April 30, 2008

Thrilled to be Chief

New Chief Illiniwek portrayers announcedLogan Ponce is the latest Chief Illiniwek, and likely will be the second in a row who never gets to perform the famed halftime dance at University of Illinois events.

Ponce, a junior from St. Charles majoring in general engineering, was announced as the 37th Chief Illiniwek on a rainy Monday morning in front of the Alma Mater statue on campus. UI sophomore Rob Zaldivar of Palatine was announced as assistant Chief Illiniwek.

The two were selected this past weekend by the Council of Chiefs, a group of former chiefs, following a weekend audition in Gibson City.

The UI officially retired the Chief in 2007.
Comment:  Ponce talks about how he and his fellow students are happy to see him assume the Illiniwek role. What he doesn't talk about is how Indians feel about the Chief. Like a typical Euro-American, the only thing that matters to Ponce is what he wants.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots and The Big Chief.

Unrepentent claims disputed

A followup on defrocked United Church minister Kevin Annett and his documentary Unrepentent.

Truth and Native Abuse

How one man's wild claims threaten success of Truth and Reconciliation.Annett is interviewed sympathetically on CBC's As It Happens, and it is commonplace for journalists to report Annett's claims unchallenged, no matter how bizarre, and without first inquiring into his history of allegation-making. His documentary film Unrepentant has earned favourable reviews in such "progressive" Canadian journals as Briarpatch. It has won awards at independent film festivals in New York and Los Angeles.

This matters.

It matters because the story of secret residential-school mass graves is an urban legend.

For years, RCMP investigators have been chasing down these stories and they always come up with nothing. But they persist, like the alligators in New York's sewers.

Vavoom in Felix the Cat

A correspondent notes the appearance of Vavoom the Eskimo in the old Felix the Cat cartoons:I think Vavoom was in many episodes. If I recall correctly, he was friendly enough, wore his parka all the time, had a face devoid of Inuit stereotype features, and only spoke one word, the "Vavoom" that was a sort of super-hero type power. Not much in the way of stereotype, in my judgment.Comment:  Hmm. Vavoom wore a parka in all weather like a coat of fur. He didn't utter a word except a nonsensical battle cry. How exactly was he different from, say, an animal that also roars? Was he really any better than Little Hiawatha or the Go-Go Gophers?

Note another thing these characters have in common:  they're little. They're smaller than humans and, in Vavoom's case, smaller than a cat. What does that say about Natives? That they're safely presentable only if they've been rendered harmless--i.e., shrunk and neutered.



For more on the subject, see Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

Magazine controversy continues

My previous posting on Redskin magazine continues to draw comments. Readers seem unwilling to accept that "redskin" is as offensive as other pejoratives.Because you resorted to name-calling again, throwing out more offensive words aimed at me and my two daughters, I've got one for you: dick.And:Wow I don't know about you but these are harsh words, pretty ignorant if you ask me and I would say possible lawsuit material too. I can see you trying to make your point, but out of frustration you target children? Preposterous!!Feel free to check out their arguments and my counterarguments.

In the same posting, I also help Russell Bates with his obvious learning impairment:To reiterate, the magazine's name is Redskin, not Red Skin. Every poster in this thread has confirmed this point by calling it Redskin, not Red Skin. Learn to freakin' read so I don't have to keep helping your with your sadly deficient English skills.For some recent postings on the problem with "redskin," see Redskins, Brownskins, or Blackskins and Colusa Drops "Redskin."

Bugs Bunny in A Feather in His Hare

I believe Warner Bros. has deleted all the Looney Tunes cartoons from YouTube, but at least one is still available on a Russian video site.

How stereotypical is this cartoon? Well, the "brave" operates out of a teepee, practices scalping, and talks like Tonto. Bugs calls him "Apache" and "Geronimo," but he calls himself the "last Mohican." About the only nonstereotypical attribute is that the Indian wears glasses.

Bugs Bunny--005--A Feather In His Hare

Another debate on SCALPED

"I can understand your criticism that there is nothing ennobling about his story, but do all stories dealing with native peoples need to be ennobling?"

Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Indians

A useful page lists all the animated Warner Brothers cartoons between 1937-1960 depicting Indians. Thanks to correspondent DMarks for bringing this to my attention.

April 29, 2008

Creative Spirit goes green

The third annual effort to introduce Native filmmakers to Hollywood and vice versa is underway. Creative Spirit is once again seeking scripts for its short-film competition.

Call for Short Scripts from Native American Screenwriters for 3rd
Annual Script-to-Screen Shootout
This year, Creative Spirit is going green. "We're looking for stories about the environment and ecological concerns," says James Lujan, director of InterTribal Entertainment. "Because of the cultural and spiritual relationship that American Indian tribes have with the planet, we feel that Native American storytellers and filmmakers have valuable contributions to make to the global discussion on the issues that affect and threaten the eco-system."

But before you think Creative Spirit is getting too politically correct, think again. The competition is also seeking scripts that fall under the category of what can best be described as grindhouse. "Think B-movie," says Lujan. "We want scripts that reflect the sensibility of the low-budget genre films of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. These were movies, probably best epitomized by the Roger Corman factory, that didn't cost much to make but made a lot of money because they were fun, thrilling and had the air of forbidden fruit. I think one of the reasons that Native American filmmakers haven't had mainstream commercial success is that they still haven't figured out the formula for making the kinds of movies that mass audiences want to see. I think that learning from the success of the B-movie is a good place to start."

The Creative Spirit judges will choose a winning script in each category, the writers will be brought to Los Angeles September 20-28, 2008, and will participate in the making of the film with other Native filmmakers and industry professionals for three days of shooting, three days of editing and a world premiere screening in Hollywood the evening of Sept. 27.

Submission deadline is June 17, 2008.
Comment:  You can see trailers and clips from the first four Creative Spirit films below.

Hummingbird fights fire

A new book combines Native storytelling, manga-style artwork, and essays from Nobel Peace Prize winners from Tibet and Kenya. That's multiculturalism in action.

Here's the description from the publisher's website:

Flight of the Hummingbird
A Parable for the Environment

By (artist): Michael Nicoll YahgulanaasThe hummingbird parable, with origins in the Quechuan people of South America, has become a talisman for environmentalists and activists who are committed to making meaningful change in the world. In this inspiring story, the determined hummingbird does everything she can to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home. The hummingbird—symbol of wisdom and courage—demonstrates that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

The parable is embraced by two of the world’s most influential leaders: Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya who launched the Green Belt Movement, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has spoken widely about his commitment to preserving the environment. This courageous little book features artwork by internationally renowned artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. His distinct and lively Haida Manga style engages perfectly with this inspirational story that encourages every individual to act on behalf of the world’s limited and precious resources.
Comment:  Also check out Yahgulanaas's online portfolio of art.

Revolution in Native film?

Producer Profile:  James LujanIn the film capitol of America, just getting a start can be an obstacle too difficult to overcome.

Los Angeles has long been the epicenter of film production in the United States. James Lujan, a longtime Angeleno by way of New Mexico, dedicates his time to helping Native Americans involved in the film industry crack into the business. Lujan, 39, (Taos Pueblo) is the planner and director of Intertribal Entertainment at the Southern California Indian Center. Lujan, who has done films on New Mexico’s UFO fascination, “High Strange New Mexico,” and participated in Sundance Film Festival’s Native Screenwriter’s Forum, develops the programming and direction for multimedia initiatives and provides training and employment opportunities for Native Americans in the film industry.
The revolution is coming, says Lujan:If Native Americans can create films that resonate with non-Native audiences, he feels there is no reason why Native films can’t cross over to the mainstream. This would create greater revenue for other Native films while at the same time giving the Native people a stronger voice, something Lujan hopes will happen in the near future.

“I sense there is going to be a sort of revolution in Native film coming soon,” Lujan said. “Based on the amount of talent that’s coming out, there is something building that is really going to break within the next five years.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Notable Native athletes

Along with its list of 100 amazing Indian discoveries, the Fall 2004 issue of American Indian included a spread on some of the greatest Native athletes.

Winning Ways

Native American athletes have accomplished some of the most impressive feats in sports history.


