April 30, 2007

Jamestown 50 years later

Queen Elizabeth II will revisit Jamestown history

The Virginia colony she'll return to for its 400th anniversary has quite a different spin from the place she saw in 1957.When Queen Elizabeth II visited Jamestown, Va., in 1957 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the first British settlement in North America, she was 31 years old and had been on the throne for less than five years.

A lot has happened since, to her and to Jamestown.

On Friday, when the queen returns for the 400th anniversary of the settlement's founding, she will see a much different representation of the colony, complete with Indians and blacks whose fortunes crossed there.

"She got the sanitized version in 1957," said Peter Wallenstein, a Virginia Tech historian whose book "Cradle of America" focused on the convergence of Europeans, American Indians and black slaves at Jamestown. "Now she'll see a more inclusive view of all three of the great racial groups that met there. Jamestown represents the origins of democracy and slavery."
More on the point:[T]o historians, the fanfare over Jamestown's 400th anniversary is an occasion to remark on what has been learned since the last major commemoration.

"The queen and the president are celebrating the journey of democracy, trying to put a pleasant spin on Jamestown," said Peter Mancall, a USC professor of history and anthropology. To scholars, he said, what was significant about Jamestown were the important markers in the history of three peoples.

Despite horrific costs, including the deaths of most of the settlement's 214 people during the "starving time" in 1609-1610, Mancall said, the English discovered an economic basis for survival: tobacco. In a harbinger of the conflicts that would come to dominate the continent's politics, settlers also clashed with the Powhatan Indians and brought Africans from Angola.

As a result, historians also see the 400th anniversary of Jamestown as a prelude to a larger debate over divergent views of U.S. origins. Who were the prototypical Americans, the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock with their quest for personal religious freedom, or settlers at Jamestown who came to make money?

"The people who came to Massachusetts Bay already knew who they were but wanted a more congenial environment," Wallenstein said. "In Virginia, to the extent they came voluntarily, they came to reinvent themselves."

On some level, he said, "that is far more quintessentially American."
And more:"The very essence of modern America took root on the banks of the James River in 1607, at Jamestown, Virginia ... 13 years before the pilgrims founded Plymouth in Massachusetts," said a promotional message by organizers at www.jamestown2007.org

For all the efforts to highlight the historic primacy of the British settlement, it may be that Jamestown's very unsavory tale makes it more appealing to a reality TV generation. As film noir, said anthropologist Seth Mallios, "Jamestown has it all: unprovoked attacks, cannibalism [one of the colonists killed and salted his wife during the starving time], disease, treachery, and mutiny; and here I am only describing the English colonists."
Comment:  Jamestown sure has grown up in the last 50 years. What a sterling example of how "revisionist history" is real history.

Let's not forget that the Pilgrims were the original Christian fundamentalists. They left for America because the English wouldn't tolerate their brand of fanaticism.

I see the makings of a new Thanksgiving holiday here. Family members stab each other in the back for a monetary prize, then gather 'round the table to eat a (symbolic) corpse.

This is so typical of our selfish society that it could be a reality show on TV. Yes, Jamestown sounds like America to me....

Followup from American Indian TV

We get e-mail:Good morning, Rob-–

First, thank you for including a piece on AITV in your April 14 column (Broadband IP TV is coming), which I came across by Googling first your April 15 column “Too many serious, sad stories.”

This exposure is very much appreciated as we work to bring AITV from concept to launch by the end of this year.

The question on needed equipment was interesting, and your answer (almost) accurate…so allow me to give you a detail or two more.

Receiving IPTV does not require a computer. It does require broadband, however, as the Set Top Box (STB) receives and decodes the signal sans computer and displays it on your TV screen. Neat.

You are absolutely correct about the content needing to fit the price. As this is a subscription model (tentatively $19.95/mo.), we won’t be able to hold on to subscribers--Indian or not--if we don’t have compelling content. Having visited Native film festivals and talked to Indian film makers--Thomas Harris’ remarks that the 80/20 ratio between documentaries and narratives is true--and that the content is often a bit grim. Would I go back to Desperate Housewives because of that? Hmmmm…the jury will let us know.

With that as a preface, we are very much in the hunt for “content” and would appreciate any and all connections with American Indian or Alaskan Native film makers so that we can put their most compelling pieces on our medium.

Your concern regarding the desire for dominance by certain tribes (or individuals) of AITV is well taken--and anticipated. Our intention is to have AITV 50% owned by the American Indian, with no one heavy-hitter (read: casino operating) tribe being a majority owner.

In addition, we are putting together two Advisory Boards.

The first is all-Native and drawn from people from the four directions. Our “moral compass,” so to speak. The second is Native and non-Native and is industry-representative so as to give us a depth of knowledge in Economic Development, Film, News, Medicine, etc.

Your ideas, comments and suggestions will be appreciated.

All ears, and eyes, here.

Nice resume, by the way.


Jerry Ashton
American Indian TV
245 East 19th St., Ste. 11R
New York, NY 10003

All about BraveStarr

BravestarrBraveStarr is an animated space western made for children. It was created by Donald Kushner and Peter Locke and the original episodes aired from September 1987 to February 1988 in syndication. It was created simultaneously with a set of action figures. It was the last cartoon series produced by Filmation and Group W Productions.

Like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a moral lesson is told at the end of each episode. One notable episode is "The Price," in which a boy buys a drug called "Spin," becomes addicted to it and dies from an overdose.
Character:Marshall Bravestarr: The title character is the Marshall of the planet "New Texas." He is a Native American who can call upon the power of "spirit animals". In addition, he carries a laser pistol called a Neutra-laser. The spirit animal powers are:

  • Eyes of the Hawk: Lets him see great distances
  • Ears of the Wolf: Gives him super-hearing
  • Strength of the Bear: Gives him super-strength
  • Speed of the Puma: Gives him super-speed
  • Plot:The story is set in the twenty-second century on a distant planet called New Texas, which has "a sky of three suns." New Texas has a native population of "Prairie People," which are small humanoids who resemble prairie dogs (both Scuzz and Fuzz are members of this species), and has been colonized by a multi-planet government. A mineral called Kerium, a rare and powerful crystal of great importance in spacefaring societies, is discovered there, giving the planet a valuable natural resource. Most of the episodes revolve around the heroes preventing the villains from stealing Kerium ore.

