By Betty Jo Chang

This is the 40th Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz Island by the American Indian Movement (1969-1971), AND Football season so perhaps this little tale is timely.

I was at Stanford during the great controversy (1970-1972) over the Stanford Indian Symbol for the Football team, and over Chief Lightfoot (Timm Williams, a Yurok Chief) and his Indian dance in full regalia at the start of every Stanford game .

As I recall…

In November 1970, 23 Native students handed University officials a petition to remove Stanford’s Indian mascot. In 1972, 55 students, supported by the other 358 American Indians enrolled in California colleges, renewed this demand in meetings with the Stanford Administration. This time around, students made a full court press.

Some students play the ‘protection of native religious practices’ card. They said, “These are religious dances, he is not authorized by our Indian religious authorities to dance them. Therefore, he must be stopped. The Yuroc Tribal elders weighed in with a deposition that their ceremonial dances are not being performed by Chief Lightfoot, and they therefore have no objection to his activity.

Other students tried a “purity of tradition” argument. They said, “These are not authentic, they are just made up. Therefore he must be stopped”. Chief Lightfoot says, “I’m Indian.” “I dance”. “This is my dance.” “Who are you to say I am unauthentic?”

The students say, “It is demeaning for you to dance to the yells of a Football Crowd.” He says, “I don’t feel De-meaned. They aren’t yelling at me, they are cheering for me.”

They say, “You are bad for the image of the Native American”. He trots out his creds – Williams served  as elected leader of the 3000—strong Klamath River Yurok tribe, Chairman of the California Rural Indian Health Board, and director of the California Indian Assistance Project. He helped found the National Indian Health Board. He views his record as one of service and championing Indian rights.

The students, politicized by the recently ended 18 month long occupation of Alcatraz Island, and thus hyper-aware of the fairly poor record of agencies and boards intended to help Native Americans, get nasty.  With no respect, the Chief is called “a Banana”. (Yellow on the outside, white underneath).

That poor guy. He’d been fitting up his headdress and looking forward to Stanford Football games since he first danced at Stanford during the 1951 football season, when Stanford went to the Rose Bowl. Timm represented Stanford there at the first Rose Bowl game to be televised in color and to the entire country. He danced at every home game and many away games. The old guy LOVED IT. I mean, how many old guys get to get all duded up and dance their heart out to the cheers of thousands every autumn weekend. He must have looked forward to Football Saturdays all year long. Now along come some angry young bucks saying all this silliness and threatening to lose him a beloved fun and prestigious job he’d done earnestly and well for 20 years.

Of course, the Stanford Alumni weigh in big time. They trot out Tradition. Yes, that AXE was first taken as a symbol by our beloved University back near the very beginning.  And, by 1930 the Stanford Indian symbol was formally adopted though it had informally been in use for some years previous.

The Administration is duley impressed, for “Tradition” (not to mention Alumni) are important in so relatively young an institution as Stanford. Emboldened by their intial positive reception, the Alumni happily trot out their ‘evidence’. Indeed, there it is: In 1899 a large Axe became symbolic of this athletic rivalry (between CAL and Stanford) when Will Irwin produced the famous yell : “Give ‘em the axe, … Right in the neck!” For some years after, theft of the Axe from whichever school had custody of it, occupied many hours of frat boy time. The Stanford team was formally named Indians in 1930 when, for a pivotal football game, a war chant was invented that went thus: “Stanford Indian Scalp the Bear…Take the Axe; To his Lair….” (CAL’s mascot is a Bear).

The Administration dithers: How to decide? On the one hand is exercise of sensitivity to Native American Culture. On the other hand is honoring as a valued and meaningful University Tradition a name derived from a couple of stupid cheers by a pair of drunken frat boys…. Hmmm. This hand or that hand…this hand or that hand…. Tough choice.

