Archives For December 2010

Hi Everyone,

I hope the holidays have been treating you well! I, personally, am quite happy to be home in California and not in the blizzard currently happening in Massachusetts.

I wanted to share something that comes from the academic side of my life, this spring I’m the teaching fellow for the Harvard University Native American Program’s course called “Nation Building II”. The course is for graduate students across the university to perform independent projects with tribes, communities, and Native organizations. I took the course last year and worked on a great project with Haskell in Kansas, helping to work on some monitoring and evaluation plans for their summer youth program. It was fun, rewarding, and (I hope) helpful for Haskell!

So, if you work with a tribe, community, or Native organization and have a project that would benefit from some collaboration with Harvard graduate students, please read the call for proposals below.

Some sample projects from years past can be found here (scroll down a bit):

Feel free to comment if you have any questions, or email me at the blog address ( and I’ll get back to you ASAP!


Call for Project Proposals from Native Communities and Leaders

Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP)
HUNAP and Nation Building II:

HUNAP is one of Harvard’s 17 Interfaculty Initiatives of the Office of the President and Provost. Consistent with the Harvard University charter of 1650 calling for the “education of English and Indian youth,” HUNAP has developed partnerships with established faculties at Harvard to build viable programs of research, teaching, and outreach on issues affecting the lives of indigenous peoples. As part of this mission HUNAP funds the Nation Building II graduate course offered through the Kennedy School of Government and the Graduate School of Education.

A Nation Building II Project is a field based research project requested by a client that focuses on some of the major issues Native American tribes and nations face. These projects are based on the “sovereign” choice of a community to partner with a university to study native issues, including sovereignty, economic development, constitutional reform, leadership, health and social welfare, land and water rights, culture and language, religious freedom and education. 

The project is completed by graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in Native Americans in the 21st Century:  Nation Building II.  The Projects are conducted under the guidance of faculty members with relevant expertise.  Students participate in a weekly colloquium where they present their work-in-progress to fellow students and faculty.  The lead faculty member for Nation Building II is Prof. Dennis Norman, Harvard Medical School and faculty chair of HUNAP.

Students are not writing term papers for a scholarly audience.  Rather, they are charged with doing research that is likely to assist their client.  From the students’ perspective, the learning comes from figuring out the links between what they have studied and the real challenges that Native decision makers and organizations face.  From the clients’ perspectives, Nation Building II Projects provide a source of assistance in the form of talented and committed students with the capacities to look into problems and issues that the press of daily events prevents the client from digging into.

The HUNAP Nation Building II Projects deal specifically with the issues facing Native nations or organizations working in Native affairs.  Students participate in a weekly colloquium where they present their work-in-progress to fellow students and faculty.  The lead faculty member for Nation Building II is Prof. Dennis Norman, Harvard Medical School and faculty chair of HUNAP. 

Students are not paid for their work, but instead produce their Nation Building II projects in fulfillment of course requirements.  Students typically work in teams of two, and HUNAP supports short-term field visits of the students on an as-needed basis.  Over the last seven years, more than 80 Nation Building II Projects have been performed on behalf of tribes and tribal organizations.  Examples of Projects include:
  •  Creating a Nation Building Museum: Considerations for the redesign and reorganization of the Hall of the North American Indian: Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology.
  • Options for a Constitution: Heiltsuk First Nation
  • Strengthening Families for the Future: Exploring Historical Trauma at Mashantucket Pequot
  • Tribal Regulation of Genetic Research: One Sky Center, Portland, Oregon

First Step to Request a Project

Email Dennis Norman at with contact information so we can arrange a phone conversation to clarify and help come up a project that can meet your needs and is practical to accomplish in a one semester course. Deadline for initial contact mid January 2010, project descriptions must be ready for the 1st day of class Jan 26th.

After Phone Consultation, How do I submit a proposal?

Email your proposal to  In the body of the message, give brief answers to the listed questions, numbering each answer to correspond with the question.

1) Your name and title ; 2) Your organization; 3) Mailing address; 4) E-mail address; 5) Phone number; 6) Fax number; 7) Proposed title for this project; 8) A one-page description of the problem or concern you would like our students to work on; and 9) A brief explanation of how you expect to use the final product.

