September 30, 2006

Buzzing about Mel

Outcast Mel sells his film the hard wayHe has screened it at a science fiction festival in Texas, carefully nurturing Knowles's participation. He has also shown it at several locations in Oklahoma, Youngblood's home state. The audiences, mostly native American, reacted positively. The result has been a sudden buzz of anticipation about the film and Gibson's first positive PR since his late-night arrest in Malibu.

Yet he has not entirely been able to escape new controversy. Though The Passion established him as a darling of the right, Apocalypto seems to court a more liberal audience. Gibson sees a link between the collapsing Mayan world and the policies of the White House, and has likened the human sacrifice in the film to the waste of US soldiers' lives in Iraq.
See Apocalypto Now for my summary of all things related to Gibson's movie.

The Hollywood tribe

Roscoe Pond on stereotypes and reality in Hollywood“We are still considered as a stereotype, 'warriors and princesses,' which Hollywood created 100 years ago. My new documentary is an extension of that exhibit, but in a visual context that is very informative.”

While interviewing Native filmmakers in Hollywood, Pond explored the truths of Indians in film.

“I found we haven't come very far in mainstream Hollywood. Plus, we are only represented by less than 1 percent on TV and in films.

“We're at the bottom and really only subjected to Westerns. At least we are now playing ourselves instead of non-Indians.

Review of Frazier's latest

Thirteen MoonsUnlike the sober, Civil War-focus of "Cold Mountain," however, "Thirteen Moons" is a woolly, 19th-century-spanning picaresque--rueful in its general conclusions, no doubt, but comic in most of its particulars. The story largely unfolds in what we now think of as the East, but the novel is essentially a Western, an exploration of a youthful America's frontier that's akin to such apparently inspirational antecedents as Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove," A.B. Guthrie's "The Big Sky" and, in particular, Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man."

"Thirteen Moons" tells this familiar story from the perspective of the dispossessed Indian rather than the acquisitive white man. More accurately, the book provocatively synthesizes these two seeming opposites in the novel's protagonist and narrator, Will Cooper. An orphan sold by his skinflint relatives into indentured servitude, Will is dispatched to tend a wilderness trading post in an ominously blank expanse that his rudimentary map has simply labeled "INDIAN TERRITORY."

Skins show some skin

21st Century Skins calendar focuses on Native entertainersThe second edition of the 21st Century Skins calendar of Native men is hot off the press with pictures that highlight well-known entertainers along with up-and-coming talent from various American Indian tribes and nations.

The project is a venture of Viewfinder Photographs, owned by Navajo photographer Mihio Manus and his wife, Shaunya, the publication coordinator. Their first calendar of Indian men debuted last year with the help of Tatanka Means Inc., and 1,500 copies were printed on a shoestring budget. This year, based on popular demand, the initial run has been doubled.

Dancing Badger's recommended reading

Books on American Indian Subjects

September 29, 2006

Best Native mystery writers

'American Indian Mysteries':  A Crossover Genre Not Quite ThereTaking all factors into account, two writers deserve pre-eminience in this field after the runaway leader, Tony Hillerman. The first is Thomas King, a Cherokee author and literary scholar who has written what one can only hope will be the first in a series of mystery novels with an American Indian protagonist and a thoroughly detailed and accurate American Indian milieu: DreadfulWeather Shows Up. King's mainstream Indian novels are humorous, magical, and well worth finding; he is the author of Medicine River, for example. Thumps DreadfulWater promises to be a unique addition to crime fiction. In terms of accomplishments, the only writer with work comparable to Tony Hillerman's Navajo series is Thomas Perry, an English professor and mystery writer originally from the Rochester/Buffalo area of western New York, near the Seneca reservations. There are other writers of equal talent, but none of them has the combination of subject matter and genre mastery that makes the work of Perry and King stand out from the pack. Other exceptional authors who mine the genre effectively are recent entry Kirk Mitchell, anthropologist Margaret Coel, and Mardi Oakley Medawar, whose Tay-bodal novels are, in a word, unique.Comment:  Correspondent Eulala Pegram confirms that of the mystery authors she read, Thomas Perry was the best.

The Redskin-macaca connection

Harjo:  'N-word,' 'R-word,' Redmen and more macacaThis must be very confusing to Allen. He can say the “R-word” with impunity, but recriminations abound when he uses the “N-word” or “macaca.” It may be that he and others use the “R-word” with impunity because they can't get away with the other words they'd like to use. They fling around the “R-word” because they can.

The “R-word” and other “Indian” references in sports are public camouflage for bigotry. Not only can the bigots use racial stereotypes and slurs right out in the open, they can wrap themselves in them like flags and mock the people they are offending for daring to say they are offended.

Collages tell tales

Native American ModernistSmith is herself a Modernist, closer maybe to the Pop directness of painter and jazz trumpeter Larry Rivers than to the pure abstraction of Jackson Pollock, but a Modernist all the same. Her work is layered with collage, drips and smears of color, but you can usually read their meanings pretty directly.

Smith likes to cut out cutesy commercial Indian stuff, like the label from "Chief Sleepy Eye Brand Eggs," or ridiculously boosterish headlines from reservation newspapers, and stick them into larger images she's painted based on traditional American symbols like the buffalo, the cowboy, or the coyote. This is mockery, but it isn't always just for laughs.

More on Maurice and Earl

"Peter Plant's comic entitled 'Maurice and Earl' in my opinion is racist and sexist."

Globalization quote of the day

"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."Joseph Conrad, Heart of DarknessFor more on the subject, see Globalization:  Exporting the American Way and Globalization According to Gilligan. (Yes, Gilligan.)

September 28, 2006

Jane to the rescue!

