October 31, 2008

Means:  Lakotah = OST

Means Would Declare Reservation Disaster AreaAs Hurricane Ike beat up on Texas in mid-September, Russell Means watched as President Bush declared 29 Texas counties major disaster areas, making federal funds available for storm recovery.

Means hopes to use that same tool to bring federal and international aid to his own ailing people, the Oglala Lakota, if he's elected tribal president on Tuesday.

"This is far beyond a national disaster area," he said of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. "It's an international disaster area."

If federal aid can be spent on one of the richest cities of the world, Houston, why not one on of the poorest places in the world? Means asked.
Means is running for president of the OST, but he's already the leader of the Republic of Lakotah. What's up with that?Means, a former American Indian Movement leader, has a history of suggesting extreme solutions to Indian problems. This spring, he announced that he and a group of Native leaders planned to secede from the United States to form the independent Republic of Lakotah, a nation formed on the basis of the Treaty of 1851 and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Means appears to be backing off from that plan.

He said this week it's not necessary to secede as the Oglala Sioux Tribe is already a sovereign nation, a fact he plans to force the U.S. government to respect if he's elected tribal president.
The OST was as sovereign last year as it is now. Yet Means felt the need to secede. The OST's sovereignty wasn't good enough for him then.

In fact, he called the OST tribal council a puppet government, or words to that effect. Yet now he wants to be the head puppet? What's up with that?"That's what my candidacy is all about is conquering genocide," he said. "This is the Republic of Lakotah. This is our land."So now the Republic of Lakotah is the same as the OST?! What happened to the Republic of Lakotah's declaration of sovereignty over parts of four states? And its people's refusal to obey US laws within its boundaries?

It's pretty clear what's going on. Means wanted to be in charge, so he declared himself the head of a fictitious nation. When he saw a chance to become the head of a real nation, he abandoned his Lakotah claims.

As many of us said, these claims were nothing more than a publicity stunt. They raised his profile enough so he could run for real. Indeed, that may have been the whole point of his Lakotah stunt.

No more Lakotah?

Now he seems to be saying that the Republic of Lakotah is the Oglala Sioux Tribe. That's funny, because he sure wasn't saying that before. His position in Means Declares Independence was:"I want to emphasize, we do not represent the collaborators, the Vichy Indians and those tribal governments set up by the United States of America to ensure our poverty, to ensure the theft of our land and resources," Means said, comparing elected tribal governments to Nazi collaborators in France during World War II.Now that his "republic" has served its purpose, he can toss it into the dustbin of history. That is, he can magically merge the four-state Republic of Lakotah into the one-state OST. And he can declare that the OST now represents all the Oglala Sioux, including the citizens of Lakotah.

Renouncing the Republic of Lakotah became almost mandatory when Means decided to run for OST president. What was he going to tell OST voters? Surely not the following:

"I want to be president of the OST even though I've pledged my allegiance to the Republic of Lakotah and its government. If elected, I'll a) declare the OST an independent nation also; or b) work for the OST within the US federal system. You can be sure I'll have your best interests at heart even if I ditch you again as another publicity stunt."

Below:  The OST's Pine Ridge Reservation is the small dark-red block in the lower left of the orange block in the center of the yellow block representing the former Republic of Lakotah. If the Republic of Lakotah is equivalent to Pine Ridge and the OST, someone sure fooled this mapmaker.

3rd SCALPED volume = masterpiece?

Please Read ScalpedWith the third volume, the series has made a quantum leap. What was an excellent series has moved in to the realm of masterpiece. Your life is less rich for not reading it. This is a series that you need to read and recommend to your friends. We need to make sure that this series lasts as long as possible and that Jason Aaron is the one who decides when it ends.

Scalped tells the story of Dashiell Bad Horse. After an extended absence, he returns to the Indian reservation he left as a young man. He is taken under the wing of the local tribal strongman/casino boss and he becomes a part of the tribal police department. His estranged mother is still on the reservation and leading a faction of Indians who oppose the casino. The major twist (revealed at the end of the first issue) is that Dashiell is an undercover FBI agent sent in on what is essentially a suicide mission to take down the tribal boss.

The third volume also has what has to be one of the most powerful visual sequences I have ever read in comics. It is at the end of the second chapter of the trade paperback. Dashiell has to tell several children that their mother is dead. If anyone is wondering why thought balloons are no longer needed (a debate I have been active in on Digital Webbing), just look at that.
What I bought--22 October 2008The third trade, “Dead Mothers,” finally came out last week, so I could start reading the single issues #19-22 that I had bought but not read. I wanted to start buying the singles because the book sells so poorly, but I admit I’m torn, because the trades are so nice to read.

I hope that Scalped has reached the point (three trades out, 22 issues in the can) where DC can see if the trade sales are good enough to justify continuing the poorly-selling singles. That would be nice. I guess I’ll keep buying the monthlies, just to do my small part keeping it alive. But the trades are quite good, and I urge you to track them down.
Comment:  If SCALPED has become a "masterpiece," I may have to give it another try.

Of course, you can't expect any comic that takes 19 issues to reach the "masterpiece" level to be selling well. Next time Jason Aaron writes a Native-themed comic, maybe he'll drop the gratuitous, Sopranos-style sex and violence and get to the real story in an issue or two.

Furniture uses sand paintings

The Art of FurnitureGrowing up near the Navajo Indian Reservation Benny learned early in life to appreciate Native American art, from this appreciation grew his inspiration and from his inspiration Benny's concept of functional pieces of art were born.

The quite, modest entrepreneur had a plan to combine unique wood craftsmanship using hardwood of southwestern oak and alder with the ancient art of Navajo Sandpainting to create coffee tables, bedroom furniture, entertainment centers, china hutches and dinette sets.

Benny enlisted the artistic touch of Medicine Man Robert Lee and his wife Erma. The Lee family from Sheep Springs, New Mexico descends from a long line of sand painters. Keeping with their Navajo tradition of art, their sand paintings are natural sands gathered from around their home near the Painted Desert, some of which are tinted by natural methods of exposure to the sun and rain, then mixed with other sands and liquids. Each painting interprets a story. "The Coyote Stealing Fire, Storm Patterns, The Bear and the Snake" and many others.

For centuries sand paintings were only used for ceremonial purposes by medicine men and had to be destroyed by the end of the day. It took many years for this art to be allowed to be painted as permanent art. Each piece is signed by the artists.

The self-taught furniture maker opened his first shop Trails End Furniture in Jerome, Az. in 1990.
Comment:  I believe the image below is a Trails End piece. The inlaid rectangular panels are reminiscent of Navajo sand paintings.

Apaches' Little Beaver celebration

Apache tribe featured in photo exhibitThis particular tribe of the Apaches now mostly resides in northern New Mexico, with its reservation stretching across two counties—Rio Arriba and Sandoval.

But despite the Jicarillas’ rich history in the area, it was American artist Fred Harman who began the tradition of the “Little Beaver” celebration five decades ago.

“(Harman) was one of the creators of the Red Ryder comic strip, and he wanted an Indian lad in his comic strip,” Moore said. “He lived near the Jicarilla reservation, so he went there and selected one of the boys to pose for him so that he could get a drawing and that became ‘Little Beaver’ in Red Ryder. That’s how the Little Beaver celebration got started, and being the 50th anniversary, the original Little Beaver was there, and he spoke to the crowd.”

The festivities included a parade, pony races, a rodeo, an archery contest, and a pow-wow dance.
Comment:  So Red Ryder's pal Little Beaver was modeled on a real Indian boy? And the Apaches started an annual celebration based on the comic-book character? I did not know that. Another interesting intersection between Native America and pop culture.

