May 31, 2009

Indians in The Goode Family

This weekend I watched the pilot episode of The Goode Family. It's the latest animated comedy from Mike Judge, creator of King of the Hill. Some reviews:

A Clan So Virtuous Even Its Dog Is VeganLike “South Park,” “King of the Hill” arrived in 1997 as one of the indelible culture-war comedies of the Wal-Mart versus Williams-Sonoma era. Created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, “King of the Hill” forged a brilliant neutrality, affectionately portraying the common-sense, ranch-house life of a Christian family in Texas while mocking provincial mediocrity enough to appease the yen for regional condescension on the coasts.

As if he had been required by the Federal Communications Commission to devote equal time to jeering at liberal pieties (which, by the way, he did plenty of on “King of the Hill”), he has produced the Goodes, a family of zealot, vegan, recycling nut cases who don’t fight over paper versus plastic because they believe in neither.

The voice of the patriarch, Gerald Goode, an administrator at a community college where even students qualify for tenure, is provided by Mr. Judge, who could not have improved on his tone of narcoleptic earnestness if he had apprenticed for “All Things Considered.” He is exceptionally funny in the role (as he was playing Hank in “King of the Hill”), and a lot of the writing is too.

But the show feels aggressively off-kilter with the current mood, as if it had been incubated in the early to mid-’90s, when it was possible to find global-warming skeptics among even the reasonable and informed.
TV Review:  'The Goode Family'The humor in "King of the Hill" has always come from a different place than its Animation Domination colleagues, resisting pop culture references and clear-cut punchlines for the trappings of a more realistic, character-driven sitcom. As you can probably gather just from the description, "The Goode Family" is broader stuff, never portraying its central clan as anything other than an extreme, albeit a loving a well-meaning extreme.'The Goode Family' review--Sepinwall on TVWhere "King of the Hill" (which technically wasn't renewed for next season, but which still has a handful of episodes yet to air to wrap up the series) was low-key and so charming that it often didn't matter how funny the jokes were, "The Goode Family" feels broader and more overtly satirical. And while the jokes may be funnier than "King" has been in a long time, the new show also feels more uneven and strained.

[T]he genius of "King of the Hill"--and the reason I kept watching long after I stopped finding it especially funny--was that I could relate to Hank Hill, and the obvious sympathy the show had for him. I've never played football, have a crabgrass-infested lawn and couldn't fix a car if my life depended on it, but I understood Hank and liked him, and it was clear the writers did, too. However myopic or backward Hank's world view might have seemed, he was right more often than not about how much better things used to be.

I think "The Goode Family" finds the Goodes (including Linda Cardellini as teenage daughter Bliss) to be just as well-meaning as Hank, but they're so intense (if often confused) in their beliefs that it becomes too easy to laugh at all of them--and more difficult to laugh with them.
Comment:  Because it's all about political correctness and the environment, The Goode Family includes a few references to Indians. One is this exchange:GERALD:  Don't we try to celebrate people's differences and learn from them?

HELEN:  Sure, if they're, like, Native Americans or backward rainforest people. But not these people!
This bit shows Mike Judge's continuing interest in Native people. It also shows the condescending nature of the series. Helen calls "rainforest people" (aka Amazonian Indians) "backward" because she doesn't sincerely believe in multiculturalism.

In addition, a college scene shows a group of indigenous Peruvian musicians in the background. And the Goodes have a Navajo-style rug hanging on the wall.

Rob's review

The Goode Family misfires for a couple reasons:

1) It bashes liberals almost nonstop. The lines are often funny but there are too many of them. The equivalent on King of the Hill would be if every character ranted about taxes, gun control, and immigration all the time.

Dale Gribble is like this, but King of the Hill clearly portrays him as a wacko. To be like this all the time is unrealistic and unbelievable. People don't assert their values in every sentence they utter.

2) The Goodes are eco-freaks only because it's trendy, not because their beliefs stem from long-held convictions. The Goodes don't know whether to call blacks "blacks," "African Americans," or "people of color." At a supermarket, Helen is overwhelmed by which kind of organic apples to buy and whether to use paper or plastic bags.

If she were a genuine liberal rather than an object of ridicule, she would've developed answers to these questions long ago. She'd be like Hank Hill, who swears by perfectly mowed lawns, power tools, and propane. She wouldn't panic when someone questions her values because those values would be who she was, not some tacked-on pretensions.

I'll try the show again to see if it gets any better, but I'm not hopeful. For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Icy indigenous expeditions

In recent postings, we've seen how the Franklin expedition failed while the Amundsen expedition succeeded. A key difference was Amundsen's reliance on Inuit help.

Here are some other icy expeditions where indigenous aid was important.

Frederick CookNorth Pole

After the Mount McKinley expedition, Cook returned to the Arctic in 1907. He planned to attempt to reach the North Pole, although his intention was not announced until August 1907, when he was already in the Arctic. He left Annoatok, a small settlement in the north of Greenland, in February 1908. Cook claimed that he reached the pole on April 22, 1908 after traveling north from Axel Heiberg Island, taking with him only two Inuit men, Ahwelah and Etukishook.
Robert PearyInitial Arctic Explorations

Peary made several expeditions to the Arctic, exploring Greenland by dog sled in 1886 and 1891 and returning to the island three times in the 1890s.

Unlike most previous explorers, Peary studied Inuit survival techniques, built igloos, and dressed in practical furs in the native fashion both for heat preservation and to dispense with the extra weight of tents and sleeping bags when on the march. Peary also relied on the Inuit as hunters and dog-drivers on his expeditions, and pioneered the use of the system (which he called the "Peary system") of using support teams and supply caches for Arctic travel.

The final 1908-09 expedition

For his final assault on the pole, he and 23 men set off from New York City aboard the Roosevelt under the command of Captain Robert Bartlett on July 6, 1908. ... On the final stage of the journey towards the North Pole only five of Peary's men, Matthew Henson, Ootah, Egigingwah, Seegloo and Ooqueah, remained. On April 6, he established "Camp Jesup" allegedly within five miles (8 km) of the pole. In his diary for April 7 (which, when released to the public in 1986, as historian Larry Schweikart showed, in fact had all the earmarks of being written on the polar trail), Peary wrote "The Pole at last. The prize of 3 centuries, my goal for 20 years."
Tenzing NorgayTenzing Norgay GM (late May 1914-9 May 1986), born Namgyal Wangdi and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, was a Nepali Sherpa mountaineer who later settled in India. Among the most famous mountain climbers in history, he was one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which he accomplished with Edmund Hillary on 29 May 1953.

Success on Mount Everest

In 1953, he took part in John Hunt's expedition, his own seventh expedition to Everest. A member of the team was Edmund Hillary, who had a narrow escape when the ice gave way as he was moving loads up to this camp, plunging him into a crevasse. Fortunately Tenzing, who was following, thrust his ice-axe in the snow, and whipped the rope round it in good belay. It tightened just in time to prevent Hillary being smashed to pieces at the bottom of the crevasse. Thereafter Hillary began to think of Tenzing as the ideal partner in a bid for the summit.
Comment:  To sum it up, indigenous people were crucial in conquering three of the coldest and remotest places on Earth. Without their assistance, it would've taken white men much longer to reach these places.

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

Below:  Tenzing Norgay.

Flaws in The Paradise Syndrome

I recently watched The Paradise Syndrome, the original Star Trek episode about Indians, for the first time in several years. As you may recall, I discussed it in several postings last year:

Mistakes and stereotypes in The Paradise Syndrome
White super-race in The Paradise Syndrome
Noble savages in The Paradise Syndrome

I was curious to see if it was as bad as I remembered. Unfortunately, it was worse.

  • McCoy says the people look like real American Indians. "They are," replies Spock. Later they learn that the Preservers seeded the stars with humans to protect endangered cultures.

  • This should be one of the greatest discoveries in human history. Countless planets inhabited by people who are human down to the DNA level, but who have developed in alien environments. It would be like discovering lost civilizations on Earth--Atlantis, Cibola, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Shangri-La, Pellucidar--but multiplied a thousandfold.

