October 31, 2009

Liv Tyler = Cherokee Pocahontas?!

In Indians, Wizards, Fairies, and Ghouls, a blogger named Brooke denounced stereotypical Halloween costumes. This generated a typical debate on the subject, with defenders of racism trotting out the usual defenses of racism. (E.g., "stop being so sensitive," "this is just PC," "get over it.")

One anonymous commenter had slightly more original arguments, which correspondent DMarks and I responded to. This led to the following debate within a debate:Anonymous said...

so, you're complaining that people are confusing 'real' and 'mythical' characters, and then getting offended that the costumes don't represent the 'real' versions. obviously they don't; as you yourself said to begin with, halloween is about dressing up as mythical characters.

there's no room for sarcasm or satire in your description, to say nothing of humor or imagination. commenters taking it upon themselves to police other people's true identities are, i'd say, more disturbing than pocahontas outfits.

there's a lot of serious racism out there, and a lot of it comes out to play on halloween. any costume which amounts to kicking its subject while they are down, figuratively speaking, really should be suspect (unless we happen to think they deserve to be kicked... dubya, say). in other words, power differences do matter. but the notion that absolutely any representation involving an ethnicity is automatically racist isn't very helpful. if it is extended to a space alien costume whose only offense is to expose the absurdity of the notion that fellow humans are branded as aliens, you've clearly gone way too far.

dmarks said...

The last anon above this comment said: "but the notion that absolutely any representation involving an ethnicity is automatically racist isn't very helpful."

Is that even relevant? Can you point to even one of these Native-related costumes that is not a blatant stereotype, and thus racist?

I think you'd have a point if there were a bunch of Wilma Mankiller, Chief Joseph, and John Herrington costumes alongside the eternal parade of Chiefs, Squaws, and Braves.

Anonymous said...

the fact that it is *possible* to construe something (eg the illegal alien costume) as racist, does not make it racist, any more than the converse is true--that the fact that it is *possible* to construe a racist costume as satirizing the absurdity of race makes it okay.

the point is that blanket proclamations such as 'all costumes involving ethnically linked representations are racist' aren't, in fact, part of a grown-up discussion of racism. grown-ups have to make distinctions, interpretations, and deal with the fact that if other people don't see it exactly the same way it doesn't necessarily mean either one of you is wrong, or not a 'real' person of color, or 'serious' about the discussion.

Anonymous said...

liv taylor's dad is of cherokee descent. so it's at least partly 'her' identity she's wearing, too.

My response:

No one has said anything like "All costumes involving ethnically linked representations are racist," Anonymous. You know, the straw-man argument you keep putting falsely in quotes?

Brooke made it clear what she was talking about when she wrote:Why is it socially acceptable to dress like the stereotypical Indian: "Brave", "Chief", "Princess", "Squaw", "Maiden"?So why aren't you dealing with what she actually said? Is it because you can't, or you won't?

DMarks reiterated the point when he noted that no one is dressing up as a real Indian--e.g., Wilma Mankiller or John Herrington. If you disagree, post a link to anyone trick-or-treating as a 20th or 21st century Indian. Go ahead...we'll wait.

Tyler is part-Cherokee...so Pocahontas costume is okay?

Hysterically, your comment about Liv Tyler proves our point, not yours. Cherokees didn't wear buckskin outfits like Disney's Pocahontas. Here's what a typical Cherokee looked like:


So Liv Tyler's stereotypical costume has reinforced your stereotypical notion of what Indians look like. And you were too ignorant to know the difference. To you, all Indians resemble the caricatures in old Westerns and sports logos.

You either don't know or don't care that Indians come from hundreds of disparate cultures. That they're as different from each other as the people of Ireland, Greece, Russia, Sweden, and Spain. To you, they're all the same.

To reiterate, you thought Liv Tyler = Cherokee = Indian princess = Pocahontas. You thought this because you've seen it in countless Halloween costumes. Thanks for demonstrating so clearly what's wrong with pretending to be an "Indian" on Halloween.

Round 2Anonymous said...

rob--to paraphrase joan baez, you know a lot.

you're wrong, of course. the op does clearly extend the argument to all ethnic costumes. it's both implicit and explicit; eg, she states:
"Its not cool to dress up like a Native American, or a person of Asian, Mexican, African decent or any other ethnic group ever lived for that matter!" (sic)

so no straw men were harmed in the making of this argument--at least not from my side.

as for your example of what a 'typical' cherokee looked like: isn't the whole point of this discussion to expose the problems with generalization and stereotyping? you've arbitrarily picked one individual from one specific time period (why not present day? why not 15th century?) as a 'typical' representation. it's no more valid than pointing to a picture of a cowboy wearing a blue bandanna as evidence that a halloween costume using a red bandanna is wrong.

on the other hand, you presume to know a great deal about what i think and where i learned it--all of which happens to be false. you are avoiding several issues brought up in my and others' posts already. the most obvious of which is simply "who decides?" why should i let you decide for me (or for liv tyler, for that matter) what my identity means to me, or what a costume means to that identity? if you want 'authentic' costumes, fine, ban all fancydancing outfits--you've proclaimed them an insult to your (and the wearers') cultures. if on the other hand you admit that culture is a living, changing, heterogeneous thing, perfectly capable of accommodating fancy beadwork and etc., well then, i'm sorry, but neither you nor any other individual is in charge of how exactly it gets interpreted, reinvented, and repurposed.

all of this ignores the initial fallacy of the original posting: as if the point of halloween costumes is to create authentic representations of real people. obviously, it isn't, and never has been, as the op herself initially acknowledged.

there is a genuine racist hazard lurking (sometimes much more than lurking) in some halloween costumes. i think that for those of us who want to do something about it, it is incumbent upon us to make the case far more rigorously and persuasively than it's being made here. a blanket ban (so to speak) on ethnically-tinged costumes isn't likely to be very helpful in actually combatting racism.
Glad to see you posted a real quote instead of your made-up quote this time, Anonymous. Congratulations on learning how to quote someone correctly.

Unfortunately, you still seem to have a reading problem. "It's not cool" isn't even close to "It's racist." So Brooke still hasn't said that every ethnic costume racist. And no amount of false and malicious (mis)quoting can put those words in her mouth.

In other words, yes, you're arguing against a straw man that doesn't exist in Brooke's posting. Maybe she believes that every ethnic costume is racist and maybe she doesn't. But until she actually writes that such costumes are more than uncool, quite wasting our time with phony arguments.

Brooke's thesis, again

And once again, you've tried to distract us. You've invented your own argument so you could duck what's obviously Brooke's thesis. Here it is again:Why is it socially acceptable to dress like the stereotypical Indian: "Brave", "Chief", "Princess", "Squaw", "Maiden"?Note again the key word "stereotypical." Not all costumes, Anonymous--stereotypical costumes. As DMarks said and I reiterated, no one would object if Liv Tyler dressed like Wilma Mankiller or John Herrington. Because those Indians don't dress like stereotypes.

So again, why do you keep inventing arguments rather than addressing Brooke's arguments? What are you so afraid of? Who knows, but until you address her thesis, I'll continue to point out your obfuscation.

Your argument for Liv Tyler seems to be that maybe some Cherokee woman somewhere dressed like that, so who am I to judge? As arguments go, that's pathetic. You clearly don't know jack about Cherokees, so all you can do is insinuate that my ignorance is almost as bad as yours.

FYI, I've read about, seen, and met many Cherokees. Thousands of them, probably. None of them dressed like Tyler.

I gave you one of many examples of how the Cherokee dressed. Here are some more:

Major Ridge
John Ross
Will Rogers
Wilma Mankiller
Chief Chad Smith
Sam Bradford

You were losing 1-0. Now you're losing 7-0. So now it's your turn. If you're not as ignorant as you seem, show us a picture of an actual Cherokee dressed like a Pocahontas princess. Good luck with your answer...you'll need it.

In other words, stop sharing your fantasies about what Cherokees were like and start providing concrete evidence. I did it, so you can do it too. Put up or shut up, bright boy.

Answering the question

I've debated Indian wannabes like Tyler hundreds of times on my website. I'm not going to repeat every argument here. I've answered every question I wanted to and every question put to me. It's not my job to explain everything you don't understand about Native stereotypes.

