August 31, 2007

Filming The Only Good Indian

‘Indian’ summer

Locally produced film explores hidden history of HaskellToday, the filmmakers are shooting a scene in which the Haskell superintendent (Geer) is addressing the Indian children who have just been pulled off the reservation. The story focuses on one such Kickapoo youth (played by newcomer Winter Fox Frank), who is taken from his family and forcibly sent to Haskell under government orders to integrate into white society.

After being assigned a new name and religion, Frank’s character escapes and attempts to return home, only to be pursued by an American Indian bounty hunter (Wes Studi).

“What we know of the Indian boarding schools all across the country is that they were almost like concentration camps,” says Steve Cadue, the Kickapoo tribal chairman who is on the set at the invitation of the filmmakers.
The writer/producer's view:Tom Carmody is the man who first began framing these questions in screenplay form.

The writer and producer of “The Only Good Indian” says he’s always been fascinated by American Indian culture.

“Growing up in Lawrence and attending Broken Arrow school and South Junior High, many of the kids in the classes were Native American, as were many of the kids on my football team at Lawrence High. It was just part of growing up,” Carmody says.

In addition to its emphasis on history, Carmody regarded the project as a new riff on a genre movie.

He says, “When you look at westerns per se, you rarely see the Native American point of view. I can’t even think of one.”
Comment:  For Western movies with a Native point of view, see Broken Arrow, Cheyenne Autumn, Dances with Wolves, Geronimo: An American Legend, Crazy Horse, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Into the West, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, among others. This partial list excludes all the movies set in the modern West (e.g., Thunderheart, Dreamkeeper) or the old East (e.g., The Light in the Forest, Pocahontas) with a Native POV.

This kind of movie may not be commonplace, but it's not unheard of either. Carmody is revealing more about himself than about Westerns when he says he can't think of one with a Native POV.

Helpful hint to creative types: Don't suggest you're the first to do something unless you really are the first.

Enemy territory as "Indian Country"

Indian Country

Beyond the Green Zone in IraqAs an American Indian I can state unequivocally that this telling catch phrase that projects the warzones of the "wars on terror" as "Indian Country" is as deeply offensive as it is counter-productive to the stated mission in Iraq. My immediate thoughts—the first time that I heard the reference to the war torn streets of Baghdad as "Indian Country"—was that after 515 years of conquest—in the minds of Imperial America—the First Nations of the "Americas" are still regarded as enemies, hostiles, obstacles to progress... as terrorists. "Indians" then, in the American mindscape are yet sub-humans with no intrinsic value and no redeeming qualities and no contribution and/or partnership in contemporary society save as cartoonish sports mascots and fodder for the myth making propaganda of manifest destiny and fantasies of the "master race" as portrayed in Hollywood western movies and literature.

Take heed that this collective psychosis, this self adulation and lack of self criticism that plagues America is well noted by those who oppose us in the bloody streets of Baghdad and in the "Indian Country" of Afghanistan. One can accuse voices such as mine as emboldening the enemy by offering critical analysis of the situation in America's wars in the "Middle East" ("Middle East" being another colloquialism coined from the Western perspective of the planet). But—with these not so subtle attitudes couched within the phraseology of "Indian Country"—is it any wonder that they have resolved to fight us to the death—there in their home territory? Is it any wonder that America is seen as invaders, imperialists and controllers rather than liberators? Indian country they call it? Isn't it more likely that the attitude that lies behind colloquialisms like this are what emboldens our enemies and gives them the resolve to oppose the American agenda as they perceive it?
Comment:  This article makes a nice addition to my posting on Enemy Territory as "Indian Country."

Chief WahooOsama Bin Laden

Gonzales = indifferent to Indians

Undermining trust:  Gonzales' legacy in Indian countryIn a scant two and a half years as the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales presided over far-reaching attempts to undermine U.S. trust responsibility to Indian nations.

He advocated for a cheap settlement of the Cobell case, which even more outrageously was contingent upon ending U.S. trust responsibility to tribal nations. His Justice Department leaked a litany of nitpicking objections to Congress in an effort to derail health legislation for American Indians. And he undoubtedly participated in the politically motivated firing of eight respected U.S. attorneys, including five who were leaders in prosecuting violence on Indian lands.

Yet Gonzales wasn't a flag-waving anti-Indian of the Slade Gorton, former U.S. senator from Washington, ilk.

No. Former attorneys for the Justice Department, including Kevin Washburn, the visiting Oneida Indian Nation professor at Harvard Law School, say that Indians were simply not on Gonzales' radar.

National park evicted Navajos

An unhappy occasion

Chaco Canyon park marks centennial, families recall dark historyThis year marks a century that Chaco Culture National Historic Park has been in existence, preserving thousand-year-old ruins and interpreting them for visitors from all over the world.

And, some would argue, oppressing local Navajos.

About 150 Navajos gathered Saturday just outside the park boundary to share stories of their experiences with the park. They told of forcible evictions from their homes, not being allowed to collect medicinal herbs in the park, and being denied such amenities as paved roads in the name of historical preservation.
Comment:  For more on this story, read American Indians and National Parks.

Tractor pedal pull contests

Lakota boys pull their way to successFrom New Mexico to New York, pedal pullers have found a way to compete even if they can't be a part of the 4-H competition that has dominated county fairs for years. For four Lakota boys, the competition has not only been a way to shine at competitions across Kansas, but it's become a family affair that keeps them on the road during the pulling season cheering for each other.

Kids' tractor pedal pull contests aren't about speed. They are about giving kids a chance to show their strength and determination in moving a pedal tractor with a "drag" that is weighted according to age down a short track. The tractors move at a snail's pace, but no one would believe it once the spectators begin cheering. Sportsmanship is alive and well at each event for both the kids and parents; everyone cheers for the pullers, even those against whom they are competing.

Fastest comics in the West

I just reread the first two issues of the new LONE RANGER series. Just for fun, I timed how long it took. Answer: six minutes for both comics. Combined.

In contrast, a typically erudite Alan Moore comic might take 20 minutes to read. So LONE RANGER is only 15% as dense as a Moore comic, though they both cost the same. I don't want to say LONE RANGER is shallow, but if you have any illiterate friends, they might appreciate it.

