July 31, 2010

Cooke defends medals, headdresses

I posted my idea about hipsters wearing medals to "honor" soldiers on Facebook. This led to the usual debate with Michael Cooke:I wouldn't suggest having people wear medals they've not earned.

But I would suggest minting medals comparable to medals of honor--to give to war protesters jailed for civil disobedience!
I wouldn't suggest having people wear headdresses they haven't earned. But you would because you don't understand the headdresses' significance among tribes.

The comparison between the two is apt, which is why I made it. Maybe you'll catch on now......but I doubt it.The comparison is not apt. We are all Americans, only Native Americans 1. have their distinctions relating to headdresses and 2. know for a fact the headdresses worn by entertainment performers are poor fakes.

If I dress up in a military costume with fake medals, it's no insult to anyone. Only if I buy and sport authentic medals from a pawn shop and claim to have earned them in a lie will I earn the wrath of genuine veterans and their supporters.

Performers wearing headdresses are almost certainly wearing (obvious to anyone who KNOWS) fakes. That's comparable to a skit comedian wearing a uniform thickly layered with (realistic) fake plastic medals. The former is dubious for reasons of cultural insensitivity, but the claim of offending by wearing an AUTHENTIC sign of cultural honour without having earned it is really stretching.

For example, the suggestion I made for minting American medal of honour medals exclusively for and distributed to people jailed for anti-war civil disobedience, if the medal isn't a duplicate but has a distinct design (and what anti-war protester would want any medal that could be confused for a war medal?), it can't offend veterans.

So Rob, what you're arguing is that any headdress, if inauthentic enough, should be blameless? And this is not the case, not if you mean to argue that every fake plastic headdress in every costume store should be gathered and burned for cultural racism!
Did I say anything about the quality or kind of medals in my posting? No.

People had no clue whether Kesha was wearing a genuine or fake headdress, to cite one obvious example. I, for one, couldn't tell whether it was real from looking at it. So if the obvious falseness of a headdress is your latest line of defense, you need a new excuse for Kesha's minstrel show.

I don't care whether my hypothetical person wears a real or phony uniform and medals. What matters is the person pretends to be a soldier in public...proclaims he's honoring soldiers...and mocks soldiers by doing things real soldiers would find offensive. It's enough that he be recognizable as a US solider--not that he look strictly authentic.

To make this phony "soldier" similar to a phony "chief," he could rip off his clothes and strut like a half-naked Rambo. He could wave his weapons and pretend to shoot or stab people. He could smear himself in blood-red paint and do a victory dance over the bodies of his foes. "Look at the medals/headdress I'm wearing!" our wannabe might shout. "I've earned the right because I'm the world's greatest warrior!"

You think a military veteran seeing this would stop to parse whether the medals were authentic or not? How...by going home and Googling any medal he didn't recognize before returning to the scene and punching the imitator's lights out? Wow...you've convinced me you're totally ignorant about human behavior. You're an idiot if you think this is how the typical vet would react.

What to do about fake headdresses

No, I'm not arguing that any headdress, if inauthentic enough, should be blameless. I'm arguing that any time you mock a soldier's honor, with real or fake medals, you should expect to be vilified. Because we treat military service as a secular priesthood with soldiers as secular saints.

Indians think something similar about chiefs who earn the right to wear headdresses. These chiefs are very much like soldiers who have earned the right to wear distinguished medals. But you don't recognize the similarity because you're ignorant about Indians. You think headdresses are like fedoras or other apparel, even though I've explained why you're wrong.

Your argument about using real medals also fails the "cultural commons" test you made up. People have worn real-looking medals in countless movies, TV shows, and cartoons. According to you, military vets can no longer claim the exclusive right to wear medals they've earned. We can all wear them now because they're part of our "cultural commons." Anyone can pretend to be a real military vet just like anyone can pretend to be a real Indian chief.

Moreover, you've contradicted yourself. "Only Native Americans ... know for a fact the headdresses worn by entertainment performers are poor fakes" and "Performers wearing headdresses are almost certainly wearing (obvious to anyone who KNOWS) fakes." Well, which is it? Did non-Native audiences know Kesha was wearing a fake headdress or didn't they?

If they thought she was wearing a genuine headdress, doesn't that validate the Natives' position? Yes. She was abusing a genuine headdress as far as viewers were concerned. They didn't know enough to think otherwise.

I'd never arguing for burning plastic headdresses in costume stores. I would argue for educating people to realize such headdresses are morally wrong. In my ideal world, people would stop buying them because they realized they were parodying and mocking Native culture. And stores would stop carrying them for that reason.

For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief and Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay.

Below:  Most movies that don't portray the US military in a flattering light don't get the military's approval. For instance, Dr. Strangelove.

Why are soldiers so thin-skinned? Why don't they just lighten up and get over it like people expect Indians to do?

Take something like Dr. Strangelove and multiply it by a million or so to see what Indians have to deal with every day.

Rainbow Gatherings based on Hopi prophecy?

Michael Cooke writes:I'd like your perspective on something.

Locally there are many "Rainbow" people, sort of nomadic hippies attempting to live outside of captialism.
Here's what he's talking about:

Rainbow GatheringRainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities, typically held in outdoor settings, and espousing and practicing ideals of peace, love, harmony, freedom and community, as a consciously expressed alternative to mainstream popular culture, consumerism, capitalism and mass media.

Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually abbreviated to "Rainbow Family") are an expression of a Utopian impulse, combined with bohemianism, freethought and hippie culture, with roots clearly traceable to the 1960s counterculture. Mainstream society is viewed as "Babylon," connoting the participants' widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy and out of harmony with the natural systems of planet Earth. The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 through 7 every year on National Forest land. Other regional and national gatherings are held throughout the year, in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.

Confusion over Hopi Legend

There has been a longstanding Rainbow rumor that the gathering was/is recognized by the elders of the Hopi people as the fulfillment of a Hopi prophecy. This was debunked by Michael I. Niman in his 1997 People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia. Niman traced the supposed Hopi prophecies to the 1962 book Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, which compares prophecy of major religious sects throughout the world and tales of visions from North American natives.
Legend of Rainbow WarriorsSince the early 1970s, a legend of Rainbow Warriors inspired some environmentalists in the United States with a belief that their movement is the fulfillment of a Native American prophecy.

The legend also inspired the name of two of Greenpeace's ships, named Rainbow Warrior and used in environmental-protection protests by Greenpeace.
Cooke adds:The Wikipedia article debunks and article of faith with the Rainbow folks, and I must say it is an extremely stubborn article of faith. The idea is that there's a Hopi Indian legend that the spirits of the Indians will reincarnate as the sons and daughters of white people and peaceful revolution will thereby be achieved.

Of course Wikipedia's nature invites speculation of its unreliability. The legend could be racist--but it's not like the Rainbow folks are believing themselves to be Indian or doing anything more Indian than using barter and conceptualizing that food should be free and shared.
Comment:  I think I read of a Hopi legend about a White Brother: a mythical savior who will restore the Hopi to greatness. It sounds vaguely similar to the reincarnation legend you mentioned. I don't know if it's the same as or related to the Rainbow Warrior legend.

Like any full-fledged religion, Hopi has hundreds of myths and legends. The Rainbow Warrior thing undoubtedly is a mere footnote. It certainly isn't a central tenet of Hopi belief. (Based on my reading of a dozen books on the Hopi and Pueblo cultures, anyway.)

The legend may have a kernel of validity, but it's been passed from person to person to person, none of whom seem to be Hopi. Like every other story disseminated this way, it's probably been exaggerated at each step. The minor legend has become a major prophecy justifying the existence of the Rainbow Gatherings.

I imagine it's like taking the story of a single Christian saint as gospel. For instance, God came to St. So-and-so after So-and-so saw a rainbow. Therefore, Christians should chase rainbows rather than pray to Jesus.

Sure, you can interpret a Christian or Hopi legend that way. But the vast majority of your fellow believers won't agree with your interpretation. That seems to be what's happened with the Rainbow Gatherings.

That a Hopi legend has inspired the Rainbow people to practice an alternative to mainstream culture is good. As long as they don't claim to be Indians or perform pseudo-Indian ceremonies, they seem harmless enough. Indeed, you could say they're doing it the right way: emulating a traditional Indian lifestyle without pretending to be Indians.

For more on the subject, see New Age Mystics, Healers, and Ceremonies.