There was no fallacy in Brooke's original posting. The only fallacy is yours. You wrongly think people don't learn about Indians from the stereotypes in our culture: on sports logos, in movies and TV shows, and in Halloween costumes.

Unfortunately for you, many psychological studies and experts say you're wrong--that you don't know what the hell you're talking about. But since you're sure Brooke's position is fallacious, I'm sure you can correct her. So tell us: Where do most Americans get their erroneous opinions about Indians from?

You seem certain that Halloween costumes aren't the source, so list whatever you think are the sources. Be explicit and document these sources with bibliographic citations (book titles and page numbers, URLs, etc.). Again, put up or shut up.

The only question I see you asking is "Who decides?" Who decides what...whether a Halloween costume is acceptable? Everyone who's capable of making a moral judgment, that's who.

I don't recall Brooke asking for some authority to decide which costumes are wrong. All she did was advise people to stop wearing stereotypical costumes. So again, you've invented a straw-man argument--something you seem to be good at.

I don't advocate banning offensive costumes and I doubt Brooke does either. So the answer is: You decide what costume you want to wear, and people like us will decide whether it's racist. Even better, we'll explain why. You can use the information to stop being racist or ignore it and continue.

Is that clear enough for you? If you don't like being called a racist, stop wearing racist costumes. It's just that simple.

Stereotyping one race = racist

Oh, and for those who don't know the definition of "racist," I'll help you. It's something that discriminates on the basis of race. If you wore stereotypical costumes of every racial and ethnic group, including your own, you'd still be wrong, but you wouldn't necessarily be racist. But when you single out Indians for the stereotypical treatment, that's the epitome of racism.

Let's return to your original fallacy: "halloween is about dressing up as mythical characters"...and dressing up as Indians is part of that. Wrong, dummy, because Indians aren't mythical characters. Pirates, princesses, and ghosts are mythical or semi-mythical, but Indians are real. Alas, you don't seem to understand this very basic point.

For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence and Tricking or Treating Indians. And have a happy Halloween!

P.S. It's funny to see you use sic on Brooke's comments when your comments are riddled with mistakes. I suggest you learn how to capitalize so you don't look like some schoolkid texting his responses.

Below:  A typical Halloween costume that defenders of racism defend.

Rob unqualified to discuss stereotypes?!

When I announced my upcoming presentation in Washington DC on Facebook, someone named Chad Poitra challenged my qualifications. Here's how the exchange went:They couldn't find an indian to address their agency? Do you feel like you are qualified 2 speak 4 us? Talking about white privledge is 1 thing, but I don't think it's right for a non-native 2 discuss native stereotypes.I don't know how hard they searched for a Native speaker. But I asked them myself if they really wanted a non-Native speaker. They said yes.

I think their thinking was that they're promoting diversity. If a white guy cares about Native stereotypes, everyone should care about them. They're not just a Native issue for Natives only.

But yes, I think I'm qualified. Except for maybe one or two Native authors, I've probably written more about Native stereotypes in the last decade than anyone. My website has almost 2,000 pages and my blog has almost 7,000 postings on stereotypes and related issues. That's a fair amount of expertise.

White = unqualified?Wow, that's makes me really sad that you think your qualified! If you truely believed in supporting natives and destroying stereotypes, you would not promote/endorse yourself or call yourself qualified, since you would know there are many others who have worked longer and harder than you on this cause!

I understand and appreciate the efforts you put forth, but question if it's for the cause or you taking advantage of natives in order for you to promote your talents.

For the record, you'll never be qualified, YOUR WHITE!!! You may understand and be knowledgable, but never qualified!!!
Really...someone has written more than 9,000 items on Native stereotypes in the last decade? Who is this incredibly prolific person, Chad? Why don't you name him or her so I can introduce myself?

I believe the huge number of Native people who follow my website, blog, newsletter, etc. think I'm qualified. The Native publications and websites that ask me to work for them think I'm qualified. Their opinion is what matters, not yours.

If you think you can get my Native friends and colleagues to turn against me, go ahead and try. Until then, I'll go with the thousands of Natives who support me over the few who don't. Since they want me to do what I'm doing, I'll keep doing it, thanks.

Chad admits he's wrongYour right, I'm wrong...keep up the good work!

Cuz u asked; Charlene Teters, John Trudell, Devon A Mihesuah, Misko-Kìsikàwihkwè (Red Sky Woman), Wilma Mankiller, Dr Richard West, Kevin Gover, anybody from the Deloria family, Ward Churchill, John Echohawk, Clyde Belcourt, Richard Williams, Jody Rave, Sonny Skyhawk, Chris Eyre, Valerie Tilman, Tim Coultier, Joe Garcia, Tex Hall, Ernie Stevens, ANY tribal chairperson...I can go on if ya like?
Really, Chad? All these people have each written more than 9,000 items on Native stereotypes in the last decade? Including tribal chairpersons who were elected in the last year or two? Who may not have graduated college or even high school? All 564 of them have written more about Native stereotypes than I have?

Sounds like a pretty stupid claim if you ask me. But you have proof of this? You're not just listing people whom you imagine might have written more than I have? In other words, you're not just fibbing to make a false point about my qualifications?

Yeah, right.

Who has written more, again?

I could list hundreds of Natives who have written occasionally about Native stereotypes. But writing about them occasionally isn't the same as writing about them constantly. I have the evidence for my prolific commentaries on the subject. And you don't have the evidence for anyone else.

Apparently you didn't understand what I said, Chad. I didn't say who might know more about the subject in theory. I said who had written more about the subject in reality. You can read, can't you?

In short, you lose, buddy. Thanks for playing, and better luck next time. Try not to waste more of my time with silly claims that you can't or won't substantiate. (Or spell correctly--e.g., "YOUR WHITE!!!")

Epilogue:  Chad "defriended" me after this debate on Facebook. I guess he couldn't stand having his Native butt kicked by a white guy. Meanwhile, no other Native person has objected to my presentation, and many are cheering me on. Apparently Chad doesn't understand Native opinion as well as I do.

For more on the subject, see Rob Knows Best About Redskin? and Rob the Presumptuous White Man?

Below:  One of the thousands of images I've collected and posted on Native stereotypes.

Meyer violated Quileute etiquette

Educator Debbie Reese noted this page on the Quileute Nation website. It seems to be a response to the Twilight hoopla.

Indian Country EtiquetteTraditionally, our people are hospitable and generous in nature. However, spiritual teachings, sacred ceremonies and burial grounds, are not openly shared with the public.

We are proud of our teachings, and our heritage. They have been passed to us by our ancestors, and represent thousands of years of our individual histories. Your patience and understanding of our traditions and cultures is appreciated.
Comment:  In Reese's blog entry, someone posted a defense of Stephenie Meyer's methodology:Shayana said...

With regards to, "However, spiritual teachings, sacred ceremonies and burial grounds, are not openly shared with the public." This may be a response to the crowds, but Stephenie never has a sacred ceremony or burial ground scene in her books. The one episode of "teachings" has to do with the wolf pack and those who know of it, exclusively. Even other members of the tribe who aren't aware of the wolf history aren't there. Only those who know about the boys and their transformations are allowed. Stephenie never published a scene where Bella was watching a tribal ceremony. They were sacred, and she did not go there.
Meyer presented a long passage of spiritual "teachings"--i.e., her phony version of the Quileute Nation's cultural history and beliefs. Her characters may not have shared these teachings with anyone outside the tribe, but she shared them with tens of millions of outsiders.

Sounds to me like the tribe is gently chastising Meyer (and her followers). Meyer did what Reese has warned us against many times: (mis)appropriating Native legends.

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

Below:  "I'm proud of my Indian heritage too! Awooooo!"

Indians fight back in Latin America

Indian political awakening stirs Latin America

By Frank BajakIn Ecuador, the Shuar are blocking highways to defend their hunting grounds. In Chile, the Mapuche are occupying ranches to pressure for land, schools and clinics. In Bolivia, a new constitution gives the country's 36 indigenous peoples the right to self-rule.

All over Latin America, and especially in the Andes, a political awakening is emboldening Indians who have lived mostly as second-class citizens since the Spanish conquest.

Much of it is the result of better education and communication, especially as the Internet allows native leaders in far-flung villages to share ideas and strategies across international boundaries.

