February 28, 2009

Casting issues aren't important?

In Tribes Should Make Movies, reader Kalisetsi chided me for focusing so much on Hollywood casting decisions. I answers some of her (?) objections there, but I have more to say.

Naturally I don't agree that casting issues are unimportant, Kalisetsi. Casting is one of the many areas where Natives are fighting for better access and representation today. Funding and distributing NDN-made movies to the mainstream is still a dream, but casting decisions are affecting public perceptions now.

Here's a relevant comment (slightly edited) from Natives Outraged Over Twilight:When you eradicate a people from existence in film/TV/entertainment/news (aka basically removing them from public view in this "modern day society") we might as well not exist already!

That is what is being done here. On top of that, the director, production company and casting directors are breaking SAG union regulations with their actions in casting and attempted casting thus far, lying outright about people's ancestral backgrounds for roles (disgusting).
Discrimination in the workplace? Hmm...sounds like an important issue to me.

Kalisetsi, your position is like saying Natives shouldn't worry about being represented in the Obama administration or budget. They should worry only about getting their own governments in order. I.e., they should worry only about themselves and not about external forces over which they have little control.

In reality, most tribes are worried about both federal legislation and spending and their own governmental processes. It's not one or the other and it doesn't have to be.

The most important issues

A few more thoughts on why the casting issue is worth covering:

1) If it isn't obvious, casting issues are a subset of stereotype issues. I explain why stereotype issues are important constantly--for instance, in Identifying Indians with Stereotypes.

2) As with Indian mascots vs. genocide in Tibet or Darfur, I claim we don't have to focus solely on one issue or the other. We can multitask and deal with many issues at once.

3) Natives have protested their portrayals in movies for decades. Hollywood responded with more realistic portrayals in the 1960s and '70s. So activism has led to exactly kind of change you deem impossible.

4) I think I've made my support for independent filmmaking clear. In addition to my recent articles on Crusoe and non-Natives cast as Natives, I've written articles on Native film festivals, The Exiles, and the Creative Spirit competition for Indian Country Today.

5) Let me reiterate that ICT essentially solicited my article on non-Native casting. If this Indian-owned newspaper thinks the subject is important, who am I to disagree? <g>

6) I've also posted a lot on such DIY (do-it-yourself) efforts as Mile Post 398, March Point, and the Red Nation Film Festival. If anyone thinks I'm neglecting NDN-made movies...well, sorry, I don't see it.

7) Readers, especially newer ones, may think I've focused too much attention on Twilight. But popular movies are in the theaters, and thus in the news, for several months. My coverage reflects that. Longtime readers know I posted a ton of commentaries on movies such as Apocalypto, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when they were "hot." Now they're old news and I don't mention them much anymore.

In short, the only "bias" here is that I consider movies an important force in the popular culture. If everyone's talking about casting decisions such as those in Twilight, I'm gonna talk about them too. If Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, or Watchmen presented Native issues, I'd be all over them as well.

Anyway, if you think I've neglected a valid topic, e-mail me. Better yet, write about it yourself. I'm open to ideas.

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

Hopi Medicine Man toy

Apropos of our discussion about Hopi medicine men, here's a toy found by correspondent DMarks:

Marx Toys Lone Ranger Hopi Medicine Man Set Boxed 1970sMarx Toys--Lone Ranger The Hopi Medicine Man Set 7431, boxed 1970's. Glorious accessory pack for 12" action figures released from the TV series 'The Lone Ranger Rides Again'. Complete, this includes headwear, totem pole, drum, mask, necklace, rattle, feather cape, breast plate and a full colour brochure which show the range of toys in full plus has a cartoon adventure included too. Decorative and detailed this is a lovely piece. Items are in mint, unopened condition, the original fully illustrated packaging has minor scuffs, small tears to the opening at right side and minor creasing but nothing major. Will the Lone Ranger and Tonto save the day? 41cm x 34cm (16" x 13.25")Comment:  Let's go through the package and see what we've got:

  • The white "bird" mask is a stylized version of a kachina's face. The wings are a stylized version of a kachina's wings. I'd have to check my references, but the "medicine man" on the box looks similar to an actual Hopi kachina (perhaps an Eagle Dancer).

  • So give the toy one point for a semi-authentic depiction of a Hopi figure. Then subtract points for the following:

    1) A kachina isn't a "medicine man"--not even close. The two are different aspects of Native spirituality from different Native cultures. Conflating them would be about like saying a brain surgeon is the same as a saint because they both heal people.

    2) The Hopi object to portrayals of their kachinas in pop culture. These are sacred beings, not playthings for a child's game.

    3) We can't read the included "adventure," but I'm guessing the "medicine man" is supposed to be an evildoer or malevolent figure of some sort. Judging by the way the Lone Ranger is reaching for his gun on the package, he doesn't consider the Hopi a revered spiritual guide.

    Exactly what kind of adventure is the Lone Ranger supposed to have with a kachina-like figure? Pray to him for rain and a good crop in the coming year?

    What does the Lone Ranger do in the supposed "adventure": quietly watch the figure dance for an hour or two, then quietly go home? Because that's about the only interaction an outsider should have with a kachina-like dancer.

  • The same applies to the blue mask with the geometric shape on top (a "tableta").

  • I gather the brown figure at top is supposed to be the "totem pole." Again, it looks vaguely like an actual Hopi kachina. Give the toy a point for that, but subtract points for the following:

    1) The Hopi don't have totem poles.

    2) The Hopi don't have wooden icons of that size. The figure looks to be about half the size of the Hopi "medicine man," or waist-high. The Hopi do have kachina dolls similar to this figure, but they're usually only 4-8 inches tall.

    3) See above about the wrongness of depicting Hopi kachinas or kachina dolls in the popular culture.

  • I don't know if the Hopi ever beat a drum during their religious ceremonies. If they do, I'm guessing it's more of a powwow-style drum and not a stereotypical "tom-tom."

  • The chestplate is typically worn by Plains Indians, not Pueblo Indians.

  • This is an example of how non-Natives get a Native culture wrong. And how myths and misconceptions get propagated. A white boy plays with his Lone Ranger Hopi Medicine Man in the 1970s. He grows up and writes an article about a Hopi "medicine man" in 2009. Other people see the term in Google and repeat the misinformation. And, voilá...everyone "knows" about Hopi "medicine men."

    For more on the subject, see Shamans, Medicine Men, or Priests?

    Indians in Playmobil comic

    A relic from the past proves that I’m much cooler than you are!

    by Greg BurgasNot only did I have a lot of Playmobil toys, I had something else, too. When I saw that Beck had died, I asked my mom to dig through my bookshelf at home and send me something in the mail. That “something” would be:

    Yes, a Playmobil comic book. Writhe with envy, fanboys, it’s time to check out Goldrausch in Klickytown!!!!!!! (I should note that this scene does not actually appear in this comic. It’s just like a DC or Marvel cover from today!)

    If you’re wondering, “Greg, is this the most awesome Western comic ever written, even better than Moebius’ Blueberry?” the answer is an emphatic “YES.”
    Comment:  Burgas describes the plot in depth with lots of illustrations. Apparently some Western townspeople discover gold and begin to mine it. A generic Plains chief and warriors capture the miners and take them hostage. It's beginning to look like another stereotypical tale of savagery.

    But Blacky the outlaw also wants the gold. The Indians decide he's the villain, so they let the hostages go. They pursue and capture Blacky and his gang.

    But the US cavalry still thinks the Indians have the miners, so they attack the Indian camp. The Indians thwart the soldiers by dropping a boulder on their cannon (a tactic straight out of The Go-Go Gophers). The townspeople tell the soldiers the Indians are okay and everyone clasps hands in friendship.

    As you can see below, the Indian toys are almost as benign as this tale of the Old West. As I said, they represent generic Plains Indians, but with Apache-style headbands, a Navajo-style loom, and a Woodland Indian canoe.

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

    Yeagley not an apple?

