October 31, 2007

Happy NA month!

National American Indian Heritage Month, 2007

A Proclamation By the President of the United States of AmericaNational American Indian Heritage Month is an opportunity to honor the many contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives and to recognize the strong and living traditions of the first people to call our land home.

American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to shape our Nation by preserving the heritage of their ancestors and by contributing to the rich diversity that is our country's strength. Their dedicated efforts to honor their proud heritage have helped others gain a deeper understanding of the vibrant and ancient customs of the Native American community. We also express our gratitude to the American Indians and Alaska Natives who serve in our Nation's military and work to extend the blessings of liberty around the world.
Comment:  I'm seeing a huge number of stories springing from the proclamation of American Indian Heritage Month. I'd say the concept is having the intended effect: increasing awareness of Native people.

For Blue Corn Comics' contribution to the celebration, see American Indian Heritage Month:  Resources for the media, schools, and the Web.

Two ballet-dancer bios

Raising the barre

The American Indian Film Fest kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographiesMarking National American Indian Heritage Month, the American Indian Film Festival kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies. Of course, you know one of 'em is gonna be about eternally elegant George Balanchine muse Maria Tallchief—and indeed, Sandra Osawa's Maria Tallchief will have its world premiere at the fest. Praised as the first American prima ballerina and a standout in an art form that had, until her rise to prominence in the 1940s, been largely European, Tallchief brought audiences to their feet and critics to tears. She married Balanchine, and their creative collaboration continued even after their divorce (she wanted a baby; he didn't)—a notable result of which was her role as the original Sugar Plum Fairy in his Nutcracker.

Maria Tallchief—bound for PBS after its festival screening, a fact that's evident in its straightforward style—spends ample time contextualizing its subject's importance not just as a dancer during one of ballet's most historically significant periods (stateside, anyway) but also as a Native American woman proud of her Osage heritage.

Black-and-white archival footage illustrates her considerable gifts, with testimonials from peers and observers (and Tallchief herself) recalling the thrilling life of a talented artist.

More contemporary is Gwendolen Cates's Water Flowing Together (also bound for PBS), which focuses on recently retired New York City Ballet star Jock Soto, one of the last dancers to work with Balanchine. Part Navajo Indian, part Puerto Rican, Soto—who also happens to be gay—is shown from his teens through his 40s, earning praise along the way from seemingly every ballerina he ever partnered, as well as from choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon, who saw him as an inspiration. For a guy who was initially told he didn't have the body of a dancer (and whose dad bought him blue fishnet tights for his first ballet class), Soto's impact on the dance world is shown to be immeasurable.

Navajo kids enjoy their tacos

Thank you, Ellsbury:  Free tacos for everyoneOne fifth-grade class from Nenahnezad Community School in Fruitland made a "run for the border" Tuesday afternoon, thanks to a Navajo baseball player's stolen base during the second game of the World Series.

Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" campaign guaranteed free tacos for a stolen base during Game 2 of the World Series.
Ellsbury deserves to be recognized: Ellsbury's feat should be a source of pride for Navajo people everywhere, Nelson added.

Ellsbury, who was brought up from the minor leagues in late summer, hit nearly .353 during the regular season and was a standout during a 4-0 World Series sweep over the Colorado Rockies. Ellsbury hit over .400 during the four games and made a number of stellar plays both in the field and on the bases.
Comment:  Taco Bell's basic taco has only 170 calories, so it's reasonably healthy.

Below:  Pita Tyler, manager at a Farmington Taco Bell.

Fires won't stop golf tournament

Barona Creek ready for Tour Championship after scare

San Diego wildfires crept close to site of Nationwide season finaleThe scent hovering everywhere provided the only giveaway to the chaotic scene that defined this southern California area less than a week ago. Barona and its environs smelled faintly of a fireplace with the unmistakable essence of lingering smoke.

That was understandable considering the plethora of destructive wildfires that raged throughout San Diego County and southern California last week. Conditions were so extreme the PGA TOUR considered postponing or moving the Nationwide Tour's most prestigious event that begins Thursday and will feature 56 players in the 72-hole, no-cut event that offers the largest first-place check in history, $139,500.

The decision was made to stage the tournament late last week after consultation with various San Diego city and county officials. The area got a major break when the Santa Ana winds that fueled the infernos quelled and firefighters were able to get the fires under control.

Police called about sage

Mistaken identity clouds native rite

Plant burned to cleanse mind sometimes confused with potA ritual that gave Rose Paz a peaceful close to her day now is tinged with fear.

Last week, Paz was burning dried sage in a Native American purification rite in her apartment when she was interrupted by police officers who had been alerted to possible illegal drug use.

The misunderstanding was cleared up by an officer who recognized the bittersweet odor of burning sage.

But Paz is left with an uneasy feeling and a desire to educate others so the situation doesn't happen again.

"I was fortunate to have a police officer that knew these ways," said Paz, an enrolled Yankton Sioux tribal member. "I was fortunate I could go up to my (apartment) manager and say, "This is what happened." But I don't know that will always be the case."

Chief Illiniwek = free speech?

Chief concern

After resurfacing, Chief Illiniwek should stay retiredA victory 20 years in the making was overturned when Illinois chancellor Richard Herman declared that the Homecoming ban violated the U.S. constitution saying, "The University values free speech and free expression and considers Homecoming floats, decorations, costumes and related signage all representations of such personal expression."

Since there is nothing honorable about resurrecting the Chief, is it then an issue of freedom of speech? In a letter to Chancellor Herman, professor Antonia Darder wrote, "If a float maker wants to use KKK imagery or a noose hanging from a tree on a homecoming float, is this now also acceptable under the auspices of 'free expression?' Or if a float maker wants to use images of people copulating or nude participants on a float, would this also be accepted as the freedom of personal expression? And if not, why not? Certainly if public nudity is considered immoral or at least inappropriate, why not public racism?"

Event to showcase Native humor

Faces of Native American comedyAccording to the Native American studies department, the comedy show is also a great way to discover the American Indian community's sense of humor, something it feels the Sac State students and the Sacramento community should learn about.

"Native people have always had a sense of humor. This event is something they know about and I hope they'll show up," Baker said.

Omaha also said the reason American Indian comedy is not well-known is because mainstream America and Hollywood producers don't believe Americans Indian have a sense of humor.

"Comedy isn't new to the Native American community. Every (reservation) has elders that leave you rolling in the aisles with their jokes," Omaha said. "That's ridiculous because Indians leave the casinos every night laughing all the way to the bank."

October 30, 2007

SVU, Bury My Heart, and torture

Last week's Law & Order: SVU was about torture. A couple of guides sum up the episode, titled "Harm":A volunteer at a rehab center is killed and detectives think it may be linked to her counseling of Iraqis tortured by an American-based company.Later:A New York psychiatrist goes on trial after her torture methods are cited in the death of a former Iraqi prisoner.Since the SVU team couldn't charge the Blackwater-style torturers because they were in Iraq, they charged the doctor. The episode then focused on the conflicting claims about torture.

One poster on IMDB.com wrote, "Every episode of SVU that involves the military is like watching a Cuban/Michael Moore propaganda film." But he's sadly mistaken. What was notable about this episode is how pro-torture it was. Doctor Sutton and her lawyer Braden gave impassioned defenses of torture that went unanswered. Even Dr. Huang, the psychologist who normally has the most compassionate point of view, spoke up for Sutton's integrity.

What were the pro-torture arguments? Sutton's argument was along the lines of, "We're at war. You can't play by the rules when someone is trying to kill you." Braden's was along the lines of, "What would you do if you knew there was a ticking bomb? I hurt a suspect once and saved somebody's life."

