May 31, 2012

Warren told schools she was Native

Elizabeth Warren says she told Harvard, Penn of Native American heritage

By Mary Carmichael and Stephanie EbbertDemocratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren acknowledged for the first time late Wednesday night that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania that she was Native American, but she continued to insist that race played no role in her recruitment.

“At some point after I was hired by them, I . . . provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard,” she said in a statement issued by her campaign. “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.”

Warren’s statement is her first acknowledgment that she identified herself as Native American to the Ivy League schools. While she has said she identified herself as a minority in a legal directory, she has carefully avoided any suggestion during the last month that she took further actions to promote her purported heritage.

When the issue first surfaced last month, Warren said she only learned Harvard was claiming her as a minority when she read it in the Boston Herald.
I'm glad we got this ridiculous "mystery" out of the way. Did two different schools just happen to read her "Native" listing in the professional directories? Or her Pow Wow Chow cookbook? And accept that she was Native unhesitatingly? Not even one little question about how she didn't look Native and could the listings possibly be mistaken?

No, of course not. Penn and Harvard thought she was Native because she told them so. They reported this claim to the government as if it were fact.

Warren claims she forgot that she told Harvard she was Native. Really? You forgot whether you told people you were white or Native? Did you also forget whether you told them you were male or female? Because that's about the same magnitude of error.

But let's assume she did forget. The correct answer in her previous comments would've been "I don't remember what I told Harvard." Not "I never told Harvard I was Native." If you don't remember, you say "I'm not sure" or "I don't know."

As I said before, the more she listed herself as "Cherokee" or "Native," the more she required evidence. Now we learn it was official. She helped her schools mislead the federal government on their diversity reports.

She didn't say she was white with Native ancestry, which might've been accurate. She flatly said she was Native despite having no known tribal ancestors. Indeed, despite having nothing but unreliable family rumors.

At a minimum, this listing let the schools deflect the hiring criticism they were receiving. They could say they had one "Native" professor so they didn't need to look for others. Consequently, did Native professors get less consideration for job openings? Quite possibly.

Although there's still no evidence that Warren used her imagined ancestry to get a job, it's looking more and more like she engaged in box-checking to get ahead. She can't claim she told her schools she was Native to meet other Natives--her prior flimsy excuse. The only reason you inform officials you're a minority is to benefit from it--officially.

Warren flunks crisis management

Another article notes the consequences of Warren's stonewalling and backtracking:

What Elizabeth Warren did wrong

By Chris CillizzaElizabeth Warren’s acknowledgment Wednesday night that she had formally informed both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania that she was a Native American seemingly contradicts a month of the Massachusetts Democrat’s assertions on the matter and represents a major misstep for the nationally touted candidate.

But, when the Boston Herald first reported on the fact that Warren was listed as a Native American in a faculty directory, she said that she had no previous knowledge of that fact and had not authorized Harvard to list her as a minority. Warren’s campaign has said she forgot some details of her past employment as a way to explain the discrepancy in her statements.

And, it’s clear from the Globe story that Warren’s hand was forced by the fact that the newspaper had found proof that, in their words, “the university’s law school began reporting a Native American female professor in federal statistics for the 1992-93 school year, the first year Warren worked at Harvard, as a visiting professor.”

While the Warren campaign will insist that she is being consistent—that she has always said that she never told Harvard or Penn about her heritage before being hired or that it benefited her in any way—the optics of this back and forth are just terrible for her.

This could—and should—have been a minor nuisance for the campaign. No one is alleging that Warren used her minority status to get her jobs and it’s hard to imagine that in a campaign where the economy, jobs and debt are the overriding issues that whether Warren is Native American or not matters at all to voters.

But, Warren has turned a minor nuisance into a major storyline by not simply coming out with everything she knew—up to and including that she had formally told Harvard and Penn of her Native American heritage—about the whole episode right from the start.

“In Politics 101 you learn to get it all out and apologize on day one,” said one senior Democratic consultant who marveled at how the Warren campaign dealt with this episode. “‘Yep, I did it and I’m sorry.’ This has been handled amateurishly.”

By dragging out the story—the first Herald piece on it ran April 27!—Warren has turned it into, at the least, a distraction and, at the most, an issue to be used against her this fall.
I was going to say the same thing myself. Horrible crisis bad as it "F" grade. Pure idiocy to turn a minor story into a major one.

This leads me to question her aptitude for politics. Not because of her questionable ancestry, which still isn't a decisive issue. Rather, because of her inability to manage this relatively simple controversy. If you don't understand public relations, I'm not sure you're qualified to hold public office. Politics is all about the art of the message.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see Cherokee Website Targets Warren and Harvard Reported Warren as Native.

Below:  "Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, right, takes questions from members of the media as Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, left, looks on during an event at Warren's campaigns headquarters, in Somerville, Mass., Wednesday, May 30, 2012, during which Patrick formally endorsed Warren in her campaign for the Senate seat." (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Boaters interrupt Winnemem Wintu ceremony

This controversy has been going on for a couple of weeks as the Winnemem Wintu beseeched the government to close the river for their ceremony. But the non-Indians' response to this sacred religious event makes it a pop-culture issue.

Grassroots River Closure, Coordinated Boater Harassment Highlight Winnemem Wintu’s War Dance

By Marc DadiganSince 2005, the Winnemem Wintu, a deeply traditional tribe of 125, have struggled with the U.S. Forest Service to implement a mandatory closure of 400 yards of the McCloud Arm of Shasta Lake, a tiny corner of nearly 370 miles of shoreline for their young women’s Coming of Age ceremonies. The Forest Service can only close the river for a federally recognized tribe, according to federal law, and the Winnemem lost their recognition due to a bureaucratic error in the mid-1980s.

“Voluntary closures” in the 2006 and 2010 ceremonies led to the tribe being harassed by recreational boaters.

Feeling they had run out of options to get the river closure, the Winnemem Wintu held a War Dance May 24–27 at the Coming of Age Ceremony site where tribal activists, environmental justice activists and Occupy movement members helped the tribe enforce their own closure.

Unfortunately, the euphoria from the closure quickly gave way to actions that have marred previous ceremonies at the site.

On May 27, just as the tribe was about to complete their final dance of the ceremony, a fleet of seven motor boats and three jet skies motored back and forth through the ceremony site at speeds greater than the 5 mph speed limit, flipped off tribal members, stared down young women holding infants and did doughnuts near the tribe’s sacred sites.

“It was pretty much about as racist as you can get without going to jail or being violent,” said 25-year-old Winnemem War Dancer Arron Sisk.
Comment:  Natives are 1% of the US population, so you close the river for three of 365 days to accommodate their religion? How is a compromise like that not fair to everyone?

For more on Native religion, see Sacred White Buffalo Killed and Skinned, Eagle Killing Divides Tribes, and Christian Flyer Calls Lakota Rite "Satanic."

Below:  "During the Winnemem Wintu's War Dance May 26, Supporters and activists from the Klamath Justice Coalition, American Indian Movement, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Eugene, Earth First! and members of numerous tribes temporarily enforced their own closure of the McCloud River in preparation for the Winnemem's Coming of Age ceremony next month where they intend to close the river to protect the ceremony from aggressive and abusive boaters." (Marc Dadigan)

Traversie case was the catalyst

Vern Traversie and the Worst Place to Be an Indian

By Lise Balk KingIn 1999, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a hearing in Rapid City after “a series of high-profile cases involving the unsolved deaths of several American Indians…brought tensions to the surface.” I was one of the many people who felt relief that someone was listening and assumed help would come as a result. Many of us waited for hours to testify. It was the elders in the room who reminded everyone that the Commission had been there 20 years earlier, and not much had changed. Now we fast-forward to 2012—13 years hence—and despite our hopes in 1999, it seems we have made little progress.

Enter Vern Traversie. He is a blind and physically disabled 69-year old elder from the Cheyenne River reservation who claims to be the victim of a hate crime. Scars on his abdomen, a result of heart surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital in September, 2011, appear to depict the letters KKK, referring to the Klu Klux Klan. That is, according to his supporters, a few hundred of which marched in protest in Rapid City on Monday.

Not everyone agrees. A Sioux Falls-based reporter for the Associated Press likened the purported KKK markings to “spotting the Madonna in a water stain.” This story has been featured in a number of national news outlets, including The Washington Post, and has set the tone for the media coverage, furthering the sense of frustration felt by some. Oglala Lakota Cheryl Cedar Face lamented, “The way the media covers Native issues makes it all seem like a big joke. Very rarely do I read something that conveys why people are upset or acknowledges that racism does exist.”

