July 31, 2006

Racist ads feature ignorant Indian

News flash:  Budweiser has begun airing Bud Light commercials starring an "odd couple" of roommates, Zagar and Steve. Zagar is an Amazonian Indian who relies on deadly violence and is completely ignorant about modern life. He's essentially a Neanderthal--as savage and uncivilized as any Indian portrayed in the last 500 years.

This marketing campaign is an immediate contender for Stereotype of the Year. Stay tuned for more information--much more--on this story as it develops. (The ads were formerly available at ZagarandSteve.com, but this link now takes you to a Bud Light site.)

Odd couple of advertising

Bud Light Shines Light on Odd CoupleThe latest TV effort for Bud Light—an odd pairing of a primitive tribesman and a modern American as roommates—was born out of a real-life experience. Sort of.

"[Copywriter] Jeb [Quaid] had a really bad roommate in college," said Mark Gross, the DDB Chicago group creative director who oversaw the campaign. "We thought, wouldn't it be funny if we paired up a bad roommate with someone, and that the only thing about him was that he liked Bud Light."

That wacky Zagar

More on the odd one of the "odd couple"--from a July 2006 posting at ZagarandSteve.com:

Meet ZagarYou ever gotten a roommate through potluck? Let’s just say there are upsides and downsides. One upside would be that I don’t have to pay as much rent each month. A downside would be he doesn’t speak a word of English and he performs ritual sacrifices in his room.

When he first got here I found him out front eating out of an anthill and I got the feeling he just might be a little different… That roommate finder service really knocked it out of the park. Right away he made himself at home, you know, the normal stuff. Hanging his favorite pelts on the wall, pinning up his goats in the backyard, setting up his alter. I won’t even tell you how he “claimed” his room.
Actually, Indians almost never conducted ritual sacrifices of humans or animals (the Aztecs and Maya notwithstanding). Zagar's pseudo-religion sounds more like Santeria, which is an African import.

In contrast, animal sacrifice was common in the Middle East (from whence we get our Judeo-Christian morality) and Greece (from whence we get our democratic ideals). One could say that, unlike Indians, we built our civilization on a foundation of dead animals.

July 30, 2006

Custer:  pro- or anti-Indian fighter?

I watched They Died With Their Boots On last night: a 1941 biopic of George Armstrong Custer starring Errol Flynn. It's actually pretty good, with the flamboyant Flynn well-cast as the flamboyant Custer. The first half is especially entertaining, with its fictionalized version of Custer's career at West Point and in the Civil War.

To learn how the movie fabricated the rest of Custer's life, go to They Lied in They Died.

New Hall of Shame entry

Rich Indians

No racism in the future?

More on Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager:

"[T]he idea that US history and indian rights should be a focus on Voyager is as silly as having any black character dealing with slavery—in the 24th century."

Was Hitler a Christian?

The debate continues.

July 29, 2006

Apocalypto soon

After The New World and End of the Spear, the two biggest Native movies of 2006 are likely to be Mel Gibson's Apocalypto and Pathfinder. I've seen the trailer for Apocalypto, a story about the Maya civilization, and it looks...interesting. It may be the richest and most beautiful movie about pre-Columbian Indians ever. But I also get a sense that Gibson, a conservative Christian, will portray the Maya as cruel and superstitious.

Here's a hint of what to expect from Gibson:

More on that Gibson DUI: It's Getting Ugly (Allegedly)
So, you know that Mel Gibson arrest for DUI that went off "without incident"? Well, according to documents obtained by TMZ, that's not entirely accurate. If this handwritten report (link points to a PDF file) by the arresting officer is real, there was was nothing cooperative whatsoever about saintly Gibson. Instead, after allegedly running for his own vehicle when asked to get into the squad car (and subsequently being cuffed), he commenced swearing like a sailor, threatening to "get even" with the cop who was taking him in. In what the officer reported were the actor's own words, revenge would be simple because, as Gibson repeatedly told the arresting officer, he "own[s] Malibu." When that didn't work, Gibson allegedly took the old, reliable anti-Semitic route. Again according to the arresting officer's (alleged) report, the actor went off a tirade, apropos of nothing: "'F*****g Jews ... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.' Gibson then asked the deputy, 'Are you a Jew?'" Boy, nothing but class there, huh?

Apache guitarist's excellent adventure

Stevie Salas InterviewGo back in time and catch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure then guess who played those fiery guitar riffs flying off the fingers of George Carlin’s character, Rufus. If you answered, “Stevie Salas,” then a big, “No way, yes way!” to you.

Considered by many to be one of the top fifty guitarists of all time, Salas has gained the attention of musicians around the world as well as classic rockers like Mick Jagger, George Clinton, Billy Gibbons, Zakk Wylde, Billy Idol, Rick Neilson, and Rod Stewart.

A self-taught Native-American (Mescalero Apache) guitar prodigy and creator of his own rock genre, Salas’ aggressive dark punk-funk style reflects the journey he's taken from the streets of San Diego to concert arenas.

