This video is of band Mazzy Star performing their most well-known hit – Fade Into You – in 1994.
Mazzy Star was founded in Santa Monica, California in 1988 by former Opal frontman David Roback and his friend Hope Sandoval. Roback, who plays guitar, composed the band’s music while Sandoval wrote and sang the lyrics. Keith Mitchell played drums. Their music grew out of the neo-psychadelic scene of the Paisley Underground in 1980s Los Angeles, and combines elements of blues, pop, folk and alternative rock. Mazzy Star has echoes of the ‘LA Darkness’, often explored by Gen X artists from the area. Fade Into You was their only song to break the Billboard 100.
I find Sandoval mesmerising. Known for shyness, she performs as if the audience is not there. Coupled with the dreamy instrumentation, her voice is beautifully melancholic. I had never heard of Mazzy Star until this video showed up on my youtube homepage, after a spree of folk indulgence. Watching her for the first time, I all but fell in love.
I want to hold the hand inside you I want to take the breath that’s true I look to you, and I see nothing I look to you to see the truth
You live your life, you go in shadows You’ll come apart, and you’ll go black Some kind of night into your darkness Colors your eyes with what’s not there
Fade into you Strange you never knew Fade into you I think it’s strange you never knew
A stranger’s light comes on slowly A stranger’s heart without a home You put your hands into your head And then smiles cover your heart
Fade into you Strange you never knew Fade into you I think it’s strange you never knew
Fade into you Strange you never knew Fade into you I think it’s strange you never knew
The Greenland Norse were the Norwegian settlers who lived in Greenland from the 980s to c.1450. They scratched out a living on the island’s southern end, traded with Inuit and sold walrus ivory to Europe. By the 15th century, their society had collapsed – what became of it may never be known.
Greenland is the world’s second-largest ice sheet and largest island. It is an Arctic climate with only a few trees growing along its southern coast. Temperatures never surpass 10ºC, even in summer. 70% of Greenland is pack ice and its main inhabitants are seals, caribou, walrus and polar bears.
The name‘Greenland’ comes from Erik the Red, a Viking explorer who wanted to attract settlers. To con them into thinking Greenland was anything but an Arctic waste, he gave it the ‘favourable name’ of Greenland. His native Iceland was, and is, far greener than Greenland has ever been.
The Norse built two colonies – the Western and Eastern Settlements. The Greenland colonies peaked at 2,000 people around the year 1250. They brought cows from Iceland to farm and grew barley in scarce ice-free soil along the coast. The journey from Iceland was perilous – of Eric the Red’s 24 ships, only 14 survived.
The Greenland colony was never self-sufficient. It relied on regular shipments of iron and other goods from Norway. The Norse killed walrus for their ivory. As the good was in high demand in Europe, the colonies could sustain themselves through trade with the Norwegian boats that visited every year. The royal crown of Austria, allegedly of unicorn horn, is actually narwhal.
Erik the Red’s father, Thorvald, left Norway for Iceland when he murdered his neighbour. Similar circumstances forced Eric to flee west, where he found Greenland. Erik’s son Leif sailed further west and landed in Newfoundland, Canada. He, not Colombus, was the first European to set foot in the Americas. The Norse clashed with the indigenous tribes, who drove them back to the sea.
Inuit (Thule) whom Norse called Skraelings, settled Greenland in the 13th century from the north. They were better adapted for Arctic life – Inuit hunted instead of farmed, wore sealskins and burned blubber instead of wood. Norse and Inuit accounts record violence between the two peoples. The Norse also traded with their neighbours but never adapted to their way of life.
In the 1360s, the smaller ‘western settlement’ stopped sending tribute to Norway. When Ivar Bardsson investigated, he found abandoned houses and animals running free but no human bodies. Its people’s fate remains a mystery.
By 1400, the eastern settlement too, was in decline. The reasons are many:
The Medieval Warm Period ended in 1200, and the Little Ice Age (c.1350 – 1800) lowered world temperatures. Farming in Greenland was no longer sustainable. The Norse suffered while the Inuit prevailed.
The Black Death wiped out 60% of Norway’s population. It did not spare Bergen – the port where merchants sailed for Greenland, and German pirates sacked it in 1393. Trade thus ended with Greenland.