Rob vs. mascot apologist

In which I grind a University of Illinois student's arguments for Chief Illiniwek into dust:

"[P]erhaps if you'd been spending your time tackling actual problems, the Native Americans you claim to care so much about might be doing a little better."

Long but interesting (to me, at least).

August 30, 2007

Q&A with Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Here are my questions for Whale Song author Cheryl Kaye Tardif and her answers:

1) Whale Song features a "bad" Native girl and a "good" Native girl. Did you set up this duality intentionally, and what does it tell us about Native cultures?

Since the setting of Bamfield on Vancouver Island and in fact the native influences are so vital to the story, I had no choice but to have native characters. After creating Goldie, the “good” native girl, and having her befriend Sarah, the white American girl, I wanted to show the differences in cultures and beliefs and that the two can be united, that they can learn something from one another.

With Annie, the “bad” native girl, I wanted to show that there is often racial tension because of past negative experiences and that if we dig deep enough sometimes we may understand why a bully does what he or she does. This certainly does not condone their actions, but at least it allows for a starting point in recognizing and dealing with this type of situation.

I believe that Goldie and Annie are typical native children for the most part. And like ANY race, there are “good” kids and “bad.” Some kids openly accept “foreigners,” while others don’t. And why is that exactly? Where have children learned to hate or fear people of other nationalities? Racism is all around us, on TV, in music, in life. I think that Whale Song is a novel of tolerance, patience and understanding, and one that shows that hatred knows no bounds, no color, no race. It tells us that an open, accepting heart can be greatly rewarded by the experiences of learning about different cultures. There is beauty and importance in every race.

2) When non-Natives tell Native legends, Natives sometimes object. They'll say the non-Natives have taken the stories out of context, stripped them of their religious meaning, or appropriated them without permission. How do you address such charges?

Well, first I have to say that I have had many native readers and not one has objected to how the story was handled, or the legends retold within. While researching for Whale Song, I went to native sites so that my brief renditions would be as accurate as possible. Many indigenous languages and stories are becoming extinct. If someone does not tell them, they will eventually cease to exist, and since I am retelling them in respect, I believe I am helping to keep the legends alive.

It has always been said that imitation is the best sort of flattery, and by reproducing some of the First Nations legends that inspired me, I look at it as a tribute to wonderful stories that are even pertinent today. By paralleling these popular legends with Sarah’s life journey, it also shows the relevance of stories, legends, myths and cultural beliefs in today’s society, and that there is definite value in sharing them. After all, that is what a story is meant to be―shared.

3) The wise Native elder who enlightens the uncertain youth with stories and aphorisms is a common device in children's books. It's so common that it often becomes a cliché or stereotype. How does Whale Song handle this potential problem?

Nana is a fascinating character, and I receive so many emails from readers who tell me they “love” her. Anyone would want a grandmother like Nana, regardless of race. She is wise, caring and tells the most fascinating stories. I never saw her as a problem or cliché, and I believe neither do most of my readers. She is there because she ‘fits,’ but she only appears at certain times. She is wise because of her age and enjoys sharing her culture. Her role is to unite Sarah with the land around her, the animals and the people.

Nana was one character I saw so clearly from the very beginning, right down to the white streak in her black hair. She brings a multi-generational aspect to the story. And while Whale Song has a definite appeal to the young adult market, it is a work of fiction that appeals, particularly, to women of all ages. My youngest reader that I know of is a 7-year-old girl; the oldest is a 96-year-old woman.

Bullying, racism, and Whale Song

More questions and answers from Whale Song author Cheryl Kaye Tardif:4) Since Whale Song was set in the late ‘70s in the beginning of the story, how do the racial and bullying issues in the novel apply to today’s world?

The bullying in the bathroom and chocolate bar scenes in Whale Song are based on true events. These things happened to me in the late ‘70s and resulted from racial discrimination. Have things really changed that much? There is still racism in our schools (Canadian and American), maybe even more so now because of the influx of foreigners and refugees. We have become a multicultural continent, with very little understanding, tolerance or acceptance of people with different religious or cultural beliefs. Whale Song has made older readers remember what it was like to be young, even the negative experiences. And young readers identify with Sarah and the bullying and racism situations. Racial hate crimes have not gone away.

5) Has the “zero tolerance policy” in some schools helped eliminate bullying?

Although many schools say they have a “zero tolerance policy” in place for bullying, even that is not completely true. I know this for a fact. My own daughter was bullied horribly in a Canadian school with a “zero tolerance policy.” Principals often don’t handle the situation but instead treat the bullied child as if they had done something wrong to deserve it. Teachers have very little recourse or authority anymore, and parents don’t always take responsibility for their child or their child’s actions. Is it any wonder that many of our children are going to school afraid, depressed and suicidal? And what happens when the bullies are thrown out of school and into society? Surely, there is a better way for all concerned.

6) How has bullying evolved?

Bullying and racial discrimination have now evolved to the computer age. Cyber-bullying has become the new way to harass victims. Hurtful photographs, instant messaging slurs, chat room bullying and social networking site messages are used to attack our children. This is the future generation, our hope for a better world. Many children have not learned that they are responsible for every word they say and every action, and that those words and actions have incredible healing or destructive power.

7) What can we do to prevent racial discrimination and bullying?

The United States considers youth violence a public health epidemic, according to the CDC―Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “30% of 6th to 10th graders in the United States were involved in bullying as a bully, a target of bullying, or both” (Nansel et al. 2001). These are sad statistics. Some statistics report even higher percentages for younger grades.

But there is hope. I think we need more messages of racial acceptance. Books, music, films and TV could be used to bring people together, rather than tear them apart. Adults and children need to change their views and learn to understand, take an interest. We fear that which we do not know. So KNOW! Learn about your neighbor’s culture and traditions. It takes nothing away from you and you may find rich rewards along the way.

