July 31, 2008

2008 script winners named

Creative Spirit Winners 2008It's official. The winners for the 3rd Annual Creative Spirit short script competition were announced this past weekend at the Southern California Indian Center's (SCIC) 40th Annual Pow Wow held at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The two winning writers, whose screenplays will be produced in late September, are Cody E. Harjo (Seminole) from Brooklyn, NY, and DeLanna Studi (Cherokee) from Venice, CA.

Earlier this year, Creative Spirit put out a nationwide call to Native American screenwriters for scripts falling into one of two categories--green and grindhouse. The green category was designated for stories dealing with environmental themes, while "grindhouse" referred to stories reflecting the rebellious spirit of low-budget genre films of the 60s and 70s.

Entries were received from all over the United States and were evaluated by a judging panel comprised of SCIC's InterTribal Entertainment, members of the Native film community and film industry professionals, including Emmy-winning director Arthur Allan Seidelman, Academy-award winning documentary filmmaker Victoria Mudd, screenwriter Travis Wright, producer Roberta Pacino, American Indians in Film and Television founder Sonny Skyhawk, producer Brian Wescott and journalist/critic Robert Schmidt. Each entry was reviewed by at least three judges and judging was blind (the title page identifying the writer was removed from each script).

Harjo won the green category for her script titled "The Migration," which is set in the future on an almost uninhabitable earth and tells the story of a brother and sister who are forced to flee for their lives carrying a small bag of seeds that will grow a new world. Studi won the grindhouse category for her script, "Doe Woman," which is a contemporary spin on a traditional Native American story and follows the journey of Laney Brewster, who works in a tribal office by day, but at night she emerges as Doe Woman to issue her own form of vigilante justice, writing wrongs and protecting all Indian kind.

The scripts are set to go before cameras on September 28 for three days of shooting, followed by three days of editing, with the world premiere scheduled for October 4, 2008. Creative Spirit is an employment and training initiative of SCIC and InterTribal Entertainment, which aims to provide more opportunities for Native American talent in the film industry. The four previously produced Creative Spirit films are currently on the film festival circuit and have been screened nationwide.

"The Creative Spirit program is continuing to grow," says ITE director James Lujan," and the main reason it's growing is because of the talent that's out there in the American Indian community. The overall quality of the scripts we received was very high."

This year's first runner up was Migizi Pensoneau for "Liminality." Honorable mentions went to Roberto A. Jackson for "Unrest," Tim Garcia for "Mr. Pearson's Crow," Nigel R. Long Soldier for "The Coming of Man," and Yvonne Fisher for "Checking Out."
Comment:  For the second year in a row, I'm glad to say the two winning scripts were among the eight I read. I don't know if that's a coincidence, I'm a persuasive judge/critic, or Lujan is intentionally sending me the most promising scripts.

Also for the second year in a row, I voted yes to one of the winners ("The Migration") and no to the other ("Doe Woman"). I also read and voted no to "Liminality," the first runner-up, and "The Coming of Man," an honorable mention.

Lujan and I discussed my votes via e-mail. I agreed with him that "Doe Woman" and "Liminality" were flawed but had a lot of potential. Perhaps the biggest problem facing Doe Woman is how she'll wear stiletto-heeled boots over her little doe's hooves.

With Lujan's and my critiques and a good rewrite, these scripts could work. We'll see how they turn out.

For more on the subject, see Creative Spirit Film Competition.

Variety reviews Ishi play

Ishi: The Last of the YahiA playwright well before he became the artistic director of Theater Rhino, the nation's longest-running gay theater, John Fisher has long demonstrated a keen interest in historical and military subjects that's atypical for gay venues. "Ishi: The Last of the Yahi" preems here sans any gay content or interpretation. This tale of California's purported "last wild Indian," who spent his final decades as virtual museum exhibit, offers absorbing, imaginative analysis of thorny ethical issues. The only major flaw is a hefty length that dissipates interest after the strong first act.Michael Vega as Ishi:Though Ishi was already past 50 when he surrendered, Fisher has him played by the strapping young Michael Vega, who like several others here has to participate in some notably vigorous flashback chase/fight scenes that take place all over (even just outside) the Rhino mainstage house.Summing it up:Fluidly staged more or less in the round by Fisher himself, with platforms displacing two usual audience berths and no formal set, the show moves briskly through tactically and tonally diverse terrain.

But it grows less compelling after intermission, as equal emphasis on the Kroebers' domestic strife--while interesting in itself--detracts from the focus on Ishi. Some overly obvious final speechifying drawing contemporary parallels could be modified and a few uninspired song interludes excised.
Comment:  Everything else may be perfect, but making Ishi young and bare-chested is stereotypical. It leads to the "vigorous flashback chase/fight scenes" noted in the article and the accompanying image. So Ishi comes across as a wild savage who battled the white man rather than a thoughtful fellow who accepted his fate in a calm, civilized manner. The movie of Ishi's life apparently got it a lot more right than Fisher's play did.

For more on the subject, see Ishi, The Last of His Tribe and Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Australian "Indian" whoops it up

Cold Coast siege man dressed as American IndianA GOLD Coast man who allegedly threatened to shoot neighbours with a nail gun was dressed as an American Indian--complete with war paint--during a siege.

Police allege the man, who had held them at bay for almost 24 hours, was wearing an Indian head dress and war paint when he surrendered today, and was shouting war-cries prior to his arrest.
Comment:  What can we conclude from this incident?

1) Indians are universal symbols of protest--mainly against government authority. Examples range from the Boston Tea Party to Palestinians Dress Like Faux Indians to Protest Israeli Oppression.

2) Indians are universal symbols of violence. People who dress as Indians usually do something aggressive: dumping tea, chucking spears, waving tomahawks, or threatening neighbors with a nail gun. They accompany their actions with war paint and war cries. The Palestinian protest above was a rare exception.

(Side note:  Nail guns don't kill people. Indians with nail guns kill people.)

3) Plains chiefs are the universal symbols of Indians. Few protesters dress as a Cahuilla or Ute or Shawnee or Wampanoag Indian. If you want to get your message across, use the stereotype of the powerful chief from the past. Show the world that you too can be a legendary figure that no longer exists.

So the entire world is aware of the stereotypical Indian portrayed in countless movies, sports logos, and product labels. Yet Kenn and Ken think eliminating mascots, which this man mimicked, is a problem? Yeah, it would be so tragic if Australians couldn't dress up like Chief Illiniwek or Chief Wahoo for their angry protests. They might have to crack open a book to find out what real Indians look like.

For more on the subject, see The Political Uses of Stereotyping.

Below:  Palestinians emulate Indians by dressing up as party clowns.

Foreigners have Native affinity

Native culture attracts visitors from abroad"Some days you hardly hear any English at the village," said Mary Jane Ferguson, director of marketing and promotion for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. "We clearly know--and research has told us--that international visitors have a real affinity for Native American culture."

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that while high gas prices and a slowing economy are crimping travel plans for many Americans, more overseas visitors seem to be taking advantage of a weak dollar to visit Western North Carolina, ancestral home to the Cherokee.

In 2007, North Carolina drew about 358,000 foreign travelers, ranking 15th among all states, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"The Germans in particular love that authentic American Indian culture," said Wit Tuttell, a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. German passengers flying into Charlotte-Douglas International Airport increased 51 percent in 2007 over the previous year.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see the Karl May discussion in Adolf Hitler:  A True American.

Obama:  US should offer deeds

Obama notes ‘tragic’ US past

American history's "sad" aspects require action, the senator tells cheering journalistsThe Hawaii-born senator, who has told local reporters that he supports the federal recognition bill for native Hawaiians drafted by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, noted other ethnic groups but did not mention native Hawaiians when answering a question about his thoughts on a formal U.S. apology to American Indians.

"I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged," the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."
Comment:  While Obama has noted America's tragic past, John McCain has noted Obama is an uppity black man who should remember his place.

Miss Navajo takes the lead

Miss Navajo to host leadership conferenceAs Miss Navajo Nation 2007-2008 Jonathea Tso nears the end of her reign, she is looking to complete several projects. This weekend she will be hosting the Second annual Miss Navajo Nation Youth Leadership Conference Aug. 2 at Diné College in Tsaile.

“With anything that Miss Navajo does, you have the option of carrying it on or you can just say, ‘I can’t do it.’ But I’ve seen a lot of conferences, and one of the things I wish I could see in those conferences is more of the Navajo teachings and philosophies of life,” she said.

