Saturday, January 28, 2006


Did a struggling white writer of gay erotica become one of multicultural literature’s most celebrated memoirists — by passing himself off as Native American?

In June of 1999 a writer calling himself Nasdijj emerged from obscurity to publish an ode to his adopted son in Esquire. “My son is dead,” he began. “I didn’t say my adopted son is dead. He was my son. My son was a Navajo. He lived six years. They were the best six years of my life.”

The boy’s name was Tommy Nothing Fancy and Nasdijj wrote that he and his wife adopted Tommy as an infant and raised him in their home on the Navajo reservation. At first, Tommy seemed like a healthy baby, albeit one who consistently cried throughout the night. “The doctor at the Indian Health Service said it was nothing. Probably gas.”The Esquire piece, as successful as it was heartbreaking, was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and helped establish Nasdijj as a prominent new voice in the world of nonfiction. “Esquire’s Cinderella story,” as Salon’s Sean Elder called it, “arrived over the transom, addressed to no one in particular. ‘The cover letter was this screed about how Esquire had never published the work of an American-Indian writer and never would because it’s such a racist publication,’ recalls editor in chief David Granger. ‘And under it was... one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’d ever read.’ By the time the piece was published in the June issue, the writer (who lives on an Indian reservation) had a book contract.”

Monday, January 23, 2006

Morales seeks blessing at ancient Indian temple

We're going to end the colonial state,' Morales says

Saturday, January 21, 2006; Posted: 7:07 p.m. EST (00:07 GMT)

TIWANAKU, Bolivia (AP) -- Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, dressed in a bright red tunic worn only by important pre-Incan priests, promised Saturday to do away with vestiges of this country's colonial past in a spiritual ceremony at an ancient temple on the eve of his inauguration.

To roars from the crowd of tens of thousands, the nation's first Indian leader and fierce critic of U.S. policies toward Latin America called his landslide election a victory for the world's indigenous populations, and said it was evidence that poor countries can challenge rich, developed nations.

"With the unity of the people, we're going to end the colonial state and the neoliberal model," said the leftist Morales, who spoke mostly in Spanish but also offered greetings in the Aymara language he grew up speaking as a boy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cherokee poet Mike Austin passes on

Mike Austin, Cherokee poet living in Vienna, went to the spirit world on Jan 11, 2006. He was a dear brother who did heroic work as a social worker, recovering drug addicts in the subway system of Vienna. His funeral will be January 24 in Vienna. -- Lance Henson

Friday, January 06, 2006

O'odham linguist comes to Washington

WASHINGTON - Hearing a phrase of Tohono O'odham in Washington is like catching sight of a rare and beautiful bird. It's a language of hushed, lilting sounds, perfect for making songs about rain and corn or writing poems about desert clouds.

That's how Ofelia Zepeda, linguist and writer, began a public talk at the National Museum of the American Indian one evening late this fall - in O'odham, her native tongue. She was in town to attend meetings on Native language preservation and to sign copies of ''Home: Native People in the Southwest,'' a companion book she co-authored for a recent exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Like many people native to the Southwest, Zepeda's life is a braid of different languages and lands.

Her parents crossed over from Sonora, Mexico in the 1950s and settled on the periphery of the O'odham reservation in Arizona. Zepeda was born in a wooden row house in Stanfield, surrounded by fields of cotton, and didn't speak any English until she was 7. She told her audience she felt ''too lazy'' for the labor of picking cotton and decided to get an education instead, becoming the first in her family to finish high school. In fact, she may be the first person in American history to earn a doctorate in linguistics and a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for being too ''lazy.''

Monday, January 02, 2006

Evidence Found for Canals That Watered Ancient Peru

In the Andean foothills of Peru, not far from the Pacific coast, archaeologists have found what they say is evidence for the earliest known irrigated agriculture in the Americas.

An analysis of four derelict canals, filled with silt and buried deep under sediments, showed that they were used to water cultivated fields 5,400 years ago, in one case possibly as early as 6,700 years ago, archaeologists reported in a recent issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other scholars hailed the discovery as adding a new dimension to understanding the origins of civilization in the Andes. The canals are seen as the long-sought proof that irrigation technology was critical to the development of the earliest Peruvian civilization, one of the few major cultures in the ancient world to rise independent of outside influence.

It was assumed that by 4,000 years ago, perhaps 1,000 years earlier, large-scale irrigation farming was well under way in Peru, as suggested by the indirect evidence of urban ruins of increasing size and architectural distinction. Their growth presumably depended on irrigation in the arid valleys and hills descending to coastal Peru. But the telling evidence of the canals had been missing.

Then Tom D. Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University, started nosing around the ZaƱa Valley, about 40 miles from the ocean and more than 300 miles north of Lima.

On the south side of the Nanchoc River, he and his team uncovered traces of the four canals, narrow and shallow, lined with stones and pebbles, extending from less than a mile to more than two miles in length. The canals ran near remains of houses, buried agricultural furrows, stone hoes and charred plants, including cotton, wild plums, beans and squash.