Category Archives: Book Excerpt

Ozette: Excavating a Makah Whaling Village

Ruth Kirk’s Ozette: Excavating a Makah Whaling Village presents a detailed account of a world-famous archaeological site on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Full-scale excavations from 1966 to 1981 revealed houses and their contents—including ordinarily perishable wood and basketry objects that had been buried in a mudflow well before the arrival of Europeans in the region. Led by Richard Daugherty, with a team of graduate and undergraduate students and Makah tribal members, the work culminated in the creation of the Makah Museum in Neah Bay, where more than 55,000 Ozette artifacts are curated and displayed. Ruth Kirk was present—documenting the archaeological work from its beginning—and her firsthand knowledge of the people and efforts involved enrich her compelling story of discovery and fieldwork, and deepen our understanding of a complex and storied culture.

Here, we feature an excerpt from Ozette in which Ruth Kirk describes the location of the long-occupied coastal village and the earliest stages of the world-famous archaeological excavation of the site.

(Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about upcoming opportunities to hear Ruth Kirk discuss Ozette).

The year was 1947. Richard Daugherty, a student at the University of Washington, was hiking the state’s wilderness Pacific coast, recording archaeological sites. World War II had ended, and with it his service as a navy blimp pilot flying patrols on the lookout for submarines. He had returned to his studies and in connection with them was making this survey of more than two hundred miles of coastline, from the mouth of the Columbia River to Cape Flattery. Not far from the cape, he had reached Ozette, the site of a Makah whaling village. A broad terrace bordered the beach for a half mile or more, and on it the walls of a few houses lay fallen into the grass and nettles, along with rotten roof boards covered with moss. Families had lived there until the 1920s, when they moved to Neah Bay, sixteen miles north.The federal government had ordered their children to be in school, yet had provided none at Ozette. They had no choice but to move.

Kirk-fig-1.01_alt

The main Ozette village stretched for about three-quarters of a mile along the beach, connected to Ch’kknow acht Island by a low-tide sandspit.

That exodus accounted for the end of the long human continuity at Ozette, but what were the beginnings? Midden—refuse—exposed in the sea bank edging the beach belonged to those earlier chapters. Lots of midden, and deep. Daugherty noted layer on layer of broken mussel and clam shells, whale bones, charcoal, and rocks cracked and split by the heat of a fire. This clearly was the premier site of the more than fifty he had recorded along the entire coast. He was seeing archaeological material that amounted to a cultural jigsaw puzzle belonging to the Makah people—and although he could not know it at the time, he was also looking at what eventually would provide the high point of his professional career.

Now the year was 1966. Daugherty had completed his PhD and joined the faculty at Washington State University, in Pullman. He had worked with other archaeologists in Egypt and Sudan, gathering evidence of the human past along the Nile River before it would be lost owing to construction of the Aswan Dam. He had consulted on Peace River archaeology in British Columbia and directed investigations in eastern Washington along the Snake and Columbia Rivers. But he kept wanting to get back to Ozette, and he found a way to do it. The National Science Foundation approved funds for research, and Daugherty recruited thirty archaeology students from across the United States and Canada to come and learn field techniques while helping unlock the story of Ozette’s past. The Makah Tribal Council had approved the undertaking.

Richard Daugherty (left) and Ed Claplanhoo assessed the sea-bank erosion caused by winter's storm-driven waves.

Richard Daugherty (left) and Ed Claplanhoo assessed the sea-bank erosion caused by winter’s storm-driven waves.

Ed Claplanhoo, a young councilman at the time, was a graduate of Washington State College (now University), and he knew Professor Daugherty. Consequently the council asked his opinion of Daugherty’s proposal. Years earlier they had declined a University of Washington request for permission to excavate at Ozette, but they could see merit in the current proposal as a way of strengthening the tribe’s tie to Ozette and they trusted Claplanhoo’s assessment. The federal government was considering “surplusing” the land at Ozette as vacant and no longer eligible for status as an Indian reservation. However, several Neah Bay elders had lived there as children, and they cared deeply about those roots.