    We get e-mail:Dear Rob,

    I read your 7/6/04 article regarding Yeagley as an "Indian apple." And quite frankly I think this term is inaccurately applied to Yeagley. Since we all know that Yeagley is a fake, there is no way he can be an "Indian apple." An "Indian apple" is an *actual* Indian who acts, talks, behaves like a whitey. Just as you described in your article in your own words. I also believe the other terms such as "Tonto" and "Teepee Tom" are also misused in describing someone like Yeagley. Yeagley is a disgraced white man, who so badly wants to be an "Indian." And I'm not so sure what the proper terms are in defining these sorts of folks who are not Native but act like they are or make false claims that they are.

    Just my opinion.

    --S. G. "Geno"
    Comment:  I think wannabe fits the kind of person you're describing. Unfortunately, I believe Yeagley is an enrolled member of the Comanche tribe. I think that makes him an actual Indian even if he's the Mexican or white stepson of a Comanche woman, not a blood relative.

    It's not my place to question the enrollment decisions of federally recognized tribes. If the Comanches don't feel he qualifies as a tribal member, it's up to them to throw him out. Until they do, I think we have to consider him a Comanche.

    But this e-mail raises an interesting question: Can an actual Indian be an Indian wannabe? I wouldn't have thought so, but Yeagley seems to qualify for both labels. He may be the only person who does.

    For more on the subject, see Deciding Who's an Indian.

    P.S. I edited Geno's message slightly to make it more readable.

    1492 in Breakfast of Champions

    Thanks to correspondent DMarks for bringing this to my attention:

    Memorable quotes and quotations from Kurt Vonnegut1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.

    Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
    Comment:  For reader Stephen's sake, let me point out that "sea pirates" is a hyperbolic generalization. Vonnegut knew the so-called pirates included military men and civilian colonists of varying degrees of innocence. They weren't all literally "pirates."

    True, many of them were the functional equivalent of pirates, who crossed the seas to rape and pillage. But some of the colonists were literally babes in the woods. They didn't all deserve to be slaughtered for their parents' or predecessors' sins.

    All clear, Stephen? Do I need to explain every posting of this type to you? Or do you understand the concept of a generalization now?

    For more on the subject, see This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant.

    Mohegan Sun at Niagara Falls?

    Off Main Street:  TV appearance ...

    The offbeat side of the newsThe Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel made a brief appearance in a recent episode of the popular HBO drama “Big Love.” The show, about a clandestine polygamist family living in suburban Utah, has intensified a story line in recent weeks about the family’s attempts to enter the casino business.

    In a recent episode, the main character, Bill Henrickson, pitches a deal to a fictional Native American tribal leader when he shows a slide of the Seneca Niagara Casino.

    “This is what they’ve done for the Mohegans,” Bill says, pointing to the Niagara Falls casino developed by the Seneca Nation of Indians.

    For the record: The Senecas are an entirely different nation than the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.
    Comment:  This casino mix-up could've been a simple mistake. Or it could've been the result of a staffer's ignorance and apathy. I can just imagine him saying, "What's the difference? One casino is the same as another." Or worse, "What's the difference? One tribe is the same as another."

    For more on the subject, see Indian Casino in Big Love and TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Dr. Quinn, casting, and the Oscars

    Indian Comics Irregular #180:  A Spoonful of Sugar in Dr. Quinn

    February 27, 2009

    Pueblos don't want photos taken

    Pueblos ask train riders to refrain from snapping pics of tribal landPassengers on Rail Runner Express commuter trains between Santa Fe and metropolitan Albuquerque get a different view of the Northern New Mexico countryside than motorists do from Interstate 25.

    Villages at Santo Domingo and San Felipe Pueblos, for example, aren't visible from the highway, but are from the train.

    Planners say much of the rail corridor between Santa Fe and Albuquerque crosses pueblo lands.

    Because of that exposure, Santo Domingo and San Felipe have asked that conductors instruct passengers not to take pictures while the state-run trains, which started service in December, pass through their lands.
    Why taking photos is a problem:"Outsiders, beginning with Spanish settlements, have not been respectful of Native people or their culture," Bernstein wrote in an e-mail. "Native life is life and is not a tourist attraction. ... People are offended that their pictures are taken without permission and published, mis-represented, and mis-identified."

    In 2003, the makers of Lay's potato chips released a new "Santa Fe Ranch" flavor. These were marketed in a bag that bore an image of what appeared to be a Navajo woman in front of Taos Pueblo.
    Comment:  This issue isn't as obvious as it might seem at first blush.

    On the one hand, you have passengers in a government-run public conveyance. Should governments ever prohibit behavior that doesn't disturb the peace? As a journalist, this seems like a rights issue to me. My freedom of the press is limited if I can't take pictures in a public setting.

    On the other hand, there are the Pueblos' request to refrain and the reasons for it. I've obeyed their prohibitions against photography when I visited them.

    This article doesn't answer some key questions. Does the state have the right to run trains through Pueblo lands? Can the Pueblos do anything to stop or reroute these trains? Did they try these tactics, or did they agree to the trains' passage?

    Also, the talk of misused pictures of Taos is misleading. Taos isn't on this train route, and no other tribe has buildings as photogenic as Taos's.

    What can you actually see from the train? A plaza where religious ceremonies are held? A sacred site or picturesque landmark? Someone's backyard or bedroom?

    If we're talking about exposing something truly private to public scrutiny, then I'm sympathetic. If we're talking about exposing a barren landscape with a few tiny buildings in the distance, then I'm somewhat less sympathetic.

    Case study

    Below is a presumably legal photograph of Laguna Pueblo outside Albuquerque. No rules or signs that I know of prohibited this photo, which I believe I took from a distant road.

    Do you think someone is going to use this photo on a postcard or in a potato-chip commercial? I strongly doubt it.

    I'd say this doesn't invade anyone's privacy any more than an image from a plane or a satellite does. It's an impersonal, almost abstract vista, nothing more.

    For more on the subject, see Who Owns Native Culture? and Who Controls Old Photographs?

    Behind the Lautner casting decision

    Some correspondents fill us in on what led to Taylor Lautner's being cast as a Quileute werewolf in Twilight. First, from correspondent DMarks:You probably discussed this before, but a recent Entertainment Weekly article said that the "Twilight" movie crew considered hundreds of Native American actors for the Jacob role, rejecting them all to choose Lautner.Next, from correspondent JT:Did you know that a Native was originally cast as Jacob Black?

    Yes, it's true! Krys, who played Embry Call in Twilight, was Jacob Black.

    Unfortunately he lost the role to Taylor. I've been trying to find an actual source but most Twilight fans have said this on various forums.

    Another actor was also switched when Twilight was filming. Emmett Cullen was supposed to be played by another actor but the author stepped in and said no.

    So they found another actor, Kellan Lutz. I also couldn't find a source for this one too. The Twilight fans who've been following this movie, since its inception, know this to be true.

    I can't really say why Krys lost the role but they did the same thing to another actor.

    They seem to be making the same decisions for New Moon. Who knows what will happen for the next film Eclipse, releasing June 30, 2010.

    Taylor could've lost the his role, Solomon (Sam Uley) and Krys (Embry Call) seem to have both lost their respected roles.

    It's kind of obvious if you think about it. The author, Stephanie Meyer, suggested that Steven Strait should play Jacob.

    Yes, the guy from 10,000 BC is Jacob Black. Her other suggestions for the rest of the characters can be found on her website.

    Good thing she wasn't the casting director! Although she did have influence on their decisions.

    All I can really say is that most Twilight fans, including the author, don't care about casting actual Natives.

    As long as they fit the requirement of being "hot." They're good to go. The rest can be faked (a tan and dyed hair).
    Comment:  No, I didn't know or discuss any of this before. I'm really not obsessed with Twilight, friends. I write about it only when another aspect of it comes to my attention.

    This posting casts further doubt on the idea that Lautner's "tween" following made him the best choice. If that had been true, he would've been a top choice, not a bottom choice. I don't know why the producers rejected all the Native actors, but it seems they didn't choose Lautner because he was so obviously marketable.

    P.S. "Solomon" is actor Solomon Trimble, of course. Actor "Krys" apparently goes by only a single name.

    Below:  "Okay, so I wasn't their first, second, or third choice. I was only their 100th choice. I still rock, dude!"

    Dumbest discourse since "niggardly"?

