31 May 2007

Martha Stewart, Playing with "Indian" Names?

Well, this was a rare moment: a story on Indianz.com involving Martha Stewart. She has a place (i.e., 153-acre estate purchased in 2000 for the trifling cost of $16 million) in Katonah, NY. Now, Stewart wants to trademark “Katonah” for some of her products. Never mind if Katonah residents (of the Village Improvement Society in Katonah) are not pleased. Never mind if today’s descendants of Chief Katonah of the Lenape Nation are not pleased. As reported by Jim Fitzgerald, AP, Diana Pearson, a Stewart spokesperson, says Stewart "seeks to honor the town and the hamlet by using the word `Katonah.'"

And I suppose the Hornell Brewing Company had “honor” in mind when it slapped the revered name Crazy Horse on malt liquor bottles in 1992. (Crazy Horse, says David Wilkins (Lumbee) in American Indian Politics (2001), “is remembered as a staunch Sioux nationalist who remained committed to his people throughout his short life. He never signed a treaty with the federal government, and he opposed the use of alcohol by his people” (229)). I suppose Liz Claiborne, fashion guru, also had “honor” in mind when her clothing company threaded Crazy Horse (and Cherokee) on tags. Although one of Stewart’s lawyers said that his client’s use of the name “will not stop Katonah residents - or anyone else - from using the name Katonah exactly as they always have," what will happen? Likely, Katonah becomes synonymous with Martha Stewart products (much to Stewart’s delight, the BBB imagines), not with Lenape People, not with descendants of Katonah, not with respect for Indigenous Peoples, not with honor for Katonah, New York, residents. To Ms. Stewart and Ms. Stewart followers: One’s intentions do not always match the effects.

As said before in “Indian” mascot debates and other contested arenas, it is difficult to honor those who are not honored, including Autumn Scott (Ramapough Lenape), the New Jersey State Commission on Indian Affairs co-chair. “We trust,” Scott explains, “that Martha Stewart intended no malice in seeking to have her corporation trademark the name of one of our great ancestral leaders, but for her to say she is doing so to honor him and our tribe is absurd, especially when it is being done solely for profit.” Although Stewart is talking of honoring the town, a place of refuge for her, the town is named after the Lenape (Delaware) leader. Stewart, then, would do well to address certain Native People’s warranted concerns. So far, she has greeted them with silence.

Stewart may not talk, but we Brady Braves can. Thoughts of righteous anger can be sent to television@marthastewart.com (address available at www.marthastewart.com, more specifically this page) A customer service number available at www.marthastewartstore.com is 1-800-357-7060.

26 May 2007

sweat lodges and rosie ...

yes, the bbb knows the major tv networks are easy to slam when it comes to their misunderstandings and exclusions and disrespectful visible representations of indigenous peoples. but silence from us is not much of an option. so ... yesterday, on the may 25, 2007, edition of the today show on nbc, the bbb tuned in just in time to see dana dickey, a white female, promoting various spa therapy treatments. and then ... it was time to promote, as ann curry announced rather awkwardly and somewhat hesitatingly "the native american sweat lodge." (just one lodge, eh? and it's the lodge, eh?) here we go again ... now, the bbb likes curry, the person-of-color interviewer in this segment of the show, but she was nearing a borderline of brady bravin' indian play by not questioning (and thus, accepting) dickey's native-inspired new age talk. curry listened intently as the new ager spoke of using [and profiting from the promotion of] sweat lodges, which are part of what dickey described as the spa treatements' "multi-billion dollar industry."

no discussion of cultural appropriation/theft followed. no discussion of non-native personal gain via native practices. note: not saying that all non-native new agers (and king of the hill's new age-indian john redcorn) are just seeking profits. but some folks (non-native and native) are playing "indian" for ill-gotten gain and profit. so, for the today show at least to mention/acknowledge (though it didn't even come close) that cultural appropriation has been going on (and going native) for hundreds of years on these lands at the expense of many indigenous peoples would be a good step. see bluecorn comics, shari huhndorf's going native and carter meyer and dianne royer's selling the indian: commercializing & appropriating american indian cultures.

meanwhile, on the may 26, 2007, edition of abc's good morning america, one of the obvious headlines was rosie's early exit from abc's the view. gma addressed many of the major rosie controversies, including her shouting match with co-host elizabeth, her calling out kelly ripa for a homosexist remark, and her battles with trump. but no mention of her racist "ching-chong" bit. it's little surprise here at the bbb that it didn't make gma's "list" of rosie-on-the-view moments. perhaps not surprising either to those who called out rosie, including poet beau sia's "open letter" video on youtube, after her ching-chonging yellowvoice/yellowface, a cousin of redface.

21 May 2007

Welch's "Indians"

According to http://theimaginaryworld.com/fod17.html, Welch's Grape Juice used to present the adventures of Pow and Wow, the "Woo Woo Indians," along with Foxy-Loxy, on its packaging. More images at the above site ...