    The culture of the New Texas colony (inhabited predominantly by humans but also by various aliens and robots) bears a remarkable resemblance to the culture of the American West. In addition to Kerium mining, the planet is also the site of "solacow" ranching. "Solacows" are large cattle-like creatures.

    Imus to minorities:  You're ugly

    Imus’ insult conforms to a pattern of bigotryI couldn’t help remark, as a local professor of American literature, the extent to which Imus’ statements confirmed the outcries found in many of our greatest writers of color. A major theme in this literature is that one of the great legacies of slavery and its attendant racism in America is that African- Americans are reminded again and again in our culture that they don’t measure up to our mainstream image of beauty. The resulting poor self-image burns like an acid, and decays the abilities of people of color to live the lives of opportunity and freedom most Americans take for granted.

    A case in point is “The Bluest Eye,” the beautiful and angry debut novel by America’s only living Nobel Prize winning novelist, Toni Morrison. In it, Morrison contends that black people, and black women in particular, are constantly reminded of their perceived ugliness, and this perception ruins lives. Her story centers around a family—Cholly, Paula, Sammy and Pecola Breedlove—who are told again and again they are ugly. They are each told it so many times that they come to believe it themselves, and it destroys them, each in a different way.

    Morrison was writing in 1970, 37 years ago. Things are supposed to have changed. But what was it that Imus was saying to the Rutgers women’s team with the “nappy-headed hos” quote other than, “You’re ugly. You may have accomplished something on the basketball court. You may have gone further in your tournament than people expected. But my producer thinks you’re ugly, and I agree with him.”

    Haida art on shopping bags

    Haida artist hits it big in Asia

    Large retailer Seiju buys design to grace shopping bags[Yahgulanaas] is already a big hit in Japan and Korea where manga--Japanese for comic--is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business.

    And greater commercial success may just be around the corner.

    Seiju, a large Japanese retailer with a major shareholding from U.S. retailing icon WalMart, wants to mount Yahgulanaas's Hachiridori, hummingbird design from one of his books with the English words "I do what I can" on its non-plastic, reusable bags.

    Yahgulanaas says he doesn't know how enriching it will eventually be but is hopeful it will be enough for him to carry on his personal campaign of taking the Haida art tradition out to the rest of the world and not just in the traditional style.

    Making comics more multicultural

    From the Chicago Tribune, 4/29/07:

    Masked crusaders"By reconfiguring superheroes with an ethnic component into them, the hero becomes more palpable," says professor Carmelo Esterrich, director of cultural studies at Columbia College Chicago. "They don't come from space like Superman; they're closer to us. ... Having comic books reflect that is going to make these [younger] readers better citizens 10 and 20 and 30 years from now."

    "The job of a writer or artist is to reflect the world around you. That's not an agenda," says Rogers, who gets frustrated by claims that the comic exists only to fill some imagined quota. "Racism is believing that other people of different backgrounds can't speak to you."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    April 29, 2007

    Jamestown represents America

    Where did it all begin?  Jamestown

    For good or ill, Virginia colony laid ground for America to comeIf you're looking for America's cozy creation narrative—pious settlers, friendly Indians and "the first Thanksgiving," all blessedly lacking the stain of our original sin, slavery—then go visit that rock where the Pilgrims landed.

    But if you want the whole story of the white man in America—the full-tilt frenzy of near-starvation and cannibalism, salvation through entrepreneurial enterprise, importing slavery, overrunning Indians and the nation's first step toward representative democracy—then come to Jamestown.

    For it's here, on a swampy peninsula between the James and York rivers of southeastern Virginia, that the first permanent English settlement in North America was established on May 14, 1607. The initial 1-acre, triangular fort was built 13 years before the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts, bearing its solemn flock of families in search of religious freedom.

    "Jamestown is much more typical of American society in the intervening 400 years, as opposed to Plymouth, which was an eccentric experiment but not really what America would be about," said James Kelly, the director of museums for the Virginia Historical Society. "It (Jamestown) never had any idealistic pretensions."

    Massacre site recognized

    A nation pays tribute

    Historical site officially opens at Sand CreekMembers and friends of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Native American Tribes, whose ancestors were slaughtered by a militia in 1864, gathered at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre to celebrate national recognition of the land that holds deep meaning for the tribes.

    More than 142 years have passed since Colorado militia soldiers, in a deadly onslaught of bullets and blows, attacked this peaceful encampment--killing some 160 people, mostly women, children and the elderly--about 30 miles northeast of Eads. The attack came while most of the men of the village were away hunting.

    On Saturday morning, the land was dedicated a national historic site on a field about 1 mile south of where the massacre took place.

    Osage horse won Kentucky Derby

    Derby winner a proud part of Osage historyAmong the mystical stories that set the Kentucky Derby apart from all other great races, few compare with that of Black Gold, the Osage Indian horse that won the Derby in 1924.

    Black Gold has inspired at least one children's book, many articles and a 1947 movie starring Anthony Quinn. During the movie's Tulsa premiere, many Osage Indians familiar with the story walked out of the theater before the film ended, in disgust over what they believed were inaccurate portrayals.

    Prince George comedian isn't PC

    Write What You KnowThe local comedian’s unique brand of humour is anything but politically correct.

    “I poke a lot of fun at First Nations people. They always say write about what you know, so I took that to heart with my comedy. Basically, I’m telling my own story. I grew up in Houston for the first 19 years of my life, then lived in Prince George, moved to Vancouver, then came back and went to UNBC and graduated with a general studies B.A.”

    Majore smiles broadly as he runs through two pieces from his routines.

    “In one, I talk about the hassles I got trying to cash a large check at a bank. In another, I talk about how I should play the suspect in Crimestoppers commercials because I fit the description better than the actors in the reenactments do: I’m Native, male, average height and weight-that story is still in my routine.”

    Queen to apologize for slaughter?

    Queen flies into PC war over fate of American IndiansThe Queen is being urged to apologise for the slaughter of American Indians and the introduction of slavery when she visits Virginia this week as guest of honour to mark the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in the New World at Jamestown.

