November 30, 2013

Stereotypical Dress-Up Fridge Magnets

Someone posted a link to this British product on Facebook's Native Appropriations page:

Dress Up Fridge MagnetsWe love dressing up! So why stop at dressing ourselves up… With our Dress Up Fridge Magnets you can give your best friend an Indian headdress and give your cat some bling and at the same time attach them to your fridge door. Choose from over 28 magnets and create a funny new look for your photos of friends, family & pets.Comment:  Dressing up your dog as an Indian chief, as in the photo...that kinds of says it all about what's wrong with this product. Needless to say, selecting two ethnic groups for this dubious treatment is discriminatory.

If you don't see it, add a "blackface" magnet with kinky hair and big red lips. Now do you get it?

At this point, I think the British have a lot of experience with blacks, Asians, and Arabs. They don't have much experience with Indians or Latinos.

Is it a coincidence that the company treats these two brown-skinned groups as exotic others? And trivializes their diverse cultures with stupid stereotypes? Probably not.

November 29, 2013

Mastodon's stereotypical Thankgiving t-shirt

An Open Letter to Mastodon regarding your Thanksgiving t-shirts [[Updated With Response]]

By EricaDear Troy, Brent, Bill and Brann,

A year ago, I finally had the chance to see Mastodon play with Ghost and Opeth in Saskatoon. I was front row center, pressed against the gates for the first two sets. It was easily one of the best lineups I’ve seen, and an amazing night–made even cooler when Bill tossed me his pick.

Which is why my heart sank when I saw the new Mastodon “Thanksgiving” shirts.

Metal and hard rock music are still viewed as the domain of straight white men–I’ll assume you don’t need proof of this beyond the sausagefest crowd at an average metal show. But there’s plenty of us who don’t fit that category and still want to feel at home in your music. This shirt does the opposite of that for me as an Indigenous woman.

I want to believe that the shirt was designed with the intent of trying to disrupt the lie of American Thanksgiving; a holiday based on the story of Pilgrims and Indians coming together and sharing a nice meal, when in reality what occurred was genocide. And of course, a critical element of “conquering” Indigenous people used in the United States and Canada is the rape and enslavement of Native women.

I want to believe that you knew all of that when you approved this shirt.

But there are better ways to make political statements than printing t-shirts with disturbing imagery that reinforces racist myths rather than challenging them. Indigenous women are not (and never have been) subservient, silent, compliant, helpless on our knees, always ready and willing in buckskin bikinis–but that is how we are viewed, and this image contributes to an already bursting repository of that crap.

If the band’s/the t-shirt artist’s intention was to challenge historical injustices, the reaction that is already coming from the Native American community should be an indicator that it was misguided.

There is nothing subversive or edgy about a scantily clad Native American woman on her knees serving a white man who is pointing a gun in her face.

Mastodon responds to critics

Mastodon Say Their Thanksgiving T-Shirt Is Not Racist

By Scott LapatineAtlanta sludge-metal outfit Mastodon have some new merch for sale, including a Thanksgiving t-shirt that some are claiming is racist.

The tee highlights the atrocities of American colonialism by depicting a pilgrim holding a musket to the head of a scantily clad Native American woman. As Pitchfork points out, Mastodon have responded to criticism with this Facebook post:Regarding our thanks giving shirt, whether you choose to believe or not, the American Indians were massacred by the white settlers who became the Americans we are today.

this shirt represents this atrocity and celebrating in the face of this atrocity is chilling.

we may have a sick sense of humor, but we are far from being “Racist” as some of you who might not get it are calling us.
Mastodon Defend ‘Thanksgiving’ T-Shirt From Racism Allegations

Critics respond to Mastodon

From the comments on the second posting:StephanieSays
Scantily clad Native woman on her knees with a gun pointed to her face? Yeah, not racist at all. Looks like the bullshit costumes ignorant white women wear on Halloween or to music festivals… and I want to give the band the benefit of the doubt and say that was part of the satire, but then they posted their response to the criticism completely not understanding why people were offended to begin with, trying to turn any backlash to the shirt as white people being upset that the band was ruining their idea of Thanksgiving.

And even if it WAS part of the satire, it’s really just another image furthering the fetishization of Native women. It’s not challenging stereotypes at all. Native American women are sexually assaulted and raped at higher rates than any other group in the US, and mostly by white men.

Regardless of their intent, they are garnering a ton of publicity and are currently sold out of the shirt. Using a genocide as a marketing tool is gross.

Today I learned that this band sells their own autographs on Ebay, which is fucking hilarious. Good on ya, dudes.

Toby Vanlandingham
Regardless of the intent, since a huge number of real native Americans are outraged over the imagery on the shirt, and the fact that it can also be worn proudly by non-native men who rape native women as a “badge” if you will, the shirt is an epic fail. Thank you Mastodon for trying to bring light to the horrible treatment that us native American’s have received since first contact, but if this is the way you are going to go about bringing us into the light, I think I can speak for the majority and say we will just go it alone. Again thanks, and if you would like to try again with some real native input, there are many knowledgeable natives who would be happy to help prevent another tragedy like this shirt.
Fans prove racist message

Stop Helping! Band Angers Natives With Shirt; Insists It's Pro-NativeKudos to Mastodon for forging new territory in the proliferation of racist and sexist imagery.

We've seen offensive t-shirts that make light of Native suffering and depictions of sexualized Indian maidens. But the hugely popular metal band has combined the two in a Thanksgiving themed item that it has defended as an image that will raise consciousness to the Native side of the Thanksgiving myth.
And:Mastodon addressed the controversy on its own Facebook page--well, sort of. The band's statement defends the shirt as a challenge to the Thanksgiving story--which didn't seem to have upset too many people--while ignoring the concerns raised by Natives about the choice of imagery.And:Following Mastodon's response, Erica updated her original post with some choice comments from Mastodon fans:

“All I know is that I’m thankful for smallpox blankets lol”

"Fuck em, they all just drunks anyways"

“No the Indians gave us the land… And now they want it back… Indian givers… Who cares it’s a shirt u don’t like the shirt, use it for a diaper u cry ass cry babies”

"I’m sorry some of my ancestors were smarter, more industrious and slightly more ruthless than the peoples they found when they got here."

"Grow up and quit be bitches. If the Indians wanted to land, they should of fought harder. Fuck em"

"Rock and roll mother fuckers, man the fuck up! Dude has a gun pointing it a hot Indian with big tits!"
Comment:  Erica and the Natives win this debate by a knockout. With their comments, Mastodon fans demonstrate that they didn't come close to understanding the band's message.

Not only did they like the sexy "Pocahottie," but they seem to have absorbed the notion of Indians as inferiors. Perhaps because the Native woman was scantily clad and kneeling with a gun to her head, which makes her look inferior...duh.

One obvious way to convey the alleged message would be to have a well-dressed man, perhaps a Wampanoag sachem, offering a turkey to the Pilgrim. But without an Indian woman as a sex object, that presumably wouldn't have sold as well.

We don't know if Mastodon thought about this issue, but they--as well as their fans--failed to understand the protesters' point. It's not about the shirt's anti-Thanksgiving message, it's about its anti-woman message. One has to be as dumb as a mastodon not to get that.

In short, this shirt is a colossal fail.

For more fashion fails, see "Dreamcatcher and Skull" Clothing Line, Vanity Fair's "Favorite" Indian Costume, and Natives Criticize "Inukt" Fashion Line.

November 28, 2013

The #1 Thanksgiving myth

The no. 1 Thanksgiving myth may be that the Pilgrims and Indians were "besties," as the first group of postings notes:

First Thanksgiving: Forget what you learned in school

By Cindy Yurth[T]he fact is that the great East Coast tribes at that time--the Pequot, Narragansett and Wampanoag--were in a constant joust for supremacy, Hopkins said. If the Pilgrims thought they had left in their past a land of interlocking empires and scheming aristocracy, they were mistaken.

Their arrival was not met by a band of happy-go-lucky savages eager to share their wealth with the starving newcomers. The tribes were wondering how the palefaces were going to fit into the power structure, and whether they should befriend them in the hopes of gaining new allies, or dispatch them on the spot to preserve the status quo.

"Massasoit wanted to make friends with the Pilgrims so he could get their help against the Narragansetts," Hopkins explained. "It worked."

Although Squanto, a Wampanoag who spoke English, had taught the Pilgrims what to plant in the New World, the two races were not quite on friendly terms by the time of that first harvest.

