February 19, 2009

10 Items or Less mocks Indians

From a MySpace bulletin:

ACTION ALERT!  TV program disrespecting the sacred pipePlease forward this in its entirety.
Thank you!


From NDN News

Hello everyone,

I was channel surfing this evening and came across this Program "10 Items or Less" on TBS, the episode was called, "Dances with Groceries."

They mocked Native heritage throughout this entire program, including disrespecting the sacred pipe.

In the program aired on Tuesday night, 2/17/09, 9:00 pm (Mountain time), Character Leslie Pool, played by John Lehr, discovers that he has "Shawnee" heritage. He then decides to start running his grocery store in the "Indian way"--makes everything organic, puts up dream catchers, states he even has a birthmark on his butt in the shape of a tomahawk. Character Mercy P. Jones, played by Kim Coles, tells Pool to stop with the "Indian heritage nonsense."

In a scene in Pool's office, he brings out a "peace pipe" and wants to smoke it with Mercy Jones. She grabs the pipe away from him and slams it down on the desk.

Pool, with his newfound "heritage," goes to the Shawnee Tribal Council to complain about the local city gov't attempting to take his store under eminent domain. He brings Yolanda, played by Roberta Valderrama, to this meeting as his "war council." He mentions a quote from Tecumseh, the council then beats him with clubs. Later in the program, this is described as their way to initiate him into the Tribe. He is then made a full-fledged tribal member, talks about becoming a council member.

I would suspect the Shawnee Tribal Council wouldn't be too thrilled, or take this program lightly, either.

At the end, Pool brings out the "peace pipe" again. This time he is in a steam room with several other men. He proceeds to start smoking it, talking about the ancient ritual. One of the men asks Pool what's in that pipe anyway. Pool responds, he was given some tobacco and other stuff, by one of the other characters (either Todd or Carl, didn't catch the name for sure). The man said, oh you should have known better than to accept anything from him. Then Pool begins to "hallucinate" after smoking this "peace pipe."

This mockery and disrespect needs to be brought to the attention of the producers of TBS. They need to be educated that this spoof mockery of our culture is not acceptable.

They have disrespected the sacred pipe and our spiritual beliefs and ways, a immediate public apology is in order on their program and website http://www.tbs.com/shows/10itemsorless/.

These TV and radio programs, need to be held accountable for their disgraceful and disrespectful actions, on these programs. This is happening far too frequently.

You can file a complaint with TBS at:

Re: 10 Items or Less Program
their online email form is located at:

Thank you for taking the time to make your voice be heard, regarding this issue!

In peace & solidarity,
Tamra Brennan
Comment:  I didn't see this show. Nevertheless, I wouldn't say the "peace pipe" bit was the most offensive part of it. I don't think every single pipe in Native cultures was considered sacred. In many cases, I suspect, a pipe was just a pipe.

I'd say the phony examples of Shawnee "Indian ways" were more offensive. And the "tribal council's" method of inducting members--beating them with clubs without examining any genealogical research--was the most offensive. This wasn't even a good parody of real tribal behavior. It sounds to me like something a troop of cavemen or apes would do.

In any case, it seems this episode presented one stereotype after another. About the only thing it got right is that its Ohio setting was the home of the Shawnee people.

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


Anonymous said...

How interesting that in our politically correct atmosphere this didn't even cause a blip on the radar!!! Apparently ignorance is truly blissful for the writers of this show.

dmarks said...

Does anyone even watch TBS original sitcoms?

Unknown said...

After reading this post I sought this episode out on TBS on line and after watching it I think it’s not meant to make fun of or dishonor Native traditions but rather expose, for thought and laughs, the ignorance of those who try to claim what isn’t part of their heritage or culture even if it is part of their genetic makeup. The episode confronts all the stereo types that sadly come to most Americans’ minds when considering Indians. This includes the Europeans who attempt to define themselves by the small percentage of genetic makeup that may have had nothing to do with who they were raised to be and because they can never be what they never were, raised within a tribal or with a Native identity, manipulate the definition of what it is to be Indian based on those stereo typical notions. Jokes aside, the key character’s ignorance is questioned by other characters, comparisons to the green and new age movements are made and other characters point out their own mixed heritages claim(an African American that is part English but doesn’t consider herself the Queen of England) and own ignorance of the possibility of Indigenous roots in their own cultures (a Latina claiming to be Indian because her Aunt dated an Indian). In the end the induction of the character into the tribe in order to “reclaim” tribal, land taken from them through the marriage of a Native grandmother to his European grandfather, land that was a trading post and became a “value supermarket”, is sad because it perpetuates ignorance and sems to be an introduction to perhaps another stereotype, the 21st Century Indian that uses the laws and their loop holes to his advantage in order to reclaim that which was stolen. I am not saying that the jokes and stereotypes aren’t ones we are tired of seeing but I see this as more of a strike against the white Character rather than the Natives he believes he is emulating. With that said, I, like many, yearn for Indian actors that are allowed to be people without reference to their culture, but then I trust my Asian, African, Middle Eastern and Caribbean brothers and sisters feel the same way.

Rob said...

How does showing the tribe initiating members by clubbing them reflect badly on the wannabe rather than the Indians? Remember, I said that's what sounded like the worst part to me.