May 31, 2015

Murder Digs Deep in Murder, She Wrote

An old episode of Murder, She Wrote (airdate: December 29, 1985) features a Native theme:

Murder, She Wrote: Murder Digs DeepJessica visits Cabot Cove's Dr. Seth Hazlitt at a New Mexico archaeological dig, with the idea of getting story ideas from the experience. The site is full of colorful characters, from the gold-digging Gideon Armstrong and his young wife, Cynthia, Southwest University professor Dr. Stan Garfield, TV celebrity Dr. Aubrey Benton, and the conflicted Raymond Two Crows, who both helps and hinders the dig. They're excavating in an Anasazi village, and perhaps Coronado's legendary city of gold. On a night after gold is found in the dig, Cynthia shoots at the "vengeful spirit" who shows up every night to drive out the grave diggers. The "spirit" falls back from the ledge, where the camp finds Raymond, dead on the ground. He wasn't shot, but it's not clear if his fall was really fatal, or if he died by other means. Jessica digs in, with the help of Dr. Seth, uncovering the truth behind the personalities, and the dig site itself.This episode has some good bits but more bad bits.

On the plus side, they're supposedly excavating at Gran Quivira, which is a real place:

Gran QuiviraThe Gran Quivira unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is the biggest of the three units at 611 acres. Prior to Spanish contact, Gran Quivira was a vast city with multiple pueblos, and kivas.Gran Quivira isn't a site of the "Anasazi," now called Ancestral Puebloans. But it is a site of the Anasazi's descendants, so we're talking about similar cultures.

It's almost due south of Santa Fe, not due east. But at least it's in the same general area--i.e., north-central New Mexico.

It's not on Navajo land, but Navajo land isn't that far away. Navajos may have lived there before they were herded onto reservations. A Navajo might be concerned about white men digging on former Navajo territory.

So the details are wrong, but not terribly wrong. Since most TV shows put imaginary tribes in places where they never existed, this is better than average. So far.

On the other hand

Then there's the minus side. The archaeologists claim they're seeking "Coronado's legendary city of gold," which is ridiculous. That city never existed and nobody believes it did.

If it did exist, it wouldn't be in a known Pueblo village. We have historical accounts of Spaniards visiting Gran Quivira. They didn't find gold there or in any other Pueblo village.

I don't think archaeologists have found more than a couple of gold artifacts, if any, north of Mexico. To find two in one day is even more ridiculous. And the artifacts are perfectly preserved, not encrusted with dirt and pitted with corrosion. That's beyond ridiculous.

Then there's Raymond Two Crows. As another fansite notes about the archaeological party:

S02E11–Murder Digs DeepLater that night when they are all sitting around eating dinner they are rudely interrupted by a Native American standing on the hill above them, dancing and chanting. Karen informs JB that he appears at the same time every night, trying to scare them away from the dig, but by the time the guards get up to him he is gone. Forget Indiana Jones, this episode is a Great Dane away from becoming an episode of Scooby Doo.

The onlookers are pretty sure it's Two Crows, but how is this even an issue? Either someone sees him leave, or everyone but him is present. Either way, there's no mystery.

And the idea that his act would scare people...ridiculous. The onlookers think it's ridiculous too...but even in that context, it's ridiculous. You do an act, people laugh at you continue doing it? Not unless you're in a Scooby Doo cartoon.

As it turns out, this "Navajo" isn't what he seems. That explains his in-story mistakes, but not why the others tolerate his "evil spirit" routine. Either put a guard on Two Crows or stake out the ledge and his act ends immediately.

All in all, Murder Digs Deep is a typical Native-themed TV episode. It's a sincere attempt to present a Native story with a mixed bag of results. It could be better, could be worse.

You can read the rest of the plot in these reviews, including this one:

Season 2: Murder Digs Deep

And visit IMDB for the credits:

Murder Digs Deep

May 30, 2015

White men = winning tribe

5 Helpful Answers To Society's Most Uncomfortable Questions

By David Wong#1. "Why Can't We Just Put This Stupid Shit Aside And Treat Each Other Like Human Beings?"

In other words, why can't we start treating each other like individuals based on our position in life, and just drop all of this race/gender stuff that just clouds the issue? Wouldn't that be the fastest way to make things better for everyone?

Sure, and we could totally do that, if we were merely people. The problem is that we can't just collectively agree to make the context of history go away, any more than a bunch of leaves can get together and decide that there is no tree; the roots of history are still feeding us. Blacks are still stuck in neighborhoods with terrible schools and no job opportunities where they're being groomed for a lifetime in the corrections system. Women who want to get jobs as software engineers will find themselves in offices that are 84 percent male.

So, while race is a social construct as are lots of gender roles, that doesn't mean they're not real--the systems we're living under today were all built with them in mind.

And if you are a white male in America, you're among the winningest of the winning tribes--again, even if your own life is a disaster. This is why people say you have "privilege." It doesn't really refer to anything you have, but what you don't have. You may still get shot by a cop some day, but you won't get shot because you're white. As a male, your boss might be less likely to flirt with you, but will be more likely to take your input seriously. And so on.

Changing that doesn't mean they're winning, and you're losing. This isn't about you. There is no "you" at all, outside of this larger context. It's about continuing this winning streak humanity has been on, and trying to build a world in which everybody--from the poor white dude in the trailer park to the black trans woman in Russia--has the best possible chance to make something with their lives.
This Comic Will Forever Change the Way You Look at Privilege

By Shahana YasminToby Morris ... places two individuals side by side, showing how financial security and benefits, or the lack of it, affects them even if they come from households that love and support them, leading to two completely different outcomes.Comment:  For more on white privilege, see "White Man" = Bogeyman and Whites Can't Handle Racial Stress.

May 29, 2015

"White Man" = bogeyman

America’s grand historical deception: Why it pretends White Supremacy no longer exists

Violence against Black Americans is real and documented, so why does White America continue to deny it?

By Chauncey DeVega
From initial colonial and Imperial encounters, to the later intimacy of slavery and bonded labor, Black and brown people, aboriginal and other First Nations brothers and sisters, had to invent language to describe “The White Man” they encountered for the first time and then later came to regret having ever known.

“The White Man” became a ghost or a monster. (In fact, the robes of the Ku Klux Klan represent the ghosts of the Confederate dead who have returned to avenge themselves on now free black Americans.) He haunted. He killed. He raped. He destroyed.
And:Tales of “The White Man” would be used to scare children into obedience, and like most folk tales and children’s stories they were lessons to prepare those youngsters for life in an unfair world. But “The White Man” is not a chimera. He is real. We see him when cops kill and abuse innocent and defenseless Black and brown people in America. he choked Eric Garner to death. He shot Tamir Rice, stole his childhood and his life. ”The White Man” maces and electrocutes Black people who are suffering from a stroke while sitting in their car. But America does not want to confront “The White Man,” because that would mean reflecting on its own behavior and culture of racialized violence.

The innocence and nobility of Whiteness and “The White Man” are bedrock lies for America and the West that dissolve under even the most minimal levels of critical inquiry. If America looked in the mirror at “The White Man” looking back, it could be either a moment of catharsis, where the violence and meanness of White Privilege and White Racism were owned and internalized with pride (yup! that is us, White America, what a good thing, let’s stop pretending we are surprised or ashamed!) or where upon seeing “The White Man” in his full glory a moment of White Fragility would freeze the viewer in stone as though he or she were touched by Medusa.
Comment:  For more on white privilege, see Black Professor Criticizes White Men and Whites Can't Handle Racial Stress.

May 28, 2015

The Runaways in Zorro

Another old TV show I've seen recently is Zorro. For those who don't know it, it's basically a Western set in the Spanish colony of California.

The timeframe is unclear, but we can narrow it down. Some of the show is set in Los Angeles, which was founded in 1781. But the characters pay homage to Spain, not Mexico, which gained independence in 1821. So the stories take place sometime around 1800.

I saw only one Zorro episode involving Indians: The Runaways, which aired January 8, 1959. Indians must've been more common in reality than they were on the show. In fact, Wikipedia gives us some background on the era:

History of Hispanic and Latino AmericansSpanish colonization and governance (1765–1821)

During the last quarter of the 18th century, the first European settlements were established in California. Reacting to interest by Russia and possibly Great Britain in the fur-bearing animals of the Pacific coast, Spain created a series of Catholic missions, accompanied by troops and ranches, along the southern and central coast of California. These missions were intended to demonstrate the claim of the Spanish Crown to modern-day California.

The first quarter of the 19th century continued the slow colonization of the southern and central California coast by Spanish missionaries, ranchers, and troops. By 1820, Spanish influence was marked by the chain of missions reaching from San Diego to just north of today's San Francisco Bay area, and extended inland approximately 25 to 50 miles from the missions. Outside of this zone, perhaps 200,000 to 250,000 Native Americans were continuing to lead traditional lives.

