Native American Comic Book Stories
I really loved having animation with some of our readings for this week. So far, a lot of our Native American literature has been very modern, with a few exceptions (including the story of the Sky Woman). I enjoyed being able to learn native stories with the help of visuals. After reading so much about how native peoples had been forced to tell their stories in a European way, as they were taught to write in English for an English audience, it was nice to see how natives can now tell stories from their culture in a much more individual and creative way. Rather than just writing out an old Native American story, native peoples now have a variety of options to choose from, such as telling a story in a comic book style.
I really enjoyed both animated stories that we read for class today, but did find some slight issues with these stories. Overall, I liked how the stories did not just teach basic life lessons, but were both somewhat explanation stories about why something is the way it is. For example, “Coyote and the Pebbles” is used to explain where stars came from and why we hear coyotes howl in the middle of the night. Similarly, “Moshup” is used to explain some of the landmarks of what is now Martha’s Vineyard. In a sense, these stories are a lot like the story of Sky Woman, because they explain how certain things came to be.
The few issues that I had with these animations were that they did contain some visuals of Native American stereotypes. The native peoples within the story still have face paint, feathers, and stereotypical Native American attire, which I feel somewhat takes away from the stories that are being told. I could not help but feel as though while I read the stories I was envisioning what I was viewing. In picturing these stories as really taking place, the images provided for me caused me to picture the natives within these stories as I might have envisioned them before beginning this course.
I enjoyed Weaver’s article, “Native American Creation Stories” as I felt she had a similar response to the stories that I had myself. Weaver discusses how these stories explain how certain things came to be, and seem almost as if they could have been part of a native bible (83). Native stories are also interesting, she points out, for talking about the differences between the past and present world (83). It is true that many native stories seem to start with an explanation about how things used to be different in the world, and what has caused certain changes. This is similar to many bible stories, and helped me to better understand how native stories are not just “myths”.
The excerpts assigned from Philip J. Delora’s book Playing Indian discuss the various ways white America has used Native American culture (or its perception of Native American culture) in its attempts to create the image of the true American. Deloria points out in the introduction of his essay that throughout colonial times and the American Revolution, Americans had a hard time defining themselves as they actually were (their values, goals, history, culture, etc.). Typically, according to Deloria, Americans defined themselves only as what they were not. This is an interesting notion, and Deloria expands upon it throughout Playing Indian, when he describes the evolution of the American identity, and mentions a number of ways indigenous peoples of the Americas played a role in (and simultaneously, were affected by) the construction of American identity.
During the nineteenth century, Americans developed a burning desire to create an art and a literature that accurately depicted the new, bold American perspective. There was a call, in other words, for a shared national literature that Americans could collectively view as their own. The national literature Americans were seeking was supposed to exhibit connection to continental America, something Native Americans were highly familiar with. There sprang from this interest in Native American connectivity to the North American continent, a scholarly interest in the rituals, customs, artifacts, and costumes of indigenous American peoples. Desire to preserve traditional and historic Indianness helped prompt interest in the field of anthropology and did help incorporate Native Americans into American literature and art. Despite involvement and interest in Native Americans, Deloria finds a downside to the nineteenth century obsession with ethnography and national literature, noting that Americans were interested in “Indianness, not the Indian,” and that many people viewed interest in the history of indigenous peoples as an indicator that American Indians were a vanishing race.
During the twentieth century, as World War II came to an end, American fear of conformity (perhaps a result of seeing the danger of single-minded dictatorships in Europe) led to a desire for personal, authentic experience. People were in search of new and exciting experience, and the notion of authenticity heavily impacting the American psyche. Out of this desire for authentic experience, according to Deloria, arose a fascination with Native American hobbies and ceremonies, which called for first-hand involvement from Indian peoples and had both positive and negative effects on indigenous peoples. On the plus side, white interest in Native Americans helped to portray American Indians not as a vanished race, but as very much alive. Unfortunately, there was still an aspect of Otherness being perpetuated by Native American hobbyists. The Native American was still being influenced by white perceptions of indigenous peoples, and it was difficult for Native American tribal peoples to act according to their traditions without being labeled as unauthentic, due to decades of stereotypes being formed about American Indian peoples and their actions. As a result, while hobbyists of the twentieth century in some ways helped to get native peoples in touch with their culture, others were removed from their Native American roots, and all indigenous people were certainly separated or marginalized by mainstream white culture during this time.
Philip J. Deloria's "Playing Indian" I found particularly the fifth chapter interesting. During the 1960s white people would perform powwows in order to understand the culture. They would even try to find actual Native Americans to make the powwows more authentic. Personally I don't think that people did this out of disrespect but rather as respect for the culture. These events became events for the communities to get together for. People would bring in crafts to sell and help with the economy of the community which is what we still do today. Unfortunately people were in a way denying their own personal identity as well during the time. We were living in a white American middle class culture and denying other races its own culture. Everybody was essentially becoming white. People were wearing "white man's" clothes and getting "white man" jobs. No one could really get a job that accentuated their culture. Everything was a shade of white. Now people have more opportunities to go back to their traditions and that is a positive thing.
In the introduction of Deloria’s book Playing Indian, he discusses the many ways that white Americans used Native American culture to describe their values, goals, history and culture. Americans had a difficult time defining themselves for what they actually were and would tend to describe themselves for what they were not. I found this very interesting.
Americans tried to create an art and a literature that they could collectively call their own. They wanted to connect this literature with continental American and they needed Native American help to do so because there were very familiar with it. Customs, art and culture of the Native Americans was a huge interest in this literature and because of this, Indigenous people were incorporated into this new American literature and art.
During World War II in the twentieth century, Americans began to fear conformity. They searched and searched for new and exciting ways to be different. Americans began to look at the Native Americans for new hobbies and ceremonies to keep them alive and new. This helped the Native American and white American relationship because they both shared a common interest and the white Americans no longer viewed the Indians as an inferior race.
With the birth of a new nation comes the birth of a new identity. That is what the colonists wanted at least. The beginning quote about Benjamin Franklin sums it up perfectly when stating that he wanted nothing to do with England and Europe and how he hated them, but it is hard to separate the values and morals that you acquired from growing up and living there. It is hard to just completely change one’s way of looking at the world when he or she has been living that way their entire life. The text takes a look at how Native Americans were effected when Americans started to try and change their view, and even how they tried to use the Native to change it. For example, D. H. Lawrence says that the Indian is at the “heart of American ambivalence.” Americans were used to a life of strict order and labor whereas the Indian was a symbol for freedom and instinct. He also talks about how there were two feelings towards the Indians: to extirpate them or to glorify them. This is an interesting notion because this is contrast with many other articles and texts we have read this semester such as “Firstings and Lastings” or “White Man’s Indian.” Both of these articles did not have any part that glorified Native Americans. There was either complete ignorance and disrespect or a negligence altogether.