For more on the subject, see Native American Heroes in the Comics:  An Overview (Part 1).

Teaching about the Penobscots

A native spin on the ABCs

Penobscot Nation workshop provides tools to teach American Indian history, cultureA is for ash tree, alewives and arrowheads. B is for birch bark, blueberries and baskets. C is for crooked knife, caribou and canoe.

Teachers at the Penobscot Nation know there’s more to learning the ABCs than apples, baseballs and cats. Now, along with a statewide coalition of partners, the tribe is setting out to ensure that every public school student in Maine is encouraged to think more broadly about the world. In addition, the Penobscots and their project partners are helping Maine teachers and the school districts they work for comply with a recent state law and an addendum to Maine Learning Results.

At a daylong workshop on Indian Island on Tuesday, a dozen teachers from schools in Bar Harbor, Skowhegan, Jonesport and beyond got their hands on some new classroom resources aimed at broadening students’ understanding of American Indian history and culture. They also got a quick review of tribal government, language, economics, arts, medicine and more.
Comment:  For more on the teaching of Native cultures, see Eyes Trained on Montana.

Sherman Alexie on Colbert Report

Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.

Non-Natives in Native roles

Indian Comics Irregular #176:  (Mis)casting Depp as Tonto

October 30, 2008

Obama (and Indians) less American?

What?  Me Biased?For the last year and a half, a team of psychology professors has been conducting remarkable experiments on how Americans view Barack Obama through the prism of race.

The scholars used a common research technique, the implicit association test, to measure whether people regarded Mr. Obama and other candidates as more foreign or more American. They found that research subjects—particularly when primed to think of Mr. Obama as a black candidate—subconsciously considered him less American than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

Indeed, the study found that the research subjects—Californian college students, many of them Democrats supportive of Mr. Obama—unconsciously perceived him as less American even than the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

It’s not that any of them actually believed Mr. Obama to be foreign. But the implicit association test measured the way the unconscious mind works, and in following instructions to sort images rapidly, the mind balked at accepting a black candidate as fully American. This result mattered: The more difficulty a person had in classifying Mr. Obama as American, the less likely that person was to support Mr. Obama.
And:“To me, this study really reveals this gap between our minds and our ideals,” said Thierry Devos, a professor at San Diego State University who conducted the research on Mr. Obama, along with Debbie Ma of the University of Chicago. “Equality is very much linked to ideas of American identity, but it’s hard to live up to these ideas. Even somebody like Barack Obama, who may be about to become president—we have a hard time seeing him as American.”

A flood of recent research has shown that most Americans, including Latinos and Asian-Americans, associate the idea of “American” with white skin. One study found that although people realize that Lucy Liu is American and that Kate Winslet is British, their minds automatically process an Asian face as foreign and a white face as American—hence this title in an academic journal: “Is Kate Winslet More American Than Lucy Liu?”

One might argue that Mr. Obama registers as foreign in our minds because he does have overseas family connections, such as his father’s Kenyan ancestry. But similar experiments have found the same outcome with famous African-American sports figures.
Comment:  It would be fascinating to do this study with other famous Americans. Or with other Americans, period.

I'm not sure whom we'd consider the least American: blacks, Latinos, or Asians. Obviously Arab Americans would score extremely low. I'm guessing Indians would score similar to Latinos--perhaps somewhere in the middle.

Just imagine that: the First Americans considered less American than the Johnny-come-lately, wannabe Americans from Europe. It boggles the mind. Yet it's another way of explaining the anti-Indian racism I've addressed before. Indians are less conventional, less Christian, less American. They're stranger, more exotic, more otherworldly. So we can't imagine them holding jobs like doctor or lawyer and we believe they must be dead and gone.

For more on the subject, see "Real America" = White? and The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

Below:  Is Kate Winslet more American than Lois Red Elk?

Film on Kootenai conflict

‘Idaho’s Forgotten War’

Filmmaker Sonya Rosario revives awareness of three-day bloodless conflictAccording to Idaho’s official timeline, nothing noteworthy happened here in 1974. Somehow, all the state historians and educators missed the fact that north Idaho’s tiny Kootenai Tribe declared war on the U.S. government that year and saved itself from extinction.

A new documentary by Sonya Rosario offers the inspiring story through the recollections of former tribal Chairwoman Amy Trice and others who were involved in “Idaho’s Forgotten War.”
The gist of the "war":Tribal members with signs flanked the highway, requesting a 10-cent toll from vehicles passing through their country. County Sheriff Chris Ketner was sympathetic. He knew the people had nothing and that Trice wasn’t a troublemaker. Many other non-Indians who felt the same gave much more than 10 cents. The money was used to feed the support troops who came to help, some of whom were bodyguards and warriors dispatched by the American Indian Movement.

When the state patrol arrived to put down the “Indian insurrection,” the atmosphere became a tinderbox.
Comment:  For more on the conflict, read the article or Kootenai "War" Against the US.

Rob's review

Below is a 10-minute video. I'm not sure if this is the whole documentary or a long excerpt. I presume it's the former.

It's a standard Indian documentary, stately and reverential. Flute music and soaring hawks, archival photos and talking heads. It consists of 6.5 minutes of deplorable but generic history, 2.5 minutes on the actual conflict, and another minute of summary.

If I were the filmmaker, I would've launched into the conflict within 2-3 minutes and spent most of the time on it. Most important, I would've included archival footage of the actual "tollgate," with jostling and sign-waving. If I didn't have any archival footage, I seriously would've considered recreating the scene.

This is a subject that cries out for dramatization. Without it, it's the visual equivalent of a newspaper article. I'd rather read the article (or a transcript of this video), because that would take only a minute or two. I might retain the information better if I could process it faster, too.

In short, Idaho’s Forgotten War is well-made but conventional. I urge Native filmmakers to be creative and think outside the box. Look at all the documentaries and reality shows available on TV and the Net, and learn from the best of them.

Awards for Rich Heape docs

Indian boarding school film named ‘Best Feature Documentary’ at ICFFOn and off camera, Oklahoma Indians played key roles in Rich-Heape Films “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School” that won the “Best Feature Documentary Award” at the International Cherokee Film Festival Oct. 11 in Catoosa, Okla. Chip Richie was honored as the best feature documentary director for the film.

“Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School” documents the past, present and future of an educational system that was designed to destroy Indian culture. Now under Indian control, the schools are teaching Indian culture and language, while preparing students for success in the future.
And:This is the second major award the Native American owned company has received from ICFF. In October 2006, “Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy” received the prestigious “Founders Award” at the festival. That film went on to win numerous other awards, including “Best Documentary Feature” in November 2006 at the 31st American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.

The film will next be screened Nov. 11 at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and was recently chosen from more than 1,000 entries to play at the 9th Annual Santa Fe Film Festival beginning Dec. 3. For more information visit www.richheape.com.
Comment:  I've seen a fair number of Native documentaries. At the moment I can't think of a better one than Our Spirits Don’t Speak English, so give it the prize.

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

Boxer mad at San Diego tribe

Diaz unhappy with SycuanOn Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Diaz (35-4, 26 KOs) will take on 34-year-old Fernando Trejo (30-14-4, 18 KOs), a boxer who never fought for a major title and has 14 losses on his record. The bout will be at 5 p.m., on Telefutura.

Diaz is ranked No. 6 in the lightweight division by Ring Magazine. Trejo is unranked.

“I just see too many fights like these, and I flip the channel,” Diaz said. “Here I am, fighting a fight like that.

“I'm very unhappy, I'm very angry.”

This fight is the latest in a series of events with Sycuan that has Diaz frustrated.

