Archive for the 'Red Power' Category

21
Sep
08

(Surface) Images & Aboriginal Graffiti from Kahnawake: A Mohawk Rez outside Montreal, Canada

A little over a week ago I rented a vehicle to take care of some chores, (the only time I feel pressed to rent; in this instance filling a third of the van’s tank of gas cost $61). My chores took me past Kahnawake (Kahk’nuh’wa’guh), the famous Mohawk First Nation (or reservation) at the western doorway to the island of Montreal. I had little time, little intention to do anything like a photo essay, and the light was fading fast. Here then are some randomly collected surface images.

MURALIA INDIGENA

Resurgence
Kahnawake has a history of militant self-defense. It was one of the prime loci of resistance in the Oka uprising of 1990. Above, in blue and white, is the flag of the Six Nations Confederacy. The Six Nations include the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora. This is the symbol of the Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the League of Peace and Power, and the People of the Longhouse.

Iron Workers
Bound to stereotypical visions of indigenous history, some might not know that Mohawks have long been preferred workers for the construction of the steel towers of Canada and the U.S., especially in New York City. These people know all about “progress,” as insiders, outsiders, and downsiders. The image above features a Mohawk quasi-robo man, with the flag of the Six Nations on the left, and the militant flag of the Mohawk Warriors Society on the right.

Warz
I cannot say if this is the name of a Mohawk hip hop band, the name of a DJ, or just a plain reference to war. “FTW” is not known to me, although it might as well be “fuck the whiteman.”

No war on an empty stomach?
In a departure from images of pride and resistance, an advertisement for a bakery on the Mohawk reserve, bringing to life the everydayness of all the images combined. Like most signs in Kahnawake, they defy the Quebec state’s French language sign rules. Not only is French not prominent on signs, it often is not present at all. Stop signs read in two languages, English and Mohawk, the words being “Stop” and underneath “Testan.”

“IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS” OR OUT OF THE WAY?

“Building Bridges”
Mohawk iron workers participated in building the bridges that soar above their land. Rail bridges, automobile bridges, and various on- and off-ramps cross the sky overhead. “Living under the bridge” and “across the rail tracks” usually carry negative connotations in North America. One never sees such structures above any of Montreal’s golf courses, not even the ones that were to be expanded into Mohawk burial grounds.

“We’ll just build on your land…and you can help”
From Wikipedia (Sept. 21, 2008):
The federal and Quebec governments have historically located large civil engineering projects benefiting the southern Quebec economy through Kahnawake lands. Criss-crossed by power lines from hydroelectric plants, rail and vehicle highways and bridges, the decision to pass the Saint Lawrence Seaway canal cut through its village permanently separated it from its natural river shore.

One of the first of these projects was the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway’s Saint Lawrence Bridge. The masonry work was done by Reid & Fleming, and the steel superstructure was built by the Dominion Bridge Company. In 1886 and 1887, the new bridge was built across the broad river from Kahnawake to Montreal Island, and gave Kahnawake working men an opportunity to perform as fearless bridgemen and ironworkers. This was the result of a perception by construction companies that the Mohawk men had no fear of heights when given the chance to climb hundreds of feet above the water and ground. Here started the legendary stereotype that has now labelled all Native Americans as having no fear of heights.

“London” Bridges Falling Down?
This is the famous Mercier Bridge, barricaded by Mohawks during the 1990 Oka Uprising, and combined with other bridge blockades, the island of Montreal was effectively closed off from the mainland. This is where burning White anger against any instance of three Natives standing in a street really got an airing, and today even the smallest blockage is referred to by hysterically racist complainers in the mass media as examples of “Native terrorism,” often followed by full throated cries to “call in the army.” Since White counter-protesters used these bridges to pelt rocks at Mohawk women and children, I think a “real terrorist,” someone with access to materials in the construction industry, and technical know-how derived from working on the same bridges, would have strapped some belts of TNT to the support pillars above and brought this sucker crashing down.