“If we know our language, if we know our ways of life, if we know what spiritual protection is, it helps our children when they leave the Navajo Nation,” Tso said. “If they knew their history, if they know their creation stories, if they know their language, it’s also going to be protection for us as Navajo people.”

Best Indian golf course

Circling Raven Named Top Tribal Casino Course in U.S.Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho, has been named the nation's best Indian casino golf course in the nation by Native American Casino Magazine. This is the second consecutive time Circling Raven has garnered the top spot in a list published by the national industry publication.

Being named No. 1 in this category is high praise for Circling Raven considering the other acclaimed resort courses against which it was compared. These include including Barona Creek (Lakeside, Calif.), Turning Stone (Verona, N.Y.) and Dancing Rabbit (Philadelphia, Miss.).
Comment:  I once wrote an article on casino golf courses that included Barona. The Barona tribe is certainly a leader in developing ecologically sound golf course.

July 30, 2008

Review of Say magazine

At the annual convention of the National Indian Gaming Associaion (NIGA) in April, I picked up a copy of Say magazine. It's published by Leslie Lounsbury out of Reno, Nevada, and is presumably Native-owned and -operated. Its goal is to "celebrate the successes of our Native American people."

The issue I got was the Fall 2007 issue, the second issue published. Here's what I thought.

The layouts and graphics were very nice. They're on a par with what you might see in any fashion magazine or other trendy publication. No problem there.

The articles are mostly lite profiles or Q&As--the type you might see on a half-page of People or Entertainment Weekly or Cosmopolitan. You pretty much forget them the moment you finish reading them.

The subjects are the usual suspects profiled in Native publications:

Adam Beach
Douglas Miles
Notah Begay III
The Baker twins
Charlie Hill
Tom Bee
Keith Secola

The only names a regular reader of Native news might not recognize are:

Eli Secody (musician)
Ross Anderson (skier)
Hank Cheyne (actor)

I expect an upcoming issue to feature Chris Eyre, Irene Bedard, Joba Chamberlain, Wes Studi, Joanne Shenandoah, Jacoby Ellsbury, Robert Mirabal, Drew Lacapa, and Brulé--i.e., more Native actors, singers, performers, and athletes. More of the people who already get their fair share of publicity.

I don't expect upcoming issues to feature Native teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, plumbers, cosmeticians, or dog-walkers. Why not? Because their successes aren't as interesting or inspiring.

Uplifting words of wisdom

Say is the kind of magazine where everyone has a life-affirming philosophy to share:

  • "Be the best you can be." (Adam Beach)

  • "Become a little bit better every day and strive for your potential." (Notah Begay III)

  • "Carry your heritage with a rightful pride and dignity." (Ross Anderson)

  • "Motivate and just improve yourself to be better for yourself." (Eli Secody)

  • "Follow your heart and leave a wake of peace behind you." (Hank Cheyne)

  • "Do more, feel better, live longer." (GlaxoSmithKline)

  • "Be all you can be." (US Army)

  • "Supremecy, Racism, Sexism...who gives a fuck?" (Sheena Wassegijig)

  • (Oops, the last three mottos weren't in Say magazine, although Ms. Wassegijig uttered hers here. My bad.)

    A few articles taken from websites round out the issue. I'd be curious to know if Lounsbury got permission to use the texts. I hope she did, but I fear she didn't.

    Summing it up:  If you were in a doctor's office, you'd probably read Say magazine. If you were browsing a newsstand, you probably wouldn't pay $4.95 for it. You definitely wouldn't subscribe to it at the exorbitant rate of $87.95 for 12 issues.

    P.S. The logo is a bit stereotypical too. It wouldn't have been my first choice. But never mind.

    Wassegijig and Yeagley discuss Redskin

    I was mostly kidding when I said a Redskin magazine writer sounded like anti-Indian ideologue David Yeagley. But now I've found evidence that they're more alike than I thought.

    In a blog-based exchange, writer Sheena Wassegijig seeks the support of Yeagley the Indian apple and Yeagley seems to provide it. As a bonus, we get Yeagley's first known mention of me.

    Wassegijig:Honestly, does any of this "hate" or lack of understanding matter? especially when it comes to basic acceptance of creativity and new endeavors...why can't people just be supportive? But no, I guess thats not the world we live in. Something new, something to fear, knock 'em of that pedestal so someone else can claw their way up. That's just the way it goes, and when is that going to end.

    Supremecy, Racism, Sexism...who gives a fuck? its old news! its been done...lets move on people...RED, WHITE, BLACK, YELLOW...and even PURPLE...(Yes, I do laugh and mock everything, because it doesnt effect me directly unless I give a damn- even though people have been fighting for it for so long...its been too long, so I no longer give a shit...I just LIVE MY LIFE)

    So thank you for mentioning me in your blog and recognizing the message I was getting across to Rob Shmidt.
    Yeagley:This is great! I'm so happy you wrote. We all have mixed feelings about any great move forward. Great moves always involved great risks.

    So, look for something under the forums. I'd love it if you joined us. I've been lied about more than I can assess. But, again, great moves forward always call up great resistance. Rob Schmidt is not exactly dishonest, just biased--with all the bias of Lefty whites who want to tell Indians how to think and feel--to suit white liberal views, etc.

    Thanks again for chiming in.
    To be fair, Yeagley doesn't like what he perceives as the "porno" aspects of Redskin magazine. He wonders if the "skin" in Redskin refers to nudity. But he has nothing to say about the stereotyping of Natives--perhaps because he likes being thought of as an ignorant subhuman (i.e., a savage).

    It goes without saying that Yeagley's opinion of me is asinine. As one example, I'm not the one who determined that Indian mascots are stereotypical. Indians are. They've been fighting this battle since I was in grade school, if not before.

    Meanwhile, Wassegijig claims she's just living her life and doesn't care what I think. Is that why she contacted Yeagley to get his support? And why she's written a pseudo-defense of her attitude to Yeagley and several pseudo-defenses to me? These don't seem like the actions of someone who doesn't care.

    Are Wassegijig and Yeagley two peas in a pod? Who both think racism and stereotyping don't exist and efforts to fight them are unnecessary? Who proudly embrace stereotypes such as "redskin" and "savage"? You be the judge.

    Below:  Yeagley...a redskin or a paleface?

    "You guys actually exist still?"

    Jamesburg Intertribal organization looks to educate residents on American Indians in New JerseyThe Intertribal American Indians of New Jersey have a clear goal—to show people American Indians still exist and to right the wrongs they say are still perpetuated in American society today.

    "I think the images that come to mind when people think of Indians are warriors in war bonnets descending on a group of wagon trains," said group member Mary Anne Ross. "They just don't have any idea what modern American Indians are like."
    And:Ross's daughter, Rebecca Shield, is now 19 and still an active member of the organization fighting to educate people about her culture.

    "I've had one person say, "Native Americans? You guys actually exist still?' People don't realize we're still here," Shield said. "Mostly because we're in New Jersey. Out West there's a lot more Native Americans."
    Comment:  Shield could've responded, "Shouldn't that be 'youse guys'? If this is New Jersey, aren't you an Italian mobster"?

    By now most people should've heard of Indian gaming, at least. But perhaps what they've heard is that Indian casinos are owned by shifty-eyed pretenders who don't deserve to be called Indians. I.e., "Indians" who are little different from welfare cheats or mobsters. That is the propaganda being spewed by the conservative white establishment and its shills, after all.

    As I've said many times, every Native stereotype contributes to Americans' ignorance about Indians. People like Kenn and Ken don't know what they're talking about when they say mascots are the only things informing people about Indians. Mascots are one of the main things misinforming people about Indians. According to the Ken(n)s of the world, Indians are either dead and gone or they're greedy casino owners.

    For more on the subject, see Stereotype of the Month Contest.

    Below:  A New Jersey Indian pretending to be an Italian mobster?

    Transforming California's Indians

    Here's a short film produced by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) to tell the story of California's tribes:

    The Tribes of California Present Transformations, a Tribute to All Native American Indians of CaliforniaTransformations documents the rich past, transformative present & hopeful future of California Indians. From the lush northwest coastal forests to the sunburned hills of San Diego County, a hopeful tale of survival unfolds amid the spectacular backdrop of the Golden State. Told in the voices of tribal members.Comment:  Click the link to see the 10-minute film online. (I presume this is the whole film and not a segment or trailer.)

    My review: If you don't know a thing about California's Indians, Transformations should teach you something. But if you've read a general book on Indian history, the California chapter undoubtedly covered this topic in more depth. I'd say give the film a pass unless you want to see what Native filmmakers are doing, as I do.