Just finished reading The Face-Changers by Thomas Perry. Coincidentally, it was one of the Native mysteries starring a woman PI mentioned by Eulala Pegram in her recent article. This review from sums it up:Jane Whitefield, Thomas Perry's Native American "guide," has recently married Dr. Carey McKinnon and is now retired from helping people disappear from danger. But when her husband's old mentor, a world-famous plastic surgeon wanted by the police for a murder he didn't commit, turns up in Carey's emergency room, Jane steps back into the shadowy world of runners and hunters one more time. In this fourth outing in Edgar-winning Perry's fascinating and innovative series, Jane discovers that someone else is using her name and reputation to take fugitives out of the world, but for very different, and diabolical, purposes. Whitefield's Seneca heritage, plus her unique talents, make her a novel and compelling heroine, and Perry's masterful storytelling makes the most of Whitefield in this suspenseful page-turner.Anyway, it was very good--probably the best Native mystery I've read. That means it's as good as or better than the best Tony Hillerman mystery I've read (Hunting Badger). Forget James Bond or Jack Bauer--if you're in trouble, you want Jane Whitefield on your side.

My only quibble is that the Native aspects feel tacked on. Jane is a Seneca, but for the most part, she acts like a non-Indian. Once every 40-50 pages, she thinks about some Seneca story or bit of lore, and then she goes back to being as non-ethnic as the name "Whitefield" suggests.

If I were writing an Indian character, which I've done, I'd integrate her personality and culture more. I'd have her think and feel like an Indian frequently, not occasionally. Otherwise, there's little point in making her an Indian.

Rob's rating:  8.5 of 10.

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

Indian watches Redskins

The football team, that is. Here's what he saw:

American Indian team mascots hit home hardIt was clear that I was descending rapidly into the inner circles of Native American Hell. Treading through the stadium underbelly in search of my section and seat, ominous sights abounded.

A woman with a painted face and a faux Indian headdress hurried past.

In Club Macanudo, a cigar-store Indian statue held a football aloft in his right hand and a clutch of cigars in his left. A rancid, half-smoked stogie was jammed into the statue's open mouth.
And:It was shocking to behold a gigantic caricature of a Native American face emblazoned on the middle of the field. By my estimation, the face and feather were 30 feet wide. The same awful caricature vibrated garishly on huge digital billboards at both ends of the stadium.

There were sporadic chants of "Let's go, Redskins, let's go Redskins."

Any doubt that I was standing at ground zero of Native American Hell was dispelled when I saw what must be the largest and most blatant public display of a racial epithet anywhere in the world—the word REDSKINS painted in massive block letters across both end zones.
For more on the Redskins, see Red·skin n.  Dated, Offensive, Taboo.

'Tis the debate

The first debate of the holiday season--the Columbus Day season, that is:

Columbus:  explorer or oppressor?

Pro-Columbus:Genocide takes intent. You have to really want to obliterate a group of people, erase them from the face of the Earth. Think of the Holocaust, or the current jihad by Islamofascists. So even if the charges they level against Columbus are true, which they aren’t, it isn’t genocide.Anti-Columbus:Schools have been misleading us about Columbus since the advent of public education, but it’s time to wake up and smell the crimes against humanity that occurred when Europeans first came here. Native Americans were abused, exploited and victimized by genocide.Note my comment at the end. For more debates on Columbus, see This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant.

Another Indian "mobster" <yawn>

Milanovich called "Chief Greedovich," compared to Godfather

April-May Stereotype of the Month loser

The loser:  Tribes = groups that think "they can be a 'Sovereign Nation'"

Dishonorable mention:  Indians' "special status" is a failure, causes "social pathologies"

September 27, 2006

Newcomers could learn from Natives

Halbritter:  'Immigration hysteria' is nothing new in AmericaThose self-professed guardians of our borders, the "real" Americans, could learn a lot from the first Americans. American Indians have dealt with "boat people" ever since their initial contact with Europeans. Our ancestors doubtless experienced some qualms about dealing with people who looked different, spoke a different language and worshipped differently. Yet the newcomers were welcomed. Resources were shared. Friendships were forged. Thanksgiving was created.

Panic, intolerance, bigotry and isolationism will not resolve the issues attending the immigration debate. It is time for all sides to step back a pace, take a deep breath and look for solutions that are both reasonable and compassionate. It is time for this country to renew its commitment to the ideals symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, shining her beacon of freedom for all the world to see and inviting, in Emma Lazarus' famous words, "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Canceled show goes Native

A followup to my Indian Comics Irregular essay The Wonder of Wonderfalls:

The first episode of the late, lamented Wonderfalls hinted at a Native American connection, but the unaired 12th episode, "Totem Mole," made it almost clear. A summary:After visiting the Satsuma Reservation, Jaye tries to help Bill Hooton (Winnipeg native Ryan Black) follow in his grandmother's footsteps as spiritual leader of the tribe—but all the signs suggest that Jaye is the real seer. Meanwhile, Sharon has an unpleasant encounter with former law school rival Diana Littlefoot (Alex Rice), and Mahandra tries to verify her own Satsuma heritage so that she can qualify for a grant to pay off her student loans.For the full story on this episode, go to Wonderfalls:  "Totem Mole."

If Indians were in charge

The Bureau of Caucasian AffairsCertain barbaric white customs will, of course, not be allowed. Whites will not be allowed to practice their heathen religions, and will be required to attend Indian ceremonies. Missionaries will be sent from each tribe to convert the whites on the reservations. White churches will either be made into amusement parks or museums or will be torn down and the bricks and ornaments sold as souvenirs and curiosities.

One famous Indian movie director has even announced that in his upcoming film, Custer’s Last Stand, he will use many actual whites to play the parts of soldiers, speaking real English, although, of course, the part of Custer will be played by noted Indian actor Jay Silverheels.

Debating dubious literature

Reaction to Slapin’s review of Touching Spirit BearIT IS FICTION! JUST A STORY! It doesn’t matter if it is accurate or not.

Debbie: If a work of fiction said that 2+2=7, everybody would know it was a mistake. But we, as a society, know so little about American Indians that we don’t know when American Indian cultures are being misrepresented, stereotyped, or otherwise inappropriately used.
Comment:  I'm sure this poster wouldn't mind if we put Dubya in a clown suit for a movie version of 9/11. Why not, if it's clearly labeled fiction? "It's just a movie. It doesn't matter."

