Dell Hymes is legendary, for his time he was the most respected of anthropologists to have originated in and worked in Oregon. He was born in Oregon and maintained a cabin in ZigZag, Oregon which he visited annually. Hymes had worked extensively on the languages of northwestern Oregon, especially on Clackamas, Wasco, Chinook Jargon and Kalapuya. I met with Dell Hymes briefly in about 1999 after an introduction beginning with a listserve and some emails. In graduate school I began emailing some of the anthropologists when I was reading their material, and became involved in a set of listserves where discussions of anthropology and Linguistics were occurring. The Linguistlists were the source of many acquaintances from that time period. I joined the discussions about Chinook Jargon. I studied the history of the language and also had some experience with the archives of the language through my work with SWORP.
At some point Dell offered to share with me some texts he had been working on. Ultimately he sent me two or three packets of copies of his work in Kalapuyan and Chinook Jargon. They are on dot matrix printing pages. Later, when he was planning a visit to Oregon, we arrange for a meeting in Eugene. There in the summer, my wife Donna, and I, hosted Dell and his wife Virginia to an outside dinner at my house in Eugene, where we discussed my own work, his work and his meeting with my great great Grandfather John Mose Hudson just before his death in 1954.
Still later I continued to correspond with him, he supported some arguments I made about Chinook Jargon. I suggest that the language was probably being used partially among some tribes, so not with full fluency, but some words or phrases. Then still later I had occasion to use some of his other work in my dissertation. He had written on the institutionalization of anthropology in the 1950s to the early 1970s, and I used that in my decolonizing anthropology section of my PhD studies.
He passed in 2009.
Sugar is a huge industry in the United States. The substance is in nearly every processed food we eat. Why is this the case?
Sugar is a drug. A legal drug that alters our body chemistry, including mood, psychology, and medical condition. Over a lifetime of eating sugar people develop all sorts of medical conditions, diabetes the most prevalent. This unscientific essay will discuss the history of sugar in the United States in my own biased way.
I love sugar. I eat in every day in several foods. I love chocolate, love candy. I don’t eat candy everyday, and avoid buying candy in the store. However, when its around, I will eat it. Over my lifetime I have eaten any number of processed foods full of sugar and liked them.
I have also made a habit to not eat too much sugar, and seek sweeteners in as natural a form as I can get them. I do not like to drink or eat anything with High Fructose Corn syrup, another form of sugar. In the recent past I altered my coffee sweetener to Splenda, and other sweeteners. They are good at dissolving in coffee, but Splenda tends to make me a bit jittery and makes my Restless Leg Syndrome go crazy.
I am now using natural sweeteners like Stevia. I do not get the RLS symptoms with sugar or Stevia.
For the last two years I have been on a partial vegan diet with most of my meals without sugar.
But again, why is sugar such a big part of our diets. I turns out that as late as 150 years ago, sugar was not a big part of an American diet. How did this all change? In college I had the opportunity to study Hawaiian history. When Hawai’i was an independent nation, and recognized by many other nations, there was a migration of Calvinist missionaries to the Islands. Beginning in the 1820s the missionaries began coming to the islands uninvited and setting up churches and gathering congregations from among the Hawai’ians and settlers. The Calvinists and other missionaries, acquired Hawai’ian citizenship and land on Hawaii, and began operating sugar cane plantations, many financed by US banks like Ladd & Co. The first plantation began in 1802 by a Chinese immigrant, and then the missionaries took up the practice because sugar was highly profitable. The United States government greatly aided the industry on Hawaii by throwing resources behind sugar production and passing the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. The treaty allowed Hawaiian sugar products to enter the U.S. duty free. And then in 1893, the United States took over the Island kingdom illegally, with the aid of the missionaries.
