January 31, 2010

"Cool" moments in SCALPED

Last year the Comics Should Be Good blog ran a series called "A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments." Blogger Brian Cronin devoted a whole week to "cool" moments in Jason Aaron's SCALPED.

Naturally, I had something to say about that. The debates are too tedious to repost, but you can see my comments below. Go to the original postings to see what I was talking about.

Year of Cool Comic Book Moments–Day 193

Two Indians beating on each other...a typical SCALPED comic.

Why would a Lakota in South Dakota care whether someone from Oklahoma was 1/16 or 15/16 Kickapoo? Either way, the Kickapoo is an outsider from another part of the country. I doubt Diesel would fit into a "foreign" tribe any better than Jason Aaron or I would.

Actually, several Natives have expressed outrage over SCALPED's stereotypical portrayals. Others like the comic because it presents the harsh realities of (some of) today's reservations, even if it grossly exaggerates the problems.

Some Natives also root for the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians because they like to see "their" names in the win column. Some Natives don't think much about how stereotyping affects their people.

Re "If it was saying 'this is a story about Native Americans and all Native Americans are like this' then there’d be justified outrage": The outrage is justified because Aaron has said he's researched Indians and wants people to learn from SCALPED. In other words, he's positioned his work at an authentic look at Indian life today. If Aaron had said his stories bear little relationship to reality, he'd be right, but he hasn't said that.

See SCALPED:  Another Comic Book Gets Indians Wrong for more on the Native stereotypes in SCALPED.

Year of Cool Comic Book Moments–Day 194

I wonder if the Kickapoo membership thing has any basis in reality. Or if it's another "literary device" that makes Indians look corrupt and venal.

There were no large-scale Indian casinos 26 years ago, so no membership battles over casino payments. That much is certainly false.

Year of Cool Comic Book Moments–Day 195

When Aaron isn't stereotyping Indians as criminals, thugs, and lowlifes, he's a good writer. Clearly he has a fair understanding of what life on a poor reservation is like.

But the "No more chiefs, braves, bucks, skins, 'breeds, squaws" line doesn't ring true. Poor Bear would encounter more offensive stereotypes off the rez than he'd encounter on it.

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments--Day 196

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments--Day 197

I wonder how many of SCALPED's Indians aren't killers, criminals, or drug users. A minority, I suspect.

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments--Day 198

Uh, Indian casinos are regulated by federal and state agencies, you know. I'm pretty sure these agencies check a casino's investors before letting them proceed. There's also the tribe's elected council, which has to oversee and approve any investment deal. And of course the media, which investigates any deal that looks shady.

But hey...all this regulatory stuff is boring. That's undoubtedly why Aaron didn't include it in his stories. It's a lot more cool to show a badass Indian boss making a backroom deal with Hmong gangsters.

Who cares if it makes Indians look corrupt and venal? They're all a bunch of animals wallowing in their own filth and squalor, right? They're lucky we let 'em continue living in our great country, the good ol' US of A.

That's my take on Aaron's take on Indians.

P.S. It's Red Crow, not Bad Crow.

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments--Day 199

The pouch may be a medicine bundle containing sacred objects. If so, you're not supposed to show the objects to outsiders, so Aaron wisely didn't depict them.

I haven't read every SCALPED, so I must've missed the issues where Red Crow was spiritual, respectful of his elders, and a benevolent politician. But I didn't miss the scene in #1 where he literally scalped someone.

Thousands of tribal leaders could make the same speech as Red Crow. The main difference is that 99.9% of them aren't murderers. Aaron is literally portraying the most extreme tribal leader ever. He may not be pure evil, but he's more evil than any real tribal leader.

I'm looking forward to Aaron's next comic on a US president who stays in office by being a mass murderer. Should be a lot of fun--just like The Sopranos! Meanwhile, I hope Brian Cronin gets to some "cool moments" in Amos 'n' Andy Comics or Stepin Fetchit Comics. Just because they're stereotypical doesn't mean they're bad!

Can I help it if I know more about Natives than the typical SCALPED reader (or writer), Greg? Sorry to interrupt everyone's fantasies about savage Indians with honest information.

Let's wrap this up by seeing what Native people think about stereotypes such as SCALPED's:

The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and EvidenceWhether the Indian in your image is villain or victim, it is likely some exotic "other," a more primal being somehow in touch with elemental nature which can be a source of savagery and spirituality.

Michael Hill, "Challenging Old Views of the American Indian," Baltimore Sun, 8/29/04
[As part of a quiz on Indians, moderator Jean Gaddy Wilson] asked participants to write down two positive traits of Indians and two negative traits. Among the positive traits were such things as resourceful, traditional, helpful, knowledgeable of the natural world, survival, spiritual and bravery. Under negatives, responses included words such as alcoholic, lazy, mean, dirty, savages, dishonest, raiders and murderers.

Wilson asked participants where they got their first view of Indians or Native Americans, with the common answer being television and/or movies.

"Discussion Centers on Explorers' Interactions with Indians," Marshall Democrat-News, 4/27/04
No one illustration is enough to create stereotypes in children's minds. But enough books contain these images—and the general culture reinforces them—so that there is a cumulative effect, encouraging false and negative perceptions about Native Americans.

Council on Interracial Books for Children, "Unlearning Indian Stereotypes"
Beginning with Wild West shows and continuing with contemporary movies, television, and literature, the image of Indigenous Peoples has radically shifted from any reference to living people to a field of urban fantasy in which wish fulfillment replaces reality.

Dr. Cornel Pewewardy (Comanche/Kiowa), "Why Educators Can't Ignore Indian Mascots"
I have committed my life to dealing with harmful and negative stereotypes and educating students on my reservation of their culture, traditions, ceremonies and spirituality. As Native people, we experience layer upon layer of stereotypes and images that dehumanize. Eurocentric curriculum and children's literature reinforce stereotypes of the "vanishing Indian," "romantic Indian," "militant Indian" or "drunken Indian." I have seen firsthand how these images, along with poverty or low socioeconomic status, generational trauma and other issues of reservation life contribute to low self-esteem in Native students.

Denise K. Lajimodiere, "VIEWPOINT: Racism at Protest Shames UND," Grand Forks Herald, 4/12/06
Almost every Indian person I know of has been horribly impacted by the imposition of the all-pervasive "categorical" stereotypical classification upon their basic sense of humanity--so much so that I feel quite safe in declaring that all Indian people suffer a unique form of self-esteem deficiency based solely on the widespread mayhem that Indian stereotypes have caused us since before the Boston Tea Party.

Melvin Martin (Lakota), "Identifying Indians with Stereotypes," 2/28/09
For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

Natives criticize Sid Meier's Colonization

When Leah Bowe took her computer to a shop for repairs, she encountered the Colonization video game on the shelf. Here are some thoughts she posted on Facebook:

Holy Moley, Will This Crap Never End?The game is, according to the copy on the official Sid Meier site, "the third offering in the award-winning Civilization IV series. A re-imagining of the classic Civilization game Sid Meier created in 1994, Colonization is a total conversion of the Civilization IV engine into a game experience in which players will lead a European nation on their quest to colonize and thrive in the New World. Players will be challenged to guide their people from the oppressive Motherland, discover a new world, negotiate, trade and fight as they acquire great power and battle for their freedom and independence." You also get to "sustain peace and support your followers while you engage in negotiations with natives, other colonists, and a hostile homeland."

Hum. Interesting. May I sally forth with a couple guesses?:

1) I bet slavery isn't mentioned at all in the formation of these new "civilizations." Forget the fact that the "civilizations" of the "New World" could never have been built with the vigor, speed and structure they posses today with out the use of millions upon millions of African and African-American human beings employed as sub-human chattels.

2) I bet the "natives" are pretty stereotyped, as would be indicated by the image of the standard Plains Indian (who are the dominant imaginaire's stand-in for all 550+ Indian Nations in the US, let alone Canada, Mexico, or the rest of the Americas.)

