Tag Archives: american indian


Quoted: Payday Nation

Lone Hill said she had no problem with the loans because they were not made on the reservation.

Besides, she added, the Oglala Sioux have suffered long enough. “We’re getting hurt here too by our own people and our government and our country, who are not treating us fairly,” she said.

“When you deal with people who are impoverished, they will go for any idea that promises cash,” said David Mills, the director of the tribe’s economic development office and Catches the Enemy’s boss.

Catches the Enemy said her opposition to payday lending didn’t make her “a popular person” on the reservation. But she knew she was right to oppose the project: Her daughter, Yolanda, had lost the title to her truck several years earlier after taking out a car title loan, which like a payday loan comes at a high interest rate.

Elizabeth Rowland, who serves as treasurer of the Wakpamni district, agreed with Catches the Enemy. Her son, she said, had almost lost his van after taking out a similar loan.

After that experience, Rowland said she gave him some simple advice: “Don’t ever get involved with one of those loans again.”

— The Tribe That Said No (via Al Jazeera’s Pay Day Nation series), by Nicholas Nehamas; published 6-17-14

Is “Queen Chief Warhorse” Native? And Who Gets To Decide?

by Guest Contributor Deb Reese, originally published at American Indians in Children’s Literature

Yesterday (May 2nd, 2012), Latoya Peterson of Racialicious published my post about “Queen Chief Warhorse” at her site. In it I questioned the use of “Queen.” Latoya also posted an essay by Gyasi Ross and one of her own. The three generated many comments. Some people question the import of federal recognition. Some people see the discussion as racist. This is my response to that conversation.

In Part One (below), I return to the remarks made by “Queen Chief Warhorse” that night in New Orleans. Here’s the video, and beneath it are her remarks, followed by my thoughts (then and now) about what she said. In Part Two, I address some of the Latoya’s questions.



“All glory go to the Creator. It’s an honor to be here today, but I love the theme: America Healing. But first, let’s think about something. Where did America come from? Have it always been America? Or was it just created to be America? Who are the real Americans? America keep changing and changing and changing.”

Debbie’s response:
With her “let’s think about something,” she asked the audience to hit the pause button and be critical thinkers. That’s a good thing for any speaker to do.

I invite you (and her) to think critically about her question “Who are the real Americans?” It is factually incorrect for her to call the Indigenous peoples of this land Americans. When Europeans arrived here, they entered into diplomatic negotiations with leaders of Indigenous nations. The outcome of those negotiations were treaties, just like the treaties the US makes today with nations around the world. They didn’t make treaties with “First Americans.” They made treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations. None of them were called “America” and their citizens didn’t call themselves “Americans.” (If you’re interested in treaties, you can read some of them online, but I urge you to get the two-volume set, Documents of American Indian Diplomacy, edited by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Raymond J. DeMallie. It is more comprehensive and it provides context for reading the treaties.)

We were, and are, sovereign nations. Categorizing us beneath the multicultural umbrella obscures our status as sovereign nations and leads people to think that we want to be Americans, just like everybody else. In some ways we do, and some ways we don’t. For the most part, that multicultural umbrella is about people of color. We (Indigenous peoples) might be people of color, but we are, first and foremost, citizens of sovereign nations. Some of us look the way people think Indians should look, but some of us don’t. Some of us look like we ought to be called “African American” instead, and some of us look White. What we look like doesn’t matter.

Some might think that the “we are not people of color” statement is racist, I hope you see it isn’t about race. It is about sovereignty. Continue reading

Native American Images in Video Games

Minority representation in video games just straight up sucks. Over the last few weeks, two new projects debuted that focus specifically on Native Americans.

The first is a short video. Directed and narrated by Irish, Anishinaabe, Metis writer Beth Aileen Lameman and edited by Beaver Lake Cree filmmaker Myron Lameman, the video looks at really common stereotypes being deployed in game narratives. Lameman points to the common framings of “cowboys vs. indians,” guides, and “wise old Indians” and heavy doses of the white savior narrative and the “half-breed hero” trope.

Native Representations in Video Games from Beth Aileen Lameman on Vimeo.

