This is not a post to tell you why you shouldn't celebrate "Columbus Day." No, this is a post to say "Happy Indigenous Peoples Day."
This is not a post to tell you why you shouldn't celebrate "Columbus Day."
Lot's of people have done that. Here are a few I recommend if you are interested.
1. The Oatmeal reminds us that Christopher Columbus was awful. He would cut the ears and noses off of Native people who refused to give him food and gold and allow him to rape the Native women. He used Natives as dog food. And he would sell Native women into sex slavery. The most requested were girls between the ages of 9-10.
2. Indian Country Today reminds us that Columbus never actually landed in America and he enslaved Native people for gold.
3. John Oliver reminds us that there are lots of other Italians we could celebrate who didn't spend their time murdering, raping and enslaving people.
This is not exactly a post to tell you that the reason why Columbus day is still is a thing is because the "Doctrine of Discovery" is still a thing and in order for anyone to buy that you can "discover" something that is already inhabited, owned and used by a whole other civilization Columbus has to be a thing.
But it's true.
Basically in 1493 after the whole "Columbus DISCOVERED a 'New World' so it's ours now!" craziness Spain realized "Uh, so we didn't 'discover' nothing because it belongs to a bunch of people. Also, what's to say that other countries can't just come and 'discover' this land now that we're there. It's kind of a very shaky claim if you think about it. Like we could set up whole cities, be one of the earliest civilizations to use zero, have and incredibly intricate and accurate calendar, and also give the world really important crops like corn and potatoes and then some dude gets lost and gets off his boat and goes 'This is now land for my country! I have discovered it!' And what are we supposed to say? 'It doesn't work that way?'"
So in 1493 the Pope issued this Papal Bull called the “Inter Caetera" which basically said "Spain can discover any land it wants so long as it is not a Christian nation." And then it said "nobody else can discover it after that because we've decided there is this imaginary line that you aren't allowed to cross to discover shiz anymore."
Actually it said this:
It established a demarcation line one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and assigned Spain the exclusive right to acquire territorial possessions and to trade in all lands west of that line. All others were forbidden to approach the lands west of the line without special license from the rulers of Spain. This effectively gave Spain a monopoly on the lands in the New World.
A year later in 1494, Spain and Portugal agreed to the "Treaty of Tordesillas" which divided the western world up between Spain and Portugal. It set another imaginary line and said lands east of the line were for Portugal and lands west of the line were for Spain. Because that's a real thing. They wrote it down on a piece a of paper and all. The treaty also reminded everyone that only Non-Christian nations could be "discovered."
Skip forward to 1792 and Thomas Jefferson who was like "The Doctrine of Discovery is such a good idea." He then tries to use it to set up claims to various parts of the Pacific Northwest, telling Lewis and Clark to go out and discover stuff.
Finally in 1823 there was Johnson v McIntosh, one of Chief Justice John Marshall's "trilogy." (So this one is the first of the Star Wars where Marshall's Darth Vader is all "This is about the republic!" and "Stop bugging me about stuff Obi Wan I'm just trying to secure the republic!")
In this case Marshall was trying to decide if the United States had to honor land sales and agreements where Native people sold the land directly to a person. Marshall specifically used the "Doctrine of Discovery" to solidify his point that the United States was the "owner" of the land by right of discovery.
"Look at all these documents that talk about how you can discover a place, but only if it wasn't a Christian place. Those documents are real things that are real." Says me in my best old man Chief Justice voice.
According to this Native people lost their complete sovereign property rights because they were "discovered" (not by the United States FYI, but by a "European Nation"). Marshall said that Native people have the "right of occupancy" and that only the discovering nation could ever buy land from Native peoples.
And that's our law. The United States can "discover" a place that is fully occupied by cultures and societies. Cultures and societies that they recognized as sovereign nations (through treaties that they agreed to). Because... Christianity and you know, Columbus. (The Doctrine of Discovery is still cited in Federal law cases, like in 2005 City of Sherrill, NY v Oneida Nation because it is a real thing that is real [it's not]. Non Christian nations around the world should be FAR-EAKED).
So you see, we have to believe that this could possibly be a real thing. We have to grow up thinking "yeah, Columbus discovered America." Because then, when we learn about the "Doctrine of Discovery" it kind of makes sense. It has to kind of make sense so that we don't start realizing how tenuous the claim to much of the land in the U.S. actually is. If instead the U.S. had to honor the treaties, or make new treaties for land that was just stolen outright, then what happens? (Decolonization that's what).
