November 15, 2015

Eddie Little Sky in Gilligan's Island

Actor Eddie Little Sky appeared three times on Gilligan's Island--twice as Polynesian natives and once as a "witch doctor" with Mesoamerican roots. Here's more on him:
Eddie Little SkyEddie Little Sky was born August 15, 1926, as Edsel Wallace Little on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Shannon County, South Dakota to Oglala Lakota parents, Wallace Little, Sr. and Wileminna Colhoff. He also served in the United States Navy and worked as a bull rider and bareback rider in the rodeo. As an actor, he took the name "Eddie Little Sky" and starred in numerous in numerous feature films and over sixty television shows, mostly Westerns, playing Native Americans at a time most Indians were often played by white actors under heavy make-up. He was one of the first Native American actors to play Native American roles and is best remembered for his performance as Black Eagle in "A Man Called Horse' (1970). He was also technical adviser for the movie "Soldier Blue."Comment:  For more on Gilligan's Island, see Indigenous Episodes in Gilligan's Island and Native Voodoo in Gilligan's Island.

November 14, 2015

Obama: Colonists were merely dissastified

Obama Doesn't Understand American Indian History

By Peter d'ErricoPresident Obama doesn't understand America's history with Indigenous Peoples. A careful reading of his recent conversation with author Marilynne Robinson on September 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa, shows he has serious misconceptions.

In the midst of the conversation, Robinson referred to hearing people in America saying, "The system is failing." Obama responded: "That's part of what makes America wonderful, is we always had this nagging dissatisfaction that spurs us on. That’s how we ended up going west, that’s how we—'I’m tired of all these people back east; if I go west, there’s going to be my own land and I’m not going to have to put up with this nonsense, and I’m going to start my own thing, and I’ve got my homestead.'"

That's pretty amazing. President Obama, so attuned to the "fault line of race," has it in his head that the Indian wars resulted from dissatisfied non-Indians, who, in order to feel better about their lives, "went west"!

I guess the same explanation might apply all the way back: The Puritans were dissatisfied with their lot in England and Holland, so they went west to Massachusetts, and rounded up the Indians into "praying town" reservations. Other colonizers found their "own land" named "Virginia," where they became rich from tobacco plantations worked by indentured servants and slaves.

And so on back even further: The conquistadors, "tired of all those people" back in Spain, went west to the "new world" and made it their "own land," and made the Indigenous peoples their "own slaves."

Obama managed to skip over these gory details to get to his conclusion that "we" solved our "nagging dissatisfaction" and became a "wonderful" country. Who was "we"? It certainly didn't include the Indians. They were in "our" way.
Comment:  What the colonizers really said:

"I'm tired of all these people back east with their rules requiring payment for land. If I go west, there’s going to be my own land stolen from Indians and given to me.

"If there's any trouble, the Army will protect me against the 'savages' who want their land back. I deserve these government handouts--free land and security--because I'm a privileged white man."

November 13, 2015

"Tolteca Aztec Indian" supports Redskins

This "Native American" suggested we should take his support for the Washington Redskins seriously.

Column: Vietnam veteran, Native American voices support for the Washington Redskins

Why should we? Because:My son, Senior Airman Daniel P. Cortez II, stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and I are proud American veterans and humble descendants of the Tolteca Aztec Indian tribe. We ARE Redskins.A Facebook response:Uh-huh. And no doubt, as closely identified with their 'Tolteca Aztec Indian Tribe' as these two clowns are, they've made repeated visits to their Native community as they fiercely cling to their heritage. (Question: What self-respecting Native refers to their Nation as an 'Indian Tribe'?)Alas, there's no such thing as the "Tolteca Aztec Indian tribe." The Toltecs and Aztecs were different cultures separated by hundreds of years. They were akin to empires or confederations containing many tribes.

What I think he's trying to say is, "I'm a Mexican American, but that doesn't give me any credibility on Native issues, so I'll make something up."

