December 31, 2012

Annenberg's "Redskins" survey

I've commented before on the infamous Sports Illustrated poll on Indian mascots. It recently came up again in the debate about the Atlanta Braves' "screaming Indian" baseball cap.

Someone also mentioned the Annenberg survey on the Washington Redskins. I thought this was a different name for the same poll, but no. It seems Annenberg conducted a follow-up to the Sports Illustrated poll a couple of years later.

Here's the story:

Most Indians Say Name of Washington “Redskins” Is Acceptable While 9 Percent Call It Offensive, Annenberg Data ShowMost American Indians say that calling Washington’s professional football team the “Redskins” does not bother them, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey shows.

Ninety percent of Indians took that position, while 9 percent said they found the name “offensive.” One percent had no answer. The margin of sampling error for those findings was plus or minus two percentage points.

Because they make up a very small proportion of the total population, the responses of 768 people who said they were Indians or Native Americans were collected over a very long period of polling, from October 7, 2003 through September 20, 2004. They included Indians from every state except Alaska and Hawaii, where the Annenberg survey does not interview. The question that was put to them was “The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or doesn’t it bother you?”
Comment:  The Peter Harris Research Group, which conducted the Sports Illustrated poll, never released its methodology, so its results are completely suspect. By explaining its basic methodology, Annenberg has done what Peter Harris didn't.

Unfortunately, Annenberg's methodology confirms that these polls aren't very reliable. Among its demographic problems:

  • It's well-known that relying on telephone landlines skews the results in a conservative direction. Older, conservative people tend to stick with landlines. Younger, liberal people tend to use cellphones.

  • Moreover, a significant subset of Indians living on reservations don't have any phone service. They obviously weren't included in the survey.

  • Alaska is about 13% Native. Excluding Alaska means excluding 100,000 Natives or 2-3% of the total Native population.

  • Meanwhile, excluding Hawaii means excluding one of the most liberal states. We can presume that Hawaiians are more sensitive to mascot issues than residents of other states.

  • Asking people to self-identify as Indians probably skews the results toward wannabes with a small amount of Indian blood. We don't know how they'd answer, but it isn't necessarily the same way as actual Indians.

  • Offensive, bothersome, or wrong?

    Perhaps a bigger problem is the nature of the question asked: "As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or doesn’t it bother you?" Among its problems:

  • The two options aren't symmetrical. Respondents could think the name is offensive but doesn't bother them, or it bothers them but it isn't offensive. Better would be to ask, "Is it offensive or not offensive?" or "Does it bother or not bother you?"

  • Offensiveness is only one aspect of the name. One can object to it on other grounds besides its being offensive.

    As an example, I'm not offended when people use swear words in public. But I don't think these words are good, and I wouldn't name a sports team after them. So a name can be objectionable without offending me personally.

    As another example, I'm not offended when people recite the Pledge of Allegiance at events. But I think it's silly at best and a mild form of brainwashing at worst. It's objectionable because it serves no rational purpose even if it's not offensive.

    The same applies to the "Redskins" name.

    Consider the poll's headline: Most Indians find "Redskins" acceptable. That's not what the question asked. It asked if the name bothers them, as in personally--a somewhat different attribute.

    It's easy to imagine people's ambivalent feelings toward a stereotypical name or mascot. For instance, "It doesn't bother me personally, but if others find it offensive, I think it should go." Or, "It doesn't bother me personally, but I think it's biasing people's perceptions, so it should go."

    In other words, the poll could've asked about more than just the "offensive/not bothersome" duality. It could've asked if the name was good or bad, right or wrong. The actual question is flawed because it doesn't probe the potentially nuanced feelings about "Redskins."

    If the Sports Illustrated survey is anything like the Annenberg survey, both are skewed toward the non-Indian, mainstream, conservative position. Granted, a better poll probably wouldn't reverse the results, with Indians opposing mascots 90-10%. The true feeling toward "Redskins" and other team names and mascots is probably somewhere in the middle, not at either extreme.

    For more on the Washington Redskins, see Kickstarter Campaign to Change Redskins Name and Red·skin n. Dated, Offensive, Taboo.

  • Top Native stories of 2012

    The Most Important Stories of 2012

    2012’s Biggest Indian Country Surprises

    Top 10 Most Popular Stories of the Year

    2012 Hall of Fame and Mantle of Shame Awards

    Comment:  I'm glad to say I covered many of these stories during the year.

    These round-ups slice the top stories of 2012 in different ways: most important, biggest surprises, and most popular. But the first posting is really what we mean when we talk about the top stories.

    But note: These round-ups mix "big" stories--the Cobell settlement, the Violence Against Women Act, Idle No More--with "small" stories--Johnny Depp, Elizabeth Warren, Victoria's Secret. The point is that all these issues are important to Natives.

    You can see this clearly in the third round-up, which lists the most popular stories on the ICTMN site. Most deal with racial and stereotyping issues, not "more important" issues such as poverty, healthcare, and crime.

    The conclusion is to ignore the critics who say these issues don't matter, because they do. Natives vote with their clicks and they want to know about racism and stereotyping. Because these issues affect them every day.

    For more on the subject, see Top Native Stories of 2011.

    December 30, 2012

    Canadian textbooks marginalized Natives

    An interesting look at how Canadian textbooks handled Native history until recently:

    To take a stand you have to stand up

    By sincmurrMost Canadians have been taught little or nothing about the Indian Residential Schools. But they were probably taught something, one way or another, about the history of Canada and the role of Aboriginal peoples in that history. They were probably taught, for instance, that the history of North America began “in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” or when John Cabot and Jacques Cartier landed on a small piece of land in the East of Canada, and claimed the entire place all the away to the West for a foreign power.

    Penney Clark of the University of British Columbia, writes about how Aboriginal People are portrayed in English Canadian History Textbooks in her work entitled Teaching the Violent Past: History Education and Reconciliation. Dr. Clark divides the treatment of Aboriginal peoples in textbooks prior to 1970 into six general categories:

    Aboriginal people as spectator or bystander–basically irrelevant to the main narrative of the text, and to the narrative of history of this country;

    Aboriginal people as savage warriors; a danger lurking in the background of the settler story.

    Aboriginal people as uniquely spiritual; followers of mystical beliefs, naïve to the forces at play around them and victim to their lack of astuteness.

    Aboriginal people as problem;

    Aboriginal people as protestor; and

    Aboriginal people as invisible.

    Nation-building has been the main theme of Canada’s history curricula for a long time, and Aboriginal people, except for a few notable exceptions trotted out as if to prove the rule, have been portrayed as bystanders, if not obstacles, to the enterprise of nation-building.
    Comparing the textbooks' treatment of Natives and non-Natives:Dr. Ken Osborne is a (former) Professor of Education at the University of Manitoba. His specialty has been the teaching of history, and he is writing a book about the history of the teaching of history in Canada. He says:In both English language and French-language textbooks the First Nations were typically assigned the textbook equivalent of a reserve: a segregated first chapter of a quasi-ethnographic nature in which they appeared to live in a timeless past that was now outdated and best forgotten. Before the 1970s, textbooks overwhelmingly saw Canadian history as beginning with the arrival of Europeans in North America. With the arrival of Europeans, the First Nations made an occasional cameo appearance in the early history of New France, in the context of the fur trade, briefly in the War of 1812, and finally as an obstacle to European settlement of the West.

    Totally lost was any sense of Aboriginal culture as a successful adaptation to the physical environment and of Aboriginal life as self-sustaining and self-sufficient in its own terms.
    Dr. Osborne goes on to mention that even when comment was made about the presence of Aboriginal People, it was not always done in a positive light:Europeans had religion; Aboriginal peoples had superstitions and ‘strange ideas about the things around them.’ Europeans held ceremonies; Aboriginal people indulged in orgies. Europeans had technology; Aboriginal peoples used crude inventions. Europeans had doctors; Aboriginal peoples had medicine men who worked their cures, ‘by beating drums, dancing and howling.’
    And why this matters:The way Aboriginal peoples were represented in textbooks prior to the 1970s is important for two reasons.

