Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - January 30, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta
Westward ho...ho...ho...hee...hee... BY TOM OLESON, IN THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS AN ANGLICAN PRIEST has offered the theory that a Roman Christian, fleeing the persecution of the Emperor Hadrian, visited Mexico in the first century AD. This latest candidacy for � mem* bership in the society of pre* Columbian visitors to the New World should surprise no one, for, if we are to believe all that we read, it was only the very unadventurous who did not board a papyrus boat or skin-covered curragh and set out to beat Columbus to Am* erica. This society is no longer very select. Where once it was limited to the Norsemen, the Irish and the lost tribes of Israel, it has in recent years been expanded to include P h o e n iciams, Egyptians, Chinese, Tibetans, Indians (from India), Japanese, Welshmen and Scots. The most charitable comment that can be made on most of these "discoverers" is that the evidence is flimsy. It seems that anyone who existed before Columbus and could sail a boat or a reasonable facsimile is a likely prospect. This is unfortunate, for pre-Columbian contact with North America is a legitimate field of study. There is some evidence to support the theory that the Olmec culture, the oldest of Central American Indian civilizations, sprang full-grown from the brow of some ancient Chi* nese emperor, as some archaeologists maintain; and the remains of Viking settlements have been found in Newfoundland and Ungava. There is value in this work but it is obscured by storms of specula* tive fantasy raised by wild* eyed adventurists who wish to claim the honors for some most unlikely people. All the facts are not yet in . on our Roman Christian friend, so it would be a mistake to prejudge him too harshly. However, the claim that he was responsible for, in fact the centra] figure in, the Quetzalcontl legend of the Aztecs and the Glooscap legend of the Micmac Indians brings to mind some of the most amazing theories that have ever been offered as history. Quetzalcoatl in Aztec mythology is a bearded white god who came from across the sea to teach the Indians. He stayed among them for some time and then left, promising to return. When Cortes landed in Mexico with his Conquista* dores, the Aztecs thought at first that it was the second coming of Quetzalcoatl but soon learned their mistake. They are presumably still waiting. Glooscap, the culture - hero of the Micmac Indians, was of immense size, goodness and dignity. He, too, taught the Indians and, among other good works, foretold the coming of the white men. If the anonymous Roman Christian is to wear the mantle of Quetzalcoatl and Glooscap he will have to compete for it. There are other contenders, and if the suporters of Rome are to carry the day they will have to come up either with evidence more substantial than has been the rule in this field or will have to indulge in fantasizing of epic proportions. Take, for instance, the Welsh Prince Madoc, whom some would put forward as Quetzalcoatl. This princely adventurer is assumed (for no good reason whatsoever) to have visited North America, in the 12th century. On an initial exploratory expedition he found that he liked the place so much that he raised a band of colonists in Wales and returned to establish a settlement. This colony has been located at various points between the Maritimes and Mexico. Some claim that he built the Newport Tower in New England, others that he civilized the Mandan and Cherokee Indians and still others that he instructed the Indians of Mexico by whom he was deified into Quetzalcoatl. These differences of opinion notwithstanding, most of his supporters agree on one thing: Madoc taught the Indians to speak Welsh. He apparently taught them this so well that they were still speaking Welsh In the 18th century. For all the evidence there is, they may still be speaking it today, for these remarkable Welsh-speaking Indians are like the Hindu fakir's rope tricks - much spoken of but seldom seen. Indeed, it seems that Madoc was much better at teaching Welsh than civilization. The Mandan Indians, whom he civilized once, had to undergo the process all over again at the hands of a party of Norwegians in the 14th century. The key to this story is the Kensington rune stone, denounced over and over again by the world's foremost runologists as a forgery. In spite of this, the theory persists, thrives even. The story goes that in 1355 a party of Norwegians set out to bring back the Icelandic colonists in Greenland who had, wandered from the straight and narrow. When the expedition arrived in Greenland, the colonists had disappeared, A search was begun. The searchers went first to New England where they, too, had a go at building the Newport Tower (the construction of this much-built edifice is also attributed to St. Brendan of Ireland) and from there sailed north, across Hudson Bay, up the Nelson River, across Lake Winnipeg and up the Red River to Minnesota. In Minnesota half the men of the party were killed by Indians. The surviving members of the holy crusade' are supposed to have carved the Kensington stone, which tells of the massacre, and gone on to evangelize and civilize once more the Mandan Indians. The contender for the role of Glooscap is credited with education of only the Indians of the Maritimes. He is Henry Sinclair, who is said by some to have discovered Nova Scotia in 1398. The story is based on a book published in Italy in the 16th century describing the exploits of two Italians, the Zeno brothers. The Zenos are said to have left Venice and sailed out into the North Atlantic where they entered the service of a certain Prince Zichmni. With Zichmni they made several voyages and discovered many marvellous things. Among them was a country called Estotiland where the people were very intelligent and knew all the civilized arts. They owned great libraries full of Latin books but, being