"What most history books don't tell you is that the Pilgrims limited the number of Indians who could attend that first Thanksgiving," Hopkins said. "They made sure to seat a white guy on each side of each Wampanoag warrior, just in case something happened."
Wampanoag Historian on Surviving Almost 400 Years of Thanksgivings

By Gale Courey ToensingWhat do you think is the most egregious misunderstanding about Thanksgiving?

Probably that it’s perceived that we welcomed them. Yeah, they think we were just standing there waiting for them and welcoming [them] and one guy handed them the turkey and another guy handed them the carving knife and they all went to dinner—it’s just ridiculous! What really happened was there was no contact with them for six months. But we were watching them and seeing what they were doing. And it was Samoset who was from Maine and was down visiting who made the first contact—I always figured they sent the guy from out of town to do it! But then there was a feasting event the next fall that’s been interpreted as the first Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t even dubbed that till the 19th century.
6 Thanksgiving Myths, Share Them With Someone You Know

By Vincent SchillingIn 1621, when the Pilgrims were celebrating a successful harvest, they were shooting guns and cannons into the air. The Wampanoag chief and 90 warriors made their way to the settlement in full warrior mode—in response to the gunfire. As the Huffington Post’s Richard Schiffman puts it, “It remains an open question, however, whether the Wampanoag were actually invited, or if they crashed the party.”

The Pilgrims were most likely nervous—the Wampanoag outnumbered the Pilgrims two to one, but it certainly wasn’t the happy picture put forth in many history books. According to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Ramona Peters, “It was Abraham Lincoln who used the theme of Pilgrims and Indians eating happily together. He was trying to calm things down during the Civil War when people were divided. It was like a nice unity story.”

Why Falsify Thanksgiving?

Why do we celebrate a happy-go-lucky feast between Pilgrim and Indian "besties"? Like Indian mascots and other stereotypical depictions, it obscures America's history of crimes against Indians.

Thanksgiving is for sociopaths

I don't have anything against turkey. But I can't abide a holiday that denies its genocidal historical context

By Robert Jensen
“I don’t hate Thanksgiving—I just think it’s appropriate to critique a celebration that obscures the reality of the European conquest of the Americas.”

That description is accurate, at one level—my rejection of Thanksgiving is more intellectual than emotional, a political decision to reject that distortion of history. Whatever the actual details of the 1621 celebration involving Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians (and there is ongoing debate about various factual claims), Thanksgiving is one way the dominant culture minimizes or denies the larger historical context of Europeans’ genocidal campaign against indigenous people to acquire the land base of the United States. Without that genocide, there is no United States. For the victors’ descendants to take a day off to give thanks without acknowledging that seems, well, just a bit sociopathic.
Native Appropriation Month

By Ruth HopkinsIn November, schools throughout America encourage children to dress up as pilgrims and Indians to tell the myth of the first Thanksgiving. Educators, you have no excuse. Real history is at your fingertips. There’s no need to regurgitate the white washed story of Thanksgiving that you were spoon fed as a child. Stop pushing the Charlie Brown version where Pilgrims and Indians shook hands and feasted, and tell them the truth. Tell your students about the original inhabitants of this country, colonization, and the genocide that followed. If children can learn about slavery, World War II and the holocaust, they can learn about how Europeans invaded this land and what happened to its Indigenous people. Dressing school children in stereotypical Indian costumes doesn’t teach them about Thanksgiving. It teaches them about privilege and control.Thanksgiving Hypocrisy

By Stephen LendmanThe Thanksgiving holiday is also a way to promote what Edward Herman calls our “indispensable state,” our innate goodness and the illusion of American exceptionalism, moral and cultural superiority, and the belief that the Almighty made us special the way ideological Zionists feel Jews are “the chosen people.” It’s a short step from these views to judging others inferior, especially those ranked low in the racial, religious, ethnic or cultural pecking order–blacks, Latinos, and today’s number one target of choice for a nation at war and an enemy needed to justify it–Muslims hatefully portrayed as “radicals, extremists, gunmen, insurgents,” and “Islamofascists.”Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?

By Dennis ZotighThe Thanksgiving myth has done so much damage and harm to the cultural self-esteem of generations of Indian people, including myself, by perpetuating negative and harmful images to both young Indian and non-Indian minds. There are so many things wrong with the happy celebration that takes place in elementary schools and its association to American Indian culture; compromised integrity, stereotyping, and cultural misappropriation are three examples.

When children are young, they are often exposed to antiquated images of American Indians through cartoons, books, and movies. But Thanksgiving re-enactments may be their most active personal encounter with Indian America, however poorly imagined, and many American children associate Thanksgiving actions and images with Indian culture for the rest of their lives. These cultural misunderstandings and stereotypical images perpetuate historical inaccuracy.
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Tackles the Broad American Mythology

Comment:  For more on Thanksgiving myths, see Thanksgiving Is for Celebration Only? and Stereotypical Thanksgiving Paintings.

Best Thanksgiving cartoons 2013

The best Thanksgiving cartoons I saw this year:

And a poem in the same vein:

'Thanksgiving,' a Poem by Jonathan Garfield

For more on the subject, see PEACE PARTY Political Cartoon: Costumes and PEACE PARTY Political Cartoon: Thanksgiving.

Indians in Macy's parade 2013

Three reports on different Natives participating in the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:

Cherokee National Youth Choir to participate in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Red Lake girl to take part in Macy's parade

Crow dancer to appear in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

And a summary of their experiences:

Native Pride Celebrated at the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

By Cliff MatiasThe 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be remembered as the year of Native Pride. Three different Native American groups were highlighted in this year’s festivities. Returning for the fifth year in a row, the Oneida Indian Nation float called “The True Spirit of Thanksgiving” shared the parade route with the world renowned Native Pride Dancers from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the Cherokee Youth Choir from Talequah, Oklahoma.

This was the first time Macy’s hosted more than one Native American group in its parade and for many Native participants, the general feeling was that this is the beginning of something exciting for American Indian people.

“I think this is a great time to share who we are,” said Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO. “It’s important for America to see who the real Indian people are. We are not mascots; we’re not stereotypes. We want a more accurate image of who we are and what our part in history has been.”

Temperatures were below freezing, but people’s spirits were upbeat. “We are pumped,” said Larry Yazzie, founder of the Native Pride Dance troupe. “We are excited to represent all Native Americans across Turtle Island. We have 10 champion fancy dancers with us today.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Oneida Float in Macy's Parade 2012 and Oneida Float in Macy's Parade 2011.

Below:  "The True Spirit of Thanksgiving float along the parade route at the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." (Cliff Matias)

November 27, 2013

The rage of angry white men

The Rage of the Angry White Male Continues Its Battle Against Equality

By Mark KarlinIs there hope that the ugly, hateful era of the angry white male might come to an end in the United States?

Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, believes that the incendiary rage of many resentful white males will ultimately succumb to an altered cultural context.

"Angry white men rage for our attention, yes, but that era of assumed male entitlement to all the positions of power and wealth is coming to an end." Kimmel told Truthout. "Men can be dragged kicking and screaming into that inevitable future, or we can accept it and ask what it means for us."

Truthout recently interviewed Kimmel, who is a sociology professor and executive director at the Center of the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York.
And:You talk about the transition from anxiety to explosive emotional anger among the actual and perceived growing loss of entitlement and privilege among white males. You use the phrase, "the cultural construction of aggrieved entitlement." Does that translate to, "white males are mad as hell that women and minorities aren't kept in their place anymore by white men, and the white men are losing their jobs and patriarchal status as a result"?

Nicely put! Some white males are mad as hell not that minorities or gays or women aren't "kept in their place" anymore, but more that they feel that "they" are taking places that were "rightfully ours." Race (being white) and gender (being men) are the frameworks they use to describe what I think is actually a phenomenon that has more to do with class.

You dissect "The Rage of the American Working Man" in Chapter Six. Of course, the inevitable question is why is so much of that rage aimed at minorities instead of upward at primarily other white males who are exploiting them?

Good question, I ask myself this all the time. Sometimes, in my interviews, I felt like I was listening to a gendered version of Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? as I listened to men blame those below them on the socioeconomic ladder for problems that were caused by those far above them. Such misdirection is massaged and manipulated. Men's anger is real--in the sense that they have often been badly done by. But just to say that it's a real feeling doesn't make it "true"--that is, it is not an accurate analysis of what caused their situation. Just remember that the anger of men who feel (or who actually have been) dispossessed can go to the right or the left. Timothy McVeigh or Tom Joad.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Republicans Want to Restore Confederacy and "Defund Obamacare" = "Nigger, Nigger."

