September 30, 2010

Why we believe in Columbus

It's that time of year again--when we condemn Columbus for his crimes against humanity:

The Myth of "America"

By Dahr Jamail and Jason Coppola For those of us who are willing to ask how it becomes possible to manipulate the population of a country into accepting atrocity, the answer is not hard to find. It requires normalizing the inconceivable and drumming it in via the socio-cultural environment until it is internalized and embedded in the individual and collective consciousness. The combined or singular deployment of the media, the entertainment industry, mainstream education or any other agency, can achieve the desired result of convincing people that wars can be just, and strikes can be surgical, as long as it is the US that is doing it.And:The one word key to that is: Myths. The explanation is that the myths the United States is built upon have paved the way for the perpetuation of all manner of violations.

Among the first of these is that of Christopher Columbus. In school we were taught of his bravery, courage and perseverance. In a speech in 1989, George H.W. Bush proclaimed: "Christopher Columbus not only opened the door to a New World, but also set an example for us all by showing what monumental feats can be accomplished through perseverance and faith."
And:"Whereas older nations are by and large populated by people whose ancestral roots penetrated that land well before it took on the clear definition of a nation state, the majority of the people in an invented nation--such as the United States or Israel--have ancestry that inevitably leads elsewhere. This exposes the ephemeral link between the peoples' history and the nation's history. Add to that the fact that such nations came into being through grotesque acts of dispossession and it is clear that a psychological drive to hold aloft an atemporal exceptionalism becomes an existential necessity. National security requires that the past be erased."The article also quotes some of the evidence against Columbus:Catholic priest Bartolome de las Casas, in the multi-volume "History of the Indies" published in 1875, wrote, "... Slaves were the primary source of income for the Admiral (Columbus) with that income he intended to repay the money the Kings were spending in support of Spaniards on the Island. They provide profit and income to the Kings. (The Spaniards were driven by) insatiable greed ... killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing the native peoples ... with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty."

This systematic violence was aimed at preventing "Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings. (The Spaniards) thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.... My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write."
Comment:  This myth-making process continues in myriad forms today. Every stereotype that portrays Indians as savage or uncivilized is part of this process. Every mascot, logo, or headdress contributes to the idea that Indians were the past and white Christian Euro-Americans are the present.

This message comes from our leaders, thinkers, and tastemakers...filters through our schools and the media...and becomes our cultural mindset. "We" brought civilization to this untamed wilderness. "They" were savages who deserved what they got. We're the heroes; they're the villains. White Christians good, brown heathens bad.

(Note for Geno and his many goofball aliases: The paragraph above is the message Americans tell themselves as part of the myth-making process. It is not what *I* believe. Get it, dummy? Or do I have to mock your cluelessness some more?)

Examples of myth-making

This myth is so ingrained that it's difficult to challenge. "Educated" apologists for America are quick to defend it whenever the subject arises. You can almost predict their responses if you try. For instance:

Claim:  Indians weren't savages.

Response:  Indians fought and killed each other long before the Europeans arrived.

Counter-response:  Europeans fought and killed each other too--in much greater numbers in more long-term wars. If that's the measure of savagery, Europeans "win."

Claim:  Americans committed genocide.

Response:  Most Indians died from disease.

Counter-response:  Columbus set up a slave-trading system before disease began killing large numbers of people. From the start, the European intent was genocidal in nature.

Myth-making at work

We see this myth-making process at work in many if not most of our "culture wars." For instance, immigration and mosque-building: "They" are trying to take "our" country from us. Ethnic studies and whitewashed textbooks: "They" are trying to tell "our" children that the myth isn't true. Welfare spending and healthcare reform: "They" are trying to redistribute "our" wealth to non-Europeans. Abortion and gay marriage: "They" are trying to turn America into a non-Christian state.

(Again, Geno, this is the myth-making process, not what *I* believe. Get it yet, dummy?)

Nor is this solely a rear-guard effort by frightened conservatives/libertarians/teabaggers. Liberals buy into the myth or, if they're politicians, say they do. For instance, President Obama talks about settling the West and won't utter the word "genocide." Politically speaking, he can't or won't give his opponents more fodder to claim he's un-American.

With their talk-show media machine, conservatives are doing a good job of dominating the debate these days. Obama and other weak-willed Democrats are unwilling or unable to fight back. Obama spoke once about our racial troubles during his campaign and has avoided the subject since then. He knows how angry white Americans will turn any racial incident into a debate on who belongs here and who doesn't.

Myths can't last

Fortunately, the long-term trends are working in favor of change. Millions of educators and activists are chipping away at America's myths. Younger Americans are more liberal, tolerant, and aware than older ones. In a few decades, whites will be a minority whether they like it or not.

Unless conservatives start burning as well as banning books, the facts aren't going anywhere. It's a documented fact that Columbus and his men killed or enslaved Indians. That Euro-Americans took an inhabited land from its people by force. No amount of spinning will change the fundamental truth: that the myth is a lie.

For more on the subject, see Those Evil Europeans and This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant.

Preview of Warrior Women

Warrior Women:  The story of Red Power

By Lorraine JessepeDuring the height of political unrest in Indian country during the 1960s and ’70s, men such as Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt were the media-recognized leaders of Red Power, the grass roots movement marked by its activism and a resurgence of Indian cultural identity, pride and traditionalism.

But away from much of the media attention stood such women as Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lorelei DeCora, Janet McCloud, Pat Bellanger, Lakota Harden, and LaNada Means War Jack. These were just a few of the Indian women in the trenches of the Red Power movement.

Now, the untold stories of Native women activists will be documented in an upcoming film, “Warrior Women,” a one-hour documentary to be aired on PBS. University of South Dakota Assistant Professor Elizabeth Castle, the film’s writer and producer, eyes a 2012 completion date for the film, which is in pre-production. The project is the recent recipient of a grant from Native American Public Telecommunications.
And:Even today, Castle said a frustrating lack of knowledge about American Indians still exists. “It never ever fails to blow my mind.”

The Western image of the Indian--a man on a horse with feathers and war paint--still dominates popular culture, and the Indian woman, with the exception of the “Indian princess,” is mostly invisible, irrelevant and powerless. “We’ve gotten it wrong for so long,” Castle said.

The media’s focus on the men in the movement allowed Indian women the freedom to get things done behind the scenes, Castle said. “The white media wasn’t going to recognize Native women’s voice.”
Comment:  I'm not sure the way to counteract "the Western image of the Indian" is another documentary about warriors. I don't know about the mainstream media, but Native warrior women are fairly common in comic books and video games.

Anyway, I hope the women will say more than the usual things. You know, things like, "We were the backbone of the movement. We were on the forefront of change. We fought alongside the men. We're proud of everything we accomplished."

I want to hear about how the Indian men treated the women as cooks, cleaners, and sex objects. And how the men fought among themselves and occasionally stabbed each other in the back--sometimes literally. In other words, give us the real history of the movement, not a sanitized version.

For more on the subject, see AIM's Misdeeds Too Complex to Cover? and Debate Over Wounded Knee.

Inuit Muslim woman

Young, Inuit and Muslim:  Maatalii Okalik-Syed’s faith journeyAs a young Inuit woman, Maatalii Okalik-Syed is exceptional in many ways.

From a very early age, the 21-year-old native of Pangnirtung, Nunavut committed herself to helping others. She’s worked with several grassroots Aboriginal and Inuit organizations, all the way up to the Government of Nunavut. And now she’s set to graduate from Carleton University with a Human Rights and Political Science degree, minoring in Aboriginal Studies.

But an impressive resume is not the only thing that sets Maatalii apart. Maatalii is a Muslim, one of a small but growing number of Indigenous women in Canada converting to a religion most associate with the Middle East.

