November 30, 2014

Wendigo in Sleepy Hollow

A recent episode of Sleepy Hollow, titled And the Abyss Gazes Back (airdate: 10/27/14) featured a Wendigo, the legendary monster of Algonquian tribes. Here's the story:

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Recap: Ichabod and Daniel Boone, BFFs?The episode centered on Joe Corbin, the son of the deceased Sheriff Corbin, who was Abbie’s mentor. Just back from Afghanistan with an honorable discharge earned under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Joe turned out to be afflicted with a curse that causes him to change into a monster from time to time. He was, in short, the featured creature of the week, the Wendigo, a forest beast with an appetite for human flesh.Wikipedia provides more details about the Wendigo legend:

WendigoA Wendigo (also known as windigo, weendigo, windago, windiga, witiko, wihtikow, and numerous other variants including manaha) is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada. The creature or spirit could either possess characteristics of a human or a monster that had physically transformed from a person. It is particularly associated with cannibalism. The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk; the legend appears to have reinforced the taboo of the practice of cannibalism. It is often described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature.

‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: Downward Facing WendigoIt’s at this point we treated to yet another installment of “Ichabod’s Famous Friends.” This week, Ichabod name drops his good pal Daniel Boone, whose brother, Squire, was afflicted with a gnarly disorder following Valley Forge that led to cannibalism. Daniel, himself, fell victim to Squire, using his raccoon hat to hide the scars. The cause of the illness: a Wendigo, the Shawnee legend of a human/beast hybrid triggered by human blood.‘Sleepy Hollow’ Recap: Ichabod and Daniel Boone, BFFs?The best moment of Abbie and Ichabod’s pursuit of Joe the Wendigo was the discussion of Daniel Boone’s headwear. Ichabod apparently knew Boone—of course he did; they were contemporaries, and it was a small world back in the 1700s. Having hung out with Boone, Ichabod was able to correct Abbie and a two-century-old inaccuracy: Boone, he told her, preferred beaver pelts to the coonskin cap he is most identified with. And so we have a new entry for our Top 10 Lines Spoken by Abbie Mills in this series: “As much as I would love to debate the variety of rodent hats that existed in your day, can we please refocus?”Below:  Victor Gage as a Shawnee warrior.

Sleepy Hollow Recap: 'Even God Thought the Devil Was Beautiful'Enter Hawley, who’s brought in because he knows some Shawnee who might be able to help. But they kinda hate him. So Ichabod accompanies him to what looks like SAMCRO: Native American edition, and they succeed in securing a cure for what ails Joe.Big AshBig Ash is a Shawnee contact of Nick Hawley. He and his fellow Shawnee run a motorcycle repair shop. Ash was displeased with Hawley for selling off the tribal mask, as Hawley dishonored his agreement to keep the mask.

Hawley initially assumed that Ichabod Crane was too socially awkward to communicate with Big Ash. But Crane's mention of Squire Boone became the key for Big Ash to agree to help them find a Wendigo cure for Joe Corbin.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: Downward Facing WendigoTheir only shot is to corner Joe before he kills and recite some Shawnee prose inscribed on a skull over the Wendigo’s blood. Simple enough. An alleyway standoff ensues and while it doesn’t look good for Joe for a second there, Abbie begs him to pull though and shed his husky Wendigo suit. Cured, he asks Abbie for her recommendation to Quantico, though I doubt a trainee who turned them down carries any sway.

Comment:  A few shadowy Shawnee appear briefly when Crane talks about the Boones. The Indians' primary appearance comes in the single motorcycle shop scene.

Actor Eddie Spears does a good job as the suspicious modern-day Shawnee. The only glitch comes when he refers to an older Indian as a "shaman." Once again, a shaman isn't an all-purpose Native wizard, and few tribes had shamans.

The "Shawnee prose" could be real Shawnee words written in the English alphabet, but it's probably not. Slightly more likely is that Crane uttered real Shawnee words when he supposedly read the curse--but again, probably not.

All in all, And the Abyss Gazes Back was a typical episode of Sleepy Hollow--nothing special. Add points for featuring genuine Native lore and Native actors. Subtract points because movies and TV shows have used the Wendigo dozens of times before. At this point it's totally unoriginal--practically a cliché.

For more on Sleepy Hollow, see Mohawk Shaman in Sleepy Hollow.

November 29, 2014

Indians, blacks are America's "others"

A blogger makes the case for how Native stereotyping relates to shootings, violence, and terrorism:

Ferguson, #ChangeTheName, and White Supremacy Entangled

By Miguel GarciaBoth the movement to fight against offensive native mascotry and the murder of yet another unarmed young black man are connected through “othering” and the dehumanization of people of color. “Othering” can be defined as the concept of creating and maintaining a difference of division between one group of people and another (Said, 1979). This of course is white society and the other, the non-white society.

This creation and maintaining of difference manifest itself in Native Americans portrayed as mascots on football helmets, and young black men seen as “demons” by White police officers. The “other” is not viewed by white society as a human being. The “other” is viewed as non-living, a caricature, a mythical devil or demon.

This dehumanization is a product of White Supremacy and Colonialism. White Supremacy is the political ideology that believes white people (Europeans) are superior over people of color. White supremacy is upheld and reinforced through political, economic, social, cultural, educational, legal, and military systems of power. Colonialism can be defined as the subjugation or domination of a group of people and/or culture over the other through the establishments of settlements in a distant territory.

In the white imagination, Native Americans don’t exist anymore but only as artifacts of the past, in the form of mascots. Not only did European settlers commit the biggest genocide in human history when Columbus landed in 1492, Native Americans never existed in the white psyche to begin with. This Thanksgiving let’s not forget that fairy tale of manifest destiny. European colonial settlers as the great discovery states, discovered a land unoccupied by no one. God had made them the chosen people, who had the right to this uninhibited land. So how would white society even treat Native Americans as humans, when they didn’t exist in the first place?
His conclusion:Like the Hottentot Venus human zoos (Blanchard, et. al., 2009) and Buffalo Bills Wild West shows (Maddra, 2006) of the past, Black and Indigenous people are only here for white society’s entertainment. What’s the difference of displaying Black people in cages and Native Americans portrayed as uncivilized savages who had to be tamed by the Cowboy hero Buffalo Bill? There is no difference. They were both seen as not humans. They were “othered.”Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Black and White Rage in Ferguson and Prosecutor's Bias in Ferguson Shooting.

November 28, 2014

Black and white rage in Ferguson

Repetitive Motion Disorder: Black Reality and White Denial in America

By Tim WiseI suppose there is no longer much point in debating the facts surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. First, because Officer Darren Wilson has been cleared by a grand jury, and even the collective brilliance of a thousand bloggers pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in his version of events that August day won’t result in a different outcome. And second, because Wilson's guilt or innocence was always somewhat secondary to the larger issue: namely, the issue of this gigantic national inkblot staring us in the face, and what we see when we look at it--and more to the point, why?

Because it is a kind of racial Rorschach (is it not?) into which each of these cases--not just Brown but all the others, from Trayvon Martin to Sean Bell to Patrick Dorismond to Aswan Watson and beyond--inevitably and without fail morph. That we see such different things when we look upon them must mean something. That so much of white America cannot see the shapes made out so clearly by most of black America cannot be a mere coincidence, nor is it likely an inherent defect in our vision. Rather, it is a socially-constructed astigmatism that blinds so many to the way in which black folks often experience law enforcement.

Not to overdo the medical metaphors, but as with those other cases noted above, so too in this one did a disturbing number of whites manifest something of a repetitive motion disorder--a reflex nearly as automatic as the one that leads so many police (or wanna-be police) to fire their weapons at black men in the first place. It is a reflex to rationalize the event, defend the shooter, trash the dead with blatantly racist rhetoric and imagery, and then deny that the incident or one's own response to it had anything to do with race.
And:Reflex: To deny that there's anything at all racial about the way that even black victims of violence--like Brown, like Trayvon Martin, and dozens of others--are often spoken of more judgmentally than even the most horrific of white perpetrators, the latter of whom are regularly referred to as having been nice, and quiet, and smart, and hardly the type to kill a dozen people, or cut them into little pieces, or eat their flesh after storing it in the freezer for several weeks.