    First, many of today’s leading and prominent Canadians attended school and university in that era, long before educational authorities began to take their first critical look at curricula as it relates to Aboriginal peoples. That education has influenced each and every one of us. As an Aboriginal student it denied to me any sense of pride about the role of my ancestors in the history of this part of the world. For my non-Aboriginal classmates, it taught them that we were wild and savage and uncivilized, and that given the conditions of Aboriginal people in modern society, we had not advanced very far from that state. My non-Aboriginal classmates were taught to be proud of the accomplishments of their ancestors in taming this “wild” country and wresting it from the “savages.” They have been educated throughout their lives to take pride in their ancestors’ having established this wonderful nation known as Canada and to take pride in the advanced civilizations from which their ancestors came. This so, even though the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes observed that the life of the English commoner of his day was “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

    My education lacked such relevance for me, and this was so despite my success at it. I was a very good student, but my success came at a price. The education that I and others received taught us that my people were irrelevant. By implication it caused me to feel that I was too. It taught us to believe in the inferiority of Aboriginal people and in the inherent superiority of white European civilization, and in order to get the grades that I did, I was compelled to repeat that mantra. The educational system of my day did not teach us to respect Aboriginal people because it never told us anything about the Aboriginal presence in this country that showed the humanity of the people. We were treated as no more significant to the evolution of this country than the rocks and rivers and trees and wildlife. We were all educated to be the same, and if we, as Aboriginal students, rebelled, we were weeded out, or we weeded ourselves out. Of the dozens of Aboriginal students I started grade school with, few graduated from high school, even though they were equal or superior in intelligence to many of my fellow grads. Even my brother and sister did not graduate from high school, and there are members of my family who will happily tell you they were, and are, smarter than me. But though I, and other Aboriginal students, succeeded in that system, it was not without cost to our own humanity.
    Comment:  Apparently Canadian textbooks handled Native history about the same American textbooks handled it.

    Since this essay is primarily about textbooks before 1970, I presume they've changed for the better. But the final point--being taught Natives were irrelevant--applies to more than just textbooks. We're still instilling that belief throughout our culture: via Indian mascots, hipsters in headdresses, phony movie portrayals, Maya apocalypse jokes, and much more. Every false or stereotypical depiction of Indians contributes to the overwhelming impression that they're savages--i.e., primitive people of the past who no longer exist.

    For more on the subject, see Columbus Day Celebrates Conquest and "6 Ridiculous Lies" About Indians.

    Keith Secola's rock opera

    Keith Secola Gets Humble for the Muse

    By Christina RoseHow do you see your music crossing into the mainstream?

    I think the new album (Life Is Grand) is going to be the quintessential protest album of 2012, only I have to disguise it, like Dickens' Christmas Carol. I have a rock opera called Seeds, and there are marginal creatures and adult fantasy. The heroine was sent by the grandfathers to bring virtues to this earth because she is sick.

    So it’s social commentary?

    Exactly that.

    What was your process in writing the opera?

    It took years of writing, and writing is difficult! I started writing it about six, seven years ago. The songs have lyrics and melody, and it’s not some new age, ‘Look at this Indian with the flute’ and the audience fills it in. This has dialogue, long, meaningful, songs, with to-the-point lyrics.

    That was the hard part, trying to write without being pretentious about it, because we can’t be so serious, either. You have to write with a sense of humor, and also have to look at the criteria--one, Is it entertaining? Two, is it philosophical? Three, is it spiritual in nature? And four, is it metaphysical in nature, so people can draw their own meaning to it?

    The first song is called “Song For The Marginals.” And we say, "Come out, come out marginal creatures! Now is the time to dance under the sun, because we have been dancing under the full moon for a long time, and now it is our time to reclaim the sun!"
    Comment:  For more on Keith Secola, see Edwards and Secola in NAMA Hall of Fame.

    December 29, 2012

    Idle No More's goals

    Idle No More Gaining Momentum and Forming Plan of Action“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty and which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water, which affects all people,” an Idle No More press release states. “Idle No More calls on all of us to repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, protect Mother Earth, and create sustainable, healthy communities.”And:“There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals–Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals, and particularly encourages youth to become engaged in this movement, as the leaders of our future,” the press release states. “[Idle No More] also recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.”

    The group, in an effort to unify its fronts, have released a plan of action:

    -- Support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and responsibilities to Native nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media.

    -- Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada.

    -- Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the United Nations to raise awareness to the conditions indigenous people have been subjected to and assert sovereignty in the international arena.

    -- Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals and are the true inspiration.
    Those are rather broad, amorphous, and unquantifiable goals. They may take decades to achieve to everyone's satisfaction.

    A column makes similar points:

    Lakritz: Idle No More long on rhetoric, short on action

    By Naomi LakritzThe Idle No More movement should be specific about what they’re demanding. Otherwise, they’re doomed to go the way of the Occupy movement, which engaged in rhetoric akin to that emanating from the Idle No More folks, but in the end, faded away because they couldn’t delineate precisely what results they wanted to see happen.

    On Idle No More’s website, a woman named Tami Starlight alluded to this problem when she wrote in part: “Indigenous actions have been taking place since first contact. We need to build our own capacity as nations and confront the colonial systems we are all mired in. Rallies are just that—rallies. The same with petitions. Most have no bearing on anything and are not legally binding ... Promoting the false sense of accomplishment is problematic at best.”

    Idle No More’s action plan states: “Support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media. Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada. Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena. Acknowledge and honour the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work toward these goals—you are our inspiration.”

    These are not goals. This is talk. And talking should not be mistaken for action. Or, as another online poster commented below Starlight’s post: “What is the Plan beyond the points above? We need one.”
    Lakritz goes on to blame Natives for their own problems. I don't agree with that, in general, but she has a point about the lack of specific goals.

    More specifics

    A later posting is a bit more specific:

    First Nations chiefs contemplate “breach of treaty” declarations, indefinite economic disruptions

    By Jorge BarreraFirst Nations leaders have discussed plans to launch country-wide economic disruptions by the middle of January if Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t agree to hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s demand for a treaty meeting, APTN National News has learned.

    During three days of meetings and teleconferences, chiefs from across the country discussed a plan setting Jan. 16 as the day to launch a campaign of indefinite economic disruptions, including railway and highway blockades, according to two chiefs who were involved in the talks who requested anonymity.

    “The people are restless, they are saying enough is enough,” said one chief, who was involved in the discussions. “Economic impacts are imminent if there is no response.”

    Chiefs were still finalizing details of their plans Monday evening and it remained unclear to what extent their discussed options would translate into the official position.

    Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo is expected to write Harper a letter outlining the chiefs’ position.

    Spence launched her hunger strike on Dec. 11 to force a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston and First Nations leaders to discuss the state of the treaties. Spence said in a statement issued Monday that the aim of the meeting was to “re-establish” the treaty relationship and finally put First Nations people in their “rightful place back here in our homelands that we all call Canada.”
    And:During the discussions, some First Nations leaders suggested individual communities and treaty regions issue “breach of treaty” declarations beginning Jan. 1 and leading up to Jan. 16. Aside from blockades, chiefs discussed stepping up rallies at MP’s offices, continuing letter campaigns and launching Twitter bombs.

    “All we are doing is reasserting our own sovereign right and inherent right within this treaty,” said a second chief, who was also involved in the discussions. “The time has come that they need to see we are a sovereign entity, we have and always will be because of the relationship of treaty that was entered into by the Crown and numerous nations.”
    "Re-establish the treaty relationship" is a big goal too, but it's more finite and measurable than the previous goals. It's matched by a relatively clear threat: to issue "breach of treaty" declarations and back them up with more rallies, blockades, and other disruptions of everyday life.

    Finally, here's a much clearer statement of Idle No More's grievances and objectives:

    Idle No More: What do we want and where are we headed?

    By Pamela PalmaterThe Idle No More movement is part of a larger Indigenous movement that has been in the making for several years now. Indigenous activists all over the country have been monitoring the political and legal scene in Canada at both the federal and provincial levels and making a concerted effort to help inform First Nation community members and leaders about any potential threats. We noted a clear assimilation agenda that emerged within the Conservative government and we started planning on how we could address that if Prime Minister Harper insisted on putting his plan into action.

    We of course worked very hard to try all the usual channels to address our growing concerns, which included lobbying, letter-writing, testifying before Senate and Parliament, endless meetings with MPs, Senators, Ministers and others--all to no avail. The Harper government was not interested in talking to us, let alone consulting or getting our consent. Harper decided instead to use the Assembly of First Nations as his primary vehicle to call all the shots. Harper's government set the agenda, they drafted the joint action plans and they alone decided what was and was not on the table. In other words, Harper managed to bully his assimilation plan onto the First Nation agenda with hardly a squeak of opposition at the political level.

    At the co-called Crown-First Nation Gathering (CFNG) last January 2012, Harper promised First Nations his government would not unilaterally amend or repeal the Indian Act. After the CFNG, he broke that promise and proceeded with an aggressive legislative agenda that will include upwards of 14 bills that will devastate our First Nations in various ways. It is the White Paper 2012 with a twist--instead of it being a policy, like the 1969 White Paper, which wanted to assimilate Indians, Harper's plan will be law. This is the spark that ignited the Idle No More movement into action.

    We always knew action would be required at some point, but the legislation posed an imminent threat and required immediate mobilization. That is how a movement was born. In the early days, some were calling the Idle No More movement, some calling it an Indigenous rights movements, but we all agreed that we needed to immediately oppose Harper's assimilatory legislative agenda. So many of the early activities included teach-ins which helped explain the legislation's potential impacts on First Nations and more importantly, what we could do to oppose it.

