December 31, 2014

Natives in The Chris Isaak Show

Long ago, someone told me about an episode of The Chris Isaak Show. I hadn't seen it so I didn't say anything about it.

I just saw the comment below describing the episode. It sounded reasonable so I thought I'd share it.

Friday, December 26, 2016 – First Native EpisodeI called in to mention a Chris Isaak Show episode from 2004 called “The Family of Man.” In the episode, Chris Isaak tries to use his celebrity to skirt important legal guidelines for archaeological excavations when builders of his luxury home unearth Native objects while digging the foundation. He offers to play the local tribal casino, in the hopes that his new friends will allow him to skip the excavation. The subplot is one of Chris’s band members discovers he is “part Native American” and ends up physically inserting himself into a museum exhibit at the local tribal casino museum in an attempt to “discover” himself. Certainly an episode to track down.Another site offers more details:

The Family of ManA happy Chris begins building his cabin in the mountains near Bear Valley, only to discover a Native American artifact during the construction. The contractor stops all work until it can be verified if they're excavating sacred Indian land. Nervous that he may lose his land because of the find, Chris agrees to perform at the nearby Kahoosh Indian casino in hopes of enlisting support from his indigenous neighbors. He also wants to impress singer/songwriter Bret Michaels, who, because of an earlier misunderstanding, thinks he's selfish.

Meanwhile, Anson's on the warpath when he discovers that his recently identified Native American ancestors met a gruesome fate, and goes hunting for retribution.
Comment:  I can't tell for sure without seeing the episode, but it doesn't sound good. At least it features a few Native actors, including Gary Farmer, Glen Gould, and Carmen Moore, so that's something.

December 30, 2014

Jamake Highwater developed Chakotay

The SF Debris video noted in Review of Voyager: Tattoo also pointed out the dubious source of the Chakotay character:

ChakotayIn developing Chakotay, the producers sought the assistance of Jamake Highwater, a writer of more than 25 books of both fiction and non-fiction related to Native American myths and traditions. Highwater was a controversial choice of advisor, having been exposed by Hank Adams and Vine Deloria, Jr. as taking a fake Native American ancestry in order to sell books. Around September 21, 1993, Highwater gave seven pages of notes to producers regarding Chakotay's backstory but his tribal ancestry was unresolved. By the end of that month, Michael Piller drafted the first version of the writer's bible for the series in which the character was named "Chakotoy." By the time Piller wrote the first draft of the story that eventually became the Voyager pilot "Caretaker," the character was known as "Chakotay" and been made a Sioux. By the third draft of the story, submitted at the start of November, he had become a Hopi, but by the following February he once again had no tribal affiliation.Jamake HighwaterJamake Highwater, also known as Jay Marks and Gregory J. Markopoulos (ca. 1942–June 3, 2001) was an American writer and journalist. He was the author of over 30 fiction and non-fiction books of music, art, poetry and history, including the children's novel Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey (1973), which received a Newbery Honor, and The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America (1981) which was also made into a documentary. Highwater assumed a false American Indian identity in the 1960s, which had been exposed by the mid-1980s, although confusion about his life remains widespread.Comment:  I read The Primal Mind long ago, before I knew Highwater was a fake. As with the work of Ward Churchill, another fake, I think Primal Mind had some good points. As I vaguely recall, it presented a believable picture of the so-called indigenous or primal mentality.

But I suspect it was heavy on the New Age belief that Natives are more spiritual and in touch with nature. It would've made Chakotay a novelty in 1940s and 1950s, when most Hollywood Indians were violent savages. But in the 1980s and 1990s, practically every Hollywood Indian was spiritual and in touch with nature. At that point, Chakotay wasn't much except a tired cliché.

For more on the subject, see Star Trek Voyager: Chakotay.

December 28, 2014

Review of Voyager: Tattoo

I've been watching old episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. This weekend I saw Tattoo, the ninth episode of Voyager's second season. I don't remember if I saw it when it aired originally, on November 6, 1995--perhaps not.

Here's a summary of it:Chakotay's away team finds a marking very similar to one used by Chakotay's own tribe. When he experiences flashbacks from his own youth and decides to investigate, he meets an alien who claims that Chakotay's tribe were seeded on Earth by a group of spacefaring wanderers.And some reviews:



Star Trek Voyager: TattooI’m having some trouble summing up the plot of this episode. Here’s the general gist; back when he was 15 and fighting with his dad, because that’s what TV-15-year-olds do, Chakotay and some others of his tribe met some people in a rainforest, who they were related to (speaking the same language and with the same stories of the Sky Spirits). They gave Chakotay’s father a tattoo like the one the older Chakotay has.

Many years later, Voyager finds a planet where the same native American symbols appear, and which throws up a storm every time they try to land or beam down. Then some people with Chakotay’s tattoo turn up. It turns out they are the Sky Spirits, they’re real, they’re aliens and this is where they live. Oh yes, we also find out why Chakotay got his tattoo, to honour his father after he died. This is also why he joined the Maquis. The trouble is, he just tells us all this, without it really having any impact on the plot, such as it is.
TattooSigh. We finally get Chakotay's backstory, and it's New Age Romantic Indian Fluff. First of all, I think there's something racist about the suggestion that all the accomplishments of Native Americans were because they had genetic and cultural influences from outer space. Moreover, I was willing to buy that Chakotay didn't have one discrete tribe because it was possible that by his century, the tribes had begun to intermarry and merge their discrete traditions on planets like Dorvan V. But to learn that he's really some vague mish-mosh of faux legend and culture...what a disappointment.Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Tattoo"As is all too typical in episodes which refer to Chakotay's ancestry, I'm also annoyed at the lack of an actual tribe being named. The more "my tribe this" and "my tribe that" gets mentioned without putting any distinct specifics on, the stronger the feeling becomes that no one wants to take the time to research those specifics and remain true to them. That's annoying, and it strikes me as the cultural equivalent of what Trek's done with biology lately: name the buzzwords without examining the meaning.Rob's review

The first two reviews touch upon perhaps the most serious problem, which happens when Chakotay meets the alien "Sky Spirits." Memory Alpha describes the scene:45,000 years previously the group of beings visited Earth and ran across a group of primitive nomadic humans. Impressed by their respect for the land, the beings gifted the people with a genetic bond. They are the Sky Spirits Chakotay's people have worshiped for countless generations.

The humans lacked language and culture until the aliens gave them the "gift." This also instilled "creativity and a spirit of adventure" in the humans, leading them to cross the planet and eventually to populate the Western Hemisphere. The SF Debris video review explains:So here's Star Trek's message: We have a great respect for the cultures of the Native Americans, and we show this by saying that they were backwards language-less cavemen until they were touched by white men from outer space.Yikes!

Nor was this "message" some sort of thoughtless mistake. As Memory Alpha notes, the writer explicitly intended it:Michael Piller was intensely interested in further developing the narrative. "I'd always been attracted to the idea of the pitch," he said, "which was that Indians have these myths about sky spirits, and a natural extension of that myth was that these could have been travelers from space." (Captains' Logs Supplemental--The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages) Piller also reminisced, "I had always had a fondness for [it] [....] The idea always appealed to me that it was part of the Native American lore that sky spirits came down and affected them or blessed them in some fashion." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 88) The opportunity to explore the character of Chakotay was another factor that appealed to Piller. He remarked, "For Chakotay to find evidence of these sky spirits seemed to be the beginning of a terrific personal journey." Piller elaborated, "Here's a man who has lost his faith, and he gets it back through this journey. That's a very interesting thing to write [....] I looked at this as an opportunity to really delve into his character." (Captains' Logs Supplemental--The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)Thus, "Sky Spirits." Because Piller just couldn't resist the ten-thousandth claim that Indians were too primitive to develop civilization without alien help. This condescending idea goes back hundreds of years, to the first explorers of the continent, but Piller found it fresh and interesting.

More problems

Tattoo has other problems besides the racist "ancient astronauts" and the lack of cultural specificity:

  • A stereotypical screeching hawk appears several times and attacks Neelix for no apparent reason.

  • If I understand the story correctly, Chakotay's people left Earth to colonize another world a couple hundred years ago. Twenty-five years ago, Chakotay and his father returned to find the Rubber Tree People, their ancestral tribe, in Central America.

    Okay, but when they find their relatives, these people all have nose ridges like the alien Sky Spirits. Why? Did the aliens impregnate the Indians? Why doesn't Chakotay's group have the nose ridges if they share a common ancestor? And why doesn't anyone comment on this issue? "Hey, these Indians look unnatural. Has anyone tested them? If they have alien DNA, the Sky Spirits must've been real, not a legend."

  • Some reviewers consider Tattoo a decent episode, even above average. I'd say it's bad. In particular, the Native aspects are handled poorly, at best. Only the subplot about the Doctor's infecting himself keeps the episode from being a complete loss.

    For more on the subject, see Star Trek Voyager: Chakotay.

