May 31, 2007

Indians inspired Pollock

Jackson PollockThe real creative breakthrough came completely by accident. As a child, Henderson had a Navajo nanny and had become obsessed with American Indian culture. Also, since Jungian theory posited the notion that a colonizing people "inherit" the racial memory of the natives they displace, the therapist assumed that Pollock's unconscious contained American Indian imagery and ordered him to "dredge it up." (Yes, this is extremely bizarre. Try to imagine someone like Teddy Roosevelt "inheriting" the racial memory of all the dead Apaches...)

While poor Pollock could not come up with anything that vaguely resembled indigenous art, he did begin to explore native art on his own. Influenced by Henderson, he began to study Navajo sand paintings. He also began to haunt the Museum of Natural History and was fixated on the artwork of the Kwakiutl, Bella Coola, Haida, Tsimshian and Tlingit tribes. Pollock came to the realization that he was yearning for the same kind of shamanic power that these artists had achieved and began to think of his artwork as the analogy of that of tribal artists. By digging into his own subconscious and by seeking oneness with nature, he would achieve the same kind of power that he saw in the museum pieces.

It is singularly ironic that Pollock would gravitate toward American Indian artists, since fame or fortune were the last things on their mind. Pollock was simply looking for a technique that could elevate his work to a higher plane. The obsession with American Indian artwork was based on almost total ignorance about their way of life, characteristic not only of Pollock but other big-time artists and critics as well. Abstract Expressionist superstar Barnett Newman wrote in the 1947 essay "The Ideographic Picture":

"The Kwakiutl artist painting on a hide did not concern himself with ... inconsequentials...The abstract shape he used, his entire plastic language, was directed by a ritualistic will towards metaphysical understanding. The everyday realities he left to the toy-makers; the pleasant play of non-objective pattern basket weavers. To him a shape was a living thing, a vehicle for an abstract thought-complex, a carrier of the awesome feelings he felt before the terror of the unknowable."
His Unique StyleHis method of painting came from his interest in primitive cultures and he was especially fascinated with Native American Navajo sand painters and their method of working. Their works were created on the ground with sand of various colors let loose from the hand. He described his abstraction as an attempt to evoke the rhythmic energy of nature.Pollock on PaperAs he matured, Pollock became more and more a glyph-maker of the feral and unsayable: animals and biomorphic deformities (some cribbed from Picasso: maws and paws, bulls' heads, snouted ladies, bristling forked bipeds), stiletto draperies, sharp-edged lariats and blades, imaginary creatures (usually in some condition of trouble), and motifs suggestive of Navajo sand painting, Hopi bowl designs, and the celebrative bonfires of Pueblo communities.

A 1946 experiment comically illustrates Pollock's running hide-and-seek with representation: over a photograph of a dog he laminated film skimmed from enamel paint. Stressed-out canines appear often. In his 1943 painting Guardians of the Secret, in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the slashingly drawn coyote-ish animal lying at the picture's bottom, between gaunt male and female hierophants, recalls the Prankster of American Indian stories.

Chabon's Jewish/Tlingit novel

Meshuga Alaska[I]f Gentlemen disappoints, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, in which the enduring tropes of the private-eye novel and the science-fiction parallel-universe fantasy are mixed and matched, is triumphant, as if Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick had smoked a joint with I.B. Singer. In the alternative twentieth century conceived by Chabon, Russia has gone through three republics without a revolution. The Holocaust is called, instead, the Destruction. An atom bomb fell on Berlin in 1946. In 1948, Jews in the Holy Land were defeated and savaged by Arabs, so there is no Israel. Enticed by an American settlement act that promised them sixty years of sanctuary before their federal district reverted to Alaska, thousands of Yiddish-speaking Jews arrived by a World War I troop transport at a swamp near the old Russian colony of Sitka, where they were numbered, inoculated, deloused, and tagged like migrant birds, only to discover 50,000 Tlingit Indians already in possession of most of the flat and usable land. After which, nonetheless, crews of young Jewesses in blue head scarves went immediately to work, "singing Negro spirituals with Yiddish lyrics that paraphrased Lincoln and Marx." Down south, the American first lady is Marilyn Monroe Kennedy, the Cuban war has not gone well, and the Jews of Sitka are called "the Frozen Chosen."

Jewish Sitka, population 3.2 million, a couple of months shy of the 2008 "Reversion," is one of the novel's finest characters, an imaginary city, as palpable as Tel Aviv, as ghostly as Warsaw, as liverish as Buenos Aires, with newspapers, cigarettes, tunnels, and secrets —everything but public transportation. We visit the Hotel Zamenhof on Max Nordau Street for dead bodies, the Hotel Einstein on Adler for nostalgia, the Ringelblum Avenue Baths for conspiracy, Bronfman University for a joke, the Polar-Shtern Kafeteria for pickled crab apple and perhaps a kreplach shaped like the head of Maimonides, and Goldblatt's Dairy Restaurant to remember a Jewish massacre of Tlingits. We meet momzers, shtarkers, schlossers, grifters, boundary mavens, patzer ex-cons, bottom-rung bet runners like Penguin Simkowitz, mouse-eyed shtinkers like Zigmund Landau ("the Heifetz of Informers"), ultra-Orthodox black-hat wiseguys like the Verbover Hasidim, in charge of gun-running, money-laundering, cigarette smuggling, policy racketeering, and Third Temple fantasizing, and Landsman's partner in crime-stopping, Berko Shemets, a half-Tlingit whose Indian line goes all the way back to the creation-mythic Raven but who is, at this time in this place, an observant Jew "for his own reasons": "He is a minotaur, and the world of Jews is his labyrinth."

Preserving seeds and cultures

Preserved seeds restore aboriginal food systemsIn 1983, four Tucsonans involved with feeding the hungry began to worry that seed stock for future crops was disappearing. They contributed $100 each to cover the cost of locating 40 varieties of endangered seeds to ensure those specific strains would not permanently disappear. Now, nearly 25 years later, 2,000 varieties of seeds have been saved from extinction.

"If we had to duplicate our seed collection today, it would be impossible because many of the originals are no longer available," said Barney Burns, one of the original founders. "Ours is a treasure trove that provides an irreplaceable genetic library to draw on as a basis for sustainable, environmentally-friendly Native American agriculture of the future."

"These seeds represent cultures that have survived for thousands of years in the Southwest," said Kevin Dahl, executive director of the organization. "Ancient farmers figured out how to be successful in pretty marginal growing conditions--little water, soil heavy in alkalinity, hot growing conditions. It wasn't an easy task."

Preview of Montclair exhibit

Taken from a press release:The Comic Book Super-Hero:  America’s Mythology, Society’s Mirror

This important 2007 exhibit by the prestigious Montclair Art Museum not only recognizes the comic book as a true art form as indigenous to America as jazz, but also presents comic books as reflectors of a changing American culture from the 1930s to today, and hails comic book super-heroes as America’s modern-day mythology.

