Herding Humans, Global Economies and the Elimination of Alternatives

Jandat, of Saana, Ashkunum, Kalashum, Afghanistan, represents all phases of the activities and tools in the relation between humans and their tools, the animals and the gardens in his indigenous style. Colored pencil on paper, 1970.

Hazrat Din Shirzad’s westernized representation of the sensitive relationships between man and goat, man and small local cow in Ashkun society, Kalashum, Afghanistan. Colored pencil on paper, 1970.

Sheep, goats, camels and people of the Maldar caravan in Faryab province, NW Afghanistan, 1969. People lead the livestock to water and pasture in this generally dry, barren steppe environment; when one pasture area is exhausted, the people lead them to the next; the animals feed the people milk, cheese, butter and meat. (Photo, John Allison)

Well, let me see, where to start? Syntactic ambiguity everywhere. I mean, “herding humans” can either be the humans who have a traditional practice of herding (the animals); or the humans who are being herded by The Animals who own them. Adjective or Verb: it is really up to YOU.

I am having enough trouble herding my thoughts and getting them penned. (The ambiguity of the verb “penned” is called “semantic ambiguity”.  Carl Voegelin taught me the difference.)


Did you think that Social Security Number was simply to keep track of the money the government had taken from your pay for your old age? My instructor in an advanced sociological statistics class in 1968 was deeply involved with creating of matrices that would centralize all information on all people in the US through their Social Security number. This would make them “accountable” for such things as debt, child support, crimes, and anything else that the government needed to track to get them into the game as they defined it.


Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, said, in explaining his anti-union stance against the teachers’ strike in Chicago, that his intent was to “…create a culture of accountability”.

Well, you know that Mayor Rahm is now in trouble with me; I hold him accountable.

Rahm, you are going to do WHAT? Create a culture? I do hope you are coordinating with Romney and Ryan; they are trying to create a “culture” too; just like yours; the pseudo-culture of Empire. It’s an ancient Roman tradition.

There is another tradition, Resistance; like the example set on the island now called England of the Celtic Queen Boudicca, leader of the Iceni Tribe of the vicinity of the current counties of southeast Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, who rose up against the Romans in about 80 A.D. and, for awhile, pushed them back.

“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late

Like Bob Marley said: Get up! Stand up! Stand up for you rights!

The hirelings of empire don’t know the meaning of “Culture”, but they will “create” rules of social organization and taxes for some; with punishments for not complying and rewards for complying – typical behaviorist approach to “culture”; entirely missing the runway for genuine Culture and landing on another planet, Empire, but announcing to the billions of paying passengers on board: “We have landed at the Culture International Airport. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened until the Captain tells you it is safe.”

I think that the new privately contracted mega-prisons also are trying to create the same “culture of accountability”, but with much more control over the workers who earn that profit for the contractors by slave labor; imposing “austerity” measures on the workers by telling the prison warden what those measures will be, and how it will “save the economy”; making the call from their Blackberries in the austere conditions of their private launch in the Bahamas or their castle in Provence.

In fact, these privately owned prisons are the model for your future.

So, clearly, the endgame for these Roman leaders is to get complete control of the workers/consumers, to be able to herd them to their next job and residence; making a profit on both the move of human capital on the private “public transportation”, or selling gasoline to you for your car to get there and selling or renting to you one of the nearby workers’ shacks; just like in the San Joaquin valley for the farm workers before the United Farm Workers’ Organizing Committee created a unifying focus of force for the workers to take control of their own lives.

Stay with the Herd, Stray with the Herd

There is an immense body of related literature about the transition from “hunting and gathering”, called “foraging” by the archaeologists.

[Sidebar: my Klamath “boss”, Dino (he calls me “Chief”, but, if I call him “Chief” I’d get one of those threatening “ethnic slur” stares from the man we call Lightning Boy, the Tribes’ best hunter and jerky-maker, with biceps as big as my thighs, so I call him “Boss”.)]  –   Dino used to quip about the archaeologists’ term, “forage”.  “I forage at MacDonald’s” he use to say … until his heart attacks, … now he eats his broccoli, for which he used to laugh at me, “You can’t live on that HERE, Chief. You need meat and potatoes”.

The archies postulate a “cultural evolution”, which is merely increasing technological cumulation and social stratification … transition from foraging to horticulture and herding, and then to cities, agri-business and industrialized  animal production – approximating Robert Redfield’s ideal type constructs of Folk, Peasant and Urban, which Redfield did not intend to be a unilineal evolutionary continuity, but merely a comparative model for types of societies. Part of this literature makes clear that there is no particular evolutionary direction indicated; peoples sometimes go from resembling the qualities of one of these ideal type constructs to another, and back again; depending on many factors; many factors that are operating today.

