March 31, 2016

Students protest UNM seal

Protesters: Native American-made seal not native enough

  • The students are accusing the school of racism because the seal shows a frontiersman and a conquistador, but not a Native American.

  • The seal was designed by Theda Douglas Rushing, a Native American.

  • By Anthony Gockowski
    Students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are protesting their school’s official seal because of its implicit discrimination against Native Americans even though the seal itself was created by a Native American artist.

    UNM’s student activists are accusing the school of racism because the seal depicts a frontiersman standing alongside a conquistador but fails to portray their historical counterpart—indigenous people.
    And:“The UNM [official seal] celebrates genocide and conquest—both are violations of basic human rights and belong in a museum of a bygone era,” said Nick Estes. “It’s 2016 and UNM is still celebrating crimes against humanity—colonialism and genocide—and Natives are still underrepresented at all levels at the University.”

    However, UNM awarded Native American artist Theda Douglas Rushing a Meritorious Service Medal in 1994 for her outstanding contributions to the school, among which was the creation of the school’s now discriminatory seal.


    A Facebook discussion of this key point: Students protest a UNM seal that shows a frontiersman and a conquistador, even though a Native woman designed it.

    I wonder if she was given free rein or a strict mandate. Kind of hard to believe someone thought a frontiersman and a conquistador were great ideas in the 21st century.

    Apparently the redesign was back in 1980. I can understand that some people, including Natives, might not have thought about the problems much back then.

    But I'm surprised it hasn't been protested out of existence since then. A frontiersman and a conquistador don't have anything to do with education. If anything, they're anti-education.

    The message is nothing but, "Europeans founded this state and school. Europeans made us great." How is that not glaringly obvious to everyone--not to mention embarrassing?

    They're even holding a gun and a sword. It's a pure conquest message--with Indians and their land as the implied booty. There's no educational message whatsoever.Yes. All that's missing is an equally in your face motto. "We exist because these guys spilled blood."Oddly, their school motto is "Lux Hominum Vita (Life, the Light of Men)." I guess because "Veni, Vidi, Vici" was taken?

    For more on government seals, see Whitesboro Issue Increases Awareness and Flipping the Whitesboro Script.

    March 28, 2016

    Powwows are "magic" at A Pow Wow Is An Event Where Indians Practice 'Magic'

    By Simon, a popular website of definitions and synonyms, defines a pow wow as an event where Native Americans—wait for it—practice "magic," ICTMN discovered Monday.

    In its official definition, the website writes that a 'powwow' is "[among North American Indians] a ceremony, especially one accompanied by magic, feasting, and dancing, performed for the cure of disease, success in a hunt, etc."

    The discovery of the curious definition comes weeks after a heated debate surrounding author J.K. Rowling's latest series, "A History of Magic In North America." In it, fictional Native Americans practice witchcraft and wizardry. Rowling is the author of the widely-successful 'Harry Potter' series.

    Sarah Ortegon, a jingle dress dancer who is currently studying fancy shawl, told ICTMN Monday that although the beauty of pow wows can "cast a spell" on viewers, it is not magic in its official definition.
    After a couple of days of online complaints, the problem was Agrees to Drop 'Magic' From 'Powwow' Definition

    By Simon Moya-SmithOn Monday, ICTMN reported that, the world's leading digital dictionary, defines “powwow” as an event where Native Americans practice “magic.” Since then, Native Americans and others have taken to social media to express their disapproval over the antiquated definition.

    Within 24 hours, officials at responded to ICTMN stating they will change their definition of “powwow,” and that they will effectively remove the word “magic.”

    “The word ‘magic’ does not appear in our revised definition,” Stephanie Cooley, spokesperson for, said in an email.

    “After reviewing the entry for ‘powwow’ we concluded that the definition did not reflect the history and usage of the term, and so we’ve drafted changes to reflect this. We plan to reach out to a professor of Native American Studies as part of our editorial process. With almost half a million entries, sometimes outdated or erroneous definitions can go overlooked and we depend upon our dedicated users to let us know if they come across any entries in need of review that we’ve missed,” she wrote in an email.
    Comment:  Why would anyone think a social event like a powwow had "magic" dances? Because non-Natives think all Indian dances are meant to call spirits or whatever.

    According to the prevailing stereotype, Indians aren't normal like other people. They're otherworldly, with supernatural powers that let them talk to animals, control the weather, or summon demons.

    Needless to say, the definition is silly. Not only because of the "magic" reference, but the whole thing. Curing disease, insuring a successful hunt...these are ceremonies done within a tribe on religious occasions. Not dances done among tribes on social occasions. Other than the concept of Indians dancing, the two have little or nothing in common.

    For more on the subject, see Fictional Potterverse vs. Real Native Religions and Rowling Colonizes and Vanishes Indians.

    March 23, 2016

    "Indians bring firewater" in All in the Family

    In The Little Atheist episode of All in the Family (airdate: 11/24/75), neighbor Irene Lorenzo attends Thanksgiving at Mike and Gloria's house. She enters with a bottle of wine, saying: How! Indians spend Thanksgiving with Pilgrims, bring firewater.She's wearing a full-length dress that looks like it could be Navajo. Also necklaces of turquoise, silver, and other beads. You can see the bit at the 14:17 mark:

    It seems like Irene has some knowledge of Indians and is trying to honor them. She's pretty clearly doing an Indian thing. But the fake "How!" greeting and the "firewater" crack...ugh. Stereotype alert!