American literature began to take form as the place to imagine and create the American identity. This was not new as it had been taking shape even before the revolution with the colonists writing. At this time, and following the second World War, American literature and culture began to pay attention to Native American hobbies and art. While this may sounds like a positive thing and in some cases is, the Native Americans were still portrayed as being separate. This is not exactly what the author had in mind in “Rhetorical Sovereignty.” Everything that is getting the Native Americans noticed as a race and working towards respect comes at the hand of “the white man,” such as Lewis Henry Morgan making three epochs about the Iroquois and having people dress up and act out the rituals. This is not the Native Americans gaining the respect they deserve, but rather others were using their existence and identity for personal purpose. What is also astonishing is that Americans during that time would draw upon the Native American culture for literature or drama but not actually find any Native Americans themselves to give quotes or play the parts. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Why not make it more authentic and bring respect to a group of people at the same time?
I had never thought much about how people have "played Indian" in history. I'll admit it was something I did as a child for fun. But it was done politically at the Boston Tea Party. I'm sure Native Americans don't all approve of how their image is used-- or misused-- by non-Native Americans. We "dress up like Indians" during elementary school around Thanksgiving time for our Thanksgiving skits, we play Indians at recess as children, we make the offensive noises and stick feathers in our braided hair and dress up in brown and beads for Halloween. These are all thought of as fun, and as children we don't realize that they are disrespectful or offensive; we're just kids being kids. Is it less harmless for adults to do these things? I believe so. Kids should be educated about these things so that they do not grow up thinking these things are accurate and acceptable. Especially at sports games, etc. Sheer ignorance is a weapon.
It is encouraging to know that there have been various movements throughout history to eliminate these stereotypes and educate the masses about racism towards non-African Americans-- we get that. I think everyone in America understands that people are racist towards black people. But racism is about more than them. Racism exists against Caucasians, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, and everyone I may have forgotten. I'm glad there has been a resurrection of attempts to alert people of these crippling social diseases; that's what racism, sexism, and all these other "-isms" are. Social diseases. They tear people apart, and Abraham Lincoln was right when he said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We need to reunite, stop tearing each other down, and start educating each other about the truth and how we can build each other up. No individual or group should feel humiliated or ridiculed by a community. They teach "no bullying" and "no put-downs" in elementary school. Kindergarten teachers teach the best lessons-- everyone should go back to kindergarten for a day. The world would be a more united, friendlier place if they followed the rules they were taught in kindergarten. Not the "don't run with scissors" rules, though they are important, too. I mean the "share your crayons" and "don't push Bobby" and "use your words" rules. First graders are probably better behaved than 98% of the world's adults. That's really sad; we should mature as we grow older. Be kinder and more considerate to others. So many problems would be fixed if elementary school children ruled the world. As long as the adults could teach them not to disrespect Native Americans.
In the introduction of “Playing Indian” by Phillips J. Deloria, he talks about how the Americans wanted to have a new identity and they started to look at the Native American culture so they could get some new ideas for their new identity. One of the example in the article was focused on the Boston Tea Party and how after the governor didn’t pass the petition and Rotch, being angry that the petition didn’t pass, he told everyone how unfair this was. While Rotch told the crowd about what was going on British colonist that were dressed up as Indians with pain on their face began to raid the ships and dumped the tea overboard into the Boston Harbor. After this information regarding the Boston Tea Party, Deloria brings up the term noble savagery which was a way to idealize and desire Indians and a need to despise and dispossess them. I think the term noble savagery is definitely performed by the British colonist because their way of being a “noble” Indian was by standing up to Rotch and not allowing their tea to be used to exploit them and for the white people to make money. But, the “savagery” part of the Indian came out as well by the way the British acted while doing this noble act. Deloria writes that the British men that pretended to be Indians overpowered the guards and broke something on the ship because of the way they tried to be Indian-like. How do the men know that the Native people would act that way? There is no evidence that the Natives would have ever reacted in such an angry, violent manner, if anything that is the way the white settlers acted towards the Natives when they first interacted with and tried taking their land. If Americans really think that the term “noble savagery” is honoring the Natives then they don’t even deserve the Natives respect at all. It is such a derogatory word and by placing “noble” first and placing it in the term at all doesn’t change the fact that the second word “savagery” still exists in the term and that is not the way Natives acted in the past or present. There they go again, the Americans still stereotyping the Natives as savages and thinking no harm of it. The fact that they think the term is a positive term to represent the Natives just shows how ignorant we are towards Natives.
Also, Deloria talks about how the Americans wanted to change their identity up and bring new ideas into their culture and the one culture they thought was most interesting was the Native American culture. Of course this was a good thing for the Natives because the Americans were not looking at them in a negative way anymore, instead they wanted to learn their views, beliefs, and way of life so they could bring it into their culture. But, with that came the fact that the Americans were the one portraying the Natives by wearing their clothes and using their culture as their own without giving really any credit to them. It was becoming part of the American way of life and not just the Native’s life anymore and soon it might not be seen as “Indianess” instead it could be seen as just American. Another thing that raised concerns was the fact that Morgan wanted to learn the Native’s way so bad, yet he wanted it to continue to be a secret within the New Confederates only. He was nervous about coming out to the public because of the fact that the public was going to not like the idea and it would bring a large amount of backlash against the New Confederates. It was like, as long as the Native’s taught us what they know about their culture in secrecy it was okay but once the public finds out Morgan would probably be humiliated and would probably turn on the Natives. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good thing for the Natives to show the white men their culture and teach them their views and beliefs to show the truth about who they really were, but after they taught the New Confederates about their culture the group was able to change things and do things the way they wanted to do it. Just like Deloria explains in the beginning of the article that Americans want to have the cake and eat it too. They want the best of both worlds, they want the Natives to do what they ask but they want them to do it under their terms. It is still unfair and disrespectful for the Native Americans.
Identity is something that every culture needs to thrive and this is exactly what the Native Americans needed. This article was very refreshing to read because it told truths about the American and Native American people. I think the beginning was started off just right by mentioning Benjamin Franklin. Nothing happens over night and it takes a while for people to "shed" themselves of who they are. Yes, people feel the need to blend in because that is what society tells them, but it does not happen that easily. The preconceived notions that people carry about certain background and races does not fit every culture. In this article, it talks about the Native people as "savages" again in this text. It never gets easier to read. It was nice to see that the Americans were looking at the different culture of the Native peoples because for once, they were not being judged or looked at as savage people, other people were admiring them and what they had to offer as a culture. The title of this article is what really interested me because it is so true. Especially now because of halloween. People do "play indian" because they act how they think they acted, but in reality it is so far fetched. They were regular people just like us. They had different values and maybe religion but in the end, they were no different. People feel the need to make them out to be this role and they aren't. I really enjoyed this article and got a lot out of it. It was nice to see for once that the Native people were being admired for who they were.
I’m not going to lie, but this reading really made me contemplate what the American philosophies are. At first, we learned how European settlers wanted to conquer the land that is now America, but first they had to interact with the Native Americans. We learned earlier this year that one concept that was enforced was to “kill the Indian, but save the man” in order to bring “peace” and “stop violence.” However, this reading seems to be expressing the exact opposite. America is not only embracing the Native American culture, but non-Native American people are the ones who are expressing said culture. I am very grateful and happy to see that our culture was/is starting to mature and be more welcoming to different beliefs and cultural practices. However, I’m more upset because to me it seemed like one culture was trying to understand another after trying to demolish/erase it from existence. It’s like if a communist, who put in his/her best efforts to destroy democracy, but then chose to be democratic near the end.
