Monday, June 27, 2005

NDN Thoughts on Eminent Domain

I'm sure by now everyone has heard about the most recent high profile Supreme Court ruling. The one that involved bulldozing the houses of little old ladies to make room for high-rise hotels, yuppie condos and, dare we guess, a Starbucks or four.

The Court ruled that "local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development". This, as I understand it, is part of the law of eminent domain.

Eminent domain "is the power of the state to appropriate private property for its own use without the owner's consent." Usually there are riders that stipulate that the land must be used for public works and that the owner must be justly compensated.

OK, ndns, is any of this sounding familiar?

Now I don't know all the legalese (yet) and I'm not trying to draw legal parallels so much, but I gotta say, as soon as I heard that report, I thought, well, now you know how Indians feel.

And I'm not alone on that thought.

Georgia Albert posts on ProudToBeNativeAmerican:

"Not to long ago the Indians had control of their ancestoral lands, the land to raise their families on, and then the government exercised eminent domain. The government seized the Indian's ancestoral lands and sold their land to private parties. The Indians could only stand and watch as their land, their Mother, was stolen from them, and sold to private parties. And now, the government has come for the land of the citizens of the United States, the government is using the same tatics used to steal Indian lands, the eminent domain scam. "

Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is Cradleboard in Your Kid's Classroom?

What did you learn in school about Indians? Not much? Or at least not much that was accurate? That could be changing.

The Cradleboard Teaching Project, a revolutionary new curriculum started by Indian musician and singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, is working to address that problem:

"The Cradleboard Teaching Project turns on the lights in public education about Native American culture - past, present, and most important for the children - the Future. It comes out of Indian country, and reaches far beyond, into the mainstream classroom and into the future of education.

"Backed by lesson plans and an excellent curriculum, the Cradleboard Teaching Project is also live and interactive, and totally unique; children learn with and through their long-distance peers using the new technology alongside standard tools, and delivering the truth to little kids with the help of several American Indian colleges. Cradleboard reaches both Indian and non-Indian children with positive realities, while they are young."

From their FAQ: What are the Problems that Cradleboard is designed to remedy?

- Native American people suffer from being misperceived all their lives because of the lack of accuracy in the mainstream. Native American reality is virtually invisible to ourselves and our peers and the parents of our peers. Any child whose concept of self identity must depend upon what’s reflected as Native American in the world of school and media will come up empty. It’s like looking in the mirror with a group of friends and having everybody reflected but yourself.

- Native American children don’t see anybody on television or at the movies with whom they can identify. They have no visibility and no impact. Meanwhile their innocent non-Indian peers celebrate a Broadway-style Pocahontas who sings like a showgirl and dances with pink bunnies. What is a Native American child to do? Most Native American children don’t know anybody who lives like “Dances with Wolves” any more than a non-Indian child knows anybody who lives like Mary Poppins.

- Statistics show that the same inaccurate, stereotypical curricula about Native peoples that hurt Native Americans also produce Mainstream adults with inaccurate or negative views about Indians. When a Native American child grows up, he and she will have to deal with both sides of this dilemma: absence of a strong self concept and inaccurate perceptions from others.

- Lack of enriching, accurate information about Native American people and cultures are in part to blame for our having the highest depression and suicide rates in the country. Leading up to this fact are high rates of school drop-out, concomitant high unemployment, welfare dependency, substance abuse, and rates of poverty.

Actually sounds like something everyone could use, not just school kids.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stop. Think.

Take a moment and look at the ad to your left. Grandparent. Child. Ice cream cone. Colored chicken feather "Indian" head dress. Major pharmaceutical product.


Now if you aren't Indian, you're probably thinking, "So what"? So I want you to do a little exercise. Imagine this ad with the kid dressed up as, say, the stereotype of a Black man, or a Chinese man, or an Indian from India. Go ahead. Make the little outfit in your head, complete with hat or turban or whatever fits. Now imagine Tylenol printing that for an ad campaign. Uh huh.

So what makes Indians different? Why are our traditions and practices allowed to be dress-up for little children in ad campaigns? Why aren't we accorded the same respect as any other ethnic group?

Is it because Indians are the past? We are all dead, so making fun of us or belittling our cultural practices doesn't matter? Is that why words like "redskin" persist as acceptable term, why "braves" and "chiefs" are still found as caricatured mascots on high school football fields? And why Tylenol doesnt know any better?