What the media and other outsiders may not see is that Traversie’s cry for help and pitiful condition wasn’t itself the cause, it was the catalyst. His plight embodied the day-to-day strain of facing racism and the reaction of doubt that is so readily cast on “Indians complaining again.” On Traversie’s YouTube video, which has gone viral in Native circles, Cedar Face said, “I don’t usually pass these things around, but it was the honest anguish…it made me cry. This was truly the last straw for me.”
Comment:  I posted a picture of the marks on Traversie. They don't look like a clear "KKK" to me.

Even if there was no "branding," I want to know how his belly got so cut up. That's not a normal surgery outcome.

I wouldn't have pushed this cause as much as people have done. But I always appreciate some activist people power.

It seems like people were looking for a reason to protest racism in SD. And this cause was as good as any. So I approve of the protest even if the underlying reason was questionable.

For more on the subject, see AIM Leads March for Traversie and Indians Rally for "KKK" Victim.

Native Daughters magazine

Groundbreaking Mag Celebrates Native Women; Now in Multiple Platforms for Classrooms

By Scott WinterTo create Native Daughters magazine, Jordan Pascale, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) journalism student, stepped into a Pine Ridge, South Dakota sweat lodge in the fall of 2009 hoping to figure out a world he longed to understand.

To build the Native Daughters website, Molly Young, another UNL journalism student, drove through a blizzard to film teens in Santee, Nebraska talking about suicide and escaping the reservation.

To build the free curriculum companion for Native Daughters, 14 educators—half of them enrolled tribe members from Native schools—spent a week in the summer of 2011 breaking down the content to make the stories connect to students and teachers both on and off the reservation.

The result was a journalistic, multimedia study of a story that hadn’t been told enough, if at all. The onetime product, Native Daughters—Who they are, where they’ve been and why Indian country could never survive without them, came off the presses and hopped online in the spring of 2011. Now, it needed an audience.

By January 2012, the Nebraska Humanities Council, Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) and UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications had produced a Native Daughters curriculum companion free to all K-12 educators. By February, Native Daughters had sold out its second printing.
Comment:  For more on Native magazines, see Red Ink Magazine Loses Sponsor and Hunting the Rez Magazine.

May 30, 2012

Cherokee website targets Warren

Cherokees launch website targeting Elizabeth Warren over Native American heritage claims

By Robert RizzutoTwila Barnes, an amateur Cherokee genealogist in Missouri who has been an outspoken critic of Warren's Native American claims, said the new website aims to encourage the Harvard Law School professor to denounce her previous claims of Cherokee ancestry.

"We would like Elizabeth Warren to acknowledge that her family story isn't true," Barnes told "I believe she does have a family story, as a lot of people do, but after an investigation and research, it turns out that the story isn't true. It is dangerous for someone in her position, who might become a U.S. Senator, to be falsely claiming to be Cherokee when she can't prove it."
And:"If you look white and grew up white, you probably didn't deal with the same issues true minorities do and you shouldn't be calling yourself a minority," Barnes said. "I wouldn't consider what she did malicious at the time, but I think she was definitely trying to take advantage of the system."

Harvard University, as it was under fire for a lack of diversity hires in the 1990s, touted Warren as the school's first minority female hire, and even went as far as calling her the university's "first woman of color."
From the website itself:

Elizabeth Warren–The Cherokees Will Not be SilencedMany wonder why we Cherokees are so insistent on Elizabeth Warren coming clean about her false claims of Cherokee ancestry. This is not a political issue to us. We don’t care if Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent. We do care, though, if she goes around claiming to be Cherokee and has tried to benefit from that claim. Some people might not realize there are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes in the United States, but there are more than 200 groups who fraudulently claim to be Cherokee tribes. While the federally recognized tribes have very specific criteria their members must meet in order to be enrolled or registered, there is no consistent criterion for membership into the fraudulent groups. Many members of these fraudulent groups base their claim of Cherokee ancestry on the same thing Ms. Warren bases hers on…family lore.

Though some might argue Ms. Warren is only one individual and therefore her claim cannot possibly cause harm to the Cherokee people, we would remind you that each of the fraudulent Cherokee groups are made up of individuals. Alone, none of these people would be harmful, but together, they are. In 2010, one fraudulent Cherokee group planned a march on Washington DC in an attempt to have the federal recognition of the three legitimate Cherokee tribes removed because those three tribes would not allow fakes to enroll or register with them. Like Warren, these individuals believe that family lore is all that should be required to claim Cherokee ancestry. 1987, a fraudulent Cherokee group in Ohio stood over the graves of the repatriated remains of Indians, while pretending to be Indians themselves. Like Warren and her contributions to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook, those fake Indians bastardized our traditions by doing things that were not representative of true Cherokee culture. From 2002-2005, a fraudulent Cherokee group in Arkansas, along with several school districts, was involved in defrauding the US government out of monies intended for real Indian students. Like Warren in her “checking the box” to further her career, these people did the exact same thing, “checked the box”, in order to try to benefit from it.

We have researched Ms. Warren’s ancestry in the line she claims to be Cherokee through, as well as researched the collateral lines connected to that family. There is absolutely no indication of her having anything other than Caucasian ancestors. Though Ms. Warren’s ancestors did move into the areas that later became Oklahoma, they arrived at the same time many other non-Indian families arrived–when the land was going to be opened up and they thought they could get free or cheap land from the Indians. Ms. Warren’s ancestors were not Cherokees and neither is she. We, as Cherokees, cannot allow Ms. Warren to continue on with her false claims. If we allow someone as high profile as her to get away with it, then everyone else will expect a free pass as well.

The authentic Cherokee tribes are made up of descendants of those listed on either the Dawes or Baker Rolls. Those rolls include the names of citizens who stayed with their nations; helped clear and farm their nations' land; helped build their nations' businesses and schools; participated in their nations' governments; and defended their nations in times of war and unrest. Through their loyalty to their nations, those Cherokee citizens paid the price for their descendants to have the right to call themselves Cherokee today. No one else has that right; not the individual walking down the street, not the members of the fraudulent tribes and certainly not a person who is running for the United States Congress. It is time for Ms. Warren to come clean and tell the truth. Until she does, we will not be silenced.
Comment:  The website tells us why Elizabeth Warren's case is an important issue. She's claimed to be Native and been touted as such by her employers.

If she can do that, so can Ward Churchill, Johnny Depp, Miley Cyrus, and the rest. A fraction of Native blood, or the belief that they have a fraction of Native blood, will be enough for everyone. A few million real Indians will be swamped by tens of millions of wannabes.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see Harvard Reported Warren as Native and Warren:  "My Mother Told Me So."

Below:  "Elizabeth Warren speaks with Tim O'Brien, Sr. Manager of Lenox Tool in East Longmeadow, during a campaign stop and tour of the factory in East Longmeadow." (Robert Rizzuto)

Eurovision singer performs in a headdress

Dutch Singer Plays Indian for Eurovision Song Contest[P]robably the most interesting performance was turned in by Joan, of the Netherlands, who dressed in a Native American costume. Why? Well, one commenter on YouTube gave this explanation:

The song is about her first love. Her fondest memories are of them two playing cowboys and indians. They should have shown the videoclip in the background in Baku to make people understand the context of her wearing that indian headdress.

Here it is. It’s not quite Outkast at the 2004 Grammys, but it’s in the same neighborhood.
As someone wrote on Facebook:Ignorance prevails! Obviously they do not understand or care to even learn that these are sacred to us Native people and they are not worn by women or for show to walk down the runway!Comment:  If the two them played "master and slave" or "bash the gays," would she have performed that? It's basically the same thing: an offensive act best left in the past. In other words, Joan's rationale, such as it is, is stupid.

Just as bad as Joan herself is the dancers in Pocahontas costumes beating drums. Why are all they dressed as Indians if cowboys are half the equation? Why the slinky costumes? Why aren't any of them men?

This is pure objectification of Indian women that has nothing to do with the song. Joan was already broadcasting home movies showing her playing Indian. How does dressing as a chief on stage with four "Indian maidens" further the song? Answer: It doesn't. It's a spectacle intended to exploit Indians--to take a cute little song and build it up into something impressive.

It's very much like the Australians who wore blackface to emulate the Jacksons. In other words, a minstrel show. In case the song wasn't enough, Joan gave the judges something to gawk at. Look at the sexy Indians dancing with me!

Indian Country Today doesn't think this was quite as bad as the Outkast performance in 2004. But Outkast's singers only looked roughly like Indians in their green go-go outfits. These performers are all clearly dressed as Indians. And Joan is clearly abusing a Plains headdress.