"Ask a Slave" on Indians

YouTube Comedy 'Ask a Slave' Tackles the Thanksgiving Question: 'What About the Indians?'“Was your great-grandmother a Cherokee princess like mine? You can kind of see it in my cheekbones."

So launches the latest episode of Ask a Slave, the YouTube comedy series by comedian Azie Mira Dungey, an actress who spent two years playing a slave at George Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon. So many absurd questions were posed to Dungey as she portrayed Caroline Branham, who “belonged” to Washington back in the 1700s, that she created the character of Lizzie May, “personal housemaid to president and Lady Washington,” as she puts it in her intro. “And I'm here to answer all of your questions.”

The episode posted on November 24 deals, fittingly, with Thanksgiving.

"I know you're a slave, but what about the Indians?” asks the aforementioned man whom Lizzie May dubs “Cheekbones.” “Do you know any?"

Luckily, she does.

"Well I don't know why y'all keep bringing up Indians,” says Lizzie May, after fielding a few Thanksgiving questions. “But it's a good thing I happen to have my dear friend Red Jacket here with me today."

Enter the Seneca leader Otetiani Sagoyewatha (which Lizzie can’t pronounce), using the English moniker given him for fighting on their side during the Revolutionary War. What ensues is not unlike the queries recounted last summer by a staffer at the information kiosk at the Montreal First Nations Festival in Montreal.

November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving pub crawls in Indian costumes

Apparently the negative publicity about Indian mascots and costumes hasn't reached some people. The latest offensive trend is Thankgiving-themed pub crawls.

We begin with Robin Leach, the former host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, who is as clueless as his history suggests:

Strip Scribbles: ‘Innocent’ pre-Thanksgiving parties rankle Native Americans

By Robin LeachIt’s the latest absurdity of political correctness overstepping reality and trying to squash the fun of Las Vegas. A group of Native Americans is protesting plans by Las Vegas nightclubs over themed Thanksgiving costume parties where guests will wear Pilgrims and Indians outfits.

“It’s totally innocent on our part, and no disrespect or harm were intended,” nightlife party queen Tiffany Masters told me. “To call us racist is over the top. Two of us organizing one party have Native bloodlines. Another organizer has a Native daughter and really doesn’t appreciate this un-necessary drama. Our party this year is at Gold Lounge in Aria at CityCenter, and we used a model with fall foliage leaves instead of a costume.”

The protesters attacked social media sites of Las Vegas nightclub groups. “The Light Group is supporting us and is upset we’ve been singled out,” said Tiffany. “We won’t be threatened, but we have changed the name of our party to show our own sensitivity. But we still expect people will wear authentic costumes for the Thanksgiving parties. We can’t tell them what they can’t wear.

“We’ve had these parties for 10 years now every Thanksgiving Eve, and nobody has ever complained until now. It simply doesn’t make sense. All locals and nightlife industry people come together this night either because we are ‘orphans without family’ or are stuck working the holiday.”

I read some of the complaints, which stated: “Racism is real in Las Vegas. Am appalled at the audacity some event throwers in Vegas have toward my people. … It’s an incursion on me as a Native American. … I contacted several business owners because I think mockery should be stopped. … I am proud of my Native Line, and I don’t want it to be taken as a joke. … I believe in the celebration of cultures coming together—not the disrespect.”

I fail to see any racism or how a Thanksgiving Eve party with guests in Pilgrims and Native American costume shows disrespect. I didn’t hear any such accusations at Halloween, so I don’t think the wild accusations for Thanksgiving are deserved. Totally beyond me!
Leach didn't hear any of the dozens of Native "accusations" at Halloween? Perhaps his cocoon of white privilege cut off his hearing. Or perhaps he's an ignorant twit.

As I tweeted to him:3 Native protests over Halloween you missed: Ireland Baldwin tweets Indian costume / Toothpaste commercial shows stereotypical costume / Vanity Fair's "favorite" Indian costumeMore creepy crawls

Miami Pub Crawl Encourages Drinkers to Dress Up Like Native Americans for Thanksgiving

By Monique Jones

This Wednesday, Miami pub crawl organizing group Keep Crawling will run a Thanksgiving Costume Pub Crawl. Dressing in costume isn't required, but participants are encouraged to come as either a Pilgrim or Native American.

While most of the jokes one could make about dressing as a Pilgrim might include cracks about looking dowdy, dressing as a Native American is tremendously more problematic. It's also offensive.

To say Thanksgiving is a touchy time to mockingly dress up like a Native is an understatement. Conventional American lore states that Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the Pilgrims surviving their first winter in America with help from the Wampanoag tribe. However, this narrative is more of a tall tale that romanticizes the harsh effects of colonization, and overlooks the mistreatment of Natives that followed: shady political treaties, forced and often violent removal of tribes from their lands, and the spread of misinformation about "savages."
And:Despite all this, Keep Crawling stands by its decision to encourage crawlers to dress in costume. "We give our crawlers the option of dressing in theme of the holiday. It's up to them how they would like to dress to the crawl," said John Gaebe of Keep Crawling. "Our pub crawls are often holiday themed. We take no stance on the issue. We just provide a platform for people to have a good time and celebrate a national holiday."

So yeah, Miami, the choice is yours: dress in offensive "redface" and get hammered the day before Thanksgiving, or just go drinking on your own time without trampling on the culture of people who've been mistreated for centuries. Choose wisely.
And a similarly offensive event in San Diego--a "Pilgrims and Indians" themed party after a pub crawl:

Fortunately, there was some good news:

Drinking event that encouraged Native 'costumes' canceledA Thanksgiving-eve drinking event that encouraged participants to wear Native American "costumes" has been canceled.

The Thanksgiving Costume Pub Crawl was to take place this evening in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The organizers canceled the event but didn't explain why in a post on Facebook.
The post itself said:ATTENTION CRAWLERS:
The Thanksgiving Pub Crawl has been canceled.
The Thanksgiving Pub Crawl has been canceled.
The Thanksgiving Pub Crawl has been canceled.
The Thanksgiving Pub Crawl has been canceled.

Our sincerest apologies. We will be pushing the Coral Gables route back to a later date. We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! We hope to see you on the next crawl!
Comment:  For more on "Pocahotties," see Pocahotties Show Depth of Microaggressions and Tanning Salon Promotes Indian "Color."

Codetalker stunt doesn't mollify "Redskins" critics

These critiques occurred before, during, and after the Redskins' codetalker stunt. From what I've seen, they reflect the ongoing opinion against the racist nickname. As far as I know, the codetalker stunt didn't change anyone's mind.

Redskins name condemned by black and Latino groups outside FedEx Field

By Theresa VargasThe news conference, attended by representatives of CASA of Maryland, Blacks in Government, the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP and other groups, marked a rare showing of solidarity on a divisive issue that has sparked a national discussion about race and language.

“This is an American issue,” Hakim Muhammad, of the Coalition of Prince George’s County Leaders and Organizations, said Monday. “When you have a name that is disparaging to any nation of people, it affects all of us. Period.”

Zorayda Moreira-Smith, of CASA of Maryland, said it was “unacceptable” and “disgusting” that this was still an issue in 2013. She questioned how people would react if the team’s name reflected a slur against any other race.

“That would not be okay,” she said. “That would cause a riot, chaos. Everyone would be upset. So, why is it okay when it’s called the Washington Redskins?”
Historic Collaboration: Black and Latino Leaders Join ‘Redskins' ProtestThis protest before the Monday Night Football game came just days after the Fritz Pollard Alliance group released a statement urging players to stop using the N-word after two racially charged incidents, one involving a Redskins player. Some Native groups have used the N-word as a way of illustrating how offensive the R-word is.

Jay Winter Nightwolf, a local radio personality talked about the history of the word, which has been traced to when bounties were paid for the skins of American Indians.

Nightwolf and others are meeting with black leaders in the Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. to collaborate on how to propel the movement.