Tylenol got one thing right. The ad says to stop and think before taking Tylenol. I couldnt agree more.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Summering with the Shinnecock

I think we've all heard of The Hamptons, that exclusive summer playground of the rich and famous, home to P-Diddy, Billy Joel, Seinfeld, The Hiltons, and numerous other East Coast celebs and millionaires. Turns out that property, where the average home is US$993,269, and more exclusive conclaves can run to an average of US$1.39-million, should belong to the Shinnecock tribe.

Now the Shinnecock aren't telling the rich to leave their their homes, but they are claiming that the land was taken from them by the State of New York and they would now like to be paid some back rent and interest. How much could that be, you ask? Well, the land has been assessed at a value of US$1.7 billion. You could hold a pretty nice Labor Day Powwow with that cash.

The Shinnecock have long held that this land was taken form them illegally. It seems that about 150 years ago a group of private investors got the New York legislature to approve the transfer of the land based on a petition signed by a mere 21 Shinnecocks. Some of those "signatures" were only "X", and others belonged to minors and, uh, dead people. Yes, dead people.

Now some people are claiming that this lawsuit, which certainly seems unwinnable, considering the facts that the Shinnecock are not a federally recognized tribe and recent court losses like Oneida Indian Nation v. City of Sherrill imply the courts may not be friendly to Indian land claims, was filed as leverage in casino negotiations. The Shinnecock have been trying to open a casino on their 800 acre reservation in the Hamptons, but their snooty neighbors, who I am sure happily vacation in Vegas and Monte Carlo, have strongly opposed the plan.

Randy King, chairmen of the tribes board of trustees, says "This land claim will enable us to have what our vacationing neighbours take for granted - steady jobs, better education for our children and access to quality healthcare."

I agree. I figure whether the money to fund those things comes from a casino or by forcing the hand of the State of New York, the Shinnecocks have some payback coming their way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Audio Files: Oversight Hearing On Indian Youth Suicide Prevention

Thanks to for providing this great audio of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Youth Suicide. All linksbelow are from

All files are Mp3's, so you can download the files for later listening as well.

Introduction - 7:43 - 3.09MB
Introduction by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) and short statement
by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)

Panel I - 5:55 - 2:37MB
Testimony by Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General

Statement - 4:27 - 1.78MB
Statement by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon)

Q&A - 3:38 - 1.45MB
Questions and Answers with Panel I

Statement - 2:36 - 1.04MB
Statement by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota)

Q&A - 18:30 - 7.41MB
More Questions and Answers with Panel I

Panel II - 42:56 - 17.2MB
Testimony by Panel II

Q&A - 22:52 - 9.16
Questions and Answers with Panel II

Oversight Hearing On Indian Youth Suicide Prevention

US Senate Committee On Indian Affairs
Oversight Hearing On Indian Youth Suicide Prevention
Set for June 15, 2005
9:30am et

A live web broadcast of senate hearings covering Indian youth suicide
will air this June 15, 2005 at 9:30am. Web site URL:

If you have testimony you would like to have entered into record on
this issue, please use this email address:

You have two weeks from now to have your testimony placed on the senate record for this issue. United Native America has been told what the senate panel wants is positive feed back they can use to enact new legislation that will bring about positive changes for American Indian youth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

"..And Feel Like Hurting Somebody"

“If Crazy Horse, or Geronimo, or Sitting Bull came back...They would start a war....They’d listen to some dumb-shit Disney song and feel like hurting somebody....”

Someone in another blog recently posted a review of the Sherman Alexie book Indian Killer.

"..if the Ghost Dance worked ...All you white people would disappear. All of you. If those dead Indians came back to life...They’d kill you. They’d gut you and eat you heart."

Pocohantas fans beware. New Age wannabes, step off. It could get ugly.

Indian Killer is probably my favorite novel by Alexie. It's a murder mystery set against the backdrop of contemporary Indian politics and cultural clashes in Seattle. It's got enough "whodunit" to keep everyone reading, and enough challenging in-your-face politics to make you really think. I highly recommend.

