November 30, 2006

Dartmouth Natives "on the warpath"

NADs on the WarpathThe sound of a single, irritable drum in the distance has given way to a full-on charge of the Native cavalry over the Hanover Plain, out to cut down everything in its path deemed offensive. It is as if a large, dust-covered quadrennial alarm clock in the Native American House suddenly sprung to life and alerted the Native Americans at Dartmouth (NADs), It’s time to start being angry again.

And angry they became. The climax of their anger was a two-page advertisement in the Daily D on November 20, paid for by the Native American Council (of which only two students are members), chronicling a “series of campus incidents that can only be described as racist.” The ad violently attacked not only the perpetrators of these events, but the entire campus, “complicit with racism,” and the administration, who failed to “respond swiftly and visibly by denouncing these acts.” The ad was wrought with factual inaccuracies—including matters as simple as dates—and conspicuously lacked any sort of demand for what ought to be done, or what the NADs ultimately hoped to achieve. Instead, they pulled no punches in attacking the entire community, freely bandying about buzzwords like “racism,” “offended,” “intolerance,” and “ignorance.”
Comment:  To summarize the situation at Dartmouth...conservative and otherwise insensitive students and alumni have used and misused Indian symbols at Dartmouth. Liberal and otherwise sensitive students, faculty, alumni, and onlookers have protested this use and misuse. Now we have the conservative Dartmouth Review's response.

Mascot protests like this go on all the time. Normally, I wouldn't cover them, because reporting on mascots alone could require a full-time blog. But this one is breaking into the mainstream press, with articles like Dartmouth Rallies for Minority Students in the NY Times reporting on Hundreds Converge on Dartmouth Hall for "Solidarity Against Hatred" Rally in The Dartmouth. Therefore, it's worth reading about in real-time.

Eventually, this controversy and editorial will go into the Stereotype of the Month contest. Offhand, I'd say we have a likely winner for November. <g>

When (the Christian) God made the Dakotas

Tim Kessler's When God Made the Dakotas

According to this review, this Christian book portrays the creation of the Dakotas as a pseudo-Christian event. Specifically:The depiction of Wakantanka as an elderly Indian guy—with white hair, face paint, and three goose feathers stuck in his hair—is more reflective of the Judeo-Christian ethos than it is to ours. In the belief system to which the author apparently ascribes, God is said to have created man in his own image. In our belief system, however, the Creator’s presence is manifest in all things, and does not appear simply in human form.

Further, no informed Dakota would give the Creator a detailed description of what kind of land he’d like his people to inhabit; this would be an insult to the Creator. To us, all creation is beautiful and a great mystery. From the beginning, we have developed a complex, symbiotic and reverent relationship with the land. We are not above the earth but are a part of it and our belief in creation and by extension our Creator stresses this relationship.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 11/28/06.)

Critique of Beach in Flags

Movie Review:  Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers--FoofIra is the one who's destroyed—he can't get over his survivor's guilt that better marines than he died on the island. He drinks so heavily he's kicked off the tour and sent back to fight. Later, we learn, he becomes a farm laborer (whom tourists drive out of their way to be photographed with in the fields) and dies of drink. Ira is the heart of the picture, but his story is simultaneously overdone and underdeveloped.

I wish that nearly every person he engages with didn't make a tactless or taunting comment about his race. Ira may respond as a Native American of his day would have (it can't be the first time he's been called "Chief," after all), but the 2006 audience doesn't hear it that way. (This is part of the larger problem, that every character is always displaying his personality. The treatment of character is hackneyed in the way it has been in American war movies since the silent era, though it usually includes a healthier dose of comedy than you get in Flags of Our Fathers.) Then the fact that Ira becomes a falling-down drunk on the bond tour changes the subject, although the moviemakers apparently don't realize it. Are they suggesting that the war-bond tour caused his alcoholism? Do they think that alcoholics aren't capable of creating their own problems, even in what from the outside seem like ideal circumstances?
Comment:  The whole review is equally critical of Flags. You can get a taste of the movie's quality from the trailer below.

Aboriginal losers in hot water

Nathaniel Arcand Stars in CBC Radio’s “The Whimpering Penguin.” Available Online:)What’s this? Nathaniel Arcand a slacker? Nah, not our guy…but he DOES play one in the upcoming radio production "The Whimpering Penguin," to be aired December 10 and 11 on CBC Radio’s Sunday Showcase Program. And the best part? You don’t even have to live in Canada to tune in.

Set in working class Edmonton against the backdrop of the now-defunct Klondike celebration, "The Whimpering Penguin" is a sardonic story of two losers on a chase for some cash and their lives.The edgy comedy surrounds the antics of Toby (Arcand) and Keith (Murray Utlas) who are working in a car wash with bigger plans of forming a rock band. When Keith’s no-good brother is released from jail looking for the two pounds of weed he left in his sib's care, Toby and Keith (get the pun?) begin to panic since they smoked one pound and traded the other for a hot tub.

Golfing for the arts

Adam Beach Golf Classic January 5, 2007Actor Adam Beach, of Flags of Our Fathers fame, is proud to announce the inaugural Adam Beach Golf Classic, sponsored by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Jan. 5, 2007 at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs. The Golf Classic will be managed by Poitra Consulting out of Saint Paul, Minn, with all proceeds going to the American Indian College Fund based in Boulder, Colo.

“I am honored to have the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians serve as Title Sponsor for our first fund raiser.” Beach said. “The money raised from the Golf Classic will serve as the foundation in creating the Adam Beach Endowment for Native Arts. The Endowment will be housed at the College Fund and will grant out scholarships for American Indian and Aboriginal youth pursuing the arts beginning in the fall of 2007.” Mr. Beach concluded.

A decent Indian logo

Spokane baseball team works with Indian tribe on new logoThe Spokane Indians on Wednesday unveiled a new logo developed in conjunction with the minor league baseball team's namesake Spokane Tribe of Indians.

In a rare instance of a sports team working with a local Indian tribe on the sensitive issues of racial stereotypes in nicknames, mascots or logos, the tribe gave its blessings to the design.

November 29, 2006

Christmas subverts stereotypes

Native Nativity?In most movies, Montgomery says from her home in San Francisco, “Native Americans are either [portrayed as] the soothsayer medicine man or the drunk troublemaker.” In “Christmas in the Clouds,” they are yuppies, or the Native equivalent. The main character, Ray Clouds on Fire (Timothy Vahle), is the manager of an upscale resort lodge owned by his tribe who is determined to get a good review from a secret critic arriving in town while falling in love with one of his lodge guests. The movie also stars Graham Greene of “Dances With Wolves” fame as a vegetarian chef who mourns the passing of each turkey.

“There’s a Native take on things that I find hilarious,” says Montgomery, taking note of the group’s unique sense of humor. Movies, she says, “always played on these tragic tales of woe, always with an accompanying guilt trip. There’s a risk of self-pity.” The danger, she says, is that though such movies mean well, the Native American sees himself or herself portrayed most of all as a loser.