Deadline for written proposal 1/25/09

If email is not accessible, fax or send a typewritten proposal to:

Prof. Dennis Norman

Harvard University Native American Program
14 Story Street, Suite 400
Cambridge, MA 02138             

Fax: (617) 496-3900    
Telephone 617-726-3285

Are all submitted proposals assigned to a team of students?
The number of Nation Building II Project proposals received by HUNAP typically exceeds the number of students available to undertake projects.  For this reason, we cannot guarantee that all Nation Building II Project proposals will be selected, though HUNAP makes every attempt to match students’ interests with prospective clients’ requests.  All clients will be contacted if either their proposal was selected or not and will be considered for the next years class if acceptable to the client.
Where can I find additional information?
If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact Prof. Norman by email at, or by telephone at (617) 726-3285. 

Programming Notes

December 10, 2010 — 3 Comments
(The Indian Head test card, a symbol of programming breaks, AND an appropriation. Clever, right?)

Hi Friends,
It’s finals time at school, which means, of course, I’ve putting extra time into the blog (procrastination!). I realized I’ve been making subtle updates to Native Appropriations over the last few months, but hadn’t really shared…so I thought I’d let y’all know:

  • I bought the domain name! For now, it just auto-redirects to the blogspot address, but it leaves the door open for the future, and makes it easier for you to tell your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and random hipsters on the street about Native Appropriations. So update your bookmarks, and share away!
  • Subscribing by email: If you look over to the right side of the page, there’s a little box that says “subscribe via email”. If you put in your email address, feedburner will deliver an email every time the blog gets updated. Since I sometimes get sporadic with the posts, it’s a way to guarantee you’ll never miss anything. I post (at most) once a day, so it’s not like you’ll be getting 8 gazillion emails, and you can always unsubscribe via a quick link on the bottom of the email.
  • Other ways to engage with the blog: For those of you who haven’t checked out the Native Appropriations Facebook Page yet, I recommend it. Fans post some great links and images, and I sometimes post articles and links over there between posts. There is also a Native Appropriations twitter account, if you’re into that. 
  • Changes on the Way: I go on winter break in 5 days (yay!), and over the break am planning on pulling together some improvements, such as a form for easier submissions, going through my major backlog of awesome tips (thank you so much for sending them), maybe some t-shirt designs (any ideas?), and a big ongoing project that will involve a lot of reader help. I’ll keep you posted.

As always, any advice, feedback, submissions, suggestions, ect are always welcome! (might be making a new email too…)

This “Teepee” for your pets has been making the rounds on all sorts of design blogs on the internet in the last week or so. So random. And it’s cardboard, not exactly a plush hangout for your “fluffy little critter”. The description reads:

This Tipi, entirely made of recycled corrugated cardboard, distinguishes itself through its innovative design inspired by a classic symbol of Canadian iconography, The Amerindian culture and the collective imagination associated with it.

Which is actually kinda interesting. Note they used the correct spelling in the description, but not in the title, and the phrase “collective imagination,” which could be interpreted that they realize that the stereotype this tipi represents is not necessarily a true depiction of Native culture…but that might be giving them more credit than they deserve.

Here it is without cats:

And the website:

(Thanks Annie, Stacy, Sarah, Dianna, and Veronica!)

An Acceptable Ignorance

December 8, 2010 — 40 Comments

AK note: when I get frustrated in my courses at school, or I have a lot to get off my chest, I write narratives like the one below. They’re an outlet for me, I write them like I’m writing to post them here, but then I usually keep them to myself, in a folder on my computer. I know it’s outside of my normal content for the blog, a bit more personal and reflective rather than snarky and sarcastic, but I thought I’d start sharing some of them, interspersed with more normal content. If you find this totally boring and annoying, let me know (comments are anonymous!). But, more importantly, if you have an experience or narrative you’d like to share, send it over.

I sat in class a few weeks ago, presenting to my small research seminar. I tried to speak in a strong, unwavering voice, relying on my earlier life as a college admissions officer, where talking to crowds was my day in and day out, to mask my state of utter panic and nerves. I was passionately describing the reasons why we, as researchers, needed to be aware and reflective when working with “actors” (this course’s term for “subjects”) who were from marginalized communities, who were at risk for further exploitation and otherization by our research. I drew on examples from early anthropology, I spoke about the painful legacy that research has left behind in Native communities.