unfortunately ignorant of Latin, were unable to read them. They also are supposed to have visited Greenland where, the book says, they found a monastery, situated beside a volcano, which the monks had carefully fashioned from beautiful and perfectly formed volcanic cinders. Although all of this seems very improbable, the book has been carefully studied and analyzed and Zichmni has been identified as Henry Sinclair, Earl of the Orkneys. There is to reason to suppose that Sinclair was ever anywhere near North America, but supporters of the Zeno story would have him wandering through Nova Scotia where he became known as Glooscap to the Indians. Sinclair, Zichmni, Glooscap. The discrepancy in the names is easily explained: Sinclair is a difficult name to pronounce. In the awkward mouths of the Zeno brothers it became Zichmni (a tongue-twister itself), while the Indians' uncivilized tongues turned it into Glooscap. Micmac legends tell us that Glooscap was both benevolent and decisive. Animals that were hostile to man, such as the squirrel, he reduced to their present small size so that they would not pose a danger, but when someone disagreed with him or sought his help for selfish reasons Glooscap was apt to turn him into a tree. These are difficult deeds, even for an earl of the Orkneys; if Earl Henry was indeed Glooscap, he was a most remarkable man. Sinclair will probably always have his advocates, however. As TertuUian said, "It is to be believed because it is absurd." Focus on the University J. W. FISHBOURNE Guess what? -Photo by Elwood Ferguson BOOK REVIEWS The one-room school: thing of the past "Pulse of the Community'* by John Charyk (The West* era Producer 340 pages; $10.00) HTHE Little White School-house, John Charyk's first book on the Canadian rural schools of yesteryear, became an award - winner for the Alberta - born author. With critical acclaim and healthy book sales behind him, plus 13 years of research, Mr. Charyk, principal of Hanna High School, has gone on to complete a second volume on the glories, drawbacks and virtual disappearance of the one-room schoolhouse. Taking Alberta as representative of situations throughout Canada and the U.S., the second volume, Pulse of the Community, notes that in 1938 there were 3,032 one - room schools in operation. A quarter Alberta nurse "While Waters Flow: Stories of Early Alberta" by Kate Brighty Collcy, drawings by Margaret Manuel Elwell. (published by the Western Producer 148 pp.) 'T,HIS is the personal account ' of Mrs. Colley's life from 1919 when she first set off as a public health nurse in Alberta to a point in time around 1940. As a nurse she had to rely on her own inventiveness and ingenuity in a time when contagious diseases were rampant, good medical centres few and far between. By horse and buggy or whatever means was available she travelled to see her patients, delivering babies, seeing children through epidemics, counselling families who knew little of routine health habits. Her journeys in the sparsely populated new frontier of Alberta are well illustrated by Margaret Elwell. This is the type of book which should be on the "must" list of Grade 7 and 8 classes. It is more than a personal account, it is a history of rural Alberta much more interestingly put down than the usual dry texts of laws and government schemes. MARGARET LUCKHURST. of a century later, the number in Alberta had dwindled to 137. Once the bulwark of elementary education from 1900 to about the Second World War, the schools could not fight the inroads of automation, the disappearance of small farms, improved transportation methods and a change in educational philosophy. Gone now are the days when one teacher had to cope with eight grades all in the same classroom. Gone too*' are the poor sanitary, lighting, heating and water facilities. Cars and buses have replaced Old Dobbin, the children's pet school vehicle, and with them have gone the daily minor tragedies and major comedies of horse transportation. Now, students have modern schools replete with specialized teachers for each grade, up-to-date equipment for industrial arts, commercial and laboratory science courses'. Perhaps the major factor to break the hold of the one-room schoolhouse was strictly economical: the cost of educating the thousands of young students today would be prohibitive were teaching carried out in the once tried and true solitary school building. But despite the rationalization behind their demise, one-room schoolhouses had, if not the best educational facilities, more color than one could shake a slate at. They were distinctive, even idiosyncratic, and the author has taken full advantage of his background material to produce yet another volume of amazing richness. Pulse of the Community extends the first volume's coverage to include a profile of the numerous child-organized games for recess, from hide-and-seek to what may be termed flea-fetching - trying to pick up the most number of fleas while trudging through the knee-high grass near the school. There was Arbor Day when trees were planted about the building, and Hallowe'en when tricks took decidedly more astonishing guises than the October date of today. On mora than one occasion a teacher returned to school after Hallowe'en to find a buggy or wagon straddling the roof of the school. Discipline was strictly pre-Spockian. Chalk, brushes canes, straps, and pointers, all had their punitive way with youthful offenders. Riding to school on one's own horse, or even more impressive, with a team of horses, was one of the measures of higher socio-economic status. With the disappearance of those four-footed faithfuls, today's children have lost out. Come 3:30 p.m., it was not unknown for all the animals in the barn to notify the teacher, via whinnying, pawing and universal restlessness, that quitting time had arrived. The volume delves into the dangers to one-room school-house children of sudden Prairie blizzards, the occasional sadistic inspector, stupid teachers and that torment of winter, the