It’s not known exactly how many have converted, but some Indigenous Muslims report seeing more and more people like them praying at Ottawa-Gatineau mosques. People like Linda Soliman. A Cree woman originally from Fort Albany in northern Ontario, she credits Islam with strengthening her parenting skills and improving the relationship with her parents.
Comment:  Just the existence of an Inuit Muslim woman is a stereotype breaker.

For more on the subject, see Lakota-Muslim Parallels.

P.S. I think I read about a Lakota Muslim woman before. But if I did, I can't find a link to the story.

US infected Guatemalans with STDs

U.S. to apologize for STD experiments in Guatemala

Government researchers infected patients with syphilis, gonorrhea without their consent in the 1940s

By Robert BazellU.S. government medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala, including institutionalized mental patients, with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge or permission more than 60 years ago.

Many of those infected were encouraged to pass the infection onto others as part of the study.

About one third of those who were infected never got adequate treatment.
Comment:  You can bet many of the victims were Maya and other Indians.

Would any American propose doing this study in any white city or enclave? For instance, Beverly Hills? No, of course not. The idea is unthinkable.

But it was okay to do the study on the poor, indigenous people of Guatemala. Why? Because countless generations of American myth-making have told us Indians are savages. That they're not quite human like us. That unlike white people, they don't matter.

For more on related subjects, see The Straight Dope on the Sterilization of Native Women and The Facts About Blankets with Smallpox.

September 29, 2010

Stereotypes as mental maps

We get e-mail:Dear Sir,

Browsing the internet I just happened to stumble over a thread that you wrote last year titled "Liv Tyler = Cherokee Pocahontas." I was so astonished by the views that I read in this article that it lead me to writing to you. Please excuse my English, although I have learned the language for quite some time by now, I am not a native speaker. So I hope that you will kindly excuse some of the mistakes I am sure to make.

If I got the thread right, then it would lead me to understand that you are opposed to stereotypes, specifically racial stereotypes concerning native Americans. While I am entirely opposed to racism and considering the history of my home country Germany I have been confronted with the topic of racism at home, in school, in my personal surroundings and due to my current homestead at a lot of places I pass daily, I was nevertheless astonished that you equal stereotyping one race to racism.

I am aware that both are very close to one another and that stereotyping can easily lead to all sorts of misinformed judgement and the associated unethical behaviour. The point that astonishes me is that you were so much opposed to stereotypes. I know that you were specifically writing about racial stereotypes, but I would consider these to be a subclass of stereotypes in general.

My opinion is that stereotypes are necessary. Please let me explain.

When somebody is first confronted with a new situation, person or phenomenon, he or she, I think, will first try to somehow categorize and classify what it is. ... So I would not be astonished if somebody who is not informed about a topic or a group has a very vague and necessarily in some aspects wrong opinion on said topic. This would to me equal to stereotypes. To me stereotyping is not always malevolent but at most times just a sign that somebody is undereducated on a certain subject.

I always felt that somebody who uses stereotypes, be they national stereotypes, cultural stereotypes or racist stereotypes, is only at the beginning of a learning process. That some people never go on to develop their stereotypes into an adequate mental categorization is sad, yes. But it can hardly be said that the stage of stereotyping "what ever it is that you have to learn about" has to lead to unethical and malevolent behaviour. If you are aware that you are stereotyping somebody because you do not know enough about him or her and his or her culture or nation yet, the stereotyping itself does not have to be bad, I would hope. For example I used to dress up in a horribly stereotype Native American costume when I was five years old. I did not know any better. But I never felt any dislike or even hatred toward Native Americans. How could I? I still sadly did not meet anybody who could rightly say that he or she is Native American up to this day.

Still I would always think that I liked to dress up in that costume when I was young because I liked the little I knew about Native Americans at that time and appreciated it as best I could without wanting to hurt anybody's feelings. Now I know of course that the costume I wore then was mostly inspired by stereotypes which had been presented to me via media. Should I really be angry at my parents for letting me dress up and play like that? I do not think so. I did not stop at that stage, but went on to learn more about the culture and history of some Native American tribes and nations.

Looking back I would venture to say that the costume I wore as child was not racist. It just showed that I liked Native American culture although at same time I obviously did not know enough about it. I am happy that my first encounter with what I then perceived to be Native American was a positive one, though. What would have happened if I had been forbidden the costume I cannot know. Maybe I would have associated my early stereotype of Native Americans negatively, which would have meant a big loss to me.
My response:

You're basically arguing for stereotypes as mental maps. The idea is that people start with a limited understanding of the world. This understanding is based mainly on their necessarily narrow perceptions and experiences. They know only what's in front of them because, well, how could they know anything else? Whatever they see becomes the template for a whole category of things.

For instance, suppose someone sees only purebred collies in his childhood. These will form his mental map of dogs. He'll develop a stereotypical notion of what a dog is: an animal that looks like a collie.

When he sees his first St. Bernard, greyhound, Afghan, poodle, or Chihuahua, he may have trouble processing it. "That's not a real dog," he may think to himself. But he'll eventually learn that other breeds are dogs also, and broaden his mental "dog" map. He'll replace his dog stereotypes with a genuine understanding of dogs.

Michael Cooke is big on stereotypes as mental maps. I think that's what he was arguing in Headdresses = Fedoras? and Stereotypes Okay in "Cultural Commons"? Namely, that our culture's mental map of Indians is a Plains chief or warrior. It's not anyone's fault; it's just the way it is. People should strive to become better educated, but we can't blame them for starting from an ignorant position.

Mental maps aren't unbiased

A couple problems with this stance. For starters, people don't hold the "savage Indian" stereotype in isolation. They don't think, "Indians are Plains chiefs and warriors, but other than that I draw no conclusions about them. I'm completely neutral about Indians except for how I envision their appearance."

The so-called mental map is part of a continuum of beliefs and values. If you have one stereotypical view of Indians, you're likely to have others. Whoever has educated you--your parents, your schools, the media, society--has linked these stereotypical views into an overall perspective. It goes something like this:

  • Indians wear headdresses, live in teepees, and say "How!"

  • Indians are savages, degenerates, heathens, or killers.

  • I don't like Indians because they're bad people.

  • My people are better than Indians.

  • Indians deserve what they got--what they continue to get--because they're inferior.

    Think about the word "savage." Any claim that it's a neutral word is ridiculous. "Savage" has a host of negative associations with it: lacking intelligence and civilization, violent and bloodthirsty, etc.

    Describing people as "savages" is a value judgment, not an impartial description of their status. That's why we apply the word to murderers, terrorists, and Nazis even though they may be cultured and sophisticated. When you stereotype Indians as savages, you're comparing them to the dregs of humanity.

    Stereotypes aren't malevolent?

    As you say, stereotyping is often based on ignorance. Stereotyping and ignorance are often harmful whether they're malevolent or not. So the issue isn't whether someone's intent is evil. It's whether the actions have harmful effects.

    In the case of Native stereotyping, they do. They perpetuate and reinforce centuries of negative attitudes. As I noted in Stereotypes Disappear "Organically"? these attitudes have real-world consequences. Genocide happened because Americans deemed Indians "savages."

    I've written about the harm of Native stereotypes many times. For instance:

    Why people don't care about Indians
    Background research on Native stereotypes
    Miner's canary = broken window
    Stereotypical thinking causes racist results

    Because of this documented harm, we oppose Native stereotypes. Not so much in children who may have a naïve but sincere interest in Indians. But in adults who should know better.

    You gave the example of a five-year-old wearing a Halloween costume. My parents dressed me as a stereotypical Mexican peasant--with a sombrero, poncho, and mustache--when I was about two. Yes, it was arguably racist and no, I don't blame my younger self for it.

    The questions you've failed to ask are: What about the parents, or whoever bought or made the costume? What about the store that sold the costume? What about the friends and family members who congratulated you and your parents on the costume? Or at least tolerated and accepted it despite its racist implications? What about the schools, the media, and society at large, which perpetuated the idea of Indians as primitive people of the past?

