Friday, November 02, 2012 11:15 AM
Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy!
Arctic Alaska has quickly become the most contested land in recent U.S. history. It’s home to vast natural resources and a precariously balanced—and highly threatened—ecosystem. In this excerpt from the collection Arctic Voices (Seven Stories Press, 2012), writer Nancy Lord gives an account of a gathering of Yup’ik Elders facing the troubles of thinning ice in the Bering Sea.
In the late 1970s, the residents of St. Louis, Michigan, found their community in the middle of a Superfund site—an area of land and water deeply contaminated by Velsicol (formerly Michigan) Chemical. Years later, with the cleanup largely failing, a citizen taskforce took on responsibilities of rebuilding. In Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed (Michigan State University Press, 2012), professor Edward C. Lorenz evaluates several case studies in community development—perhaps the solution to rising, damaging corporate irresponsibility. In this excerpt from the book's introduction, Lorenz begins the argument that communities are the agents of civic reform.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 5:07 PM
Wouldn’t you be offended if your cultural heritage was immortalized in underwear? This fall, the Navajo Nation sent retailer Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter, forcing them to rename more than 20 products the tribe found objectionable, including the “Navajo Hipster Panty” and “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask,” reports Lisa Hix in Collectors Weekly.
The Navajo Nation holds trademarks for the name “Navajo,” preventing it being used to sell things like mass-produced hoodies and knee socks. And, the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 makes it illegal to falsely market a product as Native American–made. Even so, more and more Native American–inspired fashions are gracing metropolitan runways and glossy magazine pages. From hipster cardigans to luxe handbags to leather bracelets, designs cribbed from America’s indigenous people are making the rounds.
Hix spoke with Jessica R. Metcalfe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa and professor at Arizona State University who blogs at Beyond Buckskin about non–Native Americans producing “native” fashions:
The problem is that they’re putting it out there as “This is the native,” or “This is native-inspired.” So now you have non-native people representing us in mainstream culture. That, of course, gets tiring, because this has been happening since the good old days of the Hollywood Western in the 1930s and ’40s, where they hired non-native actors and dressed them up essentially in redface. The issue now is not only who gets to represent Native Americans, but also who gets to profit.
For some, the biggest offender is Pendleton Woolen Mill, a company founded on producing Indian trade blankets and robes in 1863 and who is famously pro–Native American. Recently the company expanded to produce high-end coats, bags, and other products. While the designs used on Pendleton products are original to the company and not traditional tribal motifs, the fact that they are profiting from sales of $500 sweaters featuring native-inspired designs can feel like a betrayal.
“Seeing hipsters march down the street in Pendleton clothes, seeing these bloggers ooh and ahh over how ‘cute’ these designs are, and seeing non-Native models all wrapped up in Pendleton blankets makes me upset,” Cherokee writer and Ph.D. candidate Adrienne K., who blogs at Native Appropriations, tells Hix.
It’s a complicated feeling, because I feel ownership over these designs as a Native person, but on a rational level I realize that they aren’t necessarily ours to claim. To me, it just feels like one more thing non-Natives can take from us—like our land, our moccasins, our headdresses, our beading, our religions, our names, our cultures weren’t enough? You gotta go and take Pendleton designs, too?
Read the full article “Why the ‘Native’ Fashion Trend Is Pissing Off Real Native Americans” online and see more striking examples of Native Americans’ fashion influence, past and present.
Source: Collectors Weekly
Images: Detail from Pendleton nine-element robe, first introduced as an Indian trade blanket in the 1920s, from Language of the Robe by Rain Parrish (top); Urban Outfitters “Navajo Hipster Panty” (middle); Pendleton Toboggan fashion shot (bottom).
Friday, October 07, 2011 12:45 PM
Much “Indian land” is actually out of the control of Indians. Non-Indians own more than 65 percent of the reservation land in the United States, reports Native Peoples magazine. Moreover, many of the Indians that do own land possess ridiculously tiny “fractionated” parcels made possible by the General Allotment Act of 1887, also known as the Dawes Act, which split up land and put it into a government trust.
A Minnesota-based organization called the Indian Land Tenure Foundation is working to change this situation and to put more land back into Indian hands. Executive director Chris Stainbrook tells Native Peoples that a large part of the group’s mission is raising awareness:
“Most curriculums in schools today stress the old story, that the treaties were made and reservations created, and that’s that. Most people don’t realize that we’ve lost more than half of the original 148 million acres of land that were inside those initial reservation boundaries. What has come along with that loss of land is the loss of a land-based culture, and also the economic opportunities those lands would have provided for Indian people. Add up that cumulative monetary loss over the past 130 years and it is staggering. And even the land we still have—roughly 55 million acres in trust status—most of that is highly fractionated, which greatly reduces its profitability. Plus, we are still losing land every year.”
