September 30, 2011

Indians say "Unoccupy America"

Jessica Yee notes the irony of the "Occupy" movement sweeping the country:

Occupy Wall Street:  The Game of Colonialism and further nationalism to be decolonized from the “Left”

By Jessica YeeThe “OCCUPY WALL STREET” slogan has gone viral and international now. From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of “ending capitalism”–organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to “occupy” different places that symbolize greed and power. There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now.

I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations. Waiting to see if that’s been mentioned anywhere. (Author’s note: Manhattan “proper” is home to to the Lenape who were defrauded of the island by the Dutch in 1626–see more from Tequila Sovereign).

Not that I’m surprised that this was a misstep in organizing against Wall Street or really any organizing that happens when the “left” decides that it’s going to “take back America for the people” (which people?!). This is part of a much larger issue, and in fact there is so much nationalistic, patriotic language of imperialism wrapped up in these types of campaigns that it’s no wonder people can’t see the erasure of existence of the First Peoples of THIS territory that happens when we get all high and mighty with the pro-America agendas, and forget our OWN complicity and accountability to the way things are today–not just the corporations and the state.
Yee quotes a letter by Anishnaabe writer John Paul Montano:I hope you would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you–that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land–never mind an entire society.Comment:  I understand the reasons for not mentioning Native issues. People already have accused the "Occupy" movement of not having a clear message. A bunch of white people waving signs about Indians would only muddle the non-message further.

But it would be good if the protesters acknowledged Native issues somehow. All non-Indians, both liberals and conservatives, have benefited from the Euro-American occupation of the continent. If the protesters truly believe in justice, they should be talking about giving back the land. Or at least placing Native issues high on their agenda.

That would mean questioning their own white power and privilege. Not to mention giving some of it up. That's not something a lot of people are prepared to do.

For more on colonization, see Two Kinds of Colonizers and Three Words in Declaration of Independence.

P.S. Now would be a good time for Native activists to (re)occupy Mt. Rushmore, Alcatraz, or another prominent landmark.

Strength and Struggle

A recently published book described as a "graphic novella/memoir":

iLit Strength and Struggle: Perspectives From First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in CanadaStrength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada is part of McGraw-Hill Ryerson’s iLit Collection of supplementary student resources for high school English courses. This title is a 149-page, soft-cover book that includes a rich array of short stories, poetry, music lyrics, graphic art, articles, essays, and other pieces that will have students laughing, crying, talking, and thinking. It is a true celebration of First Nations, Inuit and Métis writing and art. This resource is designed to be appropriate for a grade 10 or 11 reader.Book reflects Aboriginal presence

By Rick GarrickA Grade 10-11 textbook featuring First Nation, Inuit and Métis short stories, poetry, music lyrics, graphic art, articles and essays was launched June 22 at the Northern Woman’s Bookstore in Thunder Bay.

“These are stories that were either told to them or stories that come from the heart,” said Rachel Mishenene, who co-edited the McGraw-Hill Ryerson textbook along with Pamela Rose Toulouse. “These are their personal stories that reflect that Aboriginal presence.”
And:The book features a speech by novelist Joseph Boyden, a graphic journal by filmmaker Nadia McLaren, a poem by former Rainy River chief Al Hunter, personal accounts by Darryl Sainnawap and Forrest Rain Shapwaykeesic, and artwork by Elliot Doxtater-Wynn.

It also includes biographies and photographs of the 30 authors, reading activities, summaries of the authors’ intentions in writing their selections, visual elements, and a glossary of literary terms.
Comment:  From the samples I saw, "anthology" would be a better term than "graphic novella/memoir." Not sure how a book can be a novella or a memoir if it's a collection of works from 30 authors.

For more on Native children's books, see Proud to Be a Blacksheep, School Reverses True Diary Ban, and Young-Adult Fiction Too Dark?

More Latinos identify as Native

More Latinos identify as Native American, census shows

By Laurie GuthmannWhen Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard filled out her census form last year, she checked the box for Latino, and for the first time, she also checked the box for Native American.

It had taken her more than 30 years--plus research and genetic testing--to discover her ties to the indigenous Taínos of Puerto Rico, to claim her identity and re-learn what she thought she knew of her history.

She's not the only one. Since 2000, the number of Hispanics who identified themselves as Native American grew from 407,073 to 685,150, according to the 2010 census.

Some attribute the increase to immigration from parts of North and South America where there are large indigenous populations. In some cases, it's because of recently discovered ties to native cultures.
Comment:  This article confirms what I've been saying. Namely, that "who's an Indian?" is a political and cultural question, not a biological one. That Latinos are basically mixed-blood Indians who have chosen, for the most part, not to identify with their Native ancestry.

If the huge mass of Latinos in the US started identifying as Natives, we'd really see the depth and breadth of America's indigenous roots. It would make our history of conquest and colonization that much clearer.

And that's why the white Euro-American mainstream fears and hates immigration. It's a stark reminder of our historical crimes. And a stark reminder that it's not too late to redress those crimes--to establish a more fair and just America where white people don't rule (as much).

For more on the subject, see What's the Difference Between Indian and Latino? and "Most Mexicans Are Indians."

Below:  "Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard, right, dances at the 2010 Taíno Day ceremony in Puerto Rico."

September 29, 2011

Melvin Martin on alcoholism

Correspondent Melvin Martin writes about the scourge of alcoholism among Indians:I have always been very proud to be an American Indian, as well I should. But there have been times in my nearly six "winters," when I have felt thoroughly, absolutely ashamed to be Indian. And what happened last week was but the latest example. There was a shirtless Indian man of perhaps 30-years old at my favorite supermarket in the Twin Cities area who sat on the sidewalk in front of this store with a crudely made cardboard stand that offered an assortment of Indian jewelry, worn-out beaded knick knacks and rough-looking leatherwork for sale. Throngs of non-Indians simply ignored the man, who sat in glum silence until he saw me with my long, black hair and the small medicine pouch necklace that I wear on occasion. Upon seeing that I was Indian, the man quite loudly and rudely demanded that I come over to him.

As I approached the main entrance close to where the man was seated, I detected the unmistakable odor of alcohol emanating from the man--and this was from a distance of about ten feet away. I also noticed that the man was badly beaten, his nose was flattened like a pancake, his right eye was blackened in an ugly pattern that extended down to his lips, and one lens of his eyeglasses were completely cracked. As I, too, ignored the man, he suddenly became louder: "I'll be honest with you, bro. I just want a jug of wine. Can somebody help me out with a jug of wine!"

For an instant, I almost reached into my pants pocket for what little spare change I did have, when a morbidly obese white guy screamed out in an ear-shattering, high-pitched voice, "Will somebody get him a jug a wine! Please! Please! Please!" And then the fat man laughed uncontrollably. I stopped dead in my tracks and noticed that there was a crowd of maybe 20 people, all white, who were staring and glaring at the drunk. Time seemed to halt during those awful seconds and all I could see on every white face gathered there was a single emotional response--of total revulsion.

At that moment I thought of all of the terrible things I've seen all my life that involved Indians and alcohol. From growing up in an alcoholic household, to my service in the military in Germany, to my college days in the '70s and then my vagabond period as a working drifter, the ubiquitously described "scourge" of Indian alcoholism has stalked my life like a famished bloodhound. My mind reeled with the horrific imagery of the worst instances of Indian people around me drinking heavily and drunk--all of the violence, the mayhem, the sadness, and the sorrow--of not only family, friends and associates over the years, but of me and my own drinking, too. Here we are now, at the beginning of the 21st century and the destructive nature of alcohol is still very much present in Indian life.

To add even more disheartening weight to my troubled take on the matter of Indian drinking, word came forth just today about how on a certain "rez" a tribal representative was heavily, publicly intoxicated a few days ago and that yet another tribal leader threw a rather sizeable drinking get-together this past weekend. Then a friend laments and understandably so, that people on her reservation do not know how to drink socially. And I fully agree with this assessment as to how, aside from those Indians who can drink in a societally appropriate manner, a disturbing number of Indians consume alcoholic beverages.

