May 31, 2008

Uncontacted tribe sends a message

Reflections on the discovery of an uncontacted tribeUncontacted tribes expert, José Meirelles, who works for FUNAI and was onboard the flight, says that “What is happening in this region is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilised’ ones, treat the world.”

I couldn’t agree more. The perilous situation to which Meirelles refers highlights the contradictions of capitalist globalization. Although these tribal people seem to be as far “outside” the global market as one could possibly get, they are being impinged upon by corporations that want to extract the tremendous resources of the Amazon, and convert the forest into farmland. Despite their avoidance of outsiders, these indigenous people are inside the capitalist world system, which today has no real “outside.” And even though they seem to be separated from us by a fathomless cultural and technological gap, our fates are thoroughly intertwined; we are truly linked in a global system. They are dependent upon the Amazon rainforest to meet all of their material needs, but we are dependent upon it as well. Often referred to as the “lungs of the world,” the rainforest produces over 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 1 in ten of the world’s species. The burning of vegetation in the Amazon releases large amounts carbon stored in the plants, contributing significantly to the greenhouse effect which is changing global climates.

The survival of their home is key to our own survival. Reversing our path of mindless destruction could allow their continuation. Haunting images of people far away, frozen on my flat computer screen, silently testify that we are really one world and one humanity. It’s time we act that way.
Comment:  To sum it up, the uncontacted tribe gives us a different perspective on our dominant culture. It gives us a multicultural perspective.

Lost tribe settled around Great Lakes?

Raiders of the lost Book of Mormon DNACritics of the Book of Mormon tout DNA studies that concluded that American Indians belong to the Asian group. These studies use more precise categories of DNA markers called haplogroups; the American Indians usually have some combination of DNA from haplogroups called A, B, C or D. There is no room in the critics' story for American Indian DNA to come from any other source than Asia.

Meldrum, however, was intrigued by recent studies that showed another haplogroup appearing in American Indian populations. This haplogroup is identified by the letter "X." The curious thing for researchers is that X is one of several known European haplogroups. It is not Asian.

Although the studies are still preliminary and the exact source of the X haplogroup hasn't yet been determined, Meldrum became excited. If X was European that meant it was also possible it came from ancient Jerusalem--just as the Book of Mormon recounts.
And:Meldrum knows most LDS scholars think the events of the Book of Mormon took place in a limited area in Central America. Common conceptions among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including artists from Arnold Friberg to Walter Rane, imagine the events of the Book of Mormon in a lush tropical environment.

"I was fully expecting to find this European DNA amongst the Mayan people," Meldrum said.

Although there are some traces of the X haplogroup in Brazil, Meldrum found no traces of X in Mayan populations. Instead, he found that the highest concentrations of X were in North America--particularly around the Great Lakes region.

Forgotten Native patriots

Book Lists Revolutionary War's Black, Native American SoldiersIn their haste to enroll enlistees to fight on the American side in the Revolutionary War, officials jotted down names, where the men came from—and little else.

Occasionally, records identified someone as black, but for the vast majority of those soldiers and sailors, their distinction as black or Native Americans was lost, and with that the fact that thousands of blacks and Native Americans fought for their country's independence.

Now, after years of pressure by two Plainville natives, many black and Native American soldiers are properly identified. In May, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution published a book that lists those veterans and identifies them as either black or Native American.

The book, "Forgotten Patriots—African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War," names 5,000 black soldiers and an additional 1,600 who were Native Americans. They were among the estimated 250,000 Americans who fought in the war.
Comment:  I believe five of the six tribes of the Haudenosaunee League fought for the British against America. They did so because they thought the British would treat them better.

Turns out they were right. The Americans were more likely than the British had been to break treaties and oppress the Indians.

For more on the subject, see Fun 4th of July Facts.

Redeye cartoonist dies

Cartoonist Legend Mel Casson Dies at 87Cartoonist legend Mel Casson, the writer and illustrator of the comic strip “Redeye,” died on May 21 at his Westport home. He was 87.

Casson was a 40-year Westport resident and lived on Guyer Road. For almost 20 years Casson illustrated “Redeye,” a parody strip about a 19th century tribe of Native Americans, for King Features Syndicate.

When cartoonist Bill Yates, who wrote the “Redeye” scripts, retired in 1999, Casson assumed full writing and drawing duties of the strip.
Comment:  "Parody" translates to "weak humor based on Native stereotypes." From what I saw of Redeye, it was about as funny as Beetle Bailey or Nancy. (That means not very, for the young folks reading this blog.)

It's been a long time since I read Redeye, but I believe it featured the standard stereotypes: a chief, teepees, bows and arrows, etc. About the only nonstereotypical touch was giving Redeye a hat and vest rather than the usual buckskins and feathers.

Good-bye to Casson and good riddance to Redeye. One hopes it'll go to the "happy hunting ground," a phrase I'll bet it used more than once.

For more on the subject, see Native Comic Strips vs. Comic Books.

Peltier yes, Clinton no

Here's another reason to vote for or against Hillary Clinton: the pardon of Leonard Peltier that was supposed to happen but didn't.

Native Americans say NO! to Hillary Clinton[W]e in Indian Country were hopeful that a Democrat in the White House would at last listen to reason and finally free Leonard Peltier. So for eight years we patiently presented our evidence and over ten million signatures from around the world. We were wrong, President Clinton left office without signing his pardon and Leonard was left to spend another decade unjustly confined to a jail cell. He has now been there for over thirty years, long past the parole date for the crime he was convicted of aiding and abetting.

However it isn't only that Clinton refused to pardon Peltier it was the way it was done that has angered Indian Country. After an immense and intense lobbying effort by Native American people and our organizations the Clintons led us to believe that a pardon would be forthcoming at the end of their administration. I spent the final days of the Clinton administration helping the LPDC so I know first hand that contacts within the administration made reassuring backchannel statements to the LPDC and I also know that those statements came from the Office of the First Lady, Hillary Clinton. ... [W]e were led to believe what we did by Hillary Clinton's office and we all assumed, because of who those contacts were, with her direct knowledge. They deliberatly lied to keep us quiet as long as needed and Indian Country has a long memory.

Limbaugh:  Brazilian tribes = savages

Limbaugh called Brazilian indigenous tribe "savages"On the May 30 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh referred to "[o]ne of ... South America's few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes"--recently photographed by the Brazilian government from an airplane--as "these savages." Recounting the story, Limbaugh said, "[T]hey've spotted an isolated tribe in Brazil. An airplane flew over this hut, this thatch roof hut or something, and these savages are body painted in red and they're trying to shoot the airplane down with bows and arrows."

According to the BBC, "The Brazilian government says it took the images to prove the tribe exists and help protect its land" from illegal logging operations.

Limbaugh further stated, "Wait a minute. Why do we have to help protect the land of this tribe? Aren't they the essence of purity, according to the environmentalist communists? ... Why do we need to protect their land? They're doing a better job of it than any of us ever could protect our land. ... I mean, I'm sure these people--not only don't they have to get rid of their incandescent light bulbs and go to these compact fluorescents, they don't have light bulbs. They don't have electricity. They don't have running water. This is the ideal. These people need to be contacted. We need to learn from this civilization, because this is where we're all headed if the extreme environmentalist communists get their way."
Comment:  Hey, stupid Rush. Brazil wants to protect the land from rapacious outsiders. Not from the tribe itself.


For more on the subject, see Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Racist.

