Hokay -- In which I lead a presentation on what happens when you Google "Native American Women" and critically analyze the images or "Hupas be like dang where'd you get that dentalium cape girl? Showing off all your money! PS: Suck it Victorias Secret"
Directions (or process or methods)
I often do this in my class with my students on those days when we are talking about cultural appropriation, cultural representation, No Doubt music videos and whatever else has come up within the last few months that has to do with some person dressing up as a Native female and portraying her as: overly sexualized, easy on the eyes, overly - feathered, underly-feathered, entirely there for the viewing pleasure of somebody else, as a woman who likes the earth, as a woman who likes to dress up and dance around while being overly sexualized, as something "super cute" and "super cool" to imitate by wearing something entirely overly sexualized.
I will usually ask "but who cares right? I mean it's just one person doing something dumb, it's not like it affects the way we see Native women. It's not like it is the only way that people see Native women."
And then I will say "alright, let's see, in a totally not scientifically designed, nor institutionally reviewed way, what happens when you Google Native American Women."
And this is what happens:
Before we get started I would like you to look at this screen shot from my computer and pick the photo that makes you stop and stare for a moment. Which of these photos, for you, makes the quickest impression. Which one makes you stop? After you've done that... make a mental note and continue reading. At the end of this thing *spoiler alert* I will tell you the image that ends up being the one that most of my captive audiences make note of.
Hokay -- In which I lead a presentation on what happens when you Google "Native American Women" and critically analyze the images or "Hupas be like dang where'd you get that dentalium cape girl? Showing off all your money! PS suck it Victorias Secret."
I will usually start with this question -- "What Do You Notice About The First Image?"
Paraphrased Answer -- Native American Women are stoic and have long hair and are in black and white.
Actually it's called "sepia."
No this is not an Instagram filter.
I will usually begin with this image because it is the first image. As I learned from the Sound Of Music (Julie Andrews' Sound of Music and not whatever that was on NBC a few months back) - we should start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...
So this image is an Edward Curtis image. That's important. (At least to me it is; that nugget of info might not be important to everyone). Interestingly enough, when you Google Native American, or American Indian, or Native American Indian you will probably come up with Edward Curtis images. Lots of them.
And you will most likely, at some point, come up with this one ------->
That's Curtis's "Vanishing Race" photo and it became a signature piece, a piece that defined his point of view, a piece that people associated with the impetus and also meaning of his work. In Curtis's mind there were Native people in America and they were vanishing, literally riding off into the sunset, and Curtis was going to take pictures of them so that his photos would become the last documentation of this once great people. (Except that didn't happen, and Native people are still alive, and they are not all riding off into the sunset. In fact, I can't ride a horse. Shhh... don't tell. I would fail that Indian test.)
But for many people these photos DID become the way that they saw and understood Native people: stuck at a certain period of time, looking a certain way, never smiling, always in the old West. These photos weren't always the bees knees, however. There's a super interesting story that happened where Curtis basically died penniless, alone and without the fame that he was chasing. Also interesting, they found his photos in a basement because nobody had really cared about them until they were "rediscovered" in the early 1970s.
It's easy to find the dude supremely annoying. At least I did at first. He was just another white guy convinced that all Native people were on their way "into the past" and that he would be the one to capture their greatness before they disappeared. This is a common thought by a lot of white dudes in history, anthropology, archaeology, and photography among other disciplines. Could you imagine someone coming up to you and saying "I want to take a picture of you and your family because all of you are going to die soon. Okay thanks, bye." I would probably stop and be like "Wait a minute, we're going to die soon? Is there something we can do about this? I'd rather not just die. Are you here just to watch me die? Shouldn't we be talking about how you have this information and I do not? Shouldn't we maybe be trying to help me and my family not die?" And Edward Curtis would have said (maybe, I'm basically putting words in his mouth) "Oh sweet dear, it can't be stopped. Progress and all. Say cheese!"
In the end, Curtis's photos were a way for him to solidify the death of Native people by taking their last pictures for posterity. This was exciting to a lot of people because deep down they wanted Native people to be dying. They really wanted them to just disappear. It would solve "the Indian problem" (that's the problem where Native people are still alive and the treaties still count and it's like "hey, can't you just go away so we don't actually have to be beholden to agreements that we made saying we would always be beholden to them? J/K about those treaties and stuff."), it would also make it a lot easier to claim that the United States (or the colonial government) is the "rightful" owner of the land, because nobody else owns it, they are all dead.
