New Book Recalls Virginia City’s 19th Century “Lust for Lucre”

Nicholas ClappMay 4, 2016 – San Diego – Travel through time and the Devil’s Gate with the new book from acclaimed author and filmmaker Nicholas Clapp. Virginia City: To Dance with the Devil was published by Sunbelt Publications in January of this year and continues to gain recognition as the ever-popular speaker, Nicholas Clapp, visits audiences across the state, inviting readers to share the origins of infamy in the beloved weekend destination of Virginia City.

Virginia City: To Dance with the Devil is an amazing account of the history of Virginia City, told through colorful stories, amusing anecdotes, and over 300 images. It recollects a penniless Irish miner, who in a few short years amassed a fortune greater than any of America’s robber barons, simply by dint of hard work and intuition. It depicts to-be-famous writer Mark Twain discovering and honing his comic voice, and notorious “badman” Sam Brown lined with lead, with a coroner’s jury concluding, “It served him right.” It remembers the Virginia City mines, where men plunged into the scalding, hazardous heart of the earth, tantamount to partnering with hell’s dread demon, so that they could enjoy five Shakespeare companies performing at once, food rivaling Delmonico’s in New York, and frocks ordered directly from Paris to be worn in the barren, windswept, middle of nowhere. The twenty turbulent Bonanza years of Virginia City are celebrated in this book by a man renowned for his keen ability to conjure a vivid story from abstract history.

Documentary filmmaker and award-winning author Nicholas Clapp has explored, filmed, and written about deserts throughout the world. In Arabia, he led an expedition that discovered and unearthed the lost city of Ubar, celebrated in both The Bible and Arabian Nights. Closer to home, he has written about and roamed the deserts of the American West, with particular interest in the history of mining camps. His grandfather Daniel was a miner and when Clapp was 12, he tagged along on a shift working at the 800-foot level in the same mine where his grandfather later died in an underground accident. His great uncle George was the proprietor of a minstrel show touring mining camps, and Hannah Clapp was an 1850s Nevada schoolmarm. It was only natural then, that Clapp, along with his wife Bonnie, was drawn to Virginia City and a quest to recount and graphically illustrate the day-in, day-out story—and excitement—of a ramshackle desert settlement destined in its boom years to become the richest place on earth.

The month of May will see Clapp presenting in various Nevada locations, including:

Incline Village Library

(Incline Village, NV)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

6:30 PM

Verdi History Preservation Society

(Verdi, NV)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

7:00 PM

Sierra View Library

(Reno, NV)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

4:30 PM

St. Mary’s Art Center

(Virginia City)

Friday, May 20, 2016

6:30 PM

Downtown Reno Library

(Reno, NV)

Sunday May 22, 2016

3:30 PM

Churchill County Museum

(Fallon, NV )

Thursday, May 26, 2016

6:30 PM

Nevada Historical Society

(Reno, NV)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

1:00 – 2:30 PM

Spanish Springs Library

(Sparks, NV)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

6:00 PM

Nevada State Museum

(Las Vegas, NV)

Sunday, May 28, 2016

2:00-4:00 PM

Virginia CityFor further event details, visit www.SunbeltPublications.com/events.  To arrange for a book review, event announcement, or author interview, please contact Sunbelt Publication’s Kara Murphy.

Distinguished Professor Rocks Ecology Tour

Dr. Markes E. JohnsonApril 4, 2016—San Diego, CA—The third week in May marks the arrival in San Diego of a distinguished scholar on Mexico’s Sea of Cortéz region.  Dr. Markes E. Johnson, Professor Emeritus at Williams College, will visit our city from Monday, May 16, to Friday, May 20, 2016, in promotion of his recently published book, Gulf of California Coastal Ecology: Insights from the Present and Patterns from the Past.

Gulf of California Coastal Ecology was published by Sunbelt Publications this January.  The book serves as a handbook for students, scholars, and outdoor enthusiasts and takes an oft forgotten natural history approach to the ecology of this south-of-the-border region.  Rather than presenting fossil records and existing ecological features in isolation, Johnson draws on more than 12 million years of fossil record to make connections between multiple, interlocking ecosystems that exist today, providing a holistic overview on geography, ecology, and geology.

A current nominee for the prestigious James H. Shea Award for the writing of earth science materials, Johnson has published several books as well as scientific papers and articles on the geology of the Sea of Cortéz region.   While in San Diego, Dr. Johnson will deliver several lectures on topics introduced in the book. These include a lecture on tectonic decapitation of a Pliocene delta for the San Diego Association of Geologists, a lecture on the journey of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck to the Sea of Cortez for the President’s Council at the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, a seminar on ecological succession recorded in fossil Pleistocene reefs for students and faculty at Scripps’ Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, and a public presentation on Isla Monserrat at San Diego’s Adventure 16.  Gulf of California Coastal Ecology will be available for sale through Adventure 16.  Event details are as follows:

Gulf of California

Date: Monday, May 16, 2016

Time: 7:00 pm (Happy half-hour begins at 6:30)

Host: Adventure 16

Lecture topic: “To the Roof of Monserrat: Climbing for Science in Baja California.”

Location: Adventure 16 –4620 Alvarado Canyon Rd. San Diego, CA 9212

Phone: (619) 283-2374

Cost: Free and Open to the Public

 

To inquire about one of these lectures, about scheduling a lecture with Dr. Johnson, or for media inquiries, contact Kara Murphy of Sunbelt Publications at (619) 258-4911 ext. 114.