Therefore, I'd say this performance is about as bad as Outkast's. Maybe worse.

For more on the subject, see Jezebel's Guide to Hipster Racism, Andy Samberg in a Headdress, and Heidi Klum in a Headdress.

America the self-declared victim

America As Self-Declared Victim

By Michael BrennerOne reason for this feckless conduct is that the pronounced sense of American victimhood has powerfully strengthened American self-righteousness. We are as sure as we ever have been that we have a Providential mission on this earth, that we were born as a nation in a condition of "original virtue," that 9/11 was an offense against the natural order of things. That order must be restored--in our hearts, in our minds, in our spirit--by acting our there, not by looking inward. After all, Americans are a proactive, can-do people.

Americans, more than most other peoples, live by their collective myths. American 'exceptionalism' in particular holds a key place in their make-up. That places an exceptional burden on preserving our foundation fables. The impulse to pursue real and imagined enemies across much of Eurasia and Africa is propelled in part by the fearful quest for absolute security that is taken as an American birthright. That impulse is reinforced by the imperative to validate the nation's mythical self-image. Atavistic beliefs that Americans are winners, that they act selflessly in the world, that this goodness should be recognized by others, that Truth is on their side--together form the keystone of American being and meaning. Individuals' sense of worth is tied to this mythologized collective identity. This makes it exceedingly difficult, psychologically, to cut loose from actions that failed the test of utility in meeting national interests years ago. For the dread of facing a reality bereft of the moral and ideational sustenance those myths provide is stronger than is the fear of costly wars without end and corrupted ideals.

A mind shaped by feelings of dread, ingrained superiority and resentment is totally self-absorbed. It suffers from a lack of interest in the attitude of foreign parties--much less an ability to understand them. We launch ourselves into one audacious venture after another whose success supposedly depends on reorienting the thinking of the natives, of winning a battle for hearts and minds, for instilling new norms of behavior--all overlaid with respect for the United states. Yet we show little concern for finding out who these people are--much less adjusting our own actions accordingly. They are just 'they.' So we scold, we instruct, we insist--and we bribe. They resist, they fume, they ignore--and they pocket, sometimes. This is what Washington celebrates as "smart power."

They suffer accordingly. We suffer their reaction--and from our incapacity to rethink what we are doing and why.
Comment:  Brennan wrote this primarily about Muslims, but it applies 100% to Indians. Indeed, we have 500 years of thinking about and treating Indians this way, as opposed to 10 (or 50 or 100, depending on when you start) for Muslims. As I've noted many times, we've defined ourselves as white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who "tamed the wilderness" for God. Taming the wilderness means taming the Indians; they're synonymous.

It's George Zimmerman vs. Trayvon Martin on an international level. Zimmerman/America attacks, Martin/foreigners defend. Zimmerman/America imagines that Martin/foreigners are evil and kills them accordingly. Then Zimmerman/America declares itself the real victim even though it attacked first.

For more on the subject, see "6 Ridiculous Lies" About Indians and Chomsky on Genocide Denial.

Below:  "How dare you threaten us with your heathen ways?!"

May 29, 2012

Animals, objects, and professions

How 'Indian' mascots oppress

By John Two-HawksLet's take a look at sports team names in general. There are only three categories that nearly all sports team names fall into.

1. Animals 2. Objects 3. 'Professions'

Some examples:


Eagles, Bears, Falcons, Lions, Tigers, Ravens, Bulls, Wolverines, Cardinals, Dolphins, Ducks, Jaguars etc.


Pistons, Bullets, Rockets, Suns, Jets, Red Sox, White Sox, Stars, Rockies etc.


Packers, Kings, Steelers, Spartans, Buccaneers, Vikings, 49ers, Cowboys, Rangers, Lakers etc.

Obviously there are exceptions.
And:[W]hich category do these so-called 'Indian' sports team names fit into? Animals? Objects? Professions?

The answer of course, is simple, none of the above! These names/mascots fall into the category: RACIAL.
Good analysis, although it's not quite right. Vikings and Spartans (along with Trojans, Fighting Irish, and a few others) are more properly classified as ethnic or political groups--like Indians.

The main point with these groups is that they're predominantly gone, and thus not around to be offended. As for the Fighting Irish, I addressed that case in Fighting Sioux vs. Fighting Irish.

One could argue that most people classify Indians with animals, not professions. People think they're fierce and predatory like animals. They wear skins and feathers like animals. They make sounds (chants) and movements (dances) like animals.

Being Indian isn't a profession, obviously. If people thought it was, every Indian mascot wouldn't have a display of plumage like an exotic bird's. They could represent an Indian with an abstract logo like that of the Steelers or Saints.

Fact is that people choose Indian mascots precisely so they can display a wild animal savage on their logos. That's why they bawl like babies when you let them keep a name such as "Warriors" without the Indian imagery.

More thoughts on mascots

Why is the fact that Indians are a racial category a problem?These 'Indian' mascots/team names oppress Indian people. They oppress because they continue in the use of extreme negative stereotypical antics, words and images. Antics like the 'tomahawk-chop', mock 'Indian war-chants', non-Indians painting their faces and dressing-up like 'Indians', mascots performing mock 'Indian' dances or throwing fiery spears etc.

Indian children cannot possibly look at a stadium full of thousands of people mocking their ethnicity and making fun of their traditions and feel good about being Indian. This is what 'Indian mascots' do. They glorify all the stupid old stereotypes and steal the pride our children could have in the beauty of their race. They insult the entire Indian race.

Insulting an entire race...the very real definition of racism....
Nor should we excuse the less controversial Indian mascots:Braves

This is a word that has been used to denigrate Indian men. It dehumanizes the Indian male and equates him to something less than human. The terms 'buck' and 'doe' were also used by early european immigrants as a way to patronize Indian men and women. As you can see, they also infer that the Indian person is in some way inhuman. We are men, NOT 'braves'....


This is a word that is commonly given as a nickname which insults Indian men. The cultural equivelant would be to nickname all white men 'Prez' or 'King'. The term 'chief' itself is incorrect. Our leaders were never 'chiefs', but headmen, or clan mothers, and so on. Not 'chiefs'. Our leaders were highly disrespected by the USA. So calling someone 'Chief', is just a way to continue that disrespect....
Comment:  For more on Indian mascots, see Hockey Team Chooses "Tomahawks" Name and Oregon Bans Indian Mascots.

Codetalker Congressional Gold Medals

CFA Design Recommendations for Four Code Talker Congressional Gold Medals

By Michael ZielinskiThe Commission of Fine Arts recently reviewed design candidates for Congressional Gold Medals which will be issued to recognize four Native American tribes whose members served as code talkers during World War I or World War II.

In 2001, Navajo Code Talkers had been recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions during World War II. Under the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-420), there will be 22 additional tribes recognized.

The gold medals shall be accepted and maintained by the Smithsonian Institution, which is encouraged to create a standing exhibit for Native American code talkers or Native American veterans. Silver duplicate medals will be awarded to members (or their next of kin or other personal representative) of the recognized Native American tribes who served in the Armed Forces as a code talker during any foreign conflict in which the United States was involved during the 20th century. Bronze duplicate medals may be struck and sold to the public.
Comment:  For more on the codetalkers, see Navajo Nation Code Talkers Week and Guitar Honors Navajo Codetalkers.

Below:  The Kiowa Tribe's medal design.

May 28, 2012

Natives perform at Queen's Jubilee

NMSU professor shows off Native horsemanship to the Queen

By Andi MurphyAn associate professor from New Mexico State University had the moment of a lifetime several weeks ago in England.

"I went to the Windsor Castle with those of us from the pageant to meet the queen," said Donald Pepion, 67, an anthropology professor, via email. "We had tea and crumpets."

Pepion, a Blackfeet Native American originally from Montana, was with 10 other Native Americans from different Plains tribes selected to participate in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant, May 10 -13, on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

It was his first trip to England.

"Although I had many questions about the Native Americans' participation in the Queen of England's Diamond Jubilee Pageant, I was willing take advantage of an opportunity to share Native American culture," Pepion said. "Of course, my underlying passion as a horseman from a Montana ranch background lures me when I am invited to wear my traditional Blackfeet Indian regalia and ride a horse."