Jim Thorpe
Big Hawk Chief
George Armstrong
Fred Sasakamoose
Louis "Deerfoot" Bennett
Ted Nolan
Louis Tewanima
Waneek Horn-Miller
Notah Begay
Marvin L. Camel Jr.
Naomi Lang
Tom Longboat
Billy Mills
Sonny Sixkiller
Bryan Trottier

Dr. Quinn on the rez

Actress Jane Seymour films drought project on Navajo NationThe Navajo Nation is a long way from the set of "Dancing with the Stars."

That didn't stop actress Jane Seymour, who danced on the reality show's fifth season last year, from donning her jeans and boots Monday and trekking across the desert near the Shiprock pinnacle.

Seymour is the narrator for a documentary on the water crisis in the Southwest set to air on public television this fall.

"The water problem in the American Southwest is real, and it needs to be told," Seymour said on camera, with the famous rock in the background. "In today's modern world, water has been taken for granted, and we've lost respect for it."

Burial ground in Diff'rent Strokes

In what you talking about, ... Oswegos? the Brady Braves blog describes an episode of Diff'rent Strokes in which "Arnold goes on a hunger strike to protest construction on one of Drummond's sites, which may be a Native American burial ground." The blog says the show contains a "whole lotta stereotypes, including several enacted by the 'chief'" played by Ned Romero.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

April 28, 2008

"American Indian" vs. "Native American"

In News Tribune Country, we pay attention to languageThe page proof used the term Indian Country, which recalled the thoughtful e-mail that began that previous correspondence.

“I find it astonishing that you would allow your editors, reporters and writers to use the seriously out-dated term ‘American Indian’ versus ‘Native American,’” he said, referring to a story in mid-April about Nisqually Tribe members teaching tribal songs and dances to public school students.

“We don’t see headlines saying Barack Obama attended a ‘colored’ or ‘Negro’ church,” he continued. “American Indian was considered old and even insulting as far back as the ’80s. A change would help the News Tribune seem more modern and in touch.”

The writer said he has a friend who’s a member of a Northwest tribe. He said that although she wasn’t offended at the term American Indian she thought most members of her tribe would be.
Why the "thoughtful e-mail" was dead wrong:We use the term American Indian for several reasons. One, it’s what the federal government uses (the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for example) and it’s the legal term used in most treaties and contracts.

Two, it’s what The Associated Press Stylebook (the Bible for language usage by most of the news media) uses. The stylebook also allows use of the term Native American when used by a speaker or in the name of an organization. Most all news copy comes to us using American Indian.

There’s also common usage. The Smithsonian named its relatively new museum the National Museum of the American Indian. Russell Means, the famous Indian activist, has been quoted as saying he prefers the term Indian and abhors the term Native American.

Means is not alone. A Census Bureau survey (1995) showed more Indians preferred the term Indian (50 percent) to Native American (37 percent). And journalist Charles C. Mann noted in the appendix to his 2005 best-seller, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,” that virtually all the native people he met in researching the book referred to themselves as Indians.
Comment:  Forget the NMAI. We probably could find 100,000 tribal, governmental, and nonprofit organizations named for Indians. And forget Charles Mann. Anyone who knows Indians knows they call themselves Indians.

Really, how ignorant do you have to be not to have heard of the American Indian Movement, the American Indian College Fund, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Gaming Association, or the Indian Country Today newspaper? Indian, Indian, Indian, Indian, Indian.

And what about the dozens of tribes whose name includes the word "Indian"? For instance:

Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Ak Chin Indian Community
Alturas Indian Rancheria
Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians
Augustine Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians
Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Bay Mills Indian Community
Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians
Big Sandy Rancheria of Mono Indians
Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians
Bridgeport Paiute Indian Colony
Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians
Cabazon Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians
Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians
Caddo Indian Tribe
Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians
Cahto Indian Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria
Campo Band of Diegueno Mission Indians
Capitan Grande Band of Diegueno Mission Indians
Barona Band of Mission Indians
Catawba Indian Nation
Chemehuevi Indian Tribe
Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria
Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians
Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy's Reservation
Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians
Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians
Colorado River Indian Tribes
Cortina Indian Rancheria of Wintun Indians
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Cowlitz Indian Tribe
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians

And that's only the A-C portion of the alphabet.

Did anyone tell these Indians that they've erroneously called themselves "Indians"? Is it just a coincidence that not a single Indian tribe has the term "Native American" in its name? No.

In short, it would be more correct to call the "thoughtful" e-mail thoughtless. The e-mailer didn't have a clue what's acceptable or unacceptable in Indian country (not "Native American country").

For more on the subject, see "Indian" vs. "Native American."

Imperialism based on language

May I Suggest ... 'Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,' by Steven Newcomb"Pagans in the Promised Land" (186 pages, Fulcrum Publishing) is a powerful book. Read it and you'll understand how this dominating mentality influences U.S. domestic and foreign policy today.

The colonizers were very aware of the power of words as a tool of subjugation. Newcomb quotes 15th century Spanish grammarian and rhetorician Antonio de Nebrija, addressing Queen Isabella: "Your Majesty, language is the perfect instrument of empire."
Some examples of how language shapes thought:Early Supreme Court decisions related to land ownership refer to Indian nations as "tribes," a lesser political unit than "nation"; to Indians as "heathens" and the colonizers as "Christian people"; to America as a "discovered" land and to its original inhabitants as having "diminished" rights because of that discovery.

Newcomb reveals that not much has changed in America's religious/ethnocentric view of indigenous peoples. In one example, he cites a 1987 report by the U.S. State Department titled "History of the Doctrine of Tribal Sovereignty," submitted to the United Nations Social and Economic Council.

In the report, "Indian" is repeatedly spelled "indian," with a lowercase "i," although "Federal Government" is capitalized. The implication is clear, Newcomb writes: The United States "exists up, or on a higher plane in relation to Indian nations, and that Indian nations are down in relation to the United States."

In the same way, Newcomb views the word "tribe" as a "very problematic term," a demeaning term used by governments as a technique of political subjugation. A "tribe" ranks below a "nation," significant considering the U.S. government continues to exercise plenary, or absolute, authority over indigenous people and their own governments, he said.
Comment:  This is what the stereotype issue is all about, and why it's so important. Every time we refer to Indians as "Redskins" or "Warriors," or depict them as chiefs or braves, we're marginalizing them as primitive people of the past. If they're safely ensconced in the mists of time, we don't have to deal with them as modern-day people with modern-day problems.

How many times have we heard people say that they didn't know Indians were still around? Or that they thought Indians all lived in tipis? This continuing ignorance of the diversity and complexity of Indian life is a fundamental issue in Indian country today.

If we Americans see and hear no evil, we don't have to act upon it. We don't have to acknowledge the treaties we've broken, the land we've stolen, the children we've kidnapped. We don't have to address the poverty, crime, and hopelessness we've allowed by not funding necessary government services.

This is why I keep harping on the stereotype issue. I bet Steve Newcomb would agree it's worth harping on.

Redskins, Brownskins, or Blackskins

An imaginary discussion about choosing a mascot for a new football franchise:

Tim Giago:  How Native people feel about mascots“I like the idea of the color of a person’s skin as a mascot. But the Washington team already laid claim to the skin of the Native Americans so that leaves whiteskins, blackskins, yellowskins and brownskins. That’s a pretty wide choice, but we must take into account the marketability of that skin. Now the Redskins can market tomahawks, war bonnets, painted faces and ponies. That’s a big market. What could you use to market say whiteskins? Not a damned thing that I can think of. I mean what makes a whiteskin unique? See what I mean boys,” the GM says.

Every executive in the room scratches his head. “I can see possibilities with brownskins. Like we could have the fans dress in sombreros and serapes and bring on a mariachi band to play Mexican music. Yellowskins would also present some good ideas. I can see fans dressed in silk robes and sporting those conical hats the Chinese peasants wear and maybe have our version of Oriental music chiming around the field,” the GM continues.

“But the most promising of all skin mascots has got to be the blackskins. Now just think of the many ways we can market and honor the black people. I can see it now. Our fans will be painted in blackface and wearing Afro-wigs. They could wear dashiki robes and instead of a tomahawk, they could be waving spears in the air,” the GM said with a satisfied grin. “Wouldn’t black people all across America consider this one of the finest honors that we could bestow upon their race?” Chimed in the other executives clapping their hands together, “I am so sure that this would be such an honor to them. We vote in favor of ‘Blackskins’ as our mascot. And just think of the many possibilities the music presents; war chants, drums, a choir, it gives us chills just thinking about it. We could make the Redskins look like pikers.”
Comment:  The "blackskin" argument is an old one, but it's rarely been presented this well.