    What's their excuse for the costume worn by the five-year-old? Really, I'd like to hear it.

    Did the parents try to research Indian apparel before dressing up the child as a human cliché? No, of course not. So that's another problem with the "mental map" theory. People don't just start off as ignorant innocents who want to know more. They choose to remain ignorant despite the availability of information.

    Adults aren't little children

    I generally don't criticize little children who don't know any better. I generally criticize only adults who have had ample opportunities to overcome their stereotypical beliefs.

    Sure, people form and rely on stereotypes when they initially learn about something. That's a good excuse for a child or an ignorant adult who's just encountered a foreign culture. But today's Americans generally have 12 years of grade-school education, some college education, and countless sources of information in print, video, and online. They have no excuse not go beyond their stereotypical beliefs to reach the truth.

    In the mid-20th century, you might've had a good excuse for being ignorant. There were no Indians in the media except for Western movies and TV shows. Real-life Indians had yet to make an impression with Alcatraz, Wounded Knee II, and other forms of activism. Your only source of information was the local library, and finding accurate information might've taken you hours. So remaining ignorant when there was no pressing need to educate yourself was an understandable option.

    Now things have changed dramatically. Most schools provide at least some accurate information about Indians. Many entertainment productions--movies, TV shows, books, comic books, etc.--do likewise. Indians get their fair share of media coverage--as you can see every day in Newspaper Rock,,, Indian Country Today, and other news sources.

    In short, if there was ever an excuse for ignorance, it no longer exists.

    So stereotypes don't exist in isolation, and people don't strive to overcome their ignorance. In fact, as we've seen, today's hipsters revel in their ignorance. "On some level we recognize that Indians aren't savages," they may think. "But it's so cool, hip, and transgressive to portray them that way. Acting like yesteryear's racists and bigots is our way of thumbing our nose at society."

    No excuses for "how"

    Someone recently told me a story about a non-Native father and son at a powwow. The father went up to the Indian and told the boy to say "How!" I don't know exactly what happened next, but the Indian said something critical. The father responded with something apologetic along the lines of, "I thought that was a genuine greeting." The Indian walked away in disgust.

    We can't blame the non-Natives much if they didn't know any better. If I were the Indian, I might've said something like, "That's not a genuine greeting. It's a stereotype from countless old movies and TV shows.

    "You're insulting us by assuming we all had one language and one grunt-like greeting. Actually, we come from hundreds of different cultures, each with its own language and greeting. Please learn something about real Indians and don't do it again."

    For the most part, though, ignorance isn't a good excuse. Hollywood studios have every resource necessary to portray Indians accurately, yet they seldom do it. Same with corporations when they choose their product names and logos and craft their commercials. How can they spend millions of dollars on research yet get the basic facts wrong?

    And most sports fans have heard that Indians don't like being mascots. These fans aren't just ignorant, they're willfully ignorant. They're ignoring the information handed to them because they want to keep their mascots. They want to think of Indians as primitive people of the past because it fits their political and social agenda.

    If you're not clear on what that agenda is, I've explained it many times. For instance:

    Obama smeared as Luo tribesman
    Conservative bigotry against Islam
    Indians in Christian textbooks
    Sherrod incident shows conservative tactics
    Why Americans hate welfare
    Columnist shows how racists view Indians
    Conservatives' pro-white agenda


    When people are merely ignorant, we protest the system that keeps them ignorant. When they're willfully ignorant, we protest them and their racist attitudes. I wouldn't say every stereotyper is a racist, but every stereotype contributes to society's racist beliefs and perceptions. If these people aren't part of the solution, they're part of the problem.

    People can hold these perceptions and not be "malevolent," but that doesn't mean we should give them a pass. Since their perceptions lead to harmful consequences, they need to change their perceptions.
  • Is The American worth it?

    A brief Facebook exchange over the value of spending $38 million on The American statue:Christ...I wish people would stop with the f*g symbols + get that money to some actual living Indians who could use it--like for, y'know, *food* or *medical care* or *college*...Well, I think there's a place for research, education, and the arts. You know, intellectual pursuits that don't help anyone directly. Surely you agree with that?

    But a giant naked Indian is about the last thing I'd spend $38 million on. Giving $10,000 each to 3,800 Native organizations and artists would be a much better use of the money. It probably would attract more tourism and economic development, too.I agree with it to an extent. I definitely think making sure everyone's basic needs get met has to come first.To me it's like a corporation's R&D budget. You put 5% or whatever of your money into long-term research even if it has no immediate payoff. Same with "nonessential" programs in academia and government. History has shown that it's wise to invest in the future.

    To help the poor I'd get money from the defense budget or higher taxes. But not from education or the arts. That would be penny-wise and pound-foolish, as they say.

    Build the statue, or...?

    I'm sure The American's supporters claim the statue would bring in much more money than it would cost. Even if that's true--a big if--it leaves a key question unanswered: What alternatives have they considered for the $38 million expenditure?

    For $38 million you could build some combination of a Indian museum, an Indian arts marketplace, an Indian village, and a theater devoted to Indian plays and movies. Who's to say these wouldn't generate even more tourist dollars than the statue? And thus more money for poor Indians, the ultimate goal?

    And there's still the question of why a giant naked Indian? Wouldn't a giant clothed Indian draw just as many tourists? In short, what's the justification for spending money on any statue or on this particular statue?

    For more on the subject, see Is The American Still Feasible? and Thoughts on The American.

    Reaching youths with comic books

    Regarding a comic book for the 13 grandmothers, I posted these comments on Facebook:

    This idea applies to any organization that wants to promote its work to today's youth. Think about it!

    For instance, the Democratic Party could use a comic book to get out its message to young voters. Whatever the party is doing now, I'm not sure it's working.

    I could totally sell the Democratic Party in a 22-page comic book. Mr. Obama, are you listening?!

    Or an Indian tribe or organization that wants to tell its story.

    I could even do a Democratic comic without bashing the Republicans or Tea Party, believe it or not.

    For more on the subject, see Tribal Language and Cultural Preservation Proposal.

    September 28, 2010

    Grandmothers don't like radical advocacy?

    Recently I proposed doing a comic book about the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. This comic would let them share their message of healing and reconciliation with today's youth.

    This proposal led to the usual tiresome debate with Michael Cooke:Please explain your thesis? The 13 grandmothers are cool and could be used to good effect in a comic from the point of view of telling a good story. But the idea young people are especially drawn to do-good grandmothers--I wish it were true, but I'm a skeptic. Sell me.The grandmothers could produce an educational comic without worrying about whom it appeals to. But if they want to appeal to kids, I think they'd need some youth-oriented characters to complement the wise elders. I'll urge that kind of approach if we get that far.Well, the context I could use the 13 grandmothers is relevant to a meta storyline [about an animal character named Ithacat]. ... If anyone can get him to accept himself as a 'sacred animal' and have self esteem as such, the 13 grandmothers fit the bill! But I'm concerned because the comic is not meant for young readers and it does have a lot of contentious political content that I don't preach with (I leave readers to their own conclusions).I'm guessing the 13 grandmothers wouldn't approve of your gay or Satanist themes. But what kind of approval do you want? Just make up a fictional version of the grandmothers if you want to use them as a one-time plot device.

    You could write them and ask them for their approval. You'd have to submit your script to them, of course. But how would it help you if they happened to approve?

    Grandmothers and Sodomight?The comic is unusual because it is a fantasy but also grounded in reality, I'm thinking of it as an alternate reality co-existing with ours, so the 'actual' grandmothers would be preferable to use as characters.

    I would only use them for one story, and the story as yet is undefined, if I can find pro native right angle for a story of course I'll use that.

