May 23, 2015

Why Indian mascots are anti-Indian

An excellent article makes a key point about mascots:

The invasion of America

The story of Native American dispossession is too easily swept aside, but new visualisations should make it unforgettable[T]he language used to chronicle the dispossession of native peoples–‘Indian’, ‘chief’, ‘warrior’, ‘tribe’, ‘squaw’ (as native women used to be called)–conjures up crude stereotypes and clouds the mind, making it difficult to see the wars of extermination, forced marches and expulsions for what they were. The story, which used to be celebratory, is now more often tragic and sentimental, rooted in the belief that the dispossession of native peoples was unjust but inevitable.Let me explain. The glorification of Indian warriors--in mascots, the military, and so forth--sends a pro-American, anti-Indian message.

How so? Because it furthers the American mythology of benign conquest. Our band of brave soldiers fought their band of savage warriors on horseback. Just like you saw in the movies.

We won because we were more noble and heroic; they lost. But we've extended the hand of friendship to our former foes. Let's forget our past differences and celebrate our common warrior heritage.

Slaughter, not skirmishes

How exactly is this anti-Indian? Because it reduces 500 years of conflicts to a few skirmishes where the "best side" won. It erases all the "wars of extermination, forced marches and expulsions," as the article puts it. All the times white people lied, cheated, and stole Native land and resources. Hundreds of broken treaties attesting to the white man's perfidy.

Moreover, it obscures the entire nature of Native America. The inhabitants weren't scattered bands of warriors on horseback. They were full-fledged nations with governments. They had complex laws, customs, languages, religions, arts, and sciences. The US didn't beat a few warriors in a fair or unfair fight. It decimated entire civilizations with its genocidal policies.

So talking about the strength and courage of Redskins or Warriors or Chiefs is a complete crock. It's designed to delude people into supporting the American mythology, the American way. The "conflicts" were "inevitable," so the story goes, so they couldn't be helped. Cultures "clashed," one side happened to win, and that's the end.

In particular, the "good guys" (Americans) won, so we'll pretend the "bad guys" (Indians) were good too. Both sides were good, so there's no need to question or challenge the mythology. We're all Americans now--North and South, black and white, American and Indian--so let's forget the past and move forward together.

That's what mascot lovers think. And that's what they want you to think. By challenging them, you're challenging the entire mythology of American goodness. They can't handle the truth, so they attack you instead. You lost, get over it, etc., etc.

All this because of the one-dimensional warrior stereotype.

For more on the subject, see Native Stereotyping = Anti-Indian Propaganda and "Redskins" = Pan-Indian Romanticism.

May 22, 2015

Waco shootout shows America's racism

This is your brain on Whiteness: The invisible psychology of white American ignorance explained

The contrast in media narratives about Baltimore and Waco are undeniable—but many white Americans are blind to them

By Chauncey DeVega
The participants in the Waco, Texas gun battle were almost exclusively white. The participants in the Baltimore Uprising were almost all black. Quite predictably, the corporate news media’s narrative frame for those events was heavily influenced by race. News coverage of these two events has stretched the bounds of credulity by engaging in all manner of mental gymnastics in order to describe the killings, mayhem, and gun battle in Waco as anything other than a “riot.”

As writers such as Salon’s own Jenny Kutner keenly observed:I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that—despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence—they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.
The dominant corporate news media have used the Baltimore uprising and other similar events to attack Black America’s character, values, and culture. The argument is clear: The events in Waco were committed by white men who happen to be criminals; the Baltimore uprising was committed by black people who, because of their “race” and “culture,” are inherently criminal.

Racial bias in news reporting has been repeatedly documented by scholars in media studies, critical race theory, political science, and sociology. As anti-racism activist Jane Elliot incisively observed, “People of color can’t even turn on the televisions in their own homes without being exposed to white racism.” The centuries of racism, and resulting stereotypes about the inherent criminality of Black Americans, are central to why the events in Waco and Baltimore have received such divergent news coverage.
White America’s Waco Insanity: The Shocking Realities it Ignores About Racism & Violence

The response to the Twin Peaks shootout shows how privilege really works.

By Brittney Cooper
More than 165 people have been arrested for their participation in this thuggish, ruggish, deadly, violent, white-on-white street brawl but there has been no mass outcry from the country about this. Though these motorcycle gangs were already under surveillance because of known participation in consistent and organized criminal activity, as Darnell Moore notes at Mic, “the police didn’t don riot gear.” Moore further notes that “leather and rock music weren’t blamed,” and there hasn’t been any “hand-wringing over the problem of white-on-white crime.”

White people, even well-meaning and thoughtful ones, have the privilege of looking at deadly acts of mass violence of this sort as isolated local incidents, particular to one community. They do not look at such incidents as indicative of anything having to do with race or racism. But everything from the difference in law enforcement response to media response tells us what we need to know about how white privilege allows acts of violence by white people to be judged by entirely different standards than those of any other group. If a Black motorcycle gang had engaged in a shootout in a parking lot, any honest white person will admit that the conversation would have sounded incredibly different.

