Authoring Authenticity


The whole subject of landscape is a world of illusions ...

-Philip Gilbert Hamerton, Landscape (1885)

The key images, tropes, and discursive practices in the imaginative inventing of the Southwest first emerged more than a century ago in a photo-market context. In examining the roots of today's heavily commodified Southwest, it is helpful to recall Edward Said's definition of Orientalism as a "created consistency," a constellation of ideas and images governed by "a battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projections." In taking apart what Marta Weigle has aptly called our own "Southwesternism," furthermore, Said's advice also bears repeating: "The things to look at are style, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances, not the correctness of the representation . . ." (Said 1979: 5-8, 21).
A century ago, the initial claiming and naming of this region by expansive Anglo forces of commerce and politics involved a persistent deployment of power, but the imaginative construction was as much aesthetic as economic or political. This aesthetic claim staking, which originally found expression in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, reflected in turn a widespread appetite in post-Civil War American society for various forms of authentic experience: authentic aesthetic/religious sensibilities, relations to landscape, modes of production, sexual identities, and social relationships (Lears 1981). Moreover, once commodified (after about 1900) in a synergistic dynamic that continues today, the association of authenticity with the Southwest fed powerful market forces. In endlessly and complexly elaborated forms, authenticity is now more than ever the central selling point of the region.
The land seems to have invited imaginative engagement from the beginning. Consider the early explorations of the cliff houses of the San Juan River Valley. An early and influential visitor, William Henry Holmes, could barely control his wonder at what he saw. On his approach to the ruins at Rio Mancos in 1875, Holmes found himself "led to wonder if they are not the ruins of some ancient castle, behind whose mouldering walls are hidden the dread secrets of a long-forgotten people; but a nearer approach quickly dispels such fancies, for the windows prove to be only the doorways to shallow and irregular apartments, hardly sufficiently commodious for a race of pygmies" (Holmes 1878: 390). His journal reveals that Holmes and his compatriots sought precious archeological prizes in an enterprise that combined serious observation, imaginative speculation, and a boyish treasure hunt for gold doubloons and rubies in buried ollas. While he found neither gold nor rubies, Holmes came away from the canyon country with an aroused imagination. He wrote in 1876:
From the top of the wall we looked out and down there was the deep Canoma Valley. The cliffs above the trees slope below, and the winding thread of the Mancos in the green strip at the bottom. How secure; how impregna[ble]; one man with loose rocks at his command could keep off the world. I had the feeling of being in an eagle's nest and was tempted to take wing and fly, but only screamed and then started at the perplexing echoes. We admired the skill with which these fortresses were built and the hardihood, and were amazed that such means of defense could have been conceived and carried out with the nearest water far below, and only these great jars to contain a supply. With their fields and flocks and the supply of water within the hands of an enemy ... [they] must have perished or have crept down the cliffs to fight or yield to the foe. They are gone now indeed and have been for centuries and now like vandals we invade their homes and sack their cities. We ... carry off their earthen jars and reprimand them for not having left us more gold and jewels. (WHH 4:30)
Metaphors of war, siege, and citadel owed their currency largely to the boyish enthusiasms and mimetic desires of a postwar generation of young men heavily influenced by a military ethos of their fathers' generation. Between the Mexican-American War of the mid- 1840s and the end of Southern Reconstruction in 1876, American society stood at war with itself on many levels. In the immediate antebellum years, as a fragile political structure began to fracture over slavery and economic differences, military and commercial reconnaissance reports (Sitgreaves'Report of 1853, Simpson's Journal of 1852, Whipple's Pacific Railroad Reports of 1853-54) first introduced the new Southwestern acquisitions to the national public. Predictably, since the concerns of the occupiers largely set the terms of colonial confrontation, the language of these reports presented Southwestern populations in the familiar binary categories of the military campaign: peaceful/warlike, defensive/aggressive, agricultural/nomadic, city-builders/raiders. The terms proved to be resonant and persistent, and they influenced speculation about Southwestern prehistory for nearly three generations. When Fred Chapin reported on his first visit to Acowitz Canyon with Richard and John Wetherill in 1892, his terms echoed precisely the passages from Holmes's journal fifteen years before:
The floor of the ledge was covered with fine dust; when disturbed by the spade it raised a choking cloud, and forced the would-be excavator to beat a retreat.... It was a fascinatingly queer place; but we must away, for time-consuming caution must be used in the retreat from our citadel. We were struck with the strength of the position, and believed that we could have kept in check a small army of primitive combatants, if they should have dared to storm our position, armed, like ourselves, only with stones. (Chapin 1892: 132-33)

The essential device of passages such as Chapin's and Holmes' is imaginative re-enactment; the explorer-narrator appears as modem actor on a prehistoric stage, repopulating deserted and mysterious spaces in the landscape. It is common, in the initial stage of definition, to find the early popularizers–anthropologists, illustrators, journalists, and travel writers–significantly positioned as elements themselves in the pictures. One thinks of Charles Lummis constantly posturing himself or describing Adolphe Bandelier tramping through the canyon country of northern New Mexico; or of Frederick Chapin first presenting the Wetherhill brothers to the public in the early 1890s in Land of the Cliffdwellers. Sylvester Baxter, correspondent for the Boston Herald, writing in Harper's Monthly in 1882, described Frank Hamilton Cushing's living quarters at Zuni as "a picturesque mingling of culture and barbarism," and he meant to present it as a model of happy acculturation (Baxter 1882: 79). William E. Curtis, in Children of the Sun, his popular 1883 book about Cushing's life at Zuni pueblo, went into greater detail in setting forth an early version of Santa Fe style:
The clay walls of [Cushing's] rude house are hung with blankets woven by the Zuni and Navajo Indians, and compare in brilliancy of color, texture, and design with the far-famed Gobelin tapestries. The ceilings of undressed trunks of trees are covered with bright figured cretons and Japanese silks. The clay floor is strewn with sheep skins, tanned by the Indians, that are softer to the slippered foot than the rugs of Oriental magnificence, and ornaments selected with refined taste or framed with clever hands after the models of decorative art, are hung here and fastened there, and strewn everywhere. The Cushing residence is a dirty mud hut without, but within a bower of beauty. (Curtis 1883: 41-42)
At about the same time Sylvester Baxter took care to describe another interior, that of an old adobe at the summer village of Pescado, outside Zuni, where he and Cushing stopped for an evening en route to the pueblo in 1882:
After supper we lay back upon the sheepskins, quietly enjoying the novel scene about us. Sticks of pino[n] wood had been placed on end in the corner of the fireplace, and their bright crackling flame sent a ruddy light through the large room, touching up the nearer side of all objects in sharp relief against the intensity of the shadows. Gay-colored clothing and blankets, hung on poles suspended from the ceiling, caught the dancing light; curious pottery was ranged along the floor by the walls; and here and there in the walls were little niches, just as we had seen them in the walls of ruined cliff dwellings. In these little niches were conveniently arranged little articles of domestic use, which had a delightflluy bric-a-brac suggestiveness. The scene was just the same now as it had been within those walls hundreds of years before. We were away back in the centuries, and living the life of the remote past. (Baxter 1882: 78-79)
Among the many remarkable characteristics of these passages are the conflation of past and present; the attribution of a natural aesthetics–items are "here and there ... .. strewn about" in a pleasing manner with "bric-a-brac suggestiveness"; and the voice/presence of an observer who is clearly responsive to this world of color, domesticity, and artistic arrangement. In this naturally artistic world, experiences have been transformed to scenes, and the scenes under construction constitute opportunities for the observer to display his/her reactive sensibilities. They present, in other words, intensely reflexive moments of aesthetic exercise, and their frequency suggests a craving for such a playground. The early descriptive genre of the Southwest provided a field for imaginative play, cleared within such constructed scenes, creating openings for the observer/reader's mind to move about. This is the critical element in the early representation of the region: landscapes, exterior and interior, provide freedom to react and play. Openings for alternative visions and explanations can occur at any time–in a kiva or on a mesa top. The most commonly employed trope, however, is what I call "the approach."
A man with very clear, penetrating vision, sees thousands of details that are quite invisible to another, whence the strange but inevitable conclusion that the possession of very good eyesight may be a hindrance to those feelings of sublimity that exalt the poetic imagination.