Diné boy wins science awards

Junkyard Genious of the Navajo Nation

July 28, 2006

Displaced paranormals vs. dead people

In 1986 Marvel created a line of comics called the New Universe. The best NU series was D.P. 7, about a group of ordinary people who mysteriously gain superpowers. Another good one was Psi-Force, which featured a group of teens who could summon a Native spirit called Psi-Hawk with their combined abilities.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the New Universe, Marvel published several "Untold Tales of the New Universe" this year. The D.P. 7 issue told of a tribe threatened by one of its own, who gains the power to raise the dead. Here's the lowdown on the comic.

Geronimo, the graphic novel

I just came across a 2005 graphic novel on Geronimo. I looked it over in my local shop but didn't get it. The following review by Jim Witt reflects my views on it.With Geronimo: The Last Apache Warrior, Moonstone Books adds another figure from American Western mythology to its roster of Western icons, a lineup that already includes Wyatt Earp, The Cisco Kid, and Belle Starr. The Last Apache Warrior is a 64-page graphic novel that lives up to what I've come to expect from Moonstone's books, both in terms of their willingness to publish "genre" material that isn't aimed squarely at the mainstream, and the occasional sloppiness and the lack of polish that is often evident in their finished product.

"Call me Goyahkla," says an aging Geronimo, addressing the reader in the narrative's opening line. The first segment of the book is framed as a series of stories told to a member of Geronimo's last band of fighting men, a meagre group of 16 warriors facing its final battle. In the second chapter, the story is continued in the form of an epic-style poem, and in the final pages, a series of full-page drawings accompanied by "headlines" and narration paints the further history of Geronimo and his people. It's an interesting concept, and given a stronger, more focused plot and less self-indulgent writing (particularly in the poetic sequence, which makes a grasp at profundity without capturing it), it's a concept that could have worked. Unfortunately, in the final analysis, it doesn't.
As Witt indicates, it's more of a poetic ode to Geronimo than a story about his life. Witt's rating of 2.5/5 seems about right to me. To buy a copy, go to Geronimo:  The Last Apache Warrior.

Best year for Native movies?

I'd have to vote for 2002. The Native-themed movies of that year include The Business of Fancydancing (perhaps my all-time favorite Native movie), The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat), Skins, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Skinwalkers, Windtalkers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, and Wendigo. The Business of Fancydancing is perhaps my all-time favorite Native movie and the next four are all above average.

Check 'em out at The Best Indian Movies. I've reformatted this page to make sure it displays correctly. I've also added a section on aboriginal and indigenous films such as Rabbit-Proof Fence (another favorite) and Ten Canoes.

July 27, 2006

Is there a doctor in the house?

Manifest Destiny = America's PathologyIf a child kills cats and blows up frogs with firecrackers, is this the sign of a balanced and well-adjusted human being? Or is such behavior indicative of deep emotional and perhaps mental pathology? Serial killers often start out with these "small killings" and eventually begin killing other human beings. The pathology that the future serial killer exhibits in childhood becomes fully manifested in heinous acts of murder in adulthood.

By way of analogy, during its "infancy" and "youth" the United States started out killing off Indians, while compulsively stealing massive amounts of lands and resources from Native nations. Over the course of its entire lifespan the United States has continued to exhibit compulsive pathological behavior toward Native peoples.

Tribes breaking the law?

Beecher:  Unregulated tribes can skim money from casinos

Injun Joe lives!

Reporter decries "New York's Angry, Armed Mohawks"

Upgrading the site

If you haven't already, check out the new design of the Blue Corn Comics home page. I trust you'll find it improved.

July 26, 2006

How racism works today

On Racism:  Will our Indian Wars Ever End?Racism is not cut and dry. It’s not as if only those who don hoods and burn crosses or raise nazi salutes are racists. “Enlightened” or “modern” racism is much more complicated. Today’s typical racist rhetorically abhors racism. And they usually believe themselves to be anti-racist because of this. Racism, in today’s American society, is, quite frankly, out of vogue. Modern racism divides oppressed peoples into “good ones” and “bad ones.”

The good ones are the ones who, against the odds of a gamed system, have prospered. For the enlightened racist, their success serves as further proof that the bad ones have only failed due to their own shortcomings. Absent in this simplistic analysis is any reference to systemic racism that condemns historically disadvantaged peoples to poor schools, poor housing and poor health. And of course there is no recognition of the fact that so many members of the dominant culture were born into privilege. This privilege includes being born into a family with college educated parents, going to well funded schools, being networked with people who can help you find jobs, or even living in a community where there are jobs to be had.

Ten Canoes

A new indigenous movie set in Australia:

Aboriginal life without the colonial backdropThe story revolves around a remote Arafura tribe of families, where the old men take several wives, and the younger men in the hierarchy have none. It begins with young Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), falling for his brother’s youngest wife. On a goose egg hunt, his brother regales him with the tale of a time this happened before, and the consequences that ensued from ‘living the wrong way’, or breaking tribal law.

