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Chapter 1 Hearts and Minds
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Chapter 1
Hearts and Minds

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does notbecome a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

The most fascinating terrae incognitae of all are those that lie within the minds and hearts of men.
John K. Wright, in his presidential address before the Association of American Geographers, 1946[1]

Frontiers, Alienation, and the Alien

The southwestern Plains have seemed to many, as Walter Prescott Webb noted about that high and arid region, strangely "oceanic."[2] It is a vast, fiat landscape where the horizon merges with the sky, where no points of reference are offered except the ephemeral. Dust devils skitter and vanish, massive black clouds sweep in with lightning and gusts of rain and are gone just as quickly, rain evaporates before reaching the ground. An occasional car or truck can be seen miles away. It shimmers in the distance, whines along an absolutely straight road, and flashes by. In the next moment all is again silent, as if the vehicle had been imagined. The land seems empty, yet awesome and overwhelming.

Webb held that the American sojourn on the Plains had shaped the national "insides." In his seminal work, The Great Plains, he quoted from the writings of the painter John Nobel, who was born in Kansas. From


his expatriate home in France, Nobel recollected an incident on the southwestern Plains:

Did you ever hear of "loneliness" as a fatal disease? Once, back in the days when father and I were bringing up long-legged sheep from Mexico, we picked up a man near Las Vegas [New Mexico] who had lost his way. He was in a terrible state. It wasn't the result of being lost. He had "loneliness." Born on the plains, you got accustomed to them; but on people not born there the plains sometimes have an appalling effect.

You look on, on, on, out into space, out almost beyond time itself. You see nothing but the rise and swell of land and grass, and then more grass—the monotonous, endless prairies! A stranger traveling on the prairies would get his hopes up, expecting to see something different on making the next rise. To him the disappointment and monotony were terrible. "He's got loneliness," we would say of such a man.[3]

The topography around Bent's Old Fort struck me, almost two decades ago now, as terra incognita, in the sense that Mircea Eliade, probably the most influential of all historians of religion, has used that term. This is the land, found in myth worldwide, that is beyond the boundaries of the known world; it is unfounded, chaotic, and unsanctified. As such, it serves perfectly as the backdrop for that most American of creations, the alienated hero. "Our heroes have always been cowboys," according to a recent American ballad. In the sense that the cowboy is the loner guided by his personal sense of values, this could not be better stated.

The loner continually reemerges in American art forms. He is Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, an alienated individual who has no apparent code of ethics . . . yet in the midst of his despair he finds a source of direction in a world without fixed points of reference. In the end his vision might be nostalgic, even morosely sentimental: "We'll always have Paris." Despite bouts of self-pity, he displays a quiet strength borne of will and determination. A stranger, rebel, orphan, or seeker, the loner is characteristic of the most popular American heroes from John Wayne to James Dean, from Dustin Hoffman to Clint Eastwood.

The loner is no less ubiquitous in more intellectual American cultural expressions. As America matured and assumed a leading role on the world stage after the First World War, the most remarkable of a generation of American intellectuals and artists, including John Nobel, quit the country for the moral void of Europe. Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Ford Madox Ford, Gertrude Stein, and others of the "Lost Generation" chose to live where the center had not held, in the Paris of the 1920s. They gloried in it, and found glory there. Existentialism and


nihilism became them. They searched out nothingness and stared it down.

Their lives no less than their works are generally recognized as mythic epics. The most important myths, including American ones, are about transcending the fundamental isolation imposed by human consciousness; they are important because they teach us how this is properly done. There is strong similarity in this regard between the artistic expressions described just above and the history written by Frederick Jackson Turner.[4] In his Ur-history of the American West, Americans seek and transform the wilderness.

The transformation of Nietzsche's abysmal emptiness to a settled world, one laid out with reference to all of the reassuring benchmarks of modernity, constitutes one of the most important chapters of the American creation myth. We tend to view "the frontier" as primeval, dormant, awaiting the inspiring touch of civilization. This influences us even as we know on another level that the trans-Mississippi West was peopled when Europeans arrived, and that these people had formed distinctive ways of life. It is the way of creation myths to gloss over such details. Creation myths make certain ontological demands, one might say: they have to start from scratch. The cosmos before the advent of the organizing agency must be, as expressed in Genesis, "without form."

Of course, what Turner and the European settlers for whom he spoke overlooked was that "frontier" is a matter of perspective. To the Romans moving into what is now Great Britain, those isles were the frontier. They were nonetheless inhabited, as was the Biblical promised land. To understand how indigenous populations can be so conveniently overlooked, one must bear in mind that to all human groups, unknown land is un-sanctified land, land that does not fit into the forms our assumptions about the world have so far taken. It is unfathomable and threatening until it is sanctified, until our belief and value system has been stretched to make room for it or, more likely, until we tailor the land to our preexisting notions of what the real world should be.

The real world to all peoples is the homeland, which is the geographic center of the known earth. It is made sacred by its connection with heaven, usually visualized as a vertical axis that runs from heaven through earth to the underworld, and connects the three planes of existence. This, the axis mundi, can be a natural formation, like Mount Fuji, Temple Hill, Ayers Rock, Mount Meru, or the Black Hills (the last of these sacred to the Lakota). Or, it can be of human construction: the pyramids in Egypt and Mesoamerica, Babylonian ziggurats, henges in ancient Europe, the Kaaba


in Mecca, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, any number of Christian cathedrals and churches or Buddhist, Islamic or Hindu temples. Eliade said that even the house was designed after this pattern of the world; he called it an "imago mundi." The Plains Indians of North America, who were nomadic in historic times, regarded the sky "as a vast tent supported by a central pillar; the tent pole or post of the house is assimilated to the Pillars of the World and is so named. This central pole or post has an important ritual role; the sacrifices in honor of the celestial Supreme Being are performed at the foot of it."[5] On the secular front, edifices like the spires of the Kremlin and the Washington Monument, although not geographically central, aspire to political centrality.

The rest of the earth is legitimated by reference to the center. Topographic and other important features are located according to cardinal direction and sometimes distance from the center. Cardinal directions are associated with gods, colors, holy places, and a host of other phenomena that appear in the mythology of the occupants of the homeland. Peaks, valleys, lakes, and so forth are typically scenes of mythical activities of gods subordinate to deities who utilize the axis mundi as a passage between heaven and earth. Such is the feeling of a people for their homeland that, as an example, "When Rome decreed that Carthage should be destroyed, the Carthagenians beseeched the Romans to 'spare the city' and instead to 'kill us, whom you have ordered to move away. . .. Vent your wrath upon men, not upon temples, gods, tombs, and an innocent city."[6]

When one passes beyond the boundaries imposed upon the land by the cosmological framework, one is in uncertain and dangerous territory, terra incognita. It may be inhabited by unknown gods or by creatures beyond human ken. European sailors, typically, imagined monsters. And they feared that they would fall off the edge of the world. Our human response is to establish benchmarks as quickly as possible that harken back to the known. A new axis mundi is fixed: A cross is planted on a foreign shore, a flag is planted on the Moon. The new world replicates the old: In the New World we have, to mention only a few examples, New Orleans, New York, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New Mexico. The Masai, moved from their homes in East Africa, "took with them the names of their hills, plains and rivers; and gave them to the hills, plains and rivers in the new country.[7] The deities that sanctified the homeland are transplanted: San Diego, Santo Domingo, Santa Fe. Humans bring with them their architecture as well, which mirrors the sublime pattern of the cos-


mos, just as the homeland does. Polynesian societies erected the supporting posts of their structures in alignment with the cardinal directions, placing sacrifices beneath them. Astronomers in the sophisticated civilizations of India showed masons where to place the first stone; at that spot the mason drove a stake into the ground in order to fix the head of the mythological snake supporting the world, the snake that symbolized chaos, the formless.[8] The Dutch, settling into the luxuriously forested river valleys of the strange North American continent, mined clay and built ovens for the bricks necessary to construct dwellings properly. Creation and habitation had to be done according to the proper form in order to produce form.

