June 30, 2012

Gary Farmer in Of Mice and Men

Mice role lured Farmer back on stage

Film veteran spends most of his time playing with blues band

By Adrian Chamberlain
Actor-musician Gary Farmer isn't singing the blues about his starring role in Of Mice and Men.

The 59-year-old is the leader of Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers, a hard-rocking blues act inspired by John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. The band--playing 100-plus gigs a year--is his main creative focus. As Farmer puts it: "I decided to retire to music."

Singing may have become his mainstay, but the Ontario-born performer--now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico--is best known as the veteran film actor who appeared in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man in 1995 with Johnny Depp.

Farmer has acted in more than 100 movies and TV shows. Film credits include a lead in Powwow Highway (1989) and many roles with marquee Hollywood names: Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro in The Score (2001) and Lou Diamond Phillips in the Robert Redford-produced thriller The Dark Wind (1991).

When Victoria theatre director Brian Richmond offered Farmer the role of Lennie in Of Mice and Men--a stage adaptation of the classic 1937 John Steinbeck novella--he quickly agreed. It's a happy artistic reunion for the pair. Richmond previously directed Farmer, playing the same role, in Magnus Theatre's Of Mice and Men in the mid-1980s.

"I thought, 'Who could I cast in the role?' I couldn't think of anybody but Gary doing it," said Richmond, who maintains Farmer is one of the leading aboriginal actors of his generation.
Comment:  Farmer may be focused on music, but he still shows up in movies and TV shows. He may not actively pursue these roles, but he still gets them.

For more on Native actors in classic plays, see Tamara Podemski in A Midsummer's Night Dream and Schellenberg's King Lear Reviewed.

Below:  "Actor Gary farmer takes a break from rehearsing at UVic's Phoenix Theatre this week. Farmer stars in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men." (Lyle Stafford, timescolonist.com)

Litefoot pushes global business expansion

‘Litefoot’, New President and CEO of NCAIED, Pushes for Indian Country To Expand Its Global FootingNow Davis is directing his energy toward the NCAIED and its goals to advance global opportunities for Indian country through its Global Native Trade Center (GNTC). Sponsored in part by the Forest County Potawatomi and UPS, the GNTC is geared at helping tribes and Native businesses establish international trade relationships with foreign entities.

“At a time when diversifying our economic vision has never been more important, the National Center’s role in fostering global relations between Indian country and other countries to facilitate new opportunities beyond the U.S. is the future,” Davis said. “And that’s not just a one-way street. Tribal leaders have spoken about import and export, and how to exercise tribal sovereignty to not just help their own tribal communities, but to help drive the U.S. economy.

“While many people may find the idea of Indian country driving the U.S. economy absurd, I believe there is a way to do it,” he continued, citing the success of gaming in Indian country as an example. “Some people thought gaming was crazy. They never thought it would become so lucrative for many tribal nations.”

Davis realizes global expansion has to start at the regional level. The NCAIED plans to widen its scope by taking the highly successful Reservation Economic Summit (RES) into additional regionally focused events throughout the country. “It will be the RES model expanded into regionally focused events with nationally relevant content, so that we really drive economic momentum to regions across the U.S. by showcasing tribal enterprises,” he said. The first regional event, “RES Oklahoma,” will take place this November 14 and 15 at the Cherokee Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa. Next year, the main “RES Vegas” event will be held from March 11 to 14 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see NIGA 2012 (Day 2) and Litefoot Appointed NCAIED President.

Indian statue for Staten Island

The Massive, Never-Built Indian Statue of Staten IslandA century ago, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution authorizing the construction of a giant statue to pay tribute to American Indians. It was to be built on the grounds of Fort Wadsworth, on Staten Island, one of the boroughs of New York City, and with a height of 165 feet would have been taller than the Statue of Liberty.

In 1913, President Wlliam Howard Taft joined a delegation of 32 Indian chiefs and other dignitaries for a groundbreaking ceremony that saw the chief executive digging up dirt with an ancient axe-head made from a buffalo bone. Following a flag-raising, the chiefs then signed a “Declaration of Allegiance to the United States.”

The statue was never built, but according to a story at SILive.com, a Native couple who live on Staten Island are trying to make it happen. The statue was a sort of premature memorial—“to honor what was thought to be a vanishing race,” says Margie Boldeagle. “Now it’s taken on a different light. It would show that we are still here.”

Boldeagle and her husband, Robert, are not proposing anything like the colossus planned a century ago. They would like to see a 25-foot statue built on the fort grounds. They say they have a sculptor and donors for the million-dollar project lined up. The National Parks Service (NPS), which has maintained the fort since it was closed in 1994, won’t allow the Boldeagles’ project, arguing that the 1911 declaration issued by Congress authorized the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy—not the NPS—to construct the monument.
Comment:  I don't know what kind of headdresses Manhattan's Indians wore, but this looks more like a stereotypical chief than a genuine Indian. If someone were to do the statue now, I'd hope it would be culturally accurate.

For more on Native monuments, see Mixed Feelings About Crazy Horse Memorial and Memorial Sought for Mankato 38.

June 29, 2012

Racism linked to addictive behavior

New study links anti-aboriginal racism to drug use and gambling problems

By Gordon KentAboriginal Edmonton residents face such high levels of discrimination that it’s apparently pushing them toward prescription drug and gambling abuse, a new study has found.

About 83 per cent of respondents to a 2010 questionnaire had experienced racism at least once in the past year, far more prejudice than black and Latino Americans see in a lifetime, according to research led by University of Lethbridge epidemiologist Cheryl Currie.

This poor treatment, which happens most often in public places, schools, stores and restaurants, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorders that are linked to problems with drugs and gambling for people living in cities.

“It’s the first study to show a link between racism and gambling among any population in the world that we’re aware of,” said Currie, an assistant professor in the U of L faculty of health sciences.

“I wasn’t expecting this … I didn’t think racism to be so high and I didn’t expect it to be so strongly correlated with prescription drug dependence and gambling, especially through PTSD.”

Hilda Francis, an aboriginal woman who has lived in Edmonton for about 30 years, said she runs into some form of racism two or three times a year.

She and a co-worker were told to leave a department store for no reason at the beginning of June and an employee wanted to look through their bags at the door, which Francis said she refused to allow.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indians Suffer Toxic Stress and Subtle Racism = Psychological Torture.

Below:  "Hilda Francis, who works for Boyle street Community Services, talks about her experiences with discrimination as an aboriginal Edmonton resident." (Greg Southam, edmontonjournal.com)

Construction of Oklahoma cultural center halted

American Indian Cultural Center and Museum Suspends ConstructionAccording to an AP report, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, currently being built in downtown Oklahoma City, will halt construction on July 1 due to financial difficulties.

“We’re not quitting,” said Executive Director Blake Wade, according to the AP. “We’re dedicated to getting that job done.”

Dedication, though, isn’t the issue—the problem is that the Oklahoma Legislature declined to issue a $40 million bond last month that would be necessary for the museum’s completion.

The final construction cost is estimated to be $171 million; to date, $91 million has been sunk into the project, with $64.3 million of that having come from state coffers.
Comment:  For more on Native museums, see Cherokees Debut Prison Museum and The Wounded Knee Museum.

June 28, 2012

Native roles on Longmire

Native Americans prominent on A&E TV show Longmire

By Roscoe Pond‘Longmire’ is a new hour-long mystery drama on the A&E cable TV network. It is based on the ‘Walt Longmire’ books written by Craig Allen Johnson. He was an executive consultant on this pilot episode. The production was filmed in Santa Fe, N.M. A&E has ordered 10 episodes. On its June 3 premiere ‘Longmire’ garnered 4.1 million TV viewers. It is the highest ratings ever for an A&E original series.And:You can watch full episodes of ‘Longmire’ on Hulu. The official A&E website has the most recent episode along with clips and interviews of the cast and crew. This excellent pilot episode had a prominent Native American cast. Marcus Red Thunder served as a technical advisor. A Martinez and Ryan Begay appear in episode 3 called, ‘A Damn Shame.’ Amber Midthunder is credited as a series regular by Internet movie database (IMDB).Pond also discusses a later episode:

Lou Diamond Phillips strong in 'Longmire' on A&E

By Roscoe Pond‘The Cancer’ (Episode 4) opens with a fisherman standing in the river near the reservation. He discovers two dead bodies floating under some wet brush. One of those bodies turns out to be a Cheyenne teen named Freddy White Hawk. Sheriff Walt Longmire portrayed by Robert Taylor breaks off two limbs of ‘sage.’ Out of respect he places them on the dead bodies in a tribal traditional way. They are covered with native designed Pendleton blankets.