Billy Mills endorses Obama

The race continuesWhile there's no firm overall consensus on who would be the best winner for Indian country, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills believes Obama is the best candidate to make it to the finish line this fall.

"I was inspired," Mills said in a press conference call May 23 announcing his endorsement. "I've been inspired by three men--Kennedy ... Ronald Reagan ... and Barack Obama. He has a great vision for change--change we can all believe in."

Mills, a member of the Lakota Sioux Tribe, was born and raised on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He said he's been a lifelong Republican but will vote for Obama, if he eventually becomes the Democratic nominee, over McCain this fall.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

May 30, 2008

Indiana Jones tribe found?

Rare uncontacted Amazon tribe photographed

Images show Indians painted bright red, brandishing bows and arrowsAmazon Indians from one of the world's last uncontacted tribes have been photographed from the air, with striking images released on Thursday showing them painted bright red and brandishing bows and arrows.

The photographs of the tribe near the border between Brazil and Peru are rare evidence that such groups exist. A Brazilian official involved in the expedition said many of them are in increasing danger from illegal logging.

"What is happening in this region is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilized' ones, treat the world," Jose Carlos Meirelles was quoted as saying in a statement by the Survival International group.
Uncontacted Indian tribe spotted in Brazil

Comment:  Oops, wrong tribe. False alarm. Never mind.

This "lost" tribe has only thatched huts, not massive stone temples. But how do we explain how they've managed to stay hidden? Maybe they're hiding their gold treasure and crystal skulls with their mystical-cosmic magic.

Has any archaeologist ever discovered a lost kingdom or city or temple? I mean one with monumental architecture that an unknown people still inhabited? If so, when was this discovery?

If not, where exactly did this stereotype come from? And why are we still talking about it? Aren't we a little old to be daydreaming of imaginary cities of gold?

I think genies, mermaids, and unicorns are nice too, but I don't see them in any pseudo-realistic movie about archaeology. Only Indians get stereotyped this way. Only they get associated with fantasy motifs even though they're real.

I don't recall any modern-day movies featuring primitive Africans or Asians guarding secrets in ruins--except Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, of course. But this is all too common in Native-themed movies. Stereotyping Indians is the last acceptable prejudice.

We see this again and again and again. Americans wouldn't accept sports teams named Chinks or Wetbacks, but Redskins and Braves are okay. They wouldn't accept a beer or strip club named Martin Luther King, but naming it Crazy Horse is okay. They wouldn't accept statues of half-naked Zulu warriors, but half-naked Lakota warriors are okay. Etc.

These things are connected. And movies like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull only perpetuate the problem. Fortunately, we can read the news (above) and learn what "lost" tribes are really like.

For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom.

Indians know global warming

Russell:  Animal insanityGore tells us there are three sticking points in talking to people about global warming. (1) It doesn't exist. (2) It exists but it is not caused by human beings, but is rather part of a natural cycle. (3) It exists and is caused by human beings, but the problem is so huge we really can't do anything about it.

Most Indians, I quickly discovered, breeze right past (1) and (2). They have already noticed that for some years now the weather has been out of whack. They have blood memories of major ecological catastrophes caused by the settlers long before the term "ecological" was coined. The Kiowa know that human beings caused the buffalo to go away. Indians in the Pacific Northwest have been missing the salmon, and they understand it's not because the salmon just decided to leave.
And:That third problem has a peculiar spin in Indian country. It's not so much that nothing can be done as an attitude that we are not responsible and therefore it is not our problem. The white man broke it and he should fix it.

The Indian spin is certainly true, but the fact of the matter is that fixing it is everybody's problem, whether that's fair or not. It's also true enough, as the naysayers use Indians to make fun of environmental progress, that if we all lived in tipis and gave up electricity and air conditioning and went back to riding horses, our carbon footprints would diminish considerably. Admitting to the truth in that bit of ridicule does not mean an 18th century lifestyle is what will be required.

It's true that we will have to give up some things to maintain the sort of habitat to which humans have adapted, but it's up to us which things to give up. The main thing we have to give up is greed. Every human being, every family, city, state, tribal nation or continent, has a "carbon footprint," an amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere because we live and because of how we have chosen to live.

Human beings in the U.S. have the largest carbon footprints in the world. Can anyone suggest a moral justification for this? Suppose you have a pond on land owned by three families jointly and it can produce a hundred pounds of fish a year without killing off the fish. Should one family get more fish per person than the others? It's that simple in moral terms.
Comment:  Exactly. But giving up greed means giving up what makes us uniquely American.

For more on the subject, see Ecological Indian Talk.

Below:  Some of the few remaining salmon. Non-Indians have depleted the ocean's stocks so badly that the US government has banned salmon fishing along much of the Pacific coast. Incredibly, we're running out of fish.

Leading Native news sites

Here are the rankings of the most popular websites from today:  1.  102.  2,305.
Indian Country Today:  221,841.  259,464.  324,105.  395,325.  1,511,083.  3,083,555.  4,307,680.  4,851,800.  9,239,654.

Of course, links to much of the original content on ICT's site,,, Brenda Norrell's blog, and elsewhere. It undoubtedly provides the broadest, most comprehensive coverage of news in Indian country. Which is why tribal leaders and advocates read it religiously.

As I've said before, is independently owned and operated by Victor Rocha, an enrolled Pechanga Indian. The website has no connection to the tribe or its casino except a similar name. No one at takes orders from anyone. makes no bones about being primarily a news aggregator. We* love the in-depth analyses done by ICT's editors and columnists. And the Washington reports and other columns done by We salute our colleagues' contributions.

If you're wondering why the last blog is on the list, it's because the blogger is asserting that and are more important Native news sources than Indian Country Today,, and (which I'd label the big three). As you can see, the facts contradict this silly assertion. It's pretty clear which sites Indians rely on for their news.

For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.

*As you probably know, I'm a significant contributor to and an occasional contributor to Indian Country Today. I'm also a significant contributor to Native News Online ( No big deal...just stating the facts.

Native News Online

BIA appointees break promises

Savilla:  Bring back our commissionerIn its sad history, only three men have held the job longer than one year. Eddie Brown, Tohono O'odham, served for four years with Secretary Manuel Chavez. The next-longest service was by Ross Swimmer, Oklahoma Cherokee, who lasted two and a half years. Ken Smith, Warm Springs, Ore., served two years. All the rest resigned after one year or less. Then things got worse. The following came and left just since the year 2000, eight AS-IAs in eight years: Kevin Gover, Michael Anderson, James McDevitt, Neil McCaleb, Aurene M. Martin, David W. Anderson, James A. Cason and Carl Artman.

The people who agreed to serve were honest and sincere, but they forgot their political party's golden rule: "If appointed to a position in the president's administration, you must be loyal to the party and work at the pleasure of the president." When I warned one recent appointee of this golden rule, he said he had been promised that he could make changes and suggestions to improve the BIA's service to Indian people. He quickly learned otherwise. Their motto seems to be, "Promises are made to be broken."
Comment:  To state the obvious, all the BIA directors since 2000 have been appointed by George W. Bush.

McCain's true colors

The day McCain showed his colorsIn 1989 he was the senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee for Indian Affairs. In addition to his work on the committee, he saw his role as explaining issues facing Native people to others in Washington. He said, "Not only is there a vast lack of knowledge about Indian affairs in the country as a whole, but frankly, there is a lack of concern."

