"The Indians in the Lobby"
- Indian Comics Irregular #70
On "The West Wing" recently, a tribal chairman and his assistant were
scheduled to meet a White House official the day before
Thanksgiving. Because the official had left already, the Indians
staged a "stand-in" in the lobby, refusing to leave until they got
satisfaction. Let's see how an Emmy-award-winning TV show handled
its first Native encounter.
The good: The pair were from an obscure but real tribe, the
Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans. (They're in Wisconsin but came
from New York originally.) This is more proof that honest creators
can and do use real tribes in fiction (see ICI #68). Actor Gary
Farmer (Cayuga) is related to the Mohicans, a nice (if probably
unintended) touch. The Indians' grievance--waiting 15 years to get
approval for a health clinic and sewage plant--seemed all too
The bad: The Indians' recitation of their woes was a West Wing
staple: sincere but pedantic. The idea of Indians standing
stoically in the lobby suggested the old wooden-Indian stereotype.
That a tribal leader would stoop to a hippie-style protest--or that
the White House staff would let him--didn't seem plausible.
The ugly: The press secretary finally offered the Indians a meeting
the following Monday, with the White House to pay their expenses.
After taking a moral stand, literally, the Indians' reward was the
same meeting they sought originally.
Oh, well. I give "West Wing" a solid B for effort. That's about
three grades better than most shows get these days.
For more on the episode, go to
A Turkey for "Ed"
"Ed," the whimsical show about small-town America, also did a
Thanksgiving episode. No need to list the good, the bad, and the
ugly in this case, because it was all bad. Based on this
episode, "Ed" is of those shows meriting an F.
The ever-nostalgic Ed was upset because Stuckeyville had canceled its
Thanksgiving parade. He carried on about how the Pilgrims had
sacrificed everything to be free. After suffering such hardships as
wild animal attacks, they deserved a celebration, he said. And so
did the people of Stuckeyville.
The problem: Not once did Ed mention Indians, the linchpin to the
Thanksgiving story. He said nothing about how the local Wampanoag
saved the colonists from sure death. The implication was the
Pilgrims survived on their own and thus earned their turkey meal.
Nor did Ed say anything about the Pilgrims' real motives for their
voyage, which ranged from economic opportunism to religious
fanaticism. It was a classic case of what author James W. Loewen
calls American myth-making. Thanksgiving is our national origin
story, he claims, where we tell ourselves how great we are for being
To top it off, the show-ending parade didn't show any Indians, as far
as I could tell. Not even white folks dressed up as Indians. It's
as if they reenacted the Civil War but forgot to include the South.
The turkey talk continues at
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