The adventures of Pow 'n' Wow are in the Americana past, but some of today's Muscogee Creek and Cherokees in Oklahoma--real Indigenous Peoples, not caricatures--are apparently using Welch's grape juice for grape dumplings. As reported by Indian Country Today, though, "the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah said some Cherokee cooks continue to make their grape dumplings by gathering and cooking wild grapes, called 'possum grapes,' instead of grape juice." That's good to hear, not good saleswise for Welch's and Pow 'n' Wow, but good for Native folks.

19 May 2007

"Michael's Tribe," Part II

[Part I of the BBB response to the My Wife and Kids 2002 episode "Michael's Tribe" can be found below.]

A side storyline in “Michael’s Tribe” involves Michael’s teenage daughter Claire and her plan to sneak out of the house with Tony, one of her friends. Learning of the plan from his son Junior, Michael asks, “How?” To which Junior replies, “Are you asking me a question or are you speaking ‘Indian’?” After Junior explains how Claire’s friend will arrive at midnight and use a ladder to climb up to Claire’s room, Michael turns to storytelling to recruit the Indian Princesses to help him catch Claire and her friend.

MICHAEL. Many, many moons ago, there was Princess Claire-awatha. She was the daughter of the greatest chief ever. One day a brave from another village came to steal away Princess Claire-awatha and this made the chief very, very angry.
RACHEL. Wait a minute. Claire-awatha? Is this just a thinly veiled reference to your actual life?

Michael tells the Princesses of Claire’s plan and asks them to help make sure Claire stays “here in the village” (i.e., at home). Next, the Princesses prepare for what Bald Eagle labels as “war” while dancing senselessly and chanting “hi-ya uh-ya-ha hi-ya uh-ya-ha” with their chief. Chief Bald Eagle also leads the Princesses in a rendition of “the sacred song of our Indian People.” In unison, they sing “three little, two little, one little Indian” from the well-known Septimus Winner nineteenth-century minstrel song (and later nursery rhyme) “Ten Little Indians.” “Indian” players in My Wife and Kids unabashedly sing a tune about the counting of “Indian” deaths. As Kanatiyosh (Onondaga/Mohawk) states, “Asking children to sing ‘Ten Little Indians’ is pure racism. The song is an Indian annihilation song that the Pioneers sang to their children to sooth [sic] their fears. If you remember the song, they count up and then they count backwards until there is only one Indian boy left.”

The time arrives, Bald Eagle tells his warriors, “to prepare our faces for war with paint.” The girls, who now wear a headband with a single feather, shout in excitement as they line up to physicalize redface. Donning a red, white, and blue headdress, Michael tells them, “Step forward, close your eyes, and look to the moon” before he slaps their faces with a paintbrush. Next, he teaches them the war dance and soon begins to do the robot dance. When one of the Princesses recognizes the familiar dance, Bald Eagle declares, “Oh, you are wise. That’s because we must be brave like robots.” Not surprisingly in this episode of dehumanization, “Indians” are objectified into robots as everyone performs the robot dance.

Having prepared for war, the Chief and his Princesses attack. When Tony arrives to the house, he begins to climb a ladder to Claire’s upstairs room. The Princesses hide in the bushes and, upon Bald Eagle’s command, hit the young man with toy arrows. Bald Eagle instructs them to take Tony away. Viewers then see Claire’s friend tied to a chair in the living room while the Princesses yell and run circles around him. Rachel, the supposedly educated one, asks Bald Eagle, “Do we get to set him on fire now?” She sounds well-versed in Hollywood footage that depicts “Indians” dancing around captive White men who are tied to wooden stakes. In The Flintstones “Droop-Along Flintstone” (1961), for example, White characters Fred and Barney are tied to stakes by “Indians.” Whereas their wives Wilma and Betty rescue them, Bald Eagle in My Wife and Kids declares, “We should let [Tony] go back to his village so that he may tell others what happens when they try to mess with our women.”

To recognize and applaud his efforts for the Indian Princesses gathering, Kady says, “Daddy, I had a good time tonight. You’re the best chief ever.” In a self-aggrandizement of confirming his ability to be a pseudo-“Indian,” Bald Eagle replies, “You got that right.” If the use of “best” can mean the best in playing “Indian” in one of the most anti-Indigenous, disrespectful, and misinforming American sitcom episodes in television history, then Kady may be onto something.

17 May 2007

My Wife and Kids "Michael's Tribe," Part I

Yesterday, the episode "Michael's Tribe" of the former ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids, starring African American actor Damon Wayans, aired on a local Fox affiliate. "Michael's Tribe," as the following Brady Brave Bureau response may reveal, entails disturbing illustrations of redface.

Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans) serves as the adult “Indian” figure while his youngest daughter Kady is like Opie Taylor with his interest in “Indians” in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. At first, Michael hesitates to play “Indian” not because of its potential disrespect to Indigenes but because he is more interested in a sports game on television. When he hears that his daughter’s “Indian” Princesses group will be camping at the house of a family he does not know, Michael demands that the camping be at his house. As he tells his wife Jay/Janet (portrayed by Tisha Campbell), “I’ll be the chief. I’ll watch the game and then I’ll go out there and play ‘Indian.’” Jay explains that he will not have time to see the game because he will be with the girls “the whole day and night” and thus, too busy “[teaching] them the culture and the history of Native Americans, the arts, crafts, dancing, all of that.” Obviously, one “day and night” would not suffice in teaching effectively about the millions of heterogeneous Indigenous Peoples and hundreds of Indigenous nations, yet effectiveness in education is not a characteristic of learning about the sitcom’s “Indian.” Not wanting to back down after volunteering, Michael replies, “Fine, I can do that.” As the rest of the episode unfolds, he shows that he is clueless about as well as racist towards Indigenous Peoples. The only clue he has is being well-versed in Hollywood “Injun” stereotypes, which suffices for the sitcom’s “Indian.”

Calling himself “Chief Bald Eagle,” Michael sits lazily near his radio in the backyard and listens to the game. At one point, one of the Princesses brings him a beer. In return, Bald Eagle gives her the “Indian” name Little Fetch-Me-Beer. When Jay reminds Michael that he must teach the girls about Indigenous Peoples, he interrupts her by speaking in a Hollywood “Injun,” broken English monotone.

MICHAEL. Silence! Maiden no tell Chief how to act, what to do.
JAY. Michael, if you ever want to get into this maiden’s wigwam again, you’ll do as I say.
MICHAEL. Whoa. Poked-out hiney.
JAY. Hey!
MICHAEL. I see where you have hidden sacred drum. Can’t wait to bang drum slowly.

Jay’s threat of withholding sexual relations leads to Michael expressing his desire to “bang drum slowly,” an obvious reference to sexual intercourse. Michael’s comparison between a Native drum and his wife’s backside is one of the most vulgar jokes in “Indian” play throughout the history of redface in Amerian sitcoms. It represents a large shift in what has become acceptable to say in sitcoms. Unfortunately, to use a revered Native object like the drum for a sitcom’s sexual metaphors and innuendos is reflective of contemporary sitcom material.
Michael’s main resistance to seeing the game is a White, red-headed “Indian” Princess named Rachel. Known to Michael as “Little Pain-in-Butt,” Rachel repeatedly has reservations about Michael and his un-educational tactics.

RACHEL. This is ridiculous. All we’re doing is waiting on you hand and foot.
MICHAEL. Yes, yes, because you are a maiden, and a maiden must tend to the needs of the chief.
RACHEL. You gotta be kidding. You’re overly simplifying things. The Native Americans had a very advanced culture.

Speaking of oversimplification, Rachel generalizes by speaking of a singular, monolithic “culture” from the past. The hundreds of cultures from historical and contemporary times are ignored. “Despite the cultural differences among tribes,” academic and activist Devon Mihesuah (Choctaw) explains, “many non-Indians believe that all Indians are alike” (20).Rachel then explains that Indigenes “were the first to openly accept gay people.” Is she referring to all Indigenous Peoples of all Indigenous nations? What time period does she have in mind? To apply almost any concept or belief as representative of all Native Peoples is, to say the least, a major fallacy. Michael has no understanding either. His response to Rachel’s comment on accepting homosexuality is a made-up reference to “the tale of Little Drop the Tomahawk,” which is an “Indian”-specific version of jokes about men dropping bars of soap in locker room showers.

part 2 of the bbb's analysis of "michael's tribe" will appear in our next post.

11 May 2007

another racial masquerade ...

brownface, a cousin to redface, has surfaced again, this time at the university of delaware in a twisted cinco de mayo frat party. after learning that their racial masquerading has brought disrespect and hurt to many latina/o peoples, some partygoers have apologized. for their apologies, the bureau of brady braves has decided not to induct them into the Brady Brownface Hall of Shame. pictures from the "south of the border" party can be seen at http://www.campuslaraza.org/racism.html.

at the Campus Alliance de La Raza site is the following: "My name is Brian Brady and I am the president of Phi Sigma Pi National Co-Ed Honor Fraternity. I, as president, and we as the Executive Committee are deeply concerned and offended by the actions of a number of our organization's members and non-members [at the University of Delaware] ... Such conduct ... is unacceptable, immature, and hurtful to others." (the rest of the letter can be read at the aforementioned site.)

in line with our e-research center's name, we at the bbb are asking, "who is brian brady? a distant cousin to greg, peter, and bobby? a nephew of mike brady? a brady family member still waiting to receive his indian name in the grand canyon?" sounds like brian brady is against brownface. cool. but what about redface? due to the sitcom family history, the surname "brady" is ever suspect at the bbb, ya know? ;)

08 May 2007

welcome, friends ...

greetings, brady bravers and blogwindow-shopping, potentially soon-to-be, y'all come back now, ya hear, brady bravers! the staff here at the bureau of brady braves has just returned from an indigenous studies/native studies gathering in norman, oklahoma. to those we met in norman and to everyone else, welcome to the bbb.

after your visit here, the bbb encourages you to check out www.voicingindigeneity.blogspot.com for good podcastin' times from good podcastin' folks ...

brady bravin' the blogosphere,