Imagery, Irony and Absaroka: The NYTimes and the Language of Racism

Nez Perce v. Kempthorne

( – promoted by navajo)

First off, I’m a HUGE fan of the NYTimes.  I think the decline of the newspaper is a terrible thing.  I’m a big time news junkie.  I’ve been reading the Times everyday for the last eight years.  But I’m also a Native American attorney who has studied Critical Race Theory and am highly sensitive to images of cultural stereotypes.  Imagine my reaction as I came to work early to read the papers and saw the image below before I went to DC District Court this morning for a hearing on Nez Perce v. Kempthorne.…

The image was “above the fold” so to speak on the home page of “the most liberal” newspaper in America.

First off, the fringed dresses.  I’m not going to comment on the ethnicity of the females, I don’t know and don’t want to know.  The issue is one of sexualization of “the Indian Princess.”  Don’t believe me?  Check out Disney’s Pocahontas and look again.…

Legendary Beauty?  WTF is that about?  I refer again to University of Arizona Law and Critical Race Professsor Robert Williams lectures on stereotypes and American Indigenous people entitled “Savage as a Wolf”  available at…

So back to the NYTimes picture.  Look at the full size image and tell me who you see in the background.  

Men dressed as US Cavalry?!  

I’m not even going to complain that the bar is charging $3 a CAN for Bud Light(my feelings on the sale to InBev are well cateloged by my comments).

The kicker came as I read the article on “Absaroka” but the final insult came in paragraph 12.  “Mr. Simpson said Absarokians mostly wanted self-determination.”

Native Americans have fought for self determination and the right to self govern ever since the arrival of the White Man…Columbus’s big mistake…the beginning of the American genocide.  We’ve been through the Termination period, Allotment, and Restoration.  We’re still fighting for self government and recognition for tribes.  The Churucawa Apache are still an unrecognized tribe because they never STOPPED fighting!

(ASIDE:  I just watched Chato’s Land on Comcast on Demand, a western with Bronson and Jack Palance which gives the painfully delivered message of the White Man as Savage…worth the 2 hours.)

My favorite newspaper, resorting to ironic stories of white people wanting self-determination ironically contrasted with images of white domination and indigenous stereotypes.  

Off to the DC Circuit for a hearing on Nez Perce v. Kempthorne where more irony awaits.  

It’s a hearing on Class Certification regarding Individual Indian Trust Accounts, where it has been well cited by the Cobell litigation that the US Government has managed to lose, not record, be held in contempt for failing to provide an accounting and living up to their duties of trustee in the cases of managing Tribal Trust corpus/property and mismanaging those funds.

The obstacle to today’s certification of various tribes similar claims under one class?  Cited by the governement:  Tribal Sovereign Immunity.

The irony would lose more in the explanation than it’s worth.  

Bad NYTimes.  Bad breif and argument by the Feds.  Bad day for Native Americans.


  1. I’d like to hear more about your work. My tribe has some old claims that were pending before the deadline. I’m wondering if they can be revived?

  2. is completely offensive.

    It was one step from “Coyote Ugly” with white chicks in bad drag of cartoonesque racism.

    Even with my lily-white and freckled skin I can see that. (But of course my 9 year old argues in class with teachers about Columbus… heh. “He never set foot on the continent proper, and he wreaked mass murder on the indigenous peoples he did find…)

    The video about the language of racism is a worthy one… but I have to disagree about Malcolm finding Islam, and defer to Vine Deloria’s “God is Red” in that religion should never be exported. Religions are tied to the peoples and the lands from which they came.

    Although it did Malcolm good, exporting religions has done more damage to the Peoples of the World than any other single factor.

    As far as Treaties, not ONE has been honored by the government ever. Americans whine about genocide elsewhere, about illegal invasions and leap to war over sound bytes, and yet never look to our own Genocide here.

    This is an excellent essay.

    I would be honored if you would consider cross-posting it to The Wild Wild Left, my blog. WinterRabbit is a great voice there, but the more people are aware of Native Issues, the better.

    People need so very badly to be woken the fuck up.


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