September 30, 2013

Misty Upham on filming Jimmy P.

Here's another interview I conducted with Blackfeet actress Misty Upham:

Blackfeet Actress Misty Upham On Filming 'Jimmy P.' with Benicio Del Toro

Here's the rest of the interview, which didn't make it into the article:The movie was set in the 1940s. Is this the first time you’ve acted in a period piece without buckskins? What was it like portraying a woman from that era?

I actually had a small part in Expiration Date from the same era, but it was not on as big of a scale. I loved the clothes. The costume designer did Zoolander! It was also nice to not be poor. The thing I love about movies is you get to temporarily travel back in time.

Jane and Jimmy P. are Blackfeet and so are you. Did you get to add any touches that were uniquely Blackfeet?

The accent. But our characters focus was less on traditions and more on the human aspect. It took a French director to finally do that.

Recently you’ve worked with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor (in August: Osage County) as well as Benicio Del Toro. Who else is on your wish list of creative collaborators?

I would love to work with Tilda Swinton. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. So much respect for their training. Sofia Coppola.

I really feel lucky. The other day I was at target and literally saw these DVDs … Pretty Woman, Julia & Julia, 21 Grams, Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting and Little Miss Sunshine. I realized it and said to my dad, “Holy shit! I worked with those people!” It was an emotional moment for sure.

I hear you’re heading an acting troupe in Los Angeles. Can you tell us about that?

Yes. I started a troupe called “Indigo Children” for a few reasons. One reason was to be more active in between films. Another reason was to help some really talented friends who are hidden diamonds.

So much of acting these days is “me, me, me” that I think we’ve lost a certain beauty. The non-artists will never know how difficult, scary and risky it is to put yourself out there to be accepted or rejected by the world. We’re poor, exhausted and surviving most of the time. No stability for dreamers. It’s a huge risk. I want to help others realize that nothing is impossible. I’ve beaten almost every odds. It can be done, it’s just a hard and sometimes lonely road.
Comment:  For more on Misty Upham, see Native Actresses in Cannes Competition and My Interview with Misty Upham.

Artist defends Scout billboard

More on the billboard of a cowboy shooting an Indian:

Scout sculpture billboards taken down amid racism accusations

By Tony RizzoBillboards depicting a rifleman taking aim at the iconic Kansas City sculpture “The Scout” were taken down Monday after drawing a whirlwind of spirited reaction.

Artist A. Bitterman had rented the twin billboards near 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue in the Crossroads Arts District after Missouri Bank had accepted, but then rejected, the work for its Crossroads “Artboards” program.
And:Bitterman did not respond to an email seeking comment, but in a post on his website dated Sunday, he sought to explain his intention:

“The one thing that can not be disputed in my image is the fact that the Scout is not an indian at all, it is a depiction of an Indian, a sculpture, created by and for white culture, and it carries a historical narrative of what white people at the turn of the 20th century wanted the indian to be. The artist on the scaffolding is confronting that narrative.”
Comment:  I was wondering if this billboard might be some sort of artistic statement. It seemed a little bizarre that a city would allow a billboard perceived as racist hate message.

If I understand Bitterman, he's the rifleman on the billboard. And he's confronting the statue's stereotypical image of an Indian.

The statue supposedly is a metaphor for how mainstream culture has misrepresented, appropriated, and commodified Native cultures. And as a progressive artist, he wants to challenge the mainstream view of Indians by shooting and metaphorically destroying the stereotypes.

Okay, but there's one problem. It's a freakin' white man shooting an Indian. Few people are thoughtful enough to guess Bitterman's message, which is counterintuitive. Indeed, it's basically the opposite of what's on the surface.

And even if they glean a hint of Bitterman's message, as I did, it's ambiguous at best. It uses a racist act of hatred to allegedly counter racist acts of hatred. That's like destroying a village to save it.

This is the same problem faced by the German artist who displayed Chief Wahoo as an "ironic" commentary on mascots. And by hipsters in headdresses who are clever enough to say they're mocking racist stereotypes. Racism isn't a critique of racism just because you say or think it is.

As I've said in such cases, if a typical viewer can't tell the difference between racism and a satire of racism, there is no difference. We can't guess the instigator's intent, or read it on some placard. If the satire or commentary on racism isn't obvious, it might as well not exist.

Republicans = terrorists

Don’t fall prey to ‘both sides-ism’: Republicans are to blame for government shutdown

By Michael CohenIn the House of Representatives, bills that would allow the government to continue to operate were amended with provisions defunding or delaying Obamacare. This is, for Democrats, a nonstarter. The reason is obvious: the Affordable Care Act is the president’s signature achievement and he is not going to sign a bill that undoes or even delays it.

Nor should he. Obamacare is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the US supreme court, and it is already going into effect. There is no reason for President Obama to be cowed by such legislative extortion.

Yet, rather than accept the reality of Obamacare, Republicans are using the prospect of a government shutdown and/or a default on the nation’s debt to try to stop it.

In key respects, this dispiriting series of events is the logical conclusion of the Republican party’s descent into madness. The GOP has become a party dominated by a group of politicians who are fundamentally nihilistic, contemptuous of democracy and willing (even proud) to operate outside the long-accepted norms of American democracy.
Republicans Aren’t Hostage Takers, They’re Political Terrorists

Today’s Republicans will never release the hostage—instead they’re intent on taking down Obama, and they don’t care if they go down with him, says Michael Tomasky as we head toward a shutdown.

By Michael Tomasky
What they’re doing here is not hostage taking, the most commonly used metaphor in the media. It’s political terrorism. When hostage takers see that their demands are met, they release the hostage. But what makes anyone think today’s Republicans will ever release the hostage? No—if the Democrats agree to negotiate, the demands will never stop. Every pivot point on the legislative calendar will be an opportunity to make demands without precedent in our system.White House Petition: Designate GOP 'A Terrorist Organization' Over Looming Debt Standoff

Comment:  I'm not sure designating the GOP a terrorist organization would help any, but it's a fun idea.

For more on the subject, see Republicans Want Poor People to Die and Anti-Government Extremism = White Supremacy.

September 29, 2013

Indians are inconvenient to Americans

The Curious History of "The Inconvenient Indian"

By Michael BourneThe book Canadians are snapping up hardly paints them in a flattering light. King’s tone is breezy and light, full of funny stories and self-deprecating jokes, but just below that geniality lies a deep reservoir of bitterness over the treatment of Indians in Canada and the United States that continues on to this day. White North Americans, he argues, prefer their Indians noble, primitive, and safely extinct, and actual, live Indians who stubbornly insist on their rights as an independent people they regard as at best a troublesome nuisance.

On its face, the wildly different response to King’s book—breakout bestseller in Canada, quiet academic publication in the US—is puzzling. True to its subtitle, The Inconvenient Indian gives equal attention to the relations between whites and Native peoples all across North America; indeed, one of King’s points is that the border between the US and Canada has little cultural meaning for Native people, many of whose tribal lands spanned the present-day border long before either country existed. And though King, who is now 70, has lived in Canada since 1980, he was born and raised in California and maintains dual US and Canadian citizenship.

The curious publication history of The Inconvenient Indian serves as a window into the wide differences in the way mainstream Americans and Canadians view the Native peoples in their midst. For one thing, the average white Canadian is more than twice as likely to run into an Indian than a white American is. The 2010 US census identified roughly 5.2 million Americans with Native heritage, or about 1.7 percent of the total, whereas Canada’s 2011 census identified 1.4 million people of Native ancestry, comprising about 4.3 percent of the Canadian population.

But more importantly, in Canada, which was founded as an independent nation later than the US and settled by Europeans more slowly and unevenly, the shame of the mistreatment of Native people remains more alive in the national psyche, and the questions of how to deal with contemporary conflicts over tribal land rights and other issues are far more politically fraught. “In Canada, you have a situation in which the issues—Who owns the land? Were the Natives ever conquered? Are they nations or not? Does our law apply to them?—all these questions are unresolved,” explains Gerald Taiaiake Alfred, director of the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and a Canadian-born Mohawk Indian. “They’re constantly being fought on the [Canadian] social and political landscape, whereas in the United States, unfortunately in most people’s minds those questions are resolved.”
"Redskins" = white privilege

An academic column discusses how the issue of supposedly resolved questions applies to the Washington Redskins and other Indian mascots:

Nothing scarier than a nervous white man: The “Redskins” debate is really about white privilege

The debate about the Washington Redskins name is all wrong: It's really a symbol of white fear in a changing nation

By Steven Salaita
At the high school, college and professional levels, there have been thousands of Indian mascots, encompassing specific tribal names, expressions of a warrior ethos and, finally, as in the case of the Washington football franchise, terms of contempt. (Add to the list vehicles, food and clothing lines.)

Such abundance of Native likenesses is no accident. Nearly absent from debate about mascots is the fact that Indian nations were colonized by the United States, leading not only to relationships of disparate power, but also to the fascination with the natives common to all colonial projects and the desire of the colonizer to maintain control of the historical and contemporary narratives of their encounter.

