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

( – 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.

Obama adopted into the Crow Nation

( – promoted by navajo)

Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Barack Obama was formally adopted into the Crow Nation today — and given the name “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.”

I was shocked (although I shouldn’t have been) to learn that he is the first presidential candidate who has ever visited the reservation of the Crow Nation, located in the state of Montana.

In a speech given yesterday, he made strong promises to address historic and present wrongs, and promised to bring improvements in both health care and education to America’s reservations:

The visit was meaningful, said Darrin Old Coyote, a member of the tribe who wore an elaborate headdress. “To have us left out all these years, and then for him to come here, it shows respect, and it makes us optimistic,” Old Coyote said.

The visit also had political value for Obama. The members of the Crow Nation vote as “a close knit bloc,” Old Coyote said. “Now that Senator Obama is part of the family, that is where we will go.”

The Billings Gazette gave some specific details of how Obama intended to address U.S. relationships with the tribes, including his commitment to having a Native American policy advisor on staff and “to holding an annual summit to ensure tribal needs are met.”

Obama talked about understanding what it is like to be viewed as an outsider from mainstream society and to struggle financially.

“I want you to know that I will never forget you,” he said.

The United States government cannot undo wrongs against Indian peoples, he said

But they can elect a president committed to do what’s right for Native Americans.

“And since now I’m a member of the family you know I won’t break my promises to my brothers and sisters.”

I’ve read discussion here and there about native people’s interest in Obama, given that he is from Hawaii. Beyond the powerful symbolism of his candidacy, it seems he has both a genuine concern for marginalized people, and an unerring ability to convey that concern.

Those who argue that Obama isn’t a “real American” perhaps need a lesson in just who the “real Americans” are.