The Vancouver opening ceremonies: honoring Canadian First Nations?

In First Nations, indigenous, opening ceremonies, Vancouver Games by Adrienne K.11 Comments

I didn’t get to watch the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver games live (I didn’t have a TV-until today!), but I was getting constant text message updates along the lines of: “girl, tell me you are watching the opening ceremonies! hella First Nations!” So I finally got around to watching them online and capturing some screen shots of the best parts.
I have very mixed feelings about the opening ceremonies–on one hand, it was fantastic to see the extensive Native presence (when has the US ever done anything like  this?) and a lot of it was culturally sensitive and true portrayals.
But, on the other hand, there were a few cringe worthy moments playing into stereotypes, and the involvement of the First Nations in the games masks a lot of the ongoing issues in Canadian Government/Native relations. 
After the jump, a bazillion more screen shots (once I figured out how to do it, I got a bit over eager) and analysis. 

The First Nations “welcome” was very early on in the ceremony, and it started with the four “host Nations”–the four tribes that are indigenous to the Vancouver area welcoming the crowd and the athletes. The image above shows the Lil’wat nation seal–the floor changed as each community said a welcome in their language. The four host nations are the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples.

As each community did their welcome and raised their arms, these big ‘ol “totems” raised their arms too. I thought that was a little silly. 

This is a shot of one of the “totems” raising its arms. 
Dennis Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. This one is nice. haha.

After the four Host Nations welcomed everyone, they introduced the other Indigenous groups in Canada: The Metis, First Nations of the Prairie, the East, the West, and the Inuit…am I forgetting anyone? Each group came in wearing their traditional regalia (with a little powwow regalia thrown in there) and dancing more or less in the styles of their communities. 

Fancy Shawl dancer (First Nations of the Prairie)

The various groups dancing together after they were introduced

Everyone dancing together, kinda cool. 

Loved this woman, she reminds me of my Grandma and Aunties. 

As the athlete procession began, the First Nations participants continued to dance throughout–talk about some endurance! 
Notice the beanie of the Canadian flag bearer–it was given to her by the leaders of the four host nations, and has the symbol of the four tribes. 

After the parade of Nations, Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams came out and sang a song called “bang the drum”, and the Native participants danced along. The audience was also given cardboard “drums” with First Nations designs to bang along. Sorry I didn’t get a shot of them. 

during the song they did “spotlight” dance breaks with fancy dancers and hoop dancers. 

So, this is where it gets a little questionable. After the Nelly/Bryan performance, the arena floor was transformed into the “North” and this actor dressed up in roughly “arctic” regalia began trekking across the floor. 

Then he started to bang his staff on the ground and waves of “electricity” started radiating out. 

causing all the people to scatter. It just felt a little stereotyped–mystical Native guy tied to nature brings magic to the “normal” community

oh look, his magic created the constellations in the night sky! 

 After the Arctic, they transformed the stage into the ocean (pretty cool effect, actually) and had Indigenous images of Orca whales.

After the ocean, they moved to the forest, with these large “totem poles” rising up, which then transformed into trees. 

Finally, a shot that I loved–the First Nations leaders sitting with the Canadian government officials. I am fully aware that it was completely symbolic, but I liked it nonetheless. 
Whew, so that’s a quick version of the opening ceremonies. The whole thing is on, in three parts, and can be watched here.
So, what does this all mean? Like I said at the opening, I am very happy that they decided to include the First Nations in the games overall–it’s rare, even in 2010, to see such a strong Native presence in a national event. I liked that they acknowledged the communities indigenous to the Vancouver area, even calling them the “host nations”, which is something we as Native people always make sure to do at events and gatherings–honoring the peoples whose land we stand on. I liked that I could sit and watch real Natives on TV, in traditional regalia, getting down to Nelly Furtado. It made me happy to think that for one night, Natives were in the minds of millions of people, and in a positive light. I felt proud to be Indigenous.
HOWEVER. The extensive involvement of Natives in the games in the ceremonies gives off the impression that Canada has a equal, open, and strong relationship with its First Nations communities. Most outsiders would think that Canada is an indigenous Nation, with its peoples having equal recognition in government (see last screen shot), practicing their sovereignty, etc–when this is not the case. At all. Canada, like the US, has not signed on the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (oops) , Natives peoples in Canada continue to be the most impoverished communities with highest levels of unemployment (also like the US). 
I admit that I am not as knowledgeable about Canadian Indigenous issues as I would like, but the bottom line is that the olympics are giving off the impression of an equal, happy relationship between the Canadian and First Nations; when in reality, First Nations communities still live in a colonial state, with constant affronts to their sovereignty and autonomy as Nations. 
In the next couple of days I’m going to pull together some great articles, op-eds, and blog posts about these issues. Stay tuned. 
If anyone more versed in Canadian issues wants to write a post on all of this, please let me know!
(Thanks to Michael, Jenny, and all my texting friends!)