Nancy Ward the musical

Descendant pays tribute to Nancy Ward with musical

By Tesina JacksonThe stories of Cherokee Beloved Woman Nancy Ward have been told many times. Some tales glorify her as a hero when she took the place in battle of her husband, Kingfisher. Others mark her as a traitor for warning white settlers of approaching Cherokee attacks. For songwriter Becky Hobbs, she tells those stories through music.

Hobbs first came up with the idea of telling Ward’s story via a musical production after writing some of the songs now in the production back in the 1990s. Today, the production contains 17 songs.

Nancy Ward, a member of the Wolf Clan, was born in Echota, Ga., and was named Nancy Ward, a member of the Wolf Clan, was born in Echota, Ga., and was named Beloved Woman after taking the place of her husband in battle. She later married white trader Bryant Ward. In 1776, after the illegal sale of lands in Tennessee, Nancy Ward’s cousin, Dragging Canoe, organized a series of attacks against white settlers. She sent runners to warn the whites of the approaching attacks. Dragging Canoe was wounded and three of the attacks were unsuccessful. She died in 1822.
Comment:  I don't know if this is the same play described in Cherokee Play About Warrior Woman. It seems to be different.

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

P.S. This story was originally published by the Cherokee Phoenix.

Brazilian video game teaches colonialism

Young Indigenous Hero Teaches History in Video Game

By Fabiana FrayssinetComputer game technology can have an impact on the way we view the world. In a new video game developed in Brazil, a young indigenous boy named Jeró helps break down the stereotypes of the worldwide video game industry while teaching about the history of colonialism.

Jeró, a Tupiniquim Indian, is the hero of "França Antártica", a new video game developed by a team from the Federal Fluminense University (UFF) in the city of Niteroi, located across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro.

The third-party action game takes place in the 16th century, a period in history when the French, lead by Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, invaded Guanabara Bay with the mission of founding a new colony to be called França Antártica (Antarctic France).
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Video Games Featuring Indians.

July 30, 2010

"Absentee Shawnee of Ohio" wannabes

Playing Indian

Group presents Native culture with fake fires and tipis, phony tribal ID

By Stephanie Woodard
The cardholder confirmed that several years ago the clan mother of the tribe’s Bear Clan in Cleveland passed out five or six of these IDs, which purport to be issued by the state of Ohio, where Robert Taft was governor from 1999–2007. However, there are no state recognized tribes in Ohio, according to its attorney general, whose representative said, “We are not aware of recognition of this group--even temporarily.”

Indeed, the “Absentee Shawnee of Ohio” appear not to exist there or elsewhere, except perhaps in the mind of the clan mother and her acolytes, though the name closely tracks that of a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma.

The card was duplicated onto copies of a letter passed out during a 2009 board meeting of an Iowa American Indian community organization, Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities. The letter included the cardholder’s request to demonstrate “the Native way of the Sweat Loge [sic]” to the group and described her credentials: Life on the “Tuba City Navaho Reservation [sic],” where her Apache adoptive father taught her “the ways of the pipe and the sweat loge [sic].” Eventually, she became a “gifted pipe carrier” of the Navajo, her adoptive mother’s people, and the Shawnee.
And:ICT:  Tell us about the phenomenon the letter and ID represent.

Apala-Cuevas:  There have been many offenses to our peoples and cultures, and these are yet more. The desire to show us how to run a sweat lodge is an example of non-Natives feeling they can present Indian life better than the Indians. These people promulgate a mishmash of misinformation gleaned from Hollywood movies and similar sources. Believe me, being an Indian is the hardest thing anyone can do, and they are not up to it.

ICT:  What about the letter’s culturally related errors?

Apala-Cuevas:  A Pueblo professor from the University of Illinois wrote to NACQC after watching one of the hobbyist group’s members describing to a thrilled audience his school, church, and boy scout demonstrations, which included an electric fire and tipi. She told us she shuddered at the thought of the fake fire and tipi and the stereotypical Indian imagery he affirmed.

ICT:  The imitation Indians claim to be well-meaning.

Apala-Cuevas:  As the professor wrote in her letter, we’ve suffered under centuries of good intentions. People who play Indian are a problem countrywide. I see it as mental illness--a mass hysteria. An elder told me they have genetic memory of the genocide, so they carry fear within them and claim these relationships and this knowledge to alleviate the stress. Wilma Mankiller once sat next to Bill Clinton at a lunch, and the first thing he said to her was that he was part Cherokee. So you see, it’s from the president on down.
Comment:  This reminds me of the wannabe I wrote about in "Native Religion" for Indians Only? These people can do whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. But no one wants to be an Indian in private. "Playing Indian" is all about telling the world how authentic and sincere you are. How you're in touch with your roots and the land and the spirit world.

These people don't just practice their beliefs and customs among themselves. They want to share their phony "culture" with others. They want the appreciation and acclaim from naive school, church, and boy scout groups. "Oh, you're a genuine Indian?" they hope audiences will say. "How brave and noble your people are! You've suffered so much, yet you're still here, still trying to reach out to us. Let us make a generous donation to your tribe."

For more examples of wannabes, see Anti-Government Extremists Pose as "Indians" and Self-Proclaimed "Indian" Secedes from City. For more on the overall problem, see The Myth of the Cherokee Princess and Fraudulent "Cherokee" Organizations. For a history of Americans "playing Indian," see The Political Uses of Stereotyping.

Why pop culture matters

Blogger Jenn Fang offers an excellent analysis of Why Pop Culture Matters to Race Bloggers. First she explains why the naysayers are wrong:Often, you'll also attract the first-time readers who stumbled upon your site because they googled the movie (or television show, or actor) in question and found an unexpected critical analysis of identity politics (rather than a post consisting entirely of l33tspeak, summarized as "i <3 jake gyllenhaal omg hes so sexy in prince of persia rotflmao!!!1!!!!1!!!!1!!"). Many such readers will proceed to write lengthy comments telling you in excruciating detail how they wasted the last 10 minutes reading your post. The gist of these comments is always the same: pop culture is only entertainment and isn't meant to be serious, so racial issues in these media don't matter. It's only a movie (or television show, or video game, or comic book)! Lighten up!

It's this flavor of comments that really get my goat—not because they are particularly insulting (although they can be), but because they reveal a fundamental lack of understanding about the significance of pop culture.

Popular culture (or "pop culture") is not something created in a vacuum. Nor do the stories it presents emerge out of thin air. Whether we're talking about musicians or movies, pop culture ultimately reflects the values of its time. Take, for example, The Birth of a Nation, which was released in 1915 and quickly became the highest-grossing movie of the silent film era. In Birth of a Nation, black men are depicted as violent and hypersexualized aggressors who victimize white women. White Klansmen are painted as heroes who rescue white women from such predators. The popularity of this film reflects the popularity of such sentiments about race and politics of the time.
And:Pop culture doesn't just reflect popular trends and ideas, it also helps create them. For example, the average person who grew up in the 80s with limited exposure to Asian-Americans might develop a stereotypical view of Asians being as meek and exotic—a view influenced by films like Karate Kid, in which Mr. Miyagi fuels the stereotype that paints Asians as exotic martial artists. Over time, not only do such pop culture phenomenons help create stereotypes, they're recycled and later reinforced in future pop incarnations.

It's an especially damaging trend because people of color are so underrepresented in pop culture. In fact, over the last several years, Asian Americans have represented less than 1% of primetime television regular or leading roles—despite the fact that we are nearly 5% of the national population. Asian-American kids growing up in the 80s share a common tale of woe: in the playground, we were inevitably referred to as Mr. Miyagi or Long Duk Dong, because these archetypes of the sensai and the dorky buffoon were the sole reference many Americans had to define their perception of Asian people.
Comment:  These Asian examples are a good corrective for the idiots who think stereotypes come from old paintings and Wild West shows but not from the modern entertainment media. If they were right, kids would be calling Asians a generic term such as "coolies" rather than Mr. Miyagi or Long Duk Dong.

Similarly, Native girls get called "Pocahontas" occasionally. That comes from the Disney movie, obviously, not from some history book or documentary on a 400-year-old incident.

The media is what propagates and perpetuates stereotypes, people. If you're still in denial about this, get over it.

For more on the subject, see "Public" Causes Stereotypes? and Valenti:  Movies Are Merely Movies.

Below:  What people today "know" about Indians...from a 19th-century Wild West show?!

How journalists frame the question

Asking the wrong question?