It is not widely known that Indians in the American West were "shown" how to drink by the worst alcoholics of the day: mountain men, miners, soldiers, cowboys, gun fighters, criminals, mercenaries, whores, and ruffians of every type. These people drank solely to get drunk and very drunk. The "whiskey" that they drank was most often a Devil's brew of rubbing alcohol, kerosene, terpentine, witch hazel (et al.), and was chemically darkened to look like whiskey with whatever was on hand, including old boots, shoes, saddles, stale tobacco, putrified black strap molasses, boiled bugs or over-cooked sugar. Large amounts of dried red chili peppers and a Pandora's Box of other sickening things, like snake heads and assorted animal parts were tossed into the mix to give the liquor an enhanced flavor or "character." And much of the whiskey traded to Indians often contained human or horse urine. These drinking partners and their concoctions set the course for the now all-too-familiar, problematic system of Indian drinking practices, habits and "traditions," which is to basically drink anything, anything at all, and hard and heavy.

And these days who should stand up and take the lead towards effectively addressing the horrors that alcoholism visits upon the tribal nations? First and foremost, from my perspective, should be the elected tribal leadership and the young men especially, today's versions of the warriors of old. But when I hear stories about how the very leadership of tribes drink alcoholically and the people see them in this condition, I know firsthand that these accounts are indeed true. In the '70s I once met with a tribal leader who kept a big bottle of bourbon in his office on his desk in plain sight. He even offered me a drink that I politely refused as it was only 9:00 a.m., and in those days I didn't have my first drink until noon. We often look to our leaders as examples as to how we should live our lives as Indian people as we seem to suffer from a collective dearth of men and women in the historical as well as contemporary sense to admire for that purpose. When they show up drunk at public functions or are even observed intoxicated off-duty, what message is to be derived from such behavior?

And what of our young men? In the days of the interaction with mountain men, who were essentially fur traders, the young males invariably exercised authority over the fur items obtained through their own efforts as providers and their need for liquor resulted in horrible outcomes when the alcohol was rapidly consumed. This is one of the main processes by which poverty among tribes became a tragic commonality, and hence crippled the people's endeavors to combat the myriad of dangers to the integrity of a tribe's basic health and safety as well as their very existence in the economic, cultural, and religious domains. I hereby call upon the young men (and women) of our people to confront the menace that alcohol presents to us and to the next generations. And there is no greater time to do this than now.

Melvin Martin is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. He is currently working on a novel that focuses on family dysfunction. And he can be reached at
Comment:  For more on Indians and alcohol, see "Res-Love" = Abuse and Alcoholism and Review of The Elder.

Bucher's free anti-suicide concert

Michael Bucher to Perform Free Concert in Name of Native Youth SuicideTwo-time Nammy winning Cherokee folk artist Michael Bucher will perform and speak to residents and community members on the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Reservation in Hayward, Wisconsin on October 6. The free concert and presentation is dedicated to Native youth who are battling their struggle with suicide.

Bucher’s most recent album “Believe,” similarly in honor of children throughout Indian Country fighting against suicidal thoughts, won Best Folk Recording at the 12th Annual Native American Music Awards. The CD had been nominated in five categories for this year’s Nammy’s, which was held on November 12 at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, New York.

As an artist known for his performances that combine reactionary folk music and informative storytelling, he will also be telling Native Youth and other members of the LCO community about the You Are Not Alone Network (YANAN), a new online social media and suicide resource website founded in part by Bucher and created to help put a stop to Native teen suicide, reported Schilling Media, Inc.

“I’m looking forward to traveling to the LCO Reservation to speak and play a few songs and for the opportunity to talk about the You Are Not Alone Network,” Bucher said.
Comment:  For more on Bucher, see Tribute to Cash's Bitter Tears and Dirty Water at Bear Butte.

2011's summer movie news

Indian Comics Irregular #207:  Cowboys, Indians, and Aliens

September 28, 2011

Native romance novel series

Restoring Hope (Native American Romance Series Book 1)Books in the Native American Romance Series include:

Restoring Hope (Book 1)
Brave Beginnings (Book 2)
Bound by Honor, Bound by Love (Book 3) due out 2012

Another one of Ruth Ann Nordin's Best!, June 26, 2010
By author "Paula Freda" (USA)

"Restoring Hope" another one of Ruth Ann Nordin's best, is a tender, sensitive story of Woape, a young Mandan Indian woman who is taken prisoner by a rival tribe's cruel warrior, Hothlepoya. Tortured and humiliated, Woape, escapes in the middle of the night. All seems lost until she crosses paths with Gary Milton, a kind young white man. He doesn't know why three Indian men want to harm her, but he is sure of one thing: he must save her. So he does. Woape clings to him and follows him everywhere. Gary nicknames her tenderly, "his shadow," as he falls irrevocably in love with her. She becomes his wife, but this is only the start of their adventure, as the ruthless Hothlepoya has sworn to find her.

"Restoring Hope" is the first of a planned Native American Romance trilogy. I look forward to reading them all.

Could Have Been Better, July 14, 2011
By dstew1973

I enjoyed Brave Beginnings (Native American Romance Series Book 2) more than Restoring Hope, however I think both books were very one dimensional in the writing. I think the characters could have been much more developed and interesting. I enjoyed them but I didn't fall in love with them, and that's what I am looking for when I read a Historical Romance Novel.
Comment:  A Native woman who clings to a man because she can't take care of herself. A tribe of cruel warriors. It doesn't sound promising.

The cover is offputting. I don't know if the woman is Mandan--I'm guessing not. But her perfect complexion, with makeup or airbrushing, looks phony to me. Presumably the story is set in the 19th century, so why would you use a modern photograph? It convey the wrong impression about the story's subject.

If you want a clue, 19th-century Mandan woman look like this:

Not this:

You can see they've lived hard lives. They don't look like they just came from a modeling session. So the book probably is pushing an unrealistic notion of Native women.

For more on the subject, see Romance Novel About Pala Professor.

Navajo Dallas Cowboys cheerleader

A new-Diné-face in Cowboys' squad

By Shondiin SilversmithWith a little hard work and dedication, dreams do come true.

That is what Veronica Ann Lind believed when she went to audition for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, possibly the most famous cheer squad in pro sports.

Lind said she first wanted to be a "DCC," as she calls it, when she watched the Cowboys' games on TV as a child growing up in Austin, Texas.

Her family has roots in Fort Defiance, but she was born in Panama and has lived in Texas for much of her 23 years.

"I first decided to be a DCC when I was a very young girl," she said. "My stepdad, a strong cheerleaders supporter, always told me I would be a DCC."
Comment:  Someone whose lifelong goal is to be a cheerleader? Not exactly aiming for the moon there.

I wonder what Lind's goal will be when she no longer qualifies to be a "DCC." Which should happen in a few short years.

At least she didn't get the job by dressing up as a stereotypical Indian princess. I hope.

For more on the subject, see Male Warriors and Female Princesses and Native Girls Judged on "Poise," Makeup.

Redhouse Family Jazz Band

Redhouse Family of Musicians Puts a Navajo Spin on Jazz

By Lee AllenAsk the six siblings of Arizona’s Redhouse Family if they are the Native American equivalent of Michael Jackson’s Jackson Five family and Tony Redhouse acknowledges, with a smile: “We have some of the same dynamics in that our families were both raised around music and we all began performing at a very early age.” Early, as in 5 when Tony was handed a drum and propelled onto the stage—7 when brother Vince took up woodwinds—9 when brother Larry added piano stylings.

Known as Arizona’s American Indian First Family of Jazz, the Redhouse Family Jazz Band and Dancers consist of four brothers and two sisters capable of a panoply of performances as musicians, composers, vocalists, flutists and dancers.

Music has been a central theme in the life of Vince, Mary, Charlotte, Lenny, Tony, and Larry Redhouse from the time maternal grandmother Concepcion played honky tonk piano entertaining GIs in the Phillipines to their father, Rex, frequently singing traditional Navajo squaw dance songs in his home using drums that were handmade in his backyard.