    She will be landing in the middle of a row over political correctness after officials in Virginia banned the use of the word “celebration” for the anniversary. It is being called a “commemoration” out of respect for the suffering of native Americans, who were attacked after the colonists arrived in 1607.

    Native Voices on MySpace

    See several slide shows of past and present theater productions on the Native Voices page on MySpace. There are also lots of photos under Pics and in the Blog Entries.

    April 28, 2007

    Holocaust on display (or not)

    Carter Camp:  The American Holocaust

    Consider the new United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian:Contrast the two new museums and you can see how they are used to support a conqueror's cleansed view of history: For the Jewish museum no thought at all was given to using it to show the world ancient Jewish culture and artifacts. They could have displayed scenes of ancient Jewish life: hunting, tanning hides and pastoral living. Like an Indian museum, it would have been beautiful and easy for people to enjoy.

    It wasn't done that way for one reason...The Jewish people were in charge and they decided for themselves what aspect of their history to show the world. They decided with one voice to use the rare space as a shield to protect their people against a repeat of the Nazi holocaust. Jewish politicians funded and protected Jewish intellectuals, artists, historians, Rabbis, and survivors as they crafted a way to commemorate their dead and to use their past to protect their future. They refused to allow the dreams of others to distort the truth of their horror, and now their museum is a powerful testament to a Jewish dream, not a gentile revision of reality. Our space, and the world's window to our Nations, was turned over to the Smithsonian Institution to enshrine the lie of 'manifest destiny' and the historical inevitability of the American Holocaust.
    Now compare this to the NMAI:[Visitors] will be amazed and pleased at the beauty of our past. Scenes of tipis, tanning hides and pastoral living will hide the blood covering every-square-inch of America. Our blood. They will go home marveling at our ancient art and beauty and a little sad we had to pass into history.

    They may even feel a twinge of guilt at the part their ancestors played in our demise. But they will go away without seeing or knowing the "time of horror" each and every Tribe went through upon contact with the European. They will go home without realizing how much of the slaughter was an officially inspired, government planned, and racist policy of genocide. They will not realize the depth of the crime committed so they will not understand the crimes being committed today or the need for reparations to heal the devastation. They will not understand that there were entire Societies for whom the "final solution" worked.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Feel-Good National Museum.

    More on Imus and Indians

    Harjo: Why the Imus story still mattersImus has a public record of having insulted many peoples, including Americans Indians, from a position of white privilege and perceived superiority.

    I remember Imus using disparaging terms for Native people; claiming Navajo men prefer men and sheep to Navajo women; questioning Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's Indianness; alleging that Taos Pueblo's legal rights are bogus; and characterizing tribal casinos as illegitimate.

    I wrote and called him about these things and asked others to contact him, too. His anti-Indian chatter tapered off and, after the Mohegan Sun Casino entered into a business arrangement with Imus, I never heard the Imus crew make any other crude remarks about Native peoples.

    The Mohegan Sun was not among the advertising heavy-hitters that expressed their disapproval of the Imus slurs by withdrawing sponsorship from the program. American Express, Sprint Nextel and the others that pulled their business are to be congratulated, along with African-American journalists and leaders, for pressuring the networks to cancel “Imus in the Morning.”
    Why the story matters?The Imus story still matters as long as the language of war remains the language of the United States' side of the Indian wars. When American soldiers in Iraq go into “Indian country,” it means they are going into enemy territory. When they're “off the reservation,” it means they've broken rules or they're traitors. Words matter. Imagine how these words matter to American Indian soldiers in Iraq today.

    The Imus story still matters as long as there are “Indian” names, mascots and other references in American sports, and as long as comedians and talk show hosts continue to make fun of Native peoples who are trying to do something to get rid of them.

    The Imus story still matters.

    Westerners provoked Indians, animals

    Future PrimitiveWhen progressive estrangement from nature became outright social control (agriculture), more than just social attitudes changed. Descriptions by sailors and explorers who arrived in "newly discovered" regions tell how wild mammals and birds originally showed no fear at all of the human invaders (Brock 1981). A few contemporary gatherers practised no hunting before outside contact, e.g. the Tasaday of the Philippines (Nance 1975), but while the majority certainly do hunt, "it is not normally an aggressive act" (Rohrlich-Leavitt 1976). Turnbull (1965) observed Mbuti hunting as quite without any aggressive spirit, even carried out with a sort of regret. Hewitt (1986) reported a sympathy bond between hunter and hunted among the Xan Bushmen he encountered in the 19th century.

    As regards violence among gatherer-hunters, Lee (1988) found that "the !Kung hate fighting, and think anybody who fought would be stupid." The Mbuti, by Duffy's account (1984), "look on any form of violence between one person and another with great abhorrence and distaste, and never represent it in their dancing or playacting." Homicide and suicide, concluded Bodley (1976), are both "decidedly uncommon" among undisturbed gatherer-hunters. The 'warlike' nature of Native American peoples was often fabricated to add legitimacy to European aims of conquest (Kroeber 1961); the foraging Comanche maintained their non-violent ways for centuries before the European invasion, becoming violent only upon contact with marauding civilisation (Fried 1973).

    First Indian ambassador to US?

    Ambassador Charles Blackwell's diplomacy builds relationshipsHis legal work on the federal recognition process for tribes had already led him to relocate from New Mexico to Washington. He had grown up with Anoatubby in Tishomingo, Okla., and they had kept up with one another over the years. Blackwell got in touch with Anoatubby in 1988 and asked if he could represent the nation's Washington interests not as an employee, but as an appointed official of the tribe--a diplomat.

    “Governor Anoatubby is quick. He saw it immediately, the value of it. And he's decisive. ... My first appointment was as delegate: Chickasaw Nation delegate to the United States of America. And then, in commemoration, the governor and the lieutenant governor, and the Chickasaw Legislature came here in the mid-'90s to commemorate a visit. A Chickasaw tribal delegation had come a hundred years before, and it was a commemorative visit to commemorate that hundredth anniversary of that tribal delegation being here. And while they were here, they created the title of Ambassador to the United States of America. Stood on the steps of the Capitol, the United States Capitol, voted on it, and Governor Anoatubby swore me in on the steps of the United States Capitol.”
    Comment:  Blackwell called me last year about doing a comic book on methamphetamine. I said I'd be glad to do one. We left it there.

