December 31, 2011

No filmmaking flood after Atanarjuat

After noting the movies I posted about in Sharing Our Stories Boxed Set, an article discusses the state of Inuit filmmaking:

Out in the cold: the struggle of Inuit film

By Guy DixonThe increased government attention and funding has produced results, most notably in the films of Zacharias Kunuk, whose celebrated 2001 drama Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) won multiple awards, including the Camera d’or at Cannes.

Unfortunately, despite the acclaim and international recognition, production funds for indigenous filmmaking remain very hard to come by. “It is definitely more difficult to fund dramas here,” said Iqaluit-based filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, whose animated short, Lumaajuuq, is in the collection. “I wouldn’t say it’s not because people aren’t interested in it, it’s just not feasible.”

Jeremy Torrie, a Winnipeg-based native filmmaker, says he thought things would change after Fast Runner. “We thought the floodgates would open, as far as Canadian broadcasters and distributors wanting to embrace another perspective,” he said. “But it just hasn’t happened. Here we are 10 years later, and things aren’t any better yet.”

Filming in the North is difficult to begin with, from the harsh climate to lack of technicians and equipment. And filmmaking can seem extraneous in the light of urgent problems such as the North’s severe housing crisis. Meanwhile, Nunavut Film Development Corp. has an annual funding limit of only $600,000, an amount that could easily be spent on one production.

Earlier this year, Igloolik Isuma Productions, the company behind Fast Runner, was forced to file for receivership in Quebec, citing reportedly $750,000 in debts. The move was imposed by a Nunavut investment firm that had lent the company $500,000 in 2009, and put in jeopardy the company's extensive film archive. “We're dealing with a receiver that's a large accounting firm in Montreal who has no stake and no interest in the cultural value of the company or of the materials” Fast Runner co-producer Norman Cohn said at the time.

Getting a broadcaster (or, even harder, a film distributor) to agree to take on a project is another challenge, particularly given the notion that films made in the North appeal to a limited audience. Most broadcasters are only able to help fund documentaries and smaller projects, creating a structure that discourages feature-length dramas.
Comment:  One problem with this analysis: Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) wasn't that great a movie. Sure, it was a conceptual and technical breakthrough: a full-length Inuit drama! But as entertainment for general audiences, it was less than compelling. As I recall, it took almost an hour to figure out who the characters were, and for the main action to unfold.

We'll see how On the Ice and Everybody Loves Whales Big Miracle do with general audiences. But I suggest making movies of stories such as The Terror or The Cage. If audiences don't go for these thrillers, then you can say there's no market for Inuit-themed dramas.

For more on the subject, see How Atanarjuat Was Filmed.

Thunder in the Desert

Thunder in the Desert: 10,000 Years of Culture, 187 Tribal Nations, 10 days, One Location

By Lee AllenThe event is billed as “10,000 years of culture–187 tribal nations–10 days–all in one location.” Despite the full agenda of Thunder in the Desert, organizer Fred Synder advises: “We’re on Indian time, so take off your watch and put it in your pocket because nothing starts until the medicine men and gourd dancers finish their blessing ceremony.”

Any Thunder in the Desert beyond the upcoming event will have to come from monsoon storms as this year marks the fourth–and final–local desert Pow Wow, part of the First People’s New Millennium World Fair in Tucson, Arizona, we began yesterday, December 30, and goes until January 8. The kick-off gathering of indigenous peoples representing every corner of the world, from Alaska to Australia, began in 2000.

“Tribal elders requested the event to show the world and our children the contributions made by indigenous peoples everywhere,” Synder said. “The elders came to me and said the celebration would be like wearing a Bostonian shoe on one foot and a moccasin on the other. While non-natives celebrated 2,000 years of existence, Native Americans could celebrate being here for 10,000 years by showing our children what we have contributed to the fabric of life and humanity.”
Comment:  For more on powwows, see Vans Shoes with Pendleton Designs and Boy Scout Dances at Powwows.

Below:  "Grand Entry at the Thunder in the Desert." (Nancy Smith-Jones)

Racism review 2011

Indian Country Today notes five instances of racism against Indians in 2011:

It Didn’t Go Away in 2011: Racism Continued

I covered all of them in Newspaper Rock, but I wouldn't say these were the five worst examples. The "Geronimo" codename controversy certainly qualifies, but any list that doesn't include Bryan Fischer's bigoted columns is deficient.

More year-end reviews from ICTMN:

2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 1

2011’s Memorable Moments in Politics

I covered many of these stories and included many of the quotes here--basically all the ones that dealt with pop culture. I try to my good readers informed.

For more on racism, see Natives Experience Racism Every Day and Subtle Racism = Psychological Torture.

Below:  The Bigot of the Year winner.

December 30, 2011

Indians protest "Occupy" language

The Campaign to "Decolonize" Oakland: Native Americans Say "Occupy" Terminology Is Offensive

By Queena KimThe Occupy movement is known internationally for protesting the inequalities of the global financial system, so much so that in four short months, "Occupy" has essentially become a brand known the world over.

But now there's an effort by Native American activists in Oakland to get rid of “Occupy” and replace it with “Decolonize”--as in “Decolonize Oakland.” They say the term “occupy” is offensive in light of the brutal history of occupation by early colonizers and the United States government. Native Americans in Seattle, Albuquerque, Portland and Sedona have launched similar campaigns.

The name change is proving contentious at Occupy Oakland, with some protesters accusing Native Americans of guilt tripping in the name of supporting the oppressed. But cut through the chatter, and the basic point seems to be this: Occupy doesn't want to give up the brand.

“That name change could ... alienate Oakland from the wider movement,” wrote John C. Osbourn, who has been reporting on the Occupy movement on his blog the Classist. “The brand recognition if you will.”
Comment:  It would've been nice if someone considered the Native viewpoint before choosing the word "occupy." But I think it's a relatively subtle point, and not all Natives would think of it. It's not as if the protesters were saying, "Colonize Wall Street," which would raise more red flags.

Now that the name is a worldwide phenomenon, I don't think you can change it. It's already complex enough to explain that the protesters want to Occupy Wall Street to force Wall Street to stop occupying America. Adding that the ultimate goal is reversing centuries of European hegemony and decolonizing America is too much.

The best the protesters can do is add "decolonize" messages in small print or on ancillary signs and materials. If that's not enough, Indians can start their own "Decolonize" movement.

For more on the Occupy movement, see Occupiers Aren't Decolonizers and Indians Say "Unoccupy America."

Below:  "A group of protesters at the Occupy Oakland action to shut down the Port of Oakland on December 12, 2011." (Queena Kim)

San Manuel buys sacred spring

An excellent example of how casinos let Indians restore and preserve their culture:

BIG BEAR: Tribe acquires sacred site

By David OlsonYears ago tribal members couldn’t even get to Big Bear to look from behind the fence at the spring they heard about in the creation story. The old cars they drove couldn’t make it up mountain roads, Ramos said. Buying the land was unthinkable until gaming money flowed in.

“This is part of spending money to purchase a part of our culture that, unlike gaming, will last forever,” Ramos said.

Ramos declined to reveal the price to buy the four acres that includes the hot spring.

Casino revenue is a key reason why San Manuel and other tribes have vibrant cultural-preservation programs, said Cliff Trafzer, a professor of history at UC Riverside and an expert on Southern California Indian culture.

“Gaming has contributed in a major way to the revitalization of tribal culture, and not just San Manuel culture,” Trafzer said.

In addition to land purchases, casino income gave the San Manuel and other tribes the resources to hire linguists and others to write down and teach languages that were in danger of dying, he said.

Tribes without casinos often are too poor to buy culturally significant land or launch extensive cultural-preservation programs, Trafzer said.
Comment:  For more uses of Indian gaming money, see Tribal Infomercials in Oklahoma and Pechanga to Sponsor LA Film Festival.

Below:  "San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman James Ramos talks about the history behind the Pan Hot Springs which is sacred to the San Manuel tribe and was recently bought the property." (Mark Zaleski)

Utah abandons "drum and feather"?

