December 31, 2007

Review of The North American Indian

Here's something all aficionados of Indians should put on their wish lists:

The North American Indian
by Edward S. CurtisA unique pictorial record of more than 80 American Indian tribes At the turn of the century, the American photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952) started on his thirty-year project to produce a monumental study of North American Indians. Using an approach that was both artistically and scientifically ambitious he recorded, in words and pictures, the traces of the traditional Indian way of life that was already beginning to die out.

With tireless personal commitment Curtis visited American Indian tribes from the Mexican border to the Bering Straits, gaining their confidence by his patience and sensitivity. This, his photographic life’s work, was printed in 20 volumes between 1907 and 1930 as The North American Indian. There were only 272 copies in total, so original copies are now extremely rare. This book gives lasting life to Curtis’s great achievements by making the photographs available again.
Comment:  This is possibly the greatest bargain in the annals of Indian history and culture. The book has 576 pages, perhaps 700 photos, and is selling it for $10.92. That's about 1.5 cents per photo.

Having studied the photographs, I'd say the usual critcism of Curtis is overblown. Yes, he staged his photos. He dressed the subjects in traditional or ceremonial clothes they didn't normally wear. And he eliminated any signs of modern life: no buildings, cars, signs, or pots and pans.

But his purpose was to document traditional Indian cultures, so I understand his intent. If people didn't live this way, they were only a few years removed from this lifestyle. It's not as if he were recreating scenes out of books by people who had never experienced them firsthand.

The worst charge against Curtis is that he romanticized Indians. I don't quite see it. For the most part, the photos are straight portraits. A person standing against a nondescript landscape isn't inherently romantic.

These are sepia-toned photos with hazy backgrounds. It's not as if the Indians are staring wistfully into the distance at purple mountain majesties. I've seen romantic paintings and these aren't the same.

If anything, they're the opposite of romantic. The people in his photos look pretty mundane. When they weren't posing, they were probably suffering: traditional way of life going or gone, forced to take up farming, ceremonies banned by the government, children removed to boarding schools, etc.

A lot of these photos are so prosaic that I can't say The North American Indian is exquisite or magnificent. But as a historical document, it should be one of the basic books in your library. Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

Pictured below: A Hopi man from Walpi who could be the model for PEACE PARTY's Billy Honanie. (A Curtis photo that isn't in the book.)

How mascots foster racism

Tim Giago:  Mascots insulting to most Indians[E]ven if UND alumni wanted to retain this apparently erroneous name, it is what they do in presenting that image I find reprehensible. One year when UND played its main rival, the North Dakota State Bison, a cartoon image made the rounds of an Indian warrior sexually mounting a buffalo with the appropriate language attached. Another time in the city of Bismarck just before a renewal of this instate rivalry, some fans of North Dakota State were calling their UND rivals “The F_ _ _ing Sioux.” They used the “F” word to not only insult the fans of UND, but collaterally insulted all Native Americans in the state.

If one happened to be in Champagne/Urbana, Illinois before a big sporting event, in order to laud their mascot, Chief Illiniwek, a white boy dressed up in Native attire, one could see images of bleary-eyed, drunken Indians painted on the windows of the downtown bars. On sale in the local markets and drugstores, one could purchase rolls of toilet paper with images of Indians imprinted on every sheet.

One year, before a big football game between the Minnesota Gophers and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, stuffed Indian dummies could be seen with ropes around their necks hanging from buildings and trees on the Minnesota campus.

Now any Indian or white that finds the things I have written above as “honoring” American Indians holds a very different view of what the word “honor” holds for the majority of Native Americans.

I cannot end this piece without referring to the Sunday a few years ago when the fans of the Washington professional football team (I will not use the “R” word here), painted a pig red, placed a feathered bonnet on its head, and then chased it around the football field at halftime. If they had painted a pig black and placed an Afro wig on its head and chased it around the football field at halftime, how many African Americans would have considered that an “honor?”

The downside of "civilization"

Hunter-gatherers:  Noble or savage?

The era of the hunter-gatherer was not the social and environmental Eden that some suggest[With the advent of agriculture] it seems that Eden came to an end. Not only had hunter-gatherers enjoyed plenty of protein, not much fat and ample vitamins in their diet, but it also seems they did not have to work very hard. The Hadza of Tanzania “work” about 14 hours a week, the !Kung of Botswana not much more.

The first farmers were less healthy than the hunter-gatherers had been in their heyday. Aside from their shorter stature, they had more skeletal wear and tear from the hard work, their teeth rotted more, they were short of protein and vitamins and they caught diseases from domesticated animals: measles from cattle, flu from ducks, plague from rats and worms from using their own excrement as fertiliser.

They also got a bad attack of inequality for the first time. Hunter-gatherers' dependence on sharing each other's hunting and gathering luck makes them remarkably egalitarian. A successful farmer, however, can afford to buy the labour of others, and that makes him more successful still, until eventually—especially in an irrigated river valley, where he controls the water—he can become an emperor imposing his despotic whim upon subjects. Friedrich Engels was probably right to identify agriculture with a loss of political innocence.

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Tribe as special interest again

Councilman:  Eastern Cherokee are "isolated special interest"

December 30, 2007

The bogus Cleveland Indians story

The imaginary and true origins of the “indians” name for the Cleveland baseball teamThe Cleveland indians baseball team, in its official version of its history, claims that the team was named in honor of Louis Sockalexis the first Indigenous Major League player. On its web page ( the Cleveland indians MLB organization propagates its mythology about how the name was chosen.The myth:The team employed several nicknames throughout the years prior to the arrival of Sockalexis and after his departure. The one that was used for the longest period of time was “Naps,” in honor of the team’s player-manager Napolean Lajoie.

After Lajoie was released in 1914, a Cleveland newspaper held a contest to rename the team. The winning entry in the contest was “Indians.” The fan who sent it in explained that the name would be a testament to the game’s first American Indian player. The memory of Louis Sockalexis was not forgotten then, and today, decades later, he is still remembered.
The reality:Cleveland Press, January 7, 1915

President C. W. Somers of the Naps has appointed the sporting editor of The Press a members of a committee of sport writers to select a new nickname for the team.

The sporting editor wants the fans to help name the team.

The Cleveland Leader, January 17, 1915

“New Name for local American League Club is Selected by Writers.”

The Indians are with us! That’s what will greet the Cleveland American League club when it hits a rival city this year, as the Naps have been officially laid to rest. In place of the Naps, we’ll have the Indians, on the warpath all the time, and eager for scalps to dangle at their belts.

[T]he name should prove a good one and may be a mascot which will aid the locals in more ways than one. Ball players as a rule are superstitious and the change in name may work wonders with them. The old “Naps” seemed to imply lack of speed and fight and the new one shows just the opposite.
The website's conclusion:Either the honor to Indigenous Peoples and particularly Louis Sockalexis somehow escaped the notice of the 4 Cleveland Dailies at the time, or the official Cleveland indians history is a fabrication. But the re-naming did not escape notice by the Cleveland newspapers. In fact it prompted the articles we have reprinted here--all of which contained racist, demeaning references to Indigenous Peoples.

The only mention of Louis Sockalexis in association with the new name was an obscure, op-ed piece that offers the Sockalexis history as an afterthought to embellish the new name.

Creative Spirit filmmakers speak

“Creative Spirit” Films Premiere at Paramount StudiosAncestor Eyes

Ancestor Eyes tells the story of a mother (Tantoo Cardinal) coming to terms with the declining health of her daughter (Rulan Tangen). “I really wanted to do an homage to matriarchal power, to the love between a mother and a daughter,” said Queypo. “An homage to the life-givers and the caregivers.”

Queypo emphasizes the circular nature of his themes. The mother thinks she knows best but learns from the daughter, who becomes the parent and guide. The mother lets go of her preconceptions and accepts what’s happening.

Two Spirits, One Journey

Two Spirits, One Journey deals with a gay relationship on the Pine Ridge reservation. Luke (Alex Meraz) wants to come out and be himself, even if it means leaving the rez. Chris (Patrick David) would rather pretend to be straight than face ostracism.

“When I first started writing this, it was a personal story, so I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure what the ramifications would be,” said Imitates Dog. Normally, “we just don’t talk about it.”
Pictured below:  Kalani Queypo.

Documentary on Old Hickory

Andrew Jackson Killed Rival, Banished Indians, Stole Man's WifeJackson's harsh treatment of American Indians gets a thorough airing, especially his support of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that forced tribes living east of the Mississippi River to move to unsettled territories in the West. Thousands of men, women and children died during the relocation.