Frequently in conversations that I have observed or participated in with white people about race, the claim is levied that it is Black people “who make everything about race.” But this incident in Waco gives lie to that claim. It turns out that when white privilege is in clear operation, white people are invested in making sure that we don’t see race in operation. Charles Mills, a philosopher of race, has a term which I think applies here: epistemology of white ignorance. By this means, he means that white people have created a whole way of knowing the world that both demands and allows that they remain oblivious to the operations of white supremacy, that white people remain “intent on denying what is before them.” Thus even though three gangs have now attacked each other in broad daylight and killed or injured 27 people, there is no nagging, gnawing sense of fear, no social anxiety about what the world is coming to, no anger at the thugs who made it unsafe for American families to go about their regular daily activities without fear of being clipped by a stray bullet, no posturing from law enforcement about the necessity of using military weapons to put down the lawless band of criminals that turned a parking lot into a war zone in broad daylight. More than that, there is no sense of white shame, no hanging of the head over the members of their race that have been out in the world representing everything that is wrong with America.

That kind of intra-racial shame is reserved primarily for Black people.

Most white citizens will insist that this was just an isolated incident, even though the gangs were already under surveillance for consistent participation in criminal activity. And this studied ignorance, this sense in which people could look at this set of incidents and simply refuse to see all the ways in which white privilege is at play—namely that no worse than arrest befell any the men who showed up hours later with weapons, looking for a fight—returns me to the words of Malcolm X. For many Americans, this is just good ole American fun, sort of like playing Cowboys-and-Indians in real life. As Malcolm reminded us, “whites idolize fighters.” So while I’m sure many Americans are appalled at the senseless loss of life, there is also the sense that this is just “those wild Texans” doing the kind of thing they do.
Watch this activist politely destroy CNN for racism: ‘Whiteness gets nuance and blackness doesn’t’

By David Edwards“What’s interesting about Waco is that there was also this nuance suddenly. Because whiteness gets nuance and blackness doesn’t. So you saw with Waco, ‘These are bikers, this is just like a biker group. It’s a biker shootout.'”

According to McKesson, racism was insidious because people tended to think of it as an extreme.

“It’s this idea that like the n-word is the only signifier of racism in America when that’s actually not true,” he said. “Racism is about how power is used to negatively impact people because issues of race. So, what you saw with Waco, you saw this radical humanization of people who actually committed violent crimes, who really did violent crimes in a way you did see that same humanization with people in Baltimore who were breaking curfew.”

“They were treated in ways that criminalized them, really intense ways. In a way that you didn’t see with actual criminals.”
Comment:  For more on white privilege, see Whites Can't Handle Racial Stress and "It Feels Good" to Be White.

May 21, 2015

"Redskins" bad but helicopters okay?

On Facebook I shared a posting about the Washington Redskins and the US military. Although no longer available, it said something like:

Why do Natives protest the Redskins name rather than the US military for naming items--Tomahawk missiles; Apache, Lakota, and Blackhawk helicopters; codename Geronimo--after them?

This led to a discussion of the subject:The military industrial complex is run by the same people that support the foul R-word, the same people that exploit others for their own wealth generation!

This is Apple/Oranges. The r-word is racist and it invokes racist behaviour.

Hold it, everyone. Here’s a white guy who offers an explanation about why we should feel honored by these names for military equipment. *Phew.* I feel much better after having him whitesplain it to me.

Everyone Relax—The Army’s Native American Helicopter Names Are Not Racist
Let the debate begin

Curiously, someone else posted the same article but put a different spin on it:You know a Native career soldier I know wrote this and posted this (not my position as I'm not a pro military type but wanted to share a perspective):

"No where is there a finer example of honoring a legacy than the moniker attached to the US Army's rotary wing fleet. Not only does the Army ask if the names can be used but they respectively utilize the proper names. They do not use slang or stereotypes. The first time I laid eyes on these aircraft I was instilled with pride and a sense of belonging. I thought to myself 'These guys get it. They respect me and my people's contribution to this enterprise.' I am honored by the lineage of these nomenclatures and honored to have been a small part of this warrior tradition. The US Army has had an intimate experience (for better or worse) with the history of my people and it is my pleasure to reciprocate the gesture. Sappers forward!"
My response: "Warrior tradition" = one-dimensional stereotype.

I "like" how this article basically confirms my point. Namely, that helicopters were named for a one-dimensional view of Natives:According to Bob Mitchell, the museum curator, Howze “envisioned the helicopter as a fast, mobile, stealthy machine on the field of battle using terrain and vegetation to an advantage similar to the Warrior Tribes.”"Warrior tribes" is redundant here since the Army seems to think all Indians are warriors.

Yet the same person continued to challenge me:It is undoubtedly something that is very important in Indian Country as they bring it up quite a lot. Hard for me to grasp due to oppressive nature of use of US Military abroad but it is what it is. 3 times the average rate of service.Yes, and many Indians take pride in being called "Redskins," too. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Many Indians also challenge the one-dimensional warrior image and call for a fuller understanding of Native cultures. I'm with them.Yes the R word is an offensive term whereas using tribal names is not. Also they choose to use correct names like Lakota for example not Sioux.

I am not saying I agree or disagree with any of this but know the thoughts of many folks in Indian Country over this and sharing that perspective.
Okay. I'm saying I disagree with it because it's stereotypical. I also disagree with the stereotypical choices made by filmmakers such as Johnny Depp and Adam Sandler.