Indian mascots aren’t fun-loving objects of admiration or a mere articulation of innocent fandom. Nor are they a legitimate attempt to “honor” Natives (a deed best accomplished, in any case, by listening to them rather than informing them what type of altruism they should accept—or, better yet, by supporting the implementation of treaty rights). Fans can absolutely root for Indian mascots without malice, but there is no escaping the fact that on a broader level those mascots are remnants of a colonial need to name, govern and define. It is pointless to reduce the issue to individual intent when the problem is institutional.

If we are fully to make sense of the Redskins controversy, then, we need to remove the conversation from conventional sites of multicultural politics and situate it in analysis of colonialism and its enduring legacies.


Whenever I teach Native literature, the subject of mascots arises. Most Americans encounter Native politics through the issue. It is unfortunate, because greater questions exist about sovereignty, self-determination, resource appropriation, repatriation and decolonization.

It is therefore doubly unfortunate that discussion of mascots is usually delinked from those greater questions. When my students invoke mascots, I try to offer a perspective wider than matters of representation and sports culture. Many are comfortable debating racism (especially those who believe it doesn’t exist), but most have no ability to question the legitimacy of the United States as a steward of indigenous territories.
Comment:  The notion that Indian issues--sovereignty, treaty rights, etc.--are over and done with is central to debates about racism and stereotyping. Americans steeped in white privilege--including minorities who want to fit in--don't want to discuss their own crimes and misdemeanors. They don't want to revisit the mistakes they or their ancestors made.

The ideology of American exceptionalism demands that we be perfect, godlike, unassailable. We think of ourselves as God's chosen people, and use this religious dogma to justify our actions. Nothing can challenge this--not even changing an Indian mascot--or the whole house of cards may come down.

In short, questions about one aspect of our mythology--that we love and respect our domesticated Indians--leads to other questions. And the white-dominated mainstream culture can't allow that. So it tries to shut down mascot debates with lines such as "You lost" and "Get over it."

These comments make their not-so-subtle agenda almost clear. "We want our mascot" means "We want our comfortable myths about taming America and bringing civilization to the savages." Changing the mascot means "You're reminding us that our country was founded on genocide and that upsets us. Stop making us feel bad with the truths we've tried to bury."

For more on Indian mascots and racism, see:

Wisconsin Republicans support racist mascots
Letter: No "special status" for Natives
Black columnist excuses "Redskins," genocide
Conservatives deny "black Jesus," genocide
Halloween = "socially accepted racism"

Below:  A metaphor for what the mainstream white culture fears: that blacks (welfare, guns), Latinos (immigration), Muslims (terrorism), gays (gay marriage), and Indians (mascots) will rise up and take over the country.

Meth crimes in Breaking Bad

With the series finale of Breaking Bad, the hype is approaching the "breaking" point. Here's more on the show's connection with Indian country:

Breaking Bad or Already Broken? Drug Crime on the Rez Is All Too Real

By Walter LamarWhat does it say about safety in Indian country when a television plot featuring meth distribution incorporates tribal land? Breaking Bad might give Indian country the new name of "Broken and Bad" after the brutal television series, featuring tribal lands, exemplified a continuing public safety crisis. Season 5, Episode 13, entitled “To'hajiilee,” aired on September 8, 2013 and marks the beginning of the end for the wildly popular AMC series. It's also one more example of how the media persistently depicts Indian country as the place to go to commit drug crimes, murder, and general mayhem.

From the very first episode, and periodically throughout the series, the remote To'hajiilee lands have been the setting for drug manufacture, murders, and concealing evidence. To'hajiilee is a non-contiguous section of the Navajo Nation lying in parts of three New Mexico counties, about 32 miles west of Albuquerque. Despite its proximity to an urban area, To'hajiilee feels isolated and remote. A tangle of secondary roads, many both unmarked and unpaved, crisscross the reservation's 121 square miles. With only 2000 residents, you may go miles without seeing a soul. In "Breaking Bad," the series of crimes committed on these tribal lands (theft, murder, extortion, drug manufacture and distribution, assault and much else), set the stage for what promises to be a violent and action-packed series finale.
'Breaking Bad' Actor Jeremiah Bitsui Shares his Thoughts on the FinaleActor Jeremiah Bitsui, Navajo and Omaha, played Victor in eight episodes of Breaking Bad, the AMC television series that is set to end on Sunday night. The character was the subordinate of drug kingpin Gus, played by Giancarlo Esposito, who ended up killing Victor at the beginning of season four. Bitsui, who has remained an avid fan of the series, took a few moments to look back on the experience and share his thoughts on the finale with ICTMN.Comment:  Since I've watched only the first season of Breaking Bad, I can't say whether its depiction of Indian country is stereotypical. But Walter Lamar implies that it is.

Even if crimes on the rez happen exactly as depicted in Breaking Bad, that isn't the whole story. As with recent Lakota documentaries, the question is whether the series shows a range of tribal circumstances, both good and bad. Any show that highlights the bad and ignores the good is stereotypical even if it's technically accurate.

For more on the subject, see To'hajiilee in Breaking Bad.

September 28, 2013

Cowboy shoots Indian on billboard

Billboard at 19th and Baltimore causing controversy

By Laura McCallisterA billboard is getting a lot of attention at 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue.

A local artist posted a picture of a man standing on scaffolding and pointing a rifle at Kansas City's famous statue called The Scout. The actual statue is about 10 feet tall, was created by Cyrus E. Dallin and depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape.

It overlooks downtown Kansas City.

A number of groups are calling the artwork offensive to Native Americans.
More on the statue:

The Scout (Kansas City, Missouri statue)The Scout is a famous statue by Cyrus E. Dallin in Kansas City, Missouri. It is more than 10 feet tall, and depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape. The Scout was conceived by Dallin in 1910, and exhibited at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, where it won a gold medal. On its way back east, the statue was installed on a temporary basis in Penn Valley Park. The statue proved so popular that $15,000 in nickels and dimes was raised to purchase it through a campaign called "The Kids of Kansas City." The statue was dedicated in 1922 as a permanent memorial to local Indian tribes.

Comment:  Before we even get to the billboard, The Scout has a few problems:

1) Missouri wasn't part of the Sioux's historic range.

2) A Sioux Indian doesn't honor the local tribes because the local tribes aren't Sioux. That's like having a statue of a Norwegian to honor the French.

3) The Indian is half-naked, which he might be in summer, but not in winter. Portraying him this way emphasizes his savagery--how different he is from "us," who wear clothes all the time.

4) The Scout resembles another Indian sculpted by Cyrus Dallin: Massasoit. Indeed, it could be the same Indian. A Sioux scout shouldn't resemble a Wampanoag chief.

The billboard

On to the billboard. The shooting image implies that the Indian is anonymous, an enemy, someone who's less than human and deserves what he gets. Would anyone raise a billboard showing a cowboy shooting a black man? Then why is it considered acceptable to depict shooting an Indian?

Answer: Because Indians hold a unique place in our national mythology as "the other." They're our arch-nemesis: the human "wolves" we tamed to "found" America. As with Elmer Fudd or Wile E. Coyote, they exist only to provide sport for us--or so we think. We can imitate, mock, and insult because we consider them cardboard characters from history, not real people.

Republicans want poor people to die

The Republican Vote to Cut Food Stamps is Really a Decision to Kill the "Useless Eaters"

By Chauncey DeVega15 million Americans were “food insecure” in the United States during 2012. The Great Recession has increased the number of Americans who do not have sufficient food by 30 percent. The fastest growing group of people who need some assistance with obtaining sufficient food to maintain a basic standard of living is the elderly. Hunger in America is estimated to cost the U.S. economy 167 billion dollars.

Approximately 20 percent of American children live in poverty. Food insecurity and hunger leads to a long-term decline in life spans and a diminished standard of living for whole communities.

Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to cut 39 billion dollars from federal food assistance programs. Their vote is more than just the next act in the ongoing politics of cruelty by the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.

It is a decision to kill poor people.

In America, discussions of poverty are linked in the public imagination to stereotypes about race, class, and gender. The face of poverty is not white (the group which in fact comprises the largest group of recipients for government aid). Instead, it is the mythical black welfare queen, or an “illegal” immigrant who is trying to pilfer the system at the expense of “hard working” white Americans.

Discussions about poverty are also easily transformed into claims about morality and virtue. Consequently, while the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is very efficient and involves very little if any fraud on the part of its participants, stereotypes about the poor can be used to legitimate the policing and harassment of Americans in need of food support through mandatory drug testing and other unnecessary programs.

Here, the long-term end goal for Republicans is revealed for what it is—a desire to make being a poor person into a crime.
Comment:  As DeVega explains, racism against brown-skinned people is a prime motivation behind the push to punish the poor.

For more on conservative racism, see Anti-Government Extremism = White Supremacy and Conservatives Fear Minorities.

September 27, 2013

Wisconsin Republicans support racist mascots

Wisconsin bill would guard race-based school nicknames

By Associated PressRepublican legislators in Wisconsin introduced a bill Thursday that would make it harder to strip public schools of race-based nicknames and would allow schools ordered to abandon such nicknames to keep them.And:Barbara Munson, an Oneida Indian who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force, called the bill racist.

