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Hawai’i

View from our balcony. (at Hilton Waikiki Beach)

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Arts, Crafts, and Manifest Destiny

Arts, Crafts, and Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny in 1804?

Manifest Destiny in 1804?

Stumbled across this while on my occasional hunt to find a rare Boulevard Beer Lewis and Clark sign I spotted at restaurant once. It’s nice to see that the spirit of Manifest Destiny is alive and well in the arts and crafts community. “This listing is for an 6.25 x 10.5″ unmatted, unframed print of the Territorial Development of the United States from 1776 to 1866 with the saying Manifest Destiny and people who made that idea possible.” I assume this item is supposed to be celebratory. I’m not so sure the problem is that the creator doesn’t fully grasp the concept of Manifest Destiny. Instead, I’m more disturbed that s/he doesn’t realize how synonymous the term is with Indian extermination policies, the belief in God given superiority, or any of the other nuanced problems the concept poses. On top of that, with pictures of Lewis, Clark, Washington, and Jefferson, s/he completely got the timing of their history wrong. Poor form all around.

I sent the poster a kindly worded email urging them to remove the listing. A bit of one-on-one public history if you will.

New Lewis and Clark Book Written from Nez Perce Perspective

Histories about the Lewis and Clark expedition written from a Native perspective are very rare. This is the first book to dwell exclusively on one tribe, and I’m glad to see it is the Nez Perce. Considering it was co-authored by a Nez Perce tribal historian and a professional historian connected to the tribe through marriage, I hope that this will be an insightful book adapted from the tribe’s internal oral traditions, and will be recognized as a legitimate history by mainstream historians. Historically, tribal histories of the expedition have been skeptically received. This is due mostly to the pointless discrepancy over Sacajawea’s death, an ill-founded debate started by the unsolicited imposition of a meddling, white historian.

Hopefully Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce will start a new trend in Lewis and Clark literature, and encourage more tribes to publish their traditional accounts of the expedition. Of all the gaps in the current literature, this is by far the largest. Next, I’d like to see the Lemhi Shoshone contribute to the conversation, partially because their connection to Sacajawea has been a foundation for their argument for federal recognition for many years. Their story, past and present, is one more people need to be aware of. We put their ancestor on the American gold dollar, yet we will not reinstate their status as a federal tribe, only because this would require the establishment of a reservation. God forbid Americans in the twenty-first century be forced to give up their claim to these people’s traditional homelands! But that’s a whole other topic…

New Lewis and Clark Book Written from Nez Perce Perspective

The fact is that I have a colorick disposition and therefore I am obliged to keep a bridle constantly tight-reined to stay my tongue and hands from mauling everyone that approaches me.

Charles Willson Peale to Angelica Peal Robinson, 1813

The Pink Pony Out to Pasture

I originally wrote this blog post on our department’s new blog, but I cannot guarantee its safety there, since my boss is actually on the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission, who will vote if the proposed changes can be done without affecting the historical integrity of the building. Ironically, I’m not allowed to talk to him about my work on this property during this time because of a conflict of interest. 

The Pink Pony, Scottsdale’s oldest restaurant and major player in the history of the Cactus League, announced its permanent closure yesterday. The restaurant has struggled to stay afloat for at least the past decade. A yet to be announced tenant will be moving in and is seeking permission to make changes to the historic property. As a researcher and writer for the Salt River Stories project, this has brought me to a screeching halt with my work on this property. As I proceed with caution, I realize that this is a perfect “teaching moment” in my fledgling public history career.

 Though I’m not a restaurateur, it is not difficult to understand that the most flavorful item on the Pink Pony’s menu was a large, heaping dish of nostalgia. Every time the restaurant was bought or sold, the new owners always repeated the same thing: they wanted to recapture the essence of the restaurant as it was in its glory days. Nostalgia was the restaurant’s greatest asset and personal memories made the Pink Pony a repeat destination for many of its patrons, perhaps even more so than the food. But therein lays the hard fact that we historians encounter regularly: nostalgia cannot be a sustainable method of renewing interest.

 That’s where we as professional historians step in. We’re the ones who must ask the hard questions: is this historically significant? With the restaurant gone, what should people know about this space? What are the lessons to be learned, and therefore the stories to be told? In this instance, would the public best be served if I spoke to the importance of their role in historical preservation, or should we accept that after decades of struggling to survive, it’s time the Pink Pony was put out to pasture?

 When users encounter the Pink Pony story on the app months from now, some residents and baseball enthusiasts may remember it fondly, and feel anger or sadness about its closure. Younger generations may see it as a relic of the past that served overpriced, average food and was perpetually on the decline. Unfamiliar tourists will not have any recollection at all. Therefore I will try to give the public a taste of the best the Pink Pony had to offer: the camaraderie of 50s and 60s Scottsdale socialites, the enjoyment of a lackadaisical two-hour lunch, and most importantly, Charlie Briley’s love of baseball that brought the Cactus League to Scottsdale, a major economic boon to the city still today.

 For now, as I move forward and new developments emerge, I will focus on the reasons why the restaurant was designated in the first place. I will do my best to help this story recreate the nostalgic atmosphere for those who will miss the Pink Pony while also informing newcomers about the important relationship that existed between the community and the restaurant for 64 years. All in less than 600 words.