May 06, 2016

Artist inserts himself in ledger paintings

An odd story about non-Native artist Scott Seekins. Among other things, he does ledger-style paintings and inserts himself into the scenes:

Scott Seekins' Great Sioux Uprising series draws ire from Native community

By Erica RiveraOver the weekend, backlash ignited on the show’s Facebook event page, where the header image, drawn in the style of ledger art, features Seekins in his signature white suit, hands raised. He is standing before a Native man on horseback who wears a headdress and is armed with a bow and arrows. A white soldier lies bleeding from the head on the ground, gun in hand.

In the discussion section of the event page, commenters have accused Seekins of cultural appropriation, calling the exhibition “problematic” and “tone-deaf.” Several people have requested via Facebook, email, and phone that the gallery cancel the show.
Gallery under fire over use of Native American imagery

Seekins says his doppelgänger is bearing witness to history. Others say he's glorifying himself at the expense of his subjects.

A couple of weeks later, the criticism continued:

“This is art about genocide” Native community pushes back against Scott Seekins

I agree with the critics. The paintings already "bear witness" to historical events. Seekins's insertion of himself doesn't improve the message or add value. A modern white guy sees a 150-year-old battle...so what?

May 03, 2016

Natives respond to Clinton's "off the reservation"

Some Native responses to Clinton's "off the reservation" remark:

Mark Charles: Presidential candidates haven't learned from our genocidal past

‘Off the Reservation’–A Teachable Moment

By Suzan Shown HarjoDirector Kevin Gover (Pawnee) of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian posted this on Facebook: "Please, everybody, and especially anyone who works with politicians. Could we get them to stop using this phrase?"

After Trump’s “wild” Indians remark, Gover posted: “See how easily, how casually, the discourse devolves to racist stereotype? Clinton says ‘off the reservation’ and Trump talks about ‘wild’ Indians. It's late in the day for this kind of race talk.”
Plus more analyses of the phrase:

‘Off the Reservation’ Is a Phrase With a Dark Past

Should Saying Someone Is 'Off The Reservation' Be Off-Limits?

Comment:  For more on "off the reservation," see Is "Off the Reservation" Offensive?

UNM seal protests continue

The student protests of the University of New Mexico's seal continue:

Abolish the Racist Univ. of New Mexico Seal

Native American students hold rally, demanding UNM’s seal be abolished

Protesters confront UNM leader over seal

Finally, university officials respond to the controversy:

University president doesn't see seal that excludes Native people as racist

Protest of UNM official seal attracting attention from administrators

Meanwhile, myopic Latinos refuse to acknowledge the indigenous part of their heritage:

Latino students at N.M. University upset over possible revision of Spanish seal

Because having a European or white heritage is better, I guess.

April 29, 2016

California rejects "John Wayne Day"

John Wayne's negative views about tribes resurface in California debate

Was John Wayne Racist? California Democrats Refuse to Honor Film Star Because of White Supremacy Views

By Cristina SilvaAn effort to declare May 26 John Wayne Day in California was defeated in the Assembly Thursday after lawmakers denounced the international movie icon as a racist. Several members said the state shouldn't honor the film star famous for his roles in Hollywood Westerns and war movies because he made racist comments about minority groups and supported the anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society.Comment:  For more on John Wayne, see America Changed with Davy Crockett and "I Thought John Wayne Killed You All."

Clinton's "off the reservation" remark

Hillary Clinton went off-script with an off-the-cuff remark about Indians:

Hillary Clinton’s “Off the Reservation” Comments Raises Eyebrows Among American Indians"I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak," said Clinton.Because she's the presidential frontrunner, reactions came swiftly:

Sanders Supporter Nina Turner: Hillary Used 'Terrible' Term When She Said 'Off the Reservation'

Trump Has Gone 'Off the Reservation,' Clinton Says; Sanders Campaign Calls the Comment 'Disappointing'

An explanation of why the phrase is bad:



Comment:  For more on "off the reservation," see Is "Off the Reservation" Offensive?