    Early protests started out as opposing the massive omnibus Bill C-45, but later came to include the whole suite.
    And:When asked what do we want, that question can be answered in two parts:

    (1) In the short term, Canada must withdraw the suite of legislation impacting First Nations, amend those omnibus bills which threaten our lands and waters, and restore the funding that was cut to our First Nation advocacy organizations and communities;

    (2) In the long term, Canada must set up a Nation to Nation process whereby First Nations and Canada can address many of the long outstanding issues related to the implementation of treaties and sharing the lands and resources.

    Ultimately, we want to be free--free to govern ourselves as we choose; free to enjoy our identities, cultures, languages and traditions--i.e., to live the good life as we see fit. This means Canada must respect our sovereignty and get out of the business of managing our lives. Given that Canada has worked hard to put us in the situation we are in, Harper will have to come to table with some good faith and offer some solutions to address the current crisis facing many of our communities in relation to the basic essentials of life--water, sanitation, housing, and education. If Harper can do no more than appear at a meeting on January 24th as requested by the AFN, our most vulnerable citizens will not see justice.
    Withdraw the legislation and set up a nation-to-nation those are concrete goals.

    For more on Idle No More, see Racism Against Idle No More and Idle No More in Los Angeles.

    Palestinians endorse Idle No More

    Palestinians Endorse Idle No More

    By Gale Courey ToensingAmerican Indians and Palestinians have supported each other’s struggle since at least the 1970s when the American Indian Movement hosted a delegation of leaders from the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

    “What the American Indian Movement says is that the American Indians are the Palestinians of the United States, and the Palestinians are the American Indians of the Middle East,” the late great Indian leader Russell Means said many times. So it is no surprise that Palestinian activists are coming out in support of Idle No More.

    In little more than two weeks since the December 10 launching of the Idle No More movement by First Nations in Canada oppose a Senate omnibus budget bill that leaves them with no power over their lands and resources, dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals supporting Palestinian liberation and human rights have endorsed the Palestinians in Solidarity with Idle No More and Indigenous Rights statement of support of the continuing Native protest that has spread across Canada, the U.S., some European countries and into the Middle East. Palestinians in Solidarity with Idle No More and Indigenous Rights calls for justice, dignity, decolonization and protection of the land, waters and resources.

    “We recognize the deep connections and similarities between the experiences of our peoples–settler colonialism, destruction and exploitation of our land and resources, denial of our identity and rights, genocide and attempted genocide,” the statement says. “As Palestinians, we stood with the national liberation movement against settler colonialism in South Africa, as we stand with all liberation movements challenging colonialism and imperialism around the world. The struggle of Indigenous and Native peoples in Canada and the United States has long been known to the Palestinian people, reflecting our common history as peoples and nations subject to ethnic cleansing at the hands of the very same forces of European colonization.”

    The statement goes on to recognize that the Indigenous resistance movement in Canada “includes struggles against the ongoing theft of indigenous lands, massive resource extraction and environmental devastation (including tar sands and pipelines), the continuing movement of survivors of the genocidal residential school system, and movements to demand an end to the colonial and gendered violence against Indigenous women.”
    Comment:  For more on the Indian-Palestinian connection, see Critics Slam Harjo's Trip and LaDuke on Gaza:  We Are Israel.

    December 28, 2012

    Braves bring back "screaming savage"

    Braves bring back 'screaming savage' logo on batting practice hats

    By Chris ChaseWhen sports franchises go retro with uniform redesigns, it usually conjures idyllic versions of the past. The Atlanta Braves new batting practice caps are a surprising turn in the other direction.

    Atlanta's new batting practice cap features the team's old "screaming savage" logo--a Mohawked Native American with a feather in his head engaged in a tribal yell. The logo was part of the team's uniform from 1967 to 1989. The team got rid of mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa (wait for it ...) two years earlier.

    Paul Lukas of Uni Watch released photos of the new cap Thursday morning.

    People are in a justifiable uproar at the return to the Mohawked caricature, as if they expected a more nuanced take on race relations from a franchise whose fans still do the tomahawk chop.
    Really, Atlanta? Braves Bring Back 'Screaming Savage' Logo[F]or Natives, and much of the sportswriting/blogging world, seeing the logo again in use is very disappointing. That's the word used by Paul Lukas of, who is probably the foremost scribe on professional athlete apparel, in his ESPN review: "Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn't been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F"

    Others had similar reactions:

    "Perhaps ownership was sick and tired of the Washington Redskins and their culturally insensitive name remaining the most offensive rendition of Native American culture in this country," wrote Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report. He added, "Atlanta should retract these hats immediately. The organization is better than this."

    In a post tagged "racism," Tom Ley of Deadspin described the logo as an Indian "captured here in mid-shriek as he watches either a Braves home run or the forcible uprooting and assimilation of his culture."

    "Hands down, the worst," was Trent Rosecrans' verdict at CBS Sports' Eye on Baseball blog.

    Dylan Murphy of SportsGrid presents some pro and con Twitter reactions, but concludes that "No matter how the Braves PR department tries to spin it, the logo is racist–it’s just a screaming Native American head, emphasizing stereotypes and the emotional simplicity of a people."

    Mascot lovers defend cap

    As with almost any instance of racism and stereotyping, white people crawled out of the woodwork to defend their "right" to belittle others. Adrienne Keene tackled some of them, beginning with those who criticized Lukas's "Grade: F" above.

    Dear Defender of the new Atlanta Braves Cap“Disappointing. Grade: F”

    Read those vile and fighting words! Clearly he is calling each and every one of you a dirty, stinking racist. Clearly he is saying that you are the scum of the earth and that everything you hold dear is offensive to someone, so you might as well run around naked and live in a hole in the ground to stave off the “PC police” who are coming for you. Yes, by saying that returning to a tired, offensive stereotype of Native people is “disappointing,” that’s clearly what he meant.

    Because in the comments, it seems you and your fellow sports fans have lost your damn minds. There are 30 caps in the post, 30 pieces of commentary from Lukas, but somehow, 99.9% of the comments on the article are concerning the Braves cap. You are so original to pretend you are a “pirate” and are offended by the Pirates, or that you are a “communist” and are offended by the Reds. Or Irish, or a Viking, or even more creatively, you’re an elephant who’s offended by the new A’s logo! L.O. effing L. Cause, yep, Indians are just like pirates and Irish and communists and elephants! All those folks are marginalized racial groups who have been historically oppressed and continue to have the highest statistics for poverty, and homelessness, and suicide, and live in third world conditions, while they constantly and repeatedly have their cultures and lives mocked and stereotyped on every corner. Yep! The welfare lines are just full of elephants this time of year.

    And I’m so glad there are people like your friend “chrohandhaivey” who can tell me what I should be honored by and how “fierce” I “was”:Im tired of this native american racist crap…$@%! you should be honored your race is a team mascot…thats a good thing…it shows how fierce you were to be used as a sports team….its not like its the n****rs or something i mean come on…personally i wish there was an Atlanta team named the “White People”…Id rock the $@%! out of that with pride not complain about it like some puddinsOr your friend “canigs013″ who gave us a backhanded compliment by saying we’re “too smart” to care about mascots:for real. has anyone actually heard a native american complain about things like that? no, because they’re too smart to care about dumb things that do not matter.Nope, “canigs013,” you’re right. I’ve never heard of a Native American complain about Indian mascots. Nope, there’s not a Supreme Court case, or millions of news articles, or decades and decades of activism against the cause. Nope.

    But I’m stoked that one of your other friends brought up the infamous Sports Illustrated poll that shows that 80% of Native Americans support Indian mascots. A poll from 2002. Here are 20 other things that were popular in 2002, and I don’t think you’d care to argue their relevance today. Though, who knows, maybe you are rockin’ your CD’s on your walkman right now while fearing a boyband anthrax attack. There are also a million other things wrong with that poll, including the fact that they won’t release their polling sample or how they determined who to interview. Read this article to hear all the ways that poll is ridiculous and shouldn’t be used in an argument a decade later. A decade later.

    I really wonder if you know how you sound. Your arguments are tired, are weak, and are getting more eye-roll worthy by the day. How long will you stand by the argument that “PC culture” is ruining “your” America? I’d like to share this awesome quote by Dion Beary that sums up your thought process perfectly for me:“Politically correct” is just a term assholes came up with so they can dismiss people who have the nerve to want to be respected. Demanding not to be stereotyped is not political correctness, it’s a human right, and you are not some hero for refusing to respect people’s right to be treated like humans.I am a real person. Hi. I am a modern Indian who likes sports and doesn’t want to take away “your” beloved franchise. But the images aren’t yours to keep. They’re representations of me, and my people, and my ancestors, and I should have the right to control them. And you see, the thing is, times change. While maybe at one time (though I’m gonna stand by the fact that it’s never been acceptable) these images were deemed “A-ok,” we’re not in that time anymore. In the not-so-distant past, folks were lamenting the loss of the minstrel show as a lovely form of family entertainment, or demanding that black folks use separate water fountains. Which side of the fight do you really want to be on?
    The Womanist blog also tackled some of the mascot lovers' comments:

    The Problem With the New Braves Practice HatThe aforementioned is only a small smattering of the racist commentary about the hat. There were a few reoccurring themes:

    Native People should be proud of the representation and that it is actually complimentary to their culture.

