Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Man, this weather is foul. The drenching we got this weekend really didn’t go away so much as give us a slight respite yesterday. We’ve seen three to four inches all over the state and we’re supposed to get two more days of rain before another slight break allows us to mop up before more rain this weekend.

The biggest worry around here, though, is officials are saying the Oktibbeha County Lake dam might fail any time now. Residents are strongly encouraged to get to higher ground if they’re anywhere near the flood zone, and a whole mess of roads and highways in the area are being closed down in advance.

For your edification, Oktibbeha County is where Starkville is and that’s where Mississippi State Univeristy is. Apart from Starkville, it’s a fairly rural farming area, and Starkville isn’t what you’d called a sophisticated cosmopolitan area. Along with West Point in Clay County and Columbus in Lowndes County it’s part of the Golden Triangle. Air Force base, the W University, the Mississippi School Mathematics & Science, lots of manufacturing, all right there.

Oktibbeha comes from a Chickasaw word meaning “icy creek” or “bloody water”. The only name more badass in the area is Tombigbee, which means “coffin maker”. The Tombigbee River winds through this part of Mississippi, making this the Tombigbee River Basin. A lot of the counties here are from Native names, particularly Chickasaw. “Tishomingo”, north of here, was named after the last full-blooded chief of the Chickasaw tribe. He fought against the Shawnee with George Washington and the Creek with Andrew Jackson. Born in Lee County, he retired to farming before white settlers moved in and moved him out. He wound up dying of smallpox on the Trail of Tears in 1938.

Mississippi history – and American history, for that matter – is full of examples of how the Native tribes were screwed in the most obnoxious, evil ways possible. I read somewhere that up until at least the 1990s every single treaty the U.S. government signed with Native tribes we broke. My own county, Itawamba, was named after one of the very last chiefs of the Chickasaw, Levi Colbert. Quarter Scottish and three-quarter Chickasaw, Colbert was also known as “Bench Chief” because he had a habit of sitting on a little bench rather than sitting right on the ground.

For his part, it seems Colbert saw the writing on the wall for the Chickasaw tribe. All the while dying from illness, Colbert wrote to President Jackson again and again trying to get the best possible situation for his people as the U.S. government was trying to make space for white settlers. Colbert also worked to keep the tribe secure from white men who were marrying into the tribe just to get land grants. Colbert died in 1834, just before his tribe was removed to the Indian Nation in what is now Oklahoma. His brother George took over his spot in the tribe.

When I was a boy, the federal government spent nearly two billion dollars to form the Tenn-Tom Waterway. cutting through the Tombigbee Bottom from the Tennessee River near Corinth, MS, down to Demopolis, AL, where it hooks up with the Black River and on down to the Gulf of Mexico. Attacked for being “pork barrel” at the time and coming in during a economic recession , so it looked like a huge waste of money. However, a drought in 1988 shifted water shipping and the Tenn-Tom came into its own.

A study by Troy State University (Dothan, AL) in 2009 says the Waterway has brought about 30,000 full-time jobs to the area, saved about $43 billion in shipping and has moved a little over seven million tons of cargo. In comparison, the Mississippi River has moved around 307 million tons of cargo in a similar time. It hasn’t done all that was promised – does anything? – but it has been a boon to the area.

Like I was saying, though, all this went down when I was a boy. It finished in 1984 and opened in 1985. I remember two students from MSU came down to do anthropological studies on all the Chickasaw artifacts and sites the construction brought up. I’m told there were parts of the nearby Tombigbee Bottom that no white man had ever seen. Used to be, every time someone plowed up their field a Mason jar of arrowheads could be collected.

Those two students, two young women who’s names I can’t for the life of me remember, loved telling me about the Chickasaw people. Like most white folks all my knowledge of Native Americans came from, predominately, cowboy movies and fairly racist, jingoistic retellings of American history. This was the first time I’d actually heard anything with a little fact and truth behind it, particularly the fact and truth of how bad we screwed over all the tribes.

From what I understand, the Chickasaw did fairly well, comparatively speaking, once they were moved to the Indian Territory. However, it apparently came at the loss of some of their heritage and history. Those two students I mentioned also worked with modern tribal leaders to help the people relearn the Chickasaw language.

It’s not unusual, especially in the Deep South, for people to claim some sort of Native ancestry. Indeed, some people will mislabel “Melungeons” as “white Indians” as a way to get around any sort of responsibility for how the U.S. treated Natives. My family laid claim to Choctaw blood through my grandmother. All sorts of family stories but no real hard evidence. I did one of those commercial DNA tests for Momma’s benefit a couple years ago, and it turns out we don’t. Or if we do, it wasn’t enough to show up past the Celtic and Viking and whatnot. In any event, white folks really, really need to stop doing that based solely on what your Mawmaw says.

Anyhow. I do hope this account of the Native peoples of the Northeast Mississippi area and my own connection to it is respectful. It was certainly meant that way, but good intentions and a dollar might get you a cup of coffee. Please let me know if it’s not and I will change what needs to be changed. There’s a Choctaw reservation down in Neshoba County and they have a big fair every year. Saw Jo-El Sonnier there once, where I fell in love with Cajun music. On my Big Trip across the country, I went through lots of Native land, from Oklahoma to California and back through Texas, and, well, it was something to experience. Very much recommended.

This was fun, just me having fun. The only real news going on today that’s stirred up the humanoids is the Sanders-Warren “split” and not only do I think the press and the stans are making too much hay about it, I’m way past tired of hearing about it. There’s something new brewing with Impeachment, but I think it’s far too soon to try to wrap my head around what’s going on. Something to keep the eye on, though.

There’s the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses begin, the official first round of voting for a candidate in the election come December. Epic Games is continuing the free weekly video games this year, which is nice. Here’s a neat article from Scientific American on universal consciousness or panpsychism, check it out.

Finally, there’s that whole Vince Vaughn business which is just stupid. We get a day of wingnuts pretending that they don’t usually pretend Hollywood is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and then they’ll go back to it tomorrow. It’s so dull and predictable it’s almost like the Sun rising in the East. For a group of people that claim to loathe “movie stars and the Hollywood elite” they sure get gooey in their pants when one shows allegiance.

Granted, two of the last four Republican presidents got their start in politics being celebrities, so I guess it’s to be expected.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s