November 30, 2008

Preview of We Shall Remain

Groundbreaking PBS series nears completionAfter almost five years of planning and production, a groundbreaking television series depicting more than 350 years of history from an American Indian perspective is scheduled to premiere next spring.

Producers of the award-winning PBS history series “American Experience” are nearing completion of “We Shall Remain”--a five-part series of 90-minute documentary films that will air each week for five consecutive weeks beginning on April 13.

In addition to the films, “We Shall Remain” has a massive multi-media and community outreach component that includes mentoring emerging Native filmmakers, a national library initiative, and a coalition of Native organizations and tribes, historical societies, museums, schools and other groups to plan and sponsor activities that promote understanding of local Native history and contemporary life.

The films--the heart of the project--represent major epochs in American Indian history and the overarching themes of the indigenous peoples’ unwavering resilience and resistance to the Europeans’ settler colonial project and its encroachment on aboriginal territories.

“After the Mayflower” deals with the 17th century European invasion and first contact with the Wampanoag Indians in Massachusetts, and the decades leading up to the brutal King Philips War that devastated the northeastern woodlands tribes and settlers alike.

“Tecumseh’s Vision” stars actor Michael Greyeyes, Plains Cree, as the brilliant leader Tecumseh with his steadfast vision of a pan-Indian movement, and Billy Merasty, Cree First Nation, as his brother Tenskwatawa, who was known as The Prophet.

“Trail of Tears” relates the tragic ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee Nation from its southeast homeland in which 4,000 people died of disease and starvation along the way.

“Geronimo” is the story of the controversial Apache warrior-hero, who was seen as a savage terrorist to the white settler colonists; a hero to some Apaches, who still take pride in the fact that they were the last to lay down their arms to the Europeans; and a troublemaker to others who blamed him for the collective punishment the tribe suffered.

“Wounded Knee” examines the broad political and economic forces that led to the emergence of the American Indian Movement in the late 1960s and the events that triggered the group’s takeover of Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and its 71-day standoff with federal troops.
And:Actor Wes Studi, Cherokee, who plays the role of Major Ridge in the “Trail of Tears” episode said the films portray American Indians as active players in their own story.

“Many times what happens is that the general public throughout the world thinks of us as just a lot of victims of the Europeans. Well, this story here deals with, you know, our input in the way things turned out. We had a huge hand in our historic fate and I think this particular story and the character I’m playing, Major Ridge addresses that. It’s the most historically accurate telling of this story that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Studi said.

The film series and its massive outreach initiatives will go a long way in repairing the woefully inadequate misrepresentations of American Indian history in the country’s educational institutions and in popular culture.
Comment:  The episodes certainly cover the "major epochs" of American Indian history. About the only thing missing is episodes on Pocahontas and Sacagawea.

Most of these subjects have appeared in documentaries and films before. The one I'm looking forward to is Tecumseh, who is rarely if ever covered.

The dramatic reenactments should help significantly. Most documentaries have an academic tone that limits their appeal.

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

P.S. If PBS wants to create a buzz about We Shall Remain, it should send me copies to review in advance. (Hint.)

Daschle = friend of Indians

Indian leaders react favorably to Daschle’s Cabinet nodBefore Daschle was voted out of the Senate in 2004 after more than a quarter century of service in Congress, he had long been seen as a close friend to Indian country. He often met with leaders from the nine tribes in his state, and continued outreach and calls for federal government support to tribes after he lost his seat.

While in the Senate, Daschle worked to secure more funding for Indian-related health issues. Along those lines, he tried unsuccessfully to get Congress to add billions in funding to the IHS budget and to pass legislation to modernize the agency.

Tribal leaders from Daschle’s home state predicted that his placement at the top health agency in the country would positively impact reservations and Indian people in general.

“It can do nothing but help,” said Robert Cournoyer, chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

“Mr. Daschle is fully aware of all that’s happening out here in Indian country. I think Mr. Obama made an excellent choice.”
Comment:  With Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce, Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Indians will have a lot of friends in the Obama White House.

For more on the subject, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

P.S. Now that've we elected Obama, should we rename the White House the Biracial House? ;-)

Native careers in entertainment

Breaking into the business

‘Careers in Focus’ connects aspiring entertainers, industry professionalsAspiring American Indian actors, writers, directors and producers gathered at the Autry National Center Sept. 18 to attend an industry event, “Careers in Focus: American Indians in Entertainment.” The evening included a panel discussion featuring top film and television professionals.

Coming to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the movie business is hard for anyone, but it is especially trying for Native people because of the types of roles currently or historically created by Hollywood, including an apparent lack of contemporary roles and limited opportunities. The people who attended the event hope this situation will change.

The “Careers in Focus” event was co-sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild President’s National Task Force on American Indians and the American Indian Center for Television and Film.

The task force was established in January 2007 to promote and safeguard the interests and rights of American Indian performers. The task force believes that a heightened awareness of and commitment to fair employment practices on the part of industry decision makers will lead to an expanded use of the American Indian Performer in features, television, commercials and other multimedia.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Australia's "black fella magic"


Baz Luhrmann's epic is ambitious. Maybe overly so.Luhrmann has not only cast Australian stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman as his leads, he's also used locally iconic actors Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson in key roles, and given one to Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, who starred in Nicolas Roeg's "Walkabout" nearly 40 years ago and here plays a tribal wizard named King George who can manipulate time and space.

"Australia," in fact, ends up paying major attention to Aboriginal rituals and culture in general and in particular to the plight of the Stolen Generations, the mixed-race and Aboriginal children who were removed from their families and raised in deracinated mission schools (as depicted in Phillip Noyce's "Rabbit-Proof Fence"). This adroit tipping of the hat to another culture may sound like politically correct window dressing, but it actually gives "Australia" much of its integrity.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Simmons in and out of prison

A prison documentary describes a journey from despair to reconciliationThe story of Jimi Simmons is a story of justice both denied and upheld. As a baby, the government dissolved his tribe and the state took him from his parents, but as an adult an all-white jury freed him from a murder charge and a possible death sentence.

The ordeal lived by Simmons, 56, of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community/Muckleshoot Tribe, was told in “Making the River,” a documentary that opened Denver’s 5th Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival Oct. 7-13.

“I wanted to show people that anybody could change their life,” he said of the making of the film. “Now I want our communities to work toward being a positive asset for people when they get out of prison.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

"(Not So) Funny Books"

A PowerPoint slideshow by Michael Sheyahshe based on his book Native Americans in Comic Books.

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

Earliest and latest fictional Natives

Indian Comics Irregular #177:  Robinson Crusoe and Twilight

November 29, 2008

Peanuts' Thanksgiving propaganda

Statue of controversial Colonial figure finds peaceful place in WindsorIn “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” Linus Van Pelt stands over a table festooned with plates of pretzel sticks, buttered toast, and popcorn as he gives his friends an abridged story of the Massachusetts Bay colonists’ first Thanksgiving meal.

An ardent sentimentalist, Van Pelt is describing a harmonious relationship between the country’s first settlers and the area’s Native American inhabitants, focused primarily on sharing and community.

Of course, he glosses over what ultimately turned into a troubled relationship that boiled over 16 years later at a gruesome massacre in Groton, which is commemorated by the Capt. John Mason statue, which sits at the Palisado Green on Route 159.
And:Ultimately, a 9-foot-tall statue of Mason was erected and placed at the site of the massacre in Groton. In 1991, Lone Wolf Jackson, a Pequot tribal council member, petitioned the Groton Town Council to have the statue removed.

The statue was subject to repeated vandalism and red paint was spread over Mason’s hands with the word “murderer” scrawled over the statute.

What ensued was years of wrangling between the tribal members and the Town Council over what to do with the statue, and a peace was finally brokered to move the statue to its current home in Windsor, where Mason lived most of his life and is considered to be one of the town’s founders. He also is considered a hero for defending the town of Wethersfield against a raid by Pequots.

“It was certainly a contested issue,” said Jason Mancini, another researcher from the Pequot Museum. “The tribe was adamant to not have that statue there.”

