Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Jonathan Carver (part the 2nd)

Rejecting the idea that the Native Americans are displaced Jews, Carver argues that they are related to the 'Tartars', an Asian people, who he sees as being closely related to the Chinese. The idea, I think, is that they entered the extreme northwestern parts of North America from Asia at some unspecified point in history. And,again, he adduces what he regards as linguistic evidence for this idea:

Many words also are used by both the Chinese and Indians, which have a resemblance to each other, not only in their sound, but their signification. The Chinese call a slave, shungo; and the Naudowessie Indians, whose language from their little intercourse with the Europeans is the least corrupted, terms a dog, shungush. The former denominate one species of tea, shousong; the latter call their tobacco, shousassau. Many other of the words used by the Indians contain the syllables che, chaw, and chu, after the dialect of the Chinese. There probably might be found a similar connection between the language of the Tartars and the American Aborigines, were we as well acquainted with it as we are, from a commercial intercourse, with that of the Chinese.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Jonathan Carver (part the 1st)

Moving back in time from the era of the Eastmans at Fort Snelling and the Pond brothers' mission to the Dakotas, I've been reading about Jonathan Carver, who spent six months among the Sioux in the late 1760s. I have access to a digital edition of Carver's book, Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, which is very interesting indeed!

In it, he discusses the 'origin' of the indigenous peoples of North America and considers the views of one James Adair, who, as Carver puts it, 'resided forty years among the Indians , and published the history of them in 1772'. Adair thought the Native Americans were 'descended from the Israelites, either whilst they were a maritime power, or soon after their general captivity'. This kind of speculation is very typical of the age, but, even in its 18th-century context, the latter idea makes the mind boggle! After the 'general captivity', by which I take it Adair means the exile in Babylon, one group of Israelites, rather than making their way back to the Holy Land, went into some new kind of exile in North America?

Carver runs through the evidence that Adair cites for this view and - very interestingly from my point of view - he includes some discussion of language:

The Indian language and dialects appear to have the very idiom and genius of the Hebrew. Their words and sentences being expressive, concise, emphatical, sonorous, and bold; and often, both in letters, and signification, are synonimous with the Hebrew language.
Carver himself does not agree with Adair's view and I'll write more about that later :o)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

structure of the project

When we chatted on the phone the other evening, we were talking about finding a way to signal the relationship between the Mississippi Journey as a whole, the Archive of Exile Project, and the Mississippi Voices work, the third effectively being the intersection of the first and second. I'm wondering whether it might be helpful to get Mike, our web design guy, when he's developing the visual look of the Archive of Exile site, to create a logo that summarises this relationship. It could be based on a set diagram like this. (NB: this is a sketch - it looks rubbish and I'm proposing that we get a designer to make something that is much more interesting looking but that summarises the relationship in this way).

As usual, I'm completely open to other ways of doing it - just starting the conversation :o)

zeemap problem

I'm not sure what's happened to the zeemap. The gadget seems to be displaying the default demo map rather than our annotated one. I've just been to the zeemap site and our map is definitely saved - it hasn't been lost - so I'll try to work out what's up with the display later today.

maps in the 1600s

I've started reading Gary Clayton Anderson's book, Kinsmen of Another Kind, on 'Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862'. (I mentioned it here.) In the early chapters, he discusses the state of the Sioux, western and eastern, in the late seventeenth century and this leads him to talk about early maps of the Upper Mississippi made by French explorers and cartographers. In particular, he focuses one by Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin, which dates from 1697 and includes information from Le Sueur's exploration of the Mississippi from the mouth of the Wisconsin River northwards into what is now Minnesota.

Unfortunately, I can't find an online version of the map of 1697 but the Library of Congress offers digitised versions of other maps by Franquelin here, here, and here.

I particularly like the second one :o)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

McKnight Visiting Composer Residency Fellowship

woo hoo!! I just found out I have been awarded a McKnight Visiting Composer Residency fellowship for this project: I am really pumped for the financial and moral support this grant will give the project! yay!! (the link for the grant is broken at the moment, but the short information is that it awards funding for a stay of two months in MN by an out-of-state composer and is particularly interested in composers doing residencies in underserved and rural communities. you think maybe this project fits the bill?!?)