3) I bet colonization is only ever a good thing in this game. You think they depict colonists setting up shop and then, a year after the establishment of their village, a pop-up window appears with something to the effect of: "Good news! European diseases transmitted by your colony to the local indigenous population have killed off approximately 90% of the surrounding hostiles. Time to start negotiating for land rights!"?

I'm kinda doubting it.

Leah adds:I saw this in the Apple Store + instantly felt like someone had slapped me across the face in public. I felt *humiliated*. I can't tell you what a bizarre experience that is.Others chimed in on the game:Larry McNeil:  It's part of the avalanche of moronic drivel from the mainstream; films, books, music, video games, movies, art, etc. In other words, what passes as culture. I really love it that indigenous people have our own intellectuals, authors, filmmakers, artists, scholars, and so on, who are able to help make sense of all the trash we're constantly barraged with.

Cristina M. Perez:  Rated "E" for Everyone...well, isn't that sweet.

We wouldn't want to leave anyone out of all the fun that colonization brings now would we?

Dameun Strange:  I am not surprised. All of these games are very useful for those who continue to perpetually recolonize the lands of brown-skinned peoples. Not surprised at all. We still haven't learned the bad lessons of colonization and I doubt this game will be the beginning of the lesson.

Terra Equality Hartwell:  Do you think some shmuck made a video game about the Nazis killing Jewish people during the holocaust?? It wouldn't surprise me since games about killing Indians are so damn fun and popular!! Where does the line get drawn...?

Zenith Cole:  I am still a little shocked that this exists...and I just bet that ignorant folks would buy it for their children to perpetuate that ignorance!

Brian Bull:  I can't speak for the version you're writing about, Leah. But actually I did play one of the earliest incarnations of it back in the late 90s, and enjoyed it. In a reverse twist, I assumed the role of Montezuma and conquered Europe. The rules actually allow that, and there was no reference to enslaving citizens. There are also options to negotiate peacefully and set up trade relations so it's not all war, battle, etc. That said, I can't speak for this version you're seeing in the store and if it matches your impressions, that's pretty bad.

Comment:  Brian Bull is referring to playing Civilization, not Colonization. Since Colonization is part of the Civilization series, we don't know how different it is from its predecessors.

Like Leah Bowe, I haven't played Colonization either, but we can deduce some things from its packaging.

For starters, the game obviously glorifies the idea of colonization. The glowing light of the image reeks of "civilization" being delivered to a savage land.

The reverse side of the package shows ships with American-flag sails and the slogan "Create a New Nation." If it were honest, it would say, "Invade and Conquer Inhabited Lands," or, "Create a New Nation by Destroying Old Nations."

British soldiers and frontiersmen are shown prominently, which suggests the game is about European powers jostling for power. Given the Anglo-American ships and colonizers, the implication is strong that Anglo Americans are destined to rule the continent. Apparently the Spanish, French, and Dutch don't have much of a chance, and the (invisible) Indians don't have any chance at all.

The game's Plains-style chief ("How!") and teepees are a joke. The colonizers didn't reach the Plains until 25 or 50 years after the USA was born. For the first 200 or so years, the Spanish dealt with California and Southwestern Indians, the Spanish and French dealt with Southeastern Indians, and the French and British dealt with Northeastern Indians. Of the hundreds of different tribes they encountered, none were Plains Indians.

I suspect the game does have options to trade and negotiate with Indian tribes, to court them as political and military allies, etc. Even so, the questions Bowe raises are good ones. Does the game show the colonizers lying and cheating the Indians of their land, and killing or enslaving the uncooperative ones? Does it show the Indians rising up against the colonists to defend their way of life? Does it let the Indians combine forces and vanquish the colonists, as they could've done at several points?

Similarly, as Bowe notes, does it show the Southern colonies and Caribbean islands building themselves via the slave trade? Does it allow for the indigenous revolts and revolutions that occurred throughout Latin America? I doubt it.

If it's missing these Native and African American components, it's a fairy-tale version of history. It's "teaching" the age-old myth that the Americas were available for the taking. It's rationalizing and justifying the dominant American belief that our ancestors did nothing wrong when they invaded and conquered the "New World."

For more debates on colonization, see Bitter Over Hudson Anniversary, Educating Tony About Genocide, and No History of Canadian Colonialism?! For more on video games, see Mayans in The Settlers and Video Games Featuring Indians.

Summing up my fall trips

Indian Comics Irregular #189:  A Month of Native-Themed Trips

January 30, 2010

Dick Gregory champions Mark Twain

We get e-mail:Hi Rob,

Regarding the discussion on your site of Mark Twain being "racist"--I think Dick Gregory's explanation is brilliant:
** The part where he talks about Twain begins near the 103:00 minute marker (lasts about 2 mins). Dick is listing the top three people responsible for ending slavery in America before Lincoln (Twain, Stowe, John Brown).My reply:  I think Gregory's response is somewhat addled, which is why he hesitated for so long before coming up with it.

The key point is that Huck Finn was published in 1884, or long after Lincoln and the Civil War. So Gregory is flatly wrong in saying Twain's book had an effect before Lincoln.

The only benefits Gregory attributed to Huck Finn were calling Jim by name and having him talking with Huck as an equal. That might've been a bit innovative in the mid-19th century South, when slavery was the law of the land. But 20 years after slavery was abolished, when blacks were supposedly equal?

Here are some African-American firsts that happened contemporaneously with Huck Finn's mid-century timeframe:
  • 1836: First African American elected to public office and to serve in a state legislature: Alexander Twilight, Vermont.

  • 1837: First African-American doctor: Dr. James McCune Smith from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

  • 1845: First African American licensed to practice law in the United States: Macon Allen from the Boston bar.

  • 1847: First African American to graduate from a U.S. medical school: Dr. David J. Peck (Rush Medical College).

  • 1849: First African-American college professor: Charles L. Reason, New York Central College.

  • 1853: First novel written by an African American: Clotel; or, The President's Daughter, by William Wells Brown.
  • If Twain had written about the first black lawyer, doctor, or professor, that might've been impressive. Even 30 or 40 years after the fact, as Huck Finn was. But the first slave to be called by a proper name? Let's ask Twain's intellectual contemporaries--Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B Du Bois--how much Huck Finn contributed to their freedom.

    In short, the book's fictional "advances" were trivial compared to the historic advances in the real world. Twain did nothing extraordinary by pointing out the evils of slavery 20 years after the fact.

    Nice try to defend Twain's racism, friend, but I suggest you try again. Better luck next time.

    For more on the subject, see Mark Twain, Indian Hater.

    P.S. For all I know, Twain was the first writer to give an Indian a Christian name ("Injun Joe" in Tom Sawyer). And the first to portray an urban Indian--one completely divorced from his tribal upbringing. Should we give him credit even though Injun Joe was a violent criminal? No, I don't think so.

    Stilwell votes to keep ugly mascot

    Stilwell Public Schools’ board votes to keep Tommy Tomahawk

    By Christina Good VoiceStilwell High School will keep its mascot, Tommy Tomahawk, after its board of education voted 3-2 to reinstate the mascot at a special meeting on Jan. 25 in the school’s gym.

    School officials received complaints from people about the new mascot after a photo of it ran in the Jan. 13 issue of a local newspaper. The photo showed the mascot with a large head, long black hair in braids and exaggerated American Indian facial features such as a scowl, large nose and bushy eyebrows. It was dressed in a fake buckskin shirt and leggings.
    The anti-mascot position:[B]oard president Eli Pumpkin said the mascot was “ugly” and agreed with Johnson’s comments on a compromise.

    “I’m from this community, and I’ve got a lot of calls from Native Americans in this district and they’ve certainly been offended,” he said. “I think we could’ve done a better job with what we picked. I think we made him look awful ugly.”
    The pro-mascot position:CN citizen Troy Littledeer said he sees the issue as a Stilwell resident, not as a Native American.