There is a school program called Challenge Day that helps to eliminate the invisible boundaries that separate people. This program has been put into place in many schools and it has shown immense success. It has inspired youth to look at each other with fresh eyes and honest, open hearts. I believe that this should be mandatory in ALL schools in Canada and the US. It is a start. We can be part of the solution, or part of the problem. By writing Whale Song, I hope that I am a small part of the solution.

©Cheryl Kaye Tardif

During my virtual book tour I am giving away some books at specific stops. This is one of them!

  • First, you must answer this skill-testing question: What “gift” does Nana have?
  • Email the answer to
  • I will draw from all entries on September 1st. One winner will receive a copy of Whale Song. Good luck.

Thank you and I hope you will visit my website and sign my guestbook:

Order Whale Song from Amazon

Violence and PEACE PARTY

Naturally, the violence in our culture is one of my biggest concerns. It's one of the main reasons I created a comic book called PEACE PARTY that stars two nonviolent Hopi Indians.

Here are some of the pages I've devoted to violence, particularly youth-oriented violence:

America's cultural mindset
The evidence against media violence
Why white boys keep shooting
Teenage violence...solved! (more or less)
Winning through nonviolence

Why exactly is violence a core subject for an enterprise devoted to Indian comics? It stems from the fact that the Western/European/American mindset is selfish, greedy, acquisitive, aggressive, warlike, and domineering. This cultural worldview has a myriad of consequences:
  • Nations range far from their borders to conquer other lands.
  • The Church declares itself sovereign over every body and soul.
  • Mountains, rivers, and forests are plundered for their wealth.
  • America glorifies a Wild West mentality: the individual as solitary gunslinger and society as a hostile frontier.
  • The popular media--including comics--promote a Darwinian goal of being a victor or a victim.
  • Frustrated youths (almost always young men) who can't get their piece of the American pie get even by committing murder--or suicide.
So a greedy, violent attitude as ancient as the Bible is the problem. And the values embodied in indigenous cultures--community, respect for nature, looking ahead seven generations--are a potential solution. In other words, we need more stories like Whale Song and PEACE PARTY. ;-)

Right approach to Native theater

Native tongue

'Family' cements relations between theater and stories about the American Indian experienceThough the Twin Cities is a hospitable hotbed for culturally specific performance companies--think Penumbra Theatre Company, Theater Mu and the like--plays by Indian writers have yet to really take root here or elsewhere in the country.

For FastHorse, a 36-year-old Lakota who grew up in South Dakota near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, a production at a Tony Award-winning regional theater is a stamp of legitimacy for her and for Indian playwrights across the country.

"I'm thrilled to have as many native people as possible come to my play and see themselves onstage. That's an opportunity I never had growing up," she said. "But equally as important, I want a wider audience to have that experience; to learn something about my culture but also to learn about their own."
One problem with Native theater:Coming from hundreds of nations within the United States, Indian writers are perhaps a more diverse lot than other culturally specific writers, FastHorse said. And Indian playwrights, like any other writers trying to articulate the experience of a minority population, may feel stymied by a perceived responsibility of having to speak for an entire people.

"I'm not criticizing, but there's still a lot of 'issue theater' out there--written by people who are coming from an angry place or a victimized place," she said. "There needs to be an outlet to express that past, but I think that, as a group, we need to get to that third generation of work."
Another problem:Progress is being made at the Children's Theatre and other local companies, but unfamiliarity is still a problem. "I've been told, 'You're a great writer, but I don't know what to do with native stuff,' " FastHorse said. "There has to be a changing in the collective minds of the theater owners and artistic directors and the play-development people."

Too, there's a wariness in the native community about tokenism. Rhiana Yazzie is a Navajo playwright born in Albuquerque and educated in Los Angeles. She has been living in the Twin Cities for the past year on a fellowship from the Jerome Foundation and has been actively working the small- and medium-sized theater circuit. She has been encouraged by the results--commissions to write plays for Mixed Blood Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development.

"Some (Indian audiences) will see a native play and think, 'Oh, this is our 'Dances With Wolves' for this year," she said. "There needs to be some follow-up. Native theater is not nascent; we're not novices. But we need to start to plant that idea."
The solution:FastHorse says she wants "Average Family" to be the kind of work that can hopscotch the first and second generations of culturally specific theater. She thinks creating strong and accessible plays about the Indian experience will prime the pump to start a flow of more visible Indian actors, directors and other theater artists.

"It has to start with the writing," she said. "There are a lot of wonderful native writers, and if we focus on the quality of the work, that work will be able to speak for itself."

Blowback changes vets' minds

UND NICKNAME:  Group rescinds supportMembers of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation's Veterans' Group board voted 3-2 Wednesday night to rescind their two-day-old support for UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

The board voted unanimously to support the nickname during a meeting Monday, but board members later were inundated with calls from Standing Rock veterans and other tribe members expressing opposition to the nickname, said Ed Black Cloud, the board's acting chairman.

“There were a lot of things we didn't know about when we made that motion,” Black Cloud said, later adding, “we didn't know about the treatment of Indian students (at UND).”
Comment:  This story could serve as the template for the "Indians support Indian mascots" meme. Yes, some Indians support Indian mascots because they think such mascots are benign or even positive. Then they learn all the arguments against such mascots: how many of their fellow Indians oppose the schools in question don't support their Indian the mascots create a hostile environment of whooping fans who attack anyone who challenges them. Because they've been educated, these Indians who support Indian mascots change their minds.

Pictured below:  University of Illinois students "honoring" Indians.

NewsWatch Native America

Former Observer editor partners to form NewsWatch Native America

Tanya Lee and former Washington Post reporter create on-line information delivery systemLee and Struck developed their own keyword vocabulary to pull up information of value and interest to Native American tribes and communities.

"Every morning..., we have anywhere from 20 to 50 press releases from governmental agencies, state governments, tribal governments and colleges, and Native American associations that are turned up by keyword search," Lee said. "We select and publish on our website those that are of interest and significance to Native America."

After that work is finished, Struck and Lee go through the Federal Register. They pull out everything of Native American interest--grant and funding opportunities, rules being proposed or finalized, and announcements of meetings of federal agencies related to Native Americans.
Comment:  This news service appears to provide a good complement to, where I work.