    December 27, 2014

    Native doll in Saturday Night Live

    In tonight's episode, Saturday Night Live presented a fake commercial featuring a generic Asian American doll:


    The doll was designed not to offend anyone, leading to this exchange:GIRL: What's Asian American doll's name?

    2ND GIRL: She doesn't have a name.

    ANNOUNCER: That's because last Christmas, we released a Native American doll named Flying Eagle, and we haven't heard the end of it.


    The bit offered some good comments, but its intent was unclear. It wanted to satirize companies that make stereotypical toys, perhaps, but it seemed annoyed at the critics of such toys. The message seemed to be that "politically correctness" is neutering toys and making them no fun anymore.

    Well, in the case of "Flying Eagle," the doll clearly was stereotypical. No modern Native woman dresses in buckskins or rides a horse to work. Nor does any modern Native woman have a funny Indian name like Flying Eagle.

    A toy company should expect to be criticized for making such a doll. Clothing a Native like this is no different from putting a Latina in a poncho or an African in a grass skirt.

    In short, I'd say the commercial was a nice try, but it failed to make its point. Or if its point was to carp about political correctness, it succeeded but its point was stupid.

    For more on Saturday Night Live, see Indiana Jones in Saturday Night Live and "Navajo Girl" in Saturday Night Live.

    December 26, 2014

    Valley of Fire State Park

    After visiting my family Christmas Day in Las Vegas, I spent Dec. 26 in Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park. Unlike national parks such as Zion, Bryce, and Arches, Valley of Fire has a fair amount of Native lore.

    Valley of Fire State ParkThe Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.

    Other important rock formations include limestones, shales, and conglomerates. Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire included the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.

    The span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.
    Leaving Las Vegas….Thursday, again after a trip through Subway for sandwiches, we drove east on I-15 for about an hour to the Moapa Travel Plaza Exit. From there, it’s an easy 15 miles or so to the West Entrance to the Valley of Fire State Park. And, yes, the park is open on Thanksgiving day. What I hadn’t seen yet, and had been meaning to check out, were the thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs located in the park, only an hour east of town! Sites here have been dated between 300 B.C. to 1150 A.D. and possibly older. The narrow canyon leading to “Mouse’s Tank” contains one of the highest concentrations of petroglyphs I’ve seen in one place. Think Sand Island, Newspaper Rock, Horseshoe Canyon and The Procession Panel–linked together.

    If you find yourself in Las Vegas, have ingested enough secondhand smoke, and need some peace and quiet, I’d recommend a day (or more) at Valley of Fire. You’ll find quiet, private campsites, a well done, informative visitor center and a long weekend’s worth of desert hiking. Bring your camera and binoculars. Some of the rock art panels are up high and you’ll want magnification. A side-note to fellow Star Trek fans: This is the place where Captain Kirk died in Star Trek Generations!
    Comment:  This is one of the best parks I've visited--roughly equal to Zion, Bryce, Arches, Monument Valley, and Red Rock Canyon. It's well worth a day trip if you visit Las Vegas.

    December 25, 2014

    Season's greetings!

    9 Native Style Christmas Memes and Cartoons

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Ecstatic Eid, Krazy Kwanzaa, and a Wondrous Winter Solstice!

    Rob

    December 24, 2014

    Police most likely to shoot Natives

    Who's most likely to be killed by police?

    By Simon Moya-SmithAs the country continues to debate police accountability and the all-too-routine killing of unarmed black men by white law enforcement, it's imperative to understand that this issue is not just about black people and white people.

    In fact, despite the available statistical evidence, most people don't know that Native Americans are most likely to be killed by police, compared with other racial groups. Native Americans make up about 0.8% of the population, yet account for 1.9% of police killings.

    When Native Americans are shot and killed by law enforcement, there's rarely much news coverage of those incidents. There are no outcries from any community other than our own.

    There are no white or black faces rallying around us, marching with us, protesting with us over this injustice. Why? Because we are a forgotten people.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racial Tensions in Rapid City and Police Shoot Natives Too.

    December 23, 2014

    Locke shooting spurs racial tensions

    Sadly and ironically, this happened Dec. 20:

    Man attends police brutality rally, gets killed by cop next day

    Below:  "Allen Locke, 30, was killed by Rapid City police officer Saturday evening who fired up to five shots."



    Here's more on Locke's shooting and the resulting rally:

    Native community mourns police shooting victim; South Dakota to investigate

    By John Lee McLaughlinThe somber song and pounding of a drum slowly grew louder Sunday as a group descended from a north Rapid City hilltop where they had been mourning the death of Allen Locke.

    Comprised of about 30 people, the group finally stopped in front of the home at 541 Paha Sapa Road, where Locke, 30, was fatally shot Saturday night by Rapid City Police after he charged an officer while holding a knife, according to police reports.
    The police explanation didn't satisfy Natives:"That's exactly what they did in that press conference is justify everything," she said, while noting that the incident is only part of a longstanding relations issue between local law enforcement and the Native American community. "That's our son. Any mother (here) would say that."

    "There is no trust in the police department," Stoneman said, who also called for a task force to address the issue. "In the long run, it's going to have to come from the city: the mayor, the chief of police."
    Family of Native Man Shot By Police Pleads For Peace

    By Kevin WosterWhatever the details of the Locke incident, the overall issue of race remains a divisive force in Rapid City, Eagle says.

    "This all adds to the sentiment that the police aren't here for the Native community, as far as the protection and service goes," she says. "The enforcement and policing of the Native community is what's very evident."

    Locke was shot after Meirose had responded to a call from a home in Lakota Community Homes for his removal from that home. The callers requesting his removal were Native Americans, and some in the home were in his family. Family and friends have questioned some of the details in the account offered by the police.

    Locke had a history of criminal encounters with law enforcement, including DUI, marijuana possession and simple assault. But whatever his court history, his death is being mourned by those who knew him personally and others in the Native community who did not.
    Race Relation tensions on the rise in Rapid City

    After Saturday's shootings, tensions escalate downtown

    By Adam King
    Mayor Kooiker initiated the meeting because he's concerned that some are taking Saturday's lone shooting incident and making it a bigger issue.

    "I think to draw a broader conclusion that this negatively impacts race relations in rapid city is wrong," Kooiker said.

    Although he does acknowledge that there are some issues that need to be addressed.

    "Overall race relations are a continual dialogue and a continual conversation," Kooiker said.

    From Eagle's prospective, the mayor and city council are blatantly ignoring the issue.

    "At the city level no acknowledgement of the problem even exists. There can be no change unless somebody addresses it. The people in power need to address it," Eagle said.
    Tension simmers after Rapid City shooting

    Native leaders want more voice in race relations after police shooting of man with a knifeSome Rapid City Native American leaders are upset they were left out of a meeting Monday with Mayor Sam Kooiker over the death of a tribal member who was shot and killed by a Rapid City police. The man charged at the officer with a knife, police said.

    Allen Locke, 30, was shot several times by officer Anthony Meirose on Saturday after the officer responded to a call of an unwanted person in the Lakota Community Homes addition. The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting.

    Rapid City mayor Sam Kooiker met Monday with some Native American leaders Monday to discuss race relations and show his support for Meirose and the Rapid City Police Department. Some members of the Native American community are unhappy with Kooiker's message and say more people should have been included in the discussion.
    Rapid City Mayor on Police Killing of American Indian: “I Want Our Officers to Know We Have Their Backs”

    Open Season on Native Men

    By Ann-erika White BirdAs for the people who continue to see us as animals and respond with brutality, let the officials in suits and ties take a stand to stop this behavior. Statements mean nothing without action. Institute body cameras. Consider the statistics provided by the Rialto evaluation. When officers had to wear body cameras, citizen complaints against police officers declined by 88 percent, use of force dropped by 60 percent. Let them discuss death prevention, institute procedures. How can we continue to promote peace when our Native men are being gunned down?

    In several statements coming from the white community and the Native community, officials like to use the word “dialogue.” What’s difficult to imagine is how that dialogue is going to stop the open season on Native men, especially if officials are in denial that our people are targeted.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see #NativeLivesMatter in Rapid City and Police Shoot Natives Too.

    December 22, 2014

    Rob vs. "Tribal Guerrilla Warfare"

    Something I tweeted December 16:

    I made someone's list of "Who should Natives be wary of?": 2) White people like Rob Schmidt who disguise their financial interest. Beware!

    Some responses from Facebook friends:Really?! Hahahaaaa...wow...

    You have financial interests and you're not sharing them with me?!

    You're white?

    Lol idiots.
    What it's about

    Without asking me, someone added me to a listserv (e-mail group) with a bunch of angry Indians. I responded to a few of their unsolicited messages. Then I received this--the full list of people Indians should be wary of:In general, who are Native Americans most wary of? I'd say three groups of people -

    1 - Leaders of border town organizations who are opposed to local tribes. Examples would be heads of Water Departments, local heads of Forest Service or border town city mayors who have strong vested interests against local tribes.