    Also, Transformations suffers because four of the five sponsoring tribes are from Northern California and the film concentrates on them. The split between Northern and Southern California Indians is more like 50-50 than 80-20. The film is really a glimpse of Northern California Indian history, not California Indian history in general.

    CNIGA was smart to produce a film rather than, say, a booklet. That's the way to reach lots of people these days. But the filmmakers need to think a little further out of the box.

    This is a typical case of a documentary's being too respectful of its subject. If the film had shown Indian actors, rappers, and skateboarders and been made with quick cuts, animation, and rock music, it would've conveyed the vibrancy of California's tribes better. Give me a day, 2-3 well-spoken Indians, and a picturesque golf course, and I'll give you a memorable documentary on California's tribes.

    For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    Cultural voyage by canoe

    'Tribal Journeys' paddle one of largest everThe sound of 1,000 handcrafted paddles being beaten in rhythm in the bottoms of more than 100 canoes echoed across Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island Monday evening as the boats were drawn to shore in the shadow of Mt. Tzouhalem, the sacred mountain of the Quw'utsum peoples.

    "Welcome our relatives from the south, from Puget Sound," called out Cowichan Chief Lydia Hwitsun. "Welcome our relatives from the west. From the east, from the north."

    The canoes were part of the largest Tribal Journeys paddle in modern times. Begun in 1989, the event commemorates the paddles of old, before first contact and before arbitrary political boundaries, when members of coastal First Nations travelled unfathomable distances in open boats to trade, visit, or sometimes, wage war.

    New Mexico adopts Navajo textbook

    "State officials say New Mexico is the first to adopt a Navajo textbook for use in the public education system." Read about it in Rediscovering the Navajo Language in Pictographs.

    July 29, 2008

    "Original Pechanga" fibs about news site

    In Educating "Original Pechanga" About News, I said that Original Pechanga touted touted the superiority of NDNnews to PECHANGA.net as a news source. She responded:Rob says I claimed that NDN news was a superior news source and I did nothing of the kind. I stated that it was easier to run a website when you had Pechanga money like Victor, rather than having to go out and work on something other than your website.In fact, she did several things "of the kind." She posted enough to make her feelings clear on the subject. Here's the evidence from Original Pechanga's own blog:

    NDNnews Tamra Defends Her Site from Pechanga AttacksTamra patiently explains to Victor Rocha's lackey the difference between a casino tribe sponsored website/casino Indian website (of which, Victor is one, making $36,000 per month in per capita, now that Pechanga terminated 25% of its tribe)Original Pechanga didn't just say the money made Victor's job easier. She directly stated that PECHANGA.net is a "casino tribe sponsored website." This is a bald-faced lie, since the website is privately owned and independently operated.

    She strongly implied that Victor's per-capita payments make him favor news about "casino Indians." Again that's a lie, since he basically posts every article, whether positive or negative, about all Indians, not just "casino Indians."

    After this false and misleading introduction, she proudly reposted Tamra's comments as a standalone blog entry. Here's Tamra describing her NDNnews site:My website IS a NDN news source and has been for many years. ... I would also like to point out, in case it was over looked, that ICT and Indianz are operated by casino tribes. So, they certainly have the man power and funding to have top of the line sites, posting hundreds of items each day and considered the news "source." I would too if I made $20K+ a month or more, with all that casino money. I too could have a staff and spend all my time posting articles.Original Pechanga labeled this posting a "takedown" of me. That means she was contradicting my assertions that PECHANGA.net is an unbiased news site. The only way to "take down" this view is to promote the opposite view: that NDNnews is a less biased and thus superior site.

    Via Tamra, Original Pechanga strongly implied that NDN News is an Indian news source...and PECHANGA.net isn't. She strongly implied that people need to consider PECHANGA.net's source of funding, which is "all that casino money." She all but said (again, via Tamra) that money corrupts the postings at PECHANGA.net, making the site worthless as a news source.

    The only reason for Original Pechanga to repost Tamra's comments was to emphasize that she agrees with them. She proved this with her final comment:Tamra spells it out PERFECTLY.After all that, Original Pechanga would have to be daft to claim she hasn't touted NDNnews over PECHANGA.net as an unbiased source of news. She's linked PECHANGA.net to the corrupting influence of casino money as deftly as George Bush linked 9/11 to Iraq.

    But wait, there's more

    In the comments section of another posting, Original Pechanga reiterated her assertion that the Pechanga tribe controls PECHANGA.net:When Victor named his site to honor the tribe, do you not think that carried some responsibility? Do you NOT think that people don't think of the tribe when they see the site? That is not part of the tribe, even though the link is "small" as you said. Does a SMALL link work differently than a LARGE link? Or do the both send you equally as fast to the site?She also posted several comments from others who said similar things. For instance:PECHANGA.NET DOES'NT PRINT THE TRUTH ABOUT DISENROLLMENT'S AND MORATORIUM'S. THEY POST FEEL GOOD ARTICLES ABOUT THEMSELVES. ... PECHANGA.NET IS PUBLISHED BY A TRIBAL MEMBER WHO, IF HE SPEAKS THE TRUTH, WILL LOSE HIS PER CAP. CHECK AND MAYBE EVEN GET DISENROLLED. SOOO HE KEEPS QUIET LIKE A GOOD OBEDIENT DOG. ARF, ARF,LICKING THE HAND THAT FEEDS HIM.Original Pechanga's blog comments are monitored, unlike mine, so she has a choice whether to post these attacks or not. She chose to post them.

    She also has a choice whether to let them stand unchallenged or to challenge them. Readers of my blog know that I never let false or misleading claims go unchallenged. Because not disagreeing with them is the same as tacitly agreeing with them.

    Both factors--posting the negative comments and not challenging them--imply she agrees with these comments. No other conclusion is logically possible.

    Coupled with the initial fib about PECHANGA.net's being casino-sponsored, it's clear what Original Pechanga believes: that PECHANGA.net is corrupt and biased. If she don't believe this, let her state it publicly in her blog or here. Otherwise, I'll rightly conclude that she does believe it.

    P.S. The second posting is worth reading if you want to see a real "takedown." Readers can judge for themselves who won the debate.

    Shops bobble Duston controversy

    Hannah Duston bobblehead sparks controversyWeeks after the New Hampshire Historical Society began selling a Hannah Duston bobblehead, one employee has quit and another has refused to sell it. They said they find the Duston doll, as well as another bobblehead of Chief Passaconaway, offensive to Native Americans.

    In 1697, Hannah Duston was taken from her Haverhill home by Abenaki Indians to an island in the Merrimack River in Concord, N.H. She is said to have escaped by scalping members of the tribe.

    The other is of Chief Passaconaway, a friend to English settlers and a key figure in New Hampshire's Colonial history, who formed the Penacook Confederacy of more than a dozen tribes.
    The controversy over Duston:A debate has raged over whether Hannah Duston was a heroine or villain for killing several Native Americans after Indians raided her home and killed her baby. Duston, whose name is intimately tied to Haverhill's history, was taken to New Hampshire before she escaped and returned home.

    Haverhill historian Thomas Spitalere works at the city's Buttonwoods Museum, which began selling the dolls last week. He said the dolls promote local history and he has no problem with them.

    "I can understand one worker resigning and the other refusing to sell (the bobbleheads) if that's their belief, because it's a sensitive issue," Spitalere said. "But Hannah's a historical figure. You can't deny history.
    Why Spitalere's position isn't sufficient:The bobbleheads have been criticized as historically inaccurate and insensitive to American Indians. Duston is shown holding a hatchet. Passaconaway wears a bright blue cap. Critics said the society compounded the problem by celebrating a killer of Indians with a chief who presided over a peaceful time.

    "To have the New Hampshire Historical Society come out with a caricature of an Indian after all these years of us working on this issue ... is just staggering," said David Stewart-Smith, historian for the state's Intertribal Council.
    How concerned is the historical society with "history"? Not very:While the bobbleheads are intended to expose people to history, their real purpose is to make money for the society's other operations, he said.

    "If you want the product to sell, frankly, you have to use the most iconic image that people are used to," he said.

    He said Duston and Passaconaway were good choices because he wanted to focus on the 17th century, and it's more economical to release two dolls at once. The designs were based on other sources—a Duston statue in Haverhill and a 19th century etching showing the Indian chief in a pointed cap.

    Courser said when she managed the store, the society vetted each new product through a committee before selling it. Veillette said he has no interest in that process or in consulting with American Indian groups on such decisions.

    "We wouldn't and we shouldn't," he said. "For an exhibition we should, absolutely ... but we run our store probably like everyone else. ... You don't run it by the entire staff. You don't go out and consult with a bunch of people."
    Comment:  So a 19th century etching was used to portray a 17th century chief. Nice.

