January 31, 2009

Improving the Alaska Airlines logo

Since I said the Alaska Airlines Eskimo is stereotypical, I also should say how to fix it.

Apparently Alaska Airlines used to use a variety of images on its planes. Here are some pictures of them:

Alaska Airlines Retro Paint Scheme

I like the idea of using a variety of images. Here's how it could work.

Natives make up about 1/6th of Alaska's population. So use an Alaska Native on one of every six planes. Choose a face that doesn't require a parka to identify it. Alternate between men and women, elders and children.

For the other images, use the gold panner, the Onion Dome Church, or the raven symbol. Use animals: an eagle, bear, wolf, caribou, seal, or whale. Use natural features such as Mt. Denali, a pine tree, a glacier, or an aurora borealis. Use one of Alaska's tourist attractions--assuming the state has any attractions that I haven't mentioned already.

This would put Natives in their proper place as one aspect of Alaska's history and culture, but not all of it. And certainly not a stereotypical representation of it, as if Alaska has nothing but Eskimos in igloos.

Reality check

Of course Alaska Airlines won't do this. It probably wants a single image to brand the airline in people's minds. It'll probably stick with its Eskimo as long as possible.

And if the airline ever decided to get rid of it, people probably would force it to keep it. You know how people love their mascots. While they fly over and ignore the real Inuit, they want their lucky Eskimo charm to accompany them.

Anyway, don't say I never present solutions to the problems I discuss. It's not my fault if people can't or won't implement my solutions. I guess they'd rather stereotype than switch.

Stereotypical "Eskimo cutie"

From AngelBodyWear.com comes this outfit for an "Eskimo Cutie":5 Piece Set. Zip Front Stretch Crushed Velvet Dress with Faux Fur Trimmed Hood with Pom Pom Ties. Includes Mittens, Faux Fur Trimmed Boot Covers, and Faux Chocolate Popsicle. Petticoat Sold Separately.

Fabric: 80% Polyester, 20% Acrylic

Color: Brown/White

Brand: Dream Girl
Comment:  We could call this young woman an Eskimo (Cutie) Pie, but it would be wrong.

Let's see how many problems we can identify in this image:

1) The Halloween-style costume implies anyone can become Native just by donning the right clothing. This message is constantly reinforced by non-Natives pretending to be Indians in movies and TV shows, Thanksgiving pageants, and sporting events.

2) It fetishizes Native women as exotic sex objects.

3) It associates Eskimos with the usual stereotypical symbols: a fur-lined parka, snow and ice, and a polar bear. The rounded lumps in the background may be stylized igloos.

For more on the subject, see Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

Seeking Crazy Horse photo

Show in search of the truth behind the face of Crazy HorseA Rapid City man believes he may own the only photograph of acclaimed Lakota leader Crazy Horse. This week, public television's "History Detectives" brought their research hounds to the Black Hills to interview several sources, including family members.

"This is a fun story to do," producer Elyse Luray said Wednesday.

The "History Detectives" started researching six weeks ago in the extensive photo archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The program investigates facts, myths and mysteries connected to interesting objects, family legends and local folklore, she said.

According to historian and author Donovin Sprague, an American Indian Studies instructor at Crazy Horse Memorial and Black Hills State University, the photograph belongs to Tim Giago, former publisher and editor of Indian Country Today and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

Below:  The photo in question? Or one of the false claimants?

Casting Tom Kalmaku

What looks like a Brazilian website suggests actors for roles in a Green Lantern movie. As you may recall, the Green Lantern cast includes Tom Kalmaku, an Inuit airplane mechanic.

Elenco Ambrosia:  Green Lantern

Comment:  This image makes Tom Kalmaku look more Asian than Inuit. Even so, actor Jonathan Ke Quan doesn't look any more like Kalmaku than a randomly chosen young Asian man.

As usual, I'd say choose the most authentic actor possible. Go to Alaska or Canada and have an open casting call if you can't find any Inuit actors in the Lower 48.

Despite the Asian eyes, this is the kind of face I'd suggest for the Alaska Airlines logo. Given the Alaskan context and the strong Native features, I think most people would identify it as a young Inuit man. They wouldn't need a parka to make the connection.

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

Soboba rescues Ramona

Ramona Bowl gets a $100,000 donationThe Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has donated $100,000 to the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater to help assure the survival of the outdoor play "Ramona."

The money means the financially strapped organization that stages the play at the natural amphitheater, southeast of downtown Hemet, is back in the black.

However, negotiations with Riverside County to purchase the historic venue continue, bowl officials said.

Soboba tribal council member Rose Salgado, who also sits on the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater board of directors, said the donation was meant to assure the future of "Ramona," which is preparing for its 86th season this spring.

"We've always supported the Ramona play and this is not out of the ordinary," she said.

The tribe has donated $25,000 to $50,000 to the play each year, she said, but decided to increase the amount this year to help deal with the bowl's difficult budget situation.

"It was needed to preserve the play this year and into the future," she said. "It tells the story of Native Americans in California."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Casinos Fund Cultural Projects and Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Wrapping up the inauguration

Indian Comics Irregular #179:  Indians at Obama's Inauguration

January 30, 2009

Rob doesn't understand "mutts"?

Someone named Allysha wrote a long, thoughtful response to Are You a Reeeeeeal "Part" Injun? Here are some excerpts and my responses:I understand where you are coming from, but there is one thing you have to understand. Some people are just mutts. Furthermore, Heritage is heritage whether or not the culture is a part of your life. When I say I have Cherokee ancestry, I mean it and I know it and I can tell you all about it because my family has done extensive genealogical research.I don't think I've ever criticized someone for having Cherokee (or other Indian) ancestry. Or for stating that fact accurately. I'm all about defining things as accurately as possible.

But saying you have Cherokee ancestry is different from saying you are Cherokee. I.e., it's different from saying you're a full-fledged Cherokee with all the knowledge and understanding pertaining to your background. You don't have the same background as someone with substantial Cherokee "blood"--not to mention an enrolled tribal member--so you (probably) don't have the same knowledge and understanding.

In other words, I'm not criticizing "mutts" who say what they are and accept what they are. I'm criticizing "mutts" who claim they're much more than what their fractional heritage gives them a right to claim. The word for these people is "wannabes." They're claiming to be full-fledged Cherokees--as authentic as Sequoyah or Wes Studi or whoever--even though their background is no different from yours.

Criticizing people's ignorance?Do you realize that quite often you are criticizing these people that know nothing about the culture of the people from which they claim to descend, when the reason they know nothing is the consequence of the choice of a distant ancestor? The reason many of these "white, blonde haired, blue eyed" people UNKNOWINGLY offend you by offering physical features as proof of their heritage is that it's all that they have left as proof of from whence they came. Would you deny a black person's their claim to African descent? I highly doubt it.As I indicated above, the people I criticize are usually the opposite of the ones you describe. They're people with a tiny fraction of Indian "blood" who claim to be full Indians based on something they read in a book or learned from a "shaman." In other words, wannabes.

There are probably tens of thousands of Cherokees who know little about their traditional culture. The same applies in other regions where Indians were forced to intermarry and assimilate--e.g., New England or California. If I've ever said anything critical about these anonymous Indians, I don't recall it.

In fact, in "Actual Indian" Defined I stated their right to call themselves Indians. If they have the blood quantum or the tribal enrollment or the acceptance of other Indians, I consider them Indians. It doesn't matter to me whether they practice their traditional culture or not.

About the only time I've criticized someone (e.g., Sam Bradford) for not knowing his culture is when others have held him up as a role model. If Sam Bradford wants to be one of the tens of thousands of anonymous enrolled Cherokees whom I know nothing about, I won't say one word about him. I couldn't care less whether he practices Cherokee traditions in the privacy of his home.