His handling of slaves also was brutal. Historian Bobby L. Lovett recounts that Jackson once offered a reward to anyone who administered 300 lashes to one of his escaped slaves--a virtual death sentence.

Sexy stereotypes on YouTube

Indian women are "squaws," sex objects in YouTube videos

Fun stereotypes on Halloween

eBay auctions Red Indian girl, squaw, Pocahontas costumes

December 29, 2007

The Emperor's new sacrilege

At this point I've watched 9-10 episodes of The Emperor's New School. It continues to be as I described it: a smart-mouthed farce with trite moral lessons. The anachronisms continue, as do the magical transformations. Message: Indians are fantasy beings in a fantasy world divorced from reality.

As I noted before, the show is almost devoid of real Inca culture or history. Here are the only references I've seen:

  • The phony legend of "Micchu Pachu," which I discussed before.

  • A story about "shuacas," who are supposedly beings who live under the earth and horde treasure. This appears to be a ripoff of European legends about trolls, dwarves, or leprechauns, not an actual Inca legend.

  • One appearance of the Inca god Viracocha.

  • A temple of an unnamed "sky god."

  • These references to gods are instructive, so let's look at them. According to Wikipedia:In Inca mythology, Apu Qun Tiqsi Wiraqutra, commonly known today as Con-Tici Viracocha or simply Viracocha, was the creator of civilization, and one of the most important deities in the Inca canon. Encyclopedia Mythica defines Viracocha as "The supreme Inca god, synthesis of sun-god and storm-god.""Oops, All Doodles"

    In this episode, Kuzco and his friends are guarding a valuable mask. Kuzco falls asleep and thinks (or dreams) he sees Viracocha, who has come to retrieve the mask.

    Kuzco correctly identifies Viracocha as "the creator, the great power above." Does he bow down to this supreme deity? No, he's so egotistical that he expects Viracocha to bow to him. He then imagines Viracocha imitating a llama and doing a stand-up comedy routine.

    Could there be a better example of how The Emperor's New School disdains Indian culture? A supreme deity is treated like a joke. To the show's creators, he's no different from Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. He's infinitely less important, not more important, than a human emperor who should be groveling at his feet.

    Imagine if The Emperor's New School had shown the Christian God or Jesus prancing on all fours like an ass. It's unthinkable. Yet the show has been just that insulting to an Inca god who's as powerful and real as the biblical God.

    Later, Viracocha appears to appear in a doorway. The school's instructor blurts out, "You're supposed to be a myth!" (The figure turns out to be Pacha, who has borrowed the mask for a masquerade, not Viracocha.)

    There you go. The Christian God is so holy that TV shows rarely mention him for fear of upsetting someone. Indian gods are myths to be made fun of.

    The same could be said of Indian culture, or Indians. According to The Emperor's New School, they aren't real people, they're myths to be made fun of. They had some wacky adventures when they lived centuries ago in a magical never-never land, but now they're dead and gone.


    In this episode, Kuzco goes to the Temple of the Sky God. This god is represented by a statue that looks like Virococha holding a lightning bolt like Zeus. Because people resent him, Kuzco wishes he'd never been emperor. In a blast of magical power, the god (or the statue) grants his wish.

    Again we see a lack of respect for Indian culture and religion. There's no solemnity or spirituality in this Inca temple. The god is a Wizard of Oz-style magician who grants wishes to anyone, whether he's been faithful or not. This god is less discriminating than Santa Claus, who at least requires people to be nice.

    According to The Emperor's New School, an Indian civilization like the Inca empire is just like every other fantasyland: Oz, Wonderland, Narnia, et al. If someone announced these people lived in a galaxy far, far away, few viewers would think twice about it. Indians might as well remain in Neverland with the pirates, mermaids, and fairies, because they're no more real than other imaginary creatures.

    No wonder so many kids think Indians are dead and gone. That's the message they're getting from Saturday morning TV.

    Dances with Wolves in film registry

    Back to the Future, Bullitt added to National Film RegistryLibrarian of Congress James H. Billington today named 25 motion pictures--classics from every era of American filmmaking-to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, including "Bullitt," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Grand Hotel," "Oklahoma!" and "12 Angry Men."

    The selections were made as part of a program aimed at preserving the nation's movie heritage. Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act of 1992, each year the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the National Film Preservation Board, names 25 films to the National Film Registry to be preserved for all time. The films are chosen because they are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. This year's selections bring to 475 the number of motion pictures in the registry.

    Dances With Wolves (1990)
    A personal project for star Kevin Costner, "Dances with Wolves" disproved a reputation Western films had acquired in the latter years of the 20th Century for being money-losers. The film also became the second Western to win the Academy Award for Best Film. The movie presents a fairly simple, intimate story (the quest of a cavalry soldier to get to know a nearby Sioux tribe and his resulting spiritual transformation) in an epic fashion, with sweeping cinematography and a majestic John Barry score. The film marks one of the more sympathetic portraits of Native-American life ever shown in American cinema, and introduced the American public to Lakota Sioux folklore, traditions and language.
    Comment:  Are there any other films with Native themes in the registry? Not that I know of.

    Now, Voyager, 12 Angry Men, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind should've been in the registry long ago. They're among the top 100 American films, not to mention the top 475.

    Press befuddled by Means

    The Indians just quit US! ... Or DID they?

    Sioux Indians "withdraw from the USA"? Or not![I]n report after report, this Means character is presented as if he is "the Lakota Sioux" when, in truth, all he really is, is A Lakota Sioux—not a representative of all of them. He does not represent American Indians except as a tangential, activist. He has no authority to make this "declaration of Independence" from the U.S.A. for "the" Lakota or any other American Indian tribe for that matter.

    It turns out that these reports are nearly all just a rehash of Russell Means' press releases and not based on any real reporting at all.

    And here is the worst part. The bulk of the news outlets that have picked up this story are foreign press agencies like the Agence Presse France, The Telegraph, and Radio Netherlands, all of whom presented this as if it was somehow legal and binding instead of an activist's scheming.

    Another Simpsons quote

    From the Christmas episode titled "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" (1997):BART:  Twelve glasses of water. That'll wake me up nice and early, and I'll have a big head start on opening presents.

    BART:  Pure genius.

    LISA:  You didn't invent that, Bart. The Indians used to drink water to wake up early for their attacks.

    BART:  Uhh. It's always about the Indians, isn't it, Lis.

    Why "Indians" teams are a bad idea

    AL baseball headline:  "Indians scalp Red Sox to even series"

    Another libertarian spouts off

    Modern society is "objectively" superior to Stone Age culture

    December 28, 2007

    Review of Four Sheets to the Wind

    I finally saw this year's much-talked-about Native film. I must say it was good.

    The following reviews express my feelings about Four Sheets to the Wind:

    Four Sheets to the WindTell me if you've heard this one before: A man in his mid-twenties is faced with the death of a relative and goes to another environment to find out who he truly is. What? You've heard that story before? “Garden State”? Well, yes, but it also succinctly sums up my description of the film “Four Sheets to the Wind.” Or what I like to call, "The Native American 'Garden State'."

    Cufe Smallhill (Cody Lightning) discovers his father has ingested a large amount of sleeping pills and is dead. Instead of a regular burial, Cufe gives his father a Seminole send-off by submerging his body in the lake that meant so much to him. Cufe’s sister Miri (Tamara Podemski) invites him to come visit her in Tulsa. Feeling like his life isn’t going anywhere in Oklahoma, Cufe jumps on a bus to go visit his sister. There he meets a free spirit named Francie who shows Cufe that there is a much bigger world than the one he inhabits in Oklahoma.

    The film is written and directed by Sterlin Harjo and is the first film I have seen with a real focus on modern day Native Americans. This may be Harjo’s first feature film but he is more than up to the task, delivering a film with some wonderfully oddball comedy while also being a very heart-felt statement about expanding on the person you are and finding your true voice.

    Podemski's Miri is especially fun to watch, mostly due to all her foolish choices, providing classic comic relief. The girl who plays Francie is not exactly the best actress but you can only expect so much from an indie cast.

    The film was definitely a fun ride but the classic three-act structure of the film was in pieces, with no real turning points. Cufe and Miri’s Dad does die at the beginning, setting things in motion, but there are no bad feelings, no personal growth, no need to reconcile with the death beyond normal grieving. However, the film is a well-acted and decent distraction for its hour and a half running time.
    Four Sheets to the WindLike its shy hero, "Four Sheets to the Wind" is so low-key it risks making little impression--until you realize it (and he) has stealthily won viewer sympathy and affection. Cody Lightning ("Smoke Signals") plays an Oklahoma Native American making his first, tentative steps out of the family nest after a parent's demise. Very modest, no-frills first feature for writer-helmer Sterlin Harjo might not lure theatrical buyers, but should make headway toward ancillary exposure via fest-circuit popularity.