Any questions about why "redskin" is a poor choice for a sports team mascot?

Battles fought with art

May I Suggest ... 'Visions for the Future: A Celebration of Young Native American Artists, Vol. I,' by the Native American Rights FundThe artistic and political heirs to Fritz Scholder and T.C. Cannon have been found by the Native American Rights Fund and collected into the book "Visions for the Future: A Celebration of Young Native American Artists, Volume I."

This catalog is a compilation of work that was displayed for NARF's inaugural Visions for the Future art show in Boulder, Colo., in November 2006, and contains statements from each artist featured within the catalog.

Each of the Native artists, ranging in age from 18 to 35, reflects the mission of NARF, which is to "focus on the modern-day battles and issues of importance to today's Native Americans and the generations to come."

This catalog blends the weapons of these "modern-day battles" for these artists, which uses not only art, but also hip-hop music to express viability for these issues for both Native and non-Native audiences.

Pope doesn't admit guilt

Benedict XVI:  Reflections on the pope's visit to AmericaOthers said the pope seemed to be casting blame on early American colonists without taking responsibility for historical actions taken against American Indians by the Catholic Church and other Christian religious leaders during the so-called New World era.

"In one sense, what the pope said was right on," said Robert Miller, a professor of law at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. "But on the other hand, it totally ignores the history of the church and its historic role in colonization."

"His comments could lead one to believe that the Holy See's historical legacy had nothing to do with the injustices he referred to," said Steven Newcomb, co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute and author of the new book, "Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Those Evil European Invaders.

NIGA celebrates cultures

Celebration of indigenous culture tops NIGA conventionSongs, dances, stories and seemingly endless amounts of gourmet food prepared by Native chefs-in-training were showcased at the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation's Celebration of Native Culture--the kickoff event for the National Indian Gaming Association's 17th annual "Indian Gaming '08" trade show and convention.

The celebration took place April 20 in the Presidential Ballroom of the five-star US Grant Hotel and featured performances from the Choctaw Nation Dancers of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; the Native American Dance Group of the United Tribes Technical College of Bismarck, N.D.; the Samala Singers of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; the Yaw Tei Yi Tlingit dancers from Juneau, Alaska; the Acoma Intercultural Dancers of the Pueblo of Acoma; and the Southern California Intertribal Bird Singers.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming.

April 27, 2008

Indian actress in Broadway hit

Kimberly Guerrero performs in Broadway smash hitGuerrero's friends have to come to see her because she can't leave the city--she's performing in "August: Osage County," a Broadway play written by Tracy Letts that was supposed to end mid-April, but is such a smash hit it's been extended until the end of the year.

Guerrero, Colville/Salish-Kootenai/Cherokee, plays Johnna Monevata, a young Cheyenne woman who is hired by the patriarch of a dysfunctional family--a poet and academic--to cook and care for his drug-addicted cancer victim wife, a spiteful, miserable character who slurs and staggers through the story lashing out at everyone around her.
Some background on Guerrero:A native of Oklahoma and a graduate of the University of California-Los Angeles, Guerrero is an award-winning actress who has appeared in numerous films and television projects including "Hildalgo," "Barn Red," "The Sopranos," "DreamKeeper," "Charmed," "Escanaba in da Moonlight," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Northern Exposure" and "Naturally Native." She appeared on the soap "As the World Turns" and played one of Jerry's girlfriends on the popular "Seinfeld" episode "The Cigar Store Indian."

For the past 14 years, Guerrero has spent her time off the set with her husband, music producer Johnny Guerrero, on reservations or at urban Indian centers working with the Akatubi Film and Music Academy, a nonprofit digital film and music academy that has trained hundreds of underprivileged Native youth in filmmaking and music recording.
Why Indians are sometimes stoic:"When I was in my early 20s, I had an adopted grandfather and I asked him, 'Why is it that some Indians, when they're around people they're not comfortable with, don't look them in the eye?' And he told me, 'When you look a white man in the eye, you're either going to remind him of what he's done and he'll feel guilty, or he'll feel angry, and neither of those two things do you want for your white brother. If he feels guilty, it's bad for him; if he feels angry, it's bad for you,'" Guerrero said.

"This is what my grandfather told me that his grandfather told him. We were here when they came, we're here now, and we'll be here when they go, and that's why we keep our eyes down, unless you've found a person that you can trust and you're not going to make them feel guilty or angry. Then you can engage in a conversation."
Comment:  Wow. Has an Indian actor ever appeared in a legitimate Broadway hit? Not that I know of.

For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Native cooking at the US Grant

Food for ThoughtI overheard someone say, "Have you tried the food? It's out of this world."

Correction: It was out of Indian Country, via the cookbook of Mark Kropczynski, the French-trained executive chef of The US Grant, a downtown hotel owned by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

All the ingredients, Kropczynski explained, came from tribes or Native-owned businesses. For example, the Native wild rice came from the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota, and the buffalo ribeye from Pride of the Little Rockies, a smokehouse on Montana's Fort Belknap Reservation.
Chefs in TrainingFar from home on the Navajo reservation, four culinary arts students made their largest cooking debut for hundreds of hungry strangers at the five-star US Grant hotel.

The beginning students traveled 730 miles from Crownpoint, N.M., to downtown San Diego to share their culinary skills at Sunday's Celebration of Native Culture, which kicked off the National Indian Gaming Association's 17th annual meeting and trade show.

"I've worked for the biggest restaurant in New Mexico, but this is pretty big for me," said Travis Freeland, 23, one of the four students chosen from Navajo Technical College to participate in a "mini internship" during the four-day convention.

Dillinger's Menominee moll

'Enemies' actress learns from Menominees

Cotillard plays role of woman who grew up in NeopitAn Oscar-winning actress who will play John Dillinger's girlfriend in the movie "Public Enemies" has visited the Menominee Indian Reservation to gain insight into her character.

French actress Marion Cotillard will portray Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, who grew up in Neopit. Frechette met Dillinger in a Chicago dance hall in 1933. They traveled together for six months until her arrest in 1934. She spent two years in prison.
People & Events:  Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, 1907-1969Evelyn "Billie" Frechette was born in 1907 to a French father and a Native American mother. She lived on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin until the age of 13. For four years, she attended a boarding school for Native Americans in Flandreau, South Dakota. When she was 18, Frechette moved to Chicago, where she worked as a nursemaid and waitress. Frechette married Welton Sparks, who was sentenced to prison in 1933 for committing a mail robbery.

Frechette later told True Confessions magazine that as result of her husband's incarceration, she had a "blurred attitude toward life." In November 1933, she met John Dillinger at a dance hall.

White Shamans at film fest

Rochester Native American Film Festival

Documentaries address Native issues"An Evening of Short Documentaries" promoted a series of long conversations between local filmmaker Torry Mendoza, Mescalero Apache, and audience members at St. John Fisher College March 28. The event was part of the Rochester Native American Film Festival and featured a screening of five documentaries, including "Plastic Warriors" by Amy Tall Chief, "The Border Crossed Us" by Rachael J. Nez, and "White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men" by Terry Macy and Don Hart.More on "White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men":"White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men" addresses the commercialization of Native traditions in non-Native society. The film was edited to present the interviews in a conversational nature. For example, Natives and non-Natives discussed the idea of receiving a Native name. A non-Native's answer was immediately followed by a Native's answer. Although the two were filmed separately, it looked like they were speaking directly to each other. This method highlighted the differences in beliefs in a humorous manner.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indian Wannabes and "Funny" Indian Names.

NCAI denounces radio jocks

NCAI President Joe Garcia Statement on Recent Insensitive, Racist Remarks by Radio DJs"The National Congress of American Indians condemns the racist and inflammatory remarks made recently about Native people on local radio programs in Raleigh, North Carolina and Anchorage, Alaska. These ignorant and hurtful comments have no place on America's airwaves.

As is the case when comments like these are made, someone will inevitably come to the defense of those who made them asking where our sense of humor has gone. I have yet to hear from an American Indian or Alaska Native who sees humor in these insulting and derogatory remarks. The perpetuation of inaccurate and demeaning stereotypes has profound negative consequences for Native people and simply cannot be tolerated.