    Does the historical society care about Native reactions to the bobbleheads? Evidently not.

    The historical society sounds like a few producers and creators of fiction I could name. While their products "are intended to expose people to history," their real purpose is to make money for themselves. They aren't selling history, they're selling it out.

    For more on the subject, see Native-Themed Bobbleheads.

    Why people believe movies

    Movies give us fictional stories in the context of historical facts. They purport to tell us tales that are figuratively if not literally true. To do this they use verisimilitude. They recreate history with sets, costumes, makeup--with as much attention to detail as possible.

    Movies show Americans declaring their independence from Britain, taming and settling the Wild West, and winning two world wars. Why? Because these things are (more or less) true and moviegoers know it.

    No movie has ever portrayed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt as a savage spearchucker. Americans would be outraged if a movie made such a claim. But hundreds if not thousands of movies have shown Natives as savage spearchuckers and no one blinks an eye.

    Movies tell the (American) truth

    Given all this, why would Americans think movies are falsifying Native cultures and religions? There's no good reason to think movies are telling the truth about Americans but lies about Native Americans. Every history-based movie purports to tell a version of the "truth." So moviegoers respond rationally and believe what they see.

    They do this for several reasons: Because they have no other sources of unbiased information. Because everything they see in the media reinforces their beliefs. Because movies are based on historical research, books, and expertise. And because respected filmmakers (Gibson, Spielberg, McMurtry and Ossana) vouch for their work's accuracy.


    Below is a plausible but phony mural from Apocalypto. What percent of people would believe Mel Gibson filmed an actual mural and what percent would guess he fabricated this mural for his movie? I'm guessing the ratio would be 80%-20%.

    Now let's add a note from a published article, which I reported in Gibson Sacrificed the Maya:Gibson's consultant on the project was Richard Hansen, a respected Mayanist and professor at Idaho State University, as well as the president of the Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies, which does preservation work and study in Guatemala. Gibson, a generous contributor to the group, now serves on its board of directors.

    Hansen defends the film, believing that his fellow Mayanists will be "pleasantly surprised." He says, "For the most part it is very accurate," and "I was amazed at the level of detail, the stone tools, gourds, iguana skins, strung up turkeys, just amazed."
    I'm guessing the percent who think this mural is real just went up to 90-95%. Because Mel Gibson made a point of trotting out a respected professor who vouched for his work. Because Gibson wants people to believe his movie.

    For more on the subject, see Educating Russ About Historical Accuracy.

    Redskin writer ducks challenge

    In Challenge for Redskin Writer, I asked Sheena Wassegijig, a defender of Redskin magazine, to call her elders "redskins." Naturally she didn't do it. Here's her "explanation" of her refusal to act:haha, get a life dude, cause i'm living mine regardless...LOL. i dont give a shit about names or the meanings behind them...but nice to know you care.My response:

    Re "i dont give a shit about names or the meanings behind them": In other words, you don't care that you hurt Natives by stereotyping them. You don't care that many Natives denounce Redskin. Thanks for admitting in black and white your insensitivity to Natives' feelings.

    FYI, there are no attacks on your "persona" here, Sheena. You must've imagined them since you didn't (and can't) quote them. The only thing here about you is a challenge for you to undertake.

    You know, the one you've ducked and dodged so far? The one you seem afraid to even mention? I'm talking about the challenge to call your elders "redskins," of course.

    When you and your anonymous friend get up the courage to take this challenge, please let us know. Until then, I'll simply repeat what I said: "If you're not willing to do it, what does that say about your convictions? That you're brave when surrounded by your fellow twentysomethings, but not so brave otherwise?"

    If you have any other defense of your actions, feel free to offer it. Otherwise, spare us the content-free comments. The quality of your live(s) has nothing to do with your efforts to promote yourself with the stereotypical name "Redskin."

    Sheena continues in her eloquent way:ha...i still dont give a shit about your crap shmidt...thats the point...Brash comments from youngsters half my age don't faze me. I've known what Natives think about the "redskin" slur since before you were born. You don't know or care what your own people think about your actions.

    Nor do you "give a shit" about the quality of your writing, apparently. My name is Schmidt, not "Shmidt." You might want to learn how to spell and punctuate before you claim to be a professional writer.

    You've just spent another 200-plus words telling us how much you don't care. Here's a clue: If you really don't care, stop acting as if you do. As another writer put it, "The lady doth protest too much."

    So you're going to educate me? Okay, go ahead. Now that you've shared some of your fortune-cookie wisdom, start educating me. For instance, tell me something I don't know about the word "redskin."

    I'm showing respect for Native people by not calling them "redskins." You aren't showing respect for them by using the slur to promote yourself and your magazine. That's why you keep ducking the issue of how offensive your actions are.

    Lakotah won't use nonexistent power

    Russell Means:  Lakotah grand jury will not indict

    Republic of Lakota will spend one year gathering evidence.Means said the grand juries will be small and will go from community to community, beginning on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to hear testimony.

    "This investigation is going to take a year or more to gather all the evidence to substantiate our charges of genocide against the United States of America," Means said.

    Means said the grand jury will not issue indictments.

    "We are a peaceful, non-confrontational republic," he said. "We don't attempt to use police power to brutalize anyone, either physically or mentally."
    Comment:  In related news, the Republic of Lakotah also won't nuke anyone, invade another country, tax its "citizens," build roads or dams, or collect the garbage. It won't do anything that a normal country might do. This "republic" is literally all talk.

    Not only does the Republic of Lakotah avoid using police power, it doesn't have any police or power. It couldn't confront anyone if it wanted to. Unless you count Russell Means berating people with a megaphone as a confrontation, that is.

    July 28, 2008

    Yma Sumac, Inca princess?

    A fan reports on Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer who once claimed to be an Inca princess. First, a summary from Wikipedia:Yma Sumac is a noted soprano of Peruvian origin. In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous proponents of exotica music, and became an international success based on the merits of her extreme vocal range "well over three octaves," which was commonly claimed to span four and even five octaves at its peak.Viva la diva!:  Rupert Smith explains his fascination with Yma Sumac[I]t became a race to acquire as many Sumac recordings as possible. Most of the albums were deleted, and one had to rely on second-hand shops or large stores with very slow turnover. But gradually we amassed them all, revelled in the music and obsessed over the covers, luridly-coloured photos of Yma in exotic drag, raven hair swept back, eyes concealed by make-up. Sleeve notes added fuel to the fire, with their transparently false claims that Sumac was an Inca princess/priestess, discovered "talking to the birds" in the Peruvian mountains, and that her songs were "genuine" Inca music. When we discovered a rumour that said princess was in fact a media-savvy Brooklyn waitress born Amy Camus, our obsession was complete.

    Now, a painstakingly researched biography of Yma Sumac reveals that she was neither of those things, but simply an extraordinarily talented, eccentrically managed Peruvian singer born some time in the 1920s. She rode to stardom on the back of her amazing vocal range and her extremely imaginative manager/publicist/husband Moises Vivanco, who tapped into America's postwar lust for escapism by packaging her as an otherworldly Hispanic sexpot. Her recordings, from 1950s Voice of the Xtabay onwards, sold in vast quantities, she toured all over the world (including the USSR at the height of the Cold War), made a few films and a great deal of money.
    And:I am particularly fond of two Yma Sumac albums, and listen to them constantly. The first is Legend of the Jivaro (1957), on the cover of which Sumac appears as a crazed priestess hovering glamorously over a smoking cauldron, surrounded by shrunken heads. The tracks purport to be the songs of the Amazonian Jivaro tribe; if they really are, I want to go and live with these people immediately. Track 7, "Hampi," is a cocaine ritual, and you can hear the backing vocalists assiduously chewing the leaf while Yma goes into a violent coke frenzy that leaves her panting and exhausted.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indian Women as Sex Objects and Indian Wannabes.

    Foxwoods full of stereotypes?

    In the comments on Indian Casino in Family Guy, a reader compared the Foxwoods Resort Casino to the fictitious "Geronimo's Palace." As he put it:FYI Rob...apparently you've never met a current "pequot" or been to their casino. Otherwise, you would get every single joke.My response:

    It's true I've never been to Foxwoods, Anonymous. But I've been to a couple dozen Indian casinos and seen pictures of many more. I know the field.

    In all the pictures I've seen of Foxwoods, there were never any totem poles, teepees, half-naked Indians, animatronic chiefs or braves, etc. Compared to that, your belief that I don't know Foxwoods isn't worth much. Show us the evidence, either in text or imagery, that the casino is full of such over-the-top stereotypes.