Continuing with the theme of place names, I've done a little research on 'Nauvoo'. In 1945, Fawn M. Brodie published a biography of Joseph Smith in which she says:

'The name sprang fresh out of his fancy, and though a few of his pedant followers were troubled that the word was not listed in their Hebrew dictionaries, most of the Saints were pleased with the choice. "Nauvoo" had the melancholy music of a mourning dove's call and somehow matched the magic of the site.'

It seems that Brodie was wrong to say that the word 'sprang fresh out of [Smith's] fancy'. It really is a Hebrew word. From what I can gather, if there's anything strange about it, it's the fact that it's transliterated using Sephardic conventions. And this is because that was the system used by Smith's Hebrew teacher, Joseph Seixas. Here is an excerpt from the relevant page of Seixas' grammar. (I 'borrowed' it from a site on Mormon apologetics.)

Seixas seems to have been an interesting character. I found an article about him in a 1993 edition of the journal, Jewish History. It's by Shalom Goldman and the introduction gives something of his life:

In the roster of prominent American Jewish apostates of the early ninteenth century Joshua/James Seixas (1802-1874) remains something of an enigma. His contemporaries, both Jewish and Christian, differed widely in their descriptions of his religious convictions and affiliations. We find him described by Jews as a convert to Christianity and by some Christians as a 'devout Jew.' Evaluations of his ability as a teacher of Hebrew and a scholar vary widely, and the researcher in search of the biographical details of Seixas' life is confronted with conflicting and confusing data. For his life was a restless one. Seixas moved around the United States in search of employment and professional satisfaction and one is struck with the feeling that the subject of our investigations deliberately obscured the details of his personal life.


When we last spoke on the phone we talked a bit about place names (including Nauvoo), and, the more I turn it over in my mind, the more I think that keeping an eye on names will be a good thing to do. Place names are concrete little texts in which a connection is forged between the abstract categories of language, landscape, and mental map.

With that in mind, I thought I'd record the fact that the name, Itasca, which sounds as if it might be Native American, was in fact made up Henry Schoolcraft, who traced the soure of the Mississippi to the lake. It is a blend of the Latin words verITAS (truth) and CAput (head). (The Ojibwe name is apparently Omashkoozo-zaaga'igan - Elk Lake.) It seems that Schoolcraft was given to making up names with a Native American sound. Those wonderful people at the Minnesota Historical Society have a short article on this here.

Monday, 18 May 2009

beautiful strangers

regarding my suspicion that there might be a secret map embedded in Bob Dylan's iconic 1965 record, Highway 61 Revisited, for the moment I'm letting that go. The only town names mentioned are not along Highway 61 or the Mississippi River: Juarez and New York City (both in Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.) but it's really great to revisit this record: you can listen to it and read the lyrics here for free (great website, wow...)

in his pretentious 24-year-old's liner notes, he does manage to usefully say: "the subject matter -- though meaningless as it is -- has something to do with the beautiful strangers . . . . the beautiful strangers, Vivaldi's green jacket & the holy slow train..." 

(I like imagining red haired Vivaldi in a green jacket, too...)

joseph gilfillan

Just did a little research on the Joseph A. Gilfillan whose sermon is commemorated in Itasca State Park and who you mention here. Between 1873 and 1908 he also served as a missionary but to the Ojibwe rather than the Dakota. He apparently learned the Ojibwe language and was particularly interested in place names, publishing a paper on the subject with the title 'Minnesota Geographical Names Derived from the Chippewa Language'. (I gather that the standard work on Minnesota place names is Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia by Warren Upham.) The Minnesota Historical Society, who - I have to say - seem incredibly active, own an archive of his papers which includes all kinds of material on the language of the Ojibwe. I really may have to go through all this stuff at some point!