Osage Nation Heritage Trail Byway

Byway Dedicated:  U.S. Highway 60 gets ‘scenic’ designationVisitors from across the state descended on northeast Oklahoma yesterday to participate in the unveiling of the state’s newest scenic byway.

The portion of U.S. Highway 60—stretching west from Bartlesville, through Pawhuska, to Ponca City—debuted as the “Osage Nation Heritage Trail Byway” on a sunny Saturday afternoon. All three communities shared in the celebration.

More pix from NIGA

Adam Beach and Ben Nighthorse Campbell head the list of celebrities who appeared at this year's NIGA convention. Check out these pix of the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the trade-show floor.

SLIDESHOW:  Indian Gaming '08 Convention and Trade ShowImages from the April 23, 2008, opening of "Indian Gaming '08," which showcases more than 500 vendors and exhibitors representing all aspects of the gaming and hospitality industries in San Diego.

April 26, 2008

100 Amazing Indian Discoveries

"100 Amazing Indian Discoveries" is an illustrated list of Indian achievements from the Fall 2004 issue of American Indian, the magazine of the National Museum of the American Indian. In turn, the list was adapted from the book American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Invention and Innovations (Facts on File, 2003).

Know How

Over the centuries the Americas' First Nations advanced societies used their ingenuity to make discoveries which vastly improved the quality of our lives.

Abacus
Camouflage
Astronomical observatories
Chewing gum
Books
Geometry
Compulsory education
Dental inlays (tooth fillings)
Toothbrushing
Anatomical knowledge
Antibiotics
Cataract removal
Surgery
Hemostats
Trephination (brain surgery)
Prescriptions
Anesthetics
Syringes
Asepsis
Public health
Quarantine and isolation
Holistic medicine
Sunflowers
Zucchini
Avocados
Pineapples
Vanilla
Blueberries
Cashews
Beans
Popcorn
Herb gardens
Peppers
Corn syrup
Potato chips
Freeze-drying
Instant foods
Peanuts
Maple syrup
Pumpkins
Tomatoes
Blue-green algae
Chocolate
Tobacco
Cotton
Aloe vera
Botanical gardens
Black walnuts
Strawberries
Potatoes
Plumbing
Shampoo
Latex
Deodorants
Sunscreens
Daily bathing
Detergents
Fishhooks
Copper metallurgy
Soldering
Annealing
Colanders
Vulcanization
Mouthwash
Needles
Suspension bridges
Oil wells (petroleum)
Ecology
Cedar shingles and siding
Adobe
Gold plating
Metal foil
Concrete
Asphalt
Soil rotation
Fertilizer
Irrigation
Carpentry techniques
Forest management
Stonemasonery techniques
Straight pins
Parkas
Briquettes
Hammocks
Ponchos
Weaving techniques
Umbrellas
Calendars
Disability rights
Ball games (basketball)
Flotation devices (wetsuits)
Lacrosse
Hockey (shinny)

For some reason there are only 93 items in the purported list of 100. Here are a few more items to round out the list.

Canoes
Kayaks
Toboggans
Snowshoes
Sunglasses
Plant hybridization
Quinine
Coca
Personal freedom
Women's rights
Egalitarian democracy
Written constitution
Federal system of sovereignty

Note:  Although the article's subheading claims these discoveries have improved our lives, only some of them came directly to us from Indians. Others were developed independently in the "Old World" and came to us through Europeans.

For more on the subject, see The Myth of Western Superiority and Multicultural Origins of Civilization.

Below: The pyramid at Chichén Itzá.

Croatians unclear about Indians

VIDEO:  Native Americans Want Independence

We are a minority in our own land, slaves of the white, underestimated and despised, said the greatest native American leader."We are a minority in our own land, slaves of the white, underestimated and despised. They keep us locked in reservations like some sort of animals, they loot our land and children. Nothing has changed in the past 150 years," said the greatest Native American leader from the time of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, Russell Means, who added that America will live again when the European spirit in it dies.

By death of European Spirit, he means that America has to put more attention to the spirit and culture of the natives, who are turned to the human being and its spiritual perfection, and not material like the European spirit promotes.
And:Russell Means is gathering all Native Americans and is trying to give them back that spirit which they had once. And he succeeds. The Lakota, who are about 20 thousand, have unanimously decided to retreat the signature from the truce agreement signed in 1890 in Washington.

"We urge all American Indians to do the same in their reservations, and we invite all those who want to come and live with us. They will be tax freed, we will live with the earth, praise the human spirit, we will get off from the law of the government," said Means, and the Lakota’s project confirms how serious his intentions are.
Comment:  Russell Means the greatest Indian leader since Sitting Bull? The Lakota have agreed unanimously to secede from the US? Uh, no. The first claim is extremely doubtful and the second statement is flatly wrong.

For more on the subject, see The Republic of Lakotah.

Litefoot's Native Green Energy

Litefoot carries green message of hope

Litefoot to visit Rosebud Sioux ReservationWhen Litefoot, a member of the Cherokee Nation, meets with reservation youths, his message will not only address the social issues facing Native American children but introduce them to the promising future of renewable energy, Fast Horse said. The increasing interest in renewable energy is expected to create three million new jobs, he said.

Among his many talents, Litefoot is an entertainer, speaker and a successful businessman. One of his many enterprises is Native Green Energy, which is marketing low-cost wind turbines.

April 25, 2008

San Manuel tackles Darfur crisis

The Stars Come Out to San Manuel Casino to Support Darfur Relief

World Series of Poker(R) Champion Annie Duke and Academy Award Nominee(R) Don Cheadle Host Star Studded Event to Raise Awareness for the Darfur Crisis in AfricaOn Thursday, May 8, professional Poker player Annie Duke and Academy Award nominee(R) Don Cheadle will be onsite at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland. They will be hosting a celebrity Poker tournament and exclusive VIP after party to raise awareness and funds for the Ante Up For Africa project with proceeds going to the Not On Our Watch Project.

(NOOW), which was founded by actors George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, has embarked to focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world. The group has adopted the crisis in Darfur, Africa, as its inaugural campaign. Drawing on the powerful voices of artists, activists and cultural leaders, (NOOW) generates lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for the vulnerable, marginalized and displaced.

"The crisis in Darfur is an issue very close to my heart," said the organization's co-founder, Don Cheadle. "San Manuel understands the severity of this crisis and is helping us use the popularity of Poker to spread the word."

Irene Bedard as Jean DeWolff

You don't see or hear modern-day Indians much on Saturday morning TV. Here's a nice bit of nontraditional casting for Irene Bedard, best known as the voice of Pocahontas.

Jean DeWolffJean DeWolff is a Marvel Comics supporting character of the comic Spider-Man. Having experienced a problematic childhood, she was a tough, unrelenting police captain for the NYPD and Spider-Man's useful ally. She notably preferred a retro style, preferring clothing and cars from the 1930s era.

She was killed by her ex-lover Stan Carter, aka Sin-Eater, in the story arc suitably named "The Death of Jean DeWolff." After she was killed, Spider-Man discovered that she kept a collection of photographs of him and of the two of them together. (One of them originally featuring the Black Cat, had been altered to remove the Cat from the image.) This implied that her feelings towards him were warmer than she generally indicated, leaving Spider-Man somewhat dejected after he searched her apartment.

Jean DeWolff appears in The Spectacular Spider-Man, voiced by Irene Bedard. She is shown to be partnered with Stan Carter.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Skeletal chief in Family Guy

Family Guy is "an American animated television series about a dysfunctional family that lives in the fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island." In a 2001 episode titled "Ready, Willing, and Disabled," Peter participates in a groundbreaking ceremony. He unearths a skeleton wearing a full-length chief's bonnet. The skeleton comes to life and begins chasing everyone.

A Plains Indian-style chief in Rhode Island. Who looks and acts evil because, well, all Indian burial grounds are cursed. Ri-i-ght.

Indians apparently have a stench of malevolent mysticism about them that lasts forever. They're born dark, mysterious, and scary and they continue that way after death.

April 24, 2008

Swastikas = mascots at UND

UND looks into ‘hate incidents’The UND chapter of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority was put on a yearlong probation last week for hosting a party where sorority members and guests dressed in caricatured American Indian clothing and painted their faces and bodies red.