As we were coming into Whiteriver, I asked him why he cared about Native issues when their voting power is relatively insignificant. "Your involvement in Indian affairs is probably going to cost you votes in Arizona," I said.

He looked at me with that now-famous frown and said, "You do some things just because they are the right thing to do."
Comment:  I wonder what McCain's rationale is for opposing Christian fundamentalists, then supporting them. For opposing Bush's tax cuts, then supporting them. For supporting the administration's mismanagement of the war on Iraq, then opposing it.

Let's hope his views on Indian issues aren't as expedient as they are on these issues.

Alexie vs. SuperSonics

Sonics' lawyers don't want author Sherman Alexie testifyingPrize-winning author, poet and humorist Sherman Alexie shouldn't be allowed to testify at an upcoming trial to block the Seattle SuperSonics from moving to Oklahoma City because he has nothing relevant to say and is known for his "profanity-laced" columns for a weekly newspaper, the team argues.

Alexie, winner of a National Book Award and a PEN/Hemingway Award, also is a basketball fan who writes a column called "Sonics Death Watch" for the Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper. His column has been highly critical of plans by the Sonics' owners to move the team out of town and is described as profanity-laced in a court filing by the team.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.

"Sioux" trips up student

Local student out of spelling beeMadison County student Austin Hoke was eliminated from the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday when he misspelled “Sioux,” the name of the American Indian tribe.

Hoke, 14, an eighth-grader at Mount Vernon Middle School in Fortville, spelled the word as “sou” during the second round of the event in Washington, D.C.
Comment:  I could see "Souix," but "Sou"? How about "Soo," "Sue," or "Sew"?

In other words, give me a break. America's ignorance about Indians continues.

Below:  Not a sou.

A sou.

May 29, 2008

"Jungle Love" in Family Guy

The main action in the 2005 "Jungle Love" episode of Family Guy takes place in an Amazon Indian village. Here's a summary of the show:

Jungle Love (Family Guy)“Jungle Love” is the thirteenth episode from the fourth season of the Fox animated television series Family Guy.

Plot summary

Chris is excited to become a freshman at the local high school, until Joe tells Chris about the "Freshman Hunt," a hazing ritual in which the freshmen are beaten with paddles by everyone. ... Chris asks Brian for advice. Brian tells Chris about his time in the Peace Corps. Chris decides to join the Corps and goes to South America, where he becomes popular with the natives. When he gets the tribe to dance, he is married to the chief’s daughter, as dictated by the tribe’s customs.

When Lois learns of the marriage, she immediately travels down to South America with the rest of the family. Disillusioned with his new job, Peter is as eager to go there as anyone else. Upon their arrival Peter is seen as the richest man in the country with just $37. Many of the natives of the country then become Peter’s slave for just nickels and dimes. When Chris accuses Peter of “using” the natives to escape his troubles, Lois points out that that is also what Chris did. Chris then decides to return to Rhode Island, telling his wife that he must leave her, casually referring to his status as a freshman. The natives respond exactly as the upperclassmen in Quahog do, so they chase the Griffins in a very hostile manner. The Griffins escape on a seaplane a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, but forget Meg, who is impaled by darts and arrows.
Comment:  How many ways is this episode stereotypical? Let's see:

  • The Indians speak English. This is better than speaking gibberish, but worse than speaking their own language. It denies their rich cultural heritage.

  • The Indians all look young and handsome or beautiful. In particular, the women all look like Hollywood sex objects.

  • The Indians all look like each other. This denies that they're unique individuals.

  • Loka, the chief's daughter, is a classic princess character. Just once it would be nice if the only significant female weren't the chief's daughter.

  • That the chief gives his daughter to Chris after Chris dances suggests how unsophisticated and primitive the Indians are. Again, it denies their rich cultural heritage.

  • The Indians treat Peter like a god after he flashes $37 at them, making him the richest person in the tribe. Even if they understood and bought into the concept of money, it's ridiculous that they'd prostrate themselves to outsiders. I.e., that they'd passively accept masters who have no redeeming qualities.

  • Just as ridiculously, the Indians change from obedient lackeys into spear-wielding maniacs when they learn Chris is a freshman. Whether they're simpleminded children or simpleminded savages, they're simpleminded.

  • Although Family Guy occasionally makes fun of other minorities (blacks, Asians, the handicapped), it's usually only one brief bit. In contrast, "Jungle Love's" Indian subplot takes up half the show. Conclusion: Indians are fair game compared to other minorities.

    For more on the subject, see Skeletal Chief on Family Guy and TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Below:  Chris dances in front of showgirl-style Indians, proving himself worthy of marriage.

    Peter and company turn the Indians into killers by saying the wrong word.

    Disenrollees are hopping mad

    Gambling on tribal ancestry

    As Indian casino profits soar, tribes reexamine who qualifies for a slice of the winnings--and thin their ranks.It all started sometime in late 2002. Rumors were heard, allegations were made, lineages were scrutinized, voices were raised, and, at the end of it all, the enrollment committee moved to throw some 130 members out of the 1,200-strong tribe.

    The members targeted are hopping mad. "They did it to our face," says John Gomez Jr., one of the plaintiffs in the suit filed two months ago against members of the tribal enrollment committee. "They presented a memo saying there are 'issues' about our ancestor Manuela Miranda. False and absurd! We know who we are."

    According to the Pechanga constitution, full membership requires proof of lineal descent from an original Pechanga member and a family line contained in the official enrollment book. Mr. Gomez and other plaintiffs trace their lineage to Manuela Miranda--granddaughter of undisputed Pechanga headman Pablo Apish. Most of the plaintiffs have enjoyed full membership rights and lived on or around the reservation--in Temecula, Calif.--for more than 25 years.

    But now, committee members say they have found that Ms. Miranda, who was, to begin with, only half Pechanga (according to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs)--moved off the reservation and cut her ties to the tribe 80 years ago.

    "Cut her ties? No. No and no," insists Gomez, a paralegal who was fired from his job as legal assistant for the tribe when the debate flared. "At show-and-tell at elementary school I would bring in pictures of my Pechanga ancestors," he says. Gomez grew up in northern California and moved to Temecula in 1997 with his wife, Jennifer. "I would tell stories of my dad and his cousins and their 'Indian tricks and games'.... To have someone suddenly tell you, 'You are not Pechanga and you never were,' is very hurtful."
    Comment:  A paid anthropologist says Gomez and company are related to a verified tribal ancestor. The tribe says Gomez's people cut their ties to this ancestor. For all we know, both sides may be correct. Now what?

    The last time I discussed the question of the Pechanga disenrollment was in More Pechanga Bashing. In the comments section I specifically addressed this issue:As I said at the end of the Cooper article, if a tribe decides to disenroll people whose ancestors forfeited their membership, it doesn't matter if they're still Pechangas biologically. That's one explanation for how the tribe could ignore expert reports and testimony on the disenrollees' biological ties. Repeat: Ancestry doesn't necessarily matter if someone abandons tribal membership.Now we see this issue raised in the body of the Christian Science Monitor article. I'm still waiting for a cogent response. Sorry, but Gomez's "No. No and no" isn't it.

    Gomez admits he didn't live on the reservation until 1997. That supports the claim that his ancestors cut their ties--that they repudiated their membership. Where's the evidence that his ancestors maintained ties to the tribe during his childhood despite living almost 1,000 miles away?

    In the previous posting I raised several other issues as well. I'm waiting for a response on all of them. Take your time, people. I'm in no hurry.

    For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming--Disenrollment.