“I know you love your team, and I know you just got to have it,” Nightwolf said, comparing the team’s name to a drug. “But it’s time to kick the habit.”
More criticism

Dorgan: Time to change name of RedskinsI don't believe the owner of the Redskins, the players or the fans intend to offend by using the term Redskin. But what might have been seen as acceptable many decades ago is no longer acceptable. Times change, and the failure to change with it ignores the progress we have made in so many areas.Prince George’s residents say Redskins’ name is a poor reflection on county“This is a local issue,” said Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County NAACP branch. “If it is something that is offensive to Native Americans, we need to support the Native Americans.”Oneida Indian Nation to air Thanksgiving radio ads in Detroit and Baltimore“Thanksgiving is a holiday emphasizing the ideals of inclusion and mutual respect, and is a time when we give thanks,” Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter said. “We would like to express our appreciation to everyone who has spoken out about the important moral and civil rights issue of changing the Washington football team’s name. Change the Mascot supporters have sent a powerful message to the NFL that no group deserves to be treated as the target of a hurtful racial slur, and that Native Americans should be treated as what we are: Americans.”What Native Americans Want You to Know on ThanksgivingI agree--changing the name of a football team won’t change the rampant poverty and drug abuse on many reservations or the government policies and federal budget cuts that keep Natives ostracized. But it’s a start. It is often too easy to marginalize a people that make up less than 2 percent of the national population, and if nothing else, the Washington Redskins scandal is forcing families throughout the nation to talk about Native Americans not as historical figures but modern Americans who have played an important role in the history of this nation and deserved to be treated with respect.

Miley Cyrus erects $25,000 teepee

The ultimate party pad! Miley Cyrus erects a giant $25,000 teepee in her back garden after wild 21st birthday celebrations

By Louise SandersHer wild antics and party-loving ways have made her the most talked-about celebrity of the moment.

And Miley Cyrus appears to have well and truly celebrated her 21st birthday in style over the weekend by erecting a giant teepee in her back garden.

Aerial shots of the Wrecking Ball hitmaker's sprawling home in Studio City, California, show a huge tented creation situated next to her swimming pool and outdoor seating area.

The large teepee is said to have cost in the region of $25,000, and can comfortably sleep up to four people--perhaps guests from her wild celebrations over the weekend.
Miley Cyrus Is 21 and Has a $25,000 Tipi in Her BackyardAs we've seen before, tepees have been fashionable as both hipster sanctuaries and celebrity dwellings (Kate Moss put guests up in tepees at her 2011 wedding). It's possibe Cyrus believes the tepee is another way of getting in tune with her plausible Native heritage--to go with the dreamcatcher and crossed arrows she has tattooed on her body (see below).Comment:  For more on Miley Cyrus, see Miley's Brother Gets "Chief" Tattoo and Billy Ray Cyrus Gets Native Tattoos.

November 25, 2013

Redskins honor Navajo codetalkers

Redskins honor members of the Navajo Code Talkers Association

By Mike JonesAs a joint celebration of the NFL’s Salute to Service month and Native American Heritage month, the Washington Redskins recognized four members of the Navajo Code Talkers Association.

The code talkers were a group of Native American service members who transmitted secret communications beginning in World War II.

Four representatives—Navajo Code Talkers Association President Peter MacDonald Sr., Vice President Roy Hawthorne and members George James Sr. and George Boyd Willie Sr.—were recognized during a commercial break during the first quarter of the Redskins’ game vs. the San Francisco 49ers. They stood in the end zone nearest the tunnel that leads to the Redskins’ locker room and received a round of applause while a video tribute to the code talkers played.

People quickly deemed this a PR stunt exploiting the codetalkers. The codetalkers didn't necessarily agree:

Navajo Code Talker says Redskins name not derogatoryA leader of the Navajo Code Talkers who appeared at a Washington Redskins home football game said Wednesday the team name is a symbol of loyalty and courage--not a slur as asserted by critics who want it changed.

Roy Hawthorne, 87, of Lupton, Ariz., was one of four Code Talkers honored for their service in World War II during the Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, said the group's trip was paid for by the Redskins. The four men met briefly with team owner Dan Snyder but did not discuss the name, Hawthorne said.

Still, he said he would endorse the name if asked, and the televised appearance in which three of the Indians wore Redskins jackets spoke for itself.

"We didn't have that in mind but that is undoubtedly what we did do," Hawthorne said when asked if he was intending to send a statement with the appearance. "My opinion is that's a name that not only the team should keep, but that's a name that's American."
Apparently this Navajo's word skills include overruling the dictionary...impressive!

Natives condemn stunt

From LastRealIndians on Facebook:Washington Redskins host the SanFran 49ers tonight on Monday night football then apparently this happened: Navajo Code talkers were honored by the Redskins. With all due respect to the elderly vets Dan Snyder and the redskins are exploiting our people on national TV--they're pissing down our backs and telling us it's raining + throwing in free redskin jackets now and press time. Lol GTFOH with this B.S. Snyder's time has come, his era is gone just like the Indian as mascot practice.And again:Here's a Redskins promo video that very obviously exploits Navajo elders (narrated by war criminal George W.) Next we are going to be demanding more free Redskins jackets and that Dan Snyder's racist org actually hire a real Indian to be the mascot. I guess this is the state we are in relatives; we are so starved of true internal dignity we'll clap happily and blindly for Obama as our treaty rights are violated and we'll take the spotlight even if it means trampling on our current and future children's self esteem and right to a human (non-objectified) existence. Let the masters give their subjects some attention and watch some line up for the head pets. Again this is not personal to our honorable elder code talkers. ShameOnSnyder: here's the vid.Navajo Code Talkers Attend Game

Suzan Shown Harjo, the veteran critic of Indian mascots, wasn't buying it:

Red*kins 'Honor' Codetalkers—How Low Will They Go?

By Suzan Shown HarjoThe Red*kins’ “honoring” of Navajo codetalkers consisted of four frail veterans standing in the end zone and receiving a round of applause. Three of the four Navajo elders wore Red*kins jackets, with the new-clothes price tags still hanging at their wrists. These seniors probably thought this was another in a long line of recent recognitions of their WWII achievements some 70 years ago, rather than any implied endorsement of the team’s name.

But as soon as the Monday Night Football cameras picked up images of the veterans, a commentator began to remark on the split in Native American opinion about the team’s disparaging name.
And:The Washington franchise is sniffing around Indian country, sending scouts before them, looking for people who might be enticed to smile upon their name and logo. They also are bargaining for little pieces of racism by exploring keeping the logo and renaming the team the “Warriors.” A lesser stereotype is still a stereotype, and would give rise to the same abhorrent painted pig faces and dyed turkey feathers as the current stereotype.

The Washington franchise’s first stop was Poarch Band, the only tribe in the country that is building a casino on another nation’s sacred place–a known ceremonial ground, burials and historical site in Wetumpka, Alabama, the last capitol of the Muscogee (Creek) Nations before forced removal to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The franchise’s second big idea was to “honor” the four elderly veterans by having them stand in Red*kins jackets, so the money shot and story was not about their valor in war, but about supposed support for something most Native people are against. I can’t wait to see how low the franchise will go next.
Blackhorse Says That Code Talkers Honor 'Sugarcoats' RacismThe lead petitioner in a federal trademark case against the Washington Redskins says that the NFL team was disingenuous when they honored the Navajo Code Talkers during Monday Night Football.

"As a Navajo person, I understand the symbolic meaning of our Navajo Code Talkers, and we will continue to honor them for their service," Amanda Blackhorse wrote in an email to USA Today Sports. "The Code Talkers deserved a more genuine honor, not just 30 seconds of media time so the Washington team can sugarcoat their racism."

Blackhorse also had a message for Dan Snyder. "Using four Navajo elders does not justify what they are doing and does not change anything. At the end of the day, the name is still inappropriate and disparaging toward Native American people.” She also said, “Our views have not changed. Nothing has changed. We are still offended and outraged that he would parade around our elders and use them as a shield against the growing number of people who want him to do the right thing."
Others agree

Redskins Owner Dan Snyder Says ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Navajo Code Talkers!’

By Dave ZirinThere is an argument that a reason to oppose Native American mascots is not only because they are racist. It is not only because they are an act of minstrelsy opposed by Native American groups for decades. It is not only because they celebrate the savage, warlike nature of the Native American people, which for decades has been done—in books, theater, movies, and sports—as a way to justify the bravery and necessity of European conquest. There’s an argument that it collectively just makes us all stupider.

