Native Village 

Youth and Education News

November 16, 2005 Issue 161 Volume 1

"Native American history is important to each and every one of us ... It’s important that we get to know and respect and honor. There is much wisdom for you to gain."  Michael Rao, President, Central Michigan University

  Canada's Aboriginal Veterans Honoured In France
France: Canadian war veterans recently visited France to honor the aboriginal contribution to the First and Second World Wars.  Private Leo Goulet, a Metis who lives on the Atikameg First Nation, and George Horse of the Thunder Child First Nation, recalled Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. "So many things happened to me when we landed 61 years ago," the 81-year-old Goulet said as he stood on the same shores watching the now-calm scene of gentle waves, sand, and seaweed.  "There were dead soldiers here and there, some floating, some dry.  It's all like a big dream - or nightmare I should say."  "It was tough," said Horse, 86.  "We were wide open, the Jerries were up on the hill firing at us, but we just kept going ahead."  In a separate service at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, a First Nations honour dance, Metis fiddle lament, and Inuit throat song paid tribute to the heroic veterans. Governor-General Michaelle Jean, Veterans Affairs Minister Albina Guarnieri and other French attended the ceremonies.
H-Amindian Listserve

Menchu: Society is Ailing
California:  Rigoberta Menchu Tum recently spokes at Cosumnes River College and made a pronouncement:  society is spiritually sick, and people need to search for a spiritual balance and live in harmony with the Earth and each another.  "At this moment, humankind is sick ... We want to convince ourselves that wars are the only evil, but wars are only a point of distraction."  The 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Guatemala said violent gangs have spread throughout Central America, many indigenous villages were devastated by Hurricane Stan, and people are dying from hunger, poverty and lack of health care.  After spending decades working for social justice worldwide, Menchu  is returning her attention to Guatemala. She challenged the audience to step into leadership roles.
The Sacramento Bee

Massachusetts: On Thanksgiving Day, many Native Americans and their supporters gather at the top of Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, for the "National Day of Mourning." The first National Day of Mourning was held in 1970, and Massachusetts had invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech.  Mr. James wrote a powerful speech about  the oppression of America's Native people, but when the text became known before the event,  Massachusetts "dis-invited" him.  That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the National Day of Mourning.  In truth, the historical "First Thanksgiving" was not called Thanksgiving, but was a harvest festival held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors and allies. Over time, their respect and friendship evolved into the theft of Native lands and destruction of traditional ways of life. Those participating in "The Day of Mourning" have an equally valid voice in what Thanksgiving means to them. There is room for more than one history; there is room for many voices.

Unenrolled Indians embrace their heritage
Hundreds of thousands of Native Americans unable to enroll in federally recognized tribes still identify with their indigenous heritage.  These Native people are often denied official recognition because they lack ancestral birth records, have a low degree of tribal blood, or their tribes and the federal government don't have a political relationship. Yet they continue to practice Native customs passed down since the beginning of history.  "Their voices need to be heard," said David Arv Bragi, enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation. "Hopefully, they will demonstrate that one does not need to carry official papers in one's pocket in order to be a 'real Indian.' "   Bragi, author of "Invisible Indians: Mixed-Blood Native Americans Who Are Not Enrolled in Federally Recognized Tribes," spent years interviewing unenrolled people from over twenty-five North American tribes.  Among the comments:
"We lead traditional Indian lifestyles to the best of our ability although we do not 'belong' to a tribe.  Some of the traditions of our people, I believe, are ingrained in us; it is instinctual. We eat the food of our ancestors because we know it is good for us."  Jessie Mato-Toyela, descended from the Tarascan tribe of Mexico
"If you've heard the phrase 'you can take the Indian out of the woods, but not the woods out of the Indian' it would be close.  Much of our life happens in the way our ancestors of thousands of years as well as just one hundred years ago lived their lives, just different environments, different obstacles."  Charlie Mato-Toyela, mixed Ojibwa, Lakota, Kuna, Choctaw and Cherokee descent.
"Legally we have lost our right to be acknowledged as existing. We receive ridicule from our own 'blood' relations, who call us derogatory names such as wannabes, fake Indians, and traitors. Please don't tell me I'm playing at being an Indian. I do it because it is who I am."  Barbara Warren, a Cherokee
"People at powwows sometimes ask for your [enrollment] card and it is a condition of getting into it.  It is a predjudism [sic] that was inflicted on some of us by 'numbering us' like we're in some death camp."  Charlie Mato-Toyela, mixed Ojibwa, Lakota, Kuna, Choctaw and Cherokee descent.
Native Times

House committee supports Makah whaling effort
Washington, DC:  By a 21-6 vote, the U.S. House Resources Committee has passed a measure urging the Bush  administration to uphold the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay. The treaty promised the Makah the right to conduct whaling along with hunting and fishing at their "usual and accustomed places." Makah Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson, Jr.. was elated. "We won a big one today," he said. "They made my day when that happened. They recognized our treaty -- again. We've had that treaty since 1855." Chuck Owens, an anti-whaling activist, noted that the Committee passed the non-binding measure without allowing debate. "The Republican committee would not allow Jay Inslee to explain to everybody  the issue. That's why it passed. There was no argument on this issue."

