28 March 2007

Greg, Peter, and Bobby = "Indians"?

Any resemblance between Alice and Gen. Custer?

In The Brady Bunch episode “The Slumber Caper” (1970), Marcia, the oldest daughter, prepares to have a slumber party. The Brady family of Mike and Carol and their children Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy and housekeeper Alice does not try to reenact the June 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana, in which Custer and his men of the Seventh U. S. Cavalry were killed by an alliance of indigenous nations. Rather, they make explicit references to Custer and “Indians” and metaphorically reenact the battle in their home.

Marcia’s parents plan to go out for the evening and leave Alice in charge of the “fort,” as Mr. Brady says, if she is willing. “Oh, I don’t mind holding down the fort,” Alice replies. “Just bear in mind those were the last words of General Custer.” Sensing that trouble will occur in a houseful of children, Alice aligns herself with the defeated General Custer and the Cavalry. To play Custer encourages her to be strong and courageous yet aware that defeat and destruction may be imminent. Mr. Brady recognizes Alice’s new pseudo-identity and prepares to jokingly “tell General Custer to take her boots and saber out of mothballs.” Alice reassures him that she can oversee the slumber party: “Remember, you have left the cavalry in charge.” Alice’s self-alignment with Custer implies that she, a White female, associates herself with a White male. Rather than applying the WWFD ("What Would Fonzie Do?") strategy by making parallel references to Crazy Horse, who fought the Seventh Cavalry, Alice relies on standard rhetoric from White heroes who “protected” American homelands from “Indian” attacks. For the scriptwriters of “The Slumber Caper” to associate Alice with Custer may sound like innocent fun; but to speak of Custer, one must include “Indians.”

In The Brady Bunch, the “Indians” are marginalized and compared to children in the process. Because the Brady boys eagerly plan to sabotage the party, they are positioned in the episode as the “Indians" but playing “Indian” on a metaphorical level. Reminiscent of nineteenth-century White American mindsets that feared “Indian” attacks at any given moment, Brady Bunch writers equate three boys and their juvenile behavior with “Indians” who fought for their homelands and survival. The girls camp in sleeping bags in the living room, which could serve as a symbolic locale of a central area of the Little Big Horn battlefield. When the girls listen to a ghost story in their camp, Bobby howls like a wolf from the kitchen, suggestive of an “Indian” hiding before an attack. Later, a lit-up toy skull in the refrigerator frightens Alice. Then she and the girls see a fake spider in a sleeping bag. Possibly associating the multiple “Indian” tribes at Little Big Horn with the three antics by the three Brady boys, Alice remarks in cliché fashion, “It looks like there’s more than one tribe on the warpath.”

The boys’ sabotage concludes once the girls start itching profusely because of the itching powder that the boys planted in the sleeping bags. Upon Alice’s command, the young ladies sprint upstairs, hence fleeing the battlefield, to wash it off. While Custer was in charge of the Seventh Cavalry, Alice extends her duties to oversee not only the girls (read: innocent White female Americans) but also the boys (read: wild “Indians”). As Custer and the cavalry rolled into one, Alice is to protect the girls from the boys’ savage attacks. But she, like Custer at Little Big Horn, fails.

In the epilogue on the following day, Mr. Brady notices another prank. Alice hands a box of cookies to Mr. Brady, who finds a fake spider inside, perhaps the same one from the sleeping bag. “The party’s over,” Alice comments, “but the melody lingers on.” Similarly, the Battle of Little Big Horn ended long ago, but its impact surfaces today. As evident in rerun versions of “The Slumber Caper,” Custer’s (and hence, America’s) defeat by Indigenes in June 1876 linger on in American imaginations.

22 March 2007

senseless in memphis ...

as i sit here and watch the men's basketball teams from texas a&m and memphis battle for a spot in the elite 8, i am reminded that the cleveland "indians" baseball club has been invited (along w/the st. louis cardinals) to play in major league baseball's inaugural Civil Rights Game in memphis on march 31, 2007. so, here's a game devised to recognize and to remember "the home of the National Civil Rights Museum and the city where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968." and mlb invites the "indians"? (and invites them to a city that's part of the "trail of tears"?) the playing goes beyond a sport when "indians," led by their "chief wahoo," are involved. we're talking playing "indian"; we're talking redface. but heck, why not make it an all anti-real "indian" day by inviting the atlanta "braves," too? and since the game is in memphis to call attention to african american civil rights, why not change the name of cleveland "indians" to cleveland "blacks"? or as artist oscar arredondo suggests, the cleveland "negroes"?

so many folks still not getting it, eh? sports fans' claims to honorable intentions of the use of "indian" imagery, intentions of being pro-"indian," do not dismiss nor outweigh the disrespectful effects that many native peoples experience. an example of one of those effects? ironically, many pro-"indian" mascot/logo/image critics verbally attack the real native peoples who call for the eradication of such "indian" representations. so, those critics honor their "indian" images and "indian" objects, their "indians," but they disrespect and dislike the real natives?
reflecting back to a protest years ago of the university of illinois' mascot "chief illiniwek," tim giago (oglala sioux) writes, "I joined the protest one year as a newspaper reporter. I walked near the protestors taking pictures as they marched. I was once again overwhelmed by the degree of hatred aimed at these protestors. Profanity such as 'F- you squaws' or 'Get the hell out of here you drunken Indians,' rained down on the protestors on their march to the stadium. My God, what a proud tradition! How can a people exude such hatred for real Indians while honoring a phony chief?"

