December 31, 2010

Countdown covers UN declaration scare

A columnist describes the Obama Hate Machine:

Can POTUS Beat Back the Obama Hate Machine in 2011?

By David CornIn the epilogue to the new paperback version of his book on President Obama, "The Promise," Jonathan Alter notes that one of the president's major challenges for 2012 will be combating the "Obama Hate Machine." That's an appropriate name for the right-wing attack network that will throw any charge it can concoct--regardless of the facts--at the president. Alter has a point, but this task is a never-ending, 24/7 job that is unconnected to Obama's re-election campaign. It is crucial to Obama's overall mission of governing the nation well.

The OHM--led by a wide-ranging collection of conservative media outfits, right-wing bloggers, and GOP partisans--has already effectively undermined Obama's presidency by propagating lies about his administration's major accomplishments. It tarred Obama's health care reform initiative by falsely claiming it would establish "death panels." It pushed the falsehood that his $787 stimulus package created no new jobs. (The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that legislation created or saved up to 3.5 million jobs.) And don't forget the birthers, who are still yapping that Obama wasn't born in the United States. One recent poll found that 23 percent of Americans believe this (and 20 percent said they didn't know).
And how it's using the UN declaration to tar and feather the president:[T]he Obama-giving-land-back-to-the-Indians tall tale has been spreading within conservative circles. It's another sign that the OHM will use any cockamamie charge it can unearth or generate to undercut Obama. Facts don't matter. What counts is keeping the fire hose turned on and aimed at the fellow in the White House. If the born-in-Kenya-secret-Muslim-socialist thing doesn't pan out, there's always the disarm-American-and-go-native option. Who knows what this crazy guy is going to do next? As Special Guests said in that e-mail, "Elect a radical President, expect radical policy." Like backing a treaty approved by James Baker or cutting a compromise with Republicans that extends the Bush tax cut bonuses for the rich. Real radical.

The Obama Hate Machine is never slowed by the absurdities it manufactures. It just keeps spewing crap. The accusations don't have to be proved. The game plan is obvious: Even if he sidesteps the individual charges, Obama will somehow be dirtied by the ceaseless flow of mud. Meanwhile, the OHM professionals will reap profits, as they feed the irrational paranoia of their believe-anything anti-Obama audience.
Comment:  For more on the UN declaration, see Liberals Mock UN Declaration Scare and Obama's UN "Coup" Is "Chilling." For more on hating Obama, see Any Excuse to Hate Obama and Hate Abounds in "Post-Racial" America.

Obama "witch doctor" is Papua New Guinean

Someone observed that the Obama witch-doctor image looked more Amazonian than African. I Googled it and found this:

Obama, a Huli warrior and the image nincompoop

By Alfredo P. HernadezThe unflattering and tasteless image of Obama’s was first flashed on news television some three weeks ago during coverage of a protest-rally against the president’s healthcare scheme. The Obama-Huli wigman’s image was one of the posters that have been used by Americans protesting the Obama healthcare scheme. I did not understand it for a while why such an image of Papua New Guinean motif was used to drumbeat their protest.

Obama’s face was superimposed on an image of a PNG Huli wigman in full traditional regalia. When I first saw it, I immediately recognised it as one of PNG. The Huli wigman is a tribal warrior from PNG’s Highlands. However, just before I could consider it as something to be proud of, having considered PNG as my second home, it dawned on me that there was something sinister in superimposing the US president’s facial image on one of PNG’s popular cultural icons.
Summing up the problem:But one thing that was totally wrong here is that Obama, in the PNG Highlands’ warrior image, has been labeled as an African witch doctor, his being of African descent. And this is an insult, as far as the Papua New Guinean people are concerned. And so the “racist’ slant has become very pronounced.Comment:  Racists are so stupid they can't even get their own prejudices right. They must think Africa, Asia, and South America are interchangeable--all filled with brown-skinned savages who dance, shake rattles, and stick bones through their noses.

So the image isn't a witch doctor but a warrior--a Papua New Guinean who resembles an Amazon Indian. It's another example of how right-wingers are trying to link Obama with the worst "savages" in history: Muslim extremists, Communists, Nazis, and Indians.

For more on the subject, see Obama's UN "Coup" Is "Chilling" and Obama Smeared as Luo Tribesman.

Below:  The original "witch doctor."

A Tribe Called Red

Start your new year off right with a Tribe Called Red--and see if you can stereotype THIS

By Jessica YeeI wanted to alert you all to some amazing Native peeps that are taking de-bunking Indigenous stereotypes to a whole new level--via music, dance, electric beats, hip-hop, and mind-blowing remixes to decolonize you all over--especially in those hard to reach places.

They are A Tribe Called Red and they hail from un-ceeded Algonquin territory in Ottawa (Canada). I’ve been going to their monthly Electric Powwow dance parties for a little while now where I’ve been known to shake my butt off and whisper politikin’ sweet-nothings into my friends ears as the unrepentant drum mash-ups beat on. I actually got to meet one part of the Electric Powwow craze DJ Bear Witness a while back when I emceed an Indigenous women’s spoken word show where he played a 65 minute beat set to an anti-war critique of colonization.

So I was beyond pleased to learn that MTV writers are now picking up on their stuff and making progressive-for-MTV-statements about them like, “it’s as right on and brilliant as a fashion shoot with emaciated European models in war bonnets is ignorant and lazy.” Which is interesting because lest we forget that MTV also produced the Dudesons who as some may recall me writing about here, very famously rode the train of appropriation and kept going west on their “Cowboys and Findians” episode that had just about every Native stereotype you can think of (and attempts from community to pull the show off MTV and issue an apology were unsuccessful). Not to mention of course the myriad of racist typecasting that plays on MTV 24/7.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Nooksacks Rap About Rising Above, Algonquin Rapper Rocks China, and Eastern Cherokee Hip-Hop Artist.

Lummi music camp

Music camp helps Lummi youth sing their thoughts

By Kira CoxWhen Jonah Ballew first attended the Music Mentor Academy camp this year as part of summer school, he discovered a new way to deal with his feelings and frustrations about aspects of life on the reservation.

The 12-year-old's first song, "Native Pride," called for the end of drug use on the reservation, with lyrics including "This is my house, you better get out ... why you here anyway, you don't belong here drug man."
And:Ballew was one of about 40 Lummi and Nooksack tribe kids and teens who spent the week between Christmas and New Year's Day at Lummi Youth Academy, a residential support center for tribal students, writing and recording songs about their lives and their tribes.

"Music is such a powerful part of all youth," said Todd Denny, founder and director of the organization. "And within tribes, it's a huge part of their culture. ... It's just bringing a contemporary wrinkle to the traditional ways and traditional culture."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Flute Connects Kids to Culture and Huey Lewis's Drummer Teaches Native Kids.

Mistreatment of Native women

Indian Comics Irregular #200:  From Sex Objects to Victims

December 30, 2010

The fate of Lost Bird

Lost Bird

The infant survivor of Wounded Knee spent her life in desperate pursuit of a heritage that always eluded her

By Gene Smith
The mother whose body had sheltered and shielded her daughter was dropped into a mass grave along with others similarly frozen solid, some 150 of them.

The baby lived. She had on her little wrist a bracelet, and she wore moccasins. On her head was a hide cap decorated in beads with the American flag. An old woman of the Lakotas named her Zintkala Nuni, “Lost Bird.” To the newspapers, swiftly doubtful about the righteousness of this last act of the long fight between the red and white races—for there would never be another, this was the end—she was the “little heroine,” the “little dusky maid” who was an “Indian princess.” Her situation came to the attention of Leonard Wright Colby, a brigadier general of the Nebraska National Guard, which had been hurried to what was originally termed the Battle of—but soon came to be known as the Massacre of—Wounded Knee. This infant could be, he said, “a most interesting Indian relic.” Colby decided he wanted this “curio.” He would adopt her; she would become his “protégé,” this “Ghost Dance baby.” He appropriated the girl, took her home, made out adoption papers. Then he informed his wife.

