Thursday, December 31, 2009

Indian Boarding Schools

"You can take all the photographs you want, but you can't take flash photos and you can't use tripods or monopods," was the response to my question about the Heard Museum's (Phoenix, AZ) policy on taking pictures of the exhibits.

While neither unexpected nor inappropriate, the policy, nevertheless, forces the photographer to create some unusual ways to brace the camera for a photo in the low lighting.

This photograph of baskets made by Indians of the Southwest was taken while I was braced against another display case.

We have seen many clay seed pots, but these were the first sterling silver ones.

The Museum featured several works by Harry Fonseca. His interest in rock art led him to develop the Stone Poems, an extensive series of works exploring the imagery of petroglyphs. Shown here is "Stone Poem #2."

Fonseca was introduced to his Maidu heritage at age 25 by his uncle Henry Azbill, a Konkow Maidu: “I was taking a class on Native American art, and for my final, I asked my uncle if he knew a creation story and if he would give me the story. He did, and it was a tremendous, tremendous gift.” In the "Scene from the Maidu Creation Story" (right), Kodoyampeh (Earthmaker) is seated on a raft wih Helinmaideh (Big Spirit or Creator) who holds Turtle.

But Fonseca is probably best known for his work with Coyote and Rose. The Coyote’s role in traditional Maidu culture was as one responsible for “the existence of work, suffering and death.” More than a trickster, he assumes many disguises and teaches by his unacceptable behavior how one should not behave. In many stories, Coyote’s greed and impulsive behavior lead to grave injuries or even death, but then he returns in another adventure.

Over the years, beginning in the mid-1970s, Fonseca depicted Coyote in many non-traditional settings, reflecting his ability to insert himself into many urban roles in a variety of cultures. He created a girl friend named Rose for Coyote, and they are shown here in the Garden of Eden.

But it was the exhibit "Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience" that was both informative and disturbing. In the late 1800's, a group of reform-minded people, calling themselves the Friends of the Indians set out to solve the "Indian Problem" (how to assimilate and Americanize the Indians) by ridding the Indian of his culture. Originally established to “civilize” American Indians into mainstream society, Indian boarding schools became a shaping force of a national American Indian identity.

The boarding school experience thrust Native children into an unfamiliar environment. Children were abruptly taken from their families and homes and placed in government-run boarding schools around the country. Conversing in one’s Native language was strictly forbidden, and students were required to wear standard-issue Euro-American clothing.

As we walked through the exhibit we heard recordings of adults recounting their experiences in these schools. In this exhibit, the poster above the barber's chair read, in part: "The first thing they did was cut our hair. While we were bathing, our breechclouts were taken and we were ordered to put on trousers. We'd lost our hair, and we'd lost our clothes; with the two we'd lost our identity as Indians."

Becoming assimilated extended to sports. Children were encouraged to "learn to play a sport and become controlled and civilized" and "learn to obey a strong, fatherly authority--your coach!"

The Indian Problem would no longer exist because there would be no more "Indians." Education would be the tool to "civilize" the "savage."

And the thinking behind the desire to educate the Indians: "At the very least," U.S. Indian Commissioner Thomas Morgan said, "it was cheaper to educate Indians than to kill them." A predecessor, Carl Schurz, had done the math, calculating in 1882 that it cost nearly $1 million to kill an Indian in battle, but $1,200 for eight years of schooling.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fear of a Red Planet

After a relaxing stroll through the courtyards of the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art in Phoenix, we headed to the Ullman Learning Center, one of several galleries in the Museum. This gallery housed the 7-foot tall by 160-foot wide mural entitled "Fear of a Red Planet: Relocation and Removal, 2000." This work was created by Steven Joe Yazzie of the Navajo nation.

Comprised of individual panels that work as one continuous image, the mural depicts the trauma, incarceration and forced removal of Arizona’s Native people (Navajo, Yaqui, and Colorado River people) in the mid- to late 1800s, and complements the Center’s exhibit "We Are! Arizona’s First People."

The mural covers three walls in the gallery and took six months to complete. In this portion of the mural, Kit Carson is shown as a chess piece being moved by a giant hand on a game board. Carson has three arms, representing manifest destiny, the westward expansion of America and the religious forces in the lives of the American Indians.

The eagle, representing America, has its eyes sewn shut so that it is unable (or unwilling) to see what is happening.