and check out what cleveland's general manager mark shapiro said in response to his "indians" being invited to memphis: "The history of civil rights needs to be honored. The pursuit of civil rights, for compassion and for tolerance, needs to be fought for not only in our game, but also in our country and in our own organization. It's that belief system and that history that is the root of our pride and why we are participating in this game." sounds like "our country" and "our pride" isn't about including indigenous peoples. sounds like "compassion" and "tolerance" aren't to be shown to indigenous peoples. sounds like mr. shapiro isn't used to being objectified, dehumanized, commercialized, exploited, and all else that accompanies being associated with a ridiculously racist image known as "wahoo." instead, mr. shapiro is among those who continue to objectify, dehumanize, commercialize, and exploit native peoples through the use of "wahoo" and "indians."
to reward his hard work and dedication to promoting playing "indian," we at the bbb are now making mr. shapiro an honorary brady brave.

16 March 2007

Hualapai and the Skywalk

it has become a u.s. national story among mainstream headlines that typically don't welcome news from indian country. but this new headline, like most headlines in this "indian" gaming era of mainstream anti-"indian" gaming news, is sometimes not one that praises indigenous peoples. this time, the headline's about the Hualapai and their newly-built Skywalk in the Grand Canyon West area. (today, buzz aldrin was among the guests at the Skywalk opening ceremony.)

some critics say that the Skywalk (which 120 people can simultaneously be on at the rather "steep" (yes, poor pun intended) price of $25 each) is unnatural and is desecrating the Earth. the underlying message? that building the Skywalk onto the Earth does not fit with non-Native interpretations of "Indian." so many non-Native peoples (and Natives who internalize non-Native ideas/imaginings of "indianness") have difficulty in not equating all Indigenous Peoples with having oneness with nature, with Mother Earth.

why is it that many non-native writers cannot see native peoples as non-static beings? why can some people not see "indians" in economic ventures, in business, in doing what they can to benefit their elders, their young, their people? in line with the work of the bbb, some might ask, "are the Hualapai playing 'indian,' more specifically, playing a form of the white man's "indian"? in his opinion piece, writer john weeks would have you believe so, that yes, they're playing. yet who is john weeks or any non-Hualapai peoples (which would be everyone in the world except for the around 1,400 enrolled citizens) to say that the Hualapai should not do this? i haven't walked a mile in their moccasins (or shoes for non-moccasiners).

neither has the brady bunch. in the first 3 episodes of season 3 in 1971, including "grand canyon or bust," the brady family (soon-to-be brady braves) ventured to the grand canyon to learn, as patriarch mr. brady said, about the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, and Navajo. Peter, the middle son, asks the origins of “such strange names.” it sounds like many critics have peter's "strange" mentality as they find the Skywalk to be strangely at odds with how they view what "indians" should (and should not) do to maintain an image of playing their version of a white man's "indian."

for me, i like to hear from folks who know what it's like for the Hualapai, such as Robert Bravo [not greg "johnny bravo" brady], a citizen of the Hualapai Nation. in an interview with Kim Landers of ABC Radio, Bravo spoke on the importance of the Skywalk: "This is going to benefit, you know the Hualapai nation, Hualapai children, and that's the beauty of it. It's going to create jobs for us, it's gong to create the revenue that we need, you know, for schooling, different departments that our tribal government has. So it's definitely exciting." on a less critical level, i also can't help but think of the Skywalk as reminiscent of the carrier that Luke rides in at home on Tatooine early on in the original Star Wars. (and seriously, i thought of that carrier/transportation device before seeing that Skywalk is very similar to Luke's surname: Skywalker). may the force [of brady brave power] be with you.

11 March 2007

calling all brady braves ...

If you wish to be a brave Brady and want to receive your very own BradyBrave “Indian” name, then you need to join the Brady Brave Blogspot e-club.

Here's how:
1) First, say Brady Brave Blogspot five times as fast as you can. Master this tongue twisting feat so that you will not forget the name of this site.
2) Second, leave a comment/request for the bbb, and you just might receive an honorary “Indian” name, intended to be as frivolous and hokey as any episode of the Brady Bunch.
3) Third, please feel free to share with us any instances of or personal interactions/ confrontations with “redface.” For instance, does your high school or college have an “Indian” mascot? Did you play cowboys and “Indians”? Have you seen non-Natives fiscally profiting from their appropriation of Indigenous ways? Have any good “Cherokee princess” stories? Ever worn Liz Claiborne “Crazy Horse” clothing? Seen any “Indians” on TV lately (including in reruns)?
4) Fourth, feel free to invite other potential Brady Braves. With enough readers, the bbb can be a site for Brady Braves to gather 'round the fire and revel in redface resistance.

