Reality checks bounce from the strangest places

Back when I was a kid (and the printing press was killing the illuminated-folio business) Cracked was one of magazines we read instead of doing our homework.  Now it appears that writers at do their homework and everybody else’s too.

History vs. Hype – pretty thought-provoking read (although, be warned, there are cusswords).

8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think

I confess I don’t know enough about Tȟašúŋke Witkó (aka Crazy Horse) to guess whether he would really hate his memorial, as the author proposes.  But for some good background on cultural differences about how to treat significant mountains, try The Fallen Man, a Dineh (Navajo) mystery by a late, great author who might not want his name repeated now that he’s gone.


The Mishmash Nation of Neverland – I kinda liked ’em

I can’t help but sympathize with the creators of Syfy’s Peter Pan prequel, “Neverland.”  Here’s this forward-looking bunch with an ethos of fairly and sympathetically portraying — not only HUMANS of all ancestries — but aliens and robots and ghosts and super-intelligent shades of blue as well.   And they’re forced to be simultaneously backward-compatible with an Edwardian British fantasy of “Red Indians.”  That has to be worse than designing websites aimed at lawyers who haven’t updated their browsers since 1985!

I couldn’t wait to see how they got out of THAT one.  I only hoped it would be more graceful than Disney’s purported “Michael-Jacksonizing” of the animated (now-white) Indians in the DVD version of their “Peter Pan.”

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(For Thanksgiving): _Ringer_’s Bodaway Macawi: Return of the F.B.I.*

*For those who haven’t been monitoring pow-wow T-shirt booths (a great way to catch up on Native sociopolitics while munching some of the better food on the planet), there was this shirt that said “F.B.I.- Full Blooded Indian.” Soon followed by parodies that said “F.B.I.- {Flat Broke Indian, Fat Butt Indian, or my fave, Fry Bread Inspector}.” Bodaway Macawi, the villain of the CW suspense series “Ringer,”. is a kind of FBI we haven’t seen in a few decades: the Fictional Bad Indian.
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Late, Great Jim Thorpe: NAGPRA’s Newest Draft Pick?

His Sauk (Sac & Fox) name was Wa-Ho-Thuk. The world knew him as Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. He played professional football, baseball, and basketball, and took gold medals in both the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) took away his medals (amateur-standing issues, having been paid to play semi-pro baseball); the Great Depression took away his career and earnings; a heart attack in 1953 took away his life. At that time, Thorpe’s native Oklahoma appeared singularly uninterested in erecting a monument. Frustrated, widow Patricia cast a wider net for the kind of memorial she felt Jim deserved. She found it in the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, which proposed to merge into the single town of Jim Thorpe, PA and provide a granite mausoleum to house Jim’s remains. He was posthumously inducted into several athletic halls of fame, and honored with a “Jim Thorpe Day” in 1973. In 1983, after years of stonewalling, the IOC reinstated his Olympic medals.

So now this remarkable personage can rest in peace? Nope, not yet. His three surviving sons are suing the town of Jim Thorpe under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.), to have Jim Thorpe’s remains returned to Oklahoma for burial in the family plot near his birthplace (which has a historic marker now). Different facets of the controversy have been presented in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

NAGPRA is a handy legal lever here, but is it really the right tool for the job? In the last half-century, federal statutes that bolster tribal sovereignty and Native cultural identity have seemed especially vulnerable to being crushed – or at least noticeably flattened – under the wheels of justice. One plaintiff tries to push the law just a little too far, and the court severely narrows the scope of the law or strikes it down altogether. Continue reading

For US Independence Day: Thanks, Haudenosaunee

This is a Haudenosaunee wampum belt. The Haudenosaunee (“Longhouse Builders,” aka the Six Nations of the Iroquois* Confederacy) used wampum (beads carved from the purple-and-white-striped shell of a quahog clam) for many purposes. Wampum belts weren’t for holding an individual’s trousers up, but for memorializing important agreements, metaphorically minimizing potentially uncomfortable exposure for whole groups, and often their descendants as well.

An elder of the Wisconsin Oneida nation, part of the Haudenosaunee, once told me that every traditional Haudenosaunee prayer is a prayer of gratitude. That’s impressive. Would you rather be in charge of people who say “Thank you” all the time, or people who say “Gimme”?

On this Fourth of July, I feel it’s appropriate to say thank you to the Haudenosaunee for providing a model of federalism for the Founding Fathers – an example of how separate sovereignties (like the newly independent colonies) could function as a nation without losing their separate identities and all of their autonomy.

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For April Fools’ Day: Whither the Wanabi?*

Everywhere they go in Indian country, the Wanabi are despised and ridiculed.  They seem to get everything wrong.  They never take advantage of a good opportunity to shut up.  They ask stupid questions and then hear what they want to hear, no matter what the answer is.  They have no dress sense.  They call the regalia “costumes.”  Many of them can’t dance, and the ones who can insist on doing the wrong steps, which might really screw up the weather one of these days. 

On what is plausibly “their” day, let me play the white/black/yellow/brown devil’s advocate for a moment.

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