by Colby Cosh
we'll learn who Kenny really was
THERE are some places on this continent, it
seems, where the magical invocation of aboriginal "oral history" does not
cause law and common sense to shrink in fear. On August 30, U.S.
Magistrate John Jelderks delivered a ruling in the case of "Kennewick
Man," a skeleton about 9,300 years old unearthed in July 1996 on the
Columbia riverbank near Kennewick, Washington. Indian tribes along the
Columbia had insisted that Kennewick Man was one of their own, despite his
age, and ought to be buried immediately with obsequies. The U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, legal owners of the discovery site, seized the
skeleton from the coroner's office that September, intending to give it
back to the tribes at once.
Eight American scientists, desperate not to let an anthropological
treasure be interred without study, sued to stop the Corps from
transferring the skeleton. The Department of the Interior investigated and
ruled in 2000 that Kenny was a "native American" and thus, under federal
law, the property of the tribes living near where he was found. The
scientific community was horrified, not least because Kennewick Man shows
clear evidence of Caucasoid features. Racially, he hardly resembles an
Indian, and anthropologists were already speculating, based on images of
his skull, that he belonged to a pre-aboriginal human grouping in the
At any rate, Kennewick Man could not be tied to any existing tribe
without the sort of study the existing tribes had no intention of
permitting. This did not bother the Interior Department. In the
bureaucratese of (then) Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, "The collected
oral tradition evidence suggests a continuity between the cultural group
represented by the Kennewick human remains and the modern-day claimant
Anthropologists were nonplussed at the idea that an "oral tradition"
purportedly dating back nine thousand years could, would or should be
considered scientific--at least to the permanent exclusion of any other
test or evidence. In the end, Judge Jelderks could not help but take their
side. The government, he wrote, "had failed to consider all the relevant
factors, had acted before it had all of the evidence, had failed to fully
consider legal questions, had assumed facts that proved to be erroneous,
had failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action, had
followed a 'flawed' procedure and had prematurely decided the issue."
Sounds like a government, all right.
INDIANS who object to the anthropological
study of their ancestors (or someone else's) often claim that the
inviolability of the dead is a cross-cultural norm. They are not just
engaging in knee-jerk white-guiltery, they say: they are doing only what
any reasonable person would. The Umatilla tribes fighting to confiscate
Kennewick Man (see above), for example, stated in a June press release
that "we are fighting for the same rights as any other people--the right
to protect the graves of those that have come before us."
Touching, no? In unrelated news, the Scotsman reported September
3 that the bodies of 2,000 Napoleonic soldiers unearthed from a mass grave
in Lithuania are currently being studied--bagged, prodded, catalogued, the
works. "Arunas Barkus pokes at a leg bone in a pile of remains, tagged
Number 151 and sprawled on an autopsy table at Vilnius University,"
reports Michael Tarm. "At the touch of his fingers, marrow...crumbles into
the dust of history." The remains will be reinterred in Lithuania
after their injuries, physiognomies and genetic materials are
Are the French angry? Au contraire. "Suddenly, history was more
vivid," said a wonder-struck French diplomat who watched the grave robbers
at work. "You could see it with your eyes. It's a history that is so much
a part of the collective French memory." Not very Umatilla of you, old
Will work 20
minutes for spare change
THE Canadian Medical Association
Journal, an endless fount of knowledge about human quirks, has taken
up the subject of panhandling. In the September 3 edition, Toronto doctors
Rohit Bose and Stephen Hwang reveal the results of an econometric and
medical survey of Toronto panhandlers, taken to ascertain how much money
they earn and how they spend it. Panhandlers were offered certain sums to
spend 20 minutes answering questions: the doctors note that "The amount of
payment that panhandlers were willing to accept [for being
interviewed]...was generally consistent with their self-estimated earnings
from panhandling for the same length of time."
So how well off are bums? Pretty badly off, is the short answer. The 54
who chose to answer the survey (which may, the authors warn, have been
biased against particularly high earners) reported a median monthly income
of $638. Fully 93% were smokers, making cigarettes a particularly
expensive item on their income statement. Roughly equal numbers said they
never drank, drank about once a week, drank 1 to 6 times a week, and drank
every day. Thirty-seven percent used cocaine in the last year, but only 5%
had shot heroin. Only 65% of panhandlers in the survey were actually
homeless, but 70% reported chronic health problems.