Jackson no longer is a member of the tribal council, and now runs the We-Tu Bait and Tackle Shop in North Stonington. Not only was the tribe upset that the state has designated the site of the massacre as an appropriate place for the monument, but a plaque that characterized Mason’s actions as “heroic victory” was a slap in the face to local Pequot descendants.

“The plaque was very offensive,” Jackson said.

The statue was moved to Windsor in 1995, and the editorializing on the original plaque was discarded and replaced with neutral wording, describing how the statue came to town.
Comment:  The interesting part of this article is the bit about A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I hadn't thought about it before, but it's another piece of the mythmaking process. Along with the school pageants and Thanksgiving Day parades, it promotes a false message of interracial harmony.

In other words, Peanuts is propaganda for a white male Christian America. Males dominate, nonwhites are rarely seen, and everyone's presumably a believer. Compare this strip to something like Doonesbury, Boondocks, or La Cucaracha and you'll see how insular and old-fashioned it is.

As for the Mason statue, you gotta love how blatant people were about celebrating the killing of Indians. A nine-foot statue dedicated to the Anglos' "heroic victory." While you're at it, why not make it 100 feet tall and show it crushing Indian bodies underfoot?

But the statue to a less offensive location and changed the plaque's wording, so this controversy is more or less over. For more on the subject, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.

Below:  Linus shares the American myth of Thanksgiving with his white friends and a token nonwhite guest.

Plus:  John Mason, the "heroic" Indian killer.

What's this "intersection" thing about?

Correspondent Melvin Martin asks:What do you mean exactly by the "intersection of Native America and pop culture"?The phrase is somewhat nebulous, I admit. That allows me to cover whatever I want to cover. ;-)

You've seen what I've put in the blog the last few months. That's an operational definition of sorts. You should be able to intuit what I mean from the volume of examples.

As you can see on the news site, there are perhaps 100 Native stories in the media every day. Of those, I post maybe 3-5 of them. However interesting the others are, they don't meet my qualifications. I don't have the time or energy to post everything, or more than I'm doing already.

Defining "intersection" by example

Some examples of what I do and don't include may help explain what I mean:

  • Story on a typical tribal campaign for chairperson: not pop culture. Story on Russell Means running for chairman: pop culture. Why? Because he's a well-known actor and activist, and he's promoted his own Republic of Lakotah in the media.

  • Story on frybread: not pop culture. Story on the new Tanka Bars: pop culture. Why? Because they're getting publicity in the mainstream media, at conventions and benefits, on MySpace, etc.

  • Story on a typical tribal dispute over treaty rights: not pop culture. Story on the Makah whaling dispute: pop culutre. Why? Again a lot of mainstream coverage, plus a big mainstream investment in the environmental concept of "save the whales."

  • Story on an Indian setting up a consulting business: not pop culture. Story on an Indian setting up a recording studio: pop culture. Why? Because a recording studio challenges our expectations of what Indians do. And because the music it produces will promote new and diverse views of today's Indians.

  • Review of a book on the 19th century Indian Wars: not pop culture. Review of a book on the 19th century Indian Wars, with examples of how the Indian Wars continue today: pop culture. Why? Because the continuing attacks on Indian country challenge the mainstream view that we're one nation under (one) God.

  • More on what qualifies

    Many entertainment stories (the arts, sports, etc.) qualify because entertainment is all about artists or performers speaking to the masses. So do many stories about politics and history, because these fields determine how we perceive ourselves and act as a society. Anything that contrasts non-Native views with Native views may qualify.

    Also qualifying is any story people are talking or blogging about, because such a dialog is part of the mainstream culture by definition. For instance, a typical story about Native suicide wouldn't be pop culture. But if someone started a debate by saying "Natives commit suicide because they're losers," it would transform a non-pop-culture story into a pop-culture story.

    Does this make sense? In short, I don't have a precise definition. But I know what qualifies even if I can't explain it exactly.

    Below:  A classic intersection of Native America and pop culture.

    Stupid stereotypes at Plimouth

    Native Americans still fighting ignorance at PlimothPaula Peters, of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said one of the first things she learned when she started working at Plimoth in Massachusetts 30 years ago was: "People will say things that will hurt you."

    A parent might reprimand their children by saying, "If you don't behave I am going to leave you with this Indian squaw and she will cook you for dinner," Peters said.

    Officials who run the site say they have tried to educate visitors by putting up signs asking them to avoid stereotypes and showing a short film at the beginning of the tour explaining what really happened when the Pilgrims first arrived in Plymouth.

    Still, "People take a lot of liberties with Native people," Peters said. Some have even told her: "I thought we killed all of you."

    Linda Coombs has heard that too. She has been an educator and interpreter at Plimoth since the 1970s. She says sometimes the ignorance can be fairly benign, such as when a visitor looks at Native food and asks, "You're not going to eat that are you?"

    But at other times, the misconceptions can be offensive. An adult chaperone recently asked a Cherokee, Tim Turner, "Where do you get your alcohol?"
    Comment:  Indians as cannibals, dead people, savages, and drunks...nice.

    This story is rather revealing. Consider the situation. Non-Indians are primed to learn about Indians. They're at a site with authentic Indian displays. They're standing in front of and talking to real Indians. Yet they utter stupid stereotypes as if they're reading from old textbooks or watching old movies. As if they literally can't process the facts in front of their face.

    As we've noted before, many whites are prejudiced and education is difficult. Sadly, this article only reinforces these positions.

    At least it dovetails nicely with the previous article on Plimouth Plantation. There Coombs asked a young girl to remove her stereotypical Indian costume. Now we see more of the reason why. Non-Indians are besotted with, brainwashed by, their stupid stereotypes. If we don't challenge them vigorously, we'll never overcome them. They'll go on forever with deleterious effects.

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

    Below:  "Where's your horse and teepee? Have you scalped anyone? Do you own a casino?"

    Johnny Depp looks Indian?

    In Comments on (Mis)casting Depp as Tonto, I posted Misatim's response to Indian Comics Irregular #176. But I let her criticism of my position go without a reply. As regular readers know, that usually doesn't happen.

    Nor did it happen in this case. Here's how I responded to Misatim:

    >> Sorry Rob, He does look Indian, just not the stereotype. <<

    I'd say he looks much more like a Caucasian than one of the hundreds or thousands of Indians I know.

    >> Only in the U.S. did they make a law that you have to be their Idea of Indian <<

    Yes, right. I've been arguing against the stereotypical look of the full-blooded Indian for almost 20 years now, you know.

    >> Just like not all Caucasians are Blue eye and Blond hair, either do we <<

    Yes, I understood that back in 1990 or thereabouts, when I started on this path. Here's one of perhaps hundreds of postings I could find on the subject:

    "RACE: Are We So Different?"

    Meanwhile, did you read the part where I said Depp doesn't know Native cultures from the inside out? I doubt he knows much about his Eastern Cherokee heritage, and I really doubt he knows much about Tonto's Apache heritage. Since this point was central to my argument, you may want to consider it.

    >> It's ok, I still love ya! <<



    P.S. Let's also recall Melvin Martin's comment in Johnny Depp to Redefine Tonto?Depp, to me, is the Robbie Benson of this era in American movie-making--do you recall that Benson was cast as an Indian ("Running Brave") and as a Chicano gang member in "Walk Proud."I count that as another vote against Depp taking Native roles from real Indians.

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

    Below:  "I'm as Indian as Taylor Lautner is, so I'm cool."

    Germans film Pilgrims in Salem

    John Goff:  German crew films Native American scene in SalemOne week before President Bush declared on Oct. 30 that November 2008 would be celebrated as National American Indian Heritage Month or Native American Month, Salem was visited by five Native American film actors and educators, as well as other First Period colonial reenactors, and members of a German film company’s production team.

