by Emmett R Smith
The hypothesis of an Indian origin of any “curse” on Mankato, Minnesota, objectively is just ridiculous.
If our young, for example, are unusually deformed and more numerously so than in other happier regions of the United States, and if they are with their weak chins and rosebud lips otherwise more prone to torture small animals, drive farm tractors in a rage into closed machine-shed doors, vandalize underground internet terminals and commit other stupid crimes, these results all are far more likely a consequence of stylish excessive doping in the schools with Ritalin and the widespread agricultural wastewater-pollution here in the drinking water, than of any Indians’ supposed long-ago ire.
To begin, therefore, I must as an amateur historian of some salience and power, of course, reject any theory of the “supernatural” in human affairs.
The irrational, however, and the part played by just plain stupidity, all of that is a far different matter, naturally.
As the following account shows, I hope, the power of uncanny psychological experience to perturb momentarily ones perceptions is, of course, very real in itself.
The following is a true ding an sich and it is an excellent case in point, of the distress which may be felt even by the most lucid and rational of truly superior mentalities. Thus, I am only glad to report beforehand that, after the Indian ceremony mentioned below, Dean Hollister himself called us all one-by-one on the telephone, to repudiate his earlier fanciful account. It had been told by him ad hoc seemingly and “off the cuff,” a mere jape played by him on the Indian sweatlodge officiants, “Porky” Reynolds and Enos White:
For it was at the annual Mdewakanton wacipe here, or “powwow,” in September of 1984 that Dean Hollister, then chairman of the anthropology department at the former and well-respected Mankato State Teachers’ College of those days, in fact did tell us remarkable tales during a sweatlodge ceremony.
They are accounts from the Buffalo tribe of the ancient Sisseton Uplands of Hither South Dakota and were stories he had gathered from the Looking Crow clan, during his undergraduate years in southern Minnesota, in the early 1950s. Later, at Columbia, he said he was strictly enjoined by the graduate faculty there never ever to divulge this material, as for any number of reasons it would imperil his effort to win advanced academic honors.
It was said, first of all, that the material and motifs were “anomalous.” Indeed, old Dr Lewisham, author of the celebrated but long-out-of print and NSA-suppressed 1920s classic, Chaos And Terror in Aboriginal Spirituality, hinted at fields of untapped knowledge that, in the post-WW II anticommunism emergency, other, nuclear scientists were researching. It was strongly implied to the young Hollister that the whole field was a no-go area therefore, if only for reasons of respectable academic credibility and peer-acceptance.
I am sure that you will agree with the merits of that last injunction, when I tell you, then, that Professor Hollister proceeded to regale us with a set of preposteries and absurd images, all straight out of Poe and Lovecraft!
I will admit though that, afterward, I peered long and hard through the dank pre-autumnal night, in the direction of the nearby Minnesota River. That stream dribbles but low and gummily in late Summer as it oozes right by the powwow-ground beneath clouds of singing encephalitic mosquitoes, and as I made my way to my tent in the small hours, after the ceremony, I will tell you that there was a sulfurous hint in the air. But, the agricultural excesses of the government-bought-off hog and corn farmers in our region are notorious, and I am sure it was simply the exhalation of a carcase-dammed poisoned stream I scented.
For, of course, any Indian fantasy must just be that, of a bottomless gulf or void beneath the very basin of the muddy Minnesota, above Old Mankato rotting in its downstream postmodern stupor. And, furthermore, the claim that from time-to-time horrors burst forth from there, hideous but vague monstrosities of night and fog, are clearly nothing but an outdone tribal race’s long-ago anxiety-myth, engendered by the supercessionary diseased arrival of the European. Just as the lovingly crafted reports of shades of gigantic Indian skeleton warriors astride similarly outsized, skeletal, flame-hissing hell-bending salamanders is but a pitiable instance of wishful thinking, by a misused and nearly exterminated people….
No, the “curse” on Mankato is very real, but much more it is the consequence of my own race’s lunging stupidity taken together with the regional farmerly knack hereabouts, for throwing dead animals into the drainage ditches and waterways. All of this culminates grimly today in Old Mankato City itself, drawing its municipal waters from this selfsame river, and ridden right into the aching poisoned ground by its demoralized city-managers’ multi-tiered capacity, or topheavy indecent taste, for grotesque hypercredentialism and apotropaic professionalistic and incorporationary greed. Far more are these the sires of our “ancestral” megrims and present-day tainted families, than anything whatsoever to do with the extinguished hopes of mercifully long-dead Indians.
In short, to credit any such notion of the “supernatural” as a meaningful factor in our objective woes of today would be irrational indeed. Grotesquely so, and it is just about on all-fours with the current pretensions of the postcontemporary administration of today, of the now-ruined Mankato State Teachers’ College (excellent in its day!) For these leering halfwits now claim to be the actually-competent proprietors, of an actual and honest-to-God living and breathing, or bona fide, “university.” Such magnitude of idiocy and degraded self-deception is in fact a true accomplishment if only in the domain of the ridiculous, they get away with it with absolutely no Latin and less Greek moreover, and so there is far more to be suspected around here than the mere pathetic workings of any simpleminded curse!
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 17 July 2008]