The second is an essay over at Project COE that tackles the politics behind representation:

“How many kids will play this game and then carry what they’ve experienced into their interactions with real, live Apaches and other Native Americans?” the Association for American Indian Development asked video game publishing giant Activision in a public letter accusing the company’s 2006 PC and console title GUN of containing “some very disturbing racist and genocidal elements toward Native Americans”. The AAID went on to launch an online petition demanding that Activision “remove all derogatory, harmful, and inaccurate depictions of American Indians” from the game and reissue a more culturally sensitive version, threatening to campaign to have the game pulled from store shelves internationally. Although Activision thereafter issued an apology to anyone who may have been offended by the game, they justified the content of their product by pointing out that such depictions had already been “conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books, and other media”. The AAID’s subsequent attempts to have the game recalled were barely acknowledged.

As evident in Activision’s defense of GUN, many negative stereotypes about Native American culture are so ingrained in mainstream media that the near-genocide of an entire culture is rarely treated with the same sensitivity with which we regard similarly tragic occurrences like the Holocaust, or African American slavery. The AAID argues that video games like GUN undermine the severity of the atrocities committed against First Nations tribes by the European settlers and marginalize this violence in a way that negatively affects the image of contemporary Native Americans. Millions of people play video games, and entertainment can leave long-lasting impressions on consumers, making it important to be able to criticize misconceptions and separate fantasy from reality. The impact of media on our mentality towards people and events certainly cannot be underestimated, so it is understandable that an organization such as the AAID should be concerned about what kind of images audiences are exposed to, but were their claims about GUN‘s potentially damaging effects warranted?

REEL INJUN: Film about portrayals of American Indians in movies

by Guest Contributor Debbie Reese, originally published at American Indians in Children’s Literature

There’s been a lot of buzz amongst friends and colleagues about the film Reel Injun. The title itself says a lot. “Reel” —a reel of film—and “Injun”—a derogatory word for Indian—but the title also points to what is missing from film and from children’s and young adult literature: real Indians.

Saying the phrase, “real Indians”, makes me cringe. First, it is the year 2010, and we—people who are American Indian—encounter people who think we were all wiped out by enemy tribes, disease, or war.  Or, people who think that in order to be “real Indians” we have to live our lives the same ways our ancestors did. Course, they don’t expect their own identities and lives to look like those of their own ancestors… In principle, we are a lot like anyone else. We have ways of thinking about the world and ways of being in that world (spiritually and materially) that were–and are—handed down from one generation to the next. Though we wear jeans and athletic shoes (or business suits and dress shoes), we also maintain clothing we sometimes wear for spiritual and religious purposes. Just like any cultural group, anywhere. Continue reading


by Guest Contributor Brandann R. Hill-Mann ( OuyangDan)

I grew up a happy, well loved child. I spent my summers resisting shoes and with water-logged skin, insisting I wasn’t cold, even when my lips were purple. My world was a moose’s walk from Canada where I straddled two worlds, never knowing it because I was blissfully unaware until I was much older that I was any different than the other people around me.

One world was that of my Mother’s family. Just off of a Reservation, humid and sweltering in the summer and man-high piles of snow and ice in the winter. We built houses with doors on the second floor, and two mailboxes to make sure you could reach one in the winter. A Northern Michigan Tribe with roots shared in Southern Canada’s First Nations, we were just emerging from that place where it was embarrassing to be ‘injun’. A Native fishing family, we were not exactly well off, but we had floors in our houses and indoor plumbing in an area where owning your own septic system was a sign of great privilege. My grandparents were well respected in our community for being fair and honest, if my Grandfather had a bit of a reputation for a temper if you were trying to be unfair to someone less fortunate than he was.

My mom met my dad when they were very young, and the stories varied depending on who did the telling – and I can’t ask him anymore since he’s been passed away ten years, but I know that my mom was about ten or so. She was about thirteen when they snuck smokes together, and I don’t know how old they were when they realized that they were dating. I do know that they spent about a year apart after my mom graduated high school, and when she showed up with me in her arms, my dad didn’t flinch, and adopted me straight away. Biological or adopted, I was fathered by a white man of European descent.