This is the trope and belief system that Edward Curtis photos were supposed to contribute to. But instead, he captured many hundreds if not thousands of people who were carrying on in their lives despite what (at that time and continues to be) had been many, many attempts to annihilate, kill or assimilate every single one of them.
So it's a fascinating story of survival, revitalization, survivance, resistance, strength and the power of culture. It's not a story about Edward Curtis in the end, although (to be fair) Curtis goes through what I see as a pretty fantastic transformation. He stops talking about the "inevitable death" of this group of people and instead starts writing about how the previous and continued policies of the federal government are causing the decline of these people and it is disgraceful.
Edward Curtis's photos are everywhere and he had a certain style. He wanted his Indians to be stoic and looking longingly into the distance, almost like they were trying to see the future that they would not be a part of. He didn't want smiling, laughing, modern clothes wearing Native peoples in his photos. He was known to make people change clothes, get rid of any evidence of modern life, use the same shirt that he had picked up for whatever tribe he was photographing to make them look "more Indian." He picked certain lighting, certain ways of sitting, certain profiles because he thought they conveyed seriousness. To him, Natives were serious people, serious, dignified, kind of sad, a little staid, always sepia toned.
His women were no different. Curtis is still the first photo that is going to pop up when you Google Native American Women. Consider that. What does it mean that of the main images that appear in Google Images, Edward Curtis's photo is the first to define Native American women? His viewpoint instantly becomes the one that people know the most. And make no mistake, his message lingers.
So when I do this exercise I usually ask this question: "And what do you notice about the woman in this first photo? The way she dresses? The expression on her face? How she sits?"
Some comments: "She is very serious." "She seems kind of stiff." "She's not wearing a feather in her hair." "She is very covered up and is wearing a lot of, are those shells? Well, she's pretty covered up."
That will become important later.
Question-- "Now, tell me what you notice about the 2nd Image"
Answer -- Native American Women are beautiful beings who wear feathers and are spiritual and they live in the skies and everything is beautiful.
Actually they are. So there you go. Let's move on to the next image.
Oh wait, here she is again. The beautiful woman of the earth.
I usually like to point out one thing especially about this photo - the title. "Women of the Earth: The Face of the Modern Native Woman." And then we talk about what this means.
I don't want to speak for her. In truth, I don't know the back story of this photo. There is something nice about calling her a "modern" Native American woman who is also wearing her traditional regalia. This shows that Native people did not just fade on in to society and they no longer have these pieces to wear in "modern times." Maybe it's kind of nice that she has her regalia and she is wearing it and she is modern.
However, it also is tied to a number of stereotypes and assumptions about Native women that need to be critically analyzed. There are reasons that Native Women, their image and ideas about them are so intimately tied to the land or the earth. Part of this could be an epistemological belief from their respective tribes. This could be because of historical ideas across cultures and nations about the earth. This could be because of settler colonialism. I like to blame Columbus, because who doesn't like to do that?
The fact is that Native women are associated in many people's minds with being beautiful, mystical, women of the Earth - almost magical - almost. And when you are talking about settler colonialism, this also meant - Native Women were really just there for the settling, through whatever means necessary. If your body is just like the land, then your body needs to be conquered. After that your body can be vaulted to magical, mystical status, tied intimately to the earth - and yet always objectified (as many of us continue to do to the earth, as well).
Q -- "What else stands out about these Native American Women in these pictures?"
A -- Well, the old ones seem kind of unhappy.
And, of course, sepia toned.
Native American Women, BTdubbs, are not generally unhappy. Some of them are very happy. Some of them are hilariously happy. Some of them are not happy sometimes. But look at a lot of pictures of Native people in general and you probably won't find a lot of them laughing away at an inappropriate joke while at The Olive Garden (that happens a lot though, to some Native people, like me, the other day).
Now ask yourself why, why does the "stoic" image of Native people persist? Why so many sepia pictures of Native people not smiling?
It was Vine Deloria, Jr. who said
It has always been a great disappointment to Indian people that the humorous side of Indian life has not been mentioned by professed experts on Indian Affairs. Rather the image of the granite-faced grunting redskin has been perpetuated by American mythology.
The thing about it is, Native people are hilarious. Also, we laugh really, really loud. Of my many Native women friends (yes, many, I'm so popular!) when we get together all we do is laugh and laugh. But this stereotype and belief not only continues, it also becomes what people expect from Native people. And it becomes what Native people joke about. Stop smiling in the pictures, practice your stoic face.
My stoic face looks like a little girl trying to tell her Dad it is not fair that she has to go to bed early. I would not have been asked to pose in Edward Curtis's pictures.
