March 31, 2008

Mohegans left out of 21

'21' Makes A Curious OmissionIn Ben Mezrich's 2002 book, “Bringing Down the House” the Mohegan Sun was the scene of one of the more profitable plunders pulled off by a team of scheming MIT students who were raiding casinos by counting cards at the blackjack tables.

The MIT students, working the Sun on its opening weekend and the week after, won more than a half million dollars, according to the book, and were even comped with lots of free stuff, like a widescreen TV, a Sony stereo and camcorders, for being good customers.
But the Mohegan Sun doesn't appear in the movie:Maybe Mohegan Sun wasn't glamorous enough to be included in the movie. But I suspect the Sun scenes from the book just got dropped in the routine condensing of book to screenplay.

I guess we have to take the casino's word that the book was mostly wrong in suggesting that it lost so much money to counters at the blackjack tables those opening weekends that it had to change procedures and retrain staff.

The last night of the second raid by the MIT students, when they claim to have taken home more than $300,000 from Connecticut's newest casino, they had a scare when a pit boss finally approached them, the book says. They began to panic. Card counting is legal, but they were worried about laws on an American Indian reservation.

“Mr. Chiu, he said, using Kevin's alias at the moment. “We've been watching you all night.”

Kevin's stomach turned upside down, and he began looking for the exits.

“Why is that?”

“Because you are exactly the sort of customer we want to feel at home here at Mohegan Sun. Are you aware of our comp program?”
Comment:  Presumably the filmmakers left out the tribal sovereignty issue for the same reason they changed the main characters from Asian to white: they didn't want any social complexities to hinder their "get rich quick" fantasy.

Ghost Dances were peaceful

Ghost DanceNoted in historical accounts as the Ghost Dance of 1890, the Ghost Dance was a religious movement incorporated into numerous Native American belief systems. The traditional ritual used in the Ghost Dance, the circle dance, has been used by many Native Americans since pre-historic times, but was first performed in accordance with Jack Wilson's teachings among the Nevada Paiute in 1889. The practice swept throughout much of the American West, quickly reaching areas of California and Oklahoma. As the Ghost Dance spread from its original source, Native American tribes synthesized selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs, often creating change in both the society that integrated it and the ritual itself.

At the core of the movement was the prophet of peace Jack Wilson, known as Wovoka among the Paiute, who prophesied a peaceful end to white American expansion while preaching messages of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation. Perhaps the best known facet of the Ghost Dance movement is the role it reportedly played in instigating the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, which resulted in the deaths of at least 153 Lakota Sioux. The Sioux variation on the Ghost Dance tended towards millenarianism, an innovation which distinguished the Sioux interpretation from Jack Wilson's original teachings.
Comment:  As far as I know, the dances themselves were always peaceful. The only thing "violent" about them was the message some people inferred from a few Lakota dancers. The white man's retribution, which culminated in Wounded Knee, was totally out of proportion to the so-called threat.

This posting is relevant because critics sometimes use the fear of Ghost Dancers to excuse the white man's genocidal acts against Indians. In general, and not surprisingly, these fears were unjustified. If there hadn't been Ghost Dances, Americans would've found another reason to round up and imprison the Indians in their way.

CIA suppressed Sainte-Marie's music

Buffy Sainte-Marie:  Carrying the medicine, sharing a messageIn the 1960s, blacklisted performers were fewer and their fates less known than in the McCarthyist '50s, perhaps in part because "students ruled." (The government could harass ex-Beatle John Lennon no end, for instance, but blacklisting him to prevent his performing never would have worked--too many fans.) But quietly, the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, still staking his reputation on the Vietnam War, marked down a few names from the peace movement, as well as a few from the civil rights movement who apparently sassed him too much, for career setbacks.

Sainte-Marie, just emerging in the 1960s, was one of them (she also mentions country bluesman Taj Mahal and actress-singer Eartha Kitt). She found her natural audiences in Canada and Native communities anyway, and took her time finding out.

"It hadn't bothered me not to know. And when I'd have a concert and there'd be, you know, several thousand people at the concert, and they'd all say, 'Well, how come we can't get your records?'--I'd be blaming it on the record company. But the record company always said that they would ship the record, but they wouldn't get to the town. And when I'd be invited on the Tonight Show or any of the late shows, the host would be very nice to me. But the producers, gradually when I would appear, they'd say, 'Look, you know, we want you to sing 'Until It's Time for You to Go' [a Sainte-Marie composition] because ... Barbara Streisand recorded it. But don't do--don't, you know, Indian rights and you know, any kind of social awareness, protest movement--don't talk about that because that's, you know, boring now.' ... I didn't think much of it. But when I found out the CIA had truly been involved in it--it was something that Indian Country Today printed last year, when that CIA agent came out and mentioned that he had been in on the suppression of my music and other artists' from that time.

Top 10 historically inaccurate films

The LA Times posted a blog entry asking about the Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Films. To illustrate the concept, they used a picture from Apocalypto. Here's how I responded:

I review Native American-themed movies on my website. Here's a top 10 for this subcategory alone. Some of them are probably bad enough to compete with any historically inaccurate film.

They Died With Their Boots On
The Unforgiven
The Education of Little Tree
[book and movie]
The Road to El Dorado
The Emperor's New Groove
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Comanche Moon [TV]

Of course, any Western that depicts Indians as mindless savages, whooping and killing like animals, is bad. But this is only one mistake--albeit a big one. I don't know how it compares to movies with dozens of historical mistakes.

Addendum:  The most inaccurate film in history may be an early screed such as The Birth of a Nation. A Technicolor spectacle such as Cleopatra. A "science-based" thriller such as 1 Million Years B.C. Or a revisionist exposé such as JFK. Any other nominations?

Of course, we're implicitly limiting ourselves to major motion pictures. If we got into B-movies about Hercules or Tarzan, Godzilla or little green aliens, I'm sure we could find thousands of horribly inaccurate films.

Thanksgiving author vs. Indian educator

Anne Rockwell and Marc Aronson

Thanksgiving author:How you construed a fictional kindergarten child's words "..thankful that the beautiful land of Massachusetts had enough for everyone..." to mean that she was saying this justified white people's taking the land away from American Indians since they didn't know how to manage it. To quote you..."Wow!"Indian educator:That idea is one that Americans--Rockwell included--are socialized to think. Like she says, she never said it, and she never thought it either. That "it" is part of a thing later called Manifest Destiny that justified removal of Native peoples from their homelands. Rockwell's story is romantic. It is uncritical. It is a problem.(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 3/26/08.)

Comment:  Another clear victory for the Indian educator. See my remarks at the end of the original posting.

For more on the subject, see Ten Little Pilgrims and Indians.

Chains add Tanka Bars

Tanka Bars Rolling Out to Walgreens, BP Marts, Common Cents A lot more people are going to get a chance to "Taste the Energy" following Native American Natural Foods' announcement today of three new Tanka Bar regional distribution agreements that cover outlets in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

The agreements with Rapid City-based M&B Enterprises, Dakota Distributing Co., and Nebraska's Chadron Wholesale, Inc., will add nearly 1,000 locations to the list of places where people can find the company's signature buffalo and cranberry energy bar.

The new outlets will include Walgreens, Common Cents, MG Oil's gas station-based convenience stores, Albertson's, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Custer State Park, Big Bat's and a host of other convenience stores, groceries, gift and tourism shops, retailers and restaurants.

Prior to the new agreements, Tanka Bars were only available at a handful of area outlets and by mail order.

Rob on

I'm on! Rob Schmidt (V) stars as himself in The Legends Behind the Comic Books.

Below:  My Hollywood look. ;-)

March 30, 2008

Cherokee-class starships

In the future, spaceships will be named after Indians to prove how brave the white man is. At least, that's the message you get from Star Trek.

Captain April's EnterpriseThe Ship--USS Enterprise NCC-1701, Constitution Class Starship. The newest of twelve ships in this class, with three more currently under construction. Six of the ships are Cherokee class vessels upgraded to Constitution specs. One is a Constitution prototype upgraded to the final Constitution specs. The Enterprise has a crew complement of 220. It is armed with lasers and photon torpedoes. This is it's first five year mission. Since it is twenty years prior the Kirk era, the ship may look somewhat different internally and externally, but should be identifiable as the same Enterprise from the original Star Trek series.Comment:  I hadn't heard this tidbit of Trek lore before: that the Constitution class was formerly the Cherokee class. So even in the future, military vessels are named after Indians because of their stereotypically warlike attributes. Sigh.

For more on the subject, see Indian Nicknames for Military Craft.

Also note the egregious Eurocentrism of this class name. The Federation is supposedly an interstellar alliance of dozens of alien races. Can you imagine the justification used to select the name "Cherokee"?Earth has 20 billion people. Yes, we know each of your planets has 20 billion people too. But never mind that. We'd like to honor this small group of about 1 million people on our planet. They're awfully important...a lot more important than anybody on your planets.