But I digress because this is actually a post to say "Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day." And to let you know the best way to celebrate Indigenous peoples' day is to buy some of these awesome things made by Indigenous people that celebrate Indigenous survivance, resilience and futurities.
That's right we are still here. Not "discovered" or "conquered" or "vanishing" or "domestic dependent" or "limited."
We are still here. Not "sad" or "dying" or "lost" or "extinct."
We are still here. Not "the last of" or waiting for our white savior.
We are still here. Making noise, making jokes, making a difference, making tshirts.
You should buy one of them. Here are some I recommend (click the photo to go to the website!)
Do not shop at any Columbus Day events. Instead tell your local stores to have sales to celebrate "Indigenous peoples' day." And if there aren't any Indigenous Peoples' Day sales in your area, spend the day online #BuyingNative
P.S. I plan to update this entry throughout the day with more places you can #BuyNative so check back!
How about this freaking amazing scarf from J. OKUMA because holy crap I want everything, EVERYTHING from this site.
I know, I know. It's been a while since I've blogged ANYTHING let alone what was supposed to be a weekly roundup of #SettlerNonsense. But I been busy. And the truth is that while I hope to get back into at least a few blogs I've been working on over the next few days, I may also get distracted and need a few more weeks before that happens. SO MUCH is going on in Indian Country these days that I just want to say a few things before I begin:
This week in #SettlerNonsense: The WTF is THIS edition
WTF is this?
This is a card made by TOPPS cards that people can buy and collect as part of this series. You buy a package, you get some cards. This is one of those cards. Made in 2016. For collecting now, in 2016. Brought to my attention by a colleague and student. A student who bought this card. In 2016.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
Hey you don't gotta tell me. I really don't know WTF this is. It's supposed to be a (humorous?) advertisement/cartoon for an Atlanta Braves cutlery set that uses tomahawks to "chop, slice and dice" things? The worst is the "Carve up the competition..." slogan.
Now somebody is going to say "It's just a cartoon" and also "It's SUPPOSED to be kind of offensive cause it's SATIRE and you have no sense of humor."
I don't. I'm one of those "merciless Indian savages" who never jokes about nothing. Instead I mercilessly savage all over the place and then cry cause someone littered and then go home and be offended by Indian mascots. This makes me a hoot at dinner parties.
The problem with this cartoon/card is that it is yet again a publicly consumable and (seemingly) socially acceptable stereotyping of Native people as savage, primitive and magical.
"But there are no Indians actually in this picture."
True. But there are tools associated with Indians in stereotypical ways. And the name of the team is the "Braves" (also stereotypically associated with Indians) and, come on, everybody knows that this is associated with the Indian warriors/ hunters/ savages of "yore."
In this photo the stereotypes are so prominent it's hard to see how anyone could look at it and not go "oh yeah, you use the tomahawk like those Indians, chop and throw and carve up the competition.'"
Point 1: You know who was actually being carved up back in "yore" times? Indians. It was Europeans who introduced scalping to the Americas (not a common Indian practice FYI). Settlers were then paid money for Indian scalps and heads. Prices ranged depending on region. But this was a practice that happened all throughout the United States. Here is one example from Massachusetts.
By 1702, Massachusetts offered 10 pounds for every scalp from a male Indian age 10 and older. That price increased to 20 pounds then 100, Grenier wrote. Scalps taken from women fetched 10 pounds each, while children under the age of 10 were sold into slavery with proceeds going to the scalp hunters.
So really? This not only recalls Native stereotypes of savagery but also turns around and reminds Native people how much settlers like to "carve up the competition." #Nope
Point 2: There's a flame of some sort? Or a big BOOM thing coming out of the tomahawk when it hits the baseball. See, the implication is that Natives are magic. Our tomahawks were like magic. They were strong and made big booms?
Ever notice how in the movies a Native person can throw a tomahawk and it travels miles upon miles and hits someone square in the head? That's also a throw back to "yore." See in people's minds, "yore" was so dangerous for the nice, civilized settler. Any magical Native could come about at any time and just kill them. These stories of all powerful, all warrior, all savage Natives were all over the country. (Hence the MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES in the Declaration of Independence.) These tales SOLD MORE PAPERS after all. So when people would go out and encounter a Native they were perfectly okay with a shoot first mentality. Because Natives can throw a tomahawk from miles upon miles away and hit them square in the head!
