May 31, 2013

Disney Store sells Tonto costumes

Tonto Costume Collection for Boys$24.95-$44.95

He'll ride to heroic adventures with The Lone Ranger wearing our Tonto Costume Collection for Boys, pairing the spectacular Tonto Headdress with our 2-piece Tonto costume featuring sheer top and faux buckskin britches.

Tonto Costume for Boys--The Lone Ranger

Cool kemosabe

He'll honor the brave heart of the west in this bold Tonto costume including sheer tribal top with deluxe detailing and trims, plus faux buckskin britches.
Tonto Headdress for Boys--The Lone Ranger

Feathered friend

Imagination soars while wearing our deluxe Tonto headdress with wig inspired by the Lone Ranger's trusted companion. Faux suede headband, beaded braids, real feathers, and a crow topper highlight this showstopper.

Comment:  Dress up as an authentic Comanche for Halloween! With a bird on your head! Because Johnny Depp respects Indians! #disneyfail

Did anyone think I was kidding when I posted the Tonto image below? Because I wasn't.

When you're Johnny Depp, I guess every day is Halloween. If you're not one fantasy figure, you're another.

With this move, Disney reveals its true colors. If anyone doubted it, The Lone Ranger is all about making money. Neither Depp nor Disney cares about Indians or they wouldn't allow this travesty.

In other words, all their pro-Indian gestures are phony and hypocritical. They're meant only to placate critics of their gross misrepresentation of Indians.

For more on The Lone Ranger, see Inside Scoop on Lone Ranger and Depp Admires Tonto's Giant Nuts.

P.S. This is the first time I've seen the bird explicitly identified as a crow rather than a raven. Now we know what it's supposed to be.

Aztec dancers support liberal causes

Dancing Aztecs step up for leftist causes

Dancing to support gay rights or oppose police brutality is all part of the routine for the hardest-working group in Southern California's leftist protest circuit.

By Hector Becerra
Aztec dancers have shown up to support gay rights and oppose police brutality. They've been invited to protests by African American groups and Asian ones, including the Korean Immigrant Worker Assn. They've protested Christopher Columbus. Three years ago, they danced and beat drums in Westwood at a pro-Palestinian rally.

"Aztec dancers at a protest for any leftist cause in Southern California are as ubiquitous as 'si se puede' chants and posters of Emiliano Zapata and Che Guevara," says Gustavo Arellano, editor of the OC Weekly and author of the syndicated "Ask a Mexican!" column.

They also frequently dance at antiwar protests, which might seem a bit strange, seeing as the Aztecs weren't exactly known as peace-loving lotus-eaters.

Alexei Hong, 30, an activist for the antiwar, anti-hunger group Food Not Bombs, says the thought sometimes occurs to her when she sees the Aztec dancers.

"I think of war and empire, and then it's funny to see them at these anti-imperialist and antiwar protests," says Hong, who rode her bike at the May Day protest.

The Aztecs, Garcia says, get a bad rap.

"The myth is that we are a bloodthirsty people, but that's not true," she says, picking at her salad at a Denny's the day before the big march. "It's one of the struggles we've had as an indigenous people, the image that has been forced on us to justify all sorts of things that have been done."
Comment:  For more on the Aztecs, see Humboldt Republic's "Chief Life" T-Shirts and Aztlán the Board Game.

Below:  "Costumed members of the Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc political Aztec dance group perform on Broadway in downtown L.A. earlier this month. (Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times)

Transformers in Monument Valley

The Transformers Invade the Navajo Nation

By Vincent SchillingLast summer, Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer galloped through Monument Valley filming scenes for The Lone Ranger. This time, it's Optimus Prime and Bumblebee kicking up clouds of dust.

Michael Bay, director of the three previous Transformers films, has posted news of the next chapter--call it "Transformers 4" until we have an official title. The movie began shooting in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on Tuesday.

On his official blog, Bay wrote, “Principal photography on Transformers 4 has begun. As guests of the Navajo Nation, we took a convoy of brand new, re-envisioned and remodeled Autobots out for a spin down Highway 163 in Monument Valley near the border of Arizona and Utah. Stay tuned…more to come!”

Bay has also released photos of the new vehicles, which include a new and improved Optimus Prime, a Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse and a Corvette Stingray.
Comment:  For more on Navajo movies, see Black Cat in Space and Navajo Star Wars Cast Chosen.

Below:  "Bumblebee as a highly modified, vintage 1967 Camaro SS."

May 30, 2013

White House gets Redskins question

Democrat blasts Redskins for 'disturbing' refusal to change NFL team's name

By Mike LillisRep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is intensifying the pressure on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the team's nickname.

Snyder this month vowed he'll "never" rename the Redskins, despite the growing criticism from Native Americans and some members of Congress that the moniker debases the country's first inhabitants.

Norton on Thursday called Snyder's position "disturbing," arguing that the derogatory nature of "redskin" is something Snyder should recognize given the sensitivity he's shown surrounding his own Jewish heritage.

Snyder in 2011 fought the Washington City Paper over a series of critical articles, claiming, among other things, that a photograph of him scribbled over with horns and a goatee was anti-Semitic.

"The centerpiece of his suit was a photo that he said disparaged him as a Jew. So here is a man who has shown sensibilities based on his own ethnic identity who refuses to recognize the sensibilities of American Indians," Norton told MSNBC's Luke Russert.
It would be wrong for the media to start referring to Dan Snyder as the "Kike" owner of the Washington "Redskins." But he might get the point, finally.

White House spokesman punts on Redskins team name question

By Justin SinkWhite House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday he wasn't sure whether President Obama has an opinion on the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins team name.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and nine House Democrats, sent a letter to Redskins owner Dan Snyder urging a change of the team name, which Native American groups protest as racially insensitive.

"That's a good question, and it is outside the box. I’ll give you credit for that," Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. "I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about it, so I don't know if he has an opinion."

But the question could prompt the president to weigh in on the brewing controversy, which has dominated sports talk radio and opinion pages in the nation's capital.
Wow! When the White House gets questioned on an issue, it's serious.

Retired Native American Chief Would Be Offended If Redskins Did Change Name

By Chris LingebachDays ago, ten members of Congress sent letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, and the team’s stadium naming rights holder FedEx, along with the league’s 31 other franchises, urging them to have ‘Redskins’ changed due to the name’s offensive nature.

In response, the longtime chief of a major Virginia-based tribe went on the record to say he’d actually be offended if the team DID change the name.

Robert “Two Eagles” Green, who retired from his presiding role over the 1300-member Patawomeck Tribe in March, was a guest on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “The Opening Drive” on Wednesday.

He gave a detailed account of the origin of the term Redskin, why so many people are offended by it, and how political correctness has allowed this story to fester far longer than it should.
Like most people, Green dodges the actual arguments against "Redskins" with his counterarguments. One, it doesn't matter how the word originated since it evolved into a racial slur. Two, the logo is stereotypical and misrepresents today's Natives whether it offends anyone or not.

Redskins not offensive to you? How about the Washington N-Words?

By Mike FreemanThese members of Congress are doing something extremely bright. They're making sure people who aren't around American Indians, or don't know the history of the use of that word, understand what it truly means.

And it only means one thing: It's a slur.

This is something blacks should get, but shockingly large numbers of black Washington fans stay silent on the issue, or they say, stupidly, the name Redskins is used to honor.

So, fine. OK, then. The city of Washington, D.C., my birthplace, is approximately 50 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We used to call it Chocolate City.

The team shouldn't be called the racist name Redskins. There is no significant population of American Indians. The percentage of American Indians in D.C., the Census states, is 0.6 percent.

Thus the more correct correlation for a team name is the Washington N-Words.
And:If a new team in Los Angeles called themselves the L.A. W-Words, you can bet, with the city of Los Angeles having a significant Latino population, there would be outrage. And with the United States having a large Latino population, there would protests all over the country.

Also, if the Redskins were called the N-Words, then all of these hypocritical African-American Washington fans, who back the use of Redskins, would suddenly understand if the team was called the Washington N-Words.

So, from now on, let's call them that, and pull from our rectums that the word is used to honor blacks.

Sure, there will be some Uncle Tom American Indians who will say Redskins honors them, just like there were some Uncle Tom blacks who once didn't mind being called colored.
I presume the website wouldn't let Freeman use the words "niggers" and "wetbacks." He should've fought for permission to use them, because it would make his argument stronger.

