January 31, 2011

Burroughs the conservative racist

Tarzan, a colonial symbol of bigotry

By Phil ShannonTarzan is a symbol of the white man’s conquest of Africa, set during the heyday of European colonialism, especially British.

“Never once,” writes Fenton, “did Burroughs waver from his conviction that the English were the height of aristocracy.”

John Clayton, the son of Lord and Lady Greystoke who were abandoned by mutineers on the African coast, was raised as Tarzan by an ape-mother. He nonetheless remained the rightful heir of his father’s House of Lords seat.

Despite his loincloth and primitive ape-English, Tarzan bears the “hallmark of aristocratic birth, the natural outcropping of many generations of fine breeding.” Such breeding was forged and tested in the British empire’s wars (“the noblest monument of historic achievement upon a thousand victorious battlefields,” editorialises an enthusiastic Burroughs in one Tarzan story).

Burroughs, born in 1875 in Chicago, was a political conservative and a fanatical opponent of the labour and socialist movements. These sentiments are shared by Fenton, his biographer and admirer-in-chief.

The 540-acre property-owning Burroughs uses one Tarzan story to whine that “to be poor assures one of an easier life than being rich, for the poor have no tax to pay.”
Comment:  We've seen a bit of how Burroughs stereotyped Indians, Africans, and other "primitive" people:

Review of WARLORD OF MARS #1
Barsoom = Indian territory
Stereotypes in A Princess of Mars
Stereotypes in Tarzan of the Apes

I didn't know Burroughs was a conservative, but it doesn't surprise me. It's evident in his stories of white men who dominate savage and barbaric races.

And don't bother saying he was a product of his times. A few years after Burroughs was born, Helen Hunt Jackson wrote her more sensitive play Ramona. Jack London, who was born a year after Burroughs, became a socialist and also wrote more sensitively about Native people.

Preview of A Good Day to Die

Film fest, speaker delve into American Indian Movement

By Jerome Christenson"After Wounded Knee we became warriors again," said Dennis Banks, one of the leaders of the AIM occupiers and subject of the soon-to-be-released film, "A Good Day to Die."

Winona Frozen River Film Festival audiences had a chance to preview the film and ask questions of Banks at festival showings of "A Good Day To Die."

"A true warrior cares for his people," Banks said. After years of officially sanctioned abuse and neglect, Native Americans had been pushed to the point of confrontation, he said. Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre of up to 300 Dakota men, women and children by the United States 7th Cavalry, would be the place where we "laid down the pipe," Banks said.

The film chronicles Banks life from childhood through his trial on charges stemming from the Wounded Knee occupation. Film co-director Lynn Salt said Bank's life story was used to introduce the relationship between Native Americans and the United States government to people who had never heard of AIM or Wounded Knee and had never met or known native people. By "humanizing one native person," the filmmakers hope to instill in those people an awareness of the humanity of all native people.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Brown Wouldn't Extradite Banks and A Good Day to Die Trailer.

Cocopah Speedway in Yuma

Cocopah Speedway Racing Season Back On

By Brenda AustinDrivers, start your engines! As fans returned to their favorite spot on the bleachers of the Cocopah Speedway in Yuma for opening night on February 5, drivers were going over last minute details with their race teams before hitting the track.

This is the speedway’s second season under the Cocopah tribe’s ownership, which purchased the 100-acre property the track is on in 2005. Bounded on three sides by tribal land, the mesa the speedway is located on was originally purchased to ad to the tribe’s existing land base.
Comment:  For more on Native racetracks, see Offroad Racetrack at Pala and Mohawk International Raceway.

January 30, 2011

Aboriginal storytelling via 3D software

Computer animation helps students preserve first nation stories

By Roszan HolmenIt’s a story of the Saanich people Andy Smith-Harry has known for years.

A teacher told him the tale of a lady named Ciye, who is picking blueberries when the creator turns her into a blue bird. For the past few months, the LÁU,WELNEW Tribal School student has worked to animate the story using 3D software called Alice.

“It was a lot of work,” said Smith-Harry, adding it’s a good way to teach the beliefs of the different stories.

His project is part of a program launched by Camosun College called ANCEStor, which aims to engage aboriginal youth in computer programming through traditional storytelling.
Camosun receives $54,000 for Aboriginal youth computer science project

NSERC grant provides $18,000 in each of three years to support development of ANCEStor projectCamosun College is one of 51 organizations across Canada to receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as part of the PromoScience funding aimed at inspiring young people to choose careers in science and engineering.

Camosun will receive $18,000 in each of three years to develop a pilot program known as ANCEStor (Aboriginal youth awareNess of ComputEr Science.) ANCEStor teaches the concepts of computer programming by engaging Aboriginal youth in cultural story-telling.

“The value of story-telling as a teaching tool is well recognized,” says Dr. Marla Weston, computer science instructor and one of the project leaders. “Telling a story gives value and significance to events that have meaning in their lives. Students will learn more if they feel empowered as participants, rather than being passive recipients of knowledge.”

ANCEStor uses Alice 3D software to create videos and simple computer games.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Nanabush Videos Teach Ojibwe and Rising Stars in Native Animation.

Below:  "Andy Smith-Harry used 3D software to animate a story from the Saanich First Nation. Behind him, a scene from his minute-long video shows a blue bird in flight." (Roszan Holmen/News staff)

Native actors in Skins calendar

Showing Some Skins:  Shaunya Manus, Producer of the 2011 21st Century Skins CalendarINDIAN COUNTRY TODAY MEDIA NETWORK: Your calendar’s cover model is Kiowa Gordon, who is one of four Native American actors in the “Wolfpack” of the phenomenally successful films Twilight: New Moon and Twilight: Eclipse. Consensus on the Wolfpack is divided; some feel the actors are a leap forward for Natives on screen, while others find them to be a modern gloss on an old stereotype. What’s your feeling?

SHAUNYA MANUS: It’s a double-edged sword. We want to be culturally sensitive, but we also want Native Americans to succeed. I work with struggling actors, and I support their struggles. So I’m happy to see actors succeed as the Wolfpack guys have. Native actors need to be seen, even if it means considering some roles that are not culturally sensitive. I don’t think these Twilight films are doing us any harm. And honestly—when you’re coming from a Native American perspective, you have to expect that Hollywood is never going to get our story 100% right unless they have Native American casting agents, screen writers and producers.

ICTMN: How do you feel about an actor like Kiowa achieving Hollywood stardom?

MANUS: I love it. I’ve been doing this calendar since 2005, and I have always known there would be a fan base for Native men. Going back to films like Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves—there was support for the Native actors in those films. Women liked them. There just wasn’t the organized support we have with these Twilight actors. One person can’t do it alone—we’ve got Adam Beach, and he’s great, but he doesn’t have the star power of Johnny Depp.
Comment:  Twilight would've been more impressive if some of the Native roles hadn't gone to non-Natives such as Taylor Lautner.

Johnny Depp has more star power than Adam Beach, but what's he using his star power for? To portray Caribbean Indians as cannibals in the Pirates movies? To take a major role from a Native actor in The Lone Ranger?

What exactly are Indians supposed to be grateful for? I doubt Disney is making The Lone Ranger solely because Depp is in it. The concept will sell the movie with or without Depp.

For more on Native calendars, see From Calendar Model to Warrior and 2009 Native Men's Calendar.

Below:  "Martin Sensmeier (left) and Rick Mora, from the 21st Century Skins calendar."

Documentary on reviving Wampanoag

In my Pictographs blog, filmmaker Anne Makepeace talks about her documentary on reviving the Wampanoag language. She was inspired by producing the After the Mayflower episode of We Shall Remain.

