August 31, 2015

Ohioans protest Denali name change

Ohio lawmakers slam Obama plans to rename Mt. McKinley 'Denali' during Alaska tripOhio lawmakers reacted angrily Sunday to the White House's announcement that President Obama would formally rename Alaska's Mt. McKinley—North America's highest peak—"Denali" during his trip to The Last Frontier this week.

"Mount McKinley ... has held the name of our nation's 25th President for over 100 years," Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "This landmark is a testament to his countless years of service to our country." Gibbs also described Obama's action as "constitutional overreach," saying that an act of Congress was required to rename the mountain, because a law formally naming it after Ohio's William McKinley was passed in 1917.

"This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans, and I will be working with the House Committee on Natural Resources to determine what can be done to prevent this action," Gibbs said.

The Ohio delegation's disappointment at the decision cut across party lines.

"We must retain this national landmark's name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot," Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, whose district includes McKinley's hometown of Niles, in eastern Ohio.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also blasted the decision as "yet another example of the President going around Congress", while House Speaker John Boehner said the naming of the mountain after McKinley was "a testament to [the 25th president's] great legacy .. I am deeply disappointed in this decision."
3,000 Miles From Denali, Ohio Fumes Over Renaming of Mount McKinley

Oops: Rob Portman Got Mt. McKinley History Wrong While Slamming Obama

By Caitlin CruzSen. Rob Portman joined his fellow Ohio Republican politicians in their collective outrage about President Barack Obama’s decision to revert Mt. McKinley to its Alaska Native name of Denali—but he got some of his history wrong.

Portman tweeted Sunday night the mountain was named to remember McKinley’s “rich legacy after his assassination.”

But according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Portman's timeline is off.

The mountain was first named for McKinley by a prospector in 1896 when the Ohioan was his party's nominee for President, according to a timeline published by the National Park Service.

By 1897, the federal government started referring to it as such in publications, according to the Interior Department. McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

For more on Denali, see Obama Renames Mount McKinley and Murkowski Proposes Renaming Mt. McKinley.

August 30, 2015

Los Angeles Magazine's "Going Native"

ICYMI: “Fall Fashion: Your Guide to Going Native”: Los Angeles Magazine Celebrates Cultural Misappropriation

By Kelly HolmesTwo days ago, Los Angeles Magazine posted an article sharing what’s trending this fall with a headline that certainly rang cultural appropriation.

The style article, which was posted under the magazine’s ‘The Clutch‘ column, displayed the apparent Native-inspired trend craze set for fall with the initial title “Fall Fashion: Your Guide to Going Native.”

The article claimed “Feathers aren’t going anywhere; fringe continues to swing. Designers look once again to the American West for inspiration,” accompanied by a Boticca feather necklace, Burberry fringe clutch, and DSquared2 sandals.

As the post came to light, Los Angeles Magazine received backlash for the offensive headline and article.

Concepción Lara @lowsell
"Going Native" implies Indigeneity is 1) chosen and 2) temporary. Utilizing Cher's photo furthers the erasure of Native people. @LA_mag

In response, the magazine changed their headline to “Fall Fashion: Feathers and Fringe” with the explanation “An earlier version of this story had a poorly phrased headline. We apologize.”

However, they did not address or remove the photo of Cher dressed as the stereotypical “Pocahottie” nor did they address their glorification of cultural misappropriation. Despite their claim of “We’ve heard your feedback, and you’re right,” they missed the point of the initial backlash, which did not escape the notice of Twitter.

Mariana @MarianaThinks
@LA_mag oh no. Take the whole article down. Why not support authentic Native American designers? Not overpriced and fake products.
Comment:  The tweets above are just examples of the criticism the magazine received.

Using Cher was kind of silly since the photo was 40-50 years. It may have represented the concept of "going Native," since Cher has tried to pass as Native over the years. But it didn't represent "fall fashion" unless they meant some fall in the late 1960s.

And yes, using Cher as a "Pocahottie" only furthers the sexualization of Native women. No real Native women dress this way, so it's not "going Native" so much as "going stereotypical." It's nothing more than a white man's (or woman's) fantasy of Native fashion.

For more on Cher, see Cher in a Headdress, Again.

Obama renames Mount McKinley

McKinley no more: North America's tallest peak to be renamed Denali

By Erica MartinsonIt’s official: Denali is now the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley.

With the approval of President Barack Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has signed a “secretarial order” to officially change the name, the White House and Interior Department announced Sunday. The announcement comes roughly 24 hours before Obama touches down in Anchorage for a whirlwind tour of Alaska.

Talk of the name change has swirled in Alaska this year since the National Park Service officially registered no objection in a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.

The tallest mountain in North America has long been known to Alaskans as Denali, its Koyukon Athabascan name, but its official name was not changed with the creation of Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, 6 million acres carved out for federal protection under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The state changed the name of the park’s tallest mountain to Denali at that time, but the federal government did not.
President Obama Renames North America's Tallest Mountain

By Josh Lederman, Mark ThiessenPresident Barack Obama says he's changing the name of the tallest mountain in North America from Mount McKinley to Denali.

He's giving the mountain its traditional Alaska Native name on the eve of a historic presidential visit to Alaska.

Denali is an Athabascan word meaning "the high one." The name has long been a sore spot for Alaskans, who have informally called the 20,320-foot mountain Denali for years.

The mountain was named after former President William McKinley. There have been several efforts by Alaska politicians change it to Denali. But politicians from McKinley's home state of Ohio have opposed changing the name.
Mount McKinley to Be Renamed Denali: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Comment:  For more on Denali, see Athabascan First to Climb Denali and Murkowski Proposes Renaming Mt. McKinley.

August 27, 2015

Trump lovers = white supremacists

Former KKK Grand Dragon Endorses Donald Trump, Which Surprises No One Ever

By AnomalyDavid Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and self-described “racial realist,” has thrown his support behind Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump because he “understands the real sentiment of America.”

“I praise the fact that he’s come out on the immigration issue. I’m beginning to get the idea that he’s a good salesman. That he’s an entrepreneur and he has a good sense of what people want to hear what they want to buy,” said Duke on his radio program last week, Buzzfeed reports.

“And I think he realizes that his path to popularity toward power in the Republican Party is talking about the immigration issue. And he has really said some incredibly great things recently. So whatever his motivation, I don’t give a damn,” the infamous racist said. “I really like the fact that he’s speaking out on this greatest immediate threat to the American people.”

“I’ve said from the beginning I think his campaign is good in the sense that it’s bringing these issues to a discussion which we have to have in America. And he’s continuing to move the envelope further and I think he understands the real sentiment of America,” Duke went on to say.
Meet The Members Of Donald Trump’s White Supremacist Fan Club

The candidate has recently picked up a few endorsements he may want to throw back.

By Daniel Marans and Kim Bellware
Evan Osnos reported on Trump’s appeal at length in The New Yorker this week. The story is worth reading in full, but Osnos’ most explosive finding is that Trump enjoys the support of a who’s who of contemporary white supremacist and neo-Nazi leaders and institutions. The members of what one might call Trump’s white supremacist fan club include:

The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi news site, endorsed Trump on June 28. “Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it’s time to deport these people,” the site said in its endorsement. It then urged white men to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.”

Richard Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute, which promotes the “heritage, identity, and future of European people,” said that Trump was “refreshing.” “Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America,” Spencer said. “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” Spencer added, but noted that Trump embodies “an unconscious vision that white people have--that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it.” Spencer, Osnos notes, is not the stereotype of a prejudiced yokel: At 36, he is clean-cut, and boasts degrees from elite universities. The Southern Poverty Law Center, Osnos says, calls Spencer “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.”

Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a Virginia-based white nationalist magazine, said: “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.” Taylor later told Osnos: “Why are whites supposed to be happy about being reduced to a minority? It’s clear why Hispanics celebrate diversity: ‘More of us! More Spanish! More cucaracha!’”

Michael Hill, head of the League of the South, an Alabama-based white supremacist secessionist group, said Trump was “good” for the white racist cause. “I love to see somebody like Donald Trump come along,” Hill said. “Not that I believe anything that he says. But he is stirring up chaos in the GOP, and for us that is good.” Osnos attended a speech Hill gave to a crowd of cheering followers in which he railed against the “cultural genocide” of white Americans, which he said was “merely a prelude to physical genocide.”

Brad Griffin, a member of Hill’s League of the South and author of the popular white supremacist blog Hunter Wallace, has written that his esteem for Trump is “soaring,” and has lauded the candidate for his “hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”
Comment:  For more on Donald Trump, see Trump Lovers Champion "White Power" and Trump Lovers Want a Strongman.