Clara Bewick Colby was in Washington, D.C., where she spent half of each year. An eminence in the women’s suffrage movement, the close associate of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she was the editor and proprietor of The Woman’s Tribune, a bimonthly many considered the best newspaper the suffragists ever had. She went to the family home in Beatrice, Nebraska, and took charge of their new daughter, Zintka. (“Zintkala Nuni” proved too difficult to spell and pronounce.) Her husband, handsome, flashy, and reckless, a Civil War hero who had served with Maximilian’s forces in Mexico before going to practice law in Beatrice, quickly lost interest in the child.

Mrs. Colby dressed the baby in white, the color of the suffrage movement. She told of her new situation in her paper and, in response to readers’ displays of interest, created a new feature, “Zintka’s Corner,” in which she discussed the girl’s doings. A photograph of Zintka was offered to new subscribers to The Tribune. “All mothers,” said the magazine Trained Motherhood, “will watch with interest the mothering and education of this…child of the prairie. It is one of the most interesting cases of child study to be found in America.”

Everything was done in accordance with the standards of middle-class Victorian life. Lost Bird was given every advantage. But her adopted mother could not close out the world. When she was taken to visit Mrs. Colby’s family, in Freeport, Illinois, the local paper reported “a dark little stranger” had come to town, her hair and features showing the “unmistakable traces of her race.” When children of the family jeered that her real mother was a “dirty squaw,” she attacked them with such ferocity that her elders said she had reverted to a savage.

She knew no Indians, was never closer to one than the wooden statues commonly found in front of cigar stores, and preferred to play with black children. “Zintka’s Corner” offered cheeriness, but the girl suffered from an all-embracing sadness that made her difficult to manage. She liked to ride the circling painted carousel horses in the park for hours and had to be removed from them at the end of the day by force.
Comment:  Lost Bird shows us what happens when you force someone into a foreign culture. She was treated like an oddity and a freak. She endured taunts and bullying. She felt dislocated, alone, and lost. She got married, had children, and suffered abuse because that's the only validation she had.

Multiply that by a few million and you have what happened to Indians as whole. Their old cultures were destroyed and they were forcibly assimilated into mainstream society--with its rugged individualism, do-or-die economics, and emphasis on wealth and success. Indians did about as well in this environment as modern man would've done in their environment.

For more on the subject, see No Apology for Wounded Knee and Wounded Knee "Delivered the Sentence."

Below:  "Gen. L. W. Colby holding Zintkala Nuni (Little Lost Bird), found on the Wounded Knee battlefield."

Liberals mock UN declaration scare

The liberal media is starting to notice the right-wing freak-out over the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Here are some of their reactions:

Shocker:  Obama to give America back to IndiansCongratulations, 2010, for fitting in one more completely insane made-up right-wing scandal: Barack Obama is going to give Manhattan back to the Indians! Also the U.N. will help, because grrrr, the U.N.!The new "birtherism":  Obama ceding America back to Native AmericansThis is only slightly less kooky than good ol' Colorado governor candidate Dan Maes' great UN-taking-over-American-cities-with-bicycles conspiracy theory, but mark my words, it's going to get traction. Pretty soon we're going to be seeing it on Beck and then Limbaugh and before you know it, Michele Bachmann will be introducing resolutions on the House floor about it.Well I for One Welcome Our New Tribal OverlordsBonus for the wingers, an all-new (all old) group of people to hate in Native Americans. Combine the specter of "Oh noes, reparations!" with the fever dreams of "He's not really one of us," add a layer of "One World UN Gubment!" and stir in a big sticky glob of good ol' racism and you get "Obama is gonna give Manhattan back to them!"When Obama Gives NYC to Indians, Will They Plow Streets?Problematically, the Lenni Lenapes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not officially recognized as tribes by the federal government. But once Obama establishes a Muslim caliphate in Washington, that will hardly matter.Native Americans:  'Our New Overlords'

Comment:  These bloggers have summed up the problem succinctly. This nascent movement is the new birtherism. It gives right-wingers another group to hate, another way to smear Obama as a Muslim Kenyan anti-American traitor. It's the umpteenth conservative attempt to gain votes by lying and fearmongering. It's racist.

For more on the UN declaration, see Obama's UN "Coup" Is "Chilling" and Farah Wants Manhattan Back. For more on hating Obama, see Any Excuse to Hate Obama and Hate Abounds in "Post-Racial" America.

Below:  Obama embraces his tribal side as he prepares to give America to the world's "mud people"--i.e., people like himself.

Inuk hockey player enters rehab

Tootoo's rehab could help others:  motherThe mother of Nunavut-raised hockey star Jordin Tootoo says she hopes her son's decision to seek treatment for his alcohol abuse will encourage other northerners dealing with substance abuse to get help.

Rose Tootoo said she is pleased to see her son, a 27-year-old forward with the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators, stepping up to deal with his heavy drinking problem.
And:Jordin Tootoo became the first Inuk hockey player to play in the NHL when he made his debut with the Predators in October 2003.

This month, Tootoo voluntarily entered an in-patient care program through the NHL's substance abuse and behavioural health program, which is jointly run with the league's players union.
Comment:  For more on Native hockey players, see 9 Aboriginal NHL Players and Hockey Part of Native Culture.

Navajo baby remembered on float

Navajo infant donor memorialized in Rose Parade

By Alysa LandryJoseph Quiambao was only 4 months old when he died in March 1998.

His mother, Bernadette Tohtsoni, plans to memorialize him Saturday during the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Tohtsoni is a member of the Navajo tribe.

A flower portrait of Joseph, who was an organ donor, will be one of 60 memorials decorating the Donate Life float in the 2011 Rose Parade. Donate Life recognizes people who donated organs or tissues to those desperately in need of transplants.

"I prayed for a miracle to save my son's life," Tohtsoni said in a prepared statement. "Instead the miracle was that Joseph was able to save the lives of two baby girls. I didn't want another mother to suffer the loss of their precious child."
Comment:  For more on Natives in the Rose Parade, see Brulé in Rose Parade and Brings Plenty in Rose Parade.

December 29, 2010

Rothstein:  Ethnic museums cry "Me!"

To Each His Own Museum, as Identity Goes on Display

By Edward RothsteinMe! Me! Me! That is the cry, now often heard, as history is retold. Tell my story, in my way! Give me the attention I deserve! Haven’t you neglected me, blinded by your own perspectives? Now let history be told not by the victors but by people over whom it has trampled.

And why, after all, should it be any different? Isn’t that the cry made by most of us? We want to be acknowledged, given credit for our unique experiences. We want to tell our stories. We want to convert you from your own narrow views to our more capacious perspective.

I am exaggerating slightly—but only slightly. In recent years, I have been chronicling the evolution of the “identity museum” or “identity exhibition,” designed to affirm a particular group’s claims, outline its accomplishments, boost its pride and proclaim, “We must tell our own story!”

These cries have been made with varying degrees of urgency and justice. But in the last few weeks, with the opening of a highly tendentious exhibition about Muslim science at the New York Hall of Science in Queens and the unveiling of a highly ineffectual mishmash at the President’s House in Philadelphia, the identity exhibition has reached new lows.

In both cases, there is an accusation of injustice and an attempt to revise history. In the science show, the charge is muted and persistent, but the case is made only by distorting history and facts. At the Philadelphia site, many of the claims are fierce—and some just—but they too end up distorting history by demanding the sacrifice of other perspectives.

