Category Archives: Native

Eating, ecosystems, settlers and loss

From an Orion essay by J. B. MacKinnon

The wild plants and animals that used to feed us are akin to keystone species, which give structure to entire ecological communities. Wild foods were the tethers that tied us to whole habitats. Forget the taste of acorns and it becomes reasonable to fragment the unbroken oak forests that, besides people, fed tens of millions of passenger pigeons. Fish the shad into obscurity and there is less of a case to be made against damming the rivers of the Eastern Seaboard, or using them as dumping grounds for industrial pollution. Stop gathering the edible flower bulbs of the Rocky Mountains, and abandon the clearest argument against grazing those meadows to nubs. To stand in for such distinct foods of place, there will be, wherever you may roam, broiler chickens from Georgia, Texas beef, Idaho’s famous potatoes.

via Appetite of Abundance: On the Benefits of Being Eaten | Longreads.

Despite the nostalgic tone, I think MacKinnon has a strong argument about the loss from changing ecosystems to support settler food habits.

The most dramatic example is surely the Great Plains, where tens of millions of plains bison have been replaced by 45 million cattle—a straight swap of buffalo steaks for beef burgers. Yet so much more had to change as well. Ninety percent of the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, fueled by sunshine and watered by rainfall, was ultimately replaced by hard-grazed cattle range and farm-raised crops—often for livestock feed—that require fifty gallons of oil per acre and the irrigation of more than 20 million acres of land. With the vanishing of the bison began the slow fade of an estimated 100 million wallows that the pawing, rolling animals eroded into the grasslands, creating ephemeral water pools in the wet seasons and dust basins in the dry. As the wallows declined, so did the spadefoot and Great Plains toads that gathered to breed in them; so did the grasslands song of the western chorus frog; so did birds like the McCown’s longspur and mountain plover, the latter so fond of prairie balds that they’re now known to nest, with predictable risk, on farmers’ bare fields.

Without bison calves and carcasses to feed on, the plains grizzly faded not only from the landscape but also from memory. Gone, too, is the strange reciprocal relationship between bison and prairie dogs, with the bison mowing down the grass to make way for prairie dog colonies, which in turn improve the quality of forage for bison. The two animals’ fates were joined: wild bison now roam just 1 percent of their former range; prairie dogs number 2 percent of their former population. The buffalo bird, which once fed on insects spooked into the air by bison herds, simply came up for a name change. Today, it’s the cowbird.

via Appetite of Abundance: On the Benefits of Being Eaten | Longreads.

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Filed under Animals, colonialism, food, memorial, Native, nature

Consuming Natives: Kevin Durant Nike edition

I came across this Kevin Durant shoe that seems to scream cultural appropriation to me.

Thanks to the for the image of Nike Kevin Durant shoe.

The shoe raises money for Nike, Kevin Durant and some Native American athletic programs (I assume in that order).  But the description is a toxic collection of generalizations and stereotypes mashed together.


The bold Nike N7 KD VI features the repeating pattern of arrows that first launched on the Pendleton Woolen Mills Nike N7 blanket last month. The arrow print  symbolizes energy and forward motion and has reflective built in for a surprise effect when worn in the elements.  The bold colors used on the KD VI have significant meaning in Native communities. Turquoise is used often as a color symbolic of friendship, and red is one of four colors—yellow, red, black and white—featured on the traditional Native America medicine wheel, representing movement and the four directions. The KD logo appears on the heel and the N7 logo is on the tongue.

via NIKE, Inc. – Nike N7 and Kevin Durant Collaborate to Support Native American Youth.

That is amazing!  Red is a color significant for Native Americans!  Whoa!  It is good to know where that stuff comes from (sarcasm).   How about vague ambiguity when it comes to so-called native symbols and precise articulation of the Kevin Durant logo?

Nike has also developed a wide shoe, the Air Native N7, for Native North American’s supposedly wider feet (they measured 224 indians feet to justify this claim!)  While criticizing the marketing of this shoe, we can lay some of the News from Indian Country analysis against this Kevin Durant shoe press release.

Some vocal opponents of the Air Native N7 believe the shoe line indeed fosters stereotypes because, along with the company’s trademark swoosh, the footwear features feathers, arrowheads, sunset designs and circle of life motifs. Nike officials have said the product is designed to “deliver sustainable innovation,” and the “N7” portion of its name is meant to encourage “a seventh generation ethos.”

“In my opinion, the whole idea is racist,” says Eugene Johnson, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, who’s paid close attention to the development of the shoe line. “This is a branding scheme of advertising that Nike is known for… I have no doubt that the sales folks are hoping that Indian sympathizers and the general public will be thinking of how Nike is so charitable in thinking of the Indians, thus, increasing sales through the usual brand of Nike branding advertising.”

via Does the Shoe Fit? Native Nike footwear raises concerns – Indian Country News.

I happen to agree that the dual marketing benefit of being seen as charitable  to anonymous poor indians helps to sell the shoe as does the appropriation of cultural symbols.  I think the same might be said about this Kevin Durant shoe.

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Filed under cultural appropriation, fashion, health, Native, race, representation, sport

Chelsea Manning on direct action and risk

Time Magazine gave Chelsea Manning some space and she makes some good arguments.  A political prisoner who uses her access to media to talk about complicated ideas.  Complicated ideas like direct action, accountability, violence to native nations, class, risks associated with solidarity, killing activists, and the movement. Here is the whole thing.  Stay real america.

I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths.  I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.

Such people are often nameless and humble, yet no less courageous. Whether carpenters of welders; retail clerks or bank managers; artists or lawyers, they dare to ask tough questions, and seek out the truth, even when the answers they find might not be easy to live with.