Yeah, right. See "It's Just a [Fill in the Blank]" for more of this kind of thinking.

Invoking Iron Eyes

Critic:  Harrah's uses Indians with "tears in the eyes" as pawns

September 26, 2006

Progress:  goal or illusion?

What American Indians can teach Christians about time and placeChristian thought, with its theology of an end of time in which God will establish a kingdom of heaven on earth, drives the Western concept of time, said Lee Irwin, chairman of the religious studies department at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Jewish thought points to a human Messiah to come, who will bring peace on earth, said Barry Feinstein, leader of the Westminster Jewish Congregation.

And many Westerners believe humankind can achieve world peace on its own because the world is progressing--or getting better--over time.

But can we make that assumption of progress? DeMallie asked.

For traditional Lakota Indians, he said, such a concept of achieving such a Utopian goal would be alien in a world that moves in unchanging natural cycles.

F Troop:  the movie?

A message from Bobby Logan:My producing partner, Alan Hall, and I have purchased the rights to turn "F Troop" into a feature film. As writer/director of four previous feature films (including the Leslie Nielsen Exorcist spoof "Repossessed" and "Meatballs 4" starring Corey Feldman), I've completed a screenplay for the "F Troop" movie. We are now in the process of finding the financing for the film, since I prefer to produce the movie as an independent feature (as opposed to having the studios finance it). My reasoning is that I want more control over casting--thus allowing me to cast Native American actors in the lead roles of the Hekawis without any interference from the studios.

Matter of fact, one idea I have is to assemble a group of Native America tribes who are doing well in the gaming industry to finance the project. Helping us to spread the word would be most beneficial to us all. Here's where I'm hoping you can help, Robert.

If you'd like much more info, please feel free to call me and I would be more than willing to answer any of your questions.


Bobby Logan

An Oscar for Gibson?

For Mel Gibson, a New Movie and More NotorietyAn early look at the movie—which is scheduled for release by Disney on Dec. 8—shows it to have at least some of the earmarks of an Oscar picture, including epic sweep and considerable ambition. The movie, shot entirely in an ancient Indian dialect, tells the story of a peaceful Mayan village that is violently conquered one morning by another Mayan tribe. Many of the inhabitants are brutally killed, and others are taken captive.

The story focuses on one villager, a man named Jaguar Paw, played by an American Indian newcomer named Rudy Youngblood, who survives the attack and struggles to escape captivity and save his wife and child.

In the course of the adventure, Mr. Gibson’s film portrays life in a huge Mayan city, constant warfare, slave culture and chilling scenes of human sacrifice.
Comment:  You can see a long trailer on the movie's official website. Check it out. Apocalypto may be violent and bloody, but it also looks like it could be the most spectacular movie about Natives ever.

Multiculturalism defined...incorrectly

Multiculturalism Breeds TerrorismMulticulturalism—a creation of leftist, Western, nihilistic, post-modern philosophy professors—begins by promoting "cultural relativism," which holds that all cultures are of equal value; no culture is better or worse than any other. Logically, this serves to de-value Western values, such as reason, science, productiveness, and each individual's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, by equating them with the most irrational and destructive practices of primitive, mystical cultures such as voodoo medicine, the subjugation of women by men, genital mutilation, and even cannibalism. As essentialized by Peter Schwartz, "Multiculturalism is the debased attempt to obliterate values by claiming that they are indistinguishable from non-values."For the correct definition, see Multiculturalism Defined.

September 25, 2006

War at Home report

The Super Dave episode of The War at Home has aired. For those who didn't see it, here's what you missed:

  • By my count, the PEACE PARTY display appeared in five scenes. The first one was the overhead establishing shot for the comic-book convention. In the other four, the characters passed by or stopped in front of the faux PEACE PARTY display.

  • The establishing shot showed the entire room with the top of the PEACE PARTY poster prominent in the lower part of the screen. The PEACE PARTY logo was arguably the most notable thing in view for three seconds.

  • The other scenes showed the PEACE PARTY display in the background for a second or two. One shot showed the cover of PP #1 at a severe angle; another showed the top of the cover of PP #2. Because the Indian drum and doll were in front of the display, the camera kept catching them.

  • Some additional thoughts:

  • Now I understand another reason why they wanted to use PEACE PARTY. I don't think they showed a single brand-name logo or character. No Superman, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Pokemon. (They did mention Captain America and Darth Vader, but that's about it.) I imagine they saved a lot of money by not using brand-name properties that would've required a licensing fee.

  • Other than that, the displays looked okay. But most conventions have long aisles with displays on either side. This convention had fans circulating around a couple of islands in the center of the room.

  • The convention was too small for the huge building it was in. It was about the size of the first tentative comic-book conventions held in the 1970s. Clearly the producers were limited to dressing up a single room and pretending it was a whole convention.

  • In reality, today's conventions are much, much larger. I estimate the San Diego Comic-Con is literally (not figuratively) 1,000 to 10,000 times larger than this convention was.

  • By showing everyone wearing goofy costumes and saying goofy things, the show trivialized the whole comic-book/sci-fi subculture. Actually, these people dress and act normally most of the time, even at conventions. Unlike the geeky boys in the show, they're probably more thoughtful and sensitive than average, not less.

  • Since everything the characters said was about made-up properties, I bet most people will think PEACE PARTY was a made-up property also. I doubt we'll see any bump in website traffic.

  • And a couple of corrections:

  • The convention was only modeled on the San Diego Comic-Con. It was set in Philadelphia, which I don't think has a major comic convention.

  • Only one of the geeky boys, Larry, was Dave's son. The other was Larry's geeky friend Kenny.

  • All in all, it was a typical episode of The War at Home. It was fun seeing the posters on-screen, but I doubt they'll register with anyone who didn't know about them already. Oh, well...every little bit of publicity helps.