Native American scholar Vine Deloria dies
Colorado: Revered Native American scholar Vine Deloria, Jr., died Sunday at a Denver hospital.  Mr. Deloria was a longtime University of Colorado professor and award-winning scholar best known for his many books, including "Custer Died For Your Sins" and "God Is Red."  "He was one of those individuals who really kept Indian people from becoming extinct," said Rick Williams, president of the American Indian College Fun. "He was politically active early in his career, with the National Congress of American Indians, and he really helped turned the nation's view around about Indian people.  He was also probably one of the first recognized political, cultural and historical geniuses, who was allowed to develop the intellectual thought of Indian people. He was one of my teachers, and I just had the utmost respect for him."
Rocky Mountain News

Famed Navajo artist R.C. Gorman dead at age 74

Blessing Way by R.C. Gorman

New Mexico: Famed Navajo artist R.C. Gorman has died at age 74 from a blood infection and pneumonia.  Called "the Picasso of American art" by the New York Times, Gorman was praised for the quality of his work and his contributions toward putting Native American artists into the mainstream. Governor Bill Richardson says New Mexico has lost a great citizen, and the world has lost a great artist.

Innovators of Our Time
Every genius, said Danish writer Isak Dinesen, is doomed. She meant that geniuses, or those touched with a spark of it, had very little choice in life. Each one, she said, was powerless "in the face of his own powers," compelled to follow a certain path and to do a particular thing with instinctive flair and originality. The Smithsonian Magazine recently chose 35 innovators who make a difference, a contribution, and inspire.  Included on that list are:
  Jane Mt. Pleasant: Among the six nations of the Iroquois, corn, beans and squash have been known as the Three Sisters—gifts from the Creator that grew well together and provided nutritional sustenance. For more than 30 years, Jane Mt. Pleasant has revitalized interest in the ancient Iroquois tradition of growing food through polyculture, a system where plants grow and florish together. She has used it to help farmers protect their soil. She has also rescued extinction several varieties of corn from extinction--the same corn that sustained Northeast and Canada natives for centuries. Mt. Pleasant's blend of Native knowledge and Western sciencegives Native Americans a strong presence in sustainability science.
  Mark Plotkin:  From his very first visits to the Amazon's indigenous villages, Mark Plotkin understood that shamans—tribal elders who use plants for healing—were actually the rain forest's most endangered species. While the tropical forests and medicinal plants were being destroyed by miners, ranchers, and farmers, shamanic wisdom was lost as younger, more Westerinzed, tribal members lost interest in their own traditions.  In 1993, Plotkin published Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, a story of his experiences and a call to preserve nature's pharmacy and undiscovered promise for curing disease. Now in its 25th printing, Tales has been translated into five languages and has been adapted into a video, audiotape, children's book and IMAX film. In 1995 Plotkin and his wife, Liliana Madrigal, founded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) to help the tribes. "Our approach is bottom up," he says. "Tribes come to us. They want to protect their forest, culture, system of healing. They want clean water, job opportunities, ethno-education."
  Maya Lin: Artist and architect Maya Lin is best known for her Vietnam Memorial. That accomplishment alone gave her a ticket for fame and a career of designing monuments with high price tags. Instead, she followed her heart. "People ask, 'If you’d never won the Vietnam Memorial award, where would you be?'" she says. "I reply that I'd be making things, same as I am now." Currently, Lin is working on the Confluence Project—a series of artworks that honor the timeline and explorations of the Lewis and Clark journey. But the monuments' text will not say: "Then the great explorers passed through the wilds of what is now Idaho."  Instead, she will name the Native American tribes who lived in the places the explorers passed: Nez Percé, Chinook, Shoshone, Sioux, Cheyenne, Mandan and others. She reminds us of a forgotten truth: this land was not unexplored. It was their land. At her monument along the Washington shoreline, Lin describes a visitor's point of view—that of a fisherman. "You're not coming here to see what I've done," she says. "You're coming here because you've always come here. You're coming here because you've just caught a king salmon that's two and a half feet long and you're going to cut your fish here. And then, maybe, you're going to start reading this and you’re going to say, 'What is going on here?' And maybe you'll get a hint that this was the sacred grounds of the Chinook tribe."
Other top innovators named to the Smithsonian List:

Wynton Marsalis Margaret Burbidge Bill Gates Richard Leakey Annie Leibovitz
Clyde Roper Andy Goldsworthy Robert Langridge Daphne Sheldrick Julie Taymor
Wendell Berry Edward O. Wilson John Dobson Mark Lehner Sally Ride
Gordon Parks D.A. Henderson Renée Fleming David Attenborough Tim Berners-Lee
James Watson Wes Jackson Yo-Yo Ma Daniel H. Janzen Ed Bearss
Frank Gehry Janis Carter Maya Angelou Robert Moses Douglas Owsley
Chuck Close Steven Spielberg

Kiowa language scholar named to school's Hall of Fame
Oklahoma: Known for her lifelong devotion to teaching and preserving the Kiowa language, Alecia Keahbone Gonzales was named to the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame. "I'm speechless," Gonzales said.  "This is an overwhelming  honor.  I am so grateful.  I love to share the ways of my people, the Kiowa."  Among her many accomplishments:
Visitors to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington hear Gonzales' recorded voice in an audio tour;
NMAI officials chose only one voice to represent each of five geographic areas in America.  For the central United States, they chose Gonzales;
With the 2001 release of her Kiowa language textbook, "Thaun Khoiye  Tdoen Gyah: Beginning Kiowa Language", Gonzales may have secured the Kiowa language's future and created a model to help other Native American tribes preserve their own languages;
Gonzales teaches Kiowa language classes at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) in Chickasha; she also teaches at Anadarko High  School;
In recent years, Gonzales has taken legendary Kiowa folk songs and  is giving them life through children's storybooks.  These bilingual children's books include "Little Red Buffalo Song," "A Mother Bird's  Song," and "Grandma Spider's Song."

Pair study American Indian languages to preserve them
Oregon: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla say only 44 elders among its 2,525 tribal members still fluently speak their three native languages: Cayuse, Nez Perce and Walla Walla.  To help preserve those languages, the tribe has received $585,000 in grants to create language classes on reservation schools and master-apprentice teams for elders to pass on the language to others. At the end of three years, apprentices may become licensed as language teachers.  "It's been the best year of my life, the most enlightened," said apprentice Linda Sampson.  "It's opened my eyes."  Sampson hopes the program will spark renewed interest in learning tribal languages, something she believes is crucial.  "Every tribe has the same  goal -- keeping their language going," she said.  "You can preserve it, but  you've got to transfer it to your kids."

"Redskin" Term Did Not Begin as Insult, Smithsonian Scholar Says
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution linguist Ives Goddard spent seven months researching the history of the word "redskin." His conclusion: the word did not begin as an insult.  Redskin was first used by Native Americans in the 18th century to distinguish themselves from whites encroaching on their lands and culture. The earliest known use of "redskin" was in a 1789 statement made by Illinois tribal chiefs negotiating with the British to switch loyalties away from the French. "I shall be pleased to have you come to speak to me yourself," said one statement attributed to a chief named Mosquito.  "And if any redskins do you harm, I shall be able to look out for you even at the peril of my life." The French used the phrase "peaux Rouges " -- literally "red skins" -- to translate the chief's words.  When it first appeared as an English expression in the early 1800s, "it came in the most respectful context and at the highest level," Goddard said.  "...white people and Indians talking together, with the white people trying to ingratiate themselves."  In July 22, 1815, "red skin" first appeared in print in a Missouri Gazette news story.  Government envoys were rebuking Midwestern tribes for refusing to yield territory claimed by the United States. Meskwaki chief Black Thunder was unimpressed: "Restrain your feelings and hear calmly what I say," he told the envoys.  "I have never injured you, and innocence can feel no fear.  I turn to all red skins and white skins, and challenge an accusation against me."  Goddard admits it is impossible to know whether the chiefs said "redskin" in their own languages or was merely translated that way by interpreters.  The same is true of "white-skin."  American Indian activist Susan Harjo is not impressed.  "I'm very familiar with white men who uphold the judicious speech of white men," said the Cheyenne-Muscogee writer.  "Europeans were not using high-minded language.  [To them] we were only human when it came to territory, land cessions and whose side you were on."  Harjo argues that the word "redskin" grew from the practice of offering bounties to anyone who killed Indians.  Bounty hunters "needed proof of kill, but they had a storage problem," she said, adding that instead of a body, they accepted scalps or other parts of a "redskin."  Linda Shoemaker, a University of Connecticut historian, weighed Goddard's research and Harjo's comments with her own studies. The final message, Shoemaker suggested, is that "even if the Indians were the first to use it, the origin has no relationship to later use.  What happened at the beginning doesn't justify it today."  Goddard's report appears in the European Review of Native American Studies.
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