    In issue 4-5 the one Satan/gay plot is like so:

    The one story featuring satanic elements (also features the gay character) is about a husband kidnapping his daughter from his ex-wife and her same sex partner, who evokes demons to ward off the police and accidentally brings on the end of the world--Sodomight turns back time to give Ithacat a chance to save the world, but Sodomight can't help more because the time travel has upset his sense of causality and driven him insane temporarily.

    The Ithacat comic is like PG-13, it will feature no depiction of graphic sex or gratuitous violence--but those things may be implied.
    Demons and a character named Sodomight might be a problem. Especially with the grandmothers' religious and spiritual focus. I doubt they'd approve something that was inconsistent with their beliefs.Well it's not an issue with the story they would be featured in, as that wouldn't require those elements. Because of my chaos magic background, there will be no consistent model of almost anything--the comic will pose questions more than answers.

    Even with the demons, because the insanity experienced by Sodomight actually helps him master his powers in the long run, it's not clear if they really posed a threat to the world or if they, like 'demons' of Buddhism, played their part so that Sodomight can be a better hero and Ithacat can build some self esteem.

    That said, I'm Gay, if they don't want to have anything to do with me because of my sexuality, I will not work with them and I no longer want to.

    But I do condemn you for suggesting the grandmothers are anti-gay because I believe you are guessing and it is a deplorable thing to accuse someone of without knowing it for a fact. I expect their spiritual beliefs serve to enlighten them and that such bigotry is beneath them.
    Avoiding controversy = opposing gays?!

    I "condemn" you for wasting so much time explaining your comics when I can't tell you more than "you'll have to ask them." Talk about someone who seems desperate to justify his position...!

    I'm confident the grandmothers aren't anti-gay. As you may recall, however, I read one of your online comics when we first started talking. It may have featured Sodomight. I also read your comics back in APA-5. From what I've seen, I doubt the grandmothers will want to have anything to do with your controversial, in-your-face brand of pro-gay advocacy.

    These people come from traditional cultures, and they don't talk about gay issues on their website. Based on what I know about you and about them, I'm giving you my best guess. If I was sure, I wouldn't use phrases like "I doubt." Therefore, it's a waste of time to talk about this too.I'm a creative guy, I'm thinking you feel that I'd embarrass you if I contacted this group, so I won't. I'll come up with a better solution.

    I am not certain you're no homophobe though.

    Think about this turn of phrase: "controversial in your face advocacy of Native American rights"--as if that's a negative thing.

    Bring up advocacy of gay rights as a negative again and I'll know exactly where you stand.

    Good luck to your comic venture Rob, sincerely. Even if this is the end of our friendship.
    You can contact them all you want if you don't drop my name into the mix. Since they barely know me, I don't want to confuse them about my association with you.

    Are you familiar with the American Indian Movement, Ward Churchill, and other leftist Indian activists? (Or "Indian," in Churchill's case.) They're the type who will flat-out say Americans are racists, "little Eichmanns," and genocidal maniacs. They'll denounce moderates as Uncle Toms or hang-around-the-fort Indians. They'll write "AmeriKKKa" instead of "America." Etc.

    They're what I think of when you write "controversial in your face advocacy of Native American rights." And I absolutely would say the same thing. I doubt the grandmothers would want to have anything to do with AIM's controversial, in-your-face brand of pro-Native advocacy. I'm not sure, but that's my best guess.

    If you're too dense to get the point, it has nothing to do with the value of gay or Native advocacy. It's about the grandmothers being a moderate spiritual organization with no strong stances on political or cultural issues. Not that I can see, anyway. Nothing about abortion, gay marriage, Leonard Peltier or Mumia Abu-Jamal, etc.

    Given your utter failure to address my points--my knowledge of your past work and the grandmothers' work--I couldn't care less if you think I'm homophobic. Clearly you were too stupid or lazy to engage in a serious argument, so you simply labeled me. Great tactic if you're in kindergarten, but not persuasive to anyone else.

    Mike doesn't know Rob

    You're too dense too "know exactly where I stand" based on this thread. You have an amazing ability to ignore the evidence in front of your face (e.g., multiple pro-gay Facebook postings) and jump to unwarranted conclusions.

    Here we see your anti-intellectual idiocy in action. I've written about gays dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. You don't know jack about any of these writings and you won't get off your fat ass and read them. Instead, you're ready to assume I'm a homophobe based on your stupid misunderstanding of my point in this one posting.

    Incredible, and incredibly asinine. Since you're earned the label of a stupid jerk, I'm calling you one once again. Learn to read, dumbass, so I don't have to explain my position on gays again.

    You can start educating yourself about my views here:

    Homosexuality isn't a choice
    Historical antecedents of gay marriage

    Finally, I'm not certain you're not bigoted against Native Americans. So we're even.

    Comment:  For more tiresome debates with Cooke, see Star Trek vs. Star Wars and Educating Cooke About Confirmation Bias.

    Is The American still feasible?

    Statue leaders say 'American' statue project still viable

    By Paul WaldschmidtEven though a final site is still undecided, a group wanting to build a 21-story bronze statue of a Native American say the project is feasible.

    On Friday, project organizers briefed a group of community leaders, potential contributors, and supporters who want to build “The American,” a projected $38 million monument celebrating the state’s Indian heritage and culture.

    At one time the proposed site was Holmes Park, seven miles northwest of downtown Tulsa.

    That site has been abandoned, but “we’ve looked at and are considering several sites,” said Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, who moderated the meeting.

    “It is ready to go if we can get the fundraising together to build it,” she said. “It will be a game changer for this area.”
    A couple of comments add some perspective:Are you people sure you know what "feasible" means?

    They've been talking about building this statue for years still nothing, I for one would like to see it built. Quit talking...pick a site and build it.
    Comment:  When you hold a press conference to say your project is still feasible, that often means it isn't feasible.

    So the organizers lost their original site. It sounds as if they haven't started raising funds yet. Are they hoping some city will endorse them and bail them out with public funds?

    The survey results they cite also seem questionable. For instance:One survey result indicated 78 percent of the respondents “would probably or definitely make a trip to Oklahoma to visit 'The American' site.”It's not worth much to ask people a hypothetical question. A better question would be to list several alternatives and ask them which one they'd prefer to see. Or to list staying home and saving $1,000 vs. traveling to see The American? How many would take the statue over the cash?

    Longtime readers may remember my thoughts on The American. They haven't changed. A giant statue of a near-naked Indian holding a stereotypical eagle isn't the way to go.

    Also, I'm kind of down on the whole idea of colossal monuments--unless perhaps they're embedded in the landscape like the Crazy Horse Memorial. How is a giant statue--or a giant casino tower, for that matter--consistent with traditional Native values? Answer: It isn't. Things like this are more akin to visual pollution than a visual treat.

    For more on the subject, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.

    Cameron tours oilsands

    Cameron trying to keep open mind about oilsandsCanadian-born filmmaker James Cameron toured Syncrude's oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta on Tuesday, trying to keep an open mind about an industry that he worries is destroying the environment.

    Cameron began Tuesday morning by touring the oilsands area by helicopter. He was then joined by Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner for a tour of a reclaimed mine, which is now a wetland known as Bill's Lake.
    And:Later, the Oscar-winning director travelled to the community of Fort Chipewyan, where he listened to the concerns of those people living downstream from the oilsands, and how the industry has affected their health and the health of the water they fish.

    "I want to hear what's on the mind of the people of this community," Cameron said after landing at the community's airstrip. "Find out what concerns them about health issues and fish and wildlife issues, any of the environmental impacts that are associated with the tarsands."
    Director to help with oilsands litigationFilm director James Cameron has promised to help people in Fort Chipewyan fund possible litigation against the government over oilsands development in northern Alberta, according to the local chief.