With all that said, I did find this reading to be quite interesting. It’s somewhat ironic how during World War II, Americans used Native American practices in fear on conformity, when in the past they wanted Native Americans to believe in American culture. I admire how Americans practiced native American practices because in a way, it bonded the two together and started to portray that both viewed each other as equals. Something that really resonated with me was how Deloris pointed out that Americans define themselves by what they are not; that as Americans started to form their own identity that other peoples would be affected by it as well. Overall, I think this is an important lesson to teach children, starting at young ages, so they are aware of how they define themselves and not perceive certain other stereotypes to be accurate. The first example I can think of is pointing out how playing “Cowboys and Indians” is not as innocent as it seems, but embrace that calling it “Cops and Robbers” make sit the same game, but does not punish or diminish another culture. All change starts with baby steps; we all must crawl before we walk.
30 October 2014
Critical Response – 10/28
“Playing Indian” brings to light an issue that we tend not to think about in American society: how the image of the Native American is used, abused, and misused in this country. The idea of using Native American dress and customs as a means to convey an idea or misdirect an audience is unfortunately nothing new. One of the earliest, and best known examples, would bt the Boston Tea Party. As a child, we learned of the oppressive, British government and the brave colonists would boarded a ship and dumped all of its tea into the harbor to protest. What gets left out of most history books, and is never given much relevance when it does appear, is the fact that the colonists dressed up as Native Americans as a kind of “cover.”
I remember learned about not just the Boston Tea Party, but the Native American disguises the men wore when I was much younger, but my teachers never talked much about it, so I never gave it much thought. It’s only now that I’m realizing just how awful and offensive an act like this is. Even as far back as hundreds of years ago, white men were already using the image of the Native American and casting it in a negative light. By associating Native Americans with law-breaking, rebellion, and piracy, early Americans were already setting the stage for how the rest of their society, and future generations, would see native people. The image they wanted to sell was of a group where these kinds of deeds were commonplace.
The reading goes on to talk about how the attitudes begin to shift, and that by the 19th century, as Americans were searching to find a national identity, Native American art and imagery began to be incorporated into American life. This in and of itself isn’t problematic. The underlying issue here is that native people were never given an opportunity to accurately represent themselves. Nearly all of the images and ideas we have, even today, about native people come from backwards notions and centuries old stereotypes that were never grounded in much reality in the first place. We’ve learned much about Native Americans in this class, and in my opinion, the most important fact we’ve learned is how diverse native society actually was. With each tribe having, sometimes, radically different ideas and customs, we do the entire group a disservice when we lump them all together.
In many ways, this reading connects back to the one we did recently about Native Americans being used as mascots. It’s so unfortunate that we’ve been treating these people like this for hundreds of years. As a society, the average American knows so little truth about them, yet we use their image all over the place, without their consent, and when we do, the portrait we paint couldn’t be less accurate. Hopefully, as awareness of these issues is raised, we can begin to paint a newer, more realistic portrait of native people.
In “Playing Indian,” by Vine J. Deloria, we see the revival of the American Indian through scholarly efforts in order to maintain a sense of cultural identity; one that is uniquely its own and independent of European scholarly influences.
First, Deloria cites the Boston Tea Party, where tea-partiers threw boxes of tea off ships into the harbor in protest of the taxation of tea. Though it was unclear their motives in doing so, these tea-partiers dressed as Indians when they stormed the harbor. Explanations for this range from trying to blame a third-party for the actions of the colonists to simply connecting with the Native spirit.
We see the term “noble savage” used throughout the text. Essentially, Americans use this term to define the authentic American Indian as an inspiration to be one with the continent and nature. Americans wish to connect with their American identity, and thus in the late 19th century we see a revival of American Indian interests. Deloria goes to say that Indians epitomize the ideal of “having your cake and eating it to,” whereas they establish themselves as an organized race with rights to the land and yet abide by no civil laws, in the eyes of the colonists.
We see this revival, for example, in the literary fraternity Gordius Knot. The fraternity is making an attempt to establish a Greco-American literary culture, which can be translated into American Indian culture. Romantic literature is often seen as being inspired by nature, and thus when one is to look at the Indian people, who live off the land, they are viewed as literary inspiration. The fraternity attempts to address and revive all of the six Indian nations, though they can see that they are failing in colonized America. They do so, not only through their writing, but by playing Indian as well, holding powwows themselves and even among the Indians.
What is disappointing, however, is the motives for which Americans revived their native interests. The interest isn’t so much in the Indian themselves, as they are not doing anything great or beneficial for these people, but in Nativeness. Writers are using the idea of the “noble savage” in a selfish manner, for they are simply trying to discover their own identity in what was already the Native identity.
Though it is pleasurable to see that there was a spark in Native interest in the late 19th century, when tribes were diminishing, it’s disappointing that it was solely for American’s selfish interests.
Phillip J. Deloria examines some deeply complex ideas regarding identity and the genesis of American consciousness in “Playing Indian”. Identity, which repeatedly appears in this course as a theme, again goes under examination. In his introduction, Deloria maps out the societal psychology behind a newly emerging country, and how The United States contained a unique set of traits that defined their formation. Couples with this notion, are the insights of D.H. Lawrence, which furthers Deloria’s own thoughts on the subject. Deloria notes “An unparalleled national identity crisis swirled around two related dilemmas: First, Americans had an awkward tendency to define themselves by what they were not.”(Deloria 3). Additionally, he points out how early Americans wanted “to savor both civilized order and savage freedom at the same time” (Deloria 3). I think these are very intriguing points to consider. This opens a new discussion about the psychological subtleties of the early American mindset, which craved both order and freedom at the same time.
Joyce Rain Anderson
October 30, 2014
Starting from the introduction of Deloria’s piece Playing Indian, Deloria addresses identity-more specifically the identity of America claiming that it is “unfinished and incomplete.” Although it could be argued that Americans did indeed have an identity of sorts, they were not defined by their accomplishments or what they had to offer, rather they were defined by what they were not and what they lacked.
Due to its historical relevance and being someone who grew up in a town just a few miles outside of Boston, the Boston Tea Party was always an interesting historical time to learn about. What is often depicted in history textbooks is the bravery and stoicism of the colonist who stood up and revolted against the taxation. However, like what we have come to realize after being in this class for over half a semester, although this is the truth, it is not the whole truth. The colonists dressed up in stereotypical Native garb in order to disguise themselves. The acts of the colonists, in my mind, can no longer be seen as noble because of the cowardice of dressing up to cover up themselves. In addition to the colonists actions of playing Indian, the events of the Boston Tea Party set the mark for the association of Native peoples with savagery and barbaric acts.
Although it is semi-uplifting to see that young students are being sheltered from at least some negative portrayals of Native people (the true events of the Boston Tea Party) it is disgusting to know now of what occurred. Also, I can be considered disheartening to say the least that hundreds and hundreds of years have gone by and people still play Indian and portray the part of a Native Americans as one covered in feather, wearing moccasins, and acting in a rebellious manner.
Native Writing and Rhetoric
“Playing Indian” was one of the most interesting pieces I think that I have read this semester for this class. Although I knew that the settlers dressed as Indians for the Boston Tea Party, I had never placed much emphasis upon it. I never considered the offense of it nor did I view it as a means for the colonists to identify with native culture as a way of displaying a rebellious attitude towards old ways.
