March 31, 2012

Thunderbird Energetica energy bars

Adrienne Keene dissects another stereotypical Indian-themed product in her Native Appropriations blog:

Thunderbird Energetica: When good intentions go wrongI almost feel a little bad writing this post. Because in doing so, I know everything I'm saying is going to come as a big shock to the owners of this company. I know that they think their intentions are pure and their heart is in the right place, and that they think through their own brand of hipster hippy humor they're immune to criticism. I'm pretty sure we've got another Yay Life Tribe or Spirit Hoods on our hands--This is a company that is clearly the heart and soul of the founders, that strives to do good in the world, and is just so earnest in doing so--that they've been blinded to how hurtful their imagery and representations of Native culture are. So Thunderbird Energetica, I'm sorry, but I'm about to tear apart everything you hold dear. And I do feel bad about it. I do.

So what is Thunderbird Energetica? It's a small "artisan energy bar company committed to producing powerful sources of human fuel." Every bar is handmade, they use "real" ingredients, and even the wrappers are biodegradable. Cool. I'm on board with that. They also are super into supporting athletes--runners, bikers, triathalon-ers, etc. Also fine. So, if that's where the story stopped, I'd be happy to hop on by my local natural foods store and buy a few bars.
But as you can tell from the image at the top of this post, the entire company is imbued with Native cultural appropriation--running so deep that several Native Approps FB readers thought the entire site was a work of satire. Ready? Here's the "origin" of the company:As night fell, a lightning storm looming on the horizon provided the fireworks that further sparked our imaginations. We interpreted this moment as a sign, a metaphor, for what we captured in our energy bar. Raw, organic power and a simple, yet finely balanced force; an entire energy system designed to bring life and romance to an otherwise harsh and punishing environment. We had been touched by the Thunderbird and everything that it represents.Um, right.

There's truly too much for me to unpack every layer in one post, so I'm going to send you off to various parts of their website.

The profiles of the founders each include a section on their "Spirit Animal"--Catamount, Jaguar, and White-Tail, respectively. You can find these profiles by clicking on "Tribe" at the top of the page, and then "Creators" (not kidding). "Jaguar," also known as Taylor Thunder, the founder listed (until tonight--more on that later) "Native Americans" among his "Inspirations." It now reads something about his dog. Who is named "Lakota," btw.
More from the Thunderbird Energetica website:They sell a package where you can "join the tribe" and wear their company branded outfits. It comes with a contract, seen below.

Some choice phrases: "Congratulations on your admittance into the Thunderbird Tribe. Your life is going to improve exponentially after donning the sacred colors of the Thunderbird Nation. Be prepared to transcend time and space as you begin a magical journey into manhood/womanhood/tribeshood." They call it a "sacred treaty," but it's supposed to be "funny." Rules include saluting to buffalo and looking for your spirit animal.

There's plenty more. They have a whole post about "spirit animals":Thunderbird Energetica is the only energy bar company to harvest the mystical powers of spirit animals during the fabrication and design of our product. Not only do the owners of our company have intimate relationships with their respective spirit animals, but each one of our bars has its own power animal.
Intimate relationships? I'd be impressed if the founders had ever been within five miles of an uncaged catamount (puma), jaguar, or white-tail (deer).

Exchange with the owner

In response to e-mails, the company founder sent this "apology":Im sorry you interpreted what we are doing as offensive. That is unfortunate. We have nothing but respect and honor for all indigenous tribes and cultures globally. I myself have deep Lakota Sioux roots that I am very proud of! So proud that I chose to start an energy bar company that would reflect that. The way I select to express my freedom of expression and speech is my conscious choice and perhaps it is too light hearted for your taste. Once again, never meant to offend you. Obviously you don't understand my positioning and that is ok... We are all different and due to that diversity we express ourselves differently. You still have to respect that idea and the freedom of creativity.

Sent from double rainbow machine
To which Adrienne responded (in part):I get that most of your website is tongue-in-cheek, that it's supposed to be funny, poking fun at a culture of hippy-dippy health food nuts. I understand what you're attempting with your writing, because that hyperbole and exaggeration are rhetorical devices I employ all the time on the blog as well. But the examples I've pulled out above, like the "spirit animals," the fake-Indian-naming, the use of the term "tribe," and the overall co-opting of Native American spirituality are upsetting and hurtful to me and other Native people.

First of all, your images and language collapse hundreds and hundreds of distinct tribes and traditions into a generic new-age Native stereotype. We don't all participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, we don't have "spirit animals," very few of us have names that follow the extremely stereotypical "adjective+animal" format. The website perpetuates stereotypes that you may see as "positive"--Native peoples as stewards of the land, connected to nature, mystical, magical, special--but even these stereotypes are harmful because they relegate us to a mystical, fictional creature that exists in the past, not allowing Native people to exist as a modern, heterogeneous population that lives in the same world you do.

Taylor, you say that you have "Lakota Sioux roots," and that's great. But if you explored those roots a little more, you would learn that until 1978, American Indians couldn't even legally practice our spirituality that you so openly appropriate--sweat lodges, naming ceremonies, "vision quests"--all illegal. That is why it hurts many of us so deeply when we see these practices being appropriated or mocked. If you wanted to form a company that "reflects" your roots, I'm pretty sure your Lakota elders would not have told you to rely on stereotypes.

I also struggle with your use of the term "Thunderbird tribe" and "Thunderbird nation." Our American Indian tribes are sovereign nations within the United States. We have tribal governments that deal with the US government on a Nation-to-Nation basis. Our nations are strong and proud, and have existed long before the United States. They are not something that can be created from wearing a spandex outfit and signing a joke contract (don't even get me started on calling it a "sacred treaty"). To call yourself a "tribe" and a "nation" trivializes the 500+ years that we have been fighting against colonization and fighting to keep our tribal rights.
Comment:  The Thunderbird Energetica brand is reminiscent of other instances of hipster racism we've seen recently:

Racist "Windian" poster
Drew Barrymore in a headdress
Stereotypical "Run Wild" fashion shoot

In particular, it reminds me of the racist Teepee Games website.

It's time to get a clue, people. Referring generically to tribes, vision quests, and spirit animals doesn't inoculate you from charges of cultural misappropriation. Nor does claiming you're doing it as an "honor" or a joke. You're still stereotyping Native people as exotic, strange, or otherworldly.

For more on the subject, see Why Tonto Matters and Ignorance or Malice?

March 30, 2012

Satirizing Redskins with Whiteskins

Recently a sports uniform blog reported on a reader's effort to educate people about Indian mascots:

What Do You Mean ‘We,’ Paleface?This past NFL season I created a fantasy football team called the Whiteskins. It was intended as a satirical approach to drawing attention to the offensive nature of stereotypical American Indian sports mascots and the need to change them.

The “team” has since grown into a project in which I have committed to challenging the use of culturally offensive mascots by spreading our message via the sale of Whiteskins merchandise. More importantly, the proceeds from these sales are donated to organizations working for the benefit of Native American communities, with a focus on encouraging sports participation among Native youth.

This is nothing new, of course. It's similar to the satirical Fightin' Whites team created a decade. Countless columnists have noted that we wouldn't tolerate teams named Blacks or Blackskins, Jews or Kikes, etc. Indeed, it's an obvious way to point out the offensiveness of the Washington Redskins and other Indian-themed nicknames and mascots.

Several of my colleagues applauded the Whiteskins parody. My opinion is that it and the Fightin' Whites parody were too tame. Now I've found an old Tim Wise column in which the author agrees with me.

Honky Wanna Cracker? Examining the Myth of “Reverse Racism”

By Tim Wise[I]t’s the difference in power and position that has made recent attempts by American Indian activists in Colorado to turn the tables on white racists so ineffective. Indian students at Northern Colorado University, fed up by the unwillingness of white school district administrators in Greeley to change the name and grotesque Indian caricature of the Eaton High School “Reds,” recently set out to flip the script on the common practice of mascot-oriented racism. Thinking they would show white folks what it’s like to be in their shoes and experience the objectification of being a team icon, indigenous members of an intramural basketball team renamed themselves the “Fightin’ Whiteys,” and donned T-shirts with the team mascot: a 1950s-style caricature of a suburban, middle class white guy, next to the phrase “every thang’s gonna be all white.”