    "He didn't express the fact that how much he would be able to contribute, but he did express the fact that he will help in some way," said Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

    Cameron met leaders and community members in the northern Alberta community, located downstream of oilsands development, on Tuesday afternoon as part of his fact-finding mission.

    Adam said Cameron will either help raise funds or contribute some of his own money. The chief said the litigation could cost $1 million to $2 million.
    Comment:  Glad to see Cameron's commitment to indigenous issues continues.

    For more on the subject, see Cameron's and Weaver's Anti-Dam Films and Cameron to Visit Oilsands?

    Miss Oklahoma USA is Cherokee?

    About Heather CookAs Miss Oklahoma USA and 3rd runner-up to Miss USA, Heather Cook has appeared in front of state-wide audiences as a motivational speaker and Master of Ceremonies as well as attending fundraisers, ribbon cuttings, press events and sports and entertainment celebrity events (with the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith and many more).

    Heather was also a spokesperson and volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Special Olympics as well as an Honorary Ambassador of Goodwill for Oklahoma City.
    And:Heather is a family oriented mother who was married for over 10 years and has a charming 7 year old son. She is an American Indian with Shawnee and Cherokee heritage.

    Her Cherokee lineage has been traced back to the early 1700s when her great (many times over) grandmother Letica Durham Howard married John Howard on the Cherokee Nations Reservation in Wilkes County, Georgia.

    Heather and her son are registered, card carrying members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia.
    Comment:  The only problem with this is the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia isn't a federally recognized Indian tribe. Oops.

    For more on the subject, see Trafficking in Tribal Membership and More Than 200 "Cherokee Tribes."

    Below:  Heather Cook has been named the fifth "Face of FOX Toledo."

    Encore Vision's Native glasses

    Eyeglass frames feature Native art

    By Jack McNeelWearable art is nothing new. We wear all forms of jewelry and clothing inspired by Native artists, but something new is available and designed particularly with Native Americans in mind. Eyeglass frames with designs created by Smoker Marchand, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, Arrow Lakes Band, are the latest in wearable art.

    The company producing these frames is Encore Vision, Inc. located in Spokane, Wash. It’s not a Native-owned company but General Manager Teri Harris said their focus will be the Native American niche and she plans to expand their offerings to include designs from Indian artists throughout the country, thus providing a wide variety of styles and designs. Marchand is the first artist to be signed and was told at the time that others would follow.
    Comment:  For more on Native fashion, see The Dude in a Cowichan Cardigan and Litefoot's Four 2010 Releases.

    Below:  "Dr. Robbie Paul, Nez Perce, modeled a pair of glasses with the 'Raven' design."

    LSU tailgaters play on mounds

    LSU tailgaters win over preservation at Indian moundsLess than two weeks after LSU announced plans to block off 6,000-year-old Indian mounds on football weekends to protect them from traffic, it took down the barricades.

    The Indian mounds on the LSU campus are believed to be over 6,000 years old.
    Comment:  I trust readers know my position on sites such as this one. I say we should treat them as hallowed ground akin to American cemeteries.

    Ironically, a commenter who called himself "Johnny White Dude" was just telling us how Americans generally respect Indians. I guess you're totally ignorant about stories like, Johnny?

    Children are using the "Please do not slide on the mounds" signs to slide on the mounds--presumably with their parents' approval. That's about how much most Americans respect Indians. Duh.

    For more on the subject, see White Christians Say What's Sacred and Oxford Mound Is Gone?

    September 27, 2010

    Why people don't care about Indians

    A column on Mayor Bloomberg's recent anti-Indian remarks:

    Apathy in Indian Country Cuts Both Ways

    By Harold A. MonteauThe apathy about which Nation Representative Halbritter wrote is not just about the lack of tribal response to a public official who uses his bully pulpit to invoke racist Indian stereotypes to “dehumanize” a minority population so that “victimization” of the minority is acceptable. The underlying goal of “restricting commerce rights of tribes” is rendered acceptable to the public by a campaign to portray Indians as savages that need to come to heel or be annihilated. Members of Congress and the Administration depend on our apathy when they pass into law measures that restrict our sovereign rights. The “dehumanization” tactic is something that has been practiced from time immemorial and was inflicted upon the Jews during WWII and continued currently by the leadership of Radical Islam. It is meant to create apathy so that when the person(s) seeking to victimize the minority takes action, usually under color of law, there is no outcry, especially if the action only effects a mundane subject, like taxation. However, the action regarding the mundane subject is usually part of a series of incremental activities that cumulate in a larger wide-spread victimization of the minority target. Eventually, more and more harmful actions can be taken against the “de-humanized” minority. This is especially true if the aforementioned campaign succeeds in painting the minority as evil, greedy, dirty, sub-human and so unworthy of any consideration that society would be better if they cease to exist. This should all sound very familiar to any Jewish person, including Mayor Bloomberg.Comment:  This passage is a bit hard to follow, but the basic point is one I've made many times. Namely, that negative stereotyping leads to real-world consequences. By treating Indians and other minorities as less than full-fledged Americans, people can ignore them and their problems. When politicians do this with budgets, laws, and court rulings, the harm is palpable.

    There's no demand for justice because we've painted minorities as greedy, evil savages who don't deserve human consideration. "They" want our money, jobs, even our very freedom, we tell each other. Healthcare reform, illegal immigration, and mosque building are all part of "their" insidious plans to turn the US into a Mexican/Kenyan/Muslim/socialist/communist state.

    This is the message people are sending every time they cheer an Indian mascot or wear a hipster headdress. "Indians are people of the past! We conquered them! We're part of the white power structure and you're not! We 'honor' you by publicly showcasing our superiority!"

    For more on the subject, see Obama Fights Negative Stereotypes and Bigots Protest Brown-Skins on 9/11.

    Below:  "We can pretend to be savage Indians because we're civilized white people!"

    Indian reservation = "Wild West"?!

    Indian reservations a land of the freebie

    By Jennifer FerminoBargain-priced butts, cheap gas and gambling casinos get all the attention, but life on an Indian reservation includes other lifestyle elements that are as foreign as the Wild West to most New Yorkers.

    Step onto an Indian reservation and you're leaving the United States and entering a sovereign nation that includes free health care, a tribal justice system with its own courts, jails and police--and even separate license plates and passports.
    Comment:  The headline and the first paragraph ("as foreign as the Wild West") are the problem here. They sound like race-baiting scare tactics.

    The second paragraph and the rest of the article are reasonably accurate. They correct the initial impression created by the article. But if someone doesn't read the article carefully, the damage will be done.

    Some specific problems with the article's language:

  • Some tribes didn't sign treaties and some don't have reservations, so I'm not sure every tribe gets free healthcare.

  • Free healthcare would be familiar to any New Yorkers who get it through their jobs or through the government (e.g., veterans). It's hardly a foreign concept.

  • "Free healthcare" is supposedly found in "socialist" societies, as thousands of screaming teabaggers have told us. It's the opposite of what you'd find in the Wild West, where rugged individualists had to help themselves or die.

  • The article states that an Indian tribe has "a tribal justice system with its own courts, jails and police." That sounds exactly like the US, not like a lawless "Wild West" environment.

    Really, the article provides no basis for using "Wild West" to describe an Indian reservation. It's pure stereotyping. "Watch out if you step onto a reservation!" the message seems to be. "Indians are a wild, savage bunch, so they'll cheat you, rob you, or scalp you!"

    And the so-called "freebies" (healthcare and no state income taxes if you work on the rez) aren't really free. That's like saying Americans get free police and firefighting services. No, they pay for them with their taxes.

    And Indians paid for their "freebies" with their land. It's the same kind of arrangement: You give something to the government and it gives something back. There's nothing "free" about it.

    For more on the subject, see Enemy Territory as "Indian Country" and The Essential Facts About Indians Today.