Hollywood likes it that way. It sells tickets.
For more on Christmas in the Clouds, see A Christmas Full of Cheer and Screwball Native Comedy Has Hit Potential—and a Problem.

If it's good enough for Quebec...

Quebec 'nation' raises native Indians' ireCanada's indigenous peoples are feeling snubbed by Parliament's decision to recognize Quebec as a “nation” within a united Canada and not them, too.

Native Indian leaders say the vote in the House of Commons, which has helped reignite debate over the role of French-speaking Quebec within largely English-speaking Canada, ignored the peoples who lived in North America before European settlers arrived.

“If it is good for the Quebecois--and we have no objection to that--then it is good enough for us,” Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said yesterday, a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure.

Native plays online

Digitized collection to be releasedA new digital collection of American Indian and First Nation plays is scheduled for release before the end of the year. "North American Indian Drama," compiled by Alexander Street Press, will be available on the Web through academic institutions or other libraries that subscribe to the service.

The collection brings together more than 200 plays by indigenous writers, such as R. Lynn Riggs, the first American Indian playwright to have his material produced, to contemporary works. Represented are plays by companies such as Spiderwoman Theater, which is the longest continually running Native women's theater group in North America; the Native American Theater Ensemble; Red Eagle Soaring; and Native Earth, among others.

Kennedy loved Indians

'Bobby' stirs memories of political passionArthur Schlesinger Jr. documented Kennedy's life and death, touching on some of the South Dakota events. He noted the irritation of the candidate's staff when he told them he would take his Senate Indian subcommittee to South Dakota not long before the primary.

Kennedy told them: "Those of you who think you're running my campaign don't love Indians the way I do. You're a bunch of bastards."

More on Frazier's bequest

See the posting in Pictographs for more on the translation of Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons into Cherokee.

Good-for-nothing Sioux

Dakota Indians have "never worked," need life-skills training

November 28, 2006


Last month I finally read volumes 2 and 3 of the three-part NORTHWEST PASSAGE series. The following commentaries reflect my views:

NORTHWEST PASSAGE VOL. 1 original graphic novelNorthwest Passage is an evolution in his work, a lively adventure story with a rich cast of characters, an interesting historical backdrop and cartooning that is amazingly clear and engaging. I was expecting something akin to a western with a Canadian setting, but Chantler instead offers up a story of pioneering spirit, old rivalries and the dreams of exploration that battle with the natural tendency to grow older and retire from such adventurous pursuits, whether you want to or not.and

Two Things I Wish I Could AttendAuthor Scott Chantler has been chronicling the early days of the Canadian frontier and the Hudson’s Bay Company in his series Northwest Passage. The third volume of the series (featuring a climactic battle between Charles Lord and a band of vicious mercenaries) has just been released and is probably the most fun you’ll ever have with Canadian history!but also

Borrowed TimeI very much appreciate Oni trying new things: in this case, attempting to establish a format for the serialized graphic novel. However, I have yet to read one of their titles in this format that didn’t feel slight and leave me wanting more. (Northwest Passage is the best of the lot for satisfaction, in my opinion.) Certainly, at $7 for 80 pages, it’s a better deal than, for example, a $7 64-page Prestige Format DC comic (although those are in color)—but it’s not nearly as satisfying as an $8 200-page Shonen Jump manga.In short, NORTHWEST PASSAGE has rich characters...makes history come alive...features Indians in a minor but crucial role...and leaves you wanting more.

Intergenerational trauma (the Jay Silverheels Complex)

The lost generationsThe term, first coined in the mid-1980s by U.S. scholar Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, is defined as what happens when an ethnic group is traumatized over an extended period of time. What happened to the Aboriginals over the past 100 years has resulted in the highest levels of alcohol addiction and suicide in Canada.

"Forced assimilation and cumulative losses across generations involving language, culture and spirituality contribute to the breakdown of the family kinship networks and social structures," Dr. Brave Heart writes. "The historical legacy and the current psychosocial conditions contribute to ongoing intergenerational traumas."
How it works:"I think you're dealing with generations of people who have been damaged by colonialism," Wieman says, "and the way that we have been treated by the dominant culture makes you feel dispirited. You feel devalued and so people will turn to things like addictions as a way of coping, of self-medicating, of not really wanting to be here because their situation is just so intolerable."

Simpsons trivializes Indian religion

In "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story" (episode 13 of the 2005-2006 season), the Simpsons are exploring the Carl's Dad Caverns when they encounter a stalactite. The following dialog ensues:MARGE (reading from plaque):  "Local Anahoopi Indians believed this stalactite was the finger of Tsisnajini, their god of pointing down."

HOMER:  Silly Indians.

HOMER:  Our god made their god.
Even if dumb ol' Homer said it, he's right. The "Anahoopi" Indians do sound silly.

Needless to say, this bit stereotypes Indian religions. It's a takeoff on the Indian belief that everything has a spirit, but it trivializes this belief by inventing such a trivial god.

What's next, the god of belly-button lint? No wonder people think Indians worship every animal, vegetable, and mineral.

Robbie Robertson interviewed

Robbie Robertson:  An interview with a Rock and Roll LegendIn September I was able to interview Robbie Robertson, the Mohawk Rock n’ Roll legend from Six Nations Canada. He was in Cleveland, Ohio for an appearance at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum’s “Inductee Lecture Series.”

Robertson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Band in 1994 and he is one of only a few Natives who have been inducted into this elite class of musicians.

When Apaches attack

Virgin Trains ad:  Apaches whoop, ride, shoot at passengers

(Be sure to watch the video.)

November 27, 2006

Another Oprah screw-up

Tim Giago:  Mainstream media lacking in accuracyIn reconstructing the infamous Long Walk of the Navajo to their incarceration at Fort Sumner, Oprah’s narrator told of how many Navajo died on that long march. But, of course, the narrative would not be as effective without actual photos. The producers of the show dug up some pictures of Indians lying dead in a field. Unfortunately the photos were actually photos of the dead Lakota men, women and children at the Massacre at Wounded Knee. I suppose the producers figured that images of any dead Indian would suffice because after all, who would know the difference.

Many of us Lakota immediately knew the difference because those photos of the dead at Wounded Knee are burned into our minds. It is an event that we commemorate annually.
Comment:  The first 2.5 minutes of this video is a trailer for Mile Post 398. It's worth seeing for its own sake but it has nothing to do with Oprah.

The shot of the dead at Wounded Knee occurs at the 3:30 mark.

It's funny to hear Oprah say she attended a powwow. More to the point, she staged a powwow for the benefit of her cameras. See Oprah Visits Navajo Nation and Demands to See a Powwow for more on the story.

Crosby vs. Chumash

Opinion: Lack of facts, bitter tone betray author's ignoranceJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe, a German poet and novelist, wrote: "Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action." David Crosby's new book is out and his chapter on the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is a perfect example of ignorance in action.

