Tuesday Morning

I meant to create a post but ended up talking with Joe for about 30min. In some respects (well many), that was more fulfilling.

This kind of thing is quite common. In fact, since October, I’ve found that no matter the number of people living here – regulars, visitors or whomever – a lot of time becomes conversations and a lot of tasks become talk. Most of these conversations have made my mind marinate on things long after and a lot of the talk is thought-provoking…though some it is just talking…In any case, Joe and I processed a little about life at New Buffalo, talked about his portfolio and shared hopes for the future.

In some ways, this place is all about the future. Almost as if the future looms or dances tantalizingly ahead of each person here, depending upon who it is, and their perspective. But as much as this place is an icon of a specific past, it feels quite like it is about the possibility of any future. Like there is something quiet about the place – quiet in that patience of not having fully fulfilled a dream yet, but knowing that fulfillment is to be had. Its not a slumbering, or a distraction, or even an anxious wait and not even a lamenting sigh – its a patience that pauses and breathes and well, endures. This place endures. It endures people and their pressures, history and its insights, narratives and their delightfully distinctive perspectives – but most people and their pressures.

I think its when I talk with Joe that I mull over the patience of this place and its orientation towards the future. Maybe its because of how Joe and I talk, or what we talk about…but something in me feels it’s more that he reminds me that this place has its own agency – a subtle and regular kind of agency – and a patience that may make it persist and finally realize whatever calls this place into being.

But it already is just this place. In another time, New Buffalo will be something else all together, I imagine. I wonder what people will say about it then…


Joe is Great

Over a week ago I ran into Joe in the Buffalo kitchen– on my daily trudge from the pit house site to a REAL restroom– and a couple of the things he said keep rattling around in my brain. I think we were talking about community and ways of being ‘civilized’ (the pit house had just been witness to a bitter argument over music, taste and the Triangle of Communication—ask me later) and after a pause Joe offered that the human neocortex* has created a ‘hall of mirrors’ in our brains. Mammalian self-reflection can become excruciating if our self-awareness is repeated over and over, warped like a line of clowns in a county-fair funhouse. When the human inverse asks ‘why are we here?’ how the hell do you respond?
Probably with unhappiness and fear, or feelings of inadequacy.

Joe thinks the young people who built New Buffalo in the late 60s would have answered, “This isn’t right; it isn’t enough. We have to rebuild.”
Unhappiness and fear are part of the human condition, and feelings of inadequacy may never leave us no matter how old we get, but the arrogance-hope-naiveté-courage of youth alone had the huevos to try to reject modern ‘civilization’ wholesale. The MO of the hippies we’re studying was a patchwork of Native American spirituality, ideas culled from East-Asian religions and American pioneer can-do.
Of course, these people came up against their own limitations. But it is a long process to build and change societies, and the hippie movement is still part of our popular American consciousness. I’m not sure they failed; I think people will keep engaging with the ideals of the 1960s in the hopes of reworking what is seen to be unfair, inhumane or dangerous in our government and American life.

I wish you could talk to Joe. Your mind would be spinning!

*Wikipedia: The neocortex is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language.

Those who could not choose

The speaker series which occurred two nights ago centered on the subjects of medical practices and midwifery and how the counterculture interacted with these two fields.  At some point in the evening it became starkly clear to me (as often it does) that there was a gaping hole in our conversation: the Native community.   The conversation had been circling around the question of choice, namely the choice to have a caesarian or vaginal birth (or as was also failed to mention the choice to adopt or even to not have children).  The midwifes in the room adamantly spoke against caesarian births from the position that they were linked to higher infant mortality rates but also also more passionately from the personal belief that vaginal births were the more spiritually potent method for a mother to connect with their child.  I found it slightly ironic that one of the midwifes had mentioned “the business of birth” because I wondered how much of their defensive nature came from a need to maintain their financial security —though that was probably a secondary reason, the first being rather conservative views of womanhood or authentic way to be a woman… which I frankly find to be bullshit.

Beyond direct issues of gender, I found the midwife position frustrating because it seemed obvious that only certain privileged women can choose to have a home-birth through midwives and perhaps only privileged women who would find home-birth  appealing seeing as how other peoples and communities have been having home-births with or without midwives who were or were not trained for a very long time.  Which makes midwifery an obvious appendage of the  back to nature movement which seemed largely based in playing indian.  This is what seemed to me the grand irony: as hippie women got to choose to return to their view of some pristine spiritually connected method of giving birth at the same time the native women they might have wished to be were being robbed of their right to give birth.