Funny though the effort was, it has not only failed to make the point intended, but has been met with laughter and even outright support by white folks. Rush Limbaugh actually advertised for the team’s T-shirts on his radio program, and whites from coast to coast have been requesting team gear, thinking it funny, rather than demeaning, to be turned into a mascot. The difference, of course, is that it’s tough to negatively objectify a group whose power and position allows them to define or redefine the meaning of another group’s attempts at humor: in this case the attempt by Indian peoples to teach them a lesson. It’s tough to school the headmaster, in other words. Objectification works against the disempowered because they are disempowered. The process doesn’t work in reverse, or at least, making it work is a lot tougher than one might think. Turning Indians into mascots has been offensive because it perpetuates the dehumanization of such persons over many centuries, and the mentality of colonization and conquest. It is not as if one group (whites) merely chose to turn another group (Indians) into mascots as if by chance. Rather, it is that whites have consistently viewed Indians as less than human—as savage and “wild”—and have been able to not merely portray such imagery on athletic banners and uniforms, but in history books and literature more crucially.

In the case of the students at Northern, they would need to be far more acerbic in their appraisal of whites in order for their attempts at “reverse racism” to make the point intended. After all, “fightin” is not a negative trait in the eyes of most, and the 1950s iconography chosen for the uniforms was unlikely to be seen as that big a deal. Perhaps if they had settled on “slave-owning whiteys,” or “land-stealing whiteys,” or “smallpox-giving-on-purpose whiteys,” the point would have been made; and instead of a smiling “company man” logo, perhaps a Klansman, or skinhead as representative of the white race–now that would have been a nice functional equivalent of the screaming Indian warrior. Bottom line: you gotta go strong to turn the tables on the man, and irony won’t get it nine times out of ten. Without the power to define another’s reality, Indian activists are simply incapable of turning the tables with well-placed humor.

Simply put, what separates white racism from any other form and makes anti-black and brown humor more dangerous than its anti-white equivalent is the ability of the former to become lodged in the minds and perceptions of the citizenry. White perceptions are what end up counting in a white-dominated society. If whites say Indians are savages, be they “noble” or vicious, they’ll be seen in that light. If Indians say whites are mayonnaise-eating Amway salespeople, who the hell’s going to care? If anything, whites will simply turn it into a marketing opportunity. When you have the power, you can afford to be self-deprecating.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Redskins, Brownskins, or Blackskins and Whiteys vs. Darkies vs. Redskins.

Below:  Equivalent mascots? Nope. The Indian is much more stereotypical.

March 29, 2012

Students apologize for University of Denver party

DU fraternity, sorority apologize to American Indian students

By Kevin SimpsonRepresentatives of two Greek Life organizations at the University of Denver publicly apologized Wednesday for a cowboys-and-Indians theme party last month that offended American Indian students, in a campus gathering that both sides hoped would lead to greater understanding.

The two organizations—the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority—hosted the party on Feb. 25. Three days later, members of the Native Student Alliance saw photos of the party, including revelers in Indian garb, on Facebook and contacted Johanna Leyba, DU's assistant provost for inclusive excellence and the group's staff adviser, to express their frustration.

Beyond angering American Indian students, who said the dress-up party belittled their culture and spirituality, the theme also violated DU's diversity statement, said Leyba.

The fraternity and sorority responded with a letter of apology on March 1. The NSA asked if they would read it publicly, and they agreed.
Apology for Cowboys and Indians Party a Step in the Right Direction

By Simon Moya-SmithFollowing the private dialogue, Dr. Tink Tinker, professor at the Iliff School of Theology and a citizen of the Wazhazhe Osage Nation, began the event with a smudging and description of the history behind Native American persecution.

Following Tinker and several other Native speakers, Ross Larson, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, publicly apologized and said the party was held “out of ignorance,” and not “racism.”

“We understand our event was insensitive and hurtful to other members of the DU community,” said Larson. “I’m here to make sure we can right our wrongs.”

Delta Delta Delta representative Molly Gasch said during her apology that the party will “be the last of its kind for our groups.”

“We understand that we have detrimentally affected more than just ourselves by failing to act as the community leaders that we strive to be,” she said, reading from a document. “Both of our organizations will be using this as an opportunity to improve our fraternity and sorority member education programs by increasing awareness and sensitivity of minority groups on campus.”

Following the event Salas commented that she had been concerned that the apology would be insincere. After the apologies were read, she said she felt that Larson and Gasch were genuinely remorseful.
Comment:  It's more correct to say the party was ignorant and racist. Or it was racist because it was ignorant. "Racist" and "ignorant" aren't mutually exclusive, of course. Indeed, they usually go together.

These students share the common perception that "racist" means "having a hate-filled heart toward minorities." No. It simply means discriminating by race. The students singled out Indians for the stereotypical treatment. ("Cowboy" is an occupation, not a racial category.) Their actions were racist by definition.

For more on the subject, see University of Denver's Cowboys and Indians Party.

Below:  "Dr. Tink Tinker, left, professor at the Iliff School of Theology and a citizen of the Wazhazhe Osage Nation, smudges two Greek Life students on the DU Campus. Ross Larson, center, is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha and read the apology on behalf of his fraternity." (Simon Moya-Smith)

Stereotypical Inuk adoption poster

Children's Aid Society under fire for Inuk baby adoption posterThe Children's Aid Society in Ottawa is being criticized this week for advertising an Inuk baby available for adoption on posters.

The poster, which was distributed this week, says the society is seeking a "strong Inuit family" to adopt the three-month-old boy. The poster describes the boy as "calm and loving" and says he "loves being cuddled."

Some say it makes the boy sound like a puppy up for adoption, and the poster is also littered with images of traditional Inuit Inukshuks, parkas and qulliqs–Inuit oil lamps.

"The way it was worded, it sounds like a marketing tool. It is a marketing tool, and we found it quite offensive that that kind of wording would be used now, in 2012," said Okalik Eegeesiak from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
Comment:  You can see the poster here:

Doucment (PDF)

The poster looks like an amateur community flyer with icons scattered around the margin. Whoever created it had enough sense to include genuine Inuit artifacts, and to skip the usual igloo, dogsled, and polar bear. But it shows a child in a parka and what looks like a doll in a parka.

The problems is that the artifacts imply the boy comes from a primitive and exotic culture. It romanticizes the Inuit as living closer to nature, unsullied by Western civilization. It implies you'd be rescuing the boy from his backward existence--like rescuing a stray dog from the streets and giving it a home.

The alternative is to use a photo of the boy as he really is: dressed in regular baby clothes, swaddled in blankets, sleeping in a crib, etc. Just describe him neutrally, without the pseudo-puppy talk. I don't think you need a hard sell when you've got a cute baby to adopt.

For more on Eskimo stereotypes, see Cartoon About Eskimo Baptism and Suzuki's Dog-Sled Commercial.

Below:  "Okalik Eegeesiak, from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said the poster's wording is unacceptable." (CBC)

March 28, 2012

University of Denver's Cowboys and Indians party

DU Native Student Alliance offended by Greek groups' Cowboys and Indians party

By Michael RobertsAn unusual event will take place today on the University of Denver campus--one prompted by another unusual event. At 4 p.m., students and administrators will gather near a tepee on Driscoll Green as representatives of two Greek Life organizations publicly apologize for a Cowboys and Indians theme party DU's Native Student Alliance dubs "piercingly offensive."

The bash, which took place on February 25, was sponsored by the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority. Attendees were encouraged to outfit themselves as either cowboys or Indians. Those who made the latter choice donned what an Alliance release describes as "phony headdresses, face paint, loincloths and all manner of stereotypical viciousness."

Party photos were subsequently posted to Facebook, and while neither the Lambda Chi Alpha nor Tri-Delta pages feature any of them at this writing, members of the Alliance who spotted them on February 28 saved a couple. Here's one example:
​Simon Moya-Smith, the DU graduate student, adviser to the Alliance and Oglala Lakota member who wrote the aforementioned release, says the party was offensive "because it dehumanizes and objectifies American Indians. People think our regalia are costumes to play around in, but they are not costumes. They are very spiritual and, if you want to use the western term, holy garb that would be reserved for elders of title.