And comparing the Redskins' bland logo to a caricature like Little Black Sambo or Chief Wahoo is a bit over the top. It's not a caricature, but it's still stereotypical.

But Freeman, a black sportswriter, nails the key points. 1) Using "Redskins" is akin to using other ethnic slurs. 2) Black Redskins fans who demand racial justice for themselves but not for American Indians are hypocrites. 3) Indians who support stereotypical Indian mascots are essentially "Uncle Tomahawks."

For more on the Washington Redskins, see Online Redskins Poll Demonstrates Bias, Redskins Player Defends "Redskins" Name, and "Inuit Chief" Supports Washington Redskins.

Below:  A fan demonstrates how "Redskins" stands for warlike savagery.

Running Deer premieres at Ak-Chin

Roll out the red carpet: ‘Running Deer’ to have US premiere at Ak-Chin Indian Community’s UltraStar

Actors, director, producer to attend

By Larry Lockhart
A young newcomer on the cusp of stardom and a veteran character actor from the Tucson area are two of the three key players in the short film “Running Deer,” which is set for its national premiere at 5 p.m. Saturday at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center near Maricopa.

It’s only fitting that the Native American-themed film debuts at a Native-owned theater complex. The theaters are adjacent to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort on the Ak-Chin Indian Community just south of Maricopa.

Booboo Stewart plays the lead role of Tyler, a high school cross country star growing up in a Native American community facing a barrage of personal struggles the day before the most important race of his life. Jon Proudstar plays his father and Q’orianka Kilcher has the other featured role.

Stewart’s father, veteran Hollywood stuntman Nils Stewart, is of Native American, Russian and Scottish descent. His mother, who gave him the nickname Boo Boo, is of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent. The 19-year-old found the spotlight when he won the coveted role of Seth Clearwater in the movie “Twilight Saga Eclipse,” then followed up in both “Breaking Dawn” 1 and 2. He’s currently filming “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the seventh installment in that franchise.
Comment:  Only problem is that Stewart wasn't part Native until he got the Twilight role, and no one I know considers him Native.

It's kind of funny that his Wikipedia entry now says:He has Japanese, Chinese, and Korean ancestry from his mother’s side and Native American, Russian and Scottish descent from his father's side.Last time I checked, Native American was dead last among his list of ethnicities. Now his father is more Native than anything else? I'd like to see the genealogy on that.

What tribe or tribes is this "Native American descent" from? Has Booboo or his father done a single thing to embrace their "Native heritage" other than take acting jobs from real Natives? I'm guessing not.

For more on Booboo Stewart, see Warpath in New X-Men Movie and Actors Turn Out for Breaking Dawn.

Below:  Jon Proudstar and Booboo Stewart.

Vision Maker seeks Native movies

So you want to be in the movies....

By Christina RoseImagine if all it took to pursue your dream of making movies was to come up with seven written pages. Adrian Baker, producer of the animated series of nine half-hour shows, “Injunuity” did just that. “Whenever I talk to young filmmakers, I tell them I am living proof that six or seven pages can change your life,” he said.

“Injunuity” covers issues such as preserving sacred sites, the environment, health, language preservation and more. “We take information, make the story, then give it an animated background,” Baker said. “I had this project in my head for 10 years,” Baker said. Taking his idea, he wrote out the proposal and applied to Vision Maker Media. He received a “really positive” response, “And it took off from there,” Baker said, admitting that he was not new to the film scene and already had a comprehensive reel of films. “They knew what it would look like, and they wanted to do it. They gave me the initial funding,” he said.

Vision Maker Media is a Native organization that is heavily funded by Public Broadcasting. The group is always looking for provocative and engaging completed films from independent or public television producers. Their goal is to encourage works that address new and current issues reflecting the changing nature of Native American communities.

“We’re particularly interested in programs such as Native American Graduates, Women and Girls who Lead, and Veterans’ Issues,” said Shirley K. Sneve (Sicangu), Vision Maker Media’s executive director.
Comment:  For more on Native movies, see Running Deer Premieres at Ak-Chin and Black Cat in Space.

May 29, 2013

Genocide denial in Guatemala

Guatemala has experienced some genocide denial in the last few weeks:

Guatemalan ex-dictator denies being 'genocidal'

By Henry Morales AranaFormer Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt denied charges he ordered a massacre of indigenous people during his 1982-1983 regime, as he testified for the first time at his genocide trial.

"I declare myself innocent," the 86-year-old told the court after asking to take the stand in the final arguments of his landmark trial.

"I never had the intention, the aim to destroy any national ethnic group," he said. "I am not genocidal."

Rio Montt denied the prosecution's charge that he authorized military plans to exterminate the Ixil Maya population.

"I never authorized, I never signed, I never ordered attacks against a race, an ethnic group or a religion. I never did!" the retired general thundered in a courtroom packed with survivors of the country's civil war, rights activists, relatives of the accused, and journalists.

The former strongman, taking sips of water during his 50-minute testimony, insisted that he had no control over the actions of troops operating in indigenous areas.

"I don't know what the squad leader did. I was the head of state," he said.
Supporters of Guatemalan Ex-Dictator Deny GenocideA group of retired soldiers and their relatives launched a campaign Monday to deny that a genocide was carried out in Guatemala and to demand a fair trial for former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt.

About 24 people began collecting 5,000 signatures in support of their campaign outside the Supreme Court's building in Guatemala City, where Rios Montt is being tried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The protesters held signs that read "There was no genocide here" and "Respect to military dignity and historic truth" as speakers blasted Guatemala's national anthem and military marches.

Retired army Gen. Victor Argueta, president of an association of war veterans, said the group plans to collect signatures throughout the country and turn them in to the Supreme Court.
Genocide explained

Here's why Rios Montt and his supporters are wrong when they claim genocide didn't happen:

Confused About Genocide in Guatemala? Apparently You're Not Alone

By Laura PowellArticle II, Paragraph 109 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948—which, we must stress, was ratified by the Guatemalan State Decree 704 on November 30, 1949—states “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious groups, such as:

a. Killing members of the group;

b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

On this basis, the two fundamental elements of the crime are: intentionality and that the acts committed include at least one of the five previously cited in the [list] above.”

So now that we have a better idea of what ‘genocide’ actually entails, let us be very clear: the authors of COHA’s recent analyses on Guatemala have not come to the conclusion, arbitrarily and independently, that genocide occurred in Guatemala. The United Nations—an international organization with a stated aim of facilitating the protection of human rights—determined that genocide occurred in Guatemala. Through the Accord of Oslo on June 23, 1994, the United Nations with the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Guatemala formed the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) in order to “clarify with objectivity, equity and impartiality” the acts of violence and potential human rights violations connected to the armed conflict in Guatemala; “the Commission was not established to judge…but rather to clarify the history of the events of more than three decades of fratricidal war.”
Comment:  We can see above that Rios Montt denied authorizing genocide. I don't know if he denied it happened. But the prosecution can claim he knew was what happening, and let it happen, even if he didn't "authorize" it.

The Guatemalan civil war had been going on since the 1960s, with thousands of people killed or "disappeared." Rios Montt was a general in the Guatemalan Army who took power in a coup d'etat. As general and president, there's no way he didn't know about the decades of war crimes. If he didn't put a stop to them immediately, he gave them his tacit approval. He might as well have authorized them explicitly.

In other words, if he didn't order the murders himself, he aided and abetted them. It's like a bank robbery where a gang member defies the leader and kills someone. A US court would find the leader guilty of murder because it happened under his watch.

For more on Rios Montt, see Rios Montt's Conviction Annulled and Rios Montt Found Guilty of Genocide.

Tribe may seize Wounded Knee

With sales pending, tribe moves to seize Wounded Knee

By Brandon EcoffeyWhen James Czywczynski first announced that he was selling the two forty acre tracts of land, one at Wounded Knee and one at Porcupine Butte, for a total of $4.9 million, many people scoffed at the notion that someone would be willing to pay that much for the land.

Nonetheless as the months have passed and several potential buyers are now negotiating a final deal on the land the Oglala Sioux Tribe has decided to take action and file in federal court under the premise of eminent domain to seize the land.

On Thursday, May16, the Oglala Sioux Tribal council voted 14-0 to file in federal court for eminent domain over the land that Czywczynski, a nonmember, owns at Wounded Knee. While many have praised the tribe for exercising an established right of any government, the legal efficacy of this action is still undetermined.
Could it work?Although the tribe is granted this authority under its own constitution the legal waters become murky when it is acknowledged that the land owned by the seller is not tribal land and the seller is not a tribal member.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity one top federal Indian law attorney in Washington D.C. told Native Sun News that it would be highly unlikely that eminent domain could be used on the lands at Wounded Knee.

