Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Infinity of Nations Exhibit - Native American Art

On October 23, 2010, a permanent exhibition of Native artwork from throughout North, Central, and South America opened at the George Gustav Heye Center of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Organized into 10 geographic regions, "Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian," features 700 artifacts—including ceremonial items, pottery, jewelry, and clothing selected from the museum's collection of roughly 800,000 objects—that highlight the richness, artistry, and history of Native Americans from Antiquity to the present. The name of the exhibit originates from a phrase coined by 17th century French missionaries who described Native America as an "infinity of nations."

The assumption that art from Native American cultures is limited to categories like Kachina figures or beadwork is a mistaken one. Although traditional arts continue to be a vital, ongoing part of the culture (and are avidly being collected), there are countless Native artists creating vibrant contemporary art in media such as painting, sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance art. Their styles run the gamut from abstract to conceptual, pop art to cartoon-based, and hyperrealist to neo-Expressionist.

The influence on an artist by his or her nation or culture area may not coincide with viewer expectations. Native artists have a variety of outlooks on the relationship between their ethnicity and their profession. Some see themselves and their work as dedicated to the preservation of their culture through its artistic traditions—although what is "traditional" may have a wide range of definitions. On the other hand, contemporary artists may not identify themselves as "Native artists," because of the risk of being categorized or stereotyped, or the desire to merely be seen as an artist without reference to ethnic identity. Still others take a position somewhere between the two.

One of the major turning points in the course of Native art came in 1932, when the Santa Fe Indian School established an institution known as "the Studio School," directed by Dorothy Dunn. It was a great step forward as the first dedicated program of formal art training for Native Americans; however, it failed miserably at encouraging individualism and experimentation.

Perhaps the exhibition of that era that had the greatest impact was "Indian Art of the United States" at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in 1941. It contributed greatly toward shifting Native art from the status of artifact or craft to that of fine art, but was nevertheless tainted by an air of condescension that limited its effect.
Another watershed exhibition, the now famous "Decade Show," was presented in New York City in 1990. Held at three prominent institutions (the New Museum, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art), the show included artists from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and it firmly cemented multiculturalism as a part of the larger art world. Native performance artist James Luna presented an impressive work in that show that launched his career as a contemporary artist. Nevertheless—as noted in a piercing essay on Native American art by distinguished critic Amei Wallach—what that exhibition accomplished for "African American and Latino American artists has not, for the most part, happened for Native Americans"; in other words, indigenous artists generally continued to be marginalized.

A few Native artists have become internationally known and respected in the larger, contemporary art world, including Rebecca Belmore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Jimmie Durham, Brian Jungen, and Brad Kahlhamer. Most of them are represented by galleries of major art world stature, and others, such as Frank BigBear and Truman Lowe, have been written about in leading mainstream periodicals. In 2007, Art News, a major cultural magazine, ran a lively article on the current indigenous art scene, while an important non-Native space, the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, exhibited contemporary work based on Native American culture (with half the participants being Native). Many observers feel that now is the moment when general audiences are starting to connect with art made by indigenous individuals.

Excerpted from the feature story "Infinity of Nations Exhibit" by Deborah Everett on The American Mosaic: The American Indian Experience. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2010.

For more information on Native American art and artists, check out the American Indian Experience database. To sign up for a free trial, click here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mike Eisenberg Vodcast #3

Check out Part 3 of our Mike Eisenberg vodcast series on Information Literacy. In this vodcast, Mike answers a series of questions collected from students and colleagues around the country about accountability in the information literacy program.

For parts 1 and 2, visit our YouTube channel: ABCCLIOLive.

We are excited to partner with Big6’s Mike Eisenberg to bring you an exclusive series of vodcasts. Each month we will release a new chapter in the Mike Eisenberg Information Literacy Series, so stay tuned for more! View these vodcasts completely free of charge, and please share them with your colleagues!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Native American Heritage Month: How We Observe and Why

How Do We Observe Native American Heritage Month and Why
By Steven L. Danver

In many ways, the idea of Native American Heritage Month is good and important. Not many would argue against the celebration of the lives and cultures of our nation’s longest inhabitants. But the larger questions of why we celebrate it and how we celebrate it are, in many ways, the themes that have guided me and my career. You see, I am a historian – a non-Native one – who studies Native American peoples. Many would call that a laudable profession and I certainly agree with that. However, there have been many non-Native people who have studied Native American history and cultures, but have used that knowledge in haphazard, or even capricious, ways. But it doesn’t take a historian to use Native cultures in offhand ways. Many members of the general public dress themselves up as “Indians” for Washington Redskins or Atlanta Braves games, ostensibly to “honor” Indian people. Just as it is easy for non-Natives to think that they’re honoring Indian people without even really thinking about the message they’re sending, it’s easy for non-Natives to study and write about Indians without considering why they’re doing what they’re doing. As Choctaw historian Devon A. Mihesuah put it when discussing teaching American Indian history to non-Natives, courses “were ‘safe’ in that never once did professors mention the terms ‘decolonization’ or ‘empowerment,’ nor did anyone ever talk about author bias, theory, or the importance of considering Native voices.” (Mihesuah 2003, 459)

I once received a book entitled America’s Fascinating Indian Heritage, and the title illustrates the point. Learning about and commemorating American Indian “heritage” can have less to do with Native peoples themselves, and more to do with celebrating a “unique” part of our shared national heritage. Native peoples, even as we celebrate them, can be little more than mascots for our national identity.