"It would be as if Catholics went to a sorority or frat party and saw people dressed as the Pope or nuns and priests and they were swilling booze," he adds. Moreover, the dress-up games "perpetuate the idea that Indians are people of the past. But we are very much alive. We survived westward expansion, we survived the Founding Fathers, we survived government campaigns to get rid of our homelands. We're still here, and although we are 1 percent of the population, that doesn't give people the right to offend us and expect us not to say something."
Students to Apologize for Cowboys and Indians Party

By Simon Moya-Smith“This proves to me that our society and our fellow students still view us as nonexistent,” said Eagle, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. “[Our peers] depicted us as mascots or a Halloween costume.”

Eagle said she immediately contacted Carl Johnson, director of campus activities at DU. Johnson stated that he was unaware of the event and referred to the party as “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

“We’ll have a swift and severe response to those groups,” he said.

Although Johnson did not release the details concerning how his office will respond to the offense, he did agree to Eagle’s request that both Greek organizations publicly apologize to the members of the Native Student Alliance.
Comment:  It never ceases to amaze me how blindly ignorant people can be.

For similar parties featuring faux Natives, see Duke's "Pilgrims and Indians" Party and Robotic's "Pilgrims & Indians Theme Party."

AMC develops Carlisle football drama

AMC Developing Football Drama 'The Real All Americans' (Exclusive)

By Marisa GuthrieAMC is in the early stages of development on football drama The Real All Americans. Based on Sally Jenkins’ book about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Penn., All Americans chronicles the school's storied football program created by U.S. cavalry officer Richard Henry Pratt, an abolitionist and early equal rights proponent who made a harrowing journey to the Dakota Territory in 1879 to recruit the school's first students.

Producers are in discussions with Tommy Lee Jones to direct the pilot if AMC moves forward. Nicholas Meyer, best known as the writer of various Star Trek films, is writing the script with Harry J. Ufland (the upcoming Robert De Niro-Diane Keaton romantic comedy The Wedding) on board as producer.

Pratt’s football program had a stunning record of 167-88-13 and produced a string of famous athletes and coaches–including Olympian Jim Thorpe and coach Glenn “Pop” Warner. The subject matter is close to Jones’ heart. The actor, who grew up in Texas, is of Cherokee descent. He also played defensive tackle at Harvard, where he was a 1968 All-Ivy League nominee and played in the infamous ’68 Harvard-Yale game that featured a stunning 16-point Harvard comeback in the final minute. Jones recounted the story for the 2008 documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.

All Americans would give AMC another period piece and also one that deals with racial issues. Hell on Wheels is set in 1865 during the post-Civil War construction of the first transcontinental railroad.
Comment:  Carlisle was a school full of Native students and staff members. So what are the odds that the majority of the actors will be Native?

I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it. Instead, I'd bet on most of the adults and at least half the students being non-Native. For Indians, they'll probably use Latinos, Asians, and other slightly "exotic" actors.

Will they at least do the minimum and cast an Indian as Jim Thorpe? Again, I wouldn't bet on it. This is where they bring in a Johnny Depp or Brandon give white audiences "someone to relate to." Because Indians are too brown strange unfamiliar to mainstream society, I guess.

For more on Jim Thorpe, see Review of Jim Thorpe: World's Greatest Athlete and Battle for Jim Thorpe's Body.

Menominee wood in Final Four floor

Final Four floor makers courting perfection

By Tom WeirThe maple came from the 235,000 acres of Wisconsin forest owned by Menominee Tribal Enterprises. The Menominee Tribe has about 4,000 people living on the reservation, and about 500 work in its sawmill or as loggers.

The Menominees are the longest continual inhabitants of Wisconsin, an indigenous tribe that dates back at least 10,000 years. They were nearly forced to migrate to Minnesota in the mid-1800s, but a treaty with the U.S. government was renegotiated, and they stayed after Congress agreed they could cut lumber on a sustainable basis.

The Menominee's leader at the time, Chief Oshkosh, instilled the idea of timber preservation and rotating logging areas that the tribe still follows.

Menominee sales representative Joe Besaw, who was born on the reservation, says of Oshkosh: "He's the one who said to cut only the sick and the dead and the dying trees. You cut only the worst, and over time your forest gets better and better."
Comment:  For more on the Menominee, see Girl Punished for Speaking Menominee and Selling Beer with Chief Oshkosh.

March 27, 2012

Tough to be a white man

White Men Rule

So why do so many of them whine about how tough it is to be a white man?

By Barry NolanWherever you look and by almost any metric, any statistic, it works out to be a pretty sweet deal to start out life as a white male. And if I ever become deranged and suddenly start to kill all of the people who annoy me on Facebook with a potato peeler, I have the comfort of knowing I will stand a lower chance of being executed for my crimes just because I am white. If you’ve seen Facebook these days, you know what a relief that can be.

So I cannot, for the life of me, understand why so many white men like me can be found whining about how tough it is to be a white man. It’s a mystery to me how they came to feel so beset on every side by feminists, minorities, and “the system.” When in fact, the system is so stacked in our favor, it’s almost embarrassing. It’s like our mothers set up the world for us. For white men, life is almost like T-ball. We are almost guaranteed to get on base. But lately, some of us seem to be having issues with self-esteem.

So it’s especially strange to see white men like Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and various “Men’s Rights” groups complaining bitterly about the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which may come up for a vote this week. Grassley and the far right don’t want to see it pass in its current form because it extends some of its protections to LGBT victims, Native American victims, and some illegal immigrants. Because of what? Because it should be OK to brutalize them?

For the first time since the law was passed, it has become politicized. And in a move to make up for voting for the awful anti-women Blunt amendment, Senator Scott Brown says he’s for it.

The passage of the bill has also been muddied by—well—mud. Stuff crazy people make up and throw out there to make it seem like it’s somehow a radical or controversial idea to try to stop people from beating up women. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which, among other things, tracks hate groups, has now started paying attention to some “Men’s Rights” groups that seem to just flat-out hate women. One of the things these groups like to do is generate baloney statistics about how men are the “real victims” of domestic violence.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Bias Against Trayvon Martin and Obama and Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin.

Umatilla model supports Crow candidate

Mariah Watchman of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ Boosts Crow Congressional Candidate

By Adrian JawortJason Ward kicked off his 2012 election in style, with a little help from Indian country’s next top model.

Ward, a Crow tribal member, wanted the March 24 “Runway to Congress” fashion show fundraiser event in Billings, Montana to not only highlight his initial foray into the political arena, but showcase how one could use Native heritage as a source of strength and inspiration. Ward, a Democrat, aims to replace Republican Denny Rehberg in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rehberg is running for the U.S. Senate.

“I wanted to show that if you come from the reservation, that doesn’t mean there are limits. If you have a dream and want to step forward, you can do it,” Ward said. “A lot of people think that because you’re from a reservation, you have to be stuck there, and have a mentality that limits their dreams. Having a Native American run for U.S. Congress should inspire other people to follow their dreams as well.”

Among those also headlining the event and following their dreams were America’s Top Model Contestant Mariah Watchman (Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservation), LA Fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail (Crow and Northern Cheyenne), and fashion photographer Anthony “Thosh” Collins (Pima and Osage). Jeremy Stands Over Bull (Crow) organized and emceed the event.

“Jeremy told me how Jason Ward was Native and running for Congress,” Watchman said. “And I had seen a couple of Bethany Yellowtail’s dresses on Facebook, and I loved them. So as soon as I heard Bethany was in on it, and it was going to be a fashion show and we were supporting so many different things, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Watchman Exits America's Next Top Model and Umatilla Model Portrays Pocahontas.

Below:  "America's Next Top Model contestant Mariah Watchman joined designer Bethany Yellowtail and photographer Thosh Collins at an event for Democratic hopeful Jason Ward in Billings, Montana."