Using rare, first issues of comic books that have fetched prices in excess of $400,000 and one-of-a-kind original artwork from historic comic books which have never been available for display to the general public or to the generations of fans, The Montclair Art Museum exhibit honors the long-ignored geniuses of story and art who founded an industry, forged super-heroes out of their fertile imaginations, and both entertained and educated audiences for nearly 75 years.
Comment:  I hope to be a guest at this exhibit and speak about Indian comics.

Thunder in the Desert

Thunder in the Desert to rumble into TucsonThe event is billed as "10,000 years of culture--150 tribal nations--10 days--all in one location"; and despite a full and busy agenda, organizer Fred Synder advises: "Take your watch off and put it in your pocket," because nothing starts until the medicine men and the Gourd dancers finish blessing the grounds.

The year 2008 will mark the third encounter of First People's New Millennium World Fair and the Thunder in the Desert premier event at Rillito Raceway Park in Tucson.

"Native Americans feel it important to commemorate the 21st century as a special time in history," Synder said. "Symbolically, a mark will be placed on a calendar stick and a design inscribed on buffalo hide to celebrate the continued existence of the people throughout the past millennium--and a recommitment made to continue the strength, beauty and endurance of tradition and culture."

Preview of Huntington exhibit

From a press release on an upcoming Huntington Library exhibit:New Exhibition on Native Americans Opens June 9th

In recognition of the 400th anniversary of the meeting of European and Native American peoples in Jamestown, Va., this exhibition will look at how North American Indians have been depicted in images from the 1500s to the early 1900s. Featuring extraordinary rare material drawn from The Huntington's collections, the exhibition includes the first pictures said to be of an Indian in a 15th-century published account of Columbus' Western Hemisphere landing. Also on view will be the first lithograph of an Indian by Swiss artist Peter Rindisbacher; stunning portraits published by Thomas McKenney and James Hall in their History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1842-44); and much more.

Better choice for Virginia's quarter

This silver commemorative coin includes all three of the races that were instrumental in founding Virginia. That's better than two (the coin I previously suggested) or zero (the actual coin chosen).

May 30, 2007

Sweat lodges for prisoners

Sweat lodge ceremonies reconnect Native American inmates with their culture, people and landThe volatile cocktail of emotions that was mixing in Melvin Martin had reached a boiling point. He felt like he was about to go crazy.

Far from his home on the Navajo reservation and far from his people’s ancient healing traditions, he could do nothing but fester inside a Sandoval County lockup as he waited for the justice system to run its course.

Today, the soft-spoken Navajo from Crownpoint says he’s a different person. He seems more relaxed, respectful and reconnected to his culture.
Some history:It’s been three decades since the first sweat lodge was built in a Nebraska prison, but American Indian prisoners in some states only recently won access to such religious ceremonies, and others are still fighting for it. Security is usually the top argument against Native ceremonies.

In Maine, a group of prisoners is suing over claims that their constitutional rights were violated because they have no access to sweat lodges or ceremonial music and food. In New Jersey, lawyers representing a handful of Indian prisoners are close to settling an eight-year-old lawsuit involving religious rights.

“We have had to pursue litigation, legislation and more recently negotiating with prison officials to implement these programs,” said Lenny Foster, a Navajo spiritual adviser who works with hundreds of prisoners across the country and has testified before Congress and the United Nations on Native rights.

“I think for the longest time we’ve been denied, as Indian people, that right to practice our tradition, our culture,” he said. “We were told not to speak our language; we cut our hair; we were told to convert to Christianity. Our sweat lodges, our medicine bundles, our pipes were burned.”

Giat:  Sioux betrayed themselves

HBO feels 'Wounded'

The final chapter of the American Indians' doomed struggle to cling to their homeland gets a starkly realistic treatment in HBO's 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.'"My primary objective was to fully dimensionalize these people," Giat says. "Sitting Bull was vain. He was desperate to hold onto the esteem of his people and win the esteem of the whites. But I think in depicting his desperation and the measures he took in acting on it, it makes it all the more sad and tragic, and I think we identify with him all the more for it."

"People have an iconic view of Sitting Bull," says Yves Simoneau, the film's director, "but that image is restrictive. The way August played him, noble but far from perfect, made him the character the test audiences identified with the most—by a long way." Schellenberg played Sitting Bull in TNT's "Crazy Horse" (1995), but he is much more forceful here.

The key theme in the film that underscores the conflictedness of the Sioux at this cataclysmic moment in their history is that of self-betrayal. Two of Sitting Bull's warriors became tribal policemen at the Standing Rock Agency. One of them unintentionally tramples on his people's pride by killing a buffalo in a corral. The other, who shoots Sitting Bull, was the bitter father of the slain baby.
Comment:  See Hanay Geiogamah's response to this article. Also see my response to the same issues.

Geiogamah slams Bury My Heart

The End of the Hollywood TrailWith breathtaking arrogance, Bury My Heart's narrative forcibly inducts American Indians into the brotherhood of savagery as a way of universalizing them and making them like all other people.

Genocide is dramatized as just as much the result of the mean-spirited and physically cruel behavior of American Indians, who were fighting for their very survival, as it was of the inhumanity of the American armies. The last shreds of Indian nobility are eliminated once and for all.

A feature article on the making of Bury My Heart titled "The Last Stand" in the May 27 Los Angeles Times gives a brief, perplexing account of how Hollywood came to the view that American Indians can now be justly and fairly seen as co-agents of their own destruction. As a two-hour condensation of the book, "The film didn't have time to dwell on the spiritual, Earth-friendly image of Native Americans," says the article's author, Graham Fuller. "Nor does it offer a politically correct perspective," he adds. The Sioux, we're told, were "as rapacious as their white conquerers."

This view is scaldingly laid out with the portrayal of Sitting Bull as a baby killer, as a coward who hid in his tipi at the height of the Battle of Little Bighorn, and as a greedy buffoon who lusts for the white man's money and approval.
Comment:  Geiogamah provides a poetic overview of the movie's flaws. My article provides the details.

Ancients communicated over miles

Reflecting the past:  Rangers, archeologists test out ancient messaging systemThe shard of reflected sunlight sliced through the sage-brush-covered mesa like molten silver.

"We can see you really well!" Aztec Ruins Interpretive Ranger Jackie Berens said into a cell phone. About two miles away, her fellow ranger Terry Nichols changed the angle of a full-length dressing mirror and the silver shard glinted.

From Nichols' perch, she could see a similar mirror some 61 miles away on Huerfano Mountain on Tuesday.

"It was pretty cool," she said. "(I said), Whoa! There it is!"

About 1,000 years ago, the Chacoan Anasazi inhabitants may have communicated the same way—minus the cell phone and dressing mirror.

Park rangers and archeologists at 23 Anasazi ruins scattered over 86 miles tested the theory that the ancient people passed messages between population centers. Instead of mirrors, the people would likely have used flat, shiny abalone shells or signal fires.