    Geronimo still "Wanted"?

    Terrorist or Hero?

    Poster of Geronimo at local pub stirs controversyNorman Brown, a Navajo filmmaker and longtime Native rights activist, was catching up with friends at the Coal Street Pub on the night of April 20 when he saw it, about chest high, nailed to a wall leading to the kitchen.

    It's an iconic image, a photograph of Geronimo on one knee clutching a rifle across his chest. Brown had seen it a hundred times. But what caught his attention this time was the "wanted" label above it something about crimes against the government a $5,000 reward, and the shackle around his ankle.

    History remembers Geronimo as a legend and a hero to his people. But during his time, the Apache leader was, as the poster attests, a wanted man. His raids across Arizona and New Mexico, following the murder of his mother, wife and children by Mexicans, caught the attention of the U.S. Army, and one Gen. George Crook.

    Not a plasticene pop star

    Jamie Coon’s Music is Something Else.  Grown up.No trash talk. No “dancing like a ho" no “London, London bridge wanna go down.” Not a Fergie or Pussycat Doll, not a plasticene pop star stamped from the American Idol assembly line.

    Jamie Coon’s music is something else. Grown-up. Sensual. Intuitive. Artistically generous. It is those qualities, plus a voice oft’ compared to Sarah McLachlan or Natalie Merchant that is earning her distinction in an industry drowning in thousands of sound-alike artists.

    Casino sign riddled with bullets

    From the Daily Herald, 4/28/07:

    I-5 sign plugged with 40 bullets

    Stillaguamish tribal police don't have any suspects, but the sign has been a source of controversy.A gunman shot up a sign advertising the Stillaguamish Indian Tribe's Angel of the Winds Casino early this week.

    The vandalism caused at least $15,000 in damage and left at least 40 bullet holes in the sign and a carpet of shattered glass on the ground.

    April 27, 2007

    Review of OMEGA FLIGHT #1

    Omega Flight #1As the Superhuman Registration Act comes into force in the U.S., those wishing to avoid its purview, like the Wrecking Crew this month, are flooding into Canada. With superhuman crime escalating, the time has come for a new Canadian super-team. But with much of Alpha Flight dead (slaughtered off-panel in New Avengers), who will rise to face the challenge?

    This first issue begins the building of the newly-codenamed Omega Flight and concentrates on Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) as, under governmental supervision, he takes the first steps towards the formation of the group. Fans of the John Byrne run of Alpha Flight will be pleased to see a heavy focus on Shaman’s daughter Talisman, whose reluctance to join up will no doubt be a temporary one.
    Comment:  Alas. This issue confirms that everyone in the original Alpha Flight died except Sasquatch. With Shaman and Snowbird dead and Yukon Jack described as half-crazed, Marvel's aboriginal heroes have been decimated.

    Elizabeth "Talisman" Twoyoungmen has taken on the role of Shaman for her Sarcee tribe. She appears at a powwow or fair telling stories to visitors. The scene looks generic but not stereotypical.

    She tells the tale of the tribe's first Shaman and describes "Shaman" as a hereditary title. Since the shaman concept originally came from Siberia and women rarely hold the position, this doesn't ring true. I don't see a young Westernized woman becoming a tribe's hereditary shaman.

    A big white owl comes to Elizabeth in a dream, which suggests that Snowbird may have survived. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire Alpha Flight came back to life just like the entire Doom Patrol did. In fact, I'd say it's practically inevitable.

    Other than that, I agree with the review above. The comic is a curious mix of elements with a certain amount of promise. We'll see how it plays out over the next four issues.

    Key points on the Freedmen

    Blood, race and sovereignty in Cherokee Freedmen dispute

    Treaty rights vs. sovereign rights:Leaders of the Cherokee Nation responded that the vote was about their inherent ability to define their identity.

    Speakers at the Federal Bar Association's Indian law conference didn't necessarily disagree with that contention at a panel on the dispute. But they said the attempt to shift the debate to one of sovereignty ignores some key issues, including an 1866 treaty at the heart of the dispute, as well as racial discrimination.

    "Cherokee Nation leaders are making statements that they can break the treaty any time they want to," said Marilyn Vann, the president of the Descendants of the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenges how African descendants have been treated by the tribe.

    "I would be alarmed by that," added Vann, who noted that the tribe has cited the treaty to defend its rights in other cases. "If a tribe can break the agreement, the fed government can break the agreement."
    Defining membership by race:Carla Pratt, a professor at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, charged that the removal of the Freedmen really was about race. Traditional notions of tribal citizenship weren't always based on blood quantum, she told attendees of the conference.

    "Do we really honor ancestors when we refuse to recognize their descendants?" she said. "I really hopes tribes can get away from this notion of blood as the essence of Indian identity."

    "Together We Soar"...with slots

    Speaking of the Morongo ad blitz, I got some mail from the Morongos' campaign. To refresh your memory, the campaign is to persuade California to approve new gaming compacts with several tribes so they can increase their slot machines from 2,000 to 7,500 each.

    The brochure is titled "Together We Soar." On the cover is a bald eagle with wings outstretched against a blue sky. The interior shows caregivers, children, and a rainbow of people below the following text:California & Indian Tribes Soaring Together

    Expanding Healthcare, Improving Education and Solving the Fiscal Crisis
    Amazingly, this brochure doesn't use the words "gaming," "casino," "compact," or "slot machine," even though that's what it's about. All it asks for is the reader to support the "new agreements." If you didn't know anything about the subject, you might think you were being asked to support a new education and healthcare bill.

    In short, it's a nice piece of propaganda. Apparently the Morongos don't want to talk about casinos and slot machines because they know how ambivalent the public has become about these subjects. It's a telling commentary on the state of Indian gaming that the brochure doesn't even mention the subject.

    You can see similar words and images on the TogetherCalifornia website. At least the home page mentions the word "compact." But you have to dig into the submenus before you'll find out the website is advocating an increase in slot machines in California.