Of course, every recounting of past events has exaggerations and limitations. Even the great imperial museums of Vienna, London and Paris make an argument: they are meant to reflect the power and grandeur of their creators. Such museums are monuments, temples mythically recounting an empire’s origins, displaying its accomplishments, affirming its power and its encyclopedic grasp.

The placement of totem poles in classic museums of natural history, for example, is a consequence of 19th-century convictions, also imperial, that they were created by peoples who were closer to the natural world—part of natural history rather than the history of civilization.

To a certain extent, the identity museum is a polemical response to such museums. And revenge can be extreme. The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington—a pioneering example of the genre—jettisons Western scholarship and tells its own story, leading one tribe to solemnly describe its earliest historical milestone: “Birds teach people to call for rain.”

Through a gauze of romance, that museum portrays an impossibly peace-loving, harmonious, homogeneous, pastoral world that preceded the invasion of white people—a vision with far less detail and insight than the old natural history museums once provided.

Sometimes, though, the identity impulse is illuminating, as in the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, which gives a Scandinavian angle to the settling of the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes it involves an unusual twist: the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia shapes an identity that emphasizes not its distinctions from the American mainstream, but its connections to it: identity is characterized as assimilative.
Comment:  Rothstein continues the crusade against Indians noted in NY Times vs. NAGPRA. He joins conservative critic Marc Fisher (Museum as Ethnic Advertising) in denouncing ethnic museums.

There are several problems with this article. For starters, every museum has a social, cultural, or political point of view. Every single one. Even the Western or American ones we consider neutral collections of objects. Perhaps them especially.

An Impressionism museum? Impressionist paintings are good and important compared to other kinds of art. A car museum? Automotive technology is a good and important part of progress.

Even a rock museum. The message there is that geological processes created rocks, not God in a flash of creationism. I don't believe God did that, but the museum ignores that possibility. It makes choices about what to present and not to present. Science good, religion bad.

Rothstein thinks ethnic history museums have a political agenda but mainstream history museums don't. Wrong. The mainstream museums promote the white Christian vision of America as God's gift to the world. As a shining city on a hill for others to emulate and follow.

Rothstein says as much in his final paragraph, where he touts the Western enlightenmentwith its more universalist claims and its recognition of slavery’s evils, and to a Golden Age that may still be going on. The Enlightenment had its limitations, of course. But it also shaped the great museums of the West. And many identity museums have yet to absorb that more transcendent vision.Yeah, except a lot of enlightenment came from Indians and other indigenous people, who taught Europe's monarchies and theocracies about freedom and natural rights. For more on that subject, see Indians Gave Us Enlightenment.

What's the alternative?

I wonder what Rothstein's idea of a good museum is. A museum that celebrates assimilation, unity, and the American Dream, I guess. That promotes the favored "one culture, one people" meme of conservatives.

He basically says that too, noting one museum that "shapes an identity that emphasizes not its distinctions from the American mainstream, but its connections to it: identity is characterized as assimilative." Short version: Assimilation into the white Christian mainstream is good. Separation and distinction a la Indian cultures is bad.

As readers know, I tend to agree with his criticism of the NMAI. I've said similar things myself in postings such as these:

NMAI = greatest story never told
NMAI will tell "difficult" stories
NMAI not "comfortable" with negativity?

But that's a function of how the NMAI's directors and curators chose to proceed. It is not a function of ethnic museums in general. An ethnic museum can be every bit as rigorous and scholarly as a mainstream museum, and I'm sure many are.

I'm also sure that many mainstream museums aren't much more than uncritical "advertising" for their subjects. Go to your local fashion or sports or business museum and I doubt you'll find a lot of negativity there. Even mainstream art museums get accused of promoting "safe" academic views or their donors' favorite items. Has Rothstein denounced them as examples of "tribal" thinking?

Who's the audience?

Finally, Rothstein's whole attitude is insulting to minorities. Does he really think they're the only ones who want to hear about themselves? That the white Christian mainstream has no reason to be interested in them?

Any museum requires advocates and donors from all walks of life. People who support ethnic museums are predominantly white because America is predominantly white. Museum supporters like me are shouting "Them, them!" not "Me, me!" I wonder how Rothstein explains that.

And I'm confident the attendance figures support my position. If only blacks went to black museums and Jews went to Jewish museums, I'm sure they'd fail. That they succeed is because, again, people from all walks of life support them.

Ethnic museums are about exploring ethnic cultures, not pandering to them. These cultures don't have to "assimilate" to be worthy of note. A museum in China doesn't promote the idea that Chinese Americans should assimilate into America, yet its view of Chinese culture is perfectly valid. It's not "pandering" if it presents the message that China has a long and varied history.

If you transplanted this museum to America and said nothing about Chinese "connections" to American culture, it still would be perfectly valid. It would promote a separate and distinct culture from the Western standard, yet one that has lasted longer than "our" civilization. Something that "alien" to American audiences would be hugely educational, teaching them that they aren't the center of the universe. Despite what Rothstein clearly thinks.

Same with the NMAI and other ethnic museums. Sure, it would be nice if they all strove for a rigorous and scholarly approach, but that isn't always necessary or even desirable. If you go to a Coca-Cola museum, for instance, you probably won't learn how the sugared drink contributes to bad health. Some patrons may want that kind of hard-hitting criticism, but many won't.

For more information

For a related museum protest, see German Canadians Protest Holocaust Exhibits. For more on ethnic museums in general, see Paradigm Shift at Museums. For more on the cultural war Rothstein is obviously trying to fight, see:

Culture war over who's American
The value of indigenous knowledge
Arizona laws = clash of civilizations
Mainstream history = pro-white propaganda
Why Indian societies were happier

Plus these classic postings:

Multicultural origins of civilization
The myth of Western superiority
This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant

No apology for Wounded Knee

US hasn't apologized for massacre at Wounded Knee

By Tim GiagoOn the 100th anniversary of that infamous day, Birgil Kills Straight, Alex White Plume and Jim Garrett, organized a ride that followed the exact trail taken by Big Foot and his band. That ride has taken place every year since December 29, 1990. At the end of the ride they hold a ceremony called “wiping away the tears” that calls for peace and forgiveness. This year they will take that ride again 120 years after the massacre.

Arvol Looking Horse, the Keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Lakota, says a prayer every year on the hallowed grounds at Wounded Knee. He prays that America will someday apologize to the Lakota for the terrible deeds of the Seventh Cavalry, and that the 23 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for the slaughter of the innocents, will have those medals revoked. He also prays for peace and unity.

120 years after the tragedy at Wounded Knee, America has not apologized and the Medal of Honor winners are still looked upon as heroes by the United States. Will America ever own up to its sins?
Comment:  For a good explanation of what happened, see On the 120th Anniversary of Wounded Knee. Short version: US troops tried to forcibly disarm the Indians while pointing Hotchkiss machine guns at them. It was a recipe for disaster--practically a setup for a massacre.

Giago refers to the Medals of Honor. As you may know, Indians have launched a campaign to remove what they call the Medals of Dishonor. Here's their online petition:

Wounded Knee Medals of Dis HonorTwenty-three soldiers from the Seventh Calvary were later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the slaughter of defenseless Indians at Wounded Knee.

We are asking that these Medals of DIS Honor awarded to the members of the 7th Calvary of the United States Army for the murder of innocent women children and men on that terrible December morning be rescinded.

And that the Battle Pennant on the Flag of the United States Army be removed and destroyed.
For more on the subject, see Wounded Knee "Delivered the Sentence" and Wounded Knee Too Sacred for Park?

Powwow nominated for Grammy

Powwow Earns Grammy NominationLast year's Gathering of Nations Pow Wow at University Stadium has been nominated for a Grammy.