My Dad’s family was another world. His parents were first generation immigrants — depending on who did the defining — with my grandfather an unexpected surprise to his parents who had just immigrated from Italy, and my grandmother of Dutch parentage. My dad grew up in a privileged white world to a smart businessman of a father who ran a fair business in beer distribution. Every one owed my grandfather,or Papa Joe, a favor at one point or another, even if he had a bit of a temper if you were trying to be unfair. This family loved and doted on me, and I never knew that I was not of their blood until I was a much older child in need of a full medical history. My grandfather even created a unique nickname for me: wopajo. Continue reading

Anachronism and American Indians

by Guest Contributor Lisa, originally published at Sociological Images

In many places in the midwest the American Indian is very present, but in other places in the U.S., like in California, Disney’s Pocahontas is as close as we get to “Indians.” The idea that American Indians are gone comes, in part, from the ubiquitous representation of them with feathers, buckskins, and moccasins. These anachronisms are everywhere (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here).

American Indians are as modern as the rest of us, why are representations of American Indians, as they live today, so unusual? And what effect might that have on the psyche of American Indian people?

Via PostSecret.

Indigenous Feminism and Cultural Appropriation

by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee

Last year, a friend of mine told me that actress Juliette Lewis started up a band and that their sound was seriously a rockin’.

I was like “Really? Cool!” since I’d always appreciated the versatility Lewis demonstrated in her acting craft with movies like “The Other Sister,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” or even “Old School.”

Off to Google I went searching for her website, when I came up with this image:

Oh no, not again.

Another appropriator.

A quick glance at their website and various other fan photo materials reveals even worse.

Continue reading

Quoted (WTF Edition): Dan Savage

For some reason, I have always found Native Americans to be sexually attractive. But the semidark skin and traditional breechcloth thing isn’t easy to find in porn or real life. I was wondering if you had some pointers for someone with a bad case of Native American Jungle Fever.
– Native Amateur

“The letter writer is correct,” says Sherman Alexie, a Native American and a National Book Award–winning author who was willing to demean himself by giving me a quote. “There is a dearth of Native American porn.”

But Alexie tells me that once, while hunting for antique board games, he typed “cowboy and Indian action figures” into Google and found his way to a site that featured U.S. Cavalry soldiers and loinclothed Indians smoking more than peace pipes. But that’s all he’s got, pornwise. As for real life…

“There’s just no way your reader is going to find an Indian willing to put on a loincloth for sexual purposes,” says Alexie. “Unless that Indian is a seriously damaged, culturally disconnected, politically unaware, and unsafe-sex-practicing slut.”

I part ways with Alexie here. Not because I know more about Native Americans or Native American kinks. Goodness, no. But over the years, I’ve heard from too many healthy, politically aware, and sexually safe African Americans who dig role-playing slavery scenarios—and too many good Jews who get off on concentration-camp scenarios, and too many polite Canadians who adore clueless-American-tourist scenarios (“Ooh, ask me who our ‘president’ is again!”)—to rule out the possibility that there are smart, safe Native Americans genuinely interested in role-playing cowboys-in-injuns out there somewhere. But they’re gonna be rare, NA.

So what can you do to up your odds of finding the action you seek?

“If the letter writer is an attractive blond female,” says Alexie, “she can head to the next powwow in the region where she lives, pick out a handsome fancydancer, and hit on him. She’ll either get laid in the back of a casino-money-financed SUV or she’ll get assaulted by a roving band of Indian women looking to protect our most precious and dwindling resource: Native American men.”

Dan, I need to know. What bodily function is the opposite of an orgasm? Thanks a lot.
– Could Use More

“Though it’s not exactly a bodily function, the back spasm is the opposite of an orgasm,” says Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award–winning author.

“Why did he send that question to Alexie?” some of my readers are no doubt asking themselves. That is a question only a thoughtless bigot would ask and I shouldn’t dignify it with a response. But let’s approach this as a teaching moment: I sent this question to Alexie because he is the father of two and, we can reasonably extrapolate, the haver of orgasms, which more than qualifies him. Back to Alexie:

“While the orgasm is the pleasurable release of stress, the back spasm is the painful reminder of collected and unexpelled stress. I am currently typing one-handed because I am shoving my fist deep into my lower back as some sort of half-assed pressure-point massage. Of course, since the U.S. has become a chair-and-computer culture, the number of people who are currently massaging their wrecked backs is vastly larger than the number who are massaging their sexual organs.”

And when you pause to consider that all of the U.S. and most of Canada were basically built on top of a giant Indian graveyard, I’d say we’re getting off easy with a little lower-back pain.

—Excerpted from Savage Love, “Cowboys-in-Injuns,” published September 4th, 2008.