Harjo: 'Ndn Eye for the Racist Guy'
After ignoring Native Americans for decades, network television has turned out the run-away hit of the season, "Ndn Eye for the Racist Guy."
The good news about the weekly one-hour program is that it's put Native people in the American public consciousness in a way we haven't been since the Battle of Little Big Horn. That's also the bad news.
"Ndn Eye" is a make-over show with an odd twist. If it were to follow the formula of similar programs, some cocky but compassionate Indians would ambush a budding but loveable bigot in serious need of a diplomacy implant. The do-over would result in a reformed racist and in lessons learned in all audience demographics.
Instead, a seemingly endless string of unknown but ambitious racists burn and slash their way through stand-up monologues about Native American history, culture and people, which the competitors call Indian myths, casinos and ballot-box stuffers.
The aspiring racists' routines are judged by people who've earned their xenophobic spurs in part by being snarky about Indians - Ann Coulter, Drew Carey, William Janklow, Bill Maher, Bob Novak, Andy Rooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Daniel Snyder, Ted Stevens, Donald Trump, George Will and assorted hair-dos from the Wall Street Journal, TIME, Washington Times, Fox News, MSNBC and all things Disney.
"Ndn Eye" is a virtual pantheon of chauvinism.
The careers of both the fledgling and full-blown racists are zooming to the top. They are enjoying the "Ndn Eye" double bump, as "Indian experts" and as banquet bigots against other hapless segments of American society. Ironically, "Ndn Eye" has made racism against Indians even more popular and has made it increasingly acceptable for racists to impose their prejudicial views on others.
Critics love the show. I differ from them slightly. I think "Ndn Eye" - and I mean in this in a good way - blows, big time.
The show's basically a vehicle for ads for non-Indian products - Blue Corn Pita Bread, Chief Turkey Jerky and Wild Ndn Rice - paid for by the non-Indians in charge of spending tribal casino monies.
The show's co-hosts are Pocahontas Deer Slayer and Tonto Pronto, "Pokey" and "Hokey."
They are the "Ndn Eye" that watches what the racist competitors and judges do. Like good Ndns, they never object directly or openly to anything. When they meet backstage with Native audience members, Hokey and Pokey reveal what they were thinking of saying to the racists. Everybody laughs the Ndn laugh - Ha Ha Ha Aaaaayyyyyy - then the pair report back to the judges what the Native audience members wanted to say to the racists.
Pokey and Hokey appear throughout the show in one-minute segments. In "One-Mile Moccasins," they give their old shoes to the racist contestants so they can walk in them for a mile and return the following week to tell about the experience. The first three said they didn't learn anything about Indians (and one who didn't even refused to try on the moccasins), so they just told the latest Ndn jokes.
The biggest crowd-pleaser is "Honoring Our Ndns." In this segment, federal trust mismanagers, owners of sports teams with Ndn names and other special guests tell the judges about their latest honoring activities, how Native Americans should feel about them and how tribes should spend their money. The judges vote on the best honoring and Pokey and Hokey smoke with the winners and throw blankets in their path.
The real problem with "Ndn Eye" is focus or, rather, lack of focus. It tries to be too many things.
"Ndn Eye" is already a reality/talent/game/survivor show. It should not attempt to be a news and entertainment magazine, as well.
Nonetheless, Pokey and Hokey do the news in sign language, with running commentary about the presidential election campaign. They feature updates on which Ndns jumped in the tank for which office-seeker and discuss any direct correlation between their endorsement and the derailment of their candidate's campaign.
Pokey: "I don't think the Dean bandwagon crashed because too many Ndns jumped on it."
Hokey: "They jumped the gun by naming him and his wife 'White Medicine Man' and 'First Medicine Woman.' Before that, he was polling good by betting against Vermont Ndns."
Pokey: "Thankfully, there are still a lot of good white men left in the race."
Hokey: "Keno savvy to that, Poke."
Pokey: "Back to you, Hoke."
Hokey and Pokey: "Ha Ha Ha Aaaaaayyyyy."
"Ndn Eye for the Racist Guy" can be seen on CBA - the network that honors its Ndns - every Sunday at 7 p.m.
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.