August 26, 2015

Trump lovers champion "white power"

Confederate fantasies & the Donald Trump surge: Inside the dangerous Southern mythology creeping into the GOP primary

Earlier this week, Ken Burns blew the lid off of this election's most unsettling developments

By Bob Cesca
All of these unforgivably horrifying films, and many others, were produced in service of casting blacks as villains, and Southerners as forlorn heroes who—whoops!—bungled their way into a war.

Sadly, this attitude is alive and kicking in 2015. Indeed, it’s being fed and exploited by the Republican Party frontrunner. It’s no mistake that Ken Burns called out Donald Trump’s involvement with the Birther movement as a clever form of saying the “n-word”—as a means of demonizing a leader, President Obama, based solely on the color of his skin, just as the Lost Cause had done so many decades earlier.

And as if on cue, a Trump supporter at a rally over the weekend shouted “white power” during Trump’s remarks. Why? Because Trump is encouraging and actively courting these kinds of people.

Worse, a Trump spokesman appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and refused to repudiate the supporter’s words, saying: “I know there were 30-plus thousand people in that stadium. They were very receptive to the message of ‘making America great again’ because they want to be proud to be Americans again.” Subtext anyone? During the same segment and in response to an attack on an Hispanic homeless man in Boston by two alleged Trump supporters, the spokesman replied, “We should be proud of our country, proud of our heritage, and continue to be the greatest country in the world.” Yep, it’s impossible to be more tone-deaf than that.
Comment:  For more on Donald Trump, see Trump Lovers Want a Strongman and Trump Promises "Normalcy" aka Whiteness.

August 25, 2015

Apartment ad: "No natives please"

'No natives please': Kijiji pulls apartment ad for Prince Albert, Sask. after complaint

Advertisement says that 'being funded or a stay at home mommy are not jobs'A Kijiji ad to rent a three-bedroom home in Prince Albert, Sask., has been pulled after complaints of racism.

The title of the ad read, "3 bedroom east flat house, no natives please."

The title of an ad Kijiji deemed offensive read, "3 bedroom east flat house, no natives please." (Kijiji)

The text of the ad said newcomers to Canada were welcome, "but aboriginals will not be considered."

When Jeanne Labelle saw the ad, she was shocked and contacted Kijiji to complain.

"I just find it so offensive that somebody would not be able to see deeper than their own prejudices," Labelle said.

The ad, which was offering a 1,000-square-foot home for $1,200 per month, also insisted that renters be working and said that "being funded or a stay at home mommy are not jobs."

First Nations chief sees positive reaction to racist Kijiji ad

Interim FSIN chief Kimberly Jonathan says the response has been 'heartwarming'"We face this and it's reality out there," said Jonathan. "A lot of times we just say, 'Well we're not going to say anything because where will my complaint go?'"

Kijiji pulled the ad after a complaint. And there has been a torrent of feedback denouncing the ad.

"If you look at the post and look at the social media, the comments ongoing, people are saying, our society is saying, 'This is not OK.'"

Jonathan said the reaction has been "heartwarming."

"There may be a turning point in Saskatchewan where racism is not acceptable."
Racist Kijiji ad a 'timesaver': aboriginal housing company CEO

Namerind Housing Corporation CEO says many aboriginal people face racism in pursuit of housingMany people have called a recent Prince Albert Kijiji advertisement racist and offensive, because its writer said they would not consider renting the home to aboriginal people.

But the president and CEO of an aboriginal-owned housing company calls it a "timesaver."

Robert Byers says many aboriginal people face racism when trying to find a rental home.

"It's frustrating, but it's just something that happens all the time," he said.
Comment:  The stereotype here is that Indians are lazy, good-for-nothing bums who live on welfare.

For more on Indian as welfare recipients, see Economist's Bogus "Sloth" Claim and Congressman Calls Indians "Wards of Government."

August 24, 2015

The backlash against "identity politics"

The real reason Americans fight about identity politics

By Amanda TaubLaw professor Nancy Leong studies what she calls "identity capitalism"—the ways in which particular identities like one's race, gender, or sexual orientation have traditionally constituted positive or negative social "capital," and how the value of that capital is changing. She believes much of the backlash against so-called identity politics is really about a sense that the status quo is under attack, and fear that something worse might replace it.

She explained to me that it's really easy for people from dominant groups to assume that the status quo isn't biased, because they've never had to confront that bias themselves. And so when they see that an existing system is being changed to include minority groups or accommodate other interests, there's a tendency to assume that the natural order of things is being disrupted in some illegitimate way.

For instance, Leong pointed out, in the affirmative action debate she has noticed a tendency to assume that standardized test scores are inherently valid measures of merit—"that someone with a 160 on the LSAT is more deserving than someone with a 150 on the LSAT"—and that affirmative action that admits students with lower scores is therefore favoring "less qualified" students.

But that doesn't take into account ways in which standardized tests may themselves be an imperfect, even biased, measure of merit. Likewise, complaints that curricula now need to include certain books "just because" they are written by nonwhite, non-male authors assume that in the past, books earned their way onto the curriculum via objective merit, and that any replacements are, by definition, sacrificing quality in the name of diversity.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see "It Feels Good to Be White" and How Microaggressions Sneak In.

August 22, 2015

Cannibal film to spark discussion?

A 'Savage Cannibal' Movie in 2015? We Can Do Better

By Tara Houska[I]n the midst of competing interests to protect indigenous peoples or capitalize on the Amazon’s natural resources, out comes a film portraying tribes as bloodthirsty savages.

Despite Roth’s assertion that a fictional film causing harm to existing peoples is “absurd,” presenting an at-risk population as cannibalistic beasts feeds into the mantra of saving, assimilating and educating uncivilized tribes for their own good (and the good of resource-hungry corporations). Stereotypes and dehumanization have very real consequences.

Roth himself joked about the impact of his film crew to the isolated Amazonian tribe he located and featured in his film, “We [had] to tell them what a movie is…They’ve never even seen a television…[B]y the end they were all playing with iPhones and iPads. We’ve completely polluted the social system and f*cked them up.”

These days, Roth is attempting to soothe the many environmental and indigenous rights organizations that have denounced his pending film. He’s joined a campaign to preserve the rainforest and partnered with a charity to start a journalism fund highlighting the issues faced by indigenous peoples.

On Wednesday, he told Variety he “made ‘The Green Inferno’ to spark discussion and bring awareness to the devastation these tribes face at the hands of corporations.” That’s a far cry from a man who earlier stated that he wanted to make a cannibal film but needed the right storyline.
Comment:  The only discussion The Green Inferno is like to spark is a discussion like this one. Namely, pointing out how racist and stereotypical the movie is. How the reality not depicted by Roth the racist is much different.

For more on The Green Inferno, see "From Tiger Lily to Green Inferno" and Cannibal Indians in Green Inferno.

August 21, 2015

Trump lovers want a strongman

Donald Trump, mad king of the GOP: What his surging popularity reveals about Republican extremism

Donald Trump's demagoguery has been so successful for the same reason rightwing extremism is on the rise

By Conor Lynch
The form of populism that we have seen Donald Trump embrace, a kind of nationalist nativism, promising to “make America great again” by keeping the brown people out and bringing jobs back to white America, has obviously gained traction. Trump is the antithesis of a career politician. He is openly sexist and xenophobic, but does not have to worry about losing campaign donations from his inflammatory comments. He does not talk like an anti-government rhetorician, but instead embraces the passions of the rightwing base—whether it be xenophobia, nationalism, or anti-intellectualism—while also promising to use his strength as president to crack down on all of society’s perceived ills.

And here lies a major contradiction with this man, who talks endlessly about the concerns of conservatives, yet promises to address them with the strength of the federal government and executive office—something which conservatives are supposed to oppose.

When given a choice, it seems that followers of the extreme right are willing to use the strength of the federal government, as long as it is addressing their concerns (e.g. national security, illegal immigration, abortion, gay marriage). Of course, not all conservatives have embraced Trump, and many see through his demagoguery—but the people (at least a current plurality of GOP voters) have been enamored by his strongman shtick.