    2 - Whites who have very strong commercial interests in Native Americans but effectively disguise that pure commercial/financial interest with Native activism and speak for Indians all the time. One example would be Rob Schmidt of Blue Corn Comics who writes on Indian and gaming issues, and writes for Casino Journal, Indian Gaming Business, and Indian Country Today besides speaking for Indians on websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

    3 - This is a little controversial and I am sorry for that. To this list, I would add leaders of Indian organizations who are white-looking but enrolled members of Indian tribes while lacking any cultural Indian experience. Examples would be white-looking Indian professors who argue that there was no genocide of Natives (yes, there are a few of those) and white-looking leaders of NDN organizations like the NCAI, Assembly of First Nations (AFN), etc who speak for other Indians.

    Sanchez
    Not quite, Sanchez. I don't write for gaming magazines anymore and I speak about Indians, not for them.

    Yes, I make a living working with Indians. So do millions of other people--including you, presumably.

    Does that mean none of us can address Native issues? Does working in Indian country render the opinions of doctors, lawyers, teachers, and journalists invalid?

    Idiocy.

    I've effectively disguised my "pure commercial/financial interest" so well that I can't even see it myself. The money pouring in from my hours of blogging, posting, and tweeting is completely invisible to me.

    In fact, I'm probably a millionaire now with the blind trust I set up called "How to Exploit Indians." I'll probably be able to retire to a tropical island soon and laugh at everyone who supported me.

    What a pathetic joke.

    People not to be wary of?

    People who didn't make Sanchez's list for some reason:

    1) Federal and state politicians, especially conservative ones.

    2) Courts that rule against tribes and tribal sovereignty.

    3) Corporations that seek to exploit Native land and resources.

    4) Schools that teach only about Indians in the past tense.

    5) Entertainment that treats Indians as costumed savages.

    6) The media that report only on Native poverty and crime.

    7) Racists of all stripes.

    Other than that, great list, Sanchez!

    Incidentally, if you're a Native who disagrees with Sanchez, you're probably a "white" Indian who has only a few drops of Indian blood and culture. According to his group, the only opinions that count are those of dark-skinned Indians who live on reservations. Unless they oppose mascots, that is--in which case they're stooges and sellouts too.

    I guess Sanchez didn't like it when I called him a racist for saying "white Indians" weren't real Indians. Oops, my bad.

    P.S. Sanchez's e-mail includes the phrase "tribalguerrillawarfare." It's meant to describe him and the listserv. Hence the title of this posting.

    December 21, 2014

    Scumbags store features skull in headdress

    Brooklyn Store Under Fire for Native American Headdress Logo

    By Benjamin SuttonThe clothing retailer Scumbags & Superstars, which has a storefront space in Bushwick and an online store, has come under fire for its “disrespectful” appropriation of Native American imagery in its logo and merchandise. The logo features a skull in the style of those featured in Nazi SS insignia wearing a Native American headdress, and is emblazoned on the business’s many articles of clothing as well as scores of other items that make liberal use of further Native American imagery.

    “Disrespectful,” wrote Theo Van Nest alongside a link to the Scumbags & Superstars page in the “Native American and American Indian Issues” Facebook group. “These people won’t respond to my emails. They delete my comments.”

    Though comments criticizing the disrespectful use of Native American iconography have indeed been deleted from the Scumbags & Superstars Facebook page, its administrator—the store’s founder and co-owner, George Rosa—posted a rambling and often contradictory statement in an attempt to justify the design.

    “I wanted something very easily recognizable and very ‘American’,” Rosa wrote. “I have strong views about American politics and wanted something that was militant and defiant. I added the headdress to the skull to symbolize death and tyranny. And I chose a German WWII skull. I think the juxtaposition of the two is very powerful.”

    Though most responses to the explanation on the Scumbags & Superstars Facebook page express support for the store, one, by Chris Cobb, takes issue. “That is the dumbest explanation I ever [sic] heard,” he wrote. “Just because you have some sort of hipster mash-up explanation does not mean you have the right to perpetuate racist images.”
    Comment:  First, a skull in a headdress is a decades-old symbol that's well-known and commonplace among hipsters. Rosa is deceiving himself or us if he's claiming to have conceived it.

    Second, no one will recognize the skull as a German one. To most people, it'll look like a dead Indian.

    Third and most important, the headdress "symbolizes death and tyranny"? And the skull with the headdress is "militant and defiant"? These claims are vague to the point of meaninglessness.

    If Rosa could define his terms precisely, he'd still be wrong. A headdress doesn't symbolize anything except a tribe's reverence for its leader. Rosa doesn't get to make up meanings for the images he's appropriated.

    And whatever meaning he invents, the headdress is still stereotypical. It still perpetuates a one-dimensional view of Indians as primitive people of the past. It's wrong for that reason.

    For more on the subject, see "Dreamcatcher and Skull" Clothing Line and Kanye's T-Shirts Feature Indian Skulls.

    December 20, 2014

    #NativeLivesMatter in Rapid City

    The #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe protests have triggered similar protests in Indian country. For instance:

    Police Protest Rally Aimed At Racial Awareness

    By Kevin WosterA nationwide protest over police treatment of minorities came to Rapid City today, focusing on alleged racism toward Native Americans and a string of Native American deaths along Rapid Creek.

    Demonstrators came from across South Dakota and beyond to protest what they believe is unjust treatment of Native Americans by Rapid City police.

    They gathered in Memorial Park adjacent to the Lakota Nation Invitational sports and cultural event at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Demonstrators called out the names of Native Americans found dead along Rapid Creek over more than 15 years, arguing that many of the deaths weren't solved because non-Indian investigators didn't care.

    "We're tired of our people being found dead in this creek. No investigations. They're unsolved," Julee Richards of Pine Ridge said.

    Police say the string of deaths, including one last week, along the creek were thoroughly investigated. Some appeared to be drownings or other natural causes. In some instances alcohol was involved. But some of the deaths remain a mystery.
    Anti-police brutality rally peaceful

    By Andrea J. CookShouts of "Native lives matter" and "Hands up don't shoot" echoed along two of Rapid City's busiest streets Friday as nearly 100 men, women and children gathered to call attention to police brutality and the loss of Native American lives along Rapid Creek.

    Rapid City Police officers stood discretely in the background while American Indian Movement Grassroots leaders welcomed the gathering that included both Native Americans and non-Natives who braved overcast skies and a sudden cold snap to stand with people around the nation to oppose police brutality

    "Discrimination is alive here," Bill Means of Porcupine told the crowd before the group set out for a walk down Fifth Street and along Omaha Street. As participants walked, the names of 25 individuals who died along Rapid Creek were read.

    Walkers stopped at the corner of Fifth and Omaha streets to raise their posters and show solidarity before they lined up along Omaha Street raising their hands and shouting "Hands up don't shoot" and "Native lives matter."
    Writer Gyasi Ross offers his perspective:

    We Are All to Blame for Michael Brown and Eric Garner Not Getting Justice

    By Gyasi RossThis shit is not new. Ask Emmett Till. Ask James Byrd Jr. Ask Dred Scott. Ask the Natives massacred at Sand Creek.

    But we're still in the same place we've been in for the past 50 years: merely diagnosing the problem. As we used to say in the '80s, "No shit, Sherlock." We're pointing at the racism, pointing at all these agencies and municipalities that we cannot do anything about. The one place where we're not pointing? We're not pointing at ourselves. We let this happen. Black folks. White liberals. Pigeon-toed Natives. Conservatives. All of us. We're all complicit.
    Ross's conclusion:Racism is real, and black men get killed in tragically disparate numbers. Absolutely. It's been that way since the first interloper landed on this continent, and now many of us brown- and black-skinned people have even been infected with that racism disease against each other. That's deep. So it's going to take some time to remove that racism sickness out of America's DNA. That's long-term. In the short term we've got a responsibility to use the tools that exist right now. I admit that I have no clue whether the system will actually work; it might be as much of a joke as I was raised to believe it is. But I also cannot honestly say that these tools don't work until we actually try to try them. Failing to register to vote is not playing the game. Thirty-percent voter turnout is not playing the game. Finding creative ways to get out of serving on juries is not playing the game. You don't want to participate in the American justice system? I get it. Yet non-participation has consequences. I mean, there's absolutely a place for marching, sounding off on social media and being outraged and indignant. We should be; that's all positive stuff. Yet we have to use the tools that we have currently; otherwise we'll keep "outsmarting" justice.Comment:  For more on police brutality, see Police Shoot Natives Too and Historical Antecedents of Police Brutality.

    December 19, 2014

    Police shoot Natives too

    Ferguson offers hope to family of unarmed Native man killed by police

    Family of Corey Kanosh said they hope spotlight on police brutality will help restart wrongful death case

    By Renee Lewis
    Nationwide protests over police brutality and racism in the U.S. justice system after the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York have breathed new life into a case involving the police shooting of an unarmed Native American man in Utah.