Seeing as up to this point not one mentioned had been made about the Native communities, I made a comment about sterilization programs mobilized against Native women and would now like to elaborate a bit on the issue and lead people where to find further information on the issue.  I first learned about the extensive sterilization programs, which were at their peak in the early 70’s and finally ended in the late 80’s, from Andrea Smith’s book “Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.”  While genocide is a fraught term for many people I do not hesitate to call the sterilization program a genocidal practice.  There are estimates that 25% of native women were sterilized without consent.  These operations were often performed directly after birth without consent or after abortions in which doctors withheld any sort of pain reliever or anesthesia although native women were disproportionately encouraged to have abortions.  Also considering the adorned birth control pack we found in the trash pit I find it important to mention how birth control was used against native women as a  way not to give them further freedom but further rob them of any sort of choice regarding their bodies.  Andrea Smith also details this in her book specifically how birth control akin to a more archaic nuva ring (which is inserted into the body and must be removed to avoid health problems) was administered for free to Native women  but when the time came for women to have the birth control removed complications arose and many women could not find a doctor or nurse to have the procedure done. This lead to many harmful effects among them sterilization.

My conclusion from such issues are perhaps generic but it was startling clear that as I stated in my earlier blog post the appropriation of supposedly Native practices come from a privileged position of the ability for the colonial settlers to transcend whereas Native peoples are only repressed.  While I was willing to take a gentler look at appropriation in my previous post, I think in some cases the appropriation of Native practices or the desire to play indian or get back to earth casts a shadow of ignorance over the actual state of Native communities and the genocidal practices mobilized against such communities.  If the hippies of the past and earth-loving quasi-hippies of today were to play indian “authnetically” it would not be a very fun game… and perhaps if the movement had not been so self-centered awareness for issues in the Native communities could have entered the national consciousness as opposed to images of anglo-made teepees and barefooted ladies.

For more information on the issues of sterilization read the Smith book and check out this extensive well informed blog post : http://prettybirdwomanhouse.blogspot.com/2009/04/forced-sterilization-of-native-women.html

The Corn is as High as an Elephants Eye

A late start today due to monsoons and delayed flights thankfully gives me time to reflect on yesterday morning. We had the joyous opportunity to work with Michelle and Mason in the New Buffalo garden yesterday. Somehow weeding the corn and planting brussel sprouts made everything connect.

It was a beautiful clear-blue-sky kind of day and the whole team set itself to transplanting and sowing with the same enthusiasm I’ve seen it bring to (almost) every day of excavation. Seeing every bed in the garden with at least one care-taker bending over it to weed or water was a sight to behold. Let’s call the atmosphere bee-hive like and my mood ecstatic. I’d never gotten a chance to work this extensively in the garden (besides a few bouts of watering here and there) and given the closeness of our project to this place that continues to live with us in it it seemed wholly appropriate. I love the connectivity of everything that goes on there: a pulled weed gets thrown to a chicken, who then fertilizes the garden, or even more simply a bed planted with tomato and basil (the pasta plot!) will soon be ripe for primavera. Gardening and farming was an important part of the origins of New Buffalo and it gives great context and a sense of continuity to see how it persists (however different – thankfully). Michelle, Andrew, and Mason (soon to leave New Buffalo for Oregon) have worked really hard to get the garden up to snuff, and the leaps and bounds it’s taken since last year are incredible!

Working in the garden (and getting a nap in at lunch) left me with such a great feeling that setting up the total station in the afternoon, under the threat of giant storm heads, was a snap. ClockPunk, Darryl, Beatrix and I spent a speedy afternoon mapping in various community structures, including a sweat lodge that, while now defunct, clearly shows great concern with cardinal directions (something to ask the hippie informants about!). One thing I love about total station mapping is getting in a groove and being able to shoot a point in about 15 seconds flat. The four of us make a great team within Team.

Which brings us to this morning — with a new crew member Matt and a new project to start. Today we head out to the gorge to start work on the Pictured Tipi site near Pilar. Given that I spent the last year writing on the site I’m looking forward to it — however traumatic revisiting the locus of Thesis Crisis may be.

Recipes from dinner tonight

(all this is vegan, and the measurements are intuitive: cook with a conscious and with creativity)

Sweet potato and chickpea chili

sweet potatoes pealed and chopped into bite sized pieces

several cans of chickpeas

bell peppers chopped into bite sized pieces

onions chopped

garlic chopped


curry powder

vegan bouillon cubes

red pepper powder


cumin powder



olive oil

parsley flakes or fresh chopped

extra water

stir fry the onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and red peppers in olive oil. then add the chick peas and other spices, and the extra water, put on a lid and simmer until the sweet potatoes can be pierced by a fork.

Poor man’s hummus (if you can’t afford the Tahini, but if you can afford it add the tahini because it’s delicious)

canned or soaked chickpeas

olive oil

garlic (powdered or fresh)

cilantro chopped



cayenne pepper

Cholula hot sauce or siracha rooster sauce


lemon or lime juice

hot salsa

place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. add liquids as needed.

