October 31, 2011

American Eagle in FEAR ITSELF

FEAR ITSELF was Marvel Comics' big crossover event this year. Here's all you need to know about it from Wikipedia:The story's antagonist is the God of Fear, a supervillain who sows doubt and fear among the superheroes of the Marvel Comics Universe.

The anthology miniseries Fear Itself: The Home Front explores how events of "Fear Itself" affect the ordinary citizens of the Marvel Universe.
Issue #5 of THE HOME FRONT mini-series features American Eagle, the Navajo superhero, in a seven-page story titled "Red/White Blues." (Clever title.)

The plot is dense for a short story:

**spoiler alert**

The Navajo Nation is vying with a nearby town to host a wind farm. Tensions between the two sides are running high when the sheriff's deputies find the sheriff dead and scalped. The deputies storm onto the rez and accuse the Navajos of murder.

Just then, three animalistic "spirits" appear to lead the Indians to "cleanse this sacred land of the white menace." Because of their mistakes and stereotypes, American Eagle deduces that the spirits are white men in disguise. The mayor hired them to get the Indians killed and win the wind-farm contract.

As one critic said, this story is "mildly entertaining but a little preachy." A couple of things are nice. American Eagle is the voice of reason, and his powers are mostly implied. Also, he unmasks the phonies by noting their ignorance of Indians, an obvious bit I'm not sure anyone has done before.

The use of mistakes and stereotypes isn't a problem because they're part of the plot. They prove that the dumb white guys are indeed dumb white guys. But the story has a lot of other problems that most readers won't notice. They turn what could've been a fine story into an average one.

Mistake after mistake

  • The mayor negotiates with a Navajo called the Chief who's wearing a traditional bandana around his head. But the Navajo Nation has a president, not a chief, who oversees a nation of 300,000 people. He probably wouldn't negotiate a business deal with the mayor of Bleachville, a small town. He'd send an official in charge of business development instead. And whoever did the negotiating, the person probably would wear a business suit, not work clothes.

  • The mayor utters the phrase "you people," which sends the Chief into a rage. In a few hours, Navajo youths are spray-painting angry messages on walls and statues. But "you people" is far too mild a slur to set off a race riot. Young men wouldn't get excited over that. They also wouldn't care much about the possible loss of a wind-farm contract.

  • The sheriff's murder packs a slew of mistakes into just four panels. For starters, I don't think the Navajo traditionally scalped anybody. If they did, it hasn't happened in more than a century. The deputy who found the body obviously hasn't watched many TV shows featuring Indians. If he had, he'd know the scalping is probably a frame-up.

  • I'm pretty sure the sheriffs have no authority on the Navajo Nation. If a Navajo living on the rez committed a crime off the rez, I believe the FBI would get involved. In any case, the deputies have no reason to suspect any of the 300,000 Navajos. With zero evidence, they should be canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, because the murderer could be anybody.

    The deputy who storms onto the rez and punches the chief in the face is flatly ridiculous. After assaulting a head of state, the deputy almost certainly would lose his job and pension. He'd probably go to jail, if not a psych ward.

    Moreover, his stated goal, to haul in "a list of known troublemakers," is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. He might get away with that in a small town with no legal oversight...but on a reservation? There's no way he could remove Navajos from their territory without arrest warrants, and probably not even then. Indeed, I suspect the Navajos would be well within their rights to arrest the deputy for assault and battery.

    The deputy could've asked the Navajo tribal police for help...but they're nowhere in sight. The writer seems unaware that the Navajo have their own law enforcement system. This is a nation, buddy, not a few Indians huddled in blankets.

    "Finish the reservation"?!

  • Then there's the bogus plan of the mayor and his stooges pretending to be "spirits." It looks like perhaps a dozen Navajos follow the stooges as they threaten to go on a rampage. The Chief eventually states the stooges' real goal: "to lead my people into a massacre, to finish the reservation."

  • Huh? Does the Chief mean that white people would kill the "marauding" Indians? There's no way he could gather most or all of the Navajos to march against the white man. And there's no way that killing the actual number of marchers could "finish the reservation."

    Or does the Chief mean the angry "spirits" and Indians would discredit the Navajo Nation and "finish" it that way? The answer is still no. Even if the marchers terrorized the region with WMDs, they'd have little or no effect on the other 300,000 Navajos. They wouldn't do a thing to threaten the Navajo Nation's sovereign status.

    Besides, the spirits launched their attack in the border town, not on the rez. A wind-farm company would look at the situation and see mayhem in both locations. It would shift its operations elsewhere and both sides would lose.

    So the mayor's plan is flatly ridiculous, again. And so is the writer's knowledge of Indians. We're talking about 300,000 people spread over three states, not 30 people in trailers. "Finish the reservation"? You'd have to launch a full-scale invasion of Dinetah to overthrow the Navajo government and "finish the reservation."


    Despite the glossy art, the story reads like something out of the Silver Age. A small band of Indians led by a chief...evil white men trying to discredit the "savages"...it's all been done before. In the 1960s, the prize would've been oil or uranium and the story would've had a veneer of relevance. In the 1950s, the story would've been a traditional Western and the prize would've been a gold mine.

    So...nice try, but no cigar. Memo to Marvel: Don't write about politics, business, or law enforcement on the rez unless you know something about it. Give me a call if you need some advice.

    For more on American Eagle, see Assistants Do American Eagle and American Eagle Triumphant.

    Whites defend "right" to be racist

    The "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" ad campaign is getting a lot of attention. It's also getting a lot of pushback. Some people are parodying it for fun, while others are defending their racist costumes.

    In Miss(ed) Representations, Part One:  ‘I’m a Culture, Not a Costume’ Campaign, the Racialicious blog discusses some of the responses. It highlighted one particular response from "Jerry Stein" at Autostraddle:OMG, get a life. This is pathetic. Would an Asian woman be OK to go as a Geisha on Halloween? If not why not? And if so are we now saying that only people of the exact origin or race can have fun dressed as a CHARACTER on Halloween? Stop being so sensitive. If America is to get passed all of this nonsense then it needs to get some perspective and start smiling again.

    Watch any movie or TV show and you will see a racial stereotype. Are all stereotypes negative NO! Why is it that this campaign only sees that.

    This country is dividing itself. Nobody wants to be American. Everyone is so narcissistic and self important it makes me sick to my stomach. Bring back people with humility and a sense of humor before we all end up selfish deluded idiots thinking the world owes them something.

    Based on this all costumes which feature Cowboys, Irish Leprechauns, Michael Jackson, Lady GaGa, Bin Laden, OJ Simpson, Madonna, Jersey Shore cast members will all now be banned because they offend the Irish, African Americans, Italians and Muslims. Thats pretty much Halloween cancelled.

    This country is becoming a laughing stock for the wrong reasons.
    OMG, how incredibly unoriginal to say, "OMG, get a life." We've heard that one only a million times before.

    Readers respond

    Naturally, Racialicious fans ripped Jerry the apologist for racism:nicthommi

    Well, I'm glad to see this discussion in a place that isn't going to be chock full of people who heartily defend their right to be racist, or who do nothing but make excuses about why their right to be insensitive racists outweighs my right to be offended by said racism. You know, the whole, "why are minorities so sensitive, it's just a costume, why can't I be whatever I want to be for Halloween, it isn't fair, white people don't have any rights anymore." It is as if I'm in a forum of people preparing to write dissertations on how to effectively derail discussions about racism.

    It kills me how so many non-minorities think that their right to be offensive is more important than anything at all. Supposed progressives will argue that it's just a costume, or it's not offensive b/c they really ADMIRE the culture that they are emulating/mocking with their ethnic Halloween costume. B/c nothing says "I respect your culture" more than reducing it to a bunch of played out stereotypes in a room full of drunken idiots. There are about eleventy hundred things that you can dress up as for Halloween. And honestly, it stops being a costume when you are in fact showing the world that you are just a racist jerk, which you in fact are, 365 days of the year. The only difference is that instead of being a racist jerk in your own clothes, you are a racist jerk wearing a leather vest or a cheap kimono.