April 25, 2016

Webb defends Jackson's genocidal actions

Following up on the decision to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, former senator Jim Webb tried to defend Andrew Jackson.

Jim Webb claims uninformed 'political correctness' used to denigrate Andrew Jackson

By Meteor Blades

Webb's claim:Robert Remini, Jackson’s most prominent biographer, wrote that his intent was to end the increasingly bloody Indian Wars and to protect the Indians from certain annihilation at the hands of an ever-expanding frontier population.The reality:As for Jackson’s alleged desire to protect the Indians from clashes with whites, it should not be forgotten that the forcible cession of millions of acres of Indian land was one of Jackson’s claims to fame. He did it to make space for white settlers throughout the South and for his personal profit in the real estate boom that followed the Indians’ ceding of land at gunpoint.

When the Tennessee River Valley in what is now Alabama was ceded, Jackson and his favored pals took 45,000 acres for themselves. As Steve Innskeep pointed out last year, “Jackson both created and scored in the greatest real estate bubble in the history of the United States up to that time.”

Indians who had allied themselves with Jackson in the so-called Red Stick Creek War were much praised by him, but when they later sought government payment for losses incurred in their support of Jackson, he told the secretary of war that their claims were a “complete tissue of groundless falsehood.”
Comment:  Give Webb a Stereotype of the Month nomination for his ignorance of the definition of genocide, and for minimizing Jackson's genocidal actions. Removing the Indians was about stealing their land and eliminating them, not keeping them from harm.

Republican: Natives "predisposed to alcoholism"

'I Am Very Sorry': House Rep. Apologizes for Comment About Native Americans, Alcoholism

By Simon Moya-SmithA Republican in Oklahoma who made headlines last week when he said Native Americans are "predisposed to alcoholism" emphatically apologized Monday, and said his statement was based on "outdated information."

House Representative Todd Russ made the controversial comment on April 21 during a debate on a proposed expansion of liquor and strong beer sales at grocery and convenience stores in the state.

In an email to ICTMN on Monday, Rep. Russ recalled a torrent of pain and loss alcoholism has caused his family, and as consequence of that he said, "I let my emotions cloud my thoughts and words."

April 20, 2016

Tubman replaces Jackson on $20

The news that the US would place Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill and move Andrew Jackson to the back triggered a variety of responses.

Predictably, racist conservatives cried over the loss of one of their white male icons:

“We need Trump to stop all the PC crap”: Right-wing reaction to the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is (another) new low

Trump on Tubman: "pure political correctness." Trump on Jackson: "tremendous success."

The Best Conservative Reactions To Tubman Bumping Jackson From $20 Bill

Ann Coulter needs to stop: She and the rest of the clueless conservatives need to quit moaning about replacing Jackson with Tubman on $20 bill

Non-racists weigh in

Meanwhile, anyone with a cursory knowledge of history explained why Jackson should be banished:

Andrew Jackson was a slaver, ethnic cleanser, and tyrant. He deserves no place on our money.

Why Andrew Jackson never should have been on the $20 to begin with

Harriet Tubman to Share $20 Bill with President Who Called for Some Abolitionists to 'Atone ... With Their Lives'

Tubman’s In. Jackson’s Out. What’s It Mean?

Stop clinging to the Founding Fathers: The Andrew Jackson/Hamilton/Tubman debate is really about honest history

While others challenged the conservatives' blatant racism:

They only want to honor white men: The pathetic conservative meltdown over the Harriet Tubman $20 bill exposes the right’s petty identity politics

5 Questions for People Who Are Outraged Over Harriet Tubman on our $20 Bill

Natives approve

Natives overwhelming applauded the downgrading of the infamous Indian killer:

Native Americans applaud removing Jackson from $20 bill
4/21

But some wondered why Jackson wasn't paired with a famous Indian chief--since he's perhaps best-known for instigating the Trail of Tears:

A Native American Chief Should Have Replaced Andrew Jackson on the $20

For more on the subject, see Stanford Cancels Bloody Jackson Play and Indians on US Bank Notes.