There are many layers of irony in play here, I think!

garrison keillor

This is really just a note to remind myself that Garrison Keillor's fiction, much of it set in Minnesota, deals with the sense of home and exile very explicitly and from a number of perspectives. (He writes about Scandinavian immigrants longing for a former home in Europe and young Minnesotans moving to the cities.)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

biblical quotations

I'm noticing that various Biblical references are coming up, so I'm going to take the liberty of tagging some of your posts to connect those references, and here's another one...

In Nick Lichter's book about his journey down the river, The Road of Souls, he describes a plaque in Itasca State Park that commemorates the first sermon preached at the headwaters, in May 1881, by a Reverend Joseph A. Gilfillan, who had traveled "through sixty miles of wilderness from White Earth, Minnesota to conduct the ceremony." Lichter, page 6

The text he preached on was "then had thy peace been as a river." (from Isaiah 48:18)

The idea of speaking about PEACE in the context of the history of Native Americans in this region for the previous fifty years (at least?) is pretty ripe, no?!

Mississippi Blues Trail

great talking with you earlier, Richard! here's an example of the kind of map I would love to have as a layover on our own map, sort of like that anatomy book with the sheets for blood and lymph and muscles I remember from my childhood...

Mississippi Blues Trail

also, I think Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited might be its own secret map of the Mississippi as well, I'll look into this soon.

late july/early august

I've just been thinking about some of the practical issues surrounding the early part of the trip. I'm a bit concerned that the two-day event in Minneapolis is quite early (25th-26th July) and that it *might* be a push for me to get out there ready for paddling at that point. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, although I'd really like to spend some time on that stretch of river, especially around Fort Snelling, so hope you wouldn't be averse to passing along there again?

I was actually wondering what you thought about signing up for a short course on canoeing or kayaking at an outdoor centre in Minnesota - say a couple of days, if we can find one? I notice that the St Cloud State University can organise training:


This might be a good opportunity to pick the brains of the instructors about the river - St Cloud being on the Mississippi they would presumably be able to give us lots of advice - and also about gear we might not have thought of. If we then headed up to Lake Itasca (I'm assuming you'd want to start from source?) we'd have a period of fairly easy paddling to get used to the canoe etc.

There seem to be quite a lot of 'outfitters' in northern Minnesota who will work out what you need for the trip etc. I don't know how much these cost but would it be a good idea to email a few of them, just to see what they say? If there are any near Lake Itasca (which I guess there must be), it might be worth starting with them.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Very happy to do some emailing - what do you think?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Seth and Mary Eastman

I'm glad you're finding this material interesting! I've also realised that, in the 1840s, when the Pond brothers were in the midst of their missionary work, the commander of Fort Snelling was Seth Eastman, who became well known for his paintings and drawings of Native Americans, particularly of the Dakota. And his wife, Mary Eastman, lived in the fort too and learned the Dakota language. In 1849 she published a book with the title, Dahcotah; or, Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort Snelling, her husband providing the illustrations. (An electronic edition is available here.) Mary's voice seems very much to dominate the book but she does sometimes quote Dakota speakers, so that, in a sense, the book resembles the missionaries' linguistic texts in constituting an archive of lost voices. The Mississippi River is often the setting of the events she describes.

One of the illustrations from Mary Eastman's book.

Dakota again

I've ordered a copy of: Anderson, Gary Clayton. 1997. Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862, Minneapolis: Minnesota Historical Society Press. I think this is going to answer a lot of my questions. (It seems to include some interesting stuff on the historical idea of the Mississippi as a natural boundary between settlers and Native Americans - and, of course, on the death of that idea.)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Bible in Dakota

Just another detail: an important goal for Gideon and Samuel Pond was to translate the Bible into Dakota. What's interesting, though, is that the first portion of the text that they published - in 1842 - was the story of Joseph, which explains how the Israelites came to be in exile in Egypt. I have no idea why they chose that particular story.

The Dakota

Since it is the Minnesota part of the journey that I'm going to do, I've been giving a little more attention to that stretch of the river and I think the interaction between settlers and Native Americans, particularly the Dakota, is going to be very interesting.