    Corey Kanosh, a 35-year-old member of the Kanosh band of the Paiute tribe, was killed during an incident in which it is unclear whether a crime was even committed. A policeman fatally shot Kanosh after a high-speed car chase on Oct. 15, 2012, in Millard County, about 150 miles south of Salt Lake City. His family says the officer shot Kanosh just seconds after arriving on the scene; law enforcement officials dispute that account, saying the shooting took place after a struggle.

    An investigation by the sheriff's office in nearby Utah County found that Millard County Sheriff’s Deputy Dale Josse was justified in the shooting, reaching that conclusion a day after Kanosh’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Dec. 13, 2012.
    Native Lives matter! America’s National Media Ignoring Police Murders of Native People. Our Protests Fall on Deaf Ears!

    By Thomas Pearce and Dave OrtizWhen you look at the cases of Latinos with indigenous heritage and indigenous North Americans, you will see that the United States is still at war with indigenous people. In the jails of Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana and most of Indian Country indigenous people are incarcerated at almost 3 times the amount of the white population. There has been civil unrest. There have been lawsuits filed. Many protests have been carried out in Oklahoma. Yet the nation’s media is focused elsewhere. Is it because they are afraid of what will happen if American Indians, African Americans, Latinos and working class whites rise up against this unjust system? Yes!

    I know what you are thinking. “Why didn’t I hear about this before? Ask yourself that question again and think about everything going on. How could there be 37 shootings in an American city and the rest of the world not know about it? How could teargas be used on protesters and the national media not pick it up. It seems America is happy to try to keep the issues White and Black. As long as the issues are White and Black we will all continue to marginalize each other and stand alone. Imagine if we all got together and stood as one? We would be unbeatable. That is why you haven’t heard of these cases. America is counting on you not hearing about these cases. American Indians have been protesting consistently alongside Ferguson and NYC, indigenous protesters from Louisville to San Francisco to NYC have been marching in protests against police brutality. We need the rest of the people in this country fighting for liberation to take up the cry of Mah Hi Vist Goodblanket, of Christina Tahhahwah, of Myles Rough Surface, of Corey Kanosh, of John Williams, Clint John, of all of the victims of police brutality in this occupied nation!!

    So far Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, and Mark Thompson-Matsimela Mapfumo of Make it Plain Radio on Sirius XM Radio have been among the few that have taken notice of police crimes against American Indians. The NATIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS have ignored these cases. Many killings that occurred in Albuquerque were of Native people and Latinos who had indigenous heritage. Hundreds of people in Albuquerque have been protesting since long before the failure of Missouri prosecutors to indict Darren Wilson, the murderer of Michael Brown. Many might say, “well there were riots in Ferguson.” There was also unrest in Albuquerque. There is unrest in Ferguson. There is unrest from Oakland to New York. The problem is that police have no civilian oversight except in a few places. The problem is the drug war. The problem is that America is at war with people of color. They always have been and they always will be.

    The national media has ignored this problem long enough. Proving their racism and media bias once again. The questions that are being asked by most of the land are being asked by Indian Country. Why do police departments have to be militarized to keep us safe. Why can’t we have Civilian Police Review Boards? Why can’t we have impartial grand juries to indict police officers when they murder people of color? Why can’t the gap between rich and poor be closed so people can have opportunities to have a decent quality of life. Why can’t there be more American Indian police, more African American police, more Latino police? Why do our prisons have to be filled with people of color? Why don’t we have drug treatment on demand? These are the solutions to the problems with brutal police. They need to be implemented now.
    A Facebook posting by Native writer Johnnie Jae:Dear White Mainstream America (this does not include everyone, just the ignorant asshats and they know who they are as they will totally be offended, OFFENDED by this post): Can we please discuss the subconscious and overt racism that is poisoning our society and literally killing Black and Native people at alarming rates without you closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and screaming at the top of your lungs that we are undeserving of equality but deserving of death?Comment:  For more on police brutality, see Historical Antecedents of Police Brutality and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!"

    Below:  "Albuquerque protester blocking militarized APD preparing to attack protesters."

    December 18, 2014

    Historical antecedents of police brutality

    With the protests against police shootings in Ferguson and New York City, Native writers are noting that violence against minorities is nothing new.

    The I Can’t Breathe Movement

    By Dana LonehillBeing shot and killed by police is nothing new to people with darker skin. Maybe some people think it is because of the recent civil rights movement dubbed I Can’t Breathe, in honor of the many killed by police and justified. Natives, Blacks, and other minority groups alike all know this story. They make up most of the prison system to this day and have never been under represented in anything to do with acts of genocide. Police brutality and militarization of police are something that date back slave days and days of putting Indians on a reservation.

    In researching and preparing to write this, I asked many people their opinions or for quotes. I found many. I could and should post them here, but instead in the simplest terms, I will just throw it down like this. This country was founded on brutality and racism, resulting in genocide. This country was never about apple pie and baseball.

    And all the muddy, messed up past is not recorded in the history books. Sure they talk about slavery and praise Lincoln for “freeing the slaves” but do the schoolbooks include Lincoln signing the death sentences of 264 Dakota prisoners? Or the mass hanging of 38 of those prisoners in what is now the largest mass execution in America? The history books will tell you what they want you to think, like you will remember or care, but they won’t tell you the truth.

    Violence in the form of brutality and death is nothing new in this country. It has been happening for hundred of years, it is the foundation of this country.
    Where's the Senate Torture Report on All the Violence Done to Natives?

    By Boyd CothranFollowing the attacks of September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration began constructing its legal response to the perceived terrorist threat. This response consisted of a series of legal opinions from the Department of Justice, many of them written by John C. Yoo, a University of California law professor who was then serving as a deputy assistant attorney general. The memorandums provided legal arguments to support the administration’s claim that detainees from the war in Afghanistan did not enjoy the protections of either the U.S. Constitution or the Geneva Convention and that the War Crimes Act of 1996 also did not apply. Despite considerable disagreement from Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, the administration went ahead, and by December 2002, the Defense Department had drafted detailed policies for interrogation techniques. Then, in early March 2003, Yoo authored one of his most sweeping legal briefs in what came to be known as the infamous Torture Memos. In it, he set out not only a legal justification but also a historical connection between unlawful combatants in the current conflict and Indigenous peoples in the nineteenth century.

    Reading the eighty-one-page memorandum after it became available to the public in April 2008, I was surprised to discover that at a crucial point in his memorandum Yoo relied on U.S. attorney general George H. Williams’s 1873 opinion regarding the legality of denying Indian P.O.Ws fifth amendment due process rights. The opinion provided a legal justification for circumventing civilian jurisdiction to try the Modocs for murder by a military tribunal. “It cannot be pretended that a United States soldier is guilty of murder if he kills a public enemy in battle,” Williams wrote in 1873, “which would be the case if the municipal law was in force and applicable to an act committed under such circumstances.” The Modocs, Williams had argued, could be legally prosecuted and executed by the U.S. military as long as they were first declared criminals; the U.S. Army, in other words, could kill Indians who were deemed murderers without themselves becoming murderers.

    One hundred thirty years later, Yoo resurrected this legal theory to support his expansive articulation of executive power and to maintain American innocence in the Global War on Terror. “The strictures that bind the Executive in its role as a magistrate enforcing the civil laws have no place in constraining the President in waging war,” Yoo argued. Enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, could be used on enemy combatants because federal criminal laws prohibiting assault and battery simply do not apply to such criminals. Within the eyes of American law, the enemy combatant was a criminal because the Modocs were criminals; the use of torture in the Global War on Terror was justified because hanging the Modoc was justified.

    What does this all mean? Why is it important to recognize the historic roots of our current conversation about torture? Because history matters. Setting the record straight matters. In reckoning with the legacy of the September 11, 2001 and its aftermath Americans must confront the violence of the past and say "never again." But in doing so we must not think that these sort of judicially expedient accommodations are unprecedented. Too often we forget that the colonization and subjugation of the powerless are often carried out under the guise of the law. Williams constructed a legal opinion in 1873 to justify ends, which most Americans at the time would have viewed as necessary and justified. But in doing so, he created a means for others. A true accounting for the history of the use of torture in the war on terror will have to look far beyond the last decade to understand our longer use of the law to justify the unjust.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!" and Grand Juries Won't Indict Killer Cops.

    December 17, 2014

    Ralph Lauren's "assimilation aesthetic"

    Assimilation Aesthetic

    By Ruth HopkinsImagine my horror this morning, upon discovering Ralph Lauren’s latest venture. Let’s call it Assimilation Era Chic.

    Old portraits of Native men from the Allotment and Assimilation Era (1887–1943) are displayed like cover models among Ralph Lauren’s latest line for the 2014 Holiday season. I did a double take for an instant, because one of the men pictured looked like my ancestor.


