November 30, 2012

Whiteness defines others as outsiders

A good posting on what the Republican Tea Party really stands for:

Whiteness in the Age of Obama

By Jedediah PurdyRecall the numbers: 59 percent of white voters supported Romney. More dramatically, 88 percent of his votes came from whites. One simple but plausible analysis suggested that Obama won a majority of white votes only in New England, New York, and Hawaii. His national share of the white vote fell by several points after four years in which Republicans, especially the Tea Party, worked relentlessly to be the party of whiteness.

As I've noted before (and so have lots of others), this was the barely-concealed meaning of Tea Party claims that Obama was not American, not constitutionally the president, somehow deeply alien. These ideas are so unmoored from reality that they have to be approached as symptoms, not positions. Race was also much of the meaning of tying Obama to food stamps, and of (barely less public) assertions that health care reform was a giveaway from white taxpayers to black dependents.

Those notorious maps showing the overlap between Romney states and the old Confederacy take on a grim extra plausibility when you consider that Obama seems to have taken less than 20 percent of the white vote in the core states of the Deep South--Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. I'm reminded of the friend in West Virginia who told me, back in 1988, that one reason to support Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primary was that he could pick out his solitary vote when the local newspaper printed the results.

But consider: whiteness, like any other racial category, is a made-up thing. It is a matter of what people do, not what they are. (Social construction is the clunky academic name for this.) Like other made-up things, it changes. Obama's share of the youth vote in swing states like Virginia, Florida, and Ohio was so high that clearly, somewhere around age 30, a majority of white people started supporting the president. Romney's success with old people isn't just a matter of the fact that America used to be much more white. It's that white people used to be much more white--in the Mitt Romney sense of white. Whiteness, too, is changing. What might it become?

There's plenty of reason to hope it might just go away. From the beginning, whiteness has been a power play, a way of defining oneself as obviously, implicitly superior: entitled to deference, closer to the heart of the nation, a real American. Much more than the national identities it consolidated--English, Irish, German--it was always defined by a palpable contrast, especially with African-American slaves and victims of segregation. As the boundaries of whiteness shifted to absorb Irish, Italians and those formerly black families that made the tragic crossing from "passing" to "being" white, it always took its meaning from what it was not, always depended on someone else's being underneath or outside.
Comment:  Again, this is what all the talk about birth certificates, Muslims, Kenyans, food stamps, moochers, the 47%, "gifts," voter fraud, "traditional values," etc. was about. Namely, defining anyone who voted Democratic as a traitor to the white Euro-Christian privileged class. As Purdy put it:[W]hiteness has been a power play, a way of defining oneself as obviously, implicitly superior: entitled to deference, closer to the heart of the nation, a real American.For more on white privilege, see White "Norm" Is Planned and Enforced and White = Sick, Brown = Deviant.

Indians testify about negative images

On Thursday, several Indians testified at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing about countering the negative images of Indians in popular culture. Here's a bit of what they said:

Educating is Key to Reclaiming Indian ‘Image and Identity’

By Gale Courey ToensingValbuena talked about the negative stereotypes that have flourished in the wake of “misguided federal policies, hostilities, Hollywood stereotypes, and hardships suffered by American Indians”–the feathers-and-teepee Indians, the drunken Indian, the wealthy casino-tribe Indian. These stereotypes engender feelings of inferiority, shame, and low self-esteem, especially among Native youth and are linked to poor academic performance and social adjustment, high school graduation rates and high suicide and homicide rates, Valbuena said. “We recognize that we bear the responsibility of educating non-Native people about ourselves, but Congress and this Committee can and should take a couple of simple steps to help us, particularly since past federal policies have contributed to and perpetuated the stereotypes that exist today,” Valbuena said. She recommended, among other things, that the SCIA reauthorize and fund the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, which was enacted in 2006 to preserve and increase fluency in Native American languages. “Language shapes everyone’s identity, but for Native communities there is an urgent need to protect our languages from extinction,” Valbuena said.

Mr. Andrew J. Lee, Seneca, is a trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, an executive at Aetna Inc., Hartford, Connecticut, a young Global leader of the World Economic Forum and sits on several boards serving Indian country. As “a mixed race Native,” Lee said, it took him years to understand that his background and heritage were assets that allowed him to move comfortably through multiple worlds. He talked of a conversation he’d had with a man who made a horribly racist and genocidal comment about South America indigenous people. “I said nothing and walked away. But later I went out of my way to spend time with him,” Lee said. “We talked about Wall Street, history and the arts and I never brought up that repulsive comment. Over time I introduced him to Indian sovereignty. Ultimately, he became an unlikely ally. For me this experience underscored the need to build bridges of understanding across communities, cultures and sectors. Most importantly, it taught me that I can make a difference.”

Lee offered three ideas about Indian image and identity. First, he asserted that the ability to reclaim Indians’ image and identity is inextricably tied to the continued support for and exercise of self-determination. “Astonishing success is possible when Indian nations put themselves in the driver’s seat for decision making on everything from social service provision to natural resource management,” he said. Second, he said that Indian country should showcase the growing number of success stories. He cited the Winnebago Tribe, “which turned around its economy plagued by 60 percent unemployment, “ by developing diversified enterprises; the Tohono O’odham Nation, which built a skilled nursing facility that is now a national model; and the Pueblo of Zuni, who built the first ever Indian operated eagle sanctuary.
Comment:  For more on the harm of Native stereotyping, see Long-Term Effects of Stereotyping and Lakota Girl Imitates Stereotypical Images.

Below:  "Lynn Valbuena, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, testified November 29 at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing titled 'Reclaiming Our Image and Identity for the Next Seven Generations.'"

Tribes buy Pe' Sla for $9 million

Tribes Reach $9 Million Goal and Purchase Sacred Site of Pe' Sla

By Vincent SchillingIn a historic culmination of events leading up to the Pe’ Sla purchase deadline of November 30, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin has managed to raise the $9 million necessary to secure the sacred land in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In a private affair between the Reynolds family and representatives of the Great Sioux Nation, the contracts have been signed and the land is now in the hands of the nation.

According to Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Cyril “Whitey” Scott, the purchase is a done deal. “I can tell you that Pe' Sla, the sacred land on behalf of the Oceti Sakowin, is secured. The $9 million was secured, Pe' Sla has been purchased.”

In an interview with Chairman Scott minutes ago, he read the only official statement released by the Great Sioux Nation and said anything stated before his comments have been “unofficial.”

“The historic requisition of Pe’ Sla started today in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Crow Creek Tribe, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe community gathered in a historic assembly of the United Tribes.
Tribes raise $9M to buy sacred South Dakota landAfter months of high-profile fundraising that drew celebrities' attention and dollars, a group of Native American tribes has raised $9 million to buy a piece of land in South Dakota's Black Hills that they consider sacred, an official with an Indian land foundation said Friday.

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation president Cris Stainbrook told The Associated Press that the tribes raised enough money to purchase the land from its current owners. The foundation was one of several groups and organizations leading the effort to buy the land.

Stainbrook said the deal should be finalized Friday, which was the deadline for the tribes to raise the money.

The land, known as Pe' Sla, went up for sale after being privately owned. Members of the Great Sioux Nation have been allowed to gather there every year to perform rituals. The site plays a key role in the tribes' creation story, and members fear new owners would develop it.
Comment:  For more on Pe' Sla, see Celebs Raise Funds for Pe' Sla and Sioux Need $9 Million for Pe' Sla.

November 29, 2012

Republicans alienated "nontraditional" voters

‘Romney is Wall Street’s worst bet since the bet on subprime’

By Ezra KleinChrystia Freeland is editor of Thomson Reuters Digital and author of “The Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.” We spoke Tuesday about how the plutocrats she reported on for the book were handling Mitt Romney’s loss. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Ezra Klein: You’ve written about the revolt of the very rich against President Obama, and all the money they spent and time they dedicated to defeating him. So what’s the mood in those circles now that they’ve lost?

Chrystia Freeland: There’s a great joke on Wall Street which is that the bet on Romney is Wall Street’s worst bet since the bet on subprime. But I found the hostility towards Obama astonishing. I found the commitment to getting him out astonishing. I found the absolute confidence that it would work astonishing. On that Tuesday, the big Romney backers I was talking to were sure he was going to win. They were all flying into Logan Airport for the victory party. There’s this stunned feeling of how could we be so wrong, and a feeling of alienation.