The University of Utah says goodbye to the drum and feather

By Mike GrantThe Drum and Feather is done. Sources tell KSL that the University of Utah has gone away from the drum and feather logo. The last time Utah will wear the logo will be in the Sun Bowl. Rumors are that the Utes will go to either the block "U" for the logo, or the double "UU".

The University of Utah has not yet confirmed the logo change. Spokeswoman for the University of Utah Athletics Department, Liz Abel, says there is no official announcement scheduled and that the school revisits the issue of the drum and feather logo every year.

However, several other bloggers with knowledge of discussions have sources confirming the logo is likely to go away.
Comment:  Associating Ute Indians with feathers...ho-hum. Not terribly stereotypical, but not terribly original either.

No doubt non-Indians will do the usual amount of crying over the "loss" of this logo. But does anyone really care? The logo has to be on the low end of creative designs. A couple of teenagers probably could come up with something better.

For more on the subject, see The Problem with William & Mary's "Tribe" and Team Names and Mascots.

December 29, 2011

Why Wounded Knee matters

Confronting the Past on the Anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee: Why It Matters

By Peter d'ErricoThe title of David Satter’s new book about the history of the former Soviet Union might well apply to a pervasive American attitude toward United States history in relation to the indigenous peoples of the continent: “It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway.” A review in Newsweek magazine describes the book as “a sweeping study of how the former Soviet Union’s bloody past continues to poison Russia’s present and threatens to strangle the country’s future.” Satter is quoted as saying, “Russia today is haunted by words that have been left unsaid.”

The United States is also haunted by a bloody and deceitful past, as we are reminded today, the anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. As Lise Balk King recently pointed out, the “apology” to American Indians President Obama signed two years ago was buried in an unrelated bill, the Defense Appropriations Act; the signing ceremony was closed to the press. That “apology” looks more like an effort to further bury the past, rather than to confront it.
And:The question is whether the U.S. is ever going to be ready to confront its past. This is a question for white Americans, whose ancestors were the primary actors in violence and degradation, land theft and cultural destruction, major features of U.S. history. In part, it is also a question for American Indians and African-Americans, whose ancestors were the primary victims in this history.

One can understand the reluctance of whites to confront the history that has privileged them; it is harder to understand the reluctance of some Indians and Blacks, but it may be that the reason for declining to confront the past is to not ‘rock the boat.’ This is perhaps a basic human desire: to put up with things as they are, no matter how unjust, because of fear that things could be worse. The American Declaration of Independence acknowledges this phenomenon, when it states that “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” The deeper issue is whether the “evils” of U.S. history continue to be “sufferable.”

Enslavement of black people on one hand and genocide against red people on the other are actually the foundational ‘building blocks’ of the ‘American Empire’: the United States as we know it is built on a foundation of slave labor and Indian land. Is it possible that the current condition of the U.S., with its political gridlock and economic implosion, is actually a result of the historical “evils” at the foundation—that the bloody past is poisoning the present? Is it possible that the only way forward to a free, functioning society is to face the ghosts of the past? In that case, Russia is not the only country whose failure to confront its past threatens to strangle its future.

Let us be clear here: ‘confronting the past’ means more than just looking back. It means standing in the present and looking in both directions: how we got here and where we want to go. Acknowledging the evils of the past means both to admit them and to root them out of our present, so that our future may grow from something new. Historical evils are not simply bad actions that happened in the past; they are bad actions with continuing bad effects. Treaty violations and land thefts, for example, occurred in the past, but the legal theories that were used to justify these actions—like the doctrine of ‘Christian Discovery’—are still part of federal Indian law. The violations continue in the present.
Comment:  For more on Wounded Knee, see 25th Annual Ride to Wounded Knee and The Wounded Knee Museum. For more on meaningful apologies, see No Apologies Without Remedies.

25th annual ride to Wounded Knee

Annual Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee ConcludesThe story of Wounded Knee is embedded deep into the conscious and culture of American Indians from all tribes. That the story is retold so often is a testament to its lasting power over our imaginations, the lessons learned something never to be forgotten. It is, in essence, a wound that must be addressed and remembered so it won’t fester. The 25th Annual Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride, which commemorates Chief Big Foot’s band of Minneconjou Lakota and their flight from Standing Rock Reservation to Wounded Knee on December 29th, 1890, is remembrance in motion, a 191-mile journey through the badlands in the middle of winter in an effort to honor the past, and those who have walked on.

As the Wounded Knee Museum’s blog stated, the beginning ceremonies were held in McLaughlin, South Dakota, at the Standing Rock Reservation on December 14th. The riders then began their journey to Chief Sitting Bull’s camp on December 15th, the place where he was assassinated on that day in 1890. There, the riders offered prayers and remembrance as they continued their journey to Wounded Knee Creek, which ended this morning, December 29th, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where hundreds of Lakota were massacred by the 7th Cavalry.

As the Great Plains Examiner explains, the 191-mile horseback ride to Wounded Knee was first retraced by the Big Foot Memorial Riders in 1986. In 1990, a ceremony was performed at the site of the massacre and the group was renamed the Future Generation Riders. This year’s journey marks the 25th consecutive ride to Wounded Knee.
Eye-Opening Wounded Knee Journey Becomes Family AffairIt has turned into a family affair for the Kuntzes—Melanie, now 22, and her sister Jamie, 20, who have both ridden the road since they were teenagers. At first their father made them do it. But one ride, and they were converts, as this stirring story in the Great Plains Examiner relates.

“I just remember being so upset that we were going,” Melanie Kuntz told the newspaper of her first trip as an unwilling 14-year-old. “But after getting down there and riding, it was like a complete 180. When I was done, I was so glad I did it.”
Comment:  For more on Wounded Knee, see Why Wounded Knee Matters and The Wounded Knee Museum.

The Wounded Knee Museum

A Look at the Wounded Knee MuseumThere’s no better way to remember the massacre at Wounded Knee then to pay a visit, either in person or online, to Wounded Knee, the Museum. The museum tells the story of a small band of Lakota families through various mediums.

At the museum, which is located on Interstate 90, north side of Exit 110 in Wall, South Dakota, the story of these Lakota families who became the focus of the last major military operation of the U.S. Army in its centuries-long effort to subdue American Indian tribes, vivid exhibits and photographs help bring the visitor back to the scene of the hideous murders of December 29, 1890. It is one thing to understand and reflect on the knowledge that 300 Lakota men, women, and children died that day by the barrels of rifles and Hotchkiss guns, quite another to experiencing it at the museum.

“Wounded Knee, The Museum, serves as a memorial to those slaughtered at Wounded Knee Creek, December 28, 1890,” their website states. “The Museum’s primary mission is to provide and advance knowledge about our shared history, and to assist in preserving the memory of the victims by encouraging visitors to learn and reflect on the events surrounding the massacre of the Lakota.”
Tim Giago reminds us what happened 121 years ago in December 29, 'A Day That Will Live in Infamy' for the Lakota. He notes one particular pop-culture connection that I've discussed before:Two weeks before the massacre after hearing of the death of Sitting Bull, a newspaperman named L. Frank Baum, the same man who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a few years later, editorialized in the Aberdeen (S.D.) Saturday Review, "Sitting Bull, most renowned Sioux of modern history, is dead. He was an Indian with a white man's spirit of hatred and revenge for those who wronged him and his. With this fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlers will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians."Comment:  For more on Wounded Knee, see Why Wounded Knee Matters and 25th Annual Ride to Wounded Knee.

December 28, 2011

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

Over Christmas I visited my brother's family in Las Vegas. On the way back I stopped at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, which are a few miles to the southeast.

As always, I looked for evidence that the land once belonged to Indians. There was basically nothing: no ruins, no place names, no signs noting points of interest.