TOBACCO FOR THE WHITE MAN’S FRAYED NERVES

White and Brown Natives?
Interesting idea (on the small sign at the right), but almost anything goes when it comes to cigarette advertising. Side note: the architecture of homes and shops in Kahnawake is very varied, but also strikingly different from the rest of Montreal. Not only does it look more like a small town in America, some residents also fly the American flag.

The All Natural Native…
…is a cigarette brand. The packet features the same symbol of the Six Nations Confederacy we saw at the very start. Outside of the shop hangs the flag of the Mohawk Warriors Society. The Native cigarette industry is a thriving and lucrative source of income, and probably one of the main reasons that non-Natives enter the Reserve to begin with (where they can purchase them tax free). Native tobacco for the White Man…some things never change.

DISTORTED INDIGENOUS PATTERNS

This is just plain idleness. I took the first four photos from above, and distorted them using my photo editor. The result superficially appears to be an indigenous pattern, although it really is based on images produced by aboriginals (the murals), they bear accidental resemblance to patterns that might be popularly associated with indigenous textile designs. As I said, idleness, but pretty idleness I think.

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31
Aug
08

Letter from Leonard Peltier

Many thanks to Tony Castanha for forwarding this:

AUGUST 24, 2008

Greetings my friends and relatives,

First of all, I can’t express to you, near as much as I’d like to. The sincere appreciation I have that you would gather together remembering all the political prisoners, hostages and myself the way you have.

Gatherings like this are extremely important because it reminds people of the sacrifices that are made daily through out the world for freedom, justice, and a clean and sane environment for our future generations. The powers that exploit our resources and people will always be there, generation after generation.

And the creator will always call upon people to stand against that exploitation. Even if the creator does not call. Any just man or woman, with any semblance of justice, be it spiritual, social or environmental, He will find cause to take issue with those enemies of humanity and nature.

One of the reasons I am so appreciative is because I want you to know, from where I stand the gatherings that you do mean so very very much to the other political prisoners, other hostages and myself. It is an extreme importance that political prisoners and hostages not be forgotten. Not necessarily for the sake of the prisoners and hostages themselves, but for the sake of future generations. To appreciate and protect and jealously guard the freedoms they possess; that was paid for with someone’s life. I think the most difficult times for a political prisoner or hostage, is when people start to forget what their sacrifice was about, when people become complacent because of some economic level they have attained, and forget the sacrifices that were made and the danger of them losing those gains is imminent. And I know from personal experience, the joy I feel when I receive letters of appreciations or visitors and that is second to the joy I feel when I know that my efforts were not in vain. And there are young people taking up the cause and responsibility of regaining our lost freedoms and resources.

I dearly miss the touch of friends, I dearly miss walking through a forest or across a meadow or even through the traffic of a busy street, or feeling the wind blowing against my skin, directly, rather than a window or some chain link fence.

But with all this, I can’t express to you how at a great loss I would feel if the reason and cause of the many political prisoners and hostages throughout the world was forgotten. Swept aside, because people become too comfortable with their status quo.

I have been here for 33 years that is more than half of my life. I would give almost anything to go home. But I won’t give up,

I would give almost anything to be with my family. But I won’t be quiet.

I would give almost anything to say goodbye to this place, but I won’t say goodbye to my beliefs and our struggle.

I would give almost anything to walk out this door and never return. But I will never walk away from the love of my people.

When I think of the things that I hear and see in the media, about how many different special interest groups, speak of various subjects, like the right to live, or pro-life, I cant help but think, of the children around the world, who never get a chance to live because of the exploitation of their resources of their country and their people.

All of the destruction that is taking place here and abroad is a direct result of people, special interest groups, whose interest is primarily wealth and taking more than they need.