The Romney comments to his donors, for which he was roundly pounced on by Republican politicians, I think they accurately reflected the view of a lot of these money guys. It’s the continuation of this 47 percent idea. They believe that Obama has been shoring up the entitlement society, and if you give enough entitlements to enough people, they’ll vote for you.

EK: Here’s my question about those comments. Romney was promising the very rich either a huge tax cut or, if you believe he would’ve paid for every dime and dollar of his cut, protection from any tax increases. He was promising financiers that he would roll back Dodd-Frank and Sarbanex-Oxley. He was promising current seniors that he wouldn’t touch their benefit. How are these not “gifts”?

CF: Let me be clear that I’m not defending any of them. But I think the way it works—and I think Romney’s comments were very telling in this regard — there are two differences in the mind of this class. First, they’re absolutely convinced that they’re not asking for special privileges for themselves. They’re convinced that it just so happens that their self-interest coincides perfectly with the collective interest. That’s where you get this idea of the “job creators.” The view is that to seek a low tax environment or less regulation, that’s not special pleading for yourself, it’s not transactional politics. It’s that this set of rules is the most conducive to economic growth for everybody. It will grow the pie. Now, it also happens to be an incredibly convenient way of thinking. If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.

EK: You and I spoke shortly before the election for a piece I was doing on Romney’s history as a manager. These folks, too, are purportedly very data focused, very good at assimilating new information. So I find it genuinely scary that neither Romney nor his super-rich backers had any idea he was going to lose. All the polls, all the models, all the betting markets said he was likely to lose. How did a group of people who, in their jobs, have to be willing to read and respond to disappointing data convince themselves to ignore every piece of data we had?

CF: That’s the single most astonishing thing. By his own definition, Romney’s single strongest qualification to become president was analytically based, managerial excellence. And if the election campaign were the test of that, and even if you were ideologically his fan, you should think it right that he lost. Now, how could it happen? My first thought was it was also the case that all the smartest guys in the room managed to lose a lot of money in 2008 and managed to convince themselves of a set of very mistaken beliefs about where the markets where going to go. It was a lot of the same people on the wrong side of both bets.

But I find it truly mystifying. I don’t claim to have particularly unique insight. I think it could be a combination of things. One is a generic belief that in order to run for president you have to think you’re going to win. You can’t do it otherwise. A second thing, and this is not so much about the rich guys as about the Republican Party in America, I think Republicans have felt since the time of Ronald Reagan that they are the party that represents the true America, and that the Democrats might sometimes win, but it’s kind of an aberration. And when it comes to the super-rich guy dimension, and I imagine this has happened to Obama as well, when you’re a rich and powerful guy, it can make it hard to see reality, especially when you’re paying your campaign staff great salaries, as Romney was.
Reaping the Whirlwind Pt.2

By Josh MarshallTPM Reader JR on reaping the whirlwind …

Josh’s blog posts recently from TPM readers JT, JB, and KE struck a nerve with me, especially the one from KE on being Asian-American and taking it personally when Republicans and conservatives attacked Obama. I am Indian-American, born and raised in Iowa (my childhood in Ames and Marshalltown and college years back to Ames) to immigrant parents. Obama’s heritage and identity as a racial minority is a big deal to me, no question, and was an attraction to me in 2007…he is the only Presidential candidate ever to get my money in a contested nomination fight, before he was the presumed nominee.

There is no question the Obama Presidency has exposed a lot of racism and xenophobia and religious bigotry among Republicans and conservatives, disturbingly more than I would’ve guessed. PPP was mocked early on in 2011 for their polls testing whether GOP primary voters in various states believed Obama was born in the U.S., whether he was a citizen, whether he was a Muslim…even whether he was the anti-Christ! At first I was dismissive of the some of the results because I’m well-aware that people are willing to give ridiculous answers to ridiculous questions. But then after one GOP Presidential primary debate, Frank Luntz on Fox News had a majority of Iowa GOP focus group members raise their hands in earnest when he asked, in earnest, whether they believed Obama was a Muslim.

And as time went on, it became clear in other polling that PPP early on was on to more than just snarky telephone survey replies, there really is a disturbingly large percentage of Republicans who are openly hostile to Obama specifically because of his race, his national origin, and his partial religious ancestry. That GOP electeds from Boehner to McConnell to all the GOP Presidential candidates were unwilling to call out any of it just reinforced the point, since it established they were afraid because these people were a very large part of the GOP base. You don’t worry about calling out your own party’s cranks in public if they’re marginal figures whose votes you don’t need and don’t think you’ll lose because they have no other options…Republican candidates and electeds know that they can lose primaries for openly challenging racial and other bigoted hostility toward Obama.

And all this is very personal to me. When I was a small child in Ames, Iowa, in my immigrant family, neighborhood teenagers assaulted our home regularly, pelting fruit and whatever else at our house. Several times my dad had the police come and lecture this group of kids. It was all about race, and these kids’ parents did nothing. So when Mitt Romney in a Michigan stump speech snarks that no one asked him for his birth certificate, and his GOP allies defend the racism as “just a joke,” when so many GOP federal and state electeds endorse or tacitly condone questioning of Obama’s citizenry and engage in other dog whistle racism, these are always personal attacks equally on me…if Obama is not an American and does not legitimately belong, then they’re saying the same about me.

I imagine I’m not alone, that people of color across the board see what I see, and the election results confirm this. It’s striking to me, and IMO underreported, that Obama clearly lost great amounts of white support in Florida and indeed his 37% in the exit poll with Florida whites has always been disastrous…and yet he wins the state with an absolute majority. It’s striking to me that the national exit poll has not only people of color increasing to 28% of the total, but also that it has both Hispanics and Asians giving over 70% to Obama. These things tell me that people of color across the board see what I see, an appalling racism and xenophobia in the Republican Party that is enraging.
(Paragraph breaks added to make this more readable.)

Republicans just don’t get it

Hours after Stuart Stevens insults most Americans, Tom Davis credits Obama's victory to the "underclass"

By Joan Walsh
On Wednesday I finished my piece on Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens boasting that President Obama “only” won the votes of Americans who earn less than $50,000–that’s most people, by the way–and rushed to MSNBC’s “Hardball” to discuss the GOP’s diversity problems with supposedly moderate former Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia.

It was a calm, respectful conversation, until Davis volunteered that Romney lost because of Obama’s voter turnout operation–specifically, his ability to turnout “underclass minorities” and “particularly those who orient toward the city” who were “pulled out of the apartments.” Since we had been talking about the GOP’s problems with women and people of color, I respectfully offered Davis some “free advice”–that it might be time to retire the term “underclass.” It got worse.

Davis mumbled about the term not being “politically correct,” and when I referenced Stevens’s slur against people who make less than $50,000 a year, many of whom are actually middle class, Davis jumped in: “That’s not where the voter turnout came, if you know your voter stats, it was really people who were making even less than that, pulled out of the apartments…groups that traditionally haven’t voted.” (Yes, I caught the condescending “if you know your voter stats.”)

Davis’s “underclass minorities” remark has gotten a lot of attention–Salon flagged it and posted the video here–but I want to spend a moment on his concern about “groups that traditionally haven’t voted.” To be fair, Davis wasn’t accusing Democrats of voter fraud, the way other Republicans have. But he still seemed unsettled by the fact that the president turned out people who “traditionally haven’t voted”–who were “pulled out of the apartments” even! Yes, there are all sorts of hoary racial stereotypes jumbled up in those words, and class stereotypes as well.

Republicans don’t know what to do when “groups that traditionally haven’t voted” turn up at the polls. Because they know they lose. And this is an ancient struggle, predating this country’s founding but embedded in its DNA. We sometimes forget: There once were property requirements to vote in many states. It wasn’t until 1830, more than 50 years after our nation’s founding, that white men had universal suffrage (of course it took a lot longer for black men and longer still for women.) Even after that, we fought a long voting rights struggle against poll taxes and literacy tests and other ways to keep African Americans from voting in the South.

Because Republicans and the powers that be know one thing: If every eligible voter actually voted, we would live in a very different, much more just and more fair world. A world with less economic suffering and much more opportunity. Even allowing for the fact that some working class people don’t vote their own economic interests, whether because of culture or religion or race: If we made sure that lower-income people voted in the same proportion that upper income people do, the GOP would be on an even faster path to extinction than it is currently.

