billionaire. Next, we’re on to Utah where we’ll encounter a Mormon Moses, a wrongly convicted left-wing songwriter, a legendary companion of Sundance, and a dean of Western writers. And finally, we make it up the Green Mountains of Vermont where you’ll meet president with walrus whiskers, a Green Mountain boy, the only black guy to get elected in the antebellum period, and a founder of a major religion in Utah.

 

41. South Dakota

"I hardly sustain myself beneath the weight of white men's blood that I have shed. The whites provoked the war; their injustices, their indignities to our families, the cruel, unheard of and wholly unprovoked massacre at Fort Lyon … shook all the veins which bind and support me. I rose, tomahawk in hand, and I have done all the hurt to the whites that I could."

“I hardly sustain myself beneath the weight of white men’s blood that I have shed. The whites provoked the war; their injustices, their indignities to our families, the cruel, unheard of and wholly unprovoked massacre at Fort Lyon … shook all the veins which bind and support me. I rose, tomahawk in hand, and I have done all the hurt to the whites that I could.”

Figure 1: Sitting Bull– Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who led his people during years of resistance to United States government policies. Best known for having a vision in which he saw many soldiers, “as thick as grasshoppers,” falling upside down into the Lakota camp, which his people took as a foreshadowing of a major victory in which a large number of soldiers would be killed which inspired his people to a major victory in the Battle of Little Bighorn, a battle where the confederated Lakota tribes and the North Cheyenne annihilated Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his battalion. After the battle, he and his people left the US for Wood Mountain Canada’s Northwest Territories where he remained until 1881 when he and most of his band returned to US territory and surrendered to U.S. forces. Was killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him, at a time when authorities feared that he would join the Ghost Dance movement.

In the early 1970s, Maria Pearson was appalled how Indian skeletal remains were treated differently from their white counterparts. In response, she went to the Iowa governor's office in traditional attire saying, You can give me back my people's bones and you can quit digging them up."

In the early 1970s, Maria Pearson was appalled how Indian skeletal remains were treated differently from their white counterparts. In response, she went to the Iowa governor’s office in traditional attire saying, You can give me back my people’s bones and you can quit digging them up.”

Figure 2: Maria Pearson– Yankton Dakota activist who successfully challenged the legal treatment of Native American human remains. Was one of the primary catalysts for the creation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) with her actions leading her being called “the Founding Mother of the modern Indian repatriation movement.” When asked what the Iowa governor could do for her she replied, “You can give me back my people’s bones and you can quit digging them up.”

As a member of the Manhattan Project, Ernest Lawrence worked on the uranium-isotope separation and invented the cyclotron. He has an element named after him in his honor.

As a member of the Manhattan Project, Ernest Lawrence worked on the uranium-isotope separation and invented the cyclotron. He has an element named after him in his honor.

Figure 3: Ernest Lawrence– pioneering American nuclear scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron. Known for his work on uranium-isotope separation for the Manhattan Project, for founding the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. After the war, Lawrence campaigned extensively for government sponsorship of large scientific programs, and was a forceful advocate of “Big Science”, with its requirements for big machines and big money. Strongly backed Edward Teller’s campaign for a second nuclear weapons laboratory, which Lawrence located in Livermore, California. Chemical element 103 was named lawrencium in his honor after its discovery at Berkeley in 1961.

“The old legends of America belong quite as much to the blue-eyed little patriot as to the black-haired aborigine. And when they are grown tall like the wise grown-ups may they not lack interest in a further study of Indian folklore, a study which so strongly suggests our near kinship with the rest of humanity and points a steady finger toward the great brotherhood of mankind, and by which one is so forcibly impressed with the possible earnestness of life as seen through the teepee door! If it be true that much lies "in the eye of the beholder," then in the American aborigine as in any other race, sincerity of belief, though it were based upon mere optical illusion, demands a little respect. After all he seems at heart much like other peoples.”

