January 31, 2013

Tomahawk hangs up her tassels

Burlesque Performer Suspends American Indian Act

By Sheila ReganTomahawk Tassels, the Twin Cities burlesque performer who uses a stereotypical American Indian persona, says she is suspending her Native act indefinitely amid controversy over what many in the local American Indian community call an offensive portrayal of a Native woman. Known for her long black braids and use of a cartoonish-style canoe, tipi, feathers and other kitschy motifs in her performances, Tassels says she never intended her character to be derogatory, but rather satirical. “Whether or not I agree, out of respect I feel I need to respond,” she said of the recent criticism.

Tassels, who identifies as half-Cherokee, has been performing burlesque since 2006 and her American Indian act since 2007. Since 2011, she’s attended several meetings with the American Indian protest movement Idle No More. Her participation eventually led to an outcry that Tassels says has left her feeling harassed and bullied. For the time being, she won’t perform in her Indian character, though she will continue to perform burlesque, including Friday at Ground Zero with Dr. Farrago's Burlesque Theatre and then on Saturday at Amsterdam Bar & Hall as part of Le Cirque Rouge.

The fact that she’s not performing her Native act isn’t stopping a planned protest at her show on Friday night, called “Retirement Protest for Tomahawk Tassels.” Shannon Edberg, who met Tassels at various planning meetings for Idle No More, is the host of the protest’s Facebook event, and isn't satisfied that Tassels is “suspending” her Native act. “The name needs to be retired,” Edberg said. “She still profits off that name and her pretend Indian style.”

Tassels says the main reason she’s suspending her act is for her own safety. She also wants to give herself time to reflect on everything, particularly in light of the stalled Violence Against Women Act, for which congressional Republicans have recently endeavored to remove protections for American Indian women. Tassels is aware that Native women are disproportionately affected by rape and sexual violence. “I’ve heard the statistics quoted to me constantly. My response is that rape is awful anytime--I don’t support that… it’s one of the reasons why I’m suspending at the moment. Maybe VWA will get passed, maybe it won’t be as much of an issue.”

Critics respond

Several Native critics seem to think "Tomahawk Tassels" and the vita.mn publication aren't taking the problem seriously enough:Wow, Vita.mn, way to present a completely one-sided perspective on this issue. Way to cast native people as bullies, senseless harassing Amanda Riley without just cause. There are serious consequences, including the facts that you barely skimmed over, of cultural appropriation and hyper-sexualization of native women. She really has learned nothing, and the whole situation, including the band of fans that came to her defense and dismissed upset native people as "haters" has really lowered the level of respect I have for the burlesque community as a whole.

First she started out a Japanese mocking stripper and is now parading as an Indian stripper. “It was very rude and very obnoxious,” Tassels said. “Never had anyone so blatantly expressed hatred like that.” Gimme a BREAK. Anyone with ndn blood and a natural respect for the culture and heritage they were born of, would do anything in their power to steer clear of all action that could even be misunderstood as disrespectful. There are white folks who do not appropriate the Indian experience who know damn well what she is doing is wack. She knows it's wack. Showing up at an Idle No More rally in counterfeit regalia is the ultimate spit in the face. Why not be an Irish Catholic stripper? Get drunk and strip while cursing at the audience and singing old folk songs. Pew.

Over the course of a year I had polite (on both sides) conversations with Amanda. I would post statistics and information about violence against Native women, try to make her understand that she was doing a modern version of blackface and that it was painful to watch what she did. In the time I spoke with her she went from having a little native blood to being half native. I told her I supported her in finding out more about her heritage and learning why this imagery was so offensive. I got a lot of hate from her fans for it, but remained polite, as did she. But in the end, she let it be known, her career, her hope for "fame" and "fortune" were what was most important.

The first thing that came to my mind by reading this article is just how lost and disconnected that Amanda is to reality, or at least that is how pieces of the article came across. She can self identify with Cherokee image, but that's truly what it is to her an image with no real meaning, but the real meaning behind it all is ego, money, fame and distortion, using a culture to sexual exploit, because you cant just get up on stage and be you, you have to dress up and use a disguise. People like her are weak, and point the finger's to blame, like those she crossed paths with who called her out. Thankful we have warriors out there that do call her out, they are looking out for all of us, the women, the men, the youth and those coming up behind us. She shouldn't be scared of us, for her safety, she should be scared that she is so lost and would ever, ever do such a thing to a living people.

"Critics"? These aren't "critics in the Indian community," this IS the Indian community. Loved and cherished friends, colleagues, people of Minneapolis, and global environmental, social justice allies. Suspending her Native act includes suspending the name(s) of all her characters in her "Native" act. There is no reason she cannot be just as successful without her character's name, a name that marginalizes a race of people, and further perpetuates negative stereotypes. White people have too little understanding of Natives to recognize a satire about it, especially when the act's main purpose is not to educate. If she was a part of the community, she would understand that. We support her retiring her act, warts and all.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see A History of Sexy Indian Maidens and Tomahawk Tassels Stereotypes Native Women.

Beaded vest donated to Goodwill

Beaded Indian vest donated to Goodwill is a treasure

A Native American vest donated to Goodwill was passed on by sharp-eyed staff to Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, where it is now in the museum’s permanent collection.

By Lynda V. Mapes
You just never know what you might find at your local Goodwill store: something old, something new—and sometimes, treasures worthy of a museum collection.

So it was with a beaded American Indian vest dropped off at the Dearborn Goodwill at South Lane Street in Seattle. Sharp-eyed staff thought it might be something special, and an independent appraiser estimated its value for Goodwill at $5,000.

Now the early 20th-century Plains Indian-style beaded vest has just been accepted by Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture for its permanent collection.

“It is just gorgeous and we are thrilled to have it,” said Julie Stein, director of the museum.

Goodwill donated the vest to the museum so that it could benefit the entire community, said Katherine Boury, communications manager for Seattle Goodwill.
Comment:  For more on Indians and Goodwill, see First Goodwill Store on the Rez.

Below:  "Justin McCarthy, of the Burke museum, adjusts the display of the American Indian beaded vest that was given to the museum by Goodwill." (Mark Harrison/Seattle Times)

January 30, 2013

"Cowboys and Indians" Beauty Showdown

Native American anger at ‘Cowboy and Indian’ Trafford Centre Beauty Showdown event

Tribe member says the posters around the shopping centre are as bad as ‘blacking up’. Trafford centre bosses say they regretted any upset caused

By Amy Glendinning
A Native American tribe member has attacked as offensive a Cowboys and Indians-themed make-up promotion at the Trafford Centre.

Autumn DePoe-Hughes said posters around the centre showing white models posing in male war head-dress are ‘the same as someone blacking up’.

Trafford Centre bosses said they regretted any upset the posters for their Beauty Showdown event had caused.

Ms DePoe-Hughes a member of the Constitutional Tribe of Siletz, moved to Greater Manchester from Oregon in America last year. She lives in Prestwich with husband Neil Hughes and one-year-old baby Elias.

She made a formal complaint about photographs of a female model wearing a feather headdress–known to Native Americans as a war bonnet–and a ‘war paint wigwam’ where women can have make-up consultations.

They are part of a promotional campaign with make-up demonstrations and sales.
Comment:  The makeup in the photos looks horrible. I hope these are "before" rather than "after" pictures.

After a brief respite in December, we may be seeing a new onslaught of non-Indians playing dress-up in headdresses and costumes. Will these idiots ever learn?

For more on the subject, see Columnist Defends Mummers Parade and Seminole Fans in Plains Headdresses.

Murkowski proposes renaming Mt. McKinley

Alaska senator again proposes renaming Mount McKinley to Denali; name widely used in AlaskaAlaska’s senior senator has once again introduced legislation to rename Mount McKinley, Denali.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in an interview Tuesday that Denali might not be the name that people in the Midwest recognize “but it has long been the name in really the place that matters, which is the state that this incredible mountain sits.”

“I have nothing against President McKinley whatsoever, but I would rather have this peak be called by the name it has gone by for centuries by Alaskans than a man who never set foot in our state,” Murkowski said in a release. “This is the tallest mountain in North America and we deserve to have this Alaskan landmark bear an Alaskan name.”

Ohio is the birthplace of President William McKinley, and for years, members of that state’s congressional delegation have filed measures or included language in bills to retain the name Mount McKinley. One such bill was introduced last week by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who said in a release Tuesday that the name must be retained “in order to honor the legacy of this great American President and patriot.”
Comment:  Ryan's reason for keeping the name "McKinley" is ridiculous. President McKinley probably has thousands of towns, buildings, schools, and so forth named for him. He doesn't need one more "honor."