    The meme reeks of "I can't believe you're trying deprive me of my right to be racist against you" and also "non-white people are on par with animals and fictional characters." The whole thing is an attempt to "punish" people of color for daring to assert our humanity. Ugh.


    I love the people whose argument is that they "have a right to do it." Sure. You have a right to do lots of quite awful nasty foolish cruel things, if we're talking about legal rights. That's not in question. The question is, why would you want to?


    I loved STARS for doing this and I so glad that this blog mentioned the campaign. Wearing an "ethnic" costume is just an excuse to be a jackass and it shows your lack of creativity.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Costumes = White Privilege and "Cowboys 'n' Indians" = Blackface.

    Pumpkin patch in Culver City

    For Halloween, it's good to remember that pumpkins are a Native product:

    Pumpkins Are Native However You Carve ItAmerican Indians first introduced pumpkin as a food to immigrants when they encountered the Spanish at the Rio Grande River in the late 1500s, offering the Spaniards pumpkin seeds as part of a peace offering, according to LocalHarvest.org.

    American Indians roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried the flesh in numerous ways. Each tribe developed its own ways to prepare and enjoy the pumpkin. DinĂ© cooks fry it with mutton, while Taos Pueblo cooks make a succotash by cooking unripe pumpkin with corn kernels and onion. In Woodland areas, pumpkin is eaten similarly to winter squash, occasionally cut into rings to dry and be reconstituted when needed. Read Indian Country Today Media Network’s food writer Dale Carson’s article about how Indigenous peoples have enjoyed the sunset-colored gourd for centuries.

    As a medicine, American Indians used pumpkins as a remedy for snake bites. Pumpkin had other practical uses—many tribes flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats, especially for trading purposes. They also dried out the pumpkins’ shells, turning them into bowls and containers to store grain, beans and seeds, states allaboutpumpkins.com.
    For a couple of weeks, my town hosted a "pumpkin patch" in a supermarket parking lot. I went there last week and took pictures:

    "It's the Great Pumpkin, Facebook!"--October 27-28, 2011

    Not only is the pumpkin a Native product, but the indigenous people of the Andes domesticated the llama and alpaca in the petting zoo. So the whole place was infused with a Native background, though no one realized it.

    For more on the subject, see Indians in Culver City.

    October 30, 2011

    Litefoot's Reach the Rez tour

    Carmen Davis on ‘Reaching the Rez’ with Litefoot in 2012The group Reach the Rez (RTR) has announced plans for its 2012 RTR “RISE” motivational tour, which will make stops at 48 reservations around the country and reach potentially 75,000 Natives. Reach the Rez was started in 2005 by the Cherokee rapper Litefoot and his wife Carmen Davis (Makah, Yakama, and Chippewa Cree), who is president of the parent organization Association for American Indian Development, and in that year traveled to 211 communities.

    “RISE” stands for Revitalization, Inspiration, Sustainability and Empowerment. At stops on the tour, Indian leaders, entertainers, athletes and others speak and perform, delivering positive messages to the tribal communities. We spoke with Davis (who also runs the Native Style clothing line) about her thoughts on this latest leg of the journey to, as she put it, “inspire and empower our Native people and promote self-reliance and sustainability.”

    Indian Country Today Media Network:  Now that you’ve been doing this for a number of years, do you hear stories from people who say they were inspired by previous events?

    Carmen Davis:  Absolutely. We hear from people immediately after a Reach The Rez event is over; expressing to us what it meant to them. You can view the Reach the Rez Documentary film trailer on our website and see the impact its had on people. There are literally hours more of those kinds of testimonials from our Native people all over Indian Country. We still hear today, stories from people nationwide who were helped and strengthened through the messages of the tour back in 2005. In regards to lasting relationships, we are blessed with family on every reservation throughout the United States. And that’s not an exaggeration. To us, it is such an honor to be blessed with that much extended family across the country. It’s also very humbling to know that we have the support of so many people who keep us in their prayers and thoughts. It just makes us want to work harder.
    Comment:  For more on Litefoot, see How Football Shaped Litefoot and Litefoot's Message of Faith.

    Below:  "Litefoot performs in Albuquerque on the Reach the Rez tour."

    Horn-Miller in Working It Out Together

    The Motivation of a Mohawk:  Waneek Horn-Miller Inspires First Nations to Exercise and Eat RightNative rights activist Waneek Horn-Miller, co-captain of the 2000 Olympic Canadian women’s water polo team, is back in action—this time, to help indigenous people reclaim their health.

    She and her husband, former Olympic judo competitor Keith Morgan, have teamed up with the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN), along with a group of health experts, to launch a multimedia, nationwide fitness and healthy-eating initiative. A six-part television series follows six Mohawks on their journeys to get healthy, while an interactive website encourages aboriginal youth and adults to make nutrition and exercise part of their daily lives.

    Horn-Miller and her colleagues held casting calls to select six Mohawk people to star in the documentary series, called Working It Out Together, which aired September 6 to October 11 on APTN. With trainers and nutritionists, Horn-Miller coached and counseled the participants in exercise routines and eating right, as well as overcoming internal struggles that were holding them back from getting healthy, such as obesity, eating disorders, low self-esteem, busy schedules, substance abuse and lack of motivation.

    The six-month journey of self-discovery revealed to participants, mentors and audiences how determination and dedication can lead to a total lifestyle transformation. “With a lot of issues such as obesity and lack of physical activity among aboriginal peoples, we are facing the symptom, not the core issue,” Horn-Miller said. “The symptoms are the external representation of stuff going on deep inside each person.”
    Comment:  For more on Native health, see "Swim for Life" from Alcatraz and It's Up 2 You Available.

    Below:  "Waneek’s team won gold at the 1999 Pan American Games."

    Cheyenne ornaments for National Christmas Tree

    Northern Cheyenne artist and students make ornaments for National Christmas Tree

    By Zach BenoitIt's not often that a self-taught Montana artist gets national recognition from the federal government.

    And it's practically unheard of for a group of Northern Cheyenne art students at Chief Dull Knife College—total enrollment, about 260 students—to have their work on display in Washington, D.C., for thousands of people to see.

    But that's exactly what will happen beginning Dec. 1. Since mid-October, Billings-based Northern Cheyenne artist Alaina Buffalo Spirit and about 10 art students from the college have been crafting Montana's ornaments for this year's National Christmas Tree display and the tree in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, both in Washington.

    "I want to show the nation what these Northern Cheyenne students can do," Buffalo Spirit said.

    Involving students

    Buffalo Spirit was selected as Montana's artist to create 24 decorations for the trees, which are sponsored by the National Park Foundation. One of the rules this year is that the artist must create the decorations with the help of a local youth arts group.

    After considering several youth and student groups, Buffalo Spirit said her decision to work with the college's Foundations of Art class came down to one question: "Who's going to be mature enough to do the task?"
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Ornaments on "History Tree" and Blackfeet Ornaments at White House.

    October 29, 2011

    Cherokee Nation in JA BizTown

    Cherokee Nation takes part in JA BizTownCherokee Nation is the first tribe to set up shop in the Tulsa Junior Achievement’s BizTown with the opening of a replicated Cherokee Phoenix newspaper on Friday.

    It is part of a financial literacy initiative backed by the Cherokee Nation Foundation and Cherokee Nation Businesses.

    “We are pleased that the Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to participate in this event,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Education has always been an important part of our culture, and we want to continue leading the way in these types of opportunities.”

    “The greatest thing we can do for our children is educate them,” said David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “The Cherokee Nation has a long history of being a leader in education.”

    JA BizTown replicates a city, only kid-sized. A mayor is elected to preside over the city, which is complete with restaurants, banks, schools and utility companies. The students complete an in-class curriculum pertaining to all aspects of business and industry prior to their visit to JA BizTown. Once they arrive to the facility, they apply what they’ve learned in the hands-on setting, working various jobs and making financial decision based on what they have learned.
    Comment:  This points out something missing in the Children of the Plains documentary. Namely, that education and good schools is part of creating successful businesses. You need to know how the "system" works. And have marketing, sales, accounting, and computer skills. And access to capital.