-Hamerton, Landscape, (1885)

"The approach" is the moment of authorial positioning vis-à-vis the human and natural landscape, and its invariable characteristic is false vision. Riding or walking along, typically the observer casts his eyes to the horizon and describes the vista; but it soon becomes apparent that his eyes deceive him: closer approach turns rocks to pueblos, dark shrubbery to human form. Here, for example, is Frank Cushing's first sight of Zuni, as he approaches on a government mule from Fort Wingate on a September evening in 1879:
Below and beyond me was suddenly revealed a great red and yellow sand-plain. It merged into long stretches of gray, indistinct hill-lands in the western distance, distorted by mirages and sand-clouds, and overshadowed toward the north by two grand, solitary buttes of rock. From the bases of the latter to a spire-encircled, bare-faced promontory to the right, stretched a succession of canon-seamed, brown, sandstone mesas, which, with their mantle of pinon and cedar, formed a high, dark boundary for the entire northern side of the basin.
Cushing continues with two more paragraphs describing the vista, then writes:
Down behind this hill the sun was sinking, transforming it into a jagged pyramid of silhouette, crowned with a brilliant halo, whence a seeming midnight aurora burst forth through broken clouds, bordering each misty blue island with crimson and gold, then blazing upward in widening lines of light, as if to repeat in the high heavens its earthly splendor.
A banner of smoke, as though fed from a thousand craterfires, balanced over this seeming volcano, floating off, in many a circle and surge, on the evening breeze. But I did not realize that this hill, so strange and picturesque, was a city of the habitations of men, until I saw, on the topmost terrace, little specks of black and red moving about against the sky. It seemed still a little island of mesas, one upon the other, smaller and smaller, reared from a sea of sand, in mock rivalry of the surrounding grander mesas of Nature's rearing.
Descending, I chanced to meet, over toward the river, an Indian.... (Cushing 1882b: 191-92)
In this manner Cushing, his eastern vision already shaken and loosened, enters Zuni to begin his ethnographic experience. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, native of Boston and famous veteran of the Civil War, reported in a similar vein in Harper's of his 1882 trip to the Rio Grande pueblos:
As you cross ... the green meadows of the Rio Grande, you see rising abruptly before you, like a colossal ant-hill, a great drab mound, with broken lines that suggest roofs at the top. As you draw nearer, you see before you solid walls or banks of the same drab hue, perforated here and there by small openings. (Higginson 1882: 345)
As Charles Lummis put it in his summary, memorable phrases (in The Land of Poco Tiempo, 1893 [1952]), New Mexico is "a land where distance is lost, and the eye is a liar"; it is a land of "ineffable lights and shadows." Here "landscape and life are impressionist," leaving only "a soft, sweet haze of shifting fight and shade . . ." (3, 20). Susan Wallace, writing from the Palace of Governors in Santa Fe for Harper's in 1880, recalled Hawthorne's regret over the lack of "the poetic element" in modern America, with "no shadow, no mystery, no antiquity ... nor anything but commonplace prosperity in broad and simple daylight." In the Southwest, though, matters became muted and mysterious, and rich material for the poet appeared; here, she advised, "imagination may flower out in fancies rich and strange" (Wallace 1880: 215). By 1900 the untrustworthiness of the civilized eye in the Southwest had been established. Lummis's lying eye is vital, for its failure trips the imagination into compensating or supplanting activity. Through distrust of the primary sense the observer is freed to indulge in an alternative experience of the land and its present and past peoples.
In addition to "the approach" described above, several discursive devices for providing openings are demonstrated in Cushing's 1882 account of his visit to the Havasupai Indians, or "The Nation of the Willows" (Cushing 1882a). In the first part of the narrative, entitled "The Ride Thither," Cushing and two Indians set out from Zuni northwestward to Havasu Falls. In establishing the dramatic pattern of their journey Cushing adopts a familiar quotidian rhythm: early morning enthusiasm is regularly succeeded by midday toil, danger, heat, and hardship, which is resolved/relieved by evening arrival, relaxation, and the camaraderie of the campfire–or happy arrival in Havasu village. Within this established rhythm, however, Cushing constructs a second cycle: as the party rides along, Cushing describes the changing, deceptive shapes and patterns of the land as they are approached:
Terrace after terrace, one below another, stretched out before me, melting off into misty mirages. Citadels, towers, rancherias, green, sunny oases, appeared to be before me. Giant sand-dunes rose from plains of blazing, dazzling white ... Everything in the scene gave the false impression of intense past activity: fallen rocks; sublime depths of canon; great basins; high, flat peaks; inunense sandy plains, which looked as if they had been lifted and thrown upon their rocky heights, or cast into their sombre depths, where the winds of centuries had played with them daily. (Cushing 1882a: 369; emphasis added)