The Pit Rivers (not related to Pitt-Rivers) had been, and still is part-time a “hunting and gathering tribe” with a large portion of a woman’s energy used in plant cultivation, including digging-stick cultivation of root areas like camas and epos, replanting selected corms for the next season, as described by Kat Anderson in her works based on ethnographic research of the Berkeley Old School anthropologists and others from 1900-1940s.

The California Indian men are documented to have practiced controlled burns – based upon millennia of experience. This literature is now mined by the Forest Service to try to control the devastation of the forests that the US took from the Indians. Devastated by ignorance of the resource of knowledge available from the traditional practices.  Devastated because of the Forest Circus’ rapist approach to “timber management” to comply with the demands of the Timber Industry.

These aboriginal practices are now understood to have been part of the cultivation of the natural landscape to provide a richer resource base: grasses and shrubs that nourished the deer; young willow shoots, grasses and fern roots for baskets, etc. And this, along with the moisture of old-growth stands also decreased the probability of the spread of wildfires

 The men – as one of their collective activities – passed along accumulated knowledge of tens of thousands of years from their collective experience with the deer and their habits and haunts; following their main trails and finding their cul-de-sacs for birthing, grazing, sleeping. Some of my colleagues in the Klamath-Modoc Tribe – over the Devil’s Garden basalt highlands north of the Pit River, a shared area for gathering and hunting – recounted herds of 300 deer as late as the 1950s; before the Termination Act took down the “Unconquered, Uncontrolled” Klamath-Modoc – as described by a racist, but “educated” Klamath County Public Schools Superintendent who was also an “amateur archaeologist”, an avid robber of Klamath-Modoc graves and village sites, and who resented the National Historic Preservation Act which made his activities a Federal or State crime.

Today, my friends there have a hard time finding one healthy buck to kill for their families. Herds are unheard-of; groups of three to five are rare. Yet, Kimbol v. Callahan, I and II, affirmed that the tribal members’ right to hunt on their former reservation lands, now BLM, Park Service, Forest Service or privately owned.  Charles Kimbol was instrumental in re-gaining Federal Recognition for the Tribes, and he was the first Chairman elected by the General Council after Restoration. He also was the one who hired me as the first anthropologist and cultural resource manager for the restored Tribes.

I can still see Chuck sitting in his office with all those shelves of hard-bound law books, talking with his finger held erect near my face, “Now, I’m going to tell you something!”… and he did.

Chuck Kimbol’s victory in court with the legal knowledge he had acquired in Prison (for killing an abusive White man in the streets of Klamath Falls, with his bare fists) had won continued hunting and gathering rights on the former Klamath Reservation lands for all tribal members and descendants; but there was no guarantee that the game and fish and plants would be there, being that their terminated “reservation” now is “public” and private lands managed by the USA.  The treaties had promised, “… as long as the winds shall blow, as long as the grass shall grow …” that land was reserved for them. But, now, “this land is my land, this land is your land, this land was made for you and me. From the Redwood forest to the Gulfstream waters …”

Tacitus describes how the Romanised Britons embraced the new urban centres from which the Roman Empire ruled them: “They spoke of such novelties as ‘civilisation’, when this was really only a feature of their slavery”  (Agricola, 21). In my 1993 interview with Irwin “Squeak” Weiser, the 90-year-old Elder of the Numa (Northern Paiute) group that ended up thrown onto the new “Klamath Reservation”, he remarked on the annual Klamath Restoration Pow Wow, which was to celebrate the restoration of the Klamath Tribes’ status as a Federally recognized tribe – but without the return of their 1.2 million acres of reservation lands that the Termination Act had removed – “They are just celebrating their ignorance”.

However, the tribal members were then freed from local unity to compete in the global economy, not collectively as Klamath, Modoc or Numa “Indians”, but as individualized Human Resource Units.

The “Cultural Solvent” had worked again, the basis for their local unity as a tribe sharing their ancestral lands had been severed. Good God Almighty, Free at last!

Standing Alone

I sat there in an auditorium of Southern Oregon University in front of the 1991 annual meeting of the Association of Oregon Archaeologists, academic paper in hand that I was scheduled to present on Indigenous Self-determination in Cultural Resource Management. The last words from the previous speaker, “It’s a matter of the heart.” had stabbed me deep inside.