“It would be very hard for me to see the tribe pull this off,” the source said. “If this was truly a viable option for tribes than it would be extremely easy for tribes to consolidate their land bases. They could simply seize whatever they wanted from non-members within the confines of the reservation, provided they pay just compensation. Who determines what just compensation is?”

The lawyer also said that historically tribal jurisdiction is respected when the land is tribal land held in trust however when the land is owned by a non-Native and is not in trust the situation has been interpreted inversely by the courts.

Some tribal legal experts however feel that the tribe does have some legal standing to seize the land.

“The land in question is private, it is on the reservation and is needed for a public purpose, given its historical, cultural and traditional significance to the tribe,” said longtime tribal judge and law professor Patrick Lee. “Jurisdiction is always an issue when nonmembers are involved. Tribal ordinance 93-12 provides that nonmembers impliedly consent to tribal jurisdiction by owning land or by possession or use of any property situated within the exterior boundaries of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Procedurally that is a very strong position for the tribe to be in should the owner challenge tribal jurisdiction” added Lee.
Eminent Domain and a Horse Slaughterhouse at Wounded Knee?

By Vincent SchillingAs the sale of the historic Wounded Knee site looms with several offers on the table for owner James Czywczynski, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has moved to seize the land using eminent domain, according to a report by Brandon Ecoffey, the managing editor of Native Sun News.

In addition to this development, a petition on a Care2 website claims that one of the parties interested in purchasing the site wants to build a horse slaughtering plant and has garnered more than 38,000 signatures.

According to Denise Mesteth, Tribal Land Office Director, the tribe is intending to seek recovery of the Wounded Knee site through eminent domain, however the claims that the tribe would allow a horse slaughterhouse to be built on or near Wounded Knee were false.

“That isn't right; it is definitely a misleading petition. It is amazing how rumors get around. This may have been an effort to hinder the eminent domain move,” said Mesteth.
Comment:  If the Oglala Sioux tried but failed to seize the land via eminent domain, it still would raise awareness of the issue. The sale of Wounded Knee would become an even bigger story than it is now.

For more on Wounded Knee, see Holocaust Museum at Wounded Knee? and Wounded Knee Sale Delayed.

"Who's the scalp?" on Morning Joe

Of Scalps and Savages: How Colonial Language Enforces Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples

By Ruth HopkinsBefore I head out the door, I watch Morning Joe on MSNBC. It’s part of my workday routine. This morning they were talking about the latest issue of the New Republic and its lead story entitled, “How the NRA is Going Down: This is How the NRA Ends.” Since the Newtown tragedy, Republican Joe Scarborough, the show’s host, is openly advocating for gun control. Still, Joe disagreed with the assertion that the NRA’s power and influence is eroding, especially in the wake of recently defeated gun control legislation.

In the midst of this exchange, John Heilemann, an author, journalist and political analyst who frequents Morning Joe (and who occasionally says things that make sense to me), said, “But who’s the SCALP?” John paraphrased this statement by saying, “who’s gonna pay the price for having voted the wrong way?” In other words, John was questioning whether any of the congressmen who voted against the recent legislation in question will be defeated next election specifically because they voted against gun control, i.e. who will be the “scalp” (defined in the dictionary as a “trophy of victory”) that gun control proponents win.

Mr. Heilemann made a perfectly rational argument. Unfortunately his archaic phraseology took me right out of the conversation. The moment he said, “Who’s the SCALP?” my mind immediately raced to the fact that my ancestors (the Dakota people) were hunted down and murdered in their Minnesota homelands in the late 1800s, when then Governor Ramsey placed a $200 bounty on their scalps. Yes, you read that correctly. It was once government policy to encourage civilians to hunt down American Indian men, women and children (human beings), kill them, and rip the flesh from their skulls. Anyone who did so was rewarded handsomely for it.

I wanted to talk about gun control. Hell, I might have written about it. Instead, I’m writing about how colonial language can be used as a tool to denigrate and discriminate against Native people alive today, who are ready and willing to participate in logical conversations with other cogent human beings but are hindered from doing so because of its interjection. These semantics of white privilege serve to enforce old colonial notions that attempt to reduce Natives to primitive caricatures. It suggests that we are not equals. It implies that mainstream society owns Native identity, or that we as Natives are relegated to the past. Mainstream Native appropriation language like, “He went off the reservation,” “Let’s have a powwow,” or “Who’s the SCALP,” and racial slurs like “Pochahottie,” “Redskin,” and “Savage,” among others, all discriminate against Natives and prohibit effective dialogue.
Comment:  Hopkins makes a good argument for how stereotypes can "prohibit effective dialogue." If you're busy reacting to or challenging a slur, you're not addressing the underlying issue.

It's why Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut and why conservatives call Obama "un-American." They want to keep the debate on an emotional level because they can't deal with the facts and evidence against their positions.

For more on scalping, see Native Scalpers in Baytown Outlaws and Chicago Councilman Keeps Stereotyping Indians.

2013 Festival of New Plays

Native Voices at the Autry Presents Free Festival of New Plays, Now thru 5/31Native Voices at the Autry, America's leading Native American theatre company, continues its tradition of excellence, developing plays by new and established Native American Playwrights at its highly regarded PLAYWRIGHTS RETREAT AND FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS, and culminating in free staged public readings of three intriguing new works today, May 29, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 30, 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, May 31, 2013, 7:30 p.m., at the Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater in Los Angeles.

Presented during the 15th annual event are THE HEALER'S REMAINS by Lori Favela (Yankton Sioux*); STAND-OFF AT HWY#37 by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora*); and WHERE HAVE ALL THE WARRIORS GONE? by Darrell Dennis (Shuswap*). Illustrating Native Voices' long-term commitment to the development process, the three plays showcased at the 2013 Festival of New Plays are in various phases of development, ranging from initial stages to near completion.

Native Voices' highly respected PLAYWRIGHTS RETREAT AND FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS provides the opportunity during a weeklong retreat at the Autry National Center for beginning, emerging, and established Native American Playwrights to work closely in shaping their plays with nationally recognized directors, dramaturgs, and an Acting Company comprised of exceptional Native American actors. The retreat concludes with public readings in Los Angeles and La Jolla. Many works developed during this project have gone on to enjoy successful runs on Native Voices' Autry main stage and elsewhere, including the company's recent world premiere of The Bird House, its 2011 production of The Frybread Queen and its 2009-2010 season opener, Carbon Black.
Comment:  For more on Native Voices at the Autry, see Distant Thunder Read in NYC and Native Voices to Premiere Bird House.

Below:  Darrell Dennis.

May 28, 2013

Online Redskins poll demonstrates bias

The heat on Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder continues to increase:

The Redskins: Lawmakers pressure owner to change the team name

By Emma MargolinA group of nine Democratic House lawmakers and one Republican sent a letter on Tuesday to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, urging them to change what they feel is a “derogatory, demeaning, and offensive” team name.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racial, derogatory slur akin the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” read the letter. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

The group of lawmakers who signed the letter is the same that introduced a bill in March designed to block companies from trademarking the term “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. There is no indication that the legislation will ever see the light of day in the House.
Comment:  The interesting part of this posting is the online poll. It demonstrates how bogus these "Redskins" polls are.

The choices are:

  • Yes, it's offensive
  • No, it's not offensive
  • No, even though it's offensive, there are bigger problems that deserve our attention

  • What the heck is the third option doing there? Why give "yes" voters a second option? It's offensive, but not that offensive, so change my "yes" vote to a "no" vote?

    How are we supposed to interpret the third option? You agree the name is offensive, but you don't think it's important enough to bother with? Who cares how significant you think this issue is to Indians and others? If you agree the name insults an ethnic group, it's racist by definition and should go whether you care or not.

    How about adding a few more "yes" options to match the additional "no" option?

  • Yes, it's extremely offensive and should've been changed long ago
  • Yes, it's offensive, but I don't mind if the team takes its time to change it

  • You see how adding more "yes" or "no" options would change the results?

    It's ridiculous to have two "offense" options and one "importance" option in the same question. It confuses two different issues. The question should be two questions: 1) Is the name offensive? And 2) Should the team change its name?