Q -- Is this photo different from the others?
A -- "You know that one seems happy." "She seems more real." "She seems more like a real person." "I think she looks really proud."
Wouldn't you be? That's some pretty awesome regalia.
PS. If you know who this woman is, please email me. I would like to know. She's very popular on Google.
*UPDATE* Ask and you will receive! From an email sent to me:
Great read about Native American Women. You asked if anyone knew who the woman is in the picture with the red regalia. Her name is Leela Abrahamson.
Q -- "Is that Megan Fox?"
A -- I think I heard she was Native somewhere, you know, back when people were all in to Megan Fox.
I'm still totes in to Megan Fox. We could be friends. I would constantly ask her questions about what it is like to be married to David Silver and if she makes copious amounts of 90210 references over dinner or if she owns a "Donna Martin Graduates" t-shirt.
Wikipedia says that Megan Fox is Native American: She has English, and smaller amounts of Scottish, German, French, Scots-Irish (Northern Irish), and Powhatan Native American, ancestry
This website that I just found says that she is possibly 1/256th Powhatan Native American. That's quite specific. They must have a BIA blood quantum chart on hand.
But this website - courtesy of something called askmen.com is offensive, sad, degrading and also infuriating. As far as confirming whether or not Megan Fox is a Native person, it doesn't. But it does say this:
Megan Fox doesn’t really look like all the other girls — she looks better than them. Claiming French, Irish and Cherokee ancestry, Megan Fox was born in Tennessee, where the Cherokee had lived for generations before anyone called it Tennessee. Today, the Cherokee Nation represents one of the country’s largest Native American populations — a tale of survival from which Megan Fox may one day need to draw inspiration, since she is as sizzling as can be right now and will need all the help she can get to stay that way.
I'm sorry what? When I read this to people during my presentation they just look at me funny. And then I say -- "Yep, this is how websites that purport to be 'a men's online magazine' talk about Native Women." Native Women are beautiful, good thing too cause that will help them later when there is some other little girl trying to be beautiful and they can draw from the years of genocide to fight their way back to the top of the beauty pyramid.
This persistent stereotype that Native Women are so beautiful comes from a long line of colonial conquests of lands. It has to do with what Edward Said (oooo super philosopher) called Orientalism and what I call "butt-head-ism."
It has to do with travelers tales of far off lands, and the process of exploration which included sending a bunch of degenerate lonely men on a boat for months at a time where they landed somewhere and saw some women (who they usually thought of as closer to animals than anything) and thought "these women must be totally here for me to conquer, like I conquer the land, because they are so different from our women." They also weren't wearing shirts. This, according to these degenerate sailors, made them cuter. And closer to animals.
It also has to do with Columbus, who wrote that the women of his newly "discovered" land were the most beautiful he had ever seen. They were so beautiful, he believed, they were essentially inviting him (and all of his degenerate man sailors) to rape, debase, degrade and mistreat them. That's what their beauty did. So it's really their fault.
And after that the tales of far off lands included claims that the Indigenous men were savage beasts and the women were beautiful and just waiting to be ravaged and owned. Much like the land was waiting for the same purposes.
So instead of talking about how awesome it was that Native women were leaders of their communities, that they were doctors, botonists, geographers, guides, linguists, storytellers, philosophers, diplomats, singers, dancers etc., we get "aren't Native women supposed to be like really beautiful? That must be why Megan Fox is so beautiful."
Maybe. It might also explain why she's crafty enough to catch herself a David Silver too.
Q -- "Uh no. Just no. Nuh-huh. No. Nope. No. Just... no." (That's not actually what I say when I'm doing this presentation by the way, but it's all I can muster at this very moment)
A -- What I notice about this picture is feathers. Feathers. Lots of feathers. Is that a leopard print bikini? At least she's wearing a bikini. They just look kind of dumb.
Ahhh... the headdress and the model. I feel like there is a bedtime story, tall tale fable in there somewhere.
You see my darling child, long ago, they would sometimes dress up models as Native people by putting large headdresses on them and making them walk runways.
"But why Papa?"