The story snakes away from our expectations, giving us a fascinating insight into the lives and cultures of the characters. Day-to-day life, conflict with other tribes, polygamy, reincarnation, sorcery and payback retribution are all embraced in a natural and non-judgemental manner. As Australian cinema has historically depicted Aborigines in relation to modern-day white society, the pre-colonial setting of Ten Canoes enables us to better identify with the characters.

Fun facts from The Tailenders

I watched this PBS documentary today. Here are some items I gleaned from it:

  • When recording Bible stories in the Indian language of Mixteco, there was no word for "punish," so evangelicals had to invent one.

  • Evangelicals use the "5 Steps of Selling" to get their religious messages across.

  • They attack the major religions--Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism--as well as indigenous religions. For instance, one video says, "The fortresses of Buddhism are a false hope."

  • Once converted to evangelicalism, villagers say they can't participate in community activism becuse the Bible doesn't permit it. That serves the political and corporate interests that determine who gets land, water, schooling, health care, etc.

  • People convert to evangelicalism because they see others beginning to prosper economically. The converted can rent a house or buy a car. As one former Oaxacan put it, "I can go to all kinds of restaurants, all kinds of fast foods."
  • July 25, 2006

    Review of Prey

    A diverse death worldYou won't find many video games that take place on an Indian reservation. The game Prey does--for, oh, about 10 minutes. And then Tommy, the main character, gets sucked into a giant alien spacecraft.

    The irony is that Tommy, a Cherokee, was just saying how he wanted a new life, off the reservation. Well, he gets his wish--except that it involves skulking around a dark, bio-mechanical alien ship in an effort to save his girlfriend and grandfather, who also were abducted.

    As a first-person shooter, Prey may not win many awards for originality, but it's got enough going for it to keep fans of the genre interested. And, yes, in case you're wondering, there's a reason for Tommy's Native American ethnicity: Early in the game, he learns how to "spirit walk," which allows his spirit to leave his body and access areas his physical presence cannot, all while remaining undetectable to surrounding enemies (as long as Tommy doesn't attack them first).

    Missionaries teach materialism

    ‘P.O.V.’ on PBS: How Missionaries Spread the Word, and U.S. CapitalismAre evangelical missionaries good or bad? That’s the question in tonight’s PBS documentary, “The Tailenders.” The missionaries’ smugness and salesmanship tend to irritate other humanitarian workers, who typically see themselves as more respectful of the people they’re tending to. What’s more, the program implies, silencing the stomping beats of, say, the Solomon Islands in favor of pallid “Jesus Loves Me” singalongs seems just wrong.

    But more disturbing than this, the documentary contends, is the psychological and spiritual danger that many progressives believe is wrought by missionaries, who swipe from indigenous people their happy, peaceful ways and stick them instead with the greed, selfishness, jealousy and wrecked natural landscapes known to be the key features of global industrial capitalism.

    The problem with Chief Illiniwek

    Mascot represents stereotype After 1818, when Illinois became a state and sent representatives to the U.S. Congress, members of Congress authorized a massive land grab and the forced removal of Indian nations from the state. This is the sort of memory "Chief" Illiniwek honors. Love for the high-stepping symbol of the university and the state's heritage functions to empower adoring fans and university alumni to ignore the history (e.g., genocide) and its lingering residue (such as legal title to stolen land) from which they continue to reap untold benefit.

    When read through the lens of an American Indian-centered history, so-called "Chief" Illiniwek is a tragic hero, a defeated "warrior" and spiritual guide who offers a cathartic reproof of his ancestors' past injustices. Huddleston's chief is an example of imperialist nostalgia, a widespread tactic used by colonial powers like Australia, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand to cover up domination and transform those responsible for the oppression of indigenous peoples (including American Indians) to act as innocent bystanders.
    For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

    January Stereotype of the Month loser

    The loser:  Casinos = shameless monument to cynical minority politics

    Dishonorable mention:  Tribes want to freeze themselves in past like museum displays

    2005 Stereotype of the Year loser

    The loser:  "Natives were content with a...simple, animallike existence"

    Dishonorable mention:  "Noble Savage Indianism" is Indians' "fantasy group heritage"

    July 24, 2006

    Jesus didn't save Indians

    Debunking the myth of ChristianityA letter from an angry reader from Oklahoma chastised me for attempting to explain why the Iraqi people hate America. She wrote, “Tim Giago should realize that America is a Christian nation. Jesus Christ appeared to Black Elk, not to the Muslims.”

    I wonder how many Indian nations consider themselves to be “Christian nations.” The two most potent weapons brought to the Western Hemisphere by the European invaders were disease and the Church. While the diseases unknown to the indigenous population destroyed millions of lives, the Church destroyed cultures, religions, traditions, languages and customs. The early demise of the Indian people can be equally attributed to both.

