February 28, 2011

Comic-book characterizations of Natives

Natives still suffer shameful stereotypesCanada’s urban natives, who now comprise half of all Métis, first nations and Inuit, feel they are viewed negatively by the larger society, even as they display a high level of tolerance for other cultures.

What is even more striking is that, according to a study by Environics Institute, many non-aboriginals recognize their comic-book characterization of natives, and acknowledge that real discrimination exists.

The federal government, the provinces and aboriginals themselves need to broaden this unsophisticated image, which focuses only on the social challenges natives face, while obscuring the many success stories.

While some non-aboriginals are “inattentive skeptics” who are uninformed about natives, others--especially in Toronto are “cultural romantics,” who appreciate native art and culture, but are unlikely to know any actual aboriginals. “Connected advocates,” on the other hand, are most likely to support the achievements of aboriginals, and to understand the role discrimination plays.

These findings are based on the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study, which probed the views of both aboriginals and non-aboriginals in 11 Canadians cities. This week, Toronto results were released.

Only through increased engagement and interaction between aboriginals and non-aboriginals will negative stereotypes be eroded. That means bolstering cultural exchange programs, and making sure all primary and secondary-school students are exposed to native culture and history--as well as to their modern-day triumphs and challenges. “Too many Canadians view aboriginals as relics of history,” said Ginger Gosnell-Myers, a member of the Nisga’a First Nation, and the study’s project manager. “They need to understand the realities of aboriginal life today.”
Comment:  Those of us in the comic-book field see a lot of comic-book characterizations of Indians.

"Inattentive skeptics" sounds like the majority Americans who deny the evidence in front of their faces. "Cultural romantics" sounds like the Hollywood liberals who love the idea of Indians but won't hire any actual Indians in their productions. Meanwhile, I'm a "connected advocate," as are many Newspaper Rock readers, I trust.

The final paragraph above reiterates what I've said about educating people. We need to expose people to modern-day Indians and their stories. That's what I'm doing at Pechanga.net, in my comics, and here.

For more on the subject, see:

70% think Indians are extinct
"Absolute fear" over powwow photo
Modern Indians are less Native?
"Little Yummy Banana" in beads and feathers
Classmates thought Alexie would shoot them

and the rest of my postings on education.

Below:  A comic-book characterization and shameful stereotype.

Mohican the Japanese robot

Correspondent DMarks brought this item to my attention:

Japanese Professor Builds Fantastically Impractical Anti-Wasp Robot

By Logan WestbrookSekine started working on the robot when a friend who was involved in local pest control efforts asked him to come up with an alternative to getting up close and personal with the nest. Clad in a bright yellow t-shirt, the robot--named Mohican, after its hair--is around 5'6", made of lightweight metals and wood and powered by small motors. The operator can issue commands to Mohican, such as "climb the ladder," via a small microphone and then remotely control its finer movements. The robot's hair, which started off on a barbershop mannequin, is supposed to look silly, so that people realise that the robot is friendly.Comment:  Only one problem here: "Mohican" isn't the adjectival form of "Mohawk." The Mohawks and Mohicans are two separate and unrelated tribes:

MahicanThe Mahicans (also Mohicans) are an Eastern Algonquian Native American tribe, originally settling in the Hudson River Valley (around Albany, NY). After 1680, many moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. During the early 1820s and 1830s, most of the remaining descendants migrated westward to northeastern Wisconsin. The tribe's name for itself (autonym) was Muh-he-con-neok, or "People of the waters that are never still."


The Mahican were living in and around the Hudson Valley at the time of their first contact with Europeans after 1609, during the settlement of New Netherland. The Mahican were a confederacy rather than a single tribe, and at the time of contact there were five main divisions: Mohican proper, Westenhuck, Wawayachtonoc, Mechkentowoon, and Wiekagjoc. Over the next hundred years, tensions between the Mahican and the Iroquois Mohawk, as well as Dutch and English settlers, caused the Mahican to migrate eastward across the Hudson River into western Massachusetts and Connecticut. Many settled in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where they gradually became known as the Stockbridge Indians.
For more on robots, see Aborigines in Gigantor and Racist Transformers.

Tribes need revolutions too

Charles Trimble quotes e-mailer Rodney Little Bird who implies tribes need an Egypt-style revolution too.

Taking a lesson from reader Rodney Little Bird

By Charles Trimble“Wow, what a month...with Egypt in the process of reform, with Libya revolting and promising prison for its worst. There is no end in sight and there should not be, when I look around for the terrorists I see the good ole USA at the helm, what are (we) to think when they got away with it here and have much knowledge toward how to handle tribal governments.

“The way I see it is that we pretty much play into their hands, we allow groups, interested parties to lead us to yet another dead end; i.e. Cobell, et al. And local tribal agencies corrupt at every turn--lack of accountability from the councils; nepotism like never seen before; throwing good money after bad; in fact sealing our fate with every lawsuit that is filed.

“However from all of this seemingly unending parody of the dog and pony shows, I get one thing and that thing really haunts me: We have long outlived the usefulness of a Tribal Council. We are too large in membership; together we can get things done...sheer numbers always works. And further Nations should come together to work on issues that require sheer numbers...find Solidarity through national unity...a solid voice of opposition to this ongoing denigration of our People....We have nothing more to lose...for it has all been bargained away.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Hopi and Navajo vs. Tribal Councils.

February 27, 2011

Hanged Indian in True Grit

I haven't seen the remake of True Grit yet, but Morten Krogh of NativeCelebs has. He tells us about the Native scenes:

TRUE GRIT--Good Or Bad

By Morten KroghI have to admit that I liked the first screening of the movie, but that changed when I saw the hanging in the beginning and the scene with the Indian Youth being kicked around by Rooster, and the worst...the audience laughed both times. Maybe it is me or does it seams that something is wrong with this movie, and with the audience?

There are 4 Native Americans in the whole movie and only one of them actually has any lines...and he dies within the first four minutes. And all but one of the Native Americans are abused and said abuse is played for big laughs.

We know that John Wayne was a racist, after reading all his comments about what he thought about the Native Americans, but I really don't understand why the Coen brothers had to use those scenes. What is noticeable about the film however is that these are the only appearances of Native Americans despite the fact that it takes place largely in Choctaw territory against the background of the wars made famous by Andrew Jackson’s genocidal "Trail of Tears."

I do understand that this is very consistent with the genre and the time period, but the Coens could have handled these three scenes with a little more care and consideration.

Just to let you understand. Would you say it's OK to use the Holocaust, the deportation and mass murder of the Jews and what happened to them and then use this story in a funny scene just to make people laugh about it. No I don't think so.

Here is something I saw on a blog about the movie. Read it and tell me what you think.

Film Review: True GritOn another hand, in accordance with the film's dominat(e)-ion narrative, as far as non-whites go, they are essentially non-existent in a film whose heroes, in addition to everything else backwards in the film, fought on the Confederate side. There are two African Americans, both there to serve their white masters. While their general discard warrants little attention, the film's treatment of Native Americans is deplorable. Essentially there are three scenes with Native Americans, each time they are used as a comical ploy--to considerable and uneasy effect at the screening I attended. The Condemned Indian (Jonathan Joss) is silenced and executed and the audience laughed. The second involves Indian Youth (Brandon Sanderson and Ruben Nakai Campana) being literally kicked around by Rooster and the audience laughed. The third....It seems it is OK to wash away the Trail of Tears with laughter.I also found True Grit's depiction of Native Americans pretty racist, but hey....It's only a movie, people will say....But it's more that that. It shows how the people thinks about the Native Americans in year 2011.

I really don't know if the Coen brothers think too much about Native American issues. I wish someone could send them a shocking statistics about contemporary violence against Native Americans, or the incredibly high suicide rate among Native American adolescents, or the high levels of depression, alcoholism and drug dependency. But would it help? I really don't know.

Just try to imagine that you are in this scene. Native American prisoner finds when he attempts to deliver his final words alongside other condemned men: a hood is pulled over his head before he can finish speaking.

During the opening part of the movie where the three men are about to be hanged, two of them get their final speech, then a Native American become interrupted when he's about to give his speech and than immediately hanged the next second. The history is repeating itself.