freezing backhouse. The schools were of immense importance as the centres of communities. They were the stage for the schools' Christmas concerts the hub of school Sabbatical leave (CRITICISM, I Keeps one Reference books "Who wrote the Classics?" Volumes I and II, by Nora Stirling (Longman Canada Ltd: 345 and 315pps., $8-25 each). jyORA Stirling is a good story-teller. And she has good material to work with - the lives of the great authors of the English language have in them all the tragedy and pathos that one could ask for in a novel. And while the short sketches in these two volumes can do no more than contain the highlights from each author's life, the story line remains intact in each case. The reader never has the feeling he is simply being given a list, of facts, although these are worked into the story. We learn, for example, when Shakespeare was born and am told, is great stuff, alert, and on one's toes. If this were literally true, a university administration would look rather like a corps de ballet; if figuratively, it would be as hopped-up (under-30's might prefer "hyped") as a freak with an open prescription for benzedrine. We do get our share. Criticism seems to come from all sorts of people. Some are bright and very well informed. Generally, this group has an understandable objective, which is to get the institution moving in the direction they think it should go; we are glad to hear from them any time, whether we agree or not. At the other extreme, there are the mindless yappers who bray - as one would expect - at anything they cannot eat, drink or understand. They are tiresome, but relatively harmless, like the crying babies or barking dogs we all have to put up with. In between, somewhere, there are the smart alecs, who pick up and imperfectly understand something they've heard or read (almost anyone can read, now) and use it to try to score points in whatever game it is that they and their friends use to amuse themselves. This last lot are annoying beyond all reason, at least to me, and make me wish I could temporarily foresake the path of sweetness and light imposed by the nature of this column, (or its title, anyway) and respond in a manner in keeping with my somewhat primitive outlook. However, the subject is supposed to be sabbatical leave, so let's look at that. (Yes, we've been criticized for granting sabbatical leaves notwithstanding their having been a normal condition of university appointments since long before this university - or the town, the province or even the country in which it is located - had been dreamt of.) Sabbatical leave is an arrangement whereby, after a certain period of service, professors become eligible for a period of leave amounting to an academic year or - as can be the case here - a semester, at reduced pay, for the purpose of study, research or some other scholarly activity. Theoretically, this leave can be granted every seventh year (hence the label sabbatical), but in practice this scarcely ever happens. Again in theory, up to 10 per cent of the faculty may be granted this type of leave at a time; no university that I know fairs and music festivals, country dances, and often the focal points for rural l'amour. Aside from being the institution of elementary learning, the schools were often the locale of eligible bachelor teachers or school marms. There are some quarrels to be made with the book. Alberta figures very largely in the book, to the disappointing exclusion of the Maritimes or Quebec. And Mr. Charyk makes the point that one-room school-houses', because they kept students and teachers so busy, did not stimulate such "evils" as drinking. An argument might be made that many of those who make a regular practice today of misusing alcohol are products of the .rural school. However, the author has done history a favor in capturing the many moods and practices of those one-room institutions, and he has done so in many incredibly succinct ways. The numerous years Mr. Charyk has spent in research have rewarded readers with two noteworthy, necessary volumes. JOAN BOWMAN of'has ever reached that figure, or even will. You see, there's a little catch; the teaching and whatever else a man was hired for has to be done while he is away, or he can't go. Ten per cent? With current budgets? It's laughable. But just suppose it were possible (which will involve some interesting arithmetic - like how to keep 1/7 from exceeding 10 per cent), it's a completely sensible idea. The object is to increase the scholarly competence of the individual, and scholarly competence is the prime - perhaps the only real - asset of a university, and unquestionably the best investment the institution can make. Best for the university, best for its students, and best for society. That this arrangement should be criticized is ironic, in a way. Universities are constantly carped at for being old fashioned and slow to adopt the efficiencies of the world of business. But here is an instance of universities being years - centuries - ahead of the business world. Our sabbatical leave policy observes a principle that business and government are just beginning to learn about, that the greatest resource any institution can have is human. That is why executives, administrators, salemen, clerks, all manner of employees, in every field of business or government, are sent on courses, attend seminars and workshops, engage in all manner of training programs. It's to up-grade them, to improve their competence, to make them more valuable to their employers. This makes sense to the people who have to produce a profit for their shareholders, and it should make just as much sense to the people who expect so much from their universities. We do it on a year or semester basis, because that happens to be our cycle. You can't give a professor a couple of weeks off here, a month off there, because Ms time unit is the courses he teaches, and courses last a semester or an academic year. So, we must either grant leave for the period of a course, or we