February 28, 2007

Who is a Cherokee?

Cherokees to Vote:  Can Freedmen be Native American?A tribal court ruling last year forced the Cherokees to recognize Freedmen as citizens. That prompted Toomer and about 1,500 other Freedmen to sign up for membership cards. That sparked a referendum to amend the tribe's constitution and formally expel the Freedmen. "It's an Indian thing, we do not want non-Indians in the tribe," explains Jodie Fishinghawk, who helped lead the referendum drive. "Our Indian blood is what binds us together."

She notes that nearly all Indian nations require their citizens to be able to document direct ancestors in the tribe. Standards vary from nation to nation, and most are more stringent than the Cherokee. Fishinghawk says a tribe's right to set conditions of citizenship is fundamental to its sovereignty. "It's a democratic process, people are allowed to vote. That's what America is based on, that's what we use here in the Cherokee Nation. And I don't see any problem with it."

The Cherokee freedmen do. Because after fighting on the losing side in the American Civil War, the Cherokees signed a treaty guaranteeing their newly-freed slaves citizenship in the tribe. And the 1866 treaty's protection outweighs the tribe's claims of sovereignty on this issue, according to Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association.

"You know, there never was such a thing as the Cherokee race," she says, pointing out that the Cherokee tribe has always been a diverse nation, not a race. "Cherokee was a citizenship. Actually, it's safer for the tribe to say 'We are a nation of people.' If you keep saying you're a race.…" She shakes her head. "The federal government doesn't have government-to-government relations with races, only nations."

Blue Corn Comics at the Eiteljorg

What's Black and White and Red All Over?
Eiteljorg Museum to Present "Native American Portrayals in Comics"

Step aside, Superman. The Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis is hosting a one-day program on "Native American Portrayals in Comics." From Turok to Tribal Force, CHIEF WAHOO to SCALPED, the spotlight will shine on seven decades of Indians in the funny pages.

To be held March 10 from 10 am to 4 pm, "Native American Portrayals in Comics" will center on a series of panel discussions. A sterling lineup of panelists will:
  • Explore Native American roles and stereotypes in comics
  • Examine how Native comics differ from mainstream comics
  • Show budding creators how to turn their storylines and illustrations into comics

Pendleton blankets still sell

Weaving a story:  Missoula artist Jesse Henderson honors his Chippewa-Cree heritageSince 1976, the Legendary series has introduced one blanket a year. And each year, one is retired. The White Buffalo Calf Woman blanket was taken off the market in 1996. It's now enjoying a secondary market life selling for about $1,000, said Christnacht.

Indian blankets have a storied history dating back to the late 19th century. Barry Friedman details the history of trade blankets in his book, “Chasing Rainbows.” The colorful blankets typically were of a geometric design and created by whites to appeal to Indians.

Pendleton, a Portland, Ore.-based company, started weaving blankets in 1896. Prior to World War II, 800 woolen mills operated in the United States. Today, only a handful of mills remain in operation. Although Pendleton's blanket appeal has spread far and wide, Natives still make up half the demand.

Tanya hates on Tyra

More on the Tyra Banks show about self-hatred:

RED CLOUT:  Talk show reveals particular racismTyra Banks had Tanya evaluate three other Natives: one male and two females who, at the time, did not know who was saying these words.

Tanya called one of the women a “typical reservation lady” and assumed she was a “trashy thief” who drank at night. She said the man was “scary,” and she feared he would rape her. She then called the other woman “the first beautiful Indian woman I’ve seen,” then added that she looked like she harmed people and took advantage of men.

When Tanya was finally revealed to the three other Natives, they looked shocked and one quickly asked who raised her.

Jana was a nerd

JanaShe’s been interviewed by National Public Radio about her holiday album, “American Indian Christmas” and featured on the cover of Native Peoples magazine. In 2002, a writer for Native Peoples named her one of the hottest musical acts. But back in the early years, growing up in North Carolina, she had her mind set on being a doctor, and admits she was a bit nerdy.

“I was shy,” she said from New York where she moved recently. I was always the bookworm. I studied a lot--I was a straight-laced kinda girl--but that’s not a bad thing.”
Comment:  Yep, she looks like a nerd to me. <g>

Warrior mouse defeats fat cats

Dance of the Warrior Mouse chosen for Sedona Film Festival"Dance of the Warrior Mouse is especially relevant at this time," she says. "The film introduces the amazing people that have persistently fought for our water through the last four decades." The short, 20-minute documentary tells the story of the Southwest deserts and the struggle to preserve the water resources.

"They never gave up." Green said. "Like the Hopi folktale of the little warrior mouse that drove away a marauding chicken hawk from his village, a handful of Hopi, Navajo and environmentalists managed to stop the use of drinking water to transport coal."

