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Food history nerd, living a mostly outdoors life in Greater Cascadia. Writing about a little bit of everything.
Native Americans play basketball at Alcatraz, in front of a sign that reads Indians Welcome, Indian Land.
Native Americans play basketball at Alcatraz, in front of a sign that reads Indians Welcome, Indian Land.
photo: AP

Early in the morning of November 20, 1969, 89 First Nations activists piled into a few boats and set out across San Francisco bay with a mission: occupy Alcatraz. The group was made up of women, children, and men, with the goal of setting up an indigenous community on the abandoned island. The secondary goal, however, was to shine some light on the ongoing struggles of Native Americans throughout the continent. Their eighteen month long occupation was both the beginning and end of a series of movements centering around Indigenous identity and self-determination during the mid-century.

San Francisco and AIC

It is no secret…

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

A few years ago, I was working as a political campaign manager. This job included many moving parts: budgeting, canvassing, volunteer recruitment, and most importantly in this day and age, social media management. Social media is where the people are at, supposedly, but the reality is that most people hate social media. It is impersonal at times, mostly overwhelming, and in the case of political campaigns, does not reflect voter reality. The Twitter and Facebook squabbles we all know too well are not a true gauge for voter involvement. We thought we learned our lessons during the 2016 election polling…

Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels

Have you ever been hiking and wander off the trail? The moment of disorientation can be scary. You sit down for a bit to get bearings, trying not to panic. Just then, a stranger walks by unexpectedly and shows you the trail that was just out of sight. Is that stranger an angel with a mission to save you? No, they are an unwitting guide, a bright light in an otherwise dark moment. Our nurse was that guide during the darkest day — our daughter’s birth day. I do not know her name, and maybe she doesn’t remember, but we…

An exciting assortment of Kit Kats.

A few weeks ago, in a fit of COVID lockdown boredom, my husband ordered an assortment of Kit Kat candy bars from Japan. If you didn’t know, there are over 300 flavors of Kit Kats in Japan, and many are limited edition to keep up consumer interest. As an American, I’m absolutely jealous of the variety. Why do they get all the good stuff when I have to suffer through boring white chocolate “cookies and cream” flavors?

The story of Kit Kats in Japan is one of weird linguistic coincidences and interesting marketing strategies. First, the language part: a common…

A whaling boat is dwarfed by the enormous whale in the foreground, men in a small boat. There is a schooner in the background
A whaling boat is dwarfed by the enormous whale in the foreground, men in a small boat. There is a schooner in the background
An etching showing the sheer scale of whales and whaling vessels. Many whalers were Black men.

During the years leading up to the Civil War, long-term job prospects for Free Black men were scarce in both the North and South. One could usually find work as a porter, servant, livestock tender, as well as general physical laborer.

Because these jobs were available to any unskilled worker, Black workers competed with white workers for the same jobs. White men were hired at much higher rates and experienced much higher wages than their Black counterparts. The constant threat of kidnapping and “repatriation” to the South by slave patrol officers certainly hindered opportunities for Black workers, not to mention…

Yod and his followers. Source: The Isis Aquarian Archives

Sun Worshippers. New-age cults. Mainstream mega-churches. Many of these groups were founded in the American West, and for good reason. The west has always been a place of escape and individualism, and religious freedoms were always part of the equation.

California and The Source

People’s Temple and Heaven’s Gate are some of the most prominent of California’s cults, but they are certainly just a snapshot of the religious fervor that has always proliferated in the west.

Take, for instance, The Source.

The group was founded in Los Angeles in the 1960s and was an early example of the counterculture surge that would cap the…

Today’s the 33rd anniversary of my mum’s death. I have now lived longer than she did, and boy does it seem weird.

photo: Eileen Cowen

When you are a kid, the age of 40 seems so… old. Impossible that people can still do the things they want to do. Forty seems blandly middle aged. My mum was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 39, and it is a miracle she lived to 40. I don’t remember much of her illness because childhood trauma has a way of blocking out details. Hell, I don’t remember much of her life, to be honest…

Chestnuts popping from their protective burrs. source: the Genetic Literacy Project

Imagine the perfect food. Some may envision beer or bread, but for Indigenous North American tribes and early Colonial immigrants, the perfect food was the chestnut. Stories tell of early American settlers feasting on the fruit of the “bread tree,” as well as document the various uses that they acquired from Native tribal people. The American Chestnut was an incredibly important crop to all mammalian life on North America, but it almost seems like a thing of folklore today. We sing holiday songs about roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but how many of us have actually eaten chestnuts? …

“Red Sonja” portrayed by the decidedly un-ginger but incredible Brigitte Nielsen

On the day I was born, my father left for a 9 month tour on a Navy ship. Imagine, watching your child being born at 5:30 am and reporting to duty at 8am, leaving behind a newly postpartum wife and four children (the eldest being just 8 years old.) My dad often tells the story of coming back into port, looking for his family, and seeing my gleaming ginger hair through the array of excited Navy families. Redheads are a truly recognizable bunch.

Throughout my life, I have always been The Red Head. In school, I was teased as the…

King of the Hill, animated show on Fox

Picture this: November, 2004. The Iraq War had been raging for a year and a half. Operation Enduring Freedom was entering it’s fourth year, despite “Mission Accomplished” being infamously declared the previous year. 2004 is when the war crimes at Abu Ghraib were exposed, the year that Reagan died. The year the Red Sox FINALLY regained a World Series pennant. Through these monumental events, a little show about a family from Texas took a major shift in tone to reflect the changing times.

“King of the Hill” was a half-hour animated comedy television show by Mike Judge — the animator…

Eileen Cowen

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