Here's what you won't learn on a casual drive through the area:

Lake Mead--History & CultureBefore the existence of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Hoover Dam, the area encompassing the one and a half million acres of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area was occupied by early desert Indian cultures, adventurous explorers, ambitious pioneers looking for cheap land and religious freedom, and prospectors seeking riches.

Based on archaeological evidence, several Native American cultures have been identified as having existed 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in an environment wetter and cooler than it is today. These cultures hunted game, gathered local edible plants and practiced farming. In a cave near present-day Lake Mead, the remains of large mammals were discovered by archaeologist Mark R.Harrington and paleontologist James Thurston including: ground sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis), horse (Equus sp.), camel (Camelops sp.) and mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis). Notches found on the bones of animals located in that primitive dwelling show evidence that they were prepared and eaten by humans.

Various prehistoric culture groups made the Colorado River region their home. Archaeological investigations have provided evidence that some were hunter/gatherers and lived in caves; other groups lived in pit houses and Puebloan-type structures, and practiced early farming. Ranging from present day Davis Dam north to the Virgin and Muddy Rivers, these early farming groups grew corn, beans, squash and cotton.

Their technology included pottery of the reddish-brown and gray-brown buff ware with simple black and red decoration. They ground corn and seeds with manos and metate and hunted game with spears, bows & arrows made from local or traded materials.
Comment:  Here's all I learned from the trip itself:

  • The first panel in the Hoover Dam visitor center's exhibits notes that Indians and Spaniards inhabited the region before the white man. It calls the land "parched and desolate" until Americans made it flourish with water. This is misleading since the region was cooler and wetter before (see above) and Indians probably had no trouble then.

  • The Hoover Dam "Reclamation: Managing Water in the West" brochure describes the Colorado River: "As early as 600 A.D. humans worked to harness its water for their use." Humans? You mean Indians. I don't know if they tried to harness the water before 600 AD, but they lived in the area at least ten times longer.

  • The brochure briefly mentions the conflict over water rights. It says the dispute was between seven states, ignoring the tribes who also claimed water rights.

    The effect is that Hoover Dam seems to be minimizing the regional role of Natives. I wonder why?

  • The official NPS handout for Lake Mead has three sentences on Natives and a photo of rock art.

  • The park newsletter mentions Native coyote trickster tales before warning people not to feed the animals.

  • Anyway, here are the photos from my day trip:

    Lake Mead and O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge--Dec. 27, 2011 (morning)

    Hoover Dam and underground tour--Dec. 27, 2011 (early afternoon)

    Visitor center and heading home--Dec. 27, 2011 (late afternoon)

    For some previous photo galleries, see Pumpkin Patch in Culver City and 2010 Christmas Pix.

    Below:  Elevator with a smidgen of Southwest Indian style.

    AIM interpretive center planned

    Center to focus on the American Indian Movement

    By Randy FurstMore than 100 American Indian women, men and children had plenty to talk about when they gathered in an upstairs office on Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis on July 28, 1968:

    Mistreatment by police, judges and landlords. Longstanding treaty violations. A staggering dropout rate among Indian youth from the public schools.

    The meeting was called by Dennis Banks, George Mitchell, Harold Goodsky, Annette Oshie, Florence Holmes and Clyde Bellecourt.

    Bellecourt, then employed as an engineer at a power plant, was elected chair of the new organization that became the American Indian Movement.

    Soon, AIM chapters sprouted in cities and reservations across the United States. The group earned worldwide attention for its 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington and the 1973 armed standoff at Wounded Knee, S.D. Its role in establishing several enduring Indian-focused institutions is less well-known.

    Now, 43 years after AIM’s first meeting, some of the old guard and others who embrace its legacy want to create an interpretive center to tell the movement’s story.

    “If we don’t tell it, Garrison Keillor or some other non-Indian will tell it,” says Bellecourt, 75, with a smile, admitting he has nothing against Keillor.

    The American Indian Movement Interpretive Center would be housed in a vacant 19th century mansion at 1208 5th St. SE. once owned by lumberman Henry Frey. More recently, the mansion was used for auxiliary classroom space by the Heart of the Earth Survival School, which was in a separate building across the street.

    Heart of the Earth shut down in 2008 after its executive director embezzled more than $1 million from the school. The school building was sold and razed and the $1.2 million in proceeds are being used to advance the interpretive center project.

    The center would have interactive exhibits and archival material including photos, video and audio and a place for youths and elders to gather. It also would serve as a resource for students at the University of Minnesota. The center has already hired the architectural team of Karen Gjerstad and Robert Roscoe and a work crew to begin renovation of the Frey mansion. An office for the project has been opened nearby.
    Comment:  For more on AIM, see Means Receives Lifetime Achievement Award and Occupy Denver Joins Columbus Protest.

    Below:  "Clyde Bellecourt in the planned American Indian Movement Interpretive Center (David Joles)

    No apologies without remedies

    Years ago, a Safeway cashier apologized to Robert Chanate (Kiowa) for past injustices. Now Chanate reflects on the experience.

    Apologies on Discount

    By Robert ChanateAfter thinking about her apology for a bit, I was somewhat touched because it was an acknowledgement of a historical wrong. Hers was a plea for forgiveness for the crimes committed by her people against mine. Neither of us was alive when the crimes happened, but we were descendants, and therefore symbols of both people. As a symbol, the lady represented those who did not ignore historical injustices but wanted to admit to them as a means for healing and understanding. I felt hopeful knowing there were well-meaning people like the cashier who would try to make things right in the best ways they knew how.

    Since that time, I’ve come to rethink what makes an apology acceptable for the people to whom it is being offered. In my encounter with the cashier, what was left out of her apology was any comment about a remedy or resolution for the unjust actions about which she was talking. The remedy seemed to be the apology itself. This oversight is to be expected from the average person on the street (or in a store), but what about people with access to economic and political resources? For the latter group, shouldn’t remedies and resolutions be a part of their apology?

    Keeping these apologies focused strictly on the past avoids solutions for the present when the current legal, social, economic and political structures can be obstacles for Native peoples. Those obstacles are a direct result of the historical actions that are the subject of so many apologies.

    What I’ve also learned from that first awkward apology was that we Native people should be more active in putting forward solutions for those sympathetic people out there. They can’t solve all of our problems but they can help us out when we provide leadership for goals to which they can contribute. If we cannot describe a plan of action for our non-Native supporters, then about all we can expect are well-meaning words and not much else.
    Comment:  This echoes what I've said before about apologies. Indians don't want non-Indians to apologize or feel guilty if it doesn't lead to change. They don't want empty gestures, they want concrete action.

    In other words, they don't want to hear that you can't do anything about the past, because they're not talking about the past. They want you to uphold their treaties, fund their services, and protect their rights now.

    For more on apologies, see Older than America Screening and Apology for "Pilgrims and Indians" Party.

    December 27, 2011

    Glover speaks for Peltier

    Actor Danny Glover to Hold Press Conference for Leonard Peltier

    By Levi RickertAward-winning actor Danny Glover will participate in a press conference at 12 noon at Occupy Oakland today to voice his belief that Leonard Peltier should be let free.

    Glover will join long walkers from the Leonard Peltier Walk for Human Rights at the noon press conference.

    Occupy Oakland is located at the Grant Ogawa Plaza, adjacent to the Oakland City Hall, at Broadway and 14th Street.

    The walk was launched on Alcatraz Island on Sunday, December 18 by Dennis Banks. The walk led by Dorothy Ninham, Oneida, spent last week going to Sacramento and Manteca, California. The long walkers spent Christmas in Oakland.
    Danny Glover Commits to Meet Peltier Walkers in DC--May 18

    By Levi RickertThe long walkers from the Leonard Peltier Walk for Human Rights on their way to Washington DC gained support in their efforts on Monday from award-winning actor Danny Glover, who participated in a press conference at Occupy Oakland.

    "Let us mark this day, December 26, as a day of reconvening. Let us mark this day as the day of recommitting to join forces in our efforts to bring Leonard home," Glover told the 50 people assembled.

