Friday, December 20, 2019

Merry Christmas, America!

Five clear ornaments filled with red, green and gold doodads.
Last year at this time, I wrote a blog about Christmas events around the world, so this time around  figured I’d explore closer to home and see what goes on in our country. What I found was, that when you remove the faith-based aspects of the season and other cultural celebrations (shout out to Kwanzaa), Christmas looks remarkably similar across the US. Everybody seems to like ornaments, Santa, Christmas trees and the general sparkle of the season. Where the differences lie are in the ethnic histories of communities, which makes sense in an immigrant country as diverse and multicultural as ours.

A green and white neon decoration, reflected in water, of Santa in a boat being pulled by gators.
In parts of Louisiana it’s not just Christmas, it’s Cajun Christmas. Cajuns are descendants of French Canadian Catholics who arrived in the area in the late 1700’s. The story of these people, known as Acadians, is (like many other settlers) one of religious and cultural persecution and exile (here is a short history). They settled in the bayous of Louisiana where they could live their own way and their ancestors continue that attitude to this day. Cajuns have their own very unique language, culture and traditions that pull from the ancestral French but are spiced up Cajun-style. And Christmas is no exception - in Cajun Country Santa is called Pere Noel and his reindeer and sleigh transform into alligators and a boat when they reach the bayous (and the alligators have names).  Along the levees, bonfires are set on Christmas Eve to help guide him along. These fires also light the way to Midnight Mass. Over the years, people have gotten creative with the size and shapes of these fires – here is a giant alligator being constructed for this year’s Christmas Eve.

Santa on a white and blue surfboard surfing a blue-green wave.
In our newest state, Hawaii, Christmas traditions are truly a cultural melting pot. For native Hawaiians, Christmas just happens to fall in the time period of their traditional observance of
Makahiki. This celebratory period between mid-November and late January-early February is meant to be a time to gather and pay tribute to leaders, harvest, rest and recreate. Christmas fits right into that. Many Americans became tuned into Hawaiian Christmas when Bing Crosby first sang Mele Kalikimaka(the phonetic version of “Merry Christmas” in native Hawaiian). Modern Hawaii has incorporated cultures from around the Pacific and their Christmas foods show it; sushi is as likely to be on the menu as poi. But, all in all, Christmas in Hawaii looks much like Christmas elsewhere – except that Santa is surfing, or wearing shorts, snowmen are sandmen and poinsettias are what’s blooming on those big trees in the backyard.

A brightly lit up stall in a market. Two women, with their backs to the camera, are talking to a woman in a booth. Christkindlmarket in Chicago, photo by Jaclyn Rivas
Christkindlmarket , Chicago, IL
Considering the huge number of Americans with German ancestry, it should come as no surprise that Christmas markets can be found across the US. Many, such as the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, reflect the large German populations within those areas; others are more fabricated and kitschy (but still fun). Having had the privilege of experiencing “real” Christmas markets in Germany, I highly recommend them in any form. Especially if they have mulled wine (Gl├╝hwein)! Here are of the best to be found.

Three cacti in red pots lit up in white lights and colorful ornaments.

Here in southern Arizona (and everywhere else there is a large Latino community), Christmas is tamale time. Sure, people decorate their cactus and put out luminarias, but Christmas in Tucson is about the tamales. It’s just in the air. In the last couple weeks, I’ve had numerous random tamale conversations. And people take their tamales seriously. There are unlimited variations to the basic recipe that are endlessly debated, validated, criticized and discussed. In the end, people fall back on what their families have always done. Because those are the best tamales, with that special nostalgic taste that Christmas demands.
A drawing of a large family gathered in a blue and yellow kitchen. Everyone is doing there part in making tamales.
Una tamalada

Why tamales at Christmas? Good question. There are many anecdotal theories (this article has some of those), but there’s no one definitive answer. Tamales have been eaten in the Americas for a very long time and sometimes such ancient sources of traditions can get blurred. What is not in question is that tamales are a family affair. Because they are labor-intensive, the more hands to help, the better. When people gather for the holidays that labor comes right into the kitchen. Tamale making then becomes a bonding experience and a way to honor traditions that is priceless. Here is an excellent article that relates one family’s tamalada. If you don’t have tamale helpers nearby, just like working solo or have never tried making them before, here is an article with illustrated step-by-step instructions. While its title indicates that tamale making is a family event, the clear cut steps will work well for a solo tamale adventure.