Thousands of Dine' (Navajo) were rounded up and forced to walk hundreds of miles to Fort Sumner, south of what today is Albuquerque (1862-1868). The military accomplished this forced walk by burning the homes and crops of the Navajo. Because the walk was long and the weather very cold, many Dine' died.

The mother is holding her dead son in a manner similar to Mary holding her Son after he was taken down from the cross as shown in the "Pieta" by Michelangelo.

In 1868, the U.S. Government signed a treaty allowing the Dine' to return to their land. Representing the Government and dressed in an Uncle Sam suit, is a coyote, a trickster that often fails to fulfill his promises.

To the right of the coyote is a young boy, the offspring of the father, a Dine', dressed in Anglo clothing and the mother, an Anglo in Dine' clothing. By wearing a Kit Carson T-shirt, the young boy reveals that he was never taught in school about the history of what happened to his people.

In the center of this panel is the Deer Dancer, honoring the deer. If the hunter had a good heart and shared the meat without wasting any, the deer would allow the hunter to kill it. The deer sacrificed itself for the hunter and his community. Behind the Dear Dancer is Christ on the cross (it may be hard to see this in the photo), who also sacrificed himself for the good of the people.

This section celebrates the persistence of the Yaqui people and culture, although subjected to 300 years of intruders--conquistadors, missionaries, Mexican soldiers, and revolutionaires.

In the yellow area of the mural, the human figure appears dark because it represents "everyman" who is polluting the environment.

The descriptions discussed here cover only a portion of the components of the mural, and there are more scenes in the mural itself. Yazzie describes the mural as "a collage of horror and hope that is the product of many outside influences."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Heard Sculptures

We entered the Heard Museum of Native Culture and Art in Phoenix by way of the courtyard.

The present Museum is eight times larger than the original building that was completed in 1929. We passed the café on the left and the gift shop on the right.

As we entered this area our pace slowed. Just in front of the entrance was this water sculpture. We considered taking a seat in the café's outdoor dining area and just enjoying the sounds of the water.

At the Museum's entrance was "Earth Song," an Alabama Marble sculpture by Allan Houser (a Chiricahua Apache). Houser has been referred to as the Grandfather of Contemporary Native American sculpture. He has without question had the most influence in establishing the cannons of Native sculpture.

"Earth Song," depicts an Apache man singing a song of respect, a prayer to Mother Earth. The rhythm of his prayer is measured by the beats of his water drum as he sings to thank the earth for sustaining all living forms.

One of the sculptures in the courtyard was this bronze sculpture of Hopi women.

"Khwee-seng (Woman-man)," a bronze sculpture by Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo), shows two abstracted human forms grouped together, not side by side, but rather with the female figure placed slightly in front of the male. This placement is a recognition of the role of women in traditional Santa Clara culture.

"In the Aspens, Imagining the Earth, 2000," is a bronze sculpture by Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo). We were encouraged to take the path through the aspens, represented by the bronze branches placed in the ground.

"Woman in Love," is a stainless steel sculpture by Robert Haozous (Chiricahau/Navajo). Haozous has chosen to take back his Apache family name and to reject the anglo version--Houser--the name that was given to his father Allan Houser as a child in an Oklahoma Indian boarding school.

"Woman in Love," is a joyful celebration of love and life. The figure floats in ecstacy. Her angelic smile is echoed by the crescent curve of her body. The surface of the stainless steel form is etched with buffalos, used by Haozous as a personal iconographic design element and as a direct reference to the stereotypical, romanticized past of the Indian.

Doug Hyde's Tennessee Pink Marble sculpture "Flag Song," represents the contemporary custom of honoring veterans by many Northern Plains cultures. Both men and women participate in the ceremony.

In Hyde's stone version, each figure is wearing a blanket. Compositionally, this allows for a solid and curvelinear rendering of the stone, a hallmark of the "Indian" sculpture. The male figure is holding his wide brimmed hat in his hand as a symbol of respect during the ceremony. The female figure is carrying an eagle feather fan. The eagle is held in high esteem by many Indian tribes as a symbol for strength and beauty.

Born and raised in Alaska (Aleut Tribe), John Hoover was a commercial fisherman. One day he saw kelp floating in the water and thought it had some real human-like qualities, so he invented Seaweed People and created this piece ("Seaweed People") based on his own legend.