I watched my classmates’ faces as I spoke, intrigued at the mixture of expressions around the seminar table. I saw encouraging smiles and nods of agreement, but also wrinkled foreheads of confusion, and a look I can only describe as awe and wonder. I realized that these issues that are at the forefront of my mind every time I even think about my future doctoral research, ethical and moral quandaries that imbue every aspect of my notes and plans, had never even crossed their minds. These simple questions I was raising in my presentation were strange and exotic to them–and I, the quiet girl prone to being cold called for lack of participation, had suddenly become slightly strange and exotic as well.

Later in the class period, my presentation group members and I put a photograph up on a powerpoint slide. It is a photograph I love, one I’ve featured on the blog before. It shows a father and daughter at Montana State’s powwow, dressed in their regalia, waiting in the threshold outside of the stadium itself. The father is on his cell phone, a look of concentration, and perhaps concern, crossing his brow, while his daughter, in her neon-colored jingle dress, looks up at him. I like the photo for the simple clashing of “traditional” and “modern,” calling into question those pesky preconceived notions we all hold when viewing a photo of a “Native American”. We put the photo up as a simple exercise in contextual framing. We asked our classmates to “set the scene”–describe the photo, position themselves as researcher, to write down details, questions, and initial reactions when viewing the photo.

Admittedly, we picked the photo specifically because it would feel “foreign” to most of our classmates, and I was attempting to drive home my earlier points. The other part of me was intensely curious about what their reactions would be, what details they would pick up, what questions they would have.

When we asked the class to debrief after a few minutes of writing, I was taken aback by the responses. “My initial reaction was absolute fear” one young woman stated. “I realized I know absolutely nothing about Native American culture, I didn’t even know where to start.” “I found myself confused and hung up on the details–what is that thing in her hand?[it's her dance fan] why are they there? what goes on at a powwow?” a male classmate asked. Others agreed, chiming in with their own similar reactions. The comments were not rude, they were not even unexpected, but what struck me was how acceptable this level of ignorance was. No one was embarrassed or ashamed by their lack of knowledge, no one found it out of the ordinary. They shared without any hesitation, without apology.

I wondered if I had put a picture of a Black father and child up on the powerpoint, or Latino, or Asian, if the group would have found it acceptable to say something like “I just don’t know anything about Black culture! I can’t even begin to write!” or even if I had chosen a photo from an AIDS-ravaged African country, or an “exotic” National Geographic photo–would hay have jumped right in in their descriptions? I also realize my presence in the room shaped the reactions, obviously my classmates do not want to offend the only Native student in their class. But I still found it odd.

The theme was repeated this week in a sociology course. One of our assigned readings for the week was an excerpt from Teacher by Silvia Ashton-Warner. Ashton-Warner writes about her experiences teaching in a Maori school in New Zealand, and the text is rife with colonial language and imperialist nostalgia, yet it is all framed out of Ashton-Warner’s “love” for her “brown” children, and peppered with her observations about her Maori students and co-workers as intelligent, thinking human beings–ideas that fall far outside the accepted norms of the time.

I read the piece eagerly and carefully, marking my book, taking notes in the margins, writing out reactions and questions. I looked forward to discussion section, ready to bring my expertise on Indigenous education and to engage in a debate about legacies of colonialism in our own education system. I was excited, because after a year and six weeks at my school, this was the first time I had encountered anything remotely close to Native Education in a course. The very first time.

Imagine my disappointment when I arrived to class to find our student “discussion leaders” for the week had chosen to completely ignore the Ashton-Warner reading, focusing instead on our two other readings for the week. Their reasoning was that it was “too much” to cover in an hour and a half, but that we should “feel free” to bring in the reading if we felt like it. Nothing more was mentioned about the piece.

I overheard a classmate discussing the piece with our TA after the announcement. “I was really confused by it!” she said, “It took me almost the whole reading to figure out where she even was. Is this like part of a bigger book or something?” another student nodded “It was hard to figure out.”

