Monday, February 19, 2018


Although the average person refers to Eskimos to describe all native people of the North this is not an accurate description.  All Eskimos are not all native people.  There are many tribes just as there are many tribes of Indians in the lower 48.

In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has largely been supplanted by the term Inuit.  While Inuit can be accurately applied to all of the Eskimo peoples in Canada and Greenland, that is not true of Alaska and Siberia.  In Alaska the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat.  Inuit is not accepted as a collective term and it is not used specifically for Inupiat (although they are related to the Canadian Inuit peoples)  In US and Alaskan law the words Alaskan Natives cover all tribes.

These natives have survived for centuries under the harshest conditions.  Although electricity has arrived in some areas of the far North, there are still not roads and supplies must be brought in by air.

I have looked at several videos about the life of Native Alaskans and I think THIS one, which is only 20 minutes long seems pretty authentic.  It is an old black and white film not sure when it was made and can’t seem to find out.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Back Home #2

Today was chilly but clear and sunny so I decided to repeat my walk looking for the crocuses in bloom with my camera.  The sun and the fact that everything was now pretty dry definitely changed the colors.  No more deep mysterious greens and oranges, but the day was glorious none the less.  Here the sun lit up the beautiful bark of this Peeling Birch tree.  

Further along the Sycamore was a brilliant white against the pure blue of the sky.

I was wrong about the crocuses however they are still not in bloom.  I guess they are simply too young to fold down their petals and welcome spring....and its a good thing as snow is forecast for tonight.

Further along I sat on this bench which is dedicated to Lenore Susan Spiegel.  As I sat in the sun enjoying the peace of the park I silently thanked Ms Spiegel for the experience.  A bench in the park is a fine memorial to a loved one, as it keeps on giving pleasure to others for years to come.

These walks have brought to my attention how much I have been missing nature and I intend to get out more regularly from now on regardless of the weather.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Taking a rest from all this traveling I decided, because of the balmy weather, to take a nice long walk down to Merion Park to see if the early crocuses which line the banks of the stream were up yet.  It was pure pleasure all the way.  Everything was wet, so the colors were deep and rich.  I got into that almost ecstatic state that sometimes comes over me when I am so full of delight with my experience that it as if I am in a trance.  Winter often feels so dismal and yet on a day like today when it is not too cold you can really enjoy the subtleties of the season.  The greens were especially deep and delicious, occasionally set off by the dark orange- brown of dead leaves and the graceful structure of the almost black towering trees.

When I got to the park the crocuses were indeed popping up all along the bank, although they were not open as the sun is required for that display, but I noted with pleasure that there were signs indicating that this is now a "no mowing area" as native plants have been introduced.  So there will be many more occasions for strolling to the park as these lovelies emerge.

I did not have my camera but I did take some shots on a friend's street on a similar day last week.  They don't tell the whole story by any means because it is difficult to get this kind of subtle color with an iPhone, but if you can, take a walk and see for yourself!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


The most interesting thing about Alaska for me is the fact that there are so few people there and the land is for the most part unspoiled.  Vast expanses of mountains and valleys home to large populations of wild animals and plants of all sorts abound.  I have watched ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS several times and enjoyed it every time.  I imagine a small part of all of us would like to pit ourselves against the elements and experience unspoiled nature.  Richard Proenneke did just that for almost 30 years, all alone, doing a skillful job of living off the land and filming his life.  If you have not seen this I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Most of Alaska is unpopulated, at least by people.

65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the US Bureau of Land Management.  This includes a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges.  Of the remaining land area, the state of Alaska owns 101 million acres. A portion of that acreage is occasionally ceded to organized boroughs.  Smaller portions are set aside for rural subdivisions and other homesteading related opportunities.  The University of Alaska, as a land-grant university, also owns substantial acreage which it manages independently.
Another 44 million acres are owned by 12 regional, and scores of local, Native corporations created under the Alaska native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. These corporations hold title but cannot sell the land.  Individual Native allotments can be and are sold on the open market, however.
Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state.  Alaska is, by a large margin, the state with the smallest percentage of private land ownership when Native corporation holdings are excluded.

