May 31, 2011

Indigenes in The Rise of Endymion

I just finished reading The Rise of Endymion, the fourth and final volume of the Hyperion Cantos. This science-fiction saga by Dan Simmons has won several SF awards, and rightly so. If there's a better SF series out there, I'm not sure what it is.

It's easily on a par with the Ender's Game saga by Orson Scott Card, another great series. My ratings for the Hyperion books:

Hyperion:  8.5
The Fall of Hyperion:  9.0
Endymion:  8.5
The Rise of Endymion:  9.0

The Hyperion Cantos deals with the major concepts of science fiction: faster-than-light travel, time travel, artificial intelligence, the Internet, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, alien races, androids, and so forth. And some big moral themes of religion and philosophy.

Most series ignore one or more of these concepts. For instance, Star Trek mostly pretends that the Internet, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering don't exist. But Simmons addresses them all and weaves them into a believable whole.

Civilization vs. nature

The main theme of the Hyperion Cantos may be the corruption and decadence of civilization. This is represented by the Pax (the Catholic Church) and its supporters in the Hegemony's military-industrial complex. Showing how stagnant and sterile the Church has become, it has moved the entire Vatican to another world. It apes the forms and rituals of the past but with no heart or soul.

Opposing the Pax are members of non-Western cultures and religions, the rebel "Ousters," free-thinkers, artists, and others. They basically want the right to live and grow without Church interference. They're evolving according to the random vagaries of nature, not the artificial rules of theocracy.

Simmons seems to believe Buddhism is the purest and best religion. The central portion of the book and many of the supporting characters have a Buddhist background. He also advocates a reverence for nature, exemplified by the novel's Brotherhood of the Muir, Treeship, and Biosphere. His most glowing passage is the description of a spectacular sunset on a gas giant.

Simmons pursued a similar anti-Western theme in his novel The Terror. Instead of the interstellar Pax civilization, The Terror gives us two British shipwrecks trapped in an Arctic wasteland. Aboard the ships life is orderly, civilized, Christian. Outside the ships is a death-dealing void. An unnamed beast punishes the Westerners for their hubris; the Shrike does the same in Hyperion.

In The Terror, the Inuit Lady Silence moves easily between civilization and the "wild" because she's in tune with her environment. She doesn't try to conquer nature, she lives in harmony with it. Aenea and her Buddhist followers play the same role in the Hyperion books. Their temples are small and fragile compared to the Pax's palaces and cathedrals.

Natives represent life

In my review of Hyperion, I noted some parallels between the Hegemony and the Euro-American West. And between the rebels and Earth's indigenous people. These parallels mostly disappeared in the next two novels, but they reappeared in The Rise of Endymion. Here are some of the book's indigenous references:

  • An Indian market aids an Earth colony of artists near Scottsdale, Arizona. The Indians eventually withdraw their support, which perplexes everyone but Aenea. She explains: "The Indians are real enough--Navajo, Apache, Hopi, and Zuni--but they have their own lives to live, their own experiments to conduct. Their trading with us has been...a favor."

    So the Indians have been keeping the Westerners alive in their manmade habitat. The Indians belong in the desert, amid nature's bounty, on Earth. The non-Indians don't.

  • An artificial intelligence describes the St. Louis Gateway Arch: "It was meant to symbolize western expansion of the hegemonic, Euro-descended proto-nationalist pioneers who migrated through here in their effort to displace the original, pre-Preserve, NorthAm indigenies." ("Indigenie" is Simmons's spelling of "indigene.")

    Raul Endymion translates this into plain English: The Arch "was built to honor the people who killed the Indians."

  • Sergeant Gregorius, a soldier who rebels against the Pax, has a Scot-Maori heritage and comes from an indigenous "warrior culture."

  • The people of Vitus-Gray-Balianus, who oppose the Pax, live in adobe structures and have a culture described as "a gentle, philosophical one stressing cooperation." This is analogous to the Pueblo tribes that resisted New Spain and its Catholic proselytizing.

  • At one point, Raul's sole weapon is a "Navajo hunting knife."

  • More indigenous cultures

  • On Mars, the primary settlers are Palestinians. The novel calls them indigenes and treats them like desert dwellers. Their guerrilla raids against Pax forces are similar to Indian raids against American forces. Many people have noted the Indian-Palestinian connection and this is another example.

  • The book reiterates a point made in Hyperion: that the humans hunted indigenous alien races and species to extinction.

  • Non-Western refugees have recreated their cultures on the mountain planet of T'ien Shan. Among them are a "Hopi-Eskimo culture" that lives on the "four San Francisco Peaks," the Hopi's holy place.

  • On the world of Ixion, "warring tribes of Neo-Marxists and Native American resurgencists" hold the Pax at bay.

  • On the world of Groombridge Dyson D, Suni Muslim nomads live in symbiosis with great horse herds a la Plains Indians. Simmons describes the relationship with the phrase "as long as the grass grows and the water flows"--a line from an Indian treaty.

  • At the end, the heroes return to the wild prairies of Illinois, which resemble a natural paradise. Although no one lives there, this is Indian country as it was before the Europeans arrived.

  • All in all, the Hyperion Cantos is a must-read if you're a science-fiction fan. Rob says: Check it out.

    For more on Native-themed science fiction, see Preview of Domers and So Long Been Dreaming.

    Goofy moments featuring Johnny Cloud

    I think I mentioned Johnny Cloud, Navajo Ace, before. Here's a brief summary of this DC comic-book character:

    Johnny CloudJohnny Cloud was named "Flying Cloud" by his father, a Navajo Indian Chief. Johnny was the victim of predudice growing up and as a lieutenant and fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force. He singlehandedly killed a large number of Nazi planes. He was saved by his patrol leader, who was fatally wounded. His patrol leader's last wish was for Johnny to be his successor. He had a brillant career as leader of "the Happy Braves" and as "C-for-Cloud Flight."

    Cloud appears three times in the following posting:

    Twenty Goofy Moments from DC and Marvel's Silver Age War Comics

    In OUR FIGHTING FORCES #128, Cloud fights a grudge match with Sharp Claw, an Indian ace for the Nazis (!).

    In OUR FIGHTING FORCES #125, the Nazis use an "Indian trick"--a tree snare--from an unspecified tribe.

    In OUR ARMY AT WAR #177, Cloud's father fought a German ace he called the "black hawk of death" in World War I. Incredibly, Cloud meets the same German in World War II.

    So three of the 20 goofy moments involve Johnny Cloud. Which probably shouldn't be too surprising. Natives served in WW II in great numbers, but I'm not sure any of them were flying aces. The whole concept seems a goofy contrivance.

    And I doubt any comic-book writers in the 1960s had more than a superficial knowledge of Indians. We should be grateful that Cloud was a relatively unstereotypical and three-dimensional character. He could've been a lot goofier.

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

    Statue of captive Indian replaced

    The following happened in March 2008, but I don't think I reported on it at the time. It still can tell us something about artistic depictions of Indians.

    Prairie Edge replaces controversial statueOwners of Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries in Rapid City on Tuesday morning unveiled a new statue, replacing one that had been controversial for its symbolic depiction of Native Americans.

    The new statue, depicting an older Lakota woman placing a sacred eagle plume onto a younger woman, replaces "He is, they are" by Glenna Goodacre. The bronze statue of a Native man with his hands tied behind his back reflected the artist's feeling that when Native Americans were put on reservations, they would never be able to live according their heritage.

    "Some people in the area Native American community felt this statue was degrading to Native Americans. We regret that," Prairie Edge owner Ray Hillenbrand said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

    Hillenbrand and Prairie Edge general manager Dan Tribby said they are proud of the new statue, which they said reflects the warmth in Lakota families, the wisdom of a Lakota elder and the teaching of the Lakota heritage to the next generation.

    The new statue, "Hunkayapi," or "Tying on the Eagle Plume," was created by Dale Lamphere of Sturgis.
    Comment:  You can see the old statue on the left and the new statue on the right below.