Blood of the Band: An Ipai Family Story

The Ipai and the Jews

Blood of the Band: An Ipai Family Story by David L. Toler, Jr.; Sunbelt Publications, © 2015; ISBN 978-1-941384-12-1; 285 pages, including index; $19.95.

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – This is a story of the San Pasqual band of Ipai Indians. The Ipai are the western branch of the Kumeyaay Nation, as opposed to the Tipai who occupy farther eastern San Diego County, Imperial County and parts of Baja California. The history is told through the eyes of the Trask family, and the various branches of that family, which have occupied the San Pasqual area of the county since the early 20th century. The author, David L. Toler, Jr., is a descendant of Frank Trask, whose father, Roswell Task, was a white settler, and whose mother was reportedly a San Pasqual Ipai, name now unknown, believed to have died in 1867 during childbirth. Frank married Leonora La Chappa in 1902, and in 1910 was appointed by the federal government as a judge of the San Pasqual Indian Reservation, a position reserved for tribal members.

Readers learn of Kumeyaay creation legends, about what anthropologists say about the lives of the Ipai prior to European contact, and then are taken on a journey through more modern history: The Mission period when many Indians converted to Catholicism under the influence of Franciscan missionaries; the Mexican period when the missions were secularized and Indians scattered; the early American period when treaties were made and broken in favor of land-hungry white settlers; the later American period when reservations were established; the 1920s when Indians were granted full American citizenship; and subsequent periods of flux when Congress at one point desired to terminate reservations, and later decided to reinforce them. San Pasqual, in the political cross currents, was moved from one location to another, off the Ipai’s ancestral lands and onto the lands of neighboring Indians.

Some Ipai declined to live on the reservations, retreating to inaccessible inland areas. Others initially lived on the reservations, and then left to live in the cities of San Diego County. However, they later returned when being counted as a member of the tribe brought with it not poverty but the new possibility of financial rewards, either through compensation if the land were condemned by the federal government, or through profit from gaming and other business enterprises on the reservations.

As a Jewish reader, I found three interesting points of intersection between the history of the San Pasqual band and the history of the Jews.

We all know the Jewish biblical creation story involving Adam and Eve, and a talking snake who persuaded Eve to take a bite from the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

A snake figures in the Ipai creation story as well. As recited by Jose Bastiano LaChappa, and published within Toler’s book:

The people planned a ceremony, and built a large enclosure of brush. Then they sent a messenger to bring the great serpent Umaihuhlya-wit (“sky moon”) from the ocean. He came and coiled himself in the enclosure but he could not get his entire length inside. On the third morning, when he had coiled as much of his body as the enclosure would contain, the people set fire to it and burned him. His body exploded and scattered. Inside his body was all knowledge, comprising songs, magic secrets, ceremonies, languages, and customs. Thus these were scattered over the land and different people acquired different languages and customs.

In our Jewish culture, the snake put one over us humans, though it paid the consequences later. In the Ipai tradition, humans got the better of the snake. But in both instances, mankind was exposed to knowledge.

I winced at the next reference, which drew an analogy between the Israelites conquering the Land of Canaan on the instructions of God, and white Christians appropriating Indian land by what they considered divine right. Toler’s account quoted Native American historian Steve Newcomb of Shawnee/ Lenape background, as opining:

An explanation … is that for the Christian colonizers of the Americas, the Chosen People-Promised Land cognitive model was the basis for drawing an analogy between the lands of North America and the lands of Canaan in the Old Testament. This entails the lands of North America being conceived of as “land free to be taken.”

Finally, I found in the testimony of Julie Holder, a Native American, an analogy to another experience in Jewish history: the Holocaust.

Toler quoted her as saying:

Now the issue has become, “Who is really Indian”? The reservation Indians resent the Urban Indians returning only to take advantage of the current opportunity of abundance. So now you must prove you are an Indian. Genocide is the deconstruction of cultures. The American government has forged this deconstruction onto the American Indian people since 1846. Not only were Indians not citizens until 1924, but our history, births, deaths and responsibility was in the Department of War until the termination act. This left Indian people without historic documented and validated identity; we were the original enemy combatants and have been historically treated as such. Outside of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, the Indian people are the only race required to prove their degree of Indian blood. How much pure blood one carries can be equated to the genocide of the Jews with Hitler’s need to prove, “how much Jewish blood was carried by each individual Jew.” The product of this demand was Hitler’s excuse and his foundation for genocide.

Personally I found Toler’s analogy distressing. It seems to me the two situations are easily distinguishable. In Hitler’s Germany, anyone with one-quarter Jewish blood, that is a single grandparent, was liable to be categorized as a Jew and sent to a concentration camp. In the case of Indians, as little as one-sixteenth Indian blood enables one to establish oneself as a member of an Indian nation. In the Jewish case, a slight percentage meant imprisonment and death; in the native American case, a slight percentage could lead, depending on the rules of the tribe, to economic benefits.

*
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via donald.harrison@sdjewishworld.com

Blood of the Band

Ricardo Breceda

Ricardo Breceda, Anza-Borrego’s most famous sculptor has moved his studio and found new homes for his whimsical metal sculptures. His work is iconic work is featured throughout Anza-Borrego State Park and surrounding areas, and now can be found in local cities from San Diego to Joshua Tree, California. Click here to read about his new locations! Breceda’s Art Finds New Home

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