Henry Standing Bear portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips is visibly shaken by Freddy’s death. He wants to help Longmire and brings in tribal officer Mathias, portrayed by Zahn McClarnon. He is an angry man who simply doesn’t want to help Longmire. The history between the Tribal police and the county sheriff’s department is long and ugly. They however are forced to work together. Mathias gives up information only out of sympathy for Freddy White Hawk.
Comment:  Looks like Longmire has several interesting Native plots and characters. Too bad the non-Native Phillips has the primary Native role. It's another example of redface casting from Hollywood.

For more on the subject, see Longmire Mysteries to Become TV Series.

Below:  Lou Diamond Phillips and Zahn McClarnon.

Tamara Podemski in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Dream job

Tamara Podemski Gets Set to Do Double Duty in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Jon Kaplan
The current production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has been the most frequently mounted work in High Park; this is its eighth staging. As always, the show features a strong and diverse blend of young and established artists.

“I think this year’s version will have a connection to the park as never before,” says actor Tamara Podemski, who doubles as Amazon queen Hippolyta and fairy queen Titania. “Without giving too much away, the staging respects and honours the fact that we’re in the outdoors.

“That’s just the way it should be, since a production of this sort rejoices in doing theatre in the natural world. Why pretend it’s anything like a traditional staging?”
Comment:  For more on Natives doing Shakespeare, see Aboriginal Romeo and Juliet and Schellenberg's King Lear Reviewed.

29 beers with Indian labels

29 Beers That Have Used American Indian ImagerySelling beer to Indians is a controversial business, as shown by the recent federal lawsuit filed against the state of Nebraska by the Oglala Lakotas of Pine Ridge over sales of alcohol in Whiteclay, Nebraska.

But what about selling beer with Indians? Using Indian imagery to sell beer?

As with many American products, from grocery-store produce to motorcycles, American Indian names and likenesses have been used as brand names and logos. But it’s possible that no industry has used Native American imagery as much as the beer trade.

Here are 29 instances of brewing companies that have branded their beers with Indian imagery.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Funny Face and Crazy Horse Beverages and Selling Beer with Chief Oshkosh.

South Dakota trip schedule (Day 5)

9:00 AM-12:00 PM
Tour of central Black Hills--Pactola and Sheridan Lakes and Black Hills Institute

1:00-4:30 PM
Crazy Horse Memorial--lunch and view from monument

4:30 PM
Return to Rapid City

6:30 PM
Farewell dinner--Dakota Steakhouse

For more on the subject, see South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 4) and South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 3).

June 27, 2012

Oglala Sioux Tribe honors Means

Oglala Sioux Tribe honors Russell MeansThe Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota is honoring former American Indian Movement leader Russell Means.

Means is a member of the tribe and gained national fame in the 1970s for his political activism related to the American Indian Movement. He helped lead the 71-day uprising at Wounded Knee in 1973. Means has gone on to become an actor in films such as “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Pocahontas.”

Oglala Sioux President John Yellow Bird Steele declared June 26, 2012, as “Russell Means Day” to honor Means’ “accomplishments, dedication and patriotism” to the tribe.

The signed proclamation was given to Means at the conclusion of a walk on Tuesday that commemorated the many people killed on the reservation during the 1970s.
Comment:  Steven Lewis Simpson, the Scottish director of Rez Bomb, was traveling with us in South Dakota. He's close to Means and mentioned this honoring ceremony.

He said it was significant that Steele, who ran against Means for the tribal chairmanship, was participating. It's an example of two old enemies coming together, even if for political reasons.

Anyway, Simpson regretted that he couldn't attend the ceremony because he was with us. He thought he might catch a bit of hell from Means because of it.

For more on Russell Means, see Means at Wounded Knee Conference and Means Says He's Cancer-Free.

Below:  Means before he lost weight due to cancer.

Mitsitam wins DC restaurant award

DC museum restaurant, Mitsitam, wins RAMMY award

By Beth ParkerA mouthwatering menu. A view of the U.S. Capitol. Sounds like it's stacking up to be one of the D.C.'s finest restaurants. So it might surprise you to know that this place is inside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

It's called Mitsitam. Executive Chef Richard Hetzler is back to work after a big win Sunday night. A panel of food writers honored Mitsitam with a RAMMY. It's an award handed out by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Mitsitam became the first museum restaurant ever to win a RAMMY.

"We all looked at each other. Did they just say the Mitsitam cafe? And then we all stood up and it was on from there," laughs Hetzler.

The category is best casual restaurant. It's a boost for the staff at this restaurant where the menu changes every season.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Tribal Grounds at Mitsitam Coffee Bar and Chef Showdown at NMAI.

Ashes dumped at Four Corners

Human ashes raise a raucous at Four Corners National Monument

By Ryan BoetelA visitor at the Four Corners National Monument caused a stir Tuesday when the woman dumped human ashes near the point where four states meet.

The park, like all Navajo Tribal Parks, posts at the entrance and on its website that it is against the Navajo people's cultural beliefs to dispose of human remains on Navajo land, said Geri Hongeva, a spokeswoman for the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department.

The incident Tuesday afternoon troubled the 50 or so vendors who sell items near the monument because many are elderly and traditional Navajo people, said Victoria Dee, the park manager at the Four Corners National Monument.

Dee and the parks department did not release information on what happened to the female visitor who dumped the remains.

Dee said the monument brought a Navajo medicine man to the park for a cultural ceremony early Wednesday and the monument will not be closed because of the incident.

"This is not the first time it has happened," Dee said. "It has happened before and with our cultural beliefs it's taboo. Especially with cremated remains."
Comment:  People, don't dump your ashes in Navajo territory. Unless you don't mind non-believers urinating in your churches, it's wrong and hypocritical.

For more on the Four Corners area, see Navajo Nation = Great Road Trip and Navajo Tourism Spending Increases 32%.

South Dakota trip schedule (Day 4)

8:00–11:30 AM
Drive from Rapid City to Lead/Deadwood by way of Nemo Road

Stop at the Homestake Gold Mine scenic overlook

Drive to the top of Terry Peak for a view of five states

11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Drive through Spearfish Canyon

Picnic lunch next to Roughlock Falls

1:30 PM
Arrival in Deadwood--meet at Saloon #10

2:00-5:00 PM
Tour and free time in Deadwood

Ride to Boot Hill Cemetery for those who wish to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane

6:00 PM
Dinner at Deadwood Social Club--above Saloon #10

8:00-9:30 PM
Return to Rapid City

For more on the subject, see South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 3) and South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 2).

June 26, 2012

Economic development on Pine Ridge

Economic Development Revs Up on Pine Ridge Reservation

By Stephanie WoodardSupporting them is an expanding infrastructure, with public transit throughout the 2 million-plus-acre reservation, good cell-phone coverage in most areas and wireless Internet widely available. Approval of a federally backed credit union is imminent, said Whitney O’Rourke, Oglala, of Lakota Funds, a community development financial institution in Kyle, South Dakota in northern Pine Ridge. There is currently no bank on the reservation, and off-reservation banks make few loans there because much of the land that might act as collateral is held in trust by the federal government or is tribally owned. That will make a credit union the game-changer, easing access to cash and encouraging business formation and homeownership.

