On My Nightstand

Cover of The book "The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun." Photo courtesy of http://www.historylink.org/
Cover of The book “The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun.” Photo courtesy of http://www.historylink.org/

This week I began reading The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun, by Robert H. Ruby and John A Brown. I have the expanded edition published in 2006. The original publication was in 1970.
I’ve only finished the first three chapters, but I’m already hooked. I’m not originally from Spokane and, as a student of history, I’m always interested in the past that surrounds me.
The book has surprised me. In the Foreword by George Hill I learned that when people heard he was a member of the Spokane tribe, they would respond with, “So, your tribe is named after the city of Spokane.” It shocked me for two reasons; one, it’s a statement, not a question, and two, the statement was a recurring reaction. I think the statement shows how important books like this one are not only for the preservation of history for the tribe but also to educate the world about a unique culture.
The opening chapter starts at the beginning of time with the Spokane’s creation mythology. Then, with the same storytelling tone the geological record is used to explain the Inland Northwest’s unique topography. This format has been the way the first three chapters have been structured. Spokane oral histories lined up with written records of traders, missionaries, explorers and artists to tell the story of the Spokane people.
The Spokane intermarried with their guests, suffered smallpoxes, loved their horses, and their children. They were not very interested in trapping animals for trade and while they enjoyed the items the missionaries grew in their gardens the Spokane couldn’t be convinced that they needed to plant gardens of their own. There was no reason too. The women of the tribe collected the roots, fruits, and grass that went with the fish that made up the majority of their diet.
I suspect this book will make me cry. Already there have been stories about the abundant salmon runs that sustained many tribes, and the Spokane’s welcoming of traders and missionaries onto their lands. I will keep reading because I know that the dark period of damning the rivers that stopped the fish and the relocation of the tribe to a reservation awaits in the chapters to come, but that will not the end of the story.

What I read about Digital History this week

The driving force behind the creation of this blog is a Digital History class at EWU. At our first class meeting, we tried to answer the question, “what is digital history?” To have a more comprehensive idea of what digital history has meant and what it has evolved into our professor assigned us some reading and a short video to watch.
First I watched, “The History of the Internet.” The video said that the modern day internet began in 1957 and is the melding of three different computer-based information sharing platforms. The origins story is important because digital history uses the internet. Why and to what end, was the topic of the next article I read.
In 2008 The Journal of American History’s (JAH) “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History” was eight professional historians answering questions posed by the JAH. Why digitizes history? Accessibility and cost savings were echoed themes. By making sources available online the cost associated with accessing information declines for the users/researchers. I’ve personally benefited from digital archives. Last year I wrote a paper that was vastly improved when I was able to obtain scanned copies of eighteenth-century laws passed by the Irish Parlament. In the JAH article, William G. Thomas felt, “he goal of digital history might be to build environments that pull readers in less by the force of a linear argument than by the experience of total immersion and the curiosity to build connections.” The future, as predicted by Steven Mintz is, “virtual reality environments, which allow students to navigate and annotate now-lost historical settings.” I think he’s right.
In the 2010 article “From Ancient Rome to a Valley in Virginia: More Digital Humanities Projects,” Patricia Cohen highlighted the “Rome Reborn” project by the University of Virginia “that offers a 3D digital model showing the urban development of ancient Rome…” it is a slick looking site. I think this site and others like it will benefit from the continued advances in virtual reality technology. Samsung’s virtual reality headsets are in mainstream advertisements, and holographic technology will likely also be as accessible very soon. This will make the stories historians tell not only more accessible but also even more interactive.
New techniques often have to prove their validity and digital history and humanities were interested in proving their value. In Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s, “The Humanities, Done Digitally,” I learned that social media had a strong role to play in the “digital humanities gained prominence” by increasing the visibility of the work being done.
Fitzpatrick’s article and others I read are on a site that is interactive. Once I created an account I could mark passage even leave a comment or read other’s views in the margin. It felt like the electronic version of reading someone else copy of an article. I’m not a fan. Not every product is going to please every user.
What I got most out of Fitzpatrick’s article and “Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches” by Patricia Cohen is that digitizing information has provided a resource to fields outside history and the humanities and there is a crossover between fields. That crossover seems to be what makes it difficult for people to pinpoint an answer for, “what is Digital History?” The difficulty was perfectly captured in the article “Day of DH: Defining the Digital Humanities,” where many people working in the field had different answers in an attempt to explain the profession. My favorite response was by Amanda French, “I don’t: I’m sick of trying to define it.” (This article was on the interactive site and I left a comment on this line. Go to the webpage to see what I wrote.)