Trump is just one person, and may very well fade away in the months to come—but it is becoming clear that the right wing has increasingly retreated into a “mythical self-glorification,” as Hedges put it. Trump and his followers want to “make America great again.” But what does this mean? No doubt, Trump would say cutting our debt and bringing back jobs from China and Mexico, which is something most Americans would agree on. But the overwhelming rhetoric against immigration, foreign nations, and diplomacy (and diplomats) does point to a kind of retreat from reality into a hyper-nationalist mythology of American exceptionalism. Conservatives seem to be craving a strong personality like Trump, who can come into office and restore traditional values and America’s global supremacy with his superhuman business know-how. This similarly happened in the early 20th century, when strongmen like Mussolini and Hitler rose to power with a promise to restore national supremacy, while creating scapegoats for their problems. Trump wants to restore America’s greatness, and is going after immigrants and foreign nations to provoke much of white America.
Donald Trump’s campaign of terror: How a billionaire channeled his authoritarian rage—and soared to the top of the polls

Democrats have been having a good laugh at Trump's expense this summer. Here's why we shouldn't be laughing

By Heather Digby Parton
It’s easy to dismiss Trump’s ramblings as the words of a kook. But he’s tapping into the rage and frustration many Americans feel when our country is exposed as being imperfect. These Republicans were shamed by their exalted leadership’s debacle in Iraq and believe that American exceptionalism is no longer respected around the world—and they are no longer respected here at home. Trump is a winner and I think this is fundamentally what attracts them to him:I will be fighting and I will win because I’m somebody that wins. We are in very sad shape as a country and you know why that is? We’re more concerned about political correctness than we are about victory, than we are about winning. We are not going to be so politically correct anymore, we are going to get things done.But his dark, authoritarian message of intolerance and hate is likely making it difficult for him, or any Republican, to win a national election, particularly since all the other candidates feel compelled to follow his lead. (Those who challenged him, like Perry and Paul, are sinking like a stone in the polls.) And while Trump’s fans may want to blame foreigners for all their troubles, most Americans know that their troubles can be traced to some powerful people right here at home. Powerful people like Donald Trump.

Still, history is littered with strongmen nobody took seriously until it was too late. When someone like Trump captures the imagination of millions of people it’s important to pay attention to what he’s saying. For all his ranting, you’ll notice that the one thing Trump never mentions is the constitution.
Comment:  For more on Donald Trump, see Trump Promises "Normalcy" aka Whiteness and "Restoring America's Greatness" = Disneyesque Dream.

August 20, 2015

Review of Underground

Back in 2009, this comic book got some press:

UndergroundUNDERGROUND is a graphic novel from IMAGE COMICS. Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Steve Lieber, and colored by Ron Chan, the story follows Park Ranger Wesley Fischer as she tries to save Stillwater Cave--and then has to save herself.Going 'Underground' With Parker & Lieber

By Zack SmithNewsarama: Steve, Jeff: Underground! What's it about and who's in it?

Jeff Parker: Wesley Fischer is our main character, she works for the State Parks system as a Ranger, though her first love is caving. She's a fairly recent immigrant to the town of Marion, where she pulled a lot of strings to get stationed so she could explore the Stillwater Cave there.

The cave has been closed to the public for years for safety reasons, and there's a growing movement in the town to develop it as a show cave, like a sister to Mammoth Cave, to bring some tourist dollars into the area.

Wes is against this because she doesn't want the cave system compromised--there's already been a fair amount of damage to it over the years. But the local entrepreneur Winston Barefoot is putting his considerable weight behind the venture, and an inspector from the state is coming to look into the matter.

The problem is that some of Winston's men have taken the initiative to get the cave ready for development to hurry things along.

NRAMA: Tell us about Wesley and the other main characters.

SL: Wesley is a park ranger and environmentalist, not necessarily in that order. She's smart, athletic and concerned, but not looking to be any sort of hero. But the cave is a fragile ecosystem, and she's committed to keeping it pristine.

Seth Ridge is a park ranger too. He's part Cherokee and unlike Wes, he has deep roots in the town. For him, the cave was a place to hang out with his buddies as a kid. He and Wes hooked up for the first time the night before the story starts, and they aren't really sure where they stand with each other.

Some reviews of Underground:

This Comic Is Good--Underground

A Year of Cool Comics---Day 82

Native aspects

The story is set in Marion, Kentucky. Since it's in the far west of the state, near Illinois, I don't think many Cherokee lived there. They did spend the winter of 1838-1839 there during the infamous Trail of Tears.

Anyway, several characters seem to be part Native:

Winston Barefoot mentions his "Cherokee heritage" in one panel and runs a store filled with Indian kitsch. Seth Ridge says his mother was Native. Ridge is a Cherokee name and Barefoot is evidently supposed to be Native too.

Barefoot and Ridge both have reddish skin, though it comes and goes. Barefoot's henchman Harden also has this skin color, as does the chief ranger, occasionally. Harden and the ranger may be Native or part Native too.

Alas, Underground makes no use of this Native background. No Native legends of the underground or anything. It's kind of a missed opportunity.

At least there's nothing stereotypical, so that's good.

As for the rest of the series, it's competently done but nothing you need to read. The characters spend one issue mostly dangling by ropes and another creeping through a water-filled passage. If you're into caving or want a change of pace, check it out.

August 19, 2015

"Sioux Were Silenced" weren't silenced

Forum editorial: UND, don't pander to protesters' transparent ploy to retain 'Fighting Sioux'First, they want the university’s list of selections for a new UND team name to include “North Dakota.” It’s a transparent ploy to somehow retain some iteration of “Fighting Sioux,” which has been retired.

Second, they want the immediate resignation of UND President Robert Kelley because by their assessment he has presided over a name-change process that has not been responsive to their concerns. What a crock. If ever there was a process that has been painfully long and over-the-top inclusive, it’s been the university’s name-change saga.

But none of that matters to a small, but noisy cabal of unreconstructed “Fighting Sioux” fans. No matter what the eventual choice is, no matter what sort of consensus is achieved, no matter how many voices have been part of the process, they will not accept the inevitable. It makes no sense for Kelley and the university to continue to pander to them. They had their shot, they lost. Whatever they do now is sideshow.

The arrogant contention that “the Sioux have been silenced” is so obviously false as to be cartoonish. First, the “silence” made loud headlines for years, and still is. Second, the history of the moniker debate is replete with pro-Fighting Sioux arguments, some cogent, others offensive. That the case was weak and ultimately failed is the reality that some arguers refuse to accept.
The big lie:Supporters of the name and logo got the question on the June 11, 2012, ballot, and North Dakotans voted overwhelmingly (67.34 percent)–in every county, including counties that encompass reservations and other tribal lands–to retire the nickname and logo. Days later, the higher ed board voted to prohibit use of the name and logo, and said UND could not adopt new monikers until 2015. UND has been working for months, and is close to selecting one of five options.

Thus, the charge that all voices were not heard and that some voices were “silenced” is a lie. The matter has been aired as thoroughly as any in the state’s recent history. “Fighting Sioux” fans can make all the noise they want at Saturday’s rally, but they bring nothing new to the debate, nothing credible to the discussion.
Comment:  For more on the Fighting Sioux, see NCAA Threatens Sanctions for "Sioux" and "Sioux" Supporters = 5-Year-Olds.

August 17, 2015

NCAA threatens sanctions for "Sioux"

NCAA threatens sanctions for saying ‘Sioux’

By Bob CollinsThe NCAA has reportedly told the University of North Dakota not to let fans of the former Fighting Sioux mess with the end of the National Anthem.

The UND crowd often ends the anthem with “the home of the Sioux” rather than the “home of the brave.”

The NCAA has forced the school to abandon its Native American nickname and mascot. UND is currently weighing new nicknames.

But Forum News Service reports the NCAA has told UND President Robert Kelley that the school could face sanctions if it continues to allow the crowd its freedom of speech, although the NCAA didn’t actually characterize it that way.
Comment:  For more on the Fighting Sioux, see "Sioux" Supporters = 5-Year-Olds and Sammy Sioux and Sally Squaw.

August 16, 2015

"Sioux" supporters = 5-year-olds

If you haven't been following the "Fighting Sioux" story, UND's mascot lovers are now calling themselves The Sioux Were Silenced. They're campaigning for the school to use the label "University of North Dakota" rather than choose another mascot.

Do they like the unadorned name for aesthetic reasons? Hardly. Here's what's really going on:

LETTER: 'No nickname' fans sure do like 'Sioux' jerseys

By Jeff WillertOn July 25, the front-page photo accompanying a story on the prospects for the "UND/North Dakota" nickname shows supporters of that nickname wearing "Sioux" jerseys and holding "We are the Sioux forever" signs.

Meanwhile, almost no one in the photo is wearing an item of clothing that bears the actual name being considered: UND/North Dakota.

The same goes for the hockey and football games I've seen on TV. The seats are full of "Sioux" jerseys, shirts, hats and so on.