This was on display last night when Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins and under fire for profiting off a dictionary-defined racist name, used the national television cameras of ESPN to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. These were Navajo soldiers during World War II who used their language to create coded messages to be used over radio that could not be cracked by the Axis Powers. Their presence last night allowed Mike Tirico to bring up the entire “name controversy” on a terrain that made Dan Snyder look like he was honoring their heritage. Tirico also said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had met with Native American leaders, which was not true. There was a meeting between the NFL and Native American leaders but Goodell did not show. Tirico also made no mention of Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo woman who is currently leading a legal trademark challenge to get the name changed. Tirico also made no mention of the fact that the original “code talkers” were the Choctaw Nation in World War I, which for a decade has had a formal position voted upon by the tribal council to get the name changed. Instead, we were treated to the spectacle, three days before Thanksgiving, of Dan Snyder saying to America, “some of my best friends are Navajo Code Talkers!”

Make no mistake about it: wrapping yourself in World War II veterans is the last refuge of scoundrels. Just as the Republican Party during the government shutdown chose to make the World War II Memorial the great symbol of Barack Obama’s lack of patriotism and the true horrors of the government shutdown (forget about those kids not getting the cancer treatments at NIH), Dan Snyder was rushing for cover behind “the greatest generation.”

This was Dan Snyder trolling and lifting a big middle finger to the Oneida Nation, the American Indian Movement, the Choctaw Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, USA Today’s Christine Brennan, The Washington Post’s Mike Wise, the Capital News Service located at the University of Maryland, his alma mater, Charles Krauthammer, Republican Congressman from Oklahoma Tom Cole (one of two Native Americans in Congress), the DC City Council, the thousand people who marched outside the Redskins last nationally televised game against Minnesota chanting “Little Red Sambo Has Got to Go” and everyone who is said the name is racist and belongs nowhere but the dust bin of history.
Decoding Dan Snyder's message

By Tim Keown[T]his is no longer about a nickname. Instead, it's about stubbornness and arrogance and a ham-fisted public-relations campaign on behalf of the stubborn and arrogant. It's about people who are accustomed to getting their way arching their backs and curling their lips and telling the world they aren't about to stop getting their way. It's about entrenchment.

Snyder trots out the Code Talkers while refusing to sit down and discuss the nickname issue with Oneida tribal leaders who are interested in helping him understand their concerns. He trots out the Code Talkers while refusing to acknowledge the legitimate opposition to the Redskins name -- an Oneida nation poll of Washington-area adults cited in USA Today showed 59 percent believed Native Americans would be justified in feeling offended by being called "redskin." He trots out the Code Talkers emboldened by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has made support of the nickname into an official league stance with Congress and who didn't attend a league meeting with Oneida representatives.
And:The most strident members of the meritocracy will tell you that Snyder runs a private company, and therefore he has the right to call it what he wants and spit in the eye of anyone who disagrees. Don't listen to any of that. Before he owned his team, it accepted $70 million in public funding to build FedEx Field. At bare minimum, his presence within that structure carries an obligation to consider public opinion.

But from a sociological and common-sense perspective, here's a pertinent question: How can this nickname--or any nickname, really--be considered so sacred? How much of your remaining dignity are you willing to shed for the cause? If the people you are attempting to "honor" with the name would like to speak to you about dishonor, hear them out. If it offends the people it is intending to "honor," change it. It's a nickname, not a religion. The Bullets are now the Wizards and the Hornets are now the Pelicans and when you get right down to it, this is all pretty low-level stuff.
The Redskins Honor Navajo Code Talkers, Still Go By "Redskins"The Redskins' decision to feature the Navajo Code Talkers was seen by some as a public relations move at a moment when many people are calling for the Redskins to change their name. Because it's frickin' 2013, and they're still calling themselves the Redskins, which is a name that, were it to be proposed for an expansion team, would earn the person who suggested it an instant shitcanning.Comment:  So 80 years after the the team chose the name to "honor" Indians, it actually honored some actual Indians. Can you say "too little, too late"?

Katy Perry in yellowface

Yellowface at AMAs: Katy Perry's Geisha Act Recalls Outkast's RedfacePop singer Katy Perry dressed in a "geisha" costume at the American Music Awards last night, and immediately elicited protests from Asian Americans and others for her "yellowface" act. Dr. Ravi Chandra wrote for Psychology Today that "I felt I got slapped by my TV. As an Asian American, I was appalled." Chandra added that "If you don’t think Katy Perry was racist–let me ask you, what if she had performed in blackface? Perhaps a costume isn’t the same as changing skin color to you, but it is agonizingly close for me–I remember Mickey Rooney in buckteeth for his role as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Jonathan Pryce in Yellowface in Miss Saigon; Gwen Stefani in her Harajuku phase."

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Jeff Yang declared the display "a full-barreled technicolor assault on a quarter-millennium-old set of traditions that would’ve given any self-respecting denizen of Kyoto’s Gion District a massive fatal heart attack." Yang theorized that the wardrobe choice was a nod to the tragic character Cio-Cio-San from the opera Madama Butterfly, and meant to complement the submissive tone of the song Perry performed, "Unconditionally." "While a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women," Yang continued, adding that the stereotype presents them "as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, 'unconditional' worshipers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy."

For Natives, who witnessed a similarly controversial performance by Outkast at the 1997 Grammy Awards (see below), the New York Post's review of the show's low-lights suggested a change in attitude when it comes to redface: "She wouldn’t dream of black facing for a performance, nor is it very likely that she’d ever approve a Navajo-themed number. So why did Katy Perry think it was OK to dress up like a Japanese Geisha for the opening act of the night? ... the fact that Perry didn’t see anything offensive in her routine is astonishing. She’s no racist but clearly, Perry exists in a blissfully ignorant bubble."

Debate over Perry's performance on social media ran the gamut, with defenders of the show lamenting "political correctness" or demonstrating a lack of understanding of the concept (we saw numerous rebuttals to the effect of "it's not yellowface because her face isn't yellow"). One of the best comments, with which many Natives and Asian Americans would agree, came from Twitter user Christian Johnson (@NerdPoetics): "Cultures are not masks you wear just because you think they're pretty."

Geishas, Cowboys, Indians, and Skinning People for the Sake of Fashion: Katy Perry’s Racism Knows No Bounds

By Ruth HopkinsWhat’s wrong with Katy Perry performing while dressed as another race? The identity and culture of distinct groups of people is not trivial. Cultural items, dress, customs, and rituals have specific meaning, constructed over millennia. It belongs to that group of people; it is their birthright. We are not commodities to be bought and sold. We are not toys, props, masks, pets, costumes, or slaves, and to behave as though we are such is dehumanizing. Whether it’s blackface, redface or yellowface, make no mistake, appropriating the traditional culture of another race of people is wrong.

Appropriation is a weapon of assimilation and is born of a conqueror’s mentality. Colonial empires express dominion over people by conversion. First they defeat the people militarily. Their lands and resources are taken. The people are made to assimilate or face termination. Then they try to break the spirit of the people by re-educating them, and forcing their religion upon them. Eventually, they come for what the people consider most sacred, and try to destroy it by making it illegal or making a mockery of it. Ultimately, whether consciously or unconsciously, they attempt to exercise control over the very identity of that group and cry foul when a member of that group dares to protest the offense. Only the voice of privilege has the arrogance to assume ownership over all things, even the spirit of a people.
And:Some say Katy Perry’s geisha performance doesn’t mean she’s racist. Well how about this…in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel in the summer of 2012, Katy Perry said the following about Japanese people: “I’m so obsessed with you I want to skin you and wear you like Versace!”

Katy, I may not be Japanese, but I know what it’s like to be called a redskin. We’re not animals. You cannot skin us and wear us. Cracking a racist joke about filleting people and wearing them like a jacket is despicable and absolutely mortifying. You’re part of everything that’s wrong with pop culture in America. Refusing to apologize for last night’s geisha act and your “Cowboys and Indians” party reveals that these offenses were intentional. I hope you’ll prove me wrong.
Comment:  Perry's comment on Kimmel shows her not-so-unconscious thinking. She really does consider Indians and Asians to be strange creatures, not human beings. She'd never talk about skinning a white or black person, but other minorities are nothing more than costumes or "skins" to her. She can put them on and take them off as she pleases, play the exotic "other," and still retain her white privilege and power.

For more on the subject, see Russell Brand as an "Indian Savage" and "A Sight for Squaw Eyes."

Below:  Russell Brand and Katy Perry at her “Cowboys and Indians” 2011 Birthday Bash.