For more on the Redskins, see Davies: Mascot Foes Aren't Reasoning and More Boycotts of the Washington Redskins.

November 12, 2015

Review of Crazy Horse's Girlfriend

Crazy Horse's GirlfriendMargaritte is a sharp-tongued, drug-dealing, sixteen-year-old Native American floundering in a Colorado town crippled by poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. She hates the burnout, futureless kids surrounding her and dreams that she and her unreliable new boyfriend can move far beyond the bright lights of Denver that float on the horizon before the daily suffocation of teen pregnancy eats her alive.

About the Author

Erika T. Wurth is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised on the outskirts of Denver. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and was a writer-in-residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Crazy Horse's Girlfriend: gripping, heart-wrenching narrative
By Story Circle Book Reviews on September 1, 2014

Sixteen-year-old Margaritte is constantly planning an escape route from her miserable circumstances. A mix of Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and white, she finds her Idaho Springs, Colorado, home nothing less than depressing. Beyond ennui at home, Margaritte has to deal with the daily stress of her volatile alcoholic father and a mother who can be equally explosive, while helping care for her innocent six-year-old twin sisters. She's tired of living on the cusp of poverty, as well as being surrounded by teens who have no future aspirations. High on their chart of escapism is drugs and alcohol, while many girls succumb to teenage pregnancy--a statistic that Margaritte has no intention of becoming. Ironically, Margaritte, who drinks and smokes pot, sees the wads of cash she hopes to bring in as a drug dealer and her new love, Mike Walker, as the ticket out of her loathsome life. Yet the hope of a brighter future suddenly appears dismal when Margaritte learns that she's pregnant.

In her debut novel, Wurth has created a plethora of hardened teens and their means of survival in unforgiving conditions. The story's protagonist narrator is Margaritte, whose insistence on not becoming a loser truly earmarks her as an underdog, as she struggles to go against the grain of her impoverished society. The language Wurth uses, which includes Lakota terminology, is raw and visceral, reflecting just how tough these teens are, especially Margaritte.

Kudos to Wurth for producing a gripping and heart-wrenching narrative that is not only a must read for young adult and older readers, but also a wonderful addition to Native American literature.

No heroes; just choices.
By Elizabeth Harper on December 23, 2014

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it relevant, especially its description of the torment and ambivalence involved in making life decisions in messy, difficult, imperfect circumstances. The main character is engaging and sympathetic. Highly recommended for anyone interested in domestic violence, social policy, young adults, Native Americans, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

The prose is gritty and hard, but soul is there as well.
By D. S. Atkinson on October 4, 2014

I love the voice in this book. The prose is gritty and hard, but soul is there as well. Whether you're in it for the grit or the soul, or in it for both like me, I don't think you can help but dig this one. It's particularly impressive for a first novel.
Rob's review

I'd say Crazy Horse's Girlfriend was a solid entry in the Native American category for YA fiction. It's about as good as it gets for depictions of gritty, urban Indian life. Perhaps because Wurth grew up in this environment, I could easily believe in it.

A few problems in non-Native areas kept me from deeming this an exceptional story:

  • Her main support system is her cousin Jake and her best friend Julia, but these characters disappear for most of the novel. Margaritte ends up relying on secondary characters and predictably bonding with them.

  • Margaritte is supposedly an experienced drug dealer who hangs around with druggies, but doesn't recognizes the signs of drug abuse in her boyfriend Mike. If a straight arrow like me sees the problem before she does, that's bad.

  • Margaritte supposedly loves reading, but she's never shown reading and spends no significant time at it. As someone who was a 16-year-old reader like her, I can tell you: you don't finish thick Stephen King novels by osmosis. You have to spend a lot of time--e.g., six hours a day on weekends--to be a serious reader.

    Moreover, she says she doesn't know words such as "repugnant" and has to look them up in a dictionary. These words should be part of a teenage reader's vocabulary well before age 16.