    They all descended on Salem in 1630: Pioneer Village in Forest River Park to create a new TV special for French and German TV audiences. The goal was to show how the Mayflower pilgrims first settled in 1620, and how relations first evolved between the Separatists and the Wampanoag natives, the earliest known residents and developers of lands in southeast Massachusetts.
    And:Securing appropriate Native American actors to fill the needed native roles proved to be a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, Tara J. Ryan (Chicasaw/Choctaw) president and owner of Tijer Lily Co (“A Native American Arts and Entertainment Company”) quickly delivered just the right combination of skilled native professionals able to meet all project needs.

    A constellation of five native actors was secured, using David Weeden as Massasoit; Jerry Thundercloud McDonald as Samoset; Jay Levy as Squanto; Annawon Weeden as Warrior No. 1 and Hartman Deetz as Warrior No. 2.

    The original Massasoit (Ousamequin) and Squanto or Tisquantum were members of the Wampanoag Nation. So it seemed only proper that a majority of the Natives directed to Salem were also Wampanoag. David Weeden, Annawon Weeden and Hartman Deetz are all members of the Wampanoag Nation. Hartman is Mashpee Wampanoag while Annawon and David are both Mashpee Wampanoag and Mashantucket Pequot.
    Comment:  Imagine that. Actors who not only belong to the right ethnic group, but the right tribe. See how (relatively) easy it is to do culturally appropriate casting?

    Once again, let's note how much Germans love their Indians. For more on the subject, see Foreigners Have Native Affinity and The Hobby of Being Indian. For more on television in general, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Responses to Twilight movie posting

    Apparently a few people are following my Twilight arguments closely. For the second or third time, someone on LiveJournal has linked to one of my Twilight postings.

    This time the fans seem to agree with me. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

    still more on twilightwhat a complete and utter fuck up. i mean, i didn't expect much, but the bit about meyers attitude to casting made me want to kick her.

    The more I learn about Smeyers, the more I hate her. I knew she was a childish idiot, after her tantrum over Breaking Dawn reviews and the Midnight Sun leak, but glad I've never bought her shitty, shitty books.

    She wasn't as precious about the bad vampires, the nomads;
    Weeping, creeping Jesus!

    I suppose we should just be grateful that Lautner's grandmother wasn't a Cherokee princess.

    It seems a slap in the face for Lautner/producers to claim "see, he's aboriginal too." It's like the many people who find out they are 1/32 aboriginal on a distant relative's side and try to claim the "benefits" of being aboriginal without a deeper understanding of history/culture/oppression.
    Comment:  Weeping, creeping Jesus indeed. I'm sure the Son of God would agree with me if he read Newspaper Rock regularly.

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

    Below:  "My great-great-grandmother wasn't a Cherokee princess. She was a Potawatomi/Ottawa princess!"

    Horsing around with Horsey

    A Thanksgiving-themed cartoon by a political cartoonist named David Horsey:

    Wow...Indians as casino owners. This idea wasn't original the first time I saw it a decade or so ago. None of the dozen or so cartoons I've seen expressing this idea has been original.

    Message to cartoonists: that some Indians own casinos isn't a new or provocative thought. Rather, it's old and uninteresting. If that's the best you can do, give up and go into greeting cards or something.

    At least Horsey didn't give the grandfather a Plains-style headdress, though the feathers and blanket are stereotypical enough. An extra demerit for making the granddaughter a Hollywood-style princess in a revealing costume. What's she supposed to be wearing...a buckskin tank top?

    For more on the subject, see Native Comic Strips vs. Comic Books.

    Below:  A more controversial but much better cartoon by Horsey:

    November 28, 2008

    A school full of stereotypical Indians

    96 Little IndiansNinety-six little American Indians filled the media center at Corbin Primary school this past Friday to finish their learning units about Native Americans. For the past two weeks Mrs. Lanham’s, Mrs. Lewallen’s, Mrs. Pietrowski’s and Mrs. Stidham’s kindergarten students have been learning all about Native Americans—how they made clothes; how they made tools; what kind of food they ate; the meaning of the symbols that they used; and most importantly, the importance of Native American culture in our history.

    Knowing the importance of providing this age group with the chance to not only hear, but to touch and see what they teach, teachers gave students with different learning styles the ability to take in and appreciate all their instruction.

    The learning units invited a Native American to the school so students could see that American Indians are not just characters read about in books, but people who helped start many customs that continue today.

    The units on Native Americans came full circle on Friday when teachers invited two guest speakers, Tom Jones, a Native American Cherokee Indian and president of the Kentucky Native American Indian Council (KNAIC), and Donny Ellison, member of the KNAIC.

    The guest speakers were greeted by the 96 eager students dressed in American Indian vest replicas, created using paper grocery bags donated by Falls Road Kroger, complete with Native American symbols. Jones and Ellison talked to students about the history of Native American Indians in this area and how many of us have Native American ancestors.
    Comment:  I wonder if the two Kentucky Indians were enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe? I'm guessing not, since Kentucky doesn't have any recognized tribes.

    I hope they were actual Indians according to the definition I gave. I'd hate to think that two wannabes with Cherokee princesses in their background lectured the students.

    I raise the question because dressing up as phony generic Indians is a bad idea even if two real Indians gave it their tacit blessing. Rather than explaining how some Indians wore fringed vests, for instance, they could've explained how most Indians didn't wear fringed vests.

    Parents to Indians:  Go to hell

    Woman surprised at e-mail backlashCondit Elementary School parent Michelle Raheja said she was not prepared for the backlash she got from helping to write an e-mail to a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.

    She and her daughter have been harassed as a result, she said Wednesday.

    "It was a private message to one kindergarten teacher," Raheja said. "She did not ask me if she could circulate it to others or circulate it to the principal. I don't think she was ill-intentioned."
    How did the anti-Indian parents respond to this supposedly private e-mail?At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, "did a war dance around my daughter." The parent then told her daughter and others to "go to hell," she said.

    Raheja, a UC Riverside instructor, said she has contacted the Claremont Police Department and the UC Riverside police because of the hateful phone calls and e-mails.

    On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 "hateful and intimidating" e-mails.

    "They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don't know my daughter's name, but they've said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter."
    Comment:  For more on the parents' obvious racism, see Anti-Indian Racism Explained and Why White Men Hate Indians. For more on the Thanksgiving issues, see Playing Indian for Thanksgiving and Ten Little Pilgrims and Indians.

    Below:  If there's a hell, I suspect it's reserved for people who tell little girls to "go to hell." And not for the little girls themselves.

    "Chief Chicken Hawk" t-shirt

    Here's a disgusting piece of merchandise for sale. How sensitive do you have to be to think Indians might be offended by this?

    I Will Cluck No More ForeverFrom the tales the elders told around the campfire, he knew that he hadn’t always been a Pawnee. He’d heard the tale enough times, about how Chief Chicken Hawk, the man he knew as Father, had kidnapped him in a raid on a white settlement. He could almost see himself as a chick, Father cradling him in one arm as they jounced across the prairie. He could almost hear the clup-clup of the horse’s hooves and the whoops of the exultant Indian raiders. But he never thought about anything that came before. He never wondered where his white family was--he had all the family he would ever need. He was born a chicken, but he lived and fought and loved as a Pawnee.

    So when Chief Chicken Hawk passed on, he assumed the headdress, so like his own feathers but carrying a meaning and power of its own. He pecked at his enemies, crowed over their fallen bodies, clucked out commands to the Pawnee fighters. And because they’d seen his bravery, because they respected the father that hard raised such a son, the warriors obeyed. Or tried to, anyway. Nobody could ever understand exactly what he was saying. That’s why the U.S. cavalry was able to rout the Pawnee so badly in the first battle under Chief Many Feathers. Captured and humiliated, the “Rooster Chief” was taken in shackles to be displayed before the King of Belgium on a state visit to Washington, D.C. His ultimate fate is unknown, but probably delicious.
    Comment:  In addition to the "whoops," "raiders," and "headdress," we have the whole idea of portraying Indians as chickens. And don't forget that "chicken hawk" describes someone who acts brave but is really a coward.

    This is an obvious Stereotype of the Month contest entry. For more on the subject, see Fuzzy Indians in (Lil) Green Patch and What's Wrong with Grizzly Bob?