The Simpsons stereotypes Alaska Native cultures, again.

In Alaska Native, Inuit, Olympics, The Simpsons, Vancouver Games by Adrienne K.5 Comments

On the most recent episode of the Simpsons,  Homer and Marge gain a spot on the US Olympic curling team and head to Vancouver for the games. When they arrive in the city, Homer is greeted by an Alaska Native/Inuit woman (in Vancouver?) and they engage in about 10 seconds of guttural noises back and forth as the background goes all swimmy and mystical, then he drives away. 
After the jump, a couple more screen shots and linking it back to the Simpsons Movie (where this character was first introduced).

Admittedly, I was tipped off, so I sped through most of the episode until I got to this scene, and stopped watching after it, so I’m not sure if this was given more context later, but I’m almost positive it was just intended as a quick nod to the Simpsons Movie.

This is during their back and forth, notice how the background is all Dali-like and the inclusion of the psychedelic clouds and birds. 

This is a close-up of the character (who goes un-named in the movie as well). She has no teeth, a deep, masculine voice, and speaks in broken english.

I’m going to refer back to an email my friend Holly (who is Inupiaq from Anchorage) sent out after the Simpsons Movie came out, talking about the scene in which this character is introduced:

I’m not sure if you have seen it yet, but there is a scene with an Alaska Native woman who looks like a man, and who is highly sexualized by her breasts, yet remains hideous and ogre-like. The scene ultimately makes a mockery out of Alaska Natives, as audience members laugh at her. All the beauty of a culture is gone. Millions of people, who do not know about Alaska Natives are going to see this movie and laugh. There are enough problems with race and misunderstandings of other cultures in America without movies that create stereotypes about cultures that they do not know anything about.

The scene with the Inuit woman starts at 58 min. In which she gives Homer “fire water.” An insulting stereotype emphasized onscreen by the makers of The Simpsons. In the next scene at 1 hr 2 minutes, the Native woman appears in the Northern Lights and her oversized breasts bounce and point in the direction Homer needs to go in order to save Springfield. Considering how many Native women are victims of sexual assault and rape it is an outrage that a movie would further sexualize a group which is additionally humiliated.

 Holly sums it up beautifully, and brings to light the many issues at play behind the images in the movie and the episode, and I think this will serve as a good bridge for a discussion this week about the role of Indigenous peoples in Olympic advertising, marketing, and ceremonies of the Vancouver games.

The whole episode is on hulu, if you really want to watch it.

Full episode on hulu: 

Background article on violence against Alaska Native Women in the Anchorage Daily News:

More information on violence against Alaska Native women from Amnesty International:

(Thanks to Anna for the tip, and Holly for the analysis!)

Robin Lopez wore a Stanford Indian shirt, and 15,000 people saw

In mascots, random appropriation, robin lopez, stanford indian by Adrienne K.3 Comments

(image via “Official Twitter feed for Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley” link here)
This is Phoenix Suns player and Stanford alum Robin Lopez…wearing a Stanford Indians shirt.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Stanford mascot history, in 1972, as a direct result of Stanford Native student activism, the university finally banned the use of that stereotypical image you see above. For the complete mascot timeline, see this article (by Denni Woodward, who all Stanford Natives know and love). Woodward paraphrases the anti- mascot petition put forth by the students, in which they stated:
 The mascot in all its manifestations was, the Indian group maintained, stereotypical, offensive, and a mockery of Indian cultures.  The group suggested that the “University would be renouncing a grotesque ignorance that it has previously condoned” by removing the Indian as Stanford’s symbol, and by “retracting its misuse of the Indian symbol” 

Every few years or so the mascot issue re-emerges on campus, and every time the administration re-affirms the commitment they made in 1972 that:

“any and all Stanford University use of the Indian Symbol should be immediately disavowed and permanently stopped.”

To further complicate the story, Robin and his twin brother Brooke are Native, or at least they were on the list of incoming Native frosh back in 2006. I saw you at that frybread social Robin!
Who knows, Robin could be trying to make a point, or something, but I have a feeling that wasn’t the case. I know he’s a good guy, we have lots of mutual friends, but I still don’t like it.