    Not to mention an infrastructure of roads, water and electricity, telecommunications, law enforcement and courts, etc. Mentors and role models wouldn't hurt either. Having the "gumption" to start a business isn't nearly enough.

    You can't just point at someone and say, "They opened a Subway sandwich shop. Why don't you get off your lazy asses and open one too?" The conservative mantra of self-reliance is based on having a host of advantages already in place.

    For more on Cherokee business, see Cherokee Nation Partners with Walmart and Cherokee Kids Clothing Line.

    Below:  "Skip Eller of Cherokee Nation Businesses assists Maryetta students at Junior Achievement's BizTown."

    Spirit Halloween's Indian costumes

    Adrienne Keene gives examples of the Halloween costumes she criticized in Racist Costumes = White Privilege.

    Halloween Costume Shopping:  A sampling of the racism for saleTo state my case, I wandered to the Spirit Halloween website. I did a simple one word search: Indian. I got 56 results, all Native-themed.A typical example:

    Put the wow back in pow-wow when you go native in this very sexy Tribal Trouble Indian adult women's costume. They may need to break out the peace pipe because the other squaws will want to torch your teepee when their menfolk see you in this foxy costume!Keene's response:I hope these can serve as examples as to why I'm so pissed off. The dripping misogyny and stereotyping is so blatant, it almost reads like satire. But these are real products, for sale on websites and in thousands of Spirit stores nationwide. Thousands of people are seeing, reading and internalizing these messages.

    These costumes are hurtful and dangerous because they present a false and stereotyped image of Native people. The public sees these images, and it erases our current existence, so the larger, contemporary issues in Indian Country then cease to exist as well. When everyone only thinks Indians are fantasy characters put in the same category as pirates, princesses, and cartoon characters, it erases our humanity. Have fun thinking through that one.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Fake Indians in West Hollywood and "We're a Culture, Not a Costume."

    Marathoner is Nike N7 Ambassador

    Navajo Alvina Begay Hopes to Represent U.S. as Olympic MarathonerNavajo long-distance runner and Nike N7 Ambassador Alvina Begay grew up watching her father train for the Olympics. While her mother worked full-time and pursued her bachelor’s degree, Begay and her five siblings would see him blaze the trails over the hills and mesas of their hometown of Ganado, Arizona.

    “His golden dreams were to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials,” says Begay.
    And:On January 14, Begay plans to race against long-distance runners from across the United States in the Marathon Olympic Trials in Houston. The 26.2-mile race will determine the three women who will represent the country in the marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

    This isn’t the first time Begay has faced such a challenge. “I did the marathon trials in 2004,” she says, “and I feel like I didn’t run to my full potential.” Some injuries, she explains, “limited my full range of motion.”
    Comment:  For more on Nike, see Bradford Named Nike N7 Ambassador and Nike Signs Tahnee Robinson.

    October 28, 2011

    John & Ken Show:  America was "free land"

    John & Ken Show:  Native Americans Should Have Been "Better Warriors"

    By Melody JohnsonDuring a visit on October 27 to the location of the Occupy Los Angeles protest, John & Ken Show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou debated a protester named "Richard." During their conversation, the hosts said that Native Americans should "probably [have been] better warriors."

    Listen (the "better warriors" comment occurs around the 3:33 mark):

    RICHARD:  We were not invited here by the Native Americans. We were not invited here by the American Indians.

    KOBYLT:  But they didn't own it, they didn't have formalized ownership.

    RICHARD:  Well--

    KOBYLT:  It was free land. Anybody who came got it.

    RICHARD:  Because they weren't good business men, right? When we offered--in 1854 we offered $150,000 to buy 2.2 million--

    KOBYLT:  I don't think we're going to undo that deal. I'm just talking about the now. I'm talking about the now in that--

    RICHARD:  You think the Native Americans should have been better business men. Clever, right?

    KOBYLT:  Probably better warriors.

    CHIAMPOU:  We've gotta take a break. Good talking with you.

    Inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new on The John & Ken Show. On September 1, the hosts aired the personal cell phone number of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) activist Jorge-Mario Cabrera, who received hundreds of threatening calls as a result. The hosts denied responsibility, stating repeatedly that Cabrera's phone number was part of a press release, and therefore public information.

    Clear Channel, KFI's parent company, later wrote a letter to National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) president Alex Nogales defending the hosts' actions.
    Comment:  It's a tough choice, but I think the first comment about land ownership is actually the stupidest one.

    Apparently "John" thinks every country has a document somewhere that gives it legal title to the land according to international law. In the US's case, what and where is this document? I haven't seen or heard of it.

    And please do not say the Declaration of the Independence or the US Constitution. Those don't make any claims about ownership of America's present territory. Nor were they ratified before a legitimate international forum.

    A few national governments may have a document specifying their legal boundaries and stating that they own the land within those boundaries. But I'm guessing the vast majority don't. They're squatting on their land because of historical conventions and precedents, not because of a legal right.

    So according to Kobylt, Al Qaeda or a band of Indians could overthrow the US government and claim the country's territory. Why? Because there's still no legal proof of ownership. The Indians didn't have such proof and neither does the US.

    Kobylt's position is pure sophistry, of course. Euro-Americans recognized Indians as the rightful owners of the land from the beginning. That's why they signed 400 treaties, dumbass: to acquire rights to that land. The Indians owned the rights and the white men had to obtain them legally.

    For more on the subject, see Indians Owned the United States.

    White men were "better warriors"?

    The other claim is almost as stupid. Euro-Americans have stereotypes Indians as nothing but the most savage, fearless, ruthless killing machines in existence. Few if anyone wanted to meet an Indian one on one. But now, suddenly, the Indians were inferior warriors?!

    I think what Kobylt meant is that the white men had superior numbers, not superior skills. And that the Indians fought them to a standstill despite their disadvantages. Indeed, if it hadn't been for diseases decimating half or two-thirds of most tribes, the Indians undoubtedly would've kicked the white man's butt.

    When they did fight to a standstill, that's when they signed the aforementioned treaties. You know, the legally binding treaties that the white men broke--every single one. The Euro-Americans ultimately won because they were better liars and cheaters, not better fighters.

    Because Indians were honest, they assumed white men were also--a big mistake. It took them too long to learn the true nature of their opponents. We now know that the white, Christian Western Civilization is an edifice of lies and hypocrisies. Love thy neighbor in theory, conquer him in reality.

    For more on the subject, see Europeans Hated Indians' Virtues and Ayn Rand, Racist.

    Inupiaq Flying Wild Alaska star

    Ariel Tweto Talks 'Flying Wild Alaska,' Calls BS On Seeing Russia From Anyone's House

    By Maggie FurlongAriel Tweto is so cute she's almost cartoon-like. With a petite frame and an infectious giggle, the 'Flying Wild Alaska' star was a bundle of energy when we hung out to talk about Season 2 (premieres Fri., Oct. 28, 10PM ET on Discovery). Actually, energetic doesn't even begin to describe her, as our journey through a wide range of talking points proves.

    Born Ariel Eva Tuadraq-Atauchaq Tweto, the Eskimo firecracker from Unalakleet, Alaska, struggled to get her pilot's license all through Season 1 in the hopes of taking flight for her family business, Era Alaska, an airline that services the barren land and extreme conditions of the Alaskan wilderness.
    And:A few years back, Tweto dominated and charmed on ABC's 'Wipeout' and became known as the "where's the pole?" girl before a producer there decided her family's story would make a great reality show as well. Now she's got her sights set on another franchise: 'Amazing Race.'

    She could do it, too--she has run every single day of her life since 2002. "Cabo, Spring Break, the flu, minus-50 degrees ... at least a mile, but usually it's between three and 15 miles. It's my time to think. Or listen to Ryan Seacrest," she said with a laugh. Now living and going to school in Southern California, Tweto goes back to Unalakleet during the busy season to pitch in.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Pilots in Alaska and Natives in Flying Wild Alaska.