We don't know why. It really made no sense. We couldn't possibly know why this seemed like a good idea. But there was something fascinating to these people about dressing up models like Indian peoples. Not the covered up, stoic, sepia toned Native peoples. Not the modern day, smiling, cool dance regalia Native peoples. But the kind that seems to say "hey, pretend I got captured by a Native American chief and he like totes let me wear his headdress and then I like totes became like an Indian princess and then like got all into the tribe and stuff but then they came and said 'Hey all you Native Americans have to walk thousands of miles in the snow and probably die because we feel like moving you to a new place cause we want your land now.' And then I was all, oh my gawd, kidding. I'm not REALLY a Native Princess. I was just playing an Indian for fun, cause it's fun until you try to kill me for being Native. Look if I take off this headdress, I'm just back to me, and I don't even have to walk that far and stuff." *The End*
Dressing up like an Indian means that eventually one (the model, the people at a festival, the actress on the cover of a magazine) can take off that costume and just go back to living in a world where they don't have to put up with institutionalized racism, challenges to identity, challenges to your very existence, continued violence against your land, your body, your community.
"Playing Indian" is a living testament to --- white privilege. Also, leopard print underwear? Really Victoria's Secret?
Q: "Okay, let's talk about this picture really quick"
A: Oh, that's Pocahontas.
No, it's not. This is Pocahontas.
I just asked my daughter what she thought of this picture (she's 6) and she said "Her dress is short but I like her necklace."
"What do you think of her hair?"
"It's okay. Your hair is better."
And this concludes "Why my daughter gets to stay up late tonight and eat candy before bed time with Cutcha Risling Baldy."
And now to reveal the picture that most people say is the one they stopped and noticed first. *TA DA* -- did you?
Q-- What about the first image? Or the other images by Edward Curtis? How did they dress?
A-- They were very covered up. They were covered mostly.
Q-- What about the image of the girl smiling in her regalia. How was she dressed?
A-- She was very covered up but she had beautiful bead work. She was smiling. She seemed very happy.
Q -- So who is not covered up? In these pictures?
A -- Pocahontas. Victorias Secret Models dressed up like Indian women. Other models in costumes.
And this girl. Here are some things I don't know about her. I don't know if she is actually a Native person. I don't know where she is from. I don't know what she is advertising. I don't know why she is walking through a field wearing a headband and a feather and I don't know who she is looking at.
But let's talk a little about her. I usually say: Somebody tell me her story. What's happening in this photo?
"She's walking thorough a field."
"Good." And what else? Is she scared? Is she running from a serial killer? Is she going to Grandma's house?"
"What is she doing?"
"It's almost like she is inviting you, like whoever is looking at the picture, to come and like get her."
"Alright. She's got this come hither look about her. And what else? She wants you come and get her so she can teach you about how Native American women were central to many Native societies in politics and culture and how they helped to shape democracy?"
"No. Like she is saying she wants to have sex with you."
And there you go.
Here is my major problem with this photo. This photo, this messed up fantasy that takes the "Native women want me" colonial, conquest ideology and puts it in picture form -- this photo which portrays Native women as being practically naked, sexualized, walking through a field, open for whatever, this photo which lets you know she is a Native woman that wants whatever you are going to do to her, this photo that is pure fiction -- it comes up more than once in the "Native American Women" section of Google Images. And you know what else comes up:
And this leads me to the part where I point out this photo. Included as part of the Google images search it is a poignant reminder of the many reasons why these types of images... matter.
That's right. Maybe our "popularized" images, the ones that we are inundated with, maybe they don't just reflect how we think, they influence how we think. And if we are not taught other things about Native women (like say in school, or on television programs, or in movies...) then these images are what we know.
This whole exercise... it's only a start. This is just a place to to start to have this conversation. How can we learn from the images that are all around us? And how can we start to expect, demand and make other images become what are the popular images of all women. How can we teach people to be critical of these images? How do we change our Google Image results?
Because don't get me started on what happens when you Google Image:
Or just... women...
I can't be the only person who was all "Meg Ryan? That's cool. Whatever happened to Meg Ryan?"
Also -- The gal on the second row at the very end with the tan jacket on. That's Viktorija Čmilytė. I looked her up on Wikipedia because she comes up so high on this Google Images search. She is the Lithuanian chess player with the titles Woman Grandmaster (WGM) and Grandmaster (GM). She won the gold medal at the Women's European Individual Chess Championship in 2011.
That's awesome. (There's hope for you yet... Google Images.)
In Which I Make A List Of Five Answers to Five Questions People Have Emailed Me About or "Another New Years List?" Yep.
Hokay. Just so everyone knows. I do get your emails/ messages. I do read them. I have found that responding to them is sometimes hard but I try to get through as many as I can. Today I am working on my syllabus and class for our upcoming quarter and in between, wondering how I can best provide some information to people asking me sincere questions. I figure, I'll use it as a jumping off point for another cool (yep, COOL) list for the blog. So here is a list of five things that people have asked me about -- I hope it somewhat answers some of your requests. And now back to the syllabus.