Mexican era (1821–1846)

Substantial changes occurred during the second quarter of the 19th century. Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 marked the end of European rule in California; the missions faded in importance under Mexican control while ranching and trade increased. By the mid-1840s, the increased presence of Americans made the northern part of the state diverge from southern California, where the Spanish-speaking "Californios" dominated.

By 1846, California had a Spanish-speaking population of under 10,000, tiny even compared to the sparse population of states in Mexico proper. The "Californios," as they were known, consisted of about 800 families, mostly concentrated on a few large ranchos. About 1,300 Americans and a very mixed group of about 500 Europeans, scattered mostly from Monterey to Sacramento dominated trading as the Californios dominated ranching.
If the Spanish population was 10,000 in 1846, it must've been only a few thousand in 1800. So a few thousand Spaniards vs. 200,000 Indians. The Indians outnumbered the Spaniards by 100 to one...but on Zorro, it was the opposite.

Just two lovebirds

On to the episode in question:

The RunawaysRomaldo and Buena, two indentured servants, want to get married, but must have the permission of their masters. Don Diego, Buena's master, gives his permission, but Romaldo's master Don Tomas does not. Diego [Zorro] must talk Romaldo out of his idea of running away with Buena. But Don Tomas's vaquero wants Buena for himself and lies and schemes to frustrate the young lovers' plans.Comment:  To be specific, Romaldo and Buena are indentured Indian servants. We learn Romaldo agreed to three years of slavery servitude service for schooling at the mission. Don Tomas seems to think he was doing Romaldo a favor with this deal. Romaldo doesn't disagree, except he wants to marry Buena while he completes his service.

"Romaldo" is kind of an odd name. I wonder if it was meant to evoke Ramona, probably the most famous story involving California Indians. Maybe the writer thought, "Should I name the characters Ramon or Ramona? Nah, too obvious. But Romaldo is close. Let's make the guy Romaldo."

How does the episode handle Indians? On the plus side, Romaldo and Buena talk, dress, and act like their Spanish counterparts. There's no Tonto talk, no feathers or leathers. That's good.

On the minus side, Buena and especially Romaldo look totally non-Native. Buena was played by Gloria Castillo, presumably a Latina based on her name. But Romaldo was played by Tim Pittman, who looked as Anglo-Saxon as his name sounds.

A bigger problem is the complete lack of historical context. No one questioned or even raised the status of California's Indians. What was the justification for the mission system? How was it working at that point? How did the Indians feel about it?

How many Indians had been forcibly converted to Christianity? How many had been indentured or enslaved? How many had been killed by disease? How many remained free? And so forth.

Even if we focus on Romaldo and Buena, the questions remain. Don Tomas made the indenture system sound voluntary, but was it? How did the pair come to be indentured? What were their alternatives? Where would they have been if they had "chosen" otherwise?

Don Tomas got three years of labor for the price of school tuition. I don't know the economics of that era, but it sounds like a good deal for him. In any era, a year's wages ought to equal many years of basic schooling (reading, writing, arithmetic).

In reality, the mission system was the beginning of the end for California Indians--the beginning of genocide. But you won't learn that on Zorro or any Western of the 1950s. Then as now, mass entertainment was about reinforcing America's founding myth. Namely, that the white man came to tame the wilderness and bring civilization to the savages.

You can watch the whole episode here:

The Runaways

For a better take on Zorro, read Isabel Allende's novel of the same name. For more on the subject, see California's 4th-Grade Mission Mythology.

May 27, 2015

Trouble for Tonto in Lone Ranger

Another Native-themed episode of Lone Ranger (airdate: July 20, 1950)--the second one in a row:

Trouble for Tonto

Terry Baxter, a young white man, overpowers and kills Black Eagle, the Indian holding him captive. Black Eagle was taking Baxter to the notorious outlaw Buck Fargo. Fargo planned to blackmail Baxter's father into letting Fargo's gang rob the bank.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto arrive to see if Baxter is all right. He tells them what happened. They decide Tonto will take Black Eagle's place and escort Baxter to learn Fargo's exact plans.

At Fargo's hideout, Tonto has all the answers when Fargo questions him. He valiantly protects young Baxter from harm. Until Fargo presents Tonto with a ring from his "squaw," that is. It doesn't fit Tonto's fingers, so Fargo knows he's a fraud and subdues him.

That's about all the Native content. A few things stand out:

  • White Eagle = good, Black Eagle = bad. See previous episode.

  • The second episode in a row starts with someone killing an Indian. The circumstances were reversed; this time the good person killed the bad person. But the initial killing of an Indian may have been a cheap thrill for 1950s audiences.

    I wonder if an episode ever started with a good Indian justly killing a bad white man. Somehow I doubt it.

  • Tonto is a quick thinker but still gets taken captive. He still serves as a "damsel in distress" for the Lone Ranger.

    I wonder if an episode ever climaxed with Tonto saving a helpless Ranger. Somehow I doubt it.

  • At least Tonto gets a few minutes of solo time, and handles it well. Black Eagle is played by a white actor, of course. All in all, one of those mediocre episodes I mentioned in the previous posting.

    You can watch the whole episode here:

    Trouble for Tonto

    For more on the Lone Ranger, see White Man's Magic in Lone Ranger and Review of Lone Ranger: Vendetta.

    May 26, 2015

    White Man's Magic in Lone Ranger

    I recently started watching a TV channel with old shows, so I'm catching up on some episodes featuring Indians. Here's one from The Lone Ranger (airdate: July 13, 1950):

    White Man's MagicTonto finds the body of an Indian belonging to a local tribe. The Ranger and Tonto decide foul play is involved and follow a set tracks leading back to the reservation. Independently we discover the local Indian police Sergeant Pala working with the owner of the Empire Land Company to convince the Indians to rebel and lose their land. Tonto and the Ranger discover a weapons cache left by Pala, and disable the weapons. The Chief of the tribe White Eagle is poisoned causing the expected uprising. Pala realizes Tonto knows too much and tries to kill him. The Ranger intervenes, apprehending Pala. The pair then race to where the Indians are massing for their attack. When the Indians try to attack their guns miss fire. Believing it is the spirit of White stopping the guns, the Indians decide to give upThe setup

    First, let's note the episode's setup.

    Chief White Eagle is a good Indian who will stay on the reservation to keep the peace. Medicine man Red Moon is a bad Indian who wants to leave the reservation and cause trouble. What kind of trouble? Killing, raping, plundering...whatever a savage does.

    This is a common setup. It's similar to the setup in many Western movies of that era. Indeed, it may be the most common setup involving Indians. Good Indians stay on the rez; bad Indians try to leave.

    Left unstated are the conditions that created this setup. The white man waged war on the Indians...killed or starved them into submission...locked them into an area with the promise of food and supplies...then left them to suffer and die. It was manifestly corrupt and immoral, but movies and TV shows don't mention that.

    This setup is like saying, "Good prisoners stay in jail; bad prisoners try to escape." Well, who are these prisoners? Who put them there, and why? Those questions rarely get asked or answered.

    White Eagle has a stereotypical warbonnet. His people live in stereotypical tipis. Red Moon has the stereotypical buffalo headpiece of medicine men. Everything about them fits a predictable pattern. White = good, red = bad. Chief = good, medicine man = bad.

    Sergeant Pala is of course a half-breed, the worst kind of Indian. He wants to be a white man, but his reddish skin makes him a lowlife thug and miscreant. No matter how hard he tries, he can't wash away the taint of savagery in his blood.

    As for the premise, I guess Geronimo's band of Apaches rebelled from "captivity" on a reservation. Did any others? If so, I think it was rare.

    Sure, white farmers, ranchers, and miners forced Indians off their land--the Trail of Tears being the most famous example. But did white speculators trick Indians into violating their own treaty? And getting themselves expelled? I've never heard of a case.

    Anyway, the premise is a little complex for a half-hour TV show, but it's reasonably plausible. It could've happened even if it didn't.

    The other element not mentioned in the summary is Antonette "Toni" Carver, a white artist who's traveling alone. She sneaks onto the reservation in defiance of Army regulations to paint White Eagle. Every element of this rings false. I haven't heard of white women traveling alone and seeking Indians during the Indian Wars.

    It pretty much goes without saying that Jay Silverheels is the only Native actor in the episode. The others are played by white actors with a history of "redface" (portraying Indians).

    Tonto immediately launches into his stereotypical Tonto talk: "Me do this, me do that." How does he speak passable English but not understand "I" vs. "me"? As usual, he exists primarily to set up the Lone Ranger with questions: "What we do now, kemosabe?" Oh, and to get captured, so the Ranger has someone to rescue before the big finish.