And most of all, the reflex to deny that there is anything racial about the lens through which we typically view law enforcement; to deny that being white has shaped our understanding of policing and their actions in places like Ferguson, even as being white has had everything to do with those matters. Racial identity shapes the way we are treated by cops, and as such, shapes the way we are likely to view them. As a general rule, nothing we do will get us shot by law enforcement: not walking around in a big box store with semi-automatic weapons (though standing in one with an air rifle gets you killed if you're black); not assaulting two officers, even in the St. Louis area, a mere five days after Mike Brown was killed; not pointing a loaded weapon at three officers and demanding that they--the police--"drop their fucking guns;" not committing mass murder in a movie theatre before finally being taken alive; not proceeding in the wake of that event to walk around the same town in which it happened carrying a shotgun; and not killing a cop so as to spark a "revolution," and then leading others on a two month chase through the woods before being arrested with only a few scratches.

To white America, in the main, police are the folks who help get our cats out of the tree, or who take us on ride-arounds to show us how gosh-darned exciting it is to be a cop. We experience police most often as helpful, as protectors of our lives and property. But that is not the black experience by and large; and black people know this, however much we don't. The history of law enforcement in America, with regard to black folks, has been one of unremitting oppression. That is neither hyperbole nor opinion, but incontrovertible fact. From slave patrols to overseers to the Black Codes to lynching, it is a fact. From dozens of white-on-black riots that marked the first half of the twentieth century (in which cops participated actively) to Watts to Rodney King to Abner Louima to Amadou Diallo to the railroading of the Central Park 5, it is a fact. From the New Orleans Police Department's killings of Adolph Archie to Henry Glover to the Danziger Bridge shootings there in the wake of Katrina to stop-and-frisk in places like New York, it's a fact. And the fact that white people don't know this history, have never been required to learn it, and can be considered even remotely informed citizens without knowing it, explains a lot about what's wrong with America. Black people have to learn everything about white people just to stay alive. They especially and quite obviously have to know what scares us, what triggers the reptilian part of our brains and convinces us that they intend to do us harm. Meanwhile, we need know nothing whatsoever about them. We don't have to know their history, their experiences, their hopes and dreams, or their fears. And we can go right on being oblivious to all that without consequence. It won't be on the test, so to speak.

Being Black: The Real Indictment in Ferguson and the USA

By William C. AndersonNow that the grand jury has returned with their decision on the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown, we should be reminded that even though Darren Wilson was not indicted, Blackness was certainly indicted by the grand jury.

Darren Wilson is free and the police continue to be empowered to kill with impunity. Blackness was found guilty yet again, as witnessed by the many Black slain and their stories. The color some of us carry around can exact a death sentence at a moment's notice. Ever since the formation of the world's greatest empire, Black people have been the eternal scapegoat for all that's been wrong. Our blood waters the roots of war.

There is nothing that can be expressed but grief, anger and frustration at the depraved patterns of this consistently immoral farce that calls itself the "criminal justice system." Kill the Black body and then blame the corpse. This happens repeatedly. Anything is a good excuse to kill a Black person. In Michael Brown's case, stolen cigarillos were worth his death. In 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death this week, it was his unmarked toy gun. And recently, Tanesha Anderson's mental illness made her death worth a violent killing in front of her own family. No matter what, the dead Black body is at fault.

The United States was born out of an incident where a Black man was victim blamed for his murder. It was the Black blood and "mad behavior" of Crispus Attucks that led founding father John Adams to defend the beguiled crown when Attucks was the first American shot down leading up to our nation's birthing revolution. What was his defense of the British patrols overzealous policing? Adams uttered words that would cement our ever-present pattern, stating it was the fault of Attucks "whose very looks was enough to terrify any person." Two hundred and forty-four years after the moment that sparked the fight for independence, we are still dealing with this type of thinking.

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

Violence works. Nonviolence does too.

By Ta-Nehisi Coates
In 2008, Barack Obama's task was to capture the presidency of a country which historically has despised the community from which he hails. This was no mean feat. But more importantly, it was not unprecedented. And just as Léon Blum's prime ministership did not lead to a post-anti-Semitic France, Barack Obama's presidency should never have been expected to lead to a post-racist America. As it happens, there is nothing about a congenitally racist country that necessarily prevents an individual leader hailing from the pariah class. The office does not care where the leader originates, so long as the leader ultimately speaks for the state. On Monday night, watching Obama both be black and speak for the state was torturous. One got the sense of a man fatigued by people demanding he say something both eminently profound and only partially true. This must be tiring.

Black people know what cannot be said. What clearly cannot be said is that the events of Ferguson do not begin with Michael Brown lying dead in the street, but with policies set forth by government at every level. What clearly cannot be said is that the people of Ferguson are regularly plundered, as their grandparents were plundered, and generally regarded as a slush-fund for the government that has pledged to protect them. What clearly cannot be said is the idea of superhuman black men who "bulk up" to run through bullets is not an invention of Darren Wilson, but a staple of American racism.

What clearly cannot be said is that American society's affection for nonviolence is notional. What cannot be said is that American society's admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. increases with distance, that the movement he led was bugged, smeared, harassed, and attacked by the same country that now celebrates him. King had the courage to condemn not merely the violence of blacks, nor the violence of the Klan, but the violence of the American state itself.

What clearly cannot be said is that violence and nonviolence are tools, and that violence—like nonviolence—sometimes works. "Property damage and looting impede social progress," Jonathan Chait wrote Tuesday. He delivered this sentence with unearned authority. Taken together, property damage and looting have been the most effective tools of social progress for white people in America. They describe everything from enslavement to Jim Crow laws to lynching to red-lining.

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

By Carol AndersonNow, under the guise of protecting the sanctity of the ballot box, conservatives have devised measures—such as photo ID requirements—to block African Americans’ access to the polls. A joint report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the NAACP emphasized that the ID requirements would adversely affect more than 6 million African American voters. (Twenty-five percent of black Americans lack a government-issued photo ID, the report noted, compared with only 8 percent of white Americans.) The Supreme Court sanctioned this discrimination in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to 21st-century versions of 19th-century literacy tests and poll taxes.

The economic devastation of the Great Recession also shows African Americans under siege. The foreclosure crisis hit black Americans harder than any other group in the United States. A 2013 report by researchers at Brandeis University calculated that “half the collective wealth of African-American families was stripped away during the Great Recession,” in large part because of the impact on home equity. In the process, the wealth gap between blacks and whites grew: Right before the recession, white Americans had four times more wealth than black Americans, on average; by 2010, the gap had increased to six times. This was a targeted hit. Communities of color were far more likely to have riskier, higher-interest-rate loans than white communities, with good credit scores often making no difference.

Add to this the tea party movement’s assault on so-called Big Government, which despite the sanitized language of fiscal responsibility constitutes an attack on African American jobs. Public-sector employment, where there is less discrimination in hiring and pay, has traditionally been an important venue for creating a black middle class.

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

Only then does Ferguson make sense. It’s about white rage.

The Right’s Vile Ferguson Ploy: Why They Really Want to Focus on the Riots

Supporters of Darren Wilson and apologists for Ferguson officials are desperate to change the subject.

By Elias Isquith
[W]hile some of the biggest names out there fell for the trick, focusing on the small number of rioters instead of Wilson’s verdict, most editors understood that the controversy in Ferguson remains what it’s always been: A jarring reminder that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of universal human equality (the “promissory note,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once called it) remains, for millions of Americans, a debt unpaid.

There’s a lesson here, one that those outraged by what’s happened this year in Ferguson—and happens countless times throughout America, each and every day—should keep in mind as they contribute to our amorphous yet powerful national conversation. We must not allow supporters of the Wilson verdict to distract us by making this a conversation about rioting or poverty or race. That’s not to say we should condone the riots; and it’s not to say we should avoid subjects that involve issues of race and poverty. What it means instead is keeping in mind that riots are nothing new, that the unique struggles of the African-American community can’t be simply attributed to poverty, and that discussions of “race” that aren’t linked with specific policy changes often result in little more than frivolous declarations of privilege.

If we can combat the dual influences of a Ferguson elite that wants national attention to drift elsewhere; and a national media that dislikes policy and favors more watchable, clickable, shareable and fundamentally empty manifestations of the culture war—if we can do that, there’s hope that even though the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson will always be an obscenity, it won’t have been entirely in vain. Let’s ignore those in American society who would rather debate the merits of trashing a bodega than the killing of an unarmed man, and let’s not listen to those who would use this opportunity to relitigate the civil rights movement, the Rodney King riots or the Trayvon Martin case. Let’s honor the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents and decline to “just make noise” in favor of making “a difference.”