Hamilton Greene, one of the elders, remembered “a solid line of houses facing the water, and canoes on the beach. My grandfather used to say that Ozette had been a big village. The word he used to describe it means ‘a whole bunch.’ More [houses] than you’d care to count.” Daugherty’s proposal seemed like a way to augment such memories with a new kind of knowledge. The tribe and the professor would work together.

The beach served as lunchroom for the 1966 archaeology crew.

The beach served as lunchroom for the 1966 archaeology crew.

The archaeology camp was set up just back from the beach, where a splashing creek furnished water for drinking and for icy showers. On days when it was not raining, the crew ate out on the beach, sitting on drift logs. On drizzly days, they gathered in a large, floorless tent designated as mess hall and classroom. A Coast Guard helicopter had brought in the big tent and smaller sleeping tents, a cookstove, groceries, shovels, surveyor’s transits, and field notebooks and laboratory catalogs with blank pages to be filled with information day-by-day as the excavation progressed. It was a onetime delivery. From then on, supplies had to be backpacked four miles through the forest and along the beach or flown in by a small plane twenty-four miles from the logging town of Forks. Often it was too foggy for the plane to land, and, for the same reason, travel often was unsafe by boat from Neah Bay, sixteen miles north, or La Push, eighteen miles south.

A trail through the forest leads from road's end to the beach.

A trail through the forest leads from road’s end to the beach.

By modern standards Ozette is isolated and remote, but it was quite the contrary during its long years as a village approached from the sea. Sixteen houses stood there in 1834, according to the report of three shipwrecked Japanese seamen who had drifted for more than a year across the Pacific Ocean before finally being washed ashore and captured by Ozette Indians. They were subsequently rescued by the Hudson’s Bay Company and eventually taken to Macao, a trade center on the southeast coast of China. A half century later, the 1889 Pacific Coast Pilot also mentioned Ozette, with a reporter stating: “Passed close outside [Ozette] and had a fine view of it. The village has over 20 houses and is not bulkheaded to prevent the inroads of the sea.”

There could scarcely have been a better setting for Northwest Coast human life. Several offshore islands and a wide rocky reef at the village doorstep broke the force of swells and incoming waves, thereby easing the landing of canoes. The reef, exposed at low tide, hosted year-round edibles such as mussels, clams, sea urchins, snails, chitons, limpets, crabs, and octopus. About twelve miles west, nutrient-rich water welled up from the edge of the continental shelf and concentrated the plankton; fish fed on the plankton, and fur seals fed on the fish. That abundance of food brought migrating seals closer to shore at Ozette than anywhere else along the entire coast from Northern California to Alaska. Sea lions hauled out on the rocky points and beaches of the islands. Kelp beds furnished ideal habitat for sea otters. Red snapper and lingcod—bottom fish—thrived close to the village. Halibut banks were a short paddle away, and salmon came to the Ozette River a little over a mile to the north. Red cedars in the forest behind the village supplied planks for houses and bark for baskets, and they also could be made into dugout canoes. Deer and elk roamed the forest, which was interspersed by treeless prairies where villagers could gather a variety of plant foods and medicines.

Kirk, Ruth_credit Mary Randlett

Ruth Kirk, photo by Mary Randlett.

Ruth Kirk, writer and photographer, is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Archaeology in Washington, with her husband Richard D. Daugherty; Sunrise to Paradise: The Story of Mount Rainier National Park; and Exploring Washington’s Past: A Road Guide to History, with Carmela Alexander. Her writing has earned her many accolades, including the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and a National Book Award nomination. Kirk also has received recognition for her writing from both the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Library Association.

Meet Ruth Kirk and pick up a signed copy of Ozette at these upcoming events:

Bill Holm’s Northwest Coast Indian Art

PrintBill Holm, Professor Emeritus of Art History, and Curator Emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Burke Museum, is recognized internationally as one of the most knowledgeable experts in the field of Northwest Coast Native art history. His groundbreaking book, Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, was originally published in 1965 and is credited with having drawn numerous artists into their own practice of Northwest Coast art. The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book.

In this excerpt from the preface, Holm reflects on the book’s legacy and adds a note about its formation:

Holm's original cover with his correction.

