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Unraveling The Myth

I changed my domain after a long and thoughtful process. First question you might ask is why. Although maybe you'll just say, about time! Seriously, what the heck is Grimm2etc anyway? Well, once it was GrimmsEtc, but I lost control of that one, thanks to GoDaddy and me being unable to figure out how to migrate it over to a new web builder.

 

GrimmsEtc is the name of my business, an all-encompassing business that includes my writing, research, editing and transcription work, anything that I get paid for. But do you know what it is to you? Meaningless. I've known this for a while, sorry to say. But with my interests running amok, I couldn't figure what else might encompass all of it.

 

I have to do a shout-out here to Carrielynn Reinhard, who is having my transcribe her series of lectures on social media and creating products of entertainment, commercials and information and how we present ourselves to YOU that makes all the difference. Sometimes we just need that kick in the butt, and my own daughter gave me one.

 

So I began to bandy a lot of different domain names about and they had to be available. One person liked HistoryPerspectives, but for me, when I thought about it, everyone who's a historian has one of those. And I'm not just working on history; there's a lot of prehistory there, too.  Another liked TruthInHistory, and that does speak to the heart of my master's in history; with that I could see someone challenging every single darned thing I said, or wrote about, calling it my perspective, rather than truth. Another liked History+Attitude.com, which was going to be it.

 

Truth in history, with attitude, is definitely how I create my works. I try to find what happened, and I try to relate why it happened. Not always easy, I know. I can't get into everyone's shoes. But we know that even though history is written, while oral mythology was word of mouth for a very long time, there's an element of 'unreal' in written history, too. Because every event was written in its time from a particular viewpoint. So we need several viewpoints of an event to get at what really happened. We can only understand the relating of an event by understanding the attitude that went with it.

 

Take the Little BigHorn event. So many historians shun the Indian viewpoint, because they vary wildly by participant -- more of them being survivors. But that's what's so real about viewpoints. Everyone does have a different perspective. When I unraveled the Little BigHorn, I took the approach no other historian did, I used that similar idea of perspective to include President Grant's activities up to the Little BigHorn, and during, to demonstrate his involvement and so much more of what happened can now be understood. I unraveled what was commonly held to be true, and answered more questions than anyone else could that way.

 

All written history has an element of myth to it, which is why high school professors choose only to share the good stuff. Or do they choose? Is that a command that comes from higher up? When you think about your experiences in high school history, you were taught it a certain way so that our country looks good. Right? That's the myth. So unraveling the myth means that there are true things in there, but they don't want you to know what's true when it puts our country in a bad light. We have that recent revolt against teaching Critical Race Theory to demonstrate that.

 

I had that bad experience in high school. Good old Mr. Russo. An Italian stud. All us girls had a crush on him. But it was my worst subject, because memorizing names, places, dates, was all just so boring. I'll bet Russo would have hated my late '90s campaign to break the myth of Columbus. I had one college professor who hated it, too.

 

In college we learn that our heroes of high school were flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. If you had been Lincoln, would you have given your life to keep the US from falling apart because you were elected? Probably. And yet there are those people who are afraid to acknowledge the flaws in our country, like in those heroes, because it would make us seem like less of a caring people. You can find lots of examples of how we are a caring people. Knowing the flaws in our history shouldn't change that. Why would it?

 

Knowing our history is the ONLY way to keep history from repeating itself. And so that's why I dedicated my history master's to finding the truth and unraveling the myth.

 

Unraveling the myth. I love mythology. I've always felt that there's at least a nugget or two of reality in any myth. You read about those oral myths handed down through the centuries, the millennium. You think, oh, they're about people who used to be animals, they're just parables. But then you find out, hey, we did evolve from animals. Maybe not from bunnies. But if you can look inside that myth, you'll find the realities.

 

I have a family myth about chicken booyah, and I was seeking its truth while I still lived in Green Bay. I got the library historian really mad at me when I said I wanted to see if someone had an oral story that put the discovery of booyah before my great-grandfather's. Apparently she was fed up (no pun intended) with people claiming their family invented that local favorite dish. But I've done a lot of research on booyahs and no one's is older than the Hannon version. There is an old version that's more popular, that includes tomatoes and noodles. But that's German, not Hannon's, which is Walloon Belgian.

 

I'd love to hear your myths. What stories do you think are told wrong? Why myths have you unraveled?

 

This domain also works for my copper research, because it involves pre-contact cultures and there are several myths there that needed to be exploded. One is that these early natives could not have learned to tool in copper without help from Europeans. Another is that they stopped tooling in copper, and then started again centuries later. I'm also trying to demonstrate that no matter how much background a person has in archaeology, when it comes to the attitudes of the past, we will always be guessing. If the natives today have the key, they're not sharing. And why should they?  Maybe someday.

 

And even my fiction work contains a number of ways I look at real history. Arabus Drake is a product of myth, but in this case, I take myth a step further -- you might say I make it a blend of myth, and myth. My archaeology fiction also explores the myth of how the bow and arrow changed the pre-contact cultures. And I use Greek mythology in "The Last Virgin," with a new take on the age-old feud between men and women for control of the world.