Although I have become accustomed to his constant rants against the tribe, I was deeply disturbed to read his comments about the tribe in his new book. Clearly, Mr. Crosby's emotions got the best of him and he decided to base his comments on fantasy rather than facts.

For an individual who represented the 1960s, a time of peace and love, there's nothing peaceful or loving about Mr. Crosby's bitter tone. He seems to have become the head cheerleader for the tribe's vocal opponents in the Santa Ynez Valley. It appears that the only remaining elements left over from the '60s with Mr. Crosby are his drug and alcohol addictions.

Dwelling on the past

No Thanks to ThanksgivingIn the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who "settled" the country--and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable--such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States--suddenly the value of history drops precipitously and one is asked, "Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?"

This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class--one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.

Quinault plays the blues

Roger Cultee’s School of Rock“I wanted to go out on my own, create my own school of rock,” Roger says. “That’s why I went further than studying this month’s Britney Spears. I didn’t just want to follow the river; so to speak, I actually decided to go where the river is coming out of the ground. To the direct source.”

“That source,” he continues, “is the blues, coming out of the 20’s and 30’s all the way back to the field blues, like Robert Johnson—all the older generation guys. Every blues song is an Indian song; that’s my belief…The black man borrowed from the Indians the four-four beat because they were doing their poly-rhythm. So put together the poly-rhythm with a four-four beat, which is purely Indian, and you got your modern music. That’s why blues is an Indigenous musical form of America."

Aboriginal music awards

Manitoba singer/actress wins big at aboriginal music awardsAndrea Menard of Flin Flon, Man., was a multiple winner Friday at the eighth annual Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

Menard garnered best folk album and album of the year for Simple Steps as well as best song single, 100 Years.

November 26, 2006

Conquering age and Indians


Movie Review:  The FountainThe number one reason that i hated this movie was the negative portrayal of the Mayan natives and the good image given to the white guy, Tomas Creo, the conquistador looking for the "fountain of life." This was a typical cowboy-indian movie.

The Spanish ambition of Tomas Creo led this character to slaughter natives while on his path to find the tree that would save Spain. The asshole director, Darren Aronofsky, filmed a scene where the Chief Indian bows down to this white man and asks for his throat to be cut in order for the white guy Tomas to pursue his goal. What kind of shit is that!? No native will ever bow down to a white guy, even less expose his neck to one.
Comment:  I couldn't tell from the trailer how Hugh Jackman the conquistador dealt with Indians. Now I know.

I've seen David Aronofsky's Pi and found it to be a curious muddle. The Fountain seems to be a more sophisticated version of the same elliptical storytelling.

Vinicio's rating for The Fountain:  2/10 stars.

How to pacify indigenous people

Leadership:  The Wisdom of General CrookDuring the height of the Indian Wars in the American west, one of the most successful American commanders was general George Crook. He was an original thinker who used a combination of imagination and diplomacy to bring the wars to an end with a minimum of bloodshed. Crook's job was to pacify the tribes that still raided (as a form of sport or retribution for slights real or imagined) Indians and non-Indians alike. Crook also had to move tribes to reservations, or force them back there. But the main task of general Crook's troops was to keep the peace on a still turbulent frontier. Faced with the possibility of operating in Afghanistan, a rugged area populated by less well equipped, but more rugged and robust locals, it's a good idea to look back at how general Crook handled a similar situation.

First, general Crook saw diplomacy as his primary weapon. The Indians knew he had a more powerful military force, but they also knew Crook could be trusted. Crook used this trust, and his negotiating skills, to carry out American policies that he often didn't agree with. But Crook was also eager to avoid violence as much as possible. He was not a bloody minded soldier, and he realized that a reputation for senseless violence would make many of the tribes resist more stoutly and refuse to negotiate. Crook would recognize a similar situation in Afghanistan today. There is more to lose and little to gain by using a lot of fire power. You have to convince the Afghans that you do have the firepower, and can use it, but will only do so when there really is no other choice.

Off with their heads!

Scalping, Fact and FancyStereotypes are absorbed from popular literature, folklore, and misinformation. For instance, many children (and adults) incorrectly believe that fierce native warriors were universally fond of scalping early white settlers and soldiers. In fact, when it came to the bizarre practice of scalping, Europeans were the ones who encouraged and carried out much of the scalping that went on in the history of white/native relations in America.

Scalping had been known in Europe, according to accounts, as far back as ancient Greece ("the cradle of Western Civilization"). More often, though, the European manner of execution involved beheading. Enemies captured in battle--or people accused of political crimes--might have their heads chopped off by victorious warriors or civil authorities. Judicial systems hired executioners, and "Off with their heads!" became an infamous method of capital punishment.

Update on Haida manga

A report from Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas:Rob-

In 2005 I produced a book called Hachidori.

It is a short story (six sentences) with ten pages of Haida manga illustrations--as well as some essays on ecological activism.

As of Sept. 2006 we have sold 100,000 copies. As well on Aug. 23rd we began Japan's number three best seller on Amazon Japan.

We have also enjoyed significant television, newspaper and radio exposure. In fact Tokyo's number one rated radio show (for the 20 year old crowd) is called Hummingbird and they begin their show by reading the Hachidori story.

We are now planning on releasing the book into Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The two Thanksgivings

Giving Thanks to America's IndiansThe dominant Thanksgiving is ... a prolonged ritual enactment that works to help reassure Americans that our country was founded on good will and cooperation between two equal peoples. It's a fetishized (false) harmony that suppresses much of the essential truths about Indians and about capitalist culture, in general. In this version the ritual also works as a relief valve, a celebration of the ideal of family togetherness in a world of job insecurity, suffering and broken families.

In Native American culture, every day is Thanksgiving and in fact, harvest celebrations (i.e. thanksgivings) go back thousands of years. But with European colonization many of them, like the Creek's Green Corn Festival were forced to go underground. This is all part of the hidden history of thanksgiving.

November 25, 2006

Debating the Constitution's origins

The myth of the Iroquois and the ConstitutionThe successes of the Iroquois campaign are impressive. The ceremony on the Mall was officially sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution Bicentennial Commission. The House and Senate resolutions passed easily. And in New York the Iroquois have almost succeeded in rewriting the history textbooks--their revision of a teacher's manual is awaiting approval from the state board of education. All this to further an idea with no discernible merit. The notion that the Iroquois somehow influenced the writing of the Constitution is dismissed by virtually every reputable historian with knowledge of the subject: Michael Kammen, author of A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture, calls the idea "a colossal myth." A scholar of Indian history says the Senate vote "destroys my faith in the historical literacy of the Senate."

The myth isn't just silly, it's destructive. Whatever brief boost the rewriting of history may provide for Iroquois self-esteem, it steals attention from the many real and persistent problems now facing the country's 1.4 million Native Americans--the Iroquois included."
"Feature:  Iroquois Law and U.S. Founders," quoted in Fun Fourth of July Facts[Robert H.] Bork called it "a detrimental forcing of a false notion by one culture on another."