    Cufe Smallhill (Lightning) is a young Seminole-Creek doing nothing in particular, like most underemployed folks in his rural community, while living with his mother (Jerri Arredondo). At the pic's start, he discovers diabetes-plagued dad in his easy chair, a pill-overdose suicide. Taciturn as the old man was, Cufe is still torn up by the loss. Needing a change, he visits his older sister (Tamara Podemski, who copped a Sundance jury prize for thesping) in Tulsa. She's partying too hard and scraping by, but neighbor Francie (Laura Bailey) provides Cufe a welcome romantic interest and a door to the wider world. There's no flamboyance of incident here, but the gently insightful script, perfs and direction (plus Jeff Johnson's attractive score) prove ingratiating.
    On the positive side

    I haven't been to Oklahoma, but the film seems to capture rural life in Seminole territory well. There's no glorification or beautification of the landscape here. Everything seems mundane, prosaic--as it usually is in reality.

    This true-to-life quality is helped by the true-to-life cinematography. Sterlin Harjo has filmed people in natural (sometimes dim) light, unshaved and sans makeup, in scruffy clothes, with a cigarette or a drink in hand. Four Sheets almost looks like a reality show at times. It has none of the bright artificiality of many Hollywood movies.

    Four Sheets is less stagy or contrived than the similarly situated The Doe Boy. In the latter, the young man has to shoot a deer or forever be branded a loser. Cufe faces no such manipulative drama. He's an average guy faced with average choices like the rest of us.

    This movie doesn't wear its Native identity on its sleeve. There's no talk of adhering to the old ways or walking between two worlds. No rez slang in the air or Native art on the walls. Being Seminole is a subtle thing: a voice in a "foreign" language, a song at a funeral, brown faces in the background.

    Cufe doesn't face discrimination, oppression, or abuse. The most he has to deal with is a punch in a bar when he flirts with a white girl and vaguely inappropriate comments from white acquaintances. No, his problem is mostly internal and self-generated: what is he going to do with his life? Continue along the same path, or try something else?

    I don't usually don't rave about acting, but the three main actors all did a fine job. As the Hollywood Reporter put it:The performances are richly subdued. Lightning's portrayal of Cufe is superb, capturing the young man's reserved strength--something he never knew he had. Podemski's performance as his hard-drinking sister shows the young woman's fears and loneliness.On the negative side

    This is one of those slacker-style coming-of-age stories where (almost) nothing happens. Once Cufe heads for Tulsa, there's almost no plot to speak of. Until the end, Four Sheets seems as aimless as Cufe and Miri as they drift through life without goals or plans.

    Cufe and Miri are well-acted enough that you want to know what will happen to them. But you frequently wonder if this movie is going to be about anything. The point of moviegoing isn't to see characters whose lives are less interesting than yours is. Movies are supposed to be larger than life, not smaller.

    As with most personal independent films, the critics' rhapsodies are overblown. "[T]the panoramic cinematography makes the most of those wide open Oklahoma skies" ( No, the cinematography is closer to anti-panoramic, especially compared to a movie like Imprint. "The Tulsa chapters prove inspirational as well eye-opening" (Emanuel Levy)? No, they confirm what you already suspect about Cufe and Miri. "[Cufe makes] this leap of life" (Hollywood Reporter)? No, he takes the first tiny baby steps. "Francie opens Cufe up in ways he never expected, but before he can move on with her, he has to let go of everything he believes to be true about himself" ( No, Cufe doesn't do anything more than begin to accept his father's loss. "Enchanting," "captivating," and "decidedly idiosyncratic" (Hollywood Reporter)? No, it's neither enchanting nor captivating, in my opinion, and it's less idiosyncratic than most movies.

    What saves Four Sheets from being your run-of-the-mill Garden State knockoff is the ending. The coda featuring Cufe ties together the movie's scattered threads and gives them some emotional weight. I won't spoil it by saying too much, but one theme that emerges is "You're never far from home"--the opposite of the standard "You can't go home again." That theme cuts across every culture, but it's especially appropriate for a Native movie.

    All in all, this is one Native movie you should definitely see--if only to decide whether you agree with my comments. Rob's rating:  8.5 of 10.

    P.S.'s Zack Haddad needs to get out more if he's never seen a movie about modern-day Native people. Try Thunderheart, Pow Wow Highway, Smoke Signals, Skins, Edge of America, Christmas in the Clouds, or Imprint, Zack.

    Why Means thinks he's free

    "Lakota Nation" Confirmed--They Are Not Part of the U.S.The times, they are achangin'. Go to the website. There you'll see Canupa Gluha Mani of the Strong Heart Warrior Society of the Lakota Nation cutting up his colonial driver's license. He's doing this because on December 17th 2007 the Lakota delivered their "Declaration of Continuing Independence", just in time for the Winter Solstice.The rationale:Treaties concluded through bribery and with colonial puppets, instead of with valid representatives of our people, are not legal. It should be borne in mind that most, not all, of the treaties ever made with the colonizers granted them only very limited rights that fall far short of the greedy advantages they imagined. They had no intention of ever living up to any treaty. They were hell bent on stealing everything. The U.S. and Canada came as profiteers and fraudulently tried to steal all our assets.

    Such documents were concocted in clear violation of international law then and now. This requires the informed consent of the people concerned. No state can incorporate another unless a clear majority of the people has expressed consent through fairly conducted democratic processes based on a clear question.
    Comment:  I'd love to see the 19th-century international laws that applied to Indian treaties. I'd love to see the specific clauses that say such treaties must be ratified by a popular vote. I've never heard of any treaties that require a popular vote, but perhaps I'm not versed enough in international law.

    But wait, there's more:Should all Indigenous nations of Onowaregeh, Turtle Island, assert our freedom and independence, what would happen? The action of the "Lakota" is going to have repercussions far and wide.

    The colonists would go out of business, especially the oligarchs. They would have to work out agreements with all the Indigenous people on whose land they are squatting. Indigenous "liens" on buildings, development, resource extraction and all activities on our land will have to be governed and executed by us. Each Indigenous nation will assert our power over our lands, assets and resources. The colonies of U.S. and Canada will just have to become law abiding. They will have to learn to respect indigenous and international law. This will not bring a catastrophe for the ordinary people living on our land. They just have to come to terms with the reality that they are living within our jurisdiction, that they are visitors on our land and that they are required to follow our law.

    The pointlessness of their former reliance on their handpicked "Indian" puppets set up by the colonial Indian Act band councils and federal Indian law tribal councils will become obvious. These sell-outs will have to live amongst their relatives without colonial power and support. Whisky, money and guns will lose their mystical attraction.
    Comment:  This whole screed is based on the mistaken notion that a Lakota "nation" of people exists independently of the various Lakota tribes recognized by the federal government. And that this "nation" can make decisions for the Lakota people independently of those tribes. Wrong on both counts.

    So 560-plus tribal governments are "colonial puppets" and "sell-outs"? And all the Indians who voted for them are also "colonial puppets"? Is everyone a "colonial puppet" except Means and his group?

    This whole stunt is based on the fantasy that 560-plus Indian tribes will rise up against their duly-elected governments and overthrow them. And that the US government will recognize and accept these revolutions as legitimate. Neither action is ever going to happen.

    In fact, I'll bet that not a single tribal government will vote to join Means in abrogating its treaties and declaring its independence. I have $100 that says I'm right and Means is wrong. Anyone care to take the bet?

    NMAI's West traveled first-class

    Indian Museum Director Spent Lavishly on TravelThe founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian spent more than $250,000 in institution funds over the past four years on first-class transportation and plush lodging in hotels around the world, including more than a dozen trips to Paris.

    In that time, W. Richard West Jr. was away from Washington traveling for 576 days on trips that included speaking engagements, fundraising and work for other nonprofit groups, according to a review of travel vouchers for West's trips obtained by The Washington Post.

    West's travel often took him far from American Indian culture: Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; Athens; Bali, Indonesia; Sydney and Brisbane; London; Singapore; Florence, Rome and Venice; Paris; Gothenburg, Sweden; Seville, Spain; Seoul; Vienna; and Zagreb, Croatia.

    At the time, top Smithsonian officials were allowed unlimited leave with pay. "At all times," West said, "my travel authorizations and reimbursements, and their direct connection to NMAI and Smithsonian business, were reviewed and approved fully by my supervisors.