But much is born of necessity: Latin American nations are embarking on an unprecedented resource hunt, moving in on land that Indians consider their own—and whose pristine character is key to their survival.

"The Indian movement has arisen because the government doesn't respect our territories, our resources, our Amazon," says Romulo Acachu, president of the Shuar people, flanked by warriors carrying wooden spears and with black warpaint smeared on their faces.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Amazon Tiananmen and Native Stereotypes in Bolivia.

Below:  "In this photo taken Aug. 20, 2009, an Aymara woman and her daughter walk near the village of Jesus de Machaca, Bolivia. In February, Bolivia's voters approved a new constitution creating a 'plurinational state.' It grants the Andean country's 36 native peoples the right to self-determination, including collective title to their lands." (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)

The Washington Deadskins

Someone e-mailed me a mock "memorial program" for the Washington Deadskins (née Redskins). Presumably the Deadskins died of a poor win-loss record caused by bad karma due to their Indian mascot. Here's an excerpt:Obituary

The Washington Deadskins, born the Boston Braves in 1932, passed away in October 2009, following a ten-year long illness inflicted upon it by team owner Daniel M. Snyder and pseudo-general manager Vinny Cerrato. After several false alarms and faint glimmers of playoff hope, the once proud franchise developed a fatal aversion to the end-zone, and
succumbed in a slow, painful death. The team leaves behind thousands of disgruntled fans, angry tailgaters, and despondent season ticket holders, as well as tons of unsold Deadskins merchandise, one puzzled quarterback, and an emasculated head coach.

Oh, how the once mighty have fallen!
Comment:  I think this was created by a disgruntled Redskins fan, not a disgruntled mascot foe. But it serves both purposes.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

Below:  Another crying Indian.

Will Rogers's 130th birthday

Will Rogers Days events to kick off Wednesday

By Rhett MorganOklahoma's most famous native son will be remembered during Will Rogers Days on Wednesday through Sunday.

The events will celebrate the 130th anniversary of Rogers's birth on Nov. 4, 1879. Highlights include the placing of a wreath at the family tomb on Wednesday, the Will Rogers Days Parade on Saturday in Claremore and the Will Rogers Gala on Sunday in Tulsa.

A cowboy, humorist and author, Rogers died in a 1935 plane crash in Alaska.

A birthday party will be held Thursday at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch in Oologah. About 600 children from the Tulsa area will participate in Children's Day from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Museum Explores Rogers's Roots and Will Rogers's Life in Dioramas.

Navajo wins Young Activist Award

Navajo activist Chelsea Chee wins young activist awardTwo young leaders who have been tackling the problems of climate change and environmental justice in different but complementary ways have been awarded this year's Mario Savio Young Activist Award. Each will receive $6,000, half for their projects and half to use as they wish.

Chelsea Chee, a 25-year old Navajo woman, Youth Organizer for the Black Mesa Water Coalition in Arizona, has been working to engage Indigenous youth of the Southwest in implementing climate change solutions. Through Chelsea’s leadership young Indigenous peoples are actively reorienting their tribal governments, schools, and communities towards a "greener' future. This means opposing fossil fuel extraction, encouraging sustainable living, and promoting a green job opportunities. Her efforts have resulted in the creation of numerous Indigenous youth groups throughout the rural Southwest and the passage of the Navajo Nation Green Economy legislation.

October 30, 2009

Speaking on stereotypes in the capital

As you may recall, the Department of Agriculture has invited me to speak on Native stereotypes in Washington DC Nov. 5. I'm to be the keynote speaker for the launch of Native American Heritage Month at the USDA.

Coincidentally, the White House Tribal Nations Conference will take place on the same day. My talk was scheduled long before the tribal summit was. Hey, Mr. President...are you trying to steal my thunder?

If you're in town, come on by the USDA. Whom would you rather meet: me or Obama?

My talk is apparently generating a protest among black civil rights activists at the USDA. For some reason, they want to celebrate their own diversity but not Native diversity. Perhaps they're upset because they know I'm going to criticize their beloved Washington Redskins.

If you read about a riot between blacks and Indians Nov. 5, that'll probably be my fault. Oops!

Not only will the tribal summit happen while I'm in DC, but also the NCAI's embassy opening. I hope to attend both events. And of course I've never seen the National Museum of the American Indian. Stay tuned for lots of reports and pictures.

For more on the subject, see Intro to Stereotype Presentation and the Stereotype of the Month contest.

Circle for Clemency to plead for Peltier

Peltier supporters to seek clemency during White House meeting

By Gale Courey ToensingLeonard Peltier supporters will seek clemency for the imprisoned American Indian Movement activist during a historic meeting between President Barack Obama and hundreds of tribal leaders of federally recognized nations.

The Circle for Clemency for Leonard Peltier is organizing a peaceful and prayerful act of solidarity “to bring attention to Mr. Peltier’s continued unjust imprisonment as a Native American political prisoner,” according to Rob Fife, one of the organizers.

The event will take place in conjunction with the first-of-its-kind White House Tribal Nations Conference on Nov. 5 from 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. at the Interior Department building in Washington, D.C.
Comment:  If I were organizing a protest outside the White House, I'd focus on a few well-defined agenda items. Same with the tribal leaders at the summit, for that matter. Maybe sign the UN declaration (more meaningful than a US apology), fully fund Indian healthcare, and reform the criminal justice system.

Sorry, but freeing Leonard wouldn't make the list. The probability that Obama will spend his political capital on pardoning Peltier in the midst of right-wing attacks on his presidency is approximately zero. Obama is likely to do the opposite of what protesters demand to prove he's not a "radical."

For more on the subject, see Peltier:  Obama's Political Prisoner and Peltier Denied Parole Again.

Manhattan surfer "chief" sells costumes

I haven't seen too many reports on Indian costumes for Halloween this year, but here's one someone sent me:

Real America with Abe Sauer:  New York is Also RacistI did a little Halloween costume shopping at the New York Costumes superstore on 11th street and Broadway. And keeping with the recent theme of Halloween costumes for racists and bigots (and their dogs), I found the perfect costume: Chief Culturally Insensitive.

But look, it's all fine because he's just helping shoppers identify the section with the store's robust offering of Halloween costumes for people who want to dress as Sexy Indian Girl or Super Mohawk, or who want their children to learn more about American Indian culture.

As a non-New Yorker who often finds his place of residence on the business end of East Coast liberal scorn, it's almost satisfying to know that Manhattanites are also clueless. Almost.

—Abe Sauer
Comment:  Let's see...a half-naked man with braids, warpaint, a bear-claw necklace, a pot belly, a knotted rope on his arm, and a "hang loose" surfer sign. This mannequin doesn't quite make sense. I wonder if he was something else before he became a stereotypical Indian.

For more on the subject, see The Big Chief.

John Cloud in NEW FRONTIER

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments--Day 301

By Brian CroninThe series opens with a group of military men (the "Losers") working to pick up a government agent, Rick Flagg, from a mysterious island filled with dinosaurs.

One by one, the Losers are killed off, but Flagg is found. Flagg and the remaining Loser, John Cloud, are about to leave, but Cloud refuses to depart. He insists on killing the T-Rex who killed his friends.

That gives us this...
Comment:  Here's the first page of the sequence. Go to the original posting to see the whole sequence.

I agree with the commenters who say NEW FRONTIER is a good but not great series. It has nice moments like this one, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

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

NCAI to open Embassy of Tribal Nations

Tribal Leaders From Across Indian Country to Gather in Washington to Open Embassy of Tribal Nations

Historic Opening in Conjunction with White House Tribal Nations SummitTribal representatives from all corners of Indian Country will be joined by international dignitaries, Members of Congress, Administration officials and tribal supporters to officially open the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The opening will include traditional Native American cultural presentations.

"For the first time since settlement, tribal nations will have a permanent home in Washington, D.C. where they can more effectively assert their sovereign status and facilitate a much stronger nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government," said NCAI President Jefferson Keel.

The historic opening coincides with the 1st Annual Obama Administration's Tribal Nations Conference set for Thursday, Nov. 5 at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Administration invited one representative from every federally recognized tribe in the U.S. to attend the conference.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see NCAI Moves to Embassy Row.