The 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow: 'A Spirit's Dance' will compete for the Grammy in the Best Native American Music Album category.
Comment:  For more on Native Grammys, see Miller Wins 3rd Grammy and 2009 Grammy Nominees.

December 28, 2010

Jason Aaron = writer of the year

A hat trick for 'Scalped'

By Jerome MaidaComics Guy looked long and hard to see if any comic book was worthy of being named the best instead of the title that won Best Comic Series of the Year in 2008 and 2009. There were a lot of challengers, a lot of well-done stuff. Some issues of certain books can be called legitimate masterpieces.

However, with such a plethora of quality material to choose from, there still is only one choice when it comes to the best that the comic-book medium has to offer. So for the third year in a row, "Scalped" is Comics Guy's pick for Best Comic Series of the Year.

Once again, Jason Aaron--Comics Guy's choice for Writer of the Year--has given us characters and story lines that are extremely compelling.

He is mining the story possibilities few dare to touch, let alone explore, about life on an Indian reservation, and gives us sharp yet real dialogue.

Most of all, he gives us moments--not only in every issue, but on virtually every page--that readers will remember forever. Whether it's Chief Red Crow proving that he is the wisest, most dangerous mob leader ever put on the printed page, the emptiness and desperation evident in many of the lives there, double-agent Dash being confronted by his deadbeat father or Red Crow's daughter Carol deciding whether she should keep her baby--there is extremely powerful stuff here.
Comment:  These nominations are the kinds of things I won't comment on. Because I haven't read enough SCALPED or other current comics to judge which is the best.

In contrast, I have read enough SCALPED to judge whether it's stereotypical. It is.

Aaron isn't exactly exploring life on an Indian reservation. That would mean his stories are true to life rather than stereotypical. What he's exploring is his invented, imaginary idea of how hellish Indian life is. It's an exaggerated version of the worst Indian reservations in America and a complete fabrication of Indian life in general.

Even saying it "explores" rather than "invents" Indian life gives credence to the stereotypes. Would anyone say The Sopranos explores Italian American life? I doubt it. If someone said The Sopranos gave us an honest or revealing look at Italian Americans, people would protest in anger. As they actually did:

Italian-Americans eye 'Sopranos,' HBO protest

Italian Group Weathers The Rain In 'Sopranos' Protest

Italian-American groups protest 'Sopranos'

In short, SCALPED is to Indians as The Sopranos is to Italians. 'Nuff said about that.

The abortion issue

It's nice that Aaron is tackling issues such as abortion. It's about what I would do if I were writing a mainstream Native-themed comic. Stories about corruption, alcoholism, suicide, and other social ills are valid because these things definitely happen on reservations. And stories about legal victories, business openings, and cultural preservation are also valid because these things also happen.

Of course, Aaron has the freedom to write about abortion in a Vertigo comic for mature audiences. It's not as if he's pushing the envelope on a regular DC or Marvel comic. Speedy shooting heroin on the cover of GREEN LANTERN #85 (1971) is still more daring than an abortion story or any other comic in 2010.

I'm not sure Aaron's readers want stories about drug use, prostitution, and abortion...but they probably don't want stories about rebuilding a reservation with schools, clinics, and community centers either. In that sense, he's taking the easy way out: giving readers the dark, despairing, grim 'n' gritty stories they expect. Write a stereotype-free comic book about Indian life as it actually is and then I'll consider you a groundbreaker.


Anyway, I guess I missed the moments that "readers will remember forever." Other than Red Crow's murdering and scalping someone in SCALPED #1, that is--a heinous act for which any tribal leader today would be imprisoned. But that's probably not the kind of moment Maida is thinking of.

As I've said before, I found the comics good but not great. If you've never read or watched any noir fiction, SCALPED may impress you. If you have, you'll deem it a decent variation on hundreds of crime/mob/gang stories.

For more on the subject, see Native Women = Whores in SCALPED and Okay to Stereotype in Noir Comics?

Obama's UN "coup" is "chilling"

The right-wing craziness continues. Now the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes up the cudgel against Obama:

Shaky groundPresident Obama reaffirms his intolerable belief in all things Turtle Bay by agreeing to sign the United Nations' Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This "coup" supported by representatives from more than 300 American Indian tribes extends the presumptions of those outside the U.S. government on what plainly is America's own business. Oh, it's all "nonbinding," the State Department assures. But Mr. Obama is quick to point out that more important than words are actions.

The ramifications of which are chilling.

This U.N. declaration--which doesn't define exactly what's meant by "indigenous peoples"--supports any tribal claims on lands occupied centuries ago. A representative of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake in Canada tells The Washington Times that doesn't mean a land grab. But reparations? Well, that's a different matter.
Comment:  The phrase you're looking for is "Turtle Island," not "Turtle Bay," idiots.

Consider all the insinuations in this editorial. Obama shares beliefs with "Turtle Bay"--meaning his beliefs are foreign and un-American. The signing is a "coup"--meaning an attack on the US and its values. Actions count more than words--meaning Obama the Kenyan tribesman may try to circumvent the Constitution. The ramifications are "chilling"--meaning Obama threatens American lives and liberty. "Indigenous peoples" is undefined--meaning every minority may try to take what rightly belongs to white Christian Americans. "Reparations"--meaning unjustified handouts and welfare payments to undeserving brown-skins.

There's no serious attempt to represent the UN declaration and its ramifications accurately. It's all veiled racism and xenophobia against Obama and his fellow minorities. The message is: Get ready, real (white) Americans, because the brown-skins are coming to take back what you took from them.

Or as Sarah Palin put it: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" If necessary, you may have to shoot and kill the savage subhumans--blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Indians, et al.--who are out to get you.

For more on the UN declaration, see Farah Wants Manhattan Back and Right Fright Over UN Declaration. For more conservative attacks on minorities, see Racist Rhetoric Fuels Hate Crimes and Palin:  Racism Is a Ploy.

Below:  What supporting the UN declaration means to conservatives.

What my family got for Christmas

The Native-themed Christmas presents I gave and received this year:

To niece Alice:

  • The Birchbark House--Louise Erdrich
  • The Game of Silence--Louise Erdrich
  • The Porcupine Year--Louise Erdrich

  • To niece Lucy:

  • The Mayflower & the Pilgrims' New World--Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Water Sky--Jean Craighead George
  • Becoming Naomi Leon--Pam Munoz Ryan

  • To sister Karen:

  • Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled: A Narrative of Winter Travel in Interior Alaska--Hudson Stuck

  • To brother-in-law Cullen:

  • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History--S. C. Gwynne

  • To me:

  • Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection--Matt Dembicki
  • The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book--Gord Hill
  • Fossil Legends of the First Americans--Adrienne Mayor

  • For more on the subject, see What My Nephews and Nieces Got and The Best Indian Books.

    2010 Christmas pix

    Christmas--December 25, 2010

    On the way to Las Vegas, I visited the Calico Early Man Archaeological Site. Oddly, "early man" doesn't necessarily mean "Indian." See the album to find out why.

    Christmas--December 26, 2010

    Christmas--December 27, 2010

    On the way back, I spend the day at Red Rock Canyon. Indians used to live there, though I didn't see many signs of them. But the scenery was spectacular.

    For more Christmas photos, see 2009 Christmas Pix.

    Shouting Secrets trailer

    Comment:  The cast looks strong. I don't know about the story. Stories about families that come together over a sick relative are sometimes good, sometimes not.

    For more on the subject, see Birmingham, Spencer in Shouting Secrets.