How to define that difference—whether through body cameras on police, constraining the power of prosecutors, mandating that police departments reflect the communities they serve, etc.—is the debate we need to have right now. The culture war can wait.

America’s toxic race rule: Why Ferguson protests revive the ugly “twice as good” myth

Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Prosecutor's Bias in Ferguson Shooting and Wilson's Testimony in Ferguson Shooting.

November 27, 2014

45th National Day of Mourning

National Day of Mourning Reflects on Thanksgiving’s Horrific, Bloody History

By Matt JuulWhile families across the country indulge on their Thanksgiving Day feasts, hundreds will gather at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth on Thursday to commemorate a different tradition: the National Day of Mourning.

The event, held annually on Thanksgiving, is meant to honor Native American ancestors who died due to the European invasion, and to expose the bloody history behind the November holiday.

Now in its 45th year, the National Day of Mourning’s organizers hope to shine a light on modern issues facing Native Americans today, as well as to bring more awareness to the real, horrific story behind Thanksgiving.

“I think there seems to be this myth in this country propagated about Thanksgiving that, ‘Oh, you know, the Pilgrims and the Indians all sat down to have a meal together and they were good friends and everybody lived happily ever after,” says Mahtowin Munro, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England, which organizes the annual event. “It’s really important for us to stand up and talk about what the reality was and to teach others about that reality.”
This Thanksgiving, Let’s Talk About Genocide Rather Than Pilgrims and ‘Friendly Indians’

By Sonali KolhatkarFew people have put that context of violence on paper as eloquently as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, an American Indian activist and academic whose latest book, “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” is now in its fifth printing in less than two months since it was released. In it, Dunbar-Ortiz teases out the complex web of intersecting American policies toward Native peoples that include land theft, dispossession, extermination, broken pledges, Christian missionaries and boarding schools, but also self-determination, resistance and survival. Dunbar-Ortiz refutes the Thanksgiving ideal, writing that “the idea of the gift-giving Indian helping to establish and enrich the development of the U.S. is an insidious smoke screen.” Rather than her book being one that is told from a collective indigenous people’s perspective, she writes, “This is a history of the United States.”

American Indians are not simply a footnote in our collective origin story. They are here because they have survived genocide. Today there are nearly 3 million American Indians, comprising more than 500 federally recognized indigenous communities and nations. In the late 1800s, after centuries of extermination, there were fewer than 1 million indigenous people left who had descended from 15 million inhabitants of the land that we now call the United States of America. In a Nov. 5 interview on “Uprising,” Dunbar-Ortiz told me that “the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 marks what people in the U.S. call ‘the end of the trail’—the last Indian. There was a [real] genocide and then a ‘narrative genocide’ in history.” It is this narrative genocide that Dunbar-Ortiz attempts to undermine, because, as she writes in her book, “it was crucial to make the reality and significance of Indigenous Peoples’ survival clear.”

To understand the magnitude of the genocide, it is instructive to lay out the pre-colonial sophistication of indigenous societies in the Americas. Not only were their agricultural systems highly developed to coexist with natural systems, they even invented methods of mass food storage, and charted trails within and between territories, many of which form the basis of the modern freeway system. Additionally, American Indians “were very healthy [and] lived long lives,” said Dunbar-Ortiz, “partly supported by excellent hygiene, which the Europeans always noted with some suspicion.” Many American Indian forms of self-government were matrilineal, which, explained Dunbar-Ortiz, was not simply “the opposite of patriarchy”; rather, it was a democratic form of government. In fact, “women were in charge of the food supply and the distribution of food.” There was also a rich and vibrant system of trade. These facts about pre-colonial Native American history “[don’t] make it out of the technical and archaeological journals,” she lamented.

The arrival of the pilgrims, which is celebrated today as part of this nation’s birth story, represented the beginning of the end of an indigenous way of life. Foremost in the project of extermination was the land grab, which is rooted in notions of “manifest destiny,” a sense of entitlement of land by Anglo settlers that was free for the taking. But that land was not free—it was inhabited for generations by indigenous people who had a very different approach to land ownership from the settlers. Dunbar-Ortiz expanded on that difference, saying, ” The United States when it was founded created this whole new idea of ‘parcels of land’ ... making parcels that were commodities for sale, real estate.” It promoted the notion of land as “private property,” which had never before existed on the continent.

November 26, 2014

Prosecutor's bias in Ferguson shooting

The Day After the Verdict: Is This a Joke?

By LizLike many others, I have been asking this question for months.

First, back in August, when news outlets reported that Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor for St. Louis County, had a long history of siding with the police; that his father, a St. Louis cop, was killed on the job by a black man; that his brother, uncle, and cousin were cops as well; that his mother had worked as a clerk in police headquarters; that he himself had wanted to be a cop until one of his legs was amputated in high school. His office would be responsible for presenting the case of Darren Wilson, a Ferguson cop who shot and killed Michael Brown, before a grand jury.

Is this a joke?

And then when McCulloch said he would let the jury of 12 civilians figure out what charge to bring, if any, instead of making a case for a specific charge, as prosecutors usually do. And instead of selecting a few key witnesses and experts to testify, he would give them “every last scrap of evidence”—essentially drowning them information that they did not have the skills to parse. As former federal prosecutor Alex Little told Vox, “So when a District Attorney says, in effect, ‘we’ll present the evidence and let the grand jury decide,’ that’s malarkey. If he takes that approach, then he’s already decided to abdicate his role in the process as an advocate for justice. At that point, there’s no longer a prosecutor in the room guiding the grand jurors, and—more importantly—no state official acting on behalf of the victim, Michael Brown.”

Is this a joke?

Everything the Darren Wilson grand jury got wrong: The lies, errors and mistruths that let Michael Brown’s killer off the hook

The prosecutor's document dump was designed for transparency. It shows how transparently flawed the process was

By Paul Rosenberg
[A]uthor, attorney and NBC analyst Lisa Bloom did the best job of zeroing in on precisely how the grand jury process had failed in a number of appearances on MSNBC the day after McCulloch’s announcement. In a virtual replay of the Trayvon Martin case, subject of her book Suspicion Nation, the prosecutors simply dropped the ball and did not do their jobs.

“The biggest thing that jumps out is prosecutors who aren’t prosecuting,” Bloom said, “prosecutors who let the target of the investigation come in, in a very friendly, relaxed way, and simply tell the story. There is absolutely zero cross-examination. Cross-examination is the hallmark of our system, it’s the crucible of truth. And I don’t say that to use flowery language. That’s how we get at the truth.”

Before she read the transcripts, Bloom noted, “I suspected that he wasn’t cross-examined, instead he was just allowed to talk in a narrative and tell a story and in fact, that’s exactly what happened,” which is a lawyer’s way of saying what the woman in Starbucks told Zach Roth—the prosecutors were treating Wilson like he was their witness, helping them make their case against the accused—Michael Brown. They were not treating him like a suspect or defendant, or even a witness for the other side. They were treating him like one of their own—which, of course, is exactly what he was. And that’s the basic problem, in a nutshell.

While McCulloch had gone out of his way to paint all the witnesses against Wilson as unreliable, offering confused and contradictory testimony, Bloom zeroed in on the most obvious contradiction provided by Wilson himself. “Darren Wilson, as you can see in these pictures, doesn’t have any obvious injuries, maybe, if you look really closely, a tiny bit of pinkness on his face,” Bloom said. “That is completely inconsistent with his story that Mike Brown, with full force, he says, punched him twice, solidly in the face—big, strong Mike Brown. Inconsistent with his injuries, he’s not cross-examined about that, or about anything else.”

That was hardly the only example Bloom cited on air that day. “There are so many parts of that transcript that jumped out at me as a trial lawyer that I would want to cross examine him about if I were the prosecutor,” Bloom said.

Justice Scalia Explains What Was Wrong With The Ferguson Grand Jury

By Judd LegumJustice Antonin Scalia, in the 1992 Supreme Court case of United States v. Williams, explained what the role of a grand jury has been for hundreds of years.It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.This passage was first highlighted by attorney Ian Samuel, a former clerk to Justice Scalia.

