April 30, 2012

Mining company: Ignore Native spirituality

Don’t consider native spirituality in mine review, Ottawa urged

By Peter O'NeilA new federal environmental review panel “does not have any right to attribute significance to the spirituality of a place per se,” Taseko Mines Ltd. president Russell Hallbauer wrote in a letter obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to the Vancouver Sun by B.C. independent MLA Bob Simpson.

Vancouver-based Taseko, which failed in its 2010 bid to get federal approval after a “scathing” federal review, also asked Ottawa to not permit aboriginal prayer ceremonies at pending hearings on the revised proposal.

Children’s plays should also be banned, Hallbauer said in his November letter.

The panel allowed “a group of kindergarten children to present a play, in which the children wore fish cut-outs on their heads, moved around the floor, and then all fell over simultaneously, symbolizing the death of the fish,” Hallbauer wrote.

Allowing opening prayers wasn’t “appropriate” and a “sensational” anti-project film and the children’s play also shouldn’t have been part of a process that is supposed to be “objective and fact-based.”

The company also complained that one of the three panel members, metallurgist and former environmental mining supervisor Nalaine Morin, was a member of a First Nations organization in the area that was opposed to the project.

One native leader said Taseko’s letter is an affront to aboriginal spirituality.

“We are tied to the land and that’s a spiritual area,” Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse said, referring to the proposed open-pit mine about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

“To not even have that as part of the review, you may as well not have a review at all. Let’s go turn the Vatican into a casino hall.

“This is exactly what we’re talking about when a company is allowed to make those kinds of suggestions. It’s wrong.”
Comment:  Here we have the history of Anglo/Indian relations playing out once again. The white man says the main things that matter are progress and profits. Indian cultures and religions are intangible and therefore irrelevant.

If they don't have a document stating they own the land, they have to leave or die. And if they do have a document stating they own the land, well, they also have to leave or die.

In short, whites win and Indians lose. If the company can't make it happen itself, it asks the government to do its dirty work. "Please eliminate the Indian problem for us so we can continue to enrich ourselves at the environment's expense."

This attitude is stereotypical because it says Native religion matters much less than Christianity. Few people would argue for demolishing a church if it was in the way of a mining operation. But Indians don't get the same consideration because they're brown-skinned "heathens."

For more on Native ties to the land, see Native Wisdom for Earth Day and Natives Endorse Mother Earth Accord.

Below:  "Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa."

Topeka mayor tells "rain dance" joke

Racist Joke by Topeka Mayor Disappoints Prairie Band Tribe

Jay Leno Calls Mayor "Mr. Inappropriate"Last Monday, Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten made a racist joke involving dating an "Indian girl" during his State of the Community Event in front of a crowd of 350. The event was sponsored by the Topeka Chamber of Commerce.

Here's what happened:

In seeking to make fun of Shawnee County Commission Chairman Ted Ensley, after following him to the microphone for his speech, Bunten made several disrespectful jokes including one that said that in Ensley's younger days, Ensley dated an Indian girl, "but when they went out dancing, it rained."

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Council issued a statement to the Topeka Capital Journal in response to the negative joke.

After learning of Bunten's remarks, Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who was not at the event, publicly suggested that Bunten should apologize for the remarks that also were disrespectful to women and other groups.

In their statement, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Council said Bunten's remarks were disappointing and disparaging and that the tribe has given millions of dollars to the Topeka community and northeast Kansas to help with their nonprofit organizations and schools and that they were disheartened that Bunten would discredit them and other groups which did nothing but perpetuate a negative stereotyping of people.

“I don't think I have anything to apologize for,” Bunten responded.

“They were just little jokes and probably were inappropriate, but I didn't mean any harm, and I don't think it did any harm to anyone.”

Bunten told the Topeka newspaper there are jokes about all kinds of people--listing the young, old, Christian and Jewish populations as examples--and said people need to "not be so sensitive about things."

The Mayor's comments landed him on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno as "Mr. Inappropriate."
Comment:  Bunten obviously doesn't get the point. Jokes about the old and young apply to everyone. They don't discriminate by race.

Christian jokes are about the group in power in America--a legitimate target for humor. Jewish jokes are borderline--it depends on who's telling them and what the joke is.

A much better example is Polish jokes, which were hugely popular for a time. Why don't you hear Polish jokes anymore? Because they're an example of the American majority targeting a minority. They exist to put or keep the minority in its place.

Our society eventually realized this and pressured people to stop telling these "jokes." Same with many other ethnic jokes. Nowadays it's mainly blacks who tell black jokes, Jews who tell Jewish jokes, etc. And that form of self-criticism is mostly appropriate.

For more on stereotypical "humor," see Tipi "Housing Solution" Cartoon and Treasurer Mocks Natives "in Fun."

Christian flyer calls Lakota rite "Satanic"

A Demand for Respect for Indigenous Beliefs

By Ruth HopkinsThere’s been a rash of racist flyers distributed in South Dakota lately. These flyers exemplify my concerns about the need for tolerance and respect for the spiritual beliefs of others. It’s been said that the flyer I’m including here has been circulated by Christian church members. The flyer calls the sacred Lakota rite of Yuwipi, as well as hand games, ‘satanic,’ and claims our sundancers suffer from ‘mental illness.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not only is this racist flyer disheartening, it also incites hatred and violence toward Natives who are only practicing the spirituality of their ancestors. Our right to observe these ways is currently protected by The American Indian Religious Freedom Act- but even if it weren’t, we’d keep practicing our sacred rites anyway.

It amazes me that a religion based on the sacrifice of such a selfless, loving, and wise individual as Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Jew, could contain bigots, misogynists and racists, who’ve hid behind crucifixes as innocents were massacred by those who called themselves conquerors.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Christianity. There are Christians who’ve spent their entire lives in service to others. I just don’t understand why so many self-professed Christians are determined to spread hate and lies about those who don’t practice their religion, nor why they are so set on trying to control the decisions and behavior of others. There are even denominations under the umbrella of Christianity that hate each other.
Comment:  Note that a wealth of stereotypical movies and other entertainment products feeds this religious prejudice. Here's a typical example:

"Savaged" the MovieA deaf girl is brutalized by a murderous gang who are then hunted by her when the bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior inhabits her lifeless body.Johnny Depp's Tonto is contributing to this prejudice also. His invented "spirit warrior" tells us that Indians have some mystical ability to talk with animals or the dead. It's not implausible for rabid Christians to think Indians are consorting with dark powers.

It doesn't matter if movies are fictional, because people get the same message from nonfictional sources. Indians often talk about communing with and getting messages from nature, spirits, or dreams. This is similar to Christian praying, but it gets twisted into something unnatural or evil.

So movies like Savaged and The Lone Ranger resonate with people who are ignorant about or prejudiced against Indians. These stereotype-filled fictions give them another reason to dislike and scorn Indians.

For more on Christian bigotry toward Indians, see Library Blocks "Occult" Native Websites and Perry's "Response" Broke Cannibal Curse?!

Navajo tourism spending increases 32%

Navajo tourism spending increases 32 percent from 2002

By Ryan BoetelIn the last 10 years tourists on the Navajo Nation significantly increased their spending, according to a new report.

The Navajo Nation Tourism Department said about 600,000 visitors in 2011 spent $113 million on the Navajo Nation, 32-percent increase in spending from 2002, when the tourism department completed a similar survey, said Roberta John, a program and project specialist for the tourism department.
And:In addition to direct purchases, the report also said the tribe received $30 million in indirect economic benefits from tourism.

The direct purchases were for lodging, gasoline, food and retail. The indirect economic benefits were from purchases by the tourism industry and increasing payroll in that industry, Thomas Combrink, a research specialist at Northern Arizona University, wrote in an email.

More than 25 percent of Navajo visitors were on the reservation for outdoor recreation, and many people pass through Navajoland on the way to the Grand Canyon, John said.
And:Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park was the most popular tribal operated destination on the Nation in 2011. The second most popular tourist activity was visiting the Four Corners Monument, John said.

Guest information from Chaco Canyon National Historic Park was not included in the recent visitors survey, John said. The national park is surrounded by Navajo land and has about 45,000 visitors per year but is not operated by the tribe.
Comment:  For more on Navajo tourism, see Navajos Split on Grand Canyon Flights and Tribes Celebrate Arizona's Centennial.