Although the SVU characters argued against torture, I'd say the pro-terrorist side won the debate. Here's what the "liberal" show could've said but didn't:

1) Experts say torture simply doesn't work. People will lie and do anything to get out of being hurt. 2) The "ticking bomb" scenario never happens in real life. It's a phony straw-man argument. 3) Our torture policy has inflamed Muslims around the world. It has created many more terrorists than it's stopped.

How is "Harm" relevant to this blog? Dick Wolf produced both SVU and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The latter was supposedly pro-Indian and anti-American but was really the reverse. Now we have evidence that Wolf's position is consistent. His shows bluster against US policy but end up supporting it.

Wolf is supposedly a Democrat, but if so, I bet he's a hawkish, Joe Lieberman type of Democrat. I bet he thought we should've invaded Iraq and still thinks we can win there. Similarly, I bet he thinks the US brought "civilization" to the Indians and ultimately did them more good than harm.

Wolf has done things for Indians by producing Bury My Heart and putting Adam Beach on SVU. But he hasn't helped them as much as he could. This is yet another case of two steps forward, one step back.

Are you a reeeeeeal "part" Injun?

A guest rant from Mike a.k.a. Pensmoke, a Christian hip hop artist and mixed-blood Tsalagi (Cherokee):Cherokee.

What do you think of when you hear the word? If you are a member of any other tribal nation you may laugh upon hearing the word. It may make you think of blonde-haired, blue-eyed wannabe Indians wearing turkey feathers at powwows. It may make you think of people asking you "Are you Indian?" and when you answer yes they reply that their great-great-great-grandma was a real "Cherokee princess."

I myself don't think I have ever met someone who was black, white, or other, that didn't claim to have some distant Cherokee ancestor. Growing up in the South, I would hear from the black folks the "I'm part Indian, that's why I got 'good hair'" legend. And of course the white people would boast about having high cheek bones and being tall due to their "Cherokee princess" ancestor.

It's a trip to me that the Cherokee people can be so "loved" and claimed and yet so hated at the same time by other Indians. We are hated on frequently. Many of the tribes out west say that the Cherokees are "fake Indians" or "paper Indians" because they have been mixing with the whites since the 1500s and have so many mixed-bloods in the tribe. Of course on the other side of things you have the non-Indians who regard the Cherokees as "magical" or "spiritual" and wise like a freakin' leprechaun or something.

Here is where I stand on the subject basically: If you are going to claim Cherokee ancestry at least try to learn the cultural heritage of the people. Don't go out and buy a dreamcatcher and a turkey feather warbonnet and go on websites and message boards saying "Mitakuye Oyasin" to everybody (which is Lakota, not Cherokee) and acting like some wise "medicine man" or how you think a "real Injun" would act. You look foolish.

Don't put on some Boy Scout-made "regalia" and go to a powwow making up your own "dance style" and looking like an idiot. If you want to learn, then learn things the right way. If I had a dime for every time someone told me they were "part" Indian I would be living in a mansion right now.

Like I said before, and many people have preached this until they are blue in the face too, Indians don't come in "parts." You are either an Indian or you are not. If you tell me you are "part" Indian I want to know some things. Are you enrolled with the tribe? (It don't matter to me because I am not either.) Where are your Indian ancestors from? What is your blood quantum? You know the language? The history and culture? The stories? If not, then we really don't have much to talk about on the subject of "Indianness," do we?

Native roles decreased in 2006

Newest Casting Data Shows Highest Ethnic Minority Representation on RecordFollowing a fifteen year trend, non-Caucasian performers made incremental gains over the past two years, although mostly represented in supporting roles, according to the latest casting data collected and analyzed by Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 2005 and 2006. Casting data for women and senior performers has remained relatively unchanged.

“With the public continuing to demand full inclusion in film and television programming, we are proud to be a leading voice in the industry,” SAG President Alan Rosenberg said. “While we are also pleased to announce the largest percentage share for ethnic minorities to date, we cannot be content with the current levels of representation in each category, as they do not reflect the current demographics of our country. We will continue to insist on greater access to employment opportunities and accurate depictions of the American Scene.”

Native American Indian roles fell from 0.4 percent of total roles in 2005 to 0.2 percent of total roles in 2006. The non-episodic television category saw a net decrease of 69 roles over 2005. Excluding this category, the total number of roles for Native American Indians actually increased from 76 to 89. American Indian performers continue to be the least represented ethnic group with less than one percent share of all roles.
Comments:  The rise in the number of roles in "other categories" is probably due mainly to Apocalypto. Expect a big drop in the "other categories" category in next year's report.

Indianz.com helpfully provided a link to the actual report. Let's look at the data:

Total roles in 2005:    43,992
Native roles in 2005:         176 (0.4%)

Total roles in 2006:    48,542
Native roles in 2006:          97 (0.2%)

I'm not sure if these numbers are accurate. I may call SAG myself and see if I can get the raw data. But they suggest a problem with American Indians in Film and Television's annual report.

AIFTV limited itself to prime-time shows on major networks, I guess, and came up with zero Native roles. This report is more comprehensive, and there are clearly more than zero Native roles overall. Reporting the prime-time, major-network number as if it's the only number that counts is misleading at best.

Ellsbury shills for Taco Bell

Taco Bell promotion is off base to someJacoby Ellsbury did the deed in the fourth inning Thursday night. And not long afterward, Fox Sports played this conversation, recorded a day earlier from the Red Sox dugout, between Ellsbury and shortstop Royce Clayton:

Clayton: Hey, you like Taco Bell?

Ellsbury: (nods)

Clayton: You know, if somebody steals a base in the World Series, everybody in America gets a Taco Bell free . . . taco.

Ellsbury: Everybody in America?

Clayton: Everybody in America gets a free taco.

Could you repeat that one more time? Soon, conspiracy theories were swirling--especially since Clayton had also been caught talking up the tacos with center fielder Coco Crisp. ("You could go to every Taco Bell in the world and say that 'I ain't got my taco!' " he had said. "How they gonna know?") Announcers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck seemed to chat up Taco Bell at every opportunity. And on Thursday, Fox Sports announcer Chris Myers conducted a fawning interview with Taco Bell honcho Rob Savage, who said, with an impressively straight face, that this giveaway was "for our customers."
Comment:  There's absolutely no truth to the rumor that Ellsbury is thinking of changing his name from Jacoby to Tacoby.

As the article says, this promotion is pretty venal. I didn't know things had gotten this bad (see the accompanying video). I guess it's all part of today's baseball, but it's far from traditional Native values.

Navajo filmmakers gain attention

Navajo film festival comes to ShiprockA growing number of Navajo filmmakers are gaining international attention for films that portray everyday life on the nation's largest American Indian reservation.

But it can be easier to rally support for Navajo films in Australia than on the Nation, some young filmmakers say.

"My film screened at the Sundance Film Festival, in New York City, all over the world, before it screened on the reservation," said Nanobah Becker, a 32-year-old filmmaker from Ojo Encino. "A lot of the films we do show our culture, yet they only screen at large film festivals."

Becker is trying to reverse the trend by bringing a sampling of Navajo talent to Shiprock today for a film festival at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center. The New Mexico native lives in Los Angeles, where she works full time as a filmmaker. She organized the Navajo film festival earlier this year and is hosting screenings across the Nation.

San Manuel donates $1 million in fire aid

California Tribal Government Steps Forward with $1,000,000 for Southern California Fire Relief EffortsThe San Manuel Band of Mission Indians announced today, that they are contributing $1 million to assist fellow Californians who have been directly affected by the recent tragic fires.