In his introduction to "Debating Democracy: Native American Legacy of Freedom," Johansen said Bork's absolute denial "is but one of many examples of the subject's ability to rub raw nerves ... "

"The notion that American Indian political systems have contributed to our present-day notions of these (democratic) concepts has caused intense controversy," Johansen wrote. He said many in the academic world had staked everything on a belief that the Iroquois had nothing to do with the evolution of democracy in America.

Scholars who back the influence theory base their conclusions on the published and unpublished papers of Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, other historical documents, Iroquois oral histories and the Great Law. These researchers say that presents a plausible argument that the Iroquois influenced the ideological birth of the United States.

Native journalists make a difference

Jodi Rave:  More American Indian journalists neededThe reading public responded enthusiastically to Rave's stories.

"It was just like a light had turned on for the entire community, because people hadn't seen Indian stories before. They were hearing different perspectives and they liked it. And it hasn't changed. Every day I get e-mails from people saying thank you for writing or I'm a fan of yours--I love to hear that. It makes me realize that it's making a difference and I'm doing what I believe in. I don't care about those other journalists who don't want to write about Indian issues, because I do and I always have," Rave said.

Passionate about the subjects she covers, one of Rave's greatest recent successes was the Montana Legislature's appropriation of $13 million in public education funding for Indian history and culture. The state's 30-year-old constitutional mandate to provide that curriculum to K-12 students had been completely ignored, but Rave's yearlong coverage raised awareness and support for the appropriation.
For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.

Lazy-Indian stereotypes

LOCAL COMMENT:  No jackpots for Native AmericansOn a recent trip Up North, I overheard two men talking about American Indians who sit around, do nothing and receive free health care along with money from their casinos.

Being Native American and specifically from the tribe they were discussing, the Odawa tribe from the Petoskey region, I was dismayed and frustrated to realize so many people have the same stereotypical view.

Rockin' on the rez

New influences on tribal musicAlthough the turnout was small, the enthusiasm was high, an expression of a growing interest in indigenous music performed by groups originating out of the American Indian reservations of Northern Arizona.

"I think it's a reaction to popular culture," Price said. "I think young people are trying to express themselves, with more programs being cut in the schools. A lot of these musicians make up their own lyrics and music, create their own poetry."

Summing up Flags of Our Fathers

Indian Comics Irregular #147:  Beach Buzz Raises Flags

November 24, 2006

Running away from Gibson

Grappling with the 'Mel factor'Even before Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic tirade this summer, his upcoming film "Apocalypto" was a tough sell.

Graphically violent, subtitled and cast with relatively unknown actors who speak their lines in an obscure dialect, Gibson's tale of a collapsing Mayan civilization was already outside Hollywood's mainstream fare. Then came Gibson's humiliating drunken driving arrest on a Malibu highway in July, which overnight threatened to turn the Oscar-winning director from the film's biggest asset into its biggest liability.

Starting Thanksgiving night, distributor Walt Disney Studios kicks off a campaign aimed at shifting attention from Gibson's foibles and onto his movie. Up against what the industry is calling "the Mel factor," the director will appear on a prime-time special on Disney's ABC network, hoping to blunt any damage that he may have caused "Apocalypto."

Ignored and abhorred no longer

“Dream Makers” Shows How Native Actors Possess the Stuff Dreams Are Made ofA long long time ago…Well, not that long ago, really.

Natives were portrayed in movies and television as stoic, one-dimensional savages in buckskin. And even then, the roles of the “savages” were played by southern European-types in brown makeup and bad wigs. Aboriginals, Natives, Indians…ignored and abhorred by the entertainment establishment and the culture at large.

A lot has changed in the past 30 years, especially in Canada where Aboriginals now produce and direct films, star in television programs, and have their own cable network. Something their cousins south of the border look at with awe.

Director Susan Cardinal’s documentary, Dream Makers takes the viewer on a journey of Natives in film from the era of John Ford to the Canadian television programs North of 60 and Corner Gas. Hosted by award-winning actress Tantoo Cardinal, Dream Makers interviews those in the trenches—the actors and directors who remember the bad old days like Gordon Tootoosis, August Schellenberg, Graham Green, and Jimmy Herman to the young guns like Nathaniel Arcand, Dakota House and Stacy Da Silva who are heralding in the new age.

Let the land rush begin!

Victor Paddlety, Russell Bates's uncle, at a 1956 reenactment of the Oklahoma land rush. See "Land Run" = Theft for a full explanation.

Microsoft vs. Mapuches

Microsoft in legal battle with Chilean tribeMapuche Indians in Chile are trying to take Microsoft to court in a legal battle that raises the question of whether anyone can ever "own" the language they speak.

The row was sparked by Microsoft's decision last month to launch its Windows software package in Mapuzugun, a Mapuche tongue spoken by around 400,000 indigenous Chileans, mostly in the south of the country.

At the launch in the southern town of Los Sauces, Microsoft said it wanted to help Mapuches embrace the digital age and "open a window so that the rest of the world can access the cultural riches of this indigenous people."

But Mapuche tribal leaders have accused the U.S. company of violating their cultural and collective heritage by translating the software into Mapuzugun without their permission.

Showdown over UN declaration

United States opposes declaration on Native rightsThe stage is set for a showdown at the United Nations between countries favoring adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples and a handful of nations--including the United States--that are actively opposing it.

The nations opposing the declaration are the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia and New Zealand--countries with large populations of indigenous peoples who own significant land and resources, including the 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States.

November 23, 2006

Be thankful for what?

The Aftermath of the First ThanksgivingThis is the time of the year when we are inundated with propaganda about the U.S. holiday, Thanksgiving. Recently, the History Channel showed its rendition. The same old story: weary Pilgrims were taught how to plant crops in the new land of America by some savvy Native Americans. Then, to thank the Indians and God, the Pilgrims held a celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Everybody had a great time. This was brotherhood among human beings at its best. Then, the documentary went forward in time to the 18th century. What happened between 1621 and 1675 was completely ignored. Most U.S. history books rarely mention the fate of the Indians who helped the Pilgrims survive.

Growing up in the U.S., I was told that we should be thankful and Thanksgiving is the time for this. School teacher-after-school teacher told their students to "thank God" for what they had. There was never any thought or consideration whether the students did not believe in God. God was always present and had to be thanked once a year.

In the sixth grade, I had the audacity to ask the teacher, "What about poor people? Should they be thankful?" I got my cul reamed for making such a flippant inquiry. "Poor people especially have to be thankful," I was told. "God works in mysterious ways." I did not have the nerve to tell her I did not believe in God.
Comment:  Should Indians be thankful for 500 years of oppression and genocide? You decide.

I'm thankful that the "Native" holidays are over and I don't have to post about them anymore.

Happy Thanksgiving and National Day of Mourning!

Dueling views on how to teach

Thanksgiving lessons taught in new light

Pro:Chuck Narcho, a member of the Maricopa and Tohono O'odham tribes who works as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, said younger children should not be burdened with all the gory details of American history.