    Or have a matrix with four possible answers: 1) Offensive/change it. 2) Offensive/don't change it. 3) Not offensive/change it. 4) Not offensive/don't change it. Right now the poll offers only three of the four possible options, a clear flaw.

    Believing biased polls

    That Redskins fans might think this is an unbiased poll is part of the problem. These people are offering excuse after excuse not to change the name--and may not even realize it. When they get the result they expect from their (unconsciously?) biased poll, they wonder why activists are still protesting. Because your flimsy rationales are rooted in a history of racism, stereotyping, and white privilege, geniuses. It's obvious to us even if you're blind to your own prejudices.

    The Associated Press poll was almost as bad. And unlike this online poll, the AP poll really was supposed to measure public opinion.

    The AP poll implicitly gave respondents a reason to change a "yes" to a "no." That's why we should take all these polls with a shaker full of salt. They're designed by amateurs who aren't taking conflicted views into account. Or by "professionals" who know which result is "supposed to" win.

    For more on the Washington Redskins, see Redskins Player Defends "Redskins" Name and "Inuit Chief" Supports Washington Redskins.

    Black Cat in Space

    Navajo filmmaker needs funds to animate cats in space

    By Kathaleen RobertsMelissa Henry grew up on the Navajo Reservation without running water or electricity.

    She had no TV until one day her father hooked one up to his car battery. Between hookups, he spun stories about felines. His makeshift entertainment center exposed her to “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica.” The family always cared for an abundance of both barn cats and house cats.

    The memories coalesced and intertwined. Her imagination soared beneath the canopy of stars that flickered and glowed without the glare of city lights.

    “It was the mystery,” Henry said from her School for Advanced Research studio. “There’s something up there and we don’t know what it is. It gave me the opportunity to imagine different worlds out there.”

    Those interstellar memories melded with observations of her cat Voodoo to produce her upcoming film “Black Cat in Space” during a three-month residency at SAR. Henry will unveil the results Wednesday in the facility’s boardroom as a 2013 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native Artist Fellow.

    Henry packed 210 tissue-layered, hand-drawn storyboards into a plastic box as she prepared for the end of her fellowship this month. She plans to put the project on Kickstarter to raise the estimated $25,000 she will need to turn her oil pastel drawings into an animated film.

    The story of the good kitty who saves Earth from a planet-devouring feline is rooted in Navajo myth.

    “It’s this monster who threatened the Earth, so these twin warriors came and killed him,” she said. “The lava rock at Mount Taylor is the blood of that monster.”
    Comment:  For more on Navajo movies, see Navajo Star Wars Cast Chosen and Science-Fair Star Inspires Movie.

    Below:  "Melissa Henry, Navajo, poses with storyboard renditions of Captain Meow, the hero of her upcoming movie, Black Cat in Space. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

    Crowdsourcing for trip to ghost village

    Crowdsourcing wins trip to Bering Sea ghost village

    By Rachel D'OroAn Anchorage poet gets to realize her dream to visit the ghost of a remote western Alaska village where her Inupiat Eskimo ancestors once lived, thanks to funds she raised through crowdsourcing.

    Joan Naviyuk Kane far surpassed her goal of $31,000 that she said is needed for a two-week visit for 20 descendants of people who once lived on King Island, a tiny community built on stilts across the jagged face of the island. One benefactor alone donated $32,000 to Kane's campaign on United States Artists, a fundraising site.

    Altogether, Kane raised slightly more than $49,000 through the nonprofit's USA Projects.

    "I'm still in disbelief," Kane, 35, said Tuesday. "I've been trying to wrap my head around it."
    Comment:  For more on Alaska Native projects, see Kickstarter Campaign for Indigenous Kayaks.

    Below:  "In this photograph from Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Anchorage, Alaska, photographs of Alaska's King Island and former residents of the Inupiat Eskimo village by the same name that was abandoned decades ago are seen. Anchorage poet Joan Naviyuk Kane, whose ancestors once lived there, is hoping to fund a visit to the crumbling ghost village for herself and other descendants of past residents through a crowd sourcing site." (Rachel D'Oro/AP)

    May 27, 2013

    Inside scoop on The Lone Ranger

    A colleague has investigated some of the rumors and claims about Johnny Depp's Lone Ranger. She basically confirmed everything I've written, including my speculation. Here are her findings (in italics) and my responses.

  • Depp is the first executive producer listed in the IMDB entry for The Lone Ranger. His production company, Infinitum Nihil, is one of six production companies listed.

  • This tallies with what I've said before about Disney's coming to Depp and greenlighting the film because of him. The Lone Ranger is a star vehicle for Depp. He's the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

    He wasn't handed a script, a costume, and an interpretation of Tonto by others. He determined, controlled, or oversaw these things. If Tonto is stereotypical, it's because Depp wanted him that way. Depp gets the credit or the blame for the movie's portrayal of Indians.

    Voelker's role

  • William Voelker, the movie's Comanche adviser, isn't a historian. He studied ornithology in college but didn't even graduate. So his comments on Comanche history and culture are questionable at best.

  • Voelker still may be knowledgeable about Comanche history and culture, but there's no reason to assume he is. After all, many Americans don't know anything about US history.

  • Disney doesn't pay its consultants individually, but it made a donation to Voelker's SIA foundation for eagles.

  • Far from eliminating the "conflict of interest" question, this donation makes it worse. Voelker might've refused a personal payment, but he may feel obligated to save his eagles at any cost. Therefore, he wouldn't criticize his financial backers even if they were wrong.

  • Tonto developed as follows: Depp saw Kirby Sattler's painting => invented Tonto's look => went to Voelker => asked him what they could say about the look.

  • So Voelker was given a fait accompli. He was asked to say yes or no to a multimillion-dollar production, with Disney's funding of his eagle foundation on the line. about a situation guaranteed to produce a desired outcome.

    There's a strong implication that Voelker invented his "bird culture" comment to mollify Depp and company. We're supposed to believe that eagles are like crows and wearing eagles feathers is like wearing a crow headdress. Sorry, no sale.

    Again, it strains credulity to claim that Tonto's look, which Depp got from a non-Comanche fantasy painting, just happens to represent Comanche culture perfectly. No one's ever seen a Comanche in a headdress or face-paint like Tonto's, so it must be an incredible coincidence.

  • The Comanche don't distinguish between ravens and crows. Voelker was adamant that both are part of the Comanche "bird culture."

  • Again, show us the evidence. I don't take the word of someone who isn't a Comanche historian and has a clear conflict of interest.

  • Voelker knew about the Wendigo storyline but stayed out of it.

  • See previous comments about his conflict of interest. A real adviser would've said something about this.

    Indeed, he would've threatened to go public with his displeasure unless Depp and company changed it. How can you claim to be a Comanche expert when you let a gross falsification of your culture pass without comment?

    If you're gonna take the job, then do the job. Don't shill for the company like a spin doctor and expect us to accept it.

    Depp's heritage

  • The Cherokee Nation said Depp isn't one of them--a Cherokee--so they didn't feel obligated to help him. But they left the door open if he came to them. Depp did nothing in response to this offer.

  • Presumably because Depp knows his unsubstantiated story about having a Cherokee ancestor would've come under increased scrutiny.

  • LaDonna Harris was a fan of Depp's and felt bad about the criticism he was getting. She adopted him into her family only. The Comanche don't adopt people into the tribe as a whole.

  • The Comanche Nation also gave Depp a certificate saying he's an honorary tribal member. But Harris's adoption ceremony got the most publicity, with people claiming Depp was now a full-fledged tribal member. Wrong.

    Then there's the whole bit about Tonto's Giant Nuts, Johnny Depp's band. This name is about as respectful as Ted Nugent's wearing a headdress in concerts. It shows zero appreciation of Depp's alleged Cherokee ancestry. Indeed, it shows zero appreciation of anything except a stereotypical notion of Indians as macho warrior types.

    For more on Johnny Depp, see Depp's Tonto: True or False? and Hammer Says Indians Love Depp.

    Racism causes PTSD in DSM-5

    Changes In DSM-5: Racism Can Cause PTSD Similar To That Of Soldiers After War

    Updates to the recently released DSM-5 could potentially transform how race-based traumas are diagnosed in ethnic minorities.

    By Nadia-Elysse Harris
    Dr. Monnica T. Williams suggests that proposed changes in the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) could increase the potential for better recognition of race-based trauma in racial and ethnic minorities.