We caught this view of the Seaweed People, fittingly reflected in the pool.

As we walked around the courtyards of the Museum, we saw arrangements of angles, lines, and shapes of the buildings, doorways, and ironwork.

The Museum has earned a national and international reputation for its thorough and sensitive representation of Native cultures of the Southwest.

But the Museum itself is a work of art. It even seemed to incorporate the environment into its artistic creations.

And we haven't even entered the galleries yet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shock Waves Through the Culinary World

We missed the entrance to Simply Bread on our first drive past the store in Phoenix.

We found our way into the parking lot on our second try and headed to the building on the left. It turns out this building is the corporate headquarters for the business. The retail store for the company is in the building next door, but the company's breads are sold in several AJ's Fine Foods and Whole Foods stores in the Phoenix area. In addition, several restaurants purchase their breads.

From the street, this small sign is easily missed, but the baking that goes on behind the simplicity of the business name is world famous.

After 25 years in real estate, Harold Back took a class early in 2005 at the San Francisco Baking Institute where his instructor was Jeffrey Yankellow. Back convinced Yankellow to join his business he was planning to start in Phoenix.

Yankellow agreed, but before he could become immersed in the business, his career took a major leap forward.

In April 2005, Yankellow, with the Bread Bakers Guild Team USA, won first place at the Olympics of bread baking, the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, upsetting the historically-winning European teams and "sending shock waves through the culinary world."

Yankellow is obsessive about his ingredients--green olives from Greece, organic walnut halves from California, flour from specialty millers, and desert wildflower honey from a beekeeper in Flagstaff. And no preservatives and no flavor additives. Simply Bread's products are certified by the Orthodox Union--the highest Kosher standard in the world.

We considered the baguette, a seeded rye, the focaccia, and the white sandwich breads, but we decided on (clockwise from top left) a green olive loaf, ciabatta, crunchy sesame, crusty white, hoagie roll, and some dinner rolls. Somehow, we forgot to put the challah--which, by the way, makes the best French toast--in the photograph.

We started with the crusty white loaf and some olive oil. The flavor of this bread, the enticing crunch of the crust, and the substantial chew provide one with the satisfaction of a full meal.

But bread this wonderful could also be joined by some cold cuts. So we stopped by Andreoli--Italian Grocer. Giovanni Scorzo, chef and proprietor, was born in Calabria, and grew up in Liguria, in the Northwestern part of Italy. Like his mother, whose maiden name was Andreoli, he became a chef. Scorzo worked in a variety of Italian regions, Liguria, Tuscany and Calabria, until moving to the U.S. in 1985.

The glass deli counter is filled with meats, cheeses, marinated olives, and tiny fish imported from Calabria. Scorzo is a world class butcher, so the sausage and salami are homemade.

Mozzarella made by Scorzo and imported prosciutto also caught our eye.

Andreoli's is a deli in which you could spend hours just taking in the fresh aroma of real Italian food. There are a few tables at which diners were enjoying Italian antipasto, traditional Italian salads, and sandwiches, such as saporito (prosciiutto, fresh mozzarella, avacado, fresh tomatoes, and oregano), bocca di rosa (eggplant, mossarella, tomato sauce, and parmigiano) and the bastardo (salame, pecorino and roasted pepper).

We opted for making our own sandwiches using (clockwise from top left) homemade sopressata, fontina, red and green marinated peppers, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and mortadella.

One of the appliances that we bought specifically for the RV was a combination grill, griddle, and panini press. So, combining the deli ingredients between two slices of ciabatta with olive oil spread on the top and bottom produced a panini for each of us.

Simple items + complex flavors = truly fine eating.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Path to Peace Project

A national morning news show presented a segment about Macy's partnership with women basket weavers of Rwanda. For the history of how this relationship developed, we went to Macy's web page.

In 1994, Rwanda was torn apart by a brutal and swift genocide—in roughly 100 days, close to one million Rwandan citizens were murdered. In the aftermath, the population of this small African nation was nearly 70% women. Faced with an uncertain future, these women turned to their past and reclaimed their unique heritage of weaving. Drawing strength from this common history and ancient art form, brave women from both sides of the conflict organized groups of weavers, in an effort to rebuild their communities and their lives...together.