“That’s terrible. That’s anti-educational. It’s racist,” she said. “For 21 years I’ve avoided that term. But it’s almost impossible to … describe this particular action in any other way.”
Native American Community Reacts Strongly To Proposed Mascot Law Revision

By Glen MobergThe proposal would make it more difficult to challenge Native American school mascots. Barbara Munson, who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association's Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force, says she rarely uses the word 'racist' but that it applies to this legislation.

“When you put up barriers that are harmful to the education of an entire race of people, it's really hard to think of any other term,” she says. “We're teaching our students, all of our students that it's okay to tolerate race based stereotyping.”

Mike Hoffman, a Menominee tribal researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, also uses the word racist when talking about Indian mascots. “I equate some of them to the 'N' word when it comes to blacks.”

Carol and Harvey Gunderson cofounded Religious Americans Against Indian Nicknames and Logos in their hometown of Osseo.

“The bill is a racist bill,” says Carol Gunderson. “It teaches that it's okay to discriminate.”

“It's another example of the reason why Republicans have what's called a race problem,” says Harvey Gunderson.
Comment:  Let's review: Republicans love racist mascots so much that they're willing to pass a state law upholding them. Democrats oppose this change and were responsible for the current law, which impels school distracts to change offensive mascots.

In short, Republicans are pro-racism and Democrats are anti-racism. Any questions?

Below:  "Barbara Munson, who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association's Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force, says Rep. Steve Nass's new legislation is racist."

South Carolina continues crusade against Brown

Capobiancos Sue Dusten Brown for Nearly Half a Million in FeesAs Matt and Melanie Capobianco took possession of Veronica Brown on Monday night, another court action was brewing behind the scenes. Today, their lawyers in South Carolina are in court seeking fines, attorneys' fees and expenses totaling approximately $500,000 from Dusten Brown.South Carolina court could seek compensation from Dusten Brown, Cherokee NationThe proceedings were apparently initiated by the courts, not by Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who spent seven weeks in Oklahoma before taking custody of the 4-year-old girl Monday.Financial sanctions against Veronica’s birth father, tribe considered as attorney calls for truceTo some of Brown’s supporters, the move added insult to injury after he lost custody of the girl he cared for during the past 20 months. But Shannon Jones, his attorney in Charleston who attended the hearing but would not discuss it, called for a courtroom truce.Gov. Fallin seeks halt to Baby Veronica's father's extradition to South CarolinaWith Baby Veronica heading to South Carolina, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was looking for ways to avoid extraditing the girl's biological father, her office said Tuesday.Comment:  It's not clear if the Capobiancos are involved in this continuing persecution. If they aren't, they should speak up and tell the courts to stop hounding Brown. Silence = complicity in the crusade.

To review, this case went to the Supreme Court, where it lost on a 5-4 vote based on an invented pretext. This wasn't some frivolous lawsuit. It was the opposite: a critical challenge to Federal Indian law.

Brown shouldn't be punished for exercising his constitutional rights. Again, the opposite is true. If South Carolina thinks it's important to take Native children from their homes uphold adoption rights, it should pay for its convictions.

Put your money where your mouth is, South Carolina, or your position smacks of hypocrisy. As in, "We insist upon the Capobiancos' rights as long as they don't cost too much."

September 26, 2013

Indians mourn Baby Veronica's return

Two of the many mainstream articles that imply Veronica Brown is finally "home" after being somewhere else with her father Dusten Brown:

Capobiancos ‘overjoyed’ to have Veronica back in their lives, birth father’s role uncertainWhether Dusten Brown ever sees his biological daughter again could hinge on whether Veronica’s adoptive parents give him that chance or on the results of long-shot court appeals, attorneys said Tuesday.After 4 years and 2 states, Cherokee girl in disputed adoption case gets permanent home in SCWhen the Capobiancos complete the long drive from Oklahoma to South Carolina, their topmost priority should be creating the stable life that Veronica has lacked in her first four years of life, experts say.History repeats itself

Meanwhile, Brown, the Cherokee Nation, and Indians everywhere are mourning another stolen child:

Dusten Brown issues statement on the transfer of his daughter, VeronicaThe last few days without Veronica in our home have been more painful than words can describe. We are heartbroken at the loss of our daughter. I moved heaven and earth for two years to bring Veronica home to her family where she belongs.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Comments on Transfer of Veronica BrownWe are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today, but we will not lose hope. Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts.Transfer of Custody of Veronica Brown: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Baker RespondsHistory is repeating itself, as a Native American child is being forcibly relocated to South Carolina against the will of her father and her tribe.Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family“We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica's life,” said Hembree. “We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed.”Support Mounting for Dusten Brown on Facebook Page ‘Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown’Support for Dusten Brown has emerged through grassroots efforts, like a Facebook page, Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown, and the website The Facebook page has more than 12,000 followers and growing, but more support is needed for Brown, who is now being sued by the Capobiancos’ attorneys for nearly half a million in fees.

An Emotional Reaction: Mothers, Adoptive Parents and Adoptees Speak Out About Baby Veronica's RemovalIn the wake of Dusten Brown’s forced relinquishment of his biological daughter Veronica to Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina, birth mothers, adoptive parents and adoptees have shared their heartache with media and flooded the Internet with blogs and open letters. They express grief, compassion, encouragement for Brown to continue fighting and insight into how Veronica will adapt and react when she learns about and understands the battle over her custody.Finally, one of the few non-Native columns that tried to understand the Native point of view:

Legal battle over Native American girl comes to a poignant endThis is one of those heartbreaking stories that periodically makes headlines, sending a shiver down the spines of adoptive parents and enraging Native Americans whose children had been ripped away from them so often that a federal law was passed in 1978 to put safeguards in place.

The facts of this case seem so unfair to the biological father that it’s hard to understand why the adoptive parents have ended up with custody.

Del Toro: Redface is "tradition"

The movie Jimmy P. is about to debut in the US. Indian Country Today is running interviews with the principals, including these two:

Benicio Del Toro: 'Native Americans Are the Real Americans'It's controversial when any non-Indian actor takes on the role of a Native American (as was discussed at length on this site this summer, with Johnny Depp playing Tonto). Was that an issue on your mind when you were considering Jimmy P.?

I am aware of the lack of representation of Native Americans in TV and movies, and when Arnaud Desplechin brought the idea of this movie to me, my instinctive reaction was: Why me? Because I really do believe that Native Americans could have played the part better, different… It could have been done. But there is a money issue in doing movies, and the fact that I have a career created the chance of the movie being made. That is a fact of life at this moment in time. So, when I read the story, I just felt it was a really strong story that should be out there. And, with all due respect, I dared to do it. There have been actors playing outside their groups; it is a tradition in acting. In the history of theater, even women were played by men.
Yeah...the tradition of men playing women is called sexism. The tradition of whites playing blacks is called blackface, aka racism. The tradition of whites--Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson--playing Indians is called redface, also known as racism.

Not exactly something to crow about in the year 2013.

Del Toro the next Depp?

I'm not buying the money rationale either. Is this movie gonna be a blockbuster with Del Toro in the title role? I mean, a period piece about an Indian undergoing psychotherapy? Who wouldn't want to see two guys talking about their feelings for a couple of hours?

Yeah, I imagine this movie will make five or 10 times its cost with Del Toro in the lead. Much more than a Native actor would've drawn. All those bottom-line investors can retire with the bucks they rake in.


Disney used the same thinking when it paid Johnny Depp to play Tonto. The company probably will lose around $200 million for its horrible casting decision. So tell me why someone would risk their money on Del Toro? He's not a big box-office draw. His movies usually lose money domestically and only recoup their costs in foreign markets.

Director Talks About 'Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian'Did you come to make Jimmy P. because of a specific interest in Native issues?

It came from my interest in psychoanalysis, as I am a great reader of psychoanalytical books, as well as for the Native culture, which I discovered as an adolescent when I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

We have those childhood dreams—When I grow up I will be a cowboy, or an Indian. I wanted to become an Indian! Then, there is the issue of genocide, and the Native tragedy; my parents were activists, and followed the events in the media after the Alcatraz occupation. We were aware of what was going on.
Comment:  For more on Jimmy P., see What's Wrong with Del Toro and Depp and Negative Reviews of Jimmy P.

Oneida "Change the Mascot" campaign

'Change the Name' Campaign Takes Anti-Redskins Message to Oakland FansOne, two and now three powerful groups have denounced the Washington football team’s use of a disparaging slur: Redskins.

And today, a new radio advertisement released by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York cites those three reasons for why the slur should not be used. Members of Congress, The Washington Post’s editorial board, and the Washington City Council have joined Former Oakland Raider CEO, Amy Trask, and the Nation calling on the team to change its name.

As part of the Change the Mascot campaign, the Oneida Nation launched a third radio ad entitled “Inspire” which documents how leading voices in Washington, D.C., are calling on the team to abandon its use of the offensive slur.

