Bonds are forged and cultural issues examined as the cast of Richard Montoya's new play tackle such topics as the U.S. military, Native American history and war.
By Reed Johnson
Well, actor Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux and longtime Indian rights activist, told Peterson, that's a word that we don't use, actually.
"It's demeaning, and every time the white world talks about American Indians they use all the demeaning words they can to describe us, like we're nothing," Means said in an interview this week with Peterson, Montoya and two other Indian cast members, Geraldine Keams and Brandon Oakes.
Perhaps especially when depicting one of the most misrepresented and cruelly stereotyped of all U.S. ethnic groups.
"One of the traps would have been, OK, we're depicting this rez and it must be positive," Montoya said. "Because we get that in the Latino, mostly movie and television world, 'We must project positive images.' And I think we do feel like, yes, there's something important about that. But when I look at how complicated a rez or a tribe can be with traditional folks versus this casino movement versus there's some abject poverty. . . . There was one rez in New Mexico where there were 16 heroin overdoses."
"When I was like 7 to 9 there was a war on my reservation between the New York State Police and my neighbor, the head of the Mohawk warriors," Oakes said. "Guns to me are just like a tool that's to show part of your emotion and how you feel, like I feel strong enough to pull out a gun and hold it in my hand."
True, they also emphasize that they're members of sovereign nations. But these two terms aren't incompatible.
I'd say the distinction is something like the distinction between "Native American" and "American Indian." "Nation" is what you call the entity in a formal or political context; tribe" is what you call it in an informal or personal context.
For more on the play, see Indian Shtick in Palestine, New Mexico and Palestine, New Mexico Premieres.