“The old legends of America belong quite as much to the blue-eyed little patriot as to the black-haired aborigine. And when they are grown tall like the wise grown-ups may they not lack interest in a further study of Indian folklore, a study which so strongly suggests our near kinship with the rest of humanity and points a steady finger toward the great brotherhood of mankind, and by which one is so forcibly impressed with the possible earnestness of life as seen through the teepee door! If it be true that much lies “in the eye of the beholder,” then in the American aborigine as in any other race, sincerity of belief, though it were based upon mere optical illusion, demands a little respect.
After all he seems at heart much like other peoples.”

Figure 4: Zitkala-Ša (a.k.a. Gertrude Simmons Bonnin)– Yankton Dakota writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist who wrote several works chronicling her identity struggles and pulls between mainstream culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership. Wrote a libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera which was the first American Indian opera which was composed in romantic style based on Sioux and Ute themes. Co-founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to United States citizenship and civil rights where she served as its president until her death in 1938.

 

42. Tennessee

While Andrew Jackson achieved national fame by becoming the hero of New Orleans, his presidency ushered in the spoils system, decentralized banking, and the Trail of Tears. His legacy has been a source of controversy ever since.

While Andrew Jackson achieved national fame by becoming the hero of New Orleans, his presidency ushered in the spoils system, decentralized banking, and the Trail of Tears. His legacy has been a source of controversy ever since.

Figure 1: Andrew Jackson– president from 1829-1837 who gained national fame through his role in the War of 1812, most famously when he won a decisive victory over the main British army at the Battle of New Orleans albeit some weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed which had no bearing on the New Orleans crisis as the British government considered the Louisiana Purchase illegitimate. Had the British forces captured the city, then the Louisiana Purchase would’ve been declared a dead letter and the North America political map would’ve looked very different today since the fate of the US or the Western world as we know it may well have hung on this battle’s outcome. Invaded Florida in 1818 which led to the First Seminole War and the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, which formally transferred Florida from Spain to the US. As president, he denied the right of a state to secede from the union or to nullify federal law during the Nullification Crisis as well as threatened the use of military force if South Carolina (or any other state) attempted to do so. Administration marked the ascendency of the spoils system, a practice in which a political party gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party and one which eventually led to a presidential assassination in 1881. Vetoed to recharter the Second Bank of the United States which would lead to the Panic of 1837 which caused a 7 year recession. Signed the Indian Removal Act which relocated a number of native tribes in the South to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and gave rise to the Trail of Tears. Was the main founder of the modern Democratic Party as well as remains its iconic hero but was always a fierce partisan, with many friends and many enemies. Though seen as a champion of the common man in his day, he remains one of the most studied and most controversial Americans of the 19th century.

Davy Crockett became famous in his lifetime for his larger-than-life that were popularized in stage plays and almanacs. Even in death, he continues to credited with acts of mythical proportion.

Davy Crockett became famous in his lifetime for his larger-than-life that were popularized in stage plays and almanacs. Even in death, he continues to credited with acts of mythical proportion.

Figure 2: Davy Crockett– folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician commonly referred to as “King of the Wild Frontier” who represented Tennessee in the US Congress and served in the Texas Revolution where he died during the Battle of the Alamo. Gained a reputation for hunting and storytelling while growing up in East Tennessee becoming famous in his own lifetime for larger-than-life exploits popularized by stage plays and almanacs. As a congressman, he vehemently opposed many of Jackson’s policies, most notably the Indian Removal Act which led to his defeat in the 1831 elections, though he’d win another term 2 years later before losing for good in 1835. His loss in 1835 prompted his angry departure to Texas shortly thereafter. After his death at the Alamo, he continues to be credited with acts of mythic proportion and is one of the best known American folk heroes. Trademark is his coonskin cap and his saying, “Always be sure you are right, then go ahead.”

In 1821, Sequoyah completed his independent Cherokee syllabry which made literacy in the Cherokee possible. This is one of the few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people has independently created an effective writing system.

In 1821, Sequoyah completed his independent Cherokee syllabry which made literacy in the Cherokee possible. This is one of the few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people has independently created an effective writing system.

Figure 3: Sequoyah– Cherokee silversmith who in 1821 completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible marking one of the few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people independently created an effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the Cherokee nation quickly began using his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825 with their literacy rate quickly surpassing that of the surrounding European-American settlers.