"If you are going to teach, you need to keep it positive," he said. "They can learn about the truths when they grow up. Caring, sharing and giving—that is what was originally intended."
Con:Laverne Villalobos, a member of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska who now lives in the coastal town of Pacifica near San Francisco, considers Thanksgiving a day of mourning.

She went before the school board last week and asked for a ban on Thanksgiving re-enactments and students dressing up as Indians. She also complained about November's lunch menu that pictured a caricature of an Indian boy.

The mother of four said the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations in schools instill "a false sense of what really happened before and after the feast. It wasn't all warm and fuzzy."

The Native Picasso

Commemorative show honors life of R.C. GormanGorman, who died Nov. 3, 2005, is considered by many to be the premier Native American artist. It was the New York Times that called him the "Picasso of American Indian art." He first showed his work professionally in 1965 and three years later became the first Native American to run his own fine arts gallery. He has since earned an international following for his distinctive lithographs, bronzes, oil paintings, ceramics and silk screens that have been shown around the world.

"R.C. Gorman was a friend to Northern Arizona University for many, many years and we're honored and delighted to be a part of this celebration," said NAU President John Haeger. "I hope that all of Arizona has a chance to visit this show and share in Mr. Gorman's creativity."

Native music = symphonies and operas

American Indian Musicians Make Many Kinds of MusicAmerican Indian musicians are composing and playing not only traditional music but also works for string quartets, chamber and symphony orchestras, ballet and opera as well experimental works, jazz, rap and reggae.

In popular culture, American Indian music often is perceived as “drumming, native percussion and some chanting,” said Howard Bass, cultural arts manager of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, which recently hosted an unprecedented gathering of native composers and classical musicians for a series of classical concerts and recitals.

Bird songs of the first Californians

Tribes' origin talesIndians inhabited the lands here for thousands of years before European explorers and settlers showed up, and over the course of that time, they established their own histories. Stories of their origins were passed down orally from generation to generation, taking the form of long cycles of melodic chanting sometimes called bird songs--not because the songs are about birds, but because the movement of the Indians through their lands often corresponded to the migration of the birds.

Bird songs are typically performed at funerals and at one special ceremony during the year dedicated to the dead. Traditionally, it takes three nights for the entire cycle to be completed, telling the whole creation story.

November 22, 2006

The first Thanksgiving(s)

Let's Talk Food:  Give credit to Thanksgiving's organizers, although they're not who you thinkIn his book "The Cross in the Sand," Gannon writes that St. Augustine was the first community to celebrate Thanksgiving and the food served at this celebration had no resemblance to that served at the Pilgrim's feast. However, the 1565 celebration was not the first such occasion in Florida. The Spanish explorers held numerous thanksgiving Masses said for safe voyages and surviving the long and dangerous passage to the New World. In 1513, Ponce de Leon organized a celebration of thanks and another in 1521. Others who also gave thanks at a feast were Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528; Hernando de Soto in 1529, Tristan de Luna in 1559. Records indicate that a Catholic priest, Father Luis Cancer de Barbastro also led a thanksgiving Mass in 1549.

Needless to say Gannon is a pariah in New England. He has been described as the real grinch who stole, not Christmas, but Thanksgiving. However, Kathleen Curtin, a member of the Plymouth Plantation Society in Plymouth, Mass., has conceded that Gannon was probably correct in crediting the Spanish for the first Thanksgiving celebrated by Europeans on American soil. All concerned agreed that celebrating with thanks has been celebrated by mankind since food was first harvested. In America, the native Indians had such celebrations for centuries as did other cultures throughout the world.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Texas Held the First Thanksgiving?

Hot topic at G2E

Live from Global Gaming Expo:  Final Day 3

Media Matters:  Indian Gaming & The PressVictor Rocha, the founder of Pechanga.Net, moderated an early morning panel on the media. It was sparsely attended but stirred some lively debate from the presenters and the attendees.

Marsha Kelly, a media consultant, drew no punches when she explained why tribes appear to have such a hard time with the press. "Indian gaming should be the easiest, since we have such a great story to tell," he observed.

But something keeps the negative stories coming. "That factor is racism," she said, "and that racism creates a barrier to communication." Kelly said she represented the fur industry and the National Rifle Association but both were cakewalks compared to gaming.

"This is one of those things that white folks don't get because they don't want to get it," she said of concepts like tribal sovereignty.

Teaching truth is hateful?

Thanksgiving lessons taught in new lightTeacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he "discovered" them.

The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects: The kids get angry and want their things back.
Oddly, not everyone is happy with this appraoch.Others see Morgan and teachers like him as too extreme.

"I think that is very sad," said Janice Shaw Crouse, a former college dean and public high school teacher and now a spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization. "He is teaching his students to hate their country. That is a very distorted view of history, a distorted view of Thanksgiving."
Comment:  The lesson Morgan uses is described in Rethinking Columbus, an educational resource for teachers.

Missing:  Native voices

The Voices of Power and the Power of Voices:  Teaching with Native American LiteratureThe weight and thickness of Mike’s new literature book in English class intimidated him. He opened the book searching for Native American writers whose work he loved to read. Sherman Alexie was his favorite. As he fingered through the table of contents, all he found was a poem about Hiawatha, two stories in the mythology chapter, and one short story in the “Other Literatures” chapter in the back of the book. Sighing heavily, he gazed out the classroom window feeling bored and knowing that this English class would be more of the same. He closed his eyes and his mind, questioning the system and wondering to himself, “Why can’t we read the good stuff in English class?”

Wampanoag weren't invited

American Indians 'Gate Crashers' at First Thanksgiving"Many of the books that are written and much of the education that is out there perpetuate a myth," says Tobias Vanderhoop, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts. "The greatest misconception is that our people were invited to come to Plimouth [to] participate in this harvest festival."

Vanderhoop says a delegation of 90 men went to Plimouth to check things out and ensure that the treaty was still in effect. "Truly it was not an invitation at all," he says, describing the Wampanoag as "gate crashers."

November 21, 2006

New England tribes like Plains tribes

East meets western Plains culture at SchemitzunSchemitzun started as the Pequot Festival of Green Corn, but it has evolved into an important meeting place between the New England tribes and the Native culture of the western Plains. It could even be called their most significant contact since Buffalo Bill Cody brought his Wild West troupe of Plains Indians on a pilgrimage to Norwich in 1907.

Nearly a century ago, Pequot, Mohegan and Narragansett Indians were tremendously impressed by Sioux warriors as the showman and former scout led them in full regalia in a horseback procession to the grave of Uncas. Although eastern Native dress was historically quite different, local tribal leaders copied the Plains war bonnets as an expression of pride and still wear them in private ceremonies. The western influence still runs strong in Schemitzun, which includes one of the largest pow wows in the country.
Comment:  So the Pequot, Mohegan, and Narragansett Indians adopted some Plains customs a century ago because they admired them. That's a far cry from claiming they adopted Plains customs recently because they aren't real Indians and don't have their own cultures.