    Hopkins explains what's wrong with this:Mr. Lauren, these stylish Native men in your pictures are not your employees, nor your slaves. They lived. They have names. They come from a proud lineage of Native peoples older than America. Each warrior pictured is someone’s grandfather, and I guarantee they suffered mightily just to survive the genocidal holocaust European invaders inflicted upon them. Why do they look so stoic? They were brave Native warriors who witnessed the massacre of innocents, had their lands stolen from them, and faced an uncertain future after the Federal government broke every treaty they ever made with Native nations in this country. They were fighting for the survival of our kind.

    What many people alive today fail to realize is Natives of the Assimilation Era wore western clothes because they were forced to do so. We were hunted by cavalry soldiers and made to give up our freedom and live on reservations. Our culture and language was ripped from us. Our ceremonies and religious practices were declared illegal. My own father and uncles, who were torn from their mother’s embrace and put in boarding school, were mercilessly beaten for speaking their Native tongue. They didn’t want to wear itchy woolen vests and tight narrow shoes made for white children. They had no choice. The fashion Ralph Lauren glorifies arose from oppression.
    Adrienne Keene notes more problems with the ads:

    Keene: Dear Ralph Lauren, Our Ancestors Are Not Your Props!

    By Dr. Adrienne KeeneCultural appropriation takes away our symbols, our art and our designs, and with it, takes away our power over our cultural markers. This is dangerous, because not only is it blatantly disrespectful to the places, people, and traditions these images come from, it continues the colonial mentality that Native peoples, lands, and traditions are free for the taking.

    We become commodities—objects that can be bought and sold. I mean, the heading of this page says “featured stock,” referring to the clothing, but when there are images of Native people right next to the $265 headdress t-shirt, it’s hard to separate the people from the products. Additionally, when the word is “stock,” one can’t help but think of animals (or slaves) for sale.

    There’s also this piece that I can’t quite put my finger on, and don’t know if I can adequately express. The photos are all men in (mostly) western clothing, with “tribal” accents here and there. I feel like there is a subtext here of “civilizing”—even the “wild Indians” can look dignified in these clothes. You can have your Americana aesthetic without the savage overtones! It just reminds me of the "Tom Torlino—Navajo" photograph, which is representative of the cultural genocide of government boarding schools.

    Finally, there is the economic piece at play here. Look at the prices. A $265 T-shirt featuring a sacred headdress, a $1,300 plaid coat, $400 sweaters—and all of this money is going straight to building Lauren’s personal wealth and empire, none of it is going to the communities he is directly exploiting to sell his product. How American of him: seeing Natives as inherently disposable and exploitable, and using Native resources to build his personal wealth, while simultaneously yearning for the romanticized past when Natives roamed the plains, and ignoring his own complicity in the ongoing settler colonial project. Pretty much the story of the United States.


    Ralph Lauren backs off

    Ralph Lauren apologizes for Native American ads

    By Sarah LeTrentRalph Lauren's 2014 holiday ad campaign for its RRL line was raked over the coals on social media this week for its "assimilation aesthetic," featuring what appear to be antique photos of stoic Native Americans dressed in Western attire.

    Now, the company is apologizing for the imagery and has since removed the images from its website.

    "Ralph Lauren has a longstanding history in celebrating the rich history, importance and beauty of our country's Native American heritage," the company said in a statement. "We recognize that some of the images depicted in the RRL look book may have caused offense and we have removed them from our website."

    Ruth Hopkins, a contributor to the site Last Real Indians, took issue with the campaign's use of Native Americans, claiming that the imagery is not only ignorant, it's a harsh reminder of a time of extreme oppression, and even genocide, for the nation's indigenous people.
    Celine Cooper: Withdrawn Ralph Lauren advertising had used offensive images of Native Americans

    By Celine CooperLast week, American company Ralph Lauren debuted its Double RL & Co 2014 holiday line of clothing. The website campaign didn’t feature the usual doe-eyed teenagers wearing tweed hats and polo shirts. Nope. Instead, the advertisement was organized around old sepia portraits of Native American men and women, unsmiling and wearing Western clothes, from the Allotment and Assimilation Era in the United States as its cover models (presumably without the permission of their descendants). Beside their images was Ralph Lauren’s “New Stock” of holiday clothes—cargo pants, wool jackets, button-down shirts and purses.

    Thankfully, Ralph Lauren, that doyen of classic Americana, was immediately met with an online campaign against the company’s questionable “assimilation aesthetic.” (You can read the outrage on the Twitter hashtag #BoycottRalphLauren).

    The online activism worked. On Friday, the company took down the images. Although they didn’t offer an actual apology, they did release the following statement: “We recognize that some of the images depicted in the RRL look book may have caused offense and we have removed them from our website.”

    Offence, indeed. Here’s the thing. What Ralph Lauren wants to sell is not the actual history of America, but an idea about America, a certain nostalgia and patriotism. Their ads were meant to evoke a pioneering spirit; the outpost, the frontier where natives were tamed and the Wild West was won. Cowboys and Indians. Classic Americana, that.
    A previous Ralph Lauren problem:Jessica Deer ‏@Kanhehsiio
    Ralph Lauren is one of those repeat offenders of cultural appropriation. Stumbled upon this gross stuff in Feb.


    And Indians from that era who weren't modeling Ralph Lauren:

    Yes, He's Handsome--But He's Not Your Model. 25 Photos of Natives in European Dress

    The stereotype here is that Indians were willing participants in a 19th-century fashion revolution. That they would've sat and posed for pictures to help Ralph Lauren sell its goods.

    For more on the subject, see Ralph Lauren's Fetishistic Native Collection.

    December 16, 2014

    "America, nation of torturers"

    America, nation of torturers: Stop saying “this isn’t who we are”—here’s the real truth

    Terrible findings in the torture report "are not who we are," John Kerry claims. Well, here's a U.S. history lesson

    By Charles Davis
    It’s comforting for those whose actions are not aligned with their stated values to believe that what one does in real life is not what ultimately defines who one really is. It’s nice to think who we are is determined not by the things we did the day before, but by the stated ideals we hope to aspire to fulfill, starting tomorrow. In a nation-state founded by settler-colonial Protestants, the argument is familiar—it’s what’s deep down inside that gets one up into heaven, not the good or genocidal nature of what one does down here on Earth—and as with any half-decent lie, it’s relatable: as fallible human beings, we’d all rather like to believe that we’re not as bad as we are but as good as we say we would like to be.

    While founded on the ethnic cleansing of the continent’s original inhabitants and the enslavement of its African workforce, the news—or rather, confirmation—that the CIA employed a revolting range of “enhanced” torture techniques in the wake of 9/11 is being portrayed by some as a vile exception to the United States’ otherwise exceptional history; a “stain on our values and history,” in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose committee released the report detailing the agency’s use of near-drownings and mock executions and sexual abuse to humiliate and demoralize a foreign “other” under the guise of gathering intelligence. These practices, the terrible things this country has again and again been shown to do, “are not who we are,” added Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, “the awful facts of this report” do not even “represent who they are,” he said of those awful people described in that report (“its important that this period not define the intelligence community in anyone’s mind,” he continued).

    “Some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values,” President Barack Obama chimed in, crediting his government with, as always, correcting its own mistakes (“They aren’t picking up prisoners anymore,” Senator James Risch explained to CNN. “What they do is when they identify a high-value target, the target is droned.”).

    As a rhetorical ploy, it’s understandable: Saying the United States has always been garbage is not going to be terribly popular in a nation that still fondly refers to a group of sadistic slave-owners as its “founding fathers”—so politicians savvy enough to know that openly embracing torture is not a good look for the world’s leading state-sponsor of holier-than-thou rhetoric, appeal to a history and set of values that never was and never were in practice, as a way to give political cover to their middling, public relations-minded critiques of the national-security state’s least defensible excesses. It’s entirely false, this narrative of extreme goodness marked by occasional self-correcting imperfection, but it satisfies our national ego to think the American phoenix rises from a store of ethically traded gold, not a pile of rotting trash.
    Comment:  For more on genocide, see Colonists Wanted Indians Dead and Lord Amherst's Genocidal Intent.

    December 15, 2014

    Sixkill in Cheap Shot

    I discussed the debut of Zebulon Sixkill in Sixkill, Robert B. Parker's last Spenser mystery. After Parker's death, author Ace Atkins has continued the series and Sixkill's role in it.

    Cheap Shot is the third of Atkins's Spenser books. Here's the story:

    Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot (Spenser)From Booklist
    Kinjo Heywood is a ferocious middle linebacker for the New England Patriots, but he has a penchant for off-the field violence as well. When he thinks he’s being followed, his agent hires Boston private investigator Spenser to find and discourage the followers. ... The three thugsters—Spenser, longtime running buddy Hawk, and Spenser’s protégé Z—employ their usual investigative techniques of intimidation and smart-ass repartee in the service of solving the case. Atkins’ third shot at the Spenser caseload shows steady improvement over the first two. Spenser is as tough and funny as ever, and Atkins has become a worthy successor. --Wes Lukowsky

    Praise for ROBERT B. PARKER’S CHEAP SHOT

    “Assured... Atkins’s gift for mimicking the late Robert B. Parker could lead to a long run, the the delight of Spenser devotees.”