Also, few people know anything about Mt. McKinley. Of those few, even fewer associate it with President McKinley. All told, we're talking about something like 1% of 1%.

In other words, only 1 in 10,000 people thinks, "It's so wonderful that they named Mt. McKinley after William McKinley, our 25th president, who 'led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry, and maintained the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of inflationary proposals'" (source: Wikipedia). To everyone else, the name is just some anonymous old name.

As usual, debates over geographic name changes show America's white privilege in action. Why should the thousandth use of the name "McKinley" trump the first and only use of the name "Denali"? Why don't the local people with historical ties to the mountain have the primary say? Because white people feel they deserve to get everything they want, no matter how unreasonable it is.

For more on the subject, see Renaming Mt. Rainier and Restoring Traditional Indian Names.

Feds shut down Cherokee bear park

Feds shut down Cherokee bear park

By John BoyleFederal regulators shut down a bear park and fined it $20,000 after it was cited for failing to provide adequate shelter, food and veterinary care for the animals.

The Chief Saunooke Bear Park generated multiple protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including a visit by former game show host Bob Barker, a PETA activist. PETA has lobbied heavily for the closure of the park, which they say is long overdue because of the inhumane conditions the bears are kept in.

“We’re very pleased this step is being taken and they’re being held accountable for the long-standing abuse and neglect of bears,” said Delcianna Winders, foundation director of captive animal law enforcement at PETA. “Ultimately, the bears need to come out of those pits.”

The park previously was cited for failing to maintain adequate barriers between visitors and the bears. Last year, PETA posted billboards calling the bear zoos “prisons” and noted in news releases that in two cases visitors had been bitten, including a 9-year-old girl who was feeding a bear cub Lucky Charms cereal and cat food.
Comment:  I guess bear the park isn't on a Cherokee reservation. If it were, I don't think the feds could intervene.

For more on the Cherokee bear parks, see "Children Bitten" on PETA Billboard and Bear Pits = Boarding Schools.

January 29, 2013

"Cowboys and Indians" in Toronto bar

Toronto bar apologizes after letting “Cowboys and Indians” in establishment

By Kenneth JacksonA bar in Toronto has responded to a social media storm created after patrons of the establishment were seen wearing “Cowboys and Indians” costumes Saturday leaving the impression the bar was having a racist themed party.

The Rhino Restaurant and Bar posted a statement on their website Tuesday saying it wasn’t a themed party, rather a group of people celebrating birthdays.

“We want to correct the impression that the Rhino hosted the event, or in any way endorsed or condoned it, which is not accurate,” they said. “We don’t know why the group chose to dress in these costumes. To the best of our information, at no time were any derogatory remarks made about aboriginal people.”

The bar let the group in believing they were on a pub crawl and would be on their way soon to another watering hole.
Comment:  Unfortunately, the costumes themselves are derogatory, since they paint Indians as warlike savages. Derogatory remarks would be worse, but the costumes are enough to trigger objections.

We can't blame the bar too much if the patrons simply wandered in during a pub crawl. But the bar could've policed the situation better.

Memo to businesses: If people in racist costumes enter your establishment, confront them immediately. Tell them they'll have to remove the costumes or leave.

For more on the subject, see Tasteless Thanksgiving Party Promotions and McFadden's "Drink Like A Indian" Party.

Obama: Natives are the only natives

Obama: Unless you were a Native American, you came from someplace else

By Charlie SpieringThis afternoon in Las Vegas, President Obama reminded most American citizens that they were descended from immigrants themselves.

Obama warned that the issue was an emotional one, but that it was important for Americans to not view it as “us versus them.”

“It’s really important to remember our history,” Obama continued. “Unless you were one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else, somebody brought you,” he said.
Who You Calling an Immigrant?

By Mark TrahantFor many in Indian country, President Barack Obama said magic words, “It’s really important for us to remember our history. Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you.”

Somebody brought you. Or you showed up. Even uninvited. Yet after two centuries of borders, two centuries of crossing a line on a map, who’s really an immigrant in the 21st century?
Comment:  This partially makes up for the lack of Native mentions during Obama's inauguration. As anyone would, Indians want reassurances that their existence and issues matter. A shout-out like this shows Obama hasn't forgotten them.

For more on the subject, see Obama's Columbus Day Proclamation and Republicans: White People Own America.

January 28, 2013

The Navajo Express logo

I've seen these Navajo trucks on the road before. When I saw one parked in my neighborhood, I got a close look at the girl on the logo. I decided to investigate.

On the trucks, the girl's image is small and located on the cab door. I'm not sure why the company doesn't make her image larger and more prominent. Perhaps because it's offensive?

Here's the closest closeup I could find of the girl. Note the blue eyes and the pale skin. She could be Navajo, but everything about her screams "Caucasian." I'd bet good money that she's a white girl dressed up as a phony Indian.

A little sleuthing reveals that her name is Becky and she's the daughter of company founder Don Digby. She posed for the photo when she was 14. Sure, Digby or his wife could be Navajo, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Becky is now Becky Digby-Mackintosh, married, in her mid-40s, and an executive vice president with the company. Her eyes appear to be brown, not blue.

Did Don Digby doctor the photo of his daughter to make her look even more white than she already was? Because the eyes do look unnaturally blue.

And why? Because the blue-eyed Caucasian ideal sells better than a brown-eyed Indian? Because a little boy might not want to kiss someone who looks too "ethnic"?

(Radmilla Cody, Navajo and African American, beautiful but not in a white/heartland/Leave It to Beaver way.)

We don't know Digby's motivation, but everything about this image seems racist.

The logo is a false and stereotypical representation of a Navajo girl. It contributes to the idea that anyone can be an Indian by dressing as one. It's obvious how a real Navajo girl who saw it would feel bad about not living up to the Becky "Navajo" standard of beauty.

If you feel like defending this logo as cute, fun, or harmless, don't bother. We've already been over this ground ad nauseam. You won't have anything to say that we haven't heard a thousand times.

Company name

The other curious thing is the company name. The logo says "Navajo" on the trucks and on the website. The company owns the domain name www.navajo.com. In the text it usually calls itself Navajo.

But in the site links and the formal text, it calls itself "Navajo Express," not "Navajo." And the company also owns the domain name www.navajoexpress.com. I'm wondering if the Digbys changed the name from Navajo to Navajo Express at some point. Perhaps because the Navajo Nation made noise about trademark infringement and domain-name theft.

Only a couple of sites have a logo that says "Navajo Express" instead of "Navajo." I don't think the "Navajo Express" logo is anywhere on the Navajo (Express) site. So the Digbys seem torn between Navajo (old, less legal name?) and Navajo Express (new, more legal name?).

If you search Google Images for "navajo express" or "navajo express truck," you'll see the "Navajo" logo outnumbers the "Navajo Express" logo by 50-1 or 100-1. It's more evidence that "Navajo" is the standard or preferred company name and "Navajo Express" is a latecomer.

A typical company founder would explain the origin of the company's name and logo on his website. He'd take pride in using his daughter as the model. But not Don Digby. There's nothing about the name or the logo on the site.

It seems the company is embarrassed by the logo (keeping it small) and the name (officially "Navajo Express" to avoid a lawsuit?). And it should be.

Clearly, the company should get rid of the racist logo as soon as possible. If it feels the need to use a female image, it can replace the white girl with any of the thousands of beautiful Navajo girls out there.

It wouldn't hurt to change the company name too, but I don't expect the Digbys to do that. I'd settle for banishing Becky the blue-eyed wannabe to the dustbin of company logos.

For more on stereotypical company logos, see Chief Firewater Surfboard Cleaner and Ecko's "Weekend Warrior" Line.

Native values in Assassin's Creed 3

An analysis goes deeper into Assassin's Creed 3's Native history and culture than previous postings have done:

Indigenous Representations in Assassin’s Creed III

By Beth Aileen DillonFeminine Strength: Kaniehti:io (Connor’s Kanien’kehá:ka mother) is an intelligent, suspicious, and tactical woman who helps to free enslaved “Natives,” arranges alliances across Indigenous nations, and saves the life of Haytham Kenway (by being totally badass and strong herself).