    How missionaries destroyed Native life

    Neo-conservative’s roots were planted first by RockefellerAccording to Victor Halterman of SIL, this was often accomplished by seducing tribesmen with trinkets like knives, axes, and mirrors, "the kind of things the Indians can't resist." And then the missionaries "explain that from now on if they want to possess them they must work for money." The missionaries would then move them to reservations (as in Ecuador, where many indigenous people died in the transition), or get them work on the giant new cattle farms (many of which were owned by Rockefeller's International Basic Economy Corporation) that had begun to supplant the rainforest. In the end, the natives wound up virtually indentured to American corporations, but "settle[d] down at it when they realize[d] there's no going back."

    This strategy was successfully deployed throughout the Amazon Basin in countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Peru. And the consequent devastation to the Amazon rainforest, "the lungs of the planet," and the people who inhabited it were incalculable. As a result, SIL was eventually denounced and kicked out of a number of countries, including Mexico and Brazil, and was banned from entry into Venezuela. At a Yucatan indigenous people's conference 1980, SIL was officially denounced for using a scientific name to conceal its religious agenda and capitalist worldview that was hostile to indigenous traditions. But by that point it was already too late to do anything more than denounce.
    For more on the subject, see Globalization:  Exporting the American Way.

    Native vs. Western religions

    What American Indians can teach Christians about time and placeUnlike in Judaism and Christianity, Indian spiritual practice was tied directly to nature by a cycle of sacred events, he said, noting that spiritual practices varied widely from tribe to tribe.

    But overall, living in constant contact with nature's time was essential to gain sacred wisdom.

    Jews and Christians also have a cycle of sacred events, Irwin said, but it's a ritual cycle, not a directly seasonal one.

    For example, he said, Christmas happens to be in winter, but could occur in any season.
    For more on the subject, see Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs.

    AA meets Native culture

    Traveling AA convention has Native American feelA mix of traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and Native American culture will be part of the traveling Native American Indian AA Convention set for the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center next week.

    The convention will be a typical AA session, with speakers, 24-hour marathon meetings and information for families of alcoholics. But it also will include Native American touches such as a pow-wow and talking circles.
    For more on the subject, see Drunken Indians.

    The Indianoids

    September 24, 2006

    Sham of a SHAMAN

    Just read BATMAN:  SHAMAN, the first story arc in the comic LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, which debuted in 1989. For my thoughts on it, see Sham of a SHAMAN.

    History lesson or guilt trip?

    Bury My Guilt at Wounded Knee (Hollywood “Discovers” the Indians. Again.)Yes, some progress has been made. Real Natives are making movies with real Native actors about real Native lives. Meanwhile, the real Natives making movies with real Native actors about real Native lives; well, they don’t have the power and money to reach the kids from Laguna Beach. Their influence, while growing, is still pretty much relegated to screenings at festivals and atta-boys from indie-film fans.

    Hollywood, on the other hand, does have loads of power and money to reach the kids from Laguna Beach. So, what do they do with this clout? After all, this is the “We are the World” crowd that just luuuvs Indians. These are the folks that think Natives are just so…cool.

    They do what self-respecting mega-wealthy, do-as-I say-not-as-I-do liberals in the entertainment industry can always be counted on doing. To assuage their white guilt, they toss a couple o’ bones to the aggrieved minority while actually perpetuating the very stereotypes they profess to abhor.

    Case in point: HBO is filming a miniseries based on Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee to be aired next year. Hiring the crème de la crème of the Native acting world, HBO is putting ‘em in buckskin breeches and slapping on the war paint one more time.

    PEACE PARTY tonight!

    Reminder:  PEACE PARTY will be in The War at Home tonight (I hope) on Fox at 9:30 PST.

    September 23, 2006

    Another cute li'l Indian

    Little Hiawatha debuted in one of Disney's Silly Symphony cartoons in 1937. As Don Markstein reports:This particular Silly Symphony concerned a young boy's adventure in the woods. Hiawatha, no known relation to the hero of H.W. Longfellow's famous poem (and even less to the Hiawatha who once hunted Bugs Bunny), ventured forth with his little bow and arrow, intent on emulating the mighty hunters of his village. It turned out he was too soft-hearted to kill a rabbit, but that was okay—later, when he was endangered by a ferocious bear, the rabbit rounded up an animal posse and saved him. Hiawatha returned home safely but empty-handed.Little Hiawatha showed up next in the Silly Symphonies comic strip, where he appeared from 1940 to 1942. Some of the strips were reprinted in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES in 1943, and new adventures appeared in the same comic in 1952-53. Hiawatha's girlfriend Little Minnehaha also starred in a few stories of her own.

    Note Markstein's summaries of the character:Several writers and artists handled his series, but none did outstanding work on it. After pantomimes and stilted rhythms, this was the first time Hiawatha spoke normally, and the result was a lot of insultingly stereotyped dialog. Hiawatha's father, usually called Big Chief, was fat, lazy and not very bright.AndIt's been nearly half a century since Little Hiawatha has been seen in the country he's a native of, but he still turns up reasonably often in European comic books. One secret of his success there might be that he's treated as a human being, not a stereotype.Markstein should make up his mind since these comments are somewhat contradictory.

    Clarification on COMANCHE MOON

    A clarification from Russell Bates on my COMANCHE MOON posting:In the reviews (written by others, I know), the first one errs in that the Comanche did not dominate the Texas Plains. For if they did, the Kiowa, the Arapaho, the Wichita, the Caddo, and the Euchee certainly didn't know about it, among many other tribes. In fact, they were on an equivalent basis with the Kiowa, whom they never could defeat and so grudgingly made a kind of peace where the tribal competition became embodied in games and trading once a year in the spring.

    The second review errs in that the Comanche loved war no more than did the other Plains tribes with which they competed. And far from being simply 'nomadic,' all these tribes followed the annual migrations of the bison herds, stopping at summer camps in what are now the Dakotas and Canada, and winter camps in what are now Texas and Mexico, that almost always were in the same locations. Though tribes did skirmish frequently over territoriality, true war began only when European expansion and tribes fleeing the Europeans (such as those that became the Sioux) encroached on the Plains and interfered with or even stymied the millennially long-established routes to follow the bison.