    Every time the Enterprise crew encountered a "humanoid" race, they should've asked whether the people were human-like or actual humans. And noted the truly human races as if they were long-lost relatives. Yet the original series never mentions this fact again.

  • The tipis are still ridiculous. First, these Indian cultures--described as a blend of Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware--didn't use tipis. Second, the village is a permanent one dedicated to the obelisk. Indians used tipis as temporary dwellings, not permanent ones.

  • Spock and McCoy can't find Kirk so they depart for "a few hours" to stop the approaching asteroid. The sensible thing would've been to leave McCoy and a search party to look for Kirk.

  • As on other planets, everyone speaks English. Star Trek has never explained how this was possible. One could imagine universal translators built into Starfleet uniforms, but Kirk wears Native clothes for most of the episode. There's no way he could speak an Indian language immediately without some sort of technology.

  • In one scene soon after his arrival, Kirk is holding a gourd and knife as if he's taken up carving. But he's only been in the village a few hours. Did he learn how to carve gourds in Starfleet? Perhaps it's a remnant of his part-Sioux heritage.

  • Miramanee can't figure out Kirk's shirt because it doesn't have laces. How "civilized" do you have to be to figure out how to remove a shirt?

  • Miramanee says she's the daughter of chief Goro and a tribal priestess. She says she's supposed to marry the medicine chief because he's the tribe's "leader." So who exactly is the tribe's chief: Goro or Kirk? If the medicine chief is the tribe's leader, then Goro isn't.

  • Kirk has paint on his face for no reason. It isn't because he's going to war or to participate in a rite.

  • In Kirk's marriage ceremony, it appears an Indian in the background is shaking a large dreamcatcher as if it's a tambourine.

  • When Kirk lets his hair go, he grows mutton-chop sideburns. This isn't how hair grows naturally. He'd have to shave and trim his hair intentionally to end up with exaggerated mutton chops.

  • When the asteroid generates bad weather, everyone else appears to be dressed for the occasion, but Miramanee is still wearing her mini-skirt.

  • On the other hand, the station has edited out mentions of Kirk's "inventions": oil-based lamps and irrigation. It probably did this to add commercials, but it has the effect of making the episode slightly less racist. Indians invented these things long before Kirk did, of course.

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

    Savage Inequalities in our schools

    When we talk about the structural inequalities that perpetuate white privilege, we're talking about major institutions such as government, business, and the media. One huge area of inequality is our public-school system, which is largely funded by local property taxes. Schools in rich cities get more money per student even though schools in poor cities have greater needs and more "catching up" to do.

    Jonathan Kozol spells this out in his seminal book Savage Inequalities. You can read about here:

    Savage Inequalities--A Book ReviewIf the degree of segregation is what surprised him the most, however, he is equally outraged by the grown inequality, in public education, between rich and poor. Poor children, and especially poor children of color, he finds, are being increasingly written off as expendable, and any attempts to educate them are being seen as doomed to failure.Black Children Still Victimized by "Savage Inequalities"Racial isolation was the norm in the 30 cities and neighborhoods Kozol visited, an enforced regime of deprivation and near-total societal rejection. Local particularities seem as only minor variations on the America-wide, systemic assault on dark and poor children.This applies to reservation-based schools in spades. For many tribes, the US government was supposed to fully educate their children as a treaty obligation. It was the price Americans paid for all the land they took. But reservation-based schools have rarely if ever been equal to public schools elsewhere.

    By the numbers

    A few statistics on Indian-school spending give a hint of the disparities:

    A Second Century of Dishonor:  Federal Inequities and California Tribes, ch. IIn the 1920s, for example, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco used Indian Bureau figures to show that annual expenditures were $29.00 per capita for California Indians, and $40.00 or $66.00 (depending on who was included) for all other Indians. In the 1970s, studies by the state of California and reports commissioned by the BIA likewise demonstrated that per capita spending for California Indians was below that in other areas. For example, in 1975, per capita spending for California Indians was $309.97 of the total Bureau allotment, while spending in the Minneapolis Area was $859 per person and spending in Portland averaged $1,576 per person.FY2005 AppropriationsAmong TPA education programs, FY2004 funding for Indian students via Johnson O’Malley scholarships dropped by $143,000 from FY2003 enacted levels, cutting an important program in which funding per student was 65.4% less than during the early 1970s. Tribal leaders recommend a $15 million increase in TPA scholarships for the coming year.

    2004 marks the seventh straight year that $3000 will be allocated per student at BIA schools--less than half the amount per student that public schools will spend.
    I shouldn't have to explain how poor education hinders a population, but I'll give you a clue. It means fewer doctors, lawyers, business people, and (trained) government officials on the rez. It means fewer role models to inspire the next generation of Indians to achieve things. It means more self-esteem issues and socially unacceptable behavior as Indians see everyone but themselves getting ahead.

    That's a structural inequality. It won't necessarily change if Obama or an Indian becomes president or pope. It's a large-scale, long-term problem that requires large-scale, long-term solutions.

    Papal bull led to Cherokee rulings

    Newcomb:  ‘That’s just the way things are. …’As I have clearly documented in my book “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,” Justice Joseph Story (who was on the U.S. Supreme Court at the time of the Johnson ruling), later made a connection between the 1493 Vatican papal bull of Christian empire and discovery and the principle of discovery in the 1823 Johnson ruling.

    Benjamin Munn Ziegler, a Harvard trained professor of international law, explained the term “unoccupied lands” meant “occupied by Indians, but unoccupied by Christians.” International law scholar Henry Wheaton examined the papal bulls and royal charters of England. Through direct quotes, he demonstrated that those charters were aimed at “heathen and barbarous lands, countries, and territories, not actually possessed by any Christian prince of people,” and the colonizers were authorized “to hold, occupy, and enjoy the same, with all their commodities, jurisdictions, and royalties.”

    Based on that history, Wheaton said it “became a maxim of policy and of law, that the right of the native Indians was subordinate to that of the first Christian discoverer.” When representatives of Western Christendom arrived to non-Christian lands, the non-Christian Indians were to exist in law and policy subordinate to or beneath the level of Christian Europeans. This is the little understood Christian religious basis of the doctrine of domestic dependent nationhood in U.S. law.

    Rather than saying “that’s just the way things are,” what we need in Indian country are men and women who are willing to expose the Christian bigotry at the root of non-Indian federal Indian law and challenge those outmoded religiously racist doctrines starting with Johnson v. M’Intosh, which traces back to Vatican papal bulls and royal charters of the English crown.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Those Evil Europeans.

    Chiapas gangs = "war-painted tribes"?

    Don't compare Mexico gangs to American IndiansThis is in response to J.P. Devine's review of "Sin Nombre," which I went to see with my wife in order to check the Spanish translations about "the fetid landscape" of Chiapas, Mexico, a "Mexico no American ever Sees," dominated by gangs that are "little more than animals," tattooed poisonous flowers straight out of the darkest gardens of hell.

    According to Devine's review, the members of Chiapas gangs are "so covered with tattoos" that "they resemble the war-painted tribes of the great prairies. So mutilated are they, they could not possibly interact in modern society, so they push drugs and prostitutes among their own suppressed people."

    I find it difficult to understand Devine's comparison between the war-painted tribes of the great prairies, and the tattoos of the Chiapas that makes the tribes unfit to possibly interact in modern society without pushing drugs or prostitution.

    And, lest we forget, we know how Hollywood stereotyped the tribes of the great prairies into "painted savages."

    May 30, 2009

    Obama says discrimination exists

    Here's a column I read on Racialicious that's worth repeating in full:

    Obama, and the Birth of the (Above-)Racist

    By Guest Contributor Catherine, originally posted at Hyphen BlogThe New York Times commemorated President Obama’s 100th day in office last week with some optimistic reportage of race relations in the United States. Citing a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, the article asserted that Obama is positively influencing public perception of race relations, stating that

    Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July….
    If only the public’s perception of “progress” were motivated by actual progress. Even a cursory examination of the state of race relations in the US will reveal that we are still a very racially divided nation, in some ways even more so than before Obama’s election. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, just released a report which found that the number of hate groups in the US has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, and by 5 percent since last year. SPLC attributes the increase, in part, to growing anti-immigrant sentiment—a key point to remember, as Obama’s rise seems to have us thinking about race relations exclusively in black and white.