What did they do? No, they didn't found a vast empire or make startling scientific discoveries. In fact, only about 5% of the Earth's population has ever heard of them. Most people couldn't tell a Cherokee from a cherub or a cheroot.

Cherokees are important because the white-skinned humans who dominate the Federation almost exterminated them once. No, wait, this will make sense once I'm done. The Cherokees were proud warriors, and by almost exterminating them, we proved the white-skins are proud warriors. By extension, everyone on Earth and throughout the Federation is a proud warrior also.

Because we "honor" the Cherokees, we don't have to think about how we almost exterminated them. Similarly, when we offer assistance and technology to primitive worlds in exchange for their resources, we don't have to feel bad about corrupting their indigenous cultures. Once they join the Federation, they'll become honorary Cherokees too.

Now do you understand why we're naming the starship class after the Cherokees rather than one of the thousands of warrior cultures on your planets?
We could apply this kind of analysis to many of the starships too. For instance, the USS Yorktown, the USS Lexington, the USS Farragut, and the USS Excalibur. What are the odds that these Euro-American persons, places, and things are the most exemplary choices among dozens of alien races with thousands of years of history each? Not good, I'd say.

Geronimo's skull and bones

Someone brought this posting to my attention. It's an old story, but since I haven't reported on it, it bears repeating.

Geronimo--Theft of remainsIn 1918, certain remains of Geronimo were stolen in a grave robbery. Three members of the Yale secret society of Skull and Bones served as Army volunteers at Fort Sill during World War I; one of those three members was Prescott Bush, father of the forty-first President of the United States George H. W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush. They reportedly stole Geronimo's skull, some bones, and other items, including Geronimo's prized silver bridle, from the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery. The stolen items were alleged to have been taken to the society's tomb-like headquarters on the Yale University campus, and are supposedly used in rituals practiced by the group, one of which is said to be kissing the skull of Geronimo as an initiation. The story was known for many years but widely considered unlikely or apocryphal, and while the society itself remained silent, former members have said that they believed the bones were fake or non-human, possibly in an attempt at misdirection.

In a contemporary letter discovered by the Yale historian Marc Wortman and published in the Yale Alumni Magazine in 2006, society member Winter Mead wrote to F. Trubee Davison:

The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club... is now safe inside the tomb ("tomb" is the building at Yale University's Skull and Bones) and bone together with his well worn femurs, bit and saddle horn.
This prompted the Indian chief's great-grandson, Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero, New Mexico, to write to President Bush requesting his help in returning the remains:

According to our traditions the remains of this sort, especially in this state when the grave was desecrated ... need to be reburied with the proper rituals ... to return the dignity and let his spirits rest in peace.

America's World Heritage Sites

According to the National Park Service, the US has 21 World Heritage Sites. Four are Native in origin, which suggests the importance of Indians in America's heritage. Here they are:

  • Cahokia Mounds
  • Mesa Verde
  • Chaco Canyon
  • Taos Pueblo

  • Another four are Anglo or Hispanic:

  • La Fortaleza in San Juan
  • Monticello and the University of Virginia
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Independence Hall

  • The rest are national parks or monuments.

    So Indians accomplished as much as non-Indians, heritage-wise. But we remember Anglos as the founders of our nation and Indians as the savages who got in their way. Nice.

    Cahuilla Indians and scalping

    Someone who's researching a novel asked me if the Cahuilla Indians of Southern California practiced scalping. I said I didn't think so; California's Indians weren't very warlike. But then I checked Google and was surprised.

    I learned that Cahuilla Indians do smart scalping on their golf courses. They also offer scalp massages at their spas. How shocking to find that the Cahuillas still practice scalping. (On the other hand, I believe they oppose the scalping of their concert tickets.)

    There you have it...your sound bite for the day: "Cahuillas still practice scalping!"

    Below:  Would this innocent Cahuilla maiden scalp someone? I don't think so.

    Criticizing Comanche Moon = PC?

    The debate over Comanche Moon continues:There is so much "politically correct" crap on TV and film about Indians that it was refreshing for a change to see a story about Indians and whites that didn't judge either side--that presented both as neither all good nor all bad, but HUMAN, flaws and all.

    Sovereign Nation of the Year

    Chickasaw Nation selected Sovereign Nation of the Year by Native Writers GroupA Native writers and storytellers group lauded the Chickasaw Nation as Sovereign Nation of the Year during the group's national conference in March.

    Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers honored the Chickasaw Nation for implementing tribal programs that reflect the group's mission: to ensure the voices of Native writers and storytellers, past, present and future, are heard throughout the world.

    "We are overwhelmed at the steps the Chickasaw Nation has taken to ensure Native voices are heard," Kimberly Roppolo, Wordcraft national director, said.

    The group selected the Chickasaw Nation for the prestigious award for creating the Chickasaw Press and employing Linda Hogan as writer-in-residence for the tribe.
    Comment:  For more on the Chickasaws' support of the arts, see Chickasaws Subsidize CD.

    Sense deconstructs stereotypes

    Exhibit of Native art debuts in Brooklyn

    Twenty-five indigenous artists present contemporary paintings, drawings and sculpturesSarah Sense, Chitimacha/Choctaw, takes pop culture representations of what it means to be Indian and female and transforms them via manipulated photographs, two of which were included in the show. To make her pieces, she first slices into thin strips oversize digital photographs of iconic figures such as an Indian princess, a gun-toting cowgirl, Marilyn Monroe and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. She then interlaces the narrow bands with transparent and mirrored mylar ribbons to produce woven rectangles that are approximately two feet by four feet. Her weaving patterns are traditional Chitimacha basketmaking designs, but the result resembles a digitized photograph--uniting old and new and literally reformulating the cliches.

    "I'm taking on the stereotypes and putting them out there as ridiculous," Sense said. "This lets me figure out who I am and what all this means for my generation."

    March 29, 2008

    More racism in North Dakota

    At another sorority party in North Dakota, students "honored" blacks and gays the way they "honor" Indians: by acting like cartoon stereotypes.

    Obama skit prompts an investigationThe March 18 skit—which ignited complaints of racial insensitivity—involved the NDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club and was performed during the annual Mr. NDSU pageant, which is sponsored by the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

    The Forum reported on the lip-sync act in which a white student—wearing dark makeup and an Afro wig—portrayed Obama receiving a lap dance. In the background, two male students dressed as cowboys simulated anal sex while holding an Obama sign that one student ripped at the end of the 30-second skit.
    What's a party without some racist stereotyping?“I certainly was concerned when I read the (NDSU blackface) article in the paper this morning, as I was when I read about the UND party,” [state higher education board President John Q. Paulsen] said, referring to a UND sorority party held last November.

    Guests at the UND party—hosted by the Gamma Phi Beta sorority—dressed in faux Native American regalia and red face and body paint. Native American students filed complaints after one of them found photos of the party on Gamma Phi president Anastasia Ginda’s Facebook account. The sorority is on temporary social probation while the university investigates the party photo complaints.
    Comment:  These racist parties and skits wouldn't have happened if most people who organized and attended them thought they were okay.

    Do officials still claim that racism isn't rampant in North Dakota? If so, they're in denial.

    For more on the subject, see Fighting the Fighting Sioux.

    Cherokee to helm seminary

    Jones’ exit leaves one American Indian prof.After spending over 20 years at the University as both a student and a teacher, Divinity School professor Serene Jones DIV ’85 GRD ’91 will leave Yale this fall to become the first female president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

    The New York Times reported in February that Jones’ appointment makes her only the fourth female president of a mainline, independent theological school in the United States.

    Jones, who is a member of the Cherokee tribe, is currently one of just two American Indian professors at the University. She suggested that while the University should have “broad minority recruiting efforts” for faculty, it may also prove beneficial to focus on recruiting severely underrepresented minority members, such as American Indians, to Yale. These groups are less likely to reach the highest levels of academia, she said, because they are often disadvantaged at every step of their academic development.

    Tainos revive ball game

    Batu:  The ancient game lives on

    How it was:The game is played in a rectangular playing field called a batey. The batey is surrounded by huge stone slabs with carvings that bear a semblance to those found in other regions of the Americas, yet these are distinctly unique to the Caribbean. Two teams of players enter the batey. The teams have come together from different communities--perhaps to cement their political or social bonds, or just simply for the love of the game.