That’s what accounts for the new GOP push for restrictive voting laws. Republicans are no longer talking as much about “fraud,” which has been proven to be virtually non-existent; they’re owning up to the fact that the new laws are intended to suppress the turnout of minorities and poor people who came out to vote in record numbers in 2008 and then again in 2012. Those folks who were “pulled out of the apartments” by the Obama campaign.
It Gets Worse for Mitt Romney as He is Named the Least Influential Person of 2012

By Jason EasleyRomney’s lasting legacy isn’t that he was at the helm when the Republican Party finally crashed and burned on a national scale. This honestly wasn’t Romney’s fault. It doesn’t matter who the Republicans might have nominated, they would have lost in 2012. (Having a party platform that alienates women, African-Americans, Latinos, and young voters tends to have that sort of impact on the electoral bottom line.)

Mitt Romney’s lasting legacy is that he confirmed to the rest of America what it had long suspected. Those old, rich, conservative white guys who are looking to buy elections view the rest of the country with contempt. When these men say they want their country back, they really mean that they think they are entitled to run the show. Women belong in the kitchen. Young people should stop being lazy and get a job. African Americans are invisible, and Latinos are criminals who should be prosecuted and/or (self) deported.

Naming Mitt Romney the least influential person of 2012 isn’t kicking a man when he is down. It is telling the truth about a presidential nominee who had done so little, yet felt entitled to so much.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see:

O'Reilly confirms he's a racist
Letters to Romney on "stuff"
Republican says black voters = fraud
Romney:  Obama gave "gifts" to win
White men lose to demographic change

Alexie makes comedy from tragedy

The Laughing Indian

By Lindsey Catherine CornumUsually when Indians make prime time it’s in a parade of dire statistics about poverty, alcoholism, and suicide on reservations. In his stories, Alexie does not directly challenge this image of a broken people naturally prone to self-destruction and struggling to survive in the modern world, but he writes about the child abuse, alcoholic fathers, and dead-end lives in tones light and breezy. He says when an Indian dies of alcoholism it should be considered “natural causes,” and he says it so you laugh.

That line, a flippant address to the very unnatural death by destitution common in Indian populations, appears multiple times in the latest collection of Alexie stories, Blasphemy. Every zinger Alexie writes must be written at least twice, so this career-spanning collection of new and selected shorts is full of one-liners stretched beyond their means. Just a shade away from cliché to begin with, Alexie’s language becomes a parody of itself. Blasphemy is a repetitive catalog of ways in which Alexie has made comedy from tragedy. The stories are mostly in the first person, mostly involve men, who mostly talk in the exact same way, and who are struggling with one or all of the following problems: women, fear of death, and absent fathers. They are almost all “funny.”

Despite cycling and recycling the same old tropes told in the same voice, Blasphemy has received not one poor review. Is Alexie really such a flawless writer that critics cannot go beyond praise as repetitive as his oeuvre itself? Or are most reviewers seduced by the charming prose of an Indian who eases their guilty consciences? The latter seems much more likely.

In a wonderful triumph of multiculturalism, Alexie can get famous writing about one of the most brutally repressed people in and because of America—just as long as he supports the popular perception of Indians and is friendly enough to have a good laugh about it. The laughter is key. Angry Indians do not win National Book Awards very often unless their anger is masked in metaphor, contained in the beautiful intricate prose of a Louise Erdrich or, in the case of Alexie, delivered with a punchline. Not only are his stories shot through with humor, almost every image of Alexie shows him laughing. On the cover of Blasphemy, in his twitter avatar, in the first images of a Google search: the guy is almost always buckled over in laughter.
Comment:  I've read four or five of Alexie's books. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is probably the best.

I hadn't noticed this problem before, but I did notice it in Absolutely True Diary. It was a central part of my reaction. I thought the depiction of a teenage Indian's life was spot-on--possibly the best we'll ever see. But Junior's sharp wit sounded too much like adult humor put in a youngster's mouth, not a youngster's natural reaction to events.

In other words, the witticisms weren't always believable coming from a teenager. They made Junior seem more like a shallow TV character than a fully realized literary character. That limited the story's impact.

But that's a minor criticism for an otherwise excellent book. I'd probably give Absolutely True Diary a 9.0 of 10. It doesn't get much better than that.

For more on Sherman Alexie, see Why Alexie Is Voting for Obama and Best Teen Novels Are White?

Tate's music expresses Native pride

Composer Jerod Tate: A Hyper-Story Guy

By Lee AllenChickasaw classical composer and 2011 Emmy award winner Jerod Tate is true to his roots, deciding early in his composing career that he would write music based only on Indian themes. “Indian country is full of stories and I’m, like, a hyper-story guy. There’s so much inspiration here, an endless amount of music that can be written to complement a story or a legend from our past. In our tribe, we have little people and scary forest people as well as star and cloud people--I use them all as inspiration for my work.”

Tate was born with performance creativity in his genes, a combination of Oklahoma Chickasaw father, who was classical pianist and baritone vocalist, and an Irish mother from Nebraska, who was a dancer and choreographer. “I grew up with a whole bunch of theatre and music in the house watching my Dad play Bach and Rachmaninoff. The first instrument I gravitated to was a piano--a mini-orchestra with so much range of expression--and I knew I was hooked, that music was my path by the time I was 9 years old.”

As Artistic Director for the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival and Composer-in-Residence for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, he has been named a cultural Ambassador for the State of Oklahoma. “My heritage is very important to me, coming from both the men and women who make up who we are. Together my awesome dad and his mother, my grandmother, gifted me a wonderful balance of what it means to be a Chickasaw man. Their combined experience has been a tour de force in our family and I owe my cultural identity to both of them.”

Appearing recently on an Indian radio station in Tucson, Arizona (Gabriel Ayala’s Liner Notes show on Pasqua Yaqui station KPYT), Tate explained many of his compositions and how they came to be…like The Thunder Song (or Taloah He Loah): “This is chamber music for a solo tympani, a percussion instrument like a kettle drum, made famous in Peter and the Wolf. In our legend, when it thundered it meant the good and bad spirits were having a match and our hunters would shoot their guns into the clouds to assist the good spirits. I wrote this solo piece completely inspired by the thunder beings we have in our peoples history.”

Asked by both his radio host and Indian Country Today Media Network about how his musical path evolved, his response was simple: “I believe American Indians have a natural ability to represent themselves musically in the classical fine arts so I use my Chickasaw influence the same way Indian painters to when they use cultural icons and abstract them into a modern expression. I do the same in music with round-dance rhythms and Native language chanting. Famous composers like Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky and Ludwig von Beethoven all infused their national identity with their classical training. I do the same in dramatic and romantic works. I'm highly expressive about my Indian pride.”
Comment:  For more on Jerod Tate, see Jerod Tate Wins Emmy and First Indian Chamber Music Festival.

November 28, 2012

Yurok woman runs national park inn

Spirit of Enterprise: Yurok Woman and Husband Run the Historic Requa Inn in Redwood National Park

By Lynn ArmitageEven as the U.S. economy struggles for resurgence, hundreds of thousands of undaunted Native Americans are pursuing their dreams. The most recent Census data tells us there are nearly 237,000 Native-owned businesses in this country that have rung up $34.4 billion in receipts. In this new biweekly series on Indian Country Today Media Network, we will profile the inspiring stories of these Native business owners, who work tirelessly and fight the good fight every day in the marketplace.

Name: Jan and Marty Wortman
Title: Owners of the Historic Requa Inn in Klamath, California
Type of business: Bed-and-breakfast
How long in business: 2.8 years
Original investment: $875,000
Advice for other business owners: “Forgive yourself for making mistakes because you are going to make a ton of them!”

When Jan Wortman was growing up on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath, California, she and her family used to drive by the Historic Requa Inn and say, “Wouldn’t that be neat if we owned that place someday?”

Someday finally arrived, at least for Jan. She and her husband, Marty, bought the Inn back in February 2010 after relocating from Portland, Oregon. “When my daughter Geneva moved home to the reservation, we decided to move back, too,” she said. They were looking for a business, and, as fate would have it, the inn was up for sale. “The asking price was $1.2 million. We got a steal for $875,000.”
Comment:  For more on Native businesses, see First Movie Theater on Pine Ridge and Lakota Casket Company.