    The letter writer, an Indian woman, continued, “We as Americans are crusaders. We bring democracy to a dark and ignorant country.” Is that what the “crusaders” brought to the Indian people? Native Americans did not become included in America’s form of “democracy” until 1924, nearly 150 years after America’s settlers signed the Declaration of Independence. The “independence” and “democracy” was for white Americans only. It was not until 1946 when Arizona and New Mexico finally ratified the Constitutional Amendment that made Native Americans United States citizens. For the first 30 years of his life, my father, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a fluent Lakota speaker, was not a citizen of the United States.

    The settlers who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom outlawed most religious rites of the Indian people. The Sacred Sun Dance of the Great Plains Indians was banned and its practitioners subject to arrest and incarceration.

    Indians needed...call Italians

    If You Want a Mobster Role, You Need to Go to TempleYears ago, I had an actor friend, John, who happened to be a Native American. We were having lunch one day when he said: "Howie, things are OK with me now. But when I first came out here back in the '40s, I couldn't get a job. I went over to Republic studios. They were doing hundreds of westerns then. I figured I'm a cinch to get an Indian part.

    "Sorry," the casting director tells me. "You don't look Indian enough."

    "I don't look Indian enough? I happen to be a full-blooded Sioux!"

    "So what? You still don't look Indian enough."

    "So if I don't look Indian enough, who does?"



    "You heard me. We only use Italians for Indian parts. They look more Indian than the Indians."

    Scalping:  Native or imported?

    Did Europeans originate scalping?

    July 23, 2006

    Why Indians like Little Tree

    A Lingering Miseducation: Confronting the Legacy of Little TreeThis isn't necessarily surprising, for Indians still come to the book with appreciation of its apparently positive depiction of Indian life in the 1930s, while others see it as just another example of white appropriation of Native identity. Little Tree speaks to stereotypes that aren't rejected by all Indians; after all, the Noble Savage is much less degrading than his ignoble counterpart who runs around scalping everyone and burning their wagons and cabins to the ground. According to Modoc writer Michael Dorris, these stereotypes are manifest in the "popular and persistent folk belief [that] The Indian is, among other things, male, red-skinned, stoic, taciturn, ecologically aware, and a great user of metaphor" (46). The Noble Savage is in touch with the sacred ways of the Earth; he (almost always a male) is sought after by whites and thus possesses something that they don't have quite yet; he is also a wise, understanding, sometimes humorous sachem who is admired by all and a true leader to a noble yet broken people. Such are the images evoked by the Noble Savage, and while there are many problems with this figure, it is still a more benign and ego-enriching role than that of the rabid savage that does nothing but howl and slaughter whites and his fellow tribespeople.

    Basepath or warpath?

    What happened to baseball player Gene Locklear? From All-Baseball.com:

    Card CornerLabeled a poor defensive player, Locklear had difficulty shedding that tag. He also drew criticism for not hustling. Some observers felt he had a bad attitude. It didn’t help that he wasn’t well liked his teammates. He also didn’t like to talk about baseball, which hurt his relations with the press.

    Yet there was much more to this good-hit, no-field failed star who struggled to conform to baseball’s “good ‘ol boys” network in the 1970s. In some ways, Locklear seemed to have greater causes on his mind. As a Native American—a member of the Lumbee Indian National Tribe—he criticized the way that teams like the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians portrayed Indians in their logos. And then there was his fascination with art.

    During his playing days, Locklear dabbled in artistic painting, but he became more serious about his creative efforts in 1980. He once painted the teepee located beyond the center field fence at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, where he played for the minor league Indianapolis Indians. He also showed an interest in painting western and rural scenes, using what he called an “abstract-realistic” approach.

    July 22, 2006

    Beach for Chief!

    Actor Adam Beach Announces He will Run For Chief Of His Tribe“I spent the last three years trying to find out who I am,” said Adam Beach. “I tried to be gentle and soft like my mother and become the life of the party like my father.” Beach, who spoke to students at the National UNITY Conference in Buffalo, New York earlier this week, said the soul-searching led him back to his roots and now he wants to run for Chief of his tribe, the Saulteaux Tribe of Canada.

    Adam Beach, best known in Indian Country for his role in the movie Smoke Signals, will soon become a household name around the world with his latest film Flags of Our Fathers due to be released in October. Many will remember him as Ben Yahzee in the movie Windtalkers. Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven) is now doing post-production on Flags of Our Fathers, the stories of six men who raised the American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in World War II. The movie is based on a book written by James Bradley. Beach plays the role of serviceman Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from the Gila River Indian Community of Arizona.

    Rumsfeld can't handle truth

    A good question:  Diné Guardsman stumps RumsfeldOne of the Navajo Nation’s finest received national attention and applause from his comrades when he recently asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why the latest technology for detecting IEDs can be found in New York City, but not on the streets of Iraq.