    In any event, these games are central in the Taino social structure. The villagers begin praying and chanting to Koromo, Achinao, Rakuno and Sobaoko, the four directions. The rules of the game have long been established, but the players are reminded once again that one cannot touch the ball with their hands or feet. Only hips, elbows, shoulders and head are allowed. A heavy rubber ball is tossed in the center ... and the game begins.
    How it is:In 1969, Aristides Estrada Torres, Danilo Perez, brothers; Ica and Rhadames Perez, and others formed a cultural group called Grupo Marcos. The group was concerned that our Taino cultural heritage was being neglected not just by academics, but by our own people as well. This group dedicated itself to the rescue of all aspects of Taino cultural continuities and the revival of others. In time, its main focus became the resurrection of the batu game.

    Grupo Marcos became the inspiration for the creation of three additional groups: Batey Athene, Batey Azua and Batey Cubatay. With new leaders, renewed energy and total dedication, the groups used historical sources to reconstruct the ancient game of batu. Although individual members have different foci, the main objective remains the same--the game's complete revival.

    Animation enthralls audience

    The past meets the present

    Traditional tales are told through speeches, computer animationGround then got the children excited to see Native stories told in a new way, through computer animation. "I couldn't tell stories this way because I can't draw," he said.

    The animated films "Raccoon and Crawfish," "Raven Tales: How Raven Stole the Sun" and "Raven Tales: Raven and the First People" tell traditional Native stories with computer animation that range from five to 25 minutes in length.

    The audience of approximately 50 people was so enthralled with Ground's stories and with the animated films that almost everyone stayed, even though the event went on 30 minutes longer than planned. Many stayed after to speak with Ground about the stories, something he encourages.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Videos and Cartoons.

    Arcand keeps busy

    Nathaniel Arcand Isn’t Letting the Grass Grow...Cree actor Nathaniel Arcand is a busy guy. I know this to be true because every time I talk to him he is actively pursuing a new challenge beyond seeking roles that break with hackneyed film portrayals of Native males. Sure, he's worn his share of buckskin and feathers onscreen, but he's also played a kickboxer, curling champ, amiable repairman, rodeo rider, possessed grad student, and most recently, a veterinarian. Oh yeah, he is also a motivational speaker, youth mentor, photographer, singer, and has produced a sketch comedy show, among other things...Comment:  I hope Arcand will avoid playing a knife-wielding, Injun Joe-style maniac in the future. Anyway, you can see some of his greatest hits below.

    The Indian-Tibetan connection

    Ex-prof links oppression of Tibet, IndiansDuring his trips, Heidenreich began to see similarities between the way the Chinese have treated Tibetans the past 50 years and the way the U.S. government treated American Indians into the first part of the 20th century.

    The Chinese government has encouraged ethic Chinese to move into Tibet and start businesses, just as the U.S. government encouraged white settlers to move into Indian territory, Heidenreich said.

    Because the Communist Chinese government views religion as "antique," it thinks that people today don't need religion. That reminds Heidenreich of the way the U.S. government in the past tried to prevent American Indians from practicing their religion.

    Most of the tourists he saw in Tibet were Chinese who, because of China's economic boom, have money to travel and are curious about the traditional culture of Tibet.

    Those visiting Chinese reminded Heidenreich of tourists coming to reservations in the United States.

    Pressures for Tibetans to assimilate into the Chinese culture and learn Chinese are similar to the way American Indian language and culture was discouraged, he said.

    The best unsigned drum group

    Standing Horse wins Powwow Idol contestThe Powwow Idol contest was sponsored by DrumHop Productions, a production company that specializes in producing high quality recordings of pow wow drum groups. Modeled on "American Idol," the contest was hosted online at

    As the winner, Standing Horse will record a live CD produced by DrumHop Productions at the 2008 Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City, where the group will be host drum. Standing Horse will also perform on a pow wow cruise, and will be interviewed and have its music featured on a podcast at

    March 28, 2008

    Visitors don't "get" museum

    NMAI and the 'framework of further meanings'[A]s a "tourist attraction," for lack of a better phrase, NMAI has received mixed reviews. Not unexpectedly, some within museology have questioned the coup of a "new" museum, a museum of the present; and attendance, though respectable, has fallen short of the original high-end estimates.

    A hatful of anecdotal indications suggests that for some non-Indians, the museum falters as "a framework of further meanings," identified by an aesthetician of the last century as the key to meaning itself; if true, this would mean at a minimum that Americans are not taking the NMAI experience home with them, talking it up to their friends and neighbors, connecting it with their daily preoccupations, modifying their mental models about the national Indian myths based on the museum visit.
    The problems begin at the beginning:Once inside, visitors walk around copper-banded panels on a basketry theme and find themselves at "The Potomac," a circular, open welcoming area with a dome overhead, canoes on the floor (they're actually raised above the floor in most cases), and ample stone seating on the side. Light enters from several windows, and a prism casts bright colors high on one white wall. It's a great space for receptions and fundraising events, but for museum-goers?

    The offhand phrases used by separate people (not looking for a quarrel, they requested anonymity) to describe the Potomac room in recent months seem too much alike to be coincidence: "Antiseptic." "Like a hospital waiting room." "Sterile."
    The problems continue:Now the visitor heads for the museum proper, presumably. But after wandering through the ground floor, more than one has returned to the Potomac room and said something like, "Where's the stuff?"

    It's doubtful most of them have any idea that this is deep water, that the museum's material objects are considered the secondary outcomes, artistic or artifactual as the case may be, of the cultural processes that produced them. There are about 800,000 of them in the NMAI collection, but unless you're interested in eating (the Mitsitam Cafe at the back is pretty much above criticism) or dropping a fair sum at the gift store (critics suggest the typical Washington tourist tends to go for less pricey trinkets as mementos to take back home), or taking in a performance or lecture and discussion (Rasmuson Theater), the ground floor doesn't have a lot to offer as the usual museum goes. A few display cases, a few scattered showpieces--that's it.

    Upon returning to the Potomac in search of "stuff," the NMAI visitor is apt to absorb the museum's most topsy-turvy item of information: the museum begins on the fourth floor.
    Starting on the top floor...hmm. Not exactly a brilliant concept in museum design. I wonder what percentage of visitors give up after not finding the "stuff."

    A more subtle problem:Like the museum's minor deficiencies, the larger American framework of further meanings could still use some work. And so dispelling myths about American Indians and all Native peoples remains one of the museum's top priorities. Gover sees it happening in ways that don't always meet the eye, in the detail that goes into exhibitions, in its outreach efforts and in three upcoming NMAI shows that can almost be taken as a triptych of the museum's potential.Comment:  The last point is what critics were talking about when they called the NMAI The Feel-Good National Museum. It's what the Washington Post interviewed me about when the museum opened. I was circumspect since I hadn't (and haven't) seen the museum, but you can read what I said by following the link.

    The NMAI's original emphasis was on an uplifting celebration of the beauty and joy of Indian cultures. It was the institutional equivalent of a flute melody, a soaring hawk, or a wise elder in a Native-themed movie. It may have been respectful, even authentic, but it was also stereotypical. Whether positive or negative, a stereotype obscures the truth by flattening it into one dimension.

    The things Gover mentioned--attention to detail, outreach efforts, temporary exhibits--don't seem to address this problem. What would address it is a change in the museum's philosophy or vision. Don't portray the good while ignoring the bad. Portray it all instead.

    P.S. Those who aren't "modifying their mental models about the national Indian myths" should read Newspaper Rock. We'll modify your mental models for you. ;-)

    New Mexico quarter to debut

    New Mexico went with the safe choice on its state quarter: a symbol that many people probably don't realize is Indian. Here's the story:

    New Mexico's quarter to circulate April 7The commission received just over 1,000 suggestions, Khan said. The Mint required that recommendations be sent in as narratives, rather than as drawings, to get more participation.

    The seven-member coin commission decided the design should incorporate the two most popular suggestions—the Zia and New Mexico's landscape, Khan said.

    Some people wanted specific landscapes, such as the Sandia Mountains or Shiprock, or specific sites, such as Taos Pueblo or the Palace of the Governors, Khan said. Other suggestions were more general "about the beauty of the landscape," he said.

    "The commission shied away from (showing) one thing. It's hard to have one thing represent the whole state," Khan said.
    Comment:  "Hard to have one thing represent the whole state"? Maybe, but many states managed it. The Statue of Liberty for New York. The Gateway Arch for Missouri. Crater Lake for Oregon. Etc.

    Let's think about the alternatives for New Mexico's quarter a moment. First visualize everything you know about New Mexico. Then consider how it would work on a quarter:

  • Taos Pueblo:  A world-famous image as well a World Heritage Site. Arguably the only image many people could identify as New Mexican.

  • Shiprock:  Not as well known, but arguably the most famous geographic formation in New Mexico. Part of the Navajo Nation.

  • Chaco Canyon:  Not as well known as Taos, but another World Heritage Site.

  • Los Alamos:  Difficult to represent in one image.

  • Santa Fe:  Difficult to represent in one image.

  • White Sands National Monument:  Difficult to represent in one image.