Alexie's young-adult novel

Book Review:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieSherman Alexie’s first novel for young adults is the heart-wrenching/heart-warming story of Arnold, a 14-year-old budding writer/cartoonist living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Life isn’t so great for Arnold or Junior Spirit. His dad drinks way too much as do many of the people on the rez. His mother is a recovering alcoholic.

Arnold’s engaging and entertaining diary tackles rough subjects like death, alcoholism, poverty, jealousy and racism with a deft hand. You can't but help fall in love with Arnold. The wonderful cartoons and drawings by Ellen Forney appear to be pasted onto the pages of his diary, giving it depth and life. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a must have book, and I can't speak highly enough of it.

August 29, 2007

Chumash filmmaker keeps knocking

George Angelo, Jr., The AuteurCompleted in 1978, Angelo’s first film was Indian alright—but not the kind you might assume. His short, Bambu Island, was shot in the West Indies about Rastafarian woodcarvers, complete with reggae soundtrack. But the opportunities were sparse, so during the 80s he tended bar, took acting classes and became a cameraman at a southern California television station. Along the way he’s snared a few acting roles in shows like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, ER, and more recently, The Shield and the Eddie Murphy film, Norbit. Angelo’s prowess behind the camera didn’t go unnoticed, however, as he earned a coveted Rockefeller Fellowship to study film and video.

Through it all, he’s continued to do what he started lo those many years ago. Make films. With more than a dozen to his credit, he has produced award winning documentaries including the three-part series, Whispers, about southern California Native tribes and other projects profiling age discrimination in Hollywood, a Death Valley marathon, and the legendary country music venue, the Palomino Club.

His newest production is a departure from his documentarian roots. Early next year Angelo will start filming Fallen Angels, a dramatic feature about a reincarnated Chumash spiritual leader and a Vietnam Vet rock musician starring himself, Nick Ramos and several of Indian Country’s top actors. It’s a go as he anxiously waits for the final funding to roll in.

Potawatomis get off-rez vote

Potawatomis Vote To Establish Nationwide LegislatureApproval creates a 16-member CPN legislature. Half the members will be elected at-large from Oklahoma to represent their fellow Citizen Potawatomis in the state. The other eight members will each represent a legislative district outside Oklahoma. Tribal members in each district will elect the representative from their district.

CPN officials believe this is the first Indian tribe in the United States to extend such participation in tribal government to members who live outside the tribal jurisdiction, to say nothing of those who live anywhere in the United States.

The change in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's basic form of government is designed to accomplish two goals--extend more input into their government's decisions to tribal members who live outside Oklahoma and take a major step toward a three-branch government with checks and balances.

Lakota radio = "beacon of hope"

Radio Station Provides Vital Link for People on Indian ReservationThere are many ethnic radio stations and broadcast programs in the United States, but there is only one fully independent community radio station serving the residents of a Native American Indian reservation. That is KILI radio on the Pine Ridge reservation in southwestern South Dakota. It operates from the top of a butte near the village of Porcupine and broadcasts in both English and the native Lakota language.

KILI roughly translates to "cool" or "awesome" in English. The station provides news about activities and events on the reservation, as well as music--ranging from country to hip hop, with lots of native traditional singing as well.

Local college professors and students come in every week to discuss Lakota myths and stories. The station also does live broadcasts of tribal council meetings.

Another Little Tree argument

Ahearn:  An education from 'Little Tree'"Having been a fan of his (as a writer) for many years, and having heard this same old drivel about his private life (which was reprehensible in many ways), it amazes me that people focusing on this are missing the POINT!" Asheboro reader Lane Batot wrote.

"The POINT is that 'Little Tree' is a beautifully written book chock full of positive values, and although it may not have been a 'true' story, it was full of truths, and obviously the author had some experience with the times and an understanding of that, and expressed it beautifully."

Not everyone agrees. Some Native Americans, particularly Cherokees, raise problems with the book itself, pointing out inaccurate portrayals of Cherokee language and culture, and a survival-of-the-fittest mind-set that borders uncomfortably on fascism.

Whale Song is coming

I'm trying something new:  an exclusive interview with a writer of a Native-themed book. Here's the scoop:

Drop by Newspaper Rock on Thursday, August 30th, as I welcome Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of the bestselling novel Whale Song. Cheryl will be stopping by as part of her month-long "Touring the World" virtual book tour. Whale Song is a "compelling" and "haunting" novel that deals with societal issues like bullying and racism, and Cheryl will be discussing that here. Her novel also explores the highly controversial issue of assisted suicide or assisted dying, and many reviewers have said they won't soon forget it. On some of her stops, Cheryl is also announcing free book giveaways, so you'll want to see if this is one of them.

Titus apologizes for white people

Muhammad as terrorist

Remember last year's controversy over the Danish publication of cartoons mocking Muhammad? Well, I've finally posted a long debate on the subject. It's relevant to this site because Westerners stereotyped Muhammad the same way we've stereotyped the Indian: as a savage and a killer. Check it out:

The Muhammad cartoons

August 28, 2007

My take on Thirteen Moons

I finally "read" Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons, last year's biggest Native-themed book. (This year's biggest Native-themed book is probably Sherman Alexie's Flight.) The critics mostly got it right, though they didn't always emphasize what I'd emphasize. I'd say the book is great and beautiful in some ways, frustrating and unsatisfying in others.

For more of my thoughts, see the full review at Thirteen Moons.

Vets support "Fighting Sioux"

Standing Rock veterans board backs UND Fighting Sioux nicknameThe governing board of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation's Veterans Group voted unanimously Monday to throw its support behind UND's Fighting Sioux nickname.

Black Cloud said he believes this is the first time the board has passed a resolution concerning UND's nickname. The veterans board was created as an advisory board to Standing Rock's veterans service officer, he said, and has no authority over the actions of the tribal council, the reservation's governing body.

The Standing Rock Tribal Council passed a resolution strongly opposing the Fighting Sioux nickname in 2001 and has not reconsidered that resolution despite UND requests.
Comment:  See my comments at the end of the article.