As the Portuguese opened trade with Africa and India in the 1500s, demand for walrus ivory – and therefore the Greenland economy – plummeted.
The collapse of the Greenland Norse was not immediate. Younger people left, while the older remained and starved. When Norwegian missionary Hans Egede arrived in 1721, he met only Inuit hunters. Of the Norse, there were only ruins.
Lonesome Dove (1985), by Larry McMurtry, is the most critically acclaimed western. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1986 and is McMurtry’s magnum opus. More literary fiction in a western setting than a cowboys-and-Indians romp, Lonesome Dove tells the story of two ageing ex-Texas Rangers who lead a cattle drive from south Texas to the wilderness of Montana. It examines friendship, love and death through a host of larger-than-life yet painfully realistic characters. Texas Monthly calls it the state’s hero myth.
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call are the co-owners of the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium, renting out horses and cows in the dusty border town of Lonesome Dove. In their youth, they were Texas Ranger captains, who fought Comanches in the state’s frontier days. Now Texas is becalmed, and the buffalo are nearing extinction.
Quick-witted, charming and thoughtful, McCrae spends his days indulging in alcohol and prostitutes while pining for an old flame who married a horse trader twenty years before.
Woodrow Call is a tough and determined leader of men, with an iron sense of duty. He is stubborn and pragmatic but socially inept, particularly around women, and refuses to face his past mistakes.
McMurtry claimed the idea for two opposing men – the pragmatic and the visionary – came from Don Quixote. McCrae is an Epicurean, Call a stoic, and, although they are very different, their many conversations echo those of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The call to adventure comes from their friend Jake Spoon. After ten years of absense, he appears in Lonesome Dove wanted, having killed a dentist in Fort Smith. Spoon tales of unclaimed land persuade Call and McCrae to leave Lonesome Dove and bring two thousand cattle to the last frontier. They hire a team of cowboys and set off.
The novel follows a host of characters including wistful whores, naïve sheriffs and sadistic bandits. The plotting is excellent. McMurtry’s narration is omniscient, slipping in and out of characters thoughts and opinions with ease. His dialogue and characterisation are superb, and often hilarious. The characters are not mere archetypes or cliches but bring a host of quirks and insecurities to the table – many with crippling emotional depth.
Larry McMurtry, 2000:
“It’s hard to go wrong if one writes at length about the Old West, still the phantom leg of the American psyche. I thought I had written about a harsh time and some pretty harsh people, but, to the public at large, I had produced something nearer to an idealization; instead of a poor man’s Inferno, filled with violence, faithlessness and betrayal, I had actually delivered a kind of Gone With The Wind of the West, a turnabout I’ll be mulling over for a long, long time.”
Lonesome Dove does not paint the romantic picture of the Old West, so loved in the genre, nor does it indulge in hellish depictions in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, though there is violence aplenty. Instead, McMurtry paints the Frontier as-is: a time of adventure and possibility, but also immense hardship and cruelty. The innocents suffer most.
McMurtry wrote one sequel – Streets of Laredo (1989) and two prequels; Dead Man’s Walk (1995) and Comanche Moon (1997). I have read the latter, which is nearly as good and features more of the Native American perspective.
Larry McMurtry of Archer City, Texas (1936 – 2021) – who later co-wrote Brokeback Mountain – began Lonesome Dove in 1972 as a screenplay. He sold the rights to Universal Pictures. The leads he envisioned, however – John Wayne and James Stewart – rejected the script. Twelve years later, McMurtry bought back the rights for $35,000 and rewrote it as a book. The gamble paid off – Lonesome Dove was an immediate success and spent 52 weeks on the bestseller list.
In 1989, CBS adapted Lonesome Dove as a TV miniseries starring Robert Duval as Augustus McCrae, Tommy Lee Jones as Woodrow Call, Diana Lane as Lorena and Donald Glover as Deets. The script maintained much of the book’s dialogue and was nominated for 18 Emmies, winning seven. It revived both the Western genre and the miniseries format. Four adaptations of the Lonesome Dove tetralogy followed but were subpar.
