March 31, 2013

Stereotypes influence kids' views of Natives

The Impact of Stereotyping on Young PeopleCanadian Cayuga actor Gary Farmer is most concerned with the effect of such portrayals on young Aboriginal people themselves. "Consider the impression left when they see themselves portrayed this way time and time again. It’s hard for them to have a positive image of themselves." Even Disney’s arguably positive portrayal of Pocahontas, Farmer says, "will have kids walking away with the stereotype of the 'sexual savage.'" It’s worth noting that Pocahontas’ appearance falls well within white mainstream media norms. In fact, her facial features were a composite of several non-Aboriginal models, one of whom was British fashion star Kate Moss.

Anyone who understands or studies the social development of children and young people knows that attitudes, values and self-esteem are well developed by the mid-teen years, or even earlier. What young people see and hear in the media helps them to figure out how the world works and who and what is valued in our society.

If the media’s take on Aboriginal people is interpreted at face value, then kids are growing up with a biased vision of what it means to be part of a First Peoples society. If they get their impressions from the news, they’ll likely view Aboriginal people as a negative force. And if their impressions come from films and TV programs, they’ll learn to think of Aboriginal people as inferior (passive, aggressive or drunk) or simply as non-entities, obliterated by omission.

When young Aboriginal people read the newspaper or turn on the TV, how often do they see their own life experiences reflected? Almost never, says Children Now, the U.S. research organization that analyzed the presence of Native American children on TV in 1999, and conducted focus groups with children from 20 tribes. Furthermore, they contend, those children have learned to associate positive attributes with white television characters, and negative attributes with non-white characters.

"The media have a lot of power to endorse stereotypes," says Susan Swan, an Ojibway from the Lake Manitoba First Nation. "We go into First Nations communities to talk to youth about gangs. When asked, the kids estimate that about 95 per cent of Aboriginal youth is involved in gangs. The actual number is three per cent. Why do they think these numbers are so high? It’s because this is what they get from television and newspapers."

The popular media are "cool" in the eyes of most kids. If the existence and value of a group of people is not affirmed by inclusion in media information and entertainment, the message is clear—they’re not important. In Aboriginal communities, this can contribute to, as one community sociologist calls it, "learned helplessness, alienation and a sense of having no control."

In Canada, new sensitivities and support for cultural diversity have brought some positive changes. Aboriginal children are periodically featured or interviewed in children’s after-school television, the National Film Board has made films for years that document current First Nations life, the CBC has broadcast many successful dramas that focus on Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal entertainers have been "going mainstream" for two decades. (See Aboriginal Expression in the Arts and Media.) These measures, along with the establishment of Aboriginal television and radio networks, all contribute to a more balanced view and more diverse voices.

Practically speaking, though, these voices still represent only a small proportion of the popular media that kids consume today. The evening news, the "Indian" images in sports-culture hype, the products of the Disney empire, and the misrepresentation (and non-representation) of Aboriginal people in most mainstream media—all continue to influence kids’ views of Aboriginal cultures and peoples.
Comment:  Newspaper Rock readers have heard all this before, but it's still a good (re)statement of the problem. It focuses on the key problem: children who are ignorant and impressionable.

Who cares if an adult is sophisticated enough to shrug off a "whooping savage" cartoon or a "redskins" or "squaw" insult? A more important question is how it affects kids. Native kids who are forming their self-impressions and are sensitive to outside opinions, and non-Native kids who are learning what to think about Indians.

The research says that stereotypes can and do affect young minds. Until you can counter that research, don't bother arguing that stereotypes are harmless. You don't have a leg to stand on.

For more on the harm of Native stereotyping, see Indians Testify About Negative Images and Long-Term Effects of Stereotyping.

Caribbean cannibal in I Love Lucy

I recently stumbled across the Desert Island episode of I Love Lucy. It was the eighth episode of Season 6 and first aired November 26, 1956.

Here's a brief synopsis from IMDB:While filming a movie, actor Claude Akins, dressed in wild native costume, meets with Ricky and agrees to scare Lucy and Ethel for playing a trick that got them stranded on the island earlier.Here's an image from the show's climax:

And a snippet of dialogue that tells you what the characters are thinking:Ethel: (seeing Claude Akins dressed as native) Hey, Lucy, he's friendly. He wants us to have dinner.

Lucy: HAVE dinner?! He wants us to BE dinner!
The first problem is that Akins has a buffalo helmet, warpaint, furs, and a tomahawk. Not of these are remotely close to appropriate for Caribbean Indian.

The second and bigger problem is that the characters are one speedboat ride away from Miami Beach. What's the normal range of a speedboat on the open seas--10 or 20 miles? I'm pretty sure there are no islands, deserted or otherwise, that close to Miami.

Not unless they're chock full of resort hotels, that is. The idea that you could have a "desert island" within hailing distance of Miami Beach is ridiculous. Every island for miles would be owned, occupied, and developed.

That this ridiculous notion of a desert island could be inhabited by man-eating Indians is even more ridiculous. There are no uncontacted tribes in the Caribbean. No reservations where life continues unchanged. Caribbean Indians have been (forcibly) assimilated into European-style living for 500 years. The last "primitive savage" probably died a few decades after the Spanish started colonizing the islands.

Yet Lucy and Ethel are so ignorant they believe a wild Indian will eat them?! Would they expect an English doctor to bleed them if they were sick? A Japanese official to skewer them with a sword if they broke the law? No, but they have no problem envisioning Indians as throwbacks to another century.

It's one thing to be wary or fearful of a stranger, but I presume they've heard of Sitting Bull and Geronimo, at least. You'd have to be beyond ignorant to think cannibals still exist in America or its immediate vicinity. Yet Lucy and Ethel--or the writers who put the words in their mouths--believed this.

The fact that it's a white man in a costume is irrelevant. Other than as an example of the prevailing redface of the era. Lucy and Ethel believed he was real--believed cannibal Indians were roaming just off the coast of Miami.

What it tells us

Another episode I saw had a black man as a train porter. That's also stereotypical, but it's infinitely better than an Indian as a cannibal. The equivalent would be an half-naked African in a grass skirt--but people knew enough in 1956 not to do that. But they didn't know or care enough about Indians to avoid this blatant racism.

This episode is a classic example of how stereotyping works. Most of Lucy's viewers probably didn't think much about the Caribbean. They may not have paid much attention to this episode or its depiction of an Indian. But it undoubtedly influenced their perceptions anyway.

If you asked them about Caribbean Indians after the show, I bet they'd spout the usual stereotypes. Even if they discounted the show, it reinforced what they already believed. Indians were killers and cannibals--and if any are still around, they're still savages.

For more on cannibal Indians, see Cannibal Indians in Green Inferno and Cannibal Indians in My Ghost Story.

Indigenous American Poetry symposium

Poetic Confluence: Writers of Native Verse Explore Shared Roots

By Theresa BraineThough Europe may have a longer history of poetry on paper, Sitar said, “I think poetry in general even today begins with that notion of orality—the way that the words sound and what happens when you say a poem out loud.”

That is very much the case with Native poetry. “Native people, especially those close to oral culture, are natural poets,” Harjo told Indian Country Today Media Network after a presentation that opened Native Innovation: Indigenous American Poetry in the 21st Century, a symposium that took place in New York City from March 21 to 24.

Native poetry is not merely beautiful; it also serves a valuable social function, said the storyteller, poet and author Joseph Bruchac. Like a pipe that is crafted with a face looking back at the smoker from the bowl, poetry reflects back on the reader.

“In our traditions there is a general feeling that poetry does make things happen,” Bruchac said. “There is circularity in poetry—it’s not something pretty and polished that you set on a shelf. We’re making an object that looks back at us, that looks beyond us.”

The symposium was co-sponsored by Copper Canyon Press and the University of Arizona Press, in partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan and with support from the Lannan Foundation. It kicked off with Crazy Brave: An Evening With Joy Harjo on March 21 at the museum. After reading from her acclaimed 2012 memoir Crazy Brave (Norton), Harjo spoke with Bruchac and fielded questions from members of an audience of about 100 people.

The ensuing event, which took place at Poets House in lower Manhattan, featured readings and discussions with such participants as Natalie Diaz and Orlando White, as well as readings by Santee Frazier, Cedar Sigo and Roberta Hill. Sherwin Bitsui, Karenne Wood and many others also gave readings. Bruchac and Allison Adelle Hedge Coke co-curated the event.
Comment:  For more on Native literature, see Kitaro Partners with Banks and Harjo Performs Despite Palestinian Criticism.