    “It was a community matter, and when I spoke I mentioned this may not be a winnable argument,” Littledeer said. “What some people find offensive, others will not. I’m in favor of the vote, only because it upholds the community and the interest of the students. I know they worked hard; they deserve the reward for their hard work.”
    Comment:  It took "hard work" to choose a random Indian costume from an online store? I could've gone through my collection of Indian mascot images and picked an equally stupid stereotype in five minutes. Odds are it would've been just as representative of Stilwell's Cherokee population as "Tommy Tomahawk" is.

    For more on the subject, see Cherokee School Chooses "Tommy Tomahawk" and Team Names and Mascots.

    Below:  "Stilwell High School's mascot, Tommy Tomahawk, made an appearance at a Jan. 26 pep assembly after the school's board voted 3-2 to reinstate it." (Photo by Christina Good Voice)

    "Me thank'um school for choosing ugly savage like me. School must be full of ugly savages too. Why else they vote'um for me?"

    Peter Pan = harmless fantasy?

    We get e-mail:Subj: Peter Pan

    I was going to ask your opinion, but found an entire article devoted to it.

    I'm normally pretty hard on this sort of thing but give Peter Pan a pass because it's a "Boys fantasy tale" seen through the eyes of Victorian, turn of the century boys.

    Boys play(ed) Pirates, and Indians and pretended they could fly. It's just a silly boy story from over 100 years ago.
    My reply:

    You can say any stereotype in isolation is harmless, just for fun, etc., etc. We've heard this rationalization over and over and it's unconvincing every time.

    I've never said any one stereotype will kill someone. Obviously, the effect of stereotypes is cumulative. When people see the same images repeated a hundred, a thousand, or a million times, why would anyone disbelieve them?

    It doesn't even matter if someone has seen or read Peter Pan because they're learning Native stereotypes from a myriad of similar sources. These sources include all sorts of "fantastical" movies, cartoons, and books. If you don't think people learn stereotypes from these sources, where do you think they learn them from?

    Stereotypes are especially harmful to children, who don't have the adult ability to weigh or filter them. Which is why every expert talks about their impact on the young. For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

    For more on Indians, pirates, and Peter Pan, see Stereotypes in Peter Pan Sequel, Liv Tyler = Cherokee Pocahontas?, and Indians, Smurfs, and Fairies.

    Mural commemorates Ojibwe rescuer

    The Hero of Hinckley

    By Leif EngerA new mural commemorating the great Hinckley Fire of 1894 has been unveiled at the Hinckley Community Center. The fire produced a firestorm which incinerated hundreds of square miles and killed more than 400 people. The mural, by Ojibwe artist Steve Premo shows the historic rescue of a family by a young Ojibwe woman, whose identity has only recently been discovered.Identifying the rescuer:Coffee: It was a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. But through census records, through some documentation at the government center in Mille Lacs, we not only found her but found out who her mother and father were. We know she was a Mille Lacs Band member. She was an only child. Her full name was Mahkahdaygwon. Her English name was Katherine Wadena McDonnell.What the painting shows:The painting shows two young women, four blanketed children--McDonnell had two of her own. Scared, determined, they stand in the black waters of Grindstone Lake under incandescent clouds. McDonell is shielding Frank Patrick, the smallest of the children. Steve Premo, himself Ojibwe, calls it a story of racial unity right for contemporary times.Comment:  Steve Premo was the artist on A HERO'S VOICE and DREAMS OF LOOKING UP, the two Ojibwe comics I often mention. I haven't heard much about him since he drew the comics, so it's good to see his other projects.

    Below:  "Premo's work is darkly radiant, almost stifling. Looking at it makes you loosen your collar."

    First Nations meet Mongolians in Tono

    Cultural blending

    Tono brings together North American and Mongolian traditions

    By Jeanne Kwong
    In Tono, by Red Sky Performance, Sandra Laronde worked with fellow choreographer Roger Sinha and a small cast of dancers and musicians to create a staged meeting place for traditions and cultures that span two continents. The show opens with three Mongolian musicians and throat-singers, followed by two First Nations singers.

    Laronde is excited to bring Tono back to southern Alberta, which served as the launching pad for this ongoing journey. As part of the Banff Summer Arts Festival in 2008, Tono invited viewers into the colourful sights and sounds of life—humans transformed into horses onstage with the leaps, jumps and gallops of dancers. The show was performed in Beijing in conjunction with the summer Olympics and will head to Vancouver for the Cultural Olympiad after its Rodeo performance.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

    Sho-Ban artist designs helmet

    Speed Thrills in Contest for Vonn’s Helmet

    By Bill PenningtonThe American alpine racer Lindsey Vonn held a public contest to design the helmet she will wear at the Vancouver Games, and she announced Thursday that the winning entry belonged to Laddie Lee Whitworth, a 60-year-old retired machinist from Pocatello, Idaho.

    Two of the other three finalists were professional designers or artists, but Whitworth is an amateur artist who worked for 37 years in a cement factory. He is also a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes at Idaho’s Fort Hall reservation.

    Whitworth’s design is red, white and blue, with flames flowing from front to back, like something on the fenders of a drag racing car. There is an American flag just over the helmet’s brow.
    Comment:  For more on Native art at the Olympics, see Aboriginal Art Bottle Program and Musqueam Design on Team Canada Jerseys.

    January 29, 2010

    Cool Cat in Injun Trouble

    Injun Trouble (1969 film)Injun Trouble is a 1969 animated cartoon short in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Robert McKimson and featuring Cool Cat. It is noted for being the final cartoon produced by the original Warner Bros. cartoon studio, breaking a run which had lasted since 1930 (with the exception of the four years when the cartoons were produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises).

    Owing to controversy over its stereotyping of Native Americans (and some racy jokes such as the "topless saloon"), the cartoon has never been shown by United States television broadcasters, or released on video. While bootleg versions are available (most commonly with a timecode on the print), the cartoon still proves very difficult to track down.
    A website summarizes the cartoon with screen images:

    Cool Cat in Injun Trouble

    Indians follow Cool Cat as he drives across a desolate landscape and warn him to leave.

    An Indian painting pots puts a bucket over his head and says, "Look, me pail face!"

    An Indian chasing Cool Cat slips and falls and ends up dangling from a ledge. "I need a hand," the Indian says to Cool Cat, and Cool Cat applauds.

    A brave offers an Indian maiden to Cool Cat if he'll go away. When the maiden turns out to be fat, Cool Cat responds, "Indian giver!"

    The rest of Injun Trouble takes place in the town of Hotfoot and doesn't involve Indians.

    The problems in Cool Cat's Injun Trouble are similar to the ones in Lippy and Hardy's Injun Trouble. Check out that posting for some thoughts on these cartoons.

    For more on the subject, see Native Videos and Cartoons.

    Composer shocked at own ignorance

    An Interview With Composer Rob Kapilow on Summer Sun, Winter MoonRob Kapilow, the composer featured in the documentary Summer Sun, Winter Moon to air January 31st on SundayArts, was commissioned by the St. Louis and Kansas City Symphonies and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra to compose a symphonic work with a specific theme: a reflection of the enduring legacy of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Seeking to collaborate with Blackfeet tribal member Darrell Robes Kipp, the innovative artist delved into a sharply alternative--and controversial--avenue of perspective, that of the indigenous storyteller’s view “from the river bank, not the boat.” Summer Sun, Winter Moon documents the collaboration to create this cross cultural piece project that brings a Native perspective on American history to light.

    In connection with the January 31st airing of the documentary, Kapilow recently answered a number of questions for SundayArts via email about his creative process and his journey with Summer Sun, Winter Moon.

    At the beginning of the documentary Darrell calls you a good Blackfoot. What is your relationship Native American tribes? Would you say that your creative collaboration created a kind of tribal bond?