    —Publishers Weekly

    “A well-conceived adventure that balances Spenser and friends’ experience with Akira’s innocence while drawing on Atkins’ own Auburn football days.”

    —Crimespree Magazine

    Cheap Shot is the best yet, with a whip-crack plot, plenty of intriguing and despicable characters, and the lovable, relentless Spenser at its center….Atkins also has a deft way with Parker's style… Atkins is bringing his own energy and strengths to Parker's series. Cheap Shot is Spenser, by the book.”

    —Tampa Bay Times
    Native aspects

    Zebulon "Z" Sixkill is only a supporting character in Cheap Shot. He might or might not make a list of the top 10 characters in the book.

    But it's nice to see Atkins continuing to use him. Sixkill adds some fresh blood to the Spenser formula.

    Sixkill's background as a Cree Indian is mentioned a few times, but it's mostly ignored. That's the way it should be. Being Indian will come up occasionally if you spend time with an Indian, but that's about it.

    It's like anyone's ethnicity, religion, job, childhood, hobbies, etc. It'll come up now and then, but it's rarely the center of attention.

    Parker overdid it in Sixkill. Perhaps a quarter of Spenser's interactions with Sixkill made some reference to his being an Indian. That's way too much.

    As for the rest of Cheap Shot, it was a solid mystery until the end. Then Spenser and company got handed a few too many answers without working for them, and it petered out.

    Still, Atkins did an excellent job of mimicking Parker's style. Cheap Shot was at least as good as the typical Spenser book by Parker--maybe better. The books aren't great literature, but they are entertaining diversions.

    Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

    December 14, 2014

    Media bias enables prejudice

    Blaming the Victim, Excusing the Powerful: What Real Institutional Media Bias Looks Like

    By Reed RichardsonTo fulfill the promise of a free press in our democracy journalism can’t be satisfied with assuming the posture of looking down on the powerless. Instead, journalism, at its best, should be—must be—about punching up at the powerful.

    Most, if not all, individual journalists wholeheartedly agree with this ideal. And yet, time and again it’s easy to find examples of an institutional media bias that undermines this ethos. By consistently favoring the status quo and reflexively deferring to authority, news organizations that should be exposing and condemning abuse, prejudice and corruption all too often end up excusing, justifying and perpetuating it.

    As a result, celebrities, corporations and government officials all command an outsized influence in the traditional media. This phenomenon isn’t new, but the magnitude certainly is. As never before, these entities are able to mobilize a veritable army of handlers, lawyers and flacks to soothe, shape and, spin the press into accepting their version of reality—no matter how tenuously related to the truth it might be.

    This fundamental bias marks the central thread that runs through the coverage of everything from Bill Cosby to Ferguson to the US drone strike program. Stripping away each of those storylines’ unique details reveals the same flawed core: a media that grants the benefit of the doubt to the establishment and that saves its cynicism for the voiceless. In a way, this bias acts as a kind broad enabler of all prejudice, allowing whatever latent inequalities exist in the status quo to go unchallenged, if not outright defended. Thus, institutionalized sexism, racism and militarism enjoy a sympathetic ear in the press precisely because they are institutionalized.
    Comment:  This is another nail in the coffin of the myth of the liberal media. A truly liberal media would demolish conservative lies about the "war on terrorism," climate change, tax cuts, and so forth. Instead, every issue is smothered in faux evenhandedness. Contrary voices are muffled and the status quo continues unchallenged.

    December 13, 2014

    The science of racism

    The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men

    And how to reform our bigoted brains.

    By Chris Mooney
    I WENT TO NYU to learn what psychologists could tell me about racial prejudice in the wake of the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. We may never really know the exact sequence of events and assumptions that led to the moment when Brown, unarmed and, according to witnesses, with his hands in the air, was shot multiple times. But the incident is the latest embodiment of America's racial paradox: On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That's why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.

    Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they're not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There "doesn't need to be intent, doesn't need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction," explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek, a prominent IAT researcher. "But biased results can still occur."

    The IAT is the most famous demonstration of this reality, but it's just one of many similar tools. Through them, psychologists have chased prejudice back to its lair—the human brain.

    We're not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been "taught" them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on "many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what's good and what's bad." In evolutionary terms, it's efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as "dangerous." The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.
    Comment:  For more on racism, see A Hunger to Deny Racism, White Privilege = "Willful Blindness," and Why Your Intentions Don't Matter.

    December 12, 2014

    Raven the Navajo Teen Titan

    Branding shmanding, ‘Teen Titans: Earth One’ is pretty good

    By J. Caleb MozzoccoThe new, rebooted version of the Teen Titans that Lemire and the Dodsons came up with for their Earth One graphic novel is really good, fairly compelling, true to the original spirit of the characters involved (if not the original Teen Titans concept; this is based on the Marv Wolfman/George Perez team) and conceivably of interest to a wider audience than DC diehards.

    Lemire uses the most basic of elements of the Wolfman/Perez era—Raven helping to gather young heroes, alien Starfire arriving on Earth—as a catalyst for a story involving super-powered teenagers coming together as a team. The cast is confined almost entirely to those created by Wolfman and Perez—Cyborg, Tara, Jericho and the aforementioned Raven and Starfire—with the exception of Arnold Drake and Bob Brown’s Garfield Logan (here codenamed Changeling), who, like Dick Grayson, Wally West and Donna Troy, was among the preexisting characters folded into Wolfman and Perez’s Titans comics.

    The characters are all rather closely related, which gives the book a perhaps claustrophobic feel—you’d only need about a half-dozen locations to shoot this as the TV pilot it reads so much like—but is also a more economical way to introduce and bind them together, and one denied Wolfman when he was writing his original version within the confines of a monthly comic.

    Navajo 16-year-old shaman-in-training Raven has begun having strange dreams of a distressed alien family that apparently fell to Earth and found by mysterious, semi-sinister government types, all with names familiar to longtime DC readers (Slade, Markov, Dayton, Rita).


    Teen Titans: Earth One

    By Nightwing17Mixing a dash of X-Men and more than a hint of Runaways into the classic Wolfman/Perez formula, Teen Titans: Earth One introduces us to four teenagers growing up in Monument, Oregon when the emergence of strange powers and visions of a buried secret bring them together. Their visions are shared by Raven, another girl, living in New Mexico with her grandfather.And:Speaking of Raven, It was pretty cool to recast Raven as a Navajo, however I don’t know that you can honestly say that her heritage is relevant for any reason other than to lampshade her powers and give her access to one of those wise Navajo grandfathers who are always happy to instruct you in ‘the old ways’. It’s restrained enough to be considered frustrating rather than out and out offensive, but it would have been really nice to see the story actually reflect something about Navajo culture instead of regurgitating unhelpful white guilt and stereotypes. Well, maybe we’ll do better in that regard next time.

    December 11, 2014

    Greenpeace damages Nazca site

    Peru Is Indignant After Greenpeace Makes Its Mark on Ancient Site

    By William NeumanAn expression of concern by the environmental group Greenpeace about the carbon footprint was marred this week by real footprints—in a fragile, and restricted, landscape near the Nazca lines, ancient man-made designs etched in the Peruvian desert.

    The Peruvian authorities said activists from the group damaged a patch of desert when they placed a large sign that promoted renewable energy near a set of lines that form the shape of a giant hummingbird.

    The sign was meant to draw the attention of world leaders, reporters and others who were in Lima, the Peruvian capital, for a United Nations summit meeting aimed at reaching an agreement to address climate change. The meeting was scheduled to end Friday but negotiations were expected to continue into Saturday.

    Greenpeace issued a statement apologizing for the stunt at the archaeological site, about 225 miles south of Lima. Its international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, flew to Lima, but the Peruvian authorities were seething over the episode, which they said had scarred one of the country’s most treasured national symbols.


    This Greenpeace Stunt May Have Irreparably Damaged Peru's Nazca Site

    By George DvorskyThe Peruvian government is planning to file criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who may have permanently scarred the Nazca Lines World Heritage Site during a publicity stunt.

    As The Guardian reports, the Nazca lines "are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago." The figures, which can only be seen from the air, are believed to have had ritual functions related to astronomy.

    The ground around the site is so sensitive and so sacred that Peru has even forbidden presidents and top officials to walk where the Greenpeace activists went. Peru's Deputy Culture Minister told the BBC: "You walk there, and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years." Tourists generally get to see the site from the air, or, on rare occasions, are equipped with special foot gear.

    "They are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years," said the minister. "And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all."
    Greenpeace apologises to people of Peru over Nazca lines stunt

    Culture ministry says it will press charges against activists for damage to world heritage site as UN climate talks began in Lima

    By Dan Collyns
    Greenpeace has apologised to the people of Peru after the government accused the environmentalists of damaging ancient earth markings in the country’s coastal desert by leaving footprints in the ground during a publicity stunt meant to send a message to the UN climate talks delegates in Lima.