Holm’s original cover with his correction.

As I look back on five decades of Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form there really isn’t much that I would change today. I suppose that if I had guessed that it would become a kind of hand book for Northwest Coast Native artists, rather than a somewhat technical analysis of the characteristics of Northern Northwest Coast art, I might have written it differently. Probably the first thing I would have changed would be the title, adding the word “Northern” before “Northwest Coast.” Although the geographical limits of the tradition are stated a number of times in the text, artists and some others using it have often skipped the words in favor of the pictures. The result has been that many have assumed that the art tradition described was pan-coastal.

I probably would change a few terms too, and perhaps correct a few questionable statements. My goal in inventing terminology was always to try for really descriptive words. That I sometimes failed to succeed, I regret today. For example, the term “salmon-trout’s head” was lifted bodily from George Emmons’s list of terms given him by Tlingit weavers. I tend now to call this and related design elements “elaborated inner ovoids,” since they almost never represent a fish’s head.  Similarly the design representing a wide, frontal face with long, narrow nostrils, that I referred to as a “double eye structure,” I now call a “two step structure,” referring to the unique arrangement of the formlines delineating the corners of the mouth and nostrils of the face. And its related term, the former “single eye structure” is now the “one step structure.” On the other hand, I still hold to the descriptive terms “tertiary line” and “T-shaped” relief over the terms often used by contemporary Northwest Coast artists, “fine line” and “trigon,” believing that the old terms are more descriptive of the figures’ functions.

Wooden bowl, Haida. The interrelation of two-dimensional design with sculptural form is well illustrated in this frog bowl by the master Haida carver, Charles Edensaw. University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology A7054.

Wooden bowl, Haida. The interrelation of two-dimensional design with sculptural form is well illustrated in this frog bowl by the master Haida carver, Charles Edensaw. University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology A7054.

As the characteristic shapes and arrangements of the elements of northern Northwest Coast two-dimensional art began to become familiar to me I came to the realization that there was a sort of grammar or syntax to it that was not unlike that of a written language.  There were “rules” that transcended tribal and linguistic boundaries on the northern coast and that were followed in remarkable uniformity by artists of all the tribes of the area. Like a written language, it allowed individual variation while still conforming to the rules. Just as a proper and proficient use of writing doesn’t guarantee a great poem or gripping novel, the “rules” of the northern Northwest Coast “formline” don’t automatically result in great art. That is left to the artist.

A short history of the genesis of Analysis of Form is included in the preface. Here I would like to elaborate just a bit. After having completed the work for a Fine Arts Master’s Degree in Painting under the GI Bill, I cast about for a job.  I liked teaching so went back to school to qualify for a teaching certificate. A requirement at that time was that I return to class after a year of teaching. By that time I had a pretty good understanding of the characteristics of the formline system, so I approached my longtime friend, Dr. Erna Gunther, then Chairman of the Anthropology Department and Director of the Washington State Museum (now the Burke Museum) with the proposal that I take a Graduate Research Course from her and write a paper, the subject being “The structure of Northwest Coast Indian two-dimensional art.”

Woven spruce root hat, Haida. A configurative design of a split wolf is painted around the hat in black, red, and blue-green. Private collection.

Woven spruce root hat, Haida. A configurative design of a split wolf is painted around the hat in black, red, and blue-green. Private collection.

Dr. Gunther readily agreed, and the result was the basis for “An Analysis of Form.” The paper lay fallow for half a dozen years, when I was urged by friends to try to publish it. It sounded like a good idea, but I began to realize that it was incomplete, lacking any kind of documentation. It was all in my head. Again I went to Dr. Gunther for advice. This was in the days before personal computers, and she suggested that I try Keysort Cards  to record characteristics and organize the results. I recorded characteristics of 392 specimens on 400 cards and used the results to fine-tune my conclusions.  Then, what to do?

I had no idea of how to proceed toward publishing the study.  One day I was in a laboratory in the Burke Museum, visiting a friend who had generously let me use a picture of a contemporary silver bracelet he owned as an illustration of how the design system had broken down.  Dr. Walter Fairservis, then the director of the Burke, was in the room and heard our conversation.