    A history of sexy "Indian maidens"

    Halloween Horror Show:  The Sexualized Indian Maiden, Same as She Ever WasThe fashion industry is having a bout of fake-Indian-fever, and young people loosely identified as “hipsters” are appropriating Indian garb left and right; you’d think were were seeing a sudden cultural siege on Indian-ness.

    The dirty little secret—or what may be a “secret” to a 25-year-old kid who wears buckskin to a Halloween party—is that today’s appropriation of Indian traditional dress is in itself a tradition. In Hollywood, sacred Indian regalia and symbols were misused from the start, and sexed-up costumes were slapped onto popular non-Indian actresses. The sexy Indian maiden was a popular look for burlesque performers and strippers, and the most famous pinup artists used the fabricated stereotype in calendars and magazine work.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Costumes = White Privilege and Tomahawk Tassels Stereotypes Native Women.

    Below:  Pinup by George Petty.

    Tanka Bar company wins innovation award

    Pine Ridge Business Wins Innovation Award, Faces Challenges from Fast ExpansionSocial Venture Network (SVN), a national peer-to-peer network of socially responsible entrepreneurs and investors, has selected a business located on the the isolated Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota for one of its six 2011 Innovation Awards.

    Native American Natural Food—known for producing the Tanka Bar, among other organic, buffalo-jerky energy bars and meat products—will partner with SVN leaders, who will serve as mentors to the company.

    SVN chose Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen, owners of Native American Natural Food, for the award because they are “on a mission to heal people and Mother Earth by innovating new food products based on traditional Native American values.”
    Comment:  For more on the Tanka Bar, see Rez Companies Can't Get Loans and Tanka Bar Company's Goals.

    October 27, 2011

    Racist costumes = white privilege

    Adrienne Keene writes to all the people "playing Indian" these days: the hipsters and pop stars in headdresses, the ignorant party-goers in Halloween costumes, et al.

    Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this HalloweenI just read the comments on this post at Bitch Magazine, a conversation replicated all over the internet when people of color are trying to make a plea to not dress up as racist characters on Halloween. I felt my chest tighten and tears well up in my eyes, because even with Kjerstin's well researched and well cited post, people like you are so caught up in their own privilege, they can't see how much this affects and hurts their classmates, neighbors and friends.

    I already know how our conversation would go. I'll ask you to please not dress up as a bastardized version of my culture for Halloween, and you'll reply that it's "just for fun" and I should "get over it." You'll tell me that you "weren't doing it to be offensive" and that "everyone knows real Native Americans don't dress like this." You'll say that you have a "right" to dress up as "whatever you damn well please." You'll remind me about how you're "Irish" and the "Irish we're oppressed too." Or you'll say you're "German", and you "don't get offended by people in Lederhosen."

    But you don't understand what it feels like to be me. I am a Native person. You are (most likely) a white person. You walk through life everyday never having the fear of someone mis-representing your people and your culture. You don't have to worry about the vast majority of your people living in poverty, struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence, hunger, and unemployment caused by 500+ years of colonialism and federal policies aimed at erasing your existence. You don't walk through life everyday feeling invisible, because the only images the public sees of you are fictionalized stereotypes that don't represent who you are at all. You don't know what it's like to care about something so deeply and know at your core that it's so wrong, and have others in positions of power dismiss you like you're some sort of over-sensitive freak.

    You are in a position of power. You might not know it, but you are. Simply because of the color of your skin, you have been afforded opportunities and privilege, because our country was built on a foundation of white supremacy. That's probably a concept that's too much for you to handle right now, when all you wanted to do was dress up as a PocaHottie for Halloween, but it's true.

    I am not in a position of power. Native people are not in positions of power. By dressing up as a fake Indian, you are asserting your power over us, and continuing to oppress us. That should worry you.

    But don't tell me that you're oppressed too, or don't you dare come back and tell me your "great grandmother was a Cherokee Princess" and that somehow makes it ok. Do you live in a system that is actively taking your children away without just cause? Do you have to look at the TV on weekends and see sports teams with mascots named after racial slurs of your people? I doubt it.

    Last night I sat with a group of Native undergraduates to discuss their thoughts and ideas about the costume issue, and hearing the comments they face on a daily basis broke my heart. They take the time each year to send out an email called "We are not a costume" to the undergraduate student body--an email that has become known as the "whiny newsletter" to their entitled classmates. They take the time to educate and put themselves out there, only to be shot down by those that refuse to think critically about their choices.Your choices are adversely affecting their college experiences, and that's hard for me to take without a fight.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Fake Indians in West Hollywood and We're a Culture, Not a Costume."

    Navajos split on Grand Canyon flights

    Navajo Nation Split On Grand Canyon Flight Restrictions

    By Laurel MoralesFour months after the official public comment period ended, Grand Canyon officials are still waiting for the Navajo Nation to comment about flight noise and possible regulations to address it.

    The tribe is split. A hearing will be held Wednesday in the hopes they can reach a consensus.

    Navajo sheep herders have told the park that helicopter and plane noise negatively affects their livelihood. But some tribal members, including Navajo council delegate Walter Phelps, would like the tribe to be allowed to run air tours over the canyon.

    "I mean, we need economic development. We need jobs," Phelps said. "Our people are in desperate need of any opportunity that can be developed."

    Phelps said it’s only fair the Navajo receive the same treatment as the Hualapai Tribe on the west side of the canyon. Back in 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration conducted an economic hardship study and allowed the Hualapai to be exempt from the park's over flight restrictions.
    Comment:  For more on the Grand Canyon, see Skywalk Developer Sues Hualapai Tribe and Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon.

    Native cuisine = Slow Food

    Slow Food has much in common with Wampanoag traditionsDozens of hungry Islanders sat down to enjoy an eclectic potluck at the Chilmark Community Center last Saturday evening, October 22. The theme of the harvest dinner was connecting the modern Slow Food movement to the way food was hunted and gathered and prepared by the native Americans who first inhabited the Island, the Wampanoag people.

    Traditional Wampanoag dishes such as venison stew and sea bass with sage stuffing were offered, along with a cornucopia of food grown or foraged on the Island.
    For the sake of comparison:

    Slow FoodSlow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.Comment:  For more on Native food, see Cooking Academy Has Native Culinary Department and The Gathering Place Cookbook.

    Tribes shouldn't exclude non-Indians

    Native American nations face legal limbo“To exclude every single person from tribal membership because they’re not Indian is going to harm tribes in the long run,” says Fletcher, who is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

    “Tribes can actually be a domestic nation that can exercise the necessary government authority over all the people in their territory. But in order to do that, they have to liberalize their membership criteria.”
    And:American Indians must be more aggressive with nonmembers, he says. A non-American Indian working for a tribe should consent to tribal jurisdiction, as well as anyone living on Native American land. This consent is no different than requiring noncitizens to seek a visa or a work permit from a host country, Fletcher adds.

    “Most nations around the world adopt membership rules and criteria without regard to race and ancestry, and Indian nations should do the same,” he says. “For tribes to progress into self-serving, independent nations within a larger nation, they will need to find a way to include non-Indians in the political process of the tribal government while still maintaining a distinctive tribal character.”
    Comment:  This posting is mostly about extending tribal jurisdiction to non-Indians. But the line worth noting is this:Most nations around the world adopt membership rules and criteria without regard to race and ancestry, and Indian nations should do the same.Eventually tribes will need to do this to avoid extinguishing themselves. They might as well start thinking about it now.

    For more on the subject, see Defining Tribes by Peoplehood and The Trap of Blood Quantum.

    Fake Indians in West Hollywood

    Halloween Horror Show:  Fake Indians in West HollywoodThese images come from photographer Thosh Collins’s Facebook page. Here’s what Thosh (Pima/Osage/Seneca-Cayuga) had to say about them:

    “So I went to the West Hollywood street fair for the Halloween thing and I knew there was gonna be a buncha people dressed up like ‘Indians’ for halloween so I tried to shoot candids of em but this is only half of what I saw. This says that Americans see Native People and their culture as something this is no longer present and that our image is up for grabs for anyone to misuse.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see We're a Culture, Not a Costume" and Halloween Party in Happy Endings.