Here are some pictures from one of Alaska's Recreation Sites located in the South Eastern part of the state.

I was attracted to it because of it's name: THE CLEARWATER STATE RECREATION SITE:

Monday, February 12, 2018


Alaska has few roads and most the these are in the Southern part of the state.  It is home to a unique feature, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, an active Alaska Railroad and road tunnel.  This tunnel is 2.5 miles, the longest road tunnel in North American until 2007 when the Ted Williams Tunnel was completed in Boston.

However trouble is brewing.  Apparently the permafrost is melting causing huge fissures in the few roads that do exist.  So the romantic trip through the last frontier may be marred by your car falling into the abyss.

Check out details HERE.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


There are very few roads in Alaska so traveling on Google maps is limited but today I took a trip on the Glen Highway in Glennallen which is in the Southeastern area of the State.

This from Wikipedia:

"During World War II, the United States built a series of military bases in Alaska, primarily for the purpose of supplying aircraft and other war materiel to Russia by way of Alaska and the Russian Far East as part of the Lend-lease program. This made it difficult for the Germans to the west and the Japanese to the south of Russia to interfere with the supply operation. As part of this operation, highways were built to supply the bases. The major highway project of this effort was the Alaska Highway from Dawson CreekBritish ColumbiaCanada to the existing Richardson Highway at Delta Junction, Alaska and thus to Fairbanks via the Richardson Highway. Another project was the Glenn Highway, which connected Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, with the Richardson Highway, and thus with the rest of Alaska, Canada, and the then-48 United States.[citation needed]"       

You can drive for miles and see nothing with a very occasional car passing by.

However I did spot this rest stop after many miles.

And, just as I was afraid I would run out of gas and die of hunger, a Grocery store and gas station.


I saw no billboards, no Drugstores, no MacDonalds or Wendy's on this highway.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The first people to arrive in Alaska seem to have traveled over the Bering Land Bridge around 16,500 years BC.  This land bridge no longer exists but it was from Beringia in Siberia to North America and the people who crossed the bridge were called Ancient Beringians.

The Tlingit people developed a society with a matrilineal kinship system of property inheritance and descent in what is today Southeast Alaska.

  Tsimshian are indigenous people also with a matrilineal kinship system in Southern Alaska.

The Haida tribe also in Southeast Asia is well known for its art as well it should be.  It is spectacular. I always wonder when seeing a body of work from one group that is so fabulous if one artist began working in that style and others simply seeing how exciting it was copied it, or if it actually pours out of the soul of a culture.

Contemporary Haida art looks like this and is called Haida Manga.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Slightly off topic

Considering that Alaska has very few people but a tremendous number of animals and plants I began to think about how each place where civilization developed was influenced by its very particular life forms.  This led to wondering about life itself and where and how it developed.

It seems that no-one really knows about that but HERE are some interesting conjectures.

If you are interested in the fascinating development of life on earth HERE is a good list.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Alaska is home to the largest wildlife refuges in the United States, comprising 16 million acres.  Currently drilling for oil was approved for portions of ANWR, which is in North East Alaska and is a part of this national treasure.  Drilling is strongly opposed by environmental groups and Gwich'in Natives in Alaska and Canada who depend on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for their subsistence lifestyle.

This is what our President had to say about his reasons for including this legislation in the tax bill.

Friday, February 2, 2018


It's February and time to get on our anoraks and move on to the next state - ALASKA.  I guess Alabama and Alaska are about as different as you can get, at least as far as climate is concerned.  The average temperature of Alabama is 65, Alaska's is 37 but Alaska is so big that it actually spans three climate zones.

Alaska is by far our largest state.  Since it is located so far away and separated from the rest of the states it is not so obvious, but here superimposed on the rest of the states it is very clear just how big it is.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


We have only a few days left to deal with the culture of Alabama.