    For more on the subject, see Archie Bunker on Indians.

    March 22, 2016

    Seeing is believing in movies

    Someone asked me the following via e-mail:Q--Do you think people believe more what they see in the movies than actual history? Braveheart is a great example of something that played with history, yet is taken as largely factual by people. What are the negatives and positives to this? You wrote a bit about it happening with Apocalypto. Do you know of other examples?My response:

    I think people believe what they absorb from all sources--from movies to TV shows to history books. The problem is that most people have seen 10 or 100 movies and TV shows featuring stereotypical Indians for every book they've read. If the ratio were reversed--10 or 100 history books for every movie or TV show--I think their beliefs would be reversed too. But that isn't the case.

    I'd say this applies to every work of fiction featuring Indians, not just Apocalypto. I've written about it often--in general and in specific cases such as Apocalypto. For example:

    Why people believe movies
    The influence of movies
    Verisimilitude in movies
    Audiences don't want dry facts

    Others have written about this too because it's patently obvious. Movies try to recreate reality with locations, sets, costumes, and so forth. Lincoln was a tall guy with a beard and a hat, not a short bald woman. If everything else in a movie strives to seem real, why would someone assume the Indians are false and unrepresentative?

    Answer: No one would assume that. The fact that is that few if any people think critically about the elements of moviemaking. They assume a Native-themed movie is based on reality because the vast majority of historical dramas are based on reality.

    I hope that answers your question. Let me know if you have any other questions.


    P.S. For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Inhuman sanctuary = Indian reservation

    The Parting Shot episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (airdate: 3/22/16) had a pointed reference to Indian reservations. About all you need to know is that evildoer Malick wants to round up the superpowered Inhumans for nefarious purposes:

    ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap 3×13: Pour One OutMalick makes an uncomfortable comparison between what Russia will be doing with the Inhuman sanctuary to what America did in setting up Native American reservations. You know, just in case it wasn’t already very clear that he was grade-A evil.MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: “Parting Shot”Malick’s plan for an Inhuman “Sanctuary State” comes into full focus this week, as he convinces the Russian Prime Minister’s own men to stage a coup against him. Powers Boothe is more wicked than ever in the role, as he smugly suggests that Native American Reservations were beneficial for the people forced to relocate to them, and that his own plan will do the same for the new “alien threat.” Which he intends to use as prison camp in order to weaponize Inhumans in a bid for more power.

    March 21, 2016

    Indigenous Chileans in Madam Secretary

    A recent episode of Madam Secretary dealt with

    Madam Secretary recap: 'Higher Learning'

    An agreement between a U.S. mining company and Chile goes awry.

    By Lindsey Kupfer
    Madam Secretary
    Season 2, Ep. 17 | Aired Mar 20

    The show opens in the Andes mountains in Chile. There is a group protesting an American company, Hercutel, for mining gold in their mountains. The protest gets ugly, and someone throws a rock at the American driver. According to Bess’ team, the mining agreement between Hercutel and the Chilean government was completely legal, but now the president of Chile has changed her mind and accused the company of negotiating more than their fair share of profits, sparking the various protests.
    Later:Bess talks to the foreign minister, threatening to cripple their economy, and Chile quickly agrees to reopen the mining operation in the morning. Nothing’s that simple, though. A man named Hugo from the Inhawoji people of Chile reveals in an online video that the mountain belongs to the indigenous people and has belonged to them for 6,000 years. That means that the Chilean government had no right to make an agreement with Hercutel. In protest, Hugo says he’s going to climb the mountain to save it or he will die trying—while live-streaming his climb of course. Welcome to 2016.College protester Brian Andrew Lindstrom confronts Bess, then sues her when her bodyguard "invades his personal space." Bess visits the Lindstrom family to talk Brian out of suing, leading to this exchange:Elizabeth McCord: I think the thing getting lost here, Mr. and Mrs. Lindstrom, is your son's passionate commitment to social justice. Young people rising up against the abuse of power has been a force for change many times in this country, and Brian was right. Not about the mining contract. That was legitimate. But about the larger issue. The brutal legacy of colonialism asserting itself once again in Chile. That turned out to be true. And, Brian, without you guys and the Chilean citizens rising up against what you thought was wrong, the Inhawoji people might not have dared raised their voices, too, and found a world ready to listen.

    Brian Andrew Lindstrom: Thanks, Mrs. Secretary.

    Blake Moran: Madam Secretary.

    Elizabeth McCord: Don't stop speaking truth to power. But, maybe the best way to call upon our better selves is for you to show us yours.
    Brian's parents yell at him to stop complaining and he agrees to drop the lawsuit.

    It's rare to hear a politician talk about colonialism, even if it happened as far as possible from the US but in the same hemisphere. Even a liberal Secretary of State such as John Kerry or Hillary Clinton wouldn't take the side of the people against a democratic ally. That's what makes Madam Secretary such a good show.

    Incidentally, I think the Inhawoji are a fictional group. I couldn't find anything about them on the Internet.

    March 19, 2016

    Fictional Potterverse vs. real Native religions

    What J.K. Rowling’s New Story Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation

    Rowling messed up big time. What next?

    By Claire Fallon
    Reading and listening to Native American and First Nations activists, authors, and readers reacting to the treatment of their cultural heritage, certain important points keep emerging: “History of Magic in North America” relied on worn-out stereotypes that erase tribal distinctions, ignore the true cultures and traditions of different nations, and reinforce conceptions of Native American people as mystical beings rather than real people who continue to exist today. The story was shallow and poorly researched, not a detailed and thoughtful exploration of the histories of the peoples who have lived on this continent for centuries.