Mohawk ironworker caps Freedom Tower

Quebec Mohawk turns Freedom Tower into New York City’s tallest skyscraper

By Kim MackraelSteve Cross knew he was making history on Monday afternoon when he wriggled a bolt into place in the steel column that turned One World Trade Center into New York City’s tallest skyscraper.

The 36-year-old ironworker from the Kahnawake reserve in Quebec was just metres away from a cluster of reporters perched atop the building to capture the moment when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building.

Mr. Cross is part of a long tradition of Mohawk skywalkers who have helped construct the buildings that punctuate the Manhattan skyline. His father, grandfather and both of his great-grandfathers all did the same work, and he installed the columns on Monday afternoon alongside his cousin, Adam, who is from the same reserve.

Dubbed Freedom Tower, the building is meant to replace the twin towers that were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. After the addition of two steel columns on Monday, the tower’s skeleton stands slightly more than 381 metres high–just edging out the Empire State Building.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Mohawk Ironworkers Helped Build WTC and 9th Annual Ironworkers Festival.

Hoop dancer in Canada's Got Talent

Hoop Dancing Dynamo Lisa Odjig From Canada’s Got Talent

By Sam LaskarisThanks in part to a routine shopping trip, Lisa Odjig was able to display her hoop dancing talents to a national audience. Odjig, an Odawa-Ojibwe who lives in Toronto, auditioned for and became a featured performer for Canada’s Got Talent.

The first-year show, similar to the established America’s Got Talent, enables any person or group to showcase their skills in front of judges, a live audience and all those watching at home on television.

Odjig, a two-time world hoop dancing champion, was one of 36 contestants who advanced to the semi-final round. But after her second national TV appearance on Apr. 22, Odjig was eliminated the following evening during the show’s results broadcast when the semi-final votes were announced. Anybody could vote for their favorite performer by phone, text, Facebook, Twitter or online.
Comment:  For more Indians in reality shows, see Apaches in No Kitchen Required and Umatilla Model Portrays Pocahontas.

Indians rally for "KKK" victim

Indian Country Rallies Behind Vern TraversieTraversie had waited seven months before sharing his story through a YouTube video, to the guidance of his former attorney, who informed him not to speak at all. Since the video was released, Indian country has rallied behind Traversie seeking justice for those involved in what some online commenters called a “repulsive” act.

A Facebook page that was set up to raise awareness, “Justice For Vern Traversie,” has hit 4,025 likes and an online petition at change.org that was seeking 1,500 signees now has 6,521 signees. Traversie’s video has also been viewed 33,163 times, almost doubling the total from our initial story. ICTMN’s initial story was shared by 2,068 people on Facebook, 32 on Twitter, 29 e-mailed it and 11 shares on Google+.

Traversie said he’s overwhelmed at the response to his story.

“It’s miraculous, what’s happening,” he marveled. “People are using their Internet connections to share the video, share the story… it’s wonderful that it’s touched so many hearts and minds. I’m so thankful for the compassion people have shown me, for their kindness.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Lakota Man Branded with "KKK"?

April 29, 2012

Warren column uses Native stereotypes

Indian lore will play OK in Elizabeth Warren’s ‘tribe’

By Howie CarrRemember those two Boston firefighters who bought an ancient sepia-tinted photograph of an old Indian woman at a yard sale or somewhere and claimed it was their grandmother?

Those jakes weren’t seeking any special treatment—they just wanted the same deal as Barack Obama and Deval Patrick. The city came down on them, but then, they were just Irish street guys. They acted stupidly. More importantly, they didn’t have the Harvard shield, not to mention the breathtaking sanctimony of Pocahontas Warren.

Her campaign is still looking for “evidence.” In the meantime they’ll be praying the story goes to the Happy Hunting Ground, just like her demands to a New York reporter that her $1.7 million teepee in Cambridge be considered “off the record.”

The fact is, you can’t get much lower than being accused of being a fake Indian. It puts you in the same category as that pony-tailed fraud from the University of Colorado, Ward Churchill. You remember, the fake Indian who said all the people murdered in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were “little Eichmanns.”

Now she claims she doesn’t “recall” if she played the race card when she applied for her big-wampum $350,000-a-year job at Harvard Law. You see, it was so many moons—I mean years, ago. Sounds like a lot of bull—Sitting Bull.
Comment:  Wow, this column sure uses a lot of offensive stereotypes. Carr seems ignorant of, if not hostile toward, Indians. With his obvious hatred of affirmative action-style hiring, you can bet he's your typical pro-white, anti-minority conservative.

In addition to the stupid stereotyping, his arguments are flat-out wrong. For starters, there's zero evidence Warren ever used her Native heritage to get hired. The person who hired her said he didn't even know of her heritage. In short, having the heritage isn't the same as using it...duh.

Unlike Ward Churchill, she wasn't hired to teach Native studies--a position where you might expect to find a Native. As far as we know, she never referred to her heritage on the job. And when challenged about her heritage, she immediately began researching it.

These are all the opposite of Churchill's approach, so comparing her to Churchill is ridiculous. But what can you expect from a stupid stereotyper except stupidity?

For more on the subject, see Warren Questioned About Native Heritage.

Black & Gold Gala with Misty Upham

On Saturday, Misty Upham (Native actress in Frozen River), invited me to be her plus-one at this charity event:

Tony Award Nominees & Winners Join Together for the 2012 Black & Gold Gala Live Performance and Silent Auction Benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at L.A. Center StudiosIn conjunction with TV Personality, Christian Moralde's fortieth birthday celebration, Tony Award Winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tony Award Nominee Lainie Kazan, former Pussycat Doll Kaya Jones, actress/comedienne Lisa Ann Walter and Grammy Nominee Frenchie Davis all join the stage for a one-night performance event at L.A. Center Studios in Los Angeles, CA. With an extensive silent auction benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), this invitation only event is expected to be attended by Dot-Marie Jones (GLEE Emmy Award Nominee), Misty Upham (Spirit Award Nominee from FROZEN RIVER), [and] Chyna (WWE & PLAYBOY).Lainie Kazan couldn't attend, but the others were there. Misty did a turn for the cameras...we enjoyed the hour-long show...then had a light dinner in the lounge. Misty told someone's fortune...we sang "Happy Birthday" for Moralde, and gossiped about Hollywood's Natives. And that was the evening.

Here are my pix of the events:

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS--April 28, 2012

Firth video generates protest e-mails

Colin Firth Campaign for Brazilian Tribe Breaks RecordsColin Firth's appeal has generated more than 10,000 protest emails.

A campaign launched by Colin Firth to save the world’s most threatened tribe has generated more than 10,000 protest emails to the Brazilian government in just three days–a record for protest action for tribal peoples anywhere in the world.

The Survival International campaign aims to save the Awá tribe, whose lands are being illegally invaded and destroyed.

In a video appeal, Colin Firth asks viewers to send a protest message to Brazil’s Justice Minister, who has the power to send in federal police to evict the loggers, ranchers and settlers who are ravaging the tribe’s land.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Firth Campaigns for Amazon Tribe.

April 28, 2012

Means at Wounded Knee conference

Old divisions flare as AIM leaders reunite

Wounded Knee siege of 1973 still raw topic

By Peter HarrimanOld hatred dies hard.

Many of the archetypal survivors of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation met again Friday at Augustana College’s Center for Western Studies for the 44th annual Dakota Conference.

They were joined by a second generation in Denise Maloney, daughter of slain Indian activist Anna Mae Aquash. Maloney addressed the gathering via Skype. Also there was John Trimbach, son of FBI agent Joseph Trimbach. John’s book, “American Indian Mafia,” denigrates the American Indian Movement’s key leaders, including Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt.

The three AIM icons attended conference sessions throughout the day. Means gave the keynote address Friday evening.
And:Trimbach called the AIM leaders “liars, thieves and killers.” He said much of Means’ book, “Where White Men Fear to Tread,” was “hot air,” but added, “I believe Russell when he said he and Dennis Banks could make people disappear.”