The contribution will enable various humanitarian organizations to continue providing services as the victims endeavor to recover in the aftermath. Among the groups to receive contributions are the American Red Cross-Inland Empire Chapter and the Community Foundation, an intergovernmental effort involving the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside.

Natives tasered more often

Taser Report Causes TensionSome local Native Americans claim they're targets for being tasered by Sioux City Police. Accusations stem from the recent release of a taser report breaking down each incident by race.

The report says of the 70 people tasered by Sioux City Police last year, 13 of them were Native American, that's roughly 17% of all those tasered.

The report comes just days after a 13 year-old, 90 lb. Native American girl was tasered by police outside of Rollerama.

October 29, 2007

Shock jocks insult Minnesota tribes

Indian leaders win several concessions from KQRS after Barnard show commentsThe uproar stems from a broadcast last month in which Barnard and co-host Terri Traen talked about the Red Lake and Shakopee tribes while discussing a report by the state Health Department that Beltrami County has the state's highest rate of suicide among young people.

The jocks then mentioned Bemidji and the Red Lake reservation, both in Beltrami County.

"Maybe it's genetic; isn't there a lot of incest up there?" Traen said about the tribe.

"Not that I know of," Barnard replied.

"I think there is," Traen continued. "Don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure. "Well, I'm glad you just threw it out there, then," Barnard said to laughter in the background.

Barnard also criticized the Shakopee Sioux, who own the Mystic Lake Casino, for "doing a hell of a job helping them out."

Traen commented, "They don't give them anything?"

"Hell, no!" Barnard replied.

Bellecourt said Red Lake has received nearly $4 million in grants from the Shakopee tribe since 2004 toward building a new Boys and Girls Club, assisting with the recent rebirth of the tribe's walleye fishing industry and creating a center in Bemidji to address sexual assault.

Keep the name, eliminate the offense

Negotiate a compromise for mascots[W]hat triggered the proposal to ban these mascots was a person, a young Siletz Indian named Che Butler. While playing basketball for Taft High School in Lincoln City, Butler’s younger brother witnessed a halftime show at Molalla High where two mascot in buckskins and chicken feathers danced around each other.

They were offended. It’s a reaction you can’t deny. You can say you wouldn’t be offended in their shoes. You can talk about Fightin’ Irish and Vikings. You can say mascots honor Indians. But on that night, in that gym, Che Butler and his younger brother were hurt. You hear stories just like this all over the country.

Southern Oregon University’s mascot was once the Red Raiders of the Rogue. Their logo was a cartoonish, cross-legged Indian. Practices like the tomahawk chop, drumming and war chants were common at athletic events.

This all occurred miles from where some of the bloodiest Indian battles and massacres in the state took place in the1850s.

In the 1980s, predicting a controversy like the one currently involving Oregon high schools, SOU—then known as Southern Oregon College—gave their mascot an overhaul.

“Red” was dropped from the nameplate, and the smiling Indian was replaced by a Red-Tailed Hawk, an animal revered by tribes in the Rogue Valley. They kept the name Raiders, the school colors and the athletic tradition.

It was meeting halfway in a touchy area, on a touchy subject.

The granddaddy of all Indians

Lenni-Lenape spirit alive in BucksIn her presentation to village visitors, Custer explains that the Lenape tribe was known as the grandfather of all Native Americans because it was a peaceful tribe. Led by Chief Tammany—or Tamanend, as he is more popularly known—they tried to resolve conflict without force. They followed many of the same beliefs as the Irish and Quaker cultures, which Custer believes, is why the Lenape got along so well with William Penn, with whom they shared their land.

As Custer explained, the Lenape believed life was a learning experience. Children were made to think for themselves and were seldom punished, especially if there was a lesson to be learned. The tribe learned to live in harmony with nature and maintain a balance with every living thing. One credo was, “Let the first three go by and take the fourth.” If the Lenape were gathering eggs, they would save one for the animals, one for the birds, the third for procreation and take the fourth for the tribe.
You probably heard what happened to the Tammany name. From ExplorePAhistory.com:The Delaware had their own accounts of Pennsylvania’s mythic founding encounter, which revolved around the revered Chief Tammany, or Tamanen, whose mark appears on a 1683 deed ceding lands north of Philadelphia to William Penn. In the 1770s colonists appropriated his name, organizing “Tammany societies” that supported American independence. In the early 1800s, the Democratic Party that ran New York City for decades to come took on the name, “Tammany Hall.”

Classical Chickasaw composer

American Indian traditions come to classical musicAt first it would seem that classical music and the music of American Indians have little in common. But Chickasaw composer Jerod Tate is among a handful of Indian composers using classical music to express his culture and history. This weekend the Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis premieres a new guitar concerto by Tate inspired by traditional themes.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate was born in Norman, Oklahoma and grew up surrounded by classical music. He listened to his father play Bach and Rachmaninoff on the piano. His mother was a professor of dance and a choreographer. He spent evenings and weekends at rehearsals and performances of ballets and musicals.

Tate studied the piano and had no intention of becoming a composer. But at the rather advanced age of 23, his mother asked him to write an original ballet score based on American Indian stories from the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains.

"It was the first time I actually thought of marrying the two very strong identities that I have," Tate says. "One is being a Chickasaw Indian, and the other one is being a classical musician. My mother presented the perfect opportunity for me to express both of those together."

Standing up to racism

Russell:  Political correctness and drawing to an inside straightGrowing up in Oklahoma, I came to understand that being "part Indian" was cool while being a full-blood was not, as far as the white majority was concerned. Our family hero was Will Rogers, but we did not think of him as "part Indian." We thought of him as Cherokee and "part Indian" a laughable attempt by white folks to make Rogers one of them.

I guess I finally internalized the dominant culture message the day I came into the barber shop where I had gotten my haircuts since childhood to deliver newspapers. I interrupted a tirade by one of the barbers about the shiftless welfare bum Indians. When he saw me standing in the doorway he mumbled "Oh, I didn't mean you" and, that day only, gave me a tip.

It's easier to ignore this kind of poison, but I've come to believe that ignoring it is like failing to take antibiotics for an infection. It just gets worse. So I've been publicly on the wrong side of my entire tribal government when they try to eject tribal citizens for excessive melanin.
Comment:  Steve Russell is a longtime supporter of PEACE PARTY and Blue Corn Comics.

Kodak book of old photos

Kodak Produces Book of Historic Photos on Native American LifeThanks to a unique collaboration between Kodak's Graphic Communications Group and The Center for Western Studies of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., photographs taken more than 100 years ago have come to life in a new photo book. Impressions of Tribal Life was produced on a KODAK NEXPRESS S3000 Digital Production Color Press.

Impressions of Tribal Life compiles photographs taken by Father Ambrose Mattingly, OSB, who came to the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota in August 1888 as a priest with Immaculate Conception Indian Mission at Stephan. Among his many skills as a painter, carpenter, plumber, farmer, teacher and doctor, Father Ambrose also pursued photography from 1895 to 1905, capturing images that reveal a great deal about life on the reservation.

The photo book features digital scans of glass plate images that have been enhanced by combining them with Native American artifacts to add color and texture.

Lakota makes headdresses for Chiefettes

Chiefs' Look Is Carefully Crafted[Chiefettes advisor Stacy] Wrenn and Chiefettes parents went to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market and found Red Eagle, a 59-year-old Native American Indian from the Lakota Sioux tribe, and that's when Red Eagle's hands went to work on hundreds of white turkey feathers (yes there are white turkeys) and thousands of beads.

