Saturday, April 30, 2005

Armchair Powwow

Watch a live webcast of the Gathering of Nations.
>>>>Click Here.

You'll have to make your own frybread.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Nations are Gathering (and you're invited)

I'm off to Albuquerque in the morning, where soon I'll be surrounded by more ndns than you can shake a paper treaty at. I'm going to the Gathering of Nations, arguably the biggest powwow in the country, besides maybe Schemitzun. My cousin's Drum, Young Bird, won first prize last year, so they are one of the invited Drums.

I may be scarce for the next week as I will be spending time with my family and visiting the University of New Mexico law school. That is if I am still ambulatory after all the frybread* and chilis I intend to consume.

Some days it's good to be indigenous.

Photo from
* I know I just blogged about decolonizing your diet, so I will be eating frybread in moderation. I promise.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Through a Smoky Mirror

Welcome my friend Yehecatl to the blogosphere. He has a fine website called The Aztec Gateway and after months of prodding encouragement, he has finally started a blog called Through a Smoky Mirror.

Yehecatl writes:

"Four Hundred and Eighty-Five years ago in May, the Spaniards executed a massacre of Aztec celebrants in main ceremonial center of Tenochtitlan. The celebration was Toxcatl, the primary festival for the god Tezcatlipoca, "The Smoking Mirror." Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, then ruler of the Aztecs, had asked his captors' permission before beginning the festivities. Pedro de Alvarado (left in charge by Cortes as he ran off to defend himself from fellow Spaniards coming to arrest him) agreed to it, only to change his mind halfway through and decide to kill most of the people taking part in the celebration.

"This Toxcatl, I begin my blog. What will be on this blog, you ask? At first, subjects inspired by Toxcatl. After that, things of relevance to my religious and spiritual experience. Some of these things will be related to Mesoamerican topics, some of them will be current issues that I feel effect the religious climate in general, and some will be related to that odd and uncomfortable grouping of divergent religious paths that has come to be known as the Pagan community. This blog won't be anything fancy to look at, but I hope it will be of at least some interest to the small segment of the population it is intended for."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Please Don't Shoot the Indians

Good news for any Indians visiting Spearfish, South Dakota. Mayor Jerry Krambeck has repudiated the law that says, "If three or more Indians are walking down the street together, they can be considered a war party and fired upon."

Now to be fair, Krambeck says that there is no evidence that this law actually existed. Actually he says the law doesn't exist now, but that does not mean such a law never existed. He is convinced that this is just an urban legend that got started on the Internet and has become so believed, and believable, that he felt the need to officially repudiate it.

Indians can now feel free to travel to Spearfish, although I still wouldn't travel in groups, just in case.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bulldozing the Holy Land

This just in! WTF News reports that they have bulldozed parts of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to make gravel for the new trans-Israel highway! Jews, Christians and Muslims have complained loudly, but since part of the Mount is held in private ownership, they're pretty much screwed. But that'll be one sacred highway.

What? Not true? Ridiculous, even? Well, maybe and maybe not.

Woodruff Butte, AZ is a sacred place for the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo. But because parts of it were sold off to private non-Native ownership, it has been bulldozed and turned into gravel to make roads. The tribes complained and to the state of Arizona's credit, they revoked Dale McKinnon and his company's license to sell his gravel to the state for state road projects. He is, it seems, still allowed to sell it to private companies to the tune of millions of dollars.

Mr. McKinnon sued the state and lost. This week his appeal reached the Supreme Court, where it was rejected. So the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holds. In it's ruling, the judge says two things that caught my attention:

"Because of the unique status of Native American societies in North American history, protecting Native American shrines and other culturally-important sites has historical value for the nation as a whole, much like Greece's preservation of the Parthenon, an ancient Greek temple of worship."


"Native American sacred sites of historical value are entitled to the same protection as the many Judeo-Christian religious sites that are protected on the National Registry of Historical Places, including the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C..."

Indeed they are, judge. And while such sentiment may seem obvious to us Indians, it's good to hear those words coming from a federal judge.