    The old statue's message, thata Native man with his hands tied behind his back reflected the artist's feeling that when Native Americans were put on reservations, they would never be able to live according their heritage.seems to exist mainly in Goodacre's mind. In reality it's a captive Indian, period.

    Yes, viewers may feel sad for the plight of the Indian. Or they may feel glad that the savage Indian is no longer a menace to society. Without more clues from the statue itself, the message is ambiguous at best.

    If the captive Indian were accompanied by evil-looking white men, then we might feel sorry for him. But a captive Indian standing alone doesn't necessarily convey the same feeling.

    Then there's the fact that the Indian is half-naked and looks generic. Is this supposed to say something about the nobility and worth of Plains Indians? If so, it's a failure. To me it says Indians were savages who (perhaps) got what they deserved.

    For more on Native monuments, see King Philip Sculpted Unstereotypically and Generic Statue Represents Ghostly Kickapoo.

    Below:  "Gerard Baker, superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Monument, speaks Tuesday morning during a ceremony to unveil a new statue at the corner of Sixth and Main streets in front of Prairie Edge." (Kristina Barker, Journal staff)

    Savage Brothers' chief logo

    Because nothing says candy-making equipment like a savage Indian chief!

    Candy Making and Baking EquipmentFor over 150 years, Savage Bros. has continuously manufactured confectionery machinery. Our candy making and chocolate making equipment are recognized worldwide for long lived quality and reliability.

    From these 19th century roots in the candy industry, Savage equipment has applications today for the bakery, food processing, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and material handling industries. Savage Bros. strives to meet its customers’ equipment needs with well designed and manufactured machinery.

    We invite you to browse our website and learn about Savage machinery.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Cupcakes vs. Chiefs and Indigenous Imagery in Corporate Logos.

    First Indian chamber music festival

    Tickets available for groundbreaking Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival

    By Carrie BuckleyThere is still a chance to be a part of the history-making inaugural Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival, where both serious students of classical music and those with a more casual curiosity will find something of interest.
The festival is scheduled for June 3-5 at the McSwain Theatre in Ada, Okla.

    Chickasaw Nation composer-in-residence Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate is serving as artistic director of this world’s first American Indian chamber music festival.

    “The intention of the festival is to showcase American and Indian composers and performers,” said Tate.

    Many of the top names among American Indian composers and performers of modern classical music will take part in the festival. This includes performances and instruction from Tate, Yaqui classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala, Voices of Change, Cherokee mezzo-soprano Barbara McAlister and New York City’s ETHEL string quartet.
    Comment:  For more on Chickasaw music, see Classical Album by Chickasaw Students and Multimedia Chickasaw Cultural Production.

    May 30, 2011

    Hopi mask in American Dad!

    I usually don't watch the animated series American Dad! But I happened to catch a rerun of the episode Escape from Pearl Bailey (airdate: 11/9/08). Wouldn't you know it, it had a Native bit.

    The story is straightforward. Steve, a nerdy high-schooler, plots revenge against the popular girls after his girlfriend loses her bid to become student council president.

    To show he's serious about revenge, Steve wears a tribal mask with a painted face and feathers. I thought it was supposed to be from some equatorial region: the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, or Africa. But someone identifies it as a "Hopi Indian revenge mask."

    It's true that the Hopi wear masks in some of their ceremonies. They may be the most famous mask-wearing tribe in North America. But they don't wear this or any mask known as a "revenge mask." The Hopi call themselves the "people of peace," so they're about the last ones who would wear such a mask.

    What does it tell us?

    So what do we have here? Escape from Pearl Bailey portrays a pacifist tribe as nasty, vicious, and revenge-minded. Including the reruns, millions of people have seen this episode. It confirms what they already "know" about Indians.

    Namely, that modern-day Indians don't exist. That Indians are primitive people represented by crude artifacts from distant places and times. That their "culture" consists only of barbaric rituals like scalping, war dances, and revenge schemes.

    Most people won't pay much attention to the single Hopi reference. But they'll add it to their store of a million other stereotypical representations of Indians. It'll help cement in their minds the idea that Indians are murderous savages.

    As for the rest of the episode, it includes typical examples of bigotry from Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy. In this case, his targets include fat and Asian kids. Yeah, because the "joke" that Asian Americans can't speak or understand English is so fresh and cutting-edge.

    For more on the subject, see Home Schooling in Family Guy and Halloween Joke in Family Guy.

    Young Healer wins children's book award

    Corpus Christi professor wins national book of the year award

    By Ellen BraunsteinTexas A&M University-Corpus Christi professor Frank N. McMillan III recently won the National Association of Elementary School Principals Children's Book of the Year Award for chapter books, with a little help from his family.

    McMillan's father had a great respect and love for the American Indian culture. His son remembers his father's collection of Tonkawan Indian arrowheads that he found on the family farm in Central Texas. His dad also carved American Indian heads.

    It is this childhood memory and a stay on a Montana Indian reservation in the 1990s that inspired McMillan's idea for a prizewinning manuscript for young students.

    "The Young Healer," to be published in 2012, depicts a spiritual coming-of-age of an 11-year-old girl in New York City who, despite being named Feather, knew little of her Native American heritage.

    In the book, Feather's grandfather, a traditional Lakota healer, pulls her out of class one snowy morning and takes her on a vision quest. In Native American culture, a vision quest is a turning point on the journey of life. Begun before puberty, the journey is to find oneself and an intended path. In the course of this spiritual awakening, Feather saves her brother's life and gives her mother a renewed connection to her heritage.
    Comment:  For Native-themed books that probably won't win any awards, see Whites "Play Indian" in Swamplandia! and Wild "Indians" in Trucksgiving.

    Census, comics, and documentaries

    Indian Comics Irregular #204:  Native Population Holds Steady

    May 29, 2011

    Indian student in Father Knows Best

    The classic sitcom Father Knows Best was on before most of my readers' time. It's so old that it was almost on before my time.

    It stars Robert Young (Marcus Welby MD) and Jane Wyatt (Spock's mother) as warmhearted parents with three boisterous kids: Betty, Bud, and Kathy. It portrays an idealized, middle-class family in the Midwest whose most serious problem is someone's crush on the opposite sex.

    I'm not sure I ever saw an episode when I was young. But I recently caught a rerun titled Fair Exchange (airdate: 11/17/58). The plot:An Indian exchange student (Rita Moreno) visits.The episode begins with young Kathy on the phone. She says:No, honest, Patty. Betty's bringing home a real live Indian girl to spend the weekend with us.

    Huh? Oh, I don't know what tribe she's from.
    Bud tells her to change her clothes before the "Indian" arrives. Kathy replies:Yeah, I'd better get ready. Wait'll you see what I'm gonna wear!Wouldn't you know it? Kathy comes down wearing an Indian headdress. What she doesn't realize is that the student is an Asian Indian from India, not an American Indian. Wrong Indian...get it?

    Bud explains that the student isn't the "woo woo" kind of Indian. He demonstrates what he means by putting his hand over his mouth. She's the other kind of Indian. Mom tells Kathy to take the headdress off.

    The family gives Chanthini the exchange student a warm welcome, but they can't seem to make her feel at ease. Kathy doesn't help matters by popping in wearing the headdress again. She claims she forgot to take it off, but actually she ignored her mother's wishes and put it on again.

    1958's version of multiculturalism

    So Fair Exchange isn't about American Indians. But it's worth noting the show's presumptions. One, that people would find the Indian/Indian jokes amusing. And two, that every child has a headdress available to wear for a visiting Indian.

    Fair Exchange is a decent episode about multicultural tolerance, especially for 1958. If a TV show ever featured an Asian Indian character before this, I don't know what it is.

    Puerto Rican actress Moreno did a good job playing an Asian Indian. I'm not sure an actual Indian could've done much better.

    Most of the "humor" comes from the family's innocent mistakes. Chanthini is mortified not because they're ignorant of her ways, but because she's ignorant of their ways. Seeing father Jim in an apron, for instance, she assumes he's a servant. Which is hard to believe for an Indian college student who speaks English well and has traveled halfway around the world.