The people who occupy the terra incognita, those who are indigenous, are strangers and less than human until we establish their humanity. They are until then like the human figure God pressed from dust in Genesis (chapter 2, verse 7) before he breathed life into them. They must either prove themselves human in our terms, or our terms must be expanded. If this cannot be done, they will be regarded as especially cunning creatures, but treacherous because they cannot be expected to behave in human, predictable ways. Many in "our" group will argue that we should eliminate "them."

We know our kin are human (whatever else we may know or feel about them). The safest course is therefore to establish kinship with unknown peoples. While our fathers and father's fathers may be different, if our gods, who are ancestors even more venerable than our grandfathers, are the same, our kinship is established. Joint participation in ritual that refers, even obliquely, to such gods may be enough to establish kinship. The anthropological term for this is fictive kinship.

Kin, fictive or biological, may quarrel, may even come to blows, but nonetheless will recognize the basis for a continuing relationship and in general feel bound by a set of ongoing obligations. The behavior of kin is predictable to a degree that humans find reassuring, especially because life in most other respects is unpredictable. This is so even when behavior is predictably irritating, as with the stereotyped behavior of mothers-in-law in many societies.

Kin will also in almost every case form an alliance in conflicts that arise with others, including more distantly related kin. Kinship does not in every instance do away with conflict, but it does manage and direct it in certain ways. As the Arab proverb goes, "I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousins and I against the village,


my village and I against the world." This sort of predictability also is reassuring.

The dominant culture in the United States is one that has been carried by unsettled persons, confronted by the alien and unpredictable on all sides. Frederick Jackson Turner's "frontier" of the American West and the creations of the "Lost Generation" of American artists and intellectuals are metaphorical expressions of the human confrontation with nothingness. Anxiety, about the uncertainties of life, a nagging suspicion that human existence is without meaning and that a universal chaos will at any moment erupt through the veneer of humanly contrived order has been, almost certainly, a concern of all humans in all places and times. This anxiety is rooted in the human capacity for reflective thought, which is the ability to visualize oneself as a discrete entity in the world and, therefore, something subject to the uncertainties and finalities therein. Such anxiety in modern America, however, has been exacerbated by the circumstances of immigration, the separation from the massive reality of homeland with its reassuring sensory and cultural benchmarks firmly tied to a traditional apprehension of the world. Anxiety has been further heightened to angst by the efforts of modernists to debunk the myths and discredit the traditions, in all their variety, that have imbued humans with a sense of meaning and purpose. It continues today with certain post-modern schools of thought that deny any intrinsic meaning or coherence to the past.

Whatever the merits of the postmodern project, it has met with dubious success. According to a Gallup poll taken in 1991, 90 percent of Americans prayed at least every, week and had never doubted the existence of God, 80 percent believed in miracles and expected to be judged for their behavior after death. More than half believed that the Devil existed, compared to 39 percent who reported this belief in 1978. Some observers of religious behavior, in fact, have suggested that the United States is today undergoing yet another "Great Awakening," like those of the mid and late eighteenth centuries and early nineteenth century. Many have puzzled over why, as Lawrence Wright has put it, "in the Western world, religion is an especially American phenomenon."[9]

It seems likely that the reason for the constant resurgence of evangelical fervor in the United States has to do with the sorts of experiences offered by religious organizations, which are ones of ritual interaction. The rites, regalia, and emotionally laden ceremony of formal religion hold great attraction to the alienated since they reduce their sense of isolation.


Americans throughout the history of the country. have had reason to feel alienated from both the traditional realms of home and community (which are at present especially fragmented and unstable) and the modern world of capitalistic intercourse. Successful participation in the latter usually requires a tool kit of rational skills unavailable to many. Success in the world of capitalistic exchange also typically requires a single-minded commitment to participation. Many have allegiances that curtail this kind of participation, such as women with commitments to their families that prevent them from pursuing a career full time, those with strong personal interests of little value in the marketplace, anyone not willing to relocate for career advancement; generally, those who fail to assign the highest priority to developing and marketing their skills. Exclusion from effective participation in the capitalistic marketplace engenders alienation in itself, but exclusion also opens up the individual to economic and political exploitation, which deepens that sense of alienation. Today and historically, the socially excluded and alienated are those most likely to become involved in evangelical movements.[10]

This book is about a time and place on Turner's "frontier" where alienated groups, "strangers in a strange land," met and interacted in ways that I call "rituals" to form a common world for a time. As we shall see, alienation was rife on the frontier, not only among those of European ancestry. like the Bents and their partner Ceran St. Vrain, who were scrambling for a secure position in the burgeoning capitalistic order that was replacing that of inherited privilege, but also among the Native American and Hispanic populations.[11]

The world that was jointly constructed by these three cultural groups was eclipsed, eventually, by the ambitions of political and business interests in the East. Tragedy befell the architects of the common world, especially the Plains tribes, who, in the perception of Eastern immigrants in the latter half of the nineteenth century, became the demons that dwelled in the Nietzschean abyss. The builders of Bent's Old Fort fared poorly too. Charles Bent lost his life; William Bent lost many of those most dear to him as well as his "castle on the Plains." By that time, however, the world they had created had gained a tenacious hold. Indeed, multiculturalism is still the hallmark of the Southwest. The "middle ground" constructed during the years of Bent's Old Fort's occupation has been diminished, but is still firm enough so that no serious attempt to separate the Southwest from the United States has been made since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.


Bent's Old Fort and the Cultural Landscape of the Southwestern Plains

Before the arrival of Europeans, the broad Plains just east of the southern Rocky Mountains was an area sparsely occupied by pedestrian nomads. For thousands of years small groups of hunters and gatherers followed the banks of major rivers and streams like the Arkansas and its tributaries. Staying close to the water and its plant and animal resources, they seldom ventured into the inhospitable countryside. The names of these groups were never recorded. What became of their descendants we do not know.

After them came the wide-ranging equestrian Plains tribes. These populations had been displaced from ancestral lands much farther to the east by European intrusion: by the disease, social dislocation, and ensuing tribal warfare that became rampant during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Among them were the Cheyenne and Arapaho, the Native American tribes most prominent in the history of Bent's Old Fort, who had been forced from their homes in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. The acquisition of the horse presented opportunities eagerly grasped by these refugees. Mounted buffalo hunting, raiding and warfare, and trade became the essential elements of a way of life which then developed.

The names of these tribes have been etched indelibly into the cultural landscape of the entire southwestern Plains. On maps one finds Cheyenne County. and Cheyenne Wells in Colorado, Cheyenne County in Kansas, Cheyenne, Oklahoma, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Colorado has Kiowa County, Pawnee and Comanche national grasslands, and the city of Arapaho. There are, as well, Brule, Arapaho, and Oglala, Nebraska; Comanche, Oklahoma; and Kiowa National Grasslands in New Mexico.