Standing at 843 pages, Lonesome Dove is one of those rare books which is easy to read while bearing literary clout. It is among the best books I have read, and will likely read again.
On the 11th of September, 2001, members of terror group Al Qaeda hijacked two US passenger planes and flew them into the World Trade Centre in New York City. 2,997 people died and US foreign policy changed irrevocably. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in history. Twenty years and two wars later, the USA enters the twilight of its superpower years.
The Second War World War ended dreams of German world domination, but it also helped end the British Empire. After fighting two world wars on their soil, the old empires of Europe were exhausted. In the following decades, their colonies in Africa and Asia gained their independence. Britain, who had ruled a quarter of the world’s people, resigned from its place as a global superpower and its two wartime allies – the United States and the Soviet Union, took its place. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, the USA became the world’s undisputed superpower. The nations of Eastern Europe, now free from the shackles of Soviet-enforced communism, embraced American-style liberal democracy, and it seemed for a time the rest of the world would follow suit. Capitalism, democracy and mass media would unite the world and there would be no need for wars. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama called it ‘The End of History.’
But it wasn’t. Wars continued, most notably in former Yugoslavia and Kuwait. In Afghanistan, the rebel factions who had defeated the Soviets with American support turned on each other. In 1996, the Taliban seized the country.
Al Qaeda began as an Arab volunteer force that fought the Russians in Afghanistan. They saw themselves as Jihadis, protecting the Muslim world against aggressors like the Soviet Union. In the 90s, now based out of Afghanistan, they turned against the other remaining superpower. Al Qaeda saw the encroachment of the USA’s political and cultural influence across the Muslim world, particularly after the fall of the USSR, as a threat to Islamic civilization. They deplored American support for dictators, its pursuit of Middle Eastern oil and, in particular, its support for Israel, a Jewish state on Arab land. As Al Qaeda could not match the military might of the USA and its allies, they turned to terrorism.
Their attack on the World Trade Centre shattered hopes of world peace and the security of the United States. The Bush Administration demanded the Taliban government hand over Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. They refused, and the United States invaded.
The Bush Administration also used the post 9/11 climate of fear and nationalism to invade Iraq in 2003 – a country with no link to Al Qaeda – on the false pretence of its leaders harbouring ‘weapons of mass destruction.
Both Afghanistan and Iraq fell quickly, but the US military found themselves bogged down supporting flimsy new governments and fighting vicious insurgencies. The Bush, Obama and Trump presidencies fought a practically invisible enemy for over twenty years. If anything, the USA’s ‘War on Terror’ justified Al Qaeda’s worldview. The fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq birthed a climate of war and instability, giving rise to the Islamic State – a militant group who committed genocide from 2014 – 2016, while in Afghanistan, the Taliban rose once more. US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
At home, a recession hit in 2008, from 2016 the political divide reached its widest since the Civil War and, in 2020, a global pandemic hit that exacerbated all its problems. The withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2020 was overdue, but it was also clumsy and rushed. In a matter of months, the USA pulled out its military, and the Taliban took back control, this time with the millions of dollars worth of tanks and guns the US left behind. For the second time, the US has lost a war to an underequipped and canny opponent in a decades long insurgency.
Empires do not last forever, nor do superpowers. While the US has wasted its resources and reputation fighting the War on Terror, rival China has built its strength and bided its time.
The USA spent over 780 billion dollars on the War on Afghanistan. When they invaded in 2001, the Taliban controlled 90% of the country – they now control 100.
Victorio (1820 – 81) was the last great Apache chief. A leader of the Chiricahua Apache from New Mexico, he led a breakout from the San Carlos Reservation in 1879. Victorio fought a guerrilla war against Mexico and the United States until his final defeat at Tres Castillos.
Victorio is his Spanish name. His other monikers included ‘Beduit’, ‘Checks His Horse’ and ‘Apache Wolf’.
As a young man, he trained for strength by running up hills with a mouthful of water to force him to breathe through his nose. Victorio fought alongside Apache chiefs Mangas Coloradas and Cochise and surrendered with the other Chiricahuas to reservation life in 1871. When bandits and other Apache attacked settlers, they blamed Victorio’s band, so in 1877, the US military forced them into a new home.