Trayvon case befuddles conservative media

Confounded: How The Trayvon Martin Story Has Baffled The Conservative Press

By Eric BoehlertAddressing the unfolding story of an unarmed, 17-year-old Florida teen recently killed by a neighborhood watch activist who has not been charged with a crime, Fox News host Jon Scott recently wondered out loud whether the Trayvon Martin case really deserved the national media attention it was receiving. While Fox colleague Jim Pinkerton explained that the coverage stemmed from the fact that the press is "always interested in the cute child that gets murdered" and the "black victim of racism," Scott's query captured the larger Fox News feeling about the mushrooming Martin report, which was to view the story with a mixture of uncertainty and bafflement.

It seemed the Martin story simply did not fit the right-wing's preferred narrative about guns and minorities and how white America is allegedly under physical assault from Obama's violent African-American base. Or, as Rush Limbaugh famously put it, "[I]n Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering."

The conservative media have spent the last three years utterly obsessed with the topic of race in America, but only when they can frame that issue dishonestly; only when conservatives can use news events for race baiting purposes. So as the Martin story morphed into a national conversation about race and guns and the law, many conservative media voices remained silent early on. (A silence later replaced by attempts to smear the young victim.)

For a snapshot, indicates that between March 15 and 25, "Trayvon Martin" was mentioned nearly 500 times on CNN, 350 times on MSNBC, but less than 100 times on Fox News. Through the end of last week, for instance, Fox's late afternoon round table discussion show, The Five, had never discussed the Martin shooting, according to a Nexis review.

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Blaming Trayvon for Getting Killed and "Stand Your Ground" Cartoon.

March 26, 2012

500 years of book banning

Arizona’s Curriculum Battles: A 500-Year Civilizational War

By Roberto Cintli RodriguezIn this highly successful department, Horne saw something un-American at its core, something evil and cancerous. MAS-TUSD’s indigenous, maiz-based curriculum, was something he saw as outside of Western civilization--something outside of Greco-Roman culture. He is unaware of the irony that maiz, or corn, is indigenous to this very continent, whereas things Greco-Roman are not. For Horne, what he deemed to be the "foreign" curriculum was something that had to be destroyed at all costs.

Among those who look on in horror at what is happening in Arizona, many are blinded to the fact that this has already occurred in every state of the union. Arizona was the last holdout. Thus, as people look on in horror, what they should be contemplating is not simply how to help save Arizona, but how to reverse the 500-year process of de-indigenization and dehumanization that continues unabated on this continent and in virtually every country in this hemisphere.

Asking what is at stake in Arizona is not only asking the wrong question, but it is asking it a few centuries too late. This, Horne understands. He refers to the process of eliminating Raza Studies as a civilizational war. And indeed, it is the very same one prosecuted by Bishop Diego de Landa in Mani, Yucatan, where he declared an auto-da-fé in 1562, setting in motion one of humanity’s greatest cultural tragedies: the destruction of Mayan books, known as amoxtlis. That three-day book burning is only one incident in a hundreds-of-years process that attempted to destroy the intellectual, mathematical, scientific, cultural and spiritual knowledge of this continent. (Fortunately, while thousands of Mayan, Nahua and Mixtec amoxtlis were destroyed, the knowledge itself was not; it was simply suppressed and survived via oral tradition).

In this civilizational war, one by one, peoples and communities--and their unique corpus of knowledge--are condemned as pagan, barbaric and demonic; a dehumanization that prepared the ground psychologically for the same peoples to be evangelized and colonized.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Educators Protest Tuscon Book Ban and Aztecs Favored Universal Education.

Below:  "A young boy is searched by security guards at the entrance of the Tucson Unified District headquarters, ahead of a school board meeting on March 13, 2012." (Roberto Cintli Rodriguez)

Clippers Native American Heritage Day

Los Angeles American Indians Participate at LA Clippers GameThe Los Angeles Clippers may have danced after their 101-85 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies this past Saturday night, but there were others dancing during half time of the National Basketball Association game.

Saturday, March 24 was billed as Clippers Native American Heritage Day in Los Angeles. This was the third year in a row the Los Angeles Clippers have sponsored a Native American Heritage Day.

Over 300 American Indians people primarily from low income homes attended the game. Most of the families who attended came from the Los Angeles metropolitan area, though one California based tribe sent some tribal citizens who traveled 300 miles round trip.

“We have had some great testimonial stories from the parents who told the ticket coordinator, Tracy Perez, that she would never have been able to take her kids to such an event because of the cost,” commented Ron Andrade, director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission.
Comment:  For more on Indians and pro basketball, see Lakers Practice at Pechanga and Clippers Cursed by Indians?

Below:  "Some 70 American Indians dressed in full regalia drummed, sang and danced during half time."

March 25, 2012

Blaming Trayvon for getting killed

To My Fellow White People: An Open Letter

By Brian CubbageSome of you–not going to name names, you will figure out who you are–are saying, or thinking, that in one way or another Trayvon is at fault for his own murder. You are saying, or thinking, “He should have known that he looked suspicious with that hoodie on.” “He should have known that someone like him would come across as threatening.” “He shouldn’t have felt afraid of the large man following him and chasing after him.” You are saying, or thinking, exactly the same sort of thing that some of you say, or think, about rape victims: They should have known what a dangerous world it is for them out there and they should have dressed and carried themselves accordingly, so as not to invite bad things to happen to them.

Never mind, of course, that the people who do these bad things are responsible for what they say, think, and do, too. Never mind, of course, that the people who actually do racist, sexist things are emboldened and enabled by the way that good folks who would never, ever in a million years think of doing such things continually blame their victims and not them. No, racists and rapists are just a fact of life in your worldview, like severe weather; women and people of color have to dodge them, take cover, be on the lookout, but we certainly can’t think that there’s something we might do about them.

Some of you get angry when I talk like this. You protest that you would never do racist things or commit rape. You are just making an observation. You don’t mean to say anything racist or sexist. Then I point out to you the difference between intent and impact. You might not mean to say racist things, but the things you are saying just are racist. The very fact that you have to appeal to the purity of your intentions to cleanse your words should provide you with a hint. Neither your good intentions or mine have magical powers. If you said something that was racist, your good intentions, assuming they are good, mean at best that you need to be far more careful in what you say and think. Learn from it in all humility and try to do better next time. Trust me, I’ve been there many times.

Some of you get even angrier at being told this. How unfair, you protest! Isn’t it a free country anymore? Now I have to police what I say and think? Yes, of course you do! I was raised in rural Kentucky to believe that people are supposed to think carefully before they say things and consider the impact my words have on others. This is just what good people do. However hard it is in practice, it isn’t all that complicated a concept. Why is this somehow forgotten, though, when the others aren’t other white people? Do you really want or need me to answer that question out loud?
Comment:  For more on Trayvon Martin, see Bias Against Trayvon Martin and Obama and Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin.

Navajo mask in Bob's Burgers

The theme of Synchronized Swimming, Sunday's episode of Bob's Burgers (airdate: 3/25/12), is how mother Linda coddles her children. As one example, she supposedly makes a "Navajo warrior mask." As she puts it:Gene, here's your Navajo warrior mask for your history class. I've been wearing it all morning. I love it.

A few problems with this:

  • I'm pretty sure the Navajo don't wear masks. Oops.

  • The mask's style is vaguely like that of Pacific Northwest Indians, who do wear masks in the ceremonies. This furthers the perception that all Indians are the same.

  • Without any explanation or context, the mask looks scary. It suggests Indians are savage and barbaric.

  • If it were a genuine mask, or even a facsimile of one, I doubt women or non-Indians would be allowed to wear it. And certainly not for "fun" around the house. This furthers the perception that sacred Indian practices are like Halloween parties--a matter of dressing, dancing, and whooping however you please. It mocks and trivializes the serious nature of Native religions.

    Give Bob's Burgers one point for trying to include Native lore at all, but take away the point for botching it. I'd say no school, whether real or fictional, should ask students to make sacred objects from Indian cultures. It fosters the illusion that these cultures are superficial and easily knowable.