can't grant it at all. One final point: When a business firm sends a man on a course intended to enhance his value, it pays his full salary and all bis expenses. A professor in sabbatical leave takes a significant reduction in salary, and if he is lucky enough to get any expense money at all, it isn't from the university. Count the Jews in? By Dong Walker died, and something of the social conditions of the time. Included, too, is some comment on his work and the literary climate of the period. But all this is put together into a well-told story that should appeal particularly to the young reader, although older ones probably will not feel they are being talked down to. The set contains biographies of 19 authors, beginning with William Shakespeare and ending with Joseph Conrad. There may be those who will wonder why some names were omitted from the list, but certainly all those included are well-known and respected enough to warrant their inclusion. Excellent reference books, especially if there are young readers in the house. HERB JOHNSON, A dellciously sarcastic piece on the plethora of pre-Columbia visitors to the New World is found elsewhere on this page. Thor Heyerdahl's successful voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a reed boat is undoubtedly responsible for the spawning of some new theories and the revival of earlier ones regardiing such pre-Columbian visitors. But even before that event scholars bad been taking an increasingly serious look at the possibility that there had been considerable transoceanic cultural exchange in ancient times. Writer Tom Oleson barely mentions the proposition that Jews were among the early settlers of the New World, This may be due to a belief that, except for the Mormons, nobody now gives the possibility a passing thought. But in this He is apparently mistaken. Last fall there was a press report of the finding of Cyrus Gordon, professor of Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University, that Jews discovered America a thousand years before Columbus. The finding was apprently based primarily on his study of an inscription found in the United States in 1885, the significance of which went unnoticed until last August because the photograph published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1894 had been printed upside down. The alphabetic signs, he was quoted as saying, are in "the writing style of Canaan, the 'promised land' of the Israelites." Professor Cyrus Gordon is an outstanding authority in his field and is to be taken seriously. But the press report may have to be questioned. The brevity of it suggests that much of what Professor Gordon had to say at the meeting of the North Shore Archaeological Society on Long Island went unreported. What may be missing are the cautioning qualifications that usually characterize a scholarly presentation. It would be incredible if other scholars were expected to accept this single bit of "evidence" as confirmation of Jewish migration to America - even when backed by the authority of Professor Gordon. If the inscription is authentic it could well have been written by other people to whom the general term "Canaanite" might be rather loosely applied. There was close similarity, If not identify, in the script in use by the different groups of peoples in the Near East Professor Gordon must surely Have had additional "evidences" to support his "finding" of a Jewish migration. Some of that missing material may be considered to be found in an article in Saturday Review (July 18, 1970) in which John Lear referred to writings by Professor Gordon. They show that be had an interest in possible Hebrew contact with America before his August discovery of the inscription. Aware that the common identification of the Hebrews as landlubbers stood opposed to the idea of their migration to the New World be wrote that the Hebrews "are often fancied to be a nation of Yahwistic landlubbers; but tbn Bible tells us that . . . three of the tribes (Dan, Asher, and Zebulun) were nautical (Genesis 49:13; Judges 5:17) . . ." Lear also implies that Gordon believes "many passages in the Bible suggest that the cedars of Lebanon were always sought for long voyages by the Hebrews and the people they traded with." This is very unconvincing support for possible Hebrew migrations. There is no justification for calling the three tribes nautical simply because they lived in closa proximity to the Mediterranean coast. And failure to indicate any texts from the Bible suggesting that the Hebrews sought the cedars of Lebanon for ship-building is significant: there do not seem to be any! There are numerous references to the cedars of Lebanon in the Bible but they are chiefly related to Solomon's building enterprises in Jerusalem. The only clear reference to cedars being used in ships is in Ezekiel 27:5 which is a dirge depicting Tyre as a ship. A possibility certainly exists that Hebrews made their way to the Americas prior to Columbus but the case for counting them in as probable visitors is not strengthened by the kind of Biblical "evidence" referred to in Mr. Lear's article. That only invites the sort of scorn found in Mr. Oleson's article. Modesty unlimited By Dong Walker J read something the other day that re- minded me of an exchange that sometimes takes place between Elspeth and me. A a man author mentioned that a recipient of financial assistance thanked her with the comment, "You must have angel's blood." Her observation on this was a confession, "I had never been called angelic before; in fact my husband sometimes commented that he thanked God the Inquisition was over." When the subject of angels comes up in our home I usually make some slighting remark such as that tlrey are the vestigial remnants of polytheism. Then Elspeth feigns a hurt look and says, "I don't know bow you can say you don't believe in angels when you live with one." She seems to expect me to hasten with some expression of agreement but the immodesty of the remark always leaves ma speechless.