November 24, 2013

Wrongheaded obsession with "vanishing" tribes

The wrongheaded obsession with “vanishing” indigenous peoples

Photographer Jimmy Nelson is just the latest artist to act like indigenous groups are about to die out

By Elissa Washuta
Nelson’s website presents a portrayal of an explorer who “found the last tribesmen and observed them” and an artist who serves as “the last visual witness of flawless human beauty.” While these words have a romantic resonance, Nelson’s mission is built on a horrifying assumption: that these indigenous peoples are on the brink of destruction. He couldn’t be more wrong.

The Māori people, featured in Nelson’s book, make up 15 percent of New Zealand’s total population, and the 2012 census estimate of 682,100 Māori residents is part of a consistent upward trend. Seven seats of the Parliament of New Zealand are designated as Māori. Their communities have been impacted by colonization and the resulting warfare, disease, land loss and assimilation. But, although contact brought changes, far from being erased, the Māori people continue to thrive.

Nelson approached his subjects with a predefined notion of indigenous authenticity, which doesn’t align with the realities that have faced indigenous communities since time immemorial. In an interview with, Nelson says that he grew up in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gabon and Cameroon, and feels that Africa “has lost the majority of its ethnicity and authenticity. … [W]hat I saw in my childhood is not there anymore.” Similarly, Nelson told Time that he chose to leave out North American tribes because they haven’t retained their heritage. To critique the “authenticity” of another culture from the outside is a dangerous practice, and Nelson’s evaluation of communities during his lifetime fails to account for the flux experienced over thousands of years. Too often, onlookers expect indigenous peoples to remain static for the entirety of their existence, failing to consider their long histories of change before contact with outsiders.

The questioning and judgment of indigenous authenticity often have their roots in appearance. By treating people as art, Nelson plays into this notion. In his photos of the Kalam people of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, headdresses, necklaces and body ornamentation serve as visual representations of identity. Besides Nelson’s written descriptions of each group he photographs, visual cues are all we can use to form our understanding. He calls himself a “collector of truth,” but how much truth can fit into a work rendered in two dimensions, telling visual stories curated by an outsider? Personal strongholds of identity are often invisible.

Nelson’s publication of “Before They Pass Away” is reminiscent of Edward S. Curtis and his series “The North American Indian.” Beginning in the 1890s, Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs of North American Native peoples. While Curtis has been celebrated for his visual documentation of peoples and ways of life that are said to be gone, he is criticized for his manipulation of shots and subjects. Around 1910, he retouched a photo of Little Plume and his son Yellow Kidney, two Blackfoot men, to remove an alarm clock Curtis thought to be inconsistent with the otherwise traditional image.

In interviews, Nelson frequently cites Curtis as an inspiration for his work. Curtis’s posing of his subjects is treated as a scandal, but Nelson freely admits to the New York Times, “I directed the majority of the pictures, which Curtis also did.” While the people Curtis photographed often appear in their finest ceremonial attire, Nelson continues, “And 80 percent of the people I photographed are dressed as they do daily. About 20 percent are in their Sunday best.”

Curtis made significant contributions to the tribes he photographed by documenting points in their histories. In 1910, he photographed my great-great-grandmother’s half-sister, Virginia Miller, or Whylick Quiuck, with her canoe. He also recorded her account of the hanging of her father, Tumalth of the Cascades, by the U.S. government. Just a year earlier, the young Cascade chief added his signature to the Kalapuya Treaty of 1855. Virginia’s story of false accusations that led to her father’s death would have been lost without Curtis’s documentation. This is an important piece of the history of the Cascade people and of my family.

Although Curtis’s body of work stands as a contribution to tribal histories, he may have done just as much to further the notion of Native peoples as a vanishing race. According to Timothy Egan’s recent Curtis biography “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher,” in 1907, Curtis wrote in a photo caption, “The thought which this picture is meant to convey is that the Indians as a race, already shorn of their tribal strength and stripped of their primitive dress, are passing into the darkness of an unknown future.” Of the Hopi, he wrote, “There won’t be anything left of them in a few generations and it’s a tragedy.” More than a hundred years later, the Hopi people continue to live in Hopituskwa, where they have retained their culture, religion and language.
Comment:  For more on "vanishing Indians," see Adrienne Keene Reviews Lone Ranger and Vanishing Cultures Photography Project.

"Land O' Takes"

Owner Dan Snyder has put selfish greed over good will toward all in the "Redskins" debate. As you can see below, he epitomizes America's history of ignoring real Indians while appropriating their resources and cultures.

Here's what LastRealIndians had to say about this on Facebook:LOL. Art is Powerful. Check brother Cheyenne Randall's work here with Redskins Owner Dan Snyder's face in the mix. Cheyenne's art is viewable (and available) at and he is also one of the artists collaborating TurtleIslandWide to bring the visuals to the movement. Props.

November 23, 2013

Reviews of The Inconvenient Indian

Better Dead Than Alive? 'The Inconvenient Indian' Takes a Seriously Funny Look at Native History

By Hans TammemagiIndians are most "inconvenient" when they are … alive.

This stark, sardonic theme lurks beneath the narrative of Thomas King’s latest book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, 2012; University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

King stuffs the book with gems such as, “Christianity is the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism,” noting that the work is an expression of “a conversation I've been having with myself and others for most of my adult life.”

It’s not news to anyone that Natives have been duped, massacred, assimilated, deceived and often betrayed outright since the days of Christopher Columbus. But King racks up anecdotal evidence that, governmental apologies notwithstanding, the prevailing attitude is still more enamored of the dead Indian than the living.
Thomas King Dishes on Being the Ultimate Inconvenient Indian

By Hans TammemagiThe Inconvenient Indian presents a powerful portrayal of how badly Natives have been treated by the mainstream. Do you think your book will make a difference?

I don’t know. Whites just want to continue lives of comfort. Even now some of the rare progress in sovereignty that I discuss in the book, like the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, are changing. Whites are not sharing as intended, and Natives are finding it’s not going so well. The Indian Land Claims Commission will do anything to redress past wrongs, but not give any land back. And it’s all about land.

I hope my book will get into university and high school systems. I hope it generates conversations.

What bothers you about today’s mainstream attitudes toward Natives?

If there’s a single thing I would like to see changed, it’s the prevailing notion that Indians are a conquered people and that as such, they ought to cede their land claims. The reality is that the two sides mutually agreed that fighting war was tedious and expensive—monetarily and in human lives. A shared decision to live in peace as separate nations was agreed. There was never a conquering. There was a series of agreements that have been broken over and over again.
The Hilarious Brilliance of 'The Inconvenient Indian'

By Peter d'ErricoIn The Inconvenient Indian, King takes aim at the core beliefs and practices of the 500-year long (and counting) assault on Native Peoples and their lands. He starts with the understanding that history is not "the past"; rather, he says, it is "the stories we tell about the past." This is a crucial point: "how we choose which stories become the pulse of history" sets the stage for what is taught in schools, presumed in law and politics, and reinforced in popular culture.

Native histories, he says, are presented as "entertainments…cobbling together…fears and loathings, romances and reverences, facts and fantasies…in Technicolor and 3-D, with accompanying soft drinks, candy, and popcorn."

King penetrates these "entertainments" with a light touch and a heavy critique. He sometimes starts with single words—"massacre," for instance: he presents dates, numbers, and references to show that, despite the common use of the word to describe what Natives did, "Whites were considerably more successful at massacres than Indians." He points out that such historical fact checking is often unpopular, because "research tends to destroy myths."

One of the greatest strengths of King's critique is his focus on the religious doctrines that accompanied the machinery of colonialism. He coins a brilliant turn of phrase to bring together the "hardware" of colonialism—"iron pots, blankets, guns"—and the "software"—original sin, universal damnation, atonement, and subjugation."

Many authors write about the "European" invasion of Native lands, but very few name this invasion for what it was in its own terms: a "Christian" invasion. As King puts it, the colonizers saw the world through "an elegant amalgam of desire and doctrine." He does not shy from stating this point with a fierce clarity: "Christianity, in all its varieties…was the initial wound in the side of Native culture."

Christianized Indians may bridle at King's words; but he is only saying what Deloria already pointed to in "God is Red," and what scholars like Francis Jennings (The Invasion of America) and Steve Newcomb (Pagans in the Promised Land) have exhaustively researched: "Missionary work in the New World was war."