    “We have to continue in our efforts for Brother Leonard.”
    And:"I plan on doing my part," Glover said when questioned about other Hollywood celebrities working on behalf of freeing Peltier. "I am really removed from Hollywood. I live in San Francisco, so I really don't hang with the Hollywood crowd. Marlon Brando is gone; I know he would have been here to help. Harry Belafonte is 85 years old and he probably cannot do much, but I know he has been supportive in the past."

    "I plan on being in Washington on May 18," said Glover when asked about coming to Washington to greet the long walkers.

    The Leonard Peltier Walk for Human Rights was launched on December 18 on Alcatraz Island by Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement. It will conclude in the nation's capitol on May 18, 2012.
    Comment:  For more on Leonard Peltier, see Peltier Wins Human Rights Prize and Peltier Calls Churchill a "Phony."

    New Agers should help Indians

    New Agers Need to Put Money Where Their Mouths Are to Free Leonard Peltier

    By Corine FairbanksThe American Indian Movement has been fighting the New Age movement for over 30 years now. This business supports a billion dollar industry. For all of the rhetoric that these New Age predators use, such as: "love and light," and "be the change you want the world to be," they execute strategic marketing plans to profits from selling and desecrating our ceremonies, sacred objects, and medicines.

    These New Agers are white collar pimps that prostitute our spirituality and culture to whoever has a buck. In doing so, they export it all over the world, yet never once take a moment to identify American Indians as real people with real needs and real life and death issues.

    Then there are costume companies and clothing companies that capitalize on cheap imitations of American Indian regalia. You know the kind I am talking about, the "Native Poca-Hottie" Halloween costumes that non-Natives seemed determined to where. Even famous actresses wearing cheap mock war bonnets think it is chic and sexy.

    Here again, how much of the profits go back to Native people?

    All of the billions of dollars generated by both of the above business ventures and nothing comes back to our Native communities. None of their profits comes back to our food and Social Service programs, veteran programs, let alone to Leonard Peltier and his defense committee or legal fund. Our communities are in need of funding; whether they be in an urban setting struggling with poverty, or with our relatives still back in our homelands, some of them freezing to death because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

    We need to pin these "pimps" to the wall! We need to make them accountable to the appropriation and exploitation of our culture and spirituality--and make them hurt where it can only hurt with these predators--through their wallet. At the end of the day, how many of them laugh at us while counting change from all the sales they have made?
    Comment:  Corine is a friend of mine.

    For more on New Agers, see James Ray's Sacsayhuaman Video and Shaman in A Gifted Man.

    December 26, 2011

    Annual ride for Mankato 38

    Minnesota’s Darkest Memory: The Hanging of the 38

    By Nick ColemanNOTE: 2012 will mark the 150th anniversary of the most terrible event in Minnesota’s history: The war between the Dakota Sioux tribes and the new state government that followed the war with a merciless campaign of retribution and racism. My plan is to spend significant time over the coming year remembering and exploring this history and its effects on our state, then and now.

    Today, the 149th anniversary of the mass execution that concluded the war, I am re-posting the piece I published Dec. 26, 2010.

    Dec. 26, 1862: The execution of the 38 Dakota warriors at Mankato: Revenge and rage drove the flawed legal proceedings behind the kangaroo-court convictions of 303 Indians who surrendered after the U.S.- Dakota war of that autumn. Only President Lincoln’s aversion to mass punishment limited the hangman’s toll to 38. But the stain of those official killings, followed by the official banishment of the Dakota Sioux from their home (banishment or extermination was the state’s policy) left a mark of shame on Minnesota that has colored all the years since, and which has made it almost impossible to even talk about the events of 1862. Now, proposals have been made to extend a posthumous “pardon” to one of the hanged. Pardoning one man doesn’t even come close to an official recognition of the wrongs done to the Dakota, or to comprehending the scale of an avoidable tragedy that claimed hundreds of lives on all sides of the racial divide that was the cradle of Minnesota’s birth.
    Dakota Indians Ride for Their Ancestors almost 150 Years Later

    By Mallory Peebles149 years ago today 38 Dakota Indians were hung in Mankato.

    It's a dark day in history but a group of American Indians are hoping to change that with a tradition that's about forgiveness.

    The 330-mile ride started in South Dakota and ends here in Mankato...the site of the largest mass execution in America's history.

    Miller says, "In the dream I see 38 of my ancestors being hung. The dream and I know that it came from the creator so I acted on it."
    Comment:  For more on Mankato, see Dakota Music Tour and Pardon the Mankato 38?

    First tribal park open to public

    Public national park is a tribal first

    By Don BehmIn a first for the U.S., the Red Cliff Chippewa is creating Frog Bay Tribal National Park on nearly 89 acres of its reservation and opening the lakeshore property and its views of the Apostle Islands to the public.

    The park's canopy of old towering trees--hemlock, white pine, white spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch and white cedar--marks a healthy and diverse boreal forest community, uncommon in Wisconsin even before settlement, Red Cliff Natural Resources Administrator Chad Abel said.

    "This is a rare gem," Abel said.

    There is no other tribally owned or controlled park in the U.S. open to the public, according to the National Park Service.
    Comment:  For more on national parks, see Doig Reserve Plans Tribal Park and Indians Left Out at National Parks.

    December 25, 2011

    PEACE PARTY political cartoon:  Christmas

    Review of Sioux City

    I watched the movie Sioux City recently. I think this review is accurate:

    Movie Review: 'Sioux' a Murder Mystery Celebrating Lakota Lifestyle

    By Chris Willman"Sioux City" has the rough outline, at least, of a murder mystery, one in which Lou Diamond Phillips, as a half-Lakota, L.A.-bred yuppie, retreats to the Native American reservation of his birth to solve the puzzle of his natural mother's sudden demise.

    We're not talking Tony Hillerman here. This is the kind of agenda-heavy, culture-celebrating picture that has the hero solving the mystery not by gathering clues but by going on a vision quest where the twist is mystically revealed to him, an hour or more after it's occurred to the sober audience at large. Such sweat-lodge shorthand frees the rest of the movie up for plenty of reverential luxuriation in the Lakota lifestyle and lots of loving glances between Phillips and Salli Richardson, the knockout beauty he finds in his first hour on the Brown Rocks reservation.

    Phillips--who directed as well as starred--clearly thinks he's doing the Lakotas a favor with his respectfulness, when he would've better honored them by holding out for a halfway-tenable script. As is, L. Virginia Browne's screenplay has Phillips' newly discovered grandfather sagely chastening the citified hero with platitudes like "Time has no meaning in the healing process," when all he did was ask how long he'd been knocked out from a beating. Administering the blows are Sioux City's local white cops (played by Bill Allen and grizzled Ralph Waite), whose racist menace is so overt the plot can only pay off in inevitabilities.
    Comment:  My advice to urban Indians like Phillips's character: Move back to the rez, people! A wise elder will teach you the meaning of life, and you'll fall in love with someone beautiful! Many hawks will screech overhead, and you'll probably get a pony!

    But watch out for the local businessman/rancher/sheriff! He's up to no good!

    In short, Sioux City's plot is one you see often--whenever an urban Indian is out of touch with his roots. It's competently executed but nothing special.

    Other than the touchy-feely vision quest and healing, the main problem is how generic everything is.

    Given the title, does the story take place in Sioux City, Nebraska? No. Does it take place on the Santee Sioux reservation on the Nebraska/South Dakota border a couple hundred miles away? Probably not, but who knows? I don't think anyone even mentions the word "Sioux" or "Lakota."

    Actually, the fictional Broken Rocks reservation looks like it was filmed north of Los Angeles. was. It would make more sense to use a small California rancheria as the movie's tribe. But the Sioux are the "cool" Indians, and the only Indians most people know, so....

    Anyway, Sioux City was mildly entertaining but not a must-see. Rob's rating: 7.0 of 10.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Below:  The full movie.

    December 24, 2011

    Season's greetings!

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Ecstatic Eid, Krazy Kwanzaa, and a Wondrous Winter Solstice!