In late March, less than a week after news of the Gamma Phi party first became public, North Dakota State University’s Saddle and Sirloin agriculture club was roundly criticized for a skit they performed at the school’s Mr. NDSU pageant. In that skit, a white student wore blackface and an afro wig, portraying Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, while a female student, dressed as the Web video personality Obama Girl, gave him a lap dance.

More than 20 swastikas and other racist symbols have been found on the campus of St. Cloud (Minn.) State University since mid-November.

In a letter to UND administrators, Weinstein linked the West Hall and Noren Hall swastikas with the Gamma Phi Indian party, suggesting that the UND administration had compromised its moral authority by defending for so long the school’s Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo, viewed by many as a symbol of prejudice.

“This is just the latest of a long series of incidents that makes me ask whether UND is capable of being a positive and moral force for the future,” he said in a statement.
Comment:  Boy, there sure is a lot of racism in North Dakota...!

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

Realizing dreams with Irene

Irene Bedard was at NIGA in San Diego to promote Dream Potential: Inspiration for Native Youth--a nonprofit organization she founded. Her goal is to focus on the positive aspects of Native youth while tackling the problems they face. She plans to do this by several means:

1) Establishing programs at Native schools to mentor and encourage children with role models and celebrities. As Bedard wrote in a handout, "Celebrity impacts native youth and opens [doors] immediately."

2) Holding conferences for the performing and media arts.

3) Shooting documentaries on Native kids and their unique perspectives.

4) Implementing a one-year college prep school that teaches acting, screenwriting, songwriting, camera work, and related fields in the performing and media arts.

At the convention, Bedard was raising awareness and, just as important, money for her endeavor. At her booth, she signed and sold copies of her DVDs and photographs. Anyone interested in helping Dream Potential can contact her at irene.bedard@gmail.com.

P.S. For a picture of Bedard at her booth, look under Day 3 of my Pix of NIGA 2008.

America the primitive tribe

Here's an article from Steven Pressfield, whose "articles on tribalism have been widely circulated throughout the military community." Pressfield is supposedly describing indigenous tribes, but it sounds more like Bush's faith-based administration, Rumsfeld's "see no evil" military, and the torture regimes at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay to me.

The Last Honorable WarIn Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, occupiers of the West are confounded by a state of mind that is utterly alien to their notions of liberality, inclusiveness, progress. The tribesman's mind is ancient. He is a warrior whose code is not law (which may yield change by reason or persuasion) but honor, which is eternal and absolute. The tribesman's code mandates revenge for any affront to pride; his memory is not years but centuries. Dissent is heresy to the tribal way of thinking; compromise is weakness. The tribe is perpetually at war with all other tribes. It reveres the past and is insular, impenetrable, implacably hostile to outsiders. The tribal mind is immune to the charms of "freedom," which it perceives as a threat to piety and to family cohesion, to tradition, lore and all that the tribesman holds dear. The tribesman's resolve is ineradicable. He will hate you till hell freezes.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Dubya-Speak:  Justice Means Killing People, Prison Abuse Shows America's Values, and The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel.

Native agriculture on dollar

Standing Bear won't be on Sacagawea coin in 2009Instead of selecting a specific leader to honor, Mint officials chose to give the first design the theme of Native agriculture, a Mint spokesman said Wednesday.

A description of the design, called a narrative, was presented to a citizen advisory committee that will make recommendations to the Mint.

The narrative, which will guide selection of the eventual design, described the importance of agriculture to Native people and to early colonists.

“From Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, to later methods for sustaining crops, it is widely accepted that colonists would not have survived in the New World without the support and knowledge gained from Native American agricultural techniques,” the narrative reads.

Play comments on globalization

'Oh, that's what I wrote'

Playwright uses satire to address marketing of aboriginal cultureDrew Hayden Taylor describes his play The Berlin Blues as a sheer celebration of the aboriginal sense of humour, with no socially redeeming qualities whatsoever.

The L.A. Times disagrees.

"When the show premiered last year in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times said it's a Native reaction/comment on globalization," said Taylor in a recent interview.

"I read that and thought oh, that's what I wrote."
Comment:  For my review of The Berlin Blues, see Welcome to Ojibway World.

April 23, 2008

Indians MIA at Newseum

Missing in actionDuring a media preview, Indian Country Today found exceptionally few representations of the Native press, especially in comparison to the museum's presentations focused on other minority media in the country.

Among the findings:

* The only examples of Native newspapers in the entire museum are located in pull-out drawers on a museum wall focused on the history of the U.S. and world press. Fewer than five Indian papers out of hundreds of historical U.S. publications are featured on the wall.

* Large displays highlight hundreds of contemporary world and foreign language newspapers, TV and radio shows, and Web sites, but no current tribal or national Native newspapers, Internet news sites, or broadcast endeavors are mentioned.

* No more than nine Native journalists, both historic and contemporary, are featured in displays and electronic exhibits at the museum. Scores of black, Latino and Asian journalists are featured, as are thousands of white journalists.

* Seven of the approximately nine Native journalists featured can only be found in an electronic names database.
Comment:  The author of this article e-mailed me about interviewing me, but didn't follow up.

As always, we should note that Indians make up only about 1% of the US population. We'd need more information before we could say with certainty that the Newseum has excluded Indians. For instance, if a display contains 495 non-Native newspapers and only five Native newspapers, that's arguably a fair representation of Native newspapers. The proportion of Native newspapers (1%) would be roughly equally to the proportion of Natives in the population.

For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.

Why Beach left SVU

If you watch Law & Order: SVU, you can guess why Adam Beach is leaving after one year. You can see that the writers weren't giving him any juicy storylines. That he was competing for screen time with Ice-T and Richard Belzer, the show's longtime supporting characters. That the show was basically wasting his talents.

The scuttlebutt at the NIGA convention in San Diego, where Beach co-hosted the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award dinner, confirmed what you might've guessed. SVU wasn't using Adam sufficiently and that wasn't going to change. So he's moving on to bigger and better (or at least better) things.

Which begs the question of why Dick Wolf hired him in the first place. If you're going to add a movie star to your cast, shouldn't you give him a prominent role. Shouldn't you reduce or eliminate other roles so you can feature your big-name actor?

It's as if Wolf wanted make himself and his network feel good by hiring a Native actor, but didn't want to actually change the show to make a Native character work. Which mirrors his approach in his production of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. "Let's do the right thing by hiring Native actors, then tell the story from a non-Native perspective."

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Native boxing network

Fight for survival

Indian boxers looking for bouts"We want to get Native boxers into Native casinos," Ray Hawk commented, "so they can make a living as well as anybody else."

That's one of the primary goals of Native American Warriors Pro-Boxing Network, a relatively new organization based in Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation.

Lester Thompson Jr., chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, pointed out that NAWPBN is creating economic opportunities for tribal members here and elsewhere and developing a sense of pride for American Indian culture. A number of the fighters are from this reservation in the poorest county in the country, where jobs are scarce and where money earned from boxing can be extremely important. Other boxers are enrolled members of the Ojibwa, Chippewa, Hidatsa, Nez Perce and Mandan nations.
Comment:  Hmm. Should a boxer really be wearing a chief's feather bonnet? Doesn't this diminish or negate the idea that this regalia is sacred or at least special?

Potawatomi references in golf course

Golf club shares history of Potawatomi cultureSometimes the references to Potawatomi narratives or to local history are so subtle that it is uncovered only in the name of the hole or in the yardage books.

Two holes reference the turtle, including the signature island green on the 15th hole. Some holes reference the three-tribe alliance of the Potawatomi, Ottawa and Ojibwe, the Three Fires Council. The 10th tee box features a flame for the Potawatomi role as "Keepers of the Fire." The final hole, named for the seven grandfathers of traditional narrative, has seven bunkers.

Pix of NIGA 2008

Pictures of the 2008 National Indian Gaming Association convention in San Diego. Featuring slot machines, the PECHANGA.net staff, and the next governor of California?

NIGA--Apr. 21, 2008
NIGA--Apr. 22, 2008
NIGA--Apr. 23, 2008

Day 3 at NIGA

Not much of note happened on our third and final day at NIGA in San Diego. We staffed the booth four hours, had a late lunch, and headed home. I heard multitalented athlete Bo Jackson was in the house, but I didn't see him. Hulk Hogan had a booth near ours, but as far as I know, he never showed up.

