Category Archives: american indian/native american/first nations

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman And The State Of Period Dramas

By Guest Contributor Kendra James

Principal cast of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

Late in the second season of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, there’s an episode where the Klu Klux Klan comes to Colorado Springs in the form of a bank official peddling a “social club” for men. “Like the lady’s quilting circle,” the women claim, unknowingly sewing uniforms for the men to use during their first outing.

But when they put those uniforms on and Grace, half of the show’s one Black couple, is cornered by three Klan members, the situation takes a disturbing turn. The Klansmen grab her in broad daylight and hold her down against one of her restaurant tables. At first it seems an act of rape is imminent. Yet, somehow, when they rip her hair down from the carefully constructed bun she wears and begin to slowly carve it away with a barbershop razor while she screams, it seems almost worse–more intimate–than what could have been.

Jonelle Allen as Grace on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

That episode, “The First Circle,” aired during a season where the show averaged 13.46 million viewers per episode for CBS–an incredibly strong showing for a family-oriented show that aired at 8:00 on Saturday nights. As the 49th most watched show in America, it was up against the 104th and 113th most watched shows from ABC, NBC, and FOX, and was outperformed only by another CBS Saturday-night show, Walker, Texas Ranger. Dr. Quinn, which starred British actress Jane Seymour, had a relatively family-friendly facade and–since “family-friendly” often goes hand-in-hand with a sugarcoating of American history–the topics it chose to handle are always a welcome surprise.

Episodes like “The First Circle” were an indication of not only how good Dr. Quinn could be, but how much television has changed and what our current period television dramas often fail to do and acknowledge. In its own way, the show regularly dealt with issues like racism, immigration, and gender equality, but often touched on more nuanced subjects as well. The white encroachment on Cheyenne lands, mob lynchings of African-Americans, marital rape, and domestic abuse were only a few themes explored throughout the series. Unlike many period dramas, Dr. Quinn never shied away from dealing with the difficult realities of its setting laid out.
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Nothing Says Native American Heritage Month Like White Girls In Headdresses

By Guest Contributor Sasha Houston Brown

Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s “Looking Hot” video. Via theinsider.com

There is something insidiously ironic about being American Indian during the fall of the 21st century. It all starts with Columbus Day to mark our “discovery,” then moves right into the “it’s totally not racist to dress up as a hypersexualized Indian” awkward Halloween party, and goes out with a bang on Thanksgiving when we celebrate the survival of the Pilgrims and that harmonious, mutually beneficial relationship forged between colonizers and Indigenous peoples everywhere! However romanticized or factually inaccurate, these holidays happen to be the three days when Native peoples actually enter the mass psyche of American culture.

I don’t know about you, but I usually spend this time of year parading around in my Navajo Hipster panties, feather headdress (on loan from Karlie Kloss and Gwen Stefani), Manifest Destiny T-Shirt and knee-high fringed moccasins made in Taiwan while watching a Redskins game, smoking a pack of American Spirits, and eating genetically modified Butter Ball turkey, because I’m just that traditional.
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Russell Means, Lightning, And Sexiness: The Toughest Indian In The Whole World

A young Russell Means. Image via Race-Talk.org

By Guest Contributor Gyasi Ross, cross-posted from Race-Talk

… After I die, I’m coming back as lightning. When it zaps the White House, they’ll know it’s me.
- Russell Means

I never met Russell Means. I had the chance to meet him when I was a kid. In fact, I saw him a few times as a youngster, but I was so intimidated by him—he seemed bigger than life—I never actually went to speak to him. I heard a lot of things about him as I grew older; good stuff, bad stuff. However, he was somebody about whom, as Native people, everybody seemed to hold an opinion.

When I heard of his passing, I was sad, just like when you hear about anyone of your heroes passing. I know members of his family, and that made it even more painful; yet, I thought it was appropriate the fashion and time in which he passed—on his own terms, loudly, and with the world taking notice.