January 29, 2011

Wapawekka at Sundance

Métis Filmmaker’s Second Trip to SundanceFlush from the Toronto International Film Festival’s showing of Wapawekka, Métis filmmaker Danis Goulet has brought the 16-minute short to the Sundance Film Festival, where it is screening several times this week.

The movie highlights the generational rift between a traditional Cree father and his urbanized, hip-hopping son during a trip to the family’s isolated cabin in northern Canada. The English portions are subtitled in Cree, and the Cree sections are subtitled in English.

Although Goulet is Métis and the characters are Cree, the film was based on her experiences growing up, the filmmaker told CBC News. Set in Saskatchewan, the film was shot at Lake Wapawekka, near where she was raised.
Canadians go big at Sundance

Country has 6 feature films and 8 shorts at annual Utah festivalThe Canadian contingent also brings aboriginal stories to the screen at the popular Park City in the Midnight program. Among the filmmakers is Danis Goulet, whose short film Wapawekka is a personal exploration of native family life.

Other native directors with films at the festival are Helen Haig-Brown of B.C., whose movie The Cave is about a hunter who accidentally discovers a portal to the afterlife, and Choke by Michelle Latimer.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Sundance Incubates Native Film and 11 Native Films at Sundance.

All about Ishmael Hope

Ishmael Hope:  Alaska Native Art & Culture Educator

By Gale Courey ToensingCall him Ishmael, but this storyteller, actor, playwright and poet is no sailor wandering across the foamy brine. Ishmael Hope journeys through the intriguing language, landscapes and history of his Iñupiaq and Tlingit heritages. Hope, 29, calls himself “an enthusiastic learner and educator of Alaska Native art and culture,” and for the past 10 years he has immersed himself in Tlingit history and culture, preserving and revitalizing the myths and legends that he has been learning from elders he honors at every opportunity.And:Ishmael Hope is developing The Reincarnation of Stories with Generator Theater Company, which he hopes to perform this spring. He has a small, but significant role in Universal Studios’ Everybody Loves Whales, to be released in 2012. He is also developing with Perseverance Theatre The Defenders of Alaska Native Country, about the pursuit of the Tlingit and Haida land claims by William Paul and his contemporaries.Comment:  Ishmael Hope also wrote the STRONG MAN comic book.

For more on Native theater, see Yup'ik Swan Lake and Yellow Robe, Geiogamah, and Glancy.

Choke at Sundance

Michelle Latimer Gets Sundance NodCanadian actress and producer Michelle Latimer has added another epithet to her list of accomplishments: winner of honorable mention for indigenous shorts at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Latimer also worked as an adjunct director on the 2009 documentary Reel Injun, which is screening this month at the U.S. National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and has a number of television and screen credits to her name.

At Sundance she drew attention for her six-minute film Choke, the fictional story of a First Nations boy named Jimmy who leaves his reservation and encounters lost souls. She wrote and directed the film.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Sundance Incubates Native Film and 11 Native Films at Sundance.

January 28, 2011

Natives in Flying Wild Alaska

The TV show Flying Wild Alaska has more Native substance than just a theme song and soundtrack:

Native Hip-hop Wraps Alaska Reality TV Show

By Doug MeigsThe Discovery Channel’s new reality TV series Flying Wild Alaska follows Jim Tweto’s family and crew of bush pilots as they provide a lifeline to Alaska’s most remote locales. Tweto’s wife and daughters are local Inupiaq, and their family business services many Native villages. Discovery Channel producers thought a Native soundtrack fitting, so they approached ThunderCloud Radio for help last summer. ThunderCloud Radio is dedicated to indigenous hip-hop, soul, reggae and R&B. The online station began broadcasting from Washington State in 2008 to showcase artists “from Alaska to Greenland,” says DJ Pamela Rae. The TV show producers wanted an Inuit rapper’s words to introduce each episode. And Rae knew just the artist: Peand-eL.

But Peand-eL isn’t Alaskan.

“When they approached me, at first it was strange, because the show is in Alaska and I speak Greenlandic, but I was very happy they chose me,” he said. Peand-eL (aka Peter Lyberth—his artist name comes from his initials “P” and “L”) is Kalaalleq from Greenland. He has two albums with Atlantic Records, and recently formed an indie studio for this upcoming third album, Taallineq, which translates to “Silhouette” (due to be released in May).
Comment:  For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Tavare supports Adopt a Native Elder

A Modern Day American Indian Story

By Jay TavareMy film work has given me an unusual opportunity to learn what our text books do not teach us about American Indian history and culture. I have felt outrage, dismay and finally deep compassion for the plight of my people. But my feelings don't feed hungry stomachs or warm cold bodies. I intend to make a difference by doing something real! I searched hard for a place that I could do this and I found Adopt a Native Elder, a philanthropic organization that is very dear to me.

Adopt a Native Elder was born over 20 years ago when Linda Myers walked onto a Navajo reservation. She asked if anyone would give her a rug to sell. She would, she promised, bring the money back to them. Just imagine how the Navajo elders must have looked at this white girl asking them to trust her. But one elder stepped up and was eventually proven wise. Linda sold the rug, returning all the money to the elder. And through that act of kindness Linda Myers found her counterpart in the Navajo country, Grace Smith Yellow Hammer.

My project at Adopt a Native Elder, Warming Hearts, raises much needed money for fire wood essential to the Navajo elders during the harsh winters.
Comment:  For more on Jay Tavare, see The Best Indian Movies.

"Superstar" Native basketball player

Shoni Schimmel:  Native American SuperstarIt’s safe to say that University of Louisiville freshmen superstar point guard Shoni Schimmel is one of the best female basketball players in the country. Period. The above video is of Schimmel in high school, when she was being written about by EPSN, who likened her exploits on the court to basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich, and was heavily recruited by major basketball powerhouses.And:The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, who covers the U. of Louisville team, recently published the gushing, three page profile of the no-look, behind-the-back passing, three-point bombing basketball wizard. She is one of only a few Native American female basketball players in the college ranks, yet she says growing up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon (Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla) provided her with the best possible basketball apprenticeship one could ask for.Comment:  I'm not sure I'd call any college basketball player--no matter the gender or ethnicity--a "superstar." It seems a little premature. But if Schimmel is getting these kind of plaudits, great.

For more on Native basketball, see Basketball Tourney Becomes Cultural Event and Soboba Star Gets Full Scholarship.

January 27, 2011

Lincoln:  "Public sentiment is everything"

Vision:  How We Can Beat Conservatives With Progressive Culture

Culture is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced and emotions are attached to concrete change. Let's bring it into our political cause.

By Jeff Chang and Brian Komar[A]s progressives watched Democrats suffer the worst election loss since the Republican collapse of 1948, they seemed to be back where they started. Just as in 2004, many have blamed the losses on ineffective Democratic campaign messaging. The problem, however, runs much deeper. Electoral and Beltway politics are episodic, short-term, and transactional. Movements, however, are long-term. "Public sentiment is everything," Abraham Lincoln once said. "With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed." In other words, movements must change hearts and minds in an enduring way. They must change the culture.

Culture is the space in our national consciousness filled by music, books, sports, movies, theater, visual arts, and media. It is the realm of ideas, images, and stories--the narrative in which we are immersed every day. It is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change. Cultural change is often the dress rehearsal for political change. Or put in another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred. Jackie Robinson's 1947 Major League Baseball debut preceded Brown v. Board of Education by seven years. Ellen DeGeneres' coming-out on her TV sitcom preceded the first favorable court ruling on same-sex marriage by eight years. Until progressives make culture an integral and intentional part of their theory of change, they will not be able to compete effectively against conservatives.
And:Cultural strategy is not about agitprop, benefit concerts, and lapel buttons; those are tactics, sometimes useful, sometimes terrible. When artists tell new stories, they can shift the culture and make new politics possible--cultural strategy is about understanding that fact and empowering artists to do what they do best.