February 27, 2007

Mohicans in Marvel's future

Based on the Novel by JAMES FENIMORE COOPER
Adapted by ROY THOMAS
Cover by JO CHEN
Don't miss the debut of MARVEL ILLUSTRATED, The House of Ideas' new foray into classic literature, featuring an adaptation of James Fennimore Cooper's renowned novel! Adapted by writer Roy Thomas, who's a Marvel classic himself (AVENGERS, X-MEN, CONAN) with stunning art by Marvel newcomer Steve Kurth. Last of the Mohicans tells the seminal story of a race on the brink of disappearance due to the inexorable push of civilization into the wilderness of the New World. It's a tale that will touch readers of every age with both its timeless realization of an important historical period—and with its powerful action and adventure! This isn't your father's classic comics! Plus—delve into the history of the man known as Hawkeye in a special bonus story!

More garbage to go

Boyle's letter to U of I presidentYou and the Board of Trustees must eradicate anything related to Indians from the sports program: "Fighting Illini", "Oskeewowow," the TomTom beats, the fake Indian Music from the 3 in 1 march and elsewhere in band performances, the war paint, the feathers, the tomahawks, the Illiniwak Logo, etc. In addition the University of Illinois must hold onto the Illiniwak Logo and not transfer it to the White Racists and Bigots on the so-called Council of Illiniwak Chiefs where they will continue to perpetrate this desecration of Indians forever. You must also indicate that you will vigorously prosecute anyone who violates your Trademark to Chief Illiniwak. You must terminate all licenses for Chief Illiniwak. And you must clear this racist Illiniwak garbage out of all University of Illinois Buildings.

Little Red Sambo is finally gone--no thanks to you, the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, the Provost and previous Board Members, Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts--except for Nancy Kantor whom you all summarily ran out of town on a rail for doing the right thing for American Indians. But now you and the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor and the Provost must concentrate on getting rid of all elements of Little Red Samboism from this campus. Based upon prior experience, I will not hold my breath. But we will keep coming after you all until you do the right thing for American Indians.

Talisman to return

Her backstory:Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungmen) is a fictional superhero featured in the publications of Marvel Comics. She first appeared in Alpha Flight vol. 1 #5. The character was created by John Byrne.

Elizabeth Twoyoungmen is the daughter of Michael Twoyoungmen of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. She became estranged from her father at the age of four following the death of her mother following an illness. Michael, a physician, had promised to save her and his failure led Elizabeth to be bitter and resentful toward him.
Her return in Omega Flight:The team emerges from the aftermath of Marvel's Civil War crossover event. The lineup includes elements of the original Canadian super-team Alpha Flight as well as other superheroes from the Marvel Universe.

The current team roster is confirmed to be U.S. Agent, Arachne, Beta Ray Bill, "someone in a Guardian suit," and Talisman. It has also been confirmed that former Alpha Flight member, Sasquatch, will have a role in this book; however, it has not yet been revealed whether he will be a member of Omega Flight or simply a supporting character.

Youngblood's many influences

Youngblood takes home her second GRAMMYYoungblood described the entire album as “very eclectic and versatile.”

“You can't really put my music in a box,” she added.

And she's right. While most of the pieces encompass the melody of the contemporary Native flute, there's also the noticeable influence of the classical flute, jazz and blues. Additionally, the song “Dance With Me” has a playful, Celtic sounding beat.

Youngblood, of Aleut and Seminole ancestry, was adopted and raised by non-Native parents. They inspired her to classically train on multiple instruments. She began with piano lessons at age 6 and classical flute lessons when she was 10. She also managed to squeeze violin lessons into her busy schedule, and later taught herself how to play the guitar--all as a pre-teen.

Popé did what others couldn't

“Po’pay, A True American Hero”...An Ambitious Documentary About an Amazing ManIt’s a history of Native America very few are familiar with. And unlike most we read and see, this true story isn’t one of defeat, disease, genocide, and deprivation. This history is about a success; the story of an Indigenous war and religious leader whose triumph has allowed the people of his region to thrive more than 300 years later.

Po’pay may not be a household name, but his leadership in the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 accomplished what Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, Chief Joseph, and others heroically tried and failed at doing.

February 26, 2007

Washing the blood away

Camp uses American Indian traditions to help soldiers healOrganizers wanted Thompson’s help because of his American Indian heritage. His grandmother was a Shawnee and grandfather was a Nez Perce.

The idea was for Thompson to lead retreat participants through traditional American Indian warrior ceremonies. It made sense to him, the 59-year-old said, because even though weapons and strategies change from war to war, the psychological impact is much the same.

So Thompson and his wife, Kelli, a social worker, decided to give it a try. They attended their first retreat in April. By the end of that weekend, they were convinced they had been called there by a higher power.

The camp is open to any U.S. soldier, but most participants have recently returned from deployment in the Middle East, Thompson said. The majority suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, and many are suicidal or are a signature away from divorce.

But when the soldiers participate in the ceremonies of his ancestors, Thompson said, they undergo a visual transformation. The rituals validate their service, he said, and prepare them for the future, whether that means living on the home front or going back to war.

Dancing with video-game Indians

Age of Empires III:  The WarChiefs Review

Summary:Pros: Very nice and varied artistic elements; crisp graphics and neat effects; audio is adequate (much the same as Age of Empires III); adds a whole new dimension to an already excellent game.