    Santa the criminal

    So Santa Claus is a Dutchman who's squatting illegally at the North Pole in violation of international law? Sounds like another example of the European colonial mentality.

    There are probably some valuable oil rights under his cottage and toy factory. Perhaps he's trying to cut a deal with the highest bidder.

    I don't think there are any labor laws in international waters. So he can work his elves to death without having to worry about the pay or working conditions.

    How do you think he out-produces China and manufactures billions of toys every year? Not by following OSHA standards, you betcha.

    Santa arrested

    I'm not the only one who's noted Santa's illegal activities. Here's an AP story from 12/24/10:

    News FlashIn a surprise move today, the Justice Department handed down indictments against Santa Claus (AKA Kris Kringle, Per Noel, Saint Nick) for allegedly employing undocumented guest workers at his North Pole toy factory. Originally alerted by an anonymous tipster known only as “The Grinch,” the Justice Department alleges that Claus operates a large toy manufacturing “sweat shop,” solely utilizing an illegal labor force. According to the government’s press release, this is “the largest such operation ever detected.” Off the record, one official said, "This operation is completely unprecedented in size, probably grossing over five hundred billion in revenue annually." At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it appears that Claus has never withheld employee income taxes, paid any corporate income taxes, or filed a federal tax return. The IRS says its investigation is continuing, but has already initiated procedures to seize Claus’s factory.

    Claus, a morosely obese smoker who has admitted in past interviews to being addicted to junk food, is also being investigated for breaking and entering, illegally flying in restricted airspace, and cruelty to animals. The Justice Department has indicated a RICO indictment will soon be forthcoming.
    For more on the subject, see Navajo Santa and Santa Visits Havasupai by Helicopter.

    December 23, 2011

    Navajo Santa

    Navajo Santa celebrates 27 years

    By Krista AllenAfter a weeklong gathering for fun and games, the Tólikan community ended their festivities Dec. 3 with a visit from Navajo Santa of Ya'at'eeh Keshmish, a nonprofit organization.

    "What it is is to provide a good Christmas for as many people of the Navajo Nation as we can," Ya'at'eeh Keshmish supporter Gary Evershed, from Salt Lake City, said. "We try to provide things that are useful like buckets, shovels, clothes, axes, books, and toys for the children."

    Navajo Santa commemorated its 27th consecutive giveaway this year with volunteers from northern Utah including Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson, two former Utah Jazz coaches.

    "(The giveaways) were held on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation," former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Woody Lee said. "This is the first year that one of the founders has their license to do this in the state of Arizona, so it's here."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Santa Visits Havasupai by Helicopter.

    Below:  "Volunteers from northeastern Utah unload boxes Dec. 3 at the 27th Navajo Santa Giveaway south of the Red Mesa Trading Post. Blankets, food, winter garments, and other necessities were given out."

    Tecumseh stamp and freighter

    Tecumseh to Grace a Stamp, and a FreighterThe great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, a key figure in the War of 1812, will be doubly honored during the bicentennial year of that conflict by both a stamp and a freighter. The former will bear his likeness, and the latter his name.

    The stamp is scheduled to be unveiled in June, and at some point a Great Lakes freighter will be rechristened, champagne and all, with Tecumseh’s name, CBC News reports. Tecumseh joins First Nations musician Robbie Robertson, who had a stamp created in his honor last June.
    Comment:  For more on Tecumseh, see War of 1812 Documentary and Cougars Named After Chiefs.

    December 22, 2011

    Blacks ignore offensive "Redskins" name

    Black folks and the Washington Redskins

    By Bill Fletcher, Jr.In the DC area if you raise the problem with the name of the Washington Redskins with many African Americans you get this very peculiar response. It is hard to describe unless you can actually see and hear it yourself. In order to explain it, let me first back up and remind you, the reader, that the reference to "redskins" is the equivalent of calling an African American a nigger. Sorry, folks, that is the real deal. There is no good usage of the term. It is aimed at putting down Native Americans, a point that Native American activists have been making for years.

    So, what happens when you raise this problem with many African Americans?

    They look at you strangely, as if you have just spoken to them in a strange dialect of Turkish.

    They shrug their shoulders and look away, often mumbling something like "...yeah..." but you usually cannot hear the end of the sentence.

    They then either walk away or change the subject.

    When I have pushed the matter and pointed out that I suspect that few African Americans would appreciate a football team called the "Tennessee Niggers" or the "Atlanta Sambos", there is generally an acknowledgement that this is correct, but, again, the discussion ends.

    So, let me ask this: do we really think that it is unimportant that there is a patently racist name for a football team? And, would we actually be so passive if the team were the "Washington Uncle Toms"? Seriously, I would like to hear an answer to the question.

    There is a disconnect that we as African Americans, and only we as African Americans, have to address. Racism is not simply about what happens to us. The same people that feel comfortable using the term "redskins" are not that far from using the terms "niggers" or "spics."
    Comment:  For more on the Washington Redskins, see Abramoff Calls "Redskins" an Insult and "Niggerhead" Out, "Redskins" In.

    Indians in A Warrior's Heart

    A snarky look at a recent movie that co-stars Adam Beach:

    The First High School Movie for Rich Bullies

    By Soren BowieThe Plot

    A Warrior's Heart revolves around two private-schooled, white-toothed teens named Conor and Brooklyn as they fall in love over completely surmountable odds. Together, they build a steamy and muscular love triangle between each other and their shared passion for lacrosse. Everything is plaid skirts and money until, look out! Conor's father dies while being a hero in Iraq. Unable to deal with his emotions, Conor acts out by breaking a trophy case and then has to go to a wilderness camp as punishment where he plays wilderness lacrosse with wilderness Indians. Through his time in camp he learns that the exorbitantly wealthy and Native Americans are not so different after all, they are both, for instance, minorities with little-to-no body hair. The story is bold and unapologetic in its exploration of the American teen, acknowledging that every boy has to learn to quell his rage while slowly and painfully learning what it means to be a man, and that every girl really likes boys who play sports.

    The Cultural Importance

    In order to overcome the sadness of losing his father, Conor has to explore his roots. Well, some roots. Any roots will do, really. Conor is whisked away by his father's Native American war buddy to a camp where he can vent his anger by hitting stuff with tools or kicking over barn frames. Conor is mad but the Indians are wise and soon he's learning to cope with loss through the healing power of wilderness lacrosse. And so lacrosse becomes a great metaphor for the film as a whole. Just as the Native Americans graciously handed the sport to white, East Coast prep schools, their very presence in this film serves only to pass on the minority spotlight to a new and deserving group: The one percent.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see A Warrior's Heart to Be Released.

    Below:  The white, blond cast of A Warrior's Heart.

    Soboba leader named grand marshal

    Tribal Leader Chosen as Christmas Parade Grand MarshalThe City of Hemet, California chose Rose Salgado, vice chairwoman of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians’ Tribal Council, to be grand marshal for its Christmas parade held November 26, 2011.

    According to a story posted on The Press-Enterprise website, Hemet City Manager Brian Nakamura said the city council’s decision was unanimous and based on her commitment to the community.

    “Her kindness and giving toward the community and the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto really stood out in regards to her nomination this year,” Nakamura said in the story.
    Comment:  For more on Indians and parades, see Oneida Float in Macy's Parade 2011 and Brulé in Rose Parade.

    December 21, 2011

    "OMG" reporting about Attawapiskat

    Covering the Crisis: Can Mainstream Media Attention Help Attawapiskat Long-Term?

    By Martha Troian[A]lready some are questioning why it took two months for Canadian media to take notice, even after the community declared a state of emergency. Moreover, as CBC News noted earlier this month, the ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND) has known about the conditions for quite some time. Moreover, deplorable conditions on aboriginal reserves have been well documented for decades, as television journalist Peter Mansbridge noted when he interviewed Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on the CBC News program One on One recently.