    Kaya the American (Indian) Girl doll

    American Girls Collection:  KayaIf you are a Native mother, you would be hard put to find a doll to give to your daughter that would come near to being a representation of herself unless you made it. And that is what makes this Nimíipuu (Nez Percé) doll in the “American Girl” series so enticing. It’s too bad that the Pleasant Company did not produce something that genuinely transmits the Nimíipuu culture.

    This series of stories taking place in 1764 could have been worse. The young protagonist has a name, a family, and friends. In the course of the series, she grows and matures. The author does not represent the Nimíipuu people as savages. But whatever information she got from her advisors is filtered through a white consciousness and further adapted to fit the mold of this formula historical fiction series. All life-threatening conflicts are resolved by the end of each story, and all moral and emotional conflicts are resolved by the end of the series. This writing style is an especially bad thing in historical books about Indian people, whose conflicts—over, for instance, water and land rights, the government’s theft of treaty funds, the issue of sports mascots—are ongoing. And books conceptualized as teaching tools—or worse, books enlisted in the cause of selling a product—usually result in writing that is stilted and boring. This series is no different.
    (Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 4/26/07.)

    New Western includes Apaches

    "Far Side of Jericho" has admirable intentionsThe basic story in a script by Rob Sullivan and rewritten by novelist James Crumley is simple enough: Maxine (Andrews), Claire (Burnett) and Bridget (Negrin) are the widows of three outlaw brothers hanged in the movie's opening sequence. The brothers left a buried treasure that the women decide to unearth. They are pursued by a whole gang of greedy varmints, including the town sheriff and his posse, a couple of Pinkerton detectives and a crazed preacher who all want the loot.

    While this quest provides the primary narrative thread, there are many subplots, including the troubled backstories of the three women. Along the way they interact with a young man raised by Apache, and the tribe also intrudes on their journey. In addition, the three widows are regularly visited by ghosts of their dead husbands. Then there's a mysterious stranger who rears up like the Lone Ranger when the women are in trouble.

    Everyone loves Hiawatha

    A New Song For Hiawatha

    Eso Conductor's Ode To Ojibwa Leader Debuts This WeekendElgin's latest encounter with Hiawatha came in late 1989, when Elgin Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Hanson composed a short piece of music for the Elgin Choral Union about the life of Hiawatha. It would take until this year for a longer Hiawatha to be completed by Hanson and performed.

    The Elgin Choral Union decided Hanson's Hiawatha would be the gala event of their 60th anniversary celebration.

    Hiawatha will make its world debut this weekend, with performances at 7 p.m. today and Saturday, at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin.

    Indian girl in trouble over MySpace

    Posted pictures snare student

    Santa Fe Indian School senior fights disciplinary action after administrators spot her Mexico trip photos on MySpaceThe pictures from a school trip to Mexico show Coho posing on a boat with a heady, amber drink in a plastic cup, tossing back something in a shot glass and sucking on limes. Another image shows a man pouring something into her mouth. She says the photos, including some labeled "tequila," were for fun and she was not actually drinking alcohol.

    School officials, however, accuse Coho of getting drunk while south of the border this month, and they cite the photos as evidence.

    April 26, 2007

    New York Daily News on SCALPED

    'Scalped's' Jason Aaron wrote his own ticket into comic books"Like all great crime fiction, the characters you love have some pretty unredeeming qualities and you can't completely write off the characters you hate because they sometimes surprise you with a bit of kindness or nobleness," says Dave Richards, news editor at comicbookresources.com, via email.Comment:  Right. We can't completely write off SCALPED's characters because they're so negative, according to Richards, but we can almost completely write them off. However, creating characters you can mostly dismiss as too negative and stereotypical is an odd goal for a writer.
    Even though Aaron has never set foot on a real reservation--and artist R.M. Guera lives in Spain--he pored over every scrap of research material he could find. Most of the email he receives from native readers has been positive, but there has been some criticism, the most vocal from non-native writer Rob Schmidt, who publishes his own line of native-themed comic books. Schmidt accuses the series of being an "ultra-negative" portrayal of life on a reservation.Comment:  I'd love to see Aaron's reading list for SCALPED. The author of this piece accepted Aaron's assertion about his research uncritically. Aaron could've found dozens of books on the Lakota in most libraries or bookstores, but I'm betting he didn't read more than a handful.

    I say this because I've read dozens of books and hundreds of newspapers about Indians over a period of two decades, and visited dozens of reservations. Yet I feel I barely know enough to write about Indians authentically. Aaron hasn't been working on SCALPED long enough to do that kind of research, and it shows."There are a lot of people who are just excited to see their neighborhood in a comic book, which is a setting that's been ignored," says Aaron. He received an email from a "guy who grew up on the Rosebud reservation who's a rap artist who sent me his CD.

    "He was hoping we could put him in the book and kill him off," says Aaron, laughing.
    Comment:  This reflects what I said in response to Aaron's previous comments. Namely, that there's a difference between Natives who are glad to see themselves in a comic and Natives who think SCALPED is an accurate portrayal of rez life. The "guy" Aaron cites seems to fall into the former category.
    "I think it just flows down to creating well-rounded characters, no matter what race or country they hail from," says Aaron. "If you just create a character with depth and background, you can get into the character ... as long as you understand the setting and cultural heritage."Comment:  When Aaron creates such well-rounded characters, I'll be the first to praise him for it. Most of his characters have "some pretty unredeeming qualities" with only "a bit of kindness or nobleness," which isn't well-rounded.

    To preempt Aaron's possible comeback, I suggest you read my positive review of Oni Press's SKINWALKER. Set on a modern-day rez, this crime series is an example of how to do such series right. It's proof that I'm not biased against all crime stories, but only stereotypical ones.

    On the other hand, I congratulate Aaron for his meteoric rise to success. I'm glad he chose to do a series on today's Indians and give them some exposure. It's let us talk about what's good and bad in Indian comics.