By Cynthia Coleman[W]hen a news story pits “scientists” against Indians, and it the story is framed as science, it is predictable which groups will gain instant legitimacy. In all the conflicts I’ve mentioned, scientists and government officials get a head start in the legitimacy race. Indians are left at the starting gate and are forced to voice their opposition within an already-established framework that journalists sanction, even if they’re unaware of their complicity.

An apt example is seen in 60 Minutes’ coverage of the Kennewick Man court battles. Veteran reporter Leslie Stahl positioned the Indian tribes as anti-science in her 2002 interview. Stahl set the stage for the story by framing the discovery of the skeleton as a “scientific treasure,” adding, “we’re talking about our history.” Therefore anyone disagreeing with the frame would be seen as anti-science. And by declaring that Kennewick Man represents “our history,” Stahl has deigned that the skeleton speaks to her history, not the local Indian tribes. Umatilla spokesman Armand Minthorn presented a different approach: not about science but about culture. “Our older people tell us that when a body goes into the ground, that’s where it’s to remain until the end of time. It’s been removed. It’s violating everything that we know.” He also noted that for 10,000 years his people have told stories about life on the Columbia River. “My teachings from my older people tell me how life was 10,000 years ago. And the scientists cannot accept the fact that just because it’s not written down in a book, it’s not fact. It’s fact to me, because I live it every day.”
Comment:  Below is a Kennewick Man reconstruction by the National Geographic and the original "Captain Picard" reconstruction. Gosh, Kennewick Man doesn't look like Picard after all.

Making Kennewick Man look like a white man, as the "Picard" reconstruction did, was a huge factor in the subsequent controversy. People assumed white men had been here before Indians and framed the debate in terms of "political correctness." They deemed Indians who opposed the investigation obstructionists who wanted to preserve their quaint beliefs and superstitions.

Now we see how misleading the original reconstruction was. We could use another debate on why white people are so eager to discredit Indians. Because they can't stand the thought that their ancestors weren't first and best in everything, apparently. Because their ancestors didn't claim an "untamed wilderness" but had to steal it from its rightful owners.

For more on the subject, see Kennewick Man, Captain Picard, and Political Correctness.

US should fly tribal flags

A Plea for Equal Presentation--American Indian Flags

By Julianne Jennings[T]he U.S. flag fails to acknowledge in the canton or "union" (50 white stars on a blue field) the 565 Indian tribal nations within our nation, thus excluding Indians from society. Our nations young school children are not taught that the fifty stars on the union jack represent fifty Native nations, that later became the United States of America through conquest. Tragically, the development of the United States is drenched in blood (usually Indian), stolen lands (always Indian), and broken promises. Yet despite removal, allotment, and termination, the tribes remain as viable political and cultural entities.

The "white washing" of history, represented by the American flag, also creates an opportunity for conflict for American Indian youth. For some, it reminds them of their social position in their schools and in public as a vanquished race; affecting school performance and self-esteem. Most classroom educators do not provide discussion on acknowledgement procedures and how it has restored many Indian tribes. Tribes have their own flags taking great pride in their culture and their continued existence for thousands of years that has had many influences on modern-day American culture. The lack of public presentation of American Indian flags should be viewed as racist and as an illegal denial of Indian civil rights and sovereign status.

If we are trying to add balance to the discourse and presentation of our collective history, I would like to suggest hanging tribal flags (tribes who occupy a particular state) on public buildings and schools along with the U.S. and state flag as a conscious effort towards inclusivity for its sovereign neighbors. For example, The State of Rhode Island could post the U.S., state and Narragansett Tribe (the principle people of Rhode Island) flags together on one pole.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza.

Below:  Tribal flags at the NMAI.

July 29, 2010

"Sick" cartoonist Callahan dies

Someone posted the following on my Facebook wall:John Callahan 1951-2010. Ave atque vale.

This led to the following exchange:

A lot of his cartoons were stupid, weren't they?Sick, twisted, perverted, offensive, depraved, yes. Stupid, no.Then this one must've been an exception. A lame pun on the word "squaw"...this would've been a second-rate idea for a cartoon 50 or 75 years ago. It's like something a third-grader would've come up with.

P.S. I think you forgot racist and sexist.You think?

From the LA Times obituary:

John Callahan dies at 59; politically incorrect cartoonist was a quadriplegic

Among his better-known efforts:

Two Ku Klux Klansmen heading out at night in their white sheets. Says one: "Don't you love it when they're still warm from the dryer?"

A beggar in the street wearing a sign that reads, "Please help me. I am blind and black, but not musical."

A sign in the window of a small, street-side restaurant says: "The Anorexic Cafe, Now Closed 24 Hours a Day!!!"

An imposing woman glares at a small man and says: "This is a feminist bookstore! There is no humor section!"

A small boy and his father look at a dog lying on its back with a large shard of glass embedded in its chest. "How much is that window in the doggie?" asks the boy.

Callahan was not swayed by hate mail blasting him for being racist, sexist, ageist, sick, depraved and disgusting.

My favorite features two store-front businesses: A Tourette-Syndrome clinic with a neighboring pet store advertising a 90% discount on all parrots.
Good cartoons vs. bad cartoons

I'm not swayed by racists who think they're not racists. I could've kicked Callahan's butt in a debate just like I do with everyone online.

These examples are probably among his best known cartoons because they're decent. As I recall, about half his jokes were good and the other half were stupid and sophomoric. Such as the "squaw-tistic" joke above.

The black and feminist jokes are arguably about the stereotypes. They arguably don't use the stereotypes to insult blacks or women in general. That's the difference you seem to have missed.

The "squaw-tistic" joke isn't a commentary about what Americans think about Indians. The cartoon shows a white man describing an actual Indian girl. The girl is dressed stereotypically and the man uses a vulgarism without irony. There's no "humor" except the semi-racist epithet.

What's the funny part: comparing being an Indian to having a developmental disorder like autism? Ha ha. That isn't just unfunny, it's insulting. It's a not-so-veiled way of saying Indians are inferior.

Show me a cartoon where Callahan spoofed a black person in a similar manner. For instance, a doctor returns a black girl to her parents. "She's not a ninny," he says, "she's a pickaninny!" Again, no commentary on people's beliefs about blacks, just a straightforward use of a semi-racist epithet.

I guess these subtle distinctions are lost on Boobus Americanus--i.e., people like you who think the Three Stooges are funny. To this type, racism seems to be okay as long as it's the form of a "joke." Have you ever seen an example of ethnic humor you found offensive?

For more on the subject of "harmless humor," see Ethnic Humor Suggests for MTV, Irish Band Is Just Harmless Fun?, and Deadliest Warrior vs. The Dudesons.

Quileute exhibit at Seattle Art Museum

Behind the Scenes:  The Real Story of the Quileute WolvesThe wolf is central to the cultural beliefs of the Quileute Native Peoples of coastal Washington, and wolf imagery is prominent in their art forms. According to oral traditions, the first Quileute were changed from wolves by the Transformer, Kwati; those ancestral beginnings figure significantly in the Quileute world view, even today.

For better or worse, the Quileute were thrust into a media firestorm with the publication of the Twilight books and the release of the first Twilight movies. Because the Quileute were not consulted, their "wolf origins" were misrepresented, and in the books and films they have been portrayed as sexed-up teen werewolves. This has precipitated unwanted visitors to their territory (in the thousands!).

This exhibition consisting of about 30 objects seeks to provide a public platform for the display and interpretation of art works that represent Quileute wolf mythology specifically, and also the larger sphere of their beliefs about spirituality and transformation. As was true for the Coast Salish prior to SAM's 2008–09 exhibition S'abadeb, there have been no prior exhibitions of Quileute art. Although this exhibition will be modest, these carefully chosen works will reveal aspects of Quileute art history, style and meaning.

—Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art
SAM:  'Twilight' got it wrong with the Quileute wolvesBrotherton said she's talked with some of the actors who portray members of the "wolf pack" in the "Twilight" movies. Most weren't even aware the Quileute people really existed, though the movie is supposed to take place near their tribal land in La Push.

"None of it was shot on the Olympic Peninsula except for some scenic shots, so the actors were never here," said Brotherton, speaking from the peninsula where she's finalizing details for the exhibit's opening.

In reality, the Quileutes live on a small reservation. Brotherton said they were ill equipped to deal with the tourism mania that resulted from the popular books and movies--and that's one reason SAM decided to tell their story.

"They thought, let's use 'Twilight' as the entry point," she said. "But let it really be about our ancestral relationship with wolves. They've never been werewolves, but wolves are very important."
Comment:  The actors weren't aware the Quileute existed...even though they're playing Quileute Indians? Wow.