    It wasn’t so very long ago that we were all too aware of the racism-infused anti-immigration sentiment that surrounded last year’s elections and talks of immigration reform. Back in those days, the Pew Hispanic Center found that half of Latinos believed their situations were worse than they had been a year before—and this year, the situation only seems to have worsened. Polls commissioned by New American Media now find that 82 percent of Latinas report that discrimination is a major problem for their families. And let’s not forget Committee of 100’s recent national survey, which found that Asian Americans still experience considerable discrimination.

    And, contrary to apparent popular opinion and the cheery anecdotes featured by the New York Times, the situations of blacks haven’t improved markedly either, as Matthew Yglesias of ThinkProgress points out in his own analysis of the New York Times/CBS news poll results:

    I’m surprised that as many as forty-four percent of blacks say that both races have equal opportunity. I think the evidence is unambiguously clear that they do not. African-American children have parents with lower levels of income and education. Their families, even when they have above-average incomes, tend to have less wealth than white families. And even controlling for parental income and educational attainment, black kids do worse in schools than white kids. Then beyond all that, there’s clear evidence of discrimination against job applicants with “black” names that tends to suggest a broader pattern of employment discrimination. There are inequities in the criminal justice system both in terms of more punishment being meted out to black offenders, and the police and the courts doing less to protect black victims.
    Evidently, race relations haven’t improved quite as much as people want to believe. Clearly, in some situations, race relations have even deteriorated further. So what gives? Perhaps the (apparently unfounded) optimism uncovered by the poll has less to do with respondents’ personal observations of progress than it does with the overwhelming significance they placed on Obama’s election. Certainly the election of the first black/bi-racial US president is groundbreaking—and many, I’m sure, hoped that the very possibility of his election signified a momentous shift in the way Americans think about race. But the misguided belief that everything is automatically better now has unfortunate repercussions.

    What begins as a benign belief that things have changed for the better can quickly turn into the obstinate conviction that racism is behind us and need not be addressed any longer. I can’t count how many times, since Obama’s election, I’ve been advised to take my race relations commentary down a notch because, in post-race America, we are too “above race” to necessitate continued critical discourse on the matter. My own sister called me a racist recently for addressing race issues on the Hyphen blog because, according to her, doing so is an affront to everything that Obama has built for us. Such sentiments are shockingly pervasive, I’ve found—so much so, that I’ve taken to calling people who harbor them “(above-)racists”—people who think that race is so far beneath them that they can’t help but actually be racist. They are best known for their belief that Obama’s election means either 1) racism no longer exists or 2) white racism no longer exists and/or 3) pointing out racial differences (whether casually or critically) is, itself racist. Not exactly what Obama had in mind, I think, when he said this:

    …the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination—and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past—are real and must be addressed, not just with words, but with deeds….
    Clearly even Obama doesn’t think racism is behind us, and the rest of us would do well to get that straight too. We need to recognize that one man’s rise—however monumental—doesn’t in and of itself change the structural inequalities that have long defined and limited the experiences of people of color. Believing otherwise reduces Obama to a token—a misleading indicator of illusory social change—rather than correctly recognizing him as an important step forward on a (still) long journey towards racial equality.
    Comment:  In Educating Stephen About White Privilege, I said don't bother talking about music and sports as evidence that whites aren't privileged. I should've also said don't bother talking about the exceptions that prove the rule: Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Colin Powell, et al.

    Why not? To reiterate, because:We need to recognize that one man’s rise—however monumental—doesn’t in and of itself change the structural inequalities that have long defined and limited the experiences of people of color.And:[T]he path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination—and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past—are real and must be addressed, not just with words, but with deeds.When the US percentage of top positions government and business held by minorities equals the US percentage of minorities (about 30% at present), then you can hypothesize that racism and white privilege are no longer issues. Until then, don't bother talking about structural inequalities unless you actually address the issue of structural inequalities.

    For more on white privilege, see Systemic, Not Aberrant.

    Examples of ongoing racism

    Incidentally, it's hysterical that the same people who claim racism is over and done are the one who have attacked Sonia Sotomayor for being Hispanic. Can you say "hypocritical," conservatives? Presumably the "post-racial" era will begun right after you stop criticizing how she pronounces her name, what she eats, her temperament, etc.

    For examples of racism against Indians, you can reread Melvin Martin's series of essays:

    Indians on the chain gang
    Samoans riot over "Sambo" poster
    Denial ain't just a river in Africa
    Racists lack self-esteem
    "Gooks" assaulted with BBs, urine
    Martin on racial cowardice
    Most racist place in America?

    For more on the so-called post-racial era, see Hate Abounds in "Post-Racial" America, Racism Lives in ObamAmerica, and The Post-Racial, Post-Indian Era?

    P.S. Be sure to check out the excellent comments in the Racialicious thread on the same subject.

    Below:  One of the few media moguls who isn't white.

    Charles Dickens on "Esquimaux"

    The aftermath of the doomed Franklin expedition is also interesting.

    John FranklinIn 1854, explorer Dr. John Rae, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company, discovered the true fate of Franklin party from talking to Inuit hunters. He was told both ships had become icebound, the men had tried to reach safety on foot but had succumbed to cold and some had resorted to cannibalism. Rae's report to the Admiralty was leaked to the press, which led to widespread revulsion in Victorian society, enraged Franklin's widow and condemned Rae to ignominy.Dr. Rae and Mr. Dickens1. From Dr. John Rae's Report to the Hudson's Bay Company

    From the mutilated state of many of the bodies and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched Countrymen had been driven to the last dread alternative--cannibalism--as a means of prolonging existence.

    2. Charles Dickens, "The Lost Arctic Voyagers," Household Words, 2 December 1854

    Lastly, no man can, with any show of reason, undertake take to affirm that this sad remnant of Franklin's gallant band were not set upon and slain by the Esquimaux themselves. It is impossible to form an estimate of the character of any race of savages, from the deferential behaviour to the white man when he is strong. The mistake has been made again and again; and the moment the white man has appeared in the new aspect of being weaker than the savage, the savage has changed and sprung upon him. There are pious persons who, in their practice, with strange inconsistency, claim for every child born to civilisation all innate depravity, and for every savage born to the woods and wilds an innate virtue. We believe every savage to be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel; and we have yet to learn what knowledge the white man--lost, houseless, shipless, apparently forgotten by his race, plainly famine-stricken, weak, frozen, helpless, and dying--has of the gentleness of Esquimaux nature.
    Comment:  I've read stories of people marooned, shipwrecked, or lost at sea. It's interesting how white Christians will start chomping on each other at the slightest provocation. It must be something in their savage, barbaric nature. Perhaps they become habituated to the idea of eating human flesh from eating the body of Christ, which some do every week.

    Also interesting is that Dickens expressed an opinion about Natives--who knew?--and it was so negative. Based on his novels, I would've expected him to be more sympathetic to the poor, huddled masses of indigenous people. But I guess his sympathy extended only to Anglo-Saxons. Note his ugly portrayal of Fagin the Jew.

    Dickens wrote frequently about how England's upper classes were covetous, treacherous, and cruel. Yet when it came to the upper-class Franklin vs. the classless Inuit, he guessed the latter might have eaten the former. Upper-class Anglos were bad--they might rob people blind or send them to the poorhouse--but at least they were "civilized." The "Esquimaux" were much worse.

    Never mind that the Inuit probably took care of their poor, sick, and elderly much better than any Anglo society would. That the Inuit would've been appalled at Franklin's wasteful wealth and England's grinding poverty. To Dickens, apparently, white skins were good and brown skins were evil.

    For more on the subject, see Review of Arctic Passage: Ice Survivor and Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

    P.S. Thanks to correspondent DMarks for bringing this matter to my attention.

    Below:  Children go hungry in Dickens's England--an unthinkable occurrence in Inuit society.

    "Please, sir, can we pretend to be Esquimaux so I can have some more?"

    Pacifism is pathological?