    The plot

    The story starts with Standing Tree finding a cache of guns and Sergeant Pala killing him. He then tells Ira Boles, head of the Empire Land Company, what's happening. Pala is in charge of stirring up the bad Indians--giving the guns to Red Moon and his followers. Boles tells Pala he wants results now, not later.

    The Indians love White Eagle too much to follow Red Moon, so Pala plans to poison him. Notably, Pala will blame White Eagle's death on Carver's painting of him. The Indians are a superstitious lot. They'll believe that Carver's painting stole his soul and thus killed him.

    Sure enough, White Eagle sips some stew and keels over. Tonto recognizes the food as poisoned, but Pala and Red Moon blames the chief's death on the painting. Tonto tries to run, but Pala's men capture him and take him to town. They leave Carver for Red Moon to sacrifice by burning her at the stake.

    This is ridiculous for several reasons. Photography is the medium that's supposed to steal souls, not painting. Judging by all the photos of Indians, I don't think many Indians believed that. Judging by all the paintings--several decades' worth before this time--I don't think any Indians believed painting was some magical rite.

    And sacrificing the evil sorceress? By torching her? Holy Joan of Arc, Batman!

    No doubt Indians occasionally believed white people performed "black magic." And occasionally sacrificed white people. I don't know for sure, but I'm betting it never happened for painting a portrait.

    Finally, the Lone Ranger rescues Tonto and they arrive to stop the sacrifice. The Ranger previous disabled the guns, but now claims he can make them stop working with his great magic. When the guns click, the Indians believe he's a powerful spirit and surrender.

    Again, superstitious nonsense. Were the Indians going to use guns without knowing how they worked? How about testing them rather than trusting a shifty white man? How about attacking the Ranger and Tonto with their backup weapons: bows and arrows, knives, or whatever?

    At that point, Indians had been using guns for centuries...but they were so childishly ignorant of mechanics that the Ranger could fool them? It does not compute.

    All in all, White Man's Magic is a poor representation of Indians. Worse than the usual '50s-era movie or TV show, which sometimes are mediocre or even decent. The only good point is invoking an evil land company rather than an evil rancher or Indian agent. Land theft was a joint operation by government, business, and individuals, not just the work of a few "bad apples."

    Watch the whole episode here:

    White Man's Magic

    For more on the Lone Ranger, see Review of Lone Ranger: Vendetta and Fetching in Enter the Lone Ranger.

    May 25, 2015

    Colonizing Mars = colonizing America

    Colonize Mars? Not until we learn some lessons here on Earth

    By Dr. Danielle N. Lee[I]s it right to think about the galaxy as a playground that is ours for the taking? History is full of examples of how of individuals and governments exploit others in order to gain access to limited resources like land, gold, water, and oil. The scientific community is not exempt from such impulses: Contemporary examples abound of scientists exploiting and harming others when broad and diverse groups of people are not allowed to advocate for their interests.

    Add to this the fact that the dominant scientific narrative in the United States space program parallels the American cultural narrative, what Dr. Linda Billings, NASA Space Communicator and space policy analyst at George Washington University calls “frontier pioneering, continual progress, manifest destiny, free enterprise, rugged individualism, and a right to life without limits.” Within astrophysics circles, the idea that it is our right and imperative to conquer other planets is commonly presented as natural, in keeping with other aspects of human history: Just as Europeans immigrated to North America, so must the human race colonize Mars. Red Colony, a website for Mars exploration enthusiasts, opens its introduction with a parable on the benefits of creating settlements, focusing on “how the country that came out of [Western Expansion] advances the world perhaps centuries beyond its time in scientific, economic, diplomatic, and religious progress.”

    The problem with the ideas being pushed by Musk and Hawking is that the conversation is focused only on the possible promises of a Mars colonization, not the potential perils. (Dr. Billings has criticized the idea of Mars as “the New World” extensively and written numerous reports and papers that examine the financial, legal and ethical impact of American cultural narratives on space programs and policy.) In short, the way Mars is discussed gives individuals like Musk–people with a strong commercial interests in space travel–both a platform for shaping public rhetoric concerning planetary exploration projects, and the ability to influence policies that would allow them to profit greatly from intergalactic expeditions.

    It’s not just the rich and the famous, either. People like Robert Zubrin, co-founder of and Executive Director of The Mars Society, which aims to “further the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet,” praise the founding of America as if it is an uncomplicated narrative. Zubrin’s core argument, that “Mars is to the new age of exploration as North America was to the last,” doesn’t acknowledge is how these “New World” trade activities were based on the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas and the forced immigration and labor of Africans. This new human civilization that held so much promise to those in Europe was also oppressive and exploitative to other groups, a development that led to what is the most powerfully disparate economic system in the world today.
    Comment:  Martians don't have to exist for Lee's thesis to work. Her point is that "exploration" tends to favor the rich over the poor.

    In other words, it's the opposite of the "neutral" scientific enterprise we think of. It's inherently biased by politics and economics.

    Are people like Elon Musk planning to form nonprofits and donate everything they find to humanity as a whole? If not, Lee suggests, beware.

    For more on colonization, see Rubio Ignorant of US History and Whites Destroy Other People's Homes.

    May 24, 2015

    100 most significant Americans?

    Last year the Smithsonian magazine tried to pick the 100 most significant Americans. This kind of exercise is popular, of course. You can find top 10 or 100 lists of almost any kind of person: presidents, rock stars, athletes, et al.

    I did my own ranking of pop-culture icons back in 2004. Now inevitably out of date, alas.

    Let's see how the Smithsonian did:

    Meet the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time

    A new, special issue of Smithsonian magazine attempts the impossible: to list out the most significant people in United States history

    By T.A. Frail
    Skiena and Ward would be the first to acknowledge that their method has limitations. Their concept of significance has less to do with achievement than with an individual’s strength as an Internet meme—how vividly he or she remains in our collective memory. The English-language Wikipedia favors Americans over foreigners, men over women, white people over others and English speakers over everyone else. In their rankings of Americans only, past presidents occupy 39 of the first 100 spots, suggesting an ex-officio bias.

    That’s where we come in. Smithsonian magazine has been covering American history in depth from its inaugural issue, published in 1970. Among the Smithsonian Institution museums we work closely with is the National Museum of American History. By synthesizing our expertise with the systematic rigor of Skiena and Ward’s rankings, we sought to combine the best of quantitative measures and qualitative judgment.

    First, we asked Skiena and Ward to separate figures significant to American history from the world population. Then, rather than simply taking their top 100, we developed categories that we believe are significant, and populated our categories with people in Skiena and Ward’s order (even if they ranked below 100). This system helped mitigate the biases of Wikipedia.
    Comment:  A few notes on the Smithsonian's approach:

  • The methodology used amounts to "most prominent on the Internet." This translates to something like "most popular" or "most memorable," not "most significant." It's silly to suggest popularity equals significance.

  • The body of the article redefines the headline: from "most significant Americans" to "figures most significant to American history." That justifies including Europeans who explored the continent before America existed.

  • It also would justify including people who never set foot in America--anyone from Jesus to Hitler. But never mind.

    Here are the Smithsonian's 10 categories and the Native people who made the list:


    Rebels & resisters
    Sitting Bull


    First women



    Religious figures

    Pop icons


    Jim Thorpe

    Five of 100 isn't bad considering Natives make up only 1-2% of the US population. Of course, they formed a majority of the continent's inhabitants as late as 1750, so perhaps they deserve five slots.

    I'd actually take out Sacagawea and Pocahontas because I don't think they were that important in the grand scheme of things. I might add Geronimo for his fearsome reputation. Maybe Will Rogers depending on how popular he really was.

    Poorly chosen categories

    The biggest problem with the Smithsonian's list is its choice of categories. There's no category for scientists and inventors, or intellectuals and writers. These are major omissions.

    Furthermore, why outlaws, athletes, or artists? Was Billy the Kid or Secretariat really significant in US history? I don't think so.

    I imagine someone at the Smithsonian thought outlaws would be more exciting than scientists, and athletes more exciting than intellectuals. I doubt the Smithsonian could justify these choices on the basis of significance to US history.

    Here's how I'd redefine the category to reflect significance, the supposed subject of this exercise, rather than popularity, marketability, or whatever criterion the Smithsonian used.

    Rebels & resisters
    Military & political leaders
    First women
    Intellectuals & writers
    Social reformers
    Architects, artists, & musicians
    Religious figures
    Pop icons
    Athletes, entertainers, & pop icons
    Scientists & inventors

    Some explanations:

    I don't particularly like the "Trailblazers" category. I'd take out Columbus and Vespucci because they never set foot in America. Besides, if you include them, why not King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Sir Francis Drake, Hernán Cortés, or King George III?