    Strong, silent type in Shadow Hearts

    Natives are stereotyped in video games as well as movies, TV shows, and comic books. The Shadow Hearts game is a good example of this.

    I’m Sure You’ve Got Plenty to SayWhile discussing the game with BomberGirl and PlasmaRit, we became interested in the “strong and silent” Native American character Natan. We wondered how much he actually had to say throughout the course of the game, and I honestly couldn’t recall. It’s been a while since I’ve played it.

    To investigate our suspicions, I combed through one hundred and ten pages of the Shadow Hearts: From the New World script. From beginning to end, the script is 30,324 words long.

    Natan says 768 words.
    What this means:The treatment his character receives perpetuates the strong, silent Native American stereotype. At the very least, he’s not quite Tonto from The Lone Ranger. He rarely speaks, but he uses good grammar throughout the game, with one strange exception. After the party has been captured in the Caribbean, Natan lifts the gate from its hinges and says, “Long time no use… so gate was warped.”

    The only quality of the Shadow Hearts series that makes this passably acceptable to me is that no one is safe. The developers must have had a Big Book of Stereotypes when they were drafting the characters. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, it’s not a game to take seriously.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Wooden Indians.

    True Diary chosen as One Book

    Book chosen for this year's One Book/ Many Voices event"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie has been selected as the featured book for Floyd County’s One Book/Many Voices for 2008.

    Sherman Alexie grew up on a Spokane Indian reservation in Washington to become a bestselling novelist, poet, comic and screenwriter. He received the 2007 National Book Award for "The Absolutely True Diary," his first work for young adults.

    He will give a public lecture and sign books on Sept. 18 at 7 pm at Pepperell High School.

    Now in its second year, One Book/Many Voices is designed to encourage reading, spark discussion and bring the community together through the reading of one great book. In 2007 close to 1,000 citizens read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and nearly 4,000 people turned out to hear the author, Maya Angelou, speak at The Forum.

    According to Susan Cooley, director of the Sara Hightower Regional Library system, “'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' is an especially rich book for our community. The book examines the challenges of growing up and fitting in, as well as problems of racism, poverty and substance abuse. We think it will engage both adult and adolescent readers.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.

    No spoils, said Sitting Bull

    Little Big Horn museum collecting Sitting Bull exhibitThen in his 40s and past his warrior days, Sitting Bull offered 50 pieces of flesh from each arm before he began the grueling ritual of dance and prayers. On the second day, a vision came. Soldiers were falling into camp, upside down, with no ears, LaPointe said.

    “These dead soldiers who are coming are the gifts of God,” Sitting Bull told his people. “Kill them, but do not take their guns or horses. Do not touch the spoils. If you set your hearts upon the goods of the white man, it will prove a curse to this nation.”

    They did not heed his words, LaPointe said.

    When six companies of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Custer were annihilated at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, victorious Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho took horses, guns, scalps, uniforms and anything that could be useful on their nomadic journeys.
    Comment:  For more on Indian museums, see The Feel-Good National Museum.

    Tennessee Indians in We Shall Remain

    Tracing the Trail of Tears

    WTCI producing local documentary to tie in with national PBS series[M]any Chattanoogans remain ignorant of the Native American history of our area—but possibly not for long. Local PBS station WTCI was selected as one of five PBS stations nationwide to create a local community coalition as part of PBS’s American Experience’s We Shall Remain, a provocative, multi-media production that establishes Native American history as an essential part of U.S. history, slated to air on PBS nationwide in 2009.

    Episode Three of the 10-hour We Shall Remain series will focus on the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears, Grove said, and therefore also include a great deal of information about the Chattanooga area.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

    May 28, 2008

    Mexico says no to exploitation

    Why didn't Mel Gibson's Apocalypto have the cooperation of the Mexican government? Because Mexico protects its cultural heritage from commercial exploitation. Here's the story:

    Treasures of a Nation, Not Fodder for an AdEager to bolster tourism, Hidalgo State came up with a novel idea: an advertising campaign featuring a well-known actress wearing Hidalgo’s most eye-popping sites on her flesh.

    “Hidalgo, under my skin” was the catch phrase for the ads, which featured the soap opera actress Irán Castillo covered with computer-generated images of mountains, waterfalls and monuments.

    But federal officials were unimpressed. They did not object to Ms. Castillo’s lying seminude on the grass with hot-air balloons displayed on her body or lounging in a forest with images of rock faces on her flank or even sprawled on a beautiful mosaic wearing nothing but a beautiful mosaic. “We’re not moralistic,” insisted Benito Taibo, an executive with Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History. “We don’t have an issue with her. She’s a pretty girl.”

    But the institute did have an issue with Ms. Castillo’s wearing Mexico’s patrimony on her curvaceous form. Whether it was the stone Atlantes in Tula de Allende or the old aqueduct in Padre Tembleque or the former convent in San Nicolás Tolentino, imprinting one of Mexico’s treasures on a soap opera star was deemed a violation of the law.
    The institute's other decisions:The country’s anthropology institute, based in Mexico City, does more than just serve as Mexico’s monument police. It oversees a vast collection of pyramids, shrines and other attractions, all more than a century old. With 800 researchers, the institute churns out academic treatises that seek to make sense of the country’s past. It also rejects anything seen as exploiting a historical artifact’s dignity.

    That means that when a paint company recently asked if it could feature artifacts in a commercial, the institute said no.

    The current crop of requests in a thick binder in Mr. Taibo’s office also includes one from the BBC seeking to film a documentary at a pyramid (Sí), another from a university professor seeking to do research at a site (Sí) and a third from a real estate developer who wanted to publish photographs of pyramids in his ads (No).

    The institute’s staff pores over a movie script when a production company asks permission to film at a historical site to determine whether the story line is objectionable. “Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s 2006 film on the decline of Mayan civilization, received a no.

    “We said, ‘You can film anywhere except in our historical zones,’ ” said Mr. Taibo, who is also a published poet. “It was a film loosely based on history, but it was a particularly bloody interpretation of our past.”
    Comment:  I'm glad to see the institute rejected Apocalypto for its falsification of Maya history. It didn't stop Gibson from filming, but it may have slowed him down. More to the point, it prevented him from claiming the Maya and their descendants supported his apocalyptic vision.

    Unlike Apocalypto, though, it's hard to see how the Hidalgo ad would hurt anything. It's promoting an interest in Mexico's history--literally trying to make it sexy. That seems like a decent idea to me. (It would be even better if they also used a male model to avoid the appearance of sexism.)

    Students can't overcome stereotypes

    Chumash storyteller visits Paso librarySalazar advocates for a strong sense of living history, which helps to remove the stereotype from Native Americans. Teachers, he said, are doing a wonderful job of educating children about the history of local Native American tribes, but children are still influenced by long-held tropes popularized by Hollywood. Salazar pointed to an instance at a school when a young student, who was very educated on the history of the Chumash tribe, asked if Salazar had ridden a horse to the school.

    “The myths and misconceptions, even among the students and young people that are learning a lot of good stuff, are still obvious,” he said. “So it is important that they see and hear the stories from a Chumash person, from a Salinian person.”
    Comment:  The ancient Chumash didn't own or ride horses, of course, since they lived on the Southern California coastline. So it's ludicrous that a child would ask a 21st century Chumash if he rode a horse to the school. What a sad testament to the power of stereotypes.