The religious people or should I say The spiritual people of America, and anywhere else for that matter, should seek to aggressively band together to stop the unjust wars that truly impact primarily the common man, the common man who in his village or farm, city or anywhere else is destroyed, by bombs, from the various governments. Governments; Who in the name of nationalism and patriotism seek to gain political power and control over someone else’s resource and political system. They should actively band together and identify the things they have in common rather than dwelling on their differences. Perhaps I am rambling too much in my statement, after 33 years in prison and 63 years upon this earth, much of this time spent thinking, praying, analyzing, and mediating, on the information that I gather from various forms of writings, books and observations, I somehow feel I have a little bit of a right, to say what I think and feel.

I love you all and I am so honored that I would be invited to make a statement to you. And if I could hug each one of you individually, I guarantee you would damn well be hugged!

I have never given up in my struggle for freedom.

Freedom is a natural inclination of all living creatures up on the earth. Even a newborn will struggle when held too tightly.

I deeply regret being in prison I deeply regret losing family members while in here, I deeply regret all the wonderful things in life that I have missed, but I will never regret standing up for my people for as long as I can draw my breath. My heart is with them always, and my heart is with you today.

So long for now; I will remember you in my prayers and until next time.

Keep the faith.

Your relative always

In the spirit of crazy horse,

Leonard Peltier

HTTP://WWW.WHOISLEONARDPELTIER.INFO

09
Jul
08

1968 – 2008: From Vietnam to Concordia

For many of those who are 40 and older, 1968 stands out as an emblematic year for the transnational politics of dissent, for the development of countercultures and various avant gardes, for the emergence of non-class social movements, and the appearance of what some call the “revolution of the forgotten peoples” in the social sciences which turned more of their attention to African Americans, native peoples, women, gays, and a host of non-state actors. In almost every continent something happened that was tumultuous: Black Power, Red Power, Flower Power, and the anti-war movement in the United States; the Tet Offensive in Vietnam that marked a turnaround and the impending defeat of a superpower, falling into economic disarray and a hard bitten view of itself thereafter. At my university, Concordia, there were so-called “Black power riots” in the very building in which my office is located, which had international consequences that led to the Black Power Revolution of 1970 in Trinidad and Tobago, and one of the Concordia leaders, Rosie Douglas, would end up becoming the Prime Minister of Dominica. Admittedly, most of the discussions of 1968 focus almost exclusively on movements in Europe.

Previously I had commented on this blog that we seem to be living through a rewind of 1968, which in many ways misses out on what is distinctive about where we are 40 years later, what the alignment of social forces looks like, and what matters most on both orthodox and heterodox political agendas. A number of recent articles, books, and symposia have appeared seeking to assess the legacies of 1968, from a 2008 standpoint, and the assessments are, as can be expected, mixed. The points that are raised are very interesting nonetheless. This post comes in three parts below.

1. THE CUNNING OF HISTORY?

Fred Halliday, writing in Open Democracy in an article titled “1968: the global legacy” (13 June, 2008), presents us with the perspective of someone who was active and inspired by the global movements of protest and new movements in art, music, and public debate, but was nevertheless a failure in transformational terms. He notes that in no western European country, which in many analyses is the centre of what Wallerstein called the World Revolution of 1968, were the politics modified. Not only that, there was a right wing shift in Britain and France. If anything, the legacy of 1968 was an ambiguous one, he argues. Halliday is not militating against the ideas, perspectives and movements that marked 1968, rather he wishes to see more sober evaluations of its consequences: “The events were indeed extraordinary, and remain indelible. What is wrong in the memorialisation is the fetishism of the moment, and associated loss of perspective and overall judgment, which leads to three kinds of distortion of focus.”

The first of these distortions caused by celebrations of 1968 was what he claims was the absence of feminism, coming only with second-generation feminism of 1969. When Halliday says 1968, he means to be very precise and calendrical about it, whereas others might see it as more of an emblematic, umbrella-like period that encompasses 1969 for certain. Nor is it universally true that feminism was absent from the movements of 1968. Halliday sees the second distortion coming in the indulgence of violence by certain sectors, whether urban guerrilla warfare or what would later be called terrorism. Finally, the third distortion in his view is the absence of “political realism” — “the ability to match aspiration and imagination with a cool assessment of the balance of existing political forces.”