Their new home was San Carlos, a stretch of Arizona desert with little water or shade. Apache called it ‘Hell’s 40 Acres.’ Unsanitary, crowded conditions made tuberculosis rife. After three years, Victorio decided to leave.
He had two key allies:
Old Nana (1810-1896, right) was a veteran of the Apache Wars and a skilled strategist with a reputation for cruelty. At 70 years, despite being half blind and rheumatic, he could still ride and fight.
Lozen (1840 – 1889), Victorio’s younger sister, was a warrior and seer. She could allegedly foretell the future and track enemy movements from a distance.
“Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”
Victorio and Lozen persuaded 300 men and women to escape from San Carlos. The band stole horses from a nearby ranch and fled the US cavalry into the Sierra Diablo mountains.
The US refused his demands for a return to his traditional lands. In response Victorio raided both sides of the border, fighting over 200 skirmishes and raids. His warriors hid in the mountains, ambushed unsuspecting soldiers, and poisoned wells to evade pursuit. Victorio defeated a four companies at Los Animas and slaughtered 43 civilians at Los Alma.
In 1880, Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry and Texas Rangers pursued Victorio across the desert. They intercepted him at a wellspring and forced his band to cross the Rio Grande.
Victorio’s band arrived in Mexico tired and hungry. Lozen left to escort a pregnant mother back to a friendly reservation in Arizona.
The others made camp on a redoubt called ‘Tres Castillos’ – Three Castles. Old Nana took half of the band on a raiding party for ammunition and supplies. The next day Colonel Joaquin Terrazas and seasoned Indian fighter, Juan Mata Ortiz attacked. Their force of 250 included local millitia and scouts from the Tarahumara – a Native people with renowned endurance.
The Battle for Tres Castillos was one-sided. Victorio was shot early in the battle, and his fighters fought hand-to-hand against Mexican rifles. After one day of fighting, Victorio killed himself with a knife.
Colonel Terrazas killed the men and took the women and children captive, parading them to cheering crowds in Chihuahua city then selling them into slavery. A Tarahumara took Victorio’s scalp and later sold it for 2,000 pesos.
When he heard the news, Old Nana went on a revenge spree, killing soldiers and civilians. He captured Juan Mata Ortiz, burned him alive then fled into the Sierra Madre. Three years later, both Lozen and Old Nana would fight alongside Geronimo in the last Apache uprising.
The Apache are a Native American people from the southwestern United States. They resisted the Spanish and Mexicans for centuries and were the last Native Americans to submit to the USA. Today, they live in seven reservations across Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
The Apache were never a single nation. They lived in different tribes, including the Chiricahua, Lipan and Mescalero, who spoke a common language and shared a common way of life. Historically, the Chiricahua were the most defiant.
Apaches speak an Athabaskan language, closely related to Navajo, and distantly to Tlingit. Their ancestors migrated from Siberia thousands of years after the initial settlement of the Americas and lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Over the centuries, Apache drifted from Alaska to the Great Plains of the USA, where they hunted buffalo and trained dogs.
In the 18th century, the Comanche drove the Apache into the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest. As the land was barren and lacking in buffalo, Apache raided for supplies, their victims the settled Puebloans and Spanish colonists.
Traditionally, Apache lived in wikiups and tipis. They mainly hunted deer, pronghorn and rabbits, gathered a range of wild plants and made clothing from leather and buckskin. Women fought alongside the men.
Inthe Southwest, the Apache became expert guerrilla fighters. They struck isolated farms and villages, seizing resources and livestock, then melted away into the mountains and deserts. Their unsurpassed tracking skills and ability to survive in extreme climates made the Apaches a tenacious foe. Hundreds of Apache scouts would serve in the US military.
The Apache fought the Spanish for 120 years, the Mexicans for 80 and the Americans for 25.
While Apache saw raiding as a necessary peacetime activity, their enemies considered it an act of war. In 1835, the Mexican government issued ‘scalp bounties’ for killing Apaches– 100 pesos for a man, 50 for a woman and 25 for a child. Bounty hunters made a living murdering Apache, and revenge killings intensified.