Here are some comments I have seen on internet:Remember the first native dude at the beginning?

"If I could just say one thing..."

*Bag over head*

Whole theater busted out laughing. Kinda phuked up laughing at NAs.

But awesome.

Comment:  I imagine scenes like this happened in the Old West, so they're not wrong for that reason. A better question is whether the scenes were in the source material: the True Grit book. Then there might be some justification for including them.

Even if that were the case, we'd have to ask more questions. For instance, were the scenes integral to the story? Did the book play them for laughs?

Ultimately the blame falls back on the Coen brothers. When adapting a book into a movie, you have to choose which scenes to include. And how to play them. Even if the Coens filmed the scenes exactly as written in the book, it was their choice to do it that way.

Regardless of where the ideas originated, the Coens thought it was a good idea to show Indians kicked and hanged. They could've filmed the scenes so the audience empathized with the Indians. They could've shown characters reacting negatively to the incidents. But apparently they didn't. Apparently they thought encouraging audiences to laugh at injured or dead Indians was a good idea.

A metaphor for Hollywood

Actress Joanelle Romero contacted me Thursday for help writing a pre-Oscar press release. She mentioned these scenes in True Grit and said she hated them. I said there's the hook for the press release. Begin it like this:In the latest affront to Indians in Hollywood, the Oscar-nominated True Grit shows an Indian being hanged. When he starts to speak, someone puts a bag over his head and pulls the lever. It's a perfect metaphor for how Hollywood has silenced Native voices on the screen.You can read the press release here:

Academy Awards, still hanging Indians

The ideas are mostly hers. The organization and True Grit metaphor are mostly mine. The final wording is mostly hers. I can't take the credit, or the blame, for it. <g>

We've made these points over and over, but they bear repeating. Hollywood likes Indians in the distant past. It likes them dying or dead and gone. It likes cowboys winning the West, making America safe for democracy, triumphing over the forces of darkness (represented by savage Indians).

For more on the subject, see:

Movies convey "America's master narrative"
Hollywood's cultural conservatism
Mistakes and stereotypes in Westerns
Hollywood loves dying Indians

P.S. I made minor corrections in the spelling and punctuation of the postings above to improve their readability.

Oprah Winfrey the Indian?

Whenever I post items about non-Indian celebrities on NativeCelebs, fans inform me the celebs are Indians because they have the proverbial Cherokee great-grandmother or equivalent. In other words, a small amount of "Indian blood." Under the one-drop rule previously used by whites to classify blacks, this supposedly makes them Indian.

It doesn't matter that they have no knowledge of or connection to a tribal culture. That most of their "blood" is non-Indian, they identify themselves as non-Indian, and they spend their lives immersed in the non-Indian world. Somewhere in their non-Indian DNA, a few nonstandard strands make them Indian.

According to the NativeCelebs fans, this tiny amount of Indian blood qualifies them to assume Indian roles. So we have Johnny Depp playing Tonto and Taylor Lautner playing Jacob Black. It also qualifies them to talk and act like (their version of) Indians. So we have Jessica Simpson claiming her right to say "Indian giver" and Miley Cyrus rocking her dreamcatchers.

Great. That's clear. Now let's apply the one-drop rule to another potential Indian:

Oprah WinfreyA genetic test in 2006 determined that her maternal line originated among the Kpelle ethnic group, in the area that today is Liberia. Her genetic make up was determined to be 89 percent Sub-Saharan African, 8% Native American, and 3% East Asian; however, the East Asian markers may, due to the imprecisions of genetic testing, actually be Native American ones.Like the other people I've named, Oprah has no knowledge of or connection to a tribal culture. I'd call her a non-Indian with a small amount of Indian blood. But according to the one-droppers, she's an Indian.

Oprah has less Indian blood than Johnny Depp or Miley Cyrus, but more than Taylor Lautner or Jessica Simpson. When she was younger, Oprah proved her acting talent in several roles. Therefore, let's cast her in the next Hollywood movie as an Indian.

She's a bit too old to play Pocahontas or Sacagawea, but she can play the wife of a famous chief. Or Lozen, the warrior woman of the Chiricahua Apache. Or a modern Indian woman such as Wilma Mankiller.

Why not? She looks and acts as much like an Indian as the other performers I've named. She knows as much as they do about being an Indian. And most important, she has roughly the same small amount of Indian blood.

Does anyone doubt that Hollywood can and should cast Oprah as an Indian woman? If so, let's hear your case. Make sure you explain why it's not okay for Oprah to play an Indian, but it is okay for Depp and Lautner.

Good luck with your answers...you'll need it.

For more on Oprah, see Oprah to Visit Aboriginal Rock Art and Quileute Chairwoman Visits Oprah. For more on casting decisions, see New Spider-Man Is...White! and Denzel Washington as JFK?

No Indians at the 2011 Oscars

The pundits weren't kidding when they said this year's Oscar nominations were lily-white. The whole show was almost pure white. The number of minorities appearing on screen in any capacity was vanishingly small.

After the first hour, the only nonwhite person we'd seen was Morgan Freeman in an elevator in the opening sketch. A black man as an elevator operator...think about the symbolism of that.

When music time arrived, we saw a few minorities singing or reacting to the songs. Because minorities have a lot of rhythm, salsa, and soul, you know.

Oprah Winfrey
appeared to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. I guess they had to go for a TV star because no minorities are active in filmmaking.

Around this time, a musical parody showed a shirtless Taylor Lautner and his Quileute tattoo for a few seconds. Millions of viewers could've seen a real Indian in this quick blaze of glory, but no.

Jennifer Hudson introduced a couple of songs, then presented the Best Original Song Oscar. And Halle Berry gave a brief tribute to Lena Horne, noting how she had to break through racial barriers.

Most of the winners looked white. Shaun Tan, who won the Best Animated Short Oscar for The Lost Thing, was the only obvious minority. A few of the foreign films had nonwhite subjects, but you really can't count them.

Finally, the multicolored PS 22 Chorus from Staten Island sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow. And that was about it for color at the Oscars.

Let's do the math. Of about three dozen winners, one was a minority. Of about three dozen presenters, three were minorities. Meanwhile, about 30% of Americans are minorities. Roughly 10 or 11 of the winners and the presenters should've been minorities.

For more on the subject, see Native Diversity 2010 Video and No Indians at the 2010 Oscars.

Native Genealogy 101

Occasionally people ask me how to find their Native ancestors. I don't know much if anything about that. The posting below provides a brief summary of how to get started. It also offers some useful links.

Native Genealogy 101

For more on my genealogy, see My Mayflower Relatives and My Mayflower Ancestors.

February 26, 2011

Reagan aided atrocities against Indians

Ronald Reagan, Enabler of Atrocities

By Robert Parry[E]ven as the United States celebrates Reagan’s centennial birthday and lavishes praise on his supposed accomplishments, very little time has been spent reflecting on the unnecessary bloodbaths that Reagan enabled in many parts of the world.

Those grisly deaths and ugly tortures get whisked away as if they were just small necessities in Reagan’s larger success “winning the Cold War”--even though the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was already winding down before Reagan arrived on the national scene.

Yet, Reagan’s Cold War obsessions helped unleash right-wing “death squads” and murderous militaries on the common people in many parts of the Third World, but nowhere worse than in Latin America.
It's not well-known, but many of these "common people" were Indians:In April 1981, a secret CIA cable described a massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory. On April 17, 1981, government troops attacked the area believed to support leftist guerrillas, the cable said.

According to a CIA source, "the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas" and "the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved." The CIA cable added that "the Guatemalan authorities admitted that 'many civilians' were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants."

Despite the CIA account and other similar reports, Reagan permitted Guatemala's army to buy $3.2 million in military trucks and jeeps in June 1981. To permit the sale, Reagan removed the vehicles from a list of military equipment that was covered by the human rights embargo.

Confident of Reagan’s sympathies, the Guatemalan government continued its political repression without apology.
And:On Feb. 25, 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission issued a report on the staggering human rights crimes that Reagan and his administration had aided, abetted and concealed.

The Historical Clarification Commission, an independent human rights body, estimated that the Guatemalan conflict claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s.

