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Thursday, 16 June 2011

In the Shadows of the White House Ruins


White House ruins, Canyon de Chelly National Monument
: photo by Cacophony, 3 May 2009

The name "Anasazi" has come to mean "ancient people," although the word itself is Navajo, meaning "enemy ancestors." [The Navajo word is anaasází (<anaa- "enemy", sází "ancestor").] The term was first applied to ruins of the Mesa Verde by Richard Wetherill, a rancher and trader who, in 1888–1889, was the first Anglo-American to explore the sites in that area. Wetherill knew and worked with Navajos and understood what the word meant. The name was further sanctioned in archaeology when it was adopted by Alfred V. Kidder, the acknowledged dean of Southwestern Archaeology. Kidder felt that it was less cumbersome than a more technical term he might have used. Subsequently some archaeologists who would try to change the term have worried that because the Pueblos speak different languages, there are different words for "ancestor," and using one might be offensive to people speaking other languages.

-- Linda Cordell: Ancient Pueblo Peoples, 1994

View from river valley, Canyon de Chelly National Monument: photo by Ansel Adams, 1942 (US National Archives and Records Administration)

White House Ruins in Canyon de Chelly National Monument
, near Chinle, Arizona, built c. 1200 by the Anasazi, a Navajo word meaning the Ancient Ones: photo by Greg Peterson 2009

D. H. Lawrence: Ghosts (Men in New Mexico)

Mountains blanket-wrapped
Round a white hearth of desert --

While the sun goes round
And round and round the desert,
The mountains never get up and walk about.
They can't, they can't wake.

They camped and went to sleep
In the last twilight
Of Indian gods;
And they can't wake.

Indians dance and run and stamp --
No good.
White men make gold-mines and the mountains un-make them
In their sleep.

The Indians laugh in their sleep
From fear,
Like a man when he sleeps and his sleep is over, and he can't wake up,
And he lies like a log and screams and his scream is silent
Because his body can't wake up;
So he laughs from fear, pure fear, in the grip of the sleep.

A dark membrane over the will, holding the man down
Even when his mind has flickered awake;
A membrane of sleep, like a black blanket.

We walk in our sleep, in this land,
Somnambulist wide-eyed afraid.
We scream for someone to wake us
And our scream is soundless in the paralysis of sleep,
And we know it.

The Penitentes lash themselves till they run with blood
In their efforts to come awake for one moment;
To tear the membrane of this sleep...
No good.

The Indians thought the white men would awake them...
And instead, the white men scramble asleep in the mountains,
And ride on horseback asleep forever through the desert,
And shoot one another, amazed and mad with somnambulism,
Thinking death will awaken something...
No good.

Born with a caul,
A black membrane over the face,
And unable to tear it,
Though the mind is awake.

Mountains blanket-wrapped
Round the ash-white hearth of the desert;
And though the sun leaps like a thing unleashed in the sky
They can't get up, they are under the blanket.

Antelope Ruin, Cañon del Muerto -- Navaho: photo by Edward S. Curtis, c. 1907 (Edward S. Curtis Collection, Library of Congress)

The cliffs, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona: photo by Edward S. Curtis, c. 1905 (Edward S. Curtis Collection, Library of Congress)

Cañon de Chelle, Arizona. Walls of the Grand Canyon about 1200 feet: photo by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, from the 1873 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Geographical Exploration and Surveying Expedition West of the 100th Meridian (Library of Congress)

James Henry Carleton: Letter recommending removal of the Navajo to Bosque Redondo (1863)

Head Quarters, Department of New Mexico
Santa Fé, N.M. September 6, 1863

Brig. General Lorenzo Thomas,
..... Adjutant General U.S.A.
........... Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to report that I have this week sent fifty one Navajoe Indian men, women, and children to Fort Sumner, at the Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River, where, as I have before informed you, I have four hundred and twenty-five Mescalero Apaches, held as prisoners. The purpose had in view is to send all captured Navahoes and Apaches to that point, and there to feed and take care of them until they have opened farms and become able to support themselves, as the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are doing. The War Department has already approved of this in the case of the Apaches, and authorized that Fort Sumner should be a chaplain post, so that the chaplain there could educate the Indian children. This year those Indians have been contented and happy. They planted under the direction of their agent and with a little help -- some large fields of corn -- and now that they have their acequia dug, will next year raise quite enough to support themselves. This the Navajoes can be persuaded to do as well.

