Hey friends, guess what? The Blog is 5! Back in January of 2010* I was a first year graduate student, and now I’m Dr. NativeApprops, and between those two milestones was a lifetime’s worth of learning, growing, finding/refining my voice, and things I could never have even imagined.
I don’t have time for a huge long reflection today, but I’m sure you’ve noticed–things are looking different around here! I finally got a chance to work on some new design elements incorporating my beautiful logo from Victor at DGTL NVJO. I’m also rolling out a new tagline (this is my new FB cover photo):
You are loved. You are loved so deeply and immensely that there are not words to convey the power of that love. Before I say any more, I want you to know that. Your ancestors love you. Your family loves you. Your friends, roommates, classmates love you. Your professors love you. Your RA loves you. The student support staff and administrators love you. We love you. And we need you. We need you here, we need you to fight, and survive and thrive. But above all else, please, please know that you are loved.
Last week, a Native student at my alma mater took his own life. When I heard the news, I was standing on top of a cliff in Hawaii overlooking the Pacific Ocean, looking out into the endless shades of blue, breathing deep and full for the first time in a long time. When I looked at my phone, I felt the familiar weight come back. The elephant that sits on my chest of worry, of fear, of concern. I silently held my friend’s arm and blinked back tears, saving them for later, when I was alone and didn’t have to express the complexity of the feelings I was holding inside.Read More
Today marks the two year anniversary of the Idle No More movement, so I thought I would re-visit and re-share a podcast I made of the Los Angeles Idle No More solidarity rally in December 2012. It was my first attempt at the medium, and as an avid/borderline obsessed podcast listener, I really hope I can do more of these soon! (sidenote: Have you checked out Indian and Cowboy‘s amazing selection of Native podcasts? You should. I love them all. Metis in Space is my jam.)
Anyway, here’s the original text I put with the post:Read More
“In 1996, a complaint was made to the New Zealand Advertising Standards Complaints Board about a Redskins advertisement aired on New Zealand television. The advertisement featured comedian Mark Wright dressed in American Indian clothing and assuming an accent. A mock drumbeat featured on the soundtrack. Despite protest from Nestlé New Zealand that the advertisement was inoffensive, the Board upheld the complaint.
Redskin packaging formerly featured a photo of a Native American wearing a traditional headdress. This was replaced in the late 1990s by a more neutral red character.”
Here’s one of the earlier packages, sorry for the quality:Read More
Why hello friends. In the past year or so a lot has happened in the life of Native Approps, and now, as Dr. Native Approps, I’ve started a new chapter at my first big-girl job in a long time. I’ve also moved from MA to CA to AZ and now to RI, and now that I’m (relatively) settled, I want to make a recommitment to the blog and our community that has grown and developed into something so super awesome that I never could have imagined.
Back when I started the blog in 2010, I had a model of posting something *every* day, even if it was a quick “Random Appropriation,” and I want to return this regular content model (I’m trying to be realistic as well…so don’t get too excited). Here are the new “categories” I’ve been working on, and my goal is to be consistent with posts, so you can expect new things regularly (I also feel that by making this public it’s a commitment to this plan!).
A few weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira covered the “controversy” around the Daily Show’s segment on the Washington Racial Slurs. I, as you may remember, was not a fan of the way the story was covered. To Shapira’s credit, he reached out to me, and several other of my Native friends involved in the Daily Show debate or conversations afterward, and offered to chat. I declined, but from what I hear, he got an earful about theways Natives are represented in the media and how and why these seemingly innocuous “angles” in reporting are very harmful. I’m being nice here. He got some angry Indians on the phone.
You’ll notice, in my first post, I didn’t actually refer to him by name. I called out WaPo as an institution for printing that piece, and made it much more about society than the reporter. But not this time, I guess.
So after Shapira’s period of learning, he decides to delve deeper into the mascot fight, by publishing this:
Three weeks ago*, the MacArthur foundation announced this year’s crop of “genius grant” award winners, which honored the incredible Native feminist and activist Sarah Deer, as well as 20 other amazing (and amazingly diverse) folks. Among that group was Alison Bechdel, a comic artist and author, but more commonly known for her creation of what we now call the “Bechdel Test.”
