September 30, 2008

Fallacy of the big-name actor

As soon as I heard the news about Disney's casting Johnny Depp as Tonto, I guessed what the MSM's response would be.

  • Not that there aren't a lot Native actors who could play the role. (Including people such as Nathaniel Arcand, who already played it.) Most people know it's unwise to utter such a racist position even if they believe it.

  • Not that it's just a movie and casting decisions don't matter. There have been too many millions of words written on race for people to claim it's not an issue.

  • No, I figured that the primary response from Hollywood apologists would be variations of "it's a business." Studios operate to make money. If Johnny Depp will sell more tickets, isn't Disney obligated to use him?

    No. It's a fallacy that box-office success is impossible without big-name actors. As indicated below, most of the most successful movies in history haven't had big-name actors. (The films with a star actor are in red):

    All-Time USA Box office  1. Titanic (1997)
      2. The Dark Knight (2008)--Christian Bale
      3. Star Wars (1977)--Mark Hamill
      4. Shrek 2 (2004)
      5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)--nobody worth noting
      6. The Phantom Menace (1999)--Liam Neeson
      7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
      8. Spider-Man (2002)--Toby Maguire
      9. Revenge of the Sith (2005)--Hayden Christensen
    10. The Return of the King (2003)--Elijah Wood
    11. Spider-Man 2 (2004)--Toby Maguire
    12. The Passion of the Christ (2004)--nobody worth noting
    13. Jurassic Park (1993)--nobody worth noting
    14. The Two Towers (2002)--Elijah Wood
    15. Finding Nemo (2003)--nobody worth noting
    16. Spider-Man 3 (2007)--Toby Maguire
    17. Forrest Gump (1994)
    18. The Lion King (1994)--nobody worth noting
    19. Shrek the Third (2007)
    20. Transformers (2007)--Shia LaBoeuf
    This analysis assumes that we consider Johnny Depp a big-name star--someone who can open a movie. I think his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow carried the Pirates trilogy, but he hasn't proved he's a box-office guarantee in a non-Pirates movie. He often appears in Tim Burton and similar art-house movies and has never turned one of them into a smash.

    It also assumes that we consider Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy big-name stars--again, big enough to open a movie. In reality, neither one of them is a guarantee of success. Really, one could argue that only Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks are A-list stars in the movies above.

    Also note that Johnny Depp would be the second-billed star in The Lone Ranger, not the first. I don't think I've ever heard a producer say, "We need two big-name actors to carry this movie. One won't be enough." If Disney got George Clooney, Viggo Mortensen, or whoever as the Lone Ranger, why would it need Johnny Depp also?

    The bottom line

    Look at the facts. Even if you count Johnny Depp, Mike Myers, and Eddie Murphy, 15 of the top 20 movies did not have a big-name actor in the lead role. The "secret of success" seems to be to go with a relatively unknown young male character actor. In other words, to put money into the story, the director, the special effects, or the marketing--not into the actors.

    And don't tell me about US vs. international sales. Depp isn't a big action star, so I doubt he has a huge international following. He wasn't a box-office success until Pirates made him one.

    Moreover, Indians are immensely popular in Europe. I would think putting an authentic Indian actor and Indian culture in the movie would be a selling point for the European market. In fact, Hollywood might be smart to make Westerns just for the Europeans who love cowboys 'n' Indians.


    Disney wasn't thinking about the box office when it selected Depp. It wasn't thinking about it logically, at least. It must've had another reason.

    I'm betting the thinking went something like this: "Mainstream (light-skinned) audiences won't be able to relate to some unknown (dark-skinned) Indian. They will be able to relate to pseudo-Indian Johnny Depp. He's close enough to cover our asses, so let's make him Tonto."

    This is the comfort factor I was talking about recently. In other words, the structural racism inherent in Hollywood. For more on the subject, see Lack of Diversity = Discrimination.

    So...sorry, Anonymous. You lose the implied debate. Better luck next time you think you know more about movies than I do.

    Below:  Pretty-boy Johnny Depp as "The Brave."

    Greatest threat to sovereignty?

    Cole:  Tribal governments under fire“What is the greatest current threat to tribal governmental sovereignty?”

    There is no question in my mind what the answer is, and I respond by saying, “In this Congress and the next, tribes face the greatest threat to their sovereign governments that the U.S. Congress has attempted in decades: the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.”

    As Americans, we cherish our right to vote in private when it comes to elections. So, too, it seems to me with the individual right to vote in a union election in private–-without some goon looking over our shoulder to make sure we vote “the right way.”
    And:The bill will allow and encourage union bosses to use the National Labor Relations Board and federal courts to require Indian tribal governments to make public internal--even confidential--tribal documents. The NLRB, already hostile to the sovereignty of Indian tribes, would be allowed to interview and subpoena tribal employees and, incredibly, could prohibit the tribe from speaking with its own members if they happen to also be employees of that tribe! That doesn’t sound like “free choice” to me.

    This threat is very real. As the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s legislative agenda, this bill was the first major bill pushed by the Democratic Party leaders.
    Comment:  When Cole talks about the National Labor Relations Board and federal courts, he means the conservative National Labor Relations Board and federal courts. The ones who have regularly ruled against tribes because of the conservative bias against Indians. All that would change under a Democratic president, presumably.

    Not surprisingly, Cole's prescription is to vote for McCain. A McCain victory may stop this particular bill, but it'll ensure a conservative mandate at the National Labor Relations Board and in federal courts for another umpteen years. It'll ensure more Supreme Court justices in the hypocritical mold of Scalia, Thomas, Robertson, and Alito. You know, justices who are for states' rights and against judicial activism except when they're not.

    Not convinced? Here's more on Obama vs. McCain and the Federal Judiciary:Consider what eight years of the Bush II Administration did to tribal interests, and add that to the 12 years of the Reagan and Bush I Administrations. Federal Indian law professors now recognize in general that 1986 or so was a major turning point in the success of tribal interests before the Supreme Court. From 1959 to 1986, tribal interests prevailed about 55-60 percent of the time before the Court, when the majority of the Court were liberals and centrists. Since then, they have lost more than 75 percent of the time. Seven of the nine current Justices are Republican appointees.Therefore, my prescription is to vote for Obama. He'll appoint liberal judges who will protect tribal sovereignty much better than conservative judges have.

    NMAI = piece of junk

    Chuck Rozanski is president of Mile High Comics--possibly the largest comics shop in the world. As you probably don't recall, Rozanski is also a Native aficionado with a huge pottery collection. I posted something about The Pottery-Comics Connection back in 2006.

    Anyway, Rozanski visited Washington DC while at a comic-book convention in Baltimore. Here's a note from his newsletter (received 9/27/08) on the National Museum of the American Indian:

    Chuck's Van, with 30,000 Comics, Gets Towed Away!Our head buyer, Will Moulton, is with me on this trip, and he had never seen Washington, D.C., so we spent most of yesterday at tourist sites. We started off in the National Gallery (where we took each other's photos with our favorite van Gogh's), and then we walked the entire length of the Mall down to the beautiful Lincoln Memorial. It then began raining, but we still took time to pay our respects at the Korean and Vietnam memorials. After that, we headed to the new Museum of the American Indian. In all honesty, I have to tell you that the designers of that piece of junk should simply be fired. They need to gut that monstrosity and start over, as it is the single worst museum that I have ever seen. The majority of the space in the museum is wasted in vain attempts at achieving a hodgepodge of Native American imagery, which in the end makes no sense. As a result, there is practically nothing on display of the one million+ piece collection of Native American artifacts that the Smithsonian holds in trust for the American people, including the legendary Heye collection that was put together by an exceptionally avaricious New York banker during the period of 1880-1920. The first two floors are focused on two monumental gift shops, while the top two floors are dedicated mostly to meeting rooms and a theater. Admission was free, but I still wanted a refund upon leaving, for having had my time wasted so needlessly.Comment:  This diatribe is reminiscent of the last diatribe I posted about the NMAI: Visitors Don't "Get" Museum. Of course, I still haven't seen the museum myself, so I can't say whether these opinions are valid or not.

    P.S. Chuck got his van and comics back safe and sound.

    Video on Potawatomi basket weaving

    Students help weave film featuring Potawatomi family, basket-makingRachel Swem conceded it's pretty cool to be in a movie. But she also understands she's part of a larger picture.

    The 11-year-old sixth-grader and schoolmates at Forest Hills Goodwillie Environmental School spent much of last week as a backdrop for a documentary video conceived to provide a window into the struggles of West Michigan American Indian families trying to find their place in a society dominated by people of European descent.