    Unfortunately, the show's biggest cultural "blunder" is its central plot point. Chanthini describes a football game she saw as if it were a gang rumble, not a sporting event. Huh? I guess the writers weren't aware that people in India play soccer and rugby among other team sports. As Wikipedia notes:Field hockey is the official national sport in India, and the country has an impressive eight Olympic gold medals in field hockey, though cricket is the most popular sport in India.So it's ridiculous that Chanthini wouldn't understand that the teams were playing a game, not fighting each other. This is a plotline for a time-traveling caveman or a Martian, not for someone born and raised in the British Empire.

    For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Native tar sands = Mordor?

    Why is The Hobbit being filmed in the Tar Sands?

    By Syed HussanPeter Jackson has announced that the Alberta Tar Sands, what Naomi Klein calls the apex of disaster capitalism, will serve as the location for The Hobbit's Mordor scenes. You can watch Peter Jackson's video blog here, the Alberta government's film site here, and already a facebook group has emerged condemning it.

    For those of you just tuning in, The Alberta Tar Sands, or the Alberta Oil Sands are the world's second largest industrial project where either massive machines rip off the top layer of soil, drill holes in to the ground or inject steam (i.e water), solvents or hot air into these holes, which causes dirty, viscous stuff to rise to the top. This stuff is refined either on site or elsewhere where it's sent by special pipelines, and then sold. Imagine slicing into the planet, waiting for it to become infected, and then pressing into the infection to drain out the puss, leaving just enough puss for the infection to get worse and spread.

    This destructive project has particularly targetted Indigenous communities. "Our lands, bodies, and spirits are intimately connected as Indigenous Peoples," says Erin Konsmo from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. "As Indigenous women our bodies and reproductive health are specifically tied to the health of the land--we are both life-givers. The Tar Sands is a specific colonial attack on our bodies as a place where self-determination remains in the community. War on the land is a war on our bodies: 'place' is a critical element to reproductive justice."
    Comment:  How ironic is it that a Native territory decimated by industrial pollution may serve as a movie setting for hellish evil? About as ironic as putting a concentration camp on a reservation. In other words, very ironic.

    For more on the subject, see Cameron Criticizes Oilsands "Curse" and Canada's Avatar Sands.

    Preview of Domers

    DomersDomers—a novel of high adventure that presents a future where Native Americans again live free in their traditional lands and it is the relative newcomers to America who have moved onto reservations to protect themselves from a dangerous world.

    2080 A.D., the United States is a "virtual" country whose citizens have lived for sixty years under millions of family-sized domes, hermetically sealed with no windows and no access to the Outside where the rest of the world faces virus pandemics, riots inspired by world-wide economic chaos, and terrorists killing millions with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

    Tom Corant is a US Army sergeant who fights battles all over the world by remotely controlling armed infantry robots from the safety of his bedroom. Tom is happy with life in the dome he was born into twenty-four years ago. Tom met, courted, fell in love with, and proposed marriage to Jenny Salem all online via the SuperNet, the high-bandwidth video communications web that connects the 75 million dome homes that make up the United States of America.

    While the betrothed couple is being transported to their own dome to start their life together, they are kidnapped by a Mexican army patrol roaming the dangerous Outside. Tom and Jenny are rescued by Roving Wolf, a Comanche scout whose people--like all other Native American Indian nations--were exempted from mandatory doming and who now live free in their native lands among millions of buffalo in the reconstituted bison herds of the Great Plains.

    Roving Wolf is ordered to escort the couple across the desert Southwest where a multi-tribe Native American army is collaborating with the dome society’s military to repel an imminent invasion by the ambitious military dictator of Mexico. During their journey, Tom and Jenny are exposed for the first time to Nature and to Freedom. Tom comes to realize that the domes are prisons and he learns the truth behind the doming of America. Tom vows to free his family, fight against the system, to expose the government’s lies, and to someday make the Domers understand that the safety offered by dome life is not worth the price.
    Comment:  For more on Native-themed science fiction, see So Long Been Dreaming and Preview of Stormwalker.

    May 28, 2011

    Burgas reviews Bertozzi's LEWIS & CLARK

    Review Time!  With Lewis & Clark

    By Greg BurgasI’ve been a fan of Nick Bertozzi for a few years now, and while I haven’t loved everything he’s done, I like his art quite a bit and I love that he writes about interesting topics. I’ve never been a big fan of the Lewis and Clark expeditions (despite living for some time in Oregon, where there’s a college named after them), but I loves me some historical fiction, so I figured I’d give this a look. It’s published by First Second and is listed at $16.99.

    Bertozzi tells the story of the expedition in a fairly straightforward fashion, with one major exception, and through that we get a good sense of what life was like in the early nineteenth century both in the middle of civilization and out on the frontier.
    Bertozzi apparently handles the Native element well:Bertozzi, however, does a very nice job with the characters in the book reacting to the travails of the route. The relationship between Charbonneau and his wife, Sacagawea, is an unpleasant one, and Bertozzi doesn’t shy away from showing its ugliness. Clark’s slave, York, is presented in an uncomfortable way to modern audiences–he’s depicted much more like a servant than a slave, and even rejects the notion that Clark would free him when the expedition is over. Even Lewis, late in the book, expresses surprise that Clark hasn’t freed him yet. There’s also a lot of humor in the book, with two characters providing some of the comic relief. Bertozzi also does a nice job showing how the various Native American tribes treated the expedition. Some of them, like the Mandan, were very accommodating, while others were very wary. Bertozzi doesn’t get into the Indian culture too much, but he does a nice job showing how different the tribes were from each other. It’s an interesting glimpse into how the Indians sought to live with the whites and use them to their own purposes, which didn’t work out too well, as we know, but this was still early in their interaction with the new Americans.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Burgas Reviews Demon Bear Saga and Lewis and Clark Graphic Novel.

    Jemez street artist Fragua

    Street Artist Jaque Fragua Helps Osage Youth Create Mural in PawhuskaOn Friday, May 13, graffiti artist and muralist Jaque Fragua, Jemez Pueblo, arrived in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to collaborate on a massive mural on the side of the Osage Nation Language Building. By Saturday night, the work was completed.

    Fragua, who is based in Albuquerque but lives a somewhat itinerant existence, was called in to aid NVision, the youth arts and culture program founded by Osage designer/entrepreneur Ryan Red Corn. “Ryan and I had never collaborated before,” says Fragua, “but he was in Albuquerque last year and saw some of my work in a street art show, as well as a large mural I had done. We had been communicating ever since; he’s been trying to get a mural in Pawhuska for a few years, and finally got the Osage Language Department to let him put one on the side of their building.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see School Mural of Chief Buffalo and Mural for Slain Aboriginal Woman.

    Below:  "The finished mural of a straight dancer on the side of the Osage Language Building in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The text says 'Osage language.'"

    Oprah Network funds suicide prevention

    Oprah’s Angel Saves Lives:  Jeremiah Simmons Leads Suicide Prevention on the Mescalero Apache Indian ReservationThe Oprah Network recently visited Jeremiah Simmons on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in south central New Mexico, where he serves as the program coordinator for the Suicide Prevention Team at Mescalero Apache High School. He is featured in a video posted May 24 on the Oprah Show website as part of the education tribute for Oprah’s Farewell TV series.

    Back in 2000, Simmons received a $25,000 scholarship through Oprah’s Angel Network, awarded to the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year representative for New Mexico. “This scholarship was really my gateway to escaping the cycles of poverty, despair and hopelessness that tend to keep some of the young people down,” says Simmons, who is of Lakota and Navajo heritage, although he considers himself Mescalero, “because I grew up with their culture and traditions.”
    Comment:  For more on Native suicide, see Roger:  Let Indians Commit Suicide and Native Band Plays to Prevent Suicide.

