Played Team Trivial Pursuit again the other night…. There was this question: “Who was president of the US when Iowa became a territory?” (My memory of the wording of the question may not be exactly right.) Our team (just three guys this time, including myself) conferred—Well, it was part of the Louisiana Purchase, was it not? So that would be Jefferson. Yes, indeed. But, I thought, that wasn’t sufficiently correct. Iowa actually became a Territory in, I believed, the 1830s; so I was thinking maybe John Tyler? Wasn’t he a little later than the 30s? Well, you may be right, I’m guessing, say 1836 for Iowa, so who was pres then? I don’t know. Some further conferring. We settled, uncertainly, on Martin Van Buren.
The answer the mc was looking for was Thomas Jefferson (Louisiana Purchase). But when I got home I looked it up: Sure, Iowa was part of Jefferson’s purchase, that much we all knew; but Iowa became Iowa Territory in 1838 and remained so until it joined the Union as a state in 1846. Who was pres when it became Iowa Territory? Martin Van Buren (pres 1837-1841). What about John Tyler? He was pres from 1841-1845. In between Van Buren and Tyler, Wm Henry Harrison held the office very briefly in 1841. Iowa ceased to be a Territory under Tyler’s successor, James Polk 1845-1849. How often do you get to see or hear the name James Polk? Why would one? (See video at end of this post with Professor Corey, our nation’s greatest academic).
This was the only question I found to be particularly interesting that night, and is typical of why I find Team Trivial Pursuit rather boring most of the time. I like being out with friends, and meeting other players, but the game itself I find just lacking. I’ve always felt that parlour games are what people do who don’t know how to have good conversations. Team Trivial Pursuit seems ideal to stimulate conversation, but of course it’s mostly impossible to converse to any extent while also playing the game, so…
That one question, however, did prompt me to revisit a rarely-known, never-remembered little corner of American historical weirdness—the brief existence of Federally-established reservation-lands not for Indian tribes, but for populations of “half-breeds,” métis populations considered neither Indians nor whites because they were the offspring of “mixed parenting partnerships.” There were a handful of these reservations, officially known as “Half-breed Tracts,” temporarily created by the US government scattered across half a dozen or more territories and states.
These peculiar reservations didn’t last long. Because: (a) the people given these lands/forced onto these reservations/ concentration camps (as in the population being concentrated onto undeveloped land where they were forced to set up camps in which to try to survive) were not cohesive communities, unlike the tribes that one half of their parentage came from; (b) the land was allotted in parcels to individuals, not to their shared “community”, they were allowed to sell their individual parcels and many of them did, as it wasn’t land they felt any great affinity for, and they desperately needed the cash as they often had no particular way to make a living on these unfamiliar, barren tracts; (c) encroaching white settlers, who far outnumbered the population of “half-breed” recipients of these tracts of land, were seldom inclined to refrain from simply stealing the land by moving onto it (squatting) and refusing to leave; (d) the Federal government was far away, and together with what local state or territorial governments existed, were quite happy to see the encroaching/exploding white settler population simply take over the tracts—less trouble and expense for the government if the half-breed “wards” were run-off or simply murdered-off. “Who cares about these half-breeds anyway? Even the Indians don’t want them, and decent white folks certainly don’t want them in the area, or the next area, or anywhere. Let us be rid of them once and for all.”
It was a pretty ugly situation, even if the initial Federal intention in setting aside the tracts was in some ways a (conditionally) humane response to a virtually impossible situation. Any humane solution was made highly implausible by the deeply ingrained racist and imperialist mind-set/worldview shared among the white population in general (and thus also by the Federal government), a mindset that was being strategically carried out by government at all levels as a virtually religious agenda deeply dedicated to the violent confiscation of all land occupied by Native nations, and even to the purposeful elimination/ extermination of the remaining Native population.
At least one of these “half-breed tracts” (section 120 on map above) was momentarily carved out of the extreme southeastern bottom corner of Iowa Territory, centered in what became the town of Keokuk, named after the famous Sauk chief. He was eventually removed to Oklahoma Indian Territory, his nation’s homelands in Iowa stolen by the combined forces of popular white invasion and Government agenda of eliminating all Indians outside of Oklahoma.