    For similar examples of people dressing as Indians, see Umatilla Model Portrays Pocahontas and Stereotypical Yulefest Postcard.
  • "Stand Your Ground" cartoon

    For another example of this mentality, see the Indian Wars. Heck, see 500 years of Euro-American attitudes toward Indians and other indigenous people.

    For more political cartoons, see PEACE PARTY Political Cartoon:  Christmas and PEACE PARTY Political Cartoon:  Thanksgiving.

    March 24, 2012

    Tribal Vision educates through dance

    Entertaining and educating about Native culture

    By Christine HoslerTribal Vision is a Native dance group out of Six Nations which dances to teach.

    “We want to share our culture through dance and song,” said co-founder Naomi Martin. “We went with a different angle, educational instead of entertainment I guess you’d say.”

    The group travels to schools, festivals, corporate events and sessions such as the one performed last Friday afternoon at Avondale Zion United Church. Members dance and sing in traditional Native dress. All dancers are experienced, and were all part of separate dancing groups before coming together in 2009 when Naomi and her husband Derek formed Tribal Vision. Their goal is to educate people about Native culture.

    “Number one is they think we’re all the same,” said Martin. “We’re all different. There’s just as many first nations in North America as there are ethnicities in Europe.”
    Comment:  For more on Native efforts to educate people, see Narragansetts Use Film to Educate.

    Below:  "Derek Martin performs his modern interpretation of a war dance as part of the Tribal Visions educational exhibition last Friday at Avondale Zion United Church."

    Indian blood = black myth?

    Doubling Down on DNA

    By John JurgensenWith a series of specials for PBS starting in 2006, Mr. Gates used a combination of DNA sequencing, genealogical records and celebrity sizzle to "give African-Americans their 'Roots' moment," he says, referring to the Alex Haley novel that cast ancestral identity in a new light. Since his original "African American Lives" miniseries, which explored the heritage of black stars such as Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, Mr. Gates has developed a broader approach—and a TV franchise. Featuring 25 guests ranging from Robert Downey Jr. to Condoleezza Rice, his new series, "Finding Your Roots," premieres Sunday.And the key fact:Mr. Gates says that reveal "always gets an emotional response, positively or negatively." For example, African-American guests are often surprised at how much European blood they carry and their lack of significant Native American ancestry. "It's the biggest myth in African-American genealogy: 'My great grandmother was a Cherokee princess,'" he says, adding, "The average slave and the average Native American didn't even see each other, which makes it very hard to mate."Comment:  I wonder if the myth is equally true for whites who think they have a Cherokee princess in their background. Could be.

    For more on black Indians, see Thoughts on IndiVisible and People Can't Be Black and Indian?

    Below:  "Henry Louis Gates Jr., left, with actor Samuel L. Jackson on 'Finding Your Roots.'"

    March 23, 2012

    Fur-trade reenactors in photo exhibit

    Photographer Tom Jones shoots portraits of sincere white folks dressed in native garb

    Playing Indian

    By Steve MooreThe collection was shot at historic reenactments of the French fur trade era called Rendezvous. Participants come from all over the country to set up camp, display furs, and adopt elements of what they believe is a Native American lifestyle. They assiduously rely on old photographs—often stereotypical—to "authentically" dress the part.

    Jones, an assistant professor of photography at UW and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, turns the camera around by photographing the reenactors.

    Walking in, I thought of the Indian Guides, a scout-like YMCA program I'd been in as a kid, complete with feathers on our heads and war paint on our faces. I'm also an alum of Illinois, where Chief Illiniwek danced at halftime. I once thought such things weren't really racist, yet eventually I came to understand that they are. So I steeled myself, a bit defensive. Would this be an exercise in white guilt?

    Refreshingly, the answer is no. The 13 beautiful, life-size color photographs feel honest, respectful and, if anything, benign. They cast no judgment, though Jones wittily shoots the reenactors in solitary, almost heroic poses, in full regalia with serious expressions, reminiscent of the "noble savage" treatment.

    In so doing, he shows us the meticulous detail of their dress, over which they have clearly labored. We can also see in their eyes that they're sincere. Jones says he learned through doing the project that many reenactors have Indian ancestry, and his photos appear to show an understanding that his subjects wish to honor, not offend, Native Americans. He describes them as "people playing Indian," but, he says, "they come at this with a good heart."

    I cringed at a reenactor's Indian name—Joe Makes Trouble—as well as how silly some of them look. One wears a top hat with feathers, looking half Indian, half chimney sweep. But as a white man having looked at this series of mirrors—an Indian's photographs of white people dressing up as Indians, based on photos of Indians taken by white people—I'm struck by the idea that no one can say exactly what anyone's reaction will be. Ultimately, the exhibit is as neutral as its title.
    Comment:  Naturally, my view of this exhibit is less benign than the author's. The reenactors may want to "honor" Indians, but who says that's what they're doing?

    Among the questions the article doesn't answer are:

  • The fur trade happened in the Great Lakes area before photography existed. Do the costumes reflect that? Or are they taken from Edward Curtis photos done long after the fur trade ended?

  • Are all the reenactors dressed as stereotypical Plains Indians? Does the accompanying text say anything about this stereotyping? Does it note the diversity of America's Indians?

  • Do all the reenactors have "funny Indian names" like "Joe Makes Trouble"? How else are they belittling the cultures they supposedly respect?

  • What's the justification for the umpteenth example of showing Indians as they lived in the distant past? Does the text say anything about modern Indians? Are the reenactors even aware that Indians still exist?

  • What do present-day Indians think about these reenactors and this exhibit? Where's their input into this?

  • What do visitors take away from the exhibit? Do they actually learn anything about Indians? Do they learn about the breadth and depth of Indian cultures? Or do they get their stereotypical beliefs--that all Indians are like the Plains Indians of the past--reinforced? If that's the case, how is this exhibit "neutral"?

  • The fact that an Indian took the photographs is interesting. But unless the exhibit answers some or all of these questions, it doesn't really matter. The exhibit may do more harm than good no matter who the photographer is.

    For more on Indian wannabes, see Wannabes Obscure Real Indians, Mythical Indian = "National Mascot," and Why Wannabes Wanna Be.

    Bias against Trayvon Martin and Obama

    Trayvon Martin, Obama, and the Persistence of Racial Bias

    By Sally Kohn[W]hether Zimmerman is an overt racist or not is largely beside the point. Focusing on relatively isolated instances of overt racism tends to obscure and excuse the very pernicious, very persistent reality of implicit racial bias that runs throughout our society—and very much shaped how the world saw Trayvon Martin and how the world sees President Obama still.

    Most people don’t throw around racial epithets, let alone admit they do so to researchers. Yet we know that racial stereotypes still exist in America, leading scientists now to focus on implicit bias: unconscious mental shortcuts that we form based on our life experience as well as the stories, culture and history we absorb around us.

    In one study, researchers used computers to generate several faces that were exactly the same except for the skin color—half were black and half were white. All respondents (yes, including black people studied for the project) were more likely to rate the black faces as showing greater hostility. In another study, scientists showed a group of subjects a video of one person pushing another person. When the “shover” was black and the “victim” was white, 75 percent of research subjects said the push was aggressive. When the “shover” was white and the victim was “black,” only 17 percent of subjects said the push was aggressive.

    Implicit racial bias has also been found in what researchers call a “shooter bias”—in which subjects playing a simulated video game are more likely to mistakenly pull the trigger on unarmed black men than on unarmed white suspects. The phenomenon has been tested and proved with police officers, too.

    Watching conservative attacks on Obama, it’s hard not to conclude that they are tainted by implicit bias. Consider: President Barack Obama is the first African-American president of the United States of America. From day one, conservatives have attacked the president’s religion, citizenship and essential patriotism. Conservatives condemned healthcare reform in general and the individual mandate in particular, even though the mandate was originally a Republican proposal. Republicans, who historically never met a tax cut they didn’t like, have opposed virtually every tax cut proposal that President Obama has put forth. Amidst high unemployment and a crumbling economy, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his number one goal was to destroy the president’s chance for re-election.