    Scholar Amy H. Sturgis, who is of Cherokee descent, told me, “Some of her descriptions—the claim that the Native American wizarding community was ‘particularly gifted in animal and plant magic’ for instance—refer less to Native American cultural traditions than to stereotypes of the mystical Noble Savage that have been used for centuries by non-Natives to make Native Americans seem exotic and Other.”

    Regarding the skinwalker narrative, which has garnered particular outrage, she noted that it was particularly troubling to see Rowling make use of a Navajo tradition “as legend, a smokescreen for ‘real’ magical history, and to divorce this tradition from its specific origins and apply it to all of Native America as a whole.”

    One thing’s certain: Rowling didn’t have much idea what she was writing about, and it showed. “I don’t think she has the knowledge necessary to do justice to marginalized peoples,” Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian scholar, told me. (Reese writes the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature, which carefully reviews young people’s literature with representations of American Indians to tease out the often glaring misrepresentations, appropriations, and damaging stereotypes within.)
    The Rantin’ Raven: Harry Potter and the… WTF?

    By Dana CorbyHere’s the problem, as I see it, I said: Ms. Rowling seems to be unaware that the cultures she talks about are real. That there are still living members of these still-living cultures whose cause and position in the real world are harmed by the publication of untruths about them–untruths that are too often unconsciously accepted by those not interested enough to look into them.

    Most fantasy novels are set in an alternate universe, the future, the remote past, or in some other way are not part of the here-and-now. The fantasy becomes a shared game of “let’s pretend” and pretty much anything can go. But as eloquently pointed out by N.K. Jemisin in “It Could Have Been Great,” Rowling’s world purports to be a secret side of our real world, occurring in real time alongside everyday reality. The whole premise is that nobody who isn’t magical knows about those who are–with a few noted exceptions like the families of muggle-borns, of course. What a fun concept! But because it’s set in the real world, extra caution needs to be exercised not to do violence to what isn’t part of the fantasy.

    It’s not just Rowling’s clueless assumption that belief in skin walkers was/is continent-wide rather than strictly a Diné belief, or her saying that “skin walker” is just an Indian word for animagus when in Diné culture they are living vectors of evil. It’s saying that non-magical Native medicine people were/are fakes. She’s talking about people outside her wizarding subculture, and suddenly it’s not fantasy anymore.

    In all the Potter books, she never once so much as hints that Christianity and non-magical medicine might be fake, even when her wizarding characters are being condescending about the amazing ways muggles find to get along without magic. Christianity is assumed and respected in the Wizarding world, if not spoken of much, with crosses in the churchyard—and churches, for that matter—and St. Mungo’s Hospital. If Wizards aren’t Christians, how can there be a wizarding saint? Muggle medicine is shown to work fine for everything except magical maladies. But non-magical Indian medicine people are ‘fakes.’ Indians have been told this by Europeans for 500 years and it’s long past time we stopped doing it and they stopped being expected to tolerate it.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rowling Colonizes and Vanishes Indians and Rowling's Magic in North America. Also see:

    Native People Respond to Rowling

    Why it's more than fiction

    Native People Respond to Jason Aaron's SCALPED and JK Rowling's Magic in North America

    March 16, 2016

    Rowling colonizes and vanishes Indians

    Paquette: J.K. Rowling lifts Indigenous traditions but ignores history

    By Aaron PaquetteRowling takes the more than 500 distinct Nations of North America and lumps them into a simplistic amalgam called “the Native American community.” She also appropriated the legend of Navajo skinwalkers (shape-shifters) without so much as a please or thank you and additionally painted some of the spiritual leaders of the Navajo as corrupt charlatans.

    So what? The stories are fiction, right? What about books and movies about ancient Greek or Norse gods? Or leprechauns and vampires? Isn’t this the same?

    Not really. No one believes in vampires.

    Many Navajo take their beliefs seriously and regard knowledge of skinwalkers as sacrosanct–part of an interweaving expression of the Navajo worldview. These aren’t just stories, they’re ceremony, as significant today as they were in the past.

    Rowling’s new foray is different than borrowing from old traditions no longer practised, or from cultures that are safe and thriving. She’s taking the property of a marginalized people for her own use simply because she can and wants to.

    This is colonialism. Simply put, it’s cultural theft and these are not her stories to tell.
    The Colonization Effect In Rowling’s Magical American History

    By Katie Majka“Harry Potter is fictional,” people have (and will continue to) insisted, and that’s true enough. But the history that Rowling has rewritten to suit that fictional world isn’t—that history is real and valid and important, and not to be used as a malleable narrative prop.

    As a white person, I can’t sit here and say that what Rowling did was permissible; I can’t and won’t attempt to justify it, both because I don’t think it’s worthy of justification, and at the end of the day it has nothing to do with me, anyway, and everything to do with the Native peoples whom it affects. While I don’t think Rowling purposely set out to colonize Native American history, the point is that’s precisely what happened and it needs to be addressed by her. When any person sets out to explore a culture that isn’t their own, it’s that person’s responsibility to do the proper research, and that responsibility goes double for white people. We have a wide and vast history of colonization and cultural appropriation, which we still benefit from and are ignorant of (see: a few notable American sports teams/mascots, white people on Halloween, etc.) today.
    Native Americans to J.K. Rowling: We’re Not Magical

    The author has come under fire for equating Navajo religious beliefs with the world of her fictional Harry Potter characters.