Review of Coyote Blue

Book Review:  Coyote Blue by Christopher MooreChristopher Moore in Coyote Blue has written a Coyote story that is funny, and sad at the same time. Like all good Coyote stories it gives a life lesson or two; in this case they are finding out what is truly important in life and being true to who you are. Perhaps it's because it was the first book of his that I read, but I still think of it as his best one. The characters are strong and the plot is great and the story moves at the perfect pace. That he's caught the essence of a Coyote story to perfection a well doesn't hurt.

I love to see Old Man Coyote chasing his tail and Christopher Moore has done a great job with this book of keeping Old Man Coyote alive for anybody who cares to catch a glimpse of the tricky bugger. Just be careful that you don't get left holding the bag–-or some other part of his anatomy that he's decided he doesn't want to use at the moment.
Comment:  Coyote Blue is another great native-themed book. Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.

Churchill must go?

CU could salvage its reputationBrown's letter puts this matter in the proper context when he cites the three reasons why Churchill must be dismissed. One of those, on the interests of the entire state, deserves to be quoted in full:

"Professor Churchill's misconduct impacts the University's academic reputation and the reputation of its faculty. The integrity of the work of the faculty is central to the University's academic mission. And, as a publicly supported institution, the public must be able to trust that the University's resources will be dedicated to academic endeavors carried out according to the highest possible standards. Professor Churchill's conduct, if allowed to stand, would erode the university's integrity and public trust."

Bury My Heart's bias against Indians

The most notable thing in HBO's version of Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee isn't the writing, acting, or directing. All these things are passable in this flawed but watchable movie. What stands out is the anti-Indian bias.

How is that possible in a production based on one of the most pro-Indian books ever? Read on for the evidence against the movie.

Bury My Heart's Bias Against Indians

May 29, 2007

A century of John Wayne

Memorializing the Deadly Myth of John WayneWayne was a vocal conservative, and his critics contend that the onscreen “Injun killer” was racist off-screen. In an infamous 1971 Playboy magazine interview, the Duke made insensitive comments about blacks and said this about America’s indigenous people: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Wayne was, in reality, a draft dodger. America’s archetypal soldier was in fact a chicken hawk. He was a cheerleader and champion of militaristic patriotism and combat he had never experienced. Wayne had “other priorities” during WWII—achieving superstardom (and saving his neck) was more important than defeating fascism. Much like Vice President Dick Cheney, who sought numerous deferments during the Vietnam War, Wayne was the quintessential war wimp.

On the 100th anniversary of the Duke’s birth, Americans need to distinguish between myth and deadly realities. We must re-examine America’s love affair with settling disputes through gunplay, and question people and institutions that demand that the young sacrifice their minds and bodies in tribute to these actors (of the stage and political theater) and the violence they celebrate.
Comment:  For more on Wayne, see Straight Shootin' with the Duke.

Eskimos can continue whaling

Whaling a 'Necessity' to Eskimos, Senator SaysA U.S. senator urged delegates of the International Whaling Commission to renew a five-year subsistence whaling quota for Alaska Native communities, calling it crucial to their society.

"It is more than a right--it is an absolute necessity which affects every facet of their well-being," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Monday at the opening of the 76-nation commission's four-day meeting. "To deny this history would jeopardize their way of life."

Harvesting whales is considered a sacred accomplishment by many of an estimated 5,000 Eskimos who rely heavily on the meat to fill their tables. Ceremonial dances are held to bless the hunts, and successful harvests prompt village celebrations at which the meat is cut up and distributed.
Eskimo whalers win 5-year huntThe ballroom at the Hotel Captain Cook broke out in applause this morning and Eskimo whalers shook hands after they won the right from the International Whaling Commission to subsistence hunt for another five years.

Despite concerns some countries would block the request to take 51 bowheads a year from 2008 to 2012, the proposal passed by consensus after commissioners from several countries voiced support.

Stewart wants to trademark chief

American Indians opposed to Martha Stewart's trademark attemptMartha Stewart's attempt to trademark "Katonah"--a move that has already riled some of her village neighbors--has now upset some American Indians because the name originally belonged to a 17th-century chief.

Two members of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, which claims Chief Katonah as its own, have joined the anti-trademark battle being waged by the Katonah Village Improvement Society.

And other American Indian leaders on Tuesday said that Stewart's trademark application was offensive.

"If I wanted to trademark 'Martha Stewart' and put out a line of tea towels, she would have me in court very quickly," said Suzan Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a national advocacy group. "She'd be saying, 'You can't use my name, that's valuable, that belongs to me."'
Commment:  See also the Brady Braves on Martha Stewart, Playing with "Indian" Names?

Comment on Imprint

From of all, it's just beautifully filmed. The scenery in that area is great.

Tonantzin's performance is awesome. Her facial expressions and actions are intense.

The story itself is not quite like any that I've seen before. At first it made me think of "The Grudge" a little bit. But, you can't tell if Shayla is just losing her mind or if she is really seeing and hearing these things. There always seems to MAYBE be a reason for these noises, but then again, why can't anyone else hear them? The recurring sound of metal banging and this hook repeatedly show up is just creepy. I knew that somehow the phone ringing at the same time everyday and the significance of always showing the time had something to do with this mystery, but I didn't put it together until after 9:13. I spent the last 15 minutes of the movie muttering "Holy crap!!! Holy crap!! Holy crap!!"

More comics news and reviews

Indian Comics Irregular #155:  From the Eiteljorg to Ecuador

Brits assume Indians are tolerant

"Navajo" project promotes well-being among gays, bisexuals

Butcher chops Indians again

Butcher calls Indian lawmaker "chief" and gavel a "war club"

May 28, 2007

Can an outsider write Indian books?

Kenneth Thomasma's books"White men who have tried to write stories about the Indian have either foisted on the public some bloodcurdling, impossible “thriller”; or, if they have been in sympathy with the Indian, have written from knowledge that was not accurate and reliable. No one is able to understand the Indian race like an Indian."

—Luther Standing Bear, 1928

Generations later, Kenneth Thomasma’s books embody the very problems Standing Bear wrote about. Using historical events as a background, teacher-turned-author Thomasma has produced a formulaic series called “Amazing Indian Children.” He also conducts writing workshops, storytelling assemblies and school programs, according to his press packet, “dressed in an Indian elk hide suit, complete with obsidian knife.” Choosing to represent Indian children, families, cultures and histories, he says his program “makes those Indian children proud of their heritage and restores self-respect to them that should never have been taken away.”

As a teacher, Thomasma could easily have accessed books by Luther Standing Bear/Ota K’te, Charles Eastman/Ohiyesa, Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala Sa and others who wrote of their own lives as Indian children in the 19th Century. Instead, he visited historical sites, read accounts by non-Native scholars, spoke with Native elders “to get the details right,” and added his own “speculations and educated guesses.” Does all of this qualify Thomasma to produce a series of children’s books about Indian children? Does it qualify him to interpret another people’s stories? Does it make his books a way of teaching “all kids what it was like to be an Indian child” or make “Indian children proud of their heritage” and restore “self-respect to them”? Can an outsider enter a community, speak with a few people and then understand enough to be the legitimate voice of its children?
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 5/25/07.)