  • Sandia Mountains:  Too generic and unknown outside New Mexico.

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park:  Also a World Heritage Site, but an underground scene wouldn't represent New Mexico well.

  • Palace of the Governors:  Totally unknown outside New Mexico.

  • Zia symbol:  Acceptable and inoffensive because it's already on New Mexico's flag.

  • Hmm. Looks to me like the three best choices were Indian-specific. I wonder what New Mexico's Anglos and Latinos, often at odds with their predecessors, would've thought about choosing one of these. Perhaps that's why the commission "shied away" from showing one (Indian) thing.

    Other World Heritage Sites on US quarters include the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite. New Mexico has three World Heritage Sites, tops in the US, but none were chosen to represent the state. "Yeah, we wouldn't want to make the sites jealous of each other. Let's pick something that isn't as famous or important as them."

    For my previous thoughts on the subject, see The Safe, White State Quarters.

    3 whalers down, 2 to go

    3 Makah whalers plead guilty in deal to avert jail

    Two others refuse, opt for jury trialFrankie Gonzales, William Secor Sr. and Theron Parker pleaded guilty Thursday to a single misdemeanor count of taking the whale in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The government agreed not to recommend a sentence of jail time to Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold. Arnold could impose up to one year behind bars. The charge also carries a fine of up to $100,000. But it's unlikely that such an amount would be imposed on the men who come from the impoverished fishing village of Neah Bay.

    Without the imposition of jail time, the men could receive up to five years of probation and be ordered to perform up to 100 hours of community service.

    Even though prosecutors took the no-whaling-while-on-probation issue off the table, Andy Noel and whaling captain Wayne Johnson declared that they would stand trial as a matter of principle.

    "It's principle and mistrust," said Johnson, who is fed up with what he sees as government interference with Makah whaling--a right reserved by the tribe in 1855 in a treaty with the United States.

    Attorney Jack Fiander, who represents Noel, said a key to defending the two men will be an argument that the government's glacial pace in permitting a whale hunt violates their religious liberty. Whale hunting is an integral part of Makah culture and spirituality. Not allowing the men to whale since 1999 is "like someone telling you that you can't go to church for 10 years," Fiander said.
    Comment:  When the whalers prove they exhausted all other potential remedies--filing a lawsuit, running for tribal office (to spur the Makah government along), etc.--then I'll believe they were acting on principle.

    What about the spiritual preparations required before one hunts a whale? There's been no evidence that the Makah 5 did anything to embrace their culture other than killing.

    So the crime of ceticide is only a misdemeanor? That seems insufficient to me. What would you have to do to get charged with a felony: exterminate the species?

    No wonder the men went whaling. They knew the worst they'd get was a slap on the wrist. In exchange they garnered worldwide publicity for their cause.

    For more on the subject, see The Makah Whale-Hunt Controversy.

    Party proves UND prejudice

    'Cowboy' party:  one more nail in Sioux logo coffin?At that party, some students dressed in frilled Indian dresses, feathers and loincloths. Some wore paint on their bodies and faces, and in a photograph one male student strikes what appears to be a stereotypical pose.

    The off-campus party was sponsored by Gamma Phi Beta sorority, whose on-campus house sits next to the UND American Indian Student Services house. The pictures were posted on the Facebook site of a sorority member. They have been removed, but not before they were found by a member of an anti-logo student group, copied and circulated as a slide show with critical commentary.

    The sorority has been placed on probation by its national office and by UND's dean of students office pending an investigation of the discrimination complaint.
    People react:The incident sparked another effusive round in the logo debate on Internet forums, including this post on, a fan site not officially connected to UND: "No excuse, except they're young and stupid, which we all were at one time. Even though [the party] was off-campus, this is probably the final nail in the coffin of the nickname."

    Another poster said the party "reminds me of a shindig at [another university] a few years ago. Some brilliant white boys decided to throw a KKK-themed party."

    He went on: "I'd like to think the majority of us are respectful, realize the history and proudly wear or use the name and logo. Then you have some absolute idiots go and decide to throw a Cowboy/Indian ... party on a campus embroiled in a debate over the nickname. How stupid can you possibly be? ... If they do retire the nickname in the near future (I hope not), I hope they directly link this event to the ultimate decision."
    Comment:  How much more proof do we need of the pervasive racism on the UND campus? Supporters claim they're honoring Indians, then demonstrate the "honor" by dressing as half-naked savages.

    FYI, racism doesn't necessarily mean overtly attacking or insulting someone. You can be racist if you think an entire race of people is "different," even if you harbor no ill will toward them.

    For more on the subject, see Fighting the Fighting Sioux, Team Names and Mascots, and Indian Wannabes.

    Skywalk:  good news, bad news

    Skywalk drawing big crowds, but they aren't happy campersWhen the Hualapai Indian Tribe opened the controversial Grand Canyon Skywalk one year ago, members of the tribe were optimistic that they would get 600,000 visitors a year by 2009.

    The good news for the tribe is that after the first year of operation, the Hualapais are pretty close to meeting that 2009 goal, getting 2,000 guests a day, or a projected 730,000 annually. That's four times as many visitors as the area got before the Skywalk was built.

    But the bad news for the tribe is that many of the people visiting say they felt ripped off when they went and vow never to return.
    Why do people think it's a ripoff?At the time of the first walk, as it was called, many in the media weren't aware of or didn't report that when they were there, that would be the last time that cameras would be allowed on the Skywalk.

    Following my visit, I noted that there may be more cameras per capita at the Grand Canyon than any place on Earth--but that they would be banned at the Skywalk.

    In addition to the irritating camera ban, many visitors weren't aware of how much it was going to cost them to get on the glass walkway. The least expensive Grand Canyon West package that includes transport to the Skywalk area goes for $50, plus the $25 ticket to the walk.
    Comment:  I wouldn't think it would be hard to take surreptitious pictures with a cellphone camera. I'd do it just to protest the tribe's policies.

    Chihuahuas dressed as Indians

    Mexico dog sculptures removed on protestSculptures of Chihuahua dogs wearing traditional outfits were yanked from a stop along Mexico's Copper Canyon railway after protests from Tarahumara indigenous groups that found them offensive, a state official said Thursday.

    Officials removed the 5-foot-tall fiberglass sculptures from Chihuahua state's annual "Dog Parade" in Urique on March 13, said Jesus Avalos, a spokesman with the state government's office for Tarahumara affairs.

    The annual exhibit, begun in 2006 and intended to promote tourism along the canyon railway popular with travelers, has previously featured dog sculptures dressed as policemen, cowboys and firefighters.

    This year, they wore colorful Tarahumara dress in a bid to promote the group's way of life, Avalos said.

    But indigenous leaders considered the display an insulting comparison of their people to animals, said Jaime Enriquez, an executive member of the Chihuahua Tarahumaras Coordination body.
    Comment:  To state the obvious, police officer, cowboy, and firefighter are occupations. People who do these jobs can belong to any race. So a dog dressed as one of them doesn't target a particular race.

    Dressing a dog or other animal as an Indian does target a particular race. It's arguably racist because it discriminates on the basis of race. Hence the protest.

    Below:  "Yo soy Tarahumara."

    The Nomlaki Highway

    Part of I-5 to be renamed for tribeA portion of Interstate 5 north of Corning in Tehama County will be renamed for the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon, the California Department of Transportation announced.

    A measure authored by Sen. Sam Aanestad was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 7, designating the more than five-mile stretch of freeway between Gyle Road and Flores Avenue as the Nomlaki Highway.

    According to an announcement released by Caltrans District 2 in Redding, the site was chosen because it is considered the heart of the historical Nomlaki homeland.

    The Nomlaki Indians once dwelled throughout what is now Tehama County.
    Comment:  I traveled this stretch of freeway when I drove to Washington. In other words, the Pacific Northwest division of Indian country. That was in 2005, before I started this blog. But now you can see pix of our trip online.

    March 27, 2008

    Nothing to do in South Dakota

    A good explanation for why kids on poverty-stricken reservations use drugs and alcohol, commit crimes, and kill themselves.

    JOIN US:  Native American Children Need YOU!In most of the country, adolescent suicide ranks as the eighth leading cause of death. On the reservations in SD, it is the LEADING cause of death. In a recent suicide intervention program on Rosebud the children were asked why they thought this might be. They answered that there was nothing to do.

    There are no malls, no movie theatres, no shops or downtown areas for them to meet. Gas is expensive and travel from town to town may be a forty-five minute drive. There are dry dusty streets, long cold winters, virtually no sources of after school entertainment or even jobs. Alcoholism is rampant, as are all of the other expected social ills that accompany extreme poverty and hopelessness.