While the siblings earn daily bread in various occupations as teachers, healers, and artists, they perform independently and collectively in sets that can best be described as Indian Eclectic—music influenced by Latin, fusion, rhythm and blues, funk, folk, contemporary jazz, and traditional Native American sounds and spirituality.
Comment:  For more on Native jazz, see Native Jazz Quartet and Pamyua Blends Inuit Music, Jazz, Funk.

September 27, 2011

"Cowboys 'n' Indians" = blackface

I've discussed how dressing up as Indians (redface) is similar to dressing up as blacks (blackface) many times. In her Native Appropriations blog, Adrienne Keene explains why we tolerate this practice.

A "Cowboys and Indians" party is just as bad as a blackface party

First she posts lots of images to show how "normal" redface is:Let's look at some examples, all pulled from the first page of a google images search for "Cowboys and Indians Party." These were not hard to find. Most were posted with pride--"look at my sweet-a** costume, bro!" They can't be found on the websites of CNN or even the local newspaper. There were no bloggers calling for public apologies. In our society, this practice, completely akin to the images above, is accepted, condoned, and normal:

Then she explains why we treat redface differently from blackface:Throughout US history, donning redface has shifted and symbolized any number of movements, from rebellion to peace activism. But "real" Indians are always left out of the narrative. Americans are far too obsessed with their commodified and imagined images of "the Indian" to be concerned with true authenticity.

So how does this compare with blackface? In the words of scholar Kimberly Tallbear, "Black and White became a race binary, while White appropriated Red."

Scholars and historians argue that blackface was about creating a white identity that existed in contrast to Black slaves, and asserting power over Black Americans by relegating blackness to defined, extremely stereotypical character tropes. This was done through minstral shows, where whites painted their faces with black paint to perform.

Blackface was about creating an identity in opposition (a binary of Black vs White), while playing Indian was about absorbing "Indianness" into a national identity and narrative.

However, playing Indian still relegates Native peoples to stereotypical character tropes. The images above show one "image" of an Indian--the feathers, the fringe, the warpaint, the braids. Indians are sexy maidens, fierce warriors, peace-loving environmentalists, all holding up their hand to say "How." These characters were solidified through early cinema, where Westerns all seemed to include the helpless Indian maiden and the evil Indian warrior--all played by non-Native actors, of course--and continue through to today (see: oh, every post on this blog).

So, it's clear there are large similarities between blackface and playing Indian--both are intentional acts that draw upon stereotypes and a racist history to enact whiteness--but our Nation has created a narrative in which blackface=racist, while redface=normal.

Does that make it ok to play Indian or host a cowboys and Indians theme party? Absolutely not. It just goes to show how deeply the erasure of Native peoples runs.
Comment:  I think Keene and Kimberly Tallbear have nailed the difference. As America expanded westward, we appropriated Indians as our symbol for everything we admired in ourselves. Indians were rugged individualists, noble warriors (when necessary), salts of the earth, etc. and so were we.

By dressing up and calling ourselves Indians, we softened the guilt over our genocidal actions. While the real Indians "vanished," we took their place figuratively as well as literally. "They're Indians, we're Indians," the thinking went. "This land is their land, this land is our land."

And a few decades later: "They're gone, we remain. We inherited America from them. We didn't do anything wrong; we simply outlasted them. That some 'species' go extinct and others replace them is the natural order of things. Now we're the owner/occupants of America--the new 'Native' Americans."

And "playing Indian" reinforces that message: "We're them and they're us. We 'honor' them for holding the land in escrow until we could use it productively. They were noble caretakers in their own savage way. Now that they're gone, we owe it to them to preserve their our country."

The fallacies in this thinking are obvious. One, the Indians weren't predatory animals like wolves or bears who had no claim to the land. Two, they didn't give up their land willingly. We stole it from them by breaking the treaties we signed. Three, they aren't gone. They're still here, like any other people, and still demanding their legal rights. The "we innocently took over from them" narrative is utterly false.

For examples of "cowboys 'n' Indians" events, see:

"Conquistabros and Navajos" invitation
UC Irvine's "Pilgrims and Indians Party"
"Drink like an Indian" at Station 280
Miami's 68th annual "Indian Party"
"Firewater Friday" at University of Washington

For more on why these events are wrong, see:

Stereotypes as mental maps
Stereotypes okay in "cultural commons"?

"Save the White Race!" sticker

University of Montana Deals With Racism Against Native American StudentsOn Monday, September 19 when students arrived at the University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center—a place built on the campus in Missoula, Montana to foster understanding of Natives by non-Native students—a sticker declaring “Save the White Race! Earth’s Most Endangered Species” was discovered.

The sticker was immediately removed from the recycling entrance, but the reverberations are still felt by the university’s Native students.

“Initially the students were angry, shocked and disheartened. They wanted some action taken,” said Fredricka Hunter, director of American Indian Student Services (AISS) for the university and member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana. “It was an obvious act of blatant racism.”

According to the Missoulian, the sticker bore the web address of the Montana Creators, “a pro-white organization that is dedicated to the survival, expansion and advancement of the White race—and it alone,” reads the site.
Comment:  Amazing that these white supremacist crybabies are willing to air their racism in public. "Boo-hoo! We're not quite as dominant as we used to be! Don't these 'mud people' understand that we're the master race?!"

They don't even try to make a rational argument. They might as well state their racist credo explicitly: "We're superior and deserve to be in charge because we're white."

As always, this incident is the tip of the iceberg. We can see their slightly less racist brethren operating throughout the Republican Tea Party. For instance:

Affirmative-action bake sale
Teabaggers seek white Christian rule
Rick Perry promotes Christian bigotry
Stossel:  Indians are biggest moochers
Fischer:  Indians were thieves

For more on the subject, see Whites Think They're Discriminated Against, "Symmetrical View" of Race Is Wrong, and Whites Feel Like a Minority.

Below:  "Tribal representatives at the May 2010 opening ceremony lined up outside the Payne Family Native American Center."

Cherokee novelist sells Robopocalypse

Cherokee citizen sells best-seller to DreamWorks

By Tesina JacksonAfter writing novels for six years, Cherokee citizen Daniel Wilson will be able to see his New York Times best-seller “Robopocalypse” on the big screen as a Steven Spielberg-directed DreamWorks movie.

“Robopocalypse” is a science fiction novel that takes place in the near future after a robot uprising where several characters from across the world tell their stories and eventually meet and come together in an attempt to fight back.
And:The book title, “Robopocalypse,” really says it all, Wilson said.

“It’s a pretty descriptive title. It’s a story of a really desperate group of survivors who are living through, basically, a revolt. All of our technology turns against us,” Wilson said. “At the beginning, all of it is stuff that exists like cars that drive themselves, just various artificial intelligence. I know a lot about these robots so I was able to choose the kind of stuff that I’d think is really likely to be around in about 10 or 15 years.
Comment:  For more on Native science fiction, see Preview of Domers and So Long Been Dreaming.

September 26, 2011

Affirmative-action bake sale

US students spark racism row with bake saleA California students' group has sparked a racism and sexism row over plans for a bake sale in which people are charged according to their ethnic background and gender.

Campus Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley say critics have overreacted to their event planned for this week, which they insist is a protest over affirmative action.

The group's Facebook page lists the price of baked goods at the sale according to race: $2 for whites, $1.50 for Asians, $1 for Hispanics, $0.75 for blacks and $0.25 for Native Americans.

"$0.25 FOR ALL WOMEN!" it added.

Campus Republican President Shawn Lewis said the idea of the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" was to highlight a legislative bill to let California public universities consider race and gender in their admissions process.

He said they planned to go ahead with the sale on Tuesday despite protests and threats. "We didn't expect the volume, the amount of response that we got," he told CNN.
'Racist' bake sale at UC draws angry protest

By Nanette AsimovNone other than former UC Regent and affirmative-action opponent Ward Connerly showed up at Sproul Plaza to help campus Republicans sell frosted cupcakes priced according to the race of the buyer--a stunt intended to mock legislation before the governor that would allow universities to consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.