    Really, it shouldn't be hard. I listed most of the stereotypes in the Family Guy episode. Just fill in the blanks. The casino shaped like giant teepees is a parody of _______. The employees wearing vests over their naked chests are parodies of _______. Etc.

    In case you're like writer Russell Bates--incapable of doing your own research--I'll help you out. Here's a Google search on Foxwoods casino that shows shots of the exterior and interior. Which of these is remotely comparable to the excesses displayed in "The Son Also Draws"?

    In fact, show me any Indian casino in the country that's decked out with such stereotypical images. Go ahead...we'll wait. Prove that there's some justification somewhere for this racist mocking of Indians.

    As for meeting Pequots, I interviewed Pequot chairman Michael J. Thomas for a Casino Journal article once. Thomas didn't speak like Tonto or a New Age wannabe. The magazine's photos of him didn't show him wearing a headband, moccasins, or Pendleton bag.

    Again, you've made a charge with zero evidence. You'll have to do better than that to repudiate one of my postings. Good luck proving you know more about Indian gaming than I do...you'll need it.

    To read about other people who don't understand the concept of racist stereotyping, see South Park:  "Red Man's Greed."

    Trail of the Whispering Giants

    Here's a series of sculptures that blows The American statue away in terms of artistry and originality: Peter Wolf Toth's "Trail of the Whispering Giants."

    Peter Wolf TothPeter Wolf Toth (born December 1947) is a Hungarian-born sculptor who immigrated to the United States and settled in Akron, Ohio. He later studied art at the University of Akron. He created a series of sculptures called "Trail of the Whispering Giants" to honor Native Americans. Overall, he has created more than 60 sculptures, including at least one in each state of the United States and several provinces of Canada.Comment:  See also the locations of Peter Wolf Toth's Trail of the Whispering Giants and pictures of the Whispering Giant Sculptures.

    For the most part, these sculptures aren't stereotypical. True, they all appear to be men with similar features. And many of them have feathers or other objects sticking up from their heads. But aren't Plains chiefs or half-naked warriors. And their clothing appears to be appropriate for the Natives of each area.

    I find these sculptures far more interesting than the bland statue of The American. They're weird, almost surreal, like elongated ghosts rising out of the ground. The wood speaks of their ties to ancient lands and forests. The figures make you stop, look, and think. (I imagine they do, anyway. I've never seen one in person.) Once you see them, they're hard to forget.

    Even the "Trail of the Whispering Giants" title is intriguing. "Giants" implies that these people were larger than life--better than us, somehow. "Whispering" implies that they're still teaching us about their cultures and values. We could learn from these whispering giants, if only we listened.

    Does anyone think The American is better than Toth's sculptures? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

    For more on the subject, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.

    Below:  "Crooked Feather" (Ocean Springs, MS) and "Sequoyah" (Cherokee Indian Museum, Cherokee Reservation, NC).

    Tricksters around the world

    Here's the Amazon.com listing for what looks like an interesting book:

    The Coyote Road (Hardcover)From School Library Journal

    Grade 6 Up—As they did in The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002) and The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004, both Viking), the editors have assembled 26 stories that present tricksters around the world. A shape-changing Japanese fox-girl comforts a lonely American boy; three generations of oil barons run afoul of Hermes and three human summoners protesting the family greed; an albino Cajun girl fools the devil. Settings are mostly other than present day and include ancient times. Readers who pay attention to the author's note will learn much about tricksters worldwide and their various natures. Each author's background is profiled, and while only a few have written books for children, all are previously published short-story writers. This excellent collection is bound to find an audience among experienced readers of the genre but is attractive to less-able readers, as well, for the short, punchy stories and an always-engaging trickster character. —Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA

    Product Description

    Coyote. Anansi. Brer Rabbit. Trickster characters have long been a staple of folk literature—and are a natural choice for the overarching subject of acclaimed editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s third “mythic” anthology. The Coyote Road features a remarkable range of authors, each with his or her fictional look at a trickster character. These authors include Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Charles de Lint (The Blue Girl), Ellen Klages (The Green Glass Sea), Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners), Patricia A. McKillip (Old Magic), and Jane Yolen. Terri Windling provides a comprehensive introduction to the trickster myths of the world, and the entire book is highlighted by the remarkable decorations of Charles Vess. The Coyote Road is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary fantastic fiction.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    Sick of magical Cherokees

    Michael Sheyahshe interviews Winnie (Oglala Lakota/Eastern Shawnee), aka "ix," whom Sheyahshe describes as "a former Associate Producer with some big name games, such as the Call of Duty franchise."

    IPI:  Indigenous Peeps in the Industry--02MS: Have you played video games with Native American characters in them?

    ix: There aren't many; Prey and Gun are the ones that come to mind. Prey was interesting in that you could go upside down in multiplayer which is a neat idea, but they do the magical Indian stereotype heavily. Gun I felt kind of bothered by how they portray the Apaches. Eventually, I think AIM protested it.

    MS: Do you have any opinion about Indigenous characters in video games?

    ix: I think there needs to be more of them. I also think that I'm getting really sick of the 'magical Cherokee' stereotype that Hollywood and most media likes to hammer onto us. It's really still racism but in a different way. I wish that there was an Indian character in Gears of War, COD, etc. that's a contributing part of the squad/one of the main characters and not some mystical BS schtick!

    MS: Do you know of any other Natives in the "biz" (gaming industry)?

    ix: I know one female animator, but she doesn't know much about her tribe or is really all that involved with it. It's kind of hard finding other Indians in the industry. Most of us stay back on the home reservations, maybe. I wish we had better computer programs and equipment on reservations. That would open up more tech jobs for us. I can't imagine what advantages I would have had if the schools where I grew up had computers, the internet, or access to some of the software other public schools do.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Video Games Featuring Natives.

    Below:  The Cherokee hero in Prey.

    Landham calls for genocide

    Landham's bid in jeopardy after continued anti-Arab commentsThe Libertarian Party of Kentucky's leadership will meet tonight to decide the fate of their Senate candidate, Sonny Landham. In the last week, Landham has made continual anti-Arab comments that culminated in an exchange on The Weekly Filibuster radio program Friday night. "So are you calling for a complete genocide of the Arab race? Is that what you're saying? Unless they raise the white flag?" asked one of the program's hosts, Sage Koontz.

    "When you are in a war, you kill every thing that moves," responded Landham, a former actor who played Billy in action movie "Predator."

    Friday's remarks came during Landham's second appearance on the internet radio program, and his comments were more intense than those from the first. In a Wednesday appearance on the Weekly Filibuster, Landham called for a stop to Arab immigration to the United States.

    Libertarian Party leadership--which had been leading the drive to collect signatures to secure Landham's access to Kentucky ballots--is now considering whether they want Landham as their candidate at all.
    Comment:  Bye-bye, Landham. Your political career and any reputation you once had are history.

    The interesting question is why the Libertarian Party ever backed this loser in the first place. Haven't they heard of vetting a candidate? Couldn't they find anyone else--maybe a homeless person who needed a job?

    For more on the subject, see Brotherly Love, American Style and Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

    Lakotah to investigate Lakota

    Republic of Lakotah investigating tribal corruptionThe Republic of Lakotah is forming an all-Lakota grand jury to investigate government corruption on South Dakota reservations, according to organizer Russell Means.

    “The situation is once again like it was in 1972 where some of the police are the terrorists,” Means said.

    Everything on the reservation is handled politically from law enforcement to tribal courts to the tribal council and administration, Means said.
    Comment:  Good to see Russell Means's pet project isn't defunct, yet.

    July 27, 2008

    Review of Nature Girl

    Carl Hiaasen's novels are always fun. This one features a Seminole Indian struggling with his heritage.

    Nature Girl (Paperback)From Publishers Weekly

    Starred Review. Old fans and newcomers alike should delight in Hiaasen's 11th novel (after 2004's Skinny Dip), another hilarious Florida romp. The engaging and diverse screwball cast includes Boyd Shreave, a semicompetent telemarketer; Shreave's mistress and co-worker, Eugenie Fonda; Honey Santana, a mercurial gadfly who ends up on the other end of one of Shreave's pitches for Florida real estate; and Sammy Tigertail, half Seminole, who at novel's start must figure out what to do with the body of a tourist who dies of a heart attack on Sammy's airboat after being struck by a harmless water snake. When Santana cooks up an elaborate scheme to punish Shreave for nasty comments he made during his solicitation call, she ends up involving her 12-year-old son, Fry, and her ex-husband in a frantic chase that enmeshes Tigertail and the young co-ed Sammy accidentally has taken hostage. While the absurd plot may be less than compelling, Hiaasen's humorous touches and his all-too-human characters carry the book to its satisfying close.