    Being upset is silly and there are more serious issues in the world than this hat

    Being upset about the hat is a symptom of a leftist politically correct culture, which infringes on free speech.

    Native People should be thankful because Whiteness does not get to be celebrated in the same vein

    It could be worse and what about teams like Notre Dame and the offensiveness of the drunken fighting Irish stereotype?

    The very idea that having your culture demonized and reduced to an insensitive racist caricature should be deemed a positive and something to be proud of is beyond a twisting of the truth. It speaks to a complete desire to silence any form of dissent and it further suggests that Native People should not have the right to define themselves as they see fit. It is not for those outside of the Native American community to set the agenda for organizing. If you do not belong to the group in question, you cannot possible understand the impact of racist caricatures used by sports team because you don't have to live with the consequences. It is important to note that there are no social stereotypes that specifically demonize Whiteness and even more accurately, regardless of context, Whiteness is deemed to be the universal good.

    The lack of celebration of Whiteness is something that would amuse me because of the ridiculousness of the claim, if the concept itself didn't completely depress me. The only reason people can complain that Whiteness is not celebrated, is because it has become so ubiquitous. You don't need a special hat, or television station to celebrate something that is so socially ingrained. White culture, and White pride are everywhere you look and they appear in a multitude of fashions.

    One of the most common comments I saw was the continual suggestion that complaining about racism is being politically correct. Just like asshats how stand behind their freedom of speech to say the most reprehensible things, the people who go on about politically correct speech want the freedom to say whatever they desire without being held accountable for the hateful shit that they regularly spew. The very idea that a demand to be respectful to marginalized people reduces the English language to newspeak is asinine at best. It's not politically correct to avoid hate speech, it's called being a decent human being. The reason they have such an issue with the idea that it is wrong to attack historically marginalized people is not from a fear of losing the ability to express thoughts or ideas, but because it represents a limitation of their ability to maintain and advance their undeserved social power and privilege.
    Rob weighs in

    One mascot lover wrote a whole column defending the cap:

    Braves BP Cap Is Perfectly Fine, Settle Down

    By JR FrancisSomehow the people who don’t like the logo keep referring to it as the “Screaming Savage” even as the logo itself is quite obviously laughing. There is a smile on his face. No one with the Braves or the MLB calls him that, and that has not been the implication. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good hissy fit.

    Let’s not forget what this logo is, or why it is there; It is an almost exact implementation of a logo the team first used 58 years ago when they were located in Milwaukee. This isn’t a team breaking new ground into imagery that might possibly offend, this is a team paying tribute to their logos past, to an image many, many Braves fans have seen their whole lives, who associate it with good times of watching baseball. And who buy massive quantities of throwback merchandise with this logo and its variations.

    This is not some old logo, relegated to the dustbin for lack of interest. It is one of the prime identifying marks of the team, and it is popular. It is available as a FatHead everywhere on hundreds of different tshirts, and fills the Atlanta Braves Team Store in the CNN Center, and inside the stadium. During the season, thousands wear gear with this logo.
    Some admirers said this column was "perfect" and they loved it. To which I responded:

    The people who "love" this article must've skipped the parts about how old and popular the clownish mascot is. Because those arguments are irrelevant and have nothing to do with the current protests.

    "It shows them as selfless, honorable, and to be respected." Hee-hawing like a donkey (your claim) or screaming (the Native claim) is equivalent to selfless and honorable? I guess you don't have the slightest idea what "respectable" means if you think a braying "brave" is respectable.

    I could add that a Mohawk from the Northeast has nothing to do with the Indians of Georgia. That alone makes the logo false and stereotypical. But why bother, since mascot lovers aren't amenable to reason? They love their traditional examples of racism and the feelings of superiority these examples engender.

    For more on the Atlanta Braves, see Origin of the Tomahawk Chop and Animals, Objects, and Professions.

    Below:  "Hee haw! I'm a savage brute who either laughs like a donkey or screams like an ape."

    Racism against Idle No More

    There is no end to the stupidity bred by hunger strikes

    By Christie BlatchfordCertainly, no one could argue the status quo is anything other than an embarrassing, frustrating failure for everyone involved.

    The bureaucracies, federal and provincial, which purport to serve First Nations often make a mess of it. The Indian Act clearly breeds dependence and learned helplessness both, and infantilizes native people. The millions that flow every year to First Nations–Attawapiskat alone, the prime minister said last year at the time of the housing emergency, has received $90 million in transfer payments since the Conservatives were elected in 2006–seem to do nothing to raise the aboriginal standard of living. First Nations governance itself often offers a less than pretty picture.

    And by almost any measure–poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, rates of children taken into care, even freedom of speech and expression on reserves where the only media are band-owned and operated–aboriginal Canadians live in near-Third World conditions.

    Conditions on all reserves are not as despair-inducing and soul-destroying as they are at Attawapiskat, but neither is Attawapiskat unique. On too many First Nations, sexual abuse, profound dysfunction and physical violence are the stuff of daily life.

    So, while Chief Spence, and others, may long for “nation-to-nation” discussions, there is I think a genuine question as to whether there’s enough of aboriginal culture that has survived to even dream of that lofty status, or if the culture isn’t irreparably damaged already. Smudging, drumming and the like do not a nation make.
    Wow, that last paragraph is incredibly insulting. The obvious message is: "All the real Indians vanished long ago. These Indians are merely pretenders, so let's void their treaties and assimilate them. Or let them die for real."

    Actually, a tribe doesn't have to retain any culture to be a distinct political entity. American states have separate governments even though their cultures are almost identical to their neighbors'. The same would apply to tribes.

    Slurs and profanity

    This dismissive attitude is only the tip of the racist iceberg, as the following posting demonstrates:

    Debate on aboriginal issues overshadowed by online slurs

    By Christopher CurtisCan Canadians have an adult conversation about aboriginal issues?

    Since Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike more than two weeks ago in Ottawa, in an attempt to get the attention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, websites such as Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with polarizing commentary over the Idle No More protests now taking place nationwide in her name.

    One Facebook commenter called the chief a ‘dumb Indian' and suggested that irrationality was a genetic trait among aboriginals. The person later apologized for the comment after it was posted and criticized on a Montreal-based blog.

    That blog singles out other epithets that run the gamut of aboriginal stereotypes, for example with one man suggesting police throw cases of whiskey at native Canadians to quell their growing protest movement. Other web entries and tweets are profanity-laced.

    At the other end of the spectrum, columnists or analysts who have criticized the Idle No More movement have been dubbed ‘racist' by their online detractors. Comment sections of some new sites have been shut down because of abusive remarks.

    "Some people are very defensive and start seeing racism when, in fact, what they're actually seeing is healthy criticism," said Melissa Mollen Dupuis, who co-founded Idle No More's Quebec branch. "But what you have to realize is that a lot of these people have been put down their whole lives. They've been discriminated against for being aboriginal, they've been beaten over the head with it again and again. So, naturally, they're sensitive."
    Some Idle No More critics make racist remarks. Other people point out these racist remarks. That sounds like the same end of the spectrum to me, not "the other end."

    True, some critics may hate the Idle No More movement for reasons other than race. But I suspect there's a racist component to most of the criticism. Blatchford's commentary above is a good example. She implies a Native government doesn't deserve a head-to-head meeting with the Canadian government because Natives are somehow weakened or inferior.

    The continuing hunger strikes, flash mobs, and blockades; the movement's spread around the world; and its use of Native traditions all belie Blatchford's assertions. Which is kind of the point. Mainstream society tends to think indigenous peoples and cultures are no longer relevant. Idle No More intends to prove them wrong.

    For more on Idle No More, see Idle No More in Los Angeles and Idle No More Goes International.

    Below:  "Chief Theresa Spence of Northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat First Nation sits in the sun on Victoria Island, a few hundred metres from Parliament Hill, during her hunger strike." (Teresa Smith/Ottawa Citizen, Postmedia News)

    NMAI launches Maya website

    Museum of the American Indian launches website on astronomy and Maya mathematicsMembers of the Mayan ethnics from Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala launched the website “Living the Mayan time, sun, corn and Calendar,” which aims to provide teachers and high school students with content in Maya Astronomy and Mathematics.

    In the framework of the Maya Culture Festival 2012 the director of the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, Isabel Hawkins, presented the website produced by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

    The website (, with versions in English and Spanish, has as its main objective to help and provide teachers at high school level an easy reference of the contents mentioned to relay this knowledge to new generations.

