November 20, 2011

Lots of Lover's Leaps

Days Gone By:  The story of Lover’s LeapNearly every cliffed town, along nearly every river has a Lover’s Leap, and the legend behind the name of the high-topped bluff is nearly always the same. Hannibal is no exception.

The myth or legend of Hannibal’s Lover’s Leap was written by a man named Aurthur O. Garrison, who claimed that he obtained the details from “ancient inscriptions and a birch bark manuscript.”

No one seems to know who Garrison was. The clipping of his story has vanished and none know what newspaper or book it was taken from or when it was published.
The article's conclusion:Such quaint but tragic legends are known up and down the Mississippi, and probably have at least slight basis in fact, but Indians are as expert at fairy tales as the whites that followed them into the land. Only the least romantic of men would question their legends, however. And only the most cruel would attempt to prove or disprove the existence of such unrecorded tribes as the Kirgluou and the Holrois.Comment:  This article confirms what I thought: that multitudes of lover's leaps exist. You'd have to be a fool or a racist to believe any of them are real. Indians commit suicide en masse when their loves are thwarted and hearts broken? Yeah, right.

These myths aren't as harmless as the author thinks. Rather, they're stereotypical and as harmful as other Native stereotypes. They convey the idea that Indians were weak, impulsive creatures of passion. That everything about them was romantic, sad, and tragic. That they were destined to vanish because of their own failures--not because of America's genocidal policies against them.

And most of all, that they're primitive people of the past. You'll never hear that someone leapt after graduating from a university, translating the Bible into a Native language, or winning a court case. Like Indian mascots, hipster headdresses, and Thanksgiving pageants, these stories are about keeping Indians in the past. If we can make everyone forget our crimes against them, we don't have to redress their ongoing grievances.

For more on the subject, see Debating Frog Woman Rock and Legend of Lovers Leap.

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