The authors did not find that panhandlers, on the whole, were raking in
tons of money and spending most of it on addictions. The average daily
take of panhandlers, $30, would seem to support a sustainable lifestyle
for those who can tolerate the unique rigours and pleasures of
homelessness. If it seems callous to talk of "pleasures," be aware that
43% of the respondents said they enjoyed panhandling ("commonly because of
the opportunity to 'meet people'"). And a word to the wise parent: of the
54 skidders interviewed, exactly zero had college degrees.
THE Pacific Coast League's (PCL's) Calgary
Cannons played their last-ever home game September 3 before 8,000
sorrowful fans. Baseball is a troubled game in Canada, with the Cannons
following the Triple-A Vancouver Canadians in a general exodus southward.
The Cannons' new home is Albuquerque, where the team will be renamed the
"Isotopes" after the club in the cartoon universe of The Simpsons.
The Ottawa Lynx of the International League are expected to follow suit
soon, after a year of disastrously low attendance, and everyone is aware
of the plight of the big-league Montreal Expos. Even lower-level clubs
like the rookie-league Medicine Hat Blue Jays are having trouble. The only
two Canadian pro ball teams on anything like a stable footing are arguably
the Toronto Blue Jays and the PCL's Edmonton Trappers, and the departure
of the Cannons is a serious financial blow to the latter.
But then why shouldn't we have just one big ball club? We apparently
only have room for one big airline, one big bookseller, one big newspaper
chain...In an entirely unrelated story, Adnews reports (August 28)
that the Royal Bank of Canada is "close to signing a US$80-million deal to secure the naming rights for the arena
used by the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team. According to media reports,
during the 20-year deal the Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena would
be renamed the RBC Centre or the RBC Arena." The Royal Bank, it must be
noted, has been an ardent supporter of sports in Canada, so perhaps this
news should not stir too much patriotic indignation. Sadly, money to
support sports teams flows in the same direction as any other money--that
is to say, ever southward, away from Liberal-governed Canada.
king we never had
IF the Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851) could
see it, how he would laugh. His revenge on the British takes the unlikely
form of novelist and journalist A.N. Wilson, who, in the September 1 Times
of London, advanced an amazing idea: that Queen Victoria may have been
illegitimate. If so, our current sovereign is the wrong one. But let us
begin at the beginning.
Victoria is generally supposed to have been the daughter of the Duke of
Kent, the Whiggish, permanently indebted fourth son of George III, and his
wife, Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg. When young Victoria was born,
neither the future George IV nor his next two brothers seemed likely to
bring forth issue, and in line behind Kent was fifth son Cumberland, the
most hated man in England. A swollen, one-eyed adventurer, Cumberland
entertained bloody-minded anti-democratic opinions. He had killed his own
valet: self-defence was the official story, but it was whispered that
Cumberland was covering up an affair with the man's sister. Worse still,
Cumberland was suspected of having impregnated one of his own sisters.
When Kent died before his father, little Victoria was left as the only
bulwark between crusty old William IV and a Cumberland succession as
Mr. Wilson finds it strange that no current royals inherited porphyria
through Victoria, though the disease was common among her putative
ancestors; he is also puzzled at her apparent introduction of hemophilia
into a bloodline that had been free of it. His mischievous eye has
alighted on another favourite subject of whispers--Sir John Conroy,
major-domo to Queen Victoria's mother. Lytton Strachey, the indispensably
gossipy historian, called Conroy "an Irishman with no judgment and a great
deal of self-importance." In his 1921 biography of Victoria, he claims the
Duke of Wellington knew of "unquestionable...familiarities" between Queen
Victoria's mother and Conroy. Could our current Queen be the descendant of
an Irish manservant with ideas above his station?
The royal family will not comment, but DNA testing is already being
discussed. In 1837, Victoria took the British throne while Cumberland went
to Hanover, whose monarchy was male-only. Once there, he tore a liberal
constitution to bits, but was forced to reimpose it after the revolutions
of 1848; he died in 1851. His direct male descendant and namesake is the
48-year-old Prince Ernst August of Hanover. Perhaps it is a name with
which we should become familiar.
sawbones' gallows humour
LET'S hope Dr. Adam Fox doesn't get sick
anytime soon: he may be in some trouble with his peers. A Scotland on
Sunday article (September 1) revealed a secret and hilarious language of
British doctors, as catalogued over a six-year period by the Scottish
pediatrician. The language takes the form of acronyms entered on a
patient's chart to warn fellow physicians and nurses about those who are
difficult or unusual.