During the 18th century sugar was a desired additive to foods like tea and coffee, but it was somewhat expensive and was not a regular part of the average person’s diet. In the 19th century, the consumption of sugar grew by an estimated 100 percent or more because of the growth of some key industries. The use of the Caribbean to grow sugar (and develop the slave trade for cheap labor) was by this time a major worldwide phenomenon, with island colonies like Haiti and Barbados some of the richest in the world, making more sugar than anywhere else in the world. This industry was controlled by the European countries, who controlled the colonies and charged a high price to bring the sugar into New Orleans or other ports on the East Coast. In the 19th Century, with the advent of the Formation of this new country the United States, many industrialists in the country sought to get out from under the European controlled industry, a form of economic monopoly. Hawaii, became the answer with a similar tropical climate to the Caribbean. Much of the United States was in temperate climates and so sugar cane, the major source of sugar in the world would not grow on most of the Continental US. There was some production in the American south but not to the scale of the Caribbean. Then when the Civil War broke out (1861), sugar supplies were reduced and Hawaii became very important source of sugar. [Just two days ago I found evidence that white sugar beets were being introduced to the Oregon territory in the 1840s. Oregon Historical Society Library correspondence collections]
Hawaii became the major source of raw cane and processed sugar for the United States, and saw the early development of the Big Five sugar producers, Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., American Factors and Theo H. Davies & Co.., most, by the way, originating from missionary families, who had access to old family money from the Eastern United States and were well financed by US Banks. Castle and Cooke merged into the Dole Company later; C. Brewer & Co. spawned the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, and dissolved in 2006; American Factors became AMFAC which is now a division of Federated Department Stores and owns Xanterra Parks and Resorts and Kāʻanapali Coffee Farms; Theo H. Davies & Co. is now owned by Jardine Matheson of Hong Kong and is being liquidated; while Alexander and Baldwin remains on the islands. The Sugar Industry, from Sugar Cane, declined with the advent of Hawaiian Statehood (Aug. 21 1859) and the creation of HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup in the 1950s. Statehood brought more federal laws to the islands, outlawing the practice of employing workers as indentured servants, that harvested the cane in Hawaii cheaply. This was a situation which developed in the 19th century with the importation of Chinese, Japanese, and Philippine laborers to Hawaii. These laborers were denied rights and where economic slaves to the sugar barons.
The California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Company (C & H Sugar) grew out of the company that began processing raw Hawaiian cane in California. It is today one of the largest sugar refining companies in the world.
Sugarbeets as a crop began production in the 18th century in Europe. Beets are a cold weather crop and can survive well in temperate zones. U.S. Sugarbeet production began in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, with the height of the growth of production in about 1917. Today’s production is more efficient with fewer factories producing more sugar than in previous decades. Sugarbeets where introduced to American Indian reservations in the mid-west and west by about 1905, some grown on the reservations and much off. Native American peoples of the region spanning eastern Washington, Montana, Idaho, and the Dakotas were the migrant farm workers in the sugarbeet industry. The one source I know of that discusses this industry on Native American Reservations is Louise Erdrich’s Pillager family saga generally , but specifically the book, The Beet Queen. (The book is a work of fiction, but some scholars and tribal members have suggested that many details are based on actual history.) Migrant farm labor practices of Native American peoples was common from the 1850s to the 1950s, with many farmers dependent upon the reservation based populations to seasonally harvest lily bulbs, hops, beans, nuts, and berries in the West.
The sugar industries were heavily affected by the invention of HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup in the 1950s. With the production of a cheap sweetener from Corn, then sugar and sweeteners could be produced anywhere corn would grow, which is throughout the United States.
So what was the great demand for sugar in American History? I tend to think that the creation of new products and new holiday traditions had a huge effect on the growth of the Industry of sugar production. Alcohol production, including beer, whiskey and other spirits needs sugar. The growth of this industry in the 19th century in the U.S. was pushed and pulled by sugar production and producers. Alcohol was a huge industry in the U.S. and was relatively unstructured until the 20th century. Desserts are also a big industry today, but not so much in the 19th century. Sure desserts existed, but definitely not to the level we have today. The Dessert industry, candies, cakes, cookies, etc, were made an American cultural institution by the creation of national holidays built around drinking beer, sharing sweets, and giving presents, many of them wholly made of sugar products. Examples of this are Easter, Mothers Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, and birthdays. Easter and Valentines holidays alone must be huge for the sugar industry. Valentines Day, began as a holy-day to send cards to people you love, and has in the 20th century become much more, with candies and chocolate gifts a big part of the event. Easter is a holy day, likely beginning many hundreds of years ago as an observance of the god Ishtar, but today’s observance among the American public is something quite different full of chocolate bunnies and candy jellybeans.
I think the final step of the sugar producers was to make sugar a part of the American lifestyle. The creation of dessert and candy and cookie recipes and the dissemination of these recipes to the American housewife in the mid-20th century has to be important. During the mid-20th century, the commercialization of the idea of the American household and the American housewife, and then the visualization of how that should be in magazine and television commercials and ads, I believe pushed the industry and their profits into the stratosphere. Like many such advertising strategies even today, the notion of joining the in-crowd, of being a part of something desirable, to be a true American because of the image, what you eat, what you do, and how you live your life, really influences people to alter themselves to fit in. This is a part of every processed food we eat, we are not just eating because we want to, but because of the social, emotional and psychological influences that form many of our desires.
Today many of us are addicted to sugar, not only as a part of our diet, but really as a part of who we are in the world, how we fit into our society, and how we gain approval for doing what everyone else does. It is a part of our psyche, ingrained in us from childhood. Sugar is really a legal drug that is a true addiction. It has huge effects on our health, and will shorten our lives because of the numerous illnesses and diseases that we develop over time. The industry is so much a part of our society, a part of the fabric of our politics and a huge industry that is a significant part of some very large multinational corporations, that it is inconceivable that they would ever admit there is anything wrong with what they do. Where do we go from here?