My own education on this topic began with an encounter with one of the most prominent Native scholars of the 20th century, Vine Deloria, Jr. I had just begun my doctoral work, and was interested in studying Native American history. Deloria was the keynote speaker at a symposium on Native American cultures that I was attending, and at which I was scheduled to present only my second academic paper. I had already read a number of his works, which had begun to form the basis of much of my thinking about Native American history and culture. When I worked up the courage to introduce myself to this towering figure, the first thing he asked me was what I was studying and presenting at the conference. I told him that I had presented a paper on the Sun Dance, as a religious revitalization movement among Ute Indians. His response floored me. He told me that I studied Indians because I thought they were “weird”. That I needed to study things that were “important”. Once I’d regained my sense of self-worth (after a number of my mentors who knew Deloria told me that this was just the way he was), I worked long and hard to figure out what he meant and what it meant for my own work. Certainly I didn’t think Native people were weird, but the fascination I had with Native cultures had led me to study a topic that, though “fascinating”, did not have as much of an impact on the issues that American Indian people faced today. Indian people did not need me, a non-Native, to tell them what the history of a 19th century religious movement meant to them. Rather, the topics that were really important for a non-Native historian of Native American peoples to look at were the ones that had long and interesting histories, but were of continuing significance to Native people. What this meant for me was finding a topic, water rights in my particular case, that was still of vital importance to many Native groups today. This is not to say that studying things like little-known Native religious movements is a bad thing, rather that it is vital that non-Natives, both members of the general public as well as academics, need to tread lightly when dealing with symbols and expressions of Native American cultures and religions. The potential for inadvertent damage is too great to ignore.

So, why even bother honoring, learning about, or teaching about Native American peoples if it is so difficult? Why bring up the ramifications of all of that history of warfare, intentional disease spreading, cultural and religious repression, and genocide? It is precisely because the history is so problematic that we need something like “Native American Heritage Month,” but it is also because of that history that we need to pay close attention to how and why we are celebrating it. Are we celebrating it because Native Americans are a “fascinating” part of our nation’s heritage, or is it because it is truly important to us to know about Native American lives and the issues they confront on an ongoing basis, such as poverty, diabetes and other health concerns, a lack of political recognition and sovereignty, and (as with my work) being deprived of their natural resources in order to fuel non-Native development? As Glen R. Alley and Lester B. Brown explained, “Each new person is someone who can teach us. Each one is someone who can increase our knowledge about others. Each one has qualities that we need to know about, that we need to respect, that we need to take into account as we try everyday to improve the world we live in. It is ours but it is also theirs. They have as much right to a life as qualitatively good as ours.” (Brown and Alley 2003: 130) So, what is being served by recognizing Native American Heritage Month, our own curiosity, our sense of our “national heritage”, or the issues that are truly important to Native people today?

Brown, Lester B. and Glen R. Alley. “True Colors: Are Others What We Want to See?”
American Indian Quarterly 27(1 & 2), Winter and Spring 2003, 121-131.
Mihesuah, Devon A. “Basic Empowering Strategies for the Classroom.” American Indian Quarterly 27(1 & 2), Winter and Spring 2003, 459-478.


Dr. Steven L. Danver, PhD, is professor in the Center for Undergraduate Studies at Walden University, and is managing editor of Journal of the West. He received his doctorate in American History from the University of Utah, specializing in American Indian history. Dr. Danver has edited or coedited a number of ABC-CLIO books, including The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Thematic Encyclopedia; Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia; and Popular Controversies in World History: Investigating History's Intriguing Questions. He was recently the recipient of a Research Dissemination Award from the Center for Research Support at Walden University.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Geography Awareness Week Quiz

Welcome to Geography Awareness Week (November 14-20)! First established in November 1987 with federal legislation signed by then-President Ronald Reagan, Geography Awareness Week takes a different theme each year. The theme this year is "freshwater", and it's hard to think of a more timely topic or one that fits so well with geography awareness. The study of geography is divided into such areas as physical, cultural, political, and economic geography, and all are important in understanding the grave concerns over worldwide freshwater supplies and in helping to find solutions. Many scholars believe water will be the defining global crisis of the 21st century.

For most people living in the United States, water is simply there when we turn on the tap. Around the world, however, more than a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the World Water Council. Learning about water issues—from the unequal distribution of natural freshwater supplies to the complexities of economic, cultural, and political forces at play—necessarily acquaints us with the physical and human geography of the world we live in, and it's all well covered in ABC-CLIO's print and electronic resources. 

We've put together a short self-quiz to test your freshwater knowledge. (The answers are at the bottom of this blog post.) Begin!
  1. What proportion of the world's total supply of water is freshwater (i.e., not salt water in the oceans).
  2. Of the total supply of freshwater, what percentage is readily available in rivers, lakes, and streams?
  3. What human use of water requires the largest amount?
  4. What year did the U.S. Clean Water Act go into effect?
  5. What percentage of the world's total supply of surface freshwater is contained in the Great Lakes?
  6. What federal agency is credited with making the arid U.S. West suitable for large-scale settlement and development?
  7. How much water is used daily by the average U.S. resident?
  8. What is the world's largest river by volume of water?
  9. What is a watershed?