Diaz is in the midst of a four-year contract with Sycuan. In the contract, Diaz said he is guaranteed a minimum of four fights per year. In the first three years, Diaz said he's had five fights total.

In a division that features Manny Pacquiao, Nate Campbell, Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor, there are big pay days to be had. And Julio Diaz knows that, win or lose, fighting Trejo will not help his stock.

“At this point in my career, with my experience, I'm not in a position to be taking fights like this,” said Diaz, who is No. 10 in Fightnews.com rankings. “I'm not happy with a fight like this, I didn't agree to it.
Comment:  Is this boxer mad enough to punch the tribe's lights out? Time will tell.

Are Hawaiians "Native Americans"?

Correspondent Genevieve asks:[W]ould you consider Native Hawai'ians as "Native Americans"? From what I've read and heard, the US government doesn't see or treat them as such, and there has been controversy between continental US Native groups and Hawai'ian Native groups over whether or not they should receive this label (and the benefits--free tuition to schools, healthcare--associated with it).Answer:  When I refer to "Native Americans," it usually means American Indians and Alaska Natives. It rarely includes Canadian Aboriginals or Latin American Indians and almost never includes Native Hawaiians.

When I refer to "Natives," that's a little more ambiguous. I'd say that includes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Canadian Aboriginals, Latin American Indians, and sometimes Native Hawaiians. It depends on the context.

As correspondent Melvin notes:Native Hawai'ians do not share the special trust relationship that all federally recognized U.S. tribes have that involve treaties -and it is these treaties that provide for the so-called "FREE" benefits (and I am so sick of hearing that these services are free!) that were made between the various tribes and the U.S. government in exchange for land.Right. So even if we grant Native Hawaiians a limited form of sovereignty, it won't be accompanied by any so-called government benefits. They'll have the right to rule themselves and that's it.

For more on the subject, see Attacking Indians Via Hawaii.

Annual Blessed Kateri Mass

Mass with a Native theme

Algonquin martyr is honored at St. ThereseThe sound of Native American drumming resonated through the St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Mount Airy recently. Inside there were many dressed in the full suede fringed and beaded regalia of their distinctive ethnic groups. Even the first Bible reading from the book of Isaiah was done in one of America's indigenous languages.This was the 14th Annual Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Mass. It is named for the half-Mohawk and half-Algonquin martyr who chose leave behind her Native American beliefs to embrace Christianity in the 17th Century. It was in 1980, 300 years after her death, that Tekakwitha was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, there was a full house at St. Therese for this unique Oct. 19 celebration of her life.

"I am blessed and humbled to have this event and represent the Cherokee Confederacy," said Chief Buffy Red Feather Brown in her concluding remarks. "We welcome the Cherokee Sisters circle of drummers here to St. Therese We are here representing many nations."

Brown then traced the legacy of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha from her refusal to back down from her faith despite persecution to her entry into religious life.
Comment:  For contrasting viewpoints on the subject, see Native Religions Dead and Gone? and What's So Blessed About Kateri?

Thoughts on Hillerman's books

Here are my ratings for some of the Hillerman books I've read:

Coyote Waits--7.5
The Great Taos Bank Robbery--7.5
The Dark Wind--8.0
Hunting Badger--8.5
The Wailing Wind--7.5
Sacred Clowns--6.5
The Sinister Pig--2.5

Sorry, but that last book sucked. After a few chapters I had to give it up.

I've read more of Hillerman's books--e.g., The First Eagle, Talking God, A Thief of Time--but that was before I created my database of ratings. I'd have to reread them to be sure, but I think they were 7.5s or 8.0s.

Hillerman's books are usually in the 7.5-8.0 range, which means good or very good but not great. The plots are ingenious, as noted previously, but too complex. He ususally juggles 10-11 characters in a web of connections, and you need a flow chart to keep track of them. Following more than seven characters is often too difficult.

For more on the subject, see Tony Hillerman Dies and The Best Indian Books.

October 29, 2008

Republican hypocrisy on "socialism"

Like, Socialism“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” McCain said the other day—thereby suggesting that the dystopia he abhors is not some North Korean-style totalitarian ant heap but, rather, the gentle social democracies across the Atlantic, where, in return for higher taxes and without any diminution of civil liberty, people buy themselves excellent public education, anxiety-free health care, and decent public transportation.

The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule. Obama would use some of the added revenue to give a break to pretty much everybody who nets less than a quarter of a million dollars a year. The total tax burden on the private economy would be somewhat lighter than it is now—a bit of elementary Keynesianism that renders doubly untrue the Republican claim that Obama “will raise your taxes.”

On October 12th, in conversation with a voter forever to be known as Joe the Plumber, Obama gave one of his fullest summaries of his tax plan. After explaining how Joe could benefit from it, whether or not he achieves his dream of owning his own plumbing business, Obama added casually, “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office. Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.”

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.
Comment:  This posting is relevant because the Republican attacks on "socialism" are implicitly attacks on Indian reservations and cultures. Traditionally, Indians believed in "spreading the wealth"--in sharing resources, making sure no one went hungry or was left behind, etc. In other words, they favored the community over the individual--the opposite of the American mindset.

Calling Indians "socialists"

Conservatives have attacked the reservation system for this reason before. For instance, here are some quotes from Uncivil Indians:Socialism at work....

The last bastion of socialism in North America....

A failed experiment in socialism....

Descriptions of Indian reservations, James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, 1980s
The reservation is a magnet for mooches because federal time limits on welfare benefits don't apply at Pine Ridge.

Here where cradle-to-grave socialism, the Democrats' fantasy state, is realized, more than half the reservation's adults battle addiction and disease.

Michelle Malkin, The Shambles in South Dakota, 10/23/02
Conservatives have made these arguments before, and I and others have demolished them before. For more on this subject, see Should Indians Cling to Reservations? and Indians as Welfare Recipients. For more on campaign politics, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

Report on NMAI's "lavish" spending

Report clears former NMAI director for travel costsThe founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian was justified in traveling across the world to promote the institution, according to an investigation released on Tuesday.

Rick West, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, traveled the most of any director within the Smithsonian Institution. From 2003 through 2007, he spent more than $250,000 in places like Paris, Italy, Japan and New Zealand, along with locales across Indian Country.

"We do not question the need for Mr. West's travel, or the volume of his travel; similarly, we believe it was appropriate for him to entertain and cultivate donors and potential donors, and for him to devote significant time to his leadership efforts in the national and international museum communities," A. Sprightley Ryan, the Smithsonian's Inspector General, stated in the report.

However, Ryan said West should have "exercised better judgment" in spending NMAI's resources. The report cited two expenses--a $48,500 official portrait and $30,000 farewell video--that were generally out of line with Smithsonian practice but that did not violate any policy or law.

Ryan also found "problems" with West's travel spending--improper reimbursements, inadequate documentation, an appearance of "lavish" expenses and travel and mixed business and personal travel. But the report did not blame the former director and instead said the fault lied with Smithsonian management.

As a result of the review, West agreed to reimburse $9,700 payments he should not have received. "It is regrettable that Mr. West's expenditures were not more in keeping with the prudence demanded of a non-profit leader, and more importantly, that the Institution, because of its anemic oversight, permitted these types of expenditures and errors," the report stated.

The investigation essentially clears West, who retired at the end of 2007 after working for the NMAI for 17 years. He helped raise over $155 million for the facility and oversaw its grand opening in September 2004.