He came over and asked me what we were talking about.  Dr. Fairservis, an Asian and Near Eastern specialist, was being unfairly criticized by some members of the public for not exhibiting more of the museum’s Northwest Coast collections. I briefly described my study to him. He turned, picked up the phone and dialed it. He spoke — “Hello Don (Don Ellegood, Director of the University of Washington Press), we have a great manuscript here on the art of the Indians of the Northwest Coast.”

And the rest is history…

Upcoming Symposium
March 27-29, 2015

ArtTalk—Conversations with Northwest Native Art is organized by the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art and will bring together leading scholars and Native American/First Nations artists to present and discuss current trends and recent research on the distinctive art traditions of our region, both to examine the last fifty years of Northwest Coast art, as marked by the 50th anniversary volume of Bill Holm’s Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, and to look forward to the next fifty years.

The symposium will accompany the exhibition Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired which marks the tenth anniversary of the Bill Holm Center. This symposium will feature artists and scholars from the U.S. and Canada and highlight current research in the field of Northwest Coast art history. It will focus in particular on Native American/First Nations Canadian artists whose art is rooted in deep understanding of their respective cultural and visual heritage yet is clearly contemporary in its expression. Speakers will include distinguished scholars, as well as young artists who are pushing the boundaries of their traditions.

Learn more about the Bill Holm Center via its website and Facebook page, and about the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture.

Pumpkin Patch to Jack-o’-lantern: A Halloween History Lesson

Pumpkin decor and jack-o’-lanterns have become ubiquitous symbols of Halloween, but how did a simple squash become a quintessential part of this American holiday? Cindy Ott explores this and other surprising stories about the pumpkin’s rise to icon status in her book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Beginning with the myth of the first Thanksgiving, she shows how Americans have used the pumpkin to fulfill their desire to maintain connections to nature and to the family farm of lore, and how small farms and rural communities have been revitalized in the process. In the following excerpt from the book, Ott delves into the origins and evolution of Halloween pumpkin traditions.

When most Americans think about communing with nature, they probably do not think about celebrating Halloween, but its festivities say a lot about how Americans imagine the natural world around them. While adult costume parties and parades still define the holiday, they share the night with children walking from door to door in costumes, yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’ to be rewarded with candies from their neighbors. The tradition started in the 1920s and became more popular with post-World-War II suburbanization and the baby boom. Pumpkins ranging from a single jack o’ lantern to more elaborate displays greet neighborhood children. Some homes metamorphose into haunted-house extravaganzas, with cobwebs stretched across bushes, faux gravestones planted in yards, paper skeletons hanging from porch rafters, and glowing jack-o’-lanterns perched on doorsteps. Others highlight a country feel, with hay bales, pumpkin-headed scarecrows, cornstalks, folk-art style wooden pumpkin cutouts, and fresh pumpkins piled decoratively near potted mums. Continue reading

Five Activists Who Shaped Seattle’s Civic and Cultural Landscape

StirringSeattle-CampbellIn the 1950s, the city of Seattle began a transformation from an insular, provincial outpost to a vibrant and cosmopolitan cultural center. As veteran Seattle journalist R. M. Campbell illustrates in Stirring Up Seattle: Allied Arts in the Civic Landscape, this transformation was catalyzed in part by the efforts of a group of civic arts boosters originally known as “The Beer and Culture Society.” This merry band of lawyers, architects, writers, designers, and university professors, eventually known as Allied Arts of Seattle, lobbied for public funding for the arts, helped avert the demolition of Pike Place Market, and were involved in a wide range of crusades and campaigns in support of historic preservation, cultural institutions, and urban livability. The excerpts below introduce five influential activists who shaped the Seattle we know and love; learn more about them and the battles they waged along with other activists in Stirring Up Seattle.  

Upcoming event: Join Stirring Up Seattle author R.M. Campbell as well as Mary Coney, both members of the original Allied Arts, and former Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman for a conversation moderated by Town Hall founder David Brewster at Town Hall Seattle on November 10 at 7:30 p.m.