Along with looking into the history of Alabama I read a book which was written about a small town in Alabama from the viewpoint of a young boy, A BOY'S LIFE by Robert McCammon.  I enjoyed the book very much.  I think it should be made into a series as there is something exciting happening regularly, enough for at least 20 episodes. The main character keeps his head on his shoulders as he is buffeted by life.  It deals with bullies of all ages, race relations in the south, fathers and sons, and a lot of fantasy.  A mystery ties the whole plot together.

"Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson—a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake—and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible vision of death that will haunt him forever."....AMAZON

I have not seen the movie SELMA but I plan to.

Here are all the well known people who came from Alabama.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The last big history making events in Alabama occurred in 1964 and 1965 with the Marches from Selma to Montgomery.  This is an interesting, heart wrenching story worth reading.  I chose Selma to paint and here is the finished work.  These are all old buildings that were undoubtedly around when the marches took place.  Half the purchase price of all my "state" paintings will go to the ACLU.

Nancy Herman
oil on stretched canvas
12' x 24"


Our problems with bigotry and hatred have not gone away. There are always some people, who believe that they can identify a whole group of people by their color or their nationality as a threat.  When the real threat is the people who happen to be in power who subvert the law and use their power to benefit themselves and their buddies.

Here I am doing my own marching last Saturday in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


The twentieth Century was marked by the gradual increase in the ability of African Americans to  vote but was hard won.  Alabama played a key role in slowing down the process with Governor George Wallace refusing to desegregate schools until the John F Kennedy sent in the  National Guard.  How brave those people were who faced the ugly hatred of their white neighbors!

Vivian Malone Jones arrives to enroll in classes at the University of Alabama

Dr. Sonnie Hereford and his 6 year old son return home
after being turned away from Huntsville's Fifth Avenue School
on Sept. 3, 1963.  Six days later, Sonnie Hereford IV became the first
black child enrolled at a public school in Alabama.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Last post I said that the Rosenfeld Fund built many schools in Alabama and then the link sent you to the ROSENWALD FUND which obviously was the correct name for the fund.  From now on my blog will be edited by someone who is more careful than I am.

A combination of agricultural depression caused by an infestation of the Boll Weevil, continued rational discrimination and lynchings led many African Americans to move (The Great Migration) to Northern and Mid Western states.  The population was depleted by nearly half.  Many of those remaining both black and white moved to Birmingham where heavy industry and mining employed over 30% of the states population.

Friday, January 19, 2018


The new 1901 Constitution of Alabama effectively disenfranchised large portions of the population including nearly all African Americans, Native Americans, and tens of thousands of poor whites.  They did this by making voter registration very difficult, requiring a poll tax and a literacy test.  There were 181,000 African Americans eligible to vote in 1900 and only 2,980 in 1903.  These poll taxes in effect disenfranchised poor whites although they actually voted to pass the laws against their own self interest.
In addition most public facilities were segregated.
The Rosenfeld Fund provided millions of dollars to build and maintain schools for black children as the public funding was grossly inadequate.   There were a total of 387 schools built.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Alabama #8

Alabama's slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865.  During the period from1867 to 1874 many African Americans emerged as political leaders in the state. Remember nearly half the population was African American.  Some sources including Wikipedia say that many whites were disenfranchised at this time but that 'fact' is disputed by other sources and seems not to have solid documentation.

What is known is that during Reconstruction state legislators ratified a new state constitution that created the states first public school system and expanded women's rights.  Public works were also funded constructing roads and railroads. 
This period of progress was ended with a new election in 1874.  These new elected officials passed legislation that racially segregated schools.  By 1901 most African Americans and many poor whites had been disenfranchised by the new constitution. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alabama #7

"By 1860, the population of Alabama had increased to 964,201 people, of which nearly half, 435,080 were enslaved African Americans, and 2,690 were free people of color.