As to my Temple Mount fake news example from above, I was inspired by a line from the documentary In the Light of Reverence, which features the destruction of Woodruff Butte as one it its stories:

"For Most Americans the Holy Land exists on another continent. But for Native Americans, the Holy Land is here."

Will we as a country allow our holy sites and national treasures to be turned into gravel, or will we work to preserve something as sacred, besides the American dollar?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hollywood Magic

My good friend the Doc over at Bitter Daze has written a great post on the Magical Negro.

The "Magical Negro" (MN) is never the protagonist in a film, because she/he must support the star character [..] "The Magical Negro" often appears as someone uneducated and in a low station of life, such as a driver (ex. Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy) or prisoner (ex. Michael Duncan Clarke in Green Mile), and is depicted as wiser and spiritually deeper than the protagonist. The purpose of the "Magical Negro" in the plot is often to help the protagonist --who is almost always white--get out of trouble, and to help this white character recognize his own faults and overcome them. The Black character may literally have special powers, or he may be mysterious in a way that suggests otherworldliness.

Wonderful, hilarious and spot-on, Doc.

I would write a companion piece on the the Magical Indian, but arent all Indians magical? Don't they all speak to the animals, have visions, and say wise things in short mystical sentences, usually accompained by off-camera drums and chanting? The only exception to the Magical Indian would be the Angry Young Indian, who is often a warrior and hates the White Man at first. But once he realises the White Man in question (think Kevin Coster) is a Good White Man TM, he lets go of his anger and learns to love the White Man. At this point he, too, becomes a Magical Indian.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention there are also magical Asians. They often teach not only life lessons, but martial arts. That's way cooler than beadwork.

Dances With Wolves poster from German Release. Graham Greene looks particularly magical.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ty Pennington's comin' to the Rez

I watch the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Or at least I used to. Before the cheese and sap level threatened to drown me in a sea of disabled children and weeping widowers being saved by earnest white designers. Now don't get me wrong. The show does good things. It's just, well, can't they do them without the maudlin soundtrack and human interest backstory? Just tell me these people are broke and need a house. I'll understand and I'll be appropriately excited. Who wouldnt want a new house?

But I digress. The news I wanted to share is it looks like Extreme Makeover is coming to the rez! The Navajo Nation, to be exact. They will be building a new home for Lori Piestewa. Piestewa was the Hopi woman who was the first female soldier killed in Iraq, and despite my cynicism at the presentation of the show, I cannot think of a more deserving family (see photo). The show will also be rebuilding the Navajo Nation Veterans Office. All very cool.

The Piestewa episode, which is also the season finale, will air Sunday, May 22, and 8pm EST. Mark your calendars and get a fresh box of kleenex ready. You're gonna need it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gettin' a degree in Cherokee

O-si-yo, y'all. I read today that Northeasteastern State University is now offering a 4 yr Bachelor's Degree in Cherokee Education. The program is aimed at future K-12 teachers and will include classes such as Elementary Cherokee, Conversational Cherokee, and Cherokee Cultural Heritage.

Either this is an excellent idea that is long overdue and will help to preserve and grow speakers of the Cherokee language, or it will attract every wannabe with a great-grandmother Cherokee princess in the greater Midwest. But hey, anyone who is willing to put in the work for a four year degree deserves some props.

Speaking of Cherokee (excuse the pun), I was surfing around the Official Cherokee Nation website and found some cool language stuff. You can take online Cherokee classes (requires registration), download the Cherokee font for your computer, or listen to Cherokee radio shows in Cherokee. Pretty cool. I wish we had a fraction of this stuff in Tewa.

Language preservation and growth is a Big Deal in Native communities. Check out Native Languages of the Americas and see what you can do to help, or talk to you elders or others in the community about how you can learn your own language.

Once we lose the language, we lose something integral to the culture and to the diversity of the human experience that cannot be recovered.

Picture of Cherokee Alphabet from

Monday, April 11, 2005

27 tons of Indian

War broke out Satuday among the tribes of North Dakota. Tex Hall, president of the NCAI, led the charge. 250 warriors, weighing in at an average of 215 lbs each, took up the challenge. (That's 27 tons of Indian!) And all of Indian Country must heed their call!!