Rather than a “world revolution,” Halliday argues, 1968 ought to be seen as the start of an international/ “tricontinental” counterrevolution (I am not sure why these two cannot go together, since the latter seems to be premised on the former). Halliday takes us through a series of deadly anti-revolutionary transformations that occurred across the globe in the period, especially in the Soviet bloc and in China, and notes that the results led to the collapse of socialism as a viable alternative:

It is clear in retrospect that 1968 did not bury European capitalist democracy or American imperialism. It did, however, set in train the death and burial of the Russian and Chinese revolutions and of communism in western Europe. A fine example, indeed, of the cunning of history.

Unfortunately, what Halliday does not do is to present us with reasons why others instead celebrate 1968, and the transformations that they can point to. Moreover, many even on the left would not mourn the passing of either Soviet socialism or China’s last serious attempt to claim that its revolution was a communist one.

•••••••

2. THE FUTURE OF 1968

A book edited by Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth, 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) presents a range of assessments that, while not the opposite of Halliday’s, certainly present different angles of understanding. As the subtitle of the book suggests, 1968 stands not for a year of events but for two decades of events.

In the introduction, the editors begin by highlighting the degree to which students were focused on by the mass media as agents of protest, some even referring to a “student class” emerging that echoed the emergence of the nineteenth century working class in Europe. The protesters emphasized what they rightly saw as the lack of participatory democracy in their societies and their growing alienation from their societies. Capitalism was the target of critiques of authoritarianism and technocracy. Universities were to become the centres of revolutionary protest — indeed, in my own memories of the transformation of the University of Rome’s campus, into professor-less open air classes, mural paintings, and wine fueled meetings of communist youth, these were not the kind of shopping mall environments of today. The Vietnam war weighed heavily worldwide, and inspired revolutionary movements across the globe, not to mention celebratory songs, poems, novels, paintings, etc. Interestingly, while today’s Iraq war has been protested across the globe, in virtually every country, there seems to be far less of the romance surrounding these insurgents — no Jane Fondas ready to pose in photographs with them. Dictatorship was also clearly within the sights of protesters, whether Soviet-aligned regimes in the eastern half of the continent, or the military dictatorships of Portugal, Spain, and Greece.

For the editors of this volume one of the most outstanding features of “1968” (which they place in quotes), was that, “it transgressed the ideological fronts of the Cold War.” The focus of their volume is on the transnational dimensions of “1968.”

The roots of the movements associated with 1968 are to be found in what the editors calls the “long 1960s.” As they say, “1968” stands as a metaphor (whereas for Halliday, it was a single year) for a history beginning with the Hungarian revolt of 1956 and the climax of political violence in Germany and Italy in 1977. Part of this transformation has to do with the emergence of the transnational New Left and the international peace movement. There was a departure from Marxist orthodoxy and its focus on the working class. Nonetheless, capitalism, materialism, and apathy were still targeted by these new movements.

Also of especial interest is the volume’s discussion of counterculture. As the editors encapsulate it:

The youths’ belief that they were more sentient than their parents’ generation, and the hope of building a new society founded on tenderness met with the search for the “new man” in psychedelic music and drug experiences, in “free” sexuality, and in new forms of living and communication. The synaesthetic nature of rock music served as the colorful display and global transmitter of these new symbolic forms of living and communication. Portraits of musicians like Jimi Hendrix promised the same freedom as the images of Che Guevara or Ho Chi Minh, the only difference being that their freedom could be gained in the here and now. Meanwhile, these new symbolic forms of living and communication often provoked conflicts with both conservative elements in societies and state authorities and thus acquired a political dimension. Concerts by the Rolling Stones or Jimmie Hendrix often ended in outbreaks of violence.