    By Becky Little
    There is another, more subtle, layer to the depiction of Native Americans as magical, fictional beings—they end up being portrayed as though they don’t exist. Howe refers to this as “the trope of the vanishing Indian.”

    “The vanishing American Indian is in art, it’s in stories—we’re the so-called Last of the Mohicans,” she says. “We exist in the minds of mainstream America as dead and forgotten because the white Americans won the American West.”

    When native traditions are constantly depicted as relics, it gives the impression that those traditions—and the more than 5 million native people in the United States—don’t exist anymore. Think of the Native American characters you’ve encountered in books and movies. How many of them were portrayed as characters from the past, and how many of them were depicted as people in the modern world? (Modern characters that are also magical don’t count—I’m still looking at you, Twilight.)

    On a more basic level, the stereotypes of the “vanishing Indian,” the magical medicine man, or even the noble savage dehumanize the people they profess to represent. Children read books to learn, but also to identify with the characters. For native children, this presents a problem if most of the images they see of themselves are otherworldly, long gone, or sports mascots.

    “These stereotypes hurt us in terms of our human rights,” says Howe. “You cannot have civil rights, you can’t really have human rights or be thought of in a significant way, if you are invisible and you’re dead. So the trope of the vanishing American Indian is in a way undermining the humanity of native people because the assumption is we’re dead, or there’s just a few of us left.”
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rowling's Magic in North America and Pocahontas in Harry Potter.

    March 12, 2016

    Man's "fox hat" religion challenged

    Man says DMV denied his license renewal because he wore 'silly fox hat'A man in Oregon says the DMV denied his license renewal because they thought he was wearing a silly hat in his photo. However the man says that was a violation of his religious freedom--and a judge agreed.

    The man, who goes by the name 'Bishop' is a practitioner of a Native American religion, in which each person has a wild animal totem. His is a fox--hence, the hat he wears wherever he goes.
    Comment:  I'm guessing this man's "religion" is probably a joke. Getting a "spirit animal" or "animal totem," usually in a "vision quest," may be the biggest stereotype of Native religion.

    Yes, some Native religions have a practice vaguely like this, but as far as I know, it doesn't require wearing anything. It's even less likely that a Native religion would require wearing a children's plaything, or whatever "Bishop" has on.

    Offhand, I'd guess that this guy doesn't wear his fox hat everywhere. That he isn't a member of a tribe and can't name the tribe whose religion he supposedly practices. That he got the idea from Johnny Depp's crowhead, or something equally silly, and copied it. In short, that his beliefs are insincere.

    For more on the subject, see Rowling's Magic in North America.

    March 11, 2016

    "War cries" disrupt Native healing

    UW-Madison investigating after Ho-Chunk elder heckled with 'war cry' shouts

    By Nico SavidgeA group of people in a UW-Madison dorm room shouted stereotypical “war cry sounds” at a Ho-Chunk elder who had come to the campus for a healing ceremony Wednesday night, according to witnesses and university officials.

    UW-Madison has launched an investigation into the incident, which happened during a ceremony at the Dejope residence hall recognizing Native American victims of sexual assault, spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said.

    The Ho-Chunk elder had been singing traditional songs as part of the ceremony, which was held at an outdoor fire pit, when attendees said multiple people in a dorm room above them began shouting out of a window, drowning him out.

    Emily Nelis, a junior and member of the Native American student organization Wunk Sheek, described the noises as “really stereotypical, like you (hear) when they try to portray Natives in the old western movies.”
    More than a month later, this response came:

    UW students involved in interrupting a Native American ceremony apologize

    By Roger LotzThe students who interrupted a Native American ceremony at UW-Madison are now apologizing.

    On March 9, UW officials say someone disrupted a community healing circle outside of Dejope Hall with mock war cries.

    On Wednesday, the students sent an apology via email to three specific residence halls. The message will also be sent to the 380 Native Americans who are part of the UW-Madison campus community.

    UW officials say the email is part of the students' restorative justice process. This process is separate from the school's disciplinary process. However, it allows the students to directly apologize to those who were impacted by their actions and explain in their own words what happened. In this case, the restorative justice process had the students participate in four specific activities.

    Larry Davis, UW-Madison's Associate Residence Life Director, was able to share with 27 News three of the four actions taken. One is the email which began its distribution Wednesday (27 News was able to acquire the e-mail sent to residents of Bradley Hall). The second had the students sit down and explain their actions to the staff members involved in March's Native American ceremony. This step also included the students apologizing to those staff members. The final step was a meeting with Native American Leaders and specifically the tribal leader who was interrupted by the students during the ceremony. Once again, the students apologized to those in that meeting.

    March 10, 2016

    Rowling's Magic in North America

    JK Rowling's problems began with the first trailer for her expansion of the Harry Potter universe, Magic in North America:

    “Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

    By Adrienne KeeneI don’t really know what to say beyond my original letter, but I’ll reiterate it again. Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected. The fact that the trailer even mentions the Navajo concept of skinwalkers sends red flags all over the place, and that it’s mentioned next to the Salem witch trials? Disaster. Even the visual imagery of the only humans shown in the trailer being a Native man and burning girls places the two too close for comfort.