A few months later, 35 Chiefette color guard members, dancers and drum majors had 30 white feathers and 2,500 beads in each of their headdresses. In four floor-length versions, there were 90 feathers and 3,500 beads.
Comment:  Teenage girls pretending to be honored chiefs in revered feathered regalia...not too much of a violation of Native tradition here.

I suspect few if any tribes had female "chiefettes."

October 28, 2007

Native tries to recall mayor

Recalling Berkeley mayor tops activist's busy agenda

Runningwolf has court date to face charges against himselfThere's so much going on in Zachary Runningwolf's life, it's hard to know where to begin.

First, he's trying to recall Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, a man who trounced Runningwolf in last year's election. Bates collected 62.9 percent of the vote and was elected to a second term with the largest margin of any mayor in Berkeley in 40 years.

Bates previously served more than 20 years in the state legislature.

Runningwolf, who in 1999 served a stint on the city's Peace and Justice Commission and staged his own run for mayor, took 4.7 percent of the vote.

More on Runningwolf's politics:

Pipestone wins top NAMMY

NAMMY Awards recognize best in Native musicSome of Indian country's best-known musicians were present at the ninth annual Native American Music Awards celebration at the Seneca-Niagara Casino & Hotel Oct. 6 to perform, present or receive awards. Up-and-coming musical acts added to the evening's variety and took home several prestigious awards.

Members of the Wisconsin-based drum group Pipestone took home the evening's top award--Record of the Year--for the album "Good Ol' Fashioned NDN Lovin'" and became instant celebrities. Pipestone received its NAMMY accompanied by ear-cracking applause and, when the ceremony was over, its members were swarmed by fans requesting photographs and autographs.
Pipestone spreads humor with NAMMY-winning drum CDBack on their home reservation in northern Wisconsin, members of the drum group Pipestone are still reeling from their recent Native American Music Awards win. Though it was back to work and their normal daily schedules, Pipestone members can't deny that their win for Record of the Year at the 2007 NAMMYs has elevated them to a new category of fame.

Following their win, the group was swarmed by fans happy to share in their celebration and asking for autographs and photos.

Who controls Morrisseau?

Family feuds over control of native painter's legacy

Artist's sons endorse different organizations to authenticate worksAn ugly public rift has developed between two groups seeking to protect the legacy of Nanaimo-based Norval Morrisseau, one of Canada's most celebrated living painters.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake in the dispute between the Morrisseau Family Foundation, publicly launched last month by Morrisseau's son Christian, and the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, a group of academics endorsed by Gabe Vadas, a man Morrisseau considers to be his son.

At issue is which organization is arbiter of the works created by Morrisseau, an Ojibway artist whose paintings sell for as much as $100,000.

Grand Ronde meteorite doesn't sell

Meteorites Get Little Action at AuctionTwo of the world’s most famous meteorites failed to attract buyers at an auction Sunday, while an ordinary metal mailbox zapped by a falling space rock in 1984 was sold for the unearthly price of nearly $83,000.

A 30-pound chunk of the Willamette Meteorite, which was found in Oregon in 1902 and has been steeped in ownership controversies for more than a century, was offered by Bonhams auction house at an estimated value of $1.3 million but was withdrawn from sale after bidding ended at $300,000.
Comment:  I wonder if this is a case of bad karma. You know, no one bidding on the meteorite because they knew it belonged morally to the tribe, not the present owner?

Scamming the school survivors

First Nations targeted by marketers

Retailers see windfall in residential school payoutsFirst Nation communities are bracing for the possible fallout as lump-sum payments of up to $38,000 for residential school survivors begin to arrive.

With so many residents on reserves affected, more than $50 million will flow into some individual reserves.

That has officials fearing everything from fraud to scams that target recipients to increased drug trafficking.

Residential school survivors have already been targeted by retailers, including out-of-province dealers offering cars in return for a share of residential school payments.

Thank Ellsbury for tacos

Navajo Red Sox Outfielder Wins Free Tacos For AmericaTaco Bell promised to give away free tacos as part of its "Steal A Base, Steal A Taco" promotion.

Now, thanks to Ellsbury, the company said on Tuesday between 2 and 5 p.m., anyone any where can walk into a Taco Bell and get a free seasoned beef taco. You have to specifically ask specifically for the seasoned beef taco.

Alaska Native television channel

Native TVA GCI executive announced Friday at AFN that his company has formed an alliance to create an Alaska Native television channel.

Programs will include documentaries on Native art, culture and history, news, sports and weather. Ultimately, GCI hopes to broadcast the station as a profit-making enterprise, Ron Duncan, GCI president, said.

October 27, 2007

Winnowing the tribal herds?

Windfall profits from casinos narrows down members of 'Tribes'The windfalls of cash lure people with dubious claims of ancestry. The Pechanga Band of California said it was deluged with membership claims after it opened its casino in 1995.

John Gomez Jr., 39, a Pechanga member since childhood, was kicked out in 2004. He said gambling profits were one factor: He lost free health care and a $15,000 monthly payment. But he said he and others had questioned leaders before a tribal election.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the money, but there's a lot of it that's also about the politics," said Gomez, who co-founded the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization, a group that lobbies against expelling tribe members.

The Pechanga council has said it cut members who should never have been let in.
Disenrollment by the numbers:Gomez's advocacy group counts at least 1,500 people ousted from 13 tribes in California.

In Michigan, the Saginaw Chippewa want to remove about a tenth of their 2,700 members due to rules that require them to be at least one-quarter Indian.

The Cherokee Nation voted in March to deny citizenship to an estimated 2,800 descendants of tribal slaves.
Comment:  The Pechanga case is a good example of how the facts aren't clear. Both sides spin the debate and only the insiders know the truth.

Gomez says disenrollment is partly about politics. If so, it's worth noting that the Pechangas have elected and reelected Chairman Mark Macarro several times. As far as I know, there have been no allegations of voting improprieties.

Now let's look at the numbers.

I believe most of the disenrolled members in California come from four or five tribes. The Chippewas haven't removed anyone yet. The Cherokee Freedmen case is arguably about race, not money. And there's the Narragansett situation in Rhode Island.

So that's 16 out of 200-plus gaming tribes if you count every single example, even the ones that haven't happened yet. It's a few thousand people out of the 4.1 million who are part Native, according to the Census. We're talking about 0.1% of the American Indian population.

In short, disenrollment gets a lot of bad press, but it's a relatively minor problem. As I've written before.

Seminoles in Asia

Hard Rock eyes casino, hotel venturesThe Seminole Tribe, of Florida, had announced in December its $965-million acquisition of the Orlando-based Hard Rock International and related entities from The Rank Group PLC.

Headquartered in Hollywood, Florida, the Seminole Native-American tribe--which takes pride in being unconquered by the US government despite three vicious wars in the 1800s--is an autonomous government, with at least 90 percent of its budget derived from gaming revenues.

Last March, tribe leaders announced that the acquisition would provide diversification of the Seminole’s business operations.

James Allen, chairman of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment Inc., said in a separate interview Friday that company officials were on an eight-city tour of Asia in view of “tremendous growth and opportunities in the hotel business” in the region.
Native American tribe set to rock S'poreFace paint, feathers and bows and arrows.

Ask some Singaporeans about Native Americans and that's how they'll describe them, no thanks to the movies.

Well, all that is about to change.

The Seminole Tribe from Florida, together with HPL Hotels & Resorts, has big plans for Sentosa.

