Monday, December 04, 2006

Alum Contribution

Thanks for your new blog! I hadn't realized that the pipe ceremony had also been smashed. What a shame. To this day I still vividly recall surrounding the stump of the Lone Pine with my best friends and breaking our pipes.

As to the specific question of terminology -- I had a private tour of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of the American Indian with the Museum's Director. He said that at the time they were naming the museum they confronted this question. They surveyed all of the tribes in the land and the overwhelming response was "American Indian" rather than "Native American." If that moniker is good enough for the Smithsonian, it is good enough for me.

Here's another one for the files--"Freshman Trips" are now known as "First-Year Trips," "freshman" being a sexist term, of course.

An[other] interesting story about the death of traditions -- they neutered the words of "Men of Dartmouth" when I was a student there. One of my friends was a member of the Aires. He swore that the Aires, being an all-male a capella group with a storied history, would continue to sing the traditional lyrics to honor this history. I bought their most recent CD a year or two ago and, naturally, they have adopted the new lyrics. Like the end of the pipe ceremony, the passage of student generations tends to erode traditions.

Good luck with the project! I'm glad you are collecting all of these stories.

An Anonymous Alum


Any Stray Marks said...

Mr. Potts betrays a bit of PC bias by calling them the "Aires" instead of the Injunaires, doesn't he?

Carey Heckman said...

While my history major betrays my deep affection for traditions and the past, I could not help but enjoy the irony of your quote of the Men of Dartmouth lyrics out of context as an example of how our misunderstanding or misrecollection of "traditions" can lead us astray.

The plea in the third verse to "set a watch/lest the old traditions fail" is not, as most alumni think, a plea to keep old traditions in place. Instead, it is a plea to US alumni not to let OURSELVES fall short of the demands of the old traditions. The rest of the verse goes on to explain that the "old traditions" to which we must perform are standing as brother stands by brother and daring a deed for the old Mother (Dartmouth). It has nothing to do with beenies or mascots or other trivia. Most of all, it says nothing about traditions staying unchanged.

Your quote from "Fiddler on the Roof" is also wonderfully ironic. Yes, he sings about tradition. But the entire rest of the play is about how life goes on and we have to let go of traditions (in that case, arranged marriages) when they no longer make any sense. "Fiddler on the Roof" is, in fact, an ANTI-tradition play.

Keep being a good Dartmouth brother and loving Dartmouth. That's what matters.