But if someone suggests him as a role model for others, then I'll speak up. Winning the Heisman Trophy doesn't make Bradford a great Cherokee, it makes him a great athlete who happens to be a Cherokee. As I've said many times, we should admire Indians who uphold their Native values and give back to their fellow Indians more than those who don't. If someone just happens to be an Indian, that's nothing to admire.

Criticizing people's looks?Furthermore, I'm hearing a lot of "I hate when white, blonde haired, blue eyed girls say 'yadda, yadda, yadda.'" I have very fair skin, blonde hair and gray eyes. It's kind of harsh to criticize me for my coloring. I have an inverted breast bone, large earlobes, almond shaped eyes, lustrous smooth thick hair, second toes longer than my big toes and a big gap in between them, a slender, athletic figure, "shovel teeth", crooked pinkies and, yes, I even have high cheekbones. These physical features are all MEDICALLY and SCIENTIFICALLY considered indicative of Native American Heritage.Ironically, I just posted something on Chauntal's Doritos Commercials. She's a fair-skinned blond who is "Choctaw/Osage on her mother's side." Since her peers accept her as an Indian (again, see "Actual Indian" Defined), so do I. I generally don't criticize Indians (e.g., John Herrington or the Mashantucket Pequots) for not looking "Indian" enough.

If you're referring to my criticism of someone like Johnny Depp, you've ignored the context. I haven't criticized Depp for looking exactly as Indian as he is--which I gather is 1/8th Eastern Cherokee or thereabouts. I've criticized Hollywood for casting him--a Caucasian actor with a bit of Eastern Cherokee ancestry--as Tonto the full-blooded Apache.

If a role called for a 1/8th Eastern Cherokee, I'd be the first to say Depp was perfect for it. But that's not what we're talking about here. Depp doesn't look like an Apache or know the Apache, so he's wrong for this role.

Again, it's not a matter of criticizing people for who they are. It's the exact opposite: criticizing people for who they aren't, not who they are. Depp isn't an Indian by any of the standards I've listed, and he's absolutely not a full-blooded Texas Apache. A major Native role like Tonto, Jacob Black, or Friday should go to someone who matches the role as closely as possible.

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

Below:  Depp the Apache wannabe.

The Alaska Airlines Eskimo

Correspondent DMarks was curious about my thoughts on the Alaska Airlines Eskimo. He wrote:Qantas has a kangaroo on the tail, and Alaska Airlines has an Inuit on the tail. If you have not covered it before, it is probably more worthy of inclusion in Newspaper Rock that Pontiac's arrowhead.Some background on the subject:

Many Frown Over Possible Removal Of Alaska Airlines' Smiling Eskimo FaceThe controversy began when the Seattle-based airline last year hired a design firm to come up with a new logo to possibly replace the Eskimo. A company newsletter Nov. 6 showed a drawing of the proposed new logo, a stylized mountain.

The newsletter said some customers have had trouble figuring out that the picture on the planes is an Eskimo and it was difficult to use the logo in small size on stationery. Also, Alaska Airlines flies to California and the Southwest and some potential customers there have a perception the airline flies only within Alaska, says Kennedy.

If that's the case, "they're going to have to do a better job of advertising," says State Sen. Willie Hensley, an Eskimo from Kotzebue.

Kennedy also says the airline for years has gotten comments from passengers that the Eskimo face looks like Charles Manson, Moammar Gadhafi, Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson. Comedian Jay Leno on the Johnny Carson show has joked about the face.

"It may not be the best representation of an Eskimo, but it's our Eskimo," says Kelly. Alaskans want a say in the matter because "they feel an affinity with the airline. Alaskans feel it's their airline."

Satch Carlson, an Anchorage Daily News columnist, wrote recently: "The Eskimo is a friendly, human symbol of the north, of the spirit of Alaska . . . Take him off the Alaska planes in favor of some abstract, hip, meaningless design, you're taking one step closer to that impersonal austerity that characterizes most other airlines today."
And:Sen. Hensley says the Eskimo face is that of the late Chester Seveck, "a reindeer herder and a phenomenal Eskimo dancer" who greeted deplaning tourists at Kotzebue for years. "His face is a symbol of Alaska."The Alaska Eskimo gets a temporary makeoverAlaska Airlines reports today that the popular Eskimo image on Alaska Airlines' aircraft will now wear a Hawaiian lei to celebrate the airline's upcoming flights to Hawaii. The lei will appear on 10 of the airline's 114 aircraft.Comment:  First, let's note that "Inuit" is plural. A member of the Inuit is called an Inuk.

A couple of thoughts about the airlines' use of a stereotypical Inuk or Eskimo.

1) Although the face supposedly belongs a Native, it looks Caucasian to me. I'd prefer someone with stronger Inuit features.

2) If the image isn't stereotypical, the fur-lined parka hood makes it so. That's why comedians have made fun of it. If the face had stronger Inuit features, we wouldn't need a parka to identify it.

Oh, and don't bother saying the image can't be stereotypical if it's a real person. It's not this particular person that's stereotypical. What's stereotypical is the general idea of using a parka-wearing Eskimo to represent Alaska.

Choctalking subverts stereotypes

American Indians involved around the world in 'Choctalking'Between the small audience in the Studio Theatre and a screen backdrop displaying films stood LeAnne Howe, alone on stage.

Howe, a University professor in American Indian Studies and English, was performing her one-woman show, "Choctalking," on January 23 and 24.

Since Krannert Center for the Performing Arts asked Howe to have a performance last year, she has been writing, producing and staging this multimedia show. This 80-minute performance is a series of monologues showing that American Indians are involved with people from all over the world.

"I'm trying to show that American Indians are connected to communities around the globe in ways that may surprise mainstream audiences," Howe said. "Especially if you are used to thinking of American Indians in feathers and war paint."

At the University, Howe believes many students associate American Indians with feathers, largely because of the former mascot, the Chief.

Although she did not attend the University during the time the Chief was mascot, Jorie Kapp, freshman in LAS, said she thinks of the Chief when she hears "Native American."
Comment:  Again, an excellent example of how Indian mascots influence people's perception of Indians. If you're a mascot lover--even an Indian who's a mascot lover--you have to be pretty obtuse not to understand what's going on. Whatever you think you're doing, you're stereotyping Indians as primitive savages of the past...duh.

For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Below:  A real Indian...

...and a phony Indian.

The Great Emancipator (of Indian land)

Here's a Native who understands the implications of Obama's "settling the West" comment. He suggests why we should be wary of Obama's admiration of Lincoln.

Newcomb:  A look back at LincolnLincoln, in the spirit of empire and colonization, initiated a number of economic policies that “reduced” Indian nations throughout the Great Plains to limited land bases, while simultaneously providing taxpayer subsidies and grants of millions of acres of Indian land for railroads, other corporate interests and homesteaders.

In “The Red Man in the New World Drama” (Vine Deloria Jr.’s edition, 1971), Jennings C. Wise pointed out that Lincoln’s economic policies resulted in tremendous areas of land being opened to colonization. As Wise noted, various states were granted 71 million acres of “public domain” lands (Indian lands) before 1873. Another 85 million acres were pre-empted (claimed) by homesteaders under the 1862 Homestead Act. And another 155 million acres of Indian lands, including “rights of way and alternate sections of non-mineral bearing lands,” were “granted outright” to “corporate interests which undertook to finance the construction of the transcontinental railroad.”
And:After the Civil War, Lincoln’s war generals went on to engage in a war of extermination against the Plains Indian nations. An egregious example of the lot was General William Tecumseh Sherman. According to Sherman biographer John F. Marszalek (“Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order”), the good general issued an order to his troops: “During an assault, the soldiers cannot pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance is made, death must be meted out. …”

This, along with the destruction of the Indian food supply, was part of the U.S.’s “final solution” to “the Indian problem.” It was part of an array of policies designed to break Indian resistance to the extinguishing of their traditional, free way of life in order to make way for the railroads and the continued expansion of what George Washington termed “a rising empire.” Lincoln’s economic policies were key to the efforts of those who “settled the West,” to use a phrase from President Obama’s inaugural address.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Lincoln's Views on Slavery and How Lincoln’s Army 'Liberated' the Indians.