    In a recent article in Psychology Today, Williams, who is a clinical psychologist and the associate director of the University of Louisville's Center for Mental Health Disparities, said that before the release of the DSM-5 Thursday, racism was recognized as a trauma that could potentially cause PTSD, but only in relation to a specific event. There had to be an incident of intense fear, helplessness, or horror for such consideration. For instance, if someone was assaulted in a racially-motivated event, then racism qualified as a sufficient trauma to be categorized as a cause of PTSD.

    But now, under the new definition, the requirements for fear, helplessness, and horror have been removed, making room for the more lasting effects of subtle racism to be considered in the discussion of race-based traumas.

    In 2011, researchers found that African Americans who reported experiences of racial discrimination had higher odds of suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). An article on PsychCentral termed the phenomenon as "racial battle fatigue, saying that "exposure to racial discrimination is analogous to the constant pressure soldiers face on the battlefield."

    "While the term [racial battle fatigue] is certainly not trying to say that the conditions are exactly what soldiers face on a battlefield, it borrows from the idea that stress is created in chronically unsafe or hostile environments," said Dr. Jose Soto, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley.
    Comment:  I've written about this subject several times. For instance, in:

    Racism linked to addictive behavior
    Indians suffer toxic stress
    "Thick dark fog" = PTSD
    Subtle racism = psychological torture

    I'd call it common sense that being persecuted and discriminated against is psychologically harmful. So I'm glad to see the psychological community is finally recognizing this.

    Of course, this point also applies to the less virulent forms of racism such as stereotyping. That's what we're talking when we talk about things like "subtle racism," "unconscious racism," and "microaggression."

    Being portrayed as a whooping savage in a headdress every day takes a psychological toll. Contrary to the unfounded saying, words and images will hurt you.

    For more on the subject, see "Why Can't Indians Just Move On?" and Unabomber Shows Effects of Stress.

    May 26, 2013

    Our violence is better than their violence?

    Andrew Sullivan, terrorism, and the art of distortion

    Challenging the conventional western narrative on terrorism produces unique amounts of rage and bile. It's worth examining why

    By Glenn Greenwald
    On Thursday, I wrote about the London killing of a British soldier by two men using a meat cleaver. The sub-headline, which I wrote, called it a "horrific act of violence", a phrase I repeated in the very first sentence. I described that event as one where the solider had been "hacked to death". In the second paragraph, I wrote:

    That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying."

    I then proceeded to raise two main points about the attack. First, given that the person killed was not a civilian but a soldier of a nation at war (using US standards), it is difficult to devise a definition of "terrorism" that encompasses this attack while excluding large numbers of recent acts by the US, the UK and many of their allies and partners.

    Second, despite the self-serving bewilderment that is typically expressed whenever western nations are the targets rather than perpetrators of violence--why would anyone possibly be so monstrous and savage as to want to attack us this way?--the answer is actually well-known and well-documented. As explained by the CIA ("blowback"), the Pentagon (they "do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies"), former CIA agents ("we could try invading, occupying and droning Muslim countries a little less, and see if that helps. Maybe prop up fewer corrupt and tyrannical Muslim regimes"), and British combat veterans ("it should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home"), spending decades bombing, invading, occupying, droning, interfering in, imposing tyranny on, and creating lawless prisons in other countries generates intense anti-American and anti-western rage (for obvious reasons) and ensures that those western nations will be attacked as well. In the London case, the attacker cited precisely such anger at US/UK aggression as his motive ("this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. . . . the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily"). Those are just facts.
    Greenwald discuss how pundit Andrew Sullivan refused to acknowledge these points and instead painted Greenwald as a terrorist-lover. He then explains Sullivan's response with an analysis that applies perfectly to the American attitude toward "savage" Indians.I think the answer lies in the very first sentence Sullivan wrote when responding to my column: "I really have to try restrain my anger here." It's an intensely emotional reaction, not a rational one. He, and so many others, are deeply invested on a psychological and personal level in protecting the narrative that Islam is a uniquely violent force in the world, that Muslim extremists pose a threat that nobody else poses, and that the US, the West and its allies (including Israel) are morally superior and more civilized than their adversaries, and their violence is more noble and elevated.

    Labeling the violent acts of those Muslim Others as "terrorism"--but never our own--is a key weapon used to propagate this worldview. The same is true of the tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized (we slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades). These are the core propagandistic premises used to sustain the central narrative on which the War on Terror has depended from the start (and, by the way, have been the core premises of imperialism for centuries). That is why those most invested in defending and glorifying this War on Terror become so enraged when those premises are challenged, and it's why they feel a need to use any smears and distortions (he's justifying terrorism!) to discredit those who do. As Sullivan's reader perfectly put it in his email:

    "The emotional intensity with which you demand that the London attack be described as 'terrorism' (as opposed to 'horrific act of violence,' 'killing,' 'hack to death,' 'barbaric and horrendous act,' etc., as Greenwald writes) only confirms Greenwald's point that it is important to define what 'terrorism' means, particularly because certain folks have an emotional, political and/or legal reason for insisting on its usage. What free thinker would want to shout down that discussion? Respectfully, that is 'very hard to understand, let alone forgive.'"

    But as was clear from the furor that erupted after the debate over the anti-Muslim views of Sam Harris and company, and as is demonstrated again by Sullivan's unhinged reaction here to what I wrote, the need to maintain the belief that Islam is a uniquely grave danger in the world--and that western violence against them is superior to their violence against the west--is one that is incredibly deep-seated and visceral. That seems to be true for several independent reasons.

    First, it's a by-product of base tribalism. Americans and westerners have been relentlessly bombarded with the message that We are the Noble and Innocent Victims and those Muslims are the Evil, Primitive, Savage Aggressors, so that's what many people are trained to believe, and view any challenge to that as an assault on their core tribalistic convictions. The defining tribalistic belief that Our Side is Superior (and our violence thus inherently more noble than theirs) has been stoked by political leaders since politics began to sustain support for their aggression and entrench their own power. It's a potent drive--something humans instinctively want to believe--and is therefore one that is easily manipulated by skillful propagandists.

    Second, all sorts of agendas are advanced by maintaining these premises in place. As the scholar Remi Brulin has documented, "terrorism" in its recent incarnation was designed by the US to justify all of the violence it wanted to do in the world from Central America to the Middle East, and by Israel to universalize the vicious and intractable conflicts it has with its Arab neighbors (our wars aren't just our fights with them over land; it's a global struggle to stop a plague that is also your fight: against Terrorism). A great new book by Harvard's Lisa Stampnitzky makes the argument indicated by its title: "Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented 'Terrorism'". The functional meaninglessness of the term "terrorism" and its highly manipulative exploitation are vital to several political agendas. That fact renders the guardians of those agendas furious when the conventional and highly emotional understanding of the term is questioned, and especially when it's suggested that anti-western violence isn't best understood as the by-product of unique pathologies in Islam but rather in the context of decades of western aggression toward that region.

    Indeed, most of the responses to my argument ignored the questions I posed about the definition of "terrorism" and instead rested on pure irrational rage: this was a Muslim who used a knife to kill a westerner; of course it was terrorism (or, as Sullivan put it, "If we cannot call a man who does that in the name of God and finishes by warning his fellow citizens 'You will never be safe' a terrorist, who would fit that description, apart, of course, in Glenn's view, Barack Obama?"). Or, alternatively, critics of what I wrote simply fabricated what I argued (he blames the west and thinks the Terrorists have no agency!), or spewed outrage at the mere suggestion that anything the west does is comparable to the violence we saw on the London street.
    Comment:  "The tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized" is exactly how Americans portrayed their centuries-long conquest of Indians. We were "relentlessly bombarded with the message that We are the Noble and Innocent Victims and those [Indians] are the Evil, Primitive, Savage Aggressors, so that's what many people [were] trained to believe."

    And questioning "the defining tribalistic belief that Our Side is Superior (and our violence thus inherently more noble than theirs)...renders the guardians of those agendas furious," which is why Americans get so fanatical about defending their mascots, headdresses, and other Native stereotypes. They're "deeply invested on a psychological and personal level in protecting the narrative" that they and their ancestors are blameless for the crimes against Indians.

    The corollary is their claimed right to appropriate Native cultures and ignore Native realities because "we won, we're no. 1, we're America!" As they tell Indians constantly, because "you lost, it's in the past, get over it."

    Today's fanatical hatred of and bigotry toward Muslims is yesterday's fanatical hatred of and bigotry toward Indians. It's literally the same thought process. They (Muslims, Indians) dared to challenge Western imperialism so they're evil and must go.