"The point is, the people of California have said we don't want to see race and color in admissions," Connerly told angry students and faculty who crowded around the table.

"Go to hell!" yelled Ann Callegari, an African American student. "Are you the overseer?"

Connerly, a multiracial Republican who wrote Proposition 209, the state's voter-approved ban on race preferences in government programs, replied that he had plenty of experience with real racism growing up in Louisiana.

Many students denounced the group's bake sale as racist, and student government leaders unanimously approved a resolution condemning discrimination "in satire or seriousness" in response to the event. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and two vice chancellors sent out a campus-wide letter strongly supporting that position, while acknowledging that the administration "can urge, but not mandate, a person to behave with civility."
'Racist' bake sale at UC Berkeley ignites furorASUC president Vishalli Loomba told reporters that the pay structure and the ranking of races "trivialize the struggles that people have been through and their histories."

The debate reached beyond campus when it was picked up by social media and news organizations.

Commentators from some outlets, such as Fox News, came to the bake sale group's defence, citing their right to offend and speak out against affirmative action.

Critics called the protest 'half-baked' in that it oversimplifies compelling and complex arguments for promoting diversity and remedying past discrimination.

"We're really hurt by what they did," Anais LaVoie, president of the Cal Berkeley Democrats, told CNN.

"The way that they made the statement, the words that they used, the fact that they humourized and mocked the struggles of people of colour on this campus is very disgusting to me."


Controversy erupts over Campus Republicans bake sale plansTim Wise, author of the book "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son," calls the bake sale a "sarcastic and rather smarmy slap at people of color."

"There are a lot of ways to make a point about your disagreement with affirmative action," Wise told Lemon Saturday night.

"I get the joke," he continued. "How very original. It's been done for 15 years. The point that I think needs to be made ... is that by the time anyone steps on a college campus ... there has already been 12 to 13 years of institutionalized affirmative action for white folks, that is to say, racially embedded inequality, which has benefited those of us who are white. And it's only at the point of college admissions that these folks seem to get concerned with color consciousness."
Native blogger Adair Hill adds:

Bake Sale Gives Native Women Free Stuff!The Berkeley College Republicans are hosting a "Pay-by-race" Bake Sale! How very creative! AND AND AND they're calling it the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale"!!!! No, really, this real. Really. It is supposed to be a protest of some affirmative action legislation in California. The bake sale will be held tomorrow and will charge white men $2, Asian men $1.50, Latino men $1, black men $0.75 and Native American men $0.25. All women will get $0.25 off those prices. You know what that means? It means Native women eat free, suckas!!! It's just like real life, all I have to do is walk up to any establishment and show them my Indian card and I get free food to go with my free education, my free health care, my free exemption from all taxes, and my millions of dollars in casino money! It is so AWESOME to be a Native woman in this country, lemme tell you!As does Adrienne Keene:

Cal's "Affirmative Action Bake Sale":  I want my free cookies

[W]hat about those girls in the picture above wearing headdresses? They decided to be "cute" and pretend to be Native American women and get free cookies.

You can hear from them in their own words at this video here. But the gist of what they say is:"This bake sale trivializes the issue of affirmative action, so we thought to show our opinion of the bake sale, we would trivialize their opinion."Um, that doesn't even make sense. At all. In the words of my friend Kayla (a Native UC Berkeley student):Even if anti-bake sale, [this] makes no sense to me, since the next logical step ought to have been "maybe we ought not to trivialize Native American (women) with stereotypical headdresses."
Rob weighs in

I haven't heard anything about women getting affirmative action in college admissions. Sounds like these College Republicans are anti-women (shocking, I know).

I don't mind the concept of using race or satire to criticize racism. And I think some of the critics' arguments--that this trivializes or "humourizes" a serious issue--are weak.

As with most race-based satires, though, this stunt misses the mark. Tim Wise nailed the problem with it: It isn't even remotely similar to the real-world situation.

Let's suppose affirmation action did more than just "consider" race as an admissions factor. Let's suppose people got guaranteed "discounts" for belonging to a certain minority. It wouldn't be anything like 50% off for Latinos, 62.5% off for blacks, and 87.5% off for Natives. It would be more like five or ten cents off the $2.00 admission "price."

And that ignores the whole point of affirmation action, which is to compensate for the past effects of racism. Let's take a typical Native case. Your great-grandparents had their land, water, and natural resources--their immense wealth--stolen from them via a broken treaty. Your grandparents were forced into a concentration camp--a reservation--where they had to adopt an incomprehensible way of life. Your parents were kidnapped, imprisoned, and brainwashed in a boarding school similar to a Communist reeducation camp.

Because of all that, you were born and raised in an environment of poverty and crime. Your parents may have been unemployed, abusive, or absent. Your education and health care were inferior. Yet despite these obstacles imposed by Americans, you somehow persevered and succeeded. Now you're applying for admission at the University of California.

If a college education costs $2.00, your family has had to pay perhaps $10 or $20 more than a typical white student to get to the starting line. And now UC is giving you a ten-cent discount because of your race? How is that not a fair and just remedy for society's historic racism? The racism that white students have benefited from whether they caused it or not?

When a bake sale captures all that in its pricing scheme, then it'll be a valid critique of affirmative action. Until then, no. This bake sale fails for that reason.

For more on the subject, see Whites Think They're Discriminated Against, "Symmetrical View" of Race Is Wrong, and Whites Feel Like a Minority.

"Rent-a-tribe" payday loan companies

Payday lending bankrolls auto racer's fortune

A joint investigation of iWatch News and CBS News
By David Heath
Scott Tucker used stealth to become a millionaire. Now the mysterious businessman from Kansas is spending his fortune to become a famous auto racer.

Though Tucker has not won any premier races outright, his publicity machine already compares him to NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson. It produced a slick documentary of his team’s third-place finish at a Daytona race which played at film festivals and aired on the Discovery Channel. A glowing Wall Street Journal profile last year dubbed Tucker as "Racing’s One-in-a-Million Story."
But:What Tucker doesn’t publicize: he is an ex-convict who runs a controversial business that regulators in at least five states have tried to shut down for violating their laws. Hiding behind a labyrinth of shell companies and operating from the ether of the Internet, Tucker’s businesses make payday loans over the Web even in states where they are outlawed. He offers quick cash to people desperate enough to borrow money from a faceless Web site, even signing over access to their bank account to total strangers. And he charges nearly 800 percent interest on loans that take months to pay off.

iWatch News found that some of Tucker’s tactics are common among businesses operating on the fringes of the law. By setting up a confusing array of shell companies and selling over the Internet, businesses are often able to frustrate state investigators trying to figure out simply who’s who.

But Tucker’s most innovative tactic has given businesses a new, powerful tool for eluding state authorities. The tactic has survived major court challenges, but the practice is so questionable that even storefront payday lenders–hardly known as paragons of business probity­–denounce it as unethical.

Tucker has partnered with a number of small Indian tribes to provide his payday lending business with the cloak of tribal sovereign immunity. Under federal law, tribes are equal to states as sovereign powers. So they are immune from being sued in state court.

Tucker says his payday lending businesses are now owned by the Miami and Modoc tribes of Oklahoma as well as the Santee Sioux of Nebraska. However, iWatch News found evidence in court and public records showing that Tucker secretly runs the payday lending business from his offices in Overland Park, Kan.

Lawyers in the Colorado attorney general’s office described Tucker’s tactics as a “web of deceit.” Others refer to it as “rent-a-tribe.”
Below:  "Payday lender turned racecar rookie, Scott Tucker." (Level 5 Motorsports/Flickr)

Complaints Filed Against Miami-Area Tribal Payday Loan Companies

By Lori FullbrightAn investigation of tribal-owned payday loan companies operating in Oklahoma finds that 30 percent of all the payday loan complaints filed at the Better Business Bureau are against seven companies, all located east of Tulsa in Miami.

Why are these companies exempt from state and federal guidelines?

These seven payday loan companies operate almost entirely on the Internet. The Better Business Bureau has received more than 2,000 complaints against them. Companies MTE Financial Services, 500 FastCash, Instant Cash USA and Cash Advance Network all have the same address, and the BBB traced that address to a Casino and Smoke Shop owned by the Modoc Indian Tribe.

