Toypurina

la-me-hood-sisters-mural-pictures-20141013[A beautiful bilingual mural painted by the HOODsisters collective in Pacoima in honour of Toypurina. Photograph found on the LATimes website]

Today’s HHBlog post is dedicated to someone who probably most people in the USA have not heard of in their mainstream public history education, Toypurina. Toypurina, born in 1761, was a Tongva medicine woman and resistance fighter from the village of Jachivit. In 1771, at the age of ten, Toypurina’s world would be drastically changed when the San Gabriel Mission was founded in present day California, just kilometres from her home village. She spent the next several years of her life living within the world of these Spanish missionaries and soldiers, alongside countless other Indigenous neophytes. At the age of twenty-four Toypurina helped lead the warriors of approximately seven villages in rebellion against the San Gabriel Mission on October 25, 1785.

The rebellion was quickly put down by the San Gabriel Mission’s guards, and all involved were subjected to twenty-five lashes of the whip and roughly twenty of the Indigenous warriors were imprisoned, including Toypurina. When Toypurina was put on trial she is quoted in the work of Kelly Lytle Hernández as having said that she was “angry with the Padres and with all of those of this Mission because they had come to live and establish themselves in her land.” The Mission found her guilty of insurrection, after which she spent two years imprisoned and then was banished from her homelands in the Tongva Basin (part of present-day Los Angeles). During her time imprisoned at the Mission, her name appears in the baptismal records, with a new name, Regina, given to her. It is unclear whether or not she converted willingly, but her Indigenous husband did not convert. They were forced to annul.

Following her banishment, she lived in exile at the San Carlos Borromeo Mission of Carmel, where she partnered with a soldier named Manuel. In 1799, after having birthed four children in exile, Toypurina passed away.

Here at the HHBlog, we raise our fists and tip our hats to Toypurina and all the Indigenous women of Turtle Island who have fought tooth and nail against the multilayered colonialisms that have carved new borders and wrought new violences on these lands.

~ M

Bibliography

Hernández, Kelly Lytle. City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Rasmussen, Cecilia. “Shaman and Freedom-Fighter Led Indians’ Mission Revolt.” June 10, 2001. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jun/10/local/me-8853. Accessed December 15, 2017.

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Toypurina

Ella Cara Deloria

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[A wonderful photo of Ella Cara Deloria, found on the website for the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center]

Ella Cara Deloria (Anpetu Wastéwin “Beautiful Day Woman”) was born in 1889 on the Standing Rock Reservation in what is known as the state of South Dakota, USA. Deloria was born to a prominent Christian Dakota family, with famous Dakota activist academics such as Vine Deloria Jr. (her nephew) and Philip J. Deloria (Vine Deloria Jr.’s son) making up part of her familial relations.

In 1915, Deloria received a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia Teacher’s College. During her time at Columbia, she met the famous anthropologist Franz Boaz with whom she began to collaborate with. Her knowledge of both Dakota and Lakota Sioux dialects became an asset within the early twentieth century world of anthropology, a discipline which was born of colonial, exploitative inquiry into the lives of Indigenous peoples by mostly white men. With her introduction to Boaz, Deloria began to become involved in anthropological work as a key translator and critical analyzer of Sioux texts.

Her work in the academy demonstrates some of the ways marginalized people navigated early twentieth century academia, and specifically how Indigenous women were intrinsic in the development of anthropology as a field of academic inquiry. While anthropology is embedded within a colonial history of exploitation, figures like Ella Deloria complicate what can often be painted as a one-dimensional narrative of academics exploiting Indigenous communities. Deloria demonstrates, quite literally, how Indigenous peoples spoke back with and against anthropologists during the twentieth century, often making space for themselves to work in helping their own people.

Outside of her work as an anthropologist, linguist, and ethnographer, Deloria was also a novelist and – interestingly – an advisor to the Camp Fire Girls, an early version of a settler girls “back to nature” style camp. Although camps such as the Camp Fire Girls utilized stereotypes of Indigenous peoples as “noble savages,” people like Deloria hoped to change these harmful stereotypes by working from within. From 1929 to 1931, Deloria taught Camp Fire Girls about different Indigenous philosophies, songs, and dances, advancing what Philip J. Deloria has referred to as “her own cultural mission – constructing positive images of Indians around the primitivist foundation laid by the Camp Fire Girls. Just as the Camp Fire Girls used a universal Indianness to reproduce specific ideals of middle-class womanhood, so too did Deloria seek access to American cultural institutions in order to reshape popular conceptions of Indianness” (122).