    The rates of poverty on some of the reservations in South Dakota is at least 52.3%, and most believe it is closer to 70%. Unemployment on some of SD’s reservations is about 80%. The Native high school drop out rate in Rapid City, SD is about 60%. The average age of death for a Native American man in SD is about 50 years old. However, we did our own study and followed the obituaries in Pine Ridge and found that it was closer to 42 years old. Many in the obits, of course, were children.

    Children need hope. They need to feel there is a future that will be exciting, stimulating, rewarding, and relevant to their culture. The lack of resources for children on the reservations are overwhelming. Changing Winds has begun to address this on several reservations, but is focusing right now on The Boys and Girls Clubs of Rosebud which has been given an old bowling alley that needs a complete refurbishing. We are looking for volunteers who will go out and lend their talents to rebuild, and also to teach skills that will enable the children to visualize a life that is relevant and sustaining.

    Our programs have always been aimed at helping the children visualize a future where they can live a full life, free of the sting of racism. This future must be one that allows them to maintain their cultural identities. Reservation public schools completely ignore the Native perspective of history, making the children feel they are in the wrong school. They will learn about Columbus, but not Wounded Knee, even on their own land. One of our many goals is to bring classes onto the reservation that will enable students to become web artists, authors, broadcast journalists, and any other position that they can do to earn an income from the land they live on.
    Comment:  Let's note that Indians didn't choose to be stuck in the poorest and most remote lands in the country. They used to range over a much wider area. There were more resources (e.g., buffalo) then and the Indians had access to them.

    As for why Indians stay on the rez when they could theoretically leave, see Should Indians Cling to Reservations?

    Sounds to me like the children of Pine Ridge need Native comic books to keep them busy. I'm talking about comics like DARKNESS CALLS and PEACE PARTY, not the stereotypical SCALPED.

    Letter on Natick Redmen

    A message from Pete Sanfacon of the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition--the guy leading the battle against the Natick Redmen.Hello Rob,

    I've wanted to email you for some time and thank you for the posts you've made regarding the mascot issue in Massachusetts. I've only been working on this for two years but have done a good deal of research--much more, it seems, than the mascot supporters in my area.

    As you may know, the enlightened folks of Natick will be voting Tuesday on whether they think the school committee should reconsider their March 2007 decision to drop the "Redmen" nickname at Natick High. Mind you, no one at the high school is learning much about real American Indian people, though they claim to be honoring them with this hideous nickname. A letter from one of my colleagues in yesterday's local paper set off some nasty posts on the paper's website, prompting the MetroWest Daily News to close the comments section for that letter and another, written by a "Redmen" supporter. Call someone a racist and they get so worked up all kinds of racist garbage will spew forth. And our point is made.

    I live in Framingham, which is the town next door. I've been labeled an "outsider" and they feel since I'm not an Indian, I should leave them (the "townies") alone. I'm grateful that the school committee, thus far, has stood by their decision and a task force has come up with two proposed new nicknames, the "Hawks" and the "Red & Blue", the nickname until 1956, when an 18-year-old sports columnist renamed them the "Redmen" (in honor of Natick's Native American heritage).

    Massachusetts has another 43 high schools to work on. So I've got a lot of uphill climbing to do. I've received a great deal of support from the Native American community here and around the country, which keeps me going.

    Thanks again for what you're doing.

    Pete Sanfacon
    New England Anti-Mascot Coalition
    Comment:  So the Natick mascot is a stereotypical Plains chief. Natick is apparently "honoring" Indians who live thousands of miles away. They aren't honoring the Indians in their backyard.

    Brave on the Wii

    Brave: A Warrior’s Tale announced for Nintendo WiiBeing developed and published by Southpeak Interactive, Brave: A Warrior’s Tale is an action-adventure title played from a third-person perspective. Gamers are placed in the dusty shoes of a young Native American, and gameplay is said to be placed on the mythology of the continent’s original settlers.

    Little other information has been divulged as yet, although we do know that the game’s protagonist will be armed with a tomahawk, as well as a long distance bow and arrow.

    Rumour has it that the game is a port of the Sony PlayStation 2 title, Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer (screenshots above), a game with the following storyline:

    Brave is the sole escapee of an attack by the vicious Wendigo spirit. His tribe enslaved, their only hope is that Brave can find Spirit Dancer, the greatest shaman to ever live. Only Spirit Dancer has the power to defeat the Wendigo and release them. So starts Brave’s epic journey… Brave takes you on a journey through beautifully rich and interactive scenery. Hunt wolves in the depths of the forest, face stampedes of buffalo and canoe down crashing rapids in the search for Spirit Dancer. Master a range of talents from combat with a tomahawk and bow, to animal tracking and mimicry. Your hunting skills are surpassed only by initiation into the ways of the shaman. Overcome bizarre creatures and terrifying foes, learning to work alongside and possess animal spirits as you progress. Take on the shape of the smallest rabbit to escape down burrows or the form of a mighty bear spirit to battle your foes.
    Comment:  Brave is based on the stereotypes of many Indian tribes, not on mythology. These are jumbled together to create one homogenized, pan-Indian storyline. The stereotypical elements include the Wendigo, shamans, bows and arrows, tomahawks, wolves, buffaloes, bears, animal spirits, hunting and tracking skills, and so forth.

    For more on the subject, see Video Games Featuring Indians.

    Are stereotypes decreasing?

    A correspondent asked if things are getting better in my field--if the stereotyping of Indians is decreasing. My answer is: not necessarily.

    The question from DMarks:[A]s far as our other discussion of regression and the conservative backlash and all, hasn't the stereotype/mascot picture kept improving all the time? Despite Rush Limbaugh and sports hooligans?It may have gotten slightly better since I started studying Indians in 1990 and began my stereotype contest in 2000. But if 1990 is the starting point and there's some mythical point where stereotyping has ended, I'd say we're a lot closer to the beginning than to the end.

    True, some mascots have been eliminated, but that's probably because liberal educators are in control of schools. I'm not sure there's been any movement against mascots among the masses. If we polled people on whether Chief Wahoo is offensive, for instance, the numbers might be the same as in 1990.

    Look at some of things that have appeared recently: Apocalypto. Pathfinder. Comanche Moon. COWBOYS & INDIANS vol. 1. RIPCLAW PILOT SEASON. THE FOURTH HORSEMAN #1. OutKast's Grammy performance. The Zagar and Steve commercials. The Swedish documentary. Etc.

    I could go on and on. These are literally, not figuratively, as bad as anything that appeared in the 1950s. Judging by these examples, we've made no progress since then.

    Why is that? Since the conservative moment became ascendant in the 1980s, there's been a backlash against liberalism and multiculturalism. It's become somewhat acceptable to be racist. Witness Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Don Imus, George ("macaca") Allen, the reaction to 9/11, the reaction to Katrina, the Jena Six, etc. Sure, people are criticized when they make racist remarks. But they also feel free to make such remarks, and they get more support than they used to.

    TV show kills Indians

    Television crew 'spread deadly flu to Amazon tribe'A British television crew has been blamed for infecting an ancient Amazonian tribe with a lethal flu epidemic.

    Four members of the Matsigenka tribe in remote Peru, including three children, have allegedly died since two Westerners arrived to film The World's Lost Tribes late last year.

    Peruvian government officials claim the area of Cumerjali has since been hit by an epidemic of respiratory illness, The Daily Mail reports.

    Because they have had limited contact with the outside world, some Matsigenka members have virtually no resistance to influenza and other common illnesses.
    Comment:  Apparently the genocide continues. And today's killers can't claim they didn't know about the dangers of infectious diseases.

    Most lost tribes don't need to be filmed for television. They need to be left alone.

    For a look at how contact can destroy an Indian tribe, see my review of End of the Spear (pictured below).

    Kaiulani controversy continues

    The debate over casting Q'orianka Kilcher as Princess Kaiulani in a Hawaiian movie continues:I noticed that you(r) biography had no mention what so ever about your having lived in the Islands... How could you possibly give your opinion about something you know nothing about?

    If there are Hawaiians who are upset about not making the cut or having the chance to be a part of this your homework and start your own production.

    From Rome to Tahlequah

    Cities at both ends of Trail of Tears may seek 'sister' statusAll roads may not lead to Rome, Ga., but a path important to Cherokee history began in that vicinity and ended in this area.

    During the 1830s, some Cherokees left their homes in Georgia and surrounding states to begin a new life in Indian Territory, while others were forcibly removed from the land they had occupied for lifetimes.

    Today, Tahlequah, which lies at the end of the Trail of Tears, may become a sister city with Rome, a leading community at its beginning. While the two city councils have taken no official action to become sister cites, people in both communities have expressed support for the idea.

    The sister city concept would increase the emphasis on the importance of that period in history, and its effect on people at both ends of the trail. People answering surveys by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation have expressed the most interest in the state’s western and Native American heritage.

    And many Georgians are not aware of the extent of Cherokee contributions to their area.