    Now, I do not believe that Mitch McConnell or most Republican leaders or rank-and-file voters are overt racists. But their rhetoric often evokes the same racial animus that Zimmerman seems to have expressed. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama “the most dangerous president in history.” Glenn Beck once accused President Obama of having a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” And long before he called Sandra Fluke a slut, conservative mascot Rush Limbaugh said: “Obama is an angry black guy.” The parallel imagery is clear: President Obama, like Trayvon Martin, is a dangerous, suspicious black man clearly up to no good, guilty of Governing While Black.
    Comment:  Needless to say, conservatives are rushing to defend George Zimmerman, blame Trayvon Martin for wearing a hoodie, or commenting weakly on the "tragedy" of the situation. I haven't heard any of them acknowledge the fact that Zimmerman chased Martin because he was black.

    The bias against blacks also occurs against Latinos, Indians, and Muslims, among others. It used to happen to the Irish, Jews, and other white immigrants. It's an ingrained part of the American character--a part conservatives don't want to discuss.

    For more on Trayvon's case, see Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin. For more on implicit bias, see Understanding Implicit Bias and Americans Refuse to Acknowledge Prejudice. For more on America's racism, see White Privilege Will End Soon and Conservatives Seek Return to 1957.

    Native students given English proficiency tests

    Schools Give Native Students English Proficiency Tests

    By Ann DornfeldSchool districts in Washington state have been singling out Native American students for testing. When students took the test, they weren't sure why. KUOW's Ann Dornfeld found out why. She has this exclusive report.


    Nick Barth is a freshman honors literature student at Chief Sealth High School. He loves to read. Right now he's in the middle of two 500–page books. One is "The Fellowship of the Ring," and—

    Nick Barth: "—I'm reading a compilation of dystopic novels called 'Brave New Worlds,' and it's edited by John Joseph Adams."

    Last year, Nick was pulled out of class at Madison Middle School to take a surprise test.

    Nick Barth: "All they said is 'English proficiency,' and because we're Native."

    Nick is White Earth Ojibwe, and he found himself in a room with other Native American kids.

    Nick Barth: "They gave us questions like 'What do you live in?' And then it showed two pictures: a house or a basketball."

    The test was the Washington Language Proficiency Test. It's usually given to kids who aren't fluent in English.

    Nick Barth: "In the vocal quiz they made us sit down with some lady that I've never seen before. She made us pronounce words. They made us start with, like, one word and then they slowly built up to sentences."

    Nick says some kids were so upset by the test that they tried to leave. But he says a security guard turned them around at the door.
    And:London says it's part of the district's effort to keep Native American kids in school. Native students in Seattle lag far behind their white peers on standardized tests. Only 47 percent of Native American grade schoolers were deemed proficient in reading last year.

    Wendy London: "And what the literature suggests is that kids feel isolated and different and that they just don't fit in. And so this particular training is about—it really is targeting how to make kids feel like they're not separate."

    But mom Sarah Kelly says singling out kids for English proficiency tests because they're Native is not the way to help kids fit in.

    Sarah Kelly: "I think it's the very definition of irony. For them to execute the testing in this way and then use it for cultural competency is beyond ironic!"

    Seattle Public Schools Native Education Program Manager Arlie Neskahi says he got a lot of phone calls and emails about the test.

    Arlie Neskahi: "The test, then, is really strongly a bilingual type of test. And for most people it's a very basic and very elementary kind of test to go through."

    Neskahi says a lot of parents were offended that their Native American children were given a test usually given to immigrants.
    Comment:  London, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction Support for Seattle Public Schools, didn't explain the testing very well. Why pick Barth or anyone who's a "freshman honors literature student"? Why pull him out in the middle of a class? Why not inform the parents and get their permission? Why the security guard to prevent anyone from leaving?

    I'm not seeing any justification for the "surprise" test or the rigid attitude. Does London think Native youngsters will quickly learn English and "cheat" the school out of its funding? The whole thing smacks of a biased attitude toward nonwhite students.

    This is an example of treating Natives as if they're savage and uncivilized. Hence it goes into the Stereotype of the Month contest.

    For more on the subject, see Natives Experience Racism Every Day and NCLB Leaves Native Children Behind.

    March 22, 2012

    Fox News protests eagle killings

    Comedian Michael Ian Black Defends Killing Bald Eagles On Red Eye

    By James CrugnaleAppearing on Fox News’ Red Eye early this morning, comedian Michael Ian Black made a bold stand for religious freedom in standing up for a Native American tribe’s right to kill bald eagles.

    The show’s panel was responding to the Fish and Wildlife Service approval of a permit allowing the Northern Arapaho tribe in Wyoming to kill two bald eagles for a religious ceremony.

    “Killing them is like shredding our constitution,” contended host Greg Gutfeld.

    “Well, under the First Amendment we have the right to shred our constitution if we so desire,” Black observed. “You can shred the constitution and you can kill a bald eagle as long as they are not endangered, and they are not endangered.”
    Eric Bolling Slams Native Americans For Killing Bald Eagles: ‘People Died For That Symbol’

    By James CrugnaleOn Thursday’s The Five, Eric Bolling came out as a staunch advocate for bald eagle conservation. The panelists discussed a controversial decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to approve a permit for the Northern Arapaho tribe in Wyoming to kill two bald eagles for a religious ceremony. While many of the others were fine with making the exception for the Arapaho, Bolling was not and compared the killing of a bald eagle to the burning of an American flag.

    “I’m not okay with this,” Bolling opined. “It’s more than a bird and animal. This thing should not be shot. It’s a symbol of American freedom. People have died for that symbol. Protect that thing!”

    “Just look at that animal,” Bolling gushed.

    Co-host Dana Perino noted that other tribes have been able to kill other threatened species if it was part of their religious traditions and there was legal precedent.
    Comment:  I'm not surprised this ruling is getting some pushback from conservatives. I'm surprised it isn't getting more pushback. I haven't heard right-wing haters such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck say anything about it.

    If you think this is cruel or barbaric, note that we kill millions of animals for food and millions more for recreation (hunting and fishing). Two eagles is less than a drop in the bucket compared to that.

    If you're against the killing of animals for any reason, then you can take the moral high ground on this issue. Otherwise, not.

    The "eagle as American symbol" argument is especially ridiculous. It's a freakin' bird--exactly like the millions of chickens, ducks, and geese killed every year.

    Killing eagles does no harm whatsoever to the symbol. Indeed, you could argue that the Indians' reverence for the eagle increases its symbolic stature.

    Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird. Would Bolling have called for the protection of millions of turkeys every Thanksgiving?

    As I said, ridiculous.

    This is a typical case where conservatives oppose freedom of religion for anyone who isn't a God-fearing Bible thumper. As professional bigot Bryan Fischer said, they think the First Amendment protects only Christianity.

    For a previous eagle controversy, see Eagle Rite = Satanic Sacrifice"? and Dismembered Eagles in Native Religion. For more on the Native reverence for eagles, see Eagles Released on Earth Day.

    Fashion show for HIV/AIDS awareness

    Fashion show helps spread the word about HIV

    By Glenda Rae DavisWhat do you do to make people aware that HIV and AIDS is not something that just happens to other people in other places?

    How do you raise awareness in your own community, especially when it's still far from routine to openly discuss sex, the main transmission route for HIV among Navajos?

    The people behind Diné College's HIV program decided one way is free food, gas cards, iTunes cards, and models strutting the newest fashion trends with a Native twist. Free pizza, spaghetti, salad and punch were on hand, as well.

    On March 8 all of that was part of the 2nd Annual Native Blossom Fashion Show, which the program sponsored in recognition of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Natives Fight HIV/AIDS and Native CHAT Film Festival.

    Below:  "One of the models shows an outfit at the 2nd Annual Native Blossom Fashion Show March 8 at the the Diné College-Shiprock gym." (Glenda Rae Davis)

    Navajo chef advises in Minnesota

    Professional chef offers tips for Native American cuisineFreddie Bitsoie puts on quite a show. And he has plenty of advice about food.

    “A good cook knows how to season food, salt is not needed on the table,” said Bitsoie, a professional chef who provided private cooking lessons Wednesday to eight members of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Council Education Program (SNAP) with six members from the Leech Lake, White Earth, Grand Portage, Mille Lacs, Bois Forte and Fond du Lac reservations.