  • Margaritte's overriding concern is to avoid becoming a teenage mom like her mother was. But when Mike proposes having unprotected sex because he did it once and the girl didn't become pregnant, Margaritte naively believes him. This badly contradicts what we know of her character.

  • The "everything's looking up" ending seems more appropriate for a sappy suburban tale than a gritty urban one. It's predictable enough for a cautionary "Afternoon Special."

  • The phrase "Crazy Horse's Girlfriend" is a slur applied to a gay Lakota man. It seems weirdly inappropriate to use it for a straight Lakota woman.

  • Despite these comments, I enjoyed Crazy Horse's Girlfriend. Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.

    November 11, 2015

    1/64 Cherokee in Modern Family

    I'm not watching Modern Family anymore, but I saw a commercial for this week's episode, The More You Ignore Me. In it, Phil Dunphy says this as he runs to his car:I may be 1/64 Cherokee but I'm also 63/64 crazy white guy!Comment:  Wow, they're really going to the Cherokee well on this show. Following 1/16 Cherokee in Modern Family, it's the second time someone's claimed to be Cherokee.

    There's nothing wrong with this, exactly. Phil could well be 1/64th Cherokee by blood. More likely, someone told him his great-great-great-great grandmother was Cherokee and he swallowed the story uncritically. Which is how it goes about 63/64ths of the time.

    But the show has tried this gimmick twice, which makes the writers seem a little thoughtless and unoriginal. Not to mention desperate. Have they been listening to the critics who have pointed out how white the show is? Except for Gloria, who's a fiery Latina stereotype?

    What better way to inject some color--literally and figuratively--into their white-bread characters? Many people claim to have Cherokee ancestors who are difficult if not impossible to verify. It's a cheap way to imply a character isn't as white and privileged as he seems.

    If Phil is 1/64th Cherokee, you're supposed to feel 1/64th more sympathy for him, or something. The show can then proceed without confronting a single issue of race or culture. It's the TV equivalent of checking a box on a job application. "For the sake of the diversity police, we checked the ethnicity box for Phil this week. Done!"

    For more on Modern Family, see History Class in Modern Family.

    November 09, 2015

    Indigenous episodes in Gilligan's Island

    Some info on the indigenous-themed episodes of Gilligan's Island:

    NativesNatives" is the generic term for the local indigenous tribes that live in the area around "Gilligan's Island," small island nations of Polynesian and Papuan aborigines somewhere in the castaways proximity. These tribes worship a number of gods, possibly deified ancestors, and practice a number of rites including cannibalism, head-hunting and a practice resembling Voodoo of the Caribbean Sea.A list of the episodes:

  • Two on a Raft (Season 1, Episode 1): Each group of castaways fears that the other group is headhunters.

  • Waiting for Watubi (Season 1, Episode 10): A buried stone idol seems to carry a curse.

  • How to Be a Hero (Season 1, Episode 23): Gilligan thinks a real headhunter is the Skipper trying to boost his confidence.

  • Music Hath Charms (Season 1, Episode 26): Gilligan's drumming attracts natives who think it's a challenging war cry.

  • Three to Get Ready (Season 1, Episode 29): A native gem, the Eye of the Idol, seems to grant three wishes.

  • Gilligan's Mother-in-Law (Season 2, Episode 1): Gilligan must marry fat Native girl to get the castaways off the island.

  • Voodoo (Season 3, Episode 5): A witch doctor practices voodoo on the castaways to retrieve stolen artifacts.

  • Topsy-Turvy (Season 3, Episode 10): Gilligan's vision is on the fritz while headhunters stalk the castaways.

  • High Man on the Totem Pole (Season 3, Episode 23): Based on a "totem pole," headhunters think Gilligan is their god.

  • The Secret of Gilligan's Island (Season 3, Episode 25): An ancient stone tablet may show the castaways how to leave the island by boat.

