Tag Archives: american indian

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.

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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.

“Why are you trying to be black when you’re red?”

by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee

The whole “acting black” label isn’t an unheard one in really any community these days, but I’ve always thought it was an interesting one to hear in my own community, from my own people.

Let me give it to you straight and say I already know how much we have in common; Native/Indigenous peoples and Black/people of African descent. While we might have been born here (although the jury is still out on where we all actually came from) y’all were dragged here, and not by your own choice. And you came from a place with a strong Indigenous identity and spiritual centre.

Not to mention of course the number of “Black Indians” there are, who some say represent almost 50% of African Americans today (with Oprah, Rosa Parks, and actress Rosario Dawson on that list). As White historian William Katz who has studied this stuff to death says:

“This story began at the time of Columbus, ranging from North American forests to South American jungles, and the jewel-like islands of the Caribbean. The first freedom paths taken by runaway slaves led to Native American villages. There black men and women found a red hand of friendship and an accepting adoption system and culture. The sturdy offspring of Black-Indian marriages shaped the early days of the fur trade, added a new dimension to frontier diplomacy, and made a daring contribution to the fight for American liberty”.

The story also included some Native Americans owning slaves, namely in the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations. There were also many nations who as Katz says, adopted people in, helped slaves escape, or assisted organizing various revolts. It’s a long, complicated history to go through, but I do know today that the Descendants of Freedmen are still trying to acquire legal recognition in the Cherokee Nation.

In a perfect world, we would understand this and all work as allies for our common struggles of self-determination and autonomy to live as our authentic selves in this still oppressively bigoted society. We would celebrate our rich heritages in peaceful solidarity, while together honouring the ancestors who lived so courageously to give us those few bits of raw culture we cling on to today.

Alas, that world isn’t part of the real world and what’s happening is rather shameful. In light of hip-hop culture or acting what some might perceive as just plain “cool”, the label you are automatically given if you partake in any of this is of course “black” with all of its stereotypical negative connotation. And every time I hear someone from my community say that, whether it’s because they are criticizing Native rappers or don’t understand why so many Native youth identify with Black culture, it makes me wonder how much they don’t know or just don’t remember where we’ve all come from, or even how we got here.

I thought the colonizers were the ones who told us what we could or could not be.

Kid Nation meets Indians

by guest contributor Rob Schmidt, originally published at Newspaper Rock

Usually I don’t watch reality shows. They’re too hokey and manipulative for my taste. But I had to look when the penultimate episode of Kid Nation (airdate: 12/5/07) featured Indians.

If you don’t know the premise of Kid Nation, it’s simple. A bunch of kids have been “left alone” to “pioneer” in a Western “town” set up in the “wilderness” near Santa Fe. “40 Kids! 40 Days! No Adults!” is the show’s tagline.

I use quotes because it’s obvious the whole thing is staged. One adult acts as a moderator on-screen and other adults are just off-screen: holding cameras and asking questions. Knowing little about the show, I’d guess that every scene is planned and executed by a director with a script. The kids have some latitude about what to say but they’re basically puppets.

How contrived is Kid Nation? In the episode’s inevitable competition, the kids have an hour to move shacks from one location to another. What are the odds that the last team will complete the task with exactly one second to spare? Pretty good if it’s a staged “reality show.”

Indians to the rescue?

As “Where’s Bonanza, Dude?” opens, it’s Day 35 of 40. Led by a “town council,” the faux Bonanza City seems to be under control. Why then are the kids checking an “1885 journal” for help?

Supposedly written by Bonanza City’s first settlers, the journal says the townsfolk failed to explore beyond the outpost’s borders. It advises the readers to seek out the people who lived there “centuries before us.” It even includes a map.

In theory, this is a valid idea. America’s plucky but ignorant pioneers often relied on the Indians they met. Starting with John Smith at Jamestown, they frequently had to find help or die.

Using Indians as practical and philosophical guides from the beginning would’ve been a worthwhile approach. But the show is almost over. What possible aid could the Indians provide at this point? It’s hard to imagine.

The premise might as well have a flashing red light and blinking sign that says “gratuitous.” It’s painfully obvious that this is going to be a gimmick. Apparently the show’s creators want to get the town council off stage for an hour so the other kids can shine. They might as well have sent these pseudo-leaders to the mall.

Igloo or teepee?