March 30, 2013

Yucatec Mayas crazy about baseball

Maya Bring Baseball Passions to U.S.

By Jonah HarrisIn Mexico, the Mayas are a people apart. Half a millennium since Spanish conquistadors set foot in Mesoamerica, their numbers stand in the millions and they remain racially, linguistically and culturally distinct from their non-indigenous countrymen. While most Mexicans are bursting with national pride, Mayas are Yucatecos first (the greatest concentration of Maya are in the Mexican state of Yucatán) and Mexicans second. Most Mexicans speak only Spanish, while most Mayas can speak both Spanish and Maya. And while soccer is practically akin to religion across much of Mexico, for Yucatec Mayas, baseball is life.

Baseball is so popular among Yucatec Mayas (almost all Mayas in Yucatán are either players or fans) and their love of the sport so unique in their country, that it has become a self-identifier, a point of pride and an integral part of what it means to be Maya--right up there with poc-chuc (traditional grilled pork), jarana yucateca (traditional dance) and colorful huipiles (traditional clothing).

"Baseball is an important element of Mayan culture," says Alberto Perez, director of Asociación MAYAB, a Bay Area Yucatec Maya organization. It’s a culture that is becoming increasingly visible in the United States, where hundreds of thousands of Mayas now live. Baseball, says Perez, provides a way for Maya immigrants in the U.S. to stay connected with community, display cultural pride and establish their unique place within the Latino Diaspora. “It is almost like an underground movement.” Today, a growing but untold number of Yucateco baseball teams are scattered across the state of California - there are even whole leagues here whose rosters are mostly made up of Yucatecos.

The sport came to Yucatan from baseball-mad Cuba, a mere 128 miles away. "Mérida (the capital of Yucatán) had more cultural and political exchange with Cuba than with Mexico City," explains Perez. “That's how we got this special love of baseball." Today, Yucatec Mayas, or Yucatecos, may love baseball even more than the Cubans who introduced them to the sport. "They say a Sunday in Oxkutzcab without baseball is not a Sunday," says Alberto Gómez, a 42-year old Yucateco who once played there professionally. Oxkutzcab is a municipality in Yucatan.
Comment:  Another report contradicts the popular notions that the Maya are 1) extinct and 2) fanatical cultists eager to sacrifice people to satiate their blood lust.

For more on the Maya, see Guatemalan Strongman Charged with Genocide and NMAI Launches Maya Website.

Below:  "San Francisco-based Club Yucatan’s bench. At the game, players on the same team wear the various uniforms of their other teams in both Mexico and the United States." (Jonah Harris)

22nd annual World Atlatl Contest

Contestants throw themselves into atlatl competition at Valley of Fire

By Keith Rogers“I kind of like the idea of what people used to do to survive,” he said, smiling at his wife, Judy, who was standing at the base of Atlatl Rock, pronounced “aht-LAHT-’l.” The towering landmark 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas is where Anasazi hunters etched images of these throwing sticks in the rock wall’s black varnish more than 2,000 years ago.

“I have visions of grandeur of being a great hunter who can deliver a glancing blow,” Davis quipped. “I said, ‘Honey I’ve taken a mastodon down before with an atlatl.’ I think she believed me.”

In reality, Davis was new to the sport that for 22 years has drawn veteran dart hurlers from the World Atlatl Association to the park for their annual contest.

Some were competing in rounds Friday not far from where Davis and a dozen visitors participated in a demonstration.

The event continued with final rounds Saturday in which Carey McCormack was named grand champion. About 40 men, women and children took part in the contest.
Comment:  Who knew there was a World Atlatl Association or a World Atlatl Contest and Endurance Challenge? Not me!

For more on the atlatl, see Montana Atlatl Enthusiasts.

Below:  "Derek Brockway, of Las Vegas, readies his atlatl throw Friday at the World Atlatl Contest and Endurance Challenge at Valley of Fire State Park." (Jerry Henkel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Smith publishes book on leadership

Former CN chief publishes book on leadership

By Teddye SnellFormer Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith draws from the past and embraces the future to move from “Point A to Point B” as a leader.

Smith’s book, “Leadership Lessons From The Cherokee Nation,” published by McGraw Hill, explains in detail how he developed a model to move the tribe forward throughout his 12-year tenure.

“Four years ago, I wanted to write this as an employee handbook,” said Smith. “What we found is we needed to streamline a philosophy for running our government, which included over 150 different products and services. And I recalled what [full-blood Cherokee traditionalist] Benny Smith said to me at my inauguration in 1999: ‘Be a student of the Cherokee people and nation,’ or learn from all I observe.”

Smith pointed out that given the number and diversity of the tribe’s interests, he would need an overarching concept of management.

“You can’t run a marshal service the way you run a hospital, and you can’t run a school the way you run an aerospace company,” said Smith. “So, I took Benny’s words very seriously; we simply needed to look at our history to gain clarity about where we wanted to go. We concluded our design purpose was to be a happy, healthy people. It’s important to get from A to B in 10 words or less.”
Comment:  For more on Chad Smith, see Cherokee Chief in Wrestling Hall of Fame.

March 29, 2013

Trail of Tears basketball tweet

Rep. Bruce Braley Apologizes for ‘#TrailOfTears’ Tweet

By John ParkinsonRep. Don Young might not be the only member of Congress in need of some sensitivity training.

After the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Arizona Wildcats Thursday night in the college basketball tournament with a tie-breaking 3-pointer from LaQuinton Ross with 2.1 seconds left on the clock, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, tweeted: “It’s official. Ohio State is the luckiest team in the tournament. #TrailOfTears.”

That #TrailOfTears hashtag quickly drew a negative response on Twitter, prompting Braley to delete the tweet within an hour. It was archived, nevertheless.

Braley, who is serving his fourth term in the House, then attempted to clarify his intent with a tweet-pology in the wee hours of the morning, explaining that he was identifying with the pain of Iowa State fans who suffered defeat at the hands of Ohio State last week.

“The ‘tears’ I was referring to were the tears of [Iowa State] Cyclone fans. I have removed the tweet & apologize to anyone who was offended,” Braley, 55, tweeted.
Comment:  Much like Indians forced to relocate or die, disappointed basketball fans cry.

"I'm so upset," said one grieving fan. "I feel like I've been raped, tortured, and thrown in the oven to die."

"I feel like I've died of smallpox and left my children to starve before the white man could even reach my village and rape me to death," said another.

Braley's tweet is eligible for the Stereotype of the Month contest because it implies the Trail of Tears is a trivial matter. In other words, that Native concerns don't matter--perhaps that Indians don't even exist anymore. Why else would you use one of their worst catastrophes as a joking matter?

For more misuses of the Trail of Tears, see Trail of Tears Fireworks and "Mail of Tears."

Google Street View in Nunavut

Google Street View braves Canadian Arctic to chart little-known territory

Iqaluit mapping expedition sees Google staff hike along remote city's snow-covered trails and risk wrath of polar bears

By Allan Woods
It has charted the world's highest peaks, the ocean floor, the Amazon rainforest and even provided a glimpse into the hermit state of North Korea. But Google's mission to map the world has largely steered clear of the inhospitable Arctic.

Now, however, the search-engine firm is embarking on what might be the most significant update to centuries of polar cartography–and one it hopes will foster a better understanding of life on the permafrost for millions of web users. Google has flown a small team to Iqaluit, the largest town in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, armed with their warmest winter gear, a stack of laptop computers and a 18kg (40lb) backpack-mounted telescopic camera.

Helped by an Inuit mapping expert, and stalked by curious locals, the team spent four days trudging through the terrain and collecting the images and information that will give the isolated community on the tundra of Baffin Island what urbanites across the globe now take for granted.

The town of 7,000 people will go on display via Google's popular Street View application in July.
Comment:  For more on Google Maps, see Google Maps in Cheorkee and Unidentified Reservations in Google Maps.

Below:  "Google Street View's Karin Tuxen-Bettman treks across the Arctic tundra in Iqaluit."

Anti-smoking ads include Natives

Anti-smoking ads include American Indians, Alaska NativesThe Be Tobacco Free campaign has released a new set of videos that are aimed at reducing smoking among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

One ad features Nathan, a 54-year-old member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He said secondhand smoking caused him asthma attacks, infections and lung damage.

"When you smoke, it affects more than just your health," Nathan says.
Another ad features Michael, a 57-year-old Tlingit veteran from Alaska. His smoking habit left him with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease.