Another Indian Marriot inn

Hotel Owned By Native Americans Opens In Sac TodayA new Sacramento hotel is about to make its big opening today. It's a luxury hotel and it's the first hotel to be owned by several Native American tribes on an off reservation site.

The hotel, Residence Inn by Marriot at Capitol Park, is located on 15th and L, across from the State Capitol. The hotel is co-owned by three Native American tribes, is 15 stories, and the hotel boasts 235 suites. All rooms are suites, complete with fully equipped kitchens and flat screen LCD TVs. Rooms start at $129.

The lobby of the hotel reflects a lot of Native American culture, with tribal artifacts and carpeting done by the Hopi tribe artisan.

Religion over recreation

Appeals court backs climbing ban at sacred siteA ban on recreational climbing at Cave Rock, a sacred Washoe site, does not violate the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

In a unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Forest Service acted lawfully when it banned climbing at the site. The three-judge panel cited the historical and cultural importance of Cave Rock not just to the Washoe Tribe, but to the entire country.

"The fact that Cave Rock is a sacred site to the Washoe does not diminish its importance as a national cultural resource," Judge J. Clifford Wallace wrote for the majority.

Art article omits Eiteljorg

Native art is very AmericanI am happy to see contemporary art is gaining more attention in Indianapolis. All the organizations and individuals The Star mentioned ("Fresh and indefinable," Aug. 19) are making a significant impact on the city's reputation and providing our citizens with challenging and exciting contemporary art experiences.

I was disappointed, however, that the article did not mention the important contemporary work at the Eiteljorg Museum. Unfortunately, the art world doesn't consider Native American art to be American art. That does the work of traditional and contemporary Native artists a grave injustice. We are working to change that perception.

August 27, 2007

Non-Indian performs Ponca story

Monologue to tell tale of Standing Bear, tribesFour years ago, Christopher Cartmill was no more than a curious outsider interested in the tales of Nebraska's American Indian tribes. Now, he's being trusted with telling the story of its members and one of its most heralded chiefs.

That transformation is documented in "The Nebraska Dispatches," a monologue based on journal entries Cartmill wrote while researching a play he was set to write on Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

Scene from Cowboy & Indians

Scene from the movie Cowboy & Indians: The JJ Harper Story--Adam Beach as JJ Harper with Eric Schweig & Mike Lawrenchuk.

Based on the true story of J.J. Harper, a First Nations leader, who was shot and killed by Winnipeg Police Constable Robert Cross on his way home one snowy night in in 1988. As the guilt-ridden Cross descends into madness, J.J. Harper's brother, Harry Wood, supported by native leaders; cries out for justice through legal channels. The police close ranks to ensure that Cross is never prosecuted for the crime.

Scene from Dreamkeeper

A Scene from ABC's Mini-Series "DreamKeeper"

Four Sheets to the Wind trailer

Best Buy commercial

Silence Is Golden--Buffalo

Starring Saginaw Grant and Eric Schweig. A good example of telling a humorous story about Indians without stereotyping them.

TV maligns Indian gaming again

Indian Comics Irregular #159:  CSI: Miami Butchers Indians

Blame the rich tribes

Rich Calif. tribes revise their compacts at poor tribes' expense

August 26, 2007

Apache tipis in COWBOYS & ALIENS

Judging by her notes, writer Alana Joli is doing a fine job of researching the Indians she's writing about in PRELUDE: A CALL FOR HEROES (i.e., COWBOYS & ALIENS vol. 2). She's also doing a fine job of providing the sources for her information. Everyone who writes about Indians should try to follow this model.

For the issue of situating her Apache characters in tipis, she refers primarily to two sources:

Tipis:  Early "Mobile Homes"When you hear the words, "Indian," or "Native American," you probably think of tipis. But, as a matter of fact, most Indians did not live in tipis. Tipis were used mainly by Plains Indians, such as the Lipan Apache, Comanche and Kiowa, after the Spanish introduced horses into North America about 500 years ago.Digital Collections Presented by University Libraries

A couple of problems here. The Lipan Apache aren't representative of the Apache as a whole, and I don't believe the comics have specified the story's setting as Texas. The photographs of the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache tipis in New Mexico were all taken in the 20th century (1906, 1920, 1930). By that time, I suspect the Indians had become acculturated and lost many of their traditional practices. That means they may have adopted the tipis from outside their culture. They may have been showing off for nosy anthropologists or gullible tourists.

Despite Joli's source material, I would've preferred to see the Apaches in wickiups rather than tipis. The tipis aren't stereotypical enough to go into my Stereotype of the Month contest, since there's some justification for using them. But the justification isn't enough for me to give them a free pass.

That said, most of Joli's storytelling looks and feels authentic. Kudos to her for doing much more research than the average writer of Indian comics.

Note: In case anyone's wondering, I don't go out of my way to find minor errors. For instance, I don't know whether the Apaches' clothes or language or legends are authentic. But they feel authentic enough to me that I don't question them.

Not so the tipis. In most Native-themed comics (or cartoons, or TV shows, or movies), tipis are one of the biggest clichés. You should have a very good reason for being the umpteenth person to put your Indian characters in tipis.

If your reason is something like, "We did it because tipis are familiar indicators of Indianness to the average reader," my response is, "Pandering to your readers' ignorance is no excuse." In other words, there's little or no justification for using a stereotype because it's a stereotype. Use a stereotype only when it's an honest and accurate choice for the situation.

Tak on Nickelodeon

Tak and the Power of JujuTak and the Power of Juju is a video game for PlayStation 2, GameCube, and the Game Boy Advance. The game spawned two sequels: Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams and Tak: The Great Juju Challenge. All three were created by Avalanche Software for THQ.The story:A long time ago, a shaman predicted that one day, disaster would come to the people of the Pupanunu village, and the Moon Juju would be captured. He also predicted that a warrior would save the people. Jibolba, an older shaman, had prepared for the day of disaster, and took a man named Lok as his apprentice. Then one day, the disaster came, and all of the Pupanunu people were turned to sheep, with the exception of Lok, Jibobla, and a younger apprentice named Tak. Lok, however, did not last long in the village of sheep, and was one day trampled in an attempt to calm the animals down. Even though all hope seemed lost, Tak set out to find a way to revive Lok, so he could save the people from the evil Tlaloc.