    Russell:  The dark side of tribalismI’ve read a couple of things that might be pertinent, a report about current students’ attitudes toward college grades in the New York Times and a reaction to President Obama’s inaugural speech in Indian Country Today that was the dumbest political discourse I’ve heard since the civil rights establishment in the District of Columbia got up in arms over a public official using the word “niggardly” to mean what it means--“cheap.”After a long discourse on academic "tribalism," Russell gets to the point:Now we are governed by a man who went from food stamps to Harvard Law based on what he did. He now tells us to forsake the part of tribalism that puts familiar idiots in charge of people with ability who may not be exactly like us. He is a tribal person, one generation removed from Kenya--where tribalism is still at the killing stage--and his remarks do not offer us harm but rather prosperity.Comment:  As one of the people who got the ball rolling on Obama's tribal remarks, I object. ;-)

    C'mon, Steve...I get into hundreds of controversies every month that are dumber than Obama's "lines of tribe" comment. The intent of a brief scene in a 1994 episode of Babylon 5, for instance. Are you seriously suggesting that Obama's address to an audience of billions is less significant than that?

    True, I wouldn't say this controversy is a big one. But I wouldn't put it in the bottom 20% of Native controversies either. It's significant enough to merit one or two (or three) postings.

    The nays have it

    I agree with the comments on this essay rather than the essay itself. Here you go:2:49 PM Queens wrote ...

    With all due respect, I found this to be rambling, disjointed and somewhat incoherent. What is described as "tribalism" sounds more to me like "elitism" and "nepotism."

    12:19 PM Another POV wrote ...

    To many people, “lines of tribe” is not a negative. Good communication is not just what you say, but how you are heard. I know what Pres. Obama was trying to say, but no passing grade. It was a poor choice of words. Nothing more, nothing less.

    12:04 PM Rob wrote ...

    Steve Russell is presumably talking about this article:

    ‘Words matter’

    Steve's argument is basically, "Obama meant the bad kind of tribalism, not the good kind." The critics' argument is basically, "Regardless of what Obama meant, some tribal members think he chose his words poorly." In other words, the critics considered what Obama meant before they said "regardless of what he meant" or the like. Therefore, Steve's argument isn't persuasive.
    For more on the subject, see Settling the West in the Inaugural Address.

    Below:  One way to "dissolve the lines of tribe." Bang, bang...they're dissolved.

    Museums yes, casinos no

    Message to tribes:  Museums work

    Survey indicates that travelers are drawn to history, not lure of jackpotsGambling doesn't draw tourists to Montana's Indian Country, but museums do.

    That's one of the conclusions that came out of a survey conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.
    Specifically:Only 18 percent of people who visited a reservation indicated some level of agreement with wanting to gamble on a reservation, and 62 percent strongly disagreed with the idea. Of those who didn't stop at a reservation, only 6 percent indicated that they strongly agreed with the idea of gambling on a Montana reservation, while 49 percent strongly disagreed.

    On the other hand, 69 percent of those who visited a reservation were drawn by a museum and 39 percent said a historic landmark attracted them. More than half of the reservation visitors strongly agreed that they would be interested in learning about tribal culture and history.
    Comment:  This is another reason for gaming tribes to invest in cultural projects. Namely, because it makes good business sense from a tourism standpoint.

    This is especially true since the economic downturn is producing flat or declining casino revenues. For all the tribes know, these revenues may have reached their peak.

    The economic uncertainty is why diversification is a good idea. If I were a tribe, I'd fund museums and other cultural projects to take advantage of the perennial tourist market.

    I'd also create a business "incubator" and provide seed money for movies, plays, comic books, videos and graphics, and other artistic projects. How many people became interested in Indians because of Dances with Wolves, Tony Hillerman's mysteries, or old comic books? A lot, I'd guess.

    For more on the subject, see Casinos Promote Culture and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

    Below:  The Autry Museum in Los Angeles.

    Geronimo vs. Geronimo over Geronimo

    Geronimo fight turns into family feudA second Mescalero family, also claiming to be descendants of the legendary Geronimo, plans to oppose an attempt to repatriate the Apache warrior's remains to New Mexico.

    Lariat Geronimo, 39, of Mescalero, said Thursday he is a great-grandson of Geronimo, and his immediate family members are the true descendants of the warrior. He said they oppose an attempt by Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero, who also claims to be a great-grandson of the warrior, to move the remains.

    Lariat Geronimo alleged Harlyn Geronimo doesn't have a valid claim as a blood relative and has filed the repatriation lawsuit to gain publicity for himself.

    "Everybody from the original Geronimos are going to fight this; this is a form of identify theft, and we're going to fix it," Lariat Geronimo said during a phone interview. "My family, the true descendants, never considered (Harlyn Geronimo) family."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Geronimo Sues Skull and Bones.

    Stolen Duck-In is good news

    Films tells Inupiaq historyAll filmmakers would likely agree that it is a good sign when their film has run out in stores, even if it's not always properly paid for. Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson, a Barrow, Alaska, filmmaker, took it as a compliment when her Inupiaq film "The Duck-In" was snatched off the shelves. But for Edwardson, the film's popularity is second to its importance.

    "The Duck-In," Edwardson's pilot educational film, and her newest "Nipaa Ilitqusipta--The Voice of Our Spirit," are both part of an Inupiaq history series that will be included in the curriculum and used in classes across the North Slope. A third film is on its way.
    And:Both of Edwardson's films touch on important issues in the lives of Inupiaq communities. In "The Duck-In," Edwardson documents the people's successful protest in the early 1960s against new federal regulations that interfered with subsistence hunting.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    Joy Harjo's Reality Show

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

    February 26, 2009

    Identifying Indians with stereotypes

    It's not easy being an Indian

    Posted By Xavier KataquapitI visited Thailand once and there I was suspected of being Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian.

    At the time, I asked some locals if they thought I looked like a Thai person.

    They said that I looked like an overweight Thailander which by the way is a rarity.

    Once the Thai decided that I was indeed North American Indian they made me feel very special and believed I must have some mystical powers.

    I have learned a corny shortcut to describing myself as an Indian.

    Most of the time, the best way to get my point across is to perform a Hollywood-style war whoop, pull back an imaginary bow and pretend to release an arrow.

    The result is that people always think of the great wild Indians of the American west, who ride bare back ponies, wear loin cloths and kill buffalo.

    I then need to explain that I am a different type of Indian, with a unique culture, language and traditions.
    Comment:  If I had a buffalo nickel for every claim like this one--that people think all Indians are Plains Indians of the past--I'd be rich. We saw a similar claim in Making Peter Pan Authentic? just a few days ago.

    Kataquapit has to explain his very identity over and over. Yet the nattering nabobs of negativism say stereotypes aren't an important issue? That they can't hurt you if you don't let them?

    Imagine a Native boy who's constantly questioned, misunderstood, and mocked. You think this would have no effect whatsoever on his self-esteem? Yes, you might think that...if you were totally ignorant about how the human psyche works.

    This is why I post items such as "Nothing More Important" than Stereotypes. I'm not a psychologist, but I'd say there's no question that stereotypes lead to poor self-esteem. And that poor self-esteem leads to a host of problems: poor health, lack of motivation to succeed, self-destructive behavior. It's patently obvious and I'm sure psychologists have proved it.

    For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

    Not an Indian?

    An Indian.

    Preview of Racism in Indian Country

    From a press release:Racism in Indian Country
    By Dr. Dean Chavers
    Paperback, 248 pages | $32.95 | 978-1-4331-0393-3 | 2009

    In the face of huge challenges, despite crushing social conditions, Indian people have survived. Racism in Indian Country exposes, for the first time, the degrading and inhuman treatment Indian people have had—and continue—to endure. This book provides numerous examples including the sterilization of thousands of Indian women without their consent, and the poor treatment Indians receive in our schools, resulting in the worst academic records—and the highest dropout rate, 50 percent—of any ethnic group. Subjected to constant harassment by anti-Indian groups, and banks and other lending institutions that either raise interest rates on loans to Indians or redline their reservations, Indians receive some of the most racist treatment in the United States. This book’s thorough documentation and explication of the challenges faced by Indians historically and today will be useful in courses in modern history, ethnic studies, sociology, and anthropology.