    March 26, 2008

    Yeagley slammed for racist film

    Here's the story behind and the results of David Yeagley's participation in Historiens Fångar, the racist Swedish documentary.

    The Yeagley Logic, "Psychologically Speaking"

    Here's Yeagley announcing the Swedish documentary to his fans (4/17/07):I'm involved in an intense few days of filming for a documentary on American Indians, about modern issues, for a European TV company. I'll let everyone know the details later....

    The History Channel episode I did was about the old days. This new doc is about modern issues, like casinos, education, trying to make it in the world, reservations, etc., you know, all the things I'm a perfect authority on. :D

    Don't worry, I've lined up the "real" Indians, just like I did for the History Channel. Yeah, I'll get my two beads worth in, but, I always line up the elders when they're available. I want them to speak.
    Brent Michael Davids (the source of this posting) summarizes Yeagley's attitude:DAY obviously feels he is an active participant in this film project. He knows the subject matter ‘modern issues, like casinos, education, trying to make it in the world, reservations, etc.’ and feels he is the ‘perfect authority’. The emoticon used a big goofy smile which expresses an unbound joy for this opportunity.When the film came out this year, Yeagley was the only "Indian" on-camera as a spokesperson. Because of the film's right-wing propaganda, it was greeted with scorn and derision among Indians.

    The fallout was so negative that even Yeagley has been backtracking. An example:The film does not tell the whole story. Granted. It was given the whole story. For now, you have to believe me on that one. Mr. Heilbut has mentioned to me "the whole film." I want to hope there will be a different, more complete version.But he won't apologize for his role in this racist film. One of his Bad Eagle forum members has taken him to task for that:BE Member—DAY--Your refusal to accept any responsibility for actions or efforts concerning your documentary and the Comanche tribe is quite understandable.

    Your bridge to Lawton is burned and you know it. Why waste time admitting fault when it won't unmake the film, reverse time or placate the enemies you've already made in the tribe. And it won't look manly to your BE audience if you admit any wrong doing. Better to turn tail and return to your true family.

    Stick to what you do best, playing Indian. Forget trying to forge ties with the Comanche, they'll never trust you after this debacle. Forget trying to appeal to actual Indians, they were lost to you long ago. Yup, you've made the right choice.
    Al Carroll, another Yeagley critic, summarizes where Yeagley went wrong:

    Badeagle "A Website Where Very Few Indians Comment": Yeagley Gets Torn Apart at His Own Forum1. Yeagley was no innocent as he claims. In fact he's long bragged about how central a role he played in this racist Danish film intended to preach AGAINST indigenous people worldwide.

    2. Yeagley had no right to claim to speak for the Comanche Nation, and was only chosen because he was the kind of professional token that racists love.

    3. The film just made Yeagley even more of an outcast among the Comanches than he already was.

    That last point does not bother Yeagley at all. After all, he knows he has virtually no actual Indians as supporters. is a white racist site, including its impostor of an owner.
    Comment:  For more on Yeagley's mistakes and missteps, see Yeagley the Indian Apple.

    Tibetans, the new Indians?

    An interesting comparison of the plight of today's Tibetans and yesterday's Indians. Not only are they similar, but the author chose the Indian analogy precisely to make his point.

    The last of the Tibetans

    Their culture may survive only outside of China's sweeping modernization.Are the Tibetans doomed to go the way of the American Indians? Will they be reduced to being little more than a tourist attraction, peddling cheap mementos of what was once a great culture? In Tibet

    itself, that sad fate is looking more and more likely. And the Olympic year is already soured by the way the Chinese government is trying to suppress resistance to just that fate.
    Some Tibetan-Indian parallels:[I]nstead of reforming Tibetan society and culture, the Chinese communists wrecked it. Religion was crushed in the name of Marxist secularism. Monasteries and temples were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (often with the help of Tibetan Red Guards). Nomads were forced into concrete settlements. Tibetan arts were frozen into folkloric emblems of an officially promoted "minority culture." And the Dalai Lama and his entourage were forced to flee to India.And:The Chinese have exported their version of modern development to Tibet, not just in terms of architecture and infrastructure but people, wave after wave of them: businessmen from Sichuan, prostitutes from Hunan, technocrats from Beijing, party officials from Shanghai, shopkeepers from Yunnan. The majority of the people living today in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, are no longer Tibetan. Most people in rural areas are Tibetan, but their way of life is not likely to survive Chinese modernization any more than the ways of the Apaches did in the United States.

    Because Chinese is the language of instruction at Tibetan schools and universities, anyone who wishes to be more than a poor peasant, beggar or seller of trinkets has to conform to it--that is to say, in a crucial way, become Chinese. Even the Tibetan intellectuals who want to study their own classical literature have to do so in Chinese translation. Meanwhile, Chinese and other foreign tourists dress up in traditional Tibetan dress to have souvenir pictures taken in front of the Dalai Lama's old palace.
    Comment:  For more on how modernization and globalization have affected indigenous cultures, see Globalization:  Exporting the American Way.

    Below:  An Indian shows how to dress up in traditional (i.e., stereotypical) garb for tourists.

    Gaming tribes vs. charities

    Day of reckoning looms over bingo

    Electronic version puts gaming tribes, charities at oddsCharities and nonprofit organizations have been operating hundreds of legally questionable electronic bingo machines in Sacramento County, and reportedly in locations scattered across the state, for at least several years.

    But a day of reckoning appears to be close.

    The wealthy United Auburn band of suburban Sacramento has put the Schwarzenegger administration on notice that it believes the bingo machines violate a clause in its gambling agreement that guaranteed a monopoly on electronic gaming devices. Such a breach would permit the tribe to suspend the $33 million it pays annually to the state.

    Charities that have come to depend on income from the machines have taken their plight to allies in the Legislature, seeking a compromise that would sustain their bingo revenue.

    But there doesn't appear to be much room for a compromise.

    The state could forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tribal payments if electronic bingo is legalized for charities, said tribal attorney Howard Dickstein, who represents United Auburn and Pala of San Diego County.

    “This is a high-stakes game for them to be playing,” he said.

    Charities say the stakes are just as high for them, although the money involved is much less.

    “All I know is we've got homeless kids and this is a big part of our budget,” said John Poswall, a board member of WIND Youth Services of Sacramento.
    Comment:  Regardless of who's right technically or legally, the tribes would do well to compromise. It's hard for them to argue they need the money more than the charities do. And taking an absolute position against someone who's "for the children" doesn't seem like a good idea.

    Like disenrollment, this is another issue where tribes could win the battle but lose the war. The war is for the hearts of the minds of the public, and tribes aren't doing as well as they were a decade ago. Generating goodwill and good PR should be the centerpiece of their strategy.

    For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming.

    How the Makah 5 felt

    Makahs' right must be honoredImagine if the government said nobody could fire a gun while it spent untold years studying the social and environmental effects of gun use.

    Even if you think that's a fine idea, imagine the protest there'd be about government tyranny. Folks would go around defiantly blasting off pistols, quoting Charlton Heston or the Second Amendment. And they'd have a point.

    It's roughly how the Makah Indians feel about now.

    The Makahs' freedom issue isn't guns, but whales. They are a sovereign nation with a treaty right to go whaling. Treaty rights are different than constitutional rights, but they're in the same league. They can be regulated, managed, overseen. Yet they are "the supreme law of the land." They're not supposed to be denied.

    But the government isn't letting the Makahs whale. The hunt has been barred since 2003, while the feds spend untold years studying the social and environmental effects of whaling.

    Imagine if one of your rights—say, the right to call me a whale hater—was suspended while the government studied free speech. You'd be seething.
    Comment:  Yes, I might be seething. But would I act in a way that hurt someone or something? Probably not.

    Yes, the US should uphold treaties with tribes. But this treaty didn't say the Makah could kill any whale, any time. It was a lot vaguer than that.

    The crux of this argument seems to be that the government study isn't legitimate. But what if it is legitimate? Is legal complexity or bureaucratic inefficiency enough of a reason to start shooting?

    For more on the subject, see The Makah Whale-Hunt Controversy.

    California tribes close nightclubs

    Pechanga casino closes Eagles Nest, Silk nightclubs; cites alcohol problemsThe Pechanga Resort & Casino has closed two nightclubs because of alcohol-related problems.

    The Eagle's Nest and the Silk club, a popular attraction that featured go-go dancers, were shut down last week because of unspecified alcohol issues.

    "Tribal leaders have determined that an unacceptable number of incidents involving alcohol consumption have occurred at Pechanga Resort & Casino," said Amy Minniear, president of the Pechanga Development Corp., in a statement. "We are deeply troubled by these incidents and are taking numerous and decisive actions to prevent them from occurring in the future."
    And:The Morongo Casino Resort & Spa had earlier issues with one of its nightclubs.