    Ho-Chunk Players make short films

    Now Playing:  For a group of young Ho-Chunk filmmakers, movies are about having fun while learning to make a film in their native language

    By Craig SpychallaIn the summer of 2008, Sherman Funmaker joined an established theater group at the Ho-Chunk House of Wellness formed by Chuck Davis, and together they helped create the Ho-Chunk Players. It's a filmmaking/theater group that has completed 20 short projects so far with a small feature on the horizon.

    "What we want to do is a feature that's all in Ho-Chunk language with subtitles. It would be like 15 to 20 minutes long. A dramedy. That's our goal," said Funmaker, who started writing screenplays and doing film himself before heading to the University of New Mexico in 2007 to work on a media arts degree. When he returned, he wanted to give something back to Ho-Chunk youth.

    "I just volunteered. And they gave me a couple hours and we started doing these short films."

    Their first project was a scene of an actress trying to interview for a part. It wasn't scripted, but has had almost 1,000 hits on YouTube.
    Comment:  For more on young Native filmmakers, see Rising Stars in Native Animation and The Rocket Boy at Sundance.

    May 27, 2011

    TRIBAL FORCE's hiatus explained

    Jon Proudstar tells what happened to TRIBAL FORCE after he and Ryan Huna Smith published the first issue and then split up.

    Rebooting the Force

    Native superheroes' creator musters his powers for a comeback

    By Cindy Yurth
    Soon, the three created by actor/writer/filmmaker Jon Proudstar began haunting his dreams, demanding to be reincarnated.

    "But I can't," he argued with them. "I'm just a writer. The man who drew you, Ryan Huna Smith, has gone his own way. I'm not an artist, and I have no money to hire one."

    But Earth, Thunder Eagle and Little Big Horn would not be denied. Eventually, Proudstar picked up a pen and started drawing them himself.

    "I was terrified," said Proudstar, now 44. "Ryan's such a good artist. I knew I couldn't make them look like he did. But one day I woke up and said, 'This is either going to be done or not, and if I wait around for somebody to help me out of the goodness of his heart--because I certainly can't pay anybody--then it's not.'"

    So start watching for Tribal Force No. 2. It may be a while. It's being drawn, but Proudstar is still looking for the resources to actually publish it.

    "It's tough, it's really tough," said the Yaqui/Jewish/Latino Tucson resident.

    Sometimes he thinks back fondly to the late 1990s, when big corporations were offering him and Smith "ridiculous amounts of money" to buy Tribal Force. But Tribal Force, alas, was not for sale.

    "We used sacred symbols in the book," Proudstar recalled. "And themes that the big publishers normally shy away from, like incest. Sexual molestation is epidemic on most of the reservations in this country. I don't want some publishing company to tell me, 'We love the concept, just lose the incest thing, OK?'"

    Incest is an integral part of the backstory for Earth, a.k.a. mild-mannered law student Nita Nitaal Nakai.
    Comment:  With PEACE PARTY, I've faced a similar problem as a writer but not an artist. But it wouldn't occur to me to try drawing it myself. For one thing, I know I'm not good enough. For another, it would be easier and less time-consuming to get another job and pay someone to do it.

    For more on TRIBAL FORCE, see TRIBAL FORCE #1 Teaser and New TRIBAL FORCE Cover.

    Native drag queens honor We'wha

    Native American Drag Queens and Their Friends = Yes!  Tonight.

    By Hiya SwanhuyserDear Friday, in case you want to make the most out of being in San Francisco, check out Two Spirits: Contemporary Custodians of the Ancient Art of Gender Blending. As part of the de Young Museum's excellent series of Friday night multi-art partytimes, tonight finds gay First Nations performers of different kinds, including, hold yourself:The Brush Arbor Gurlz. These queens represent Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Navajo, Ojibwa, and Tohono O'odham Nations, and often perform traditional songs, such as "Honor Song," which they do beautifully right here:And who is being honored by those indigenous lovelies, in the above vid and also this evening? Only an ancestral hottie ...

    Hold yourself again while we introduce you to We'wha, a Zuni Indian lhamana who lived in New Mexico about two hundred years ago. She was very famous and kept white anthropologists in a froth; she was known for her intelligence, she was introduced to President Grover Cleveland in 1886, and she was eventually the subject of a book called The Zuni Man-Woman. Basically, We'wha's life story supports the idea that a lot of ancient cultures were totally down with mixed-gender, or "two-spirit," people.
    Friday Nights at the de Young and the Native American Program Advisory Committee present Two Spirits: Contemporary Custodians of the Ancient Art of Gender Blending

    Comment:  For more on Indians and LGBT issues, see Four Genders in Navajo Culture and Two Spirits Documentary on PBS.

    Play about Will Rogers's courtship

    Play focuses on Betty and Will Rogers’ courtshipLaurette Willis, actor, playwright, composer and producer, has written and will perform “Letters from the Heart: Betty and Will Rogers,” a one-woman multi-media show using Will’s letters to Betty Blake, primarily from their courtship period 1900-08.And:The play covers the period from their first meeting through Will’s Wild West Shows, his trek around the world and his hits on the Vaudeville circuit.

    Original songs by Willis will be enhanced by videos of vintage photos, newsreel footage, movies and rope tricks from “Ropin’ Fool,” produced by Cherokee cowboy Will Rogers. Willis said Rogers’ words evolve in song and words. Will’s letters will be read in his own voice (Will Rogers Museum Will Rogers interpreter Andy Hogan).

    Will Rogers was a prolific letter writer and wrote letters to his father, sisters and especially to Betty, who became Mrs. Will Rogers. Will and Betty met at the Oologah (his birthplace) train station where she was helping her sister and brother-in-law. Much of their friendship and courtship was through letters. After nearly a decade, they were married in Rogers, Ark., on Nov. 25, 1908.
    Comment:  For more on Will Rogers, see Will Rogers = Jon Stewart and Will Rogers State Park.

    Below:  "Laurette Willis, of Tahlequah, Okla., performs during the production of Letters from the Heart: Betty and Will Rogers. The play is a one-woman show written by Willis who is a playwright, composer and producer."

    Amondawa has no word for "time"?

    Recent news reports about a Brazilian tribe have made the claim below. Blogger Stan Carey nicely deconstructs this claim:

    Amondawa has no word for ‘time’?A recurring idea in popular discussions of languages–usually exotic or minority ones–is that they have “no word for X,” where X could be hello, tomorrow, burger, ten, accountability, robin, and so on. Sometimes it’s sheer fantasy, sometimes the language simply has (or has had) no need for the word (robins in the Arctic?), and sometimes it has other ways of conveying the idea–such as a longer phrase, a different kind of metaphor, or another syntactic category.

    The point is, it’s not as though there’s a nagging word-shaped gap there that makes it difficult for speakers of a language to communicate with one another, to make sufficient sense of their experiences, and to get through the day without falling apart. If there’s a need for a word, a word will arise.

    Irish has no word for yes, but this linguistic lacuna does not stop Irish speakers from agreeing, accepting, assenting, and shouting things in bed. Other idioms and grammatical markers are used instead. The lack of a word for something doesn’t imply the lack of a concept for it, yet this illogical extrapolation is repeatedly made, perhaps for reasons of naïveté, sensationalism, or romanticism, e.g., the appeal of a culture with no word for lying, and other spins on the “noble savage” myth.
    Comment:  This kind of language stereotyping works both ways. Natives sometimes claim their cultures had no word for "religion" or "art." If so, they may have had other ways of explaining the concepts. So the claims may not be as significant as Natives imply.

    For more on the subject, see 100 Eskimo Words for Snow?

    May 26, 2011

    Navajo fan used as veterans symbol

    Warriors' shield

    Diné‚ artist's design becoming a symbol for Native American veterans

    By Cindy Yurth
    Symbols are powerful things. The best ones capture people's imaginations and rally them to action.

    For a Diné‚ artist living in Michigan, the fact that one of his designs is rapidly becoming a national symbol for Native veterans represents a high point in his career - a career that, 25 years ago, was dangerously on the skids.