Native singer climbs the charts

Upstream into the mainstream

Shawn Michael Perry is on the moveSinger/songwriter/actor Shawn Michael Perry is one ambitious man. As a recording artist, he's had the savvy to court the radio industry, successfully persuading to place cuts from his debut CD with his band, Shawn Michael Perry & Only the Brave, on America's pop, top 40, adult contemporary, college and country charts. He did his research, made his move and took a leap of faith.

“They hit on every one,” Perry exulted. “One song! I was like, wow!”
His background:Perry was born in San Diego to a Salish father and a Panamanian mother of Mayan ancestry. One of his earliest memories of performing was singing Christmas songs in kindergarten.

"I was hooked from day one," he said, referring to the sound of applause. "What got me excited about music was 'The Flip Wilson Show,' and Michael Jackson used to come on there with the Jackson 5. I just thought that was it. As soon as I heard his voice and how people reacted to him, I just knew as a young child that that's exactly what I wanted to do."

Nakai collaborates again

A cultural musical journey through 'Voyagers'For the first time ever, traditional Native flute has been beautifully intertwined with Jewish- and Israeli-themed classical cello music, creating magnificent cross-cultural dialogues between world-renowned musicians R. Carlos Nakai, Navajo-Ute, flutist, and cellist Udi Bar-David, Israeli emigre. From these dialogues, the “Voyagers” recording evolved, creating an unforgettable unique collection of musical and cultural history.

Preparing for the recording, Bar-David, a 20-year veteran cellist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, listened to American Indian traditional music as well as Jewish- and Israeli-themed music. Once in the studio, Bar-David explained, “We expanded on themed music and entered an artistic dialogue. We created it at the moment. It was an improvisation, a natural revolution. We created a cross-cultural recording, a first of its kind.”

The "Brady Braves" blog

I just came across a great blog called "Brady Braves." Its mission:here at the official bbb, the bureau of brady braves, we are an e-research center that delivers news and views on redface, or playing "indian."Check out some of its postings on Native stereotypes:

The Today Show:  sweat lodges and rosie ...
Welch's Grape Juice:  Welch's "Indians"
My Wife and Kids:  "Michael's Tribe," Part II
My Wife and Kids:  My Wife and Kids "Michael's Tribe," Part I
The Smurfs:  Smurfing "Indians"
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody:  Disney's Revolutionary "Indians"
The Brady Bunch:  Greg, Peter, and Bobby = "Indians"?
General David Petraeus:  The Fonz's "Indians" ...
The Brady Bunch:  here's the story of a lovely lady ...

My take on Bury My Heart

I’d say Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was better than the negative critics said but not as good as the positive critics said. Which is another way of saying the average critic got it right. Score another one for the perspicacity of critics.

In short, it was flawed but worth watching. I question a lot of the details, but at least it showed the reality of the era: the camps, the skirmishes, the primitive reservation. The movie gave you a flavor of the time and place you couldn’t get from a book.

Rob's rating:  7.5 of 10.

Rob an ignorant racist?

You may enjoy the following smackdown. It offers a few more arguments about Mark Reed and L. Frank Baum, of all people. I post it here only because it's in the archives and you probably wouldn't see it otherwise.

"You've showed yourself as an ignorant racist and a fan of advocates of genocide. Period."

Highly Defective People and their videos

YouTube videos show models with feathers, face paint, bones

Comment:  Follow the link to see all five videos and the criticism they garnered.

May 27, 2007

Why Indian vets get stressed

Soldier highlights problems in U.S. ArmyLeCompte's case is particularly disturbing because of the racist element, said Steve Robinson, director of veterans' affairs for the Veterans of America, who has investigated more than 40 complaints at Fort Carson alone.

"The fact that people in his chain of command used ethnic and racial slurs, called him 'sand nigger' and 'prairie nigger' and 'wagon-burner' and other things is very disturbing. I served 20 years in the military. We don't treat people like that in our military and it's not tolerated. When I heard these things, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I realized that the moral fabric of what I believe the military to be must be under a tremendous amount of pressure," Robinson said.
And:LeCompte also endured taunting on the battlefield.

"They ridiculed him and called him a 'drunken Indian.' They said, 'Hey, dude, you look just like a haji--you'd better run.' They call the Arabs 'haji.' I mean, it's one thing to worry for your life, but then to have to worry about friendly fire because you don't know who in the hell will shoot you?" Tammie LeCompte said.
Comment:  Happy Memorial Day!

Pop Art capital of South America

At 12,000 Feet, Andean Culture Meets Pop ArtA generation ago, fiestas like Ch'uta drew considerable attention from a group of young artists in La Paz. Partly inspired by the New York-based Pop Art movement, this circle began producing works filled with playful references to Aymara Indian culture: the festival masks, costumes and brightly colored fabrics that stand out sharply amid the washed-out landscapes of the altiplano. But while the Pop Art scene in New York was soon supplanted by other creative waves, it has never really disappeared from La Paz. And now the unique aesthetics of this city and the surrounding region have begun inspiring not just local artists, but also fashion designers and painters from the rest of South America and beyond.

Noted painters from the United States and Europe have come to La Paz to soak up the city's Andean atmosphere. The British designer John Galliano recently created a line based on the clothing of the Indian tribes of Bolivia and Peru, and last year the Buenos Aires fashion company Tramando introduced tops and skirts inspired by the “warmth, festivities and myths [and] rich chromatic nuances” of altiplano culture. Trixie d'Epanoux, a partner in Tramando, recently referred to La Paz as the Pop Art capital of South America.

Governor's office responds to FAITA article

Received via e-mail:Rob,

Thank you for your article regarding the 15th Annual First Americans in the Arts Awards. I am the woman you are referring to from Governor Schwarzenegger's office. I would also like to add that I am a Nez Perce tribal member as well and I've had the honor of representing the Governor at various Native American events. Maybe our paths will cross in the future and I would have an opportunity of meeting you in person.



Rika Powaukee
Assistant to the Director/Office Manager
Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
300 South Spring Street Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Brown's book changed everything

Wounded Knee's ghosts ride again

A TV movie is set to reignite the debate over the fate of Native AmericansBack in 1970, when Brown's book was published, Native Americans were all but forgotten and powerless on their reservations, reduced in popular culture to stock images of whooping warriors in cowboy films or friendly farmers in Thanksgiving Day ceremonies.

Brown's book changed all that. Chapter by chapter, it chronicled the experience of individual tribes at the hands of white men. And though the characters and locations changed, the story was always the same: white treachery, the loss of Native American lands and the extermination of a culture. It has now sold more than 5 million copies. 'It had an enormous impact. It changed everything,' said Riggs.

Ohio plays feature Indians

Staging history outdoorsLike all lands along the Western frontier, Ohio couldn't wait to push native people beyond its newly drawn borders. Now, two centuries later, the state welcomes theatrical "American Indians" back each summer as stars of its long-running outdoor dramas.