The editors assert that, “nobody today seriously doubts that European societies were fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of 1968″ — even if we just finished reading Halliday to the contrary. As they argue, 1968 has had many afterlives and has been virtually canonized in popular memory, at least in Europe if not elsewhere. Let’s not forget that a sizable portion of our current population lived through, and often took part in the events of 1968. Finally, as the editors remind us, Hannah Arendt (whose work will also be discussed on this blog) once wrote that “the children of the next century will once learn about 1968 the way we learned about 1848.”

One of those youth was Tom Hayden. In a chapter titled, The Future of 1968’s ‘Restless Youth’ recounts how he came to be involved:

I was 27 years old as the year 1968 unfolded. When the decade began, I was the first in my family to attend a university, and my non-conformist instincts led me to the campus paper and the sociology department at the University of Michigan. While pursuing an institutional career, I was a follower of Jack Kerouac as well, whose On The Road was published in my senior year, 1957. During that same year, black high school students integrated a high school in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock, Arkansas, amidst beatings, insults and federal military protection. Two years later, after I directly encountered black students risking their lives in the South, I became a committed activist.

Incidentally, he also outlines the extent to which the Johnson administration was worried by student protest movements and plans for spying on American students. Tom Hayden wonders why the CIA should have concerned itself — when he helped draft the 1962 manifesto of Students for a Democratic Society, he says it was “hardly the Communist Manifesto” and more of a “statement of middle class anxiety.” The main foci of his concern were racism and the nuclear arms race. As he says in the piece, their prophets were not Marx and Lenin, but John Dewey, C. Wright Mills, and J.D. Salinger.

Hayden is not euphoric, even when he highlights the energy, hope and promise of 1968. As he himself writes:

Then, as it reached its peak of frenzy, about 1969-70, one could feel the tide begin to turn. The movements themselves were convulsed by division. The Marxist sectarians were not dead at all, merely hatching in the garbage we left unattended. After factions ripped its body apart, SDS was closed down as “too bourgeois.” No one could transcend the inevitability of the women’s movement as it shredded the male hierarchies. The counterculture was shocked by Altamont and Manson. Drug euphoria devolved into the dark trips of paranoia, depression, and schizophrenia. Thousands of veterans came home with bad papers and strung out. Richard Nixon – wasn’t he the man we thought we dumped in 1960, the year it all began? – soon became president of the United States.

And yet, he emphasizes, there were lasting transformations and immediate changes that occurred as a result of the long 1960s. Hayden lists these as follows:

  • The Vietnam War began to end in 1969 and imploded in the years 1973-75; Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, were driven from office;
  • The compulsory military draft was ended;
  • The War Powers Act was passed as a curb on the imperial presidency;
  • The Democratic Party and national election rules were radically reformed;
  • Earth Day arose apparently from nowhere, historical environmental laws were passed, and the planet Earth was seen in a photo for the very first time;
  • After 25 years of failing passage, the 18-year-old vote became law;
  • Black studies, Latino studies, women’s studies, and environmental studies were integrated into the curriculum of high schools and universities;
  • Everyone was humming The Yellow Submarine and quoting Allen Ginsberg;
  • Several national blue-ribbon commissions (the Kerner report on the ghettos, the Scranton report on the campuses, the Walker report on Chicago) seemed to vindicate the New Left analysis of causes and solutions.

This does not mean that the 1968 protests were not eventually appropriated by the state, for as Hayden notes, “when order was reformed, order was restored.”

Hayden also argues that the 1960s are “far from over.” He cites Bill Clinton as the one to outline the basic dividing line in American politics being “between those with a generally favorable view of the Sixties phenomenon (who tend to be Democrats) and those who are still attempting to erase the achievements of the Sixties altogether (the neo-conservatives, for example).” Hillary Clinton was also at least an observer at the Chicago protests of 1968. It is ironic then that one side of 1968, the rise of African Americans in the national political panorama, should clash head on with another side, women’s rights, in 2008.