There are also names from a later, darker period in Native American history, when these peoples were violently obliterated from the landscape of the Southwest: Chivington, Colorado, memorializes the man most responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre. This atrocity took place only a day's march from Bent's Old Fort and Bent's New Fort. By the time of the 1869 massacre, William Bent was one of the few whites in Colorado willing to speak against the extermination of the Native Americans. Not far from Chivington is Sheridan Lake, named for General Philip Henry Sheridan, famed for saying, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."

For the most part, however, it is as if the cartographers were most ac-


tive during the few years of the early nineteenth century when one could say that the Cheyenne and Arapaho were north of the Arkansas River, the Kiowa and Comanche to the southeast, the Shoshoni to the west, the Ute to the northwest, and the Apache to the south (see fig. 1). This arrangement of Native American occupation of the land, though, was contingent partly upon European and American interaction with Native American groups, interaction that grew in frequency and intensity as trails were developed and the trickle of emigration through these courses grew to a flood. It was also determined by the military prowess and fortunes of the various tribes. After the introduction of the horse in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the once sparsely inhabited region became the arena of ceaseless conflict between now mobile groups of Native Americans.

For more than one hundred years, from about the mid eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries, all Plains Native American groups were transformed into something very like light calvary units. Striking out in all directions, they attempted, as Lewis and Clark noted of the Shoshoni, to "keep up the war from spring to autumn."[12]

The presence of the Spanish was one of the principal reasons for Native American interest in the southwestern Plains—the Spanish brought horses. The Comanche in particular quickly grew adept at "harvesting" horses from the Spanish herds. In the equestrian culture of the Plains Indians, the horse was not only an essential part of the technological basis of that culture; it was also, as Frank Roe and others have documented, the basic form of power and wealth.[13]

The horse played a large role in Comanche mythology. The traditional view of the world is one less segmented than (or segmented in ways different from) the modern one, and so the horse was seen as "valuable" in all ways. Regard for the horse was also religious. Horse riding provided a way to reenact mythological occurrence. The horsemanship of the Comanche awed all who observed it, even other Plains tribes. A Comanche could ride a horse bareback at full gallop in such a way as to conceal himself completely from an observer. To accomplish this, he could crawl under the belly of the horse and back up over either its head or tail. Because of such skill and their proximity to the herds of the Spanish, the Comanche generally held trade in disdain, unlike most other Plains groups and in sharp contrast with the Cheyenne and Arapaho. The Comanche felt they had no need of trade, they simply took what they wanted.

In no small part because of the depredations of the indios barbaros, the barbaric Indians, including not only the Comanche but the Apache, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and others, colonization on the northern


Figure 1.
Location of Native American groups in the early nineteenth century and their westerly
immigration trails. (Map by Steven Patricia.)


frontier of Spain's New Mexico territory was a very tenuous matter. The strategic importance of Spanish settlement (later, Mexican settlement) here was well recognized, however, by the seats of government farther to the south. Spain's anxiety regarding the security of her northern colonial boundaries was dramatically intensified by the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the United States in 1803.

Despite Spanish efforts, the preservation of ties to these settlements or even of social order at the northern outposts proved extremely difficult. Of the Spanish who inhabited the northern frontier of colonial New Mexico, Father Juan Augustin de Morfi could only despair. In his report to church officials, "Account of Disorders in New Mexico, 1778," he observed that settlers "live isolated with no one to observe them [and] there are those who have no inhibitions about running around stark naked. . .. [O]ther moral disorders proceed which shock even the barbarous Indians. . .. [R]obbery is looked upon as a tolerable expedient . . . blatant violence is the rule."[14] Here we can see the contingency of occupation working in contradictory directions: The Native Americans were present because of the Spanish, but the hold of the Spanish and (that of the Mexicans after their independence in I821) on the area was made tenuous by that very presence.

Beginning about 1831, with the construction on the northern bank of the Arkansas River of the trading post eventually known as Bent's Old Fort, American traders undertook what proved a pivotal role in the theater of events in the Southwest. Operating from this post, just over the northern border of Mexico (see fig. 2), the Americans formed trading alliances with Native Americans. In doing this they encouraged raids upon Mexican settlements, if only by offering a ready market for livestock stolen in raids on rancherias. The resulting destabilization of the northern Mexican borderlands helped pave the way for the 1846 American takeover of the Southwest.

Previous forays by Americans into the area had been unsuccessful. Not only the Spanish had resisted but also Plains tribes that, unlike the Comanche, had developed a stake in the exchange of European and Native American goods. The Cheyenne and Arapaho in particular feared that the American newcomers would usurp their position in this trade. For their part, Spanish authorities routinely jailed or otherwise detained and harassed American traders and trappers attempting commerce in Spanish New Mexico, beginning with Zebulon Pike's visit in 1806. In doing so, they were heeding the warning given by the former lieutenant governor of Spanish Louisiana who said, in 1804, that the Americans were intent


Figure 2
Location of Bent's Old Fort. (Map by Steven Patricia.)


upon expanding "their boundary lines to the Rio Bravo." His immediate superior, Baron de Carondelet, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, had been greatly concerned with American attempts to expand their fur trade through "control" of Native American groups.[15]

As early as 1803 Spanish officials had come to see the Plains Indians as an essential buffer to American encroachment, provided their loyalty could be obtained through participation in the Spanish fur trade.[16] By the second decade of the nineteenth century, the Spanish were trading with the Kiowa on the Arkansas, the Pawnee on the Platte, and the Arapaho in the area between the Arkansas and the Platte. Near the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers, almost at the spot where Bent's Fort would soon be built, the Spanish engaged in a regular trade rendezvous with the Plains Indians.

In the first thirty years of the nineteenth century, then, the Plains Indians who frequented the territory of the southwestern Plains were enmeshed in a tenuous trading alliance with the Spanish. Even though this alliance was not enough to end raids by the Native American trading partners on Spanish settlements, it seems to have ameliorated them. The cautious alliance was enough to forestall American entry into the region, and this was of strategic importance to the Spanish. For example, in 1811, Manuel Lisa, renowned founder of the St. Louis-based Missouri Fur Company, sent Jean Baptiste Champlain to trade with the Arapaho in their southwestern home and the Spanish traders in Santa Fe, hoping to open the Southwest for this American company's trade. The Arapaho killed Champlain and two of his party. The Arapaho attacked many such contingents from the north who ventured into or near the Southwest in the years that followed. As late as 1823, several American trappers were killed near Taos. The resistance to American traders by Native Americans (particularly by the Cheyenne, their close allies the Arapaho, and the Kiowa) in the southwestern Plains, and in the Southwest, seems to have peaked in the 1820s.[17]

The buffer between Spanish and later Mexican (southern European) and Anglo (northern European) territories, judged crucial by Baron de Carondelet, was removed with Mexican Independence in 1821. Without Spain's strict prohibition of commerce with the United States, the floodgates were opened for American influence. The tide of American power surged, alarming the newly independent Mexican state and prompting efforts (described in chapter 4) to replace the barrier.

In the 1830s Native American resistance to Anglo-American presence in the southwestern Plains diminished. This can be attributed to the


construction of Bent's Old Fort in about 1831. A fictive kinship relationship was forged between the Anglo builders and their principal trading partners, the Cheyenne and Arapaho. The man most responsible for the fort's construction and operation, William Bent, then established actual kinship relations with the most influential family among the Cheyenne by marrying Owl Woman, daughter of White Thunder, the Keeper-of-the-Sacred-Arrows and therefore the Cheyenne's most important holy man. To White Thunder, the marriage of William Bent to his daughter may well have seemed an eminently logical extension of his control over sacred objects. For the Cheyenne, this kinship ensured an unending supply of European trade goods such as firearms, ammunition, knives, beads, and other manufactured items as well as providing a source of the power associated with these goods—the white man's medicine.