They plan to build a Hard Rock hotel there.
Comment:  Gee, I wonder where the Singaporeans got the idea that Indians mean face paint, feathers, bows and arrows. Perhaps from watching Florida State University's Seminoles and their face-painted mascot.

Sioux say no to settlement

Tribes:  No deal to UND, NCAA pactDakota and Lakota tribal leaders spurned a settlement announced Friday that would allow the University of North Dakota time to seek approval to keep using the controversial “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo.

“I think they’re going to try to buy use of the name,” said Jesse Taken Alive, a Standing Rock tribal council member. “They’ve already tried to do that here at Standing Rock.”
Tribal chairman expects pressure from lawsuit settlement...Ron His Horse Is Thunder chairs the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

He says UND should use the three years to prepare for a new nickname. He says it will be divisive to try to persuade tribal members to allow the Fighting Sioux name.

United Tribes Technical College President David Gipp says the settlement shows a lack of respect for the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes. Hep says the tribes have already made it plain they don't want the name to continue.

Fans can't live without their mascots

Illinois reverses course, allows chief images in paradeThe University of Illinois will allow homecoming parade floats to display Chief Illiniwek images, reversing an earlier decision to bar any likeness of the banned mascot from the event.

Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler says Chancellor Richard Herman decided the policy banning the chief from the parade restricted free speech.
William & Mary fans will get feathers to protest logo switchStaff members at William and Mary's student-run newspaper will distribute green and gold feathers to fans attending today's homecoming game against Massachusetts at Zable Stadium.

Nick Fitzgerald, executive editor of the Virginia Informer, said the feathers are meant to foster team pride while protesting the NCAA's decision to have them removed from the Tribe's athletics logo.

Tlingit wins American Book Award

Hayes wins American Book Award for her memoir, 'Blonde Indian'Ernestine Hayes's "Blonde Indian" has been selected as a winner of the 28th annual American Book Awards for 2007. Established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation, the American Book Awards provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from America's diverse literary community.

Offering a fresh and compelling voice that has earned recognition in Native oratory and storytelling, Ernestine Hayes's writing has appeared in Travelers' Tales Alaska, The Anchorage Press and the Juneau Empire. In "Blonde Indian"--a beautiful evocation of the enduring power of heritage and landscape through generations--Hayes traces her life from her childhood growing up in the Tlingit community through her adulthood, during which she lived for some time in Seattle and San Francisco, and her eventual return home.

The FSU spearchuckers

FSU to wear black helmets?To honor the Seminole Tribe, Florida State will again don their black, "Unconquered" uniforms for this weekend's homecoming game against Duke.

The all-black uniforms, which were designed by Nike, were unveiled last year against Boston College as a way to honor the Seminole Tribe. The uniforms bear the word "Unconquered" in recognition of the tribe's status as the only Native Americans that have not negotiated a formal peace treaty with the United States.
Comment:  Nothing says "Indian" like a spear meant for killing.

National Indian AA convention

National Indian AA convention is hereThe 17th annual Native American Indian Alcoholics Anonymous convention is in Billings this weekend.

The events continue through Sunday at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana.

All AA members are welcome; however, people must be registered and wearing a badge to be admitted to the events. The convention is open to interested members of the public, professionals and others who want to learn about the AA program.

October 26, 2007

Bunky's Native icons

From a press release:
Bunky Echo-Hawk Paints Living ICONS
New series of paintings features Native leaders
What do John Echohawk (co-founder of the Native American Rights Fund), Sherman Alexie (author, poet, and filmmaker), and Q’orianka Kilcher (star of Terrence Malick’s The New World) have in common? They’re all “living icons” in Bunky Echo-Hawk’s latest series of topical paintings now on display in Denver. In “Living ICONS,” Echo-Hawk (Pawnee/Yakama) has chosen to illustrate Indian Country’s living leaders, artists, and innovators in his usual vibrant style. When asked to name notable Native Americans, explains Echo-Hawk in his artistic statement, “People conjure up names of leaders who lived 150 years ago. … Coincidentally, 150 years ago, killing Indians was public policy. It’s damaging that the most accepted contemporary view of Native Americans is from this era, and speaks volumes about the American collective mentality. “The people I chose as subjects are people I admire for their leadership, innovation, success, and their role in combating colonialism in their own ways,” continues Echo-Hawk. “I aim to shift the mirror a bit to reflect our society and culture in a contemporary light. Perhaps, 150 years from now, these individuals will be mentioned as notable heroes.” The icons include longtime activists (e.g., Wilma Mankiller, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Gary Farmer), today’s movers and shakers (e.g., Chris Eyre, Adam Beach, and Victor Rocha), and rising young stars (e.g., Jenni Monet, Ryan Redcorn, and Quese Imc). “Living ICONS” opened October 9 at the Native American Trading Company in Denver, where it will run through the end of October. It’s sponsored by the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management as part of its 4th Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival. After that, the show will head to Front Range Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Gallery in Westminster, Colorado, where it will appear November 1-15. For more information on “Living ICONS,” visit Bunky Echo-Hawk on MySpace. Note:  I wrote this press release. The reason is because the exhibit includes Victor Rocha, my boss at PECHANGA.net.

Sandia should pay jackpot

How do you say 'PR' in the Tiwa Language?A patron at the Sandia Resort and Casino was playing a slot machine when it indicated a $1.6 million jackpot, according to ABC News (hat tip: Drudge). But the lucky gambler, Gary Hoffman, hit hard luck when it came to getting the Indian reservation casino to pay off. No dice, as it were. The casino claims that it was a computer malfunction on the electronic-laden one armed bandit.

He has a poor chance of obtaining legal redress. ABC News writes:

Native American tribes, as independent nations, have their own court systems and can be sued in state courts only under limited circumstances. New Mexico law generally does not allow tribes to be sued in a state court over a contract dispute, Kleiman said.
The Tiwa-speaking Sandia Pueblo tribe and all the other casino-owning tribes certainly do not want to give up the extraterritorial advantages they get by exemption from various laws and regulations, so they may be reluctant to submit this kind of case to American courts.

They need to take a hard look at the PR cost to them of not paying off. If the trade association split the cost, it would be trivial. They might want to throw in a few million more to spend on R&D to make sure their slot machines never do this again.
Comment:  I'm not sure if the tribe should pay the whole jackpot, but a generous consolation prize might be a good idea. Supposedly they gave Hoffman "about $385 and a few free meals at the casino." I'm thinking more like a quarter of the jackpot, or $400,000.

More generally, gaming tribes should be thinking constantly about how to garner good publicity. They get enough bad publicity as it is.

These tribes do give generously to local charities, but their efforts don't affect voters in urban areas or state capitols. In other words, the people who will decide the important policy issues the tribes wish to implement.

Therefore, gaming tribes should be building downtown museums, sponsoring sports teams, developing clothing and food products, starting record labels, financing movies (and comic books), etc....as a few of them are starting to do. In other words, whatever it takes to bring their cultural values and perspective into the mainstream. The way to generate a positive opinion in the popular culture is to participate in the popular culture.

Navajos roll for disabled rights

Disabled advocates highlight victims, vetsDennison, a lobbyist for the Native American Advocacy Group in Window Rock, was among about 35 individuals who participated in the 3rd Annual People with Disabilities Walk to the Navajo Nation Council chambers last Thursday.

But many didn't walk because they were confined to wheelchairs. And if they could walk, it was done with a lot of effort and very slowly.
The scope of the problem:According to the law center survey, which will be released next month, about 30,000 disabled individuals reside on the Navajo Nation.