“The reservation has 40,000 residents ready, willing and able to participate in the regional economy,” said Mark St. Pierre, chief executive officer of Wounded Knee Community Development Corporation (CDC). Set in Pine Ridge’s central Manderson Valley, a bucolic sweep of hills bounded by pale cliffs, Wounded Knee’s CDC is one of several community groups and nonprofits with seed grants and creative ideas. They’re where the real economic action is, says St. Pierre, with plans ranging from small businesses to housing, a critical need on Pine Ridge. His CDC is looking for funding to build a destination resort on the 600 acres it owns in Manderson Valley and a factory that would make high-end caskets, then expand to other types of millwork.
And:Pine Ridge may be ready to participate in the regional economy, but is the region welcoming them? asked St. Pierre, of Wounded Knee CDC. Pine Ridge and other South Dakota reservations already contribute generously to the state’s economy—too generously some say, as money arriving in Native communities is typically spent immediately in nearby border towns, without changing hands and producing income in reservation businesses first. “Keeping money on the reservation and supporting our mom-and-pop businesses is the big issue,” said Emma Featherman-Sam, Oglala, coordinator of Oglala Sioux Transit.

Even worse, much of the spending goes to down-market, predatory vendors, according to O’Rourke. She described payday lending as a terrible problem, along with deed and title loans, through which cash-strapped tribal members put up home and car documents in return for short-term loans at sky-high interest rates, as much as 650 percent. Border town stores sell goods at inflated prices, knowing reservation residents may not have gas money to drive further to find bargains, and alcohol sales in retail stores and bars ringing Pine Ridge—just beyond the dry reservation’s jurisdiction—further empty tribal members’ wallets. “The border towns have a parasite–host relationship with the reservation,” said Tilsen.

Other restrictions on Pine Ridge’s economy are more subtle: When visitors arrive at the Rapid City airport, rental-car companies provide maps of western South Dakota showing a narrow slice of the state along the western border, guiding tourists to state and national parks and neatly eliminating all the reservations. The same map is available in shiny, laminated form at the Badlands National Park visitor centers, a federal operation, where you can get a map of the adjoining Pine Ridge Indian Reservation only if you know to ask for it.

Though cultural tourism is widely considered the wave of the future, browsing South Dakota’s tourism website reveals little about the state’s reservations and their attractions, including pow wows year-round. Entering “Native American” into the search box pulls up assistance for tour companies wanting to organize coach trips to reservations and directions to off-reservation Crazy Horse Memorial—ways for outsiders to look at Native Americans, but little support for Native people’s own enterprises.

Simply finding the reservation can be more difficult than it needs to be; those heading from Rapid City to Pine Ridge will discover that major turnoffs are not well marked. “We’re working on that,” said Featherman-Sam. “We’re talking to the state about installing more signs.”
Comment:  I was there the day before this article was published. I can verify that the tourist map for western South Dakota doesn't cover the reservations, and the highway signs aren't great.

We lunched at the single Subway's in Pine Ridge--the one featured in 20/20's Children of the Plains. I asked Jayson Brave Heart, one of our Lakota guides, about businesses on the rez. He said there was a Taco John's, and added that a McDonald's or a laundromat would do incredibly well.

Why doesn't someone start such businesses? Brave Heart gave two main reasons. One, as the article notes, it's hard to get a loan for start-up capital. Two, the town lacks needed infrastructure such as water and electricity. In non-Native locales the government installs these things automatically, but in Pine Ridge they have to go through the BIA's bureaucracy.

So how did the Subway's get started? Brave Heart said the founder was a former BIA superintendent or some similar official. He was able to cut through the red tape, get a loan, and buy a franchise. Not because he was a better businessman, but because he had the connections and clout to get his way.

More attractions needed

As an outsider, even I could see some of the business problems. Pine Ridge is a couple of hours away from the state's biggest towns. There are few attractions between it and Rapid City, where people go to see Mt. Rushmore. When you drive to Pine Ridge, the highway is almost empty. There isn't enough traffic to support a major casino.

I can imagine things that would attract tourists. Work with the National Park Service to offer genuine Lakota tours of the Badlands. Arrange fossil- and rock-hunting expeditions with Lakota guides. Museums are interesting--to me, at least--so build a Museum of Lakota History and Culture. Buffalo are an integral part of the culture, so establish a buffalo ranch where people can see the animals up close. Show off places like the Red Cloud Indian School, which we saw, and the Tanka Bar manufacturing plant, which we didn't.

Wounded Knee is another site the Lakota could develop, but there you want to be careful. The site is small and tranquil, and the typical visitors center with gift shop and parking lot would overwhelm it. Perhaps the Lakota could raise some tourist attractions a mile or so away, out of sight of the site.

Once you have a few marketable attractions, the state will start to include the rez on its maps and signs. People will start visiting and looking for more things to do. This will create a feedback loop, with tourist spending generating jobs and businesses that in turn attract more spending.

Note: I'm sure the Lakota have thought of these things before. I'm not claiming to have any great ideas or insight here. I'm just sharing my naive perspective with readers who may be even more naive than I am.

Rob wrong about rez?

Incidentally, after visiting the rez I tweeted:To me, Pine Ridge looked like any small rural town. I didn't see the abject poverty seen by the likes of Diane Sawyer and Nicholas Kristof.A fellow non-Native traveler challenged me on this, suggesting I was ignoring the poverty and pain behind the facade. He wondered who I was to judge the reservation after a half-day visit.

I'm someone who's read thousands of articles on hundreds of reservations for two decades, that's who. Which gives me an advantage over youngsters who were in grade school when I began. But I'll explain my comment to him and anyone else who didn't get it.

First, let's set the scene. When you drive through Pine Ridge, the first thing you notice is a lot of trailers and portable homes. They're evidence of poverty, of course, but the structures look reasonably well-maintained.

What you don't see is decaying hovels with peeling paint or yards full of junkers and other trash. You know, the kind of "lunar" landscapes you find in ravaged inner cities and outer towns alike. Because of all the negative press, that's kind of what I was expecting.

Nor did I see crowds of idle Indians hanging out because they're unemployed. None of the drunks, whores, or hoodlums you might find in a typical issue of the SCALPED comic book. (There were a handful of apparent drunks in Whiteclay, but that's a different story.) The holiday may have had something to do with it, but I'd expect more loitering on a holiday, not less.

These things may exist somewhere on the rez, but I didn't see them. And we criss-crossed the area several times during our visit.

Things are bad, but...

Here's the point. I absolutely am not saying the poverty, crime, gangs, domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide don't exist. When I think of small rural towns, on or off the rez, I suspect these things are going on.

What I'm saying is you can't drop in like Diane Sawyer, Nicholas Kristof, or me and get the whole picture at a glance. It's not as obviously bleak as portrayed in Children of the Plains or Kristof's column. Or in SCALPED, which presents the same kind of poverty porn.

I have no problem saying conditions on Pine Ridge are bad. But I side with the Native critics who claim things aren't as bad as they're portrayed by non-Native outsiders who look for the worst. We saw construction going on in town...a college about to graduate a class of students...and horse races where children rode proudly like their ancestors.

If I were going by the evidence of my eyes, I'd say the situation was inconclusive. I'd want more information before drawing conclusions. Unlike some observers, I wouldn't presume that a poverty-stricken reservation is mired in despair and hopelessness.

In short, any TV show, article, or comic book that doesn't capture the positive as well as the negative is a failure in my eyes. That's a point I have made and will continue to make until everyone gets it.

Any questions? For more on the subject, see Rez Life Avoids Poverty Porn and What Reservations Are Really Like.

Below:  Whiteclay just south of the Pine Ridge border--perhaps the source of wholly negative reports.

Bullying becomes boilerplate

Bullies on the Bus

By Charles M. Blow“Making the Bus Monitor Cry.”

That’s the name of the video. It’s more than 10 minutes long, but if you make it through more than three of them with your eyes not getting misty and your blood not boiling then you are a rock, or at least your heart is.

The video shows Karen Klein, a 68-year-old grandmother and bus monitor in upstate New York, being relentlessly tormented by a group of young boys.

They hurl profanities. One asks for her address because he says he wants to go urinate on her door. Others are more explicit about defiling her.
What it tells us about America:Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at its ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society—our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.

Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.

Traditionally inferior identity roles are registered in a variety of ways. For Klein, she was elderly and female and not thin or rich. For others, it is skin color, country of origin, object of affection or some other accident of birth.

The country is changing, and that change is creating friction: between the traditional ruling classes and emerging ones; between traditional social structures and altered ones; between a long-held vision of an American ideal and growing reality that its time has passed.

And that change is coming with an unrelenting swiftness.