    The documentary centers on the Potawatomi family of Steve and Kitt Pigeon and the ancient tradition of basket-weaving that has been kept alive in their family for generations.

    "We're trying to help document it because, after a few more years, the ash trees could be gone, and people might forget what the Indians did," Rachel said. "We want to help people remember the contributions they made."
    Comment:  Someone should do a documentary on how "basket weaving" came to be synonymous with a Simple Simon college course. Did a higher institution of learning really offer a class in basket weaving? Was it taught by an Indian? As with any manual task--learning to play the piano or fix an auto engine--it doesn't seem particularly easy to me.

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

    Parrotheads flock to Mohegan

    A Parrothead Mecca At Mohegan

    Margaritaville opens at Casino of WindMixed in with the executives and tribal members in suits, there were self-proclaimed “Parrotheads” donning their usual regalia: colorful leis and Hawaiian shirts in every color of the rainbow.

    The pack of proclaimed Jimmy Buffett fans gathered Monday morning for the grand-opening of the entertainer's only eatery in the Northeast.

    ”You can never have a bad time at Jimmy Buffett's,” Mohegan Tribal Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum said. “So rock on.”

    The opening of the 16,000-square foot restaurant marks the completion of the Casino of the Wind expansion at Mohegan Sun and the big event, filled with references to the Florida Keys and, of course, margaritas, comes exactly one week after the Mohegan Tribe announced it would delay further expansion plans for at least another year.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Jimmy Buffett Joins Mohegans.

    My debate question

    The upcoming presidential debate will feature questions from the audience. Here's what I'd ask if I had the chance:

    Irrelevant to presidential politics? No! It's an excellent proxy for people's stance on racial issues. As we've seen in this campaign, race is still on everyone's mind. And since the candidates wouldn't be expecting it or prepared for it, it would be a true test of their rhetorical abilities.

    For the story behind this video, see My 10 Questions Video on Racialicious.

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

    Navajo View Hotel is eco-friendly

    Navajo open new hotel in Monument ValleyThe View Hotel will employ about 100 people. A percentage of gross revenue on all sales will go to Navajo Parks & Recreation. The Navajo Nation will receive sales tax revenue.

    “The hotel goes beyond what have become standard eco-friendly building practices using low-flow water devices, extra insulation, windows with energy-efficient values, and fluorescent lighting,” stated Mike Finney, owner of AZ Communications Group, which has worked with ARTSCO and the Navajo Nation office of tourism.

    “There are operable windows in public spaces including the soaring two story lobby that allows for natural air flow for energy efficient cooling,” he says.

    Modern utilities and a wastewater treatment plant will be in place before the hotel opens in mid-November, Finney says. Hotel management is taking online reservations now for arrivals beginning Dec. 6, 2008, he says.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Navajo Hotel in Monument Valley.

    September 29, 2008

    Cowboy vs. Indian for president

    Todd Gitlin analyzes the presidential race in terms of archetypes. First, there's McCain the cowboy type:

    Race for president builds characters

    Once again, we're treated to not just a campaign but a collision of myths.Part of what makes this year's race so volatile--and so absorbing--is the range of archetypes it has mobilized. Sen. John McCain is relatively familiar. He is the leathery man of the West, of exactly the sort who has entranced the Republican Party for almost half a century now. It is the role that Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush played before him.

    McCain himself invokes Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider who, despite his New York origins, ranched in South Dakota and hunted throughout the West. Those who admire McCain tend to believe that it was men of this sort--rugged individualists, plain-spoken, straight-talking, self-sufficient men at home in nature (not in our effete cities)--who settled the West on their own. The myth discounts the immense role of the federal government in conquering the natives, seeing that the railroads were built, adjudicating disputes, arranging for water. No matter: Print the legend. In this image of the Old West, history belongs to the man who takes charge, the warrior in command who knows how to shoot and how to lead others to shoot as well.
    Then there's Obama the Indian type:If the Republican ticket harmonizes with deep mythic currents, the Democrats this year are pioneering, and a bit scrambled, in their mythic significance. Obama is the quintessential outsider--a "sojourner," the New York Times' David Brooks has called him. He hails from exotic Hawaii, alien Indonesia, elegant Harvard and down-and-dirty Chicago, all at the same time. To his devotees, he is part city-slicker, part man of the world; to his enemies, precisely this combination makes him suspect. Like the Lone Ranger, he rides into town to serve a community in need, but in a surprising twist, this Lone Ranger is closer to the color of Tonto.

    Mythically, therefore, Obama is elusive, Protean, a shape-shifter who, when not beloved, arouses suspicion. Perhaps he is that object of envy and derision, a "celebrity," as the McCain campaign suggested, but he's also an egghead. He's the professor--but one who can sink the shot from beyond the three-point circle. He too has a sidekick, but, if you judge by their resumes, it is as if Robin has chosen Batman. One thing is clear: He is not a man of the ranch. Personifying a welter of archetypes, he thrills some, confounds others and jams circuits. Some people ask, "Who is this guy?"
    Comment:  I'm glad that Gitlin pointed out how much of America's Western history is a myth. I've discussed that before in postings such as Westerners = Freeloaders.

    So McCain is the macho man and Obama is the trickster? Despite Native respect for the military, it's clear which candidate is more of an Indian in spirit. No wonder most Indians are Democrats and favor Obama.

    For more on the subject, see Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs.

    White settlers dominate Alaska

    Alaska Natives question Palin's supportAlaska Gov. Sarah Palin routinely notes her husband's Yup'ik Eskimo roots. But those connections haven't erased doubts about her in a community long slighted by the white settlers who flocked to Alaska and dominate its government.

    Since she took office in 2006, many Alaska Natives say they've felt ignored when she made appointments to her administration, sided with sporting interests over Native hunting rights and pursued a lawsuit that Natives say seeks to undermine their ancient traditions.

    Alaska's population today is mostly white but nearly a fifth of its people are Native Americans--primarily Alaska Natives. Blacks and Asians combined make up less than 10 percent of the state's population.

    As a result, race relations in Alaska are different from those in other states. Palin inherited a complex, sometimes strained relationship with Alaska Natives. There is a wide economic disparity between its predominantly white urban areas and the scores of isolated Native villages, and competition between sport hunting rights and tribal sovereignty.

    Early in her administration, Palin created a furor by trying to appoint a white woman to a seat, held for more than 25 years by a Native, on the panel that oversees wildlife management. Ultimately, Palin named an Athabascan Indian to the game board, but not before relations were bruised.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Palin Attacks Native Rights.

    Native worthy of Nobel

    Column:  Onondaga faith keeper's work Nobel worthyWhile this year's nomination period has come and gone, another name may soon likely join their ranks--Oren Lyons.

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee has been awarding the peace prize since 1901, bestowing one of the world's highest honors upon leaders whose work reflects a “fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

    Lyons, a faith keeper of the Onondaga Nation, is the most inspiring, responsible, admirable, honest and intellectual leader I've ever seen. I was recently reminded of his quiet yet influential leadership role when he addressed a cross-cultural gathering of traditional elders and youth on the Flathead Reservation.

    “The mission of our circle, number one, is peace--peace among ourselves, peace among the nations, peace for our world that surrounds us, that's our mission,” said Lyons who shared his message among a group whose members have been meeting since 1973, an initiative sponsored by the Bozeman-based American Indian Institute.
    Comment:  For more on Natives and Nobel Prizes, see Nobel Winner or Homeless Wretch?, Natives Win "Nobel Prize for Environmentalists," and The Inuit Nobel Nominee. For more on the teaching of peace, see Winning Through Nonviolence.

    Smithsonian museum replaces Indians

    Exhibition Review | Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

    Diving Into a New WorldFor almost 100 years the same space, now used to show the diversity of the ocean’s creatures, sample its fossils or exhibit the life forms of the darkest realms of the deep, was focused on non-Western ethnography and the American Indian. Those exhibits, now retired, were an essential part of the mythological narrative of the 19th-century natural history museum, of which this institution was a late but imposing example.

    That old model typically resembled a temple within which the citizen of the West would survey the natural world—dinosaurs, taxidermic animals, geologic marvels—along with the icons and totems of premodern and non-Western tribal cultures. Here is the world out of which modern man evolved, these institutions declared, inspiring appreciation for the wonders of nature and the strangeness of other cultures; of course, they also drew attention to the elevated perspective of the Western observer who was making sense of these objects.
    Comment:  In this context, removing the Indians is a good thing. As the article notes, including Indians as part of natural history rather than history is prejudicial and insulting.

    For more on the subject, see NYC Museums Showcase Indians.

    Navajo preachers bash Navajos

    Tradition-bashing Navajo preachers do harm[A] while back there came whole different types of evangelists, pastors and ministers who were Diné. The first thing out of their mouth was Navajo ceremonies, cultures and traditions are not your way.