Benally expressed disappointment that, despite those numbers, no Navajo government program that provides services to the disabled participated in the Oct. 18 walk.
MIA on needs of disabled

Advocate asks why Shirley administration is unresponsive to needs of the handicappedFor more than a year now, Doris Dennison, 44, has been trying to speak face to face with President Joe Shirley Jr.--again.

The last time Dennison spoke directly with Shirley was in March 2006. He listened to the description of the many obstacles faced by disabled residents of the Navajo Nation, and promised to make their concerns a priority once the election was over.

"And then nothing," she said.

Dennison, who works as an advocate for the Native American Advocacy Group in Window Rock, pointed out that most tribal buildings lack wheelchair access, despite tribal and federal laws requiring it.

In one instance described by officials of the judicial branch during a budget hearing, they recalled that a family member had to carry a disabled person in their arms to a second-floor courtroom.

Fires take tribal toll

Raging wildfires burning up southern California reservationsThe wildfires roaring across Southern California have burned more than 17,200 acres of land on the Yuina, Rincon, La Jolla, San Pasqual and Pala reservations, said Jim Fletcher, superintendent for the BIA in southern California.

Another 8,960 acres have burned on the Capitan Grande, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, Barona, Jamul and Inaja-Cosmit reservations.

Fletcher has called a meeting with tribes and federal officials Oct. 30 to assess the damage and coordinate the relief effort.

"Mesa Grande is a poor tribe and La Jolla does not have gaming operations," he said. "Those folks need a lot of help."

Across San Diego County, gaming tribes are continuing to assist those whose reservations are being devastated by wildfires.

The fires have caused at least $1 billion in damage in San Diego County alone and have led to the largest evacuation in state history. At least 500,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, including thousands of tribal members.

More than 1,400 homes have been destroyed in the 18 fires raging in seven counties, according to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

At least 41 homes on the La Jolla reservation have burned along with 65 on the Rincon reservation and five on the Yuina reservation, Fletcher said. To the southeast, a fire swept through a 900-acre parcel where the Mesa Grande tribe keeps a herd of 45 bison.

UND must put up or shut up

Sources:  UND must get tribe approval to retain ‘Fighting Sioux’ nicknameThe Fighting Sioux nickname will be retired in three years unless the University of North Dakota gets support from the area’s Sioux tribes, according to terms of a pending settlement agreement.

Anonymous sources familiar with initial settlement talks told The Forum that the proposed agreement with the NCAA allows UND to use the Fighting Sioux nickname in postseason play for the next three years.

Some of the Sioux logos would have to be removed from the Ralph Engelstad Arena, but the more permanent logos, such as those in granite, would stay, sources said.

The agreement includes an acknowledgement by the NCAA that UND was not hostile or abusive toward American Indians in its use of the Fighting Sioux nickname, sources said.
Comment:  The settlement appears to favor UND in the short term, but the NCAA in the long term.

If I were the NCAA, I wouldn't agree to take back its "hostile and abusive" charge. But I could see dropping it for the greater good of compelling UND to act.

In short, the compromise seems reasonable, especially since UND 1) initiated the lawsuit and 2) hasn't gotten unqualified tribal support yet. The compromise essentially would force UND to put up or shut up.

Decapitated head or work of art?

French Debate:  Is Maori Head Body Part or Art?Since 1875, the mummified, tattooed head of a Maori warrior has been part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Natural History at Rouen in Normandy.

Mayor Pierre Albertini of Rouen, left, and Ambassador Sarah Dennis of New Zealand signed an agreement to return the head to New Zealand at a ceremony on Tuesday attended by Ariki Nuitumu Te Heuheu, back left, a representative of the Maori. The French Ministry of Culture is trying to prevent the move.

But when Rouen’s mayor arranged recently to return it to New Zealand as an act of “atonement” for colonial-era trafficking in human remains, the national Ministry of Culture stepped in to block him.

The ministry contends that the head is a work of art that belongs to France and that its return could set an unfortunate precedent for a huge swath of the national museum collections—from Egyptian mummies in the Louvre to Asian treasures in the Musée Guimet and African and Oceanic artifacts in the Musée du Quai Branly.

My 10 Questions video on Racialicious

10 Questions:  Should we ban American Indian mascots?

Check it out, including the interesting comments. And if you haven't voted yet, vote!

October 25, 2007

The first Indian baseball player

The Story of Louis SockalexisAlthough it was discovered in the 1960s that the first Native American in the major leagues was James Madison Toy, who played in the American Association in 1887 and 1890, the first man known and treated as an American Indian was Louis Sockalexis. Born on October 24, 1871 on the Penobscot Indian reservation outside of Old Town, Maine, Sockalexis displayed incredible athletic talent in his youth. Tales abounded of his great throwing arm, with descriptions of him hurling a baseball over 600 feet across the Penobscot River. He went on to become a star pitcher and outfielder at both Holy Cross and Notre Dame, where life and legend continued to intertwine. One of his colossal home runs was estimated at 600 feet, while another reportedly broke a fourth-story window in the Brown University chapel. He stole six bases in one game; pitched three no-hitters; and one of his outfield throws, measured by two Harvard professors, traveled 414 feet on the fly.

Sockalexis was signed to a professional contract in 1897 by the Cleveland Spiders baseball club of the National League and was an immediate success, hitting an impressive .338 with eight triples and 16 stolen bases in his first 60 games. He appeared to be on target to fulfill the enormous promise predicted for him by New York Giants manager John McGraw, who described Sockalexis as the greatest natural talent he had ever encountered in the game. But his rookie season and his professional baseball career were soon ground to a halt. A drinking problem that had begun in his college days resurfaced, and on July 4, 1897, during a party, an inebriated Sockalexis jumped from the second-story window of a brothel, severely injuring his ankle. He played only sporadically during the next two years, and his last game in the major leagues came in 1899 at the age of 27.

Who was on first first?

Author says Sockalexis first Indian in MLBLouis Sockalexis, the Penobscot Indian who played for the Cleveland Indians, should have his title restored as first American Indian to play in the major leagues, according to the author of a book about Sockalexis.

Sockalexis was stripped of the title in 1963 when a National Baseball Hall of Fame historian pronounced a Sioux Indian named James Madison Toy to be the first.

But author Ed Rice said Thursday that he obtained Toy’s death certificate in Pennsylvania, and it lists his race as “white.”

“It’s time for a sorrowful 43-year-old hoax to come to an end. Locally, regionally and nationally, it is time to restore the title ‘First American Indian’ to the man who earned it—Louis Sockalexis,” Rice said.
Comment:  I wouldn't necessarily trust the racial designation on an old birth certificate.

Cherokee choir in Macy's parade

Cherokee National Youth Choir wins NAMMY, Macy's Parade spotThis year, the choir has been invited to participate in the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The group will ride on a float called "Bountiful Harvest" and perform along the parade route. They will stop at Harold's Square for a one-minute televised performance to be broadcast live on NBC.

"It is such an honor to be a part of this historic event in New York City," Henderson said.
The choir's background:The choir--55 Cherokee students between the ages of 12 and 17 from throughout the tribe's 14-county jurisdiction in northeastern Oklahoma--was originally organized in 2000 as a means of generating interest in Cherokee language revitalization. New choir members are chosen each January by audition. They do not have to be fluent Cherokee speakers to participate. The overall goal of the youth choir is to enhance language skills.

Many of the songs performed by the choir were translated years ago and have been enjoyed by generations of Cherokee speakers. A team of translators from the tribe's Sequoyah Language Immersion program, including Native speakers and language instructors, translates the songs performed by the choir. The team includes Anna Huckabee, Dennis Six Killer, Bobbie Gale Smith and Kathy Sierra, a fluent speaker of Cherokee and the choir's coordinator.