But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who had requested the report, wasn't happy with the former director's spending habits. "Mr. West seemed to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted," the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee said in response to the report. "He traveled the world, stayed in fine hotels, personally kept honoraria even when he was speaking on Smithsonian business, and accepted and helped to arrange an elaborate send-off for himself."
Ex-Director To Repay Smithsonian

Report Criticizes Spending By Indian Museum's WestThe inspector general's report said that West's travel "was an essential part of his duties and did advance the Smithsonian mission," particularly for fundraising and elevating the profile of the institution. However, the report added, "Mr. West should have exercised better judgment in spending [the museum's] limited resources when it came to his travel and other expenses."

West's expense reports contained improper reimbursements, including more than $6,000 in receipts for seven trips in which West was paid twice for the same travel and $869 for a hotel bill that was never incurred, according to the report. West charged the Smithsonian nearly $6,000 for a trip to Vienna while separately being reimbursed nearly $1,000 for the same trip from a cultural research center in Germany.

Sixty percent of West's travel in 2006-07 lacked adequate documentation, meaning that he provided receipts but did not submit the names of people he entertained or the business purpose with the voucher. The report found "an appearance of lavish entertainment expenses and premium travel," in which West stayed, for example, in four- and five-star hotels in Venice, Vienna, Paris and Florence.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The West Expense Controversy.

Hillerman's land of enchantment

Tony Hillerman knew New Mexico

His New Mexico was as enchanted and troubled as it is in life.New Mexico indeed is the "Land of Enchantment," a tourist bureau's dream with picturesque sunsets, colorful balloon fiestas, real cowboys and Indians, and quaint old towns that look almost too photogenic to be real. Beneath all this, I knew it as a place of profound paradox--stunning vistas and nuclear bombs, unique cultural traditions and bone-crushing poverty, racial blending and murderous violence.

Looking at the slick cover images on New Mexico Magazine, or hearing visitors say, "New Mexico is so spiritual and such a healing place," I'd think I was missing something.

But Hillerman's stories reassured me that I wasn't crazy. He saw it too. In an essay in David Muench's photo book "New Mexico," he writes about the state as a place influenced by "edges" that overlap--the mountain and desert climates, the cultures of the Spanish, the Anglo and the tribal forces of the Navajo, the Pueblos and Apache. His books about Leaphorn and, later, detective Jim Chee, may have been fiction, but I knew he was speaking in code about the way things really were.

Yes, New Mexico is this beautiful and this ethereal, and it is also this dangerous and this mean.

"Enchantment" denotes a spell cast, and if you grow up around people who whisper about Santeria and skinwalkers and kachinas, you know that's not something to take lightly.
Comment:  I love photography books (hint for upcoming Christmas and birthday gifts), but they're rarely good enough to inspire me to spend money on them. I do have David Muench's Arizona and Ancient America, but not his New Mexico. (For fans of Native Americans, I highly recommend Ancient America.)

Tony Hillerman also put out a photography book: Hillerman Country. He wrote the text and his brother Barney took the pictures. This is another book I own and another worth having.

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

"Help! The young Indians are coming"

Racial overtones mar race for state superintendentThe campaign for Montana's top K-12 educator position has taken on racial overtones, sparking debate from observers about race-based comments made on a talk show and a Web site.

The statewide election for superintendent of public instruction pits Elaine Sollie Herman, a Republican, against Denise Juneau, a Democrat and enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes.

Herman has been criticized for a recent Internet message posted under her name on the Web site MeetUp.com, which encourages people to abandon their computer keyboards and meet face-to-face on interests ranging from knitting and independent films to political views.

Here is the post:

“I am in MT running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I am asking for HELP from young concervative (sic) Bloggers. My web site is: electelainesollieherman.com. ‘I live in the ‘Peoples Republic of Helena.' My opposition is a young Indian.”
And:Some liberal political blogs posted comments regarding the MeetUp.com site, including:

Left in the West: “Help! The young Indians are coming.”

Indn's List, Indigenous Democratic Network: “A young Indian--Republican says that's a bad thing.”

The Daily Kos: “We'd object if McCain said ‘Contribute to my campaign. I'm running against a young black man,' and we should object to Herman's words, too.”

Herman said she doesn't understand the negative reaction.

“Whoever is bringing an issue to it must be a racist, in themselves, to be saying that ‘Indian' is a problem, you know?” she said. “There is Indian education. And my opponent is an Indian. You could write, ‘old black,' or ‘old white lady.' I am old. And I am white.”
Comment:  I'd say Herman's comment was more of a minor problem than a major one. Still, her choice of words was poor.

Halloween protest, 2008 edition

Students protest using regalia for HalloweenOn a sunny and cool day, there was an unusual addition to the pumpkins and bright advertisements at the Nobbies at 120th Street and West Center Road.

A few members of Inter-Tribal Student Council, joined by several community members, were holding protest signs near the store's entrance to condemn the selling of American Indian regalia as Halloween costumes.

"We are here to protest the selling of Indian costumes because we see it as a mockery to our culture," said Michael Leading Horse, a UNO student who was protesting.
And:Nobbies has not acknowledged any protests and has not taken any action to stop the selling of Indian costumes, protest organizers said.

The signs were improvised on-site. Children even held signs. One said: "Here's the beef: Your costume hurts my feelings." Another one read: "We're not costumes, we're people."

Nobbies' American Indian costumes include short leather-like skirts and feathered headdresses.

"Sometimes feathers are given to recognize good works performed in the community," Balralt said. "It's offensive because people use it just as a costume."
Comment:  Usually we have at least one Halloween posting a year. I'm glad to see we didn't go without this year.

I've posted dozens of Halloween-style costumes in my Stereotype of the Month contest. Below are a few of them:

Pueblos receive vote-stealing comics

Free!  Steal Back Your Vote Investigative ComicSTEAL BACK YOUR VOTE, the investigative comic book voter guide by Bobby Kennedy and me is now available to download for free free free at StealBackYourVote.org.

And now you can get packs of the full-color print edition for the cost of printing and shipping. Less than a buck a book. And we'll shoot it to you right now by priority mail.

Officially, 2.7 million voters have been purged from the voter rolls since the last election. And those voters weren't vanished by ACORN or Mickey Mouse.

Based on my investigation with Kennedy in the current issue of Rolling Stone. Featuring art by the graphic gonzo's Ted Rall, Lukas Ketner and Troubletown's Lloyd Dangle. Download the guide and find out what really is happening in the scary world of election theft, and find out how you can protect your vote in 7 easy steps.

Your donations for print copies goes towards sending out even more copies out to libraries and low-income GOTV campaigns in key voting states. We just sent a carload to Native-American Pueblo leaders. They asked for more--help us send them by making a donation to the Palast Investigative Fund.

Soboba gets golf tournament

New PGA Tournament to be Played on Soboba CourseCome next fall, the Country Club at Soboba Springs will be a stop on the PGA's Nationwide Tour, it was announced today.

The Soboba Classic will offer $1 million in prize money, one of only three events on the tour to do so, joining the Nationwide Tour Players Cup in West Virginia and the Nationwide Tour Championship, which will end the season.

The PGA Tour and the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians signed a four-year contract, according to tribal information officer Mike Hiles. The club is on the Soboba Indian Reservation in San Jacinto. The PGA Nationwide Tour is a proving ground of sorts to select those eligible to play in the PGA Tour.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Oneida Hosts Golf Tournament.

October 28, 2008

Carl Brandon Society's recommendations

From an e-mail forwarded to me:The Carl Brandon Society recommends the following speculative fiction books by writers of First Nations/Native American heritage for American Indian Heritage Month:

THE WAY OF THORN AND THUNDER trilogy by Daniel Heath Justice

This trilogy speculatively re-imagines the Cherokee history of removal and relocation and redefines European fantastical tropes using Cherokee-centered imagery and worldviews.