Below:  "Jan sips a glass of wine from a balcony of the Requa Inn overlooking the Klamath River."

Stamps celebrate Native heritage

The National Museum of the American Indian has a Facebook photo album with five sets of Native-themed stamps:

Stamp Series from the USPSDid you know that the US Postal Service has issued these stamps celebrating American Indian heritage?Comment:  One of the five sets is below. Looks like someone has made the stamps into displays--either at the NMAI or a Postal Service building.

For more on Indians and stamps, see Indians Protest Carmel Mission Stamp and Tecumseh Stamp and Freighter.

Animated stories for NA Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month: Check Out These Animated Stories on YouTubeOne may not think of YouTube as being a place to find information about Native American history, but a number of individuals and tribes have taken to using animation to tell their stories.

So, for Native American Heritage Month, here are a few examples of how animation has been used to tell Native stories.
Comment:  The posting includes seven examples of animated Native videos.

For more on the subject, see Halbritter Signs Books, DVDs and Iktomi Cartoons on GoodHealth TV.

Below:  "This animation uses puppets to tell the story of The Owl and the Lemming: An Eskimo Legend, in which the main character is outsmarted by his would-be dinner with flattery."

November 27, 2012

Snoop Dogg in a headdress

Another day, another inappropriate headdress, another protest on Facebook:

So Snoop Dogg thinks it is okay to abuse an entire culture by wearing a fake headdress as a fashion statement! Then you need to checkout how he disrespects Native women with the scanty outfits! If you are offended by this insult to Native culture and tradition then go to his page and let him know how you feel! Somehow you would think he would know better.The image apparently comes from this video, which goes on for almost 13 minutes and features a Last Supper-like Thanksgiving meal.

Here are the usual reactions from Natives and others:LOL yeah it's very off--one of Snoop's parents is half Native--he came to an Canadian powwow randomly and likes hockey.

I say we get back at him and dress in black face paint and sing Mammy. Or maybe some other old time slave songs in the name of honoring the black culture.

There seems to be no end to these disrespectful morons. Can't blame it on the smoke. Willie and Bob Marley could smoke him under the table, and neither ever lost their sense of propriety and respect.

He has lost touch with reality. You would think he would have known better. Very surprised by this.

Disgusting! I'd like to slap the fire outta him!

Wow. I used to like him. I am always so angry when I see black people indulge in this kind of denigrating behaviour. We should know better. This man has millions of young black kids who follow what he does. Look what he is teaching them. For shame!

He better get his black ass to the media and apologize!

Really? You are surprised? Snoop has been disrespecting women of all races for years!

I posted over on his Facebook page as to how much of a shame he is. Even more disrespect he is smoking weed while he is wearing that fake headdress.

If he is half Native, he is not only disrespecting my chiefs, but his own as well. That makes it even worse IMHO.
Proving Snoop's lack of respect is this image and comment from his Facebook page:

Checc out tha BEHIND tha Scenes from my Thanksgiving Special!! Don't forget to subscribe! Uhearme.
A Plains headdress and a nearly naked "Indian maiden" at a Thanksgiving meal: two basic and inexcusable wrongs.

For more on the subject, see Victoria's Secret Model in a Headdress and Crystle Lightning in a Headdress.

Assassin's Creed 3's Mohawk advisers

A columnist interviews the two Mohawk consultants who helped develop the Mohawk portions of the Assassin's Creed 3 video game. The following may be the most interesting section:

The Awesome Mohawk Teacher and Consultant Behind Ratonhnhaké:ton

By Michael VenablesVenables: What kind of cultural guidelines did you set down for Ubisoft to allow Ratonhnhaké:ton in Assassin’s Creed 3 to appear as a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka in appearance, speech and beliefs? Was this a community process that involved Nation elders in deliberation?

Teiowí:sonte: For the most part, I was able to provide advice independently, drawing from my own knowledge of our history and culture. However, for things I was not completely sure about, I did my research and asked around our community.

Certainly, a big part of why I was recruited was to ensure that Ubisoft did not produce anything that would be considered culturally offensive to our people. That said, ideas were often bounced off of me to ensure that Ubisoft was culturally sensitive and accurate. For example, when some of the writers were thinking about a segment which used ceremonial masks, I immediately advised them not to incorporate something so spiritually private to our people. No doubt, our people would have been quite upset about something like that in the game and probably would have presented a stern opposition against the game.

To their credit, Ubisoft went above and beyond to ensure that the rich and distinct culture of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation was accurately portrayed in the final product, to the best of their ability.

Venables: Do you have any further thoughts on your contribution to helping the Kanien’kehá:ka Mohawk Nation share its culture with the world, in a video game?

I believe that having a Kanien’kehá:ka protagonist appear in a such a popular game franchise such as Assassin’s Creed 3, makes our nation relevant again to people who might think we are but a shadow of the past. It puts us on the map again and makes our culture accessible.

There are a lot of unfortunate stereotypes or unfounded romanticisms about Native Americans in contemporary society and popular culture today, including racial ignorance. I believe most people in the world today amalgamate the vast and distinct cultures of each indigenous nation into a sort of pan-Indian cliché, which does a big disservice to these cultures who work hard to protect and strengthen their distinct identity as a sovereign people against tough odds.

Assassin’s Creed 3 takes the time to give its audience an accurate glimpse into Kanien’kehá:ka culture, by incorporating our true language, our songs, and our historical experience during an era that depended greatly upon Native American alliances. This accessibility may inspire someone to learn more about the various Native American cultures in North America and their contributions to the world today. For example, most people just don’t know how much of a significant role the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and other Iroquoian peoples played in the American Revolution and the geopolitical landscape we live in today.

Whether they learn something as simple as how not all Native Americans lived in tepees, or something more significant such as how the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) constitution inspired the creation of the US Constitution; it would be worth it.
Comment:  For more on Assassin's Creed 3, see Noah Watts as Mohawk Assassin and Assassin's Creed 3 Misrepresents History.

Below:  "Assassin's Creed 3 concept art." (Ubisoft Entertainment)

2013 Sacagawea dollar reverse unveiled

2013 Native American $1 Dollar Design Image

By Darrin Lee UnserA new reverse design for the 2013 Native American $1 coin was unveiled by the United States Mint last week. The dollar design represents the theme of "The Delaware Treaty (1778)."

Expected to debut early next year on new $1 coins, the design marks the fifth in a series of annually changing reverses to appear on Native American coinage. Congress mandated rotating dollar designs with the passage of the Native American $1 Coin Act.
And:2013 Native American dollars feature a reverse design that is emblematic of the Delaware Treaty of 1778. After having declared independence just a few years before, the first formal treaty signed in the name of the United States was with an Indian tribe, the Delaware, at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh) on September 17, 1778.

To signify that treaty, the dollar design shows images of a turkey, howling wolf and turtle. These three creatures are symbols of the clans of the Delaware Tribe. A string of thirteen stars surround the design representing the thirteen original colonies.

Comment:  On the positive side, the design itself looks nice. I don't have any artistic complaints about it.

But I wonder if the Delaware Treaty of 1778 is worth commemorating. I think the British signed treaties with the Indians before the Revolution, so it wasn't literally the first treaty.

It was the first United States treaty, but other than that, I'm not sure it's historically important. In the articles I read, no one ever mentions it.

And I question the use of three animals to depict the event. We're talking about Delaware leaders using their rhetorical skills and intellectual prowess to negotiate a legal document. And the best we can do to represent this act of statesmanship is a menagerie? Doesn't this convey the impression that Indians are animal-like?

How about this? If you can't think of a sophisticated way to portray a Native event, don't portray it. In particular, don't use clichéd eagle, wolf, hawk, or bear symbols. Especially with such a tenuous connection to the event.

In notational form:

Delaware signed treaty => Delaware have clans => Clans based on animals => Pictures of animals


Delaware signed treaty => Pictures of animals?

I don't consider that a great chain of reasoning. It's like saying:

Lincoln wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address => Lincoln was known as a rail-splitter => Picture of a log.

Is a piece of wood the best representation of Lincoln's rhetorical achievement? No? The same applies to clan animals and a historic treaty signing.

For more on the subject, see 2012 Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled and 2011 Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled.