    The SNAP nutritional educators have quarterly workshops on food preparation and distribution.

    A day earlier, Bitsoie, who specializes in Native American Cuisine, conducted a community cooking lesson at Leech Lake Tribal College.

    On Wednesday, Harmony Natural Food Cooperative teamed up with the Indigenous Environmental Network to host the chef at Harmony’s Community Kitchen in Bemidji.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Many Native Cuisines, Not One.

    Below:  "Chef Freddie Bitsoie advises Amber Ahonen, a SNAP educator at Fond du Lac Reservation, about how to make a recipe on Wednesday afternoon at Harmony’s Community Kitchen. Bitsoie worked with eight SNAP members from various reservations to promote a return to a healthier, more traditional diet." (Monte Draper/Bemidji Pioneer)

    March 21, 2012

    Adam Beach as Hollywood source

    Actor Adam Beach on Stardom, Passion and the Award Closest to His Heart

    By Vincent SchillingThe 39-year-old Saulteaux can now add another accolade to his lengthy resume. He has received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (since renamed the Indspire Awards), one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a First Nations person. He co-hosted last year’s gala; this year he was on the podium. Indian Country Today Media Network got Beach to open up a little about his work and the perspective it has given him.

    You’ve reached a level that few have attained. Do you feel like an educator as well as an actor?

    Everybody I meet in Hollywood always asks questions about how it is to be Indian. What are my problems, what are my political points of view, where are we in society these days, or what issues do we face? When the likes of Steven Spielberg or Harrison Ford have questions, I have those answers, because they can’t and don’t really have the time to educate themselves about the history of Native peoples.

    I am kind of like their inside source, which helps me realize that I have to be aware of our struggles as Native people today. I am in a position in which my voice means something. It is recognized across North America, so I better damn well educate myself about what is going on now. This includes learning about other opportunities that can help with the solutions and the struggles that Native people face.
    Comment:  For more on Adam Beach, see Beach Talks About Law & Order: SVU and Arctic Air Reviewed.

    The New Powwow Highway

    "The New Powwow Highway"--StagePeaks TV Production

    TV mini-series by StagePeaks, adaptation of the new history of the American Indian Movement, by the author of the popular 1989 film "Powwow Highway."Wounded Knee... Leonard Peltier... The poorest people in America with a chronic 80% unemployment rate... Descendants of Crazy Horse, Sacajawea, Geronimo, Pocahontas, Ira Hayes, Jim Thorpe...

    These are some of the historic and modern names, places, ideas, and epochal events in America covered in "The New Powwow Highway" (in paperback and kindle on Amazon), by David Seals, the author and producer of the underground classic film "Powwow Highway," produced by George Harrison for Handmade Films in 1989.
    And:"The New Powwow Highway" supplements the rollicking comedy and adventures of the first novel with a more factual, non-fiction journey with the author who personally experienced some of the most important historical events in the history of the American West from 1971 to the present, as a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM).

    He helped run supplies and supporters into the Wounded Knee encampment in 1973, and was there when the police tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed peaceful marches for religious indigenous rights in Colorado, Mexico, Hawaii, and Canada. His friends numbered the genius Kiowa artist T.C. Cannon, actors John Trudell and Irene Bedard, legendary activists Steve Robideau, Nilak Butler, Winona LaDuke, Wolverine, Pedro Bissonette, and many others.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Means says he's cancer-free

    Native Sun News: Russell Means goes back to his 'normal' lifeRussell Means says he is still cancer-free and will forever be unaffected by the dread disease.

    Means, who is Oglala Lakota, was diagnosed last summer with what was then referred to as “terminal” esophageal cancer. In December, the actor and former American Indian Movement activist claimed victory over his affliction partially by way of “Indian prayer and Indian medicine.”

    “The cancer’s gone–I don’t have to worry about that,” Means said from his wife Pearl’s familial home in Santa Fe.

    “I beat it, it’s gone,” he said firmly.
    Comment:  For more on Russell Means, see Means Cured of Cancer? and Means Receives Lifetime Achievement Award.

    March 20, 2012

    Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin

    Talk about the Trayvon Martin shooting is sweeping the country. I was eager to see what author Tim Wise would say about it, and he didn't disappoint.

    Trayvon Martin, White Denial and the Unacceptable Burden of Blackness in America

    By Tim WiseBy now, you probably know the shameful details, but they are worth repeating, in any event.

    On the evening of February 26, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” in an Orlando suburb, shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

    Because Martin was black.
    You should read the whole column, but I'll quote some of the choicest lines:It doesn’t take much imagination to size up Zimmerman psychologically. He’s like so many other utterly unaccomplished males who fantasize about being a badass law officer, meting out justice to the ne’er-do-wells. He’s the kind of person who, if he weren’t playing at policeman, would be one of those guys fabricating stories of his war heroism, buying fake military uniforms and medals on eBay and telling strangers in bars how he single-handedly held off insurgents in Kandahar or some such shit.

    Had he been white, Martin’s humanity would have been clearly discernible to Zimmerman. But he was black, and male, and that alone inspired Zimmerman to conclude that there was “something wrong with this guy,” and that he appeared to be “on drugs,” a judgment Zimmerman felt qualified to render based on his extensive background in behavioral psychology, bested only by his prodigious law enforcement training, and by extensive and prodigious, in this case, I mean none whatsoever.

    Indeed, if you do not know that Martin’s race (and more to the point, Zimmerman’s racism) is central to the former’s death at the hands of the latter, it may well be that you are incapable of ever comprehending even the most obvious manifestations of this nation’s longstanding racial drama.

    If you are one, like those firmly ensconced in the pathetic Sanford, Florida police department, trying against all logic and human feeling to square this pernicious circle, just stop it. That there had been a half-dozen or so break-ins in Zimmerman’s community, ostensibly orchestrated by black males matters not a whit. Likewise, that there was a string of robberies in my New Orleans neighborhood during my senior year of college, which were the handiwork of white men, would not have justified my being stopped by police every time I returned home from a late afternoon class, to say nothing of being accosted by some community asshole with a Charles Bronson complex.

    If I chase you and jump you, and you resist my assault, and in response to your resistance I kill you, I am the bad guy. Period. End of story. No exceptions, no prevarications, no ifs ands or buts. It’s me. Trayvon Martin is the innocent one here. He is the one who was acting in self-defense, when he resisted the assault of a total stranger, whose purposes for chasing him and accosting him made him rightfully afraid.

    Oh, and when you abuse that ill-gotten authority and take the life of a young black man in the process, you don’t get to be taken seriously when you swear that your actions couldn’t have been racist because, after all, you’re Latino (this being the latest fanciful insistence of Zimmerman’s family). Dear merciful Lord, what is that supposed to prove? Racism is not about the identity of the person acting it out so much as those upon whom it is acted, and for what purpose.

    Black males are, for far too many in America, a racial Rorschach test, onto which we instantaneously graft our own perceptions and assumptions, virtually none of them good. Look, a black man on your street! Quick, what do you see? A criminal. Look, a black man on the corner! Quick, what do you see? A drug dealer.
    And the key point for Newspaper Rock readers:Zimmerman’s culpability, while total and complete, is not solitary.

    After all, we are a society in which research has shown quite conclusively that local newscasts overrepresent blacks as criminals, relative to their actual share of total crime, and overrepresent whites as victims, relative to our share of victimization.

    A society in which other studies have shown that these racially-skewed newscasts have a direct relationship to widespread negative perceptions of black people. Indeed, a substantial percentage of anti-black racial hostility can be directly traced to media imagery, even after all other factors are considered.
    Comment:  The point is that similar thinking applies to American Indians. The only difference is: Americans think of them less as drug-dealing criminals and more as subhuman savages. It's the same basic idea, but a slightly different emphasis.

    For more on America's racism, see White Privilege Will End Soon and Conservatives Seek Return to 1957.

    Below:  The Bush Doctrine for blacks, Indians, Muslims, and other uppity minorities. "The dark-skinned savages threatened us, so we had to kill them in self-defense."