    "I've had stuff in a lot of Indian markets and won a lot of blue ribbons," said Ambrose Peshlakai, 56, of Baraga, Mich., who is Honagh‡anii (One Who Walks Around People Clan), born for Kinya'‡anii (Towering House Clan). "But the fact that my art is being used to help people, that's the real stamp of approval. That means I've arrived as a Native artist."
    And:One day, thinking of his code talker uncle, Francis Thompson, Peshlakai set out to make a patriotic fan.

    He bound two feathers together and painted an American flag on them, then wove a beadwork handle with a motif from the West Point Academy shield.

    It was on display at the Hannahville (Mich.) Indian Community's headquarters when Richard Eubank, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, happened to visit.

    The work, which Peshlakai had titled "The Shield," immediately caught Eubank's attention. He had been trying to do more outreach to Native American veterans.

    "Is there some way to reproduce it?" he asked Peshlakai. "Maybe as a poster?"

    Peshlakai took the fan to a friend who had a photo studio. He photographed it and placed the image against red, white, blue and tri-colored backgrounds, then added the words "In Honor" at the bottom.

    Eubank loved it, and when Peshlakai showed it to the Potawatomi tribal government, they did too. Eventually it was picked up by Tribal Umbrella, a collaboration of 12 local tribes and American Indian Health and Family Services that offers services in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
    Comment:  The fan is nice and the poster is nicer. But I'm not sure the fan would work as a symbol for Native veterans. The design is kind of intricate; it wouldn't reproduce clearly at small sizes. A stylized version of the fan might work better as a symbol.

    For more on honoring Native veterans, see Photographing America's First Warriors and Codetalkers at the Stock Exchange.

    Below:  "This poster using a feather design by Ambrose Peshlakai is being used in an outreach effort to Native Americans by the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization."

    Mound supporters compared to violent protesters

    More details on the story I covered in Bikers Ride Over Indian Mound:

    Democracy” and the Desecration of Native Burial Sites

    By Jacqueline S. HomanFor many years First Nations groups have tried to work with recalcitrant non-native city officials and BMX cycling enthusiasts towards getting the Snake Mound site protected from destructive activity. The city of Toronto previously posted “No Access” signage instructing BMX enthusiasts that no dirt bike riding is allowed in that section of the park. BMX bikers claim that there is no other place in Toronto that is perfect for their activity. Some BMX enthusiasts got belligerent and hurled racist epithets and rocks at Native people protesting the destruction to Snake Mounds caused by the man-made dirt bike ramps.

    Aboriginal rights and cultural preservation advocates graciously offered to do the city’s job for them (without the good pay and benefits package that city employees get, of course): they made their peaceful presence visible at this contested site to deter further destruction caused by the BMX crowd, who repeatedly thumbed their noses at the law by mucking up the park in connection with their recreation.

    Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun falsely referred to the aboriginal rights advocacy and peacekeeping group encamped at Snake Mound as a “mini Caledonia” incident. Caledonia entailed a violent confrontation in the 1990’s between the Mohawk community and police over a fraudulent transfer of land title by non-native members of the town council to a private developer seeking to expand a high-priced housing development and possible golf course onto unceded Mohawk land. Warmington also said in his May 18, 2011 article that “there is no official archeological evidence” to back up First Nations people’s claims of an ancient burial site.

    Paul Russell of the National Post quipped in his May 22, 2011 article that “there was absolutely no physical evidence” that Snake Mound is an ancient burial and/or ceremonial site. But where do these reporters get their facts? Did they get their info from the same source as the city of Toronto?

    Toronto relied on the expert opinion of Ron Williamson, a Toronto archeologist who has not held his professional credentials and licenses since December 31, 2000.
    Comment:  The layers of insult and attack go beyond the physical desecration of the mound. The bikers hurl racist epithets. The media claims there's no evidence and compares the Native guardians to violent protesters. The city has no credentialed archaeologist but won't get a replacement or listen to the Indians.

    This may not be a coordinated campaign, but it's a campaign nonetheless. The strategy is to denigrate the Indians, deny their claims, and dismiss their concerns. The goal is to "vanish" the Indians politically the way we almost vanished them physically.

    Why is this happening? Because the white man wants to stay in control. Acceding to the Indians' wishes means giving up control. It means acknowledging Native history and culture, which means revisiting Native land claims and treaty rights. The white man doesn't want to do that, so it's denigrate, deny, and dismiss.

    Of course, the archaeologist's lack of credentials doesn't prove that he's wrong and the Indians are right. The article could've said more about why the Indians are sure Snake Mound is a burial site. Since the issue seems to be in question, that is.

    For more on burial grounds, see Wamapoke Curse in Parks and Recreation and The Savage in Bonanza.

    Hard Rock promotes Native musicians

    Micki Free, the Hard Rock Café, and the Future of Native American Music

    By J. PoetBuffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, R. Carlos Nakai, Grammy-winner Rita Coolidge, spoken-word artist John Trudell, and jazzman Jim Pepper have all broken through, but despite the initiation of a Native American Grammy category in 2000, most Native American artists—rockers, rappers, reggae singers—receive little attention from the music industry.

    That situation will change in the next few years if Micki Free and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have anything to say about it. Free won a Grammy for “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills,” a song he co-wrote for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack in 1985. He recently signed on as the Director of Promotions and Special Events for the Seminole tribe of Florida, owners of Hard Rock International, the company that runs the Hard Rock Café chain. With the power of the Seminole tribe behind him, Free is initiating several measures that will give Native American musicians a shot at national exposure.

    “The Seminoles acquired the Hard Rock brand [except for the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas] in 2005,” Free explained from his home in Hollywood, Florida. “I’ve been working with them for six years. When the tribe took over, the Hard Rock brand was dying. They worked with Hard Rock CEO James Allen and rescued it. Today, Hard Rock Cafés are hotter than ever. Hard Rock Calling, put on by the Tribe and Live Nation, has been the biggest festival in London for the last five years with artists including Aerosmith, Clapton, McCartney, and other superstars. The tribe has also initiated new programs that will help bring more Indian musicians into the public eye.”

    Those programs, put together with Free’s help, include packaging Native American artists together for the Native Music Rocks tours that play Hard Rock venues around the world, the Star Search talent contest, the Star Search Talent Camps, and the Native Music Rocks record label, distributed internationally by Fontana/Uni music.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see 13th Annual Big Cypress Celebration and Native Music Rocks! Tour.

    Museum exhibit on Native healing

    Two Healing Traditions Meet on the Plains

    The National Library of Medicine plans an exhibit of Native American healing practices this fall. In preparation, its physician-director met and questioned nine renowned Indian medicine men in Bismarck, ND, a rare encounter.

    By Mary Annette Pember
    The U.S. National Library of Medicine was here to find out. Nine medicine men and leaders had agreed to sit down to talk with the embodiment of Western medicine, Dr. Donald Lindberg, director of the Library located in Bethesda, Maryland. He and his crew were in town in April conducting interviews for the Library’s upcoming museum exhibit Native Voices: Native American Concepts of Health and Illness.

    Opening in October at the Library’s headquarters, the exhibit will feature interviews of 90 traditional healers and leaders from Hawaii, Alaska and the lower 48 states. Over 50 tribes are represented in the exhibit which has been created over a period of six years. The exhibit will also be available at the Library’s Online Exhibitions and Digital Project website.
    Comment:  Nice to see a government body acknowledge traditional Native beliefs. Even if I don't share those beliefs myself. <g>

    For more on Native health, see "Let's Move! In Indian Country" and Native CHAT Film Festival.

    Below:  "Chief Leonard Crow Dog, Sicangu Lakota medicine man, spoke about the spiritual dimension of healing." (Mary Annette Pember)

    Emerson's short film Opal

    Native movie maker stresses hard work for success

    By Bob TenequerEmerson, originally from Tohatchi, and is an award-winning filmmaker. Her newest project is a 10-minute short film titled “Opal.”

    “Opal” is a summer tale about a young Navajo girl who confronts the town bully who doesn’t allow girls at the local bike jump.