    A spokesman for Greenpeace said: “Without reservation Greenpeace apologises to the people of Peru for the offence caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca lines. We are deeply sorry for this.

    “Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.”

    Earlier Peru’s vice-minister for culture Luis Jaime Castillo had accused Greenpeace of “extreme environmentalism” and ignoring what the Peruvian people “consider to be sacred” after the protest at the world renowned Nazca lines, a Unesco world heritage site.
    Comment:  Why don't the space aliens return and fix it?!

    A tweet makes the problem plain:

    Donna Yates ‏@DrDonnaYates Dec 12
    FYI: this is the damage done to the Nazca lines by Greenpeace. Not minor. Not in someone's opinion. Look at that.

    "Hands up, don't shoot!"

    Some tweets on the connections between the different forms of violence perpetuated in America:

    "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" chant of Ferguson protesters was the same message conveyed by "peace chiefs" at Sand Creek. http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_27069460/link-between-sand-creek-ferguson

    Blacks say, "Hands up, don't shoot!" Muslims say, "Hands up, don't torture!" Natives say, "Hands up, don't massacre!" #TortureReport #USA

    Women to angry spouses, frat boys, athletes, cops, soldiers, etc.: "Hands up, don't rape!" #HandsUpDontRape #rapeculture #waronwomen

    The Geneva Conventions on torture are like Indian treaties--i.e., guidelines to be followed except when they're inconvenient. #TortureReport

    Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Our Broken Justice System and Grand Juries Won't Indict Killer Cops.

    December 10, 2014

    Congressman calls Indians "wards of government"

    Congressman’s Native American remark causes outcry

    By Felicia FonsecaU.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s reference to American Indians as “wards of the federal government” has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts.

    The Arizona Republican stunned an audience gathered in Flagstaff last week with the comment that came in a discussion about a land deal that would clear the way for a copper mine.

    Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe says the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs.

    A spokesman for Gosar says that wasn’t the intent. He says Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening tribes’ relationships with the federal government.

    Congress maintains authority over Indian affairs. But the trend has been for tribes to take more control over things like crime, education and health care from the federal government.
    Republican Congressman’s Disrespectful Comment About Native Americans Stuns Local Tribes

    By Allen CliftonApparently as Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe voiced concerns over the proposal, Gosar belittled Native Americans by referring to them as “wards of the federal government,” claiming the government still has control over much of what they do.

    “He kind of revealed the truth, the true deep feeling of the federal government: ‘Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,’” said Stago.

    Naturally, the congressman has refused to elaborate further on what he meant by his comments, only stating through his spokesman Steven Smith that it was not the intent of the congressman to offend Native Americans.

    Though I’m not sure how one would go about spinning a reference to Native Americans as “wards of the federal government” into any sort of positive compliment. It’s one of those statements that is fairly self-explanatory–there’s not a whole lot of leeway there.

    But then again, is anyone really shocked to see a Republican make some sort of insensitive or offensive remark toward a minority group? That’s the sad state of affairs for the GOP nowadays. I’m not even sure if you can still refer to it as “headline news” for someone from their party to say something blatantly offensive about minorities.
    Natives respond

    A Native reply via Facebook:THIS asshole says natives are "wards of the government." And I can tell you MOST people I talk to who are not part of my many community circles think so too. I mean this in terms of how you view native nations people as less-than, as unfortunates. Or viewing them jealously as if they are handed everything you want or have on a plate and they are getting the fat of the land. These are far from the truth, these varied assumptions.

    Phrases such as "ward of the government" should be struck down viz colonized people whose lands, lifeways and original liberties were taken and were done so recently as to be storied in living memories yet. This phrase is a trap and a trigger.

    If you utter crap like, "casino munnneeeeeee" or "free school, free health, free everything is what THEY get" and other shit that shows you have no concept of the forms that sovereignty now takes, the deleterious financial contracts binding many indian lands still, and other realities...you are also in great need of shutting the hell up and doing your best to listen next time you open a conversation with a native person. The information available to you is vastly more and quite different from the few scraps of cardboard supplied that are endlessly parroted in America (and everywhere else, frankly).
    Finally, Indianz.com explains why Gosar's assertion is wrong:

    Rep. Gosar won't apologize for calling Native Americans 'wards'American Indians and Alaska Natives are not wards of the federal government. That era ended with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

    The Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution recognizes tribal governments as sovereign nations. But they are often described in court decisions as "domestic dependent nations"--a term that was created to justify state encroachment and federal encroachment on tribal territories.

    The distinction, however, does not apply to Native people themselves. To call them "wards" treats them differently than every other American.

    "That's just not appropriate," former U.S. attorney Troy Eid told the AP, referring to Gosar's remarks. "In the heated context of what this represents, it's especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting."

    "Cracksgiving" party at Bowdoin College

    Bowdoin College athletes to be disciplined for dressing as Native Americans at ‘Cracksgiving’ party

    By Beth BroganFourteen members of the Bowdoin College men’s lacrosse team will be disciplined for dressing up as Native Americans at a November party known as “Cracksgiving” held in an off-campus house known as “Crack House” rented by members of the team.

    As first reported in The Bowdoin Orient, a student newspaper, and confirmed Wednesday by college spokesman Scott Hood, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster sent a campus-wide email Tuesday evening to inform the college community that Bowdoin will take disciplinary action against the students. However, Hood said no students will be expelled as a result of the incident.

    In the email, printed in its entirety by the college newspaper and confirmed by Hood, Foster wrote that just prior to Thanksgiving, some members of the men’s lacrosse team who live in a residence known on campus as “Crack House” on Harpswell Road hosted “Cracksgiving,” and students were encouraged to dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans.

    According to Foster, the invitation urged students to attend “wearing your finest Thanksgiving attire.”

    Fourteen of the team’s approximately 50 members—some of them residents of the house—dressed as Native Americans, he said, “even after some of the team’s other members actively tried to talk them out of it.”

    “Especially disturbing is that the hosts of this event knew—or should have known—that their actions would offend; yet they went ahead with their plans nonetheless,” Foster wrote.

    December 09, 2014

    Debating Peter Pan Live!

    While I watched Peter Pan Live!, I did a bit of live-blogging on Facebook. I didn't plan to debate the production, but a couple of people responded and we were off.

    Things started innocuously enough:

    Off to Neverland

    Watching Peter Pan Live!--the must-see event of the year!

    I have a radical new idea for a remake: Cast a teenage boy to play Peter Pan the teenage boy. You know, instead of a grown woman.

    Yes, I'm brilliant, I know. Thank you, thank you.

    Didn't Christopher Walken used to sound normal when he was young? Now he sounds like he's doing a Christopher Walken impression.Casting a teenage boy presents a lot of issues from a musical theater perspective.It can't be much worse than trying to convince oneself that 26-year-old Allison Williams is a teenage boy. I'm not buying it.

    I bet Daniel Radcliffe could've nailed it.Of course, a 25 year old man is much more convincing...it's about the voice, for one, and the ages of the Darling children.I meant when he was a teenager. "Cast a teenage boy [such as Radcliffe when he was a teenager] to play Peter Pan the teenage boy."

    Problems arise

    Race in ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬: Nine of the ten Lost Boys are white. The first four of Tiger Lily's tribe look brown-skinned and ethnic.

    Even if the "tribal" actors are white, they're adorned with broad stripes of brown color. This conveys the impression that they're brown.

    The tribesmen wear bone chokers and breastplates, and round pendants--like Indians. They tend to creep on all fours--like animals. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

    The Lost Boys, including Michael Darling dressed as an Indian, reject Wendy's attempt to teach them how to avoid war. That's because Lost Boys, like Indian savages, are uncivilized.As near as I can tell, the Natives are also generic (tribally too unspecific).Yes, they're generic. But making them so doesn't solve the problem, it only redirects it.

    The problem is that Peter's Lost Boys are wild, undisciplined, and ignorant because they have no rules, responsibilities, or parents. No law and order. In a word, they're uncivilized. And Tiger Lily's tribesmen are the same.

    The message is that Lost Boys = indigenous people = savages. Whether the tribe is from the Americas, Africa, or Asia and the Pacific Islands doesn't really matter. The story is an indictment of all indigenous cultures. It suggests they're akin to children frolicking in the jungle, or animals in human form.As someone who grew up with this kind of unfounded, blatant, erroneous picture of Natives, I have only been condemning specific issues in these cases. But I am thrilled that we are finally at a place where we can finally address the broader ignorance issues that needs to be ended. Especially in popular media and entertainment.On the other hand:For heaven's sakes, it's FANTASY, it's silliness, it's choreographed -- did you notice how realistic the plants and trees were? *not*

    Maybe you can go after "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" next time.
    Are you seriously going to argue that people haven't gotten their ideas about Indians from Western movies, sports mascots, and corporate logos--all of which are forms of fiction? In fact, people absorb messages about reality from whatever they see, including fiction. As a few centuries of novels, plays, movies, TV shows, and comic books have proved.