The US – Apache Wars (1853 – 1886) were the longest in American history. When the USA took over Arizona and New Mexico, they found themselves at odds with their new neighbours. Apaches raided with ferocity, while the US broke treaties constantly and forced Apaches onto barren reservations. Disaffected Apache broke out and fought as guerrillas in the hills.
Four great leaders fought the Americans and Mexicans:
Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves) – raided both sides of the border, murdered at peace talks in 1863.
Cochise – fought the United States for ten years after being wrongfully accused of kidnapping, died of natural causes in 1874.
Victorio – led a breakout of 200 warriors, killed at Tres Castillos in 1881.
Geronimo (pictured right)led the last rebellion in 1886. With only 37 warriors, he held out in the Dragoon Mountains of southern Arizona for one year while 5,000 soldiers – a quarter of the US army – hunted him down. When Geronimo surrendered, the US took him and 300 Chiricahua to captivity in Florida then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where most died of tuberculosis. They did not return until 1912. Geronimo became the most famous Apache and a figure of American myth.
As of 2010, there are 111,810 people of Apache descent. Most live one of 11 federally recognised reservations:
The Plains Nations, or Plains Indians, are the indigenous peoples of the North American prairie. Many of the traditions outsiders associate with Native Americans in general, such as tipis, buffalo hunts and war bonnets, are specific to the plains.
Prominent Plains Nations include:
The Great Plains extend from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi in the east, from Alberta to Texas. Like the steppes of Eurasia, they are a flat land of endless grass. In ages past, millions of buffalo roamed.
The plains people lived for thousands of years in small bands that fought and traded with one another. Some hunted game and lived in tipis as nomads. Others farmed maize and tobacco in small villages. Some did both. For many plains people, buffalo were essential. They provided not only food but raw materials for clothing, tipis and tools.
Plains people were among the tallest in the world, averaging a foot taller than their white American counterparts, and enjoying better nutrition. Today on plains reservations, obesity and alcoholism are rife
Plains Nations shared belief in a ‘Great Spirit’ and a female earth deity. Most tribes celebrated the Sun Dance, an annual ceremony of singing and dancing lasting four days. Medicine men healed and provided spiritual guidance. The modern Native American Church interprets Christianity through a Native American framework and uses peyote as a sacrament.
Horses revolutionised life on the Great Plains. Starting with the Comanche, Plains Nations acquired horses from the Spanish and embraced a nomadic culture. Instead of farming and hunting small game, they could move with the buffalo herds and hunt them at will. In war they fired arrows at full gallop.
Plains nations raided the Mexican and white-American settlements which encroached on their land, taking livestock and captives and disappearing before their foes could track them down. The ferocity of these raids and the barrenness of the landscape discouraged white settlement – for over a century, they halted Spanish, Mexican and Texan expansion. Instead, settlers chose the safer and more fertile coasts and river valleys of the continent. By 1850, the USA claimed both coasts, but the Great Plains remained free.
New technology allowed the USA tosettle the plains in the late 1800s.
Nitrate fertiliser allowed farming on previously infertile grassland.
Semi-automatic guns could outpace the native bow-and-arrow.
Railroads allowed fast travel across great distances.
The US ended raids and opened the land for settlement by killing the buffalo and the tribes who hunted them. Disease decimated the native populations and left them outnumbered. Those who could no longer fight back signed treaties and moved onto reservations.
In the 1870s, settlers discovered gold in South Dakota and thronged into Sioux lands. A Cheyenne-Sioux-Arapaho coalition defeated the US at Little Bighorn in 1876 but surrendered by the 1880s. The Ghost Dance movement briefly revived hopes of independence, but the 7th Cavalry crushed the dream in 1890 when they massacred 200 at Wounded Knee.
In the 20th century, many Plains people lived in poverty on reservations. Meanwhile, the 19th century Sioux brave, mounted with bow and arrow and wearing a feathered war-bonnet, became the image of the stereotypical Native American in world media. Western literature and cinema either romanticised the plains peoples or painted them as bloodthirsty killers. Today, activists campaign for the US government to honour past treaties and compensate for their past crimes.
The Colorado Coalfield War of 1913-1914 was the deadliest strike in American history. Union miners challenged the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company for better conditions and pay in a dispute that ended in a massacre.
