It’s an interesting time to be indigenous.
The title is paraphrased from a comic bit from the legendary Paul Mooney.
To say that the Black Hills (Kȟe Sapa) hold special significance for the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation) is an understatement. They’re not only our traditional homelands, where our ancestors once lived, they’re sacred.
Standing in a parking lot across the street from the 2014 Chamberlain High School commencement ceremony last Sunday, singers, supporters (Native and non-Native), students, and families crowded outside the National Guard Armory to
Morgan James Peters, 46, professionally known as "Mwalim DaPhunkee Professor," is a Mashpee Wampanoag, multifaceted performing artist, writer, media artist and educator, who swept the 2010 Jazz category with his album The Liberation Sessions winning the ‘Best Jazz Male’ as well as ‘Best
Music is a form of art. For the musician it is a way to express their form of originality, talent and or knowledge on the form of art they are presenting.
With identity misappropriation being a regular occurrence these days, my duties as a Native activist have kept me fairly busy.
In following the Washington football team mascot controversy, I read with interest, Gyasi Ross’ latest article, “Hush Money and Ransom: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder, the Idiot”.
In her excellent article on pow wow culture, Christina Rose raises concerns about how pow wows have changed in the past f
Last month, a few of my close girlfriends and I decided to have a girls night. We thought salsa dancing sounded like fun, so we braced the cold weather and ventured into DC, where we ended up at a small salsa dancing club located in Adams Morgan.
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, or the Battle of Tohopeka (“the Horseshoe” in Creek), on March 27, 2014 a
In recent weeks, social media erupted in outrage after it was announced that Warner Brothers had cast Rooney Mara, a non-Native actress, to play the part of Tiger Lily, a Native character, in a new adaptation of Peter Pan.
We’re all seen this scenario before. Since the dawn of film, non-Native actors and actresses have been perpetuating negative stereotypes of Natives by painting their faces red and appearing as embarrassing caricatures that promote Hollywood’s view of what American Indians are.
It’s so disappointing that this practice continues. There are plenty of qualified, talented Native thespians who are available to play Native characters. Sadly, movie makers continue to double down on white privilege, unwilling to give Natives and other people of color equal representation.
I understand the indignation. When will we have a voice in how we as Native peoples are portrayed? When will our demands for respect be heard?
But wait. Hold your horses. Instead of raising our smartphones in anger and filing petitions calling for Warner Brothers to boot Mara and replace her with a Native actress, let’s flip the script—literally. We don’t have to play their white-privilege game.
While little is known of Warner Brothers' new version of Peter Pan, the history of the story alone is enough to warrant apt circumspection by socially conscious Natives everywhere.
Like other movies featuring stereotypical Native characters, Peter Pan, in regards to American Indians, is flawed on its face. Based on the 1904 play authored by J.M. Barrie, Disney upped the racism ante by giving his feather and fringe costumed Indian princess Tiger Lily a "peace pipe"-toking father in actual redface who offered to “Teach ‘um Paleface brother all about Red Man,” accompanied by a big-nosed chorus of generic Indian braves who sang “What Makes the Red Man Red.” If that weren’t enough, a homely snaggle-toothed ‘squaw’ plays right into patriarchy when she tells Wendy, “No dance,” that she must gather wood instead. The fact that these monstrous, bigoted, negative depictions of Natives continue to be force fed to the minds of highly impressionable children is unacceptable. They’re being brainwashed; conditioned to embrace white privilege and the racist system they’ve been born into.
We’re right in refusing to accept a whitewashed world. Our children need to see role models who look like them, not just lily white ones. Also, studies have shown that redface is harmful to the mental and emotionally well-being of Native children. Yet at the same time, are we as Native adults setting a good example for the next generation when we put Native actors and actresses in the position of playing to Hollywood’s stereotypes of who we are?
It’s time we stop dancing to their tune. We don’t have to play into their lies. No more one little, two little, three little Indians. We have the tools and talent necessary to tell our own stories, with our own voices. We have the power, and are the most qualified, to show the world who we are as Natives.
Late last night, my father and I talked about how the ethnic term Latino mislabels Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous people from Mexico, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, etc.
“Oh Uncle Adrian, I am in the reservation of my mind,” is a passage from Adrian C. Louis’s literary work, Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile. It is the same one line written by a different author and in a different context which affirms a biography of oppression in living on an Indian reservation; and the intellectual and emotional understanding that fuses together the immense communicative power of language. For Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, who grew up destitute where literary dreams were more than beyond reach, Louis’ passage opened his eyes to the potential of writing. Alexie soon went on to write several novels, for example: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, War Dance, First Indian on the Moon, Indian Killer; and and Smoke Signals (1998), a critically acclaimed movie based on one of Alexie’s short stories and for which he co-wrote the screenplay Smoke Signals (1998), a critically acclaimed movie based on one of Alexie’s short stories. Sherman Alexie’s writing has cleared a mental, emotional and spiritual path for others wanting to ‘fancy dance’ a new Indian reality though writing.
For some however, moving beyond reservation borders is more difficult — a place where poverty, despair and alcoholism have often shaped the lives of many Native Americans living on reservations. But what about Indians who grew up off reservations with desires of wanting to write a different experience?
In a series of e-mails Alexei Auld, Pamunkey-Tauxenant, Graduate, Columbia School of Law, and a Sundance Native Writing alum whose work has been featured in E! True Hollywood Story, Fondo Del Sol, and numerous curated festivals and publications has recently penned a must-read book titled Tonto Canto Pocahontas to answer my inquiry.
Auld asserts, “It is difficult, but as human beings, we cope in different ways. It was easier for me to move beyond the 'reservation mind' because I never grew up on one. And I'm not making a judgment, it's just my reality.” He continues, “I have always participated in the culture. My grandmother was in an arranged marriage with my grandfather to 'keep the blood strong'. My cousin, who was the Chief's brother, married my wife and I. I was a member of a Lumbee Indian church in Baltimore (they were originally from North Carolina, so they were experiencing the whole off-Rez urban experience as well). I worked the powwow circuit with my parents until I left for law school in NYC. Served as president of Columbia Law's Native American Law Students Association. Organized the first unity pow wow between Columbia's undergraduate and graduate Native American student organizations.”