I thought that the literary criticisms of D.H. Lawrence were very captivating. The notion that Inidans represented “instinct and freedom” while Euro-Americans represented a lack of identity altogether was very relevant to our class discussions. Euro-Americans have throughout history been adopting the ideals of other societies without ever discovering a distinct voice. This is especially disturbing because we have constantly attempted to assimilate native people into our watered down identity. I never considered the depth to which “playing Indian” revealed about the American character. It seems to me that taking on this kind of tradition, dressing and adopting indigenous attributes for play, actually disallows the true Indian identity to surface into pop culture and modern societal perspectives. For instance, would we still be portraying the image of the native princess if we abolished the practice of characterizing the native people in these play acts? Furthermore, I think that this subject correlates to many of the other stereotypes infiltrated by the media and ignorant individuals. By attributing a character to these real people, we are continuing on the idea that they are mythical or nonhuman, as if something conjured from the imagination.
“Playing Indian” is something people say a lot, mostly to their children when they are misbehaving. It is a negative connotation give to Native people. When someone is misbehaving or maybe running around they are supposedly acting like an Indian. People act like Indians when they dress up in feathers and making whooping noises. People do this think that they are acting like an indian when it is just a stereotype.
One example that Deloria uses in “Playing Indian” is the Boston Tea Party. Many people disguised themselves to look like Indians, wearing feathers and whooping to dump tea overboard. This has created an image in Americans mind, that Native Americans are wild and uncontrollable because we continue to view them this way. Americans feel the need to dress up and act like Indians, but then use it in a negative way. “This is, of course, the familiar contradiction we have come to label noble savagery, a term that both juxtaposes and conflates and urge to idealize and desire Indians and a need to despise and dispossess them,” (Deloria, 4).
I feel like to break this bad stereotype that Native Americans have we have to stop using that saying. Especially when we yell it to our children, it makes an impression to them that Indians were wild and out of control. When other people mimic Native people it can be to idealize them but it is usually still interpreted in a negative way. This is because it is done in the wrong way, as the Boston Tea Party was. They dressed up with feathers, which many native people didn’t wear. They wore war paint and whooped. It makes them appear savage even though this may not be the point. “Playing Indian” is a saying that we will hopefully stop using.
In the "Joining the Round Dance: Rhetorical Indigenous Bodies of Protest" I found the concept of moving bodies to be quite interesting. Bodies carry stories therefore bodies tell stories. I had never heard of this saying until now and I find it interesting that you can pick up and just move your life around and carry those stories with you. A lot of people find themselves rooted into one spot and never move and therefore do not have stories that allows them the ability to live. Dancing is particularly what causes the body to move in motion. Flash dancing was mentioned which I used to find very annoying. The fact that people would dance randomly seemed bizarre to me and I couldn't understand it but as time has moved onward I have become more open and willing to try things like dancing. It is not about the dancing but about telling stories among other groups of people in a single mass.
In “Playing Indian” Deloria’s comments on D.H. Lawrence’s book and how, “American consciousness was essentially ‘unfinished’ and incomplete.” Americans tended to describe themselves but what they were not: Indians. Deloria goes on to mention that “Indians represented instinct and freedom” and “they spoke for the ‘spirit of the continent,’” a desire that whites deeply craved. They had not become “aboriginal” and “finished.” It is intriguing to imagine how the American consciousness is incomplete. The minds of the American people are tangled up in hustle and bustle of modern life. Perhaps “playing Indian” illuminates a desire of the American people to return to what they once were or could be: free and in tune with the world. Furthermore the “aboriginal ‘spirit of place’” that Americans lacked, existed since they could not banish or assimilate the Indian in order to feel the full effect of the land.
For example, the concept of noble savagery poses a certain dilemma, as it is a term that “juxtaposes and conflates an urge to idealize and desire Indians and a need to despise and dispossess them.” The usage of the word “need” here is particularly captivating, as to say that Americans require to “despise and dispossess” the Indians. The elimination of barbarism is thus promoted. Yet at the same time Americans wish to “idealize and desire” the Indians. It is perplexing how two contradictory beliefs can fit
Like A Hurricane and Activism:
In the mid 1960’s, Native Americans were fighting just like many other races. It's a fight few have documented, and even fewer remember. At the time, newspapers and television broadcast were filled with images of Indian activists staging dramatic events such as the seizure of Alcatraz in 1969, the storming of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building on the night of Nixon's re-election in 1972, and the American Indian Movement supported seizure of Wounded Knee by the Oglala Sioux in 1973. Like a Hurricane puts these events into historical context and provides one of the first narrative accounts of that period. I had never heard of these problems in the 1960’s and the seizure of Alcatraz. This first chapter explains the ride over to the island of Alcatraz and what the people went too. It was very interesting to read about.
“American Indian nations, for instance, are cultures that occupy unique legal,
political, and cultural spaces in the United States. These spaces and their natures are poorly understood by non-American Indian citizens. Thus, American Indian rhetors
seeking to influence policy in the national context must, through both form and
content, educate non-American Indians about indigenous cultures and traditions,
historical experiences, and group interests as prologue to any serious discussion of
policy. Further, they must accomplish this in ways that are consistent with those cultures, historical experiences, and group interests, or they risk losing the support of
their own people, who comprise an enormously diverse and often factionalized set of
audiences.” I think this excerpt from the essay was the most powerful. It really gave a simple, but, yet, educated explanation about what Native Americans rhetoric’s is all about.
Response to "Like a Hurricane" and "Activism"
I really enjoyed the reading, "Like a Hurricane." Alcatraz is a highly known place in history and I never thought it would be linked to a Native American background story. It was very detailed when describing the surrounding areas especially when it noted that it is extremely close to Fishermen's Warf in San Francisco. It goes to show you that they did this for the people inside on purpose. They knew they were close enough to society, but never close enough to escape. They could always see the place they once lived and knew, but never get there. Some of the world’s most well known people stayed there and it was nice to see that some college students wanted to learn more about it and that it made its way into a Native American course. It was interesting that the book was titled a Native American movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee because I would have never made the connection between the two. The description of the ride over to the island was definitely something these people would never forget.
In the reading for “The Rhetoric of American Indian Activism,” one sentence stood out to me at the beginning, “Thus, American Indian rhetors seeking to influence policy in the national context must, through both form and content, educate non-American Indians about indigenous cultures and traditions, historical experiences, and group interests as prologue to any serious discussion of policy.” It shows how in order to get a group of people to actually listen and make a difference, they need to be taught. This can directly relate to the discussions that we have all the time in class. In order to get people to know where the Native peoples are coming from, we need to educate them on indigenous people. That is the only thing that will allow us to make a difference. The quotes that are added into this reading create a deeper understanding about what is going on. It shows that this was in fact real, and it shows people’s reactions to the other group of people. Pine Ridge was mentioned on page 124 in the reading and the movement that they wanted to be a part of was extremely hard to keep together.