Immediately following such description Cushing habitually shifts to Zuni mythology and folklore, as told by one of his companions, regarding the same landscape. The alternating visual description and Zuni interpretation/explanation comprise most of the journey narrative, interspersed with passages of humor based on antics of mules and Indians. "Each mile changed the environment, and turned the more distant views into new ones," Cushing writes (367). Tsai-iu- Tsaih-ti-wa, his Zuni companion, keeps up a running interpretation of the landscape; and Cushing, upon closer approach to locations, finds confirmation of the Indian's interpretation. Here he arrives at Awatovi ruin:
When at last I reached the top, and paused a moment in the plaza of the ancient city, the tradition of Tsai-iu-tsaih-ti-wa bore abundant corroboration in the charred reed roofings, which still stuck in the stone walls; in the carefully mixed adobes of the broken-down church, which zeal had diligently built in the centre of the court; or in the thousands of shining potsherds, red, green, white, yellow, and black, which besprinkled the bases of long lines of tumbled-down stone houses. (367)
The effect of Cushing's technique is simultaneously to validate Zuni oral history and to join the Indian to the landscape in a mutually authenticating relation: neither is truly understandable except in terms of the other. Moreover, the observer can only establish a legitimate, meaningful relationship to this landscape and its history–can only lay claim to it–to the extent that he engages its aesthetic and mytho-religious dimensions. In short, the Southwest invites and demands a personal commitment beyond political or legal ownership.
In their constructions of the prehistoric and living peoples of the Southwest, Anglo imaginations claimed to see, sought to share, and ultimately brought to market an ethnographic present that remained somehow unchanged over centuries, while clearly having been surrounded by momentous events. Lummis's The Land of Poco Tiempo, dominated by imagery of drowsiness and sleep, conveys a region subjected to repeated invasions and depredations yet of such (self-) healing powers that it remains ultimately untouched: "The most superhuman marches, the most awful privations, the most devoted heroism, the most unsleeping vigilance wrested this bare, brown land to the world; and having wrested it, went to sleep" (2). For Lummis the actions of human history are finally erased, baked out of earth and consciousness by the shimmering noonday heat of New Mexico. Susan Wallace, in similar fashion, sees vigilance among the pueblos; she portrays the remnant tribe of ancient Pecos waiting, through the centuries, with sentinels preserving the eternal fire, on the watch for the second coming of Montezuma: "The eternal fire flickered, smoldered in embers, but endured through all change and chance, like a potent will; ... they would rest on the promise till sun and earth should die" (Wallace 1880: 225). "Bounded by religious conservatism as a wall," Wallace observed, "in all these ages they have slight change by contact with the white race . . ." (215).
Sometimes in the course of travel we have seen a romantic castle or a little mediaeval city with walls and towers perched far away in the hazy distance on its own rocky height. The temptation to go out of our settled itinerary and visit the castle or city is at times all but irresistible; but it is better not to yield, better to carry the beautiful and romantic vision away with us like a dream, or like a description in the pages of a poet, than to go close to it and see the far less inspiring reality.

-Hamerton, Landscape (1885)

The sense of an immutable landscape resistant to historical alteration came out most clearly in the fascination with adobe architecture. To members of a national culture with a shallow, recently disrupted history and with an always problematic relationship, to the land (Kolodny 1975; Merchant 1989), it is not hard to understand; personal and cultural authenticity lay first in spatial and temporal permanence, a condition of persisting and a conviction of belonging. Pueblo architecture provided an irresistible objective correlative of authentic life, and few observers failed to remark it. In Southwest commentary, pueblo/cliffdweller architecture became landscape and vice versa; the works of nature and those of Indians seemed to dissolve into one another through the eyes of Anglo imagination. Cushing described Zuni as "a little island of mesas ... reared from a sea of sand" in mock rivalry with Nature's products. John Wesley Powell, approaching Hopi through Moenkopi Wash in 1875, reversed the gestalt: he saw cliffs "of bright colors, golden, vermilion, purple and azure hues, and so storm-carved as to imitate Gothic and Grecian architecture on a vast scale. Outlying buttes were castles, with minaret and spire; the cliffs, on either side, were cities looking down into the valley, with castles standing between; the inhabitants of these cities and castles are a million lizards: great red and black lizards, the kings [and] nobles; little gray lizards, the common people, and here and there a priestly rattlesnake" (Powell 1972: 15). Sylvester Baxter, who reported frequently from the Southwest for the Boston-based American Architect and Building News, rhapsodized on the trail to Zuni:
The most wonderful and majestically beautiful of architectural forms are here, carven in the rich sandstone which ranges through all the warm hues from brown to red and yellow, with gray and black for sober relief. Castles, halls, temples, with grand gables, terraces, gateways, and porches, turrets and pinnacles, lofty towers and graceful spires, form vast titanic cities. Though only the theatre of the dusk of a race of man, here well might be the scene of the Götterdämmerung.