    Russell:  Churchill’s third juryIn keeping with my normal practice of revealing my biases, I admit to being most offended by Churchill’s “Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America” (1998). It is, perhaps, his justification for that famous photograph of the learned professor with an assault rifle. My complaint comes from having worked with Cesar Chavez, admired Martin Luther King Jr., and spent no small amount of my life urging young Indians to train as “briefcase warriors.” American Indians are oppressed peoples, now as well as historically, but the way out for us is community organizing rather than gunplay.

    This fundamental disagreement about the role of an American Indian university professor colors my views of Churchill. Eichmann, Arendt famously observed, was not a particularly bright cog in a genocidal machine. Assuming everyone agrees that capitalism is a genocidal machine (although I, for one, do not), the idea that one who happens to be present in the World Trade Center is a cog in that machine is preposterous.
    More on the book in question:

    Pacifism as Pathology"This extraordinarily important book cuts to the heart of one of the central reasons movements to bring about social and environmental justice always fail. The fundamental question here is: is violence ever an acceptable tool to help bring about social change? This is probably the most important question of our time, yet so often discussions around it fall into clichés and magical thinking: that somehow if we are merely good and nice enough people, the state will stop using its violence to exploit us all. Would that this were true." --Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame, from the introduction.

    Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political resistance, has been the norm among mainstream North American progressive groups for decades. But to what end? Ward Churchill challenges the pacifist movement's heralded victories--Gandhi in India, 1960s antiwar activists, even Martin Luther King's civil rights movement--suggesting that their success was in spite of, rather than because of, their nonviolent tactics. Pacifism as Pathology was written as a response not only to Churchill's frustration with his own activist experience, but also to a debate raging in the activist and academic communities. He argues that pacifism is in many ways counterrevolutionary; that it defends the status quo, and doesn't lead to social change.
    Comment:  In the wake of 9/11, I posted Diplomacy Works, Violence Doesn't--a response to those who wanted to launch a "crusade" against Muslims. I'm glad to see history has proved me right again. We haven't captured Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda has regrouped, Afghanistan is still a failed state, Pakistan is still supporting terrorists, and we've wasted countless resources fighting a nonexistent threat in Iraq.

    Anyway, I agree with Russell on this issue. I can't think of many cases where armed revolution has led to a democracy that improved the lives of the masses. No doubt I'd kick Churchill's butt if we debated the issue.

    Princess Kaiulani trailer

    Ka’iulani:  the Activist Princess

    Travel Blog • Pam MandelSeeing her portrait reminded me of this article about the Ka’iulani movie that’s coming out, a lush costume drama that tells the story of the activist Princess’ short life. There was a bit of a flap about the movie because the working title for the picture is “Barbarian Princess.” Our guide at the museum told us that the press in her day, never having met Princess Ka’iulani, referred to her exactly that way—as the Barbarian Princess—but she won over “society” with her elegance and grace. Some Native Hawaiians were also angry that the role of the Princess went to the ethnically ambiguous Q’orianka Kilcher rather than to a Hawaiian actress; beyond that, they worried about the film crew’s impact on Iolani Palace, and were concerned that the story would trivialize a historic figure who fought for their independence.

    Comment:  Previous postings said Barbarian Princess was the working title before producer Marc Forby chose the title Princess Kaiulani. But IMDB.com lists it as Barbarian Princess (aka Princess Kaiulani). So Barbarian Princess may be the final title.

    Just because the press of the day used the phrase "Barbarian Princess" doesn't make it a good title. The press also called Indians things like "Heathen Savages," "Dirty Redskins" and "Murderous Devils," but I wouldn't choose those as titles for a Native-themed movie.

    Many people won't get the irony or even see the movie, so they'll think "Hawaiians = barbarians." I suggest something that combats stereotypes--like "500 Nations" or "We Shall Remain"--not something that reinforces them.

    Trailer thoughts

    As for the trailer, this movie looks like a Victorian-era costume drama set in England or America east of the Mississippi to me. It doesn't have much of the lush feel I associate with Hawaii.

    Obviously it shouldn't show hula girls or blond surfers or tourists in leis. But where are all the Hawaiian and Asian peoples and cultures? Where are all the scenic landscapes?

    Having read James Michener's Hawaii, watched Hawaii Five-0, and visited Hawaii twice, I'd say this movie should look and feel uniquely Hawaiian. I'm not getting that sense from the trailer.

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

    Mildred Bailey's tribal roots

    Artist puts her spin on songs of Native jazz pioneerBailey’s cultural identity has long been debated by jazz aficionados. “She was an early hipster and she talked a lot of jazz slang,” said Jim Price of Spokane, who is writing a biography of the singer. Bailey described herself in a recording of “St. Louis Woman” as “a little, short, fat squatty mama.” Her appearance led to the occasional conjecture that she had African-American ancestry. More often she was categorized as a white artist who was influenced by her friend, the African-American blues singer Bessie Smith.

    Even Bailey’s age was a matter of dispute; she claimed to have been born in 1907--which would have made her 44 at her death--but other accounts indicate her birth date may have been 1900.

    “She and her brothers were about 7/16s Indian, or just under half,” Price said. Bailey had an allotment on the Coeur d’Alene reservation and her family had also lived on the Spokane Indian Reservation. She grew up in Tekoa, Wash., near Spokane.

    “As a girl, she was exposed to tribal music,” Price said. “Her mother was a fine musician who played the piano and who also took part in tribal music.”

    Bailey called traditional Indian singing “a remarkable training and background” for a singer. “It takes a squeaky soprano and straightens out the clinkers that make it squeak; it removes the bass boom from the contralto’s voice,” she said. “This Indian singing does this because you have to sing a lot of notes to get by, and you’ve got to cover a lot of range.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Julia Keefe Revives Mildred Bailey.

    Women of the Four Winds concert

    Women of the Four Winds Concert Event at the Taos Mountain Casino“Celebrating the creativity, beauty, talent, and wisdom of Native American performers.”

    Music unifies the world and on Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 7pm, the Women of the Four Winds will be doing just that as Four Winds, LLC proudly presents a once in a lifetime first of Native American/Indigenous women coming together to perform their amazing music on one stage in an event to be hosted by The Taos Mountain Casino in Taos, New Mexico. Featuring Nammy Award winning artists Martha Redbone, Wayquay, 2009 Juno Award nominee (Canadian Grammy) Tracy Bone, and introducing Davidica with comedian Dawn Dumont serving as MC.
    Comment:  Usually entertainment events are dominated by men, so it's nice to see an all-female lineup.

    Below:  Historic Taos pueblo (not the site of the concert).

    Summing up We Shall Remain

    Indian Comics Irregular #183:  We Shall Remain a Success

    May 29, 2009

    Captain Kirk = part Sioux

    Winona KirkWinona Kirk was the wife of George Samuel Kirk Sr., and the mother of George Samuel Kirk Jr. and James T. Kirk. She was born circa 2210 and was of Sioux descent. (TOS novels: Enterprise: The First Adventure, Final Frontier, and Best Destiny; TOS comic: "Who's Who in Star Trek" #1)Comment:  I knew I had read something about Kirk's Indian heritage, but I couldn't remember where. It was in these novels, all of which I've read. Thanks to correspondent DMarks for bringing this matter to my attention.

    Memory Alpha and Memory Beta both claimed author Diane Carey named Kirk's mother Winona in Final Frontier. Not so: Vonda N. McIntyre mentioned Winona and Kirk's Sioux ancestry two years earlier in Enterprise: The First Adventure. I don't know if McIntyre was the first to use Winona, but she preceded Carey.

    I'm guessing McIntyre knew that "Winona" is a Sioux name meaning "first-born daughter" or "eldest daughter." We learned a bit about a previous Winona in The Myth of Princess Wenonah. Clearly someone knew Indian lore in making Kirk's mother part Indian.

    Review of Star Trek

    This discussion is a good excuse for reviewing the new Star Trek movie, which I saw this afternoon. Alas, it was good but not great. A lot of fun, but not what I'd call real Trek. I'd say it resembled a young tribute band pretending to be rock legends.