    I believe that relationships are with individuals and not groups. Before this project I had not a single relationship with a Native American. Over the course of this project and since its completion, I have developed hundreds of relationships with individual Native Americans of many different tribes–obviously the largest number within the Blackfoot community. I have become aware of a group of people, and a wide range of issues that I had previously never been aware of before, and developed extremely deep relationships with many different individuals and a sympathy for them and their issues I would not have thought possible. I have also developed a much greater comfort level in my dealings with all tribes and a sensitivity to the kinds of issues that can arise in these encounters that has deepened these relationships. I would not claim that I have a relationship with Native American tribes but the creative collaboration and the time I spent in the Native American world allowed me to connect with an enormous number of people and issues in the tribal world.

    What was the impetus to document the creative process behind the commissioned musical composition?

    From my side, the impetus came first from my own shock at how ignorant I was of the people and issues I was encountering as I entered the Native American world, and the hope that some of the amazing experiences I was having might be shared with others, and open up some of this world to them. I also believed profoundly that the tribal world had an important story to tell that we needed to hear–not only about Lewis and Clark but about their side of the American experience–and the more I learned, the more valuable it thought it might be to have this information shared with others. I also believe deeply in this kind of collaborative experience with people from completely different walks of life–”crossing the divide” experiences–and I hoped that by documenting this process, others might be inspired to try to create similar projects.
    Comment:  Kapilow's experiences sound a little like mine. It's taken 20 years before I could claim to be semi-knowledgeable about Indians.

    For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    New Hopi hotel to open

    New hotel to open on Hopi Reservation

    By Sam LoweUnder ordinary circumstances, the opening of a new hotel in Arizona might not be big news. The opening of the Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites will be an exception.

    It's only the second hotel on the Hopi Reservation, and it signals a step by the tribe to share its culture with outsiders. Because the Hopis felt exploited by tourists, journalists and photographers who first came to the area more than a century ago, they have, until recently, resisted tourism.

    The new hotel will give visitors a starting point to learn about the culture of one of the nation's oldest indigenous tribes, and it will provide jobs in an economically depressed area.
    And:The hotel also will tell the story of the Hopi, who trace their ancestry back more than 2,000 years. They are said to have descended from the Anasazi, prehistoric people who lived throughout the Four Corners area.

    The centerpiece of the lobby is a three-story fireplace designed to resemble the mesas, hills and stone architecture that are major parts of tribal culture. It was designed and executed by local artist Eddie Calnimptewa.

    Across from the fireplace, the hotel's logo--a stained-glass circle by Howard Pavinyama, another Hopi artist--depicts the Hopi tradition of praying at dawn. Tribal symbols have been woven into the carpeting, and display cases in the lobby will exhibit the works of Hopi artists, known for their kachina dolls, pottery and jewelry. The gift shop will feature pieces by village artists.
    Comment:  I've driven by the hotel's location twice, I think. I would've been happy to stay at the hotel if it had existed then.

    For similar projects, see Hopi to Reopen Twin Arrows and Navajo View Hotel Opens.

    Below:  "The new Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites is just the second hotel on the Hopi Reservation. It's at the intersection of U.S. 160 and Arizona 264." (Sam Lowe/Special for The Republic)

    Asham Stompers at 2010 Olympics

    Métis dance troupe makes Olympic grade

    Asham Stompers wins audition to perform at Games

    By Bill Redekop
    The Asham Stompers are stomping their way to Vancouver.

    The Métis dance troupe has won an audition to perform at this year's Olympic Games.

    They'll dance the famous Red River Jig and other Métis jigs and square dances, born in the late 1700s and early 1800s at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers.
    And:Two dance members hail from Reedy Creek, 10 kilometres south of Ebb and Flo First Nation, and another three are from Peguis First Nation. There are eight Métis and five First Nation people in the troupe.

    The Asham Stompers wanted very badly to perform at the Games. Members paid their own way to Vancouver last July to audition before the Four Host First Nations, on whose territory the Games are being held. The Squamish, Lil'wat, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh are the host First Nations.
    Comment:  This article is unclear about the "audition." If the Stompers auditioned last July, why are they auditioning again? If they're appearing once or twice at next month's Olympics, aren't these actual performances and not just "auditions"?

    For more on the subject, see Olympics Organizers Diss Natives and Youth Choir's Olympics Invitation Axed.

    Inukshuk symbolizes 2010 Olympics

    With Open Arms, Vancouver Emblem Has Curious Past

    Emblem for Winter Olympics inspired by inukshuk, an Inuit stone marker with ancient history

    By Leanne Italie
    The emblem of the Olympic Winter Games is a colorful humanoid with arms spread wide, a contemporary interpretation of a stone landmark called an inukshuk with a history stretching back more than 3,000 years in Inuit culture.

    Sitting atop the Olympic Rings, the symbol looms large on licensed merchandise and is sure to generate curiosity once the Games are under way.

    An inukshuk (in-OOK-shook) is a carefully balanced pile of unworked rocks and slabs. The Inuit have built them through time to guide travelers, assist with hunts, warn of danger or indicate caches of food. A miniature version stands hip-high, with others measuring 3 to 6 feet tall (1 to 2 meters), one builder said.

    With a more human look, the design for the Olympic emblem was chosen in 2005 from about 1,600 proposals to represent hope, friendship, hospitality and teamwork, according to Vancouver organizers. Named Ilanaaq (ih-LAH-nawk), meaning friend, it was cast in Canada's red and two shades of blue, along with green, yellow and gold, to evoke the host country's sweeping forests, mountains, islands and sunsets.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Olympics to Benefit Host First Nations.

    Marketing Minnesota's Native artists

    Minnesota's Native art is an underused resource

    By Marcie Rendon, Ann Markusen[M]ost museums and galleries do not exhibit or buy Native work, and most performance spaces do not host Native musicians or actors.

    There are exceptions: Two Rivers, Ancient Traders and Todd Bockley's galleries in the Cities. Fargo's Plains Museum, the University of Minnesota Duluth's Tweed, and the Weisman on the Twin Cities campus of the University. Patrick's Cabaret for performance. Bemidji State, Leech Lake Tribal College, and University of Wisconsin Superior for annual art shows.

    Most tribal-managed spaces, like casinos, gifts shops and hotels, do a poor job at commissioning and presenting work by their resident artists. But here too there are pioneers. The Mille Lacs Band has commissioned work by Steve Premo for its casino walls and hosted a competition among Native artists for hotel room paintings.

    The Fond du Lac human services complex hangs contemporary Native artwork in every room, purchased with a dedicated share of its building fund, because, as its director states, "art is essential to healing." The Mahnomen Shooting Star Casino's gift shop displays Native artists' one-of-a-kind work prominently (and makes more money than others in the state). Grand Portage and Fond du Lac casinos occasionally host Native performers.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Casinos Promote Culture.

    January 28, 2010

    Tribal jurisdiction = "Custer legislation"?!

    Obama using Indians for his dirty work

    By Barry NapierI can say, without reservation, that I’m not a racist. Black or white, yellow or brown, I don’t care, so long as the fellah is decent and sociable. Obama, however, IS racist, and it shows in this proposed piece of legislation.

    Idaho pro-Obama bosses are trying to muscle-through ‘Custer Legislation’, so that the (Red) Indians can at last get their own back on white men--cowboys and Indians all over again!

    The idea is to give Indians total legal control over any non-Indian who even passes through their territory. They would be tried under separate tribal laws, and even if the accused comes from outside the reservation, they cannot call in outside help or legal counsel! And only Indians would be allowed to sit on the jury. Watch out for revenge from Indians who are filled with leftist revisionist history!

    The bright-sparks who are trying to bring this in are Idaho Attorney General Wasden and US Attorney Thomas Moss. They have been working out the details for the past six months… and everyone in the USA should ask “Why?” What is the point of making parts of the USA free from state and national laws?
    Comment:  I can say without reservation that Napier is a racist. The language in his screed proves it:

  • "Obama using Indians": As if Indians are incapable of independent thought. Of determining what's best for them.

    Napier later admits that one tribe is backing this legislation and two others aren't. He doesn't name the tribes because all Indians are the same to him, presumably. Perhaps he doesn't even know the tribes' names. He sounds like regurgitating right-wing talking points rather than thinking on his own.