That may have been how it was early in the series. I hope it's not that way now.

Even so, it shows how far we have to go. One or two movies featuring modern-day Indians aren't enough to overcome centuries of misinformation. It may take centuries of information--of seeing Indians in nonstereotypical venues and stories--before the old stereotypes fade away.

For more on what people don't know, see Media Doesn't Know Quileutes Are Real and Twilight Readers Forget Quileutes. For more on genuine Quileute culture, see 2010 Quileute Days and Twilight Fans Get Quileute Culture.

Below:  Wolf headdress, Quileute.

Half-naked "chief" in Mass. parade

Debate renews over 'Indian' in Needham's parade

By Katrina BallardWhen a couple new to Needham attended the town’s annual Fourth of July parade for the first time this year, they were shocked to see Fred Muzi, retired owner of Muzi Ford, dressed in a feather headdress with his skin painted red, riding bareback on a horse.

“We enjoyed the parade a lot, but when our 4-year-old daughter turned to us and asked why that man had paint all over him, we felt really uncomfortable,” said Emily Rothman, who moved to Needham five months ago with her husband, Greg Banks.

Their concerns—expressed in a letter to a local newspaper and a phone call to a tribal chief on Cape Cod—have renewed an off-and-on debate within town over whether the half-century parade staple should continue.

“We do know this is a tradition many people in Needham enjoy and find harmless, and it does seem like Mr. Muzi has the best intention,” said Rothman. “However, when people paint their skin to look like individuals of another race for entertainment purposes, it’s off base.”
And:Rothman also contacted Linda Morceau, chief of the Chappiquiddic tribe based in Cape Cod.

“There are no good reasons for someone that is not Native American to dress up as though they are Native American,” said Morceau, a substance abuse and family councilor at Peaceful Gathering Place in Wareham. “The only group of people that are still open season for being made fun of that way are Native Americans. We need to step up and say this is offensive.”

Morceau compared Muzi’s costume, which she says makes fun of her sacred dress, to putting on blackface.

“If you want to honor the Native American, you bring in a Native American,” she said. “You don’t bring in a white person, put on a black face, and say you’re honoring African Americans.”
Comment:  So much wrong here:

  • Wearing a Plains headdress in a Massachusetts parade.

  • Buying the headdress in a non-Native national park. Even if it's Indian-made, I doubt the maker intended Muzi to wear it like a Halloween costume.

  • I cant tell how red Muzi is in the video, but he's wearing facepaint and he's almost naked. Neither of these came from an Indian-made headdress in a national park. Muzi is presenting a pure stereotype so viewers can "enjoy" the idea of a savage Indian chief.

    For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief, Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay, and A Brief History of Redface.

  • PETA billboards:  "Avoid Cruel Bear Pits"

    PETA billboards target Cherokee zoosAn animal rights group plans to put up four billboard signs in Western North Carolina telling tourists to avoid bear parks here.

    The four billboards, erected by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, feature a cartoon image of a crying bear and read, “Warning: Tourist Trap. Avoid Cruel Bear Pits.”

    PETA last summer asked the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to close the bear zoos on the reservations because of what the group called inhumane conditions. Some of the Cherokee zoos keep the bears in concrete pits.

    A federal inspector in May 2009 noted three problems at the Chief Saunooke's Bear Park, but those had been corrected by July, a tribe official has said. Game show icon Bob Barker traveled to Cherokee last summer to help PETA.
    Comment:  On the one hand, I'm not sure this is the most effective use of PETA's time and energy. On the other hand, I'm glad PETA didn't drop the protest after Bob Barker went home. Debating these issues is good for prople.

    For more on the subject, see Bear Pits = Boarding Schools and Why PETA Brought in Barker.

    July 28, 2010

    Native cultures doomed without hipster headdresses?

    Adrienne Keene brings another item to our attention in her Native Appropriations blog:

    DIY Headdress from Bright Young Things

    Apparently a fashion designer named Eliza Starbuck is launching a "Bright Young Things" fashion line. Adrienne writes:To commemorate the launch, she offered up this project on the blog Ecouterre, "guaranteed to turn heads." Yes friends, you can now make your very own hipster headdress.

    The post offers step-by-step instructions, and I found it hilariously ironic that either Starbuck or Ecoterre reminds you to "just be sure to choose cruelty-free feathers (faux, vintage, or found), rather than pluck the plumage of some hapless bird." Definitely, worry about the birds, but not the people you may be offending.
    When people objected to this headdress project, Starbuck posted the following defenses of it:I think EVERYONE is aware of stereotypes and what is and isn’t “PC” at this point in time. A handmade headdress (and not the dime store “cowboys and indians” plastic version) is sacred to anyone who wears it and certainly to anyone who makes it.And:I think this point of view is painfully old-fashioned. The Internet has created a melting pot of Ancient, Present, Past, and Future cultures from all around the world. And at this point, everyone is fully aware of what stereotypes are and what "PC" is, and going on about them is only going to perpetuate them. Practice sacred culture, don't preach it. Making efforts to keep sacred cultures segregated and separated in the name of respect and cultural preservation maybe honorable, but it is quite impossible and impractical. If that were the way, then the spirit of the Native American culture would be long dead, and we know that isn't true, it's just evolved. Everyone is connected and everyone is mixed, this is a new tribe of people.Readers rip Starbuck

    Adrienne let her readers handle this one, and they did so with some scathing replies:Sayeh said...

    How is it logical to reiterate that "EVERYONE" know what's PC and stereotypical as some sort of justification for being un-PC and stereotypical? awareness of the negative impact of ones behavior while continuing to engage in and justify it is almost worse than accidental ignorance. Starbuck's whole point reeks of defeatist "don't bother resisting, just assimilate" ignorance.

    Colin said...

    One generally doesn't make sacred objects out of nylon, faux feathers, and fake leather on an old copy of the Brooklyn Rail. If that were the case, then I spent most of second grade making sacred objects out of macaroni and construction paper. Maybe I should get out my Bedazzler and make some sacred rhinestone jeans.

    It's interesting how she position herself as a savior of native culture. Clearly, if not for hipsters and sports mascots, "the spirit of the Native American culture would be long dead."

    And, generally speaking, most ceremonies involving spiritually or culturally significant clothing (e.g. headdresses, yarmulkes, mitres, even green berets) don't end with "Enjoy your new wings!" That's called cosplay.

    (I would also like to know where on the Internet cultures from the future are hiding, and can I borrow their time machine?)

    Naturalist Charlie said...

    Then there's the wonderful inference that all Native Americans are the same and there is one single 'Native American Culture' in which this type of headdresses are 'sacred'. Kind of like saying the kilt is traditional dress for everyone in Europe.

    Jessie said...

    "The spirit of the Native American culture would be dead [without us white people to perpetuate it, you know, because that's our burden]."

    She just makes me furious with her idiocy. Does she even understand what she wrote? So flippantly dismissing a critique of the ideas (or lack of ideas) behind what she does. I guess it's not "in" right now to be disturbed by the use of a religion that white men tried to wipe out.

    How's about you let the Native peoples decide how to treat their religion and sacred objects, Eliza?

    delux said...

    "Practice sacred culture, don't preach it."

    I'm always fascinated by how much more these types of folks know what is best for native people, than native people themselves.
    I posted a couple of comments myself, but these people did all the heavy lifting. Check out all their comments for a better understanding of why hipster headdresses aren't okay.

    For more examples of cultural (mis)appropriation, see Sexy "Indians" in Hipster Headdresses and Tribal Girls in Hot 'n' Fun Video. For more on what's wrong with this practice, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief and Stereotypes Okay in "Cultural Commons"?

    Talking about race perpetuates racism?!

    The Stuff White People Do blog discusses how white people blame the conversation about race for racism. The starting point is a CNN interview with author Tim Wise:LEMON:  So I want to ask Tim this because I just got someone on Twitter--if we can show the board here--"Tim" said, "Unbelievable, Don Lemon. All three panelists are working from the assumption of racism. Anybody see this nice diversity of opinion." And there are people I've been getting things saying when we do discussions like this, don't talk about race. You're dividing people when you talk about race. And to that, you say?