Based on a review of about 20 percent of the dead, the panel blamed the army for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.

The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. "The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala's history," the commission concluded.

The army "completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops," the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter "genocide."

Besides carrying out murder and "disappearances," the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. "The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice" by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

The report added that the "government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations." The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed "acts of genocide" against the Mayans.
Comment:  200,000 Guatemalans, most of them Indians, killed. The Reagan administration knew about the deaths but did nothing to stop them. Instead, it encouraged and aided the killers.

A recent poll said today's increasingly conservative Americans think Reagan is the best president ever. They probably think highly of George W. Bush, whose death toll is also in the hundreds of thousands, too. Meanwhile, there's no love for George Washington (strong central government), Abraham Lincoln (government support for blacks), or Theodore Roosevelt (government regulation of industry).

For more on the subject, see Rob's Reply to Reagan.

Zuni map art

Zuni map art--Illustrating cultural memory

By Michele MountainThere is an Indigenous mapping movement growing around the world reinforcing knowledge of ancestral lands and describing the world as a cultural landscape. The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff is set to open a new exhibit, A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne--The Zuni World, that highlights the Zuni peoples' unique approach to mapping with art.

Thirty new Zuni map art paintings and accompanying videography and acoustic productions are part of the exhibit, which was produced in partnership with the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center (AAMHC) in Zuni, N.M. The exhibit will be open Saturday, Feb. 26 and will be on display through Oct. 30, 2011.

The A:shiwi (Zuni people) have always had maps, in songs and prayers, painted on ceramics and etched in stone. These maps refer to the place of their origin and places they visited. But over the past 500 years, Zuni names of places and their meanings have been all but eliminated from mainstream use. In their place are a new set of maps, with a new set of names that reflect other values and ways of seeing the world that has been the Zunis' home for generations.

"In the face of modernity and globalization, Zunis along with other Indigenous peoples are struggling to maintain a relationship with cultural landscapes throughout our aboriginal territories," stated Jim Enote, director of the AAMHC and curator of the exhibit. "We believe map art can create a new pathway for envisioning and respecting sacred natural features. Being mindful and taking care of these places is important for Zuni's cultural survival, as well as the survival of all dependant life in the area."
Comment:  Nice piece of artwork below.

Below:  "Chimik’yana’kya dey’a (Ribbon Falls), a 48” x 36” acrylic on canvas © 2010 Geddy Epaloose."

Three dubious literary "classics"

In The Education of Little Tree, a children's "classic," generic Cherokee Indians send their boy to a boarding school to be civilized. The book was considered an authentic Indian narrative until its author was revealed to be a white supremacist.

In Little House on the Prairie, another children's "classic," Indians are intimidating and unclean "savages." What most people don't know is that Charles Ingalls was squatting illegally on Osage Indian land and that his daughter the author was a staunch conservative.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Hiawatha is the classic romantic Indian and probably the best-known fictional Indian before Tonto. People have adapted the epic poem into movies, plays, music, and other genres.

For literature that put this questionable literature to shame, see The Best Indian Books

They lied in They Died

A few years ago I watched another old Western: They Died With Their Boots On, starring Errol Flynn as Col. George A. Custer. Amazingly, the movie makes Custer into a pro-Indian advocate. "The sanctuary of the red race is being violated," he says. "If I were an Indian, I'd fight beside Crazy Horse to the last drop of my blood."

Nevertheless, I gave this film an 8.0 of 10 for its entertainment value. As one critical reviewer said, "[E]ven if historical erroneousness intermittently undermines the film's outlandish attempts at lionization, They Died With Their Boots On endures as one of the finest Flynn-de Havilland collaborations."

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

Bradford is Rookie of the Year

Bradford wins AP Rookie of Year AwardIt wasn’t the trophy Cherokee Nation citizen Sam Bradford wanted to hold following his first NFL season, but it’s one he accepted Feb. 4.

The St. Louis Rams quarterback won the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 44 of the 50 votes.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rams Pick Bradford No. 1 and Bradford Talks the Talk at Ceremony.

February 25, 2011

10% of Indians = Christians

Some postings show how badly conservative Christian Bryan Fischer has distorted the truth about Indians.

Native American archbishop a source of pride

By John LambArchbishop Charles Chaput’s talk at Sts. Anne and Joachim on Friday not only allowed local Catholics to hear him speak on “Building a Culture on Life,” it also gave American Indian faithful from the region a chance to see the first Native American archbishop.

For David “Doc” Brien, from the Turtle Mountain Reservation, it was worth the four-plus-hour drive.

“I consider him one of our great chiefs of the native community, a spiritual leader from the native perspective,” Brien said. “It’s like one of your family members in a way.”

Though Turtle Mountain is a Chippewa tribe and Chaput is a member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Tribe, Brien sees the priest as figure for all American Indians.
And:According to Brien, there are about 3,000 Catholics on the Turtle Mountain Reservation spread among five parishes. He said there are another 300 or so Catholics on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

He believes having such a high-ranking American Indian in the Catholic Church attracts other American Indians to the faith.
American Indians to host The Gathering in Oklahoma City

American Indian Southern Baptist leaders will meet for The Gathering to consider ways to help American Indians connect to the Gospel.

By Carla Hinton
Falls said between 90 and 95 percent of American Indians are not Christians, and yet the Christian faith community has been working to connect them to Christ for many years.

Falls said one reason that more American Indians don't turn to Christianity is the Christian faith community's troubled history with American Indian tribes. He said past encounters between Christian missionaries and American Indians have left a legacy of suspicion in the American Indian community.

"The same Christians who brought us Christianity are the same people who took our land and tried to take away our culture, so it's understandable," Falls said. "I'm presenting it not as an accusation, but it is a barrier."

He said he grew up in a Christian household because his father converted to Christianity. However, Falls said he encountered the doubt and suspicion of Christianity when he met other American Indians while attending the University of Central Oklahoma.

He said some American Indians he encountered considered Christianity to be a "white man's religion."
Comment:  According to Falls, at least 5-10% of Indians are Christians. I think the percent is higher. For instance, Turtle Mountain has about 30,000 enrolled members with 10,000 living on the reservation. 3,000 Catholics is 10% of the former number and 30% of the latter. Including Protestants would make the percent even higher.

Moreover, many Indians blend Christianity with their Native religions. Do Christian churches count them all as Christians? Probably not, but they should count for the sake of this argument.

Fischer has implied Indians are avoiding Christianity because they're too dumb and blind to see its benefits. But a sizable minority of them are Christians. So the thing Fischer can't imagine happening has already happened.

Rather than fantasizing the value of Christianity, why doesn't Fischer do the research? Compare the health and wealth of Christian Indians to non-Christians after controlling for things like gaming revenues, access to jobs and healthcare, and so forth. Fischer believes the Christian Indians will be better off; I'm guessing there'll be no difference.

Christians violate 10 Commandments

Unlike Fischer, Falls understands what the problem is. So does everyone who's ever talked to or read about Indians, including schoolchildren. It's not that Indians are too cowardly or superstitious to embrace the "light." It's that they hate Christians for their long history of lies and hypocrisy. For stealing their land and killing them in violation of Jesus's commandments.

How stupid do you have to be not to understand this? The first colonizers brought diseases with them, squatted illegally on Indian land, enslaved some of the Indians they found, and forcibly tried to convert others to Christianity. Fischer wouldn't accept that and neither would any other Euro-American. Why does the idiot think Indians should've accepted it?

For more on the subject, see Fischer:  Indians Were Thieves and Fischer:  Indians Should Emulate Pocahontas.

Below:  "I pray that God will dispose of the Indians in our way," said the good Christian Pilgrim to himself. "If not, we'll have to dispose of them ourselves in about 15 years."

Halbritter to attend Oscars

Oneida Leader Ray Halbritter to Attend Academy Awards; Will Meet with Movie Studio Executives About Bringing Film Production to CNYRay Halbritter, Oneida Nation Representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, will attend the Academy Awards this weekend in Los Angeles and is scheduled to meet with several movie studios and entrainment leaders to discuss using Central New York as a filming location.