    In any case, attacking "Indians" for the actions of one tribe is like attacking the world's Caucasians for the actions of the Bush administration or the Manson family. It's racist.

  • "(Red) Indians": As if Indians are actually red.

  • "Get their own back on white men": This ungrammatical phrase apparently means "get revenge on white men." The implication that Indians want revenge on whites is racist because it denigrates an entire race.

  • "Only Indians would be allowed to sit on the jury": As if Indians are inherently biased and incapable of rendering a fair decision. Again, a racist assumption about Indians.

  • "Revenge from Indians who are filled with leftist revisionist history!": Again, a racist assertion about a revenge motive, coupled with a racist implication that Indians can't think straight.

  • It's not hard to imagine that Napier, like many conservatives, is prejudiced against Obama. With zero evidence, he attacks Idaho Attorney General Wasden and US Attorney Thomas Moss as "pro-Obama bosses." And he thinks Obama or someone "higher up" is orchestrating this legislation. It's all very reminiscent of the teabaggers' racist attacks on Obama as an un-American Kenyan and Muslim.

    Clearly Napier is clueless about tribal sovereignty. He's clueless that it's a nation-to-nation relationship based on the Constitution. Clueless that tribal nations are political entities, not racial entities--that their members can belong to any race, in theory.

    If Obama were behind this legislation, which he's not, it wouldn't be a "racist" move. Again, because tribes are political entities, not racial ones. Similarly, if a local district, precinct, or ward were 95% black, that wouldn't make it a racial entity either. A federal or state agency could help the district, precinct, or ward without being guilty of "racial preferences."

    Idaho rectifying PL 280?

    I don't know the details of the proposed "State and Indian Tribal Cooperative Law Enforcement Act" A Google search doesn't turn up anything about it. I wouldn't trust anything Napier has written about it, since he comes from the "black helicopter/blue helmet" school of conservative idiocy.

    I presume this act has something to do with correcting the worst parts of the infamous PL 280. Here's some background on how this law has weakened tribal sovereignty.

    Public Law 280:  Issues and Concerns for Victims of Crime in Indian Country

    By Ada Pecos Melton and Jerry Gardner1. What is Public Law 280?

    Public Law 83-280, the 280th Public Law enacted by the 83rd Congress in 1953, was a substantial transfer of jurisdiction from the federal government to the states in Indian country. This transfer of jurisdiction was required (or mandatory) for the states specifically mentioned in the Act and also permitted other states an option to acquire jurisdiction. Indian Nations, on the other hand, had no choice in the matter. The Indian Nations which were affected by Public Law 280 had to deal with greatly increased state authority and state control over a broad range of reservation activities without any tribal consent.

    Before Public Law 280 was enacted, the federal government and Indian tribal courts shared jurisdiction over almost all civil and criminal matters involving Indians in Indian country. The states had no jurisdiction. With the enactment of Public Law 280, affected states received criminal jurisdiction over reservation Indians. Furthermore, Public Law 280 opened state courts to civil litigation that previously had been possible only in tribal or federal courts. In the affected states, the federal government gave up control over crimes in Indian country (those involving Indian perpetrators and/or victims). Indian Nations lost control over many criminal and civil matters within their territory due to the policies of the federal and state governments.

    3. Why is Public Law 280 Controversial?

    From the beginning, Public Law 280 was unsatisfactory to both states and Indian Nations. Public Law 280 inspired widespread criticism and concern from Indians and non-Indians alike. Disagreements arose immediately concerning the scope of powers given to the states and the methods of assuming that power.

    Indian Opposition

    Indian opposition to Public Law 280 has focused upon the one-sided process which imposed state jurisdiction on Indian Nations and the complete failure to recognize tribal sovereignty and tribal self-determination. Public Law 280 required neither the consent of the Indian Nations being affected nor even consultation with these Indian Nations. When he signed it into law, even President Eisenhower expressed misgivings about the lack of tribal consent and urged immediate amendment of the law to require tribal referenda--no such amendment passed Congress until 1968.
    The key point to note is that PL 280 is mandatory in only six states. Other states don't impose the same restrictions on tribal sovereignty. And yet...no calamaties have befallen these states. They haven't turned into Communist enclaves where non-Indians are imprisoned in Native gulags.

    In fact, most people have never heard of PL 280 and don't know some states have more power over tribes than others. That's how stupid and irrelevant Napier's charge of an Obama takeover is.

    In short, Napier's scare tactics are completely at odds with the legal record. And he's a racist for suggesting Big Chief Obama and his little Indians are on the warpath again.

    For more on the subject, see The Facts About Tribal Sovereignty.

    6th Annual Red Nation Film Festival

    6th Annual Red Nation Film Festival + Experience American Indian Cinema + Celebrates Its Winners & HonoreesLos Angeles, CA--Red Nation Film Festival (RNFF) announces festival winners & honorees for the 6th Annual Red Nation Film Festival of November 2009.

    RNFF honorees were presented at the Red is Green Carpet Gala A Night of Tribute Awards Ceremony on November 12, 2009 at Raleigh Studios. RNFF filmmakers’ awards were presented online January 28, 2010, at www.rednationfilmfestival.com. RNFF had five L.A. premieres, three Red is Green Carpet galas, 20th anniversary of George Harrison critically acclaimed Sundance Award-winning feature film “Pow Wow Highway” and a exclusive premiere of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

    Red Nation Film Festival is the largest and most prestigious celebration of the American Indian motion picture art form in Los Angeles and has positioned itself worldwide as the best venue for marketing American Indian & Indigenous Independent Films, including Native Women in Film & Television.

    RNFF Award Winners:

    Best Film
    The Twilight Saga: New Moon
    Director: Chris Weitz

    Best Director
    The Ghost Riders
    Director: V. Blackhawk Aamodt

    Best Actor
    Chaske Spencer
    The Twilight Saga: New Moon

    Best Actress
    Tinsel Korey
    The Twilight Saga: New Moon

    Best Documentary Feature
    Director: Joe Berlinger

    Best Woman Documentary Feature
    For The Next 7 Generations/The 13 Grandmothers
    Director: Carole Hart

    Best Documentary Short
    In The Footsteps of Yellow Woman
    Director: Camille Manybeads Tso

    Best Editor
    Red Nation Film Festival Short
    Montano Rain

    Best Music Video
    Michael Jackson
    Black or White


  • “Red Nation Vision Award”--In Loving Memory to Michael Jackson “Black or White”

  • “Edward Albert Jr Indigenous Film Award”--Edward James Olmos, Actor

  • “Brando Award”--Joe Berlinger, director of Crude

  • “Lifetime Achievement Award”--Graham Greene, Actor

  • “Best Network Award”--CBS Corporation

  • “Television Heritage Media Award”--James Ramos, San Manuel Tribe

  • “Red Nation Theatre Playwright Award”--Richard Montoya, Culture Clash

  • “Red Nation Humanartian Award”--Leonard Peltier, Activist

  • “Red Nation Activists Award”--Atossa Soltani, Director of Amazon Watch

  • “Red Nation Community Award”--Christine Padilla, Community Volunteer Lakota Nation

  • In attendance were: Edward James Olmos (actor); Josie Thomas, Head of Diversity, Senior VP (CBS Corporation); Jo Berlinger; director of Crude; Mitchell Anderson accepting on behalf of Atossa Soltani (Amazon Watch); RJ Joseph accepting on behalf of Leonard Peltier (activist); Christine Padilla (community volunteer); Disney ABC Television Group Frank B. Gonzalez; Chaske Spencer (actor/New Moon); Tinsel Korey (actor/New Moon); Alex Meraz (actor/New Moon); Rene Haynes (casting director); Zahn McClarnon (actor/Into The West); Gil Birmingham (actor/New Moon); Jackie Jacobs (Talent Group); Kimberly Norris Guerrero (Dreamkeeper); Elijah De Jesus (actor/Pearl); V. Blackhawk Aamodt (director/The Ghost Riders); Camille Manybeads Tso (director/In The Footsteps of Yellow Woman) to name a few.
    Joanelle Romero's Photos--On the Red is Green Carpet + Red Nation Film Festival

    'New Moon' Honored for Embracing Native Americans  [video]

    DailyDips Episode 56:  Famous Quotes, A “Precious” Exclusive, Live Long and Prosper, Bullock Gets “Blind Sided,” “New Moon” Madness

    [New Moon segment begins at the 4:30 mark]

    Comment:  See Tinsel Korey talk about her Native community and Native actresses like her!