Cons: Cut-scenes are a little laggy; graphics can be taxing on performance; hot keys have been annoyingly remapped.
The Native aspect:Not to disappoint the fans of variety, The WarChiefs adds three new civilizations, giving the Native Americans a real role in the battle. The Sioux, the Iroquois and the Aztecs all played vital roles in the colonization of America by Europeans, so it’s only fair that they may partake in the bloodshed as more than mercenaries for European players. As opposed to expansions of previous games, the three come complete with their own architectural styles, enriching the artistic quality of the game. In addition, the three cultures each have an infantry and cavalry unique to their race, which promises to add much needed variety to the battlefield crowded with musketeers. A novel element common to all three is the fire pit “building” which essentially acts as a fourth resource. Players of Native American races can task villagers to dance around the fire in order to provide their civilization with bonuses ranging from a population boost to attack bonuses, with increases in effectiveness as more villagers are assigned to dance. It sounds like an odd idea but you’ll soon appreciate its effects.Comment:  The "dancing around the firepit" bit sounds stereotypical.

In denial about mascots

What people in denial say:We have never considered Chief Illiniwek to be a mascot, the term that some have used in referring to him in the last few years.

We consider sports mascots to be overstuffed cartoon figures, like the St. Louis Cardinals’ “Fredbird,” the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Phillie Phanatic” and others like them.

To supporters of Chief Illiniwek, he has been an honored symbol of the Native Americans who once inhabited this state.
The facts (according to the dictionary):mas·cot /?mæsk?t, -k?t/

an animal, person, or thing adopted by a group as its representative symbol and supposed to bring good luck: The U.S. Navy mascot is a goat.
See Team Names and Mascots for more on the subject.

South Dakota = Mississippi of the North

Tim Giago:  A view from South Dakota, the 'red' stateIn the turbulent 1960s and 1970s South Dakota was known amongst American Indians as the Mississippi of the North. Racial prejudice and discrimination was not only widespread but also inherent to a white culture still steaming over the demise of Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Troopers sporting Seventh Cavalry banners still march in present-day parades.

White South Dakotans are still enamored of an editorial written in 1891 by L. Frank Baum in the Aberdeen Saturday (SD) newspaper calling for genocide against the remaining Sioux population after the massacre at Wounded Knee when he wrote, “perhaps we should wrong them one more time and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.” He must have been thinking about that comment when we wrote the flying monkey scene is his book The Wizard of Oz 10 years later.

The world's first smokers

Mayan life was kind of a drag[I]f you're looking for your first hard-core smokers and chewers (perhaps even enemas--ugh!), you'll likely find them among the Mayans of Central America, possibly as early as 1000 B.C. By the time of Christ, tobacco was "nearly everywhere" in the Americas, according to "The American Heritage Book of Indians."

Two classes of smokers began to emerge. On one hand, you had your tribal elders in the Court of Montezuma, who mixed tobacco with the resin of other leaves to smoke pipes with great pomp and circumstance after dinner. Then, you had your blue-collar Indians toking away on crude stogies.

As tobacco use spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, its powerful effect on the human body made it a natural for incorporating into religious and political ceremonies. In North America, for example, some tribes believed that man was given tobacco by the Great Spirit (Gitche Manitou) so he could reveal himself in its smoke.

February 25, 2007

Nailing the pro-chiefers

Fans send Chief Illiniwek out in styleThe hypocrisy in Illini land is overwhelming. You want people to be sensitive to your feelings about the demise of a mascot, while you have been totally insensitive for decades to a people who are among the most downtrodden on this planet. illniband writes about a small group of uninformed people ... hmm ... ever been to a powwow or seen an authentic Indian dance? Know any Native American's personally? Ever read any works by Native American authors about their traditions, religion, history? I bet few pro-chiefers can answer yes to those questions, but they set themselves up to say what 'honors' Native Americans. People like illiniband will never get it because they don't want to, and will look for any excuse to keep a 'tradition' going that honors Indians in the same manner minstrel shows honored blacks. When their flawed reasoning and 'facts' are shot down, pro-chiefers can only respond by calling people names like thugs and PC police. But if you step back and take an honest look at things, this protest was led by real, live authentic Native Americans, who were courageous in taking a stand that brought them nothing but harassment and abuse. The behavior by the pro-chiefers has been petty, childish and yes in some cases bigoted. This whole controversy has given Illinois a black eye nationally, but all you care about is a sports mascot. Fine, but stop lying about your motivations. Just admit you don't care about Indians, and stop pretending this is some kind of honor. For those few who really believe they do care, then start to learn about the great cultures found in our Native history and you will come to understand what a ridiculous and sad spectacle the chief was.

White history means "we won"

White History 101The purpose here is not to explore individual guilt--there are therapists for that--but collective responsibility. When it comes to excelling at military conflict, everyone lays claim to their national identity; people will say, "We won World War II." By contrast, those who say "we" raped black slaves, massacred Indians or excluded Jews from higher education are hard to come by. You cannot, it appears, hold anyone responsible for what their ancestors did that was bad or the privileges they enjoy as a result. Whoever it was, it definitely wasn't "us." This is one more version of white flight--a dash from the inconveniences bequeathed by inequality.