Only names of tribes?The image you shared for one shows proper names from Indian Country being held in an equivalent manner to a racist term which is obviously not really comparable. Yes there is another debate good or bad to have about the context of the use of the other names. But if a helicopter was called Nigeria would that be as offensive as the N word?"Tomahawk" is a stereotypical weapon. "Blackhawk" and "Geronimo" are personal names. So this posting isn't just about using the names of tribes.

I think we can all agree that "Redskins" is the worst offense in this category, although I'd say calling a terrorist "Geronimo" is comparable. So? We can and do address lesser offenses all the time here.

If you really want to honor the widespread tendency of Natives to serve in the military, let's name helicopters after the Hopi, Creek, Tlingit, San Manuel, and Penobscot tribes. Why not, since their members have served at the same rates as every other tribe's?

Oh, but those tribes aren't known as fierce, deadly warriors. They aren't stereotypical enough. We want our hardware named only for ruthless killer Indians. Because we want to be as savage as they were.

In short, if this nomenclature is some sort of pan-Indian tribute, choose from the names of the 566 recognized tribes at random. By choosing only the tribes known for their savagery, the military is proving my point.Tomahawk is a form of battle axe and indeed there is another missile type called the Battleaxe missile. I would never imagine Kiowa and Blackhawk as being stereotypically savage and the others historically embodied strength. Apart from anything they are great sounding names. But yes as I said a lot of room for debate over the use of these names but the comparison in the image you shared to me seems rather manipulative.The Plains tribes in general, including the Kiowa, represent the stereotypical savage to most Americans.

The Comanche and Iroquois helicopters further demonstrate that the Army is honoring tribes known for aggression or violence, not just "strength" or "courage."

Strength, in particular, has nothing to do with fighting ability. Buddha, Jesus, and Martin Luther King were strong. Mothers who raise children in the face of adversity are strong. Let's name helicopters after them if we want to honor strength.

Other views

A few others chimed in:Gag. These are the same excuses used to justify the usage of Indians, and Redskins. Not okay for cars or helicopters or missiles or team names. #PeopleNotMascots

I completely agree, let them name some other people helicopters, missiles...etc.
We are not decals, toys and icons.
We are people and it is about time we are treated as such!
For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

Below:  Six copters named after tribes and one named after a snake.

May 20, 2015

Eisenberg's "squaw and chief" bit

Five Racist Ways The New Yorker is Embarrassing Itself

By Aura BogadoFor the "Shouts & Murmurs" humor column in its May 25th issue, The New Yorker presents “Men and Dancing,” a collection of four absurd dialogues written by actor and playwright Jesse Eisenberg. In each dialogue someone is pressuring a man to perform a dance that is part of his job and the man makes every excuse in the book to avoid doing so. For example, a quarterback presses a wide receiver to do a touchdown dance and a royal aide pushes a court jester to dance for the king.

The first dialogue—where an imaginary Native "squaw" insists that her "chief" perform a rain dance to help their starving tribe's crops grow—is deeply troubling.
No Joke: New Yorker Published a Squaw-and-Chief Bit by Jesse EisenbergThere are all sorts of problems with this characterization of Native Americans—and there's a big problem with the use of the word "squaw," which we thought everyone understood was a racial slur. Aura Bogado makes it plain and simple in her Colorlines piece "Five Racist Ways The New Yorker is Embarrassing Itself."

Eisenberg's bit about Natives displays all the enlightenment of a Tintin comic book or an early Popeye cartoon—but those cringe-inducing products of their time were made over 80 years ago. To see The New Yorker print the word "squaw" like it's just another noun, here in the year 2015, is a reminder that even the smartest guys on the newsstand can still be fairly dumb when it comes to Native stereotyping.
Jesse Eisenberg learns zero lessons from Adam Sandler fiasco: “Two Dogs could do a great rain dance”

The actor and frequent New Yorker contributor's Shouts & Murmurs column is being criticized for racist jokes

By Erin Keane
The depths to which the New Yorker might sink when it comes to appeasing celebrities who want to place their creative work in the venerable magazine’s pages, especially the fiction section and humor columns, have yet to be fully plumbed, but sometimes they get it right. Not this week, though—Jesse Eisenberg’s “Men and Dancing” piece in Shouts & Murmurs, four vignettes explaining just how much some men dread dancing in public, is the dreaded double-whammy of barely-funny meets actually offensive. A quarter of his piece traffics heavily—and wholly unnecessarily—in racist stereotypes about Native Americans, and the fact that this scene of a “Squaw” urging an unnamed chief to perform a rain dance even made it to print is either a truly spectacular act of cynical Shouts & Murmurs celebrity column trolling, or total editorial cluelessness.Actor Jesse Eisenberg called out for using the term 'squaw' in The New Yorker

'What year is it @NewYorker? Your racism is circa 1930's,' tweeter Jamie Wilson writes

By Kim Wheeler
Wab Kinew @WabKinew
Hey @NewYorker love your magazine, but hate the fact you used the slur "Squaw" in an attempt at a humour column

Hayden King @Hayden_King
In all the vacuous, ignorant writing on squaws, Chiefs and rain dancing, this is exceptional. Top notch, @NewYorker.
Eisenberg's squaw and chief schtick a teachable moment

'Historical ignorance only goes so far,' says professor Marlene Atleo

By Wawmeesh G. Hamilton
Just because actor Jesse Eisenberg didn`t know the history of the word 'squaw,' doesn't mean he is excused for using it, Marlene Atleo said.Comment:  For more on "squaw," see Cultural Appropriation for Halloween 2014 and Republican: Only Good Indian Is Dead.