And here the earth's ruins only are foliage-garbed and tree- crowned. Nature has kept her funeral wreaths for her own remains alone. Forests deck the roofs of this natural architecture, and their fringes drape the sides, flank the towers, adorn the buttresses, and fill the crevices of the magnificent masonry.... Meanwhile the ruins of man's buildings crouch pitiably bare at the feet of the mighty structures.... (Baxter 1882: 73)
Baxter employs several devices here: forms of archaic English ("carven"), reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott's romances; and hyphenated participial modifiers ("foliage-garbed" and "tree-crowned") as poetic indicators of past actions, now sublimely visible, as nineteenth-century landscape painters employed foreground-background contrasts to indicate the passage of natural time. And the change is natural, not human. Baxter paints a verbal landscape with colors and contrasts, demonstrating that he has' found something authentic, untouched, possibly divine.
If the age-old, steady processes of nature–erosion, canyon-cutting-continued unabated, within the warm adobe walls of the pueblo went forward, as it had for ages, a rhythmic, harmonious daily and seasonal life, according to these initial representations. The construction of the Apollonian Southwest began in these accounts. Baxter, who was one of the first to construct the myth, attributed Pueblo harmony in life and religion, for instance, to "an innate gentleness of spirit," (Baxter 1882: 124; cf Hinsley 1989). Anthill, beehive, mud sparrows–the favored metaphors of early accounts stressed natural, unquestioned regulation of activity, steadiness of communal purpose with minimal deviance and disruption. The preponderance of early morning and sunset scenes in verbal and pictorial illustrations served to emphasize diurnal rhythm–the reader knows that such scenes (women at the water, men bringing in the flocks, preparation of the evening meal) will be repeated over and over, defining a peaceful, orderly, cyclical society (see Figure 1).
Cushing (and others) knew better, of course–"God help my poor doomed Zunis!" he cried in his diary in 1892–but he exercised his positional superiority to present historically specific and significant events, the elements and signs of Southwestern change-e.g., the torture of a deviant, or Zuni/Navajo reprisals–as scenes of unchanging tradition and rhythmic regulation. In this discursive formation history was framed (and thereby controlled) as a series of merely dramatic events. Somehow "life" simply went on as it always had.
The anti-modernist impulse that Jackson Lears has recognized in the late-nineteenth-century arts and crafts movement (and numerous other corners of American life) was rooted in part in a reaction to the inauthentic nature of industrial production–its market motivations, impersonal methods, and mass products. In the Southwest, by contrast, material production is presented as personal, utilitarian, measured. Note, for instance, the rhythm and placidity of Baxter's imagined prehistoric people of southern Arizona, as he reconstructs daily life in their irrigation economy:
There is a deal of mechanical activity always going on among the men, for the fashioning of the various implements of stone and bone, for instance, the grinding or rubbing down of the stone axes to their symmetrical shapes and true lines necessitates an amount of patient, painstaking labor that would be the despair of one of our nineteenth-century workmen. But the work done with these clumsy tools is much more expeditious than would seem to be possible. With these tools we see them hewing trees and chopping and working the wood into the various materials used in their house-construction, shaping it into bows and arrows and making various utensils, or breaking it into fuel; we see them chipping stones into nicely formed arrowheads, spearheads and knives; we watch them making their highly prized articles of adornment from seashells and turquoises and other stones precious in their eyes.... Men are coming and going, bearing heavy burdens on their backs–deer and antelopes from the chase, grain from the fields, or staggering beneath the weight of heavy stones from the river bed, or rough blocks of hard porous lava. . . . In their undertakings which concern the people as a whole, they are cooperative, and the individual, under such circumstances, subordinates himself completely to the community, which works as a unit, and thus constructs the extensive irrigating systems, the public edifices, etc., which even to us seem gigantic in their extent and conception, making us marvel that they could have been carried out with such crude implements. (Baxter 1888: 14-15)
In describing Zuni, Baxter merely brings this pre-industrial idyll of individually satisfying work and communal integrity up to date:
During the day a mild hum of industry pervaded the place. The Zunis take fife easily, and never overwork, therefore they find no necessity for a periodic day of rest, but they are not lazy. Their wants are simple, and their work is ample to satisfy them. (Baxter 1882: 83; cf Figure 2)