This is complete and total conjecture at this point, but I couldn’t help but feel like the students had kept the Ashton-Warner reading out because it felt “too foreign”. It was easier to focus on our one strictly sociological theory reading and the other reading that focused on the Black middle class. I also almost felt that my fellow students were relieved that they wouldn’t be asked to interpret the text. Again, I was amazed at how accepted their ignorance was.

It is experiences like these that jolt me back into reality. I try to surround myself with friends and colleagues who have some sort of awareness about Native issues, or at least a willingness to listen and engage when I share my thoughts. I sometimes forget that outside of the little bubble I’ve created for myself, people go through every moment of their lives, or even an entire schooling experience at my elite graduate school, without thinking about Native peoples or American colonialism for one second. And, frustratingly, our society and education system has deemed that perfectly fine.

Clearly I don’t accept that paradigm, and am constantly inserting myself into conversations, bringing Native issues to the forefront, making every paper for every class somehow relate to Indian Country. But this is much bigger than me, alone, as the only Native doctoral student at my school. I don’t have the solution, and I don’t know how to change an entire nation’s education system and national narrative.

Next semester I’m leading a Native Education reading group, and once I get further along in my studies, I’ll petition to teach a module (a half-course) on some of these issues as well. As long as I’m here, I’m going to make sure at least some of these students realize their ignorance, and realize that it’s absolutely unacceptable.

Reader Michaela spotted this one while christmas shopping online. Called the “Tiger Lily Teapot”, she sports the awesome stereotypes of braids, a headband, a feather, and “indian” designs and colors. The description (via Fred Flare) reads:

This darling lil’ lady is outfitted with a small interior metal steeper and her head becomes the tea cup when you remove her feathered top! Bold colors and a happy face will brighten your kitchen even on the coldest day.

yeah. you drink out of her head:

I’d call that a bit de-humanizing.

Fred Flare: Tiger Lily Teapot

Random Appropriation of the Day (Totem Cups)

(Thanks Michaela!)

Rush Limbaugh saying ridiculous things is kinda par for the course at this point, but this one definitely takes insensitivity and stupidity to a whole other level. It’s a little old, but I thought it was still worth it.

He begins by talking about the “un-Thanksgiving” and “Day of Mourning” that Native activist groups celebrate rather than “traditional, American” Thanksgiving, and that they “claim” it is their response to the democide (a new vocabulary word for me! it means any person or people killed by the government, including genocide) of Native peoples in the Americas. Then he goes on to this:

“Let’s check the scoreboard. How many Native Americans were killed by the arrival of the white man through disease and war…how many people have died since the white man arrived due to lung cancer, thanks to the Indian custom of smoking? Who are the real killers here?…Where are our reparations? I’m just saying.”

um, really? Yes, Natives introduced tobacco to the greater world. But Indians did not introduce Philip Morris and the other Big Tobacco companies, blend tobacco with a ton of toxic chemicals, pour millions of dollars into marketing to kids and adults, and deny the links to lung cancer. Shoot, if Indians had control of the multi-billion dollar tobacco industry, then things would be different in many ways.

Traditional tobacco use in Native tribes is also not the 2 pack-a-day western model. Tobacco is sacred to many communities, a gift from the creator, and used in ceremony and to commemorate important events, not to smoke back to back cigarettes.

Then to compare the outright genocide of millions upon millions of Native peoples to tobacco deaths? He wants someone to “do the math.” I’ll do the math for you, Rush:

White Privilege+Arrogance+Stupidity=Rush Limbaugh

Here’s the clip. Listen for yourself. Be prepared to roll your eyes.

The blog Pharyngula offers a great critique, definitely check it out.

I would also like to point out that in about 60% of his pictures on Google image search, Rush is smoking a cigar. I’m just saying. 

Pharyngula: Rush Limbaugh, racist pig and sterling representative of the modern Republican

Ridiculously Maddening Quote of the Day: Avatar Edition 

This is just wrong.

December 1, 2010 — 10 Comments

This picture was taken by my friend Kelsey at a Victoria’s Secret store in DC. I can break it down, but I think the image speaks for itself. What kind of society do we live in that this type of overt racism is not only accepted, but celebrated in our nation’s capital?


Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native Women
Tommy Tomahawk and the Issues with Indian Mascots
Thanks for the Severed Head, You’ve Proved my Point

(Thanks Kelsey!)