    For Trek fans, the movie had a ton of problems. Almost every one of the criticisms in these reviews is spot-on:

    Star Trek (PG-13)There’s an inescapable sense of watching kids playing dress-up throughout—a kind of Muppet Babies aura.Movie Review Star Trek: Where No Man Should Go at AllFar from being in the spirit of the original "Star Trek," the new film is more in line with "The Terminator," in which drama and character are really only contrivances set up to get action sequences in motion.Star Trek (2009)[W]hy was a decision made to craft an alternate reality for the show, altering key figure storylines, altering inner-personal conflicts and infuse it with enough action to choke a vole? The answer is quite simple: J.J. Abrams is a Star Wars fan, not a Star Trek fan.Star TrekThe Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action. Like so many franchises, it’s more concerned with repeating a successful formula than going boldly where no “Star Trek” has gone before.Star Trek (2009)Chris Pine's take on James Tiberius Kirk is a textbook example of what's wrong: his Kirk is a cocky, smartass ruffian who may be an expert strategist but has clearly never thought anything deeper than how to get alien babes into his bed.Two Spocks?  That would be highly illogical, captainUnfortunately, what started out as an energetic, fun, lively and respectful imagining of the Star Trek saga then ferments into a tangle of tired cliches about time travel and intergalactic revenge.More reviews

    In The Racialicious Roundtable For ‘Star Trek’, several young critics note how "hot" the young actors are. Among these critical chestnuts are a few gems:Elton wrote:

    The Star Wars/Star Trek divide stems from how Star Wars is a space opera fantasy, emphasizing mythological and supernatural elements, and how Star Trek is science fiction, with allegorical statements about real world politics, race relations, and morality.

    Unfortunately, Trek XI is more space opera than science fiction. The obviousness of Abrams’ desire to make the franchise more Lucas than Roddenberry is pretty appalling to someone who has actually watched the five TV series.

    I don’t see that Abrams Trek is Star Trek in any sense deeper than the characters, places, and ship have the same names. Whatever we see of the original series–whether it be that clichéd optimism about the future of humanity non-fans are always harping on, the *essence* of the Enterprise and her crew, Starfleet, Starfleet Academy, the Federation, 23rd/24th century Earth and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant, or the made-for-TV allegories Roddenberry so loved–Star Trek fans are projecting onto this movie.

    This is Trek legacy, and Abrams hasn’t earned any of it–he outright rejects it. His contribution was to reimagine the origins of Kirk and Spock, getting a lot of details not only different, but wrong. Mere revision of canon is not necessarily wrong, but incoherent and illogical plot, uncharacteristic behavior and situations, and ignorance of Trek beyond the superficial *is* wrong.

    EB wrote:

    I do agree with Elton, this movie got a lot of the Star Trek details wrong which made it hard for me, as a Star Trek fan, to fit this movie into the established Star Trek Universe. I can accept a complete reboot, but I also just found the movie full of holes--

    What rubs me wrong about Kirk is not that he’s the athlete among the nerds, but that he’s the white American guy whose been advanced over everyone else without merit (literally it’s a--“you showed up against orders, you’re first officer while I’m gone”).

    Somehow, Kirk is so special that he doesn’t need to earn his place, it’s given to him and accepted that because of his gender and origins he’s supposed to be the natural leader and any other power structure in which he has to answer to someone else is unnatural.

    jsb16 wrote:

    To be honest, I couldn’t take this Star Trek at all seriously. It was so obviously fanfiction, from the time-travel conceit that underlies it to the shot of Iowa that might as well have been Tatooine to the plot holes large enough to hit warp speed in…

    pololly wrote:

    [T]hinking it through, I really liked Star Trek because I honestly felt like it was a big fun dumb movie.
    Rob's review [spoiler alert]

    You can find plenty of reviews that tell you what was good about the movie, including some of the above. The first third of movie that introduced the characters was fine. Once they boarded the Enterprise, however, problems started cropping up.

    Here are some of the movie's worse flaws:

  • The elimination of Captain Pike's voyages on the Enterprise, the Vulcan homeworld, and Spock's mother.

  • Uhura as a sex object, Chekov's over-the-top accent, and Scotty's transformation from an old-fashioned gentleman into a scruffy punk. (For more on Uhura, see my comments here and here.)

  • The ultra-industrial look of the Enterprise's interior, which made Jonathan Archer's Enterprise look like a cruise ship.

  • The "stardates" that were merely years with decimal points.

  • The new swirly transporter effect. I swear every version of Trek makes the transporter look worse, not better.

  • Kirk's instant promotion from stowaway to first officer to captain despite the other qualified personnel on board.

  • Spock's marooning Kirk on a Vulcan ice moon. Starfleet doesn't send people to their probable deaths for rules violations, idiots!

  • Kirk's happening to meet both old Spock and Scotty in exile on the ice moon. Holy coincidence, Batman!

  • Scotty's trip through the indoor plumbing. Cute in a Willy Wonka movie, stupid in Star Trek.

  • Kirk hung by his fingers three times and was choked at least twice. These are silly, clichéd ways of putting someone in danger. If Kirk could survive dangling over molten lava in The Search for Spock, we knew he could survive this.

  • The complete lack of explanation for why the pseudo-Romulans were different from before, with no sense of duty or honor.

  • The unfortunate changes to the real continuity, as opposed to this fake continuity: no more Spock or Romulan Empire in Star Trek's 23rd-century "present."

  • As for the characters...not only was Karl Urban's McCoy the best, but he was the only actor doing the right thing. Everyone else was doing their (or Abrams's) impression of how the characters should be. E.g., Spock as an angry young man whose logic barely masks his emotions. Only Urban was trying to give us the, er, real McCoy--i.e., the characters brought to life by the old cast members.

    For the first third of the movie, I was thinking it could be an 8.5. Second third, maybe a 7.5. Third third, a 6.5. Overall rating: 7.5 of 10. Which puts it well behind most of the Trek movies.

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

    Below:  The real Kirk acting out his Sioux side.

    The "Other" and The Terror

    Some reviews of The Terror, Dan Simmons's novel about the doomed Franklin expedition, tell us more about the contrast between Western and indigenous views.

    The TerrorFrom Publishers Weekly

    Starred Review. Hugo-winner Simmons (Olympos) brings the horrific trials and tribulations of arctic exploration vividly to life in this beautifully written historical, which injects a note of supernatural horror into the 1840s Franklin expedition and its doomed search for the Northwest Passage. Sir John Franklin, the leader of the expedition and captain of the Erebus, is an aging fool. Francis Crozier, his second in command and captain of the Terror, is a competent sailor, but embittered after years of seeing lesser men with better connections given preferment over him. With their two ships quickly trapped in pack ice, their voyage is a disaster from start to finish. Some men perish from disease, others from the cold, still others from botulism traced to tinned food purchased from the lowest bidder. Madness, mutiny and cannibalism follow. And then there's the monstrous creature from the ice, the thing like a polar bear but many times larger, possessed of a dark and vicious intelligence. This complex tale should find many devoted readers and add significantly to Simmons's already considerable reputation.

    From The Washington Post
    Reviewed by David Masiel


    Faced with mutinous threats, general starvation, intense cold and something wrong with their tinned food supply (scurvy and lead poisoning appear rampant), Crozier provides leadership without arrogance. As the novel's protagonist, he is a man of the people, a realist, unlucky in love. As an Irishman in the British Royal Navy, he has been largely ignored by the Admiralty despite his stoic competence.

    By contrast, Franklin represents most of what was wrong in early British Arctic exploration. His prior expeditions had met with minimal success, making him best known in England as "the man who ate his shoes," though given all the other things men ate to stay alive on Arctic expeditions, it's unclear why shoe leather would be singled out for ignominy. Goaded by his very public failings, Franklin retained his penchant for arrogant idealism and wasteful ritual. He brought along fine china and monogrammed silverware, among other "necessities." In the end, his primary mistake is cultural: Out of xenophobia he refuses to adopt local methods of travel, shelter and hunting. Yet to say that Sir John gets his just deserts is unfair if only because 128 others suffer the same fate.

    Crozier recognizes the captain's weaknesses, and therein lies the novel's poignant sense of loss. He dispenses shipboard justice out of practical necessity rather than lofty idealism. In their desperate hours, he preaches not from the Bible favored by Franklin but from the "Book of Leviathan"--his own recitations from Thomas Hobbes, which, among other things, explains the birth of superstition and religion: "There was nothing which a Poet could introduce as a person in his Poem, which [man] did not make into either a God or a Divel." As the novel descends toward its hellish climax, the "Divel" chasing our crew--that "Thing on the ice"--transcends its monstrous nature and becomes the manifestation of earthly retribution, wild payback for the hubris of Western civilization.