Ameriloan, United Cash loans, and USFastCash all have the same address and the BBB found it is the offices for the Miami Nation Indian Tribe.

"The fact the tribe supposedly owns the company is not the problem. It's the business practices," said Rick Brinkley of the Better Business Bureau.

"A tribe can own a company and never generate a complaint, but what makes this unique is because the tribe does own it, state and federal laws do not apply."
Comment:  I wouldn't support any violations of the tribes' sovereign rights. But I wish tribes would police these payday loan businesses or, better yet, shut them down.

For more on the subject, see Native Coalition Defends Payday Loans and Payday Loans Violate Native Values.

Below:  "The exterior of Miami Nation Enterprises, which has an online payday lending business that has sovereign status beyond the reach of state regulators." (David Heath/iWatch News)

First Nations Experience TV channel

Historic Native American channel launches in Southern CaliforniaThe first Native American TV channel in the United States went on the air September 25 with the launch of FNX: First Nations Experience Television. FNX is a new multimedia platform featuring authentic voices and stories reflecting the reality of the Native American experience and that of indigenous peoples worldwide. FNX is a 24/7 high definition (HD) multi-platform digital media vehicle created through a partnership between the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and KVCR, a PBS member station located in California’s Inland Empire.

"This marks the birth of an innovative project that has been in the works for 7 years now,” said Larry Ciecalone, President/CEO of KVCR/FNX. “The FNX Channel launched at 7:00 p.m. in Southern California on KVCR 24.2 digital. It is a TV channel dedicated to the Native American experience and the first of its kind in the nation. We developed this concept with our founding partner, San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians. KVCR is pleased to offer this experience to Southern California viewers and will launch the channel nationally next year."

FNX launched in Southern California, the second largest market in the United States, with a potential audience of 18 million viewers. Within one year, FNX plans to expand and lead the way as a producer (via the Internet and over-the air, satellite and cable broadcast systems) of authentic First Nations storytelling. Programs will include varying genres including documentaries, sports, feature film, drama series, news and comedy.

"Today, Indian Country can take pride in this first major step toward establishing a communications institution to secure a national and international presence utilizing the television medium–a communications medium that all Native and indigenous people can utilize to tell our stories about our cultures and history," said San Manuel Vice Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena.
FNX Native Television Channel LaunchesPrograms will include varying genres including documentaries, sports, feature film, drama series, news and comedy. The inaugural program line-up included “Apache 8,” the compelling story of an all-female White Mountain Apache firefighting crew, and “Good Meat,” an engaging documentary about one man’s journey to improve his health by going back to a traditional Lakota diet that included buffalo.

FNX will initially air six-hour blocks of Native programming repeated daily, and is adding content and new programs over the next few months to expand the schedule. Within a year, the channel will have 24-hour all-Native programs and will be available to Indian country via Internet streaming.

“Native America is the foundation for our nation,” said Charles Fox, FNX executive director and Chief Operations Officer. “Much of our culture, language, laws and place are based on traditional Native American cultures and practice. For the first time in our nation’s history, there will be a place where all people can discover, appreciate and re-examine our common bond and shared values. That place is FNX: First Nations Experience.”

As members of the World Indigenous Television Broadcast Network, FNX is the first multimedia venture in the United States created to accurately educate the general public about Native American realities.
Comment:  This is something like the third or fourth claim of creating the "first Native American TV channel." They usually fall into neglect after a year or two of trying to make a difference.

I imagine a lot of organizations would dispute the "the first multimedia venture in the United States created to accurately educate the general public about Native American realities." For instance, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Indian Country Today Media Network, and Buffy Sainte-Marie's Cradleboard Project. Indeed, every Native-themed museum and educational organization is probably multimedia these days.

Other than that, FNX is a nice achievement. With the backing of the wealthy and progressive San Manuel Band, it may actually succeed.

For more on the subject, see San Manuel Launches TV Channel and TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Below:  "FNX Executive Director Charles Fox, San Manuel Vice Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena, FNX Operating Board Chairman Tim Johnson, and President/CEO of KVCR/FNX Larry Ciecalone counting down to pressing the button that launched FNX on the air."

September 25, 2011

Neo-Navajo fashion trend

Another article takes up the subject introduced by Adrienne Keene in Urban Outfitters' "Native" Products:

Neo-Navajo fashion:  Trend or tradition?

By Jaimee RoseAt Neiman Marcus, just racks away from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's latest leather offering, there's a kicky cashmere shift dress--all geometry in deep red, black and cream--that looks exactly like the Navajo blanket on display in the Heard Museum (hand-loomed in 1880, just so you know).

At Forever 21 in Scottsdale, mannequins wear $8 feather necklaces while posed in positions not unlike a ceremonial dance--and the sign in the window says "Into the Wild." (Made in China, and you don't want to know.)

Diane von Furstenberg is on a $365 "Native Hound" print parade. September style magazines trumpet the look with multipage shopping guides headlined "Hail to the Chief." Teenagers are buying woolly shawls. Shawls!

From the omnivorous minds of fashion designers, who want us in soldier chic one minute and Bollywood brilliance the next, a communal word emerged as the Gospel of Fall: "neo-Navajo!" they declared, flinging Navajo iconography all across the mall.
Since Rose refers to the same Navajo Hipster Panties that caught my eye, I'm guessing she read Keene's blog entry.

"Navajo" represents all Indians?

Rose notes some problems with labeling everything "Navajo":We wonder what the people who write product descriptions for Intermix were thinking when they penned "The new Navajo: ethnic Aztec inspiration" (different country, different tribe).

We are not sure it was in the best taste for Urban Outfitters to offer a Navajo-inspired flask, because there's a history there. It's complicated.

And we are dying to hear from the Navajo people themselves--who would be well within their rights to have their Navajo hipster panties in a twist, considering the Telegraph newspaper in London told its readers to "channel your inner Pocahontas."

Pocahontas wasn't Navajo. She was from Virginia.
And:We did, however, receive an offer to publicize trendy labels with the following pitch from a fashion house in New York:

"Pay homage to our past while looking marvelously modern with Navajo-inspired styles from Chelsea Flower, Love Sam, DL1961 Premium Denim & Cult of Individuality . . . On-trend and simply chic--minus the Headdress. Pack the teepee (or the closet) with (items) that will be sure to become closet staples."

Teepee? Headdress?

Hail to the grief.
Comment:  I think Keene and Rose have the basic problem right. This "neo-Navajo trend" is an example of hipster racism. The thinking goes something like this:

"Let's steal appropriate Native designs and label them 'Navajo' or 'Cherokee' because those tribes are well-known. Let's market them as pan-Indian tribalism because that's less 'commercial' and more 'natural' and 'authentic.' There are no real Indians left and they were primitive savages anyway, so no one will object."

For more on "tribal" trendiness, see Luxury Tipis in Great Britain and TeePee Games Responds to Criticism.

Below:  "Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask." So you can feel like an Indian when you get drunk.

Goodall tackles Native suicide

Jane Goodall And the Rise of the Planet of the Chimps

By John JurgensenA new documentary film, “Jane’s Journey,” covers these chapters, but also takes the story back to Goodall’s childhood in England, where she rooted in the family garden and doted on a stuffed monkey named Jubilee. Her later scientific breakthroughs, including her discoveries that chimps were not vegetarians and used rudimentary tools, are noted in the movie, but the emphasis is on her current work through the non-profit Jane Goodall Institute. In the movie she helps bring a youth conservation program to an Indian reservation in South Dakota, where a rash of youth suicides had hit the Oglala Sioux Tribe.And:How did you, as a primatologist, end up at the Pine Ridge Reservation, trying to address a very human problem, teen suicide?