In contrast, McCulloch allowed Wilson to testify for hours before the grand jury and presented them with every scrap of exculpatory evidence available. In his press conference, McCulloch said that the grand jury did not indict because eyewitness testimony that established Wilson was acting in self-defense was contradicted by other exculpatory evidence. What McCulloch didn’t say is that he was under no obligation to present such evidence to the grand jury. The only reason one would present such evidence is to reduce the chances that the grand jury would indict Darren Wilson.
Experts Blast Ferguson Prosecutor’s Press Conference, Legal Strategy

More evidence of mistakes

Failing to indict someone is incredibly rare:

It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did

The police as well as the prosecutor handled the Brown case badly:

Ferguson Grand Jury Evidence Reveals Mistakes, Holes In Investigation

More thoughts on what the outcome says about our flawed and biased justice system:

“Something is very, very wrong”: Why Ferguson exposes our system of justice

White supremacy lives on: Ferguson decision confirms absence of legal and moral justice

Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Wilson's Testimony in Ferguson Shooting and Killing Blacks = "Perfect Crime."

November 25, 2014

Wilson's testimony in Ferguson shooting

Today we learned the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown in the Ferguson case. This outcome raises many questions about racism and bias in our legal system. These questions apply to Indians and other minorities as well as blacks, so they're worth examining at length.

First, some postings on Wilson's testimony to the grand jury.

What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting?

By Laura Santhanam and Vanessa DennisHere’s a breakdown of the data we found:

  • More than 50 percent of the witness statements said that Michael Brown held his hands up when Darren Wilson shot him. (16 out of 29 such statements)

  • Only five witness statements said that Brown reached toward his waist during the confrontation leading up to Wilson shooting him to death.

  • More than half of the witness statements said that Brown was running away from Wilson when the police officer opened fire on the 18-year-old, while fewer than one-fifth of such statements indicated that was not the case.
  • Making Sense of Darren Wilson's Story

    By Josh MarshallI went into Monday uncertain whether Michael Brown's killing was murder or a legally (if not morally) justified shooting into which the rage and righteous indignation over generations of police killings of black men--continuing right up to today--was being poured. After reading Wilson's testimony, I felt pretty confident that Wilson was a liar--at least about critical elements of his story.

    That was my first reaction. The second was tied to the imagery Wilson used to describe Brown and the intense fear he recalled feeling during the minute or two when he and Brown's life intersected.

    First, not believing Wilson.

    I'm going to set aside all the questions about just how far apart Wilson and Brown were when the fatal shooting occurred, the angle of Brown's body, whether his hands were up. Lots of people have parsed the evidence on that a lot more closely. Those points are technical and accounts are conflicting.

    It's Wilson's description of how the incident began that just does not ring true. To believe Wilson, you have to believe that Brown, an 18 year old, is stopped by a police officer on a street in broad daylight. The police officer is armed. He's in an SUV. And Brown's immediate reaction is to begun screaming and cursing him, physically attacking him and before long literally daring him to shoot him.
    Wilson's version of events simply doesn't sound credible. It's too over-the-top. It sounds like it's out of a movie. It sounds like the far-fetched version of events you'd tell to explain or justify what was at best a terribly handled situation.

    Put it another way, I can see a lot of ways that this could have started. And it could have been driven by Brown's actions. I just don't buy this maximal account. It's not credible. At best it's gilding the lily and more. The fatal shooting that happened a few moments later could have been justified or not justified depending on what happened after this confrontation in the car. But Wilson's claims about how the confrontation began strike me as so unbelievable that it gives me little reason to believe anything else he said about what happened later.
    ‘Fanciful and not credible’: CNN legal analyst destroys Darren Wilson’s testimony

    By David Edwards“It appeared to be … very fanciful,” Hostin said. “When a prosecutor has a prospective target, a suspect, a defendant—a prospective defendant—inside of the grand jury, that’s the prosecutor’s chance to cross-examine that person. These prosecutors treated Darren Wilson with such kid gloves.”

    “Their questions were all softballs, he wasn’t challenged, he wasn’t pressed,” she continued. “It was just unbelievable to me the way they treated him in front of that grand jury.”

    Hostin pointed out that Wilson was never required to provide a statement to the police, meaning he had a month to think about his testimony, and prosecutors had nothing to compare it to.

    “He talks about Michael Brown reaching into his waistband,” the CNN analyst noted. “Yet when one of the grand jurors asked him whether or not Michael Brown had a gun, he says, ‘I didn’t really think about that.’”

    “He talks about this aggression from the very beginning, which seems odd,” Hostin pointed out. “He talks about being hit so forcefully two time he thought the next hit would be fatal. Yet you look at his injuries, they don’t seem to be consistent with someone 6-foot-6, 300 pounds punching you with full force.”

    “There are just so many discrepancies with his testimony.”

    The "giant Negro" stereotype

    One aspect of Darren Wilson's testimony against Michael Brown was especially telling:

    The terrifying racial stereotypes laced through Darren Wilson's testimony

    By Lauren Williams[N]ow that a grand jury has declined to indict Wilson in Brown's death, and St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch has made publicly available all of the evidence presented to jurors, the picture has become clear. We have Wilson's version of the truth, and it's the version that will doubtless be codified as the account of record: Brown was no gentle giant. He was a "giant negro."

    The Ferguson story is entirely about race

    It's imprecise to call race the subtext of this story or an underlying complication. It defines it. Race has woven its way through every aspect of the drama, from the shooting of a black teen by a white officer, to the glaring racial disparities in the St. Louis suburb at the center of the incident, to the protesters' demands that the criminal justice system recognize that "black lives matter."

    Although the demonstrators have been explicit, this theme of racism doesn't have to be spelled out to be understood clearly and painfully. Reading Wilson's characterization of Brown in transcripts from his interview with detectives and his grand jury testimony is like taking a master class in the gross racial fear-mongering that has pervaded our country for centuries.

    Darren Wilson's Michael Brown

    Throughout his testimony and post-shooting interview with detectives, Wilson emphasized the size disparity between him and Brown. He tells detectives, "never at any point did I have control of him. I mean … he manipulated me, while I was in the vehicle, completely."

    Wilson, who testified that he is 6'4 and around 210 lbs, told the grand jury that when he tried to grab Brown, "the only way to describe it is that I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan." At one point, he said Brown looked like a "demon." He also expressed concern that Brown could have possibly killed him with a punch to the face.
    Darren Wilson’s testimony: Michael Brown looked ‘like a demon,’ was as big as Hulk Hogan

    Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Killing Blacks = "Perfect Crime" and White Privilege = "Willful Blindness."

    Below:  More of the racist attitudes that led Wilson to confront and shoot Brown.

    November 24, 2014

    Cosby's feel-good racial message

    No One Wanted to Talk About Bill Cosby's Alleged Crimes Because He Made White America Feel Good About Race

    By Rebecca Traister“The Cosby Show” was a show about black people that was fundamentally and unequivocally friendly to whiteness and to white people. The Huxtables had white friends. (Wallace Shawn played Cliff’s friend and neighbor.) Cliff, a doctor, had white patients. Clair, a lawyer, had white clients and white colleagues; the kids had white friends.

    But in addition to what it had, there was what “The Cosby Show” lacked: Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves or confront any hard questions about how they had benefitted from American systems from which black Americans had not benefitted. White fans never were forced to wrestle with the question of what made this brownstone-dwelling African American family so exceptional. Rather, we were consciously invited to consider them a new normal. It was its own purposeful message, and not inherently a bad one. But it did permit white Americans to buy into one of their fondest (and falsest) wishes: to consider the sins of the past as past and believe that true racial parity was not only possible but perhaps upon us.

    In 1992, researchers Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis wrote a book, Enlightened Racism. After researching audience reaction, they argued that “The Cosby Show,” while ushering in “an era in which white audiences can accept TV programs with more than just an occasional ‘token’ black character,” was also part of a television culture “directly culpable for providing an endless slew of apocryphal stories that sustain a cultural refusal to deal with class inequalities and the racial character of those inequalities.”

    These themes of Cosby’s work would become more explicit a decade after “The Cosby Show” went off the air, when the comedian embarked on a speaking tour in which he told black audiences that the kinds of hardships they faced were of their own making, that high rates of poverty, drug use and incarceration had nothing to do with policy or policing practices, but rather with failures of black culture and black parents. “Systemic racism, they call it,” Cosby said derisively, “it’s not what [the white man]’s doing to you; it’s what you’re not doing.”