My name was called. I stood and walked to the podium, feeling like my feet didn’t reach the floor, very alone. I was unable to start. Facing The Professionals, including many Real Doctors, tears welling up in my eyes, choking on my words. and I could not read past the first paragraph to the hall full of archaeologists at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, I let the paper fall to the floor and I began to talk from my heart about the Klamath people whose pain I realized that I was there to represent, whose places in the land had been taken from them and desecrated by those who held them captive and deprecated these First Americans and dictated the life that would now confine them, and who were there in that hall to lecture on their history of “Indians” based on European “science”, and the thoughts that flooded my mind overwhelmed any logic as I remembered the Indian woman in the dark Chiloquin street, telling her five children to stay put, while she walked out in front of the speeding locomotive of the freight train that pounded along the rails that had been constructed up the “Williamson River” and through their village of Chiloquin, Oregon, to be dragged and fragmented like her people until the paramedics who came with the screaming ambulance had to put the parts into several yellow body bags, as I stood there before those professional archaeologists and anthropologists, trying to tell them something that I could not get out of my throat that was choking on my own tears, but not choking like Kintpuash, the one whom they called “Captain Jack”, hanging from a rope alongside his fellow Modoc leaders Black Jim, John Schonchin and Boston Charley. at Fort Klamath, executed for humiliating the US Calvary for several years … and this experience, this inadequacy that I felt in trying to express my thought-feelings within the acceptable scientific guidelines for such a meeting left me with a sense of futility in trying to talk to them, The Professionals; still, I didn’t give up,  I kept coming back to Their meetings, and I gradually got it more together, and said more what I meant, not in their professional style, but with increasingly true anthropologically poetic authenticity that led to a polarization of the membership, those who stood with me – clearly the majority –  and those who had professional status and authority over funding; until, at the last meeting that I attended, the spring meeting in 1993, in Bend, I felt that I had finally said it coherently, with dignity, in a way that my Indian friends could respect; without tears, I delivered my final  paper, “Issues, Concerns and Opportunities for Cultural Resource Management Inside Indigenous Societies: A Perspective from Chiloquin”. Period! There was no “paper”; it was from the heart and mind; the way Dino talks. (When I asked for a copy of the audio tape recording of that annual meeting of the AOA, it could not be found, though all the other presentations could.)

I can still hear Dino saying in his uniquely eloquent manner: “You nailed it, Chief!” I knew, then, that I had.

Our Example: An Eight-year-old Girl             

During my employment by the Pit River Tribe’s Modoc County Indian Education Center, I worked on revising the linguists’ representation of their texts into a more readable version to be used by Daniel Forrest in his role as teacher of Ajumawi language and culture to children in and around Alturas, in extreme northeast California. This project never reached fruition because the Modoc County Superintendent of schools did not like the idea of the Tribe’s sovereign determination of their own children’s education; leading to such crises as an event caused by an eight-year old girl, daughter of one of the leading families among the local band – the Kosealectawi (“The People of the Place Where the Junipers come down (to the river)”).

The child had gone home and told her grandma, the Elder Mrs. Pearl Brown, that the teacher (the teachers, like the Superintendant of Modoc County Schools, were almost all extremely White and had red necks) had told them that the “Pit Rivers had lived like animals”  – “Digger Indians”, she had called them.  Granma Pearl Brown told her not to listen to them; that she and her granddaughter are Full Blood Ajumawi. (Linguists reading this, but not knowing this language, now know the suffix /-awi/ is “people”.)

The next day, when there was a recess, the ‘redskin’ Brown girl went running down the halls of the Alturas Elementary School, singing at the top of her lungs, “Full Blood!, Full Blood! Full Blood!…” and was severely reprimanded and sent home with a note to Grandma.

Word got to the Modoc County School District Superintendant who tried to downplay it. News Wiki-Leaked out and, via smoke-signals in this pre-internet period, went viral. The California Department of Education getting wind of it during Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor.  Believe me, today, there is a different version of history taught to the People in Alturas. [Jerry Brown was/is supportive of indigenous self-determination. I still have a catalog from an exhibition of California Indian art that he personally opened, entitled, “We are These People.”}

“Digger” was a common insult used by the ignorant savages who had come in force in the 1850s, singing, “This Land is My Land”, pushed them into a town and taken all their land except for 9,000 acres named the “XL Rancheria”, which was essentially given to Dan’s brother, Aaron.