Flying over the Gombe national park in 1991, I realized that outside this tiny 30-square mile patch, all the trees were gone. More people than the land could support. Terrible poverty. That led to us to forming a program where the people created a buffer around the park. To make conversation work, you have to work with people and get them to be your partners. What’s the point of saving forests if we’re not educating young people? Our Roots and Shoots program, which is young people choosing projects to make the world better, is now in 120 countries. From pre-school right through university. I thought, the program is working so well in Africa, why wouldn’t it work on an Indian reservation? It makes perfect sense once you look.
Comment:  For more on Native suicide, see Anti-Suicide Arts Workshop and Oprah Network Funds Suicide Prevention.

Below:  "British primatologist Jane Goodall holds a speech while sitting next to a toy monkey at the town hall in Hamburg, on September 3, 2011." (Christian Charisius/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaman in A Gifted Man

I watched this TV show when it debuted:

A Gifted ManA Gifted Man is an American television series about a talented but self-absorbed surgeon (Patrick Wilson) who starts questioning his purpose in life when he is visited by the spirit of his deceased ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle).In the pilot episode, surgeon Michael Holt visits a shaman to exorcise his wife's ghost. Wikipedia describes the character:Pablo Schreiber as Anton, a shaman and spiritual healer who helps Michael understand his otherworldly experiences. Schreiber appeared in the pilot as a guest star but was later upgraded to a regular cast member.Anton is a dark-haired young man who appears to be white. His ethnicity isn't specified, but he could be Native or part Native.

When he performs his shamanic ritual, he borrows heavily from Native cultures. Holt lies on a Navajo-style rug. Anton waves a feather and a rattle over him. He invokes the "Great Serpent" of the South, which I think is a Mesoamerican reference. And he says "Aho," which means "thank you" in some Plains language.

There's a debate over whether it's proper to call any Native priest or medicine man a shaman. Since Anton doesn't claim to be Native, this isn't (quite) a problem. At least he does what a shaman traditionally does: intercede with the spirits of the dead.

I guess the problem here is the jumble of Native references: the rug, the "Great Serpent," and "aho." It would be better if A Gifted Man stuck to one indigenous culture, or didn't use indigenous references at all. At the moment, Anton seems like a typical New Age wannabe who calls himself a shaman.

For more on shamans, see MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH Revived and Indian Religion Isn't Shamanism.

Below:  Pablo Schreiber (Anton the shaman).

September 24, 2011

Urban Outfitters' "Native" products

Adrienne Keene reviews the Urban Outfitters website in her Native Appropriations blog. She notes the plethora of products with "Navajo" names.

Urban Outfitters is Obsessed with NavajosSo what's inherently wrong with using Navajo in product names? And what can tribal nations do about it?

First of all, these products represent a stereotype of "southwest" Native cultures. The designs are loosely based on Navajo rug designs (maybe?) or Pendleton designs, but aren't representations that are chosen by the tribe or truly representative of Navajo culture. Associating a sovereign Nation of hundreds of thousands of people witl a flask or women's underwear isn't exactly honoring.

Additionally, it's more than likely that Urban chose "Navajo" for the international recognition--to most of the world Navajo (and Cherokee)= American Indian (my Jamaican friend didn't even know there were other tribes in the US until she met me). This conflation of Navajo with "generic Indian" contributes to the further erasure of the distinct tribes and cultures in the US and solidifies the idea that there is only one "Native" culture, represented by plains feathers and southwest designs.
And:A few months ago, they Navajo Nation Attorney General actually sent a cease and desist letter to Urban Outfitters, and there are some great quotes from the letter (I'll try and post it in full in another post):Your corporation’s use of Navajo will cause confusion in the market and society concerning the source or origin of your corporation’s products. Consumers will incorrectly believe that the Nation has licensed, approved, or authorized your corporation’s use of the Navajo name and trademarks for its products—when the Nation has not—or that your corporation’s use of Navajo is an extension of the Nation’s family of trademarks—which it is not. This is bound to cause confusion, mistake, or deception with respect to the source or origin of your goods. This undermines the character and uniqueness of the Nation’s long-standing distinctive Navajo name and trademarks, which—because of its false connection with the Nation—dilutes and tarnishes the name and trademarks. Accordingly, please immediately cease and desist using the Navajo name and trademark with your products.Comment:  The stereotype here is that some silly fashion products accurately represent the Navajo or any other Native culture. They don't.

For more on fashion appropriations, see "Native Wolves" Spirit Hoods and "Cherokee Chic" = Generic Hippie Look.

Below:  Navajo Hipster Panty.

Minority-on-minority Freedmen battle

A column on the Cherokee Freedmen makes some interesting points:

Transmissions from a Lone Star:  Cherokees versus African Americans in the 21st century

By Daniel KalderThe minority-on-minority aspect of this story is especially troubling for those who prefer it when the USA or Israel or maybe Russia is the baddie. For instance, The Guardian--which bills itself as “the world’s leading liberal voice” ran a piece on the story with a headline so psychedelic as to be inconceivable; until it was actually conceived:The Cherokee nation must be free to expel black freedmenApparently, because the Federal Government has done bad things to Indians in the past, they should now do nothing, because if they do something, it will only make things worse … or something. Cherokee sovereignty trumps all other considerations. Thus the bizarre moral calculus of “liberal” guilt. So does that mean the Feds should cut off all funding to the tribe, since surely that also interferes with their ‘sovereignty’; or do you keep handing out the free stuff, even as the recipients do things you abhor?

Furthermore, reneging on treaties is a two way street. If the Cherokee want to toss out terms agreed to in 1866, then the Feds can do likewise … and you really don’t really want to encourage Uncle Sam to go back on his agreements. The Cherokee should know that better than anyone.

Well, the threats issued from on high appear to have worked--for now. On Tuesday it was announced that the Freedmen would be permitted to vote in upcoming tribal elections.
Comment:  I was telling someone that letting the US government dictate the terms of a treaty sets a bad precedent. I'm glad Kalder agrees with me.

For more on the subject, see Deal Restores Freedmen Citizenshp and NY Times Debate on Freedmen.

Native NASCAR owner and driver

Native American NASCAR driver makes debut

By Heather TownsendOn Saturday September 24th, Sacred Power Motorsports (SPM) will make its racing debut in the #73 Dodge RAM at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. SPM is the first top level Native American owned NASCAR team that is featuring a Native American driver. The owner of the team is David Melton from the Pueblo of Laguna tribe in NM. David also owns Sacred Power Corporation, the largest Native American owned solar integration company in the US. Clovis California driver A.J. Russell has an impressive racing resume with experiences in Indy Pro Lights, Supermodifieds and California Asphalt Trucks; A.J. is also a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.Comment:  Native owners and drivers seem to be taking NASCAR by storm suddenly.

For more on the subject, see First Native NASCAR Team Owner and First Native Female NASCAR Truck Owner.

September 23, 2011

Means's tumor has shrunk

Russell Means Updates His Condition:  Tumor Diminished Significantly

By Levi RickertIn July, legendary American Indian Member leader, Russell Means, Lakota, was diagnosed with esophagus cancer and elected not have surgery which would have required removal of a major portion of his tongue.

Means is currently undergoing extensive tomotherapy, an intensity modulated radiation treatment, at the Sunridge Medical Wellness Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.
And in a letter from Means himself:I just received good news, the tumor in my throat has diminished significantly. I have my voice back and my ability to swallow is back up to around 90 percent (coming from about zero, for a while only water could get through).

So please continue those prayers and keep that love coming my way because in the end you are all part of the Great Mystery.
Evidence that Means is thinking ahead:

John Trudell, Russell Means Join Maidu at Indigenous Peoples Days

By Tsi Akim Maidu TribeIn a rare public appearance, long time Native American political activists John Trudell and Russell Means will join local Tsi Akim Maidu tribal members and native leaders at the 12th annual Indigenous Peoples Days. They and Q'ero healers from Peru, Maori of New Zealand, and Hopi of Arizona will gather with native and non native people to focus on 'healing soul wounds', learn about local native history, and honor native language and culture through ceremony, discussion circles, traditional music and dance.

The four day event takes place Friday, October 7 through Monday, October 10 at a variety of venues in the Grass Valley-Nevada City area. Public events Saturday through Monday will be at Sycamore Ranch Park, midway between Grass Valley and Marysville. All events except the John Trudell concert are free and open to the public.
Comment:  For more on Russell Means, see Banks Visits Ailing Means and Russell Means Has Terminal Cancer.