"With its diverse landscapes, universities, lakes, cities and workforce, Central New York is a wonderful place to film a movie," said Halbritter. "The Oneida Indian Nation has worked for years with Hollywood to address issues related to diversity and environmental awareness in films; we're now building on those relationships in an effort to bring major movie productions to Central New York. Beyond the much needed economic activity movie production would bring to this region, many people living in this area who are trained to work in film production are forced to move elsewhere to find employment opportunities--we hope to change that through this effort."

The Oneida Indian Nation has been deeply involved in the film and television industry for a number of years. The Nation launched Four Directions Productions, its award-winning 3D animation/HD cinematography studio nearly a decade ago, created Four Directions Talent as a conduit for surfacing American Indian actors, writers and directors, and produced a documentary, “The World of American Indian Dance,” that aired on NBC in 2003. Halbritter serves on the board of the Environmental Media Association, a group of leading actors and industry leaders that work with the film industry to ensure environmental issues are addressed through movies.

The Nation’s involvement in the entertainment industry intensified in 2007, when it produced its first 3D animated short of an Oneida legend, “Raccoon & Crawfish,” that went on to win 18 international film festivals, including the prestigious Moondance Festival in Hollywood and the International Film Festival of England. In 2008, “Raccoon & Crawfish” was screened at the world renowned Cannes Film Festival in France. Production is now underway on its second legend brought to life through animation, entitled “My Home.”
Comment:  As someone suggested, how about if the Oneidas invest in and make films rather than just try to profit from them?

For more on Halbritter, see Bloomberg Didn't Offend Indians? and Turning Stone Off PGA Tour.

Jack Forbes dies

UC Davis scholar Jack Forbes advocated for indigenous peoplesIn 1966, Forbes wrote an article titled “An American Indian University: A Proposal for Survival,” published in the Journal of American Indian Education. Colleagues recall that the article, which set forth a proposal for an indigenous peoples university, helped ignite the tribal college movement.

From Forbes’ vision, Degoniwida-Quetzalcoatl University was founded in 1971, several miles west of UC Davis. The school, better known as D-Q University, was the first all-Native American college in California and the second tribal college in the United States. Today there are 35 tribal colleges that enroll approximately 33 percent of the nation’s Native American postsecondary population, according to Crum. D-Q University offered a two-year program until it closed in 2005. Forbes served on the board of D-Q University and taught there on a volunteer basis for more than 25 years.

In addition to his teaching, research and advocacy work, Forbes was a prolific writer. His numerous books, monographs and articles represented his path-finding scholarship and reflected the events and issues of the times in which they were written.

His book, “Columbus and Other Cannibals” (1992) was one of several books that focused on the Christopher Columbus quincentenary. Crum noted that the book marked the 500-year anniversary of “the supposed discovery of America or 500 years of survival, post-invasion.”
Comment:  Forbes probably was one of the top five or 10 intellectuals in Indian country.

For more on Forbes, see Columbus the Cannibal and Did Natives Discover Europe First?

Cherokee Nation unveils Resurgence statue

Cherokee Nation Celebrates Heritage With 'Resurgence'The Cherokee Nation is celebrating the tribe's heritage in an artistic way. Unveiled Friday morning was the statue called Resurgence. It represents the Cherokee people's ability to overcome adversity with pride and integrity.

Artist Daniel HorseChief created the statue which shows a Cherokee stickball player leaping for the goal.
Comment:  We've seen many statues of half-naked Indians. And many statues of Indians looking up reverently: praying, shooting an arrow into the sky, holding a hawk aloft, etc. Which implies how spiritual Indians supposedly are. No clothes, no tools, just a primitive Indian and his Creator. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Resurgence is one of the few statues of this type that I like. Why? For starters, the Indian is half-naked for a reason: because he's playing stickball. And not because he's a savage. In fact, he could be a modern stickball player who's dressed for a hot, grueling match.

Also, he's lifting his sticks and looking up for a reason: to intercept the ball. The idea of rising or surging--i.e., resurgence--is implicit rather than explicit. The stickball player is reaching for the sky because it's part of the game. It just happens to be a metaphor for seeking, advancing, and achieving.

For more on Native statues, see Coast Salish Statue in Tacoma Plaza and Ideas for Ishi Statue.

Below:  "Two views of the statue Resurgence."

Mi'gMaq director's violent films

Film Director Crystallizes Mi'gMaq Perspective

Jeff Barnaby Not Shy About Using Violence To Convey Indian Experience

By Susan Dunne
When Jeff Barnaby was a boy, he played with Transformers and He-Man toys and, even at a young age, made a telling observation.

"We're very morally ambiguous and violent. … There were no good guys-bad guys scenarios in any of the play acting. It was a free-for-all," Barnaby says. "Having a philosophy like that before you were in nursery school just lends itself to graphic imagery."

Today, Barnaby, 34, is an up-and-coming filmmaker who uses violent scenes to help deliver his message. As he says: "They're an effective means to conveying any ethos. There's no better way to articulate the enormity of life metaphorically and denotatively and in a real short period of time than throwing some blood up on the screen."

Barnaby, who spent his childhood on a Mi'gMaq reserve in Quebec, presents filmgoers with unexpected stories about native peoples. His short films "Colony" and "File Under Miscellaneous" have racial issues at their core, but they are really intense psychodramas about men on the edge. "File Under Miscellaneous" is about a Mi'gMaq man who undergoes a horrifying procedure to change his race. "Colony" is about a Mi'gMaq driven to a violent mental breakdown when his girlfriend leaves him. "File" recently was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Barnaby has just finished writing a script called "Blood Quantum," about Mi'gMaqs who discover they are immune to a zombie plague and must decide whether to help the white folks or help themselves.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

The Uluit: Champions of the North

From a press release:

The Uluit: Champions of the NorthArnait Video Productions and Rotating Planet are proud to announce the premiere of their TV series, The Uluit: Champions of the North, on APTN. Starting on March 7th.

The Uluit: Champions of the North is a five-episode documentary series about an all-female Inuit hockey team in Inukjuak, Nunavik, a northern Quebec town of 1500 people. Filmed over the course of one year, this remarkable group of mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and friends come together for the love of the game where troubles are left on the sidelines. The Uluit, in addition to being star athletes, fiercely inspire and deeply impact their community serving as teachers, midwives, students and social workers.

The Uluit: Champions of the North provides a rare view into the victory as well as the struggle faced by a culture and community steeped in tradition yet living among the demands and changes of a modern world. Each episode weaves together intimate portraits of these diverse Inuit women embraced by the beauty of the land that surrounds them.
Comment:  For more on the Inuit in documentaries, see The Experimental Eskimos Trailer and Review of Arctic Passage: Ice Survivor.

February 24, 2011

Seattle University's "Red(Mo)hawk" promotion

A newspaper for the Seattle University Redhawks, formerly the Chieftains, defends its "red mohawk" photos:

Editorial:  No Redhawk mohawks?As we were preparing to go to print Tuesday, we received an e-mail from the Office of Multicultural Affairs expressing concern about the RedZone sponsored tailgate party that occurred before the Seattle University vs. UW basketball game Tuesday evening at Key Arena. The nature of their concern related to the "Red(Mo)hawk" hairstyling promotion. OMA asked RedZone to rename the event the "Red Hairstyle" event and asked The Spectator to refrain from publishing photos of student fans who had styled their hair in a red mohawk for the game.

We understand OMA's concern about cultural appropriation of a hairstyle that originated with the Mohawk Native American tribe, however, it is the duty of a newspaper to publish facts. If students wearing mohawk hairstyles are depicted in our photos, they should be used as an opportunity to discuss sensitivity among students. Not publishing the photos would be hiding potential insensitivities or lack of cultural knowledge, which are precisely issues that should be brought to the attention of the Seattle U community. And if we are talking about mohawks specifically, the punk movement of the 1960s-80s served to effectively re-appropriate the mohawk. It is unfortunate but true. Alternatively, moccasins have become popular as shoes for non-Native Americans. Dreadlocks are traditionally Rastafarian but widely worn by Americans. The perpetuation of cultural appropriation does not make it right but it happens.
Comment:  The fans are obviously still attached to their beloved "Chieftains" nickname. To "honor" Chief Seattle, apparently, they've adopted mohawk hairstyles from a tribe 3,000 miles away and painted them red. Both actions contribute to the idea of Indians as "red savages."