From Alexie to Romano

Indian Comics Irregular #169:  The State of the Native Arts

April 22, 2008

Day 2 at NIGA

On the way to the convention, Victor Rocha and I ran into Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. Gover's an old friend of Victor's; I think he was at Victor's wedding. I met him several years ago, but he didn't remember me.

I spent most of the day manning the PECHANGA.net booth on the convention floor. My only celebrity sighting during that time was Irene Bedard, who walked by our booth twice. I later learned that she had her own booth just down the aisle, so I stopped by and chatted with her for a minute. (More on that later.)

After the floor closed, we went to a vendor party on a terrace overlooking the harbor. There we saw Attorney General Jerry Brown, the former "Governor Moonbeam." Victor asked Brown if he was running for governor again, and Brown said something positive like, "Well, why not?"

Among the semi-celebrities at the party were actress Kateri Walker and rapper Litefoot along with lots of tribal leaders.

Next we headed for the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award dinner, where we saw Adam Beach. Turns out Beach and Bedard were the co-hosts of the event, reprising their friendship in Smoke Signals. Jerry Brown gave the keynote speech and talked about the need for Native values to help solve our problems.

Chairman Bobby Salgado of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians received the Wendell Chino award. When the formalities were over, Earth, Wind, & Fire entertained the crowd. It was amusing to see such tribal leaders as Richard Milanovich (Agua Caliente), Anthony Pico (Viejas), and Mark Macarro (Pechanga) dancing to the music.

Indians keep protesting Dumas

Protesters keep heat on radio showAbout 30 people showed up at the State Capitol on Monday to say they're not letting up the pressure on G-105 and "Bob and The Showgram" for offensive comments about American Indians.

Speakers called for the firing of the popular morning-radio- show crew and a boycott of the show's advertisers. Attendees held signs saying "Stop Hate Media" and "I am not a stereotype."

The protest drew mostly younger Indians, who disagree with the leadership of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs and the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
Lumbee Tribe Wants G105 Advertisers To Switch StationsLumbee Tribe members and other supporters gathered outside the North Carolina State Capital Monday to protest and send a message to those who advertise with G105.

"We are asking the advertisers to stop funding and bankrolling this bigotry,” Jacobs said.

Some advertisers have already taken action. The UNC Pembroke Campus, located in an area with a Rich Lumbee Indian history, pulled its ads from G105 as did Anderson Homes.

Adam's next moves

Beach leaving Law and Order: SVUOne upcoming project is a movie called Paper Games, to be shot in either Winnipeg or Vancouver this summer, in which he plays a hit man.

Beach is also launching an Internet television talk show on aboriginal issues. The show will be shot with two cameras out of his home.

Also on his to-do list is a movie about Louis Riel. He would like to turn it from a regional story into an international one, "if it’s done right."

April 21, 2008

Off to San Diego

I'll be attending the National Indian Gaming Association's annual convention in San Diego Monday through Wednesday. No doubt I'll be hobnobbing with the stars--e.g., Adam Beach, Hulk Hogan, the Sopranos cast--again. Stay tuned for my NIGA reports and pictures.

Victor Rocha and I are staying at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina next to the convention center. We walked over to pick up our badges and met a few semi-celebrities on the way: comedian Charlie Hill and musician Keith Secola, and Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Charlie Colombe. Victor knows them but I don't, although I've met and interviewed Charlie Hill before. Anyway, I shook hands with them all.

We had dinner at Kemo Sabe, a Thai restaurant combining Asian and Southwestern food. The restaurant's name was ironic considering that Cadillac Jack, a slot-machine manufacturer, was hosting us and a group of Southern California Indians. Also ironic was that the specially printed menu included an appetizer made of "squaw bread." The Cadillac Jack rep said he'd fix the menu by tomorrow.

Adam Beach and his Seminole girlfriend Summer Tiger, who's three months pregnant, joined us for dinner. Afterward we gave Adam and Summer a ride to their hotel. We'll probably see more of them tomorrow.

Racist article of the year

'Most racist' article attacked Native peoples in ParaguayThe Most Racist Article of the Year Award for 2007, given by the human rights organization Survival International, goes to a Paraguayan newspaper that published an editorial describing Native people as "a cancer" and as having "filthy habits." Indigenous advocates also point to economic aspects and severe oppression as being parts of the reason for the media attack.

SI's award is a new feature of its "Stamp it Out" campaign, which aims to challenge racist depictions of tribal people in the world's media. The winner, La Nacion of Asuncion, received a certificate March 21, inscribed with a quotation from Lakota Sioux author Luther Standing Bear: "All the years of calling the Indian a savage has never made him one."
The details:The targets of the article's vitriol are mainly Ava Guarani people who ended up living in a public park in the capital city of Asuncion for nine months, between January and September of last year. According to activists and attorneys involved in the issue, this group of families and others were supposed to be able to move into territory purchased for them--after their ancestors were forced off much of the same land--but problems have arisen in finishing the purchase arrangement.

These details did not appear in the editorial, titled "Indians in Uruguay Square," published in La Nacion Sept. 13, 2007.

"A Neolithic Indian camp right in the city center is unthinkable, but there it is, like a dangerous cancer, spreading bad smells, destruction and contamination," wrote Osvaldo Dominguez Dibb, author of the editorial and owner of La Nacion and the new Crowne Plaza Hotel in Asuncion. "The city's being punished for no reason, and it shouldn't have to pay for it. The Indians have to learn to live like people, or get back to the jungle."

Simultaneously racist and sexist

The contretemps over the Woody and Wilcox show continues. An op/ed puts the DJ's comments in context, showing how it's part of a long history of marginalizing Native people.

Someone explain the humor in brutalizing Native womenOn April 9, one of the radio personalities on the "Woody and Wilcox" show on KBFX 100.5-FM, made brutally offensive racial remarks on the morning show. The two were bantering about what it means to be a real Alaskan. One asked the question "Have you ever made love to the Yukon River or peed in a Native woman?"

How often have you heard a sentence that is simultaneously that racist and that sexist? This was hate speech, amusing and encouraging to bigots. Some listeners were shocked; but many Natives, while sickened, thought it was all too typical of Alaska's race relations. Thankfully, we live in a country that does not put people in jail for what they say; but it is also true that we do not have to tolerate vulgar race-baiting over the public airways, which belong to all of us.
Why it matters:Amnesty International has noted "sexual violence against indigenous women is the result of a number of factors, including a history of widespread and egregious human rights violations against indigenous peoples in the United States. ... Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers in many infamous episodes ... Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization."

Alaska ranks No. 3 among all 50 states in terms of racial and sexual violence against Native American women; and now we can understand one part of why the numbers are so bad here. It's because many Alaskans actually like this kind of "humor" because it mirrors their own private feelings about an entire racial group--and about women in general. The Klan has its n-word; neo-Nazi groups tell Auschwitz jokes; and here in Alaska, Woody and Wilcox think that brutalizing Native women is funny.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

Indians as energy barons

Why tribes may be key players in eco-energy

Native Green Energy sees vast potential in installing wind turbines on Indian reservations.An effort to transform American Indian tribes into the world's new energy barons is being nurtured at a company founded by a Puget Sound region Indian.

Native Green Energy, formed in October, is building wind turbines and delivering them to Indian tribes that will use the energy to power their own reservations and will sell energy to nearby cities and other governments.

"This is a great source of economic development, and it increases our sovereignty as tribal nations," said Gary Davis, a Seattle-based Cherokee Indian and co-founder of Native Green Energy.

Native fashions and models

Native American fashion show a hit from get-goFashion designer Dorothy Grant's scarves, jewelry, leather handbags and clothing designs ranged from casual to elegant-evening, and from conservative to flamboyantly and many were sold on the spot.

Some of her designs were subtly embellished with art that reflected her Native American art heritage, as well as experiences in Alaska and Canada.

The lovely, local Native American models looked terrific in Grant's designs, strutting the catwalk with smiles and curves instead of frowns and angles. They were Millie Browne, Diana Richards, Ashley Prieto, Cierra Teel, Kelly Teel Berry, Rita Harvey and Summer Alexander, joined by William Beyal, the only "rooster in the hen house."

One year and out for Beach

Adam Beach leaving 'Law & Order: SVU'Adam Beach is departing NBC's crime drama "Law & Order: SVU" at the end of the season.