    CALIBER to become a movie?

    Another report on the comic-book series I posted on in King Arthur in the American West:

    'Caliber' event in Los Angeles[T]he guest of honor is Sam Sarkar, who will be signing copies of "Caliber: First Canon of Justice," the Radical Publishing comic-book series that takes the tale of King Arthur and his singular sword and reimagines it in the Old West where it's a magic revolver instead of a blade and in place of a wizard who helps him is a Native American shaman. Wow, what a set-up--and the comics series has movie written all over it, too, especially with the lean, gritty approach to its portrayal of the cowboy era in the Pacific Northwest (which you rarely see in the desert-loving westerns of Hollywood) and a nuanced portrayal of tribal relations. John Woo has already signed up to direct.

    Sarkar is also the director of development at Johnny Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil, and is an interesting guy to chat with. (That Depp company is partnering in the planned "Caliber" film and I wouldn't be surprised if Depp shows up somewhere in the cast as well.)
    Comment:  The setup is good, but from what I've read, no one has raved about the execution this much. I guess I'll have to check out the CALIBER series myself.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Johnny Depp played the lead Indian role in the Caliber movie. He doesn't seem to have any qualms about playing Indians.

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

    Sacagawea dollar's reverse unveiled

    One-Dollar Coin’s New Look Will Feature Indian FarmingCorn, beans and squash—the “three sisters” of Native American agricultural tradition—will appear on the nation’s one-dollar coins next year, in a design to be announced Friday by the United States Mint.

    By the dictates of an act that Congress passed last year, the reverse side of the gold-colored Sacagawea dollars will bear a new design each year starting in 2009, as part of a thematic series showing Native American contributions to the history and development of the United States.

    The first coin shows a young Indian woman planting seeds in a field of cornstalks, bean vines and squash. Adopting Indian farming methods proved crucial to European settlers’ surviving their early years in America. The coin will enter circulation in January alongside the continuing series of presidential one-dollar coins, which began in 2007 (the ninth coin in that series, with a portrait of William Henry Harrison, will be released in February).

    The theme for 2010 will be government. The second coin will show the Great Tree of Peace; a design for it will be approved next year. Future themes, to continue at least through 2016, are being worked on.
    Comment:  As I said before, this design is decent, though the woman's figure is a little flat. Also, the design would've worked better if it used the same font on the other side, rather than switching to this Indian-style font.

    For more on the subject, see New Design for Sacagawea Dollar.

    Reaction to A Quantum of Solace

    Correspondent DMarks has seen the new James Bond movie. His comments on the Indian presence:There was some reference to the current [Bolivian] government trying to help the people. Probably a veiled reference to Evo [Morales]. The Bolivian villain was a brutal general-strongman type who was engineering a coup to overthrow the government, with the assistance of the main villain, who was more of a grand-scheme typical Bond villain.

    The [Indian] appearances were long enough to be noticeable. Apparently typical Andean Indians with the hats and all, doing typical village activities in the village. Not much interaction with the characters. Nothing at all on the lines of the spearchuckers from the Indiana Jones movie. i.e. they looked authentic to me, and were acting normal.
    Comment:  I'll probably see A Quantum of Solace when it comes out on DVD.

    For more on A Quantum of Solace, see Embera Extras in Bond Movie and Bond Film Included Inca. For more on the subject in general, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Snoqualmie youths design Nikes

    Nike workshop invites tribe to design shoesStanding before a desk holding colored pencils and pads of drawing paper, Running Start senior Sam Matson recently told a crowd of 15 youths from Native American tribes across the state about the Nike design challenge.

    Many of the youths were part of the Snoqualmie Tribe and some had traveled from as far as Yakima to the workshop in Carnation. In the first of five workshops, participants learned about narrative and story telling and sketched a few designs plucked straight from their imaginations.

    The group will travel to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Nov. 29 to meet with professional Nike designers and tour the company. Following their visit, Nike will donate a pair of blank converse sneakers to each contender. Once the shoes are painted, they will be displayed at the Nike campus in Oregon. Nike may also feature the designed shoes in a book.
    Comment:  I gather Nike is continuing its laudable commitment to Native people. For more on the subject, see Nike Goes Beyond the Surface and Nike Unveils Native Shoe.

    November 27, 2008

    Girl cries over Indian costume

    Kids Told Not to Dress as 'Indians' at Plimoth PlantationA nine-year-old girl was recently asked to remove her “Indian” costume before entering the Wampanoag Homesite of the Plimoth Plantation, a historical site that allows visitors to experience Plymouth, Mass., as it was in the 17th century.

    The outdoor museum features a 1627 English village beside a Wampanoag home site. The purpose of the museum is to educate visitors (school-children and adults) about what happened between the Native Americans and the colonists, especially during the first Thanksgiving.

    The nine-year-old was one of thousands who flock to the colonial museum during the Thanksgiving season. She dressed as an Indian and her friend dressed as a pilgrim to celebrate the occasion.

    Linda Coombs, associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, asked the girl to remove her homemade beaded costume before visiting the site, reducing the child to tears and upsetting her mother, the Boston Globe reported on Nov. 24.

    “Native people find it offensive when they see a non-native person dressed up and playing Indian. It’s perceived as us being made fun of,” Coombs told
    More on the problem:Coombs said good intentions do not matter because she and the other Native staff members perceive the costumes as mockery before the wearer has a chance to explain his or her intent.

    “Costumes are offensive because of what has happened in history--the Hollywood pseudo Indians, the Italian actors playing Indians, the crappy dress they put them in, the Halloween costumes. When other people dress up as Native people it’s offensive, period,” Coombs said.

    She compared people wearing Native American costumes to white entertainers who put on blackface in old minstrel shows.
    Too much political correctness:The Web site also advises visitors not to refer to the Wampanoag people as either Indians or Native Americans. “The term Native American suggests that Native People were always American but this country was populated by Native People long before it was called America,” the site states.

    Instead, they prefer to be called Native People or Indigenous People.
    Comment:  For more on dressing up as Indians, see Playing Indian for Thanksgiving. For more on what to call Indians, see "American Indian" vs. "Native American."

    P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Below:  Wampanoag Indians in a History Channel scene, filmed at Plimoth Plantation (AP Photo)

    America's first capitalists

    Native blood:  the truth behind the myth of 'Thanksgiving Day'The new ideas of the Puritans served the needs of merchant capitalist accumulation. The extreme discipline, thrift and modesty the Puritans demanded of each other corresponded to a new and emerging form of ownership and production. Their so-called “Protestant Ethic” was an early form of the capitalist ethic. From the beginning, the Puritan colonies intended to grow through capitalist trade–trading fish and fur with England while they traded pots, knives, axes, alcohol and other English goods with the Indians.

    The New England were ruled by a government in which only the male heads of families had a voice. Women, Indians, slaves, servants, youth were neither heard nor represented. In the Puritan schoolbooks, the old law “honour thy father and thy mother” was interpreted to mean honoring “All our Superiors, whether in Family, School, Church, and Commonwealth.” And, the real truth was that the colonies were fundamentally controlled by the most powerful merchants.

    The Puritan fathers believed they were the Chosen People of an infinite god and that this justified anything they did. They were Calvinists who believed that the vast majority of humanity was predestined to damnation. This meant that while they were firm in fighting for their own capitalist right to accumulate and prosper, they were quick to oppress the masses of people in Ireland, Scotland and North America, once they seized the power to set up their new bourgeois order. Those who rejected the narrow religious rules of the colonies were often simply expelled “out into the wilderness.”

    The Massachusetts colony (north of Plymouth) was founded when Puritan stockholders had gotten control of an English trading company. The king had given this company the right to govern its own internal affairs, and in 1629 the stockholders simply voted to transfer the company to North American shores–making this colony literally a self-governing company of stockholders!

    In US schools, students are taught that the Mayflower compact of Plymouth contained the seeds of “modern democracy” and “rule of law.” But by looking at the actual history of the Puritans, we can see that this so-called “modern democracy” was (and still is) a capitalist democracy based on all kinds of oppression and serving the class interests of the ruling capitalists.