Take Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project's play, The Laramie Project. The play helped organize support nationally for the introduction and final passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It tied emotion to a tangible vehicle for change. Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, did more to spark broad and deep action on climate change than Gore did as vice president. The movie framed the facts in cascading images that illustrated the stakes of political failure, reaching through the histrionic media environment to win new audiences. These projects also highlighted values--inclusion, sustainability, the right to live free of violence, the common global good--that point to a progressive agenda. When such values are promoted in the culture, they are normalized. They become core American values.

A new cultural majority--an emerging American public that is the most demographically diverse ever and predisposed to support a progressive agenda, a public that elected Obama in 2008 but mostly stayed home in 2010--is still out there. But it is not being reached by progressives' formal infrastructure. Meanwhile, the right is constantly working in the culture to fragment it. During periods of economic and social upheaval, people seek a way of making sense of the chaos that surrounds them. Caught in the storm, they desire comfort and strength. Conservatives address this by pulling people backward to an imagined past. Progressives prepare people to come together to face the coming world. Culture is where they can instill faith.
Comment:  This is a great statement about the power of the arts and entertainment. It's why I laugh at people like Michael Cooke who push a false choice between fighting poverty and making art. As the examples above suggest, the arts are a vital and perhaps necessary part of instigating change.

This is what I'm trying to do with my comic books, website and blog, and other creative projects. Challenging false and stereotypical notions, highlighting Indians and Indian lore in our culture, reiterating that Indians are real people who are definitely still here. Influencing beliefs and opinions is what it's all about because, as Lincoln said, "Public sentiment is everything."

If someone gave me $10 million and said I could 1) spend it directly on poor Indians or 2) make a movie about Indians with a nationwide distribution deal, I'd probably opt for the latter. The first would provide a short-term fix for thousands of people but wouldn't do anything to change their long-term situation. The second might persuade people to take Indians and their rights and wrongs seriously. That kind of mental shift would benefit Indians long after the $10 million was gone.

For more on the subject, see:

Why pop culture matters
Movies convey "America's master narrative"
"What Americans know...comes from movies"
The influence of movies

Wannabes use colonizers' names

A good essay criticizes the romanticized names made up to make people seem "Indian":

So what is in a name, is this why you change your name to be more Indian

By Juan B. ManciasTwo Hawks, Running Turtle, Standing Bear, Raven Hawk, Beautiful Painted Arrow, Little Bear, Fire Horse, Fire Dog, Black Eagle, Two Feathers, Crazy Horse, Wild Horse Woman, Eagle Chief etc. etc., names that are running rampant in the urban areas of South Texas. I am sure there are so many more names that are out there that would be indicative of an Indian Identity. But what about Furry Rabbit, Two Mice, No Lice, Don’t Know Who I Am, Lost in the White World, Two Cappuccinos, Triple Scoop of Strawberry, Two Bowls of Menudo, Dances with SUV, names more adequate for the times for urbanites that have found there identity without a connection to their ancestors or future generations.

No disrespect, on my part to those families who from birth carried their name with honor and pride, like the Standing Bear family and others names that too many are very sacred as well, like Crazy Horse. So the QUESTION still remains what is in a name? Another Question why do people change their names from Martinez to Two Feathers, Gutierrez to Two Hawks, Sandoval to Standing Bear and so on and so on? It is predicament that still baffles me.
And:for those who are going down to the court house and changing their name to Black Eagle, Cheyenne, Rain Man, Running Turtle, Walking Eagle, I say know your people, respect your people, respect the ancestors, and walk with your people. Don’t just change your name to accommodate the Colonizer Mentality and romanticize the comfortableness of the colonizers. We are Indian, because our people have survived an American Holocaust that no one wants to admit to.

So STOP changing your names in English to Crazy Horse, Black Horse, Standing Bear, and Running Water Woman and so on and so on. Just because you found you had Indian blood a few years ago and you needed to show how Indian you were you changed your name to make it more Indian. Saying, I am Jane “Running Dove” Jones does not make you more Indian today or tomorrow to me. You are still using the colonizer’s language.
Comment:  Obviously the made-up names are meant to suggest noble animals or natural forces. A Wild Horse Woman sounds mysterious and exciting. A Broken Kettle Woman sounds dull and domestic.

A thin line separates people who adopt sincere names such as Standing Bear or Black Eagle and people who make up joke names such as Runs with Beer or Hung Like a Horse. Indeed, the former practice helps make the latter practice unremarkable and acceptable. Yet these groups aren't going through a traditional naming rite or choosing a name the way Indians chose them. If they were, they'd end up with names like Furry Rabbit, Two Mice, or No Lice.

So both groups are bastardizing Indian naming traditions. One is doing it sincerely and the other is doing it insincerely, but the results are similar. Either way, an Indian tradition gets trivialized into the equivalent of a party game.

For more on the subject, see Phony Indian Baby Names, Real vs. Phony Indian Names, and The Most Common Indians Names.

Magic FM mocks Indian names

Local radio show causing controversy

By John RomeroA Colorado Springs radio station has stirred quite a controversy in the Native American community. Skuya Fasthorse, a Lakota Sioux was listening to the George McFly Experience, the Monday morning radio show on Magic KKMG 98.9 Magic FM. The topic of discussion on Monday was Native American names. "They were talking about it and kind of laughing about the names that they were given," says Fasthorse.

Fasthorse was furious over what she heard. "Immediately my senses went up and I thought this is wrong. This is wrong for them to be making fun of native names." She says "It made me mad ... It hurt."

A slew of angry listeners took to Magic FM's Facebook account to protest the radio show. Those posts have since been taken off the station's page. Fasthorse says Natives go through sacred ceremonies to receive their spiritual names and those names are very dear to them. "It's very sacred to us," she says. "We don't go and make it public. We don't make fun of that."

Fasthorse has filed a formal complaint with the FCC.
Comment:  Disc jockeys who mock Indian names are the same as t-shirt vendors who mock them. Both groups are guilty of racial attacks under the guise of "having fun."

I don't understand why these people don't get it. A few decades ago it may have been okay to make fun of ethnic names--Lipschitz, Pollack, Fukiyama, Dong, or whatever--but it isn't any more.

The public would be outraged if someone sold a t-shirt saying "My black name is Cotton Picker" or "My Jewish name is Golddigger." How is mocking Indian names any different?

Answer: It isn't, of course. That people think it's okay to make fun of Indians only demonstrates how invisible they are. If a group of Indians lived next door, you can bet the Archie Bunkers of the world soon would stop making fun of them.

For more on the subject, see Michigan Opposes "Indian Name" T-Shirts and AIM Fights "Runs with Beer" T-Shirt.

January 26, 2011

2010 Oscar nominations are lily-white

Academy Awards 2011:  The Unbearable Whiteness of the Oscars

By Patrick GoldsteinIt's a wonder that the security guards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t stop Mo’nique and make her show ID when she arrived to help announce the Oscar nominations early Tuesday at the organization’s Beverly Hills headquarters. After all, she was the only person of color involved with the extravaganza, since the 83rd annual Oscar nominations have the dubious distinction of being an all-white affair.

Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year.
And:Two African American coaches have faced off in the Super Bowl. Black coaches have won NBA championships. A black man has served on the Supreme Court, been a senator, an astronaut, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, won a Pulitzer Prize and—oh, yes—is currently serving as president of the United States. But if you look at the people who make the decisions about what movies are made in Hollywood, you’d have to look far and wide to find any prominent AfricanAmerican or Latino executives.

