March 25, 2009

Rob dismisses Native resistance?!

In Chumash = "Fluffy Indigenous Kittens"? reader Kalisetsi criticized me for criticizing a Chumash woman who criticized an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Whew!) Kalisetsi begins:Oh Rob.....where to start?I'd suggest you start by thinking twice before criticizing me. But too late for that now. <g>
1) some of your sources for Chumash history are questionableAre they? For all you know, the websites I quoted were written by Chumash Indians or in consultation with them. Your presumption that they must be wrong because they're on the Internet is simply silly.

But if you want Chumash history from the Chumash, okay. Here's a link to the history page of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. It doesn't say the Chumash were either peaceful or warlike, but it strongly emphasizes their peaceful behavior. There isn't one word about fighting the Spanish.

Does that surprise you? It doesn't surprise me. I know lots of California Indians and I don't think many of them consider themselves weapon-wielding warriors. They consider themselves stewards of their lands and traditions, not fighters or killers.
if you are going to (weirdly) go on the offensive against a Native Chumash woman who is expressing her offense at the Buffy comment, you might want to be sure you have the facts on your side before you proceed.Having reviewed all the facts and evidence, I'm sure.

The only weird thing here is your amazement that I'd dare to criticize a Native. Where were you the last umpteen times I did something similar?
A 3 second google search included this result:

"In 1824, the Chumash Indians revolted and temporarily controlled three missions (Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, and La Purisima)."
I didn't say the Chumash never fought against the Spanish. I said Miranda's set of evidence didn't support her claims. If you're saying she should've done this search rather than talking about unrelated Indians, I agree.
Pretty sure the revolt wasn't all "kitten-y" like a hippie love-fest.Yes, it sounds more like "cats who are content to mind their own business but will scratch your eyes out if you molest them."

Here's some information on the 1801 "uprising" and the 1824 revolt. As usual, the exceptions prove the rule. A couple of rebellions in a long history is evidence of a generally peaceful nature.

Miranda was generalizing?
2) You posted a truncated version of D. Miranda's email, but even from the edited version it seems a reasonable interpretation that she is talking about the under-estimation / dismissal of California peoples in general as being "kitten-y" types.Another reasonable interpretation is that she was specifically defending her Chumash people.

Sure, she probably was "talking about the under-estimation/dismissal of California peoples in general." My point was that she did a poor job of it by referring to the Chumash but citing four examples that weren't Chumash.

If she had wanted to discuss California tribes in general, it would've been easy to do without implying that all the tribes were the same. She made an unwarranted leap of "logic" and I called her on it.

Suppose I wanted to say something about Lakota warriors and I cited examples from the Ponca, Kaw, or Osage. Would you give me a pass on that? Especially if I meant my argument to be "emotional and accurate" rather than "fine-tuned and logical"?

No, you probably wouldn't. Nor should you, in my opinion. These tribes are about as geographically and culturally close as Miranda's examples are to the Chumash. I.e., not that close.

In other words, the Dakotas are to Nebraska or Kansas as Northern California is to Southern California. If you think we should ignore the lumping together of unrelated tribes several hundred miles apart...well, I don't.
An alternative approach, and one that is more respectful of the idea that D. Miranda PROBABLY knows what she's talking about, might have been to try reaching out to a Chumash tribe (Santa Ynez has a website), or News from Native California, or even possibly someone at one of the UC's (Native or not) who might work with the community in question.I didn't say Miranda didn't know what she was talking about. The fact that she knew about Pomponio, Toypurina, and Estanislao and I didn't pretty much proves that.

I said her examples were poorly chosen to make her point. Try to get that straight, please, because these are markedly different claims.
Sure, its not the 5 minute solution, but when it comes to something like this, its probably the only way to avoid perpetuating the pattern of misinformation, and really oppression through exclusion.That's funny considering Miranda probably dashed off her response in five minutes while I spent an hour or two researching mine. If she had thought as much about her comments as I did about mine, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

By the way, let's recall that I work for a California (Pechanga) Indian. I've visited a dozen or more California Indian reservations...broken bread with their their materials (websites, magazines, cultural displays)...written articles about them...etc. That specifically includes the Santa Ynez Chumash. If you think my comments are based on five minutes of ivory-tower research, you're sadly mistaken.

