January 01, 2011

NMAI on Jeopardy

The National Museum of the American Indian was featured on Jeopardy recently (12/27/10). It was a Double Jeopardy category consisting of video clues. A woman visiting the NMAI pointed to art objects and then narrated the clues.

The first thing to note is that the contestants avoided this category like the plague. No one touched it until the end of Double Jeopardy, so only four of the five clues appeared. It's more evidence that people aren't familiar or comfortable with Indians.

When I was a child, Jeopardy was a challenging game show. The questions were hard enough to stump most adults. Now it's been dumbed down incredibly for America's increasingly ignorant population. Although the show still throws in some tough questions, a smart 8th-grader could answer most of them.

Here are the four NMAI questions along with photos (instead of videos) and my commentary:

$1200:  "In a Native American origin story of this fish, two animals steal a baby of the sockeye people. The sockeye find the baby in a river, which becomes their home."

(The video shows the reverse side of this artwork.)

Short version:  Fish called sockeye.

Answer:  Salmon.

Better question:  "A US region indicated by a compass point, it produces this distinctive style of Native art."

Answer:  Northwest or Pacific Northwest.

$800:  "The figures in the middle of this sculpture acknowledge life in all directions, while the tribal dancers on either end pray for this, which is essential for life."

Short version:  Substance Indians dance for.

Answer:  Rain or water.

Better question:  "Various interpretations of this ceremony can be found in many cultures from Ancient Egypt to certain Native tribes."

Answer:  Rain dance.

$1600:  "The Raven steals the sun and escapes through a sooty smoke hole to get its characteristic color. Those shenanigans are typical of this crafty folklore archetype."

Short version:  Archetype exemplified by Raven.

Answer:  Trickster.

Better question:  "A folkloric archetype exemplified by this work of art."

Answer:  Trickster.

$400:  "Washington holds a wampum belt in this work honoring the Oneida who traveled 400 miles in the winter of 1777-78 to bring food to the starving men at this site."

Short version:  Where Washington's troops starved.

Answer:  Valley Forge.

Better question:  "This tribe of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy brought food to Washington's starving men at Valley Forge."

Answer:  Oneida.

Comment:  Three of these questions are so obvious that Jeopardy could've used one-word clues: "Fish," "Ceremony," and "Archetype." The other one is obvious too. That demonstrates how simple-Simon the show has become.

For more on the subject, see Pix of My 2009 Washington DC Trip and TV Shows Featuring Indians.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to answer in the form of a question, Rob. ;) Yeah, I remember when Jeopardy was tough. I always assumed it was because I was 6, but now that I think about it, there's a bit of Tier Induced Scrappy going on.

Of course, nobody's going to know the questions about ndn art, really. Except maybe the trickster question.

Anonymous said...

How could anyone know anything about any native american tribes or any of the unique culture when the government not only worked so hard to extinguish it, but publishes its own version of it so that it doesn't seem so barbaric. They called us the heathens. When in reality our peoples were the ones who were honest any loyal. Really the ones who "had moral values" to begin with. And now look at how everything is falling apart. You can't expect people to know something that is kept from the records and the general public. I apologize for being anonymous. Our people are still not free.