Mohawk designer on Victoria's Secret

Mohawk Designer Marlana Thompson Discusses the Victoria's Secret Fashion ShowThe recent controversy over the use of a feather headdress as an accessory during the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show continues to rankle many Natives--some of whom decided to stop buying the company's wares. And pop group No Doubt's racially-insensitive video for the song "Looking Hot," although quickly removed from YouTube, nonetheless alienated many Native fans. ICTMN recently discussed the issue with native fashion designer Marlana Thompson. Thompson is Wolf Clan from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation territory of Akwesasne, located on the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada, and lives in Squamish, B.C. with her companion Wayne Gausedis Baker. A mother of two daughters, she is the owner and designer of at Okwaho Creations, maker of custom beadwork, traditional and contemporary clothing, which can be seen online at

What is your professional opinion?

Ok, let’s put the personal motivations aside, assume that was not the case. The clothing choice projected a very poorly done satire.

She’s wearing all Southwest silver and turquoise jewelry and a Plains-Indian-style, made-in-Taiwan turkey-feather headdress, with the obvious made-in-Taiwan beadwork. This in my opinion degrades and undervalues real beadwork handmade by real First Nations artists. And the clothing--the bikini portion of the models outfit--a cheetah-print bottom and bra covered in ultra suede? Since when were cheetahs indigenous to North America? Wait, most mainstream Americans don’t know what "indigenous" means. If they did, most people would know that first Nations people are indigenous to North America, and furthermore we are not all related, nor from the same tribe, we all don’t have the same language and we do not live in teepees and we all don’t have casinos.

How would you tackle the task of designing a Native themes fashion show?

As an FBI--Full Blooded Indian--designer who has done many fashion shows, I would personally never allow any made-in-Taiwan pieces on my runway under any circumstances, and would never dress up a non-native model in a Native “Thanksgiving”-inspired outfit. (I'm being polite to the creative mind at Victoria's Secret who thought up this "inspirational" piece.) I think if the style is to reflect a Native theme, then why not, when there are so many beautiful Native models readily available, hire Native models?! And hire Native designers to assist in the production? We are just as professional in our job as anyone else.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Victoria's Secret Apologizes for Headdress and Victoria's Secret Model in a Headdress.

November 26, 2012

Chief Firewater surfboard cleaner

Someone on Facebook posted this image and link:

Chief FirewaterChief FirewaterTM surfboard cleaner and wax remover is The Original and best known surfboard cleaner since 1987.

Chief Firewater surfboard cleaner is a wax, tar and adhesive remover optimized for cleaning surfboards and is the best and safest way to keep your surfboard clean. Find out what surfers say about Chief Firewater!

Wow. This company name and logo aren't too racist!

At least the founder didn't go for a Plains headdress. But note the big nose and stern expression. This is still a negative view of Indians.

It goes without saying that any association of Indians with drinking is stereotypical if not racist. Would you depict a black ghetto dweller named MC Hooch-alot? A white CEO named Sir Boozington? How is this any different?

I don't see an explanation of the name's origin on the website. But it's not a quirky choice unrelated to the founder's beliefs. He proves this with a second image showing what looks like a Native descending to the surf from a plateau of tipis.

Since the company is based in Southern California, we have to assume this isn't Native Hawaiian--you know, the people who actually invented surfing. The cacti also suggest a location in Southern or Baja California. And there's no scenario where tipis should be near an ocean.

In other words, the image confirms that the founder has a romanticized or stereotypical view of Indians. It probably involves a wild and free lifestyle of drinking, partying, and surfing. Except for the surfing part, that's roughly why every white hipster appropriates Indian culture--to suggest he and his products are more unconventional than the alternatives.

Anyway, no one is trying to shut this company down...yet. But it's a typical example of how people think about Indians. I.e., they lived in the past, carousing and enjoying life, free from the constraints of civilization. Then they vanished.

For more on the subject, see McFadden's "Drink Like a Indian" Party and Paul Frank's Racist "Powwow."

Cherokee Word for Water premieres

New film 'Cherokee Word for Water' shows pivotal moment in tribe's history

By Michael SmithThe Cherokee concept of "gadugi" means working together to solve a problem. That's what happened in the tiny community of Bell about 30 years ago in building a waterline and bringing fresh drinking water to the people of the town, located southeast of Tahlequah.

The volunteer effort, and the efforts of Wilma Mankiller and her husband to facilitate the project, played a role in Mankiller later becoming the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.

These are among the events depicted in "The Cherokee Word for Water," a feature film celebrating the courage and determination of a resilient people and a pioneering woman in Mankiller.

The picture opens with a private premiere Thursday followed by a week of screenings at Circle Cinema in Tulsa beginning Friday.
'Cherokee Word for Water,' film about Wilma Mankiller, to premiere at Circle Cinema

By Michael OverallAfter watching several audition tapes, the real-life Charlie Soap was already leaning toward a certain actor to play him in a new movie, "The Cherokee Word for Water."

And the casting director mentioned that the actor just happened to be waiting outside the door for a chance to meet Soap.

Seen recently in the box-office flop "Cowboys vs. Aliens," Moses Brings Plenty hardly counts as a household name.

But Soap wasn't looking for star power.

"The moment I saw him, I thought, 'That's me walking through the door.' There was this phenomenal bonding between us right off the bat."

Based on a true story about Soap and his wife, the late Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, the movie will have its public debut Friday night at Tulsa's Circle Cinema.

But a select group of supporters saw an early screening Thursday during an invitation-only premier at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Wilma Mankiller Movie.

Below:  Oren Lyons and Mo Brings Plenty.

Gong launches Mockups

Nooksack tribal member turns shoes into canvas for art

By Dave GallagherA penchant for creating Northwest native art on shoes has turned into a business opportunity for a Nooksack tribal member.

Louie Gong recently launched a website for Mockups, which resemble white Vans-style shoes that customers use to paint intricate designs.

The product is a do-it-yourself piece that isn't meant to be worn but can be used to create artwork as well as something to practice designs on before trying it out on actual Vans shoes.

In the do-it-yourself art toy business, Gong believes this product hits a sweet spot because of the importance of shoes in society. It also has educational value, making it a potentially popular product for school projects.

"Shoes are the perfect platform for talking about a wide range of topics in a way that can really engage with kids," Gong said. If one thinks about the role shoes have played in our culture, he said, such as Dorothy's shoes in "The Wizard of Oz" or Air Jordans, art on shoes can have broad appeal and become iconic cross-cultural symbols.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Unreserved Trailer and Gong's Shoes in Fashion Showcase.

Stereotypical Thanksgiving TV promos

On Sunday, Fox's Family Guy and Cleveland Show both featured a stereotypical "coming up next" image. Each showed the family in a tight group with one member in a Plains headdress--presumably to "celebrate" the Thanksgiving season.

On Monday, the CW's Gossip Girl featured New York socialite Blair Waldorf in a brief "coming up next" bit. She was dressed in a stereotypical Indian outfit: headband with feather, breastplate, etc. Again, the intent seemed to be to "celebrate" the Thanksgiving season.

I'm not sure I've ever seen promos like this before. I wonder if all the faux Indians are starting to influence TV networks? I can see graphic artists reading about Karlie Kloss, Gwen Stefani, Lana Del Rey, et al. and thinking, "Good idea for a Thanksgiving promo."

Maybe they didn't see the resulting controversies, or did see them but ignored them. That's the problem with these images. Even if we criticize them and take them down, they seep into the cultural "commons." Each new image makes the naive viewer think, "These images are everywhere. They must be okay or people wouldn't use them. I'll use them too."

For more on the subject, see "Stanksgiving" in Happy Endings and Thanksgiving in Up All Night.

November 25, 2012

White "norm" is planned and enforced

A lesson from South Africa that applies to most white people in America:

What living in South Africa taught me about racism in America

By Kameron HurleySo of course I couldn’t really see segregation, and how it worked, because I was so neatly cut off from people who were different from me. I lived in a place of invisible race, full of white folks. The people I saw everyday were mostly white. At work, at school, at the mall--I just figured this was how it was. Of course race didn’t matter and we were all the same, I told myself, but it’s a lot easier to say that when all the people you see every day look the same way you do, and are the same people making the laws, and setting down the unwritten rules. And deciding where the white and non-white people live.

Because I was a white person growing up in white suburbia, it didn’t really dawn on me how stiffly our country was still segregated until I spent a year and a half living in South Africa. In the US, about 28% of our country is non-white now. In South Africa, over 80% of the country is non-white.

