January 26, 2018
How a Talking Stick Saved the Federal Budget Negotiations
An odd object reportedly helped to break the stalemate over the government shutdown: a stick.
According to members of a bipartisan group of senators who helped resolve the impasse, one of the crucial pieces of getting to a deal was the use of a "talking stick" in meetings.
The idea is simple - you pass the stick around the room and whoever has it has the floor. No one can interrupt.
The concept of the talking stick goes way back in recorded time. According to Wikipedia, it's "an instrument of aboriginal democracy used by many tribes, especially those of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America."
In the end, the group of senators, with the help of a stick, forged a deal that will fund the government through February 8.
The Cultural Mythologies of Indians on Display
Festooned with a colorful collection of movie posters, magazine spreads, supermarket products, college merchandise and more, the towering walls of the 3,000-square-foot gallery space at the heart of the National Museum of the American Indian’s new “Americans” exhibition are initially downright overwhelming.
Portrayed as uncivilized and unsophisticated in certain contexts, Native Americans are painted as principled warriors in others, and as sage dispensers of wisdom in others besides. America’s outlook on Indian life is by turns lionizing and loathing, honorific and ostracizing. “Indians Are Everywhere” invites viewers to contemplate a complex tapestry of iconic imaginings of Indians, and to ask themselves why exactly Native Americans have for so long enthralled our nation.
In addition to revealing to museumgoers the uncanny ubiquity of Indian images in our society, “Americans” calls into question the accuracy of those representations. Branching off of the main gallery are rooms devoted to three famous but frequently misconstrued historical events: the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears, and the life of Pocahontas. The exhibition corrects the record on each of these topics, providing guests with much-needed context.
By dispelling these enduring American myths and providing in abundance mass-market depictions of Native American lives, “Americans” forces us to come to terms with the fact that the liberal appropriation of Indian culture is as American as Uncle Sam, and exposes the surprisingly small amount we really know about Native Americans despite our continued attraction to fantastical portrayals of them. Everyone is apt to find something from their own lives to connect to in “Americans”; the show illustrates that we are all, in our own ways, complicit in this uniquely American phenomenon.
“If we’ve succeeded, visitors will find a new way of seeing,” Smith says. “Not just a new way of seeing the imaginary Indians that have surrounded them since birth, and not just a new way to understand Pocahontas and Little Bighorn and the Trail of Tears and how they transformed the entire country. They will see their own lives as part of a larger national story, and that all of us inherit the profound contradictions at the heart of the American national project.”
More History You Might Enjoy:
Fueled by greed and fear, the Anglo settlers who flocked to California declared war on the Native Californians who had come before them. But Forty-Niners weren’t the first white people to oppress or even enslave Native Americans in California. The very land on which Marshall spotted the gold was part of a vast empire built on the slave labor of native peoples.
Just four days into the Attu bombing, the Japanese began an 18-hour raid on the island of Kiska that forced the U.S. government to act. Within days, in a flurry of total chaos, the U.S. Army began to evacuate Aleut communities. But the ship that arrived to rescue the refugees delivered them into a different kind of hell. There was no plan. Not even the captain of the USAT Delarofknew where the boat was headed. For two weeks, 560 evacuees from the Pribilovian towns of St. George and St. Paul were stranded on a vessel meant to carry 376 passengers, with only a single toilet between them.
Small Indigenous Town in Mexico Seeks Social Justice Through Solar Power
Solar power prices have been plummeting in Mexico, which is good news for renewable energy advocates but potentially bad news for indigenous people. Much of the land suited for solar or wind projects is owned by rural communities that have historically been marginalized, according to Paolo Cisneros of Mexican organization Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable (LiCore). They’re at risk of exploitation from corporate interests, but the roughly 2,000 residents of Ucareo have a potential solution. Working with LiCore, they’re raising money for COOPEREN, a community-owned solar project that could offer a model for social and environmental justice.
Cisneros told Inhabitat they’d envisioned the money being used for infrastructure repairs, “but it can just as easily go toward social programming, public awareness campaigns, or anything else…that is entirely up to the people of Ucareo.”
Could this same project happen in the rural Native communities in the US? It's already happening.
Protesters March Against Snowbowl
Just the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a vehement group against the expansion of Arizona Snowbowl and snowmaking on Dook’o’ooslííd, marched across downtown Flagstaff, urging the city council to end the city’s contract with the ski resort.
“Please, please, please, out of urgency!” Scottie Begay exclaimed during a mountain protector rally outside Flagstaff City Hall on Sunday afternoon. “We’re ancestors for those who haven’t even come yet!”
Snowmaking at Snowbowl, though, will continue its controversial practice of making snow from treated wastewater for the next 16 years. Flagstaff officials in August 2014 approved the ski resort’s extension agreement, giving the ski area access to reclaimed wastewater through 2034.
The contract renewal and extension came at the request of Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray, who said in July 2014 that he was looking for more long-term certainty before borrowing and investing money.
Snowbowl and the city of Flagstaff initially entered into a five-year contract in 2002. But wastewater was not used until December 2012 because of construction delays and legal challenges by a number of environmental groups and 13 tribes that use the sacred mountain for ceremonies and religious purposes.
Native American Artists are Telling Their Own Stories
It’s not that Native filmmakers are just joining the rush to tell their stories; they’ve been doing that for centuries. But finally, the film industry is welcoming them.
Rachel Gregg, executive director of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, said there is momentum for Native filmmakers.
“They have been able to take back the narrative in a much more productive way," Gregg said. "That has to come from a space in the industry that we wanted to do a better job creating."
The Oklahoma City Theatre Company has announced an open call for scripts with a deadline of February 15, 2018 for potential inclusion into their ninth annual Native American New Play Festival. The company welcomes all American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Canadian First Nation and Indigenous Mexico playwrights to submit full-length plays written for the stage. One finalist will receive a staged reading and full production with professional actors and a director.
Production is under way on the series, which will follow the Chinle High School boys basketball team based on the Navajo Nation reservation, the largest tribal area in America. It’s a place where running water and electricity are considered luxuries, but for the Chinle High Wildcats, basketball played at a state-of-the-art gym is the ultimate escape. The team plays to huge crowds and uses a style of play known as “rezball” – an uptempo and aggressive pace where defense is sometimes deemed optional.
The early word on Trail of Lightning compares it to Mad Max: Fury Road in terms of style and intensity, with a world drawn from the author’s Indigenous American heritage. In a post-apocalyptic world flooded by rising sea levels, the Navajo Nation has been reborn as Dinétah—and with it come the old gods and monsters of Native American legend. Maggie Hoskie is a monster-hunter, gifted with the power to fight and defeat these monsters. Hired by a small town to locate a missing girl, she teams up with a misfit medicine man named Kai Arviso and the two dive into a mystery that takes them deep into the dark side of Dinétah—a world of tricksters, dark magic, and monsters more frightening than any story.