The ad begins with a question. “What do the Washington City Council, some Members of Congress, The Washington Post and Native American groups have in common? All have asked to change the name of Washington's football team.”
Oneidas keep pressure on Washington Redskins in latest ad

September 25, 2013

Adam Beach in Revolution

Revolution Season 2 Spoilers: President of United States to be Revealed; Adam Beach Makes His First Appearance

By Robert ChristieKripke also discussed with the website Adam Beach’s role in the show’s sophomore season. Beach’s character—who appears in tonight’s premiere—like many people in this new world, doesn’t really get along with Miles (Billy Burke) right away.

Beach will play “the sheriff of the town of Willoughby that our heroes stumble into and immediately there’s a little friction with Miles because he senses that there’s [something off],” said Kripke.

He adds that Miles doesn’t use his real name when he arrives in the sheriff’s town to hide his identity. However, the sheriff quickly realizes that something is up.
Comment:  Coincidentally (?), I suggested using Natives in Revolution at a meeting last November. If NBC actually listened to me, I'm impressed!

Where's Lou Diamond Phillips?

This led to a brief discussion with a Facebook friend:Have they just got the one, then?ust one Native? Yes. I suggested a whole subculture of Natives, and they came back with one guy playing a sheriff. So they may not have listened to me after all.Well I was asking if they just had the one ACTOR. I mean you seriously start to wonder what they do when Adam Beach and Wes Studi are both busy?Yeah, their overreliance on the same actors is kind of silly. It's not as if this is a Shakespearean role, either. He's a stoic sheriff with about five lines in the first episode.Playing a sheriff? NBC has worked with him before (also playing a cop) so it could just be that they wanted him for the part of the sheriff and the fact that he's Native might be entirely inconsequential.

A stoic Native character with five lines? Was Lou Diamond Phillips already booked?
Phillips is doing Longmire, so I think so.

Beach's character may grow. Or he may continue to be a stock character.

Probably the latter. With Miles, Sebastian, and Tom around, the show doesn't need another leading male character.

For more on Revolution, see Revolution and TV Diversity and NBC Diversity Meeting at NBC Universal.

For more on Adam Beach, see The Book that Inspired Beach and Artists Support Idle No More.

Cherokees threaten to sue bear park

Eastern Band of Cherokees cite federal law in effort to remove grizzlies from pits in NC

By Associated PressMembers of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said Wednesday they’re planning to sue a North Carolina roadside zoo that houses bears in concrete pits on reservation land unless they release the animals to a reputable sanctuary.

An attorney for two tribal elders filed a notice of intent to sue the operators of the Cherokee Bear Park for violating the federal Endangered Species Act.

The act allows citizens to file lawsuits for violations, but it requires them to give 60-days’ notice to the violators and federal regulators, said James Whitlock, an attorney for tribal elders Amy Walker and Peggy Hill.

If the bear park doesn’t come into compliance, the next step is to file a federal lawsuit, he said.
Comment:  For more on the bear parks, see Cherokees Say 2 of 3 Zoos Aren't Horrible and Cherokee Elders Want Bears Freed.

September 24, 2013

Renaming Redskins would cost $15 million

Redskins Rebrand Would Cost $15 Million

Should Team Bow to Pressure, Biggest Expense Would Be Replacing Name at Stadiums

By: Michael McCarthy
In today's politically correct environment, the Redskins are probably "delaying the inevitable," warned crisis-PR adviser LeslieAnne Wade, principal at Wade Media Management. Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, said a design firm could come up with a new name and logo for the Redskins--and roll it out within six months--at a price tag of $10 million to $15 million.

Landor helped the NFL create a leaner, meaner "Shield" logo in 2008 and helped rebrand FedEx from Federal Express in 1994.

Coming up with a new moniker would only run $500,000 to $1 million, he said. The real expense would be replacing the old name and logo at the team's FedEx Field stadium in Landover, Md., and Redskins Park HQ/training center in Ashburn, Va.

Said Mr. Adamson: "The cheapest part is coming up with the creative. The most expensive part is hoisting the new letters on top of the stadium."
Comment:  A Facebook friend responded:I wish they gave an itemized breakdown. I don't see how that could include replacing all the team equipment, everything from uniforms to office supplies, not to mention all the team merchandise they'd have to write off and reissue. I don't know what they meant by "hoisting the new letters on top of the stadium." I'm guessing the entire facility would have to be remodeled.Couldn't they keep the same colors and uniforms except for the helmets?

Actually, they probably go through lots of uniforms every year. So replacing them shouldn't be a big deal.

I think "hoisting new letters" is meant to encompass all the signage at team facilities. At least, that's how I read it.

The name might be phased out over a couple years, so they could use up the office supplies and sell the merchandise through attrition. So those aren't necessarily a concern either.

Indeed, the old items might become valuable. People might pay the team to own the last Redskins pens and paper.LOL! Like have a garage sale to raise money? Ha! Ha!Yes, like that.

Signage is biggest expense?

Perhaps Adamson meant his comments literally. Coming up with a new name and logo, and replacing the signage at the two locations, would cost $10-15 million.

I suspect that would be only a fraction of the costs associated with changing the name and logo. Every piece of merchandise would have to be redesigned. Every computer file, folder, database, URL, and website with the name would have to be changed. Every legal document--contracts, leases, etc.--would have to be reedited, reprinted, and refiled. Every auxiliary group, fan club, fantasy team, and so on would have to change its name, stationery, and signage to match the team's new name.

So yes...changing the stadium signage could be the least of the problems. It wouldn't surprise me if the total cost were $100 million or more.

On the other hand, as noted in Redskins Can Afford Name Change, some teams have gone through name changes already. Their costs supposedly were less then $10 million. So maybe the $15 million estimate is reasonable after all.

The Christian baby-adoption racket

Skeptics of Veronica, Desaray cases call for closer look at private adoptions, laws

By Andrew KnappThe adoptive parents’ attorney said Pierce’s claims of coercion and deception were unfounded and that she and her son willingly agreed to settle. But the battle over 4-year-old Veronica and a new dispute over a 4-month-old named Desaray have stirred talk of similar accusations being rampant in other private adoptions. Both of those cases center on children with American Indian blood and the federal law that makes them more difficult to adopt.

But the larger issue, according to skeptics, is the allegation that some birth mothers, agencies and attorneys conceal adoptions and prevent birth fathers from asserting parental rights.

When it comes to Indian children, legal observers said attorneys have been emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that Veronica’s father hadn’t helped her mother during pregnancy and therefore couldn’t use the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody. Desaray’s case could be the first one that tests that precedent.

Many of the private agencies operate with a Christian-themed mission to provide a future for babies born to parents who cannot properly care for a child.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Christian Adoption Groups Stereotype Indians and The Capobiancos Anti-Indian Agenda.

September 23, 2013

The "I don't see race" crock

If You ‘Don’t See Race,’ You’re Not Paying Attention

By Jarune UwujarenI’m tired of hearing the words “I don’t see race.”

Though people might be trying to say “I’m not prejudiced,” it sounds more like they’re saying “I’m open-minded because I’m ignorant” to racially conscious people.

I’ve seen these words used to deny racial privilege, to discount the experiences that people have with racism, to deny the whitewashing of people of color in Hollywood.

I’ve seen it used to sidestep the lack of diversity and inclusion in higher education, to back away from the sense of pain and responsibility that comes from acknowledging all the ugly racial dynamics that play out in our society.

Because if you really don’t see race at all, it doesn’t make much difference to the people whose livelihoods, cultures, and identities are all affected by racial inequality.

There are plenty of other people who will remind them of their race when they look for jobs and housing, when they walk down the street, or when they seek legal counsel.

“I don’t see race” is a personal statement. You, person who doesn’t see race, may have a cookie for being so free of prejudice (not really), but the same does not apply to the world around us.
Uwujaren dispatches some of the arguments used by the allegedly colorblind:1. Racism Isn’t Rare, and It Isn’t Always Obvious

Sometimes racism is extremely subtle–subtle to the point that the person on the receiving end of it may not even register how messed up it actually is. It may even seem complimentary on the surface.

2. Pointing Out Racism Is Not a Witch Hunt or an Attempt to Make You Feel Bad

A person doesn’t have to be a moustache-twirling villain from the Deep South to do or say racist things.

3. Acknowledging People’s Racial Identities Isn’t a Bad Thing

Telling someone that you “don’t see them as x race” or that you “don’t see race” in general is an easy way to dismiss that person’s racial identity. And by racial identity, I don’t mean believing that “everything I do and say is a result of my race.”
Comment:  Read the whole posting for the details.

Personally, I'd change the headline. If you claim you don't see race, you're probably lying to yourself or to us.

Many of the arguments against Obama, terrorism, welfare, immigration, gun control, voter "fraud," and tribal sovereignty are race-based. If you repeat these arguments, that qualifies you as someone who sees race but lies about it.

And if you're the one person in a million who really doesn't see what? The problem we're talking about isn't you individually. It's the racism in millions of people, in our laws, and in our institutions.

Even if you're prejudice-free, it's your duty to make America prejudice-free for everyone. If you ignore or deny the problem, you're saying it's acceptable for other Americans to suffer racism.