There are no studio chairmen or heads of production who are black or Latino. In fact, there are barely any people of color in any high-level positions at any major studio, talent agency or management firm. When I asked a couple of reporter pals to name the most powerful black executive in town, a lot of head-scratching ensued before we decided that the person with the most clout was probably James Lassiter, Will Smith’s longtime business partner and production company chief.
Comment:  This is why I shake my head when people say the lack of Native films and actors is just a "bottom line" money issue. If Hollywood weren't racist, it would have the same percent of minority executives as the military, the government, or any other well-integrated segment of society. Its hiring practices would be unrelated to its choice of films and actors.

I see only two possible explanations for this. One, you can believe minorities aren't qualified to be Hollywood executives--despite their success in many other industries. Which is itself a racist assumption. Two, you can believe Hollywood hires white executives for the same reason it makes white movies. Namely, because Hollywood is fundamentally racist.

Clearly they haven't gotten the memo that the US's demographics are changing. They haven't understood the evidence in front of their faces. People will watch minorities in movies such as Avatar, Twilight, and The Karate Kid. And in TV shows such as Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Hawaii Five-0.

For more on the subject, see:

Hollywood:  Poor people = losers
"We can't find the talent"
Hollywood ghettoizes Native actors
Dismissing the pro-Airbender arguments
Hollywood's cultural conservatism

Cherokee Civil War tourism

Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism 2011 season to Salute the American Civil War’s 150-year AnniversaryThe Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism program is set to launch the 2011 season, which runs from March through October and features its four historically authentic cultural tours and a wide array of cultural events. In April, a special presentation of the Civil War History Tour is planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The tour includes a visit to historic Capitol Square in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, to learn about the town’s destruction by Confederate troops.

Guests will also visit the Murrell Home, an antebellum home that survived the fires of the Civil War. Visitors will explore Fort Gibson Historic Site, which changed hands several times between the states. And guests will stop at Honey Springs Battle site, a turning point in the Civil War and the largest battle fought between the states in Indian Territory.

The Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Group finished the previous season on a high note with multiple honors including the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department’s “Tourism Organization of the Year” and “Outstanding New Attraction” Merit Awards. In addition, the program received awards from The Association for Women in Communications, The 31st Annual Telly Awards and The Oklahoma Historical Society among others.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Cherokees Plan John Ross Museum and Cherokee Nation Wins RedBud Awards.

"Indian country" saying in Mad Men

In The Gold Violin--the seventh episode of Mad Men's second season (airdate: 9/7/08)--ad executive Don Draper is holding a meeting with clients. He explains why they need young staffers present to sell coffee to young people:There's an old saying. When one is in Indian country, one needs a man who knows Indians.I've never heard such a saying. A saying such as "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" would be much more common.

Once again, Mad Men throws in a reference that's weirdly out of place. This is something like the fifth reference in 20 episodes. There's no way rich white New York businessmen in the early '60s would've mentioned Indians that often.

I have to admire writer Matthew Weiner for including so many references to Indians--even if they don't fit. He's either doing this as an intentional homage or is unaware of his pro-Indian bias. It's strange but interesting, to say the least.

For more on the subject, see Sitting Bull Joke in Mad Men and Mohawk Airlines in Mad Men.

January 25, 2011

WSJ:  Maori are "googly-eyed"

Maori dragged into US union dispute

By Michael FieldMaori have been ineptly dragged into an American trade union dispute by the top US business daily, the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper editorially attacked top union boss Richard Trumka for a speech in which he denounced business groups involved in the political process.

But it was the opening lines of the editorial which will surprise many in this part of the world.

"When it comes to intimidating opponents before a fight, no one does it better than New Zealand's Haka tribe, whose members, googly-eyed, stomp their feet, stick out their tongues and bark at their opponents," the Journal intoned.
And:The Journal's online edition has already attracted comments with people wanting to make corrections.

"I know it's a bit pedantic to point out, but it's also telling that, in their rush to associate unions with a group of 'googly-eyed' brown people, the WSJ editors couldn't spare five seconds to fact-check," one comment said.

Another added: "I want to see it: WSJ Editorial staff vs. the All Blacks. Let them see what intimidation really means."

While another comment said: "Normally the WSJ is pretty good with this stuff, but I have to make this correction...there is no such thing as a Haka 'tribe.' A Haka is a Maori war dance. All Maori tribes have their own Hakas. The New Zealand All Blacks, the national rugby team for New Zealand, made the Haka famous by doing their own before all of their rugby games.'
Comment:  This is a good case study of how stereotyping works. First, let's assume the Wall Street Journal's writers haven't been to New Zealand and watched a live performance of a Maori tribe. It's almost certain they saw a broadcast or video of the All Blacks rugby team doing the haka before a game. Perhaps they saw the haka in the movie Invictus.

So they've seen non-indigenous rugby players imitate the Maori. This dance looks strange and exotic by Western standards. The writers take what they consider the weirdest element--the so-called "googly eyes"--and apply it to someone they consider equal weird. So union members are wild-eyed savages just like the Maori.

How many people read the Wall Street Journal...a couple million? How many of them know anything about the Maori...a couple thousand? So a couple million readers have learn that the indigenous Maori = violent rugby players = wild-eyed savages = liberal union members. Sooner or later they'll repeat what they've learned: that "indigenous," "savage," and "googly-eyed" are synonyms.

For more on the subject, see Maori Tribe Wants Haka Back and Maori War Chant in Invictus.

Chaske Spencer on Twilight cruise

Twilight Saga Cruise Raises Funds for Quileute School

By Myrlia PurcellEver want to cruise the Mediterranean with Twilight Saga heartthrobs Chaske Spencer or Charlie Bewley?

Fans of the hit vampire film series now have the chance to sail off into the sunset on the 2011 Twi Cruise. The round-trip excursion sets off from the port for Rome, June 20th - 30th, aboard Holland America’s Noordam (Civitavecchia), then heads to Livorno for Florence and Pisa; Monte Carlo; Barcelona; Palma de Mallorca; Tunisia; Palermo; Sicily and Naples for Pompei and Capri.

A custom-designed tour to Volterra after the cruise will give fans an up-close look at the charming yet unassuming Tuscan town that is the inspiration for Stephenie Meyer’s sinister vampire monarchy, the Volturi. The tour will also visit Montepulciano (where “New Moon” was filmed), Florence and Rome.

Spencer (Sam Uley, the hunky leader of the Wolf Pack) will be returning for this second Twi Cruise, having participated in the 2010 Alaskan cruise, and Bewley (Demetri, the mysteriously charming member of the Volturi) will be joining him on board. There will be photo shoots, autograph sessions, Q&A and more during the 10-day cruise.

The event will be hosted by The Immortals, a cast of tribute artists with an uncanny resemblance to the beloved Cullens. The tribute cruise will include a Costume Event, La Dolce Vita Cocktail Party and Dance, Trivia Contests, Original Games, Twi-Cruisers Got Talent Show, Legends Karaoke Party and a Charity Auction which will benefit the Quileute Tribal Schools in La Push, Washington.

Twilight character Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) is set as a member of the Quileute Tribe. Lautner’s charater would have attended the tribal school in La Push with about 80 children, learning the ancient cultures and traditions cherished by the tribe.
Comment:  The last sentence summarizes what should've been in a movie about Quileute teenagers, but wasn't.

For more on Twilight fandom, see Bronson Pelletier Assaulted, Quileute Exhibit Says "We're Not Werewolves," and Birmingham to Attend Quileute Days.