    Healing through Mt. Rushmore

    Rushmore Chief Hopes Monument Becomes Place Of HealingBaker knows many Indians hold on to bad feelings about Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, and he's not expecting everyone to say, "We accept this." But he hopes Mount Rushmore can become a place for learning and healing for American Indians with Thursday's launch of a self-guided audio tour in several languages--including Lakota.

    "Ca wokisuya ki le justice na democracy ki Americans Indians ki wicakco na wiyuskinyan He Sapa el unpi kta," the Lakota language version welcomes.

    Translation: "This memorial to justice and democracy now invites American Indians to celebrate and teach their culture here in the heart of the He Sapa, place of the black cedar."

    PP #5 script online

    The final chapter of the first PEACE PARTY saga is online for your inspection.

    There isn't much Indian lore this time around, but please check it anyway. Look for plot points that are unclear, characterizations that don't make sense, pacing problems, structural flaws, etc. All criticisms are welcome.

    First thoughts on Apocalypto

    Mel ambushes Comanche with 'Apocalypto'"Everybody who saw 'Apocalypto' seemed to like it," KSWO-TV reporter Monte Brown told GoldDerby about the secret screening Mel Gibson held in Lawton, Oklahoma for about 50 members of the Comanche tribe. "Nobody I talked to had anything negative to say."

    "It's nonstop action from beginning to end," one audience member told KSWO. Other viewers made it sound more like nonstop bloodshed, which is typical of most Mel movies, especially that devout Christian one.

    September 22, 2006

    Pocahontas rescue not significant

    Story of Pocahontas saving Smith missing from Jamestown movieSmith is shown being captured by Indians and taken to Powhatan, who ruled over a chiefdom that had about 15,000 people. But no mention is made of the chief's daughter, Pocahontas, throwing her body over Smith's to save his life as Powhatan was about to club him to death.

    "The Pocahontas-rescuing-John Smith story is certainly the most dramatic and well-known of the early incidents in Virginia history, but frankly people have questioned whether it happened at all," senior curator Thomas Davidson said after a screening Wednesday for reporters.

    If it did, it's not as significant as other events portrayed in the film, which had to be kept short enough in order to be shown to visitors every 30 minutes, Davidson said.

    Preparing for Turkey Day

    Native Americans and ThanksgivingTeachers work very hard and receive little respect for their work. And, they are underpaid, too, often spending chunks of their too-small salary to buy things their school cannot provide. Due to lack of time and resources, teachers often recycle activities from one year to the next. I think Thanksgiving reeactments are one of those things. Developing new ways of teaching about Thanksgiving will take time and money. Before that can happen, however, teachers must learn more about Pilgrims, Indians, and "The First Thanksgiving."

    They can start with Deconstructing the Myths of "The First Thanksgiving," a free resource available at Oyate. It includes three lists of books: 1) Recommended Books about Thanksgiving, 2) "Books to Avoid" about Thanksgiving, and 3) Primary Sources from a Colonialist Perspective.

    Inupiaq dances with wolves

    Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead GeorgeFirst published in 1972 by Harper & Row, Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973. It is included on a wide range of recommended book lists. It is available in audio and video; there is a sequel to it. Numerous teacher's guide and activity books are available for teachers to use when teaching the book.

    A few days ago on child_lit (an Internet listserv for discussion of children's books), a subscriber posted a link to a review of the book on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network webpage. The reviewer, Martha Stackhouse, is Inupiaq. She points out misrepresentations and misconceptions of Inupiaq culture, and says "I humbly would not recommend the book to be put on school shelves."

    Those greedy Senecas

    Jackson:  Seneca casino is "gambling joint" that'll "suck money"

    September 21, 2006

    Cranky about Kronk

    Last month I listed all the recent Disney movies featuring Indians. The only movie I hadn't commented on was Kronk's New Groove, the direct-to-video sequel to The Emperor's New Groove. Now I've seen it and here are my thoughts.

    Oscar buzz for Beach?

    The Power of an Image Drives Film by EastwoodOscar season is only just getting under way, but on credentials alone a presumptive front-runner would have to be Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” the World War II epic about the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, which began screening for selected journalists this week in New York.

    Mr. Eastwood’s last two movies, after all, were “Mystic River,” which picked up best picture and best directing nominations in 2004, and “Million Dollar Baby,” which won in both categories in 2005. Paul Haggis, who wrote the shooting script for “Flags of Our Fathers,” also wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and was a co-writer of the Oscar-winning screenplay for last year’s best picture, “Crash.” To top it off, the movie’s producers include Steven Spielberg, whose battlefield decorations include Oscars for “Saving Private Ryan” and Emmys for the mini-series “Band of Brothers.”
    Comment:  Some people think Adam Beach may get nominated for his role playing Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian who was one of the six flag-bearers.

    White boy does animal dances

    Touching Spirit Bear, by Ben Mikaelsen – A Review by Beverly SlapinTouching Spirit Bear is fatally flawed by Mikaelsen’s inexcusable playing around with Tlingit culture, cosmology and ritual; and his abysmal lack of understanding of traditional banishment. It is obvious that what he doesn’t know, he invents. Edwin, the Tlingit elder, instructs Cole to: jump into the icy cold water and stay there as long as possible; pick up a heavy rock (called the “ancestor rock”) and carry it to the top of a hill; push the rock (now called the “anger rock”) back down the hill; watch for animals and dance around the fire to impersonate the animal he sees (called the “bear dance,” “bird dance,” “mouse dance,” etc.); announce what he’s learned about the characteristics of that animal from his dance; and finally, carve that animal on his own personal “totem pole.”

    This is all garbage. The purpose of banishment is to isolate a person so that, in solitude, he can think deeply about his life and relations, and prepare to rejoin his community. When someone is banished, he is left to learn on his own whatever is to be learned. It is not about white boys “playing Indian.” It is not about teaching white boys the rituals of another culture. And most especially, it is not about carrying rocks up a hill and performing a bunch of stupid cross-cultural animal impersonation dances.