Preview of Warrior

Here's a preview of a movie in production called Warrior. Except for the obscure Help, it will feature Adam Beach's first movie role since he left Law and Order: SVU.

WarriorIn shock and denial over his Marine father's death in battle, star Lacrosse player Conor Sullivan, always a maverick and a hothead, starts acting out in self-destructive ways that have his mom, Claire, at her wit's end. But arduous training in a wilderness Lacrosse camp under the tutelage of his dad's old combat buddy, Sgt. Major Duke Wayne, opens Conor's eyes to the true meaning of maturity, sportsmanship and manhood.Here's a MySpace photo album showing Adam Beach in military gear, Sonny Skyhawk as an advisor, and a crew of Native actors (?) and lacrosse players.

"WARRIOR" Film Shoot

Comment:  A lacrosse wilderness camp? A curious idea, although a Google search suggests it's an invention rather than a real thing.

Adam Beach is billed only sixth on the cast listing, so I'm not sure how big his role is. With his character named "Duke Wayne," is he going to do a John Wayne impression?

I don't see any other Natives in the cast, so I'm also not sure about the people in the photo album. Were they on set just to teach the non-Indians how to play lacrosse? Or do they actually appear in the movie--perhaps as rivals to the "real" team?

I'd be impressed if the inevitable Anglo star was surrounded by Native co-stars whom he learned Native values from. I'd be less impressed if Beach is the only Native in a film based on a Native sport.

Also, I hope this movie promotes an enlightened rather than unenlightened view of what it means to be a (Native) warrior. We don't need a modern-day John Wayne movie telling us that being a warrior is all about sucking it up, being tough, and winning.

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

Westerns are hostile to Indians

New animated films challenge false representation of Native Americans in the mediaPopular film and television shows have shaped the way Americans view American history--especially the frontier encounters between settlers and Native Americans. Examining the ways Native Americans are portrayed negatively in Westerns and other film genres, Joanna Hearne, assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri, describes recently produced animated films by Native directors that are countering media misrepresentations and helping promote Native-American stories and languages.

“When non-Native audiences see Native-Americans in Westerns, they often view them as part of the background, as if the actors are not really acting,” Hearne said. “Westerns rarely portray Native Americans as having families or children, presenting images of dying or ‘vanishing’ Indians instead of Native family continuity. This can have a negative impact on Native children who watch the films, because these popular images are hostile to Native families.”
Comment:  Once again, an expert states the obvious: that the media influences how we perceive Indians.

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

Below:  A helpless Indian princess (Tiger Lily) waits for a white man (Peter Pan) to rescue her.

NMAI collection to go online

Going to Meet Its Public

Indian Museum Will Put Entire Collection OnlineEven with three locations in its empire, the National Museum of the American Indian can display barely 1 percent of its 800,000 objects. To help close that gap, the museum has decided to set up a digital showcase.

On Monday, the museum plans to launch its "Fourth Museum" to give scholars, students, teachers, cultural historians and those far away from the museum's homes in Washington and New York the opportunity to look into its archives.

The move has been in the works for nearly three years, as staff reexamined each item and its scholarship. The online project, part of the museum's regular Web site, will begin with 5,500 items and photographs. The goal is to have all 800,000 objects on the Web site, but it will take at least four years to achieve that.
Comment:  For a similar effort, see "The American Indian in Stamps."

January 29, 2009

Mural depicts subservient Indians

AIM West is asking a California high school to remove a stereotypical mural showing missionary masters and Indian servants. Here's a petition:

Removal of Sequoia High School Mural (Redwood City, CA)We are asking that Native Americans and members of the Sequoia High School Community who find the mural depicting California Natives as "servant boys" to Father Junipero Serra offensive and a glorification of our colonialism to please sign on to the e-petition request addressed to the school board.

Our request is for removal of the mural. California Natives are depicted as subservient and docile. In the mural of missionaries and native servants journeying through Redwood City, CA there is no indication of native women, children or native life in the mural. The clothing is inaccurate of Native dress and there is no evidence this "historical event" ever took place as depicted.
And some excerpts from a detailed explanation of the mural's problems by Mark Anquoe:

The Case to Remove the Junipero Serra Mural Installed at Sequoia High School, Redwood City CaliforniaThe mural depicting the Serra and Crespi expeditions at Sequoia High School reinforces an outdated historical mythology that does a profound disservice to the current student body. Such misrepresentation of the historical record ill-prepares Sequoia High School students for modern college academia and an American society that continues to move beyond the Eurocentric propaganda of years past.

The commonly accepted version of California history during America’s Jim Crow era (during which this mural was painted) described the state’s indigenous people as simple and primitive. The arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century and specifically the mission system of the 18th century was supposed to have brought the blessings of civilization and Christianity to the grateful natives who were hopelessly mired in the stone-age. European diseases, inadvertently introduced by the European immigrants, decimated the native population. The forces of Spain, followed quickly by those of the United States, civilized and developed California, all the while struggling to bring the surviving indigenous people into modern society.

The mission system in California was a joint venture between the Spanish military and the Catholic Franciscan order. While the friars aspired to lure the indigenous people into mission life with the promise of a heavenly afterlife, it was in fact the Spanish military that forcefully drove the California natives en masse to the missions. New arrivals were segregated by gender for the remainder of their lives unless a particular Native couple were allowed a Catholic marriage. Traditional family bonds were irrelevant and families were routinely split. Living quarters at the missions, in which the Native Americans were locked, except for mass and work, typically consisted of large common rooms containing a single open pit for a toilet. Native American men were starved and worked to death in the fields, being allowed less than a quarter (and often less than an eighth) of the caloric intake of an African slave during the same period performing the same work. It was simply cheaper to have the military supply more Native people from the surrounding countryside than to feed them. Contrasted with the relative good health of the free Native population, European diseases ran wild within the confinement of mission living conditions. The rape of Native American women by Spanish soldiers both within and outside of the missions was systematic and pervasive during this entire period. Life in the missions was brutal and short. The church’s own records show that deathrates within the missions consistently outstripped birthrates by as much as 800 percent and never less than 200 percent.
Comment:  You can see pictures of the mural if you click the second link (a PDF). It basically portrays a happy-go-lucky gathering of missionary leaders and Native followers. Anquoe's point is that the reality was anything but happy-go-lucky.

For more on the subject, see the Best Indian Monuments to Topple.

Below:  A statue at Mission San Juan Capistrano with a similar problem. "Save me, you big hunk of a white man, for I am a humble Indian boy who needs your loving touch."

No colonization, no United States?

Another goofball comment that I have to respond to from "Go Back Where You Came From":Those [colonizers] that are descended from the Europeans that founded the United States and built the country are the true natives, for without the original European colonisers, there would be no United States today!My response:

For starters, the colonists at places like Jamestown and Plymouth would've died if the Indians hadn't given them charity (i.e., welfare handouts) in the form of food. So there might be no United States today without the Indians either.

Writers have speculated what would've happened if disease and warfare hadn't killed so many Indians. I've discussed this speculation in Was Native Defeat Inevitable? Short answer to the question: No, it wasn't inevitable. If history had changed at one or two key points, a patchwork of multiracial, multicultural Native and Anglo nations might inhabit North America today.

And who's to say if this patchwork would be any better or worse than the United States? Has world history suffered greatly because North America was split between Canada, the US, and Mexico? Would things have been better if the US controlled the entire continent rather than only 40% of it? If you think so, prove it.

If splitting the continent into three large countries plus several smaller ones was no impediment to progress, who's to say splitting it into seven or ten medium-sized countries would've been an impediment? Spain and Great Britain established worldwide empires from much smaller land bases than the US has. So greatness has no necessary correlation with size.