    In short, the Puritan movement developed as an early revolutionary challenge to the old feudal order in England. They were the soul of primitive capitalist accumulation. And transferred to the shores of North America, they immediately revealed how heartless and oppressive that capitalist soul is.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ten Little Pilgrims and Indians.

    1676 Thanksgiving celebrated beheading

    Which Thanksgiving?Most of the other peoples in New England at first tried to avoid the conflict between the onetime participants in the "first Thanksgiving." But the confrontation soon engulfed the entire region, pitting the New England Colonies against a fragile alliance of Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Nipmucs and other Native American groups. Although these allies succeeded in killing hundreds of Colonists and burning British settlements up to the very fringes of Boston itself, the losses suffered by New England's indigenous peoples were even more devastating. Thousands died over the two years of the war, and many of those captured were sold into slavery in the British West Indies, including Metacom's wife and 9-year-old son.

    Metacom met his end at the hands of a Colonial scouting party in August of 1676. His killers quartered and decapitated his body and sent Metacom's head to Plymouth, where for two decades it would be prominently displayed on a pike outside the colony's entrance. That same year, as the violence drew to a close, the colony of Connecticut declared a "day of Publique Thankesgiving" to celebrate "the subdueing of our enemies."

    Perhaps it is not surprising that we choose to remember the Thanksgiving of 1621 and to forget the Thanksgiving of 1676. Who, after all, would not prefer to celebrate a moment of peaceful unity rather than one of bloody conflict? But if our public holidays are meant to be moments for self-reflection as well as self-congratulation, we should think of Thanksgiving not as a perpetual reenactment of the "first Thanksgiving" of 1621 but instead as a dynamic event whose meaning has shifted over time.
    Below:  Metacom with his head intact.

    Adam Beach at G2E 2008

    G2E 2008 Spotlights Latest Issues and Future Direction of Indian Gaming

    Indian Gaming a major player in global gaming industry and G2ENative actor Adam Beach arrived and created a buzz of excitement all while promoting an entertainment venture for Indian country in the form of a virtual cable television network that will feature a variety of channels dedicated to Native American history and issues. "I am honored to be part of creating an amazing environment to produce virtual Internet entertainment avenues dedicated to our stories. While it has been an honor for me in my acting career to represent us through the faces of Ira Hays in "Flags of Our Fathers" and a Navajo Code Talker, in the movie "Wind Talkers," I am as thrilled and passionate to be part of OVNTV, because it is an the awesome opportunity to tell the true stories of our Indian people, from our Indian people." Beach said.Comment:  Watch your language, Adam. "Virtual Internet entertainment avenues" sounds like a string of buzz words rather than something real.

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

    Peltier committee reforms

    Peltier family reviving supportAfter following Leonard Peltier’s movement from one federal prison to another, a group seeking to free him has settled in the same city where he was convicted more than 30 years ago in the execution-style killings of two federal agents.

    Peltier’s sister, Betty Ann Peltier-Solano, and niece, Kari Ann Cowan, are trying to revive a group that went dormant a few years ago. They have changed its name from the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee to the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, and they hope political changes will help their cause.

    “There has been a lot of depression, with him being in jail for nothing and being so far away,” Peltier-Solano said from the committee’s Fargo headquarters, which is filled with Peltier’s artwork. “I just felt like hopeless. Now that I’m here and doing this, I feel more like I’m doing something.”
    Comment:  The Defense Offense Committe? Kind of awkward, isn't it? I liked the previous name better.

    Heritage day at NMAI

    Native American Heritage Day at National museumPeople who live within driving distance of Washington, D.C., have created a new tradition of visiting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on the day after Thanksgiving.

    That Friday is marked across the nation by trips to shopping malls, but last year 10,508 people visited, making it the museum’s busiest day of the year at NMAI.

    This year the museum will also commemorate the first Native American Heritage Day. The heritage day was established last month by Congress to encourage recognition of tribal government, celebrate Native cultures and languages and to acknowledge “the rich Native American cultural legacy.”

    The museum plans to give away thousands of buttons for Native American Heritage Day. Extra staff including museum managers will be on the floor greeting families.

    Taylor Lautner in My Own Worst Enemy

    Tyler Lautner, Twilight star and Hollywood's version of a Native, is a semi-regular on the NBC series My Own Worst Enemy. He plays the son of Edward Albright, the secret agent with dual personalities.

    Just as Lautner doesn't look like an Indian, he doesn't look like his "parents": actors Christian Slater and Madchen Amick. He still looks Latino and Asian to me. But he's tall--perhaps close to 6'--and he can fake some martial arts moves, so he has a physical presence. And based on the few line he's uttered, he's a reasonably good actor.

    This is not the type of show I'd count when searching for Natives on the air. And like Easy Money, it's been canceled. But kudos to the networks for putting another show that isn't a pure knockoff on the air. And for casting such diverse actors as Alfre Woodard and Taylor Lautner.

    For more on the subject, see Diversity Lacking in Television.

    November 26, 2008

    Police prevent Thanksgiving brawl

    In a followup to Playing Indian for Thanksgiving, the police had to separate the racists from the non-racists:

    Police called over Thanksgiving dispute at Claremont school

    Tensions rise as foes and backers of a longtime celebration involving kindergartners in Indian and pilgrim costumes demonstrate outside Condit Elementary. The district eliminated the costumes this year.On Tuesday morning, some parents dressed their children in the hand-made headdresses, bonnets and fringed vests, and school officials did not force the students to remove them. Still, some parents vowed to keep their children home from school Wednesday, potentially costing the district state attendance funds.

    Nearly two dozen protesters stationed themselves in front of the school, evenly split between costume supporters and opponents. The supporters set up a table with refreshments in front of the school sign, and several wore construction-paper headdresses. Foes stood about 40 feet away, carrying signs that said, "Don't Celebrate Genocide."

    The discussion between the two groups grew so heated that school officials called police, and officials separated the protesters onto separate sidewalks, said Claremont Police Lt. Dennis Smith.
    Comment:  Naturally, the idea of an angry confrontation about a holiday celebrating peace and understanding is too delicious to resist. I'd blame the racists for this, but the non-racists may have been more confrontational.

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

    Below:  "Next year we're wearing blackface to honor Martin Luther King Jr."

    Upcoming Life on the rez

    NBC's Life is a TV show I watch regularly. Here's a bit on the show and an upcoming episode:

    Life:  SummarySummary

    Damian Lewis stars as a former police officer who, after years of false imprisonment, returns to the force with a decidedly different philosophy.

    Next Episode

    Evil...and his brother Ziggy
    Airs: Wednesday December 3, 2008

    A sheriff's deputy is found dead on an Indian reservation, Crews and Reese are in the middle of a turf war between Tribal police and the county sheriff's department. The team learns that the victim was not well-liked on the reservation. Meanwhile, Crews attends a fundraiser thrown by Mickey Rayborn, one of Crews suspect involved in the conspiracy against him.
    Comment:  If you've been following events on the Soboba Reservation here in Southern California, you know this is a real issue. This episode seems to be a classic "ripped from the headlines" story.

    I saw actor Zarn McClarnon in the preview, so at least it'll include some real Indians. If it accurately portrays the law enforcement conflict, I'll be impressed. If it does so without getting into gaming or casino corruption, I'll be even more impressed.

    So we had August Schellenberg in Grey's Anatomy a couple weeks ago and a rez-based drama next week. If the networks did this every week, they'd meet their diversity quota and critics like me would have no reason to complain.

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

    Indian School's poetry club

    N.M. Spoken Word Club Explores Indian Identity, HistoryJEFFREY BROWN: It was an evening of slam poetry on a recent Friday in Santa Fe, with young people offering stories through verse about their identities and experience.

    STUDENTS: My native tongue blistered and burned. Cursed wind spit seeds of dead trees, spreading chaos through her skeletal branches.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But these teenagers were Native Americans, members of the Spoken Word Club at the Santa Fe Indian School, and their stories--about holding onto a culture--are unlike those heard at most gatherings like this.