I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.

For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn’t dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality—certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.

So, this year, and every year, I’m thankful for such people, and I’m thankful that one day—perhaps not tomorrow—because of the accomplishments of such truth-seekers and human rights pioneers, we can live together on this tiny “pale blue dot” of a planet and stop looking inward, at each other, but rather outward, into the space beyond this planet and the future of all of humanity.

Chelsea Manning, formerly named Bradley, is serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

via Chelsea Manning | Thanksgiving Gratitude With Michelle Obama, Rick Warren and More |

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Filed under colonialism, human rights, intersectionality, media, Native, prisons, propaganda, representation, resistance

Indigenous people’s day juxtaposition

Thanks to Vintage Ads for the image.

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Filed under colonialism, cultural appropriation, human rights, juxtaposition, learning, Native, race, representation, slavery

Presidential food preferences

Photo by Hugh Morton

Richard Nixon: Fresh fruit, avocadoes, gazpacho, cucumber mousse, cold poached salmon, cold shrimp and crab, cottage cheese, Rye Crisp, wheat germ, macadamia nuts, corned beef and cabbage, steak, spaghetti with meatballs, meatloaf, and beef stroganoff.

via All The Presidents’ Menus | The Awl.

I appreciate Calvin Coolidge and his love for Vermont goods.

Calvin Coolidge: Roast beef, Vermont pickles, Vermont chickens (raised in a yard he had built behind the White House over Teddy Roosevelt’s mint patch), curry of veal, pork apple pies, custard pies, and cornmeal muffins.

via All The Presidents’ Menus | The Awl.

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Filed under food, Native

Shopping for native american appropriation

Who is buying the cultural hijack this season?  Here are four excerpts from my buddy Zack’s reflection on cheesy selling of Native American identity.

Seeing as how this week is that special time of the year when Americans young and old come together in order to collectively indulge in enough food, mirth, and myth to sanitize the brutal genocide upon which America country was founded, I thought it would be nice to provide some shopping advice for this Friday’s consume-a-thon, and to pay tribute to the corporate tribe that has been gracious enough to supply the world with Eskimo Redneck Ice Chisels and 50 round rifle magazines.

via Cabela’s Hearts Indians | Souciant.

Who calls it colonialism?  I just see some king-of-the-hill type wisdom.

Contrary to the logic of sane people, the British arbitrarily decided that this vast expanse of land was ‘theirs’, since the ancient law of man asserts the right for pigmentally-challenged people to claim anything and everything as their own private property, as long as they arrive at said destination by boat (FACT: Even today, if a white guy can technically sail a boat right up to your house and dismount on your property, then it’s totally his for the taking.)

via Cabela’s Hearts Indians | Souciant.

And of course the real question about shopping is WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT ME?

Whether seen as a tools, weapons, or tweapons gifted directly from the Great Spirit to the neoprene’d hands of man, there are three models from which consumers can choose, including the Stone Club (pictured above), which is the ideal choice for (a) those wishing to add masculine nuance to their existing ‘Indians-were-majestic-but-I’m-not-giving-back-this-mountain’ chalet decor, or perhaps (b) the smaller niche market shopper who simply wants to add Blunt Force Trauma to his or her resume.

via Cabela’s Hearts Indians | Souciant.

Selling the certificate-to-justify-genocide along with the offensive weapons — capitalism at the most savvy!

This item is also “100% Navajo-crafted with a certificate of authenticity,” and this means that you’re actually getting a second guarantee for free, which is Cabela’s certificate of assurance that, if necessary, any critique of their gross commodification of Native history can be deflected with the proverbial Navaho human shield whose name appears on the certificate.

via Cabela’s Hearts Indians | Souciant.

Cheers to Souciant!   Add Zack’s new blog “Dudes against ‘dudes’” to your RSS feed.

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Filed under capitalism, colonialism, Native, representation

Racist geography visible in signs

One of my favorite writers is James Loewen, a Sociology professor who wrote Lies my teacher told me.  The book is an analysis of the most popular US history text books assigned in high schools.  Loewen cruises through outlining how the texts are written to exclude and teach generations faulty understandings of our history. His work uncovered “an embarrassing blend of bland optimism, blind nationalism, and plain misinformation . . .”

He also  has a nice book on American monuments Lies across America: what our historical sites get wrong.

Gwen Sharp is working out some recent work on whiteness and geographical markers in Sociological images.  Here is the discussion of historical markers that identify whiteness.

So what story about our nation do these two monuments tell? The only information contained on the two-sided Fall City monument refers to the activities of Whites; the Native residents were important only when they lost land. For all intents and purposes, the history of the area started only once a White man had set eyes on it. Similarly, Tallent’s arrival in the Black Hills is memorable largely because she was a White woman, whose presence is by definition worthy of note and celebration — imagine, a vulnerable White woman braving the wildness of the Dakota territory! The fact that she was an illegal prospector camping on land she didn’t own while in the pursuit of quick wealth is neither worth mentioning nor a cause to question whether she’s a laudable figure deserving of a monument. Thus, the effect of both of these monuments is to normalize colonization and illegal settlement, and present the arrival of Whites as the beginning of meaningful history.

via Whose History Do Monuments Tell? » Sociological Images.

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Filed under colonialism, Native, propaganda

Geronimo was not killed in Pakistan . . .

I didn’t know that the Navy SEAL codename for the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden was called Geronimo.  Thanks to Colorlines and the 1491s, we get a nice video response, with emphasis on current native north America.

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