Hollywood getting better or worse?

Where We Lead, They Will Follow. An Ode to PollyannasThere’s too much talent in Native America clamoring for a voice. There’s too much energy with the infusion of Native media outlets and the web and dumbass Pollyannas who are Indian and White and from North America to the Netherlands and are certainly stubborn, but not na├»ve. Yes, it’s getting better.

Meanwhile, the handwringers will be doing what handwringers and naysayers can always, always, always be counted on to do.

Which is follow.

Which is why the dumbass Pollyannas will lead the way.

Update on Super Indian

From Arigon Starr:The week prior I was privileged to participate as a writer in the Native Voices at the Autry's Festival of New Plays. "Super Indian" was brought to life by a talented group of actors including Kalani Queypo, Zahn McClarnon, Michael Mattys, Gil Birmingham, Robert Greygrass, Rob Vestal, Delanna Studi, Tonantzin Carmelo, Thirza Defoe, Tom Allard, Joe Sanfelippo and Kevin Sifuentes. I wrote ten five minute episodes--and I was definitely helped in the process by director Bill Dufris, Carolyn Dunn, Sue Zizza, David Shinn, Janna Lopez and musicians Charlie Otte, Vincent Whipple and Dean Mora.


We worked for a total of fifteen hours to polish the script and performances. We had a rockin', rowdy crowd on a Saturday night at the Autry National Center. I'm so glad that folks responded positively to the story of a Reservation Boy who gains super-powers by eating tainted Commodity Cheese!

No, Virginia, there wasn't a Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a LieThanksgiving is a lie. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

There's no more truth to the Hallmark moment of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast of squash, corn and turkey than there is to Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. No definitive historical evidence exists to prove either patriotic legend. According to my favorite history text, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, it was all manufactured to create a feel-good beginning for this country.
Comment:  Lies is one of my favorite history books too.

Zagar not so horrible?

"Why do you look so hard for rascism or stereotypes especially when its not there?"

November 20, 2006

National Day of Mourning

American Indians harbors many traditions, opinions on ThanksgivingEach year, members of the Wampanoag Indian tribe and their supporters gather at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Mass. for the National Day of Mourning. The holiday occurs on the third Thursday of November, the same day as Thanksgiving, and it was started in 1970 by the United American Indians of New England in honor of American Indian people and their struggles, according to the UAINE mission statement.

The American Indian attendees of the National Day of Mourning spend Thanksgiving day protesting the oppression and genocide their culture experienced at the hands of European settlers.

The first Native stereotypes (ever)

From Columbus's journal entry on the Taino Indians, Oct. 12, 1492:[T]hey seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people.

Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance.

It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion.

Too many Sacagaweas?

Coin plan could lead to additional SacagaweasThe U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve have more Sacagawea dollar coins than they know what to do with. And they're about to get more.

Although the Sacagawea has not been produced since March 2002, the Federal Reserve and the Mint as of June 30 had more than 200 million dollar coins, most of them Sacagaweas, in combined inventory, according to the Fed. That's enough to meet current demand for 3½ years.

"Land run" = theft

In commemorating the Centennial, remember all of Oklahoma’s historyOur true history includes a public school system that has oversimplified Oklahoma’s past, starting with elementary school playground re-enactments of the land run. The common sight was of small children streaking across the playground to stake their claim of Indian Territory. Rarely taught was that the land was being taken away from its American Indian owners.

The oft-missed truth of Oklahoma history is that there were several land runs and a lottery held for lands that already had lawful owners—American Indian owners. Instead our history has been rewritten to reflect a more romantic version of the settlement of Oklahoma Territory.
For more on the subject of land ownership, see Indians Owned the United States.

Graham Greene spoof

This is a spoof of the Lakota Herbs commerical I reported on in "Lakota Way" Remedy Ad Uses Non-Natives in Headdresses.

November 19, 2006

Bright lights, big city

Here's where I was last week (which explains the light posting schedule):

Global Gaming Expo--November 13-16, 2006

Indian gaming makes up a big fraction of the gaming industry--maybe a third--so it's relevant to this blog.

I attended with my pal Victor Rocha (Pechanga), the owner and operator of He moderated a panel called "Media Matters" that featured Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock, Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor) and Frances Snyder (Chumash, tribal spokeswoman). Mark's the journalist who asked Bush the infamous sovereignty question.

For Frances's take on tribal-media relations, you can read her articles edited by Rob for (They're articles 3-5 under that heading.) Also worth reading on the subject is Mary Ann Weston's Journalists and Indians:  The Clash of Cultures.

Thanksgiving = happy and innocent?

No need to apologize for Thanksgiving mythsNo American holiday better symbolizes our national character than Thanksgiving. While the Fourth of July celebrates America's proud spirit of independence, democracy and patriotism, Thanksgiving is a spiritual holiday commemorating gratefulness for our prosperity, freedom and collective thankfulness to a beneficent God.

"Thanksgiving is one of the most innocent and happiest of American traditions," Hodgson writes. "There is absolutely no harm in that, but it is a prime example of what historians have come to call 'the invention of tradition.' "

Another dress-up holiday

Acting out history:  St. Patrick students portray Indians, colonists to learn about cooperationWearing a headdress of multicolored paper "feathers," Ian Mc-Keown portrayed Chief Sun Slayer at St. Patrick School's Thanksgiving feast Thursday.

Fifth-grade students are finishing a study of the early settlement of the New World, with a focus on the cooperation between the American Indians and the colonists. Students dressed as Indians, and the girls in the class elected Ian, 10, to portray the chief.

Not just in storybooks

'They wonder if I'm a real Indian'Nicholas Fisher used to believe that Native Americans existed only in storybooks and cartoons.

On Friday, 9-year-old Nicholas had the opportunity to see Native American culture firsthand at a powwow demonstration at Western Michigan University.
Comment:  Kids learning about Indians from the media? Check. Kids not learning about Indians from their parents, church, or community? Check.

So kids learn Native stereotypes from the media first. If they're lucky, they unlearn what they've learned from the media in school.

Lichtenstein's Indian influences

From Newsday, 11/19/06:

American Indians in a pop art lensBuffalo, teepees, cacti, Indians on horseback with feathered headdresses--this is Roy Lichtenstein?

It is indeed, and you can find the proof in "Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters," the exhibit that now fills the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton.

November 18, 2006

The first Indian princess?

A similar tale predates PocahontasPocahontas might be the most famous Indian princess to marry a European in Virginia, but she wasn't the first.

The first was from Saltville, in Southwest Virginia.

Around 1568--nearly 40 years before the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America an American Indian woman from what is now Saltville married a Spanish soldier.
Actually, another Indian princess predates the Saltville Pocahontas. She even saved a white man's life:

Did Smith plagiarize Pocahontas tale?When the Indian chief ordered the execution of a European captive, the chief's daughter persuaded him to spare the white man's life.