That meant that the way the world was segregated, even post-Apartheid, was glaringly more obvious to me. Most of the world was non-white where I lived, in Durban. It was only when you’d walk into isolated upperclass neighborhoods, or down certain streets, that you saw these little congregations of white people sitting behind their ten-foot barbed-wire topped fences. But even then, everybody had a housekeeper, and a gardener, and a handyman, and those people--in nearly all cases--were not white. So when you walked into a white enclave, it felt exactly like a white enclave should feel: not “normal.” It was abnormal to be in a neighborhood primarily filled with white folks.

I remember the first time I walked into a store in downtown Durban and realized I was the only white person there, just a couple weeks after arriving. It was a startling moment of dissonance. I felt like I’d done something wrong, like maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there. I realized I was 22 years old, and had never in my life been the sole white person… well, anywhere. And the knowledge of that, the striking realization that, in fact, the world I grew up in was a false one, that I had grown up under the false pretense that being white was somehow the norm, and that I had somehow picked up this strange illogical notion that the rest of the world was of course mostly-white too, was absolutely shocking to me. We expect that we’re smarter than that. That knowing something intellectually--of course the world is diverse and varied and wonderful and I had “known” that since I was a child--does not translate into real knowledge of that world until you experience it, was… really depressing, actually. Because I realized how many other white people in America had grown up just like me, in these false white rural and suburban ghettos where they had absolutely no idea of the actual composition of America.
And how this applies to everything from the 2012 election to science fiction:I was reminded of this experience during a very laughable post-election moment when I was viewing this video from a Republican poll watcher in Aurora, Colorado. He was deeply concerned about the fact that the “racial mix” at the polling station he was at skewed far darker than “the mix of people at the mall.” (!!) This, he said, was evidence of some kind of Democratic conspiracy to get more non-white people to this particular polling station.

What he failed to realize is that “these people” had been in Aurora all along--they simply didn’t move in the same spaces he did. The only time he saw them was now, on election day, when they all had to come to the same place to vote. If he hadn’t been a poll watcher, he likely would never have noticed them. Because that’s privilege. Because that’s having the ability to live in spaces that have been built to exclude others, and give you a false sense of the world.

After living in Durban, I moved to Chicago, and experienced that eerie train ride from the north side of Chicago to the south side, where the composition of people on the train changes so dramatically that it looks… planned. Because it was. Planned and enforced. Just as it had been in my great-grandfather’s neighborhood in Portland, OR.

When I read a lot of golden age SF, I think about these guys who grew up in planned neighborhoods like my great-grandfather’s, where people who were “different” from the false middle-class white “norm” were excluded. I think of television shows that still give us this narrow view of what “normal” is--so very white, so very male, with strict standards on body sizes and face shapes.

If this is the world you’re fed every day, why wouldn’t you replicate it? Of course, the future is white and male and middle class. Of course the galactic empire is white and male and middle class. It is constructed that way. Just like our cities.
Comment:  All this comes under the heading of white privilege: the social constructs that let white people think they're the norm, even though the world is predominantly brown.

For more on the subject, see White = Sick, Brown = Deviant and White Privilege Will End Soon.

Below:  White "god" Kirok teaches savage brown-skins about science and technology.

Fated romanticizes, stereotypes Indians

I posted before about the teen paranormal novel Fated by Alyson Noel. Here's its blurb on things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness her mystical powers. But it’s when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, that her whole world is shaken to its core. Now Daire is forced to discover if Dace is the one guy she's meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.
I suspected the Soul Seeker series would offer a stereotypical view of Indians. Now Debbie Reese confirms it in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Alyson Noel's FATEDI'm guessing fans of Fated are people who wish to "honor" Native people with mascots...

What I mean by "people who honor Native people with mascots" means people with little substantive knowledge about Native people. Instead of factual knowledge of who we are, they embrace romantic ideas of us as warriors and shamans with feathers and drums. The people who want to "honor" us are people who mean well; they're people with good intentions.

But heck! How long is ignorance and stereotyping borne of good intentions going to go on?! I guess it'll continue as long as there is a market for stories with hunky "Native American" guys with high cheekbones, smooth brown skin, and long, glossy black hair.
And:Looking at Noel's page for the sequel, Echo, I see photos she took on a trip to NM, to do research for her book. She was in Espanola, which is about three hours north of Albuquerque. It is a small town, but much bigger than the fictional town of Enchanted (in Fated). She was also at Santuario, a church in Chimayo, New Mexico. If you watch the videos at her site, you'll see Noel talking about wanting to incorporate shamanism and witch doctors and medicine men into this "Soul Seekers" series, of which Fated is the first one. She's definitely quite taken with those that are other to her---but not in a good way.

In an interview (got there from a link on her site), she says she tried to portray shamanism and Native American spirituality "in an authentic way and to do so with reverence." Ms. Noel? You didn't do either. You can't be "authentic" if you're using "Native American" and there's the only reverence I see is the deeply flawed kind borne of romantic notions of American Indians rather than a reverence borne out of actual knowledge, personal relationships, and respect.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Shamanism Series Seeks Native Authenticity.

Walking the Clouds reviewed

A review of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction:

Indians in Space (Author’s Cut)

By Lindsay CatherineEdited by the ever-insightful Grace L. Dillon, Walking the Clouds is the first anthology to bring together writers from around the world representing not only their own tribal literature but also the burgeoning movement of Indigenous Futurism. This inherently radical literature dares to project the Vanishing Indian, victim of genocide or modern despondency, far into the future and onto a genre that re-envisions the world through uniquely Indigenous perspectives.

Walking the Clouds is not just an introduction to what Indigenous Futurism is, but a continuous attempt to create the subject of its study. To that end, the stories and excerpts are rather short with Dillon’s introduction and analysis defining and guiding us through the conceptual framework of each brief piece. The book is more an encyclopedia of ideas than a true collection of stories, providing a useful road map thorough previously scattered works while pointing out valuable sources to revisit.

The driving tension of this exploration is between what Indigenous Futurism shares with SF and what it subverts. For Stephen Graham Jones, a self-proclaimed follower of “Blackfeet physics,” the time-bending, multidimensional quality of SF is simply an extension of tribal tradition. Neither Dillon nor I would go so far as to say all Indigenous literature is inherently SF, but what this anthology does reveal is that Indigenous SF is not new: it is simply a new way to group aspects that have shot through certain Indigenous literature and perceptions for a very long time.

Though, Dillon points to these shared aspects, she is also quick to highlight the stark differences between a world centered on Western science and one on Indigenous knowledge. By choosing to lay claim to Science Fiction, the collection commits an ultimate act of appropriation by transforming a genre that has defined Western-American attitudes towards race, colonialism, and technology into a vehicle for Indigenous resistance. Aliens are no longer the racialized other of exotic worlds and the colonization of distant, presumed-empty lands no longer the central drama. Most importantly, Western technology is no longer revered as God but rather critiqued as a flawed method of interacting with nature.

We witness this war of worlds in Simon Ortiz’s contribution to the anthology, Men on the Moon, the story of an old Acoma man, Faustin, who turns on the television for the first time and watches the Apollo 11 rocket launch through snowy static. As he watches astronauts collect samples, Faustin laughs that the “American scientists went to search for knowledge on the moon and they brought back rocks.” When he asks his grandson what they want to learn from rocks, he is told the scientists want to know how the universe began. Faustin responds incredulously, “Hasn’t anyone told them?”

In Faustin’s eyes, the wonder of science and its ability to make anything possible—a theme in many SF stories—becomes skepticism and even ridicule of science’s attempt to “discover” what for many has already been found, much like the “New World” itself. Ortiz does not rely on how a Western notion of science can enhance his fiction, but instead reveals the fiction behind science’s claims to epistemological mastery. Ortiz’s story, Men on the Moon, is not in an anthology of SF because of its references to space and strange machines, it is there because of the process of estrangement whereby it challenges the precepts with which we classify “science” and “fiction.”

The disruptive estrangement of Ortiz’s work is the unifying theme of Walking in the Clouds.
Comment:  For more on indigenous science fiction, see Saving Columbus in Infinity Ring and Backtrack: The Scout's Story.

Long-term effects of stereotyping

A study confirms what I've said many times--that stereotyping directly harms Natives and other minorities.

Long-term Effects of Stereotyping

By Rick NauertLabeling people in a negative manner has a lasting detrimental impact on those who experience the prejudice, suggests a new study.