    In any case, I'd take out a few other "trailblazers" and replace them with the Spanish and other explorers who helped colonize the West.

    I'd probably include most of the people in the "Rebels & resisters" category, but they'd have to fit into "Military & political leaders," "Intellectuals & writers," or "Social reformers." These categories would create room in "Military & political leaders" for generals such as William Tecumseh Sherman or Dwight D. Eisenhower and politicians such as Henry Clay or John C. Calhoun.

    The biggest omission must be scientists and inventors: Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheim, Wernher von Braun, Margaret Sanger, Jonas Salk, James D. Watson and Francis Crick, et al.

    You could argue for or against any of these...but really, none of them made the top 100? How about most or all of them instead?

    As for the omitted categories: Sorry, first'd have to be significant in another category to qualify. Sorry, outlaws and'd have compete in the category with other pop icons. In either case, if you're not significant enough, you're out.

    I don't think my categories would lead to any more Natives making the list. But something like a quarter or a third of the entries would change. The results would reflect "significance to American history" much better.

    May 23, 2015

    Why Indian mascots are anti-Indian

    An excellent article makes a key point about mascots:

    The invasion of America

    The story of Native American dispossession is too easily swept aside, but new visualisations should make it unforgettable[T]he language used to chronicle the dispossession of native peoples–‘Indian’, ‘chief’, ‘warrior’, ‘tribe’, ‘squaw’ (as native women used to be called)–conjures up crude stereotypes and clouds the mind, making it difficult to see the wars of extermination, forced marches and expulsions for what they were. The story, which used to be celebratory, is now more often tragic and sentimental, rooted in the belief that the dispossession of native peoples was unjust but inevitable.Let me explain. The glorification of Indian warriors--in mascots, the military, and so forth--sends a pro-American, anti-Indian message.

    How so? Because it furthers the American mythology of benign conquest. Our band of brave soldiers fought their band of savage warriors on horseback. Just like you saw in the movies.

    We won because we were more noble and heroic; they lost. But we've extended the hand of friendship to our former foes. Let's forget our past differences and celebrate our common warrior heritage.

    Slaughter, not skirmishes

    How exactly is this anti-Indian? Because it reduces 500 years of conflicts to a few skirmishes where the "best side" won. It erases all the "wars of extermination, forced marches and expulsions," as the article puts it. All the times white people lied, cheated, and stole Native land and resources. Hundreds of broken treaties attesting to the white man's perfidy.

    Moreover, it obscures the entire nature of Native America. The inhabitants weren't scattered bands of warriors on horseback. They were full-fledged nations with governments. They had complex laws, customs, languages, religions, arts, and sciences. The US didn't beat a few warriors in a fair or unfair fight. It decimated entire civilizations with its genocidal policies.

    So talking about the strength and courage of Redskins or Warriors or Chiefs is a complete crock. It's designed to delude people into supporting the American mythology, the American way. The "conflicts" were "inevitable," so the story goes, so they couldn't be helped. Cultures "clashed," one side happened to win, and that's the end.

    In particular, the "good guys" (Americans) won, so we'll pretend the "bad guys" (Indians) were good too. Both sides were good, so there's no need to question or challenge the mythology. We're all Americans now--North and South, black and white, American and Indian--so let's forget the past and move forward together.

    That's what mascot lovers think. And that's what they want you to think. By challenging them, you're challenging the entire mythology of American goodness. They can't handle the truth, so they attack you instead. You lost, get over it, etc., etc.

    All this because of the one-dimensional warrior stereotype.

    For more on the subject, see Native Stereotyping = Anti-Indian Propaganda and "Redskins" = Pan-Indian Romanticism.

    May 22, 2015

    Waco shootout shows America's racism

    This is your brain on Whiteness: The invisible psychology of white American ignorance explained

    The contrast in media narratives about Baltimore and Waco are undeniable—but many white Americans are blind to them

    By Chauncey DeVega
    The participants in the Waco, Texas gun battle were almost exclusively white. The participants in the Baltimore Uprising were almost all black. Quite predictably, the corporate news media’s narrative frame for those events was heavily influenced by race. News coverage of these two events has stretched the bounds of credulity by engaging in all manner of mental gymnastics in order to describe the killings, mayhem, and gun battle in Waco as anything other than a “riot.”

    As writers such as Salon’s own Jenny Kutner keenly observed:I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

    Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that—despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence—they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.
    The dominant corporate news media have used the Baltimore uprising and other similar events to attack Black America’s character, values, and culture. The argument is clear: The events in Waco were committed by white men who happen to be criminals; the Baltimore uprising was committed by black people who, because of their “race” and “culture,” are inherently criminal.

    Racial bias in news reporting has been repeatedly documented by scholars in media studies, critical race theory, political science, and sociology. As anti-racism activist Jane Elliot incisively observed, “People of color can’t even turn on the televisions in their own homes without being exposed to white racism.” The centuries of racism, and resulting stereotypes about the inherent criminality of Black Americans, are central to why the events in Waco and Baltimore have received such divergent news coverage.
    White America’s Waco Insanity: The Shocking Realities it Ignores About Racism & Violence

    The response to the Twin Peaks shootout shows how privilege really works.

    By Brittney Cooper
    More than 165 people have been arrested for their participation in this thuggish, ruggish, deadly, violent, white-on-white street brawl but there has been no mass outcry from the country about this. Though these motorcycle gangs were already under surveillance because of known participation in consistent and organized criminal activity, as Darnell Moore notes at Mic, “the police didn’t don riot gear.” Moore further notes that “leather and rock music weren’t blamed,” and there hasn’t been any “hand-wringing over the problem of white-on-white crime.”

    White people, even well-meaning and thoughtful ones, have the privilege of looking at deadly acts of mass violence of this sort as isolated local incidents, particular to one community. They do not look at such incidents as indicative of anything having to do with race or racism. But everything from the difference in law enforcement response to media response tells us what we need to know about how white privilege allows acts of violence by white people to be judged by entirely different standards than those of any other group. If a Black motorcycle gang had engaged in a shootout in a parking lot, any honest white person will admit that the conversation would have sounded incredibly different.

    Frequently in conversations that I have observed or participated in with white people about race, the claim is levied that it is Black people “who make everything about race.” But this incident in Waco gives lie to that claim. It turns out that when white privilege is in clear operation, white people are invested in making sure that we don’t see race in operation. Charles Mills, a philosopher of race, has a term which I think applies here: epistemology of white ignorance. By this means, he means that white people have created a whole way of knowing the world that both demands and allows that they remain oblivious to the operations of white supremacy, that white people remain “intent on denying what is before them.” Thus even though three gangs have now attacked each other in broad daylight and killed or injured 27 people, there is no nagging, gnawing sense of fear, no social anxiety about what the world is coming to, no anger at the thugs who made it unsafe for American families to go about their regular daily activities without fear of being clipped by a stray bullet, no posturing from law enforcement about the necessity of using military weapons to put down the lawless band of criminals that turned a parking lot into a war zone in broad daylight. More than that, there is no sense of white shame, no hanging of the head over the members of their race that have been out in the world representing everything that is wrong with America.

    That kind of intra-racial shame is reserved primarily for Black people.

    Most white citizens will insist that this was just an isolated incident, even though the gangs were already under surveillance for consistent participation in criminal activity. And this studied ignorance, this sense in which people could look at this set of incidents and simply refuse to see all the ways in which white privilege is at play—namely that no worse than arrest befell any the men who showed up hours later with weapons, looking for a fight—returns me to the words of Malcolm X. For many Americans, this is just good ole American fun, sort of like playing Cowboys-and-Indians in real life. As Malcolm reminded us, “whites idolize fighters.” So while I’m sure many Americans are appalled at the senseless loss of life, there is also the sense that this is just “those wild Texans” doing the kind of thing they do.
    Watch this activist politely destroy CNN for racism: ‘Whiteness gets nuance and blackness doesn’t’

    By David Edwards“What’s interesting about Waco is that there was also this nuance suddenly. Because whiteness gets nuance and blackness doesn’t. So you saw with Waco, ‘These are bikers, this is just like a biker group. It’s a biker shootout.'”

    According to McKesson, racism was insidious because people tended to think of it as an extreme.

    “It’s this idea that like the n-word is the only signifier of racism in America when that’s actually not true,” he said. “Racism is about how power is used to negatively impact people because issues of race. So, what you saw with Waco, you saw this radical humanization of people who actually committed violent crimes, who really did violent crimes in a way you did see that same humanization with people in Baltimore who were breaking curfew.”