1. Freshwater amounts to 3% of the world's total water supply; the rest is ocean water, which due to its high salinity is unfit for drinking, irrigation, or other human uses (in a few areas there are desalinization plants that remove the salt from seawater, but this method is too expensive for widespread use.)
2. Of the world's freshwater, about 2% is readily available for human use from rivers, streams, and lakescalled "surface water." About 68% of freshwater is frozen in glaciers and icecaps, and about 30% is under the ground—some of that accessible for human use, but involving the cost of drilling and pumping. In addition, this source is replenished very slowly.
3. Irrigation for agriculture takes up 70% of the freshwater humans use.
4. The landmark Clean Water Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on October 18, 1972. The act set national standards for water quality, provided a comprehensive federal policy to eradicate water pollution, and established the National Water Quality Commission to evaluate the development of water quality programs, among other provisions.
5. The Great Lakes (lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) contain 21% of the world's freshwater.
6. The Bureau of Reclamation, part of the U.S. Department of Interior, has constructed dams, power plants, and canals in 17 western states to promote their settlement and economic development.
7. The average U.S. resident uses 1,500 gallons of water a day. However, this includes his or her pro-rated share of water used for irrigating crops and for manufacturing and energy production. For strictly personal and household use, the average U.S. resident uses 90 gallons a day.
8. The Amazon River in South America accounts for one-fifth of all the freshwater draining into the world's oceans.
9. A watershed, also called a drainage basin, is an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

Friday, November 12, 2010


It's Native American Heritage Month! Learn a few facts about the famous Apache warrior Geronimo in Geronimo: A Biography. We've given you an inside look at the book below.

Geronimo is a name familiar to many, but few actually know much about his life and times. At the end of the 19th century, articles about his whereabouts and his exploits filled American newspapers, and settlers in the southwestern United States lived in terror of his name. One of the last remaining bands to be confined to a reservation, Geronimo’s Apache people ranged freely throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, raiding as they went. Eventually, the United States had to call on the full force of their military in order to capture Geronimo’s tiny band, and even then, they could not accomplish the task without Apache scouts to assist them. Geronimo’s ability to outwit the U.S. military for years, and his eventual capture and imprisonment, were the subjects of many newspaper and magazine articles and military memoirs of that era.

There is a large written record about Geronimo penned by his enemies, but even more interestingly, Geronimo lived long enough to have his autobiography published early in the 20th century. Such an account, of course, is central to any biography about the man. I have read and re-read his autobiography and pondered the difficulties involved in writing such an account through an interpreter, recorded by the hand of a stranger who was of the conquering culture, and published only with the permission of the U.S. military, while being held as a prisoner of war. Surely these conditions would have an effect on the words written and the truths revealed, but what kind of effect? Can we believe Geronimo’s autobiography or not? Fortunately, there are other corroborating accounts given by Apaches who were alive at the time, as well as the incomparable scholarship of Angie Debo, who published her definitive biography of Geronimo in 1976. These all tend to confirm the basic truth of Geronimo’s autobiography, albeit a truth based on his own understanding of events and that differed from other people’s truths. Factual errors were minimal, and questions arise more about that which was omitted from Geronimo’s account, rather than that which it contains.

Geronimo remains as much a mystery now as when this journey began, although there is little doubt that such an intelligent, charismatic, and complex leader would have made a mark in the historical record during any time in which he lived.

Though we will probably never know the precise date or place, sometime in the early 1820s, a boy child was born to Taklishim, son of the chief of the Bedonkohe band of Chiricahua Apaches, and Juana, an Apache of whom little is known other than her Spanish name, in a canyon near the headlands of the Gila River. A modern scholar has placed Geronimo’s birth place near the present day town of Clifton, Arizona. Geronimo’s birth date, often given as 1829, has been proven incorrect by scholars (it was earlier in the 1820s), and his birth place, which he referred to as “No-doyohn Canyon,” in Arizona, has never been located, although Geronimo most certainly knew where it was.

Traditionally, Apache children were told where they were born and knew their birthplace despite the nomadic lifestyle of the band. Whenever the band’s travels brought them back to the birthplace of a child, the child rolled on the ground toward each of the four directions. This traditional practice continued throughout the child’s life and sometimes into adulthood.  The boy child born to Taklishim and Juana was named Goyahkla, the accepted translation being “He Who Yawns.” It was an incongruous name for such an energetic man, who loomed larger than life and was probably at one time the most feared and best known American Indian in the southwestern United States.

Born into a close-knit Apache band consisting primarily of extended family members, Geronimo was probably attended by a midwife and female relatives at his birth. According to traditional custom, there would have been a cradle ceremony when he was about four days old, where a cradleboard, or tsosch, was carefully created just for him out of oak branches and sotol stalks by a shaman. Cradleboards usually had a canopy to protect the baby’s face from the sun, and special items, such as a bag of pollen or a piece of turquoise, were hung from the canopy to protect the child. The baby did not actually use the tsosch for several months, until its neck was strong enough for the child to hold up his head. But the ritual placement of the new child into his cradle and the surrounding social ceremony welcomed a new child and expressed the tribe’s hope that the child would live to occupy the cradle a few months hence.