10 March 2007

The Fonz's "Indians" ...

One might expect a long-time national news journalist and well-known anchor to be well-versed in his choices of words and adages. Yet on the March 9, 2007, edition of NBC’s Nightly News, its anchor and managing editor Brian Williams showed his ignorance or, if he’s aware of the historical context of what he said, then he gave a glimpse of his prejudice. Speaking on the “U.S. invasion in Iraq,” Williams interviewed U.S. General David Petraeus.

WILLIAMS: But it's been the crux of the anger problem for a long time in ways the people haven't realized. they [Iraqis] go from, a lot of these people had p[o]wer and water before the U.S. entered, and it's been four years. They have very little of both now. When is the cavalry coming? Is that fair to ask?
PETRAEUS: It is fair to ask. Actually, the cavalry has come and has come repeatedly. Unfortunately this is yet another area in which al-Qaida Iraq has sought to do anything it can to derail the new Iraq.
Once again, U.S. ("US") versus al-Qaida ("THEM") gets framed in historical U.S. military ("US") versus the “Indians” ("THEM") terminology. How is it that Native Peoples come to be equated with al-Qaida? (Or what about this parody of the racist minstrel song "Ten Little Indians" that replaces "Indians" with "Talibans"?) Although one can counter that Williams and Petraeus did not explicitly mention Indigenous Peoples, their references to the “cavalry” obviously imply the unmentioned. (And no, I'm not talking political correctness here. I'm talking about dis/respect. It's like times have changed, but deep-rooted mindsets have not.)

So, we at the bbb now wonder, "What would the Fonz do in response to these 'cavalry' remarks?" As a long-time non-Native Indigneous ally throughout the series Happy Days, the Fonz once said, “I don’t like the Cavalry, man. I like the Indians!” Us, too, Fonz. Us, too.
But hold your horses and hold down the fort and wait! The Fonz said in the same scene of the same episode ("Fonzie the Flatfoot," the one in which he becomes a cop and is looking for heroic inspiration to save the day), that he identified with the hero status of the Lone Ranger. Well, nevermind, Fonzie.

At least Brian Williams doesn't wear a mask when he marginalizes "Indians." Just makeup ... a hint of redface? ;)

07 March 2007

here's the story of a lovely lady ...

"... until the one day when this lady met this fellow, and they knew that it was much more than a hunch that this group would somehow form a family. that's the way they became the brady ... [braves?]"

this blog's name is inspired by the 1971 brady bunch episode "the brady braves", in which the white brady family, including carol and mike and their six children and housekeeper alice, become the first situation comedy, or sitcom, family to be “adopted” into a Native “tribe.”

escaping from their regular suburban America confines, the brady bunch open its third season with a three-episode adventure to the grand canyon. there, they attend an exhibition of supposedly hopi dancers doing what mr. brady says is a “rain dance.” concerned with authentic "indianness," cindy, the youngest brady, asks if they are “real Indians.” later, when she and her brother bobby wander from their campsite and become lost, they encounter young native jimmy pakaya, who eventually serves as their guide back to camp.

“Gee! An Indian boy!” cindy exclaims. he runs; they chase. (a reversal of circling the wagons?) later, cindy is concerned again with ethnic authenticity. “Are you a real Indian?” she asks. the Bradys soon learn that Jimmy has runaway from home because he is “tired of being an Indian.” he wishes to “be an astronaut” instead. how does a profession replace an ethnic identity? (reminds me of vine deloria, jr., saying that many natives are putting their work title before their tribal affiliation. reminds me of jeff corntassel saying, "I am a Tsalagi [oklahoma cherokees' own name for each other] first and a trained political scientist second.") “Jimmy,” mr. brady says in his fatherly manner, “You can be both of those things. You can be proud of your heritage and be what you want to be.” yeah, jimmy ... an astrondian! or better yet, an indonaut!

after mr. brady reunites jimmy with his grandfather chief eagle cloud (portrayed by jay silverheels of tonto fame), the “chief” says to the bradys, “I ask you to journey to our village tonight. In a ceremony, I will ask you to become members of my family and tribe.” He assures them that they will have a “groovy time.” (first "indian" to say "groovy" on primetime tv?) to set the stage, Native flute music plays and a few “Indians” sit in the distance. Chief Eagle Cloud stands and declares, “All these people [the Bradys] sitting around this fire shall belong to my [unnamed] tribe from now until forever.” he then gives “Indian” names to each of them.
and here we go ...
Mike: Big Eagle of Large Nest
Carol: Yellow Flower with Many Petals
Greg: Stalking Wolf
Marcia: Willow Dancing in Wind
Peter: Middle Buffalo, then Leaping Lizard (Peter rejects both)
Jan: Dove of the Morning Light
Bobby: Little Bear Who Loses Way
Cindy: Wandering Blossom
Alice: Sq--- in Waiting

and to return to a slightly modified theme song etched into americana consciousness, "that's the way they became the brady [braves]."