    November 23, 2014

    Indians in Taking Chances

    Here's a Native-themed movie I watched a couple of years ago:

    Taking ChancesWhen he discovers that an Indian casino is about to be built over the town's historic battlefield, Chase Revere, the self-appointed protector of a small town's rather meager place in American history, joins forces with sexy but dangerous town siren Lucy Shanks to launch an all-out offensive against the project--earning the wrath of the entire town, who believe that the casino will save their decaying local community.Taking Chances (Patriotville)Less concerned with his own bread-and-butter, but more with the town's willingness to easily forget its roots, Chase vigorously opposes the casino. He finds an unlikely ally in town beauty, Lucy (Emmanuelle Chriqui), whom he first meets trying to find her own closure with an absentee dad. Together they begin a signature campaign to stop the impending deal. Town mayor Cleveland Fishback (Rob Corddry) has his hands full with trying to impress the visiting tribe, getting the town board on the same page and placating a business officer for Indian affairs. He doesn't have time to humor Chase & Lucy's efforts and they soon find the town turning against them.

    The Indians appear from 0:49 to 1:06 in the trailer.

    The Native aspects

    As usual with most modern movies, Taking Chances' portrayal of Indians is a mixed bag. I could write a whole essay on the subject, but here are the highlights:

  • The gaming premise is loosely based on reality, but it's mostly false. For starters, Indians don't have any power to buy or take over a historic battlefield. And any town starved for business would promote its history, including the battlefield.

    If necessary, the Indians would find a site elsewhere and coexist with the battlefield. Because two tourist attractions are than one, obviously.

  • The idea of five Indians negotiating personally with the mayor is ridiculous. Indian casinos have been big business for at least 20 years. In reality, each side would employ lawyers, bankers, and other business people to negotiate the hugely complex deal.

  • Chief Samuel Many Bulls--he spews a lot of bull, get it?--utters stereotypical clichés to guilt the mayor into signing an agreement. Mary Born Kicking--she kicks and fights a lot, get it?--counters his nonsense with hard-edged facts and figures.

    I guess the contrast is supposed to be funny, but it's mostly silly and pathetic. Mary is the only one negotiating like an actual Native businesswoman would.

  • The actor playing the chief isn't Native, but a few of the actors are. Having a "sort of Native" cast is about par for the course these days.

  • A hint of the feds

  • The shadowy "business officer for Indian affairs" doesn't do much other than offer vague threats. I don't recall what he said, but things like, "You'd better listen to me and do what I say."

    That's weak, but this is perhaps the only casino-themed movie to recognize the role of federal officials. A tribe would have to take land into trust before it could open a casino, which would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs' approval.

    The screenwriters executed this idea poorly, but at least they had the idea. That's something.

  • The movie ends with a final twist concerning the Indians. I won't spoil it, but it ruins everything that came before. It suggests that everyone dealing with the Indians was an idiot.

    When you're talking about a business deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars, few if any idiots are involved. Any businessperson would do due diligence and prevent this kind of problem from arising. In short, there's no way it could happen--none.

  • Despite these criticisms, Taking Chances is a decent romantic comedy. It's the type you might watch if you came across it accidentally. Or if you wanted to see how movies portray Indians these days, like me. Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    November 22, 2014

    Do powwows cause cultural decline?

    A Facebook discussion from a couple of years ago:Here is an honest question. I am curious about many Natives who dance pow wow, yet grew up on the Navajo, Hopi or Apache reservations. Why dance Sioux and plains when clearly you are not? Why sing pow wow music when there are songs in your own language? Please shed some light. This is not designed to be harmful, but to gain truth. With respect, can you please let me in on this?Powwows have become pan-Indian events where people can share cultures with their fellow Indians. Tribes from California to Maine hold powwows now even though they didn't do these dances and songs traditionally.Now Russell Means had an article that spoke of this, there are essays on this topic so I am not alone. This is a question many wanted to ask but were too afraid to in fear of getting their faces slapped. Do you have these articles? What is your stance??

    Is there a loss of culture through pan Indian, and does it deconstruct the sovereignty as much was stripped in the boarding school era?
    Ideally, each tribe would revel in its own culture. But I think it's about a century too late for that. Powwows are a longstanding tradition for many tribes now.

    It's hard to say what the effect is from the outside. On the one hand, there may be some loss of a tribe's unique traditions. You know, as they're replaced by the time and effort spent on powwows. On the other hand, participating in powwows may strengthen the members' pan-Indian identity. Which may lead to a renewed interest in their own cultures.

    So it may weaken the tribal identity in some cases and strengthen it in others. I don't know enough to generalize more than that.

    P.S. Since I'm not sure if powwows cause any harm overall, I wouldn't say they're anything like the assimilation done via boarding schools. I'd say that was much worse.In a way these are most welcome as many who have survived the abuses of boarding school or working to reclaim elements of native culture that can be perpetuated for the generations to come. However I would like to see many languages and cultures also perpetuated so that many think natives have a firm and current grasp of their cultural and linguistic beliefs, rather than the appropriation of others (plains) yet I need more time to learn of this movement. As of many cultures around the world tribes unite and ideas of diverse culture are shared! and people and language go forward. Pow wows may be another example of the progression of forward movement of culture and the people wanting to be in this moment and say they are still here in full force! Great perspective, Russell Means thoughts on the Pan Indian movement were not as favorable.

    Do you happen to have Russell Means' essay on the Pan Indian movement? Read it a time back in my undergrad and now cannot find it
    Where White Men Fear to Tread

    H-Net Discussion Networks--Readings on Powwows (2 replies)Russell Means broadly comments on just about everything, including powwows. See _Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means_, with Marvin J. Wolf (St. Martin's Griffin, 1995), 69, 538. Means sees (or at least in one moment saw) powwows as "mockeries of our culture" and as "the lazy way to be an Indian." Naturally, many people disagree with this assessment.I think Means has a point, but it's ridiculous to blame the decline of Native cultures on powwows. One, a lot of forces were at work against tribes during the 20th century. Two, tribes have revived since the 1970s with new laws protecting sovereignty as well as Indian gaming. And yet powwows continue unabated. So the powwow/decline correlation no longer exists, if it ever did.

    November 21, 2014

    Chief Standing Pat in Batman

    With the Batman series finally being released on DVD, it's a good opportunity to look back at one stereotypical two-parter. Here's how it starts:

    The Great Escape/The Great Train RobberyThat conniving cowboy of crime, Shame, breaks jail with the trusty aide of his fiancee, Calamity Jan, and her mom, Frontier Fanny, in a Sherman tank. At Police Headquarters, The Batman and Robin gets a message from Shame announcing his plans to steal a rock and roll from The Gotham City Stage. While The Caped Crusader and The Boy Wonder race back to The Batcave to consult The Batcomputer, Shame hides out at Gotham City Central Park Stables, where he is introduced to the members of his new posse: Standing Pat, a giant indian who converses in signals issued by his cigar; and Fernado Ricardo Enrique Dominquez (Fred for short), a Mexican with a British accent.Comment:  A Plains Indian in traditional clothing with a phony name played by a non-Native actor...that was par for the course in the 1960s.

    True, some dramas, including Westerns such as Bonanza, had begun to address the problems. Even comedies such as The Munsters were giving Indians a slightly modern edge.

    Other than including an Indian at all, there doesn't seem to be much to recommend Batman's treatment of Indians. Other shows were just as bad.

    November 20, 2014

    83% wouldn't call Indians "Redskins"

    Poll: 83% would not call Native American a 'redskin'

    By Erik BradyWould you call a Native American a "redskin" to his or her face?

    According to a survey that asked this question, 83% of Americans said no, they would not, while 9% said they would and 8% declined comment.

    Most of those surveyed knew about the controversy over the Washington NFL club's team name: 93% of NFL fans and 85% of all Americans, according to the survey for the National Congress of American Indians and goodness Mfg., a creative agency based in Los Angeles.

    The survey results are based on 1,020 interviews conducted online Aug. 28-31 among a demographically representative sample by Online Caravan, an omnibus service of ORC International.
    83 Percent Of Americans Wouldn’t Say ‘Redskin’ To A Native American’s Face

    By Travis WaldronThe poll found a generational divide when it comes to opposition of the name: half of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 saw the name as offensive, compared to just 34 percent of those over 35. And almost twice as many of those between 18 and 34 were aware of the name’s status as a dictionary-defined slur than those of older ages.

    There is, however, a divide also between finding the name offensive and thinking it should be changed. While 83 percent said they’d never use the word to a Native American’s face and 39 percent overall said it was offensive to Native Americans, just 25 percent said the name should change.

    As Native Americans continue to fight the name, though, that may change. The poll showed that most respondents were aware of the battle over the name, and the 25 percent overall opposition is higher than in some older polls conducted around the issue. 35 percent of the 18-to-34 age group said it should be changed, and the poll also found that 13 percent of respondents changed their opinion of whether the team should keep it once they learned it was defined as a slur.