Generic Oh Great Spirit statue

‘Oh Great Spirit’:  New statue in SLO

By Julia HickeyA larger-than-life bronze statue of an American Indian standing on a boulder has been installed at a corner of Prado Road and South Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo.

“Oh Great Spirit” was created by Nell Scruggs of Thousand Oaks and donated by her daughters, Sharon McDaniels of Arroyo Grande and Terri Ernst of San Luis Obispo, according to Ann Ream, chairwoman of the Art in Public Places Committee at Arts Obispo.

The 800-pound, 12-foot-tall sculpture is not meant to depict a member of any particular tribe, but rather is an homage to all American Indians, she said.
Comment:  With all the tribes in central California, the statue shows a generic Indian in a loincloth praying to the Great Spirit? This is worse than the Black Hawk statue and as bad as the Massasoit and "American" statues I've talked about. It's stereotypical and wrong for the reasons I gave in Rob vs. Curator on Massasoit Statue and Massasoit the Noble Savage.

Below:  "Cyclists admire the bronze sculpture of an American Indian that now graces a corner of Prado Road and South Higuera Street." (David Middlecamp)

Moon Wolf in UNCANNY X-MEN

In an online conversation, someone jokingly suggested the name "Moonwolf" for an Indian character. Turns out Marvel Comics does have a Moon Wolf:

Moon WolfFirst Appearance:  Uncanny X-Men#356 (June, 1998)

Powers:  Moon Wolf has no known powers, though he believes he can control the crows of Anchorage through his Bag of Enchantment filled with birdseed. Crows do gather and attack at one point, so it's possible he does have some crow-gathering powers. He also believes he is the God of Ice and Snow. There is no evidence to support this claim, however.

History:  Moon Wolf is an Native American, possibly an Eskimo, who believes he can talk to the Crow god Chulyen, and is his humble servant. To most of the people of Anchorage, though, he is just a crazy loon.
Comment:  This is a very typical Native comic-book character. On the one hand, his name, costume, and tribal affiliation are totally generic. On the other hand, he isn't a buckskinned warrior who uses a bow and arrows or tomahawk.

His ambiguity--is he serving a god or simply crazy?--makes him slightly interesting. In short, he's better than some characters, worse than others.

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

January 24, 2011

Bachmann fibs about America's founding

Bachmann:  America Was Founded On Diversity (VIDEO)

By Jillian RayfieldRep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) had an interesting take this weekend on America's first European settlers, who she said "had different cultures, different backgrounds, different traditions."

"How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world," she said. "It didn't matter the color of their skin, it didn't matter their language, it didn't matter their economic status."

"Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn't that remarkable?" she asked.

Speaking at an Iowans For Tax Relief event, Bachmann (R-MN) also noted how slavery was a "scourge" on American history, but added that "we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

"And," she continued, "I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly--men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."

It's true--Adams became a vocal opponent of slavery, especially during his time in the House of Representatives. But Adams was not one of the founders, nor did he live to see the Emancipation Proclamation signed in 1863 (he died in 1848).
Comment:  Maybe Bachmann meant the Founders worked their slaves tirelessly until the end.

Actually, "the very founders that wrote those documents" were dead long before slavery ended. For instance, Charles Carroll was the last signer of the Declaration of Independence to die. He died in 1832, 31 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

I'm not sure how prejudiced the Founders were against people who spoke languages such as German or Dutch. They were clearly prejudiced against the poor. "When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) had the vote," Infoplease.com reminds us. And they were clearly prejudiced against different races, including the blacks they enslaved and the Indians they killed.

They also were prejudiced against people on the basis of religion, gender, and immigration status. Really, the only people they weren't prejudiced against were white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. You know, people exactly like themselves.

Conservatives whitewash history

It's hard to say who's the most ignorant leader of the Republican Tea Party--Glenn Beck? Sarah Palin?--but Bachmann is certainly a contender. In any case, this is yet another example of the conservatives' attempt to rewrite history. The goal, of course, to confirm that America belongs to its white male Christian minority. That the people who rule now deserve their white power and privilege. It's a milder form of the claim Palin made: that Americans are equal and accusations of racism are a ploy.

We see these tactics constantly. In particular incidents such as these:

Sanitizing Martin Luther King Jr.
Obama's UN "coup" is "chilling"
Conservatives think they're "natives"
Obama smeared as Luo tribesman

And in trying to shut down talk about race in general:

Mentioning racism = dwelling on past?
Conservatives hope minorities will forget
Talking about racism perpetuates racism?!
Americans refuse to acknowledge prejudice

The goal in every case: to maintain the power of the people in charge.

Mixed reviews for On the Ice

On the Ice

By Justin ChangA drama that should feel as elemental as its setting comes across as stilted and unconvincing in "On the Ice." Even d.p. Lol Crawley's starkly beautiful lensing of the arctic tundra can't prop up this poorly motivated saga of two teenage boys who find themselves with a dead body on their hands. A rare film set among the Inupiaq people of northern Alaska, writer-director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's debut feature is already the beneficiary of high-profile Sundance and Berlin berths and will likely enjoy additional fest-circuit exposure as an ethnographic slot-filler. Commercial prospects look otherwise frigid.

Developed through the Sundance Institute's Native filmmakers program, pic is billed in the production notes as "a story that can happen anywhere," which is part of the problem. While "On the Ice" offers a unique immersion in the language and customs of the Inupiaq culture in MacLean's hometown of Barrow, Alaska, the harrowing moral journey it serves up--part "A Simple Plan," part Cain and Abel--feels artificially applied to these rural environs, rather than emerging organically from regional specifics.
Sundance Review:  On the Ice

By John DeForeIts sense of place is transporting. But many of the film's performances are as chilly as the Arctic Circle wind, and its deliberately laid-out suspense beats fail to catch fire. Arthouse appeal is modest, but many fest auds will embrace the view it offers of a people who have not abandoned old traditions even as mainstream American culture leaves its mark.

The Bottom Line: Alaska-set drama about a momentous secret holds cultural interest but can't sustain much tension.
Sundance Review:  On the Ice Tails Off

A decent premise, but not enough solid acting.

By Aaron Peck
On the Ice touches on an emotional level during its first half up until the murder happens. After that it turns into a pseudo-murder mystery, which has Qallie's dad trying to figure out what really happened. There are times where we wonder, "How did he really know to do that or look there?" I imagine it all boils down to fatherly wisdom, or perhaps the story just needs to move forward. Sadly, the story becomes extremely predictable, and the young actors here just can't pull off the dramatic material. It's a shame, because On the Ice had a lot of promise.

Grade: C
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Sundance Incubates Native Film and Preview of On the Ice.

UC Irvine's "Pilgrims and Indians Party"

Sick & Twisted Frat house has Pilgrims & Indians Party--Support AISA UCI!

By Aim Santa BarbaraThe American Indian Student Association at UCI is asking for your support and solidarity with us in regards to an event that occurred on November 23, 2010. In light of Thanksgiving, the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at UCI decided to throw a "Pilgrims and Indians" party.

As soon as AISA was made aware of this event, it was reported it to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and an official complaint was filed through the school. While the right steps were taken to ensure that our voices were heard; they were seemingly NOT heard. Although the school administration, faculty, and the fraternity involved were notified about the grievance filed and the situation; the party still went on. Advertisements for the event were still distributed throughout the UCI community through the attached fliers, Ring Road tabling and throughout the Internet via a Facebook event. To make matters worse, university shuttles served as transportation for students JUST FOR THIS EVENT!