    They told us this is not the Navajo way. Burn, throw away your medicine bundles. If you don't, you're going to hell.

    And then they tell people that God is talking to them. They would tell us, "God said to donate money, jewelry, sell your livestock, pawn, etc., and to give them the money."

    People really believe this and some did what they were told. And to this day and age, they are still at it, telling us don't practice your traditions or culture or beliefs. That really disturbs and upsets me.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Non-Native Gods = Waste of Time and Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs.

    Below:  The one true faith?

    Navajo hotel in Monument Valley

    Navajo Nation’s View Hotel in Monument Valley set to open in DecemberA new hotel in Monument Valley aims to live up to its name—the View.

    The 95-room hotel scheduled to open in December is situated with panoramic views of the well-known rock formations the Mittens, technically, the East and West Mitten Buttes on the Arizona side of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. You’ve probably seen John Wayne riding purposefully past the Mittens in westerns.

    The hotel is built on the site of a former campground, adjacent to the Tribal Park Visitors Center and Trading Post. Designed to maximize views and minimize impact on the environment, the View will feature Navajo artwork, a two-story lobby, “green” building technology and a low building contour that conforms to the mesa site.

    RezWorld on YouTube

    I've posted about RezWorld--"the revolutionary 3D interactive
    video game that teaches YOUR native language!"--in my Pictographs blog:

    More on RezWorld
    Video game teaches language

    But people are starting to talking about it and it may be reaching the mainstream. So it's time to post about it in Newspaper Rock, too. Here's a YouTube video that gives you the basic idea.

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

    September 28, 2008

    McCain's gambling problem

    John McCain's gambling habit could alienate Christian Republicans

    Senator John McCain faced alienating the influential Christian wing of the Republican Party after it was revealed that he is a keen gambler with extensive ties to the gaming industry.Mr McCain's claims to be a Washington outsider were also thrown into doubt after his extensive ties to the gambling industry and its lobbyists were revealed by the newspaper. The Obama campaign seized on this to call into question his claims to be a "maverick" intent on changing the system.

    "Gambling in casinos that you regulate with the lobbyists that represent those casinos is more of the same broken, special interest driven politics that has dominated Washington," said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr Obama's spokesman.

    The Republican candidate once gambled in a casino on an Indian reservation that he oversaw as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs committee, with lobbyists who had represented that casino, according to the paper.

    Former members of Mr McCain's staff said he indulged in a marathon session at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut in 2000 after he had lost the Republican presidential primary to George W Bush.

    The casino is run by the Pequot tribe, which has contributed heavily to Mr McCain's campaigns and has transformed Foxwood into one of the world's largest casinos. He was accompanied by Rick Davis, his campaign manager, at the invitation of Scott Reed, Mr Davis' old boss and a McCain fundraiser who had done extensive lobbying work for the tribe.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming.

    Country rez bands

    Rez Bands Put the Country in Indian CountryRecently, the "Rez" hasn't seen any modern country artists. The last artist to visit was Sugarland on Sept. 5 for the annual Navajo Nation Fair. New artists ask for too much money and only want a profit, said Mike, and there is no auditorium on the reservation to host the large crowds needed to generate big ticket sales.

    But that doesn't mean country music can't be heard all over the reservation. The music has managed to stay alive and has created a subculture within the Navajo culture. More Rez bands playing original and cover music have sprouted in almost all communities on the reservation. From the Aceswild band in Chinle, Ariz., to Native Journey in Torreon, N.M., Navajo musicians have been making music for swingers, line dancers and two-steppers.

    On "cardboard sheets," otherwise known as Navajo billboards, Rez bands have advertised their gigs and dances at chapter houses, activity centers and middle school gyms. A Web site,, shows a list of more than 40 bands and their gigs at more than 130 venues.

    Sto:lo film of children's book

    Short film reflects Sto:lo culture

    Territory, language used in story about young girl who is taken away to a residential schoolTwo Vancover-based movie makers will feature Sto:lo territory and language in a film adaption this fall.

    Director Kate Kroll and producer Marilyn Thomas are adapting a children's book, titled Shi-Shi Etko, into a short film. The book, written by former Chilliwack resident Nicola Campbell, takes place in Sto:lo territory, four days before a young aboriginal girl is taken away to a residential school. Her family tries to instill a lasting sense of cultural identity.

    The book fuses cultural elements of Interior Salish with Sto:lo, reflecting Campbell's time spent in the Thompson Okanagan and Chilliwack areas.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Remembering Wounded Knee's victims

    Arthur Short BullArthur Short Bull is a brilliant watercolorist whose vision strives to capture the spirit of his Oglala heritage. He has spent the last 14 years attempting self-sufficiency as an artist and gallery owner. “What I hope to achieve through my work is to help others see and experience the spirit that exists in all things,” states Short Bull.

    Arthur’s project involves utilizing his Wounded Knee series of paintings and poems as a vehicle to promote Lakota culture and history. He intends to develop this series as an educational tool to reach out to the Native community, primarily the youth, to increase their knowledge of Native history, especially in regards to Wounded Knee.
    Indian Art Market puts talent from tribes on displayArthur Short Bull, an Oglala Lakota artist from Alma, Kan., has set himself to a Sistine Chapel-like task of painting an image and writing a poem representing each victim of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre.

    He's got about 120 done.

    He has about 180 to go.

    "They're super-emotional," he says. "I'll do one and get enraged and want to kill someone. I'll do one and get depressed and want to kill myself."

    Seminoles have gaming "disease"

    'Rez disease' of alcohol, drugs is deadly among Seminole youth

    Alcohol-involved crashes, drug overdoses, suicide claim alarming number of young SeminolesFor young members of the Seminole Tribe, this should be the best of times.

    With annual revenues from casinos and other businesses that have topped $1.4 billion, the tribe provides each of its 3,300 members with an income of about $120,000 a year, a free education and a guaranteed job. And many college-educated Seminoles are coming home to work in the tribe's Hollywood headquarters.

    Despite these positive developments, young Seminoles die at an alarming rate from drug overdoses, alcohol-involved car crashes and suicide.

    Of 17 Seminole deaths recorded so far in 2008, 11—or about 65 percent—have been linked to drug or alcohol abuse, according to figures obtained by the Sun Sentinel.
    Comment:  I suspect most gaming tribes have longer lifespans since the advent of Indian casinos. But I've always said that tribes should be careful about doling out gaming revenues to their members. Giving people free money often doesn't work out well.

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

    Havasupai star in IMAX film

    Canoes, kayaks travel Downtown Canal

    Flotilla links Downtown Canal to Grand Canyon IMAX filmIt wasn't the Grand Canyon, but river guide Shana Watahomigie visited Indianapolis on Saturday anyway to try a leisurely paddle on the Downtown Canal.

    Watahomigie, a member of the Havasupai tribe, spoke for waterways conservation and promoted a 3D film about the Grand Canyon debuting this weekend at the Indiana State Museum's IMAX theater.

    Watahomigie and her daughter, Cree--stars in the film--led a "flotilla" of nine canoeists and kayakers on the canal.
    Comment:  For a look at the Downtown Canal, see Pix of My Trip to Indianapolis.

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

    High-tech traditional music

    Bear Traks Digital Media set to preserve traditional musicBear Traks began in 2006 by producing local recordings of traditional Native music. Since that time, it has recorded world class champion singing groups such as Midnite Express, Little Otter and High Noon, a world champion group from the Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan.

    High-tech digital equipment captures clear voices and resonant drumbeat on location at pow wows or historically significant places across the country where the groups ask Bear Traks to record.

    The modern equipment is the tool, but the deep purpose behind what they do is to “maintain the cultural and traditional aspects of our Native people,” notes its Web site,

    “One of the driving philosophies behind it,” the younger Teller said of Bear Traks, “is preserving and maintaining the integrity of the traditional music.”

    September 27, 2008

    Johnny Depp, Cherokee?

    Some information on Johnny Depp's Cherokee background:

    Johnny Depp--LifeDepp was born in Owensboro, Kentucky to John Christopher Depp, Sr. and Betty Sue Palmer. He was raised primarily in Miramar, Florida, where his family moved in 1970. He has one brother and two sisters (Debbie, Christie, who is Depp's personal manager, and Danny). The Depp family is mostly of Irish and German descent.