The Bechdel test is a simple test to evaluate films (and other media) for portrayals of women. To pass the test, a film must have:Read More
A couple weeks ago, a stellar, amazing group of my Native activist friends, colleagues, internet-friends, and people-I-wish-were-my-friends gathered in DC for a taping of the Daily Show (see photo above, via Gregg Deal). The episode hasn’t aired yet (I hear it might be tomorrow??), but already it’s causing a bit of a stir on the internets. The Washington Post published an article on Friday entitled, “The Daily Show springs tense showdown with Native Americans on Redskins fans”. It has since been picked up by Time, Gawker, Yahoo Sports, Uproxx and many, many other sites, though all seem to be relying on the Washington Post quotations and reporting.
You guys, I have some problems with the reporting of this. Surprised? Of course not.
So here’s the quick version: The Daily Show recruited fans of the Washington Racial Slurs via twitter to participate in a panel about the name change. They chose four of them, who sat in a hotel conference room with Jason Jones of the Daily Show for awhile, as he asked them a bunch of questions–even pulling out a dictionary to read the definition of “that word” and the like. The show also had a panel of the Native activists, asking them questions about why the name is racist, offensive, and needs to be changed. Then, the show brought the two panels together, and things, apparently, got “heated.”
Cue white lady Racial Slurs fan crying, getting up during the taping, taking off her mic, asking to rip up her consent form, going home and CALLING THE COPS the next day because she felt “threatened.”
Meanwhile, the next day, the bros of the 1491s went to the tailgate at FedEx field, where they were subject to abuse from fans yelling and confronting them.
So, you’re the Washington Post, how do you frame this story? By attempting to make us feel bad for the poor Racial Slurs fans who were “ambushed” and “threatened,” of course.
Last week I chatted with a super kind and engaged reporter at NPR. She found my blog because my colleague (thanks Todd!) tweeted her in response to a call for interesting education folks to follow on Twitter. She read through my blog, and came upon a post I wrote a couple years ago–“Dear Native student who was just admitted to college“–and wanted to ask me a bit more about it. So we talked for 15-20 minutes so I could give some context on the post and my doctoral work that has stemmed out of these areas in Native higher ed. She posted an edited version of this convo on the NPR website (I say “like” a lot irl, she kindly took that out, as well as some of my filler/background info), where it has gotten a pretty big response.
I was stoked to get to talk about my “other” life in Indian Ed, since I’m still finding my voice in that area (haven’t been blogging about it for five years, though I have been studying and researching for that long…). I think anything I can do to signal boost Native issues in higher education and help shed light on our experiences, struggles, and triumphs in college and beyond is important.
But they included a headshot on the post. One that is the thumbnail every time the article gets shared. I didn’t even think twice about it–most people who know me and the blog know who I am and where I come from, and yes, what I look like. But I forgot, this is the internet.
To be fair, as always, there are tons of positive comments. I’ve received a bunch of emails from students and graduates that have made me happy and heartened. But for those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, you know this is constantly something I deal with, and this article wasn’t anything new. Ready? Here’s a sampling (Yes I left their real names. They said it on a public forum…):
and on the article itself (to be fair, it was just one dude…though NPR has pretty strict comment guidelines, so there could have been more):
ETA: Just to show this comes from all sides, there’s also this comment from a Native person (the comments from fellow Natives always sting):
On both the NPR article, and definitely on the Facebook thread on the NPR page, my identity is being dissected by hundreds of people who don’t know me. Who don’t know how I relate to my Native heritage, the work I do, who my family is, anything. I also think it’s kinda hilarious–do they not realize that, as a blogger, I’m on the internet? Reading their thread?
I am 98% positive that if this NPR article wasn’t accompanied by a photo, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There is very little commentary challenging my ideas, or what I had to say about Native students transitioning to college–it’s all focused on how I look.
You wonder why I care so deeply about representations? This is why I care. Because all those people think that Native identity is tied to looking like something off the side of a football helmet.