Like Banks, Means did not joust with Trimbach. Indeed, he was out of the room during much of the attack Trimbach directed at him. But Means had his own criticism of the conference and offered his own view of what the Wounded Knee occupation and AIM accomplished.

He called the conference “a South Dakota academics’ mutual masturbation society. It’s exactly the way South Dakota wants Indian history to be interpreted.”

Means said the international attention drawn to the lengthy Wounded Knee occupation was the spark that “brought about the international political sophistication of Indian people.

“I went up and down this hemisphere looking for that spark. I thought I found it in Nicaragua, but I was wrong. I thought I found it in the Northwest Territories, but I was wrong,” he said.

Then he said he looked to his own Oglala Lakota tribe at Pine Ridge.

Trimbach said academic history is complicit in perpetuating an incorrect view of AIM, “the most falsified movement in American history.” Means criticized a lack of a definitive academic history of AIM. He said it was a foundation of the effort of tribes in the 20th century to assert sovereignty.

“If you want to be sovereign, you have to act sovereign,” he said.
Native Sun News: Conference opens wounds of Wounded Knee

By Karin EagleAn incident more representative of the mixed bag of emotions the conference stirred up occurred during a discussion Means participated in that led to questions posed by Stew Magnuson, author of “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: And Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns,” which highlights the racial tension found around the reservations in South Dakota.

Magnuson, who participated in the conference as a keynote speaker during the first night’s dinner presentation, questioned Means about Ray Robinson, a black civil rights activist who traveled to Wounded Knee in 1973.

Robinson has never been heard from or located since.

Means responded by standing and addressing Magnuson: “I’m going to tell you this–no charges from 1974 to 2002. Did anyone hear of Ray Robinson? Did anyone ever shoot him, stab him, beat him or disappear him?”

“It was a generation later that the badmouthing of Wounded Knee continues,” Means said. “You and people like you are to perpetuate this erroneous image you have of who we are. And I’m sick and tired of you bringing up these false accusations based on what? Nothing!’”

Means further expressed his anger that AIM has been repeatedly associated with Robinson’s disappearance.
Means: Sovereignty benefits U.S.

By Peter HarrimanIn a rambling 90-minute address Friday evening that wove personal history with highlights of the American Indian Movement, famed AIM leader and activist Russell Means on reiterated themes he advanced earlier in the day at Augustana College’s annual Dakota Conference, which focused on the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation.

In a keynote address in a packed Reconciliation Chapel, Means said AIM and its occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 ignited a spark of Indian sovereignty.

He also maintained that will work to the benefit of the U.S. in general.

Means said when he led a delegation of traditional tribal people to Washington, D.C., and created the Republic of Lacotah in 2007, claiming he was severing tribal ties with U.S. treaties and restoring traditional tribal governments, he was carrying out his greatest personal legacy from Wounded Knee.

“I hope young people latch on to this. I know someone will. Some student 20 or 30 years from now,” will see the significance of the sovereignty initiative in that, Means said.

“Continually allowing of your government to violate the Constitution of the United States of America on a daily basis with us has caught up with you, hasn’t it?” Means said of government failings in living up to tribal treaty obligations.

“Your representatives don’t care. Your Supreme Court is political, not judicial. Your president is a quasi-king.

“You’re the new Indians,” he said, throwing his arms wide. “Welcome aboard.”
Comment:  Judging by the article, Means isn't clear on how Indian sovereignty will benefit Americans. I guess he's saying it provides an alternate model that isn't a corrupt failure.

But many tribes use a standard chairperson/council/court system of checks and balances, just like the US. And many tribal governments are supposedly corrupt or at least unresponsive to the people.

I wonder which tribal governments does Means consider the ideal? Other than his own nonexistent Republic of Lakotah, that is.

For more on the subject, see Wounded Knee II's Positive Effects and Controversy in Wounded Knee.

Warren questioned about Native heritage

Elizabeth Warren has no reservations on Native status

Brown, Warren spar as records released

By Hillary Chabot and Matt Stout
Elizabeth Warren said yesterday she is “proud” of her Native American heritage and indicated she had no problem with Harvard Law School using her roots to claim her as a diversity hire, but her campaign still could not produce documents proving her lineage.

“I am very proud of my Native American heritage, thank you,” said Warren when asked if she disapproved of the school counting her as a minority woman on the faculty. “These are my family stories ... This is our lives and I am very proud of that.”

The Herald reported yesterday that Harvard Law School officials listed Warren as Native American in the ’90s, when the school was under fierce fire for their faculty’s lack of diversity.

Warren, who will likely face off with U.S. Sen. Scott Brown this fall, said she didn’t know the school has counted her as a minority faculty member until “I read it on the front page of the Herald.”
Scott Brown calls on Warren camp to ‘come clean’

Liz listed self as minority in professional directories

By Chris Cassidy
Despite claiming she never used her Native American heritage when applying for a job, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign admitted last night the Democrat listed her minority status in professional directories for years when she taught at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1986 to 1995, Warren’s name is included in the Association of American Law Schools’ annual directory of minority law teachers, according to records obtained by the Herald.

The campaign for GOP U.S. Sen. Scott Brown last night called for Warren to “come clean.”

“This story raises serious questions about Elizabeth Warren’s credibility. The record now shows Prof. Warren did claim to be a ‘minority,’ and that she attempted to mislead the public about these facts when she was first asked about the issue last week,” said Brown spokesman Jim Barnett. “Prof. Warren needs to come clean about her motivations for making these claims and explain the contradictions between her rhetoric and the record.”

But the Warren campaign insisted the candidate did nothing wrong.

“The simple fact is that Elizabeth is proud of her heritage,” Warren’s campaign said in a statement to the Herald. “Charles Fried, the former solicitor general in the Reagan administration, played a key role in her recruitment to Harvard and confirmed that her heritage was not a factor in her hiring. The fact that she listed her heritage in some professional directories more than 15 years ago does not change those facts.”
Elizabeth Warren's Native American Heritage Comes Into Question In Massachusetts Senate Race

By Steve LeBlancThe professor who recruited Warren to Harvard said that any suggestion that she got her job in part because of a claim of minority status is wrong.

"That's totally stupid, ignorant, uninformed and simply wrong," Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried said Monday. "I presented her case to the faculty. I did not mention her Native American connection because I did not know about it."

The story first surfaced last week when the Boston Herald found a 1996 article in Harvard's student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, about student dissatisfaction about the number of women and minority professors on the Harvard Law faculty. In the story, Harvard Law spokesman Mike Chmura referred to Warren as Native American.

Warren said on Friday that she was unaware Harvard had promoted her as a minority professor.

Law school directories from the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995 put Warren on the association's list of "minority law teachers" when she was teaching at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the directories, the list is made up of "those legal educators who stated they were members of a minority group."

Warren's campaign said she was told by older family members that her grandmother and grandfather on her mother's side could trace their lineage back to the Cherokee and Delaware tribes.

"She learned about her heritage the way most Americans learn about their heritage, from conversations with her parents, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles," said Warren campaign aide Kyle Sullivan.
Comment:  No points for the bad pun in the first headline.

We'll see how this story unfolds in the next few days. Until then, I'm withholding judgment.

For more on Native identity questions, see Indian Blood = Black Myth? and Is Chris Brown Native?

Ethnic studies "is about rehumanization"

Tucson’s Ousted Mexican-American Studies Director Speaks: The Fight’s Not Over

By Julianne HingCan you speak to these oft-quoted statistics that 48 percent of Latino students in TUSD drop out of high school, but something like 94 percent of students who go through the program graduate. What’s behind those numbers?

There was a study done at UCLA by Daniel Solorzano and Tara Yosso that talks about the Chicano educational pipeline of Mexican American youth. The dropout rate across the country is about 54 percent for Mexican American and Chicano youth and in most urban school districts you see a mirror trend. TUSD is no different. But students who take our classes, data has emerged not from our department but from the department of accountability and research, that students who take our classes graduate at 97.5 percent. There was a district audit ordered by [Arizona State Superintendent] John Huppenthal and paid for by taxpayers. Through Cambium, an independent group, they conducted a separate analysis and found the same thing. Even more insightful, [ethnic studies courses] at the very least close the achievement gap. And at some our our sites, they surpass the achievement gap.