“If your doctor gives you five years to live, spend it talking with your grandchildren," Michael says. "Explain to them that your grandpa is not going to be around anymore to share his wisdom and his love. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet, and I’m running out of time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indians and Alaska Natives report the highest rates of smoking. This included youth and women who are pregnant.
Comment:  For more on Native health initiatives, see Gaming Improves Indians' Health and "Let's Move! in Indian Country."

March 28, 2013

Cramer attacks tribes over VAWA

The latest controversy concerning the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer Verbally Attacks Native Victim’s Assistance Program Director at State Meeting, Threatens to Ring Spirit Lake Tribal Council’s Necks

By Melissa MerrickAs the Director of Spirit Lake Victim Assistance, I am a member of three coalitions: First Nations Women’s Alliance, Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, and North Dakota Council on Abused women Services (NDCAWS), which is the ND state coalition. All of these organizations work to end violence against women. While at the most recent state coalition membership meeting held on March 26, 2013, two of North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s staff and North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer were on the agenda. They were brought in to listen to the Directors of programs throughout North Dakota.What happened next:After I spoke, Cramer began what turned out to be roughly 20 minutes verbal attacks directed at me and meant for all Native people. Cramer stated that indeed he did vote yes on the Violence Against Women Act, but he did not agree with the Tribal Provisions and that he was sure they would be overturned in the Supreme Court. I pointed out that the U.S. Attorney’s office just released a VAWA Tribal Provision fact sheet for the new VAWA about an hour previous.Perhaps the worst part of the exchange:Cramer said, “What do YOU think of the Tribal council?”

I responded to him by telling him that I have my own opinions about the Tribe’s leaders, but what I could tell him again is about the positive things that have come out of the media crisis, like the reformation of the Child Protection Team, the Multi-Disciplinary Team, the Regional Social Services Coalition, and an Interagency committee- all which I am a part of.

I said, “I can tell you I know there is change, positive change. It’s not going to happen overnight but there are people working very hard.”

Cramer then stated that he wanted to “ring the Tribal council’s neck and slam them against the wall.” This statement was made in front of a room full of people who are working to end violence. Again, he went on and on about how Tribal governments are dysfunctional, and how unconstitutional the Tribal provisions in VAWA are. At this point, the other Directors began to get up and walk out of the room. Cramer focused on how he thought a non-Native man would be treated unfairly in the Tribal Court.

Dueling interpretations

Two radically different interpretations of what happened:

Rep. Cramer disputes account of 'tirade' during meeting with American Indians, but apologizes for tone

By Chuck HagaCramer said he was trying to arrange a conversation with Merrick to apologize for the misunderstanding and the tone of his remarks.

Cramer said he was trying to explain why he had sought to “improve” the reauthorized act by addressing what he believes are constitutional flaws that are likely to bring court challenges, but that the manner of his presentation may have been inappropriate.

“We had a very frank discussion about my belief in equal protection under the law and due process,” he said. “I don’t want it (VAWA) overturned. I wanted to improve it so it doesn’t get overturned.

“I engaged in a discussion, or maybe I should say debate, that was probably more like a debate we’d have in Congress than with a group of people dedicated to helping women and children. I want to apologize to her for that.”
Horrid Congressman Threatens Tribal Council With Violence at Hearing for Abused Women Services

By Callie BeusmanAfter Merrick addressed her concerns over program cuts, Congressman Cramer grew increasingly irritable, going on a long tangent about his belief that the Supreme Court was likely to overturn the tribal provisions. The crux of his argument (which he formulated despite having never been to a tribal court) was that there was no way for a non-Native man to receive a fair trial from the "dysfunctional" tribal governments. Despite Merrick's calm, rational interjections in which she stressed the importance of protecting victims of sexual violence, Cramer refused to listen. In front of a room filled with anti-violence activists, this moral wreck of a Congressman stated that he wanted to "wring the tribal council's neck and throw them against the wall."

No, you did not misread that. In the most hopelessly confusing, abject, and misguided rhetorical move ever made, Congressman Cramer became so enraged that a population disproportionately targeted with violent crime had been given a method to protect itself that he threatened their government officials with violence.

Furthermore, to speak at length about a tribal court being potentially unfair to white men is beyond hypocritical since, oh, I don't know, the American justice system imprisons people of color at a hideously disproportionate and egregiously unjust rate. The incarceration rate of Native American men is 38% higher than the national rate. In South Dakota, where Native Americans comprise 8% of the state's population, 22% of the male prison population and 35% percent of the female prison population is comprised of Native people. On average, Native Americans receive longer sentences and serve longer time in prison than non-Natives. It is absurd to act as though empowering Native people to prosecute crimes that affect them incommensurately is an affront to the justice system. The only thing that's threatened by the tribal provisions is white privilege.

He went on to say, "As a non-Native man, I do not feel secure stepping onto the reservation now," even though the only people threatened by the tribal provisions are THOSE WHO COMMIT VIOLENT SEX CRIMES AGAINST NATIVE WOMEN (although, to be fair, he had just violently threatened the tribal council, so perhaps it makes sense that he felt uneasy with the court's new authority over a very specific subset of crimes).
Natives respond

Spirit Lake Nation Official Response to Kevin Cramer (ND Congressman)Spirit Lake Tribal representatives were disheartened today to learn of the comments made by Congressmen Kevin Cramer on March 26, 2013 at the North Dakota Council on Abused Women Services (NDCAWS) state coalition meeting. The Congressmen is reported to have expressed his concern with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), S. 47, which President Obama signed into law just this month. Congressmen Cramer reportedly stated that he is now afraid to enter an Indian Reservation for fear of prosecution and unfair treatment in the Tribal Court system. Mr. Cramer’s remarks clearly stem from a lack of understanding of the legislation.

The landmark legislation reaffirms the inherent right of Indian tribes to protect their members with respect to crimes involving domestic violence. Until this legislation was enacted tribes could not exercise authority to prosecute domestic violence cases within their borders, which meant that the majority of offenses went unpunished. The Tribal provisions of VAWA amend the Indian Civil Rights Act and contain strong provisions that recognize and acknowledge that the powers of self-government of Indian tribes includes the power to exercise domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all persons, including non-Indians who commit acts of domestic violence on Indian lands and have ties to Indian country (live or work on Indian lands or who marry or are intimate partners or dating partners of tribal members or Native Americans who live on Indian lands). Tribes are also given express authority under VAWA to issue and enforce protection orders.

Moreover, the Act includes safeguards that address the concerns the Congressmen expressed with regard to due process. The Act requires Indian tribes to have adequate safeguards to protect a defendant’s rights, consistent with the Indian Civil Rights Act (lCRA), and to demonstrate the presence of those safeguards to the Attorney General. In sum, tribal provisions of the VAWA provide the best solution to the rampant number of domestic violence and sexual assault acts on tribal lands while also maintaining defendant rights in tribal courts.

In addition, to his misinformed comments about the VAWA, Congressmen Cramer reportedly stated his belief that Tribal governments are dysfunctional and that he wanted to “ring the [Spirit Lake] Tribal council’s neck and slam them against the wall.” The Tribe takes these threats of violence seriously and finds them particularly inappropriate given the audience Congressmen Cramer was addressing. A threat of violence is exactly the wrong way to send a message. His comments are beneath the dignity of his office and the relationship that his government has with the first Nations of this country, who are among his constituents. The Tribe is concerned that the Congressmen’s intemperate statements reflect his negative views of his Tribal constituents as a whole.
Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe Official Response to Kevin Cramer (GOP Congressman)Dear Honorable North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer,

​I am writing in “great concern,” about statements ‘you’ had made at the North Dakota Council on Abused women Services which was held on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

​The statements that were made were not only derogatory but lack effective leadership qualities that people of North Dakota and Tribes believe you divulged during your campaign.

​In reference to, “Tribal Governments are dysfunctional. Tribal Courts are dysfunctional, and how could a non-Native man get a fair trial on the reservations?,” lacks a complete misinterpretation and lack of knowledge of day to day activities that occur within mine or other tribal chambers. We, as tribal leaders, as a sovereign nation, must protect the humanitarian, safety and quality of life for every tribal member that resides on and off the reservation. It is not only in our constitution but it is also in the North Dakota Constitution and United States Constitution. You have stated that a non-native person would not get a “fair trial” on the reservation, it is my understanding that tribal courts are granted “full faith and credit to make judgments issued within their courts.”
Merrick responds

Finally, the woman who first reported the contretemps responds to Cramer's self-defense:

Release from Melissa Merrick in response to Congressman Kevin CramerIt has been three days since we met, and I am still stunned and outraged by what we experienced. I have always believed that the job of an elected official is to listen to the concerns of constituents, treat them with basic respect, and help try to solve problems. Instead, we were treated rudely and disrespectfully, like an arrogant bully who was disgusted with the people he had to interact with and who had no understanding or interest in protecting women from violence.