    “Our study proves how important context is to behavior. On one hand, group mentality makes people think using the r-word is okay. But on the other hand, when a person comes face to face with a Native American, it’s not,” said D’nae Kingsley, the head of integrated strategy at goodness Mfg. “This dichotomy can be explained by several factors including fan blindness and lack of awareness of the definition of the r-word.”

    November 19, 2014

    What if the team name was...?

    Comment:  The typical Redskins defender says the team name has a different context from the racial slur. This graphic puts the lie to that argument.

    Would we accept the other racial slurs if they had an 80-year history and the team didn't "intend" them to be offensive. If the team claimed the same "different context" to excuse the blatant racism? No.

    So why should we accept it in the case of the Redskins? That team name is exactly the same as these team names are. Either they're all acceptable or none of them are.

    November 18, 2014

    Yavapai in Castle

    For the second week in a row, Castle featured a Native subplot. This time, the episode--Once Upon a Time in the West (airdate: 11/17/14)--included several mentions of Yavapai Indians.

    The story starts with a murder victim, Whitney, who was poisoned while visiting a dude ranch in Arizona. Castle and Beckett head there to investigate her death.

    The Indians come up when Castle and Beckett learn a Yavapai tribe lives nearby and had a river dammed in the 1920s. Whitney had been fooling with dynamite, and I wondered if she planned some eco-terrorism against the dam. No, as it turns out.

    Castle Season 7 Episode 7 Review: “Once Upon a Time in the West”Whitney’s trail led to both the New York Historical Society and a Native American reservation, both giving her information on the Yavapai people, who live in that area of Arizona. Castle orders a horse and buggy (he names the horses Ryan and Esposito) and they drive out to meet with the Yavapai consultant who teases them about being dressed as cowboys rolling up to Native American land. He tells them them Whitney wanted to know the definition of a word, the meaning being either river or stream. That’s all she wanted.Castle and Beckett ride up to a wooden fence with a big "Yavapai Reservation" sign on it. On the other side are a couple of men wrangling horses near what could be a corral. These are Yavapai Indians and they're wearing typical ranch clothes, which is what you'd expect.

    There actually are three recognized Yavapai tribes: the Yavapai-Apache Nation, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. None are called simply the Yavapai Tribe, but that's a minor detail. That Castle used an actual tribal name is impressive enough. Using an appropriate name for southern Arizona, where the ranch presumably is, and avoiding the commonplace "Apache" and "Navajo," is a real feat.

    It's kind of farfetched that the tribe would have a sign identifying itself in the middle of nowhere, but that's another minor detail.

    The "consultant"--more properly called an elder--is played by Eloy Casados. His biography doesn't say anything about his being Native, although he's presumably Latino. But he has played a Native at least a couple of times. The most notable example is Ishi: The Last of His Tribe (1978), a made-for-television biopic.

    River or stream?

    According to one site, the word in question is aha gah hel’la. For all I know, that could be a real Yavapai word.

    The word is a clue that Whitney was searching for gold bars stolen by the Peacock Boys gang. But the puzzle doesn't quite make sense.

    Castle and Beckett deduce that people were searching in the wrong place because of the mistranslated word. But are they searching for the present-day river or stream, or the original river or stream? They don't say--or if they do say, it isn't clear.

    Any stream they found now would be the wrong one because the dam changed the water's course. They'd have to look for the original river or stream, not the present-day versions. Since they never set eyes on any actual water, I guess that's what they're doing.

    But finding an old stream bed after a century of erosion would require geology expertise and advanced technology. It's not something Castle and Beckett could do on their own. And yet they do find whatever it is they're looking for.

    The whole dam thing seems like an unnecessary complication. Just say everyone searched near the river when they should've searched near the stream. If the film location doesn't have a stream, say the drought dried it up. Or it's just over the hill.

    Incidentally, there actually was a Yavapai dam conflict:

    Orme Dam conflictResponding to growth in the Phoenix area, in the early 1970s Arizona officials proposed to build a dam at the point where the Verde and Salt Rivers meet. The dam would have flooded two-thirds of the 24,000-acre (97 km2) reservation. In return, the members of the tribe (at the time consisting of 425 members) were offered homes and cash settlements. But in 1976, the tribe rejected the offer by a vote of 61%, claiming that the tribe would be effectively disbanded by the move. In 1981, after much petitioning of the US government, and a three-day march by approximately 100 Yavapai, the plan to build the dam was withdrawn.If Castle's writers learned about this incident and used it as inspiration, good for them.

    Yavapai boy remembers

    'Castle' Recap: Castle and Beckett Go on Their HoneymoonThe Peacock Boys are a local legend and staple of the ranch, but they really did exist. In the 1800s, they robbed a train and got away with 50 bars of gold. The story intersects with the Yavapai because the Boys kidnapped a guide named Blackfox. The Boys allegedly stashed the gold somewhere near a river and were later killed, but the gold was never found.The Peacock Boys supposedly abducted a Yavapai boy to be their servant. When they went to bury the gold, they tied the boy to a tree.

    The boy eventually told the story to missionaries, who wrote it down. So the Yavapai are responsible for remembering an incident that otherwise would've been forgotten.

    This bit is unnecessary since a gang member could've told the story to anybody. I suppose it serves to integrate the Yavapai into the plot a little better. And the details, such as they are, are plausible. White folks did use Indians as servants or slaves, and missionaries did preserve the Indians' lore in writing.

    All in all, Once Upon a Time in the West was a decent episode. The Indians didn't play much of a role, but the details were reasonably accurate. Castle may be the prime-time network leader when it comes to including Native lore on TV.

    November 17, 2014

    Mascot debates increase awareness

    A typical article about the mascot debate raised the idiotic "more important issues" argument again. For once I took the time to swat it down.

    Is 'Redskins' a racial slur? Blackfeet weigh in

    By David MurrayDoes the Redskins name even matter, or is it a false controversy, siphoning attention away from real issues of equality and opportunity that challenge Native peoples still today?And:Little Dog's observations summarize a common criticism over the amount of attention and resources being dedicated to changing the Redskins name. Native Americans both on and off reservations face many serious challenges. The name of a distant East Coast sports franchise is the least of these.And:Doore said he believes the "Change the Name" campaign is a misdirected effort that appeals to a younger generation of American Indians looking for a cause to rally behind. He added that removing Native imagery from popular culture will deny Indian people an important platform for educating the American people about the current social issues affecting the tribes.Comment:  Siphoning attention from other issues? The mascot debate is bringing attention to other issues. Whenever people talk about Indian mascots, the other issues are bound to come up.

    I'd love to hear a single journalist say, "We were sitting around the newsroom debating which Native issues to cover. I wanted to tackle the serious ones, but someone said 'mascots' and I was outvoted."

    Yeah, the media is just dying to cover Native issues in more depth. But the persnickety mascot issue keeps preventing them from doing so. Gosh darn it, mascots!

    I think it's hysterical that some people, including Indians, think they can use mascots for educational purposes. If so, why hasn't anyone done it in the last 100 years? What are they waiting invitation?

    Again, the debate about mascots is what's educating people. It's teaching them that Indians are still here and won't tolerate society's racism anymore.

    How many sports fans are even aware that Indians haven't vanished? Mascot debates are putting real live Indians in front of them--making them impossible to ignore. That's a huge first step in getting people to take Native issues seriously.

    Then there's Snyder saying, "We will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities." Yeah, after 80 years of doing nothing, he'll begin to tackle the trouble realities now because it's good PR. Not because he cares in the slightest about these issues.

    November 16, 2014

    US enemies = throat-slitting savages?

    Shame on you, Michael Moore: Why his defense of Bill Maher was unacceptable

    Last week, Moore said that anger over Bill Maher's Islamophobia was misplaced. Here's why he's very wrong

    By Ilirjan Shehu
    Moore’s siding with Maher came as a surprise. After reading his article, published on his page on Facebook, my opinion is that he has not understood Maher’s argument and what it entails; nor does he seem to have a clear understanding of what I would call the “Muslim consciousness.”

    The main confusion comes from his conflation of the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world (one-fifth of humanity) into a single character, and of all Muslim-majority countries into a single, unchangeable, undifferentiated entity. He does the complete opposite, however, when he speaks of Westerners or Western countries. For example, when it comes to beheadings, Moore compares Christians in the US with Muslims in the whole world.