Lottery ad portrays uninhabited Oregon

Coquille Tribe slams 'Lewis and Clark' campaign for Oregon LotteryThe Coquille Tribe is calling on the Oregon Lottery to stop running a Lewis and Clark-themed advertising campaign.

The spots depict explorers Lewis and Clark, and even an animated bear, "discovering" gaming machines in the wild. Chairwoman Brenda Meade said the ads falsely portray Oregon as a place devoid of tribal people.

"Amid Oregon's natural splendor, they encounter video lottery machines, which are described as 'native' to Oregon," Meade wrote in a a letter on Tuesday. "But this fictional Oregon is land without Indians--an empty wilderness, ripe for economic exploitation, with no competition from indigenous people."
A couple of follow-ups:

Lewis and Clark discovered—video gambling?

Oregon Lottery ad campaign pulled following criticism from Coquille Tribe

April 18, 2016

Pow Wow Fried stereotypes Indians

Bandon's Pow Wow Fried name causes controversy. Should it?

Food truck owner threatened with lawsuit because name could be offensive to Native Americans

By Amy Moss Strong
A woman in Port Orford, who is not Native American, drove by and the name and logo struck her. The logo depicts a child in a Native American headdress and clothing, standing next to a teepee. The words "Pow Wow Fried" are woven into the artwork.

The woman who complained, Sarah Molloy, thought it might be perceived as offensive to Native Americans, so she went on Facebook, found a group for Native Americans and posed her question: "Pow Wow Fried is a food truck run by a white woman who ate fry bread tacos at a pow wow and started her business recently. The name strikes me as not so respectful to natives and her logo seems rather stereotypical."
And:Klein said she only means to honor Native Americans by making delicious food. Though her family's background is European, she spent many years in Reno near the Washoe Tribe and drove school bus for the Washoe County School District. After several years in the district, a Native American friend taught her how to make fry bread.

"What have I done to hurt anyone?" Klein asked. "I'm not making fun of them. It was never my intention to do anything derogatory to Native Americans. I just opened a business and what they are trying to do could put me out of business. It would cost a lot to replace all my signage and flyers."
Comment:  A tiny tot in a headdress is an honor? And not derogatory? Guess again.

Klein learned from the Washoe Tribe of Nevada, but she's "honoring" them with phony symbols from the Great Plains, a thousand miles away. That makes sense only if she stupidly thinks all Indians are the same.

As my comments suggest, I think the artwork is the problem, not the name. If Klein hadn't gone with the stereotypical images, I doubt anyone would care about the name.

Winged monkeys = Indians?

Winged MonkeysAccording to some writers, the Winged Monkeys of Oz represent Native Americans in the West in the late 1800s. Baum himself had clear attitudes toward American Indians and some of his earlier writings about Indians are very similar to his descriptions of the Winged Monkeys found in Oz. These selections included on this page are all from Ritter’s 1997 article about Oz.

When they are introduced in the book, the Winged Monkeys appear as a fierce fighting band that destroy the Scarecrow, damage the Tin Woodman, and capture Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion. Later, when the monkeys are no longer under the control of the Witch and are helping Dorothy and her group, the king monkey explains their origin to Dorothy:

“Once,” began the leader, “we were a free people, living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit, and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master. Perhaps some of us were rather too full of mischief at times, flying down to pull the tails of the animals that had no wings, chasing birds, and throwing nuts at the people who walked in the forest. But we were careless and happy and full of fun, and enjoyed every minute of the day.”
Another posting sees the analogies differently:

Indian-Hating in “The Wizard of Oz”

By Thomas St. JohnThe Winged Monkeys are the Irish Baum’s satire on the old Northwest Mounted Police, who were modelled on the Irish Constabulary. The scarlet tunic of the Mounties, and the distinctive “pillbox” forage cap with the narrow visor and strap are seen clearly in the color plate in the 1900 first edition of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. Villagers across the Dakota territory heartily despised these British police, especially after 1877, when Sitting Bull retreated across the border and into their protection after killing Custer.And:The Wicked Witch of the West is illustrated in the 1900 first edition as a pickaninny, with beribboned, braided pigtails extended comically. Baum repeats the word “brown” in describing her. But this symbol’s real historic depth lies in the earlier Puritans’ confounding of European witches with the equally heathen American Indians.