1. Alice Rooney

Alice Rooney with Paul Schell at the Allied Arts annual meeting, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Alice Rooney with Paul Schell at the Allied Arts annual meeting, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Alice Rooney almost said no to Robert Jackson Block, then president of Allied Arts, when he offered her the job of executive secretary in 1960. “I have two children; I live in the suburbs and have no car.” Block then asked two questions: “Do you have a typewriter? And phone?” Well, yes, she tentatively replied. In his customary fashion, Block barked, “What’s the big deal? That’s all you need. You’re hired.” And so Rooney came to the fledging organization that had been founded only six years earlier, and stayed for twenty years […] Even now, some thirty years later, one does not mention Allied Arts without mentioning Rooney. Continue reading

The Promise of Wilderness

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation that now protects more than 100 million acres of American land from development. In this guest post, James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964, contends that the Wilderness Act gave us much more than millions of acreage of wild lands–it gave us a political process that engaged citizens can use to protect and advocate for the conservation of other lands, both wild and public.

The map of the National Wilderness Preservation System is the legacy of five decades of wilderness advocacy. From the shifting sands of Passage Key in Florida to the mountain highlands of the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado to the vast expanses of the Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, one out of every twenty acres in the United States has been set aside in perpetuity as wilderness. Those areas are meant to be, as the Wilderness Act proclaimed, “an enduring resource for the American people.” Continue reading

No-No Boy: Ruth Ozeki Reflects on the Legacy of a Japanese American Classic

Originally published in 1957,  John Okada‘s No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle.

As Ruth Ozeki writes in her foreword to the new edition of this classic book, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.” Here, we feature an excerpt from Ozeki’s  powerful new foreword, which she wrote as a personal letter to John Okada.

Dear John Okada,

I’m writing to you across time, as one writer to another, to congratulate you on the reissue of your groundbreaking novel, No-No Boy. The University of Washington Press has done me the honor of asking me to write a new foreword to your book, and to tell you the truth, I’m nervous. I wish I could consult with you, or visit you and ask you for your blessing, but I can’t.

You probably don’t even know that your novel was groundbreaking. When it was published, back in 1957, you probably thought it was a colossal failure. It’s hard enough to write a novel, and harder still to get one published, but then to have it so completely ignored—this must have been crushing. Your original publisher, Charles E. Tuttle, was based in Tokyo, which I’m sure didn’t help your chances for success in North America. The few critics here who bothered to review it pretty much panned it.They bitched about your “bad English” and said it wasn’t literature. Even Japanese Americans shunned it. It seems they were embarrassed by it, which sounds crazy now, but in retrospect I suppose I understand why. In No-No Boy you wrote unflinchingly about the scarring experience of being a Japanese American on the West Coast during World War II, but that war had only ended twelve years earlier, and twelve years is no time at all. When your book came out, Japanese Americans were busy keeping their heads down, assimilating, and working on becoming the model minority of 1950s America. It’s understandable. They had been rounded up and sent to prison camps in the desert. They had lost their homes and businesses and communities. They had suffered, and they wanted to move on. No-No Boy was radical, but it was ahead of its time. It was angry and raw. It touched nerves and opened wounds. It reminded them of a past they wanted to forget, and so they rejected it. Your book disappeared almost overnight. Continue reading

Howard Zahniser and the Making of the 1964 Wilderness Act

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which now protects more than 100 million acres of wild lands in the United States from development. Howard Zahniser is widely recognized as the key architect of and advocate for the Wilderness Act, but his untimely death just four months before the signing of the Wilderness Act meant he never saw the fruits of his tireless efforts. In the new volume, The Wilderness Writings of Howard Zahniser, Mark Harvey has astutely curated Zahniser’s writings—from radio addresses and personal correspondence to congressional testimonythat supported this critical piece of legislation. The collection provides an eloquent and passionate reminder that wilderness is a core American value and should be protected accordingly. Here we feature an excerpt from Zahniser’s address before the Sierra Club’s 7th biennial wilderness conference in San Francisco in April 1961.