Nonetheless, he is hopeful, and notes that one of the main blocs of anti-war supporters today are those ranging from the late 40s to the late 60s in age. Che Guevara has achieved a kind of global martyrdom. And as Hayden believes, “sooner or later, the new generations will question and resist the programmed future of counter-terrorism, economic privatization, environmental chaos, and sordid alliances justified in the name of this War [on Terror].”

Hayden hopes for a peaceful transition away from imperialism and empire, and that there can be an improved quality of life after empire. Unfortunately, he thinks Canadians may be among those to show Americans the way — perhaps Hayden has been down so long that it all looks like up to him.

•••••••

3. 1968, SOCIETIES IN CRISIS: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE (INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE)

This last item brings us right here to Montreal, to Concordia University, and I am very much looking forward to this and will try to present a report after the event has concluded. An international conference, In English and French, is to be held at Concordia on November 3, 2008, titled “1968, Societies in Crisis: A Global Perspective.”

The conference description is as follows:

1968-2008: forty years later, the crisis of 1968 are still a source of nostalgia, pride or resentment to those who took part in them. By virtue of their impact and their scope, they continue to attract the attention of scholars. The ongoing interest in the events of “1968” may be explained by their many dimensions: they may be seen as periods of challenge to political power and authority, and as movements of student and trade union revolt. The ‘crisis of 68′ represent the apogee of the aspiration to freedom and change in societies exasperated by the status quo and respect for social and ethical codes considered obsolete. These general protest movements also found an echo because of their global dimension: they swept Quebec, the United States, Europe, Africa and Latin America. In the framework of the fortieth anniversary of the events of 1968, the Lucienne Cnockaert Chair in the history of Europe and Africa (Université de Sherbrooke and Bishop’s University), the Concordia University Chair in the study of Quebec (Sociology and Anthropology department of Concordia University), the Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire sur le Québec et ses relations internationales (GRIQUERE) (Interuniversity research group on Quebec and its international relations) and the Groupement interuniversitaire sur l’histoire des relations internationales contemporaines (GIHRIC) (Interuniversity group for the history of contemporary international relations) are organizing a conference entitled 1968, Societies in Crisis : a global perspective. The conference will seek, on the one hand, to analyze the interconnections, influences or distinctive characteristics of the crisis associated with 1968 and on the other, to compare these crisis by placing them in the sociopolitical perspective of the Sixties (decolonization in Africa, thaw in the Cold War, Vietnam War and, in Quebec, Quiet Revolution, among other factors). The object is to undertake a comprehensive, comparative and interlinked rereading of the ‘springtimes’ of 1968 in order to understand the social, economic and political origins of the different movements, observe the issues involved as well as the development and outcome of the crisis, and finally, determine the significance and impact of the events of 1968 and their place in the collective memories of Europeans, Africans and Americans.

What is noteworthy is not just that my colleague, Jean-Philippe Warren is one of the organizers (a prolific writer who publishes a book a year, and if he blogged would probably blog me right off the Internet), but that unlike the first two items in this post, this conference promises a less Eurocentric focus on 1968.

22
Jun
08

Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices

In line with an earlier post about the repatriation of First Nation remains held in museums, I am happy to tell readers of the recent publication of a new book, by AltaMira Press, titled Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices. The publisher’s synopsis reads as follows (with minor edits): “During the twentieth century, dozens of protests, large and small, occurred across North America as American Indians asserted their anger and displayed their disappointment regarding traditional museum behaviors. In response, due to public embarrassment and an awakening of sensitivities, museums began to change their methods and laws were enacted in support of American Indian requests for change. Spirited Encounters provides a foundation for understanding museums and looks at their development to present time, examines how museums collect Native materials, and explores protest as a fully American process of addressing grievances. Now that museums and American Indians are working together in the processes of repatriation, this book can help each side understand the other more fully.”