Having written before about hand-drawn maps I was delighted to find this beautiful one, drawn by the missionary, Samuel Pond, in 1834, when he and his brother, Gideon, first started to work in Chief Cloud Man's village near Lake Calhoun. There they devised a way of writing the Dakota language - the 'Pond-Dakota alphabet' - which seems astonishingly obliging of them, given our previous discussions about alphabets and transcription. Like a lot of missionaries, the Pond brothers went into a kind of self-imposed exile in order to bring Christianity to the people they had chosen as 'theirs' (although admittedly Fort Snelling wasn't very far away). But, a few years later, Chief Cloud Man and his people were forced into a more radical exile because of conflicts with the Ojibwe, who themselves had been displaced by settlement further east. There's a good site on the Pond brothers here.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

ideas of mapping

I'm in overdrive this morning but this will be the last post today, I promise :o) The idea of wandering and making a map as you go - whether a cartographic document in a literal sense or a sort of mental map that isn't actually expressed as a diagram at all - has quite a long tradition of its own. I've just read a book called Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley. It's very focused on London and Paris, but covers a range of interesting figures from Daniel Defoe and Thomas de Quincey, through Walter Benjamin and the Situationist International, right up to some contemporary wanderers (very British ones, I have to say) like Iain Sinclair, who undertakes strange journeys in and around London and has written about them in books like Lights Out For The Territory and London Orbital.

(Interesting that Sinclair took the title of his book, Lights Out For the Territory, from the end of Huckleberry Finn - it's what Huck does *after* his Mississippi journey.)

the journey as an exile

In your post here, you talk about the journey as a kind of exile and the material it results in as an archive of exile:

Then there is a journal/blog/podcast (of words, music, visual images, and whatever else) of our responses to what we experience, which is ALSO in some way an archive of exile, because we ourselves are travelers in a more or less foreign land.

I think this is a very productive idea. I'm not going to try to say much about it right now but it seems deeply important to me: exile is often profoundly painful but, as we said here (your post and my comment), adulthood is a kind of condition of exile and you have to leave the house to grow up. To make a journey and look at the world as you go, particularly the experiences of others who have made journeys under greater duress, might be a working out of that insight.


You wrote here about your feelings on the idea of travelling with a ragged little caravan of people dropping in and out as you make the journey.

If we're going to think about memory here - and, in particular, the idea of the layering of memories onto a map, i think the fact that the journey will be a collective, collaborative, companiable experience is interesting. It might lead to a work, or a document (?), that is structured by *your* consciousness - because you'll almost certainly be the only person who makes the whole journey - but that also includes material, "memories", made by *others*. And I suspect that memory IS, in fact, like that - I don't think i made my memories all alone. Far from it. Memory is a kind of collaborative process, isn't it?


I very much like that idea of an eclectic range of material being *layered* onto a map, which - I agree - seems like a beautiful image of human memory. I've recently been reading Le Jardin des Plantes by the French novelist, Claude Simon. It was his last novel - he published it in 1997 when he was 84 - and it represents a wonderful attempt to express something of the texture of human memory within the scope of the novel.

It consists of a series of recollected fragments and often he will return to the same material in a new fragment, developing it slightly or altering it a little in the way we do when we recall moments of the past. The fragments are not uniform in style - in fact they vary considerably - and again that evokes the lack of uniformity in actual memory (some memories are vivid; some are vague; some are detailed; and others are sketchy outlines). There is a pattern of assocation among the fragments, so the mention of, say, a tap in one fragment will be echoed by the mention of a tap in the next, even though the memories are otherwise unconnected. And there are sometimes multiple blocks of text on the page, bringing different fragments into some kind of assocation that is not explicit but implied by the structure of the page itself. Of course these page layouts aren't maps. But they *are* map-like in that they organise memories visually. Here's an example:

Maybe my description makes Simon's novel sound so avant-garde as to be unreadable. But the extraordinary thing about it is that it's *very* readable, despite its unusual organisation.

Thinking about a work that evokes the structure of memory in its own form made me think of Simon's novel, which has impressed me a lot.

mapping again

Excellent! I'm glad that the idea of mapping appeals to you because it's really fired my imagination too. I've sent for Annea Lockwood's sound maps and am very much looking forward to exploring them. (I have some memories of the Danube from travelling in Austria, Hungary, and what was then Czechoslovakia as a student.) I'll post some bits and pieces on maps but I'll put them in separate posts to keep it all clear.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Annea Lockwood: Sound Maps

I am totally into this mapping idea, and thank you for finding Zeemap: GREAT to have that tool available to us!