    For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

    Real Indian:

    Imagined Indian:

    Return to the Clinton era

    Talking to tribes:  Democratic hopeful courts Montana's Native voteClinton told the Pablo crowd that, as president, she would make Indian Country issues a priority by restoring the practices her husband, former President Bill Clinton, put into action when he was the nation's commander in chief in the 1990s.

    Under Bill Clinton, more than 1,000 American Indian schoolteachers were recruited to teach in public schools, and more money went into Indian Health Services and to create economic opportunity in Indian Country, she said.

    “We were moving forward--not fast enough, but with discernible progress, much of which has either stalled or gone backward (during the current administration),” Clinton said, adding: “We need a president next January who understands the obligation the United States government has to the tribes that represent the first peoples of the United States.”

    To the crowd's thundering cheers, Clinton made several promises she said she would uphold as president.

    “We must fund the Indian Health Services. We must create a position at a high level in the government for the administrator of the Indian Health Services at the assistant secretary of state level, so that person has the clout and visibility in Washington to work with me as president to make the changes that are necessary,” she said.

    “We must return to what was the case in the Clinton White House in the 1990s--we will have a representative of Indian Country inside the White House working with the president every single day. That's what we did in the '90s. George Bush eliminated that; I will return it so those issues are the highest priority in the White House and in the president's office.”

    Longest Walk = moving prayer

    Native Americans walk the talk across AmericaOverall, the Long Walkers have found an abundance of grace and generosity from the communities we passed through, from the ceremonies and meals of the Miwok in Shingle Springs, Calif., to the efforts to save the sacred places by the Paiute, Shoshone and Washo in Nevada. The Longest Walk was showered with hospitality by Navajos and townspeople in southern Utah, the staff at the Salt Lake Walk In Center, community members in Denver, staff at the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colo., and all across Kansas. At the School of Natural Order in Baker, Nev., there was regeneration, and in the heart of Utah, in the towns of Scipio, Richfield and Green River, we felt the solace of generous spirits. The Kickapoo in Kansas offered a place for a five-day rest.

    It was in Greensburg, Kan., that another dimension of the West opened up to the group--the force of a tornado to rip apart a town. Debris was still piled high nearly one year after the tornado struck on May 4, 2007. Still, there was hope and abundant love in this town as the people were rebuilding “green,” focusing on solar and wind power.

    As the walk across America nears its end, it does so as a movable prayer. As Jimbo Simmons, a Choctaw, put it, “The act of walking brings back into focus the traditional knowledge that’s been locked away for generations.”

    "Redmen" = Sambo

    Professor:  Redmen name could bring law suits"It is not so much discrimination against an individual student, but accommodation in a public venue," Siegel said, citing a 1999 Harvard Law Review article titled, "A Public Accommodations Challenge to the Use of Indian Team Names and Mascots in Professional Sports."

    Siegel noted that the name Redmen appears in a few places at the NHS football field, including on the scoreboard and the pressbox. If someone attending a game, whether a student, a resident or someone else, is offended by the use of the name that could be considered discrimination under Title II.
    Why Natick High School might lose:In a similar case in a neighboring state, a restaurant called Sambo's was sued by a group that believed the name was offensive.

    "At a restaurant in Rhode Island the name was offensive to some African-Americans and the court agreed and they had to change the name," Siegel said. "The intent (of offending someone) is not important. If people are offended they are offended, it doesn't matter if people meant to offend them."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

    Some tribes aren't stewards

    Reader’s letter:  Tribe isn’t acting as steward of landWhat I do want to talk about is the Nuwu tribe’s continued insistence that they are stewards of the land. In light of their representative’s dismissive response to questions about the tribe’s non-adherence to the Endangered Species Act (Desert Trail, “Casino groundbreaking nears,” May 22), it is insulting for them to keep insisting their casino and trailer park project is about anything other than a lot of cold, hard cash for a tribe of 12 members, already the owners of one casino.

    Like many other folks I’ve talked to, who only accept this badly located project because we are told there’s no alternative, I object to its placement—on 160 pristine acres bordering our national park, that could as a bonus end up draining the Oasis of Mara dry.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ecological Indian Talk.

    Lakota codetalker sports complex

    Group pushes Code Talker sports complex

    Money sought for project honoring key Lakota contribution in WWIIOrganizers of a Code Talkers Veterans Memorial sports complex on the Rosebud Reservation still are looking for corporate partners but are moving ahead with the project.

    A group led by several South Dakota State University professors is trying to raise $2 million, half of which would pay for the complex west of Mission with a lighted ball diamond and fields for soccer and flag football.

    The other $1 million would be used to upgrade facilities at 19 other communities across the reservation.

    May 27, 2008

    150 years of blaming the victim

    The idea that minorities are responsible for their own poverty goes way back—to the Civil War, at least. As soon as the slaves were free, whites began blaming them for not becoming middle-class paragons of virtue.

    White May Be Might, But It's Not Always RightIn its coverage of the Pew report findings, National Public Radio asked whether some blacks were lagging behind because they were choosing not to become "closer to whites in their values." Unfortunately, this line of questioning reinforces one of the most persistent myths in America, that white is always right. The myth reflects an enduring double standard based on "white" and "black" explanations for social problems. And it assumes that "white" culture is the gold standard for judging everyone, despite its competing ideologies, its contradictions and its flaws, including racism.

    The masquerade began over a hundred years ago. Shortly after the end of slavery, sociologists and demographers began presenting research on black failure and struggle as "indisputable" proof of black inferiority. One of the first studies was released in 1896, when the leading race-relations demographer of the period, Frederick L. Hoffman, analyzed census data showing that blacks were doing worse than whites in mortality, health, employment, education and crime. The problem was not racism, he argued, but "race traits and tendencies."

    To him, the civil rights acts of the 1860s and 1870s had leveled the playing field. Blacks should be left to compete against whites on their own and face the inevitable.
    Comment:  The same applies to Indians, of course. As soon as the Indian Wars were over, Indians were supposed to put on Western clothes, take up the plow, send their children to school, and go to church. Americans were surprised that their attempt to eliminate 10,000 years of history and culture overnight didn't have the desired effect.

    For more on the subject, see Blaming the Victim.

    Navajo Pledge of Allegiance

    I pledge allegiance ... : Heights students use their native languages to recite pledgeReciting the Pledge of Allegiance can be a lesson in patriotism, memorization or public speaking.

    The daily ritual is all three at Heights Middle School, where it also is a demonstration of the school's varied culture. Students crowd into the office each morning to recite the pledge over the intercom system in three languages: English, Spanish and Navajo.

    "I think it's nice that the school brought this in," said 12-year-old Natalie Wernig, a sixth-grader who has learned the pledge in all three languages.

    "We are all U.S. citizens, but English isn't necessarily our first language," she said. "It's cool we can all say it in our own language."
    The Pledge in Navajo:"Kéyah ashdladiingo hahoodzooígíí bidahnaat'a'í t'áá ííyisíí shil nilíigo baa bich'i' ádíshní. Háálá ájooba' hasin yee hadít'é, kéyah t'áála'í si'áági Diyin Dine'é yee ádééhodilzin, binahji' níík'eh ájooba' bidziilii bee da' ahíínííta'."Comment:  I'm not sure what "lesson in patriotism" you learn by repeating a rote phrase. I imagine the primary lesson is that if you don't recite the Pledge dutifully, your schoolmates will shun you for not being "patriotic." In other words, the Pledge teaches children to think in platitudes, to conform, and to shut up if you don't agree.