    HEILERY YUSELEW, student: (speaking native language) I am your Mother Earth.
    And:JEFFREY BROWN: The Spoken Word Club was founded seven years ago by Tim McLaughlin, a Virginia native, who also teaches creative writing at the school.

    TIM MCLAUGHLIN: Sing with wings, nod at God. Do you remember that one?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The club, which is voluntary, meets every Wednesday night, and students work through the long process from page to stage, writing their poems, memorizing them, rehearsing them.

    TIM MCLAUGHLIN: It's very intensive and very formative, and the kids come out as stronger people. And it's a reconnection for the kids to the oral tradition, to the origin.
    Comment:  To hear the students speak, go to Poetry Series:  Santa Fe Indian School.

    Pilgrims initiated genocide

    Native blood:  the truth behind the myth of 'Thanksgiving Day'In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery. Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under 14 they could capture. The “Praying Indians” who had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles with “hostiles.” They were enslaved or killed. Other “peaceful” Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts–and were sold onto slave ships.

    It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre and starvation.

    After King Philip’s War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan’s New York colony: “There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts.”

    In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a “day of public thanksgiving” in 1676, saying, “there now scarce remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain, captivated or fled.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ten Little Pilgrims and Indians.

    Hogan at a health center

    No place like a hogan

    ‘It’s about time’ for a hogan at GIMCLast week, Indian Health Services officials opened a new hogan at the Gallup Indian Medical Center with a blessing and dedication ceremony. The hogan is located on the southwest side of the hospital, and GIMC staff said the most heard comment has been, “It’s about time.”

    Earlier this year complaints were being made that GIMC was not providing traditional medicine options. Now the GIMC has opened the $18,000 hogan and is constructing two sweat lodges which should open in January.

    More than that, the medical center is also establishing an Office of Native Medicine and a traditional Navajo practitioner is scheduled to join the staff next week.

    “We’re bringing traditional medicine to collaborate with Western medicine,” GIMC Chief Executive Officer Bennie C. Yazzie said. He added that the IHS leadership in Rockville, Md., is pushing for all facilities to provide traditional health care options.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs.

    Texas held the first Thanksgiving?

    Thanksgiving:  Texas tradition

    By Dr. Tommy StringerThe first observance of Thanksgiving ... may have occurred in Texas, long before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. In 1539 the Spanish explorer Coronado left Mexico with an expedition of 1,500 men in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. After extensively searching in what is today Arizona and New Mexico, he turned northeast, following new information he had received that the cities were in what is today Kansas. His new trek took him across the great plains of Texas, a region marked by rolling grass lands that seemed to be never ending. After weeks of monotonous travel, provisions were running low and frustrations were running high when Coronado and his men arrived at Palo Duro Canyon near present-day Amarillo. This giant gorge was more than 1,000 feet deep in places with running water on its floor. The expedition also encountered a tribe of friendly Indians who were more than willing to share their food with the weary Spaniards. To celebrate his good fortune, which he attributed to Divine Providence, Coronado ordered his men to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. A traditional Catholic service was conducted by a priest, Juan de Padilla, who was part of the expedition. An entry in Coronado’s journal noted the event was held on May 29, 1541, which would put the Coronado thanksgiving celebration in Texas almost 80 years ahead of the Pilgrims’ feast in Massachusetts.

    Sioux conjoined twins

    Separation planned for Oklahoma conjoined twinsA set of 1-month-old girls believed to be the first known American Indian conjoined twins are doing well and will be separated, doctors say.

    Preslee Faith and Kylee Hope Wells were born Oct. 25 and are joined at the liver and rib cage, said David Tuggle, a pediatric surgeon who will be involved in the separation.

    The twins' parents are 21-year-old Kyle Wells and 20-year-old Stevie Stewart of Calumet. Both have a history of twins in their families.

    Stewart, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, said the girls already are developing personalities. For example, Kylee "is laid back and sleeps through anything, even her sister crying," Stewart said.
    Comment:  I guess we don't call them "Siamese" twins anymore--and understandably so.

    November 25, 2008

    Playing Indian for Thanksgiving

    Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

    Some say having students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans is 'demeaning.' Their opponents say they are elitists injecting politics into a simple children's celebration.For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

    Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

    "It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

    Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

    Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.

    "There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said.
    Hmm. "Simple child's depiction" or cartoonish stereotype"? Not a tough call. The latter, obviously.

    Really...has any school in the last 50 years dressed up its students to be blacks (with shoe-polished faces) or Jews (with big noses and beards)? Then why in the world would schools think it's okay to dress them up as Indians? Because the schools are too stupid to understand that "Indian" is a racial and cultural identity, not an occupation? Or because they're too ignorant to realize that a diverse array of Indians are still living and thriving?

    I don't think I've ever heard of anyone's protesting a Halloween Thanksgiving dress-up event. This may be a first. And it's about time.

    Then there's this tidbit:Kathleen Lucas, a Condit parent who is of Choctaw heritage, said her son--now a first-grader--still wears the vest and feathered headband he made last year to celebrate the holiday.

    "My son was so proud," she said. "In his eyes, he thinks that's what it looks like to be Indian."
    Comment:  Out of the mouths of babes....

    Apparently Lucas thought she was making a pro-costume argument. Actually, she's given us the quintessential anti-costume argument. Kids dress up like stereotypical Plains Indians, and fix this image in their minds permanently. This becomes their primary idea of what an Indian is for the rest of their lives.

    That Lucas is part Choctaw is the ironic icing on the cake. Did her Choctaw ancestors dress up like her son has? Then why is she encouraging him to learn phony history instead of real history?

    Education or entertainment?

    Recall that this event is supposed to be educational, not entertaining. So the real test is what the kids learned, if anything. How did dressing up as Indians contribute to their education about Indians?

    For instance, did they learn anything about the real Wampanoag Indians? Anything about the history of New England's Indians before or after the "first Thanksgiving"? Anything about the differences between Wampanoag, Plains, Choctaw, and other Indians? Do they even realize they dressed up as stereotypes and not as real Indians?

    It's a safe bet that the answers to these questions is no. If so, playing Pilgrims 'n' Indians provides no educational benefit and should be eliminated. Those who disagree are the ones with an agenda.

    The pro-Thanksgiving agenda

    And we know what that agenda is, don't we? It's to repeat and reinforce our founding Thanksgiving myth. Namely, the idea that America was and is a "shining city on a hill." It goes something like this:

    America was founded as a land of peace and harmony, where everyone was free and equal. Our ancestors were (and we are) exceptionally good and noble people. They earned what they got through hard work and perseverance, so we deserve to keep our white privileges and world domination.

    For more on this story, see Police Prevent Thanksgiving Brawl and Parents to Indians:  Go to Hell. For more on the subject in general, see Tricking or Treating Indians.

    Below:  "I'm a Wampanoag Indian...a Plains Indian...a Choctaw Indian. Mommy, I'm confused."

    Infuriated at the Discovery Channel

    A mass e-mailing that someone forwarded to me:To: Haudensaunee Nation Councils
    Fr: Doug George-Kanentiio
    Re: Discovery Channel’s “First Nations”
    Date: November 17/08


    I am sending this notice to inform the Haudenosaunee that the Discovery Channel is set to broadcast a program entitled “First Nations” which is supposed to tell the story of the founding of the Confederacy. This is being done over my vigorous protest as the film is inaccurate, violent and badly edited. It is an insult to our history and to all who see it. The credits may list my name as well as other Haudenosaunee but I have asked repeatedly to be removed from the credits as I have had no part in the final edit of this project.

    In May of last year I was contacted by the film’s original producers Jonathan Zurer and Joe Becker to become involved in a unique series of stories entitled “First Nations.” This was supposed to be ten stories about Native history told “in our own words” beginning with the Confederacy and moving on to other Nations. In July of last year I was given the working script and made great changes to reflect our story as we know it. Filming with a mostly Haudenosaunee cast began in late August. I had informed the Mohawk Nation Council of this project but the leaders were doubtful this could be done correctly but I was confident the director and producer would follow my advice.