    The screenplay was written at the native film workshop organized by the Sundance Institute in 2010. The institute provides direct support to emerging Native American and Indigenous film artists throughout the United States.

    “Opal comes from two worlds,” said Emerson. “She grows up with her grandmother on the ‘Rez’ and with her artist mother in the city. Opal’s character is very worldly, adaptable and smart . . . she’s like a little adult in 10-year-old body,” explained Emerson.

    “My larger goal is to make “Opal” a feature-length film,” she added.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Below:  "The crew of Opal works on the 10-minute film by Ramona Emerson. Emerson’s company will start filming in To’hajiilee during the later part of July."

    Buffy earns honorary doctorate

    Buffy Sainte-Marie Will Receive Honorary Doctor of MusicAt the beginning of June singer/songwriter, entertainer, activist and humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie will be given an honorary Doctor of Music from Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada.

    “A graduating college senior in 1962, Buffy Sainte-Marie hit the ground running as a soloist, touring North America’s colleges, reservations and concert halls, meeting both significant acclaim and misunderstanding from audiences and record companies who expected Pocahontas in fringes,” states the university press release. “Instead, they were both entertained and educated with their initial dose of Native American reality in the first person.”
    Comment:  For more on Buffy Sainte-Marie, see 2010 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Winners and Inside Up Where We Belong.

    May 25, 2011

    "Let's Move! In Indian Country"

    First lady focuses obesity initiative on Indian Country

    By Karen HerzogFirst lady Michelle Obama sent top federal officials to the Menominee Indian reservation in Keshena on Wednesday to launch a specially targeted “Let’s Move! in Indian Country” initiative to help a group of children who statistically are twice as likely to be overweight as the general population.

    The first lady’s broader “Let’s Move!” initiative, launched last year, aims to eliminate the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Over the past three decades, rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. have tripled. Nearly one in three children is now considered overweight or obese. An equal portion—one in three children born after 2000—will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, an all-time high, according to projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The problem is more acute among American Indians.

    The Indian Country initiative aims to bring together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners and tribes across the country to improve access to healthy food and prenatal services, implement nutrition and physical education programs, and engage Indian youth, parents and communities in active, healthy lifestyle choices.

    The Menominee tribe was chosen to host the initiative’s launch because 99% of its schoolchildren recently chose to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge, which involved exercising five days a week for one hour a day over a six-week period, said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
    Menominee Tribe of Indians debuts Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move! In Indian Country' campaign

    By Alex MorrellThe Menominee Tribe of Indians today will debut first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move! in Indian Country" campaign at the Woodland Bowl amphitheater in Keshena.

    The program, which aims at ending childhood obesity, runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will include information booths and 19 activity stations for families and children of all ages, such as traditional lacrosse, a relay, indigenous tag and capture game, and an obstacle course.

    Tribal Chairman Randal Chevalier said the tribe was selected to launch the initiative in part because Menominee County, which largely shares common boundaries with the Menominee Reservation, ranked last out of 72 Wisconsin counties in overall health factors and outcomes.

    "I can attest that there is no better place for this initiative," Chevalier said. "Becoming a healthier community starts with our children, so I am delighted that we can address these issues in such a big way."

    The tribe struggles with high rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, smoking and abuse of drugs and alcohol, Chevalier said, but the tribe has also taken initiative to develop programs to encourage healthy living, including a diabetes prevention program.
    Comment:  For more on Michelle Obama and Indians, see Michelle Obama's Mentors Include Erdrich and Blackfeet Ornaments at White House.

    Joke about Chief "Whowouldhavethunkit"

    Was Warren Hellman joke culturally insensitive?

    By Joshua SabatiniFinancer Warren Hellman, founder of the popular free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, got a front-row seat to San Francisco’s inner government when he set up a working group with labor leaders to come up with a November ballot measure that would reduce The City’s pension costs.

    On Tuesday, Hellman was on hand to celebrate the success of the effort in a press conference with Mayor Ed Lee, nine members of the Board of Supervisors, labor leaders and more. Hellman opened and closed his remarks with a joke.

    Hellman’s opening joke: “I did make the promise not to play the banjo.”

    Then came closing joke when Hellman said: “I keep thinking that I belong to some Native American tribe and the chief is called Whowouldhavethunkit.”

    While laughter was heard from the city family flanking him at the podium, some on hand wondered about the appropriateness of the joke.
    Comment:  Yes, the joke was inappropriate and culturally insensitive. It makes fun of Indian names, which aren't supposed to be funny.

    For more on "funny Indian names," see Y-Guides Still Stereotype Indians and Magic FM Mocks Indians Names.

    Robertson on Canadian stamp

    Canadian Music Icon Robbie Robertson Adds Canada Post Stamp to His List of AchievementsCanada Post today unveiled a stamp featuring Canadian music icon Robbie Robertson, part of the third installment of the Canadian Recording Artists stamp series. Available June 30th, the Robertson stamp will share the spotlight with four other outstanding Canadian singer-songwriters; Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Bruce Cockburn, and Ginette Reno. More than one million of each stamp will be available at post offices across Canada.

    "We're proud to be able to add one more honour to Robbie Robertson's long list of accolades," said Jim Phillips, Director of Stamp Services for Canada Post. "It's an honour for us to be able to pay tribute to such a prolific and talented artist."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Robertson to Write Memoirs and Robertson in Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

    May 24, 2011

    Rob questions Winnetou movie

    In Germans Plan Winnetou Movie, I described the latest effort to bring Winnetou to film. I wondered how the filmmakers could reconcile their love of the original novel with their modern sensibility. How could they feature a white savior, savage Indians, and reams of mistakes and stereotypes without rewriting the whole book?

    I posted these questions on the NativeCelebs page in Facebook. This led to the following exchanges with one of the German producers:

    Style of the Film--Author's Note

    The first Winnetou book depicts a whole tribe of "murderous savages" who capture Old Shatterhand and Winnetou. Indeed, the majority of Indians in the book are murderous savages. How do you propose to counteract this stereotype if you remain faithful to the book?

    The book itself portrays most Indians badly. So you're either going to change the book's story or remain faithful to its stereotypical message. I wonder which?In the introduction of the original "winnetou - the red gentlemen" from 1800 the author has a long prologue that the Native Culture is much better than the white conquerors. he describe the native culture as culture of honour and love to nature, and that he will inform all the people that this culture is much higher than our culture because they only take from nature what they need to survive - full of respect to mother nature! The bad guys in the story are mostly greedy white guys. And that opinion of an european is for my really surprising at that time.No genocide in Winnetou?

    As I understand them, May's books portray a largely empty American West with a few bad ranchers, miners, and Indians who cause trouble. There's no mention of the US government's genocidal actions, Manifest Destiny, broken treaties, Trails of Tears, etc.

    The first book shows you what you can expect. A good Apache tribe, mostly off-page, with made-up names and cultural traits. A bad Kiowa tribe, mostly on-page, with murderous savages. And nothing else--no mention of the hundreds of tribes that existed across the continent with a rich diversity of cultures and languages.

    Again, is your movie going to change all that? Or are you going to remain faithful to the books? It can be one or the other, but it can't be both.hmm. i think that this a good point - i think we can tell the story with the same statement like "dances with wolves" "and into the west"Both those movies were flawed with stereotypes. I hope you do better than they did. And again, none of this context is in Karl May's books. Or in your write-ups of what you intend to portray.yes you are totally right but its a big thing and i think it is very difficult to make a big movie to reach a lot of people all over the world and tell it in the real perfect way for all the different requirements.You want me to rewrite your information above so it's clear you're critiquing May's flawed storytelling rather than embracing it? It may be difficult for you, but it would be easy for me. <g>Yes rob thats a good idea!!

    The discussion continues

    The Story

    In the book, Old Shatterhand leads a surveying party that ultimately contributes to the Indians' downfall. The book portrays him as superior to every Indian, including Winnetou. Indeed, Shatterhand is a Christ-like savior figure to the poor savages. Winnetou and his sister ultimately embrace Christianity to make them palatable to readers.