In another flash of brilliance, King develops three categories of Indians—Dead, Live, and Legal—to characterize contemporary culture. "Dead Indians…are the stereotypes and clichés that North America has conjured up" as "signifiers of Indian authenticity." Dead Indians can be found in all the places contemporary pop culture reserves for images of the past.

"In order to maintain the cult and sanctity of the Dead Indian, North America has decided that Live Indians living today cannot be genuine Indians." Thus, "Live Indians" suffer not only from the "annoyance" of being invisible, but also from the "crushing" burden of being "inauthentic." He quotes a tourist overheard at Acoma Pueblo, upon seeing a television antenna on the roof: "Real Indians [don't] have televisions."

"Dead Indians are dignified, noble, silent, suitably garbed. And dead. Live Indians are invisible, unruly, disappointing. And breathing." When Live Indians dance at powwows with their families and relations, "North America sees Dead Indians come to life…."

November 22, 2013

Kennedy's record on Indians

On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death, Indian Country Today looks at what he did for Indians:

JFK Was a Mighty Warrior for Indian Country

By Chris StearnsToday, as the rest of America looks back on the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and his lasting contributions to human rights, we also have the opportunity to honor his lasting contributions to Indian country.

In 1960, in what was to be one of the closest presidential campaigns in American history, Kennedy campaigned on the promise of real human rights. His platform called for a higher minimum wage, medical care for the elderly, higher teachers’ salaries, low-income housing, and an end to chronic unemployment. In a letter to Oliver La Farge, President of the Association on American Indian Affairs, Kennedy wrote that he wanted an America in which “there would be no room for areas of depression, poverty, and disease.”

While Kennedy may be long remembered for his idealistic vision he called “the New Frontier,” he also should be rightly remembered for his contributions to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The 1960 election between Kennedy and a young Richard Nixon closely divided a country coming off of eight years of a Republican Eisenhower Administration. Indian country hadn’t fared so well during those years–sixty-four tribes were terminated by the time the presidential campaign was underway.

Kennedy, however, chose to throw his weight behind Indian country. He called for an end to Termination and he pledged to “end practices that have eroded Indian rights and resources, reduced the Indians' land base and repudiated Federal responsibility.”

During the campaign Kennedy famously promised that:

“My administration would see to it that the Government of the United States discharges its moral obligation to our first Americans by inaugurating a comprehensive program for the improvement of their health, education, and economic well-being. There would be no change in treaty or contractual relationships without the consent of the tribes concerned. No steps would be taken by the Federal Government to impair the cultural heritage of any group. There would be protection of the Indian land base, credit assistance, and encouragement of tribal planning for economic development.”

Kennedy’s platform marked a real change in the direction the Country would take on Indian affairs.
Below:  "This image of John F. Kennedy was taken by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. Kennedy was president at the beginning of the Tribal Self-Determination Era, though he wasn't alive long enough to see the fruits of his labor in that area."

6 Things JFK Did—or Didn’t Do—for Natives Before His DeathIt was 50 years ago today that John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. But how did his short presidency—he was only in office from January 1961 until his death on November 22, 1963—affect American Indians?

He Sought the Native Vote

He Spoke to Delegates from the American Indian Chicago Conference

He Knew Natives Were Misunderstood

He Started Public Housing on Reservations

He Didn’t Stop the Kinzua Dam

He Worked Toward Tribal Self-Determination
Video: Johnny Cash Sings About Kinzua Dam, Which JFK Didn’t StopConstruction of the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania began in 1960, against the wishes of the Seneca Nation of Indians. It became operational on September 16, 1966 and flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca ancestral homeland and displaced 600 Senecas, who relocated to Salamanca, New York.

The Seneca Nation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other groups tried to stop it, but President John F. Kennedy allowed the construction to continue siting the need for flood control. The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of copy25 million to provide flood control on the Allegheny River.
Americans think John F. Kennedy was one of our greatest presidents. He wasn’t.

Comment:  If Americans heeded the message below, that alone would've been a great achievement. Alas, I don't think they did.

For more on the subject, see Best and Worst Presidents for Indians.

"Drunken Indians" invalidate land claim?!

A third item in our ad hoc trilogy of postings about Indians and alcohol:

Meeting about tribal land ends with slurA meeting between Ravalli County and tribal leaders over a plan to place a sacred site in a federal trust took a contentious turn when a county official repeated a slur derogatory toward American Indians.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai officials met with county commissioners Wednesday in Hamilton to explain the value of the sacred site known as the Medicine Tree, located in the southern part of the Bitterroot Valley, the Ravalli Republic ( reported.

Ravalli County commissioners oppose the tribes' plan to put 58 acres of tribally owned land into trust with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, saying the county would lose $808 in annual property taxes.

The meeting ended on a sour note when county planning board chairman Jan Wisniewski of Darby said he'd recently gone on a fact-finding trip around the state, during which he visited with law enforcement officials in Havre who complained about their jails being filled with "drunken Indians."
Comment:  So the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes want to take a sacred site into trust--essentially making it part of their reservation. In response, a county planning board chairman goes on a fact-finding mission and sees "drunken Indians" in jail.

What the hell does one have to do with the other? Is he saying Indians are so drunk, so morally degenerate, that they don't deserve to get their sacred site? That they're too intoxicated to manage the site properly? That they'll sell it for "firewater" if they get half a chance? Or what, exactly?

This is a classic case of how Native stereotypes have real-world consequences. Wisniewski thinks Indians are drunks, which means they're savage and uncivilized, which somehow disqualifies them from owning or managing the property. There's absolutely no link here; every tribal member could be a drunk and it wouldn't affect their claim. But Wisniewski is willing to go public with his racist insinuation.

For every idiot like him, there must be 10 or 100 who feel the same way but are too smart to say so. "Why are we wasting time on drunken savages?" this thinking goes. "Let the bums sober up and get a job and then we'll consider their claim."

It's racism in action, and it stems from centuries of stereotyping. People believe Indians are savage and uncivilized so they ignore Indians' problems and needs. There's a direct connection and stories like this one prove it.

I'm amazed that some people, including some Indians, don't get this. Why do you think Wisniewski brought up a law enforcement issue at a land-into-trust meeting? He's trying to use America's prejudice against Indians to sink the deal.

Targeting the Redskins' corporate sponsors

Are Coke and FedEx Worried About Sponsoring the Redskins?

By Ian Gordon and Matt ConnollyAs more and more people have called for Washington's pro football team to change its name, some folks have argued that the only way to get owner Dan Snyder to listen is to go after his wallet. That's right: Boycott the team or, failing that, target its corporate sponsors.

On its official website, the team displays five of its largest partners: Ticketmaster, FedEx Express, Bud Light, Ameritel Corporation, and Bank of America. Mother Jones reached out to each of these sponsors, as well as a few others, to see if they had any comment on the campaign to push Snyder to drop the R-word—and whether they had considered dropping their sponsorship because of the controversy. Here's what their spokespeople had to say:

Coca-Cola: "As sponsors, we do not play a role in decisions regarding NFL trademarks. Your questions can be better addressed by the team and the NFL."

FedEx: "We understand that there is a difference of opinion on this issue. Nevertheless, we believe that our sponsorship of FedEx Field continues to be in the best interests of FedEx and its stockholders."
Comment:  I've talked about the efficacy of targeting advertisers before. Hitting a business like the Redskins in the pocketbook is always a good idea. If their sponsors aren't worried now, let's give them something to worry about.

November 21, 2013

"Alcoholic" inserted in list of tribes

A Tribe Named Alcoholic? Closed Caption Gaffe at Code Talker Ceremony

By Vincent SchillingYesterday during the Code Talker Gold Medal Ceremony, a closed caption screen situated in full view of the entire audience displayed the word “Alcoholic” during the medal presentations to each tribe in attendance.

The press spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, Michael Steel says the incident was a serious mistake made by the close-caption company working for the Capitol.

In an email from Steel who apologized for taking a while to respond because they had to figure out the issue, explained accordingly:

“Closed captioning services for all major congressional events are provided by a private company that has no affiliation with the House or Senate. Unfortunately, the individual transcribing today’s event apparently mis-heard the word “Choctaw.” The transcription company was given a list of the tribes before the ceremony, so this should not have happened, and we will make a full inquiry,” wrote Steel.

“Obviously, the Speaker deeply regrets this offensive error by the transcribing service.”
Comment:  I gather that voice recognition software does some captioning these day. But it sounds as though a person did this captioning and made the so-called mistake.

