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American Indian Heritage Month ending

November 24, 2008

This is the last week of American Indian Heritage Month and I have seen nothing locally that would inform residents that this commemoration even exists let alone doing anything to honor it. For that matter I haven’t seen anything in the national media either. There may have been something but I didn’t see it. What with the Carlisle Indian School having been in our midst, one would think it would have at least been mentioned. If it wasn’t for the trusty internet, I wouldn’t know a thing about it.

One good thing I’ve learned is that the politically-correct terms have been sorted out. American Indian is preferred over Native American and the specific tribe or nation is preferred over that. Native American is too broad a term and, worse yet, sounds too bureaucratic. A pet peeve of mine is the frequent mention of something being a Native American song or a Native American custom. To start with, this is silliness. Would we say golf is a European game? Of course not. We know the Scots invented it. Would we lump Scots and Italians together as if they had a common heritage? I think not.

There may be reasons other than ignorance or laziness for attributing something to Native Americans. For example, Chief Seattle is often quoted as having spoken eloquently about the environment. To start with he was not a chief and his name was See-ahth, which was difficult for white people to say and was likely bastardized into Seattle, something they could pronounce. See-ahth was born in 1786 and died in 1866. In addition to being a great speaker, he was a diplomat. He gave a speech in 1854 but it wasn’t the one he is so often credited with having made. That speech was written in 1971 by screenwriter Ted Perry. Perry’s speech didn’t paraphrase See-ahth’s words. It couldn’t because there were no buffalo within 600 miles of his home to see rot and railroads didn’t come to his area until years after his death.

Rather than providing references, I will leave to the reader the task of verifying what I have written. Fortunately, it is an easy task.

Warner didn’t own first car in Carlisle

September 30, 2008

I met county archivist Barbara Bartos at the Cumberland County Historical Society last night. She informed me that the archives from the Prothonotary’s Office contained automobile registration records prior to when the Commonwealth started issuing license plates.


In February, 1903 Senator Grim of Bucks County introduced a bill requiring the registration of automobiles. The legislature enacted an auto licensing law on April 23, 1903 that required motor vehicles to be registered with the county Prothonotary and a $2 fee be paid to the county Treasurer for a license tag to be affixed to the vehicle. Pop Warner may have owned an automobile before this act went into effect but, if he did, he did not register it in Carlisle. It is unlikely that, due to his notoriety, Warner would have been able to avoid licensing his automobile, if he had one. The Cumberland County Prothonotary issued ten automobile registrations between May 4, 1903 and March 11, 1904, the approximate date of Warner’s departure for Cornell. Seven of the vehicles registered were for owners who resided in Carlisle; the others resided elsewhere in the county. The automobiles registered in the first year of registration included recognizable names, both in makes of vehicles: Olds, Cadillac, Packard and Rambler as well as family of owners: Henderson, Biddle, Plank and Chronister. As one would expect, the list of early car owners includes wealthy families. Not included was Glenn S. Warner. So, it is highly likely that he did not own an automobile prior to May 4, 1903, the date on which W. H. Newsham of Carlisle registered his Olds. Not only wasn’t Warner the first man in town to own a car but he wasn’t among the first.


James C. McGowan provided no source for his information so one assumes that he concluded from the mention of Warner’s automobile on the Indian School campus in 1907 as a novelty that no one else in town had a car. That is simply not true. Errors of this nature would not be so egregious if they were not being foisted off on students and educators by McGowan and as being true.


If such a simple part of McGowan’s article is wrong, what about the rest of it? Does WorldandI fact check what it posts on its site?


Galleys Received

May 27, 2008

The advance reading copies (called ARCs in the trade) arrived for my new book and are being sent out to reviewers. This is a big moment in a writer’s life: seeing thousands of hours of hard work turned into something tangible. In the old days (pre-computer), ARCs were called galleys, bound galleys or galley proofs. Authors, editors and publishers go over these babies with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors, typos or things that have changed since writing was complete. It is an impossible task because, after all this scrutiny, some typos escape and find their way into the final book. But we try.

Another important use of ARCs is to see how the photos and artwork come out in print. Overall they came out very well, better than expected. But a cartoon about the Oorang Indians from a 1922 Baltimore newspaper is too dim. The challenge now is to figure out how to darken it without losing the detail.

This weekend I received some additional information and a correction regarding Louis Island from a family member who happened to see a previous blog. That was fortuitous because I want the book to be as accurate as possible. This blog is already proving to be of some value. That encourages me to continue with it.

Having these ARCs provides local booksellers the opportunity to provide their customers something extra. People can look at an ARC and pre-order the book if they choose. The bonus, besides being sure of getting a copy of the book as soon as it comes out, is to receive an inscription of his or her choice signed by the author. On-line booksellers also take pre-orders but personalized inscriptions are impractical.



Bird Family Rodeo Stars

May 23, 2008

People often ask what happened to the great Indian sportsmen. Carlisle produced world class athletes from the mid 1890s to WWI. Haskell picked up the mantle in the 1920s until financial cuts brought about by the Great Depression brought its competitiveness to an end. A few individuals surfaced from time to time but not with the frequency they did in the first two decades of the 20th century. Or so I thought. As it turns out we may have focused our attention in the wrong direction or too narrowly.

Apparently the Bird family holds a Memorial Day rodeo annually in honor of Sammie Bird, son of Carlisle star and captain of the great 1911 team, Sampson Bird. The avuncular Sam Bird bore the responsibility of running the family’s ranches immediately after returning from Carlisle. He looked after his children, grandchildren, siblings and their offspring.  It seems that many of the patriarch’s progeny channeled their athleticism toward rodeo competitions. A quick Internet search identified a Sam Bird, grandson of the Carlisle star, his nephew Dustin Bird, and his daughters Brittany and Sammy Jo Bird as current rodeo stars. There may be more.

It is my great hope that someone will read this, fill in the missing pieces and tell me what I have wrong. Then next year I can inform people enough ahead of the rodeo that some will be able to attend.