The author, Karen Coody Cooper, is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and has occupied positions in museums such as the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Karen has just begun working as a historical interpreter at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, south of Tahlequah. She was born in Tulsa, and graduated from Collinsville High School. She will be a keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Museums Association annual meeting in September in Bartlesville and will be teaching a course on American Indians and museums at Northeastern State University this fall. To obtain the book Spirited Encounters (available in soft cover or hardback), visit the Web site of Altamira Press or Barnes & Noble, or contact your local book dealer.

Karen sent me the following press release as well, discussing the key issues pertaining to her work for this volume:

NATIVE AMERICANS TRANSFORM MUSEUMS

TAHLEQUAH – American Indian corpses taken from nineteenth-century battlefields often wound up in museum collections, and museum agents commonly dug up skeletal remains from Native burial sites. During the first part of the twentieth century, major museum exhibitions were created from grave goods and war trophies, along with confiscated ceremonial items. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the 1960s, that agencies and institutions were forced to reconsider their treatment of minority groups. In the 1970s the American Indian Movement, American Indians Against Desecration, and other Native social action groups launched protests across the nation.

American Indian protests caught the attention of the U.S. Congress in 1987 when hearings disclosed that the Smithsonian Institution alone possessed 34,000 American Indian remains. Native activists pushed for passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The enactment of NAGPRA in 1990 served to transform museums by requiring them to release information about their holdings to pertinent federally-recognized tribes and to return Native remains, burial goods, and ceremonial objects to their homeland governments. Museum inventories received by the National Park Service, which manages NAGPRA, finds that as many as 600,000 Native human remains have been held by museums across the United States. Today, museums no longer collect Native remains, burial items, or ceremonial materials. As a result of the repatriation act, museums and American Indians have had to engage in an exchange of information which has helped the two entities better understand each other. Through interactions with Native spokespeople, museums have learned more about Native communities, leading to improved exhibitions and programs.

During the 1980s American Indians protested major exhibitions that were ignoring American Indian concerns about accuracy and appropriateness. Two major protested exhibitions were The Spirit Sings in Calgary, during the 1988 winter Olympics, and First Encounters, originating in Florida during the quincentennial of the 1492 voyage of Columbus. The latter exhibit traveled to museums in Albuquerque and St. Paul, Minnesota with protestors taking action at each location. Those museums sought to address the concerns of protestors by enhancing the exhibit with additional exhibit panels, program presentations, and visitor handouts. Prior to organized protests exhibits in natural history museums and in historical societies often contained distorted information about American Indians and created poorly informed scenarios. Some exhibits had labeled garden and woodworking tools as weapons. Today, most museums consult with Native advisors to assure that descriptions of practices, materials, and activities in museum exhibits are accurate.

American Indian artists experienced problems with art museums, which generally wanted to relegate Native art to ethnographic status. In the 1950s and 1960s, Tulsa’s Philbrook Art Center was host to one of the nation’s premier Native art shows. But, they accepted only art that conformed to the museum’s definition of Native art, serving to severely restrict American Indian artists who were seeking to create new, dynamic art forms and who wanted to make a living as artists. Innovative Native artists struggled to open their own galleries while resenting their exclusion from museums.

The book also discusses protests at state and national parks containing Native sacred sites, where ongoing battles concern access and propriety. Also, chapters are devoted to museums or national parks that have long celebrated “heroes” deleterious to American Indians, such as the Pilgrims of Plimoth Plantation and the former Custer Battlefield National Monument, now the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. Plimoth Plantation has instituted a Wampanoag presence at their living history site, now conforming to historical knowledge that Wampanoag people and Pilgrims were in constant interaction. Colonial Williamsburg, which once included a school for the sons of area Native chiefs, is also beginning to incorporate a Native presence there to conform to historical evidence of repeated visits by Native contingents and individuals.

Following a chapter discussing the development of museums managed by Native governments, the book’s summary chapter reviews the changes invoked by the protests and suggests that improved communication between museums and Native communities has led to better exhibitions and to more lively programs. Many museums are now friendlier to community researchers, having opened their doors to Native emissaries inviting them to view archives, photographs and collections from generations past. Forty years ago Native researchers were not welcome at many museums, which often restricted museum holdings to visits by credentialed academic researchers.