Obama snubs state-recognized tribes

Obama meeting exclusion insults state recognized tribes

By Gale Courey ToensingThe White House announcement that President Barack Obama and tribal leaders will meet in early November was greeted with elation at the National Congress of American Indians annual conference, but that happiness soon turned to disappointment for representatives of state-recognized tribes who learned they would be excluded from the historic event.

“The interests of the state tribes should be just as important as the interests of the federal tribes,” said the Rev. John Norwood, president of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.

“I don’t begrudge our federal brothers and sisters one iota. I know they deal with different issues in some respects and I think having an audience to deal with those types of issues is appropriate. But to be snubbed and not to be told that there will be a meeting for us state recognized down the road is surprising,” Norwood said.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Obama to Hold Tribal Summit.

Shi-Shi-Etko hits film festivals

I've reported on the film Shi-Shi-Etko before. It's now complete and hitting the film-festival circuit. For details, see Shi-Shi-Etko Shot in Halq’eméylem in my Pictographs blog. For more on the film, see Shi-Shi-Etko Trailer and Sto:lo Film of Children's Book.

Below:  "Kate Kroll, director of Shi Shi Etko, screened her film at the Bay Street Film Festival in Thunder Bay." (Rick Garrick--Wawatay News)

October 29, 2009

AMERIND is "best place to work"

Native American Business Garners Number One Spot; Accolades Among Top Insurance Companies World-wide; A First for Indian CountryFor AMERIND Risk Management Corp., “family-friendly” is a natural extension of the company's basic business mission.

The Pueblo of Santa Ana, N.M.-based AMERIND was established by more than 165 Native American housing authorities in 1986 and has grown to protect the housing, families and employees of more than 450 Tribes. This year's top-ranked company among small insurers in the Business Insurance Best Places to Work in Insurance ranking is a multi-tribal federal corporation formed to protect those tribes, their treasuries and their enrolled members from unforeseen or catastrophic financial loss using self-insurance and other risk-sharing strategies.

“Following Native American culture and traditions, we pride ourselves on the fact that families come first here,” said Rod Crawley, AMERIND's chief operating officer.

Among other things, Paul cited the AMERIND “85-15 rule.” Employees are accountable for their work and spend 85% of their work time devoted to customer service and job performance, but are also expected to spend the other 15% of their time in non-business activities such as socializing with their co-workers. “If we are to operate like an extended family and develop family bonds, employees need time to interact with each other. “We want to encourage the art of personal communication other than texting and emailing” says Mr. Paul. “This philosophy has proven to be very fruitful as productivity, customer relationships and camaraderie among employees continues to improve and prosper,” cites Crawley.

“We really promote small gatherings, potlucks, committee work together, getting away from your desk 15 percent of the time to socialize, really get to know your neighbor,” said Stefanie Suazo, Director of Human Resources. “It’s a proven fact that satisfied employees produce better results and care more about the company and its vision and mission,” Suazo further stated.

Utilizing risk management principles, AMERIND protects life and property of participating tribes from fire, natural disasters and other unforeseen events. The company operates exclusively within Native American reservations domiciled in 32 states.

Paul noted that with each tribe having its own traditions, “cultural sensitivity” is more of a challenge for AMERIND than for many companies, but one we take very seriously. “We don't have to keep up with just four or five minorities; we potentially have to keep up with the customs and traditions of more than 500 independent, sovereign communities,” he said.
Comment:  This story is notable to me because the company won for its Native values, not in spite of them.

From my experience, employees often socialize more than 15% of the time. I wouldn't be surprised if this socializing contributes to employee morale, productivity, and the bottom line. I'm glad to see a company take advantage of it rather than (try to) ban it.

Youth choir's Olympics invitation axed

Newfoundland choir feels snubbed by Olympic offer

Group of young singers expected to perform at opening ceremonies. Instead they'll be part of an aboriginal showcase

By Marsha Lederman and Justine Hunter
For two years, the young members of the Se't A'newey Performance Choir in Conne River, Nfld., had envisioned themselves singing at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Games in front of a promised television audience of some two billion people.

Instead, the children have been offered a spot at an Olympic-related aboriginal showcase, with an estimated audience of “tens of thousands”--an offer made Tuesday by British Columbia's Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, George Abbott.

And their choir director doesn't like the government's compromise solution one bit.

“This tiny community is extremely concerned over the long-term effect this will have on these impressionable youth,” Brenda Jeddore wrote in an e-mail Tuesday to the Opposition New Democratic Party. “We are not impressed with ‘band aid' solutions because we deserve to be granted the ‘promise' that was [publicly] uttered by Premier [Gordon] Campbell.”

The remote Newfoundland community was meeting Tuesday night to discuss Mr. Abbott's invitation.

That alleged promise is at the centre of a cross-country he said-she said controversy. Mrs. Jeddore and the band chief, Misel Joe, insist they heard Mr. Campbell invite the children's choir to perform at the 2010 Olympics, after he heard them sing at a gala in Corner Brook more than two years ago. They say the invitation was also witnessed by Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, and others.

Mr. Campbell remembers it differently. “I said to the choir: ‘You know, wouldn't it be great if you could sing at the Olympics?' Not the opening ceremonies; I never had any control over the opening ceremonies.”

But whatever the choir heard, it was enough to launch them into more than two years of preparations for the performance. Then last week the band chief found out that the choir, having had no official contact with VANOC, was not actually scheduled to participate in the Olympics.
Comment:  Did the Newfoundlanders actually hear the words "opening ceremony"? The article doesn't say, but Campbell has a point. An invitation to sing at the Olympics isn't an invitation to sing during the opening ceremonies. It's an invitation to sing somewhere, sometime during the Olympics.

I mean, c'mon. Two years of preparation without getting the offer in writing? Without contacting the VANOC and verifying it? The Newfoundlanders have only themselves to blame for disappointing the kids.

For more on the subject, see Native Participation in 2010 Olympics.

Ray suspends money-grubbing

Leader of fatal Ariz. sweat lodge cancels seminarsMotivational speaker and author James Arthur Ray is canceling his remaining 2009 seminars in the wake of three deaths that occurred after a sweat-lodge ceremony he led in Arizona.

Ray announced on his Web site Thursday that he needs to dedicate all his “physical and emotional energies” to bringing closure to the sweat lodge matter.

“That means helping the authorities and the families get to the bottom of what happened,” he said.

The decision marks a sea change for Ray, a charismatic public speaker who recruits people for his expensive retreats through free seminars at hotels and conference centers across North America.

Following the tragedy that led to the deaths and the hospitalization of 18 other people, he initially vowed to continue holding the events and appeared at seminars in Los Angeles, San Diego and Colorado.

In a posting on his blog on Oct. 20, Ray said he had “chosen to continue with my work. It's too important not to.”

Since then, lawyers for several of the victims have said they plan to pursue lawsuits, although none have been filed. His publisher announced this week that the December release of a paperback version of Ray's best-selling book “Harmonic Wealth” and a new hardcover title, “The Seven Laws of True Wealth,” have been postponed.
Comment:  It took Ray three weeks to realize that continuing his seminars was bad? Hmm. Well, better late than never.

The money-grubbing made him look as if he was indifferent to the victims' suffering, as if cared only about his income. It wasn't a smart move when people were suing him for his indifference, neglect, and lack of foresight. Attendees could ask him about the tragedy and he could incriminate himself further.

That's why I thought he would go into seclusion when the tragedy happened. Glad to see he caught on only a few weeks late.

For more on the subject, see How James Ray Fleeced His Flock and Oprah Promoted Sweat Lodge Killer.

"Next top models" in blackface

The America's Next Top Model controversy is worse than I thought. Not only did a model dress as an Indian chief, but they darkened her skin to make her look more "Indian."

Blackface on 'America's Next Top Model'

By Laura KenneyContinuing the resurgence of a makeup practice long considered taboo, "America's Next Top Model" featured a number of models painted with dark makeup to resemble bi-racial women.

On the episode, which aired tonight (Oct. 28), host Tyra Banks said the goal was to create an editorial celebration of the "Hapa" (that's Hawaiian for mixed-race) children of immigrants who relocated to Hawaii to work as sugar cane farmers in the mid-19th century. Barack Obama is the most famous Hapa.

Banks tasked models with interpreting exotic racial combinations like "Russian-Moroccan," "Native American-East Indian," and "Botswanan-Polynesian," photographing them herself in the green reeds of a sugar plantation on the island of Maui.