I read in the paper that you want to apologize for the “tone” and “style” of your comments. This is very disappointing to me and to my colleagues that fight to protect women from violence in our community. You should be sorry for your words and take responsibility for them.

You have attempted to backtrack and have gone as far as publicly questioning the accuracy of my statements in the Last Real Indians. Let me state for the record, I stand by every word of it.

You clearly have zero interest in protecting women from violence and have not read the tribal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, particularly the part about the protections non-Indian defendants are guaranteed in tribal court. Your ignorant prejudices about tribal people are not only untrue, but fan the flames of racial divide, the exact opposite of what leaders do to make communities stronger. The disdain you expressed for our tribal leaders and your threats toward them left one woman in tears and revealed how little you care about the people you have been elected to serve, particularly female victims of violent acts.
Comment:  Cramer's belief that white courts can be fair to Natives but Native courts can't be fair to whites is blatantly racist. It's a textbook example of judging two situations differently because of race.

For more on VAWA, see Tribal Courts "Don't Inspire Confidence"? and VAWA Passes Over Conservative Objections.

Letter: Natives aren't "modern citizens"

Nanaimo newspaper publisher says racist letter controversy a “non-story”

By Jorge BarreraThe publisher of a Vancouver Island newspaper caught in the midst of a flaring controversy after publishing a “hate-filled letter” about First Nations people says the issue is a “non-story” that was an “unfortunate incident” and it was time to “move on.”

Nanaimo Daily News publisher Hugh Nicholson said the newspaper had tightened up its vetting process after the newspaper published a letter Wednesday titled, “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens,” which was penned by Nanaimo, B.C., resident Don Olsen.

Nicholson said the letter should never have been published and it has been pulled off the newspaper’s website.

The newspaper also posted an apology on its website Thursday.
Letter published in Nanaimo newspaper shows need for education, First Nations leaders say

By Judith LavoieA letter to the editor—described by First Nations leaders as racist and ignorant—should be used as an opportunity to educate Canadians about aboriginal culture, say chiefs who took part in a protest outside the Nanaimo Daily News office on Thursday.

“The foundation of racism is ignorance and fear about each other, and what we have been trying to do for many years is try and build greater understanding,” said Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White, who hopes the incident will kickstart educational conferences and a change in school curricula.

“We must close this gap of understanding. … People don’t know us and they don’t know what our values are or our way of life,” White said.

Although racism remains a reality for First Nations, the letter does not reflect the views of most Nanaimo residents, said White, who believes it has tarnished the city’s reputation.

“The Nanaimo name is now being thrown around … as a place where there is some pretty serious, ugly racism going on, and that’s not good for my community or the people I live with,” he said.

The Nanaimo Daily News removed the letter—which denigrated First Nations achievements and dismissed their culture—from its website on Thursday, a day after it was published. Publisher Hugh Nicholson apologized for any distress it might have caused.
Comment:  The link to the original letter doesn't work any longer. But the headline alone--"Educate First Nations to be modern citizens"--suggests how bad the letter was.

The idea that Natives need education to be "modern citizens" is ludicrous. They're already modern citizens; most participate in politics and society as much as anyone.

For more on Canadian racism in newspapers, see Morris Mirror: Natives = "Terrorists" and Colonial Imagery in Canadian Newspapers.

Enduring racism in Café Daughter

'Cafe Daughter' Chronicles Canadian Insitutionalized Racism in the Mid-20th Century

By Alex JacobsNinety minutes of compelling story, an astounding performance of 12 characters by one amazing actress, great script and art direction, many painful truths and a pile of tear-soaked tissues. That’s what you’ll get investing your time, energy, emotions, and ticket price in Gwaandak Theatre’s production of Café Daughter.

Written by Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams, Café Daughter tells the story of Yvette Wong, a Chinese-Cree girl growing up in rural Saskatchewan in the 1950s and ‘60s. The play--in effect, a one-woman show--was presented at the Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, with actress PJ Prudat portraying Yvette and another 11 characters. Café Daughter was directed by Yvette Nolan.

Prudat, who is of Cree, Salteaux, French, Scandinavian and Metis heritage, more than pulls off the entire play, owning both the story and the stage, drawing the audience in. When the story begins, Yvette is a bright, ten-year-old girl who dreams of being a doctor, but because she is not white she is put in the class for slow learners. After the play, which depicts Yvette’s long journey through and struggle against institutional racism, the audience left happy, fulfilled and spent.

The story was inspired by Dr. Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, and contains many truths, both historical and personal, about her life--but it’s also about so many other just plain folks who endured the racism and prejudice of those times. The history goes back 100 years, but it feels very recent, and while the script is up-North Canada, similar laws also existed in the US to protect the virtue of white women from immoral minorities.
Comment:  For more on Native theater, see Time-Traveling Mission Play and Distant Thunder Read in NYC.

Below:  "In 'Cafe Daughter,' PJ Prudat depicts a Chinese-Cree girl from the age of 10 onward."

Billy Mills's marathon team

Billy Mills' marathon team benefits Indian youthsTeam Running Strong is Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills’ charity marathon team in the Marine Corps Marathon.

Each year, both Native and non-Native members of Team Running Strong come together from across the country to run or walk 26.2 miles for the future of Native American youths. Team Running Strong is a charity partner in the 38th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27.

Team Running Strong offers a guaranteed spot in the 38th Marine Corps Marathon, which sold out in record time of 2 hours and 41 minutes last year. Also, with Team Running Strong, all participants take part in an honoring ceremony and reception held at the National Museum of the American Indian with teammates, friends, family and Mills, a South Dakota native and Olympic gold medalist.

Leading up to the event all participants receive training and fundraising support, including a personal webpage, advice from the Running Strong staff and training tips from Mills.
Comment:  For more on Billy Mills, see NIGA 2013 (Day 3) and Billy Mills Receives Presidential Medal.

March 27, 2013

NIGA 2013 (Day 3)

As we headed over to the trade show floor, Chad and I were distracted by a spectacle: public art made of tin cans. We inspected that for half an hour before heading to our booth.

Victor and Lucy were there, so Chad and I took a walk around the floor. Chad picked up some insurance literature for his new business venture. We spotted Billy Mills at his booth and chatted with him for a bit. Chad bought some Southwest jewelry for the women in his life.

We returned to the booth and spent the rest of the abbreviated day there. Several gaming celebs and a few entertainment celebs (activist Sonny Skyhawk and filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson, again) came by. Peter MacDonald the former Navajo chairman and Dennis Banks the AIM activist were nearby, forming a mini-celebrity row in the 1500 aisle.

We were supposed to meet someone for dinner, but everyone took off and so did we. After a long drive to Victor's house and a shorter drive to my house, the trip was over.

Pix of the day:

NIGA (Day 3)--March 27, 2013
Driving home from NIGA--March 27, 2013

And a little about the events and awards we didn't see:

National Indian Gaming Association draws crowd to Arizona

For more on NIGA, see NIGA 2013 (Day 2) and NIGA 2013 (Day 1)

Native Entertainment magazine exploits women

'Native Entertainment' Magazine Courts Controversy in Indian Country

By Adrian JawortFlipping through the pages of Native Entertainment magazine, you'll find a lot of risqué content that is absent, for the most part, from other Native-oriented magazines.

Since its premiere issue came out in February of 2009, the contemporary entertainment, music, and art magazine has cast a wide net, presenting articles and profiles on actors, rappers, and heavy metal bands, as well as less-expected material such as political pieces. One constant in every issue, however, is the photos of tattoos and sexy Native women."

It’s kind of a weird road we’re on, because we’re paving a new path," says Tito Gutierrez, Navajo, the magazine’s creator and editor who runs it out of his 2,000 square foot building in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "When we came out, we were the only magazine of our caliber."

"Everything before us was either scholastic-based or if there was a quote-Indian-unquote [focus], they had to jab a feather in there somewhere, or they were wearing some kind of turquoise, or something that said, 'Hey, I'm an Indian! Look at me!'"

Gutierrez rejects the notion that all Natives represented in media have to fit into an assumed, sometimes even exploited mold of what Natives should strive to look and act like. "We don’t want to culturally exploit anything," he says. "You’ll never find feathers or Indian religion; you’ll never find buckskin; you’ll never find pottery or turquoise."