In its defense, the Spectator says, "It is the duty of a newspaper to publish facts." It's also the newspaper's duty to exercise journalistic standards and choose which facts to publish. It's a fact that Seattle-area Indians weren't red and didn't wear mohawks. Did the newspaper publish that?

The Spectator explains that the photos "should be used as an opportunity to discuss sensitivity among students." Why the passive tense? Did the newspaper discuss the stereotypical message of the photos in the captions or an article? Or is it waiting for someone else to raise the sensitivity issue? It's the newspaper's job to present both sides of an issue, not to publish "factual" photos uncritically.

Sounds to me like the Office of Multicultural Affairs called the newspaper on its stereotypical photos and the newspaper didn't like the criticism. Next time, don't publish stereotypical photos without noting the stereotypes. Or don't publish them, period. The antics of a few sports fans hardly rises to the level of news.

For more on the subject, see Miami Students Sing "Scalp Song" and Student "Tribe" Shows Team Spirit.

Critics slam Fischer's "Christianity"

Some general reactions to Fischer's latest anti-Indian column (Fischer:  Indians Were Thieves and Fischer:  Indians Should Emulate Pocahontas):Bryan Fischer, Why don't you read John 3:16. As a Native American Christian woman, I will pray for you because God loves you. You have an evil heart and you need to repent. Only the true God will heal your mind and cleanse you of the evil spirits in your soul. With your words, you have committed blasphemy against a loving God. Eternal hell awaits you if you don't turn away from your evil thoughts and words.

Well if this Jesus would come back...He would really have a show down with many of his so called followers...especially You Bryan Fischer! "Love thy neighbor...because you live on their land!"

As a committed Christian, many of the response of "Christians" to this horrendous piece disturb me as much as the article. Nationalism, ethnocentrism and conversion-by-sword are not the values of the Gospel. If you perceive that it is, I would question your understanding of the teachings of Christ, and unfortunately such a discussion would be too long to get into here.

Once again, a so-called Christian unforgivably excuses genocide. "If only the Indians recognized they were inferior then we wouldn't have had to exterminate them and take their land by force." You might call yourself a Christian, but you are anything but. Like the Bible says, "They will know we are Christians by our genocidal hatred."

It seems to me you pulled your last anti-First Nations post because of overwhelming negative response, hopefully that will be repeated.

So all would be good in the world if only everyone were just like Bryan? Get over yourself.

I think Fischer is a loon but good for him for stating his beliefs. I'd rather see blind hatred in all its naked splendor than see it white-washed and hidden under the veil of politics. ... At least with people like Fischer, you don't have to decode their statements to find the true motivation. It's all right there.

Mr. Fischer, are you ill? It's bigoted commentary like this that seems extraordinarily out of place for an author or your erudition to be writing in 2011.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Critics Slam Fischer's Racism and Fischer:  Natives Had No Morals.

Pendleton's white buffalo blankets

Central Oregon white buffalo herd featured on special Pendleton blanket

By Richard CockleThe herd is set to gain some new notoriety. Pendleton Woolen Mills is making Navajo-style "medicine blankets" using wool and blended white buffalo hair that the bison have shed. The blankets are new this season and the mill tentatively plans a second, larger run for 2011, says spokesman Robert Christnacht.

"It's a unique story, it's a feel-good story in some ways," Christnacht says. "I'm hopeful we might be able to make up to 200 of the blankets" in the coming year.
And:Hait also is the one who conceived the idea last spring of having Pendleton Woolen Mills weave the blankets using the white buffalo shed hair. "My wife and kids said, 'What are you smoking?'" when he told them he was taking a bag of shed hair to Woolen Mills President C.M. "Mort" Bishop.

The blankets retail for $520 each, including shipping. The first 11 blankets are special collectibles costing $5,250 each and have the name of one of the 11 white buffalo on them. Four have sold. The blanket sales help underwrite the land rental and hay purchases by the nonprofit Sacred World Peace Alliance directed by Hart-Button that operates the white buffalo sanctuary.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Pendleton Spreads Native Designs and A Century of Pendleton Blankets.

Below:  "Rare white buffalo commune on a sanctuary in central Oregon. When a bison is confined, the corrals must be both high and stout. A buffalo that decides to leave can jump over an ordinary 6-foot-high fence or crash through it." (Richard Cockle/The Oregonian)

Native band plays to prevent suicide

Indigenous band Broken Walls to hold concert for suicide preventionInternationally acclaimed indigenous band Broken Walls will perform a live concert today to raise suicide prevention and wellness awareness. The concert will be at Door of Hope Church, 270 Fairhill Road at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

In addition, they will join Bill Pagaran of Carry the Cure and Guy Peters of Alaska Vision on a journey to five villages along the Iditarod Trail to host school assemblies, men’s groups and evening concerts. The purpose is to talk about suicide, raise wellness awareness and bring a message of hope. The villages are: Tanana, Galena, Unalakleet, White Mountain and Nome.

Broken Walls hails from Canada. They are a NAMMY nominee, six time Aboriginal Music Awards nominee and are an internationally known Native American band. Broken Walls, will share their music and messages that bring hope, restoration and unity to indigenous people throughout the world. They share a traditional and contemporary blend of Native American music and dance, along with workshops and powerful messages and stories, that promote healthy lifestyles, unity and an understanding of “contextual” worship.
Comment:  For more anti-suicide efforts, see JR Redwater Battles Suicide Rate and Comics to the Rescue!

February 23, 2011

Fischer:  Indians were thieves

Bryan Fischer, the conservative Christian who favors genocide for people who don't convert to his religion, is back. You can read his latest screed here:

Byran Fischer:  Pocahontas shows what could have been

Since he proved himself woefully ignorant of Indians, Fischer didn't try to assay their history again. This time he uses the story of Pocahontas to make his anti-Indian case.

At least he seems to have read a book on Native history. And cribbed from it. Before he made up his conclusion, that is. That's better than his previous essays, which were fact-free.

This column is mostly a straight narrative of Pocahontas's life. Only a couple sections are really objectionable. After supposedly saving John Smith, Fischer writes:She subsequently was captured by English settlers, who intended to exchange her for English prisoners who had been taken into captivity by the Algonquins, or Powhatans, who also helped themselves to various weapons and tools. The Powhatans, along with many of the indigenous peoples, seemed to have little respect for private property, including boundaries, and little regard for obedience to the eighth commandment and its prohibition against stealing. (On the Oregon Trail, the primary problems travelers suffered from the indigenous peoples were not massacres but thievery.)Why would Indians obey God's eighth commandment when they never heard of or read the Bible and didn't recognize its authority? The very idea is ridiculous. It's comments like this that make you wonder just how stupid Fischer really is.

Indians were mostly known for their honesty--at least among observers who weren't stereotyping them as savages. I don't know if we could make any generalizations about thievery. Tribes may have stolen things (women, children, horses, etc.) from enemy tribes. Or from strangers like white men who had no business trespassing on their land. But I doubt there was much stealing within tribes. I suspect most tribes punished anyone who violated the community's unwritten rules.

Critics slam Fischer again

The commenters on this column offered some obvious rebuttals:What happened to "love thy neighbor?" Does that include kidnapping? Does it include invading and stealing from those who feed you and teach you how to survive? How are those behaviors in line with the teachings of Christ? Christ gave and gave and gave and early European immigrants took, took, took. Please do read your Bible again and ask yourself if what happened in America is really what Jesus would have done?

So let's get this correct--8th commandment--do not steal--people come onto your land tell you it is now theirs and kill you if you resist or don't adopt their culture. How does that not violate number 8? So if a nation invades us and we don't assimilate into their culture we are wrong. What a twisted world the blog writer lives in--We took everything from a people who lived here. It happens all the time worldwide but to whitewash it as the Indians' fault is egregious in its arrogance.