AISA members have went out of their way to voice their opinion on the issue. Dedicated their time educating and explaining why this event was exceedingly disrespectful to the Native community. Yet AISA members were subjected to seeing students of all stature prancing around adorned in rainbow colored headdresses, skimpy "loin clothes" and warpaint. Making a mockery of our culture and a direct attack on our communities experiences for the sake of entertainment.

As university students and as Native community members, it is not acceptable for us to have to endure these repeated cases of hostility towards us as people of color and Indigenous peoples especially in an educational institution like UC Irvine that advocates its dedication to diversity. This events and others that make a mockery of peoples experiences and identity are not to be tolerated. They create a hostile campus climate for people of color that are not safe and welcoming. That is why we are taking a stand and making sure that our voices are heard at the University of California, Irvine. We will not back down, and though we only have a .01% representation on the UCI campus; our voices are loud. Numerous other cultural and campus organizations stand in solidarity with us. This is not an isolated incident to Natives or other cultural groups, and we demand that this outright racism and disregard for who we are as Indigenous peoples and disrespect of our culture stops immediately.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Miami's 68th Annual "Indian Party" and "Firewater Friday" at University of Washington.

Adam Martin's political cartoons

Adam Martin--CVLocated in Regina, Saskatchewan Adam Martin is originally from Six Nations, Ontario (Mohawk). Skilled in many artistic mediums primarily painting and drawing, realizes influences from the Woodland School as well as other abstract expressionistic practices. Also maintains and addresses contemporary First Nation's concerns and perspectives of identity, cultural awareness and related issues.RANK Comix

Comment:  Check out Martin's fine art too.

For more on the subject, see Native Comic Strips vs. Comic Books.

January 23, 2011

Shawnee Wray brothers inspired musicians

Link Wray and his Ray Men, Power Chord Pioneers

By Kara BriggsLink Wray and his Ray Men broke into American pop music in 1958 with a loud guitar riff later characterized as the power chord, and a song that made some radio disc jockeys fearful of violence.

But the Wrays, Vernon, Link and Doug, were no 1950s-era gang members. They were three brothers who were journeymen musicians by the time they reached their early 20s. As babies, they learned to sing along with their Shawnee Indian mother while she picked cotton and they picked up the guitar one afternoon from a worker in a traveling carnival who spied the three boys in a North Carolina yard trying to play the instrument.

In the mid-1940s the brothers played country and western before slipping into 1950s pop in the Perry Como mold. Then Link Wray cut loose on a demo, a recording that was headed for the wastebasket when a record executive’s daughter chanced to play it. The song “Rumble” that she deemed to be right out of “West Side Story” has captivated generations of rock stars, movie directors and music lovers. Its signature power chord is credited as a progenitor of classic rock, punk and heavy metal.

Link Wray and his Ray Men were featured in the 2010 exhibition “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Pop Culture” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
And:Many rock superstars credit Link Wray and his distorted guitar with inspiring them, including Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, the Kinks, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. Sherry Wray is most excited about a new generation of Native American artists, including 36-year-old Mohawk rock musician Derek Miller, who reminds her of her uncle Link as a young man. Sherry Wray met Miller at the opening of “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture.”

During an outdoor concert last summer at the museum, Miller told the audience, “Without Doug, 'Rumble' would not have happened. It’s his stroll beat that sparked the whole thing. The Wray brothers shaped the voice of America!”
Comment:  For more on the exhibit, see Inside Up Where We Belong and Up Where We Belong at NMAI.

Below:  "Doug Wray (left), Vernon Wray (center) and Link Wray in his Army uniform (right)."

Friends for Irene Bedard Concert

Friends for Irene Bedard ConcertEvery 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.

Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the US. A report released by the Department of Justice, American Indians and Crime, found that Native American women suffer violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average. National researchers estimate that this number is actually much higher than has been captured by statistics; according to the Department of Justice over 70% of sexual assaults are never reported.
According to Wikipedia:[Irene Bedard] married singer Denny Wilson in 1993. In 2010, Bedard left Wilson, alleging physical, sexual, and mental abuse, and fled to Alaska. A letter written by Bedard's niece, Alia Davis, alleged that during their marriage, Wilson maintained control over Bedard's career, and that his abuse had cost her multiple jobs, as she could not work with visible bruises. Wilson responded by filing 49 motions in Greene County, Ohio, forcing Bedard to return to the state and relinquish her son to Wilson's custody. An article on the Native Spirit PR & Entertainment website requests that fans of Bedard and those concerned for her welfare assist her by writing letters to Ohio and Alaska representatives, requesting that her son be returned to her custody, and that the court venue be transferred to Alaska. Bedard is also requesting financial assistance to assist with legal costs, alleging that Wilson still maintains control of her finances and image.The concert is to be held Friday, March 4, 2011, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It's to feature Buggin Malone, Quese Imc, Bluedog, Jamie Brace, Red Ponie Band, Sarah Hindsley, Marc Lamere, and special guests.Net proceeds go to the E. Joyce Thompson Charity Inc. for which the CEO of the company (Maryanne Canales) has put together a donation fund in Irene's name and ONLY Irene has access to this donation and it is where she can draw the funds for her needs.Comment:  Never mind...the concert was canceled. But it's good to get a hint of Irene Bedard's status.

For more on the subject, see Gray Wolf on Irene Bedard and Irene Bedard Abused.

Trying to do more comics

People often ask what I'm up to. Here's one answer:

The last few years I've been building my empire in related fields--mostly writing about political and cultural issues--while slowly working on my comics. In the last year or so I've pushed the comics a little harder while launching other creative projects. But I could be doing more.

Blue Corn Comics should be able to develop a comics model that works. Maybe find young Native artists in colleges or programs like the Institute of American Indian Arts' and hire them cheap. Write and draw short (8-page) stories for a variety of properties: some in the PEACE PARTY universe and some not. Post them on the Web and get people excited about Native comics. Use them as tools to attract advertisers, sponsors, foundations, publishers, or studios--whoever wants to invest money in the product. If a big fish comes along and bites, we move into a serious publishing enterprise. If not, we put out a stream of low-cost, high-quality stories until we can afford to do more.

Seeking Native talent

To do this, we'll need more Native writers and artists interested in this kind of endeavor. Once again, therefore, I suggest people send me samples of or links to their work.

Read the guidelines and send material related to comics, if possible. Being skilled at one kind of writing or drawing doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to do comics. But if you're ready, submit.

Sundance incubates Native film

Initiative encourages indigenous voices

Native American filmmakers make personal stories

By Kathy A. McDonald
Whereas Native American stories were often told through the prism of anglos in the past, Sundance has helped incubate modern Native American media.

The progress is incredibly satisfying to Sundance founder Redford.

"Our efforts have had a level of success in the form of nurturing and launching the careers of several generations of native filmmakers," he says, "from the early generations of the late Phil Lucas, Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie, to the newer generations of Sterlin Harjo, Taika Waititi and Andrew Okpeaha MacClean."

According to Runningwater, although no film has yet to match the breakout success of Eyre's "Smoke Signals" (released in 1998 by Miramax, the film earned $6.7 million in the U.S.), Sundance-fostered native projects now travel a lot farther on a global scale. In 2010, the Institute had five films in distribution, including Harjo's "Barking Water" and Waititi's "Boy" (New Zealand's all-time box office champ).
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Preview of On the Ice and 11 Native Films at Sundance.

January 22, 2011

Are t-shirt protests worth it?

The aftermath of AIM Santa Barbara's fight against an "Indian name" t-shirt:

Not everyone thought protesting a stereotypical t-shirt was a good use of time. Some Facebook comments on the protests:I see a lot of young people going to prison and jail...it seems the police city, county, state look for Natives and in their youth the kids get arrested, fight back and end up with felony convictions and are getting sent off to prison...too many...way too many and no one cares....Tee shirts are nothing....