The models--Jennifer An, Nicole Fox, Laura Kirkpatrick, Sundai Love, Brittany Markert and Erin Wagner--were styled in clothing stereotypical to the ethnicities they were asked to portray. For example, Markert, who was "Native American-East Indian," was dressed in a feathered headdress and a sari. And Love, as a "Russian-Moroccan" was styled with Russian Ushanka hat and a large walking stick.

Then, the models were sent to makeup, where each was painted with varying degrees of dark body makeup to match the perceived skin tone of the corresponding race they were conveying.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Colorface" Yesterday and Today.

Below:  "Nicole Fox strikes a pose on America's Next Top Model." (Photo courtesy of The CW)

Neville Brother is Chahta ambassador

Cyril Neville named ambassador of Chahta Indian tribe

By Paula DevlinCyril Neville, the youngest of the four Neville Brothers, said, "I am on a quest to complete the circle that has been broken."

All his life, his mother, father and uncle taught him that he was a Choctaw Indian, which he said is correctly pronounced "Chahta." But he only recently found the historical records that document his ancestry.

Neville was in Slidell last week at a Chahta village area known as Bonfouca to plan for the upcoming Coming Out of Exile reunion of the Tchefuncte nation. At the event, he will be introduced as the tribes' new ambassador.

"I feel humbled and empowered at the same time," Neville said.

Neville's new role as ambassador will be to speak for the tribes that are centered in St. Tammany and include descendants of the 125 Chahta, Creek and Cherokee who did not leave during the forced relocation under Andrew Jackson, called the Trail of Tears. Members are spread throughout the Florida Parishes, and since Hurricane Katrina, are scattered in 29 states.
Below:  "Cyril Neville has been named ambassador for the Chahta Indians. Chief Warhorse Elwin Gillum said of the choice of Neville: 'I knew it had to be a strong-willed person.'"

Inupiaq poet wins Whiting award

Inupiaq poet wins prestigious national writing award

By Mike DunhamAn Inupiaq mom from Anchorage has picked up one of America's most prestigious literary awards. Poet Joan Kane, 32, was among 10 writers to receive a $50,000 Whiting Writers' Award at a ceremony in New York City on Wednesday night.

The Whiting awards have been presented annually for the past 25 years. Among authors who have received the award early in their careers are playwrights August Wilson and Tony Kushner and essayist Tobias Wolff. Alaskans who have previously won include Natalie Kusz and former Daily News columnist Seth Kantner.

Kane's poetry is inspired, in part, by what she calls her "ancestral landscapes" on the Seward Peninsula and King Island.

She has previously received an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts' Connie Boochever Fellowship and been a winner in the Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest. Her play, "The Golden Tusk," was presented at the Anchorage Museum this summer. She is co-curator of the "Virtual Subsistence" art and literature exhibit now on display at the MTS Gallery in Mountain View.
Comment:  For more on Native poets, see Crow Poet Laureate and Wiyaka Is Poetry Champion.

Pojoaque governor's sculpture at NMAI

Pueblo governor ventures to U.S. Capitol to see sculpture installed

By Ana Maria TrujilloWhen Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera visits Washington, D.C., on tribal business in the future, he'll have a new piece of artwork to enjoy on his long runs around the capital.

His own bronze sculpture, Buffalo Dancer II, will be installed today in front of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

"It's a great feeling," Rivera said. "It will be nice to see one of my pieces as I'm running by."

The 12-feet-tall, 2,000-pound sculpture depicts a young man performing the Buffalo Dance.

"We've been doing the Buffalo Dance for many years now," Rivera explained. "We celebrate the animal—the buffalo—because it provides food and is part of the well being of the pueblo and it has been for centuries the livelihood of Native Americans across the country."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

October 28, 2009

Natives scorn Ray's sweat lodge

James Ray and the dangers of self-help

By Christine B. WhelanWhile Ray told participants that he had received training in proper sweat lodge rituals, he also bragged that his lodges were much hotter than those used in Native American gatherings.

But Joseph Bruchac, author of “The Native American Sweat Lodge,” said that a proper sweat lodge is a purification ritual, not a physical endurance test. He has received dozens of e-mails from Native American elders expressing how upset—but unsurprised—they were at the tragedy.

In 2005, at the same retreat venue, an unconscious woman was removed from the event. A relative of one retreat participant said Ray had warned his young volunteer staff—untrained as medical professionals—that while some people might exit the lodge vomiting and dizzy, that was not cause for concern.

There was quite a bit more cause for concern than Ray anticipated. “Several men and women were foaming at the mouth and having seizures as they were dragged, unconscious, from the steaming tent,” a survivor’s relative told me. Volunteers spent 30 to 40 minutes doing CPR on the victims, and emergency teams intubated and evacuated at least one woman by helicopter.

There was no locked door trapping people inside, but Ray used something equally powerful: He tapped into psychological and spiritual traditions, and with apparent recklessness, he reaped a deadly result.
Native Americans in Sedona express outrage over media portrayal of Sweat Lodge ceremonies

By Nina RehfeldIn the spiritual industry, the sweat lodge is a popular staple. But RJ Joseph, a documentary filmmaker and Cree Indian from the Canadian province of Alberta who helped establish the Native American program at Enchantment Resort in Sedona over the past four years, warns, “Ninety percent of the lodge-keepers in town are snake-oil salesmen who commercialize a sacred place and sell the illusion of spirituality.” He describes the traditional sweat lodge as “a spiritual gift handed down through generations. It is a very sacred ceremony, and people do get healed when it is conducted properly by an elder who knows his medicine. But some new-age shamans think they can go to a couple and then run them themselves.”

Rod Bearcloud Berry of the Ni´U´Kon´ska tribe in Oklahoma, says it takes years to learn about the sweat lodge. “Go to a couple hundred,” he says, “then maybe you will begin to understand what they are about. And then you will no longer want to conduct one, because it carries great responsibility.” Bearcloud is an artist who has been living in Sedona for the past 20 years. He went to Angel Valley the day after the tragedy happened. “I had the feeling it was going to be just left and disappear. When I came the willows were still burning, and I asked if I could complete the circle and conduct a ceremony for the people involved.” There were many tears, he says, and people were hurting.

Traditionally, he says, the Inipi, which stands for “womb of mother earth,” is a place of humility. “It is about the way of the earth and the way of spirit. It is not about personal gain or about withstanding the heat. This was completely upside-down from what was intended.” Bearcloud says he is bothered by the fact that many people in Sedona try to do these ceremonies as a job, to support themselves financially. “Those are all the wrong reasons.”
Comment:  Berry's Ni´U´Kon´ska tribe is known to us as the Osage.

For more on how sweat lodges should operate, see How Sedona's Sweat Lodges Operate and How Sweat Lodges Can Kill. For more on how Ray's sweat lodge operated, see Inside the Death Lodge and Sweat Lodge Victims Chose to Die?!

Below:  "RJ Joseph, a documentary filmmaker and Cree Indian from the Canadian province of Alberta who helped establish the Native American program at Enchantment Resort in Sedona over the past four years."

"Think Native" on America's Next Top Model

Colourface Epidemic Infects ANTM

By Thea LimI suppose it is a good sign that we can still be shocked speechless by the racism in pop culture, right? Because it means that we aren’t totally cynical and embittered. Right?

This morning we received a tip from reader Cassandra, letting us know about last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, where contestants flew to Maui to do a photo shoot where they were supposed to be biracial.


We don’t usually quote directly from tipsters, but I am too stunned to paraphrase right now. Cassandra reports:

Each girl was given two ethnicities: Tibetan/Egyptian, Greek/Mexican, Moroccan/Russian, Native American/East Indian, Botswanan/Polynesian, Malagasy/Japanese. Five girls are white, one is Asian, and a few are donned in black face and all in “ethnic” outfits (a combination of an aspect of each culture, evident in the photos), which Tyra explains, “Every outfit is not necessarily what people of that culture are wearing now, it might not even be a necessary exact of what they’ve worn in the past, it’s a fashion interpretation of it.” Nicole, assigned to look Malagasy/Japanese, remarks how she’s always wondered what she looked like as a different race and that she felt she looked “exotic.” The girls had to somehow embody what people of those ethnicities were like i.e. Tyra saying, “Think Egyptian, think [insert ethnicity], think of what those people were like, etc.”
Comment:  I'm not sure if it means anything, but it's cute how they paired Indian and (Asian) Indian.