One of the best books I've ever read: a funny, sad, gorgeous story that ties together a contemporary narrative about 
Indians living on Canada's prairies with slightly skewed creation myths and accounts of the historical horrors endured by First Nations people during the continent's European colonization.

A wry love story that also incorporates critiques of nuclear testing and dumping on Native lands.


A collection of short stories from Sanders' entire career. You can see some of his best here, including the alternate history "The Undiscovered," in which a shanghaied, shipwrecked Shakespeare is trapped in 16th Century Appalachia and must stage his plays among the Cherokee, and the near-future "When the World is All on Fire" when climate change and toxic waste have caused Indian reservations to become prime property again.
ALMANAC OF THE DEAD by Leslie Marmon Silko

Silko uses magical realism to chronicle numerous characters' journeys toward the prophetic, violent end of white dominance in the Americas.

TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith

A departure from Smith's previous, realistic Indian YA stories, this YA novel jumps onto the vampire bandwagon, this time in a vampire-themed restaurant in Texas.

THE BONE WHISTLE by Eva Swan (Erzebet Yellowboy)

The Bone Whistle is about a woman who discovers her true heritage. She is the child of a wanaghi, one of the 
creatures of Native-American folklore.
THE NIGHT WANDERER by Drew Hayden Taylor

A gothic young adult vampire story.

THE LESSER BLESSED by Richard Van Camp

A coming-of-age story of a native Canadian boy obsessed with Iron Maiden. Has elements of magical realism.


Perhaps the first Native American science fiction, this is a journey through a dystopian future United States destroyed by the collapse of the fuel supply.
Comment:  I haven't read any of these books. I haven't even heard of many of them. Since they lean toward science fiction and fantasy, I thought it was appropriate to list them here.

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

A Hillerman appreciation

Tony Hillerman, Novelist, Dies at 83In the world of mystery fiction, Mr. Hillerman was that rare figure: a best-selling author who was adored by fans, admired by fellow authors and respected by critics. Though the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with an avowed purpose: to instill in his readers a respect for Native American culture.

His stories, while steeped in contemporary crime, often describe people struggling to maintain ancient traditions in the modern world. The books are instructive about ancient tribal beliefs and customs, from purification rituals to incest taboos.

“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” Mr. Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”
His Native experience:Mr. Hillerman wrote with intimate knowledge of the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes; he grew up with people very much like them. “I recognized kindred spirits” in the Navajo, he wrote in an autobiographical essay in 1986. “Country boys. Folks among whom I felt at ease.”

Anthony Grove Hillerman was born on May 27, 1925, in Sacred Heart, Okla., to August Alfred Hillerman, a farmer and shopkeeper, and his wife, Lucy Grove. The town was in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and the family’s circumstances were so mean that Mr. Hillerman would later joke that “the Joads were the ones who had enough money to move to California.”

“In Sacred Heart, being a storyteller was a good thing to be,” he said of his country village, which was 35 miles from the nearest library. Growing up on territorial lands of the Potawatomi Tribe, he went to St. Mary’s Academy, a school for Indian girls run by the Sisters of Mercy, and attended high school with Potawatomi children. He said he owed much of the veracity of his stories to his friendships.

“I cross-examine my Navajo friends and shamelessly hang around trading posts, police substations, rodeos, rug auctions and sheep dippings,” he wrote of his research methods.
Reactions to his work:Some critics found Mr. Hillerman’s writing humorless, moralizing and too reverential toward the Native American characters he favored. But even his detractors usually praised the ingenuity of his plots.

His third book, “Dance Hall of the Dead” (1973), won the 1974 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel, given by the Mystery Writers of America. In 1991 the group gave him its highest honor, its Grandmaster Award, after he had solidified the Navajo Tribal Police series with “A Thief of Time” (his own favorite novel), “Talking God” and “Coyote Waits.” His last book in the series, “The Shape Shifter,” was published by HarperCollins in 2006. Mr. Hillerman also wrote children’s and nonfiction books, including a memoir.

For all the recognition he received, Mr. Hillerman once said, he was most gladdened by the status of Special Friend of the Dineh (the Navajo people) conferred on him in 1987 by the Navajo Nation. He was also proud that his books were taught at reservation schools and colleges.

“Good reviews delight me when I get them,” he said. “But I am far more delighted by being voted the most popular author by the students of St. Catherine Indian school, and even more by middle-aged Navajos who tell me that reading my mysteries revived their children’s interest in the Navajo Way.”
Navajos, Hillerman Shared AffectionHillerman's relationship with the Navajo Nation stretched far beyond the pages of those books, which featured two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes--Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. He shed light on Navajo culture, his books becoming a bridge to the reservation for tribal members who moved elsewhere, and encouraged Navajo youth to ask elders about traditions and ceremonies.

"The people spilled their guts to him," said James Peshlakai, who is characterized as a Navajo shaman in one of Hillerman's books, "The Wailing Wind." "The elders, they told him stories about things their own children never asked about."

Hillerman returned the blessings he received from Navajos by donating money for a water delivery program at St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School in Thoreau, New Mexico, to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, New Mexico, and to put up lights at a football stadium in Monument Valley, Utah.

Staff at the Thoreau mission, where a murder takes place in Hillerman's "Sacred Clowns," "have already been saying Mass for him and saying prayers," executive director Chris Halter said Monday.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

AIFI's 2008 nominees

The 33rd Annual American Indian Film Festival Announces its NomineesThe American Indian Film Institute (AIFI) and Title Sponsor the Seminole Tribe of Florida are proud to announce the nominees for the 33rd annual American Indian Film Festival. The awards will be presented at the annual American Indian Motion Picture Awards Show on Saturday Nov. 15 at 6:00p.m at the historic Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Best Film

  • Older than America, Georgina Lightning, director
  • In a World Created by a Drunken God, John Hazlett, director
  • Before Tomorrow, Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, directors

  • Best Director

  • Georgina Lightning, Older than America
  • John Hazlett, In a World Created by a Drunken God
  • Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Before Tomorrow

  • Best Actor

  • Adam Beach, Older than America
  • Trevor Duplessis, In a World Created by a Drunken God
  • Ron Dean Harris, Moccasin Flats: Redemption

  • Best Actress

  • Candace Fox, Moccasin Flats: Redemption
  • Georgina Lightning, Older than America
  • Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Before Tomorrow

  • Best Supporting Actor

  • George Leach, Moccasin Flats: Redemption
  • Wes Studi, Older than America
  • Paul-Dylan Ivalu, Before Tomorrow

  • Best Supporting Actress

  • Misty Upham, Frozen River
  • Kaniehtiio Horn, Moccasin Flats: Redemption
  • Tantoo Cardinal, Older than America
  • Comment:  I'm guessing Older than America, In a World Created by a Drunken God, Before Tomorrow, and Moccasin Flats: Redemption are going to do well in the awards. <g>

    I suppose Frozen River and The Exiles weren't eligible because the filmmakers weren't Native. Too bad, because they deserve some awards.

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

    Tribal colleges write books

    Tribes publish own stories as part of history projectNative people have a rich tradition of storytelling, but those stories historically have been written or published by people outside the tribes--until lately.

    “Now you can do all that on a desktop computer,” said Bob Bigart, director of the Salish Kootenai College Press in Pablo. “The economics have changed. You don't need four or five full-time professional slots in a publishing house anymore.”

    On Saturday at the Montana Festival of the Book, representatives from the Flathead and Fort Peck reservations will discuss recently completed books that focus on contemporary issues and tribal histories. The books were written for the Tribal History Project, a 2005 state-funded initiative that asked tribes to present their histories for Montana's K-12 students.