Urban school districts across the nation are seeking aggressively ways to figure out: How do we close the achievement gap? What’s significant with this number is they demonstrated that they were capable of closing that gap.

That was also documented, researched, and published through the state commission audit. And yet our district did not assert that in the administrative hearings. Our state superintendent and state officials actually denounced their own independent audit which was paid through taxpayer dollars in the amount of [$110,000], so you have these rigorous studies, independent studies, and yet folks like our Attorney General Tom Horne say, well, the data show that your students graduate at higher rates, that they are closing the achievement gap, but it’s not about that. According to him TUSD’s Mexican-American studies are an anti-American program that need to be eliminated. So it’s horrible, our own state officials are denouncing academic achievement, denouncing higher graduation rates and instead spreading this discourse to the public that we are anti-american, anti-white. There is nothing further from the truth.

Can you go into educator mode for a second? Because people like Tom Horne have called the Mexican-American studies curriculm racist. And other people who are trying to defend have said, no, it’s that HB 2281 is a racist law. How do define racism here? It doesn’t seem like both things could be “racist.” How does your definition of racist here differ from the way that Tom Horne interprets the word?

Racism is about power. About oppressing somebody through institutions, institutions of control. What we’re dealing with is institutional racism, the legacy of institutional racism. So Tom Horne sees Mexican American knowledge, history, our literature, as threats to Eurocentric knowledge. And because it counters that very source of knowledge and what we’re doing is trying to integrate more holistic and more comprehensive knowledge forms into our school system for the benefit for all of our students, he simply disregards it and again implements his fear-mongering and says that we’re racist. In no way would we replicate a paradigm that exists in our school systems in which particular groups of students are marginalized, because there are indeed racist practices and policies within our school system.

Racism is about control and marginalization and dehumanization of a group of people. In no means are we being that. Our pedagogy, our curriculum, is about rehumanization, about race as a social construct. And it’s about not replicating this paradigm. The real question we have to ask is, what type of power do certain groups of people wield against certain groups of people?

Huppenthal has compared us to Nazis, to Hitler Youth, which is also very offensive, and there’s a real distortion, a real twisting of historical circumstances. It’s horrific and what it is is the further dehumanization and demonization of Latinos in the state of Arizona.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see What Conservatives Consider "Objective History" and Tucson Bans Native Books, Shakespeare Play.

Below:  Sean Arce, "the former director of Tucson Unified School District’s now-suspended Mexican American Studies program, was fired earlier this month in the latest crackdown on the program in what has become a years-long saga over the fate of the popular program."

April 27, 2012

Firth campaigns for Amazon tribe

Actor in push to save Amazon tribeOSCAR-WINNING British actor Colin Firth has launched a major drive by Survival International to save "Earth's most threatened tribe," the Awa of the Brazilian Amazon.

Survival International, a leading advocate for tribal peoples' rights worldwide, said the small tribe's territory had been invaded by illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers, and the group is threatened with extinction. The aim of the campaign is to persuade Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo to send in police to remove the loggers, ranchers and settlers and keep them out.

A short film by Survival International features an appeal by Firth to sign a petition calling on Mr Cardozo to act to save the tribe.

"The Awa's forest is being illegally cut for timber. When the loggers see them, they kill them. Their bows and arrows are no match for guns. And at any other time in history, that's where it would end. Another people wiped off the face of the Earth, forever," Firth says in his appeal. "But we're going to make sure the world doesn't let that happen."

We can save the Awá tribe

As the successful survival of other Amazon Indian tribes shows, protecting their way of life rather than imposing that of the west is the best way to keep them intact

By Stephen Corry
The Awá of Brazil are the world's most threatened tribe. Years of illegal logging and land grabs have brought them to the brink of extinction. But apart from the loggers and their guns, one of their biggest problems is the fallacy that Amazon Indians must inevitably conform to "modernity."

Although people have been saying it for generations, it isn't true: tribes are destroyed by labelling them backward, and pretending they stand to benefit from "civilisation". It's fundamentally racist, and the evidence points, glaringly, and to our shame, in exactly the opposite direction.

When land is taken, tribes simply don't survive. On the other hand, when it's protected, most of their problems evaporate. That can happen if no one else wants the land, it's inaccessible to outsiders or, most importantly, there's the political will and strength to ensure it remains with the Indians.

On their own territory, they can adapt to change as they wish. Some individuals might leave to explore the outside, but most will return home to its invaluable advantages: free food and housing, as opposed to scraping a living in shantytowns and slums, where life is usually nasty, brutish and short.

The "integration" of these peoples is the theft of their self-sufficiency, and their condemnation to the lowest rung of a steep and greasy ladder–or worse, death. However, we believe, profoundly, that there will still be Amazon Indians at the end of the century. It merely entails respecting the laws and rights which governments claim to uphold. Cynics might argue that it won't happen, that the fast buck will always triumph, but that's really an admittance that we are the savages, unfettered by any rule of law, common decency or humanity.

We have seen tribal peoples' lands protected repeatedly over the last 40 years. The largest little-contacted tribe in Amazonia, the Yanomami, survived because a 20-year campaign secured the protection of their lands in 1992. They remain steadfastly Yanomami.

The Awá will doubtless survive as well, but only if the campaign in defence of their land is similarly vociferous. In the words of Colin Firth, who is supporting our campaign: "One man can stop this: Brazil's minister of justice. He can send in the federal police to catch the loggers, and keep them out for good. But right now it's just not his priority.

"We have to change that before it's too late. We need enough people to message him that he takes notice… You, me, our friends, our families. Everyone counts. But we don't have much time. When the rains stop, the loggers will be back. This is our chance, right now, to actually do something. And if enough people show they care, it will work."

More background on the issue:

Group hopes to save world's 'most threatened' tribe in Brazil

Legal wrangling and deforestation projects leave the Awá tribe scrambling for safety.

By Stephanie Pappas
The Awá's right to their land was formally recognized in 2005, making mining and other activities by outsiders illegal; but satellite photos of the forest reveal that these rights are not being honored. Illegal logging has left the scar of deforestation on the land. This is especially devastating to the Awá, who depend on the forest for their survival, Watson said.

"When you talk to the Awá, it's just so clear how much the forest means to them," she said. "They just get everything from it."

That includes food—babaçu nuts and açaí berries as well as fresh meat—and medicines and supplies, such as the resin of the maçaranduba tree, which is used to make torches.

As the forest vanishes, the Awá are trapped in a legal battle to save it. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that illegal settlers had to leave the Awá territories within 180 days. A legal appeal by one of the largest cattle ranchers in the region delayed the ruling. In December 2011, a second federal judge ruled that colonists and ranchers had to leave the land by December 2012. Survival fears that continued legal wrangling will delay these departures, too. If the case continues in the legal system, it could take 20 or 30 years for the Brazilian Supreme Court to decide it. By that time, it will be too late for the Awá.

"Time is not on their side," Watson said.
Comment:  The stereotyping of Amazon Indians in particular and Indians in general is a big contributor to this problem. When people think Indians are primitive, savage, or extinct, their rights become less important. It's easier to ignore people if you think they're like children or dogs.

For more on Amazon Indians, see Sunday Night Probed Over "Freakshow" and Ya'Wara in AQUAMAN.

Leaked photos of Depp's Tonto

So the first photo of Johnny Depp wasn't an aberration. A series of leaked photos confirms the costuming nightmare. Apparently Depp will be in full "Flying Nun" regalia throughout the movie.

Leaked Photos From THE LONE RANGER Set Featuring Tonto In Full Costume

For more on Johnny Depp and his costume choices, see Depp's Intent Doesn't Excuse Stereotypes and Thoughts on Tonto's Facepaint. For more on the issue of his playing Tonto, see Open Letter to Johnny Depp's Tonto and Why Tonto Matters.

Justin Rain in transmedia Defiance

Aboriginal Actor leads new transmedia TV series for Syfy channel

Justin Rain leads new TV series “Defiance” that will release a video game simultaneously as the air date of the episodic.

Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts student Justin Rain portrays “Quentin McCawley” in SyFy channels ground breaking transmedia series “Defiance.”