Last month, the Census Bureau reported that for the first time in the country’s history, minority births outnumbered those of whites. And The New York Times recently highlighted a Brookings Institution demographer’s calculations that, “minorities accounted for 92 percent of the nation’s population growth in the decade that ended in 2010.”

Furthermore, there are now more women in college than men, and a Pew Research Center poll published in April found that, “in a reversal of traditional gender roles, young women now surpass young men in the importance they place on having a high-paying career or profession.”

A Gallup poll released Thursday found that a record number of people (54 percent) say that they would be willing to vote for an atheist for president, and a Gallup poll last month found that more people support same-sex marriage than oppose it.

These dramatic shifts are upending the majority-minority paradigm and are making many people uneasy.

The Republican-Democratic divide is increasingly becoming an all-white/multicultural divide, a male/female divide, and a more religious/less religious divide—the formers the traditional power classes, and the latters the emerging ones.

This has led to some increasingly unseemly attacks at traditionally marginalized groups, even as—and possibly particularly because—they grow more powerful.

Women are under attack. Hispanics are under attack. Minority voting rights are under attack. The poor are under attack. Unsurprisingly, those doing the attacking in every case are from the right.

Seldom is power freely passed and painlessly surrendered, particularly when the traditionally powerful see the realignment as an existential threat.

The bullying on that bus was awful, but so is the bullying in our politics. Those boys were trying to exert power over a person placed there to rein them in. But bullying is always about power—projecting more than you have in order to accrue more than your share.

Sounds like the frightened, insecure part of American society.
Comment:  For more on bullying, see Natives Experience Racism Every Day and Native Children Bullied by Stereotypes. For more on the demographic changes behind the bullying, see Racists Hate and Fear Minority Babies and Whites Feel Like a Minority.

Below:  Nineteenth-century bullying, American-style.

South Dakota trip schedule (Day 3)

Iron Mountain Road

Custer State Park--buffalo herds and other wildlife

Wind Cave National Park

Needles Highway

6:00 PM
Return to Rapid City--dinner at Firehouse Restaurant

For more on the subject, see South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 2) and South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 1).

Basket maker receives Heritage Fellowship

Passamaquoddy basket maker honored by National Endowment for the ArtsA Passamaquoddy basket maker in Maine is one of nine Americans to be awarded a 2012 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Molly Neptune of Princeton says she started making scraps of ash wood into baskets as a girl and received encouragement from her mother and other basket makers.
Comment:  For more on Indians and NEA awards, see Fasthorse Wins NEA Grant and Love Medicine Chosen as Big Read.

June 25, 2012

136th anniversary of Greasy Grass

Visiting South Dakota, we didn't realize the significance of the Battle of Little Bighorn anniversary. Several Plains tribes celebrate it as an official holiday.

That means the chairman of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) wasn't there to greet us when we arrived in Pine Ridge. He and other tribal employees had taken the day off.

Some postings on the day's significance:

The 136th anniversary of the Battle at Little Big Horn

By Tim GiagoThe bumper stickers were born before the holiday.

They could be seen on cars coming and going from the Indian reservations in America. They read “Custer died for your sins,” or “Custer wore Arrow Shirts.” And then came the holiday in the 1970s.

The Indian holiday on June 25 marks the 136th anniversary of the thrashing of George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry at the Little Big Horn, or Greasy Grass, as the Indians called it. On all of the Sioux Indian reservations in South Dakota it is a statewide holiday. The Cheyenne and the Arapahoe, also participants in the great victory, have also joined the celebration.

They celebrate the day their ancestors handed the United States Army one of its worst defeats in all of the so-called “Indian Wars.” The Indians called them the “White Man Wars.”
The Battle of the Little Bighorn is Still Relevant

By Chase Iron EyesThe battlefield is no longer only a physical fight to steal our lands, sever our ties to protect mother earth, eradicate our dignity, kill our languages, stop our ceremonies and purposefully and perpetually keep us in a subdued state of existence. Poverty is not an accident. The battlefield has largely shifted to the arena of our own minds.

Today our enemy is the corporate west and its institutions (legal, social, political, media, educational, etc.). These institutions that attempt to teach us that we were savage, that we were primitive, that skinny and white is beautiful, that women are objects, that we should value comfort, material products, ego, and consumer culture over sacrifice and our ceremonies. These institutions that ignore us yet demand that we work for them 8-12 hours per day for 60 years or until we retire, at the expense of our families, earth, and ceremonies.

These institutions and their perpetrators, Indian and non, seek to deny the truth that we are children of creation with the blessing and the burden to protect the earth and practice divine order in our ceremonies and life patterns as compelled by our spiritual dignity. I also would be remiss if I did not recognize that our own apathy, learned helplessness, and ego are also our enemies. The theatre of war may have changed to our hearts and minds, but the same lives are at stake.

We celebrate our unconquerable spiritual dignity today with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Lakota Alliance (Okaspe Yamni) in their country and in the homelands of Gall, Sitting Bull, Inkpa Duta, Rain in the face, Crazy Horse, American Horse, Big Road, and Black Elk to name a few of the Grandfathers that fought at the Greasy Grass and we remember all the others, including women such as Inyan He Wita (Rocky Butte) and Mary Crawler who fought as well.

We celebrate and choose to remember into the future, because that spirit is still alive and ready to meet any challenge in any battle.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Custer Flag Auctioned to Help Indians and Why No Wounded Knee National Monument?

Capitalism must evolve to survive

Money to Burn

By Ruth HopkinsWhere has the current economic system gotten us? The U.S. is the wealthiest country on the globe, yet depression is reportedly being diagnosed at epidemic levels. Life expectancy rates are dropping. Levels of obesity and related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease nationally, and in Indian country, worsen. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. Our last ‘Deep Recession,’ which we haven’t completely cleared, has been reclassified by expert economists as another Great Depression. The housing market remains weak. Unemployment rates remain high. Western countries, and America especially, is burning through nonrenewable resources and fossil fuels at an alarming rate. Free-market capitalism is dependent on continual growth, and the exclusion of a population segment to thrive--or as one sycophant told me, “someone has to be the ditch digger.” We’re set up for failure. If money is a God, he’s a trickster.

Pre-reservation era, the Oceti Sakowin had a closed economy, termed Autarky. Such an economic system is independent and self-sustaining, allowing a community to thrive without outside aid. It worked because we observed the traditional values of generosity and cooperation, and everyone contributed. No one was left destitute. Many Tribes also observed gift exchange as a means of economic development, where the voluntary exchange of gifts created and circulated wealth among members of the community. We also bartered.

As Tribal peoples, returning to Autarky may be possible--especially in a closed community like a Native commune. However, such a system would be difficult to implement on a national level, barring a major catastrophe that leaves mainstream society with no choice.

It’s been suggested that the U.S. should engage a hybrid model of capitalism, similar to France, England or Germany. Such a system would create larger entitlement programs and allow for greater economic regulation, thereby providing some financial equilibrium to all members of society and guarding against extremes. Right-wing republicans are petrified of losing deregulated, free market capitalism, so they call any sort of attempt to modify our economy ‘socialism.’ How MacCarthyesque. Even so, there’s no denying that our economic system much evolve if the country is to stay afloat.
Comment:  For more on Indians and capitalism, see 150th Anniversary of Homestead Act and Occupiers Join National Day of Mourning.

South Dakota trip schedule (Day 2)

8:45 AM
Badlands--Red Shirt Table and Cuny Table

10:00 AM
Red Cloud Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School

11:00-11:30 AM
Drive through Pine Ridge and Whiteclay, Nebraska

11:30 AM
Lunch and meeting with tribal chairman

1:00 PM
Wounded Knee massacre site--with prayer

2:30 PM
Thunder Valley Ceremonial Grounds--Sun Dance

4:30 PM
Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort--dinner

For more on the subject, see South Dakota Trip Schedule (Day 1) and Off to South Dakota.

June 24, 2012

South Dakota trip schedule (Day 1)

7:00 AM–1:00 PM
Flight to South Dakota

3:00–5:30 PM
Prairie Edge Gallery

5:30–11:00 PM
Mt. Rushmore--lighting ceremony

Off to South Dakota

I'm off to South Dakota for my first visit ever to Lakota territory. It's a guided tour organized by Cadillac Jack, the slot-machine manufacturer. The sights we'll see include the Prairie Edge Gallery, Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee, Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park, Deadwood, the Black Hills and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Should be an amazing trip!