The alliance established a new order in the region. The Cheyenne and Arapaho realized major gains in military power and social prestige from their ties to Bent's Fort and became preeminent among the Native Americans in the area. They used this power and prestige to the advantage of the Anglo owners of the fort—and coincidentally to the advantage of United States interests—by imposing a roughly territorial arrangement on the nomadic, warlike tribes of the region. They laid claim to the immediate vicinity of the fort, north of the Arkansas River. The Kiowa were kept to the south, the Pawnee to the northeast, the Shoshoni and Ute to the east, the Sioux to the north, the Apache to the south. Within the trading empire of the Bent & St. Vrain Company—an area encompassing most of present-day Colorado, northern New Mexico, the panhandle of Oklahoma, the northern tip of Texas, southern Wyoming, southern Nebraska, and western Kansas—a measure of stability reigned, despite constant skirmishing among Native American groups. Depredations upon the Bent & St. Vrain Company, their wagon trains, and their employees and associates were minimized. At the same time, the Native Americans' trade-based ties with the Mexican population to the south were largely sundered as the Bent & St. Vrain Company usurped the position of the southern traders. Raiding on southern settlements increased (sometimes at the explicit urging of Anglo traders), further jeopardizing Mexico's hold on its northern borderlands.

In contrast to the Mexicans' inability to maintain order, the Bent & St. Vrain Company, operating from the fort that was called a "castle on the Plains" by the press of the day, embodied the notion of order. The implicit comparison of the Bents and their close associates with feudal lords is understandable. In their letters, the Bents speak of whipping those who had


violated the rules of the fort. The trappers and other employees of the company as well as the Cheyenne and Arapaho on several occasions served as a private army. The fort and grounds were a model of and modeled a new world—a world of modernity, capitalism, and individualism.

The construction of Bent's Fort tipped the balance of power in the southwestern Plains, and ultimately in the Southwest. By the time General Kearny's Army of the West marched to Bent's Fort in 1846 to reprovision and repair before the invasion of Mexico, the New Mexico territory, had been won. The army marched into Santa Fe and raised the American flag without firing a shot. The New Mexican governor, Manuel Armijo, had fled with the army that might have provided organized resistance. It is almost certain that Armijo, along with his second-in-command Colonel Diego Archuleta, had met shortly before the invasion with the American trader James Magoffin, who negotiated the terms of the Mexican military withdrawal under orders from President James Polk. Magoffin raced to catch General Kearny's army at Bent's Old Fort and advised Kearny to wait there before marching into Mexico, giving Magoffin time to meet with Armijo and Archuleta.[18] Juan Bautista Vigil, the lieutenant governor (and former employee of American traders), remained in Santa Fe and gave a speech that warmly welcomed the American troops. From Santa Fe, Kearny's troops marched westward to help secure the California territory, for the United States.

In early 1847, months after the American victory in Santa Fe, authorities in Chihuahua sent cadets from the military, academy there to Taos, to foment a revolution against the American occupation.[19] Charles Bent and other American traders and entrepreneurs were assassinated during the subsequent disturbances. Most of those killed were associated in one way or another with the Bent & St. Vrain Company. This selectivity was that of a planned military operation, although the incidents which transpired during the insurrection were portrayed then, and were even construed by the surviving members of the Bent & St. Vrain Company, as the behavior of an enraged local mob.

In the early morning of January 19, 1847, at Taos, groups of the local populace, many of them Pueblo Indians well primed by liquor and demagoguery, were directed to the homes of influential Americans and American sympathizers. Charles Bent, by then the first governor of the newly established New Mexico Territory,[20] was shot with many arrows and scalped in front of his family. His New Mexican wife and their children and New Mexican in-laws who were present (including Kit Carson's wife) were left unharmed. In the days that followed, other property owned or


associated with the Bent & St. Vrain Company was attacked, including ranches at Ponil and Vermejo. But by the end of January, the revolt had subsided, never having engaged the New Mexicans beyond those with special grudges against certain influential Americans. The disgruntled included individuals who had figured highly in the now crumbling power structure of New Mexico, particularly those representing the Catholic Church. Padre Martinez, for example, was always thought by Ceran St. Vrain and Kit Carson to have been involved in Charles Bent's death.[21]

The Bent & St. Vrain Company never recovered from the consequences of the American victory in the Mexican War. Charles Bent's death was one of many blows to the company, and was felt especially by William Bent himself. The fortunes of William Bent's allies, the Cheyenne and Arapaho, rapidly declined. As immigrants streamed into the territories secured by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, they brought sickness and depleted the herds of buffalo upon which the Native Americans depended in so many ways. Conflicts became increasingly bitter and violent. Many of William Bent's children sided with the Southern Cheyenne in the struggle that soon followed and became some of the most feared warriors in the tribe. One of William's sons' rage was such that he vowed to kill his father. The Plains tribes were soon regarded as demonic by the new Anglo majority, and attempts were made to eradicate them. The most infamous incident in the genocidal effort was the horrendous Sand Creek Massacre, in which many, including women, children, and old people, were killed and dismembered. Those Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and members of other Plains tribes who survived the violence were relocated over the next decade to reservations in what is now Oklahoma. In 1849, a year after the treaty that ended the Mexican War, William Bent abandoned Bent's Old Fort. By many accounts he attempted to destroy it as he left.

Beyond History:
Cultural Dynamics and the Human Past

The geopolitical boundaries of the United States were dramatically expanded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The southernmost border of the United States would now run along the Rio Grande instead of the Arkansas River; from the Rio Grande the boundary line would continue westward to the northern shore of the Gulf of Califor-


nia, then on to a point on the Pacific Ocean just south of San Diego. The nation was embraced by the two great oceans of the world, and Manifest Destiny was realized.

The United States annexed what are now the states of California, Nevada, and Utah, almost all of Arizona and New Mexico (the rest was acquired by the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico in 1853), about half of Colorado, and portions of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Even today the area annexed constitutes about 25 percent of the continental United States. The treaty also confirmed American title to Texas. And only a month after the formal declaration of war with Mexico in 1846, the United States came to an agreement with Britain on the division of the Oregon Territory. American resolve, and the likelihood of American success in its military adventure far to the south, probably had much to do with prompting a cooperative attitude on the part of the British.[22]

These are the facts of an American history replete with the dates of wars and treaties and the actions of prominent men; American history as it has been commonly taught in high school and undergraduate courses, the history of history books. But the annexation also signaled changes in the cultural landscape of the United States that were no less important than the magnitude of territorial expansion. Sweeping changes had taken place among and between the three distinct cultures that met in the Southwest and on the southwestern Plains prior to the beginning of the Mexican War in 1846: the Native Americans, the Anglo-Americans who came from the Eastern United States, and the Spanish (later Mexicans) who came from the south. Without them the war would not have fulfilled the territorial ambitions of political and business leaders in the United States. The Southwest could not have been won and held.[23]

In a widely quoted passage from his On War (first published in 1833), Karl von Clausewitz wrote, "War is not merely a political act, but also a political instrument, a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means."[24] He was a spokesman for the rationalization of warfare, seeing it as a tactical means to larger, strategic ends. Clausewitz was very influential among the political and military, leaders of nations in the nineteenth century (and has been so since that time). These leaders in the United States were sophisticated enough to capitalize upon the cultural juggernaut set in motion when the Bent & St. Vrain Company constructed their fort. Their military objectives, and the strategic ends, could not have been achieved had the cultural phenomena not first occurred.