For more on "colorblind" America, see "Everybody's Equal" But No Interracial Dating and America's "Colorblind Racism."

Below:  "I don't see race. If America had been inhabited by white people, I would've cheated and killed them too."

Yeah, right.

Letter: No "special status" for Natives

Nanaimo newspaper letter draws First Nation's criticismThe Nanaimo Daily News is facing criticism once again this morning for its decision to publish a letter to the editor criticizing First Nations people.

In the letter titled "No groups in Canada should get special status," Nanaimo resident Bill McRitchie writes "I always have difficulty coming to grips with the condemnation of 21st Century Canadians by aboriginals for injustice suffered in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century."

Later he accuses aboriginals of clinging to their tribal system, and refusing to evolve as equal Canadian citizens.

Chief Douglas White of the Snuneymuxw First Nation responded on Twitter by saying,"Hundreds marched at [Vancouver Island University] on Friday and 70K marched in Vancouver yesterday and all @NanaimoDaily prints is another racist letter. Disgusting."
Comment:  I'm not sure what Canada's constitution says, but we hear the same arguments in the US. The responses are probably the same too:

1) "Special status" means equal status as governments. It's enshrined in the US constitution, if not the Canadian constitution. If you don't like it, amend the constitution or get the hell out of the country.

2) Natives mostly condemn Canadians and Americans for the injustices they experience today: inadequate funding, hostile court decisions, racism and stereotyping, etc. If the government and society tackled these problems, it would end many Native complaints.

As for past injustices, many are due to broken treaties that are still "the supreme law of the land." Why should Indians accept the loss of their lands, minerals, or trust funds when the US and Canadian governments could reverse their decisions and start honoring the treaties?

3) Why do Americans cling to their Founding Fathers, religions, memorials, holidays, flags, guns, mascots, etc., etc.? Why don't they just get over things like the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11?

It's especially funny hearing the people who can't give up their racist words and images talk about Indians clinging to things. What they mean is, "Why don't nonwhites give up everything that makes them different and become white like us?"

I posted a long rebuttal to the "cling" argument in Should Indians Cling to Reservations? Check it out.

Why publish racist letter?

Beyond the specific arguments is the propriety of publishing a letter whose arguments have been discredited for decades. Would the Nanaimo Daily News also publish a letter saying Canada was founded as a white nation, blacks should know their place, or Jews are trying to take over? How is this letter any different?

The only difference is that mainstream society doesn't challenge people's racist beliefs about Indians. It's still acceptable to say Indians are greedy for "special rights," angry over the "distant past," or incapable of being "equal citizens." All these are coded ways of saying Indians are still uncivilized and savage.

For more on newspaper racism, see Racist Nanaimo Letter Sparks Outrage, Letter: Natives Aren't "Modern Citizens," and Racist Comments in Canadian Newspapers.

Below:  "Last May, the mayor of Nanaimo joined about 100 people protesting outside the offices of the Nanaimo Daily News after the paper published a letter to the editor that many found racist."

Capobiancos take Baby Veronica

Adoptive parents take custody of Veronica from biological fatherBaby Veronica’s biological family handed over the 4-year-old girl Monday night, giving her back to her adoptive parents from South Carolina.“I do not want to go! I do not want to go!” Screamed Veronica as She Was Taken from Her Biological Father

Comment:  Veronica lasted a few weeks longer than I expected, but now she's gone. Alas, the outcome was pretty much inevitable.

Tribal sovereignty and tribal courts were never a serious impediment to this outcome. I didn't think they would be. America doesn't work that way.

Some Native reactions from Twitter:Adrienne K. ‏@NativeApprops
Veronica has been handed to the Copabiancos, taken away from her dad, family, & tribe. How is this fair? #heartbroken

Coya Hope ‏@coyahope
@NativeApprops because white people don't want to hear no, and have all those systems are designed to back them up, even to steal a child.

Nellie ‏@sailordom
@NativeApprops Really shows how many people still think "best interests of child" means "adopted by white family"

Ruth Hopkins ‏@_RuthHopkins
If state courts can disregard ICWA & Tribal Sovereignty to take #BabyVeronica from her birth father, none of our #Native children are safe.

Patrick G. Barkman @PGBarkman
#BabyVeronica proves yet again the great truth of American history: that anything of value NDNs have can be taken by white ppl at their whim
Yep, this is a classic case of white privilege in action. The law says the mother must consult with a father who's a tribal member, and his tribe. Did that happen? No. The Supreme Court invented a pretext for ignoring this law and favoring the white adoptive parents over the Cherokee father.

That's justice, American-style: 1) Determine outcome--e.g., cute baby should be with white folks. 2) Ignore law and make rulings to achieve outcome.

Funny that most of the articles don't seem to be reporting Veronica's reactions. I suspect that's a result of their pro-white, pro-adoption bias.

Of course, only one news account said she was screaming. Maybe it has a pro-Native bias.

In any case, I hope the Capobiancos have good mental health coverage. I suspect #BabyVeronica is in for a lifetime of abandonment and anger issues.

For more on Baby Veronica, see Baby Veronica Case Violates Sovereignty and Oklahoma Governor Orders Extradition for Brown.

September 22, 2013

Natives protest Hamhawk Hazard

Hamhawk Hazard has to go: fire chief

By Sharon WeatherallThe First Nation chief and his community’s fire chief agree that Hamhawk Hazard has to go.

“It is demeaning and stereotyping to portray a First Nations person to be very unintelligent,” says Chief Roly Monague, commenting on a controversial cartoon character being used to teach safety to children in materials that were approved by Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC). “Little kids will be reading this and we have been stereotyped enough in our lives. This kind of stuff in this day and age is not well received.”

Chief and council support the stance of Fire Chief Allan J. Manitowabi–who says the caricature has no cultural significance–and have asked OFNTSC to have the Hamhawk Hazard name and character changed.

“I was shocked and surprised to see this material had been sent out to Tribal Councils,” says Manitowabi, who began his fight to change the depiction after he first saw it in an electrical booklet that was published in 2010. “At the time I inquired by phone to see where this had come from and found it had been OFNTSC approved.”

The OFNTSC Fire Program provides First Nation Fire Prevention Officers with technical advisory services for fire prevention, code interpretation, emergency service vehicles, and community fire prevention issues. Manitowabi says the corporation has overseen the creation and distribution of numerous fire prevention materials and brochures using Hamhawk Hazard without consultation and approval by First Nations fire services personnel.

“Speaking with Elders from our community, they feel the material is scary for kids and is putting constraints on how we see ourselves,” says the fire chief. “They say the picture is derived from negative portrayals through caricature and is misleading of the culture of First Nations–it presents flawed imagery of Native people.”
Comment:  All we have to go on is the image below and the description of a Native who is "very unintelligent." I imagine the Hamhawk Hazard does foolish things, such as touching an electrified fence, and learns a painful lesson.

Let's see...the headband and feather are stereotypical. The braids are borderline stereotypical, although a few Natives wear their hair that way. The "Hamhawk Hazard" name is somewhere between comical and stereotypical.

It sounds like the character's behavior is the worst problem.

Even if the material is intended for Natives, does it really need a Native cartoon character to work? Why not use a generic boy and girl? Make their ethnicity vague so anyone can relate to them. See Dick start a fire and Jane electrocute herself...that sort of thing.

70,000 march for reconciliation

Reconciliation walk turnout amazes organizers, as an estimated 70,000 brave downpour in VancouverA sea of people that organizers estimated at 70,000 braved pouring rain and chanted their way through downtown Vancouver on Sunday in Canada’s first reconciliation walk.Thousands walk for reconciliation in B.C.Thousands of people braved a pouring rain in Vancouver Sunday to take part in a reconciliation walk marking the sad history of residential schools in Canada, erupting in a raucous cheer as the daughter of American civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. urged all Canadians to move forward and heal.Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., calls on Canada to "truly empower First Nations"She was shocked to hear about the pain and suffering Aboriginal people have gone through in Canada's Indian residential school system, Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s youngest child, told a group of media yesterday at the Marriott Hotel.Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. calls for end of economic injustice against First NationsThe daughter of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. says economic injustice must be addressed as part of the reconciliation process with Canada's First Nations.Works of art at PNE give expression to Indian residential school tragediesInstead of the usual popcorn and cotton candy sold during the annual summer fair at the PNE, First Nations offer handcrafted jewelry and clothing and art installations with historical and political messages in the Agrodome.Comment:  For more on boarding schools, see End Experiments, Honor Apology and Native American Boarding School Project.

Autry, Eiteljorg reinvent themselves

A Museum Works to Reinvent Itself, as Well as the American West

At Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Histories ConvergeThe old celebratory themes invoked on the museum’s mural—“Discovery, Opportunity, Conquest, Community, Cowboy, Romance, Imagination”—have been attacked by a generation of historians, first because of the fates of American Indians, then for their implicit ethnic and social homogeneity. And now the Autry, along with a few other major museums, like the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., is trying to reshape that national mythology.Eiteljorg lures visitors with wide-ranging exhibits"We started brainstorming," said Chris Katterjohn, a board member since the mid-1990s who recently wrapped up a two-year stint as board chair, "and we came up with a strategy we called 'the unexpected west.' When most people thought of the Eiteljorg they were thinking of Indian pottery, western paintings, and we understand the audience for that niche is somewhat limited. So we came up with topics we thought would be related to the west that would attract different audiences."Comment:  For more on museums, see Wounded Knee Museum Rises from Ashes and Museum Closes Sand Creek Exhibit.