On January 11,1861 Alabama declared its secession from the Union.  It joined the Confederate States of America soon thereafter.  The Confedracy's capital was initially at Montgomery.  Alabama was heavily involved in the American Civil War.  Although comparatively few battles were fought in the state, Alabama contributed about 120,00 soldiers to the war effort." ..   Wikipedia

Here is an interesting account of the war as it impacted Alabama.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Alabama #6

The territory that is now Alabama underwent many changes in its boundaries from the early settlements until it eventually became a state in 1819.  It also was "owned" by several countries.  After it became a state there was a great rush to settle there as the land was suitable for growing cotton and the slave trade made it possible to farm the cotton inexpensively.
And so begins the sad tale of slavery and how it forms and deforms the character of the people involved.

The area also drew many poor, disenfranchised people who became subsistence farmers.  Alabama had an estimated population of under 10,000 people in 1810 and 300,000 by 1830.

Most Native American tribes were completely removed from the state within a few years of the passage of the Indian Removal Act by Congress in 1830.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Alabama #6

After Europeans started flooding into Alabama.  The Indians living there became alarmed as their lands were being usurped.  Many were decimated by diseases brought by the settlers.  The Creek Indian tribe who occupied most of the territory were split in their allegiances.  Tecumseh, the great Shawnee leader, tried to unite the Creeks against the settlers who wanted the Indians to adopt trades in order to better serve their needs.

Spain and England sided with those waring in opposition to the settlements.  Andrew Jackson lead the settlers and was allied with Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Creeks who were often of mixed blood with the settlers.  This was the first Indian war and was part of the War of 1812.

1899 Chromolithograph artist unkown

The Creek War ended in 1814 when the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding some forty thousand square miles of land to the United States.  The Indians who fought with Jackson were also soon forced to cede their lands.  I wonder what would have happened had the Indians stuck together.

By 1830 the removal of almost all the native Alabamans was completed though a few did remain such as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians who somehow escaped and remain there today.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alabama #5

The first Europeans to arrive in Alabama were:  (From the History of Alabama Website)

1519:  Alonso Alvarez de Pineda led an expedition to the region
1528:  Cabeza de Vaca visited Alabama
1540:  Hernando de Soto led a Spanish expedition to the area.the Spanish when

DeSoto breezed through in 1540.  Apparently there was not a settlement of Europeans at that time but 160 years later the French created one in old Mobile which was later moved to the current site of Mobile.
After that history can best be described as a greedy land grab from one foreign country after another. The British took over from the French and then the land was divided between the British and the Spanish.

What happened to the original occupants of the area ?

This is from the Alabama Indian fact sheet for children:

"The record of the first contact with the Alabama comes from the DeSoto expedition in 1641.
Desoto found the "Alabama" tribe in central Mississippi and attacked and killed many of them in a fierce battle.  Later they moved east into present day Alabama where they lived at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.  Desoto also found the Coushata living on the Tennessee river.  By the 1780's the Americans wanted the land in Alabama and the Alabama were forced to move west across the Mississippi river into Louisiana around Opelousa.  Around 1803 they moved west again across the Sabine river into Northeast Texas.  They were settled in the region of the Hasinais Caddo Indians where they still live."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Indigenous people of varying cultures lived in the area including Alabama for thousands of years before the advent of European colonization.  Trade with the northeastern tribes began during the Burial Mound Period and continued until European contact.

In this period people were grouped in the Mississipian Culture which covers a great deal of the Eastern Coast.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Alabama #4

Before we delve anymore into the history of Alabama it is probably a good idea to see exactly where it is.  If you are anything like me you have only a vague idea about this country's geography.  I knew Alabama was in the deep south but really hadn't realized it was as deep as you can get without falling into the Gulf of Mexico.

Tennessee is to the North, Mississippi is to the West, and Florida is to the South and East.  It will be interesting to see when we get to Florida how they managed to get that big hunk of land on the Gulf of Mexico that looks like it should be a part of Alabama.  The whole business of the borders between states must have been quite a political struggle!

There are some fine looking resorts on Alabama's Gulf of Mexico's shore.