A recent court settlement may help clean up fractionation, Alleen Brown reports in In These Times. President Obama in late 2010 signed off on a $3.4 billion settlement in the case Cobell v. Salazar, ending a 14-year-old class-action suit filed by Indians against the U.S. government for tribal land mismanagement. Checks will be going out soon, and settlement funds disbursed through the Indian Land Consolidation Program will be directed toward consolidating land into usable portions—but Brown notes that “the settlement doesn’t put an end to fractionation itself” nor to “the federal government’s paternalistic practice of holding tens of millions of reservation acres in trust.”
In the meantime, some Indian activists have a suggestion for Occupy Wall Street: Let’s decolonize it instead.
Sources: Native Peoples, In These Times, Indian Country Today
, licensed under
Tuesday, October 13, 2009 11:06 AM
America has been a nation of sports nuts for even longer than you might imagine—a thousand years, in fact. In “America’s First Pastime,” Archaeology magazine (Sept.-Oct. 2009) writes about the early Native American game of chunkey, which involved throwing spears or sticks at a rolling, hockey-puck-size stone disk. The game was an important tradition in the culture that sprang up around the great prehistoric city called Cahokia, which existed near where St. Louis, Missouri, now lies. And apparently it was much more than just a game, being used to win converts, settle scores, and spread culture:
The people of Cahokia practiced human sacrifice, incorporated obelisk-like timber posts into their worship, told stories of superhuman men and women, used Mesoamerican-style flint daggers, and understood the cosmos in ways similar to Mesoamerican notions. They then spread this new way of life, which included intensified maize agriculture, across the Midwest and into the South and Plains with a religious fervor. Archaeologists refer to the culture as Mississippian, after the river that flows by many of its known sites.
One of the primary vehicles for the growth of this new civilization may have been Cahokian envoys who carried chunkey stones in one hand and war clubs in the other as they ventured into the hinterlands with the purpose of making peace or political alliances. These emissaries seem to have established and enforced a region-wide peace of sorts, a veritable Pax Cahokiana, an important element of which may have been the game of chunkey.
The article describes the biggest chunkey contests as great spectacles taking place on large town plazas with a 30- or 40-foot-tall obelisk or wooden post in the center on a raised mound. And if you think things get crazy when Manchester plays Liverpool or the Packers play the Vikings, consider that other nearby posts were used to exhibit enemy scalps, skulls, and recently captured foes who would soon be killed. “Not only was chunkey an important event,” the magazine writes, “but there were other possible associations, direct or indirect, with warfare and enemy executions.” Suddenly, burning a Brett Favre effigy seems almost tame by comparison.
The story of Cahokia itself, with its cultural undercurrents of brutality and power, is an incredible tale in its own right. The author of the Archaeology story, Timothy Pauketat, writes more extensively about it in his book, Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi, which is the subject of a recent Salon article, “Sacrificial Virgins on the Mississippi.” “Some of Pauketat’s ideas,” writes Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, “are both speculative and controversial”—but with characters like “He-who-wears-human-heads-as-earrings,” they certainly are fascinating.
Source: Archaeology (abstract only online), Chippewa Valley Newspapers, Salon
Image by TimVickers, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, May 07, 2009 2:26 PM
In our International Issue, we asked the age-old question: Why do 40,000 Germans spend their weekends dressed as Native Americans? We know this much: it has something to do with Karl May, the best-selling German author of all time.
In Der Indianer, reprinted from Alberta Views, we learn that "in 1892, May published the first of many books about a fictional Apache warrior named Winnetou and his German blood brother, Old Shatterhand. The two men roamed the North American plains, using their nearly superhuman powers to fight off the land-hungry government and thuggish, violent pioneers."
Now we've stumbled upon photographs from a Karl May festival in Austria. Whatever it is that is happening here, it seems to be spreading.
Images bypixel0908, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:00 AM
On many reservations, cell phone service and internet access are spotty or nonexistent, and radio is an important resource for tribal communities to share information and stories with one another. Neelanjana Banerjee writes in New America Media that one national radio show, Native America Calling, connects many tribal nations by reaching 500,000 people via 52 stations. The call-in show, which broadcasts live on weekdays, invites listeners to join conversations on Native education, health care, arts, literature, and many other subjects. As Harlan McKosato, the show's host and producer, told Banerjee, "It’s about identity, first and foremost. That’s the core issue."
But even though most reservations have access to radio, getting ahold of station frequencies creates a major hurdle. So Native Public Media, a project of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, worked with several tribal communities to apply for non-commercial educational programming FM licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC accepted applications during a short window from October 9-15). Native Public Media will also testify before Congress on tribal telecommunications issues October 24. —Julie Dolan
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