The readings for today got me thinking about a variety of elements. It upset me to think about treaties that have been overlooked because it didn't matter to one side anymore, or it was inconvenient. The hunger striker Chief Spence really got to me, because I saw a film with a hunger striker in it and it was awful to watch what she went through. It is a drastic measure of self-inflicted damage, and I don't think I would ever have the strength to go through with it myself.
These readings just reminded me yet again that Indigenous peoples have been in America throughout recent history, protesting and making a difference for their own agendas as well as among the rest of us. I say agendas, plural, because not all Native Americans have the same goals or opinions; they are as different internally as externally. They have been fighting alongside each other and us, and they did not disappear and come back; they've been here all along, through everything we've studied in American history. We should have had classes on what they were doing; an Ethnic and Indigenous History Studies class which taught how different groups of people reacted to various wars, bills, and events. Or a class which also included Womens' Rights and other activist groups. There would be a lot of material to choose from, but even a normal history course could scrape the surface better than they currently do. There's a huge chunk of history missing from my education. This information is being lost as people grow old and die. It should be preserved in books, textbooks, if nothing else. Right now, it is treated as though it didn't exist, though I know it had relevance at the time, and therefore still is important.
I like that Native Americans dance in protest. It's a type of peaceful protest in which I would like to participate. Other than capoeira, practicing martial arts as slaves without punishment, which I heard about on a middle school field trip, I had never heard of dancing as a form of protest, but I suppose it shouldn't surprise me; we can display so much emotion through dancing, so much passion, and Native Americans are known for dancing in various venues.
The first article I read, “Joining the Round Dance,” was interesting because it talked about dance and how the body and dancing are their own forms of stories to the indigenous people and in general. It also talked about how there has been an intrusion into the indigenous culture and there has been a separation of land and body. Page three talks about how maps of the “New World” show that various space is empty or unoccupied, not taking into account that there have been people living there for some time. Colonial texts have also always lessened Native Americans and made them inferior as a type of justification for taking their lands. This part reminds me of the article “Firstings and Lastings.” What sort of justification, conscious or not, does there have to be to completely disregard an entire race of people that were living there before? To not take into consideration what has happened in the past when history at that spot is beginning to be recorded? It is a type of ignorance that has plagued the nation since the first landing in the fifteenth century.
The next part of the text that caught my attention was when it read, “Further, governments of the United States and Canada still determine who can be recognized as Indian, and how Indigenous nations exist within these nations” (4). This is reminiscent of the Two-Spirit presentation when he said that when the census is sent out and the reports eventually come out, it has to be taken with a grain of salt. Only certain people actually put down that they fully identify as indigenous or allowed to say that. Others are lumped into mixed categories or possibly do not fill it out at all. In addition, these census reports mostly account for numbers and statistics, not conditions. This is what astonishes me most. The conditions on many reservations or sub par as I learned in my research for my presentation, “Native Americans are not a vanished race.” In addition, there have been hunger strikes organized in the past to try and bring awareness and attention to the fact that even though there is a state of emergency, there is no help being provided. Whenever someone is willing to die for a cause, especially having it be drawn out, there is a situation that needs to be examined. In this case Chief Spence went on a hunger strike until the Prime Minister of Canada would meet with the first nation chief and recommit to the original treaty obligations. It is first astonishing, although possibly not because it is the government, that the government would not be outright willing to help those within its own country. It is not example that should be set in this day and age for future generations. It is only when ignorance is beaten out by intelligence and respect that times will begin to drastically improve.
Sanchez mentions in “The Rhetoric of American Indian Activism in the 1960s and 1970s” how American Indian rhetors who seek to influence national policy must utilize form and content to “educate non-American Indians about indigenous cultures and traditions, historical experiences, and group interests.” Just as teachers must educate their students, American Indians rhetors must educate non-American Indians. The native rhetors must inform in a comprehensive manner in order to have their voice understood. In the Implication, Sanchez asserts that, “Those who fit most securely within the framework of the dominant culture” are more likely to be heard, and thus they are “more likely to be understood.” This is an interesting notion to comprehend; it reinforces the educative methods of American Indian rhetors and proposes that American Indian voices will not be accurately and completely heard until their culture “fits” into the standard of American culture. Dysconscious racism exerts control over this nation, as white standards prevail over the coexisting diverse cultures that do not adhere to this standard. Yet, he notes how no one can deny that the “activities and rhetoric of American Indian protestors and AIM” of the 1960s and 1970s moved the spirits of American Indians of “all ages,” thus altering the “tone and nature of American Indian leadership.” Hope triumphs due to the passions and energies set in place by this time period. Surely there will come a day when American Indians no longer have to fight for equality.
In the mid 1960’s, Native Americans were up against hard times and were fighting just like many other races so that they could protect and stand up for themselves. At the time, newspapers and television broadcast were filled with images of Indian activists staging dramatic events such as the seizure of Alcatraz in 1969. Alcatraz is a well known place in history and I never thought it was associate with Native Americans. In the article “Like a Hurricane”, it explains many other events that took place in the 1960’s and until now I had no idea how many events and fights Native Americans were part of. It is sad to say that when learning about some of these events in school books, they fail to mention that part where the Natives played a huge role in helping fight. I don’t understand why they don’t mention the role the Natives played because it shows how courageous and loyal they were when protecting their people and their land.
Another article I read, “Joining the Round Dance,” was interesting because it talked about dance and how the body and dancing are their own forms of stories to the indigenous people and how they used them a vehicle for protest to let governments know they would be idle no more. The Natives were sick of people pushing them around and governments making treaties with them but then not sticking to what the treaties state and instead made up their own terms and would take their land when they felt like it. Well the Natives were not going to put up with it anymore and they were going to start voicing their opinions and letting them know this needs to change. One thing that is unfair for the Natives is the fear of standing up for their rights like in the late 1800s when the Ghost-dance became a non-violent protest in the 1800s which led to a massacre by the US Army at Wounded-Knee in 1890. They go and stand up for themselves and do it in a respectful way just to get their point across and the US comes back at them with a bloody war. I just don’t understand the reasons that the US think it is okay to fight back when there was really no one to fight back at since the Natives were just protesting vocally not violently. It seems like the US takes a violent action because they know they can and they know they will win and destroy the Natives and it seems to give them that little reason to kill and go after them even though they were doing no harm.
I think it is horrible how the US and Canada, even today, still determine who can be recognized as Indian, and how Indigenous nations exist within these nations. When will the Natives be able to have control over their own lands and own people? Through “tactics” of dance protests, hunger strikes, and human blockades, and Indian protests they are bringing renewed attention to environmental concerns, treaty rights, and sovereignty. For example, Chief Spence protested by using her own body by denying her own body and exercising sovereignty over her body. This is another case where the Natives are protesting in a non-violent manner. It seems like they understand that using violence is only going to hurt their people and in the end, even if they literally win the protest using violence, they lose because lowering themselves to violence acts only makes them as bad as their enemy and if any of their people die because of it they lose their people and their pride.
The readings for this assignment really made me realize how proud the Native Americans are and how they endlessly try to reason with us by our standards, as well as taking drastic stands against us. Even in today’s squabbles, the Native American people cannot improve upon their land, or add on to it, until they get the seal of approval by federal/state U.S. representatives. “The Rhetoric of American Indian Activism in the 1960s and 1970s,” by John Sanchez and Mary E. Stuckey, have demonstrated in detail how much more dedication, effort and work ethic Native Americans have to apply in order to get the approval on items that seems so easy for U.S. citizens to achieve.