    Racism in Indian Country is years overdue. Dean Chavers presents a partial picture of racism, exposing the heart of Indian country. The rest of the picture is within the tribal structures of the federal hierarchy of institutional racism. Native Americans do not have constitutional protections to this day. The point is not to feel sorry for ourselves but for future generations to understand why problems exist on many reservations and within Indian communities. This is necessary history for the healing and recovery of Indian people. We need to break the cycle of slow death and start living again by understanding the underlying issues and organizing again and again to stop this destruction. This is a must read for all students of Native American history and those strong enough to search for the answers for recovering our world.”

    Dr. LaNada War Jack, Bannock Nation, Fort Hall, Idaho, Alcatraz organizer
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Anti-Indian Racism Explained and Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

    Inca in Excavation

    The latest report from correspondent DMarks on the novels of James Rollins. First, a summary of the book from Rollins's website:

    ExcavationHigh in the Andes, Dr. Henry Conklin discovers a 500-year-old mummy that should not be there. While deep in the South American jungle, Conklin’s nephew, Sam, stumbles upon a remarkable site nestled between two towering peaks, a place hidden from human eyes for thousands of years.

    Ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting, and wealth beyond imagining could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. But where the perilous journey inward ends--in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis--something else is waiting for Sam Conklin and his exploratory party. A thing created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous...something terrifying.
    Hmm. Sounds terrifyingly and wondrously derivative. Here's DMarks's mini-review:"Excavation," heavily Inca-involved, is the last one I completed. It is a cut below all the others. The plot, characters, and scientific McGuffin don't measure up to the other ones, and the Inca and Indian characters aren't as good as the others and come closer to being stereotypical than in his other novels.Comment:  I gave Rollins's Black Order a 7.5 of 10. DMarks says Excavation is worse.

    I rarely read books that I think will be a 7.0 or less--because so many books are better. Therefore, I'd say give Excavation a pass.

    For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom and The Best Indian Books.

    Indians in NEUTRO

    Reviewer Ed Natcher looks for gay overtones in NEUTRO, a 1967 Dell comic book. He assures us this isn't the worst comic ever.

    Popular MechanicsIn the opening sequence, a clearly experienced red son of the West relates an ancient Native American legend, in which a group of smooth bodied braves witness the arrival of a flying saucer. As the sleek, feather wearing buckskin boys cling to each other for comfort, “creatures, like themselves…yet different” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) emerge from the craft, bury several large crates, and depart, leaving a large mound to mark the spot. As the teller of this tale crouches in front of the crotch of his lone listener, staring at the man’s own covered box, he brings his narrative to a close with the warning left behind by the alien earthmovers: “He who disturbs this resting place shall perish!”Comment:  NEUTRO is a bit like COWBOYS & ALIENS: a flying saucer and half-naked "braves" cowering in fear. But there's no reason for 19th-century Indians to be more afraid of UFOs than white men would be. In fact, one could argue that Indians would be less afraid, since they have legends of thunderbirds and other flying creatures.

    Apparently the Indians declared the alien hiding place an inviolable burial ground. Burial grounds are another stereotype.

    Eventually, a white man is bold enough to dig where the Indians feared to tread. In reality, Indians sometimes unearthed meteorites, so they wouldn't necessarily be afraid to unearth the boxes.

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

    Blackfire and the Native legacy

    Native American fireball punk

    Blackfire returns with their combustible mix of politics and musicThe history of rock 'n' roll, like just about everything in the Americas, is inseparable from the Native American legacy. From the beginning, Johnny Cash, claiming Cherokee heritage, shared Elvis' early rockabilly stage. Gene Clark's Amerindian Midwestern country style lent depth to the original Byrds. Jimi Hendrix credited the storytelling of his Cherokee grandmother as a key to his artistic temperament. James Brown, who claimed in his autobiography to be descended from Geronimo, said the Native American drum inspired his syncopated R&B invention known as "funk." Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield, Rick Danko of The Band, Link Wray … the list goes on.

    But few if any rock artists of Amerindian decent have remained as close to the concerns and sounds of the reservation as the metal-punk rockers Blackfire.

    Recipients of the 2007 Native American Album of the Year for their work on Silence is a Weapon (Tacoho Records), Blackfire has, since their formation in 1989, garnered respect from their indigenous community as well as the rock 'n' roll world at large. Joey Ramone himself, arguably the co-inventor of punk rock, was attracted to their early work and helped in the production of their first album.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see How Blackfire Got Started.

    Defining who's an Indian

    Here's a roundup of the articles and discussions I've posted recently about who qualifies as an Indian:

    Defining Who's an Indian

    February 25, 2009

    The news no one's reporting

    Once again, intrepid reporter Brenda Norrell goes where others fear to tread:

    Censorship and the heroes of our generationWhen I was a staff reporter for Indian Country Today, the managing editor in 2005 demanded that I not write about "grassroots people or the genocide of American Indians." I continued to do so and was terminated in 2006. But, before I was terminated, my articles were censored and the wording changed, over my objections. The non-Indian staff members responsible continued at the newspaper over the past years in various positions.

    Today, unless one reads a great deal on the Internet, because of the censorship, it is possible to remain unaware of current events.

    The most underreported news includes the Zapatistas Digna Rabia gatherings in Chiapas; American Indians' support for Palestinians; the discovery of US-made white phosphorus munitions used by Israel on Palestinians; the digging up of the graves of O'odham ancestors, 69 at one site alone, in Arizona for the US/Mexico border wall and the secret removal of the remains of O'odham ancestors by Boeing while constructing the border wall on O'odham land.
    And:The issues in Mohawk Nation News are widely censored, including land theft and oppression by a wide range of security forces. The exposure of mass graves of Indian children at Canadian residential schools was among the most censored articles. The hoax of carbon credits, to enrich the World Bank and corporations, is also censored.

    Another censored fact was that Leonard Peltier was recently beaten by a gang in a Pennsylvania prison, and transferred. The question of why so many American Indians in some Indian Nations are living in poverty, while millions of dollars are pouring into their casinos, is largely censored. Peabody Coal, along with a long list of corporations in collusion with the Navajo Nation government, continues to produce disease and pollution, even in the area of the Navajos' place of origin, Dinetah, in what is now New Mexico. On Western Shoshone land, and around the world, Barrick Gold, and other coal, gold, silver and copper mining corporations, continue to oppress the people and destroy Indigenous lands and water. In Guatemala, there have been assassinations, and in New Guinea, rapes and murders of villagers.
    Comment:  I believe you could consider the Western Shoshone story one of those land grabs I referred to recently.

    Norrell forgot to mention the all-important "non-Natives cast as Natives" story. I don't think anyone's covering that except a few bloggers and me.

    The reason some tribes are living in poverty while others are getting wealthy from casinos is that they're two different sets of tribes. The poor tribes don't have casinos or don't have them in good locations. There are few if any gaming tribes earning substantial profits but not sharing them with their members.

    I've written several articles for Indian Country Today and they've never changed a word. These articles were certainly anti-establishment, though they weren't as radical as Norrell's articles. So it's not as if ICT takes all its orders from the US government.

    A slight correction:  I'm pretty sure Peabody Coal's biggest (only?) two coal mines are in Arizona, not New Mexico. One or both are on Hopi land, not Navajo land.

    For more on the subject, see Censored Stories in 2008.

    P.S. I look forward to DMarks reminding us that an unreported story isn't necessarily a censored story. ;-)

    Below:  One of the Arizona coal mines in question.

    Prospector Pete offends Indians

    Our View--Prospector Pete pleads open dialogue about racismHere on campus, a symbol of California’s horridly racist past dances around in costume. To many people of color, the Prospector Pete mascot and the ominous miner statue on the upper campus, combined with the “49er” school spirit iconography—emblazoned on everything from coffee mugs to our beloved sports teams—represent a violent history.

    During the Gold Rush, Anglo forty-niners wiped out 80 percent of the American Indian population. From 1849 to 1861, the genocides reduced American Indian populations from approximately 150,000 to less than 30,000.