Five (New-ish) Videos To Watch/ Use/ Learn From
I know Jim (the dude who plays "Red Jacket") because all Native people know each other. :) Actually it's because he went to Stanford and I went to Stanford which just goes to show you that all Native people eventually meet at Stanford.
Also "Ask a Slave" is a great You Tube series. You should go to there. http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHPZR1lUMS47BA-N2Ihrtlg?feature=watch
I don't know any of the 1491s (unfortunately) but I know people who know them, because the people I know are cool like that. If you haven't been watching the 1491s on You Tube you really should. When I show them to my students in class I usually get emails from students the next day that go "Hey, I just spent all night watching all of the 1491s videos. HA HA HA." #IndianHumor
Is this the coolest way to do a short documentary that I've seen in a long time. Probably. Has this inspired me that there are SO MANY ways to get stories out there. Yes. Do I wish I had thought of this first? Daily. Can I draw? No.
('e:wa:k) Charlie Hill passed away very recently. He was a standout of standup comedy and he was a Native person. And if it is true (which I think it is) that humor, Indian humor especially, helps us to heal -- then Charlie Hill was a healer.
Four Native Organizations to Give To/ Support/ Like on Facebook/ Learn From
Native Women's Collective. I have to say this one because I am the Executive Director there. And from my work as a nonprofit fundraiser I have learned -- always be closing. No, wait, that's with Real Estate. It's actually "Always be asking." Support us!
We are a nonprofit that supports the continued growth of Native American arts and culture. We are an entirely volunteer run organization and we hope to continue to expand so that we can do arts, culture, language, educational and other projects that help support Native people and communities. In the past year we've done basket weaving retreats, bear grass braiding circles, cultural demonstrations, educational lectures, and started a project on the history of regalia pieces from our area. If you want you can donate to us. Visit our website.
Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. SGF is an organization that supports other Native organizations while also working on many of the important issues facing Indigenous peoples throughout the world. They encourage us all to "Be a Good Ancestor."
From their website: Seventh Generation Fund is an Indigenous non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining the uniqueness of Native peoples and the sovereignty of our distinct Nations. We offer an integrated program of advocacy, small grants, training and technical assistance, media experience and fiscal management, lending our support and extensive expertise to Indigenous grassroots communities. Learn about us, the programs and services we provide, our grantmaking guidelines and giving philosophies, upcoming events, online publications and so much more! http://www.7genfund.org/
National Indian Child Welfare Association: Protecting our Children, Preserving Our Culture. The importance of what NICWA does was demonstrated this year with the Veronica Brown case. The very disappointing outcome of that case highlighted how NICWA is necessary to help educate the wider public about the importance of protecting Native families. You can find out more and donate to them on their website: http://www.nicwa.org/donate/
From their website: The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) works to address the issues of child abuse and neglect through training, research, public policy, and grassroots community development. NICWA also works to support compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), which seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. NICWA improves the lives of American Indian children and families by helping tribes and other service providers implement services that are culturally competent, community-based, and focused on the strengths and assets of families. This work includes collaborating with tribal and urban Indian child welfare programs to increase their service capacity, enhancing tribal-state relationships, and providing training, technical assistance, information services and alliance building.
Hey Day Books. Most of the books I use in my classes on California Indian people are from Hey Day because Hey Day is really fantastic at publishing Native California authors, artists, poets and more.
Their California Indian Publishing Program: aims to celebrate Indian culture through our quarterly magazine, News from Native California, and books on Native life; hosting Indian events; and helping provide reading material to community members who would not otherwise have access to quality Indian publications.Along with News from Native California, we’ve also published more than forty books devoted to California Indian culture and history, we’ve sponsored scores of events,we’ve launched two museum shows that traveled the state, and we’ve been helpful to the Indian community in a number of significant ways.