Deloria’s work spanned not only the academy, but everyday middle-class settler contexts such as summer camps for children. She worked tirelessly within institutions that were not meant to accommodate the voices of Indigenous people in general, and specifically not Indigenous women. Ella Deloria was of a generation of middle-class Indigenous activists who gained entry into settler academic institutions, albeit in often marginal forms, and attempted to work towards change from the inside out. Deloria, like many other members of her family, paved the way for later generations of Indigenous activists. As the recent and ongoing defense of Indigenous land, water, and treaty rights at Standing Rock demonstrates, the fight for justice continues. We here at the HHBlog tip our proverbial hats to Indigenous women such as Ella Deloria who fought – and continue to fight – in myriad ways for their respective peoples.

~ M

Bibliography

Deloria, Philip J. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

“Ella Cara Deloria, Anpetu Wastéwin (Beautiful Day Woman).” Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. Accessed December 9, 2016. http://aktalakota.stjo.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9006

Ella Cara Deloria

Tituba

Histories of settler colonialism and enslavement are inseparable in the Americas. These twin genocides, at once separate and yet indispensable to one another, have forged to create the bedrock of the United States and many other modern-day countries in the Americas such as México and Brasil. Although we know relatively little about today’s historical figure, her life is demonstrative of how histories of settler colonialism and enslavement were intertwined in the Americas in the seventeenth century.

Tituba was an enslaved woman who was the first woman accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. Her personal history, as with that of millions of enslaved people in the Americas, is murky as to her ethnic background and her exact biographical details. Born in the seventeenth century, there are two main theories as to where Tituba hailed from. The first, as put forward most prominently by the scholar Elaine Breslaw, was that Tituba was an Indigenous woman of Arawak descent, from the present-day region known as Guyana and Venezuela. The second theory was put forth by Peter Hoffer in 1997, and claims that Tituba was a Yoruba woman – as her name is a Yoruba word. Either of these theories could be true, or neither. She could have been an Arawak woman, a Yoruba woman, an Afro-Indigenous woman, or a woman from various other ethnic groups. Regardless, she was enslaved by Samuel Parris in Barbados and forcibly brought to Massachusetts.

In 1692, several young girls and women from Parris’s household – including his daughter Betty and niece Abigail – began to exhibit symptoms that were classified as bewitchment, and Tituba (along with two other women) was accused of witchcraft. Tituba was put on trial, and provided testimony saying that it was “the devil, for all I know” that had bewitched the four young girls/women. Tituba provided one of the longest testimonies in the Salem Witch Trials, one that went on to influence how the rest of the trials were conducted.

Tituba’s life has been subject to the whims of historians, authors, artists, and the general public since the seventeenth century. Her origins, her testimony, her involvement in witchcraft have all been historicized according to the sociocultural and racial context of those writing her story. At times depicted as Indigenous, at other times African, and at other times of mixed background, Tituba’s story has been twisted to suite the modes of the moment in which any given historian, author, or artist has depicted her. Tituba, as with the broader history of witchcraft in the Americas, is a complicated figure. What constituted as witchcraft? What type of person was accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials? How does the perception of Tituba’s “racial” origin matter to accusations of witchcraft? How should we understand her testimony – that of an enslaved woman of colour/Indigenous woman accused of a spiritual, gendered crime? In what ways do particular gender identities become intertwined in histories of colonial witchcraft? Where do Euro-centric understandings and histories of witchcraft fit (or collide) with other ways of knowing and communing with spiritual worlds that originate in Indigenous traditions or West African traditions?

These are questions that continue to perplex historians of witchcraft and practitioners of various traditions referred to as “witchcraft” alike.

~ M

Bibliography

Barillari, Alyssa. “Tituba.” Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Accessed April 22, 2016. http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people/tituba.html.

Breslaw, Elaine G. Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies. New York: NYU Press, 1997.

Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997.

 

Tituba

La Comandanta Ramona

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[A photograph of la Comandanta Ramona, taken by Heriberto Rodriguez]

What is the line between the past and present? And what is the difference between history and the past? These are questions that often plague academic historians and broader students of history, especially when prompted by the question “what is history?” Today’s post – the first of 2016 – does not attempt to answer any of these questions, but instead attempts to infuse our understandings of the rebellious, radical, and revolutionary people whom we look up to here at Historical Hotties with them. Often times, these questions are brushed off as purely theoretical, as not worth the time of “real” historians that study a “real past.” This is where La Comandanta Ramona comes in.