    December 27, 2010

    Farah wants Manhattan back

    The conservative carping over the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is starting to gain attention in the mainstream media. A mainstream blog, at least. In other words, it's starting to become a meme:

    Latest Right-Wing Freak-Out:  Obama Wants To Give Manhattan Back To Native Americans

    By Jillian RayfieldThe good news is that the right-wing isn't talking about President Obama being a secret Muslim right now. The bad news is that they're now concerned that he's going to use his honorary status as a Crow Tribe Indian to return the United States to Native Americans.The article summarizes the previous criticism:Obama was adopted as an honorary member of the Crow tribe during the 2008 campaign, and was even given the name "One who helps people throughout the land." Most of the outrage lobbed at the President in the wake of the announcement, naturally, references that fact.

    Last week, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the Christian conservative American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, wrote a blog post claiming that "President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords."

    "Perhaps he figures that, as an adopted Crow Indian, he will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire," Fischer wrote. "But for the other 312 million of us, I think we'll settle for our constitutional 'We the people' form of government, thank you very much."

    Yesterday, the right-wing blog World Net Daily took it a step further in a post called "Obama to give Manhattan back to Native Americans? President believes nation can spare some sovereignty." The article describes how "President Obama is voicing support for a U.N. resolution that could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan."

    The article continues: "Obama's interest is personal. He noted during the 2008 presidential campaign he was officially adopted by the Crow Nation, an Indian tribe in Montana, and he was given an Indian name."
    Finally, the article refers to a new example of the right-wing freak-out:

    I'll take Manhattan

    By Joseph FarahMaybe you missed it, but Obama has endorsed a United Nations resolution declaring the rights of indigenous people that could mean large swaths of the U.S. will be returned to native Americans like me.

    I'm hereby staking my claim to Manhattan.

    Maybe you didn't know I have native American blood coursing through my veins. I'm more well-known for my Lebanese and Syrian ancestry. But, truth be told, I have a fair amount of Indian heritage on my mother's side. So this proposed redistribution of wealth is welcome news for me.

    Where do I apply? I want to return wampum for Manhattan.
    Comment:  Note how Farah doesn't capitalize "native." Like other conservatives, he doesn't want to acknowledge the Natives' claims of being here first.

    In the first paragraph, Rayfield correctly links this attempt to smear Obama to previous attempts to link him to Muslims, Kenyans, terrorists, and other "tribal" people. Having failed to prove Obama is a Muslim or a Kenyan, they're now claiming he's joined another group of brown-skins who don't share America's values. Indians have refused every "opportunity" to assimilate and become white Christian Americans, so they're suspect by definition.

    That conservatives keep pointing out Obama's tribal adoption isn't a coincidence. Rather, it's a key part of their smear tactics. They're telling people he'll put his "tribal" identity ahead of his national identity. Because to "those (brown-skinned) people," blood is thicker than water.

    Clearly conservatives plan to keep smearing Obama until they replace him with the usual white Christian stooge of the military-industrial complex. And these Nazi-style Big Lies are working with the misinformed boobs who watch Fox News. These idiots are much more likely to believe Obama is a Muslim and a foreigner than the average American.

    Farah the Indian wannabe

    Anyway, Farah gets a Stereotype of the Month entry for his bogus claim that having some Indian blood makes him an Indian. It doesn't. He's not a member of a federally recognized tribe, which is a political entity, not a biological one. He could be a full-blooded Indian and he wouldn't be eligible to get land back.

    Obviously he doesn't meet the other criteria for being an actual Indian. And he doesn't let on that his claim is false and spurious. Ignorant readers will assume that fake "Indians" like him will come out of the woodwork to claim places like Manhattan.

    For more on the UN declaration, see Right Fright Over UN Declaration and Conservatives Criticize UN Declaration. For more attempts to smear Obama, see Limbaugh Lies About Thanksgiving and Obama Attacked Over Sitting Bull.

    Yellow Robe, Geiogamah, and Glancy

    Native playwrights don't get enough publicity, so here's a corrective:

    One Native playwright worth mentioning is William S. Yellow Robe Jr. Of Assiniboine and African-American descent, he's written such plays as Better-n-Indins and Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers. The former presents a series of sometimes-funny skits, while the latter deals with mixed-race issues.

    Another notable Native playwright is Hanay Geiogamah (Kiowa). According to the Native American Authors Project, he "is known for plays in which he employs humor, realism, and idiomatic language to subvert negative stereotypes about Native Americans and to address the alienation felt by Indians in contemporary American society. He has taught at Colorado College, the University of Washington and the University of California at Los Angeles, and is one of the founders of the American Indian Theater Ensemble."

    Diane Glancy, of Cherokee and English/ German descent, has won numerous awards for her poetry, prose, and plays. She has been an artist in residence for the State Arts Council of Oklahoma and a graduate of the prestigious University of Iowa Writers Workshop. She now teaches Native American literature and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. According to a website, her work shows how "traditional [Native] values and ways of life interact and are juxtaposed with those of modern America."

    Other up-and-coming playwrights include Rhianna Yazzie, Bret Jones, and Carolyn Dunn.

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

    Litefoot's message of faith

    Spirituality provides strength, says Litefoot

    Cherokee speaks to Stoney Nation

    By Jamie Komarnicki
    The Stoney Nakoda First Nation can benefit from the strength that comes through spirituality, says a Native American hip hop artist.

    Litefoot, in Calgary recently speaking to members of the Stoney First Nation, said he has a special connection with the tribe after his father attended an ecumenical conference on the reserve in 1971.

    The musician and actor, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, was in the city to share the message of his book, The Medicine of Prayer. The book's forward was written on behalf of the Stoney First Nation, but the message is intended for a wider audience.

    "The message isn't specific solely to the Stoneys or to any tribal nation--I think it's a message for all people. That would be that we've all been put on this earth for a reason and our responsibility in this life is to find out what that purpose is," Litefoot said. "Sometimes we mistake that with what we want to do versus what we were born to do."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Litefoot's Four 2010 Releases and Litefoot's Sneakers for Diabetics.

    December 26, 2010

    Limited gushing at tribal summit

    Tribal leaders pushed Obama for proactive agenda

    By Rob CapricciosoGushing was kept to a limit this year, although tribal leaders were more than willing to applaud for positive steps they think the administration has made, including settling the Cobell and Keepseagle cases, signing the Tribal Law and Order Act, and reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

    Their applause was especially loud when Obama told them his intention to have the U.S. begin supporting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, although many immediately began wondering what that would mean in terms of specific policy dealings and changes to federal-tribal relations.

    They were also more than willing to be critical. In break-out sessions, some asked why the administration hadn’t done more to get Congress to pass a fix to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri decision, which limited Interior’s ability to take land into trust for tribes. Administration officials insisted they pushed hard on that matter, and promised to continue to do so–with tribal leaders promising to keep up the pressure.

    Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter bluntly told Obama in a policy paper that he believed the president “has not put forward a strategic plan” to achieve goals to making tribal nations “full partners in America’s economy”–words Obama himself had used at his first tribal nations summit.

    “Instead, he has set forth 26 proposed action items on multiple subjects that reflect a scattershot approach that undermines his commitment to any meaningful or lasting change,” the paper said.

    Porter added in an interview that the Obama administration should be praised for the accomplishments it has made on Indian issues, but he cautioned that too much of the perceived progress has been focused on settling past injustices, like the Cobell case, rather than moving forward with proactive, visionary plans.

    Porter said that if the president fails to embrace an aggressive Indian country legislative agenda, he runs the risk of focusing solely on administrative policy changes and legislative appropriation that “only promotes cosmetic changes to the status quo.”

    In other words, lasting change will not be made.
    Comment:  Excellent points. This article mirrors what I've been saying. Settling old cases and increasing program funding is nice, but it doesn't change the fundamental relationship between the tribes and the government. Adhering to the UN declaration might do that, but the declaration is non-binding and few think it will cause a significant shift.

    Obama is doing better than previous presidents. But his accomplishments may be closer to the minimum than the maximum tribes expect. We're still waiting for "proactive, visionary plans" that go beyond the clichés and buzzwords.