By Vada VadaStudiosFrom Syfy and Trion comes Defiance™, a revolution in transmedia entertainment that unites a groundbreaking scripted television series and a massively multiplayer online shooter for the very first time. With the production team of “Battlestar Galactica” behind the camera Justin Rain’s character of Quentin McCawley is sure to meet the standards of Syfy’s expectations. This would only be possible with a talented actor that Justin Rain has become.And:Defiance introduces players and viewers to a completely transformed planet Earth, inhabited by the disparate survivors of a universal war who endeavour to build a new society among the devastation. The TV counterpart weaves the rich tapestry of the world into a series with the scope, characters, and drama of a classic sci-fi epic. Set to air Spring 2013.Comment:  The story doesn't sound like anything new. But combining a TV show and a multiplayer online game is relatively new. If anyone's tried it before, they haven't done it well enough to reach my attention.

And having a Native actor in a or the lead role is relatively new too. I don't know much about Rain, but he looks like a young star as much as anyone. If his personality matches his looks, why not make him the hero?

Update: In IMDB, Rain is only 14th-billed in the cast listing. Perhaps he's only a minor character and this press release has puffed him up into something major.

For more on Indians and video games, see Video Game Features Mohawk Assassin and "Native Representations in Video Games."

Chaco Canyon quarter debuts

Chaco Canyon quarter unveiled

By Ryan BoetelAn image of Chaco Canyon's north wall and two ancient community spaces is in pockets across the country.

The United States Mint launched the 12th coin in the series of America the Beautiful quarters in front of a crowd of about 250 people at Chaco Culture National Historic Park on Thursday.

The Mint is launching five quarters per year that depict a state's national park or monument.

The Federal Reserve ordered 31.2 million quarters that show Chaco Canyon on the tails side, said Gordon Hume, a spokesman for the Mint. The quarters only will be made for the rest of the year and the reserve will determine how many will be made.
Comment:  If you've seen Chaco Canyon, there's no one image that represents the whole site. Therefore, this design does a good job of capturing the place.

For more on Native-themed currency, see 2012 Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled and Chickasaw Quarter Debuts.

April 26, 2012

UFO sightings in Indian country

UFO Sightings in Indian Country

By Ruth HopkinsAncient Indigenous Peoples around the globe have reported unidentified lights in the sky, and even contact with star beings, for millennia. Corroborations of these interactions are found in petroglyphs and related through myths and legends preserved by their descendants who live today.

Whether early U.F.O. (Unidentified Flying Object) accounts are accurate is open to speculation. However, no one should make the mistake of assuming that U.F.O. sightings over Indian country ended hundreds of years ago. Natives still witness strange, unidentified flying objects in the sky every year.

These sightings, for a myriad of reasons, go largely unreported. Sightings usually occur in rural areas. Since some reservations where sightings have transpired are patchwork quilts of trust or fee land where jurisdiction may differ from one acre to next, reporting a U.F.O. probably seems like an unnecessary headache. Many Natives would rather not deal with the government or law enforcement to begin with. Not to mention, there’s some folks who simply don’t feel comfortable having it on record that they’ve spotted a U.F.O.

Who’s witnessed unexplained phenomena in the sky over Indian country? Teachers, doctors, lawyers, casino workers, children, elders, tribal cops, and even wicasa wakan (medicine men), among others, fall among the list of Natives who are U.F.O. eyewitnesses. Clearly, I’m not talking about a few intoxicated teenagers with overactive imaginations who have mistaken a falling star or a jet fly overhead as a legitimate U.F.O. sighting.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Paranormal Society and UFOs in the Old West.

Lakota man branded with "KKK"?

Was Lakota Man Victim of a Hate Crime in South Dakota Hospital? The Troubling Story of Vern Traversie

By Heather SteinbergerPhotos of Traversie’s body show scars from the 2011 surgery and prior procedures. They also show deep, scattered wounds—including what look like three Ks across his abdomen.

“You can see the surgery sutures, and they’re clean,” Traversie said. “But those three letters, two good-sized Ks and one smaller one off to the side, had to be made with some sharp knife or heated instrument. It’s like they branded me.”

Traversie’s healthcare worker immediately took her photos to Indian Health Services in Eagle Butte, which requested that Traversie come in immediately. He said his doctor was shocked.

“She said, ‘Why is there KKK on your abdomen? That’s not what surgeons do,’” he recalled. “My pastor was with me, and he said it was a racial hate crime.”
Comment:  I'm not sure the cuts are supposed to say "KKK." The main question is how the cuts got there regardless of what they say.

For more hate crimes against Indians, see Anchorage Racists Caught on YouTube and "Gooks" Assaulted with BBs, Urine.

Native students in Science Bowl

Madison American Indian students take second trip to National Science Bowl

By Gretchen MironA group of five students from the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) American Indian Science and Engineering Society is headed to Washington D.C. this weekend to compete in the National Science Bowl.

The team earned the opportunity by defeating nine other teams at the Intertribal Middle School Science Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M. on March 22 and 23. This is the second year in a row they will compete in the National Science Bowl.

The National Science Bowl is a fast-paced competition to test middle school students’ knowledge of math and science, ranging between pre-algebra, algebra, earth science, physical science, life science, and the history of science. Difficulty levels vary depending on the round.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ruel Wants Indigenous Nerds and Lakota Teams Compete in Robotics.

April 25, 2012

The most racist pro sports logo

A long article covers the Chief Wahoo issue well:

The Curse of Chief Wahoo

Are we paying the price for embracing America's last acceptable racist symbol?

By Peter Pattakos
In 1991, the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance was formed in response to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Its purpose was to educate the public on "the truth about Columbus" from the perspective of Native Americans. Today, the Cleveland-based organization's focus is decidedly more narrow: They're committed to seeing Cleveland's Major League Baseball club drop the use of Chief Wahoo and its 97-year-old nickname.

It's not the most visible of movements, and it seeps into the public consciousness only for one afternoon each year. This time, a group of about 20 took part in the protest, marching outside Progressive Field and bellowing slogans like "Enjoy the Game, Change the Logo." Some placed pieces of Easter candy where arriving fans could find them; attached to each marshmallow Peep was one in a series of fortune-cookie messages: "Would Jesus Wear Wahoo?" "People, Not Mascots." "The Louis Sockalexis Myth Is a Lie."

The ballclub—and most of its fans—is not hearing any of it.

"I love Chief Wahoo," Diane McMaster-Murphy exclaims, smacking a Peep off the post where a protester had placed it. "I'm an American," adds the 57-year old white lady from Akron, adding a twist of patriotism to an otherwise indiscernible molecule of logic.

Six and a half decades after its creation, the Chief remains the only professional sports logo in the Western world that caricaturizes a race of people. But in the land of Wahoo, no reason is still reason enough.
And:[T]o Dr. David Pilgrim, an expert in racial imagery, the symbol is a "red Sambo" that hardly differs from the caricatures of blacks popular in the Jim Crow era in which Wahoo was created—a time when such depictions of minority races were popularly used to inflame prejudice and justify discriminatory laws and behavior.

A sociology professor at Ferris State University in Michigan, Pilgrim is also the founder and curator of the school's Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. There, an astonishing 7,000 piece (and growing) collection of artifacts depicts the history of racist portrayals of minorities in American popular culture.

"These were caricatures with a purpose: to legitimize patterns of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation," says Pilgrim. "These caricatures don't just exist to exist; they both reflect and shape attitudes toward a group."

Pilgrim explains how the exaggerated features serve their discriminatory purpose by emphasizing the differences of the depicted race, thereby reinforcing the idea that the caricaturized race is inferior. He cites a passage from renowned author Julius Lester that gets right to the point, underscoring Wahoo protester Villafane's concern for her grandchildren:

"When I read Little Black Sambo as a child," Lester wrote, "I had no choice but to identify with him because I am black and so was he ... [With this image], society had made it clear to me [that the exaggerated features] represented my racial inferiority—the black, black skin, the eyes shining white, the red protruding lips. I did not feel good about myself as a black child looking at those pictures."