Pepion's Blackfeet, or "Pikuini," name is "Iits-sim-mah-kii" or Stabs Down. He wore a traditional white, tanned buckskin suit with hand-beaded trimming and a headdress he earned in 1984 in honor of his leadership role in his tribe. He rode a spotted black, white and gray appaloosa stallion from Wales, while a few other Natives danced on a central stage.
Blackfeet Professor and Ten Other Natives Participate in Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee PageantThe Diamond Jubilee focuses on seven major global regions, showcasing the culture from Great Britain (obviously), the Americas, ‘Australasia,’ Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The Americas portion included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Inuits who performed a demonstration of throat singing, drum dancing, and “the recreation of a polar bear hunt,” according to the language on the Jubilee’s site. And finally, they hosted “Native Americans, Cowboys and the Macfarlane Stagecoach, a representation of the American West of the mid 1800s including an authentic American stagecoach.”Comment:  I'm glad they said Pepion earned his headdress. Otherwise I'd be wondering why a professor was wearing one.

I hope the Indians weren't chasing the stagecoach on horseback. That would be stereotypical.

For more on British royalty, see Prince Charles Meets Canadian Natives and Royals Meet Aboriginals.

Indigenous Mexicans face prejudice

Epithet that divides Mexicans is banned by Oxnard school district

'Oaxaquita' (little Oaxacan) is used by other Mexicans to demean their indigenous compatriots—who are estimated to make up 30% of California's farmworkers.

By Paloma Esquivel
Indigenous Mexicans have come to the U.S. in increasing numbers in the last two decades. Some estimates now put them at 30% of California's farmworkers. In Ventura County, there are about 20,000 indigenous Mexicans, most of whom are Mixtec from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero who work in the strawberry industry, according to local organizers.

Many speak little or no Spanish and are frequently subjected to derision and ridicule from other Mexicans. The treatment follows a legacy of discrimination toward indigenous people in Mexico, said William Perez, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University who has interviewed and surveyed numerous indigenous Mexican students.

"One of the main themes is the discrimination, bullying, teasing and verbal abuse that they receive from other Mexican immigrant classmates who are not indigenous," he said. The abuse, which often goes unnoticed or is minimized by teachers and administrators, has left some of the indigenous students too embarrassed to speak their native languages, he said.

Educators and others in the U.S. often don't recognize diversity within the Mexican community, said Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center who has written extensively about indigenous Mexican migration.

"We forget that it's a multilingual, multiethnic community," he said. "We forget about the fact that 62 indigenous languages are spoken in Mexico."

The organizing project's campaign, Rivera-Salgado said, "is a really interesting way to confront, very directly, something that the Mexican nation and the Mexican immigrant community sometimes sweeps under the rug, and that's the prevalence of racism and discrimination that indigenous people have to endure in Mexico and that is reproduced here in the United States."
Comment:  I wonder how much difference there is in the "blood" of indigenous and non-indigenous Mexicans. Is there any difference?

Ironic to see Mexicans discriminate against each other. To many Americans, they're all one big brown horde.

For more on the subject, see More Latinos Identify as Native and "Most Mexicans Are Indians."

Below:  "Abelardo Popec, left, and Romaldo Lopez listen to speakers as indigenous Mexican students and leaders of Ventura County public schools launched the "No Me Llames Oaxaquita" (Don't call me little Oaxacan) campaign at the Center for Employment Training in Oxnard." (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

May 27, 2012

Dances with Wolves changed everything

The Weight of Being Native American

By Lawrence SampsonWell into the eighties, Indian legislation and tribal lawsuits continued to strengthen and reaffirm Indian sovereignty. With this, social settings also became less tenuous. As a teenager, I became conscious that being Indian had gone from being shameful to acceptable but couldn’t imagine that it would soon enter the realm of being cool. Non-Indians began to identify with Native people and acknowledge or even claim non-existent Indian lineage. All of this would eventually culminate in the release of Kevin Costner’s seminal Dances with Wolves. A positive illustration of Indian life on the plains, it would fuel an explosion of Indian identification among both Indians and non-Indians, with both good and not so good repercussions. It is virtually impossible to overstate the affect this film has had on modern Indian people and society. Awareness, pride, knowledge of our issues, all of it, can be examined in a truly pre and post 'Dances' lexicon. Indian actors were actually used to portray Indian people in a positive light-long a rarity in Hollywood. What education, agitation, and lawsuits had done within Indian society, the release of a single film would do outside of our communities. In America and elsewhere American Indians were finally the thing to be.

A greater awareness of Indian people and Indian traditions brought the snake oil sales men and women who saw social change as financial opportunity. The exploitation and selling of Indian traditions or what were falsely called Indian traditions exploded in the aftermath of Dances. If you had the means you could and can still buy an Indian name or even participate in “real” Indian ceremonies. The leaders of these affairs may not be Indian, but they were after all “taught by an Indian” or through some nebulous means, got in touch with some claimed Indian ancestors. After having land and resources stolen for centuries, it seems the last vestige of our survival, our spirituality, would even be stolen. That legitimate Indian ceremonial leaders do not sell ceremony comes as a shock to many. While travelling abroad I have been approached countless times and asked to do everything from giving the venerable “Indian name,” to impregnate women with an Indian baby, to conduct traditional Indian marriage ceremonies. Being accepted into society comes with a price, it seems. Sometimes I wonder if it was better to be unknown and despised.
Comment:  I remembering hoping Dances with Wolves would change everything. I'm not sure it did. Whether it did or not is an opinion, not a fact.

But if this is even partly true, it's a profound testament to the power of the media. A single work of fiction shifting our view of Indians from negative to positive? Wow.

For more on Dances with Wolves, see Costner Wins in Sculpture Suit and Blake to Script Winnetou Movie.

Comanche filmmaker criticizes Depp

Will Depp’s portrayal of Tonto add to struggle Natives face in filmmaking?

By Rod PocowatchitI have liked his choices in movies, his creative collaborations with Tim Burton, and his ability to completely disappear into a role.

But I am not a fan of his casting as Comanche sidekick Tonto in “The Lone Ranger,” coming out in May 2013. And I particularly do not like the publicity photo teaser that was recently released on the Internet. It shows him with pale, ghostly face paint and a headdress that looks like a crow died on his head. It’s certainly not dress that is authentic to Comanches of the Old West era, and seems to imply ridiculousness for the sake of comedy.

I am Comanche (as well as Pawnee and Shawnee). And I think we shouldn’t be embracing this portrayal, but protesting it.

Just earlier this week, though, it was announced that Depp was officially adopted into my tribe by Ladonna Harris, a Comanche member and president of Americans for Indian Opportunity. Comanche Nation chairman Johnny Wauqua was also present for the ceremony that took place at Harris’ home in Albuquerque on May 16.

While I always favor an act of goodwill such as this (and it’s pretty cool to say that Depp is now one of my tribal brothers), I question the intent. Is it simply because Depp is a worldwide superstar? Or is it that we truly embrace the way Tonto will be portrayed in the film?

I think they’re two separate things, even though the act seems to imply that the Comanche nation as whole gives its stamp of approval to the film.
Comment:  Pocowatchit is a filmmaker as well as a Comanche, so his words carry weight for both reasons. He's not buying the intent behind Depp's adoption. He might not buy the adoption itself if he read the info in Johnny Depp Is Honorary Comanche.

Pocowatchit is asking the right questions. People were already dismissing criticism of Depp "because he's Native" before the adoption. As if some thin-blooded "Cherokee" was knowledgeable about all things Comanche--an unrelated tribe hundreds of miles from Depp's home. Now they'll have another reason to dismiss criticism of Depp.

I'm guessing Disney's or Depp's PR people had this in mind when they proposed the adoption. "Let's see if the Comanches will adopt him, make him an honorary member," they thought. "It'll give him and the movie a seal of approval." I'd be amazed if it came about with no PR involvement. If it ever comes out, I look forwarding to reading the inside story of Depp's adoption.

For more on the subject, see Jones:  "Depp Is an Indian" and The Magical Power of Adoption.

Archbishop adopted by Anishinaabe

Archbishop Adopted by Anishinaabe in Reconciliation GestureOver the past year, various Christian church denominations have reached out to aboriginals to make redress for the residential schools era. Now the Anishinaabe have returned the favor, adopting Roman Catholic Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg last month in a Naabaagoondiwin ceremony.

In April, Anishinaabe elders and community leaders brought Weisgerber symbolically into the tribe and called him brother, the first time such a step has been taken during the ongoing process of reconciliation between residential school survivors and the missionary churches that ran the schools.

“This is part of a long journey for me,” Weisgerber told Canadian Catholic News (CCN) after the April 14 ceremony. The process began when, as a priest in Saskatchewan, he served as pastoral minister at four of the schools, which were then called Indian reserves, CCN reported. When in 1990 he heard former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine start speaking publicly about his experiences at such a school, “I began to understand,” Weisgerber told the news service.