So we do not need more white history, we need it better told.Settlement, slavery and segregation--propelled by economic expansion and justified by white supremacy--inform much of what the United States is today. The wealth they created helped bankroll its superpower status. The poverty they engendered persists.

Teaching about Peter Pan

Perspectives:  University of Illinois Misses A Teachable Moment On The MascotThe librarian at my children's elementary school saw such an opportunity three years ago, when my son came home from school and excitedly announced that he was going to play an Indian in a performance of Peter Pan. He handed me a list of items needed for the role--war paint, squaw's wig, tomahawk and a peace pipe, among others.

It could have ended there, but our librarian seized the moment and called the drama kids together to explain why Peter Pan was dropped. She talked about honoring other people's cultures and traditions by not making fun of them. She explained that when something you do or say hurts someone, you should stop. "You know the great thing about getting an education?" she said. "When we educate ourselves we can understand things better, and when we understand, we can change."

Chipping away at tribes

A GOP roadmap:  From 'treaty' to 'race-based'Historically, Congress and the courts have interpreted “Indian tribes” in the commerce clause somewhat broadly, to include, for example, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. But if the high court can be persuaded to adopt an interpretation narrow enough to exclude Native Hawaiians, would Alaska Natives be susceptible to court challenge on grounds that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act treats Alaska Natives not as tribes, but as corporations?

The table would then be set for challenges to tribes and nations in Indian country. Perhaps “Indian Tribes” in the commerce clause meant only federal treaty tribes? Perhaps it doesn't mean tribes of more than 20,000 in population?

Every conceivable iteration of “Indian Tribes” under the Constitution will be probed for weaknesses of interpretation, always in hopes of narrowing plain language for partisan purposes.

Chris Rowland, Northen Cheyenne artist

Check out the work of Chris Rowland, an occasional poster to this blog:

Christopher Rowland Fine Art

For more information on Chris, see his Blue Warrior Artist blog.

February 24, 2007

Diversity in comics--or not

From subhuman to superhuman:  Images of First Nations peoples in comic booksEthnic images found in contemporary comics are a strange mix of cultural hybridity. They reflect a cultural patchwork of forces: syndication of the strips, assimilation of ethnic groups into society, the civil rights movement, genocide of indigenous peoples, activist cartoonists, and the demands of readers. Today, a field trip to the comic book store reveals a major transformation and contrast from earlier figures of subhuman characters to superhuman feats: ethnic characters as superheroes. Superman, Captain Marvel, and Batman-all of Anglo heritage-have been joined by Black Panther (African), White Tiger (Puerto Rican), Kitty Pryde (Jewish), Banshee (Irish), Colossus (Russian), Firebird (Mexican), and more.

With the increased emphasis on complex characterization, it would be easy to think that the model of the comic book superhero has changed. But consider the case of Dani, the New Mutants' First Nations peoples' leader. Dani successfully integrates contemporary American culture with her adherence to traditional Cheyenne ways. Although the cultural choices and compromises she makes are handled with sophistication and her tribal traditions are portrayed with respect, she still wields her powerful Cheyenne chants as easily as Captain Marvel utters the magic word "Shazam!" In this instance, meaningful Cheyenne traditions are reduced to yet one more super power to be wielded by the proper hero.

Native icons live on

From the NativeVue blog:
Bunky Echo-Hawk’s “Living Icons” at Gary Farmer Gallery

“The Indian Wars never ended.” says Pawnee/Yakama artist Bunky Echo-Hawk. “The battlefield is just more abstract now and sprawls through every facet of our life. We are still fighting to retain our basic human rights, keep our land, restore our languages and religions, and maintain our identity. Our ancestors may have lost the battle against colonization, but we continue to fight against its effects.” In “Living ICONS,” Echo-Hawk’s latest series of paintings, he illustrates some of Native America’s living leaders, artists, and innovators. Echo-Hawk reasons that, in general, people conjure up names of leaders who lived 150 years ago when asked to name notable Native Americans. Coincidentally, 150 years ago, killing Indians was public policy. “It’s damaging that the most accepted contemporary view of Native Americans is from this era, and speaks volumes about the American collective mentality.” “Further, I’ve noticed that a lot of Native people today subscribe to that view. They will either embrace our ancestral war heroes as role models, or completely embrace the mainstream American culture. The minimal regard for our leaders today also comes with heavy criticism; often, if one becomes successful, they are labeled as ‘sell-outs.’”

Pro-Indian candidate

A conversation with presidential candidate Bill Richardson If I'm elected president, I would propose to make the cabinet secretary of Indian Affairs the Secretary of Indian Affairs; I would make it cabinet level. I would try, because I believe within the Department of the Interior it does not get the attention it deserves. I would have a cabinet department for Native American affairs. [...]

In terms of being governor, we have said that we recognize all tribes as equals, self-determination and government-to-government. And a Pueblo governor is equal to the governor of New Mexico. They're citizens of New Mexico. I just feel very strongly about it and I'm going to continue doing that if I'm elected president.

Get a grip, crybabies

Harjo:  Illiniwek fans missed the Indians for the 'Chief'Usually a source of fascination and amusement, this mascot worship stopped being funny when it turned into Chief hysteria.