    TIM WISE, AUTHOR "COLORBLIND":  Well, look, to blame the conversation about race for racism is like blaming the speedometer on your car for the ticket that you just got. It doesn't make any sense. When you have mobs of people surrounding John Lewis, one of this nation's preeminent heroes in the civil rights struggle and using the "n" word with him, when you've got folks showing up at rallies with signs that have the president with a bone through his nose dressed like a witch doctor, or pictures of the White House lawn covered in watermelons, you don't get to retreat and go, "Gee, don't talk about that. If you wouldn't talk about it, it would go away.”

    We wouldn't say that about any other problem. I mean, think about world hunger. Who would say, world hunger, "Gee, if we just don't talk about it, maybe food will miraculously appear on the plates of the hungry?" I mean, no other problem on earth do we say that. Here's the thing, Don, historically white America has never wanted to talk about race. We didn't want to talk about it in 1963 when two out of three white Americans said the Civil Rights Movement was pushing for too much and was being divisive and in '68, Pat Buchanan told Richard Nixon, not to go to Dr. King's funeral because he was one of the most divisive people in American history. A lot of white folks on the right have always wanted to stop talking about this and they've always been wrong. And they were asking for it.
    Comment:  We hear comments similar to the ones Wise is talking about all too frequently. For instance, when Eliza Starbuck wrote:[G]oing on about them [stereotypes] is only going to perpetuate them.This is the same stupid attitude Michael Cooke expressed in Stereotypes Disappear "Organically"? "Savage" stereotypes didn't disappear in America's first 500 years, but if Indians would just stop acting uppity and wait like good little Uncle Tomahawks, they'll disappear any day now.

    Yeah, right. You have to be profoundly ignorant of history to believe something like that. Again, problems like this go away by making them go away, not by ignoring them.

    It goes without saying that Starbuck, Cooke, Michelle Shining Elk, et al. can't and won't provide a shred of evidence for their thesis. That's because they've dreamed it up out of thin air to stop the racial criticism. They don't like this criticism because it makes them look ignorant and apathetic. They'd rather cover up their ears than hear something uncomfortable to them.

    The implicit subtext of their complaints is "racism no longer exists, so why are you bringing it up?" In other words, these people are in denial about racism. Their claim is so demonstrably false that you have wonder about them. Are they so weak-willed and lily-livered that they can't handle a debate about race? What exactly are they afraid of: losing their centuries of white privilege?

    Well, boo-hoo. Indians and other minorities survived for centuries at the bottom of the heap. It won't hurt white people to be at the top of a slightly smaller heap. Get over your childish fears, you big white crybabies.

    For more on the subject, see Mentioning Racism = Dwelling on Past? and "Color-Blind" People Are More Racist.

    Below:  "So what if I stole your land? It's embarrassing to me and I don't want to discuss it!"

    Stereotypes sell Levi's jeans

    Stephen Bridenstine reports on a 1954 Levi Strauss brochure about "western Indian lore" in his Drawing on Indians blog:

    Selling Blue Jeans with Indians

    The brochure includes headdresses, weapons, drums and rattles, sign language, and pictographs. Although it mentions other tribes in passing, it focuses on the Plains cultures...what else?

    Here's my mini-review of it:

    The good

    The Indian lore appears to be reasonably accurate. I especially like the explanation of the feathers in a chief's headdress.

    The bad

    The brochure language refers to Indians only as primitive people of the past.

    Focusing on the angry-looking "chief" with the tomahawk in hand, the weapons, and the "braves" chasing a cowboy make the Indians seem savage and warlike, even if the other information is positive.

    The ugly

    "Wait! No want scalp...just want 'um Levi's!" Tonto talk and scalping...a two-fer.

    For another of Levi's take on Indians, see Levi's Celebrates Manifest Destiny. For more on using Indians to sell products, see Plains Chief on Oyster Can and Plains Chief on Pemmican Package.

    Hipster medals instead of headdresses

    The 1954 Levi's brochures reminds us that not only do chief's headdresses have meaning, but so do the individual feathers in those headdresses. It's more evidence why wearing such headdresses when you haven't earned the right is wrong.

    Indeed, it's like wearing a soldier's military medals because you "wanna be" a soldier too. Hipsters could use the same arguments for medals that they do for headdresses:Trying to hold on to the outdated military culture is so old-fashioned and impractical. These days we're fighting for global democracy against the tyranny of governments, corporations, and churches. We're using our texts and tweets to strike a blow against dictators, capitalists, and politically correct police. Like George Washington and Nelson Mandela, we're all patriots and freedom fighters now. So put on your medals and celebrate our new pseudo-military culture, warriors!How about it? Let's start a new hipster medal movement to "honor" our military heroes. Young models, slackers, and drunks can wear them to show how much they love the new pseudo-military that doesn't include soldiers but still means to honor them. Fight for our freedom to get down and party, you medal-wearing hipsters! Show the old fogeys with their muskets and bayonets how it's done!

    For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief and Stereotypes Okay in "Cultural Commons"?

    Plains chief on oyster can

    Adrienne Keene brings another item to our attention in her Native Appropriations blog:

    Random Appropriation of the Day! (Daufuski Korean Oysters)

    She notes that the Indians on South Carolina's Daufuskie Island 1) didn't wear Plains headdresses and 2) were massacred. So the Daufuski Oyster label is doubly offensive.

    For more on the subject, see "Wild West" Shrinky Dinks and Plains Chief on Pemmican Package.

    July 27, 2010

    Were Indians "colonists" too?

    In Did Indians "Colonize" America? I addressed whether we could call the first Paleo-Indians from Asia "colonizers." Answer: no.

    Now someone has raised a similar question: Whether the Indians colonized each other once they were here:

    Indians were also colonists

    By Wallace AlcornAs an elementary school student I had presumed Indians were homogenous. The fact is some tribes differed from others at least as much as the Spanish colonists differed from the British, French, and Dutch colonists.

    Yet, when the literature turns to narratives of the interface of Indians and Anglos, it is just this—Indians and Anglos, as if all Indians were alike and all Europeans were alike.

    I recognize this same inconsistency in the term “colonies” for the European settlements and “tribal territories” for the Indians. Except that the tribes were not able to maintain contact with their points of origin, it seems to me they were also colonies, e.g., Apache, Winnebago. The Indians were as much colonists as were the Europeans. If they can be grouped in distinction from each other, we can speak only of the earlier colonists and the later colonists.

    The literature of the discipline of Indian history locates the various tribes by their respective geographical territories. This had fascinated me as a student, and I had tried to memorize their locations. Different maps confused me, because they placed the various tribes in different locations. What I didn’t then recognize is that the tribes kept moving around, migrating from one area to another. Each time they settled, they declared this their territory.

    The language the literature uses is the Indians “competed for territory” or “struggled over disputed lands” or “vied with each other over watering rights and hunting ranges.” But when it describes Anglos seeking new areas in which to settle, the language changes to “the colonists drove the native Americans off their ancestral lands” or “wrested it out of the hands of the native peoples” or “seized what belonged to the original inhabitants.”
    Comment:  Like the previous person, Alcorn doesn't seem to know the definition of "colony":1. a group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation.

    2. the country or district settled or colonized: Many Western nations are former European colonies.

    3. any people or territory separated from but subject to a ruling power.
    So when Alcorn writes:Except that the tribes were not able to maintain contact with their points of origin, it seems to me they were also colonies, e.g., Apache, Winnebago.he's wrong. It seems to Alcorn they were colonies...except they weren't colonies according to the dictionary definition.

    Again, Alcorn writes:The Indians were as much colonists as were the Europeans.Nope, completely wrong. Moving into new territory is not the same as colonizing at the behest of an imperial power. Try again.

    Here's the problem with Alcorn's thesis: He's conflated several different things: conquering, colonizing, warring, raiding, and simply wandering nomadically. Yes, Indians did some of the things Europeans did. But their actions were much more limited in scope. They sure as hell didn't launch an all-out conquest of several continents (North and South America, Africa, Australia).

    While the Indians warred and raided, the Europeans conquered and colonized. The European actions were an order of magnitude more consequential.

    Alcorn's not-so-hidden agenda

    If you think Alcorn is just innocently disputing a point of history, think again. His agenda should be obvious to the casual reader. If not, he states it for us:Again I assert this inconsistency is the product of current political correctness. Its fundamental doctrine is that all discrimination, intolerance, and other social evil is the action of majorities. Minorities, by PC definitions, can never be charged with any of these and were always the victims.