    The vehicle of that transcendence is Lady Silence, a mute Inuit girl who lives on the ship and goes at her own whim, providing a portal to Eskimo mythology and shamanism. Northern spiritual philosophy gives the world--and this novel--its ultimate balance, predicting the coming of kabloona ("pale people"), whose arrival brings "drunkenness and despair," melts the sea ice, kills off the white bear and calls forth the "End of Times." While Franklin's men are unable to escape the realities of starvation, brutal cold and the violent urge, Crozier's instinct for survival pushes the novel to its ethereal end.
    Christy's review of The Terror: A NovelDan Simmons' The Terror may be one of the few novels I've read that makes me grateful to live in Texas. This imaginative re-telling of the doomed Franklin expedition of 1845 to find the Northwest Passage is overwhelming in its details of life and death in the Arctic north. The cold is constant, the dark is depressing, and the wind, snow, ice, fog, and (when it appears) water are life-threatening.

    There are fanciful (less than strictly factual) elements to the story, too, including a large creature that stalks the ships and kills men easily, a creature that is not merely physical, but spirit. And the final chapters of the book turn from realist representations of attempts at survival in the fatal north to mythic representations of Inuit culture and finally to a synthesis between the two.

    One thing these inclusions certainly do is reveal the stark contrast between the European expedition's goals and methods (and the madness of these goals and methods) with the knowledge and skill the native people have in this land. The Englishmen carried with them, from England and then from their ships, cutlery, books, jewelry, trinkets. They did not know how to survive and yet they thought they would conquer this frozen world. Franklin's very insistence on pushing forward, his insistence that any day now the pack ice would melt away from the ships and reveal the Northwest Passage is, in this context, nothing short of insanity. The things that are described in the Inuit culture (communion with spirits, communion between humans that requires no speech, etc.) may seem like insanity to outsiders, but no more so than the European methods of exploration and survival seem like insanity when seen from the perspective of those who survive the severity of the Arctic circle.

    The Terror is about the terror of the Other, the terror borne of a lack of understanding. The Terror is also about how we deal with that terror. Do we flail against it, try to beat it into submission, as did the Englishmen? Or do we learn to live with it, learn to appease it and live alongside it, as did the Inuit?
    Comment:  When we killed the Indians, interned the Japanese Americans, and invaded Iraq, it was for roughly the same reasons: "the terror of the Other, the terror borne of a lack of understanding." We did roughly the same thing Franklin's expedition did about its situation: "flail against it, try to beat it into submission." That's basically the Euro-American way: to shoot first and ask questions later.

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

    Sotomayor favors "reconquista"?

    As with the lily-white tea parties that compared Obama to Hitler and stereotyped Indians, conservatives are demonstrating their racism again:

    Tancredo Confuses Mottos, Logos, And Much, Much MoreAs you probably already know, right wing, anti-immigration extremist Tom Tancredo went on CNN yesterday and accused Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor of being a member of a "Latino KKK" (known to people like John McCain as the perfectly uncontroversial National Council of La Raza).How Tancredo got it wrong:The motto Tancredo's referring to seems to be a mistranslation of a slogan of sorts from the 1960s:"Por La Raza todo, fuera de La Raza nada," meaning, literally, "for the race [or community], everything; outside the race, nothing."

    It's a line that appears in a '60s era manifesto called El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, which was influential to members of a separate group called MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán). Several decades ago, MEChA was a fairly radical student organization, whose mission was to return the lands of the southwest United States to Mexico--an idea called "reconquista." Since then it has become, basically, the equivalent of a Mexican Students Association at most colleges across the country.]
    Why conservatives keep embarrassing themselves:These are the sort of ambiguities that I suppose you miss, if you can't tell the difference between a motto and a logo, or MEChA and NCLR, or, dare we say, people of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent.More on Sotomayor's alleged racism:

    Commentary:  Judge Sotomayor is not a racist The evidence offered in support of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's alleged racism is a speech she gave in Berkeley, California, in honor of Judge Mario G. Olmos, a former judge, community leader and graduate of Boalt Hall Law School who died an untimely death at the age of 43.

    The offending section of the speech is this: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." This passage inspired Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives and potential 2012 presidential candidate, to call Judge Sotomayor "a Latina racist."

    To lift one statement out of Judge Sotomayor's eight-page speech without examining the context and substance of her remarks, is an example of the kind of shoddy character assassination that I suspect will dominate this judicial confirmation process.

    Judge Sotomayor's speech is, in fact, an excellent meditation on how the experiences of judges might affect how they approach aspects of judicial decision-making. It explores the important, and too-little examined reality that judicial deliberations can be affected by a judge's background, perspective and experience.
    Comment:  The idea that judges are objective and decide cases based only on the law is a complete fiction. This is especially true of conservative judges and the people who tout them as models of judicial "restraint."

    For evidence, look no further than all the 5-4 Supreme Court decisions that split along ideological lines. If beliefs didn't influence decisions, there would be no left-right splits.

    For more on the subject, see The Search for Aztlán and Antonin Scalia:  Supreme Court Doofus.

    Celebrity fundraiser against domestic violence

    Celebs to turn out for Healing Path fundraiserThe annual Walking the Healing Path, a long-distance trek aimed at deterring domestic violence, is less than a month away and organizers say they must raise over $20,000 to cover the costs of this year's event.

    The walk was founded and is coordinated by John Tsosie and Ernest Tsosie III, a father-son team who this year plan to walk from Window Rock to Denver, a journey of over 600 miles.
    The celebs involved in the fundraiser:"An Evening of Music and Laughter to End Domestic Violence" will feature Radmilla Cody, Q'orianka Kilcher, and the James & Ernie comedy duo.

    Cody, a singer and motivational speaker, will take time out from production work on her forthcoming album but said she's glad to help out.

    "I'm excited to perform especially since this deals with domestic violence," Cody said in a recent telephone interview. "As you know I've had my share with my personal experiences."

    Cody is a survivor of domestic violence, having become involved with an abusive boyfriend while serving as Miss Navajo Nation 1997-98.
    And:Actress, activist and musician Kilcher, who starred as Pocahontas in the 2006 movie "The New World," will also take part in the fundraiser.

    "I'm not sure what I will be doing but I know that I will be there," Kilcher confirmed in a recent telephone interview from her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

    "Domestic violence is personal," she said. "It leaves you feeling helplessness and hopelessness. I'm sure we all know someone that has been affected by domestic violence. It affects us all."

    Kilcher recently completed filming on "Barbarian Princess," in which she plays Princess Ka'iulani, the last crown princess of Hawaii.

    John Tsosie also turned to his brother, Ernest Tsosie III, one-half of James & Ernie. The popular comedians will perform some of their favorite skits at the fundraiser.
    Comment:  So the movie's name has changed from Princess Kaiulani to Barbarian Princesss? Sounds like it'll be getting some criticism when it comes out.

    For more on the subject, see Q'orianka's Hawaiian Epic and The Best Indian Movies.

    Filipina girl is Navajo princess

    Non-Navajo is Twin Lakes princess

    By Cindy YurthYou had to look--and listen--closely to see that Twin Lakes Elementary School last week crowned a non-Navajo as its princess.

    "She had the outfit, she had the tsííyeel ... she looked just like a little Navajo girl," said Carmen Clark, the new princess' Navajo language teacher.

    In fact, Charlize Fernandez is 100 percent Filipina ... though she's spent seven of her eight years on the Navajo Nation.

    "We're Navajos at heart," said Charlize's mom, Jane Fernandez.
    Comment:  Nice to see that Indians can be as multicultural as anybody else.

    For more on the subject, see "Feminist" Mohegan Princess, Native Named Miss Alaska USA, and Beauty Pageant = Female Pride.