    “It is an effort that brought the work of more than 130 people, of which 95 percent belong to the Maya indigenous from Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala, who worked to create a web page that highlights the ancestral knowledge of this civilization in areas as astronomy and the calendar, the site will provide interactive tools in Maya Math lessons for children and high school teachers,” declared Isabel Hawkins.
    Comment:  For more on 2012, see Maya Era Ends Without Incident and NASA Debunks Apocalypse Scare.

    December 27, 2012

    Idle No More uses Native traditions

    The Feather and the Fist: Media, Ceremony, and #IdleNoMoreThe newest of media meet the oldest of traditions as indigenous protests sweep Canada and the web.

    The Idle No More movement, which began just weeks ago in response to the Canadian omnibus budget bill C-45, widened quickly to encompass long-running concerns around indigenous sovereignty, land, and environmental degradation. The uprising was originally sparked by four First Nations women who began running teach-ins about C-45, a bill that would weaken environmental laws and make the leasing of indigenous lands easier. It went country-wide with the National Day of Solidarity & Resurgence on December 10th. Today much more is at stake than the fate of one bill, as the protests become a focal point for First Nations demands for sovereignty, environmental protection, and the upholding of treaties.

    The movement is taking full advantage of social media and web-based outreach. They have called upon supporters to spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, posters, videos, and poems. The organization’s hashtag, #IdleNoMore, is showing up in tweets from across the world. They have put out some striking visuals, and their efforts have inspired poster artists to share their work in solidarity (below from Dwayne Bird, Gillian Goerz, and Aaron Paquette).

    At the same time, the protests are rooted deeply in First Nation symbols, ceremonies, arts, and traditions. From the image of the feather in a fist, to the use of sacred peace pipes, organizers are tapping the power of indigenous culture and framing their work through indigenous concepts like “e na tah maw was sew yak” which means “defending the children/generations.” Flash mobs in streets and shopping malls have been centered on the traditional round dance. Even the hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, which began on December 11th, echoes aboriginal fasting traditions.

    The use of traditional symbols, ceremonies, and arts does not only offer support to political efforts—it is a political act in and of itself. As Greg Macdougall puts it:In this context, a fast/hunger strike as part of Idle No More (along with the many prayer ceremonies, drumming, round dance flash mobs, etc that have been happening) shows how the very Native culture that the people are standing up for is very much alive and experiencing a (re)surgence that can be a point of hope and solidarity in this country racked with so much present and historical pain and amnesia.In combining the newest online media and communications techniques with traditional symbols and ceremonies, Idle No More is treading ground first successfully walked by the Zapatistas in their 1994 uprising. People can try to write off the growing attention to #IdleNoMore as another twitterverse fad. But as the cultural work of the movement makes clear, this rebellion did not appear overnight with the latest Bieber gossip. This is only the most recent face of a centuries-long resistance movement that has never been idle for long.
    Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Idle No More in Los Angeles and Idle No More Goes International.

    "Dodge Coronet scalpum competition"

    Watch Tom Lehrer Sell Dodges In This Politically Incorrect 1967 Ad

    By Benjamin PrestonThere's nothing like a singing, piano playing math professor to tell you how much better Dodge is than all the other American car manufacturers. As his white guy-dressed-as-a-Navajo sidekick points out, "Dodge Coronet scalpum competition." Groan.

    Sure, this 1967 promotional film makes fun of Indians and employs a slutty first grade teacher to sell sex appeal, but Lehrer still does what he does best: offers snarky musical commentary about things. You'll be bored in a Ford, have an ordeal in a rocket Oldsmobile, etc. Yep, classic. Makes me want to drive a Dodge Dart Swinger to the park to poison pigeons.

    Comment:  The so-called Indian sidekick appears at the 4:03 mark.

    Bold Eagle looks like a dark-haired Caucasian. He's wearing a summer suit with a feather in a headband. He refers to a Navajo blanket, but he doesn't say he himself is a Navajo.

    He uses a funny Indian name, talks like Tonto, and points out how the Coronet will "scalpum" competition. He does this by point to illustrations of hairpieces, sans heads, on the blanket. In other words, some Indian has butchered white people, and this murder spree is a lighthearted and amusing way to sell cars.

    The ad also features a stereotypical Mexican, El Toro, and a stereotypical saloon girl, Priscilla Smugly. So white males are depicted normally and everyone else is a caricature. Nice.

    I'm not sure where this commercial aired. Did people really sit around watching eight-minute pitches for cars in 1967? I didn't.

    For more on Indians and TV commercials, see "Mayan Apocalypse" in Chevrolet Ad and Patriots Kick Indian in Super Bowl Video.

    December 26, 2012

    Depp "too pretty" to play Natives?!

    A question posted on a comics forum:

    Native American Comic Book WritersHey guys,

    I'm writing a paper on Native Americans in comic books, and was wondering if you would be able to provide some writers or popular books that I should look into.

    I'm checking out Scalped, and plan on going into a little bit about Thunderbird, Forge, and Warpath from the X-Men, but could use a few more examples to work with. A guy at my LCS mentioned an old Alan Moore Swamp Thing issue, but he didn't know which issue or anything.

    If there are any Native American writers you know off hand, I'd love to take a look at their stuff, or if you just know of any particular storylines or issues that deal with Natives, whether the representation is layered or stereotypical, it would help me out a lot to hear some suggestions!!

    I found CBR's feature on Native Americans in comic books which is helpful, and I'm aware of Sheyahshes's book as well.

    Thanks for any help!
    I suspect he's talking about SWAMP THING #86.

    Some answers:Tim Truman's Scout starred a Native American, but it was a post-apocalypse story.

    Arigon Starr's got Super Indian, over here.

    And, my friend and yours, the awesome Steve Judd does comics stuff, including parodies of established characters and some whole-cloth stuff.

    Be aware Scalped doesn't resemble the region it takes place in (fictionalized as it is, but it is meant to remind us of Rosebud/Pine Ridge and if you've been there, that ain't it) despite its other qualities; it's not a (particularly sound) ethnography by any stretch. The rez in Batman Inc. may be the most accurate I've seen in a mainstream comic, really, outside of the previous time(s) Morrison wrote about reservations (The Invisibles comes to mind, which also had indigenous-to-the-Americas and Brazilian national Lord Fanny as a major character).

    And, because Jack Kirby is that damned awesome, his Wyatt Wingfoot in early Fantastic Four is probably the first Native character to be treated like a genuine, normal, intelligent and contemporary human being.

    Stumptown has a lot of Native American characters. The first volume revolves around them. I haven't read the second or third issues of the second volume yet but it looks like the tribe may play a big role with the plot again.

    Blue Corn Comics is a thing, but it's fronted by a purely white guy who's secondary career is playing identity police and having fits when anyone's too pretty to be really Indian in his eyes. Some of the past and present staff are Native/Native-descent, though.
    Huh? I'm not even sure what this refers to.

    Does it refer to my criticism of actors like Johnny Depp, Taylor Lautner, and Brandon Routh who claim to be Native but aren't? Anyone who thinks this is because of their looks is a blithering idiot. Find a posting where I said Depp and company were "too pretty" to be Indians. Hope you don't mind growing old while you comb through my 12,000 postings for this, because it doesn't exist.

    And what's the corollary to this? That I think Indians have to look ugly? That actors like Wes Studi, Irene Bedard, and Adam Beach are (un)attractive enough to play Indians, but not attractive enough to play other roles? How stupid can you get?

    My primary objection to Depp and company is that they're not Indians. They don't have the blood or the culture that would make them acceptable in Native roles. This has nothing to do with their looks, and you're again a blithering idiot if you think otherwise.

    The only thing I've said about looks is that the ideal is to match a full-blooded actor to a full-blooded character. A half-blooded actor to a half-blooded character. And so forth. This applies to whites, blacks, Asians, and other ethnic groups as well as Indians. Hence my occasional comment that Johnny Depp can play Tonto when Denzel Washington plays JFK or Adam Beach plays Superman.

    Again, that's not saying that Depp and company are "too pretty" for a Native role. It's saying that full-blooded Indians have a characteristic look that it would be nice to match. Same with blacks, Asians, and the others, which is why we don't use white actors for these roles if we can avoid it. And why we complain when Hollywood gives us an obvious mismatch. Every group deserves to be represented by one of their own, especially if Hollywood has rendered them invisible.

    Rob's career = identity police?

    So far I've mentioned Depp in about 60 of my 12,000 postings. That's about one half of 1% of the time. In other words, I've spent about as much time on Depp as anyone who reports on Native issues. If one of every 200 postings means I'm "focusing" on Depp and related actors, I plead guilty.

    In other words, if that's my "secondary career," how would you rank creating comics, working at, writing articles, create a website, blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, etc.? Not to mention posting about Adam Beach, alcohol, Amazon Indians, Apache, apologies, archaeology, and art, all of which I've done more than Depp. (And that's only the A's.) How many careers can you find between primary and "secondary"?