At the Bosque Redondo there is arable land for all the Indians of this family: (The Navajoes and Apaches have descended from the same stock and speak the same languages.) and I would respectfully recommend, that now the war is vigorously prosecuted against the Navahoes -- that the only peace that can ever be made with them must rest on the basis that they move onto these land[s], and like the Pueblos become an agricultural people, and cease to be nomads. This should be a sine qua non. As soon as the snows of winter admonish them of the suffering to which their families will be exposed -- I have great hopes of getting most of the tribe. The knowledge of the perfidy of these Navajoes, gained after two centuries of experience, is such as to lead us to put no faith in their promises. They have no government to make treaties. They are a patriarchal people. On[e] set of families may make promises, but the other set will not heed them. They understand the direct application of force as a law. If its application be removed, that moment they become lawless. This has been tried over and over and over again, and at great expense. The purpose now is never to relax the application of force with a people that can no more be trusted than you can trust the wolves that run through their mountains. To gather them together little by little onto a Reservation away from the haunts and hills and hiding places of their country, and there be kind to them: there teach their children how to read and write: teach them the art of peace: teach them the truths of christianity. Soon they will acquire new habits, new ideas new modes of life: the old Indians will die off and carry with them all latent longings for murdering and robbing: the young ones will take their places without these longings: and thus, little by little, they will become a happy and contented people, and Navajoe Wars will be remembered only as something that belongs entirely to the Past. Even until they can raise enough to be self-sustaining -- you can feed them cheaper than you can fight them.

You will observe that the Bozque Redondo is far down the Pecos on the open plains -- where those Indians can have no lateral contact with settlers. If the government will only set apart a reservation of forty miles square, with Fort Sumner at the Bosque Redondo in the centre, all the good land will be covered, and keep the settlers a proper distance from the Indians. See the enclosed map. There is no place in the Navajoe Country fit for a Reservation: and even if there were, it would not be wise to have it there: for little by little the Indians would steal away into their mountain fastnessess again -- and then as of old, would come a new war, and so on, ad infinitum.

I know these views are practical -- practicable -- and humane: -- are just to the suffering people, as well as to the aggressive, perfidious, butchering Navahoes. If I can one more full regiment of cavalry and authority to raise one independent company in each county in the Territory -- they can soon be carried to a final result.

I am, General,
....... Respect[f]ully,
........... Your obt. servant.
...................... JJames H. Carleson.
................................. Brig. General,

The white house, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona: photographer unknown (Navaho Tours), 1922 (U.S. Geography File, Library of Congress)

The white house, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona: photographer unknown (Navaho Tours), 1922 (U.S. Geography File, Library of Congress)

1858. Manuelito, a "rico" Navajo Chiefta[i]n, found 60 head of his livestock shot by U.S. soldiers. Furious, he confronted the Major at Fort Defiance and told him the water and the grass belonged to him and his people, not to the U.S. Army. Soldiers from Fort Defiance, supported by 160 Zuni mercenaries, burned Manuelito's village and fields. Manuelito resolved to drive the white soldiers off their lands and began organizing other Navajo Chiefta[i]ns and Headmen for war.

1860. Navajos attack Fort Defiance. Over 1,000 Navajos led by Manuelito, a wealthy headman, and Barboncito, a medicine man and war leader, attacked Fort Defiance. They almost completely overran it, until superior gunfire drove them off. This marked the beginning of the U.S. Army's policy of "total war" against the Navajos. Although the outbreak of the Civil War the following year caused the withdrawal of the soldiers and the abandonment of Fort Defiance, the Navajo war was taken up by the new commander in Santa Fe, James Carleton. The Navajos, like the Apaches, were considered a grave threat to the Army of the West.

1863. New Mexico was cut in half, to create the Territory of Arizona.

1863 to 1864. The U.S. war against the Navajo Tribe. The Navajo Long Walk, and imprisonment at Bosque Redondo. Kit Carson drove the Navajo from their lands by destroying their means of survival using his "Scorch[ed] Earth Policy". His U.S. Army killed the sheep, goats, and horses, poisoned wells, burned orchards and crops, destroyed hogans and livestock shelters, and anything else that was of value to the Navajo. Manuelito, Barboncito, Ganado Mucho, and other headmen retreated into the most remote Navajo lands. Thousand of others went into hiding in the deep recesses of Canyon de Chelly, previously unexplored by white men and noted for its quicksand floor. By winter Carson's men set up a blockade at the entrance to the canyon, shot anyone trying to leave, and in March rounded up thousands of starving Navajo and sent them on the "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. More than 8,000 Navajos, as well as some Mescalero Apache who had not fled south, were marched 350 miles through spring blizzards from Fort Defiance to Fort Sumner. Many of the Apaches fled to Mexico rather than be captured. The soldiers shot anyone moving too slowly, raped women, and shot the elderly. (Oral histories of the Navajo recount that when they asked the soldiers to stop so a pregnant woman could give birth, the soldiers refused. "Not long after [we] moved on, we heard a gun-shot ...") Many froze to death. Others starved or became sick. At Fort Sumner they grew ill from brackish water and inadequate food. Comanches came from Texas and raided the camp at will. Many of the women got syphilis from the soldiers at the fort and in turn infected the Navajo men. The story of the Long Walk is passed on by Navajo elders in the same way Jews talk about the Holocaust. (Kit Carson became an American hero. His gravesite in Taos, New Mexico, is marked with a special commendation by the Eagle Scouts of America.)