    Depp's maternal great-grandmother, Minnie, was a full-blooded Cherokee and Depp also has Cherokee ancestry on his father's side.
    Johnny Depp (Cherokee maternal grandfather according to Depp himself)

    Is Johnny Depp being shunned by Oscar because of his Cherokee background?Far as I know Johnny Depp has been nominated 3 times & stunning performances each time. Are they scared he's going to pull a Wounded Knee stunt, like his pal Marlon Brando? What's with the bad press, just recently? &... joining the dots here, the critics putdown of Mr Depp's directorial debut "The Brave." Let's not be naive folks, surely they are playing politics not entertainment. What do others think about this?How much Cherokee is Johnny Depp?Johnny Depp's Cherokee ancestry is only assumed. He's one of those "my great great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian Princess" types with no real proof that she was/was not Cherokee. His ancestor does not appear on any of the rolls or censuses taken of Cherokee people, even those taken by Cherokee people when accounting for their own. Due to the lack of proof, there is no way of calculating his blood quantum. I suppose the best one could do is say he has presumed Cherokee ancestry.All the Tattoos of Johnny DeppHe has fourteen known tattoos till now, including the "head of Cherokee Indian chief" for his ancestral heritage, the name of his first-born child "Lily-Rose" over his heart, his mother's name "Betty Sue", and a sparrow flying over water with the his son's name "Jack" below it.The latest addition is "Silence Exile Cunning."Johnny Depp:  CherokeeLike the famed Cherokee warriors of old, Johnny Depp has entered into a domestic partnership and mated with a European pop singer. No young brave could return to the village a man unless he carried over his shoulder some French or Lithuanian songstress with a frame so slight her bones are nearly hollow. In the lean years when pop stars were few and far between, some Cherokee were allowed to substitute snub-nosed supermodels or quirky bug-eyed actresses, and Depp has not strayed from exploring those cultural avenues as well.

    Depp’s L.A. nightclub, the Viper Room, was named after the deadly Serpentine Viper, which the Cherokee held sacred as the hottest place to bring an impressionable young Disney Channel starlet with a bra full of speed balls. It’s no coincidence that the Viper Room rests on the picturesque Sunset Strip, either, since this is the name of the erotic dance in which Cherokee women engaged to encourage the sun to go down.
    Comment:  The last item is satirical, in case you couldn't tell.

    <sarcasm> I'm glad we got Depp's background straight. His maternal grandfather or great-grandmother was Cherokee, or his ancestors were Indian-princess types. </sarcasm>

    Let's suppose he's 1/16th Cherokee. He starred in Dead Man and The Brave, and he has a tattoo. That's about it for his Indian identity.

    That might be good enough for an Indian role in a minor movie. But enough to play the iconic role of Tonto? No way. The role should've gone to someone who's recognizably Indian.

    Depp's alleged Indian ancestry comes from the Eastern Cherokee of Kentucky. Tonto presumably was an Indian from the Texas area--perhaps a Comanche or Apache. Having him played by someone who's 1/16th Eastern Cherokee is several degrees less authentic than having him played by a full-blooded Canadian Mohawk (Jay Silverheels).

    And none of these Internet sources has any credibility. In fact, Depp himself doesn't have any credibility. Until he shows us a family tree linking him to a documented Cherokee ancestor, his claims are worthless. They're no different from the claims of millions of other Americans descended from a "Cherokee princess."

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

    P.S. My former sister-in-law looks like a blonde homecoming queen, but she's a quarter Cherokee. She works at Disney, too. I guess that qualifies her to play Pocahontas or Sacagawea in an upcoming movie.

    Palin out of touch with reality

    An Athabascan’s responseUnlike Mr. [Ben Nighthorse] Campbell, who remarks that he is Northern Cheyenne, a former senator, and a leader in the McCain campaign, I am an Athabascan Indian, I have lived in Alaska all my life, and I actually know firsthand what Gov. Sarah Palin has done.

    Contrary to the former senator’s remarks, Alaska subsistence hunting and fishing issues are not complicated. As the former senator concedes, however, they are deeply “political.” My point exactly: consistently, Sarah Palin has politicized subsistence and sought to advantage urban hunters and fishers over the rural people who actually live a subsistence way of life. It is a stunning hostility, given that subsistence fishing, as one example, consumes a mere 2 percent of all consumptive uses of fish in our state.

    Nor are Alaska Native people “divided” on this issue. To the contrary, in the late 1990s Alaska Natives held a special statewide convention in Alaska and overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for rural subsistence.

    Palin cannot dodge her responsibility for continuing lawsuits that her predecessor began. She is against federal agency protection for subsistence. She is against subsistence fishing in many navigable waters that are critical to Native people. She is against subsistence hunting in many areas our Native people depend upon for their survival. She is against subsistence rights that prefer rural users as the federal law favored by Alaska Natives demands over urban users.
    Rosenfeld:  Alaska is a disasterAfter 11 years working in rural Alaska, I feel obligated to share my observations regarding the Third World living conditions facing more than 200 rural Native communities, and the state of Alaska’s lack of attention to the many inequities they suffer.

    While Governor Palin claims “exemplary leadership” and attempts to become vice president of the United States, the truth is that rural Alaska is a disaster in multiple areas: its human health, lack of infrastructure, environment and economy are equal to that of Third World countries. Sarah Palin is a single-issue governor who fails to effectively address these critical needs.

    Alaska has one of the highest rates of homelessness per capita in the U.S., overflowing sewage lagoons in dozens of communities and no running water in more than 150 villages--that’s almost 25 percent of the population without running water.

    Governor Palin has demonstrated how out of touch she is with Alaska while she continues to ignore the needs of the homeless; fails to recognize Third World living conditions in her home state; and ignores climate change victims, polluted waters, village health hazards and unattended military contaminant sites.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Palin Attacks Native Rights.

    Below:  "Look at the pretty eagle. Ignore the polluted dump site."

    Glover supports Freedmen

    Actor touts freedmen rights

    He says black people and American Indians have a pivotal past.Actor Danny Glover on Friday called on the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma to allow freedmen descendants into the tribe with full citizenship rights.

    Speaking at a forum hosted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Glover said other tribes will take similar action if the Cherokee Nation succeeds in blocking freedmen descendants' tribal citizenship.

    The issue is in court after a March 2007 vote by the Cherokee Nation to remove freedmen descendants from tribal rolls.

    Glover described the relationship linking American Indians and black people as one of the most pivotal in the nation's evolution.

    "I've always embraced that relationship," he said. "My own grandmother was part Choctaw."

    He cited the history of black people who escaped their captors and found refuge among the Indian tribes, as well as the strategic help black people offered the Seminoles in their war against the tyranny of the colonies.

    Both groups, Glover said, have seen genocide and exploitation.

    "But I am disturbed by what I see," he said, calling on black people to serve as the moral compass on such issues as the freedmen descendants' quest to have full citizenship rights in the Cherokee Nation. "These are very important decisions that we have to make. They are moral decisions."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Cherokees Vote Freemen Out.

    Ellis Island to include Indians

    Ellis Island to tell stories of slaves, American IndiansFor the first time, the stories of the arrival of American Indians and African slaves to U.S. shores will be included in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

    The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation announced Wednesday that it was creating The Peopling of America Center within the museum to tell the history of those who arrived before and after the peak immigration years between 1892 and 1954.

    The story of the migration to America "goes back to the beginning of the country and comes up to the present. So there were a good number of people whose stories weren't told at Ellis Island," said Stephen Briganti, the foundation's president and chief executive.

    The center, he said, will "cover the entire gamut of the populating of America."

    Exhibits will focus on the arrival of Native Americans, who are believed to have migrated to North America more than 10,000 years ago across the Bering Sea from Asia; Europeans who landed on the Eastern seaboard from the 1600s through 1892; Africans brought here forcibly by slave traders; and today's immigrants from all over the globe.
    Comment:  Nice of Ellis Island to finally include the people who came to America before 1892. But many Indians say they've always been here, and others believe they may have come over on boats. Will Ellis Island address these alternatives or just present the standard theory?

    For more on the subject, see Rediscovering America:  The New World may be 20,000 years older than experts thought.

    Sioux boxer goes pro

    Boxer comes to Nevada to train for professional debut"Ever since I was a kid, my idols were in boxing," Wilch said. "I always knew I had athletic ability, but it was mainly location at work against me. I only fought in big competitions, and sometimes I had to go to Omaha to fight."

    Wilch hoped to represent the United States in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but broke his pinky knuckle at the 2007 National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. That left him sidelined for nine months, and he decided the time was right to turn pro.
    And:Despite his impressive amateur record, Wilch said he believes he's better suited for professional than amateur boxing, because of the amateur scoring system of counting punches.

    "In Olympic scoring I wasn't more effective," Wilch said. "I'd land more clean and effective blows, but they'd stay busier and they'd get more points. I'll be a better pro than amateur."