Again, the "necessity" of European colonization is something you'd have to prove--and of course you can't. So spare us your supremacist talk of how the US is perfect and unique and irreplaceable. None of these things is necessarily true.

A modern Indian nation

If Europe hadn't colonized North America, it might've come to be dominated by the United States of the Haudenosaunee (USH): a peaceful and democratic nation founded on the principles of the Iroquois League. Perhaps this nation wouldn't have cleared the forests, killed the wildlife, and polluted the air and water, so the continent would be much better off environmentally. Perhaps this nation wouldn't have imported slaves from Africa, so it wouldn't have needed a Civil War or a civil rights movement. Perhaps the lack of genocide would've inspired Adolf Hitler to stick to house-painting rather than instigate World War II and the Holocaust.

Again, who knows? If you disagree, prove your case. Don't bother me with worthless opinions about how great the United States is.

In any case, being a successful "colonizer" still doesn't make you a "native." The two words are still near opposites. So your "Europeans as 'true natives'" comment is flatly wrong.

But thanks for demonstrating the ideology of white supremacy so plainly. Europeans "made" this country, so they "own" it. Everyone else--blacks, Latinos, Asians, even Native Americans--is unimportant or irrelevant. Congratulations on finding an incredible (but stupid) way of redefining "non-native" as "native."

For more on the subject, see The Myth of Western Superiority and Multicultural Origins of Civilization.

Below:  America's first welfare recipients.

"Please, sir, I want some more."

Not enough good Native news?

In response to Roscoe Pond's Paid Blog, comedian Charlie Ballard wrote:Sometimes it's nice to hear the positive sides of show business. I hate Native American stereotypes along with the next person but we shouldn't be concentrating all of our energies into the problem but more into the solution.My response:

Thanks for reading my blog, Charlie. You're welcome to read Pond's blog too. I read it myself every day or two.

But I think you have a key point backward. There are many more publications and websites promoting Native accomplishments than there are analyzing Native stereotypes. Although Pond is doing a good job gathering the news, his blog isn't much different from a list of press releases and MySpace and Facebook bulletins.

In contrast, the information my site provides is almost unique. If anyone is doing something similar for the universe of Native stereotypes, I'm not aware of it.

We could look at almost any Native-themed production to prove the point. Take Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, for instance. There must've been dozens of puff pieces that touted this movie as a bold, honest look at Native history. And dozens of reviews that touted the Native performances while ignoring the mistakes and stereotypes.

In contrast, there were about three essays (including mine) that noted some serious problems with it. So the positive-to-negative ratio was something like 100-3. Isn't that positive enough for you? What would you like the ratio to be: 1,000 to 3? 10,000 to 3?

Education is the solution

As for the "solution" you want, I think it's inherent in my analyses. Criticize Native stereotypes until non-Natives understand why they're wrong and stop producing them. Because learning to think critically is the essence of education. Since high-school and college students and teachers are citing my work, I think it's having an effect.

Not that focusing on "problems" is all I do, natch. About half of my postings are purely positive--e.g., announcements of Native "firsts" and other achievements. Given how frequently I post, I'd say I have more positive news and more negative reviews than most sites.

I agree that Natives should create their own movies, TV shows, books, and comic books. And I help publicize their efforts when they do. All this comes under the heading of educating the public. Whether I point to something that's right or wrong, it's an opportunity for people to learn about Natives.

And while I criticize stereotypes, I'm also spreading the (positive) Native news at PECHANGA.net...writing my own Native-themed articles...and trying to publish Native-themed comic books. I'm not sure why I have to keep reminding people of these things, but I consider myself "part of the solution." I examine people's work and show them how to do it better.

Below:  A real chief...

...and a stereotypical chief.

Chauntal's Doritos commercials

From an e-mail forwarded to me:"First Date"

"American Nachos"

"Delta Doritos Sorority"

"Doritos or My Sister?"

Midnyte Projekt Entertainment and Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl Competition" would like to present the following commercials directed and produced by award winning filmmaker Eddie Mariano and Midnyte Projekt Ent.: Edwin Mariano, Alex Aime, Chauntal Lewis, Robert Taylor Higgins, Angela Nikas, Jacob Motsinger, and Joe Nance.

Please visit the links to check out the commercials that we have entered in the competition. The TV spots that attract the most views and popularity,will be nominated for a chance to air during the Super Bowl XLIII, on February 1st, 2009, live [in] Tampa, FL. Your support is essential, and greatly appreciated!

Website: www.chauntal.com

*Chauntal Lewis*
Comment:  Give the videos about ten seconds to load, and you may have to click the play button to start them.

As you may recall, Chauntal entertained and won an award at the 2008 FAITA ceremony. She stirred a controversy because some in the audience didn't think she looked or acted "Indian" enough.

For criticism of a previous Doritos commercial, see Message to Aliens:  Conquer Us. For more Chauntal, see her highlight reel of video clips below.

"How the West Was Fun" t-shirt

A reader named D. Cho e-mailed me about the "Chief Chicken Hawk" t-shirt and two other t-shirts that are about as bad.

Spirit Happy Fox

How the West Was Fun

Comment:  The fox t-shirt shows a fox in a chief's headdress. Like "Chief Chicken Hawk," it's a typical "Indian = animal" stereotype.

The "fun" t-shirt shows cowboys and Indians fighting while riding a merry-go-around. The Indians all wear Plains or Inca (?) headdresses. They're all half-naked. And they all wield tomahawks.

Yeah, because your typical Plains chief didn't have anything better to do than rip off his shirt, grab a tomahawk from a Woodland Indian, and ride into battle against some cowboys minding their own business. Uh-huh, sure.

Not only that, but the cowboys are pointing their guns somewhat haphazardly. In contrast, the Indians are shouting their rage and raising their weapons to strike. It's clear they're the wild attackers and the cowboys are the mild defenders in the scene.

Obviously, this t-shirt trivializes America's genocidal history. Life wasn't fun, a merry-go-round, or a bowl of cherries for Indians under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. But the shirt says it was. It contributes to the notion that we should forget the past, "let it go," as if nothing bad ever happened. It suggests we treat Indians as simply another set of colorful costumed characters like pirates and fairies.

For more on the subject, see "Cowboys and Indians" Images.

Facebook disables Lakota account

Is Facebook Not Friendly to Natives?Facebook is no friend of Robin Kills The Enemy.

The social networking site that enables millions of "friends" to stay in touch with one another has disabled the account of the 27-year-old Lakota woman from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Facebook assumed Kills The Enemy was a fake name.

Now Kills The Enemy—yes, that's her real name—has lost touch with hundreds of her Facebook friends. "I'm getting used to it, but it still pisses me off," Kills The Enemy said in a telephone interview from He Dog School in Parmelee, S.D., where she works as a computer technician and mentor.

On Tuesday, Kills The Enemy received an e-mail notice from Facebook that read:

"Fake names are a violation of our Terms of Use."
Comment:  Undoubtedly this was an innocent mistake. Someone saw the name "Kills The Enemy" and assumed it was phony.

But it does show a regrettable ignorance of Native customs. This is what happens when fictional Indians are named after an eagle, wolf, or hawk. If a name doesn't begin with a word such as "Brave," "Proud," or "White," non-Natives don't recognize it as Indian.

For more on the subject, see "Funny" Indian Names.

January 28, 2009

White journalists are biased

Latoya Peterson of Racialicious explains why Native and other minority journalists are as necessary now as they were before Obama took office:

The Boston Globe asks “Why Should a Journalist’s Race Matter?”[A]s Colin Powell notes in the book:

“I’ve never distanced myself from Buffalo Soldiers, from any of those guys, ’cause I’m here because of them and I’m not going to let youngsters forget, or white people forget, what we went through. So when they say, ‘Well, how can you still support affirmative action?’ I say, ”Cause I saw the affirmative action the other folks had for about two hundred years.” (p. 176)
This applies to journalism. It applies to everything in our society, but it especially applies to journalism where white reporters and white writers (particularly white male writers) are seen as objective and everyone else just brings their minority bias to the table. And I don’t see how Jacoby can argue that there is no need for racial parity in journalism when his racially tone-deaf article proves that reporters will bring their own bias into whatever they will report.