    “They were treated in ways that criminalized them, really intense ways. In a way that you didn’t see with actual criminals.”
    Comment:  For more on white privilege, see Whites Can't Handle Racial Stress and "It Feels Good" to Be White.

    May 21, 2015

    "Redskins" bad but helicopters okay?

    On Facebook I shared a posting about the Washington Redskins and the US military. Although no longer available, it said something like:

    Why do Natives protest the Redskins name rather than the US military for naming items--Tomahawk missiles; Apache, Lakota, and Blackhawk helicopters; codename Geronimo--after them?

    This led to a discussion of the subject:The military industrial complex is run by the same people that support the foul R-word, the same people that exploit others for their own wealth generation!

    This is Apple/Oranges. The r-word is racist and it invokes racist behaviour.

    Hold it, everyone. Here’s a white guy who offers an explanation about why we should feel honored by these names for military equipment. *Phew.* I feel much better after having him whitesplain it to me.

    Everyone Relax—The Army’s Native American Helicopter Names Are Not Racist
    Let the debate begin

    Curiously, someone else posted the same article but put a different spin on it:You know a Native career soldier I know wrote this and posted this (not my position as I'm not a pro military type but wanted to share a perspective):

    "No where is there a finer example of honoring a legacy than the moniker attached to the US Army's rotary wing fleet. Not only does the Army ask if the names can be used but they respectively utilize the proper names. They do not use slang or stereotypes. The first time I laid eyes on these aircraft I was instilled with pride and a sense of belonging. I thought to myself 'These guys get it. They respect me and my people's contribution to this enterprise.' I am honored by the lineage of these nomenclatures and honored to have been a small part of this warrior tradition. The US Army has had an intimate experience (for better or worse) with the history of my people and it is my pleasure to reciprocate the gesture. Sappers forward!"
    My response: "Warrior tradition" = one-dimensional stereotype.

    I "like" how this article basically confirms my point. Namely, that helicopters were named for a one-dimensional view of Natives:According to Bob Mitchell, the museum curator, Howze “envisioned the helicopter as a fast, mobile, stealthy machine on the field of battle using terrain and vegetation to an advantage similar to the Warrior Tribes.”"Warrior tribes" is redundant here since the Army seems to think all Indians are warriors.

    Yet the same person continued to challenge me:It is undoubtedly something that is very important in Indian Country as they bring it up quite a lot. Hard for me to grasp due to oppressive nature of use of US Military abroad but it is what it is. 3 times the average rate of service.Yes, and many Indians take pride in being called "Redskins," too. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

    Many Indians also challenge the one-dimensional warrior image and call for a fuller understanding of Native cultures. I'm with them.Yes the R word is an offensive term whereas using tribal names is not. Also they choose to use correct names like Lakota for example not Sioux.

    I am not saying I agree or disagree with any of this but know the thoughts of many folks in Indian Country over this and sharing that perspective.
    Okay. I'm saying I disagree with it because it's stereotypical. I also disagree with the stereotypical choices made by filmmakers such as Johnny Depp and Adam Sandler.

    Only names of tribes?The image you shared for one shows proper names from Indian Country being held in an equivalent manner to a racist term which is obviously not really comparable. Yes there is another debate good or bad to have about the context of the use of the other names. But if a helicopter was called Nigeria would that be as offensive as the N word?"Tomahawk" is a stereotypical weapon. "Blackhawk" and "Geronimo" are personal names. So this posting isn't just about using the names of tribes.

    I think we can all agree that "Redskins" is the worst offense in this category, although I'd say calling a terrorist "Geronimo" is comparable. So? We can and do address lesser offenses all the time here.

    If you really want to honor the widespread tendency of Natives to serve in the military, let's name helicopters after the Hopi, Creek, Tlingit, San Manuel, and Penobscot tribes. Why not, since their members have served at the same rates as every other tribe's?

    Oh, but those tribes aren't known as fierce, deadly warriors. They aren't stereotypical enough. We want our hardware named only for ruthless killer Indians. Because we want to be as savage as they were.

    In short, if this nomenclature is some sort of pan-Indian tribute, choose from the names of the 566 recognized tribes at random. By choosing only the tribes known for their savagery, the military is proving my point.Tomahawk is a form of battle axe and indeed there is another missile type called the Battleaxe missile. I would never imagine Kiowa and Blackhawk as being stereotypically savage and the others historically embodied strength. Apart from anything they are great sounding names. But yes as I said a lot of room for debate over the use of these names but the comparison in the image you shared to me seems rather manipulative.The Plains tribes in general, including the Kiowa, represent the stereotypical savage to most Americans.

    The Comanche and Iroquois helicopters further demonstrate that the Army is honoring tribes known for aggression or violence, not just "strength" or "courage."

    Strength, in particular, has nothing to do with fighting ability. Buddha, Jesus, and Martin Luther King were strong. Mothers who raise children in the face of adversity are strong. Let's name helicopters after them if we want to honor strength.

    Other views

    A few others chimed in:Gag. These are the same excuses used to justify the usage of Indians, and Redskins. Not okay for cars or helicopters or missiles or team names. #PeopleNotMascots

    I completely agree, let them name some other people helicopters, missiles...etc.
    We are not decals, toys and icons.
    We are people and it is about time we are treated as such!
    For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

    Below:  Six copters named after tribes and one named after a snake.

    May 20, 2015

    Eisenberg's "squaw and chief" bit

    Five Racist Ways The New Yorker is Embarrassing Itself

    By Aura BogadoFor the "Shouts & Murmurs" humor column in its May 25th issue, The New Yorker presents “Men and Dancing,” a collection of four absurd dialogues written by actor and playwright Jesse Eisenberg. In each dialogue someone is pressuring a man to perform a dance that is part of his job and the man makes every excuse in the book to avoid doing so. For example, a quarterback presses a wide receiver to do a touchdown dance and a royal aide pushes a court jester to dance for the king.

    The first dialogue—where an imaginary Native "squaw" insists that her "chief" perform a rain dance to help their starving tribe's crops grow—is deeply troubling.
    No Joke: New Yorker Published a Squaw-and-Chief Bit by Jesse EisenbergThere are all sorts of problems with this characterization of Native Americans—and there's a big problem with the use of the word "squaw," which we thought everyone understood was a racial slur. Aura Bogado makes it plain and simple in her Colorlines piece "Five Racist Ways The New Yorker is Embarrassing Itself."

    Eisenberg's bit about Natives displays all the enlightenment of a Tintin comic book or an early Popeye cartoon—but those cringe-inducing products of their time were made over 80 years ago. To see The New Yorker print the word "squaw" like it's just another noun, here in the year 2015, is a reminder that even the smartest guys on the newsstand can still be fairly dumb when it comes to Native stereotyping.
    Jesse Eisenberg learns zero lessons from Adam Sandler fiasco: “Two Dogs could do a great rain dance”

    The actor and frequent New Yorker contributor's Shouts & Murmurs column is being criticized for racist jokes

    By Erin Keane
    The depths to which the New Yorker might sink when it comes to appeasing celebrities who want to place their creative work in the venerable magazine’s pages, especially the fiction section and humor columns, have yet to be fully plumbed, but sometimes they get it right. Not this week, though—Jesse Eisenberg’s “Men and Dancing” piece in Shouts & Murmurs, four vignettes explaining just how much some men dread dancing in public, is the dreaded double-whammy of barely-funny meets actually offensive. A quarter of his piece traffics heavily—and wholly unnecessarily—in racist stereotypes about Native Americans, and the fact that this scene of a “Squaw” urging an unnamed chief to perform a rain dance even made it to print is either a truly spectacular act of cynical Shouts & Murmurs celebrity column trolling, or total editorial cluelessness.Actor Jesse Eisenberg called out for using the term 'squaw' in The New Yorker

    'What year is it @NewYorker? Your racism is circa 1930's,' tweeter Jamie Wilson writes

    By Kim Wheeler
    Wab Kinew @WabKinew
    Hey @NewYorker love your magazine, but hate the fact you used the slur "Squaw" in an attempt at a humour column

    Hayden King @Hayden_King
    In all the vacuous, ignorant writing on squaws, Chiefs and rain dancing, this is exceptional. Top notch, @NewYorker.
    Eisenberg's squaw and chief schtick a teachable moment

    'Historical ignorance only goes so far,' says professor Marlene Atleo

    By Wawmeesh G. Hamilton
    Just because actor Jesse Eisenberg didn`t know the history of the word 'squaw,' doesn't mean he is excused for using it, Marlene Atleo said.Comment:  For more on "squaw," see Cultural Appropriation for Halloween 2014 and Republican: Only Good Indian Is Dead.