Ohio has three granddaddy productions, dating back to "Trumpet in the Land" in 1970, a tragedy about Ohio's first European settlement and the Delaware Indians they came to convert.

"Blue Jacket," about a white choosing to live as a Shawnee, and "Tecumseh!" about the great Shawnee leader, followed on the outdoor stages, exploring Ohio's once-powerful Shawnee nation on the land they once revered.

Skateboarders, rappers, and punk rockers

“When Your Hands Are Tied”:  Keeping Traditions in the Age of Hip HopMia Boccella Hartle and Marley Shebala’s documentary, When Your Hands Are Tied, profiles the lives of young Natives and the challenges and rewards of embracing their ethnic identity amidst America’s cultural goulash.

The tenor of the film is uniformly upbeat. The filmmakers focused on Natives from the Southwest—teens to tribal elders, the Governor of the Nambe Pueblo who started a break dancing team, members of the Apache Skateboarders, Navajo rappers and punk rock musicians, and former beauty queen—all acknowledging the power they’ve gained from reaffirming their cultural ties.

December Stereotype of the Month loser

The loser:  Apocalypto portrays Maya as brutal, bloodthirsty barbarians

Dishonorable mention:  ND Indians live in "pure filth"; rez system is a "total failure"

May 26, 2007

Earnest, dutiful Bury My Heart

'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'

HBO's 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' is more dutiful than inspired, but there's always the book.To say that you should not mistake HBO's dramatic adaptation of Dee Brown's great book "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" for actual history is to say only what must be said about nearly every film that dresses actors as real people and gives them a script to read. In all but the deftest hands, such movies are basically just pageants, episodic stagings of great moments from the past, sometimes strung together on what is usually a not very convincing through-line—a "personal journey."

But even a bad historical film on a good subject may make you want to learn more, if only by getting you to ask yourself, "Could it possibly have happened that way?" If HBO's version of "Wounded Knee"—which is not really a bad film, just an average one of its kind, earnest, dutiful, oversimplified, underdeveloped, weighted down in exposition and by turns intriguing, melodramatic and dull—does nothing more than send a few more people to Brown's book, that may be all the credit in heaven it needs.
Wounded Knee:  America's Killing Fields

HBO movie depicts the slow, brutal death of a once-proud raceThe inclusion of Goodale’s point of view and the love story between her and Eastman, who, although an important historical figure, is not a part of Brown’s book, is vaguely problematic in that it reflects a disturbing tradition of mass-entertainment films about nonwhite races being partly driven by white—or, in the case of Eastman, assimilated-and-acting-on-behalf-of-white—characters. (Think Dances With Wolves, Dangerous Minds, Mississippi Burning or any movie Hollywood’s made about Africa.)

Considering what made Brown’s book such a revisionist revelation upon its release—the overdue novelty of steadfastly hewing to the poetic words and bitter remembrances of sympathetic Native Americans, after years of popular history depicting them as savages—this is a sticky element for anybody attempting to faithfully evoke the book’s we-were-screwed importance. Of the three prongs in the crisscrossing narrative—Sitting Bull, Dawes and Eastman—only Sitting Bull’s scenes feel like they capture the ugly dehumanization Brown was after. Whenever the focus is Eastman, who goes from well-intentioned policy collaborator with Dawes to reservation doctor, and watches firsthand how America’s ramshackle recruitment of Indians toward a “civilized” way of life is actually killing them, the movie develops a curious remove, despite Beach’s best efforts to communicate anguish. (You just don’t worry as much for the degreed doctor as you do for a Sioux uprooted from everything he knows.)
Buried in HistoryVirginia Woolf once wrote that after reading some novels, she felt she was expected to reach for her checkbook. HBO's new film, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which airs Sunday, makes you feel that way, except that you don't know where to send the check.

Despite its good intentions, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" tries to jam too much history and significance into too small a space. For instance, the entire prickly issue of whether the Sioux were a predatory people who took their sacred Black Hills territory from the Crow—and, trust me, I've heard that question debated by members of both tribes, and as a white person you wouldn't want to touch it with a 10-foot lance—is compressed into a few lines of dialogue between Sitting Bull and Colonel Miles (played by a grim-visage Shaun Johnston). Insults, humiliations, and atrocities to the American Indians become so common that the conflagration at Wounded Knee seems almost anticlimactic. (Mr. Simoneau's restraint in the Wounded Knee scenes is in sharp contrast to Joe Johnston's horrific imagery of the slaughter in 2004's "Hidalgo.")
Exclusive Interview:  Adam Beach, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Trouble making Bury My Heart

Pergament:  HBO’s ‘Wounded Knee’ is deserving of kudosAfter a 36-year wait, HBO Films has adapted the late Dee Brown’s 1971 best-selling nonfiction book, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” However, the cable network is airing it at 9 p.m. Sunday—during a low-viewing Memorial Day weekend when much of America may be out barbecuing or celebrating the unofficial start of summer.

The story of “Wounded Knee,” which depicts the government’s claim to sacred Native American land and its political attempts to assimilate the Native American, is hardly a cause for celebration.

The U.S. government is the bad guy in this drama, which may be one reason it took so long for the book to be made into a film. In an interview last January in Pasadena, Calif., producer Tom Thayer said he asked the book’s literary agent why it hadn’t been made into a film when he sought the rights.

“Well, my dear boy,” Thayer said he was told, “if you’ve read the book, it’s all told from their point of view, so who would you cast?”

The bigger question is whether an American audience will embrace a movie that makes its government look so heartless, greedy and unsympathetic as it broke treaties, promises and hearts to open the American West.

Key exchange in Bury My Heart

There’s an Allegory in Those Hills“How very convenient to cloak your claims in spiritualism. And what would you say to the Mormons and others who believe that their God has given to them Indian lands in the West?

“No matter what your legends say, you didn’t sprout from the plains like the spring grasses and you didn’t coalesce out of the ether. You came out of the Minnesota woodlands armed to the teeth and set upon your fellow man. You massacred the Kiowa, the Omaha, the Ponca, the Oto and the Pawnee without mercy. And yet you claim the Black Hills as a private preserve bequeathed to you by the Great Spirit.”

Sitting Bull shoots back: “And who gave us the guns and powder to kill our enemies? And who traded guns to the Chippewa and others who drove us from our home?”

Colonel Miles replies: “Chief Sitting Bull, the proposition that you were a peaceable people before the appearance of the white man is the most fanciful legend of all! You were killing each other for hundreds of moons before the first white stepped foot on this continent. You conquered those tribes, lusting for their game and their lands. Just as we have now conquered you for no less noble a cause.”
Comment:  I've already given some responses to a version of this speech. I'd love to hear how a Lakota or any Indian would respond.

RedCloud tours reservations

Ex-Mexican Gangmember, RedCloud, Displays Positive Message On Debut AlbumAs rappers continue to compete against each other to prove who is the hardest around, Mexican rapper RedCloud is focused on bringing a positive message to the culture.

