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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:24 pm 
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In response to a query from Sun May, I thought I might start an exploration of this question. Is the word "Anasazi" really a legitimate descriptor for people who lived around the Four Corners area of southwestern North America over the last couple of millennia? To me, the answer is "Yes" and "No." Seems like a cop out, but I'll explain.

First of all, the flute I recently bought from Geoffrey Ellis is rightly listed as Basketmaker style, from people who preceded the Pueblo era during which the Anasazi lived. The flutes found at what is now known as "Broken Flute Cave" in northeastern Arizona have been tree-ring dated to somewhere between 620 and 640 AD by our calendar, during a time period known to archaeologists as Basketmaker III (500-750). They were the ancestors of the people later called Anasazi, who lived between 750 and 1280, and who suddenly "disappeared" within less than a decade. They didn't really, but more on that in a moment.

The term "Anasazi" is actually a later Navajo word, meaning "ancient stranger," or, some people believe "ancient enemy." It was never used by the people it describes, but by a rival cultural group. This leads some people to believe it is not really appropriate, especially if it was mean to signify enemies.

Problem is, other terms have been suggested to replace it, and none has really been widely acceptable, nor do they really provide an adequate description of these people. They are all just different ways for somebody other than the Navajo to describe these people.

The alternative with the widest following is "Ancestral Puebloans," mostly because it satisfies some concerns expressed modern Pueblo people, who indeed, are the descendants of those who fled the Four Corners area in the late 13th Century. They traveled East and South, and many of them founded the Pueblo villages that still exist in the Rio Grande Valley.

So that would seem to be an ideal descriptor, except that the Anasazi fled not only geographically, but culturally and politically as well. Rebelling against the iron rule of those at Chaco Canyon, Aztec Ruins, and Pacquimé, they also rebelled against the religion and government they felt were imposed on them by outsiders. As a result, modern Puebloans follow very different religious practices and hold to a much more egalitarian form of government than was true of their ancestors. So they are descendants of those we call Anasazi, but not really their heirs.

The word Anasazi evokes an air of mystery and intrigue, made no less so by the exciting discovery of four of their rim-blown flutes. No other term to describe these people or label them, has been able to equal that mystique. So I join noted archaeologist Stephen H. Lekson, and others, in continuing to use that word, despite objections, which I consider trivial. For far more detail than I can supply here, see Lekson's book, A History of the Ancient Southwest, wherein he remedies literally decades of shortsighted archaeological convention to give us a much more reasonable version of the history and culture of these fascinating people.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:29 pm 
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BTW, I posted this here because it relates primarily to the terminology used to describe a flute, such as the one I purchased from Geoffrey Ellis. However, if the moderators believe it is better fitted somewhere else, such as the Poststructural Pub, I have no objection to it being moved. I could also cross post it there if you prefer.

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Michael

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:21 am 
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I consider the term "Anasazi" to be ultimately incorrect because it's an exonym that modern Puebloans object to, but the fact remains that a lot of Native American tribal names in English are, in fact, from exonyms. "Anasazi" remains entrenched in wider popular use mainly because it's one-size-fits-all (there is no single representative Puebloan language to draw from) and because of the popular mystique surrounding it. And "Anasazi" has better chew to it than "Early Puebloan", right? But is it outright offensive? That I don't know. You'd have to ask someone from the Pueblo cultures; being from Colorado you're in a better position than I am to find out. Using it or not, and why, is in the end up to you; the word will always have commentary following it.

It's not unlike the matter of the simple system flutes played by so many around here; these days in the broader world the instrument is often commonly called "Irish" flute (thanks to not-so-distant stage entertainments past and the fads that followed), but that is only because it's not seen as much elsewhere. It is not an Irish invention, but the relic of an earlier time and whose continued use there was the result of hard economic circumstances, pure and simple. But popular usage wants brief terms with identity to them, so an erroneous use like that is unlikely ever to go away completely until events shift it another direction. If you're a sticker, all you can do smile, nod, and be thought a nerd. What is best is that you are not ignorant about it.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 4:30 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
I consider the term "Anasazi" to be ultimately incorrect because it's an exonym that modern Puebloans object to, but the fact remains that a lot of Native American tribal names in English are, in fact, from exonyms."Anasazi" remains entrenched in wider popular use mainly because it's one-size-fits-all (there is no single representative Puebloan language to draw from) and because of the popular mystique surrounding it. And "Anasazi" has better chew to it than "Early Puebloan", right? But is it outright offensive? That I don't know. You'd have to ask someone from the Pueblo cultures.