It’s just strange how some biases are perceived as objective.
And:We need more reporters who are engaged and informed, and are willing to challenge themselves on their own biases. But until that day comes, what is the solution?

Would a white journalist, like Jacoby, be able to tell with conviction Cory Booker’s story? Booker, the current mayor of Newark, has a story layered with racial nuance. In The Breakthrough, Ifill notes that “In order to move into Harrington Park, his parents, a pair of IBM executives, hired a white couple to pose as them.” (p. 142) Now, an informed white writer (or a writer who knows their beat, and has been reporting in the area for the years which is another dying breed) would probably be able to piece that together, either from background knowledge or doing further research. And an informed white writer would be able to paint a picture of some of the intra-racial tension Booker faced, from being perceived as “too light” to be black, of the static he received for having grown up in the suburbs, away from the city, or for his top-tier education.

An informed, curious, white writer could conceivably write that story.

But a white writer who is convinced racism is in the past, has a negligible effect on modern life, and subscribes to the “only racists bring up race” school of thought can never tell that kind of story. Their bias prevents them from seeing what is there.
Comment:  As a non-Native who writes about Native issues, I hear both sides of this debate. Non-Natives sometimes say, "Get over it" or "stop preaching your anti-American hate." Natives sometimes say, "Leave us alone" or "Who are you to write about us?"

The former group is the one this posting addresses. Natives have other postings in which they can (try to) criticize me.

Clueless about Natives

I've seen and read white journalists like Jacoby literally thousands of times. They're generally clueless about Native history and culture. When they dismiss things such as the US's treaty obligations, poverty on the rez, or Indian mascots, they have no idea what Natives think or feel about the subject.

They act as if they're unbiased, but they're anything but. Their bias is toward mainstream thought--i.e., the white male Christian American position. It's the same thinking that tells us settling the West was good but tribes are bad.

A couple of comments cement the point:Renee wrote:

Whiteness is the norm and therefore understood to always be rational. We view the world in binaries and therefore blackness is irrational, child like and ultimately biased.

CEdwards wrote:

As a former journalist myself, I can definitely say that I tended to get more candid information from people of color; definitely more candid than my fellow reporters who were white.
Multicultural approach is best

Note that I'm not saying minority journalists are less biased. If you sent them to cover a Republican convention, an exclusive country club, or a Wall Street meltdown, they'd probably see it through their minority bias. They'd have to work to overcome their bias just as white journalists have to overcome theirs.

Remember, everybody is racist. That's the whole point of having a multicultural society. One person's weakness is another person's strength. This diversity of backgrounds and perspectives makes us better than the unthinking attitudes in totalitarian regimes. I.e., the "tribal" mentalities in, say, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's USSR, or Mao's China. All of which were based on Western thought (Nazism, Marxism, Communism).

For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.

Below:  Beloved icons or racist stereotypes? Warning: Your skin color may affect your answer.

Hate abounds in "post-racial" America

So much for the idiotic claims that Obama's victory means we can forgive and forget the racism in America's past. It isn't past; it's still a clear and present danger.

Obama Victory Brings "Racist Rats Out of the Woodwork"Barack Obama's election as America's first black president has unleashed a wave of hate crimes across the nation, according to police and monitoring organizations.

Far from heralding a new age of tolerance, Obama's victory in the November 4th election has highlighted the stubborn racism that lingers within some elements of American society as opponents pour their frustration into vandalism, harassment, threats and even physical attacks.

Cross burnings, black figures hung from nooses, and schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama" are just some of the incidents that have been documented by police from California to Maine.

There have been "hundreds" of cases since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

The phenomenon appears to be at its most intense in the Southern states, where opposition to Obama is at its highest and where reports of hate crimes were emerging even before the election. Incidents involving adults, college students and even schoolchildren have dampened the early post-election glow of racial progress and harmony, with some African American residents reporting an atmosphere of fear and inter-community tension.
Obama Called a "Visual Aid" for White Supremacist RecruitingNeo-Nazi David Duke says Obama will be a "visual aid" for angry white Americans and will provoke a backlash among relatively mainstream whites that will "result in a dramatic increase in [the] ranks" of extremists. Many other hate group leaders agree.

That backlash was evident in the aftermath of the election as scores of racially charged incidents--beatings, effigy burnings, racist graffiti, threats and intimidation--were reported across the country.

"There's a real fury out there in certain quarters," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project.

White supremacist groups boasted of a post-election surge of new members as well as overwhelming traffic to their websites. At least two hate groups--Stormfront and the Council of Conservative Citizens--said their websites crashed because of heavy traffic. Stormfront also claimed to have gained thousands of new members immediately after Obama was elected on Nov. 4. The League of the South, a neo-secessionist group, said it saw a surge in phone calls from potential members and that its web traffic increased sixfold.
Comment:  My brother Rick was one of many Americans who asked if we could stop all the talk of racism now that a black man is president. Here's your answer, Rick: No.

When racism is no longer a major issue in America, I'll be the first to let you know. Trust your older and wiser big brother. <g>

For more on the subject, see Racism Lives in ObamAmerica and The Post-Racial, Post-Indian Era?

Obama's best speech ever?

Obama's political speech of a lifetimeNO MATTER how memorable the speech Barack Obama gives today for his inauguration as the 44th president of the United States, he might not have become the nation's first African-American president had he fumbled a single word 10 months ago in his speech on race in Philadelphia. Asked if Obama would have been elected if he had faltered in the furor over the comments of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright, senior adviser David Axelrod said, "Maybe not."

Wright became famous for decrying the "US of KKK A" and declaring "God damn America." Obama issued statements such as, "I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies . . . I reject outright the statements by Reverend Wright."

They were not enough. "You didn't need a PhD in politics to figure that out," Axelrod said in an interview last week. "The long-term effects of it were not knowable at that point, but the assumption was that unabated it could be a real problem."
Comment:  With all the talking we've done about Obama's Inaugural Address, it's worth remembering his speech on Reverend Jeremiah Wright and race. That was arguably his greatest speech ever. He even mentioned "Native American children" and didn't suggest anything questionable such as dissolving the "lines of tribe."

But does Obama really "categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country." Does he denounce this disparaging statement?Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and tribal nations. Our government hasn’t always been honest and truthful in our dealings. And we’ve got to acknowledge that if we’re going to move forward in a fair and honest way.

Indian nations have never asked much of the United States--only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made to their forebears.
Or this one? "The United States is guilty of genocide." Because this last statement is mine. If he disparages it, I disparage his disparagement.

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

Below:  A photograph disparages this great nation of ours. How dare this photo capture reality like that? It's anti-American...burn it!

Anti-mascot bill proposed

From a MySpace bulletin by Louis Gray (Osage):

Anti-Mascot Bill Set to Launch in OklahomaThis bill is intended to eliminate the use of the Indian Mascots Redskins and Savages. There are about 2 dozen teams in Oklahoma which use the mascot. Most thoughtful people agree that these two names rise to the level of slurs. Please attend if you can, And we need your help calling State Senators and State Representatives in Oklahoma to support this bill.

Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism

Press Conference

SB 765
Oklahoma Anti-Discriminatory Mascots Act
The key section of this proposed act:All public schools in Oklahoma, including institutions of elementary, secondary and higher education, shall be prohibited from using any of the following school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames:

1. Savages;

2. Redskins;

3. Any other Native American tribal name;

4. Any other racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot or nickname; and

5. All other racially and culturally-related mascots that are deemed harmful as defined by the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, the National Indian Education Association, and the American Psychological Association.
Comment:  I'm not sure trying to legislate these nicknames out of existence is the best approach. I like the carrot-and-stick approach the NCAA took. "You can keep your stereotypical mascots if you want. You just can't participate in the NCAA's post-season tournaments with them. How you choose to proceed is completely up to you."