    Creative Spirit in New Mexico

    New Creative Spirit initiative successfully launchedThe Creative Spirit New Mexico short film "Edgar's Journey" premiered on Aug. 23 to a full house at the VSA North Fourth Art Center as the closing night event of the First Annual Two Worlds Festival in Albuquerque. The screening was the culmination of a five week journey that began with assembling a group of American Indian participants in Albuquerque area, then teaming them with film industry professionals in a concentrated effort to develop a script, produce, shoot and edit a 10-minute short.

    "Now that Southern California Indian Center has proven that the Creative Spirit program can be successfully replicated, there's a lot of potential to help other Native communities that have an interest in film production," says InterTribal Entertainment director James Lujan. "There's a lot of Native American talent out there and a lot of stories to be told. We can provide the tools and training to help the Native directors, writers, actors and producers of tomorrow get to the next level."

    All about Mile Post 398

    Indian Comics Irregular #175:  Mile Post 398 Is a Milestone

    For more on the subject, see Mile Post 398.

    September 26, 2008

    Makeover house needs makeover

    Problems plague 'Extreme Makeover' houseBut even as the show aired last October, five months after the home was completed, reality was seeping through the cracks.

    Problems had started to surface with the air conditioner, water was draining from the roof right into the foundation, and the greywater irrigation system was malfunctioning, creating a stinky cesspool in the yard.

    Without water, the landscaping was dying.

    By midwinter it was evident this extreme makeover had some extreme glitches. The house was freezing. For days on end, the Yazzies could not get the indoor temperature above 40 degrees, even with the thermostats cranked all the way up.
    And:Meanwhile, there were cosmetic problems: the cork flooring was peeling up, tiles were falling off the shower walls, and two huge pine beams were pulling away from the walls.

    "I'm afraid to have someone sit under them in the living room," Yazzie said. "I keep thinking one of these days one of them is going to fall."

    A light fixture did fall.

    "It could have hit one of the grandkids,'" Yazzie said.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Yazzies Enjoy New House.

    Aboriginal playwright teaches Indians

    Aboriginal playwright visits University theater classes

    David Milroy’s work examines the Australian Aboriginal experience from both a historical and contemporary standpoint.Australian Aboriginal playwright David Milroy weaves the past and present of the Aboriginal story through his work.

    Milroy will speak about the experience to six Introduction to Theater classes today as part of the “Origins: on the Road” tour sponsored by Bronitsky and Associates, an international cultural marketing company. Milroy will also present a play-writing workshop at Haskell Indian Nations University tomorrow.
    And:Milroy is a member of the Palyku tribe in Australia. He said Aboriginal theater served as a “catch-up theater” because it told stories that had been left out of history books. It also serves as a way to maintain Aboriginal culture.

    The inspiration for Milroy’s work comes from the real-life experiences of his family, friends and tribal group, which he compared to the experience of American Indians. He said he also developed traditional stories into contemporary pieces.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

    Johnny Depp as Tonto?!

    Depp to play Lone Ranger's sidekickJohnny Depp is to play sidekick Tonto in a Disney remake of The Lone Ranger.

    Depp, 45, has Cherokee Indian as well as German and Irish ancestry.

    The big screen version of The Lone Ranger is being made by Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The new Pirates of the Caribbean will follow three previous blockbuster films with Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.
    Comment:  Johnny Depp as Tonto? Because he has a fraction of Cherokee blood?

    Hey, maybe Depp can make a movie with Taylor Lautner (Twilight) as father and son Indians. They're both Native enough for Hollywood, right?

    So much for Disney's alleged commitment to minorities. I guess it doesn't extend to Indians, the invisible Americans.

    What an insult to all the great Native actors out there. Once again, Hollywood kicks Indians in the teeth.

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

    Talking Stone presents riot

    Tamara Browning:  American Indian artist focuses on race riotAmerican Indian visual and performance artist JAMES LUNA of San Diego already had his multimedia installation show “TALKING STONES” in mind when he was invited to participate in a citywide memorial exhibition.

    “Talking Stones” is part of “Through the Eyes of Artists: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” which notes the Springfield race riot of 1908.

    For the most part, Luna’s installation in the Visual Arts Gallery at the University of Illinois at Springfield includes individual pillars that each hold video players shining images up through cast-resin stones. Sounds emit from audio equipment, giving the stones a “voice.”

    “Then OK, what would represent the riot portion?” Luna recalls thinking when putting his concept together.

    The pillar that represents the race riot features a cast-resin brick through which images of flames sear from below. Anguished sounds surround the installation.

    “Rather than a stone, I have a brick. Sort of represent the destruction. Underneath it I have fire,” says Luna, who is retired as an academic counselor.

    Liminality replaces Doe Woman

    "Liminality" joins Creative Spirit roster"Liminality," written by Migizi Pensoneau (Ponca/Ojibwe) will be produced as part of this year's Creative Spirit script-to-screen lineup. This follows DeLanna Studi's withdrawal of her winning script "Doe Woman" due to unforeseen circumstances. Pensoneau's script was the first runner-up in the 3rd annual national short screenplay competition for American Indian writers.

    According to InterTribal Entertainment director and Creative Spirit founder James Lujan, "While it's unfortunate we won't be able to produce 'Doe Woman,' we are looking forward to the oppotunity to work with Migizi, who is a gifted young writer."
    Comment:  It's a shame Doe Woman won't get made. I was curious to see how it would turn out.

    Liminality is a script I picked as a maybe. Therefore, I had a hand in selecting both of this year's winners.

    For more on the subject, see 2000 Script Winners Named.

    Honoring the Comanche codetalkers

    Comanche "Code Talkers" honored by tribe, City of LawtonDuring World War II, Native American soldiers were a key part of the allies' success, because the US Military used them to send secret messages in their native language, and it could not be decoded by the enemy. Comanches were one of more than a dozen tribes who participated in the top secret program that employed the "Code Talkers."

    As the official kickoff to the Comanche Nation Fair, the tribe's museum unveiled an exhibit dedicated to the "Code Talkers." The "Native Words, Native Warriors" exhibit is a travelling exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. While the artifacts, photographs, and letters pay tribute to all of the "Code Talkers" of the war, the museum is placing special emphasis on the 17 Comanche men who helped communicate critical messages during the war.

    Laker campaigns for Obama

    Laker touts Obama in Indian CountryNBA star Derek Fisher urged Native Americans in two Blackfeet Reservation communities Thursday to do what it takes to vote in this year's presidential election.

    Fisher visited Heart Butte High School and Browning High School to emphasize the importance of the Native American vote in this year's election, along with promoting voter registration.

    "The main message is getting voter registration numbers as high as possible," said Fisher in a phone interview.

    The Los Angeles Lakers point guard was on the reservation on behalf of the Barack Obama campaign.

    September 25, 2008

    Geronimo the wife-beater?

    Thom Ross, Western Artist and creator of "Buffalo Bill and the Indians on the Beach," talks about Indians:I get so tired of the clichéd images in Western art. Do you ever see paintings of Cole Younger playing croquet or an Apache beating his wife on a Friday night? NO! Indians played baseball, golf, croquet, ping pong and poker. The James Gang paused on their ride toward Northfield to watch a baseball game. One of the reasons Geronimo fled the reservation was because Apaches were not allowed to beat their wives. These are people we’re talking about, not marble monuments.I agree we should think of Indians as people, not marble monuments. I've noted some of their experiences with baseball and golf, if not ping pong and croquet.

    As for the wife-beating claim, I searched for information about it. Here's a possible source for it--the only source I found:

    General Crook and Counterinsurgency WarfareDavis was ordered to help promote farming and cattle raising with the newly surrendered Apaches. As part of another aspect of the acculturation process, Davis was ordered by Crook to prohibit the Apaches from drinking the alcoholic beverage tizwin and to stop the Apache males from beating their wives, a long-standing Apache custom. The Apaches at Turkey Creek soon became disenchanted with pressure being placed on them by Crook’s administration to change their traditional ways.Which eventually led to this:In the early afternoon of the eighteenth as Lieutenant Davis was umpiring a baseball game, a large number of Chiricahua Apaches, to include Geronimo, broke out from the reservation and headed towards Mexico.Comment:  If this is Ross's source, it's not nearly as clearcut as he makes it sound. Let's examine it:

  • The Apaches may have been drinking and beating their wives because the Americans were cooping them and forcing them to change their ways.

  • The Americans probably banned all sorts of Apache practices--for instance, their religious rites and dances. I'd be surprised if the Apaches didn't have many grievances against the Americans.

  • The most prominently stated reason for leaving the reservation was the policy against drinking, not the policy against wife-beating.