So the town’s four honchos wander off into the semi-tame “wilderness.” (I suspect it’s grazing land on a ranch.) Eventually they come over a rise and spot…what? “It looks like an igloo,” guesses one boy. No, it’s…teepees.

Is there a single child in America who couldn’t tell an igloo from a teepee? I doubt it. But let’s assume the show’s creators found the one kid dumb enough to make this mistake. Let’s pretend it wasn’t a scripted moment. CONTINUE READING >>

Martha Stewart, Playing with “Indian” Names?

by guest contributor BB, originally published at Brady Braves

Well, this was a rare moment: a story on Indianz.com involving Martha Stewart. She has a place (i.e., 153-acre estate purchased in 2000 for the trifling cost of $16 million) in Katonah, NY. Now, Stewart wants to trademark “Katonah” for some of her products. Never mind if Katonah residents (of the Village Improvement Society in Katonah) are not pleased. Never mind if today’s descendants of Chief Katonah of the Lenape Nation are not pleased. As reported by Jim Fitzgerald, AP, Diana Pearson, a Stewart spokesperson, says Stewart “seeks to honor the town and the hamlet by using the word `Katonah.’”

And I suppose the Hornell Brewing Company had “honor” in mind when it slapped the revered name Crazy Horse on malt liquor bottles in 1992. (Crazy Horse, says David Wilkins (Lumbee) in American Indian Politics (2001), “is remembered as a staunch Sioux nationalist who remained committed to his people throughout his short life. He never signed a treaty with the federal government, and he opposed the use of alcohol by his people” (229)). I suppose Liz Claiborne, fashion guru, also had “honor” in mind when her clothing company threaded Crazy Horse (and Cherokee) on tags. Although one of Stewart’s lawyers said that his client’s use of the name “will not stop Katonah residents – or anyone else – from using the name Katonah exactly as they always have,” what will happen? Likely, Katonah becomes synonymous with Martha Stewart products (much to Stewart’s delight, the BBB imagines), not with Lenape People, not with descendants of Katonah, not with respect for Indigenous Peoples, not with honor for Katonah, New York, residents. To Ms. Stewart and Ms. Stewart followers: One’s intentions do not always match the effects.

As said before in “Indian” mascot debates and other contested arenas, it is difficult to honor those who are not honored, including Autumn Scott (Ramapough Lenape), the New Jersey State Commission on Indian Affairs co-chair. “We trust,” Scott explains, “that Martha Stewart intended no malice in seeking to have her corporation trademark the name of one of our great ancestral leaders, but for her to say she is doing so to honor him and our tribe is absurd, especially when it is being done solely for profit.” Although Stewart is talking of honoring the town, a place of refuge for her, the town is named after the Lenape (Delaware) leader. Stewart, then, would do well to address certain Native People’s warranted concerns. So far, she has greeted them with silence.

Stewart may not talk, but we Brady Braves can. Thoughts of righteous anger can be sent to television@marthastewart.com (address available at www.marthastewart.com, more specifically this page) A customer service number available at www.marthastewartstore.com is 1-800-357-7060.

Authority decides that Virgin Trains commercial is not racist to Native Americans

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is sort of like the U.K.’s version of the FCC but specifically for ads, has ruled that the commercial below is not racist. From The Manchester Evening News:

the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has decided the commercial was a tongue in cheek pastiche of Hollywood cowboys and Indians films and not a slur on Native Americans. It said the ad was unlikely to cause serious offence.

Hmmm… I wonder how many Native Americans are in the ASA?

Our friend Rob from Newspaper Rock is not amused though, and nominated the commercial for his Stereotype of the Month award:

In the ad, stereotypical savages on horseback attack a train but – silly savages! – they don’t realise it’s not the old-fashioned kind they can leap onto from the saddle. They slide down the metal sides of the train and fall off! Ho ho ho! Toward the end, an Indian wordlessly demands through the window glass a book that a white traveller is reading. The traveller refuses and the Indian menacingly raises his tomahawk to smash the glass but – phew! – the nasty savage is wiped off the side of the train by the front apron of a tunnel. Oh, my aching sides.

Oh Rob, lighten up! A committee of white men has decided for you that it’s not racist. So just listen to them — they know what’s best for all Native Americans.

I certainly hope that one day you will be able to grasp Virgin’s humor.

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