September of 2005 marked the realization of a collaboration between Gahaya Links (the Rwanda weavers), Trade Winds Trading, Inc. (an import, marketing, and consulting firm which established quality control standards), and Macy’s. In that month, Macy's introduced the very first Path to Peace Baskets. Shown in the photo on the left is a pagoda-shaped Peace Basket (upper left). To the right and diagonally is a Black and White 12" Rwanda Fruit Bowl identified by the “Nova” pattern. Continuing diagonally is the black and beige Rwanda “Journey” Large (16") Fruit Bowl (also see photo below) and the red and white “Spirit” Bowl (also see second photo below).

We found this display at Macy's in Scottsdale (AZ). The fruit bowls are made by wrapping thin strands of sisal around bunches of sweetgrass to form a continuous coil and then sewing the coil together as it wraps around itself to form a bowl.

Though relatively small, the 2005 collection was met with an enthusiastic response, quickly selling out online and gaining national media attention.

Within a year of initiating the program, the Path to Peace Project was employing over 2,500 weavers and impacting tens of thousands of lives. The sale of the baskets provided real, sustainable income to rural women who had never before earned money in their lives.

Two of the baskets shown in the photo on the left are the Rwanda “Rare Earth” Fruit Bowl and

the Rwanda “Scarlet Sun” Fruit Bowl.

The Rwanda Path to Peace Project focuses on trade, not aid. In fact, Gahaya Links would not accept financial aid from Macy's.

In just the first couple years of the Project, some of the benefits have been: many villagers have water purification tablets or bottled water, individuals are able to purchase mosquito netting to reduce malaria rates, and a program of medical insurance has been instituted.

Also, increased nutrition information and access to medication have improved lives of HIV-positive weavers, and the Project has returned a sense of pride to HIV-positive weavers since they now earn an income and are respected in their villages.

We think the most important benefit of the Project is represented by the bowl that we purchased. The "True Unity" Basket. We see "three lines representing the three peoples of Rwanda: Tutus, Tutsi, and Twa. They move together, following parallel paths, together rebuuilding a national sense of unity and purpose."

Before we could determine where best to display this work of art, O.R. Deal decided upon a more practical use of the basket.

His preference was short-lived.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Dim Sum Experience

It was Christmas morning in the late 1940’s. Mrs. Parker had prepared a turkey for dinner for her husband and two sons, Ralphie and Randy. However, a horde of the next door neighbor's dogs manages to get into the house, trash the kitchen, and eat the turkey. Making a last-minute decision, Mr. Parker takes the family out to a Chinese restaurant where the employees sing, in a stereotypical Asian accent, “Deck the hars with bawrs of horry.”

This Christmas, we found ourselves in a situation similar to that facing the Parker family in the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.” We did not have an unfortunate incident involving our turkey dinner, but we wanted to go out for lunch before heading over to Chuck’s aunt Evelyn’s for pie. So, following the theme of this movie, we looked for Chinese restaurants open for lunch. We found The Great Wall.

We expected a small number of fellow diners, so were not prepared for what we saw as we drove into the parking lot of the strip mall in which this restaurant is located. All the cars shown here belonged to either employees or diners, since no other shops in the mall were open.

And there was a line of diners—and a twenty-minute wait.

When we were seated, we estimated that there were settings for about 250 customers. The restaurant was full—248 Asians and 2 non-Asians. With this number of Asians, we knew we were in the right place to enjoy some Chinese food.

Now when it comes to ordering from a Chinese restaurant menu, I am no dummy. I know what to expect when ordering something Szechuan style vs. Hunan style. I know my Kung Pao from my General Tso’s. I know that something described as salty and peppery will be dusted with Five Spice Powder. I know that fu yung means "like an omelet." I know that vermicelli means cellophane noodles. I know that a dish called Ants Climb a Tree is made with ground pork and cellophane noodles. And I know that most dishes described as hot and spicy have been toned down for American palates. But I really don’t know dim sum ("to touch your heart").

Dim sum dishes come in small portions and may include meat, seafood, and vegetables, as well as desserts and fruit. The items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. While some Chinese dim sum restaurants now present the diner with a written menu of dim sum items, The Great Wall is not one of them. This restaurant still employs the rolling cart type of service where one peruses each cart’s offerings and chooses what looks interesting. Since the restaurant was so busy and so noisy, we didn’t have the opportunity to quiz the server on the nuances of each cart item. So, we mostly guessed.