    Apacheria: The Art of Douglas Miles

    Apacheria: The Art of Douglas Miles" Opens Tonight at Por Vida Gallery

    By Benjamin LeathermanWhen most folks pass through the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation they likely see nothing but its blight, squalor, and the harsh living conditions of the desolate landscape. Artist Douglas Miles, however, sees nothing but inspiration for his work.

    That includes all of his most recent ink on paper drawings and stencil work creations, all of which is included in his exhibition "Apacheria," which opens tonight at Por Vida Gallery on 16th Street.

    Miles has spent most of his life on the vastly rural San Carlos reservation, which is located 100 miles northeast of Phoenix near the mining town of Globe. And he's spent the last 25 years creating a vast body of work that reflects and the hardships of "rez life" while celebrating its culture. The 48-year-old's oeuvre crosses into multiple mediums, ranging from his cartoon-like ink sketches on paper and canvas to the decorated decks of Apache Skateboards, the company he helped launch in 2002.

    "What I've been doing with my work is to make a definite reflection of the hardness of what its like to live in a rural Native American community in the 21st century," Miles says. "There's so many stereotypes when it comes to cliché Native American imagery and I've been creating something that challenges and changes those perceptions. There are very beautiful things about our culture, but there's also a very harsh side that some people don't see because of the rose-colored glasses of any romantic notions they might have about Indians."
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Women Skateboarders in Apache Chronicle and All About Apache Skateboards.

    Below:  "Douglas Miles with his work at Por Vida Gallery."

    Lakota funeral director

    Native Sun News: Charlie Rooks an Indian business success

    By Jesse Abernathy“A special place for our oyate to celebrate life.”

    That is the comforting guiding force, as well as stated mantra, behind both Rooks Funeral Chapel of Mission and Edstrom & Rooks Funeral Services at Serenity Springs of Rapid City.

    Charlie Rooks is the director and, along with his wife, Rose, owner of both funeral homes. Dwight and JoAnn Edstrom are co-owners of Serenity Springs. Charlie and Rose also maintain residences in Mission, situated on the Rosebud Reservation, and Rapid City.

    Rooks, 56, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has been in the business of preparing the deceased for their Spirit World journeys for 25 years now. His quiet success as a Lakota entrepreneur is perhaps a most fitting complement to his humble affability–or vice versa.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Clans Caskets.

    Walking on Turtle Island at the Autry

    On Sunday I saw Walking on Turtle Island, Robert Greygrass-Owens's one-man play, at the Autry Museum. I wouldn't say it was stunningly great, but it was good.

    Here are some pix I took of the museum's exterior before the show:

    "Walking on Turtle Island"--March 18, 2012

    For more on the subject, see Greygrass's One-Man Plays.

    Andy Samberg in a headdress

    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Heidi Klum in a Headdress and Why Tonto Matters.

    March 19, 2012

    Hualapai tribe seizes Skywalk

    The latest on the Hualapai tribe's Skywalk, which I've covered over the years:

    Indian tribe battles developer of spectacular walkway over 'sacred' Grand CanyonThe Arizona Indian tribe on whose ancestral land the Grand Canyon Skywalk was built is locked in a bitter feud with the developer who pumped at least $30 million into its construction.

    The tiny Hualapai nation last month exercised its right of eminent domain to take over the management of the site and kick out the non-Indian developer.

    It is a bold move that could serve as a test of the limits of the sovereign power of Native American tribes over non-members.

    The dispute over the potentially lucrative Skywalk--which all agree could draw up to 3,000 visitors a day--pits the tribe's sovereign rights over a site it sees as its economic lifeblood against a developer's contractual right to manage the attraction for 25 years and share the profits.
    And:The dispute at the heart of the crisis appears to focus on specifications including who was supposed to provide infrastructure--power, water and sewer--for the project, with both sides accusing the other of acting in bad faith.

    What is not in dispute is that a visitors' centre overlooking the Skywalk--a beautiful building on the edge of the canyon with floor-to-ceiling windows where a restaurant might have been--is nothing but a shell.

    Construction on the centre stopped several years ago--the sides disagree as to why--and the building lies unfinished and vacant, with bales of insulation piled up and gathering dust on its bare concrete floor.

    Visitors who drive to the site, often as a day trip from Las Vegas, must traverse a long windshield-busting stretch on a dirt road. Others fly in by helicopter or plane to the reservation's busy airport.

    The Hualapai council members say the unfinished site is an embarrassment to the tribe, which approved the project despite some internal objections about building on land roughly 30 miles from a place central to the Hualapai creation story.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Skywalk Has Quadrupled Visitors and Skywalk Developer Sues Hualapai Tribe.

    Below:  "Empty: What is not in dispute is that a visitors' centre overlooking the Skywalk--a beautiful building on the edge of the canyon with floor-to-ceiling windows where a restaurant might have been--is nothing but a shell."

    Sunday Night probed over "freakshow"

    Sunday Night probed over tribe's infanticide portrayal

    By Amanda MeadeSEVEN'S current affairs flagship Sunday Night is under investigation by broadcasting authorities for a story which depicted a Brazilian tribe of Suruwaha Indians as a suicide cult that encouraged the murder of disabled babies.

    The story, broadcast in September, featured Seven video journalist Tim Noonan and writer and adventurer Paul Raffaele, who famously claimed in 2006 on Nine's 60 Minutes that a child called Wa-Wa had to be rescued from cannibals. Raffaele accompanied Seven's Today Tonight host Naomi Robson on a rescue mission to Indonesia's Papuan province.

    Raffaele said in his blog about the Sunday Night broadcast: "Being with the tribe was the peak of my career. But the experience was not only enthralling but deeply disturbing. The Suruwaha practise a bizarre suicide cult, unlike anything I'd ever seen before, where many of the tribe kill themselves with a deadly poison made from tree bark before they reach old age."

    Survival International director Stephen Corry said it was "freakshow TV" at its very worst. "The Indians are made out to be cruel and inhuman monsters," he said.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Freakshow TV" Campaign Targets Stereotypes.

    San Manuel partners with local ballclub

    San Manuels get naming rights at 66ers Stadium

    By Andrews EdwardsThe Inland Empire 66ers' home stadium will be renamed as San Manuel Stadium, according to an announcement of a "major new partnership" between the Single A ballclub and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

    A news release revealed the new name by announcing a media conference is scheduled to take place at the downtown San Bernardino stadium on Thursday.
    And:The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which operates San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino near Highland, currently holds naming rights to San Manuel Amphitheater at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore.

    The tribe has also made sports a focal point of its casino advertisements and non-gaming enterprises, such as the Sportswatch Bar & Grill in Highland. The tribe also advertises at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center, home to the Lakers, Clippers and Kings.
    Comment:  For more on naming rights, see Foxwoods Bets on Spider-Man.

    Below:  "The Inland Empire 66ers' home stadium in San Bernardino on Monday, March 19, 2012. Arrowhead Credit Union Ballpark will be renamed to San Manuel Stadium." (Rachel Luna/Staff Photographer)

    Begay to receive Bartlett Award

    Notah Begay III to be Honored with the Golf Writers Association of America’s Charlie Bartlett AwardNotah Begay is used to garnering trophies. The 39-year old Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta professional golfer won four of them on the PGA Tour, the first American Indian to do so. On April 4, however, Begay will be presented with arguably the most important award of his life, the Golf Writers Association of America’s Charlie Bartlett Award (GWAA) at the Annual Awards Dinner in Augusta, Georgia. Begay’s being honored for his tireless efforts with his namesake NB3 Foundation, which he began in 2005 to help promote healthy living and battle Type-2 diabetes and obesity among American Indian youth. The award is named for the first secretary of the GWAA, and is given each year to a professional golfer for his or her unselfish contributions to the betterment of society.

    Begay’s NB3 Foundation has raised $3.23 million in three years through the annual NB3 Foundation Challenge Golf Event, a star-studded golf tournament drawing some of the biggest names in the sport in an effort to raise money for the Foundation.
    Comment:  For more on Notah Begay, see Begay Tries PGA Comeback and 4th NB3 Challenge.