    Sylvester Stallone in tan make-up

    "Please Do Not Touch the Indians"

    By Arigon StarrThey put a white guy in tan make-up
    They put a black wig on his head
    It's no wonder we ain't on tee-vee
    They all think we're dead

    They write songs and they make movies
    About Indians long ago
    All those pictures never look like
    Indian folks I know

    Please do not (please do not)
    Touch the Indians
    It's my world
    My only home
    Please do not (please do not)
    Touch the Indians
    Way ya hey ya
    Way ya hey yo

    Old time westerns show warriors
    As fools and as a liars
    Cartoon Indians dancing around
    A captive set on fire

    A producer takes a call
    From a studio on the phone
    They want him to make "Geronimo"
    With Sylvester Stallone


    A so-called expert gave Hollywood
    Knowledge that was a gem
    "The best way to learn their history
    Is to tell it all to them."

    Don't expect to do much learnin'
    From movies or Tee-Vee
    They'll put Tipis in Seattle
    Or Buffaloes in Chinle


    Van Camp on aboriginal comics

    I briefly quoted writer Richard Van Camp in my article on the Eiteljorg comic-book event. Here's the full statement he sent me:The bottom line is there are so many great Aboriginal writers out there working right now to publish great comic books and graphic novels. Yes, you read someone's work out there who is not Aboriginal who is doing their best to tell our story, or you can come right to us and read and see and feel for yourselves what we are choosing to show the world. With publishers like Brandon Mitchell of Birch Bark Comics and their "Sacred Circles" series; with Sean Muir of the Healthy Aboriginal Network, publisher of "Darkness Calls," a comic book written and illustrated by Cree artist Steve Sanderson that deals with suicide prevention for our Aboriginal youth and "Standing Together," an anthology featuring illustrated stories by several Aboriginal youth; with Steve Sanderson and the comic books that he's about to publish like "Rosa's Journey," a story that empowers Aboriginal women as well as advocates the power that comes from learning from and using the medicines from both worlds that we live in for the purpose of returning home to help heal and strengthen our communities; with the perfect storytelling of "A Hero's Voice" and "Dreams of Looking Up" by the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe, and all of the work that Timothy Truman has done and Rob Schmidt of Blue Corn Comics, there's just so much out there waiting to be discovered for lovers of illustrated literature.

    And what's great is the Aboriginal storytellers of today are only going to honour their readers with some of the finest illustrated literature out there today with great art, wicked storytelling and powerful, spirit-affirming stories. Now that's good medicine for the world and for our future generations. Mahsi cho.

    --Richard Van Camp

    Jamestown ignores Pocahontas

    Pocahontas is missing 'star' in Jamestown, Virginia

    Despite her legendary status, the Indian princess is all but ignored.Rachel Secan came to Jamestown wearing her Pocahontas costume and pink snow boots. She was hoping to see something about her favorite Indian princess.

    Why the fascination with Pocahontas?

    "She sings good," said the 4-year-old redhead from Raleigh, N.C., who owns a well-worn DVD of the Disney movie.

    Although I didn't dress in fringed, faux deerskin, I came to Jamestown expecting what Rachel expected: Pocahontas. She is, after all, the only reason many Americans have even a vague notion of the first permanent English settlement in North America.

    But as Jamestown commemorates its 400th anniversary this year, the former colony is all but ignoring the singing Indian maiden and her purported rescue of colonist John Smith. It's all part of an effort to be historically accurate and to acknowledge that Jamestown's history included slavery and the taking of Indian lives and land.
    Comment:  Rachel is probably the millionth child who thinks Disney's Pocahontas is real and the real Pocahontas is phony. "What, she wasn't an Indian princess and she didn't love John Smith? Can't be...we saw it in the movie."

    P.S. The girl below is supposed to be dressed as Pocahontas.

    Zia symbol to appear on quarter

    Zia Makes ‘Tails’ on Commemorative Quarter

    Commission, governor choose state symbol over three other designsA final design for New Mexico’s commemorative quarter has been approved by Gov. Bill Richardson, and it features an outline of the state and Zia Pueblo’s sacred sun symbol.

    "New Mexico's quarter design is simple, artistic and intriguing," Richardson said in a statement Wednesday. "It would be difficult to incorporate all the facets of our history and culture through any one image or a collage of images. The design is a creative, alluring symbol and a distinct representation of New Mexico."

    Crazy Horse lives!

    Dalton Walker:  Crazy Horse livesOne glance into the giant eyes of the great Oglala Lakota leader and a sense of pride overwhelms you.

    He was a warrior, a leader, a soldier, a healer.

    The body of Crazy Horse left this world in 1877 but his spirit lives and flourishes deep in the mighty Black Hills in the form of a monumental figure.

    Chief Illiniwek on The Daily Show

    Daily Show readying segment on Chief IlliniwekA crew from the popular Comedy Central fake-news program was on campus Monday, filming "correspondent" Aasif Mandvi in a bar.

    Mandvi, wearing a suit and blue and orange face paint, drank fake shots with a group of students, chanted the Illinois fight song "Oskee Wow Wow" and staggered with the help of students--faking again--onto the sidewalk outside Brothers Bar.

    April 25, 2007

    Zits reminiscent of Cho

    Time-Traveling Lessons for a Teenager on the VergeEchoing the tragic events last week at Virginia Tech, Sherman Alexie’s latest novel, “Flight,” features a young, edgy outcast named Zits on the verge of colossal violence. Mr. Alexie is no stranger to this brand of gutsy writing. With 17 volumes of fiction and poetry to his name, he has established an impressive literary reputation as a bold writer who goes straight for the aorta. He is in the business of making his readers laugh and cry. And his most recent novel is no exception.

    The reader meets Zits one morning when he is counting the pimples on his face (47 in all) in front of the bathroom mirror at the home of his newest set of foster parents. From the get-go, Mr. Alexie lets the reader in on the messy interior life of this marginalized teenager: “I’m dying from about ninety-nine kinds of shame. I’m ashamed of being fifteen years old. And being tall. And skinny. And ugly. I’m ashamed that I look like a bag of zits tied to a broomstick. I wonder if loneliness causes acne. I wonder if being Indian causes acne.”

    After Zits lands in a juvenile jail in the Central District of Seattle for the umpteenth time, he meets a white, pretty-boy anarchist named Justice, who schools him on how to take his sorry life into his own hands. Instead of opening fire on bystanders in a crowded bank, as Justice wanted, Zits finds himself on a time-traveling journey that traverses multiple centuries and transforms his worn-out soul in unexpected ways.