The orphan Dorothy’s violent removal from Kansas civilization, her search for secret and magical cures for her friends, her capture, enslavement to an evil figure–and the killing of this figure that is forced on her–all these themes Baum takes from the already two hundred year old tradition of the Indian captivity narrative which stoked the fires of Indian-hating and its hope of “redemption through violence.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Indian-Oz Connection.

April 13, 2016

Natives = last category on Jeopardy

A tweet from April 12 that I and many others retweeted:

Retweeted Martie Simmons (@msimmons444):
Last category on @Jeopardy b/c no one knows ‪#‎Indigenous‬ ‪#‎history‬ ‪#‎iblamethehistorybooks‬ https://t.co/Et2ISLm2X3

Someone took her photo of the TV screen and made it into a meme:



Easy questions

A Facebook friend reported on the episode, which I didn't see:I saw that episode. Too bad I was only playing from home.

None of the questions were terribly difficult. I don't remember the exact phrasing of the questions, but I do recall the answers.

One referred to the Trail of Tears (answer: the Cherokee); one referred to the largest US tribe (Navajo); another referred to a eyewitness to an 1876 event (I don't remember if they referred to it as a battle, or more properly as a massacre, but in any case it was Little Bighorn); one referred to and described the equipment used in Native stickball--so I sat there saying stickball, but the answer turned out to be "lacrosse" which annoyed me a bit; and finally a passage from Longfellow's poem, and the answer was Hiawatha.
Good to know.

As usual these days, the Jeopardy questions sound ridiculously easy. You often can boil them down to a couple of words:

1) Tears tribe.
2) Largest tribe.
3) 1876 battle.
4) Stickball.
5) Poem.

The questions aren't tough for the smart contestants the show usually has. What it shows is a sort of public fear: of looking ignorant about a minority. Or worse, of saying something stupid and looking racist. Better to avoid the category altogether.

P.S. Little Bighorn was only a massacre for Custer's troops after they foolishly attacked a camp of 10,000 Indians. Unlike Wounded Knee or Sand Creek, it was a real battle.

For more on the subject, see "Native American Foods" on Jeopardy and "Native American Tribes" on Jeopardy.

April 09, 2016

Trump and his supporters are racists

Donald Trump has dropped the GOP’s mask: Conservatism and racism now officially the same thing

Post-civil rights GOP is our largest white identity group. Maybe we should thank Trump for making it so obvious

By Chauncey DeVega
Political parties are a type of “brand name” that voters associate with a specific set of policies, ideas, personalities and moral values. Consequently, the types of voters who are attracted to a given political party also tells us a great deal about how it is perceived by the public. And in a democracy, the relationship between voters, elected officials and a given political party should ideally be reflected by the types of policies the latter advances in order to both win and stay in power.

By these criteria, the post-civil rights era Republican Party is the United States’ largest white identity organization, one in which conservatism and racism are now one and the same thing.
The GOP’s gross Adam Sandler primary: Donald Trump, penis jokes and the pathetic state of conservatism

Trump's hands. Mitt on his knees. Cuckservatives. What the party's junk obsession says about 2016 Republican Party

By Chauncey DeVega
Donald Trump threatens the Republican Party’s elites because he has unmasked the racism, white supremacy, nativism and xenophobia of the modern GOP. Trump will not be silenced because he and his public have little if any use for racist “dog whistles” in their full-on assault against “political correctness” and “the establishment.”