We let the soup cart pass (too boring) and the steamed buns cart pass (too filling). But who could resist the cart containing a veritable mountain of thin noodles mixed with mung bean sprouts and scallion slivers? We certainly could not and a generous plate of these soon found a place on our table. (clockwise from top left: noodles, fried won ton purses, eggplant, pepper dipping sauce, spring rolls, beef pastry.) The super thin noodles were slightly dry and crunchy and were complimented by the equally crunchy sprouts. I suspect that the sprouts had been quickly blanched, since they had almost none of their usually somewhat musty taste. We did find that a generous shake of soy sauce did enhance the taste of this dish.

Neither Chuck nor I are big eggplant fans, so what possessed me to choose the slices of Chinese eggplant topped with shrimp paste? I don’t have an answer to that question, but this small plate proved to be the surprise of the meal. The eggplant was tender, but not mushy, and the salty shrimp paste gave flavor to what is really a pretty bland vegetable.

Being lovers of fried foods, two of our choices were the fried wonton purses and the fried spring rolls—both filled with shrimp—sweet, succulent shrimp. Both items were fried to perfection with cracking shells encasing the tender and juicy seafood. What was especially surprising to me was that the spring rolls had no filler other than the shrimp—no shredded cabbage, no shredded carrot, no sprouts. Just beautiful shrimp.

The final choice was the only one that we didn’t enjoy, and this was a flaky pastry with a minced beef filling that was sweet and almost dessert-like. I think had the filling not been so finely minced (it almost resembled a paste) this would have been more palatable.

I really don’t have enough knowledge of dim sum to honestly assess the quality of the Great Wall’s food other than to say that we enjoyed our lunch and have added another experience to life’s ledger.

So, to paraphrase the question posed at the conclusion of each episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: “What did we learn from our lunch today, Kate?” We learned three things:
1. Go to a restaurant serving dim sum on a day when the restaurant is not crowded so you can ask questions of the servers.
2. Select the food items in the sequence: lighter, steamed dishes come first, followed by exotic items such as chicken's feet, then deep-fried dishes, and finally dessert.
3. Select only a few items at a time so that the food is warm when eaten.

We’re looking forward to more learning opportunities.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Population: 6

"And what is there to do in Tortilla Flat?" I asked the host at the Visitor Center in Apache Junction (AZ).

"Well, it is the only authentic stagecoach stop to survive the 1900's along the Apache Trail," was the somewhat evasive reply. "There's a store and a restaurant there," added the host.

It was unfortunate, we would later learn, that we had just finished lunch at the Feed Bag in Apache Junction, so we headed off with an uncertain objective in mind.

Once we passed the Lost Dutchman State Park, about 4 miles north of Apache Junction, we began a 17-mile stretch of curves as we ascended and descended the mountains on our approach to Tortilla Flat. We thought that if a stagecoach had traveled the same route as this highway (AZ 88) it would have been easy pickings for robbers because of the slow rate of travel.

Along the way, we passed Canyon Lake and its marina with a surprisingly large number of boats, given the rather isolated location of the marina.

Originally a camping ground for the prospectors who searched for gold in the Superstition Mountains in the mid to late 1800s, Tortilla Flat was later a freight camp for the construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

Today Tortilla Flat is made up primarily of a small store, a post office/gift shop, and restaurant, which were constructed in the late 1980s after a fire consumed the existing store and restaurant on the same site.

The town asserts a population of six. All are employees of the town's stores. The ice cream shop is located in the Livery Stable today. The walls of the ice cream shop are covered with U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos. Here ice cream and some other snacks are sold.

The gift shop also functions as the post office for the (literally) handful of area residents.

Since we had just eaten, we did not stop at the Superstition Saloon.

Although the Harness and Buggy Repair shop was closed, it reminded us of the early days of the town.

The name "Tortilla Flat" originated from the cowboys who used to drive cattle from Globe (about 60 miles east of Tortilla Flat) to Phoenix. While in Phoenix, rancher Mr. Cline and his fellow cowboys celebrated their sale, and, having a little too much to drink, forgot to get supplies while they were in town. They ended up with only flour to make tortillas when they camped at the flat and were stranded.

This mountain seemed to be watching over the six hearty souls who were maintaining this small piece of history.