Below:  "A 1948 Indian Chief motorcycle and the painting War Music II, by Mateo Romero (2008)." (Stephanie Diani for the New York Times)

Relocation, lacrosse, and buffalo

Three recent Native documentaries of note:

Moses Brings Plenty: Representing for 'Urban Rez'Urban Rez is a documentary about the relocation program that President Eisenhower put into place in the early 1950s. Urban Rez helped me to understand and educate me about the relocation process.The Medicine Game Premieres September 24 on Public TelevisionTucked away in central New York State is the Onondaga Nation, a sovereign Native American community known to produce some of the top lacrosse players in the world. ... Enter the Thompson brothers–Jerome "Hiana" and Jeremy–who are driven by a single goal of beating the odds against them and playing lacrosse for national powerhouse Syracuse University.Scot who saved American buffalo subject of film“He realised that if you eliminated the buffalo, you eliminated the Native Americans, and that was the mindset of the American government. Scotty could not understand this because he had tremendous respect for the Native Americans.”Below:  Moses Brings Plenty.

September 21, 2013

"Whiteskins" in football video game

Why I Created the 'Washington Whiteskins' in a Football Video Game

By Owen GoodYou can see the team here, on PlayStation 3, and here for Xbox 360. You can download it to your console by going into TeamBuilder and searching for the nickname "Whiteskins." It's the only created team on NCAA 14 by that name.

I took a while to post this because I was apprehensive about being publicly identified with the project. I mean, this is offensive. It's basically a racist caricature. Then I realized that's the point. Anyone who has a problem with "Whiteskins" should have a problem with Redskins—and vice versa. If you find this crass, juvenile or hostile or a stubborn, arrogant way of arguing a complicated issue with a decades-long presence in American life, well, guess what: "Redskins" stands for the same thing.

And no, I would not create the Blackskins, if asked, because while it sounds cool to throw that out as some kind of argumentative sidebar, insulting a second ethnic minority to call attention to the grievances of the first is generally not an effective means of raising awareness. This satire also draws on the prerogative one has to make jokes about his own ethnic background. And yes, thank you, I know Notre Dame's teams are called the Fighting Irish. It is hardly cultural appropriation when Irish Catholicism forms a huge portion of that university's culture. The only tolerable edge case, if you really want to split hairs, would be a school like The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, whose original enrollment was limited to American Indians, and whose athletic teams are known as the Braves.

Will people use "Whiteskins" in their NCAA Football Dynasties? Will they download and share the teams? Will they play unranked games with the good old flesh-and-red online? I don't know.
Comment:  For more on the Washington Redskins, see Satirizing Redskins with Blackskins and Satirizing Redskins with Whiteskins.

Part Cherokee in The Mindy Project

The season premiere of The Mindy Project, titled All My Problems Solved Forever (airdate: 9/17/13), guest-stars James Franco. He plays a doctor filling in for Mindy while she's in Haiti.

At one point, he comes up behind her. The following exchange occurs:Mindy (startled): You have a very light tread!

James Franco/Dr. Leotard: I'm part Cherokee.
The implication is that Franco can move stealthily because he's part Cherokee and has inherited the Native ability to sneak up on people. Which is stereotypical, of course.

There's also the perennial problem of people identifying themselves as part Cherokee. Franco's character could've laughed at himself for uttering such a cliché, but he didn't.

And since the Cherokee were one of the "Five Civilized Tribes," they're about the last Indians who would sneak up on people. Did his ancestors learn to walk quietly so they wouldn't disturb the cotton pickers on their plantations, or what?

In possibly related news, Mindy Kaling isn't a typical Hollywood liberal:

“Republican” Mindy Kaling brings gun-rights humor to her show

Her shows tend to have an underlying message of tolerance, so her political views aren't necessarily a issue. But this particular exchange was a klunker.

September 20, 2013

Griffin doesn't understand "Redskins" slur

I didn't think much about it when Redskins star Robert Griffin III (aka RGIII, not RGill) punted on the nickname issue:I can’t really dive into that. That’s something that’s way above my understanding and the bottom line for me at least, I’m not Native American. I’m sure I have a little bit of blood in me, as my parents have told me. I’m sure a lot of you guys in that room have some Native American blood in you as well. But we’re not at that authority to know what to do in that situation so I just leave that to those who know a little bit more about the situation.But a columnist points out the problems with this response:

Dawsey: Quarterback RGill's Cowardly Dodge of the 'Redskins' Name

By Darrell DawseyNever mind that he seems to contradict himself about his own Native American heritage. Far more damning is this attempt to pretend as if Native American ancestry has anything at all to do with RGIII's claim that the nickname issue is "above my head."

What in the name of Viola Liuzzo is that nonsense? Since when do you need to be part of a particular ethnic group to know that racist slurs--against anyone--are wrong? How do you deem the capacity to make a basic value judgment--racist nickname, bad--as an act that's outside your wheelhouse? Why do you need any more "authority" in order for you to man up and not pretend as if this whole racist nickname thing is beyond you and doesn't do anything but make your tiny brain hurt?

(And while we're at it, to a point made by a former 'Skins player now with the Lions, it doesn't wash to suggest that Redskins' name is OK because it's "tradition." Yeah, well, so was sending black folks through service-entrance doors, Rocky McIntosh. Sometimes, tradition needs to get kicked to the curb in the name of progress.)
Comment:  This is why I speak up on racism and sexism even though it's not "my" issue as a white man. I don't need to be a "spokesman" for Natives to say something--e.g., a stereotypical nickname or logo--is wrong. It's wrong because racism and stereotyping are wrong, period.

If a boy could see the racism in the movie Peter Pan, Griffin can see it here. Like sports columnist Rick Reilly, RGIII is probably afraid of biting the hand that feeds him. People are cowards when it comes to take a stand--no news there, unfortunately.

Ceramic stereotypes and Native erotica

Two recent art exhibits worth noting:

A Portrait of Gwen Stefani as a Boom Box: Sly Ceramic Stereotypes

'RezErect' Reveals Secret World of Native Erotica

Below:  "'Stereotype: The Stefani,' a ceramic sculpture by Cannupa Hanska Luger."

September 19, 2013

Sportswriters rip Reilly's "Redskins" column

Yesterday I posted one critique of Rick Reilly's column supporting the Washington Redskins. Turns out a whole bunch of sportswriters had something to say about it:

12 Sportswriters Rip ESPN's Rick Reilly for Column Defending RedskinsWe could pick it apart here, but it's more entertaining to leave the job to others, many of whom are paying attention to Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter's Change the Mascot campaign:

1. BobbyBigWheel, Kissing Suzy Kolber: "Rick Reilly is Racist as Hell, Probably Won't Get Fired by ESPN"

[The final] sentence is a fireable offense. The railroading of Native Americans into reservations upon removing them from their lands is one of our nation’s biggest embarrassments. Reilly uses it as a fucking punch line. He’s proven himself so insensitive throughout the article that it almost doesn’t shock by the end, but this is the equivalent of making sharecropping or concentration camps into kickers for a column. Not only should Reilly be fired, but his editor should probably be fired for even letting this come to light.

2. Chris Greenberg, Huffington Post: "Rick Reilly's Outrageous 'Redskins' Defense Compares Protesting Name To Putting Native Americans On Reservations"

Reilly opted not to address the concerns of Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who has spoken out against "the racial slur" in the team's name. ... Reilly's column made no mention of [U.S. Congressman Tom] Cole, who is described as "the sole tribal enrolled Native American currently serving in Congress" at his website and was one of 10 members of Congress to send a letter to Goodell and team owner Dan Snyder urging change earlier this year.

3. Tim Marchman, Deadspin: "Rick Reilly Just Wrote The Worst Thing. Let's Remember The Good Times."

We don't know why he's essentially equating criticism of overtly racist iconography with the forced relocation of entire nations, or how anyone could possibly publish this; we're not sure we want to know.
And:5. Jonathan Weiler, Huffington Post: "Rick Reilly's No Good, Very Bad Defense of the Washington Football Team's Nickname"

Reilly's attempt to position himself as some stalwart truth-teller defending the right of Native Americans to call themselves what they want is the kind faux 'courage' that one expects to find among the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

6. Ty Duffy, The Big Lead: "Rick Reilly Swings At 'Redskins,' Misses The Point Entirely"

If, as Reilly suggests, some predominately Native American schools view 'Redskins' as a point of pride and wish to continue using it, that is fine. That’s different from an NFL franchise, owned by a white man and catering to a largely non-Native American audience, appropriating that culture and distorting it into a crude caricature.