    For more on the subject, see I Pledge Allegiance to the Constitution.

    McCain:  Obama doesn't know Indians

    Obama signaling he will fight for Western statesMcCain said Monday that Obama "has no experience, no knowledge or background" on Western issues.

    "I believe as a Western senator I understand the issues, the challenges of the future for these ... states, whether it be land, water, Native American issues, preservation, environmental issues," McCain said in an interview with the AP.

    Obama said he needs to introduce himself to all Western voters, not just Hispanics. Issues like improving the economy, ending the Iraq war and providing universal health care will appeal to everyone, he said.

    "I'm absolutely confident that we're going to do very well west out here because people out west are independent-minded and are going to look at whether or not over the last eight years the country is better off under Republican rule. I think they're going to conclude they're not and they want fundamental change, something that I'm offering and John McCain is not," he said.

    Powwow scares Iraqis

    Celebrating roots in Iraq

    A Pryor man was among the revelers at the first combat-zone powwow. There were many American Indians serving in Iraq, and with the help of their tribes back home, some were able to organize the inter-tribal powwow, the first such event in a combat zone, Ketcher said.

    Curious about what the Americans were doing, Iraqi civilians began to watch as the powwow began, but they soon left.

    "They came and were checking things out, but as soon as drums started and singing started, they took off," Ketcher said. "It scared them."

    Rapper's rez-centric reality

    Native hip-hop at Folklife:  Komplex Kai raps a rez realityFor 40 minutes, Kai rapped with a mix of compassion and anger, revealing his allegiance to another tribe that could use a revival: '90s gangsta rappers of emotional substance.

    Grim rez snapshots of "kids having kids" and "kids smoking pop"—or crack—came backed with Tulalip pride ("I'm throwin' my Tribe up!"), a move that's pure Tupac Shakur. Kai even did a dead-ringer for Tupac's wistful reconciliation track "I Ain't Mad At Cha," a ballad that mashed head-shaking love into sad truths ("drunk is how we cope"). Like 'Pac, Kai sounded much older than his age.

    Western civ. is best?

    Another debate on the alleged superiority of Western civilization:Through all our dark ages, Roman brutality, religious wars, crusades, inquisitions, towers of London, Nazi genocide, aborigine slaughters, drug infested sex crazed cultures, it IS "Western Civilization" that produced a team of 30 plus doctors who transformed a very, very unfortunate 8 armed human being monstrosity into a smiling little girl who will walk, and play due to magnificent surgical techniques and medical acumen acquired and developed by Western Civilization! The evidence is in my distant friends, WEST CIV. ROCKS!

    Baum supporter questions Rob

    Another debate on The Indian-Oz Connection:Should readers try to get inside the minds of Baum and his Aberdeen neighbors? Some of Rob's comments seem to say yes ("I doubt they took the Ghost Dance 'threat' seriously") and some no (as in dismissing "the white settlers' fears" as unjustified because we know better now).

    May 26, 2008

    "Cowboys and Indians" images

    What do you get if you search for images of cowboys and Indians? Mostly pictures of cowboys or Indians.

    But the pictures with cowboys and Indians are surprisingly revealing. They show us how commonplace stereotypes still are.

    Your classic Plains chief.

    Your classic mock Plains chief with buckskins and warpaint. This is the only illustration with the Indian in a superior position (an adult vs. a child). But the "Indian" looks so clownish that it negates his stature.

    Buckskinned Indian with a feather and a chief, both with weapons.

    A half-naked chief on horseback and three half-naked "braves," two of whom are carrying bows and arrows.

    As with other scenes of conviviality, this illustration suggests that cowboys and Indians were one big happy family. In other words, that cowboys didn't kill Indians as part of America's manifest destiny. These happy-go-lucky pictures serve to whitewash the country's genocidal history.

    Female version of buckskinned Indian with a feather. The pose suggests she's a friend or lover to the cowboy. The implication is that cowboys and Indians were partners in the West, with the Indians in the subordinate (female) role.

    Compare this to an image of a strong Indian man holding a sexy cowgirl. You won't see anything like this except in a trashy romance novel. Why not? Because it would imply that Indians were dominant, that cowboys subordinated themselves to their interests, etc. Since John Wayne-style cowboys are our national heroes, we can't show them in anything but a dominant light.

    Another buckskinned female with a feather provides a sexual counterpoint to the penis pistol-packin' cowboy.

    Also note the two "braves" in the lower right. Both have headbands with feathers, and both carry bows and arrows. One is doing a "war whoop." They've tied up the cowboy because, well, that's what Indians do.

    A chief and several half-naked "braves" with feathers. All are wielding weapons; some have tomahawks or spears rather than bows and arrows. The Indians are colored dark red because, well, they're "redskins."

    Note the poses. The Indians are posed as if they're at war with the cowboys--because if they weren't friends and lovers, they must've been implacable enemies. Five of the Indians are brandishing their weapons at the cowboys, while only one cowboy is aiming at an Indian. Message: Indians are more warlike than cowboys.

    Plains chiefs with drums and tipis, and buckskinned maidens with feathers. Daisy Duck in particular looks like a fetching sex object.

    Note the implication--also seen in the second and third images--that anyone can become an Indian simply by donning a Halloween-style costume. In reality, Mickey and company can become cowboys by donning a hat and holster because "cowboy" is an occupation. They can't become Indians the same way.

    Pretending they can diminishes the central importance of Indian culture and history. Saying anyone can become an Indian also says that being an Indian is nothing special. It says it's okay for anyone to use and exploit Indian beliefs and practices.


    To summarize, we have Plains chiefs, half-naked or buckskinned "braves" with weapons, and sexy maidens. Period. No Indians as farmers, traders, or builders...not to mention doctors, lawyers, or rocket scientists.

    People believe these stereotypical images represent reality because they see them over and over. They don't see anything else so they don't learn anything else. To most people, these are the only "real" Indians there are.

    The only nonstereotypical Indian culture in these images comes from the "Northeast and Great Lakes" Disney stamp. Namely, the wigwam and collection of maple syrup. Alas, we rarely if ever see such things, so we don't associate them with Indians.

    Mistakes and stereotypes in The Paradise Syndrome

    Part three of an analysis of The Paradise Syndrome, the original Star Trek episode about Indians. From Star Trek and History: Race-Ing Toward a White Future by Daniel Bernardi.

    Case Study:  “The Paradise Syndrome” (1968)The Kellam DeForest Research Company, hired by Roddenberry verify facts in preproduction stories, cites errors in “The Paradise Syndrome” script that would ultimately produce an essentialistic representation of Native-Americans, indicating that Roddenberry was made aware of at least some of the problems in the script. The report suggests changing the tribal mixture of the peaceful Indians, which already had been changed from simply “Mohicans” in the story outline to a “mixture of Navajo, Mohican, and Mandan” in the script, in order to be more authentic: “The Mandans were among the most violent, intransigent of all the American Indian tribes. They made war on everyone, on any excuse. Suggest Pawnee or Cherokee.” The report also notes that “‘Mohican’ is a very bad tribal name to use for several reasons: it is not really an Indian name (Mohegan or Mahican is close). It brings to mind immediately ‘Last of the ... ’; and they were also very war-like. Suggest: Delaware. (The Delaware were related and sets and props would be correct for either culture.)” Finally, the research report notes that the script is not authentic in its call for Indian costuming: “feathered cloaks are associated with the natives of Polynesia and with the Aztecs. Some feathers were used by the California tribes in particular, as decorations. Use by northern and eastern tribes is not valid.”