    Robbie Robertson honored

    Robbie Robertson Recipient of Performing Arts AwardThe Governor General of Canada Awards for lifetime achievement for performing arts will be handed out in a private ceremony on Friday, Nov. 3rd, in Ottawa.

    Blues-roots legend Robbie Robertson has been named a 2006 recipient of the prestigious award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the music industry in Canada. One of blues-rock music's most influential musicians, the singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer is a living symbol of the nation's multicultural character. "He is a living symbol of brilliant roots musicianship, spiritual insight and Canada's multicultural character," the awards jury stated.

    PBS to explore Indians today

    Series on contemporary Indian issues coming to a TV set near youA 13-part television series set to air early next year examines issues relevant to modern-day Native Americans such as tribal sovereignty, treaties, Indain spirituality and celebrations as well as economic development, politics and education.

    “Indian Pride” is being produced by Prairie Public Television of Fargo, North Dakota, and will air on PBS stations nationwide come February.

    September 20, 2006


    PEACE PARTY showcased in The War at Home

    Native-Themed Comic Book Is First to Appear on National TV

    Set your TiVos and VCRs! PEACE PARTY, the multicultural comic book featuring Native Americans, will appear in The War at Home Sunday, Sept. 24.

    For the full story, read the press release.

    Native actress struggles with weight

    Not in Hollywood, Girl:  A Mohawk and CheeseburgerAfter Dreamkeeper, I became a health nut and stayed away from processed foods. I hated seeing our people portrayed as “a bunch of fat Indians.” I decided not to portray this horrible image any longer. I began to work out to the point of fainting and sickness. This new found perspective brought me into a place where I was concerned not only for my health, but for all Natives. I’m all for “fry-bread power”, but I don’t think anyone should eat it daily. I visit a lot of reservations where foods like fire-hot Cheetos, pizza and Mountain Dew make a meal. On the other hand, I do love banick-bread, macaroni soup and commodity cheese. My mom’s dumpling soup could make any mouth water.

    But then I look around myself and see that a lot of our people are over-weight. I did some research and found that over 60% of Native Americans are overweight, and 18% are morbidly obese. I also found that the new generation of children in elementary school has the highest average weight than ever before. When children are obese, it’s time to take a look at things.

    Aboriginal South Park

    bro’Town:  APTN Premieres New Zealand’s “Aboriginal ‘South Park’”It’s been called “The Aboriginal South Park.”

    It’s not at all politically correct and it’s not like anything you’ve probably seen before.

    You can see this international phenom starting this October on Canada’s APTN.

    What am I talking about, you ask?


    Native women PIs

    Mystery Books With Native American Women As Main Characters

    September 19, 2006

    Likes-to-Shop-a-Lot Girl

    Chief is reflection of American Indian educationWe also need to look at how we're teaching out teachers. My college roommate, an elementary education major, came home one day with an American Indian paper doll and told me her assignment was to decorate the doll's dress and give her "an Indian name." She brought the assignment home because, in all seriousness, she thought it was cute and that I'd enjoy it.

    "I'm going to draw little daisies on the dress and call her 'Likes to Shop a lot Girl'," she said to me.

    "How about you teach your students about genocide and forced assimilation, instead of shopping" I replied.

    "Relax, it's just a doll."

    As a child, I thought for sure I had come from a long line of blood thirsty, vengeful people who didn't know enough to recognize the U.S. government had only their best interests in mind and as a result the government had no choice but to use force, deadly force. Today I know that these feelings, this subconscious learning, are wrong, but I also know that millions of other students and adults, native and non-native alike, don't know that, and may never know that.
    Comment:  As I've said many times, kids can't filter out harmful stereotypes even if adults can. By the time they're old enough to ignore such images, they've already been affected.

    Tintin in Redskin City

    Tintin in AmericaOne of the students brought Tintin in America. The author, Herge, is Belgian, and the book was published in Belgium in 1932. I will get a copy and read it, and invite anyone who knows the book to send me your thoughts about it.

    In the book, Tintin goes to "Redskin City." From what I saw, the Indians are stereotypical characters in feathered headdress and buckskin. On the cover of the book, Tintin is tied to a post in front of two tipis. An Indian appears to be calling to others to join him; he brandishes a tomahawk in one hand and points to Tintin with the other.

    FSU to teach Seminole history

    At FSU, students learn the history of university's namesake tribeNearly 60 years ago, Florida State University students voted to adopt the name "Seminoles" for the school's athletic teams. Now, FSU students are able to learn more about the history and culture of this "unconquered" American Indian tribe through a newly created course, "History of the Seminoles and Southeastern Tribes, Pre-Contact to Present."

    Introduced this semester as an elective course for undergraduates, its 45 seats were immediately filled.
    Comment:  FSU begins to do what it could have and should have done decades ago. Yippie.

    For the background to this story, see Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay.

    More Indians in Star Trek

    American Indians
    The Paradise Syndrome
    How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
    Dawson Walking Bear
    Kukulkan's ship
    Ensign William Bearclaw

    Summing up Mel Gibson

    Indian Comics Irregular #144:  Mad Mel's Upcoming Apocalypto

    September 18, 2006

    "Duh" about Indians

    Chief is reflection of American Indian educationAs we walked into an exhibit, a large screen flashed images of American Indians. One was a construction worker, another a young professional and another a farmer. As the images were displayed a voice overlay said something to the effect of "Everyday you may come in contact with an American Indian and not even know it. They're workers, teachers. . ." etc.

    My first thought was, "Um, duh?"

    My second thought was a little heavier. I remembered doing research a year earlier for a college paper about the Washington Redskins and the sports mascot debate. For many people, the portrayals of American Indians in movies, television, halftime shows, books and cartoons may be the only "contact" they ever have with the American Indian culture. The context of the stories told about American Indians is almost always in the past tense, in a past time, contributing to a subconscious thought that American Indians no longer exist and/or are part of fairy tales.

    That's why the exhibit at the museum felt compelled to explain to its visitors that American Indians exist today--you just might not recognize them because they're in hard hats and suits.