    “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years,” he said during the broadcast. “One of the first stories I covered was a community like that. But this was in Manitoba.”

    So why is it being covered as if it were a sudden disaster?

    One of those questioning how media responded is Duncan McCue, creator of an online guide for journalists called Reporting in Indigenous Communities (RIIC), based out of the University of British Columbia School of Journalism.

    “It took an MP with a camera, who went on to self-publish an article to get anybody’s attention,” he said. “Even then, mainstream media didn’t listen.”

    McCue was referring to the now-famous November 21 article and video (“What if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came?”) published on Huffington Post by Charlie Angus, the Member of Parliament for Timmins–James Bay, which is what sparked the media frenzy.

    But at the same time that it brought much-needed attention to the issue, Angus’s column also set the tone for how the crisis has been covered, McCue said.

    “Someone made an interesting comment on the RIIC Twitter page that there is an awful lot of ‘OMG’ going on in the reporting,” he said, adding that journalists are focusing only on the atrocious living conditions described by the media. “There has been less of a focus on some of the systemic problems that have led to that and some of the context that is necessary.”

    Kevin Carter is originally from the Hollow Water First Nation in Manitoba. Now living in Saskatchewan, he has been following the story through mainstream media television, newspapers and a few small aggregated news sites. He said he’s disappointed in what he has seen so far.

    “Right now [the coverage] is just about shaming Harper and the Canadian government,” he said. “There are some very real housing issues here, but this is still just the flavor of the month. Everybody will get kinda tired of it after a while, and then it will go away.”

    As the coverage blossomed in early December, Carter tweeted, ‘Love the media and twitter outrage on #Attawapiskat but this will pass like it has before.’”
    Comment:  For more on Attawapiskat, see Attawapiskat Triggers "Welfare" Stereotypes and Blaming the Victim at Attawapiskat.

    Below:  "Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence got a standing ovation after speaking before a Special Chiefs Assembly at the Assembly of FIrst Nations."

    Toy headdresses at Beadniks

    An Iñupiaq-Athabaskan woman lays out the problems with phony Indian headdresses and costumes simply and effectively:

    Toy headdresses: racist and offensive

    By Rhonda Anderson• Selling a headdress as a dress-up toy is promoting stereotyping of Native American cultures. This perpetuates the myth that Indians wear feather headdresses and war bonnets.

    Such toys suggest that Native Americans are in the same group of make-believe characters such as fairies and pirates. Putting Native Americans in a place of existing only in history and fantasy is extremely damaging to our children.

    Stereotyping and caricatures of Natives do nothing to represent the more than 560 distinct cultures in the U.S. and more than 630 in Canada who are thriving, who dress in mainstream clothing, and who do not wear traditional clothing every day.

    • A feather headdress is a spiritual and religious item. It is meant for men to wear, it is often hard-earned, and it has significant meaning behind it, such as achievements, honor, and respect.

    Headdresses are considered sacred and even used as protection when worn during ceremony. They are not toys. They are not costumes. “Toys” like this take away the honor and respect. I recommended to the clerk to include technicolor Pontiff hats and some bright yarmulkes to go with the display.

    • It is racist because you are singling out a race. You are belittling and collapsing a race into a small package for purchase and in doing so you have made it okay to portray the people who are members of that race as you see fit.

    This assertion of power is fanning the flames of colonization; it makes it okay to take land from a people who are a figment of imagination, from a proud race that is no longer (in your line of sight).
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Costumes = White Privilege and "We're a Culture, Not a Costume."

    Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s executive chef

    Chef comes back home to work

    By Will ChavezChef Don McClellan is glad to be back in Oklahoma and doing what he loves.

    The opportunity to move from Albuquerque, N.M., to take a job as Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s executive chef came after he competed in an Iron Chef-style competition in July in Washington, D.C.

    The Cherokee Nation citizen lost the competition by a small margin. However, CNE’s food and beverage director contacted McClellan regarding him working for CNE after an article about the competition appeared in the Cherokee Phoenix.

    “CNE, mainly Paul Jarrell, read the article in the paper and hunted me down in Albuquerque and said, ‘is there anyway we can bring you back here and have you work for the tribe?’ I said ‘it’s an opportunity we need to look at, and lo and behold I’m here,” he said.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Chef Showdown at NMAI.

    Below:  "Don McClellan prepares a dish at the West Siloam Springs Cherokee Casino. He recently returned to Oklahoma from Albuquerque, N.M., to work as Cherokee Nation Entertainment's executive chef." (Will Chavez/Cherokee Phoenix)

    December 20, 2011

    Mexico launches 2012 countdown

    Apocalypse buzz, Maya culture draw tourists

    Mexico plans festivals, museum to cash in

    By Adriana Gomez Licon
    Cities and towns in the Mayan region are starting the yearlong countdown today. The city of Tapachula on the Guatemalan border will start an 8-foot digital clock in its main park to begin the countdown exactly a year before the date.

    In the nearby archaeological site of Izapa, Maya priests will offer prayers.

    On Mexico's Caribbean coast, between the resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, people are putting messages and photos in a time capsule that will be buried for 50 years. Maya priests and Indian dancers will perform a ritual at the time capsule ceremony.

    Yucatan state has announced plans to complete the Maya Museum of Merida by summer.

    And President Felipe Calderón recently announced there would be about 500 Mayan-themed events throughout the year in southern Mexico, including workshops and dance and music festivals.

    Officials are building a state-run tourist hotel at the natural reserve of Calakmul in the state of Campeche. And the National Institute of Anthropology and History is opening three additional ruins to tourists.
    Comment:  For more on 2012, see World Won't End in 2012? and Mexico Seeks "2012" Tourism.

    Treuer recommends cultural tests

    How Do You Prove You’re an Indian?

    By David TreuerWho is and who isn’t an Indian is a complicated question, but there are many ways to answer it beyond genetics alone. Tribal enrollees could be required to possess some level of fluency in their native language or pass a basic civics test. On my reservation, no schoolchild is asked to read the treaties that shaped our community or required to know about the branches of tribal government or the role of courts and councils. Or tribal membership could be based, in part, on residency, on some period of naturalization inside the original treaty area (some tribes do consider this). Many nations require military service—tribes don’t have armies, but they could require a year of community service.

    Other nations take these things into account, and in doing so they reinforce something we, with our fixation on blood, have forgotten: bending to a common purpose is more important than arising from a common place.
    Comment:  Intermarriage guarantees that tribes will disappear if they maintain strict blood quantum requirements. Therefore, tribes will change their membership standards eventually. The only question is whether they do it sooner or later.

    For more on the subject, see Tribes Shouldn't Exclude Non-Indians and Defining Tribes by Peoplehood.

    December 19, 2011

    Funding cuts for tribal justice

    Do Congress and Obama Really Support the Tribal Law and Order Act?

    By Rob Capriccioso“There continues to be a public safety crisis on our Indian reservations, and the lives of women and children are in danger every day,” lamented the now retired Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who led the way for passage of the TLOA when he headed the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

    That reality is one reason that Dorgan and many advocates in Indian country were so disappointed to learn that Congress, last month, majorly undercut the abilities of the TLOA to combat the crisis when it passed a measure that shortchanged a whopping $90 million in proposed funding for U.S. Department of Justice programs in Indian country.

    “One way the TLOA sought to remedy the epidemic was to mandate that federal law enforcement cooperate and coordinate with tribal law enforcement,” wrote Ryan Dreveskracht, a lawyer with the Galanda Broadman Indian-focused law firm, in an article posted on his firm’s website. “The TLOA sought to immediately increase tribal law enforcement funding levels. Because Indian country crime is local, these consultation and tribal funding mandates were deemed crucial to the effectiveness of the TLOA.”

    But when Congress released its fiscal year 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Programs Report on November 14, it was as if those components of the TLOA, which so many Congress members had hailed so recently, didn’t matter.