-- from Navajo Wars 1848-1868 in Navajo Timeline, via lapahie

The Youth's Companion. Historic Milestones. Kit Carson.... hunter and trapper: photo-print by Perry Mason Company, 1922 (Library of Congress)

Langer Marsch der Diné: image by Günter Stube, 27 October 2005 (redrawn after a template from the compact Harenberg Lexikon, 1994)

Ancient ruins in the Cañon de Chelle. In a niche 50 feet above present cañon bed: photo by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, from the 1873 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Geographical Exploration and Surveying Expedition West of the 100th Meridian under Lieut. Gen. M. Wheeler (Library of Congress)


Ed Baker said...


everybody knows that our policy has always been:

"might makes right & and 'praise the lord and pass the ammunition'"

.. it s the Way of the World / the Way of Religion

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

An outstanding post, Tom & Angelica

all's well, Bob

Barry Taylor said...

' ... soon be carried to a final result.' Chilling echos ricocheting around those last houses and this extraordinary post. 'As soon as the snows of winter admonish them ...' - ah to be a blood-soaked bureaucrat and speak in the very cadences of the Lord! 'Practical-- practicable--and humane'. It's an education, Tom.

TC said...

Thanks, friends.

Yes, chasing the ancient enemy into the caves and fastnesses where you dare not go, then starving them out, a heroic and time honoured invading power's strategy.

Trying to imagine that winter, the band of Navajo in their last sanctuary, locked inside the great cañon wall, the low voices of the chiefs and headmen echoing, firelight and flickering shadows across the dark quicksand declivities within the ruins of the houses of the Ancient Ones who left so long ago -- perhaps these people's ancestors, perhaps the enemies of their ancestors...

And yes, as Barry points out, the notable invocation by Brigadier Gen. J. H. Carleson of the helpfully admonitory snows, divine heralds of the wrath of righteous judgment -- again a time honoured strategy, making sure it's plain to your audience back in the capitol that their (and your) gods are 100% on your side.

Rhetorical in this case, but as we are continually learning all over again, a bit of fine language always helps to grease the wheels of the imperial machinery.

The clincher though has to be that unarguable Yankee bottom line: "you can feed them cheaper than you can fight them".


Thanks for all this investigation of such things -- "there are different words for. . . ."


first light coming into fog above still
black ridge, moon to the left of branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

other repetition, precision
compared to summary of

drift into meanings of word,
place of, on all sides

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
line of 5 pelicans gliding toward ridge

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Images and words of the oppressors ... and then there is this cosmic Lawrence.

He has us down, he's always had us down, and he will never let us up until we realize.

"We walk in our sleep, in this land,
Somnambulist wide-eyed afraid.
We scream for someone to wake us
And our scream is soundless in the paralysis of sleep,
And we know it."

... and we know it.

Very powerful, Tom. DHL has always had that all-encompassing power to just shut me up.

TC said...


So glad to hear you too are so deeply affected by Lawrence. (I should have guessed, you are the bellwether.) Something in the poetry speaks so much more directly than anyone else's has ever done: it may be the rhythms, the obsessive use of repetition, the invested sense that the cosmic (yes) and the common (the psyche, no one escapes it) must always demand our attendance... and then too, the willingness also to divest, to drift away. Still in his twenties here, he writes with a power of experience and intuition that seem so much older. Perhaps it's impossible to avoid feeling the fate of an early mortality, at least as the encroaching shadow of the ultimate seriousness of all things. To feel at the same time the ultimate this-too-will pass of all things... maybe this is more difficult. But the participation in the suffering of being human, the tensions attendant thereto: most poets have a way of dodging or ignoring or sublimating these things (if indeed they feel them at all). With Lawrence, though, the intensity remains constant.