You are quite right and state this well. I have not actually spoken with any Pueblo people about it, though I have heard that some object. However, I don't really value the opinions of modern Pueblo people above others in this case, because of the significant diversion between what was the culture 900 years ago and who their people are today. They are descended physically from those ancient ones, but they are not really their ancestors in any meaningful sense. They don't live in the same places, they don't live the same way, their customs are different, they don't worship the same, their ways of living together (what we would call government) are not the same. What can they say they've inherited from their ancestors that gives them legitimacy in naming those ancient people after themselves?

I do really hope that doesn't sound disrespectful in itself. The modern Pueblo people have a marvelous culture all their own that is older than the United States. But I just don't see that that gives them precedence in how we designate their ancestors.
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What is best is that you are not ignorant about it.

I appreciate that, and it's one of the reasons I wanted to post this. I don't use the word Anasazi out of ignorance, but that's not always obvious on the surface. And truly, if somebody comes up with a better word, I'll jump right on it.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:28 pm 
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michaelpthompson wrote:
I have not actually spoken with any Pueblo people about it, though I have heard that some object. However, I don't really value the opinions of modern Pueblo people above others in this case, because of the significant diversion between what was the culture 900 years ago and who their people are today. They are descended physically from those ancient ones, but they are not really their ancestors in any meaningful sense. They don't live in the same places, they don't live the same way, their customs are different, they don't worship the same, their ways of living together (what we would call government) are not the same. What can they say they've inherited from their ancestors that gives them legitimacy in naming those ancient people after themselves?

I do really hope that doesn't sound disrespectful in itself. The modern Pueblo people have a marvelous culture all their own that is older than the United States. But I just don't see that that gives them precedence in how we designate their ancestors.

There might be some Puebloans who would agree with you, but I think that's for them to say. Cultures can differ in ways that are often opaque to each other, and neither incomprehension nor our desires form a valid basis to negate a contrasting cultural viewpoint. We have enough examples of that in our history already. It's why I said you should ask them. You can be respectful of what you find even if you don't see the logic. In any case, I'm sure Puebloans recognize the Quixotic nature of trying to change the flute's popular name, but they can still put their point of view out there so that the world's a little wiser. It's better than doing nothing.

I know a fellow who happens to be Anishinaabe (Ojibway, if you like). Fullblooded, long hair down to his back, grew up on the rez, the whole nine yards. He's also a restaurant chef. That's chef, not line cook. Now in the Native American communities, Thanksgiving is a fraught occasion and rightly so, yet there he was, talking glowingly about the Thanksgiving spread he'd whipped up. Knowing what I do, I was naturally taken aback, and there was no way I was going to lose this unique opportunity to pick his brain. Turns out that his view of the occasion very much echoed mine, which rests on the essence of the holiday: the warmth of family and friends gathered together and being grateful for the good in our lives. A secular sacrament, you could say, and one that stands beautifully on its own. Of course it's not so simple for all; you can get rid of the cartoon Pilgrims and pare it down to basics all you like, but that doesn't wipe out history. While he acknowledged that his was not a politically typical Native American viewpoint, he assured me that he was by no means alone in it either, so that was interesting to learn. He did say, however, and I agree, that while the holiday may have matured (at least for some of us, as we see it), nevertheless history should be remembered and never forgotten.

Of course, maybe he just wanted another excuse to cook. :wink:

I guess what I'm saying here is that cultures and their politics are not as monolithic as we tend to think. That's why asking is better than assuming, because you might be surprised at what you get.