A researcher discusses the origin of the Cleveland Indians name:He presents evidence that the franchise was renamed the Indians by sportswriters—not to honor Sockalexis, but to recall the sensational "fun" that he would inspire in crowds some 15 years earlier, when newspapermen would jokingly refer to the club as the "Cleveland Indians," even though it was formally named the Spiders.

Of course, it didn't hurt that the new name also happened to reinforce the image of Natives as anachronistic savages, the ballclub a fearsome force to be reckoned with. "In place of the Naps, we'll have the Indians, on the warpath all the time, and eager for scalps to dangle at their belts," wrote the Cleveland Leader in announcing the name change on January 17, 1915. In fact, none of the reports from the four daily Cleveland newspapers even mentions Sockalexis, but each is replete with negative stereotypes.

The Plain Dealer of the same day included a cartoon titled "Ki Yi Waugh Woop! They're Indians." The panel depicts, among other things, a frowning umpire scolding a Native American who says to him, "WUKWOG-O."

"When you talk to me, talk English, you wukoig," the ump replies. (The cartoon helpfully explains of "wukoig": "That last word is in Indian.")
Recall that this was only 25 years after Wounded Knee. It's obvious the Cleveland team wanted to memorialize the destruction of the Indians. So did other American institutions.

"We won, they lost," the thinking went. "We were the good guys, they were the bad guys. They got what they deserved for being un-Christian and un-American. Now we can laugh at them like we laugh at unruly children and pets."

So there was no "honor" or "respect" in the name or mascot. The so-called honor people talk about now was a recent invention to erase the team's racist history. It's a blatant "cover your ass" move. "Let's make up something about respect," the owners tell themselves, "to divert attention from our Sambo-like mascot."

Other mascots are disappearing from the landscape, but not Chief Wahoo:So why no traction with Wahoo, a symbol arguably much more offensive than any of the rest? Call it a unique inertia, created by a combination of Native Americans' status as a tiny, relatively invisible minority; the traditional "cowboys and Indians" view of Natives' status as an enemy of American civilization; the innocent, if ignorant, elements of Cleveland's attachment to Wahoo as a symbol of a beloved baseball team; and a relative lack of awareness of the symbol's racist origins. Of course, there's also the fact that professional teams, unlike colleges and high schools, are owned by private individuals, most of whom happen to be white.

David Currie, a 73-year-old Euclid resident who identifies himself as "a WASP through and through," joins the Wahoo protesters every year because he believes the symbol is an embarrassment to his hometown. You'd never see a team called the Cleveland Negros or the Cleveland Jews, accompanied by a caricature of the race, he says. "There's no difference between blackface and redface. One is just as wrong as the other. It's just that here there's nobody to beat you up for wearing the redface."

Wahoo, incidentally, is all but nonexistent in the Indians' spring-training home of Goodyear, Arizona, where the Native American population is significantly higher than it is on the modern-day shores of Lake Erie.
Gee, I wonder why the team doesn't use Chief Wahoo in Indian country? Talk about your tacit admission that the mascot is racist and stereotypical.

Why don't the cowardly team officials just say what they're thinking? "We know Chief Wahoo is a racist affront to Indians, but there aren't enough Indians in Cleveland to matter. As long as they don't have the numbers to shut us down, we'll continue to offend them."

Then there's the infamous Sports Illustrated poll, which I and others have lambasted:"Eighty-three percent of Indians on reservations said leave it alone, so leave it alone!" Booms shouted during a recent radio debate on the issue. To Booms, opposition to Chief Wahoo is "liberal nonsense."

Yet others are less convinced by the SI poll. "If you're going to trust a Sports Illustrated report on Native American issues, you might as well have Redbook report on the logging industry," says Farrar.

A group of 34 sociologists who organized to immediately challenge the survey pointed to other studies that reached opposite results. They also note that SI never disclosed how the poll was conducted, how participants were recruited, or what questions were asked. And more pertinent to Wahoo: There's nothing contained in the SI report to suggest its poll results distinguished between team names and symbols, nor between caricatures like Wahoo and more realistic representations. In fact, the report's penultimate paragraph concludes by noting that "many Native Americans find the mascots and imagery more offensive than the names."

Many anti-Wahoo activists are loath to engage any evidence of Native support for symbols like Wahoo. Andy Baskin, a morning personality at 92.3 and sports director at Cleveland's NewsNet5, recently spoke on his radio show about visiting a reservation in the Southwest and seeing children wearing Chief Wahoo hats.

"There were African Americans who were OK with sitting on the back of the bus too," Farrar responds.
Comment:  Any Indians who support Chief Wahoo or other stereotypical mascots are ignoramuses. They're literally ignorant of the documented harm of Native stereotyping.

The Jim Crow comparison is an apt one. These people are apparently content to be mindless savages in the eyes of most Americans.

Anyway, good article. For more on Chief Wahoo, see 40th Annual Chief Wahoo Protest and Gaillard's Use of Chief Wahoo.

Think Like a Man shatters Hollywood myths

These points apply to Native films too.

“Think Like a Man” shatters box office myths about black films

By T.F. CharltonEnsemble romantic comedy Think Like a Man is generating lots of buzz after ending The Hunger Games’ month-long run as #1 at the box office (despite playing in much fewer theaters), and almost doubling initial projections of its opening weekend take. The film’s success challenges conventional Hollywood wisdom about the limited profitability and appeal of movies with predominantly black casts. Though the racial breakdown of audiences who viewed Think Like a Man this weekend is unknown, its unexpected box office haul suggests that the movie had a significant degree of “crossover” appeal.

To be fair, it’s true that white viewers tend to be less interested in movies with a significant minority presence. But while the industry loves to put the marginalization of such “niche” films solely on white audiences and claim the bottom line as the only reason the business isn’t more diverse, this is is just one piece of the puzzle. White audiences don’t see themselves as the intended audience for minority films, but much of this can be attributed to marketing and distribution that focuses exclusively on minority audiences.

Subtle and overt racism in the form of limited financing, marketing, and distribution–or simple refusal to green light certain projects, as with Red Tails–work to ensure that white audiences who might be interested in these films never see them. The assumption that such movies have limited appeal turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy when they don’t receive the same exposure to a broad range of audiences as comparable movies with predominantly or all white casts.

Here’s the funny thing–despite Hollywood concerns about losing money on “niche” films, there’s a strong case to be made that the industry’s insistence that black films can’t be “crossover successes” dulls the ability of studios to make smart financial decisions about which projects to invest in, and how. The unwillingness to put as much into minority films or market them as aggressively as white films could very well be costing studios money.
Comment:  Ironically, The Hunger Games should've had a dark-skinned lead actor too. The books described Katniss the protagonist as having olive-colored skin.

If it had had a minority lead, it would've been the movie shattering Hollywood's myths. Same with Avatar, Twilight, or any other blockbuster. They succeeded with minorities in supporting roles and they would've succeeded with minorities in lead roles.

For more on the subject, see Minorities Buy More Movie Tickets and "Bottom Line" Argument Is Racist.

Below:  "Gabrielle Union, one of the stars of Think Like a Man."

April 24, 2012

Depp's intent doesn't excuse stereotypes

As we all thought, Johnny Depp got the idea for his Tonto costume from Kirby Sattler's I Am Crow painting. Like me, Adrienne Keene wasn't impressed with Depp's explanation of the costume's origin. Here is her Native Appropriations post ripping Depp and Sattler:

Johnny Depp as Tonto: I'm still not feeling "honored"The thing about Kirby Sattler, a non-Native painter, is that he relies heavily on stereotypes of Native people as mystical-connected-to-nature-ancient-spiritual-creatures, with little regard for any type of historical accuracy. He says, right off the bat, that the images come from his imagination:My paintings are interpretations based upon the nomadic tribes of the 19th century American Plains. The subjects are a variety of visual sources and my imagination...I purposely do not denote a tribal affiliation to the majority of my subjects, rather, I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience's sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.So he's telling us, in so many words, that he makes these subjects up based on the (heavily stereotyped) images in his own head. Just listen to the language he uses to describe his paintings:Each painting functions on the premise that all natural phenomena have souls independent of their physical beings. Under such a belief, the wearing of sacred objects were a source of spiritual power. Any object--a stone, a plait of sweet grass, a part of an animal, the wing of a bird--could contain the essence of the metaphysical qualities identified to the objects and desired by the Native American. This acquisition of "Medicine," or spiritual power, was central to the lives of the Indian. It provided the conduit to the unseen forces of the universe which predominated their lives.Note the past tense, since clearly Indians don't exist anymore. Note the presumption that all Indians were/are the same, and that all our spiritual practices were/are the same. To refer to an entire population of diverse, living, breathing people of over 500 nations as "The Native American" is more than a little patronizing and offensive.