What that says to me is that the UND/North Dakota nickname supporters want no nickname in an attempt to preserve the "Sioux" nickname. Otherwise, if they are so happy with UND/North Dakota as their new nickname, why aren't they wearing UND/North Dakota clothing and holding UND/North Dakota signs?

This obviously bitter attitude of "fine, no Fighting Sioux, then we'll show you; we'll have nothing!" needs to be put to rest. It's the position that some 5-year-old kids would take.

LETTER: Petulance of some UND fans discredits university

By Andrew HertingI oppose the use of "North Dakota" as a nickname for UND, because I feel that most of the individuals who support this choice see it as a protest vote. That is to say, by choosing this nickname, students and other stakeholders are expressing opposition to the retirement of "Fighting Sioux" as the school nickname.

Essentially, they are signaling that if they cannot have their old nickname, that they would rather have no nickname at all.
And:I have seen firsthand that many outside the region view UND students suspiciously due to their tenacious support of a label viewed by many as insensitive at best. The refusal to replace the name sends the message that UND students view their right to continue to use a tribal name as more important than their desire to convey respect toward the American Indian community.

Students rightly recognize that blocking the introduction of a new nickname will protect the old name from being replaced. For this reason, I urge UND student government to take a leadership role in discouraging the UND student body from backing the "North Dakota" nickname.
Comment:  For more on the Fighting Sioux, see Sammy Sioux and Sally Squaw and "Siouxper Drunk" = Hostile and Abusive.

August 15, 2015

Vanishing Indians in As an Oak Tree Grows

Rewriting History: American Indians, Europeans, and an Oak Tree (Loudness in the Library Year Three, Part 3)

By Bank Street College Center for Children's LiteratureI did a double-take when I cracked open As An Oak Tree Grows*, a 2014 book that inaccurately reflects the history of European and Native American interactions. In the story, which traces the life of an oak tree (planted as an acorn by a young Native boy), the Native character simply disappears as the Europeans move in. Bank Street students, who participate in extensive curricula on unlearning Native stereotypes, immediately recognized this as problematic, because it erases the conflicts and violence that arose when Native people fought to defend their homes and land from colonial invasion. As one student noted,

“Because it’s a children’s book, they wanted to make it ‘nicer.’ ”

Working together, teachers and kids identified three primary areas of concern with As An Oak Tree Grows:

The pictures show a lot of empty land, as if it was uninhabited; one wigwam appears in the first two pages, alongside a vast wilderness.
Where is the Native child’s community? The pictures send the message that the land was largely empty and there for the taking. Students said:

“If you don’t give kids the right images, they get the wrong ideas.”

“If kids don’t see other stories, they might think this is the truth.”

“These books shape a child’s mind.”

“The illustrations should show more of the truth.”

Then, there’s this text:

“The boy grew up and moved away.”

Kids were puzzled because they knew that the larger story of Native/European interaction is one in which Europeans forcibly removed and/or killed huge portions of Native populations.

“‘The boy grew up and moved away’? That didn’t happen.”

“They were there first. It is very unlikely that the boy just moved away.”
Vanishing Indian = "detail"?

This posting led to a lively exchange of views in the comments section. First, a defense of the book:I am all for diversity and truth in literature but not every single story has to contain all the details about every situation. I’ve read this wonderful book–about a tree–and if you’re concentrating on how many wigwams are in the picture or whether the boy moved away or his throat was slit and he was buried in a mud bog, you’re missing the point. The story is about a tree. A tree that is manages to live long enough to witness a lot of things, good and bad. A child, reading about this tree does not need to know the details of what went on while the tree was alive. It’s inappropriate and distracting to include so much extraneous detail when the story is meant to be so simple and beautiful. I agree that children can and should be included in the true story of what goes on in life….in the appropriate venue. G. Brian Karas is a wonderful author and a gifted artist and I hate to see his work held hostage by people who wish he’d made their choices. It’s part of the trend of censorship in the guise of political correctness. His book, his choices. Mr. Karas, you’ve created an amazing book. Don’t bend over backwards to please everyone else. You’ll only end just bending over.Followed by a rebuttal:The fact that you dismiss the history of violence that Europeans enacted against Native populations as “details” that cause me to “miss the point” of the book sends the message that you, in fact, are missing the point of this post. The point is, with simple adjustments to the pictures and the text (adjustments which the kids suggested themselves), the book could have been more respectful towards Native populations, not to mention more historically accurate–an important factor for a Non-Fiction book. Including the truth about Native/European interactions would not have subsumed the rest of the book, it would have made for a better book.

You say, “A child, reading about this tree does not need to know the details of what went on while the tree was alive.” But, a Native child might pick up this book and immediately recognize it as an erasure of his/her history.

For that matter, a Native child browsing the internet might also stumble across your comment above, in which you so blithely characterize “whether… his throat was slit and he was buried in a mud bog” as a “detail” that doesn’t matter, and is, in fact, “inappropriate and distracting.” How do you imagine a Native child would feel, upon reading that? Debbie rightly points out that this language and the sentiment behind it are extremely offensive. It sends a message that white people have the right to cling to a false, Romanticized version of history. Ultimately, it sends a message that non-Native people matter more than Native people.

Finally, your accusation of censorship is both false and hypocritical. My post makes no suggestion that any libraries or bookstores should remove AS AN OAK TREE GROWS from their shelves, nor do I suggest that anybody should not have the right to write or publish anything they desire. In fact, my first post of this series ( is all about censorship. You are confusing free speech with consequence-free speech. Just as the creators of AS AN OAK TREE GROWS had every right to publish this book, I also have every right to criticize it, and so do the children I teach.
Comment:  Forget the slit throat--if you can. How would Native children feel after reading that their ancestors gave up their land voluntarily? Welcomed their own destruction? Vanished willingly into the mists of time?

I dunno. How would white children feel if the Europeans sprouted horns? Laid eggs? Turned into cockroaches that swarmed across the land? If Native children have to accept lies and omissions in "nonfiction" books, why shouldn't everyone have to do it? What makes the Native-oriented falsehoods more acceptable than the European-oriented ones?

For more on vanishing Indians, see Native Artifacts Aren't Antiquities and America Constructed to Erase Indians.

August 14, 2015

Vineyard owner "Runs with Wine"

Santa Fe vineyard owner defends ‘offensive’ Facebook post

By Madeline SchmittOn Monday, Reinders shared a picture depicting a Native American holding a wine bottle. The picture has text on it that reads “My Indian Name Is Runs with Wine.”

“So when I saw that, I thought ‘Gosh I used to run, and also we’re in the wine business, and I’m Native American,’” she said. “I mean it was me. It was personal to me.”

Not everyone saw it that way. Some people found it offensive, making fun of Native American names and perpetuating stereotypes, and asked her to take it down.

Reinders removed it, but was left stunned and confused at the situation.

KRQE News 13 showed it to a few people, who reacted.

At first glance, Pojoaque resident Janet Ortiz thought the Indian name was “cute,” because her granddaughter gave her the name “Walks with Fists” years ago. Upon closer look, she changed her mind when she saw the word “wine.”

“I didn’t like it because it connotes something different, almost associates wine with Native Americans and not in a good way,” Janet Ortiz said.

“It’s just promoting the drinking more,” Espanola resident, Sharron Nuttall said.

Nuttall said drinking is a big problem in the area and that the picture is attacking the Native American population.

Reinders took to Facebook to make an apology if she offended anyone, but says she just doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m sad for them because that’s their negative perception,” she said. “This was not meant to offend anybody, this was about myself.”
Comment:  It's one thing to make a joke like this among friends. They presumably know your style and the context and get the point.

It's another thing to make a joke like this in public. In that case, you're making a general statement like "This is how I see Natives." That's a reasonable interpretation if people don't know you, anyway.

Actually, the owner's explanation is ridiculous:

1) If her great-great-grandma was Ute, that doesn't mean she is Ute.

2) Whether she's Ute or not, the "brave" image and the funny Indian name aren't Ute. They're false stereotypes that misrepresent all Indians.

3) It's silly to think: "I'm an Indian who happens to run and happens to sell wine. I'll put the three things in one image but claim they're unrelated."

Most people will connect the things because they're obviously connected. The Indian named "Runs with Wine" is running with wine. The strong implication is that this is a drunken Indian who's running wild because of the wine. Which is obviously stereotypical.

If you can't see that, you're not trying. You're so wilfully blind that it's hard to tell whether you're a liar or an idiot.

For more on alcohol, see Vans Sells "Drunken Indian" T-Shirt and "Drunker Than 10,000 Indians."

