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Using Indians for Fun and Profit

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  • Rob
    Indian Comics Irregular #185 Some recent news stories show America s ongoing insensitivity to Native people and their beliefs. In Colorado, a hiker found a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2009
      Indian Comics Irregular #185

      Some recent news stories show America's ongoing insensitivity to Native people and their beliefs.

      In Colorado, a hiker found a wrapped eagle body that had fallen out of a tree. Authorities thought it might be a "satanic sacrifice" until Natives explained it was a traditional religious practice.

      In Oxford, Alabama, developers are digging up an Indian mound to build a Sam's Club. Non-Indians consider the mound a big pile of dirt, while Indians consider it a sacred site and archaeological treasure.

      In Blanding, Utah, two dozen people were arrested for stealing Native artifacts. Non-Indians consider this looting a harmless pastime, while Indians consider it a violation of their religion and a potential source of misfortune.

      More Casting Controversies

      Alas, the practice of casting non-Natives to play Natives continues unabated. The latest examples:

      * The upcoming Jonah Hex movie reportedly will use Asian actors in the Native roles.

      * "Public Enemies" features French actress Marion Cotillard as John Dillinger's half-Menominee girlfriend Billie Frechette.

      * "The Last Airbender" stars white actors as Sokka and Katara, members of the Inuit-based Water Tribe.

      * Thomas Hayden Church plays Johnny Whitefeather, an Indian business fraud, in Eddie Murphy's "Imagine That."

      * Mizuo Peck, a Japanese/Caucasian actress, reprised her role as Sacagawea in the "Night at the Museum" sequel.

      * Mickey Rourke (!) portrayed an Indian assassin in "Killshot," a forgettable 2008 thriller.

      Backlash over "Wounded Knee"

      The last segment of PBS's "We Shall Remain" series generated a notable response. Here are dueling views of the film's import:

      Paul Chaat Smith: "In the '60s and early '70s these were still emerging ideas, about reconnecting with traditional culture, language, religion. It was starting to happen, but this became the majority sentiment in the space of just a handful of years. It was really about identity, it was about affirming we're still here, we want to be here, and we want to be here on our own terms."

      A letter from the Wounded Knee Victims and Veterans Association: "This film attempts to explain away the destruction of the village by invoking historical issues (broken treaties, Indian boarding schools, government-sponsored relocation, etc.) and by rationalizing the criminality of the perpetrators. One of the film's worst transgressions is its contemptible disregard for the real victims of Wounded Knee, the villagers who lived there."

      Best Network TV of 2008-2009

      "Ugly Betty" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" both used Native lore several times in the just-finished season. Kudos to the writers for grounding their stories in a world where Indians exist.

      Even without Native actors, these shows highlighted more Native culture and history than "Law & Order: SVU" did with Adam Beach. Which reminds me that Beach will play a recurring role in the HBO series "Big Love."

      In other news, a "Family Guy" story about the founding of Quahog, Rhode Island, failed to mention Indians. But in "King of the Hill," John Redcorn appeared as a media mogul who produces DVDs.

      For more on these subjects, see http://www.bluecorncomics.com/namovies.htm and http://www.bluecorncomics.com/natv.htm .

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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