It makes me upset to see any Stanford alum wearing an the mascot–and I saw plenty of them every year at Big Game and homecoming–but I feel worse knowing that Robin is a public figure, and so many people are going to see that picture on Twitter. Jared Dudley has 15,784 followers. I’d feel redeemed if Robin would let Jared post a picture of him wearing one of these shirts, or something similar:

(image via
So Robin, I submit this challenge to you. One Stanford Native alum to another. Heck, I’ll even buy you the shirt–Demockratees is an amazing Native-owned company, and I may or may not own this shirt myself. 

Stanford Mascot History:
Retire Indian Mascots shirt:

(Thanks to Eric for the link! (though he probably won’t be happy I posted this))

You Heap Fine Valentine, and HOW.

In American Indian, random appropriation, valentines day by Adrienne K.3 Comments

Happy Valentines Day everyone! Enjoy these Indian-themed vintage valentines, which can all be found at:
Lots more after the jump!

I’m sending this ARROW, CHIEFLY to say, Let me be your “beau”, my valentine (1940’s)

You’ve kindled a spark of love in my heart my valentine (1930’s)

I’d never ‘squaw’k if you’d be my valentine (1940’s)
(wow this one is bad)


Ugh! ugh! your heart valentine! (1940’s)

Ugh! Ugh! I’m an INDIAN GIVER it’s time your should learn it, for I won’t give my love unless you RETURN IT!
(I saved the “best” for last. Indian giver? really?)
all images found here: 

Indian River Light Beer: "At Last, a Beer Native to Manhattan"

In advertising, American Indian, heartland brewery, women by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

 (image via

My friend Kayla pointed me (via her friend Tia’s Facebook) to Heartland Brewery, straight out of hipster-haven Brooklyn, NY, and their beer called “Indian River”. Here is the picture that Tia snapped of their advertisement at a bus stop in Manhattan:

If you can’t read it, it says “accents of orange, no pulp” and “At last, a beer native to manhattan”.

So lets break this down a little: sexualized woman, most likely not Native, wearing very little clothing, and what she is wearing is sterotypical fringed buckskin, sporting “war paint”, a feather, a beer, and a shotgun. Also the bonus of using “native” in the tagline, in case we were unsure of what asthetic they were going for. This takes the cake for rolling about every stereotype ever into one advertisement. In my indignant googling, I found the Heartland Brewery website here.

After the jump, more upsetting labels and some analysis.

It appears they are equal opportunity stereotypers, because they also have labels that are disparaging to women:


Then they have multiple labels that are stereotypes of farmers/rural white Americans:

note the distinct lack of teeth, presence of overalls, and cross-eyed/crazy expressions. 
While I am completely aware that the farmer imagery is not ‘the same’ as the Native imagery, I put them up to offer a more complete picture of the company, and to demonstrate how they’re clearly trying to be “edgy” or “subversive” to get customers. but why does being edgy have to come at the expense of others?
They appear to be a fairly established presence in NYC, with multiple brewpub locations and about 10-15 beers, but it seems they are trying to maintain the local, quirky, hipster-y image. Which apparently hinges on otherizing, stereotyping, and disparaging images.
Overall, it’s incredibly upsetting that something like “Indian River” is deemed acceptable, and that New Yorkers walking around the city now have another false image implanted in their brains. It’s a vicious cycle.
If anyone wants to send the brewery a letter or email, they can be reached here:
1430 Broadway (at 40th St.) 7th Floor
New York NY 10018

(Thanks Kayla and Tia!)

Random Appropriation of the Day! (Gearing up for Valentines Day)

In random appropriation by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

Taken at a rest stop on the drive from San Francisco to Portland, OR

(Thanks Kelly and Amy!)

Is Twilight good for the Quileute?

In American Indian, new moon, quileute, twilight by Adrienne K.1 Comment

(image via
Note: This piece assumes some limited knowledge of the Twilight series. If you need some background, look here. :)
I was so happy when I saw this fantastic OpEd in the NY Times about the relationship between the Twilight franchise and the Quileute tribe. The article was written by the Associate Director of American Indian Studies at UCLA, Angela Riley, who is an awesome scholar in Indigenous intellectual property, and it captures a lot of what I have been grappling with in regards to the whole Twilight phenomenon and its affect on Native communities, in particular the Quileute.
Admittedly, I read the entire Twilight series, and am un-apologetically Team Jacob (mostly because I want the Indian to win for once), but I still have a lot of issues with the portrayals of Natives in the books and movies. I’ll delve a little into the presented images of the Wolf Pack in my Part 2 post, but first I want to focus on the commercialization, and in many ways, explotation, of the Quileutes.