“Past studies have shown that people perform poorly in situations where they feel they are being stereotyped,” says University of Toronto Scarborough’s Michael Inzlicht, who led the research.

His research is published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“What we wanted to do was look at what happens afterwards. Are there lingering effects of prejudice? Does being stereotyped have an impact beyond the moment when stereotyping happens?”

In order to determine whether negative stereotyping in a particular situation had lasting effects, Inzlicht’s team performed a series of tests.

First, they placed participants in situations where they had to perform a task in the face of negative stereotyping. After the participants were removed from the prejudicial situation, researchers measured their ability to control their aggression, eat appropriate amounts, make rational decisions, and stay focused.

Their results show that prejudice and stereotyping have lingering adverse impacts.

“Even after a person leaves a situation where they faced negative stereotypes, the effects of coping with that situation remain,” says Inzlicht.

“People are more likely to be aggressive after they’ve faced prejudice in a given situation. They are more likely to exhibit a lack of self control. They have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they are more likely to over-indulge on unhealthy foods.”
Comment:  For more on the harm of Native stereotyping, see Lakota Girl Imitates Stereotypical Images and Research Proves Mascots Are Harmful.

November 24, 2012

"Stanksgiving" in Happy Endings

As you may recall, last year the TV comedy Happy Endings revealed that one of its characters, Dave, was 1/16 Navajo. I analyzed that bit in "Navajo" in Happy Endings.

This year Happy Endings did a follow-up bit for Thanksgiving. Titled More Like Stanksgiving (airdate: 11/21/12), it supposedly exposed Dave to the history of Indians in America.

Here are its references to Indians. First, Alex announces that she and Dave will prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Dave reminisces:DAVE: Although, this time of year is always a little bittersweet for me.

[Knowing Dave is about to launch into some faux-Indian nonsense, the others groan and sigh.]

DAVE: Thanksgiving is a real reminder of my people's hardships. As an American living with 1/16th Navajo-ism, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to educate, perhaps enlighten, all you white people and throw an authentic Thanksgiving.

BRAD [gestures at himself because he's black]: White people?

DAVE: You guys wouldn't understand. None of your ancestors were at the first Thanksgiving.

JANE: Okay, neither were the Navajo.

DAVE: One of our many snubs.

JANE: Yeah.
At their apartment, Dave asks Alex about the clams she was supposed to buy. She thought it was a mistake and bought clamps instead.DAVE: Al, quahog clams were a featured dish in the first Thanksgiving.

DAVE [sighs]: I guess I gotta go get some now to prove to you guys how much better an authentic Thanksgiving is.

ALEX: Oh, Dave, c'mon. I respect your cultural traditions.

ALEX [gets a tray of tipi-shaped treats from the refrigerator]: That's why...I made...Navaho-hos.

DAVE: Tepees, Al? The Navajo did not live in tepee. I am deeply...offended by this.

[He takes a treat.]
On his mission to buy clams, Dave is at a gas station getting gas. He's wearing a fringed leather jacket to signify his Native side:DAVE [to passersby]: Baa Ahééwiindzin Bijí. Happy day of thankfulness.

PASSERBY: Oh, shut up.

MAN [in a Pilgrim's outfit]: Excuse me, sir? We were headed to the Thanksgiving Day parade when our car ran out of gas about a mile away.

WOMAN [in a Pilgrim's outfit]: Can we borrow a few dollars for gas?

DAVE: The irony. You see, it's the custom of my people to help strangers in need. And this on the day of thanksgiving.

DAVE: You know what, I'm gonna hit the ATM.

MAN: Nice guy.

WOMAN: Total sweetheart.
While Dave gets cash, he sings to himself about his "heart of an eagle." Meanwhile, the "Pilgrims" get in his car. When Dave approaches the car window, they snatch his money and wallet, then drive off.

Without his phone, Dave can't call for help. Still eager to fulfill his mission, he enters a deli and asks for clams. The proprietor complies:PROPRIETOR: All right, here are your quahogs.

DAVE: Great. One detail. I don't have any traditional money....

PROPRIETOR: Well, no clams then.

DAVE: C'mon, man, here's the dealio. Some Pilgrims stole my car and phone, so I can't call my friends because I don't know any of their numbers. I called the cops, but apparently they won't take me to get clams because they, quote, aren't a taxi service for idiots. So I was hoping that you and I could have a little barter situation here vis-à-vis...a trade.

PROPRIETOR: This is a real store.

DAVE: If I don't show up with a sack of clams I'm gonna look like a real dope.

PROPRIETOR: I do like that jacket.

DAVE: This jacket for some clams? I mean, this thing is choice. Plus it's 30 degrees outside. You're trying to trick me into a very uneven trade. The story of my people.

PROPRIETOR: White people?

DAVE: You who focus on 15/16ths of a man.

PROPRIETOR: Tell you what. The this blanket.

DAVE [exasperated]: Fine.


DAVE: Fine.

[They make the trade.]

DAVE: Joke's on you. All my friends hate that jacket.
As he goes outside, Dave sneezes. He realizes the blanket may have cat hair on it, which he's allergic to. He looks back and see the proprietor stroking a cat.

Dave in trouble

Sneezing, shivering, and desperate for money, Dave remembers he has one thing of value in his pocket:DAVE: Oh. My Rock Bottom Remainder tickets. I can sell these...for money.

DAVE: Mm. Thank you, rocking scribes.

DAVE [shouts to passersby]: Six tickets for Rock Bottom Remainders! Six tickets for Rock Bottom Remainders!

[A man approaches Dave.]

MAN: Hey, I love RBR. How much?

DAVE: 200 bucks.

MAN: All right, man. You gotta deal. That's great.

DAVE: Yeah? All right!

[The man pays for the tickets.]

DAVE: Oh, you don't understand what kind of day I've had. You see, I'm 1/16th Navajo--?

[The man grabs Dave, turns him around, and handcuffs him.]

MAN: Sir, you're under arrest for scalping.

DAVE: "Scalping"? "Scalping"?! Ah, c'mon, man! Why would you do this to a fellow Rock Bottom Remain dude? What are you doing looking for scalpers, anyway? We're nowhere near a concert venue.

MAN: No, but we are outside a police station.

[The man leads Dave, protesting, into the station.]

DAVE: "Scalping"? The Pilgrims drove me to it!
Finally Dave returns to the apartment without the clams. The others hadn't noticed he was gone. He narrates what happened with the police:DAVE: --and then they got my car back.

[The others make sounds of happiness.]

DAVE: But, then they confiscated my RBR tickets.

[The others make fake sounds of sympathy.]

DAVE: But it wasn't all bad. I mean I wanted an authentic Thanksgiving and I got so much more. I experienced the entire plight of the Native American people in just one day.

JANE: Ohh, no you didn't.

PENNY: That is wildly insensitive.

DAVE: And, 'cuz of my hardships, I feel as though I've earned the right to bestow upon myself my own Indian name.


DAVE: So henceforth, I'll be known as "Has Ordeals with Clams."

BRAD: I don't like it.

MAX: Now, is that a legal name change? Or is this like the time you wanted us to call you "Lindsey"?

DAVE: It's so much bigger than that.

PENNY: Oh, excuse me, Linds.

My thoughts on the Stanksgiving episode:

The good

It's great to see Native history in any format--especially in a network TV show where people aren't expecting. And for a silly comedy, Happy Endings does a reasonable job of recapitulating that history. Traditional foods, welcoming strangers, ripped off by Pilgrims, getting cheated in trades, given infected blankets, forced to scalp and punished for it...that about sums it up. At least through the 19th century.

As it did last time, Happy Endings also gets credit for using a genuine Navajo phrase. Anything that indicates Native languages are still spoken is good.

The bad

The show doesn't distinguish between true and false, misleading, or stereotypical information. In the first category, the Navajo weren't at the first Thanksgiving and didn't live in tipis. In the second category, Indians generally don't wear fringed leather jackets or give themselves "funny Indian names."

The show has no "voice of reason." All six characters are kind of buffoonish. So there's no one to point out the difference between true and false or stereotypical. That limits the already limited educational value of the episode.

The ugly

Even if Dave is a comical character who suffers for his effrontery, he's still a white man adopting a phony Native identity. He isn't an enrolled Navajo and he wasn't raised in the Navajo culture. He has no excuse for pretending to be an Indian rather than a white man with Native roots.