  • Slave Girl (Season 3, Episode 26): Gilligan rescues native woman and she becomes his slave.

  • Gilligan the Goddess (Season 3, Episode 30): Natives want to toss a maiden "goddess" into a volcano.

  • Comment:  These episodes are racist and stereotypical, of course. The natives grunt or speak made-up gibberish. They do little more than kill and eat people. They're played by white actors, usually in brownface.

    If South Seas islanders were ever this savage and barbaric, it ended a century or two ago. You know, when white men conquered them and colonized their islands? Sent in the missionaries and forcibly converted them to Christianity and "good Christian" lifestyles.

    By the 1960s, many island peoples were dealing with their British and French occupiers, demanding self-rule or territorial status. With all the traffic in the area--people must've visited Gilligan's Island dozens of times--it's ridiculous to think the indigenous cultures would have continued untouched. The islanders would be selling goods and services to waves of tourists, not hunting heads in grass skirts.

    For more on Gilligan's Island, see Native Voodoo in Gilligan's Island Mohawk Astronaut in Gilligan's Island.

    November 08, 2015

    Pechanga wristband in The Simpsons

    As the Pechanga Casino tweeted:Pechanga Casino ‏@PechangaCasino Nov 9
    Pechanga was mentioned on @TheSimpsons last night on @FOXTV! #Pechanga #simpsons #thesimpsons #fox #foxtv

    The context is this:

    Episode Fact File: Friend with Benefit[T]his Sunday, November 8th, 2015, Fox aired “Friend with Benefit,” the 6th episode of Season 27, and the 580th episode to date.

    Episode Description:

    Lisa makes a new pal at school named Harper, whose internet billionaire father becomes buddies with a different Simpson: Homer. Soon, though, Lisa becomes worried that Harper is a little too entitled.


    At night, Homer gets angry about the [self-lifting] chair, complaining that he never gets the finest things in life. That’s when Lisa asks him to take her to an Australian boy band concert with Harper, as her father has bought the seats. Feeling unconfident, he takes Lisa to the show.
    When the concert runners give Homer a wristband, he shows the one he already has. Apparently the producers have a thing for Pechanga, as they mentioned it in Pechanga Muffins in The Simpsons.

    November 04, 2015

    Davies: Mascot foes aren't reasoning

    Columnist James Giago Davies previously criticized anti-racism activists with the extremely weak "don't they have anything better to do?" argument. Now he's back with a column on mascots--this time intended to prove he's superior to both sides.

    Why the Redskins controversy won’t die
    Back in the news cycle yet again

    By James Giago Davies

    True, he takes on the Redskins this time--perhaps because people excoriated him for supporting racism the last time. Redskin supporters argue thatsports teams intend to honor Indians by naming sports teams after them, but that is not reasoning that is rationalizing. They want to keep the name of the team as is, for reasons of tradition, a tradition established at a time when you could use openly racist epithets and it was socially acceptable. Calling the team the Redskins worked at the time because Redskins conjured up images of fierce warriors, but the intent was never to honor Indians.

    Were that the intent, if Indians really were something so honored and respected you would name a team after them solely for that reason, then present day Indian objections to having a team named Redskins would be just as honored and respected, and the name change to something less offensive to aboriginal Americans would have happened a half century ago, when the first serious objections to the team name made the national media.
    But he also wants us to know that anti-mascot activists who have said the same thing are still somehow wrong. According to him, activists argue thatnaming a sports team after Indians for any reason is demeaning to Indians, and is solely intended to mock and marginalize, but that is not reasoning, it is rationalizing.

    If the sole intent were to demean Indians, then why aren’t teams named the Chinks or the Niggers, why just the Redskins? They are equally demeaning racial epithets, aren’t they? We don’t call teams the Washington Weaklings or the Capitol Cowards. Teams are named after positive symbols, not negative ones.
    Rob's reply

    This is a straw-man argument that falsely characterizes what activists think and say. We've never said the team chose or intended the name to mock and marginalize Indians.