    "There is no point at which these activities were being carried on in anything but an open way and with the approval of the Smithsonian."

    Courts prejudiced against Indians

    Fletcher:  Supreme Court's clerks find Indian law unimportantBecause more than 80 percent of Indian law cases arise in the West, where there are only three federal circuit courts of appeals, few splits in authority arise, rendering most appeals "splitless." Moreover, Indian law fact patterns tend to apply to one tribe only, limiting the impact of the appeals. In addition, it appears that the Supreme Court's clerks--most of whom are educated in elite East Coast schools (there has never been an American Indian Supreme Court clerk)--do not find Indian law cases to be important, except when the petitioner is a state or local government opposing a tribal interest such as a tribe or a tribal member.

    What this means is that the clerks almost never recommend that the court decide to hear a case when the petitioner is an Indian tribe or an Indian because the petition is "splitless" or just unimportant. From 1986 to 1993, the court decided to hear one appeal out of more than 80 filed by Indian tribes and individual Indians.

    Conversely, when a state or local government appeals a case it lost to a tribe or a tribal member, the court granted the petition around 75 percent of the time. Perhaps this is part of the explanation for why tribal interests have lost the vast majority of their cases before the court since 1987.

    Ozan = future of Native music?

    Young musician Ozan called the ‘future of Native American music’Evren Ozan, a 14-year-old flute player of Turkish and Native American descent, fascinates listeners with his enchanting performance of Native American music.

    The young musician, whose compositions and performances are heard on the radio, in solo concerts and as scores for independent films, is portrayed by music critics as the future of Native American music.

    A southern California resident, Evren, who was born in 1993 to a Turkish father and a Native American mother, transmits the Native American music tradition to other generations through his albums.
    Comment:  Native music is already stereotyped as a New Age, easy-listening kind of genre. If you ask me, it needs fewer flutes and more rock 'n' roll.

    Debating eagle permits

    Federal appeals court hears bald eagle caseThe government had the burden to show that the FWS permit system was the least restrictive way of meeting the competing interests, Carlson said.

    Because of increased numbers, the bald eagle has been removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, although it remains listed under other federal laws. Its removal from ESA status, taken together with the mass occurrence of eagles electrocuted yearly on non-raptorproof power lines, indicates that American Indians should not have to go through the cumbersome or little-known provisions of the FWS permit process, he said.

    Kathryn Kovacs, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the system of permits is "burdensome" and inconvenient, making the religious use of eagles more difficult, but not "impossible."

    Subtitles in Four Sheets

    Clearly, whoever did the subtitles for Four Sheets to the Wind wasn't Native. When Cufe says "I'm enrolled Seminole," it's transcribed as "I'm Monroe Seminole." Any Native word, such as the slang chebon ("man"), is transcribed as [indecipherable]. Oops.

    December 27, 2007

    Chief may rise from the dead

    Illiniwek fans insist story of the Chief isn’t overMy original idea for today, in the spirit of those year-end, gone-but-not-forgotten roundups, was to kick the last bit of ceremonial dirt into the grave of Chief Illiniwek.

    Illiniwek, 80, was pronounced dead 10 months ago in Champaign.

    One of the few remaining costumed American Indian figures to dance around at big-time sporting events, the fictional Chief succumbed to a long illness that some diagnosed as chronic political correctness but that looked to me and others more like malignant cultural insensitivity.
    Writer Zorn continues:So...closure?


    “A lot of Chief apparel is seen on campus and at Memorial Stadium or Assembly Hall on game days,” Hardy wrote. “At halftime when the Marching Illini perform the three-in-one medley [of school songs], fans offer a rousing ‘Chief!’ cheer at the conclusion, as if they have just witnessed the Chief dance.”

    There was also a flurry of indignation and counter-indignation in October when the university, citing students’ rights to free expression, allowed Illiniwek imagery to appear in the school’s homecoming parade.

    Paul Schmitt, the U. of I. junior who heads up Students for Chief Illiniwek, told me not to be fooled by the lack of protests or Web activism.

    “We’ve been trying to stay under the radar,” he said. “We’re getting ready for our big push.”

    Nearly 100 supporters attend meetings, Schmitt said, and they’re planning to use “the element of surprise” in upcoming efforts (about which he would not be specific) to “bring back the Chief and restore his legacy as one of honor, not shame.”
    Comment:  Yep, nothing shameful about the Chief's antics as depicted below. Just your typical revered Indian chief doing cheerleader routines in clown makeup.

    Standing Rock to consider Means ploy

    Tribe official says council will consider treaty pulloutAvis Little Eagle says she understands the frustration that led Lakota activists to announce a plan to withdraw from the tribe’s treaties with the U.S. government.

    However, the vice chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council advocates holding the federal government to the provisions in those treaties, rather than withdrawing from them.

    “I see where they’re coming from,” she said of American Indian Movement leader Russell Means and other members of the Lakota Freedom Delegation who declared the Lakota people’s independence to the State Department last week in Washington, D.C.

    “But we, as elected officials, on a daily basis we refer to those treaties because to us they are living documents,” Little Eagle said Wednesday from the tribe’s headquarters in Fort Yates, N.D.

    Little Eagle said council members will probably discuss the delegation’s letter, “and I can’t say what action they will take.”
    Comment:  You can bet the tribal council will reject or ignore Means's ploy soon after it considers it.

    Meanwhile, Means and company plot phase 2:If the federal government doesn’t recognize the tribe’s independence, Lakota people will file liens on land in the five-state treaty area, which includes parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming, the letter of withdrawal says.

    Means said members of the new Lakota nation wouldn’t pay taxes, and the new government would issue its own driver’s licenses and passports, the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader reported. Non-Indians could still live in the new territory.
    Comment:  Translating Means's actions from activist-speak into reality, Means is saying he wants to be tried and possibly jailed for his criminal stunts. Because that's the inevitable outcome when you fail to pay your taxes. Presumably he craves the publicity, but whether it's for him or his cause remains to be seen.

    Bankers gamble on Navajos

    Is JP Morgan Chase taking a gamble on $100 million credit line to the Navajo Nation?The Navajo Nation has received notice that a lawsuit looms in the future against a resolution authorizing the use of what could be a $100 million line of credit from JP Morgan Bank.

    A group of individuals who, for varying reasons, believe that President Joe Shirley and the Navajo Nation Council overstepped their authority in passing a resolution intended to secure funding for the building of at least one casino on the Navajo reservation.
    What might happen:In a telephone interview on Dec. 6, Zion stood on a statement given during a press conference earlier in the week.

    "In response to an offhand question by two different reporters, I stated that if I were an official at JP Morgan Chase, I would be very careful about releasing any money to the tribe while the threat of a lawsuit is in the air," Zion said. "I have been reading press on the case to try and see what the other side has to say, and I read where [it was] predicted that JP Morgan Chase would seek an opinion that the lawsuit has no merit, and then go through with the loan. My question is, why would a bank rely on an attorney who had no authority in Navajo Nation law? And would I rely on the Navajo Nation?"

    Zion answered his own questions with a laugh, then said that should any funds be expended by the time a judge could act on the lawsuit, JP Morgan--not the Navajo Nation--could end up being liable for any funds expended while the matter was in court.

    Bishop apologizes to Miwoks

    Retired bishop apologizes for mistreating the MiwoksCoast Miwok Indians once occupied the lands from the Golden Gate to north of Bodega Bay. When Spanish padres launched the San Rafael mission in 1817, the Indians built it, maintained it and helped it survive, according to anthropologist Betty Goerke, who has studied the Indians for 30 years.

    But they paid dearly for their participation. Bishop Quinn conceded that the church authorities "took the Indian out of the Indian," destroying traditional spiritual practices and "imposing a European Catholicism upon the natives."

    He conceded that mission soldiers and priests had sexual relations with Indian women and inflicted cruel punishments--caning, whipping, imprisonment--on those who disobeyed mission laws. He acknowledged that the Indians had a "civilization" of their own--one that valued all of nature--long before the Spanish imposed an alien, European-type life upon them.
    Comment:  Too bad the pope didn't take this approach when he spoke in Brazil earlier this year.

    Santa visits Sioux

    A Pine Ridge ChristmasYellow school buses made a snowy, icy trip to Piya Wiconi, the administrative offices of Oglala Lakota College, near Kyle. Their mission: bring children enrolled in Head Start to Piya Wiconi to meet the man of the season, Santa Claus.