Wilderness Forever

From Mark Harvey’s introduction to Zahniser’s Sierra Club address: By 1961, the campaign for the wilderness bill had gone on for five years. Several versions of the bill had been introduced in Congress, dozens of drafts had been circulated, and Zahniser had testified at hearings both in the field and in Washington, DC.… He was tireless, “the constant advocate,” as Sierra Club executive director David Brower later described him. No other conservationist was in a better position to advocate for the bill, and no other had the knowledge of Washington politics and the networking and lobbying skills to accomplish it. Despite his immersion in the complexities of the legislative process, he never lost sight of the larger purposes of the campaign. His speech before the Sierra Club’s seventh biennial wilderness conference in San Francisco in April 1961 demonstrated his talent for thinking big. In what were arguably his most eloquent remarks on the subject, he summoned his deepest convictions to make the case for preserving wilderness forever. Continue reading

June Color: Hazel Heckman’s “Island Year”

Island Year Cover ImageThe following is an excerpt from Hazel Heckman’s Island Year, with drawings by Laurie Olin. The book contains a year’s worth of meditations on the flora and fauna of Anderson Island as they cycle through the seasons. The following excerpt is taken from her entry for the month of June. Filled with delightful descriptions of the natural riches of the Pacific Northwest, Island Year was originally published by the University of Washington Press in 1972. We brought out a new paperback edition of this Northwest classic earlier this year.

Camouflaged among yellow blossoms dripping from the rain tree, laburnum or golden chain, two goldfinches billed each other. The bright yellow male wore a black beret tilted forward. He looked debonair, a gay Lothario. The soft green female made a fine pretense of modesty and shyness. She moved away, but not too far. Her simulated reticence increased his interest, which was probably the way she’d planned it.

flowers for heckmanThe horse chestnut tree came into bloom overnight. Flowers stood up in spires, wine-red or yellow centered, staminate and pistillate blossoms with long projecting style and stigma, and recurved stamens. Bees are guided subtly by spots of color at the base of petals. The English call the tree hyacinth, or “giant’s nosegay,” “a sight for gods and men.” And so it is, a tree to outdo all flowering trees save in the tropics.

A minus-three tide brought to light a kelp crab, Pugettia, a little green fellow shaped like a shield. Master at camouflage, or fashion-minded, he had decorated his own carapace with plumes and scarves of seaweed that drifted out behind like a bride’s train, or ribbons on a parade float. Continue reading

My Fight For A New Taiwan: Annette Lu’s Journey from Prison to Power

Lu Hsiu-lien’s journey is the story of Taiwan. Through her successive drives for gender equality, human rights, political reform, Taiwan’s independence, and, currently, environmental protection, Lu Hsiu-lien (who also goes by Annette Lu) has played a key role in Taiwan’s evolution from dictatorship to democracy. Unlike such famous Asian women politicians as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, India’s Indira Gandhi, and Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, Lu grew up in a family without political connections. Her impoverished parents twice attempted to give her away for adoption, and as an adult she survived cancer and imprisonment, later achieving success as an elected politician—the first self-made woman to serve with such prominence in Asia.  Below we feature an excerpt from My Fight For a New Taiwan: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power, which Lu coauthored with Ashley Esarey.

The wail of a thousand air horns, the crackling shower of fireworks, the undulation of a sea of banners greeted us as we left our party headquarters and approached the stage. A crowd stretched for half a mile in every direction, claiming streets and sidewalks, jamming intersections on Minsheng East Road. Bottle rockets shrieked from the windows of nearby apartment buildings. To an outsider observing the revelers on the night of March 18, 2000, the crowds in the streets could have been celebrating the Taiwan national team’s victory in some sort of world championship, but the pride of the Taiwanese was participatory, not vicarious: They had voted to remove the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) from the nation’s highest office after its fifty-five years in power and had stood up to China despite its threats to invade Taiwan if they dared vote this way. They had cast aside the successors of a regime that had ruled Taiwan by force and fiat, by threat and murder, by corruption and co-optation, by autocracy and exploitation. On March 18, the Taiwanese had, through their vote, peacefully “changed the heavens” in their homeland, as the saying went, and given birth to the feeling that Taiwan was experiencing its finest hour, that the wrongs of the past could be righted.

Continue reading