 Riley begins her piece discussing all the ways that Quileute name and community has been commercialized in conjunction with Twilight: 
“Twilight” has made all things Quileute wildly popular: sells items from Quileute hoodies to charms bearing a supposed Quileute werewolf tattoo. And a tour company hauls busloads of fans onto the Quileute reservation daily. Yet the tribe has received no payment for this commercial activity. Meanwhile, half of Quileute families still live in poverty.
Add to Nordstroms the incredible array of New Moon products at Hot Topic, which you can see here.
The entire Twilight franchise has revenues estimated in the billion dollar range, and Riley goes on to note that the tribe has not received any revenue from the books, movies, or merchandising, nor were they consulted in any of the portrayals of their community. The upsetting part is, there is no legal precedent for involving or reimbursing the tribe. She points out that,
…the outside uses of the Quileute name, from the “Twilight” books to the tattoo jewelry, are quite likely legal. American intellectual property laws, except in very specific circumstances, do not protect indigenous peoples’ collective cultural property.
The only laws in place protect tribes from products that claim to be “Native made”, but nothing protects tribal names from commercial use–think Jeep Cherokee, all the “Navajo” named items I’ve posted before, Apache helicopters, etc. Riley also notes that many tribes are able to market their own cultural property for profit, such as traditional weavers, silversmiths, and beaders from many communities. But what it truly boils down to is an issue of control–Native communities should have the right to determine how their community is portrayed, and this is closely related to sovereignty and self-determination. 
By not involving the tribe in decisions that directly affect their community, it serves as a direct affront to their status as a sovereign nation.

The Quileute’s Web site tells visitors about the tribal laws that govern Quileute territory. One of these laws specifies that burial grounds and religious ceremonies are “sacred and not to be entered.” Had MSN acknowledged the tribe as a sovereign government, it might not have broken that rule. The Quileute believe that respect for Indian tribal sovereignty could likewise bridge cultural gaps between other Indian communities and outsiders.

I agree with Riley that meeting with Quileute leaders and community members and involving them with the marketing process is an important first step. I see this community as setting the stage for Natives taking control of intellectual property and turning the tables of negative portrayals back into something that can ultimately benefit the community.

The Quileute are a small tribe on a small reservation that have been thrust into the national and international spotlight, and not by choice. However, I hope that with the help of scholars and lawyers like Angela Riley, the tribe can use the publicity to bring light to issues within their own community and perhaps these larger issues of cultural property and representation within Indian Country. 

Finally, the piece ends with a quote that I think encapsulates my entire thinking with this blog:

The ultimate choice, regarding not only the Quileute but all indigenous peoples, is not simply whether outsiders are free to appropriate tribal cultural property. For the sake of fairness as much as law, indigenous peoples must play a significant role in decisions regarding their cultural property.

It’s not just about the right to appropriate, it’s about control over portrayals of our people and our communities. Native people deserve a voice at table.

The whole OpEd (read it!):

(Thanks Mollie and Marjorie for the link!)

Help for Cheyenne River

In cheyenne river, crisis, south dakota, winter storms by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

In the past few weeks, many of the South Dakota tribes have been hit incredibly hard with the recent winter storms. Many communities are still without power, and power companies estimate it will be another 4-5 weeks before power is restored. With temperatures dipping well below zero, supplies of food and water on the reservations are desperately needed.

with much of the media attention in recent weeks focusing on the big storms in DC, little has been done to help the growing crisis. According to Cheyenne River officials, all types of emergency supplies are needed:

“The tribe this past weekend opened up an emergency fuel fund,” Conrad said. “And people are going around checking on elderly and families with small children. We are working with Dreams of Eagles, a Native American non-profit in Omaha to get supplies up from Omaha this week. Batteries are needed, candles, non-perishable foods, toilet paper, diapers, infant formula and water. Our reports are that the supplies that are getting to the reservation are dispersed rapidly, and some aren’t able to get any.”

Please consider donating to the Cheyenne River–they have an easy online form that goes directly to the tribe and community. Click here to donate!