    The film was to have four elements:

  • The conditions among the Iroquois prior to the arrival of the Peacemaker which would show conflict and war.

  • The four individuals who would play a key role in the formation of the Confederacy: Atotaho, Jikonsaseh, Aiionwatha and the Peacemaker.

  • The meeting of the Peacemaker with each one of the other three and how he convinced them to abandon war and violence.

  • The creation of the Confederacy, the Great Law and how it has effected all human beings.

  • We spent six weeks filming the above with over 55 hours of raw footage. Then the project was shelved for many months as the Discovery Channel board fired the Chief Executive Officer who had approved the film and hired a new one named David Zaslav. We had no contact with this person or the new editing team from a company called Half Yard until June of this year. Again, I expressed my clear intent as to what the film must include. A non-Native scriptwriter was hired unknown to myself and without any contact with any Haudenosaunee person. This person destroyed the story and in its place created a film which is full of distortions, lies and violence. None of what Half Yard wrote is true to my agreement with Zurer and Becker, both of whom resigned in protest from the film.

    I have been show two rough edits of “First Nations” and was infuriated at what they had done to our history. I arranged to have the film shown, in early August, to Oren Lyons and a group of filmmakers and media professionals at Syracuse University without preconditions. They agreed this was a bad film. Dr. Robert Venables also reviewed the film and told the producers he could not recommend that the episode be shown to anyone at anytime since it was a disaster in every way. They have ignored his counsel.

    I have written letters outlining my concerns but to no avail. The current producers have refused my request that they meet with the Haudenosaunee to discuss this. They will not make any changes and are determined to broadcast this mess across the nation this coming week on Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 9:00 pm est.

    I am including the telephone numbers of the Discovery Channel persons involved in this project. I have insisted that my name, as well as that of my wife Joanne Shenandoah, be removed from the credits just as has Mr. Becker and Mr. Zurer. I have extensiv e records showing my concerns about the film which I will send along to all councils if requested.

    Here are the numbers:

    John Ford, President, Discovery Channel

    Abby Greensfelder, President, Half Yard Productions
    (240) 223-3380

    I will send the number for David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery Channel. I extend my apologies to the Haudenosaunee and anyone who might see this travesty.


    Doug George-Kanentiio
    Comment:  Since I don't get cable, I didn't see this documentary. I hadn't even heard of it until I received this message. And since it's apparently aired already, there's not much anybody can do about it. About all we can do is remain vigilant for the next Native-themed movie or documentary.

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

    Pilgrims sought religious freedom?

    More Thanksgiving myth-making--this time about how the Pilgrims went on to shape America after the big feast:

    A time to pay tribute to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock.

    'Giving Thanks'"The first seed had been planted for the American Revolution. People were free to practice their religions as they saw fit and were free to keep the fruits of their labor. This had never happened before in the history of mankind. In the words of William Bradford, 'As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.'"Comment:  So every society from Native Americans to the ancient Greeks to the Vikings to the Spanish Empire imposed confiscatory taxes on their people? None of them let their people keep the product of their work? That's so flatly ridiculous it isn't worth discussing.

    As for religious freedom, let's get serious. Here's what the English invaders actually sought:

    Thanksgiving Myths--The "Puritans (Pilgrims)," Religious Freedom and OthersThe emigration to the New World was a result of them accepting that the Church of England could not be 'reformed' to their satisfaction. The major trans location occurred from about 1629 to 1642. The English Dissenters decided that reformation of the Church of England was not possible. About 21,000 of the "godly" came to the New World on a "Pilgrimage" to impose their brand of religion; 13,000 went to Massachusetts Colony. Throughout this time they were not separatists. In fact, when the government in England was taken over by Oliver Cromwell not only did the emigration stop, some people went back to England. (Cromwell was a "Puritan"--he also abolished Christmas as a celebration but that is another article.)

    While the first generation was in charge, there was strict adherence to the church laws including forcing people to church. Select members of the congregation went to the homes of people not in church to find out why they were not there. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne gives a pretty fair presentation about the attitudes and activities of the Puritan Elders. They did not extend the tenets of their religion to the local indigenous peoples.

    The King of England had no right to grant ownership of the land to anyone. The Puritans came to steal the land. They also felt it was acceptable to lie, steal, cheat and beat the Indians, that, according to Legend, saved their lives and taught them to grow the corn.

    The other colonies were populated more by young men seeking monetary advantage in the New World. It was not about religion or the freedom thereof.
    Pilgrims Prove Need for Protection of Religious FreedomHasson addressed "America's most enduring myth," that the pilgrims came to America for religious freedom, found it, and lived happily ever after. They actually came for real estate and a place where they could live in isolation, he said.

    The pilgrims' answer to diversity was to oppress it. The church was supported by state taxes, and attendance was mandatory. The pilgrims even legislated against the Quakers, the first religious group to appear and challenge their way of life, banishing Quakers from their colony on pain of death.
    For more on the subject, see Democracy Rocks--with Indian Help.

    Poospatuck in Ugly Betty

    In the November 20 episode of Ugly Betty titled When Betty Met YETI, a schoolteacher named Molly says the following:I've gotta run. We're doing a big Thanksgiving thing at school today. I have a Native American from the Poospatuck tribe coming to speak.Since this is probably the first and last mention the Poospatuck will ever get on TV, I thought it deserved a note. Every bit of Indian awareness helps.

    This bit is fiction, of course. But Ugly Betty's writers know how to commemorate Thanksgiving better than the city of Claremont's parents do. Don't rehash the tired clichés of centuries ago. Expose the schoolchildren to real, live Indians.

    If I ever heard of the Poospatuck before, I forgot about them. I gather they're the closest tribe to New York City--closer than the better known Shinnecocks. Here are the facts about them:

    Poospatuck Reservation, New YorkThe Poospatuck Reservation is an Indian reservation in the community of Mastic, Suffolk County, New York, United States. The population was 271 at the 2000 census.

    The reservation is the smallest in New York. It is located on the north side of Poospatuck Creek on the east side of Poospatuck Lane and south of Eleanor Avenue.

    The reservation is recognized by the State of New York but not the Bureau of Indian Affairs--an important difference in the debate over Indian gaming.
    "The Fighting Poospatuck"?

    I wonder why schools have named their teams after the Seminoles, Utes, and Sioux but not the Poospatuck. How about the "Fighting Poospatuck"? Wouldn't that strike fear into the hearts of one's opponents?

    We hear over and over how these team names are supposed to honor the "strength, honesty, loyalty, dignity and truthfulness" of Indian tribes. But don't the Poospatuck have as much of these qualities as any other tribe? (If you disagree, cite the evidence to prove your case.)

    What the Poospatuck don't have is a reputation as a fierce, warlike tribe. That and that alone is what schools are "honoring" when they name themselves after Indians. Their talk about honoring strength, honesty, and loyalty is a transparent crock of excrement.


    For more on the the likes of Ugly Betty, see TV Shows Featuring Indians. Incidentally, Ugly Betty is one of the best shows on TV today. With Latinos playing a major role, it's nicely multicultural. I suggest you watch it.

    Fuzzy Indians in (Lil) Green Patch

    The folks who gave us No Natives in (Lil) Green Patch have done it again: practiced racism in their Facebook application.

    Sweet Little Indian Furries Bearing Thanksgiving GiftsCecelia Rose LaPointe wrote
    at 12:39pm on November 22nd, 2008

    I just emailed the developers. One of them responded very quickly and they plan on taking this down this coming week. So that's good news!

    Cheryl Cash (Bowling Green) wrote
    at 12:42pm on November 22nd, 2008

    Thanks for writing them, all of you.

    But, they mean AFTER the "Holiday," I think. So the damned things will do what the damned devs want them for ... hooray for the happy li'l sterotyped and dehumanized Injuns of "Thanksgiving."