“The miscegnation laws of the South only operate against the legitimate union of the races; they leave the white man free to seduce all the colored girls he can, but it is death to the colored man who yields to the force and advances of a similar attraction in white women. White men lynch the offending Afro-American, not because he is a despoiler of virtue, but because he succumbs to the smiles of white women.”

“The miscegnation laws of the South only operate against the legitimate union of the races; they leave the white man free to seduce all the colored girls he can, but it is death to the colored man who yields to the force and advances of a similar attraction in white women. White men lynch the offending Afro-American, not because he is a despoiler of virtue, but because he succumbs to the smiles of white women.”

Figure 4: Ida B. Wells– journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement as well as one of the founders of the NAACP. Born into slavery, she’s best known for documenting lynching in the US in the 1890s as well as showing that it was often used as a way to control and punish blacks who competed with whites or try to exercise their political rights like voting, rather than being based on black criminal acts as whites usually claimed particularly when it came to sexual relationships pertaining to black men and white women (which she found were mostly consensual). Organized a black boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Frederick Douglass and other leaders over its failure to collaborate with the black community on exhibits to represent African-American life. Was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Was skilled and persuasive rhetorician and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

 

43. Texas

"Let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation. Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred—not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations."

“Let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation. Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred—not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations.”

Figure 1: Lyndon B. Johnson– president from 1963-1969 who assumed office following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Designed the “Great Society” legislation upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his “War on Poverty.” Along with a growing economy, his War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his presidency. His civil rights legislation banned racial discrimination in in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing, while his Voting Rights Act outlawed certain requirements in southern states used to disenfranchise African Americans. In 1965, he signed the Immigration and Nationality Act which reformed the country’s immigration system and removed all racial and national origin quotas. Was renowned for his domineering, sometimes abrasive, personality and the “Johnson treatment”—his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians to advance legislation. Though he escalated the Vietnam War in 1964 which led to his eventual political downfall, most experts believe that it would’ve happened anyway no matter who was in charge. While he began his presidency with widespread approval, his support declined as the public became upset with both war and the growing violence at home. His civil rights legislation led to a mass exodus of the white Democratic South to the Republican Party as well as the collapse of the New Deal coalition (though he knew this would happen but supported civil rights anyway which is a very admirable thing for a politician to do). Presidency was said to be the peak of modern US liberalism after the New Deal era. His domestic policies and the passage of many major laws, affecting civil rights, gun control, wilderness preservation, and Social Security have led some historians to rank him favorably.

"Fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath."- from 1860 when Texas decided to secede. Sam would later lose his post as Governor of Texas over this. Man, this guy can't catch a break.

“Fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath.”- from 1860 when Texas decided to secede. Sam would later lose his post as Governor of Texas over this. Man, this guy can’t catch a break.

Figure 2: Sam Houston– politician and soldier best known for his role in bringing Texas into the US. Prior to his Texas years, spent time with the Cherokee Nation, fought in the War of 1812, and was a Tennessee politician who seen by many as Andrew Jackson’s protégé (despite their differing views on the treatment of Native Americans) and was eventually elected governor. But he later resigned after his first wife left him shortly after their wedding and made public statements embarrassing to him where he went in exile with the Cherokee to the Arkansas Territory where he became an honorary member of the tribe. While he was in Washington D. C. to expose government agent fraud against the Cherokee, he beat an Ohio congressman with a hickory cane on Pennsylvania Avenue which resulted in a high profile trial. Secured Texan independence from Mexico with his victory at San Jacinto and was twice elected president of the Texas Republic before annexation. Was the only governor within a Confederate state to oppose secession and refuse an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, which resulted in his removal from office by the Texas secession convention. However, to avoid bloodshed, he refused a Union army offer to put down the Confederate rebellion and decided to retire to Huntsville, Texas where he died before the American Civil War was over. Was the only person to have become the governor of two different U.S. states through popular election as well as the only state governor to have been a foreign head of state.