    October 26, 2011

    "We’re a Culture, Not a Costume"

    It's that time of year again: the triple-holiday season that serves to remind Indians of their betrayal and oppression. First Columbus Day, then Halloween, and finally Thanksgiving.

    Here's an effort to remind people of the white privilege that lets mainstream Americans dress up as minorities without criticism.

    US students launch poster campaign against ‘racist’ Halloween costumesA group of students in America’s Ohio University have launched a campaign against some Halloween costumes which would hurt and humiliate people from minority ethnic groups.

    A student group at the University called ‘Students Teaching Against Racism in Society’, created a poster campaign to highlight the racial stereotyping in Halloween party dresses, the Daily Mail reports.

    The posters highlight the crass racial and cultural stereotypes that emerge in the Halloween fancy dress event each year.

    The campaign, headlined ‘We’re a culture, not a costume’, shows images of people of different ethnic groups holding up images partygoers whose costumes they say sarcastically criticizes their cultures.
    ‘We’re a culture, not a costume’:  Students launch poster campaign against ‘racist’ Halloween costumes

    By Damien GayleThey have provoked an online row over whether the costumes are actually racist, or whether they are just in good fun.

    One blogger who wrote about the posters two days ago had to disable comments on her website after she got 3,000 views and comments from ‘rude, racist people.’

    On the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind blog, Melissa Sipin wrote of the campaign: ‘These posters act as a public service announcement for colored [sic] communities.

    ‘It’s about respect, human dignity, and the acceptance of other cultures (these posters simply ask people to think before they choose their Halloween costume).’

    She added: ‘What these costumes have in common is that they make caricatures out of cultures, and that is simply not okay.’
    'We're a culture, not a costume' this Halloween

    By Emanuella Grinberg"I think it's almost impossible to be ironic while being racist, so irony is lost," said Jelani Cobb, a professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University and the author of "The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress."

    "To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters."

    While Italian-Americans can be stereotyped as gangsters and Irish-Americans as hard drinkers, there are no pervasive stereotypes for whites on the same level that allow for them to be caricatured as a Halloween costume, Cobb said.

    "The more we look at people as caricatures, the harder it is to operate as democracy," he said. "What underlies this kind of costuming is the belief that these people aren't quite equal to what we are or aren't as American as we are or that you as a person who's not member of that group should be able to dictate how painful stereotype should be."
    'Racist' Halloween costumes stir debate

    Ohio university group's 'We're a culture, not a costume' campaign goes viral

    By Marlene Habib
    Blogger slams 'Eskimo Tease' costume

    New Westminster, B.C., blogger Jarrah Hodge, a UBC graduate in women's studies and sociology, said costume companies are constantly coming up "with new ways to advance racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation, and sexualize women in every single profession and identity you could think of."

    On her "Halloween Post," Hodge said she recently came across a distinctly Canadian racist costume called the "Eskimo Tease." The packaging for the outfit shows a buxom and lean blond in a cropped velvety long-sleeved top, a short flared skirt, a hoodie and legwarmers—all white-fur trimmed and made of velvety light blue material.

    "The term 'Eskimo,' while a highly contested term, has a racist past and is generally unacceptable in Canada," Hodge writes. "The picture on the packaging and the costume name continues in the tradition of other racist costumes like the ever-popular 'Geisha Girl' or 'Pocahontas' in implying that racial identity can be boiled down to a recognizable outfit. It's white people creating symbols to define other races, then appropriating those symbols without any acknowledgment of their history."

    Farrington says there's never an excuse for making light of someone's background, even if it seems like harmless Halloween fun.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Tribalism Is Trendy and Khloe Kardashian Thinks She's Native.

    "Swim for Life" from Alcatraz

    American Indians ‘Swim For Life’ From Alcatraz to San Francisco Shore

    By Pete VerralIt’s about 1.2 miles from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore, which doesn’t seem a long swim until you consider the frigid, mid-50 degree water and perilous currents of the San Francisco Bay. On October 17, Native Americans from South Dakota, Alaska, Washington and the San Francisco Bay Area completed the swim—with just six days training.

    Fred Crisp, one of the organizers and a San Francisco resident said, “Today’s swim was truly the ‘Magnificent Twelve,’ with the oldest swimmer being 62 years old, and the youngest being 15 years old. Three of the 12 swimmers had only one swim before this, and all of the members had little or no experience on open water, especially cold waters such as the San Francisco Bay.”

    The event concluded the ninth annual PATHSTAR Alcatraz Swim Program, a week-long event, which ran from October 9-17. PATHSTAR, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, inspires active lifestyle and healthy nutrition practices in communities throughout Indian Country.

    One goal of PATHSTAR is to counteract the diabetes epidemic affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives at disproportionate rates. When compared with the population as a whole, American Indians are three times more likely to die from diabetes-related complications, according to federal Indian Health Service statistics.
 Obesity is a leading risk factor of diabetes, and Native youth are twice as likely to be overweight than are young people in the general population.
    Comment:  For more on Indians against diabetes, see Nike N7 Sport Summit and It's Up 2 You Available.

    Halloween party in Happy Endings

    With a Navajo writer on staff, you'd think the TV show Happy Endings would do a better job of representing Indians. Instead the show gives us another woman in a sexy Indian costume.

    In the episode titled Spooky Endings (airdate: 10/26/11), the gang attends a Halloween party. A prominent attendee is a woman in a buckskin skirt, braids, and a headband with feathers. She's in the background in roughly half the party scenes--perhaps a dozen shots.

    There's also a man in a buckskin outfit and a black wig with braids. I think he's supposed to be an Indian too, although he may be a caveman.

    You have to work to include a character in that many scenes. I imagine the director (Fred Savage of The Wonder Years) telling the phony "Indian maiden" to move into the camera shot. "People won't know it's a Halloween party unless they see a stereotypical Indian."

    For more on the subject, see "Little Indian Girl" in Community and Halloween Joke in Family Guy.

    Below:  Demonstrating how obvious the "Indian maiden" was, she's in two of the six publicity stills.

    "Eskimo" = slur in Canada

    More on the story reported in "Talking Eskimo" Wheat Board Video:

    MP apologizes for 'Talking Eskimo' video

    Anti-wheat board cartoon on David Anderson's website denounced as slur against Inuit peopleInuit find the word offensive

    Karliin Aariak from Iqaluit says seeing the word Eskimo used in the context of the video is degrading. CBCIt's not just opposition MPs in Ottawa that are upset by the use of the word Eskimo.

    Karliin Aariak is Inuit and lives in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

    She was embarrassed and shocked to hear about the video.

    "Seeing the video and hearing the word Eskimo being used in the context of this video is degrading to Inuit and is obviously putting us down as a people and making us sound as if we are stupid and should not be used," said Aariak.

    The word Eskimo has not been used in Nunavut for years now. It was replaced by the politically correct word Inuit by its people.
    Comment:  I thought the main problem was using the phrase "talking Eskimo" to belittle the Inuit language and culture. But I guess people are reacting solely to the word "Eskimo."

    I didn't realize "Eskimo" was quite that disliked in Canada. Some Alaska Natives still use it to describe themselves.

    For more on the proper terminology, see "Eskimo" vs. "Inuit."

    Native science nerds

    National science group strives to break barriers for Latinos, Native Americans

    By Joe RodriguezWhere are the Latinos and Native Americans in science?

    On paper, they hardly exist statistically. But anyone walking or driving through downtown San Jose this week will see about 3,600 Hispanic and American Indian lab rats, nerds and geeks crossing the streets from hotels to convene at the McEnery Convention Center.

    The Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, or SACNAS, was born almost four decades ago to break down barriers and increase their numbers in the so-called STEM fields--science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Aside from brainy speeches, research presentations, workshops and mentoring, a highlight of the four-day conference figures to be the closing powwow. Imagine biologists and physicists stepping to some of the oldest spiritual dances in the world.

    "As you can see, we'll have a lot going on," said Judit Camacho, SACNAS executive director.
    Comment:  For more on Native science, see Chippewa Inventor Has 35 Patents and Navajo/Zuni Astronomer.