    Also, portraying the Apaches as paragons of "sustainability" is somewhat misleading. They were one of the less peaceful and more warlike tribes in America. Making them tree-hugging nature lovers is almost as bad as making them murderous savages. A three-dimensional portrayal would be better.

    Let us know if you're going to change or critique any of these things in your movie. Otherwise, it's likely to be as stereotypical as the book was.

    This is a case where Johnny Depp has the right idea. Reinventing the Winnetou story to make the Indian clearly superior to the white man would be a good idea. Portraying Old Shatterhand as the "Sacred Bear" who comes to "protect" the Indians isn't such as good idea.Rob: I know that a german 100 years ago made some mistakes and from your sight it is not correct. But what i like in the story is that he wants to teach the people that native culture is respectful to nature and that is an honour if a white person gets a chance to know more about this wonderful culture. And of course he write some incorrect things but he tried his best and yes we will correct the wrong things

    In our story the author comes to the west to look for a better life and earn some money and learn from the native culture that to be rich is not the goal...Friendship, love to nature and respectful living in harmony with people and nature is the real treasure

    we only distinguish in our story between good people and bad people. no matter to which culture, race or sex they belong.
    Winnetou's Apaches are phony

    Karl May fabricated the Apache culture out of his imagination. And what he wrote in the prologue doesn't square with what he wrote in the book. Are you going to research the Apache culture and portray it accurately? Or are you going to repeat May's complete fabrication of it?

    As far as I know, neither Old Shatterhand nor Winnetou's Apaches expressed any love of nature or respectful living in harmony in the book itself. So you're going to change May's superficial and false portrayal of Indian life? If so, good. But none of that is evident in the worshipful write-ups you posted above.

    Here's the key quote from the Winnetou prologue:

    "[The Indian] became through no fault of his own a slinking, lying, mistrustful, murderous redskin."

    May doesn't say this happened to some Indians. He says it happened to the Indian—that is, to every Indian. The proud huntsman has become a murderous redskin.

    Winnetou and his phony Apache tribe are the only exception to this rule. They're good but most Indians are bad--i.e., murderous savages. If you change this, great, but you won't be telling Karl May's story anymore. You'll be inventing a story that has little to do with the original.

    Karl May didn't just make "some mistakes." He fabricated the entire history of the American West from his home in Germany. His books are one big mistake that have almost nothing to do with actual Indian cultures and history.

    For my critique of the Old Shatterhand/Winnetou legend, see:

    Good things intendedDont forget how old the story is and under what circumstances and knowledge it is written. You can be sure that we don´t put any bad things or racistical things in our story!Judging by your worship of Karl May, I'm not sure of that. In fact, I'm not sure you've heard any critiques of May or Winnetou until now. But I hope it's true that you'll make significant changes and fix the many will be great if you send us your ideas and Critiques about the original story so that we can regard them for our story!

    per mail to
    Okay. But most of my comments will be similar to these. I probably could write a book critiquing the book, but I don't have time for that now. Not unless someone wants to pay me for it. <g>

    For starters, I'd say either get yourself some Apache consultants or create a fictional tribe instead. I think many Apaches would be insulted by seeing May's bastardization of their culture on the screen. That may have been okay in 1940 or 1950, when movie Indians were nameless, cultureless savages, but it's not okay in 2011.ok thanksFor more on the subject, see The German Obsession with Winnetou.

    Below:  Guess who's really the star of the Winnetou saga? The guy on the tallest rock or the guy he's looking down on?

    Winnetou:  "Thank you for saving us, Jesus Christ Great White Father Sacred Bear Aryan brother. Without you we'd be helpless before the might of Christian civilization."

    Germans plan Winnetou movie

    I've discussed Karl May's Winnetou before. For those who don't know the story, here it is:

    WinnetouWinnetou is a fictional Native American hero of several novels written by Karl May (1842-1912, with about 200 million copies worldwide one of the best selling German writers of all time) in German, including the sequels Winnetou I through Winnetou IV.

    According to Karl May's story, first-person narrator Old Shatterhand encounters Winnetou and after initial dramatic events, a true friendship between Old Shatterhand and the Apache Winnetou arises; on many occasions they give proof of great fighting skill but also of compassion for other human beings. It portrays a belief in an innate "goodness" of mankind, albeit constantly threatened by ill-intentioned enemies.

    Karl May's "Winnetou" novels symbolize, to some extent, a romantic desire for a simpler life in close contact with nature. In fact, the popularity of the series is due in large part to the ability of the stories to tantalize fantasies many Europeans had and have for this more untamed environment.

    May's heroes drew on archetypes of Germanic culture and had little to do with actual Native American cultures. "Winnetou is noble because he combines the highest aspects of otherwise 'decadent' Indian cultures with the natural adoption of the romantic and Christian traits of Karl May's own vision of German civilization. As he is dying, the Apache Winnetou asks some settlers to sing an Ave Maria for him, and his death is sanctified by his quiet conversion to Christianity."
    The Germans made a series of Winnetou movies in the 1960s. Recently, a couple of production companies have proposed doing a new Winnetou film. This time, one hopes they'd try harder to make the movies authentic. For instance, to use Native actors rather than white Europeans in wigs.

    The latest Winnetou approach

    Last week, the second of these groups posted their plans on the NativeCelebs page in Facebook. They noted the changes in the industry's portrayal of Indians:We build on the original Karl May stories of 1890 and carry on where he left off. Reflecting his basic message, that the Indigenous Indian culture was based on sustainability, an advanced concept and one that is more important than ever in our current times. Through films like "Dances with Wolves" the industry developed a new era of "Cowboys and Indians" films. Far removed from the image of primitive, murderous savages, they showed a cultured race who understand nature and it's [sic] need for sustainability.A couple of bright red flags here. One, talking as if Indians were all members of a single race and culture. Two, talking as if they all respected nature and practiced sustainability equally. Three, projecting these values onto the Apache, one of the more warlike Native cultures.

    Needless to say, none of this talk of nature or sustainability was in the 1890 novels. Not in the first one I read, anyway. Unless it's injected into the movie with subtlety and care, it'll stand out like a sore thumb.

    The group also talked a bit about how they plan to evolve Old Shatterhand's character. Shatterhandtakes on the Apache's spiritual values, understands true friendship and discovers his inner self.As far as I recall, no one had any "spiritual values" in the first book. So they're talking about imposing a modern, almost New Age sensibility on a series of old-fashioned potboilers full of mistakes and stereotypes.

    Can they do it, especially when they think all Indians belong to one touchy-feely culture? I have my doubts, but we'll see.

    For more on the subject, see The German Obsession with Winnetou.

    Emergence Productions markets Native entertainers

    Pueblo woman showcases Native talent

    By Rebecca TouchinMelissa “Missy” Sanchez is from the Pueblos of both Acoma and Laguna and is a 1984 graduate of Laguna Acoma High School. If you hear Emergence Productions mentioned anywhere in New Mexico, one thinks of Melissa Sanchez. She is the co-owner of Emergence Productions which markets Native American/Indigenous entertainers nationally and internationally, produces professional shows, provides industry consultation and mentors Native American youth.

    I had the privilege to volunteer a second time for Emergence Production who hosts Stage 49 at The Gathering of The Nations. The Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow features more than 75,000 global audience members, 3,000 singers and dancers, more than 35 entertainers traditional and contemporary from throughout the USA and Canada, 350 or more Native arts and crafts vendors and the Miss Indian World competition. The gathering is North America’s biggest Pow-Wow which provides a wonderful Native American experience.

    During this time I had the chance to observe Sanchez and her Emergence Crew develop Stage 49. The time and effort to be able to put on a show of this magnitude is very time consuming, but to see the audience’s reaction when they hear their favorite band perform is priceless.
    Comment:  For more on Native entertainment, see Pow Wow Comedy Jam and Navajo Entertainment in 2009.