I think you are getting a lot of your American nationalism from extrabiblical sources. I also think that you are not presenting the full picture of history in this blog. You neglect to mention anti-Christian behavior that the colonists displayed toward each other and the Indians. Part of the missionary's responsibility is to present the gospel without imposing his own culture on his target population. By not taking the effort to do this, you marry extrabiblical principles into the Gospel.

All the Europeans who came here stole the land from the many people who lived here. These were sovereign nations that were overthrown in the name of your make-believe god. I see you are unwilling to separate yourself from this sordid history.

Umm, excuse me? Who had little respect for boundaries and personal property?

Was this from the Onion, really? This satire is along the thinking of "If only the Jews would just leave or commit suicide, the holocaust wouldn't have been necessary." This article is absurd. The British were of course invaders and killers.

So, Rebecca's tribe didn't follow the 8th commandment. Since the English took their traditional lands, I guess they overlooked it too. And your jump forward in time to the Oregon trail--pretty much the same deal. We came and took their land. Why the hatred of Native Americans? Did you always have to play the "Indian" and never got to be the "cowboy"?
Some have argued that Christians have killed more people than anyone else in history. One also could argue that they've stolen more than anyone else in history. For 1,800 years or so, the leaders of Christianity--popes, cardinals, bishops, kings, lords, dukes, et al.--systematically usurped the land and wealth of their fellow Christians.

Christians are about the last people who should be lecturing others on the Ten Commandments. Their history is one long litany of murder, warfare, conquest, subjugation, oppression, and enslavement. I wouldn't put that on my résumé if I were you, Fischer.

For more on Fischer's hateful hypocrisy, see Fischer Worships "God" of Racism and Hatewatch Criticizes Fischer's Column.

Below:  The first and last Christian who didn't lie, cheat, or steal.

Fischer:  Indians should emulate Pocahontas

Pro-genocide Christian Bryan Fischer is trying once again to save Indians' souls. In part one, I considered his claim that Indians were thieves. Now let's get to his main assertion:

Byran Fischer:  Pocahontas shows what could have been

After noting Pocahontas's conversion to Christianity, marriage to John Rolfe, and trip to England, Fischer writes:It’s arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas’s example. She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own.

In other words, she both converted and assimilated. She became both a Christian and an American (technically, of course, an Englishman). She melded into European and Christian civilization and made her identity as a Christian and an Englishman her primary identity. She was the first manifestation of what became our national slogan, “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many, one.”
Actually, Pocahontas would've considered herself an Englishwoman, not an Englishman--you sexist pig.

At least Fischer finally acknowledges that Indians can become Christians. In his first column, he suggested the two groups were incompatible and alien to each other. Glad to see you alleviated your ignorance, Fischer.

We know Pocahontas's story only from the British viewpoint. We have no real idea what she thought or felt. Maybe she was too young and naive to realize what she was doing. Maybe she converted and got married only to keep the peace between the Indians and British. Maybe she did it to spite the Indians who considered her a troublemaker or a sellout. Maybe she pretended to accept Christianity because she loved John Rolfe and he insisted on it. Maybe she was a golddigger who married Rolfe only for his money and status. Maybe she considered herself an Indian first and a Christian second.

And maybe the British didn't care about her conversion. Maybe they paraded her around England as a showpiece, a performing pet, to prove they were getting along with the Indians. That way, their royal and commercial backers would support more expeditions to America.

Really, you have to be naive to think anyone had pure motives in this story. Since Fischer believes the Bible's fairy tales, he may be that gullible. The rest of us aren't.

Christian Indians were massacred

Even if Pocahontas's motives were pure and the results were ideal, a single case tells us nothing. Now that Fischer has recognized that Indians can become Christians, how about surveying the long history of Christian Indians? That would be much more revealing than this questionable anecdote.

An early example of Indians converting to Christianity was the "Praying Indians" of New England. To find out what happened to them, see Pilgrims Initiated Genocide, Praying Towns in After the Mayflower, and King Philip's War in After the Mayflower. Three words should suffice: Deer Island Massacre.

Nipmucs add history to memorial to Deer Island internmentAlthough the "Praying Indians" had converted to Christianity, colonists feared they couldn't be trusted during the war between the white settlers and local Native American tribes.

"They were taken away in chains," said Mary Anne Hendricks, a Natick Nipmuc who lives in Quincy.

"They were loaded in horse-drawn carts and taken to Watertown," Ellis said. "From there, they were put in canoes" and taken to three ships in Boston Harbor that ferried the Natick Nipmucs to their internment on Deer Island.

"When the forced removals were complete, there were about 500 people out there," Ellis said. "Less than half survived. They were put out there to die.
Finally, Fischer dishonestly omits the fact that Pocahontas died in England. So much for the joys of assimilation. Join the white man's world, and die.

Critics keep slamming Fischer

Once again, let's let the column's commenters tackle Fischer:It seems that Mr. Fischer has an immature understanding of theology. The gospel message is not about cultural assimilation. Read the Word of God in the King James translation: "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The Bible does not say that one people group is inherently superior to another. In the presence of God ALL are equally sinful. Which is more authoritative? The Word of God or the words of Bryan Fischer?

Assimilation works when you move to a different geographical area and adjust to their local customs. It doesn't work when other people come into your geographical area and force YOU to adjust to THEIR customs.

The Cherokee assimilated and converted to Christianity. How do you explain their tragic fate? Or will you even publish this comment since it contradicts what you've said?

Really. You wonder why Native American's did not agree to this "Assimilation" call it what it was. The colonist conquered the nation and ousted the Native American people. They took what was NOT there's and you make it sound so enticing. History is just text told by those that tell it. Nothing more.
Cherokees were condemned too

Dr. Warren Throckmorton tells us more about what happened to Christian Indians, including the Cherokees mentioned above:

Bryan Fischer speaks with forked tongueFor instance, Delaware people converted through Zeisberger's work had to relocate multiple times at the insistence of European settlers. During one move in Ohio, savagery was the downfall of a portion of Zeisberger's colony, but the perpetrators of the atrocities were Americans who brutally murdered native men, women and children. After this tragedy, Zeisberger's group found refuge in Ontario and thrived as a Christian settlement.

Fischer's thesis is most clearly devastated by the experience of the Cherokees in the south after the Revolutionary War. The Cherokees signed a treaty with the federal government in 1794 and then settled into a peaceful period where they built roads and villages. They welcomed Christian missionaries which led to many converts among the Cherokee in Northern Georgia and Tennessee. In his book on American Christianity, Noll describes "a slow but steady acceptance of the Christian faith." Noll continues the sad tale (in italics):

During the administration of President Andrew Jackson, however, the evangelism of the missionaries and the work of selective cultural adaptation by the Cherokees both received a fatal blow. After the discovery of gold in Northern Georgia about the time of Jackson's election in 1828, the lust of the White settlers for Cherokee land grew even stronger than before. Jackson and his agents for Indian affairs were eager to give it to them. The result was a forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to the West. Despite the fact that the Cherokees had adapted to American ways with remarkable skill, the removal proceeded with ruthless finality. The missionaries, who had come to the Native Americans as bearers of civilization as well as of Christianity, faced a terrible dilemma. They now were forced to watch their country, supposedly the embodiment of Christian civilization, turn violently against a people that had responded to their message.

The United States, bearing the gifts of Christian faith and republican politics, destroyed a tribal people that was working to accept those gifts. Some missionary spokesmen, unlike Worcester, Butler, and the Joneses, played a signal part in that destruction. Such spokesmen were good culture Christians. The agents of Andrew Jackson's Indian policy were democrats. Together they did the devil's work in the name of the Lord and of his "chosen country."

Noll's description is haunting. He repeatedly demonstrates that the Cherokee and other native peoples followed the way of Pocahontas but they were not rewarded with Fischer's "seamless and bloodless" assimilation. Instead, men, women and children were uprooted and brutally forced to march hundreds of miles, many to their deaths, because they were Native Americans. At the time, some Christians, seeing the evil, engaged in civil disobedience to try to prevent the forced relocation. In the present, why can't the American Family Association stop revising history and acknowledge this sad and painful chapter in our history?
Another good example of what Christianity did to Indians was the whole boarding-school experience. Kidnapping, forced conversions, physical and mental abuse--i.e., treatment so horrible it caused generations of pain and trauma. Yay, Christians...way to emulate Jesus, who also tortured people into accepting his faith.