Ubisoft does still occasionally get iffy, like the Clan Mother who gets too close to the “Mystic Savage” trope in her shamanistic powers and tone. However, given the Assassin’s Creed series’ science fiction time traveling storyline, the elder’s knowledge of the “portal” adds an element to the growing recognition of Indigenous science fiction.

The game generally has an anti-colonialist tone. Kaniehti:io rightfully doesn’t trust Haytham. Even the non-player characters question their role, such as a British soldier who comments about the expedition: “Slap a fancy name on something and all is excused.” Interestingly, the game is mindful of (what to the Anishinaabe is known as) Weendigo nature of the colonizers—Weendigo being a spirit of endless consumption that can enter someone prone to that way of being and mount to cannibal nature. As a youth, Connor predicts of westward expansion: “In time they will swallow us whole.” Haytham, being self-reflective, states, “We’re cruel and desperate creatures, set in our conquering ways” and acknowledges his own “desire for more, and more, and more.” Kaniehti:io worries about the “same dark hunger” being passed down in her son.

Overall, the game balances the bloodiness necessary for a game about assassination with Indigenous ways of knowing, such as when Connor points out when hunting, “We must return nature’s kindness with our own.”

Props to Ubisoft and Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace for these strides.
Comment:  For more on Assassin's Creed 3, see Assassin's Creed 3's Mohawk Advisers and Noah Watts as Mohawk Assassin.

January 27, 2013

Report documents right-wing terrorism

Right-wing terrorism is real

Backlash to a new West Point study on domestic extremism exposes the depths of conservatives' denial

By David Sirota
There are four revealing stories to be gleaned from the Aggrieved Conservative Backlash™ to an exhaustive and sober new West Point Combating Terrorism Center report on “Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right.” (For a more grass roots-y look at how hysterical and viral that backlash is, see some choice tweets here.)

First, there is the obvious lesson about double standards. When the government accuses a Muslim group of being a national security threat, conservatives are quick to applaud and demand immediate (often violent) action, without regard for the whole “innocent until proven guilty” stuff. By contrast, when the government accuses an ideologically right-wing group of being a similarly dangerous threat, many of the same conservatives suddenly play the victim card, insisting that the Big Bad Government is wrongly demonizing them.

Second, the backlash tells the story of how priorities abruptly change when the context shifts. Again, when the government accuses a Muslim group of posing a threat, the substance of the accusations (how much of a threat? what is the operational capacity of the threat? etc.) are typically received by conservatives as serious national security issues. But when far right groups are labeled a threat, many conservatives’ first reflex is to defend the accused and wholly ignore the substance of the accusations no matter how well documented those accusations are (and say what you will about the West Point report’s conclusions, its supporting evidence is most certainly well-documented).
Comment:  The common denominator between this posting and others in Newspaper Rock is this:

According to most Americans, the terrorists are always "them": "foreigners" such as Indians, Commies, and Muslims. The terrorists are never "us": good white Euro-Christians. "We" don't do barbaric things like killing innocent civilians. "They" do.

This report explodes that notion by documenting America's right-wing terrorism. And rather than admit that good white Euro-Christians are terrorists too, conservatives try to deny and squelch the report. They can't handle the truth.

For more on terrorism, see Morris Mirror: Natives = "Terrorists" and Alcaraz's "Twin Tipis" Cartoon.

Below:  Tim McVeigh's right-wing bombing in Oklahoma City.

Native scalpers in Baytown Outlaws

“Baytown Outlaws”: A Tarantino wannabe takes on rednecks

Billy Bob Thornton and Andre Braugher provide window-dressing for the racist fantasy of "The Baytown Outlaws"

By Andrew O'Hehir
[D]irector and co-writer Barry Battles is after the specific grade of faux-Tarantino-ness represented by “The Boondock Saints,” arguably the first true cult hit of the 21st century. This is like the neo-Confederate version of “Boondock Saints,” mixed with a faint dose of the Coen brothers’ “Raising Arizona.” A trio of unwashed and nearly illiterate Alabama brothers, who are supposedly lovable despite being depraved contract killers and the sons of an infamous Klansman, hit the road in a zany kidnapping plot involving a disabled teenager. Among the numerous people they must kill en route are a gaggle of leather-clad hookers, a Native American biker gang who go around scalping people, and a bunch of heavily armed African-American dudes in an assault vehicle.

Yeah, I’m serious. The main action of this movie involves three über-macho white guys, whose charismatic leader, Brick Oodie (Clayne Crawford), wears a Rebel-flag T-shirt in every scene, driving around the South killing women, blacks and Indians. Mind you, Battles is smart enough to try to soften the psychodrama around the edges: Braugher plays the corrupt African-American sheriff who serves as the brothers’ patron, and their kidnapping errand is conducted at the behest of Celeste (Longoria), the ex-wife of a Latino crime lord. (There’s also an utterly irrelevant tender moment between Brick and a hot illegal immigrant.) But Carlos, said evil Latino crime lord, is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who is partly of American Indian ancestry but not really all that plausible as a Mexican or Cuban or Dominican.
Comment:  "A Native American biker gang who go around scalping people"...sounds like a typical "savage Indian" stereotype.

For more on scalping in movies, see Al Carroll on Tarantino's Scalping and Tarantino's Apache War Fiction.

January 26, 2013

Michaels's design in Project Runway

Jessica Metcalf reviews Patricia Michaels's first appearance in Project Runway in her Beyond Buckskin blog:

Patricia Michaels--Project Runway Top Contender

By Jessica R. MetcalfFor example, for the first competition, designers were challenged to create a garment that shows their personalities and is inspired by a view of New York City (they must also incorporate input from the rest of the designers on their teams--a new challenge added to Season 11). Michaels immediately takes to painting her fabric.

Other designers look at her with question--possibly since most purchase their fabric with patterns already inscribed, and they don't think to take their designs one step further and actually 'create' the fabric patterns themselves. One designer states that Michaels' fabric looks like a student craft project, while Emily (who gets voted off) remarks that Michaels shouldn't be painting since the designers have limited time (meanwhile, it's time that becomes Emily's worst enemy).

Yet, when it came down to judging, Michaels' shift dress was in the top 3--a major coup for us Indians on our couches watching from our tubes (or laptops). Here was a strong Native woman who is connected to her community and has sacrificed a great deal to pursue her dreams of working in the fashion industry. She is in the top 3 for the first competition, AND her design was modern with not one shred of Native American stereotypical mumbo jumbo to rely on for kiss ass points.

This last point is important for me to note and discuss, because sometimes people lead us to believe that we are only included in certain programs for the sake of diversity, and not because of legitimate talent or skill. This can cause a person to second guess themselves or doubt their abilities. When we get to that point, we feel obligated to play the 'Indian role' and out comes the cheap feathers, tan leather, and old lady turquoise to live up to the expectations. But it is so incredibly important to push past that, and to know that you are pushing past it, to accept the challenge, and to do it in a respectful and good way (because, hey, feathers, leather, and turquoise can be rather fabulous if done right!). We have seen Michaels use these items in a good way: she wore beautiful turquoise jewelry throughout the episode, and brought garments to the casting audition that featured painted feather patterns. Indeed, even this shift dress was made using gorgeous white leather! Michaels doesn't resort to stereotypes, and represents Indian Country well.

I appreciate Michaels' work because much of it is concept-based, environment-based, or story-based--which are some of the core entities of Native American creativity.

For her Episode 1 dress, Michaels explains, "I'm creating the 'New York window cityscape' look," and she achieves this look by handpainting partial squares using a silver grey paint and cutting slits into the leather dress.

The judges loved the fabric manipulation and appreciated the artistic qualities brought forth. They also applauded the cut slits because they gave the dress a tactile quality.
A Q&A with Michaels conducted while watching the episode:

Live From the 'Project Runway' Premiere With Patricia Michaels

By Alex JacobsWere there any disadvantages?

There is that challenge that they don’t quite understand who you are and questioning your characteristics as a Native American. If I said something in Tewa, they thought maybe I was doing witchcraft or voodoo. They felt a bit threatened and maybe insecure. They didn’t know our culture and went right to the stereotype. They may have also expected the stereotype to be produced and they didn’t know that I knew how to work with other materials. As far as being from Santa Fe, my Mom opened a gallery the night before I was born, she was dancing in her buckskins. I was born into this, I went to the Institute of American Indian Arts. It’s no disadvantage to be from Santa Fe.

In fashion, anybody who’s intelligent knows it’s always supposed to change. They’re looking and waiting for that change. When they saw that my stuff was a whole different new take, they were enthusiastic and excited. They saw Native American Design be something they never expected to see.