May 19, 2015

Biloxi Indian: Problem is "headdress"

The Biloxi "Indians" controversy is still simmering.

Local Tribe Pulled into Mascot Controversy

Pierite says stereotyping--not name--is the problem

By Raymond L. Daye
As of last week, tribal officials had released no official comment on the matter, but were discussing a response to release to the public.

However, tribal member Michael Pierite--son of first tribal chairman Joseph Pierite Jr. and grandson of last traditional chief Joseph Pierite Sr.--did consent to share his personal opinion on the matter. He and his wife Donna stressed that they speak only for themselves and their family, and not in any official capacity for the tribe.

“I don’t mind that the Biloxi Tribe is used as the mascot for Biloxi High School,” Pierite said. “I just don’t like that they are inaccurately depicting our tribe.”

The problem, in one word, is “headdress.”
Pierite explains what he meant:“The problem is stereotypes,” Pierite continued. “In the movies of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, it didn’t matter what tribe was in the movie, they all had full headdresses. Hollywood didn’t worry about accuracy. Later, the movies started becoming more accurate in their depiction of the various tribes--like Last of the Mohicans.”

Pierite said the word “Indians” is “just a word. It’s the name of their team. That’s okay. It’s the stereotyping that is not okay.”

Pierite said he has not kept up with the controversy in Biloxi, but has heard that comments on both sides of the issue have boiled over somewhat.

“I guess what I would have to say is, I can’t force people to change their minds about a particular race of people, but at least I can try to get them to see what they are doing is not right," he said.

"You see, people may say that ‘words don’t hurt,’ but words do hurt. They can hurt a lot,” Pierite said. “If they stereotype my people, my tribe, then that hurts me, too. I don’t want to be viewed as some cartoon Indian character.”
Comment:  So two actual Biloxi Indians have said the Biloxi "Indians" are stereotypical and Thus wrong. I wonder how many it'll take before the school gets the message.

For more on the subject, see Indians Aren't "Indian Enough" for Biloxi and Biloxi Indian Criticizes Biloxi "Indians."

May 18, 2015

DeLanna Studi's dream project

Actress DeLanna Studi is working on her dream project--namely:

Trail of Tears Road Trip: And So We Walked

A father/daughter journey along the Trail of Tears, retracing the footsteps of their family.As a Cherokee citizen, actress and writer, I have always wanted to travel in my ancestors’ footsteps along the Trail of Tears and find a way to share this legacy and the impact it has on all of us. This June, my father and I will travel the Northern Route collecting stories and insights of the communities along the way. It’s a tale about a road trip, family, heritage, and an inside perspective on a forgotten part of our shared American history.You can read more about the trip, and watch it unfold, here:

And So We Walked: An Artist's Journey Along the Trail of Tears

Comment:  I posted the Indiegogo link a few times, and put together the following graphic in Photoshop:

Not a bad job, if I do say so myself.

For more on the Trail of Tears, see Review of How I Became a Ghost and Review of Heape's Trail of Tears.

May 17, 2015

Stereotypes turn Indians invisible

In response to Ecoffey's and Davies's downplaying of racism, I posted:

How do people not get this? Mascots and stereotypes => no understanding of Indian country => lack of laws, services, jobs, etc.

The following article explains the direct connection between stereotypical thinking and lack of philanthropy:

Implicit Bias and Native Americans: Philanthropy’s Hidden MinorityAccording to Michael Roberts, a member of the Tlingit tribe and president of First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit institution and grantmaker that has been a fixture in philanthropy for almost 35 years:

“I would say that American Indians are mostly invisible to philanthropy, and where there is some semblance of awareness, that there is definitely implicit bias. [For] most foundation program officers, most of what they know is what they were taught in school. Generally, Indians are examined in one of two ways, that they are either relics of the past (lived in tipis, hunted buffalo and were either savages or at one with nature; the mythical Indian), or that the study of them is like a tourist visiting a culture.”

Rick Williams, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and former president of the American Indian College Fund, the largest and arguably one of the most successful Native nonprofits, noted:

“The current myth of wealthy Indians not needing help relates directly to misguided media presenting only information about [Native] nations that have done well financially and have casinos. The other myth is that we no longer exist. And if we do exist, it is easy to ignore our plight. Implicit bias carries all the stereotypes and subconsciously influences one’s actions. I often see/feel that bias even when it is unintended or sublimely disguised.”
The invisibility problem is closely related to the issue of stereotypes. How? As many have said, people expect Indians to look like savages--dressed in leathers and feathers, living in teepees, etc. When they don't see any stereotypical savages, they assume Indians are dead and gone. They overlook the modern-day Indians all around them--thus rendering them invisible.

Going back to Ecoffey and Davies...if my formulation doesn't explain the lack of laws, services, and jobs, what does?

A paucity of media coverage? Who's been running newspapers such as the Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, and Native Sun News for the past few decades? Not me. If the operators are incompetent as journalists, how is that anyone else's problem?