    For more on the subject, see US Praises Itself on Native Rights and How to Consult with 564 Tribes.

    Right fright over UN declaration


    Obama to give Manhattan back to Native Americans?
    President believes nation can spare some sovereignty

    By Eugene J. Koprowski
    President Obama is voicing support for a U.N. resolution that could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan.

    The issue is causing alarm among legal experts.

    In recent remarks at the White House during a "tribal nations conference," Obama endorsed the "United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People," which includes a sweeping declaration that "indigenous peoples have a right to lands and resources they traditionally occupied or otherwise used" but that later were acquired by occupying forces.
    And:The international agreement is very serious business, one legal expert tells WND, and could cause problems for the U.S. long after Obama is gone from the White House, if made part of U.S. law.

    "One can anticipate that some tribes will seek to use this resolution to re-litigate centuries-old land disputes that courts have already rejected," said Frank at the Manhattan Institute.
    Comment:  The radical-right World Net Daily joins the growing conservative drumbeat against the UN declaration. I suspect it's only a matter of time until this breaks into the Limbaugh/Beck/talk-radio echo chamber.

    These people aren't raising legitimate concerns. They're couching their complaints in imaginary terms: if the UN declaration becomes US law, if activist judges overturn 200 years of precedents. In reality, there are probably thousands of UN declarations and international treaties that conflict with US law...and we ignore them all. We'll ignore this UN declaration the same way.

    And we didn't sign or endorse the UN declaration as a nation. All Obama did was "lend his support" to it. It's not official US policy and future US governments will be free to ignore it.

    In short, conservatives are using the UN declaration as the umpteenth way to bash Obama as a Luo tribesman--as a foreign/socialist/Kenyan/one worlder. As with Obama's birth certificate and "death panels," they don't care about the merits of the issue. All they want to do is demonize the first black president.

    For more on the subject, see Conservatives Criticize UN Declaration and Obama Will Give US to Indians?

    Hunting the Rez magazine

    Magazine promotes Native land recreationA Rocky Boy man has launched an outdoor magazine promoting tribal hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities for nonenrolled people.

    The magazine is called Hunting the Rez, and is a full-color glossy print format. Plans are to publish quarterly. The first issue of the magazine is already on newsstands.

    "We are very pleased with Hunting the Rez's launch," publisher and owner Jason Belcourt said. "It's not only for the economic benefits afforded the reservation programs we'll be showcasing from issue to issue, but also for the millions of acres of hunting and recreational opportunities open to the nontribal members of the outdoor sportsmen community."

    Belcourt said that because North American hunting grounds are getting harder and harder to find, Indian Country is becoming the preferred spot for savvy sportsmen looking for abundant hunting and fishing opportunities.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Face Magazine About First Nations and Native Hoop Website and Magazine.

    December 25, 2010

    Christmas with Black Crow

    A Year of Cool Comics--Day 350

    By Brian CroninWe continue the Cool Christmas Comic Countdown with an intriguing Captain America story by J.M. DeMatteis, Paul Neary and Eduardo Baretto titled “An American Christmas”…The revelry is interrupted by the mysterious Black Crow, a Native anti-hero. He seems to think Captain America should die for America's sins against the Indians:

    The fight continues for a number of more pages and it ends with the sort of Christmas message that you would expect from a J.M. DeMatteis comic book. And if you haven’t read enough J.M. DeMatteis comic books to know for sure what would be an expected ending of a J.M. DeMatteis comic book, then you really ought to read more J.M. DeMatteis comic books, because he is neat-o.

    In any event, this was a good issue--a lot different than a typical Christmas issue. Very much off the beaten path.
    Comment:  Follow the link to see more of the story.

    I believe this was Black Crow's second appearance. He hasn't appeared much since then and we still don't know much about him.

    For more on the subject, see Black Crow to Replace Captain America? and Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    Conservatives criticize UN declaration

    I knew conservatives wouldn't like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now they're starting to come out of the woodwork.

    Obama's Reversal on 'Indigenous Peoples' Rights Stirs Concern Over Legal Claims

    By Judson BergerJohn Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the "abstract" document--which in several sections discusses the "right to redress"--will probably be used to fuel new legal claims. And he predicted the issue would complicate those cases more than it would help either side actually resolve them.

    "It's a kind of feel-good document that has so many unclear phrases in it that nobody's really sure what it means when you agree to it," Bolton told "It's wrong and potentially dangerous to sign onto a document that you don't fully understand the implications of."
    And:Bolton said plaintiffs will surely try to use this document in court, though it's not supposed to carry the weight of law.

    "Hopefully most judges will say it's not binding," he said. "But there are enough judges who couldn't care less about strictly applying the law."
    Yes, and many of those judges are conservative activists like the ones who dominate the Supreme Court.

    More carping conservatives:Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has been particularly critical of the Pigford claims process, expressed concern about the potential implications of the U.N. document on indigenous peoples. He said he's curious what "special rights" the document could convey.

    Carl Horowitz, a project manager with the National Legal and Policy Center who follows discrimination cases against the federal government, used the r-word--reparations--to describe those implications.

    "It reflects a global egalitarianism," he said. "It's a shakedown."
    Comment:  "Global egalitarianism" is the opposite of the status quo, I presume: a plutocracy maintained by free-market fundamentalists to enrich themselves and their cronies.

    I expect Limbaugh, Beck, et al. to latch onto this issue eventually. I imagine they haven't yet because they haven't heard about the declaration yet.

    For more on the subject, see UN Declaration "Could Wreak Havoc" and UN Declaration = Status Quo.

    Chieftain's Challenge and Wargle

    We get e-mail:Hi, I am writing about 2 cultural appropriations in video games I've seen recently. Both of them are perpetuating the stereotype of the "native chieftain/warrior with headdress."

    The first one is from Team Fortress 2: Chieftain's Challenge. Not only it is a headdress worn as an cosmetic item, but it is a commodity to be traded and sold (in TF2, hats are rare cosmetic items that can be traded for). I find this caricature of a Native chief deeply offensive.
    The second one is the Pokemon Wargle. A red, white and blue eagle with feathers representing a headdress, with "war" in its name. "War + eagle," again perpetuating the Native warrior stereotype. Combining Natives with their American oppressors--abhorrent.

    Wilbur Fisher

    Comment:  Thanks for writing, Wilbur. I think you nailed the problems with these items.

    For more on the subject, see Video Games Featuring Indians.

    December 24, 2010

    Season's greetings!

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Ecstatic Eid, Krazy Kwanzaa, and a Wondrous Winter Solstice!


    Matachines dance at northern Pueblos

    Matachines DanceThe Matachines dance (Spanish matachin, or religious dancer) is found in northern Mexico especially in the La Laguna Region (Coahuila and Durango), Sinaloa and Chihuahua. It is also very popular in Northern New Mexico and along the Rio Grande River. People who join the Matachines do it for a religious purpose, since the dance is intended to venerate either Mother Mary, a saint, Christ, or God the Holy Trinity.

    Dressed in fantastic Indian costumes, the chief characters are El Monarca, the monarch (Montezuma); the captains (Montezuma's main generals); La Malinche, or Malintzin, the Indian mistress of Hernán Cortés; El Toro, the bull, the malevolent comic man of the play is dressed in buffalo skins with buffalo horns on his head. Characters also include Abuelo, the grandfather, and Abuela, the grandmother. The Matachines dance portrays the desertion of his people by Montezuma, Malinche luring him back with her wiles and smiles, the final reunion of king and people and the killing of El Toro, who is supposed to have made all the mischief. The most basic symbol of the dance is good vs. evil, with good prevailing. Montezuma and la Malinche represent good, and the bull represents mischief. Hernan Cortes, represents Satan or evil.