Despite the Americans' superior technology and armed force, a determined resistance by the Mexicans would have presented formidable and


probably insurmountable logistical challenges. The distance of New Mexico from the gateway cities of Independence and St. Louis would have precluded a massive, sustained assault. The relatively primitive overland transportation technology, available then, as well as the dangers from the harsh environment and warlike tribes over almost 1,000 miles of the Santa Fe Trail, meant that soldiers and supplies could only move slowly and with great difficulty. Given this, ongoing guerilla activity, would probably have won back the province for Mexico.

It was not American military power, per se, which prompted the Mexican government to rapidly withdraw from New Mexico. It was, instead, the inroads made by the culture of modernity that had rendered the Mexican position there untenable. Compare the response of the New Mexican populace with the strong resistance met by the United States military as it penetrated more deeply into Mexico later in the war. There, foreigners were deeply distrusted. Periodic riots were fomented against foreigners throughout the first half of the nineteenth century in this more southern area, and the belief was widespread among the peons there that foreigners were devils, "heritics with tails who plotted to enslave honest Mexicans or lead them off to Hell."[25] Such regions were relinquished under the treaty of 1848.

Histories that have dealt with the annexation of the Southwest have recognized the desire that existed among the New Mexicans for continuing and expanding trade, but they tend to see this in terms of abstract economic interests. What this approach does not sufficiently respect is the way life was experienced by the New Mexicans in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Trade, almost entirely connected with Bent's Old Fort, was seen as constituent of a new way of life. Its importance to New Mexicans had to do with the creation of new identities in a new world.

New identities were constructed by means of social relationships based in marriage, membership in secret societies, and friendship and kinship, as we shall see, but increasingly all of these relationships derived from those initially established by participation in the Santa Fe Trail trade. Further, playing a role in this trade involved one in a truly global grid of economic transactions. While this subjected one to market forces over which one held little control and that might be manipulated, such drawbacks were not apparent. In any case they were more than counterbalanced by the expansion of parochial horizons.

In the handbill issued by the governor of New Mexico, the Mexican Donaciano Vigil, who replaced George Bent after his assassination, we can see the impact of the new ideology (fig. 3). The handbill, issued by a Mexican and presented in Spanish, refers to aspects of modernity espoused


Figure 3.
Proclamation of January 25, 1847, by Donaciano Vigil. (Courtesy New
Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe, Historic File 193, TANM 98;
translation by Melinda Berge.)


by the new government. This can be seen in the use of the terms "principle," "reciprocal concord and confidence," "aegis of law and reason," and "security and protection of the law." These, the handbill implied, offered more advantages to the general populace than did the old, corrupt form of government dominated by a hereditary class structure. The Hispanic archivist at the New Mexico Archives who copied the handbill for me commented that such sentiments had been gaining ground among the citizens of New Mexico prior to the invasion, and so the appeal was probably effective.

Evidence of the crucial role played by the Bent & St. Vrain Company in advancing such sentiment can be seen in the lack of resistance met by American forces in precisely the areas where the company had been most active. The determined resistance farther to the south was on the far reaches of, or beyond, the company's area of operation. It was in this southern area that virtually all United States casualties were sustained. It was from there as well that the short-lived uprising against the newly installed American government in New Mexico that claimed the lives of Charles Bent and his close associates was instigated.[26]

Most histories have given scant attention to the role played by the other, very distinct, precapitalist cultures in the annexation of the Southwest. The Native Americans, particularly the Plains tribes, acted as a kind of "wild card" in what became a political game for the control of the Southwest. They, were motivated by considerations of value and wealth not readily appreciated from a modern viewpoint. Nonetheless, Bent's Old Fort, which through modern eyes was an economic institution, was instrumental in making allies of the Plains tribes at a crucial point in time. Again, this was done through trade—but more precisely though rituals associated with trade.

Overall, it was as if Anglo-American culture had established outposts in the "hearts and minds" of the members of what might have otherwise been competing cultures. More than one hundred years after the events described here, the American invasion of Vietnam would be compared by some historians to the Mexican War. The similarities are evident. Each was an attempt to extend American control into territories occupied by cultures with very different views of the world, and each severely strained logistical lines because the territories to be occupied were so distant. Unlike the ambitions of the United States in Southeast Asia, though, the American effort in the Southwest was successful.

Furthermore, the transformation was a part of global process, one that continues today. Culture is what is known in physics as a dynamical sys-


tem, a system that in changing precipitates still more change. It exhibits in this way something like a "life" of its own. It is also a complex adaptive system, one that carries with it schemata, compressed information with which it can "predict" the environment. Murray Gell-Mann notes that "in biological evolution, experience of the past is compressed in the genetic message encoded in DNA." Gell-Mann suggests that institutions, customs, traditions, and myths are comparable schematas operating within human societies[27] This is the stuff of culture, which provides the "worlds" in which humans (with the possible exception of those in schizophrenic states) must dwell.

The joint project of world construction in the Southwest was made necessary. by the dissolution of key social relationships within the cultures that met on the southwestern Plains in the nineteenth century. Father Juan Augustin de Morfi wrote to church officials of the breakdown of a colonial social system isolated and under attack not only figuratively, by competing belief and value systems but also literally, by the indios barbaros. The pobladores of the small Spanish settlements, in de Morfi's view, lived without the social order of even the wild nomadic Indians and were much less civilized than the settled agricultural Pueblo Indians.

Native American groups in the southwestern Plains like the Cheyenne and Arapaho had been displaced from the Great Lakes area by the pressure of other groups migrating from farther east, who themselves had been displaced by the Europeans. Their populations had been greatly decimated by war and disease, and the structures of their society, accordingly, had suffered great dislocations.[28]

Anglo-Americans, whatever their motivation for venturing west—be it to escape an untenable social situation or to advance an entrepreneurial scheme—typically suffered from their dissociation with the social institutions they had left behind. There is abundant documentation of the conflict, violence, and alcohol abuse rampant on the "frontier."

Few forms of constructive social interaction were available with which to knit these diverse, fragmented groups together, especially when they first met. There were no formal institutions in which all might participate, like churches, schools, or governments; they had no sports or forms of theater in common. The most important form of interaction available was trade, which formed the basis for fictive kinship relations. In the eyes of the Native Americans, the practice of ritual exchange established a common, mythological ancestry. Exchange with Mexican trading partners operated in a similar way to establish social as well as business relationships. The Anglos became "known" and "human" to both their Native


American and Mexican trading partners, as did Native Americans and Mexicans to Anglos. This accomplished, Anglos often took Native American or Mexican wives, as did all most involved with the Bent & St. Vrain Company, further solidifying relationships between groups. These three groups formed for a time what Richard White termed a "middle ground," a realm of "shared meanings and practices."[29]

Part of this formation included the acceptance of certain basic, modern assumptions about the world. The most important of these is that the world is better apprehended and manipulated by the individual, as opposed to the group. It is, then, the task of each individual to construct an identity seen as personal, as opposed to social. This results in a "high-grid, low-group, ego-centered" society, as described by cultural anthropologist Mary, Douglas, one marked by a relatively low sense of collective solidarity and an emphasis on position within a hierarchical social "grid."[30] Mobility, depends upon competence and luck. The degree to which an individual possesses these characteristics determines his or her success in amassing quantities of significant items, valuable in exchange. If the cultural transformation of the Southwest was and is not complete, it has been at least thorough enough that no serious attempt has been made to alter the political boundaries established in 1848.