Does that sound like the story of Captain John Smith, the Jamestown colonist, now being retold in the popular Walt Disney movie "Pocahontas"?

Actually, it happened in Florida nearly 80 years before Smith set foot in Virginia. The European was Spaniard Juan Ortiz and the Indian maiden was known as Ulele.

Many historians doubt that young Pocahontas ever saved Smith's life and some contend the Englishman probably made up the story after reading previously published accounts of Ortiz's ordeal.
Below:  The white man's concept of a beautiful and virtuous Indian maiden (not Pocahontas or Ulele).

The problem with Curtis's photographs

Collecting IndiansCurtis' legacy is troubling on more serious grounds. Curtis "collected" people, their dwellings, and their material culture (baskets, clothing, cradleboards, for instance). Anthropologists shelved Indians and their artifacts in museums--thousands of Indian remains rested in museums until repatriation--but Curtis froze them in images. "His approach was anthropological, he wanted to capture an ideal in a pure form, as if the outside world didn't exist," says Wigler.

Curtis was only interested in the Indian past, because the Indian present was "spoiled" by Euroamerican intrusions, and, like most Americans of his day, he was convinced that Indians had no future. So he carefully eliminates the white presence in Indian life. His photo of a Hopi ceremonial shows only Indians participating and watching; another "photojournalistic" version of the same ceremonial shows many whites attending (as they do today).
Comment:  Paintings and photographs such as Curtis's contributed to the image of Indians as stoic, noble people of the past.

Thanksgiving on the History Channel

From, 11/18/06:

Charting the pilgrims' progressThanksgiving travel can take a lot of the joy out of the holiday. But the worst airport hassles or nightmare interstate traffic jams are nothing compared to the original spirit-sapping journey, which is documented in Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower. The History Channel special effectively melds dramatic re-creations and well-credentialed talking heads, fortified by mood-setting location shooting.

Desperate Crossings is enlightening, entertaining and inarguably timely. However, it wouldn't have suffered from judicious editing to reduce its bloated three-hour length. A little less would have been more--just like Thanksgiving dinner.

Gay Indians were accepted

Proud spirits

Gay Native Americans balance ethnic, gay identitiesA key glossary term in any lesson about gay Natives is “Two Spirit.” The term, in hundreds of different forms, has loosely meant an alternate gender that, in many of the Native American nations, was a revered and mystified tradition that helped establish centuries of acceptance for homosexual and transgender people.

But that acceptance started evaporating shortly after Columbus docked in the Caribbean, says Karen Vigneault, a lesbian and leader of the Nations of Four Directions, a gay Native American organization in San Diego.

“Traditionally in our culture, it was a part of our culture,” Vigneault says. “The creator makes no mistakes, and it wasn’t until the people who came to Turtle Island, what you guys call America, they’re the ones who put their beliefs on us.”

Love affair with language

Writers' award a milestone in Navajo poet's laboring career"One of the things that makes Sherwin's work so exceptional is that it's truly grounded in his traditional Navajo culture," says poet Arthur Sze, who was one of Bitsui's instructors at the institute.

"He's an intense imagist," says Sze, who now serves as the poet laureate of Santa Fe. "The lyricism and immediacy of the world is always there in his work. He's engaged in a kind of ceremony with language."

November 17, 2006

Respecting Native religions

Heed judge--Feds need to respect American Indian beliefsA federal judge in Wyoming has dismissed criminal charges against a Northern Arapaho man who shot a bald eagle last year for use in one of his tribe's ceremonial dances.

At the same time, the judge made it clear that the federal government needs to clean up its act when it comes to accommodating the religious beliefs of American Indians, for whom the eagle holds special spiritual meaning.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William F. Downes wrote: "Although the government professes respect and accommodation of the religious practices of Native Americans, its actions show callous indifference to such practices. It is clear to this court that the government has no intention of accommodating the religious beliefs of Native Americans except on its own terms and in its own good time."

Native values in government

Claudia Kauffman makes history in Washington stateKauffman, 47, became the first American Indian woman elected to the Washington state Senate. But her successful campaign also transcended racial bounds; her constituents saw her not as an American Indian candidate for the Senate, but as a candidate who happens also to be American Indian.

“It's the manner in which I was raised, the basic values American Indians have--taking care of our children, respecting our elders, honoring our veterans, serving our community,” Kauffman said of her motivation to run for Senate. “I've been around these values all my life and I have had an opportunity to do these things on so many different levels; the next natural step for me was to run for office.”

NCAA wins award

Civil rights group to honor NCAA for mascot policyA Tulsa civil rights group opposed to Indian mascots will honor the National Collegiate Athletic Association at an awards banquet Saturday in Tulsa.

Bernard Franklin, NCAA senior vice president of governance and membership, will accept the sports leadership award from the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism, organized in 2002 to protest the Redskins mascot used by Tulsa's Union High School.

Art brings reality into focus

An Immigrant Steeped In Meaning Of ThanksgivingThanksgiving kept coming to mind as I viewed the artwork now on display at the Aldrich Museum for Contemporary Art in Ridgefield. The main exhibition, the work of 10 artists both Indian and non-Indian, is called "No Reservations: Native American History and Culture in Contemporary Art."

I was struck by the intensity of the work on view at each gallery, and the political content depicting the effect of the European conquest of Native Americans then and now. Living in Connecticut with the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos gives one a skewed view of contemporary American Indian life. This exhibition brings many other realities into sharp focus.

A whale of a Thanksgiving

Alaska natives add tribal foods to Thanksgiving feastDavid Smith was newly arrived to the North Slope village of Nuiqsut when the former upstate New Yorker cooked up a couple of turkeys and vat of chili for the Eskimo community's annual Thanksgiving dinner.

He was completely unprepared for another dish on the menu last year: Hundreds of pounds of gleaming red whale meat.

November 16, 2006

Bush defines sovereignty

An oldie but goodie:

For the real explanation of sovereignty, see The Facts About Tribal Sovereignty.

Native Santa

What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear, but a Miniature Sleigh, and Eight Tiny...Bison?He goes by many names, but the story of a Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and now, Redshirt. The mythical man who bestows gifts to children and the needy is timeless and cherished in European countries. But like any folk tale worth sharing, the legend enjoys adaptations unique to the cultures it serves.

Clement Moore’s classic A Visit from St. Nicholas has taken on a decidedly indigenous flavor in Gary Robinson’s new video storybook, A Native American Night Before Christmas. The partially animated short film, produced by Robinson’s Tribal Eye Productions, follows the story of Redshirt, a Native Santa on his Christmas Eve journey. The vivid illustrations by Jesse Hummingbird show a whimsical Redshirt who instead of the familiar red cap sports a pippin’ headdress and has traded in Santa’s reindeer for bison.
Note:  Jesse Hummingbird is another artist who's an FoPP (Friend of PEACE PARTY).