    From AudioFile

    Carl Hiaasen fills his novels with some of the strangest characters in fiction--and makes them work. NATURE GIRL is set in the Florida beyond Miami and Disney World, where people like Honey Santana and half-Seminole Sammy Tigertail live quiet, peculiar existences. Night telemarketer Boyd Shreave has insulted Honey with a real estate phone pitch, and she plots a bizarre revenge that brings the three characters together.
    Comment:  I've read five Hiaasen novels so far and they've all been entertaining. Here's how I rate them:

    Lucky You--8.0
    Strip Tease--8.0
    Sick Puppy--8.0
    Skinny Dip--7.5
    Nature Girl--8.0

    Nature Girl is the first Hiaasen book I've read to offer more than a passing mention of the Seminoles. Sammy Tigertail (the former Chad McQueen) is believably torn between his white side (going to college, dating white girls, playing the guitar) and his Indian side (communing with nature, honoring ancient Colusa warriors, trying to rid himself of a pesky spirit). Hiaasen has done his research and quotes from old texts about Seminole history and culture.

    As the book got underway, I thought it might be an 8.5. By the end it had settled into an 8.0. Hiaasen puts eight protagonists and one antagonist on a deserted island near the Everglades. To make things work, he has to remove a few characters and ignore one at the story's climax. Some of the character arcs are less satisfying than others.

    Still, Nature Girl is at least as good as Hiaasen's other books. If you haven't read any of his novels, give 'em a try. You'll probably be amused.

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

    No Natives for president?

    In Looking for Native Cosby? I said no Native was well-known or loved enough at the moment to transcend tribal boundaries. But I added that Indians would listen to and rally around a Native who achieved that stature--for instance, the first Native candidate for president.

    Kiowa writer Russell Bates claimed that could never happen. Namely, that a Native could never run for president with America's tribes united behind him or her. As Russ put it:There is no such Native! And there never will be.

    [W]hat 'prescience' do you possess that there even could be such a personality WITHIN THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS?
    Here's my response:

    The people I listed before are examples of Natives who are gaining a national following. They aren't examples of Natives who could successfully run for president. Try to read what I wrote instead of (mis)interpreting it.

    Already several Natives have won wide acceptance and honor among the nation's tribes. Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Joe Garcia of the National Congress of American Indians. Ernie Stevens Jr. of the National Indian Gaming Association. Eloise Cobell. The Navajo codetalkers. Lori Piestewa. Vine Deloria Jr. before he died.

    No, I'm not saying any of them could successfully run for president either. (Especially the ones who are no longer alive.) I'm saying they've won wide acceptance and honor among the nation's tribes. That's a necessary but not sufficient precondition for a Native vying for the presidency.

    A candidate in 20 years?

    Twenty years ago, Barack Obama hadn't even started Harvard Law School. If he could become a candidate for president in 20 years, so could a lot of people. Any of the thousands of young Native activists, lawyers, and politicians out there, for instance.

    I believe Native candidates could be ready to run in 20 years. But would the American public be ready to accept them? Maybe, maybe not. It took a century or more for the first serious black and female candidates to gain acceptance. It might take just as long for an Indian.

    But you're the one who set a time limit, not me. First you said a Native could never be a national figure, and then you said it couldn't happen in 20 years. What's the next timeframe you're going to backtrack to...next summer?

    Since I didn't set a time limit, your arbitrary 20-year deadline is irrelevant. Maybe it'll take 30 or 40 years to happen. If it does, I'll probably be around to see it and you probably won't. Too bad for you.

    P.S. You don't have much faith in your fellow Natives, do you? Is that why you're always kissing up to powerful white men? Because they have the fame and clout you crave?

    Women who are part Native

    Women who are (or were) part Native according to the List of Native American Women on Wikipedia:

  • Tori Amos (born 1963), part Cherokee musician

  • Pearl Bailey (1918–1990), singer/actress of Native American extraction

  • Josephine Baker (1906–1975), part Apalachee entertainer

  • Kristin Chenoweth (born 1968), 1/4 Cherokee actress and singer

  • Dorothy Dandridge (1922–1965), part Native American actress

  • Angie Harmon (born 1972), half Cherokee actress and model

  • Lena Horne (born 1917), singer/actress, part Cherokee and other Amerindian extraction

  • Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer, part Choctaw

  • Coretta Scott King (1927–2006), wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, part Native American

  • Eartha Kitt (born 1927), part Cherokee actress and singer

  • Beyonce Knowles, part Cherokee and other Amerindian extractions

  • Moms Mabley (1894–1975), actress/comedian, part Native American

  • Diana Ross (born 1944), singer/actress, part Cherokee

  • Tiffany (born 1971), part Cherokee singer

  • Tina Turner (born 1939), part Navajo and Cherokee singer

  • Alice Walker (born 1944), part Cherokee author and feminist

  • Vanessa L. Williams (born 1963), part Cherokee and other Amerindian extractions

  • Twilight tours in Quileute country

    Fans of "Twilight" vampire series pump new blood into ForksThe book is Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight," the first of a widely popular vampire series primed to fill Harry Potter's shoes in the hearts of young readers, mainly girls. Set in a far corner of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, the teen-romance-meets-Gothic-horror series continues this Saturday with the release of the fourth book, "Breaking Dawn."

    Throughout the past year, growing numbers of fans eager to see where reality meets their imaginations have been visiting Forks from across the country and around the world—Germany, Ireland and Spain. A few months ago, Gurling came up with the idea of "Twilight Tours" and posted details on the Chamber of Commerce Web site. Within hours, an Ohio man and his daughter signed up.
    And:For Twilighters, there's plenty to see: La Push's First Beach, on the Quileute Indian Reservation, where underdog Jacob suggests Edward's true identity. The hospital where Edward's father is a doctor. The vast meadow where the vampires play baseball. And, oddly, the misty, constant rain of which Bella often complains.

    "They have this vision," Gurling says. "They want to see all the greenery and the moss and the lichens hanging off the trees."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Non-Native Cast as Quileute Werewolf.

    Pix of Pechanga golf course

    The Journey at Pechanga golf course--July 25, 2008

    After attending the San Diego Comic-Con Thursday, I stayed overnight in Temecula. The next day we got a personal tour of the new Journey at Pechanga golf course.

    As readers of this blog may imagine, my feelings about golf courses are mixed at best. Using all that land for a "sport" that barely requires physical exertion seems like a waste. It's not as bad as all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles that chew up the landscape and spit out pollution, but it's not environmentally correct either.

    But this golf course--and others like it on Indian reservations--are about as good as golf courses get. They use reclaimed water and native plants. They minimize the gouging of the earth and the removal of trees. The artificial lakes attract water birds such as ducks and egrets. The winding pathways take you up into the hills--closer to nature than you'd be able to achieve on your own. And the touches of Luiseño culture remind you how Indians used to live and that Indians still own the land.

    If I were the Pechanga tribe, I'd go even further with the cultural touches. It could add markers explaining tribal lore...replicas of artifacts such as grinding stones or baskets...even statues of Luiseño Indians going about their lives. For those who care, there should be enough culture that they actually may learn something about the Pechanga people.

    Below:  The type of cultural reminder that would work well on the golf course.

    Bay Mills blogs

    Bay Mills Indian Community goes online with virtual museumBay Mills Indian Community is the first in line to receive a virtual museum, created with the assistance of local youth.

    The project, being dubbed as the Bay Mills Virtual Museum Project, isn't actually about a museum at all. It's a hands-on way to get people, particularly youth, interested in computing, and as an added bonus for the community that participates, a virtual museum is created.
    And:Frost believes that the print culture hasn't done a very good job of capturing the true essence of tribes and their history. He hopes that by letting the community decide how they should be represented the world will have a better idea of who the tribe is.

    Bay Mills was chosen as a pilot for the project because it was able to meet space and technological needs of the project, and has a well-respected reputation. Frost anticipates other tribes will get on board with their ideas and their own museums once the pilot is complete.
    Comment:  What Bay Mills calls a virtual museum I call a blog. It's a series of stories, articles, links, photos, and videos in blog format.

    Suquamish Championship Wrestling

    Suquamish gets back in the wrestling ringSuquamish is grappling in its own wrestling ring once again—one belonging to Suquamish Championship Wrestling.