California's tribes get stereotyped
California people are widely portrayed as being docile, servile, and weak, a simplistic and inaccurate view painted by the let's counteract this stereotype by talking about California tribes in general and then giving specific examples of non-servile tribes. Not by talking about the Chumash and then giving non-Chumash examples.
There is a gaping chasm between D. Miranda's statement that "the Chumash were far from 'fluffy little kittens'" and your conclusion that she must mean "that the Chumash were warriors just like the stereotypical Plains Indians?" Then later, you say "It's wrong to claim all Indians--even all California Indians--are the same. It's wrong to claim they all fit the stereotypical "warrior" mold." But it seems YOU were the one who initially drew that point of comparison.You're right about that...but I didn't attribute those conclusions to Miranda. "The point of the posting," as I put it, was my own conclusion. I often go beyond what people have actually said or done to riff on broader subjects.
As survivors, its psychologically important for Native people to resist the stereotypical / simplistic views about their own histories that are told in gradeschool textbooks, and sites like those you referenced.Yes, such as the simplistic notion that all California Indians were the same or interchangeable. By resisting that notion, I've done exactly what you said we should do, thanks.
Its important for Native people to remember the ways that their ancestors have resisted, so that they can continue in their own lives today to define themselves for themselves, which is often the equivalent of swimming against the stream.Which is why I spent an hour or two highlighting the ways some non-Chumash Indians resisted Spanish oppression. I provided exactly the kind of information Miranda could've provided. So let's stop acting as if you're aware of this Native resistance and I'm not.
When you dismiss acts of Native Californian resistance as "not counting" because "they were only in defense against European conquest," you are belittling the efforts and sacrifices of D. Miranda's ancestors.Are you freakin' kidding me? I meant they didn't count as unprovoked acts of aggression against Europeans. Not that they didn't count at all.

Really...are you seriously asserting that I think California's Indians should've accepted their fate? That docility and servility were a better approach than fighting back? You must've misread or misunderstood every posting on this blog if you came to that completely erroneous conclusion.

Sheesh. Where were you when I posted my thoughts on the Jamestown massacre of 1622? Where's your defense of my defense of Indian uprisings that involve killing people? Read these postings and then tell me I prefer docile Indians.

In short, you haven't been paying attention if you think I've ever said Native resistance movements didn't and don't "count." I've never said anything of the sort.

Miranda has a right?
And it's also condescending when you include yourself in with D. Miranda (who IS Chumash) when you say "'LET'S not be defensive about a tribe not known for its warriors."I was trying to imply something about how Americans perceive Indians in general. None of us should apologize for, excuse, or overlook Indians who weren't primarily warriors.

I suspect every tribe that was relatively peaceful got stereotyped as weak or passive. Other than providing accurate information, what do you want me to do about it? Pretend that every tribe consisted of mighty warriors who would rather die than sign a peace treaty?

You can do that, but I'm not going to. Some tribes had warrior cultures but sued for peace. Some didn't have warrior cultures but rebelled and fought. History is more complex than you're making it out to be.

California's tribes may be known for being docile and servile, but Indians in general are known for being savage and warlike. I'm not about to contribute to this stereotype if I can help it. As I've said many times, we need fewer inaccurate stereotypes and more accurate information.
Hey, it's her tribe, and she absolutely has a right to be defensive about any way that it is presented.It's my blog and I absolutely have the right to criticize anyone (whether Native or non-Native) for their shortcomings (whether major or minor). If you don't like it, stick to the other blogs discussing the nature of California's Indians. My blog doesn't exist to praise people only.
You say "no disrespect" to her, but your writing says that maybe you don't really "get it".Criticizing the details of Miranda's argument isn't "disrespecting" her. It's criticizing the details of her arguments.

If you think Indians should be beyond criticism because they've had a tough time...well, I guess I'll stop criticizing Russell Means, Tim Giago and Charles Trimble, Russell Bates, Native artists whose work is marginal, Natives who support Indian mascots, the Native staff of Redskin magazine, et al.

Or maybe I'll change my mind and keep criticizing them when they deserve it. Yes, I think that's the approach I'll take.

The only thing someone didn't get here is your assertion that Miranda's emotional needs trump the need for historical accuracy. I say the opposite: that the need for historical accuracy trumps Miranda's emotional needs. Miranda can say whatever she wants, of course, but in my blog, I say what goes.

P.S. For a related debate, see Rob the Presumptuous White Man?

Below:  Not the peaceful Chumash.

1 comment:

Deborah A. Miranda said...

A much more direct route than any taken so far on this topic would have been to simply contact me - D. Miranda - and ask me to clarify my comments. I would have been happy to respond in more detail.

Rob, despite your professional and personal work with California Indians, you still seem more interested in scoring points than actually having a dialogue, a conversation in which information is exchanged and appreciated.

My original response on D. Reese's blog was, indeed, off the cuff and brief - I was making a point, not writing a dissertation. If you'd bothered to look up who I am and what my work is, you'd see that I have spent my adult life doing just the kind of scholarship and time-consuming research you accuse me of NOT doing; that, in fact, this is not about research, scholarship or scoring points for me at all - THIS IS MY LIFE. I am here to honor the ancestors by telling their stories as best I can, in both poetry and academic-speak, to as many audiences as possible in the hope that the mythology surrounding them can be deconstructed, and their truths can be told.

Yes, this is your blog and you have the right to say whatever you like. But, as a human being who says you honor and value truth and accuracy, why not engage in a dialoge rather than a diatribe? None of us is always right. None of us always has The Truth. Life-long learning is a process that is true peace-keeping, not statements of absolute Wrong and Right. I'm glad you're willing to take hours to research your comments, and to check up on mine. But don't lose sight of the bigger picture: this is about human beings. Not scoring points.