A "fashion interpretation" of Native designs that may have religious significance? I guess that's a polite way of saying bastardization, ripoff, mockery, etc.

I also like Tyra's "think of what those people were like." Right, because indigenous people are a thing of the past. No one looks or acts like that anymore. We're all Americans in this global village of ours.

I trust I don't have to say more about this ANTM bit. Newspaper Rock readers should know why it's wrong.

Here's a gallery of the models pretending to belong to other ethnic groups:

New Pics:  Tyra Transforms The 'America's Next Top Model' Hopefuls

For more on the subject, see "Colorface" Yesterday and Today, Tricking or Treating Indians, and Indian Wannabes.

Osoyoos tourism mega-complex

As hosts of the Vancouver Olympics, First Nations are ready to welcome the world

By Remy ScalzaMove inland across British Columbia's Coast Mountains, however, and a very different idea of what aboriginal tourism should be is taking root, one that has little to do with dancing and headdresses.

"There's this age-old notion that aboriginal culture has to be locked into a style from the 1700s," says Chris Scott, chief operating officer of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corp. "Aboriginal tourism shouldn't have to fall into that Hiawatha-Pocahontas image."

Numbering fewer than 500 members, the Osoyoos--or NK'Mip in their traditional language--enjoy a heady distinction among Canada's tribes: They have more or less single-handedly rewritten the book on aboriginal tourism.

The sprawling Osoyoos reservation is a four-hour drive east of Vancouver. Along the way, the scenic route plunges from alpine peaks and glacial valleys down to Canada's only desert, a shimmering landscape of canyons, silvery lakes and tumbleweeds. Led for the last 25 years by a charismatic chief who is equal parts impresario and messiah, the Osoyoos operate 11 different businesses here, including an 18-hole championship golf course. But easily their largest and most lucrative venture is NK'Mip Resort, Canada's first and only aboriginal tourism mega-complex.
Comment:  Chris Scott says aboriginal culture doesn't have much to do with the 1700s or headdresses, yet the first thing you see at the NK'Mip Desert & Heritage Centre is a Plains warrior or chief from the 1700s in a stereotypical headdress. Hmm.

The artwork below is nice, but I doubt it has anything to do with traditional Osoyoos in British Columbia. It's one thing to update your aboriginal culture for the 21st century. It's another to present stereotypical images from across the continent as representative of your culture.

For more on the subject, see Rebranding Natives at 2010 Olympics and Aboriginal Tourism in British Columbia.

Olympics cave to Cowichan pressure

First Nation's tribe gets first Olympic victory in knitting

By Daphne BramhamIt took the threat of an Olympic torch-relay protest, but Cowichan Tribes' knitters now have a contract even far more valuable than providing Team Canada's uniforms.

Instead of knitting identical team sweaters, the knitters will become licensed suppliers to the Olympics and will be able to use the Olympic logo in retailing. That's something that the B.C. company that is supplying the Cowichan-like, official Team Canada sweaters cannot do. That company signed a confidentiality agreement that doesn't allow it to reveal its Olympic connection.

But the Cowichan deal reached late Tuesday with Olympic organizers and the Hudson Bay Co., goes far beyond simply being a licensed supplier. It offers the native knitters global exposure and an unprecedented economic opportunity.

The iconic sweaters will be sold at the Hudson Bay Co.'s Olympic superstore in Vancouver as well as at the Four Host First Nations pavilion during the Games.

The agreement extends beyond the Olympic period and contains a knowledge-transfer component, giving the Cowichan access to the Bay's expertise on pricing, marketing and creating a consistent production flow of sweaters into the market.
Comment:  Another in a long list of examples of how complaining and criticizing--i.e., protesting--work. For those who tell victims of crime and injustice to "get over it," you lose again. Alas, you don't seem to understand how the world works. You must've missed it when someone first uttered the truism that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

For more on the subject, see Non-Cowichan Sweaters Are Fake and Cowichan Tribes Won't Make Cowichan Sweaters.

Below:  "Dianne Hinkley shows off a genuine Cowichan Tribes sweater." (CBC)

TV series about Aleut private eye?

Kate Shugak may be headed for television

By Debra McKinneyThat gutsy, savvy, Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and her not-so-little dog, Mutt, are closer than ever to sleuthing their way off the pages of the Dana Stabenow mystery novels and onto television screens.

Mike Devlin of Evergreen Films bought the option to bring the Alaska based Kate Shugak Alaska P.I., series, by author Dana Stabenow, to television.

From his state-of-the-art, upper Hillside studio, Mike Devlin of Evergreen Films Inc. announced Tuesday that the film production company has acquired the option to develop the Stabenow series. That means a television show is now in the works. And, if it all eventually works out, the show will be filmed in Alaska.

A deal like this has been a long time coming for the 57-year-old Alaska-born bestselling author.

Stabenow said she's had money waved in her face for years and has turned down six-figure offers. She even had Kate Jackson and Demi Moore interested in playing Kate, the legendary investigator for the district attorney's office who retreats to her wilderness homestead after a life-altering knife fight with a child molester.

She did sign a deal in 2003 with Anchorage-born filmmaker Mike Kelly, with the promise that filming be done in Alaska. But finding a willing producer didn't pan out, and the rights expired a year later. Since then, she's held out.
Comment:  Kate Jackson and Demi Moore...really? Apparently these people are clueless about playing Natives in "redface"--i.e., misappropriating Native identities.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians and The Best Indian Books.

Soboba star gets full scholarship

Soboba basketball star playing at next level

By Diane A. RhodesJoseph Burton is the first Soboba Indian Reservation resident to receive a full basketball scholarship to a major university in the 125-year history of the reservation.

But family and friends of the Oregon State freshman are not living in the past. Rather, they are looking to the future as Burton plays in the Beavers' first exhibition game of the season Sunday. He plays forward and center for the team.

"Joseph was always into basketball," said his mother, Dondi Silvas-Nichols. "He was raised on the reservation, but we moved into Hemet so he could go to West Valley High--he wanted to play on the best basketball team in the valley."

Burton, 18, also played basketball with the Compton Magic travel team, based in Corona.
Comment:  Undoubtedly some Indian has received a full basketball scholarship to a major university--but I don't know who it might be. If this were a first for any Indian, it would be even more impressive.

For more on the subject, see Indians Love Rez Ball and The Unofficial Sport of Indian Country.

Below:  "Dondi Silvas-Nichols, center, holds a portrait of her son Joseph Burton, who received a basketball scholarship to Oregon State. Burton's fans include family members, from left, aunt Denise Silvas-Thomas, cousin Shayna Silvas-Thomas, grandpa Charles Silvas and grandma Yvonne Silvas. Supporters not pictured include stepdad Kendall Nichols and uncle DeMario Thomas. The watercolor of Burton was painted by family friend Keith Cameron." (Diane A. Rhodes/The Press-Enterprise)

Pix of Fort McDowell

While at the Falmouth Institute's Native Language Preservation Summit, I had time (or made time) to explore. Here are the pix I took of the Radisson Fort McDowell, the Fort McDowell casino, and the nearby town of Fountain Hills.

Fort McDowell--October 25, 2009
Fort McDowell--October 26, 2009
Fort McDowell--October 27, 2009

And if you missed them, here are my reports on the three days:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

For more on language preservation, see my Pictographs blog.

October 27, 2009

Falmouth language summit (Day 3)

Day 3 of my trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Falmouth Institute's Native Language Preservation Summit. (Here are my reports for Day 1 and Day 2.)

Going to bed early Monday night wasn't enough to get a good night's sleep. I woke up at 3 am. Since I couldn't go back to sleep, I surfed the Net and took pictures of the dawn. Then I briefly explored the pool area.

At 9 am we gathered for a poster session. We broke into small groups and shared ideas about language techniques. We wrote them down on a poster and shared them with the room.

Then we had a technology panel. Don and Kara Thornton of Thornton Media discussed their language program for the Nintendo DSi. In a few minutes they loaded several words of the Yavapai language into the device.

The organizer had asked me to fill in for the representative of the Rosetta Stone language-learning software. I spoke for 10 minutes on that and a few miscellaneous things. The session wasn't over but I hurried out, because I had to catch a shuttle van to the airport.