  • Gaming tribes must take the lead

    A column on fighting stereotypes says gaming tribes must take the lead:

    Apathy in Indian Country Cuts Both Ways

    By Harold A. MonteauI believe that Indian Country is developing an attitude of “I have mine, the rest of you are on your own.” I’m not saying it runs to every tribe, every leader, every Indian, because I think that some understand that no tribe is an island and that if we don’t look out for our brother and sister tribes we may be left standing alone someday, when they come to attack our tribe. But others are so busy reveling in their new found wealth and power they have forgotten the number one rule of the warrior; never leave a comrade behind on the field of battle.

    I have written in this column many times on the issue of what the wealthy tribes can do to bring the less fortunate tribes along for the ride. Until the wealthy tribes, as a whole, develop a strategy for “partnering” with less fortunate tribes so they too can find a niche in the good fortune, the apathy we are witnessing may grow. What can we do together to help the less fortunate tribes build lasting economic impacts on their homelands?
    Comment:  Monteau's solution is for gaming tribes to buy more from other tribes and Indian-owned businesses. That's fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't address what's happening in our government or society.

    Gaming tribes are doing a lot already: backing collective organizations such as NCAI and NIGA, lobbying the federal and state governments, funding museum and university programs, giving generously to charities, etc. What they aren't doing is getting their message into the public dialogue--the marketplace of ideas.

    The way to do that is through the popular media. Why aren't tribes making their own movies? Sponsoring reality TV shows? Placing ads on radio shows or billboards? Hiring someone famous to be their national spokesperson? All these steps and more would help improve their public image.

    True, they're publicizing their own casinos, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about publicizing the existence of sovereign tribes as modern, vibrant, forward-looking people. That's the kind of message we don't see nearly enough of in the media.

    For more on the subject, see Tribes Aren't Educating People and Tribes Need Better PR.

    Below:  Mark Macarro's television commercials helped changed the perception of California's gaming tribes.

    Wampanoag linguist is MacArthur genius

    'Genius grant' a boost to linguist as she revives a native language

    Jessie Little Doe Baird will receive a $500,000 grant.

    By Laura Collins-Hughes
    Jessie Little Doe Baird was overcome at the news that her 17 years of linguistic work—resurrecting the language the Wampanoag people spoke and wrote until at least the mid-1800s—had landed her a MacArthur Fellows "genius grant" of $500,000. The 23 recipients of this year's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grants, including five others from New England, were announced this morning.

    When the foundation notified Baird, 46, a Mashpee linguist and the program director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, two weeks ago of the fellowship, the honor brought her to tears. As far as she knows, her 6-year-old daughter is the only child since the 19th century raised from birth to speak Wampanoag (or, in that language, Wôpanâak).
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Alutiiq Anthropologist Is MacArthur Genius and The Making of Wounded Knee.

    First mural in cultural corridor

    First mural unveiled for Native American Cultural Corridor

    By Toni RandolphThe first mural on the newly-designated Native American Cultural Corridor was unveiled Friday in Minneapolis. Three local Native American leaders are honored in the mural.

    The images depicted in the mural include a community activist who worked with the American Indian Movement, a founder of the arts organization Native Arts Circle and the owner of a local craft store.

    Justin Heunemann, the president of the Native American Community Development Institute, said the mural is small part of a bigger project for Franklin Avenue and the Native American community.

    "This is just one of, I hope, to be many projects, murals, etc., that continue to honor our community here," he said. "We've been on the avenue for 50 years plus."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see First Urban Indian Destination.

    Below:  "Charlie Stately, Pat Ballenger and Juanita Espinosa sit in front of the mural that bears their likenesses on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis." (MPR Photo/Toni Randolph)

    September 26, 2010

    Star Trek vs. Star Wars

    On Facebook someone asked people which they preferred: Star Trek or Star Wars? My response: Only a tribble-hating Klingon would say Star Wars!

    I then posted the following on my Facebook wall:Captain Kirk or Han Solo? Mr. Spock or Yoda? Enterprise or Millennium Falcon? Darth Vader or Khan? Imperial stormtroopers or Klingons? Data or R2-D2? Princess Leia in a metal bikini or Vina the green Orion slave girl? Wesley Crusher or Jar-Jar Binks? Chewbacca or a tribble? You be the judge.

    This led to the following discussion with Michael Cooke:Well, the problem with Star Trek for me is the sexism and heterosexism of the show (I can't forgive Next Generation for having Data explore sexuality and, contrary to character--oblivious to the possibility of same sex sexuality), and the Star Trek fans that really make me regret finding any pleasure in the programming at all.

    In my high school experience one unpopular Trek fan was literally driven to tears with the taunt of "Spock is Gay!"--I wonder if she slashed her wrists when George Takei came out?

    Star Wars at least has its classic first movie, a truly great movie. Star Trek has had a great many movies, not one coming close to 'great'.
    True, the original Trek did have a lot of race and gender problems. But that was a function of the era, not the show.

    Let's recall that there were four series (five if you count the cartoons) and a bunch of movies after the original series. Collectively they determined the nature of the Trek universe. And that universe is no better or worse than any typical fantasy universe.

    I don't recall any great moments of racial or sexual politics in the Star Wars mythology. And the point of this posting was to compare the two universes. How do you figure Star Wars is better than Star Trek in this regard, Mike?

    Data's brief foray into sex was kind of silly. That happened during TNG's first season, when a lot of silly things occurred.Rob, you could as easily suggest Amos and Andy aren't racist, but a product of their time. You'd be right, but the reality that they are racist in a modern context would stop you from announcing your fandom or arguing for it.

    That said, I find the Star Wars universe, with its fascism, politics and poor people suffering--it's got a better claim to realism than Trek's utopian vision, in my opinion.
    I didn't say the original Trek wasn't racist. Like every other show of that era, it was.

    What I said was that the subsequent series and movies addressed the problems. They made Trek 1) no worse than the typical fantasy universe and 2) better than Star Wars in that regard.

    True, Star Wars wins on political realism. But Star Trek wins on cultural and biological realism. Every alien race and world in Star Wars is constructed of cardboard. They may look alien, but they have no substance whatsoever.

    That's why Star Trek counts as science fiction (barely) while Star Wars is better classified as space opera.

    Some better than none

    At least the original Star Trek had minorities in it. That's a lot more than the original Star Wars could say for itself, a decade later. "A long time ago, in a pure-white galaxy far away...."

    When you say Star Wars has more political realism, you're basically dodging my point, Mike. Let's try again: How do you figure Star Wars is better than Star Trek in terms of racial or sexual issues?

    Incidentally, I've criticized Trek at length in postings such as these:

    The Indian-Star Trek Connection
    Star Trek Voyager:  Chakotay

    So try to avoid your usual tactic of assuming you know what I believe. Okay?

    If you want to get anal about science fiction, it's a shame my father died. His stance was that unless the piece of writing was on point scientifically in every way and the speculative element perfectly plausible and useful to science as something to inquire about--the work should never be called science fiction! It must be called "fantasy"!

    Really the character Data pissed me off royally in terms of 'new Trek'. No artificial intelligence interested in sexuality would be capable of ignoring homosexuality, yet Trek kept it's tradition of projecting into the future the prejudices of today.

    The bottom line of course is quality, and really it's perfectly possible to create good stories for either 'universe'. So far the Star Wars cartoon is setting a new standard by being better than the latest few movies. And I have enjoyed the retro ('pre Kirk') Trek show, what I've seen of it.
    Star Trek kept its tradition of projecting into the future the prejudices of today...exactly as Star Wars did.

    I did call them fantasy universes, not SF universes...right?

    I haven't seen the new Star Wars cartoon, so it may be doing great things. Some Star Trek novels are doing great things in terms of adding political and scientific depth to the ST universe.

    My TiVo has recorded all the new shows on network TV. I don't think I've seen any gay characters yet. In 2010, homosexuality is still the love that dare not speak its name.

