17 March 2007

Anne Frank on the Reservation

A recent Forward article discusses an historic exhibit at a Native American museum in New Mexico.

The traveling exhibit - Anne Frank: A History for Today - will be at the Bosque Redondo State Monument, which commemorates the Long Walk, from April 4-May 11. What's the Long Walk?

During the early years of the Civil War, as settlers pushed westward through the territory of New Mexico, the American army forcibly relocated some 9,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache to Fort Sumner and the surrounding Bosque Redondo reservation, where they were held captive until 1868. Thousands died during the journey and incarceration.

"The Anne Frank exhibit," said Mary Ann Cortese, president of the Friends of Bosque Redondo, "will help connect the tragic events at Fort Sumner to the larger context of human rights abuses that have taken place across the globe."

The long Southwestern history of Jewish-Native American interaction begins with the the arrival of Spanish and Converso settlers in the 16th century and connects to contemporary Jewish communities in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Henry Tobias (A History of the Jews in New Mexico, UNM Press 1990) comments that the relationship was historically more intimate.

"Jewish peddlers did a lot of trading with the Indians,” he said, pointing to the Jewish pioneer Solomon Bibo, who in the mid 1880s became the first non-Indian governor of the pueblo of Acamo. “He wasn’t the chief,” Tobias cautioned, “but he was an ambassador.”

A good friend of mine, Dr. Stanley Hordes has been writing on the Southwestern Conversos for decades. His recent book To the End of the Earth (Columbia 2006) focuses on the crypto-Jews of New Mexico, and includes excellent genealogical and archival sleuthing to prove the origins of the settlers. It's on my highly-recommended list for readers who wish to know more about this issue.

“Nobody has a monopoly on being victims of genocide,” said Hordes, the author of a recently-published book on New Mexico’s crypto-Jews. “What happened to the Navajos in the 1860s and what happened to the Jews in the 1930s inevitably begs that kind of comparison.”

One of the most interesting people in the story is University of Minnesota professor of English and fiction writer David Treuer. His father is a Viennese Jew left Austria in 1938, and his mother is an Ojibwe tribal judge. He certainly bridges the subject of the article.

"The Holocaust," he said, "is unique. It’s special, if you can call it that. It has its own special brand of horror. But, if anything good can come of something like that, it is by drawing attention to other ongoing processes."

Do read the entire article here.

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