I hear you loud and clear! People are dying in the streets and freezing to death, and others just sit there and jump from topic to topic. I have had a problem with trivial issues for a long time. They just seem to get more attention than important ones. Focus on the issues, and let's ALL make a change!
But AIM Santa Barbara posted this defense of their actions:

Little Everyday Issues & Racist T-Shirts--For those of you that think we are going overboard on the T-ShirtsApparently on another page people are questioning AIM SB’s move to remove a racist T-shirt. However we want to address on a few of points:

The American Indian Movement has been fighting racism in media and sports for almost 50 years. Why? Because it has been documented in psychological journals and in academia that racial stereotypes HURT people. How a child feels about himself/herself determines their future or chances of survival. There are links from these studies to statistics of suicide rates for Native people (which we all know is the highest among everyone) and substance abuse. Some have mentioned that it is a waste of our time to be addressing “everyday issues” such as mascot issues or shirts like “My Indian Name is Falls Down Drunk” or “My Indian Name is Runs with Beer.” However, how do we teach our children, and those non-Indian children, this is wrong? There have been so many bricks taken down from our self-esteem and self-worth as a people and as individuals (historical trauma)--that addressing “little everyday issues” becomes a necessary act towards stepping forward and helping our communities heal.

Saying that these “little everyday issues” don’t mean anything or is not worth pursuing is like saying “Don’t worry about those termites eating up the house.” That thought process is insane.

Communities become empowered by standing up to these “little everyday issues” that are socially conditioned to be okay--the white man says it is, and some of you believe it-- but it is not. Abuse of any kind, physical or emotional, is wrong.
Rob's reaction

I can see both sides on this issue. On the one hand, it was a single shirt in a single shop, probably hanging out of sight. In previous t-shirt battles, some vendors were selling a whole line of "Indian name" t-shirts. Others were selling them online or at universities or both, where a lot of potential buyers could find them.

On the other hand, I frequently discuss the harm of Native stereotyping, the effects of microaggressions on minorities, and the "broken windows" theory of racism--how small problems can escalate into large ones. How do you stop something like the treatment of Frank Paul, the drunk Indian who was left in the snow to die? By teaching the police and others to treat drunk Indians like people, not stereotypes.

Also note that AIM Santa Barbara generated enough publicity to get an article in the newspaper. Media awareness is always good. It tells the people who think Indians are extinct that they're not. That they're still here and still fighting for their rights.

If it were me, I might've talked to or e-mailed the store owner once...posted something about it online...and then moved on. If I were going to tackle "Indian name" t-shirts, I'd find out who's manufacturing and distributing them. I'd try to cut them off at the source.

I'd organize AIM chapters and anyone else who wanted to protest into a national force. I'd launch a "letter-writing" campaign with phone calls, e-mails, social media, and, yes, letters. I'd think about staging a live event, perhaps a shirt burning, so the media would cover it. I'd get a celebrity such as Russell Means or a Twilight werewolf to be the face of the protest.

So I wouldn't tackle one "Indian name" t-shirt at a time. That's inefficient; it's not the best use of one's time or energy. But I would tackle the t-shirts and mascots and other "little everyday issues." I think the naysayers are naive about the connection between how we perceive Indians and how we treat them.

For more t-shirt controversies, see T-Shirt Shows Skull in Headdress, "Hanging" Louis Riel T-Shirts Offends Métis, and Lucky Brand Sells "White Lightning" T-Shirt. For a statement against these shirts, see Michigan Opposes "Indian Name" T-Shirts.

Advertisers for Native graphic novels?

I wonder whom I could get to advertise in a Native-themed graphic novel and associated website. Gaming tribes? Studios producing films such as Cowboys and Aliens and The Lone Ranger? Publishers producing books such as the Twilight series? Native film festivals such as the American Indian Film Festival? Musicians such as Jana? Makers of video games such as Turok? Native creators of youth-oriented products such as t-shirts, sneakers, or skateboards? Online galleries or stores dealing in Native arts and crafts? Native museums such as the NMAI?

Who do you think are the likeliest candidates? Any ideas?

P.S. If you're a potential advertiser, you should contact me, of course.

Brulé auditions for America's Got Talent

Native American group visits Denver, hopes for stardom

By TaRhonda ThomasThis weekend, you can see them in Denver, but if all goes well, members of the Native American Rock Opera featuring Brulé may soon be on a national stage.

"We're very excited about it! We'll see how it goes," said Paul LaRoche, the producer and keyboardist of Brulé.

In two weeks, the ensemble will audition for America's Got Talent. Producers of the NBC show spotted the group as the performed their ongoing show in Branson, Missouri.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Brulé Moves to Branson and Brulé in Rose Parade.

January 21, 2011

AIM fights "Runs with Beer" t-shirt

Here's a controversy that brewed on Facebook the last few days:

Native American Activists Call Cops on Shop Owner During MLK Jr. Day Celebrations

By Tyler HaydenWhat began as a day to remember the man whose name is synonymous with the peaceful pursuit of civil rights turned into a scene of flailing anger when eight members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) saw something on lower State Street they felt was “racially offensive” and perpetuated “negative stereotypes” against Native Americans.

As the group walked down the street to their cars on Monday after participating in the downtown march, they passed Moon River--a novelty clothing store that sells t-shirts often stenciled with off-color jokes and images-and spotted a shirt that read “My Indian Name is Runs with Beer.”

According to a letter of complaint written by AIM representative Corine Fairbanks to Downtown Businesses Organization Executive Director Bill Collyer, the shirt’s public display not only mocked the “horrific effect” alcohol has had on indigenous people but also made fun of sacred naming ceremonies. “[Alcohol abuse] is not something to be celebrated, much less be used as a marketing gimmick or to find ways to profit from,” the letter reads.

Fairbanks said she and the other members of the group confronted the store’s employee--“an Asian lady (who refused to give me her name),” Fairbanks noted--and demanded she remove the t-shirt from display, stop selling it altogether, and make a formal, written apology to all Santa Barbara County Native Americans. Until then, Fairbanks promised she and her group would spread the word that Moon River is “a store that promotes racism.” The clerk refused, telling Fairbanks and the others there is no law against selling the shirt and that, if they didn’t like it up on the wall, they could buy it themselves. She then asked them to leave.

At this point AIM members called the police but “still the employee refused to acknowledge our complaint,” Fairbanks wrote in her letter. “Mind you,” she went on, “this dialog took place on MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY! What would Dr. King say?” Police Department spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey confirmed officers spent about 20 minutes at the store talking to both parties. No report was filed. The Independent was not able to reach the store owner for comment.
After several days of real and virtual protests, the store owner relented. The owner "didn’t realize the shirt was offensive and removed it from his stock just to avoid any future problems."

For more t-shirt controversies, see Zazzle's "Indian Name" T-Shirts and Duluth Shop Sells "Drunk Indian" Shirts.

70% think Indians are extinct

Indigenous dancing

By Alana ListoeStudents in area schools enjoyed workshops Wednesday and Thursday with Dancing Earth, an indigenous contemporary dance group based in Santa Fe, N.M., that is currently on tour.

The energy of Dancing Earth evokes a primal force that is said to illuminate cultural and spiritual relevance through their articulate movements choreographed by creator Rulan Tangen.

“For some, this may be the first time they’ve ever met a Native American,” Tangen said. “That might seem like a stretch, but 70 percent of our museum-goers believe that Native Americans are extinct.”