    The legislation offered funding cuts for tribal justice programs across the board, and it did not include a tribal set-aside for discretionary Office of Justice Programs needed to implement the TLOA, Dreveskracht noted. It also proposed $15 million cuts to both the COPS Tribal Resources Grant Program and the Tribal Youth Program. Funding for tribal assistance within Office of Justice programs, meanwhile, received $38 million, which Dreveskracht noted was $62 million short of the approximately $100 million initially proposed in Obama’s FY 2012 budget request. In total, over $90 million was lost.
    Comment: When I posted this article on Facebook and put Obama's "support" in quotes, someone wrote:Obama did not write the bill.My response:

    He signed it. And I don't recall his making any speeches criticizing it. If you sign a bill and it's not under protest, you're basically endorsing it.

    Obama did a bunch of caving in on taxing the rich. He's still doing it. Do you disagree with that, because that's the standard liberal position.

    That money could've gone to fund this bill and other social services. So yeah, I blame him for caving in rather than fighting harder for increased taxes.

    For more on Obama's support of Indians, see UN Declaration's First Anniversary and United Police State of America.

    Below: "Indians always have a hard time being heard in Washington, but Obama (here signing the Tribal Law Act) seems to be more willing to listen."

    Top Native stories of 2011

    Indian Country Today Media Network’s Top 10 Stories of 2011Bin Laden Code-name ‘Geronimo’ Is a Bomb in Indian Country

    As news of Osama bin Laden’s death spread relief across America and the world, revelations that the assigned code name of Enemy Number One was “Geronimo,” a legendary Apache leader, caused shock waves in Indian communities across the country. It is being interpreted as a slap in the face of Native people, a disturbing message that equates an iconic symbol of Native American pride with the most hated evildoer since Adolf Hitler.

    Christian Crees Tear Down Sweat Lodge

    When Redfern Mianscum built a sweat lodge in his Cree community last October, he was hoping it would bring about spiritual healing. Instead, it brought criticism and a controversial ban on Native spirituality and sweat lodges.

    An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day

    ICTMN received a letter in October from a concerned member of the Santee Sioux nation that was addressed to the CEO of Urban Outfitters in regards to concerns of the store’s Native themed clothing and accessories.

    ABC Airs Documentary About Pine Ridge

    On Friday, October 14th, the ABC television network aired “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” an episode of 20/20 hosted by Diane Sawyer that highlighted the lives of Native youth living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The stars of the program were its young subjects.
    Comment:  Glad to see I participated in or reported on several of these stories. And I mentioned a few others.

    But I can't take the list too seriously when it includes a basketball player and an asteroid that missed the earth. Here are some of the stories that aren't on the list but should be:

  • Probes into the violence against Native women
  • The Keystone XL pipeline protests
  • The Attawapiskat housing crisis
  • James Ray's conviction in the sweat-lodge deaths
  • The retirement of the Fighting Sioux mascot
  • Bryan Fischer's racist columns
  • The release of the 2010 Census data
  • Criticism of the Native prayer at the Gabrielle Giffords ceremony

  • Heck, Jared Loughner's shooting of Giffords happened in January 2011. Whether it's the Native or mainstream media, that and Osama bin Laden's death should be right up there as stories of the year.

    For more on Native journalism, see "White Journalists" on Native America Calling and Native News Network.

    Kateri Tekakwitha to become saint

    First Native American Cleared for Sainthood by VaticanThe Vatican today announced that the Mohawk-Algonquin woman born in 1656 and known as Kateri Tekakwitha has been deemed worthy of sainthood by the Pope.

    Pope Benedict XVI has signed the decree recognizing a miracle performed by Kateri, and she will therefore be canonized at a ceremony sometime in the future.

    According to the biography at, Kateri’s father was a Mohawk chief and her mother was Algonquin (Catholic News Service specifies that her mother was also a Christian); her parents and brother died of smallpox when she was four, and the disease left her with facial disfigurements and impaired vision. She was consequently given the name “Tekakwitha,” which means “she who bumps into things.” Her uncle, who was chief of the Turtle Clan of Mohawks, adopted her. Though he is described as “bitterly opposed to Christianity,” he eventually relented, and Kateri was baptized in 1676 at the age of 20. She died four years later. The name “Kateri” is a derivation of Catherine, taken at her baptism, according to Wikipedia, as a tribute to Catherine of Siena.

    Also according to Wikipedia, the process of Kateri’s canonization began in 1884; Pope Pius XII declared her venerable in 1943, and Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980. She was at that time the first American Indian to be beatified.
    Kahnawake Mohawk named a saint

    Kateri Tekakwitha will become North America's first aboriginal saintResidents of a Mohawk community just outside of Montreal are celebrating because a woman who lived in the area more than three centuries ago is about to be named a Roman Catholic saint.

    The Vatican announced that Kateri Tekakwitha, of Kahnawake, will become North America's first aboriginal saint.

    Deacon Ronald Boyer is the Canadian vice-postulator for her canonization. He has been advocating for Tekakwitha to be named a saint since 2007.

    He said native people in North America have been pushing to have her declared a saint since her death, 331 years ago.
    Comment:  For more on Kateri Tekakwitha, see Catholics to Ban Indian Practices? and Vatican Acknowledges Kateri Book.

    December 18, 2011

    Palestinians and Indians "invented"?

    Along with Rick Perry bashing gays, we recently heard Newt Gingrich bashing Palestinians.  He claimed they were an "invented" people--with no right to statehood, presumably.

    Several postings rebuked Gingrich for his ignorance of Middle Eastern history.  Here's the best one I've read so far:

    Newt Gingrich: ignoramus, cheat, cynic or all three?

    By Uri Avnery
    From its very beginning, the Zionist movement has denied the existence of the Palestinian people. It's an article of faith.

    The reason is obvious: if there exists a Palestinian people, then the country the Zionists were about to take over was not empty. Zionism would entail an injustice of historic proportions. Being very idealistic persons, the original Zionists found a way out of this moral dilemma: they simply denied its existence. The winning slogan was "A land without a people for a people without a land."

    So, who were these curious human beings they met when they came to the country? Oh, ah, well, they were just people who happened to be there, but not "a" people. Passers-by, so to speak. Later, the story goes, after we had made the desert bloom and turned an arid and neglected land into a paradise, Arabs from all over the region flocked to the country, and now they have the temerity--indeed the chutzpah--to claim that they constitute a Palestinian nation!

    For many years after the founding of the state of Israel, this was the official line. Golda Meir famously exclaimed: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!" (To which I replied in the Knesset: "Mrs Prime Minister, perhaps you are right. Perhaps there really is no Palestinian people. But if millions of people mistakenly believe that they are a people, and behave like a people, then they are a people.")

    A huge propaganda machine--both in Israel and abroad--was employed to "prove" that there was no Palestinian people. A lady called Joan Peters wrote a book (From Time Immemorial) proving that the riffraff calling themselves "Palestinians" had nothing to do with Palestine. They are nothing but interlopers and impostors. The book was immensely successful--until some experts took it apart and proved that the whole edifice of conclusive proofs was utter rubbish.
    And:Nationalism is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. When a community decides to become a nation, it has to reinvent itself. That means inventing a national past, reshuffling historical facts (and non-facts) in order to create a coherent picture of a nation existing since antiquity. Hermann the Cherusker, member of a Germanic tribe who betrayed his Roman employers, became a "national" hero. Religious refugees who landed in America and destroyed the native population became a "nation." Members of an ethnic-religious diaspora formed themselves into a "Jewish nation." Many others did more or less the same.

    Indeed, Newt would profit from reading a book by a Tel Aviv University professor, Shlomo Sand, a kosher Jew, whose Hebrew title speaks for itself: When and How the Jewish People was Invented?

    Who are these Palestinians? About a hundred years ago, two young students in Istanbul, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the future prime minister and president (respectively) of Israel, wrote a treatise about the Palestinians. The population of this country, they said, has never changed. Only small elites were sometimes deported. The towns and villages never moved, as their names prove. Canaanites became Israelites, then Jews and Samaritans, then Christian Byzantines. With the Arab conquest, they slowly adopted the religion of Islam and the Arab culture. These are today's Palestinians. I tend to agree with them.