Flat bread

flour (any type, whole wheat, white, corn etc)



dash olive or canola oil

several spoonfuls sourdough starter (optional since this bread can be unleavened)

need ingredients together until they are of a workable consistency, let dough rest for 20 minutes or more, then break into balls that fit into your palm. Let rest again for at least 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust your hands and the dough and surfaces with extra flour. Flatten the balls into the desired thickness and shape of the breads, then heat up a cast iron skillet, and place the breads into the dry pan, flipping as each side browns. Cool on a cooling rack to prevent sweating.

Barefooted and drunken hippies

This morning I excavated more on the Northern most end of the trash pit with Dianne and Farah. We found a lot of stuff, and were so focused on digging that we didn’t notice how many artifacts had been exhumed until we had to carry them back to the buffalo in three trips! They filled up one real trash can here, and then there was even more. Hopefully they don’t get mistaken for real trash now that they’re in a trash can…well, they are real trash I guess, real hippie/historical trash. That is one aspect of digging the trash pit that is so interesting to me. I think a lot of non-archaeologists, and even archaeologists too, would look at this unit in the trash pit and question the importance of such a dig. However, I’ve been learning the importance of this over the past few days, and even enjoying digging up 50 year old trash. I think partially these artifacts are important oral history prompts for people who lived through this time period, but they are also a record of unspoken happenings from the ’60s. For one thing, we’ve been finding a lot of brand name and packaged products, even though the stated goal of the New Buffalo hippies was to live off the land and in harmony with nature. secondly we have found a large concentration of interesting objects such as shoes and socks. Shoes can tell you much about their owners: the approximate age and size of the person, their occupatino and its hazards, their status etc etc. And these shoes are from a recent enough time period that we are able to know something about the types of footwear and what they connotate about the wearers. But the larger mystery is why so many shoes? In my estimatin shoes and socks have been the highest reccurance of artifact in the trash dump. But why? Were the hippies trying to live up to their “back to the land” goals by ditching their shoes and socks and running around barefoot? These are just a few of the thoughts that I keep having while excavating it the dump. Personally I found a small white leather shoe, probalby for a young girl, with the single strap in the Mary Jane style, and this shoe had a silver chain stuffed into it. That was pretty exciting for me.

At any rate after digging this morning I worked on my own project while Annie and Dianne cleaned artifacts. One of the artifacts was a Walter’s Bock Beer can, which Dianne had me look up online to see if it was still being made. It seems that this wonderful lable with the white goat on it is no longer manufactured, but has a large fan following online. The first hit was some Flickr photos of Bock beer cans, and then there was this website:


pretty interesting. Manufactured in Colorado I guess.

Maybe Kaet can make a beer can typology, since beer cans are the one artifact that has turned up in more quantities than shoes. Beer and shoes. I also see that people are selling empty Bock beer cans online for 4$. Maybe we have a collectable!

Blog Post as an Artifact of Repentance

I’ve been bad about posting to this blog, and so now it’s time to confess a few things.

First, this past week I’ve been thinking a lot about lines and squares and all other sundry geometries that archaeology makes use of. More than a few times we’ve almost missed out on the good stuff (ladders, chicken wire) because of the iron will of the grid. We cut square units around circular buildings and peel even layers of dirt off of surfaces on which years of feet and rain have encouraged undulation. I don’t say this critically. All these straights and squares allow us to see what we would otherwise overlook — the gentle curve of a pit in the “penthouse” units, for example only became visible after a slow leveling of hard clay and softer pit-fill. The hours spent straightening a wall make it possible to follow the stratigraphy of back-dirt from the digging of the pit house or layers of million year old volcanic ash. I do, however, marvel at the feeling I get when i look down and see the smooth remnants of excavations — a perfectly pedestaled styrofoam cup and a delicately revealed piece of plaster wall. It all seems so human, for lack of a better word (though our recent discovery of Bower bird art might make me take this back). The thrill can only be described as a feeling of triumph over the chaos of the past. However fleeting and vain, it does feel good to make corners straight and sweep dirt-floors clean.

Second, the epidemic of naming continues. “The Penthouse” units — comprised of “The Love Above”, “The Lindz-Lounge,” and “Darryl’s Den” has proven to be far more interesting than we expected — finally living up to it’s party-animal name. But maybe more importantly, ClockPunk our dearly infuriating total station (basically a fancy laser that allows us to map horizontal and vertical co-ordinates) has finally found a mate. ClockPunk’s heretofore unnamed prism and rod has been christened Beatrix. A love for the ages.

And so the dirty days pass …