    Marine Cpl. Arthur King, originally from St. Michaels, Ariz., was among five soldiers selected to ask Rumsfeld questions during a televised meeting with troops at Balad Air Base, Iraq, on July 12.

    Invisible Indians

    Indian Comics Irregular #141:  Reality Bites Native Actors

    More carping about casinos

    Column:  "This virtually unregulated industry is leeching jobs"

    July 21, 2006

    Natives more than buckskinned braves

    Diverse Voices:  American Indians Want Place At TableIn the world of acting, where looks come first, American Indians come last in being cast for roles, says Reed, chairman of American Indians in Film & TV and a member of the Screen Actors Guild. When it comes to writing, directing, producing and other jobs behind the camera, the situation is much the same.

    "When you hear the words `American Indian,' what image comes into your mind?" asks Reed, sitting in a Studio City cafe. "Most people think of a strong man with long black hair in buckskin leather."

    Getting comfortable with the NMAI

    On the National Museum of the American Indian:

    Summer in Washington, Where Image Is AllMany critics had complaints about the inaugural installations. I did. I was looking for an art museum, and what I found was something different. In its permanent home on the Mall, where it opened last year, the museum has sustained its rethought identity. And I have become more comfortable with that identity. I still have gripes, but my expectations have changed. For one thing, I’ve seen that when the revised model works, it really works, as it does in the Pacific Coast show.

    It was organized by a team of Indian curators, representatives from 11 Pacific Coast communities in the United States and Canada. They also produced the catalog, which is in the form of oral history rather than conventional scholarship. The objects they chose—call them art, artifacts, ceremonial utensils, whatever—are utterly riveting, and none more so than the masks.

    Coulter attacks Indians

    Republican party scraping bottom of whiskey barrel with Ann CoulterAnn Coulter's press release "The Little Injun That Could" stated that "Churchill should pack up his teepee and hit the trail of tears." Ann Coulter's statement clearly dehumanizes the loss of lives of over five thousand Indian men, women and children! The trail of tears is just one of many hundreds of 9-11s Indians had to endure because of U.S. terrorist policies against their race.

    Ann Coulter in her report "Not Crazy Horse Just Crazy" attacked Ward Churchill over his comments of comparing Indian reservations to the equivalent of Nazi concentration camps. Ann Coulter fired back at him by stating "I forgot Auschwitz had a casino." This statement by Ann Coulter goes to the heart of the Republican party's stand against Indians economic well being. Republican party members across our country use every tactic at their disposal to hinder or stop legislation that would bring economic relief to the Indian community. Ann Coulter is obviously uneducated and oblivious to the true documented history covering the American Indian holocaust.
    For more on Ward Churchill and his infamous 9/11 essay, go to Terrorism:  "Good" vs. "Evil."

    July 20, 2006

    Indians at the 2006 Comic-Con

    My pal Victor Rocha and I, along with friend Taylor, attended the San Diego Comic-Con today. If you haven't heard, it's the biggest comic-book convention in the world.

    You won't find many Indians there. But since Victor is a Pechanga Indian and I'm an FOV (friend of Victor), we practically count as Indians (plural).

    As usual, I looked for multicultural comics. As usual, I didn't find many. There were a few black comics and that was about it.

    But I did come across a Native-themed comic called BLACKFOOT BRAVES SOCIETY that's supposed to come out soon. I'll report on it when I get more information.

    For my photos of the Con, see San Diego Comic-Con--July 20, 2006. For more on the subject, see Thoughts on the San Diego Comic-Con 2000+.

    My take on Black Cloud

    I'd say Black Cloud isn't as good as the glowing praise, but isn't as bad as the critical pans. Here's how I see it.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Pix of the 2006 Comic-Con

    Along with my brief report on this year's San Diego Comic-Con, here are some photos of the Con:

    San Diego Comic-Con--July 20, 2006

    July 19, 2006

    Dueling views on Black Cloud

    I received the following comments from two correspondents on the same day.

    1)Black Cloud is an excellent movie. The acting was superb. And even though I do not like boxing movies, the movie was really not about boxing per se. For me it dealt with every day issues of racism, class, sexual harassment, and on and on. All the issues facing too many American Indian people everyday all over the country.

    The scenery was beautiful.

    Rick Schroder did an excellent job in making this movie.

    I encouraged my family to see it and all liked it, especially the young people in our family.
    2)OMG, Rob, did you see "Black Cloud"? I saw one scene and it was atrocious. It was such garbage I couldn't bring myself to watch it. I felt embarrassed for everyone involved. Yes, it was that bad.Hmm. So which is it: good or bad?

    Cherokee-based video game

    'Prey' showers gamers with alien actionI'm not an expert on Cherokee lore, but I'll bet it doesn't include getting puked on by an alien ship.

    That's what happens in the world of "Prey," a stomach-churning, disorienting and ultimately thrilling experience that matches the mythos of ancient Indian legend against the twisted horrors of alien abduction.