    We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors. Colonization erases our humanity, tells us that we are less than, that our beliefs and religions are “uncivilized”, that our existence is incongruent with modernity. This is not ancient history, this is not “the past.” The ongoing oppression of Native peoples is reinscribed everyday through texts and images like this trailer. How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?
    When Rowling released snippets of Magic in North America, Keene continued her analysis:

    Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.

    By Adrienne KeenePart 1 of MinNA, The 14th to 17th century, starts with this:

    Though European explorers called it ‘the New World’ when they first reached the continent, wizards had known about America long before Muggles (Note: while every nationality has its own term for ‘Muggle,’ the American community uses the slang term No-Maj, short for ‘No Magic’).

    So first off, we’re centering Europeans, calling brutal colonizers benign “explorers” (yes, it’s written for children, but I don’t think anyone would argue the HP canon is absent of intense violence).

    The Native American magical community and those of Europe and Africa had known about each other long before the immigration of European No-Majs in the seventeenth century.

    “The Native American community.” Oh man that loaded “the.” One of the largest fights in the world of representations is to recognize Native peoples and communities and cultures are diverse, complex, and vastly different from one another.

    The legend of the Native American ‘skin walker’–an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will–has its basis in fact. A legend grew up around the Native American Animagi, that they had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation.

    What you do need to know is that the belief of these things (beings?) has a deep and powerful place in Navajo understandings of the world. It is connected to many other concepts and many other ceremonial understandings and lifeways. It is not just a scary story, or something to tell kids to get them to behave, it’s much deeper than that.

    The magic wand originated in Europe.

    Wands are a European invention, so basically she’s demonstrating Eurocentric superiority here–the introduction of European “technology” helps bring the Native wizards to a new level. AKA colonial narrative 101.
    Others quickly chimed in, often quoting Keene's remarks:

    J.K. Rowling's New Story & Cultural Appropriation

    By Carolyn L. Todd"No doubt you'll use the cloak of artistic license." Keene contended, "It's not 'your' world. It's our (real) Native world. And skin walker stories have context, roots, and reality."

    And that, right there, is the issue, isn't it? Are we living in Rowling's world—where magic is real and all inspirations are fair game? Or are we occupying the real world, where there is a real heritage and history that merits respectful and accurate portrayals? And who gets to decide? Isn't Rowling the arbiter of her own universe? But then, aren't Native Americans entitled to ardently defend their culture and history, one that has been decimated in the real world and repeatedly mangled by pop culture?

    I don't have the answer to these questions, and I won't pretend that I have the experience or knowledge to speak on the issue with any authority. What I can say for sure is that had I read this piece in a bubble, without knowing about the accusations of cultural appropriation beforehand, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about how the tale might affect Native Americans.
    J.K. Rowling's latest wizardry prompts criticism from Native Americans

    UNDERSTANDING CULTURES: Harry Potter fans in Native American communities are disappointed with the depiction of their cultures and history in the British novelist's latest stories.

    By Cathaleen Chen
    The biggest challenge, Mr. Fleming tells The Monitor, was for Rowling to have recognized that charms, potions, and spirituality are already deeply entrenched in Native cultures.

    “It’s very flattering that she would want to extend her world into [the Native American] world, but it’s not a very good fit, because it’s too good of a fit,” he explains. “What happens is that you’re taking an assumptive fictional community–the wizarding world–and you’re trying to apply it to a culture where it’s not an assumptive fictional world. There are elements that are believed and practiced.”

    For instance, some Native tribes really do believe that “charms” have certain powers, and that “medicine men” can conjure supernatural abilities to heal wounds. But when Rowling renders such concepts in a fictional context, the pertinent cultures are thereby simplified, or even erased, to become stereotypes.

    Rowling's depictions become all the more dangerous, Houska says, because these misconceptions of Native people already exist in American culture.

    “Her fiction isn’t far off from what kids are learning in school books,” she says. Houska recalls being the only Native student in a school of white kids, and how discouraging it was to be taught a skewed version of her culture’s history.
    J.K. Rowling's History of Magic in North America Was a Travesty From Start to Finish

    By Katharine TrendacostaOne of the many things that made Harry Potter so great was the specificity. Rowling was drawing on real places to create Wizarding Britain. It was all based on things she knew backward and forwards.

    But American history and culture are not her fields. And the beliefs of the various Native American tribes and their histories was something she was especially not qualified to speak on. If you absolutely have to include these things, speak to some people.

    Creating a second history for an existing place that is not your own is not easy. It requires a lot of research. Research Rowling clearly didn’t do.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Pocahontas in Harry Potter.

    March 09, 2016

    America "not a good country for gods"?

    Why Adapting Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for TV Is a Bad Idea

    By Abraham Riesman[P]erhaps most offensive, we'll get the book's Big Statement About America, which is bizarrely insulting to Native Americans. Near the end of the novel, a Native American with magical powers named Whiskey Jack tells Shadow he's not a god, but rather a "culture hero," because the land we call America "is not a good country for gods."

    "There are creator spirits who found the earth or made it or shit it out, but you think about it: who's going to worship Coyote?" Whiskey Jack tells Shadow. "[W]e never built churches. We didn't need to."

    Really? No houses of prayer? How, then, do you account for the Longhouses the Iroquois built for their prayer ceremonies? And no true gods that anyone bothered worshipping? That's an insane generalization about more than ten thousand years' worth of spiritual culture across an entire continent.
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    By BrontëI wasn’t completely satisfied with the scope of the religions and cultures he represented. Of course, it would’ve been impossible for him to meaningfully represent every culture of the world in a 600-page novel, but most of the big characters from mythology were the easy choices, coming from popular European myth. It would’ve been nice to see a few more less popular, less Anglo-centric gods be given fleshed out stories or characters. There was almost nothing from South America. Does that count as part of the barren America?