So Tak embarked on the most dangerous journey of his life, performing every deed the prophecy told him to do, so he could bring life back into the soul of Lok. He eventually found a way: bring him back from the Spirit World. Tak did this perilous task and found the spirit of Lok. He brought the spirit to Jibolba, who magically restored him back to his own self. But Lok could not fight, as the effects of the spell causes extreme stomach pain. All hope seemed lost, until the Moon Juju appeared to Tak and Jibolba, saying that Tak was the true warrior of prophecy. Tak had completed everything the prophecy had predicted. All that was left was to save the Juju and restore peace to the people. Tak succeeded in this quest, and the Pupanunu village was human once again.
Tak comes to Nickelodeon:Tak and the Power of Juju

8 p.m. on Nickelodeon

Jungle boy Tak jumps from his video game home to television in what the network bills as its first computer-generated animated series.

Tak, voiced by Hal Sparks, helps his fellow Pupununu villagers cope with life as the world's unluckiest tribe through his bond with the magical Jujus, whose powers can either help or create havoc.
The official website:Tak and the Power of Juju

Vampire romance novels

Lust for lifeSomewhere inside the adult female reader lurks a 12-year-old girl breathless at the idea of romance and mystified by the rules of sexual engagement, the one who (in my case) stayed up three nights straight devouring "Gone With the Wind." Although Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series of vampire romance novels is aimed at young adults ages 12 and up, I'm certain there are a lot of older women reading them too.The Indian connection:It's churlish to complain about clunky plotting and a tendency to throw in any idea that occurred to the author when she can make a reader's heart race so effectively. "New Moon," which is the second in the series, is the least satisfying, but, as with the Harry Potter books, having favorites doesn't mean you can skip the lesser installments. There is humor--the most feared gang of vampire enforcers is based in Italy (there's a vampire Mafia!), prompting one vampire to say, ominously, "No one wants a visit from Italy." And what would a romance be without another boy, a dark one to offer counterpoint to the golden one? Bella discovers the truth about her boyfriend's monstrous nature from her childhood friend, Jacob, the son of a local Indian tribe whose legends cast its members as wolfish protectors against vampires. Jacob offers the possibility of normal human life for Bella, although as a part-time werewolf who bursts out of his clothing when he loses his temper, his claim to human normalcy is tenuous. Bella's struggle to choose between Edward and Jacob all comes to a head in "Eclipse."

Rancheria among endangered places

Historic places fading away

Sites on the 2007 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places include:Historic Route 66 motels, Illinois to California: Bypassed by interstates and faced with competition from chain hotels, the quirkier mom-and-pop motels, often featuring neon-drenched signs, are fading from “the Mother Road.”

Stewart’s Point Rancheria, Sonoma County, Calif.: A lack of funds has hampered efforts to preserve lands of the Kashia Pomo Indian tribe. Though officially protected by a federal tribal lands preservation program, the site has been looted of sacred and historic artifacts.

Minidoka Internment National Monument, Jerome County, Idaho: Thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were sent to this “relocation center” camp from 1942 to 1945. A lack of National Park Service funds and plans for a massive local feed operation nearby threaten the site, which has experienced vandalism and looting.

Reality show within a play

From a press release:AVERAGE FAMILY is a world premiere by Larissa FastHorse, with direction by Peter C. Brosius at The Children's Theatre Company (CTC), Main Stage, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, opening on September 7th at 7:30 p.m. and runs through October 6th. CTC is the nation's leading theater for young people and families and recipient of the 2003 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.

The Play: The Roubidouxs, an urban American Indian family living in Minneapolis; and the Monroes, a back-to-nature clan from Northern Minnesota, sign up to face-off in a reality TV show which promises a brand new vehicle as the prize. Their challenge is to survive for three months as an 1840's frontier family on the Minnesota prairie and they've been given roles to play. The Roubidouxs' assignment is to portray the "Indians." Both families embark on an adventure fraught with laughable predicaments and harrowing incidents--all of which is caught on the confession cam! In the end, when one family reconnects with their Dakota culture, it leads to startling revelations for all, inspiring the true spirit of generosity.

Mohawks and the WTC

It takes pride to walk on iron

Smithsonian exhibit has American Indian work displayed at Cal U. of Pa.The exhibit will include a sculpture created by Darryl Provonost, a member of the Mohawk tribe, that uses metal recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center during the clean up at Ground Zero, a project Mohawk skywalkers also participated in.

"What's interesting about this particular exhibit is that it will run during the anniversary of 9/11, and the Mohawks were the people that put up the structure and also dismantled it after the plane crashes," said Joyce Hanley, executive vice-president at Cal U. "They were there at the beginning and the end."

Thruway through sovereign nation

Tribe's Thruway signs welcome motorist to Seneca territoryThe Seneca Nation of Indians has erected signs along a western stretch of the Thruway welcoming motorists to sovereign territory.

The signs posted on both sides of Interstate 90 near Exit 58, 25 miles south of Buffalo, alert drivers that they're entering and leaving land controlled by the Seneca tribe.

The signs also tell motorists that a fee is being assessed for their passage through Seneca lands and is paid by New York state.

August 25, 2007

Taos version of Dangerous Liaisons

Midnight Society by James Lujan

A new play premieres at the N4th Theater in Albuquerque on August 31:The story begins during dark times for the Indians of Taos Pueblo. The tribe is losing its land to Anglo and Spanish squatters; losing its sacred place of worship, Blue Lake, to the U.S. Forest Service; and losing its children to Catholic boarding schools. Enter Mabel, a wealthy, scheming, Jazz-age socialite who has chosen Taos as her home and a Pueblo Indian, Antonio, as her husband. They are a well-matched pair who have made it their mission to help protect the tribe, expose the hypocrisies of their enemies, and have as much fun as they can along the way. Using sex, mind games and cruelty as their weapons, the couple launches a merciless attack against the politicians, church leaders and even innocent bystanders who stand in their way—until the only ones left standing in their way are each other.