His situation is reminiscent of Elizabeth Warren's. But once her background became known, she didn't claim to be a Cherokee or act like one. She stuck to honoring her (alleged) Native heritage based on her family stories.

That's an appropriate response. Appropriating a Native identity isn't. If Dave told a group of Indians he was 1/16 Navajo and wanted to share "his" culture, they'd criticize and scorn him.

Yet no one really challenges Dave except to groan or sigh. No one tells him, "The joke's over, Dave. By pretending that a drop of Native blood makes you Native, you're insulting real Indians. This is deeply offensive if not outright racist. Stop it now or I'm leaving."

The show is normalizing the idea that New Agers, wannabes, or anyone with a faint connection to Indians can "choose" to be Native. There's an implication that Indians existed in the past but are now gone. All that's left is white people upholding some almost-forgotten Native traditions.

We've heard similar "reasoning" in many cases. Starlets will justify saying or wearing something stereotypical because they're a tiny bit Native. Companies will justify their stereotypical marketing images because the founder talked to someone who said it would be okay. In each case, non-Indians invent reasons to appropriate a culture that isn't theirs.

How about putting a real Native character in these Native-themed episodes of Happy Endings? Have someone who could straighten Dave out about claiming to be Navajo, wearing a fringed jacket, adopting a "funny Indian name," etc. That would be more enlightening than this halfhearted attempt to share Native culture via white people.

It would be funnier, too. I can just imagine the double-takes and eye-rolling as a real Indian listened to Dave pontificate about his ancestors. That kind of reality is what's missing from Happy Endings' take on Indians.

Overall impressions

Here's one reviewers take on the episode:

Happy Endings "More Like Stanksgiving" Review: Has Ordeals With Clams

by Bill KuchmanHoliday-themed sitcom episodes are always tricky proposals; it's easy for writers to get sucked into penning sappy storylines. I consider How I Met Your Mother to be the gold standard of Thanksgiving episodes, having given us both "Slapsgiving" and "Blitzgiving." After "More Like Stanksgiving," it looks like Happy Endings is ready to join that rarified air.

First off, "More Like Stanksgiving" was an excellent Happy Endings episode, possibly the best one of Season 3 thus far. Every character was in play, every member of the group delivering line after line of great material. The actual holiday of Thanksgiving was a part of the episode without the entire thing coming off like an after-school special. There wasn't some gooey message telling us how to feel at the end. And like HIMYM's "Slapsgiving" and "Blitzgiving" episodes, the story in this episode wasn't exactly the family dinner stuff Norman Rockwell would've painted. Dave claiming to have experienced the entire Native American plight because he got caught scalping tickets? Brilliant.
I'll agree that the Native story arc was well-constructed. I didn't think it was particularly funny. The other parts of the episode were funnier.

Overall, I'd say it was a good episode, not a great one. Like a lot of comedies these days, Happy Endings excels at snappy one-liners. It's ultimately forgettable because the characters are story props, not real people with depth.

For more on the subject, see Halloween Party in Happy Endings and Navajo Writes for Happy Endings.

Below:  Dave the "Navajo" just before the "Pilgrims" rip him off.

Warrior women wear headdresses?

Michelle Shining Elk's posting on Crystle ("Crissy") Lightning in a headdress led to another debate on Facebook. From Carol:Bravo to Crissy for not being afraid to take her own stand! We may not all agree with this but we must surely admire such courage and I respect her greatly for following her own truth. I would expect nothing less from one raised by such a strong, compassionate, single mother who became her own warrior to raise her children in such a crazy world. Native's have suffered long from the historical trauma inflicted upon us. Family relationships were destroyed when we were forced to follow the European tradition of male-female relationships. We no longer follow our own tradition of holding women and children sacred. I admire all the women out there who become their own warriors!!Bravo to Michelle for calling out Crissy for violating a basic tenet of Plains culture: that women don't wear headdresses.

In response, Carol posted the following links:

Native American Women Warriors Vice President Sgt. Maj. Julia Kelly, representing the Crow Nation, is a retired Command Sergeant Major of the Army.

Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute.

American Indian Women: The Warriors

My response:

The first headdress probably was bestowed by tribal leaders to recognize a soldier's service. The second may have been worn as a publicity stunt in violation of cultural norms. Or--since Winnemucca was Paiute and the headdress isn't a Plains headdress--her tribe may have had different rules.

The only explanation that applies here is "publicity stunt in violation of cultural norms." The other explanations don't apply to Crystle Lightning. There's still no justification for a young Native woman to appropriate a Plains headdress for her own commercial purposes.

Now that you've found a couple of exceptions to the rule, try addressing the rule:

An Open Letter to Non-Natives in HeaddressesFor the most part, headdresses are restricted items. In particular, the headdress worn by most non-Natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.

So unless you are a Native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.
P.S. Crystle isn't a warrior, so your posting on women warriors is irrelevant.

Round 2

More comments from Carol:Who are you to judge the paths we take? Are all battles fought only on the battlefield? Before you judge a person's path in life perhaps you should walk in their moccasins for a while. We are all warriors in our own way.Lana-Rae:Don't the Crow women in Montana wear them? I know they do a dance...some kind of war dance w/ headdresses on?And Andrea:Well if we all do our research into history it would seem NATIVE women did wear headdresses to honor their fallen fathers, brothers and husbands who earned their right of passage as warriors and this is not discounting that Native woman were also considered warriors who were clan leaders and in this day would not a woman be considered a warrior who has served her country or nation?

No, the posting on women warriors is not irrelevant, it's fact and facts cannot be denied. Crystle's intentions were honorable to honor Native America and the First Nations People and to dispute otherwise is insult to her and her mother whom I have known for many years and whom I consider a true warrior woman.

Let us stop the division, it serves no purpose.
Who are you to judge that Crystle is right and tens of thousands of traditional Natives are wrong when they say women shouldn't wear headdresses? I'll go with the vast majority of Natives over a tiny minority of Natives on this issue.

Crystle isn't honoring a fallen father, brother, or husband. She isn't a Crow woman and she isn't performing a traditional ceremony. I'm pretty sure she hasn't served in the military. So again, irrelevant.

Every person who wears a headdress believes their intentions are honorable. As does every person who stereotypes Indians: Johnny Depp in his Flying Nun costume, Saginaw Grant in the execrable Dudesons episode, every fan who has cheered Chief Wahoo or Chief Illiniwek, et al.

Their intentions are irrelevant when judging the outcome. So are Crystle's. Like every other woman who wears a headdress inappropriately, she's violating the tradition stated above. Period.

When you find a case of a Native woman honoring a ballerina from another tribe who's also wearing a headdress, please let us know. Because that's about the only case that would apply to this situation.

Meanwhile, you haven't begun to address the standard position stated above. Nor have you begun to address the blatant stereotyping involved in donning a headdress like a million Indian wannabes. I guess these issues are too hot to handle because you keep ducking them.

As for the so-called division, quit disagreeing with Michelle and me, Andrea, and the division will stop. We're stating the standard position held by most Natives. You're disagreeing with them because you arrogantly think you know better.

Round 3

Andrea again:LOL, I don't believe you got your tens of thousands of figures by taking a census. Traditional Indians/Indigenous people do not criticize period. You are right Native Celebs she is not a Crow woman, she is CREE and get your facts straight. Arrogance is not my style which is being exhibited here by your criticism of this fine young woman.I've read thousands of articles, blogs, and comments on the Plains headdress subject. Unless you're a Plains Indian or have read about Plains headdresses as much as I have, my understanding of the situation wins.

Another respondent raised the issue of Crow women wearing headdresses legitimately. Learn to read all the comments so I don't have to explain them to you.

I guess you're not Native since you're criticizing me. In fact, you're well-known for criticizing anyone who challenges your positions--e.g., your criticism of Adrienne Keene in the Johnny Depp affair. Fortunately, I'm not bound by that restriction.

It's arrogance to state the position held by most Natives? Wow. I guess you know as little about the definition of "arrogance" as you do about the Plains headdress tradition.

Again, you haven't begun to address the standard headdress position stated above. Nor have you begun to address the blatant stereotyping involved in donning a headdress like a million Indian wannabes. Whenever you want to start addressing these issues, go ahead.

For more on the subject, see Crystle Lightning = Maria Tallchief? and Crystle Lightning in a Headdress.