    So we should say nothing about racist stereotypes in movies or TV shows because they're "fantasies"? How about school plays, paintings and statues, or songs? Did you miss the last ten thousand times I criticized racist stereotypes in our culture?

    A blackface minstrel show is just a fantasy. As is a Halloween party with Pocahotties and "Nava-hoes." Really, you expect me to give these a pass because they're "fantasies" like Peter Pan? As the last 20 years of my work has demonstrated, that's not gonna happen.

    Lost Boys = Lord of the Flies?Haven't missed a one of your criticisms, and most often agree with them (although I'm protesting your NIGA group for its abominable acronym). I guess you've protested Peter Pan for 30 or more years now?

    The Halloween analogy is false -- stupid women wanting to be "Nava-hoes" doesn't compare to Barrie's play, nor the musical. And if you knew the story, you would not put = between Lost Boys and the Indians in the show -- the Lost Boys are a different group altogether.

    We've had plenty of literature, that for better or worse, deals with issues like this. Do we ban it all, or do we learn? Would you remove Lord of the Flies from the libraries (after all, they were certainly "Lost Boys" who became quite savage)?
    The Indian savages perform the same function as the Lost Boys. They run and play in the forest, follow Peter Pan, and fight the pirates. They're different but equivalent groups.

    That's why I said the message is that they're the same. Not that they're literally the same.

    I didn't say my examples--the minstrel show and Halloween party--were alike in terms of "quality." But they're all examples of employing fictional or fantasy characters. They're alike in that regard.

    And saying my analogy is "false" isn't much of an argument. Explain why it's false if you can.

    In fact, anyone can present a racial stereotype and claim they're just "play-acting" or "pretending." If racism in "fantasy" is harmless, it's harmless whether it's a minstrel show, a Halloween party, or "Peter Pan." I say it's harmful in all these cases so the "fantasy" defense is rubbish.

    I don't think the Lord of the Flies boys dressed specifically like Indians. Tiger Lily's tribe did. We're talking about characters who use racial stereotypes to represent a particular group--in this case, Indians or indigenous people. We're not talking about anyone who becomes "savage" in any way.

    We're also not talking about censoring or removing Peter Pan. You invented that straw man because I didn't say a word about it. My solution is to fix the racist and sexist elements of this play and then present it.

    If you want to present the original story with its racism and sexism, go ahead. You do that and I'll criticize it, just as I've done here.

    Do we ban it or do we learn from it? I'm helping people learn from it by educating them about its racism and sexism. You're doing the opposite: telling people to ignore its problems and simply enjoy it as a "fantasy." Don't talk to us about "learning" when you're advocating the opposite.

    P.S. My official critique of Peter Pan is 10 years old:

    Tiger Lily in Peter Pan: An Allegory of Anglo-Indian Relations

    I found every line about Indians in Barrie's original book to make sure I didn't miss anything. I understand his racist stereotyping well.

    No doubt I mentioned the play and the Disney movie before then. And yet Peter Pan is only one of a thousand topics I've dealt with over the years. The facts prove there's no "obsession" here, so your claim is false and insulting.

    You say you haven't missed my criticisms, yet you're surprised I criticized Peter Pan. Criticized it the same way I've criticized countless comic books, cartoons, video games, and other things that qualify as fantasies for children. So why are you surprised?

    To reiterate, I've criticized Peter Pan and movies, TV shows, and plays like it many times before. My actions have been completely consistent so your surprise is illogical. In fact, the only surprise would be if I ignored a spectacle featuring Indians in prime-time television.

    Racist and sexist, too

    On the gender front, ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬ may be even worse. Girls = mothers = caretakers and servants = nags and scolds = killers of fun and freedom.

    Wendy should slap some sense into Peter. "You say you want a mother, but you don't want to do anything I say? What do you think a mother is, you stupid twit?

    "If you want someone to serve you, go hire a maid or a butler. I've got better things to do than to babysit babies."

    Now she's singing about how she wants to kiss Peter Pan. Even a century ago, girls went for the charming bad boys who would love 'em and leave 'em. All Peter needs is a leather jacket and motorcycle to seal the deal.

    Back to the racial issues:

    If you want a race of animal-like savages, make them bestial for real. Centaurs, cat people, talking bears, etc. Or make them toy soldiers come to life a la Toy Story. There's really no excuse to equate savages with indigenous people. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

    Getting a closer look at Tiger Lily's tribe as they dance. Perhaps half the actors are nonwhite. All have dark hair and several have dreadlocks. Shoes look like moccasins. Definitely an Afro-Indian vibe. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

    And they're mixing the Wyandotte song title with "Hickory dickory dock" and "Tweedledee, tweedledum." Well, gee, thanks for making it clear that Native languages aren't just singsong nonsense words.

    Not to mention the tom-tom beats and chanting that echo a thousand old Westerns. They aren't even subtle. This is obviously an "Indian" song in everything but name.

    And Tiger Lily says Peter is the sun and the moon. Good thing she praised the "great white father" only once in this scene, or it would be unbearable.

    Peter is mystified that Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Tiger Lily all want more from him. Why are girls so needy and clingy? Why can't they be strong and independent, like boys?! ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬Do you know when this story was written, what society was like at the time?It was written around the time when Dorothy traveled to Oz, took command of her destiny (more or less), and proceeded without any thought of clinging to a man or becoming a mother.

    That was several decades after Alice had her solo adventures in Wonderland. A couple of centuries after Jane Austen's heroines showed what strong, independent women could do. Are you seriously arguing that having all three female characters long for Peter was a sign of the times? That authors like Barrie couldn't conceive of any other way of thinking?

    And the producers are putting the play on in 2014, not 1902 when it was written. They're responsible for how its sexist message plays today. If you or they don't want anyone criticizing the sexism, don't put it on the air now. Leave it and the racist savages in the dustbin of history where they belong.

    Next up: How Santa's message of toys for everyone obscures the structural poverty built into our society.

    Tinkerbell must die

    Captain Hook's "brilliant" plan to kill Peter Pan is to poison him. He puts the poison in Peter's medicine while he sits next to the sleeping Peter. How about stabbing him in the chest instead? ‪#‎PeterPanDead‬

    But Tinkerbell drinks it instead! What a bumbler that Hook is!

    Tweet to save Tinkerbell? #TinkerbellMustDie

    Now Peter is speaking to the audience, telling us to clap if we believe in fairies. Die, you little piece of CGI fakery!!

    Odd. The swelling music seems to indicate we should be filled with joy, not laughter at this silliness.You must have had a very sad childhood -- and I'm not trying to insult. That a grown man is so obsessed with a little musical that children love is worrisome. When I was a little girl, I thought Mary Martin was speaking directly to me. I found joy in the show, and still do. Lovely music, great dancing, lots of fun.As I said, I've posted critiques and analyses of thousands of Native stereotypes. I'm not sure Peter Pan is even in the top 25 or 50 of the subjects I've covered. Despite the fact that it's one of the longest-running and most prominent purveyors of Native stereotypes in existence.

    If you're worried that I spent a couple of hours posting a few comments about one play, I'd hate to see your reaction to the subjects I've actually focused on. You know, things like the Washington Redskins and other mascots, The Lone Ranger and Twilight, and hipster headdresses. I guess you'd be amazed at my rock-solid opposition to racist stereotypes wherever they occur.

    P.S. My childhood was stunningly normal, not "sad." I'm incredulous that you've suddenly discovered that I criticize things. If you somehow missed my last 10,000 postings, check them again. You'll see a decades-long pattern of denouncing racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.

    If you don't like that, sorry, but that's what I do. I thought it was obvious, but now you know.

    Here are some of the criticisms directed at this production:

    http://nativenewsonline.net/currents/notyourtigerlily-nine-months-later-still-dont-get-point/

    https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/12/05/keene-why-fix-tiger-lily-why-cant-we-just-let-her-go-158155

    http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2014/12/true-blood-brothers-in-nbcs-production.html

    http://www.salon.com/2014/12/05/the_boggling_mixed_signals_of_peter_pan_live_why_on_earth_did_nbc_decide_to_stage_this_show/

    http://www.salon.com/2014/12/06/the_7_worst_things_about_nbcs_peter_pan_live_partner/

    I guess a lot of people are "obsessed" or had "sad" childhoods. Which are obvious codewords for, "Stop criticizing my beloved fairy tale, you can't make me think about its racism and sexism, la la la la la I can't hear you!"

    A tweet to sum up the racial issues:

    Tiger Lily's tribe in ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬: brown skins, body paint, bone chokers and breastplates, crawling on all fours--but not stereotypical?!

    For more on Peter Pan, see Native Stereotypes in Peter Pan Live! and Peter Pan Live! Reviewed.