Supplies and donations can also be shipped to:

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman’s Office
Attn: Ice Storm Emergency Supplies
PO Box 590 2001 Main Street (Tribal Offices)
Eagle Butte, SD 57625

Here is the Indian Country Today article detailing the extent of the emergency in the Dakotas:

Donation Link:

Appropriations at the Boston Museum of Science

In American Indian, Boston Muesum of Science, cultural appropriation, Hopi Indian Village, museums by Adrienne K.2 Comments

This past weekend I took a trip to the Boston Museum of Science to see the Harry Potter Exhibition (which was amazing and awesome and anyone who is a fan should go see it…but I digress), and since our tickets got us into the rest of the museum, we wandered around the galleries a bit. I didn’t even have my Cultural Insensitivity Radar (I should trademark that) on, because I figured “science” would be a safe zone, right?

Apparently not. The above image is a diorama on the second floor, not in the context of an exhibit, in fact kind of just stuck in a hallway. It depicts a “Hopi Indian Village,” and is about six inches away from a diorama of an “African Watering Hole”.  In addition to the diorama, there was also an interesting display in another part of the about migration and genetics with some eyebrow raising use of graphics and language, and a couple of other small things.

After the jump, more images of the dioramas, as well as the analysis of the migration and genetics display.

(all images can be clicked for a bigger version)

This is a close(r) up of the interior of the diorama
Even closer. They are performing a “Snake Dance” according to the didactic panel. Are any Pubelos/Hopi’s able to verify the accuracy?
One last close-up
Sorry for the photo quality (I really need to get a better camera if I’m going to keep doing this blog!) but the most interesting and disheartening part of this descriptive panel was the pervasive past tense. Apparently Hopi’s and the Snake Dance are not something alive and continuing today, according to the museum. 

This was the neighboring display, the African Watering Hole. These were the only two dioramas, and it is interesting to note that this one does not include people. So animals in Africa=Natives in US? It’s hard to imagine the typical museum visitor would be able to make a distinction between the two. 

This is my friend Jenny showing how close the two displays were to each other, further adding to the idea that they are somehow related, or meant to be viewed on the same plane. 
Next we jump to the Human Body exhibit, which was actually pretty cool–we played with stethoscopes (Jenny couldn’t find her heartbeat and thought she was dead), found out which of our eyes were dominant, weighed ourselves to find out how much blood we had (Jenny would die first in a knife fight, I have more blood), and then there was this display:

“Mapping People in Native (Indigenous) Populations.” I’m glad they used the Native/Indigenous distinction, though it got to be a little overkill to see the parentheses in every sentence. The point of the display was to examine the roles of migration and genetics in human evolution…I think. But they throw “culture” in there too.
This is the side panel. “Most of us no longer live in the same place or cultural group as our great-great-great-great-grandparents.” Um, actually, a lot of us Natives (Indigenous) do. Well, at least those of us who weren’t forcibly removed from our homelands.
This was kinda a cool graphic showing levels of lactose intolerance (the other side had the Americas). There was also a map talking about a certain bitter chemical that only certain indigenous populations can taste.
But then there was this:
Skin color in Native (Indigenous) Populations.
That’s the Americas side. 
We decided Jenny was some sort of Asian. But in this photo I guess she could be North African too. 
How they describe Skin Color to the kids. (click for bigger image)
We REALLY wanted to find a volunteer to ask these questions. I’d love to hear the talking points that they give volunteers, especially on “How does skin color affect us today?” are they actually trained to start a discussion on race and racism with children? 
Finally, this cave art was on the wall above the display. 
I do think it is an interesting display, and I liked the images about lactose intolerance, but I don’t know, it just felt a little wrong, and very “otherizing”–like these “Native (Indigenous) Populations” have evolved away into “modern” humans, and are not like “you” (the visitor) at all. 
Then as we were leaving, we stepped into the exhibit on human reproduction. Since we didn’t think we needed the lesson (ayye) we left, but not before seeing this:
Guess what? Indians have babies! Totally reminds me of the scene of Simba’s birth from Lion King:

This is the larger context of the display, a “cross-cultural” depiction of birth–and I just noticed, of fatherhood in particular. Interesting!
So that’s it for the whirlwind tour of the Boston Museum of Science. Museums in particular have such a complicated and upsetting history with Indigenous Peoples, and it’s weird to see that a museum focused on “science” (not Natural History, or Archeology, or Anthropology) can still have so many instances of cultural appropriation.

Random Appropriation of the Day!

In "tribal", American Indian, dream catcher, fashion by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

Billabong shirt at TJ Maxx.