  • The document says nothing about whether Geronimo agreed with the others or what his motivations were. He may have fled for reasons unrelated to the drinking or wife-beating prohibitions.

  • It's also a longstanding custom for white Americans to get drunk and beat their wives. I wonder if General Crook corralled any white men who indulged in these practices and forced them onto reservations. I'm guessing not.

  • Al Carroll responds

    I asked correspondent Al Carroll what he thought of Thom Ross's wife-beating claim. Here's his response:To put it mildly, that's a colorful claim that gets endlessly repeated because the truth is so much more complicated.

    At best, that's a very distorted version of one of multiple reasons the band chose to escape their imprisonment. Here's a more accurate version, quoted from Thomas Sheridan's book History of the Southwest.

    "Accusations of corruption kept surfacing with the agents at San Carlos. Accusations of corruption kept surfacing, and in May Crook prohibited alcohol on the reservation, outlawing the brewing of tizwin, a fermented corn liquor favored by the Apaches. Under the guise of preventing wife beating, the military also began to interfere in the personal affairs of Apache families themselves. On May 15 the Chiricahuas demonstrated their contempt by getting drunk on tizwin and flaunting their disobedience. Two days later, Geronimo, Naiche, Nana, and 131 other Chiricahuas deserted the reservation."

    In small bands of sometimes as few as 30 or 40 people, where everyone depended so much on each other, adultery was a serious offense since it could so easily disrupt a tiny community. Adulterers were sometimes beaten, sometimes the tip of the nose cut off. That last part deeply offended some whites who had their notions of femininity tied up in female beauty.

    I certainly don't defend violence against women, but the purpose of the punishment was not to "keep women in their place." Apache women have a very strong role, and strong women such as Lozen are very much admired. The strong punishment was designed to keep harmony within the band. And the punishment was far more severe for a male adulterer. He could be executed.

    But this idea that Indian agents or the US Army being so deeply offended by violence against women? were white women treated at the time? Wife beating routinely happened in white American society, legally sanctioned up until the 1970s.

    It was the entire pattern of interference in every aspect of Apache lives, including family lives, that Geronimo and others objected to. The wife beating claim was just the cynical Indian agent and US Army excuse for that interference.
    So Al basically confirmed what I thought. Thanks, Al.

    For more on the subject, see Drunken Indians and Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs.

    Tatsey embarrasses himself

    Here's proof that not all Indians are wise and not all Indian medicine is worthwhile. Calvin Tatsey, a Blackfeet Indian, got the idea that I was pretending to be gay Kiowa science-fiction writer Russell Bates on my own blog. When I asked him where he got this absurd notion, he said his "medicine" told him.

    Apparently Tatsey wanted to embarrass himself further by mocking his own ignorance and the "ignorance" of his so-called medicine. Here's the e-mail he sent when I informed him for the third or fourth time that his medicine was wrong and Russ and I were different people:Ha, Ha, Good, Ha, Ha, Ha, Evening, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha:

    Ha, ha, ha, you gay guys always act like you aren't! You're probably sitting at your computer right now, writing, all dressed up in your pinkest panties and wearing your best dress writerfella! Got any heels? Hu, hu, hu, ah-ha, I'll bet you have a closet full of heels, come on now, writerfella, admit it!

    Come on now Rob/Russ/writerfella, you can come out of the closet. I won't tell. I've studied Psychology for years, and I've learned that an alter-ego is, such as your writerfella, just a release of something that is too powerful to face-up-to in any other way, or to contain within the Psyche, and it comes out, again, such as your writerfella.

    You're just a typical Old Queen, my friend, whichever friend reads this. I'll bet you like young Native American men only, and that's why you're so fixated on the Native American persona. Be honest friend. I know who you are, because my Medicine told me everything.

    Be proud of your Gayness and don't ever let anyone dispel your illusions of one day magically changing into a beautiful, Native American Princess, with every young, handsome Native American male at your heeled feet, worshipping your every curve and catering to your every whim and desire.

    Be yourself and don't feel that you have to prove anything to me--I know who you are and what you're about.

    ps, Please stop hating my Medicine for the exposé.


    Calvin Tatsey
    My response:  How much of your life did you waste writing this stupid reply? I guess you and your worthless medicine couldn't address any of the points in my last message. So instead you mocked your own ignorance.

    Thanks for saving me the trouble of parodying you and your foolish beliefs. You did a fine job of it yourself.

    A few more thoughts

    There you go...proof that some Indian "medicine" is worthless and some Indians are ignoramuses.

    Should we go into Tatsey's obvious prejudice against gays--thinking all homosexuals are "queens" or "princesses"? This is literally, not figuratively, homophobia. Tatsey is afraid some homosexual will come on to him and challenge his masculinity, so he lashes out preemptively with stupid stereotypes.

    I wonder...are there other cases of Indian "medicine" lying to its owner? Are these bits of medicine intelligent--and evil? Are they conspiring to make their owners look like fools and idiots? Does this explain why Indians lost the Indian Wars...because too many of them believed their medicine over the facts in front of their faces?

    Just kidding, sort of.

    P.S. For anyone who's new to Newspaper Rock, I'm a heterosexual WASP with no Indian blood and Russell Bates is Russell Bates.

    Below:  Russell Bates and Rob Schmidt. If there's the slightest resemblance, I don't see it.

    Romantic Indians in Brush's paintings

    The Beaux-Arts Indians of George BrushIn 1882, when young George de Forest Brush--who was born in 1854 or '55 (the records disagree) and died in 1941--rode into the West, he wasn't an ethnographer or a champion of the underdog or a traveling reporter or any kind of cowboy. He was a painter with a purpose, a Paris-trained professional seeking subjects for his art.

    He knew what he was looking for. The figures he was seeking would be thrillingly exotic, distinctively American, conveniently unclothed. Indians would do fine. Those in Brush's paintings have all the right accessories (beadwork on their moccasins, silver-studded belts, stone arrowheads, canoes), but they aren't convincing Indians. That's because they're stand-ins. Brush looked on them as "actors." They are stand-ins for the youths he meant to show us all along, the figures of the Renaissance, the gods of Greece and Rome.
    And:The models at the Beaux-Arts took their assigned poses from the classics of art history. Brush's Indians do the same.

    The first warrior in a row of them in "Before the Battle" (1886) takes his pose from Michelangelo's "David." The second strikes a model's pose standard in the art school, though the pole that holds his arm up has been replaced by a spear.
    The point of Brush's style:His Indians aren't really Indians; they aren't really people. They have no history, no misery, no resentment of their foes. Like the dead birds by their sides (Brush was great at birds) or the armbands around their biceps (Brush was peerless, too, at depicting gleaming copper), they are academic props.

    Brush didn't ride a horse to Wyoming. He took the train, the new wide-funneled train. Life was changing clangingly in the 19th century--and rather than confront that change, lots of artists (not just Brush) chose to paint the pure-souled noble primitives of the pre-industrial past.

    In France, Jean-François Millet painted pious peasants. In Britain, Sir Edwin Landseer painted kilted Highlanders. Paul Gauguin chose Tahitians. Such figures and Brush's Indians have a lot in common. They don't complain of poverty or gripe about injustice or dispute with their betters. Their presence in a picture reassures the viewer: Your soul is as pure as theirs.
    Comment:  Compare Brush's paintings with those of Kent Monkman--for instance, "The Triumph of Mischief."

    Below:  In "Before the Battle" by George de Forest Brush, the first warrior's pose evokes Michelangelo's "David."

    P.S. A chief wearing nothing but a loincloth? I'm guessing that was rare.

    Seminole mascot wore pantyhose

    First chief hails grand traditionOne of college football's greatest traditions was born on Sept. 16, 1978, when Jim Kidder, Florida State's first Chief Osceola, mounted his horse, Renegade, then charged down the field at Doak Campbell Stadium and planted a flaming spear at midfield before a game against Oklahoma State.How did this mascot "honor" Indians?So what is the most memorable experience as Chief Osceola?

    The 1979 Orange Bowl [on Jan. 1, 1980] when we played Oklahoma. ... We did a routine where I was going to chase the Sooner wagon twice around the middle of the field. They were going to go to their side of the field, and I was going to my side, then we were going to come up to the center of the field. I was going to throw the spear, and they were going to fire the little gun they have. ...
    How authentic was this mascot?Do you like the recent changes to the routine, including the more authentic Chief Osceola costume?