    October 25, 2011

    Tomahawk Tassels stereotypes Native women

    Speaking of sexy Indian princesses who encourage the rape of and violence toward Native women, here's a perfect example:

    Tomahawk Tassels:  Canoe AdventureTomahawk Tassels performing her "Canoe Adventure" at the Southern Theater at Balls Cabaret, March 2009. Tomahawk Tassels is a burlesque artist out of Minneapolis. Originally a member of the Alley Cat Revue in St. Louis, she is one of the rare independent burlesque artists in the Twin Cities. She has performed with all the major burlesque shows in the Minneapolis area, including: Lili's Burlesque Revue, Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Thank You Ma'ams, Le Cirque Rouge, and The Midnight Muse Revue. Tomahawk's Native American inspired burlesque performances blend classic vintage style with cheeky American history. This sassy squaw has been shaking her lovely back yard all over the Midwest since 2006!

    Blogger Lisa Charleyboy provides some background on the stripper:

    Tomahawk Tassels IIWell almost a month ago I wrote about Tomahawk Tassels, "The Cherokee Seductress", who is a burlesque dancer who incorporates Native American heritage in her performances. At that time I wasn't sure if she was part Native as she hadn't replied to my inquiry. Well guess what? Yes she got back to me and yes she is in fact Native (much to everyone's relief)!

    She is Cherokee and Irish, with her estranged father having Cherokee blood. "Growing up in Oklahoma, I have been exposed to Native American history and culture since I was very young," she says. "I realize how I took it for granted, and only now am able to fully internalize and express that history. Part of my personal journey is to research my roots and ancestral history. Burlesque performance has been the perfect medium for this."

    She uses her performances "to remind others of our rich American Indian history while also making a satirical social commentary on stereotypes, specifically from the 1950's." This is an endeavour I find interesting, since I have a fascination with both 50s stereotypes and the kitsch that evolved from that propaganda movement.
    Yes, what a relief that the "sassy squaw" has a Cherokee princess in her background somewhere. I guess that makes her racism okay.

    Some commenters rightly ripped Charleyboy's benign posting:I think it's pretty awful and not cool at all. It's kind of hard to make a "satirical social commentary on stereotypes" when most of the people watching probably have no idea that what they are watching IS a stereotype. But that's just my two cents.

    Are you kidding me? She is yet another person claiming Cherokee heritage in an attempt to legitimize her appropriation of Indigenous culture. Doing her "Indian" performance is what sets her apart and she's exploiting my culture to do so. Makes me sick to my stomach the way she tries to justify and legitimize the perpetuation of Indian stereotypes.

    I suggest not going to see Cadillac and Tomahawk, as I've met both of them in many social situations, and I believe them to be nasty people. I think INTENTION is everything, and Tomahawk's intention is to get famous by exploiting and making a mockery of her part Cherokee blood. And no, I don't think that the Trail of Tears inspired her to take her clothes off.

    Saying you are part-Cherokee is different than being Cherokee. (Seriously, who doesn't claim to be a "little Cherokee" these days?) It's just a prop or a shtick anyway. But ironically, she seems to think that her act is somehow internalizing and expressing her supposed heritage and Cherokee history. Kind of like an African American playing the part of the plantation "Mulatto Temptress" to reconnect with her Black "heritage."

    Long and short of it is that I think she's full of it and that her entire act is racist. I am offended by it, and it supports, exploits and REINFORCES the "Native Princess" and "Indian Squaw" stereotypes. All I can say is that I would love to see her perform that act in the middle of Little Earth in Minneapolis and see how the Native women who live there would feel about her exploration of her "roots."
    Comment:  Yes, Tomahawk Tassels is a racist. Whatever she thinks she's doing in her little mind is irrelevant compared to what's on display.

    Indeed, she's doing the same thing as minstrel performers in blackface from previous eras. They weren't commenting "ironically" on their racist stereotypes and neither is she.

    For more on Tassels' pathetic rationalizations, see The Dudesons, Polish Jokes, and Minstrel Shows and Okay to Stereotype in "Satires"?

    Nike N7 Sport Summit

    Sold-Out Nike N7 Sport Summit Aims to Advance Native Youth Access to SportNike N7, one of the premier initiatives throughout North America encouraging Native and aboriginal youth to be physically active, will host its first annual Nike N7 Sport Summit at The Tiger Woods Center at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30. Since its inception in 2000, the N7 Fund has generated more than $1 million to help Native and aboriginal nonprofit groups provide access to sport for young people.

    “What inspired the Summit is the N7 Fund Advisory Board wanted to contribute back to the overall vision Nike N7 has related to access to sport,” says Sam McCracken, N7’s general manager and chairman of its board of directors. “They thought, if we can bring the key players together under one roof, we can take a positive step forward in addressing the challenges to access to sport.”

    The sold-out conference has attracted approximately 400 grassroots youth recreation leaders, including nonprofit representatives, wellness coordinators, coaches and Native athletes going by the title of Nike N7 Ambassadors. Prominent names include Notah Begah III, a Professional Golf Association tour pro who founded the Notah Begay III Foundation. He will share the beneficial work of his Foundation, which aims to reduce incidences of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes and promote the leadership development of American Indian youth through sports, health and research programs. Other panelists sharing success stories as a result of access to sport include Lorenzo Neal, retired NFL player for the San Diego Chargers and advisor to Intertribal Sports, a Temecula, California-based program that brings members of Southern California Tribes closer together through sports; Craig Robinson, the head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University; Waneek Horn-Miller, an ambassador for IndigenACTION (an initiative through the Assembly of First Nations to coordinate a national sport fitness and wellness strategy for aboriginal youth) and the co-captain of Canada’s 2000 Olympic National Water Polo Team; and Kevin Carroll, a prominent author for ESPN/Disney and an National Basketball Association athletic trainer.

    Numerous sport program coordinators, coaches and tribal representatives will also attend. “These are the people rolling up their sleeves to go back into their community and leverage sport as a tool for change,” McCracken says. “We also have a dynamic emcee, Kevin Carrroll, who has made a strong commitment” to the N7 initiative, he added.
    Comment:  For more on Nike, see Echo-Hawk Partners with Nike and Bradford Named Nike N7 Ambassador.

    Below:  "Alvina Begay will kick-off the second morning of the Nike N7 Sport Summit on October 29 with a 2-mile walk/run around the Nike campus." (Courtesy of Nike N7)

    Inuit graduate student in accounting

    Inuit Graduate Student First Aboriginal to Tackle Accounting ProgramNot only is Laura Arngna’naaq the first aboriginal student to ever enroll in the Masters in Management and Professional Accounting (MMPA) program at the University of Toronto, she’s also now featured on the cover of program brochures, reported Nunatsiaqonline.ca.

    The 22-year-old Inuit received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Trent University and wants to become a chartered accountant, which is the equivalent to a certified public accountant in the United States, and work in one of the big four accounting firms—Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, or KMPG.
    Comment:  We can imagine what people would say if Arngna’naaq asked them to guess her profession. If she's lucky, they'd guess "nurse" or "teacher." More likely they'd guess "waitress" or "maid." No one would guess "accountant."

    For more on that subject, see Natives Can't Be Professors?!

    October 24, 2011

    Indians sexualized since the beginning

    Blogger Stephen Bridenstine discusses the book Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma by Camilla Townsend. He and Townsend note how Euro-Americans have sexualized Indian women since the beginning.

    Portraying Pocahontas: or the Not-So-Modern Origins of the "Sexy Indian Princess"Indeed, it is the overview on New World literature available to the English colonists that makes Professor Townsend's book so compelling. It is in her description of these sixteenth century works that the origins of the “sexualized Indian” becomes so abundantly clear.

    She writes of lurid tales of an exotic land spreading throughout Europe within the first few years of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. From the earliest illustrations, America was routinely depicted as a naked Indian woman, a metaphor not lost on the Spanish conquistadors who conquered the “virgin” lands of the New World. Even the English described the Indians in and around the failed Roanoke colony as sweet and welcoming, “devoid of all guile and treason.” (p. 28)

    These works inspired hundreds if not thousands of Englishmen to risk their lives and money to journey to this land of “opportunity.” Native women were portrayed as not only accessible but willing. It was seen as practically divine mandate that these Englishmen sow their seed in the new world both literally and figuratively.