    May 19, 2015

    Biloxi Indian: Problem is "headdress"

    The Biloxi "Indians" controversy is still simmering.

    Local Tribe Pulled into Mascot Controversy

    Pierite says stereotyping--not name--is the problem

    By Raymond L. Daye
    As of last week, tribal officials had released no official comment on the matter, but were discussing a response to release to the public.

    However, tribal member Michael Pierite--son of first tribal chairman Joseph Pierite Jr. and grandson of last traditional chief Joseph Pierite Sr.--did consent to share his personal opinion on the matter. He and his wife Donna stressed that they speak only for themselves and their family, and not in any official capacity for the tribe.

    “I don’t mind that the Biloxi Tribe is used as the mascot for Biloxi High School,” Pierite said. “I just don’t like that they are inaccurately depicting our tribe.”

    The problem, in one word, is “headdress.”
    Pierite explains what he meant:“The problem is stereotypes,” Pierite continued. “In the movies of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, it didn’t matter what tribe was in the movie, they all had full headdresses. Hollywood didn’t worry about accuracy. Later, the movies started becoming more accurate in their depiction of the various tribes--like Last of the Mohicans.”

    Pierite said the word “Indians” is “just a word. It’s the name of their team. That’s okay. It’s the stereotyping that is not okay.”

    Pierite said he has not kept up with the controversy in Biloxi, but has heard that comments on both sides of the issue have boiled over somewhat.

    “I guess what I would have to say is, I can’t force people to change their minds about a particular race of people, but at least I can try to get them to see what they are doing is not right," he said.

    "You see, people may say that ‘words don’t hurt,’ but words do hurt. They can hurt a lot,” Pierite said. “If they stereotype my people, my tribe, then that hurts me, too. I don’t want to be viewed as some cartoon Indian character.”
    Comment:  So two actual Biloxi Indians have said the Biloxi "Indians" are stereotypical and thus wrong. I wonder how many it'll take before the school gets the message.

    For more on the subject, see Indians Aren't "Indian Enough" for Biloxi and Biloxi Indian Criticizes Biloxi "Indians."

    May 18, 2015

    DeLanna Studi's dream project

    Actress DeLanna Studi is working on her dream project--namely:

    Trail of Tears Road Trip: And So We Walked

    A father/daughter journey along the Trail of Tears, retracing the footsteps of their family.As a Cherokee citizen, actress and writer, I have always wanted to travel in my ancestors’ footsteps along the Trail of Tears and find a way to share this legacy and the impact it has on all of us. This June, my father and I will travel the Northern Route collecting stories and insights of the communities along the way. It’s a tale about a road trip, family, heritage, and an inside perspective on a forgotten part of our shared American history.You can read more about the trip, and watch it unfold, here:

    And So We Walked: An Artist's Journey Along the Trail of Tears

    Comment:  I posted the Indiegogo link a few times, and put together the following graphic in Photoshop:

    Not a bad job, if I do say so myself.

    For more on the Trail of Tears, see Review of How I Became a Ghost and Review of Heape's Trail of Tears.

    May 17, 2015

    Stereotypes turn Indians invisible

    In response to Ecoffey's and Davies's downplaying of racism, I posted:

    How do people not get this? Mascots and stereotypes => no understanding of Indian country => lack of laws, services, jobs, etc.

    The following article explains the direct connection between stereotypical thinking and lack of philanthropy:

    Implicit Bias and Native Americans: Philanthropy’s Hidden MinorityAccording to Michael Roberts, a member of the Tlingit tribe and president of First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit institution and grantmaker that has been a fixture in philanthropy for almost 35 years:

    “I would say that American Indians are mostly invisible to philanthropy, and where there is some semblance of awareness, that there is definitely implicit bias. [For] most foundation program officers, most of what they know is what they were taught in school. Generally, Indians are examined in one of two ways, that they are either relics of the past (lived in tipis, hunted buffalo and were either savages or at one with nature; the mythical Indian), or that the study of them is like a tourist visiting a culture.”

    Rick Williams, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and former president of the American Indian College Fund, the largest and arguably one of the most successful Native nonprofits, noted:

    “The current myth of wealthy Indians not needing help relates directly to misguided media presenting only information about [Native] nations that have done well financially and have casinos. The other myth is that we no longer exist. And if we do exist, it is easy to ignore our plight. Implicit bias carries all the stereotypes and subconsciously influences one’s actions. I often see/feel that bias even when it is unintended or sublimely disguised.”
    The invisibility problem is closely related to the issue of stereotypes. How? As many have said, people expect Indians to look like savages--dressed in leathers and feathers, living in teepees, etc. When they don't see any stereotypical savages, they assume Indians are dead and gone. They overlook the modern-day Indians all around them--thus rendering them invisible.

    Going back to Ecoffey and Davies...if my formulation doesn't explain the lack of laws, services, and jobs, what does?

    A paucity of media coverage? Who's been running newspapers such as the Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, and Native Sun News for the past few decades? Not me. If the operators are incompetent as journalists, how is that anyone else's problem?

    Again, are Ecoffey and Davies seriously arguing that two weeks of Adam Sandler coverage is responsible for a century of the "Indian plight"? What, was the NY Times about to print a killer expose of the problems? And it got bumped because of Sandler?

    How stupid can you get? Like other pop controversies, the Sandler coverage only increases awareness of Indians. Therefore, it's good, not bad.


    For more on the invisibility of Indians, see America Constructed to Erase Indians and Tarantino: "Indians Have More or Less Disappeared."

    May 16, 2015

    Rep. Sanchez makes "war whoop"

    Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez appears to disparage American Indians

    At California Democratic Party convention, Senate candidate makes whooping gesture Attorney General Kamala Harris calls it ‘shocking’ Sanchez would not say if gesture was an appropriate one

    By Christopher Cadelago and David Siders
    Two days after entering the race for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Loretta Sanchez met with an Indian American group on Saturday and mimicked a racial stereotype of American Indians.

    In a video shown to The Sacramento Bee and posted online shortly after, Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, describes a pending meeting she had with an East Indian.

    “I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a,” she said, holding her hand in front of her mouth and making an echo sound. “Right? ... because he said Indian American.

    “And I go in there and it was great. It was just great because he said ‘I want to get my community involved.’ Involved. And that was the first time that we saw the Indian American community really come. ...”

    Kamala Harris calls Loretta Sanchez's Native American 'war cry' shocking

    By Peter JamisonU.S. Senate candidate and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was at a loss for words Saturday when told that her principal opponent, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana, had been videotaped making a joke about the difference between Indian Americans and Native Americans in which she tapped her hand to her mouth in imitation of a "war cry."

    "I don’t know what to say to that. That–that–that’s shocking," Harris said, raising her eyebrows in disbelief when the comments were shared with her after an afternoon news conference. "That’s shocking," she repeated.

    Sanchez made the controversial comments while speaking to the Indian-American caucus at a restaurant near the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday. A video of her gaffe made the rounds on Twitter and YouTube and quickly became the talk of the California Democratic Convention and wasn't helped by the curious explanation Sanchez offered after the fact.

    She said the joke concerned her confusion over whether a potential campaign supporter she spoke to on the phone was Native American or Indian American.
    Senate candidate apologises for Native American 'war cry' in California

    By Jon SwaineA California congresswoman has been sharply criticised for making a stereotypical “war cry” sound when referring to Native Americans at a political meeting.

    Loretta Sanchez, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in next year’s open US Senate race in California, was recorded on a cellphone video tapping her hand over her open mouth while whooping, during a talk at the California Democratic Party convention on Saturday. On Sunday, she apologised.

    Speaking to delegates, the 10-term congresswoman said she had said something offensive “and for that I sincerely apologise.”

    Sanchez defended her record on civil rights, human rights and Native American rights. She also said American Indians had “a great presence in our country and many of them are supporting our election.”
    Congresswoman First Dodges Reporters, Then Apologizes for Making Indian 'War Whoop'

    By Simon Moya-SmithThe man who filmed Sanchez said people in the room were taken aback by Sanchez's offensive gesture.

    “I was shocked and appalled that she’d make the disparaging comments about Native Americans that way,” Uduak-Joe Ntuke of Long Beach, California told NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA.

    Joe Horse Capture, who is A’aninin and based in Washington, D.C., told ICTMN he finds it concerning that a congresswoman who wishes to represent a state with a large Native American population lacks “the basic understanding of Native American culture – what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”

    Horse Capture said Sanchez’s claim that she is part Native American is trite, since many who are caught offending Native Americans later claim to have some indigenous North American heritage.

    “And what people often do when they find themselves in a culturally inappropriate circumstance is they claim that they‘re Native American,” Horse Capture said. “Of course if she were actually tied to her Native American culture and practiced her heritage she would know better.”
    Below:  Kamala Harris.