Any big surprises?

Yeah, I cried a lot. And I was constantly educating. They didn’t expect me to be so well traveled, knowledgeable, sophisticated. So I guess they were more surprised than me.
Project Runway premier at Legends Santa Fe: Patricia Michaels shines (Photos)

Comment:  My mini-review of Michaels's design:

I'd say its shape is bland and uninteresting, but the pattern makes up for that. It evokes the Manhattan skyline, which was part of the assignment. But it also evokes the spires of places like Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelley on the Navajo rez. And the prints are reminiscent of the ancient handprints made by "Anasazi" artists on rock walls.

As for the shape, how about a sky-blue or turquoise-blue undergarment to accentuate the beige dress? That would really make the dress pop as well as evoke the Southwest's sand/sky color scheme.

Anyway, it's a fine accomplishment for a spur-of-the-moment design. If there was a prize for best use of one's cultural background, Michaels might win it. As it is, her design probably deserves to be in the top 3.

For more on the subject, see Taos Designer in Project Runway.

New Suquamish Museum

Learn about Chief Seattle and his tribe in a pilgrimage to new museum

A new $6 million tribal museum on the Kitsap Peninsula tells the story of the people and culture that produced a man named Seattle.

By Brian J. Cantwell
Anybody new to Seattle might wonder about the city’s name. It’s not like New York, named after a place in the “old country,” or Madison, named for a dead president.

Seattle is named for a peace-loving Indian chief—a little classier than Chicago, derived from a native word for wild garlic.

When you’ve been here long enough to be settled in and have a favorite coffee order, it’s time to learn more about your hometown’s heritage. Make a ferry-ride pilgrimage to the Kitsap Peninsula, to the winter home and final resting place of the city’s namesake, Chief Seattle.

And now’s a good time to go, because the chief’s tribe, the Suquamish, has opened a handsome new museum where you can learn all about Chief Seattle’s people and their culture.

One surprise: The chief himself gets a conspicuously modest mention.

Modern concepts

The 9,000-square-foot, $6 million tribal museum, which opened in September a few hundred feet from the chief’s grave in the village of Suquamish, replaces a well-respected museum dating to the 1980s.

In part with newfound wealth from its Clearwater Casino, the tribe hired Storyline Studio of Seattle to design new exhibits, and Mithun Architects created a stained-wood building surrounded by native plantings of sword fern, wild currant and cedar.

Inside, it’s a gleaming example of modern museum concepts with a topical “less is more” orientation that doesn’t overwhelm. A single, compact hall showcases artifacts from tribal archives, or even from contemporary tribal members’ attics or family rooms (giving the sense that this is truly “living history”).
Comment:  Compare this museum to the faux exhibits in Bailey at the Museum and you'll see the yawning chasm between fiction and reality.

For more on Pacific Northwest museums, see Salish Traveling Food Exhibit and Truth vs. Twilight.

Below:  "A Red Hat Society group from Poulsbo learns about a 300-year-old canoe hoisted by sculpted figures of tribal people at the new Suquamish Museum." (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)

Documentary about Jim Pepper

An article about a documentary titled Pepper's Pow Wow:

Tulalips screen film about American Indian jazz great

By Theresa GoffredoPepper's heritage is Creek and Kaw and the film shows a rare, personal glimpse into the life of this jazz innovator, who made his name on the European stage rather than back home in America.

The film pays tribute to Pepper's life along with sharing his music, including a recording of his grandfather, Ralph Pepper, singing the original chant that became the basis for "Witchi Tai To."

Pepper played the tenor saxophone and the film opens with him performing the song "Caddo Revival" during the Kaw Pow Wow in Oklahoma, where Pepper grew up.

In the film, Pepper is recorded as saying music created by American Indians "comes directly from the ground, from the earth, from the four directions and the music is a healing force."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Kaw/Creek Jazz Saxophonist and Hard Rock Promotes Native Musicians.

January 25, 2013

Slapin reviews Native American Classics

Debbie Reese shares this review of the Native American Classics anthology in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Beverly Slapin's Review of Pomplun, Smelcer, and Bruchac's NATIVE AMERICAN CLASSICS“Telling readers what to think” is the main problem with some of the pieces in this collection, problems inherent in transmogrifying stories by the earlier Indian writers into a genre in which graphics foreground the story—and the graphic artists don’t always understand it or their work is mismatched. Another problem is that often, details are belabored in “dialogue bubbles,” at the cost of the integrity of the story. Yet another is that stories are sometimes “edited down” to what is seen to be the reading level for this kind of anthology. And finally, the stories would have benefited greatly with prefatory material that clearly set each in a historical, geographical, political and biographical context. This last problem, again, although inherent in this genre, stands out most glaringly in what is purported to be a “multicultural” anthology.And:Some of the stories and poems in Native American Classics are incomparably beautiful—some whose texts have been left whole and some that have been adapted. Some of the art in Native American Classics is—to use a descriptor I’ve recently been known to use too often—awesome. Others, not so much.

I can’t, in good conscience, “recommend” or “not recommend” this anthology. Rather, I chose to review each entry as a separate entity. Sorry for the length of this review; it’s the best I could do for the integrity of the stories and poems therein.

Teachers who would want to use Native American Classics to introduce “reluctant readers” to Native literatures should do so with caution.
Slapin goes through the 18 stories one by one. By my count, she gives nine stories a "recommended," seven a "not recommended," and two a mixed recommendation. So her review is more positive than not by a slight margin.

Here's a positive review:“Two Wolves,” by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), adapted by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Dene) / art by John Findley (pp. 131-139)

“Two Wolves” is one of my three hands-down favorites of this collection. (The others are “Anoska Nimiwina,” which Bruchac adapted; and “The Cattle Thief by E. Pauline Johnson.) “Two Wolves” is the story of a young Abenaki, just out of his teens, back from fighting in the Civil War. Hired by the Town Board to hunt down and destroy a wolf who has killed some sheep, Ash has been traumatized by the killing he has had to do in the war. The wolf has been wounded and scarred as well, and the irony is not lost on the young man: “That’s a good one, isn’t it?” he tells the wolf, “an Indian boy getting paid to scalp a wolf?” Ash, after tossing some of his dinner to the wolf (now named “Catcher”), decides he has “done enough killing for all of us,” and tells his new companion of his plans to head north to Canada. In the north, he says, is “land where there’s woods and deer. No sheep, no bounties paid for wolves or men.”

Findley’s art is amazing, realistic and detailed (save the members of the Town Board, who are appropriately caricatured). Especially poignant is Catcher’s sniffing at Ash’s wolf skin-lined bedroll. In the last two panels, the two lie down together, Ash’s head on his bedroll, and Catcher at his side. Or is Ash’s head on Catcher? Both art and story complement each other, a perfect balance, neither competing for domination. With “Two Wolves,” an anti-war story told in an “Indian” way—no “explanation,” no stated moral, no heavy-handed polemic—the reader is left to ponder the issues and explore the possibilities. Beautiful. Highly recommended.
And a negative review:“After a Sermon at the Church of Infinite Confusion,” by John E. Smelcer / art by Bahe Whitethorne, Jr. (Diné) (p. 2)

The poem beginning this anthology defies cultural logic and exemplifies incongruence between text and art. Whitethorne’s painting is of a Diné girl on Diné land. Flying into the foreground is a huge black bird, its beak wide open. The bird is larger than the child. Could be a raven, a crow, a blackbird, or maybe even a mockingbird. The painting was originally done for the cover of a children’s book called The Mockingbird’s Manual by Seth Muller (Salina Bookshelf, 2009) and someone must have thought it would be appropriate to illustrate this poem. It isn’t.

The girl’s name, “Mary Caught-in-Between,” is apparently supposed to be ironic. It’s not. It’s insulting. The singular experience of attending “sunday school” is interpreted as turning Mary’s whole world upside down; in reality, it would’ve taken years of Indian residential school to do that. Mary’s spiritual world appears to be inhabited by “Raven and Coyote,” whom she tells they aren’t “gods anymore.” But she’d know that Raven and Coyote never were gods and that you don’t worship tricksters—and you don’t talk to them, either. Mary is dressed in traditional Diné clothing, but children don’t generally dress like that just to hang out. And if she is indeed Diné, I don’t understand why a “totem pole” (on which she thinks that “god” was nailed) would even enter her consciousness. Is that big black bird supposed to be Raven? If so, there are ravens in Diné country, but Raven? No. He’s a Northwest Coast-area trickster. The poem itself is infinitely confusing, and a casual reader will probably think it’s authentic. Not recommended.
Publisher responds

When I shared this link on Facebook, the publisher responded with a note:Co-editor Joseph Bruchac responds:

While Beverly Slapin is a reviewer I respect (and who has been kind to my own work in the past), I think that her main criticism of this book has as much to do with her dislike of the whole idea of turning already published works into graphic texts as anything. When I spoke to Beverly before she wrote this review she voiced her opinion that if these stories already were in print, then why would we want to have them rewritten in this fashion?