For non-Native Americans, the culture and nature of native lands are poorly understood, if understood at all. For Native American officials, in order to influence their policy in the eyes of federal U.S. officials, they must first educate them on their historical experiences, cultures and traditions. Alongside that, the Native American officials must conform a way to accomplish these goals while still following under those traditions and experiences or they risk losing the trust of their own people. Personally, I think it’s ludicrous that Native Americans must seek approval from outsiders by their customs, while at the same time trying to keep the integrity of their own methods. The United States is convinced that diplomatic policies are the best way to communicate with other nations, but we don’t first try establishing communication with these nations through their customs; it’s always the diplomatic way or the highway. Time and time again, the Native American people have tried to work with us from fighting alongside us to compromising under our guidelines. At the same time, even those who defied us have gone to extremes to preserve what they believe in. All in all, there comes a time when one must realize when they are not meeting compromise at the half-way point.
4 November 2014
Critical Response – 10/30
Following on the heels of the presentation we attended on Thursday, it’s interesting to read a piece about what it means to be a sovereign nation. Our speaker on Thursday pointed out the odd place in government that Native American reservations have in the United States, and the reading further emphasized this by providing background and detail to the problem that plagues all Native American reservations. If Native Americans are to even have a more prominent role in not only American affairs, but affairs that affect their own lives, the status quo must change.
As our speaker noted, Native American reservations are essentially treated as wards of the state. They are not entirely sovereign powers at all. One would think that land set aside for a specific purpose would allow its inhabitants the ability to make laws and govern themselves as they see fit, but this is not the case on reservations. Native Americans are expected to live and work within the confines of a very rigid system, one in which they are not even given the right to expand on their lands, in any meaningful way, of their own free will. Every major alteration, or renovation of some sort, must be petitioned to the United States government first. In essence, they must “ask permission” whenever they seek to make changes to their home.
The irony here is obvious, but it’s worth pointing out for the sake of argument. Here, we have a people who once inhabited all parts of the continent we currently live on. Injustice, disease, and genocide was committed on them wholesale. A group of people came from an ocean away and took everything from them, and for all their stolen wealth and prosperity, threw back just a few scraps to the original inhabitants of the land. Now, the original owners are forced to live a relationship of dependence, one in which they must rely on their former conquerors for the very basics and ask them if it’s okay to do what they do. Native people in reservations must ask if they can jump and the United States will tell them how high they can.
I’m not sure if there is an amicable solution here. So much has been taken from native people, and I don’t know if they’ll ever get any of it back. I wish the situation was different, but ultimately, saying that they got a raw deal is an understatement. At the very least, the United States could try to do more to help with the sovereignty of reservations and put more power back in the hands of native people. If nothing else, they deserve that and more.
I found the political rhetoric interesting. It opened up a new light on how Native American must achieve their goal of trying to make non-Native American citizens understand their circumstance. “American Indian rhetors seeking to influence policy in the national context must, through both form and content, educate non-American Indians about indigenous cultures and traditions, historical experiences, and group interests as prologue to any serious discussion of policy. Further, they must accomplish this in ways that are consistent with those cultures, historical experiences, and group interests, or they risk losing the support of their own people, who comprise an enormously diverse and often factionalized set of audiences,” (Sanchez and Stuckey, 3). What I find interesting is that one way Native American can achieve this is to change their self-image. This lets them to step away from what non-Natives dislike and allow them to persuade them toward their view. This is not what I would have expected as a way to change a view of yourself. I wonder if altering your self-image in someway changes how they think or feel about their culture because the Native Americans are focusing on a different outlook.
To this day Native Americans are still fighting to be treated with respect. Europeans used Native children to turn them against their families, in turn hoping to destroy their tribe. Using their children persuaded the Native Americans to do almost anything the Europeans wanted. By 1950 Euro-Americans goal was to assimilate the Native American population. This would rid their culture from North America. This resulted in putting Native Americans into poverty, and they were still ridiculed and discriminated against. “Second, because of their stress on assimilation and overt aim of destroying tribal identities, cultures, and communities, these policies gave American Indians something for which to fight (Cornell, 1988; Fortunate Eagle, 1992; Iverson, 1988; Johnson, Nagel & Champagne, 1997; Nagel, 1996). The threats to their resident cultures, combined with the continued discrimination, poverty, and racism that they faced in the cities fueled anger that had long been present in Indian communities (McNickle, 1973),” (Sanchez and Stuckey, 5).
He then goes on to talk about how the past is a reason for issues today. “Thus history posed a trap for Indian activists. Because the actual experience of American Indians is that of colonization, their history is one of having their history rewritten by the colonizers. As a result, American Indian rhetors had first to convince the audience that they had colonized and had thus "stolen" American Indian history as well as American Indian land,” (Sanchez and Stuckey, 8). If we could change the way the past was viewed and taught it would be easier for Native Americans to avoid these stereotypes and possibly cause less political fights over what has happened.
The current topic of Native American protest is an interesting one because, again, it is something that most people are probably unaware of. Furthermore, these two pieces by Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior, and John Sanchez and Mary E. Stuckey compliment each other well in providing a sense of accuracy regarding this topic. One of the illuminating events they both cover is the elimination tactic the US government adopted in an attempt to assimilate Native peoples into the larger society. Native peoples were asked to enter the larger, urban sphere of American life, and they were also granted false promises of everything they could achieve by doing so. It’s very intriguing because it demonstrates that the United States government still didn’t know how to appropriately interact with the Native populations in the country, and that even when they did, they simply wanted the Natives to assimilate completely into the fabric of American life without any complications.
Dr. Rain- Anderson
November 4, 2014
One of my favorite parts of “The Rhetoric of American Indian Activism in the 1960’s and 1970’s” by John Sanchez and Mary Stuckey was when they discussed the irony of what the whites said in relation to the natives. They claimed to have this enlightened understanding and this new wisdom, but then they continue to betray and disregard the Natives, contradicting this new ‘wisdom’ they claim to have. Another piece that I felt added to the lack or respect and ‘wisdom’ the Europeans claimed to have was when they categorized the Natives into two groups those who know nothing, and those who understand nothing.
In the other reading “Joining the Round Dance” I liked learning more about Native past in terms of their protests and how they’ve stood up for their land. It is mind numbing to think that even today, in the world we live in Native lands are still being treated like public property. In the sense that developers think that it is free land for the taking, when it is already inhabited by people. However in light of these battles, it is remarkable to see how Natives band together and use resources like Idle No More to connect with one another in an effort to protect their land. I believe that it is these characteristics and the strong hearted nature of the Natives that has allowed them to fight for their land and it is my belief that as long as others are trying to take advantage of the Natives and their land, they will continue to fight back.
Native Writing and Rhetoric
I thought that the “The Rhetoric of American Indian Activism in in the 1960’s and 1970’s” was a wonderful companion piece to all of the things we have been discussing this semester. As we try deriving meaning from Native American culture and finding solutions to dilemmas that indigenous people experience, it is important to understand that our perspective will always remain skewed, if we belong to the group of individuals who can be considered the majority of the population. As a white female in my society, I understand that my experiences are much different than those who come from a more culturally diverse background. In my Developmental Psychology course, we discuss the notion of “privilege” and how that affects socioeconomic status as well as development. As I read this piece, I contemplated the struggles of indigenous people face just because of their lineage.