As I’ve mentioned here in an earlier post, some of my ancestors were Indians of various tribal Nations, and after a certain time some ancestors, obviously, were Métis. One particular line of these forebears of mine were what were then sometimes called “Creek-Métis”—offspring of marriages between women of the Creek Confederation and men from Scotland, Ireland, France & England who had been more or less accepted within the Nation through such marriages. The children born of such marriages were fully accepted within Creek matrilineal culture as “fully Creek”, not as “half-breeds.” The Creek attitude was, “Sure the fathers of such children started life as foreigners to our Nation, but these children were born to Creek mothers, so of course they are simply and fully Creek themselves.
Indian tribal Nations with customs of patrilineal descent viewed the children born of women within their tribes as belonging to the tribal or ethnic national identity of their fathers, not of their mothers. If the children’s fathers were outsiders, so where the children. If such children were not accepted into the white society of their fathers, then they needed to have “half-breed tracts” of land reserved for themselves, because they had no place in the tribal society of their mothers. The bias within such patrilineal tribes was thus the opposite of Creek society. I do not wish to imply that Creek customs were morally superior to those of patrilineal tribal nations. But as the majority of children of “mixed” parentage in either case were from Indian mothers and non-Indian fathers, métis populations did not present the same problem for Creek society that they did for patrilineal tribes.
I have Indian ancestors who belonged to various tribes and who intermarried with various non-Indians. But those of my Creek and Creek-Métis direct forebears who survived the Creek Civil War (Red-Stick War) and the overlapping US vs Creek Wars were members and relatives of the Koasati (Coushatta) tribe within the Creek Confederation. This tribe was closely allied with and related to the Alubami (Alabama) tribe. They managed to avoid the forced march along the Trail of Tears from Georgia-Alabama to Oklahoma by migrating/escaping through Mississippi into Louisiana and eventually to Texas, territory then under Spanish control. These ancestors are my mother’s matrilineal Creek (Koasati) line of descent. Her forebears can be traced back historically through eleven generations of Koasati Creek women documented to the 1690s. This family line of mothers and daughters were regarded as the hereditary civil and traditional spiritual leaders of their highly organized tribal culture and society.
As far as I know, none of my ancestors—Indian, white, or métis—were from the Iowa Territory, so I have no known direct historical family connection to Iowa’s briefly-existent “Half-breed Tracts.” I just find those and the other briefly-existing “Half-breed Tracts” reserved in various parts of the foreign territories that the US was brutally invading, occupying and confiscating from Native nations to be a luridly fascinating, horrifically shocking brief “chapter” in our overall unspeakable history.
From my experience, I would assess that the vast majority of non-Native (non-Indian) people in the US still think that (“illegal immigrant”) white Europeans and white Euro-Americans had and still have every moral and legal right to simply invade and massacre the 500 or so Native tribal nations who once existed from coast to coast across what is now the “lower 48 states of the USA,” and to force those extremely few natives they allowed to survive into population-concentrating camps and there to be imprisoned on usually the least-hospitable tiny little “islands” of waste-land imaginable. (Only in relatively recent times were persons forced onto these “reservations” legally allowed to leave at will even for part of a day, much less relocate & reside elsewhere wherever they wished.)