Enemy number one? Fat. Let's face it, many of us are just plain fat. Commodity food, our genetic intolerance for carbs and poor preventative health care have conspired to continue the genocide against out people. And the disease du jour ain't smallpox anymore. It's diabetes.

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, 11.5% of Native Americans have Type II diabetes, compared to 3.9% of Whites. For people over 45, that number skyrockets to around 21.5%, compared to 8.3% among Whites. That's one in five. One in five! But added to stats is the fact that diabetes may be widely underreported among Natives. In a recent screening study 40-70% of Native adults were found to have diabetes.

And the truth is that diabetes is an ugly disease. My doctor, a no-nonesense Russian woman, put it to me this way: "You go blind, they chop off your foot, and you go on dialysis". Lovely. And exactly how I imagined spending my retirement years. But the truth is that I am at high risk, too. My grandfather died of the disease, and unfortunately, it's just in my genes. (Now tell me you want to be part-Indian.)

There is a movement to "de-colonize" the Native diet, which sounds like a rallying cry to me. And while that means limited my intake of frybread, I'm with you, Tex, and your formidable warriors! Bring on the salads!

cartoon from Redwire Magazine:
"decolonize your diet" from
frybread picture from Clarita's mom:

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Startling the Rich

Wow! I have to admit I was pretty impressed to hear that the World Bank President James Wolfensohn recently visited the Pine Ridge Reservation. For those that don't know, Pine Ridge has long been considered "the poorest of the poor". emcompassing the two poorest counties in the United States. That's right. Not Detriot. Not the Bronx. Not some dusty border town in Texas. Pine Ridge.

Wolfensohn is finishing up his second 10 yr term as head of the World Bank, and in his speech on the rez he said "the dignity, culture and rights of indigenous people must be respected in programs created by the World Bank". Indeed! To that end, he's created a Global Fund for Indigenous Peoples that will give small grants for sustainable projects, pilot programs to strengthen indigenous organizations, and financial support to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

He also added that he was "startled" by the level of poverty indigenous Americans face in this very very wealthy country. You're not alone, James. I think most Americans would be startled at the level of poverty on the reservations. Some quick facts from the US Census Bureau.

Median household money income, 2001 model-based estimate§ $25,313 $20,916 $35,282 $41,994
Per capita money income, 1999 $10,106 $6,286 $17,562 $21,587
Persons per household, 2000 3.14 4.36 2.50 2.59
Persons below poverty level, percent, 1999 model-based estimate§ 39.2% 52.3% 13.2% 12.4%
Children below poverty level, percent, 1997 model-based estimate§ 46.5% 46.2% 19.0% 19.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons, percent, Year 2000 52.1% 94.2% 8.3% 0.9%

Source of above statistics: US Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts
(, found at
§Includes everyone in the county, not just Lakota people
Includes persons reporting only one race.

But your visit and your determination left me feeling pretty positive, James! I think the World Bank's really gonna take Native Americans into consideration now. I think things are gonna change!

Then I read Wolfensohn is being replaced by Paul Wolfowitz on June 1. Uh, nevermind.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Off the Radar

There has been some talk of Jeff Weise' Neo-Nazi sympathies, of his Goth fashion and violent animations. But could this really be the problems facing Native kids today?


"Nearly 10,000 Indian and Alaska Native children, or about 1.2 percent, are in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"In comparison, 1.8 percent of African-American children and about 0.5 percent of white children are in foster care but the HHS data may not tell the whole story. According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, 25,000 Indian children, or 3 percent, live in foster care or with relatives, a figure that doesn't include Alaska Natives." is quoting a story from the, which goes on to talk about how Native kids get overlooked when it comes to federal funding. It seems that Native kids just aren't on anyone's radar. Until they shoot up their schools, that is. And even that attention is fleeting.

Also a note about where some of those famed Indian casino profits may be going. The says that on the Lummi Nation, which is profiled in the article, the tribe has invested $2 million dollars of casino profits into a home for kids.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Personal Note

On a personal note today, I was accepted to the University of New Mexico School of Law. I'll be starting this August. I plan to focus on Indian Law.

I'm very pleased and excited and hope the experience will bring some good things to this blog.