    Which brings me to the subject of Native American representation. Gaiman justifies his plot-integral proposition that gods don’t thrive well in the Americas by stating that Native religions were truly more about land-worship and idols than the creation of gods. I know little about most Native religions, but 1) that’s a broad statement and 2) that just doesn’t seem fair. Can we truly say that or is this a case of misrepresentation and the molding of a culture to the author’s needs? I’m inclined to say the latter.
    Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 18

    By Mark Oshiro“What I’m trying to say is that America is like that. It’s not good growing country for gods. They don’t grow well here. They’re like avocados trying to grow in wild rice country.”

    And it proves to be a shockingly astute observation about the history of this place. There were plenty of indigenous people who lived in America long before white men came to bring disease and genocide, and I think that’s what he’s referring to. We are a nation built on imperialism and immigration, and what gods we did have that were grown here were lost in the genocide against the Native peoples. (Obviously not entirely, because there are still Native Americans living all over this country, many who still believe in the same gods, some who believe in new ones, and some who don’t believe in any at all. I’m not a fan of language about Native peoples that paints them as if they just up and ~disappeared~.)
    Comment:  "Not entirely" is putting it mildly. Thousands of Native cultures still exist in North, Central, and South America. Their gods probably have more true believers than Thoth, Anubis, Ēostre, the Queen of Sheba, and kobolds do.

    So how does Gaiman figure that America failed to produce gods while the "Old World" succeeded? The only significant religions left in Europe and the Middle East are the worldwide ones: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism. The indigenous or "pagan" religions are mostly gone.

    For more on American Gods, see Whiskey Jack in American Gods.

    March 08, 2016

    Whiskey Jack in American Gods

    With Starz planning a TV series of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, it's a good time to review the novel's Native aspects. It's been awhile since I read it, but I believe Whiskey Jack is the most prominent Native character:

    WisakedjakWisakedjak (Wìsakedjàk in Algonquin, Wīhsakecāhkw in Cree and Wiisagejaak in Oji-cree) is the Crane Manitou found in northern Algonquian and Dene storytelling, similar to the trickster god Nanabozho in Ojibwa aadizookaanan (sacred stories) and Inktonme in Assiniboine myth. He is generally portrayed as being responsible for a great flood which destroyed the world originally made by the Creator, as well as the one who created the current world with magic, either on his own or with powers given to him by the Creator for that specific purpose.

    Wisakedjak is a character in the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, where he is frequently referred to as "Whiskey Jack" as a corruption of the name. In the book, he appears as a native old man, who lives in a mobile home, somewhere near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with Johnney Appleseed.
    Comment:  For more on Neil Gaiman, see Gaiman Wrong on Graveyard Book and Neil Gaiman on "Dead Indians."

    March 05, 2016

    Approval sought for infantile mascot

    Douglas county schools move forward on mascot issue

    By Michael SullivanThree Douglas County school districts have decided to take the necessary steps to move forward with keeping their Native American mascots after a recent ruling made by the Oregon State Board of Education in January.

    The state board ruled that Oregon public schools could keep their Native American mascots, pending approval from an Oregon tribe.

    The ruling would allow Roseburg High School to remain as the Indians as long as the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe agrees. The ruling also allows the Reedsport Community Charter School Braves and the North Douglas High School Warriors in Drain to seek approval from tribes to keep their mascots as well.

    “Right now we have sent a proposed Memorandum of Understanding to the Cow Creek Tribe and their attorneys are looking at that and making changes to it,” said Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn.
    Comment:  Someone could write a whole article on schools that use infantilized Indian mascots.

    The "Warrior" image above has the usual problems: a half-naked savage in an aggressive stance using warlike implements. In addition, the child is simultaneously 1) wild and untamed, and 2) a cute, cuddly plaything for his white masters. He's a defanged threat--like a wolf that's been neutered.

    The school district might as well repeat the commonplace 19th-century tropes. White folks = the Great White Father who is wise and powerful. Indians = naive and helpless children who need a firm hand. Because that's what they're saying with this mascot.

    And this is the mascot that the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe is thinking of approving. It isn't a warrior, it's a child. It has nothing to do with Cow Creek culture, Oregon tribal culture, or Native American culture.

    It's a pure fiction...yet somehow Cow Creek has the right to approve it? That shows you how corrupt the Oregon mascoting process is. If the system were concerned with shielding schoolchildren from racism, this racist stereotype would be disqualified automatically. There's no justification for it...none.

    For more on the subject, see "Mohawk Indians" Seek Grand Ronde's Approval and Grand Ronde: We'll Decide About Mascots.

    March 04, 2016

    Dance team mocks Paiute culture

    Native American says performance from Utah high school’s dance team mocked tribe’s culture

    By Kiersten NuñezA dance routine performed by a Utah high school drill team is getting backlash for its cultural insensitivity to Native Americans.

    The video has amassed nearly 20,000 views after it was posted by a parent who saw the performance during a halftime show last week at Cedar High School--home of the “Redmen.”

    “The outfits, the music, the way they were dancing, the feathers, the way they were wearing the regalia: I thought it was mocking Native American people rather than honoring them,” said Teyawnna Sanden, who is a member of the Paiute Tribe.