And now, Natives have one of the highest rates of being killed by police (AND WE ARE LESS THAN 2% of the POPULATION). Why did I go there? Cause it matters. It matters that in our cultural imagination Natives are "merciless" and "savage." And that when you "honor them" (you know, cause these mascots are supposed to be all honoring) you do that by saying "they were so warrior like and savage and their tomahawks were good for carving up the competition." And then when you encounter Native people (as we did back in yore, as we do today cause... still here) they are not human like you, they aren't civilized like you, they are the merciless Indian savages. A stereotype brought to life.
P.S. If you need a tutorial about why stereotyping is a problem (and you shouldn't) let me leave you with research about why stereotypes of ANY GROUP are harmful and damaging. For this research I googled "Why are stereotypes bad?"
Wanna know what you can do other than buy a card that is degrading to Native people that REALLY shows how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
WTF is this?
This is "Pawa." He is the mascot for Justin-Siena high school in Napa, California. In 2016. You can find out all about him here on this website, in 2016. He goes to games and poses with students and wears traditional looking regalia that is supposed to be representative of local Native people to the area. In 2016. Apparently Natives are very beige.
We must pause to consider that according to articles written about "Pawa," the school worked with a local tribe who gave approval over this iteration of the mascot. Of course there have been others who have come out against it as well.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
I'm not going to argue about "which Indian gets final say over whether or not we can do a racist/derogatory thing?" This happens a lot. "But my Native American friend said..." Fine. You got someone to approve your racist/derogatory thing. Good for you. That doesn't make it 1. less racist or 2. less problematic or 3. less damaging and in this case 4. any less creepy. This guy kinda creeps me out. Why is he so beige?
I have come across lately several instances of people trying to convince me that there has to be some way to make Indian mascots more socially, politically, and psychologically "acceptable."
"What if we didn't do a tomahawk chop?"
"What if we didn't paint the face or the body?"
"What if we didn't do any war whoops or do any of the dances?"
How can we fix this racist Indian mascot? JUST DON'T HAVE AN INDIAN MASCOT.
It's so simple. Sometimes I hate that it is that simple but people make it so complicated.
Because consider this. What is a mascot?
"a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization." (dictionary.com)
No but really, what is a mascot?
Is a mascot a complex story and engagement with identity, culture, history, sovereignty and Indigenous futures? Is a mascot a literary, artistic or musical testimony to survivance? Is it a decolonizing methodology? Does a mascot provide legal, political and social support for the return of stolen lands? Does it intervene on settler colonial systems of law, environment and education that are set up to erase and degrade Indigenous peoples continuing existence? Does a mascot support treaty rights? Does a mascot make you stand up and chant "Natives are still here! This is very clear! Honor the treaties every day. Honor the treaties in every way. Oh yeah, and beat the other team at this sports game."
No? Then sit down.
Because we KNOW that mascots are damaging for Native people (especially Native children). Take for instance:
And WhateverTF this is (in the picture) is NOT the image that is going to inspire people to finally get up out of the stands and support Native people in their self-determination. THIS mascot is cray. It's cray. Maybe the regalia is a little bit more accurate to local Native people of the area, but it's still a mascot.
Wanna know what you can do other than continue to support a mascot that just contributes to stereotypes that will REALLY show how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
WTF is this?
This is "authentic Native American Regalia" being marketed to the masses as "perfect" for a Halloween costume.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
I've written about what it's like to be a Native on Halloween.
I've written about how people should STOP wearing headdresses, dummy.
Other people have written about why we should stop dressing up as Indians on Halloween. Freaking, Cosmo got in on the action.
There are videos about it.
So there is really NO EXCUSE for this to ever happen, ever.
But the caption is what made me and my friends giggle:
Authentic Native American Regalia also perfect for Halloween.
So of course as inspired by my friend Ozzie I started coming up with other (stereotypical) things this "Authentic Native American Regalia" is good for...
ALSO perfect for going to the side of the road and crying while somebody litters.
ALSO perfect for dancing... with wolves.
Wanna know what you can do other than dress up as a stereotype for Halloween that will REALLY show how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
Palette cleanser: Here is a video about all the awesome that is going on at the Sacred Stone Camp.
Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
Thank you/Shout out to Ozzie Monge and Grace Sesma for calling my attention to these problematic/cray images.
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...
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