7. Kevin Beane, Sports Central, "Rick Reilly’s Redskins"

While a majority of Native Americans may not care about the Redskins nickname, a lot of them do. This need not be held up to a majority vote, because it's just a nickname. If 10% of Native Americans are offended, what's the harm in changing it to the Burgundies or the Cheseapeakers or something, where no one would be offended (except ironically at that PC world gone mad)?
Comment:  I don't know if these writers have criticized the nickname themselves. I don't think they've joined the movement not to use the word "Redskins."

But this is still a remarkable outcome. At least 12 writers were annoyed enough to lambaste one particular column defending the name.

I don't think Natives and other activists will ever give up the fight. Now it seems the sports world is turning against the name.

Why any of these people would backtrack is beyond me. The most likely outcome is the pressure will continue to grow until it becomes irresistible.

What's changed since 1991?

Curiously, Reilly himself may be the only person who's ever backtracked on "Redskins." In 1991, he wrote a column criticizing the nickname. Mike Foss provides the scoop:

Rick Reilly has evolved on Redskins name in a different way

22 years after coming out against the name, Reilly has changed his tune.

As Foss notes, Reilly didn't engage any of his old anti-"Redskins" arguments. For instance, he understood then that a name such as "Blackskins" or "Yellowskins" would be offensive. Well, that's still the case. So why were Redskins, Blackskins, and Yellowskins unacceptable in 1991 but okay now?

Who knows? Perhaps Reilly is getting paid too much these days to bite the hand that feeds him. That's about the only reason I can think of for his reversal.

Bigfoot in Castle

In The Fast and the Furriest episode of Castle (airdate: 4/15/13), Native actress Marisa Quinn guest-starred as a homicide victim. Here's how her character was introduced:RYAN: Name is Anne Cardinal. Twenty-seven years old. She was Native American. Grew up on the Onondaga Reservation in central New York.

BECKETT: Any next of kin?

RYAN: No. She had no siblings, and both of her parents are gone. She lived in off-campus housing for Hudson University, where she was working towards a PhD in evolutionary biology.
The detectives learn she worked part-time at a primate sanctuary. But she was more than a primate caregiver:DR. MEEKS: Anne was studying evolutionary biology. She was an honors student at the university. But she was actually a hugely respected Bigfoot expert. She even gave me the extremely rare yeti finger.

CASTLE: Are you saying Anne was a Bigfoot hunter?

DR. MEEKS: N-N-No, no, no, uh, no, not a hunter. No, uh, Anne was, uh, Native American. And, uh, in her tribe's culture, a Bigfoot was considered...benevolent, or a protector. When she was a child, she actually saw a Bigfoot, and, so, after that, she devoted her life to their study.
Comment:  Alas, Quinn's character Anne appeared for only a few seconds as a corpse and a few seconds on a video recorded before her death.

After half an hour exploring the Bigfoot angle, the episode went in another direction. Turns out Anne wasn't hunting Bigfoot in New York City. She was looking for evidence to exonerate a friend accused of an earlier murder.

The key point here is how well the show treated the Native character. Her cultural beliefs were given respect, and she was described in positive, nonstereotypical terms. How often does a Native earn a PhD on television...never?

Castle continues to include Natives occasionally in a mostly respectful way. That puts it ahead of almost every other show on network TV.

For more on Castle, see Counting Coup in Castle and "Sacagawea" in Castle.

Below:  Marisa Quinn with Jonathan Frakes, who directed the episode.

September 18, 2013

Reilly: "White America" hates "Redskins"

It seems that the news has become all Redskins, all the time. That's partly because I've begun tweeting the less urgent stories, and partly because this issue is reaching critical mass.

Rick Reilly and the Most Irredeemably Stupid Defense of the Redskins Name You Will Ever Read

By Dave Zirin“White America has spoken,” he pens with what I’m sure he imagines is sardonic relish. “You [Native Americans] aren’t offended, so we’ll be offended for you.”

You read correctly. In Reilly’s world, Redskins is loved—as he underlines repeatedly—by Native Americans and hated by “white America.” Is this true? If “white America has spoken” it’s been loudly and proudly to keep the Redskins name. The mood, judging from my Twitter feed, is probably best described as “You will pry my Redskins foam finger and matching headdress from my cold, dead hands!”

Every poll shows overwhelming support for preserving the name as is. But saying “white America” is imposing this name change on the Native American community is not only ass-backward. It is incredibly insulting to every Native American—people like the original activists of the American Indian Movement, Suzan Harjo and Vern Bellecourt—who have organized to change it in the face of constant abuse by high-profile, invariably white sportswriters like Rick Reilly. By not giving even token mention to the long history of Native American organizing or agency, Reilly makes them invisible or implies that they are just pawns of this PC liberal elite just looking to be offended for the sake of being offended.

But the contention of people like Harjo and the Oneida Nation, unmentioned by Reilly, is not that mascots are “bad” in a vacuum. Their argument is that we have created a connective tissue between mascots and the dehumanization of their culture, which enables us to look the other way as Native Americans consistently have the lowest life expectancy, highest child mortality rate, and lowest standard of living of any ethnicity in the country. We can debate whether this connective tissue truly exists—I believe it does—but for Reilly to not even acknowledge the issue smacks of the worst kind of blinkered white privilege that people like Suzan Harjo have argued “mascoting” creates.

Reilly then goes on to write of all the Native American school districts that “wear the [Redskins] name with honor” (he names three). Reilly ignores, however, the students in Cooperstown, New York, who organized a successful grassroots campaign to throw the name Redskins in the garbage over the summer. He also ignores that the last forty years are actually a constant history of schools and teams disavowing Native American mascots. Did you know that St. Bonaventure, to use just one example, was once known as the Brown Indians and the Brown Squaws until they changed their names in 1979? Reilly doesn’t either.

But Rick Reilly is not done. He points out that Redskins existed for eighty-two years, so why change now? As mentioned, this is ignorant of the forty years Native Americans have agitated to change it. But forget that. Imagine someone saying to Claudette Colvin, “You people have been on the back of this bus for forty years. Why is this now an issue?” Or to the suffragettes, “Sweetie, you couldn’t cast a vote for a century. Now it’s a problem?” Actually we don’t have to imagine it. That’s exactly what people, the Rick Reillys of their day, have always said to oppressed groups to make them sit down and shut up. Dr. Martin Luther King J. wrote an entire book, Why We Can’t Wait, to answer this. I’d suggest Reilly read some King, but I fear he’d say, “Peter King wrote a book?”
Comment:  In here recent column, Sylvia Thompson took this approach too. She blamed mascot battles on liberal do-gooders rather than Indians who have protested them for decades.

This itself is a form of racism: putting Indians in the background, telling them their opinions, ignoring the long record of activism. I'd never say that all or most Indians actively oppose the "Redskins" nickname. But Thompson and Reilly are claiming none of them do, which is just as dishonest.

In short, Thompson and Reilly are either woefully ignorant or deliberately deceptive when they pretend the mascot issue is a white liberal invention. It's hard to say whether these people are bigger idiots or liars, but I'd go with the latter.

Canadian app store censors "Redskins"

Adrienne Keene summarizes another development in the "Redskins" controversy for us:

Canadian iTunes App Store Censors the Word RedSk*n

See that picture above? That’s what Ian Campeau of A Tribe Called Red sees when he searches for the word “RedSk*n” (without the asterisk) in the Canadian iphone app store. I’ve been searching online to see if there was any announcement accompanying this change, any statement about why or how this happened or who was responsible, and I’ve got nothing. But I hope we can agree that this is HUGE. It might seem like something minor or purely symbolic, but this is Apple we’re talking about.

Ogoki Learning Systems, a Native App-development company, posted about the switch on their site yesterday, citing section 19 of The Apple Developer Terms and Conditions, which states:19. Religion, culture, and ethnicity

19.1. Apps containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected
And from Ogoki itself:

Redskins Word Banned from iTunes Apple Inc.We as First Nation App developers applaud Apple Inc. in taking a stand and recognizing that Native Americans and First Nation people are not “Redskins.” We are a distinct people with the same rights as we afford to every man woman and child who set foot on this earth.

Nepean Redskins to change name

This Canadian football team is changing its name--mainly because one person led a campaign against it. Score another victory for the power of protest.

Nepean Redskins to change team name

By Chris CobbThe Nepean Redskins football club’s board of directors will officially announce Friday that they will change the club’s name.

The club has been under fire from across Canada for what critics say is an outdated, racist reference to native people.

But the Redskins had resisted the change, saying there was never any intent to offend any group.

Ottawa musician Ian Campeau, an Ojibway, filed a complaint with Ontario Human Rights Tribunal three weeks ago asking them to order the National Capital Amateur Football Association to change the names of all Redskins teams in its association and to scrap logos that depict the cartoon figure of a native man.
Comment:  That's one "Redskins" down, one to go!

This comes a mere two weeks after the Redskins' president assured us that Canada's First Nations approved the name and it would continue. I guess he was lying through his teeth.

For more on the Nepean Redskins, see Human Rights Complaint Against Nepean Redskins and Campaign Against Nepean Redskins.