The students find a welcome ally in Ombudswoman Lois Amsterdam, who, no doubt sensitized by the increased understanding of the impact of objectification as articulated by the Women’s Movement at the time, understood the student’s angst. She is quoted as saying that “Stanford’s use of the Indian symbol in the 1970s brings up to visibility a painful lack of sensitivity and awareness on the part of the university…. it was a reflection of our society’s retarded understanding, dulled perception and clouded vision.”

The Axe still does not fall  though on poor Chief Lightfoot and the Stanford Indian symbol, until one of the students finally finds the perfect foil with which to best the Administration.  In his memoirs the University Pres. reports a student telling him: “You see something dignified and vaguely authentic. I see a Yurok Indian performing Plains dances in Navajo dress, and I find it troubling.”

YES! Nothing like it. Attack an Academic by disparaging his scholarship as superficial. Takes ‘em down every time.

Chief Lightfoot was enjoined from dancing at the games. The Stanford dollies hung up their beaded deerskin headbands and outfits. The tradition had come to an end. Several student body votes followed the decision to abandon the Indian as the team Symbol for Stanford.

The last vote on the subject was characterized by a rare concurrence of interest between the Frat House crew, still smarting over loss of their beloved yells,  and  the more radical students who, ever didactic, said, “It’s about political correctness.”  The Frat crews said, “‘Political correctness’. OK, we can go with that.” The Student body then voted for “ROBBER BARONS” as the name for the team, in honor of the source of founder Leland Stanford’s fortune.

The administration, sick to death of the subject, cancelled the election and called no other.

Thought I ought to mention…

Einstein_tongueIf we are to believe uncle Albert (and why should we not?) then there is no such thing as simultaneity. Every event occurs in a relativistic context. In physics. Cosmologists seem to put a different spin on matters (and yes, I do crack myself up). They define a “rest state” relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background, a state that permits measurement of the uniform rate that the universe is expanding in all directions, and why we perceive all the other galaxies hurrying away from us as if we were the only garlic eaters on this bus.

Physicists and cosmologists alike are chary about discussing what happened at the moment of the big bang, and indeed what happened in the flash of time that preceded the moment of Planck density, a finite and describable event comprising incomprehensibly vast amounts of matter compressed into a ridiculously small space. Prior to that moment, there was–I guess–a period of unreality, when all time, mass, energy, and antimatter were balanced in a singularity the destruction of which precipitated a big bang that emerged into our reality an absurdly short time after it actually began. Those moments of singularity and displacement that preceded a physical universe with a density of 5.1 × 1096 kg/m³ are the moments where we can sort out just what it is all about. If we can hurdle the barrier of incomprehension, the limit of our understanding framed by physicists and astronomers, and vault into the realm of poets, tango dancers, and doowop singers… only then will we be able to master this matter/antimatter thing.

Will confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson help us get there? You decide, but read this first!

Friday Follow

Over on twitter there is a practice known as Follow Friday.” Twitterers craft tweets and often tag them with the characters #ff (for Follow Friday). If you show up on a Follow Friday list you know that at least one twitterer likes your tweets, or respects you, or appreciates the links you share, or is stalking you, sucking-up or whatever. One hundred forty characters, the maximum length for a tweet, doesn’t permit a lot of nuance, but in general I’d say it pleases people to be on a #ff list.

Here’s a short list of some blogs I’ve been reading, and/or twitterers whose tweets tickle me. Think of this as my prolix attempt to do a Follow Friday thing. Behind the wall, in the false security of Facebook “privacy,” there are some people I follow too. But Facebook is a walled garden, a private place that doesn’t conform to rulez of the internex, so I can’t really point you to their work. I can say that if you have a Facebook account today I recommend friending Kat Herding and Mike Golby. Aren’t all the neologisms of social media WONDERFUL? Who knew that “to friend” could be a verb? In the old days, like 2024 and prior, we used the more conventional “to befriend.” Ah well, time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.

This is not to suggest that you sign up for a Facebook account in order to follow Kat and Mike.

In the flock of twitterers that I follow are these interesting, funny, or (seriously) serious people:

You don’t have to sign up for a twitter account to follow these people, but why not do it anyway?