Playwright’s statement: “As far back as 1997, I had planned to do an independent film which would have been a modern day version of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” but then the movie “Cruel Intentions” came along and that pretty much ended that project. I’ve always been fascinated by this piece of literature, but as I started researching and exploring more of the history of Taos and my tribe, I became particularly intrigued with the 1920’s art colony, and I started to wonder what would happen if I revisited the literary source and applied it to this time period. As I started writing, I found that the history and the literature meshed quite nicely, and it’s one of the works that I’ve had the most fun writing.

“I think it’s important to challenge perceptions of 'American Indian theater,' and I think this play will push those perceptions to the limit.”

Native Roots and Rhythms Festival

Showcase for Natives

Native Roots & Rhythms expands, attracting variety of artistsThe night began with an opening prayer by Kiowa powwow singers Sharon and Ralph Zotigh, followed by Indian school students in a spoken word performance.

Then Darren Geffre, Blackfeet, and his four-piece band livened up the still-growing audience with soft rock tunes. Geffre has several albums along with Native American Music Awards nominations to his credit.

Poet, musician, actor and Native rights activist John Trudell and his band Bad Dog took the stage next, preceded by the screening of a trailer from the 2006 documentary "Trudell."

Next to take the stage was Tamara Podemski, Ojibway, a singer originally from Toronto, now based in Los Angeles.

She was followed by Amokura, a Maori troupe from New Zealand comprised of five men and four women garbed in traditional clothing and, in some cases, heavily tattooed in the custom of their people.

Then the headliners took the stage--Navajo comedy duo James & Ernie.

Punisher trained by Indian

PunisherThe Punisher is a fictional vigilante and anti-hero in the Marvel Comics Universe. Created by writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita, Sr. and Ross Andru, he first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (Feb. 1974).

The Punisher is a vigilante who considers killing, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence and torture as acceptable crime-fighting tactics. Driven by the deaths of his wife and children, who were killed by the mob when they witnessed a Mafia gangland execution in New York City's Central Park, Frank Castle wages a one-man war on the mob and all criminals in general by using all manner of weaponry. A war veteran, Castle is a master of martial arts, stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, spatial planning and a wide variety of weapons.

Early life and military career

During his time in the USMC, Castle graduated from boot camp and then went on to U.S. Marine Corps School of Infantry. Immediately after, he went through the USMC's Reconnaissance, Force Reconnaissance, and Sniper Schools. Attaining dockets, Castle was permitted to go through U.S. Army Airborne School, and U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team training, becoming qualified as a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land). While still in training, Castle met Phan Bighawk, a Native American scout. He was assigned to be Castle's guide, and through Phan, he learned how to survive in the wilderness.

Smart Native lasses and lad

Indianer-Inuit Video:  Tantoo, Joy, Nakotah in GermanyAs readers of NativeVue's John Blackbird are familiar, European audiences can't get enough of Indian culture whether it's dance, music, film, art or literature. It's hardly a surprise, then, that the annual Indianer-Inuit North American Native Film Festival held in Stuttgart, Germany this past March was a resounding success as it celebrated the best Native American arts has to offer.

During the event, filmmakers Sharif Korvner and Marina Weiss produced a 16-minute video which includes short interviews with the Festival's featured guests including actress Tantoo Cardinal, teen actor and champion dancer Nakotah LaRance and poet Joy Harjo. All three talk frankly about how they envision their role as Indigenous artists in the mainstream culture. Take a few minutes to watch the interviews in these YouTube clips—two smart ladies and one smart kid…:)

Tribal chants and doom metal

Tomahawk, AnonymousNever one to rest on his most successful band’s laurels, Mike Patton’s post Faith No More career has traversed a series of bands and musical styles. From Mr. Bungle to Fantomas to his current outfit Tomahawk, his creativity seems to edge in a new, more adventurous direction with each new release.

On Anonymous, the third CD from Patton’s latest project, Tomahawk, and the first to coincides with the band name. Anonymous is a loosely connected series of compositions inspired by Native American tribal chants. The songs are imbued with hints of doom metal and menacing horror movie soundtrack theme music. Patton’s guitarist Duane Denison, inspired by the Native American bands he saw while on tour with Hank Williams III, researched the American Indian music that is the basis for Anonymous.

Two major articles

I wrote these articles for a publisher who decided not to use them. Now I've posted them online. They're worth reading, if I do say so myself. ;-)

The Political Uses of Stereotyping

Chief, brave, squaw. Warrior, mystic, nature lover. Savage, thief, drunk. When most people think of Native Americans, these are the images that come to mind. They're stereotypes, to be sure, but they have a staying power as strong as the truth.

California Imaging:  Framing the Indian

The view that tribes are wealthy and powerful is a pervasive one. It's held to varying degrees by the public, the media, and politicians. A recent Google search generated 10,100 hits for "rich tribes" but only 635 for "poor tribes."

Chief WahooSitting Bull

August 24, 2007

What Richardson, Kucinich, and Gravel said

Three candidates' appeal to American Indians rises at Prez on the Rez forumRichardson derided the candidates who failed to attend, while lauding the event as pivotal for Indians.

"It shows that this is in my judgment a step forward, although it is negative and embarrassing that not every candidate is here," he said.

Richardson, who reminded attendees he was the first candidate to agree to attend the forum, met with tribal leaders before the forum and laid out a 14-point plan for addressing Indian issues. Among his pledges was a plan to help Indians develop energy sources, which was echoed by Gravel.

All three candidates vowed to improve Indian representation in federal government, from judicial appointments to Cabinet positions.
Prez on Rez boost for tribes"I'm not interested in tokenism," Richardson said, reminding constituents that he already has two American Indians on his cabinet.

"Native Americans will be at the table if I'm elected," he said.

Kucinich also emphasized that he would like to bridge the gap between the White House and the country's "native brothers and sisters."

"As president of the United States, I intend to repair our nation repair the breach that was created years ago by the government," he told the crowd. "Let's talk as leaders around the campfire."

In terms of tribal sovereignty, Kucinich said the matter is critical and that he intends to use executive orders to restore that power to Indian Country.
Drums, politics mix at forum[Kucinich] also pledged to increase law enforcement on tribal lands, where, one tribal leader pointed out, one in three American Indian women can expect to be raped in their lifetime.