I say all this to establish the "credibility" of Johnny Depp's source material. But Depp's descriptions of why he was so drawn to the piece are even worse. On the striped make-up representing the "separate sections of the individual":There's this very wise quarter, a very tortured and hurt section, and angry and rageful section, and a very understanding and unique side. I saw these parts, almost like dissecting a brain, these slivers of the individual. That makeup inspired me.Because Tonto happens to be Native American, he has to be "wise," "tortured and hurt," "angry and rageful," and "very understanding and unique"? That's like Hollywood Indian Stereotypes 101. Finally, on the hideous crow headdress itself:It just so happened Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior's head. It looked to me like it was sitting on top. I thought: Tonto's got a bird on his head. It's his spirit guide in a way. It's dead to others, but it's not dead to him. It's very much alive....The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history, or the history of cinema at the very least—especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger's assistant...As you'll see, it's most definitely not that.Right. So, I like the calling of the subject in the painting a "warrior," based solely on the fact that he is Native and male (stereotype #1). Of course the "warrior" has to have a "spirit guide" (stereotype #2), and has a mystical connection that outsiders cannot understand--"It's dead to others, but it's not dead to him" (stereotype #3). I think, Mr. Depp, when you said you hoped to "mess around with the stereotype of the American Indian," you actually meant "completely play into the stereotype of the American Indian," because I'm really not seeing anything subversive or new about your language or this mess of a portrayal. If this is your "salute" to Native Americans, I'm really afraid to watch the actual movie. Also, since we haven't seen a clip of the film yet, it remains to be seen if Depp will talk in the stereotypical broken-english "Tonto speak." Let's hope he drew the line somewhere.

What we have here is a case of an extreme mis-match between intent and impact. Johnny Depp might have entered this project with the noblest of intentions, hoping to "honor" his heritage, "re-invent" the role of Natives in Hollywood, give Tonto more agency and move him from his sidekick status--but he went about it in exactly the wrong way. I don't know what the right way would have been, perhaps going to talk to some Comanche community members (turns out Tonto is "full-blooded Comanche" in this version, not Apache as I had reported earlier) to ask how they would feel comfortable being portrayed on the big screen--or if they even felt comfortable at all. I know the right way would have been doing a little more research into Hollywood portrayals of Native peoples, and realizing that picking your costume from a non-Native painter who openly admits he has no regard for historical accuracy would probably be a bad idea. Many people have given Johnny a free pass because of his Native heritage, but I think that means we should hold him to a higher standard. If he is serious about honoring his ancestors and his past, he needs to realize that costuming Tonto like a fantasy Indian stereotype is not helping Native people, and his "intent" in the portrayal doesn't save him.

Johnny Depp might have thought his intent cleared him of any criticism. That we would stand back and say "well, he didn't mean to be offensive." Or "his heart was in the right place." But that logic ignores the impact of his statements and his portrayal of Tonto. Think how many policies in Indian country were done by people with "good intentions," and how all that turned out for us. The impact here is that millions of people will see this film, and they will walk away with this inaccurate and stereotyped image of American Indians burned in their brains.
For more on Johnny Depp and his costume choices, see Thoughts on Tonto's Facepaint and Tonto as a "Spirit Warrior." For more on the issue of his playing Tonto, see Open Letter to Johnny Depp's Tonto and Why Tonto Matters.

Watchman the first Native supermodel?

Mariah Watchman: Native Supermodel in the Making

By Adrian JawortSince her appearance on Tyra Banks’ show America’s Next Top Model, Mariah Watchman has become a household name and inspiration for Native women throughout Indian country. Watchman grew up in a variety of locations, but counts the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation as her home. ICTMN caught up with the ravishing 20-year-old during a break as she tutored other aspiring local Native models prior to a Native American fashion event that took place in March in Billings, Montana.Until someone wrote about her appearance on America’s Next Top Model, I'd never heard of Watchman. I'd guess she's neither a household name nor an inspiration for most Native women.Did you feel additional pressure in representing Native women in America’s Next Top Model?

Yes. When I went to my very first casting, my very first goal right off the bat was to let them know, ‘I want to be the first Native American female to compete in America’s Next Top model.’ I went in there and told them how I spoke my language, how I grew up on reservations, I bead, I fish salmon with my family off of the Colombia River, how we go to pow wows, and at our grandpa’s is our sweat lodge. But being the first Native on the show, I felt like I had a huge pressure. I wasn’t just representing myself, I was representing a Nation. I was representing Indian country. I’ve been an international model for five years, and I wasn’t just trying to go on tv and act disrespectful, and tarnish or ruin my reputation. I definitely felt a lot of pressure to maintain and be well-behaved.
Does that explain the ridiculous Pocahontas outfit she agreed to wear? Hmm.What are your other plans for the future?

I’m very business savvy, and I’d like to be a business owner with my t-shirt line. But about being the first Native American supermodel, when I got eliminated on the second episode of Top Model, when I was walking away, Tyra told me, “You may not be America’s Top Model, but you can be the first Native American supermodel ever.” She knew that was my goal and dream as well. And if Tyra Banks told me I can be the first Native American supermodel ever, I took that and believed in myself with all confidence I will achieve that goal.
Comment:  Watchman couldn't get past the second round of the show, but she's gonna become a supermodel? I'll counterpredict that she won't become a supermodel.

For more on the subject, see Umatilla Model Supports Crow Candidate and Watchman Exits America's Next Top Model.

Rocky history of Indians and Mormons

Larry Echo Hawk has resigned from the BIA to join the Mormon Church. Tim Giago takes the opportunity to recount the racist attitudes of Mormons toward Indians.

Tim Giago: Rocky history of Natives and the Mormon Church

By Tim GiagoLarry Echo Hawk is leaving his position as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs after he was named to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints’ First Quorum of the Seventy during a recent general conference of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

George P. Lee, Navajo, was the first Native American called to the Seventy in 1975. He served for 14 years before he was excommunicated for “apostasy” or desertion of his religious principles and “conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.” Lee died in 2010 at age 67.

The Mormon Church has a history of rocky and contradictory dealings with Native Americans or Lamanites, as they were known in the beginning.

According to Brigham Young, “There is a curse on these aborigines of our country who roam the plains and are so wild that you cannot tame them. They are of the House of Israel; they once had the Gospel delivered to them, they had oracles of truth; Jesus came and administered to them after his resurrection and they received and delighted in the Gospel until the fourth generation when they turned away and became so wicked that God cursed them with this dark and benighted and loathsome condition.”

Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, the man who sent out the call to Mr. Lee to join the Seventy, said in 1960, “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome and they are now becoming white and delightsome as they were promised.” He described different Indian children who were “as light as Anglos. “These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”
Comment:  For more on Indians and Mormons, see Why Indians Become Mormons and Romney Associates with Bigot Fischer.

April 23, 2012

Colorado rejects "genocide" label

When Genocide Lost a Debate

By Carol BerryResolutions condemning the genocide of Jewish, Armenian, and Sudanese peoples sailed through the Colorado legislature with overwhelming support, but lawmakers on April 20 didn’t accord the near-annihilation of American Indians quite the same status.

State Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-District 28), a member of the Comanche Nation who spearheaded the joint resolution on Native genocide, said in an interview before the vote that she expected a “positive reception” from the current legislature, an expectation not fully realized. She acknowledged the measure might “hit too close to home.”

“Every year the Senate and House legislators acknowledge the holocaust and genocide of Jewish people and we also acknowledge the genocide of Armenian people,” she said. “But it’s important to acknowledge the first genocide on our own land—the genocide of American Indians.”