    I couldn't attend the Red Nation Film Festival this year because of my trips to Washington DC and Las Vegas.

    For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight and The Best Indian Movies.

    Below:  "Red Nation FILM LAB Q & A with Alex Meraz (actor/New Moon), Gil Birmingham (actor/New Moon), Tinsel Korey (actor/New Moon), Chaske Spencer (actor/New Moon) and Joanelle Romero (actor/Pow Wow Highway)."

    Blame Indians and Haitians for problems?

    Paul Shirley:  (Donated) food for thought?

    By Gyasi RossSee, I hear “intergenerational trauma” arguments over and over and over. I hear that the reason why Natives consistently serve as the poster children for FAS, teen suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence is because of what happened to us in the distant AND not-so-distant past…ok, I can dig that. That makes some sense (and I’ll hold any questions regarding whether ALL people have gone through some trauma in the past).

    Still–like in Haiti–at some point we have to ask the question, “Despite the intergenerational trauma, how much of our pain/suffering is of our own creation?” I venture that the answer is “more than we like to admit.”

    Thing is, if we use that intergenerational trauma rationale as the reason for our continued struggles/destruction, exactly where does it get us? Dead, but with a great excuse for our demise?? Drug addicted, but with a great excuse for our addiction?? A people filled with teenaged mothers, but with a great excuse for why we simply perpetuate the same cycle? See, we can continue to use, like Haiti, colonial mistreatment and governmental antipathy as an excuse for every failure under the sun–but it doesn’t help any of our kids to get college degrees or any of our teens to get out of the suicide-laden rut that we’re in. Excuses will not help us to escape our rut–they only provide our children another reason to believe that they are not equal with non-Natives.

    So yeah, we can ramble on and on about how Natives have been screwed historically and that some poverty is a by-product of that; we wouldn’t be lying. Still, we can also say, since we’re being so honest, that we really don’t use condoms nearly enough and we create more acute poverty because of our lack of self-control. Further, yes, we can honestly say that Natives got the short end of many sticks. But can we can honestly say that Natives, collectively, do a good enough job proactively teaching teaching drug and alcohol prevention?

    I think that if we were to answer that question honestly, the answer might make us mad. It would be one that we wouldn’t want to agree with. But the answer would be there, looking us dead in the eye.
    Comment:  A few thoughts about this posting:

  • Explaining a problem isn't the same as excusing it.

  • Does Ross think Indians are happy wallowing in an environment of poverty, crime, substance abuse, depression, and suicide? Why would they be? Because they enjoy a "primitive" or "savage" lifestyle?

  • Ross doesn't identify which tribes he thinks are wallowing in self-pity. He doesn't distinguish tribes that are doing everything they can with their limited resources from tribes that aren't.

    This is probably a wise move on Ross's part. If he identified which Indians he thought were lazy, good-for-nothing slackers without self-control, they'd probably ream him for his ignorance. I'm guessing Ross doesn't have a clue about all the tribal programs fighting poverty, crime, and other social ills, and why they may or may not be working.

  • Are Indians just stupid, or what?

    If "intergenerational trauma"--i.e., historical forces--isn't responsible for the plight of Indians and Haitians, I wonder what Ross thinks is responsible. I gather he believes Indians enjoy being poor and hungry, sick and addicted, vandalized and victimized. But why do they enjoy it?

    If this self-destructive attitude doesn't come from some external source, it must be internal. So what is it, Ross? Are Indians lazy? Stupid? Mentally ill? All of the above?

    Why haven't Indians, Haitians, and other minorities learned what every white man supposedly knows? Namely, that pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is the road to success. That hard work can overcome any problem. That the only people who are sick and poor are people who choose to be that way.

    Ross says making excuses doesn't help. I say blaming the victim doesn't help either. Spare us the content-free condemnations of entire nations and races.

    Unless you can tell us exactly what the problems are and offer concrete solutions to them, don't bother opening your mouth or pointing a finger. All you're doing is contributing to the widespread belief that brown-skins are less human than white-skins. That these people choose to live like animals because, well, they're animals.

    For Pat Robertson's attempt to blame the victim, see Haitians and Indians Cursed? For more on the subject, see Trimble to Indians:  Get Over It and Why Indians Remain Poor.

    P.S. Ross touts the Paul Shirley column that blamed Haitians for being earthquake victims. Check it out for its not-so-veiled racism against minorities.

    Lippy and Hardy in Injun Trouble

    Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har HarLippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har are a pair of anthropomorphic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, a lion in a tattered top hat and vest and a hyena in a hat and bow tie, respectively. The latter's name is ironic, as it's an onomatopoeia for laughter, and Hardy is an eternal pessimist; indeed, one short implies that expression of joy or happiness actually puts Hardy in pain.

    Lippy and Hardy (voiced by Daws Butler and Mel Blanc respectively) first appeared in The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series in 1962, along with Wally Gator and Touché Turtle and Dum Dum.

    Their cartoons revolved around ever-hopeful Lippy's attempts to get rich quick, with reluctant Hardy serving as a foil. Whatever the consequences were to Lippy's schemes, Hardy would end up getting the worst of it—a fact he always seemed to realize ahead of time, with his moans of, "Oh me, oh my, oh dear." Although the intro shows them in a jungle setting proper for such beasts, most of the cartoons' stories took place in an urban setting.

    Comment:  Injun Trouble begins at the 4:38 mark.

    As with Wagon Heels, the stereotypes in this cartoon are obvious. Only a few points are worth mentioning:

  • The name Injun Trouble combines the unfriendly nickname "Injun" and the word "trouble" to imply Indians are the miscreants in this cartoon.

  • When the chief isn't throwing a tomahawk at Lippy and Hardy or chasing them, his demeanor is angry and aggressive. Everything about him suggests the Indian's violent and savage nature.

  • The medicine men is short, wears a devilish mask, and tries to sabotage Lippy and Hardy's efforts. This implies that Indian medicine (i.e., religion) is disreputable or downright evil.

  • The cartoon combines the teepees of the Northern Plains with the mesas and cacti of the Southwest. The implication is that Indians chose to live in the most barren and inhospitable places in the country.

    That's the reason they're so strange and exotic to us. Not because they lived throughout the country until we killed them and forced them onto reservations. Rather, because their primitive way of life in the remote desert put them out of sight and out of mind.

  • The final sequence with the Indian maiden is both racist and sexist. The Chief has kidnapped Lippy and Hardy to make her attractive to men. The Indian "braves" reject her because she's too fat: Hollywood's idea of what makes a woman unappealing.

    Lippy tightens her figure with belts and suddenly she's a sexy Indian princess. The men go ga-ga over her--not because she represents their ideal, but because she matches the classic Hollywood stereotype.

    Finally the medicine man loosens the belts, but the plump-again maiden decides Hardy is the one she wants. She chases after him, implying she's desperate for a man and will settle for a loser like Hardy.

  • There's not much you can say about a cartoon like Injun Trouble. It's less stereotypical than Wagon Heels, but that's about it.

    For more on the subject, see Native Videos and Cartoons.

    Animated Indian in A Town Called Panic

    'A Town Called Panic'

    This stop-motion animated film based on a Belgian TV series is filled with strange and wonderful talking people and animals who, yes, panic at the drop of a hat.

    By Kenneth Turan
    The first stop-motion animated feature to be an official Cannes selection, "Panic" is the offshoot of a French-language Belgian TV series whose creators, Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, have quite the following all across Europe. Made with an anarchic, anything-goes spirit, this is truly a film, not to mention a town, where you never know what's going to happen next.