    The Last Roundup

    In this Star Trek novel, author Christie Golden adds several Native American touches. Foremost among them is the supporting character of Admiral Laura Standing Crane, whom Kirk supposedly has known almost as long as Spock. Standing Crane wears her hair in a braid, swears by the Great Spirit, and smudges to cleanse her quarters. When a group of Starfleet officers explains Earth's history to an alien, one officer notes that his ancestors killed or oppressed Standing Crane's ancestors.

    Also, when McCoy is training interns on Klingon anatomy (this story takes place after The Undiscovered Country), they have to dispose of a dissected Klingon body. One of the interns mutters something about "the only good Klingon...," whereupon McCoy berates him for using a racist phrase first applied to Indians.

    Overall, it's just a good ST novel, not great. Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.

    Big stereotypes on the prairie

    Little House on the PrairieOne young woman remembers the phrase in the book "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" and another remembers feeling worried that Laura and her family were in danger.

    Along with the book, the students read Michael Dorris's essay "Trusting the Words," in which he describes the joy with which he set out to read Little House to his daughters, only to be taken aback by the negative portrayals. He tried to edit them out as he read aloud, but eventually gave up.

    Cherokee draws dead people

    DEAD EYES OPEN, a zombie comic drawn by Roy Boney Jr. (Cherokee).

    September 17, 2006

    Cultural stereotypes shape relations

    Why nations trust or don't trust each other:

    Trust pays off[N]either close proximity nor common language alone affects the relative faith one country has in another. For instance, the British and French—separated only by the English Channel—tend not to trust each other. Something beyond the objective is at work.

    The three cultural factors, according to the team’s research, play a significant role in forming trust. Fewer ethnic ties lowered respondents’ confidence in foreigners by more than 6 percent. The number of years their states had been at war in the last millennia also mattered. And between states where 90 percent of the population shared the same religion, as with Italy and Spain, trust rose 30 percent. Ethnicity and religion, Zingales notes, are particularly powerful indicators.
    Comment:  I suspect this analysis applies to the US and its Indian nations also. For instance, I bet relations are better in the Southwest, where there's more shared ethnicity and religion, than in the Northeast.

    Indians expanded presidential power

    Executive OrderThe occupation of the BIA was the central drama in a trilogy of crises that affected American Indian affairs during Patterson’s four years in the Nixon White House. The first was the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, an abandoned federal prison site in San Francisco Bay; the third was the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation. All ended peacefully. For Patterson, who played a leading role in the government’s response, these events stand out as high points in a public-service career going from the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration through the Gerald R. Ford White House. They also illustrate what Patterson terms a profound shift in United States government since the Second World War: the movement of policy making and execution away from the traditional executive-branch departments—Interior, State, Labor, and the others—to the White House and the president’s staff. It was Patterson and his boss, Leonard Garment, who coordinated the government’s response to the three American Indian crises of the Nixon years, not officials of the Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    The shift is part of an ongoing centralization of executive power that has weakened the departments and strengthened the presidency. It has given birth to a new kind of public administration that, Patterson believes, can respond better to the complexity of the modern world—and to such crises as the 1972 BIA occupation.

    Reviewing Native movies

    How to Review a Bad Movie (or Better Yet, Avoid Them Altogether...…)

    I say hold Native movies to the same standard as any other movie. If you want 1-2 hours of my time, I want a good movie. And by that I mean a story that works--that entertains and enlightens--not glitzy production values. A good story costs nothing to develop and is priceless when done right (which is all too rare, alas).

    My favorite Native movie (so far) is probably The Business of Fancydancing, which is probably one of the lowest-budget Native movies ever made. Movies like Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Fast Runner probably didn't cost much (except for the location shooting) either. It's not about whether you have big-name talent or cutting-edge technology; it's about whether you can tell a real story with real characters.

    In short, if the writing is there, the rest will follow. If it isn't, no amount of acting, directing, filming, or editing can make it more than a glossy piece of mediocrity.

    New blog on kids' lit

    American Indians in Children's Literature

    Critical discussion of children's books that contain images and content about American Indians.

    A film that won't leave you cold

    Paul Rickard's "The Winter Chill" ... or "How to Make a Quality Short Film by Somebody Who's Done Just That"

    September 16, 2006

    Hoosiers on the rez

    Just watched Edge of America, which I reported on in my last Indian Comics Irregular (Slam Dunk and Strike Out). Short verdict: Good but not great.

    On the positive side, it gave us another nitty-gritty look at life on the rez. More so than the Hillerman movies or even Skins or Smoke Signals, this feels like the real thing. And we may have seen more Native women on the rez--more Native women, period--than we've ever seen before. Good to know they're not just stoic helpmates to male warriors.

    On the negative side, the cultural and racial conflicts felt undermotivated at best, contrived at worst. In some movies, you know how the big picture doesn't quite hang together even though all the details work? This movie was the opposite. The overall thrust made sense but every little bit seemed unbelievable.

    Rob's rating:  7.5 iof 10.

    Trudell on art over politics

    Still confrontingICT: Art can change us more than politics?

    Trudell: The politics belong to somebody else so it's likely to never synchronize with us; but again, our culture and our art--that's us. That's the reality of who we are, and it is only through this way that we can truly speak our truths. We couldn't do it through the politics because you had to compromise your truths or deny them to get things done. But through our culture and our art we can speak our truths. We can express the reality of who we are and how we feel and how we see. And this communication and expression of reality I think is very important for us collectively as a people because it is some kind of a bonding. It's some kind of a joining, communion almost in a way.

    September 15, 2006

    Mascots influence everything

    Changing mascots doesn’t signal failure, lack of honorThe question of mascots is significant for Native Americans. It transcends sports and entertainment. It influences law. It dominates resource management. It profoundly impacts every aspect of contemporary American Indian policy and shapes both the general cultural view of the Indian as well as Indian self-image. No groups other than the Indian face the legal situation in which their land, as well as their economic, political and cultural fate, is so completely in the hands of others. That is so because of the way in which substantial tribal resources are held “in trust,” with the management and regulation, if not always operation, resting with the federal government as “trustee.” The result is that the non-Indian in the U.S. Congress and in the executive branch control the fate of Indian peoples and their resources when they legislate and administer practices and policies.