Culture and Identity:
The Formation of New Worlds

Succeeding chapters in this book will describe and explain how the project of "world formation" in the southwestern Plains and the Southwest proceeded and will deal also with the historical consequences of that project. Ritual operates to sustain or alter the human "world" that culture provides. Ritual behavior that altered the cultures of the Southwest included the protocols inherent in the architecture of the fort and the use of the landscape surrounding the fort. This humanly altered landscape constituted "calcified ritual." We can identify more obvious ritual associated with the fort, too: the rituals of exchange associated with the trade itself, drinking and feasting, gaming, the marriages and other long-term relationships established between individuals belonging to the various cultures that met at the fort, the ceremonies so much a part of the secret societies to which the Anglos and Hispanics belonged, and ritual aspects of warfare.


Ritual occurs at the nexus of subjectivity, and objectivity, where the individual is especially receptive to socially assigned meanings. Often, ritual is not recognized for what it is, and thus is "fugitive." Nonetheless, it is through ritual that "realms of meaning" are created. In chapter 2, I look at these realms as they appear and are formed in both "traditional" and "modern" societies.[31] The many similarities between the traditional and the modern worlds that we will discover in this book argue strongly for a fundamental sameness despite superficial differences.

In ritual behavior people influence one another by expressions of all kinds, including alterations they make to the physical world. Most of this is nonverbal. Nonverbal information is often remarkably effective in the long run because it affects how we feel as much or more than how we think. We hear our national anthem and we are frequently moved both emotionally and physically; we may feel a bit giddy, tears may even spring to our eyes. Similar sorts of reactions may occur when our team wins, at weddings, walking through the Sistine Chapel, visiting our senator in his or her office in Washington, at evangelical religious services, watching the sun set over the mountains, at concerts, accepting an award, touching a loved one, smelling pine needles on Christmas morning or incense in a temple.

All these experiences are fraught with meaning. But the meaning is almost always inchoate. If we plumb deeply enough into the meaning, however, what we will find is that it has to do with relationships with other humans, membership in a group. The archetype for any human relationship and for any human group is the family, in whatever form it might occur.

Humans are notoriously neotenic. To an extent much beyond other animals, they retain childlike characteristics throughout their lives. They play and learn as long as they live. They desire attention from their social superiors; they will compete with and battle each other for it. They seek out "charismatic" leaders, people who appear bigger, stronger, more competent, and more knowledgeable than they about arcane matters. Conversely, they are attracted to childlike qualifies in other humans, in animals, in imaginary figures. They feel affection and delight in the presence of such characteristics, and are often moved to nurture whom or whatever displays them. In doing this, they are acting out the role of the idealized parent.[32]

Reenactment of such idealized roles (the cast drawn from actors enmeshed as well in historic contingencies) is the basis for ritual. All cultures practice ancestor worship of one kind or another. "Traditional" societies


openly regard the ancestors as gods. Virtually every Thai household, for example, has a shrine in which images of the Buddha are positioned next to photographs of parents and grandparents, other kin, and the king. There are complex and sophisticated societies today in which the leader of the society is revered as a deity. In Japan, for example, the king is taken by a large percentage of the population to be in a lineage that began with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the prime mover of the universe. In a real sense, all parents create the universe for their children, and this kind of belief can be seen as a poetic statement of that fact. Many people in modern Western nations that no longer have kings take remarkable interest in surrogate royalty, following the antics of Princess Di and Prince Charles closely, or those of the "kings" and "queens" of the entertainment, sports, and business worlds, the "stars" in the popular heavens. People copy the appearance and behavior of such trendsetters, very much as a small child unselfconsciously and proudly models herself or himself after caregivers. Or they consciously and willfully act out their rejection of such role models through their appearance and behavior. A great number of people spend considerable time in genealogical research, hoping to discover some godlike individual in the family tree. Though leadership is not hereditary in modern societies, most citizens then act out in numerous ways a paternalistic relationship between societal figureheads and themselves. In the United States, virtually every action and utterance by the President or First Lady accessible to the public will be eagerly scrutinized and will evoke an intense emotional response from some quarter of society.

A certain definition of ritual is used throughout this book, one that recognizes the pertinent connections between neoteny, collective human activity, and the alterations to the material world produced by such activity. Chapter 3 introduces ritual as the reenactment of the actions of the ancestors and gods that transformed primordial chaos into the order of the world. Mythology is most concerned with these sorts of actions by the ancestors and gods, too, and while myths are verbal expressions, they are almost always offered in a ritual context.

Ritual, on one level, is an expression of nostalgia, the nostalgia of the lost worlds of the womb, the breast, and childhood. This nostalgia for "paradise" is common among all human groups—and is felt no less by those modern man considers to be primitive.[33] Our desire for "oceanic oneness" is a neotenic one, and therefore ubiquitous among humans. The neotenic nature of this desire structures ritual behavior in predictable ways, ways that conform to universal childhood experiences and perceptions.


Societies considered by modern observers to be traditional often have already been altered by contact with more modern cultures. As a case in point a ritual that is one of the most celebrated symbols of "Indian-ness" in both anthropological literature and popular culture, the Sun Dance, can be shown to have been shaped in no small part by early European influence; I explore this in chapter 3. It occupies a liminal position in many ways, including that it attends to a concern for individual "redemption" as well as the traditional preoccupation with the restoration of universal harmony. It does this by implying a timeless model of paradisiacal harmony that incorporates these modern concerns.

In part because of this, the Sun Dance seems strangely familiar to modern observers. It expresses the competitive, warlike, and individualistic culture of the Plains tribes. This culture has been appropriated by modem American culture, in which it operates, in turn, as a paradisiacal model by which to legitimate unbridled concern for self and self-advancement. The effect of this model is likewise made through ritual, although this is done covertly in the personalized experience of novels, motion pictures, television epics, other artistic representations, and historical accounts. In considering the uses to which the Plains Indian culture has been put, it becomes obvious that ritual operates in both traditional and modern societies, albeit in disguised forms in the latter case.

I want to emphasize in this book that ritual, operating from its neotenic base, is the primary. means by which culture in all of its aspects is constructed, including those aspects of culture we have relegated to the realm we commonly term ideology, like symbol and myth, as well as to social and economic realms. The way ritual reconfigures and reconveys symbol can be observed in the case of the central symbol in the Sun Dance, the Sun Dance pole (or medicine pole).

