When Cultures Collapse.

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For the 350th anniversary of my town’s founding in 1661, I was asked to draw the ten items that the Sinoway (An Algonquian-speaking people of the Wappinger Federation) traded for their coastal lands. The concept of actually owning land was as foreign to Native-Americans as the concept of money.

This is a mural that graces a wall in our town’s library titled: The Purchase of Mamaroneck from the Siwanoys, 1661. It was painted with the auspices of the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) in 1936 by Warren Chase Merritt d.1968.

This is a mural that graces a wall in our town’s library titled: The Purchase of Mamaroneck from the Siwanoys, 1661. It was painted with the auspices of the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) in 1936 by Warren Chase Merritt d.1968.

Drawing the traded items gave me a few days to contemplate what we value when civilizations collapse. It was a nice detachment from time but rooted in place. (A couple of 24-6 days off the grid to just consider history and draw).

These are the trade items I drew.

2 Firelockes, 12 Bars of Lead, 20 Coats, 20 Hands of Powder, 15 Hatchets, 15 Hoes, 3 Kettles, 12 Shirts, 1- Pair of Stockings, 100 Fathom of Wampum

Items for the purchase of Mamaroneck in 1661; 2 Firelockes, 12 Bars of Lead, 20 Coats, 20 Hands of Powder, 15 Hatchets, 15 Hoes, 3 Kettles, 12 Shirts, 10 Pair of Stockings, 100 Fathom of Wampum

Wampum, “white man’s money”, had more to do with agreements and treaties than currency before European contact.

As you can see, when these descendents of a thousands year old culture dispersed, what refugees needed was just enough to get the hell out, find some safer place, move in with distant relatives — assimilation if possible or exodus.

Sound familiar?

 

The Apocalypse is Having a Real Moment.

With films, novels, journalists and Grammy award songs capitalizing on our angst The Apocalypse is having a resurgent moment. Even climate denial can make hay from our apocalyptic neuroses.

Exactly what you might expect to see today when society loses cohesion.

In an interview of Oren Lyons by Barry Lopez for Orion Magazine, Oren relates exactly what democratic leadership entails. He is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan among the Onondaga people and sits on the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. He speaks to the inspiration his ancestors provided in forming our early American democracy – the one we still aspire to. It’s a matter of survival for a thriving culture.

America’s leadership goes beyond trade and power or a willingness to squander blood and treasure. It rests on the promise that we prize equality and freedom over exploitation and despoliation.

Surely with our wild streak of independence it’s naïve to think compromise will restore our faith in government or if we compromise enough it will lead to sustaining civilization. Our destiny demands a special accommodation for generations to follow.

The least we can do is be informed and to vote. Always vote.

In the end we only do as well as other people do, and we get the government we deserve.

— Steve Mitsch

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