    The costumes, rattles, and the arch and bow are all blessed by a priest, and as he blesses the equipment of that group, it signifies that the priest has agreed to adopt the specific dancing group for that specific church.
    Los Matachines:  A blend of cultures, a colorful dance into the past at Taos Pueblo

    By Rick RomancitoOne of the more curious aspects of this dance to the uninformed observer is the fact that although this dance is Hispanic in origin, it is performed by Native people, along with a few Hispanic participants. The distinctive fiddle and guitar music is obviously non-Native and the regalia is certainly not that of ancient Pueblo Indian tradition.

    According to historians, the dance evolved over hundreds of years, starting with the Moors and borrowed by Spanish colonists who brought it with them to the New World. By the time the dance made its way into New Mexico, it is thought that Spanish priests used it to help convert Native people to Christianity by illustrating spiritual ideals through its essential morality play.

    Over time, like many things here, an assimilation took place, blending elements from both cultures that resulted in the performance taking on a life of its own.

    While many Pueblo Indians here follow the Catholic religion, they also maintain extreme loyalty to their ancient Native religion, evidence that the initial motive behind the dance was not entirely successful
    Comment:  For more on Pueblo Christmas celebrations, see Three Kings Day at Pojoaque and Pueblo Christmas Dances.

    Below:  "Ruben Romero leads dancers through the alleys of Taos Pueblo's north-side homes." (Rick Romancito)

    UN declaration "could wreak havoc"

    The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    By Shoshena BryenApplied to American Indian tribes, before which the president made his announcement, this may take the form of reparations and mineral rights. The Executive Director of the Indian Law Resource Center said, "International human rights law now recognizes...rights of self-determination, property and culture." It is unlikely to involve having Indian tribes secede from the Union.

    But applied to Palestinians and Kurds, not to mention minorities from Azeris in Iran to Uighurs in China to Armenians, Hmong tribesmen and Guatemalan Indians, it could wreak havoc.

    The Kurds form a tribal/national grouping that spans Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. They are unquestionably an "indigenous people" with a distinct language and culture. Is the United States prepared to support border changes to allow them the right of self-determination? American lives were expended in the quest for a unitary Iraq, and we supported Turkey's determination not to allow Kurds to secede during the PKK war. But how can we deny the Kurds while supporting a Palestinian "right to self determination"?
    Comment:  Bryen is grossly overestimating the UN declaration's effect. As I said to someone, I'll doubt it'll affect a single decision in Congress or the courts.

    The answer to Bryen's question about the Kurds is: We can't deny the Kurds, morally speaking. They, the Palestinians, and the other indigenous groups all deserve more freedom.

    What kind of freedom? At a minimum they should have a quasi-sovereign status like America's Indian nations. Even better would be to have quasi-independent states with the option to leave the country by a popular vote. Canada has done this with Quebec and it hasn't destroyed the country.

    For more on Palestinians, see No Right of Return for Palestinians, Indians? and Palestinians = Na'vi. For more on the UN declaration, see UN Declaration = Status Quo and Obama Will Give US to Indians?!

    Longmire mysteries to become TV series

    Wyoming author's novels being made into TV seriesAward-winning Wyoming author Craig Johnson's mystery novels will provide the inspiration for a television series.

    A&E network gave the go-ahead for the hourlong pilot of “Longmire,” which will be based on Sheriff Walt Longmire, a Vietnam veteran who is the sheriff of a fictional northern Wyoming county.
    And:The novel's characters include Longmire's longtime American Indian friend Henry Standing Bear, also a veteran.

    Tribal beliefs and mysticism play into the stories, which also have Montana ties.
    Comment:  For more on Native-themed mysteries, see Coel Wins Emeritus Award for Mysteries and Jance's Tohono O'odham Mysteries.

    Below:  Craig Johnson.

    December 23, 2010

    Review of When Worlds Collide

    Yet another documentary I watched on PBS for Native American Heritage Month:

    When Worlds CollideIn 1492, two worlds that for thousands of years had developed completely independent of one another suddenly came into contact. In the following decades, those two worlds painfully and haltingly began to merge. Below, follow the story of When Worlds Collide; a story that examines power, religion, wealth, and the nature of identity and ethnicity in the Americas right up to our own times.You can read the entire transcript or watch the entire video online. Here's the key first segment:

    Chapter 1:  The Missing Branch of the Family TreeAfter news reached Europe in 1493 that Christopher Columbus had reached land west across the Atlantic Ocean, suddenly two worlds came into contact that for thousands of years had developed completely independently of one another. In the following decades, those two worlds painfully and haltingly began to merge, transforming the nature of identity and ethnicity in the Americas and resulting in a vibrant Mestizo culture that lives on to this day.

    For people who have ancestors from Europe and the Americas, the story of the European side of the family tree before contact has long been known. But it has taken far longer for the true story of the peoples of the New World before contact to become accepted in popular culture.

    Great New World Cultures

    According to the conventional narrative of the last five hundred years, before Columbus arrived the Americas were filled with primitive peoples who were easily conquered by a vastly superior European culture. Although scholars have long known that pre-Columbian America was home to some of the greatest cultures of the age, only recently has the general public's view of the New World started to change.

    We now know that, at the time the Spanish arrived in the New World, the Inca empire in South America was far larger than any in Europe, stretching 2,400 miles from modern day Colombia to Chile. Their 10,000-mile network of stone roads snaked through jungles and over mountain passes, all leading back to their capital, Cuzco, in present day Peru. Capable of great feats of engineering, the Incas created their cities, including their spiritual retreat Machu Picchu, with a standard of precision that far exceeded the abilities of European artisans at the time. The Indians who built these great South American metropolises still live and thrive in Peru today.

    It would be very ignorant to write the Incas off as just “Indians.” [In Cuzco] we can see the highest expression of a higher culture. It is evidence of how sophisticated their technology was for the time, their engineering, hydraulics and architecture. And it also reveals the relationship the Incas had with nature. They believed in maintaining an equilibrium between man and the earth. . .Man doesn't destroy nature to build something, but rather adapts his architecture to the setting.

    --Carlos Paz Sanchez, director, Peruvian Cultural Center, Cuzco

    In central Mexico, major civilizations had flourished since the time of the Romans. Later came the Mayas with their advanced mathematics and writing,

    and the Mexica, leaders of the Triple Alliance once called the Aztecs. The Mexica capital of Tenochtitlan was home to 200,000 people and cleaner than any city in Europe.

    Other civilizations lived farther north, including the Pueblo tribes with their planned communities built around one of the most sophisticated social structures in the world, and the cultures of the Mississippi River valley, who were among the most successful and productive farmers on earth.

    New World Advances

    The New World cultures were neither better nor worse than the cultures of Europe, but simply different. One difference was that the greatest advances of New World cultures did not involve inventing new machines but were instead driven by the effective use and management of the natural environment.

    New World inventors, for example, made a major advance in one of the most important industries of the age, textile manufacturing, by growing and harvesting cochineal, an insect that lives on the prickly pear cactus, to mass-produce a true red dye. In Europe, where true red dye was so rare and expensive that only the rich and powerful wore red, this New World dye would rank only behind gold and silver in value.
    See how New World inventors created a red dye that made Europeans swoon.

    The talent of the New World peoples also made possible a vastly more important set of inventions: new kinds of food. In one of the great food revolutions in history, Indigenous Americans succeeded through selective breeding in turning a weed called teocintle into maize (or corn), an achievement many botanists consider the most important feat of genetic engineering in human history.

    First of all, corn is a human invention. It is a creation of man. Ten thousand years ago, corn did not exist. . . Together with the early Americans, it built cities, it built cultures.