    Four of the seven tribal colleges in Montana wrote books.
    An example:“To begin with, no one had ever written--some attorneys involved with court cases had written things on the Fort Peck tribes--but no one had ever written a detailed history,” said Jim Shanley, who co-authored the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes' history book. “Fort Peck is interesting. We're the only Sioux Tribe in Montana. I think some of our own people were unsure of their own lineage.”

    Shanley, also president of Fort Peck Community College, said he and four other authors took the opportunity to write something definitive about the tribe. “We finally have a complete document,” he said.

    The 532-page volume of “The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000,” won't be easily read by a fourth-grader, but it does cover the tribes' story, ranging from pre-European contact and federal Indian policy to economic development in the 21st century.

    The book filled a wide historical gap and the Montana Historical Society is already moving into a second printed edition, said Shanley.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    Red people flee Red Planet

    Beyond Mars: Crimson Fleet (Paperback)Product Description

    The year is 2152. Martian colonists are faced with a drastic choice, remain on a slowly dying Mars or frantically fight their way out of the solar system in an escalating battle against the forces of their hated overlord, the Earth. The grim reality leaves most colonists reeling in a state of shock as they board waiting vessels to take them elsewhere into uncertainty. This is the opening of R.G. Risch's Beyond Mars: Crimson Fleet, a whirlwind of a science fiction novel.

    Throughout Beyond Mars: Crimson Fleet, readers follow the harrowing exploits of the Martian space destroyer Crazy Horse, commanded by an audacious naval captain, Richard Wakinyan, and his friend, First Lieutenant James Randall. Together with other Martian ships, the Crazy Horse battles against the most powerful and feared Earth armada in existence, the Crimson Fleet, seeking to destroy their evil pursuer, Admiral Selena Darius. But the outcome hangs in the balance as Admiral Darius proves herself to be a most ruthless and cunning opponent; one who has no problem in obliterating any obstacle that stands in her way.

    Beyond Mars: Crimson Fleet is based on actual historic naval clashes with accurate visions of tomorrow's technology. By any standard, it is one of the best action-packed and explosive science fiction thrillers, which deals with the never ending conflict between good and evil as well as man's will to survive.
    Reader ReviewsThis is one hell of a story! It takes place about 150 years from now with the Martians in rebellion against Earth. From the very beginning to the very end, it is non-stop action! But it goes beyond that! The author is extremely clever in his use of technology and actual space scenery and how he weaves them into the story. Characters are three-dimensional people who I loved to meet. My particularly favorites are Captain Wakinyan, the audacious commander of the space destroyer "Crazy Horse," and Tara, the mutant telepath woman, who wind up falling for each other in the end. The book is definitely different, but if you love Star Trek, its a "gotta get"!Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    "Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life"

    Sainte-Marie a tech-savvy singerWhen she's not touring or teaching, Buffy Sainte-Marie likes to spend time in her mountain house on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, tapping away at three computers arranged in a semicircle.

    "I might be working on a song and I'll turn around and work on a (digital) painting and I'll turn around and work on some curriculum," the legendary musician, social activist and educator who was born on the Piapot Reserve in Qu'Appelle Valley, Sask., said in a recent phone interview from her home.

    Sainte-Marie has been using computers since the 1980s to create digital music, art and teaching tools. Yet many people don't realize the different ways she is using technology, she said, explaining why she's releasing the documentary "Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life" on DVD along with her new album, "Running For The Drum," this week. The two will be sold separately in the new year.

    "I was not the barefoot folk singer in a granny dress--I was doing electronic music in the '60s," said the singer-songwriter with the distinct vibrato, noting she created the first-ever totally quadraphonic electronic vocal album in 1969 ("Illuminations") and founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, a free online aboriginal American curriculum, when the World Wide Web was just starting up in 1996.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Buffy the Computer Whiz.

    ICT endorses Obama

    Obama:  a leader and a partnerThe political will exists in Congress to sustain the foundation of Indian sovereignty. We are encouraged by a progressive leader like Obama, who offers a principled blueprint for an Indian policy that addresses rights and cultural integrity. He believes that treaties are “paramount law,” which will inform his judicial appointments and help the case for U.S. recognition of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    The country and the world need a new signal. We believe Barack Obama can generate that signal and provide a more encompassing leadership from the United States. With the country and the world on the slippery slope toward the precipice, Obama commands intelligent and decisive approaches to difficult issues. The other side, unfortunately, does not exude confidence as much as obvious negativity.

    In particular, the ridicule by the McCain/Palin campaign of Obama’s education and eloquence has been both distasteful and confounding. Have we not always encouraged and celebrated educational achievement? This season, the choice is between exceptional intellectual integrity and continuous mediocrity. We choose the exceptional--and endorse Barack Obama.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

    October 27, 2008

    McCain didn't author NAGPRA

    A good rebuttal to the arguments of Tim Giago and Deron Marquez that Natives should support McCain because of NAGPRA:

    Suzan Shown Harjo:  Sen. Obama's words matter moreI read the opinion piece with great interest because it reached a wrong conclusion based on a misreading of repatriation history and McCain’s role. As one of the people who made and wrote repatriation history and law, I can say that there are hundreds of people who could lay a better claim than the senator to being one of NAGPRA’s authors. It’s interesting that McCain himself does not make this claim and does not include Native cultural rights laws in his policy statements.And:In the 1980s, we began negotiating a repatriation agreement with the Smithsonian Institution, which was prerequisite to the nationalization of the world class Indian collection and the making of the national Indian museum. I was director and spokesperson for the National Congress of American Indians and a trustee of the Museum of the American Indian in New York, with Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), and N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa). In the mid-1980s, we involved Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who became the congressional champion for our repatriation and Indian museum campaigns.

    Anti-repatriation scientists from Arizona and elsewhere slowed our momentum by having McCain insist that Indians take part in a national dialogue at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. I selected the Indian side of the national dialogue, which included Roger Buffalohead (Ponca), Oren Lyons (Onondaga) and other Native repatriators, who well remember it as the museums’ last-ditch effort to stop repatriation law and to insert “scientific rights” into our Native human rights law. We refer to it as McCain letting the anti-repatriation museums undermine certain aspects of repatriation law.

    It is at the point of the national dialogue--more than 20 years after we began our work to achieve repatriation policy and museum reform and nearly 10 years after AIRFA--that Marquez fancies McCain airlifting NAGPRA to the Indians.
    And:While we have had many successes, part of our coalition work has not been realized: a cause of action to protect all our sacred places. McCain would not support such legal protections in the early 1990s, when Inouye was championing the Native American Freedom of Religion Act. If McCain, at any point in his long congressional career, had championed his own sacred places right of action or gotten out of the way of others’ attempts, the Native peoples in his state and nationwide would not be facing the spiritual crises of today at San Francisco Peaks and elsewhere.

    Instead, he and others in the Arizona delegation took targeted action against one sacred place in their state, when they secured space for a federally financed telescope project atop Mount Graham, an Apache holy mountain. All laws that could have given the Apache peoples a voice in the permitting process were waived through earmarks, which the senator so famously claims to eschew. These deeds may have something to do with the entire San Carlos Apache Tribal Council endorsing Obama over McCain for president.
    Comment:  I didn't know NAGPRA's history, but it doesn't surprise me. In my voluminous readings on Indian Country, I don't recall McCain's name coming up often. As with NAGPRA, he's more of a supporter than a leader. Hundreds of Native organizations and individuals do the heavy lifting and then he co-sponsors the final legislation. After weakening it to protect his buddies in the white establishment (in this case, museums and universities).