I'll try to keep the blog up while I'm on the road, though it may be difficult. But look for lots of reports and pictures when I get back.

For some previous photo galleries, see Black & Gold Gala with Misty Upham and NIGA 2012 (Day 2).

June 23, 2012

Brave Mr. Buckingham

Debbie Reese reports on a strange old book in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Dorothy Kunhardt's BRAVE MR. BUCKINGHAM

Reese quotes another website on the book:

10 of the Most Terrifying Children’s Books From Around the World

By Emily TempleIn Brave Mr. Buckingham by Dorothy Kunhardt (the author of tiny child classic Pat the Bunny!), the brave Native American man Mr. Buckingham is slowly dismembered—losing one foot to a buzzsaw and another to a fish before his arm is sliced off by a gardener and he gets hit by a truck—as he tries to prove to little Billy that it won’t hurt to pull on his loose front tooth. That’s him there, just a head left.

Reese proceeds to deconstruct the text. Here's how the book begins:Billy was playing Indian that day. He had some feathers on his head and they must have been feathers from a very big kind of bird--maybe an eagle or maybe a turkey. Billy had a string of beads around his neck and he had bare feet, like Indians' bare feet. He was seeing how fast he could climb a tree and look around to find out if there was anybody coming, because Indians are very fast at climbing trees and finding out if there is anybody coming.Right...because Indians are forest creatures much like scampering squirrels.

To mollify Billy, his uncle tells him the story of Mr. Buckingham:Once there was an Indian named brave Mr. Buckingham. His real name was Singing Moon Walking Fox Laughing Water Sitting Bull in the Forest, but everybody called him Mr. Buckingham because Singing Moon Walking Fox Laughing Water Sitting Bull in the Forest was such a nuisance to say. He was called brave Mr. Buckingham because he was very, very, very brave.Right...because Indians have ridiculous, cartoon-like names.

The uncle explains that Mr. Buckingham isn't made ofblood and bones and things like most people. He was made out of NUGG, and NUGG is a kind of stuff that is a little bit like clay and a little bit like iron and a little bit like wood and a little bit like rubber and a little bit like blotting paper. But Mr. Buckingham didn't mind at all being made out of NUGG, he was so used to it, and even when he was a little baby Indian he had been made out of NUGG.Right...so the Indian isn't even a real person. He's more like a toy you can play with. Or like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. He's a fictional construct representing people who are long dead and gone.

Think of all the meta-messages here. Indians don't feel any pain. Indians are stoic and unemotional. It doesn't matter what we do to Indians. Indians exist for us to use and abuse. Etc.

No doubt author Kunhardt didn't mean any harm, but her view of Indians is purely racist. Whether she realized it or not, she considered Indians an inferior, perhaps inhuman, race.

For more on Indians in children's literature, see Indian in Worse than Rotten, Ralph and Playing Indian in Not Me!

(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 6/14/12.)

Lumbee rocker's album to be reissued

Lumbee Rocker Willie French Lowery’s 1969 Psychedelic Album to Be ReissuedWillie French Lowery, who died on May 3, was a towering cultural figure in the Lumbee tribe, and a musician of great skill whose professional career spanned more than four decades.

In 1969, he was in a band called Plant and See, which released a self-titled album on the White Whale label that some music experts consider a lost (or at least hard-to-find) classic of psychedelic swamp-rock. On July 3, Carrboro, NC-based record label Paradise of Bachelors will give the album its first proper re-issue, on vinyl, in a limited edition of 1000 copies. Plant and See dissolved soon after the album came out, then largely reformed as Lumbee, which also put out just one album, Overdose. Lumbee stuck around long enough to get noticed by the Allman Brothers, who took them on tour for a spell.

Interviewed for an article in Indyweek.com written soon after Lowery’s death, Brendan Greaves of Paradise of Bachelors offered his thoughts. “What’s really fascinating about him,” said Greaves, “is that he put out these two LPs that are classic to the canon of psychedelic music, if little known beyond that, but then turned his career into a vehicle for articulating American Indian identity and politics.”
Comment:  For more on Native albums, see Walmart to Distribute Shenandoah's Album and No Grammys for Indians in 2012.

Below:  "A detail of the inner artwork from Plant and See's self-titled release. Willie French Lowery, Lumbee, was joined in the band by Forris Fulford (African American) on drums, Ron Seiger (Latino) on bass, and Carol Fitzgerald (Scotch-Irish) on backup vocals."

June 22, 2012

Goofy moments in FLASH #127

Five Goofiest Moments in Flash #127-131

By Brian CroninThis back-up story from Flash #127 has two notable goofy elements. You see, one of Wally’s friends at school is an adopted Native American lad. The kid’s father is worried about him, as he has been acting secretive. So Wally tracks him to the woods where the kid undresses and begins to dress up as a Cherokee brave….

Wally follows him and sees him climbing over a wall. Wally thinks, "It's almost as if Tommy has reverted to the ways of his wild Indian forebears--as if he's started to raid houses here the way his ancestors once raided the settlers' homes out west."

Cronin's conclusion:So, first off, Wally worried about his friend “flashing back” to his tribal ancestry? Gah?!

But as weird as that it is by Wally, it IS kind of odd that Tommy changes into that outfit just to investigate some bad guys (not THAT odd, but still pretty odd).
In addition to these problems, Wally has history wrong. The Cherokee lived in the east, not "out west," until Andrew Jackson forcibly relocated them. Then they reestablished their own nation in Oklahoma, so they didn't need to "raid settlers' home."

You can see America's myth-making process at work here. Even though Tommy the Cherokee Indian is a good guy, the story associates him with savages. The only "fact" it mentions is that Indians raided homes. But many raids occurred because the settlers were trespassing on Indian land and violating treaties.

There are a few good parts. The story gives Tommy a particular tribe, although Cherokee is a poor choice for Wally's "savage" point. Tommy has short hair and apparently dresses normally most of the time. And he's a clever fellow who speaks normally as well.

For a 1962 comic book, I guess FLASH #127 wasn't bad. A lot of movies and TV shows of that era were similar. The creators strained to make the Indian characters decent and sympathetic--like real people, not mindless animals. They toned down the worst stereotypes, such as characters who spoke pidgin English like Tonto.

But the stories still were full of mistakes and stereotypes. It took the creators a few more decades to understand that most Indians didn't wear "feathers and leathers" or live in tipis. Not then and certainly not now.

These days, creators are still getting it wrong too often. Witness the witless Dudesons episode. But now they excuse themselves by saying it was irony or a "joke."

For more on the subject, see Goofy Moments in GREEN LANTERN #79 and Comic Books Featuring Indians.

Veregge's superhero "totems"

Washington State History Museum Unveils 2012 ‘In the Spirit’ Exhibit

One of the Largest Native American Arts Showcases in the Northwest

By Matt Nagle
A remarkable collection of contemporary Indian art awaits those who visit this year’s “In the Spirit” exhibit at Washington State History Museum. Encompassing a wide breadth of media--paintings, digital photography, drawings, weaving, sculpture, beading, carving and more--the 30-plus art works showcased on the walls, free standing and in display cases communicate a wealth of stories that tell of Native American views on life in today’s world.

Among the 25 Northwest Native artists showing in the juried exhibit, 14 are new to this year’s seventh annual event, which culminates in a cultural festival and Native arts market at the museum on Aug. 11.
And:Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are first greeted by Jeffrey Veregge’s (Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe) two brilliant gilcée (high-quality ink jet) framed prints of classic American comic book superheroes rendered as totems--Batman as “The Bat” and Spider-Man titled “Amazing.” By so deftly combining traditional Native American spirit artistry with modern pop icons, Veregge most succinctly sums up the “spirit” behind the event.