    The sins of American Indians and European settlers were the same: failure to sustain human values and failure to act humanely.
    According to Alcorn, Indians were as evil as Europeans. Therefore, Indians don't deserve any special consideration. Don't uphold their treaties, fund their programs, or give them casinos. Let them pull themselves up by the bootstraps like real Americans.

    Whenever you hear people talk about how warlike Indians were, you can bet they're about to rationalize the Euro-American genocide of Indians. They won't note that many Indians were peaceful. That many lived in the same place for centuries. That many signed treaties guaranteeing their rights but were killed or relocated anyway.

    And that previous wars don't justify subsequent wars. If that were true, Al Qaeda would have no trouble defending 9/11. "By the Alcorn doctrine," Osama bin Laden might say, "your previous wars--against Britain, Mexico, the Indians, Spain, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, etc.--justify our attack. Since you believe war justifies war, so do we."

    For more on the subject, see "Something You Never Hear" About Indians?, Spaniards = Nazis, and The Wisdom of Albert Speer.

    Below:  One good attack, invasion, or war deserves another?

    Critics agree:  Eclipse stereotypes Indians

    Two critics agree with several points I've made before about Twilight--especially in Hotblooded Jacob in Eclipse:

    Review:  Twilight Saga: EclipseThree, and I realize I also put this under good, but the young men Quileutes are never wearing shirts! I realize I also put this under good, but the young men Quileutes are never wearing shirts! What's the problem? Well this continues a tradition in American pop culture that eroticizes Native men, see romance novels. Ok, so isn't it a good thing to be consider sexy? Well, not when that's your only representation. I need to explain further. In the story, featuring a love triangle between Edward, Bella, and Jacob, we get a fairly classic Romance-novel theme. Bella must choose between the refined, controlled, romantic Edward (who is white, btw), and the impulsive, lusty, shirtless Jacob (brown). In romance fiction, the person of color is almost always portrayed as the impulsive, lusty one. Native Americans get the whole wild, savage beat too. So, while it's great to be considered sexy, it's not so great to be though of as impulsive, not in control of your lust (Jacob forces a kiss on Bella until she punches him in the face), and hot-headed.

    Fourth, the Native Americans turn into wolves for chrissakes. Can we say STEREOTYPE? Look, ok, we are magical forest creatures intimately connected with nature and all, and of course we are animal-like! We're noble savages! We imprint on people like ducks....What the? Ok, if this was a group of white people who turned into wolves then they'd be cool shapeshifters, but the stereotypes of Native Americans as mythical nature fairies adds another dimension. We've already been placed in the realm of fiction enough that some Americans forget we really exist...in like a contemporary way, just look at Peter Pan. Not only that, but these Natives constantly possess many of the animal attributes of the wolf, like the aforementioned impulsivity and imprinting. In short, this story paints Native Americans as closer to being animals than human. It's a slippery slope back to when people of color were considered by scientists to be sub-human, and were treated thus by society. I know that sounds extreme, but these can be the unconscious connections people make.

    Fifth, oh for the love of god for some people this is their only exposure to Native Americans and they think we turn into wolves! OH THE HUMANITY!
    Vampires vs. werewolves:  Race and rivalry

    By Natalie ZutterFor the sake of argument, I'll be looking at the two most popular series/shows about vampires, werewolves, and all manner of creepy creatures: Twilight and True Blood. These two shows, though not the majority, have dictated many people's current views of the vampire and werewolf archetypes.

    Vampires are ageless yet ancient, typically white and upper-class due to their centuries of existence: They are able to amass the resources and money as they move through the decades so that they are untouched by hunger or poverty. Werewolves, on the other hand, are often portrayed as people of color, living within a tribe (Native American or otherwise). Their "powers" are passed down through blood and heritage, carefully honed. Their coming of age is coming to terms with their shapeshifting capabilities.
    And:It's little wonder that True Blood and Twilight both have their heroines briefly entranced by the pack mentality of the wolf lifestyle, by the non-white "other" and his earthy lifestyle, only to decide that the white man--who has all the material wealth to ensure that she's comfortable in her immortal life--is the one to commit to for all of eternity.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Magical Negroes and Indians, White Vampire Yes, Indian Werewolf No, and Stereotypes in the Twilight Series.

    Below:  "Yes, both my shirts and pants shred when I turn into a wolf. But wearing pants only makes me look like a sexy savage!"

    Canada vulnerable to Native attack?

    Risk of aboriginal insurgency

    By Douglas BlandCanada's aboriginal people live in a swamp of root causes. According to the Canada Census of 2006, 1.7 million Canadians claim to be aboriginal. Of this total about 750,000 are First Nations and of these about 50 per cent live on one of 2,700 reserves. It is Canada's fastest growing demography, increasing by 45 per cent in the last six years, six times faster than the non-aboriginal population. It is also Canada's youngest population -- half the people are under 24 years of age and 34 per cent of aboriginal children are younger than 14 years. The median age for Canada's non-aboriginal population is 40.

    Fewer than 24 per cent of these young people graduate from high school and a large percentage simply do not go to high school. The unemployment rate for young people on reserves runs at over 40 per cent.

    More than 40 per cent of houses on reserves require "major repairs" and a high percentage are habitated, uninhabitable "crowded dwellings"--meaning in reality more than 10 people live in a simple three-bedroom building with primitive facilities.

    No one needs a military education to understand that Canada's sovereignty is vulnerable because its economy is vulnerable and its economy is vulnerable because its resource-based production and transportation infrastructure (accounting for approximately 20 per cent of Canada's GDP) is undefended and probably indefensible.

    Many reserves in the West and in northwestern Ontario sit astride or adjacent to the east-west rail and road lines of communications. On the Prairies, thousands of kilometres of natural gas and oil pipelines carry the oil, petroleum and natural gas that fuels most of the industry in eastern Canada and a good deal of the economy of the midwestern United States and approximately 25 per cent of California's economy. They are all unprotected. The James Bay power-generation facilities in Quebec are particularly vulnerable--insecure hydro-electric transmission lines run from Radisson south for nearly 1,000 kilometres to drive much of Quebec's and America's Atlantic seaboard economies.

    There are few ways to redress these vulnerabilities or to substitute other things to diminish the harmful economic consequences of disruptions to critical resource networks. There are today nowhere near the police and military resources needed to protect all the potential infrastructure targets continuously. Canada's "national critical infrastructure" policies are still a work-in-progress.
    A few comments on this article on Facebook:Wow. I'm sort of astonished at the levels of fear, trepidation + menace in just this article, let alone the comments that follow.

    How about a little more focus on justice for FN people--citizens of Canada--themselves, rather than your precious natural resources? Oh, wait, I forgot--that's the reason these folks were displaced from their homelands in the first place, right? Gah.

    So hypocritical how (white) tea-baggers are patriots reclaiming their God-given rights (and even dressed as Indians in the Boston Tea Party) but Natives are insurgents and terrorists when asserting themselves for doing the same.

    Typical media hype trying to make us look like savages. ... Fear mongering amongst media seems to be a common theme when it comes to us indigenous people!
    Comment:  The Natives are restless? Getting ready to go off the reservation and on the warpath? Look out!

    As the commenters surmised, this race-baiting is similar to the race-baiting occurring in the US. For more on the subject, see Sherrod Incident Shows Conservative Tactics, White Conservatives "Angry About Racism," and Why Americans Hate Welfare.

    Below:  "Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Saskatchewan native Brad Laroque come face to face in a tense standoff at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Que., Sept. 1, 1990." (Shaney Komulainen/The Canadian Press Archives)

    Tohono O'odham youths win cooking competition

    Nourishing Native foods win national cooking competition

    By Sanra RittenMembers from the Tohono O’odham Community Action Youth Cooking Class tantalized the taste buds of the judges in a national cooking competition with Native ingredients from their community, winning them the prestigious contest in Detroit, Mich. in May.

    The Cooking Up Change competition, part of the Healthy Schools Campaign and the Farm to School program, allows students to actively address the issue of local foods and school nutrition. Teams of high school and college students are challenged to create a healthy, great-tasting meal that meets high nutritional standards, incorporates a local food item, draws from readily available ingredients and can be prepared in a school cafeteria.

    The TOCA Youth Community Cooking Class members, Ross Miguel, Yvette Ventura, and Zade Arnold were the only Native American team to make it to the finals. They triumphed with a tepary bean quesadilla, baby spinach and pear salad with carrot vinaigrette, and a yogurt peanut butter fruit dip. They introduced new and exciting flavors to the competition that are also culturally appropriate and that have sustained their community for generations.