Summing up Fischer's message to Indians:

"We gave you 500 years to convert and you haven't done it yet. Why not?! The Great White Father (God, the US government, Bryan Fischer) thinks you're spoiled, rotten children (unlike that good girl Pocahontas). And after all the civilization we gave you, too. Repent, sinners, lest ye be damned!"

For more on Fischer's hateful hypocrisy, see Fischer Defends Pro-Genocide Column and Fischer's Passion for Killing.

Below:  "I died at 22, but at least I died a Christian!"

No "systematic extermination" of Indians?

Speaker compares Holocaust to American Indian reservation system

By Patt RallBeverly Everett, music director of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra, invited Jenkinson to speak as a prelude to the outreach program planned for May. “The Defiant Requiem,” written by Murry Sidlin, is the musical story of the performances of Verdi’s work in the Terezin Concentration Camp during World War II. The premise of Jenkinson’s talk was “Relating the Holocaust to Native American Issues.”

“In this part of the world we cannot talk about the Holocaust without bringing up the problem of our treatment of Native Americans,” said Jenkinson during an interview earlier in the day. “I don’t think that our treatment of Native Americans was ever identical with the purposes of the Holocaust. In other words, I don’t believe that it was the policy of the United States government to insist on a systematic extermination of the Native American population; in fact, it is just the opposite.”
I've discussed this point length in previous postings. See Genocide by Any Other Name... for an example. But I'll do it again.

I'd say Jenkinson is playing games here. Sure, it wasn't a single policy; it was a long series of government decisions, court rulings, and treaties signed and broken. It wasn't the US government as a whole; it was individual presidents, Congresses, courts, Army officials, Indian agents, and especially state and local governments. It wasn't systematic, it was haphazard. It wasn't extermination in most cases, just eradication of the Indians' cultures and religions.

And...so? What I described isn't the opposite of genocide. It's an unofficial rather than official type of genocide. Indeed, it fits the United Nations' definition of genocide. If it's better than a single policy executed from a central government, that's cold comfort to the millions of Indians whose lives were destroyed.During his talk at the university, Jenkinson went on to explain what he has learned about the treatment of native populations. In the western territories, it was actually the people who were calling for the extermination of the native peoples, and the government held them back.

The general theme of Jenkinson’s talk was on the Europeanization of this land (America) which started with Christopher Columbus because it was clear that Europeans wanted to take over the continent as effortlessly as possible, but as bloodthirstily as necessary. That varied from place to place and culture to culture. There was no way that Europeans were going to let native populations stand in their way. In fact, there have been attempts throughout American history to create reservations of the kind that Oklahoma was meant to be. But the de facto policy of white Europeans was that Indians could not be allowed to get in the way of white people’s dreams. That theme played itself out, over and over again, with different variations, Jenkinson said.
The second paragraph is accurate. The first is again a little off. The American people were calling for genocide, which means our culture and history is genocidal. And the government didn't do much holding back.

Rather, it stepped aside and let the people have their way. In violation of numerous laws and treaties, that is. Which makes the government guilty even if it didn't act.

When Person A breaks down your door and Person B enters your home and kills you, guess what? They're both guilty of the crime. There's no free pass because the government didn't actively seek to murder Indians. Knowingly creating the conditions for genocide is an integral part of genocide.

Any questions? I'm making this a Stereotype of the Month entry because of the way Jenkinson has downplayed the genocidal actions of the American governments (federal, state, and local) and people. Since the result was genocide according to the UN definition, someone (if not everyone) was guilty of it.

For more on the subject, see Documents Explain Bear River Massacre and Jefferson's Indian Removal Policy.

Artist sues Costner over Tatanka sculpture

Actor Costner, artist disagree on Tatanka sculpture’s fate

By Andrea J. CookBrief glimpses of the sensitivity of creative people surfaced when actor Kevin Costner and artist Peggy Detmers took their turns on the witness stand at the Lawrence County Courthouse Tuesday.

Detmers, who created the massive bronze sculpture on display at Costner’s “Tatanka: Story of the Bison,” outside Deadwood is suing the actor to force him to sell the 17-piece sculpture she refers to as “Lakota Bison Jump.”

Costner commissioned the work in the early 1990s with the intention of using it as a focal point for The Dunbar, a five-star multi-million-dollar resort he envisioned building on 1,000 acres on the edge of Deadwood.

Detmers spent more than six years creating the 14 bison and three mounted Native American hunters that compose the sculpture.

The resort has not materialized, but Costner said Tuesday that he still entertains offers on the project.

“I haven’t given up,” Costner said, in response to questioning from Russell Janklow. Janklow and Andrew Damgaard, both of Sioux Falls, are representing Detmers.
Comment:  For more on Dances with Wolves, which got Costner where he is today, see Dances with Wolves the Musical? and Dances with Wolves Opened Film Floodgate.

February 22, 2011

Review of Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography

In Happy Louis Riel Day! I noted the Métis rebel's life and legacy. Now here's the comic-book version, which I recently read:

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip BiographyLouis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography is a highly acclaimed comic book biography of the Métis rebel leader, Louis Riel, by Chester Brown and published by Drawn and Quarterly. Time Magazine included it in its annual Best Comix list in 2003.

The novel, drawn entirely using a six-panel grid, gives a somewhat sympathetic chronicling of Riel's resistance to the Canadian government's mistreatment of the Métis community, in both 1869-70 and 1885, which resulted in the Métis' military defeat, and Riel's trial and execution. Brown eschews defining exactly what Riel, the most debated figure in Canadian history, should mean to a contemporary audience. His ambivalence about Riel's status in Canadian history is revealed in the novel's very large appendix, which serves in part as a running commentary on the novel's action. In some instances, Brown wonders why he depicted certain scenes in the way he has, suggesting perhaps a postmodern approach to his subject, in that precise meaning is deliberately confused or left vague, thereby enjoining the audience to "fill in the gaps," as it were.
Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography [Paperback]From Publishers Weekly

Brown's exploration of the life of a [...] 19th-century Canadian revolutionary Riel is a strong contender for the best graphic novel ever. Over five years in the making, Brown's work is completely realized here, from the strikingly designed two-color cover to the cream-colored paper and pristinely clear drawings. The story begins in 1869, with the sale of the independent Red River Settlement area of what's now Canada to the Canadian government. The area is inhabited by the French-speaking Métis, of mixed Indian and white ancestry, who are looked down upon by the Canadians. Riel is bilingual and becomes a de facto leader for the Red River Settlement, demanding the right for them to govern themselves within Canada. Not surprisingly, this request is denied, and the conflict is set in motion that ultimately consumes Riel's life. Brown doesn't deviate from a six-panel grid for the entire book, telling his story in a cartoon realism style reminiscent of Little Orphan Annie. And while the book concerns imperialism, empire, nationalism and the chaos that results, Brown maintains a still, almost silent atmosphere. He brilliantly renders a lengthy courtroom sequence by setting figures against a black background, heightening the tension of the events by employing minimal effects. Even the battle scenes are subdued. All of this will hook readers' minds and eyes, but never tell them what to think or feel. Instead, Brown calmly lets his story unfold, making the reading process deeply affecting. This is an ingenious comic and a major achievement.

The story of a Canadian rebellion, January 6, 2004
By SPM "scott_maykrantz" (Eugene, Oregon)

What sets this book apart is the fact that it's a big comic book. Brown tells the story using silent pictures whenever possible. Characters are drawn in a flat but beautiful way. No one is depicted as a cartoon, but the tone never matches a straight history book, either. Brown goes further by using the footnotes in a surprising way: He tells you that he got things wrong. Then he says he isn't sure why. At first, these tiny confessions seem strange, but then you realize he's just being honest.

If you're looking for a great graphic novel, this is the book to buy. Chester Brown has taken the story of a historical figure very few Americans have heard of and presented it in a unique way. Although it was written for adults, Louis Riel is a perfect gift for a young reader--it's a comic book, but a very sophisticated one.