Setting up the Transitional Revolutionary Council

Dan told me that the Federal Indian Service Representative asked the convened tribal members of assembled bands of both the nine Ajumawi and the two Atsugewi bands (Hat Creek) – who had been all been pushed together and “given” the 9000 acres of XL Rancherias as their collective, “reservation”, in order to take their separate lands – asked them who would take on the role of Transitional Government leader, to form a tribal government that could articulate well with the BIA’s preferences and the Indian Reorganization Act. When the Fed asked, the collective Pit River/Hat Creek People sat in stoic, rock-like silence. But a very young and ambitious Aaron – culture- and language- stripped during his “education” at the Haskell Institute in Kansas – was the only one to volunteer in a packed room of silent, somber Indians. So the USA appointed Aaron Forrest to the office of Tribal Chairman.

Thirty or more years later, when I met him, only a few people lived up the river with Aaron and his family on the XL Ranch, which was, legally, the only property owned by the Tribe, from which he controlled all the Federally-funded programs for the Tribe, EXCEPT, the Modoc County Indian Education Center which was run by the Parent Education Committee (PEC), whose member families lived in Alturas or nearby towns.

The Take-Over

Supervisor had already warned me about mowing the lawn outside our facilities – which were rented from a church. The Super didn’t like the image; and he said the church was required to do that. I argued that I was setting a good example, and, besides, it was not a program under his supervision. I was the Director who wrote the grants and who was supervised by the PEC; the School District merely served as the recipient-disburser of funds dedicated to the Center’s self-determined programs. Mouthing-off again.

The next day, Super’s subordinate and a couple of other goons arrived accompanied by two police cars and several cops all armored up, demanded all the keys to the facilities, and locked the place up.

During the next week all the educational materials, large reference library and furniture were moved to the District Office, and the PEC secretary (who turned out to be a double agent for Aaron) became one of Super’s secretaries; and the Title IV and VII funding for minority and ethnic education was transferred to a new ESL program for Hispanics, of which there were very few in Modoc County at that time.  

So far away from San Francisco, none of the media I called responded by a TV or newpaper reporter’s visit to start a public appeal. I hung in for several weeks having part of the program at my home; then, money ran out … I had to get a job.

Alternate Relations with All My Relations

Daniel Forrest had described to me his initiation as a hunter as a pre-teen. The other men brought a deer hide with its head and – having completed his period of purification – Dan put it on with nothing other than a breech clout, and, after smudging with sage to cover his odor, he crawled across a meadow and in among a herd of many deer where he spent that day.  Not killing, just becoming one with them, to understand their spirit; unlike the poor fellow who recently jumped into a tiger’s pen in a big city zoo to “become one” with the tiger and almost did, carnally. As with all actions in getting food and other acts in the environment, the deer –who had appeared to offer his life and was killed for food and other materials, was then thanked and the hunter asked his/her spirit to come back again.

The relationship between the people and their herds did not resemble the relationship between rancher and his cattle, neither physically nor mentally. In the mind of the men, the relationship was symbiotic, just as it was for the women who helped the plants that they harvested; naturally selecting the best corms to replant in the cultivated soil, offering prayers of gratitude. The humans took ceremonial care of the world; the deer brought home the bacon.

Yes, I am making a simplistic representation, but how can one translate between separate realities?

I saw this again among the Inupiaq of Deering, on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, ninety miles from the Kamchatka Peninsula of Asia. They had, for millennia, had such a relationship with the caribou. Even after the White enterprise attempt to introduce commercial “reindeer” herds for earning profit as well as subsistence, they continued to relate to the animals as they had their own wild “reindeer”, which eventually melded in with the domestic ones. No fences, just some stone cairns resembling human forms along the ridgetop above the rich grazing lands along the Imnachuk River was enough to keep them from straying. The people both guarded them from their predators and harvested them for winter food supply along with their stores of fish, walrus, seal, whales, berries, etc. This is 2002 I am describing. 

Cairns on the ridgetop above the “reindeer” farm, Inmachuk River watershed, late June, 2002. (photo: John Allison)

There were more rock cairns at regular intervals, but many have fallen and not been replaced; the reindeer farming venture was abandoned, but the merged herd of caribou still lives in substantial numbers along the bottom lands and hillsides with the herds of muskoxen, Brown Bears, partridges and other uncontrolled, free-living stock. “Dogs run free. Why can’t we?” (Photo, John Allison)

Right. Nice pictures. So, what’s the point here?