What happened to Native people was, instead of genocide, first termed a “tragedy” and then an “atrocity” by legislators, who submitted amendment after amendment over the precise language to be used in the resolution, with “atrocity” the final choice to replace “genocide.”
Some of the deniers' excuses:Some legislators objected to the term “genocide” because, they said, it meant total annihilation and, after all, some Native people remain today. Williams responded that despite the Jewish holocaust and Armenian genocide some Jewish and Armenian people also remain.

In a back-and-forth exchange about legislators’ objections, Williams noted that there were an estimated 18 million Natives in what is now North America at the end of the 15th century, compared to about 1.7 million enumerated in the 2010 U.S. census.
And:Although the resolution finally passed (24 in favor, nine against, and two excused), largely along party lines, legislators objected to its focus on the past, its “negative” nature, and the way in which, they charged, it seemed to blame the U.S. government although the government apparently lacked a Hitler-type leader to instigate a policy of widespread massacre.

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-District 6), who said she has worked as an attorney for the Navajo Nation and Colorado’s two Ute tribal nations, asserted that, “There may be those who don’t see a brighter future, but I live and work with those who do.” Hitler was intent on the extinction of an entire peoples and “this is entirely different,” she said.
And:Williams recited the words of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president, “the American Indian has justified his own extermination.”

Sen. Ted Harvey (R-District 30) said, “there is a difference between relocation and annihilation.” While Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-District 15) said there were “many wrongs” against the nation’s first people, but also “many blessings.”
Comment:  Like many Americans, these lawmakers are obviously in denial. And since the resolution passed on party lines, we can safely say conservatives are more in denial.

A central figure orchestrating the extermination is nowhere in the United Nations' definition of genocide, so that's a phony argument. And the continued existence of Indians is exactly comparable to the continued existence of Jews. Genocide is a program to eliminate a people by murder or other means. It doesn't have to be a successful program to constitute genocide.

The "blessings" argument

Then there's the resolution's "negative" nature and the claim that Americans gave the Indians "many blessings." Does that include poverty, crime, and disease? Thanks for nothing, Americans.

What do these "blessings" have to do with the documented crimes against Indians? How does acknowledging these crimes affect the legacy of "blessings"? Why can't we have both, not one or the other?

Who cares if the resolution is "negative"? Why would anyone feel the need to defend dead white men over dead Indians? If our ancestors did wrong, let's set the record straight and say so.

You know the answers to these questions. Americans won't apologize for or even admit their moral crimes. You know, the flaws in their myth of God-loving goodness. Such admission would shatter the illusion of American exceptionalism.

That's what the opposition to this resolution is really about.

We can see this thinking in the preference for words such as "tragedy." They're the same words politicians such as President Obama use when describing American history. Something bad happened to Indians and blacks, but we can't say who did it or how utterly immoral it was. Like a flood or an earthquake, it was a "tragedy" beyond our comprehension.

In contrast, acknowledging the genocide means acknowledging the shortcomings in American society. The shortcomings that are crippling us, judging by the hate for Obama, liberals, women, minorities, immigrants, the poor, gays, Muslims, atheists, and so forth and so on. Deep down we believe that white male Christians--people like the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers--are the "real Americans." And everyone else is a wannabe, moocher, or bum.

For more on the subject, see Gingrich Cheers Killing of Indians, Chomsky on Genocide Denial, and Descendant Excuses Columbus's Crimes.

"Wolf" the British wannabe

Here's Dennis Grinsted, another British wannabe who thinks he's Apache:

Pensioner: 'I am an Indian in a white man's body'

By Omar OakesKnown within his adopted tribe as “Wolf”, he said: “I don’t how to explain myself other than I am an Indian in a white man’s body--this is who I am and my life journey has been about realising that.

"It started when I met Geronimo’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Anne Skidmore.

"I would volunteer at the Apache Indian museum in Arizona every year for three or four weeks.

"The sixth time I visited, I was invited to attend a ceremony where the witch doctor called me into the middle of a circle of Apache Indians and announced I had been accepted in their tribe.
And:He added: "My wig is from a traditional wig-maker and it cost well over £100.

"All my face paints are authentic too.
Comment:  How many of these morons are there in Great Britain? This "Wolf" resembles the "Mangas Colaradas" whom I mentioned previously.

You gotta love how these wannabes always latch onto the Apache--perhaps the most widely known "warrior" tribe. The "Wolf" name is the same idea. These idiots want to show everyone how brave and noble they are, so they go for the most stereotypical names and images possible.

In other words, no peaceful Hopis for these sheep in wolves' clothing!

Apache "witch doctor"?

And the ceremony involving a "witch doctor"...priceless! I'm sure the Apache love people who call their priests and medicine men "witch doctors." That shows a real understanding of Native religion...not.

Did "Wolf" understand the ceremony's meaning? Did the ceremony even happen? If it did, was it conducted by a bunch of New Agers and wannabes, not real Apaches?

Several Apache tribes have cultural centers and museums. If Grinsted isn't lying outright, he's presumably talking about a particular Apache tribe. But the fact that he hasn't specified a tribe is telling.

That tribe has a tribal government and enrollment process. Is he aware of this? I'm guessing not. But unless he has proof of enrollment from an Apache tribal government, he's nothing.

I also love how he's bragging about his wig and facepaint. A couple of problems there. One, hair doesn't make the Indian. Today's Apaches generally don't have long hair. Two, I don't think Apaches generally wore facepaint. If they did, it was during warfare--which isn't a condition that applies to "Wolf."

The fact that he thinks he needs long black hair and facepaint to be an Indian kind of says it all. His thinking is nothing but pure, ignorant stereotyping.

"Wolf" the human mascot

This posting led to a discussion about Grinsted on Facebook:Thing is, if you truly give a shit, then shut up, move to the reservation, and work to make things better there. Otherwise, you're just a poser appropriating indian culture.I don't think he even has to move for this to be a valid criticism. Let's say the choice is 1) dress right but don't help others or 2) help others but don't dress right. I think most Natives would say the second approach is more Native. They value how people act more than how they look.I think the fact that his favorite movie is "Dances With Wolves" says a lot. "Thank goodness this white guy has shown up to teach us poor indians how to fight"--barf.Right. He's basically a human mascot.

I've read about the German hobbyists whom this guy resembles. Some have the nerve to say things like, "We're more authentic than real Indians." The implication is that authenticity means emulating Indians of the distant past accurately.

I wouldn't be surprised if this guy was the same. He thinks being "Apache" in costume is cool because of the imagined mystique (warrior...wolves...nature...eagles!). If he has a connection to anything Native of the 20th or 21st century, it isn't obvious.

For more on wannabes, see Fur-Trade Reenactors in Photo Exhibit and Wannabes Obscure Real Indians.

Below:  "Dennis Grinsted, 72, aka 'Wolf'."

Inuk minister cuts Aboriginal services

Health Minister Aglukkaq accuses Liberal MP of crossing racial line during House of Commons questioningHealth Minister Leona Aglukkaq accused Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett of crossing the racial line in her questioning over health cuts to Aboriginal organizations.

Aglukkaq, an Inuk MP from Nunavut, said she found Bennett’s questioning offensive to her Inuit heritage.

“As an Aboriginal person, I take that type of line of questioning to be unacceptable,” said Aglukkaq, during question period Monday.

Bennett, who is the Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic, accused Aglukkaq’s department of targeting the population with the worse health statistics with cuts.

“(Aglukkaq) has cut programs for diabetes, youth suicide, Aboriginal health human resources,” said Bennett, who is non-Aboriginal. “Can the minister explain to this house why her cuts target the population with the worse health outcomes in Canada, the Aboriginal people of Canada.”
Comment:  I'm with the non-Native on this one. I don't care how Native or important you are. If you're cutting services to your own people, others have a right to question you.

Indeed, it's rarely if every wrong to ask a question. And it's certainly not racist if the potential hypocrisy is self-evident. If you can't stand the heat, minister, get out of the kitchen.

Aglukkaq has been in the news before. Her conservative beliefs seemed to make her insensitive then, too. If she's still acting insensitively, she's getting what she deserves.

For more on Aglukkaq, see The Aboriginal Sarah Palin? and Body Bags Sent as Flu Assistance.