I was intrigued by the development of the “American Indian” identity which coexisted with the individual tribal identity. It was interesting to see the progression of how certain events actually created a stronger “Indian” voice. By placing native children in boarding schools, the United States government actually facilitated the process of Native people unifying cross culturally and defining an additional identity which differed from the one they embraced communally within their tribe. This is ironic considering that it has always been the intent of Euro-American citizens to deter native people from establishing commonality amongst themselves.
Native American Literature
Joyce Rain Anderson
November 6, 2014
“Variation in form and decoration observed in pottery from that time is consistent with the political characteristics of these communities. Where political circumstances underwent unique changes, as they did among the Mohegan community of southern Connecticut, pottery changed in ways that reflected these new conditions. Specifically, the Mohegan’s responded to the social and political pressures they experienced after the Pequot War by intensified signaling of group identity. “ I think this excerpt in the first paragraph of the essay was really significant because it gave a quick and straight forward explanation of how pottery was looked at and how the time period and surrounding affected Native American pottery. Archaeologists have examined cultural variation and change in time and space through the record of stylistic variation in material culture, including ceramic form and decoration.
The NAGPRA essay explored the legislative history of the law, analyzing Native American appeals to tradition in their quest to establish authority over disputed human and cultural remains. I love this law because it protected Native Americans and their family’s remains. This is very important to people in many cultures. NAGPRA provided a legal framework within which the Native Americans can seek the protection of graves on Federal land and the repatriation of human remains.
Response to “The Politics of Pottery” and NAGPRA
After reading “The Politics of Pottery,” I never thought that I would read something like this in class. It is an interesting idea that the art forms in different Native American communities would change this much based on their communication, and how their society moves throughout history. Culture is looked at in a completely different way. Group identity was signified through their ceramic pots. It may be unusual for us to be reading this type of article, but it is something that was very real in the seventeenth century of Southern New England. Different symbols and artwork were meant for specific tribes. Certain patterns are identified with specific areas in parts of New England. The different locations that they discuss where they find the pottery and ceramic where can tell a lot of the Native people who resided there. I like how they show the pictures of pieces of the pottery so that as the reader we can see for ourselves what they look like and if they are referenced.
I have never heard of NAGPRA, which stands for Native America Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The remarkable thing that I got from this article was that it was not passed until 1990, which is crazy to think of. Usually in history, we hear that movements and acts have been passed back in the 60's or 70's, but with the Native peoples, it is a lot different. I did not even think people needed to make this an act, and have people who do not want them to be able to have this right. No matter who you are, you should have rights to the land that your people are buried on. This is a religious and spiritual moment and for someone to take that away is wrong.
"The Politics of Pottery" by Eric S. Johnson is a reading about how pottery reflected the Native Culture. If there were any particular changes that affected a people it would be seen well and clear in the style of the pottery. The politics of each society were about the community rather than ones own self. However some members of one tribe could leave and join another tribe, another community. What I found most interesting in this particular reading was the idea of the expression of identity through a group. A group is not one identity but many people together, however when a group of people get together they rub off on each other. It works a lot like the cliques of today. One person will always find a group of people that they work well with and join in with. It is part of human nature to find these groups and communities. The fact that groups communicated through pottery and ceramics is different from what the modern person would think of communication. Pottery was what the Native people of the time had and it is what they worked with.
November 6, 2014
The Politics of Pottery and NAGPRA
I really enjoyed Eric Johnson’s piece “The Politics of Pottery.” Just as we have learned that maps tell stories beyond geographical location and hold greater meaning, so does material culture and pottery. A sense of identity can be seen mapped and carved into the pottery. With that being said, as times changed and identity changed over the course of history, so did the pottery. Johnson notes, “Where political circumstances underwent unique changes, as they did among the Mohegan community of southern Connecticut, pottery changed in ways that reflected these new condition”(Johnson 119). As history changed, so did the pottery and way identity was expressed in the art. I think it is very significant and symbolic that pottery was a form of representation of the identity of a tribe as a whole, consisting of many individuals due to that fact that pottery is typically and was historically used to hold a diversity of items.
It was very interesting and informative to learn about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) passed in 1990. This act granted natives with the protection of Native graves located on federal land. It was both disheartening yet also uplifting to read of how the natives were given this power, standing up for their culture, however, they knew that even with this act their desires will not always be met. Johnson states, “NAGPRA related deliberations, in my view, are less about outcomes-Native peoples are not so naïve to believe their desires will always be met-than they are about the process of contestation and representation itself. No longer passive objects of legal machinations and mystifications…”(Johnson 358). This portion of the reading reminded me of the Idle no More, women spoken about last class who peacefully protested to stand up for themselves. These people finally were standing up for themselves and what they were entitled to.
I knew that Native American women made pots, bowls, plates, etc. but I never knew that they used these ceramics and pottery to create their identity and stories. Before the English invaded their land, women were powerful figures in Native tribes and did most of the work inside and outside the house. But, of course, the English didn’t like that the women were seen as high importance and told them there jobs were to do the housework and that’s it. This obviously made the women mad and so they used pottery as a way to get their anger out. Specific tribes had certain qualities and designs that went into their pottery and that was one way to distinguish between one tribe’s creations and another. Also, the used the pottery to encode messages on them that only certain tribes could decode. It was a way for the tribes to create their identity and their tribal stories for future generations so that their tribe’s history would live on. I think it’s a genius idea and one way for the English to realize exactly it was they were doing. Whenever there were changes that affected communities, they would use the pottery to express those changes, good and bad. In the article, the writer discusses that archeologist are able to identify if a lot of Natives resided in different locations depending on where they find pottery and ceramics.
One thing that stood out to me was the fact that the Natives would switch from one tribe to another because of their change in their political fortunes or if they married someone that belongs to another tribe and following them back with their tribe. The ongoing conflict with the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes is something I did not think went on. I mean of course I know that all Native tribes didn’t get along with every single tribe but I didn’t think that the tribes resulted in violence and war against their own race. It seems like they are blaming one another for things that the English are responsible for. This is exactly what the English settlers wanted to cause conflicts and problems within the Native American race so that instead of them looking like the bad guys they are and trying to wipe out the race they want their race to turn on each other and wipe each other out. The tribes are taking it out on the wrong people and the worse part of it is that the Mohegan tribe used the English as an ally against the Narragansett tribe.
6 November 2014
Critical Response – 11/4
“The Politics of Pottery” is an interesting look at not only the ceramic arts that Native American women took part in, but a great examination of what that art meant in context to Native American people. Most of us are familiar with Native American pottery, in that we can recognize its form and function, but it’s another thing entirely to recognize it for its cultural significance. The idea that the art it exhibited could be used to tell a story in a different way shows just how resourceful native people truly are.