As a result of paving a new path, Gutierrez has faced his strongest critics from within the Native community, who continually claim he’s exploiting Native women and "acting white" for having pictures of scantily clad women or an annual Sexiest Native Woman contest.

Gutierrez faults such critics as having racist double standards, saying those same people have no problem if African Americans or white people have similar magazines, or TV networks like BET or MTV, doing the same thing he’s doing. Critics of Native Entertainment, Gutierrez says, "have made a decision to say it’s OK when other races do it and they have no problem with it. But when a Native decides to do it, it’s somehow wrong?"

Gutierrez says Natives are real people who live in a real modern world, and they do rap or rock out and have a plethora of emotions and desires aside from the stoic caricatures that date to Hollywood westerns and the imagery of Edward S. Curtis. "We were the first to showcase all these crazy and supposedly 'forbidden' elements of who we are as a people," Gutierrez says.

The way Gutierrez sees it, whenever Natives try to do something that is "daring and bold," the loudest naysayers are always other Natives who feel they can dictate what Indians should or shouldn’t strive to be. For Gutierrez, it creates a self-enforcing stereotype. "That goes to what I call the 'Pocahontas syndrome,'" he says. "People are taught by Hollywood what to believe about who we are supposed to be and how we’re supposed to be."

Gutierrez says he has had no difficulty finding Native models who will show off their sex appeal--on the contrary, many tell him they are tired of the typical Native-themed photo shoots they are expected to do, whether it's wearing traditional attire or posing in front of a mesa. "We’re the go-to company for girls who want go beyond that," he says. "They’re excited to do something beyond what has already been done."

"Native women are just as intelligent and sexy as any other race, and so are the men," Gutierrez adds. But he says that he has noticed a trend of hypocrisy along gender lines: His "Sexiest Native Women" contests and issues have drawn fierce criticism online, but he says those same critics were happy to buy several copies of a "Sexiest Native Man" issue when it came out.
Natives respond

Some responses to this posting on Indian Country Today's Facebook page:I think it's a good move to pull away from stereotypes of Native mags, but then I do think that adding the scantily clad women to the pages is exploitation of another kind just to make money.

I don't like that they have to take their clothes off to get attention, either.

Just irks me, but it is a country of freedom of expression. Don't know what's worse exploiting our culture for money or making Native women another Pocahontas sex symbol. Just annoying. Good thing I don't have to support his cause or magazine. Won't be purchasing one no time soon.

Now Native women have become subjects of "objectification." Low blow to our women and culture.

Of course it creates a controversy, it's a whole new generation of not being taught by my grandparents about the facts and morals being taught by the elders. That generation was gone two generations ago!
Rob replies

Several major problems with Gutierrez's arguments:

1) "We don’t want to culturally exploit anything," he says. So instead he exploits women's bodies? Nice.

I wouldn't say using things like pottery or turquoise is exploiting them. But one way or another, Gutierrez is exploiting Natives.

2) Racist double standards? Feminists have been protesting magazines featuring scantily clad non-Native women for decades. It's no double standard to say this magazine is as unacceptable as those magazines for similar reasons.

3) Indians "have a plethora of emotions and desires aside from the stoic caricatures that date to Hollywood westerns and the imagery of Edward S. Curtis"? No kidding.

What this ignores is that the "sexy Indian princess" stereotype dates to the time of Malinche and Pocahontas. It's been around since the beginning. Replacing a 100-year-old stereotype with a 500-year-old stereotype is no improvement.

4) Whenever Natives try to do something that is "daring and bold"? That's a laugh. Again, exploiting the sexuality of Native women is one of the oldest ideas in American history. Putting Native women in demure buckskins--or better yet, the demure dresses they actually wore--would be far more daring and bold. Let's see you make money without exploiting Native women, brave boy.

"Pocahontas syndrome"?

5) Gutierrez criticizes the "Pocahontas syndrome," which I guess he defines as dictating what Natives should or shouldn't be. Why, because Pocahontas was known for being dictated to and fitted into a certain mold?

That's a total misunderstanding of her role in America's mythology. Actually, she's known for being the "good girl" Indian who saved John Smith. That quickly evolved into a romantic partner for Smith, and then an alluring young Native woman. In short, it's all about her Madonna/whore sexuality.

So Gutierrez is contradicting his "Pocahontas syndrome" having women dress up like sexy temptresses like our mythical version of Pocahontas? And that's daring because they're wearing modern clothes rather than buckskins? That's like a movie producer's saying, "We put our Arab terrorist in a suit rather than a robe and turban. Therefore, his portrayal is daring and bold, not a slight update on an extremely overused stereotype."

6) Gutierrez is literally tracking his buyers so closely that he knows when critics of the "Sexiest Native Woman " issue buy the "Sexiest Native Man" issue? Somehow I doubt it.

In short, I'm not impressed. Basically, Gutierrez is offering the same old excuse offered by every exploiter of women. "Our semi-naked women are empowering themselves. They're finally free to be everything they want to be.

"If they want to be sex objects rather than brain surgeons or rocket scientists, so be it. We're helping them achieve their goals."

For more on edgy Native magazines, see Urban Magazine Attracts Native Youth and Redskin = "Appalling, Offensive, and Disgusting."


is a trend that began with this:

And continued through the centuries with things like this:

Tech-savvy Surui chief

Brazilian chief uses technology to help save his tribe and curb deforestation

By Juan ForeroAs a small boy in the early ’80s, Almir Surui hunted monkeys with a bow and arrow, wore a loincloth and struggled with Brazil’s official language, Portuguese.

At 38, he is the tech-savvy, ­university-educated chief of the Paiter Surui, or “the real people,” of this western corner of Brazil.

He can still handle a bow. But Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui says his weapon of choice is technology: Android phones to monitor illegal logging, hand-held Global Positioning System devices to map territory and Google Earth Outreach to show the world what a well-managed forest looks like.

Wielding the tools of the 21st century, the 1,300-member tribe has delved into a complex scheme in which governments or companies pay for forest preservation, contributing to a system that, if fully realized, would help end large-scale deforestation. By determining how much carbon is prevented from being released if the trees on Surui lands are left standing, the tribe hopes to sell carbon credits internationally to offset greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.
From The Stone Age To The Digital Age In One Big Leap

By Juan ForeroRebecca Moore of Google was among the first to come on board, back in 2007. She describes Chief Almir as "very savvy. I've never seen anyone who could say 'no' to him."

She recalled how Chief Almir told Google executives that his father's way of defending the Surui was obsolete.

"He realized that the time had come, he says, to put down the bow and arrow and pick up the laptop, that that was the future for defending their territory and strengthening their tribe," she says. "How could you say 'no'?"

Beto Borges, a Brazilian-born environmentalist who works at Forest Trends based in Washington, D.C., says Chief Almir knows how to get people's attention, whether it's in Rio de Janeiro or New York.

"Walking with the crowds with Almir is like walking with a pop star," says Borges, the company's director of the Communities and Markets Program. "All of a sudden here's an indigenous person from the Amazon. And not only an indigenous person, but he's a chief, wearing this huge headdress with feathers."

But what wins over converts to the Surui cause, says Borges, is Chief Almir's ability to lay out a cogent argument and persuade.

"All of a sudden, they're facing an indigenous person who can speak at the same level that they can, who can talk about strategic vision, for the companies as well as for his people," says Borges. He says it often leaves listeners astonished.

"I think that really shocks people to the point that they fall in love with him," Borges says. "'Oh, this guy is fantastic, so we want to do something with him.'"
Comment:  These stories alone are enough to explode the myth of Amazon Indians as primitive, spear-chucking savages. It's the 21st century and these people are part of it.

For more on the Amazon Indians, see Chagnon Autobiography Reignites Controversies and Cannibal Indians in Green Inferno.

Below:  "To save the forest home of his people, Chief Almir Surui has turned to modern technology, like Android phones, and alliances with the likes of Google and Wall Street financiers." (Juan Forero/TWP)

Native women walk the Mississippi

Native American women walking length of river, raising pollution awareness

By Jessica LarsenA modest copper bucket carries fresh, pure water from the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

About 1 1/2 quarts of the clear liquid will finish its journey at the river’s end in the Gulf of Mexico.

A group of Native American women are walking the length of the river—1,200 miles—in an effort to raise awareness about pollution.

