Monday, June 5, 2017

American Names by Stephen Vincent Benet

(The next unit in our American History and Literature travels is about the native American Indians.  We start with a map of the ancient tribes and tribal lands?  Names like Pawnee, Cheyenne, Comanche, Choctaw, and Iroquois.  All spread out on the landscape where the U.S. states now lay.  Names that should be as familiar as our presidents: Navajo, Apache, Nez Perce, and Chinook.)

 "I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
The plum war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.

Seine and Piave are silver spoons,

But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy's horn,
But I will remember where I was born."  -American Names, by Stephen Vincent Benet
(We work with Guiding Questions:  Who were these different people? What did they believe?  How did they live?  What values did they have?  What events led to their destruction and death?  The story of America cannot be told without the tragedy of the native Americans.  So we go to these places, we sit and listen to their stories, understand their traditions, and apply them to our lives. )

 "I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain

I will fall in love with a Salem tree

And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
I am tired of loving a foreign muse.

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard

Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast,
It is a magic ghost your guard
But I am sick for a newer ghost,
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post." -American Names, by Stephen Vincent Benet
(I have no personal connection to any Native American.  My ancestors are German and Scandinavian, my daughters are mixed Korean. Yet by studying the native Americans, honoring them, and adopting their wisdom into our lives, I feel we are living how settlers should have lived two-hundred years ago.  It doesn't heal the wrongs done to these vast tribes, but it does preserve them in a way, and I relish passing this along to my children.)

"Henry and John were never so
And Henry and John were always right?
Granted, but when it was time to go
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.

I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there.  I shall rise and pass
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee."  -American Names, by Stephen Vincent Benet


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