And here is the main course of my Follow Friday, the blogs. Forget about tweet streams and friend lists. Focus on some good writing. The kind that can’t be packed into a 140 character tweet. Read these bloggers:
Suzy of Luminiferous Ether (or “spacegoo” for short)
Cinderbelle, Quaker Fruit Salad and/or Ramblings of a Ringtail
Tom Matrullo, Improprieties
Jon Lebkowsky at Weblogsky

That’s all for now. And it’s still Friday here in the Middle Earth.


At a time when the excesses of American industry scream for some kind of regulation and control, Comcast wants to buy NBC/Universal. The purchase flies in the face of network neutrality and will, if permitted, allow Comcast to control the content that travels in their network. The big keep getting bigger.

Karoli has an informative post about Comcast’s amoeba-like feeding on the industries around it. (See Comcast: All your media are belong to us. Your internets and your politics, too).

I am afraid that the United States of America today lacks any meaningful regulation of capital. If it profits the shareholders of Comcast to own NBC/Universal, who is to stand in their way? The old anti-trust laws were written to prevent monopolies from forming to control an industry. The old “trust busters” are long gone. The Clayton Act doesn’t address the kind of integration of products and services that Karoli describes.

We need legislation that will force the divestiture of properties held in conflict of public interest, and we need to get the giant communications companies, AT&T and Comcast, under the control of FCC and various state Public Utilities Commissions.

Leader of the Pack

'tessa the wonder dog

She ain’t no Toto
She ain’t no Lassie
She ain’t no Rin Tin Tin

But she does have a high degree of self-importance. Combine that strong personality with a great sense of humor, a little arrogance, limitless energy, and an assertive nature and you have Tessa, a pup that’s very hard to train. When she’s outdoors she generally ignores the simple commands that she aces in the kitchen, Instructions like sit, stay, come, and down–mandatory in the house–are seemingly irrelevant to her in the out-of-doors, irrelevant unless there’s a reward in it. If she’s willing to play the training game at all, she performs in a perfunctory manner. Tell her to “sit,” and her butt barely hits the ground before she’s up, waggling around, expecting a treat.

I need her to come to me when I call and stand still while I hook up a leash. Leash? Leashes are fine if she’s in the foyer waiting to go out. Then the leash presages a walk. But when outdoors on a romp she sees no need to submit and be leashed. She dances just out of reach and demands to be walked home untethered.

“You are not the boss of me,” she says and then takes off across the field, chasing a murder of crows away so she can roll in whatever it is that interests them. And I’m left there, holding the leash.

Raw milk freakyosis

Scott Trautman has a problem that affects all of us. State authorities are forcing him out of the dairy business because he wants to sell raw milk products.

Early in the summer the Trautman’s had an open house. I stopped by to see their operation and to visit my brush mower which Scott is holding hostage. The Trautman farm is like a storybook: big old farm house with a wrap around porch, red barns, a machine shed, happy kids chasing chickens, chickens squawking and retreating to their roosts in the hay loft where the kids gather eggs every day, pigs and piglets pastured well out of the way and down wind, jersey cows and calves on the near pasture, hay fields, tractors, wagons, trucks, a big wood lot. The Trautman family has the whole family farm thing going for them, even a little store open Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings where you can pick up eggs or grass fed beef and pork. The store is a cozy gathering place with books and chairs and a table in a building set away from the house adjoining a barn. They have popcorn and honey and what not, local food all of it, though the honey is on consignment from neighbors down the road. The Trautmans don’t keep bees. I’m trying to remember if there’s a pot bellied stove. If there’s not there should be. It’s that kind of space.

There’s a glass fronted cooler in the store, the kind of cooler where you’d expect to see milk and cream, butter and cheese displayed for sale. Cluelessly I asked about getting some fresh milk and cream. As it happened, the farm was even then engaged in a struggle to save their dairying operation and they’d been enjoined against selling raw milk to the public.