    The mining camps used to advertise “Indian hunts” in local newspapers and store windows. Documentation abounds of bounties offered and paid for Indian scalps. Men were the most valuable, but women and children’s scalps could pay for a drunken night on the town.

    Many miners created cottage industries of Indian slavery. Women and children were kidnapped from their villages and sold into domestic servitude or to mining camp brothels.

    Georgiana Sanchez, a CSULB American Indian Studies professor, said there have been repeated attempts by the American Indian community to shed the 49er/Prospector Pete imagery.

    “This [Prospector Pete statue] is a very offensive symbol to us. It causes deep pain because the 49ers wiped out our ancestors, cultures and languages with the genocides. We personally have long wished it would be torn down,” Sanchez, an elder of the Chumash Nation, said.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

    Pelletier cast in New Moon

    Canadian Actor Bronson Pelletier Lands ‘New Moon’ RoleThere may be many rumors about who is still going to be cast in “New Moon,” but now there seems to be some definite casting news to report. Canadian actor Bronson Pelletier, best known for his work in shows like “Renagadepress” and “Dinosapien,” has signed on for an as-yet-unknown role in “New Moon.”

    “Congratulations to Bronson who scores a lead role in the highly anticipated ‘Twilight’ feature film sequel ‘New Moon,’” a note on the Web site for the actor’s reps, Carrier Talent Management, reads, reports Access Hollywood. “It’s rumored he will be co-starring with Dakota Fanning.”

    Bronson’s role has not yet been confirmed by Summit, and it hasn’t yet been confirmed if he’ll play a vampire, werewolf or human. But, his Native American background may suggest that he’ll be playing one of the werewolves of the Quileute tribe. His heritage falls in the Plains Cree tribe of the Askinootow First Nations.

    Meanwhile yesterday Vanessa Hudgens continued to fuel speculation that she’d be joining the world of Twilight as Leah Clearwater in one of the upcoming films. “It’s still a rumor; I’m really interested,” she told “Extra.” “I think it’s a great project, but nothing’s happening as of now.”
    Comment:  See, that wasn't so hard. Pelletier is as cute as Taylor Lautner and he looks more authentically Indian. He's about as well-known as Lautner was, too. Finally an Indian has a chance to be a star.

    Preview of Aym Geronimo

    The people at Geronimo Press alerted me to a comic-book series I hadn't heard of, so now I'm alerting you to it.

    Aym Geronimo and the Postmodern PioneersHeadquartered in the Wonder Wall, a complex carved into the side of the Grand Canyon, Aym and the Postmodern Pioneers dare danger, discover the delphic, defy disaster, and defeat the diabolical, using the tools of advanced technology forged by the brilliant mind of Aym and the prodigious skills of her comrades.Comment:  According to her character bio, Amythest Geronimo is 38 years old...a Havasupai Indian...a graduate of Cambridge and MIT with a PhD in engineering and technology. These traits make her almost unique in the Native comic-book world.

    From the four-page preview online, the storytelling and art look decent. I gather Aym is a Native version of Kim Possible, Jonny Quest, or (if you're really old) Tom Swift.

    One could compare her to Forge of the X-Men, but a bespectacled Havasupai woman is more interesting to me than a Cheyenne military veteran. Both "Cheyenne" and "military veteran" are clichés in Native-themed fiction, of course.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading AYM GERONIMO someday. For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    Allan Houser documentary

    Film tells of Apache art icon Allan HouserAllan Houser’s sculptures and paintings evoked the experience of American Indian life, particularly for the Apache tribe living in Oklahoma.

    "Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family,” a documentary on the Houser family and the artist’s work, premieres at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on Oklahoma Educationa Television Authority stations.

    Written and directed by Oklahoma native Bryan Beasley, "Unconquered” follows the Houser family beginning in the 1860s and the family’s experience as part of the tribe’s internment. Houser was born at Fort Sill to Sam and Blossom Haozous in 1914. His family’s experience informed Houser’s art in crucial ways and continues to inspire Houser’s sons, who also became artists.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    Highlights of the Pequot Museum

    Mashantucket Pequot Museum Offers more than gambling at FoxwoodsThe 85,000-square-foot permanent indoor exhibit also utilizes cutting edge design and technology, including:

  • Seven computer interactive exhibits
  • More than three hours of original documentary video
  • A total of 13 films and video programs throughout the permanent exhibit space, in 10 locations, from the Ice Age to modern times.

  • Some of the signature exhibits bring visitors on a journey from the last Ice Age to modern times. These include:

  • A glacial crevasse
  • A caribou hunt of 11,000 years ago
  • A walk-through a 6th-century woodland Native American village
  • A 17th-century Pequot fort
  • An outdoor, 18th-century farmstead set on two acres, with orchards and gardens.
  • Comment:  For more on the subject, see Casino Indians Are Bad? and "RACE: Are We So Different?"

    My Obamicons

    Check out my album of Obama-style icons on Facebook!

    February 24, 2009

    Tough questions about Palestinians and Indians

    E-mailer Davey reports a debate between radio talk-show host Ray Taliafero and a woman caller about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Davey was somewhat impressed by Ray's tough questions. I'll provide the answers that the woman couldn't.

    Are we being hypocrites in this Middle East conflict?Anyway to make a long story short, he started out his shift by talking about the sordid history of mankind and land ownership. He maintained that most countries that exist today are the result of harsh conflict and an entire people being conquered. He said throughout our history superior gun power and military might has been the order of the day with the spoils of war going to the victor. He suggested that what we are seeing in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine is a continuation of that and ideally he wanted to see a way in which future generations could get along.

    A woman from neighboring San Rafael called up furious at Ray for his suggestion. She laid into him and told him it was outrageous that we have a group of people taking over the lands of another group of people and we should be ashamed of supporting such an atrocity. She said we should do everything in our power to correct this egregious wrong. The Palestinians have a right to their land they have been there for centuries.
    True, but that isn't the point of this posting.Ray asked the woman how he felt about us as Americans being landowners to a place where we came in, displaced and massacred a people to the brink of extinction. The woman said she was bothered by it. Ray asked if she was bothered enough to leave her comfortable home in San Rafael? Was she outraged enough to demand that we give land we conquered back to those original inhabitants? The woman had no answer and said she felt bad, but we need to stop Israel.The point of signing the treaties was so Euro-Americans could legally occupy the Indians' land. No one is asking today's Americans to give back this land.

    What they're asking is for today's Americans to uphold their end of the bargain. That includes funding Indian services at whatever level is required.

    But what if we decided to abrogate the treaties? We no longer give the Indians anything and they get their land back. Is that a possible solution?

    Assuming we could negotiate the endless details, I wouldn't have a problem with this. I don't presume that a tribal government is worse than our federal or state governments. As long as my rights were protected, I don't think I'd care who "governed" me.

    What is our responsibility?Ray pressed on by insisting she answer the question: What is our responsibility to those we stole land from?To uphold the treaties we signed to the fullest extent possible. And to do everything in our power to right the historic wrongs.The woman said that was centuries ago. We now get along with Native Americans and worked everything out with them. Ray went off and asked what date and time did we suddenly conclude it was ok for us to be here and that the slaughter of millions was now just a tragic bygone?It's never been okay for Americans to "be here" while stealing the Indians' land. That's why some of us call it our "original sin."

    The treaties were perhaps the best of a bad lot of remedies. Because of them, I don't think we have to give the land back.

    But I don't think they absolved America of its moral crimes either. We forced most of these treaties on the Indians and then we broke them. As it says below, we're still guilty of land grabs and other legal and moral crimes.

    As for the inevitable argument that today's Americans aren't to blame for the acts of their predecessors, see above about our responsibility. Today's Americans vote for today's government, so they're ultimately responsible for upholding the treaties and righting the wrongs.