    Dancing to drums with echoes of an eagle in the background, members of the Redmen's drill team were on the gymnasium floor wearing colorful feathers and braided wigs.

    CHS under fire for Native American halftime dance

    By Bree BurkittLast Friday’s halftime performance by the Mohey Tawa Cedar High School drill team has drawn criticisms for the depiction of Native American dress and culture.

    The CHS drill team danced to “tribal” music filled with eagle sounds, traditional singing and drumming while wearing braided wigs and fake feathers during last Friday’s basketball game.

    The drill team has performed the dance “on several occasions,” according to Iron County School District Superintendent Shannon Dulaney.

    The routine came under fire when a video was posted on Facebook by Teyawnna Sanders, a parent of one of the basketball players.

    “Why should I have to explain why a non-native is dancing that way?” Sanders commented on the video. “If asked, Cedar’s answer most likely be that they are honoring us. Please do us a favor and don’t. Honor our sovereignty, our treaties—honor us by getting cultural diversity training. But please stop with this.”
    How it happened

    Paiute Tribal Council responds to Cedar High drill routine

    By Cody SmithThe Tribal Council of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah stated its disappointment in Cedar High School’s Mohey Tawa drill team for performing a dance routine it called culturally insensitive.

    In response, John Dodds, Cedar High School principal, has assured the Tribal Council the dance will no longer be performed.

    “The dance routine imitates the fancy shawl dance which is known as the ‘Butterfly Dance’ or ‘Graceful Shawl Dance,’” Tribal Chairwoman Corrina Bow said in a recent press release. “The performance by the drill team showed no comprehension of this dance style. The way it was performed, with the dancers wearing wigs, holding fans and making dramatic movements, such as legs raised high in the air and bending over, misrepresented the beauty and graceful style of actual fancy shawl dancers.”

    According to the release, Mohey Tawa coach Janene McCurdy, along with other representatives of the drill team, met with the Tribal Council last April to inform council members they were developing a routine that incorporated Native American culture. Members of the Tribal Council reportedly expressed concern of the use of headdresses, eagle feathers, face paint and wigs.
    Tribal Council says Cedar High School’s dance team mocked culture

    By Tracie SullivanDulaney remembers the meeting being held at the end of November at which time, she said, school representatives walked away thinking they had approval.

    “Drill team leadership came away from the meeting with the understanding that full support had been given to the dance and the costumes that were intended to portray honor and respect for the Native American culture,” she said.

    The council, however, has another memory of what transpired. According to the Tribal Council’s news release, the council did not approve the dance but recommended the drill team work with the Paiute Indian Tribe’s cultural resources director. They also asked to see and approve the dance before the girls performed it in public, according to the release.

    “Unfortunately, the drill team did not follow up on any of the Tribal Council’s recommendations,” the news release stated.
    Video: School's Halftime Show Called ‘Offensive’; New Poll Finds Fewer Favor R-Word Mascot

    March 03, 2016

    Diversity lacking at 2016 Oscars

    Chris Rock’s Oscars didn’t “fight the power”: A night of crude jokes and cynical deflection is a poor way to show progress

    Rock's big night shows us Hollywood wants it both ways—for movies to be powerful art and blameless entertainment

    By Arthur Chu
    The stage was set with Chris Rock’s opening monologue, which, while it certainly directly addressed the #OscarsSoWhite issue, made two breathtakingly tone-deaf arguments in quick succession: One, that the Oscars (and representation in entertainment media in general) is really not that big a deal, and two, the reason people are making a stink about it now is that we are no longer dealing with things that are big deals, like the actual violence and murder protested by the 1960s civil rights movement.

    This was an incredibly stupid thing to say. The fact that #OscarsSoWhite has trended in tandem with its preceding sister hashtag #BlackLivesMatter isn’t exactly subtle to anyone who’s ever glanced at so-called Black Twitter. (Which Rock clearly has, given his much-appreciated last-minute shout-out to #BlackLivesMatter at the end of the ceremony.) A #BlackLivesMatter documentary addressing the violence and murder going on in the streets right now was commissioned by HBO as a direct result of the uncomfortable negative attention #OscarsSoWhite put on the film industry.

    Acting like caring about day-to-day violence in the streets and the impact media and culture have on that violence are somehow mutually exclusive—a common, frustrating, tired argument anyone who talks about racism in media will inevitably see dozens of times in the comments section—ignores history.

    It ignores the many, many arguments that have been made about how the excuses made for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown frequently come verbatim from untrue stereotypes out of TV and movies, how the only way Darren Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” who was “bulking up to get through the bullets” could possibly make sense to anyone is after a lifetime of media portrayals of the scary superhuman black man. It ignores Martin Luther King going out of his way to call Nichelle Nichols and tell her not to quit “Star Trek” because having a black woman on TV who wasn’t a domestic servant mattered. It ignores the ongoing civil rights protests around the Oscars back in the 1960s and ’70s, including Marlon Brando making history as the first and only best actor winner to boycott the ceremony, sending American Indian Movement activist Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award in his place.

    It ignores the fact that at the very moment Chris Rock was talking, there was a “Justice for Flint” fundraiser going on in protest of the Oscars, hosted by two black prominent filmmakers snubbed for best director nods who used #OscarsSoWhite to bring attention to the cause of a predominantly black community whose water was literally poisoned.
    8 Reasons Why I Hated Chris Rock's Oscars Monologue

    Opinions about the funnyman's opener ranged from "he told the truth" to "I laughed at parts," to "it sucked." Here are eight reasons why Akiba Solomon wishes it never happened.