    May 23, 2011

    Mascots = strength through fear

    An excellent essay from an occasional correspondent:

    Indians still inspiring fear for White America

    By Melvin MartinIndian sports mascots are dramatically akin to the colorful renderings of bears, tigers, wolves and even shark teeth that have appeared on a wide assortment of U.S. combat aircraft, naval vessels, and other forms of mechanized equipment since World War II. They are all starkly produced images (and names) designed to strike a deep sense of fear into the hearts and minds of enemy forces. And then, this very recent news article further acknowledges this particular U.S. military "tradition":

    Non-Indian America has always feared the American Indian as the most singularly hostile and fearsome adversary on the battlefields of Manifest Destiny. And given the unending obsession with mascot images, non-Indians consider Indians worthy antagonists on a wide range of fronts--not only on cultural, but on political and socio-economic fronts as well.

    The psychodynamics of fear are clearly at work here with this obsession and I can see why these mascots are so highly prized by those individuals and institutions who are so unwilling to relinquish them despite decades of highly organized protests against them. It is the basic symbology of the American Indian as a unique and profound source of strength derived through fear that provides these people with their sense of masculinity and "warrior-hood."

    And in a society where even perceived notions of strength and power and most importantly, the ability to defeat one's enemies and opponents still prevails, associating oneself with war-like Indians provides an enduring security blanket of emotional support. If a "real man" can't act like a "savage" and journey back to the cave in reality, at least his apparel and team paraphernalia can make the trip for him.

    In today’s popular American culture, traditional ideals of masculinity are under a constant state of attack. "White Privilege" is eroding with every passing day as minorities, women and gay people are advancing and gaining parity at all levels of society. In this environment, the all-American (essentially white) male is indeed a threatened species. And perhaps one of the last remaining bastions of this male superiority is the world of contact sports, where a man can still “be a man” in spite of the gay team member, the black head coach or the female team trainer or owner.

    The American Indian sports mascot has never been an example of honoring the so-called “character” of the American Indian, nor is it a genuinely constructed system of methods by which to specifically target America's Native people for derogatory treatment. It is merely an ancient, worn-out and deeply dysfunctional process of appropriating the impressive legacy of overwhelming fear that the Indian, in the overall mindset of white America, still possesses to a remarkable degree.
    Comment:  This essay pretty much says it all. I'd quibble only with the line about specifically targeting Indians for derogatory treatment. Mascots may not be a "genuinely constructed system of methods," but they act as if they were. They help produce the same results.

    School administrators and students may not support mascots for this reason. Not consciously, at least. But unconsciously, this is what's going on. Mascot lovers intuitively "know" that they benefit from keeping white people up and minorities down. So they attack government, Obama, healthcare reform, immigrants, gays, mosques, and so forth and so on.

    Keeping Indians and their treaties, land claims, and casinos in place is part of this agenda. If we present Indians as savage relics of the distant past, we don't have to deal with them today. As long as we ignore and dismiss them, we can "honor" or mock them (basically the same thing).

    For more on Indian mascots, see Gover Summarizes Native Stereotypes and Warriors Mascot Done Right.

    Below:  "You scared of me! You quake'um in fear, no score touchdown! That am big honor!"

    "Indian run" conditioning exercise

    Adrienne Keene writes about a little-known "Indian" term in her Native Appropriations blog:

    "Indian Run":  Offensive?The local Lululemon store has a running club--cool. But today, Palo Alto High School (our favorite!) is hosting an Indian Run.

    So what's an "Indian Run," you ask? It's a conditioning exercise, where a group of runners jog single file at a steady pace, and then the last runner in line must sprint to the front of the line, taking the place of the first runner, and so on. There are videos on youtube if you need a visual.

    My bootcamp class I took in San Francisco used to do these too, but my group graciously decided to rename them "last man sprints" when I pointed out how ridiculous the name was.

    The internet has no consensus on the origins of the term, and I can't really find anything about the exercise other than how it's done, but I still find it kinda stupid. It has nothing to do with Indians. I think this one is a term that needs to be retired, much like sitting "Indian style" (just call it cross-legged!).
    Comment:  I did a brief search for the term's origin. I didn't see anything on the subject except "no known origin."

    I vaguely recall hearing this term before. I think it comes from seeing Indians run in single file. The bit about going to the head of the line probably was a non-Indian addition.

    I did see several locations using the phrase:

    Indian Run Meadows
    Indian Run Estates
    Indian Run Methodist Church
    Indian Run Park
    Indian Run Farm
    Indian Run Road
    Indian Run Hill
    Indian Run Apartments

    So I presume it was fairly commonplace in the olden days. People probably could've defined it then without relying on the Internet.

    Adrienne asks if it's offensive. Well, I'd say it's stereotypical, since most Indians probably didn't run this way. I'd put it on the "too many chiefs" level, since it's not trying to denigrate Indians. More of a minor offense than a major one.

    For a similar type of stereotype, see "Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians."

    Navajo Cops stereotypes Indians

    A Navajo woman reviews Navajo Cops, which I haven't seen:

    A response to National Geographic's Navajo Cops

    By KupKakeqtThis past week, I watched a rerun of National Geographic's newest show, Navajo Cops. The premise of the show is similar to Cops, but filmed on the Navajo reservation. Obviously, the show will be littered with your average reprobates, thugs, trouble youths, etc. After watching the show, I couldn't help but cringe. The Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian tribe in the US, receives little if any national exposure. When we do, it's usually negative or stereotypical, for instance Oprah's visit to the Navajo Nation.

    So, to my dismay, Navajo Cops was just a reinforcement of negative stereotypes of American Indians.

    We are drunks. We are vanishing. We are hopeless. We are destitute.
    Her conclusion:On one hand there is exposure to the problems we face within our communities, but then the show's narrow focus only reinforce negative stereotypes. I for one wasn't hanging my head up high after watching this show! I felt extremely embarrassed for my nation and those unfortunate Navajos who were seen in the show.Comment:  This blog's title is "Angry Navajo/Indian Girl," so you can tell where she's coming from.

    Sounds like Navajo Cops is the TV equivalent of the comic book SCALPED, which also stereotypes Indians as drunk, vanishing, hopeless, and destitute.

    As "Indian Girl," the proper approach isn't to cover up the negative. It's to show the positive and negative in balance. Portraying rez life as only negative is stereotypical even if the film segments are true.

    For more on Navajos and alcohol, see Jack Chick's Crazy Wolf and Mile Post 398.

    "Cherokee chic" = generic hippie look

    Summer Fashion Trend:  Cherokee Chic

    By luluscoutureThis summer, get ready to make like Pocahontas in bohemian Native American-inspired fashion. Clothing is layered and rustic; accessories embellished and feathered; all wrapped together with the pride of true Americana spirit. Not since the nineties has the mid-west played such a chief role in fashion. Where last year was crisp stars ‘n’ stripes and high school spirit, this year is all about home-spun crafts, leather and Navajo prints. It’s not an easy look to pull off without looking like costume, but when done correctly this is the ultimate youthful and eclectic summer look.

    On the runways designers reinvented the rich style of the Native Americans--the result effortlessly decadent. Anna Sui’s girls were nomad personified in hippie casual crochet separates, denim and ethnic jewellery. Ever ethnic Etro gave the look a more graphic, tribal twist; with intense prints and colours on floppy silhouettes.
    Comment:  As far as I can tell, these fashions have nothing to do with the Cherokee. I presume the writer called them Cherokee because it made the title alliterative.

    I love the irony of the line "when done correctly this is the ultimate youthful and eclectic summer look"--put in boldface in the original. Nothing about these fashions strikes me as "done correctly."

    The writer basically tells us what we're seeing: "nomad personified in hippie casual crochet separates, denim and ethnic jewellery." In other words, generic hippie apparel mislabeled as generic Indian fashion. The exact opposite of fashion specifically based on Cherokee elements.

    These fashions ignore the differences between hundreds of Native cultures. They ignore Native cultures altogether in favor of tired, clicheéd Native stereotypes. In short, this look is done incorrectly, not correctly. Oops.

    For more on Native-themed fashion, see Designer Fantasizes About "Eternal America" and Native Fashions in Vogue.