My own feeling, which I expressed then and still have now, is that we are introducing a whole new generation of readers not just to a generation of largely forgotten Native writers, but also to some of the best Native American illustrators now at work. I also remain committed to the idea that comics are not just for people "who like that sort of thing" but are a legitimate art form and a form that has been proven not to be a substitute, but simply another genre as worthy of respect as non-illustrated works. Further, comics encourage reading and require a serious intellectual commitment on the part of the reader.

In any event, I think Beverly's review--while I find myself in disagreement with parts of it--was a serious attempt on her part to voice an intelligent critical opinion. And while, as I've said, I can't agree with all her conclusions, it's good to have more than one side expressed about any work of art.

Quite frankly, no matter what any critic says, the work always has to speak for itself. And it is my belief that anyone with any familiarity with the graphic form will find this anthology immensely rewarding and, quite likely, a meaningful introduction to significant writers and artists they may never have encountered before. And anyone interested in Native American writing and art will find this collection well worth reading.
True, several of her criticisms were along the lines of she didn't like the art, or the art didn't match the text. These may be valid criticisms, but they're artistic issues, not cultural issues. I'm not sure she should be mixing the two, especially since her forte is the cultural area.

Also, she didn't like any story with a Christian underpinning. These stories may not be traditional, if "traditional" means pre-Christian. But they may be authentic for the time and place in which they were written.

It's a fact that many Indians were Christianized during the 19th and 20th centuries, and that's part of their experiences. It doesn't necessarily make them less authentic.

For more on Native comic books, see A Pilgrimage of Love & Forgiveness and INC's Universe #0.

Milton's Squaw Bread

A link from correspondent DMarks:

Squaw BreadSome people take one look at our all natural Squaw Bread and think its pumpernickel. But this dark and hearty bread has a surprisingly sweet flavor thanks to a hint of honey. Squaw bread is a popular flavor served in restaurant bread baskets here on the west coast, but our bakers have gone a step further by adding the wholesome goodness of whole grains, fiber, and protein.Comment:  Apparently this company didn't get the memo about the word "squaw."

For more on "squaw," see Columnist Defends Mummers Parade and Limbaugh Calls Warren "Squaw Indian Giver."

January 24, 2013

Spence ends hunger strike

Chief Theresa Spence Ends Fast With 13-Point Declaration of Commitment to First NationsBefore agreeing to end her six-week-long liquids-only fast, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence and her supporters crafted a Declaration of Commitment consisting of 13 points centering around adhering to treaty relationships, approaching negotiations from a nation-to-nation perspective and taking measures to improve the lives of First Nations people.

Spence is scheduled to stop fasting and return to eating solid food on January 24, the day that chiefs conduct a major treaty meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, at which Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, on medical leave since last week, will make an appearance. He is scheduled to resume his duties later this week, according to reports.

The declaration was the culmination of more than a week of negotiations spearheaded by Native leader Alvin Fiddler and interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae, according to The Globe and Mail. In addition to the 13 points, the agreement calls for follow-through from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the commitments that were made at the January 11 meeting between him and 20 First Nations chiefs.

Among the 13 points is a call for a national inquiry into the hundreds of disappearances and murders of aboriginal women that go unsolved, improving education and housing, and fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration of Commitment is endorsed by the AFN National Executive Committee, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada Parliamentary Caucus and the New Democratic Party National Caucus. It will officially be signed by the parties on January 24 by First Nations leaders and representatives of the opposition parties “to carry on her fight,” as The Globe and Mail put it.
Apparently everything wasn't hunky-dory between the attention-getting chief and her tribe:

Theresa Spence agrees to end hunger protest amid reports of ultimatum threat from Attawapiskat band

By Kathryn Blaze CarlsonTheresa Spence is set to end her six-week hunger protest Thursday morning, a spokesman for the Attawapiskat chief has confirmed.

Both she and Elder Raymond Robinson, who has been engaged in a similar protest, have agreed to stop, spokesman Danny Metatawabin said in a statement.

It is believed negotiators are now working with her on a ceremony which would bring to an end her diet of fish broth and tea, say sources close to the talks.

A band council delegation from the beleaguered Attawapiskat community was reportedly slated to fly into Ottawa on Wednesday to hand-deliver an ultimatum to Ms. Spence, threatening to oust her from office unless she ends her liquid-diet protest.

Negotiations to end the fast—which began more than 40 days ago when she left her northern Ontario community to set up camp on Victoria Island—had already ramped up earlier this week, but the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reported that Ms. Spence now faces pressure from within her own council.

“They are coming in tonight,” a source close to Ms. Spence told APTN. “Then it will end.”

Out of the frying pan...

As Spence's hunger strike ended, there was a bit of worry:

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence Hospitalized in Ottawa

By Levi RickertAttawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who spent the past 44 days on a hunger strike, was taken to a local hospital in Ottawa, Canada late last night. This was confirmed this morning to the Native News Network by Jamie Monastyrski, who is serving the media spokesperson for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

The Naisnawbe Aski Nation is coordinating today's events in Ottawa that are intended to honor Chief Spence and elder Raymond Robinson, who have been on hunger strikes to bring attention to the deplorable living conditions of First Nations peoples and other indigenous peoples who live in Canada.

Chief Spence was not feeling well and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure according to Monastyrski.

Earlier in the day, it was announced Chief Spence and Robinson would end their hunger strikes after reviewing a "Declaration of Commitment" that was crafted with 13 points that will keep the concerns of First Nations peoples and other Canadian indigenous peoples a high priority with the Canadian Parliament.
With hunger strike over, Chief Spence's polarizing legacy

By Gloria GallowayTheresa Spence arrived in the ballroom of the Delta Hotel to a heroine’s welcome.

The Attawapiskat chief was released on Thursday afternoon from a hospital where she had spent a day and a half under medical supervision for dehydration and the deleterious effects that 42 days of living on fish broth and herbal teas can have on the human body.

First nations leaders – mostly from Northern Ontario and Manitoba – were in the middle of a celebration staged in her honour, one that involved signing a declaration of commitment to press the federal government for fundamental changes in the way it deals with native people. The sparse crowd greeted Ms. Spence as if she were a rock star – or a saint. At least one chief has referred to her “our Mother Theresa.”

Ms. Spence’s decision in early December to embark on a hunger strike has made her a beloved figure for many first nations people. And, although her fast was separate from the protests of the Idle No More movement, she has become an icon for those who are dancing in malls and rallying in the streets to draw attention to native issues.
Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Racist Comments in Canadian Newspapers and Young People Lead Idle No More.

Idle No More, Hollywood style

My own article on the Idle No More movement--from my Los Angeles-based perspective, of course:

Idle No More, Hollywood Style

By Rob SchmidtWhen Pamela J. Peters and Shawn Imitates-Dog attended a recent Idle No More rally in downtown Los Angeles, they were surprised.

The crowd was small—odd, considering LA County has the largest urban population of Indians. No media representatives were present. And the signs addressed immigration, racism and other issues not directly related to the protests sweeping Canada.

Idle No More’s message was being lost, they realized. Onlookers weren’t sure what the movement was about. Reporters didn’t know how to cover it.

They decided to hold their own rally to raise awareness of Idle No More and what it stands for. At its core, said Peters, the movement is about “the sovereign rights that we as tribal people have. We have rights to protect our water, our air and our land for future generations.”

There was one major obstacle. Many activists were planning to attend a big rally in Sacramento in two weeks. That gave Peters, a Navajo media consultant, and Imitates-Dog, a Lakota HR professional, less than seven days to organize and implement their idea.
Below:  "Model and actress Shannon Baker at the Idle No More rally in Los Angeles."

Read the rest of the article to see how it turned out.