    If you don't like this responsibility, move to another country. Go somewhere where the conquerors haven't signed treaties with the conquered. While you're a US citizen, you own a small share of this nation's rights and its responsibilities.From the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock to the Buffalo soldiers who were the descendants of slaves, most of us here in the US come from a people who in one way or another participated in land grabbing. Should we not reverse those wrongs? He noted that we are still land grabbing Native Lands even in 2008.I'd say it's too late to actually "reverse" the wrongs and return America to a pristine state. But it's not too late to right the wrongs with remedies ranging from economic development to healthcare to education.The woman had no answer for him.The woman should've used me as her lifeline. ;-)

    Give up our "comfortable spots"?Ray left us with a hard question to answer. While we fight to stop the killings in Palestine and recognize that them losing their land his blatantly unfair, should we simultaneously be fighting for our country to honor broken treaties and should we be giving up our comfortable spots and insisting it go back to Native Peoples?Honor the treaties? Yes. Give up our comfortable spots? No. That's not possible or necessary because of the treaties we swore to uphold.

    Actually, we should think about giving up our "comfortable spots" in huge suburban tracts because the sprawl is using up our finite land and resources. We should think about living in high-density, mixed-use communities and leave the land as untouched as possible. But that's a topic for another day.

    Returning to the Middle East conflict for a minute, Israel's land grab after the 1967 war has never been okay. The Palestinians have never signed a treaty giving up their territorial rights. The conflict is recent enough that no one can claim it's too late to "reverse the wrongs."

    For all these reasons, the two cases are different. It's not inconsistent to say Israel should give back the land it took but America doesn't have to.

    Just about everyone thinks the Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate a land-for-peace agreement. This kind of solution might've worked after the American theft of Indian lands, too. Instead we signed land-for-benefits treaties and now they're the status quo.

    For more on the subject, see The Indian-Palestinian Connection.

    Below:  A stylized version of the wall that keeps Palestinians "on the reservation."

    Hopi lessons in the legal teepee

    This writer has visited the Hopi reservation and bought kachinas before. Yet his point about what he's learned from the Hopi is marred by a stream of stereotypes.

    What Do Native Americans and Rainmaking Have to Do With the Law?

    When you drag new clients into the teepee, be prepared to be scrutinized for who you are, not for your glitzy brochure

    By Mark Johnson
    I was in northern Arizona recently doing a video about 18-wheelers with triple trailers (it’s a living) and had a chance to go to a Hopi reservation and meet a medicine man. He was a fascinating character. I had expected a lot of feathers and war paint—like the Frederick Remington paintings—but instead, he was a gracious elderly gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki slacks.

    He could see that I was taken aback and said, “You were expecting maybe Crazy Horse?” I was humbled.
    "Teepees"? Kind of an odd reference to make in an article about Hopi lessons.

    The funniest and stupidest thing in this article is Johnson's alleged belief that the Hopi "medicine man" would be wearing feathers and war paint.

    First, I don't think the Hopi have "medicine men." Not ones who go by that title, anyway.

    Second, most medicine men didn't wear warpaint, since they were healers, not warriors. Some might've worn feathers, but I wouldn't have bet on it.

    Third, this is 2009 and Johnson said he had visited the Hopi before. Was he totally oblivious to everything he saw? Does he seriously think today's Indians routinely wear feathers and warpaint? This sounds like something a kindergartner would say, not a presumably educated adult.The need for rainmakers, Native American or not, hasn’t slacked off. Most Native American cultures have some sort of rainmaking tradition, and we’ve all heard about barnstorming pilots dumping dry ice into clouds hoping to stir up a thunderstorm.Actually, I think many tribes, perhaps most, didn't have a rainmaking tradition. Rainmaking traditions were necessary only in places where it didn't rain much. That would exclude much of the country.Those of you who are charged with dragging new clients into the teepee might keep in mind that new clients are looking beyond the networking, sales pitches and snazzy brochures. They want to see who you really are, to see if you can keep a promise, and if they can trust you. They want to know about your traditions and hear your stories. While building a campfire and passing a peace pipe may be going over the edge, being at peace with yourself and transferring that to a new client isn’t.Teepee, campfire, peace pipe...another series of clichés.

    I suppose when Johnson visited the Seminoles, he learned how to hunt buffalo? When he visited the Iroquois, he learned how to dance in a kiva? When he visited the Cheyenne, he learned how to grow tobacco? When he visited the Yurok, he learned how to play lacrosse?

    Uh-huh, sure he did.

    The only good thing about this article is that Johnson has more or less accurately characterized the Indian way of doing business.

    For more on the subject, see The Basic Indian Stereotypes.

    Below:  The picture chosen to illustrate this Hopi-oriented article. Sigh.

    Bless Me, Ultima removed

    UC Merced students discuss removal of Chicano book

    District took 'Bless Me, Ultima' off sophomore reading listThe Newman-Crows Landing Board of Education voted in early February to remove Rudolfo A. Anaya's award-winning novel "Bless Me, Ultima" from the sophomore required reading list at Orestimba High School.

    The removal stemmed from a parent complaint about the anti-Catholic tone of the book and its sexually explicit scenes. The school board and superintendent focused on the number of curse words in the book when contemplating a ban.
    And:Anaya's novel had been part of the sophomore honors curriculum at the school for more than a decade. The advanced literature students read more than 60 novels and plays before graduation, Quittmeyer said.

    "Honestly, out of all the books we ever read, I never thought 'Bless me, Ultima' would ever be banned," Perez, who is now a sophomore at UC Merced, said.

    Written by Anaya in 1972, "Bless Me, Ultima" is set in New Mexico and profiles a Latino boy maturing, asking questions concerning evil, justice and the nature of God, and trying to reconcile American Indian religion with traditional Roman Catholicism. The boy turns often to Ultima, a caregiver of sorts, for help as he grows.

    The book was spotlighted on former First Lady Laura Bush's must-read list, and is also the literature selection for this year's state high school academic decathlon competition.
    Comment:  So everyone from Laura Bush to the academic decathlon competition supports the book, and it hasn't harmed anyone in the ten years it's been on the list. But the school board has removed it from the reading list because one parent complained. How irrational can you get?

    Bless Me, Ultima was one of three books I was "required" to read the summer before attending college. (The other two were Plato's Republic and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.) I don't remember any of the books well.

    I presume Bless Me, Ultima was pretty good. Who knows? Perhaps the Indian aspects influenced me to undertake my Native-oriented quest some 14 years later.

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

    Drop mascots or pay fines

    Wis. bill requires Indian logo investigationsWisconsin schools may have to drop their American Indian logos or face hundreds of dollars in fines under a bill a Democratic lawmaker has proposed.

    Schools have been moving away from American Indian logos and nicknames for years. More than three dozen still use them, however, according to a fiscal estimate attached to the bill.

    The bill calls for the state Department of Public Instruction to investigate complaints about race-based names, nicknames, logos or mascots. School boards would have a chance to argue the logos or mascots don’t discriminate or amount to harassment or stereotyping.

    If the state superintendent finds the complaint has merit, he or she would order the school board to drop the offending moniker within a year or face $100 to $1,000 in fines each day it continues to use the logo.
    Once again, the problem with mascots:Task force chairwoman Barbara Munson, an Oneida Indian, said her children went to Mosinee High School. While social studies classes presumably teach diversity, student athletes are still exposed to racial stereotypes when they play schools with American Indian nicknames, she said.

    “My culture, the Oneida culture, values peace,” Munson said. “The Indian mascot in Mosinee is kind of tied to ideas of being fierce and warlike. ... It’s just one more layer of things kids have to figure out.”
    Comment:  You mean all Indians weren't fierce and warlike? I'm shocked, I tell you...shocked!

    For those who oppose government intervention in the mascot issue, recall that public schools are an arm of the government. I don't think government schools should be promoting false and stereotypical images of people...do you?

    Below:  A typical mascot (not from Wisconsin).

    Vanity book about Pequots

    Longtime Critic Publishes Book On MashantucketsEven his detractors might have to admire Leo Fletcher's pluck.

    The Norwich native and one-time tribal spouse, who claims he was banished from the Mashantucket Pequot reservation after being fired from his job there in the mid-1990s, has made good on his promise to publish an expose of the tribe.