A man dressed as George Washington face to face with a camel over a wooden corral fence.And now I’d like to pivot from specific traditions to straight-up Americana and talk about George Washington.  It’s never the wrong time of year to acknowledge the accomplished general and statesman who was our first president, but he also has some interesting connections to Christmas. His famous crossing of the Delaware, for instance. That took place, in the midst of a brutal winter storm, during the night of December 25-26, 1776. This historic moment is reenacted every Christmas in aptly named Washington Crossing, PA. Meanwhile, down at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, people come to see his Christmas Camel. Washington was an animal lover and was especially fascinated with creatures from foreign lands. According to historical documentation, he regularly paid to see exotic animals, including a lioness, a tiger, a sea leopard and an an elephant. In 1787, he paid 18 shillings (a considerable amount to pay, about half a laborer’s weekly salary) to have a camel brought to Mt. Vernon at Christmastime. It would have been an extremely rare sight for his family and guests. Modern Mt. Vernon pays tribute to that camel by having a Christmas Camel every year. The current star is named Aladdin and apparently he is happy to pose for selfies, although he has been known to eat the occasional hat.

There are so many fascinating Christmas celebrations that I simply don’t have the time or space to share them all. I encourage you to look around and find new, delicious, educational and plain old fun ways to enjoy the season in your area.
                                                                                                         
A Star Wars gif, with a young black man fighting a giant candy cane man with a candy cane light saber.
                                            May the force be with you this holiday season!
  Submitted by Pam








Thursday, December 12, 2019

Ordinary Ornaments? Bah Humbug!

A blue-green Christmas ornament with skinny little bird legs.An Christmas tree topper of an angel with gold wings and halo wearing a white dress. But the head is a Basset Hound head.While I was floating around the internet looking for inspiration for this blog, I landed in a realm that left me with anything but the Christmas spirit. I’m talking about the world of weird Christmas ornaments – in many cases, weird and disturbing. Most people dig out their sentimental family ornaments, jolly Santas and glittering decorations and beautify their house for the season. But I somehow can’t believe that the people who buy these ornaments also have a blow-up snowman in their yard. My over-arching thought process when looking at some of these  goes like this: “Why? Who Would Want This? What’s The Point?”

An ornament with a gold bow hanging on a grey wall. It is a baby doll face with two tiny reaching around by the ears.
There's something about those tiny hands...
First of all, I feel it necessary to point out that I am an open-minded and liberal thinking person who enjoys changing things up, but some of what I’ve seen just baffles me. For instance, there is an overabundance of “decorative” moose poop ornaments. I mean, there's a lot of them! They pop up everywhere. If this is a “thing”, I wish someone would explain it to me. Likewise, the great many gender-specific body part ornaments. The creativity of some of these is quite mind-bending (others are just plain crude). But since when does genitals -on-a-tree mean “Christmas”?

A pink blob-like thing with a giant blue eyeWe can probably thank the Goth community, as well as the ever-growing popularity of Halloween and the Day of the Dead, for the increased availability of some of the more horror-centric ornaments out there. But items like skulls are much more mainstream than edgy these days, and by the time Christmas comes, macabre decorations can seem more like stale leftovers from Halloween than festive Christmas fare. Nevertheless, there are still some out there that can make you go, "What....?". The eyeball thingy to the left is one.

Four hanging replicas of pink brains with spinal cords attached.Another question I have about all this is: why are fetuses considered suitable as decorations? Here is a whole page full of fetus ornaments (including one of fetal stem cells). The more I looked at it, the worse I felt about it, so be cautious clicking on that link. For an even more extreme fetus ornament, check out this one – it’s carrying an assault weapon. I’m positive I don’t want to know the people behind all that; the whole thing is offensive on many levels.