August 13, 2015

Manson = West Virginia Sioux?

The only interesting part of short-lived Marilyn Manson controversy was the notion that he might be a Sioux from West Virginia. Here's a discussion of this on Facebook:...except he's not Sioux. may be talking about a family legend undocumented in any genealogy. That's pretty much the case with every wannabe.Yeah, Sioux in West Virginia?If he means a Siouan culture rather than actual "Sioux," his claim isn't totally impossible:

Virginia's First People--Culture--LanguageWhen Europeans and Africans began arriving in what is now Virginia, they met Indian people from three linguistic backgrounds. Most of the coastal plain was inhabited by an Algonquian empire, today collectively known as Powhatan. The southwestern coastal plain was occupied by Iroquoians, the Nottoway, and Meherrin. The Piedmont was home to two Siouan confederacies, the Monacan and the Mannahoac.One-drop rule?Rob Schmidt, there are a couple of points in his tree where something like that *could* have happened, and the closest one to him means that he *might* be something like 1/1024 but leagues past unenrollable and no-culture-present.I think he'd claim the ubiquitous Cherokee if he were just making this up. That's why I suspect he's repeating a family legend.

Yes, his "Sioux ancestry" would've been so long ago that he'd be 99.9% white. In which case he'd have no business claiming to be part Native. You're like the whitest person on the planet if only one in 1,024 of your ancestors is nonwhite.One drop rule, though. Problem is, this is the first he's spoken about it, he's mis-spoken about it, and he does not normally claim it or follow his culture. Kinda hard to claim you are if you know nothing about it.Right, that's one possibility. Another possibility is that someone told him Sioux and West Virginia and he's too ignorant to know that doesn't make sense.Rob is right, a few times I came across a family getting "Siouan" confused with Sioux.I think a few people in the Virginia area claim to be Monacan. If someone told him that's a "Sioux" tribe, it could explain the discrepancy.

August 12, 2015

Manson to play Native hitman?

See Marilyn Manson Play Native American Hit Man in Movie Trailer

"I was asked to burn down a house and 'kill' a bunch of people, so the answer was 'yes' obviously," Manson says of crime film 'Let Me Make You a Martyr'

By Kory Grow
With Let Me Make You a Martyr, Boone's gut instincts about Manson were spot-on, as the rocker loved the role.

"Within the first day, I was asked if I wanted to skin a coyote," the singer says excitedly. "It was already dead. And I was asked to burn down a house and 'kill' a bunch of people, so the answer was 'yes' obviously."

Beyond the shocking hijinks, Manson says he was able to fall into character easily upon arriving in Tulsa for the shoot. "I just had to observe the level of poverty and, I guess, white trash element to the story," he says. "The house where my character lives, sort of on a swamp on a reservation, looked like a combination between Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Apocalypse Now. It was pretty epic. Just seeing that, I knew where to go."

Aside from taking delight in horrific surroundings, Manson also identified with another trait of his character: "I am part Indian," he says. The singer adds that he did not know Pope was Native American when he took the role because the script didn't specify it.

"I really didn't have to change too much about myself physically," he says. "I already had just shaved my hair to a Mohawk and it's black already, so without being stereotypical, that seems like the character would have that if he was part Indian. I think originally they had envisioned someone with long black hair."

Manson's heritage is Sioux on his mother's side–"her family was from the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia"–but other than taking part in a Native American–run program akin to Boy Scouts, that side of his family was not heavy on his upbringing. "They gave me one of those wooden, carved tom-tom drums and it was bound with animal hide and it was painted," he says of his sole memory of the experience. "I just remember I ended up stealing the drum and never going back." He laughs.
Marilyn Manson Plays a Hitman in Let Me Make You a Martyr, Sparks Backlash from Native American Activists

By Drew MackieOn Wednesday, Sioux activist Megan Red Shirt-Shaw led others in condemning the casting choice, saying that if the film must feature a murderous Native American character, that character should be played by an actor of that heritage. Red Shirt-Shaw Tweeted, "We choose Marilyn Manson to play a Native American character when we have so many amazing Native actors. Why?" Just a misunderstanding

There were more tweets along the "Let Natives Play Natives" line. But a few days later we got an update. Turns out it was all a misunderstanding.

'Martyr' Filmmakers: Marilyn Manson Is 'Not Playing a Native' Hitman in Movie

By Wilhelm MurgSocial media has exploded with Native Americans and their supporters criticizing Manson’s apparent new found Native American heritage; Wednesday morning the Wikipedia entry on Manson stated his heritage was German and English, but once the article appeared it was changed to add “Sioux,” citing the Rolling Stone article as the only source. It has been since been changed so that it is not presented as fact.

On social media Native Americans have been skeptical, as Manson did not cite a tribe, but simply used the general term “Sioux,” a word not usually used by Natives on its own. (Most Natives of that heritage prefer to use the Native identity, such as Lakota or Dakota, or a specific reservation name, such as Standing Rock Sioux or Rosebud Sioux.) That was even more puzzling in regard to the reference to West Virginia, which is over a thousand miles east of Lakota territory. Unfortunately, many have been attacked not only by people bemoaning political correctness, but also by Manson fans on Manson’s Facebook page, who insists that Manson is doing this specifically to offend Native Americans for the sake of offending people. One fan’s post, which reads “Marilyn Manson doesn't give 2 fucks if you're offended, and neither do I,” has received over 500 “likes.”

John Swab, co-director and co-writer of the film, said he couldn’t speak to Manson having Native American heritage, as he was not involved with the Rolling Stone interview. “I was actually surprised to see the headline that said ‘Marilyn Manson to Play Native American Hit Man,’ because I didn’t relay any information to Rolling Stone, and Manson and I had never had any conversation regarding him or his character being a Native, so I don’t know who got that wrong.

“Originally when we wrote the screenplay the character was supposed to be Native. I’m from Tulsa, I have a Native background, not much, but enough to be familiar with it, so I wrote a Native character.” Swab says he is not a tribal member, but he has “some Creek heritage.”

Swab’s partner in directing and writing, Corey Asraf, said Manson is referring to early drafts of the script. “We had talked to a few different Native actors, and we had people booked in advance, and they had pulled out on us, they were unavailable, so we actually changed the story and didn’t shoot it. So when Manson played that role, that’s the script that he read, but that’s not the movie we shot. There’s nothing referencing (his character) being Native in the film.”

Wes Studi and Gary Farmer were considered for the character originally, but according to Swab, when neither of them could be in the film, he and Asraf decided to change the character. “It doesn’t have to be a Native; it can just be someone who lives in the woods. The controversy is totally uncalled for because he’s not actually playing a Native, he’s not playing an Indian.” There are no Native roles in the film.

August 11, 2015

My take on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unraceable 'Kimmy Schmidt': Does Tina Fey's New Show Have a Race Problem?

With Jane Krakowski playing Native American and an Asian character right out of "Sixteen Candles," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is almost begging to be labeled "problematic." Is that so bad?

By Sam Adams
Tiny Fey isn't a creator you naturally associate with provocation—a Shonda Rhimes, a Lena Dunham, heck, a Lars Von Trier. But "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," the 13-episode series she created with Robert Carlock for Netflix, has been slapped with a scarlet P for "problematic," especially for its treatment of race.

On Vulture, Libby Hill took issue with the "Kimmy Schmidt" subplot involving Jane Krakowski's Jacqueline, a stressed-out Manhattan trophy wife who it's eventually revealed is Lakota, a refugee from a Native American reservation who's been passing for white for decades. Jacqueline's parents are played by Native actors Gil Birmingham and Sheri Foster and, within the context of "Kimmy's" generally farcical tone, the show works to ground the character in something resembling respect for Lakota culture. But for Vulture's Libby Hill, that doesn't offset an initial decision that seems arbitrary and ill thought-out:

Carlock positions the decision as a narrative choice. But this specific backstory is most frustrating because it doesn’t serve a purpose, either narratively or comedically. There must be more compelling (and funnier!) ways to give Jacqueline a backstory that don’t require sloppily marginalizing a group of people who are already as marginalized as you can get. It’s especially disappointing because "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" so deftly integrates race in other instances, mainly in the latter half of its first season. The most prominent example comes when Kimmy’s African-American roommate, Titus, gets a job that requires him to dress as a werewolf. The punch line: He discovers he gets better treatment from strangers while in a monster costume than he does as a black man. The point is sharp, and it works largely because Titus is the one pointing out the discrepancies. This is precisely what isn’t happening when it comes to the dynamic between Jackie Lynn and her parents.