    For the last year and a half the organization was known and operated a bit differently as International Championship Wrestling. However, after a professional falling out, it’s back again, owned and operated in part by the black-and-white-painted Ron “The Iron Buddha” Sutherland.

    July 26, 2008

    Scout society stereotypes Indians

    I knew the Boy Scouts had one honor society based on stereotypical Indian elements, but now I've learned that they have another.

    Tribe of Mic-O-SayThe Tribe of Mic-O-Say is an honor society used by two local councils of the Boy Scouts of America; it is not a program of the National Council of the BSA. Mic-O-Say's ceremonies, customs, and traditions are based on the folklore of the American Indian.

    The Pony Express Council uses the Tribe of Mic-O-Say as its only honor society, while the Heart of America Council uses both the Tribe of Mic-O-Say and the Order of the Arrow.


    Mic-O-Say was founded in 1925 at Camp Brinton near Agency, Missouri under the guidance of H. Roe Bartle, who was the Scout executive of the St. Joseph Council, now Pony Express Council.

    Camp Geiger, which succeeded Camp Brinton in 1935, is considered the 'mother' tribe of Mic-O-Say.

    In 1930 Camp Osceola opened near Osceola, Missouri, and remains open to this day, renamed the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation, or commonly known as "Bartle."


    The Kansas City Chiefs are named after the nickname "The Chief" of H. Roe Bartle, who had that nickname because of his position in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.
    Boy Scouting teaches youth invaluable lifelong skillsI have had the pleasure of being on the Geiger staff for 13 years now, preparing meals and salad bar.

    I’ve seen young boys grow into young men and adults, displaying discipline, good manners and qualities not seen in other areas. I also am a teacher.

    We are so fortunate to have the Mic-o-Say honor tribe also.

    Each Thursday night Scouts are “tapped” into the tribe and after meeting the qualifications, are advanced from brave, to warrior, on to tom-tom beater, runners, keeper of the sacred bundle, to sachem, medicine man and chieftain.
    Comment:  You gotta love the stupid mishmash of stereotypes in the so-called Tribe of Mic-O-Say.

    Most people reach the brave or warrior level. Apparently this "tribe" doesn't have any non-warriors because, well, Indians are warriors. But a warrior can become a tom-tom beater because, well, Indians beat tom-toms. A tom-tom beater can become a keeper of the sacred bundle or a medicine man because, well, Indian religion is the same as Western religion. You call yourself a Christian or a medicine man and...voilá, you are one. The tom-tom beater can also become a sachem (a New England tribal leader) or a chieftain (a Midwest tribal leader) because, well, anyone can put on a headdress. Besides, one tribal leader is like another; the guy with the showiest costume is in charge.

    As Wikipedia helpfully notes, "The following responsibilities are not part of the Geiger tribe: Shaman, Keeper of the Wampum, and Sagamore." "Shaman" is primarily a West Coast concept while "Keeper of the Wampum" and "Sagamore" (along with "Sachem") are East Coast concepts. But who really cares if the Boy Scouts mix and match concepts from all over Indian country? All Indian tribes are the same, right?

    Proving that the Tribe of Mic-O-Say is all about perpetuating stereotypes, here's the latest news:

    History of the Tribe of Mic-O-SayOn July 21, 2006 at the last Friday evening ceremonials of the season, Chief Swimming Rock announced that he was “hanging up his war bonnet,” and would retire his position as Ceremonial Chief. Thom then named the Directing Medicine Man, Ken Baker, as the new Ceremonial Chief. In 2007, we move forward with new Directing Medicine Man Walks Tall, Ed Stroud and a strong young administration of new Tribal Leadership.So the big Ceremonial Chief is supposed to be a Plains chief. He adopts a funny Indian name, which mocks the traditional practice of choosing Indian names. And he wears a faux warbonnet, which mocks the revered nature of the feathered headdress.

    If the so-called Tribe of Mic-O-Say is less stereotypical than a typical Y-Indian Guide troop, it isn't obvious. How many kids have learned about Indians through these phony programs and how many have learned about them through accurate books or movies or face-to-face meetings?

    Below:  New chief and medicine man wannabes and a Mic-O-Say badge with a stereotypical Plains warrior. Note that the mock medicine man wears a warbonnet along with face paint, neither of which a medicine man normally dons.

    White vampire yes, Indian werewolf no

    More thoughts on the Twilight book and movie, which feature a white vampire and an Indian werewolf vying for a maiden's love.

    The witching hour looms for vampire's teen fansThe lucky book is Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, (Little, Brown, $22.99, ages 12-up) the fourth volume in a paranormal romance series about ordinary teenager Isabella Swan and her extraordinary admirers--the impossibly gorgeous Edward Cullen, who is a vampire, and the ruggedly handsome Jacob Black, who is a werewolf.

    Across the country, booksellers are staging proms, vampire "balls," trivia contests, scavenger hunts and at one store in Vermont, an Edward Cullen look-alike contest. (That ought to get teenage girls into a bookstore on a Friday night.) One store in California is parking the bloodmobile out front, hoping books about a family of throat-biters will inspire fans to roll up their sleeves. At the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the final results of an ongoing poll about which suitor Bella should pair off with will be announced at the stroke of midnight. Readers loyal to Jacob might want to start stuffing the ballot box by voting here: http://kingsenglish.booksense.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp. Edward's currently ahead with 81 percent of the vote.

    Despite its popular acclaim--a film based on the first book, Twilight, is scheduled to open on Dec. 12--critical reception has been mixed. Bella's enthrallment with Edward, and her near-constant need of being rescued, make some women (including me) cringe. The second book, New Moon, "may leave the reader wishing for . . . a more empowered and self-assured heroine," wrote Angelica Delgado in the journal, VOYA.
    Comment:  So the Disneyfied heroine (pretty, dependent, hungry for a man) will choose the handsome white guy over the not-so-handsome person of color, who happens to be a Quileute Indian. Nice message to send to the kids, Stephenie.

    This is roughly the same story we've seen in every Disney movie, fairy tale, and historical romance going back to Pocahontas and John Smith. If the beautiful maiden is bland and submissive enough, she'll get her (white) Prince Charming.

    The corollary message to Indians? You're not good enough to get the girl. You're a loser who can't compete. The only way to succeed is to abandon your traditions and act like the white man.

    Symbolism reinforces message

    Even Edward's and Jacob's symbolism is fitting. Like an angel, Edward the Anglo vampire is pale, immortal, and (if he's like other vampires) able to fly. That he's a bloodsucker is beside the point. (Lucifer wasn't a sweetheart either. Like his Euro-Christian counterparts, he founded a "New World" in Hell where he could rule over the unbelievers.)

    Meanwhile, Jacob the Indian werewolf is hairy, snarling, and savage just like a demon. He's literally a beast-man. So we see the duality Meyer has unwittingly set up. The white character is superhuman and the Indian character is subhuman.

    For more on the subject, see Non-Native Cast as Quileute Werewolf.

    Below:  Princess wannabe Stephenie Meyer writes her fantasy: finding a perfect man who isn't an Indian.

    A modern-day Oñate

    More on The Last Conquistador documentary by filmmakers John Valadez and Cristina Ibarra--about John Sherrill Houser's statue of Juan de Oñate.

    One culture's Washington, another's Genghis KhanSpeaking by phone, Ibarra, who described herself as a mestiza born in El Paso, said, "When I first started the film, I didn't know what to expect. I was taken with John and his mission as an artist. I was probably looking for someone to point my finger at and blame. ... I thought he was on a really dramatic journey. I saw the work he was involved in and how he created a universe for himself. He didn't live in reality. There were all these huge body parts and carcasses. It was an oversized hangar studio; the horse barely fit in there. I could see how he was really far removed from the community he was representing—my community."

    As the film shows, progress was challenged by Houser's fear of glaucoma-induced blindness. For Valadez, it was a turning point in shaping a theme for the film: "His [Houser's] problem was he was so focused on making his own place in history that he was blind to the social implications of his work. His own hubris was his downfall. It's the Greeks all over again."

    As it turns out, Houser didn't go blind ("I don't have glaucoma; it was misdiagnosed," he explained), but as the film relates, he lacked the insight to understand the emotional response to his work. The documentary suggests that the artist is a modern-day Oñate in terms of his single-minded determination to do what he felt was right for himself, and maybe El Paso, despite public outcry.
    The outcome of the story:In the documentary, the El Paso International Airport appears to ride to Houser's rescue after city leaders decided they didn't want Oñate's statue downtown. Speaking by phone from his office in El Paso, Patrick Abeln, the airport's director of aviation, recalled, "The City Council voted in 2003 to move the project from downtown to the airport. The municipal airport is owned and operated by the city. It was a policy vote, and very few, if any, people on today's council would be represented by that policy vote. It was dedicated in April 2007." That ceremony is captured in the documentary.