    For more on the subject, see Kennewick Man, Captain Picard, and Political Correctness and The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

    Tony Hillerman dies

    Mystery writer Hillerman dies at 83Together, they struggled daily to bridge the cultural divide between the dominant Anglo society and the impoverished people who call themselves the Dineh.

    Hillerman's commercial breakthrough was "Skinwalkers," published in 1987--the first time he put both characters and their divergent world views in the same book. It sold 430,000 hardcover copies, paving the way for "A Thief of Time," which made several best seller lists. In all, he wrote 18 books in the Navajo series, the most recent titled "The Shape Shifter."

    Each is characterized by an unadorned writing style, intricate plotting, memorable characterization and vivid descriptions of Indian rituals and of the vast plateau of the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.

    The most acclaimed of them, including "Talking God" and "The Coyote Waits," are subtle explorations of human nature and the conflict between cultural assimilation and the pull of the old ways.

    "I want Americans to stop thinking of Navajos as primitive persons, to understand that they are sophisticated and complicated," Hillerman once said.

    Occasionally, he was accused of exploiting his knowledge of Navajo culture for personal gain, but in 1987, the Navajo Tribal Council honored him with its Special Friend of the Dineh award. He took greater pride in that, he often said, than in the many awards bestowed by his peers, including the Golden Spur Award from Western Writers of America and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, which elected him its president.

    Hollywood was less kind to Hillerman. Its adaptation of his 1981 novel, "Dark Wind," with Lou Diamond Phillips and Fred Ward regrettably cast as Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, was a bomb.
    Comment:  Phillips and Ward aren't Indians, but I thought they did a good job. I think Dark Wind is the best of the Hillerman movies--better than the three PBS movies directed by Chris Eyre. To me Wes Studi and Adam Beach didn't look anything like my conception of Leaphorn and Chee despite their being Indians. Phillips and Ward were closer to what I envisioned.

    As for the best of Hillerman's books, I vote for Hunting Badger (above). Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.

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

    Black market for eagle feathers

    Illegal eagles; Powwow popularity fuels a bird black market[C]onservation experts say the case only scratches the surface: A black market for eagle feathers, they say, is being fueled by the surging popularity of powwows across Canada, the United States and Europe.

    "There's a huge new demand for people wanting more costumes, and that's driving the demand for not just golden-eagle feathers, but now bald-eagle feathers," says David Hancock, a researcher in North Vancouver who has written several books about the winged predators.
    The demand:"In Canada and the Great Lakes region, you could attend at least one powwow every weekend," says Amos Key Jr., co-chair of Canada's largest indoor powwow, expected to draw more than 1,000 participants and 40,000 spectators to Toronto as part of the Canadian Aboriginal Festival next month.

    Powwows in North America mostly attract aboriginal spectators and participants. But powwows are also popular across Europe, where people celebrate North American aboriginal culture by dressing in traditional regalia. The subculture--inspired by the Old West novels of 1890s German author Karl May--has spread from Germany to other countries including Russia, Denmark, Britain and Poland.
    The supply:B.C. conservation officer Lance Sundquist estimates 1,000 eagles are killed each year in British Columbia, and says that number is conservative because of the difficulty patrolling vast, remote eagle habitats in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

    But others say the reputations of most dancers--who view the eagle as sacred--are being tarnished by a small group of poachers eager to profit from the phenomenon.
    Comment:  Don't confuse the bird black market with the black bird market. <g>

    I wonder how much of the problem is caused by "hobbyists" in Europe. I can just imagine them trampling on eagle-preservation laws while trying to "honor" Indians.

    For an old posting on a related subject, see Hopi Smothering of Eaglets. For an old posting on an unrelated subject, see Ill Eagle Immigrants.

    Edward Curtis the hero?

    Cheuse catches lightning in a bottle in his take on Edward Curtis, an American firstThere's something attractive about "firsts." The first to fly a plane, the first to break a color barrier. We like to think of the people who accomplish these firsts as heroes, if only because we're attracted to the obsession that drove them toward that horizon.

    Certainly Edward S. Curtis, the Seattle-based photographer who devoted 30 years of his life to producing 20 volumes of photographic images and writings about North American Indians, must be credited with having earned one of those "firsts." And now Alan Cheuse, in "To Catch the Lightning" (Sourcebooks, 492 pages, $25.95), admirably sets out to establish Curtis' right to hero status.

    "I only hope my novel," says Cheuse, a book reviewer and commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," "will help people understand what went into the making of our country, just as Curtis himself tried to do."
    And:If anything detracts from this highly enjoyable, epic novel, it's the occasionally confusing use of point of view. We have two separate first-person narrators competing with Curtis to tell the story. It makes for an awkward moment or two. When Curtis first meets Tasáwiche, for example, and they take an evening stroll into the canyon, Myers suddenly pops out of the shadows like a scolding conscience and claims the narration, saving Curtis from a damaging admission.

    But this minor flaw is more than compensated for by Cheuse's full-meal portrayal of Curtis' quest. Readers might well feel persuaded to agree with Curtis' son, Hal, who says to his father, "You are the best man I know."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    Below:  "A Walpi Man" by Edward Curtis...one model for my PEACE PARTY character Billy Honanie.

    Book about Aboriginal hockey players

    Book sheds light on First Nations playersWinnipeg's Don Marks isn't out to change the world.

    "I'd be happy if I could change just a small corner of the world," says Marks, in Toronto yesterday to promote his book They Call Me Chief. It is billed as a story about aboriginal hockey players in the NHL. But Marks unfolds scenes of Canadiana that are as much about the human condition as they are about our national addiction to hockey.

    His tales of Bryan Trottier and Theoren Fleury and George Armstrong are humorous and at the same time unsettling. He unveils a Canadian society that sees itself as being all-inclusive and at the same time one that fails to live up to those beliefs. And, he does it all without getting preachy. "As Canadians we love hockey and I'm telling these interesting stories but they lead to issues that we should be solving ... racism, poverty, treaty rights, self-government. The hook is the hockey but it's about so much more."

    His hope, says Marks, is that people develop understanding and empathy for the First Nations. "Nobody is looking for charity. But we don't want some 68-year-old woman, hiking up her dress and hauling through six feet of snow in minus-40 degree winter to go have a whiz because that's what it's like in some places ... there's no running water. That shouldn't exist in a country as wealthy as Canada."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    "All Native women are hoes"

    Open Season on NativesThis past Friday, I received a few e-mails with this shocker:

    “Today a shock jock named T-Man on 93.3 F.M. in Seattle made some very racist remarks stating “All native women are hoes because [we] have casinos & [we’re] all drunk.”

    Apparently it got even worse from there. Interestingly enough, on the 9am portion of the website of T-MAN ON DEMAND, those comments are nowhere to be found.

    I’m saying “shocker” with a written tone of sarcasm, because this is like the 10th e-mail I received this week with someone in my community outcrying against blatantly overt, extreme racism that has happened that barely anyone is reacting to, yet again.
    Comment:  We're reacting here, Jessica. I can't help it if the whole world doesn't read Newspaper Rock (yet). <g>

    Do you think the sexual objectification of Native women in such cases as Taj Passion and Redskin magazine has anything to do with the DJ's comments? I do.

    For more on the subject, see Indian Women as Sex Objects.

    Below:  Rainmaker from the Gen13 comic book.

    Linda Hogan goes home

    A Chickasaw writer returns to her heartlandFor Native people, tribal homelands beckon. We are the places of our origins.

    For acclaimed Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan, returning to her Oklahoma roots was a discovery of connectedness that defies years lived in other places.

    She is the author of “People of the Whale,” a recently released novel chronicling conflicted lives and the complexity of indigenous heritage, and herself was called a writer of “unparalleled gifts for truth and magic” by Barbara Kingsolver.