Fontaine and three other leaders adopted Weisgerber, CCN reported. Fontaine was joined by Tobasonakwut Kinew, an Anishinaabe elder, pipe carrier and member of the aboriginal medicine society Mideiwin; fellow Mideiwin member Fred Kelly, also an Anishinaabe elder, as well as part of the team that negotiated the Indian Residential School Agreement, and Bert Fontaine, Phil Fontaine’s brother and a leader of Sagkeeng First Nation. All of them had gone through the residential school system.
Comment:  Unlike the many reports on Johnny Depp's adoption, this article recognizes that most adoptions are symbolic. It's rare for a tribe to enroll a non-Indian as a full member.

For more on the subject, see Presbyterian Churches to Apologize to Indians, Churches Apologize for Betraying Gospel, and Catholic Churches Apologize to Menominees.

Below:  "Roman Catholic Archbishop James Weisgerber was adopted by Anishinaabe elders in a gesture of reconciliation, the first of this magnitude relating to the residential schools era."

May 26, 2012

"6 Ridiculous Lies" about Indians

A recent one of's entertaining lists was about Indians. People shared it widely on Facebook and Indian Country Today did a whole series elaborating on the "lies."

I've covered most of these points before, but the article is a fun read. I'll summarize the "myths" and "truths" here, but check out the source.

Note: The six points below state the truth, not the lies. That's a bit confusing.

6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America

By Jack O'Brien, Elford Alley#6. The Indians Weren't Defeated by White Settlers

The Myth:

Our history books don't really go into a ton of detail about how the Indians became an endangered species. Some warring, some smallpox blankets and ... death by broken heart?

The Truth:

There's a pretty important detail our movies and textbooks left out of the handoff from Native Americans to white European settlers: It begins in the immediate aftermath of a full-blown apocalypse. In the decades between Columbus' discovery of America and the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, the most devastating plague in human history raced up the East Coast of America.

#5. Native Culture Wasn't Primitive

The Myth:

American Indians lived in balance with mother earth, father moon, brother coyote and sister ... bear? ... If the government was taken over by hippies tomorrow, the directionless, ecologically friendly society they'd institute is about what we picture the Native Americans as having lived like.

The Truth:

One of the best examples of how we got Native Americans all wrong is Cahokia, a massive Native American city located in modern day East St. Louis. In 1250, it was bigger than London, and featured a sophisticated society with an urban center, satellite villages and thatched-roof houses lining the central plazas.

#4. Columbus Didn't Discover America: Vikings vs. Indians

The Myth:

America was discovered in 1492 because Europeans were starting to get curious about the outside world thanks to the Renaissance and Enlightenment and Europeans of the time just generally being the first smart people ever.

The Truth:

A bunch of Vikings set up a successful colony in Greenland that lasted for 518 years (982-1500). To put that into perspective, the white European settlement currently known as the United States will need to wait until the year 2125 to match that longevity. The Vikings spent a good portion of that time sending expeditions down south to try to settle what they called Vineland--which historians now believe was the East Coast of North America.

#3. Everything You Know About Columbus Is a Calculated Lie

The Myth:

Columbus discovered America thanks to a daring journey across the Atlantic. His crew was about to throw him overboard when land was spotted. Even after he landed in America, Columbus didn't realize he'd discovered an entire continent because maps of America were far less reliable back then.

The Truth:

The myths surrounding him cover up the fact that Columbus was calculating, shrewd and as hungry for gold as the voice over guy in the Cash4Gold ads. When he couldn't find enough of the yellow stuff to make his voyage profitable, he focused on enslaving Native Americans for profit. That's how efficient Columbus was--he discovered America and invented American slavery in the same 15-year span.

#2. White Settlers Did Not Carve America Out of the Untamed Wilderness

The Myth:

The Pilgrims were the first in a parade of brave settlers who pushed civilization westward along the frontier with elbow grease and sheer grizzled-old-man strength.

The Truth:

In written records from early colonial times, you constantly come across "settlers" being shocked at how convenient the American wilderness made things for them. The eastern forests, generally portrayed by great American writers as a "thick, unbroken snarl of trees" no longer existed by the time the white European settlers actually showed up. The Pilgrims couldn't believe their luck when they found that American forests just naturally contained "an ecological kaleidosocope of garden plots, blackberry rambles, pine barrens and spacious groves of chestnut, hickory and oak."

[In short, the Indians "tamed the wilderness" before the Europeans arrived.]

#1. How Indians Influenced Modern America

The Myth:

After the Natives helped the Pilgrims get through that first winter, all playing nice disappeared until Dances with Wolves. Even the movies that do portray white people going native portray it as a shocking exception to the rule. Otherwise, the only influence the Natives seem to have on the New World and the frontiersmen is giving them moving targets to shoot at, and eventually a plot outline for Avatar.

The Truth:

The fake mystery of Roanoke is a pretty good key for understanding the difference between how white settlers actually felt about American Indians and how hard your history books had to ignore that reality. Settlers defecting to join Native society was so common that it became a major issue for colonial leaders--think the modern immigration debate, except with all the white people risking their lives to get out of American society. According to Loewen, "Europeans were always trying to stop the outflow. Hernando De Soto had to post guards to keep his men and women from defecting to Native societies." Pilgrims were so scared of Indian influence that they outlawed the wearing of long hair.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Descendant Excuses Columbus's Crimes and Europeans Hated Indians' Virtues.

Johnny Depp is honorary Comanche

The Associated Press published this account of Johnny Depp's adoption a day or so after other news outlets, but I didn't see it until now. Too bad, because it addresses a key point.

Comanche Tribe Makes Johnny Depp Honorary MemberJohnny Depp has been made an honorary member of the Comanche tribe.

Depp is in New Mexico, shooting the film adaptation of "The Lone Ranger." He plays "Ranger" sidekick Tonto in the film.

Comanche Nation tribal member LaDonna Harris said Tuesday that the tribal chairman presented Depp with a proclamation at her Albuquerque home May 16. She said the Comanche adoption tradition means she now considers Depp her son.

Harris said Depp seemed humbled.
Comment:  Ah, an answer to my questions. Contradicting the initial media reports, including the uncritical report from Indian Country Today, Depp is only an honorary member. He was not adopted into the Comanche Nation as a full member.

My impression is the AP saw the same articles I did and asked the same questions. That's why its article uses the "honorary member" phrase so prominently. It's a big thumbed-nose at the rest of the media. "Ha ha, we got it right and you didn't."

But this brief report didn't answer all my questions. In particular, I wondered what the proclamation said. So I looked into it a little more and found the Comanches' own report on the event in the Comanche Nation News:

June 2012 Issue

I can't link directly to the article, but it's on page 5. The headline says:

International Actor, Johnny Depp, Made Goodwill Ambassador to the Comanche Nation; Adopted by Tribal Elder Harris

So the news, according to the Comanches' own headline, isn't that Depp is a member or an honorary member. It's that he's a goodwill ambassador--a point no one's mentioned until now.

The proclamation says less than I thought it would. It recognizes Depp as a "ceremonial member" of Harris's family and names him a "Goodwill Ambassador" for the Comanche Nation. It doesn't say he's any kind of member of the tribe.

Elsewhere in the article, writer Jolene Schonchin suddenly refers to Depp as "an honorary member of the tribe." But it's not clear how Depp got that way. Was Harris's adoption ceremony enough to accomplish it? Did the tribal council declare it in another proclamation? Or...?

The implication is that anyone who's adopted by a tribal member becomes an honorary member. So Depp may be an honorary member by tradition or custom. Since we've yet to see any official word from the tribe, even the "honorary" designation is in doubt. Maybe Harris considers her "son" an honorary member but the rest of the tribe doesn't.

In any case, Depp is an honorary member at most, not a full member. And therefore still not an Indian.

For more on the subject, see Jones:  "Depp Is an Indian" and The Magical Power of Adoption.

Bison to be "national mammal"?

Senators seek to name bison 'national mammal'

By Matthew BrownWestern lawmakers want to elevate the Plains bison to a status similar to that of the iconic bald eagle with legislation to declare the burly beasts America's "national mammal."

Bison advocates launched a "vote bison" public relations campaign Friday to coincide with the bill.

The National Bison Legacy Act introduced in the Senate is backed by lawmakers from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Rhode Island.

The largely symbolic measure would provide no added protections for the estimated 20,000 wild bison in North America. And the bald eagle would still hold a somewhat loftier role as the national emblem, as declared by the Second Continental Congress in 1782.