Although he didn’t discuss it in his autobiography, it is likely that Geronimo also had a “First Moccasins” ceremony, given when a child began to walk. This event was marked with a feast of fruit and meat, and was overseen by a shaman who put pollen on the tiny ceremonial moccasins. These were placed on the child, who was usually between seven months and two years old, and with the assistance of a shaman, the young child was encouraged to walk a few steps into each of the four directions. 

Geronimo’s father, Taklishim, was the son of Mahko, a chief of some repute in the Bedonkohe Apache tribe. Geronimo probably grew up hearing stories about the great chief Mahko from his father, admiring stories of battles, of prisoners and horses taken. The stories would probably have spoken of the vast lands that Mahko and his people ranged on horseback. These stories would have been repeated to the young Geronimo, who listened to them well, but little realized that his world would become an entirely different world—one that the great Mahko would never have recognized.



By Mary A. Stout
Greenwood, 2009

The first biography of Geronimo aimed at the high school and undergraduate student audience, this book provides a balanced account of Geronimo’s life in the context of key historical and cultural events of his lifetime.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrating Veteran's Day: Have You Thanked a Veteran Lately?

I don't think any of us can say that we don't know someone who is currently serving in or who has served in a war. My family is full of veterans: my dad served in the Army in Vietnam, my grandfather was in the Navy in World War II, my mom's parents both served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during World War II, and I even have a relative who was a bugle boy in the Civil War! This day is for all of those brave men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of our country, but I don't think we should just limit our "thanks" to one day of the year.

I've been traveling quite a lot in the past few years, and whenever I'm in airports I notice young men and women in their military uniforms – they are either being shipped out somewhere or coming home for a visit. One time in particular, I was at the airport in Phoenix and saw a young man in Army fatigues standing about waiting for his boarding call. A random woman came over to him, touched his arm, and said "thank you." As she walked away, her husband patted him on the back, and also said thanks. At that moment it struck me: Why don't more people do this? Why don’t I do this?

I'm not looking to start a great movement here, but I think it would be nice if we took ourselves out of the mundane routines in the airport, at the grocery store, or while walking down the street and just gave a smile, a wave, or a verbal "thank you" to our fellow Americans in uniform.

- Elizabeth Millar, Senior Marketing Coordinator, ABC-CLIO, and former resident blogger for Pop Culture Universe.

ABC-CLIO has great resources to expand your knowledge of veterans and military history including the recently released book Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America as well as Serving America's Veterans: A Reference Handbook, Soldier's Heart: Close-up Today with PTSD in Vietnam Veterans, and the robust database World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Indonesia Greets President Obama

Today, Tuesday, November 9, President Obama is visiting Indonesia to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other governmental officials on the second day of his ten-day trip through Asia. While in the capital city of Jakarta, Obama plans to make a speech to approximately 5,000 Indonesian people at the University of Indonesia. The US President's popularity in this country is due in no small part to the fact that Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971. (Read more on the President's visit here.)

In honor of the President's recent visit to Jakarta, we're offering a special sneak peek at Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President by Dinesh Sharma (publishing June 2011). Distinguishing itself from the mass of political biographies of Barack Obama, this first interdisciplinary study of Obama's Indonesian and Hawai'ian years examines their effect on his adult character, political identity, and global world-view. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4: Global Schooling in Jakarta.


[W]hen Ann Dunham decided to uproot her family to a sleepy kampong on the south side of Jakarta, Indonesia, and place her young son in an Indonesian school, she was simply driven by the sense of an adventure....As a result of this move, Barack Obama became the beneficiary of global elementary schooling for approximately four years from the tender age of 6 to 10 years. While he did not attend any international schools, the schools he did attend were and continue to be significant local institutions of learning, imparting elementary and high school education to Indonesian children even today. […]

I followed the trail that had been laid out by Barack Obama in his autobiography. I was in search of the school teachers and friends who may have played a critical role in Obama’s life during these early formative years. I also wanted to examine Obama’s early cultural environment, the neighborhoods, the streets, the parks, the homes where he grew up and the local religious and cultural institutions, the churches, the schools and the mosques where he may have studied and prayed with his Indonesian peers. […]

Several weeks before I arrived in Jakarta, a group called the Friends of Obama, a non-profit organization, had erected a statue of the 10-years old Barack Obama in Menteng Park near the Besuki school....With his right arm stretched out, resting a butterfly on his finger tips, it was supposed to encourage kids in the park to “dream big”. […]

It was during these elementary school years, when he was in the 3rd grade at the age of 9 years that Obama wrote an essay during a class assignment titled “What is My Dream.” … The 3rd grade school teacher relayed the story to me in exact detail and in the manner she remembered it:

“My name is Barry Soetoro. My mother is very beautiful with long hair. My mother is my idol, my hero. I love to live in Indonesia because it has good weather and good views. I go to school by walking. I want to be President one day. I want to visit around the world after I become President.”

Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President By Dinesh Sharma
Praeger, June 2011

• Shows how Obama's early experiences fostered a repertoire of social and psychological skills ideally suited to dealing with the complex cultural and geopolitical issues that confront 21st-century America
• Provides new keys to understanding Obama by looking at the varied cultural and religious influences that shaped his attitudes, beliefs, and hybrid cultural identity
• Examines Ann Dunham's doctoral dissertation, based on her social anthropological fieldwork in Indonesia, for clues to the perceptual prisms she inculcated in her son, Barack Obama

Top 5: Battles That Changed History

Whether it's the tastiest foods, best movies, or must-see travel destinations, we love "top" lists—making our own and disagreeing with others'. Perhaps it's our attempt to create a little order in an otherwise chaotic world, a way to sort out what's important and what's not and consolidate our opinions. Or perhaps it's just a convenient conversation-starter at parties.

For those with a passion for history, there is no shortage of lists to be made: the greatest ancient civilizations, the cruelest leaders, the most outlandish conspiracy theories. Battles, in particular, are a hot topic, probably because their often bloody and dramatic nature captivate us in a very primal way. It may be relatively easy to determine which were the largest, longest, or bloodiest, but what about the most important? How do you pick the handful of battles that truly changed the world?

Like any other "top" list, ranking the most significant battles is a very subjective task, and everyone who undertakes it will use different criteria to make their decisions. Some might concentrate solely on military outcomes, while others may consider political, economic, and cultural consequences. One person might focus on the immediate aftermath of an engagement; another might take a longer view. And for those who have seen war firsthand, the most important battles are likely to be the ones that they survived.

Here are the five military events I, personally, consider the most important. And, because we all enjoy a bit of suspense, I've made sure to order them from least to most influential.

#5 Battle of Thermopylae, Summer 480 BCE
In this now legendary engagement, a small band of 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas I, held off an invading Persian army under King Xerxes I that may have numbered more than 100,000. By taking a last stand at this narrow strip of land between mountain and sea, the Spartans were able to protect the retreat of the main army of allied Greek city-states. The Spartans' actions, immortalized in both ancient statues and modern Hollywood blockbusters, are perhaps the best example of patriotism and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. On a more personal note, I was lucky enough to visit Thermopylae in 2002, and standing on the site of that famous battle is an experience I'll never forget.

#4 Battle of Stalingrad, July 1942–February 1943
A true turning point of World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad also has the dubious distinction of being the deadliest battle in history. The eight-month siege produced an estimated 2 million casualties, including more than 40,000 civilians. Germany had sunk vast resources into the battle and was devastated by its defeat at Stalingrad, which turned the tide of World War II in the Allies' favor. Had it not been for the tenacity of the besieged Soviets, the war, and perhaps the rest of the 20th century, might have gone much differently.

#3 Siege of Tenochtitlán, May–August 1521
When Hernán Cortés and his small band of Spanish conquistadores—aided by thousands of natives—laid siege to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, no one could have guessed how big an impact his victory would have. Spain's acquisition of Mexico was its first firm and lucrative foothold in the New World, and other European powers—particularly the British, French and Dutch—rushed to stake their own claims. This sudden influx of Europeans would spell the beginning of the end for the millions of indigenous people living in the Americas. The fall of Tenochtitlán heralded the coming of the Age of Empire and set in motion a series of events that would forever change the history of the Western Hemisphere.

#2 Saratoga Campaign, June–October 1777
Two years into the American Revolutionary War, Major General Horatio Gates was working hard to keep British troops under Lieutenant General John Burgoyne from making inroads in strategically important New York. The Saratoga Campaign, which included battles at Freeman's Farm, Fort Ticonderoga, and Bemis Heights, ended in a devastating British defeat and the surrender of Burgoyne's large army. More importantly, the American victory convinced France to openly join the conflict on the Continentals' side. Without French and, later, Spanish, assistance (including expanding the war to theaters in India, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean), the United States may never have achieved its independence.

#1 Battle of Solferino, June 24, 1859
Although this battle between the Austrian Empire and allied French and Italian forces was critical in the unification of Italy in the mid-1800s, Solferino is remembered more for what happened after the battle. When both sides retreated from the field, they left behind tens of thousands of sick and wounded soldiers. With no food, water, or medical attention, many died slow and agonizing deaths. Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Durant, who happened to be traveling through the area, was horrified at the suffering he saw and was moved to action. In 1863, he founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is today the most active and well-known humanitarian organization in the world. A year later, Durant and the members of the Red Cross organized the conference that produced the First Geneva Convention. The conventions, now numbering four, are the foundation of international law and provide for the humane treatment of prisoners and other victims of war. The Battle of Solferino tops my list because it reminds us that out of great tragedy can sometimes come great progress.

Those are my top picks—what are yours?

--Maxine Taylor, Editor, Military History, ABC-CLIO



Spencer C. Tucker
ABC-CLIO, 11/2010

This encyclopedic collection of more than 200 of the most decisive and important battles throughout world history gets a fresh interpretation by a noted military historian.

Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars, The: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts
Spencer C. Tucker, Editor
ABC-CLIO, 10/2010

This comprehensive study of U.S. involvement in the modern Middle East carefully weighs the interplay of domestic, cultural, religious, diplomatic, international, and military events.