More photos from the rally:

Scenes from the Idle No More Protest at The Grove in Los Angeles

Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Young People Lead Idle No More and Morris Mirror: Natives = Terrorists."

Below:  "Actress Q'orianka Kilcher and musician Quese IMC at an Idle No More rally in Los Angeles." (Nia MacKnight)

Navajo Nation band at the inauguration

President Obama delivers second inaugural address

By Alysa LandryFollowing his speech, Obama led the inaugural parade, which snaked along a 1.5-mile route along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building to the White House. Tens of thousands of spectators filled bleachers that lined the route.

It was one of the biggest–and most prestigious–audiences the Navajo Nation Band has ever had.

"It was a bit cold and everyone was nervous," Darwyn Jackson, band director, said during a phone interview Tuesday. "But once we made that final turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue, we knew we were making history."

About 80 band members made the journey from the Navajo Nation to march in the parade, Jackson said. The parade included entries from across the country, hand-selected by the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

After walking the route himself, Obama took his place at the Presidential Reviewing Stand, where he waved and cheered for about 8,800 people participating in the parade, including bands, dancers, celebrity musicians and children on unicycles.

"Some of us got the chance to see Obama," said Valerie Harrison, the band's administrative coordinator and assistant band director. "Some of us saw him wave at us."
Comment:  For more on the 2013 inauguration, see At the NMAI's Inaugural Ball and Woman Warriors on CBS.

January 23, 2013

Indians are "whiners," not warriors?

If we're approaching a tipping point on the Washington Redskins, mascot lovers won't go down without a fight. Many Redskins fans refuse to give up their beloved "redskin." Often their reasons are dripping with racism and stereotyping, as in this example:

From War Whoops to Whining

By Jim GoadThen again, the Injuns’ descendants don’t seem to be doing nearly as well as those descended from Vikings, Celts, crusaders, and cowboys. But who’s to blame for this? With apparently zero sense of irony, the founder of the Native American Journalists Association blames the persistent use of such team names as “Redskins” on simple “redneck stupidity.” A self-identified Native American woman writes of how Injun-derived team logos are “decidedly not cool” and how they fill her “with shame and rage” and make her feel “sick to my stomach,” ultimately rendering her “too shocked or angered to engage in long dialogues” while she runs around snapping pictures of white people and chiding them for being racists. And “a White girl who dressed up as Pocahontas for Halloween when I was 4” sees fit to lecture us about how “it’s absolutely never okay to use Native American culture and people as costumes or mascots.”

We are told that such costumes and mascots psychologically traumatize and lower the self-esteem of the so-called natives, which in turn hinders their performance in modern society. In fact, the American Psychological Association issued a 2005 resolution that called for the “Immediate Retirement of American Indian Mascots, Symbols, Images, and Personalities by Schools, Colleges, Universities, Athletic Teams, and Organizations.” The APA argued that such team names and logos create hostile environments that are disrespectful and possibly violate Injuns’ civil rights and need to be “eradicated” before this historically underperforming group can reach upward and maximize its innate potential. This past May, the state of Oregon passed a measure that would soon cut funding for any school teams that continued to employ Native American imagery.

Personally, I liked the Injuns more when they were bold and noble warriors than thought-policing whiners. They seemed far more…honorable?

But sure, let’s focus on the kooky mascots and the team names and the foam tomahawks. Let’s never dare mention the gas-huffing and the fetal alcohol syndrome and the drug use and the teen pregnancy. Let’s never ask why these once bold and noble warriors, despite decades of federal payouts and tax breaks, still seem incapable of thriving in a modern technological society. Don’t ever question the wisdom of bringing arrows to a gunfight. Don’t dare search for cultural and possibly even genetic reasons for why the Indians always seem to get the short end of the firestick. It’s obvious that the kooky mascots and the team names and the foam tomahawks are to blame.
Comment:  Goad's last paragraph doesn't address his third-to-last paragraph, where he accurately summarizes the problem. Research shows that mascots psychologically traumatize Natives. Goad can't touch this point, apparently, so he switches to a list of social problems, most of which are caused by psychological trauma.

It's not exactly a crushing argument to say we should ignore the mascots that cause psychological trauma because there's a lot of psychological trauma. Better luck next time, bright boy.

Also note how he scorns the Natives he supposedly admires. "Injuns"..."war whoops"..."drum beat"..."so-called natives"..."firestick"...etc. He liked Indians when they were safely in the past, vanishing or vanished, and he didn't have to think about his genocidal ancestors or racial bias.

Well, boo-hoo, bigot. Sorry if today's Indians don't conform to your stupid stereotypes.

Goad's last paragraph is full of false or misleading statements.

  • Most Indians live off the rez where they're "thriving in a modern technological society" just fine.

  • The Native media talks about drug use, obesity, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, gangs, suicide, and other social problems often--several times a week. Goad is more ignorant than he seems if he thinks he's the only one willing to discuss these issues.

  • Indians added guns to their repertoire of weapons whenever they could. They didn't always have access to guns because the white men tried to keep guns away. But it's silly to imply Indians chose to use bows and arrows because they were too primitive to know better.

  • "Genetic reasons for why the Indians always seem to get the short end of the firestick" means Goad thinks Indians may be genetically inferior to others. They can't thrive in the modern world, they didn't understand the value of guns...he's practically saying they were born to be uncivilized louts. You know, animal-like brutes who were too stupid to survive against smart and sophisticated white men.

    In other words, he's practically admitting his prejudice against Indians as a race.

  • Goad's repeated use of "Injuns" is more of the same. This epithet serves to belittle Indians--to make them seem childlike and cartoonish. As in "Ten Little Injuns."

  • Commenters confirm the racism

    The commenters on this column make Goad's racism even more explicit. Here are a few examples and my responses:You have obviously never lived on a reserve. I have. They are mostly very drunk, sadly very lazy, and seemingly quite unintelligent. I'm sorry, but should all the whites and other races leave north america tomorrow within a decade they'd be back to running around naked cannibalizing each other.You wouldn't romanticize Indians? That's obvious from your "naked cannibalizing" line. Which clearly indicates you think Indians are inferior. Racist much?

    If all the non-Indians left, the 70% of Indians who live off the rez would continue working as doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, business owners, politicians, etc. They'd have no more problem running the country than any other small group. Again, if you think Indians were savages and are lazy drunks, you're a racist.I get sick and tired of people complaining about Indian mascots. My beef with them is that they are too generous toward Indians. "The Atlanta Braves"? How about the "Atlanta fat, drunken wasters lazy good for nothings who wait all month for their casino check so they can drink it down that night"? It's a little bit long, but it's a more accurate description of the Indians I met in Arizona.

    Seriously. The Braves and Red Skins logos are the best face one can put on an Indian. Chief Wahoo is simply fun.

    An insult? Yeah, who names their teams for something they hate and denigrate? Team names are always something that the team wants to associate itself with: nobility, ferocity, prowess, speed, fighting spirit. There are very few exceptions to that rule, and Indians, Redskins, and Braves aren't among the exceptions.

    These people are pussies.
    How about the "Atlanta fat, drunken wasters lazy good for nothings who wait all month for their casino check so they can drink it down that night"? How about you're a racist?

    "The Braves and Red Skins logos are the best face one can put on an Indian"? You mean better than the faces of Will Rogers, Jim Thorpe, Wilma Mankiller, Dennis Banks, Elouise Cobell, Billy Mills, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Sherman Alexie, Winona LaDuke, Vine Deloria Jr., Louise Erdrich, John Herrington, Maria Tallchief, Graham Greene, N. Scott Momaday, Tantoo Cardinal, and millions of other modern Indians? Thank you for your racist opinion.

    "Who names their teams for something they hate and denigrate?" Who creates movies, TV shows, books, plays, songs, commercials, and ads that alienate audiences? Americans, apparently, since we had a century or two of productions featuring Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemima, Mexican peasants and banditos, Chinese coolies, Japanese geishas, drunk Irishmen, Italian mobsters, penny-pinching Jews, dumb Pollacks, towel-headed Muslims, effeminate gays, and on and on.

    Nobody thought these blatant stereotypes were offensive at the time. Same with our one-dimensional view of Indians as savage killers. Every other racist stereotype has gone by the wayside, but the out-of-date "redskin" remains.

    Rob doesn't know Indians?How about you visit an area heavily populated by Indians and see that I'm not making it up?

    I invite you to go teach on the Rez for a year or two.

    I used to fall for the myth. Maybe the desert heat cooked my brain, but I'll be damned if I didn't get a hell of a shock when smashed in the face with the overwhelming evidence.