With the years, he seems better and better, even as his "influence" is difficult to make out in the present landscape. There was an occasion, oh perhaps a quarter-century ago now, when I happened to be in the company of two other poets when the subject of Lawrence's work (the novels in this case) came up. One of these poets, now ranked among The Greats, grew increasingly flushed and agitated, and finally got up and left the room with a decisive flourish, as if to say, I will NOT be in a space where that monster is being spoken of. At the time I couldn't fathom the sources of this reaction. Later on, I guess I could.

In any case, DHL was an odd bird, certainly not a cuddly one, but always sticking his beak into the ancient sweet and sour poetic wells; and one can't help loving him for it.

His insight into the creaturely will never cease to inspire; the creaturely abides and survives, if it's lucky; and then again, as he sometimes reminds, perhaps the luck is all ours.

Even in this coldest of springs, that life continues. Morning temps still in the forties, but here with us once again is that undaunted whizzing wizard, Humming-Bird.

(We have the Ana's strain, not the incredible long-beaked Ecuadoran kind, which seems properly archaic, as in DHL's scary and riveting vision...)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Lawrence just always has overwhelmed me. He is a poet, plain and simple. Some people who never write a word are poets.

He will always be recognized as a novelist but he will always be a poet to me (even in his novels,short stories, essays etc.) I think of Hesse this way. I think of Eugene O'Neill this way. Funny.

I went through a white-hot period of reading Lawrence in my 20s. I was very resistant at first, being a male feminist of the 70s. So I remembered, shame-faced, my reaction while reading your tale of the poet who stomped off.

He turned my head around quick.

I can pick up any work by him today, 40 years later and it as if I've been reading him the whole time. His voice ... it is immediate.

I remember yelling back at the page with his essays. He outraged me but much much more. He touched me at, to risk a Laurentian analogy, the molten core. He may be the first writer that I felt was in the very room with me while I was reading. I still feel this way about him.

People often misunderstood him because he talked in metaphor, he talked in symbols. The pure poet. I imagine it all just shined through his very pores.

You mention his use of repetition. It was transcendent. His essay on Melville - one would be hard put to call it prose, especially its final pages. On Poe, he saw him, his own direct antithesis, for exactly who he was, marvelously. His tussle with Whitman makes the WWF look like kindgergarten stuff. The whole Studies in American Literature should be required reading, to be a poet, to be a reader, to be alive.

Why aren't I reading him right now?

Our mutual friend, Mr. Blyth, knew Lawrence well if I recall from his haiku associations.

Tossing this off quickly at lunch at work to again say thanks for the poem (I'll be on to Hummingbird, probably in the morning). I've gotten overheated as I usually do, as I did the very first time I encountered Lawrence. Love him for his flaws, love him for his virtues.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

Ed Baker said...

as I re:visit
I recall his
"the mosquito knows ...." poem
as i recall recalling additional info
not necessary
he wrote it nearing/contemplating his own death...

sort of alongthelines to which (Blyth/haiku), "sorties")

DW speaks this poem is ...

Ed Baker said...

the mosquito know
is at the bottom of here:

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Perfect connection, Ed, of DHL and Blyth ...

Which reminds me of the conversation between the Dalai Lama and Bill Moyers at an outdoor festival when Moyers noticed a fly worrying about and lighting on the Dalai Lama and he asked him about his composure and the DL said (paraphrasing from memory):

"It is like with the mosquito. It comes, it is hungry, it takes a little bit. Good. Takes too much - " Swat.

And his whole-hearted, beautiful laugh ...

A little satori for me that day.

Ed Baker said...

yeah this Dalai Lama is a real 'hoot'

punc-lines to his jokes/stories are de
Perfect Timing
& (always) a 'twinkle' in his voice

& message

remind me to tell you my
Dalai Lam story

it includes The Warrior Nun

(Tee See your word ver today is

"pater" Walter Pater was no slouch, either.

TC said...

Great conversation, inspired these:

On first reading The Rainbow

Parts of the Unseen: R. H. Blyth: Lawrence and Eastern Culture

Ed Baker said...

be tween Ryokan & Ikkyu .... D.H. Lawrence

... what else is needed ?

(sorry, sort of about the absence of the two "-" s above the letters)

((from Ikkyu's CROW

"you poor sad thing thinking death is real
all by itself"


"only a kind deadly sincere man
can show you the way here in the other world"


"I'd love to give you something
but what would help?"

& one more... I promise:

"it's logical: if you're not going anywhere
any road is the right one"


""I'm eighty still alive looking up every night
snapping my fingers at time at the promise of love"

these guys including DHL did not differentiate

the internalized & made "it" justwhatitis: subjective