    By Akiba Solomon
    One: Rock was foul for saying that Jada Pinkett Smith was only boycotting the Oscars because she wasn't invited. I can see why some see Pinkett Smith's actions as calculated and insincere, but Rock didn't say that. Instead, he reduced everything—the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, the boycott and the alternate events (including one starring his brother)—to the sour grapes of a self-centered, spoiled, unqualified Black woman. It was also dumb. Because Jada Pinkett Smith can get into the Oscars.

    Two: #OscarsSoWhite isn't some silly little hashtag. This year, people of all races have used it to talk about the problems large and small with an awards show that nominates strictly White actors across 20 categories. Plus the hashtag, news coverage and discussions provided Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Black woman who heads up the Academy, with the political cover I believe she needed to change membership and voting rules that have grossly privileged elderly White men for years.

    Three: Claiming that Black people care about #OscarsSoWhite because we have nothing real to be mad about was hostile to the truth. Here is a man who made an (uneven, sexist) documentary about Black hair in 2009 because his daughter was sad about not having "good hair." But in 2016, Rock knows nothing of contemporary Black struggle? Like, when people say "Black lives matter," does he hear, "Tekjjdioj gj()gui p;/00+"? Does "I can't breathe" bring anything to mind? How about "Sandra Bland," "Michael Brown," "Eric Garner" and "not guilty"?

    Four: Using the image of a Black grandmother hanging from a tree as a punch line was blasphemous. This country has never atoned for its history of lynching, castrating and fatally dragging Black people from pickup trucks. Nor has it meaningfully addressed the burning of entire Black towns, race riots and other lynching-adjacent crimes.
    Commentary: Joe Biden wasn't as funny at the Oscars as Chris Rock, but at least he didn't make an Asian joke

    By Dexter ThomasAs the show progressed, some people who were watching used Twitter to ask why Chris Rock wasn't talking about all underrepresented people, instead of just black people. This has been a point of concern for a while, as some have assumed that just because the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was started by a black woman, it must be black-focused, though the originator has repeatedly clarified that she was speaking of inclusion for all people.

    The argument spun off into a separate conversation under the #NotYourMule hashtag, as people argued over whether black people should need to stand up for other people of color at every opportunity.

    And really, Chris Rock shouldn't have to deal with this criticism: While he may have focused on the lack of opportunities available to black talent Sunday night, he is on record talking about diversity issues in Hollywood that go beyond black and white. In 2014, he wrote in the Hollywood Reporter:

    But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans. It's the most liberal town in the world, and there's a part of it that's kind of racist—not racist like "... you, ..." racist, but just an acceptance that there's a slave state in L.A. There's this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn't exist anywhere else.

    That insight was nowhere to be found at the Oscars on Sunday when he made a cheap joke about Asian child labor.
    The Oscars’ awkward & insincere masochism: Why the #OscarsSoWhite ceremony felt like such a disappointment

    Last night's show was defined less by Chris Rock's uneven hosting turn than by the Academy's cognitive dissonance

    By Jack Mirkinson
    Watching this extended masochism session was a strange experience. We were told, time and again, how wrong the Oscars had gotten things, and then another award was given out and the violins swelled and an oh-so-worthy Oscar moment was had. The show was desperate for us to know how sorry it was to have failed us so thoroughly, but it also wanted us to remain utterly devoted to both the people who did get nominated and to the broader idea of importance and integrity of the Oscars. The cognitive dissonance seeped through the entire night.

    One thing that really didn’t help was the ceremony’s complete tone-deafness about any diversity that didn’t fit into a black-white framework. Rock did a bit about Asians—using children, no less—that was so off-key, so glaringly unfunny that you wondered how it had gotten through in a year when the show was trying to prove that it had its finger on the pulse. Aside from winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and a couple of short film awardees, Asians and Latinos had virtually no presence for the entire evening. It was, to say the least, an odd choice.
    After Oscars, Hashtags Ask: Does One Minority Group Have to Fight for Another?

    By Karen WorkmanNo sooner had the curtains closed on the 88th Academy Awards, which was punctuated by Chris Rock’s scathing but broadly praised opening monologue on racism in Hollywood, than a new battle had reached a fever pitch on social media. And it had its own hashtag: #notyourmule.

    Some viewers took issue with what they saw as the narrow focus of Mr. Rock’s opening monologue, which skewered racism in Hollywood but, they said, ignored the concerns of Asian, Latino and other minority artists. Others slammed the comedian’s bit involving Asian children posing as accountants as reinforcing negative stereotypes.
    Summing it up

    Critic's Notebook: Chris Rock's Monologue Is All #OscarsSoWhite All the Time

    By Daniel FienbergFor viewers who think that Academy Awards diversity is not a problem at all, it was presumably way too monomaniacal, especially if you were hoping that Rock would unload on Donald Trump for a few minutes just to soften the blow of Jon Stewart's absence from late night.

    But for people who think this actually is a serious thing because movies are supposed to be a reflection of society—and the Oscars are supposed to be a reflection of the best in movies—the actual effectiveness may have been mixed. Rock attacked the problem, while minimizing it; announced the racism, but made it seem benign and friendly; offered solutions, but the main feigned solution was black-only categories like "best black friend" ("And the winner for the 18th year in a row is, Wanda Sykes!").
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Asian Jokes at 2016 Oscars and Recapping the 2016 Oscars.