    "The Vibe, which was our venue similar to Pechanga, was closed in mid-December already, and the reason why was we were experiencing some of the similar problems to Pechanga," said Patrick Dorinson, a public-relations consultant for the tribe. "And that was not consistent with the Morongo entertainment experience we try to provide our customers."

    The tribe now uses that space for a showroom and has a nightclub in the resort tower that has "a very controlled atmosphere" and a dress code, Dorinson said.
    Comment:  I've visited the Eagle's Nest and Silk a couple of times.

    Below:  Rear view of the Pechanga property.

    4-star Ioway documentary

    Iowa Tribe Documentary To Debut In Perkins

    Award Winning Filmakers Started Film in 2005Film critic Linda Cook of the Quad City Times gave "Lost Nation: The Ioway" 4-out-of-4 stars and said, "The Rundle's "Ioway" is perfectly complete... A fantastic documentary... You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy this film."

    "Lost Nation" tells the dramatic true story of two brothers' struggle to save their people from inevitable American conquest, and the Ioway's current fight to reclaim and maintain their unique history and culture.
    And:"We hope the film will help to restore this chapter of Native American history to public consciousness," Producer Tammy Rundle said. "We can't change events from long ago, but we think viewers will relate to the courage and perseverance of the Ioway as they struggled with forces that changed their lives forever."

    The film brings together commentary from Ioway Tribal Elders and Tribal Members, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, Ioway Tribal Elders, along with new footage of historic sites, historical photographs, documents, Ioway music, legends, dances, powwows, reenactments, and art from the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma and other national museums.
    Comment:  I've found that few documentaries are as good as people say they are. But maybe this one is the exception.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Okla. Native musician of the year

    Lisa LaRue honored

    Named Native Artist of the Year by 2008 Oklahoma Music AwardsWith an overwhelming response, Lisa LaRue was named Native American Artist of the Year by the 2008 Oklahoma Music Awards.

    "I was shocked, and this breathes new inspiration into my life," said LaRue. This comes with the announcement of a new CD.

    LaRue will be receiving studio time at Flatland Studio in Stillwater. Other nominees for the category included the Cherokee Nation Youth Choir among a host of others. As runner-up, Jay Red Eagle was awarded studio time as well. The Musician Honoree in the Hall of Fame was awarded to Leon Russell.

    March 25, 2008

    How things have changed

    OUR OPINION:  Students broke a modern rule of life[S]ocial mores change—and one of the most important changes of the past generation is our society’s open intolerance for certain racial and ethnic stereotyping.

    It used to be common for people to tell ethnic jokes. It isn’t any more. It used to be common to hear ethnic slurs in conversation. That’s gone, too.

    It used to be common for Hollywood Westerns to feature Indians saying “How!” and “Ugh!”, for black vaudevillians (or white actors in blackface) to “shuck and jive” on stage and for wartime propaganda to feature wildly caricatured “Japs” and “Huns.”

    But that’s changed. And here’s the deal: In the eyes of most Americans, this change has been a very good thing.

    On balance, we’re a better society—even a much better society—for our new insistence on treating other ethnic groups with respect. Are there excesses? Yes. Are there hypocrisies—for example, letting certain individuals or groups “get away with” words or conduct that would cause an uproar if offered up by anyone else? Absolutely.

    And are there disagreements over what constitutes stereotyping, as the dispute over UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname shows? You bet.

    But there’s also a broader point, which is this: On many core issues, there is not much disagreement at all. America has come a long way since the 1950s, as Barack Obama’s candidacy for the presidency shows. And a big part of modern race relations is a broad, societywide disapproval of raw stereotyping.

    So, you can’t tell ethnic jokes in the workplace. (Well, you can; but if you do, you’ll be fired.) You can’t use ethnic slurs in conversation. You can’t claim certain ethnicities are inferior to others.

    And you can’t dress up like cartoon parodies of American Indians.
    Comment:  Our society still tolerates plenty of racism and stereotyping, as you can see in my Stereotype of the Month contest. In fact, thousands of Americans use an ethnic slur daily when they mention the Washington Redskins.

    Below:  A cartoon parody of an American Indian.

    Aboriginal artists win awards

    Inuit artist, Quebec filmmaker win Governor General's Awards for visual artsA Cape Dorset artist whose sculptures and images are icons in Canada and one of Quebec's leading documentary filmmakers are among this year's winners of the Governor General's Awards in visual and media arts.

    Kenojuak Ashevak, who created images such as Enchanted Owl, and Serge Guigère, the filmmaker behind Driven by Dreams (À force des rêves), were announced as winners of the $25,000 award in Montreal on Tuesday.

    Other winners of the honour for achievement in the arts are Montreal sculptor Michel Goulet, Dene painter Alex Janvier and multidisciplinarian artists Tanya Mars of Toronto and Eric Metcalfe of Victoria.
    More on Ashevak:Many of Ashevak's drawings, prints and sculptures are familiar to Canadians, because they've been on a series of stamps or permeated popular culture on cards and prints. Among her most famous works are The Owl and The World Around Me.

    Ashevak's simple, powerful images have made her one Cape Dorset's most acclaimed artists.

    She was born in 1927 on Baffin Island and lived the traditional nomadic life on the land before settling Cape Dorset. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, a companion of the Order of Canada and has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
    More on Janvier:Janvier, part of the Cold Lake First Nation from northern Alberta, is a painter whose work is reflects Dene cultural and spiritual traditions, especially in his use of colour. His recent work is abstract, characterized by flowing curvilinear lines.

    He was placed in a residential school at age eight and recalled that crayons and paper were his way of communicating.

    "I didn't understand English too well so I used to communicate through pictures," he told CBC News.

    Mitch Longley in Shark

    I was watching the first season of James Woods's Shark, the CBS lawyer drama, on DVD. At the end of the Teacher's Pet episode, I saw Mitch Longley's name in the credits. I hadn't even seen in him in the show, though he's hard to miss since he's wheelchair-bound. Backtracking, I found he had appeared for only a few seconds and spoken only one word.

    If you don't know Longley, he's a Passamaquoddy/Penobscot actor. He started off in soap operas and lately has appeared on prime-time TV. He's a recurring character on Las Vegas, a show I don't watch.

    The American Indians in Film and Television's 2007 diversity report card mentioned Longley's role in Las Vegas. But it didn't mention his guest-starring role in Shark's 2006-2007 season. I checked and he also appeared in Weeds in 2007, another role the annual report didn't mention.

    Point is that Mark Reed of AIFTV is making firm statements about the underrepresentation of Indians on prime-time TV. But the data he's using is full of holes. Presumably that's because he's relying on the networks for data and their recordkeeping is full of holes.

    I'm sure Indians are still underrepresented on TV, but they're not as underrepresented as Reed claims. In a good year we'll see the cast of Comanche Moon here, Adam Beach in SVU there, a Tamara Podemski (New Amsterdam) here, a Mitch Longley (Las Vegas) there. All it takes is a few roles for Indians to reach their 1% of the population.

    In short, we need accurate data to draw accurate conclusions. As long as AIFTV's annual report cards are suspect, therefore, I plan to keep criticizing them. To end the criticism, fix the reports.

    Below:  Mitch Longley (center) poses with other guest stars on the Shark episode Teacher's Pet.

    Creek girl starts nonprofit

    Baker joins elite company with activist effortsCaitlin Baker is once again showing a person can never be too young to make a difference.

    The 14-year old Norman athlete was chosen by the Women’s Sports Foundation to feature in the future Billie Jean King International Women’s Sports Center.

    Baker caught the attention of the Foundation when she started her own non-profit organization called C.A.I.T.L.I.N. B., which stands for Competitive American Indians Turning Lifestyles Into New Beginnings.
    Caitlin describes herself on her website:My name is Caitlin Baker, I am 14 and a member of the Muscogee Creek Tribe. I live in Oklahoma, and have been a competitive swimmer for 5 years. I have started an outreach program, CAITLINB, to promote swimming, sports participation and healthy lifestyles to Native American Youth.

    Remixing Native artists

    Artists Present Challenging Views of Native AmericaThe Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the George Gustav Heye Center opens "Remix: New Modernities in a Post Indian World," a spirited multimedia survey of 15 emerging Native artists June 7. A joint presentation from the museum and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the exhibition closes Sunday, Sept. 21.

    "Remix" includes the semiotic narratives of Bernard Williams (African American/Native Ancestry); the seemingly academic yet provocative imagery of Kent Monkman (Cree/English/Irish) in his transgender guise; an essay of stereotypes found in videogames by Alan Natachu (Zuni/Laguna) and the affectionate but confrontational portraits of Apache skateboarders by Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo).

