"Smallville's" Human Sacrifice
- Indian Comics Irregular #112
On May 5, "Smallville" aired an episode titled "Talisman." It
continued the Native thread begun in the previous season's
"Skinwalkers" (ICI #90). The official synopsis and my comments:
When a Kiwatche Indian (guest star Nathaniel Arcand, "The Lone
Ranger") steals a mythic knife from the caves, he is bestowed
with superpowers similar to Clark's (Tom Welling), causing the
young man to believe he is the legendary Naman, "the man who fell
from the stars." Clark learns the Kiwatche legend foretold of a
knife that could kill Naman and sets out to reclaim it before the
young Indian can use it on Lionel (John Glover).
The good: The Willowbrook character (Gordon Tootoosis) returns to
give the show continuity. He's described as a professor this time and
acts like one, not like an angry protester or wise grandfather. He
describes Jeremiah (Arcand), his glasses-wearing protÃ©gÃ©, as a
graduate student and future tribal leader.
Later he tells Jeremiah that Jeremiah is misinterpreting the legend of
Naman. It's nice to see some doctrinal disagreement between Indians,
since most legends are presented as holy writ.
The bad: Jeremiah eventually turns into a raving madman who takes
Lionel Luther to the Kawatches' "sacred burial ground." Does anyone
in Hollywood realize burial grounds are equivalent to cemeteries, not
portals to nether dimensions? Indians consider these places
hallowed--just as non-Indians do--because, well, their relatives are
buried there. But Indians don't conduct ceremonies there to raise
dark forces or the dead.
The ugly: Jeremiah ties Luther to a circular altar, paints a symbol
on him, and tries to skewer him with the knife. Everything suggests
Jeremiah is doing some sort of "Satanic" Indian ritual. Because he's
fulfilling a sacred Kawatche legend on sacred Kawatche land, this
seems to be part of Kawatche culture. The implication is that
sacrificing people is what Indians traditionally do.
Actually, religious sacrifice was uncommon in the Americas. The
Aztecs may have done it, but most tribes didn't even sacrifice
animals, much less people. Showing Indians performing such rites,
especially on burial grounds, is false as well as stereotypical.
For more on "Smallville's" Indians, visit
There She Is, Miss USA
Another unpalatable TV performance came during the Miss Universe
pageant--held June 1 in Quito, Ecuador. Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey,
was the first runner-up in the global competition. She earned this
distinction by wearing a Native-style warbonnet and little else as her
Normally only men wear such headgear, and only on official occasions.
This was yet another case of a non-Indian misusing or misrepresenting
Native culture. As Indian Country Today noted (6/9/04), "Finnessey's
costume reminded many of the outcry over the performance by the
hip-hop duo OutKast at the Grammy Awards earlier this year."
To see Miss USA in all her "glory," head to the Stereotype of the
Month contest at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/stertype.htm .
Cartoon of the Year
It's only August, but the cartoon of the year has to be the June 12
"Non Sequitur" by Wiley. It shows General Custer and his troops
facing a barrage of arrows. The caption says "Custer's Last
Photo-Op...." The word balloon adds "Mission Accomplished!"
2004 looks to be another uneven year for Native-themed comic strips
and cartoons. As usual, "La Cucaracha" is doing well while "Bizarro"
and "Herman" aren't. You can view the winners and losers at
Blue Corn Comics