Regarding maps and rivers and sound, you definitely want to know about Annea Lockwood, who made a piece called A Sound Map of the Hudson River in the late 80's, and recently did one of the Danube. I really love her work.

The metaphor of making a sound map of the Mississippi is a good one: going down the river, I imagine collecting/creating multiple layers: actual sound documents of the river like Annea's, interviews like say the WPA writer's project, sound recordings of musicians like Alan Lomax. then there is a journal/blog/podcast (of words, music, visual images, and whatever else) of our responses to what we experience, which is ALSO in some way an archive of exile, because we ourselves are travelers in a more or less foreign land. (and if this project continues the way I'm fantasizing, there's a further layer created by the performances/collaborations that happen traveling back UP the river in this spring/summer of 2010.)

I think the idea that all these disparate kinds of information get layered onto a map is really rich. something about a map as a metaphor for the brain, how memory gets layered on the brain.

(and I think our informal tagging has already earned its keep!)


Bloody hell! I've just noticed there's something really interesting going on here with maps. Forgive me if this is obvious - I can be a bit slow :o) Quite a while ago, I posted this on mapping and transcription as analogous ways of capturing subjective experience, and then, when we began to talk about the Mississippi, you posted this on the soundmap of NOLA, which, incidentally, uses zeemap, the same technology I'm talking about here. I think we really need to pursue this - the idea that the journey could result in a kind of experiential map of the Mississippi seems extremely exciting to me (and, by the way, a great thing for a joint group of artists and academics to be thinking about...)


I like your idea of inserting notes into a map rather than just a document, so I've created a zeemap and embedded it in the right-hand column. (Click on 'visit larger zeemap' to see a version at a more useful scale.) I'm not sure if I've got the settings right, so you might want to mess around with it for a bit and then let me know how you got on. (Zeemap have developed a great resource but they really need to sort out their 'help' material!)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Google Doc

Over the next six weeks or so, I'd like to build up my knowledge of the history of migrancy in the area of the Mississippi River. (I think this is particularly important for me because, not being from the US, I'm starting from a lower level of general knowledge than you are.) To organise my reading, I've opened a document (called 'Mississippi Migrants') and am intending to type in brief reminders about particular migrant experiences as they come up in my reading and research.

Having made a start, I thought it would be good to share this with you and so I've uploaded it to Google Docs and, later today, you should receive an invitation from Google to become a co-editor of the document. I'll also put a link to it in the sidebar of this blog, so it becomes a satellite of the blog rather than something totally separate. As I say, I'm thinking of this as something I particularly need to do to organise my developing knowledge, so don't feel I'm pushing you to use it. On the other hand, if you'd like to add to it, I'd be delighted!

My plan is:

1. To give the material some structure by dividing it up state by state, moving south from Minnesota to Louisiana.

2. To give it still more structure by organising the material for each state in loosely chronological order.

3. To summarise the material into bullet points of not more than 3 or 4 lines so that it remains a kind of overview and doesn't become a huge sprawling essay.

So far I've just put in seven brief points that have caught my attention over the last couple of days. Will add more as I carry on reading :o)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Friends of the Mississippi River

Perhaps we should do this as part of our introduction to the river. I spoke yesterday with Whitney Clark, the Director of FMR (he's writing a letter of support for the MN grant I'm applying for), and the way he described this made me think we should definitely think about doing it! (also, I'm testing the email--> blogger post functionality...)

Mississippi River Challenge [1]

Display Date: Saturday-Sunday, July 25-26, 2009 (with volunteer shifts and check-in beginning July 24) Location: The Twin Cities stretch of the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River Challenge is a one- or two-day canoe or kayak event on the amazing Twin Cities stretch of the Mississippi River. This unique paddle was begun in 2004 by Friends of the Mississippi River to foster appreciation of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities region and raise funds to protect it.