The Sun Dance pole is the axis mundi, the connection between heaven and earth, between what is mundane and transitory, and what is sublime and eternal. From the pole hangs a Sun Dancer (or Sun Dancers), a scene which evokes memories, among some, of Christ on the cross. I favor an historic connection (as do others), the reworking of an ancient ceremony in the eighteenth century, by the Plains tribes who were attempting to infuse it with a renewed potency in the face of societal trauma brought about by European disease and European encroachment on many fronts, cultural as well as territorial. I think it likely that the Sun Dance was reworked to more closely resemble the crucifixion scene. But I also think there is more to the connection: Both symbols follow a logic peculiar to ritual. Sir James Frazer's classic anthropological work, The Golden Bough, deals


in part with the rituals of sacrifice and renewal that so often occur at sacred trees. Christ and the "tree of the cross" can be seen as an instance of this. So is the Sun Dance, which employs a medicine pole that originated as a tree selected, blessed, and cut by shamen. Simon Schama, in his book Landscape and Memory, provides a listing of sacred trees from cultures around the world (and often these were bedecked by human bodies as sacrifices or were the dwelling places of sacred animals, spirits, or demigods). He includes

the Persian Haoma, whose sap conferred eternal life; the Chinese hundred-thousand-cubit Tree of Life, the Kien-mou, growing on the slopes of the terrestrial paradise of Kuen-Luen; the Buddhist Tree of Wisdom, from whose four boughs the great rivers of life flow; the Muslim Lote tree, which marks the boundary between human understanding and the realm of divine mystery; the great Nordic ash tree Yggdrasil, which fastens the earth between underworld and heaven with its roots and trunk; Canaanite trees sacred to Astarte/Ashterah; the Greek oaks sacred to Zeus, the laurel to Apollo, the myrtle to Aphrodite, the olive to Athena, the fig beneath which Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf, and, of course, Frazer's fatal grove of Nemi, sacred to Diana, where the guardian priest padded nervously about the trees, awaiting the slaver from the darknss who would succeed him in an endless cycle of death and renewal.[34]

These I take, as I do all symbols, as having been contrived according to the dialectics of a peculiar culture, but referring finally to a relationship shrouded by the haze that accompanies emerging consciousness in infancy, the relationship between child and caregivers. It is a relationship charged with awe, adoration, fear, love, feelings of dependence, nostalgia, longing, shame, and a host of other, even more inchoate emotions, or emotions peculiar to certain cultures for which we have only awkward terms in English. It is also the relationship that creates the (individual) world for every human, and must be replicated in order that the (collective) world continue. It is the only really ubiquitous human experience (all humans were born and were once infants, all who reach adulthood were given some care by someone), and so provides the common ground upon which a society constructs meaning.

The axis mundi is a necessary prop in the ongoing collective renegotiation of the terms of human existence, a material manifestation of the renegotiation that occurs everywhere in much the same way because it refers to the most basic parameters of human existence. Considering this, it seems little wonder that it is given form, in similar ways in many places, as "living" spires, links, or columns between the ancestors and gods that


by this connection make earthly beings human and real. The connection is sometimes imagined as phallic, sometimes umbilical, often both. At the axis, individuals and societies are "reborn," and so the birth passage is often represented as well.

The human body in its imagined spatial relationship to the ancestors and deities becomes a model for generative symbols. Richard Sennett, in Flesh and Stone, noes that "vast as the Pantheon is, the building seems uncannily to be an extension of the human body."[35] The oculus (literally, eye) at the top of the dome forms a column of light at precisely the correct astronomical moment on the central square in the floor of the Parthenon, the umbilicus of the building and of the Roman world. Indeed, replicating the umbilicus in conquered territories became an essential ritual in the cobbling together of the Roman empire. Sennett says, "To found a town, one sought on the ground a spot that reflected directly below the point where the four parts of the sky met, as if the map of the sky were mirrored on the earth." His further comments reveal the significance of this:

The umbilicus had immense religious value. Below this point, the Romans thought the city was connected to the gods interred in the earth; above it, to the gods of light in the sky—the deities who controlled human affairs. Near it, the planner dug a hole in the earth, a hole called the mundus which was "a . . . chamber, or two such chambers, one above the other . . . consecrated to infernal gods" below the earth's crust. It was literally a hellhole. In making a city, the settlers laid fruit and other offerings from their homes in the mundus, a ritual to propitiate these "infernal gods." Then they covered the mundus, set up a stone square, and lit a fire. Now they had "given birth" to a city: Writing three hundred years before Hadrian, the Roman Polybius declared that the Roman military camp must consist of "a square, with streets and other constructions regularly planned like a town"; conquest was meant to induce that birth[36]

The symbols here, as everywhere, are constructed by ritual behavior; ritual, everywhere, ascribes to the ancestors and gods human acts of creation and recreation, accomplished through the media of the human body and human intercourse, both sexual and social.

In chapter 4 I begin to examine in greater detail events associated with the establishment and operation of Bent's Old Fort, as recorded by historic documents, historians, and ethnohistorians. Bent & St. Vrain Company was of truly impressive dimensions, a fur-trading enterprise second only in the United States to the giant American Fur Company (with which it maintained close ties). Of the fort, itself, David Lavender, author of the definitive history of Bent's Old Fort, says that "from the Mississippi to


the Pacific there was no other building that approached it."[37] Those associated with the fort, particularly the Bent brothers, Ceran St. Vrain, Kit Carson, William Fitzhugh, and Uncle Dick Wootton, were legends in their own time. Eastern newspapers and pulp novelists reported, and embellished, their exploits to an audience that looked upon them as explorers and heroes. They were regarded much as later publics admired Charles Lindbergh or the astronauts of the early American space program.

Bent's Old Fort operated within a previously existing trading network, one with its roots in a prehistoric trade between villagers and nomads of at least 600 years ago, or well before European intrusion. Much of the success of the company was due to the intercultural skills of the principals, by means of which they found a position within that network and linked it to the global capitalistic trading network.

In chapter 4 I look also at the initial entry, of Europeans into similar trading systems in the East, almost three hundred years prior to the establishment of Bent's Old Fort. The entry, produced profound effects in the Native American cultures before permanent European settlements were established. Cultural dislocations that followed even the first exchange of goods, incidental to European fishing along the Northeast Coast, generated intense competition for positions as middlemen within that trade.

The culturally transformative and constitutive effect of trade is the subject of chapter 5. Daniel Miller, in Material Culture and Mass Consumption, took note of "a major tradition in anthropological theory, where it is exchange, often viewed in terms of the polarity of gift and commodity, which is seen as constitutive of society itself."[38] Anthropologists who have attended closely to this polarity include those as varied as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Marshall Sahlins.[39] Most follow Marcel Mauss in constructing a dichotomy between the gift—generally seen as an episode in an "endless" series of exchanges—and the commodity, the sale of which carries with it no (obvious, at least) further implications.

Certainly there is much to this. On the southwestern Plains, it is obvious that for the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and related Plains tribes exchange established the "fictive kinship relations" of classic anthropological theory and set in motion ongoing cycles of mutual obligations. Anglo-Americans, in contrast, engaged in trade as a part of an entrepreneurial scheme, which was tied into a worldwide market system. The ultimate motive here was not so much the forging of immediate social ties as it was profit. Wealth is as essential to the formation of a viable, socially based identity within a market economy as fictive kinship relations are to the formation of iden-


tity in a traditional, or gift, society. There is no doubt that the trading practices of the Anglo-Americans and the Native Americans differed sharply.

But the tendency to construct dichotomies often obscures crucial similarities. Mary Douglas points out that gifting continues in market socieries and continues to set up obligations.[40] Moreover, even exchanges in market societies are conducive to ritual behavior, because in all societies, even capitalistic ones, trade acts to validate or alter identities. The effectiveness of these rituals can be seen in regard to the groups who met at Bent's Old Fort. The Bent brothers and the other principals of the company, for example, formed genuine and lasting relationships with those in the groups with which they traded.

The symbolic meanings attached even to those items that might appear overtly functional are also taken up in chapter 5. Our modem assumptions about the primacy of function obscure our perception of this symbolic importance. Objects come to symbolize relationships based in fictive kinship, or imaginary relationships. These meanings are ritually assigned. Symbols may be arbitrary, but they refer to ubiquitous human relationships.