In the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg countered that the show is careful to make sure the joke is always about Jacqueline's own discomfort, and the contempt for her Native American she's internalized from the culture at large: She changed her name from Jackie Lynn, she explains, because it's "a cheap stripper name. Jacqueline is an expensive stripper name."

Going beyond Jacqueline, a BuzzFeed roundtable between Anne Helen Petersen, Ira Madison III and Alex Alvarez concluded that "Kimmy Schmidt" has "a major race problem." On the one hand, Madison says, "Kimmy Schmidt" has already developed Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), Kimmy's gay, black roommate, more in one season than "30 Rock" developed Tracy Jordan in six. But at the same time, there's "Kimmy's" Dong (Ki Hong Lee), a Vietnamese immigrant who seems like a deliberate callback to "Sixteen Candles'" notoriously racist caricature, Long Duk Dong.

IM3: I know next to nothing about the intricacies of Native American culture and even I was like, um, this doesn’t seem…right? And just like Dong, it was a bunch of jokes that we’ve heard before but said in a winking, “isn’t it funny, we get it’s racist!” kinda way. Like, OK, cool. But in the real world, if a white person says those things to me, it’s a microaggression and I’m most certainly not here for that. So why is it OK when the white person puts those words into an actor’s mouth and just has them say it on TV? What’s the difference?

AA: Right. I hate couching racism under the term “hipster racism,” because, like, it’s the same thing. You’re saying the same thing. The result is the same. It’s racism whether or not you “mean” to be racist.
Rob's review

My initial take while watching the show:

Watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (no relation). Waiting for the jokes to kick in after the first 15 minutes.

I guess the first episode is mostly setup. The humor must start in the second episode.

I hope the Hispanic maid reappears. Since the idea that she'd go to the cult leader for a job interview and stay voluntarily for 15 years, without even learning English, is flatly racist.

So Kimmie supposedly went underground at age 13 or so for 15 years? Y'know, 13-year-olds actually know a fair amount about the world already. Like you don't take a backpack with $13,000 to a dance club. Candy stores sell unlimited amounts of candy that you can eat for dinner if you wish. Horse-drawn carriages aren't some weird form of horse enslavement. Etc.

Maybe this hyper-naivete was funny the first time I saw it on The Beverly Hillbillies 50 years ago. Although that was never the funniest show either. But I'm not feeling it as a source of humor in 2015.

After the first three episodes...I didn't find the show at all funny. Most of the characters are caricatures, starting with the naive and optimistic Kimmy the repeated-rape victim. The gay black roommate loves Broadway shows and The Lion King. The old people--the landlady and Kimmy's first "date"--are a cat lady and a senile old coot, respectively. Jacqueline and her daughter are spoiled rich white people personified--even though Jacqueline is supposedly Native.

Then there are the minor characters. Besides the Latina maid and the Indians, there are the Hispanic performers dressed as a mariachi band. And the Korean mourners at a funeral. They're not strange, exactly, since they don't say anything. But they let Titus, a complete stranger, sing in their midst. They seem to be stereotypical Asians who'll passively let someone take over their ceremony because they don't know what's going on.

Hip to be racist

I gather Kimmy Schmidt's racial portrayals get better later on. But if it takes you six or seven episodes to get race reasonably right, I'd say you've failed.

"Hipster racism" seems like the right label for what's going on. I can imagine the writers saying, "We're not laughing at the stereotypical maid who can't speak English. We're presenting her so you can laugh at the ignorant people who would laugh at her."

Or, "We're not laughing at Indians who think planes are 'iron eagles.' We're laughing at the ignorant people who think Indians think planes are iron eagles. Even thought we don't show any of these ignorant people, much less laugh at them."

It's like Kimmy is trying to have it both ways. Which is evident in the Korean character named Dong. "His name is funny...ha ha! But we understand it's funny, so we're not laughing at him. We're laughing at you if you think his name is funny. You're the ignorant one in that case, not us."

This is a good example of hipster racism: presenting racism, then winking at it. And acting as if that's enough to excuse the racism. No, it isn't.

I'd say the Native subplot is a particular case of failure. In the first three episodes, Jacqueline doesn't show one iota of being torn between her Native and white identities. She's a white woman in her white world and even with her Native parents. That she has a Native upbringing is a gimmick, not a genuine character trait. It does nothing to distinguish her from millions of rich white women who look and act like her.

So she's Native because that's a "hip" way to make her more "complex." Look, she has a backstory! Even though it's little more than a few buzzwords: reservation, buffalo, eagle, etc. It's a Saturday Night Live version of race, which makes sense given Fey's background. And it's about as unsatisfying.

For more on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, see Racial Stereotypes in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Just a Comedy?

August 10, 2015

Racial stereotypes in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I finally watched the first three episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The third episode introduced the controversial Native subplot. Let's take a look.

First, a couple of Native responses:

Why Kimmy Schmidt's Native Subplot is Great: A Native Fan's OpinionThe new Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt includes a Native American subplot that has sparked debate both within Indian country and among non-Native viewers. The protagonist, Kimmy, is hired as a nanny to the children of a wealthy Manhattan mom, and before too long the audience learns Kimmy's boss has a secret: She's American Indian. The boss, Jacqueline, is played by Jane Krakowski, a sitcom veteran who is not Native. Her parents are played by Gil Birmingham, Comanche, and Sheri Foster, Cherokee. Jacqueline is passing as white; Jane Krakowski is a white actress playing a Native character who is passing as white—is there a problem here? Last week, ICTMN ran a piece that included opinions from two non-Native TV critics who felt that yes, there was something off-putting about this plot element.

Judging by Twitter chatter, some Native viewers agree—but many others don't. Jiwere-Nutachi/Chahta journalist Johnnie Jae, co-editor of Native Max magazine, has watched the whole first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and approves of the Native storyline. We asked her to explain.

What was your reaction to the Native subplot as you were watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?

I was waiting for a cringe-worthy moment once the Native subplot was introduced. I was thinking, "Oh no, here we go again." But that cringe-worthy moment never appeared and I found myself cracking up. The conversations that Jacqueline had with her parents reminded me of some of the conversations that I had with relatives when I took an interest in doing things that you don't normally associate with Natives. So I think they nailed the conversations between Jacqueline and her parents, especially when she told them she was no longer going to be Native because "If you want to get anywhere, you need to be blonde and white."

That's a good line, but she could have said simply "If you want to get anywhere, you need to be blonde." Does pulling an entire race into the conversation, and making this about race when it doesn't need to be, trivialize the issues Native people face?

No, I don't think so because talking about race is not a bad thing, and that particular line has some undeniable truth in the mainstream media. Look at most news anchors, actresses, musicians, et cetera—blonde and white. Jacqueline's story also illustrated a few other issues that rarely get discussed. There's the fact that Natives come in various shades of brown—yes, you can be Native even if you "look" white. So many Native people hear that: "You're Native American? Hmm, you don't look like it." The show is also addressing the white privilege afforded to those same white-passing Natives. It's not trivializing these issues, it's bringing them out in the open. There's a very real sentiment that to be successful in the mainstream world, we need to be less Native. Some of us deal with this feeling every day.

Should the show have cast a Native actress in the role?

Let's be honest, if they had cast an obviously Native woman in Jacqueline's role and put a blonde wig on her, the storyline wouldn't work. She'd just be a blonde Native trying to be white and her reality would be different from Jacqueline's reality. The reason Jacqueline's character has the lifestyle she does in show is because she could pass for white and was able to benefit from the white privilege that goes along with that. I'd also like to add that Gil Birmingham and Sheri Foster were amazing and spot on with the Native humor. The show also has Azie Dungey ("Ask a Slave") on board and I trust her with this storyline.
A couple of comments:

That Native scene made me cringe a little. And it doesn't have to be "cringe-worthy" to be problematical. Dances with Wolves doesn't have any blatant problems that make you want to cringe. But its reigning theme of the "white savior" is problematical when you think about it.

The casting choice wasn't "an obviously Native woman" or Jane Krakowski. The show could've cast a not-obviously-Native woman who might or might not be able to pass as white. Showing someone on the borderline between Native and white, in looks as well as culture, would've been the realistic and honest choice.

What it's like to watch Netflix's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' as a Native American

By Jacqueline KeelerMy mom named me Jacqueline because of her school-girl fascination with Jacqueline Kennedy. My grandparents did not speak English, only Navajo. My mother “arrived” in this country when, at age 18, she left the reservation to go to college in the big city. Her first morning in this strange land, she awoke frightened and disoriented, convinced the sun had risen from the west. She was a stranger in a strange land. My Native American parents were immigrants to this country from their respective Indigenous nations. And like other immigrants, they studied American film and TV carefully for cues on how to be American and how to live among Americans whose backgrounds are not Dakota or Navajo.