    If we're not willing to exterminate Indians anymore, we're willing to let others do it (e.g., in Guatemala or Brazil). More importantly, we're willing to marginalize, dismiss, and ignore them. As long as they remain second-class citizens and don't get too uppity, we'll tolerate their existence. But they're still primitive savages and barbarians who have no right to tell civilized people what to say or do.

    For more on terrorism, see People Hate Being Bombed and Killed and "Why Do They Hate Us?" 2013.

    Below:  Anti-Indian propaganda then corresponding to anti-Muslim propaganda now.

    Hub released on DVD

    Thirteen Part Native Program, "THE HUB" Released on DVD"THE HUB," a ground-breaking, thirteen-part television series about the best and brightest in Indian country's arts and entertainment scene is now out on DVD.

    Broadcast on FNX TV, First Nations Experience, and presented by the young, dynamic trio of presenters, Martin Sensmeier, Shayna Jackson and Blake Sisk, the show takes the audience to meet an array of Indian country's biggest stars: Virgil Ortiz, Adam Beach, Michelle Thrush, Ryan Red Corn, Howie Miller, Chris Eyre, Steven Paul Judd, Georgina Lightning, Zahn McClarnon to name a few.

    It's directed by the International award winning Scottish movie director Steven Lewis Simpson, whose credits include the love story/thriller "Rez Bomb" set on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the feature documentary "A Thunder-Being Nation" made over thirteen years about Pine Ridge.
    Comment:  For more on Simpson's work, see Pine Ridge Gets Media Attention and My Interview with Steven Lewis Simpson.

    May 25, 2013

    Racist Jim in Saturday Night Live

    A few weeks ago, Zach Galifianakos hosted Saturday Night Live (airdate: 5/4/13). In one skit, he played "Racist Jim," a new greeter at an M&M store who quickly offended the other employees. The manager gave Jim a chance to apologize to them--starting with Noreen, who was played by Nasim Pedrad. She's Iranian-American but often plays Mid-Eastern or South Asian types.

    The "apology" began:JIM: First off, Noreen? I know that all day, I continuously referred to you as the wrong type of Indian.

    JIM: But I wanna get it right, please tell me, one last time, which kind you are, and I swear I'll never ask again.

    NOREEN: I'm Pakistani.

    JIM: And is...that the name of your tribe, or...?

    NOREEN: It's a country.

    JIM: How!

    NOREEN: It just is.

    JIM: No, I was saying hello.
    Next, Jim apologizes to a Latino and two "gays," finishing with:JIM: Why don't we just bury the hatchet? [Turns to Noreen] No offense.Then he apologizes to "Black" Joe, after which the manager tells him to keep going:JIM: Yeah, yeah, okay, we should wrap up this powwow. [Turns to Noreen] I am so sorry.Finally, the manager tells him he's fired:JIM: What, are you positive about this? You have no reservations? [Turns to Noreen] Again, I am so sorry.

    Comment:  Saturday Night Live continues its streak of mentioning Indians, which is good. It does seem the writers are trying to include Indians.

    The setup for the humor was good. Racist Jim looked foolish because of his insensitivity to women and minorities.

    But the Native-oriented "jokes" were more uncomfortable than funny. The skit spoofed Jim's ignorance of the difference between Asian and American Indians--but didn't spoof the Native stereotypes. Viewers might've thought, "Well, if Noreen had been an American Indian, it would've been okay to say 'How!' to her."

    In other words, it wasn't clear why Jim's comments offended Noreen. Because he was treating her like the wrong kind of Indian? Because she recognized the comments as offensive to American Indians? Or both?

    Probably the former more than the latter. But the uncertainty explains why these comments didn't hit home for me.

    The skit had a few good moments. More important, it raised some racial and sexual issues that are rarely brought out into the open. As one example, would the phrase "bury the hatchet" really offend American Indians? No, but I bet most Americans don't know that.

    Almost anything that gets people thinking about prejudice is good. In that sense, I'd say the skit was a success.

    For more on Saturday Night Live, see Drunk Uncle in Saturday Night Live and "Village People" in Saturday Night Live.

    Native environmental health in The Return

    ‘The Return’ illustrates Native American environmental health story

    By Catherine ShenThrough imaginative storytelling and art, “The Return” conveys environmental health from a Native American perspective. A center within the UW School of Public Health worked with Native American tribes to create and publish the illustrated story as a 32-page comic book.

    One of the goals of this Native Tradition, Environment and Community Health Project was to find out how Native American ways of understanding the world and our place in it differ from the Western concept of environmental health. Surveys, interviews, and talking circles identified three core themes of Native environmental health: community, wellness, and inter-relationship.

    “The Return” was created from the findings. It is a dreamlike account of a Native woman and her baby, and tells how these three concepts are passed to the next generation.

    Michelle Montgomery, senior fellow in the UW Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the UW Center for Genomics & Healthcare Equality, and Nicholas Salazar, a student at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., developed the book. Montgomery is a tribal member affiliated with the Haliwa Saponi and Eastern Band Cherokee.
    Comment:  You can read The Return as a PDF here.

    For more on Native-themed comic books, see Bad Kids Go to Hell and Jonah Hex's Final Wife.

    May 24, 2013

    Chief Halftown

    A Facebook posting brought this Indian to my attention:Traynor Ora Halftown was born in 1917 of the Seneca Tribe on the Reservation in upstate New York. He had one of the longest running television shows in history (I personally believe second only to Meet the Press, which began airing in 1947), and personally touched the lives of many thousands of people through his numerous personal appearances. Chief Halftown started out wanting to be a singer, and made a living singing in nightclubs before serving this great country in the Army in WWII. In late 1950, he began his show at then-WFIL-TV, channel 6, airing cartoons, and teaching lessons and crafts from his Seneca customs and folklore. His show ran until late 1999. During summer weekends, the Chief appeared at Dutch Wonderland until 2001. He was also widely known as an excellent bowler. Chief Halftown passed away on July 5, 2003 in Absecon, New Jersey, at the age of 86. He and his wife, Margaret, were married for over 50 years.

    I looked him up and found out more about him:

    Chief HalftownHe always preferred the word "Indian" to the politically correct "Native American." Traynor Ora Halftown was 100% Seneca Indian. Born on the reservation on Saturday, February 24, 1917 in upstate New York, Chief Halftown always started his television broadcast with "Ees da sa sussaway" which was Seneca for "Let us begin" or "Let's get started." The idea was actually his mom's. He just wanted to say, "roll the cartoon."

    Halftown grew up in Buffalo, just a couple dozen miles away from the Seneca reservation where both of his parents were born. Chief got his middle name, Ora, from his dad. That was his father's first name. His dad worked as a professional middleweight boxer and mill worker while his mother, Katie stayed at home as a "housemaid" as she liked to be called. His grandfather toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

    Halftown started his legendary channel 6 broadcasts a couple days after Labor Day of 1950. Upon "retiring" in 1999, he had spent 50 years (a half-century) on WFIL-TV that later became WPVI. It is the longest running local TV children's show in the history of the world. Not bad for a guy who was hired for a six-week series.

    On his broadcasts and public appearances, Chief Halftown always dressed in full Indian costume. This included a full-feathered bonnet, beads, and buckskin. The show started out as an inexpensive cartoon vehicle and within weeks, Halftown was a star. Eventually, the Chief also included lessons dealing with tribal folklore, customs, language, crafts and chants.
    Ees Da Sa Sussaway--Let's Get Started

    By Erica StefanovichTo many, “ees da sa sussaway” would simply be syllables, but generations of Philadelphia children know differently. They know that these are the magic words of Chief Traynor Ora Halftown, beloved children’s entertainer and Philadelphia legend.

    Chief Halftown began broadcasting his self-titled children’s television program in September of 1950. Originally intended to be a simple cartoon show, it grew into the longest running local children’s program in the history of television. For nearly 50 years, Chief Halftown was a part of the lives of Philadelphia children.

    Chief Halftown was a full-blooded Seneca Indian born in upstate New York. His parents were both born on an Indian reservation near Buffalo and his grandfather had toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He moved to Pennsylvania with the hopes of becoming the next great crooner and enjoyed moderate success until after WWII. While those dreams were never to be fulfilled, he did find his way to fame. When his children’s show began broadcasting, he had to rent his own costume from a shop on Chestnut St. Throughout the years, he always appeared on camera in native headdress, beads and buckskin. These signature marks were not just an aesthetic choice but also a teaching tool. His show, which began as a cartoon show, grew into a place to showcase the talent of local children and to teach about Native American traditions and culture.

