Every Month is Native American Heritage Month

Ideas about a pure race decimated indigenous peoples

Ideas about a pure race decimated indigenous peoples

Some critics rail against ersatz holidays.

Grandparents’ Day.

Valentine’s Day.

Labor Day.

They argue we should recognize grandparents, lovers and laborers every day.

Native American Heritage Month produces cognitive dissonance: it’s great to focus attention on American Indians, but the attention should never subside. Continue reading

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Indians: We’re All the Same

Kokopelli is used relentlessly as a synecdoche of Native American-ness

Kokopelli is used relentlessly as a synecdoche of Native American-ness

The thing about stereotypes is they corral our thinking into one cluster.

Result?

All Indians get lumped together.

For example, I was scouting the internet for an image for my blog and found this quotation:

Certain things catch your eye,
But only pursue those that
Capture the heart
~ Ancient Indian Proverb

While it’s a lovely sentiment—follow your heart—there is no such thing as an “ancient Indian proverb.”

Why? Continue reading

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What Does Social Justice Mean?

How do we think and act on social justice?

How do we think and act on social justice?

Social justice is like the word beauty: We think we know what it means, but how do you define it? Feel it? Measure it?

Today we use the term social justice differently from its earliest permutation.

Typically we think of social justice as responses to repair injustices. For American Indians, social justice might refer to repatriation of bones and artifacts, recognition of tribal autonomy, and redistribution of wealth. Continue reading

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Handsome Warrior Rescues White Captive

Cassie Edward's novel on Indian romance

Cassie Edwards’ novel on Indian romance

While we chip away at the topic of stereotypes, you should know the brave, stoic warrior still lives.

At least in paperback. Continue reading

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Stoic Indian

The stoic Indian

The stoic Indian

The stereotype of stoicism among Native Americans has carried far and wide, although its relationship to real life is a thin one.

The Stoics (with a capital S) were Greek philosophers known for their austerity, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

It gets better.

Being stoic means someone who “practices repression of emotion, indifference to pleasure or pain, and patient endurance,” says the OED. Continue reading

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Is Nothing Sacred?

1491sLogoWebsite4

Spend an evening with the 1491s and you will think nothing is sacred.

The troupe of American Indian actors, artists, improvisers and clowns poke fun at tradition while simultaneously stripping away stereotypes aimed at indigenous peoples, including the stereotypes held tightly by Natives ourselves.

The 1491s shine a spotlight on Indian hunters, Indian diet, Indian stoicism and sacred practices.

The troupe journeyed to Portland this week to unleash their critiques through skits and videos. Continue reading

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The Inner Voice of Optimism

My Ecko, Mary Grove Barnes

My Ecko, Mary Grove Barnes

What was life like for our ancestors 100 years ago?

That’s about three generations—from my grandmother to me. In many ways Ecko’s life was simpler with no cell phones and freeways.

But it was also tough, thanks to tuberculosis and swindlers ready to make a deal on Indian land.

Still, Ecko was an optimist. She liked a good story and a swig of spirits. She saw the best in people and soft-pedalled criticism.

As humans we’re pretty self-critical. Continue reading

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