“Now comes the picture of mass defeat, the most awesome spectacle of the war. It is in the bent bodies of old women who poke among ruins seeking some miserable object that will link their lives with the old days. It is in the shamed darting eyes of the defeated. It is in the faces of the little boys who regard our triumphant columns with fear and fascination. And above all it is in the thousands of beaten, dusty soldiers who stream along the roads towards the stockades. Their feet clump wearily, mechanically, hopelessly on the still endless road of war. They move as haggard, gray masses, in which the individual had neither life nor meaning. It is impossible to see in these men the quality that made them stand up and fight like demons out of hell a few shorts months ago.” - from To Hell and Back

“Now comes the picture of mass defeat, the most awesome spectacle of the war. It is in the bent bodies of old women who poke among ruins seeking some miserable object that will link their lives with the old days. It is in the shamed darting eyes of the defeated. It is in the faces of the little boys who regard our triumphant columns with fear and fascination. And above all it is in the thousands of beaten, dusty soldiers who stream along the roads towards the stockades. Their feet clump wearily, mechanically, hopelessly on the still endless road of war. They move as haggard, gray masses, in which the individual had neither life nor meaning. It is impossible to see in these men the quality that made them stand up and fight like demons out of hell a few shorts months ago.” – from To Hell and Back

Figure 3: Audie Murphy– one of the most decorated combat soldiers in WWII who received every military combat award for valor available from the US Army as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. Received a Medal of Honor for valor demonstrated at age 19 for single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition. Born into a sharecropper family with an absent father and a 5th grade education, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army where he saw action in the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Anzio, and in 1944 was part of the liberation of Rome and invasion of southern France. Also fought at Montélimar, and led his men on a successful assault at the L’Omet quarry near Cleurie in northeastern France in October. After the war, he enjoyed a 21 year acting career, playing himself in a movie adaptation of his 1949 memoirs To Hell and Back. Was also a fairly accomplished songwriter and bred quarter horses. His suffering from PTSD led him to sleep with a loaded handgun under his pillow and look for solace in addictive sleeping pills but he only spoke candidly about it in an effort to draw attention to the problems of returning veterans from Korea and Vietnam. And called on the government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional impact of combat experiences and to extend health care benefits to veterans. As a result, legislation pertaining to PTSD was introduced 5 months after his death in a plane crash in 1971. Was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors and a plain headstone of an ordinary soldier just like he wanted.

Howard Hughes might seem handsome in this one. And yes, he might fly big planes, make big spectacle movies, and date some of thie most gorgeous women in Hollywood. But remember this is Howard Hughes who's not all together there. Stay away from him.

Howard Hughes might seem handsome in this one. And yes, he might fly big planes, make big spectacle movies, and date some of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood. But remember this is Howard Hughes who’s not all together there. Stay away from him.

Figure 4: Howard Hughes– business tycoon, entrepreneur, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, inventor, filmmaker and philanthropist who was known as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. As a maverick film tycoon, he gained prominence in Hollywood from the late 1920s, making big-budget and often controversial films like The Racket, Hell’s Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw. Formed the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932, hiring numerous engineers and designers and spent the rest of the 1930s setting multiple world air speed records and building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules (now better known as the “Spruce Goose”). Also acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines (TWA) and later acquired Air West, renaming it Hughes Airwest. However, he’s best remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic pain. Also known for dating famous women such as Billie Dove, Faith Domergue, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney. Launched the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that was formed for biomedical research in 1953 which still stands and continues his legacy. When he died, his reclusive activities (and possibly his drug use) made him practically unrecognizable with his hair, beard, fingernails, and toenails long, his tall 6ft 4in frame at 90lbs, and the FBI having to use fingerprints to conclusively identify his body. His estate has been contested ever since for his original will has never been found.

 

44. Utah

Called by his Mormon followers as the "American Moses" Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers in an exodus through the desert to what they saw as a promise land. Well, in this photo, he's certainly pulling the Moses bears look quite well. Also had 55 wives and 56 children whereas Moses only had one.

Called by his Mormon followers as the “American Moses” Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers in an exodus through the desert to what they saw as a promise land. Well, in this photo, he’s certainly pulling the Moses bears look quite well. Also had 55 wives and 56 children whereas Moses only had one.

