December 10, 2009

Alexie can criticize but Grubbs can't?

In Tiger's Mistress Attacks Indians, reader Kat asked why Sherman Alexie can criticize reservation life but Jaimee Grubbs can't. Here's my answer to that question:

I don't know how Indians would've reacted if Grubbs had offered a legitimate critique of reservation life. But look at what she actually said: "They get their free money, they drink and that's all that matters." She perpetuated stereotypes: that Indians get government handouts, that they're alcoholics, and that they're too primitive or savage to care about anything else.

She coupled this with a general disdain for Indians. She doesn't like her Indian name, which I think she said was "Blue Sky." She was glad to leave the rez. And she won't date Indian men.

She didn't say she won't date the Colville men she knew. She said she won't date any Indian men. All two million-plus of them are unacceptable to her because they're drinkers and fighters.

In short, Grubbs's beliefs are prejudiced at the core. And that's what differentiates her from someone like Alexie. He understands the good and bad of reservation life. He also understands what causes the troubled conditions. He doesn't tar and feather everyone with broad-brush stereotypes. When he addresses problems, he does so with humor and compassion.

If Grubbs had said the same things with warmth and tenderness for her people, I doubt the reaction would've been the same. Instead she scorned them, abandoned them, and kicked them when they were down. Now she's on the media circuit trying to profit from her tale. I think that's what people are reacting to.


Kat said...

Rob, I agree with everything that you said in this post concerning Grubbs' behavior and I also acknowledged her deep racism before here:

"Just to make that clear: Parts of what Grubbs said are very racist (the constant use of 'they' is disturbing, the stupid welfare/hand-out thing she says is even more disturbing, the Indian men comment)."


"But some of the comments seemed to disagree with the fact that she says negative things about the reservation in general, rather the racism (that's what I meant with the last paragraph)."


"Some of the commenters seemed to object to her saying anything negative at all about where she is from rather then certain statements that are racist. It sounded like: 'You don't talk about that to outsiders. How dare you?!' rather than Why are you being so racist and why are you stereotyping everyone and making idiotic comments on welfare?'"

So we agree on her behavior. I just got a different (mixed) message from some of the comments.

Kat said...

I know this is old news, but can I ask a dumb-ass question:

Could someone please explain to me the "Confederated Tribes" thing? How does that work in practice? Both government-wise and what do people mainly identify as, "I'm from Colville" or "I'm Nez Perce"? Or "none of the above"? And I also don't quite understand how this exact mix of tribes came about- I read the History section ("A walk through time") on their webpage, but other than that Chief Moses (Sinkiuse) invited Chief Joseph and his tribe (Nez Perce), I don't think I understood how the other tribes came to live there.

m. said...

People from the Colville reservation say they're "from Colville" or an "enrolled member of" Colville, while identifying themselves by their tribe. It's similar to the Colorado River Indian reservation - the members are from different tribes, as well. I'm not going to compare the two in any other way, though, because I only know the CRI rez backstory (which is messed up and painful) and not Colville's. Sorry.

Kat said...

@ m.:
Thank you very much!

One last one though: How does the CRIT government thing work in practice? (Sorry if I ask too many questions)

Michelle R. Hall Shining Elk said...

Kat you do ask too many questions and have too many comments. There's a point it's just gotten to annoying to bother with responses. If you want to know more, keep reading -- it is all on our tribal website. Really it is all there.

Enrolled Colville (Lakes and Okanogan Bands)

P.S. Can't wait for the lengthy response to this. Parts I, II and probably III.

Kat said...

LOL! I hope tomorrow is a better day, Michelle.

If you're too annoyed to reply- just stay mum and ignore me.

If you think my responses are too long: Again, don't read them.

Kat said...

I just checked again, it doesn't say on the webpage:
Tribal government"

What I wanted to know is whether the exact tribal affiliation matters in the government or whether in any given year, it could be made up entirely by Chemehuevi e.g.

Michelle R. Hall Shining Elk said...

Kat:Have you ever heard the term "too many questions is invasive." Where I am from we don't ask someone "how are you doing today," because it is invasive, and sometimes people just don't want to talk about how they are doing. If you ask that question to an elder from my reservation like that, you are likely to get the following answer "why do you ask do I look sick or like something is wrong with me?" Instead we say "hello I hope you are with good heart today."

You ask questions with the attitude that you are entitled an answer. Did you ever stop to think that maybe some questions aren't answered because there is pain behind in telling the story or giving an answer. Again, you are clueless and annoying.

Can you go find another hobby other than that of our Indian community. It's one thing to be interested but you seem to have turned this in to an investigation, a disrespectful investigation because you are nosey. Maybe you should take your focus back to the obvious issues you have with men and work on that.

So I will take your advice ignore your comments. Heavy sigh...sheesh woman.

dmarks said...

Kat: I don't see anything wrong with you asking questions! Nothing nosy about it, and certainly nothing invasive at all about asking how a government entity is structured!

I don't know about those specific "confederated nations", but there are other combined tribes elsewhere, such as the MHA Nation (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) in North Dakota, and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan.

Kat said...

@ Michelle Shining Elk:
- Replying with an incoherent rant to a question on laws regarding the make up of tribal government?
Gummy points.
- Replying with an incoherent rant to a question not directed at you?
- Replying with an incoherent rant to a legit question not directed at you out of spite for ONE comment of mine that you disagreed with?
- Managing to make wild assumptions about two other people's motives?
Awesome. (What if m. simply doesn't know the answer or didn't check back?)
- Attacking someone you don't know personally on the internet while managing all these other brilliant feats?
- Throwing in anti-feminism for good measure?

Seriously though: Michelle, you're a Native American woman working in film. If you can't deal with me already and find me annoying... WOW! How likely is it that I am the most racist and clueless person you've ever met, given your background? Zilch. So all for ONE disagreement? Really?