It is the regulated nature of society in the Southwestern pueblos, past and present, which so attracts these observers. What are the sources of social cohesion and persistent tradition? Where are the regulatory principles and forces located? Cushing's generation became convinced that they lay in the power of religion, which pervades Pueblo cultures: religion based on the feminine principle but practiced and controlled by hierarchies of men. Observing a Zuni summer ceremonial, Baxter saw none of the "tawdry display customary to the parade days of civilization. It was a genuine manifestation of the deep religious feeling of the people" (Baxter 1882: 90). From Santa Fe Susan Wallace deplored her own age of doubt, skepticism, and faithlessness while her husband Lew, governor of New Mexico, drafted Ben Hur in the Palace. Cushing told the Board of Indian Commissioners in 1897 that "of all the people on this continent, not excluding ourselves, the most profoundly religious–if by religious is meant fidelity to teachings and observances that are regarded as sacred–are the American Indians." We, by contrast, "are weaned from love of our traditions" and do not know reverence (Cushing 1897: 12).
The list of "desires, repressions, investments, and projections" that Anglo writers initially brought to the Southwest is long: release of imaginative and aesthetic sensibilities; domestic, non-market production of items of beauty and utility; a life of rhythmic labor balanced between individual and communal needs; harmonious social integration regulated by pervasive religious principles through secret male orders. Why were these constructions so compelling to Victorian writers and, presumably, their readers?
In a recent study of secret fraternal orders in Victorian America, Mark Carnes concludes that "many American men were deeply troubled by the gender bifurcations of Victorian society, which deprived them of a religious experience with which they could identify and of a family environment in which they could freely express nurturing and paternal emotions." Further, they had been largely displaced from "official" church circles by their wives and other women, as described by Ann Douglas in The Feminization of American Culture (1977). The fraternal orders, to which millions of middle-class men belonged, constituted "an alternative form of religion, of family life and of social organization" for men in a society with severely distorted gender relations and an effective denial of androgyny. The liminal world of the secret ritual also provided, Carnes suggests, a "mystic wonderland" of creative fantasy (Carnes 1989: 146-50, 158).
Carnes, Lears, and other recent students of the separate male sphere of Victorian America have begun to delineate a crippled and constricted expressive world, with few legitimate aesthetic outlets– and those of limited range–a long-recognized, oppressive positivism, and a subterranean world of alternative mytho-religious, all- male communion. The social order of American industrial capital, in obvious class crisis almost continually from 1877 to 1898, was thus further fractured by deep gender deformities, especially for those males who sought poetic license and perhaps the distanced approval of their fathers. Bandelier trudged throughout the Southwest in escape from the massive bank failure of his father back in Highland, Illinois; Fred Chapin turned to mountaineering, archeology, and the Southwest as respite from a hugely successful, inherited drugstore business; Lummis' search for health and his rejection of things Eastern have become legendary; Cushing always displayed powerful ambivalence toward his official male superiors and craved the freedom of Zuni. It may not be too much to suggest that these men sought the license to imagine and express their imaginings; that they were in search of a self-definition that embraced hardihood and sensitivity, martial mimesis and domestic practice ("bric-a-brac suggestions"), authentic male religion and, above all, poetic space. Cushing closed "The Nation of the Willows" with this plea:
A fairy story is this of the Nation of the Willows; and while science teaches us another tale, may we not poetically believe, with these simple natives, that they have always lived here, apart from the world of nations; that ever since they wandered forth from the four fertile wombs of mother earth, this little strip of land and river and willow, and the great rock-walls, so near together, yet so sublime and impassable, have bounded their generations of life, have had shadows cast on them by the smoke-clouds of the numberless funeral pyres of all their unnamed dead? (Cushing 1882a: 559)
"May we not poetically believe?" Despite the hard-edged realities of industrial daytime, may we not haze things over a bit–history, sexuality, eyesight–and take the edge of? Despite the sharp categories of an iron-hard Gilded Age, may we not be permitted to blur the boundaries a bit? Cushing's plea, now commodifed and market-multiplied almost beyond recognition, still finds its resonance in American culture.


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