Fires hit tribes hard

'We were left behind,' tribal official says

Rincon Indians lose 65 structuresA day after fire swept through the Rincon Indian reservation in North County, destroying 65 homes, trailers and other buildings, a tribal council member wondered when outside help would arrive.

“We were left behind, nobody here to help,” Councilwoman Stephanie Spencer said yesterday. “We are doing everything we can with our casino and all our resources here, but they don't last forever.”

The Rincon and La Jolla reservations were hit hard by the Poomacha fire Tuesday morning, with tribal members and others seeking refuge in the Harrah's Rincon casino near Valley Center.

As of yesterday afternoon, 350 people remained at the casino-hotel.
Comment:  If anyone's wondering, I'm not in any danger. These fires are 75-150 miles away from me.

Lessons from Turtle Island

Elementary School Lesson Plans on American Indians"Throughout this book, we have often relied on outstanding children's literature, usually by Native authors, to introduce positive, accurate images of Native peoples to children. It is our view that, with the possible exception of classroom visits by American Indian people, excellent children's literature is the most effective way to counter deeply held stereotypes and help children focus on similarities among peoples as well as cultural differences. The literature serves as a catalyst to extend related activities into other areas of the curriculum."

And here's an excerpt from Chapter 1:

"Omission of Native peoples from the curriculum, inaccurate curriculum, and stereotyping all amount to cultural insensitivity. This is heightened, however, when well-meaning teachers introduce projects that are culturally inappropriate."
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 10/24/07.)

Native women Wi$e Up

Local women Wi$e Up to financial literacyIn celebration of the 13 women who reached their next plateau of success by completing the Wi$e Up Financial Literacy Course, family and friends as well as Department of Labor Women's Bureau (DOLWB) administrators gathered Oct. 15 at the Coconino County Administration Building.

"This is a segment of 'empowering' Native American women!" Wi$e Up instructor Holly Figueroa (Hopi) said. "Being able to give these women the tools and the confidence they need to be financially savvy is awesome! These women will be able to make knowledgeable financial decisions that affect not only themselves, but their families or their future families. For example, living and working in Flagstaff, saving for college, buying a car or truck or even buying a home. Financial literacy is an important part of being able to balance a Native American life and an urban life or life in general."

Archaeologists vs. casino

Archaeologists oppose Quechan casino planArchaeologists with a regional museum have joined the protest against the Quechan Indian Tribe's constructing its next casino on what some tribal elders and researchers consider historic and sacred land.

Leaders and archaeologists with the Imperial Valley College Desert Museum Society near El Centro have petitioned the Quechan Tribal Council to stop construction, stating that, "To destroy this site runs counter to Quechan tribal policy of protecting the cultural past of its tribal lands."

October 24, 2007

"Medicine woman" teaches shamanic classes

Shaman guides students in questVictorino began teaching the Wilderness Women Within class in Spring 2006 and was well received.

Since the spring of last year, she has taught one other class—Shamanism and Animal Medicine, which is an introduction to the spiritual and healing practices of shamanism and soul retrieval. The awareness of animals and their ability to assist people in their everyday struggles is also addressed.

She offers a second class to her Wilderness Women Within that is not offered through the college. Known as the Vision Quest, this course involves several meetings, as well as course work designed to help students get ready for the nine day excursion to the Mojave Desert. The preparation for the trip is nearly a year long, and safety is Victorino's main concern, so she requires every person to be CPR- and first aid-certified before they leave for the journey.
Comment:  All sorts of questions arise here. Which culture's "shamanism" is she teaching? Which culture's vision quest? Which tribe(s) taught her and gave her permission to use their sacred knowledge? Or are these just watered-down versions of Native belief devoid of tribal specifics?

University to collect children's books

Program Seeks Rare American Indian and Indigenous Books

The effort is an attempt to improve intercultural understanding through the use of children's books.A new effort at The University of Arizona’s College of Education is focused on indigenous populations and trying to help keep indigenous languages from disappearing--and to do this, children and adolescent literature will be used.

With a $15,000 donation from the Tohono O’odham Nation, the college’s International Collection of Children’s and Adolescent Literature is initiating a project to bring some of the world’s most rare American Indian and indigenous peoples books to Tucson.

“We want to have books that reflect on indigenous populations around the world,” said Kathy G. Short, a professor in the college's language, reading and culture department.

"Fighting Sioux" judge was Fighting Sioux fan

Report:  Judge hearing Fighting Sioux lawsuit once was in group with Indian mascotA newspaper report today says the judge hearing arguments in a lawsuit over the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname belonged to a student group in the 1960s whose members wore a cartoon American Indian mascot on their jackets.

The Forum reports in a copyright story that Judge Lawrence Jahnke was a member in the early 1960s of UND's Golden Feather pep club.

The Golden Feather group, founded in 1956, is credited with creating "Sammy the Sioux," a cartoonish mascot that was discontinued in the early 1970s, according to UND archives.

Fires burn reservations

Tribal grounds not spared

Church and homes burn, Rincon casino threatenedFlames burned through Indian reservations in San Diego County's backcountry yesterday, scorching historic buildings and homes and threatening a casino.

The Poomacha fire began in a house on the La Jolla Indian reservation early yesterday and quickly spread west, blackening more than 7,000 acres there and at the nearby Rincon and San Pasqual reservations.

“We've lost a lot of our older buildings we had, that have been here for years and years,” said Rincon tribal councilman Bo Mazzetti. “Our church, our Catholic church, we lost that.”

Indigenous peacemaking

Tribes' conference focusing on mediationTribes are reaching into their pasts to resolve present-day disputes, a speaker said Monday at a national American Indian conference on indigenous peacemaking.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby gave welcoming remarks to more than 100 tribal leaders from around the country who have tribal peacemaking or mediation programs.

The Ada-based Chickasaw Nation recently established a peacemaking program within its 13-county jurisdiction. It offers mediation services in lieu of tribal court.
Comment:  Events such as this contradict the stereotype of Indians as uncivilized, warlike savages.

Hotbed of Native theater

Native Voices at the Autry boosts indigenous playwrightsOver the last decade, a virtual who's who of American Indian theater artists has worked with Native Voices at the Autry. From Canadian playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, Ojibway, to up-and-coming playwright Larissa Fast Horse, Sicangu Nation, Native playwrights are finding a home to develop works for the stage.

Native Voices at the Autry is a professional Los Angeles-based theater company devoted to developing new scripts by American Indian writers. It is becoming a hot bed for contemporary Native theater. Taking the writer from workshop to staged reading to full Equity productions, Native Voices is committed to creating Native stories.

Real Indian beats pseudo-Indians

This just in:  Real Native Defeats Psuedo-"Indians"after the red sox were down three games to one in the american league championship series, i predicted they'd come back and knock out those pseudo-athletic "indians." sure enough, last night, the boston red sox defeated the wahoo-logo-wearing cleveland "indians" 11-2 in game 7. and guess who assisted in that KO? red sox outfielder jacob ellsbury, a real native, a dineh/navajo. when asked why one should cheer for the sox, blogger pepe lepew's top reason was, "The Red Sox have an Indian on their roster, not on their hat." well said, mr. lepew (who also reported that foxnews.com had a headline on oct 17 reading "Indians Scalp Red Sox").

October 23, 2007

A gut-punch for Granny

“Muffins for Granny”:  Exposing the Restlessness of an Ancient SadnessTheresa McGraw is gone, but her voice is finally being heard.

