November 11, 2006

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Getting Flora Ready For Bed Division

Another terrific Indian Summer day here in NoVa, warm enough to make me perspire as I worked away in the garden. While the Missus took the six year old out for soccer and shopping, the remaining Llama-ettes helped me cut back and toss most of the remainders, including the peonies, coneflower, joe-pye, butterfly weed, gladiolas and especially the pair of uber-pervasive oregano plants that lurk on either side of the entrance gate. After giving the clover and other nasty weeds a good spraying (that'll learn 'em!), I then mulched about half of the bed. It's supposed to bucket rain here tomorrow, so I imagine it won't be until next weekend that I finish up the job.

Yes, dammit, I love the expression "Indian Summer". And I appreciate the irony that what we now think of as a lovely last reprieve before the cold weather gets down to serious business was once looked on as a time of heightened danger and anxiety. I believe there is some debate about whether the expression is colonial in origin or not, but it is a documented fact that Indian attacks on settlers did typically spike during this last burst of warm weather. As I've mentioned before, it's a crying shame that Colonial history is virtually ignored these days. The American character didn't simply pop into existence in 1776, but instead was forged in the horrors and hardships of these times.

One can argue, I suppose, about the moral issues raised by the European colonization of North America, although I find such arguments rayther silly and pointless. But what drives me absolutely crazy is the notion - held by an awful lot of people who ought to know better - that "Native" Americans lived in one big happy harmonious family before the Europeans got here. This is patent nonsense. We read of English colonists, for example, trespassing on "traditional" native hunting grounds. But what we fail to remember is that the way those traditions were established in the first place often involved long and bitter inter-tribal warfare. Those wonderful peace-loving Hopi, for example, who lived in the Desert Southwest? Well, they didn't scratch out an existence amid the rocks and sand because they felt the dry heat was good for their skin. They did so because they were bullied off more fertile grounds by more aggressive tribes.

Every now and again it becomes fashionable to note the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy on the shaping of our republic, the underlying implication being that stupid, blundering Europeans even had to learn about democracy and federalism from the wiser Natives. What the sort of people who say things like this at cocktail parties fail to note, however, is just how and why the Confederacy came about to begin with. Basically, the Iroquois Nations - after many generations of internal feuding - finally realized that it would be far more advantageous and profitable if, instead of whaling on each other, they banded together and beat the crap out of all the non-Irquois tribes around them. Which they did with skill, determination and every indication of keen enjoyment. Modern primitivists might think of the Iroquois Confederacy as a shining example of peace and harmony. What it was, in fact, was a powerful mini-empire, which held sway from the Great Lakes to the Carolinas, and scared the bejaysus out of other tribes as far away as the Great Plains.

Posted by Robert at November 11, 2006 02:39 PM | TrackBack