Tag Archives: american indian

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.

PART ONE

Warhorse:

“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

Wopajo

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.

Barack Obama and the Native Vote

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Like millions of people all over the world, I’m ecstatic, over-the-moon inspired by Obama’s win. If for no other reason (and all the others too in which we share the same opinion, like abortion for example) than his win is actually a good thing for the people in my community. Yes indeed, the new leadership of Barack Obama in the United States of America is good for Native people, and you can sure as hell bet that a whole lot of us voted for him, and are counting on him to really give a crap about the issues we are facing.

Like right now.

Several times last night, I heard:

“If a Black man can do it, so can we.”
“We need a Native Barack Obama.”
“A man of colour in office is a victory for us all!”

Which were all great things to hear than the usual cutting each other up in stereotypes and ignorance I usually see. To me, this represented an unveiling of a layer of oppression, where you had the Indigenous peoples of this land busting ass so that a fellow marginalized person could clean house with votes within a system none of us created, to make real change that we all sorely need.

Especially if you are still being colonized, I might add.

The First Americans for Obama Campaign was a true attempt at engaging the Native Americans here to work in solidarity with Obama on our common ground issues, and get the Democratic Party to pay a little more attention to the severity of what is going on in our communities. I’ll admit myself that when I first heard about it, I immediately wanted to jump on the bandwagon of actually seeing our people represented in such a public light with the star that is Obama, but now being at the end of the campaign, I can honestly say that it did not do a good enough job of reaching out to where we actually are, which for a high percentage of us is in rural and remote places. In addition to that important factor, I have several friends and family members who although they were Obama supporters, refused to even wear a “First American for Obama” t-shirt, because of the offensive nature of referring to us as “Americans”, which of course we are not. Continue reading

Open Season on Natives

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

This past Friday, I received a few e-mails with this shocker:

“Today a shock jock named T-Man on 93.3 F.M. in Seattle made some very racist remarks stating “All native women are hoes because [we] have casinos & [we're] all drunk”.

Apparently it got even worse from there. Interestingly enough, on the 9am portion of the website of T-MAN ON DEMAND, those comments are nowhere to be found.

I’m saying “shocker” with a written tone of sarcasm, because this is like the 10th e-mail I received this week with someone in my community outcrying against blatantly overt, extreme racism that has happened that barely anyone is reacting to, yet again.

Why, only yesterday, the Globe and Mail here in Canada ran an opinion piece by notorious bigot Margaret Wente, describing how high-profile Olympics official Dick Pound, who called the Canada of 400 years ago “a country of savages”, said something “dumb, but true.” [Ed Note - More on that later in the week. - LDP]

And as far as radio shows are concerned, I’ll pick two stand-out racist performances this year for you to additionally remember. One in Alaska where they said “you aren’t an Alaskan until you’ve made love to the Yukon and peed in a Native woman” and another in North Carolina where they called us “lazy” among other slanderous highlights, and said specifically that the Lumbee tribe are “inbred,” referenced Pocahontas as “Poca-ho-tas,” and Sacajawea as “Sacacooter.”

I could write on and on about my anger, frustration, sadness and disapointment with the human race in general, or about how little of the population in North America we actually make up and how huge the present-day racism we have to battle with is, and when I get more energy to I probably will, a lot more eloquently. But in the mean time, please do us a favour and if you are angry too, let the THE KUBE radio station (93.3 FM) in Seattle hear it.

And pray that one day, the First Peoples of this land might catch a break with being publicly repressed. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

(Indigenous Wonder Woman Image Credit: Comic Art Indigène via ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk)

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