Again, are Ecoffey and Davies seriously arguing that two weeks of Adam Sandler coverage is responsible for a century of the "Indian plight"? What, was the NY Times about to print a killer expose of the problems? And it got bumped because of Sandler?

How stupid can you get? Like other pop controversies, the Sandler coverage only increases awareness of Indians. Therefore, it's good, not bad.


For more on the invisibility of Indians, see America Constructed to Erase Indians and Tarantino: "Indians Have More or Less Disappeared."

May 16, 2015

Rep. Sanchez makes "war whoop"

Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez appears to disparage American Indians

At California Democratic Party convention, Senate candidate makes whooping gesture Attorney General Kamala Harris calls it ‘shocking’ Sanchez would not say if gesture was an appropriate one

By Christopher Cadelago and David Siders
Two days after entering the race for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Loretta Sanchez met with an Indian American group on Saturday and mimicked a racial stereotype of American Indians.

In a video shown to The Sacramento Bee and posted online shortly after, Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, describes a pending meeting she had with an East Indian.

“I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a,” she said, holding her hand in front of her mouth and making an echo sound. “Right? ... because he said Indian American.

“And I go in there and it was great. It was just great because he said ‘I want to get my community involved.’ Involved. And that was the first time that we saw the Indian American community really come. ...”

Kamala Harris calls Loretta Sanchez's Native American 'war cry' shocking

By Peter JamisonU.S. Senate candidate and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was at a loss for words Saturday when told that her principal opponent, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana, had been videotaped making a joke about the difference between Indian Americans and Native Americans in which she tapped her hand to her mouth in imitation of a "war cry."

"I don’t know what to say to that. That–that–that’s shocking," Harris said, raising her eyebrows in disbelief when the comments were shared with her after an afternoon news conference. "That’s shocking," she repeated.

Sanchez made the controversial comments while speaking to the Indian-American caucus at a restaurant near the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday. A video of her gaffe made the rounds on Twitter and YouTube and quickly became the talk of the California Democratic Convention and wasn't helped by the curious explanation Sanchez offered after the fact.

She said the joke concerned her confusion over whether a potential campaign supporter she spoke to on the phone was Native American or Indian American.
Senate candidate apologises for Native American 'war cry' in California

By Jon SwaineA California congresswoman has been sharply criticised for making a stereotypical “war cry” sound when referring to Native Americans at a political meeting.

Loretta Sanchez, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in next year’s open US Senate race in California, was recorded on a cellphone video tapping her hand over her open mouth while whooping, during a talk at the California Democratic Party convention on Saturday. On Sunday, she apologised.

Speaking to delegates, the 10-term congresswoman said she had said something offensive “and for that I sincerely apologise.”

Sanchez defended her record on civil rights, human rights and Native American rights. She also said American Indians had “a great presence in our country and many of them are supporting our election.”
Congresswoman First Dodges Reporters, Then Apologizes for Making Indian 'War Whoop'

By Simon Moya-SmithThe man who filmed Sanchez said people in the room were taken aback by Sanchez's offensive gesture.

“I was shocked and appalled that she’d make the disparaging comments about Native Americans that way,” Uduak-Joe Ntuke of Long Beach, California told NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA.

Joe Horse Capture, who is A’aninin and based in Washington, D.C., told ICTMN he finds it concerning that a congresswoman who wishes to represent a state with a large Native American population lacks “the basic understanding of Native American culture – what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”

Horse Capture said Sanchez’s claim that she is part Native American is trite, since many who are caught offending Native Americans later claim to have some indigenous North American heritage.

“And what people often do when they find themselves in a culturally inappropriate circumstance is they claim that they‘re Native American,” Horse Capture said. “Of course if she were actually tied to her Native American culture and practiced her heritage she would know better.”
Below:  Kamala Harris.

Indians aren't amused

POLITICS: Inland Native American leaders outraged at Loretta Sanchez's ‘war cry'

By David Olson“We are deeply disappointed that a ten-term Member of Congress and a candidate for U.S. Senate in a state as diverse as California would demonstrate such poor judgment and deeply offensive behavior,” Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, said in a statement.

“In one of our state’s highest offices, the people of California deserve a Senator who is a leader on issues of equality; and we expect that the sincerity of Ms. Sanchez's apology will be evident in her future conduct should her campaign move forward. We would expect that Ms. Sanchez, who claims Native American ancestry, will demonstrate greater respect for California’s native people and join us to denounce stereotyping in all forms.”

Mary Ann Andreas, chairwoman of the California Democratic Party’s Native American Caucus and former chairwoman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, said in a statement released with other officials from the caucus that “recent comments and mimicking of a cliché Indian war cry can only be described as insensitive and insulting.”

Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, told the Los Angeles Times in an email Sunday that Sanchez “knows better, and we are very disappointed.”
'War cry' gaffe may deter donations to Loretta Sanchez's campaign

By Michael FinneganFor Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman who has never run for statewide office, the main problem now will be less with voters than with potential donors. Her campaign could require $20 million or more, all of it in donations of no more than $2,700, the federal limit.

Harris, who romped to reelection in November, has a head start in fundraising and endorsements, along with the experience of running twice for statewide office—all of which effectively makes her an early front-runner, said Rose Kapolczynski, who managed Boxer's four Senate campaigns.