But supporters said the bison legacy bill would afford overdue recognition to a species that has sweeping cultural and ecological significance. Bison—North America's largest land animal—already appear on two state flags and the official seal of the U.S. Department of Interior.

"The North American bison is an enduring symbol of America, its people and a way of life," said Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, chief sponsor of the bill along with South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.
Comment:  For more on the buffalo, see White Buffalo the Play and $45,000 Reward for White Buffalo Killer.

May 25, 2012

Jones:  "Depp is an Indian"

Who’s an Indian? Johnny Depp

By Dan JonesWhich brings us to this recent hot-button topic: What’s wrong with Johnny Depp playing an Indian? Nothing now, because he is an American Indian. If the Comanche say it, then it is so. He has received some expert advice on Indians from none other than the political and cultural genius of LaDonna Harris. No one can argue with the fact a tribe has the right to determine who is an Indian. If the Comanche Nation wishes to adopt a space alien, it would not be in any tribe’s interest to criticize. Another tribe would only be limiting their own authority to do the same. From some of his statements, I don’t think Depp really knows enough about us to have come up with this brilliant way of eliminating all the questions about his being Indian. Again I take my hat off to Harris and the Comanche Nation for walking into the middle of what could have been a nasty long-term debate and putting an end to it. Johnny Depp is an Indian.

I really do hope that Depp has a good experience out of all this Lone Ranger business. He can do a lot to help us by shining a light on all kinds of issues in Indian country, and now that he is one of us, he carries the spirit and the responsibility. I think he might have been blown away by all the criticism, but he did ask for it. I was reading some of his interviews and the problem became very apparent—he doesn’t know much about Indians. Not that he has to, he just has to be able to act like an Indian, but check out what he said. Speaking about the painting he took his inspiration from for Tonto said this, “It just so happens, Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior’s head. It looked to me like it was sitting on top,” Depp revealed. “I thought: Tonto’s got a bird on his head. It’s his spirit guide in a way. It’s dead to others, but it’s not dead to him. It’s very much alive.”
Jones eventually notes what's wrong with that:So what is an Indian stereotype? One of the most common is that we are all some kind of mystic or medicine man/woman. We have seen that play out very recently when James Arthur Ray, a man playing a medicine man, killed some people in a sweat lodge. So, inadvertent as it may be, Johnny Depp is playing into the stereotypes of American Indians by playing one as medicine man, Tonto. All this because he really doesn’t know what he is doing, so I suspect it will end up a dark comedy.And just to let you know who Jones is:Dan (SaSuWeh) Jones is the former chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. He is a filmmaker and Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, appointed by former Oklahoma Governor, Brad Henry.Comment:  Here's how I summarized this op/ed on Facebook and Twitter:

Ponca leader thinks Depp is now a full-fledged Comanche citizen with voting rights, etc. Too bad there's no evidence of it.

Unless the "adoption" makes him a Comanche citizen with voting rights, casino profits, etc., Depp still isn't an Indian.

The key line in Jones's piece is:If the Comanche say it, then it is so.Which is my point. The Comanche tribe hasn't said it--at least not in the published reports.

When the Comanche people, speaking through their duly elected government, declare Johnny Depp to be one of them, I'll concede the point. But LaDonna Harris isn't the Comanche people. As far as I know, she has no authority to make unilateral tribal membership decisions. And the Comanche government hasn't addressed the issue.

Chairman's presence makes it official?

This led to more discussion on Facebook:From what I've read, "In attendance were Comanche Nation Interim Tribal Chairman Johnny Wauqua, AIO’s staff and close family members."

So, leadership was aware....
The chairman's attendance doesn't change the point. I presume he doesn't have the power to unilaterally enroll people either. And no one has said he even participated in Harris's ceremony. It sounds to me like he merely observed it.

"Leadership was aware" means the leadership thought it was nice that Harris was conducting her own personal ceremony and bringing good publicity to the tribe. That's not the same as legally ratifying her adoption and enrolling Depp as a tribal member.

If the entire tribal council attended and had an ad hoc vote to ratify Harris's adoption, then you might have something. As far as I know, that didn't happen.

Enrollment usually happens through a committee that examines a person's genealogy and then votes on whether to accept him or her. Right? As far as I know, most tribes don't allow individuals to bypass this process by hold adoption ceremonies for non-Indians. Or by waving magic wands over them.

In conclusion, Jones is wrong. Until Depp is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, he isn't an Indian. He's still a white man with a small amount of Indian "blood."

For more on the subject, see The Magical Power of Adoption and Questioning Depp's Comanche Adoption.

The magical power of adoption

I've noted the reports claiming Johnny Depp was "adopted into the Comanche Nation." Based on these reports, I had questions, so I posted the following notes on Facebook:

Tell me more about this amazing adoption power that turns non-Indians into Indians.

Is it unique to LaDonna Harris? Do all Comanches have this power? Do all Indians have it?

If you're an average Navajo, Cherokee, or Lakota, can you make me a member of your tribe just by performing a ceremony? And the tribal government, as well as every tribal member, will recognize me as a member? After I become a Navajo, Cherokee, or Lakota, do I have to wait, or can I start collecting my government/casino checks immediately? (Just kidding, sort of.)

Please elucidate, someone. Inquiring minds want to know.

Thoughts on the subject

These comments led to a discussion with various Facebook friends:I know what you mean, I've known Natives (Saginaw was one of 'em) who have these so called "adoption" ceremonies with non-Native people! That's just stupid if you ask me! This does not make you Indian...sorry.It's one thing to claim Johnny Depp is an honorary Comanche. But don't tell me he's a full-fledged Comanche unless he has all the rights and privileges of tribal membership. As confirmed by the Comanche government in its official government documents.Just to rabble know Indians adopted children all the was only the white treaty makers who insisted on the "blood quantum" stuff.Yes, but those adoptions were recognized by the tribe as a whole. People who joined or were captured often had to go through a period of servitude to prove themselves. Eventually they underwent an initiation or adoption ceremony to become full-fledged tribal members.

A tribe's recognition of this process is what made non-Indians into Indians. Getting approved in a tribal ceremony was equivalent to a positive vote in a tribal government. In short, membership was up to the tribe, not to individuals.

Tribes continue to have the power to recognize adoptions, I think, but that power would be invested in the tribal government. I don't see LaDonna Harris having the power to add members on her own. To her family, yes, but not to the tribe's membership rolls.Yep. Agreed.

On the flip side, there are some tribal members who marry outside the tribe (tribal or not) and their spouse eventually knows more traditional knowledge than most tribal members...recognized by the community yes indeed, given the same political rights nope....over time the notion of 4/4 tribal members will be obsolete (fed gov't calls it statistical genocide)...acceptance is a part of this notion of enrollment...good stuff rob.
If I were a tribe, I'd consider enrolling those non-Native spouses and children as members. But again, that should be the decision of the tribe as a whole, working through its government. Individual Indians shouldn't get to enroll whoever they want.

P.S. There's absolutely no truth to the rumor that Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill are trying to meet with LaDonna Harris.

Final thoughts

Via Twitter I tried again to find someone with the magical power of adoption:

Do any of you have the power to turn me into an Indian just by saying so? Like LaDonna Harris did with Johnny Depp? If so, give me a holler.

I'm not a wannabe, but it might be fun to be an Indian for a while. Just for kicks, you know. I trust I can go back to being an Anglo if being an Indian becomes inconvenient.Sure. *waves magic wand* Now you're Indian! Punjabi, to be precise.Wrong Indian!Too late. I don't know how to undo it.I hope someone does have a magic wand to turn me into an (American) Indian. Someone other than LaDonna Harris, that is. I may have burned my bridges with my questioning of her.

For more on the subject, see Questioning Depp's Comanche Adoption and Depp's Intent Doesn't Excuse Stereotypes.

Harvard reported Warren as Native

Filings raise more questions on Warren’s ethnic claims

By Mary CarmichaelUS Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard Law School had been promoting her purported Native American heritage until she read about it in a newspaper several weeks ago.

But for at least six straight years during Warren’s tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school. According to both Harvard officials and federal guidelines, those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves.

In addition, both Harvard’s guidelines and federal regulations for the statistics lay out a specific definition of Native American that Warren does not meet.

The documents suggest for the first time that either Warren or a Harvard administrator classified her repeatedly as Native American in papers prepared for the government in a way that apparently did not adhere to federal diversity guidelines. They raise further questions about Warren’s statements that she was unaware Harvard was promoting her as Native American.
And:In 1999, Harvard started publishing its full affirmative action plan on its website in the belief that it might be considered a public document.