    The 50-year-old Fletcher, whose full name is Walter Leo Fletcher Jr., said he put up $7,000 of his own money to have Dorrance Publishing, a Pittsburgh, Pa., subsidy publisher, produce 5,000 paperback copies of “The Tribe of Foxes,” whose subtitle touts it as “The True Inside Story About the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.”
    If that sounds at all impressive, read on:In a wrongful-termination suit he filed against the tribe in 1996, Fletcher maintained that tribal officials trumped up sexual harassment charges against him and that the real reason for his dismissal was the existence of his manuscript detailing racial tensions and corruption on the reservation. He had told tribal leaders, including then-Chairman Richard “Skip” Hayward, that he intended to publish it.

    In reality, Fletcher has published only a small portion of what he said was a 207-page manuscript, most of which he said was stolen from him around the time he was kicked off the reservation.

    Mostly, “The Tribe of Foxes” contains copies of court documents related to his case. Tribal Judge Edward B. O'Connell's decision, dated Feb. 19, 2002, which dismissed Fletcher's claims, is included.
    Comment:  The Tribe of Foxes sounds like a get-even scheme disguised as a book. I'm all for airing grievances, but I do it in the relative privacy of my blog. I don't presume that my "personal vendettas" are of interest to the wider world.

    For more on the subject, see Mashantucket Pequots Strike Back and The Critics of Indian Gaming—and Why They're Wrong.

    Alaska Natives = business successes

    Native contributions to Alaska economy are significant

    COMPASS:  Other points of viewEagle River Senator Fred Dyson's recent commentary in the Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Natives thrived before the coming of the white man," was a surprisingly positive essay from a conservative who often opposes legislation and funding to help rural, generally Native, Alaskans. So "good on" the senator for reminding all Alaskans about the skill and intelligence Native Alaskans have always demonstrated in living here.

    It was an enlightening piece as far as it went, but it left the reader wondering if Native people had accomplished anything else worth noting since European contact in 1741. Today Alaska Native people are contributing to Alaska in ways few non-Natives appreciate.

    The most significant accomplishment by Native people in modern-day Alaska was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the most successful aboriginal land claims settlement in history. The Act allowed the construction of the trans Alaska oil pipeline enabling Alaska's oil and gas industry to thrive, and it created a broad array of successful, Alaska-based, Native-owned companies.

    In 2006 the thirteen ANCSA regional corporations and top three village corporations brought $6.965 billion into the Alaska economy as revenue, according to the ANCSA Regional Association's 2006 Economic Report. ... The Alaska Business Monthly Top 49ers list in 2008 showed 18 of the top 49 Alaska-owned companies as Native-owned businesses. Native companies on the list made up 78 percent of the total employees and 57 percent of the employees working in Alaska. Sixty-six percent of all the revenue earned by Top 49 companies was earned by Native corporations.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

    Below:  In contrast to this report, here's the typical American view of Alaska Natives:

    Tales of an Urban Indian

    Spring Theater Special | Faces to Watch

    Darrell DennisA RAUCOUS burst of drums, a howling coyote and a whistling flute are the first things the audience hears in “Tales of an Urban Indian.” Then the mystical sounds quiet down, and Darrell Dennis, creator and star of this solo show, adds the punch line: “Now that we got that out of our system, let’s begin.”

    Mr. Dennis, hailing from the Shuswap Nation in British Columbia, aims to explode stereotypes in the play, which has returned to the Public Theater after a run at its first annual Native Theater Festival last fall. From the start this semi-autobiographical play about a young actor who moves from a reservation to Vancouver presents a counterpoint to movies like “Dances With Wolves.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Five Plays at Festival and Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

    February 23, 2009

    Rob hypocritical about genocide?

    In Was Jamestown Massacre Justified? reader Stephen cast doubts on my explanation of why the Indians massacred the English settlers. Here are his comments and my responses:Only combat against a legit target is justified; what was stopping the Powhatan from only attacking English soldiers?I don't think we know exactly what happened, but the Indians had killed soldiers before. Apparently that wasn't enough to convince the English to leave. Therefore, I suspect the Indians resorted to what they considered the last resort: the "shock and awe" approach of killing everyone.

    Not surprisingly, you didn't think too deeply about the issues I raised. Maybe the Indians considered the women and children carriers of disease (i.e, "evil spirits"). Maybe they asked the women to leave and they refused, which would make them accessories to the "crime." Maybe the Indians knew the women and children would die without the men to provide for them, so they killed them out of "mercy."
    I could be wrong but I don't think they did [try to negotiate, etc.]; language and cultural barriers tend to make diplomacy hard.If the invaders wanted to negotiate some sort of right to invade, it was incumbent upon them to learn the Indians' language and culture. If they couldn't find a diplomatic solution, the Indians' military solution shouldn't have surprised them.

    Excuses for mass murderers?'Grats on making excuses for mass murderers, note the double standard folks; when Natives committ a mass murder it's self defense, when eviiiiil white men commit an atrocity it's evil.Note Stephen's continued inability to read what I wrote, folks. I'll repeat it for those who can read:My position is that violence is justified only as a last recourse, when all other options have failed.I doubt the Indians tried everything they could short of massacring everyone. In that sense they were wrong. But I believe they were acting like people who had been bullied or battered repeatedly. In that sense, I believe they had some right to self-defense.

    Whether they killed too many people in their all-out military action would require a detailed look at the facts and evidence. In particular, an examination of how realistic the Indians' fear of annihilation was. It would be something for a court to determine then--not for armchair speculators to decide four centuries later.

    In fact, I bet a court would allow the Indians some sort of "diminished capacity" defense as a result of the Englishmen's ongoing threats and attacks. If so, I suspect the Indians would be acquitted by a jury of their (Indian) peers. If they were found guilty, it would be to a lesser crime or with mitigating circumstances.

    Colonists didn't intend conquest?
    Except the goal of Jamestown was not to start a war the Powhatan believed this would 'put them in their place' and that the surviving English would recognize the Powhatan as the authority.I quoted Powhatan's thinking once before. I'll quote it again:Chief Powhatan had soon realized that the Englishmen did not settle in Jamestown in order to buy and sell with the Indians. The English wanted more; they wanted control over the land. As Powhatan stated, “Your coming is not for trade, but to invade my people and possess my country.”Your opinion about his goals sounds like just that...your opinion. I quoted what he supposedly said. Let's see you do the same.
    Butchering an unarmed child is self defense? Slaughtering an unarmed woman is self defense?When the women and children contributed to the theft of the land? When the English could claim they owned the land as long as a single English person occupied it? I'd say yes...killing unarmed women and children could be part of a last-ditch defense.

    One point you've conveniently ignored is whether the women and children had ample warning of the Indians' intent. I'm guessing the Indians sent a pretty clear message: leave our country or else. If the noncombatants stayed in a potential war zone when they were advised to go, I wouldn't say they were totally blameless. Their deaths may have been tragic and unnecessary, but I wouldn't say they were "heinous."

    You've criticized my position, but you haven't stated your position. That's not too surprising for someone who's afraid to sign his name. So let's nail it down:

    You'd be okay with the massacre if the Indians killed only the English men? If the Indians left the women and children to fend for themselves (i.e., starve and die)? Then go ahead and say so. Quit talking like someone willing to let the English take the Indians' homeland by hook, crook, or force.

    Permanent settlers = temporary intruders?
    You're comparing apples to oranges, sure you have the right to kill an intruder, but you do not have the right to kill that intruder's infant child and wife.Which is why I wrote, "I say that if you come across someone trespassing in your house and he's clearly unarmed, you're absolutely not justified in killing him." Good job restating my position.

    But you're the one who's comparing apples to oranges. In this case, the "unarmed" intruders weren't just coming to steal something and leave. They were coming to stay permanently. It was that moral crime--invasion and conquest--that justified the Indian's last-resort thinking.

    Again, it didn't justify the actual massacre--I said I don't know if that was necessary. But it justified the thinking that led to the massacre. If you're not too much of an whitebread American, try to understand the difference between explaining what they thought and excusing what they did.

    Unless you're certain you can divine the Indians' thinking, don't bother braying about the women and children again. Yeah, we got your position. You're an Anglo apologist who doesn't understand what the Indians were facing. Unlike you, they realized the Europeans would never stop coming unless they did something drastic.

    The definition of genocide
    In other words you're saying they [the Indians] had the right to commit genocide.You don't think I know the definition of genocide? One of us doesn't know it--that's for sure.

