Monday, January 30, 2006

Not Just Casinos

Title: International Indigenous Business and Entrepreneurship Conference
Conference theme: Fostering Indigenous Entrepreneurship
Conference date(s): June 9-12, 2006
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Deadline: March 1, 2006
Contact: Jaye Francis, Conference Coordinator
Anderson Schools of Management
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Phone: 505-277-6471
Fax: 505-277-9868

Who Should Attend? Academicians, business professionals, government, NGOs, students, and anyone interested in learning and sharing experiences pertaining to Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

Papers should focus on the conference main theme and related topics such as financing of Indigenous Entrepreneurship, marketing Indigenous products, services, and technologies, indigenous gaming industry, media, entertainment, fashion & design, culture, Indigenous literature (Indigenous languages and National languages), traditional values, ethics and entrepreneurship, biopiracy, mining, fishing and gaming, environmentally friendly technologies, indigenous sustainable entrepreneurship, and the role of regional, federal and multilateral agencies and NGOs in promoting indigenous entrepreneurship. Case studies on indigenous entrepreneurship in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe are invited.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Our own James Frey

Much as been made of James Frey, the now infamous author of A Million Little Pieces. He wrote a "memoir" that turned out to be more fiction than fact and has incurred the wrath of such notables as Oprah, Frank Rich, Maureed Dowd. In fact, on yesterday's very special Oprah, he was held up as an example of what is wrong with our society, perhaps even mankind. Oprah et al implied that people like Frey are akin to Holocaust deniers and his lying undermined the very integrity of the field of journalism. Heavy stuff for a guy who lied about spending time in jail.

So if Frey is this devil, what to do with Nasdijj? The LA Weekly recently published a fascinating peice about a guy named Nasdijj who claims to be half-Navajo from the Rez and had quite the life. He has had some big success in the publishing world, including winning praise as a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and winner of the Salon Book Award.

Unfortunately, although not altogether surprisingly, it turns out Nasdijj, this "achingly honest" author, is completely full of it. So much so that he's not even Native. Fiction, sure. Memoir, no way. I'll leave the details of his con and the publishing world's patsy to the excellent LA Weekly article. It's enough to disgust anyone.

I would simply ask two questions. Why? Why this need to appropriate Indian voices? When white people speak for Indians, they silence the real Indians. Our voices become secondary to the outside world who would much rather believe the likes of a Nasdijj with his tragic tragic Indian stories of people living in the equivalent of tipis, never having seen a library and all suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. What's the appeal? It is that non-Natives are comfortable with that representation of Natives somehow? It fits the reservation mythology? It keeps Natives in the past, so "other" as to be unreal?

And second, didn't someone, anyone in the publishing world, bother to ask an Indian? It's not hard. The Navajo Nation actually has a website. And email. But, as the article details, even when such well-respected Native authors as Sherman Alexie tried to raise concerns, they were mostly dismissed because the story was more important than the truth.

So in the aftermath of the Oprah take-down of James Frey, I would ask what is the greater harm here? A pattern of white appropriation of Native identity and voices to make a buck which, in the process, does real damage to the public perception of Natives by non-Natives? Or some idiot who lied about getting a root canal without Novacaine?

You decide.