    You play Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic who isn't a fan of reservation life, or being a Cherokee, for that matter. We meet him in a bar and quickly learn his views clash with those of his girlfriend, Jen, and his traditional grandfather, Enisi.

    No gravy train for Sacagawea

    Lewis and Clark are met with a yawnPaging Sacagawea: Lewis and Clark have lost their way again.

    When President Bush issued a proclamation in 2002 creating a Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration, tourism officials from Virginia to Oregon pounced on it as a potential blockbuster. But as the three-year celebration enters its homestretch, participating communities are still waiting for the Lewis and Clark gravy train to leave the station.

    July 18, 2006

    George Carlin on "Native Americans"

    Politically Correct Language by George CarlinAs far as calling them "Americans" is concerned, do I even have to point out what an insult this is? ... We steal their hemisphere, kill twenty or so million of them, destroy five hundred separate cultures, herd the survivors onto the worst land we can find, and now we want to name them after ourselves? It's appalling. Haven't we done enough damage? Do we have to further degrade them by tagging with the repulsive name of their conquerers?

    You know, you'd think it would be a fairly simple thing to come over to this continent, commit genocide, eliminate the forests, dam up the rivers, build our malls and massage parlors, sell our blenders and whoopee cushions, poison ourselves with chemicals, and let it go at that. But no. We have to compound the insult.

    I'm glad the Indians have gambling casinos now. It makes me happy that white people are losing their rent money to the Indians. Maybe the Indians will get lucky and win their country back. Probably they wouldn't want it. Look at what we did to it.

    Native network tried again

    Group hopes to launch first American Indian cable channelFlipping through TV channels, Jay Winter Nightwolf noticed something: While blacks, Latinos and other minority groups had niche cable networks, American Indians had no national TV outlet for their issues--everything from tribal sovereignty to language preservation.

    The Washington-area radio personality has joined a group of Virginia broadcast journalists and other media professionals to launch Native American Television, joining a handful of groups racing to establish the United States' first American Indian cable channel.

    July 17, 2006

    Two-spirits in Transamerica

    In the 2005 film Transamerica, Felicity Huffman plays Bree, a woman who was a man before undergoing treatments. Based on her college anthropology, Bree tells her son how Native Americans such as the Zuni accepted and honored transgendered people. They were known as berdaches or two-spirit people.

    A website offers lots of quotes on the subject. A definition:Two-Spirit is a term used by some Native Americans to describe a person who embraces a gender identity that differs from his or her biological sex and/or a person who is attracted to members of the same sex. The term, which may be defined or used differently by various Native Americans, stems from a traditional belief that some people have two spirits, embodying both male and female gender identities.Their roles in Native societies:In pre-contact times, Native American people had a great reverence for these Two-Spirit people. Quite naturally they viewed Two-Spirits as extraordinary sources of information about human nature. Two-Spirits were healers, artists, prophets--whatever their personal vision impelled them to be.

    The holiness of the berdache has to do with Indian views that everything that exists is a reflection of the spiritual. If a person is different from the average individual, this means that the spirit must have taken particular care in creating this person....[B]y this reasoning, such an individual must be especially close to the spirits.
    The Zuni case:When Europeans arrived in North America they were shocked that native peoples often interpreted gender differently from them. Not only were many cultures matriarchal, a great many tribes accepted three genders instead of only two. Zuni Pueblo, in western New Mexico, honored three genders before the coming of protestant missionaries. Men who chose not to become hunters and warriors became Ihamana, members of an alternative gender that bridged the other two. While they were initiated into male religious societies, they became crafts specialists and wore female garb. They were non-warriors who moved freely in the male and female worlds.In the movie, Graham Greene plays Calvin Many Goats, a rancher who gives Bree and her son a ride. Significantly, he says he's part Navajo but had a great-grandparent who was Zuni--both tribes that recognize the two-spirit person. He and Bree are attracted to each other from the beginning. Judging by his comments, we suspect he'll accept her regardless of her hidden past.

    Incidentally, Transamerica has little of the "freakishness" you might expect in a transgender movie. It's really about relationships--people bonding on a road trip. And everyone in it did a great job. Huffman deserved an Oscar for her performance more than Reese Witherspoon did.

    Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10. See it for its Native core.

    Time to eliminate reservations?

    Tribes want to freeze themselves in past like museum displays

    The Indian fighter who cried wolf

    Wolf cries wolf about money laundering, political corruption

    July 15, 2006

    Hottest squaw since Pocahontas?

    In a DC comic book, the character Firestorm called Dawn, the wife of Manitou Raven, "the hottest squaw this side of Pocahontas." See the debate that ensued in Google Groups, and note my comments (39 and 41) in the middle.

    Incidentally, Firestorm (i.e., the writer) was probably referring to the Disney cartoon version of Pocahontas. Since she was only a 10- or 12-year-old child, the original Pocahontas wasn't that hot.

    Hopkins the horse hero?