    “Tepary beans are the most significant traditional food of the Tohono O’odham people,” the team explained to the Healthy Schools Campaign. They also locally sourced their carrots and spinach from the Student Learning Farm at Tohono O’odham Community College in Sells, Ariz.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Foods at Fancy Food Show, Native Foods Changed the World, and Bringing Native Foods to the Fore.

    Below:  "The TOCA Youth Community Cooking Class members, Ross Miguel, Yvette Ventura, and Zade Arnold were the only Native American team to make it to the finals. They triumphed with a tepary bean quesadilla, baby spinach and pear salad with carrot vinaigrette, and a yogurt peanut butter fruit dip." (Mary Paganelli)

    Salinan violin stolen from mission

    Tribe hopes melody will summon precious violin

    Recovering the 200-year-old instrument, stolen from a mission, is a matter of Salinan Indian pride.

    By Steve Chawkins
    Jose Maria Carabajal was toiling for the friars at Mission San Antonio on California's Central Coast when he first heard the exalted strains of a violin.

    His people—the Salinan Indians—had been making music for thousands of years, but he'd never heard anything like the sounds soaring from the priest's polished chunk of wood and gut.

    Intrigued, Carabajal decided to make his own. The instrument he crafted in 1798 from bay laurel and other native woods was solid enough to last more than two centuries and sweet enough to build a reputation of its own.

    The Carabajal, as it came to be known, was handed down through generations. It was played at fiestas and in saloons, at Masses and barn dances. Salinans came to see it as an important piece of their past. Scholars saw it as a rare artifact of the Mission era.

    Now it's gone—stolen from an unlocked display case at the mission's tiny museum seven years ago.
    Comment:  For more on Natives and violins, see Violin Concerto with Lenape Melodies and Native Plays Toe-Tappin' Fiddle.

    Below:  "John Warren, artistic director of the New World Baroque Orchestra, holds photographs he took of the Carabajal violin that was later stolen from the San Miguel Mission." (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)

    July 26, 2010

    Comic-Con protest vs. Dudesons protest

    Another debate with Michael Cooke on protests--this time in response to Thoughts on the Comic-Con Protest. I started the debate by posting the following on Facebook:

    Comic-Con's anti-hate rally = AIM's anti-Dudesons rally.

    Cooke's response:One was absurdist and funny and one was not.Both protests challenged bigoted stereotypes: gays = beasts and Indians = savages. Both sent a message through the media: These beliefs and stereotypes are unacceptable.

    How the protesters chose to protest is a detail. Once you concede that a public protest is an effective way to bring attention to your cause, my side has won the debate.

    According to your "logic," the Comic-Con people should've just let the Fred Phelps protesters go unchallenged. After all, the idea that homosexuals are immoral is part of our "cultural commons." And protesters could be fighting AIDS or poverty among gays rather than challenging the Phelps claims. The two situations are conceptually quite similar.

    Fortunately, the Comic-Con people understand how to influence public opinion, unlike you. You don't do it by ignoring the opposite side and hoping it will go away. You challenge it publicly to demonstrate what regular people consider unacceptable in our society. To persuade those who are undecided or openminded that the bigots are wrong.

    Racism okay if it isn't hateful?

    Cooke tries again:The Fred Phelps protest at the Comic Con was anti-American rather than anti-gay (they weren't then expressing homophobia!) and very small--the reaction/counter demonstration was far larger and more meant to make fun of or parody the Phelps gang rather than to attack them directly.

    The Dudesons TV show is meant to be humorous and may have been insensitive in the attempt, but is not comparable to the Phelps crew as an intentional expression of HATE. The protest against the show was very serious, angry and small (much as the Phelps crew was serious angry and small).

    The comparison couldn't possibly be any worse.

    The Comic-Con folks were acting spontaneously and creatively in response to a planned protest by the Phelps crew.

    To use my argument against me, what would be necessary would be for the counter protesters to be proactive protestors and protest the Westboro Baptist Church directly.

    And really, it's not done. Why? Because if you protest the Westboro's Christian homophobia in their church, you are a hypocrite if you refuse to challenge the homophobia in any other church. And no one is willing to go there.

    Not even you, Rob.
    "Fags Are Beasts" isn't homophobia?! Wrong.

    The Phelps protesters were anti-America only to the extent that America is pro-gay. Their primary target very clearly was gays.

    Some of the counter-protesters read about the Phelps protest in advance and prepared accordingly. Not that it matters, but it wasn't just a spontaneous response.

    I didn't say the Dudesons were expressing hate. I said the two protests were effective in gaining publicity for gays and Indians against bigotry and stereotyping. What part of that do you disagree with, and why?

    The Indians targeted MTV rather than the Finnish performers because MTV is the one perpetuating the offense after being told it's offensive. That isn't innocent fun, it's intentional harm. When you repeat bigoted words and images when you should know better, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

    You don't even know what happened at AIM's protest against MTV. You have no clue whether the activists used humor, anger, or what. So spare us the sophistry that there's a right way and a wrong way to protest. You're criticizing AIM because you don't think Native stereotypes are that bad. You're okay with racism against Indians.

    Size justifies protest?

    Indians can't help it if they're only 1% of the population rather than 10% or whatever for gays. Of course their protests are going to be smaller and less effective. Especially in a place like Southern California where they're diffused among the general population.

    So what? That's an argument for changing your demographics, not against protesting as a means of social change. Every movement starts small and gains adherents by establishing its presence. Scattered local activism evolves into sustained national activism. Duh.

    You don't need to go to someone's home to protest their activities. Again, you don't seem to get the point of protests. It's not primarily to change the minds of the people you're protesting. As I said before, it's to move the needle of public opinion in general. Your ignorance of this may explain why you don't understand how and why protests work.

    Finally, the fact that you consider racist stereotypes "funny" says it all. Whether you realize it or not, you're implicitly prejudiced against Indians. You don't expect people to laugh at the "fags = beasts" meme, but you do expect them to laugh at the "Indians = savages" meme. Thanks for demonstrating your bigotry, bigot.

    For more on the subject, see Indians Shouldn't Act Uppity and Devil's Advocate Defends Saginaw Grant.

    Below:  Cooke the bigot thinks racist stereotyping is funny. "Ha ha, look at what the dumb savages used to do!"

    Taika Waititi as Tom Kalmaku

    After Adam Beach left the Green Lantern movie, I forgot to pursue the matter. If Beach isn't playing Tom Kalmaku, then who is?

    Comic-Con reminded me that Green Lantern is coming, so here's the scoop:

    Taika WaititiBirth Name

    Taika David Waititi


    6' 2" (1.88 m)

    Mini Biography

    Taika is of Te-Whanau-a-Apanui descent and hails from the Raukokore region of the East Coast. He has been involved in the film industry for several years, initially as an actor, and now focusing on writing and directing.


    He is of Maori and European-Jewish descent.
    Comment:  Once again, Hollywood casts a non-Native in a Native role. Yes, Waititi is indigenous (Maori), so he isn't the worst choice possible. But he isn't Inuit like Tom Kalmaku. Adam Beach would've been closer to the mark.

    I include his height because it shows how casting changes the character in subtle ways. Kalmaku is supposedly 5'7", although he looks more like 5'3" or 5'4". He's a typically short Inuit person. Making him tall means he can push his way through crowds. He doesn't have to be as bright because he has a strong physical presence.

    Let's see...Waititi has played 13 roles before Kalmaku. None of them look big or impressive, although they may have been in New Zealand. My initial impression is that Waititi doesn't have any special qualifications to play Kalmaku.

    Once again, the producers hired any ol' brown-skin because they're all the same, right? They didn't hire one of the thousands of Native actors who's closer to Kalmaku physically and culturally than Waititi is. They certainly didn't try to find an Inuit actor--unlike, say, the producers of Sikumi or Everybody Loves Whales. They went for a simple, expedient choice rather than a good and proper one.

    And what about all the Inuit aspiring to be actors? Oh, well...maybe next time. The next time somebody does a major studio film featuring a major Inuit character, that is.

    For more on the subject, see The Many Faces of Tom Kalmaku and Casting Tom Kalmaku.

    Below:  "We both look vaguely brown and Asiatic. What else do you want?"

    Chief Bemidji portrait at tourist center

    Chief Bemidji portrait has new home at Tourist Information Center

    A familiar face now looks over visitors to the Tourist Information Center at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

    By Laurie Swenson
    A familiar face now looks over visitors to the Tourist Information Center at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

    Shay-now-ish-kung, the city’s beloved “Chief Bemidji,” is immortalized in a portrait by Bemidji artist Terry Honstead, who delivered the painting to the TIC last week. The portrait hangs in the lobby near the reception desk.