 

Mythology presents a fascinating, four-dimensional world for those who take the time to delve in. You don't just see the humanity, but you also get a look beyond it into the supernatural.

 

Unraveling the Myth. Come for the adventure. Stay for the stories.

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History Lesson #14: Breaking the Myth of the "Drunken Indian"

Whiskey is given as a reason the western American Indians were conquered after the Civil War.  Actually the knowledge that the Indians got easily "hooked" on alcohol goes back much earlier, during colonial times. In 1826 the American Temperance Society formed, as a response to the problems caused by drinking and indigenous contact.

 

But a year later, a drunken party between white lead miners and Ho-Chunk in Wisconsin led to whites abducting their women, the cause of what's been called "Red Bird's War." But the story of the drunken party was buried, and instead they were referred to as savage, attacking for no reason. 

 

In 1862, this was noted:

 

"I remember," said Private Chauncey Cooke, with orders to go after the Sioux, "father saying that the buffaloes and Indians would disappear about the same time … hunters would slay the buffaloes for their skins and the white man's whiskey was as surely slaying the Indian."

 

In my work on the Indian wars west of the Mississippi River, I discovered issues that give us a more balanced slant on what happened with alcohol, once tribes were introduced to it, one that shows how accurate Mr. Cooke's comment was to his son, and how we can't understand history without attitude.

 

First, it was believed in the 1800s that whiskey was medicinal. Paste Magazine noted that the consumption of alcohol in the 1800s was almost beyond belief, much of it 45% higher than today. 1830 was the peak of alcohol consumption; likely due to the temperance movement noted above. But that only meant that alcohol consumption began to be controlled.

 

Here's a quote about an army private's rations:

 

"One private listed rations consisting of bread, pork, beans, crout (as in sauer?), sugar, dry apples, coffee and whiskey."

 

This doesn't surprise me; I started having trouble eating pork and fried foods, so I got in the habit of getting whiskey whenever I ordered a hamburger, because it made me feel nauseous otherwise. Then I was put on a low-fat diet because of my gall bladder. Imagine all those aching gall bladders due to pig overconsumption in the 1800s. Indians also were quoted as saying pork made them sick as early as 1868. 

 

But even if it was medicinal, it still could make men crazy drunk -- and that effect as well-known. Here's what happened during the sacking of Richmond in 1865:

 

"A police force organized to protect every street. The Confederates started fires and set off arsenals of gunpowder on the way out of town. The City Council members, fearing what might happen if people got hold of whiskey, rolled the barrels to the curbs and emptied contents into the gutters."

 

Notice it doesn't say which army they worried about; likely both sides had reasons to get drunk at that time.

When the soldiers headed west to protect the frontier, they found that every "pilgrim room," probably the early name for stage stations, had groceries and whiskey for sale. One might suspect the quality of that whiskey, and the going rate for something men learned to crave because it made them feel better. Whiskey dealers could actually be a plague on the army as they marched, indicating that the officers tried on numerous occasions to chase them off.

The following quote indicates that those whiskey peddlars didn't care who they sold (or traded) their rotgut to:

 

"That summer the Kiowa, Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapahoe gathered around Fort Larned, as per treaty, to receive their annuities, but because of delays in Congress Wynkoop had to turn many away empty. Traders with whiskey took advantage of this unhappiness, creating an atmosphere of disgruntled and drunken Indians, who would trade a pony for ten gallons of whiskey."

 

While we cannot say for sure that medicinal is why whiskey was given to Indians as part of their annuities (I found nothing yet to verify this), there is another factor that played into the drunkenness that was noted in tribes after the Civil War.  

 

When Indians were first given rations from the government in exchange for land, whiskey was included at the treaty signing to make them more convivial to the land deal. Whiskey was used, then, to get them to sign.

 

But with the growing temperance movement, whiskey could become harder to find. There were also scrupulous fort commanders, like Major Alex Chambers, who made sure there was no whiskey included in their rations at Fort Fetterman in 1871. This demonstrates what we'd expect -- whiskey included with the pork rations.

 

One belief recently proved patently untrue -- although how can you prove the past on a current population? -- is that Indians could not metabolize alcohol the same way as whites, or had not built up a tolerance. There have been numerous recent studies done on this to demonstrate they react to liquor the same way as whites. It's instead more likely that those times of increased inebriation were a direct result of designed land grab.

 

One of the things I was able to demonstrate in my book is how President Grant kept looking for proof that the Indians broke the Fort Laramie treaty terms so the government could take the Black Hills. Getting them drunk might have worked; however, by this time, it would seem, the Indians had gotten the drinking among their people under control due to people like Chambers,  Indian Agent Saville, temperance, and their own growing understanding of white ways.

 

The soldiers themselves were not always a good influence on the Indians: "G.W. Ingals, Paiute Indian agent, testified that soldiers and Indians got drunk together. "There is a great deal of debauchery among [soldiers] in relations with the Indians and a great deal of drunkenness among themselves."