    Below:  "Newly crowned Miss Twin Lakes Elementary School Princess Charlize Colle B. Fernandez poses with her father, Hindley Fernandez, May 21 at Twin Lakes Elementary School in Twin Lakes, N.M. Fernandez, a 2nd grader and of Filipino descent, introduced herself in Navajo." (Times photo--Donovan Quintero)

    Blackfeet tours of Glacier

    Tribal culture lights up Sun Tours

    By Jessica GrayTravelers looking for insights into Glacier National Park's ancient cultural past can find it among the many Native American influences in the park.

    One option is to go on an interpretive tour over Going-to-the-Sun Road with Sun Tours. Sun Tours offers daily tours, which include a narrative on Glacier's natural features and the relevance to the Blackfeet Indian Nation in the past and the present. The Blackfeet call Glacier's landscape the "Backbone of the World." This tour shows you why.

    The tours concentrate on the awe-inspiring landscape, as well as the seasonal changes to habitat, the various ecosystems, the glaciers, animals and the history of the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. The interpretive guides are members of the Blackfeet Tribe who provide first-hand knowledge of tribal history, culture and lifestyle. The guides share spiritual and philosophical perspectives as well.
    Comment:  Sounds like a tour I'd enjoy.

    For more on the subject, see Native America Speaks at Glacier.

    Indians oppose Churchill's rehiring

    Court affidavits filed in protest of CU rehiring Ward ChurchillAffidavits were filed last week by several prominent Native people and scholars in objection to the possible rehiring of former professor Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado-Boulder.Comment:  Follow the link to read the actual affidavits.

    The Indians filing affidavits include Chief Chad Smith, Elizabeth Lynn-Cook, and Suzan Shown Harjo. So much for Churchill's claim that there's no controversy about him among Indians.

    For more on the subject, see Churchill from Beginning to End and Churchill Wins His Case.

    May 28, 2009

    Educating Stephen about white privilege

    In Samoans Riot Over "Sambo" Poster, reader Stephen complained about my mention of white privilege. Here's my response:

    First, let's note that you didn't have anything specific to say about my claim re the Sambo poster. You attacked the concept of white privilege in general because you can't stand anything that makes "your" people look bad.

    As I've said before, it's amazing how defensive you are about being white. You're not dumb enough to try to defend genocide, boarding schools, or mascots in this blog, but you deny or excuse most other charges of racism against whites. Especially charges against the Irish, Scots-Irish, or whoever it is you consider your ancestors.

    Some specific problems with your response:

    Whites are privileged nowA. It implies that caucasians in general are privileged; the whites who are piss poor and reviled as 'rednecks 'white trash' or 'racists' are not exactly rolling in priviledged. However there's no denying that a White elite exists.a) Whites in general are privileged. Even poor whites have advantages over minorities. Especially equally poor minorities.

    If you disagree, show us some evidence to the contrary. For instance, evidence that minorities dominate significant institutions in our society. Hint: Sports and music don't count unless minorities are the owners, not merely the players.

    But whatever you do, spare us your inability to deal with generalizations and start making an actual case. In other words, put up or shut up. If you can't support your case with facts and evidence, give up and admit you've lost another debate.

    Whites have always been privilegedB. It implies that Whites have a history of being privileged; I wouldn't say the Jews or Armenians have had a free ride.b) Whites in general do have a history of being privileged. Not all whites, bright boy, but whites in general. If you still don't understand what a generalization is, let me know and I'll explain it to you.

    In large part we're talking about white Anglo-Saxons. You know, the whites who have dominated many institutions throughout America's history? The whites who have made up a majority of America's whites?

    In recent years, other white people--Irish, Italian, Greek, Polish, Jewish, Armenian, et al.--have joined WASPs among the privileged. But blacks, Latinos, and other minorities are still on the outside looking in. To simplify it for you, white skins have power, brown skins don't.

    But so what if the makeup of the white elite has changed somewhat over the years? What hasn't changed is that the elite are still white. Hence the phrase "white privilege" rather than "Anglo-Saxon privilege"...duh.

    The concept dates to 1935, at leastC. The term comes from the domestic terrorist org the weather underground, is it really wise to use terms coined by idiotic rich kids who thought they could change the world with pipe bombs?c) For starters, Wikipedia saysThe Weathermen were outspoken advocates of the critical concepts that later came to be known as “white privilege” and identity politics.So you're probably wrong about the origin of the phrase. If you disagree, cite and quote your evidence.

    More important, who cares who came up with the phrase? If you read the Wikipedia entry, you'd know the concept goes back at least to W. E. B. Du Bois and his 1935 book Black Reconstruction in America. It wouldn't surprise me if intellectuals have discussed and debated the concept since the Reconstruction Era.

    In short, your third point is wrong and irrelevant to boot. No one cares where the term comes from if it accurately describes a problem. Which it does.

    Affirmative action?D. Affirmative action isn't actually insignificant.d) Did someone say affirmative action is insignificant? Did anyone even mention affirmative action? No.

    I don't get your point here. If I had to guess, I'd say you're going to tell us how your poor white relatives are losing jobs to people who don't deserve them. In other words, a typical racist rant that blames the "problems" of whites on minorities.

    Did I guess right? If not, please fill us in. Clarify your unclear point so we know what you're talking about.

    I trust you have better arguments than these about the so-called "cliche" or "myth" of white privilege. So far your arguments look pretty shallow to me. If you think you can do better, try disputing the 281,000 hits you get when you Google "white privilege." Good luck...you'll need it.

    Blog titles

    Finally, that you've criticized me for putting my name in the title of blog postings is a joke. Here's why your criticism is stupid:

    First, it's my blog, so why would I need to put my name in the title to get attention? I get attention from every posting whether my name is in it or not.

    Second, I've done it a couple dozen times, so it's nothing new. When you pick on any one posting, you're only revealing your ignorance of this blog's history.

    Third, I'll put anyone's name in the title if it reflects what the posting is about. This posting is about how you bitch and moan every time I generalize about whites--even if my statements are generally true.

    For more on the subject, see my posting on systemic racism.

    Below:  An example of white privilege in action. (Hint: This is a mock picture that depicts a valid point. See if you can figure it out so I don't have to spell it out for you.)

    The doomed Franklin expedition

    In Review of Arctic Passage: Ice Survivor, I reported on the Amundsen expedition that succeeded where the Franklin expedition failed. Here's the story on the earlier attempt:

    The Franklin Expedition:  1845-1859

    By Kathryn CassidyThe purpose of the Franklin Expedition was to map out the North-West Passage from Europe to Asia. This story can be linked to Victorian attempts to complete geographical knowledge of remote regions (i. e., in terms of the relief of the land and the climate), to fulfill the historical goals of Elizabethan navigators and explorers such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake (i. e., in terms of the historic context of such a journey on the development of the North), as well as to English Literature, in terms of its link to such stories involving polar settings and issues of survival as Mary Shelley's Romantic novel Frankenstein (1818) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's literary ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which opened the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads).

    The Franklin Expedition had five years of food supplies, including 8,000 tins (in one-, two-, four-, six-, and eight lb. capacities) of meat, vegetables, and soup. In Frozen in Time (1987), basing their conclusions on forensic examinations of two of the expedition members' bodies, Owen Beattie and John Geiger contend that the tins were sealed improperly, with lead solder running down the inside of each tin; since lead if ingested is poisonous, the metal probably seeped into the crews’ food. In addition to the technical innovation of tinned goods, Franklin's vessels the "Erebus" and "Terror" had cabins which were heated by hot water piped through the floor. The ships' bows were reinforced with iron planks to help them break through ice. Moreover, each ship was equipped with a specially designed screw propeller driven by a wheel-less steam locomotive from the London and Greenwich Railway. Thus, better equipped than any previous polar expedition, Sir John Franklin set out on his fourth search of the North-West passage on 19 May 1845, with 134 sailors and officers. They were last seen by the crew of two whaling ships, the "Prince of Wales" and the "Enterprise," in Baffin Bay at the end of July. In 1850, near the mouth of Great Fish River, Inuit hunters discovered the bodies of 30 men and a number of graves. Since some of the bodies were mutilated, the natives believed that the white men had resorted to cannibalism.
    John Franklin (Wikipedia)

    Comment:  Arctic Passage makes it clear that Amundsen succeeded because he adopted Inuit ways of surviving and traveling in the Arctic. We can see a hint of why Franklin failed in the note about his 8,000 tins of food.

