September 15, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: New Miss Navajo Crowned
Crystal Littleben, 25, went from second runner-up to being crowned the 71st Naabeehó Bich’eekį’ in a last chance effort to win the coveted title earlier this month.
Littleben is a Northern Arizona University alumna who has a bachelor’s in psychology with an emphasis in Native American studies.
The role of Miss Navajo Nation is to exemplify the essence and characters of First Woman, White Shell Woman and Changing Woman and to display leadership as the Goodwill Ambassador. Miss Navajo Nation represents womanhood and fulfills the role of "grandmother, mother, aunt, and sister" to the Navajo people and therefore she can speak as a leader, teacher, counselor, advisor and friend.
Held every September since 1952 on the Navajo reservation, in an Arizona high desert town just over the New Mexico border, the pageant has reached cult status among girls in the Navajo culture. Organizers see this as a unique bridge between Navajo elders and the younger generations that otherwise might not have an incentive to follow the traditions.
We Live on Native Land, but what does that mean?
Tommy Alexander writes about what it means (or should mean) to live on Native land. For him, as a resident of the San Fransisco Bay Area, that means Ohlone land, but maybe you live on Oneida land or Pawnee land.
I propose that learning about the Ohlone people and their world is an act of becoming more connected to the land that we live on. We cannot revive the past, but we can try to hold space for it in the present. We do not use the acorn as a staple food, but we can remember how the Ohlone did so in the not-so-distant past, and we can think about that heritage when we sit beneath an oak tree. Even a basic study of local history can give us a stronger sense of place. When we consider the people who came before us, we begin to consider how we’d like to be remembered by those will come after us.
In this cosmopolitan corner of a globalized world, perhaps heritage need not imply heredity. We can all, as Californians — no matter whether we are first- or second- or fifth-generation locals—acknowledge the legacy of the Ohlone people. We can mourn their displacement, and in the same breath we can celebrate the continued public presence of Ohlone descendants who are working today to preserve and nourish their indigenous identity. We are all here now, living on the land, and thus we are all inheritors of its past.
Actor Speaks about Whitewashing Hollywood, as a Native man
The casting of non-Native Americans to play Native American characters has its roots in the earliest days of cinema. Though rarer today, it is not unheard of. Adam Beach, who made his breakthrough opposite Nicolas Cage starred in John Woo’s Windtalkers, was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and more recently was part of the Suicide Squad ensemble, argues in this open letter to the industry that to play the role of a Native American, actors should be able to prove they are Native American. Otherwise, he says, they’re just part of Hollywood’s long history of “whitewashing.” Family lore and the belief that one is distantly part-Cherokee, is not enough, he feels.
"There is no need to cast non-Native performers and actresses in Native roles. This is not 1950. The practice of whitewashing is unnecessary, unacceptable and discriminatory. It promotes the erasure of communities of color. Natives are often typecast in stereotypical roles or removed from the narrative entirely.
In more Hollywood news...
While her name will receive top billing when "Woman Walks Ahead" hits cinemas, Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain was eager to avoid playing a white saviour in the tale of two disenfranchised people finding hope and resistance together.
Last year’s Hidden Figures introduced the world to three underrecognized women of color who changed American history; now the film Te Ata is bringing another to light. The biopic tells the story of Mary Thompson Fisher, aka “Te Ata,” a Chickasaw woman who became a celebrated storyteller in the 1920s and remained active through the 1980s.
Watch for it at your theaters this fall!