Paddle it!

The Mississippi River Challenge promises a unique excursion: pass through locks, paddle with voyageurs and camp overnight inside Historic Fort Snelling! to find out more about participating in the only pledge event of its type in the upper Midwest, visit the Mississippi River Challenge Website [2] to find out more and sign up! Read more… [3]

Landlubbers wanted!

Volunteers are critical to the success of this large-scale event. At 11 different riverfront locations along this 44-mile route, volunteers help paddlers come in off the water to refuel and refresh. You can sign up for just one three- or four-hour shift, or take two to earn free entry into the party at Fort Snelling Saturday night (a $20 value), or make a weekend of it and earn FMR SuperVolunteer status (20 hours in a year) and t-shirt. For more information, visit [4]the Challenge volunteering page [5].

[1] http://www.fmr.org/participate/events/mississippi_river_challenge-2009
[2] http://www.mississippiriverchallenge.org
[3] http://www.fmr.org/participate/events/mississippi_river_challenge-2009
[4] http://www.mississippiriverchallenge.org/volunteer.php
[5] http://www.mississippiriverchallenge.org/volunteer.php

Saturday, 2 May 2009

video camera

I have a camcorder, a Sony DCR-SR52E, which has a hard disc. (Helpful when you're travelling because you don't need to carry lots of tapes.) I haven't used it much because I bought when I started doing multimedia project work with students but they've never really gone for video - lots of animation and hypertext but not much live filming. It's a public holiday here on Monday so we'll probably be going to the seaside or something: an opportunity to dig the camera out and take a bit of experimental footage of seagulls or whatever :o)

I might go and have a chat with Rob, the theatre technician in our department. He's often a source of good ideas, and, if I describe the project to him, he might come up with further interesting ways to document it. Will let you know what happens...

Friday, 1 May 2009


regarding recording equipment, I have the Zoom H4, which is probably pretty similar to the edirol you're looking at. I also have a higher quality stereo mic, and on the other end of the scale, my iPhone works fine as a quick and dirty recorder for notes and so on. I have a relatively decent point and shoot digital camera, also. What I do not have at all is any video camera. I had thought it would be good to have one for the trip, so maybe that's a good use of your budget? something to think about...

another book

I've just ordered a book called Daily Life Along The Mississippi by George S. Pabis. It aims to develop 'a social and material history of the people along the entire Mississippi River from the era of Native American settlement to modern times' and it was published in 2007, so the research it draws on should be pretty up-to-date. I'm hoping that it will help me develop a broad overview - geographical and historical - of patterns of settlement and migration along the river.

I've looked at the introduction on google books (most of it is excluded from the preview, unfortunately) and it does talk a little about language and languages. I don't know if there's more later on in the text but at least it might point me in the direction of some interesting material...

recording equipment

I just wanted to ask your thoughts about recording equipment for the Mississippi trip - do you already have equipment that you would be planning to take along? I'm asking because the admin people at work have reminded me that I have some money (around £500) left over from a teaching and learning grant that I received a couple of years ago and that I have to spend it before the end of June or it will be reabsorbed into general university funds. Because the grant was specifically related to teaching and learning, I have to spend the money on something I could reasonably use with students. (I don't think they'd let me put it towards a canoe, for example.) So I was thinking of buying an edirol digital recorder, which I could use to document the journey through Minnesota and which the students could use for their own research projects afterwards (assuming i don't drop it in the Mississippi).

I gather that edirol digital recorders store about 16 hours of audio in 16bit wav format or 96 hours in mp3 format. Now, I'm assuming that you'd be using something mcuh more sophisticated than that for interviews and ambient sound but I thought that, as well as the recordings you make for the work itself, it might be interesting to keep an audio diary, and mp3s would be fine for that purpose - in fact, they'd be ideal for posting on a blog as an interesting alternative to text.

I wanted to run this past you before doing anything, though. If there's equipment that you need to buy, I could put the £500 towards that instead (bearing in mind that it would belong to Sheffield University afterwards, so it would be good to use it for some discrete item). Let me know what you think.