To all those fans that are weeping and wailing over the Chief, I can only say one thing: Get a grip!

Pull yourselves together and go learn something about real Native people. Not any sports symbol; not a cartoon version of a historical Indian figure; not the Indian butter maiden; and not an Indian in a cupboard.

Learn about actual flesh and blood, life-sized Native people.

Lakota-Muslim parallels

A Muslim Among Native AmericansAs I talked to the people, I began to develop a strong respect and admiration for a people that refused to be subjugated. In my mind, I started drawing parallels between the Muslim community and the Native American community. It did not take me long to figure out that we have a lot in common. First, we both face the tidal wave of prejudice based on ignorance and hearsay. People in general do not understand the Native Americans any more than they know or understand Islam and Muslims. The media represents both groups in a stereotyped and biased manner.

Talking to some Sioux children, I kept thinking of Muslim children. Both Sioux and Muslim children have to learn distorted historical facts about their ancestors in their social studies classes. Both groups of children are incorrectly taught how barbaric their ancestors were, ruthless people who killed people indiscriminately. History has been rewritten to force innocent minds to give up their ancestral pride and values. I could not help but think about the constant struggle we Muslims face to keep our Islamic values alive in our children against such onslaughts. Like Muslim parents, Sioux parents worry continuously.

Nike targets Native athletes

Nike helps build financial bridgesNike targeted Native Americans six years ago when it hired Sam McCracken, a former basketball player and coach from the Sioux-Assiniboine tribes in Montana, to run its Native American program.

Since then, the shoe and apparel company also has become a significant promoter of Native American athletes.

"Granted, they are trying to brand their own name," says GinaMarie Scarpa-Mabry, director of the annual Native American Basketball Invitational tournament in Phoenix. "But they are giving a lot to kids. Nobody as a non-Native company has stepped up to do what Nike has done for Native Americans. Nobody is close."

February 23, 2007

Warhol respected Indians

Warhol and the war godTo the Zunis, war gods--or Ahayu:da--have a value far greater than money. Carved by priests and placed in secret shrines on the reservation, the wooden figures are not considered art. To the Zuni people, Ahayu:da are living deities who, when disturbed, have the power to upset the world's balance. War gods are owned communally by the tribe and are never sold. If one appears in an art collection or museum, it has been stolen. Warhol's war god was probably a gallery purchase. American Indian artifacts, like cookie jars and jewelry, were one of his collecting passions.

As it turned out, my call was unnecessary. When representatives of Warhol's estate heard about the war god's background, they immediately volunteered to return it. They said Warhol could not have known of the war god's religious significance or its shady past. Ed Hayes, then the attorney for the estate, recalls the decision-making process as speedy: "When the issue came up, Fred [Hughes, Warhol's business manager, who died in 2001] said, 'We are not in the business of fencing Zuni war gods.' It took about two seconds." Although at this point all Ahayu:da in American collections have been repatriated, many major museums were not as swiftly cooperative.

Up with Navajos

Young Navajo women to join Up With People tour"We don't live in tepees!" Martinez, who is 18 and grew up outside Gallup, said.

"A lot of people think we walk around wearing feathers," Light, 20, of Farmington, said.

They'll soon get the chance to set the record straight when they travel the world with Up with People, a student exchange and community service program that came through Farmington and Kirtland earlier this month.

The two young women will leave July 7 for a six-month tour of the U.S., Europe and Asia. But before they leave, they'll need to raise about $11,800 in tuition. They're mainly counting on donations.

Mankiller:  Indians think differently

Mankiller opens up dialogue

Centennial offers a chance to see new perspectives, former Cherokee chief says.Non-Indians do not realize the extent to which tribal history and culture influence the current lives of Indians, Mankiller said.

"A lot of Americans think that because we dress like people around us, we drive similar cars, we live in similar houses, we think the same way. I would contend we not only think about different things, but we think about them in a different way,” she said.

Reciprocity and interdependence are important to indigenous women, in particular, Mankiller said.

"When your life plays itself out in a set of reciprocal relationships, that gives you a different perspective,” she said. "Fundamentally, we're tribal people, and we still have that sense of the world.”

Ancients were just like us

Stonehenges all around us

Architectural relics and modern structures show that we may not be much different than our ancestors.My personal favorite Stonehenge look-alike—at least in concept—is in northern New Mexico, where in the 11th century, the Chaco culture built hundreds of miles of processional "roads." Rather than rings of giant standing stones, the Chacoans erected enormous masonry temples known as great houses. Many of these great houses are aligned to view celestial events through portals and windows.

Looking at the way ancient people assembled themselves, archeologists see cults and primitive, celestial religions. But how primitive were these people's beliefs, and how different from them are we?

I once ambled around the Colorado Capitol in Denver with a compass and notebook in hand. I had come to a modern landmark to apply the same questions we had been asking at ancient sites. I found that every aspect of the building's neoclassical architecture has alignments you see at many Neolithic ceremonial centers. Every bench is symmetrically arranged around the cruciform building, which is, in turn, set to cardinal directions. It lies within an array of other government buildings and open processionals, each holding to the same cardinal patterns.