    Parroting the straight Zionist propaganda line--by now discarded by most Zionists--Gingrich argues that there can be no Palestinian people because there never was a Palestinian state. The people in this country were just "Arabs" under Ottoman rule.

    So what? I used to hear from French colonial masters that there is no Algerian people, because there never was an Algerian state, there was never even a united country called Algeria. Any takers for this theory now?

    The name "Palestine" was mentioned by a Greek historian some 2,500 years ago. A "Duke of Palestine" is mentioned in the Talmud. When the Arabs conquered the country, they called it "Filastin", as they still do. The Arab national movement came into being all over the Arab world, including Palestine--at the same time as the Zionist movement--and strove for independence from the Ottoman Sultan.

    For centuries, Palestine was considered a part of Greater Syria (the region known in Arabic as "al-Sham"). There was no formal distinction between Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Jordanians. But when, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers divided the Arab world between them, a state called Palestine became a fact under the British Mandate, and the Arab Palestinian people established themselves as a separate nation with a national flag of their own. Many peoples in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America did the same, even without asking Gingrich for confirmation.

    It would certainly be ironic if the members of the "invented" Palestinian nation were expected to ask for recognition from the members of the "invented" Jewish/Israeli nation, at the demand of a member of the "invented" American nation, a person who, by the way, is of mixed German, English, Scottish and Irish stock.
    Comment:  Pundits have noted that many nations in Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe didn't consider themselves states until they became states in the 20th century.  No one has given a reason we should consider the Palestinians different from other people.

    I've noted the similarities between the Palestinians and Indians before.  This is another area they have in common.  Right-wingers routinely claim that recently recognized tribes were "invented" to foist gaming on us.    Indeed, if they're fighting Indian rights as a whole, they claim all Indian "nations" were invented.  Not that Indians didn't exist, but that they weren't sovereign entities with well-defined governments or territories.  They were just primitive nomads wandering aimlessly like animals.

    Steve Newcomb explains the root of this thinking:

    In the chapter “Francisco de Vitoria and International Law” Anghie points out that Vitoria dealt with such topics as divine and natural law, sovereignty and culture, particularism and universalism. With these elements Vitoria conceptualized an international jurisprudence, and in the context of that thinking Vitoria treated idealized Spanish practices as “universally binding,” and hence binding on the Indians.Anghie says that “Indians are excluded [by Vitoria] from the realm of sovereignty, and Indian resistance to Spanish incursions becomes aggression which justifies the waging of a limitless war by a sovereign Spain against non-sovereign Indians.“ The “crucial issue,” according to Anghie, is the basis of the decision that the Indians were not sovereign: “Vitoria bases his conclusions that the Indians are not sovereign on the simple assertion that they are pagans.” In other words, Vitoria’s judgment was that the Indians were not sovereign because they were not Christians.Never mind that the Founding Fathers recognized Indian tribes as foreign nations and their rulers as kings.  And signed treaties with them exactly as if they were sovereign entities.  These right-wingers are so intellectually dishonest they don't even mention the word "treaty."

    Clearly they don't consider tribal sovereignty a historic fact.  To them, it's a plot to take America away from the white Christians who founded it and give it back to the heathens and savages who wasted it.  And that's what pseudo-Zionists like Gingrich think about Palestinian statehood.  It's a plot to take Israel away from the white Jews who founded it and give it back to the Muslim heathens and savages who wasted it.  

    In short, liberals who support indigenous rights for Indians and Palestinians are basically fighting a cultural war against the Biblical God.  The same Bible-based bigotry motivates the hatred of Indians and Palestinians.

    America the invention

    Comparing the Palestinians to Africans, Asians, eastern Europeans, or American Indians is one thing.  But why stop there?  The most telling comparison is between Palestinians and Americans.  Consider:

  • They were part of another empire for a century or two.

  • They spent decades establishing their own institutions and identities.

  • They finally got fed up and declared their independence as a sovereign state.

  • Which act of invention am I describing:  the founding of an American or Palestinian state?  What's the difference between the two?

    If anything, America is the much bigger "invention."  The British had no claim to North America before they invented one out of thin air.   Unlike the Indians and Palestinians, they hadn't occupied the land for thousands of years.  

    When the British did establish a foothold, they thought of themselves as colonists and subjects of the British Empire.  The idea of an American identity didn't occur to them until the last few years of colonization.  Indeed, the American nationality didn't exist until the Founders invented it on July 4, 1776.

    So the Palestinian aspirations for statehood are just like the American aspirations for statehood.  And Gingrich is a stupid idiot for not understanding this.

    Were Indian tribes nomadic?

    A perennial assertion of anti-Indians forces is that Indian tribes were nomadic.  These tribes wandered aimlessly like flocks of birds, grazing off the land like herds of animals.

    The point of this assertion is obvious.  If the Indians were wanderers, they didn't own or occupy any land.  They had no rights to their territories and the associated natural resources.

    It also becomes difficult to imagine them as "nations" with laws and governments.  Or as cultures with places of worship and ties to the land.  Wanderers supposedly have nothing permanent; their existence is a constant series of changes.

    Therefore, goes this "thinking," their claims of sovereignty are suspect.  They have no more rights than the Euro-Americans who displaced them.  Finders keepers, losers weepers.

    A little thought shows how stupid this "nomadic" myth is.  Consider some basic aspects of traditional tribal history and culture:

  • Pyramids
  • Mounds
  • Ruins
  • Cliff dwellings
  • Pueblos ("villages")
  • Lodges
  • Hogans
  • Longhouses
  • Plank houses
  • Totem poles
  • Sacred sites
  • Burial grounds

  • In addition, we know Pocahontas supposedly saved John Smith in a Powhatan village.  The Pilgrims settled on the site of a Patuxet village.  Lewis and Clark stopped at several Indian villages along their route.  Etc.

    The common theme here is permanence.  Almost everything we know about Indians says they settled and lived in one place.  Once you build a mound, longhouse, or totem pole, you probably don't carry it around with you.  Or leave it after you've invested so much time in it.

    There's really only one exception to this rule.  Namely, the tribes of the Plains and a few areas of the West--e.g.,  the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin.  These Indians are known for living in temporary camps of tipis, wickiups, and similar structures.  

    Unfortunately, these are the stereotypical Indians of American mythology.  For many people, they're the only Indians they know about.  The only ones who count.  Never mind that we're talking about only one or two cultural regions of a dozen on the North American continent.  To these people, Plains Indians = all Indians.

    Even for the Plains tribes, the "nomadic" label is dubious.  Some went from summer to winter camps and back, which isn't any more nomadic than a millionaire who moves from one mansion to another.  Some may have moved through a well-established cycle of different locations.  Some were forced to move by the incursion of other Indians or the white man.

    Unless a tribe moved voluntarily and randomly, I wouldn't call it nomadic.  I don't know of any studies on the subject, but I'd say "nomadic" applies to only a minority of the thousands of pre-contact tribes.  Possibly a small minority.

    For more on the subject, see Ayn Rand, Racist and Indians in War Before Civilization.

    Below:  A typical Pacific Northwest Indian village.

    Universal Soldier changed the world

    100 songs that changed history

    Time Out Magazine has just launched a new feature called 100 Songs That Have Changed the World–and Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier" has been included in the list! Inspired (kind of) by Pete Seeger's assertion that, 'The right song at the right time can change history', Time Out assembled a panel of musicians, historians and enthusiasts to debate and collate the 100 songs that have had the most significant impact on real-world events–culturally, socially and politically.1--‘Fight the Power’ – Public Enemy (1989)2--‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – Band Aid (1984)

    3--‘Irhal’ – Ramy Essam (2011)

    44--‘Universal Soldier’ – Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964)
    Comment:  For more on Buffy Sainte-Marie, see Buffy Earns Honorary Doctorate and 2010 Aboriginal People's Choice Winners.