    The Indian image is, therefore, an especially crucial and controlling one because it is that image (often reflected in mascots like the Redman) which looms large as non-Indians decide the fate of Indian people. If the non-Indian decision makers continue to view native people as dinosaurs, as redskins or warriors, as happy hunter on the way to extinction, the policy will be different from what it would be if the decision–makers saw beyond the mascot and the stereotype.

    Prayer or address?

    From the Press-Republican, 9/15/06:

    Mohawks' Thanksgiving Address may yield to intelligent compromise"Today, we are gathered, and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one."

    These are the opening words to the Thanksgiving Address at the center of a persistent disagreement in the Salmon River Central School District.

    "The words that come before all else" had been heard with the daily announcements and Pledge of Allegiance at the main campus and the St. Regis Mohawk Elementary School until a complaint came last year.

    The passage was labeled a prayer by attorneys advising the School Board. The lawyers say its recital was a violation of the separation of church and state.

    Mohawk students and parents say it is a cultural expression, not a prayer, and should be allowed.
    For the beginnings of this controversy, see Mohawk Students Silenced for Giving Thanks to Creation.

    Stereotypical or just stupid?

    Maurice and Earl refers to Natives' "sacred animal," "squaw"

    September 14, 2006

    Mad Mel of the Apocalypto

    How Mad Is Mad Mel? Waiting for 'Apocalypto'Mr. Gibson’s new film, “Apocalypto,” was already one of the most talked-about of the season, largely because of the Crazy Mel factor. Even for him, the oddball quotient is high. An action movie set in the dying days of the Maya civilization, the 15th century, “Apocalypto” was made in the Yucatec dialect without a single recognizable actor, and shot in the jungles of Mexico, where heavy rains slowed production and postponed its planned release from this summer. Photos from the set showed that Mr. Gibson had grown a full beard and let its central white streak grow longer than the rest, as if defiantly choosing to look like an aging eccentric.

    As a director, he has been some kind of mad genius so far, anticipating what audiences want with startling clarity: making a sword-and-sandals epic when it was no longer fashionable, yet winning Oscars (including best director) for “Braveheart” (1995); turning what seemed a gigantic folly—a gruesome, subtitled, self-financed passion play—into a $600 million worldwide blockbuster with “The Passion” (2004). But those photos from Mexico and the subject of “Apocalypto”—the hero, called Jaguar Paw, is chosen as a human sacrifice and makes a fast-paced escape through the rain forest—were enough to make anyone wonder whether Mr. Gibson had finally gone around the bend and turned into some cinematic Kurtz, lost in the dark jungle.
    Will it be about the savagery of Indians, or the savagery of all people, including us?The film’s Web site, put up months ago, still heralds it as “a heart-stopping mythic action-adventure,” and the trailer (a notoriously unreliable guide, but all we have) suggests it is squarely aimed at fans of “Braveheart.” As Jaguar Paw races through the jungle pursued by torch-bearing warriors, the movie seems fraught with the kind of action that makes Yucatec or any other language superfluous. There will be subtitles, but Mr. Gibson, who wrote the screenplay with his former assistant, Farhad Safinia, has said there isn’t much dialogue anyway. Some actors have extravagantly painted faces, while others are caked with white powder from a lime quarry. There is romance, or at least there has been sex: we see Jaguar Paw look tenderly at a pregnant woman. And a huge crowd scene at a Mayan temple is presided over by a man with clawlike nails straight from a horror film.

    More mysteriously, in May Mr. Gibson told Time magazine, “The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.” That adds an intriguing, media-ready frisson, but now even attacks on the Bush administration can’t displace the Mel Meltdown in any discussion of “Apocalypto.” Mr. Gibson’s drunken comments and his two public statements of apology have landed in a changed world of celebrity gossip and Internet speculation, which won’t let this story fade.
    Only time will tell.

    Transmitting knowledge via comics

    See my posting in Pictographs on using comics to transmit cultural knowledge to native (African) people.

    Also check out the new header, which I kind of like.

    September 13, 2006

    NativeVue debuts

    New Webzine Keeps it Live, Informative and EntertainingMost people, when asked what they know about Native American films will tell you Dances With Wolves or maybe a TNT western. Even those familiar with Native cinema have difficulty accessing information on movies, actors and directors, as well as finding out where they can actually see their favorite films.

    Premiered this month, NativeVue Film & Media ( is a new online magazine dedicated to cultivating an interest in Native American cinema by featuring North America’s most innovative indigenous filmmakers and performers. The webzine includes feature articles, bloggers from the publishing, radio, and film industries, and a discussion forum—all with the purpose to communicate what’s out there, who’s doing it, and why it’s important.

    Pix of Hopi Partitioned Land

    Hopi Partitioned Land--Summer 2001 by Marc Daems.

    September 12, 2006

    The vicious cycle of stereotyping

    500 years of terrorismWhen human beings can be labeled as less than human their deaths become meaningless. This is the apparent belief of the terrorists and the early settlers. By portraying all Indians as murdering savages, rapists, kidnappers and worse, the national media of the day laid the groundwork for Wounded Knee. In article after article urging the government to remove the Indian people by any means from their homelands, the media stood guilty of fomenting acts of terrorism. Similar articles in the media and speeches in the mosques in the Nations of Islam expressed similar views of Americans. This laid the groundwork for 9/11. A lie repeated often enough becomes a fact in the minds of impressionable people. Indians are savages, Americans are infidels and Arabs are heathens. Do you see how this logic works?

    Just as the Crusaders believed it was their Christian duty to conquer and kill those Arabs they considered as sub-humans and heathens, so too did America duplicate their misguided logic against the First Americans. The people of the Islamic Nations never forgave nor forgot. The Indian people have largely forgiven, but they have not forgotten. The Christians of the Crusade de-humanized the Arabs, the early Americans de-humanized the Indians and the People of Islam now de-humanize Westerners. It is a vicious cycle that is centuries old.