Beach joined Dick Wolf's crime drama last fall under a one-year deal, which had an option for a second. The two sides have decided not to exercise the option.
Comment:  For more on Adam Beach, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

April 20, 2008

Luuna coming to America

A fixture in Belgian comic books is coming to America: Luuna, a Native American "princess" who looks like a sex object.

Tokyopop Debuts Line of Color Graphic NovelsNext year, American manga publisher Tokyopop will launch Tokyopop Graphic Novels, a line of full-color books featuring manga-influenced art and stories by artists from all over the world. Books published under the Tokyopop Graphic Novels imprint will be formated in a larger, 7x10 trimsize with full color illustration. The books will average about 120 pages and cost between $12.99-14.99. The manga house plans to release about a dozen of these graphic novels into the market starting in February of 2009 with the program growing gradually over the years.

Luuna, a book previously published in France by Soleil, is a coming of age story about a Native American princess who is learning how to deal with an ancient curse and her position in her tribe. The first of three volumes also comes out in March 2009.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

What are kids learning?

Sanfacon:  Indian mascots perpetuate national disgraceWhat are today's students learning about U.S. history and what are they learning about real, living American Indian people? Do today's students believe that American Indians receive a free college education from the government? That all Indians are well compensated by casino revenue? That American Indians don't pay taxes? Is the only thing they are being taught about American Indians is it is OK to stereotype them as sports mascots?

"Professional teams like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins do it. Why can't we?" This is an extremely narrow view of what has long been a national disgrace. We are teaching America's children nothing substantive about American Indians. But who is to blame?

April 19, 2008

Ozians just like Indians

In A Barnstormer in Oz, Philip José Farmer gives us a "realistic" Oz tale in which America's military is poised to invade Baum's magic kingdom. Here's how one Amazon.com reviewer describes it:
The Not-so-wonderful Land of Oz, July 10, 2000
By Dave Deubler (Pennsylvania)

This book's subtitle unabashedly proclaims it to be "A Rationalization And Extrapolation Of The Split-Level Continuum", a bit of obfuscation which prepares us for this attempt to bring logical scientific analysis to the astounding world of Frank L. Baum's beloved Oz books. Whether such a thing should actually have been attempted is clearly a matter of taste, but it seems likely that fans of the Baum books who also enjoy science fiction will find this novel an amusing blend of wild fantasy and desperate rationalization. The hero is Hank Stover, a World War I veteran flier and barnstormer (and coincidentally, son of the legendary Dorothy), who flies his Jenny (a Curtiss JN-4H biplane) into a mysterious emerald haze and comes out in the wonderland described by his mother many years before.
What's interesting is how Farmer identifies America's invasion of Oz with Europe's invasion of America. Here's Glinda the Good Witch discussing the problem with Hank:She paused, looking as if she were contemplating the past. Then she said, “It was very fortunate that neither you nor your mother were carrying any diseases when you came here. But I know that these foulnesses sicken and kill many of you. And if these are brought in, well...”

She grimaced as if she were seeing visions of hell.

“My people would be defenseless. They would be swept away by the thousands, perhaps all or almost all would die. Be honest, wouldn't that happen?”

Hank thought of the American Indians who had died from the diseases contracted from the whites. He thought of the Polynesians who had been struck down by tuberculosis, smallpox, scarlet fever, and syphilis when the whites came.

“I don't think they'd be wiped out. Your Witchness,” he said. “But the results might be horrible. Devastating.”
But that isn't the only problem the Ozians face. As Glinda explains:“There is more than disease to it. Even if there were none, you people would destroy our society. You'd bring in your religions, your customs, your institutions. You'd change us for the worse.

“And we have so much gold and silver, so many precious stones. Your greed would ravish the land. But, in order to make your piracy lawful, to make the robbery accord with your images of yourself as honest and lawful and God-fearing, you'd find a pretext for declaring war on us. You'd send in your armies and conquer us. Then you'd start the rape.”
Comment:  Yes, if Oz were real and America could invade it, I bet that's what would happen.

As for the rest of the book, it's full of interesting ideas--some better than others--but the execution is only average. Rob's rating: 7.0 of 10.

For more on the subject, see The Indian-Oz Connection.

The scoop on TRICKSTER

TRICKSTER is a graphic novel-style anthology of Native trickster tales created primarily by Native writers and artists. In an exclusive Q&A interview conducted by e-mail, writer/artist Matt Dembicki and publisher Christian Beranek give us the inside story on their project.

Let's start with a brief description: What is TRICKSTER?

MD:  Trickster is a comics anthology, comprising more than 20 Native American trickster stories. Each story is written by a Native American storyteller and illustrated by a comics artist of the writers' choosing. The stories cover a range of trickster types—from the more well-know creatures, such as the rabbit and coyote, to less-known characters, such as raccoons and personified spirits such as Moshup—as well as types of American Indian tribes and geographic area.

What's your motivation for doing TRICKSTER? What objectives do you hope to achieve?

MD:  The premise is to compile some wonderful Native American stories into one book so the general public can appreciate stories unknown to many of them and to renew a general understanding and appreciation of the Native American culture.

For the rest of the interview, go to Q&A on TRICKSTER. See also this Trickster sneak peek.

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

Long runs and walks

76-year-old Sioux man to run Boston Marathon"We really pushed it," said Dan Eastman, who, with his wife, was able to secure a last-minute bib number with the Hopkinton Athletic Association. Like other association runners, the money Emmett Eastman has raised will go to charity.

"That's what Emmett is all about," Joan Quinn Eastman said.

He will also be running in memory of his friend Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, who died from leukemia complications in December. Westerman, a Dakota musician and activist, also played the character Ten Bears in the movie "Dances with Wolves."

When the race is over, the 76-year-old will rejoin the Longest Walk II, a group that is crossing America on foot asking that sacred American Indian sites be protected.

It is Emmett Eastman's fourth transcontinental journey, having participated in one before the 1996 Olympics to promote American Indian health and culture, one to draw attention to national conservation efforts, and one to have the Olympic medals of American Indian Jim Thorpe reinstated after he was stripped of his amateur status years earlier.

April 18, 2008

Tired of racism deniers

Kate Harding analyzes the Vogue cover featuring LeBron James as King Kong and makes some important points about racism. Anyone who participates in Indian mascot debates has heard these arguments before.

Racism FatigueSome people, though, are still not only not getting it, but insisting that those of us who do get it are hypersensitive, overreacting, “looking for racism everywhere,” etc.–the usual, in other words. For the most part, I can just roll my eyes at that, because it’s all so familiar. Anything short of someone saying on national TV, “If you see a black man, you should shoot him in the face, and let me be perfectly clear that I mean you should shoot him in the face because he is black,” might not be racism after all, because some white people can’t see it. And if not all white people can see it, then the benefit of the doubt should automatically go to whomever made the racist statement/took the racist action/produced the racist image, not to the people identifying it as racist–because there is NOTHING WORSE IN THE WORLD than being a white person unfairly accused of racism! You lucky people of color have NO IDEA how horrible that is!Why it's important to tackle subtle problems such as an "inoffensive" mascot or magazine title:
It’s all important, from the most subtle instances to the most blatant and institutionalized.

And it can be especially important to talk about the subtle things, because that’s where privilege reveals itself most clearly. Any white person who’s neither an idiot nor an asshole can see and deplore the racism in, say, this image. But we can’t all see it in the Vogue cover. So when we start talking about the Vogue cover as part of a long tradition of racist imagery that casts African-American men as aggressive apes, we get a much more useful conversation going. Instead of just a bunch of white liberals saying, “That’s horrible!” and a bunch of white supremacists saying, “No, it’s right on!” we get to see all the grey areas of privilege brought out in the open: those of us who try to be anti-racist and educate ourselves accordingly but still missed the racism there until it was pointed out to us; those of us who sorta see it once it’s pointed out but still think people are making a mountain out of a molehill; and most importantly, those of us who missed it in the first place and, on the basis of that, continue to insist it is not there.
Comment:  For more on racism and white privilege, see Systemic, Not Aberrant.

Casinos promote culture

Indian tribes change the script with Arizona resorts

Communities showcase their heritage through story-telling, art, craftsIt's tough to grow up as the perpetual bad guy. From kids' games to cowboy movies, the Indians have always been portrayed as the villains.