Trump’s proto fascist right-wing producerism is also a threat to Republican Party orthodoxy. Like the type of “socialism” practiced by the Nazis, Donald Trump wants to ensure that the in-group has access to resources from the State (healthcare, jobs, improved infrastructure) that are denied to the Other. The Republican Party’s elites want to destroy the social safety and government support for most Americans (the white middle and working classes will be given some resources only as a means of leveraging their anxieties against people of color and the poor). Trump offers a different vision: He will maintain the submerged state and other benefits for whites, and those others he identifies as “real Americans” and “deserving,” while unapologetically denying them to those individuals and groups whom the “Trumpeteers” want to dominate and abuse with impunity.
The payback candidate: Trump’s campaign is for conservatives seeking revenge on everyone they think disrespects them

Trump's running to get revenge on everyone who laughed at him, and that's why his supporters identify with him

By Amanda Marcotte
A lot of his support comes from people who see themselves in him: People who believe they—white conservative Christians who shun city life—deserve to be at the center of American life and culture, but look out and see a world where the president is a black man from Chicago, the charts are ruled by Rihanna and BeyoncĂ©, and Lena Dunham is a celebrity.

The modern conservative movement is filled with people who believe they are due deference from the rest of us but are getting mockery instead. The conservative media has stoked this narrative of cultural resentment for decades, too. “Liberal elite” is a common catchphrase on the right. Some might think that term is an economic one, but in reality, it’s a cultural one. The “liberal elite” is mostly composed of people who belong to the middle class: Journalists, college professors, artists, even lawyers, most of whom are not millionaires. Meanwhile, the right absolutely hero worships conservative billionaires like the Waltons, the Kochs, and yes, Donald Trump.

No, the “liberal elite” is a term of cultural resentment, rooted in a thwarted sense of conservative entitlement. It’s backed by this narrative that there once was a time when America was “great” because the culture was controlled by white Christians, but at some point, usually the 1960s, the undesirables—hippies, artists, people of color, secularists, feminists, gay people—started taking over. This sense that something has been stolen and needs to be taken back is the organizing narrative of conservative populism.

Trump is tapping into the same narrative that propelled Richard Nixon into the White House, fueled the “Disco Demolition” night of straight white men burning records associated with said “others,” helped start the Moral Majority and the Christian right, and is the engine that drives right wing talk radio and the relentless rage machine of Fox News to this day. And while it’s trendy, especially amongst those who believe the white working class is one pamphlet on democratic socialism away from leaving the Republicans, to say that it’s based on economics, the fact is these flare-ups aren’t quite as pegged to economic trends as one might think but can quite easily be linked to white conservative anger over cultural moments that remind them they are not the actual owners of American culture. With Obama to leave office soon in triumph, his legitimacy as not just the first black president but one of the greater American presidents secured, the anger is boiling over.
Fear of labeling racists

Hideous, disgusting racists: Let’s call Donald Trump and his supporters exactly what they are

Media wants to call them "economically anxious working-class whites." There's a clearer, more honest name to use

By Chauncey DeVega
Donald Trump’s voters are racists; Donald Trump is a racist. The rise of a dangerous proto-fascist movement has been aided by how too many members of the political chattering class have for too long avoided stating such facts.

Moreover, Conor Friedersdorf’s claim is an example of a very perverse and twisted phenomenon in post-civil rights era America, where to call a white person a “racist” is somehow worse than the harm that racism, white supremacy, and white privilege does to the psychological, material, and physical well-being of black and brown people.

This dynamic has also prevented many in the commentariat from directly describing today’s Republican Party as the United States’ largest white identity organization, one that reflects an ideology where conservatism and racism is one and the same thing.

As I have written about here at Salon and elsewhere, “Trumpism” is not an aberration or outlier, something that is alien to, something outside of, or distant from the Republican Party. The popularity of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries, with his unapologetic racism, bigotry, and nativism, are the uncensored id of the Republican Party
#Notalltrumpvoters: The media’s new big lie lets racist Donald Trump backers off the hook

Trump's fueled by white resentment, racism and nativism. Why does the media mistake that for working-class anxiety?