    As an additional compromise, El Paso decided to change the sculpture's title from The Last Conquistador to The Equestrian. But, Ibarra said, "It's a lie. It's not The Equestrian. It's Juan de Oñate."
    Comment:  So Houser completed his statue but suffered for it. Sounds like the typical white man's experience with manifest destiny.

    For more on the subject, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.

    Landham the racist dung-shoveler

    Landham reiterates anti-Arab sentiment on talk show:  'I said no Arabs into this country'Evidently unrepentant after his initial controversial comments were first printed in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Libertarian Senate candidate Sonny Landham, of Ashland, elaborated on his initial labelling of Arabs as "camel dung-shovelers" and lauded early twentieth-century labor leaders during a Wednesday appearance on an internet talk radio program.

    "I'm a pro-American all the way. The Arabs, the camel dung-shovelers, the camel jockeys--whichever you want to call 'em--are terrorists," Landham said on the Weekly Filibuster talk show, in response to an inquiry about his earlier statements. "And they are doing a terrorist act on this country with the high gas prices. They're about to wreck this economy, not only our economy, but the world economy."
    Comment:  Apparently Landham hit his head once too often while playing a tough guy in movies. Here's all the evidence you need that Natives can be as stupid and ignorant as anyone else.

    How does Landham's desire to ban Arabs square with his libertarian beliefs? Answer:  It doesn't. If he were a true libertarian rather than a racist reactionary, he'd opposed government attempts to define "good" and "bad" immigrants.

    For more on the subject, see Brotherly Love, American Style and Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

    Gladiator schools for Natives

    Prisons poisoning natives

    Jails turn out to be 'gladiator schools' for the many aboriginals who end up there"I made a name for myself because I was really vicious," says Napoose, an articulate, 27-year-old resident of the Samson Cree reserve, south of Edmonton. "I would basically volunteer to beat people up."

    What makes Napoose's story unusual is that a year ago he quit Redd Alert, a street gang affiliated with the Hells Angels, after his second stint in a federal penitentiary. What makes it all too common is that prison turned Napoose into a more dangerous gang member than when he walked in.

    He entered as a foot soldier, or "striker," and became—during two tours and 5 ½ years in Edmonton's maximum security prison—one of Redd Alert's four governing council members. He rose through the ranks on the inside by selling drugs and dispensing pain, distinguishing himself in riots and a gang war.

    "The term gladiator school—basically, that's what prison is," says Napoose. "When I walked into the Edmonton max I was 20 years old and 160 pounds. By the time I walked out...I was six foot, 220 pounds, tattered up, mean, and basically I could deal with a lot of people and a lot of people didn't want to deal with me. I was just a scary person."

    America's best rez-ball teams

    Reservation players get exposureA passion that runs deep on reservations comes together Saturday at US Airways Center where the country's top high school Indian teams meet.

    The sixth Native American Basketball Invitational, an NCAA sanctioned event, concludes with the girls championship game at 5 p.m., followed by the boys final at about 6:30.

    Forty-eight boys teams and 32 girls teams from across the United States and Canada competed all week.

    Basketball is as much a religion as it is an escape for people on reservations.

    "Rez" ball got its name from the relentless, full-throttle games among athletes who try to outrun their opponents.

    It's exciting and the support is great.

    Pix of Comic-Con 2008

    Here are some pictures to accompany my report on the 2008 Comic-Con:

    San Diego Comic-Con--July 24, 2008

    Alas, my pal Victor Rocha (an enrolled Pechanga) was about the only Indian we saw.

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

    July 25, 2008

    Debunking Alaskan Native stereotypes

    Universities launch effort to debunk Native stereotypesA university program that aims to get students talking about touchy subjects will spend the coming school year dispelling myths about Alaska Natives.

    Many students and professors at the University of Alaska Anchorage are woefully misinformed about Alaska’s indigenous people, a situation that leads to stereotyping and can make Native students uncomfortable, said John Dede, special assistant to the vice provost.

    It’s likely one factor in the group’s high dropout rates, he said.

    “I think there’s a perception that Alaska Natives are white people under different skin,” Dede said. “And they are not. They come from different cultures with a different world view, and understanding that will be a realization for a lot of people.”

    To overcome the problem, a group of academicians, with help from Native leaders and others, are publishing a 100-page handbook that debunks Native myths, Dede said.

    The university and neighboring Alaska Pacific University will give the book to some 600 professors and provide 900 free copies to students.

    The effort is part of a stepped-up Books of the Year program, a third-year partnership between the universities to juice up debate in lecture halls and classrooms.

    Last year, the project distributed copies of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Swallows of Kabul,” works that tackle themes of religious extremism. Teachers added the books to lesson plans and panels discussed them, said Dede, the program’s coordinator.

    This year, in addition to the handbook, the reading list consists of two other books.

    Some 900 freshmen on both campuses will get free copies of “Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being” by Yup’ik author Harold Napoleon. The book explores the social devastation caused by Western-brought diseases that wracked Natives—sometimes leaving entire villages abandoned—from the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

    The third book—“Growing up Native in Alaska” by historian A.J. McClanahan—features interviews with more than two dozen Alaska Natives about their search for self-identity.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

    Report on Comic-Con 2008

    My pal Victor Rocha and I spent a few hours on the Comic-Con floor Thursday. Here's what we observed:

  • The major comic-book companies have had a smaller presence in recent years. This year they seemed smaller than ever.

  • As usual, movie studios and TV networks advertised their wares. The latest Hollywood juggernauts got their due, with displays for Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Dark Knight along with the upcoming Watchmen and Star Wars: Clone Wars.

  • Toy companies were a major force this year, with large displays by Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, and a company called Sideshow Collectibles. A lot of the smaller booths were selling statuettes, dolls, stuffed toys, clothing...anything but comics.

  • Making up for the lack of major comics companies was the incredible diversity of independent comics and artists. The talent and creativity on display in booth after booth was nothing short of amazing.

  • For some reason, zombies were big this year. You could find a zombie version of almost anything--for instance, Hot Zombie Chicks and Zombie Jesus.

  • Once again, there were almost no minority-related projects. (That's not counting Japanese anime, which isn't minority-related in Japan.) A few black-owned comic books and that was about it.

  • The Indian presence at Comic-Con was almost nil. Victor bought an oversized book of Edward S. Curtis photographs and a copy of Native Americans in Comic Books by Michael Sheyahshe, which is finally out. He also bought a print of worried-looking cowboys facing--wait for it--zombie Indians. We saw a toy diorama of savage Indians chasing Indiana Jones and a splash page from an old Tonto comic. Other than that, Indians were basically invisible.

  • The show seemed a little less crowded than previous years--perhaps because they didn't sell daily passes at the door. Attendees had to be pre-registered. But a few times we hit crowd conditions approximating a can of sardines--especially when someone foolishly designated an aisle "one way."

  • Celebrity sightings: Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd of Torchwood, boxer Randy Couture, and the inevitable Lou ("Hulk") Ferrigno.

  • For a look at all the wackiness, see Pix of Comic-Con 2008.

    Below:  John Barrowman in Torchwood, a good British sci-fi series similar to The X-Files.

    Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year

    Former Colorado Senator to Be Honored as 'Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year'Casino Enterprise Management magazine will recognize Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell as the "Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year." Campbell will be presented with this award Sept. 10 during CasinoFest7, held at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif. National Indian Gaming Association Chairman and previous Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year award winner Ernie Stevens Jr. will preside over the ceremony.

    A member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and Council of 44 Chiefs, as well as a former Congressman from Colorado, Campbell has long been a tireless supporter of Native American sovereignty. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987-1993 and the U.S. Senate from 1993-2005, and in 1997 became the first American Indian to chair the Indian Affairs Committee. His political career is marked with successes in protecting native lands and resources, and improving health, education and economies in Indian Country.
    Last year's winner:

    Stevens Receives Indian Gaming AwardCasino Enterprise Management, the gaming industry's premier trade journal, proudly announced that Ernie Stevens Jr., Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association is its Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year. During the ceremony, Stevens was honored with the first annual Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year Award presented by Casino Enterprise Management. Stevens was selected as Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year for his contributions to the advancement of Tribes and the Indian Gaming industry and Stevens' leadership and commitment during recent battles over Tribal sovereignty.Comment:  Stevens was the obvious choice for the first annual award. I don't know if Campbell was the second strongest advocate for Indian gaming, especially when he was in the Senate.

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