With the release of his long awaited debut, Hawthrone's Most Wanted (named after his Los Angeles hometown), RedCloud is determined to connect with the average person who can't related to topics rappers have made the norm--diamonds, cars, women and money. Instead, he says he's speaking to the average person with personal stories everyone can relate to.
He's sharing this attitude with Indians:Currently, RedCloud is currently enduring a grueling touring schedule, which is packed with 140 shows. However, he not only plays the clubs with his music, but also does mission outreach to Native American reservations where he comes face to face with poverty, addiction and other rough problems.

"We travel from reservation to reservation sharing a message of hope to the Native American people, the First Nation's people and Indigenous people of Mexico," explains RedCloud. "Nowadays, 90% of Native American youth are into hip-hop. They forget what their elders are telling them these days, or they don't care about tradition or their heritage tells them. They want to do what they love, which is hip-hop and we speak that language very, very well."

New Maria Tallchief documentary

The Miami Nation presents a “Sneak Preview” of an upcoming PBS Documentary Maria Tallchief by Sandra and Yasu OsawaThis documentary is the third in a trilogy of films that highlights contemporary American Indian themes, issues and people by the Seattle based Upstream Productions. In this film, Ms. Tallchief tells her own story accompanied by dance clips, interviews with colleagues and historians and archival photos. Explained Sandra Osawa, a Makah filmmaker, “There are no contemporary stories about Native American women on PBS, the myriad of other television stations or on the big screen. For us, as American Indian women, Pocahontas is as good as it gets. This documentary aims to change the perpetual image of Indian women from one of ‘beast of burden’ or ‘romantic princess’ to one which will highlight a truly inspirational life—one filled with integrity and passion for the arts.”

Osawa’s film explains that in the late 1940’s, Tallchief ushered in a new prototype of the ballerina that was distinctly American, in a ballet world that was dominated by the Russians, the French and the English. All that changed in 1948 when Ms. Tallchief took the stage to capture the critical NY audience in a new ballet called Orpheus. Author Francis Mason, who is featured in the film exclaimed, “Maria Tallchief lit a fire under classical ballet that is still burning.”

Native food = restaurant trend

The Oldest Nouvelle Cuisine

Going beyond spas, Arizona tries culinary tourism with Native American foodRestaurateurs have mined every corner of the world in the constant search for something different to put on the menu. Yet the original American cuisine, Native American cooking, is just now slowly emerging into the spotlight, primarily in the Southwest.

The movement to revive indigenous cuisine is part of an attempt to restore Native Americans' pride in their culture, combined with an effort by food enthusiasts to resurrect near-forgotten culinary traditions. It's also a chance for towns in the Southwest to broaden their appeal beyond spas and outdoor activities to the potentially lucrative realm of culinary tourism.

Digital TV at Ramah

"Why can't PBS's Big Bird learn Navajo?" Learn the answer in this Turquoise Tales posting.

May 25, 2007

Bury My Heart = movie of the week

There’s an Allegory in Those HillsThis project was doomed to overreach and to sermonize. To begin with, it’s about American Indians, who ever since Sacheen Littlefeather declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar in 1973 have scared the chutzpah out of Hollywood, forcing the showoffs who invented westerns into defensive crouches and sorry offerings that look more like cut-and-paste Sunday school atonement projects than filmmaking.

Second, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” is a television movie. The red carpet premiere and credible stars (Aidan Quinn, Anna Paquin) that HBO supplied can’t conceal that this is a movie of the week—a form as eternal, indigenous and sacrosanct as the Black Hills of South Dakota. Simple-minded, blocky, smug, uplifting, always in a major key. Easy to sing along with.
Comment:  Let's note the connections. Screenwriter Daniel Giat fabricated Eastman's role in the story. He rearranged details to make it accessible. He added expository speeches and anachronisms.

As a result, Bury My Heart sounds like a creative failure. From now on, when people think of Dee Brown's book, they'll remember this production. They'll assume the book is equally unpalatable and skip it.

This is exactly why you need creators dedicated to honesty and authenticy. If the screenplay is messy, uncomfortable, even difficult, that's reality. Manipulating it doesn't necessarily make it better and often makes it worse.

Of course, when I see Bury My Heart, I may decide it's good. But the point is valid regardless. If a contrived Bury My Heart is good, an uncontrived Bury My Heart could have been great.

Native news service planned

Bringing the Global Market to Native LandsAt the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a group of college entrepreneurs are preparing to enter the global market by launching an American Indian news service—and without ever having to step foot off the reservation.

“You don’t need to leave the reservation to have global or regional impact because of the technology,” says Glorianna Cordova, a founding member of the new Red Wire news service. Cordova, who along with her four business partners, attends Oglala Lakota College in Pine Ridge, where she is studying digital video and new media production.

If they are successful in executing their business plan, Red Wire will provide subscribers from around the world an Internet-based source of news by and about American Indians. After decades of being defined by the mainstream media’s view of what is news in Indian Country, Cordova and her classmates are convinced they have found a niche by adding a Native perspective.
Comment:  Newspapers such as Indian Country Today, the Native Times, and the Native Voice already are trying to provide national news from a Native perspective. So are websites such as and How will this news service be different?

From what I've heard, ICT is struggling rather than flourishing, even though it's owned by the deep-pockets Oneida Nation. Therefore, I have to wonder if Red Wire's subscription model will work. I'd read the business plan carefully before I bet any money on it.

That said, any news service is to be applauded for trying to increase the flow of Native news. We may reach a point where the need for such news is satisfied, but we're not there yet.

US attorney targeted for helping Indians?

Aide:  Political stripes helped PauloseHeffelfinger, an experienced prosecutor and a Republican appointed by President Bush, resigned in February 2006, but has maintained he was not encouraged to leave and had no idea that anyone in Washington was thinking of firing him. It has since been established that Heffelfinger was indeed on lists of federal prosecutors considered for dismissal by the Justice Department.

Heffelfinger had placed a priority on issues pertaining to American Indians and led a subcommittee of U.S. attorneys examining the prevalence of gangs, guns, terrorism and other violent crimes on reservations. Federal attorneys oversee the prosecution of such crimes.

"If it's true that people within the Department of Justice were critical of the amount of time I was spending on Indian issues, I'm outraged," Heffelfinger said Wednesday afternoon. "Are they telling me that I spent too much time responding to the school shooting in Red Lake, which was the second-largest act of school violence prior to Virginia Tech? Are they telling me I spent too much time trying to improve public safety for Native Americans, who are victims of violent crime at a rate 2½ times the national population? If they are, then shame on them."

Bury My Heart worth watching

McCollum:  'Bury My Heart' is not perfect, but it's very good[T]he Eastman character is so well-written by Giat and acted with such passion and nuance by Adam Beach ("Flags Of Our Fathers") that you almost can overlook the historical inaccuracies. Beach's work is so good that it alone makes "Bury My Heart" worth watching.

In addition, Giat has crafted multidimensional portraits of Sitting Bull (a deft performance by Canadian actor August Schellenberg, who is part-Mohawk) and of Dawes (a skillful turn by Aidan Quinn of "Empire Falls"). The great chief and the well-meaning but patronizing politician could have been shown simplistically as hero and villain, but Giat and the actors give both shades of gray that make them far more interesting and, probably, truer-to-life.