Three felt ornaments. They have white heads shaped to look like garlic and are dressed in colorful. They don't look too happy.On a lighter note: How about a brain with the spinal column attached? It even comes in a two-pack, because one is just not enough. Seriously, would even a neurosurgeon want this?

Four round ornaments. Inside each is multicolored crochet work made to look like mold and other growths in a petri dish.Garlic lovers can decide for themselves if they need some angry-faced garlic ornaments. The maker calls them cute and charming, I call them creepy and weird.

A man with dark hair and grey clothing sitting on s white rocket - meant to be Kim Jon Un, the leader of North Korea.Are you a fan of ruthless dictators? The Rocket Man is sure to brighten up any celebration.


An ornament of a Buddhist monk in saffron robes wearing a Santa hat. There are two vies - one inside the box and one outside.If you have a scientist on your list, surprise her/him with some handmade bacteria. No, not the kind you spread with your hands, the kind that is crocheted by hand. Although they don’t seem very yuletide-ish, I have to admire the work put into these.

For those families that are Buddhist but still want to decorate for Christmas, the obvious choice is Santa Monk.

A sparkly red and silver vacuum cleaner ornamentUnless you own a cleaning company, a vacuum cleaner ornament makes no sense at all to me.

And, finally, something that is sure to bring Christmas cheer to any family gathering - a Filthy Animal ornament. I highly recommend it as a gift for that relative with strong political opinions.

If you want to see some more off-beat ornaments, check out this article. It is eye-opening and hilarious.

Happy Holidays to you all!
                                           
                                                    Submitted by Pam
An ornament of Santa stuck in the chimney. He's meant to be a zombie and has blood dripping down his beard.



Wednesday, December 4, 2019

World Soil Day - Build Soil. Help The World.

A drawing of a black rectangle with a green leafed plant growing in it. Some of the soil and leaves are blowing away on the right.Last Thursday Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, which is meant to be a day of gratitude. (Okay, you don’t have to be grateful for mean old Uncle Cyrus). But, as we were celebrating, I believe it is safe to say that very few people thought to be thankful for the ground they were standing on. Or for the soil that produced their annual feast. World Soil Day hopes to change that by building awareness of the precarious position of our soil in the world today.

Red/brown dirt ravines with green forest in the background - soil erosion from deforestation


World Soil Day is an annual event put on by the United Nations. It is observed worldwide on December 5th with outreach, functions and even contests. The basic purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of and advocate for healthy soil. Every year there is a theme that relates to soil; last year it was soil pollution and this year it is soil erosion. All around the world, our soil is eroding at an alarming rate. According to the UN, one soccer field worth of soil is lost every five seconds and it is not an exaggeration to say that the very food we rely on is being threatened. Climate change (which is an even larger issue) plays a part in increased soil erosion, but an awareness of the importance of healthy soil and good soil management can make a real difference on a micro level. Big changes can be made in small steps. Here is a cool little cartoon on soil health from the World Soil Day site.

Yellow-orange flames in front of three men in turbans and white clothing. There are trees in the background.
Slash and burn farming in India
Aside from wind, water and other climatic factors, in many parts of the world soil erosion and degradation (when what soil is left is no good) is the result of human activity such as ecologically damaging farming methods like slash and burn agriculture. However, healthy soil loss from overgrazing, deforestation, mining and pollution is found everywhere. Combine all that with the extreme storms, drought and flooding that come from climate change and the need to do something is urgent. India, home to over a billion people, is already in crisis. Their largely poor and agrarian population is struggling and every year they are hit with intense monsoons and flooding. While the rains have always been a part of Indian life, they are becoming more and more extreme. The US is not immune to soil problems; this  enlightening article explains why we are running out of soil (including a super-interesting tidbit on the Roman Empire and their soil issues).

The Grand Canyon - the valley is purple-hued with a river running through it. The walls are yellowish. There are rocks and bushes in the foreground.
Here in Arizona, we have the premier example of water-caused soil erosionthe Grand Canyon. The canyon may have taken eons to be created, but we have all seen mini versions of it in our yards after heavy rains. This is a particularly thorny problem here in southern Arizona, where a good portion of our soil contains a Caliche layer. Caliche is, quite literally, as hard as concrete and does not allow water to pass through it. Combine this with the intense storms that we get during our summer monsoons (they can be bad, but not as bad as those in India) and there goes the surface soil.