Figure 1: Brigham Young– Mormon leader and settler of the western US who was second President of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death in 1877 who founded Salt Lake City and served as Utah’s first governor. Also founded the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. Best referred to as “American Moses” for leading his Mormon pioneer followers in an exodus through a desert to what they saw was the promised land. Dubbed by followers as the “Lion of the Lord” for his bold personality and was also commonly called “Brother Brigham.” Was a polygamist and was involved in controversies regarding black people and the Priesthood, the Utah War, and the Mountain Meadows massacre where his followers killed an Arkansas party comprising over 120 men, women, and children over 6.

"My will is easy to decide,/For there is nothing to divide./My kin don't need to fuss and moan —/"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone." My body? — Oh! — If I could choose,/I would to ashes it reduce,/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow. Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my last and final will./Good luck to all of you." - from "My Last Will" (1915)

“My will is easy to decide,/For there is nothing to divide./My kin don’t need to fuss and moan —/”Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? — Oh! — If I could choose,/I would to ashes it reduce,/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my last and final will./Good luck to all of you.” – from “My Last Will” (1915)

Figure 2: Joe Hill– labor activist, songwriter, cartoonist, and IWW member whose most famous songs include “The Preacher and the Slave,” “The Tramp,” “There is Power in a Union,” “The Rebel Girl,” and “Casey Jones—the Union Scab,” which express the harsh and combative life of itinerant workers, and call for them  to organize their efforts to improve working conditions. Coined the phrase, “pie in the sky.” In 1914, he was accused of murdering 2 guys in a Salt Lake City grocery store on the basis of gunshot injury that he claimed he got in a fight over a woman (which didn’t check out until nearly a century later). Nevertheless, he was convicted in a controversial trial. After an unsuccessful appeal, political debates, and international calls for clemency from high-profile figures and workers’ organizations, he was executed anyway by firing squad. He’s been memorialized in several folk songs while his life and death have inspired books and poetry.

Looking sharp, Butch Cassidy. May not look like Paul Newman but not bad. Of course, you and Sundance won't have it very good in Bolivia.

Looking sharp, Butch Cassidy. May not look like Paul Newman but not bad. Of course, you and Sundance won’t have it very good in Bolivia.

Figure 3: Butch Cassidy– notorious train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch gang in the American Old West who, after pursuing a career in crime for several years in the US, was forced to flee with the Sundance Kid and his girlfriend Etta Place due to pressures being pursued by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. They first fled to Argentina and the Bolivia, where he and the Sundance Kid were most likely killed in a shootout in November 1908.

“You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine.” - from Crossing to Safety

“You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine.” – from Crossing to Safety

Figure 4: Wallace Stegner– novelist, short story writer, environmentalist, and historian who’s often called “The Dean of Western Writers” as well as won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and a National Book Award in 1977. Most famous novel is Angle of Repose that was based on the letters of Mary Hallock Foote. Though he explained his use of unpublished archival letters briefly in the beginning, his use of uncredited passages taken directly from Foote’s letters caused a continuing controversy. Served as a government scientist and was an advocate of water conservation in the west and wrote a forward in a Sierra Club book that was used in the campaign to prevent dams in Dinosaur National Monument and helped launch the modern environmental movement. Co-founded the Committee for Green Foothills, an environmental organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the hills, forests, creeks, wetlands and coastal lands of the San Francisco Peninsula.

 

45. Vermont

Chester A. Arthur may not be the greatest US president. But when James A. Garfield got assassinated by a crazed office seeker, he championed the civil service reform he once opposed. Certainly no fool. Also had amazing walrus whiskers.

Chester A. Arthur may not be the greatest US president. But when James A. Garfield got assassinated by a crazed office seeker, he championed the civil service reform he once opposed. Certainly no fool. Also had amazing walrus whiskers.

Figure 1: Chester A. Arthur– president from 1881-1885 who succeeded James A. Garfield upon the latter’s assassination. While his early career in politics earned him a negative reputation as a stooge for New York’s political machine as member of the Stalwart faction, he surprised his critics by embracing the cause of civil service reform by advocating and later enforcing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act which was the centerpiece of his administration. This legislation brought an end to the spoils system which corrupted American political system for decades and eventually led to the Garfield assassination in the first place. Though forced to retire at the close of his term because of ill health, he earned praise among contemporaries for his solid performance in office. Also presided over the rebirth of the US Navy, banned polygamy, yet signed the Chinese Exclusion Act which effectively banned Chinese immigration and the Dawes Act which called for an allotment system that proved detrimental to Native Americans. Journalist Alexander McClure later wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired … more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”

Here's an 1875 engraving of Ethan Allen leading the attack on Fort Ticonderoga with his Green Mountain Boys. The land he and his brothers purchased would soon become the town of Burlington where Bernie Sanders was mayor.