September 17, 2013

Black columnist excuses "Redskins," genocide

Here's a typical conservative column on the "Redskins" controversy:

On the Redskins name controversy

It's noteworthy because of the writer:Sylvia Thompson is a black conservative writer whose aim is to counter the liberal spin on issues pertaining to race and culture.

Ms. Thompson is a copy editor by trade currently residing in Tennessee.
Let the demolition begin

Here are excerpts from her column with my responses:I read that the Washington Redskins football team owner, Daniel Snyder, is being pressured to change the team's name, because it may be offensive to American Indians.You mean it is offensive according to the dictionary. The only question is how racists like you justify the offense, not whether the word's meaning is offensive.Side note: I view every American who was born in this country, who has centuries of history on this soil, as "native American." I am a native American, with over two-hundred years of heritage passed on from my ancestors, who were brought here from Africa. That the term should be applied to only one segment of the American populace is a misuse of that term.No, your ignorance is a misuse of your brain.

Okay, you're a "native American." That uncapitalized phrase applies to any individual born here. The capitalized version, "Native American," is a proper noun that applies to a whole group of people. Including their ancestors. As a group, these people--also known as Indians--are native to the Americas no matter where they were born individually.

Get it? The phrase "native American" is a generic term that's different from "Native American." Similarly, anyone who herds cows can call himself a cowboy, but only a member of the Dallas football team is a Cowboy. Capitalization give the term a specialized meaning.


If you want to argue that Indians came from somewhere else, okay. Their ancestors came here 20,000 years ago while your ancestors came here 200 years ago. They've lived here literally a hundred times longer than you have.

True, they may not be natives, technically speaking. So their claim to the land isn't infinitely better than yours; it's "only" a hundred times better. They're a hundred times more native than you are.

When you acknowledge that, we can think about taking the rest of your column seriously. Until then, your pretense that everyone is equally "native" is stupid beyond belief.

Thompson justifies genocideTo the issue of who claims it, I say that only the group who was strong enough to occupy and hold it can make that claim. Nations are built on that premise.Right makes might...the favorite argument of every conservative thug. Let's "enjoy" Thompson's defense of the Euro-American genocide of Indians.People without a safe place to thrive have throughout history sought out safe haven in other lands.The English settlers were motivated by religious fanaticism or greed, not a quest for a "safe haven." Same with the Spanish settlers, although they were fanatical about converting heathens, not practicing their own hardcore fundamentalism.If they found such a place, either they ingratiated themselves to the current occupants, or they mustered the force to take over that land. Whoever was strongest, took possession."Mustered the force" means killing innocent people. So Thompson is okay with mass murder because it's some sort of natural process.

I guess she supported Al Qaeda's attack on 9/11, since that was basically the same thing. The terrorists were trying to exert their strength just like the European colonists did.Vanquished people then decided whether they would meld with the victors and take advantage of the positives that they afforded (Japan being an example) or they isolated themselves from the victors (American Indians being an example).Indians chose to isolate themselves?! You mean after the Americans took away their ability to roam freely and forcibly corralled them into reservations? That's like blaming a convict for staying in his cell after society falsely imprisoned him for a crime he didn't commit.That is, if the victors chose not to destroy the vanquished. History is replete with such destruction. America chose not to destroy.Huh? Americans took about 98% of the Indians' land, banished about 98% of their cultures, and killed about 98% of them. So "not to destroy" means "destroyed 98% but not 100%"? Well, gee, thanks for nothing two percent.

Guess what would happen if you robbed someone of 98% of his possessions and let him keep 2%? You wouldn't be rewarded for your compassion. You'd be jailed for your crimes.Bleeding hearts can whine and moan over the atrocities that accompany such survival tactics, but those tactics are the way of human existence.Is that what you say to the victims of terrorist attacks, mass shootings and bombings, etc.? Get over it because everyone suffered some massacre in the past? Or are you a goddamned racist who thinks only white Anglo-Saxons can kill whoever they wish?

Racists should be free?That a term used by the natives themselves would be derogatory does not make any sense, Goddard points out. And he is correct.

That said, the term took on a derogatory nature sometime during the 19th Century, according to the article.
Since the second statement obviates the first statement, this whole passage is a waste of space. Go back to the beginning where I said "redskins" is offensive according to the dictionary. End of story.History aside, what we are dealing with now is an attempt to dictate to a private owner (Daniel Snyder) how he must handle his private property (a football team)."Attempt to dictate" means we're using the free market of ideas to champion our position, same as Snyder. He can name the team whatever he wants, as long as it doesn't violate the (trademark) law, and we can protest it. If you don't like the concept of protest, you're in the wrong country, idiot.

You gotta love how a black woman uses white mainstream "privilege" to frame her argument. Snyder is just doing his thing, exercising his property rights, while activists are "trying to dictate" to him.

How about an alternate frame? Snyder is trying to dictate how Americans perceive Indians--as primitive savages aka "redskins." And activists are exercising their First Amendment right to challenge him.

Yes, racists hate it when we "infringe" on their freedom to be racist. Too bad, racists. If you don't like people pointing out your racism, stop being racist.

Quit bawling like babies because someone's asking you to stop acting like the center of the universe. Grow up and learn to respect other people's feelings.There will be those who offer, "Suppose somebody named a team Sambos or Uncle Toms?" To that statement, my first response would be that those terms have no history of representing anything but the denigration of black people.I strongly suspect Thompson is wrong here. I'd bet the people who first used the terms "Uncle Tom" and "Sambo" thought they were neutral or even positive. And the terms evolved into recognized slurs only over time--just like "redskins."Redskins, on the other hand, in its use today, references masculine bravery as represented by fighting native warriors.Huh?! No one applies the word "redskins" to "fighting native warriors" today except ignorant sports fans. That's almost literally the word's only use.

You think any flesh-and-blood Native warriors prefer the term "redskin"? Try calling a roomful of Native soldiers that and see how they react.

Just to be sure, add a few terms of endearment such as "Chief," "Tonto," and "Geronimo." Veterans love to be compared to these symbols of Native masculinity.

Offensive but ignore it?My next response would be that, as a black person, I am not affected by such names. I know who and what I am, and what I am called is irrelevant.This is irrelevant unless you concede the name is derogatory. Which it is according to the dictionary.

So your contradictory arguments are 1) "Redskins" isn't offensive and 2) "Redskins" is offensive but I don't care? Why don't you pick one argument and stick with it, okay?Why, then, is there an issue? Especially since the few instances of the name (as with the Redskins team) are in reference to manliness and bravery.Actually, Suzan Shown Harjo and others have documented the long history of people using "redskin" as an insult. The sports context is the only one, out of many, where people (wrongly) claim the word isn't offensive.

Somehow, the sports field magically makes "niggers," "kikes," "wetbacks," "chinks," and "redskins" okay. Oops, I meant only "redskins." The offensive terms for other ethnic groups are still taboo.I have seen no statistical proof that a majority of Indians are offended by that term.We've discussed the polling data at length. The polls are flawed because they don't distinguish between how people feel and what they'd do.

And who says a majority has to be offended before something is wrong? If a solid minority is offended, that's arguably enough to instigate a change.And it is very clear that the fans of the Redskins are not offended, or they would avoid the games.Who cares what ignorant non-Indian fans think? And who says that fans who attend in person are more important than fans watching on TV or Americans in general?

Since the name affects Indians, including Indian children who can't "ignore" it, they should be the primary judges. Not fans who have a vested interested in retaining an ethnic slur and telling themselves they're not racists.This situation brings to mind an interview that I saw on television many years ago with Maria Tallchief, the great American ballerina. The commentator asked her if she minded being called "Indian," to which she replied, no.Except "Indian" isn't a slur, though a few misguided liberals think it is. In contrast, most dictionaries label "redskins" a slur.

So "not a slur" vs. "a slur." Great anecdote except for comparing something with its opposite. In other words, not a great anecdote.To whatever degree you are offended by the name Redskins, the offense is not worth the effort.Again, Thompson tacitly admits the offense. In other words, she tacitly acknowledges her own "masculine bravery" argument is rubbish. No need to thank me for pointing out your stupid contradictions, ma'am.

Publicity isn't worth it?

As for whether it's worth the effort--again, that's for the protesters to decide. Since this conflict is generating a huge amount of publicity about the ongoing stereotyping of Indians, I'd say it's more than worth it. I expect the effort to succeed, but even if it fails, it will have succeeded in exposing America's racism.The liberal left needs you as their victims as much as they need blacks. Do not play their game, because you are of no interest to them, otherwise. Only their agenda matters.Uh, Indians, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations are leading these protests, dim bulb. Liberals like me are only chiming in.

Indeed, my case is fairly typical. Indians have been protesting mascots on for something like 40 years. I joined in something like 15-20 years ago. The agenda is theirs, not mine.

To sum it up, your arguments are stupid and contradictory. "Redskins" isn't offensive because it denotes "masculine bravery," a definition found nowhere except in sports. Or it is offensive but Indians were conquered so get used to being called dirty savages. It's hard to say which "argument" is more asinine.