Native religion as criminal defense

Tribal ceremonies basis for defense:  Watertown man is charged after taking dead hawkSteve Coulter, aka “White Buffalo,” 61, of Watertown, is accused of being in possession of two deceased hawks he found lying along area roads last fall. He was in court for a hearing on a motion by his attorney to dismiss the case.

The birds are not endangered, but are still protected by state and federal law. Being in possession of a hawk, owl or eagle is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Coulter, a disabled contractor who was raised Baptist, said he is the leader of a local Native American tribe called “The People’s Nation.” He is fighting to have the charges dismissed based on his religious beliefs.

Feathers from the hawks were to be used to make fans that would help lift smoke and prayer during ceremonies, Coulter testified.

“We honor birds in their height—the altitude they can fly,” he said. “The closer to the creator they are, the stronger the prayer.”


Indian Comics Irregular #151:  All About Indians in Comics

February 22, 2007

Lang makes the leap

Olympian wows audiencesIt's a long way from a small town in California to the big ice of the Olympics and to the world stage of ice dancing; but Naomi Lang, Karuk, made the leap with grace and beauty.

Lang, now 28 years old, is a professional ice dancer who travels the world. The day after Indian Country Today spoke with Lang she was headed for a one-month tour in Germany and England.

Lang, whose Karuk name is Maheetahan (Morning Star), is the first and only American Indian woman to ever compete in the Olympic Games. Lang finished 11th in the Salt Lake City, Utah, 2002 Winter Olympics. On tour, she not only represents the United States, but all of Indian country.

Indians and sports

Tribes making inroads in sports industryRalph Sturges has personally encountered two of the greatest Native American athletes in history. He saw Jim Thorpe compete and he has met Billy Mills.

But Sturges, the 88-year-old lifetime chief of the Mohegan tribe of Indians of Connecticut, never thought he'd live to see this: tribal gaming dollars providing health care, education and elderly housing for his people—and a professional women's basketball team providing tribal entertainment.

"We all sit on the edge of our seats," tribal chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum says. "The girls are like part of our family."

Maya for president

Menchu to Run for President in GuatemalaNobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu on Wednesday announced that she will run for the presidency of Guatemala in the country's September elections, a move likely fuel talk about an Indian resurgence in Latin American politics.

"I have accepted the presidential candidacy for 2007, and we expect to bring hope to Guatemala," Menchu told reporters following a meeting with Nineth Montenegro, leader of the Encounter Party.

The changing face of comics

Comic book exhibit at FSUMinorities had an even tougher path to superhero status [than women]. Aside from some truly silly stereotypes, the first black hero was an African prince named Black Panther in the mid-’60s—nearly a full generation after women became heroic.

He was followed by The Falcon and then Red Wolf, who was the first Native American superhero.

Perhaps the most public evolution of a minority character came when DC Comics re-introduced the Green Lantern as a black man.

Infighting over an Indian

Why David Geffen Hates Hillary & Bill ClintonDreamWorks co-chairman Geffen and Bill Clinton were once close, and Geffen raised some $18 million for Clinton. He was even a guest in the White House's Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton presidency.

Geffen turned his back on his friend when he pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich in the last days of his administration--after rebuffing Geffen’s request for a pardon for Leonard Peltier.

February 21, 2007

Age of the Water Carrier

Hopi Runners to Carry the Gift of WaterThe 130-mile, three-day journey from the mesas to the banks of Oak Creek Canyon has been organized by Sedona's Institute of Ecotourism to raise awareness of the impact that humans have on the earth's very limited supply of fresh water.

The idea was inspired by the 1,500-mile Hopi-to-Mexico City Run last March when runners from the Hopi villages took messages about the Hopi water ethic to the 4th World Forum on Water. That event was organized by Black Mesa Trust, a grassroots organization founded in 2000 to stop use of water from the pristine Navajo Aquifer underlying Black Mesa to slurry coal mined there by Peabody Energy to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada.

"This important event will unite Hopi tribal members and members of other Native American tribes with other communities throughout Arizona," said Diane Dearmore, executive director of the Institute of EcoTourism, "Water connects all people transcending all cultures, ethnic backgrounds and belief systems. Water is the precious gift of life. My hope is all of our eyes will open to the very important role water plays in our lives."
Comment:  Why don't we ever see students emulating this action when they learn about Indians? Because it doesn't fit their stereotypical mold of who Indians are.

Tough odds for Native athletes

Native American athletes face imposing hurdlesHe's aware of the long odds he and other Native American athletes face, even those who leave their reservation to improve their chances of being recruited. Compared with white Hispanics and black non-Hispanics, Native American athletes among the country's 562 federally recognized tribes—341 in the lower 48 states—are more under-represented on NCAA teams.

"As a Native American, nobody takes you too seriously that you can play at that level," Hemstreet says. "It's my job to go out and get noticed."

For most Native Americans, that concept—standing out individually—is at odds with their culture, which promotes the principle of functioning as a group. That, says Ron Trosper, a Harvard-educated member of the Flathead tribe in Montana who is associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, hinders the advancement of Native American athletes, starting at the college level, where individual achievement is rewarded.