Wealthy industrialists controlled the coal mines and railroads of 19th century America. They ruled entire communities who depended on them for employment, appointing their own marshals, teachers, doctors and priests. Private armies maintained order and quashed dissent.
In 1903, industrialist JD Rockefeller acquired the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), the largest coal firm in the American West. In 1907, Rockefeller gave his CF&I shares to his son, JD Rockefeller Junior, as a birthday gift. The Rockefellers ran the entire company from New York. CF&I was Colorado’s largest employer.
The mining workforce were mainly immigrants from Greece, Mexico Poland and Japan. CF&I deliberately mixed them by ethnicity, so the language barrier mitigated the chance of unionising.
Conditions in the mines were poor. To save costs, CF&I only paid miners for the coal they mined. ‘Dead work’, like track laying and mine maintenance, went unpaid. Miners therefore neglected safety which led to cave-ins and explosions, in addition to diseases like black-lung. CF&I workers died at twice the national average. Explosions killed 167 men in 1910 alone. As the sheriffs assigned the juries and the company assigned the sheriffs, miners could find no recourse in the legal system. Before 1914, only one case in 95 found the company at fault.
The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) mobilised in southern Colorado in 1913. Organised strikes earned miners an eight-hour workday, but the company still refused to recognise the union as the miners’ bargaining representative.
9,000 miners went on strike in September 1903, demanding payment for dead work. CF&I refused to negotiate and expelled the strikers and their families from their homes. The union organised a tent colony, half a mile north of Ludlow, Colorado. News spread across the state, and over the next two days, almost every coal miner in Colorado left their jobs to join the union encampments. The UMWA subsidised strikers with three dollars a day, one for women and fifty cents for children.
CF&I built an armoured, machine gun mounted car dubbed the ‘death special’ to intimidate the tent colonies. The strikers armed themselves in response. As tensions grew, skirmishes and gunfights became more and more common. Mother Jones, an Irish-born union activist, rallied public support and collected donations from across Colorado. Leading the Ludlow colony was 27-year-old Greek immigrant Louis Tikas.
The National Guard deployed in the strike’s sixth month to ease tensions, but the strikers refused to surrender their weapons. A force of 177 national guardsmen and company militia surrounded the Ludlow colony. After an accidental gunshot, the two sides opened fire. Though fewer in number, the national guard were better armed, with Springfield rifles and two machine guns. Five miners, including Tikas, and one guard, were shot dead while 13 women and children suffocated to death as they hid from the gunfire. The tent colony was now a smoking ruin.
Fighting continued for the next ten days, as strikers across southern Colorado sought revenge. The press aroused public outrage against CF&I for the deaths of women and children.
By mid-1914, the coal companies had enough strikebreakers to resume mining. By 1915, the UMWA finally went bankrupt and ended subsidies to its members.
Although the strike failed, the coal company’s response raised public awareness of the working conditions in American coal mines. In response, Congress approved the 1915 Mining Act that laid the foundations for the USA’s eight-hour workday, child labour laws and the New Deal. In 1918, the UMWA erected a monument outside Ludlow to commemorate the strike. By the 1950s ,most of the old mining communities were ghost towns.
Inuit Mythology covers the indigenous myths and legends of Arctic North America. These myths eschew the creation narratives of most traditions in favour of grisly cautionary tales. They are often as harsh as the environment which made them. Their deities blend the concepts of spirits, humans, animals and monsters.
The Inuit worldview is animistic. Invisible spirits called tornait (singular, tornit) imbue every aspect of the world. Most are harmful and held in fear and reverence by humans. As natural death is so common in the Arctic, respecting taboos and superstitions is essential. Tornait can take the visible form of stones, bears or humans.
Inuit deities resemble powerful tornait, to be feared and appeased rather than worshipped. These include:
Sedna, ruler of Adlivun
Anguta, her father and guide of dead souls. In some Greenland traditions, he is a creator god.
Nanook – spirit of polar bears
Malina – spirit of the sun
Igaluk – spirit of the moon
Adlivun is the world beneath the sea. Spirits of the dead travel to this frozen wasteland when they die and remain for a year, then travel to the elusive Land of the Moon, where deer roam and no snow falls. Shamans called annagguit may travel to Adlivun in their dreams to appease the goddess Sedna when a taboo is broken.