    Santa had a huge sack of wrapped gifts. As the children entered the round conference room, their eyes immediately focused and fixed on Santa. They filed up to him one by one. Greetings were given and received.

    Members of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., were the financial backers of Santa's generosity through its 10-year-old Angel Tree program, a yearly outreach program to give Christmas presents to Pine Ridge residents. It is administered by the Saginaw Chippewa's Andahwod Continuing Care Community & Aging Services department.
    Comment:  I assume the Chippewas' money comes primarily from their casino. It's another in the long list of benefits of Indian gaming.

    Not queens for a day

    Navajo royalty work as waitresses for a good causeCustomers at the Diné Restaurant were treated like royalty Saturday.

    In reality, they were waited on by royalty as Miss Navajo Nation 2007-2008, Jonathea Tso, and other royalty from throughout the region, greeted and waited on customers—all for a good cause.

    The Tip-A-Royalty day at the restaurant was to raise money for a very special cause—the Navajo Nation Special Olympics. Throughout the day royalty from all over came to help out the nation’s special education athletes.

    December 26, 2007


    ALONG THE CANADIAN is an odd duck of a comic book. Even the name is odd: "Along the Canadian" what?

    Along the Canadian River--the largest tributary of the Arkansas River--apparently. When you can't figure out the title even after reading the comic, that's a bad sign.

    The art is another odd thing about the series. It's sort of a cross between wide-eyed manga and old-style woodcuts. It looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

    Anyway, here's the scoop on this series:

    Xeric Grant Winner Publishes 'Along the Canadian'1873: Outlaws tracked to hideout along the Canadian River.

    Writer/Artist Joel Rivers, after receiving the prestigious Xeric Grant for comics self-publishing in Fall 2003, invites you to go out West via the subconscious.

    Recasting the Western as Comic Book, Along the Canadian is a tale of bad men, vengeful ghosts and a scruffy Sheriff caught in the middle.

    Part of a 6 issue mini-series, Issue #1 is a western-style ghost story combining researched historical facts with purely fictional characters. The protagonist, Sheriff “Red” Johnston, is a stubborn, honorable man who believes that the Law can enact justice in a land filled with violence and greed. His three deputies seem standard western posse-men, but have the long shadows and bloody footprints of the real men that “won” the West. The Natives, far from being easily bribed with glass beads, are survivors that have consciously avoided civilization.

    Johnston’s Nemesis, the horse thief “Neargasaw” Fred--a white man adopted by the Creek Tribe--is the only person who has the answers the Sheriff needs. Their verbal and physical duel, waged as men of opposite moralities, is not “good” verses “evil” but more like “respectable” verses “unsavory.”
    The plot

    I've read only #5 of the six-issue series, so I can't say for sure what it's about. But here's the plot:

    A sheriff arrives at a mission school in Talequah, Oklahoma. He's looking for a son he fathered with a Native woman but never knew. A nun points out the boy, but the sheriff decides his son is better off without him.

    The sheriff departs and the son follows him into the woods. There they're captured by a gang of crooks led by an Indian named Gutter. (Gutter appears to be an Injun Joe-style thug, unfortunately.) The gang quarrels over their captives and the boy learns the sheriff is his father.

    A posse of marshals bursts in and begins shooting. The sheriff sends his son to safety on a horse. The boy rides all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he tells the townspeople what happened. A couple of them recognize the sheriff's horse and vow to help him.

    And...that's it. Presumably the story concludes in the next issue.

    Comics online

    Fans of the series are in luck, because it's now available online. According to a press release:

    Xeric-Winning mini-series now on WOWIO.COMWriter/Artist Joel Rivers, brings his Xeric-wining western 6-issues series, Along the Canadian, to the digital book website, WOWIO, based, appropriately, in Texas.

    Along the Canadian is a tale of bad men, outlaws and lawmen both, vengeful ghosts, immortal hillbillies and a scruffy sheriff and his friends caught in the middle. The setting is the famed Canadian River in Oklahoma Territory, where Belle Starr roamed, famous for outlaws and bloody feuds.
    Alas, I wasn't inspired enough to read the rest of the series, even though it's free. But if you're curious, you can find ALONG THE CANADIAN here.

    Tulalip television

    Tulalip TV, NWIN go online

    Webcasts could become 'voice of empowerment' for indigenous communitiesGetting television programs from and about Indian country is now as easy as opening a browser window and clicking a mouse button.

    KANU-TV, Channel 99 on the Tulalip Reservation, is now video-streaming television programs from throughout Indian country at and hopes to include more indigenous coverage from throughout the world.

    The online programming not only makes Tulalip television programming accessible to tribal members not living on the reservation, it also makes Indian country programming available to a worldwide audience.

    Anyone with a computer and Internet access can watch programs produced by the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department: "Discover Tulalip," "Tulalip Heritage Hawks Basketball," "Lushootseed Language Video Series," "Tulalip History Series" and Tulalip General Manager Shelly Lacy's weekly report.
    Comment:  Somebody should check the terminology of all the Native "television" networks we're seeing. As far as I'm concerned, if it doesn't appear on the TV set in your living room, it isn't television.

    You can call streaming video on the Internet "television," but what makes it television and not streaming video? Is any live video on the Net "television" if someone calls it television?

    Yeagley complains about Limbaugh

    Yeagley Doesn’t Recognize Himself in Mirror“Rush has no concern for Indians, in other words. If he did, he would not be so quick to make sport of Indians who are being used in this way. He would not be so willing to write Indians off... He would make a little effort to find out what Indians really think, and what most really believe.” (12-24-07)Comment:  Remember when Yeagley took pride in being a mascot? "Call me savage!" he cried. (If you don't recall it, you can read about it here: Comanche proud to be a mascot, says "Call me savage!")

    And now he claims Limbaugh has bought into Native stereotypes? Are these the same stereotypes Yeagley has promoted for the last umpteen years? You know, that Indians were mindless warriors? That genocide never happened? That the reservation system is a failure? That Western culture is superior to Indian culture?

    Gee, I wonder where Limbaugh got these ideas from. Could it be from reading Yeagley's screeds? Yeagley should be thanking Limbaugh for parroting his views, not criticizing him.

    As always, for more on the subject, see Yeagley the Indian Apple.

    Background on Creative Spirit

    'Creative Spirit' boosts new talent in HollywoodJames Lujan, Taos Pueblo, planner for SCIC and its subsidiary InterTribal Entertainment, developed the Creative Spirit program. With 15 years of writing, filmmaking and teaching experience, SCIC hired Lujan to run its multimedia division. Lujan created Creative Spirit to provide training and employment opportunities for American Indians in the film industry.

    "After I arrived in L.A., I was able to see there was a lot of Native talent in this city, but we weren't coming together as a cohesive community," Lujan said. "We needed opportunities to bring the Native talent together in a professional context."

    Creative Spirit puts out a nationwide call for American Indian short film scripts in late summer or early fall. Scripts are read and judged by a panel of industry professionals, who select two for production in Los Angeles. Each production is given a budget, cast and crew. Films have three days to shoot and three to edit, and are screened at the end of the production week.

    Natives nominated for Grammys

    Native nominees announced for 50th annual GRAMMY AwardsThe Recording Academy announced the nominees for the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony at the Music Box @ Fonda in Hollywood Dec. 6.

    Under the category of Native American Music Album (Vocal or Instrumental), the nominees consist of Walter Ahhaitty & Friends, "Oklahoma Style"; Black Lodge, "Watch This Dancer!"; Davis Mitchell, "The Ballad of Old Times"; R. Carlos Nakai, Cliff Sarde & William Eaton, "Reconnections"; and Johnny Whitehorse, "Totemic Flute Chants."

    Peter Kater's album "Faces of the Sun" was nominated under the New Age category and features the talents of Mary Youngblood, Bill Miller, Tony Levin, Paul McCandless, Kevin Locke, Arvel Bird, Jeff Ball and Douglas Blue Feather.

    Kicking another gun nut's butt

    "If you think guns should be Banned/Regulated then your an Idiot."

    This posting is relevant to this blog because it shows the mainstream or white man's perspective vs. the multicultural or Indian's perspective. In the former, we revere (our interpretation of) dead white men's words as if they were holy writ. In the latter, we use our common sense and take whatever approach works best to solve a problem.

    December 25, 2007

    Season's greetings!

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


    Diamond blames the victim

    A Question of Blame When Societies FallDr. Diamond, he said, “shifts all of the burden to people and their stupidity rather than to a complex ecosystem where these things interact.”