World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society

This robust database presents comprehensive information and unique insights into the military conflicts that have defined our world from its beginning to today.

History and the Headlines
World-Changing Battles: Free Online Resources to Spark Critical Thinking

A series of free online resource collections. These materials provide authoritative information and engaging activities that help students and patrons understand important events.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chief Joseph: An Introduction

To commemorate Native American Heritage Month, here is an excerpt from the "Introduction" to the book Chief Joseph - A Biography.

The history of America would not be complete without a rendition of the exploits of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In May 1804, accompanied by three dozen men, they set out across the still undiscovered land that would become part of the western United States in order to create maps and discover what the land held for the fledgling nation. America was still in its infancy when Lewis and Clark came across the Nez Perce Indians in the late summer of 1805. The American Revolution had concluded only a single generation earlier. In that short generation, after the United States had won its independence from Great Britain, it had suffered a depression and engendered serious doubts among European nations about whether this new experiment in republicanism would survive. However, survive it did, and it flourished. With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, the United States became the third-largest nation on earth at the time. 

Imbued with a sense of purpose that would later be called manifest destiny, Americans set out to occupy the space between the two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Before this occupation could begin in earnest, however, Lewis and Clark were dispatched by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the nation’s newest acquisition and to chronicle their findings so the generations to follow would be prepared for the long journey ahead. Midway through their journey, a tired and bedraggled Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery stumbled upon, rather than discovered, the Nez Perce Indians. Because of the generosity shown by the Nez Perce, Lewis and Clark were able to complete their journey to the Pacific Ocean and return safely to the nation from which they had come. The chance meeting between these two peoples, the Americans and the Nez Perce, would change the story of America and introduce the growing nation to one of the most unique and farsighted leaders the land has ever produced, Chief Joseph.

His name was In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat. In the language of his people, it means “Thunder rising above lofty mountains,” and few men have been more aptly named than he. To the white population in America, however, he was known only as Joseph, chief of the Nez Perce Indians and the architect of one of the most pivotal events in the 19th century, the flight of the Nez Perce Indians in 1877. To most Americans at the time, the Nez Perce story seemed simple enough; when faced with the loss of their tribal lands and confronted by the advance of American civilization, the Indians fled. The image of these noble savages trying desperately to cling to the remnants of their dying civilization may have been the way most sympathetic whites would come to view the flight of the Nez Perce; however, their story began decades before that fateful summer in 1877. 

Unfortunately, most Americans were not interested in learning about the treaties that had divested the Indians of their land; the near impossible requests that had been made by the commander of the military forces in the region, the Civil War general Oliver Otis Howard; or even the cruel treatment they had been forced to endure at the hands of settlers. Unable to reason with General Howard, unwilling to live on a reserve of land, and unable to remain on their traditional lands, many of the Nez Perce people followed Joseph on a 1,500-mile odyssey that took them from their traditional homes in Oregon and Idaho to the windswept prairie of northern Montana in a desperate bid to reach sanctuary in Canada. During their three-and-a-half-month ordeal, the Nez Perce defeated four U.S. armies and created a legend that endures to this day. To Americans unfamiliar with tribal power structures, they could attribute the phenomenal success of the Indians to only
one person, Chief Joseph. To white America, Joseph led blistering attacks that soundly defeated the military forces of the nation and then resolutely turned to continue his journey to the north. All of that would change on October 5, 1877. 

While the image of a “Red Napoleon” had already been established in the minds of most Americans at the time, the surrender of the Nez Perce took on a romantic visage as an unbowed Joseph proudly approached Howard, presented him with his rifle, and proclaimed, “From this day forward, I will fight no more forever.” Stirring words and a panoramic scene worthy of the best Hollywood might have to offer, but the flight of the Nez Perce, their defeat of the armies of the United States, and the surrender of Joseph in the face of overwhelming odds did not happen because of or in the way that popular history remembers it.

It is perhaps because of the power of the images that grew around Joseph at the time and since that a legend was created. Like most legends, Joseph seemed almost to defy the limits of humanity. Much of what has been popularly attributed to Chief Joseph comes from newspaper reports that were dispatched from the field during that fateful summer. Later, Joseph would also recognize the power of this medium to spread the message about the plight of his people in the aftermath of their attempted escape to Canada. Forced to live in what the Nez Perce called the Eeikish Pah or the “hot place,” more than 25 percent of their people died, and it seemed they would never again see the cool meadows and mountains of their homeland. Using the newspapers and playing on American perceptions of the Indians, Joseph was able to successfully negotiate a return to the region, but not to the exact land of their ancestors. 

Throughout the years of struggle, Joseph and the Nez Perce represent the enduring spirit of humanity when faced with insurmountable odds. While our recollections are marred by ideas of how we wanted or imagined things to be, not as they actually were, the story of Joseph and the Nez Perce is no less compelling. In the case of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, the perceptions and misunderstandings we have are the remnants of the ideas we have held for almost a century and a half.