The five-minute video below is about 3-4 minutes too long. But you can glean a few useful nuggets of information from it. One, mascot lovers enjoy watching and dressing up as stereotypical half-naked "redskins" and "savages." Two, Natives are leading the protests against these names and images. This isn't the work of some "liberal do-gooders" like me.

Did Indians "colonize" America?

We occasionally get goofball comments that I have to respond to. Here's one from "Go Back Where You Came From":The "natives" are descended from Asian colonisers, just like the Anglo-Celtic Americans are descended from the Europeans who founded and built America. The fact the Europeans came after the Asians does not make those descended from the prior Asian colonisers "natives".My response:

If the Americas were uninhabited when the Paleo-Indians arrived, "colonization" isn't the right word. The Paleo-Indians didn't colonize the land, they settled it.

Here's the dictionary definition of "colony":[A] group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation.If there's no connection to the parent nation, there's no colony. So the "colonization" claim is flatly wrong.

Sorry, but the length of time Indians have lived here does make them "native." When your origin is so ancient that it's lost in the mists of history, you're essentially indigenous or native. The distinction between coming here 10,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 years ago and originating here is infinitesimal and irrelevant.

Again, here's the dictionary definition of "native" that applies:[B]elonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, esp. a preliterate people.Note the word "regarded." Europeans regarded the Indians they met as indigenous and the Indians regarded themselves as indigenous. Even if scientists discovered something different centuries later, that doesn't change this longstanding regard.

For more on the subject, see Kennewick Man, Captain Picard, and Political Correctness.

Below:  The first Americans.

Subscribe via Feedburner

If you look, you'll see a new "Subscribe to a reader" button on the right below "Links." This takes you to Google's Feedburner service, where Newspaper Rock is now available as a feed:Feeds permit subscription to regular updates, delivered automatically via a web portal, news reader, or in some cases good old email.In short, it's yet another way to enjoy Newspaper Rock. If you don't want to miss a single posting, sign up now.

For a related posting, see Add Newspaper Rock to Your Site!

January 27, 2009

Preview of The Burrowers

The BurrowersIt is 1879. Coffey (Karl Geary), a young Irishman settled on the plains of Dakota, is about to ask his sweetheart to marry him. His dream of wedded bliss is shattered, however, when something or someone attacks the young lady's family farm, kidnapping the women and children and slaughtering the men. Coffey joins a group of local ranchers and cavalrymen in search of the victims, who are assumed to be prisoners of a fierce band of natives.

Put off by the sadistic and single-minded tactics of self-appointed group leader Henry Victor (Doug Hutchison), Coffey sets out with a couple of ranchers (William Mapother and Highlander's Clancy Brown), as well as a teenaged boy and a freed slave (Sean Patrick Thomas). They soon discover mysterious holes in the ground and a catatonic girl buried in the dirt, suggesting that they may not be hunting an ordinary tribe. A sinister enemy seems to be stalking them from below the serene grassy plains of the vast new frontier.

Director JT Petty sustains a level of dread and foreboding as his blend of Western grit and unnerving horror unfolds across the isolated and expansive Dakota Territory. The Burrowers is a creature feature within the context of a true Western–-in fact, it is ostensibly a terror take on John Ford's The Searchers. A profound juxtaposition is forged between the horrific actions of mankind and the mounting horror of what our hero and his posse are about to discover.
Roscoe Pond adds:LIONSGATE bought the distribution rights to this movie after the Toronto Film Festival 2008. They have decided to send this film straight to DVD in the Spring of 2009.

Horror fans who screened the film in Toronto are raving about it.

The Native performers in this Horror Western are...TATANKA MEANS, DAVID MIDTHUNDER and ANTHONY PARKER.
Comment:  Based on the trailer, The Burrowers looks decent. If you're into horror movies, which I'm not. But the fact that Lionsgate is sending it straight to DVD suggests it's lacking something.

The Native actors aren't listed among the top ten cast members on Wikipedia. I gather the Indians' role is minor. The ranchers storm a Lakota encampment, but the Indians set them straight with a legend of "those who dwell below." Or something like that.

For a superior movie about an underground menace, I recommend Tremors. Rob's rating: 9.0 of 10.

Incidentally, David Midthunder (below) is another actor who would make a good Tonto.

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

Long hair = religious freedom

Two articles indicate how Native still have to fight for rights that others take for granted:

American Indian inmates fight state prisons' hair-length policyAlabama is one of 12 mostly Southern states that prohibit inmates from wearing long hair while incarcerated. The rest of the United States and the District of Columbia either permit inmates to grow their hair long for religious reasons or have no rule against it, according to a survey that has been admitted as evidence in the case.

Of the 25,303 inmates in state prisons, 195 are Native American.

"There is a striking parallel between the forcible cutting of Native American hair and the former Confederate states," said Mark Sabel, a Montgomery attorney representing the eight men who are suing the department.

"These are your former slave states and they are the same ones that prohibit the full observance of Native American religious traditions."

Sabel said there is no reason that Southern states can't allow Native Americans to wear their hair according to their custom, particularly since so many other states and even the federal prison system allows it.
ACLU Wins Ruling Protecting Kindergartener's Religious ExpressionThe American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the ACLU today praised a federal judge's decision that Needville Independent School District (NISD) violated the Constitution and state law by punishing a five-year-old American Indian kindergarten student for practicing and expressing his family's religious beliefs and heritage. The decision permanently forbids NISD from applying its policy requiring the student to wear his long hair in a tight braid stuffed down his shirt at all times.

"By standing up for their rights, this child and his parents achieved an important victory not just for themselves but for all Texas school children, whatever their religion," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. "Schools must accommodate student religious beliefs in their dress codes—and that applies equally to Catholic students' right to wear a rosary or Jewish students' right to wear a yarmulke as it does to our American Indian client's right to wear his braids."
Comment:  When the Texas case first appeared in the media, I thought, "Why bother fighting this issue, school district? You're going to lose and rightly so." Now, inevitably, the school district has lost.

So the states that deny Indians freedom of religion expression are mostly Southern states. I believe the others are Midwestern states such as Kansas. What does that tell us?

These states allowed slavery...fought the civil rights movement...reliably vote Republican...are full of conservative Christians...think creationism is right and evolution is wrong...etc. They also don't believe in freedom of religion for anyone but themselves. Coincidence? I don't think so.

For more on the subject, see such postings as Bible Permits Treaty-Breaking, Prisons Limit Native Religion, and Republicans Block Indian Legislation.

EchoHawk to run BIA?

Obama's potential BIA nominee draws fire over gamingPresident Barack Obama has yet to announce his nominee for the Bureau of Indian Affairs but a potential pick is already generating some fire.

Larry EchoHawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, is a familiar name in Indian Country. After two terms in the Idaho Legislature, where he worked on tribal issues, he became the first Native American elected to a statewide office when he was attorney general of Idaho from 1991 to 1995.

The EchoHawk family is known for their Indian advocacy too. Larry's brother, John, serves as executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, where a cousin, Walter, also works. Along with his two of sons, Larry EchoHawk runs a law firm in Idaho that specializes in tribal representation.
Sounds good. So what's the problem?But that record isn't enough to convince Scott Crowell, another attorney, that EchoHawk is the right man to serve as assistant secretary of Indian affairs. After word of the potential nomination spread among tribal leaders who were in Washington, D.C. last week for Obama's inauguration, Crowell accused EchoHawk of not being committed to Indian Country.