According to his written statement accompanying these two pieces, Veregge tells of how he discovered new inspirations for his art after many years of studying more classic Native American art styles. Now he is telling his own, personal stories and in the process unleashing his inner “uber-geek,” as he calls it. “The works I’m now creating are my part of my own history. They reflect over 38 years of my personal interests in comic books, superheroes, action figures, science fiction, cartoons, toys, film and television.”
Comment:  It's a bit hard to tell, but the Spider-Man image uses standard art-forms of the Pacific Northwest style. Other than that, this is a standard image you could see on any comic-book cover.

Therefore, I don't find this image too impressive. Veregge has given Spider-Man a slightly variant costume; he hasn't transformed Spider-Man into something startling new or thought-provoking.

His other images are more interesting, if you ask me. The whole project is interesting.

For more on Native art based on comic books, see Comic-Book Art at Indian Market and Indigenous Comic Art.

June 21, 2012

Warren:  Conservatives back Cherokee protesters

Liz Warren camp says Cherokee activists tied to senator

By Chris CassidyFour Cherokee activists, who are in Boston to force a meeting with Elizabeth Warren over her Native American heritage claims, will sit down with U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign today—while the Warren camp is charging that the Cherokees are doing Brown’s bidding.To be specific:The Warren campaign fired back yesterday attempting to link the women to Scott Brown.

“The out-of-state group in question is being promoted and supported by a right-wing extremist who is on the record supporting and contributing money to Scott Brown,” said Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney. “It is past time we moved on to the important issues facing middle-class families in Massachusetts—even if Scott Brown won’t.”

Both Brown’s campaign and the Cherokees, who said they lean left politically, have denied the Brown campaign put them up to it. Harney referred to Cornell University Law Professor William Jacobson, who runs the conservative blog Legal Insurrection and contributed $500 to Brown during the special Senate election two years ago.

Jacobson, who has been in touch with the Cherokee activists and set up some media interviews for them, declined to comment when asked whether he was providing them with any financial support. The Cherokee group said it’s doing some fundraising — taking in about $160 from Facebook—but denied they’ve received any money from Republican groups or activists.
Of Right Wings and Indians: Warren Staff Circles Their Wagons

By Cole R. DeLauneAlthough Warren has contended in recent weeks that, “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it,” she welcomed Barnes and company (evidently not the variety of American Indian to whom she was referring when she explained her history of ethnic self-identification as attributable to a hope that “something might happen with people who are like I am”) by dispatching Harney to mischaracterize the Native perspective uncomfortable with the professor’s response to this issue over the course of the past six weeks as the precipitate of right-wing extremism. In their disingenuous generalizations, Warren and the Massachusetts Democratic Party (the communications director of which, one Mr. Kevin Franck, dismissed the Native protestors at the party’s state convention earlier this month as “rabble-rousers” motivated by a desire “to draw attention to themselves”) are effectively denying any agency to her indigenous opponents in this debate by dishonestly positioning them narratively as the cravenly self-exploitative or inadvertently dimwitted agents of the GOP. And this is the populist Joan of Arc who will most capably represent a spectrum of ideologies and advocate for the interests of the oppressed with respect to both locally and nationally repercussive legislation in the upper chamber of Congress?

If the Warren campaign has any sources of evidentiary support to substantiate their dangerous implication that Ms. Barnes and her cohorts rely on the financial largesse of a Republican “extremist,” it bears a civic responsibility to disclose them. The views expressed in the conservative new media that has reported on the professor’s embarrassing pattern of evasions are, like those of any journalistic outlet, entirely the prerogative of each particular website, and anyone with the most elementary facility for deductive reasoning understands that a reply to a request for further comment from a news apparatus does not constitute a collaborative public relations strategy.
Comment:  A Native acquaintance on Facebook made a claim similar to Warren's. Namely, that Indians don't care about this issue...that Scott Brown's camp is manufacturing it.

Since Indian Country Today has run almost 20 articles on the issue--all by Native reporters or columnists--the first part of this claim is easy to refute. As for the second part, Brown may have introduced the issue, but Warren's bungled explanations of the facts has kept it alive. If she had documented her claims or apologized for them, the issue would've died weeks ago.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see Warren Benefited from White Privilege and Warren's Neon "Pick Me" Sign.

Below:  "NOT GOING AWAY: Twila Barnes, left, a Cherokee genealogist, and Ali Sacks, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, want to meet with Elizabeth Warren." (Patrick Whittemore)

Chicago councilman keeps stereotyping Indians

Chicago Councilman’s Stereotyping of Natives ContinuesThe first offense occurred June 5 when Burke suggested the descendants and the occupants of Fort Dearborn “smoke a peace pipe” as part of the anniversary celebrations. This happened even after Podlasek had warned Burke to not use the term.

“He went ahead and did it in a public meeting less than 12 hours later,” Podlasek said. “There’s this huge ignorance we [Native Americans] have to deal with.”

Burke’s initial resolution marking a “Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation” didn’t sit well with Podlasek either who said it didn’t include the Native perspective of events at Fort Dearborne, a battle that occurred during the War of 1812. Podlasek does give Burke credit for changing the resolution to be more inclusive of Natives though.

But Burke didn’t stop with the stereotypical remarks even knowing he had offended Podlasek and others. At a civic club meeting on June 18 Burke described details about how Indians scalped and tortured their enemies during the Battle of Fort Dearborn, which Podlasek says isn’t historically accurate.

He said the things Burke said were actually “worse than his first comment,” and that “we’re going backwards.”

Podlasek said it really boils down to one thing: “There’s a huge need for cultural education in this area.”
Comment:  Three things wrong with Burke's comments:

1) We don't know the scalping and torturing happened. Podlasek says they didn't.

2) Burke isn't saying what horrors the white men did or might've done to the Indians. Historians say they scalped their opponents too, among other things.

3) Most important, even if the Indians did these things, it was in defense of their homeland against foreign invaders. That explains a lot of the so-called crimes.

Besides, scalping people after they die doesn't hurt them. It's a form of psychological warfare, and arguably a legitimate one if it helps scare off the invaders.

So Burke's comments are one-sided. Enough so that you have to wonder how prejudiced he is against Indians.

For more on the subject, see "Peace Pipe" Comment Offends Indians.

Below:  "Joe Podlasek, executive director of the American Indian Center of Chicago, sees a need for cultural education in Illinois after the stereotypical comments made by City Councilman Edward Burke."

National Aboriginal Day 2012

National Aboriginal Day Fever Grips CanadaFrom Parliament Hill to the most remote community, on June 21 aboriginals and Canadians alike are celebrating the annual tribute to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, the Indigenous Peoples who inhabited the northern half of Turtle Island before Europeans ever set foot on these shores.

On this day aboriginals’ role in Canada’s formation and development was recognized and celebrated with festivals, concerts and plain old revelry across the land. Coinciding with the summer solstice, it started off with sunrise ceremonies in many aboriginal communities, as CBC News reported. Elder Raymond Ballantyne of the Cree and his helper Madonna O’Nabigon described their version of such a ceremony for CBC News.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network put on its annual day-long concert, Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration, featuring the likes of Buffy St. Marie, the hip-hop artist Samian and the folk-rock group Kashtin, the latter in a rare reunion.

Most of all it’s a day to celebrate the peoples who most exemplify the spirit and value of diversity, Canada’s top government officials said.

“I strongly believe that diversity is one of Canada’s greatest strengths,” said Governor General David Johnston in a statement. “As the earliest Canadian settlers quickly realized, the cultures and traditions of aboriginal peoples represent a great source of learning and wisdom. Though our circumstances today have changed considerably, aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians alike continue to learn a great deal from one another. This is as it should be, because our greatest potential lies in what we have yet to learn.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, too, weighed in. “Today we celebrate the rich and diverse culture of our country’s aboriginal peoples and reflect upon the important role they have played and continue to play in shaping modern-day Canada,” he said in a statement. Noting aboriginals’ contribution to the War of 1812, he added, “The enduring relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations is one based on mutual respect, friendship and support, and we are committed to working towards deepening this bond. Our government has made strengthening this relationship a priority.”

There is, of course, still a pretty big gap between aboriginal perceptions of federal attention and the federal governments’.
Comment:  For more on Native holidays, see Heritage Month and Tribal Summit and Cherokee Patriot Day Celebrates Ned Christie.