    Sheesh. People who are ignorant of my work really shouldn't comment on it, should they? No, they shouldn't.

    For more on casting issues, see Native Beauty = White and Thin? and Revolution and TV Diversity.

    Below:  Too pretty to play Natives? No, the wrong race, dumbass.

    Mankato memorial says "forgive everything"

    Today is the 150th anniversary of the hanging of the Mankato 38. Therefore, a posting on the subject is appropriate.

    Minnesota Works on Forgiving But Not Forgetting Its Native History

    By Konnie LemayOn December 26, a memorial will be dedicated in Mankato, Minnesota’s Reconciliation Park near a white limestone buffalo that marks the spot where 38 Dakota men were hanged the day after Christmas 150 years ago. On a 10-by-4 foot leather-looking scroll will be listed the names of those men next to another scroll with a poem about the hangings and encircled by the phrase “forgive everyone everything.”

    “These men fought for the Dakota way of life, trying to hang onto something, to hang onto this land for the future generations of their children and grandchildren,” Vernell Wabasha, wife of hereditary chief Ernest Wabasha, who led the move for the memorial, told the Mankato Free Press.

    Dedication of the $110,000 memorial, just after the ending in Mankato that day of the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride, will wrap up a year of lectures, discussions, exhibits, newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, concerts and commemorations in the state of Minnesota acknowledging the history of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

    For many in Minnesota—both Native and non-Native—the events introduced them to a dark history of their state that they had never heard.

    “I don’t remember learning much about the war, certainly not the aftermath,” said Minnesota author Diane Wilson, who is Dakota. “The 38 hanged in Mankato, those were the best known facts. … The fact of the removal of the Dakota was something that was so silent, especially that forced march of the 1,700 elders, children and women.”
    Sounds like an appropriate and educational monument, right? Not everyone agrees:

    Co-Opting the Memory of the Dakota 38+2

    By WaziyatawiThe Idle No More campaign is in full-swing to the north, and Dakota people associated with the 38+2 memorial horse ride have apparently abandoned the struggle for justice for Indigenous people here with the promotion of their mantra “forgive everyone everything.” That feel-good slogan will be literally etched in stone on benches that will be placed around a new memorial in Mankato, Minnesota next summer.

    This emphasis on reconciliation at the site of the largest mass hanging from one gallows in world history (yes, it used to be listed as a Guinness World Record) illuminates a deep split within the Dakota population that remains 150 years later.

    Not all Dakota people are eager to offer forgiveness to the occupiers of our homeland. The crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and land theft are too great for time alone to heal. Furthermore, the injustices continue through the ongoing occupation of our homeland, the diaspora and exile of our people, the denial of our rights to religious freedom including access to sacred sites, the lack of access to traditional foods, the theft of our children, the mass incarceration of our population, the imposition of colonial systems and institutions on every aspect of our lives and the daily exploitation and destruction of our homeland. In 1862, Dakota warriors fought to defend our land, our people and our way of life. Thirty-eight of them were hanged in 1862 as a consequence of their resistance to occupation and two more were hanged in 1865. But the struggles remain the same today and we are still in need of warriors to achieve justice and liberation for our people.

    The vision of the horse ride in honor of the 38+2 began with Jim Miller, a Lakota Vietnam veteran. He determined it was about peace, healing and reconciliation. That is, he came to Dakota people with a message about how our resistance fighters should be honored. Imagine if a Dakota person had a vision about how Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull should be honored, brought that vision to Lakota people, and then determined the honoring should be about peace and reconciliation. I hardly think such a vision would be embraced by our western relatives. Unfortunately, some Dakota people have followed his vision and the result is an absurdly extreme position (“forgive everyone everything”).

    Furthermore, in all the media coverage surrounding the horse-ride memorial, it is not clear why they are honoring the 38+2. The prominence of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation in the rhetoric of the horse riders is what would better be associated with the “cut-hair,” “friendly” or Christian Indians who sided with the whites in 1862—the people who were considered traitors by Dakota standards. The message of peace and forgiveness would make sense if the riders were honoring those ancestors. It is not what one would associate with the 38 men hanged at Mankato or Wakanozanzan and Sakpe hanged at Fort Snelling. Far from being advocates of peace and reconciliation, they were Dakota men who took up arms because they believed in the righteousness of our struggle
    Comment:  Good points by Waziyatawi. Yeah, I'm not down with the "forgive everyone everything" idea. Not in this context or any other context I can think of. A better approach is "criticize and correct," not "forgive and forget."

    Of course, the monument's creators might say they believe in forgiving but not forgetting. But forgiving, like apologizing, is a useless gesture without some accompanying action. What are the creators doing to ensure Native rights and justice now?

    Forgiving also aids the process of forgetting. "Remember the Mankato 38?" someone might ask. "Why should we? I thought the Indians forgave us for that back in 2012. That means it's over and done with."

    The real-world choice is often forgiving and forgetting or not forgiving and not forgetting. Needless to say, I prefer the latter.

    For more on the Mankato 38, see Mankato 38 Art Exhibit and Mankato Concert to Mourn Dakota War.

    December 25, 2012

    How online activism works

    In a Facebook posting about gun control, "Melvin" dismissed my online activism:This is all good and well and I commend your efforts here on behalf of all of the weak-kneed liberals who decry the mere existence of guns, but it is all for naught as I predict that nothing of substance will "be done" as a result of what happened here. America is a very brutal society with a population that is generally self-centered and ignorant about the most significant issues afflicting the nation. BTW: It is excessively gross and pathological to constantly rave on about how one is never wrong about what they post on FB. If you're that highly skilled at argumentation, then enter the fields of law or public policy processes to REALLY get things done. FB is not the end-all/be-all of human existence, so who cares about what goes on here? To all of the do-nothings who do not agree with me on any of these points, I offer the following words of encouragement per a recent movie: "Argo fuck yourself!"My response:

    My minuscule efforts may well be for naught. But doing nothing definitely won't accomplish anything. Talking about it and advocating change is the only way to get the ball rolling.

    P.S. I couldn't care less about your opinion of my postings, Melvin. But I don't just post on Facebook. I have a permanent archive of my thoughts at I write articles, blog, and tweet. People have used my postings in books and classrooms. So I'm doing my part as a writer, which is the best use of my talents.

    I also post news at, in my blog, and on Facebook. Disseminating other people's ideas is about as good as disseminating my own. It contributes to the national dialogue on the issues of the day.

    I would've made a great lawyer...but lawyers work for clients. They don't get to advocate whatever changes they want in public policy. Politicians have to raise money and kiss babies, neither of which I'm good at. And they have to compromise their principles, as Obama has proved.

    Writers influence the world via books, movies, articles, TV shows, websites, and other forms of media. I'm doing that too, on my own small scale.

    Round 2

    I tweeted and posted some more thoughts on the subject:

    Pe' Sla purchase, #IdleNoMore protests, Native stereotypes removed...if you think online activism doesn't work, you aren't paying attention.

    Another one for you, Melvin.

    I've blogged about a few dozen successful protests. And that's just in the extremely narrow field of Native stereotypes. There must be thousands of examples of people who have changed something just by writing about it online. Maybe millions at this point.

    And "changing something" doesn't begin to include all the cases of influencing public opinion. Every cultural meme is now started or disseminated online. That includes such major memes as "Republican war on women," "Romney is a liar," and "Big Bird and binders." Political memes like these helped reelect Obama.

    Someone else added:I've been changed for the better by stuff I've read online. It's a start.I don't know if I've changed anybody or they've changed me. I just think networked, crowd-sourced activism is the way to go. Rather than a hundred people carrying signs in one place, or a thousand people signing one petition, you can have a million people saying the same thing from a million locations, demanding change together. That's powerful.

    Below:  Painting Bush as a warmonger, liar, and buffoon ultimately got Barack Obama elected.

    Why have Facebook friends?

    In another exchange, "Brad" said he unfriended Facebook "friends" who never chatted with him. My response:

    I agree with your approach, more or less, but I kind of consider myself an activist on racial and stereotyping issues. So I need an audience for my views. I don't actually want to interact with most of these people. I just want them to listen.So, do many of your friends have contrasting views on stereotyping? If not, aren't you more or less preaching to the choir?I'd say most of my FB friends are neutral or apathetic about racial and stereotyping issues. Moving them into the concerned category is one goal.

    This is especially useful when you're talking about youngsters who are in high school or college. Who knows? One posting may awaken them to the world of social injustice and set them on a whole new career or life path.

    Even with like-minded people, it's useful to post the best articles and analyses. Friends can share these items with their neutral or apathetic friends. Ideally, the educational value of these postings ripples outward and spreads throughout the population.