 

The soldiers, too, tended to overindulge, most because of boredom and lack of fight around the forts. Here's from Fort Larned in Kansas:

 

"To amuse themselves, soldiers got drunk and stole goods from the commissary. What started as the theft of a few vegetables to ward off scurvy turned into taking whatever they could get their hands on. A Board of Survey, composed typically of the post's captain and two first lieutenants, investigated missing items such as brown sugar, potatoes, green coffee, turnips, ham, tobacco and canned lobster. Yes, lobster. Post trader stores sold alcohol to soldiers, sometimes inferior whiskey at ridiculous prices."

 

Finally in 1918 alcohol was prohibited on reservations. This was two years before the rest of the US population faced Prohibition.

 

Soldiers and Indians alike got their hands on too much Kentucky fluid, but the reasons were different; for the Indians, it was a means of control and further degradation, to demonstrate that, see, they're not as good as whites.

The image lingers today of the "drunken Indian," which, as shown in my book, was vastly over-simplified. Here's a statistic that's interesting:

 

"The results from the first survey showed that the majority (59.9%) of Native Americans abstained. Only a minority (43.1%) of whites did so. About 14.5% of Native Americans were light/moderate drinkers. That compared to 32.7% of whites. The rates of heavy drinking and of heavy episodic ('binge') drinking were almost identical. The results of the second survey were similar."

 

This article is my attempt to show that there is attitude in history, and no reason ever to stereotype anyone. Don't hate being politically correct. Hate history that doesn't show you the truth.

 

Sources:

Author, "Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders," 2nd edition published 2021.

"Alcohol Problems & Solutions," 2016, https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/drunken-indian-fact-fiction-native-american-drinking-studied/ .

Robert Miller and Meril Hazlette, "Drunken Indian Myth Distilled into Reality through Federal Indian Alcohol Policy." Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1996.

"Stereotype of the Drunken Indian, 2012, https://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/10/the-stereotype-of-the-drunken-indian/.

See author's work on Red Bird's War, https://www.westernmagazinedigest.com/2020/02/red-birds-war-what-really-happened-in.html 

"The Ignoble Savage: The Drunken Indian," 2012, https://www.historyonthenet.com/authentichistory/diversity/native/is2-drunk/index.html 

"When Americans Drank Whiskey like it was Water," 2018, https://www.pastemagazine.com/drink/alcohol-history/the-1800s-when-americans-drank-whiskey-like-it-was/#comparing-drinking-rates-1830-vs-2018 .

"From Medicine to Modern Revival," 2015, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/07/09/420970854/from-medicine-to-modern-revival-a-history-of-american-whiskey-in-labels .

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ROOTS OF JOURNALISTIC HISTORY

I had an epiphany (and now I know how to spell that word). I was reading this nondescript novel about a journalist who noted that her job was to report events accurately and in order so people can see what happened and draw their own conclusions. Now, mind you, I was reading this on my Kindle while I was out for a walk, so maybe those lines wouldn't have had the same effect if I was, say, on the toilet. I came up with a great edit for a script (remains to be seen, of course, if it sells) with a notebook and pen on that very same walk.

 

And I thought – hey! That's what I do! I followed Henry's orders by going everywhere he went and found all the things that happened where he was sent to find out why he was sent there. I reported on these things as though I was a journalist, reporting on his orders. That's it! That's what I am.

 

I had been criticized by the publishers I queried that I didn't analyze enough. That was not my goal, nor did I have a preconceived end result that I set out to prove.  I wanted to show the attitude of the orders, why he was sent where he was sent, but I wanted the readers to come to their own conclusions about this history. I wanted to be as objective as possible, and you'll read that in my introduction. I did figure this approach would show how much more involved Grant was, but I did not expect to find deliberate defeat at the Little Bighorn, for instance.

 

That is what was accomplished here – simply by presenting all the events as they happened.

 

So the real reason that they didn't publish my book was that they didn't understand my approach. Because it's NEW! It IS Journalistic History. But I did a search online and nothing came up with this genre indicated. That means, yes, you've heard it here first. I also did a search on historic journalism but all I found was the history of journalism. So this is a better name for what I write, historic events in a journalist style.

 

This is not narrative nonfiction. For a while, I tried to promote it that way. But narrative nonfiction doesn't travel in a nice orderly fashion, step by step. It meanders, and for that reason is more for reading enjoyment than learning enhancement.

 

Journalistic History will demonstrate our nation's history in the most forthright way possible. In this respect, it is the best kind of history to use at the high school level. If you want to know why our country is as it is, this is what you'll read.

 

And that's what I meant it for. I meant it for anyone who wants to know – for instance, why is our first black president a Democrat?

 

My next book, From Lincoln to Trump: a political evolution, is going to the KDP printer soon. It will be called, on the back cover, a new journalist history offering. And then will be described to detail what that means to readers of the book. You might also, on occasion, hear it referred to as historic journalism, but that might get confused with the journalism history. Journalistic History is the way history events are reported.

 

I'll share the blurb of my new book here soon.

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