    So you think massacring one small colony of Europeans--about one-millionth of their total population--constitutes "genocide"? Sorry, wrong. Genocide means trying to wipe out an entire race, not a tiny portion of it.

    Clearly you don't know the definition of genocide, bright boy, since it's not the same as murder or mass murder. I've quoted the definition on my genocide page just for people like you. Read it and report back to us on whether you understood what you read.

    In fact, you're the only one who's saying someone (the English) had a right to commit genocide. Since you're excusing the English invasion of Virginia, where exactly would you draw the line? Were the Indians ever justified in killing "settlers" who forced them from their land into poverty, sickness, and starvation? If so, when did killing settlers go from being unjustified to justified? Pick a point and defend your position.
    Nothing like the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.Nothing like the smell of stupidity in the evening. Repeat: My position is that violence is justified only as a last recourse, when all other options have failed. That position is the same regardless of who's committing the violence--whether it's Americans, Nazis, Muslims, or Indians.

    If you want to discuss some situation where you think Europeans or Americans killed people only after their other options failed, let's do it. But don't waste our time fantasizing that my position would vary depending on who's doing the killing. Put up or shut up with actual case studies, not your ridiculous guesses about what I believe.

    What did the massacre achieve?Also what exactly was achieved by this horrible massacre?What was achieved by all the peaceful accommodations the Indians made, the hundreds of treaties they signed, etc.? Other than the deaths of 98% of them, that is. Answer that and then I'll tell you why the Indians resorted to massacres when all else failed.

    I've written about the various ways the Indians could've avoided defeat. They generally involved killing and warfare. The Euro-Americans were never going to give up unless they were forced to.

    But if you can come up with an alternative, by all means do so. Tell us the nonviolent means by which the Indians could've kept their land. We await your "expert" knowledge of history with bated breath.

    And while you're at it, be sure to tell us what the Indians should've done at Jamestown. Assume they correctly foresaw what would happen in the next couple of centuries, when the English overran their homes and reduced them to beggars. According to you, they should've laid back and enjoyed it, eh?

    Below:  "I have a woman and child with me. That means you can't fight back, you savage animal."

    Auditioning for New Moon

    Here's a firsthand report on the New Moon casting call in Phoenix a couple weeks ago...with pictures.

    I went to the Phoenix Casting CallI was fortunate enough to sneak a peek at the Phoenix casting call for New Moon. My friends Erika and Lisa (fellow Twilighters) were happy to keep me company on the journey. Erika even used her Mistress voice on me to make me go inside the building by myself. You can thank her for the pictures I took inside, really. I wasn’t sure I would be allowed, being as gringa as they come. Everyone was very nice, and I really didn’t even get any looks for being there, even though I clearly didn’t fit the description of the casting call. I brought my real camera, so I guess that explained why I was there.

    Registration took place in the lobby of the Phoenix Indian Center. It seemed pretty well organized. They seemed to be directing people very well for minimum confusion. It’s a smallish lobby and when I got there, there were about 100 people crammed into it. The people running the show were calling people in groups by age. I have no idea how many people were already back there auditioning. The atmosphere in the lobby was tense. I don’t know why, but I expected a sort of fangirl SQUEE. Nope, there was very quiet murmur considering the number of people. I didn’t see anyone practicing their lines or anything, unless they were doing it silently. Most people were talking to a buddy quietly. I didn’t feel free to walk around because it was so cramped, and because the mood clearly said, “Don’t bother anyone.” I took what pictures I could around the door where the light was best.
    Plus this note from Roscoe Pond's blog:

    THE BAKER TWINS get Call Back Audition for NEW MOON

    Comment:  The Baker twins may be just what Twilight's people are looking for. They don't look like typically unglamorous Indians; they're Hollywood sexy and cute. Whether they can act or not is almost beside the point.

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

    Below:  "Good thing I didn't have to act like an Indian...!"

    Ahenakew acquitted of promoting hate

    Ahenakew found not guiltySix years after he said Jews were a “disease” and tried to justify the Holocaust to a Saskatoon reporter, David Ahenakew has been found not guilty of willfully promoting hatred.

    Reading a 19-page decision, Provincial Court judge Wilfrid Tucker harshly condemned Mr. Ahenakew's remarks, calling them “revolting, disgusting and untrue,” but determined that the former head of the Assembly of First nations did not intend to broadcast his views.

    “There is no indication that the accused, at the time of the interview, even considered the possibility that the statements he made to [the reporter] would cause hatred against Jewish people to be promoted,” Mr. Tucker said.

    The charges stem from a December, 2002 speech to First Nations leaders during which Mr. Ahenakew denounced immigrants and blamed Jews for starting World War II. In a subsequent interview with Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter James Parker, Mr. Ahenakew said that Hitler “fried” six million Jews to “make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe” and that the world would “be owned by the Jews right now” had Hitler not “cleaned up a hell of a lot of things.”
    Comment:  Trying someone for hate speech is hugely problematical when freedom of speech is a right. Most cases of hate speech probably shouldn't be crimes.

    House honors Geronimo's bravery

    US lawmakers honor Apache chief GeronimoThe US House of Representatives on Monday approved by voice vote a measure honoring legendary Apache warrior Geronimo's bravery 100 years after his death.

    The nonbinding resolution honors his life, "his extraordinary bravery, and his commitment to the defense of his homeland, his people, and Apache ways of life."

    The resolution also "recognizes the 100 anniversary of the death of Goyathlay as a time of reflection of his deeds on behalf of his people."
    Comment:  Hmm. Nothing here about Geronimo's being a murderer or a rapist. Nor do I see evidence of these claims in Geronimo's Wikipedia entry or any other page in Google.

    Therefore, I wonder where reader Stephen got his claims from. Perhaps he repeated some anti-Indian propaganda he heard, or made them up.

    For more on the subject, see Defeating Apaches = Defeating Terrorists and Dueling Views on Geronimo.

    Schellenberg's NBA All-Star promo

    Roscoe Pond posted a video of August Schellenberg promoting the NBA All-Star Game. In it, Schellenberg plays a wise old Indian who conjures images of a bear, snake, wolf, and eagle from a fire. These morph into shots of NBA players embodying the animals' attributes.

    Rob's review: On the plus side, it's great to see a Native linked to something as non-Native as an NBA game. Schellenberg looks and acts like a typical modern Indian, not like some ancient chief or shaman.

    On the minus side, the whole concept is somewhat stereotypical. It would've been better to incorporate a Native without the clichéd bear, wolf, and eagle references.

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

    Below:  Schellenberg in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

    Sioux woman on Apostrophe cover

    Woman's story of living with fetal alcohol syndrome graces cover of magazineMelissa Clark was happy to be on the cover of the winter issue of Apostrophe magazine, published by the Anaconda-based nonprofit group AWARE Inc.

    The 32-year-old Clark was born with fetal alcohol syndrome after her birth mother drank while pregnant. Melissa, a member of the Gros Ventre Assiniboine Sioux tribe, was raised in Great Falls by [Catholic Sister Johnelle] Howanach.

    An article about Clark by Judie E. Gulley, which originally ran in the Cincinnati-based St. Anthony Messenger magazine, was reprinted in Apostrophe.

    The article describes Clark's difficult road, from a hyperactive youngster who was considered impossible to educate, to an adult who runs her own business making homemade dog biscuits. Her foster mother helps with the business, called Lissie's Luv Yums, but Clark does much of the work herself.

    Oscar and Spirit Award pix

    Thanks to Roscoe Pond for alerting us to the following pix:

    Heather Rae from 2009 Film Independent's Spirit Awards
    Misty Upham from 2009 Film Independent's Spirit Awards
    Melissa Leo from 2009 Film Independent's Spirit Awards
    Q'orianka Kilcher from 81st Annual Academy Awards
    Melissa Leo from 81st Annual Academy Awards
    Misty Upham--various awards ceremonies

    Comment:  For more on the awards, see Indians at the 2009 Oscars and Frozen River Wins 2 Spirit Awards. For more on Native-themed movies, see Frozen River and The Best Indian Movies.