I think it's enough to say you use the term "Anasazi" out of an admittedly awkward convenience; any further defense of it comes off as shrill.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:22 am 
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Once again Nanohedron, well said indeed. I would love to hear the viewpoints of modern Puebloans on this to see if they have any compelling arguments against the use of the term "Anasazi." But as you rightly point out, we really need a better alternative if we are to dispense with this convention. It's much like the difficulty of dealing with modern conventions of gender with our completely inadequate set of English pronouns. Alternatives have been proposed, such as the use of s/he or plural where singular would be appropriate, but none have so far breached the gap of elegance and usefulness which would propel them into widespread acceptance.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:55 pm 
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Just so you understand that when it comes to whatever name you call it, I'm not really invested in it one way or the other; after all, usage determines meaning, and this too is subject to eventual change. When someone says "Anasazi flute", I don't go around saying "Terrible, terrible" to myself. It IS good, though, to be informed and know how and why things are the way they are. It doesn't take much to find out, and we're less in the dark that way.

There was a discussion in the Pub where the word "cupola" came up; in the English-speaking world we have a pretty commonly-held idea of what that means. A Czech, I think he was, insisted that our usage was wrong, and it took a bit of work to get him on board with the idea that while a word might be common to several languages, its meaning will not necessarily be the same for all, and there is nothing to be done about it - especially when that difference has been in effect for centuries.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:28 pm 
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I wish there was a "Like" button for these posts. I do appreciate your insight.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:52 pm 
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We don't cotton to that "Like" rubbish around here. C&F is resolutely old school, and proud of it. :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:57 pm 
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Fine then! Even though you have smilies.
:lol: :love: :devil:

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:34 pm 
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No, that's still pre-Facebook. Came with the package.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:10 am 
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michaelpthompson wrote:
..... modern Puebloans ....

Just to add another angle to this whole "proper name" thing—some of those living in villages in the US southwest object to the word "Pueblo" to label their living areas and culture. They argue that "pueblo" derives from Spanish and recalls from the historic Spanish "invasion" of their lands and their forcing the aboriginal folks into villages around the Spanish settlements with the associated attempts to acculturate the natives. Similar to the discussion regarding the use of "Native American" vs. "Indian", some seem more concerned about the labels than others. As someone outside those cultures, I get easily confused on which terms are most appropriate and/or respectful to use. But I try to tread with caution.

Best wishes.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:38 pm 
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Good point Steve, and yet many of their "villages" are named Pueblo something, often something Spanish. I had a Lakota friend once who preferred to be called "Indian" rather than "Native American," so I guess there is a lot of variation.

It also occurred to me the other day that since the Hopi are also descended from those ancient people, "Ancestral Hopi" would be just as correct as "Ancestral Puebloan."

Altogether, the language seems quite limiting. I'm going to call them Anasazi until somebody invents a better term. But I'll know what people mean when they call them Ancestral Puebloan.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:54 pm 
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michaelpthompson wrote:
Altogether, the language seems quite limiting. I'm going to call them Anasazi until somebody invents a better term. But I'll know what people mean when they call them Ancestral Puebloan.


The Native American Park Ranger who guided our tour of Mesa Verde used the term anasazi to describe the people who lived there with the explanation that it meant something like ancient people and wasn't an actual name.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (in Albuquerque) explained a lot of controversies (modern and historic) but neither of them was regarding the use of the terms Anasazi or Pueblo, as far as I recall. But if you look long enough you can probably find someone who is offended by literally any given thing :-(

FWIW, I have a couple friends (one Cherokee and one Lakota) who both prefer the term Indian, but anymore there are enough people from the country called India that it can be confusing if not prefixed with American.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 10:17 am 
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highland-piper wrote:
FWIW, I have a couple friends (one Cherokee and one Lakota) who both prefer the term Indian, but anymore there are enough people from the country called India that it can be confusing if not prefixed with American.

I had several conversations with a Lakota man a few years ago, and he preferred the term Indian as well. I guess it's similar to personal pronouns these days, you just have to ask, and then follow their preference.

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