As a second-generation expatriate, I’ve watched 30 Rock over the years and found myself wondering: Is this acceptable? Can I laugh at this? Why do I feel this way? What is wrong and what is right about this?

Reflecting on my own experiences with these characters, I realize Fey’s writing pushes me to a place where I am not comfortable. Her work forces me to think about race and status in a way I am not asked to do day-to-day. I live in a bubble of sorts, a privilege constructed of class, education, and some level of misunderstanding due to my ethnic identity being both unclear (no one expects to meet a Native American) and mistaken for and embraced by a large swath of the population (I’ve been mistaken for Latina, Vietnamese, Italian, and Iranian).

So when I see the opening of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with the auto-tuned "funny black neighbor" turned into a YouTube meme, my feelings are literally on hold because I still don’t know how to parse them. I can’t relax and simplistically enjoy it because I am grappling with my own feelings of entitlement, of class, a desire to be non-judgemental, and a subsequent protective reaction to put them in a drawer and forget about those feelings. I am ashamed and I am moved, but I am left changed. What Fey does is really a form of genius.
I'm not sure what Keeler is saying here. She seems to be saying that it's good to tackle the complex issues of mixed or mistaken identities. Okay, but she doesn't quite say how well Kimmy Schmidt tackles these issues.

Which is the key thing I'm interested in. Not whether someone has tried to tackle the issues, but whether they've succeeded.

Non-Native views

Next, a couple of nuanced, somewhat neutral takes:

Let’s Talk About Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt & Its Dealings With Race

By Alanna BennettOne thing that’s important to remember in this conversation is that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s race “issues” (quotationed because we can’t agree what is and what is not the issue) are far from black and white—within the show itself or in criticism and praise of the show.

Within the show, for example, you have Titus as a gay stereotype but you also have him as a very specific human being and a hero of the show; he rarely gets shafted in favor of Kimmy, he’s right there with her trying to make a quality life in New York. When it comes to his race, he’s constantly addressing his “place” in society as influenced by his sexuality and his race, and there’s an entire episode subplot where people pay him more respect dressed up as a werewolf than they ever did as a black man. White people yelling “that werewolf is turning into Samuel L Jackson!” and running away screaming was a pretty deft moment of racial commentary for this show or any show, and is a moment just as crucial to any racial criticism of the series as Jacqueline’s wolf-howl to the moon in the finale.

It’s all taken side-by-side, and it’s all packaged in self-mocking comedy that sets out to be ridiculous from the get go. It’s a mishmash that makes it hard to discern the “right” or “wrong” of its depictions, and I for one am enjoying the reminder of the importance of subjectivity in criticism. I have every respect for people put off by Kimmy Schmidt’s dealings with race, and I have every respect for the people who take no issue with it.

I personally have been both—I started out very uncomfortable with the Native American storyline and with aspects of the character of Dong, but the more I think about it and the more I read the perspectives of, for example, actual Native American people, the less upset I become.
I can't argue too much with someone who says every viewpoint is valid. Onward.

Racial Stereotypes Can Be Funny

The critics of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aren’t wrong. But they are missing the point.

By Arthur Chu
[T]ake Kimmy’s black, gay roommate Titus Andromedon, who has achieved instant viral status as an icon of a gay black man even though, on paper, he seems like the most offensive stereotype of a gay black man possible. The actor, Tituss Burgess, on whom Titus Andromedon is loosely based, had input in creating his character, and there’s a confidence to Titus—a sense that the writers are comfortable butting right up to “the line” and sticking a toe across it because they know where it is.

The writers play to the hilt the joke about Titus being “treated better as a werewolf than a black man.” Episode 5 has a subplot about Titus outing fellow kidnapping victim Cyndee’s boyfriend Brandon as gay, leaning heavily on gay jokes and gay stereotypes the whole time. But it never apologizes for it, and never makes it feel like the jokes reduce Titus or Brandon to two-dimensionality.

By contrast, Fey’s high-wire act loses its deftness with the revelation that Jacqueline is a Native American and the introduction of her parents. Same with the character of Dong, the Vietnamese immigrant who unexpectedly becomes Kimmy’s beau.

Unlike Titus Andromedon, Jacqueline’s parents don’t confidently dive into a stereotype to amplify it, mock it, and eventually show the humanity within it. Instead, they awkwardly go through a by-the-numbers stereotype of what people think an “Indian family” would look like only to immediately, weakly apologize for it. Jacqueline’s dad drops a random joke about flying to New York in an “iron sky eagle” only to clarify that of course he knows what a plane is, he was in the Air Force—a joke that no one would logically make to their own family, who presumably would already know that. Her parents live on a reservation (of course) and observe the Lakota Sun Dance (of course) and make a living as buffalo ranchers (of course) but throw in a diss of Kevin Smith to show they’re also modern Americans.
Chu's conclusion doesn't seem quite as positive as the headline suggests:Tina Fey’s high-wire act is all about the alchemy of making it OK to laugh at big, heavy issues—like kidnapped women, the experience of undocumented Vietnamese immigrants, and people with Native American ancestry passing as white—by skimming over them with a light touch. Everyone who’s tried to walk an actual tightrope knows that the key is to walk confidently and calmly, to take a straight, smooth path without hesitating. Kimmy’s arc, Titus’ arc, the arc of Jacqueline’s divorce with her husband—these have that deftness of touch.

But if you lean too far to one side, and then try to lean back the other way to compensate—“Jacqueline’s dad is an Indian stereotype … but he was in the Air Force!” or “Dong is an awkward dork … but Kimmy’s into that!”—you’ll wobble, stumble and fall.
Comment:  For more on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, see Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Just a Comedy? and Jane Krakowski in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

August 09, 2015

#AmericanLivesMatter most to Americans

“All Lives Matter” has always been a lie: The brutality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki echoes in Ferguson and Iraq today

Americans have always valued their own lives above any other—except when their fellow Americans are the "other"

By Arthur Chu
It shouldn’t be rocket science why invoking “All Lives Matter” is, at best, insensitive and, at worst, an active attempt to derail activism and deny reality. Nobody is disagreeing that all people’s lives do, in fact, matter and ought to matter equally.

The point is that right now they are not treated as though they matter equally. Some people’s lives are treated as precious, others as disposable garbage. If you really do believe all lives matter, then your focus should be on black lives, which are demonstrably the most neglected lives in our country and, for that matter, the world. Treating a focus on black lives as a “special interest” or parochial concern requires willful ignorance about what kind of world we actually live in.

The charitable interpretation is that #AllLivesMatter folks just aren’t aware of this–they conceive of our justice and law enforcement system as a basically decent system that basically works the way it should where any instances of police brutality or unjust killings are unfortunate exceptions to the rule. They think of activists as just taking a few of those exceptions and singling them out because the victims “happen to be black.”

You can push back on this with statistical evidence—statistics that aren’t new or shocking to anyone, that have been known for years before putting names and faces to them like Mike Brown and Sandra Bland made them go viral. You can point to the obvious signs of a culture of racism, the ever-present context of a racist history in which these events occur. You can demonstrate that you’re not “picking and choosing” victims by signal-boosting just as loudly when a white teenager is killed, demonstrating that it’s not that you don’t care about white victims, but white victims are comparatively rarer.

You keep tweeting and keep marching and keep writing articles and books hoping that you will eventually “raise awareness” enough that the #AllLivesMatter crowd will stop their pointless derailing and actually act like all lives matter.

For some of them, this might work. But I’m coming to think that for many, it doesn’t–because they do not, in fact, believe that all lives matter, and consciously or unconsciously are excluding quite a lot of people from the “all” in that phrase.

Look at President Bush’s invasion of Iraq and President Obama’s withdrawal, both of which are being furiously relitigated at the moment in the run-up to the Republican primaries. Both pro-war and anti-war pundits talk endlessly about the 4,491 American deaths in that war, either arguing that withdrawal “saved more American lives” or caused those Americans who had died to have “died in vain.”

Going totally unmentioned are the more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths (we think, no one has been able to keep accurate count) in that war, the majority of whom were civilians, killed by violence in the war, and the untold more who died from disease or privation. This is a number at least 20 times as high as the number of Americans killed, possibly 40 times as high.

But we treat our people’s deaths as fundamentally more meaningful than theirs. Even the liberal anti-war crowd reflexively talks about “American troops” being killed and “the deaths of American citizens.” Whatever you think of the war, the American troops who died volunteered to go and made the choice to be there, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis–including Iraqi children–died with no choice in the matter at all.
Comment:  For more on Iraq, see Phony "Patriots" Love American Sniper and Why Do They Hate Us 2013?

