August 13, 2013

Miwoks bless Jack London's oak

Jack London's ill oak tree gets native blessing

By Matt BrownAnn Swoveland walked around the massive coast live oak that looms over Jack London’s historic writing room as a plume of fragrant smoke wafted from a bundle of burning white sage.

On a misty Saturday morning, the elder from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria chanted a blessing in Coast Miwok to the centuries-old tree that provided generations of her people with acorns and inspired London’s writing.
And:The tree sits next to the cottage where Jack and Charmian London lived on their Beauty Ranch. The couple purchased the Sonoma Mountain property in 1905, two years after “Call of the Wild” was published. London died there in 1916.

London gazed at the oak while writing novels such as “White Fang” and “Valley of the Moon.” One of his last works, a play called “The Acorn Planter,” was likely inspired by the tree, Parkman said.
Comment:  I read Jack London's short stories a while ago. A few of them were about Indians or "Eskimos."

As I vaguely recall, his Native characters were individuals who starred in their own stories. They weren't just sidekicks or "local color" for white heroes. But they tended to fall into the standard chief, shaman, and "noble savage" categories. They probably were generic and somewhat stereotypical, not multifaceted representatives of diverse cultures.

For more on Indians by classic authors, see Charles Dickens on The Noble Savage and Burroughs the Conservative Racist.

Below:  "At Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, Saturday Aug.10, 2013 a small group of park visitors, including docents and state parks officials, held a ceremony and prayer for a large oak tree, foreground, that will be taken down in front of Jack London's cottage due to the tree being diseased." (Kent Porter/Press Democrat)

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