On the shuttle ride, I kept drifting off because of my lack of sleep. I perked up at the airport because it had Hopi katsina displays and free Wi-Fi. The TSA agents also patted me down and searched my laptop bag a couple times, which was a new experience for me.

On the flight back I drifted off some more. I finally made it to my condo late in the afternoon. After eating something other than muffins, Tootsie Rolls, or peanuts for the first time that day, I hit the sack and crashed for about six hours.

And that was my trip to the Fort McDowell Yavapai reservation.

"Reservation" out, "Tee Pee" and "Indians" in

Twin Lakes decision wise, respectful

By Nathan BairdWhen changes occur for the sake of political correctness, some developments are justified and others are just silly.

I eagerly applaud one change under way. Twin Lakes athletic director Kent Adams recently asked local media to stop referring to the school's home football field as "The Reservation."

That title has always made me uneasy. Using Indians as a mascot name, or referring to one's gymnasium as The Tee Pee, can positively pay homage to a community's Native American heritage.

However, the same can't be said for the term "reservation." It reminds me of a shameful time in our history when the government forced a nation of people from their homes. I can only imagine what a Native American would think of such a flippant use of the term.
Comment:  So it's okay to call the gym "The Tee Pee," but not to call the field "The Reservation"? They sound about equally bad to me.

Baird has made a false distinction between what "honors" Indians and what doesn't. Being consigned to a "tee pee" isn't any kind of honor for today's Indians. None of them live in tipis now and most of their ancestors didn't live in them then. In particular, I think Indiana's Indians were too far east to use tipis.

The criterion Baird should be using isn't whether the term is honorable or not, but whether it's stereotypical or not. "Tee Pee" is actually more stereotypical for today's Indians than "reservation," but neither one is flattering. The Twin Lakes school should drop both names.

In fact, athletic director Adams seems insensitive to what Indians care about. I suspect his people have committed many faux pas besides naming the field "The Reservation." They should avoid the inevitable mistakes and stereotypes by eliminating their "Indians" name and mascot altogether.

I did a quick Google search and...whoops, look what I found:

The team's emblem is a spear and people are worried about "The Reservation?! Oh, you poor saps. You're spreading stupid stereotypes about Indians and you're too ignorant to realize it. Indians as spearchuckers...why, because they were too primitive to develop bows and arrows? How insulting can you get?

Save yourself the embarrassment and drop the "Indians" name, you nitwits. You're not smart enough to portray Indians honestly and authentically, without mistakes or stereotypes. I'm not sure any school is that smart, but you're definitely not.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

Avoiding energy colonization

Rethinking Green Jobs on the Rez

By Kari LydersenAt the Indigenous Uranium Forum in Acoma, New Mexico Oct. 22-24, tribal members sounded a cautionary note about the optimism over renewable energy on Native land. The forum focused on the heavy and ongoing health toll–countless cases of cancer and kidney disease–wrought by decades of mining uranium on Native land, often by Native American miners.

If tribes aren’t vigilant and proactive, they worry, large-scale corporate renewable energy generation on their land could leave them feeling used and exploited and suffering health or environmental effects just like fossil fuels and uranium have in the past.

“Just like in Saudi Arabia, companies will want that power,” said Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Jihan Gearon. “They can still exploit us for wind and solar. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen. We need to rethink the whole concept of a green economy and who benefits.”
And:“The communities and tribes that have the vision and leadership right now will be the real beneficiaries in this century as we move toward a new energy economy,” [John Fogarty, director of the group New Energy Economy] said. “People were tricked by the coal and uranium companies in the past. I think they will be smarter this time. They have some of the best renewable resources in North America. The deals that will be brokered in the next decade need to be negotiated right so it’s not just another form of energy colonization.”Comment:  For more on the subject, see Litefoot's Native Green Energy and Indians as Energy Barons.

Below:  "Native land like this near Acoma, New Mexico, has provided uranium to power the country in the past. Tribal leaders want to avoid another round of 'energy colonization.'" (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

Preview of IndiVisible

Story of Americans with Native and black ancestry stirs deep emotions

By Kara BriggsAn exhibition opening this fall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian explores the identity of people whose ancestry is both African American and Native American.

“IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas” is an exhibition of 20 banners bearing photographs and text. It will be shown at the museum in Washington from Nov. 10 through May 31, 2010. A symposium on the topic of the exhibition will be held at 3 p.m. Nov.13 at the museum.

Guest curator Thunder Williams, a Washington, D.C., radio talk show host, is Carib Indian, African and European. “The exhibition touches a deep interest in African American communities because of their links with Native America,” he said. Published accounts estimate that 60 percent of African Americans may share Native American ancestry, he said.

“People in the U.S. tend to be black or white, linear thinkers,” Williams said. “We have been indoctrinated by a race-centered system where vestiges of the ‘one-drop’ of black blood rule persist. When I acknowledge my Carib Indian and European ancestors, it is not a disclaimer of my African heritage. I am all of them, my blood is indivisible.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Black-Indian History on Display.

Below:  "Relatives and friends celebrate the 21st century wedding of Jessie Little Doe, a member of a family from the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation of Cape Cod, Mass. At Mashpee, age-old family ties determine tribal identity, which transcends skin color." (Photo courtesy Jessie Little Doe)

Seminoles honor founding mother

Hard Rock honors Ruby Tiger Osceola with bronze statue

By Alina M. VieraA bronze statue of a revered Seminole matriarch was unveiled Oct. 23 during a private ceremony at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Created by Bradley Cooley and his son, the one-of-a-kind statue was commissioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to honor the memory of the Tribal Elder that brought the first Seminole Family to the Seminole Tampa Reservation. It is permanently on display near the South entrance, inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
And:Ruby Osceola was born in the Everglades in 1896 because her grandparents were two of the famous “Unconquered” Seminoles--about only 200 people who escaped persecution and relocation by eluding soldiers for decades while all others were killed or captured and relocated to the American West.

Eventually she settled in Bradenton. But when the remains of early Florida Seminoles were found on a construction site in Tampa in 1980, the door opened for a new Seminole reservation. Then-Chief James Billie asked her if she would establish it with her 17 family members off Orient Road, where they built a high stakes bingo hall that grew into the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

Below:  I think the sculpture on the right is Ruby Tiger Osceola.

Suing the sweat lodge killer

Attorneys:  Lawsuits on way for guru Ray

By JJ HensleyAttorneys are preparing to file a pair of lawsuits against personal-financial guru James Arthur Ray by the end of the week, but the investigation into the three deaths at the sweat lodge outside Sedona could linger as authorities wait for toxicology reports on the victims.

A spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that a final report would be delayed as detectives awaited toxicology results on the body of Liz Neuman, the final victim from the Oct. 8 incident. Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., died at Flagstaff Medical Center on Oct. 17 of multiple organ failure, according to her attorney.

A U.S. senator from Minnesota on Tuesday called for a federal investigation into whether Ray violated any laws, including false advertising about the retreat.

Investigators have said they are focusing on Ray and anyone else involved in organizing the sweat-lodge ceremony, as they tried to determine if negligence caused the deaths.
Comment:  Negligence? When Ray pushed people past their limits according to his "you must die" philosophy? When he cajoled people into staying inside although they were feeling bad? When he ignored someone who was unconscious or dying? Ray's crimes sound worse than mere negligence to me.

For more on the subject, see How James Ray Fleeced His Flock, Inside the Death Lodge, and Ray Investigated for Homicides.

Pay Ecuador not to drill in Amazon?

Ecuador to Europe:  Pay us not to drill in Amazon

By Gonzalo SolanoEcuador's president is in London this week to promote a unique proposal: pay his country $3 billion not to drill for oil in a pristine Amazon reserve.

Germany and Spain have expressed interest in President Rafael Correa's idea, which environmentalists say could set a precedent in the fight against global warming by lowering the high cost to poor countries of going green.

"This is the first time the government of a major oil-producing country has voluntarily offered to forgo lucrative oil extraction in order to help combat climate change," said Dr. Matt Finer, staff scientist for Save America's Forests and author of a study on Correa's initiative.

But Correa's idea is two years old and he has yet to receive a firm cash commitment.