Vanessa Gunther
Greenwood, 7/2010

This biography offers a chronological presentation of the major events in Nez Perce history and in the life of one of their greatest leaders, Joseph.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies

--Guest Post, Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners

As I post to this blog, I find myself in a unique situation that can certainly be characterized as a 'communication'. Over the summer, I had dinner with the wife of a business colleague of mine. She is passionate about her political beliefs, which are polar opposite of mine, and feverishly tried to engage me in debate. But, I resisted, knowing the conversation would only get heated and I might lose a client. As I booted up my PC this morning, my in-box contained an article that reinforced her political beliefs and took aim at mine. Truth be told, I wanted to let her have it--to correct and dispute her. But nothing good would come of it. Instead, I emailed her back and politely replied: “Thanks for sending, but I don’t want to engage in this discussion with you since we are on opposite sides the fence, and I don’t agree." I thought that was the end of it. To my surprise and offense, I received a scathing long-winded response chastising me for not “engaging in debate” and failing to defend my position, exposing myself only “to those who agree with you." Wow. What to do?

Against my better judgment, I couldn’t resist the urge to engage. Taking a page from my own book, I carefully avoided negative words and personal attacks. I kept it short and said I felt no need to “defend” because having a different opinion is my right. I respected her opinion even if I didn’t agree with it. I wrote “Let’s just leave this alone...We should agree to disagree rather than engage in personal attacks." Case closed?

Moments ago [at the time this blog entry was written], an even longer, nastier email calling me “condescending”, “uninformed” and  “misguided” was staring me in the face. I had a clear choice: cease or continue. Believe me, I wanted to continue, but I chose the former. It has nothing to do with the possibility of losing a client. But, it’s important to understand that this isn’t all that different from a business meeting. An attacker may continually disagree with your point of view just for the sake of being difficult, showing off to the boss, or trying to prove you wrong. Attackers love to make it personal if they think they can provoke you. That’s why when communicating in business, it’s critical not to address differences with emotions.

I am big on humanizing information so a listener can relate emotionally in order to connect to what he or she is saying. But in some cases, it’s more important to consider the bigger picture: the final outcome. Your communication choice to engage in personalities goes beyond the two differing parties. It can turn into a whisper down the lane at work and affect your reputation and possible advancement. Sometimes it is simply better to shut up and say nothing. In my case, I betrayed my gut. I knew even the initial response communicating that I didn’t want to engage was indeed a way of engaging, and I knew she’d welcome a chance to push my buttons. In this case, my buttons popped, but it was a conscious choice and I am content with whatever the outcome may be.

Below are a few tips on how to answer questions.
  • Keep your cool. No matter how rattled or annoyed you are by a question, it’s important to keep your composure if you hope to maintain credibility. Take a deep breath and pause before answering the question.
  • Keep it short. Keeping your answers as short and focused as possible maximizes the likelihood that your intended message is heard the same way by all.
  • Questions provide additional opportunities for you to reinforce key points, invite listeners to participate, and demonstrate your expertise.
  • Address concerns openly and honestly.
Below are a few tips on how to successfully communicate electronically.
  • Be as specific as possible so readers do not have to wade through lots of words to determine what you want. If it is necessary for the e-mail to contain a lot of information, break it up into short paragraphs or bullet points so it’s easier to read.
  • Keep it Simple. Twitter is an excellent example of how social media sites have forced people to simplify communications. Because tweets are limited to 140 characters, which is roughly 20 words, communicators must make points in succinct headlines to be understood.
  • An emotional, stream-of-consciousness post that doesn’t clearly hit key points, rambles, and is unfocused will be hard to read. Before you post or write, outline key points you want to make and examples you can share with each point so the writing is structured and easy to follow.

Karen Friedman
Praeger, 10/2010

Connect with Karen

Karen Friedman is a professional communication coach and speaker who serves as president of Karen Friedman Enterprises.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month!
- Guest Post from Dr. Loriene Roy

Twenty years ago the first Native American Heritage Month became official. Now, November is a time to recognize the histories, challenges and injustices, achievements and accomplishments, and modern-day lives of the hundreds of American Indian nations that reside within the borders of the country we know as the United States.

In this blog entry I will identify ways to commemorate this month in your community and in your home. Along the way I will provide recommendations for reading and viewing. Check in with your school or public librarian to locate these—or similar titles. 

Begin your celebration of Native American Heritage Month by discovering and participating in events that may be planned in your local community. My own town of Austin, Texas, hosts the largest one-day free powwow, attracting an audience of 50,000. (This year our powwow takes place on Saturday, November 6.) Powwows are contemporary pan-Indian, inter-tribal gatherings featuring dance, clothing and regalia, music, and often food, shopping, storytelling, art instruction, and displays of etiquette and humor. 

You might want to prepare for your powwow attendance. Three of my favorite publications about powwows are children’s picture books:
  • Ancona, George. Powwow. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.
  • King, Sandra. Shannon: An Ojibway Dancer. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1993.
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Jingle Dancer. New York: Morrow, 2000. 
At this point you might have a number of basic questions. The most common question I hear is “What is the correct way to refer to American Indians?” I, myself, prefer the general use of the phrases, “American Indian” or “Native” to refer to indigenous peoples of the United States, while I use “First Nation” or “aboriginal” to refer to indigenous peoples in Canada, aboriginal to refer to indigenous peoples of Australia, and “indigenous” to refer to Native peoples in various areas of the world. When referring to a specific person, I use that person’s tribal affiliation. The best rule of thumb is to ask what is appropriate or what someone’s preference is. You can read an answer to this and other frequently asked questions in this book: Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Questions & Answers from the National Museum of the American Indian. New York: Collins, 2007.