"There's a flow in a primary," said Kapolczynski, who is unaligned in next year's Senate contest. "As the front-runner gains support, support begets support. Support begets money. Money begets money. And Loretta needs to disrupt that dynamic in order to have a chance."

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro hinted Sunday that Sanchez's remark had harmed her longstanding ties with Native Americans, a major source of money in state and federal campaigns.
Nobody's perfect

Neither Sanchez nor Harris is perfect when it comes to Native issues:

Statement Concerning California Senate Candidates From Democratic Party Native American Caucus Chairwoman Mary Ann Andreas, Vice Chairman Andrew Maisel and Board MembersThe California Democratic Party Native American Caucus has deep concerns regarding the actions of both declared candidates running for Senate in California.

We are dismayed by the lack of sensitivity to tribal issues and to Native Americans as individuals that we see in our announced candidates. Their comments and actions provide little assurance that they grasp the government-to-government relationship guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In the case of U.S. Representative and candidate Loretta Sanchez, her recent comments and mimicking of a cliché Indian war cry can only be described as insensitive and insulting. The remarks were made at a private meeting not a Native American Caucus event as reported by members of the media. However, these comments coming from a longtime friend makes it doubly difficult.

In the case of candidate Kamala Harris, she has chosen to ignore the federal policy and legal findings of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Interior in a case concerning California lands held by the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT). Despite existing federal policy, without any effort to discuss the issue with CRIT and without concern to the facts, Attorney General Harris filed an amicus brief supporting an individual trespassing on tribal lands who refused to pay rent to the tribe. This person is suing the tribe because he was evicted from the land on which he was squatting.

California has benefitted from the presence and activism of Senator Barbara Boxer in her distinguished career in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. The interests of all Californians, especially Native Americans, have been well served by her genuine efforts to learn about the first Americans and then to fight for their basic rights of self governance and self determination.

We are disappointed in the apparent lack of sensitivity and awareness that our current Senate candidates have for Native Americans. We extend an invitation to both Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Harris to personally meet with our California Native American Caucus and tribal leaders. They both should treat this as a learning opportunity and begin learning our history, our cultures and our issues. Without such an effort, we cannot expect informed decision-making and fair representation.
In her Native Appropriations blog, Adrienne Keene rightly links the recent gaffes by Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Loretta Sanchez:

When you’re invisible, every representation matters: Political edition

By Adrienne K.In an oft-repeated refrain on le blog, I say again: How can we expect support for our sovereignty, our tribally controlled schools, healthcare, and housing, our environmental concerns, our children, our women, our elders, or our land if 90% of America, including our government officials, only see us as these narrow stereotypes? When you’re invisible in society (which carries through to congress–only 2 Native people in the 115th congress), every representation matters. Clearly, our politicians aren’t immune to these deep-seated stereotypes, and this isn’t something minor that can just be shrugged off. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer the leader of the United States not blatantly frame Native peoples as the “bad guys” before he/she even steps into office.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Brown Staffers Whoop and Chop and Whooping "Indians" at 2011 Stanford Powwow.

May 15, 2015

Ecoffey and Davies downplay racism

A couple of Native journalist took activists like me to task for focusing on "minor" issues such as Adam Sandler's racist movie. Round 1:

Evaluating our priorities in the Native media

A note from the editor’s desk

By Brandon Ecoffey
Over the past couple of weeks social media has been going absolutely nuts over an incident involving a group of Native actors walking off a Adam Sandler run movie set due to their objections to the famous actor’s grotesque depictions of Native people and culture. Although I applaud the courage of these Native actors to risk being black balled by Hollywood due to their protest, I do not understand why this particular story gained so much traction when there are real and far more pressing issues on reservations that the Native media has brushed aside.

Where is the outrage over our young people dying weekly? Where is the outrage over the absence of any type of functioning economy on reservations? Where is the outrage over the fact that many many children in Indian Country do not have access to safe drinking water? These are third-world issues that are pushed to the back page in favor of stories about people dressing up like Indians, or acting like us, or doing whatever it is that they do.

Many say that the misappropriation of our culture impacts the self-esteem and self-image of our Native youth. This may be true. But what impacts those aspects of our children even more is waking up to homes filled with mold, or abusive parents, or extreme poverty resulting from decades upon decades of failed federal policies and exploitation at the hands of predatory investors.

Although I agree that cultural appropriation is wrong I would just hope that others in the Native news industry reassess their priorities and react accordingly.
My response:

"Where is the outrage over our young people dying weekly?" It's hidden by the invisibility of Natives in the mainstream media. This invisibility is shredded when an issue such as Sandler's racist movie gains traction.

Ripping apart this cloak of invisibility is a necessary precursor to generating outrage about endangered Native children. If no one knows they exist, there can be no outrage.

The MSM's choice isn't between covering the Sandler controversy and covering endangered Native children. It's between covering the Sandler controversy and doing nothing.

Only after that, when people become more aware of Indian country's ongoing problems, will the MSM turn its focus to them. Awareness comes first, and the Sandler controversy has helped raise that awareness.

Others chimed in:Rob Schmidt hit the nail on the head.