    “Sure, I can make a daily list of all the horrible things so-called Christians still do in this country. Rarely, though, do their actions involve decapitation,” says Moore. If he wanted a fair comparison, however, he should have stayed within the U.S., where maybe there aren’t many professed Christians beheading each other—but neither are any such acts being carried out by Muslims. Moore could also make a world comparison for followers of both religions. In that case, he would probably be surprised to find out that there are a lot more Christians than he thinks carrying out beheadings of other Christians and very often also of Muslims.
    We're demonizing Muslims just like we demonized Indians:Thus, Muslims are widely painted as untrustworthy and backwards citizens. At best, the Muslim is a conservative bastard who keeps his wife locked in his house. At worst, he is a West-hating, throat-slitting, self-detonating savage looking to destroy our freedom and way of life. Even those in the third concentric circle are depicted as trying to attack democracy from within, by simply participating in it through political or civil society organization. Their only difference from more extremist elements being in their chosen method of subterfuge.

    (The argument is not a new one. It is similar to the discourse which earlier in U.S. history nominated Native and African Americans as backwards, untrustworthy and impervious to internal reform. It is this very same discourse which declared their incompatibility with “our values” and “our way of life,” calling for reform from the “outside,” while at the same time legitimating the use of violence upon their communities or military intervention in their countries.)

    The image of concentric circles with the “jihadis” at the center is not chosen at random. It is meant to show that all the other larger circles share the same epicenter and feed from it. Hence, all are suspect.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Killing "Terrorists" = Killing Indians and Arabs Stereotyped Like Indians.

    November 15, 2014

    Review of The Jingle Dress

    Once in a while I get out of the house and see an actual Native movie. Such was the case Saturday when a friend and I attended the LA Skins Fest screening of The Jingle Dress.

    The Jingle DressJohn Red Elk hears from his relatives down in Minneapolis that his Uncle Norton is dead and vows to go to the big city to find out what really happened to him. At its heart, "The Jingle Dress" is a contemporary story of a Native American family that moves from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. We follow the Red Elk family as they experience city culture through their unvarnished perspective, as well as gain insight into their Indigenous culture and traditions.

    --Written by William Eigen

    John Red Elk pulls up stakes and takes his family off the reservation and down to the big city to find out how his long lost Uncle Norton died. Through the fresh eyes of his eight year old daughter Rose, we follow the family as they discover a new, urban culture and gain insight into their own ancient, indigenous society.

    --Written by Anonymous

    Packed House: Actress Stacey Thunder on 'The Jingle Dress' Sneak Preview ScreeningOn Saturday, April 5, The Jingle Dress made its debut in a sold-out sneak preview screening at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The film stars Stacey Thunder, Kimberly Guerrero, Chaske Spencer and Steve Reevis. "The screening went great and there was definitely a packed house--chairs were added in the very back of the theater," says Thunder, who took a few moments to discuss the film with ICTMN. (The Jingle Dress will next screen in Minneapolis in about a month, she says, but there is no firm date or venue at this time--follow for updates.)

    What's The Jingle Dress about?

    It's a contemporary story of a Native American family who move from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. I play Elsie, the mother of the Red Elk family. She is the backbone of the family and loves them dearly. She is very strong, yet sensitive and looks to her husband John (Chaske Spencer) and sister Janet (Kimberly Guerrero), for support. She worries about her family as they experience their new life in Minneapolis.
    "The Jingle Dress" films in Northeast

    Comment:  My friend and I agreed about The Jingle Dress. Greg Winter's cinematography was gorgeous--well beyond what you see in most low-budget movies. The acting led by Chaske Spencer and Stacey Thunder was fine. But the rest of the movie--the writing, directing, and editing--were poor. There was no tension and not much of a plot. Basically nothing happens.

    You can see this in the trailer above, which has the movie's best movies. It tries to hint at a deeper mystery surrounding the uncle's death, but there's no there there. The movie doesn't go any deeper into his death or the family's dislocation than what's in the trailer.

    Since I'm a story guy, I don't give The Jingle Dress much credit for looking nice or showing a modern Native family without stereotypes. I expect as much in any serious Native movie. Indeed, I expect more and this film doesn't deliver. Rob's rating: 5.0 of 10.

    Below:  "Happy family: Chaske Spencer, S'Nya Sanchez-Hohenstein, Mauricimo Sanchez-Hohenstein, and Stacey Thunder as the Red Elk family in The Jingle Dress."

    November 14, 2014

    Review of 500 Years of Resistance

    The 500 Years of Resistance Comic BookA powerful and historically accurate graphic portrayal of Indigenous peoples' resistance to the European colonization of the Americas, beginning with the Spanish invasion under Christopher Columbus and ending with the Six Nations land reclamation in Ontario in 2006. Gord Hill spent two years unearthing images and researching historical information to create The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, which presents the story of Aboriginal resistance in a far-reaching format.

    Other events depicted include the 1680 Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico; the Inca insurgency in Peru from the 1500s to the 1780s; Pontiac and the 1763 Rebellion and Royal Proclamation; Geronimo and the 1860s Seminole Wars; Crazy Horse and the 1877 War on the Plains; the rise of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s; 1973's Wounded Knee; the Mohawk Oka Crisis in Quebec in 1990; and the 1995 Aazhoodena/Stoney Point resistance.

    With strong, plain language and evocative illustrations, The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book documents the fighting spirit and ongoing resistance of Indigenous peoples through five hundred years of genocide, massacres, torture, rape, displacement, and assimilation: a necessary antidote to the conventional history of the Americas. Includes an introduction by activist Ward Churchill, leader of the American Indian Movement in Colorado and a prolific writer on Indigenous resistance issues.

    Gord Hill, a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation in British Columbia, has been active in Indigenous resistance, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist movements since 1990. He is also author of The 500 Years of Resistance, a pamphlet published by PM Press.

    From Booklist
    This slender black-and-white work is intended to inspire indigenous Americans by presenting historical evidence of their resistance to European invaders, colonizers, and “treaties.” From the fifteenth-century Taino reception of the Spanish in the Caribbean through the 1995 Ipperwash stand-down in Stoney Point, Ontario, Hill visits about a dozen events—almost all in North America—and describes in text and image how Native Peoples fought against white settlers, soldiers, and police in settlements, on open land, and even—shown here to a much lesser degree—through strikes and office raids. Hill doesn’t dig deep into any single event, and like the flat, heavily inked panels, his journalistic style tends toward minimalism in background as well as analysis. This book is a good starting point for exploring events of warrior resistance by peoples who are too often presented as weak and passive, and Ward Churchill’s introduction includes a lengthy bibliography to steer dedicated readers. In addition, teens will find this readily accessible, although the simplification of events is more inspirational than suitable for supplementing a history curriculum. --Francisca Goldsmith

    Rob's review

    My reaction is closer to the Booklist review than to the official blurb. In fact, I'd say Booklist understates the book's problems.

    Let's start with Ward Churchill's introduction. It goes on for fourteen pages plus five pages of footnotes. Most of those pages are Churchill talking about his own adventures. Only in the last couple of pages does he mention Gord Hill's book.

    Churchill claims he had to talk about his own resistance before he could talk about the book's. One could summarize his message in three words: Remember the past. Everything else in the intro is puffery designed to show how significant Churchill and his antics are.

    The concept of 500 Years of Resistance is a good one. By focusing only on acts of resistance, it shows how Native took charge of their own fates. They didn't wait around for disease and warfare to conquer them; they fought back.

    But the list of events covered in second paragraph (above) is misleading. Hill devotes only two pages to "The War on the Plains," which most people would say was the climax of the Indian Wars. He follows that with eight pages of "The War on the Coast"--British and other European attacks in the Pacific Northwest.

    Most of the incidents are minor: a skirmish or raid here, a bit of gun or cannon fire there. Hill obviously wants to include his British Columbian history, but he doesn't make a case for spending so much space on it. The section skews the whole work; it makes you wonder about Hill's agenda.

    Modern section skewed too

    The same is true of the rest of the book, which covers the following subjects with the given number of pages:

    Alcatraz and the Trail of Broken Treaties: 6
    Wounded Knee '73: 2
    Oka Crisis: 4
    Zapatistas: 3
    Standoff at Ts'Peten: 6
    Aazhoodena: 4

    I hadn't heard about Ts'Peten and don't know anything about Aazhoodena, so I question the space devoted to them. Again, Hill doesn't make a case for the significance of these events. It's clear he wanted to highlight lesser-known events in Canada, but again, it skews the book's coverage.