The report from that year lists one Native American senior professor at the entire university. A section devoted specifically to the law school also lists a single Native American senior professor, presumably the same one. Both entries specify that the professor is female.

The Harvard document defines Native American as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.” It notes that this definition is consistent with federal regulations.

It is not a definition Warren appears to fit. She has not proven she has a Native American ancestor, instead saying she based her belief on family lore, and she has no official tribal affiliation. The current executive director of Harvard’s Native American program has said she has no memory of Warren participating in any of its activities.

Harvard continued to publish its affirmative action plans online in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. The school has analogous documents for the other years during Warren’s tenure, but has not published them online.
Comment:  It's looking more and more like Warren engaged in box-checking. It wouldn't be a crime or even a major ethics violation--more of a minor one. But still, this is the same issue as Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner taking an acting job based on rumors of Native heritage. It's wrong in those cases and it's wrong if Warren did it too.

Warren's and Harvard's refusal to answer questions only feeds the flames. They're trying to have it both ways: "We did nothing wrong, but we won't release the data or talk about it." Anyone who takes that attitude deserves to be questioned about it.

For more on the subject, see Box-Checking Is Unethical and Did Warren Check "Native" to Get Job?

Kincaid Mounds vandalized

Native Burial Mounds Vandalized in Southern Illinois in Possible Attempt to Steal ‘Grave Goods’The Evansville Courier & Press is reporting that the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Massac County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the recent looting and ATV or truck damage at Kincaid Mounds. The mounds are a series of prehistoric American Indian burial mounds in rural Pope and Massac counties.

Small holes were dug into one of the burial mounds by one or more people looking for what are known as ‘grave goods,’ items that were buried along with the dead. The mounds consist of 105 acres that have been designated a National Historic Landmark and the site is on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. They are believed to be between 1000 and 700 years old. Kincaid Mounds consist of nine mounds, which include burial mounds and large platform mounds, and portions of a village site. The area represents the earliest part of Southern Illinois to develop intensive, large scale agriculture.

“The criminal disturbance of these human burials in Kincaid Mounds is unconscionable,” Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Director Amy Martin said to the Courier & Press. “We hope to apprehend those who are responsible, which will serve as a deterrent to others who may be considering the desecration of our state’s heritage.”

Authorities are not sure whether any artifacts or human remains were removed. This is not the first time Kincaid Mounds have been targeted—vandals struck in 2008.

There is also evidence that someone drove a four-wheeler or a truck over one of the mounds. All-terrain vehicles are prohibited at the Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site.

If caught, those responsible can face up to three years in prison and fines more than $100,000. Anyone with information on the Kincaid Mounds looting or four wheeler damage is asked to call the Massac County Sheriff’s Department at 618-524-2912 or the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency at 217-558-8973.
Comment:  Usually the punishment for these isn't enough, but three years and $100,000 isn't bad. But I'd make that the minimum rather than the maximum. We need to start penalizing people until it hurts badly enough to deter future destruction.

For more on archaeological looting, see "Digger" Shows Promote Archaeological Looting and Looters Don't Go to Jail.

May 24, 2012

Hockey team chooses "Tomahawks" name

‘Slapshot’ town embraces Indian nickname, logo

By Chuck HagaWhile the trend nationally has been for prep and collegiate sports teams to move away from American Indian-themed nicknames and logos, the new North American Hockey League Junior A team in Johnstown, Pa., announced Wednesday that it will be known as the Tomahawks.

The new logo, also unveiled Wednesday, is an Indian head over a crossed pair of cut-stone tomahawks.

Johnstown and its War Memorial Arena provided the setting for the classic 1977 movie “Slapshot” starring Paul Newman. The city was host to a NAHL team called the Johnstown Chiefs for 20 years until it moved to Greenville, S.C., in 2010.

The new name and logo provide links to the Chiefs, according to a statement from the team’s owners, who said they also chose “Tomahawks” and an Indian head logo “to symbolize the new team’s fighting spirit, exciting style of play and good sportsmanship,” according to a regional TV station’s report.

Thursday’s front page of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat carried a photo of team captain Jason Spence wearing a jersey with the new logo. The story was headlined, “Back on the warpath.”
And:Eric Knopsnyder, web and multimedia editor for the Tribune-Democrat, covered the news conference. In a telephone interview, he said nobody asked whether the team had discussed the possibility of reaction against the use of American Indian imagery in the team name and logo.

“Nobody brought it up,” he said.

“We had the Chiefs for a long time, and there was no controversy. The logo then was an arrowhead. And toward the end, the last owner introduced a mascot, ‘Tommy Hawk,’ a guy in a costume with an oversized head.”

There was no indication the new team owners planned to revive the Tommy Hawk mascot.
A member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe stated the obvious:“Racism against Native American appears to run deeper than it does with other minorities,” Longie said. “That could be because we are the least politically powerful. No one would consider using a mascot that represents black or Hispanic people.

“It also may be a push back for all the success we Native Americans across the country have had in getting educational institutions to stop using Native Americans as mascots.”

An indigenous response

On its Facebook page, F.A.I.R. (For Accurate Indigenous Representation) posted the following:We are NOT cool with this. Talk about going backwards. This North American Hockey Junior A team has just adopted a racist team name, logo, and all that goes with it.

We're going to ask our members to step up and be heard on this one.

North American Hockey League Junior A team in Johnstown, Pa., announced that it will be known as the Tomahawks.

They are in violation of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Articles 15 and 31. The U.S.A. is a signatory to this international Treaty.

"The Tomahawks’ first president, Rick Bouchard, is a UND graduate who played basketball for Coach Dave Gunther’s Sioux basketball teams in the late 1970s. His brother, Jim, is majority owner of the Tier II Junior A franchise."

Contact the NAHL:

North American Hockey League
5850 Town & Country Blvd.
Suite 301
Frisco, TX 75034
Telephone: (469) 252-3800
Fax: (214) 975-2250
E-Mail: Send a message to the NAHL

Johnstown Tomahawks
Cambria County War Memorial Arena
326 Napoleon Street Suite 115
Johnstown, PA 15901-1704
814.536.GOAL (4625)
Comment:  Hard to believe that someone would choose an Indian mascot these days. This one tops the Fighting Sioux mascot in terms of being offensive and racist.

Not surprisingly, the owners are graduates of UND, home of the Fighting Sioux. It's pretty clearly they based their logo on the Fighting Sioux logo. No doubt they're trying to keep the "savage Indian" concept alive. And sending a message about how they won't buckle to political pressure.

For more on Indian mascots, see Oregon Bans Indian Mascots and NCAA Punishes UND for "Fighting Sioux."

Warren:  "My mother told me so"

Elizabeth Warren says she knows she is part Native American 'because my mother told me so'

By Shira SchoenbergDemocratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that she knows she has Native American ancestry because her mother told her so.

Warren’s comments came after nearly four minutes of tense back and forth between Warren and Fox 25 reporter Sharman Sacchetti and 7News reporter Andy Hiller. As both reporters questioned Warren about why she listed herself as a minority in law directories, Warren refused to answer, saying she had already answered questions about her background.

Finally, Warren said, “I am proud of my family and I am proud of my heritage.”

Hiller followed up: “Does it include an Indian background?”

Warren replied, “Yes.”

“How do you know that?” Hiller asked.

Warren responded, “Because my mother told me so. This is how I live. My mother, my grandmother, my family. This is my family. Scott Brown has launched attacks on my family. I am not backing off from my family.”
A previous posting puts this into perspective:

Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?[A] lack of Native ancestry despite the family stories she's heard all her life would also be consistent with one of the most common genealogical myths in the United States.

"Many more Americans believe they have Native ancestry than actually do (we always suspected this, but can now confirm it through genetic testing)," said Smolenyak in an email. "In fact, in terms of wide-spread ancestral myths, this is one of the top two (the other being those who think their names were changed at Ellis Island). And someone who hails from Oklahoma would be even more prone to accept a tale of Native heritage than most."

She added: "There's also a tendency to accept what our relatives (especially our elders) tell us."

As for Warren, "I can't confirm or refute Cherokee heritage without extensive research," she said. "All I can say is that Ms. Warren's scenario is a wildly common one--minus the public scrutiny, of course."
Comment:  I didn't know Warren was a faith-based candidate. If my family told me something questionable, I'd question the hell out of it. Rational people don't blindly accept what others tell them.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see Warren Ineligble to Be Cherokee and Native Question Warren's Claims.

Siletz Tribe opposes mascot ban

Tribe Disapproves of Oregon Banning Native MascotsOne of the 15 schools affected by the Oregon Board of Education’s decision to ban Native American mascots is Siletz Valley School, an Indian charter school whose mascot is the Siletz Warrior, an Indian in a headdress, which will now have to change.