August 08, 2015

Hockey ad features stereotypical "Indians"

Shawinigan's new marketing campaign 'an insult' to First Nations

By Sunaya SapurjiIt should come as little surprise that the Shawinigan Cataractes–a team with a chief logo and a caricature mascot named Thomas Hawk (aka Tomahawk)–would take yet another insensitive misstep.

Their latest in cultural appropriation comes in the form of an ill-guided marketing campaign which features three players: captain Anthony Beauvillier, Alexis D’Aoust and Samuel Girard–none of whom identify as First Nations–dressed up in the stereotypical warrior motif complete with war paint and braided hair with beads and feathers in team colours.

It’s stunning to think someone with the Quebec league team thought this was a good idea.

The slogan for the campaign is the equally tone deaf: “My History. My Colours.”

Former Halifax Mooseheads captain Trey Lewis, a Mi'kmaq from the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, can’t understand how anyone with the team thought this would be a positive marketing tool. He said it might have been different if the players were themselves First Nations or if the team was on or, at very least, associated with one of the reserves in the area.

“It’s disrespectful,” Lewis said. “To be marketing a team with First Nations imagery, I think they could have come up with a better idea to help promote their hockey team.

“In this day and age you have music festivals like Osheaga and Tomorrowland that are banning people from wearing Native American headdresses because it’s offensive.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see More Festivals Ban Native Headdresses and David Guetta's Racist Pocahottie Promotion.

August 07, 2015

MSU students protest Boy Scouts

Members of the Indigenous Graduate Student Collective stage protest on NOAC

By Matthew Argillander and Ryan KryskaIf you've been on MSU's campus this week, you have most likely noticed the presence of the Boy Scouts of America and the Order of the Arrow for their centennial exhibition.

After Phillip Rice, a music composition graduate student and member of the Order of the Arrow, sent an opinion letter to The State News expressing displeasure with the event being held at MSU, Shelbi Meissner, a member of the Indigenous Graduate Student Collective and descendent of the Luiseno and Cupeño in Southern-California, teamed up with Rice at Spartan Statue to protest the group's use of Native American culture and imagery.

One of the main reasons Meissner, a philosophy graduate student, cited for protesting was the presence of teepees and individuals wearing headdresses around campus.

"They have a racist caricature of a native man in a headdress that they claim is no longer one of their insignias, but it has been flying on a hot air balloon around campus as well as on a lot of the banners that have come in here," Meissner said. "As a Native American woman I find it highly offensive, and as a member of this community I feel really offended that MSU would host a group like this without any regard for how it would make a lot of students and faculty feel."
Students paint the Rock discouraging Boy Scout use of Native American culture on campus

By Catherine Ferland and Ryan KryskaAmidst the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Conference on campus this week, students have taken issue to the Boy Scout's use of Native American culture and imagery.

Anthropology senior Hayley Cook and alumnus Dan Grenzicki set out to paint the Rock on Farm Lane at 11 p.m. on Thursday. Their goal was to raise awareness of Native American cultural appropriation onset by the Boy Scouts of America.
Some reactions from Scouts:John Quimby, an Eagle Scout from Conn., said, “I’ve grown up in the Native community. It is just a touchy subject and it should be changed. They are trying to go for an image that is old and outdated. What I was taught in Boy Scouts and what I learned at the powwows were completely different.”

Quimby said he has spent a lot of time at powwows and was adopted into Native American tribes, even though he is of Filipino descent.

Jasper Wallen, 19-year-old assistant Scoutmaster from Idaho, said, “I don't always feel happy about the ways that we act as Native Americans. But we do have Native American tribe leaders that watch over and make sure that we are doing it respectfully. It is not really the racist thing that a lot of people think.”

Cooper Hanks, 15-year-old Life Scout from Idaho, said, “It is not offensive, it is more an inclusion. It is like any Christian group that tries to bring people in. Let's learn about each others religions and beliefs and be respectful. Even if you don't believe in it, see what they see and don’t be negative.”

"Let's learn"...about stereotypes

A Boy Scout mother explains what's wrong with the Order of the Arrow (OA):

Boys Scouts Order of the Arrow Guilty of Cultural Appropriation

By Ozheebeegay IkweOne of the adults who is actively involved in our troop described the OA “tapping out” ceremony to me. Imagine my surprise when he said there will be “Indians on canoes.” I asked him which tribe was involved, and he replied that the boys dress up like Indians for the OA ceremony. And so it began… I wrote him a heartfelt letter explaining why cultural appropriation is wrong. I communicated to him that wearing redface isn’t ok. I included a mini history lesson, shared some personal experiences, and touched on US policy dealing with Indigenous people. I even admitted to him that I myself, a multi-racial person, haven’t always been aware of cultural appropriation and its harmful effects. He did not directly address my concerns, but responded by saying there are tough requirements to even be nominated for OA, and scouters take it quite seriously. “It is not something they just do for fun.” He also stated that he believes they “use our Native Americans as role models.” He asked me to check out the OA because he knows the sincerity and quality of the scouts and scouters who participate.

So I did what he asked me to. The Order of the Arrow has been around for 99 years. According to what I read online, Edson and Goodman, the founders of OA, researched the language and traditions of the Lenni Lenape people. They wanted to include “Indian lore” in the OA to make the organization more appealing to the youth. This was during a time when our loved ones and ancestors were being taken from their families, assimilated, and “civilized.” This was during a time when Native people were considered less than human. While Native children in residential schools had their culture and language beaten from them, the Boy Scouts were using the language and their version of “Indian culture” in their OA ceremony. In fact, it wasn’t until 1978 that the American Indian Religious Freedom act was passed. That means non-Native members of the BSA were conducting their “Indian” ceremonies when Indigenous people in the United States didn’t even have the freedom of religion and culture that other people in the United States enjoyed.

As I searched Google images of the OA and watched YouTube videos of the OA ceremonies, I became even more uncomfortable. In fact, I feel the OA ceremony is downright offensive. At the Wahissa lodge OA, they don headdresses, face paint, sit and sing around a big drum, and dance with a pipe. At other OA ceremonies, they mix West Coast native art and plains style headdresses. Ironically, some of these “Indian” ceremonies are held in churches and priests are involved. It appears there is ongoing use of the big drum, hand drum, pipe, “eagle feather,” and headdress within the OA. Use of these items by Boy Scouts indicates that there is very little understanding of the Native people they claim to admire and respect.

I have been told that if we are not using these sacred objects as they are intended, we aren’t walking the walk. Along with carrying and using these items, comes a great deal of responsibility. Not just anyone should have them. I want my children to know the truth that is the Drum, Pipe, and Eagle Feather. I want them to understand that traditional ways are not a costume or boy scout initiation. They are alive, they are sacred. An Elder often reminds me that before we were born, we all had something in common. We listened to the heart beat for nine months. We didn’t know how to speak, think, or see. I believe that drum is the heartbeat that is alive in all of us. I believe it is to be loved and respected.

There is nothing honorable about an honor society appropriating culture.
A discussion of these postings on Facebook:The problem is so much larger than mascots. Little is said about the role of the Boy Scouts and summer camps in maintaining stereotypes. It needs to be made clear that there is no way for non-natives to "respectfully" appropriate native culture. While we all enjoy the benefits of globalization that bring us the food and music of the world, no one would think of "playing" at being Mexican, Asian or African, no matter how carefully researched for authenticity in apparel, adornment, and speech. Why are Native Americans different? Because modern indigenous peoples are otherwise invisible to Euro-Americans, while the stereotypes are everywhere.Right. A key question to ask these "respectful" people is:

There are 567 recognized tribes and many more throughout North and South America. There are literally thousands of them. How do you respectfully portray these thousand of diverse cultures in your program? Or are you inevitably relying on a few stereotypes--chiefs, arrows, etc.--that homogenize Native cultures and situate them in the distant past?

I'd be amazed if the Boy Scouts picked random tribes from Alaska, Greenland, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Texas, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, Bolivia, and so forth and taught THEIR cultures. I'm guessing that'll never happen.

The founders supposedly researched the Lenni Lenape...but now the activities involve generic or Plains stereotypes. The Scouts may be respectful, but what they're respecting is false and misleading stereotypes.

We don't care about their intent; we care about the misinformation they're spreading. That and only that is the issue here.

For more on Scouts, see Boy Scount "Indian Dance Team" and Order of the Arrow's Indian Play.