    That's ten of 25 pages, or 40%, on recent events that few have heard of. Meanwhile, there's nothing about the tobacco battles in upstate New York, the Navajo battles against coal mining in Arizona, the Dann sisters' land battles in Nevada, or the gaming battles throughout the US. Each of these deserves one or two pages in a book about Native resistance.

    Hill might've been better off focusing his book on the resistance in Canada, because that's where his heart seems to lie. Really, the book's title could be 500 Years of Resistance That's Important to Me or something like that. Few would say he included all the highlights of Native history in an evenhanded manner. Unfortunately, that makes the book less useful than it could be to the uninitiated.

    November 13, 2014

    Aztec mascot is violent and savage

    San Diego State University's Aztec mascot hasn't been in the news lately. Apparently the school, like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, are feeling pressure to change.

    I try not to bother with minor mascot battles, but this article included a point that was too much to pass up.

    Aztec for life? Possibly not

    Students propose dropping Aztec Warrior and name

    By Barbara Medina
    The Queer People of Color Collective of SDSU submitted an official resolution to the Associated Students (AS) to get rid of the Aztec Warrior and the Aztec name in all affiliated organizations, including Aztec Shops.

    The group says that using people as a mascot perpetuates racism. It refers to the Aztec Warrior that often appears at sports events and the slogan “Fear the Spear,” arguing that they portray Aztecs and Native Americans in general as savages and violent.
    How is this matter even open to debate?

    Think about it. You have Lions and Tigers and Bears; Vikings and Pirates and Raiders. But unlike every other team, the Redskins, Chiefs, Braves, and Aztecs are supposed to represent pride and honor?

    No, they're about violence and savagery. Exactly like a predatory beast or ethnic group or occupation. They're about destroying one's enemies--figuratively killing and scalping them.

    That's why no one has had or will ever have a modern-day Native mascot in a suit and tie. Modern-day Natives represent the same pride and honor, but they don't represent violence or savagery. And that's what teams are looking for: a spearchucker or tomahawk wielder to strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

    You can see this in the old fight song and mascot images. You can see it in the fans dressed up as redfaced savages. There isn't even a legitimate counterargument here--not one consistent with the facts. Indian mascots = violence and savagery.

    In fact, I'd love to hear a sports fan say, "We share the values of the Wolverines, Hornets, or Diamondbacks." Most animals don't have values, obviously. They're just dumb beasts.

    Below:  A savage, bloodthirsty Aztec warrior mascot.

    November 12, 2014

    Racism in Stargate SG-1

    Everyone is the Same (Stargate)Speaking of the SGC, there is a definite lack of persons of color who are actually characters on the show. I’ve seen a lot of black guys walking around the base in the halls, so it’s not that the SGC itself is racist, and instead that the show doesn’t hire persons of color for major roles. Teal’c is kind of the token black character and he’s an alien turncoat not really in the U.S. Air Force. Most persons of color on this show are Jaffa or Goa’uld hosts like that of Apophis and Ba’al, members of exotic foreign cultures, while the good guys at home are white.

    The homogenous casting also has some unfortunate implications with regard to Stargate’s pre-Darwinian take on evolution, where every being changes for the better until Ascension. According to this, lower life forms turn into modern humans, modern humans turn into superpowered psychics, and superpowered psychics turn into godlike Ascended beings. This is a set pattern that happened before ages ago with the Ancients and can be seen happening at the time of the show. So, it’s unfortunate that all of these superior forms into which beings evolve happen to be white. Oops.
    Traveling Through the Iris: Re-producing Whiteness in Stargate SG-1Alien encounters and SG-1's response to these encounters are fundamental to the narrative of Stargate SG-1. I argue that a significant feature of Stargate SG-1 is the conflict operating between whiteness and nonwhiteness. Whiteness is represented as linked to the superior white human and white alien, while the nonwhite human and nonwhite alien are linked with inferiority. As my thesis demonstrates, Stargate SG-1 narratives also associate whiteness and humanity, with liberty, democracy and superiority. These associations are set in opposition to those of darkness and alienness, which are linked with tyranny, inferiority and savagery. Such simplistic severances are used to reinforce classic stereotypes of the other.

    Unlike Star Trek with its aim to present a multi-cultural image through having a diverse cast, the early seasons of Stargate SG-1 do not represent a multi-cultural format. In fact, the only substantial role given to a nonwhite actor who is part of Stargate Command in the early episodes is that of the alien, Teal'c. Other nonwhite actors appear occasionally but function mostly as background to the central narrative. When nonwhiteness is made visible it is done so in terms of alien representation. Hostile aliens in the series are predominantly nonwhite, and often black.
    Comment:  I watched the first episode of Stargate SG-1 a few years ago. The problem quickly became evident to me. The Terran heroes were white; the alien Goa’uld were brown. I checked online and found these postings discussing the obvious.

    November 11, 2014

    Inca artifact in Castle

    Last night's episode of Castle, Times of Our Lives (airdate: 11/10/14), featured the long-awaited "Caskett" wedding. This happy event came about because of a mystical Native artifact.

    Here's the story with the Native aspects noted:

    Castle S7 Ep6–Times of Our LivesThe murder this week is of a courier, found with his hand cut off so that the bad guys could steal the case he was handcuffed to. But when Rick & Kate find the missing case at an abandoned coal factory, it turns out to hold a mysterious Incan artifact that Rick picks up for some reason. Has he never seen Indiana Jones??? The bad guys burst in, and Castle hits his head while still holding onto the artifact–and thus ends up in an alternate universe.Castle Recap–Becket and Castle Say I Do: Season 7 Episode 6 “The Time of Our Lives”Alexis says maybe he’s in alternate universe and they tell him to go lie down. ... He searches for parallel universes and watches videos that describe circumstances similar to his and there’s the artifact he touched! The headline asks if it could be the gateway to another world. In the morning, he shows a print out to his mom and daughter. It’s an article about the Incan artifact that connects to the Incan gateway of the Gods.'Castle' Recap: Castle and Beckett Get MarriedCastle impresses Beckett with his knowledge of the Incan artifact, so she allows him to accompany Ryan and Esposito in their search for armed criminals. Another constant is Castle's inability to follow simple instructions, which leads to him finding the artifact but being held at knifepoint. In the ensuing struggle the artifact is broken.

    Beckett decides to let Castle go with a semi-stern talking-to and the team focuses on questioning he woman who held him at knifepoint. Her name is Maria Sanchez, and she and her cousin were trying to return the artifact to the Incan people. She says they had nothing to do with the murder.
    Castle: The Time of Our Lives (Recap and Review)On his way to the station Rick is kidnapped by the men who stole the artifact and it turns out that the villain has worked out that Castle is in the wrong world because of the artifact and he wants Rick to tell him how it works. Beckett shows up and after a brief shootout, Rick gets the artifact back and leaps in front of Kate to keep her from getting shot. As he dies, Rick comes back to “my you.”


    The mystical Native artifact is a well-worn plot device. It's stereotypical, of course, since real artifacts don't have supernatural powers.

    Why don't European artifacts have as much magic as Native ones? Because Native cultures are more fantastical and unreal--at least to us.

    At least Castle tried to link the artifact to the Inca religion--claiming it was a portal between universes and not just an evil talisman created by a shaman's curse. And the disk actually resembles the Inca's golden sun disk. As Wikipedia explains:

    IntiInti is the ancient Incan sun god. He is revered as the national patron of the Inca state.

    Inti is represented as a golden disk with rays and a human face. Many such disks were supposedly held in Cuzco as well as in shrines throughout the empire, especially at Coricancha, where the most significant image of Inti was discovered by anthropologists. This representation, adorned with ear spools, a pectoral, and a royal headband, was known as "punchao," meaning 'day.'
    So an actual Inca artifact, more or less, was used in this story. That's almost enough to make the gimmick acceptable.

    One article claimed Maria Sanchez was "a notorious stolen-artifact smuggler." Turns out she's stealing artifacts to repatriate them, which is a better cause than stealing them for profit. So the Latina or indigenous criminal is actually a good guy of sorts. Nonstereotypical minority characters aren't uncommon on TV, but it's always good to see another one.

    Castle has addressed artifact smuggling--an important topic in indigenous communities--before. Now it's hinting at the subject again. Nice job, Castle.

    Anyway, this wedding episode was good if not great. Even though I guessed the bad guy the moment I saw him, as usual.