Tangen said the group is a vibrant mix of professional dancers who have a positive outlook for native people.
Comment:  Seventy percent of museum-goers think Indians are extinct? And this is among museum-goers, whom I imagine are more educated than average. What's the percentage in the general public?

In any case, this is a revealing statistic. Even though Indian casinos and events like the tribal summit and the Cobell settlement make the news occasionally, people are still clueless about Indians. They must think modern Indians are fakes. Perhaps casinos hire actors to call themselves Indians. The "real" Indians--you know, the ones with feathers and leathers--are extinct.

We can imagine the consequences of such ignorance. When 70% think Indians are extinct, who's going to push for economic development, health care, or law enforcement for Indians? Who's going to teach about Indians in school, make movies about Indians, or oppose Indian stereotypes? Only 30% of the population at most, and probably only a fraction of that.

It seems clear to me how this lack of knowledge cascades through our culture, affecting every aspect of Indian life. That's why alleviating this ignorance is a fundamental part of the problem. As I said in Educational Value of Blogging and Rob Should Fight Poverty?!, that's why I focus on educating people.

Dancing Earth is educating people too. So are all the Native artists, writers, teachers, and activists. Every museum exhibit, parade float, or TV show reminds people that Indians still exist.

For more on Native dance, see Yup'ik Swan Lake and Cheyenne River Glitter Girls.

Vince Gill performs with Cherokee choir

Vince Gill performs with Cherokee choirWhen Vince Gill returns to his home state today to perform in front of a sold-out crowd inside The Joint, the country star will be joined by the Cherokee National Youth Choir to perform “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”

“Vince Gill’s ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain’ is one of the most touching country songs recorded in the last few decades,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. “The only way it could be more moving is to hear our Cherokee National Youth Choir singing it with him.”
Comment:  For more on the choir, see Cherokee Choir's 10th Anniversary and Cherokee Choir Sings Old Favorites.

January 20, 2011

Cherokees = lost tribe of Israel?

Tracing tribal heritage through DNA questioned

While DNA testing can prove paternity, tribal members are skeptical as to whether it can prove Cherokee heritage.

By Teddye Snell
Today’s sophisticated DNA testing can reveal information in paternity cases and crimes, and one company now claims it’s able to determine if a test subject is Cherokee.

Donald Yates, principal investigator for DNA Consultants in Phoenix, believes through the appropriate DNA testing, Cherokee descendants can be linked to a large number of Middle Eastern lineages.

On its website, cherokee.dnaconsultants.com, the company states it has been studying Cherokee DNA for 10 years and believes that with the results of the Central Band of the Cherokee in Lawrence County, Tenn., they have the largest sample collection in the world.

According to Cherokee Nation tribal law, to be considered a Cherokee citizen, proof of enrollment on the Dawes Rolls is required to obtain a CDIB card. The Central Band of the Cherokee in Tennessee is not a federally recognized tribe, but is a 501(c)4 nonprofit educational organization.

One tribal official believes DNA testing does not necessarily make one a Cherokee.

“Cherokee is a cultural, social and political designation,” said Julia Coates, at-large Cherokee Nation tribal councilor. “There is no biological definition of ‘Cherokee.’ There are several large biological populations in the American hemisphere, but to my understanding, each contains numerous distinct cultural groups.
And:“Ever since the trader James Adair put forth the notion in the mid-1700s that Cherokees were the Lost Tribes of Israel, there have been efforts on the part of some to make that link,” said Coates. “This attempt has been made with many other tribes, as well. The site appears to be trying to do the same thing. The majority of Cherokees and scholars dismiss this idea, however.”

What Coates finds most troublesome about the website is that it is maintained by the Central Band of Cherokees.

“This is one of six ‘wannabe’ groups that have been seeking Tennessee state recognition, which the Cherokee Nation has been aggressively opposing, both legislatively and in the courts,” said Coates.

“Unable to demonstrate that they have any legitimate political or historic basis to be regarded as a ‘tribe,’ it may be that there are political motivations behind these attempts to demonstrate a Cherokee heritage through biological methods.”
Comment:  Suppose several Middle Eastern lineages moved to Tennessee and intermingled with the Cherokees there. The article doesn't say how a DNA test would distinguish between that possibility and the unrelated possibility that Cherokees come from the Middle East.

For more on the lost tribe of Israel, see Indians Inspired Mormonism and Lamanites = "Filthy People." For more on the Cherokee, see Fradulent "Cherokee" Organizations and More Than 200 "Cherokee Tribes."

Diamond on Hollywood Indians

Q&A:  ‘Reel Injun’ Director Neil Diamond

By ICTMN Staff

Neil Diamond, director of Reel Injun, talks about those “classic westerns” and Jack Sparrow as Tonto
Were there any films that got it right?
No. There hasn’t been an accurate story told about that time. Little Big Horn, the Sioux—there have been so many movies made but none of them get the story right. It would be great to make a film that told what it was really like for the Sioux. That was one of Marlon Brando’s great regrets. In an interview near the end of his life, he said that he had a film about Native Americans he was trying to get made that nobody would touch. He had the script and everything, but nobody would fund it.

What’s the most common way Hollywood mis-portrayed Native Americans?
The spiritual elder who is always so serious. If you talk to spiritual leaders, they use humor. They joke around. If you’re in a sweat lodge, they’ll be telling jokes. But in the movies the Indians were always scowling and deadly serious. The first time I saw a native actor laugh it was Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. I remember thinking, I have never seen a native actor laugh, ever.

What do you think about Johnny Depp playing Tonto?
I think it’s an interesting choice. I spoke with Adam Beach, who auditioned for the role, and he says the part is very different from the TV character. The character of Tonto is more of a storyteller, teacher and wise man, not so much a sidekick. I’m excited to see what Johnny Depp does with it.

Which brings us back to non-natives playing Native Americans. Do you have a favorite?
I think it has to be Rock Hudson in Taza, Son of Cochise. I mean, Rock Hudson as an Apache!
Comment:  Depp may be an interesting choice, but he's not necessarily a good choice or the right choice. His approach sounds similar to the approach taken by the TV movie a few years ago.

For more on the subject, see Any Change Since Dances with Wolves? and McMurtry to Malign Comanches Again?

Lakota celebrate Lakota helicopter

Native Sun News:  Army to celebrate arrival of 'Lakota' helicopter

By Lance Alan SchroederSoldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard’s aviation community and members of the Lakota Nation will be celebrating the arrival of the state’s newest helicopter, named “Lakota” by the U.S. Army, at a ceremony scheduled to be held at the Crazy Horse Memorial on May 14, 2011.

Several UH-72A “Lakota” Light Utility Helicopters, the newest aircraft in the U.S. Army’s inventory, will begin arriving later this spring to Delta Company, 1st/112th Security and Support Battalion. Soldiers in this newly-forming SDARNG aviation unit will utilize the Lakota’s non-combat capabilities to conduct their primary mission of medical transportation of the sick and wounded.
And:Moore said he is confident that the Lakota’s mission, and the contests leading up to its arrival, will help to foster continued unity between the state’s civilian population and its uniformed service members.

“The hope is to create opportunities within the Lakota Nation, as well as a stronger bond between the Lakota Nation and the South Dakota National Guard,” he said. Moore explained that during times of emergency, Soldiers flying the Lakota would be ready and available to help everyone who lives within the state.
Comment:  I discussed this helicopter in The Army's Lakota Helicopter. I'm still of two minds. On the one hand, it's a military vehicle the Army will use in warfare. On the other hand, it serves a nonviolent purpose: transporting the sick and wounded.

For more on the Lakota and helicopters, see Helicopters Invited to Wounded Knee and Lakota Oppose Copters at Wounded Knee.