However, two tribes in the Phoenix/Scottsdale region have changed the script, successfully showcasing their heritage at two first-class resorts.
What the Gila River Indian Community offers at Wild Horse:Wild Horse is home to all the amenities that you would expect from an upscale destination. It boasts two golf courses (the Cattail course hosted the Nationwide Tour from 2003 to 2005), four riverside pools plus a 35-metre waterfall, a spa, tennis courts, conference centre, equestrian centre and a half dozen restaurants including Kai, a AAA Five Diamond dining room. Right around the corner from the resort is a casino run by the tribe. (The resort made headlines this winter when the New York Giants made Wild Pass their home away from home during Super Bowl week.)

What makes the place unique, though, is the Indian ownership and influence. Members of the tribe greet visitors at Wild Pass's front entrance, the public spaces and rooms are decorated with the works of dozens of Indian artists, ingredients used at the Wild Horse restaurants come from nearby fields farmed by the tribe and treatments at the spa are based on tribal remedies. At night, during the winter, a tribe member gathers visitors around a roaring fire and tells stories based on Indian history. Tribal members fill the management trainee positions.
Comment:  For more on the benefits of casinos, see The Facts About Indian Gaming--Benefits.

Pope mentions Natives

'Americans . . . a people of hope'Here are excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's homily Thursday at Nationals Park:

Americans have always been a people of hope: Your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity. . . . To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character.
Indians respond:National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Joe A. Garcia welcomed the comments and recognition from the Holy Father. "This is an historic moment for Indian Country," said Garcia. "I commend Pope Benedict XVI for making this bold, and very true, statement with the world watching. Native people have suffered greatly since the arrival of European settlers as they were displaced and then later subjected to U.S. government policies of termination and assimilation."Comment:  As brief as these remarks were, they're better than the pope's previous utterances on Natives. See Pope Insults Indians and Another Insult from the Pope for more information.

Why Gorby spoke

What was Gorby doing at Hard Rock?In a pre-speech news conference chronicled by my colleague David Fleshler, Gorbachev had kind things to say about the Castro brothers and Cuba’s communist revolution and unkind things to say about the United States’ hard-line position and ongoing embargoes with the island.

This isn’t what you usually hear from visiting dignitaries in South Florida. Talk like that around Miami 15 or 20 years ago would have triggered demonstrations and boycotts.

As change continues to unfold in Cuba, with Raul taking power, it’s logical that U.S. businesses position themselves for the future. Especially if a Democrat who’s willing to ease the embargoes is elected president.

Maybe the Seminoles envision the day when Havana once again becomes a tourist destination with casinos. And maybe Gorbachev can be an envoy who helps them get an inside track in expanding there.

Walrus stomachs and porcupine quills

Native Anew

Contemporary Indian works get the spotlight in an enormous show at the Tucson Museum of Art"Guarded Secrets," 2005, is a collection of tubular stomach parts, bristling with sharp quills. Shaded in delicate ambers and coppers, with sharp black tips topping the white quills, it's piled on a pedestal in Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, the enormous show of contemporary Northwest and Pacific Indian works at the Tucson Museum of Art.

The piece embodies numerous influences all at once. An Arizonan might be inclined to see it as an assemblage of prickly cactus parts, alluding to the artist's years in the desert, and serving, maybe, as a metaphor of psychic alienation. A Native Alaskan might meditate on the place of the walrus and the porcupine in traditional life. And an urban hipster will relish the artist's daring to declare these animal parts to be art.

Baby Jesus in cleats

Low-key hero

Dedication, work ethic key to Ellbury's successThe New York Times had no problem calling Jacoby Ellsbury, then a mid-season recruit, the future of the Boston Red Sox.

Just this week, the Boston Globe practically pleaded with management to put him on the field full time.

In a recent issue, Men's Vogue called the first Navajo to play Major League Baseball, "Baby Jesus in cleats."

And through it all, Ellsbury, the 24-year-old outfielder born to a Navajo woman and her bilagaana husband, doesn't do what you would expect. He does not cheer on his own greatness in confident enthusiasm, nor does he dismiss the claims with exaggerated modesty.

Medicine man saved thrash band

Native-American healing and a Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist rejuvenate metal thrashers Testament"I believe 100 percent that [Native American medicine] cured me," says Billy, who was moved to rediscover his roots. "That's what got me through. It was definitely a very spiritual, enlightening time of my life."

The sickness helped heal his band. Friends held a benefit concert to offset a mountain of medical bills. Souza and Skolnick rejoined their old bandmates, performing as Legacy. Billy performed a song at the end, and the vibes were good. Skolnick rejoined in 2001, to rerecord classic songs with modern production on the First Strike Still Deadly album. A European promoter lured the remaining Legacy-era players back into the fold for one show in 2005, which turned into a tour. Momentum carried into talks of a new record.

April 17, 2008

New Indian beer

Shades of Crazy Horse Malt Liquor! Someone hasn't gotten the message that it's not politically correct to use Indians to sell beer.

Koff Beer INDIANKoff Beer commercial featuring 3 Native American Indians to introduce new beer.

Comment:  This ad uses what appear to be Indians in Plains clothing. The main actor looks like David Midthunder, who was the only good Indian in Comanche Moon. I'm guessing the Indians are speaking Lakota or another Native language.

Other than the whole concept of naming a beer after Indians and using Indians to sell it, this ad is relatively innocuous. But that's a big "other than."

More on Koff Indian beer:

Koff IndianKOFF Indian Beer has joined the KOFF tribe. It is a barley beer with cornstarch syrup added during the brewing process. A balanced, aromatic and full-bodied lager that is at its best in good company and sociable surroundings.KOFF Wild IndianOk, this is the latest idea from Sinebrychoff (owned by Carlsberg): "Let’s take an old beer brand from the 1990’s and promote it as easy to drink festival beer." "Wild Indian" was the first corn beer in Finland 15 years ago (this one is propably with different recipe). Maize beer doesn’t sound very good marketing idea in Finland, where Bud has had quite bad reputation in the 2000’s. It pours golden with lots of CO2 and has small white head which fades away. Corn is evident in the nose as well some papery and skunky notes. Soft malty, a bit sweetish flavor. Propably corn softens this beer, although it is more on malty side. Light palate of course. Sweetish malty aftertaste. Clean and harmless summer drink.Comment:  Now we're getting into problem territory. Calling it "Wild Indian" and putting a chief on the label is stereotypical. Implying that Koff will make you as "wild" (and drunk) as an Indian is arguably offensive.

For related arguments, see Beer Company Suggests Atlanteans Built Wisc. Mounds and Paris Strip Club with Nude Dancers Named After Crazy Horse.

Obama responds, Clinton doesn't

Opinion:  By now candidates should be clear on Native issuesWhen I started making calls to Obama campaign organizers about his Native policy agenda, I was quickly invited to interview attorney Keith Harper, a Native policy adviser who has been with the Obama camp for the past 14 months of the 15-month-old campaign.

Campaign organizers also arranged for an interview with Obama’s chief of staff, Pete Rouse.

Finally, an interview was scheduled with Obama himself when he spoke in Missoula.

But when I contacted Clinton organizers about her Native policy platform, the reaction was slow.

I asked if she had a senior policy adviser. I was told yes--but no name was offered.

It seemed a great secret. I asked several people, including some of Clinton’s staunchest Native allies in Montana. No one knew if she had a Native policy adviser.

Finally, a spokesman told me to expect a call from Arlan Melendez, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Nevada. The call arrived two hours before my deadline.

Indians play Sasquatch prank

Hays comes alive with Bigfoot rumorsSeveral people had spotted strange, very large prints in the snow and dirt—some marred with blood and hair—around the powwow grounds where Fort Belknap tribal members hold dances every summer.

Armed with only a camera, Horseman and two friends last month bravely headed into Mission Canyon, a mile south of Hays.

What they found surprised even the grizzled investigator. On the south end of the canyon park, some 25 prints were spotted in a 75-yard stretch. The prints looked like giant handprints, with fingers a good 4 inches longer than Horseman's.
The mystery solved:Pressured by the Tribune's staff of investigative reporters, Anthony Shambo spilled that the trickster was his brother, Reno Shambo, who intended to simply pull a prank on his young son.

"He brought it up to me two weeks before it happened," Shambo said Wednesday. "I kind of laughed at him and said nobody's going to believe that."

Reno Shambo, a coyote hunter, had cut the large prints out of 2-by-4s and strapped them to his feet.