"I urge you to look behind the euphoria of the new administration, and the great respect that rightfully belongs to the EchoHawk name, and look at the specific facts regarding this specific man, and call upon the Obama administration and [Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar to choose someone other than Larry EchoHawk for this important position," Cromwell, whose law firm exclusively deals with tribes, said in an open letter.

"Imagine that, while at the table with a federal obligation to negotiate in good faith, Larry EchoHawk instead headed up the extraordinary effort to change Idaho law to deprive tribes of their federal and inherent rights to operate Class III games on their lands," Cromwell wrote in a second letter.
Comment:  Obama's support of Indian gaming has been mild at best. If he nominates Echohawk, this may be his way of having it both ways. He picks an Indian who has a good record on most Native issues but is a Mormon who opposes the expansion of gaming.

Independence from casinos declared

Activists “Declare Independence” From Casinos in PhiladelphiaJust as the Foxwoods Casino is about to begin the formal approval process to build in the Gallery Mall, activists today began a counter campaign. Casino-Free Philadelphia launched its “Declaration of Independence from Casinos” campaign to pressure city officials to block gambling altogether. The event staged near Independence Hall featured a handful of demonstrators dressed in Colonial-era clothing who believe citizens have a right to live in city without casinos.

Comment:  Excellent use of political symbolism here. I wouldn't be surprised if this event got a lot of coverage in the local media.

Of course, it's also common to use Indians as symbols of political rebellion (e.g., the Boston Tea Party). The activists could dressed as Indians and knocked over a few (fake) slot machines. But that wouldn't have worked in this case, since the activists are protesting against Indians.

For more on the subject, see Chinatown vs. Foxwoods and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

First Native to play pro soccer?

Sandpoint soccer standout hoping to become first Native American in MLSAlready one of the 10 finalists for a roster spot on the Major League Soccer expansion Seattle Sounders FC team, Sandpoint's Chase Mikkelsen is hoping to not just make the final cut, but a little bit of history along the way.

Mikkelsen, a 6-foot-2, 205 pound center back who played on Sandpoint High School's first-ever state championship team in 2001, has emerged as a finalist from more than 600 regional players who tried out in Disney's Sounders Super Search, where one player earns a 2009 roster spot on the brand new MLS franchise.

While making the Sounders would fulfill the dream of being a professional athlete, Mikkelsen is most proud of representing his heritage as a Gros Ventre, Mont., Indian. He moved to Sandpoint when he was 2-years-old, and eventually was named the Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year in 2001.

"I'm proud to be a native and hopefully can become the first Native American to play professionally," says Mikkelsen, who played four years at Fort Lewis College. "If I don't make it, I have a professional contract in Norway."

January 26, 2009

Seeking Natives for New Moon

"New Moon" Casting Director Announces Search for Native AmericansWe're very excited to announce that the wonderful and supremely qualified René Haynes is helming the Native American casting on "New Moon"...AND she wants to hear from everyone who fits the qualifications of the roles.New Moon--Plot and Casting DetailsHere are the first set of Casting Calls that have gone out for the Twilight Sequel--New Moon.For those who don't know Rene Haynes, here's more on her work:

'The New World' offered casting challenges"'Dances With Wolves' was my big project that called for me to cast Native extras. That really started the ball rolling for me."

Since then, she has cast several notable films that have featured Native actors. Haynes called it "finding the perfect person for the role" and among those experiences she noted Adam Beach for his role in "Squanto," his first major role.

She also highlighted "Dance Me Outside," for which she consulted with the director and producer and suggested Beach, Ryan Black and Michael Greyeyes. "I was very proud of Michael as the title role in the TNT movie 'Crazy Horse,'" she noted. She also consulted on the casting of the voice of Pocahontas--which resulted in Irene Bedard--for the animated Disney film of the same name (Greyeyes and Bedard were both later cast in "The New World": Greyeyes as Rupwew and Bedard as Pocahontas' mother in a dream sequence).

Leading up to "The New World," Haynes' other noteworthy experiences included casting Graham Greene in "Skins," which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
Comment:  I'm glad to say I've seen all the movies in this article. I'd say they're all above average. Is it just a coincidence that Haynes did the casting and they all have actual Indians playing Indian roles? Maybe, but maybe not.

So Haynes is the real deal. Congratulations to Twilight's people for finally taking the idea of casting Natives seriously. It only took one movie and heaps of criticism and scorn before they got it right.

In related news, I hear they finally closed the barn door after the cart was gone. Yay.

For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

Below:  "More Native actors like me...awesome!"

Mellow "yellow" in Lowery's benediction

People have criticized my comments on "Red Man" in Lowery's Benediction. For instance:[I]t looks like you're just trying to criticize people, not comprehend what they are actually saying. In which case nobody (you included) would be above contempt, at least on occasion. Listen to the passage again and appreciate the fact that Lowery included us.My response:

I don't need to listen to the passage again, since I quoted it accurately. Along with Obama's comments about settling the West and dissolving tribes, it reflected poorly on Obama's inclusiveness. Obama and the other speakers could've said more on racial matters, but instead chose to ignore them.

I know many Natives don't mind being associated with the color red. But let's ask some Asian Americans if they enjoyed being labeled "yellow." I'm guessing the answer would be no.

Here's more on "yellow" from Wikipedia:East Asians are sometimes referred to as the yellow race. The use of "yellow" to refer to people of East Asian descent is usually regarded as offensive today in most contexts. In early 20th-century North America, immigrants from China and other East Asian nations were derogatorily referred to as a "yellow peril."So I noted a usage that's commonly considered "offensive." Do you have a problem with that? Then you probably shouldn't read this blog, because I do that often.

Anyway, I didn't go into a big long rant on this subject. I devoted exactly one paragraph to it, which is putting it in its proper perspective. You all have spent more time criticizing me than I spent criticizing Lowery, so I suggest you get your own priorities straight.

Below:  A "yellow" man (in black and white).

Hollywood's version of Inuit

I still don't know much about Avatar: The Last Airbender, but reader JT filled me in:The Water tribe, in Avatar, is based around Inuit influences from the real world.

Sokka and Katara are both from the Water tribe and Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peltz are up for the role(s).
More than up for the roles, it seems:

Shyamalan lines up his cast for 'The Last Airbender'Twilight's Jackson Rathbone has been asked to play Aang's pal Sokka, while Nicola Peltz (Deck the Halls) will star as his sister Katara.Comment:  So here are Hollywood's ideas of Inuit actors:

Any questions on the racism in Hollywood's casting decisions? For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

January 25, 2009

"A Century Ago...They Came"

NMAI highlights chiefs’ 1905 inauguration visitIn recognition of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the National Museum of the American Indian has created an exhibition honoring six chiefs who took part in the second inaugural procession of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The exhibition, titled “A Century Ago…They Came as Sovereign Leaders,” officially opened to the public Jan. 14 and is expected to run through Feb. 17 in the institution’s Sealaska Gallery.
And:“Going behind the faces in the pictures, we know they came to talk about issues of allotment, mineral rights, tribal government, education and other concerns of their people.”

Geronimo, for instance, wanted 300 imprisoned Chiricahua Apaches set free, while Quanah Parker sought $500,000 that the government had promised the Comanche.
And:Despite their varied concerns, Native leaders were given little opportunity to raise their issues with the administration during the inauguration–a development that is perhaps not surprising given Roosevelt’s stance on Indian issues.

“While friendly with individual Indians,” Barreiro said in the newsletter, “President Roosevelt was adamantly against the survival of Native people as tribal entities.”
Comment:  A few interesting things here. First, the idea that Geronimo was recognized and accepted as a tribal leader. Although he was treated as a prisoner of war for the rest of his life, he wasn't tried or executed as a common killer. It seems his Euro-American contemporaries recognized him as more of a freedom fighter than a terrorist.