    Indians aren't amused

    POLITICS: Inland Native American leaders outraged at Loretta Sanchez's ‘war cry'

    By David Olson“We are deeply disappointed that a ten-term Member of Congress and a candidate for U.S. Senate in a state as diverse as California would demonstrate such poor judgment and deeply offensive behavior,” Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, said in a statement.

    “In one of our state’s highest offices, the people of California deserve a Senator who is a leader on issues of equality; and we expect that the sincerity of Ms. Sanchez's apology will be evident in her future conduct should her campaign move forward. We would expect that Ms. Sanchez, who claims Native American ancestry, will demonstrate greater respect for California’s native people and join us to denounce stereotyping in all forms.”

    Mary Ann Andreas, chairwoman of the California Democratic Party’s Native American Caucus and former chairwoman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, said in a statement released with other officials from the caucus that “recent comments and mimicking of a cliché Indian war cry can only be described as insensitive and insulting.”

    Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, told the Los Angeles Times in an email Sunday that Sanchez “knows better, and we are very disappointed.”
    'War cry' gaffe may deter donations to Loretta Sanchez's campaign

    By Michael FinneganFor Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman who has never run for statewide office, the main problem now will be less with voters than with potential donors. Her campaign could require $20 million or more, all of it in donations of no more than $2,700, the federal limit.

    Harris, who romped to reelection in November, has a head start in fundraising and endorsements, along with the experience of running twice for statewide office—all of which effectively makes her an early front-runner, said Rose Kapolczynski, who managed Boxer's four Senate campaigns.

    "There's a flow in a primary," said Kapolczynski, who is unaligned in next year's Senate contest. "As the front-runner gains support, support begets support. Support begets money. Money begets money. And Loretta needs to disrupt that dynamic in order to have a chance."

    Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro hinted Sunday that Sanchez's remark had harmed her longstanding ties with Native Americans, a major source of money in state and federal campaigns.
    Nobody's perfect

    Neither Sanchez nor Harris is perfect when it comes to Native issues:

    Statement Concerning California Senate Candidates From Democratic Party Native American Caucus Chairwoman Mary Ann Andreas, Vice Chairman Andrew Maisel and Board MembersThe California Democratic Party Native American Caucus has deep concerns regarding the actions of both declared candidates running for Senate in California.

    We are dismayed by the lack of sensitivity to tribal issues and to Native Americans as individuals that we see in our announced candidates. Their comments and actions provide little assurance that they grasp the government-to-government relationship guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

    In the case of U.S. Representative and candidate Loretta Sanchez, her recent comments and mimicking of a cliché Indian war cry can only be described as insensitive and insulting. The remarks were made at a private meeting not a Native American Caucus event as reported by members of the media. However, these comments coming from a longtime friend makes it doubly difficult.

    In the case of candidate Kamala Harris, she has chosen to ignore the federal policy and legal findings of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Interior in a case concerning California lands held by the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT). Despite existing federal policy, without any effort to discuss the issue with CRIT and without concern to the facts, Attorney General Harris filed an amicus brief supporting an individual trespassing on tribal lands who refused to pay rent to the tribe. This person is suing the tribe because he was evicted from the land on which he was squatting.

    California has benefitted from the presence and activism of Senator Barbara Boxer in her distinguished career in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. The interests of all Californians, especially Native Americans, have been well served by her genuine efforts to learn about the first Americans and then to fight for their basic rights of self governance and self determination.

    We are disappointed in the apparent lack of sensitivity and awareness that our current Senate candidates have for Native Americans. We extend an invitation to both Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Harris to personally meet with our California Native American Caucus and tribal leaders. They both should treat this as a learning opportunity and begin learning our history, our cultures and our issues. Without such an effort, we cannot expect informed decision-making and fair representation.
    In her Native Appropriations blog, Adrienne Keene rightly links the recent gaffes by Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Loretta Sanchez:

    When you’re invisible, every representation matters: Political edition

    By Adrienne K.In an oft-repeated refrain on le blog, I say again: How can we expect support for our sovereignty, our tribally controlled schools, healthcare, and housing, our environmental concerns, our children, our women, our elders, or our land if 90% of America, including our government officials, only see us as these narrow stereotypes? When you’re invisible in society (which carries through to congress–only 2 Native people in the 115th congress), every representation matters. Clearly, our politicians aren’t immune to these deep-seated stereotypes, and this isn’t something minor that can just be shrugged off. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer the leader of the United States not blatantly frame Native peoples as the “bad guys” before he/she even steps into office.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Brown Staffers Whoop and Chop and Whooping "Indians" at 2011 Stanford Powwow.

    May 15, 2015

    Ecoffey and Davies downplay racism

    A couple of Native journalists took activists like me to task for focusing on such "minor" issues as Adam Sandler's racist movie. Here's round 1:

    Evaluating our priorities in the Native media

    A note from the editor’s desk

    By Brandon Ecoffey
    Over the past couple of weeks social media has been going absolutely nuts over an incident involving a group of Native actors walking off a Adam Sandler run movie set due to their objections to the famous actor’s grotesque depictions of Native people and culture. Although I applaud the courage of these Native actors to risk being black balled by Hollywood due to their protest, I do not understand why this particular story gained so much traction when there are real and far more pressing issues on reservations that the Native media has brushed aside.

    Where is the outrage over our young people dying weekly? Where is the outrage over the absence of any type of functioning economy on reservations? Where is the outrage over the fact that many many children in Indian Country do not have access to safe drinking water? These are third-world issues that are pushed to the back page in favor of stories about people dressing up like Indians, or acting like us, or doing whatever it is that they do.

    Many say that the misappropriation of our culture impacts the self-esteem and self-image of our Native youth. This may be true. But what impacts those aspects of our children even more is waking up to homes filled with mold, or abusive parents, or extreme poverty resulting from decades upon decades of failed federal policies and exploitation at the hands of predatory investors.

    Although I agree that cultural appropriation is wrong I would just hope that others in the Native news industry reassess their priorities and react accordingly.
    My response:

    "Where is the outrage over our young people dying weekly?" It's hidden by the invisibility of Natives in the mainstream media. This invisibility is shredded when an issue such as Sandler's racist movie gains traction.

    Ripping apart this cloak of invisibility is a necessary precursor to generating outrage about endangered Native children. If no one knows they exist, there can be no outrage.

    The MSM's choice isn't between covering the Sandler controversy and covering endangered Native children. It's between covering the Sandler controversy and doing nothing.

    Only after that, when people become more aware of Indian country's ongoing problems, will the MSM turn its focus to them. Awareness comes first, and the Sandler controversy has helped raise that awareness.

    Others chimed in:Rob Schmidt hit the nail on the head.

    I'm sorry but many of us are outraged by all those issues as well. Many of us are fighting to better our communities also. I get so upset hearing Native people saying things like this because it makes the fight harder for ALL Native issues. We shouldn't be picking and choosing what issue to fight but we should be upset and fighting on all fronts!

    You can do both. I work with Native health but still think mascots et al. are whack and should be eliminated.
    Right. Most of us are just reading and sharing articles. Even if you're deeply into these issues, they take up only 5% or so of your time. The rest of the time, you're working on whatever it is that you consider important.Hi. I just read the article and your question, so I'd like to share my perspective, at least in terms of mascots. A friend once said something similar. "We have more important issues to address," but it is my belief that this is one of the reasons that we have so many other issues to contend with. The dehumanizing effects of misrepresentation of our people via mascots and the various forms of appropriation have been effective enough to impact the way society views us. This in turn makes it so much easier for mainstream society to turn a blind eye to our multifaceted challenges. The cage of oppression consists of many wires, but in addressing the symptoms, we must also be diligent in addressing the root cause.
    Round 2

    Another column from the Native Sun News implied that movies, mascots, and related issues are a waste of time:

    Indian Country must face the man in the mirror

    Stop being thin-skinned busybodies

    By James Giago Davies
    Instead of focusing on every perceived slight, why not pour all that energy into the actual nuts and bolts reality plaguing almost every reservation—violence, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse. Face these ugly truths, fight these ugly realities, honor the actual heroes, point fingers at the actual villains, and then if you have any energy left, and you damn well shouldn’t have energy left, knock yourself out being all offended over Johnny Depp’s Tonto.

    Acculturation has left Indian America with deep, debilitating wounds, and these wounds compel Indians to hurt other Indians, to create bogeymen to hate and attack so they don’t have to face the man in the mirror. There are plenty of actual evil people hating on Indians, we don’t have to fabricate fresh ones to deflect our righteous indignation from the disheartening task of fixing what’s actually broken.