NO one (non-Indian) ever seems to really be able to honestly think and discuss, to comprehend or question, what the moral/ethical implications are that allowed this to take place. To take place not just in the days of George Washington, who personally ordered the extermination of the populations of over a dozen towns of US-friendly Iroquois—thus earning his Iroquois name “Town-Destroyer”). And not just in the days of Lincoln who as a young farmer heeded the call from his Territorial government to volunteer in a war against local Indian nations with a promise of being paid with personal shares of whatever real estate would be gained by killing and/or driving off the Native owners of land which the Territory wished to acquire through such armed robbery, terror and full-scale mass murder. Gaining this “free” real estate as a pay-reward for his voluntary military “service” in a war of genocide against his Native neighbours was the basis of Lincoln’s subsequent wealth. And not just in the days of Teddy Roosevelt who “complained” in his frequent talks and best-selling books that, “while I hate to repeat the phrase, ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian,’ I’m afraid it’s true….” And not only into the 1970s and 90s (that’s right, not the 1670s or 1890s, but the 1990s), when Native nations were still prohibited by special Federal ‘Indian Problem’ laws from freely practicing their religions—the only population group (so far!) to have their first amendment rights prohibited by special federal law. No, not just in the distant or recent past, but even right now, no non-Indians ever seem to really process and acknowledge the real history and real present-day actual situation within the United States and its relations with its own indigenous population, living population and dead population…
It’s one thing not to feel any urge to do anything about it, it’s yet another thing not to want to think about, or critically assess, this ongoing collectively subconsciously “suppressed” history— much like the situation with the history of slavery and its ongoing legacy, and the ongoing history of foreign wars and their legacy.
None of this, of course, has anything to do with the indoor nonviolent sport of TTP—Team Trivial Pursuit. Which is part of the problem. Which is really only a side-stream point of my rantings in this post. I don’t want TTP to become rather a forum for stimulating actual thought and conversation—though I see nothing wrong with that! — learning can be fun, too! And naturally, I realize the purpose in keeping the range within which TTP is conceived, constructed, and played is not in anyway nefarious! Of course it has to be fairly simple and superficial—it’s played in sports bars, after all, and is open to the public. And I do not think some sort of academic or selectively “conscience-stimulating” version of the game would be necessarily a big improvement! (Or perhaps not a big enough improvement; and certainly not much fun for most people who play games, especially bar-games.)
I’m just ranting about how an extremely minor, overly-simplified question and answer prompted me to do a little refresher-research (a good result), which led me to remember and learn a bit more about “Half-breed Tract” reservations (learning is growing), which made me think yet again as I actually very often do about American Indian-related things including Native Rights, and the entire darkly-clouded ongoing history of the US and it’s bizarre and so often unspeakable legacy and current state of affairs. Which of course is always sad, and one of the biggest reasons, no doubt, most good people rarely want to think about it. It’s overwhelming, and little if anything can be done about the past, per se, and few have any idea how to begin to do anything meaningful about the present and future as related to past and ongoing injustice, genocide, and other forms of domestic and foreign terrorism and terror-extending wars.
I’m certain the majority of people everywhere, including those of us in America, really are sincerely interested in creating peace, they just don’t know how we would possibly go about it. Meanwhile they are working hard everyday, and trying to find a little relief with things like drinking and sometimes playing Team Trivial Pursuit. Especially those who don’t know how to have wonderful conversations.
And here I am; and where do I “fit in”? Fortunately I’ve never had any interest in “fitting in.” The very idea is in fact utterly foreign to me. Oh, I see it, I understand it (I think), I feel for those who yearn for it, and I pity those who just take it for granted, and especially those who actually think it is somehow inherently virtuous (not just a convenience or an arbitrary artifact or a sometimes pleasant thing to have going—it saves so much wear and tear if you just fit in). But fit in with what? I simply do not share the—I won’t say “values”, and not even altogether the “interests”, but I will say I do not share at least the same “tastes” of mainstream American culture…. If I’m thereby a “taste”/aesthetics snob, rather than an “interests”/ hobbies/hobbyhorse/nerd-geek snob, or rather than (oh horrors! Heaven forfend!) a “values” snob, then so be it…
You can’t keep growing and not have some actual improvement in the things you find yourself naturally drawn to spend your time and energy and awareness focusing on, thinking about, enjoying, being immersed/engaged in doing related to such tastes/interests/values. Spiritual growth (ie conscious evolution, unfoldment of one’s full personal human potential for holistic awareness-&-values-&-behaviour) involves actual improvement of such things over what was lived in previous, lesser stages of personal development,–or what is such growth good for, really?