Second, Roosevelt's attitude is so typically American. In fact, it may represent the majority's opinion about Indians. We love our Indians to death as elders spouting wisdom, romance-book hunks, and sports mascots. We love them as long as they forget this nonsense about tribes and sovereignty and non-Western religions and cultures. Not to mention casinos. Then we stop loving them and starting hating them for being different from us.

For more on the subject, see "Out of Many:  A Multicultural Festival."

Below:  "I love Indians--as long as they act like stage props and not like real people with rights equal to ours."

Means on the Inaugural Address

Obama Announces “Final Solution” to the “Indian Problem”The inaugural address is THE most important speech a President EVER makes. Billions of People look at it. The speech is written over a period of many weeks by a whole team of writers. It is edited and re-edited. Each word and each phrase is scrutinized so as to not offend anyone.

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus--and non-believers.” He has placed our successful AND peaceful way of life and Spirituality into the category of “Non-Believers!”

Then he uses the phrase “the lines of tribes shall soon dissolve.” What does he mean? Certainly, NOT the tribes of Israel. Who, but the American Indians are referred to as Tribes? We are the ONLY ones.

Obama’s “Final Solution” to the centuries-old “Indian Problem” is total dissolution.
Comment:  I think Means's first point is wrong. Obama wasn't trying to list all the major religions and then label everyone else a non-believer. He picked four of the world's major religions as examples. He probably said "Hindus" rather than "Buddhists" because the phrase "Jews and Hindus" has assonance. He included "non-believers" because they're a big group of Americans who never get a shout-out in speeches. No doubt he's aware of Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Bahai, Zoroastrianism, Wicca, Native religions, and New Age spirituality among many other belief systems.

But still, Obama could've found a better way to phrase this passage. He could've guessed that someone might think he meant there are only five belief systems in the US. Obviously he wasn't presenting an all-inclusive list, but it's best not to leave these things for literalists to (mis)interpret.

Means's second point is more on the mark. Obama's comment about "tribe" (not "tribes") was insensitive at best. Few people are aware that there are tribes in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. If you gave Americans a word association test, I'm guessing about 95% would respond "Indian" to the word "tribe." America's Indian nations are the most famous political groups known as "tribes."

Outlandish ideas for Native clout

Mark Charles posted his idea for a virtual Native American state on his own blog. It's interesting to read the comments, especially those by Native activists such as Melvin Martin and Mark Anquoe. The general feeling is that yes, Indian nations need to assert their independence. The "51st state" idea is one way to jump-start the conversation, but no one is taking it seriously as an actual proposal.

If Natives want to jump-start the conversation on increasing their political clout, there's no need to stop with the "51st state" idea. I can come up with several equally outlandish conversation starters. None of these things will ever happen, but we can discuss them as way to advocate "NDN power."

  • Let's use a computer formula to determine what each Indian lost in terms of land and resources. Let's pay them each the value of the land and resources or $20 million, whichever is greater.

  • Let's add an amendment to the Constitution explicitly stating that tribes are sovereign nations with the right to veto Supreme Court decisions and Congressional acts that affect them.

  • Let's carve out parts of five states and create a Republic of Lakotah--oh, wait...Russell Means already came up with that outlandish idea.

  • Let's cancel every holiday that celebrates white Christian American history--Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas--and replace them with holidays that include Native people. For instance, Presidents Day can become Leaders Day to include tribal chiefs. Christmas can become Birth of the Creator Day. Etc.

  • Let's create 100 Native-themed movies, TV shows, books, and comic books and mandate that every schoolchild spend a year watching and reading them and learning the true history of Native America. If they can't get a passing grade on a test of Native culture and history, they'll repeat the year until they do pass.

  • Again, none of these things will ever happen. But if you need a reason to discuss the subject, now you have several. including Charles's virtual state. Feel free to pick the least outlandish idea and explain why it's slightly more likely to work than the others.

    The Only Good Indian interviews

    On Native Ground's report on "The Only Good Indian"

    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Only Good Indian = History Lesson and The Best Indian Movies.

    Barking Water trailer

    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Barking Water at Sundance and The Best Indian Movies.

    January 24, 2009

    Defending and attacking Lautner

    In the comments section of Non-Native Cast as Quileute Werewolf, people have made a lot of silly claims. You can read those claims there, but here are some responses:

    Did anybody read the statement that Twilight's producers cast Lautner first and then discovered he has a fraction of Native blood? They didn't intend to cast a Native; they intended to cast a non-Native. I don't give them credit for making a racist decision and then getting a lucky break.

    Lautner an enrolled Indian?!

    Lautner isn't an enrolled member of any tribe and he isn't half Native. These claims are flatly false.

    His fraction of Native blood is so small that he didn't know about it before he was cast and still can't quantify it. These factors make him a non-Native, not a Native.

    Lautner isn't Native by any stretch of the definition. I've listed what I consider the requirements for being an actual Indian and Lautner doesn't fit any of them.

    In contrast, Burt Reynolds is 1/8 Cherokee according to Wikipedia. I'd prefer that Hollywood didn't cast Reynolds as an Indian, but he's a lot closer to being Native than Lautner is.

    I don't need to see Lautner in Twilight to judge whether a non-Native should be playing a Native. Even if Lautner were an Oscar winner, my answer would be no. Casting non-Natives to play Natives is wrong in principle.

    The choice of actors isn't between a talented non-Native and a talentless Native. It's between a moderately talented non-Native and one of the many talented Natives who can't get jobs in Hollywood because of racist casting decisions. Such as the decision to hire Lautner.

    Does Lautner look Native?

    Re "He has brown skin, dark eyes, almond shaped eyes, and a nose that is not typical of most Europeans": Every part of him is more or less Caucasian except his skin color and maybe his eyes.

    His "dark eyes"? Dark brown eyes are dominant in Caucasians. His nose? He has the cute button nose of millions of Anglo girls. His nose is the exact opposite of the (stereo)typical Indian nose, which is long and straight.

    Re "The question should be asked how does the man view himself": Lautner answered that when he said, "I’m mostly French, Dutch and German." He's never identified himself as primarily Native. He didn't even know he was part Native until after he was cast.

    Then we have these dueling claims:My father is a north pacific Indian, he is very tan and has short hair.And:[T]hey at least made [Lautner] look like a native!!!!Yeah, they made him look like a stereotypical Indian by giving him a wig. They gave him a wig because they didn't think he looked like an Indian without one. Duh.

    I know that most Native men have short hair. But Twilight's producers don't know that. They cast Lautner despite his not having any known Native ancestry and not having (stereo)typical Native hair. They didn't think he looked Native or was Native but they cast him anyway.

    Twilight "just a movie"?

    As for the asinine claims that Twilight is "just a movie," I don't know how many hundreds of times I've addressed and dismissed such nonsense. But for those who still can't grasp the problem, here are some questions to answer:

    Would you accept a tiny Asian woman playing George Washington? How about Britney Spears playing Martin Luther King? Mr. T playing the Virgin Mary? A hunchbacked "Elephant Man" playing your mother? Why not, if a movie is just a movie?

    And don't waste my time saying that Twilight is fiction but George Washington, Martin Luther King, the Virgin Mary, and your mother are "real." Twilight features the very real Quileute Indians. They're as real as any of the people I've named.

    For more on the subject, see such postings as The Influence of Movies and The Many Excuses for Racism. Unless you agree with the casting choices listed above, I'm talking about your racism (and sexism).

    Finally, someone referred to "white-looking Native Americans." I don't know who this person is talking about. As I've said repeatedly, I'm not Native myself. Unlike Lautner, if I found that one of my great-grandmothers was an Indian princess, it wouldn't affect my self-identification.

    I couldn't care less if fans are "frustrated" because I've criticized their favorite pretty-boy whom they want to kiss and cuddle. If you can't address the issues I've raised, don't bother sharing your feelings with us. Your unrequited Lautner love isn't my problem.

    For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

    Below:  "I look so much like an Indian that they had to give me a wig!"