Aerial view of a giant dust cloud bearing down on housing tracts. Photo by Jason Ferguson
Haboob bearing down on Phoenix
Additionally, we have extremely dangerous and damaging haboobs (dust storms), which are an exceptionally dramatic display of soil erosion. I once had the misfortune of being caught up in one of these on the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson. I am not a person who scares easily, but the whole experience was truly terrifying. Beyond the windshield everything is just a weird tan-orange color and all you can do is hope you don’t run into something and that nothing runs into you. Experts say you should pull over and turn off your lights (and pray nothing finds you), but I just got off on the first exit I could. I found out later that three people had died in a multiple car accident just ahead of me. If I hadn’t made that turn, I would have been a participant in that. Here is a video that really shows what they’re like.

Two hands holding a plant in black dirt. In the background is a field-on the left it is brown and on the right it is green.Addressing soil health is often done best right from home. Here at ARBICO, we have been singing the healthy soil song for decades. We have gathered a great many excellent products that anyone can use in their yard or garden to encourage strong soil that’s rich in microbial life. You could begin with a mineral (or more than one)  like Soil Replenish (Elemite), Andesite, Glacial Rock Dust or Harvest Gold Premium Soil Conditioner (Silica). To add nutrients and jump-start your soil biology, you can add items such as Fulzyme SP, Earth Alive Soil Activator, and Neptune’s Harvest Humate Concentrate. Or you could go the one-stop-shop route and get our Healthy Soil Recipe or John & Bob’s Clay & Hard Soil Kit (excellent for Arizonans). These are just a brief sampling of what we have to offer in the soil building arena, there is much more in our Soil Amendments, Micronutrients & Biostimulants category..

Short clip from the Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations. The text reads, "Over 33% of the Earth's soils are already degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050".
If you are unable to contribute in changing the soil around you, I encourage you to consider recycling your green waste. And if you’re unsure of what to do with it once you’ve collected it, here is my blog with suggestions for that. If you are interested in reading more on soil building and/or soil in general, here is a link to some of our blogs that you may enjoy. Now, go out and get your hands dirty – and help the world!

                                                                                                                               Submitted by Pam

Monday, November 25, 2019

ARBICO Thanksgiving 2019



Happy Thanksgiving banner with autumn leaves

A woman in a black top holding a crock pot and leaning on another on a table.
Jess - Marketing
A man with grey hair, dark sunglasses and a red shirt standing under a ramada
Greg - Sales
A woman with dark hair and a black top standing behind a table of food and holding a tray of mac and cheese.
Christina - Shipping
This past Friday, ARBICO celebrated its annual Thanksgiving Potluck only a few minutes away from our offices at beautiful Catalina State Park (we go there every year and never tire of it).  The grandeur of the setting was only matched by the quality of  the food and camaraderie. Here are some of our team proudly showing their food contribution and others just happily enjoying the day.

A woman with wavy brown hair wearing a black shirt and a green plaid vest holding a red plastic bowl full of salad.
Taylor - Sales 

A dark-haired woman in a grey shirt standing in front of a table full of beverages. There are trees, mountains and clouds in the background.
Caitlin - Office 
A man with a blue baseball hat and black shirt with his hands in a bowl of lettuce.
Big Mike - Insectary
Did you know that there used to be a tradition of dressing in costumes for Thanksgiving? I know I didn't. A hundred years ago this really was a thing. It seems
like a somewhat creepier version of trick or treat.
This article explains this lost event and has some great pictures. If you want other unusual Thanksgiving trivia to pass around the dinner table, this short article can provide that.

A woman with long, dark, wavy hair wearing glasses and a long-sleeved black shirt. She is holding the lid of a crockpot. The black crockpot is sitting on a table with a red and white checked tablecloth.
Anissa - Marketing


HAPPY TURKEY DAY FROM ARBICO!

Submitted by Pam
A group of 5 woman and 2 man sitting at table with a red and white checked tablecloth. There are trees and clouds in the background.
The Insectary Crew

A gif of 2 images - one is a turkey prepared to cook and the other is a live turkey on a skateboard.





Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thanksgiving You-Might-Want-To-Dos

A straw cone-shaped basket with fruits and vegetables spilling from it.There is so much hullabaloo around Thanksgiving – what to cook, how to cook it, who to invite, how to deal with them, how to avoid kitchen disasters and so on and so on. There are endless avenues for advice online, in videos and in family lore.  Most of it is a bunch of hooey (except maybe the family lore part). It’s really a pretty simple process to create the meal: put the turkey in the oven, prepare the side dishes while it’s cooking (you have hours, after all), take the turkey out, put in the rolls while the turkey is being carved and then put in the pies. Or, if you want your pies quicker, stick them in the oven before the turkey – either way one dish will have a nice, preheated oven to get the second dish going. Voila – your dinner is done! People worry overly much about the food when it is really the things outside the kitchen realm that can cause the day to go haywire. Here are some suggestions to smooth your day:

A group of dark-haired watching a TV in front of a white wall.
Get some DVDs – Keeping a horde of youngsters occupied while you’re mashing potatoes and drinking wine can be challenging. Give them a space of their own and some movies to watch. You don’t need to get a bunch; younger kids will happily watch the same movies over and over (this article explains why). Hit up Redbox or that one guy you know who has, like, 300 DVDs for no apparent reason. And, yes, there is Netflix, but taking the endless chunks of time necessary to find something for them to watch is just not practical on Thanksgiving Day. If a streaming service is how you want to go, I suggest VUDU. With them, you are able to pick movies ahead of time and watch them when you’re ready. If you’re going the Redbox route, be aware that they often run out of movies (especially the most popular ones), which can be super-annoying. You should plan to get to the box ahead of the Wednesday-Thursday rush. Basic DVD players are quite cheap these days (here’s one for $19.98 at Walmart); so go ahead and get one for that spare room.

A table full of Thanksgiving and a black and white dog on his hind legs begging for some.
Prep your house – You should prepare your home for guests well before they arrive. Declutter everywhere, store away breakables and other treasured items and add work space in the kitchen and eating space wherever (this article has some excellent ideas) Adult-proofing a house is as important as child-proofing – grown-ups will also spill, put drinks on every surface and possibly knock over Aunt Vera’s crystal vase in a fit of  excitement during the game. If there are smokers among your guests, make it clear when and where smoking is acceptable to you. If you want them to go outside, then provide them a place to sit and a spot to leave their butts (otherwise they may trample the flowerbed and toss butts in your neighbor’s yard). If you have pets, consider where you want them to be during the gathering. Some are a natural part of the busy day, others may need to be separated. If you pet can’t be outside, don’t let them wander around while your guests are there. “Don’t let Roscoe out” never works – he will make his escape when your cousin Bill is hauling in the beer or little Peggy answers the doorbell. And then the chase is on. Here is one of the many articles with tips on Thanksgiving with dogs.

In the foreground there is a view of the Thanksgiving goodies inside a shopping cart, in the background is a blurred out view of a grocery store aisle.
Plan to shop more than once – Go early (at least the weekend before), get the
essentials and plan to go back to get those things you forgot. Because, unless preparedness is your superpower, something will be forgotten. As soon as you say to yourself, “I’m pretty sure I have that” or “There’s always some in the fridge” you are doomed – those are the things you’ll need to go back for. Choose your poison as far as what day you should return on; unless you shop at 3 am, stores will be crowded no matter what. I, personally, avoid the Wednesday before. Black Friday shopping mayhem has nothing on The-Day-Before-Thanksgiving mayhem. In this article, they argue that Tuesday is the worst day.


A view of people's legs as they are stand in line at a store. One man is holding a shopping basket full of toilet paper.Stock up on non-food items: Again, there are lots of articles online that list the common items people forget. But there are so many things that do not appear on these lists that, if considered, can save the day. These include baby wipes (great for general Thanksgiving stickiness), dish soap, dog food, trash bags and Grandpa’s heart medication. Are you going elsewhere this year and would like to bring something besides a boring bottle of whatever? I don’t know any household that wouldn’t be grateful for some extra toilet paper or aluminum foil. And the bottle of whatever, of course.