From the website: Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution. As a member of the Publishers Club, you will receive discounts on books, invitations to thought-provoking events and festive book-launch parties, seasonal book catalogs, regular updates about what’s happening on the California cultural scene, and a meaningful way to participate in an enterprise that combines vision, intelligence, and creativity. https://heydaybooks.com/
Three Books to Read/ Buy/ Learn From/ Pass Along
Bad Indians by Deborah Miranda. 2013 for me was the year I found Deborah Miranda, fan girled out on her at the California Indian Conference, stalked her again at a reading in San Francisco, taught her book in my class, and decided that finally I had an easy answer to the question "well, what should I read then if I can't read this book written by some historian about the Mission system?" What did my students say about it - "This book made me laugh, cry and want to write a letter to my school telling them to stop teaching the Missions the way they do!" Read Deborah Miranda. You will not regret it. Buy it: http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Indians-A-Tribal-Memoir/dp/1597142018
Mark My Words: Native Women Remapping Our Nations by Mishuana Goeman. You know how there are those books that make you feel super smart when you are done reading them because (1) you understood what the author had to say and (2) you understood what the author had to say and that author is very smart and so that makes you feel smart? That may just be me. Mishuana Goeman wrote this book and I underlined basically the entire introduction. (She's also on my dissertation committee - because she makes me work super hard and do real good work even when I don't want to...) She's talking about space and maps and geography and Native Women. Actually, she's interrogating these things. Actually, she's (re) mapping and (re) defining what we talk about when we talk about maps, geography, space and Native people. Buy it: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-My-Words-Directions-Indigenous/dp/0816677913
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King. I just wrote a review of this book for the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. The book is funny. It's full of countless information. It's a quick read but packs a lasting punch. King is not just lecturing, he's having a conversation, and he's telling a few jokes here and there. The book talks about both Canada and the United States, which just goes to show you that there are Native people EVERYWHERE (even in Canada and the United States). I read the book in a day, but I also could see how it could take a while to get through. There is a lot of information in there. For instance: Did you know that before John Smith supposedly met and was saved by Pocahontas that, according to Smith, he had met and been saved by three other women in far off places like Turkey, Russia and France. "...all of whom assisted him during his trials and tribulations as a young mercenary." (8) King calls him a "lucky guy." Apparently, according to John Smith, women liked saving John Smith. (Or he made the whole thing up) Buy it: http://www.amazon.com/The-Inconvenient-Indian-Curious-Account/dp/0816689768
Two Hupa phrases to learn and use in your every day language
And this is not just because my Walking Dead blog entry went everywhere and even got a shout out in Indian Country Today! But also because the show is starting again soon -- so it will come in handy when you invite your friends.
ch'indin da:ywho'-ding ch'iwidil
(Translation: corpse, they were going along somewhere)
One Song to Listen to and Get You Moving in 2014 (Yes I'm dancing in front of my computer right now)
Does anybody know these guys? I want them to come to UC Davis and play a show. I may invite other people. Just putting it out there... Back to dancing.
It's 2014 -- which means I get to repost blogs in "year in review" format and call it a new blog entry!
Hello Everyone! After an extended break up to Hoopa and out to town, one kid friendly New Years Eve Pajama Jam (complete with jammie fashion show) and a carload of dirty clothes I am finally back in front of a computer. I'm starting off 2014 with a recap of a few blog entries as my "year in review" on the old bloggity blog.
These are in no particular order, though I have to begin with the Walking Dead one because, dang, that thing got AROUND and at one point it was sent to me in an email telling me I should read my blog.
I've had some emails asking about what's up for 2014. In 2014 I am writing - a lot. I have a dissertation to write. I'm finishing a book. I'm finishing some short stories. I'm finishing a documentary with Wren Usdi Productions. AND I plan to write more blogs. So hopefully you have liked me on Facebook which is where I update when I post.
Thank you to everyone who sends me comments, emails, questions and stories. I read each and every one even if I can't write you a personal reply. And to my friends and family for constantly inspiring me to write more... And to my daughter - for being awesome sauce.
And now-- on to the BLOG YEAR IN REVIEW (with updates!)
Excerpt from the blog: Anyway, Indians. When I started watching the Walking Dead I immediately thought about Indians. And when people tell me “Man, Indians, they are always going on and on about genocide and stuff and they should just get over it” I often pause and say “Well, consider the Walking Dead…”
Lawrence Gross (he’s a scholar and a Native person) talks about “Post Apocalypse Stress Syndrome” where he says that Native American people have “seen the end of our world” which has created “tremendous social stresses.”
California Indians often refer to the Mission System and the Gold Rush as “the end of the world.” What those who survived experienced was both the “apocalypse” and “post apocalypse.” It was nothing short of zombies running around trying to kill them.
Think about it. Miners (who were up in Northern California, where I am from) thought it was perfectly fine to have “Indian hunting days” or organize militias specifically to kill Indian people. These militias were paid. They were given 25 cents a scalp and $5 a head. (In 1851 and 1852 the state of California paid out close to $1 million for the killing of Indians…)
In effect, for a long time in California, if you were an Indian person walking around, something or someone might just try to kill you. They were hungry for your scalp and your head. They had no remorse. There was no reasoning with them. And there were more of them then there was of you. (Zombies. But even worse, living, breathing, people Zombies. Zombies who could look at you and talk to you and who were supposed to be human. Keep that in mind. The atrocities of genocide during this period of time, they were not committed by monsters -- they were committed by people. By neighbors. By fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters.)