This isn’t just something that happens to me, either. Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum about Indian Mascots, and an incredible 15-year-old Native student named Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown spoke to the group. He talked beautifully about the effects of mascots on his schooling experience, and also what it means when fellow students, and even his vice principal, say he doesn’t “look Indian,” and how it is all tied in together. This sentiment is real, and it’s all connected.
One of the other commenters on the FB thread mentioned how I “don’t have a wikipedia page” or even a bio on the blog, so they were skeptical of my credentials–basically waving the wannabe flag. It is true I don’t have either of those things (but um, who wants a wikipedia page?). Honestly, it’s by design. If people are *that* desperate to find out about me, they can google and find all sorts of articles and videos that talk more about my background. I don’t want my phenotype and hometown to color initial perceptions of me and my words. I want my writing to speak for itself–because I have never lied about who I am, and write about it all the time on the blog.
In writing Native Appropriations, I am inviting readers into a community. I want folks to get to know me, know how I think, operate, where I come from, what ideas we share, and where we differ. I love comment chains where we have discussions that push my thinking and help me grow. I love when it’s an equal exchange of knowledge. That can’t happen when I’m summarily dismissed. So I never “got around” to making an “about” page. I’m all up in this thing. It hasn’t seemed to hold us back. But, for better or worse, that’s not the way the internet functions. People want quick, easily digestible sound bites. They don’t want to enter into a relationship (which is the Indigenous way of doing things…). They want to be able to categorize and move on. Which is what happened with the NPR piece.
I have deep, deep anxieties about my new post-graduation life as “Dr. K”–of entering academia with the weight and privilege of Native Approps behind me. I have actual nightmares of folks finding academic articles I write and lambasting my scholarship all over the internet. I worry about not living up to the “hype.” I say weight and privilege–because I know that no matter what my research is probably going to have a wider audience than most, simply because of the blog. That’s amazing, and such a privilege to be able to know that I can push forward conversations about Native students and representations to an engaged audience. It’s also intense, because most young scholars get awhile to find their voice and place in their research, but I know that I’m going to be under a microscope pretty quickly. I honestly try not to take to heart what people say about my blog writing, because I still consider it a hobby, but my academic writing is and will continue to be my life. This gave me a small window into what the next few years of my career might bring, and to be honest, it kinda (ok really) freaks me out.
But, if my picture and my story can bring to light these conversations about Native identity that need to happen, and if I need to be the literal face of that conversation, then I’m ok. Because we need to talk about it. Colonial legacies of blood quantum have real effects in our communities, and these conversations happen over, and over, and over without moving us forward.
Because Native identity isn’t just a racialized identity. Native identity is political. We are citizens of tribal nations. So we can’t just talk about our identities purely in racial terminology. Thinking about our identity as purely race-based is another tool to wipe us out. Cause you can “breed out” this notion of “blood” but you can’t “breed out” citizenship. There’s also a deep power issue here–who has the “right,” especially as an outsider, to determine someone’s identity for them? But these are big topics for another day.
So because this is a topic we’ve addressed before, I’ll just quote directly from the end of my “Real Indians don’t care about Tonto” post, and say this–this is the reason why I continue to fight. This is the reason why I’m still here:
But instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee). My ancestors gave their “x-marks”–assents to the new–so that I could be here, fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.
The underlying motivation behind this blog is not only to critique and deconstruct representations of Natives, but also to be able to openly explore what it means to be a contemporary Native person. And more specifically for me, what does it mean to be a millennial, nerdy, doctorate-holding, mixed-race, Cherokee woman?
Moving forward, I hope these are questions we can continue to answer together, through the blog, my research, my teaching, and ongoing conversations on and offline. This NPR article has shown us that there is power in getting our stories out there, but that we still have a ways to go. And that’s ok. These were conversations that weren’t happening openly in public forums just a few years ago. It’s a journey, one that has brought me incredible joy and challenged me in incredible ways. I’m happy to keep rolling along, learning, making mistakes, and figuring out what it means to be me, but also, what it means to be us. Because learning about the ways we relate to one another, Native to Native and Native to non-Native, is at the heart of all of this work.
As always, wado for being here with me on this path,