November 15, 2006

Kids say the darndest things

My girlfriend asked her 9th grade English class what they knew about Natives. Here are some of their responses.

What everyone knows:

  • They were here before Columbus.
  • Native Americans are also called Indians.

  • Many bits of ignorance:

  • Indians no longer exist.
  • Indians come from India.
  • Indians scalped people.
  • Indians engaged in "gang warfare" (i.e., tribal warfare).
  • Indians wear feathers.
  • Indian women did everything for the tribe.
  • Indians invented marijuana.
  • "Cherokee" is pronounced cher-OH-kee.
  • Pocahontas was a cartoon character, not a real person.

  • A few bits of knowledge:

  • Indians are very spiritual.
  • Indians had many gods.
  • The Maya and Aztec people built pyramids.
  • Sacagawea was a guide for Lewis and Clark.

  • Buffy sings it

    An excerpt from My Country 'Tis of thy People You're Dying by Buffy Sainte-Marie:Now that your big eyes are finally opened.
    Now that you're wondering, "How must they feel?"
    Meaning them that you've chased cross America's movie screens;
    Now that you're wondering, "How can it be real?"
    That the ones you've called colorful, noble and proud
    In your school propaganda,
    They starve in their splendour.
    You asked for our comment, I simply will render:
    My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.

    Now that the long houses “breed superstition”
    You force us to send our children away
    To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions
    Forbid them their languages;
    Then further say that American history really began
    When Columbus set sail out of Europe and stress
    That the nations of leeches who conquered this land
    Were the biggest, and bravest, and boldest, and best.
    And yet where in your history books is the tale
    Of the genocide basic to this country's birth?
    Of the preachers who lied?
    How the Bill of Rights failed?
    How a nation of patriots returned to their earth?
    And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
    As it rang with a thud over Kinzua mud?
    Or of brave Unlce Sam in Alaska this year?
    My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.

    The Lone Ranger tells a joke

    November 14, 2006

    Picking on Pirates

    Finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It was about as the critics said: rambling and overlong but a lot of fun.

    In the Native sequence, I didn't notice any stereotypes that the press hadn't reported. What I did notice was the length. The shouting, spear-wielding savages were on screen for almost half an hour, which is a lot of stereotyping.

    Since Pirates is the no. 1 movie of the year--almost twice the box office of runner-up Cars--that means many kids saw more of the Caribbean cannibals than any other Indians. The lesson they learned, again, is that Indians are primitive, barbaric, animal-like creatures.

    Inuit cruel to elders?

    New Yorker cartoon:  Eskimo is "retired" to die on an ice floe

    Energy nonprofit helps Native cinema

    Doing More by Doing Less:  American Indian Film Festival Fights Global WarmingWhen it comes to fighting global warming, it’s what you don’t see that counts. Doing more by doing less. This year, the American Indian Film Festival (AIFF) is doing less.

    Native Wind, a South Dakota based non-profit dedicated to developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands, donated “Green Tags” to the AIFF—financial contributions used as credits to build clean energy wind farms.

    November 13, 2006

    Marketing Mel's Maya movie

    Selling 'Apocalypto'

    Post-gaffe, Mel Gibson woos Latinos and Native Americans to his newest passion.Two years ago, Gibson reached out to Christians with a carefully orchestrated campaign that helped his film "The Passion of the Christ" become one of the most successful movies of all time, grossing $611 million worldwide. With "Apocalypto"—his visually sumptuous retelling of the fall of the Maya civilization—Gibson is hoping to strike box-office gold once again by wooing Latinos and Native Americans such as Myers, hoping they will identify with his tale of an indigenous culture.

    This latest effort isn't just a return to the playbook for promoting another hyper-violent movie made in an obscure language. It also marks an attempt by Gibson to move past his anti-Semitic outburst after a drunk-driving arrest in Malibu in July. Although Gibson publicly apologized and immediately sought treatment for alcohol abuse, some in Hollywood have said they can't bring themselves to forgive him.

    Myers, a member of the Comanche nation, put aside any feelings she had on the topic and arranged to screen "Apocalypto" five times over a three-day period in late September for Native Americans and Latinos in Oklahoma City and Lawton, Okla., as well as Austin, Texas. Guests were treated to surprise Q&A sessions with the Academy Award-winning director of "Braveheart" and star of dozens of Hollywood films, and Gibson was able to gauge audience reaction first-hand to an early cut of the film.
    For all the news on Mel's Maya movie, see Apocalypto Now.

    The first Thanksgiving myth

    First feast more fiction than fact?

    Author says Thanksgiving tale invented by tradition, not supported by historyIndeed, the famous Mayflower Compact was written and signed to help unify the Pilgrims and the "strangers," and it should not be viewed as the founding document of American democracy, according to Hodgson. When they landed, the Pilgrims found a land bereft of people, and they took this as a divine sanction for their settlement. While this was a convenient belief, the truth is that diseases brought to the New World by Europeans, especially smallpox, had already devastated indigenous populations. The local Indians who allied themselves with the Pilgrims had been overwhelmed by disease in the decades before the Mayflower landed.

    The Pilgrims had their own troubles. Of the 100 original settlers, half died in the first three months. When Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag, signed his alliance with the Pilgrims, he did so because his tribe was weak and because he hoped to use the alliance against rival tribes. The Pilgrims, equally weak, needed infusions of Indian agricultural products and techniques--and a trading partner. For a while, this need-based alliance held.

    But within half a century, the English settlers and the region's Indian tribes were engaged in an all-out war for survival, known as King Philip's War.

    Filmfest in the Windy City

    A Beautiful Night in Chicago…Because Films Can Change the WorldIt was sleeting, thundering and gusty in Chicago Friday night. The venue, the American Indian Center, is a former Masonic Temple built sometime early in the last century located in a working class Asian neighborhood. Flags representing Native Nations are draped near the ceiling with a faded mural on the back cinderblock wall.

    Britney, Paris, Brad and Angelina and Chicago’s favorite daughter, Oprah, were nowhere to be found. But those who love films, who love Native films, braved the bone-drenching squall to see a dramatic feature and documentary and enjoy listening to the filmmaker who pulled his chair in and chatted familiarly with the audience like we were sitting in a pub over drinks.

    November 12, 2006

    The Native Rosa Parks?

    TICAR Event features the “Rosa Parks of Indian Civil Rights Movement”The Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism (TICAR) is once again honoring the heroes and supporters of the effort to remove Indian mascots from sports and public institutions at their second Annual Awards Dinner on November 18th. This year’s guest speaker is Charlene Teters, considered by many the “Rosa Parks” of the American Indian Civil Rights Movement.

    Charlene Teters (Spokane Nation) at times single-handedly and often under threat of violence took on the University of Illinois and their mascot Chief Illiniwek. Teters and her historic struggle against institutional racism was captured on film “In Whose Honor.” Today she still speaks on the modern civil rights movement. She is also an international, well-known speaker, has a Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois, an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Mitchell College, and is a world-renowned artist.