Tag Archives: Colorado

American Western Memory and History

This Smithsonian link here is a good write up on a hard, sobering chapter in American western history. The Sand Creek Massacre, like the Whitestone Hill massacre (September 1863, northern Dakota Territory), and the Bear River Massacre (January 1863, Idaho), were never forgotten. This article says the Sand Creek Massacre was lost and rediscovered: it’s highly doubtful that Lakota, Cheyenne, Dakota, among others, “forgot” what happened in 1863 and 1864 when they converged on Custer and the 7th in late June of 1876. Not in the least. And if chatting with the descendants of the historical participants of these conflicts, you’ll know that the memories and stories were never forgotten. In some cases the stories went underground. They are re-emerging today, and justly taking the place as the official interpretation. It is powerful stuff. It continues to compel me to listen, study, and reflect.

Thinking About a History of Strip Mall Culture

Strip Mall culture. Is this a sub-suburb of Denver, Colorado, Bismarck, North Dakota, Bloomington, Minnesota, or Las Vegas, Nevada?

Strip Mall culture. Where am I? Is this a sub-suburb of Denver, Colorado; Bismarck, North Dakota; Bloomington, Minnesota; or Las Vegas, Nevada?

I’m currently about to leave a sub-suburb of Denver, and while sitting in the strip mall complexes I couldn’t help but psychologically lapsing into thinking I was for a moment in north Bismarck or West Fargo, North Dakota, or a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, or somewhere in Las Vegas, Nevada. Then I began openly wondering and considering how a scholarly history of Revit might help us, today, grapple with the homogeneous aesthetics that we wander and wonder around in. It no doubt is a reflection of the post-WWII industrial consumerism (and the democracy of stuff) that we were all born into. And this is why history is important, at least so friends, colleagues and family can help one another understand the deep backdrop of our horizontal and vertical strip mall culture.

I need to do further research on this, and chat with professors of engineering and architecture as well, but it seemed decent to get some thoughts together on this here blog. Also, it is not only the United States engaged in a Revit, strip-mall matrix, but the entire globe. For example, the video short below is of a small Hutong neighborhood in Beijing, China, the types that the government is increasingly sweeping away in the name of strip mall modernity. I think that frustration could be mitigated in 2013 if we at least had a body of historical scholarship that showed how horizontal and vertical strip malls came to be. Only when we know our past are we able to figure out what we need to react to, or what new directions to push in. But enough of all this. Here is downtown Beijing.

Notes from the WSSA Conference in Denver

Tom Isern at right listens to his student of history, Aaron Gutman, deliver his paper on the microhistory of three Prussian soldiers mustered into the US Army in 1862 to help with the defenses at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

Tom Isern at right listens to his student of history, Aaron Gutman, deliver his paper on the microhistory of three Prussian soldiers mustered into the US Army in 1862 to help with the defenses at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

It is now Saturday evening and I am finishing up another robust Western Social Science Association conference, this time in the Queen City of the Great Plains that is Denver, Colorado: a cosmopolitan cattle town and gold mining stop at the edge of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains (it was in this location that in the second half of the 19th century, south-north moving cowpunchers and cattle trails intersected with the east-west moving overland settlers, miners and pioneers). This morning Aaron Gutman (North Dakota State University) delivered his paper, “The Siege of Fort Abercrombie D.T. 1862 and its Global Connections,” emphasizing the ethnic make-up of three German-Prussians commanding the cannon battery for the US Army during the siege at the fort in late-August and through September of 1862. Gutman was apt to point out that the Prussian immigrants mustered into Civil War service were experienced with street fighting, having come from the renegade and liberal streets of the German revolutions of 1848. I also had a great time listening to Alex Steenstra (Northern Arizona University) and Christine Cheyne (Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand) talk about the Mighty River Power struggle between the Maori and the New Zealand Crown, and the fracking going on today in New Zealand.

Mexico City in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Mexico City in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Yet as historians, archaeologists, humanities folk and social scientists considered what happened and what is happening in great detail at these conferences, we also take account of our contemporary surroundings. This includes food, music and drink. So a quick run-down of some of the dining establishments visited during this professional conference include the spectacular Biker Jim’s hot dog joint (I had the delicious duck-cilantro dog), and the restaurant Mexico City, both in one of Denver’s historic districts. There was some Thai place that we visited too (the name escapes me, but I have found inspiration with the lemon grass coconut soup, and will be bringing the general recipe idea back to the northern Great Plains). Of music, I got to see the Tejon Street Corner Thieves belt out some street-level blue grass, and I purchased one of their DIY CDs for the street-level market price of $5.00. Of drink, there is an infinite amount of barley pop varieties to try, and I have taken to the stuff in the can — an archaeologist friend of mine in Missoula calls these “canned goods.” But I better wrap this up because the 55th Annual Western Social Science Association conference reception begins in less than 20 minutes.