    Trek writers = morons?Actually the very latest Trek show (in development?) is supposed to feature a gay character or a gay couple, or such is the gossip I've heard.

    I now have no TV and only enjoy what is shown online.

    The science fiction argument is my father's, it's all fantasy to me, I don't distinguish. I figure if you're going to use science you should get the science right--but science is not important the way plot and characterization are important.

    It actually takes effort to offend me. If the folks writing Next Generation simply thought it through, the character of Data could have developed sexual feelings like we do--not in his control. But NO, they have to have Data not know and be curious--which makes them BIGOTS to have Data never consider homosexuality--because the character most naturally would at least consider it without an existing sexuality.

    Star Wars features characters comfortable in their skin and is a war story--in war what counts is if you can fire your gun straight, not who you sleep with. So the heterosexist omission is inoffensive. As for sexism, Princess Leia is far more liberated than Uhura.
    Data didn't spring out of thin air, even in his fictional universe. A heterosexual scientist presumably created and programmed him. One could speculate that the scientist incorporated his sexual bias into the programming.

    Star Wars is a war every aspect of it that isn't political or military is one-dimensional cardboard. Didn't I say that already?

    Captain Janeway, Major Kira, T'Pol, and Dr. Crusher are among the female Trek characters who are deeper than Princess Leia.They have more time devoted to them as well, Star Wars was never a TV show.

    That's no excuse, the show demonstrated that sexuality was new to Data, as such they put themselves between a rock and hard place. They could have Data discover sexuality has been programmed into him and there would have been no harm, no foul. But what they did was put a character in a place where homosexuality is an inevitable question--and not raise that question. Not cool, and I know the writing is of such a caliber the writers put it in and a producer removed it! No other way unless you want to tell me TNG was written by morons.
    Given the uneven quality of TNG, a lot of episodes probably were written by morons. <g> I suspect you or I could've done better.

    But the real problem was the producers. Here, read about LGBT in Star Trek:

    LGBT in Star Trek
    Homosexuality in Star Trek

    Anyway, you're putting a lot of emphasis on Data's one sexual encounter. It was a few minutes out of 178 hours in one series out of six. I'm judging the whole when I say Star Trek is better than Star Wars overall.

    For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Review of Some New Kind of Slaughter

    Here's another book I read recently: a graphic novel about flood mythology:

    Some New Kind of SlaughterFrom Publishers Weekly

    Powerful and gorgeous, this graphic novel looks at catastrophic floods and the stories we tell about them. In the framing story, the Sumerian king, Ziusudra, guides his people through a massive flood. As the water rises and his wife lies in a coma, he has visions of other floods and flood victims in other lands, such as the biblical Noah a modern ecologist trapped in a Katrina-like hurricane and flood myths from around the world. mpMann's simple, expressive character art and endless swirling waters are a perfect fit for the hallucinatory, dreamlike quality of the story. His work on the Chinese creator goddess Nuwa, guarding her clay children from the flooded world, is particularly beautiful and evocative. Lewis is a Ph.D. student in religious and theological studies, and it shows—for good and for ill. He blends myth with myth and his own work with an intuitive assurance, and from this, the book draws much of its momentum and raw emotional power, but a bibliography at the end explaining where to find more information or even a simple list of the myths' countries and cultures of origin would have been invaluable to the curious reader.
    Some New Kind of Slaughter

    By Ed SizemoreBesides the Sumerian myth, three other stories run the length of the book. They are the modern story of Sharon Boatwright, an original version of the Noah story, and the Chinese myth of Fu Xi and Nuwa.

    Some New Kind of Slaughter is a mixed bag. Taken individually, the authors have done a good job of selecting and illustrating a wide variety of flood stories. However, the overall narrative structure of the book itself is too fragmentary to enjoy the myths.

    Throughout most of the book, the reader is asked to follow five narratives at once: the four larger stories plus a shorter myth. Since this isn’t an epic tale, like Lord of the Rings, these separate story lines aren’t part of a grander narrative that will tie them all back together. For a 126-page book, I find five concurrent storylines silly and excessive. Much more satisfying would have been to keep the narrative devise of Ziusudra’s vision and then to tell each myth in turn completely before moving on to the next.
    Comment:  I met A. David Lewis years ago. He was an early supporter of PEACE PARTY. I appreciate his interest in cultures around the world.

    Two of the book's mythological snippets involve Amazon Indians and North American Indians (Menominees, according to the forward). Others are set in Africa, India, and Australia.

    Rob's review

    I thought Some New Kind of Slaughter was decent, but I wasn't bowled over like reviewer Greg Burgas was. I tend to agree with the criticisms above. Other problems:

    1) The storytelling is oblique, impressionistic, and dreamlike, whereas I prefer straight narratives. If I don't understand what's going on, I generally don't like it.

    2) I would've been more impressed if Lewis and Mann had given equal weight to a dozen or so myths. And woven them into a seamless tapestry. The stories they chose to emphasize weren't necessarily the most compelling ones. Even with the nonstandard version of Noah's tale, for instance, we kind of know how it's going to end.

    3) Here's a sample of Mann's art:

    The cartoonish style works well enough, but I wouldn't call it "perfect." I think other artists could've done the job too. The art is lovely in some places but ordinary in others (such as this page).

    Among the things I liked were Lewis's telling of the myths in modern vernacular--no stilted "ancient" speech. And his overall point that we tell myths and other stories to make sense of the world. The ending was reminiscent of a SANDMAN comic, emphasizing the power of storytelling, and that's always good.

    Overall, I'd say Some New Kind of Slaughter is an interesting experiment that only partly succeeds. As Sizemore notes, it's a good introduction to flood myths around the world. But I wouldn't recommend it unless you're intrigued by the subject.

    Rob's rating:  6.5 of 10.

    For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    Hopi in The Gods Laughed

    I recently read this science-fiction collection of short stories:

    The Gods Laughed

    Poul Anderson (Author)Inventive and cynical science fiction stories, July 29, 2006
    By frumiousb "frumiousb" (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

    Anderson was asked to pick his favorite stories for this collection, published in 1982. If there is a common theme in this volume, it is the idea that man faces things bigger than himself when he starts to confront the larger universe. These are worlds a long way from the notion of man as conquering hero.

    Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was one of the great writers of the Golden Age. Potential readers may rather begin with one of his longer works, but this is still a very strong collection.
    The stories include:"Peek! I See You!" (1968) Sean F.X. Lindquist is fairly convinced that he just saw a flying saucer. The only question becomes what does he do about it? (This was my favorite story in the collection.) Comment:  In this story, the vagabond hero is flying a plane over the Four Corners area when he spots a flying saucer. He follows it to a secluded canyon where it lands in...a Hopi pueblo.

    The pueblo is called Wuwucimti and its leader is called Sikyabotoma. These are either really Hopi names or good approximations of ones. The leader says he's also called Joe Andrews, a name he took in the Army. This is also quite plausible; many Indians did something similar.

    The Hopi supposedly established this hidden village when they fled the Spaniards after the Revolt of 1680. The history is true, although there are no hidden Hopi villages. But the premise is reasonable for a science-fiction story.

    Sikyabotoma and his fellow Hopi Indians are more or less normal people. They wear modern clothes, speak English, and so forth. There are no headdresses, buckskins, beads, feathers, whoops, dances, etc. In fact, a man wearing a sombrero is the only ethnic stereotype in evidence.

    Why the Hopi?

    The Galactics have offered membership in their Federation only to the Hopi. Their envoy Klak't'klak doesn't want to let any other Terran countries in. Why not? Sikyabotoma explains:You mean how can he refuse the USA, and the USSR, and France, Britain, and China, and--Well, it's easy. They haven't anything unique to offer. Not in a galaxy loaded with civilizations. All that Wuwucimti has, really, is a convenient location, and people who don't swarm over every ship that lands, stealing things and asking stupid questions.Earlier Klak't'klak says the Earth has a "drab, fragmented, quarrelsome, early-mechanical kind of civilization." If the Federation let other Terran countries in, he adds, "Those dismal characters would yell for so much technical assistance that their whole planet would be one gigantic college for the next fifty years."