    Taken together, the two books struck Frederick K. Errington, an anthropologist at Trinity College in Hartford, as a “one-two punch.” The haves prosper because of happenstance beyond their control, while the have-nots are responsible for their own demise.
    In Collapse, Diamond discusses how the Maya, Anasazi, and Easter Island cultures fell apart. But the author of this article isn't necessarily buying it:One afternoon I drove out to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, about 130 miles northwest of Dragoon. Turning off North Arizona Boulevard near a Blockbuster Video store and KFC/Taco Bell, I saw the Great House, four stories high, loom into view. Abandoned over half a millennium ago by the Hohokam people, the earthen ruins have been incongruously protected from the elements by a steel roof on stilts designed in 1928 by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.

    One suspects that the Hohokam were content to let the place melt. Depending on which eyeglasses you are wearing, Casa Grande is a story of environmental collapse or of adaptation and resilience. When conditions no longer favored centralization the people moved on, re-emerging as the O’odham tribes and a thriving casino industry.

    Abandonment as a strategy.
    A telling point:At the seminar, Dr. McAnany suggested that the very idea of societal collapse might be in the eye of the beholder. She was thinking of the Maya, whose stone ruins have become the Yucatan’s roadside attractions. But the descendants of the Maya live on. She recalled a field trip by local children to a site she was excavating in Belize: “This little girl looks up at me, and she has this beautiful little Maya face, and asks, ‘What happened to all the Maya? Why did they all die out?’”

    No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English.
    Comment:  We say the Maya and "Anasazi" civilizations collapsed because they didn't match our standard for success. Instead, we could say they evolved and their descendants are doing just fine. But we don't because we view other cultures others from our own myopic perspective.

    Why did the British Empire collapse? Or the United States during the Great Depression? Or the American South after the Civil War? Diamond doesn't ask or answer these questions. Somehow it's not proper to apply anthropological analyses to sophisticated people like us.

    Primitive societies collapse because, well, they're primitive, implies Diamond. Advanced societies collapse for mysterious reasons that have nothing to do with their inhabitants' inherent nature. For instance, we don't say Southerners were too primitive and savage to survive in the modern world, even though they owned slaves. We say the North won because it was richer and more industrialized.

    I haven't read Jared Diamond's Collapse, but the naysayers are correct about Guns, Germs, and Steel. He addresses some of the reasons civilizations flourish, but not the key ones. As I wrote in my review:I'd say geographic and physical factors explain why "civilization" flourished in some places before others, but religious and cultural factors explain why some civilizations dominated others.

    AIFTV tackles CSI: Miami

    The American Indian Network Diversity Report Card for 2007 also reported on the controversy surrounding this year's "Bloodline" episode of CSI: Miami. It's interesting to see how Hollywood's Indians protested and how CBS responded.In April of 07 CSI: Miami aired an episode called “Bloodlines” integrating a contemporary American Indian storyline. Of course they investigate murders and because of the history portrayed by the media they had an American Indian murder someone by scalping him. Not only was this an act of discrimination, it was offensive and historically incorrect.

    In April the committee passed a motion to send CBS a letter of objection and request a meeting with the producer of that episode. It took SAG five months to approve the letter and send it. During this wasted time CBS re-ran the episode. Our codified basic contract in Sec 26 gives the guild the right to call for meetings to discuss any matter related to discrimination and or underrepresentation of any of the state or federally protected minority groups.
    And:Unfortunately the advancements at CBS have a dark cloud cast over them by an unintended and avoidable mistake on their show CSI: Miami. They used a scalping as a way of murder committed by an American Indian. We have received a verbal agreement that CBS will re-edit the episode and issue a written apology to the American Indian community. To date we have not seen either, we will let you know when we receive it.Comment:  Scalping was far from the only problem in the episode. For the full story, see CSI: Miami Butchers Indians.

    Rather than send a letter and wait for an apology, I say publicize the issue and let the chips fall where they may. I don't know if anyone learned anything from my analysis, but so far AIFTV's efforts have led to nothing but a possibly worthless "verbal agreement."

    P.S. I checked and the episode was titled "Bloodline," not "Bloodlines." As we've seen, AIFTV is a little sloppy when it comes to the facts.

    Skywalk story is no. 3

    In its year-end roundup, the LA Times says the following was the third most e-mailed story of 2007. Therefore, it deserves a look:

    Tribe's canyon Skywalk opens one deep divideTribal officials say the development, which may eventually include hotels, restaurants and a golf course, is the best way to address the social ills of a small reservation, where the 2,000 residents struggle with a 50% unemployment rate and widespread alcoholism and poverty.

    But off the reservation, many people regard the development and especially the Skywalk as tantamount to defacing a national treasure.

    "It's the equivalent of an upscale carnival ride," said Robert Arnberger, a former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park who was born near the canyon's South Rim. "Why would they desecrate this place with this?"

    "I've never been able to resolve the apparent conflict between the tribe's oft-stated claim that there is no better caregiver and steward of the Grand Canyon than the tribe, and their approach to the land--which is based on heavy use and economics," he said.

    "They say the Grand Canyon is theirs to do with however they please. Under law, it's hard to argue that proposition. But obviously the lure of dollars for the tribal treasury is greater than the obligation to manage the Grand Canyon for its cultural and historic values."

    Spokane mayor is part Muskogee

    Spokane's new mayor sworn in to the beat of the drum"I, Mary Verner ... will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of the mayor according to law to the best of my ability." Those words proclaimed Verner as mayor of Spokane, the first mayor with Native ancestry in this city bordering the river and ancestral homeland for the Spokane Tribe.

    Verner, who has Muskogee ancestry, defeated the incumbent mayor and was sworn in Nov. 27 during a ceremony that reflected her Native ties.

    Verner was introduced to the several hundred in attendance by Spokane Tribe Chairman Richard Sherwood. "It's a great honor for me and as a member of the Spokane Tribe," he said. "She's done a lot for Indian people since coming to the Northwest. She worked for the Spokane Tribe in our Natural Resources Department and did wonders. The effects of her being there are still felt today in a very positive way."

    Navajos need to rename cancer

    Dine College on quest to rename Navajo cancer terms[T]here's the issue of how to describe cancer. For decades, Navajos have used a word that when translated into English means, “the sore that does not heal”--lood doo na'dziihii.

    It's Black-Spencer's biggest barrier and a description she says leads Navajos to lose any hope for survival. Officials at Dine College's Shiprock campus want to change that.

    “A lot of people have this misconception that it doesn't heal and once you have it, it's a death sentence,” said Edward Garrison, a biology and public health instructor, who is working on a glossary of cancer terms. “It's very unfortunate that some of these translations have become entrenched.”

    Chief Santa speaks

    GRIEGO:  The wisdom of an elderThe younger thank their elders for their guidance and inspiration. They bless them and feed them and then Santa Claus shows up, the only Santa in town, I guarantee, who bursts through the door wearing a chief's headdress and sunglasses and a suit that looks like a Pendleton blanket.

    "I got stuck up North, coming through Rosebud," Santa says. "I forgot it was hunting season. Lost two reindeer."

    December 24, 2007

    2007 Diversity Report Card

    Mark Reed of American Indians in Film and TV sent me his American Indian Network Diversity Report Card for 2007. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, here's his data and my analysis of it.

    NBCAfter a guest starring role on “Law and Order: SVU” Adam Beach was brought back as a series regular. Kam Miller was also pitched to the show as a staff writer, [and] she was picked up. What a great team NBC and Dick Wolf has put together.

    NBC hired Chris Eyre as a shadow director on “Friday Night Lights” with the prospect of future employment. NBC has also identified two other directors for consideration, Shawna Baca and Amy Talkington.

    Mitch Longley has a recurring role on “Las Vegas.”
    FoxFox has two series regulars: Jonathan Joss [on] “King of the Hill” and Eric Balfour [on] “24.” Notable mention: John Hensley on “Nip/Tuck FX,” Tawny Cypress [on] “K-Ville,” and Shawna Baca [on] “On the Lot.”