I'm hesitant to say this, but I heard the movie version is in production. Anyone know if that's true? Even if it is, that does *not* mean you should wait for the movie to come out. Alexie's writing style is one of the joys of reading his works.

And don't be dismayed if your were taken aback by the quotes above. The book may challenge you, but it's not so easily dismissed as Angry IndianTM.

"Indian Killer tells this story without preaching or yelling. We follow characters we genuinely care about, whether white or native, because nothing is black and white even the so called enemies are interesting and human. Even the thugs who are beating up the vagrants are shown as more then just three dimensional bigots. In the end this just makes their actions all the more disturbing."

And who doesnt like disturbing?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

NAC's Going West, Too

Native American Calling is talking about Into the West on tomorrow's show.

from NAC:
"What is written in history books is often from the point of view of non-Natives. Imagine what Geronimo or Chief Seattle would have said if they wrote history books about the events that took place during their lifetimes. Turner Network Television is set to air a six-week mini-series on the settling of the American west. They hired Native advisors who helped in the accurate portrayal of Native people and they hired Native actors to play the parts of historical figures. How can non-Natives learn about the history of Native Americans from this television series? And how did the Native actors and advisors help portray the Native perspective? Guests to be announced."

Show airs Friday, June 10, 1-2 pm EST. Listen here online.

I'm Headed "Into the West"

Friday, tomorrow night, at 8/7c, I'm headed Into the West.

I've been waiting for a while for this Stephen Spielberg produced miniseries to premiere on TNT. It is being touted as the first epic telling of Westward Expansion that takes into account the Indian point of view. The six part minseries follows the adventures and twists of two families, one white and one Lakota, over 50 years. Various family members hit such historical highlights as the California Gold Rush, the building of the transcontinental railroads, The Battle of Little Bighorn, and Wounded Knee.

I paroused the cast and I think almost every Indian who's every worked in Hollywood is in it. Some of the well-recognized names are Wes Studi, Graham Greene, Eddie and Michael Spears, Irene Bedard, Russell Means, and Gordon Tootoosis. And those are just the Indians I recognize! Who is Jay Tavare? (Yeah, I think I've seen him on the cover of romance novels, too. Is he like the Indian Fabio?)

I see that Crazy Horse and Red Cloud make appearances (not to mention Custer), so that's pretty exciting! Let's keep our fingers crossed that it is good, shall we?

Although I have to say some early reviews have been harsh.

Elaine Wolff of the San Antonio Current says "Why then do the meticulously (and, I imagine, expensively) recreated scenes play so awkwardly? Even the actors who portray Lakota tribespeople don't seem to be entirely convinced of their own authenticity. Part of the fault lies with the filmmakers who decided that these scenes require more narration than the all-white scenes. The unintentional effect is to make the Native Americans seem childlike and deserving of patronization."

Uh oh. Childlike? Patronizing?

And then Alan Sepinwall at the Star Ledger opines "Most of the people we meet are historical archetypes at best, blanks at worst.[...]The Lakota characters are even sketchier than their white counterparts, there less as people than as symbols. The Lakota sequences seem shorter and more obligatory as the story moves along, as if the writers knew they were necessary to provide historical balance but had no idea how to make them interesting."

I'm starting to get a bad feeling. But I'm going to give it a chance. So should you.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

When NDNs Disappear

I've been on a road trip. About 3,000 miles total since May 31 and over 600 miles today alone. Yes, I'm a little tired.

I saw a lot of Indians. A family running a taco franchise on the Cheyenne rez right by the dialysis clinic, a well dressed guy in the Bill Clinton museum wearing tasteful turquoise earrings. And Albuquerque. Well, let's just say Albuquerque's full of ndns. That's one of the reasons I now call Albuquerque home.

That's right. No more New York City. I am now a resident of the Duke City.

I also saw many a remarkable Indian..thing. A little cartoon "running Indian" logo at a gas station. Lots and lots of dolls, feathers and moccasins in Oklahoma, which, btw, is "Native America", so their license plates say. (New York's say "The Empire State". What do you think that means?) A number of roadside Indian "museums", replete with tipi. (May I say again my peeps never lived in tipis, nor did many tribes. Once again, the Plains Indians steal the spotlight.)

And so now you know what happens when Indians disappear; they hit the road. But now I'm back and shall return to normal blogging. Once I get some serious sleep.