“The water effects all of us. We are all water,” said walker Sharon Day, an Ojibwe tribe member and executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force. “We want people to recreate a relationship with the water, with themselves.”
Walking the Water: Indigenous women walk the Mississippi to raise awareness of water pollution

By Sharon Sander-PalmerIt was a very cold couple of days last week when an ambitious group of American Indian women made their way along the roads of Allamakee County with a very big goal--to walk the length of the Mississippi River from the headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.

The walkers and their supporters left Lake Itasca State Park, MN March 1 after a traditional Ojibwe water ceremony where they collected a copper pail full of clear, fresh lake water which they are carrying the entire 1,200 miles to where the river empties into the Gulf at Venice, LA. It is here that they will pour the contents of the pail into the murky gulf waters, “giving the Mississippi River a drink of herself.”

Mississippi River Water Walk leader, Sharon Day, is a member of the Ojibwe tribe and Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force; an organization whose mission is to improve the health and education of indigenous people through a variety of programs. She lives just a block from the river in St. Paul, MN and has been involved in water issues in the past, being called upon to help with the process of making a spring in the Fort Snelling area of the Twin Cities a protected sacred site in 1998.

In 2003, she joined Josephine Mandamin, a grandmother in her lodge, on her walk around Lake Superior to raise awareness of water pollution, and more recently took part in the Four Directions Walk also known as the Mother Earth Water Walk in 2011. It was after that walk, when she asked herself what she could do next, that the beginning of this current journey began.
Comment:  For more on Native treks, see Nishiyuu Walkers Arrive in Ottawa and 175th Anniversary of Trail of Tears.

Below:  "One of the members of the Mississippi River Water Walkers walking beside the Mississippi River along Highway 76 near Effigy Mounds National Monument carrying the eagle feather staff and copper pail of water collected at the Mississippi River headwaters at Lake Itasca, MN. The group's 1,200-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico is to raise awareness of water pollution and protection of resources." (Sharon Sander-Palmer.)

Nishiyuu walkers arrive in Ottawa

Nishiyuu Youth Walkers Greeted by Cheering, Thousands-Strong Crowd in Ottawa

By Paul SeesequasisIt was a triumph of the next generation, a beacon pointing toward the future. Sixty-eight days and 1,600 kilometers after setting out from the remote James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui First Nation, seven young aboriginals arrived in Ottawa on March 25 and stood proudly on the steps of Parliament before cheering crowds.

Along the way the “Original Seven,”—David Kawapit, 18; Geordie Rupert, 21; Raymond (Bajoo) Kawapit, 20; Stanley George Jr., 17; Travis George, 17; Jordon Masty, 19, and Johnny Abraham, also 19—as the Nishiyuu walkers became known, had picked up roughly 270 more, as well as thousands of supporters worldwide, and captured the imagination and hearts of many.

"I took this walk for healing, [for] the challenges we face,” said David Kapawit, the young man who was inspired to initiate the journey by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s fast in protest of government policies. He spoke to the crowd in Cree. “I am so honored to see you all here in support. This moves me so much."

The simple message of unity and pride of the Cree, Algonquin, Inuit, Mohawk and other youth who undertook the trek resonated far beyond the Native world. The response also revealed that the inspiration behind the Idle No More movement is far from played out.
Panda-Harper Memes Fly as Prime Minister Jets to Toronto Instead of Greeting Nishiyuu WalkersAs the Nishiyuu walkers basked in the glow of their triumphant arrival in Ottawa after a 900-mile snowshoe trek from remote Whapmagoostui, Quebec, on March 26, the memes started flying. The panda memes, that is.

Notably absent from a greeting crowd of thousands that included Members of Parliament, the country’s highest-ranking First Nations leaders and other notables was Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He was in Toronto, greeting a pair of panda bears from China.

"It says a lot that Stephen Harper isn't here, that he's greeting the pandas,'' Green Party leader Elizabeth May told the Canadian Press. "It says a lot that we need to move heaven and earth to meet First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis with respect.''

Aboriginal leaders were also quick to note the stark contrast between the youths’ welcome and the Prime Minister’s absence.
Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Idle No More in Europe and Idle No More Plans "Sovereignty Summer."

March 26, 2013

NIGA 2013 (Day 2)

For once we made it to the trade show on time to see the opening ceremony. The celebrities there to cut the ribbon included Evander Holyfield, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Adam Beach, and Billy Mills.

I took an early break to meet Greg Burgas, a comic-book critic whose columns I read. We met in front of the convention center, where a "sacred lands" protest was taking place. Over Starbucks coffee, we talked about Indians and comics.

Back on the floor, I stopped by a neighboring booth to see Peter MacDonald, the former chairman of the Navajo Nation. He's now president of a codetalker foundation and was there to represent them. We talked briefly about his working at Hughes in Culver City, my home town.

With Chad and Lucy, a Facebook friend who volunteered to help us, we had people to spare at the booth. Therefore, I was able to take an initial cruise around the floor with Lucy. After that, we spent most of the day in the booth.

After the show closed, we headed to the Sheraton Hotel to see Victor speak to the "Emerging Leaders of Gaming." On the way there, we met filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson, who soon joined us.

I went with Victor to a celebration that evening at the Copper Blues bar, but soon returned to the hotel. For dinner we had a nice salad via room service.

Pix of the day:

NIGA (Day 2)--March 26, 2013

For more on NIGA, see NIGA 2013 (Day 1) and Off to NIGA 2013.

Guatemalan strongman charged with genocide

Ex-Guatemala strongman on trial after 30 years, accused of genocide, crimes against humanityThe few times Rios Montt spoke during days of pre-trial hearings, he stared straight ahead and addressed the court in a strong voice. But except for denying genocide occurred, he limited his answers to simple refusals to address questions that might incriminate him. He is being held under house arrest.

The most important evidence are the plans for three counterinsurgency campaigns known as Victory 82, Operation Sofia and Firmness 83 and after-action reports linked to mass killings. Almost all of the military plans were classified “secret” but were leaked to victims’ lawyers.

The plan for Victory 82 created a force made up of riflemen, paratroopers and combat engineers directed to operate in a part of the highlands known as the Ixil triangle and report its actions to the chief of staff of the army, part of the military leadership along with Rios Montt.

Military experts testifying for the victims have said this description of the chain of command makes it obvious that the military chief of staff and other high commanders including Rios Montt could have halted the massacres.

The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation carried out more than 60 studies to identify some 800 sets of human remains from the area that will be evidence in the trial.

“The great majority of victims were women or children, who suffered violent deaths without putting up a defense. In some cases there were massacres, executions and people dying as they were fleeing, from hypothermia and hunger,” said the foundation’s executive director, Jose Suasnavar.

Mayas were treated as an internal enemy because they were seen as lending support to the enemy, according to the indictment against Rios Montt.

In the plan’s Annex C, the army chief of staff said that “the great masses of indigenous people in the nation’s highlands have echoed the proclamations of subversion, whose rallying cries are the lack of land and immense poverty ... they see the army like an invading enemy.”
On the Brink of Justice in Guatemala

By Anita IsaacsFOR over a week Guatemala has been consumed with the court proceedings against Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, who led the country in the early 1980s, on charges of genocide. But he isn’t the only one on trial.

I have spent the past 15 years researching and writing about postwar justice in Guatemala. I am encouraged that, a decade and a half after peace accords ended 36 years of civil war, Guatemala is being given a chance to show the world how much progress it has made in building democracy. The trial gives the Guatemalan state a chance to prove that it can uphold the rule of law and grant its indigenous Mayan people, who suffered greatly under Mr. Ríos Montt, the same respectful treatment, freedoms and rights the rest of its citizens enjoy.

Still, the trial process could be the trickiest part. Given how weak the former general’s case is, the defense has already set its sights on appeal, on the grounds that Mr. Ríos Montt was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial—a denial of justice that the veteran defense team itself is supposedly trying to engineer.

Of course, win or lose, the case could still be a victory for the government if it gives voice to Mr. Ríos Montt’s Mayan victims. So far, the prosecution has gone to great lengths to do just that.

The prosecution opened the proceedings with testimonials from indigenous people, provided interpreters so they could speak in their native language (which, as one witness explained to me, is “so much easier because I know the words”) and is listening aghast to the unimaginable horrors they tell. Giving each individual the chance to speak in his or her own words, to be heard and affirmed, is a long overdue acknowledgment that Mayan lives demand protection.

The witnesses included a man testifying about how the Guatemalan Army under Mr. Ríos Montt killed his wife and two children, slashing his 5-year-old son’s face with a machete and smashing his toddler’s head. Another described how his pregnant sister was tied to a stake and burned alive, along with her child and six additional children. One witness, Nicolas Brito, told of seeing soldiers cut out and stack victims’ hearts on a table.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see World Bank Supports Genocide and Racism Against Guatemala's Indians.