Read the full entry here: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/12/on-telling-native-people-to-just-get-over-it-or-why-i-teach-about-the-walking-dead-in-my-native-studies-classes-spoiler-alert.html
*Update* Dear lord, this thing went everywhere! Over 11,000 likes to date. I can only say thank you to everyone who took the time to read. Even the person who wrote and told me "This could have been a lot shorter." (I do read and consider each of your comments by the way. And yes - I have to approve them but that is because otherwise I get a lot of spam on the blog. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts and stories.)
In Which I freely admit that I cried when I watched Dusten Brown have his daughter Veronica Brown taken from him in what amounts to a legalized kidnapping of a Native child simply because a "nice white couple" wanted her
Yes. I have emotions. Excerpt from the blog (that was republished on Native News Network!):
Dear Dusten Brown:
I never know where to begin. The truth is that I have started, re-started and changed this letter many, many times. And after much deliberation I always seem to start the same way. Dusten, I am sorry.
I am sorry for every ignorant internet comment, every misinformed and lazy reporter, every single time I ever watched Dr. Phil (before and after he did that awful, biased show about your daughter). I am sorry for reporters not wanting to tell your story, for people who believe they have all the information without doing any research outside of their one-sided view from the adoptive couple.
And I am sorry that I participated in this. I am sorry that I tried to present this case as "complicated" when it is not complicated. I am sorry that I thought I had to be nice. I am sorry that I wrote that the adoptive couple were not "bad people" and that in my effort to be "reasoned" I erased their malevolent intent and continued attempts to perpetrate injustice. I am sorry that I believed in "justice" and "reason" and that I didn't immediately understand that your case was a call to action, not a call for support.
Read More: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/09/on-separating-veronica-brown-from-her-father-dusten-brown-a-letter-to-dusten-brown.html
*Update* I almost cannot do an update justice in this situation. (In the end, Veronica was taken from her father by two people who then turned around and sued him for their lawyers fees and who refuse to drop the charges in their state. This effectively bars him from visiting her. They took his daughter and they also want his money. They are diabolical...) For the most up to date information I would suggest visiting the Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown Facebook page to learn more about the continued unethical adoption practices that separate daughters from fathers (Native or otherwise). This is an issue I continue to teach and talk about. It is something that my friends and I plan on addressing in numerous ways because Veronica Brown belongs with her father.
In Which I go see another (as in an additional, as in people keep writing these things and then acting all "surprised" that Native people don't fawn all over and fall in love with their continued musings about how real Native people are dead) play about a "famous" Native person.
Excerpt from the blog: I suppose the one thing I can’t get out of my head, that thing I woke up the next day repeating was the last line of the play. At the very end of the play Crazy Horse is left on stage alone and he pulls back a curtain to reveal the Pine Ridge Reservation, supposedly, maybe, the “modern” Pine Ridge - a trash filled, barren, wasteland. Crazy Horse cries. He says “The Lakota have nothing.” He calls this place the “pitiful remnants” with pennilessness, depression, and “despair of an empty life.”
And he says “The Lakota are finally defeated.”
Before he turns his back on us and mutters. “It is better to be dead.”
It is better to be dead.
Did this play, did this author, did Crazy Horse just tell me, a living, breathing, singing, dancing, loving, laughing, joking, mothering Native woman that it is better to be dead than the Native person that I am? Did Crazy Horse just tell me, he would rather be dead, than to be a part of the living, breathing, singing, dancing, loving, laughing, joking, mothering, fathering, grandparenting, Lakota people?
It is better to be dead.
I left the theatre flabbergasted and… pissed. THIS is what passes as art? THIS is what people call material to “enrich, engage, educate, inspire and entertain” (that’s from the message from the Executive Producing Director in the program BTW).
It is better to be dead than to be an Indian?
Read the full blog entry here: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/in-which-i-go-see-crazy-horse-and-custer-so-you-dont-have-to-a-play-review-for-crazy-horse.html
*Update* There were protests held at the theatre by a group of Native people. The play house seemingly responded by allowing comments to be posted to their Facebook, but not refusing to stop the show. But then if you check their Facebook now they seemed to have edited the comments speaking out against the play? Also, they would only post reviews with semi-positive spins on the production of the play. Which is too bad for them as there was an opportunity for real dialogue and collaboration to create a more meaningful play that actually complicates the all too overused "dying Indian" trope.