The young Ojibwa girl was one of thousands of Aboriginal kids during the 20th century the government snatched from their homes and forcibly placed in residential schools in a grotesque effort to assimilate Natives into Euro-Canadian society. The house-of-horrors terror experienced by these children—from culture shock, profound sexual and physical abuse, hunger, humiliation and homesickness—seems incredible. But the tragedy is that it wasn’t.

It was real, it was prevalent, and the fallout of what happened sears Canadian Aboriginal communities to this day. The legacy that remains, says Nadia McLaren, is “the restlessness of an ancient sadness.”

It is these words that frame this first-time Ojibwa filmmaker‘s documentary, Muffins for Granny, an homage to McLaren’s grandmother whose inner pain was never fully understood. Until now.
Comment:  I guess the restlessness of an ancient sadness is worse than the sadness of an ancient restlessness. Those poor boarding-school tykes.

If this documentary does deliver a "gut-punch"--if it makes us truly feel Theresa McGraw's pain--it would be a rare achievement. Most documentaries are less involving and moving than their creators think they are.

That's why fiction is often the best way to explore an issue like this one. When a story makes you care about its characters, then it can deliver a gut-punch.

Wahoo = Sambo

The Curse of Chief Wahoo:  Enabling Racist Imagery[D]on't get me wrong. I don't think that Cleveland has to change its name to the Rockers or the Gnats. But the cartoonish caricature of a group of human beings--signified by Chief Wahoo's red skin and big white teeth--is the absolute equivalent of the blackface Sambo images that polluted American culture in the first half of the 20th century, and Nazi propaganda portrayals of Jews with big noses and wicked sneers.

As I watched the games televised from Cleveland, I was sickened by the video images of fans in the stands dressed up like Wahoo, childish feathers on their heads, their skin painted red, their mouths painted white, cups of beer in their hands. Even worse, was a large image of Wahoo in the grandstands, with the chief's face replaced with a photo of Cleveland veteran Kenny Lofton, who is African-American. The shills in the announcing booth praised all this as an expression of the fans' passionate support for their team.

I don't think that journalists have to wait for protests outside a stadium before they act. There is a story to be told, and it's as relevant the day after a Cleveland loss as it would be if they had gone to the series. The columnists can have their say, of course. But here's what makes Chief Wahoo news: the so-called American pastime--and the industries that support it--are broadcasting and printing images that travel around the world. These images offer vicious portrayals of a race of people--iconic representations that become associated not with shame but with triumph and joy.

Bare-breasted Natives okay or not?

Murals with topless Indian women to be covered in B.C. CapitolA British Columbia legislative committee has decided to make a coverup permanent.

Twice this month, blue curtains have been placed in front of frescoes which show bare-breasted Indian women in colonial times.

Once was for a ceremony in the rotunda to welcome British Columbia's first aboriginal lieutenant governor. The other was last week when a landmark treaty was introduced.

Then the curtains were taken down and the murals painted in the 1930s were on display again.

Now, Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong says a committee has decided to keep the murals covered if they can't be removed intact. He says covering them only for certain ceremonies sends an inconsistent message.
Comment:  Yes, the message is inconsistent. The images aren't wholesome enough to appear in official ceremonies, but they're okay the rest of the time, when politicians are around.

It would be interesting to know if there actually were any bare-breasted women in British Columbia. It seems unlikely except in the warmest summer months. Is the mural some white man's fantasy of Native women, or does it depict some reality?

Indians as mobsters again

Mittell:  "Indian-only gaming really amounts to a perfect Mafia"

Criminals are "Red Indians"

Canadian play labels murderer, hostage-takers "Red Indians"

October 22, 2007

Pechanga documentary on TV

Pechanga Tribe Continues 125th Anniversary Educational Program to Inform Southern Californians About Tribal HistoryThe Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians will continue their commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Pechanga Indian Reservation and the beginning of a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States by broadcasting this weekend a half-hour documentary video on the tribe.

In their own words, tribal members, elders and government leaders chronicle the history and progress of the tribe to the present day.

“We understand that there are many people who may know little of Pechanga beyond the award-winning Pechanga Resort & Casino,” said Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro. “But we are a proud people who have lived in the Temecula Valley for 10,000 years. Only after an executive order by President Chester A. Arthur did we regain a portion of our lands when the U.S. government created our current reservation in 1882.”

“This documentary begins to describe the journey we have undertaken since that point,” Macarro continued, “and the many challenges and successes that have marked our path. It’s an important part of the history and social evolution of the United States and California, and we plan to share the documentary with a broad audience that includes schools, museums, historical societies, state leaders, and local communities.”
Comment:  I watched this documentary, which aired as a paid promotional spot several times over the weekend.

On the one hand, it was your standard talking-heads documentary. And the Pechanga story is similar to that of many other tribes with casinos. On the other hand, it's a smart move to tell your own story in your own words if you can afford it. Other tribes should take the same initiative to counter the bad press gaming tribes are getting.

Natives aren't stars...but could be

"'Hollywood Casting Call':  Native Americans need not apply"Have you watched a movie release lately starring a Native American actor as the main character? How about one cast in a supporting roll? The answer is, most likely not. For whatever reason, Hollywood seems to make it a point of not casting Native Americans in movies to include television network shows.

When given a chance Native Americans like Russell Means, Cher, Valerie Red-Horse, Rodney Grant, Wes Studi, Burt Reynolds and Mr. Las Vegas himself--Wayne Newton--not only became big stars in America, they archived worldly fame. Elvis Presley was called a White man, said to sing like a Black man even though Elvis had Cherokee Indian heritage. Elvis made it a point in his film career to show his Indian heritage pride. The national media made it a point not to cover Elvis' Indian heritage. This was back in the days of when it was not cool to be Indian or go around telling people you had Indian heritage thanks to you know who--Hollywood.
Comment:  I saw Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Imprint a few months ago. I didn't see Pathfinder or Apocalypto (with its all-Native cast). But I'm not the typical Hollywood viewer.

It's highly debatable whether Russell Means, Valerie Red-Horse, Rodney Grant, and even Wes Studi have become "big stars." I'm guessing fewer than 5% of Americans would recognize any of them. But I think the author's point is still valid. People of diverse ethnic backgrounds--e.g., Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, the cast of Heroes--have become big stars. Therefore, why not seek out and promote people of color?

Another anti-Indian opinion

Tribal 'Nations' Within U.S. Aren't JustifiedYour front-page article "Plaintiffs Suing U.S. Tribes Can't Get Their Day in Court1" (Oct. 12) provides yet another reason to reconsider the privileged legal status of so-called Native Americans. Our school-taught, collective guilt over the demise of those who presided over North America 500 years ago has left us reluctant to broach the subject, but broach it we must. The costs to U.S. society of the aberration of a sovereign Indian "nation" within our borders are neither justified nor sustainable.

The sad fact is that American Indians were displaced by the successive pressures of the colonization, settlement and economic exploitation of North America. They lost a series of battles against soldiers and disease, and ultimately against the onslaught of a more advanced civilization. It is absurd to act as if the Indians didn't lose those battles and that war; to carve out an imaginary sovereign state belonging to them, the borders of which are continually shifting to the detriment of U.S. citizens; to include Indians as beneficiaries of U.S. social programs while exempting them from the obligations of their taxpaying neighbors; to allow their legal claims in U.S. courts while precluding claims against them; and to pretend they exercise a superior sort of stewardship over land or nature such that they can be made exempt from environmental regulation.

However unpopular it may be, we need to repeal the recognition of Indians and their Tribal Governments as a land within our land.