    I'm not sure change happens by educating people one by one. I think it's more of a wave phenomenon. You create social memes and, as I just said, they spread throughout the population. People aren't necessarily convinced by listening to good arguments. Rather, they see which way the wind is blowing and the trend is trending. They hop on the bandwagon so they won't be left behind.

    Examples from recent history

    The civil rights movement is probably the best example of this in our lifetimes. It's not as though most people started meeting blacks or interracial couples and learned, through firsthand experience, that they were just regular folks. Rather, society as a whole declared that racism was bad and evil.

    Most people didn't care one way or the other about blacks but were suddenly forced to think about them. A few people said, "Hell no, I'm not going to give up my white power and privilege for those blacks." But more said, "I don't want anyone to think badly of me. I'd better evolve my views a little to accommodate those blacks."

    We see the meme-creation process in a variety of circumstances. The negative:

  • McCarthyism/Communist scare
  • Democrats = "tax and spend" or "socialism"
  • Muslims = evil
  • Torture and "homeland security" are necessary
  • Death panels
  • Birth certificate

  • And the positive:

  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Tea Party = racist
  • Republicans = Party of No
  • Conservative war on women ("binders")
  • Romney = the 1% who don't care about anyone else
  • Gay marriage = normal and inevitable

  • Now we're using the Newtown "opportunity" to do the same with gun control. Again, I don't expect to convince individual gun owners that they're crazy to stockpile weapons against an imaginary Obama or doomsday threat. Rather, my goal is to create a wave of public opinion that washes over the convinced and unconvinced alike. If we create a "sense" that guns are as bad as cigarette smoking or drunk driving, we'll win.

    For more on protests, see "In Your Face" Approach Doesn't Work? and Are T-Shirt Protests Worth It?

    "Primitive" people were less intelligent?

    From a column on increasing IQs around the world, I posted the following excerpt:

    It’s a Smart, Smart, Smart World

    By Nicholas D. KristofFlynn argues that I.Q. is rising because in industrialized societies we give our brains a constant mental workout that builds up what we might call our brain sinews."Mike" responded:IQ is a matter of perspective.

    A response by an elder to a missionary that offered to take his tribes children to be educated educated in "White" schools:

    "A number of years ago another missionary like yourself came to us with a similar offer to which we agreed. When our young men came back to us, they could not stand the cold, they knew not how to hunt, they were weak and timid, in fact they were without any skills at all. I would ask of you that you send your young ones to us to be educated and we will make men of them."
    Yeah, a couple of questionable assumptions here:

    1) If IQ's have increased recently, the tests are measuring something other than innate intelligence, which should be stable over time.

    2) Who says "primitive" people who were hunting dangerous animals, creeping through dangerous forests, or sailing dangerous seas weren't juggling variables and giving their brains a workout? You could argue the opposite. Except for our complicated computer technology, our lives have gotten softer and easier. We're sitting in a car, at a desk, or in front of a TV while they had to stay alert or die.

    "Brad" chimed in and disagreed with my last point:First I'll say that it's already been shown that I.Q. tests are skewed unless the language and content is adjusted for the people taking them. So I'm not even sure HOW reliable their data is. I.Q. is not, however, a matter of perspective. I.Q. isn't about what you know, it's what you have the capacity to learn to solve problems.

    Second, I think it IS logical to assume that I.Q.s of modern urban people are higher than your "primitive" people. People in modern society have to navigate many more diverse and complicated problem-solving situations than hunters or people before the industrial revolution. It's difficult to say whether "primitive" people had the same capacity for I.Q. because the cultural frame of reference is so different. It's true that we likely give such people too little credit for intelligence, but if something goes wrong with a spear, there's only so many possible solutions. It's tough to realize as much potential when you're limited by the available problems and solutions.
    We have to navigate more complex problem-solving situations, perhaps. Although finding food when you're starving seems complex enough to me. But "they" were play for much higher stakes, often their lives, so mental acuity was much more necessary.

    Now, everyone--even dumb people--has a good chance of surviving to old age because of healthcare, police protection, etc. Then, only the best and the brightest survived. For all we know, they could've had tribes full of geniuses, with no way to express themselves except via cave paintings.

    I'm not saying they definitely were smarter. But I don't think the comparison is nearly as clearcut as you and the author seem to think. Evolution selects for the smartest people, and evolution was more of a factor then.

    "I.Q. isn't about what you know, it's what you have the capacity to learn to solve problems." Yes, and that should be stable over a period of millennia. I don't see any evidence that humans have evolved better brains that can solve more problems. Have Bush, Obama, and Romney made better decisions than a tribal chief, pharaoh, or Roman senator? I don't think so.

    What's the evidence that IQ is actually increasing? That IQ tests say it is? Unless there's some independent evidence of this, it's a circular argument. It's like saying supermodels are the definition of beauty, and women are getting more beautiful because there are more supermodels.

    Discover article supports Rob

    Another article notes that our brain size has been shrinking in recent centuries. One explanation supports what I said above.

    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?

    Here are some leading theories about the why the human brain has been getting smaller since the Stone Age.

    By Kathleen McAuliffe
    Bailey and Geary found population density did indeed track closely with brain size, but in a surprising way. When population numbers were low, as was the case for most of our evolution, the cranium kept getting bigger. But as population went from sparse to dense in a given area, cranial size declined, highlighted by a sudden 3 to 4 percent drop in EQ starting around 15,000 to 10,000 years ago. “We saw that trend in Europe, China, Africa, Malaysia—everywhere we looked,” Geary says.

    The observation led the researchers to a radical conclusion: As complex societies emerged, the brain became smaller because people did not have to be as smart to stay alive. As Geary explains, individuals who would not have been able to survive by their wits alone could scrape by with the help of others—supported, as it were, by the first social safety nets.

    Geary is not implying that our beetle-browed forebears would have towered over us intellectually. But if Cro-Magnons had been raised with techno-toys and the benefits of a modern education, he ventures, “I’m sure we would get good results. Don’t forget, these guys were responsible for the ‘cultural explosion’”—a revolution in thinking that led to such startling new forms of expression as cave paintings, specialized tools, and bones carved into the first flutes. In terms of raw innate smarts, he believes, they probably were as “bright as today’s brightest” and might even have surpassed us.

    Still, Geary hesitates to use words like genius or brilliant in describing them. “Practically speaking,” he explains, “our ancestors were not our intellectual or creative equals because they lacked the same kind of cultural support. The rise of agriculture and modern cities based on economic specialization has allowed the very brightest people to focus their efforts in the sciences, the arts, and other fields. Their ancient counterparts didn’t have that infrastructure to support them. It took all their efforts just to get through life.”
    Not our intellectual or creative equals, perhaps, but just as intelligent, if not more so.

    There are other possible explanations, but none of them support Brad's theory that our "complex" society is making people smarter. Looks like I win another debate. <g>

    I'd classify this debate as part of the uncivilized Indians stereotype. You know, the idea that Indians and other indigenous people were too primitive to develop advanced cultures and civilizations. Naturally, I disagree with this presumption.

    For more on the subject, see Native with Professional Voice Goes Unrecognized and Charles Dickens on The Noble Savage.

    Below:  Which takes more intelligence and planning: killing a dangerous beast or shopping in a supermarket?

    Zia pottery football trophy

    The New Mexico Bowl Trophy: A Pot for Peak Performance

    By Lee AllenThe Gildan New Mexico Bowl trophy is a Zia Pueblo clay pot featuring depictions of football players and team logos, made especially for the game by husband-and-wife team Marcellus and Elizabeth Medina. "While I'm not knocking some of the standard brass or glass trophies, this isn't one of the typical treasures," says Simbieda. "It's unique art, one of the most unusual trophies in all of sports. Our intent was to create something unusual and because New Mexico is unique, we wanted to be able to grab some of the flavor of the state and encapsulate some of that regional culture in trophy form."

    Knowing that accuracy was more important than speed in this case, Siembieda urged holding off on the inscribing procedure, warning: "Don't put the winners name on the trophy just yet because this one isn't over until the clock expires."

    In staying the engraver's hand, Siembieda made the right call--and in fact, without Siembieda there wouldn’t be such a trophy.

    Knowing the symbol was sacred to the tribe, it was he who traveled to the Zia Pueblo in 2006 to seek permission for the use of the Zia sun in the bowl logo. Tribal leaders not only gave their blessing, they asked that Zia art be used for the awards. And, says Siembieda, "We've shown our gratitude by commissioning their artists to create these unique trophies given every year since the bowl’s start."
    Comment:  For more on Indians and sports trophies, see Eight Native Players on Stanley Cup and Chief Caddo Football Trophy.

    Below:  "A detail of the artwork on the permanent Gildan New Mexico Bowl trophy created by Elizabeth and Marcus Medina." (Kim Jew Sports Photography)

    December 24, 2012

    Season's greetings!