I'm sorry but many of us are outraged by all those issues as well. Many of us are fighting to better our communities also. I get so upset hearing Native people saying things like this because it makes the fight harder for ALL Native issues. We shouldn't be picking and choosing what issue to fight but we should be upset and fighting on all fronts!

You can do both. I work with Native health but still think mascots et al. are whack and should be eliminated.
Right. Most of us are just reading and sharing articles. Even if you're deeply into these issues, they take up only 5% or so of your time. The rest of the time, you're working on whatever it is that you consider important.Hi. I just read the article and your question, so I'd like to share my perspective, at least in terms of mascots. A friend once said something similar. "We have more important issues to address," but it is my belief that this is one of the reasons that we have so many other issues to contend with. The dehumanizing effects of misrepresentation of our people via mascots and the various forms of appropriation have been effective enough to impact the way society views us. This in turn makes it so much easier for mainstream society to turn a blind eye to our multifaceted challenges. The cage of oppression consists of many wires, but in addressing the symptoms, we must also be diligent in addressing the root cause.
Round 2

Another column from the Native Sun News telling us that movies, mascots, and related issues are a waste of time:

Indian Country must face the man in the mirror

Stop being thin-skinned busybodies

By James Giago Davies
Instead of focusing on every perceived slight, why not pour all that energy into the actual nuts and bolts reality plaguing almost every reservation—violence, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse. Face these ugly truths, fight these ugly realities, honor the actual heroes, point fingers at the actual villains, and then if you have any energy left, and you damn well shouldn’t have energy left, knock yourself out being all offended over Johnny Depp’s Tonto.

Acculturation has left Indian America with deep, debilitating wounds, and these wounds compel Indians to hurt other Indians, to create bogeymen to hate and attack so they don’t have to face the man in the mirror. There are plenty of actual evil people hating on Indians, we don’t have to fabricate fresh ones to deflect our righteous indignation from the disheartening task of fixing what’s actually broken.

Indian culture has been oppressed to the point Indians no longer need the Wasicu to beat them down. Indians have spent the last century becoming experts at beating themselves down. Time to man up and start living in the 21st Century. Time to develop the skills and knowledge to protect the culture from destructive outside forces like Rand Paul, who wants to abolish the BIA, and even more destructive internal forces, misguided spiritual leaders, corrupt tribal administrations, bad parents neglecting and terrorizing vulnerable children.

If we could just spend one year doing that, then we would have the social gravitas forcing others to listen, then when Bill Maher said another stupid thing about Indians...well, he never would again say such a stupid thing, because it would be common knowledge all you crazy Indians are as funny as all get-out.
I posted comments to Davies's column, leading to this debate with him:

Isn't Tim Giago a big advocate of eliminating stereotypical mascots? Which is the same issue as eliminating stereotypical movie portrayals. Have you told him to stop wasting his time on "trivial" issues--to "man up and start living in the 21st Century"?

Go ahead and tell him, then let us know what he says. Maybe he can explain the importance of fighting racism and stereotyping against Indians. Because clearly he understands the issue.

Are you seriously arguing that most Indians are focusing on Johnny Depp and Adam Sandler rather than the serious problems facing Indian country? Because it's the other way around, obviously.

A century of addressing these problems has yet to fully solve them. That's partly because most people think Indians have vanished into history.

And that's because of media portrayals--or the lack thereof. No one cares about Indians because movies such as Depp's and Sandler's tell us they're primitive people of the past. As far as most Americans are concerned, Indians and their problems no longer exist.I don't think you actually know anything about Indians, or growing up on welfare and food stamps in an Indian ghetto. Check it out.I know what Tim Giago has said about Hollywood's racism and stereotyping:

Tim Giago: Few Roles for Indians in Hollywood

Giago: Hollywood slow to tear down racist barriers against

He's argubly the most famous journalist in Indian country, and he's spent decades on these issues. I'm guessing he knows more about growing up Indian than you do.

Didn't you just spend a few hours writing about a racist nurse's video in Rapid City? How many Natives did you rescue from welfare and food stamps with that column? Why are you wasting time writing about a video when Native children are suffering and dying?

Unless you're delivering food and medicine yourself, don't bother lecturing anyone else on the subject. Nobody who's a journalist is saving lives directly.

More criticism of Davies

I love the idea of writers lecturing other writers about the pressing needs facing Indian country. If you believe what you're saying, Davies, stop writing and start helping. Get away from your computer. Get out of journalism altogether.

Instead, become a social worker. Go door to door bringing food and medicine to suffering people. Because if you don't do that, you're a flaming hypocrite.

To state the obvious, your words aren't saving lives. Therefore, quit wasting your time lecturing us about our words.

Again, others chimed in:I'll be damned if my girls or nieces have to put up with gross 'jokes' on the playground from boys who learned that those are funny things to say to native women. In this particular article, Mr. Davies forgets the fact that he is not a native kid in school and those are the people that will have to put up with the reintroduction of these disgusting stereotypes. It's already hard being a kid with a Native last name, without Adam Sandler adding fuel to the 'OMG Indian names are soooo funny and weird' fire.

There are many ways to help, and many means, if everyone would just do a little or lot wherever they are planted. If everyone quits their job to bring food and medicine to the suffering, they are gonna run out of food and medicine pretty quick. But there is always someone to help, wherever you are--journalism, computer, reserve, city core, or grocery store. (And part of life is also using what gifts and tools you have to hand and have been given, in the best way you can…to help not hurt.)