    It's also a town populated by people and animals who are no more than stiff and immobile plastic toys whose facial expressions never change and who move in fits and starts across a simple, almost primitive landscape. We never find out how the three housemates got together, but their psychological relationship is clear. Horse, often glimpsed sitting on the sofa reading the newspaper, is obviously the adult of the crew, while the juvenile Cowboy and Indian share a bedroom, spar with each other, fight for the shower (Indian's headdress displays like a peacock's tail when it gets wet) and vie for Horse's favor.

    Comment:  The headdress-wearing Indian is a stereotype, of course. He reinforces the message that all Indians resembled Plains chiefs.

    Using a cowboy and Indian in a fantasy movie seems harmless enough. But if your lead character is a talking horse, why not do more to subvert expectations? For instance, use a man in a suit and a US soldier but call them "Cowboy" and "Indian."

    The literalism of the Cowboy and Indian suggests how universal these stereotypical figures are. To the world, that's what an Indian: someone associated with cowboys and horses. Reinforcing this notion shows a lack of imagination in an otherwise imaginative film.

    I'm reminded of the cowboy and Indian in Disneyland's "It's a Small World" ride. Turning these figures into a song 'n' dance team denies their history as antagonists. Like a thoughtless Thanksgiving pageant, it scrubs the white man's role as invader and oppressor.

    Would you make a movie with a Nazi and Jew palling around like Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis? Probably not. Then why show a cowboy and Indian as bosom buddies?

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

    Aztec, Inca, and Avatar-inspired fashion

    Jean Paul Gaultier:  Ava Gardner Avatar

    By Godfrey Deeny“I saw 'Avatar' and, like everyone, found it extraordinary. And from there, I began thinking of nature and ecology, and the Latin American tropics and from there it was not very far to Mexico,” explained Gaultier, seconds after posing for photos with Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko.

    His best looks were his most audacious, mixing the immense quality of his Paris atelier with his own wickedly clever imagination--like an Eldorado gold zibeline satin jacket worn over green tights painted with Aztec motifs and paired with conquistador boots, or a thoroughly remarkable burnished column with turquoise stone appliqués worn by Poland’s Magdalena Frackowiak, the model getting to wear the best looks this season in Paris.

    And in case things got a little too literal, the couturier varied the pace with outlandish leather bags that looked like they really were made of coconut leaves, and a space age, revealing violet chiffon boudoir dress--think Princess Leia-lands-in-Machu-Picchu--and a golden nose plate.
    Comment:  To see all the outfits, go to Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2010 Haute Couture.

    I think the second outfit below is the one inspired by the Aztecs. The third one may be inspired by Avatar.

    January 27, 2010

    Aleuts interned during WW II

    WW II internment of Aleuts recounted in documentary

    By Jeannette LeeA new documentary film, Aleut Story, includes this testimony from ... Aleuts in chronicling the little-known internment of 881 Alaska Natives from the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands during World War II.

    Many in the film are speaking publicly for the first time about their experiences in the camps, where they were sent after troops from Japan invaded Alaska's western outposts in June 1942.

    "My mother, when she was living, she used to start crying, so we wouldn't talk about it," Bourdukofsky told The Associated Press. Bourdukofsky, now 82, was a young mother of two during the evacuation.

    Many Aleuts were thankful to be ferried out of the war zone, until they arrived at five overcrowded, disease-infested sites scattered throughout damp spruce rainforests.

    "There was a lot of sickness at the camp," said retired Maj. Gen. Jake Lestenkof, who was 11 years old when his mother died of pneumonia at a camp at Funter Bay.

    "There was a lot of pneumonia and tuberculosis that was going around and not treated. There were certainly no medical facilities or personnel," Lestenkof, 73, told the AP.

    One in 10 people died in the camps from 1942 to 1945, according to federal estimates cited in the film.

    Sanitation and pipe systems were never installed. Residents drank water tainted with sewage and—at one camp—runoff from the expanding cemetery.

    Sites included an abandoned fish cannery and a rotting gold mining camp.

    "It was terrible," said Maria Turnpaugh, 78, from her home in Unalaska. "We lived in little shacks full of holes, and no running water. People got sick all the time."

    Aleuts weren't suspected of spying or sabotage, as were tens of thousands of Japanese Americans corralled into federal internment camps after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

    "I looked hard for evidence that there had been any suggestion at any time" of Aleut spies, said Marla Williams, who wrote, directed and produced the film. "There was no question of their loyalty whatsoever."

    The film includes letters from officials who thought internment would protect Aleuts from the fighting in Alaska's distant western islands.

    Still, Aleuts weren't allowed to leave the camps without penalty unless they had been drafted into the military, or threatened into working the Pribilof fur seal hunt, which brought millions in income to the U.S. government.

    Evacuation and Internment, 1942-1945In response to Japanese aggression in the Aleutians, U.S. authorities evacuated 881 Unangax from nine villages. They were herded from their homes onto cramped transport ships, most allowed only a single suitcase. Heartbroken, Atka villagers watched as U.S. servicemen set their homes and church afire so they would not fall into Japanese hands.

    The Unangax were transported to Southeast Alaska and there crowded into "duration villages": abandoned canneries, a herring saltery, and gold mine camp-rotting facilities with no plumbing, electricity or toilets. The Unangax lacked warm winter clothes, and camp food was poor, the water tainted. Accustomed to living in a world without trees, one open to the expansive sky, they suddenly found themselves crowded under the dense, shadowed canopy of the Southeast rainforest. For two years they would remain in these dark places, struggling to survive. Illness of one form or another struck all the evacuees, but medical care was often nonexistent, and the authorities were dismissive of the their complaints. Pneumonia and tuberculosis took the very young and the old. Thirty-two died at the Funter Bay camp, seventeen at Killisnoo, twenty at Ward lake, five at Burnett Inlet. With the death of the elders so, too, passed their knowledge of traditional Unangan ways.
    Myth Blaster-–Revealing the Truth About the Internment of Aleutian Alaskans During World War II

    Comment:  Removing people from an alleged war zone is one thing. But if there was no question about the Aleuts' loyalty, why did the government put them in disease-ridden prison camps with no plumbing or electricity? The 10% death toll was worse than that of Manzanar or Guantanamo Bay, America's most famous concentration camps.

    To reiterate, interning Japanese Americans was one of the worst constitutional violations ever. But the government didn't suspect the Aleuts of anything, yet imprisoned them in even worse conditions. How do we explain that?

    I can only imagine it had something to do with the Aleuts' race. They were closely related to the Asians across the Bering Strait. Asians who came from one totalitarian state or another (the USSR, China, or Japan).

    The Aleuts had the same stoic demeanor as the Japanese Americans, who were also suspect. Sure, the Aleuts acted as if they were loyal to the US, but who knew what evil lurked behind those inscrutable eyes? Better to be safe than sorry, the reasoning undoubtedly went.

    Can't trust those Asians?

    I think the book Mother America--A Living Story of Democracy by Carlos Romulo summed up what many Americans thought (and still think) about Asians:The Oriental mind has ever been an insoluble mystery to the white man. ... I know that many a white man is prone to blanket the Oriental under the damning conclusion: "He is a liar. You can't trust him. He is slippery."Summing up America's history of concentration camps:

  • American Indians: Fort Cass, Bosque Redondo, various reservations.
  • Japanese and Aleutian Americans: WW II internment camps.
  • Arabs and Muslims: Guantanamo Bay.

  • Although we also imprisoned some German and Italian Americans during WW II, brown-skinned people from Asia are most likely to become our prisoners of war. Perhaps not coincidentally, Asians, Indians, and Arabs aren't featured much on the screen. There seems to be a pattern here--i.e., discrimination against anyone with Asian roots.

    For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    Porky Pig in Wagon Heels

    This Porky Pig cartoon was broadcast May 21, 1938, according to its YouTube posting.

    Not content with the stereotypes in Injun Trouble, Bob Clampett remade the cartoon in color as Wagon Heels.