Muscle cars and motorcycles

Lakota Sioux brings new meaning to the word ‘War Pony’Walking through a car show is kind of like walking through ‘Man-Heaven’, every classic muscle car can be available for display, from the 1969 limited edition Dodge Charger to the honorable 1955 Chevy Bel-Air. Every auto from every decade can usually be seen--and appreciated.

What also makes the shows so unique is the added style and taste that each car owner gives to his ‘baby’ at the show. Cars can be accessorized to include giant engines, shiny wheels, and glossy interiors to fit the individual’s own personal feel, not only cars, but motorcycles as well. Even Native Americans get into the act, that’s right, Indians are also into the show and rightfully--why not? After all, the first high-powered cycle to set world speed records was named the ‘Indian’ motorcycle. The first known automobile centers in the nation were in Michigan, one city is named Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac was a well-known Ottawa Chief who led the rebellion against the British in the 1700’s. Today, most people know that name connected with a high-powered machine that is called the Pontiac Firebird, which of course, is another classic car.

Send out the clowns

Nick Coleman:  Illinois shows North Dakota what is the truly honorable thing

Goodbye, Chief Illiniwek, and good riddance. Next up, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.Chief Illiniwek gets the ax tonight. The Fighting Sioux nickname should be next.

Sometimes, despite everything, there is progress.

For 80 years, "Chief Illiniwek" has been what fans of the University of Illinois have called the barefoot white boys who have sported buckskin and feathers and aped American Indian dances during football and basketball games. The Chief is a throwback to the days when a conquering culture thought it could spoof racial stereotypes and "honor" people by making them into tumblers and clowns.

Goodspirit wins Aboriginal Icon

Aboriginal Icon Rocks OnNo one is more surprised about where his music has taken him in just two years than the Cree high school teacher from the Goodfish Lake First Nation in Alberta. After a hiatus from music, W.T. Goodspirit rekindled his love for music and soon after, entered the “Aboriginal Icon” singing competition.

Goodspirit was one of hundreds of First Nation, Inuit and Metis performers who auditioned for a shot at the title. He eased through the local and regional levels and was named one of seven finalists on “Aboriginal Icon,” a program that is modeled after the television show “Canadian Idol” and draws aboriginal contestants from across Canada. At the finals in the spring of 2005, Goodspirit sang Jack Green's “Statue of a Fool” and Alabama's “Mountain Music,” and the title of Aboriginal Icon was garnered.

February 20, 2007

Indian victim on SVU

INTERVIEW:  Mariska Hargitay and Dr. Neal Baer Tell All About Law & Order:  Special Victims UnitI understand that Adam Beach will be joining the cast. I wonder if you can talk about that at all?

Neal Baer: Mariska hasn't worked with Adam because the first show we did with him Chris wasn't with Adam it was Ice-T. Chris has in one scene. Adam is going to be in the last episode with Ludacris this year, and you'll see how... Adam fits in. He's a Special Victim's detective from Brooklyn. We're really excited. I've been a fan of his work. I believe, I could be wrong, he's one of the first American Indian lead actors on television. We've never seen one who's a cop. We talked with some law enforcement people who are American Indian and they were very excited because it's a group that doesn't get strong play on television. We thought, "Wow, we can bring in so many interesting things about this character."

I can tell you that he is a Special Victim, he will click with Benson... while she's not a Special Victim she's the product of a rape. Adam's character, his name is Chester Lake, he will be a detective who truly was a Special Victim. I won't say how or why, it'll come up. He has his own way of doing things that will cause problems... it' will be very interesting to see how it all comes out.

Love the mascot, hate the Indian

Tim Giago:  'Chief Illiniwek' does his last danceAfter observing a particular crude presentation at the halftime of a Washington Redskins football game in 1982 I wrote a column questioning the use of human beings as mascots in a fashion that demeaned them. The incident involved a group of fans painting a pig red, placing a feathered bonnet on its head and then chasing it around the fifty-yard line as halftime entertainment. The first thing that struck me was what if these fans had painted a pig black and placed an Afro-wig on its head and did this stunt at halftime? Even 25 years ago this would have gone over about as well as a fart in church.

I was stunned by the hate mail I received for this column. I was asked to be on a national radio call-in show to talk about the use of Indians as mascots. Once again, the hate directed at me spewed from the radio. Mind you, I am Native American, Oglala Lakota, born and raised on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. Some of the callers suggested that, 'If I didn't like it, go back to wherever in the hell I came from.'
Comment:  The picture below is less insulting than the scene described above. In the picture, the "Indian" is merely riding a pig. In the scene described, the Indian is a pig.

They're dead or they're strange

“Mom, Look!  It’s George, and He’s a TV Indian!”Because of where we lived and with whom we interacted, all concerned held fairly accurate images in their minds about Native American people.

Now, however, I am a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, in an area of the state with a very low Native population, and things are very different for my young daughter. Soon after moving to this area, we realized that children and adults have inaccurate or romantic ideas about who Native American people are. For the most part, children of Elizabeth’s age see stereotypes of Native Americans that lead them to believe either that Indians don’t exist anymore, or that Indians are very exotic people who wear feathers and live in ways vastly different from their own.