Closeup of a pug dog with an exaggerated look of surprise as he looks at a bathroom scale. Caption reads, "That look when you get on the scale after eating Thanksgiving dinner".
Add caption
Take away the bathroom scale: I mean this both literally and figuratively. Thanksgiving is no time to subject anyone to the bathroom scale’s silent judging. Everyone knows that the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is fattening – the menu has been the same for how many years? Don’t let the joy of the gathering be sabotaged by food negativity. Just as you would steer people away from contentious political topics, do not allow comments on weight, healthy vs unhealthy food or even “I’ll start dieting tomorrow”. Likewise, do not push food on anyone. Let Aunt Sophie do her own calorie-counting, food-averse thing all by herself. Without a bathroom scale to validate her worst fears. I agree wholeheartedly with what this man has to say about this subject; I wish I had his humor-writing skills. And the subtitle is the best of 2019.

A table full of traditional Thanksgiving food and a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey.Plan to remember: Above all else (yes, even the food) Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for the people in our lives. Plan to acknowledge those that will not be at your table this year. I lost someone very dear to me this past week, and you can be sure he will be at our table in spirit. But, remembering is not just for those who’ve passed. Is there someone who just plain can’t make it? A doctor on duty? A Marine deployed overseas? A student who can’t afford to travel? Remember them: add something to the meal or day that he/she particularly liked (Carmen’s favorite pie); root for his/her team (especially satisfying  if it annoys your brother John); put on that parade while you’re stuffing the bird – Grandma always liked to watch it. Sometime on Thursday, no matter how disgusting I find it to be, we will be drinking some Jack Daniels in remembrance of Dave. Because he liked it.

This is a turkey dancing as gravy is poured over it.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.                                                   

Submitted by Pam             

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Seeing The Future In The Past: Native American Women And Science

A woman with long dark hair and a black hat holding up a white sign with red lettering. It says "Idigenous women will lead us forward" . Taken at the International Woman's Day 2019 March in Tucson, AZ. Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash.
Tohono O'odham Woman - Tucson, AZ  2019
Since 1990, Americans have recognized November as Native American Heritage Month. In this piece, I am going to maintain the respectful acknowledgement that this calls for. I do this despite the recent proclamation that November will now be called,National American History and Founders Month.  I mean, c’mon…

I arrive at my topic today via a suggestion from a colleague, Anissa. Our Anissa is an active member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The Yaquis (or Yo’emen) have lived in our part of southern Arizona and neighboring northern Mexico since at least 552 AD (for their history as told by the tribal historian, go here). Of course, there was no US/Mexico border then and, to this day, Yaquis traditionally disregard it as an abstract construct. They maintain communities on both sides and travel back and forth at will. For obvious good reasons, Anissa is proud of her deep-rooted heritage and wholeheartedly participates in tribal life. She especially loves to watch the Deer Dancer, an ancient and moving experience (here is a video). Beyond her indigenous roots, Anissa is very much a modern, educated and forward-thinking woman. Her degree in Bio-Engineering no doubt played a part in suggesting I write about Native American women scientists.

A bare-chested man with a deer headress and a gourd rattle in each hand leaping from the desert floor.A Yaqui Deer Dancer.  Photo by David Hinojos.
Yaqui Deer Dancer
Native Americans and scientists may not seem a natural pairing to many people, but let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there a great many things that were invented or developed by native peoples long before Columbus was anywhere near our continent. Some of the things that are an integral part of our lives today we owe to the indigenous scientists of the American continent. A short list would include anaesthetic, chocolate, aspirin, hammocks, chewing gum and gold plating. As it turned out, they may have been better off without the gold plating. Europeans, unfamiliar with the concept of plating, believed that everything glittery was solid gold and their gold fever outweighed the actual gold resources. This led to dire consequences for those that could not produce the desired, unreasonable amount. Native Americans also developed the agriculture for many foods that are now essential resources world-wide. The very short list of these includes potatoes, corn, beans, chili peppers and squash. The peoples that gave all these things to the rest of the world may not have had labs to work in or data to input, but they were
scientists nonetheless.
A drawing of several women in bucksKins tending to their garden. There are thatch buildings in the background.
Women played a huge role in ancient contributions to the sciences. They were the ones who cared for and fed the families and knew how, where and when to do so. In more modern times, Native American women have stepped forward to lead their communities. Here are a couple of exceptional ladies from the not-so-distant past:

A portrait of a woman with short brown hair in a green dress - Mary Golda Ross.
Mary Golda Ross

Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008) – Engineer/Cherokee – This figure in US aviation history was hidden from public acclaim for decades. A good portion of this was, of course, because she was a woman of color; but much of her work was (and still remains) classified. Complicated math came easy to her and she put this skill to good use developing fighter planes during WWII and, later, to getting Man to space. Before college, she went to Cherokee schools and gave credit to their cultural insistence on equal education for boys and girls for her initial push towards STEM. For more on this fascinating lady, here is a short article – it also contains a fun video of her on a game show back in the day. One more thing: She has her own Google Doodle.

An portrait from the late 1800's of a woman with swept-up dark hair and a high-collared dark dress. Susan La Flesche Picotte.
Susan La Flesche Picotte
Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) – Doctor/Omaha – This pioneering woman was the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, doing so at the age of 24. The daughter of the last recognized chief of the Omaha (Joseph La Flesche, aka Iron Eye), she was inspired by the lack of and racist quality of health care among her people. After earning her degree,she worked tirelessly on the reservation as its only doctor, often serving over 1,000 patients. In time, she and her husband opened the first private hospital on a reservation. She died too young at 50, but she remains beloved in her community.

A woman with dark hair and glasses wearing a grey turtleneck and a colorful pendant. Rosalyn LaPier
Roslyn LaPier
These women are stand-outs for their intellect and dedication to learning. They are a strong link to the same type of modern Native American woman in the scientific field today. For Anissa (who is currently working on her Master’s in Plant Biology), I have chosen to highlight the following women who are reclaiming native plants for their cultural significance, health benefits and food security:

Rosalyn LaPierBlackfeet Nation – She researches Ethnobotany and Ethnopharmacology, specifically the medicinal qualities of plants and Native American beliefs. Dr. LaPier has also been a researcher at the Harvard School of Divinity, where she wrote this interesting and edifying article on science and religion in Native American cultures. If that is not enough, she is also an environmental activist and speaker. Here is a video of her speaking at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science 2017 conference.

A close-up of a woman with grey hair and dangly bead earrings in a colorful sweater. Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall. KimmererCitizen Potawatomi Nation – The list of things this dynamic woman researches and teaches is way too long for me to do it justice by summarizing it. But, I’ll do my best: Dr. Kimmerer studies the role of ecological knowledge in ecological restoration, the ecology and restoration of culturally significant plants and (whew!) integrating scientific tools and indigenous philosophy to benefit the people and the land. She also the founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, which creates programs that use a combination of traditional science and indigenous knowledge to move towards a shared goal of sustainability. And she researches mosses. I am sure I’ve missed something; I encourage you to learn more about her here.

A brunette woman standing in a field with a large basket full of plants. There is a lake in the background, Linda Black Elk
Linda Black Elk
Linda Black ElkCatawba Nation – This ethnobotanist, restoration ecologist and activist is truly a 21st century woman. She has many YouTube videos and regularly posts articles online. In this way, her voice carries beyond the Standing Rock Reservation, where she lives with her family, and Sitting Bull College where she teaches. She is the Ethnobotanist for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and is very active in promoting tribal food sovereignty and better health through the use of native plants. Lately, she has been vocal and involved in the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here she is talking about the spirits in plants.

A black and white clip from the Doctor Who TV series. A man in the background is asking a woman in the front," What's a girl like you doing in a job like this?"For all of these strong women, there are others that are equally strong but whose voices are never heard. There are also many dazzlingly successful Native American men. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the traditional guardians of the land we call home are still stymied by poverty, prejudice and lack of opportunities. During this month especially, take some time to appreciate what came before us Europeans and open your mind to those who are with us today.

Submitted by Pam


















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