    Maybe you'd rather stay in your romantic universe where Ol' Chief sees pollution and a tear rolls down his cheek. Dream on, son.
    How about if you visit several dozen reservations as I have and see their wide variety? Or if you work in the Native media as I do, reading dozens of stories every day about Indian life across the country? How about if you interact with thousands of Indians in person and online over 20-plus years?

    I invite you to learn that 70% of Indians don't live on reservations, so your point is largely irrelevant. You people who talk about reservations seem blissfully ignorant of this fact.

    I'm aware that many reservations are still poor. I'm also aware why they're poor. Apparently you're not, since you're blaming the victim.

    But you keep asserting that your experiences on one reservation out of several hundred make you an expert--not only on all the reservations, but on all the urban Indians too. Again, can you say "racist"? Because I sure can.

    "Overwhelming evidence"? Good to hear you've got evidence for your views. Okay, what percentage of the roughly 5 million Indians are alcoholics? What percentage are unemployed? What percentage receive casino checks? Cite and quote your sources.

    I sure hope the numbers are greater than 50%. If they aren't, you've mistaken a small minority for the whole. Which would make your beliefs ignorant, stereotypical, and racist.Do you know any American Indians who were pushed off "good" land? Neither do I, but I *do* know white farmers who bought their "good" tribal land off very eager tribes. In the last 50-100 years no one has robbed the American Indian of his land more than himself. Why farm when you get a free house and $80k a year from the government? Yet many reservations still look like Road Warrior.Which Indians get $80K? Name exactly which individuals or tribes you mean. Indeed, feel free to offer a shred of evidence for this spurious claim used to justify your racism.

    I know that white men broke every single one of the 400 treaties they signed with the Indians. I know how the Dawes Allotment Act declared something like 90% of the Indian lands "surplus" and gave them away to white men looking for a government handout. Do you know these things?

    Random bits of ignoranceThe Injuns never knew an age that wasn't dark.If you call a dozen large-scale civilizations "dark," I guess.Here's how the Indians lived in the 1800s, courtesy of Mark Twain.

    The Noble Red Man
    You mean the Mark Twain who was notable for his racism against Indians?

    Mark Twain, Indian HaterAll you say is true sir...but mascots are not your big problem. Indian mascots are used, by the way, because of their positive attributes. Careful what you wish for. If all native american imagery is forcibly removed from the public view and consciousness then we'll forget about you entirely or be replaced by the casino slot machine...The notion that mascots are the only thing keeping Indians in our collective consciousness is idiotic beyond belief.

    Mascots teach us Indians?

    For more on the Redskins, see Annenberg's "Redskins" Survey and Kickstarter Campaign to Change Redskins Name.

    At the NMAI's inaugural ball

    NMAI: A Rich Native Nations Inaugural Ball—Mitt Romney Loincloths and All

    By Rob CapricciosoThere were many intriguing celebrations in Washington, D.C. during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, but the Native Nations Inaugural Ball took the prize. Just ask the guy wearing the loincloth made out of a Mitt Romney campaign shirt.

    The event, a first-of-its kind glitzy fundraiser for (and at) the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), had a bounty of uniquely American Indian moments. A member of the 1491s comedy group joked about pulling some of the sacred headdresses on display at the museum out of the cases to add to the authenticity; First Nations comedian Gerry Barrett said if he were president, he’d fill the White House lawn with grazing buffalo; and some of the tribal leaders, lobbyists and spouses were decked out not in black tie, sequins and diamonds, but bolos, feathers and turquoise.

    Tickets for the January 21 gala fundraiser were $1,000 per person. Gold sponsors, the Chickasaw Nation and Morongo Band of Mission Indians, donated $100,000 each. Other sponsors donated a combined total of copy million, according to an NMAI program.

    The money showed, and flowed. The emcee was Twilight movies star Chaske Spencer; there were several musical and comedy performances; four floors of the museum were dotted with cocktail tables, candles and fancy tablecloths. The Native Nations ball even apparently outspent the president’s two official balls on at least one major front: food and drink. Reports surfaced that at the two galas the president attended with First Lady Michelle Obama at the Washington Convention Center, Cheeze-Its and pretzels were served, while drink lines were 40 people long. At the NMAI, buffalo filets, pear-infused vodka and ginger-apple sparkling water were abundant.

    The high cost of the fundraiser was a sensitive subject for some attendees, who said they knew it kept out friends who would have liked to have been there. The fact that the American Indian Society of Washington hosted a less pricey Native-focused ball and powwow in Arlington, Va. the night before put some peoples’ minds at ease.
    And:The only sour note for many Indians who made the trek to the capital was that the president didn’t mention American Indians in any of the inaugural events. “We didn’t get mentioned all day today,” lamented Harris. “Everybody seemed to have a role to play but us—I think we have a lot more work to do.”

    Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer and former congressional staffer, said he expects Obama to be more specific about addressing Indian issues in his second term. “He did want to hit some of the larger societal issues, and I think he did a great job with his plea to America to use its strength to ‘be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice....’ I came away feeling that, as a Native American, my family and I are really more a part of America than ever before.”
    Comment:  For more on the 2013 inauguration, see Woman Warriors on CBS and Native Nations Inaugural Ball.

    Below:  "Museum director Kevin Gover giving introductory remarks and remembering tribal leaders who walked on in past year." (Rob Capriccioso)

    January 22, 2013

    Rage Rocc produces Warrior Cubs

    An Oglala Lakota Hip Hop movement Rage Rocc unleashes

    By Brandon EcoffeyThe era of Native American hip hop has arrived with the recent emergence of homegrown Oglala Lakota artist Rage Rocc of Kyle.

    For some time now hip hop has been the primary genre from which young people on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation have gained inspiration. Fashion, style, and some could even argue lifestyle for reservation youth has many correlations to that of the urban hip hop scene.

    As far back as the mid-nineties the influence that urban culture and music has had on reservation youth was apparent; an example being the much heralded 1995 State A Champion Red Cloud Boys basketball team who was the first team in the region to sport knee length basketball shorts and black Nike socks.
    These clothing items were a spinoff of hip hop style made popular by the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” basketball team that included urban celebrities Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose. The socks and shorts were not only a fashion statement representative of urban culture but also the modus operandi of the hip hop lifestyle which is to challenge societal norms.

    It wasn’t long thereafter that youth on the reservation were caught up wearing the baggy Dickies khaki pants that were worn by west coast hip hop artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog. The continued presence of hip hop’s influence is apparent today with high school kids wearing the skinny jeans that artists like Lil Wayne have included in their attire.

    What has been absent from the equation however is an organic reservation hip hop artist who can merge rural Nativeness with urban hip hop style, until now. Rage Rocc who was born Ray Janis the son of Doug Janis Jr. and Dawn Iron Cloud is an emerging rapper and music producer who possesses the necessary skills required to claim the unfilled throne of reservation hip hop royalty.

    Currently Rage Rocc is putting the final touches on a mix tape called “Warrior Cubs” that will feature several up and coming artists on the reservation including K-Dog who was recently featured in Native Sun News, DC Baby, and D Money, all Oglala Lakotas attempting to break in to the rap game.
    Comment:  For more on Indians and rap, see Fiasco Raps About Pine Ridge and Crow Rapper Supaman.

    Jeremy Scott's yellow-crotch designs

    Misappropriation and the Case of the Yellow Crotch

    By Jessica R. MetcalfIn numerous previous posts, I have brought up why cases of Native American misappropriations are bad. They are unethical, and in some cases illegal. In this case, at first we presume that Jeremy Scott was inspired by totem poles carved by Northwest Coast tribal members, but it appears instead he aimed to be in the same ballpark as cheap, non-Native-made, tourist souvenir shop, Taiwan-made, knock-offs. His (above) lacks the sophistication and knowledge that is evidenced in the pole to the bottom right.

    Totem poles tell stories, and relay information about our lineage, heritage, and history. They tell important stories about who we were and who we are now. The images on these poles are owned by the various families and clans they represent, and unauthorized copies are seen as infringements upon rights.
    And:Bizarre, garish, unpleasant and disgusting were several terms used to describe this outfit by people in the Native American community (and what's with that distasteful neon yellow crotch?). Several individuals noticed that his inspiration was unoriginal, and that his take on Northwest Coast formline was ignorant, disrespectful and badly construed (in other words, Scott needs to work on his ovoids and u-forms). He produced this collection with little to no knowledge of the complex stylistic conventions of Northwest Coast. Designs such as his actively work to reduce public respect for the deep cultural knowledge and artistic skill needed to design, create, and carve a pole. This last statement is particularly important because one reviewer noted that Scott's collection was all about "expanding your cultural horizons."