References- Some is conjecture on my part, I gathered some information from Internet websites of the companies mentioned. Wikipedia offered the best links and raw dates, but generally Wikipedia information needs to be cross-checked for accuracy, because it is subject to anyone altering the information. The Hawai’ian Sugar industry, titled King Sugar, is a subject I wrote a paper on some 15 years ago for a Poli-Sci course at UO, if I find that paper I may post a form of it here. All errors are mine alone. I apologize in advance if this is at all offensive to the Hawai’ian people or native peoples of the US.
Years ago I engaged in taking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. I felt drawn toward more empowerment for myself through education. The first study which captured my imagination was in the Humanities program. That program was focused around comparative world mythologies (AKA Joseph Campbell) and captured my imagination and attention through at least three classes. I eventually received a Associates of Arts in Humanities. Most of my classes where with Professor Cott Hobart. He would say that his classes were taught at the community college level because many professors believed that that level of education should be available to everyone. When I first began SRJC classes were $6 a credit hour, and the year I graduated in 1993 they were $13, with a cap of $60 a term for as many hours as we could take. My books each term cost way more than what I paid for the credit hours. I didn’t know how good I had it at the time.
Professor Hobart told stories of living in a turkey coop. The reference is to the fact that his house was a renovation of a turkey coop, a common enough situation in the 1980s, because the region was known for raising millions of chickens and turkeys. The city of Petaluma, just up Highway 22, was known as the Chicken Capital of the World for many decades in the 20th century. I visited his house once for a class meeting. We all brought some food and shared our stories.
I took Hobart’s classes at least three times, and at first, was not the best of students. Once, I challenged his grading in class. The issue was a question on the midterm about a Greek myth involving Zeus. The question was how did Zeus show his favor to a son. My answer was that he granted his son a wish. It was marked wrong, so in class I challenged the professor twice, continuing to raise the issue of “Is it not the case that the simple granting of a wish is a sign that the boy was Zeus’ son?” My thought was that the granting of a favor itself is a sign on the son’s heritage and Zeus’ affection for his son, because Zeus would not grant a favor to just anyone. I was convincing enough that he granted me full credit for the answer, increasing my overall letter grade.
Later, I met with him in his office and he told me that I did not fit my type. I took that as a complement at the time. Later rethinking that comment, I felt he was being a bit racist, me looking obviously Native American or at least minority. The final class I took, I wrote a paper about the figure of Coyote in Native American mythologies. It was titled Great Chief Coyote, and focused on the way he taught people through trickery. That education is a trick. The trick is to educate people without them realizing it. Good storytelling does this, and many people learn best in this manner. Similarly, Hobart spoke at length in each class about how receiving an A is a trick. That essentially, the student must trick the professor through their work, and class interaction, into giving them an A. I did not get a lot of A’s in his classes, except for the last, I having by that time learned the trick.
The most interesting class I took was about the Odyssey of Homer. I wrote my final paper about Telemachus, the son of Ulysses. I wrote about how his own journey in the book is much like that of his father, over the 20 years or so, time span of the Odyssey. It is the journey of the hero, from experiential learning, to realization, to a return to home, to a full realization of their responsibilities. At that point, the story resonated with the journey of my own life, especially once I returned to Oregon.
Just about the last term I was at SRJC, I happened upon and bought a bound class packet created by Professor Hobart, called “The Proper Study”. The book is full of humanities writings in the western tradition. Its a very good compendium of western humanities.
In 1994, I entered the University of Oregon in a Humanities degree program. After a few classes, I began questioning the notion of Humanities as exhibited at the University of Oregon. The Humanities Studies classes at UO were always about the cultural products of Western Civilization. There was no academic content that included world cultures or Indigenous peoples. I began to formulate an idea for a new “Proper Study” that was formulated around the ways in which western civilization interacted with and affected Indigenous peoples and societies. This new direction, led me to take seemingly random Humanities, History, Art History and Anthropology classes, across the spectrum of cultural periods. The normal focus or track that I was supposed to study, of one cultural era in western civilization, (ie: Romantic, Modern, Classic, etc.) was not the direction I took, and so when it came time for me to graduate, my adviser was somewhat confused, and did not know how to quantify my credits and study into their rigid system. I had to write a special petition explaining my study, to be the effects of Western Civilization on Native American Cultures. This allowed me to create a whole new system of Humanities study and include the concurrent study of Indigenous and Native peoples. A new “Proper Study”.
My thought is that all the cultural products of the world peoples, cultures, societies, etc. are or should be a Humanities Study. This petition was successful, and I graduated in 1997 with a BA in Humanities. Later in 1997, I continued my studies by entering International Studies, in a tract focused on Indigenous peoples and Cross-Cultural Communication. This study was taught mainly by Dr. Robert Proudfoot, a Haudenosaunee professor at the UO.
To be continued…