Raw milk is risky. It’s not pasteurized. Pasteurization protects the public against tuberculosis, brucellosis, listeriosis, and several other diseases. We learned this in grade school. In fact, we learned the lesson so well that today few of us have ever tasted raw milk or cream skimmed from raw milk, or butter churned from the cream that was skimmed from the cows that Scott milks–thirty cows, milked every day, and their milk dumped on the ground because the wholesaler won’t pick up the milk and the State’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has rescinded Scott’s dairying license because Foremost won’t pick up the milk, and Foremost won’t pick up the milk because DATCP is “cracking down” on raw milk producers… there’s a horrible circularity here, a sort of Kafka-esque encounter with a heartless, mindless bureaucracy.

Scott’s cows are healthy, his operation is clean, there ought to be a way he could bring his raw milk to market. Raw milk dairies are conscious of the potential public health risks, and with few exceptions they provide food that is superior to anything you can find in the supermarket. But earlier this year thirty people came down with campylobactereriosis here in Wisconsin and the cause of their gastrointestinal upset was raw milk. State bureaucrats, concerned for their jobs and under pressure from the big dairy interests have cracked down on family farms. If you want dairy products in Wisconsin, you can have the pasteurized, homogenized processed products, but you can’t get whole raw milk. You might get sick. (Issues related to ground beef and other food borne illnesses notwithstanding, the State DATCP seems intent on driving small dairy operations out of business, while supporting the huge 1000 cow and more milking parlors, factory farms that treat cows about like chickens in an egg factory). As an aside, if you get food poisoning at the local Taco John’s will DATCP drive the restaurant out of business? Short answer: NOT!

There is a story unfolding here, and you can follow it and support the Trautman family by becoming a Trautman farm “fan” on facebook. The facebook page is here.

Word of the year


The slackers at the Oxford University Press USA, they who prepare the superfluous New Oxford American Dictionary have chosen “unfriend,” a louche locution from the world of social media, as the word of the year. I had occasion to unfriend a Quaker this year. Unfriending a Quaker is unfriending a Friend who may or may not be a friend, if you get the distinction. The Quaker in question was harassing me for my lack of libertarian, Ayn Randian principles. He was behaving in a lowercase “f” unfriendly way. (I’d suggest that his effort to harsh my mellow was also unFriendly, or unquakerly as some would have it, but nobody’s perfect). “Fuck this guy, ” I thought and I clicked the button that dissolved our Facebook relationship. Can’t say that I’ve missed him, nor I suspect does he miss me. Don’t really know why we friended each other in the first place, except that we’re both Friends who share a common bond of web tech.

Here’s what the American Oxonians have to say about their dismal choice of WOTY:

unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

As in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most “un-” prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar “un-” verbs (uncap, unpack), but “unfriend” is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of “friend” that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal.”

That bit about a verb sense of “[to] friend” that is really not used is dead wrong. Friending and unfriending of course are both used in the limited context of electronic network social media; a context likely to morph to something unrecognizable in the next few years (which would be 14 dog years and decades of internet time). The potential longevity of the verb “to unfriend” is tied to the predictably limited life of the walled garden that is Facebook. Meanwhile, the one-fortiers are all atwitter that a social media term beat out “teabagger” and “birther” for the prize.

I’ll wait for the verdict at Language Log, should they bother to comment. Meanwhile, Arnold Zwicky remarks on the rise of “douche” (which would have been my nominee for adjectival WOTY, particularly as it modifies “bag”).

Web versioning

Ethan Zuckerman refers to Dan Gillmor’s slow news advocacy here, and he extends the concept to journalism criticism, the stories about stories that critics write. His post traces the update history of a recent story about a story that dominated the news cycle for a few days last week. He says, “What I’d love to be able to do is compare the current version of [the] story with the one that originally ran.” He suggests the Wikipedia edit history model as a tool that would help us understand the origins and subsequent iterations of fast breaking stories. Sounds good to me. One of my biggest gripes about web info is the lack of temporal referents. Even Amazon is stingy with the copyright and publication dates of the books it sells.

I’d find it handy if web narratives contained both publication dates and a history of editorial changes. How can we make that happen?