Some of the terms are relatively straightforward: you could find
yourself labelled as an Oap (over-anxious patient) or a Tatt (talks all
the time). Some are quite complicated: Grolies, for example, are Guardian
Readers Of Limited Intelligence (the Guardian being the leftist newspaper
formerly headquartered in Manchester). And some are simply brutal, as
might be expected in such a high-stress occupation. If you're ever
described as "T.F. Bundy," it means you're Totally F---ed, But
Unfortunately Not Dead Yet.
The profession, sadly, is cracking down on the naughty acronyms
(although Dr. Fox admits they are surviving in whispers on accident and
emergency wards). One doctor interviewed by Scotland on Sunday described
an incident a few years ago in which doctors on the witness stand in court
had to explain the notation "Fodttfo" on a chart. No doubt there was some
sniggering when its meaning--"Fell over drunk, told to f--- off"--was
explained. But no one wants to see "FLK" (funny-looking kid) on their
daughter's chart, or, for that matter, "GOK" (God only knows) on their
Sigh--there's just something about Canada, it seems: it's
the country where even a card game isn't safe from drug scandals. On
September 3, American Disa Eythorsdottir was sent home without the silver
medal she had earned at the World Bridge Championships in Montreal. The
reason? She had been taking a diet pill and found out only partway through
the tournament that it was on the "banned" list. Yes, competitive bridge
has mandatory urine tests, as does grandmaster chess now. The cash-hungry
ruling bodies of these games are trying to qualify for the Olympics, and
the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in its wisdom, finds it
convenient to woo these "mind sports" without waiving drug-testing
requirements which are meaningless to them. Result: injustice and
stupidity. Since the IOC's involved, we suppose that is not actually
independently owned newsmagazine, we like to keep readers abreast of media
concentration. On September 3, Quebecor purchased an interest in
Montreal's highest-rated AM radio station, CKAC. As columnist Mike Boone
noted in the next day's Montreal Gazette, that gives one company
control of the city's highest-circulation newspaper (the Journal de
Montreal), its most popular TV network, its monopoly cable provider,
its most popular TV station and its main source of high-speed Internet
access. Endearingly, Mr. Boone noted the beam in his own eye as an
employee of TV-newspaper giant CanWest Global Communications. (He called
himself "a proud winner of the Academy of Hypocrisy's Lifetime Achievement
Award.") In the same spirit of disclosure, Up Front should reiterate that
The Report is proudly and fully independent, but is printed, like
most things on paper in Canada, by Quebecor. And a fine job they do, too.
Mad props to our omnipotent Quebecor homies!
There is no
more reliable source of humour than a newspaper's corrections column. From
page A2 of the September 4 Ottawa Citizen: "Death camps in Poland
during the Second World War were operated by Nazi Germany. An article on
page D8 of yesterday's Citizen suggested otherwise." Whoa, fellas, was
there some confusion on this point? Not really: the offending story merely
made an ambiguous reference to "Polish death camps," which presumably (and
understandably) brought a flood of e-mails from Poles. We sympathize, and
remind our readers, Polish or not, to keep us on our toes.
release on Up Front's desk cries out to be heard, and we spring into
action! "CALLING ALL B.C. LOISES!" The international Lois Club, 6,000-plus
members strong, is holding a dinner in Richmond, B.C., on September 18.
The club has a simple mandate, we learn: "The Lois Club, which began some
22 years ago, welcomes anyone named Lois." The guest speaker at the dinner
will be the mayor of Delta, Lois Jackson, whose championship of fiscal
accountability has made her an inspiration to Loises everywhere (local
chapters exist in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia).
Membership in the society is absolutely free, and those interested should
dial 1-800-267-8526 and ask for Lois (Harper).
to make you whinny: the owner and the meat manager of Jay's Food Market in
Calgary have been found guilty of labelling and selling horsemeat as beef.
Provincial Court Judge Brian Stevenson is currently considering an
appropriate sentence for Jane Jay and her employee, Tran Quyen Luu. Health
inspectors took 11 samples from the two Jay's supermarkets in Calgary and
reported that 10 were actually our dear (not deer) friend Equus caballus.
Punchline from the Herald's story (August 30) on the trial: "Jay's
Food Market has lost considerable business recently, according to defence
lawyers." You don't say. On the plus side, the new rash of French
customers may make the stores eligible for bilingualism subsidies.