Arabs stereotyped like Indians

From Arab Spring Into Indian Summer?

By Julia Good FoxTribes and Tribal Nations, like the Arab world, are misunderstood by Westerners. This is due to a list of reasons we are all familiar with including false representations in the history books and stereotypes in the media and popular culture. For example, I am confident that if you watched director Jackie Salloum’s “Planet of the Arabs,” a short 2005 video showcasing the portrayal of Arabs in the Western media, you would immediately see the connections between how American Indians and Arab Peoples have been popularly misrepresented. In fact, Salloum’s critique is a perfect segue into Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond’s 2009 documentary Reel Injun.

But Arabs and American Indians have more in common than being routinely caricatured or savaged in mainstream films for mass consumption. We also share the experiences of living, at one time or another, under political tenures that have been more interested in undermining our communities (under the guise of “civilization” or “reorganization”) than in investing in an informed and engaged people who can be the basis for a participatory style of intelligent and community-based government. Arab Spring, like other events, promises to be of help in learning how to create such a style of governing through the supportive role of cosmopolitan communication.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see All Bigotries Are Similar and Stephen's Bigotry Against Muslims.

Chief Osceola is "respectful"?

In Keep American Indian Sports Mascots, J.A. Ingle writes:Regarding David Narcomey's comments in Berry Tramel's “Tribal dispute” (Sports commentary, Sept. 16) that all American Indian sports mascots should be banned, he really needs to cool his heels and look at this situation from a different angle. Being a historian and 1/64th Cherokee, I don't see anything wrong with Indian mascots as long as they're done respectfully. Those such as the Florida State University mascot Chief Osceola are portrayed in a respectful manner and with great detail. It shows the strength and honor of the tribal people. It puts them in an almost mystical light, and keeps their historical memory alive.Comment:  Chief Osceola portrayed in a respectful manner...except he wasn't a chief, didn't wear warpaint, didn't ride a horse, didn't chuck a spear, and didn't act savage for no reason. Other than that, the cartoon-like mascot totally respects the real Osceola.

I'm sure the creators of minstrel shows said they were being respectful too. "But we love our darkies!" they probably told critics.

And putting Indians in a "mystical light"--as semi-fictional characters in America's Wild West mythology--yeah, that's helpful. People are really going to pay attention to modern-day Native issues when they equate Indians with fairies and will o' the wisps.

For more on the subject, see Seminole Spearchucker Is "Top Tradition" and Seminoles Compared to al Qaeda.

September 22, 2011

STAR School of media arts

STAR students win notice in Venice

By Levi J. LongSTAR School is gaining another reputation for its 3-year-old media arts program that connects Native American youth with their culture, community and themselves.

"When it comes to mainstream media, indigenous youth are often seen in the negative or are portrayed as historical or cultural subjects in the past," said Rachel Tso, the media arts educator who developed the film curriculum. "It's important for students to represent themselves using their own voice, not someone else's."
And:STAR School was featured in the documentary, "Valdagno, Arizona," directed and produced by the Pyoor Collective, a group of international writers and filmmakers, which was recently screened at the world-renowned Venice Film Festival.

The film follows Umberto Marzotto, an Italian songwriter who travels to the Navajo Nation to find a better understanding of himself. The film features interviews with Leupp residents, the metal band Blackfire, and former Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

Below:  "Kira Butler, from the STAR School in Leupp, Ariz., filming in Venice, Italy, with a Flip camera she won at the Arizona Student Film Festival."

Sexy "Indian" in New Girl

In the new TV series New Girl, three slacker guys live with a goofy gal. In the pilot, Schmidt (no relation) is desperate to attend the annual Wild Wild West Charity Auction for Poverty. Why? Because "it reminds me that I'm still a man, and I can still motorboat a hot girl, who is also a member of the Cherokee Nation, which is not racist because it is for a good cause."

He and his buddies end up going. Schmidt and Nick are dressed as cowboys, but "Coach" wears a tank top, shorts, and a single feather in a cap. "What kind of an Indian wears bike shorts?" asks Schmidt.

Indeed, almost everyone in line is dressed in cowboy gear, but Schmidt is tempted by by an "Indian princess" in a buckskin halter top, mini-skirt, braids, and a feather in her hair. She jumps and waves, her breasts bouncing to show how sexy she is, but Schmidt has to go rescue the "new girl."

The show was okay until that last bit. Even if the woman is an enrolled Cherokee, she's still stereotyping Native women as sexy princesses. And she looks like every starlet who claims to be Native, not an actual Indian. You know, like the vast majority of Native women who aren't sex objects.

Once again, Hollywood gives us someone dressing up as a phony Indian. People would be outraged if it were blackface or yellowface, but no one thinks twice about redface. Caricaturing Indians as primitive people of the past is the last acceptable racism.

As for the rest of New Girl, it was decent. It's basically Happy Endings, a good comedy from last season, with Zooey Deschanel. I don't know if I'll keep watching it, but I'll give it another chance.

For more on Indian princesses, see Tribalism Is Trendy and Khloe Kardashian Thinks She's Native.

No Indians in Breaking Dawn posters

'Breaking Dawn' to be released on November 18The much-awaited fourth and last installment of the 'Twilight' series, 'Breaking Dawn-The Twilight Saga', is set to hit the screens worldwide November 18.

The first look of the film, produced by Summit Entertainment and starring Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart, shows the fascinating, eternal love between Edward and Bella Swan.

Another image shows Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in the foreground, standing proudly with the Quileute tribe and reflecting his agonizing desire to protect Bella.
Comment:  Actually, the poster shows a wannabe and wolves. No actual Indians are visible.

This is a nice example of how society renders Indians invisible. First Stephenie Meyer turned a real tribe into a fictional wolf clan. Then the filmmakers cast a non-Native in the primary role. Finally, the poster-makers decided that predatory beasts are the best way to represent Indians.

For more on Twilight, see Rick Mora in a Wolf Hat and Twilight Ruining Indians' Reputation?

Big Miracle trailer

'Big Miracle' ('Everybody Loves Whales') trailer releasedNow, the first trailer for "Big Miracle," the movie formerly known as "Everybody Loves Whales" starring John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore that takes place and was actually filmed in Alaska, has been released.

The film tells the true story--with some artistic liberties, as made apparent by the trailer--of three gray whales stranded in the Arctic ice above Barrow, Alaska. Krasinski plays a journalist looking for a story, and Barrymore plays an environmental activist and Krasinski's ex-girlfriend.
Comment:  The name change is terrible; Everybody Loves Whales is much more intriguing and enticing. The movie looks like Disney hokum, which means it probably won't win any Oscars. And there are no obvious Native characters or cultural bits.

For more on Big Miracle (Everybody Loves Whales), see Inupiat Extra in Everybody Loves Whales and Real Conflict in Everybody Loves Whales.

September 21, 2011

Pocahontas opera casting criticized

Duluth Pocahontas Casting CriticizedA Duluth opera celebrating American Indian culture is being criticized for its failure to cast Native Americans in principal roles.

The Duluth Festival Opera’s production of “Pocahontas: A Woman of Two Worlds” opens this week. Native American opera soprano Lyz Jaakola, a member of the Fond du Lac band, says there’s no excuse for not casting American Indians.

Duluth Festival Opera director Craig Fields tells the News Tribune the auditions didn’t generate interest from American Indian opera performers. Jaakola says the casting crew didn’t try hard enough or in the right ways to attract Native Americans.

Fields says there are parts of the opera that call for only American Indian involvement and that Fond du Lac singers and drummers are involved with the production.
Duluth Festival Opera Casts 'Pocahontas' Without Native American Leads[W]hen composer Linda Tutas Haugen and librettist Joan Vail Thorne decided to write a Pocahontas opera for Virginia’s 400th anniversary celebration of Jamestown, they made sure to check their sources. According to the Duluth News Tribune, the two "researched Pocahontas, interviewed a Jamestown scholar, met with American Indians and spent time in Jamestown." Haugen said that many audience members, even Native Americans, "saw it and loved it and felt I had very much honored their past."