    --Amado Leyva, agronomist

    When corn was first introduced as a staple crop in the ancient Americas, it made tremendous population growth possible, from the Mayan peninsula all the way to what is today the United States and Canada. The people lived not just on corn but also on other crops like potatoes and tomatoes that they were the first to domesticate.

    Based on this diet, some scholars believe that in the 15th century, the average person in the Americas may have been better fed than the average person in Europe. They also might have been healthier—without pigs, goats, and cows, the Americas had no small pox, measles, or similar diseases that people on other continents had caught from those animals.
    More interesting points

    Some of the interesting points from the rest of the documentary:
  • Isabella and Ferdinand took another momentous step in 1492 in pursuit of religious unity: they ordered the Jews of Spain, some of whose ancestors had lived there for more than 700 years, to convert to Christianity or leave the country. Many of the Jews who converted and stayed in Spain, known as "conversos," were still suspected of being insincere in their conversions and arrested on charges of heresy by officers of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Even if their conversions were deemed sincere, Christians with Muslim and Jewish ancestors were treated as inferior to Spaniards who had Christian ancestors. Such were the origins of a policy of social discrimination, a caste-like system, which denied conversos access to important positions in church and state and reserved power for a supposedly pure-blooded Christian elite. Spain would later use similar policies in the Americas to keep native peoples at the bottom of the social scale.

  • In response to Queen Isabella's call to convert the peoples of the Americas, waves of Catholic missionaries flooded the New World, only to find that the people living there already had their own deeply held beliefs. As a result, the New World cultures gradually blended their native beliefs and Catholicism to create new spiritual traditions, images, and symbols.

    One example involves the now-legendary experience of Juan Diego, an early Indian convert to Catholicism. According to tradition, in the winter of 1531, Diego heard a woman's voice calling him from a hillside overlooking Mexico City. The woman had a serene countenance and was outlined by a luminescent glow. She also had native features, spoke Nahuatl, the pre-Columbian language of the Mexica, and looked very much the way the Mexica depicted Tonantzin, their revered fertility goddess. She told Diego that she was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

    The woman that Diego encountered in the form of an indigenous goddess came to be called "Our Lady of Guadalupe," the most important Catholic icon in the Americas. As the centuries passed, this story served as a kind of creation story for the Catholic Church in Mexico. But it is also a quintessentially Mestizo story, in which Catholic and native spiritual traditions became so thoroughly fused that it is difficult to tell one where one begins and the other ends.

  • For the next 300 years, virtually all of the indigenous men in the region would be forced to take turns working in deadly conditions in the mine.

    The historical records reveal that millions may have died while working in the mine. A metaphorical way of thinking about it is that so much silver was mined here that you could build a bridge of silver from Potosi to Spain. And with the skeletons of all the men who died here, you could build a bridge of skeletons back from Spain.

    --Soledad Fortun, expert on Potosi history

  • Comment:  "A policy of social discrimination, a caste-like system, which ... reserved power for a supposedly pure-blooded Christian elite." Not coincidentally, this is exactly why we're hearing so many protests against healthcare reform, welfare spending, illegal immigration, gay marriage, mosques, etc. Again, they're attempts to reserve power for a supposedly pure-blooded Christian elite.

    When Worlds Collide loses a bit of its power toward the end as the cultures merge and the story gets more convoluted. I might trim or rewrite some of that section. But for the most part, this is a well-written and dramatic account of the clash of civilizations. The information will be new to most people and may provide fresh insights even to those who have studied the history for years.

    Rob's rating:  8.5 of 10.

    For more on Native history, see Why We Believe in Columbus and America Is Ground Zero to Indians. For more PBS documentaries, see Review of For the Generations and Review of The Spirit of Sacajawea.

    Indians in FREEDOM FIGHTERS #1

    Here's a comic book about a superhero team that debuted a few months ago:

    Freedom Fighters #1 Review

    By WaylandFollowing on two limited series, DC gives the Freedom Fighters a shot at their own ongoing series, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who I really liked on Power Girl until they left the book. The story opens with Black Condor and Firebrand fighting yet another iteration of the Aryan Brigade at an Indian casino (before someone complains, I am part Indian and don’t like the term ‘Native American,’ so I don’t use it). The bad guys are written as savage, racist, and ignorant to a stereotypical degree, and are quickly beaten. Uncle Sam pops up and says he needs to speak with them about “a matter of National Security.”

    In a flashback of 14 hours ago, we see the Vice President get kidnapped from Air Force Two by a glowing blue foe. Somehow this ties into a newly discovered mystery document about a secret weapon of great power the Confederates were supposed to have had, but not used, in the Civil War (the historical one, not the recent Marvel one). Uncle Sam and the team, at Presidential request, go out to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, and find a secret staircase inside. Investigating, they find powerful mystical beings calling themselves the “Four Corners,” and square off with them for a fight which will no doubt happen next issue.
    Freedom Fighters #1

    By Doug ZawiszaThe problem I had with this first issue, however, was the sheer volume of information jammed into it. There is a casino rumble, a meteor hurtling towards the Earth, the kidnapping of the Vice President, and hints of a secret society so secret, it makes the Freemasons look like Girl Scouts. This, naturally, leads to an adventure fit for Indiana Jones or Benjamin Gates.

    The Native storyline continues:

    Freedom Fighters #2The first arc of the new Freedom Fighters title continues here, with things looking not really good for anyone. A flashback shows the big nasty god like beings fighting powerful shamans centuries ago and being trapped, and in the present those same beings fight the heroes, swatting them down pretty easily. Most of the team, even powerhouses like Black Condor and the Ray, get put down with no real effort. Only Uncle Sam puts up a decent fight, and he isn’t doing well in the first pages.Freedom Fighters #3The rampage of the newly released demons goes on after they stomped all over the Freedom Fighters last issue. Black Condor appeals to the goddess that empowered him, and she says they can not be defeated, merely imprisoned, and that will require the woman he refuses “to admit you are in love with.” Condor then rallies his team and tells Phantom Lady she is the key to winning.Rob's review

    As you may recall, Black Condor is a Navajo superhero. That means this comic book always has a Native potential. This time it gets realized.

    FREEDOM FIGHTERS #1 begins with a six-page sequence in an Arizona Indian casino. Other than a bear statue in front, it's blissfully free of Native stereotypes. There are no greeters in chiefs' headdresses, no waitresses in buckskin mini-skirts....nothing like that.

    True, the bad guys call the Indians "Pocahontas" and "Geronimo," but they're racists. I'd say the only misstep is when one neo-Nazi says of the Indians, "We shoulda driven these immigrants out of America centuries ago." This line is too stupid even for an ignorant bigot. Moreover, the rejoinder--"they were here first!"--is practically a cliché. Every Columbus Day and Thanksgiving we hear jokes about how the Europeans were the first illegal immigrants.

    Close encounters of the supernatural kind

    Later in the story, the Freedom Fighters visit Devils Tower (misspelled "Devil's Tower" in the comic). Black Condor says, "I sense a great power. This mountain is a sacred place to many tribes for different reasons." This is more or less an accurate summary of the situation, and it's nice coming from the Native hero.

    Black Condor adds, "The legend is that all of the tribes came together here and fought a great battle." I don't think this part is accurate. At least, I've never heard of a legend like that.

    The heroes explore the butte's interior and find four Native-style demons of earth, air, water, and fire. They say: "You have foolishly awakened us...imprisoned here by the shamans of a hundred tribes! We are the Four Corners! We are the renegades! We are death!"

    The Four Corners name is cute, but it doesn't make sense for demons that predate the Four Corners junction two states to the south. And elemental beings aren't very original or interesting. This is the kind of kid staff that has turned me off to comics.

    Alas, I wasn't interested enough to continue buying FREEDOM FIGHTERS. Judging by the reviews above, those who kept reading aren't happy with the results either.

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

    Below:  Black Condor.