    Rachel Barrett Martin Gallop (East Bay, CA) wrote
    at 12:42pm on November 22nd, 2008

    I just wrote this on the wall, and repeat here in case it gets taken down: "I've been finding the anthropomorphized fruits and vegetables a bit... odd... ever since I joined up. And now I've become aware why: they are all so pale-skinned in their supposed "race-less-ness." And now I see in the "gifts" these very odd, ersatz caricatures of indigenous culture: furry creatures wearing headbands and feathers. Please no!!!! Native North America deserves better."
    Comment:  Let's recap. The human children in this Facebook application are Caucasians. The Indian children (?) are teddy bears. Do I need to spell out the problem with that?

    For more on the subject, see What's Wrong with Grizzly Bob?

    P.S. I corrected a few spelling and punctuation mistakes in the posters' comments.

    How Dreamseekers came about

    NIGA Presents Hulk Hogan with Humanitarian Award at Global Gaming Expo 2008NIGA Chairman Stevens reflected on how Hogan's hospital visits to sick children under foundations such as the Make a Wish Foundation and the Starlight Children's Foundations inspired him to become involved in Native issues.

    "Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, came to us and he said, 'When I go to visit hospitals, I don't see Indian kids, and that was a real concern to me, so I decided that I want to reach out to these Indian kids'," said Stevens. "And so, we began what we call the Dreamseekers Foundation. Terry already had the experience of making things a better place for the youth in America and so we wanted to extend his biceps, so to speak, into Indian Country."

    Upon his acceptance of the award, Hogan spoke about how his concern grew from the lack of healthcare for Native Americans to encompass other problems plaguing Indian Country.

    "At first, my mind was set on healthcare across the board. But then, when I learned about the suicide rates, the economic conditions, and about the quality of life in general, we needed to find some way to have a constant stream of revenue to address these problems. We needed to find a way to use Hulk Hogan--the brand, and the power of all my Native American Hulkamaniacs to generate constant revenue stream so we can really get to work on this situation," said Hogan.

    "Dreamseekers was destined to be. I had this crazy Hulkamania positive character that all the kids loved and the wrestling fans around the world had dialed into the positive message of the character of Hulk Hogan. And it transcended into the Native Americans and they were some of my biggest fans, the Hulkamaniacs," said Hogan. "The sky is the limit. Under the banner of Dreamseekers, I think we can accomplish a lot of things on a grand scale."
    Comment:  For more pictures of Hogan at the Global Gaming Expo, see Global Gaming Expo 2008 (Day 3).

    Pilgrims owned the land?

    Native blood:  the truth behind the myth of 'Thanksgiving Day'On arrival, the Puritans and other religious sects discussed “who legally owns all this land. ”They had to decide this, not just because of Anglo-Saxon traditions, but because their particular way of farming was based on individual–not communal or tribal–ownership. This debate over land ownership reveals that bourgeois “rule of law” does not mean “protect the rights of the masses of people.”

    Some settlers argued that the land belonged to the Indians. These forces were excommunicated and expelled. Massachusetts Governor Winthrop declared the Indians had not “subdued” the land, and therefore all uncultivated lands should, according to English Common Law, be considered “public domain.” This meant they belonged to the king. In short, the colonists decided they did not need to consult the Indians when they seized new lands, they only had to consult the representative of the crown (meaning the local governor).

    The colonists embraced a line from Psalms 2:8. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Since then, European settler states have similarly declared god their real estate agent: from the Boers seizing South Africa to the Zionists seizing Palestine.

    The European immigrants took land and enslaved Indians to help them farm it. By 1637 there were about 2000 British settlers. They pushed out from the coast and decided to remove the inhabitants.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ten Little Pilgrims and Indians.

    November 24, 2008

    A pop/Native/comic-book collision

    London/First Look:  Faile’s “Lost In Glimmering Shadows” At Lazarides GalleryAfter rocketing into the stratosphere of the underground art world in the past few years, the anonymous collaborative street art duo known only as FAILE is making huge waves across the pond with the debut of “Lost in Glimmering Shadows,” a show of ambitious multimedia work at London’s starmaking LAZARIDES GALLERY. ... Introducing a new Native American theme to their work, Faile are returning to their early aesthetic influences growing up in the Southwest by channeling appropriated Pop cultural renderings of American Indian culture into their trademark heavily layered work in a pointed commentary on “the expanse of contemporary commercialism at the expense of society’s connection with nature and spirit.”Comment:  Follow the link to see all the art in this show.

    This looks like a fabulous pop-art blitz of Native American and comic-book iconography. Too bad the show was in London and has closed already.

    I imagine the show's message is something like this: Americans have appropriated and exploited Native images for commercial and entertainment purposes. Now artists are appropriating and exploiting American themes and styles to fight back. They're showing us how the mainstream has distorted Native culture in a virtual fun-house mirror.

    But a caveat: Judging by their reaction to the infamous NFL SUPERPRO #6, I doubt the Hopi would approve of FAILE's using their kachinas in their art. This is where a Native artist might've handled the material more sensitively.

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

    Thank God for killing Patuxets

    WETZSTEIN:  Pilgrims thankful for Indians' helpSome 20 years ago, I was given a book called "The Light and the Glory," written by David Manuel and Peter Marshall, son of Christian author Catherine Marshall and Peter Marshall, the U.S. Senate chaplain for many years.

    The book retells the story of the Pilgrims' arrival in what is now Plymouth, Mass., in November 1620 in a way that suggests God's hidden hand protected these devout people again and again from extinction.
    How exactly did "God's hidden hand" help the Pilgrims?The land they were on once belonged to the fierce Patuxets, who killed any white people who came to their shores.

    "But four years prior to the Pilgrims' arrival, a mysterious plague had broken out among them, killing every man, woman and child. So complete was the devastation that the neighboring tribes had shunned the area, convinced that some supernatural spirit had destroyed the Patuxets," Mr. Marshall and Mr. Manuel wrote. "Hence, the cleared land on which [the Pilgrims] had settled literally belonged to no one."
    Comment:  This is a typical case of spinning Thanksgiving as a pro-American, pro-white, pro-Christian holiday. The Pilgrims prospered because they were true to God. And (the author implies but doesn't say) the Indians died because they weren't.

    No mystery about it

    Even talking about a "mysterious plague" is disingenuous. I don't think there was anything mysterious about it. Here's how it came about:

    Nauset HistoryShortly after Columbus' voyage to the New World in 1492, a steady stream of European explorers, fishermen, and adventurers began regular visits to the coast of New England. Located on a landmark as obvious as Cape Cod, the Nauset had contact with Europeans at an early date, but these first meetings were not always friendly. European captains riding the Gulf Stream home from the Carribean were often tempted to increase profits by the last minute addition of some human cargo. The Nauset soon learned from sad experience that the white men from these strange ships frequently came ashore, not for trade, but to steal food and capture slaves. More so than the neighboring Wampanoag and other New England Algonquin, the Nauset were hostile to Europeans, and when the French expedition under Samuel de Champlain visited Cape Cod in 1606, the Nauset were not friendly.

    Although the Nauset would usually abandon their villages and retreat inland at the approach of a European ship, they continued to be victimized by sailors of all nationalities. In 1614 Captain Thomas Hunt captured seven Nauset and twenty Patuxet (one of whom was Squanto who later gained fame as a friend of the Pilgrims in Plymouth) and later sold them as slaves in Spain. Kidnapping and enslaving 27 of their people was a minor offense compared to the other thing Thomas Hunt did to the New England Algonquin. It appears there was a terrible sickness among Hunt's crew that was inadvertently passed to the Nauset and Wampanoag in the course of his raid. Spreading quickly through the native population in three waves, it killed 75% of the original residents of New England and the Canadian maritimes between 1614 and 1617.
    So the Englishmen passed on their illnesses while they were robbing and enslaving the Indians. Under the law, what happens when you kill someone "unintentionally" while committing a felony crime? You're guilty of murder or manslaughter, that's what.

    Hence my argument that Europeans were responsible for the deaths caused by disease even when they didn't "intend" for the Indians to die. The fact is that they were going to kill, enslave, or decimate the Indians any way they could. Diseases merely made the work of genocide go faster than it would've otherwise.