    The best I saved for the last. Fox has a new series coming out January 14th “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” staring Summer Glau as Cameron. She plays an enigmatic and otherworldly student at his high school, who soon proves to be much more than his confidante--she assumes the role of John’s fearless protector. She is not an Indian in the plot; she is character playing a futuristic role. These are exactly the kind of roles actors who happen to be American Indian are looking for.
    ABCABC has four American Indian series regulars in their lineup: Kristen Chenoweth [on] “Pushing Daisies,” Angie Harmon [on] “Women’s Murder Club,” Tamara Feldman [on] “Dirty Sexy Money,” and Ty Pennington, host [of] “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

    Notable daytime players: Tyler Christopher [on] “General Hospital” and Matt Ostroff [on] “All My Children.”
    CBSCBS has a number of notable mentions of talent hires. At the end of December CBS will air “Comanche Moon.” Out of 82 speaking roles, 23 were American Indian. Some of which were: Adam Beach, August Schellenberg, Keith Robinson, Wes Studi, all leads. Also Aldred Montoya, Anthony Parker, Floyd Westerman, Frederick Lopez, Geraldine Keams, Jack Burning, Joe Marshall, Jonathan Joss, Rodney Smith, Scotty Auguare, Steve Reevis, Tatanka Means, and Zahn McClarnan.

    There are ten guest-starring roles that were filled by American Indians: Gregory Norman Cruz [on] “Criminal Minds,” Princess Lucaj [on] “Jericho,” Dagger Salazar [on] “Criminal Minds,” Sonya Stephens [on] “Criminal Minds,” Tonantzin Carmelo [on] “CSI: Miami,” Brooke Grant [on] “Ghost Whisperer,” Jay Montalvo [on] “CSI: Miami,” Brian Overly [on] “Moonlight,” Grace C. Renn [on] “Criminal Minds,” and Charles Shen [on] “CSI: Miami.”
    Comment:  This year Mark Reed and company have defined their terms clearly. "[T]his report and the grades earned by the four major networks are based on information provided by them. The report focuses only on primetime scripted programs from fall of 2006 to fall 2007."

    Unfortunately, the report doesn't seem to match the description. Adam Beach has starred on SVU only in the 2007-2008 season, not the 2006-2007 season. The report mentions several shows that debuted in the 2007-2008 season: K-Ville, Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Women's Murder Club, and Moonlight. It mixes these with shows that debuted in the 2006-2007 season or earlier.

    For instance, according to, Princess Lucaj appeared only in the 2006 pilot of Jericho. Dagger Salazar and Sonya Stephens appeared in a 2006 episode of Criminal Minds, but Grace C. Renn appeared in a 2007 episode. Since I didn't see all these shows, it's difficult to know if the actors appeared in the 2006-2007 season, the 2007-2008 season, or both. That means this report is a muddle.

    The big picture

    But let's ignore the problems for a moment and look at the bigger picture. Using the claims in this report--counting all the starring and guest-starring roles in prime-time on the four networks--I get 43 (NBC, 2; Fox, 4; ABC, 4; CBS, 23+10).

    Wow. That's a huge increase from last year's report, when Reed went on record saying there were zero Indians in prime-time roles. That should be this report's headline: Indians increase roles by an infinite percent (from 0 to 43).

    Is it really plausible that the networks went from zero to 43 roles in one year? Or is more likely that Reed "misunderestimated" the numbers in his previous report? I report; you decide.

    (To be clear, in Reed's report, he claimed there were three Indian roles. But in his appearance on KABC News, he claimed there were zero Indian roles. I used the latter number for the sake of argument.)

    Some minor errors

    I'm happy for actress Summer Glau, but apparently she isn't an Indian, period. According to Wikipedia, she's "of Scots-Irish and German descent." So I don't know why we're gushing about her here.

    I don't know why K-Ville is only an honorable mention. It's a Fox show like King of the Hill and a 2007-2008 show like Pushing Daisies and the others. If they count, it should also.

    On the Lot is a Fox show that appeared in the summer of 2007. Even if K-Ville doesn't count because it debuted in the fall of 2007, On the Lot should.

    As I noted in my last critique, Jonathan Joss has been a regular on King of the Hill for years. If you're counting him in this report, you have to count him in previous reports. That means Reed's previous claim of zero Indian roles has to be wrong.

    As I reported in March, the Native actor Splitting the Sky was on the second episode of Men in Trees in 2006-2007. He should've been in this report but wasn't.

    Several of the actors are only "of [blank] and Native American ancestry" and don't identify themselves as Indians. Personally, I wouldn't count any actors unless they identify themselves primarily as Indians. Neither the networks nor American Indians in TV and Film should credit, say, someone who is white or black, isn't enrolled in a tribe, and has only 1/16th Indian blood. Because then you have to count people like Lou Diamond Phillips and Cher as well as almost every Latino actor.


    Based on the report, I'm not sure if things are getting better. Judging by Reed's tone, I guess they are. But where are the quantitative data and the letter grades? Nowhere in this document, alas.

    Reed's report could use a data analyst and an editor/proofreader. It's a nice effort combined with a flabby result. Call me if you want some help, Mark.

    Review of PS 238

    When I visited the Eiteljorg Museum in March, I learned about several Native-themed comics I hadn't heard of before. Some were in the Eiteljorg's collection and some were mentioned or brought by my fellow panelists.

    I've mentioned a couple of them before, but now it's time to go through them in earnest. Let's start with PS 238.

    Williams Heroic Students of PS 238Everyone who grew up loving comic books should check out PS 238 where a group of kids with superpowers rule the school and get into all sorts of mischief. Long before Sky High, Aaron Williams was showing where the next generation of superhero might be getting their diplomas. We catch up with the Dean of Details for a history lesson on this imaginative series.PS 238 #0There are those who would say that the last thing the industry needs is another super-hero parody, and I'll grant that. However, PS 238 is a different take on an old chestnut and it features an age group that is rarely explored in comics before being rapidly aged or killed off to make things more convenient for the writer.Comment:  The last thing the industry needs is another superhero parody.

    I mention this series only because an Indian appears in PS 238 #18. He's a ghost who has been condemned to remain at a certain spot on the school grounds. Only one youngster can see him.

    On the one hand, he looks like a typical half-naked Indian "brave." He has no tribal identity, heritage, or culture. On the other hand, he sounds like a reasonably modern person. Apparently he's learned the white man's ways after observing us for 200 years.

    As for the whole series, it's nothing special. With X-MEN, ASTRO CITY, The 4400, Heroes, et al., the idea of average people becoming superheroes has been done to death. Nor does making them children alter this point. Young heroes also have been done to death: NEW MUTANTS, GENERATION X, TEEN TITANS, YOUNG JUSTICE, et al.

    If you loved POWER PACK or the X-Babies, you may like PS 238. If you're like me, you'll probably find PS 238 somewhat confusing and uninvolving with just a little humor and charm. Rob says give it a pass.

    Westerman and sidekick Costner

    The music at the heart of the Indian movement

    'He was a survivor of everything that the government has tried to do to Native Americans.'The New York Times favorably reviewed the film, "Dances With Wolves" in 1990 but complained that it was "too long" at 181 minutes. It opined: "A historical drama about the relationship between a Civil War soldier and a band of Sioux Indians, Kevin Costner's directorial debut was also a surprisingly popular hit, considering its length, period setting, and often somber tone."

    That description might have sufficed for white audiences, but all across America and everywhere in the Western Hemisphere the film was shown, American Indians were mesmerized by Floyd Westerman in his role as Ten Bears. As much shining authenticity as could be crammed into his role, Floyd delivered. There was no doubt he led his people, and there was no doubt the child who came to learn was the white man. To Indian people, Kevin Costner played a side role to Floyd's magnificent performance.

    But magnificence in life was definitely not the attitude of Floyd Westerman the person. Recently he said when commenting on his work: "Our struggle is all about our spiritual rights and the Indian point of view ... they're so old, they make the Bible look like it was recently written."

    Wes Studi in German

    We get e-mail:hello rob,

    hereby i'd like to thank you again for your support and your permission to use some of your FAITA photos for native american actor wes studi's german homepage.

    though i still had no time to contact harrison lowe or shawna clay so far concerning FAITA photos/awards chronology the site is finally(!!) online (best web browser: firefox, opera, safari). i will complete the award section at the next site update. thanks again!

    i wish you a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year 2008!

    Comment:  I mainly helped with the awards on the awards page. You can see some of my photos there too.

    Wrapping up my trip

    Indian Comics Irregular #164:  Reflecting at the Montclair

    December 23, 2007

    Fifteen on the cutting edge

    Native Reign in SeattleWe all know high school can be a double-edged sword. It’s that time in your life when there seem to be endless possibilities while at the same moment despair and doubt can creep into every thought. Well two students from our Native Lens program, Travis and Cody, found a way to channel this complexity and share some of the daily pressures that can face a 15-year-old, meet the needs of their big health class project and get a movie made about underage drinking and peer pressure. The video rocked their grade, they got an A and they were given more positive feedback from their teachers then they have ever experienced in a school setting. Through shear charisma the boys created a pivotal piece of work that cannot be summed up as a classroom project but as a force of artistic history.