    Australian aboriginal film festival

    Slices of indigenous life

    Next month's Message Sticks festival will show the diverse interests of Aboriginal filmmakers, writes Sandy GeorgeMessage Sticks is unique. Other indigenous film festivals--ImagineNATIVE in Canada, Wairoa in New Zealand--include films made about, as well as by, indigenous people. Message Sticks will not include a Rabbit-Proof Fence or a Ten Canoes, which had non-indigenous directors.

    There are three US titles in the festival this year including Miss Navajo, a documentary about a pageant in which contestants are judged on a variety of skills, including butchering sheep and the ability to speak the languages of their heritage, rather than the way they wear a bikini. Another is Four Sheets to the Wind, about struggling to cope with city life after growing up on a reservation. Director Sterlin Harjo found a Native American casino owner to put up the $US125,000 ($150,000) budget, less than the cost of a half-hour drama for Australian TV. Hollywood spends billions on film, but none of it reaches indigenous America.

    "It is good for filmmakers here to see the resourcefulness of filmmakers in Canada and the US," Dale says. "In the US, you have to fend for yourself and if you get to make a film you are really lucky."

    Beach's whale of a tale

    Adam Beach Stars in CTV Original Movie--Luna: Spirit of the WhaleAcclaimed actor Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers, Law & Order: SVU) stars in the poignant CTV Original Movie Luna: Spirit of the Whale, premiering on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13. Inspired by the true story of Luna, an orca whale who received international attention when he appeared in the harbour of a small aboriginal village off Vancouver Island in 2001, Luna: Spirit of the Whale premieres in Toronto this week at the Sprockets International Film Festival. Shot entirely in British Columbia, the movie for all ages also stars Graham Greene (Spirit Bear, Transamerica), Tantoo Cardinal (Unnatural and Accidental, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis) and Jason Priestley (Shades of Black, Beverly Hills 90210).

    Luna: Spirit of the Whale dramatizes the plight of a lone orca whale and how he impacts the life of a man searching for his place in the world. When Mike Maquinna (Adam Beach) comes home to his estranged father’s funeral, a stray orca named Luna suddenly appears in the village harbour. Like his father and grandfather before him, Mike is destined to become Chief of his village, but it’s a task he feels would be better handled by a more suitable elder (Graham Greene). Mike’s people, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht, along with his mother Gloria (Tantoo Cardinal), believe that Luna is the embodied spirit of his late father, who has come to be Mike’s spiritual guide. But Mike, a man separated from his culture, is disbelieving.

    Good exchange on mascots

    Jodi Picoult and Native MascotsLast week we picked up Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and started reading.

    One of the characters in the novel is a lawyer named Campbell. On page 116, he says:

    I'm remarkably calm, really, until the principal of Ponaganset High School starts to give me a telephone lecture on political correctness. "For God's sake," he sputters. "What kind of message does it send when a group of Native American students names their intramural basketball league "The Whiteys'?"

    "I imagine it sends the same message that you did when you picked the Chieftains as your school mascot."

    "We've been the Ponaganset Chieftains since 1970," the principal argues.

    "Yes, and they've been members of the Narragansett tribe since they were born."

    "It's derogatory. And politically incorrect."
    Comment:  To which Campbell could respond, "Ditto."

    (Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 4/17/07.)

    Natives as they are

    Book Review--Native IntelligenceLorna Rainey is a Native New Yorker who identifies with her dual heritage. On her maternal side, she is a descendant of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Her paternal great-grandfather, the Hon. Joseph H. Rainey, was America's first Black Congressman.

    The inspiration for "Native Intelligence" came as a result of an experience she had in a rental car. Once the basic idea had gelled, the rest of the plot came in furious spurts of writing. She could not write fulltime since she was a fulltime talent agent. Many people have asked why the two main characters are Native American. "I wanted to show contemporary Native American people as they are...living and working among general society by choice or by chance. I wanted to show Native people in situations which have nothing to do with eagle feathers and mystical smoke; not to say that those are not a part of the culture. But it is a great disservice to always be relegated to a stereotypical Hollywood Indian. Our hero and heroine happen to be Native American, and that does add another dimension to the story. I used this as an opportunity to have other Americans remember that, in spite of efforts to eradicate them, the people continue," she explains. "All of my writing, including the TV sitcom I am shopping, shows our society as it is, blended...with the races and cultures overlapping, intermingling, and striving to work together for a common purpose."

    How Arcand got into acting

    Spotlight--Nathaniel Arcand can dance"Well, I had to do it the hard way. I went to jail," he says frankly. "I started hanging around with the wrong crowd at a young age and I found myself in youth detentions, and when I turned 18 I went to real jail and I realized at that point it was not for me. I really felt like I hit rock bottom at that point and I felt there was no place to go but up. I thought, 'Let's get my education back,' so I got my GED—that took a while—and in the meantime I was building myself back up, I was working, looking for whatever jobs I could."

    It was while he was waiting for his friend, actor Dakota House, to have his headshots taken at a photography studio that a talent agent saw him and asked if he was interested in acting.

    "I said, 'Yeah, sure!' So right there and then I signed up with my agent, Darryl Mork."

    Racist advertising

    Uncle Ben, CEO?

    Check out the Indians in this slide show. (They're toward the end.)

    April 24, 2007

    Preview of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

    HBO Films Presents an Epic Movie Event with Executive Producers Dick Wolf and Tom Thayer Based on Dee Brown's Best Seller 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'HBO Films teams with executive producers Dick Wolf and Tom Thayer to present the epic film adaptation of Dee Brown's seminal nonfiction book BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE.

    Scheduled to debut on HBO in May, the film powerfully explores the economic, political and social pressures that underpinned the opening of the American West and the tragic impact this expansion had on American Indian culture. The Wolf Entertainment/Traveler's Rest Films production is directed by Yves Simoneau ("Napoleon"), produced by Clara George ("United 93"), from a screenplay by Daniel Giat (HBO Films' "Path to War"), based on the book by Dee Alexander Brown.

