The Sky at Ohio #6 – Iroquois Ohio

With the election ever nearing, operatives and politicians are beating Ohio like a rented mule. From river to city there are dipshits with clip-boards talking a smooth line of sophistry from both parties.

Democracy, down where the kernels get small and greasy,(the margins) are where elections are won and lost.

Sadly, that IS the history of this unique slice of ruptured geography.

The word, “Ohio” is Iroquois for “Big River.” The iroquois peoples were part of a powerful conflation of First Nation tribes known as the nation of six.  The others, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and the Seneca, inhabited a wide swath of the Northeast from New York to Ohio and including the St. Lawrence seaway.

They primarily farmed, trapped fur and protected their nations which extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the middle of Ohio and north through Canada. In my research, I’d always thought of the Iroquois peoples as primarily Canadian. I was wrong–their home base seems to have been mostly New York State and along the Great Lakes.

Only the tribes of the Sioux were a bigger nation of indigenous peoples.

The Iroquois were tough. They fought the French over land, water and beavers.  In fact, there were whole wars about beavers and their pelts in the 1600’s. Over the glacial march of a couple of centuries, any American Iroquois were mostly in Ohio.

Ohio was where you went when you lost the Indian wars of the American Northeast. That, or flee to Canada, who treated First Nation peoples a little better, but not much.

The Iroquois kinship extended through a great many Matrilineal tribes, meaning the women ran things.They were broken up into “clans”–Turtle, Bear, Elk, Eel Hawk. They are also known as the “Haudenosaunee,” which means “people of the long house.” Unlike a great many tribes, the Iroquois built their housing like long barracks (an actual house) rather than tipis. Their architecture was more evolved and soon copied by white settlers.The Quakers owe a debt to the Iroquois’ “long houses. As tribes go, they succeeded at farming, raising animals, fishing, fur-trapping, etc. In other words, the Iroquois were self-sustaining and doing fine when the French decided to “civilize” them by murdering them and trying to steal their land and resources, as well as convert them to Christianity.

To this end they sent a couple of earnest young missionaries–Jean deLalande and Isaac Jogues–to civilize the savages. The Bear clan didn’t know quite what to think of these two funny-talking, pasty-assed Jesus freaks who wore their shirts down to their shoes.

So they shanked them and ate their hearts. A message to the French (and the Huron tribes) that “When we need your advice, we’ll fucking beat it out of you.”

Ohio has a fascinating history. The more I read about it, the less, I realize, that I (or the rest of the Republic) know about it. In the 1800’s, Ohio natives were fond of reminding the rest of the country that what we had in this bloody, merciless, expanse of natural beauty was, in fact, a Republic. That as Americans, we owned ourselves and didn’t answer to any kings or queens anymore. It is a bitter, horrific irony that we would not cede these ideas about liberty to the Africans we kidnapped or the First Nation tribes who, rightly, were this great land’s caretakers before we stole it.

Americans who go to the polls in the next few weeks would do well to remember that those they will cast votes for are our employees, and we, the people, are but custodians of these fifty states, and that our haggard, beleaguered, beating heart can be found somewhere between Canton and Dayton where we, the people, clip the coupons and hope.

Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Apollo Moth

The Apollo MothWe die of cold, and not of darkness.“–Unamuno


The first frost is hell on moths.  On window sills they lay, powdery and seized up, each a mirror of another after the killing frost.
The first frost  is your for real, no-shit sign winter is here.  In the Midwest, this means it gets dark at 4:30 (Daylight Savings0,  to which I say, “What the fuck are we saving it for?  And can I withdraw some when I need it?”   Winter is a merciless bitch here; six months of gray layer-cake skies and  ankle-high slush.  Moths in late fall fly a desperate kind of flight; a trajectory against the dying of the light.  I love autumn.  For me, it is when things become more spare, simple and stripped-down.  Nature bares its elemental shape, and lines and color take over.  There is a tree across the street from where I write this that turns to a firey yellow and at night in the street lamps; you’d swear it was ablaze.

It is also the political season and I cannot bring myself to vote.  I don’t believe any of those running of either party.  They seem to be part of the aural wall-paper, the fuzz -laden white noise on televisions and radios I pass by.  A cacophony of babbling assholes who  promise public service and in the end serve themselves and their  friends, as well as the particular party of mouth-breathing geeks they sallied forth from.

I used to think freedom demanded participation; that it was one’s duty to vote.  I don’t think that anymore.  When your choices are between the crabs and the clap, you can choose “none of the above” and leave me the fuck alone.  I will deal with the consequence that one of these civic midgets will have an enormous amount of discretionary power over my life later.  Don’t vote for these idiots; it only encourages them.

People will tell me that then I will get the government I deserve.  Like I deserved Bush?  I voted against him.  No, this dodge doesn’t work on me.  I don’t need to be part of the collection of hand-jobs out there pimping the bozo they LEAST hate.  That is not democracy– that is  picking at the fruit stand at the end of the season looking for the least fucked-up banana.  This is choosing the leper with the most fingers and the prettiest scabs.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo is the cheese;  the god of war, love, you name it he is the alpha-god.  He is god of so many things, you wonder if it was all too heavy for him. You wonder if he ever told Zeus, “Fuck this.  Give me a break.  Let me kick back, drink some mead and score some goddess pussy. Would that be so bad?”

The Apollo moth is actually a butterfly.  I turned it into a moth because I’m an artist and I can do whatever the fuck I want.  The mating habits of the Apollo moth are hard on the female.  The bug book describes a “saw-like” penis.  Ouch.  Well, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.

What I love about them are the big bloody spots on their wings.  I saw one of thse at ‘”Evolution,” a great natural history store in Manhattan on Spring Street in Soho.  The kids who work there are enthusiastic and really helpful and knowledgeable and if they get the feeling you are genuinely interested in natural history, they will go to any length to help you out.  My last day in New York, I needed a better source book for moths, and the last book they had was their display copy and they sold it to me anyway, which many natural history stores will NOT do.  They could tell I was excited and showed me through their excellent collection of species in the drawers upstairs.  This is my favorite store in New York.  I got introduced to species I’d never seen in any of my books and learned a lot just in a cursory conversation with the young woman who showed me the moths.  I’ve watched all of the Bug-Channel shows and there is never much about moths; they have a bad reputation among bugs.

There are silk moths in China and Taiwan that women hold in their mouths to keep them warm while they spin silk–these I have to find.  I couldn’t believe this story.  Moths are reviled the world over for their destructive appetite for paper and cloth; they are symbols  of death and dessication.

They are also luminous and beautiful in a way that is scary and unnerving; like some art.  They are a fun thing to draw because of the myriad of textures and patterns in a moth’s body.  They are creatures of problematic definition and I love the fuckers.  If you’ve never seen a luna moth shimmering in the evening light, well, then you are not completely alive yet.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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