Under the plan, rich countries would pay Ecuador at least half the revenues that the 850 million barrels of heavy crude oil estimated to be in Ecuador's remote Yasuni National Park would be expected to generate over the next 10 years—or about $3 billion.

Ecuador says not drilling for the oil would keep 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a figure that has caught the attention of green-conscious governments in Europe.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Crude Reviewed and The Amazon Chernobyl.

October 26, 2009

Falmouth language summit (Day 2)

Day 2 of my trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Falmouth Institute's Native Language Preservation Summit. (Here's my report for Day 1.)


I got up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to practice my speech. It was the first time I'd gone through the whole thing. Better late than never.

Since the Falmouth Institute didn't give us a schedule, I showed up at the event 8 am. I figured there'd be a lot of drinking coffee, eating pastries (actually muffins), and sitting around with strangers until 9 am. But this could've been the rare conference that actually starts at 8:00 or 8:30 am, so I couldn't take a chance and be late.

There were about 30 attendees. Another 15 or so badges went unclaimed. The people were mostly older women, with only 3-4 people under 40.

Curiously, I think of the youngsters as my peers, but I'm probably older than several of the "old" women. Yikes.

Dr. Jon Allan Reyhner gave the keynote address. It was an overview of 20th century Indian history: the policies of assimilation and termination, and the need for language and culture to preserve Indian nations. It was okay, but probably nothing the attendees didn't know already.

Perhaps the most interesting thing he said was that he spoke in Canada and called the Natives there "Indians" rather than First Nations people. They reacted as if he'd called them the N-word. I've heard Canadians disapprove of or scorn the word "Indians," but this is the strongest reaction I've come across.

Too bad American Indians prefer the term "Indians" and outnumber Canadian Indians by 2-1 or 3-1. Given America's media dominance, there's no way Canada will win this war of words.

The next sessions didn't look that interesting, so I left to do some exploring and photographing. I got a van ride to Fort McDowell's golf course, then walked to the bridge, the highway, down to the casino entrance, and back to the hotel. All in my good clothes! Fortunately the day wasn't too hot and a breeze was blowing.


My speech was the first one after lunch. The woman who organized the summit operated my presentation for me and nodded encouragingly at everything I said. Otherwise the audience's blank stares would've flustered me.

And...I survived! I didn't stumble as much as I expected to, so I guess it went better than I thought it would. True, one woman in the audience appeared to be nodding off. But a few people came up to me afterward to talk, which I took as a sign of approval. They even indicated that they or someone they knew might be interested in doing Native comics.

I had briefly mentioned the possibility of playing Scrabble or other games in Native languages. Afterward, one attendee said her tribe's students play "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with a gift certificate as a prize. Another attendee said her tribe's students play "Jeopardy."

I stayed for the presentation on FirstVoices.org by Shaylene Boechler, but skipped the final afternoon sessions. I went back to the hotel, changed, and took the van into Fountain Hills for more exploring and photographing.

The town's community center has an art park with a couple dozen sculptures. That was enough to keep me busy for a couple hours. I love public art.

I walked through town to the aptly-named Avenue of the Fountains. I reached the central park with the lake and the world's fourth (?) highest fountain in time for the 5 pm show. As the sun set, I returned to the hotel in time to capture the gorgeous colors on "film."


This time I made sure to hit the casino's buffet before it closed. I had four plates full of food and a dish of ice cream before they removed everything and closed up. That was just enough to fill me up.

I must've walked five miles and I was feeling it. I went to bed at the relatively early hour of 11 pm. And that's the story for Monday, Oct. 26.

Latinos told to Anglicize names

Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names

By Melanie DabovichTAOS, N.M. – Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.

The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.

No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.

Whitten's management style had worked for him as he's turned around other distressed hotels he bought in recent years across the country.

The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed.

His rules and his firing of several Hispanic employees angered his employees and many in this liberal enclave of 5,000 residents at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where the most alternative of lifestyles can find a home and where Spanish language, culture and traditions have a long and revered history.

"I came into this landmine of Anglos versus Spanish versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody up here. I'm just doing what I've always done," he says.

Former workers, their relatives and some town residents picketed across the street from the hotel.

"I do feel he's a racist, but he's a racist out of ignorance. He doesn't know that what he's doing is wrong," says protester Juanito Burns Jr., who identified himself as prime minister of an activist group called Los Brown Berets de Nuevo Mexico.
Comment:  Some of Whitten's employees may be Indians from Taos or another nearby pueblo. They may have Hispanic names too. Presumably Whitten wants them to change their names and speak English only also.

Does Whitten also want people with difficult English names to change their names? What about blacks and Asians with unusual names? And what about names such as Taylor or Terry? Are they male or female? Confusing!

I don't think Whitten is ignorant of what he's doing. He's criticizing the names of one ethnic group because he thinks his customers won't understand them. This isn't ignorance so much as stupidity.

And it's very clearly racist. Discriminating against one group and one group only is the epitome of racism, and that's what Whitten has done.

For more on the subject, see Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.

Below:  "Hotel owner Larry Whitten is seen at his attorney's office in Taos, N.M. on Oct. 1, 2009."

Sitting Bull's killer on Highway Patrol logo

The man behind the Highway Patrol logo

By Curt EriksmoenThe American Indian symbol of the North Dakota Highway Department is the profile of an actual Lakota Indian.

Marcellus Red Tomahawk was a warrior who actively fought against the whites during the early years of Dakota Territory. He later settled on the Standing Rock Reservation, becoming a member of the Bureau of Indian Affairs police force.

He was part of several peace negotiations, served as a Lakota goodwill ambassador and met with U.S. presidents. Red Tomahawk is most remembered as the man who shot and killed Sitting Bull.
Comment:  On the plus side, this logo features the actual profile of a real Indian. And he served with the BIA Indian Police, which isn't the Highway Patrol but is a form of police work.

On the minus side, he was never a chief--judging by the article, at least--so he shouldn't be wearing a stereotypical headdress. Only actual chiefs should wear them. And he killed Sitting Bull.

Really, North Dakota? Is this your idea of an honorable police officer? Someone who kills a major political figure while trying to arrest him?

The article makes it sound as if Sitting Bull was resisting arrest. Accounts of this incident differ about what really happened and who was to blame. But I don't think anyone has claimed Sitting Bull was armed, so a "resisting arrest" justification seems dubious.

It's always the police's responsibility to control this kind of situation so problems don't occur. Red Tomahawk and the other officers didn't do that. By delaying Sitting Bull's arrest, exchanging hostile words, and letting Sitting Bull's supporters gather, Red Tomahawk was ultimately responsible for what happened.

Sitting Bull probably shouldn't have been arrested. The charges against his Ghost Dance movement violated the First Amendment's guarantees (freedom of speech, religion, and assembly). Red Tomahawk may have been doing his duty, but killing a revered, iconic figure isn't something to be proud of. It's not the kind of thing North Dakota should honor in its logo.

For more on Sitting Bull's arrest, see Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. For more on Indian logos, see Team Names and Mascots.

"Elephant" threatens Indian communities

Elephant of Indian racism discussed

By Adrian JawortNona Main, a senior at Montana State University Billings and Gros Ventre from the northern Montana Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, said racism toward American Indians is often perceived as imaginary to those who haven’t experienced it first-hand.

“A lot of that goes with the fact that a lot of people think that we have a victim mentality,” Main said. “And they say, ‘Get over it. It happened a long time ago.’ It didn’t happen a long time ago, it’s still happening. I’m not trying to play the victim, I’m trying to educate you about what’s going on in my world so you guys can stop treating people this way. I don‘t treat you that way.”

Main was one of seven panelists who presented “There’s an Elephant in Our Community,” a discussion about American Indian racism in Montana. The event was sponsored by Not In Our Town, an organization against racial discrimination, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church at MSU Billings as part of American Indian Heritage Day.

“I tell my students we all misunderstand things,” said MSU Billings Professor Jeff Sanders, who is Jewish. “All of us are human and misunderstand things, but not one of us ‘mis-experiences’ things. If we’ve experienced it, we know it.”
Comment:  Jeff Sanders is one of my PEACE PARTY advisers, although I haven't heard from him in a while.

Below:  "Panel members discussed American Indian racism in Montana for Not In Our Town, an organization created in 1994 to combat bigotry and intolerance." (Photo by Adrian Jawort)