Here’s an 1875 engraving of Ethan Allen leading the attack on Fort Ticonderoga with his Green Mountain Boys. The land he and his brothers purchased would soon become the town of Burlington where Bernie Sanders was mayor.

Figure 2: Ethan Allen– farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, lay theologian, soldier, and politician who’s best known as one of the founders of Vermont and for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga early in the American Revolution along with Benedict Arnold. His land speculation involving the New Hampshire Grants (present day Vermont) during the late 1760s got him embroiled in legal disputes which led him to form the Green Mountain Boys whom he led in a campaign of intimidation and property destruction to drive New York settlers from the Grants. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, he led the Boys in a failed attempt on Montreal that resulted in his capture by British authorities. Was released in a prisoner exchange in 1778 and returned to his previous business as usual (like driving New York settlers out of Vermont). While he was active in efforts by Vermont’s leadership for recognition by Congress, he also participated in controversial negotiations with the British over the possibility of Vermont becoming a separate British province. Wrote accounts of his exploits in the war that were widely read in the 19th century, as well as philosophical treatises and documents relating to the politics of Vermont’s formation. Business dealings included successful farming operations, one of Connecticut’s early iron works, and land speculation in the Vermont territory. The land he and his brothers purchased include tracts that eventually became Burlington, Vermont.

Alexander Twilight achieved distinction as the first African American to graduate from an American college as well as hold elected office. And he was the only black state legislator in the country during the antebellum period. Has nothing to do with vampire romance novels despite the name.

Alexander Twilight achieved distinction as the first African American to graduate from an American college as well as hold elected office. And he was the only black state legislator in the country during the antebellum period. Has nothing to do with vampire romance novels despite the name.

Figure 3: Alexander Twilight– educator, Congregational minister and politician who is best known as first African American known to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an American college or university which he received from Middlebury College in 1823. Became the principal of the Orleans County Grammar School in 1829 where he designed and built Athenian Hall which was the first granite public building in Vermont. In 1836, he was elected to the Vermont General Assembly becoming the first African American legislator and the only one ever elected to a state legislature before the American Civil War.

Though Joseph Smith would found the Mormon Church which would eventually have 15 million members. However, he was killed by a mob while in jail before the Mormons got to Utah. So that is why he's on for Vermont.

Though Joseph Smith would found the Mormon Church which would eventually have 15 million members. However, he was killed by a mob while in jail before the Mormons got to Utah. So that is why he’s on for Vermont.

Figure 4: Joseph Smith– religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement who, at 24 published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religious culture that continues to the present. In western New York that was said to be the site of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening, he said to have experience a series of visions including one in which he saw “two personages” (presumably God the Father and Jesus Christ) and others in which an angel named Moroni directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. His book of Mormon is what he said was an English translation of what was on those plates in 1830. That same year, he organized the Church of Christ, calling it a restoration of the early Christian church with members later being called either “Latter-Day Saints” or “Mormons.” The next year he and his followers moved west, planning to build a communalistic American Zion, first gathering in Kirtland, Ohio and establishing an outpost in Independence, Missouri intended to be Zion’s “center place.” However, the collapse of the church-sponsored Kirtland Society and violent skirmishes with non-Mormon Missourians caused him and his followers to establish a new settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he became a spiritual and political leader. However, in 1844, he and the Nauvoo city council angered non-Mormon by destroying a newspaper criticizing his power and practice of polygamy. While imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, he was killed by a mob storming the jailhouse. Published many revelations and other texts that his followers regard as scripture. Teachings include unique views about the nature of God, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. Followers regard him as a prophet comparable to Moses and Elijah and is considered the founder of several religious denominations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.