Aboriginal filmmakers busy in BC

First Nations filmmakers use business skills, social media savvy to bring TV shows to niche markets

By Jenny LeeIt’s a tiny niche in an otherwise troubled industry, but B.C.-based aboriginal filmmakers are busy and working.

Vancouver director Loretta Todd’s one-hour action series pilot Skye & Chang is among at least five aboriginal productions shot in B.C. the past year. Jason Friesen’s Health Nutz comedy series is in its second season on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and Steve Sxwithul’txw’s 13-part aboriginal sports series Warrior Games is in production for fall broadcast.

“Activity has been strong in the west, that’s for sure,” said Peter Strutt, former APTN director of programming who executive produced Skye & Chang, worked on Health Nutz and is a producer of yet another aboriginal project, UnderExposed, a youth documentary series on photojournalism to be broadcast this fall.

“A lot of times, the big Hollywood productions get all the focus. People are asking what has been going on. APTN is going on,” Strutt said.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Gary Farmer on Native Media and APTN's Workforce Reflects Audience.

Below:  "Loretta Todd in studio with scene from her TV pilot Skye and Chang in Vancouver on March 13, 2013. Todd is hoping the pilot will be picked up as a series by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network." (Arlen Redekop/Vancouver Sun)

March 25, 2013

NIGA 2013 (Day 1)

Today I drove with buddies Victor and Chad to Phoenix. We reached the Hyatt Regency downtown in mid-afternoon and checked into room 857.

While Victor met with people, Chad and I walked around the downtown area. We saw a lot of statues and other public art, and toured St. Mary's Basilica, the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix.

Later we had dinner at a nearby grill and went to bed early--before midnight, which is early for us.

Pix of the day:

NIGA (Day 1)--March 25, 2013

For more on NIGA, see Off to NIGA 2013 Quapaw Tribe Wins NIGA Award.

Ak-Chin to sponsor Arizona Rattlers

Arizona Rattlers sign sponsor deal with Ak-Chin Indian Community

By Mike SunnucksThe Ak-Chin Indian Community has inked a sponsorship deal with the Arizona Rattlers arena football team.

The Rattlers field at US Airways Center in Phoenix will be called Ak-Chin Field and the tribe’s seal will be displayed on the field and around the arena. Financial terms of the sponsorship were not disclosed.

California-based UltraStar Cinemas—which has movie theater, bowling alley and entertainment complex at a new development on Ak-Chin land in Maricopa—is also part of the sponsorship deal.

The 937-member tribe owns Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa and also has some industrial and commercial enterprises on its Pinal County reservation. The deal does not involve the casino, which is about 60 miles south of Phoenix.
Comment:  For more on Indians and the football business, see Oneida Nation Sponsors Packers Gate and Ho-Chunk Starts Arena Football Team.

March 24, 2013

Off to NIGA 2013

I'll be attending this conference Monday through Wednesday:

NIGA’s 28th Annual Tradeshow and Convention Kicks Off with Golf, Speeches and Awards

By Gale Courey ToensingA laid-back day of fund-raising golf tournaments and a festive Chairman’s Welcome Reception officially kicked off the National Indian Gaming Associations 28th Annual Tradeshow and Convention on Sunday, March 24. But it was high intensity, high energy information-packed business the next day when the meeting rooms opened.

The National Indian Gaming Association’s (NIGA) annual event takes place this year in the “Valley of the Sun”—Phoenix, Arizona—at the Phoenix Convention Center from March 24-28. Every day is packed with general membership meetings, regional caucuses, special presentations, training sessions, workshops, cultural events, luncheons, receptions and more. This year's event attracted more than 5,000 attendees from 10 countries.

Sunday’s golf tournaments took place at the Yavapai Nation’s Fort McDowell Resort and Casino, which has two championship 18-hole golf courses with a 10,000-square-foot desert-themed clubhouse. Proceeds from the charitable tournaments will benefit the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation, an entity founded by the National Indian Gaming Association to reward the educational goals of exceptional Native-American students since 2000.

The Chairman’s Welcome Reception took place at Gila River Indian Community’s Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino and featured a blast from the past music of Creedence Clearwater Revisited. "This is going to be one of the most exciting Tradeshow weeks we've had in quite some time. So many of our tribal leaders and Native-business leaders are here with us, along with our many Indian gaming professionals," Chairman Ernie Stevens said in his opening remarks. "We're looking forward to all of our events like our membership meeting, the culture night, and our casino department roundtables and certifications. Of course we will have another fantastic tradeshow offering the best in technology and talent."
Thousands flock to Indian Gaming Convention in Phoenix

By Bob McClayThousands of people who work in the Indian Gaming Industry are in Phoenix for the 2013 Indian Gaming Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.

They are checking out thousands of new slot machines with video technology that you may soon see at the casino.

"Right now we have a lot of Mega Jackpot products," said Knute Knudson of the International Game Technology Corporation. "We have video products. We have Mega Jackpot products that you enter into a game through a core product and go into a bonus feature in a high level mega jackpot product."

Some of the new games include "Phantom of the Opera," that includes a chair that vibrates while you're spinning to win. There are also Dolly Parton slot machines where you can choose her songs from a "jukebox," and she'll sing and give you pointers as you're playing the game."
Comment:  Stay tuned for reports and pictures!

For more on NIGA, see Quapaw Tribe Wins NIGA Award and NIGA 2012 (Day 2).

Barton: Indians fought to keep torturing

Christian Historian David Barton Defends The U.S. Genocide Of American Indians (Audio)

By Michael AllenThis week on his 'WallBuilders Live' radio show, debunked Christian historian David Barton compared Native Americans of the 1700s to modern day terrorists and explained why the U.S. had to commit genocide of Native Americans (audio below).

Barton said that Native Americans declared war on "all the white guys" because missionaries had tried to convince Indians to stop torturing their enemies.

Barton claimed the Indians refused to stop torturing, so "we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they" signed a treaty, reports

Barton also claimed that the U.S. government had to kill buffalo in the west in order to destroy the Native Americans' supply line and bring the "Indians to their knees."

"It's got to be based on what the enemy responds [to,] you cannot reason with certain types of terrorists; and see that's why we could not get the Indians to the table to negotiate with us on treaties until after we had thoroughly whipped so many tribes," said Barton.

"What happened was the Indian leaders said 'they're trying to change our culture' and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip's War. It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said "oh, got the point, you're doing to us what we're doing to them, okay, we'll sign a treaty."

Viewers respond

People who watched Barton on YouTube responded with acerbic comments:I JUST LUV GUYS LIKE THIS IDIOT! It tells us heathen savages what CHRISTIAGONY is really all about...bigotry, racism and just downright ignorance!

Once upon a time I may have bought into this, but these facts can be disputed simply by recognizing the the TRUST of the AMERICAN INDIAN was always BROKEN by WHILE SETTLERS, and what they agreed with was taken for GRANTED ...and GREED, and IGNORANCE was the COMMON RULE OF THE DAY, and it seems this type of PROPAGATION still PERPETUATES IGNORANCE.

I am a Native American. Rather than using profanity to make an argument, I am going to make a logical rebuttal here. 1- The Native peoples of these lands had no interest in torturing anyone, certainly not like many Euro cultures have been so fond of historically doing. [Spanish Inquisition, Roman Empire crucifixions, drawing and quartering.] 2- Mr. Barton conveniently neglects to acknowledge that the Native peoples of this land were open to peaceable coexistence until greed ruined that idea.

What do you expect from a right wing Christian? First the president's the anti Christ, now the indigenous Americans are terrorists, what's next? I can't wait to hear what these bigots have to say next it's entertaining haha.

Christian Nazis.
Comment:  The main and perhaps only reason Indians ever "declared war" on white men was because white men broke their promises and treaties.

It's true white men wanted to destroy change every aspect of thousands of Native cultures, including some that occasionally practiced torture like Euro-Christians. But the idea that the Indians fought back in self-defense solely to protect the practice of torture is an obvious lie.

Also note that many tribes, especially in the East, signed treaties before the white men defeated them. Not after, before. Again, Barton is flat-out lying. Perhaps that's not surprising since most conservative Christians are liars and hypocrites.

For more on Barton, see Rick Perry Promotes Christian Bigotry. For more on Indians as terrorists, see Morris Mirror: Natives = "Terrorists" and Code Name: Geronimo to Be Released.