The word "alcoholic" came in a list of tribes between "Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe" and "Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma." The audio and visual both indicate that "alcoholic" was inserted between the tribes' names for no reason. It wasn't a garbled version of a tribal name or anything else. It was an addition with no counterpart in the tribal roll call.

I'm not sure how you "accidentally" insert a word where there should be nothing. Sounds like somebody pulled a stunt to express his opinion of Indians. They don't deserve gold medals, he may have thought, because they're drunks.

Second "Trail of Tears" banner displayed

Second 'Trail of Tears' Banner Displayed at Tennessee High School Football GameAnother high school football team has used a “trail of tears” banner to allegedly taunt their visiting opponents.

The Dyersburg Trojans played the Northside Indians in the Tennessee High School Football Playoffs on Friday. The Trojans held up a banner that had blue dots in the shape of tears trickled on the word “tears”; and yellow dots, also in the shape of tears, on the word “trail.”

According to Mother Jones, a Facebook page, that is managed by the Dyersburg coaching staff, highlighted a half-dozen photos of their students holding up the sign for the visiting team, the Indians.

Their principal, Jon Frye, did not attend the playoff game and said that he was not aware of the photos on Facebook. He also said that he would ask the administrators of the page to take them down. The photos have been removed.
Comment:  See the previous "Trail of Tears" gaffe--Opponents Taunted with "Trail of Tears" Sign--for why this sign is problematical.

November 20, 2013

"Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos" frat party

'Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos' frat party prompts Cal Poly investigation

Fraternity-sorority event with theme of Native Americans gets complaints

By Julia Hickey
Cal Poly officials are investigating an off-campus fraternity and sorority party after complaints that the theme was offensive to women and Native Americans.

Men attending the party—identified in an email as having a “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos” theme—wore Colonial-era costumes, while women wore sexually explicit Native American-themed attire.

The party took place this past Friday in the area of Foothill Boulevard, with approximately 60 people attending.

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong denounced the party in a campuswide email sent Tuesday and announced a university-sponsored forum to be held Friday to allow Cal Poly community members to come together and discuss the impact of the party.

“Let us be clear, events like these have no place in the Cal Poly community and are not reflective of the principles of The Mustang Way,” Armstrong said in his email. “Obviously, this was not a university-sponsored event.”
Naturally, non-Indians thought this racist event was fine:“Personally, I don’t think it was meant to be racist,” said a Cal Poly student and fraternity member named Daniel, who declined to provide his last name. Daniel, who said his fraternity was not associated with the party, said Greek life involves a lot of “guy-and-girl”-themed parties. Although he could not confirm what the party was called, he said it was meant to fit with Thanksgiving.

“It’s unfair,” he said. “We are taught that Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Indians.”

A second-year sorority member, who also declined to be named, was invited to the party but did not attend.

“There are a lot more offensive themes out there, especially during Halloween,” she said.
Party brings debate to campus, leaves greeks on edge

By Sean McMinnIn an email to campus Monday, Humphrey and Armstrong decried the party, saying there is no place for events like it in the Cal Poly community.

“It’s very serious,” Humphrey said in an interview after sending the campuswide email. “I think its effects on our community are things we can’t even fully put our arms around, and that’s what makes it very disturbing. And we don’t know who something like this will offend, and they’ll choose to never come to Cal Poly, choose to not send their children to Cal Poly.”

Fraternities and sororities will be required to register all parties with the university beginning next quarter as part of an agreement earlier this year to loosen recruitment restrictions in exchange for tighter oversight of greek functions.

Humphrey said there is no pressure to speed up that process after this past weekend’s incident, but added that a party registration system could have prevented it from happening.

Cal Poly will hold a forum Friday to discuss racism and sexism. Lazier, Cal Poly’s spokesperson, said it will address the party under investigation, as well as broader cultural issues on campus.
What's wrong with the party?

Let's count the ways the Cal Poly frat party theme was wrong

By Joe TaricaWhere to even begin with how dumb this is?

Let’s start with the whole “bros and hos” thing, which has become a common fraternity/sorority mashup for guys-and-girls parties.

For the dim bulbs who organize these get-togethers, the rhyme-y phrase is obviously a convenient starting point. Jot down “bros and hos,” attach a theme, and voilà … let the beer pong commence.

Apparently referring to the women partygoers as prostitutes doesn’t bother anyone. I’m sure all would say it’s just a joke, and everyone is being too politically correct. The fact that fraternities host shindigs like this, which are then enthusiastically attended by sororities, speaks poorly of both sides.

Next up in the party planning was picking a theme, which in keeping with the month and season, seized on a Colonial America idea. Except don’t you like how the sexes were divided?

Of course it wasn’t “Colonial Hos and Indian Bros,” because who wants to see sorority girls dressed up like victims from the Salem Witch Trials? Women in bonnets and head-to-toe frocks isn’t sexy, especially when the other option is loincloths. So now we’ve got frat boy “bros” decked out as pilgrims and tarted up sorority girl “hos.”

But that’s still not enough, because the party name has to be catchy, not historically accurate to the New England locale. I guess when the organizers were going through tribe names, “Colonial Bros and Wampanoag Hos” didn’t have the right ring to it.

No worries, there’s a better option, and the name just rolls right off the tongue, leaving plenty of room in their mouths for the appropriate insertion of feet.

Who cares that these Native Americans are from the Four Corners region of the Southwest, most assuredly never shared turkey and sweet potatoes with the settlers from the Plymouth Colony, and were in fact subjected to terrible abuse at the hands of American soldiers (including the rape of Navajo women)?

Put it all together and there you have it: A fraternity brainchild that’s sexually demeaning, culturally offensive and historically ignorant—all for the convenience of a good time.
Cal Poly Frats Hold Classic 'Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos' PartyLast week, California Polytechnic State University students in multiple unnamed Greek organizations at the San Luis Obispo campus held a party with the delightful theme of "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos," managing to figure out how to be both incredibly racist, incredibly sexist and incredibly unoriginal all at the same time.Comment:  I'm sure we could find more wrong with this party idea. For instance, casting men as conquerors and women as objects of conquest. Holy metaphor, Batman! Let's act out how white men raped Indians, literally and figuratively, in the guise of a party.

For more on the subject, see Drink's "Sexy Pilgrim & Indian Party" and Duke's "Pilgrims and Indians" Party.

Below:  An image from the Drink nightclub's "Sexy Pilgrim & Indian Party."

Myths about Indians and alcohol

Native Americans Were Not Introduced to Alcohol by Europeans

By MelissaThe Myth that Europeans Introduced Native Americans to Alcohol

People have been making alcohol since the dawn of civilization. In the Levant, archeologists have found evidence that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic era” (12,000-9,500 BC). As the Natufians possessed only stone tools and basic technology, clearly it doesn’t take much to make a simple brew.

This was certainly the case in North America where a number of Native American peoples had been making alcoholic beverages using various simple methods since long before first contact.

In Mexico, some believe Native Americans used a corn precursor to make a brewed drink; they note: “the ancestral grass of modern maize, teosinte, was well suited for making beer–but was much less so for making corn flour.” In addition, it is well established that Mexican Native Americans prepared “over forty different alcoholic beverages [from] . . . a variety of plant substances, such as honey, palm sap, wild plum, and pineapple.”

The “Drunken Indian” Myth

Contrary to popular misconceptions, there is no evidence to support theories that Indians were pre-disposed to alcoholism. Rather, they appear to be the victims of a tragic combination of circumstances.

Shortly after first contact, trade was established. In exchange for the furs and skins so prized by Europeans, colonists and traders provided large quantities of strong liquor and wine. With little or no experience consuming strong alcohol, Native American communities were ill prepared to manage their populace’s exposure to so much of it. As one expert noted:When . . . large amounts of distilled spirits and wine [were] made available to American Indians, the tribes had little time to develop social, legal, or moral guidelines to regulate alcohol use.The Genetic Myth

Another common misconception is that Native Americans lack the enzymes necessary to properly metabolize alcohol, and, therefore, have no genetic defense to protect them from becoming alcoholics. Reminiscent of the devastating effect European diseases had on native populations at first contact due to lack of immunity, this explanation has a certain appeal–but it is completely false. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS):Despite the fact that more Native American people die of alcohol-related causes than do any other ethnic group in the United States, research shows that there is no difference in the rates of alcohol metabolism and enzyme patterns between Native Americans and Whites.