    Hogan, a poet, novelist and essayist, was recently named to the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. She has also been a writer-in-residence for the states of Colorado and Oklahoma and professor at the University of Minnesota and University of Colorado. She has served on the National Endowment for the Arts and has received awards from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, National Book Critics Circle Award, Before Columbus Foundation, Lannan Award, Colorado Book Award and more, including a Guggenheim grant. Her novel, “Mean Spirit,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1990.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

    October 26, 2008

    Who owns Native culture?

    A book about "the hazards and challenges of cultural heritage protection" seems to attack Natives and their beliefs. I'm not sure who's more biased: author Michael F. Brown or reviewer Richard A. Shweder.

    Let's examine Shweder's take on Natives. First, the problem as Shweder and Brown see it:

    'Who Owns Native Culture?':  The GatekeepersDo we want to turn culture into a legally protected resource? Is cultural heritage something that ought to be owned, patented, copyrighted, trademarked, licensed, exclusively controlled or treated as the private property of particular ethnic groups? What are the risks to a liberal pluralistic democratic society when ethnic groups are empowered with group rights?Now let the attacks begin:So what happens in a liberal democracy when ... Native American Lakotas object to the desecration of a sacred site by mountain climbers and by New Age religious worshipers, and the sacred site just happens to be Devils Tower National Monument (made famous by the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"), which is located in a public park in Wyoming?Answer:  June Voluntary Climbing Closure.What code of cultural privacy makes sense when representatives of the Pueblo community complain that the sun symbol on the New Mexico state flag was stolen without permission from a design on a 19th-century ceramic pot made by an anonymous and unidentifiable American Indian potter?Answer:  (Mis)using the Zia Symbol.Commenting on the use of the name Redskins (as in Washington Redskins) he writes: "Native American cultures have survived five centuries of pestilence, military conflict and dispossession. Compared to these catastrophes, in what meaningful sense does the name of a professional football team put their survival at risk? One could argue just as convincingly that petty insults actually promote cultural survival by bringing Indians together in solidarity against the dominant culture."Answer:  One could argue the same thing about "petty insults" against other people. For instance, blacks. So why doesn't Shweder make this argument?

    Here, I'll make it for him:African Americans have survived five centuries of enslavement, oppression, and injustice. Compared to these catastrophes, in what meaningful sense do words such as "nigger," "coon," "jungle bunny," "spearchucker," "jigaboo," "tar baby," "sambo," etc. put their survival at risk? Why have blacks wasted so much of their time and energy protesting these epithets? Don't they realize that sticks and stones may break their bones, but names will never hurt them?

    One could argue just as convincingly that these petty insults actually promote cultural survival by bringing blacks together in solidarity against the dominant culture. I guess blacks are just too stupid to realize how white people have helped them by insulting them. I guess that's what happens when you try to raise a bunch of mud people from the pit they come from. I.e., when you try to civilize a bunch of savages.
    Get the point, Shweder? Or do I have to heap more sarcasm on your ignorant position?

    Shweder's conclusion:The bottom line in Brown's book is his challenge to both multiculturalists and liberal individualists. For he believes we can develop informal social norms of decency and respect that are responsive to the concerns of indigenous peoples without turning our society into a patchwork of legally empowered illiberal cultural enclaves. He seeks the middle road. Not the postmodern path, at the end of which there is a free flow of everything, all boundaries are down, everything is up for sale and nothing is sacred. And not the premodern path either, at the end of which everything is private, secreted and shielded from the interest and interests of outsiders, and the intellectual and social commons have been destroyed. It remains to be seen whether in a commercial and legalistic society such as ours there really is a middle road.Nice try, but Indians and multiculturalists are taking the middle road already. In each of these cases, they've found a reasonable compromise despite your attempts to paint them as extremists.

    Compromising on mascots

    The mascot case is instructive. Native advocates aren't protesting every use of Indian team names, logos, and mascots with equal fervor. They've naturally focused on the worst cases: the Washington Redskins, Chief Wahoo, Chief Illiniwek, and so forth.

    The compromise is implicit in the advocates' actions. Eliminate the worst examples of stereotyping--especially the logos and mascots with archaic images of Indians. But if schools want to use relatively innocuous names such as Indians, Warriors, or Raiders--without the stereotypical logos and mascots--let them. If they get permission from the Sioux, Chippewa, or Seminole tribes, let them use those names too.

    Some Indians may protest until the last "Indians" name is gone, but many won't. Many are concerned mainly about the racist or stereotypical imagery associated with these names. The names aren't the biggest problem; the images are.

    There's your compromise for you. So why are you defending the offensive "Redskins" name? Because you don't recognize your own racism while Indians do. I bet they'll compromise with you as soon as your abandon your preference for an ugly ethnic slur.

    Below:  Monty Montezuma, former mascot of the San Diego State University Aztecs. Indians protested this stereotypical mascot much more than they protested the name "Aztecs," if they protested it at all.

    How America turns fascist

    This is How Fascism Comes:  Reflections on the Cost of SilenceIf fascism comes it will be welcomed, lock stock and barrel by persons who pray at every meal to a God they visualize as white, whose son they also think was white, and who they believe is going to rapture them all into the sky upon the blowing of some heavenly trumpet, after which point all those who don't think as they think will be burned in an eternal lake of fire. Their vision and version of God is itself fascistic--to love a God who would do such a thing is to love an abusive, sadistic and evil deity after all--so it should come as little surprise that their conception of the state would be equally authoritarian or worse.

    If fascism comes it will be at the behest of those who hold a contempt for what they call "book learnin," who prefer Presidents who mispronounce basic words because they make them feel smarter, and who are looking for nothing so much as a commander-in-chief with whom they would enjoy having a beer, or two, or twelve at some backyard barbecue.

    If fascism comes it will be interviewed, lovingly, on talk radio, by hosts whose cerebral inadequacies are more than made up for by their bellicosity, their bombast, their willingness to shout down those with whom they cannot argue, for argument requires knowledge, and this is a commodity with which they have not even a passing familiarity.

    If fascism comes it will come wrapped in red, white and blue, carrying a crucifix and a shotgun, projecting its own sexual confusion and insecurity onto others, substituting volume for veracity and rage for reason, and landing on the New York Times best-seller list as a result.

    If fascism comes it will have a pajama party at Ann Coulter's house, pop pills with Rush Limbaugh, and go gay-bashing with Michael Savage, all in the same weekend. And it will refuse to learn another language or get a passport, because doing either of those would make one cosmopolitan--which is just another word for "faggot."

    If fascism comes it will come because a lot of people who aren't like the folks I'm talking about here, won't stand up to the ones who are. Because we're too busy, don't want to make waves, don't want to lose friends, or alienate family. It will come, in other words, because those who know better are cowards, more concerned with getting along, making nice, and being liked than with telling the truth, calling out evil and saving their country.

    If fascism comes it will come because of the silence, and thus, collaboration of those who think themselves good, and certainly superior to the knuckle-draggers they can see on YouTube at the McCain rallies, but who in the end are no better and in some ways worse than they: after all, at least fascists stand up for what they believe in. They are telling us, in no uncertain terms what kind of United States they want and are willing to fight for, and maybe even to kill for. But many "progressives," many liberals, many of the so-called enlightened are doing nothing at all.
    Comment:  Another fantastic essay by Tim Wise!

    Needless to say, this essay describes the white Americans who vote for Reagan, Bush, and McCain and not the Indians who vote for Clinton, Gore, or Obama.

    The last two paragraphs are a good explanation for why I do this blog and website. In the immortal words attributed to Edmund Burke:The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.For more on the subject, see Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?