    In my brief search, I didn't see anything about Franklin's consulting with the Inuit before or during his voyages. But correspondent DMarks has read The Terror by Dan Simmons about Franklin's expedition. His mini-report on the novel:It has major "Native elements," including the explorers' dismissal of Inuit ways of survival in the North, and their rather haughty racial attitude overall.Franklin and Frankenstein

    Interesting to note that the Arctic was as unknown and mysterious as Africa's "heart of darkness" at one point. Beginning with (part of) Frankenstein and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, writers envisioned the north as a land haunted by demons and death. Some populated it with strange races that lived in the cold or in heated valleys or through passages that led to the Earth's interior.

    Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (1818)—A Summary of Modern CriticismWhile Walton's polar expedition (actuated by the wrong-headed notion acquired as a child that Hyperboreans lead a paradisal existence at an iceless North Pole) threatens the lives of his crew, Frankenstein acknowledges that his experiment has loosed a killer upon unsuspecting humanity.Polar Fiction

    This Western view is probably the "polar" opposite of how the Inuit view their homeland. I imagine they see it as harsh and sometimes deadly but not evil or anti-human. We don't imagine that deserts are filled with lost races and man-eating monsters, so why should we imagine this of icescapes?

    I suspect it has something to do with the presence of the Inuit. These days we don't imagine life on the Moon because, well, it's lifeless. But the Inuit proved the Arctic was more habitable than the Moon or the Sahara. Their lives were normal enough to make them comfortable but "alien" enough to perplex us. They inspired us to imagine dark forces surrounding and haunting them.

    For more on the subject, see Inuit in The Cage and Eskimos:  The Ultimate Aborigines.

    Self-identification as an Indian

    Russell:  Churchill’s third juryChurchill’s first jury was the Indian community, to the extent that it is a community, and that jury was not unanimous. There are individuals who are willing to claim Churchill as Indian. Last I looked, however, no individual could confer a tribal identity.

    In anticipation of Churchill’s apologists, let us incinerate a straw man: blood quantum.

    Make a Venn diagram. One circle is Indians by blood without regard to how much blood. The other is Indians by citizenship. They overlap, but not completely. The Cherokee freedmen, those without Cherokee blood anyway, are Indians by citizenship, a Cherokee citizenship they had under Cherokee law before the 14th Amendment gave them U.S. citizenship and, indeed, before Cherokees maintaining tribal relations had U.S. citizenship.

    The issue is not whether those two circles completely overlap. They don’t. The issue is who gets to locate the circles. Churchill’s idea of self-identification means individuals get to draw the circles. I say tribes get to draw the circles.
    Comment:  If Russell is saying that people in either circle are Indians, I don't buy it. Huge numbers of Americans have at least a drop of Indian blood. Churchill may be one of them. Does that mean they're all Indians?

    I'd draw the circles somewhat differently. One for tribal citizenship, one for a sufficient quantum of blood (which might be 1/2 or 1/4), and one for recognition by other Indians. This is roughly the criteria I outlined in "Actual Indian" Defined.

    Regardless of who drew Russell's "blood" circle, it would include Churchill if he had a drop of Indian blood. My "blood" circle wouldn't. It also wouldn't include all the pretenders such as Johnny Depp, Taylor Lautner, and Mizuo Peck.

    Churchill's self-identification is like adding a third circle to Russell's diagram. That circle is the one drawn by Churchill and supporters such as Angryindian. Not only does it include Churchill, it also includes Carlos Castaneda, Philip "Cloudpiler" Landis, Malcolm "Grand Chief Thunderbird" Webber, and every other New Age fraud and Indian wannabe. If Churchill is an Indian by self-identification, so are they.

    Rob now an Indian?

    Heck, if identifying oneself is enough to be an Indian, I'll start doing it myself. Then Angryindian can fawn over me just as he fawns over Churchill. Angryindian's shilling for us will be identical because our positions will be identical. We'll both be white men who have declared ourselves Indians until someone proves otherwise.

    This is why I've laughed at Angryindian and his assertion that Churchill is an Indian until someone proves he isn't. Wrong, bright boy. He's a wannabe until he proves he's an Indian--by tribal citizenship, blood quantum, or recognition by his community. Every Indian explicitly or implicitly meets one of these standards.

    Unfortunately for Churchill, he hasn't met any of them. All he's "met" is his ridiculous standard of self-identification. Which again makes him the same as "Cloudpiler," "Grand Chief Thunderbird," and me.

    For more on the subject, see Cook-Lynn:  Don't Rehire Churchill and Rob Shouldn't Judge Natives?

    P.S. As I've said before, I was a math major in college. You can trust me on the subject of Venn diagrams.

    Rosebud too poor for airport?

    Criticism Over Tribal Airport Borders On Racism

    By Kevin AbourezkIn a May 19 editorial, Madison (S.D.) Daily Leader Publisher Jon M. Hunter criticized $4.1 million of stimulus money that will pay for an airport for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

    Hunter didn't question that construction of the airport would fall under the provision of rebuilding infrastructure, one of the stated goals of the federal stimulus act. However, Hunter questioned whether a new airport was what was most needed on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, "where alcoholism and poverty are pervasive, education is substandard and healthcare quality is questioned."

    While failing to support his assertions with facts or statistics, Hunter continued to rail on the horrendous conditions of the reservation.

    "Since many tribal members don't have enough money to buy a used car or the gasoline for it, we would guess that there are a limited number of private or corporate airplanes at Rosebud," he wrote.

    And that's where Hunter revealed his ignorance.
    And:While poverty certainly is rampant on the Rosebud Reservation, there are still plenty of people who can afford to buy cars, gasoline and, yes, even plane tickets.

    Rosebud Tribal President Rodney M. Bordeaux retorted in a column this week on Indianz.com, saying some tribal members are so angry over Hunter's "derogatory racial stererotypes" they are considering legal action.

    "If the only factual support for these statements are the gut feelings of whoever ‘we' are, why not simply say all Native Americans are alcoholic, poor, lazy, and uneducated people?" Bordeaux wrote.

    As Bordeaux pointed out, the airport will allow the tribe to transport critically ill patients from the reservation to larger hospitals. A significantly smaller airport on the reservation is barely able to support the more than 270 flights a year that take patients to hospitals beyond the tribe's borders. Construction of the airport will create about 150 jobs, thus meeting a very clear goal of the stimulus act: job creation.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Good-for-Nothing Indians.

    Bush the "normal" American

    In A Note on Identity Politics, Paul Krugman quotes Peggy Noonan to explain why so many people joined the cult of George W. Bush:I was asked this week why the president seems so attractive to the heartland, to what used to be called Middle America. A big question. I found my mind going to this word: normal.

    Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He’s normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He’s not exotic. But if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help. He’ll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, “Where’s Sally?” He’s responsible. He’s not an intellectual.
    Comment:  This explains why conservatives are foaming at the mouth at the thought of a Latina on the Supreme Court. It also explains how Obama got elected: by making himself seem as normal and unthreatening as the average white man. And it explains why we may be decades away from electing a homosexual, a Muslim, or an Indian.

    We could go on and on about the ways Bush is a "normal" American. He's a scion of white privilege--born on third base but thought he hit a triple. He's ignorant of foreigners and their beliefs and cultures. He believes God and the Bible are the fundamental source of wisdom. He thinks invading countries and killing people is the way to solve problems.

    These qualities also describe the typical Euro-American who helped conquer the Indians. Which suggests why Bush couldn't define tribal sovereignty when asked. Like most Americans, he probably thinks Indians are a primitive people of the past.

    For more on electing an "exotic" president, see Searching for a Native Obama and No Natives for President? For more on "normal" Americans, see A Shining City on a Hill:  What Americans Believe and Adolf Hitler:  A True American.

    Pix of Native Americans in Comic Books

    Some photos of Michael Sheyahshe and his book Native Americans in Comic Books on Facebook:

    Native Americans in Comic Books's Photos--book images

    For more on the subject, see Book to Look For and Comic Books Featuring Indians.