    Seminole success story

    Joseph Brown writes about the Seminole Tribe's remarkable transformation in Gators to Casinos | An American Success Story in Miami. An excerpt:We hear a lot of talk these days about the “death of the American Dream,” usually from people who stand to benefit politically from such statements. But I have to say that making the leap from fighting a war of extermination against the U.S. government to wrestling alligators in the Everglades to managing a multi-million dollar business is an American success story that some people would do well to take note of.Comment:  It's always good to see someone recognize Indian gaming for the incredible boon it's been.

    Sitting Bull = gang symbol

    Police assume teen wearing Warchief t-shirt is a gang member

    March 24, 2008

    Native Report on TV

    'Native Report' Covers American Indian IssuesThe city of Duluth is doing something big. A television show called "Native Report" is produced at the local public station, and it's seen in other cities across the country. The show focuses on issues in the American Indian community.

    "Native Report" hopes to show its viewers Indian country at its best.

    "There are people who are doing amazing things, in Indian country--everything from working as scientists to working as poets," said Tadd Johnson, co-host and co-producer of Native Report. "There's a lot of just plain folks out there on Indian reservations doing some nice things, from trying to preserve their fish to trying to make sure that their culture is properly promoted."
    And:While the show focuses on American Indian issues, there's something for everyone. Johnson said people outside the culture often tell him they watch the program, and learn a lot.

    Doing away with negative American Indian images is also a top priority.

    "I think it's important to break the stereotypes, dispel myths and really get to know who we are," said Stacey Thunder, host and co-producer of the show. "With understanding of other cultures and more acceptance, I think we'd get along much better."

    "I think we're kind of trying to climb a low mountain, which is we're trying to promote some tolerance and understanding of people who live on the Indian reservation, Indian country," added Johnson.

    Gasping at mixed media

    The struggle of identity

    Artist Marcus Cadman explores complex ideas using mixed mediaWhen he first began, Cadman attempted to paint images of nostalgic, peaceful landscapes.

    "It didn't seem right," he said. "I felt empty inside about it. I had to find meaning to my art work."

    He took some time for self-reflection and even went as far as painting an abstract self-portrait of himself. It was not a flattering piece but a "dark and haunting" one, Cadman said.

    The painting is adorned with real dollar bills in a collage on one side with buckskin pieces on the other, and a U.S. flag waving prominently in the background. It is titled "Knows Not the Ancient Way."

    "That's the one that broke through, that really spoke through about who I was, my identity," said Cadman. "It was me being not raised traditional I guess."

    People reacted with gasps when they saw the painting saying things like, "What is that? That is scary!"

    Cadman never sold the piece and has no intention to now.

    "They're not used to seeing this kind of art," he said. "I try to paint what's going on today. It's not the typical historic romanticized images, I guess. It's much more personal and people can see that."
    Below:  Another mixed-media painting by Cadman.

    Indians invisible in debate

    Tim Giago:  Indians lost in race relations debateWhen it comes to race relations, Native Americans are the invisible people. Any Indian living in North or South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Arizona or even Washington, has felt the pain and the shame of racial prejudice. It has come in the school yard, in the search for decent housing, in restaurants and department stores. When I was publisher of Indian Country Today, the paper covered the story of an Indian man suspected of shoplifting at a department store in Rapid City and how he was wrestled to the floor and humiliated by the store’s security only to find out that not only was he not shoplifting, he was also a minister in the Episcopal Church. By reporting this story my newspaper lost a very valuable advertiser. The local daily did not carry the story.

    There are still many issues about race that arise nearly every week in the states I mentioned involving Indians and Whites. Several school districts in South Dakota have taken the issue to court and won. The ACLU has stood up for the rights of the Indian people across America because the state and federal courts have often been so lopsided in dealing justice to Native Americans. In many Western states there is a dual system of justice when it involves Indians.
    Comment:  "Nearly every week"? Based on my Stereotype of the Month contest, I'd say Native issues regarding race arise several times a week.

    Below:  Recent examples of the ongoing racism and stereotyping.

    "Folklore" should be fiction

    McDermott made up the "Dance of Life" in ARROW TO THE SUNSharing some new (to me) information about McDermott's deeply flawed award-winning book, Arrow to the Sun.

    On page 27 of Gerald McDermott and YOU, written by Jon Stott, published in 2004, Stott says:

    "Although the Dance of Life depicted on the final page of the story is McDermott's own creation, it is true in spirit to the agrarian culture he depicts in the story."
    Given its made-up and erroneous information, this book is best shelved in the fantasy section. It certainly does not belong in the non-fiction section! And it certainly does not merit it's Library of Congress subject line "Pueblo Indians--folklore."
    (Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 3/18/08.)

    Comment:  I haven't read the book, but I did see the video--many years ago. At the time I liked it. The pop-style art (which you can see on the cover) seems faithful to the spirit of the culture, if not the letter.

    Perhaps the video omitted some of the offensive material in the book. Or perhaps my sensibilities have evolved since then. I should read the book and watch the video again.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    American mom vs. Indian educator

    Letter to "American MOM"

    Mom:By not allowing Indians in literature (as your comment in Little House on the Prairie), are you trying to erase that from our history?Educator:In my critique of Little House on the Prairie, I seek--not to erase Indians from history--but to rid bookshelves of incorrect images of American Indians. It is factually wrong for you to allow your children to learn that American Indians were primitive, or barbarians, or uncivilized, or simple-minded. That is precisely the way they are presented in the Little House book.(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 3/17/08.)

    Comment:  Educator wins the debate by a knockout.

    Drummers to perform at NMAI

    Rhythm of life

    Elementary youth plan to drum their way to capitalA group of local elementary school pupils have been invited to Washington to perform at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on June 1, but first the pupils have to raise enough money to make the trip—approximately $25,000.

    The Steel Drum Band from Church Rock Academy will be holding a community family day to raise money at Sammy C’s Rock N’ Sports Pub & Grille in downtown Gallup Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Though the band began only eight months ago, it has already put on at least 20 performances with prestigious audiences such as the New Mexico Legislature and various tribal leaders.

    Looking back at last year

    Indian Comics Irregular #168:  The Biggest Stories of 2007

    March 23, 2008

    Ignorant Americans on race

    You have to love it when Americans say there's no racism left and they don't want to talk about it. They should walk a mile in an Indian's shoes.

    Talking about race:  Um, you first

    Obama's speech called for a conversation that not everyone wants."This is a very good time to put everything on the table," said Abdullah Robinson, 64, a black man who lives in suburban Atlanta. "We don't know nothing about each other, and we've been living together for hundreds of years."

    But others don't want any part of a dialogue that starts from the premise that there is a black America and a white America. They don't want to hear about victims and oppressors. It's past time, they say, to move on.

    Blacks "bring up the enslavement card way too much," said JoAnna Cullinane-Halda, 64, who just opened a home decor boutique in rural Colorado. "I'm Irish. My people were enslaved as well. But it's far enough in our dark past. We've gone beyond that. Let it go."
    And:Now North has a good job repairing tractors and trailers in Franktown. But when he reflects on his days at Ford, he feels the old resentment.

    "I kept hearing: 'Minority this, minority that. Blacks aren't getting this, blacks aren't getting that.' I'm disgusted with it," he said. "OK, fine, they've gotten stepped on for 400 years. Let's give them something [to make up for it] and be done with it, the way we did with the Indians."

    He's had enough, he said, of identity politics: "If you're born here, you're an American. Period. Act like an American." A fellow mechanic began listing racial and ethnic groups: African American, Hispanic American, Chinese American.
    And my favorite ignorant anecdote:In her small beauty salon in Franktown, Charlotte Britton, 65, serves white and black customers. But Britton, who is white, wouldn't dream of talking with them about race. Part of that is business: She likes to keep chatter in the salon light--no politics, no religion.

    But the deeper truth is this: She never dreamed that anyone would want to talk about race. Until she saw video clips of Obama's pastor sermonizing about black oppression, Britton said she had no clue that anyone other than a few hard-core white supremacists thought much about skin color.

    "I thought we were past that," she said. "I didn't realize this was going on in the United States. In this day and age? I was shocked."
    Comment:  Get a clue, people. As readers of this website know, I don't have any trouble finding a dozen or so Native stereotypes in the media every month. If I were including nonstereotypical acts of racism, I could find a dozen more.

    These are the tip of the iceberg. They prove racism and stereotyping are still problems.

    Tell you what, Americans. You start upholding every broken treaty and every international law regarding indigenous rights. You stop infringing on Indians' sovereign rights, resource rights, and religious rights. And you go a year or two without a single Native stereotype in the major media. Then we can safely conclude that race is no longer an issue.

    Until then, we'll keep discussing racial issues. You can get with the program, remain in denial, or go back where you came from. I'd recommend the first option.

    For more on the subject, see Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

    Below:  Millions of Americans cheer for these racist notions, but there's no racism in America? R-i-i-ight.