In Which I Explain Why I Wear "Indian" Jewelry (short answer: cause it's awesome) and also how Hupa people been "blinging" since the year 1.
Excerpt from the blog: My interest was peeked by this idea - "why do I wear Indian jewelry?" I get the sentiment of what she is trying to say, so I'm going to offer my two cents, because I have two cents to offer, and because I think we need to have multiple people talking about the same issues because we want people to understand that "Indian" people aren't just one or two people who got interviewed for a movie, they are all different kinds of people from all different kinds of places. We want more than once voice, more than one view. The complexity of what it means to "be an Indian" is a far more interesting and important conversation then "what do all the Indians think about (insert random subject here)?"
I like to tell people "Well, at our last meeting of all the Indians we decided THIS is what we think about whatever issue or idea you are asking me about." Those meetings are pretty top secret. Often times I'll even localize it for people, when they are asking me "What do Hupa's think about...?" I'll say "Well, next week we're having another meeting of every single Hupa person and I can ask them what our official feeling is about that..."
I have always been taught in my family, and I notice a lot of people do it now, to say "I have been taught" or "I believe" or "What I know" or "What I heard." This is an oral history thing to me, a long tradition of "Tell me where you're coming from" and "understand that might be different for someone else." It's all about relativity, which Vine Deloria, Jr. wrote a lot about.
Read the full entry here: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/01/5-reasons-i-wear-indian-jewelry-or-hupaswe-been-bling-blingin-since-year-1.html
*Update* Still rocking my Native jewelry. That picture is of my elk horn hair stick that I got for Christmas -- made by my brother. And yes, the jewelry is still awesome.
In Which I Write A Letter To A Dude - who wanted some "feedback" on a less than original appropriation of Native culture.
Excerpt from the blog: I wasn’t going to weigh in, because I’m busy, but also because many of my fellow Native community members were doing an awesome job offering reasoned responses to yet another example of cultural appropriation gone wrong. (This implies, of course, that there is cultural appropriation gone right, somewhere, out there, in the land of cultural appropriation. It probably has something to do with the Cheesecake Factory making Navajo Tacos, though I hear their frybread leaves something to be desired…)
First – a quick and dirty run down history. There is a company. This company wants to make a tshirt. The artist at the company designs one. It’s has an Indian looking guy on it with some feather headdress and earrings and whole bunches of generic “Indian” looking designs in the background. And underneath it says “Chief Life.” A bunch of people respond. Some like it, some don’t, some are concerned, some are concerned about people being too concerned. Friends of mine get involved. The artist asks for honest feedback about the design. People give it to him. He says some people are rude, some people aren’t, but mostly he thinks they are rude. He is surprised by the response so he “redesigns” it to be an Aztec guy, and not some generic Indian guy. (This seems to mean from the pictures I’ve seen that he changes the generic designs in the background to Aztec writing symbols and also adds some Aztec design looking earrings and an Aztec shield to the guys forehead. Everything is the same. It’s like, Mr. Potato-Head Indian Style. Exchange your cultural appropriation parts for others, make an entirely new Indian Mr. Potato-Head.)...
Read the full entry here: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/03/humboldt-county-t-shirt-controversy-thats-all-up-in-my-facebook-or-native-american-mr-potato-head-now-with-aztec-parts.html
*Update* The response from people to this entry was amazing. I still meet people IRL who quote this blog entry to me. I haven't heard much on the t-shirt front since it happened. I was in contact with the artist a few times via Facebook. He said I misquoted him. I did not.
Here we go 2014!
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, volunteer Executive Director for the Native Women's Collective and is currently re-watching My Name is Earl...
(5) Top Posts
On telling Native people to just "get over it" or why I teach about the Walking Dead in my Native Studies classes... *Spoiler Alert!*
Hokay -- In which I lead a presentation on what happens when you Google "Native American Women" and critically analyze the images or "Hupas be like dang where'd you get that dentalium cape girl? Showing off all your money! PS: Suck it Victorias Secret"
In which we establish that there was a genocide against Native Americans, yes there was, it was genocide, yes or this is why I teach Native Studies part 3 million
5 Reasons I Wear "Indian" Jewelry or Hupas...we been bling-blingin' since Year 1
Pope Francis decides to make Father Junipero Serra a saint or In Which I Tell Pope Francis he needs to take a Native Studies class like stat
I need to read more Native blogs!
A few that I read...