February 16, 2011

Search for the Ultimate Warrior proposal

Here's what looks like a pitch for a reality TV series:

Dream Catcher--Search for the Ultimate Warrior

Created by Marc J. Victor & Mary Jo Christian“Dream Catchers” is a Native American reality TV show, based on traditional Native American skills.

As a result of touring the Native American Indian Reservations it has been determined that there is a distinct need for programs to uplift and support the communities throughout the country. As a result we have established a non-profit 501(c)3 organization called American Dream Catcher Organization.

Some competitions may be:

* Team Flag competition
* Distance run thru lava fields
* Bareback bow and arrow shooting
* Wrestling
* Dancing
* Drum making
* Canoe race
* Tipi building from scratch
* Challenge course of multiple skills
* Canoeing on challenging water
* Run over challenging slopes
* Bareback horse riding on a slalom bow-shooting course

Business plan development:

The team must put together a business development plan for a new business concept for their tribe to create jobs and a source of income. The Small Business Administrations from around the country will be helping the teams develop their plans.

Adventures will not only include the great competitions that will ensue but also provide in depth knowledge of the history of the tribes with Native American Historians and tribal council.
And:The first two episodes of head to head competitions will whittle the tribes down from twenty-four to twelve tribes.

Each week thereafter one tribe a week will be disqualified until the Ultimate Warrior is determined.

The grand prize will be a solar and wind generation system and tech school for the reservation.

How do we know Victor and Christian are sincere about wanting to help Indians? Because they visited a reservation and were shocked (shocked!) at what they found:

Shocking Discovery Found in the US InteriorMarc Victor and Mary Jo Christian went out to visit American Indian Reservations to put together an incredible Native American competition where one tribe will win a wind and solar generation system and tech school for an upcoming TV show, Dream Catcher--Search for the Ultimate Warrior (www.UltimateWarriorSearch.com). When they arrived on some reservations they discovered American Indians right here in the United States living in less than third world conditions!

The South Dakota, Lakota tribe are a people living in what most would call an unsatisfactory state. With poverty conditions that rival some global developing regions and the lowest life expectancy in the Western hemisphere, the average current life span for women on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 52 years and 48 for men.

With 97% of the population at Pine Ridge living under conditions that fall beneath the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services definition of poverty, things that most American people call staples, the Lakota tribe sees as luxuries. Income levels are as low as $5-10 dollars per day resulting in neglected substandard homes that sometimes go without electricity, water or gas. Bitter winters force many families to spend up to 70% of their income to heat their homes.
Comment:  I'm seriously unimpressed by this proposal. The pan-Indian things are bad enough. Do they expect a tribe like the Hopi to build canoes or tipis? It seems their idea of a tribe is limited to the Midwest--i.e., the Plains and Great Lakes tribes.

All the proposed competitions involve physical outdoor activities. Why, because Indians are known for their brawn, not their brains? How about traditional artistic skills such as weaving or basketmaking? Traditional oral skills such as storytelling or argumentation? Traditional scientific skills such as stargazing or monument-building?

Why do traditional skills at all? Do reality shows about non-Indians feature outdated skills such as log-splitting or butter-churning? This is exactly the kind of competition you'd have for stereotypical savages who lack arts and sciences. It reinforces the idea of Indians as primitive people of the past.

And how do you combine an athletic competition with business-plan development? These are two unrelated skill sets. It does not compute.

I've already discussed the stereotypical warrior concept at length. The millionth comparison of Indians to warriors is enough to make someone yawn. In addition, the producers have misused the dreamcatcher concept. To them, a dreamcatcher is a generic symbol of hope. "Wish upon a star...catch a dream...use a dreamcatcher...and make your dreams come true."

The prizes--a "solar and wind generation system and tech school"--are also odd. What if the winning tribe isn't in a sunny or windy part of the country? What if it already has a tech school? Shouldn't the prize be something any tribe could use--for instance, cash? This prize sounds like a white elephant that the producers got stuck with.

Producers don't know Indians

The tribe vs. tribe competition goes against a lot of what Indians stand for: humility, caring for others, unity. I'm not sure Indian country as a whole will get behind this idea. They may do the opposite and attack it for its divisiveness.

The fact that the producers list some tribal elders doesn't impress me. It's not that hard to get someone to verbally agree to help. What's missing is any specific language that shows the producers know anything about Indian country. Their website's verbiage sounds like it was taken from a New Age or beginner's guide to Indians. And their press release about being shocked at conditions in Indian country tells me they're naïve newcomers.

Look at the way they refer to "the Lakota tribe" as if there's only one. Actually, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is occupied by the Oglala Sioux, one of seven Lakota sub-tribes. There are also Dakota and Nakota tribes elsewhere.

As another example, they write:A stone will be given out every week to the winning tribe of each week’s competition.

Each week the winner will control the previous week’s stones until finally the winner completes the puzzle of all 13 stones to create the continental United States in a representation of the thirteen grandmothers.
"Thirteen grandmothers" isn't a cultural concept that applies to all tribes. I don't think it applies to any tribe. It's the name of one indigenous organization, yes, but these grandmothers don't have any cachet in Indian country. Few people have even heard of them.

Can the producers do it?

Other than some small or incomplete projects, the producers don't have much experience in TV or film production. And no apparent experience in Indian country. Neither one of these drawbacks is an absolute barrier, but they sure are suggestive.

I predict this show will never happen. I bet the producers think some rich gaming tribe will fund their idea because (they believe) it's so good. If that's the case, they're in for a rude shock. Gaming tribes are conservative; they aren't going to invest in this untried venture.

For more on Natives in reality shows, see Natives in Flying Wild Alaska and Review of Losing It with Jillian.


Burt said...

Here we go again. Good intentions twisted to the point of the absurd and ridiculous. And for what, entertainment?

If anyone wants to help natives, keep it away from tribal governments and leaders. Help natives by hiring them and creating jobs.

Anything to do with tribal governments inherits some form of favortism and nepotism from the have and have nots of many tribes.

I am all for the recent onslaught of a green infrastructure angle where ALL Americans should become more ecologically and environmentally active building homes, structures and maybe even businesses utilizing other forms of energy besides fossil fuels such as wind, sunlight, water and reforestation.

Collectively, there are some tribes, not enough, wanting to invest in this route, but I think the oil and gas industry isn't too happy about it.

This proposed reality show is just a watered down spinoff of the MTV Show that really angered alot of people.

Natives should not participate or be involved in continuing the mascot realm.

Anonymous said...

Every few years some crazy white people purpose this exact same scenario. This is nothing new. At least this time they didn't claim "part Indian" from the usual nose-bleed tribe. You have to give them credit for that.