    I view them all as positives. It's been 30 years. When we started with me, the first costume wasn't ready. The Seminole Tribe was actually making it, and it wasn't ready for the game. We had to put a costume together. It was a lady's bathrobe. First, we started out with a pair of brown Danskin pantyhose, and I had some moccasin bedroom slippers that I had to tie onto my feet with a red cloth because they were too big. We ended up doing away with the Danskin pantyhose, and I just wore brown corduroys for a while.
    Comment:  So Jim Kidder "honored" the Seminoles by dressing up in a woman's bathrobe, pantyhose, and slippers? And pretending to savagely attack a wagon in Oklahoma, 1,000 miles from any genuine Florida Seminole culture? If that was an honor, I'd hate to see what Kidder would've done to mock or insult Indians.

    Nice of Kidder to acknowledge what we already knew. All the talk of honoring Indians' bravery or spirit is just As the Oklahoma bit proves, what people are really "honoring" is Indians' savagery. Chasing the wagon, threatening the "Sooners" inside, tossing a spear at them--all these are marks of how cruel and barbaric we perceive Indians to be.

    For more on how phony and stereotypical "Chief Osceola" is, see Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay.

    Below:  "My pantyhose is so tight it's driving me crazy. I can't think straight, so I'll try to kill everyone in that Sooner wagon. After I skewer the white man, you'll probably praise me for my noble spirit."

    Let's stereotype everyone equally

    Cultural symbols exhibit takes on stereotypesArrendondo's exhibit, titled "Welcome to Cleveland" was far easier to understand. The entire exhibit, which sprawled across the rear half of the gallery, features different renderings of the iconic Cleveland Indians' mascot, Chief Wahoo.

    The renderings explore what other ethnic and religious groups would look like as stereotypical mascots.

    The exhibit pokes fun at all cultures, complete with the Gangsta representation sporting a grill over his teeth and a gold chain necklace, Latinos appearing as a human version of Speedy Gonzalez, and even Africans as the indigenous stereotype with a bone through their nose.

    However, the exhibit didn't just poke fun at people of color, but was an equal opportunity offender.

    The German rendering is basically a cartoon Hitler with a swastika medallion around his neck. The Irish representation looks like a slobbering drunk leprechaun. White Folks are presented as hooded Ku Klux Klan members with a flaming cross adorning their white hoods, and skinheads have an X branded on their forehead and a spiked band around their neck.
    Comment:  As I've said before, we don't "honor" the Fighting Germans or the Fighting Japanese for their bravery and ferocity. I wonder why not.

    Remember the "Fighting Whites" intramural team and its t-shirts from a few years ago? I said this parody was ineffective because it didn't caricature white people the way sports mascots have caricatured Indians.

    Caricaturing white people as Klansmen does the trick. It portrays whites as xenophobic haters and killers--which is what the "Indian as savage" stereotype does too.

    For more on the subject, see Smashing People:  The "Honor" of Being an Athlete.

    Oneida/Puerto Rican restaurant

    Puerto Rican flavor served up at Gali's

    Restaurant recently opened on Packerland DriveTamar Cornelius visited Puerto Rico and fell in love with the food. She's betting others in Northeastern Wisconsin will like it, too.

    Cornelius and her fiance, Jorge E. Soto Colon, opened Gali's restaurant on Packerland Drive three weeks ago.

    "My goal is to bring something to Green Bay I never encountered," she said.

    Key ingredients include pork, beef and chicken, rice and beans and plantain, which resembles a banana but does not taste like one and is used more like a potato. Meats are often marinated.

    Puerto Rican recipes resemble Spanish and Mexican fare but have other influences as well, including African and Amerindian Taínos.
    And:She got financing from Oneida Small Business Inc. She is an enrolled member of the tribe.

    "If not for that, I wouldn't have been able to get a loan," she said.

    She said there is a surprisingly strong Oneida/Puerto Rican connection. English and Spanish will be spoken at the restaurant.
    Comment:  Unfortunately, the article didn't specify what the "surprisingly strong Oneida/Puerto Rican connection" was.

    What's wrong with Grizzly Bob?

    Educator Debbie Reese tells us what's wrong with a Berenstain Bear dressed as an Indian:

    Alphabet materials with "I is for Indian"Grizzly Bob is wearing a feathered headdress, fringed buckskin. That is commonly thought to be the way Indian men dressed. The word "Indian" brings that image to mind. While it is kind of like what some Plains tribes wear, it has obscures the diversity that exists across American Indian Nations. Overwhelmingly, images of Indians place us in the past, which obscures that we are people of the present day. Last, American society provides a lot of opportunities for people to dress up and "be" Indians. This includes the camp theme in this book. It seems Americans love to emulate some romantic idea about who they think American Indians were, but when American Indians of the present day speak up against all the past AND present mistreatments of our lands, spiritual places, stories, children, etc. etc. etc., our voices are dismissed and ignored. In sum, it seems that people love to love Indians in the abstract, but when a Native person in the present day says "hey... it is not ok for you to dig in our ceremonial grounds" or "hey... it isn't ok for you to build that house or store on our burial sites" the professed love for Indians is forgotten.(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 9/15/08.)

    Comment:  Go to the original posting to see my thoughts on the subject.

    For more on the subject, see Tricking or Treating Indians and Indian Wannabes.

    September 24, 2008

    The Army's Lakota helicopter

    Pilots fly Lakota to Sioux powwowFort Polk's 5th Aviation Battalion has been flying the Army's new utility helicopter for a year, and Monday pilots had a chance to meet the namesake of their birds, the Lakota tribe of South Dakota.

    The pilots were invited to participate in the tribe's annual sun dance, a traditional religious and cultural ceremony that honors warriors and elders of the Lakota Sioux tribe that lent its name to the UH-72 Light Utility Helicopter.
    And:The unit flew two helicopters to Rosebud, S.D., and displayed them at a local university and the sun dance ceremony. The pilots took the opportunity to learn more about Lakota culture. The tribe refers to its veterans as "warriors," and regards them with the same esteem that their ancestors did centuries ago.

    "Even now, when they join one of the armed forces, in their society they are considered warriors," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allen Galbreath, who also flew to the ceremony.
    Plus this odd bit of history:"It's actually quite a process to name a helicopter," said Galbreath. "There is a Department of Defense directive that requires the naming of helicopters after Indian tribes. The tribes put in a request to have the helicopter named after them. The tribes characteristics also should fit the characteristics and uses of the airframe.

    "The Lakota were known as peaceful people, and 'one with the earth,' so that's how this helicopter came to be known as the Lakota. They were disappointed that it didn't have guns on it, though."

    "The Lakota are famous for wiping out the 7th Cavalry during the Indian Wars of the 19th century though," said Dunn, noting the irony.

    "They are peaceful up to a point!" said Galbreath.
    Comment:  The Rosebud Sioux are only one of several Lakota tribes in South Dakota, of course. They aren't the Lakota tribe of South Dakota.

    And the Lakota...peaceful? That's not the first word that comes to mind when I think of them.

    So these Lakota are proud of their warriors. And they requested a military helicopter to be named for them. But they sought this name to emphasize how they're peaceful, not warlike? Uh-huh, sure they did.

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

    Mascots don't represent reality

    Native American stereotypes perpetuated by sports mascotsIt wouldn't be an issue if these mascots actually did interpret Native Americans correctly, but they don't.

    It's unsettling to watch someone who is not Native American present their interpretation of a culture they are not a part of for entertainment value. The majority if these mascots throw on some buckskin, beads, war paint and prance around the field and consider that authentic.

    I have seen firsthand sacred ceremonies performed by people who dedicate their lives to the traditional Native American lifestyle. These individuals are revered throughout the community. The Native American lifestyle is not something to be taken lightly.

    To see the life's work of these people mocked and mimicked at sporting events for entertainment value is offensive because it belittles what defines us as people: our culture.
    And:There seems to be a fascination with a fictionalized version of Native American culture.

    Realistically, Native Americans largely reside on desolate reservations, live below the poverty line, suffer from unemployment and are in a losing battle with diabetes and alcoholism.

    This is not the type of Indian being portrayed by sports teams. These mascots, instead of bridging the cultural gap, continue to build upon the stereotypes.

    I have encountered people who still thought I lived in a teepee and hunted buffalo for food.
    Comment:  I'm amazed that some people still don't get this author's point. Namely, that when you depict Indians as chiefs and "braves," that becomes the dominant image in people's minds. People see Indian mascots and believe Indians still live and look like that.

    Below:  What most people think of when they think of Indians.

    Sherman Alexie in the Classroom

    Native insight:  Textbook guides teachers on author's racial messagesIt ain't easy being Indian. So says one of America's premier Native writers of contemporary Indian life.

    To help explain the racial complexities that permeate Sherman Alexie's work, a textbook for teachers, “Sherman Alexie in the Classroom,” was recently published to help educators explore Native Americana in modern times, stories often told by Alexie with an acerbic twist.

