NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday March 31st 2020

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Raise Your Voice – Sisters in Spirit

By PETER MOLENAAR

Last month, on delivery of the usual 40 Alley papers to the Minneapolis American Indian Center, the young woman at the desk gave access to the Two Rivers Gallery where a marvelous birch bark canoe is on display. With a twinkle, I inquired: “Who built the first canoe?”

As it happened, thousands of years ago….

It was to be an unusually warm day for late autumn, it seemed. The Aunties exited the sweat lodge, intent upon harvesting the edge of the marsh. Straddling lengths of logs the men had hewn, they would maneuver the water without getting stuck. In tow were the water-tight baskets they themselves had made.

A celebratory fire was stoked near shore for their return. In the shallow, a newborn was placed in a basket for introductions. The gentle rocking induced a contented smile, which erupted in a squeal of delight when a careful spin was applied.

Naturally, the toddlers and somewhat older children converged to demand their turn. This is why the first boat was actually a big round basket, which eventually gave birth to the canoe to facilitate trade between the nations.

So, then…

In today’s world, “Alley territory” extends somewhat beyond the official boundaries of the Phillips Neighborhood. For example, 10 papers go to a place called the Electric Fetus, at 4th and Franklin. 15 papers go to nearby Loaves and Fishes, where the good servants believe a soul is imparted at the moment of conception. 5 papers go to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. on 3rd Ave., a block north of which exists the Hennepin History Museum.

The H.H.M. is housed in a relatively modest mansion, built by an “Irishman” whose last name suggests he was a son of some English lord of that land, but likely not the firstborn son, and so he was compelled to emigrate to avoid the military draft. Poking around, he discovered “St. Anthony Falls”, returned to Europe to procure technological secrets, came back here again, then sold the patents to the group which evolved into General Mills…. Afterwards, his likeness was carved in white marble. Enough.

Rather urgently, however, one should visit this museum before the “Votes for Women” exhibit closes in July. Commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment is worth the trek, but departing without purchasing Sisters in Spirit would be a mistake. The book is subtitled Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists. Indeed, the Euro-American feminist precursors were deeply influenced by Native American cultural norms.

Imagine….

When hunting grounds overlapped, the Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, and Tuscarora men were inclined to war. How then did “the Six Nations” become one? It happened (by all the inherent logic) because the Haudenosaunee council of women was more than equal to the council of men. All said and done, the woman’s role in the economic sphere (i.e., her “three sisters” mode of agriculture) was equal to the role of hunter. On top of which, she owned the dwelling and would throw you out if you failed to listen!

Unfortunately, the strings behind the scenes of our present day bourgeois-democratic republic, remain in the hands of Euro-male capitalists. Oh, and the one called Little-Boy-Man deploys “right to life” talk, but has no more moral connection to a zygote than he has to any other form of life.

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