    As Townsend writes:“There is no question that John Smith and his peers--those who wrote such books, and those who read them- embraced a notion of an explorer as a conqueror who strode with many steps through lands of admirers, particularly admiring young women...the colonizers of the imagination were men--men imbued with almost mystical powers. The foreign women and the foreign lands wanted, even needed, these men, for such men were more than desirable.” (p. 29)European men fabricated the “New World” into a perfect masculine fantasy where savagery and sexuality mingled together in a myriad of tantalizing forms.
    This early image shows exactly what white men thought of Indian women. They were wild and wanton, like beasts swinging from trees. In other words, sexual animals in human form.

    "Sexual savages" today

    If this stereotypical belief ever abated, it's on the rise once again. With mass-produced outfits and mass-communicated ignorance, hordes of non-Indians are trying to release their "inner Pocahontas." They want to be wild and wanton, or at least convey that impression in a safe way. Why be a plain-vanilla white girl when she can be an exotic Indian princess--a sexual savage who may rip off her buckskins and ravage you at any moment? What red-blooded man wouldn't want a primal playmate like that?

    Bury my heart on Halloween

    By Sheena RoetmanFinally, the over-sexualization of Natives, particularly of Native women, acts as a double-edged sword in aiding not only the objectification of Native Americans (remember—Natives are just "T and A") but also to the objectification of women in general. Take, for example, recent box office Hollywood hits such as Twilight and Avatar. Both films eagerly embrace the stereotype of the "mythical Indian" and the "sexual Indian" and, in the case of Avatar, eagerly campaign for conquering any such person.

    In fact, current trends in popular culture suggest that the public conscious views Native American culture as something of the past entirely. Scantily-clad pop singers parade around stage donning elaborate war bonnets and glittery face paint and stores such as Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 have encouraged this appropriation by mass-producing cheap replicas of sacred items and pandering the items as elements of costume in everyday dress for everyday people. In reality, objects such as war bonnets and dream catchers, and certain feathers, patterns, and colors, are just as sacred to their respective tribes as the Bible, Koran or Torah is to Christians, Muslims or Jews.

    In the contexts of the treatment of Native Americans throughout history and in current media and pop culture, holidays that celebrate colonization and a continued policy of assimilate-or-annihilate tell a very different story than the one taught by public school history textbooks. Objectifying and appropriating cultures and peoples makes it easier for a society to justify certain atrocities committed against those cultures and peoples. Creating a public opinion that centers on the idea that Native Americans are something of the past makes it easier to disregard Natives altogether. Dressing up "Indian" on Halloween may seem relatively innocent, but the very fact that doing so is allowable in our society serves as part of a larger discourse.

    "Pop artist Ke$ha regularly wears Native headdresses during performances."

    Greenlighting rape and violence

    The consequences of this sexualization of Native women are sadly obvious:

    Go ahead and continue sexualizing American Indian and First Nations Women

    By blackwingeddove"Over the past decade, federal government studies have consistently shown that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience much higher levels of sexual violence than other women in the USA. xxData gathered by the US Department of Justice indicates that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general. A US Department of Justice study on violence against women concluded that 34.1 per cent of American Indian and Alaska Native women--or more than one in three--will be raped during their lifetime; the comparable figure for the USA as a whole is less than one in five. Shocking though these statistics are, it is widely believed that they do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women." --Amnesty International, Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA (2007)

    "The fact that Native women are most commonly assaulted by non-Native men is not surprising to me, but does add a historical slant to the idea of how harmful cultural appropriation can be for women. Historically, men have used the implied "natural" sluttiness of women of color as justification for rampant rape or not-really-consensual relationships with women of color, particularly Native women who came into contact with colonists." --Whitney Teal, One Woman's Costume Is Another Woman's Nightmare

    Now can you see why my heart breaks and I feel sick every time I see an image of a naked or scantily clad woman in a headdress? This is not just about cultural appropriation. This is about a serious, scary, and continuing legacy of violence against women in Indian Country. These girls probably thought they were just being “counter-culture” or “edgy,” but by perpetuating the stereotypes of Native women as sexual objects, they are aiding and continuing the cycle of violence." --Adrienne Keene, Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native Women
    Comment:  For more on the princess stereotype, see Navajo Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Sexy "Indian" in New Girl.

    "Talking Eskimo" wheat board video

    'Talking Eskimo' wheat board video sparks controversy

    By Laura PaytonA Conservative MP who posted an animated video on his website that uses the controversial phrase "talking Eskimo" has taken it down.

    Saskatchewan MP David Anderson, parliamentary secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board, posted the video on his website to explain some farmers' opposition to the board. The video is generated from a website where users enter text and a computerized voice reads the text as a conversation between two characters. The video was later pulled off the website.

    The script is meant to be a conversation between a fictional wheat board executive and a Saskatchewan wheat farmer who wants to sell his grain to a baker in Calgary.

    "Slow down, young man. You are talking Eskimo," the executive tells him. "You cannot do those things in Saskatchewan."
    And:The video uses the line about 'talking Eskimo' three times. It also features the board representative telling the farmer he'll be thrown into a maximum security prison cell with a convicted murderer if he tries to sell his grain to a private buyer.

    Earlier, National Inuit Leader Mary Simon called it a racist slur.

    "The comment is offensive to Inuit, has no place in public discussion, and certainly no place on the website of an elected member of Parliament," Simon said in a statement. "My hope is that the MP in question did not know it was part of the animated video, and that it will be removed immediately."

    NDP MP Niki Ashton, whose northern Manitoba Churchill riding is both a port town that makes money off wheat board traffic and has a large First Nations population, tweeted that Anderson should take down the video and apologize.
    Comment:  This must be "Insult a Native Week." It's the fifth time since Oct. 20 that a public figure has said something stupid about Indians.

    One "talking Eskimo" might be an innocent mistake. But three times isn't a mistake, it's a pattern. Anderson clearly thought the phrase was acceptable and appropriate. To him, "talking Eskimo" was a valid way to say "nonsense."

    For more on Eskimo stereotypes, see Vilche the "Eskimo Warrior" and Native Canadians in South Park.

    Children of the Plains is a hit

    "20/20" Children of the Plains Episode Watched by 4.74 Million Viewers

    By Levi Rickert"A Hidden America: Children of the Plains" on ABC's "20/20" on Friday night, October 14 was a hit for the network. According to Nielsen's fast national data, the newsmagazine drew 4.74 million total viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 25-54.

    With the ABC News anchor and veteran journalist Diane Sawyer's report "A Hidden America: Children of the Plains," "20/20" surged over its lead-in by 1.6 million viewers and gained audience throughout the broadcast, producing its most-watched telecast in over 2 months and hit a 13-week high in the key adult 25-54 news demo (since 8/5/11 and 7/8/11, respectively). Sawyer's report took in-depth look at the young dreamers and survivors of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, fighting against decades of neglect.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Poverty Porn in Children of the Plains and Viewers Respond to Children of the Plains.

    October 23, 2011

    Poverty porn in Children of the Plains

    The 20/20 special Children of the Plains has gotten both positive and negative reviews. The episode certainly shone a light on a neglected part of America. For that alone, it provided a valuable service.

    But the critics were right that it was a maudlin mess. It was closer to a morning-show puff piece than a hard-hitting PBS documentary. Here are some of its problems:

  • The tone is set early with Diane Sawyer calling the Lakota "hidden" and "forgotten." These terms may be accurate in some sense, but they're strangely bland and neutral. It's as if Americans wanted to help the Indians all along but couldn't find them.

    That isn't the case, of course. In reality, words like "neglected," "scorned," or "betrayed" would work just as well. But those would shift the blame from the Indians to the white man, and Sawyer doesn't want that.

  • The episode's first half is little but a grim litany of facts and images: unemployment, alcoholism, overcrowded trailers, crumbling floors and ceilings, etc. There's no explanation for why this is happening--merely a statement of its existence. Are the Lakota responsible for their own plight, or is someone--the government or big business--causing it? You won't learn the answers here.