And in the end, the filmmakers achieve what they set out to: They've made a moving and enlightening movie about a horrific chapter in American history. "Bury My Heart" may not encompass everything that was in Brown's book, but it does manage to capture its tone and its pain. I can live with inconsistency of detail if the big picture is fundamentally truthful and true to the subject. Which means I can recommend "Bury My Heart," even with its flaws.

Super Size Me in reverse

Buffalo-based diet plan includes 'spiritual connection'

Documentary to track man's journey on Dakota DietIt is Day 100 of filming for the documentary "Good Meat," and its star, Beau LeBeau, is devouring a buffalo burger for lunch.

The buffalo that LeBeau is dining on after a morning full of medical tests is the "good meat" of the title. But it is the film's 10-word tagline that sums up the story: "How the Lakota Got Fat and Beau LeBeau Saved Himself."

Filmmakers Sam Hurst and Larry Pourier like to describe their documentary, which will air on PBS late this year, as "Super Size Me" upside down.

Instead of filming a physically fit, healthy white male for 30 days while he gorges on fast food by eating at McDonalds three times a day, these independent filmmakers are following LeBeau, a 35-year-old, obese, Lakota man, for 200 days while he tries to return to the diet of his ancestors, or at least to the closest approximation of it that he can find in 2007 on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Dress exhibit is drudgery

Only Hide-Deep

Dress Exhibit at Indian Museum Comes Up ShortSometimes a dress--no matter how historically rare, culturally significant or spiritually meaningful--is just boring. This unfortunate fact has nothing to do with the value of the garment or even its beauty, but rather the circumstances under which it is presented. And one of the surest ways to guarantee that a dress will fail to excite either the mind or heart is to put it in a museum and treat it with too much reverence.

An exhibition of even the most dazzling clothes begins to feel like drudgery when the garments are imbued with so much gravitas that they lose the vibrancy that comes from the quirks, foibles and humor of the people who wore them.

The current exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian burrows deeply into the details of Native American women's attire. But it focuses on the subtleties without clarifying the broader story.

Inuit throat-singers get attention

Throat-singers steal the showWhen Inuits Lydia Etok and Nina Segalowitz took to the stage, their skill at throat-singing was a show-stopper.

“Our grandmothers and great grandmothers developed throat singing as a way to entertain themselves when their work was done and they were waiting for the men to come back from hunting. They were imitating sounds from nature, or animal sounds. It was also a way of competing among themselves, for hides, or food, or sometimes even mates,” said Segalowitz, who was born in the Far North, was adopted by a Jewish/Catholic couple and was raised in Outremont.

May 24, 2007

Pope backtracks on colonization

Pope:  Injustices Done in Colonization"Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelizing the Latin American continent," the pope said.

Benedict's remarks to Italian-speaking pilgrims at his general audience in the square were even stronger than the comments in English.

"It is not possible, indeed, to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled on," Benedict said.

The pontiff said he was making a "dutiful mention of such unjustifiable crimes" and said some missionaries and theologians in the past had condemned them.
Why the pope is wrong:

Pope recognizes colonial injusticesThe pope made no mention of forced conversions, epidemic illnesses, massacres, enslavement and other abuses that most historians agree accompanied colonization.

Indigenous rights groups, plus the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, were incensed.

The episode is the latest in which the pope, elucidating a theological point he firmly believes, made statements that appeared to ignore or disregard cultural and historical sensitivities.

The most explosive example occurred last year when, during a speech on faith and reason in Germany, he quoted comments by a Byzantine emperor widely seen as insulting to Islam. The speech triggered rage across the Muslim world, prompting the pope to make several subsequent statements, not apologizing for what he said but saying he was sorry for the reaction his words had caused.
Comment:  So much for the pope's alleged infallibility. This pope is more ignorant than a schoolchild when it comes to non-Christians--whether they're Muslims or Natives.

Variety pans Bury My Heart

Bury My Heart at Wounded KneeThe horrors inflicted upon Native Americans have traditionally made for wrenching drama, but this loose adaptation of Dee Alexander Brown's seminal 1971 book is a powerful story limply told, steeped in tired Western cliches and an overbearing score. A few emotional moments emerge almost by default, but a splintered focus and uneven storytelling largely negate them as well as the efforts of the large cast. HBO is using the movie to give "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" a Memorial Day weekend vacation, which, in cable scheduling terms, perhaps represents its own kind of burial.To be more specific:As with any tale of this period, the movie is punctuated by broken promises, horrible conditions, willful ignorance toward Native American traditions and bursts of grisly violence against innocents, including women and children. There are also modern echoes of the cultural rift between the west and radical Islam in the dialogue, with two cultures that speak at cross-purposes.

Dramatically, though--even tinkering with history to weave the Eastman character into the narrative--"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" proves curiously flat, retracing revisionist looks at this era from "Little Big Man" to TNT's recent miniseries "Into the West," another stilted disappointment despite a herd of Emmy nominations. Within that framework, the cast is hamstrung by the archetypal characters, which possess only slightly more dimension than the black-and-white photographs that partition the scenes.

Schellenberg is the one exception, with his deep-set eyes and low rumble of a voice, but other Native-American performers (among them Wes Studi and Eric Schweig) are underutilized. Even the climactic bloodbath proves unaffecting, captured in a distancing flashback without eliciting the horror it should evoke--despite what's otherwise a meticulously mounted production, lensed in the wilds of Canada.

Lakota vet opposes war

Tribal official's criticism of veterans causes uproar on reservation

Oglala council member's anti-war blast prompt talk of recall"I'm opposed to all wars and conflicts because women and children die, and I don't honor that," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I feel that I'm a person of high moral character. Regardless of what nation-state commits the acts of war, I do not agree. Past or present."

Little said the fact that a nation-state sanctions an invasion or war "does not absolve the individual of an act of murder. It does not give any human a license to kill indiscriminately and with impunity."

But Little's opposition to the military reflects an issue larger than how a soldier conducts himself in war. It's about whose war it is.

"Six years ago, I made the conscious decision, announced it in a local paper, that I was going to burn an American flag in protest of the colonialism and the laws the United States imposed on us as Lakota people," he said. Little did burn a U.S. flag, prompting Lakota veterans to lobby for a tribal ordinance against desecrating or burning a U.S. flag. The law passed.

"The people of Oglala District have known for years ... that I detest being occupied by the United States, and I detest this colonial rule we're under," Little, who had also espoused his views on his own radio program, said. "It was no secret, yet I was voted in."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Intelligence:  The Long View.