    An update on the 2004 Disney movie Hidalgo, which starred Viggo Mortensen as park-Lakota horseman Frank Hopkins. At the time, the press reported that Hopkins's story seemed to be a hoax. Evidence has come to light suggesting the story was at least partly true after all.

    Wonderfalls:  "Totem Mole"

    A review of a good episode of a good TV show. Check it out on DVD.

    July 14, 2006

    All about powwows

    Return of the NativeSince the powwow style of dancing, drumming and singing was not universal among all of the 500 currently recognized American Indian tribes, today's celebrations are a blend of cultures and traditions.

    The word itself hails from the Algonquin language, and many of the powwow dances originated among the Plains Indians. A staffer from the Southern California Indian Center in Los Angeles says, "Every tribe had its own way of doing things, but traditions were lost when people moved off the land. Now people get together at powwows to get back in touch with the traditions."

    According to Levchuk, many Indians "bring their children so they can learn to dance, learn songs and be exposed to traditions in an intertribal way."

    Powwows have some elements in common with craft fairs and county fairs, including an abundance of booths selling food, clothing and jewelry. However, here you're likely to find buffalo burgers, fry bread, Indian tacos, and traditional stews along with the corn dogs and cotton candy.

    Guess who's coming to dinner?

    Cannibals of the Caribbean

    Indians as Cannibals

    Great White Hopes vs. screaming hordes

    It seems we're headed back to the Fifties: the era of McCarthyite name-calling and Saturday matinees. Whether it's in political or creative circles, Native people are getting demonized again.

    Because of the Abramoff scandal, pundits have all but called Indians mobsters and hoodlums. Some have implied they're subverting the government just like Communists. A few have suggested returning to a policy of terminating tribes and forcing them to assimilate.

    Overseas, we're treating Iraqi civilians much like we did the Indians. Pundits have labeled Iraq Indian Country, as if we're still protecting the fort against natives on the warpath. One US official referred to Osama bin Laden and his "Indians"; columnist Liz Smith compared Indians to terrorists.

    And what is the whole immigration debate but a jeremiad against brown-skinned people? When you hear ridiculous claims like "the English language is threatened," "our values are under attack," or "they want to take back the Southwest," you know there's more than a policy dispute going on. For much the same reason, we're dissing leaders such as Bolivia's Evo Morales (an Aymara Indian) who oppose US interests and tout indigenous rights.

    On the big screen, we're seeing a similar trend. In Sahara (2004), three white adventurers (if you count Penelope Cruz) fought an angry army of blacks and Muslims. In King Kong (2005), three white moviemakers fought an indigenous tribe of crazed killers. This year we have End of the Spear (below) and Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man's Chest.

    Spear:  Whites enlighten "rampaging dark-skinned savages"

    Tribes pouring money into politics?

    "Whiff of scam" from "fiction of sovereignty" taints gaming

    July 13, 2006

    Brave and Age of Empires III

    Brave:  The Search for Spirit Dancer (PS2)

    Age of Empires III:  The WarChiefs Updated Q&A

    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Video Games Featuring Indians.

    Tommy Lee Jones:  Native at heart?

    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by Tommy Lee Jones, has what I'd call Native values. In this 2005 film, Jones forces the man who killed Melquiades to return his body to Mexico and bury it. By the end of the movie, the man has learned to think about someone other than himself.

    That's similar to how many indigenous tribes handle killings. They compel the wrongdoers to make amends for their crimes, to atone for them. They don't demand punishment or retribution the way Euro-American cultures do.

    Other Native values expressed in the movie:
    • Artificial boundaries don't matter.
    • It's better to save life than to get revenge.
    • Death deserves dignity and a proper ceremony.
    Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10. That puts it right up there with movie-of-the-year contenders Crash and Brokeback Mountain.

    Greedy Indians and Jews

    Whenever a minority is too successful, we tend to label it negatively. We say it's too uppity or greedy or doesn't know its place.

    See the links I've added to my Greedy Indians page for info on the original "greedy" minority, the Jews. In particular, note Zoltan Grossman's fine PowerPoint presentation, Rich Tribes, Rich Jews:  Comparing the New Anti-Indianism to Historic Anti-Semitism.

    Perhaps coincidentally, both groups were persecuted, hunted down, and killed by Western nations for being un-Christian. Is that what happens when you get in the way of the Jesus juggernaut?

    Casino bad for Buffalo?

    Seneca "moneysuckers" to open "gambling joint" by "fiat"

    Blaming Indians for Abramoff

    "Defunct" tribes seek gaming via "nonsense" of sovereignty

    July 11, 2006

    Bald Beagle satirizes Bad Eagle

    From baldbeagle.blogspot.com:

    Bald BeagleMs. Bowwow seemed a bit “stunned” how a manly warrior like myself could actually shed tears. “For my country,” I responded. She immediately responded, “Yes, it’s a terrible thing that they did to the Comanches, all those warriors wiped out.” But in horror, I realized instantly that (of course) she did not understand at all. “No, that’s not it,” I corrected her, “I cry because I love America.” Our beloved founding fathers, with absolutely no help from Indian people, formed the greatest country ever to grace this grand blue planet. We are free, we do not torture, we care for "the least among us," we bring "democracy" to the oil-rich continents where the indigenous don't even know what to do with it, we build up our nuclear arsenals so we can police the rest of the world in our own image. That is our great calling, to dominate, control, occupy, and ultimately bring salvation and freedom.