    I'm not sure Peek! I See You! is the best story in the collection, but I like its point. Namely, that a group of traditional Indians has the most desirable culture from an alien perspective. These Indians aren't inquisitive or acquisitive; they're willing to leave the aliens alone.

    It's reminiscent of the "probe" in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which deemed whales the most intelligent lifeform on Earth. Many SF books have presented humans as the galaxy's dominant species because they're a domineering type. Indeed, some books have said humans are so dangerous they need to be isolated or imprisoned for the good of all.

    Rob's review

    In The Gods Laughed, superior alien beings have to deal with us pitiful, childish humans. Unlike most short-story collections, there are no weak entries here. They're all good examples of the SF seen from the 1950s to the 1970s in books by Heinlein or Asimov and TV shows like Star Trek or The Twilight Zone. Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

    For more on the science fiction of that era, see Racism in Heinlein's Friday and Quipucamayoc in Babel-17.

    September 25, 2010

    Rob should contact Saginaw Grant?!

    In Protesting Stereotypes = Cop-Out? I addressed part of Michelle Shining Elk's defense of Saginaw Grant in The Dudesons. Someone posted the following comment:Out of all that Michelle SE wrote, you picked one small true comment about parents paying attention to what their children watch on TV, and you argue with it for paragraph after paragraph as though it was a public threat to commit murder.

    You didn't argue with her main point which was treating an elder disrespectfully, publicly excoriating him, posting letters, personal attacks and rebuttals without ever having even one conversation with the man.

    I would have to agree with Michelle's point.

    She wasn't defending the show or the content. She was decrying how poorly a respected elder was treated.

    Saginaw Grant is a man who has over many years of steady, selfless, positive role modeling, hard work and personal contributions earned a tremendous amount of valid respect.

    From what I have seen, he is very accessible through his Facebook page, or in person at any of the many powwows he attends and is invited to dance in. Hardly an untouchable or unreachable Hollywood type.

    From what you have written about this so far, it seems as though you haven't approached Saginaw to speak to him about any of this either, and yet you are still blogging away, bashing him without ever speaking to him. Kind of embarrassing "journalism." Maybe take the word "newspaper" out of your title if this is merely personal, biased, unbalanced opinion.

    Apologies to Saginaw are in order all around.
    My response:

    Michelle's comment wasn't true, it was false or misleading. As I explained in the previous posting.

    Apparently you missed the ugly intent of her comments. She implied that activists are wasting time, ignoring "real" problems, and promoting themselves at the expense of others. That's an insult to all the people who have dedicated their lives to fighting for truth and justice.

    I could've spent the same amount of time ripping each of Michelle's paragraphs to shreds. But that would've taken days, and she would've ended up looking like a blithering idiot. So I resisted the impulse.

    Michelle's "main point" was a side issue. She dodged everyone else's main point: that Saginaw Grant never should've participated in a show that was a gross insult to Indians. When she addresses this point in detail, I'll respond to her position in detail.

    Michelle is Saginaw Grant's publicist, so we can assume she spoke for him. Grant himself spoke in a radio interview and in a posted statement. Like Michelle, he ducked the actual issues and instead attacked those who dared to criticize him.

    Indeed, he suggested his critics weren't Native enough to criticize a real Indian like him. So what do you think he'd say to a non-Native like me? I don't know, but I can guess. In any case, it's not worth the trouble to find out.

    Newspapers publish op-eds (duh)

    FYI, newspapers publish opinion pieces as well as straight journalism, genius. So no, I'm not going to change the blog's name. When you understand how newspapers work, you'll see that the name fits perfectly.

    Grant isn't the offended party in this case. Rather, he's the one who offended others. After he apologizes to everyone he's offended, I'll think about whether I should apologize to him. Not before.

    If he doesn't like my opinions, he can contact me and explain himself. I'm as easy to reach as he is, if not much easier. And unlike him, I don't hide or run away from my critics.

    Finally, my only "bias" is against stupid stereotypes like the ones Grant perpetuated. If he doesn't like being criticized, he should stop perpetuating stupid stereotypes. That's the only answer I plan to offer him.

    P.S. You say you want more criticism of Saginaw Grant and The Dudesons? Okay, here you go:

    My Dudesons interview
    ICT's take on The Dudesons
    Devil's advocate defends Saginaw Grant
    Deadliest Warrior vs. The Dudesons
    Ethical code for Native elders needed


    What a Native utopia looks like

    Here's a description of what a sustainable global economy and environment might look like. It's probably too utopian, and I don't see how we'd get from here to there. But it provides an alternative to a world dominated by wealth and power.

    Not coincidentally, it embodies the best values of indigenous cultures. If Westerners had let these cultures mature on their own, without imperialist interference, they might have evolved into this. There's no way to know, of course, but it was certainly possible.

    An Anarchist Solution to Global Warming

    By Peter GelderloosI base the description of this future possible world both on what is physically necessary and what is ethically desirable, in accordance with the following premises.

    Fossil fuel extraction and consumption need to come to a full stop. Industrial food production must be replaced with the sustainable growing of food at the local level.

    Centralizing power structures are inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.

    The mentality of quantitative value, accumulation, production, and consumption—that is to say, the mentality of the market—is inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.

    Medical science is infused with a hatred of the body, and though it has perfected effective response to symptoms, it is damaging to our health as currently practiced.

    Decentralization, voluntary association, self-organization, mutual aid, and non-coercion are fully practical and have worked, both within and outside of Western Civilization, time and time again.

    Welcome to the future. No one ever knew global society would look like this. Its defining feature is heterogeneity. Some cities have been abandoned, trees are growing up through their avenues, rivers rush where asphalt had once covered the ground, and skyscrapers crumble while deer forage at their foundations.

    Other cities are thriving, but they have changed beyond recognition. Rooftops, vacant lots, and sidewalks have turned into gardens. Fruit- and nut-bearing trees line every block. Roosters welcome every dawn. About a tenth of the streets—the major thoroughfares—remain paved or gravelled, and buses running on biofuels traverse them regularly.
    And:In short, the city has a negligible environmental footprint. A high density of people live in an area that nonetheless has an impressive biodiversity, with many plant and animal species cohabiting the city. They don’t produce pollution that they don’t remediate themselves. They take some water from the watershed, but far less than a capitalist city, and in agreement with the other communities that use the watershed. They release some greenhouse gases through fuel burning, but it is less than the amount they take out of the atmosphere through their own agriculture (since all their fuels are agricultural, and the carbon they’re releasing is the same carbon those plants removed from the atmosphere as they grew). Nearly all their food is local and sustainably grown. They carry out a small amount of factory production, but most of it uses recycled materials.

    Outside the city, the world is even more transformed. Deserts, jungles, mountainous regions, swamps, tundras, and other areas that cannot sustainably support high population densities have rewilded. No government programs were necessary to create nature preserves; it simply wasn’t worth the effort to remain there once fossil fuel production ended. Many of these areas have been reclaimed by their prior indigenous inhabitants. In many of them, people are again existing as hunter-gatherers, enacting the most intelligent form of economy possible in that bioregion and turning the conventional notion of what is futuristic on its head.
    Comment:  This is roughly my impression of what an ideal Native society would look like. It offers many of the qualities missing in our consumer-driven culture. Respect for the environment and all living creatures. Concern for the community, not just for oneself. Thinking about the long-term consequences of one's actions. Etc.

    For more on the subject, see Oil Spill = "Runaway Greed," Copenhagen Talks = "Climate Injustice," and Indians Know Global Warming.