    Despite the Kellam report, the aired version of “The Paradise Syndrome” reproduces the noble savage stereotype with little change. The episode begins with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming down to a planet that lies directly in the path of a huge asteroid—an ominous collision that will ultimately kill all the planet’s inhabitants, “a mixture of Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware,” Spock describes. Upon seeing the Indians, Kirk fantasizes about their “peaceful, uncomplicated” nature, and Dr. McCoy chimes in: “Typical human reaction to an idyllic natural setting. Back in the twentieth century we referred to it as the Tahiti syndrome. It’s particularly common to over-pressured leader-types like starship captains.” Soon after the landing party finds evidence of the conscientious super-race who “preserved” the Indians—the Noahs the galaxy, as it were—Kirk accidentally hits his head, gets amnesia, and is subsequently separated from his friends. After diligently trying but failing to rescue their captain, Spock and McCoy return to the Enterprise to deal with diverting the asteroid. Back on the planet, the captain, unaware that he is a “more evolved” human than the Indians, befriends the tribe, eventually “rising to the top” apparently due to his “natural” ability by becoming a medicine chief and, as the paradise syndrome would have it, marrying—in a feathered cloak no less!—the beautiful Miramanee (Sabrina Scharf).

    As in the production documents, the noble savage stereotype in the broadcast text emphasizes the “superiority” of whiteness. In one scene, for example, Miramanee cannot figure out how to pull Kirk’s shirt off, s she cannot find any lacing. She is portrayed as simpleminded, not that bright. This is not the case with Kirk. Moments before, he had fashioned a lamp from an old piece of pottery and saved a boy by using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Despite his amnesia, he is shown as naturally superior. The text seems to say: while you can take the white man out of civilization, you can’t take civilization out of the white man. Given the impossibility of the white man’s return to the simplicity of paradise, the ending in particular plays out the morality of whiteness and, in the process, resolves Kirk’s Tahiti syndrome. When the Indians realize Kirk is not a god, they stone both him and Miramanee (it’s the Indians who are violent in this version of the noble savage stereotype). Spock and McCoy eventually intervene, but only Kirk survives. In this take on a standard white/red miscegenation narrative, the native girl dies so that Kirk, the white male hero, isn’t shown unheroically and immorally leaving her and their unborn baby behind. In accordance with both the network censor’s goal and Roddenberry’s vision of paradise, the starship captain is left unencumbered in his trek toward a white future.

    Indians and polygamists

    Tim Giago:  Parallels in Texas and Indian CountryThe upstanding and righteous Christian community had to do something. The people living near them had a religion that was so different than their own that it had to be considered as heathen. They didn’t believe in Jesus Christ so they had to be on the wrong path.

    What’s more they were living in deep sin by practicing polygamy. Why some of the men had as many as three or four wives. What kind of damage was this doing to the innocent children?

    The Christian community saw only one conclusion. They had to go in and rescue the children. If that meant sending law enforcement officials into the community to forcibly take the children from their parents, so be it. It would lead to a much better life for the children so the parents be damned. After all, what did these backward people know about raising children properly?

    No, I am not talking about the fiasco at San Angelo, Texas. I am talking about what happened to the children of Native Americans across America in the late 1800s. Thousands of children were ripped from the arms of their mothers and fathers and shipped off to far away schools that would endeavor to turn them into God fearing Christians, but not before they were shorn of their identities, their culture, religion and traditions.
    Some history on the subject:The mainstream media once again makes the mistake of reporting that this is the largest such happening in U. S. history. They made the same mistake when reporting on the school shootings at the college in Virginia calling it the largest such massacre in American history. How could they have overlooked Sand Creek, Washita or Wounded Knee, to name but a few of the terrible massacres committed against Native Americans?

    When Indian children were rounded up and herded into boarding schools throughout America at the turn of the century the mass media went along with it because they believed it was the right thing to do. Indians had no basic rights, civil or human. In order to make America a homogenous society, certain measures had to be taken. The end, as society records it, would justify the means.
    And:Polygamy occurred in the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation for obvious reasons that were apparently too difficult to discern by the clergy. If a warrior died by accident or in war he usually left a widow and children. What would happen to his family after his death? There were no welfare programs or commodity distributions to help feed, clothe and shelter the family. They would certainly die if not for the traditional practice of having able bodied warriors taken them under their protection as second wives and of course second families. It was the nasty minds of the Christians that turned this cultural practice into something dirty.

    I make the analogy to the San Angelo fiasco to point out that it is never a good thing when one segment of society forces its beliefs upon another.
    Comment:  If the people involved aren't coerced or brainwashed, I see nothing inherently wrong with polygamy.

    Indian country = Zion

    Newcomb:  American ZionismBush also spoke explicitly of an alliance and a friendship between Israel and the United States rooted in the Bible. The source of the link between the two countries, he said, "is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul." Then, weaving a bit of American history into the mix, Bush told his audience: "When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of [the Hebrew prophet] Jeremiah 51:10: 'Come let us declare in Zion the word of God."'

    According to Bush, "The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state." American Indian lands, in other words, were viewed by the founders of the United States as a new Land of Canaan, a promised inheritance and everlasting possession.

    Although there may be those orthodox Jews who would not concur with Bush's characterization of the Old Testament, his speech illustrates the kind of thinking that has played such a prominent role in the historic mistreatment of American Indians by the United States, and in the callous and often brutal mistreatment of Palestinian people by the state of Israel. The mental model of a chosen people and a promised land provides a convenient rationalization whereby one people feels entitled and justified, by divine right, to take over, possess, and profit from the lands of other peoples.
    And:By using Bradford's quote of Jeremiah, Bush was making a metaphorical connection between the United States and Israel, but also between Zion and the lands of the indigenous nations of North America. Bradford used the Old Testament quote of Jeremiah to project the concept of Zion onto the lands of the indigenous nations in North America. Clearly, this is an American version of Zionism.Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Indian-Palestinian Connection and A Shining City on a Hill:  What Americans Believe.

    Bush as a Native contrary

    The Contrarian Nature of George W. BushLet's play a game. If George Bush was a character in the 1970 classic Western, Little Big Man, who would he be?

    The obvious answer would of course be General George Armstrong Custer. Like our president, his character combines a sublime arrogance, a juvenile sense of the heroic, and sheer forehead-slapping stupidity in a manner that can only be described as gifted. And, employing these traits to their fullest, he also leads his troops into an unmitigated catastrophe. But that's too easy. Come on, play the game.
    The author's answer:[R]ecent events have led me to choose one of the movie's lesser characters--Younger Bear, Little Big Man's nemesis within the Cheyenne tribe. In the course of the movie, Younger Bear becomes a "contrary," a strange phenomenon in Native American plains culture who says and does the opposite of what he actually intends. He rides his horse facing the rear, says "hello" when he means "goodbye," washes in the dirt and dries off in the creek.

    I came to this conclusion after Bush's recent speech in Israel, where he famously equated Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's willingness to hold talks with Iran with the appeasement of Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. Pretty inflammatory rhetoric anywhere, but in front of the Knesset? Really over the top.

    But it was the response of the Israelis themselves that clued me in. For no sooner had Bush's plane left the tarmac than they announced they were engaging in peace talks with arch-enemy Syria. They apparently learned their lesson in 2006. At that time, the Bush administration egged them on in their fight with Hezbollah "terrorists" in Lebanon, and it went about as well for them as our invasion of Iraq has gone for us. Well, "never again" as the saying goes. Now they know--whatever Bush says, do the opposite.
    Below:  Little Big Man and little man, period.