    The cast includes Aidan Quinn (HBO Films' "Empire Falls"), Adam Beach (Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers"), August Schellenberg ("The New World"), Colm Feore ("Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould"), J.K. Simmons (HBO's "Oz"), Wes Studi ("Comanche Moon"), with Fred Dalton Thompson ("Law & Order") and Anna Paquin (Academy Award(r) winner for "The Piano"). HBO Films vice president Sam Martin is the executive in charge of the production.
    What's it about, exactly?Beginning just after the bloody Sioux victory over General Custer at Little Big Horn, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE intertwines the unique perspectives of three characters: Charles Eastman (Beach), Ohiyesa, a young, Dartmouth-educated, Sioux doctor held up as living proof of the alleged success of assimilation; Sitting Bull (Schellenberg), the proud Lakota chief who refuses to submit to U.S. government policies designed to strip his people of their identity, their dignity and their sacred land - the gold-laden Black Hills of the Dakotas; and Senator Henry Dawes (Quinn), who was one of the architects of the government policy on Indian affairs.

    While Eastman and patrician schoolteacher Elaine Goodale (Paquin) work to improve life for the Indians on the reservation, Senator Dawes lobbies President Grant (Thompson) for more humane treatment, opposing the bellicose stance of General William Tecumseh Sherman (Feore). Hope rises for the Indians in the form of the prophet Wovoka (Studi) and the Ghost Dance--a messianic movement that promises an end of their suffering under the white man. This hope is obliterated after the assassination of Sitting Bull and the massacre of hundreds of Indian men, women and children by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek on Dec. 29, 1890.

    Yeagley:  Massacre victims were "weak"

    Yeagley Attacks Virginia Tech Massacre Victims as "Weak"While most rational people would blame the deaths of these students squarely on the person who did the shootings, leave it to Yeagley to use this tragedy to make the most insane comment possible, blaming the victims.

    "The students at Virginia Tech were afraid to respond....Thus, they are totally weak, and unprepared. They can only be victims."

    Not content with having smeared the victims, he then goes on to attack the most heroic among them.

    "There were no heroic acts in the VA Tech incident, contrary to liberal media reports. Hiding behind a desk, or jumping out a window is not a heroic act! This is the lie of liberalism. There is no honor in escaping."

    Keep in mind this comes from a man who was of draft age during the end of the Vietnam War, and also of age to serve in the Gulf War. Yet Yeagley did not serve in either war.
    Scathing Criticism of Yeagley's Attacks on Virginia Tech VictimsHe and Churchill have this in common. In the process of "representing" as Indians they made remarks that Indian Country, if polled, would disagree with by about 99%. This is beyond being controversial.

    "Being controversial" was when Harjo spoke against frybread.
    --Steve Russell, Cherokee law professor, Indiana University

    What would Yeagley have done if he had been in the building while the shooting was going on?

    Would he have tried to wrestle the gun away from him?

    Would he have crafted a weapon out of whatever was at hand?

    OH HELL NO!!

    He would have been the first one out the window, probably knocking down women in the process.

    Indians logo applauded

    New logo earns national recognitionThe Spokane Indians have one of the best new logos in Minor League Baseball according to Baseball America, the baseball industry's leading publication.

    Of the twelve new logos in Minor League Baseball this year, Baseball America, in their April 9-22 issue, recognized the four most outstanding logos, including Spokane's, as "The Best."

    The Spokane Indians new logo, which was unveiled last November, was developed in conjunction with the Spokane Tribe, the team's tribal namesake. This is believed to be the first time that a professional sports team has worked in conjunction with a local tribe to create a team identity.

    The Indians new logo features an eagle feather, one of the most revered symbols in the Spokane Indians Tribal culture. One version of the team's new logo is written in Salish, the Spokane Tribal language.

    "We have received so much positive local feedback on the new logo, but it is nice to know that people in our industry also appreciate the new logo," said Indians President Andrew Billig.

    "Funny, you don't look Indian"

    Native women leaders take part in 'Funny, You Don't Look Indian'Wright said she has experienced the "funny, you don't look Indian" syndrome, but her response these days is different than in earlier times.

    "I think as I've gotten older I try to respond and give them an education, whereas maybe in my 20s and 30s, I was very flippant and kind of sassy; but as you get older, you learn that's not the way to go," Wright said.

    The "funny, you don't look Indian" syndrome is not necessarily racism, Wright said.

    "It's ignorance, though I think ignorance is a hard word; but if all you know is the Indian or Native American you see on TV, that's all you know. Unless you live in a state where there's a Native American presence, there's no chance for you to get acquainted with Native American people. You could see someone on the street and never know they're Native American. We're out there and sometimes we blend in and sometimes we don't," Wright said.

    Tribes lead on Earth Day

    Indian Tribes Lead America’s Efforts to Utilize Alternative Energy Sources and Establish Conservation ProgramsIndian Tribes across America celebrated Earth Day this past weekend and used the day to showcase tribal efforts that demonstrate a variety of green energy and conservation programs to preserve and improve reservation lands and the overall environment.

    An on-going concern and respect for the environment has long been a tenet of native culture. As Chief Seattle so eloquently noted more than 150 years ago, "Man did not weave the web of life--he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

    In Indian Country, it is said that work done today should provide a better life for the next seven generations. In keeping with that philosophy, tribes have made long-term investments in environmentally-friendly projects funded, in large part, by resources from Indian Gaming.

    Morongo launches ad blitz

    TV spot released on Indian gaming dealsThe Together Coalition of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians on Monday released a new television ad to promote ratification of amended tribal gaming compacts in California.

    The “seven-figure” TV buy, packaged in 30-second and 60-second spots, is slated to air across the state over the next several weeks. It will be carried in traditional and Spanish media networks.

    The ads, described as “straight-forward" approaches, will focus on the benefits of amended tribal gaming compacts in the state.

    Stereotypes empower white supremacy

    Speaker opposes stereotypes of American Indians in entertainment

    Adoption of native symbols propagates conflict, he saysIn his discussion, "When 'Fun' Isn't Funny: Racist Entertainment, from Ghetto Parties to American Indian Mascots," Clark, a citizen of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, described American Indian misfortunes and the consequences of adoption of American Indian images and symbols by other ethnicities, mainly by whites.

    Clark said that by fabricating these symbols and images, it empowers white supremacy because these images and symbols create boundaries between American Indians from non-American Indian.