The Algonquin Martha Stewart

Marie-Cecile Nottaway Is the Algonquin Martha Stewart

By Martha TroianShe gently pulls canoes out of fortune-cookie dough, bakes a mean bannock and does not shy away from roasting a beaver. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out—or Marie-Cecile Nottaway will do it for you.

Fresh berries, maple syrup, homemade bannock and roasted beaver are standard fare for this Algonquin woman who, inspired by family recipes, has built a booming catering business that puts a contemporary spin on her nation’s traditional food. You could say food is in her blood. But while she may seem to be channeling Martha Stewart, Nottaway—who has a degree in culinary arts—says the true trained chefs in her life were her kokomic, her Algonquin grandmothers.

Nottaway, originally from Rapid Lake, Quebec, is the owner and powerhouse behind Wawatay Catering, so named in honor of family members who have passed on. Wawatay means northern lights in the Algonquin language and represents the colors of the spirits of the ancestors who continue to guide their loved ones from the spirit world.

“Wawatay is also my dad’s last name and my grandfather’s,” says Nottaway. “It represents who I am.”
Comment:  For more on Native chefs, see Navajo Chef Advises in Minnesota and Tlingit Chef Promotes Local Foods.

June 20, 2012

Hanging from Jefferson's Nose

Debbie Reese writes about a Mt. Rushmore book in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Hanging Off Jefferson's NoseA reader wrote to ask me about Hanging from Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore, a new picture book about the father and son who carved Mount Rushmore. Lincoln Borglum's father, Gutzon Borglum started carving what we know today as Mount Rushmore, and when he died, Lincoln finished the project.

I gather the book is an interesting story of the work involved, but that it is also a 'hurray' for America that doesn't provide a thoughtful look at the complete story of the place or people. Though he is commonly heralded as a great patriot that Coury would like us to emulate, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, working on a monument to the Confederacy. (Update, 10:20 AM, June 12, 2012: Elizabeth Burns at School Library Journal asked for a link about Borglum and the Klan. It is mentioned in several books, and at the PBS American Experience webpage about him.)

Hanging from Jefferson's Nose is by Tina Nichols Coury. Here's an excerpt from her website:In character as “The Rushmore Kid” she [Coury] visits schools across the United States to present her popular "Why I Love America” program, which promotes an understanding and appreciation of the essential qualities that make America great.I understand and appreciate love of one's nation, but we ought to be critical of the things about America that are not great, too. Blind allegiance is dangerous. The mistakes made by its leaders, for example, must be something that children learn, and there are plenty of mistakes made with regard to the ownership of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.

That land was taken without the consent of the Lakota people. The U.S. government has tried to settle with them by offering them money, but, that land is sacred to the Lakota's, and they were not, and are not interested in the money. They want the land.

The Lakota's do appear in Coury's book, but not in the way I just described. Here's the page they're on:

(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 6/2/12.)

Rob's analysis

Here's the text for the page:Winters were harsh in the Black Hills. For the Lakota Indians who lived there, food was scarce. The Borglum family helped out often and went so far as to arrange for a buffalo herd to be donated to the tribe. At the powwow to celebrate, the grateful Indians made Lincoln and his dad blood brothers of the Oglala Lakota Tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Lincoln was happy to lend a hand but dog-tired after dancing all night.Notice that it's all about how the great white man helped the poor Indians. Even if the incident happened, it's misleading in this context. It may be relevant to a Borglum biography, but it's not relevant to the taking of Mt. Rushmore.

What were the political and economic pressures on the Lakota to give up their land? How did they respond to these pressures? Overall, what were their feelings about the Mt. Rushmore project. The book apparently doesn't answer these obvious questions.

Here's what the Wikipedia entry for Mt. Rushmore says about the same period:South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. Robinson's initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles site due to the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from environmentalists and Native American groups.

As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Harney Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 to 1877, the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed on the basis of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie (see section "Controversy" below).
Instead of this sobering information, the book gives us happy talk about grateful Indians. The implied corollary practically writes itself. "The Indians were so glad to be fed that they gave up their land willingly. It was a small price to pay for the white man's generosity."

As Reese observes, the all-night dance around a campfire is straight out of an old Western movie. She's never seen or heard of a genuine dance like this and neither have I. It looks like pure stereotyping: Indians as savages who express themselves with primitive actions rather than sophisticated words.

In short, Hanging from Jefferson's Nose is another in a long series of failed children's books. For more on Indians in children's literature, see Indian in Worse than Rotten, Ralph and Playing Indian in Not Me!

Historical evidence for sasquatch

Writing on the wall: Pictographs, tribal tales add to lore of Sasquatch

By Scott SandsberryAlmost all of the painted images are instantly recognizable as creatures that would have inhabited the Sierras 500 to 1,000 years ago, when the pictographs are believed to have been created.

Three of the animals, though, can only be described in today’s lexicon as an adult male, adult female and child Sasquatch.

The big male, according to Yokuts tribal lore, is Hairy Man, standing on two legs, its arms spread wide, with long hair and, writes Forest Service archeologist Kathy Moskowitz Strain, “large, haunting eyes.” Next to it, with the same hairy, two-legged aspect, are what appear to be the adult female, the “mother,” and her child.

None of the animals shown on Painted Rock are proportionally larger than one would expect; they’re all either life-sized or smaller, as if in the distance.

The painting of Hairy Man is 8 1/2 feet tall.

By the time the first white man saw the Painted Rock pictographs in the 1870s, earlier European settlers of the American west were already well aware of Native Americans’ historical belief in the animal the Central California tribes called Hairy Man.

Many Native Americans, from the Cree people in Manitoba to the Cowichans in British Columbia to the tribes of central and northern California, have through the centuries taken a wide berth to avoid encountering a race or tribe of large, two-legged hairy beasts.

The account of a Methodist missionary found that the Salteaux Indians of Lake Winnipeg “living in dread” of what the missionary himself described as “these imaginary monsters.”

Anthropologists’ response to this has been mixed. Some believe the animals were a creation of tribal folklore meant to keep children in line and convince them not to stray too far from the villages.

But early white traders, settlers and miners often talked about the fervent belief held by the locals in what the whites invariably referred to as “mythical” creatures—which were described much the way Sasquatch is now described.

A 1790 publication related a Hudson’s Bay Company trader’s story about the North Saskatchewan River Indians’ belief in a giant, two-legged beast called the wendingo or windingo. The Indians, noted the trapper, “frequently persuade themselves that they see his track in the moss or snow.”

Two decades later a fur trader named David Thompson found a large footprint, described in historical journals as having been 14 inches long and eight inches wide, near what is now Jasper, Alberta. The print is often referred to as the first Sasquatch footprint found by a white man, though Thompson himself was said to have believed it to be the track of a large grizzly bear.

British Columbia periodicals in the late 1800s and early 1900s carried short news items referencing “the wild man of Vancouver Island” being seen by prospectors and others. And the region’s Kwakiutl Indians related tales of the “Woods Giant” which was routinely described the same way—much larger and hairier than humans, walking on two legs, with deep-set eyes under a thick, protruding forehead.
Comment:  For more on sasquatch, see Bigfoot Part of Indian Country and Sasquatch Exhibit in Washington Museum.

Below:  "This is a hand-drawn replica of Hairy Man as depicted—at 8 1/2 feet tall—in a Central California pictograph estimated to be several hundred years old." (Kathy Moskowitz Strain/Stanislaus National Forest)

June 19, 2012

All about Canyon Records

For 60 Years, Canyon Records Has Been Introducing the World to Native Music

By Vincent SchillingIn 1951, the Phoenix Little Theater asked Ray and Mary Boley, owners of a small recording studio in Phoenix, to record a performance there by a Navajo singer, Ed Lee Natay. The Boleys were so mesmerized by Natay’s show that they decided to record an album of his music. That album, Natay, Navajo Singer marked the birth of Canyon Records.

Sixty years later, that album still earns royalties for the Natay family. It was the first of many success stories that have made Canyon one of the most prosperous producers and distributors of American Indian music in Indian country today.
And:What is so special about Canyon Records?

