A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell

By Donald Worster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Kapurats

Aphotograph taken by John Hillers in October 1873 shows the Kaibab Paiutes sitting in a circle under a pinyon, holding an earnest tribal council. The center figure is Chuarumpeak, his long black hair falling forward on his shoulders. Many of the other figures are a blur of black mop that moved before the exposure was complete. Then there is Wes Powell, whom the Paiutes called Kapurats (“He is who is missing an arm”), solemnly sitting on the side of the circle next to Jacob Hamblin and made conspicuous not by his height but by his pale face. It was a characteristic place for Powell to be during his field seasons, for he constantly sought the companionship of Indians and sat long hours in their midst, flat on the ground.

He would be collecting, of course—a trader in words, stories, artifacts who believed that in the jumble he collected lay a mode of thinking that was different from his own, a mode he could penetrate and understand as a scientist. But unavoidably he would also be hearing about the plight of the Indian peoples undergoing an invasion of monumental proportions. They told him about the hillsides where they had once gathered seeds that were now a cattleman's pasture, the riverbanks where they had grown corn and squash that were now a white man's village, the game they once had hunted that could no longer be found. He could see other forms of invasion that were undermining a once self-sufficient way of life: a white man's gun replacing the bow and arrow, machine-made cloth that seemed superior to the old rabbit-skin robe, a sulphur match that was more convenient than a palm drill for starting a fire. Even more profoundly than the loss of land, those commodities purchased from the industrial economy turned autonomy into dependence.

-261-

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A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Prologue - Green River Station, 1869 ix
  • Part One - Northern Days 1
  • Chapter 1 - A Mission to America 3
  • Chapter 2 - Rising on the Prairie 37
  • Chapter 3 - The Hornets' Nest of War 85
  • Part Two - Canyons of the Colorado 107
  • Chapter 4 - Westward the Naturalist 109
  • Chapter 5 - Down the Great Unknown 155
  • Chapter 6 - Surveying the High Plateaus 203
  • Chapter 7 - Kapurats 261
  • Chapter 8 - The Sublimest Thing on Earth 297
  • Chapter 9 - Democracy Encounters the Desert 337
  • Part Three - Washington, D.C. 381
  • Chapter 10 - Myths and Maps 383
  • Chapter 11 - Redeeming the Earth 437
  • Chapter 12 - The Problem of the West 467
  • Chapter 13 - Journey's End 533
  • Notes 575
  • Bibliography 611
  • Acknowledgments 645
  • Index 647
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