    Wagon Heels is a 1945 Merrie Melodies short directed by Bob Clampett, a color remake of the 1938 Looney Tunes black-and-white short Injun Trouble. Because of its wildly stereotypical depiction of the Native American, it is seldom shown on television nowadays. All voices except narration are performed by Mel Blanc.Comment:  The Native stereotypes in these cartoons are patently obvious. Only a few points are worth noting:

  • In both versions, a sign clearly says:

    Boundary Line
    Palefaces keep off lawn.
    Injun Joe

    Porky Pig and his horse sneak across the line, which indicates he knows he's doing something wrong. Later the wagon train "choo-choos" across Indian territory. Although the cartoons portray the Indian as the aggressor, he's actually defending his land against enemy invasion.

  • Both cartoons show the smoldering remains of a previous wagon train. In the second version, Porky Pig calls it a "massacre."

  • The Indian is mightier than a mountain, a forest, and a bear. The implication is that he's a force of nature, not a human being with thoughts and feelings.

  • The Indian is completely alone. There's not even a stereotypical camp of teepees. The implication is that he has no family, no people, no culture. He's a lone rogue, troublemaker, or villain--not a representative of millions of people from thousands of cultures with their own languages and religions.

  • The Indian is a caricature in the first cartoon, but the second cartoon makes him even worse. For one thing, his nose is bigger and bright red, which suggests he's been drinking. For another, his eyes are now hidden by his hair. The effect is to make him look less human and more monstrous.

  • The second cartoon ends with the Indian plummeting into the earth and dragging "Injun Joe's Territory" (the rest of the continent beyond the original 13 colonies) into the hole after him. The "United States of America" replaces the former Indian territory. The narration--with patriotic music and a flag in the background--congratulates Porky for making progress possible.

  • Propaganda via cartoons

    Despite the jokes, we can see several elements of the Manifest Destiny myth in these cartoons:

    1) Indians were savages, killers, beasts--not civilized people with inalienable human rights.

    2) Americans were interested only in the abstract notion of "progress," which involved going west but not invading foreign territory, breaking laws and treaties, or killing the land's inhabitants.

    3) Americans somehow removed the Indians benignly (perhaps escorting them to reservations) or stood by as they mysteriously vanished. No Americans participated in the conquest, subjugation, or elimination of Indians (i.e., genocide).

    Why do Americans believe what they believe about Indians? Because they grew up seeing the same message over and over in textbooks, Western movies, and cartoons such as these. If anything is more ubiquitous than a Warner Bros. cartoon in modern US history, I'm not sure what it is.

    For more on the subject, see Native Videos and Cartoons.

    Native Radio Theater to end?

    The last of the radio plays

    Audio theater is the missing link between San Diego, Native Alaskans and Queen's Brian May

    By Dave Maass
    Currently director of San Diego State University’s College of Theatre, Television and Film, Reinholz has served as Native Radio Theater’s artistic director since 2003. He also directed The Red Road, a one-woman play by Arigon Starr, herself a San Diego alum of Patrick Henry High School. The two plays comprised Native Radio Theater’s 2009 season, which may be the organization’s last.

    Funded by the Ford Foundation in partnership with Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles and Native American Public Telecommunications, the radio-play series aims to expose Native American talent to a larger and more rural Native American audience. Since 2006, the group has produced two to three programs per year by artists from a wide range of tribes: Hopi, Navajo, Kickapoo and, of course, Athabascan.
    And:Radio theater is still an honored tradition in England, where television programs such as Flight of the Conchords, The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh were first aired on BBC radio. In the U.S., radio theater is a dying art form. Like many arts nonprofits, Native Radio Theater (www.nativetelecom.org/native_radio_theater) has seen funding dry up in this recession. Reinholz says that if the programs do return in 2010 or 2011, they will be in the form of public-health soap-operas designed to educate impoverished populations.

    “They would be radio serials, and once the audience is hooked on the characters, then the health issues become the center of the plotlines,” Reinholz says. “The health issues different communities are dealing with become part of the fabric of the story.”
    Comment:  Read the article for more on Raven’s Radio Hour, a production I covered in 2008.

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

    Below:  "Native Radio Theater actors perform the Super Indian radio program."

    Howard Zinn dies

    Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    By Mark Feeney and Bryan MarquardHoward Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as "A People's History of the United States," inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

    His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

    "He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."

    Chomsky added that Dr. Zinn's writings "simply changed perspective and understanding for a whole generation. He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement."

    For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. "A People’s History of the United States" (1980), his best-known book, had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers--many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out--but rather the farmers of Shays' Rebellion and union organizers of the 1930s.
    Comment:  I think Zinn's account of Columbus's crimes against Indians is still the definitive one.

    For more on the subject, see The People Speak on the History Channel and Morison Buried Columbus's Crimes.

    Alaska Native snowboarder in Olympics

    Alaska's first Native Olympian

    By Craig MedredSnowboarder Callan Chythlook-Sifsof--who got her start being towed by her brother behind a snowmachine across the wild, windswept and snow-covered hills of remote Southwest Alaska--is going to the Olympics next month.

    The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association made it official Monday.

    Chythlook-Sifsof will compete in boardercross, an event in which groups of snowboarders race wildly down a steep course in a barely controlled pack.
    And:Part Yupik and part Inupiat, Chythlook-Sifsof appears to be the first Alaska Native ever to make it to the Olympics.Comment:  For more on Natives in the Olympics, see Three Native Olympic Gold Medalists and Huron Swimmer in Olympics.

    January 26, 2010

    Louise Erdrich on Faces of America

    Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives (called by the New York Times "the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time,") and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans.

    The series premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10-March 3, 2010 from 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS.

    Featured guests include:

    Yo-Yo Ma
    Queen Noor
    Malcolm Gladwell
    Eva Longoria Parker
    Mike Nichols
    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    Meryl Streep
    Stephen Colbert
    Louise Erdrich
    Krisi Yamaguchi
    Elizabeth Alexander
    Mario Batali
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Chinese dance impresses Mohawk soprano

    ‘It opened my mind,’ Says Soprano

    By Madalina HubertNative Canadian soprano and entertainer Lois Lane attended Shen Yun Performing Arts’ performance on Saturday night.

    She shared her happiness after seeing the show.

    “Wonderful, enlightened, like I could fly, and I think that I need to take some of those wonderful dance lessons!” said Ms. Lane.

    “I think it was a very spiritual experience,” she noted.

    “My heritage is upper Mohawk Six Nations, so I am North American Indian and I am sure that you know that the North American Indians migrated from Asia to settle in South, Central, and North America.

    “So I have always felt close to the Asian culture even though I have not studied it very much. But it makes me feel balanced, it makes me feel calm, it makes me feel good.”
    Comment:  Try to avoid jokes about Lois Lane and Superman if you can. ;-)

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

    Below:  "Shen Yun Performing Arts played before a sold-out crowd at its final show in Mississauga on Saturday night, Jan. 23." (Eric Sun/The Epoch Times)

    Genuine Cowichan sweaters in store

    HBC, BC tribes reach deal on 'genuine' Cowichan sweaters for Olympic store

    By Dirk MeissnerTraditional sweaters hand-made by B.C. aboriginal knitters will be part of the official line of Olympic clothing, after an agreement was reached between Vancouver Island's Cowichan Tribes and the Hudson's Bay Company.

    Hudson's Bay spokeswoman Shari Burnett said Monday there now is a deal with the Cowichan Tribes of the Duncan area, 60 kilometres north of Victoria, to sell genuine, hand-knit Cowichan sweaters in the company's flagship Olympic store.

    "We are expecting some sweaters from the Cowichan Tribes to be inside the Olympic superstore on Feb.1," Burnett said.

    The Cowichan Tribes objected publicly last fall when the Bay introduced its Olympic apparel because one sweater, selling for about $350, appears to be similar in design and look to the Cowichan sweaters, for which the Cowichan Tribes are widely known.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Olympics Cave to Cowichan Pressure and Non-Cowichan Sweaters Are Fakes.