And the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians—one of 10 federally recognized tribes in Oregon—issued a statement Tuesday, May 22 expressing its disappointment with the board’s decision to ban the mascots.

“It is the opinion of the Siletz Tribe that this ban does nothing to address the real issues of racism nor does it address the issue of the low self-esteem of Native students attending public schools,” the statement from the tribe said. “For the Siletz Tribal community, this action has a negative impact on our students and our community. We will be forced once again to succumb to the misguided intentions of people who have no knowledge of Indian communities.”
And:The Register-Guard reported on May 23 that it’s unclear whether the Oregon Board of Education will be able to enforce the ban on tribal land though. The Guard also reported that other tribes in the state including the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians support the ban.

Their tribal chairman, Bob Garcia, told The Guard, “If it’s the Siletz Warriors, run by the Siletz Tribe, I don’t have a problem with that.”
Comment:  Hundreds of tribes and tribal organizations have come out against Indian mascots. Including some in Oregon. In other words, many mascot foes are Indians. The idea that they don't know "Indian communities" is a crock.

If the Siletz Valley School is under public administration, I don't care if it's on tribal land. The stereotypical mascot should go. A Plains chief in Oregon is stupid and ignorant whether the purveyor is Native or not.

But if the school is under tribal administration, let the ignorant Indians keep their stereotypical chief. If they want to portray themselves as primitive people of the past, not modern-day participants in American society, that's their right. No matter how foolish a choice it may be.

For more on the subject, see Oregon Bans Indian Mascots and Team Names and Mascots.

The speech Warren should give

Blogger Patrick Barkman writes a speech that Elizabeth Warren could and should give to extricate herself from her identity crisis:

Free Speech Writing for Elizabeth Warren“When I was a little girl growing up in Oklahoma, I heard family stories about Cherokee ancestors, just like a lot of families. I loved the stories; my cousin even wrote a cookbook of what he and I thought were authentic Cherokee recipes. Later, when I came to Harvard, an article in the Crimson described me as a ‘Native American professor.’ I never bothered to consider how insensitive and hurtful it was to citizens of the Cherokee Nation and other Native Americans for people like me, with no documented Indian ancestors, to make such claims. Even though I never sought any professional advantage based on my family history, I should’ve known better. Harvard should’ve known better. Listing me as a Native American was an insult to the many authentic Indian lawyers, law professors and law school deans. I apologize for my insensitivity to all Native Americans and to the Cherokee in particular, who are plagued by fake tribes and fake claimants who steal and dilute their heritage and culture. But I am also offended by my political opponents who made hay of this issue by using racist terms like ‘squaw’ and ‘Pocahantas’. Such language is hateful and I call upon Senator Brown to join me in condemning it. What’s more, I call on Senator Brown and all Republicans to drop their obstruction of the Violence Against Women Act and in particular their efforts to prevent tribal courts from regaining jurisdiction over non-Indians who abuse Indian women. Native American women are two-and-a-half times more likely than any other group to be the victims of domestic violence, mostly at the hands of non-Indians. Because tribal courts were stripped of jurisdiction over violent crimes and crimes committed by non-Indians on Indian land, these horrible attacks on women and children often go unpunished. The Justice Department has utterly failed Indian Country with its pitiful record of prosecution. In fact, the Justice Department can’t even be bothered to keep statistics on crimes reported, investigated or prosecuted. I may not be Indian myself, but as your senator I will work tirelessly to protect Indian women and children from abuse. We owe the first Americans no less.”Comment:  I'm not sure I'd mention the recipes, since Warren is accused of plagiarizing them. Everything else is spot-on.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see Warren:  "My Mother Told Me So" and Warren Ineligble to Be Cherokee.

Hoop dancers on Tonight Show

Nelly Furtado Performs ‘Big Hoops’ on ‘The Tonight Show’Nelly Furtado has been busy promoting her new single all week long. On Thursday night, she returned to “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to perform “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)” off her upcoming album The Spirit Indestructible, due this September. Looking sexy in a black bodysuit, gold chain, and ponytail, Nelly kicked it into high gear with an energetic set featuring the hoop dancers from her music video.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Hoop Dancers in Furtado Video.

May 23, 2012

Kristof's Pine Ridge column

Here's an interesting exchange about Pine Ridge. It's especially interesting because Nicholas Kristof is a liberal columnist who has written extensively about poverty and related issues around the world.

Poverty’s Poster Child

By Nicholas D. KristofThis sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a Connecticut-sized zone of prairie and poverty, where the have-nots are defined less by the money they lack than by suffocating hopelessness.

In the national number line of inequality, people here represent the “other 1 percent,” the bottom of the national heap.

Pine Ridge is a poster child of American poverty and of the failures of the reservation system for American Indians in the West. The latest Census Bureau data show that Shannon County here had the lowest per capita income in the entire United States in 2010. Not far behind in that Census Bureau list of poorest counties are several found largely inside other Sioux reservations in South Dakota: Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Crow Creek.

Poverty in the United States, including in the reservations, is so entrenched because it is often part of a toxic brew of alcohol or drug dependencies, dysfunctional families and educational failures. It self-replicates generation after generation.

“What’s a man or woman to do?” asked Ben, a young man here who said he started drinking at age 12. “I felt helpless. I felt worthless, and I wanted a drink to get rid of my pain. But then you get more pain.”
Kristof goes on to list three things holding Indians back. He finishes with a brief mention of "bright spots" and "enormous resilience," but the overall feel is negative. "The reservation system is largely failing in the West," he concludes, and "these Indian reservations will have to shed people."

Here's a pointed response:

The Letter I Wrote to the Editor of the NYT about Kristof's Column (it's been 7 days, so I guess they aren't printing it)

By Ruth Robertson-HopkinsTo the Editor:

While I appreciate Mr. Kristof's effort to bring attention to the crushing poverty that exists on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, his column "Poverty's Poster Child" represents part of a national trend that exploits the very real problems of sovereign Indigenous Nations as little more than poverty porn, pandered to public voyeurs craving sensational stories of quiet desperation. Instead, poverty, alcoholism, unemployment, disease, and other issues we as Natives face are worthy of sincere investigation, as well as the elucidation of probable solutions.

If the pity of outsiders could solve any of our problems, it would have by now. You cannot save the Indian. We must, and we will, save ourselves. Acknowledge our efforts. If you wish to support us, do so by respecting our sovereignty as Native Nations, honoring our treaties, publishing Native writers who are best qualified to tell our stories, and voting for congressman who will enact Tribal provisions that protect Native women under The Violence Against Women Act. We are at the table. Hear us.

Ruth Hopkins
Columnist, Indian Country Today Media Network
Comment: A few more points:

  • Pine Ridge may be the poorest reservation in America. It's not fair to look at the worst situation and conclude the reservation system is failing overall. How about looking at average reservations, or the best reservations, instead? If they're failing--which they aren't--then you can conclude something about reservations as a whole.

  • None of Kristof's problems or solutions involve the US government. But the government is a key player in most aspects of Native life. Consider a couple of examples:

  • 1) The recent Cobell settlement will pay Indians a fraction of the amounts they're owed for their mineral rights. Through its negligent accounting, the government has robbed hundreds of thousands of Indians of thousands of dollars each.

    2) Conservatives refuse to extend the Violence Against Women Act to give tribes jurisdiction over non-Indians on the reservation. Crime flourishes because the government won't let tribes prosecute criminals.

    Kristof seems to be practicing "flyover journalism"--stopping in Pine Ridge for a day or two, then writing as if he's mastered the problems. Meanwhile, the media is churning out hundreds of articles, videos, and blog postings every day--exploring the issues in much greater depth. I suppose his broad-brush column can't hurt, but I'm not sure how it helps.

    Another Children of the Plains?

    It's much like Diane Sawyer's Children of the Plains special, which I labeled "poverty porn." Did that produce a lasting change in anyone's consciousness? Not that I can tell from reading all the ensuing reports--or lack thereof.

    Or did the show let well-meaning viewers wring their hands and tell themselves, "Oh, yes, conditions at Pine Ridge are horrible. I feel terrible about it, but I feel good about how terrible I feel. I've done my part by watching the show and expressing my feelings of shame and regret. Now I can resume my privileged life with a clear conscience."

    That's kind of how poverty porn functions. Unless the TV special and Kristof's column produce a noticeable change, they aren't worth much. Indians need political and social action, not another pity party.

    For more on the subject, see Rez Life Avoids Poverty Porn and Video Response to Children of the Plains.