    Honstead’s depiction of Chief Bemidji bears a strong resemblance to photographs of the young Shay-now-ish-kung.
    And:The TIC gets a lot of questions about Chief Bemidji, and it’s nice to point to a portrait of the man right in the lobby, Stenberg said.

    Shay-now-ish-Kung, whose Ojibwe name means “rattler” or “one who makes a jingling sound,” was born near Inger, Minn., in 1833 or 1834 and lived for many years in the Leech Lake and Cass Lake areas. He and his wife had eight children, including three boys who died at early ages. She died in 1882, and in 1883 a saddened Shay-now-ish-kung put his children and belongings in his birchbark canoe and paddled up the Mississippi River to become the first permanent settler of Bemidji. He was the first to greet early settlers when they arrived in1888 and is remembered as one of the most respected citizens of Bemidji. He died April 20, 1904.
    Comment:  This is a good example of what I talk about frequently. People are curious and want to learn. The artist has given them a real chief rather than a stereotypical one. The fact that she's non-Native isn't important because she's done her research. The portrait actually looks like Chief Bemidji.

    If everyone from Hollywood producers to schools with Indian mascots took this approach, life would be better for Indians. The factual information would crowd the stereotypical information out of the "marketplace of ideas." In a generation or two, stupid stereotypes might be a thing of the past.

    For more on the subject, see Replacing Chief Bemidji Statue.

    Below:  "Bemidji artist Terry Honstead has donated her portrait of Chief Bemidji to the Tourist Information Center. She painted it as part of a series of portraits of nine American Indians." (Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper)

    Carolla:  Pioneers "raped by Indians"

    We get e-mail:Rob,

    Thanks for creating your blog, it is a great educational tool! I am sending you an email to make you aware of a pretty derogatory joke on Jimmy Kimmel Live on July 21st. Guest Adam Carolla is joking about being a pioneer in the world of podcasts in which he says that being a pioneer is not so good because all you do is "Eat berries and get raped by Indians," which got a pretty big laugh. I feel that this little off-color joke demands your brand of investigation and commentary, since it reinforces whitewashing of history, the Native-as-savage stereotype, and is just plain offensive...rape is one of the most disgusting of crimes, and to be falsely accused of it in front of a national audience does great damage. Not to mention, if Adam Carolla replaced "Indian" with any other minority, he would be on again tonight apologizing a la Michael Richards. Please look into it, I'm anxious to see your response.

    The video can be found here:

    Jimmy Kimmel Live

    The joke is about a 2 1/2 minutes into the clip.


    Comment:  Thanks for the kind words, friend. I think you said it all regarding Carolla's "joke." It would be the same as saying, "Being a Southerner wasn't so good because all you did is pick cotton and get raped by Negroes."

    For more late-night "humor," see Immigration Joke on Tonight Show and Leno:  Mobsters Run Foxwoods.

    Choctaws win Solar Car Challenge

    Team from BIE school in Mississippi takes first in solar car contestStudents from a Bureau of Indian Education high school in Mississippi took home top honors in the Hunt-Winston School Solar Car Challenge.

    The team from Choctaw Central High School won first place in the advanced division. According to the race results, Tushka Hashi III drove the most miles and obtained the highest speed of all the competitors.

    This was the first time the school entered the contest. According to people from the reservation, the students were the first Native American team to win.

    Tushka Hashi means "Sun Warrior" in the Choctaw language.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see On the Native Science Circuit and Boy Scientist Earns New House.

    July 25, 2010

    Ron Hart is a racist

    A few days ago I criticized Ron Hart's column about Indians. It was mostly about how soft-hearted liberals are giving destructive gambling to Indians, so I wasn't too hard on him. Turns out there's more to the story.

    I came across another version of Hart's column. The previous version was the same except it omitted the last four paragraphs. These paragraphs are pretty bad. I assume some editor wisely cut them to make Hart's column less offensive.

    Here's what we missed before, along with my comments:

    Ron Hart:  Betting on tribe's land grabJust walk through depressing places like Indian casinos or an inner-city housing project and see what happens when we issue a perpetual victims excuse to a group and blindly throw tax money at them. It only works for the Democrats, who rely on their "victim" votes.If you see people playing the slot machines by rote rather than enthusing over poker or blackjack, it may bother you. So what? The casino isn't where Indians live, it's where they work. No way is it equivalent to an inner-city housing project.

    The correct comparison would be to an Indian reservation, obviously. Go study a reservation before and after a casino has lifted its people out of poverty, Hart. Unless there's no difference, your asinine argument fails.

    Worse is Hart's use of the "perpetual victims" claim. This implies that Indians are pretending to be victims to get rich from casinos. That they have no real reason to complain.

    In reality, Americans are still victimizing Indians in many ways: broken treaties, budget shortfalls, court decisions, environmental harm, racial discrimination, etc. It's not "playing the victim card" if you're an actual victim. It's called demanding justice, something minorities have had to do for centuries.

    Also, Hart repeats the lie that Democrats, not Republicans, are responsible for Indian gaming. Again, it was a bipartisan initiative passed during the Reagan era. And the dumbass seems unaware that George W. Bush was president for most of the last decade. Talk about your mindless conservative Obama-bashing!

    Indians didn't try hard enough?!No doubt the Native Americans lost some land, but you know they really should have spent less time consumed with maize and more with the advantages of gunpowder. If they did not want to be on the Atlanta Braves baseball jersey, they really should have fought harder.Whoa...here's the most racist part of Hart's screed.

    Indians lost some land? Yeah, like the entire North and South American continents. Except for their limited ownership of mostly small reservations, they suffered the greatest land loss in human history.

    Hart may not think Indians were merciless savages, but he thinks they were uncivilized incompetents. To keep his liberal/Obama/Indian falsehood going, he paints them as nature-worshiping, veggie-eating weaklings. They lost not because their foes were greedy, rapacious, and dedicated to their genocidal aims, but because they didn't try hard enough.

    It's your classic blame the victim strategy. Indians got what they deserved for being "primitive," so we have nothing to apologize for. They fought and lost against something or someone, but the anonymous aggressors aren't the problem. The Indians are because they got in the way of progress. They didn't vanish as they were supposed to.

    Here's a clue, idiot: The Indians fought back with guns as soon as they obtained them. They almost staved off the Nazi-style white-led holocaust at several points. Most observers considered them too strong and dangerous as a race, not too weak and mild. The Indians eventually lost because of disease and the Euro-Americans' propensity to lie, cheat, and steal, not because of their own failings.

    If Hart's paragraph doesn't sound awful to you, try saying something similar about blacks:No doubt the African Americans lost some freedom, but you know they really should have spent less time consumed with lion-hunting and more with the advantages of gunpowder. If they did not want to be slaves and welfare queens, they really should have fought harder.A columnist who said that would soon find himself out of a job. But it's okay to say the same things about Indians. People really believe Indians were primitive savages, so they don't consider this a racist attack.

    Apologizing is for sissies?At least non-Native Americans have shown them respect by naming every golf course where the land was taken from the Indians after them. Shinnecock, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, etc., remain a homage to the Native American where much wampum is exchanged after Nassau bets.Hart uses a phony "honor" argument and the wampum stereotype to minimize the racism in his previous paragraphs.Always punctual and in perpetual apology mode, Congress read a resolution they passed regarding the Indian tribes "for past transgressions of war upon" them for some reason at the Congressional Cemetery. I trust when Congress was there, they took note of the 535 open political graves awaiting them.Obviously the US apology to Indians bothers Hart. How dare we show weakness by apologizing to a lesser race! Only women and gays say they're sorry!

    I'm not sure what his final line about the 535 graves means, but it sounds bad. Does he really think Americans will remove everyone from Congress because of their votes on the US apology? Or their votes on Indian gaming? If that's what he thinks, he's even stupider than I thought. No one knows or cares about the apology; they aren't going to vote because of it.

    When Indian gaming was taking off 7-8 years ago, we used to see a lot of these bigoted screeds against Indians. They've tapered off in recent years. But Hart has made a valiant try to stoke the flames of hatred. Too bad for him that some editors recognized the racism in his final paragraphs.

    For more on the subject, see Marino Attacks Pequots and Wampanoags and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

    Below:  A similar view of Indians.