Archaeological evidence, supported by firsthand accounts taken from individuals who were at the fort, indicates, for example, that firearms traded to Native Americans there were of minimal functional value. Certainly they were no improvement over the indigenous bow and arrow for use in either warfare or buffalo hunting. Nonetheless, they were much desired trade items. They were valued, like peace medals and beads, more for the ways they were employed to constitute new identities in a world increasingly dominated by modem, Anglo interests than for their more obvious function. They were tokens of relationships with the "Great Father," a term commonly used by Native Americans to refer to the President of the United States, and other fictive kin among the Anglos.

We live in the world our parents and, by extension, our ancestors and gods, created. Ritual maintains that world and in some cases transforms it. In doing so, it shapes the material world. Chapter 6 discusses how the shape of the material world then directs behavior into ritualistic patterns, and so reinforces our cultural assumptions regarding the world of our ancestors.

Yi-Fu Tuan describes how ritual was and is, in a sense, calcified by increasingly sophisticated technologies, including writing and architecture:

A ritual dance, while it lasts, converts a meadow into a sacred space, but as soon as the dance ends the space reverts to a meadow. As distinguished from


story-telling and ritual, writing and architecture are typical achievements of high civilization. They make it possible for human beings to greatly multiply, elaborate, and refine separate worlds out of inchoate experience, and to make these worlds a permanent part of the human environment. Pericles' funeral oration faded into thin air, but the written version remains effective to this day in lending glamour to Athens. Ancient Greek activities and ceremonies, which partitioned space, have long since disappeared, but the segmented spaces themselves remain in the landscape as ruined temples and agoras. Behavior is evanescent, but its architectural shell may endure. In the modem world, almost every human activity and state of being has its special architectural frame. Clearly defined and marked places exist for eating, defecating, and sleeping, for playing volleyball and badminton, for rich and poor, for drivers and pedestrians. These places have a high degree of integrity. They are reserved for special functions, and departure from the accepted practice is strongly discouraged. Incommensurable no more mix in physical space than they do in the structures of logical thought.[41]

The fort and the surrounding landscape operated, in a way analogous to the "medicine lodge" of the Plains Indian Sun Dance, to ritually convey both the new social order and the legitimation of that order embedded in the seeming "naturalness" of the massive and imposing structure.

Ritual took the form of panopticism, a system of surveillance that results in each individual monitoring and controlling his or her own behavior according to the pattern set by a central authority. The fort was an effective model of a panoptic structure, a reflection of the set of behaviors associated with panopticism, behaviors that were imposed by the architecture of the fort on all who lived and visited there. This system of surveillance eventually advanced the economic and political interests of the United States in two ways (as well as operating more generally to propagate modernity). It produced intelligence by which to direct economic, political, and eventually military incursions. At the same time, it tied the operation of the fort to the larger political agenda of the United States as directed by the federal government. It is of more than passing interest here that once Bent's Old Fort secured its position within the overall panoptic system that tied Washington, D.C., to its interests on the frontier, the interests of the individuals associated with the Bent & St. Vrain Company became subordinate to the federal agenda.

In chapter 7 I look carefully at how the panoptic connections between political and economic interests in the East and the trading partners of the Bent & St. Vrain Company were finally accomplished. In all cases, this was done through ritual means. Ritual exchange between the Bents


and Native Americans established fictive kinship relations that were frequently strengthened by means of marriage or adoption, that is, by establishing real kinship relations.

What perhaps comes as more of a surprise are the fictive and actual kinship relations between the principals and others associated with the Bent & St. Vrain Company and the Europeans on both ends of the Santa Fe Trail. These ties were established to economic and political leaders in the East, particularly St. Louis, and to those politically and economically influential in New Mexico, especially in Santa Fe and Taos. Fictive kinship relations were expanded even further by the participation of company principals in nineteenth-century secret societies, specifically the Masons. Explicitly ritual interaction here cemented relations between those with common economic interests, a phenomenon that can be traced to its origin in eighteenth-century, Britain. Modern ends were thereby realized through traditional means.

With the establishment of American political hegemony in the Southwest, ritualistic cultural interchange broke down between Anglos and Native Americans (although not between Anglos and Hispanics, because many of the latter by now were assuming roles in the rapidly burgeoning capitalistic economy). What transpired next is the subject of chapter 8. Political hegemony opened the way for economic interests that did not depend upon trade with Native American groups. Without the ritual exchange by which to reaffirm a common humanity, Native Americans were increasingly regarded as the "other," the "red devil," a less-than-human impediment to progress. A further rationale for ascribing this alien status was supplied by the Civil War, when Native Americans were considered by many to be "red rebels." The cessation of ritualized relations with Native Americans culminated in a campaign of extermination, typified by the horrendous massacre at Sand Creek, where men, women and children were killed and mutilated in ritualistic ways that denied their human status.

The symbolism of this atrocity was to have a profoundly destructive effect upon Native American-Anglo-American relations. The Cheyenne and Arapaho became implacable foes of the Anglos, and they were ultimately removed from the vicinity of Bent's Old Fort to reservations in Oklahoma. Other Plains tribes met a similar fate. Native American cultures today continue to suffer the effects of this debasement. Native American groups displaying the most severe social ills today are those that suffered most from such humiliation, notably the Cheyenne, as well


as the Sioux, who experienced a massacre similar to Sand Creek at Wounded Knee.

New Mexicans, however, had formed an embryonic middle class, with the social resources required to continue to participate in the capitalist economy that had fully emerged. Though New Mexico became a part of the United States, the Hispanics were not removed from their land, as were the Native Americans. Hispanics as a group continue to function more effectively in the modern environment, which demands the discipline of capitalism and individualism.

Today, the reconstructed Bent's Old Fort and its landscape, as well as replicas of items traded there, are employed in ritualistic ways. The discussion of this in the epilogue is intended in part to offer additional evidence for the persistence of ritual as an effective social mechanism in a patently modern environment. In the mythology of individualism, recognition of the "cult of the individual," as it was labeled by Tocqueville—recognition even of ritual itself and its power in the modern world—may be perceived as threatening. Ritual is essentially collective, and it usually operates at realms below the threshold of individual consciousness, that is, at a preconscious level. Neither of these qualifies fits easily within the ideology of individualism. But regardless of the presence or the absence of recognition, the power of ritual remains.

This ritual operates in a number of ways, serving a variety of purposes. Perhaps the most evident is that the fort serves as a nationalistic symbol, but the situation is more complex than that. Certain groups associated with the reconstructed fort, particularly the voluntary history association, resist what they see as bureaucratized, regimented history. These groups organize opportunities to "relive" the past through a rigorous reenactment of it. This approach is termed here "evangelical" and is symptomatic among groups that feel excluded from more privileged social strata within a high-grid, low-group, ego-centered social organization. A more direct access to primordial, and thereby a more essential, reality is claimed by such groups—their approach is more "real" and the experience gained thereby more valid and important.

Some consideration is also given to Victor Turner's ideas about the transformational (as well as validating) uses of ritual, as these operate at the National Historic Site. Minority groups at the fort, as well as those identifying with such groups, are attempting to utilize the reconstruction as a "medicine lodge," a locus for rituals of inclusion.

The rebuilt fort was demanded, in a sense, by dramatic necessity. The very, existence of the National Park Service's reconstruction of the fort is


an unusual departure from that agency's policies, which generally allow only restoration or stabilization of existing structures. Without the reconstruction, however, ritual activity at the site would be much less effective. Each generation, after all, has the task of bridging the Nietzschean abyss between "I" and "others," between "we" and "they." When this is not done, the monsters emerge from the abyss once more.


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