Well, the point is that the herding being done today by the entrepreneurs (“undertakers”) is the herding of humans; the most profitable and challenging livestock domestication ever. The management and harvest of pigs, cows and sheep are all now highly automated and “efficient” right down to the Pink Slime; no more ceremony; just press a button to slop ‘em and hire illegal “aliens” to kill ‘em, gut ‘em and cut ‘em.

No more costly ceremony and ritual that George Foster found so irrational and wasteful of capital that could be spent in the global economy. Why, those peasants in Mexico could be raising pigs by industrial techniques for his family’s global meat-packing corporation. Of course his Mexican villagers would turn up their noses at that kind of meat. They know what good pork tastes like; they made much better tocino (“bacon”) than Foster’s family could ever approach. I know, I became addicted to Jalisco home-made bacon. Gracias al Dios, they did not follow his prescription for change.

So, Foster couldn’t herd the Mexican farmers into the factory. The Modoc County School District has still been unsuccessful at herding the Ajumawi into some of their “economic development strategies” also; the Tribe going their own way, self-directed by other values.

Disambiguation: Push Comes to Shove

Well, the oral tradition among the white “settlers” of North America was that Indians don’t make good slaves; they keep running off and organizing war parties.

Now, it seems that everybody is having that dream.

There seems to be – Alhamdulillah – a global uprising of the human herds occurring just before the funnel fence leading into the Corral of the Final Solution. Something has spooked the livestock.  The corporate jet abandons its landing pattern and goes back to circling; looking for a more convincing approach, like “a culture of accountability”, austerity for some and offshore bank accounts for others.

All Aboard! This is the Final Call

It is now really that last moment for this; soon, we enter the funnel into The Jungle as represented by the slaughter houses in Upton Sinclair’s book.

The gate is now closing. Mind the gap!

Now’s the time, Folks. Run through the halls of Congress or Parliament, down the halls of all universities and “public” schools that teach nonsense and racism, take over the Plaza Real in Barcelona, unfurl banners from the top of the Eifel Tower, form local planning groups, confront Standard Oil in Nigeria and Chevron in Richmond, California. Run roughshod over Their Empire, screaming, “Full Blood! Full Blood! Full Blood!…

… Well, that is, unless you want to go where They are taking you. And, I can understand having weak thoughts of giving up, surrendering, turning on your favorite TV show, going with the flow; having another drink or toke; trusting the wisdom of the capitalists, comforted by Ronald Reagan’s claim to assure his wards, “We don’t eat our own children.”

However, this is not the time for that. Now is the last chance to Get a Grip!

If an eight-year-old Ajumawi girl can bring change, We can too, if We rise up, stand up and don’t give up the fight.

No cedan! Don’t surrender!

As a co-worker said to me in the Tulare County Welfare Office where I supported myself while working with UFWOC, “Sal si puede“. Get out, if you can, and join in.

Avoid Violence, even if you must get kinetic.

Violence is in the mind. An empire can be slain without violence in the mind; just as can a deer; “… as the butcher slays an ox”.

This is a ceremony, a ritual that will determine your future; the future of All My Relations.

Don’t surrender! No cedan!

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night!

We are Many, They are Few.

“There is nothing to fear.”

{I will point out the ambiguity of “nothing” in these last words of a Zen Master: “nothing” can be read as either “no thing” in this world to fear; or might be read that there is the Great Nothingness to fear.]

2 thoughts on “Herding Humans, Global Economies and the Elimination of Alternatives

  1. M. Jamil Hanifi

    John, thank you for helping us get this off our chests! For me all these savage and bloody masquerades are attempts at domination through suicidal cannibalism and incest—the ultimate cause and consequence of life in modern and postmodern hegemonic structures.

  2. John Allison

    Jamil, Thank you for your usual generous and kind words, the first response to this post.
    You know and I know that, although some call me some sort of “expert” on Afghanistan, or on the Klamath/Modoc, you and I know that I am only an expert on my own observations of the world in which I have lived most of my life, and the non-culture that was my birthright; which provide limitations on what I can understand of your “native” world and that of any other..
    I have sometimes served as a hinge between certain peoples and the USan political forces that control them. I try to be an informed voice from their sovereign reality to that of the Empire, in which you and I are now embedded.
    I will, increasingly, move to represent what I have been a part of during my life: that product of the invasion of other people’s civilizations; including that in which you were … how did you put it? culturally outfittted, before your migration to the US. That first quarter century of your life gave you a perspective that now equips you, uniquely, to look at this Empire in which we find ourself embedded – like the Paiutes who were thrown onto the “Klamath Reservation” – in a way that sheds light for all of us.
    Please! Don’t give up!
    The Octopus is coming!

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