    “But, isn’t there a difference between an indigenous country and an imposed government?” she questioned. So, I gave her a quick lesson in American Indian history, about how the Comanches were defeated by the superior whites, and how we should therefore honor the stronger forces. The Americans are the new warriors, and if they want to put up dumb-looking mascots to honor us in front of our impressional children, so be it. “Being a warrior is everything,” I instructed her, “and we as Indian warriors should worship the American government, right or wrong.” At that moment I knew it would never work out between us, she was brainwashed like so many other liberal pugs.

    Better, not worse

    Lynn Johnston has done another great Native sequence in her For Better or For Worse comic strip. This time it features Elizabeth taking leave of the Mtigwaki Reserve, where she's been teaching. The sequence runs from 6/19 to 7/3.

    Note also that Johnston devotes a whole area of her website to the Mtigwaki band. As Wikipedia explains:Mtigwaki, Ontario, is a fictional First Nations reserve in the comic strip For Better or For Worse. The town, located in Northwestern Ontario, is home for a tribe of the Anishinabek Nation. The name, pronounced mm-tigwak-eh, means "Land of Trees."

    None of my business?

    A correspondent recently attacked my critique of the Y-Indian Guides. He claimed it was none of my business and I had no business defending people from it.

    Naturally, I disagreed. Check out my response to see the poor fellow get a tongue-lashing for his effrontery.

    Satisfactory Ceremony

    Finally finished Silko's Ceremony. I thought it was good, but not as good as such Native books as The Grass Dancer (Linda Power) or Indian Killer (Sherman Alexie). Not to mention such non-Native books about Natives as Aztec (Gary Jennings), Pigs in Heaven (Barbara Kingsolver), or Pastwatch:  The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (Orson Scott Card). I give it a 7.5 of 10.

    July 10, 2006

    The myth of our English origins

    Immigration—and the Curse of the Black Legend

    The myth:So amid the din over border control, the Senate affirms the self-evident truth that English is our national language; "It is part of our blood," Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, says. Border vigilantes call themselves Minutemen, summoning colonial Massachusetts as they apprehend Hispanics in the desert Southwest. Even undocumented immigrants invoke our Anglo founders, waving placards that read, "The Pilgrims didn't have papers."

    These newcomers are well indoctrinated; four of the sample questions on our naturalization test ask about Pilgrims. Nothing in the sample exam suggests that prospective citizens need know anything that occurred on this continent before the Mayflower landed in 1620. Few Americans do, after all.
    The reality:Forget for a moment the millions of Indians who occupied this continent for 13,000 or more years before anyone else arrived, and start the clock with Europeans' presence on present-day United States soil. The first confirmed landing wasn't by Vikings, who reached Canada in about 1000, or by Columbus, who reached the Bahamas in 1492. It was by a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de León, who landed in 1513 at a lush shore he christened La Florida.

    The Spanish didn't just explore, they settled, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565. Santa Fe, N.M., also predates Plymouth: later came Spanish settlements in San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego and San Francisco. The Spanish even established a Jesuit mission in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay 37 years before the founding of Jamestown in 1607.

    Stereotypes = critical issue

    Media impact on American Indian public policyProper and realistic representation in the media is crucial for the protection of American Indian peoples' inherent and treaty rights. The way situations and issues are covered—how the media comes to interpret Indian realities—increasingly drives the making of public policy. Issues that can help or wreak havoc on American Indian tribal life are decided not only by reason and precedence, but too often by the clamor of negative public attention.For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

    July 09, 2006

    Why Little Tree is so popular

    Still more from A Lingering Miseducation:  Confronting the Legacy of Little Tree:In his essay, "The Education of Little Tree: What It Really Reveals About the Public Schools," Michael Marker explores the popularity of Little Tree in schools, particularly its use as a foundational text in multicultural education:

    The message is perfectly clear: Indians are no longer the continent's indigenous people; they are only one of many colorful groups in the great American melting pot. Indians are just like the rest of us. They like to hunt, make moonshine, gather wild herbs in season, and have a close relationship with the earth. In short, they are a lot like the hill people in the Tennessee mountains, with Indian stuff added to their lives as a kind of cultural spice. (226)
    Diversity issues merely become quaint color to a whitewashed American mythos, a national identity that depends upon obscuring the histories of people of color, women, and political and sexual minorities.

    Indians dance at JazzFest

    New Orleans--May 7, 2006