    In 1950 Chief Halftown was battling a prevalent stereotype. On television and in movies, there were very distinct depictions of Native Americans, generally as so-called savages or sidekicks. John Wayne and Jimmie Stewart both starred in films about Native American wars that year. If there were good roles for Native Americans, such as Cochise in Jimmy Stewart’s Broken Arrow, they were generally not portrayed by Native American actors. Fortunately, Chief Halftown refused to play to stereotype. He famously claimed, “I had no idea what it would come to, but I vowed that I would be myself. I wouldn’t talk like a Hollywood Indian…I made it clear that I was an Indian and no one was to tell me how to be an Indian.“
    Comment:  So his teaching tool was a Plains headdress that told kids that all Indians were the same? He fought movie stereotypes by dressing exactly like every chief in movie history? That's not exactly impressive.

    For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    Bad Kids Go to Hell

    Here's an independent comic-book series I just learned about:

    Exclusive: The Pull List Reviews Antarctic Press’ ‘Bad Kids Go to Hell #2′

    By John CarleWhat would happen to the Breakfast Club if instead of just dealing with teenage angst and a hard-nosed disciplinarian they had to worry about a curse caused by all of their parents building a library over a sacred Apache Indian burial ground? Bad Kids Go to Hell explores this scenario as four members of a pretentious high school’s elite class find themselves in detention with a kid from the wrong side of the tracks trying to avoid heading back to juvenile hall and a cynical Goth girl in tune with the occult.

    Each of the elitists, the overachieving daughter of a lawyer, the injured jock son of a councilman, the homecoming queen cutter and the pressured son of an Afghani immigrant, all try to examine how they got themselves in to the trouble that landed them in detention. The odd thing is that none of them can explain why they did what they did other than saying the idea just came over them and they didn’t feel like they were in control of themselves at the time.

    The issue begins with the kids beginning their punishment, researching and writing a speech for the library’s dedication. What they find backs up the rumors they had begun discussing last issue that the school had been built on sacred Apache land. Upon further examination, they unearth some information about the last guardian of the tribe who had been forced from the land by eminent domain, committed to an asylum and took his only life after feeling he failed to protect the sacred land. And of course, before he died he made sure to place a curse on the land. Like any Goth girl, Veronica offers up the idea to have a séance to find out if there really is a curse on the school. Reluctantly, the others agree and the circle sets themselves up around a table.

    When things begin to get a little too heavy for some of the participants, Megan, the overachiever who landed herself in detention for stripping in class and making out with another female student has an asthma attack and runs off, breaking the circle. And then, like any classic horror movie tale, people start dying. Locked in the library together with no one to get them out after Veronica tainted the coffee of their teacher with eye medicine, the five remaining students try to find their way out and quickly begin to turn on each other in typical horror movie fashion.
    It was made into an equally independent movie:

    Bad Kids Go to Hell

    By Leah ChurnerThe real mystery of BKGTH isn’t who’s doing the killing, but where the passion went in this independently produced screenplay-turned-comic-book-turned-movie by Dallas filmmakers and co-writers, Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick. Did they outgrow the project in the six years it took to complete? Certainly they were stymied by limited funds. Comic-book adaptations call for dozens of set-pieces, and this movie only has the budget for three or four–hence the copious slo-mo shots, a seeming effort to re-create the book’s still images.

    If a high school English teacher were grading BKGTH, he or she would have to give writers points for using the thesaurus. The phrase “dead Indian” is eventually replaced with “Native-American wraith,” for instance, and the headmaster (The Breakfast Club’s Judd Nelson hiding behind a huge beard and glasses) is totally quotable: “Never before have I seen a greater blight on organized education. Like a massive gravity sinkhole, he deforms every positive thought he encounters before sucking it into a vortex from hell.” The operative word is sinkhole.
    Comment:  I'm not totally opposed to the idea of Indian spirits haunting the land. I used that idea in the first PEACE PARTY story I wrote. But I like to think I gave it an original twist. This sounds like a completely clichéd version of the idea.

    And using the Apache as the culprits? Ho-hum. Name a violent, war-like tribe. Oh, yeah, the Apache.

    I think someone said that one student is descended from the "last Apache." This student is probably the one killing the others to avenge his ancestors. Oops, I hope that didn't spoil the comic book and movie. I'm just guessing, so don't mind me.

    For more on Indians and the supernatural, see Tonto vs. Wendigo and Cannibal Indians in My Ghost Story.

    I'm Not Your Indian Anymore

    I'm Not Your Indian Anymore: The AIM in PhotosNow open at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis is an exceptional new photographic exhibit, I'm Not Your Indian Anymore.

    At the gallery, the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center presents a photographic history of the American Indian Movement. This show features the photographs of Roger Woo, Dick Bancroft and Keri Pickett. Historical materials from the AIM archives are also being presented.
    Comment:  "I'm Not Your Indian Anymore" is a great title. It means Indians declaring that they weren't going to fulfill the white man's fantasies anymore. They weren't going to be myths, legends, strangers, foes, targets, victims, mascots, sidekicks, etc. They were going to establish their own identity beyond their age-old role as savages standing in the way of "progress" and Manifest Destiny.

    For more on AIM, see 40th Anniversary of Wounded Knee II and Russell Means Was a Fighter.

    May 23, 2013

    Crazy Horse clubs battle over name

    Two Las Vegas clubs--Crazy Horse III and Crazy Horse Too--recently battled over the "Crazy Horse" name:

    Crazy Horse III halts use of name Crazy Horse Too, but rival club is opening anyway

    By John KatsilometesToday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan is a legal victory by officials representing rival gentlemen’s club Crazy Horse III. That club has been in operation since 2009, and its operators were concerned over brand confusion prompted by the announced reopening of another gentlemen’s club with “Crazy Horse” as its title. Mahan ruled that Galam and his Canico Capital Group, the company that now owns Horse Too, acquired only the real property rights and the actual property on which the old club sits.

    The judge’s ruling is that Galam’s group did not acquire the trademark Crazy Horse Too and sided with Crazy Horse III that the revival of the old name would create confusion in the marketplace that could be damaging to Crazy Horse III’s business.
    Comment:  The article doesn't mention that both names are probably offensive to many Natives, especially descendants of Crazy Horse and his relatives.

    All the misuses of Crazy Horse's name have the same problem. They use the name to suggest products are wild, licentious, or debauched. In other words, it's a play on the idea of the savage Indian.

    In reality, Crazy Horse wasn't crazy. According to Wikipedia, his name really translates to "His Horse Is Spirited" and comes from a vision he had:Black Elk, a contemporary and cousin of Crazy Horse, related the vision in Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, from talks with John G. Neihardt.When I was a man, my father told me something about that vision. Of course he did not know all of it; but he said that Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow, and that is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in that queer way.So Crazy Horse wasn't some sort of forerunner of Johnny Depp's crazy Tonto. His name had nothing to do with his own behavior. Associating the name with sex and alcohol is therefore stereotypical.

    For more on the misappropriation of Crazy Horse, see Funny Face and Crazy Horse Beverages.

    Navajo Star Wars cast chosen

    A coach as Vader?

    Director unveils cast of Navajo 'Star Wars'

    By Shondiin Silversmith
    The Force proved to be strong with this group of Navajos as they earned the seven primary roles in the upcoming Navajo-language version of "Star Wars."

    Terry Teller, of Lukachukai, Ariz. will be the voice of Luke Skywalker.

    "It is pretty pretty awesome," Teller said happily, adding that he enjoyed the audition because it required him to really act. "Since it was going to be the first movie in Navajo I wanted it to be the best," he said. "I challenged myself to play the role, as it needs to be. It was hard because I have never done anything like that before."

    Anderson Kee of Cottonwood, Ariz. will be the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    Kee said the way the Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about the Force in the movie reminds him of a Navajo medicine man, especially when he says the words in Navajo.

    "It was a new experience for me," he said.

    Clarissa Yazzie of Rock Point, Ariz. will be the voice of Princess Leia.

    Yazzie said she enjoys Princess Leia's sarcastic and dominating personality because she feels that her personality closely resembles Leia's.

    "I was excited to just be a part of the whole experience," she said.

    James Junes of Farmington, N.M. is the voice of Han Solo - and one of the very few experienced actors to win a part. Junes is part of the comedy team James and Ernie, and has had roles in low-budget films on the Navajo Nation.