Like Richardson, he called for a better health-care system.

"The health-care needs of our people need to be held up above the profit needs of the health-care industry," he said.

Gravel's remarks repeatedly drew loud laughs or applause. One particularly loud moment came after he said that when he goes to sleep at night, he does so smiling because he knows that Indian gaming is taking back money from "white men" and putting it in casino coffers.

"My God, is there some justice in the world?" he said chuckling.

He slammed the nation's war on drugs, which he said has failed because it treats it as a crime, not as a public health issue.

"It`s abominable" he said.

Gravel also pledged to seek the release of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian convicted of slaying two FBI agents despite great debate regarding the fairness of his trial.

Marshall is rapist, liar

Wampanoag leader was convicted of rape, lied about military recordGlenn Marshall—the man asking politicians, investors and Massachusetts residents to trust his tribe to build a casino—was convicted of rape in 1981 and embellished his military record before Congress and in newspaper interviews, records indicate.

Marshall, 57, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag, raped a 22-year-old visitor to the Cape in the summer of 1980, according to court records and the Cape Cod Times news archive. Marshall offered to drive the Illinois woman to her sister's house from a party in Barnstable and instead drove her to a secluded spot in West Barnstable, where he sexually assaulted her, the Times reported.
And:In 2004, during a congressional oversight hearing on the tribe's request for federal recognition, Marshall testified he survived the siege of Khe Sahn during the Vietnam War. He had also made that claim in a Cape Cod Times interview in 1998 and before a state gaming panel in 2002.

But while Marines were fighting back a 77-day onslaught by the North Vietnamese from January to April of 1968, Marshall was still a senior in high school in Falmouth. School records confirm he graduated from Lawrence High School on June 9, 1968, a school spokeswoman said.
Mashpee Chairman Apologizes, Turns Over DutiesThe chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe apologized today for misrepresenting his military record and turned his duties over to the tribe’s vice chairman.

Tribal Vice Chairman Shawn Hendricks will “assume (Marshall’s) day-to-day responsibilities” so Marshall can “properly deal with the mental and physical issues" Marshall is facing, the statement read.

“Like a lot of veterans from that era, I realize I have my own demons that I need to deal with,” Marshall said.

Civil rights issue of the century?

Race, not citizenship, informs Watson's Cherokee billWatson embarked on a publicity tour to promote the bill's virtues with town hall meetings co-sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congressional Black Caucus. At a Tulsa library, Watson characterized the controversy as the "most significant civil rights movement of this century." Not to diminish the freedmen's plight, but most Americans would probably point to the Bush administration's domestic spying program as the biggest threat to civil rights in this 7-year-old 21st century.

The hyperbole didn't end there. Watson was accompanied--at the library--by U.S. Capitol police officers and proceeded to admonish an Indian nation for allegedly violating treaty obligations. "The law says we can't use U.S. dollars to violate the law," she said in Tulsa. "American money can't be used to discriminate." Watson was likely alluding to the outdated stereotype of the non-taxpaying, ward-of-the-state Indian. It is both disconcerting and comforting to know that hypocrisy is the basis of Watson's misguided crusade.
Comment:  I'd say gay rights (e.g., gay marriage) are more likely to be this century's greatest civil rights issue.

Running for peace

Native American Youth On Peace, Unity TourFresh from the excitement of an address to the United Nations in New York City, a group of Native American youth and elders arrived in Cape May County Aug. 14 on a tour from Canada to Virginia promoting peace and unity on behalf of indigenous people.

Two Native American young men carried staffs—poles made out of tree branches, decorated with feathers—while running along Route 9 in Rio Grande, then through Erma, on their way to catch the 4:30 p.m. Cape May Lewes Ferry here. The runners were accompanied by four vans from Ontario filled with supporters.

The tour is a Native tradition that dates back to 1986, according to Stacey Green, 25, one of the youth organizers, from Six Nations Territory near Toronto, Ontario.

“In 1986 we had an elder from out west in South Dakota—he had a vision,” Green explained. “That vision was to retrace the footsteps of our ancestors and to wipe the tears from our eyes from all the trauma that we’ve been through as a people,” she said.

Mountain Meadows massacre movie

Ahead of 'September Dawn,' Mormon Church revisits dark period

In response to the new movie, the church sheds light on the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre.The "Utah War" has largely faded from American memory as the Mormon Church--and the public's acceptance of it--evolved. But one incident from that time stubbornly lingers and is now the subject of a fictionalized film that opens in theaters Friday.

On Sept. 11, 1857, Mormons aided by native American allies massacred about 120 unarmed men, women, and children bound for California by wagon train. The slaughter took place amid war hysteria: The US Army was marching toward Utah to confront Mormon leaders.

After covering up the Mountain Meadows massacre for years, the church is supporting an exhaustive Mormon research effort to leave no stone unturned. The findings, unflattering in spots, are being broadcast worldwide in the latest edition of the church's magazine.

Reminiscing with Rita

Coolidge concert takes fans on a nostalgic journeyCoolidge delivered the goods, singing "Rain," "Delta Lady," "Fever," "We're All Alone" and "Higher and Higher."

Coolidge did some remembering of her own, calling up her Southern roots.

"My daddy is a preacher," Coolidge said, alluding to her days as a rock 'n' roll backup singer for Joe Cocker. "I didn't get involved in all the things of those times . . . [I] just tried to help out my friends."

Coolidge also showed her pride in being American Indian, singing "Amazing Grace" in her native Cherokee.

Join a tribe, avoid car taxes

Drivers pay for "Native American" status to skip car taxes, registrationA scam sweeping the nation hits South Carolina roads. Richland County investigators say some behind the wheel are getting a free ride from taxes and registration fees, by signing up to be Native American.

[The Little Shell Pembina band of North America is] a self-proclaimed Native American tribe that issues their own plates and registration cards, a great benefit for anyone willing to pay money to be a member of the tribe. The only problem is that the federal government doesn't recognize Little Shell Pembina.