A second good source to help the general public learn about tribal nations within the United States is “The American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Wall Map” that is available on the U.S. Bureau of the Census website.

One of my favorite sources of information about protocol, or etiquette, in working with Native communities is the many publications of the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. The “Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge” is especially useful in that it provides advice for authors and illustrators, curriculum developers and administrators, educators, researchers, and others.

Another great activity to plan in National Native American Heritage Month is to view a film about Native peoples. Check the programming schedule for your public television program. This month, KLRU, our PBS affiliate in Austin, Texas, is rebroadcasting “We Shall Remain,” the five-episode American Experience Series that first aired in late spring 2009. “We Shall Remain” tracks the themes of leadership and resistance through key events occurring from the 1600s to the 1970s. You can view the full episodes (and their transcripts) on the “We Shall Remain” website, which hosts a teacher’s guide and other content, including ReelNative. ReelNative is a collection of videos produced by Native people today. A twenty-six page library event kit for “We Shall Remain” is located here. You can use the event kit to plan activities such as storytelling events, reading circles, workshops, art contests, discussion forums, and film festivals. One of the unique features of the library event kit is the one-page “Guidelines for Evaluating Media about Native Peoples.”

This November, another film that may air on your public television station is part of the Independent Lens series. “Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian” traces the depiction of American Indians in film from the silent film area to today.

Libraries, museums, and archives might sponsor speaker events and/or exhibits during the month. Even if your community cultural heritage centers are hosting such activities, you can participate by visiting online exhibits. The online exhibits of the National Museum of the American Indian are located here

You can supplement these visits and viewings by reading and listening! Two national radio programs that may air live (or provide episodes in archived podcasts) are “Native America Calling: The National Electronic Talking Circle" and “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond”. Recent topics covered on these radio programs include music, national and local elections, education issues, and an ongoing book of the month and “Native in the Spotlight” features. 

Contemporary issues are covered online in newspapers. If you are following the activities of a specific tribe, check to see if they have a tribal newspaper that has an electronic presence. For example, the Navajo Times. You might receive updates from these and other media sources through Facebook pages or electronic media lists.

Libraries will have many resources by and about American Indians. If you are looking for recommendations for young readers, you can start with the books that have received the American Indian Youth Literature Services Awards, given every other year since 2006 by the American Indian Library Association (AILA). Useful information on selecting culturally appropriate materials for you on American Indians is also found on the AILA website. The link to the “Selective Bibliography and Guide for "I" Is Not for Indian: The Portrayal of Native Americans in Books for Young People” is located here. AILA has also co-developed the “Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture” website with the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA). You can use content on the “Talk Story” website to plan community or family storytelling events and included are lists of recommended books. 

Finally, I would like to share my personal “Ten To Watch” list of indigenous authors whose writings I follow. The list includes authors from North America (the United States and Canada), Australia, and New Zealand.

• Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene). Her collection of short stories and poetry was published as War Dances (New York: Grove Press, 2009).
• Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Anishinabe). Her latest novel is Shadow Tag (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).
• Patricia Grace (Maori; New Zealand). She wrote a biography of a Maori World War II soldier and his Greek bride in Ned & Katina: A True Love Story (New York: Penguin, 2009).
• Joy Harjo’s (Muskogee Creek). She published a picture book, For a Girl Becoming (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009).
• Anita Heiss (Wiradjuri Nation, Australia). She writes chick-lit novels, the latest of which is Manhattan Dreaming (Sydney, Australia: Bantam, 2010).
• Leslie Marmon Silko’s (Pueblo of Laguna/Cherokee). Her latest book is a memoir, The Turquoise Ledge (New York: Penguin, 2010).
• Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muskogee Creek). She published a picture book, Holler Loudly (New York: Dutton, 2010).
• Larry Loyie (Creek; Canada). Larry's young adult nonfiction work is his autobiography, Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Oroville, Washington: Theytus Books, 2008).
• Luci Tapahonso (Navajo). Her collections of poetry include Blue Horses Rush In (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997).
• Tim Tingle (Choctaw). His latest picture book, Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey From Darkness Into Light (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press) is his autobiography.

Whether you are new to powwows or public events, or new to reading, listening or viewing about Native peoples, or you have been a student for some length of time, this month is the time to join with American Indians to celebrate and commemorate their cultures. 

Dr. Loriene Roy, PhD, is professor in the School of Information at The University of Texas, Austin, TX, and advisory editor for The American Indian Experience. She is Anishinabe, enrolled on the White Earth Reservation, and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She was elected to serve as the 2007-2008 president of the American Library Association. Dr. Roy is the recipient of numerous awards, including two "excellences in teaching" and two "excellences in advising" from the University of Texas at Austin and of the Equality Award from the American Library Association. She is the founder and director of "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything," a national reading club for Native American children.


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