By Chauncey DeVega
As I explored in an earlier essay here at Salon, Milbank’s caveat is part of a larger pattern among the American commentariat where too many of its members are afraid to publicly (and correctly) label Donald Trump and his supporters as racists.

Why this anxiety? Why are so many members of the chattering class dancing around the clear and obvious truth that Donald Trump’s political movement is largely driven by white racial resentment, overt racism, bigotry and nativism?

Part of this answer lies in how telling the truth about white racism in the post-civil rights era is considered worse than the harm it does to people of color. Moreover, to suggest that a given white person is a racist—or alternatively, that white people as a group either benefit from institutional racism or are active racists—is an indictment of both their personal character and the various myths (meritocracy; American Exceptionalism; individualism; equality, etc.) that the country’s political culture rests upon. Together, these answers form a type of electrified third rail in American political discourse that few members of the chattering classes are willing to stand on. This is a profound failure of moral leadership.

The unwillingness by Milbank, Friedersdorf and others to plainly and directly state that Donald Trump and his supporters are part of a racist political movement is an example of what sociologist Robin DiAngelo has described as “white racial fragility” on a massive scale.
Poll confirms racism

Racists love Trump: This is what they mean by “taking the country back”—yet another poll confirms racial and cultural resentment is driving Donald Trump’s rise

72 percent of Trump supporters said government has gone too far in assisting minority groups

By Sean Illing
A new Quinnipiac poll is the latest in a string of polls to clarify what’s really animating Trump’s campaign. American voters were asked if they believed “America has lost its identity?” The answers from Republicans and Democrats in general are revealing: 79 percent of Republicans agree that America has lost its identity, while only 36 percent of Democrats agree. If nothing else, this is a reminder that the GOP has a race problem, the roots of which are traceable to its adoption of the “Southern Strategy” over forty years ago.

The “highest level of agreement” with this notion that America has lost its identity is expressed by Trump supporters–a staggering 85 percent. 91 percent of Trump voters also say their “beliefs and values are under attack,” again the highest of any candidate. There is a kind of persecution mania operating here. “Many American voters, especially Republicans, are dissatisfied with their own status and the status of the country,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, “but by far the most dissatisfied are Donald Trump’s supporters, who strongly feel that they themselves are under attack.”

Lest you think this isn’t about race, note that the Quinnipiac poll asked respondents if they believe the “government has gone too far in assisting minority groups.” Predictably, 72 percent of Republicans agreed compared to 18 percent of Democrats. Among Trump voters, however, the number was 80 percent. These numbers align with a recent American National Election Study (ANES) and Washington Post/ABC News poll, both of which show that support for Trump is positively correlated with racial animus.

“America has lost its identity” is an ambiguous phrase, but let’s not pretend we don’t know what it means. The people who think America has lost its “identity” are the same people who believe we have to take the country back. Yes, many Trump supporters are suffering from an economy in which they have no place. And there are legitimate concerns about free trade and a corrupt establishment. But what distinguishes the typical Trump is his or her propensity to project their frustration on brown or black people.
And a few weeks later, a Native perspective:'The Good Old Days' Were Only Good for Whites

By Harlan McKosatoThe unspoken mantra among many white people is they long for the days when they, and only they, ruled the roost. Civil rights, Native rights, Gay rights, Women’s rights – dammit, what about White rights? That’s when America was great and we can make America great again, by God. Black lives matter, well white lives matter more. It says so right there in the Holy Scriptures.

The problem with white privilege is that when that’s all you know and you’re comfortable with it; then you’re confronted with an equality movement that you didn’t necessarily see coming, you probably do feel like you are being discriminated against. Trump has tapped into that emotion, although we all know white privilege is not going away anytime soon.
Comment:  For more on Donald Trump, see Conservatives Enraged at Losing Power and Trump's Death Wish Fantasies.