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Bury My Soul at Standing Rock

One of the perks of working at a university is the abundance of interesting free lectures and discussions going on all the time. A few months ago, I was able to attend a discussion by Dr. Garland Allen, Professor Emeritus, Biology Dept. who teaches the history and philosophy of biology – particularly genetics, embryology, and evolution – and their interrelationships between 1880 and 1950, most of which I don’t really understand.


But a lecture he gave that captured my interest was on the connection between the formation of National Parks, the Sierra Club and Eugenics, the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.


The lecture was fascinating on many levels, but the one point I want to address in this reflection is the racist beliefs that some of the key people who started the Conservation movement including John Muir held. Conservation leaders like John Muir believed that the indigenous people who had inhabited Yosemite for at least 6,000 years were a desecration and had to go. Now whether this was because John Muir and other Americans wanted Yosemite for an American National Park and the First Peoples who lived there were in the way is a story for another occasion.


The point that really got to me was that the white men who were designing the parks, establishing the Sierra Club, etc. viewed the First Peoples as already extinct. Even while their Eugenic standard of “quality” genes are reflected in the First Peoples, they did not include them in their thinking. Partly because they thought the American soldiers had or would eliminate them, and but also First People were on land that Americans wanted and interfered with their way of thinking of them as actual humans.


The broken treaties, some 357 out of the 400 that were made with the First Peoples, are still being broken today, for the same reasons. No matter where the Americans keep pushing the First People; land, water, mineral rights found then force the People off and treaties are ignored.


You only need to look to Standing Rock to see how the systemic racism, genocide and greed continues. For further info,



5 Reasons to Learn Like a 5 Year-Old



  1. Nothing is impossible. The world is full of mysteries. When you don’t know the limitations of gravity, you will continue to throw the ball, fly the kite, throw the paper airplane and watch what happens. You will make and remake your theories about how it all works. You will ask your mom the same thing a thousand times, expecting a different answer each time. The world is still soft at the edges and malleable.
  2. How people act are more important than how they look, unless you look at them really carefully and then ask how they got that wart. You might be confused by a difference in skin color or hair color, at first, but then how they react to you influences your perception of them. What makes someone nice or mean is how they act, repeatedly, not what they look like. You observe them very carefully, judging their reactions to your jokes, or questions. Are they smiling or growing frustrated. Do they even notice you? How you can learn from them depends on how they perceive you.
  3. Falling down is so you can learn how to stay on your feet longer. Feeling failure is not an automatic default, it takes years to ingrain that into a child’s psyche. Learning by doing, seeing what works and doesn’t is how things are invented, discoveries made, theories created.
  4. A walk around the block should take an hour or more. Cracks in the sidewalk alone raise a million questions; what concrete is made of, why there are cracks, will your mother’s back really break, who come up with that, how is concrete made, who made the sidewalk, and 999, 994 more questions. The ability to observe and notice, using all the senses tell us much more than looking at our iPhones. Most humans have the abilities they need to learn about their environment in order to survive and thrive. Time spent outside, to exercise those senses, is crucial for all of us, not just five year olds.
  5. A run around the block can take 3 minutes. When you are focused and intent, maybe taking on a challenge, you are motivated to get going and finish. The pure joy of using your muscles, going full steam ahead can fill you with exhilaration. Feeling the wind rush past you, and breathing deeply reminds us we are alive.

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