    No, it doesn't expand our cultural horizons, it's just lazy work.
    Comment:  For more on Native fashion, see Mohawk Designer on Victoria's Secret and Gong Launches Mockups.

    Phil Jackson supports college fund

    Phil Jackson Volunteers for American Indian Fundraiser

    Online fundraising campaign offers two fans a chance to spend a day with Jackson

    By Dillon Tabish
    Ever wonder what it would be like to spend a day with the Zen Master?

    Lakeside resident and legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson is offering a lucky fan the chance to hang out in Los Angeles and talk about his storied professional basketball career.

    Jackson has teamed up with the online company Omaze for a fundraising campaign supporting the American Indian College Fund, a nationwide organization that provides financial aid to Native students who cannot afford a higher education.

    Contestants can enter to win here. The contest is currently slated to end on Feb. 8. One donated entry is $10. For those who purchase five or more, the cost drops to $8 per entry and 10 or more entries are $7 each.
    NBA Coach Phil Jackson to Raise Money for American Indian College Fund

    Comment:  For more on Phil Jackson, see Lakers Practice at Pechanga.

    January 21, 2013

    "War paint for today's business world"

    Adrienne Keene writes about a stereotypical billboard in her Native Appropriations blog:

    New Billboard for Florida State’s MBA ProgramFlorida State University (home of the “Seminoles”) has unveiled a new billboard for their MBA program. I always wonder how these types of things make it through so many layers of approval. Kirsten who sent it over said this has been their slogan for awhile, apparently.

    Associating business school with Seminole Indians and warpaint is stereotypical, of course.

    Interest Convergence, FSU, and the Seminole Tribe of FloridaLive and learn. I guess the “quick post” model failed–you should see my inbox. Guys, I know the Seminole Tribe of Florida has worked with FSU and offered their approval of the mascot and associated images. I know quite a bit about the relationship, actually, and I’ve been learning quite a bit more in the last day or so…thanks to the strongly worded responses from some passionate FSU fans.

    Quick background:

    Florida State has been the “Seminoles” since 1947, and have had a “relationship” with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for many years, but it was solidified more recently. In 2005, the NCAA passed a resolution, calling Native American Mascots “hostile and abusive,” and prohibiting schools with these mascots from hosting post-season events. The Seminole Tribe of Florida then officially gave their permission to use Osceola as the mascot, letting FSU get a waiver from the NCAA rule.

    Disclaimer, and a big one–I am not Seminole, and I don’t want to speak for the tribe. I am offering my interpretation and perspective, but it’s just mine. I am going to be up front and say that I don’t agree with the choice to give the university permission to mock Native culture (see the billboard and video I posted earlier), and I don’t find a “stoic” dude in a wig and redface throwing a flaming spear “honoring” (see photo above), and I definitely don’t think that the “war chant” is respectful in any way. In fact I find it quite “hostile and abusive.”
    And:Coming back to the billboard that I posted last week, here is the (unsolicited) response I received from the university:Hi Adrienne,

    I work in Florida State University’s Office of University Communications. We’ve become aware of your recent blog post about several of Florida State University’s recent promotions which include Seminole imagery and symbols—and appreciate your concern. However, we wanted to take this opportunity to make sure you were aware that the relationship between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is one of mutual respect.

    In 2005, the tribe passed a resolution supporting the university’s use of the Seminole name, logos and images, including Osceola and Renegade. This was recognition of Florida State’s continued collaboration with the tribe, including prominent participation by tribal members in many of the university’s most meaningful events, and our seeking advice and direction to ensure tribal imagery is authentic.

    Simply put, Florida State University is humbled and honored by the privilege of representing a group of people whose courage and spirit we admire and respect. Through the years, our administrators have made it clear the university will not engage in any activity that does not have the approval of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

    We hope this background is helpful. Please feel free to write me back if you have any questions.
    The word “authentic” in there gave me pause–are they actually arguing that painting a red and yellow stripe of “warpaint” on a non-Native lady is “authentic”? And the language of the letter just feels weird to me–”a group of people whose courage and spirit we admire and respect”? It just feels like a slippery slope and super gray area between “respect” and romanticization.
    A commenter added:I would only add that the whole metaphor of business as "war" is problematic to begin with. Besides actual armed conflict with drones, bombs, soldiers, etc., we have "wars" on drugs and crime in which people get killed also. So, you are going to go to "war" in your business life, to scalp and kill and shoot and bomb your competitors or even coworkers who get in your way? This metaphor speaks loads about capitalism and our culture that I don't even think FSU officials are conscious of. Thank you for these posts!Rob's reply

    Did the Seminole Tribe really examine this particular image and declare it "authentic"? Based on what, exactly? Or did they give permission in general for FSU to do whatever it wants with the Seminole name, mascot, and imagery?

    I posted the following comment to Adrienne's blog:I wrote about some of the same issues here:

    Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay

    The warpaint, spear, horse, and name (Osceola wasn't a chief) are all phony.

    The Seminole Tribe's approval conveys one of two things. Either these items aren't stereotypical, according to the tribe, or they are stereotypical but the tribe doesn't care. Those are two very different positions to take.

    Until the tribe explains how these items aren't stereotypical, it's safe to assume they are. That means they're causing the same harm as every other one-dimensional "savage" stereotype. The tribe's approval doesn't change that.

    The other Seminole tribes in Florida and Oklahoma haven't given FSU a pass. I don't think we need to either. If something is false or stereotypical, it's wrong, period.
    P.S. Adrienne gave my website a nice plug in turn:Rob Schmidt just shared this resource in the comments of my FSU post, and I had to share. This is awesome.For more on FSU's Seminoles, see Seminole Fan in Plains Headdress and Chief Osceola Is "Respectful"?

    Woman Warriors on CBS

    Native American Women Warriors Receive Mainstream National Coverage on CBS

    By Vincent SchillingThe Native American Women Warriors, an all Native American women’s color guard, consisting of female veterans from all branches of service, have received national and mainstream media coverage on their participation in the 2013 Inaugural festivities.

    Over the past week, CBS and other news organizations have followed the NAWW group as they have made their way to Washington D.C. to participate specifically in the American Indian Society Inaugural Ball and Powwow and the Inauguration Parade of re-elected President Barack Obama.

    The story will air at 6 p.m. EST on the CBS Evening News and will be the last story of the evening highlighted their week’s activities.

    According to CBS correspondent Byron Pitts, “We were looking for a story to do about a group participating in the inaugural parade and the Native American women warriors seemed to be a perfect fit. It is a story that probably most Americans didn't know. I think one of my lines in the story was, 'all of them have different stories of struggle that led to great success.'"
    How NAWW got started:

    Native American Women Warriors Celebrate Inauguration While Raising Awareness for Native Female Veterans

    By Vincent SchillingWhile jingle dresses generally have a bright mixture of colors and are adorned with jingle bells, those worn by BigMan and the other two female vets proudly displayed large emblems of their branch of service on their backs. When an elder, Camille Clairmont, noticed how their red, white and blue jingle dresses were decorated—with the women’s designation of unit and rank, as well as U.S. flags and Iraqi Freedom patches—she asked Mitchelene why they were not with the other color guards.

    When BigMan explained that they were not official color guards, Clairmont told them “the dresses speak for themselves.” Meaning, they looked as if they belonged in the color-guard procession.

    BigMan agreed, and the three women decided they would join the other color guards. The male color guards told them to go at the end of the line, behind all of the male veteran color guards. BigMan was at first discouraged but then realized their position in the rear of the line was not a dishonor, but rather, a special position, since they’d be the last color guards seen.

    As the color guards entered the arena, the emcee announced, “History has been made today—in all my years as an emcee, there has never been an all-female Native American color guard, and so I have the privilege in announcing our first.” And through such accidents is history made.

    After marching at the Denver powwow, BigMan decided to officially serve as an all-women Native color guard. She founded The Native American Women Warriors, a non-profit organization that seeks to address the needs of today’s modern military women. Her Women Warriors are also the first all Native American female color guard. They now regularly serve as a color guard at powwows, and travel all over the country for events honoring Native veterans.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see First Female Native Color Guard.