March 23, 2013

The German fetish for Indians

More evidence that German hobbyists honor Indians the same way Americans "honor" Indians with mascots.

Germany's Obsession With American Indians Is Touching—And Occasionally Surreal

By Red HaircrowJürgen Michaelis, who lives near Dresden, was standing in front of the small, improvised tipi he keeps in his back garden, wearing a homemade deerskin suit and a matted black wig that had a lone blue feather stuck in it. “I’m 75 percent Indian but still German,” the retired locksmith told a writer for Der Spiegel, adding that his Indian name is The Lonely Man.

Michaelis is not the only German who likes to pretend he is an Indian. Hobbyism or Indianism, the desire to copy Native Americans is a puzzling and persistent passion for many Germans. Every year, there are dozens of pow wows arranged, managed and run by non-Natives at which, Der Spiegel reported, “thousands of Germans with an American Indian fetish drink firewater, wear turquoise jewelry and run around places like Baden-Württemberg or Schleswig-Holstein dressed as Comanches and Apaches.” There are several German Wild West theme parks like Eldorado, a popular vacation spot featuring staged cowboys vs. Indians or small reenactments of notable battles, as well as dancers performing choreographed sets that combine dance styles and forms.

Michaelis’s life as an “Indian” mostly consists of emulating Natives who roamed the Great Plains of North America over two centuries ago, and now that he’s retired, he spends the majority of his time making and selling Native-inspired trinkets and small leather goods to sell. Some Germans don’t limit their dress-up to their backyards. They periodically put away their mobile devices and other modern tools for the weekend and recreate tipi encampments, dress in animal skins and furs, prepare and cook food over an open fire and address one another by Indian-sounding names such as White Wolf, all while discussing their feelings of invoking the spirit of what it is to be an Indian. There are also websites like, which declares itself “dedicated to all the people around the world who have ever studied the American Indian tipi and wanted to live the life of freedom on the Plains that this structure represents.” Posted there are photos of Europeans who have abandoned their own culture, either permanently or occasionally, to “live like Indians”—or what they have rather fancifully imagined what living like an Indian entails. Some of these people actually roam the countryside wearing buckskin, living off the land and practicing their peculiar brand of American Indian religion.

An estimated 40,000 Germans pay dues at more than 400 clubs so that they can pretend to be Indians. Some of these clubs serve a dual purpose because it is illegal in Germany to fire a rifle, ride a horse or camp unless you belong to a registered club and engage in those activities on club premises. Some of the more popular ones are the Cheyenne Indian Club, Western Club Freising and the Wild West Club. The Cowboy Club of Munich, founded in 1913, is the oldest club of its kind in Germany, and regularly hosts events in which members dress up and act as they believe Indians did hundreds of years ago, insisting upon what they believe is authenticity, although they call themselves rote Indianer—red Indians. They organize pow wows; make, sell and trade handiwork; and drum, sing and dance. Some even take lessons on horseback riding or shooting a bow and arrow.

Krisztina Szabo, who was interviewed for Linda Holley’s book, Tepees, Teepees and Tipis: History and Design of the Cloth Tipi, told the author, “Our camp is always in summer, in July for two weeks. During this time we live in tipis, we wear only Indian clothes. We don’t use technology, and we try to follow Indian traditions. We have those [pretending to be] Lakota, Oglala, Blackfoot Blood, Siksika, Pawnee…and we go on warpath against each other day and night, anytime at all. In two weeks, every tribe can fight each other. We don’t know when somebody will attack or when they will come to steal our horses. And the battles are always exciting, too. I really enjoy them.”

Adults playing dress-up might seem vaguely comic, but these people are shockingly earnest in their love for Native culture, regardless of how poorly many of them understand it. Many even acknowledge that their events—and even their costumes—aren’t about Native American life as it is today, or even was 200 years ago. They just consider their dress-up to be good fun and do not mean to give offense.

Some champions of Native culture don’t find these hobbyists funny or benign. Susan Marcia Stan, who wrote an essay about the impact of Native misrepresentation in children’s literature says, “ ‘Playing Indian’…assumes that being Indian is something that can be put on or taken off at will and completely ignores the cultural heritage of Native people.”

The source for these imitations:Where did this obsession with Native Americans come from? You can thank (or blame) the novels of Karl May (1842–1912), the best-selling German author in history. Many of his most popular books were about a German explorer and wanderer who traveled through America’s Old West and eventually became blood brother to Winnetou, a fictional Apache warrior. This German explorer comes to be called Old Shatterhand, and with his Indian companion battles and overcomes evil of all kinds. Winnetou is the stereotypical figure for many Germans of what a “real” Indian is like: how they dress, speak (broken English) and behave. The country’s long fascination with Native Americans spiked in the 1960s, after several of May’s books were made into films.More Indian than real Indians?Berlin’s HeileHaus is a popular meeting spot for younger hobbyists. It once offered Native American healing, meditation, vision quests and ceremonies that are said to help people find their spirit guide, animal totem or even their secret Indian names. Through Google you’ll find pages of results for such New Age groups, some with their personal Indian shamans, leaders or someone who says they’ve studied with Indians and have now brought these teachings to Europe, often for a fee.

Julian Crandall Hollick is a writer who has interviewed many German and European hobbyists and aficionados. “These are intelligent men and women—computer programmers, truck drivers, interior decorators—for whom the American West offers another identity necessary for their mental stability, a means of going back into history to make sense of as world in which they often alienated; another way for Man to renew the search for identity and his relationship with Nature,” he has written. “Of course, many ordinary Europeans have now visited the [American] West. They know full well their dream is about an America that no longer exists, may never have existed. But they are content with the myth because it fulfills [personal] needs.”

For some it goes far beyond weekend fun or a chance to adopt certain Indian values or beliefs; these hobbyists don’t limit themselves to occasionally procuring authentic garments, decorative items and handicraft projects. Such is the case with the self-proclaimed chief, Gerhard Fischer, known as Old Bull, who heads the Karl May fan club, which hosts a festival on the author’s birthday. Fischer and his kind have romanticized long-gone Native Americans to a degree that they think “latter-day” Indians are poor examples of their ancestors—whom they revere as noble savages. Old Bull’s followers believe Natives today are being perverted by modern culture and that they, not Native Americans, are preserving Native culture.

Instead of empathizing with the very real struggles of Natives now living in North America, these “new Indians” of Europe see the societal problems, substance or alcohol abuse, poverty and internal difficulties within some indigenous communities as evidence supporting their conclusions. They believe their activities are keeping Native American traditions alive, because—they believe—most Natives neglect or do not appreciate their own heritage.

The website for the “Indians and Mountain Men” club declares that “the purpose of the club is to maintain the customs and traditions of the North American Indians and Mountain Men.… We call ourselves practicing anthropologists and take our hobby and the related work, either in theoretical or practical shape, very seriously. The tipis, all the clothing, as well as all items are lovingly made by hand and decorated by us. Many of us even tan the leather itself and sew it together with animal sinews, as the Indians did before. We practice in many skills and craft techniques of this cultural group, and even in songs and dances we strive to achieve the utmost authenticity.”

David Redbird Baker, Ojibwe, told Noemi LaPinto for an article in the Canadian monthly magazine, Alberta Views, that when he first came to Germany, he was amused by the hobbyists, but his feelings changed as he spent more time amongst them. “They take the social and religious ceremonies and change them beyond recognition….They’ve held dances where anyone in modern dress is barred from attending—even visiting Natives. They buy sacred items like eagle feathers and add them to their regalia.” In his opinion, these hobbyists, by claiming the right to improvise on the most sacred rituals, have begun to develop a sense of ownership over Native culture.
Comment:  You can see it all here. Plains Indians...buckskins and quests and spirit animals...romantic myths and fairy tales...etc. Germans are imitating the Indians of legend--Karl May's books and old Western movies--not real Indians. Which are the same Indians portrayed in sports mascots--the same Indians worshipped by Americans. You know, while they remain ignorant about and cut the funding for today's Indians, who are the only real ones in existence. It's "honoring" Indians by perpetuating a false or stereotypical version of them at the expense of reality.

I read Winnetou, the first book in May's Old Shatterhand series, and debated it here. It's basically a white supremacist fantasy, with a Jesus-like Superman saving a few good Indians from a horde of bad ones. No wonder Adolf Hitler liked the books so much. They provide ample ammunition for exterminating the degenerate heathen "redskins"--i.e., most Indians.

For more on German hobbyists, see Germans Love Westerns and Chief Wahoo in Germany.

Below:  "May’s novels had little basis in fact, which may explain their worldwide appeal."