Sedna is the mistress of animals. She was once a human woman, tricked into marriage by an evil spirit or, in some traditions, a fulmar.
Her father, Anguta, slew the spirit and took Sedna back on his canoe. On the way home, however, a terrible storm brewed that threatened to kill them both. To appease the ocean, Sedna’s father pushed her off the boat. When she grabbed a hold of the canoe, Anguta cut off her fingers and sent Sedna to the bottom of the sea.
Her fingers became the creatures of the ocean – the seals, walrus, whales and fish. She descended to Adlivun, where she transformed into a walrus-like creature that rules the underwater realm to this day.
In the Land of the Moon, ancestral spirits play a game with a walrus’s head. Their movements form the Aurora Borealis.
Malina, the spirit of the sun, was once a beautiful woman. Her brother Igaluk lusted after her and made her flee across the sky. To this day, Igaluk chases his sister, neglecting even to eat. As time passes, he withers until he disappears for three days eat once more. Occasionally, on a solar eclipse, he catches up. Igaluk lives on an igloo on the moon with the souls of dead animals. The legend differs amongst tribes: in some versions, the sister is the moon, the brother the sun.
Legends of Sauman Kar -an ancient race of giants– are likely misremembered accounts of the Dorset Culture who lived in the Arctic before the Inuit came. Other mythical creatures include polar bears who walk upright and live in igloos, akhlut – wolf-orca hybrids and qallupaluit – hideous creatures who lurk in the ocean and drown disobedient children.
Haida are the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, and Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, USA. Traditionally they lived by fishing, hunting, raiding and trade.
Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, consists of two main islands and 150 smaller ones. Biologists call it the ‘Galapagos of the North’. The temperate rainforest that covers the islands includes trees over 100 meters tall and moss seven inches thick. Unique species include the Sitka spruce and Haida Gwaii black bear. Migrating birds from around the world nest, and seals and whales beach in Haida Gwaii. Salmon fill its rivers. Today, the archipelago falls under Haida heritage areas and National Parks.
Haida were hunter-gatherers. In lands so abundant in fish and wildlife, however, they could settle in one place and sustainably forage rather than move from place to place – a rare luxury in hunter-gatherer societies. Haida gathered edible plants, hunted deer, birds and bear, and caught salmon and seafood. From hollowed red cedars, they carved canoes that took them as far as California, where Haida not only traded but plundered and enslaved.
There were once 100 self-governing villages in Haida Gwaii. Their people identified with one of two clans – the raven and the eagle. One could only marry a member of the other. Within each clan were 20 lineages, each of which had economic rights to particular groves, rivers and fishing grounds.
Haida art exemplifies the distinct Pacific Northwest style, with stylised depictions of animals such as ravens, eagles, orcas and bears carved and painted onto wood. Symbolising lineage, these images traditionally decorate Haida canoes, houses and, most famously, totem poles. Haida manga began publication in 2001.
The potlatch ritualises social and economic ties between lineages and commemorate births, weddings and deaths. In these public ceremonies, attendants exchange gifts, perform dances and music and settle disputes. They are essential to Haida culture.
Haida worldview was essentially animistic, with a supreme being at the top. Today most mix Christianity with traditional beliefs. As in Pacific Northwest and Koryak traditions, the trickster Raven is central to Haida myth. His schemes inadvertently create the fabric of our world.
The Haida’s ancestors migrated to the islands at the end of the Ice Age 13,000 years ago, when the rainforests emerged. Their customs and folklore bear striking similarities to the Koryak people of eastern Siberia, meaning the two are likely related.
When Europeans made contact in 1723, there were around 50,000 Haida. An 1863 smallpox outbreak emptied their villages. By the time Canada annexed Haida Gwaii in 1900, there were only 500 left, a number sustained to this day. Like other First Nations, Haida children were victims of the Canadian Indian residential school system in the 20th century. Today there are 501 Haida, 445 of whom speak the language. The name ‘Haida Gwaii’ (meaning Islands of the People), was restored in 2009.