  • It's not hard to find explanations for this poverty. Here's one that appeared around the same time:


Youth”Like many Alaska Native people of my grandmother and mother’s generation, my mother endured the emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, and physical duress of a rapid transition from a traditional way of life on the land to the twenty-first century “city life.” Federal policy and practices, implemented through schools and some churches, enforced the assimilation of Native peoples through the direct and indirect eradication of rights, language, culture, and philosophy. My mother’s generation was born into a world that immediately told her, both in popular culture and in government policies, that she must change.

    The policies and practices of colonization brought with it the social illnesses of sexual abuse, alcoholism, and neglect, which can be passed from one generation to the next. This is often referred to as intergenerational trauma, which equates to an experience of post-traumatic stress disorder among many Alaska Native people. In many ways, my mother’s generation was born with the scars of assaults carried out in previous generations of our ancestry as the colonizing culture attempted the eradication of who we are and the undermining of our control over our destiny as a people.
    Myriads of Native or non-Native experts could've made these points in a minute or two. But Sawyer isn't interested. You have to ask yourself why.

    Without this kind of narrative, many viewers will blame the Indians themselves. And Sawyer seems to be okay with that. She wants you to think in simplistic terms: The children are in trouble but you can help them. Watch this show and feel good about yourself for caring.

    Cry, babies

  • The stories are manipulative to the point of tears--literally. A boy cries because his mother is an alcoholic. A girl cries because she tried to commit suicide. The school principal, an old lady in a motorized chair, cries because her work is so difficult. She's the only adult who seems to care, but she's too feeble to do anything about it.

  • Even when the subjects don't break down and cry, their stories are framed negatively. Another girl gets pregnant and thinks her future is ruined. A five-year-old's father is killed in a drunk-driving accident.

    It's not that any of these stories are false or unrepresentative. But they seem chosen for the maximum heart-tugging effect. You'll suffer with the children in the first half, and you'll feel their joy as things improve in the second half.

    There's a term for this: "poverty porn." Here's how it works:

    What is ‘poverty porn’ and why does it matter for development?As I’ve come to believe, poverty porn, also known as development porn or even famine porn, is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause. Poverty porn is typically associated with black, poverty-stricken Africans, but can be found elsewhere. The subjects are overwhelming children, with the material usually characterized by images or descriptions of suffering, malnourished or otherwise helpless persons.
  • Not only does the episode's first half ignore the causes of poverty, it barely mentions the outside world. When it does, it uses the passive tense. Schools were forbidden to teach the Lakota language. Children were removed to boarding schools.

  • Well, who ordered these things done? Why did they happen? And what were the consequences? Again, you won't learn the answers here.

    Only in the second half does Sawyer mention America's sins a couple times: broken treaties, slaughtered buffalo, stolen land, unhealthy commodity food. But by then it's too little, too late. The "poverty porn" feeling predominates.

  • Sawyer presents two Lakota "talking heads," and they offer some corrections to the narrative. But they're young and polite, and Sawyer puts them on the defensive. Surely the federal government isn't responsible for creating jobs on the rez? she asks the young man. Why do the Lakota cling to the reservation when they could leave? she asks the young woman.

  • Imagine all the sharp-tongued activists--people like Russell Means and Winona LaDuke--who could've ripped the show's passive hand-wringing to shreds. Or the tribal leaders and elders who could've spoken more forcefully on the issues. Sawyer doesn't lift a finger to find such people; she seems to go out of her way to avoid them.

    Where are the adults?

  • Similarly, where are all the people trying to make a difference? For every problem on the rez, there are scads of media reports, government hearings, tribal programs, charities and foundations, etc. People address problems such as suicide and domestic violence every day. An issue such as Whiteclay's alcohol sales, which the show touches upon, has inspired protests, lawsuits, and documentaries.

  • True, no one's come up with a silver bullet to end these problems, but they've received a huge amount of attention lately. Even if the efforts haven't succeeded yet, the show could've mentioned the attempts. You'd never know people are working on these problems from Children of the Plains.

    The show does mention one program fighting alcoholism. And it devotes a fair amount of time to Red Cloud, a successful private school. Great, but those are limited "solutions" to a wide range of problems. When a parent has to leave her children and take two jobs in the city to support them, a good school isn't enough.

    Moreover, the show offers a whiff of conservative ideology in place of thoughtful discussion. This is evident in glimpses of Native American Foods, makers of the Tanka Bar, and a Subway sandwich shop. It's as if no government program is worth mentioning and only free enterprise can save the Lakota.

    Never mind that several factors--bureaucratic red tape, banks unwilling to make loans, sheer distance from population centers--conspire to thwart Lakota entrepreneurship. Sawyer acts as she's found an answer no one else thought of. If only the Indians would open some Subway shops, she implies, their employment and health problems would disappear.

  • Have you seen documentaries where the narrator is invisible and the subjects speak directly to the cameras? As if you're capturing a slice of life without outside interference? This isn't one of them. Diane Sawyer is everywhere. She walks with the children...rides with them...sits with them...tries to speak their language...to do one of their dances...etc. She's there when someone needs a hug or an encouraging word.

  • The show needs less of her and more of the things I've mentioned. Instead of Sawyer smiling at children, feature some of the Lakota who are making a difference. Talk about the efforts underway to fight violence, substance abuse, poor health, and so forth. Don't act as if no one knew about Pine Ridge until the white woman discovered it.


    Children of the Plains exists mainly as poverty porn for white audiences. Summing up its message: No one knows about the hidden, forgotten plight of the Lakota. Compassionate white woman goes where others fear to tread. The children are suffering and sad, but she brings a smile to their faces. No one else cares about these people; no one is trying to help them. But Diane has opened her heart to them, and you can too.

    A more honest documentary would put the "plight" in context. How did the poverty come about? What's keeping the rez poor? What are people doing about it?

    But that would require a complex discussion of cause and effect. It would blunt the focus on Sawyer and the children. If viewers knew how intractable the problems were, they might not open their hearts and wallets. They might shrug and change the channel instead.

    Sure, the show's focus on the children is undoubtedly a good thing. It humanizes the abstract problems and coaxes viewers to care. The predictably uplifting ending encourages them to think they can make a difference. If Diane Sawyer can waltz onto the rez and change a few lives, maybe they can too.

    That's nice, but Children of the Plains spent too much time on its manipulative message. It could've cut 10-15 minutes of the sad stuff and devoted that time to providing context instead. Viewers would want to help the children still, but they'd have a better understanding of the issues, too.

    This approach would've educated them on the long-term structural problems facing many reservations, not just Pine Ridge. It would've taught them to reject anti-Indian bigotry such as the "blame the victim" dogma espoused by conservatives. It would've inspired them to work for progressive change that benefits Indians as well as the rest of the 99%.

    So Children of the Plains achieved its first-level goal of raising awareness. It didn't achieve the second-level goals of increasing understanding or inspiring action. And that's after Diane Sawyer spent a year and a half filming on the rez. All that time and money to produce an average news segment--what a waste.

    For more on the subject, see Viewers Respond to Children of the Plains and Children of the Plains on 20/20.

    Maya end date = Oct. 28

    Revising the Mayan End Date

    (from Dec. 21, 2012, to Oct. 28, 2011)According to researchers like Ian Xel Lungold and Dr. Carl Johan Callerman, the true Mayan end date is not Dec. 21, 2012, but Oct. 28, 2011. That's a difference of 13 months and three weeks earlier than the more modern or commonly accepted date. Why the difference? The researchers claim that the Dreamspell or 13 lunar-month calendar upon which Arguelles and others based their calculations does not take into account the quarterly leap day (Feb. 29) introduced into the Gregorian calendar by Pope Gregory in 1582, whereas the true Mayan calendar does. This pushes the end date almost 14 months ahead of schedule to Dec. 21, 2012 (as calculated from Aug. of 3115 BC).Comment:  You've got until Friday before the world ends, so enjoy!

    For more on the subject, see Mexico Seeks "2012" Tourism and Review of 2012.