In many ways, it reminds me of the idea of “survivance” that we’ve spoken about in class before. Native American women used their pottery to tell stories and pass those stories down to other people who would know how to look at the pottery and interpret the real message on display. The pottery was sometimes even used as a form of protest, with Native American women weaving in shapes and images of things that they could not say aloud because of the presence of European settlers. Much like the work that went into basket weaving that we learned about earlier in the semester, by putting their work into these pots and bowl, in their own way, they were standing up and defying the cruel system that had been placed upon them.
The next reading about NAGPRA offered and insightful look into something I had never really considered before. It’s wonderful to hear that native people have this sort of protection under the law, but it’s another thing entirely to realize just how long something like this took. When you think about how far back European colonization goes back in the United States, it’s shocking to think that this kind of protection wasn’t in place until 1990. It seems like such a simple thing, really. Passing a law that coerces respect out of people seems like something that would be counterintuitive, but we live in a place where ancient tradition and custom is not respected, and laws like this must exist to protect disenfranchised people.
More than anything else, NAGPRA is really about respect. People the world over believe in different ideas of religion and spirituality. We will never agree to see eye to eye on every issue, but what we absolutely must do is be able to see the beliefs of others and respect them. By passing a law like NAGPRA, a piece of legislation that, historically, was passed only recently, I hope that the United States government is taking a more level-headed and open-minded approach in their dealings with native people. If something as sacred as native burial grounds can be protected, then maybe the effect of this law will trickle down and we can begin to respect native people in other avenues, as well.
The two articles by Greg Johnson and Eric s. Johnson share a similar theme, in the sense that they both examine an aspect of tradition. Specifically, they examine the cultural traditions of Native Peoples, and what those traditions mean today in in the modern world. Learning about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is very interesting since it details a way in which Native Peoples can finally maintain some sense of control over locations and artifacts. Even more interesting, is how NAGPRA’s policies allow for virtually any kind of evidence to be presented and used for a case. The act seems like a landmark policy in this country, and I can see it’s relevance for some of the ideas expressed about pottery in Eric S. Johnson’s article about the significance of pottery, and how pottery contains many important “signals” indicating a certain piece of cultural information.
I was excited to read this article because this type of topic, seeing the developments of society and of culture through art, is exactly what I am doing in my art history class. These pieces of art changed depending on moving cultures or cultures blending together. Some of these pots could hold information that could be passed to different tribes when they were doing their ritual with food. Specifically women could use the pottery as containers for food and pass it on. This pottery could also pass on this such as, “The importance of agriculture and agricultural land. . .gender politics. . .obligations and privileges.” (140)
Some of “The Politics of Pottery” article made me this of my presentation of women. Johnson writes that as European tensions escalated you could begin to see the effects in the women’s stories and pottery. “Women potters’ affirmation of a traditional women’s social roles and the power associated with those roles may indeed be expressed in a variety of material items.” (126). Johnson shows the reader several different types of pottery in his article that have all comes from different tribes but are all similar in some way. These tribes were not always isolated. Some were able to communicate and share ideas together and let their cultures blend, others were able to take over other tribes and uses their pieces of art as inspiration for their own art.
November 6th, 2014
The article The Politics of Pottery by Eric Johnson was an intriguing read. This particular article discussed the relationship between pottery and politics in the Native American culture around the 17th century. I really enjoyed how the article discussed pottery and how this specific art could tell a certain kind of story. I personally knew very little about pottery and how/why it was significant to Native Americans, but after reading Johnson’s article it really enhanced my learning in regards to pottery and why it was significant to them. The article also touched upon that as history changed so did the images that were carved on these pots. I overall just enjoyed this article because it discussed the Native Americans’ tradition and why it was important to them. By utilizing these pots for pottery many Native Americans (specifically women) were able to tell their story through arts, which I find immensely intriguing. In my opinion it was a good read due to the fact that the reader had the opportunity to learn about the Native Americans’ art, tradition, and culture; something they may have knew little about beforehand.
The NAGPRA is particularly striking, as American Indians can seek protection of graves on federal land and repatriate human remains and cultural objects from federal institutions. These are essential human rights that are being returned to natives, which is a heart-warming notion. The natives are gaining back their humanity and culture, as the importance of their ancestors and culture becomes recognized on a Federal level. Though this act is not perfect, it contains fundamental underlying concepts that are far from detrimental to American Indians. Furthermore, Johnson notes the connection between revitalization movements and the act. Just as revitalization movements behave, the NAGPRA is “as much about the construction and contestation of cultures in the present as about recovery of them from the past.” Both movements comprise of symbolic transactions with the American public and government, whether oppositional or welcoming.
The characteristic of pottery to illustrate stories is a breathtaking and animated concept. Johnson notes how, “Variation in form and decoration observed in pottery… is consistent with the political characteristics of these [17th century] communities.” Changes in pottery directly embody fluctuations in politics. Women often fashioned pottery that exemplified social information, particularly of women’s varying roles in society. Just as oral traditions, pottery becomes animated in its ability to tell stories of a certain period and people. Pottery receives the ability to inform and instruct those who experience it.
Native Writing and Rhetoric
I am consistently intrigued by the native tradition of attributing meaning to all things. For instance, in “Politics of Pottery”, I was captivated by the notion that simple everyday utensils and objects such as baskets, mats, clothing and bowls all carried symbolism. I think that this is a key idea to our studies in native tradition because it conveys a sense of connectivity. As we are reading these pieces, I continue to remember the words of one of the authors we read early on. He stated that art was for the Native Americans to draw meaning and devise a unique form of rhetoric. Although mapping is an entirely different concept, I see a sense of connectivity between the two subjects. For instance, land is occupied by our physical presence and objects are used in that same physical space. There is value not only in the things, land and objects, themselves, but there is also value in the concept that the occupation and utilization of these things contribute to what makes individuals unique. The intensive care in decorating pots and baskets embodies the native concept that everything is precious and important.
The article entitled "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act" (NAGPRA) was centered heavily on tradition. Tradition is something that is important to some people and not so much to others; I realized this through my relationship with my boyfriend. In my background, tradition has always been important; in elementary school, we studied the history of Boston during the Revolutionary War; we visited the important historical sites there. In middle school, we went on a walking tour of my town to see all the important locations from the past, which were preserved and remembered in the spirit of tradition. My Church prides itself on not changing its traditions, and has many traditions deeply rooted in its culture. My family itself has many traditions which we uphold, and it is sad when we are unable to do so. I grew up surrounded by tradition everywhere, so it was important to me. My boyfriend was not raised with such a strong sense of family history and tradition, and he holds the past with less importance than I do.
The same may be true of many Native American cultures. The government may not hold the traditions of indigenous peoples to be valuable, but to those people, tradition is everything. The government should not be permitted to interfere with Native American traditions; this is what happened when the government tried to "kill the Indian to save the man," and that was a large blemish on our history. This may be an issue of sovereignty; Native Americans should have a larger input as to how their lands and communities are run than the United States government does. That should be a basic right, not a debatable topic. Especially because the government tried to stamp out Native American tradition, it should now attempt to preserve and restore it as the Native Americans see fit. As Americans, we care so much about our own traditions. We should channel those feelings to carry over to other people's traditions as well. As a melting pot of cultural diversity, we tend to be open to learning about new cultures and traditions; the same should apply to preserving the lifestyles of all of our indigenous peoples.
Space to comment on the readings for each class...