    Indian culture has been oppressed to the point Indians no longer need the Wasicu to beat them down. Indians have spent the last century becoming experts at beating themselves down. Time to man up and start living in the 21st Century. Time to develop the skills and knowledge to protect the culture from destructive outside forces like Rand Paul, who wants to abolish the BIA, and even more destructive internal forces, misguided spiritual leaders, corrupt tribal administrations, bad parents neglecting and terrorizing vulnerable children.

    If we could just spend one year doing that, then we would have the social gravitas forcing others to listen, then when Bill Maher said another stupid thing about Indians...well, he never would again say such a stupid thing, because it would be common knowledge all you crazy Indians are as funny as all get-out.
    I posted comments to Davies's column, leading to this debate with him:

    Isn't Tim Giago a big advocate of eliminating stereotypical mascots? Which is the same issue as eliminating stereotypical movie portrayals. Have you told him to stop wasting his time on "trivial" issues--to "man up and start living in the 21st Century"?

    Go ahead and tell him, then let us know what he says. Maybe he can explain the importance of fighting racism and stereotyping against Indians. Because clearly he understands the issue.

    Are you seriously arguing that most Indians are focusing on Johnny Depp and Adam Sandler rather than the serious problems facing Indian country? Because it's the other way around, obviously.

    A century of addressing these problems has yet to fully solve them. That's partly because most people think Indians have vanished into history.

    And that's because of media portrayals--or the lack thereof. No one cares about Indians because movies such as Depp's and Sandler's tell us they're primitive people of the past. As far as most Americans are concerned, Indians and their problems no longer exist.I don't think you actually know anything about Indians, or growing up on welfare and food stamps in an Indian ghetto. Check it out.I know what Tim Giago has said about Hollywood's racism and stereotyping:

    Tim Giago: Few Roles for Indians in Hollywood

    Giago: Hollywood slow to tear down racist barriers against

    He's argubly the most famous journalist in Indian country, and he's spent decades on these issues. I'm guessing he knows more about growing up Indian than you do.

    Didn't you just spend a few hours writing about a racist nurse's video in Rapid City? How many Natives did you rescue from welfare and food stamps with that column? Why are you wasting time writing about a video when Native children are suffering and dying?

    Unless you're delivering food and medicine yourself, don't bother lecturing anyone else on the subject. Nobody who's a journalist is saving lives directly.

    More criticism of Davies

    I love the idea of writers lecturing other writers about the pressing needs facing Indian country. If you believe what you're saying, Davies, stop writing and start helping. Get away from your computer. Get out of journalism altogether.

    Instead, become a social worker. Go door to door bringing food and medicine to suffering people. Because if you don't do that, you're a flaming hypocrite.

    To state the obvious, your words aren't saving lives. Therefore, quit wasting your time lecturing us about our words.

    Again, others chimed in:I'll be damned if my girls or nieces have to put up with gross 'jokes' on the playground from boys who learned that those are funny things to say to native women. In this particular article, Mr. Davies forgets the fact that he is not a native kid in school and those are the people that will have to put up with the reintroduction of these disgusting stereotypes. It's already hard being a kid with a Native last name, without Adam Sandler adding fuel to the 'OMG Indian names are soooo funny and weird' fire.

    There are many ways to help, and many means, if everyone would just do a little or lot wherever they are planted. If everyone quits their job to bring food and medicine to the suffering, they are gonna run out of food and medicine pretty quick. But there is always someone to help, wherever you are--journalism, computer, reserve, city core, or grocery store. (And part of life is also using what gifts and tools you have to hand and have been given, in the best way you can…to help not hurt.)

    As I said, you can do both. ... I work with ancestral foods as a health measure, since we have terrible diabetes rates (and everything else) and we didn't have these rates pre-commodities. I'm putting work into improving Native health and infrastructure, but that's not easy or quick. But while I'm helping rebuild, I'd like for people to not continue to get dehumanized and made into jokes by the likes of Adam Sandler.

    That’s what cracks me up about people like this Davies fellow. He’s complaining about how we are not focusing on the “real” issues, yet I wonder if he is doing anything about those issues himself? He seems pretty content to sit on his ass and belittle other Natives on the computer.
    All the academics, the museum personnel, the people working on cultural and language preservation, the artists and storytellers...none of you are saving lives directly. All of you must be wasting time, according to Ecoffey and Davies. Reevaluate your priorities!

    Not to mention the 70% of Indians who live away from the reservation. Whatever you're doing, you're probably not protecting the endangered children of Pine Ridge. What's wrong with you? Don't you care?!

    </sarcasm>I think we should be allowed to punch ANY idiot who pulls the 'more important issues' crap.Yes, the "more important things" argument is so stupid. It's mainly used to derail whatever issue is being discussed.

    If you can't address the issue, spend an hour telling us what we should be doing instead. What you'd be doing if you weren't lecturing us about what we're doing.Y'know, I would love to hear Suzan Harjo's response to these "more important issues" Native guys who literally act like this is a brand new issue. Or Clyde Bellecourt or Kevin Gover's response. I mean, it's been tackled by every major NA organization since the 1960s. It's like this has caught them by surprise. Where have they been for 50 years? Or how can they dismiss the persistent and constant efforts of our leaders?Good point. Tribal leaders have protested movie portrayals for a century. AIM and the NCAI have protested mascots for half a century. Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather, Pocahontas, the Time magazine "expose" of casinos, Little House on the Prairie, the Outkast video, etc., etc.

    In fact, I could list hundreds of controversies and protests without even touching the last ten years. Including those of Tim Giago, uncle of James Giago Davies, who's denounced boarding schools, mascots, and other examples of racism for decades. You could say Giago's whole career has been "talking" about problems rather than solving them hands-on.

    It's just so laughable when someone says, "Why are you focusing on this 'trivial' Adam Sandler issue? None of our people ever cared about racism or discrimination against us. We were too busy saving lives.

    "Now you've hijacked the news and nobody's talking about anything but Sandler. All the resources devoted to dying children are going to him instead. The media and the government would be swarming over Pine Ridge, but you've told them 'real life' doesn't matter. So a century of neglect is your fault."

    As I said, this is stupid and ignorant. Funny to hear Indians dismiss or downplay racism as a serious issue confronting their people. Funny, but wrong.

    For more rationalizations of racism, see Black Columnist Excuses "Redskins," Genocide and Shawnee Professor Justifies Tonto's Stereotypes.

    May 14, 2015

    Rubio ignorant of US history

    Marco Rubio doesn't know about America's history with Native Americans

    By Scott SuttonSometimes politicians tweet helpful and insightful things. Other times, they tweet things that are regrettable at best and in denial of history at worst.

    A tweet from 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) early Wednesday afternoon fits into that latter category.

    You can see the tweet below, which we took a screenshot of because it seems destined for deletion.
    Gawker may have summed it up best with the snarky (and 100 percent correct) headline “Marco Rubio Remembers the Trail of Tears.”

    Here’s what they had to say about the tweet:The conservative estimate of the US Native American population before the arrival of European settlers was over 12 million. Today, that number has been reduced by 95 percent.Here’s a quick list of just a few times America has been engaged in armed conflict in order to expand its territory:

    Northwest Indian War
    Winnebago War
    Patriot War
    Mexican-American War
    Apache Wars
    Puget Sound Wars
    Utah War
    Great Sioux War of 1786
    Second Samoan Civil War
    We didn’t even get into the 20th century with that list.
    My tweeted response to Rubio:

    BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics May 14
    BlueCornComics retweeted Marco Rubio

    Except for killing the Indians, adding slave states, taking land from Mexico, etc. How ignorant can @marcorubio get?

    Who exactly was gaining freedom when the US expanded into Indian territory? Not the Indians, obviously. The settlers? If you define "freedom" as freely taking things from others, I guess.

    In this context, the US is roughly like a bank robber. The criminal gains more "freedom"--more opportunity to live high on the hog--after he robs a bank. The stolen wealth increases his ability to act.

    Only problem is, it decreases the freedom of those who were robbed. Their opportunities are limited by their loss of wealth. Whether it's buying goods such as food and medicine or services such as education, they have fewer choices.

    When we're talking about fixed assets such as land, this is pretty much a zero-sum game. White men win, Indians lose. More "freedom" for some means less freedom for others.

    At least Rubio is consistent, I guess. Like other conservatives, his political career is all about increasing the wealth "freedom" of rich white folks. He accomplishes this by cutting services to and raising taxes on poor brown folks.

    "Expanding freedom" for the rich by contracting freedom for the poor...that could be the Republican slogan for 2016. Thanks for nothing, Rubio.

    For more on America's colonizing efforts, see Debating Professor Grundy's Tweets and America Constructed to Erase Indians.