2012 Retrospective: November
Take a look back at November 2012's biggest stories from the pages of our weekly magazine, This Week From Indian Country Today.
Mohawk Stars in Video Game
Assassin’s Creed III, a Revolutionary War video game with a Mohawk protagonist, is getting rave reviews and has been hailed as not just a good game, but also a game-changer in terms of depictions of Natives in mass culture—for instance, the Indians speak their own language, with subtitles. Striving for authenticity, the game’s creators collaborated with a cultural liaison from Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center.
A Saint of Their Own
Mohawks celebrated the canonization of the first Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as Lily of the Mohawks, who died in 1680. The final miracle needed to secure her beatification reportedly occurred in 2006, when a Lummi boy was cured of a deadly, flesh-eating bacteria.
No Sugar-Coating Allowed
An aggressive program in Portland, Oregon is beating back diabetes, one Native at a time, by vigorously screening patients 10 and older for high blood sugar, expanding outreach and education programs, and increasing drug therapy. They have also put a strong emphasis on prevention by changing lifestyles.
UC Berkeley Sponsors Indigenous Peoples Day to Promote Healing
Last March, the theater department at the University of California, Berkeley produced a historically inaccurate and graphically violent play about Ishi, the famous California Indian. The production caused some American Indian viewers to openly weep and condemn it for perpetuating racist stereotypes. Events included dancing by the Manchester-Point Arena traditional dancers; a poetry reading by Muriel Antoine, Lakota; and speeches by elders from many tribes regarding their people’s history.
Athabasca Chipewyan Challenge Oil Sands
A First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil sands stepped up its legal battle against the vast industrial development. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) launched a formal constitutional challenge on October 1, alleging that the provincial government and Shell Canada did not adequately consult them on the latter’s potential expansion of its Jackpine oil sands mine in the band’s traditional territories. This failure, the ACFN says, essentially abrogated their treaty rights to use their land.
Soul Seekers Seems Destined for Big Screen
Soul Seekers, a series of young-adult novels by Alyson Noël, may be coming to a theater near you—and featuring Native actors in key roles if potential producer Arnold Rifkin has his way. Rifkin’s Cheyenne Enterprises has optioned screen rights on the series, which contains supernatural themes pulled from American Indian lore. Hollywood observers see the four-book Soul Seekers story as potential blockbuster fodder, not unlike the Twilight franchise.
Shinnecock Member Is First Native Woman to Graduate From Oxford
Kelsey Leonard has become the first Native American woman to graduate from England’s Oxford University. Leonard, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton, New York, graduated with a master’s degree in water science, policy and management from St Cross College, one of Oxford’s 38 colleges, on September 22. Before she attended Oxford, the 24-year-old was the first member of the Shinnecock Nation to graduate from Harvard University.
Standing Against Injustice
Tributes and personal stories came in from all corners of Indian country on the tumultuous life and myriad triumphs of Russell Means, who made many enemies and many friends during his time. His career spanned politics, acting, music and writing, but he was best known for his leadership of the American Indian Movement.
The Short, Unhappy Life of the Manifest Destiny T-Shirt
A T-shirt with the words manifest destiny by designer Mark McNairy in connection with GQ magazine, went on sale at Gap. A furor erupted, particularly on Facebook, and the shirt was quietly pulled from shelves and Gap.com within days. The company then issued a formal apology.
Energy Giant Kinder Morgan Sidles Into the Pipeline-Expansion Game
A proposal to more than double the output of the TransMountain pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to a tanker terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia—a route that already delivers crude to British Columbia ports as well as to Washington state’s Anacortes and Ferndale ports—drew fire from First Nations on both sides of the border that oppose the risks to traditional territories and waters. Energy giant Kinder Morgan insisted that its plan to increase the production of its existing TransMountain pipeline from 300,000 to 750,000 barrels a day by adding a second set of parallel pipelines would be safe from oil spills or marine accidents.
Canada Mourns Esteemed Métis Leader
Indigenous Canada lost one of its strongest leaders when Jim Sinclair, a Métis who was instrumental in obtaining official recognition of his people, died of cancer on November 9 at the age of 79. Sinclair led the fight to get the Métis declared one of the aboriginal groups of Canada and included in the Constitution. That recognition came in 1982. The Regina Leader-Post called him “a man who battled giants for his people and changed Canada.”
That’s Vicious Entertainment
A casually delivered slur on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show has revived the debate about Sacheen Littlefeather and her role in Marlon Brando’s refusal to accept an Oscar. That act of solidarity with Native Americans still rankles many in Hollywood almost 40 years later.