Adam Kirsch is also frustrated, but for a different reason. “Technology Is Taking Over English Departments, The false promise of the digital humanities” is written with a harsh view of digital humanities. One point I took issue with was his attack on Google Ngram Viewer. Kirsch states, “Aiden and Michel” (the people how wrote about using the viewer) “do not seem to recognize that this example, far from making a case for the usefulness of Ngrams, completely destroys it, by turning them into fancy reiterations of conventional wisdom.” But the people whose “conventional wisdom” Kirsch is talking about are scholars, not the everyday person. Google makes a lot of products for the masses. I also think Kirsch underestimates the power of such tools to captivate the user’s imagination and spark the question “why” and the desire to answer the question by becoming a scholar. Kirsch doesn’t see the intellectual value in going digital, “The best thing that the humanities could do at this moment, then, is not to embrace the momentum of the digital, the tech tsunami, but to resist it and to critique it. This is not Luddism; it is intellectual responsibility.” An article by Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, and David Golumbia, “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities,” written in May of 2016 demonstrates that some people still don’t view the digital humanities as real scholarship. The article states that it’s the Digital Humanities movement’s general disdain for scholarship…” that makes possible the poor quality of work done.

I think all professionals are trying to have a larger virtual presence. Many have told me potential employers will Google me. I have a common name and hoped Miriam Posner’s “Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics” would help move me up the Google results. I already have most of Dr. Posner’s recommendations. What I didn’t have was the recommended a standard presence. Since reading the article I’ve begun using the same photo for every profile and standardized my name to Angel L. Rios where I could.

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Beginning My Air Force life

Angel Rios in basic training.
Me in basic training.

I joined the Air Force after high school. The plan was to serve four years, take the money (Montgomery GI Bill), and run to college.

In basic and technical training I was told there would be times the job would suck and I would like the suck. My first station was in Germany. Luckily I spoke a little German. In 1999 I deployed to Albania. There were some bad people doing some awful things to innocent civilians, and I was going to help the civilians.

My team landed at a bare base. We didn’t have a tent to sleep in. All 18 of us men and women, slept in the back half of an old canvas tent used for administrative purposes. In training, I was promised a place to sleep, not that it would be nice. Tents landed the next day. It was cold. It rained. We got wet. The dirt turned into mud. There was no shower/shave tent. There was no restroom, no porta-potty, nothing. The civil engineers (CE) dug a latrine for the men to… number one in. Tents came in a pouch. The pouches were re-purposed into privacy screens for the latrine and for number two and the women the pouches were used to cover a small makeshift porta potty. A 55-gallon drum was cut down to about knee height, and a few pieces of scrap wood made a seat. A young Airman would have to pull the drum out, add fuel, and light it on fire. I was never promised a porcelain toilet, just a place to go.

CE dug a well and built a small “shower” room.  A hose ran around the top of the room like crown molding with holes punctured every few feet. The spraying water was a shower station. The water came out of the ground,  was held in a small bladder and then pumped into the shower room. The water was cold. But, no one had ever promised me a hot shower in a warm building.

We woke before dawn, ate Meal(s) Ready to Eat every meal for fifteen days. It was food and that’s all we had ever been promised.  The day ended when it was too dark to work. My job was putting up tents so Airman getting off the planes would have it a little better than when we landed. My job helped the mission, and the mission helped the civilians.

After a few weeks, we had proper shower and restroom tents. We also had a few porta potties. Then the kitchen tent went up and better food came out. Soon after, the communications squadron landed. They brought four “morale” phones that looked like they were left over from the Vietnam war. The phones had been operational for days before it was my turn to go to the phone tent. I was the only one waiting and heard a man say, “It’s bad here. Our living conditions are worse than Desert Storm.”

I looked down at my dirty scuffed boots and ran my hands over the heavy wrinkles in my pants. I wondered, “How is this worse?” The man started to cry. Someone hung up a phone and left. It was my turn.

“Mom, I’m thinking about reenlisting.”

“What about school?”

“I’ll go when I’m done,” was my answer.

I started classes at Eastern Washington University in the summer of 2014 while on terminal leave. I asked my professor if I could miss a class to attend my retirement ceremony. I graduated with a BA in History in June of 2016.

At my retirement retreat.
At my retirement retreat.


A Little About Me

My name is Angel Rios. I was born in Los Angeles, California. Today I’ll tell a story about a time I was not an angel.

When I was young my family moved around quite a bit. I struggled in school and thought I had been born stupid. I have a clear memory of sitting in my second-grade classroom crying before a spelling test because I knew I was not prepared to spell “lunch” or any other word on the test.

Later that year, my family moved to a small coastal town in Oregon. It wasn’t long until I was sent to a testing location. Once the adults knew I was dyslectic, they set about trying to help me “catch up.” Their intentions were good, but their efforts drove me crazy. Then I realized that I had a learning disability, not a learning inability and that I had to take control of my education. At the tender age of eight “control” meant studying at the dining room table until my mom told me to go to bed.

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