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The Pacific Northwest is the American religious future

June 3, 2019

People crowd the University of Washington quad to view cherry blossoms in Seattle in April 2017. Photo by Joe Mabel/Creative Commons

SEATTLE (RNS) — Early in this century, the academic center that I direct undertook a research project to examine religion and regionalism in American public life. Of the eight regions we divided the country into, the most distinctive was the Pacific Northwest (PNW)—Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

The distinctiveness had everything to do with the region’s low degree of religious identification — something that had been the case ever since Anglo-Americans began settling the place in the 19th century. For that reason, we subtitled the volume dedicated to it “the None Zone.”

So begins religious historian and journalist Mark Silk’s essay on religion and the Pacific Northwest. (Full disclosure: I participated in the research project he mentions, but on California, Nevada, and Hawai’i, not the Pacific Northwest.) You may read his entire Religion News Service post here.

Let’s Change the Way We Talk About the Midwest

May 12, 2019

Movement, changing urban landscapes, and environmental violence are all Midwestern stories. A 4-11 Fire Alarm, Chicago. Source: The Newberry Library

Even as Seemingly Every Article on Midwestern History and Culture aims to complicate understandings of the Midwest, they still start with the assumption that the Midwest is a static, white, rural place. This assumption is not reflected in the historical record, contemporary scholarship, or the lived experiences of so many Midwesterners (including myself); rather, it is a harmful and political statement. For example, in Minnesota the narrative justifies elevating violent legacies of colonizers while erasing past and present Indigenous presence in battles over place names at Bde Maka Ska and Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota is unwilling to reckon with the racist histories associated with campus building names. The nostalgic characterization of the Midwest as perpetually white and simplistically rural is not cute or benign—it perpetuates the violence of colonization and racism and should no longer be entertained as the uncritical starting point for the next reflection on America’s heartland.

Here is an alternative starting point for discussions about the region’s history: The Midwest is a dynamic place of movement and encounter: sometimes peaceful, usually contested, and often violent. 

Read Rachel Boyle’s entire blog post on the Midwest at Omnia History here.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Art (1460–1921)

April 17, 2019

Buffalo Doug

notre dame Vüe de l’intérieur de l’Eglise Cathédrale de notre Dame de Paris, artist unknown, 1670 — Source.

Public Domain Review has a fascinating post on Notre Dame Cathedral in art, per the sample above. See all the items here.

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WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

March 28, 2019

Buffalo Doug

Few phrases are as evocative of a mythical, imagined urban past as “Brooklyn Dodgers.”

Those two words, particularly in the borough that is now a punch line for hipster jokes, bring to mind a different America, one where the U.S. saw itself as more of a political innocent just discovering its global superpowers, where hardworking immigrant families advanced rapidly into the middle class, and where young people survived on a diet of knishes, homemade pasta, kielbasa, and other foods from the old country (but rarely drank anything stronger than a milkshake). The nostalgia evoked by the phrase “Brooklyn Dodgers” was broad enough to include African-Americans making steady advances into the promise of full citizenship, symbolized by the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson and the excellence of his teammates, from Roy Campanella to Don Newcombe.

Those fantasies—of the Dodgers, of baseball, of America—came crashing down in 1957. It was announced…

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CAN BETHEL CHURCH MAKE REDDING, CALIFORNIA, HEAVEN ON EARTH?

March 18, 2019

Is this heaven, or Redding?

These days, the city of 91,000 at the north end of the Sacramento Valley, seems to sit halfway between the godly and the earthly—and not just because of the divine spectacles of nearby Mounts Shasta and Lassen. At the heart of Redding stands a quintessentially California church with a focus on community impact so intense you could almost call it supernatural.

Bethel Church may not be a household name in California, but it should be. Because there is no other institution in our state better at engaging with its hometown than Bethel and its 11,000-plus members.

So begins Joe Mathews’ report on Bethel Church and Redding, California. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square story here.

What Poop Can Teach Us About an Ancient City’s Downfall

February 27, 2019

An aerial shot of Cahokia's Monks Mound.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF poop. After more than 1,000 years, it can still have a lot to offer.

Just ask the authors of a new study, out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discusses how fecal remains can teach us about the rise and fall of Cahokia, an ancient city less than 10 miles outside of present-day St. Louis, Missouri. According to UNESCO, Cahokia was “the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.”

So begins Matthew Taub’s Atlas Obscura post on Cahokia. You may read the entire post here.

Her family farm once belonged to the Kaw Indians. She decided to pay them back.

February 16, 2019
Florence Schloneger, left, is donating a portion of her farm sale proceeds to the Kanza Heritage Society, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the Kaw cultural and heritage. Schloneger’s family owned the farm in south McPherson county for five generations and it sat on the edge of land that was historically Kaw hunting grounds. Pauline Sharp, right, is with the Kanza Heritage Society.

Florence Schloneger, left, is donating a portion of her farm sale proceeds to the Kanza Heritage Society, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the Kaw cultural and heritage. Schloneger’s family owned the farm in south McPherson county for five generations and it sat on the edge of land that was historically Kaw hunting grounds. Pauline Sharp, right, is with the Kanza Heritage Society.

Back in 1879, Henrich Gronemann was a German Lutheran who homesteaded on the far southeast corner of McPherson County, near the borders of Harvey and Marion County.

His 320-acres of prairie was filled with creeks and rolling hills that previously had been the hunting grounds of the Kaw, or Kanza, Indians.

Now, 140 years and five generations later, his great-great granddaughter has done something unthinkable.

So begins Becky Tanner’s story for the Wichita Eagle. You may read the rest of the story here.

Alaska After the Quake

December 12, 2018
tags: ,

HOMER, ALASKA—I rode out last Friday’s earthquake under the dining room table. My sister-in-law had arrived the night before from Philadelphia for a two-week visit. I made her crouch under the table with me. Her eyes were wide. I wondered: How much longer will this go on?

So begins Miranda Weiss’s musings on living in Alaska with earthquakes and climate change. You may read the rest of her American Scholar post here.

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT MAYO CLINIC

November 26, 2018

Alice Magaw (right) in surgery with Sister Joseph Dempsey and Dr. William Mayo. Courtesy of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Several years ago, a few colleagues and I discovered a well-kept secret about Mayo Clinic, where we all worked.

We had decided to create a Jeopardy game for Women’s History Month based on women who were involved in the early years of the physician’s practice that evolved into our internationally renowned academic medical center. I offered to visit the clinic’s historical archive, expecting to glean a few little-known facts about the handful of women who were staples of the organization’s 150-year-old history.

To my surprise, the staff in the archive brought me lists, files, and boxes of information about many women I never had heard of before. As a native of Rochester, Minnesota, where the clinic originated, and as an employee for nearly two decades, I was mystified as to how I missed knowing about these women and their important contributions.

So begins Virginia Wright-Peterson’s fascinating post about the beginnings of Mayo Clinic. You may read the entire Zocalo post here.

Omaha tribe works to save historic Walthill hospital built by first Native American doctor

August 26, 2018

Buffalo Doug

Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital

Dolly A. Butz has a report in the Sioux City Journal about efforts to fundraise and restore a historical hospital on the Omaha Reservation in Walthill, NE. Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte, a Presbyterian, built it in 1912. You can read more about it all here.

Also, see my earlier post on Susan LaFlesche Picotte.

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