We can’t really blame the children for these ideas. They see stereotypes in series books their well-meaning parents buy at grocery and department stores. For example, in Clifford’s Halloween, Clifford is shown wearing a full headdress; in Berenstain Bears Go to Camp, Grizzly Box wears a headdress and buckskin as he tells a story to the scouts gathered around a campfire. In the popular children’s television program “Muppet Babies,” there is an episode in which the character called Animal dons feathers, rides a pony, and says “How!”

Storytellers join forces

Native American Storytellers Debut National Cultural Program in HawaiiWhat do Yu'pik and Inupiaq natives of Alaska, Cape Verdean-Americans, and Native Hawaiians have in common? Their stories--and the story telling traditions of their various native cultures. This week a cross-cultural group of storytellers, musicians, and performers holed up in a North Shore beach cottage to find their common ground and build performance pieces they will carry as far east as Martha's Vineyard, as far west as O‘ahu, and as far north as Alaska.

"The most amazing thing is that seven people from three states representing five different cultures create a performance piece in less than a week and then travel across the nation sharing these oral histories, which in turn, create opportunities for cross-cultural dialogues and celebrations of those commonalities which connect and define us all," says Noelle Kahanu, a former ECHO participant from Bishop Museum.
First Hané storytelling festival draws large, enthusiastic crowdNative American storytelling is not dead. It's just taken another form.

That was made clear this weekend when Sunny Dooley, a professional Navajo storyteller, joined with storytellers from two other tribes and held the first of what she plans are annual storytelling festivals.

Eastern Pueblo photos

Eastern Pueblos--Apr. 3-13, 1996

February 19, 2007

Iraq = Lakota

Hurst:  The New Iraq sounds an awful lot like the Old Pine RidgeThe face of American democracy first comes to nations like the Lakotas and Iraq in the form of invasion. Kill the radicals and train homegrown police to secure the countryside. Build forts along the wagon routes. (Fourteen American military bases have been built in Iraq.) Draw sharp rhetorical edges. Warriors who refuse to move to the reservations are “hostiles.” Iraqis who resist the invasion are “terrorists.”

Then we sign treaties and send in a superintendent. Welcome to Iraq, Mr. Bremer. We dump wagonloads of money into economic development—scrawny cattle, plows, cheap blankets. Private contractors siphon off most of the money. Welcome to Iraq, Halliburton.

Then we form constitutional governments, pick our favorite chiefs, and sponsor elections. Dip your finger in purple ink, and make your mark here. Divide up your land, modernize, grow wheat. It’s all for your own good.

Red, white, or...?

"Apple and Indians":  Lorne Olson’s Little Film Packs a Great Big PunchIf you haven’t yet heard of Lorne Olson, you will. Produced through the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Apples and Indians debuted last year and continues to create buzz for its unblinking yet sardonic commentary on the importance for Native American-Aboriginal-Indigenous-First Nations-Indian people to not relinquish their cultural identity to an outside power.

“My subtle message in the film is that we have to ultimately decide who we are. It’s not in a book somewhere, it’s not an agency, it’s not the government. You have to come to terms with that at some point,” he says. “Your identity from your own inner search and your own inner origins.”

Indigenous politics on the air

Native radio/Web program launchedA new weekly radio program and Web cast, called "Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond," was launched Feb. 5 from Connecticut's Wesleyan University.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, a Native Hawaiian and assistant professor of anthropology and American Studies at the university, is the producer and host of the program.

Franken meets with Ojibwe

Franken holds private meeting with Fond du Lac tribal officialsDemocratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken’s first private issues meeting of his two-day-old campaign was with American Indian tribal officials.

The former liberal radio talk show host announced his candidacy Wednesday, and was in northern Minnesota on Friday.

Western Pueblo photos

Western Pueblos and Navajo--Apr. 3-13, 1996

February 18, 2007

"Dead Astronaut" by Douglas Fraser

Comment:  Russell Bates sent me this image. He claims the painting shows what would happen if John Herrington, the Chickasaw astronaut, met "real" Indians. But I say the 'naut's not Herrington.

One could take this as a comment on the price of progress, or what happens when you venture where you don't belong. I'm reminded of the joke about The Navajo Message to the Moon:A few years back when NASA was preparing for the Apollo project, they did some astronaut training on a Navajo Indian reservation. When the Navajo Indians found out about it, they asked if they could send a message to the moon on the Apollo. NASA spindoctors happily agreed (dreaming sweetly about the free propaganda!), and quickly arranged to record a message of an elder. With the recording completed, NASA asked what the message said, the Navajo elder smiled and said nothing. Intrigued, the NASA men played the recording to several Indians in an attempt to find out what the message said, but the Indians would only laugh and refused to translate the elder's message to the moon. Finally, NASA called in an official government translator. He reported that the moon message said, "Watchout for these guys; they've come to steal your land."Incidentally, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars novels were all about preserving vs. developing the Red Planet. The people defending the planet had an Indian-like attitude. They called themselves Reds and were aided by a character named Coyote.

I give Red Mars and Green Mars an 8.5 and Blue Mars and The Martians a 7.5. Rob says: Check 'em out.