La Comandanta Ramona was an essential leader in the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) – often referred to as Zapatistas – until her untimely death in 2006. Born in Chiapas, México in 1959, La Comandanta Ramona was an Indigenous Tzotzil woman who fought with the Zapatistas against capitalism and continuing colonialism in México as perpetrated by the state and corporations. As quoted in La Jornada upon her death in 2006 from cancer, Ramona “era uno de los símbolos más emblemáticos del EZLN,” with her small stature, her traditional clothing, and her covered face becoming one of the images that come to mind in relation to the EZLN. Ramona was highly involved in the social struggle in the 1980s in Chiapas, fighting for the rights of Indigenous women to education and healthcare, and for Indigenous women’s artisanal skills to be respected by broader society. Together with la Mayor Ana María, Ramona helped to draft la Ley Revolucionaria de Mujeres in the early 1990s. Ramona was critical to el Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena, which was what helped the armed insurrection of January 1, 1994 that led to the capture of San Cristóbal. Ramona then participated in the important diálogos de la catedral de San Cristóbal with the emissaries of the Salinas Government.

Ramona – and the EZLN more broadly – elicits us to pick apart the demarcations of past/present. We must contextualize these struggles in a much longer history that begins in 1492, and yet also contextualize them in the present as the effects of centuries old colonialism, genocide, exploitation, racism, and patriarchy all intermingle to create our present realities. The EZLN has made these connections central to their struggles, as illustrated in their comunicados. Furthermore, Indigenous Peoples are often relegated to “the past” in the settler colonial imagination. As historians and students of history, it is our responsibility to fight against this racist and colonial narrative from both within and outside the academy.

Ramona passed away in 2006 – is this the past or present? For those of us that feel as though 2000 was just yesterday, 2006 feels like it is still “the present.” 1994 was within many of our lifetimes – is this the past or present? The EZLN continues to fight, their struggle is not over as their 22nd anniversary comunicado from January 1, 2016 attests. Yet histories are already being written about them. La Comandanta Ramona is someone whose life, struggles, and history is still very, very fresh. Her radical defense of her community, her people, and her own humanity in the face of colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism are worthy of more than just applause. Ramona is demonstrative of how the past is never over, of how it continues to inform our present, and of how we are always engaging in the politics of memory.

~ M

Bibliography

Garrido, Luis Javier. “La comandanta.” La Jornada. January 13, 2006. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2006/01/13/index.php?section=opinion&article=021a1pol

Marcos, Subcomandante Insurgente. Our Word is Our Weapon. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004.

Rodriguez, Heriberto. [Image] Accessed January 7, 2016. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicalibre/83655677/in/photolist-8oKVg

 

La Comandanta Ramona

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance (Sylvester Clark Long)

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[A photo of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance smiling]

Another Friday, another Historical Hottie. Today we are graced with the smiling face of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, born December 1st, 1890 as Sylvester Clark Long. Both his parents were born enslaved, and according to the film Long Lance, were each of mixed background (Black, Indigenous, and White). He initially gained fame as a writer, after publishing his autobiography, going on to become an actor in the mid-twentieth century. He attended the Carlisle Indian School in the United States, infamous in its abuse of not only Indigenous but also Puerto Rican and African American youth.

Long Lance eventually went on to star in the 1930 film The Silent Enemy. He was a strong advocate for representing Indigenous Peoples and cultures respectfully within mainstream Euro-America and Euro-Canada. For many years he hid his identity as a man of mixed background (Black, European, Indigenous). Unfortunately, when his identity was revealed, this caused Long Lance to suffer to the point of committing suicide in 1932 (some people believe he was actually murdered). His will left all of his wealth towards aiding Indigenous youth in Alberta.

Although I do not want to refute Long Lance’s lived experiences and his family’s Indigenous claims, I think it is also important to acknowledge that his claims of being Indigenous are muddled in the half truths of any personal history and are still contested. It is also important to situate him within the broader history of Black Americans and White Americans claiming Indigenous history, often times with little evidence but other times with accuracy – especially in relation to Black Americans who are often denied being Indigenous due to anti-Black racism.

Today’s Historical Hottie is a gentle reminder that compassion and acceptance for each and every one of us can go a long way.

~ M

Bibliography

Long Lance. Online. Directed by Bernie Dichek. 1986. https://www.nfb.ca/film/long_lance

Reel Injun. Online. Directed by Neil Diamond. 2011. http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/reel-injun

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance (Sylvester Clark Long)