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


    America's culture based on violence

    Some postings put America's mass shootings by angry men into context.

    Celebrating the Prince of Peace in the Land of Guns

    By Michael MooreI am sorry to offer this reality check on our much-needed march toward a bunch of well-intended, necessary–but ultimately, mostly cosmetic–changes to our gun laws. The sad facts are these: Other countries that have guns (like Canada, which has 7 million guns–mostly hunting guns–in their 12 million households) have a low murder rate. Kids in Japan watch the same violent movies and kids in Australia play the same violent video games (Grand Theft Auto was created by a British company; the UK had 58 gun murders last year in a nation of 63 million people). They simply don't kill each other at the rate that we do. Why is that? THAT is the question we should be exploring while we are banning and restricting guns: Who are we?

    I'd like to try to answer that question.

    We are a country whose leaders officially sanction and carry out acts of violence as a means to often an immoral end. We invade countries who didn't attack us. We're currently using drones in a half-dozen countries, often killing civilians.

    This probably shouldn't come as a surprise to us as we are a nation founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. We slaughtered 600,000 of each other in a civil war. We "tamed the Wild West with a six-shooter," and we rape and beat and kill our women without mercy and at a staggering rate: every three hours a women is murdered in the USA (half the time by an ex or a current); every three minutes a woman is raped in the USA; and every 15 seconds a woman is beaten in the USA.

    We belong to an illustrious group of nations that still have the death penalty (North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran). We think nothing of letting tens of thousands of our own citizens die each year because they are uninsured and thus don't see a doctor until it's too late.

    Why do we do this? One theory is simply "because we can." There is a level of arrogance in the otherwise friendly American spirit, conning ourselves into believing there's something exceptional about us that separates us from all those "other" countries (there are indeed many good things about us; the same could also be said of Belgium, New Zealand, France, Germany, etc.). We think we're #1 in everything when the truth is our students are 17th in science and 25th in math, and we're 35th in life expectancy. We believe we have the greatest democracy but we have the lowest voting turnout of any western democracy. We're biggest and the bestest at everything and we demand and take what we want.

    And sometimes we have to be violent m*****f*****s to get it. But if one of us goes off-message and shows the utterly psychotic nature and brutal results of violence in a Newtown or an Aurora or a Virginia Tech, then we get all "sad" and "our hearts go out to the families" and presidents promise to take "meaningful action." Well, maybe this president means it this time. He'd better. An angry mob of millions is not going to let this drop.

    While we are discussing and demanding what to do, may I respectfully ask that we stop and take a look at what I believe are the three extenuating factors that may answer the question of why we Americans have more violence than most anyone else:

    1. POVERTY. If there's one thing that separates us from the rest of the developed world, it's this. 50 million of our people live in poverty. One in five Americans goes hungry at some point during the year. The majority of those who aren't poor are living from paycheck to paycheck. There's no doubt this creates more crime. Middle class jobs prevent crime and violence. (If you don't believe that, ask yourself this: If your neighbor has a job and is making $50,000/year, what are the chances he's going to break into your home, shoot you and take your TV? Nil.)

    2. FEAR/RACISM. We're an awfully fearful country considering that, unlike most nations, we've never been invaded. (No, 1812 wasn't an invasion. We started it.) Why on earth would we need 300 million guns in our homes? I get why the Russians might be a little spooked (over 20 million of them died in World War II). But what's our excuse? Worried that the Indians from the casino may go on the warpath? Concerned that the Canadians seem to be amassing too many Tim Horton's donut shops on both sides of the border?

    No. It's because too many white people are afraid of black people. Period. The vast majority of the guns in the U.S. are sold to white people who live in the suburbs or the country. When we fantasize about being mugged or home invaded, what's the image of the perpetrator in our heads? Is it the freckled-face kid from down the street–or is it someone who is, if not black, at least poor?

    I think it would be worth it to a) do our best to eradicate poverty and re-create the middle class we used to have, and b) stop promoting the image of the black man as the boogeyman out to hurt you. Calm down, white people, and put away your guns.

    3. THE "ME" SOCIETY. I think it's the every-man-for-himself ethos of this country that has put us in this mess and I believe it's been our undoing. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! You're not my problem! This is mine!

    Clearly, we are no longer our brother's and sister's keeper. You get sick and can't afford the operation? Not my problem. The bank has foreclosed on your home? Not my problem. Can't afford to go to college? Not my problem.

    And yet, it all sooner or later becomes our problem, doesn't it? Take away too many safety nets and everyone starts to feel the impact. Do you want to live in that kind of society, one where you will then have a legitimate reason to be in fear? I don't.

    I'm not saying it's perfect anywhere else, but I have noticed, in my travels, that other civilized countries see a national benefit to taking care of each other. Free medical care, free or low-cost college, mental health help. And I wonder–why can't we do that? I think it's because in many other countries people see each other not as separate and alone but rather together, on the path of life, with each person existing as an integral part of the whole. And you help them when they're in need, not punish them because they've had some misfortune or bad break. I have to believe one of the reasons gun murders in other countries are so rare is because there's less of the lone wolf mentality amongst their citizens. Most are raised with a sense of connection, if not outright solidarity. And that makes it harder to kill one another.

    In Europe, fewer mass killings due to culture not guns

    By Oren DorellThe USA leads the world in gun ownership, but it's our individualistic culture that puts us at greater risk of mass shootings compared with other countries where guns are prevalent, according to a British criminologist who has studied gun violence in different nations.

    Mass shooters in any nation tend to be loners with not much social support who strike out at their communities, schools and families, says Peter Squires of the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom, who has studied mass shootings in his own country, the United States and Europe.

    Many other countries where gun ownership is high, such as Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Israel, however, tend to have more tight-knit societies where a strong social bond supports people through crises, and mass killings are fewer, Squires said.

    "In a sense they're less private" than in the USA, "but privacy and individualism is where some of the causes of crime and revenge can be found," he said.

    "What stops crime above all is informal social controls," he says. "Close-knit societies where people are supported, where their mood swings are appreciated, where if someone starts to go off the rails it's noted, where you tend to intervene, where there's more support."

    Squires favors controls on gun ownership but says there's more to mass killings than the prevalence of guns.
    One missing point from Dorell's analysis: Gun regulations not only prevent some deaths, they help foster a culture in which guns don't equate to manhood.

    It's similar to what happened with cigarette smoking and drunk driving. When you collectively pass laws against them, people start getting the idea that they're bad, not good. It shifts the national dialogue on what's acceptable or not.

    Blame the Bible

    Another column traces our Euro-Christian culture back to the Bible:

    Does the Bible make Americans more violent?

    Our love-hate-love affair with violence goes way back--perhaps as far as the Old Testament

    By Valerie Tarico
    Our peculiar hierarchy of priorities may be due in part to the influence of Abrahamic religion on Western Civilization and the unique standing accorded to the Bible in American Christianity specifically. The Bible amalgamates the mythology and legal codes of a specific kind of culture: a clan-based tribal society in which herdsmen struggling for survival in an arid and increasingly denuded environment. Males competed to control females and territory while maintaining the purity of bloodlines and inheritance; gods that were modeled on warlords competed for fealty. Consequently, while codes governing sexuality and blasphemy were strict, codes governing violence were complicated.

    Yahweh himself originated as a war god. Non-Hebrews were regarded with hostility and indeed, much of the founding story of the Israelite people comprises tales of triumphal genocide. The violence in in the Bible is so extreme that it defines vast portions of the book:[Edmund Leach] looked at the Bible through the eyes of a communications engineer and asked: what message are these authors trying to get through to the reader? The answer, Leach thought, was that they were trying to obscure the fact that mankind began through incest (Adam and Eve) and so the strategy was to compile a list of atrocities so heinous that, in the end, the original incest would come to look like a harmless act.Whether history or mythology or some fusion of the two, the Bible stories, when tallied, include an estimated 25 million violent deaths. And yet, like any people, the internal narrative of God’s Chosen Ones is one of yearning for peace and prosperity, the dream of an idyllic past in which the lion lay down with the lamb; an idyllic future in which men will beat their swords into plowshares and the lamb and lion will lie down together again.

    Like the ancient Israelites, we Americans see ourselves as peacemakers. During the midwinter holiday season, Peace on Earth is sung from choir lofts and hung in shopping malls. We complain about our role as “policeman to the world.” And yet, if we could see ourselves as others see us, we would see a people who, like the ancient Israelites have created unparalleled archetypes of violence: the Rambo, the mushroom cloud, the Tommy Gun, the Cowboy. Hollywood ensures that, even independent of the world’s best funded military, violence is one of our top exports.
    Comment:  I wrote about America's penchant for macho heroes--cowboys, gangsters, soldiers, et al.--in Why Write About Superheroes? Check it out.

    For more on the subject, see Mass Shooters Think They're Victims, Gun Nuts Need "Man Card," and Changing Our Gun Culture.