I don’t think that it was a coincidence that he passed at the exact moment that the National Congress of American Indians’ Annual Conference was convening. Big Brother Means was a throwback, a non-conformist, a fighter. He wanted nothing to do with this current era of conciliatory politics, where many tribal leaders work hand-in-hand with the same US government that has historically worked for Native peoples’ demise.
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Excerpt: On Halloween And ‘Native’ Costumes

The Wider Society Says: Totally cool. They are honoring Native Americans…they are just having fun…these people claim Native American ancestry…these are not racist costumes…so its okay…

I guess the Civil Rights Movement was only for certain groups and racism only counts against some minorities but not all.

Society as a whole does not condemn these outfits and they are even considered fashionable at the moment. While all hell breaks loose over other racist costumes, these tend to go without notice to the point that many consider it a legitimate or even fashionable option. Seriously, even progressive websites listing racist costumes conspicuously forget Native American costumes. I honestly did not attend a Halloween party yesterday because if I ran into a well-educated white and affluent peer of mine dressed as a Native American I do not know what I would do.
- From Speak Faithfullly

Voices: Russell Means (1939-2012)


- Russell Means, May 2011.

One thing about Russell I always remembered, and I think someone else once said it, you may have loved him, or you may have disliked him, but you couldn’t ignore him. I’ll always remember when an elder said one time, I was at a ceremony and I asked what this half shaped moon circle on the ground meant, and he said it was a symbol of the circle of life, the never ending of the circle of life, and I said there is only half a circle, and he said the other half was unseen, it is the spirit world. For Indian people it never ends, we don’t have a linear existence, so I know I will see Russell again, and I take comfort in that thought. For men like Russell Means don’t come along in a lifetime very often. He was truly an inspiration for all of us younger guys at the time.
- Leonald Peltier, via Aboriginal Press News

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: Wuthering Heights Reimagined And The Gap’s Anti-First Nations T-Shirt

By Andrea Plaid

Reblogged this excerpt of an In These Times post from thesmithian:

…the reimagining of Heathcliff, that “dark-skinned” “gipsy”…as a black man…Brontë’s Heathcliff was repeatedly evoked as “dark,” and culled from the slums of Liverpool (a port fraught with immigrants). But in movies and theater, he has always manifested as white, from Laurence Olivier to Tom Hardy. Brontë may not have intended Heathcliff to have been a full-on African—which in the 1700s meant being a slave—but Arnold’s coup turns the old story around, from a wicked love-lost tragedy into a crisis of a society suffering the guilt and ghosts of slavery.

Tumblizen purple01_prose added this commentary:

Here’s the thing. Christopher Haywood, in his annotated edition of Wuthering Heights, examines the race of Heathcliff at length. Given all of the coding of Heathcliff as ‘dark,’ Haywood explained some of the racial terms of the time, and some of the beliefs of a time, like in how many generations someone with African ancestry with dark skin could have a descendant with white skin. (at least 6, with a white partner for every generation). There were names for each generation.

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Quoted: Adrienne K. On The History Of The Stanford Mascot

Yeah, that’s a wild-eyed tomahawk wielding Indian holding the SKIN of the Arizona Wildcat. Right, this is honoring, this is showing pride in Native peoples and traditions. I felt sick to my stomach as I took the picture. She was babbling on and on about the mascot back in the day, and honestly, my ears were roaring with shame and rage, and I missed the majority of what she said. I caught the end though; “We always said, when they got rid of the Indian, ‘well, that’s just another Indian out of a job!’” I looked at her with a blank face and turned my back.
- From Native Appropriations

Voices: Taking Back ‘Columbus Day’

For the United States of America to have a federal holiday in honor of that particular moment of “discovery” in 1492, is unconscionable on many levels.

To celebrate that moment is to celebrate the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

To cheer about Columbus is to cheer the coming of the first European slave trader to the Americas.

To praise what happened in 1492 is to implicitly praise the very real and very terrible results of that contact between peoples.
- Jessica Luther, Speaker’s Corner in the ATX

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