Of course, in some cases, a “less-evolved” person may already have extremely high standards, extremely refined morals, tastes, etc., and his or her further evolution may have more to do with gaining an enriched ability to more creatively/ effectively/holistically act on, engage with, and enjoy his or her already-established highly refined tastes, interests, values. But as such a person goes along the path of their own greater unfolding evolution,—while they hopefully are gaining a sufficiently improved ability to “get along” with most people (if that needed improvement),—obviously their own increasingly higher standards and more rarefied interests are going to result in their “fitting in” less and less, at any deeply significant level, with the mainstream pop cultural/social/political/religious values and interests and personal “horizons” of their “less-evolved (less-swiftly progressing) neighbours….
More consciously-advancing persons are going to gain greater empathetic insight into and greater compassion, loving-kindess, and friendliness toward their neighbours, of course. But they are going to have less and less the same type of superficial cultural/ intellectual/ creative-aesthetic interests and tastes. And I would add, romantic/sexual interests and tastes and values. It will be harder and more rare for such persons to find true companions (whether platonic or more intimate) on anything like a widely-shared equal-engagement in many overlapping interests in life. “Your standards are becoming more discriminating,” as Maharishi remarked to a student who lamented that it was becoming harder to find a suitable-seeming partner in life. Yes, naturally.
What does all this have to do with playing an occasional innocent fun game of Team Trivial Pursuit with some friends? Very little, obviously. And yet also perhaps a little something of some sort. Maybe something significant enough to think about momentarily. Or not.
I’m afraid I make playing the game sound far too drear or silly. Actually it can be quite fun at times. But all in all, I’d much rather be having a night out with these same and/or other friends new and old to chat about whatever comes to mind, rather than to play this or any other conversation-obstructing/ -avoiding game.
Team Trivial Pursuit might touch, just glancingly, for a moment here and there, on some factoid or other which I may happen to find interesting. When did Iowa become a Territory? Just not enough to hold my interest throughout an entire session. And certainly such questions never deliberately raise any concerns about humane values. Obviously. It’s just about matching random sets of factoids totally free from content or concern. That’s what makes it fun for the largest number of people attracted to play. Can’t skim our shared human cultural experience more superficially than that! Want another beer?
Too often the questions are about popular commercial and college team sports—about which I happen to know nothing and care even less. Nothing “wrong” with that per se, and it might be slightly more engaging, for me, if the categories were about topics interesting enough for me to have stored up some factoid-informedness. But alas, not. Other most frequently featured categories are recent and current TV shows and recent and current pop music entertainers. I possess no factoid-worthy interest or knowledge about these categories either, and unfortunately for the chances of our winning any sessions, neither do most of my various teammates.
So, I spend more time ranting randomly on sites such as this blog! Knowing full well that there are extremely few, if any, persons who are going to share with me any interest in the kinds of things I write about here.
Meanwhile….having gone to see the new Star Wars movie, and having mentioned it in an earlier rant posted to this site, I noticed today that Carrie Fisher is not the only veteran celeb to give advice to the new Star Wars heroine, Daisy (Rey) Ridley. It seems Kristen Stewart also has offered some words of advice to her new compeer. I found them insightful and thought-provoking.
“As somebody who’s dealt with the more absurd, really surreal, oftentimes insanely superficial, empty circus of what the media can be — and perception versus reality — I thought it was really funny and appropriate for me to play that part,” she says [of giving advice to Ridley].
And social media is still a mystery to the notoriously private star.
“I’ve never fed into it. I’ve never had a public Twitter, I’ve never had a public Facebook or things where people go on and look at your every move, like Instagram and stuff like that, because it’s just so empty and distracting,” Stewart says bluntly. “I don’t understand how so many people don’t view it as what it is, which is nothing at all. It’s just nothing, all of it — it doesn’t exist. And so yeah, it’s weird — but it makes sense.”
“It supports a demand from a lot of bored people,” she further explains. “[It produces] a lot of money, a lot of hits on websites.”
Professor Corey does mention President Polk at about 4:56
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