When the Duluth Festival Opera (DFO) began production, Director Craig Fields decided to hold "blind" auditions, valuing talent over heritage. Fields noted: "My personal feeling is that the work succeeds on its own merits, whether it is performed by a Native American or not." Although the team was open to a more diverse cast, apparently not many Native Americans came out to audition.
Protest planned today before 'Pocahontas' show

By Christa LawlerAmerican Indians who oppose the Duluth Festival Opera’s production of “Pocahontas: A Woman of Two Worlds” will gather in Duluth today for a pipe ceremony and demonstration near Marshall School where the opera opens.

The production has been criticized for not using American Indians in principal roles—including both a younger and older version of the Powhatan Indian girl Pocahontas. The Duluth Festival Opera has included singers and dancers from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who will perform tribal music in the production.

Clyde Bellecourt, the co-founder of the Minneapolis-based activist organization American Indian Movement, said he is coming to town to voice his disapproval at an American Indian story told by non-Natives.

“We have a lot of talent within the Indian community,” he said. “It’s not an Indian people story. It’s (white people’s) story about our story. We don’t appreciate that.”
Amid Protests Over Casting, ‘Pocahontas’ Opera Opens in DuluthLyz Jaakola, an operatic mezzo soprano and member of the Fond du Lac band of Chippewa Indians, came out against the production in an interview with the Duluth News Tribune. “To me, seeing any non-Native Pocahontas … non-native Pocahontas’ mother, any extras in buckskin would be enough for me to cringe,” she said. “Poor Pocahontas has been dragged around enough.”

Duluth Festival Opera director Craig Fields countered that few Indians auditioned for the opera, and that his casting process was “blind”—meaning that he did not ask those trying out whether they were of Native heritage. “My personal feeling is that the work succeeds on its own merits, whether it is performed by a Native American or not,” Fields said. A number of Fond du Lac performers were in the cast, but played secondary roles as singers and dancers.

Jaakola felt that Fields didn’t try hard enough to attract Native talent, and added that “If I were casting an Indian opera and I couldn’t find ‘enough Indians’ to help me, I simply wouldn’t do it. … But that’s my cultural paradigm.” During the very early planning stages, Jaakola had been involved with the production, specifically to find Native talent to perform. However, due to clashes with Fields and a suspicion that the project would never get funding, she left the team.

The opera opened as scheduled on Thurdsay, September 21, and was performed in the auditorium of Marshall School. Outside, Jaakola and members of the American Indian Movement sang songs, played pow-wow music, and carried signs with slogans like “Stole our land—now our culture.”

“The people who know the truth of Pocahontas are Pocahontas’ people, and they are the ones who would tell her story...and they are the ones that should tell her story,” Jaakola told a reporter from WDIO TV on the scene. “There are times when when we are not represented appropriately in the media and moves and songs and it needs to stop. It’s 2011 and this kind of activity can’t continue.” As an alternative to the Pocahontas performance, Jaakola organized a “Native American Music Showcase” at a nearby church.
Comment:  A few points here:

  • Unless the play portrays Pocahontas as a girl of 10-12 and John Smith as a man of 27, it isn't well-researched or historically accurate. If it does take this approach, it must be the first play or movie in history to do so.

  • The play is likely a romanticized version of Pocahontas's story: the meeting of two cultures, the rescue and falling in love, the tragic end. In reality, the rescue probably didn't happen--a point usually ignored in these retellings.

  • Do we really need to retell Pocahontas's story at all? This and the first Thanksgiving are probably the only two "Indian stories" most people know. What else is there to say about Pocahontas that people haven't said already? How about telling some of the many untold stories about Indians instead?

  • I wouldn't count much on Indians' appreciation of the play. From what I've seen, the vast majority of people like everything uncritically. That's what they say when they're asked, anyway.

  • If you ask them to name a bad Native movie, for instance, they'll say "anything with John Wayne." They won't say anything critical about a movie starring Natives even if you press them. There's a huge bias toward being positive and supportive that skews any survey.

    Anyone can play minorities?

  • The "blind" casting claim is a joke. As we've seen many times, it applies only to minority roles. No one ever does blind casting for Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, or Martin Luther King Jr. So why would anyone do it for Pocahontas?

  • A couple of possible answers: 1) The producers were too lazy or arrogant to bother finding a Native actress. 2) The producers think of Pocahontas and other Indians as semi-mythical characters who have entered the realm of fantasy. Cavemen, elves, and pirates don't have to be particular race, they feel, and neither do Indians.

    That's exactly why the producers should cast Indians: because too many people think they're fantasy figures from the distant past. By furthering the status quo, the producers have furthered this misunderstanding. They're "celebrating" Native culture by reinforcing the belief that it no longer exists.

    Someday we may stop paying attention to an actor's race. Then Denzel Washington can play George Washington and Jackie Chan can play Jesus. Until then, apply the same standard to white and minority characters. If Queen Elizabeth, Ben Franklin, Marie Antoinette, and Abe Lincoln have to be white, then Pocahontas has to be Native.

    For more on casting issues, see Acting-Class Experiment Reveals Biases and TV Grows Whiter in 2011-2012.

    Below:  "A scene from 2007 debut run of the opera 'Pocahontas: A Woman of Two Worlds.' That production, staged in Virginia to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, was uncontroversial; such has not been the case with the current one in Duluth, Minnesota."

    I guess the picture shows adult Pocahontas touching hands with child Pocahontas.

    Tribes celebrate Arizona's centennial

    Arizona centennial has Indian tribes highlighting role in state’s past, future

    By Joanne IngramAmerican Indian tribes are taking part in state’s centennial celebrations to share their traditions and highlight their role in Arizona’s history and future. As part of that, 17 of the 22 tribes created a native village at the festival that began here Sept. 16-18 and later will move to Tucson and Phoenix, the other two territorial capitals.

    “I think that this is an opportunity for us to tell Arizona residents and visitors that this is who we are as Indian people,” said Rory Majenty, president of the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association and member of the Hualapai Nation.
    The Best Fest displays include:• A traditional Hopi house is made from straw and mud, but Best Fest's replica, built in four days, was made from plywood and stucco.

    • Gourd singers offer traditional chants accompanied by rattles and other aboriginal instruments.

    • The Navajo Nation offers a replica of a hogan, a dwelling traditionally made of logs and earth.

    • The Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes offer a replica of a traditional round house, a dome-shaped, one-room structures made from desert materials.
    Comment:  For some anniversaries where Indians were left out, see War of 1812 Bicentennial Without Indians? and Bitter Over Hudson Anniversary.

    Below:  "Members of the Hopi tribe perform a traditional dance." (Carie Gladding)

    Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Paranormal Society

    Ghosts!  Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Paranormal Society Delves into the Spirit World

    By Stephanie WoodardWilson explained the group’s modi operandi, which have evolved through weekly visits to this and other sites, including businesses, public buildings and private homes. He told us to take lots of pictures, but not to feel we had to set up the shots or even focus. Just shoot, he said, then review the photos to see what’s in them. As we wandered around snapping pictures—most of us sticking close to Wilson—he’d say from time to time that he felt spirits gathering. We’d stop, and he’d turn on his digital voice recorder and ask who was present and how they were feeling. A few minutes later, he’d hit playback.

    Here’s what I observed: When Wilson said spirits were around us, I was usually feeling chilled, as though I’d swum into a cool spot in a lake. During playback of the dozen or so recordings he made that night, I could hear responses between his questions that I hadn’t heard with my unaided ear. These auditory occurrences are often called electronic voice phenomena. For example: A breathy child’s voice whispered, “Take me home.” Another hissed in response to a question about whether anyone was hungry, “Give me candy!” One voice introduced itself as what I think was “Madrid,” with the accent on the first syllable. I also noticed that if any of us had been talking in the background or moving around during one of these recordings, I heard that in the playback as well.
    Comment:  For more on the supernatural, see UFOs in the Old West and Sweat Lodge = Witchcraft?!