    Blue corn for Blue Corn

    Here's what real blue corn looks like:

    May 25, 2008

    White super-race in The Paradise Syndrome

    Part two of an analysis of The Paradise Syndrome, the original Star Trek episode about Indians. From Star Trek and History: Race-Ing Toward a White Future by Daniel Bernardi.

    Case Study:  “The Paradise Syndrome” (1968)Roddenberry’s interest in representing Kirk and crew as more advanced than the Indians stems from his interest in the myth of the “paradise syndrome” (it was Roddenberry who insisted that the original title be changed to “The Paradise Syndrome”). He writes:

    Our story here, the essential and I think the most interesting and different one for our series, is whether a Herman Melville theme, i.e., modern man finding his “Tahiti,” that natural and simple and happy and untroubled life all of us dream about some day finding—and having found it and having held it in his hand, he learns he’s incapable of closing his hand around it and keeping it because all of us are innocent prisoners of our own time and our own place. And, as with Melville’s “Typee,” neither can our modern man (or his clerk from Boston) take his woman from this simple life back to his land and his time, since she would be as destroyed by it as he would be if he stayed there. This is the premise and theme, a strong one if used properly and certainly a most powerful and enduring one in Western literature.
    Roddenberry’s interest in defining the problems of whites in a modern world, here both metaphorically and literally represented by Kirk, is ultimately pursued at the expense of Native-American peoples and cultures.

    The NBC censor was also concerned with the notion of the “paradise syndrome,” but in the way in which it might affect the star persona of Captain Kirk. A letter from Stanley Robertson, manager of film programming, noted:

    I think that it is a major mistake to have our star. Kirk, “marry” the lovely native girl, Miramanee, to have a child by her and then to return to “his world” with the Enterprise when a rescue is affected [sic]. I realize that your feelings are that you can “justify these actions” by establishing Kirk as a man engrained in the customs, mores, and social patterns of the planet’s culture. However, I think that we must remember that even though our series takes place at a time in the future, we still have contemporary people with contemporary views on morals, manners, etc., viewing our shows and, while we are able to portray others than our heroes in opposition to these conventional points of view, we should not ever depict our leads as having such thoughts.”
    Clearly mindful of the twentieth-century audience, the NBC censor, though aware of the logic of science fiction, was less interested in the stereotyping of Native-Americans than with maintaining the “superior” morality of the white hero—another instance of network conservatism protecting a white bottom line.

    This interest in representing whiteness as morally atop the evolutionary ladder goes beyond the goals of the network censor. In the memorandum to Freiberger, Roddenberry goes to great lengths to rationalize the benevolent super-race:

    We are saying arbitrarily for purposes of this script that there was once, or still may exist somewhere, a race of highly advanced and kindly humanoid aliens, who had great love and affection for all forms of life and all levels of civilization and hated to see the fresh and different potential of primitive cultures absorbed and changed, such as happened on Earth with the Egyptians, Crete, American Indians, etc. Undoubtedly, the same sort of thing happens on other planets, too—it is a demonstratable law of progress in civilization that richly interesting primitive cultures die out and their particular values are lost when stronger cultures absorb or destroy them.
    Roddenberry’s interest in the super-race, a logic derivative of the social Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest,” continues, as he makes a weak effort at explaining why the Indians believe Kirk is godlike: “it is obvious that the Indians have never seen an Enterprise landing party member before and, therefore, more believable they believe Kirk is a sort of god.” The “demonstratable law of progress” implicitly assumes that “white” phenotypes, which is all that separates Kirk from the Indians at this point in the story, would be construed by “primitive cultures” as godlike, thereby linking Kirk not to the Indians, and thus to members of his own species, but to an alien super-race: Kirk is more alien super-race than human Indian. The discourse of white superiority, “not there as a category and everywhere as a fact,” as Richard Dyer argues about whiteness, is stretched into the future by the science-fiction notion of an alien super-race and a heroic white captain.

    Rock the Native Vote

    Every vote counts

    'Rock the Native Vote' seeks to expand Oklahoma Indian voter participationIn Oklahoma, one organization hopes to increase Native participation in the local, state and national voting process. Called "Rock the Native Vote," the organization is a non-partisan effort that began as a Native youth initiative in 2003 within the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church.

    In addition to getting people registered to vote, the organization has a second purpose: change attitudes about the voting process and "help persons realize that our voting does make a difference, whether it's in our communities, our states or nationwide," said Rev. David Wilson, Choctaw, who serves as the OIMC conference superintendent and RNV chair.

    In June 2004, RNV held its first large event, a live music rally in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indians, on the same weekend as the annual Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City. This year, RNV kicked off its voter registration campaign with a rally and dance held at the Oklahoma Native American Students in Higher Education conference in Weatherford, on the campus of Southwest Oklahoma State University.

    Native America Speaks at Glacier

    Native American influences a big part of Glacier's allureIn general, visitors to Glacier National Park come with a superficial awareness of the region's Native American heritage and the Blackfeet Nation, said Jack Gladstone as he prepared for his 24th summer as a presenter in the Native America Speaks program.

    "There is an interest and fascination with our tribal identity," the Blackfeet singer-songwriter from St. Mary and Kalispell said.

    By attending the 45-minute evening presentations at hotels, campgrounds and other sites in and near the park, Gladstone said, visitors accept an invitation to deepen their understanding of the cultural identity of the native people.
    Comment:  Good to hear there's a strong Native presence at Glacier. Those who have read American Indians and National Parks know that isn't always the case at our national parks.

    More on Panama's King Tito

    Hydro-dam exiles one of Latin America's last kingsThe Naso king is recognized by the Panamanian government as the tribe's maximum authority and its legal representative in discussions with outsiders. The government rejected Tito's ouster and still recognizes him as rightful monarch, referring to him as "Rey Tito" (King Tito) in official documents.

    Tito is now considering a referendum on his rule.

    "I am thinking about an election. Let's have the community decide whether I continue or not. If they want another king, then be my guest," said Tito, sitting in the shade of his hut.

    Many of the 400 residents of the Naso capital Seiyik, which lies three hours by dugout canoe up a shallow river, are furious that the government and EPM are still talking to Tito.

    How Blackfire got started

    Blackfire:  The Rhythm of ResistanceA sync settled in, Jeneda leans into the conversation. “You know Blackfire just happened, it wasn’t planned. We grew up together, are close in age, played easily together and picked up instruments together.”

    “Where did you get the name from?” I ask. “Black coal,” Says Jeneda, “has always represented, to our minds, the continued encroachment on Traditional Aboriginal land.”

    Blackfire,” says Clayson, “is like a smoke signal.”

    Klee seamlessly completes the thought. “In the old days, a smoke signal was used to warn other camps in the vicinity of the approaching enemy.”

    Yakari videos

    These videos are from a European TV series about Yakari, the Sioux Indian boy. They give you an idea of how Yakari looks and acts in his comic books.

    Note that he isn't wearing a feather in the second video. This is actually a better, more authentic look for him. Even if a boy like him did something heroic, I'm not sure his elders would award him a feather.

    Yakari intro 1983--[TV-Series]

    Yakary si tunet mic

    Visualizing stereotypical mascots

    A collection of common items featuring Indian sports mascots:

    Visualizing Otherness:  Native Americans