Amazing artwork should be noted too., September 26, 2004
By Fergus Haggis "Slightly Geeky Reader" (Northern New Jersey, USA)

For both story and artwork, five stars are too little for Brown's beautiful comic-strip biography. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in either history or graphic novels/comic strips.
Rob's review

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography includes five pages of glowing comments from reviewers, many from major publications. So the comments above are typical rather than atypical.

Some people have called it "gripping" and "a page-turner." I wouldn't go that far. I was able to put it down and pick it up several times. It reads quickly because there are a lot of wordless pages, not because it's the greatest piece of literature ever.

I'd say Louis Riel is comparable to the best biographies and historical narratives. Not just in the comic-book field, but in all of literature. True, history is complex and convoluted, so it's rarely as good as a work of fiction. But this is about as good as history gets.

Brown has presented a story that could've been boring or confusing and made it clear and compelling. That alone is a huge achievement.

The meta-message of Louis Riel

To me, what really sets Louis Riel apart is the appendix. The tiny print can be wearying, but the information is provocative. It makes you rethink the whole concept of writing history.

Brown provides sources for his storytelling decisions along with further details. That's standard footnote or endnote practice. What isn't standard is how he critiques his decisions. He repeatedly tells readers how he moved characters in time or space, combined several characters into one, changed a character's age or shape, decided a character's motivation when it wasn't known, etc.

Each choice is likely to provoke one of three reactions:

1) Disagreement: Why change such-and-such when the actual history was just as straightforward? For instance, making a thin character fat. This change seems arbitrary if not incomprehensible.

2) Uncertainty: Does such-and-such a change work better than the actual history? Maybe yes, maybe no. You'd have to read an alternate version of the story to know for sure.

3) Agreement: Yes, such-and-such a change makes the story better. For instance, combining several lawyers defending Riel at his trial into one. Having to learn four or five minor characters wouldn't improve the reading experience; it would only bog it down.

Accuracy isn't always good

As Newspaper Rock readers know, I'm a stickler for accuracy. But Louis Riel makes the case that you have to simplify and sometimes change history to make it readable. Like most historic episodes, Riel's life has hundreds of characters participating in hundreds of events. A writer has to decide which of these characters and events to include or exclude.

The takeaway is that every work of historic nonfiction is really a work of fiction. The author chooses what to emphasize and so manipulates the reader's perceptions. That's why you can read a thousand books about Lincoln or Kennedy and no two will be the same.

This is why we read several books on a subject, and reviews of the books: to see what we've missed. By critiquing his own book, Brown has done that for us. If you're a Riel scholar, you could use Brown's Louis Riel to construct your own version of Riel. That's impressive.

Anyway, I don't think Louis Riel will replace MAUS or WATCHMEN as the best graphic novel ever. But it's a worthy addition to any collection of Native-themed books and comics. Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.

For more on the subject, see Métis Awareness Day and "Hanging" Louis Riel T-Shirts Offend Métis.

Curtis photos vs. Smiling Indians

Adrienne Keene tackles the infamous Curtis photographs in her Native Appropriations blog:

Smiling Indians and Edward S. CurtisThe common theme throughout Edward Curtis's portraits is stocism. None of his subjects smile. Ever. Check out this gallery or this gallery if you don't believe me. To anyone who has spent anytime with Indians, you know that the "stoic Indian" stereotype couldn't be further from the truth. Natives joke, tease, and laugh more than anyone I know--I often leave Native events with my sides hurting from laughing so much.

So in response to the sad-stoic-angry Indian images of Edward Curtis, we've got this awesome video by Sterlin Harjo (the man behind Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water) and Ryan RedCorn (the man behind Demockratees and Red Hand Media). Simple but powerful, and showcases the diversity of Indian Country too!

Comment:  Adrienne doesn't quite say it, but I think there's a reason Curtis posed his subjects as stoic Indians. He wanted them to look serious, somber, and grim to reflect the idea of the "vanishing race." Having them smile would've conveyed the idea that they were alive, thriving, and looking forward to the future.

This would've sent the "wrong" message to viewers--a message they wouldn't have understood or accepted. Indians have emotions--they laugh and cry--like real people? You mean they're not animals who deserved to be hunted down and corralled in reservations? Inconceivable!

It would've been like photographing a princess playing in the mud or a cannibal eating tea and crumpets in a Victorian parlor. Images like that would've caused a scandal. Today we expect art to challenge our preconceptions, to teach us something about the world. In Curtis's time, not so much.

For similar reasons, we criticize cigar-store Indians and other wooden Indians. And Indian mascots, which are usually stern-looking Indians from the 19th century. The overarching problem is the same: Indians frozen in time, static and unchanging, with no apparent thoughts or feelings. A series of one-dimensional stereotypes--the chief, the "brave," the "squaw"--with nothing to recommend them.

In literature you occasionally see Indians compared to stone-faced mountains. The writers probably didn't intend to stereotype Indians, but they've unintentionally demonstrated the problem. The Curtis photos, cigar-store Indians, and Indian mascots all portray Indians as superficially as a stone-faced mountain. They all render Indians as lifeless as rocks.

Mini-review of video

As for the video, I love the concept. It does indeed bust a few stereotypes and show the diversity of today's Indians. But I'm not crazy about the execution. Many of the smiles look forced, as if someone told the people to smile for the camera. The looming, off-center heads are kind of distracting. And I'd describe the music as elegiac--just about the opposite of what should accompany the happy faces.

If it were me, I would've taken candid shoots of Indians smiling, joking, and laughing. I would've included the raucous sounds of their merriment. And I would've used a peppy tune to punctuate the images.

For more on Edward Curtis, see The Edward Curtis Project and Romantic Roots of Lange's Photos.

Below:  A stoic Hopi Indian photographed by Edward Curtis who resembles Billy Honanie of PEACE PARTY.

Black/Red: Related Through History

Black, Red and Proud

Radmilla Cody's crowning as Miss Navajo Nation in 1997 triggered an outcry and a conversation about what it means to be Native American. Now she's featured in a museum exhibit showing the rarely told history of African-Native Americans.

By Cynthia GordyIn a 1920 edition of the Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson observed, "One of the longest unwritten chapters in the history of the United States is that treating of the relations of the Negroes and the Indians."

"Red/Black: Related Through History," a new exhibit at Indianapolis' Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, illuminates this rarely told story. Since the first arrival of enslaved Africans in North America, the relationships between African Americans and Native Americans have encompassed alliances and adversaries, as well as the indivisible blending of customs and culture.

"It's not received a lot of attention because it's not the dominant culture's story, although it's very important to the dominant culture's bigger view of the past," says James Nottage, curator of the exhibit, which includes narratives of enslaved blacks who traveled the Trail of Tears with their Native owners; slaves who intermarried into Native tribes as an escape from bondage; and the largely African-featured members of the Shinnecock tribe of New York, as well as shared traditions in food, dress and music.

Radmilla Cody, 35, a Native American Music Award-winning singer and anti-domestic violence activist, is also featured in the exhibit. The daughter of a Navajo mother and an African-American father, Cody was raised by her grandmother in the Arizona Navajo community, initially speaking only the Navajo language. In 1997 she was crowned Miss Navajo Nation, sparking controversy from some members who refused to accept her.

As one disapproving letter to the editor of the Navajo Times put it, "Miss Cody's appearance and physical characteristics are clearly black, and thus are representative of another race of people. It appears that those judges who selected Miss Cody have problems with their own sense of identity."

Cody, also the subject of a 2010 documentary, Hearing Radmilla, talked to The Root about growing up both black and Navajo, and how she handles frequent "Wow, you don't look Indian" comments.

The Root: The experience of having your Miss Navajo Nation reign challenged calls to mind the debate over the Cherokee Freedmen. Is this a common issue across the Native community, of African-Native Americans having trouble finding acceptance?

Radmilla Cody: I grew up having to deal with racism and prejudices on both the Navajo and the black sides, and when I ran for Miss Navajo Nation, that especially brought out a lot of curiosity in people. It's something that we're still having to address as black Natives, still having to prove ourselves in some way or another, because at the end of the day, it all falls back to what people think a Native American should look like.
Comment:  For more on Radmilla Cody, see Celebrity Fundraiser Against Domestic Violence and Radmilla Cody Visits Russia.