    To wit, says Alexie: “I rooted for John Wayne--even though I knew he was going to kill his niece because she had been 'soiled' by the Indians. Hell, I rooted for John Wayne because I understood why he wanted to kill his niece. I hated those Indians just as much as John Wayne did.”

    So why would an Indian hate Indians?

    English literature professors and teachers Heather Bruce, Anna Baldwin and Christabel Umphrey explain this paradox in “Sherman Alexie in the Classroom,” a high school literature series published by the National Council of Teachers of English. The text examines Alexie's provocative body of work, ranging from poetry and novels to film scripts.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.

    Talking circles in schools

    Native American tradition helps students solve problemsA few years back, a toy went missing from an Audubon, Minn., sixth-grader’s locker. The child was particularly distraught because the object was a gift from a late grandmother.

    So Sam Skaaland, the Lake Park-Audubon elementary principal who back then taught sixth grade, and his students sat in a circle. They took turns talking about how the loss of a treasured possession made them feel.

    Before long, the toy mysteriously reappeared in its owner’s locker.

    The school had recently embraced the concept of the talking circle, a traditional American Indian practice that has gained fans at schools in Minnesota and beyond. The technique, which teaches students to speak up, listen and relate, is a favorite in the arsenal of educators who in recent years have championed a softer approach to promoting discipline.

    “It’s a way for kids to solve problems from within themselves rather than us lecturing them,” said Skaaland, whose school scored a Center for Academic Excellence award for its use of the tool earlier this year.

    Twilight reshoots include Quileutes

    'Twilight' Stars Kristen Stewart, Nikki Reed, Taylor Lautner Get Cagey About Reshoots

    Reed says the Oregon weather made the reshoots necessary."There were a lot of additional scenes," Reed explained. "I think when they saw the film, I mean this is kind of a guess, but I think that they realized that it could use a little bit more of the old element, so I think the flashbacks focused on that."

    Reed seemed to think they needed to keep this intel a secret, but Robert Pattinson (Edward), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle) and Kellan Lutz (Emmett) have already revealed that the new shoots included a scene establishing the history of the Cullens. To show when Carlisle and his family made a treaty with the Quileute Indian tribe, the actors dressed in pegged pants and old-timey caps. Facinelli even had to speak to the tribe leaders in their language.
    Comment:  Is it good that they added a scene featuring the Quileutes? Or is it bad that they added it only as an afterthought?

    The original shooting took place in Oregon. It's not clear where the reshoots took place. If they occurred in Oregon also, they couldn't have included the Quileute people, culture, or landscape (since the Quileutes live in Washington).

    I wonder how they simulated the Quileute reservation. Perhaps they found a few dark-skinned people (Latinos?) and hung a dreamcatcher on the wall. It remains to be seen whether Twilight will have a single genuine Indian person, place, or thing in it.

    For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

    Woodstock concert for Black Mesa

    Bearsville Theater to host benefit to help protect Hopi landAn improvisational rock and jazz trio Sunday night will stage a concert in Woodstock to raise money for American Indians battling water, mining and land issues in the Southwest.

    Medeski, Martin and Wood is set to perform Sunday night at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, with Apache and Hudson Valley musician Roland Moussa opening the show.

    Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Black Mesa Trust, a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 by Vernon Masayesva, of the Hopi tribe. The Black Mesa Trust addresses environmental, health, cultural and societal issues that concert organizers say have arisen over the decades Missouri-based Peabody Energy has pumped water out of Hopi land and mined areas of the tribe's land in the Black Mesa region of northeastern Arizona.
    Comment:  Pumping water out of the Black Mesa aquifer is the subject of the first PEACE PARTY story arc.

    Rincon saves Christmas

    ESCONDIDO:  Rincon Indians rescue city's Christmas parade

    New security fee had jeopardized popular eventThe Rincon Indian tribe has given Escondido residents an early Christmas present--$15,000 donation that has rescued the city's annual holiday parade from possible cancellation.

    The donation will cover a new city security fee that had jeopardized the 58-year-old parade, which takes place in early December each year. The fee was approved by the City Council this June in an effort to shrink a steep budget deficit created by plummeting sales tax revenue.

    September 23, 2008

    Western artist vs. Kiowa activist

    Someone informed Thom Ross, the artist who created "Buffalo Bill and the Indians on the Beach," about the online criticism of his work. Ross responded via e-mail and someone posted that response also. Mark Anquoe, the Kiowa activist who protested Ross's work, then responded to Ross. This led to the following pseudo-exchanges:

    Ross:there were many people i did not know (that gal gazelbe being one) who came up to me with attitude and disgust for what i had done and never tried to engage in a conversation: i was a white guy celebrating my white heros and so was guilty without a trial.Anquoe:To begin with, he mentions a number of times things that I did, but he obviously has no idea who I am, as he keeps referring to me as a woman.

    First of all, I never approached Mr. Ross. The first day I was on the beach, before I had even *spoken* to anyone, he started verbally abusing me. I couldn't believe it! He had no idea who I was as I had never seen him or been there before! Maybe it was because I had an AIM patch on my jacket. Maybe it was because I have braids that he assumed I was there to make trouble. I have no idea. But it was pretty obvious to me that there was no point in talking to him.

    Other people however, *did* try to talk to him. In fact, I can think of at least five Indians who tried to talk to him on separate occasions. Every single instance resulted in Mr. Ross becoming verbally abusive. He even tried to provoke Tony Gonzales into a physical altercation.
    Ross:if what i did on ocean beach had truly been disrespectful of indians NO ONE would have come see itAnquoe:That is ridiculous. The exploitative and offensive use of our images is standard practice and completely accepted as the status quo. That is exactly why we have to do protests and education all the time. There is a reason that the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians are always having to contend with Indian objections. This is no different.Ross:buffalo bill cody was the schindler of that holocaust. HE kept the indian culture alive.Anquoe:This is patently offensive. I'm sure the Jewish community would agree.

    And for the record, it was Indians who kept Indian culture alive. Buffalo Bill became rich off of exploiting cartoonish, inaccurate caricatures of Indian culture.
    Ross:the lakota of montana whose ancestors worked the "wild west" shows still honor the fact that it was their ancestors who performed.Anquoe:It's true that there are Indians who have no objection to the wild west shows. They certainly were not the descendants of any of the well-documented performers who were abused by these white promoters.

    Regardless, it is a very racially sensitive subject. Mr. Ross knows this perfectly well. It should not be handled in a way that trivializes us and makes into a carnival attraction.
    Comment:  Go to the posting to see all of Ross's and Anquoe's comments.

    The "Lakota of Montana" are only a fraction of the total Sioux population, so their views don't tell us much.

    I'm not sure the Wild West shows displayed any genuine aspects of Plains Indian cultures besides their superficial appearances. And I'm sure the shows didn't do much to keep the hundreds of Indian cultures beyond the Plains alive.

    Indians owned

    Ross goes into a long, gratuitous attack on Indian cultures, starting with:the earliest slave culture in north america was right here, between san francisco and the panhandle of alaska. the indians along the west coast of america had a slave culture long before columbus came.This is generally true, but it's ancient history. It ignores the fact that Indians treated slaves better than Euro-Americans did. More to the point, it's irrelevant to Ross's argument.

    Ross is big on saying Indians were and are flawed just like everyone else. But how does that justify his Wild West show homage? He wasn't showing real, flawed Indians with all their warts. He was showing Indians as nothing but the familiar stereotypes--literally as two-dimensional caricatures of reality.

    Go ahead and create art showing Indians, Americans, and Europeans as slaveowners, Ross. To be fair, you'll want to show that non-Indians not only owned slaves, but engaged in an inhuman slave trade of horrifying dimensions. I'd support that art (in theory) because it would be more honest than your "valentine" to cowboys 'n' Indians stereotypes.

    Following Ross's "logic"

    I'm having trouble following Ross's "logic." He seems to be saying that because Indians were flawed, it justifies any depiction of them, no matter how stereotypical. And because they were flawed, any Indian who protests Ross's stereotypical depictions is trying to be politically correct. I.e., to falsely deify Indian as perfect paragons of virtue.

    Needless to say, this is nonsense. As far as I know, Anquoe didn't demand that Indians be portrayed as flawless. His point was that Buffalo Bill's Indians were caricatures like something out of a minstrel show. None of Ross's responses address this point. So answer, Ross: Did the Wild West shows (and your artwork of same) promote an authentic or stereotypical vision of Indians?

    Below: "Some Indians on the West Coast owned slaves. Therefore, it's okay if we dress up as stereotypical Plains chiefs and braves."