Wood: No other label can do what they do for us. Stuff would happen when you are traveling as a group and your vehicle might break down, or you might run short on money. You can always count on them. Canyon does it for more than financial gain—there is more meaning to it for them, just like it is for us when we are singing the songs that we’re singing. I always tell [producer] Steve Butler, “You are an Indian man trapped inside a white man’s body.”

Doyle: What has been distinctive about Canyon is how the company was operated in the beginning and the philosophies established by the founders, Ray and Mary Boley. The Boleys were media pioneers in Phoenix. They approached Native American music not because they had a cultural agenda, but because they liked the music and the people. At a time when Native Americans were marginalized by the larger society, the Boleys treated everyone with basic human respect and without viewing anyone through an ethnic lens. This philosophy of ‘devotion to the music and respect for the individual’ has been infused in the company for over 60 years.
Comment:  For more on Native music, see Kiowa Gordon Talks Music and Movies and Cayuga DJ Named Canada's Best.

Below:  "Ray Boley and Ed Lee Natay."

Navajos Wear Nikes

An outsider grows to embrace the culture on a Navajo reservation

By Gwen ShriftKristofic, who is 30, landed on the reservation at 7, when his divorced mother, a nurse, got a job in a reservation hospital and moved him and his younger brother from Pittsburgh to Ganado, Ariz.

As soon as he started second grade, the Navajo kids began calling the blue-eyed, brown-haired Kristofic Bilagáana bilasáana, or “white apple,” among other less-printable nicknames. It was the beginning of years of taunting and sometimes physical abuse.

In a chronological series of essays, Kristofic spares no detail about the way he was treated, but also holds no grudges.
And:He began writing his reminiscences as a way of sharing the experiences and emotions of his childhood with her. The project grew into “Navajos Wear Nikes,” which is published by the University of New Mexico Press.

“I would hate this to fall into the ‘eagle feather’ school—‘Always talk with the Great Spirit.’ So hokey,” he says. “I had no idea how the book would turn out.”

The answer to that is, “very successfully.”

Kristofic vividly gives his readers the bright and dark magic of the reservation, his scarred and deprived classmates and their pride in Navajo heritage, and, poignantly, for emigrants anywhere, his own sense of loss when the family moved to Page.

“Navajos Wear Nikes,” Kristofic’s first book, was a finalist in 2011 for prizes awarded by the Western Writers of America and the New Mexico Book Co-op and was chosen by the Pima County Library in Tucson for its “Best Reading 2011” list.
Comment:  For more on books about reservation life, see Rez Life Avoid Poverty Porn and The New Powwow Highway.

June 18, 2012

Extraterrestrial impact killed megafauna

New evidence that extraterrestrial impact killed off the mammoths

By Thomas H. Maugh IIMelted glass buried deep within the Earth at sites around the world confirms the theory that a comet or meteor struck the planet nearly 13,000 years ago, triggering the Younger Dryas Ice Age, killing off the mammoths and other megafauna in North America, and perhaps even causing the disappearance of the Clovis culture of early Native Americans. The cause of the Younger Dryas cooling period has been very controversial. Some researchers have proposed an extraterrestrial impact and have produced evidence of the event, but others claim that the results have not been replicated. The new findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appear to provide that needed replication.

The Younger Dryas event began about 12,900 years ago and lasted about 1,300 years. The period is named after the alpine-tundra wildflower, Dryas octopetala, which spread southward during the period. Average temperatures during the period dropped by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit in Europe, perhaps a little less in North America. The period marked the end of the mammoths, giant ground sloths and other large creatures that had earlier wandered North America. Artifacts from the Clovis culture, whose members are believed to be among the earliest settlers of this continent, disappeared from the archaeological record. Northern glaciers moved southward and forests turned into tundra. The period is linked to the onset of agriculture in the Middle East, perhaps because hunting and gathering could no longer provide adequate food supplies.
Another report says the megafauna began dying during the last major ice age. Then the minor Younger Dryas Ice Age finished them off.

Humans Did Not Kill Off Mammoths; Comet, Climate Change Helped, Studies ShowAlthough human hunting played a part in the demise of the woolly mammoth about 10,000 years ago, homo sapiens were but bit players in a global drama involving climate change, comet impact and a multitude of other factors, scientists have found in separate studies.

Previous research had blamed their demise on tribal hunting. But new findings “pretty much dispel the idea of any one factor, any one event, as dooming the mammoths,” said Glen MacDonald, a researcher and geographer at the University of California in Los Angeles, to LiveScience.com.

In other words, hunting didn’t help, but it was not instrumental. The ancestors didn’t do it.

So what did? After thriving for 250,000 years, the huge mammals lingered on in dwarf form in the Arctic Ocean’s Wrangel Island until 3,700 years ago. Between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago, LiveScience said, the animals declined during the worst of the last major ice age, though they started to multiply in warmer interior Siberia.

Analyzing samples from more than 1,300 woolly mammoths as well as 450 pieces of wood, 600 archeological sites and upwards of 650 bog lands in Beringia—the former land bridge under the Bering Strait, thought to be the giant mammoths’ last habitat—a team led by MacDonald discovered a host of things working against them.

The beasts were felled by a combination of declining food supply and terrain that deteriorated into peatlands, all brought on by warming climate, said the study as quoted in USA Today. Grasses and willow, mammoths’ normal food, was replaced by poisonous birch to eat, and solid ground gave way to wetlands more difficult to tread upon, USA Today said.

“Pressure from hunting was also present, as contemporary Paleolithic sites are numerous in both Siberia and now in northwestern North America,” the study said. “Modeling studies show that given the environmental stresses at the time, even limited hunting by humans could have significantly contributed to woolly mammoth extinction.”
I watched an episode of NOVA last year that covered this subject too.

Megabeasts' Sudden DeathScientists propose a radical new idea of what killed off mammoths and other large animals at the end of the Ice Age. Aired March 31, 2009 on PBS.

Program Description

Fifteen thousand years ago, North America was like the Serengeti on steroids, with mega-creatures roaming a continent teeming with incredible wildlife. But then, in a blip of geologic time, between 15 and 35 magnificent large types of animals went extinct. In this television exclusive, NOVA joins forces with prominent scientists to test a startling hypothesis that may finally explain these sudden and widespread extinctions—that a comet broke apart in the atmosphere and devastated North America 12,900 years ago.
The program discusses the conventional wisdom. You know, that the Paleo-Indians were so brutal, bloodthirsty, and unconcerned with ecological balance that they slaughtered the animals to extinction. Here's the transcript on that point:JAMES KING: Man probably came to North America at that point as a super-predator with a naïve fauna that had no idea what they were facing. The super-predator had communication, it had weapons, it hunted in groups, it had coordination, it had all the things you would do if you and I were going out to try and hunt big animals.

NARRATOR: More recent history supports this theory. In Mauritius, the arrival of the Dutch doomed the dodo, and in New Zealand, the first settlers killed off the moa. But could this also have happened to these great animals all across North America?

JAMES KENNETT: The data just doesn't support this. It's inconceivable to me.

NARRATOR: Kennett says the idea that primitive humans killed off these powerful animals is absurd, and while it might happen in small island environments, it is impossible to imagine they could wreak such havoc on a continent as vast as North America.

JAMES KENNETT: They didn't have the technology that modern humans have. They didn't have helicopters and machine guns and satellite navigation and so forth. It's always puzzled me. How could they track down that last horse or that last mammoth or that last camel? It just perplexed me. It just didn't make sense.
Comment:  It's not clear whether the comet or meteor did most of the killing or just completed the killing. What's clear is that humans played only a minor role. They probably did a "normal" amount of killing for their technology and population levels. They didn't kill everything in sight because they were murderous savages aka "super-predators."

This doesn't seem like rocket science to me. The earth experienced a series of ice ages followed by warming periods, which shocked the flora and fauna repeatedly. To top it off, a comet crashed into the earth and caused rapid, large-scale climate change. With all this disruption, you don't need humans to explain the megafauna extinction.

What about all those scientists who stuck to their super-predator theory--who refused to consider a climate-change alternative? How much of their thinking was influenced by the idea of (Paleo-)Indians as murderous savages? A lot, I suspect. It's something every schoolchild learns by rote: that Indians excel at killing.

For more on the subject, see Clovis First Theory Disproved and Ecosystem Disruption Killed Megafauna?