Native vote could decide election

American Indians Could Influence 2008 Presidential Vote[T]he “native vote” has become pivotal in some Western states. According to the book, “In 2000, Indian voters helped [Democrat] Maria Cantwell defeat [Republican U.S.] Sen. Slade Gorton [in Washington state], and helped Al Gore carry New Mexico.” Two years later, Indian voters again displayed their potential power. In South Dakota, they provided the winning margin for Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson in his very close re-election bid, and they were credited with helping to elect Democratic Gov. Brad Henry in Oklahoma. Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona acknowledged at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that “Without the Native Americans, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

According to an article in the New York Times on September 24, 2004, “In the last few years, political races from Congress to county sheriff have begun to hinge on the Indian vote ... .” Indian tribes also have become big players in campaign contributions, lobbying and running candidates for office. Co-author McCool says that with the growing influence of the Western states in presidential primaries, the Indian vote will become even more important. “I think it’s safe to say that there are specific scenarios where the presidential race could hinge on the vote in some Western states, much like it did on Florida in 2000 or Pennsylvania in 2004. Indian voters have already proven that they can swing statewide elections in Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota. If any of these states becomes pivotal in a tight presidential race, the Indian vote could make the difference,” says McCool.

Spirit Riders accompanies Bury My Heart

"Spirit Riders" Featured in Conjunction With "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"In conjunction with its release of HBO Films' "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" on May 27, is featuring the award-winning documentary "Spirit Riders, Riding to Mend the Sacred Hoop" about the birth of the American Indian peace movement by director James Kleinert. Filmed over a 10-year period following the 100-year anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, "Spirit Riders" is the story of today's Lakota and how they have returned to their roots and their horses via their peace and unity horseback rides. The rides have become a source of inspiration for the Lakota people, especially the youth. A segment of the film can be accessed at Many respected members of the Lakota community are featured in "Spirit Riders," including descendents of Black Elk and Sitting Bull, as well as actor Viggo Mortensen, who participated one of the rides to Wounded Knee.

As "Spirit Riders" reveals, in 1986 one of the Lakota spiritual leaders was visited by a dream where he was surrounded by many people riding and walking together to release their grief at long last from the events at Wounded Knee and the prior killing of Sitting Bull.

Obi-Wan Hiawatha

Longfellow’s Hiawatha to be released on 6-CD setLongfellow’s epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," was written 152 years ago, but Michael Maglaras thinks the story can be as appealing to modern-day audiences as "Superman" or "Star Wars."

Like Clark Kent and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Indian hero Hiawatha has human traits and super powers, while battling evil and doing right. Maglaras, the owner of a record company, is now producing a six-CD audio recording of the poem that he plans to complete in late summer.
Others don't necessarily agree that "Hiawatha" is worthy:Although "The Song of Hiawatha" was a commercial success, it was criticized for being overly sentimental and parodied for its monotonous meter.

Among Native Americans, it has been criticized for perpetuating Indian stereotypes but also praised for showing Indian culture--even a romanticized version--to whites at a time when wars with Indians were still being fought.

Sky ride vs. burial ground

Sky ride opening nears despite concerns over burial groundAn Oklahoma-based Indian tribe is fighting with a Missouri man over land where the tribe's ancestors are buried.

Bill McMurtry wants to reopen a sky ride in Clarksville, Missouri, about 70 miles north of St. Louis. The ride is similar to a ski lift and was a popular attraction in the 1960s and 70s as it carried people on brief rides over the valley with a view of the Mississippi River.

But the platform for the ride is built on a burial ground of the Sac and Fox Nation and the tribe wants to keep the ride closed.

May 23, 2007

Swiss author preserves Blackfoot culture

Adolf Hungry-Wolf’s four-part set tells story of Blackfoot Confederacy"The Blackfoot Papers" weighs 15 pounds and tells the story of the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1,500 glossy pages, including nearly 3,000 paintings and illustrations.

The price is hefty, too—$300 for the boxed, four-volume set or $1,000 for a leather-bound, limited edition volume. Volume 1 is Pikunni history and culture; II is ceremonial life; III is a Pikunni portfolio; and IV is biographies of the elders and leaders.

Members of the tribe credit Hungry-Wolf for taking the time and effort to learn and preserve their history and culture.

Darrell Norman, owner of the Lodgepole Gallery in Browning, credits Hungry-Wolf with saving Blackfeet ways that might have been lost.
This is all the more remarkable because the author isn't Native:Although Hungry-Wolf is not Indian, his wife Beverly is, and their children are enrolled members of the Blood Tribe.

Adolf Gutohrlein (his birth name) moved from his native Switzerland to southern California with his parents as a child of 9. In the 1960s, he came to Montana, where his dancing at tribal ceremonies first caught the attention of Earl Old Person, chief of the Blackfeet Nation.

"Adolf Hungry Wolf has been among our people for a long time now and has learned a lot of our ways," Old Person wrote in the introduction to the book.

"He takes part in our dances and he also performs some of our traditional ceremonies," wrote Old Person. "For him to write these books, I think it is important for him to have lived the kind of life that our people did.

Oneida animated short debuts

New animated short film brings Oneida legend to the big screenThe Oneida Indian Nation' of New York's Four Directions Productions held the world premiere of its first 3-D animated short film at the Syracuse International Film Festival in Syracuse, N.Y.

"Long ago, American Indians delivered important messages by sending runners; going from one village to another and nation to nation," said Dale Rood, director of studio operations for Four Directions Productions and a Turtle Clan representative to the OIN's Men's Council.

"Our ancestors also entertained and educated their young through storytelling," he said. "Today, communications are done much differently. We still need to inform and educate, but in a way that captures the attention of a public that is used to video games, cell phones and flat screened televisions. We must also correct stereotypes of Indian people painted by Hollywood. That's been embedded into the fabric of modern society."

Alexie on basketball

Sherman Alexie on Watching the NBA Through a Racial LensI'm positive the anti-NBA reaction is racial AND racist.

First of all, in racial terms, the game has become so black American and internationally dominated that the typical white American fan has nobody special to root for. That's not racism, but it is racial. And it's not a problem. If a Native American ever makes it into the NBA, he will instantly become my favorite player because I will racially, culturally, and physically identify with him. I understand and completely accept why so many white guys love Larry Bird, just as I understand why there are 1,000 black kids in Kobe Bryant jerseys at every Laker game played here in Seattle. It's a tribal thing.

But the racial aspects of fandom can easily become racist. And I think that many white fans, having no player like Larry Bird or even Tom Chambers to root for, have consciously and/or subconsiously turned that lack of a special white player into an indictment of the league in general. And since the league is black it becomes an indictment of blackness.

How FAITA got started

A Native night in HollywoodIn 1991, a group of people gathered in Harrison Lowe's apartment just on the edge of Hollywood to start an organization dedicated to American Indians in the arts that would not only support and promote the established artist, but also provide funding opportunities for up-and-coming American Indian artists. They also believed that part of their organizations' mission would be to honor Native actors and actresses for their achievements in the arts. Today this group is known as the First Americans in the Arts.

"There were not many opportunities for Native American actors and actresses, especially in the early '90s. Our group did not have any money; as a matter of fact, we started off in the hole but continued to reach out to the communities and studios. And now look, we just celebrated our 15th annual awards show," explained Lowe, Navajo, FAITA founding trustee.