As I said, you can do both. ... I work with ancestral foods as a health measure, since we have terrible diabetes rates (and everything else) and we didn't have these rates pre-commodities. I'm putting work into improving Native health and infrastructure, but that's not easy or quick. But while I'm helping rebuild, I'd like for people to not continue to get dehumanized and made into jokes by the likes of Adam Sandler.

That’s what cracks me up about people like this Davies fellow. He’s complaining about how we are not focusing on the “real” issues, yet I wonder if he is doing anything about those issues himself? He seems pretty content to sit on his ass and belittle other Natives on the computer.
All the academics, the museum personnel, the people working on cultural and language preservation, the artists and storytellers...none of you are saving lives directly. All of you must be wasting time, according to Ecoffey and Davies. Reevaluate your priorities!

Not to mention the 70% of Indians who live away from the reservation. Whatever you're doing, you're probably not protecting the endangered children of Pine Ridge. What's wrong with you? Don't you care?!

</sarcasm>I think we should be allowed to punch ANY idiot who pulls the 'more important issues' crap.Yes, the "more important things" argument is so stupid. It's mainly used to derail whatever issue is being discussed.

If you can't address the issue, spend an hour telling us what we should be doing instead. What you'd be doing if you weren't lecturing us about what we're doing.Y'know, I would love to hear Suzan Harjo's response to these "more important issues" Native guys who literally act like this is a brand new issue. Or Clyde Bellecourt or Kevin Gover's response. I mean, it's been tackled by every major NA organization since the 1960s. It's like this has caught them by surprise. Where have they been for 50 years? Or how can they dismiss the persistent and constant efforts of our leaders?Good point. Tribal leaders have protested movie portrayals for a century. AIM and the NCAI have protested mascots for half a century. Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather, Pocahontas, the Time magazine "expose" of casinos, Little House on the Prairie, the Outkast video, etc., etc.

In fact, I could list hundreds of controversies and protests without even touching the last ten years. Including those of Tim Giago, uncle of James Giago Davies, who's denounced boarding schools, mascots, and other examples of racism for decades. You could say Giago's whole career has been "talking" about problems rather than solving them hands-on.

It's just so laughable when someone says, "Why are you focusing on this 'trivial' Adam Sandler issue? None of our people ever cared about racism or discrimination against us. We were too busy saving lives.

"Now you've hijacked the news and nobody's talking about anything but Sandler. All the resources devoted to dying children are going to him instead. The media and the government would be swarming over Pine Ridge, but you've told them 'real life' doesn't matter. So a century of neglect is your fault."

As I said, this is stupid and ignorant. Funny to hear Indians dismiss or downplay racism as a serious issue confronting their people. Funny, but wrong.

For more rationalizations for racism, see Black Columnist Excuses "Redskins," Genocide and Shawnee Professor Justifies Tonto's Stereotypes.

May 14, 2015

Rubio ignorant of US history

Marco Rubio doesn't know about America's history with Native Americans

By Scott SuttonSometimes politicians tweet helpful and insightful things. Other times, they tweet things that are regrettable at best and in denial of history at worst.

A tweet from 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) early Wednesday afternoon fits into that latter category.

You can see the tweet below, which we took a screenshot of because it seems destined for deletion.
Gawker may have summed it up best with the snarky (and 100 percent correct) headline “Marco Rubio Remembers the Trail of Tears.”

Here’s what they had to say about the tweet:The conservative estimate of the US Native American population before the arrival of European settlers was over 12 million. Today, that number has been reduced by 95 percent.Here’s a quick list of just a few times America has been engaged in armed conflict in order to expand its territory:

Northwest Indian War
Winnebago War
Patriot War
Mexican-American War
Apache Wars
Puget Sound Wars
Utah War
Great Sioux War of 1786
Second Samoan Civil War
We didn’t even get into the 20th century with that list.
My tweeted response to Rubio:

BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics May 14
BlueCornComics retweeted Marco Rubio

Except for killing the Indians, adding slave states, taking land from Mexico, etc. How ignorant can @marcorubio get?

Who exactly was gaining freedom when the US expanded into Indian territory? Not the Indians, obviously. The settlers? If you define "freedom" as freely taking things from others, I guess.

In this context, the US is roughly like a bank robber. The criminal gains more "freedom"--more opportunity to live high on the hog--after he robs a bank. The stolen wealth increases his ability to act.

Only problem is, it decreases the freedom of those who were robbed. Their opportunities are limited by their loss of wealth. Whether it's buying goods such as food and medicine or services such as education, they have fewer choices.

When we're talking about fixed assets such as land, this is pretty much a zero-sum game. White men win, Indians lose. More "freedom" for some means less freedom for others.

At least Rubio is consistent, I guess. Like other conservatives, his political career is all about increasing the wealth "freedom" of rich white folks. He accomplishes this by cutting services to and raising taxes on poor brown folks.

"Expanding freedom" for the rich by contracting freedom for the poor...that could be the Republican slogan for 2016. Thanks for nothing, Rubio.

For more on America's colonizing efforts, see Debating Professor Grundy's Tweets and America Constructed to Erase Indians.