    The word "solely" is especially false, if that's possible. No one has said that everyone from George P. Marshall to Dan Snyder had and has a monomaniacal desire to demean Indians. We understand that they believe(d) their fantasy about "honoring" Indians.

    In contrast to your straw-man argument, here's what activists actually say. One, the name is a dictionary-defined racial slur. Two, it promotes the stereotypical notion of Indians as primitive people of the past. We're not addressing the name's intent, we're addressing its effect.

    To reiterate our argument, the name has the effect of marginalizing Indians regardless of the intent of owners and fans. People cannot see Indians as full-fledged members of modern society when they believe them to be savages in feathers and leathers. One view negates the other.

    Too bad the activist side of your argument--i.e., half your column--is wrong. Try again, and better luck next time. Perhaps read some of Tim Giago's columns to understand why the R-word is harmful to Indians.

    For more on the Washington Redskins, see More Boycotts of the Washington Redskins and Redskins Mascot = Confederate Flag.

    November 03, 2015

    Jenner and Hilton in stereotypical costumes

    For this year's offensive Halloween costumes, we have Kylie Jenner as an "Eskimo" and Nicky Hilton as a Pocahottie:

    Kylie Jenner and Nicky Hilton Wore Some Pretty Offensive Halloween Costumes This Year

    You can see the costumes there. A typical criticism:

    Bristol Palin defends Kylie Jenner's 'Eskimo' Halloween costumeHey @KylieJenner Eskimo is an Indigenous people NOT a Halloween costume #CulturalAppropriation #RacistHalloween

    — Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) October 31, 2015
    And speaking for ignorant conservatives, we have Bristol Palin with two common defenses of racism: "I'm part Native" and "lighten up."

    Bristol Palin Defends Kylie Jenner's 'Eskimo' Halloween Costume

    Comment:  For more offenses from the Jenner and Hilton clans, see Khloe Kardashian in a Headdress, Again and Paris Hilton as a Sexy Indian.

    November 02, 2015

    Gay skier in a headdress

    Gus Kenworthy Takes Down Culturally Insensitive Halloween Photo; Says He Was “Just Having Fun”
    The Olympic freestyle skier issued an immediate about-face after deleting thr controversial photo.

    By Evan Ross KatzNow that Gus Kenworthy has come out of the closet, among the legions of support being doled out comes the sharpening gaze of those looking to catch the out freestyle skier’s first big media debacle. They didn’t have to wait long. It happened yesterday.

    After posting his “sexy cop” photo on Halloween proper, Kenworthy took to Instagram the morning after to give fans a glimpse at his fourth costume (the second and third were not photographed, which might have been best considering where this story goes).

    [T]his is not the first time (nor, sadly, the last) that a blatantly unaware celebrity has taken the Native American Headdress and turned it into a costume.

    Kenworthy should surely be slapped on the wrist for not realizing this. But what makes his indiscretion doubly offensive is his blatant acknowledgment and swift disregard. Though he’s since issued an apology, the caption of his original post makes it clear that he knew the controversial waters in which he was wading.
    Gus Kenworthy: I apologize for my Native American-themed costume

    By LGBTQ NationInitially, he wrote that “for everyone giving me grief, I don’t really understand why this is racist or cultural appropriation.. it’s Halloween! Just having fun! :)”

    However, the Instagarm hordes weren’t satisfied with his statement, and their unremitting gush of negative commentary led Kenworthy to delete the photo and officially apologize:

    “Didn’t realize I was being offensive & didn’t mean to marginalize or appropriate Native American culture. Sorry! Pic deleted.”
    Comment:  Kenworthy's apology translated: "Sorry you caught me engaging in hipster racism. And sorry my ironic acknowledgement of hipster racism didn't inoculate me from criticism."

    For more on the subject, see Montreal Alouettes Stereotype Indians and Acadian Singer's Stereotypical Music Video.