    Marvin Yellowhair of N.M. is the voice of Darth Vader.

    Yellowhair said he wanted to be Darth Vader because he is the main character he remembers from Star Wars, mostly due to the fact that the villain is always in control and he is a leader. He said it related to him as a coach at Rock Point High.

    "It felt so good being involved with this project," he said.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Star Wars Translated into Navajo.

    Depp admires Tonto's Giant Nuts

    Here's a good example of how Johnny Depp respects and admires Indians:

    On the soundtrack to the 2003 film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, track 9 is an interesting one:

    9. "Sands Theme" by Tonto's Giant Nuts

    The existence of an act called Tonto's Giant Nuts (you can check it on Amazon) is mildly noteworthy given the current interest in all things Tonto, who will be played by Johnny Depp in Disney's The Lone Ranger, coming to theaters July 3.

    It gets a little more interesting when you learn that Tonto's Giant Nuts is Johnny Depp.

    And it wasn't a one-off. Tonto's Giant Nuts resurfaced earlier this year, on the compilation West of Memphis: Voices for Justice. The CD is a collection of "music from and inspired by West of Memphis," a documentary about the West Memphis 3. Track 5 on the disc is a cover of Mumford & Sons' "Little Lion Man," credited to "Tonto's Giant Nuts feat. Johnny Depp & Bruce Witkin." Track 14 is "Damien Echols Death Row Letter Year 16," credited to "Tonto's Giant Nuts feat. Johnny Depp (feat. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis original score)."
    Comment:  Depp has said he wanted to play a strong Native character for years. The name of his band corroborates this.

    The takeaway from this is that Depp admires Indians who are larger than life. In other words, Indians who are heroic to a fantastic or supernatural degree. Which suggests mythical or legendary Indians such as Hiawatha, Crazy Horse, Uncas, Turok...or Tonto.

    The corollary to that is that he isn't necessarily interested in everyday Indians or their problems. Which may explain he's missing in action whenever Indians need his help. Someone who's thinking about his--I mean Tonto's--giant nuts is probably self-absorbed. Thinking about his own needs, not others'.

    For more on Johnny Depp, see Depp's Tonto: True or False? and Hammer Says Indians Love Depp.

    Below:  "Johnny Depp on the poster for Once Upon a Time in Mexico."

    Aub's Unique Barber Shop

    Bad-boy barber converts shed into barbershop, mancave

    By Cindy YurthA large-screen TV fills one corner of the one-room building. A basketball hoop hangs on the edge of the loft. A collage of scantily clad women plasters the ceiling.

    Is this a barbershop or a man cave?

    It's both, and it's the most creative use we've seen yet for the portable buildings that are springing up all over the Navajo Nation like mushrooms after a rain (see accompanying story).

    Aubrey "Aubs" Dahozy calls his shop south of the Fort Defiance hospital "Aub's Unique Barber Shop," and that is no exaggeration.
    Comment:  For more on Navajo business, see Navajo Tattoo Artist and Navajo Architect Faces Sexism.

    May 22, 2013

    Cherokee history class is life-changing

    Chad 'Corntassel' Smith Talks About Embracing One's LegacyCoupled with the idea that our managers needed to know the past in order to make good decisions in the present, I asked Principal Chief Mankiller if I could develop and teach a Cherokee legal history course. Of course, she encouraged me to do so, and I began to assemble everything I could find as source documents: treaties, maps, articles, movies, slides, excerpts from books, random quotes and more. The course book was organized chronologically and covered Cherokee history from 1700 to the present. In 1991, the 40-hour course was first taught in our historic capitol by me and Pat Ragsdale, who was a director of tribal operations.

    After completing the class, one new employee said, “The first day, I got mad; the second day, I wanted to cuss and spit; and the third, I wanted to get a gun and shoot someone. The fourth day, I was just proud to be a Cherokee.”

    The class became a life-changing experience for many. Although I had not believed in the concept of historic grief, I did after teaching the class several times, because by the third day of class, I could sense this cloud of grief rise from the class and dissipate. Those most reluctant about attending a 40-hour history course—because “It’s been 30 years since I was in school” or “I have work to do” or “I never liked history anyway” or “I work in maintenance and don’t need history”—were the most enthused after completing the class. Some would come to the class with a chip on their shoulder against the white man and the U.S. government because of their understanding of our history. The treatment of the Cherokee Nation by the United States, as laid out with primary documents in the class, was much more brutal than they ever imagined.

    However, instead of leaving the class more embittered, the opposite occurred. People left the class understanding that if our ancestors survived horrific episodes—eradication of our people by disease in the 1730s, genocidal warfare by Americans in the 1770s, forced removal in the 1830s, abandonment in the American Civil War, coerced assimilation and liquidation of the Cherokee Nation’s resources in 1906, the Grapes of Wrath exodus from Oklahoma during the Depression, relocation and termination in the 1950s and bureaucratic imperialism today—then each of them had a legacy that inspired them with determination to carry on and do better. The result of the class on individual perception and behavior was quite moving.

    When I took office, we hired Julia Coates, an outstanding Cherokee college professor, to teach the class full-time. Post-class surveys revealed 90 percent of the students reported it changed their lives. Coates received hundreds of personal testimonies from students whose lives the course changed. People took the class over and over. It was the only class I have ever heard for which the daily attendance increased rather than declined. Later, employees were required to attend. To date, more than 10,000 people have completed the course including employees, Cherokee citizens in urban communities and the general public. It received a best practices award from Harvard University. It also helped describe Point A for the Cherokee Nation, but even more important, it gave a glimpse of what Point B, the future, could be.
    Comment:  This is a powerful lesson on how education in general and Native history in particular can change people's outlook.

    Imagine what a class on everything from Columbus and genocide to movies and mascots would do for the uneducated masses. A lot of people would start understanding the issues they don't understand now. Including Indians, such as the ones described above, who think history doesn't matter to their lives.

    For more on Indians and education, see Pocahontas Poster Shows Movies' Influence and Indian Territory Exhibit at Reno Airport.

    Saanich people want mountain renamed

    It's Pkols, not Mount Douglas, marchers proclaim

    By Judith LavoieA large sign with the word Pkols carved into it was firmly cemented into the ground Wednesday evening as First Nations people, accompanied by hundreds of supporters, proclaimed a return to the traditional name for a place that has been known as Mount Douglas.

    To the beat of drums, as an eagle drifted overhead, the mixed aboriginal and non-aboriginal crowd cheered the name reclamation after carrying the sign to the summit of Pkols.

    “I think people are hungry for the history of indigenous people in this area,” said Tsawout hereditary chief Eric Pelkey, who led the move to rename the Saanich mountain.

    “They ask why there’s no reflection of the injustices that have happened here in the past,” he said as people streamed up the mountain, many carrying placards saying “Reclaim, Rename, Reoccupy.”

    Saanich police Const. Petra Dornblut estimated the event drew between 600 and 700 people.

    “It has been very peaceful. It’s unique for us and very enjoyable,” she said.

    The mountain is sacred to the Saanich people because it represents their nation’s birthplace.

    While First Nations took direct action Wednesday to restore the original name of the mountain, they have also made an official application to the province for a name change.

    “We request that the province of B.C. officially recognize the traditional name Pkols to replace the colonial name Mount Douglas in the Geographic Names Registry,” says a letter from Pelkey to the Geographical Names Office.
    Comment:  To me this is much like renaming a school mascot. As in, "Who cares? It's just a name."

    It wouldn't bother me if you renamed my home street, school, town, etc. I could still remember and cherish the old name if I wished. A new name would simply be a new talking point, not something that affects my identity or self-image.

    It would be similar to your mother, ex-wife, sister, or daughter marrying someone and changing her last name. Would the loss of your last name really hurt you? How?

    Changing a name is a trivial matter that doesn't affect the underlying person, school, or mountain. It's stupid and illogical to oppose such a change.

    For more on geographic name changes, see Murkowski Proposes Renmaing Mt. McKinley and "Negro" and "Squaw" Place Names.

    Below:  "About 600 First Nations people and their supporters march to the top of Mount Douglas Wednesday evening for an emotional renaming ceremony. They want the Saanich mountain to once again be known by its original name, Pkols. Helping to carry a new sign for the summit is Maori Paul Tangira (black and white T-shirt), a Gordon Head resident." (Bruce Stotesbury/Times Colonist)