    Well that was over a year ago and that health class project has taken on a life of its own. Fifteen has inspired conversation, debate, tears, excitement and confusion, all the signs of vital art. Our neighbors to north have embraced the sheer brilliance of this work and have found a number of platforms to screen the piece. Recently, a real honor was bestowed upon the boys’ work as they received an honorary mention for Fifteen at the ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto. This was such a surprise yet an affirmation for media that matters. For me Fifteen is a breathtaking short that makes no excuses for being real and honest.

    Rock art in the 'burbs

    Ancient petroglyphs rest among suburban sprawlOdd as it sounds to don't-touch-the-art purists, in much of archaeology-rich Utah such a park is about the best that pre-Columbian buffs can hope for. The state's fastest-growing cities are gobbling up millennium-old rock art.

    "This is our past. It's like our library," said Dorena Martineau, cultural resources director for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Homebuilders long have surrounded or even dynamited the desert boulders that tell the old tales. Martineau's late father photographed and interpreted countless rocks before two Washington County dams flooded the area. "It's really upsetting to us, but what can we do?"

    Now housing developers are capitalizing on and marketing petroglyph parks that give subdivisions a distinction but inevitably suck some of the soul out of sacred landscapes. It's a trend that many who love the panels of blocky stick people, bighorns and virtual space creatures believe is the only hope in a state lacking historic protections on private lands.
    Comment:  If we're not destroying Indian petroglyphs, we're building freeways through them or surrounding them with suburbs. That's progress for you.

    Navajo kids play steel drums

    Caribbean soul

    Church Rock Academy steel drum band develops reputation for qualityMost of the 14 students in the Church Rock Academy steel drum band had never even picked up an instrument, let alone played one.

    But that all changed when former college music instructor Randy Markham formed the band in late September. Now, after four to six hours a week practicing in the classroom, they are playing well beyond their age level, said Markham, the band director.

    "They are already professionals," he said. "They continue to amaze me with how they work and how fast they learn."

    Team RSM defends Redskin magazine

    Our old messages get comments:It seems that hate and ignorance against one another still lives in the hearts of our First Nations people. ... RSM doesn’t not believe in supporting hate, wash your hands of the education you have been given that pigeonholes and stereotypes all our brothers and sisters with ignorance and hate.Comment:  Translating this from unclear into clear English, I gather "Team Redskin Magazine" still thinks its stereotypical name is a good idea.

    September Stereotype of the Month loser

    The loser:  Medved:  Reject the lie of white "genocide" against Natives

    Dishonorable mention:  Indians are poor because of "dependence on federal money"

    Sweat lodge = health clinic

    The "Two Coreys" enter a sweat lodge to cure their smoking

    December 22, 2007

    Inca airplanes in Journeyman

    On Wednesday's episode of Journeyman, time traveler Dan Vasser asks physicist Elliot Langley what he knows about the subject. As one example of possible time travel, Langley responds, "How did the Incas build perfect clay replicas of airplanes in 500 AD"?

    I hadn't heard anything about that, so I looked it up. Here's what I found:

    Ancient Aeroplanes

    Did the Incas Build Aircraft?These golden sculptures are pre-Columbian. It is difficult to determine their exact age as gold is hard to date. However it is strongly believed that they date from around 500-800 CE. They have been found in central and also coastal regions of South America. When first found they were thought to be zoomorphic (representing animals). Well, looking at those images I can't come up with one animal looking like these artifacts below. Is it a bird, is it a plane...well it certainly looks like it from where I stand.

    Comment:  I found only a couple of websites that discussed the "Incan airplanes." This is the kind of Internet posting I take with a shaker full of salt. It would be easy for someone to fake. Until I see the information in a scientific journal, or at least the National Geographic, I doubt it's real.

    The page appears to have been put together by someone named Nicole Coleby. I don't claim that she's perpetuating a hoax, although she may be. It's just as likely that she's repeating rumors she's heard from a follower of Erich van Daniken. She's posted drawings by someone named Lumir G. Janko, so perhaps he's the source of the "airplanes."

    Arrowhead replaces brave

    South creates new arrowhead logo to replace American Indian head

    New arrowhead already appears on athletic apparel“I just think it’s kind of sad that the image has to be taken away,” said Reilly, now a photographer for Channel 13 in Indianapolis. Whenever he served as the South brave mascot, “I always tried to do it with as much respect for Native Americans as I could,” he said.

    He believes Terre Haute South teams and alumni also had a respect for American Indians, their culture and all that they represented. “I never thought I was making fun of the culture or the people,” Reilly said.

    Tim Hayes, who is active in the South Athletic Booster club, said he wasn’t aware that the Indian brave logo was being replaced by the arrowhead. “It never occurred to me this was happening,” he said.

    However, he likes the arrowhead. “The arrowhead is cool,” he said.
    Comment:  Love that "respect" Bill Reilly showed Native people...! He was a dancing Plains chief, not a dignified Miami warrior, but I guess that was close enough. After all, Indians are all the same, right?

    The school says it's never gotten any complaints about either logo. Well, here's one. The arrowhead isn't as bad as the dancing chief, but it's still stereotypical.

    How about depicting an Indian with a stethoscope, a calculator, or a video camera instead of an arrowhead? Oh, right. We "respect" Indians by thinking of them as primitive, warlike, and ancient, not modern, educated, and cosmopolitan. Some respect.

    Nike shoe is racist?

    Lyons:  The curious return of 'race' in 2007Nike claimed that its design of the N7 was based on the shoe-size research of some 200 Indians living on 70 different reservations, their average foot size being three sizes wider than average. Science 101 can tell you that's not an adequate sample, and Nike never said what controls were in place. (Blood quantum, anyone? How about weight and height?)

    A lot of Indians I know thought the N7 was neat and bought into Nike's claims to have finally unlocked the secrets of the Native American foot. We would do well to remember that this is far from the first time that people have made claims about the alleged physical differences of the "Indian race." Usually these differences have been connected to other differences, for instance, intelligence or capacities for "civilization."
    Comment:  I'm not sure if 200 is an adequate sample or not. But it's a statistical question that has a definite answer.

    If 200 isn't enough people, then some number (2,000?) is enough. If Nike reached that number, it would know for certain if Native feet are statistically different from non-Native feet.

    Until it reaches a sufficient number, neither Nike nor Lyons knows whether there's a difference or not. Therefore, neither can say whether the shoes are racist or not.

    Buffalo means healthier Indians

    American Indians rediscovering the long-revered bisonThe Ho-Chunk are reintroducing them to better feed a people plagued by heart disease and diabetes—diseases that accompany high-carb, fast-food diets not native to American Indian culture. American bison, also known as buffalo, for centuries were central to the American Indian diet until herds were slaughtered by settlers and the U.S. military moved tribes onto reservations in the 1800s.

    The Ho-Chunk—which vaccinated about 120 bison in last week's roundup—are among 57 tribes in 19 states working to bring back bison to tribal lands.

    "We believe that when the buffalo come back, everything else will come back," including the health of the people, said Richard Snake, herd manager for the Ho-Chunk's Muscoda Bison Prairie 1 Ranch along the Wisconsin River bottom in southwestern Wisconsin. Bison meat is lower in fat and calories than beef, pork or chicken, with a flavor similar to beef, only richer and sweeter.

    "If you watch old movies, you never see a chubby Indian or a sick Indian," Snake said matter-of-factly.
    Comment:  If you watch old movies, I wonder how often you see Plains Indians who actually ate buffalo. And not Navajos or Latinos or Italians pretending to be Plains Indians.

    Alexie in the Hot 100

    USA Today Dubs Sherman Alexie One of 2007's Biggest AuthorsI have a hunch that when the top twenty names on USA Today pop culture blogger Whitney Matheson's "Hot 100" list for 2007 come out later today, J. K. Rowling is going to be somewhere close to #1, but for now, the highest-ranking author on the list is National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie at #23, and Matheson threw in a supplementary interview with Alexie, who has done a fantastic job of reinventing himself as a YA author with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. (Seriously: I don't care how old you are. Read this book.)

    She brings up the fact that, while it's easy to think of the novel as "Native American YA," it's also a powerful story about the effect of poverty on young lives. "There isn't a lot of poverty literature in the young-adult world," Alexie concedes. "And I don't know why that is, but I think certainly I felt a gap. I don't think there's a whole lot of class literature at all. I think most of that has become racially based, and people don't think of it as being class literature... I think we're all ashamed of it, whether we are poor or we're also ashamed that in this incredibly wealthy country, a lot of people could be that poor."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.