January 24, 2007

Live Indian dancers!

Chief Win'Em All is a Loser. Modern-day Exploitation of Cherokees in North CarolinaStephanie and I were driving down the streets of Cherokee, North Carolina, looking at all the shops For example, the "Redskin Motel," the "Raindancer Artifact Shop," the "Tomahawk Inn," and several others. As we were driving, we saw a tee pee with a sign that said "Live Indian Dancers," and we just had to pull over. I knew that we would find some examples of exploitation, but live Indian dancers? That was pushing it for me. We had to check it out. We pulled over, grabbed our notepads, and got ready for the show. Inside, there were two people doing the presentation: Jonathan and Joe Feather. Jonathan started the presentation by telling the joke about the Titanic. It was a clever and amusing way to bring up the history of the Trail of Tears. The two of them sang, danced, and taught the crowd (which consisted of white tourists) about their culture and that "Indians don't scalp people anymore." The information was presented in a very respectful manner. Before and after, there was a basket that was passed around for people to put money into.What kinds of misinformation are the Feathers trying to overcome?To get another perspective on the situation in Cherokee, NC, I visited a class of fourth graders. The youth of the Cherokee reservation are learning their own language as part of their curriculum. They taught us about their culture and about different current events going on. For example, the mascot at the high school was called Chief Win'em All. The mascot was an Indian chief who had a big long nose, and was a very unattractive character. At football games, he danced around the field during half time and between plays. The 4th graders told me that they found this mascot to be very offensive, as did I just learning about it. But some people didn't mind the mascot. We found one guy who was a lector on Cherokee history whose favorite team was the Washington Redskins.Comment:  I'm shocked--shocked, I tell you--to learn Chief Win-Em-All is a comic-book caricature after all. Who would've guessed it?

Yes, Indians don't scalp people anymore...except in ultra-violent comic books like SCALPED.


Rob said...

I don't presume that any Indian team names, mascots, or logos are perfectly innocent. The concept of embodying a complex set of human traits in a single word or image is inherently stereotypical. But some examples, such as William & Mary's "Tribe" name and feather logo, are relatively innocuous.

FYI, my turntable and tape deck are both broken, so I can't use my (old) stereo. But I do rip CDs to my PC and listen to tunes there.

Rob said...

I didn't start listening to music till after the 8-track era. Sorry. And not being the acquisitive type, I don't have an iPod yet. But if anyone wants to get me one for my upcoming birthday, they're welcome to.

Rob said...

It's the birthday of Clark Gable, John Ford, Langston Hughes, and Boris Yeltsin, if you must know. Along with Laura Dern, Sherilyn Fenn, Bill Mumy, and Lisa Marie Presley.

As you'll recall, I'm an Aquarius. This is my Age, so enjoy it while you can.

Rob said...

You're the one who got this conversation sidetracked, Russ, not me. I don't talk about my personal life nearly as much as you do.

I wasn't claiming anything superhuman by noting that this is the Age of Aquarius. And I'll be helping you with the definition of "New Age" in an upcoming posting.

Rob said...

None of the definitions of the words we've discussed has changed. At least not recently. That's why I keep suggesting you look them up.