This is a list of the contents of the volume:

Introduction: American Indians, Museums and Protest
Part I: Protesting Exhibitions
Chapter One: Politics and Sponsorship
Chapter Two: Display of Sacred Objects
Chapter Three: Display of Human Remains
Chapter Four: Art Confined to a Reservation of its Own
Part II: The Long Road to Repatriation
Chapter Five: Demands for Return of Material Objects
Chapter Six: Demands for Return of Human Remains
Part III: Whose Heroes and Holidays
Chapter Seven: No Celebration for Columbus
Chapter Eight: Thanksgiving Mourned
Chapter Nine: The Custer Chronicles
Part IV: Claiming Our Own Places
Chapter Ten: Native Cultural Sites
Chapter Eleven: Transforming Museums
Conclusion: Achievements Gained by Protests

For more information, see the publisher website linked to above, or contact Karen Coody Cooper at:
cooper46@sbcglobal.net

21
Jun
08

National Aboriginal Solidarity Day: Montreal

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Today, June 21, 2008, the first day of summer, the summer solstice, is National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in Canada. I attended the advertised event for Montreal, incorporated into the Montreal First People’s Festival, and dubbed the Solstice of Nations. This was the fourth annual Solstice of Nations. The weather was excellent: deep blue sky, cool fresh breeze, wet grass, and everyone in the park appeared to be happy, refreshed, and outgoing. The event took place in Montreal’s very beautiful Mount Royal park, which is on what is essentially a broad and low mountain in the centre of the city, somewhat higher than the skyscrapers near its base. Approximately between 80 and 100 people attended the event, including Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Bloc Québécois. The proceedings began with drumming and chanting, followed by very brief speeches, then the lighting of the flame in a large copper brazier, and more drumming and chanting. At one point, as one onlooker told me, a large bird with a very broad wingspan and appearing to be an eagle flew overhead and circled as the drumming ended. The embers from the burning of the flame were preserved and are to be taken to the Fête national du Québec (the national festival of Quebec). The embers will be used to light the bonfire at that festival, on June 23rd, on the Plains of Abraham, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

Also present at today’s events were indigenous Wayuu from Venezuela and Colombia. They were formally welcomed into the circle by the main speaker who addressed them in Spanish: “Bienvenidos, esta es terra indígena también” (welcome, this is also indigenous territory). (The proceedings were otherwise carried out entirely in French — which is interesting, because local Mohawks especially, and many Cree and Inuit in the province, speak English in addition to their native languages, rather than French.) As many others have observed, it is has become increasingly common in many parts of the world to find even small-scale, local indigenous events attended by at least some indigenous representatives from another nation.

The drummers’ circle…

…and two friends follow the ceremony:

14
Jun
08

Rapsure Risin

My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awaken, it will be the artists who will give them their spirits back — Louis Riel

Dear people, that 100 years is up, and the bell is ringing, we are here to represent the 7th generation and ourselves — Rapsure Risin

A big thanks is due to the work of the Aboriginal People’s Television Network of Canada (APTN), the world’s first aboriginal television network, for always showing me something new and interesting. Today, it happened that I would learn about Rapsure Risin, a dynamic duo of two Aboriginal female hip hop artists whose work is just fantastic. When I saw/heard the speed at which they rapped, smoothly and effortlessly, and the other fluid melodies they have produced, it was a pity to learn that they do not get much support in financial terms — both are taking up separate government positions soon and it is unlikely they will tour.

Rapsure Risin Homepage

Make sure you check their audio gallery

Rapsure Risin on MySpace

Rapsure Risin on Bebo

And their only video online, which does not do them justice the way APTN did, but is definitely better than nothing at all:


09
Jun
08

“Canada” — The Name of a Hate Crime

I have often thought that “Canada” is probably best understood as a euphemism for hate crime, a code word for invasion, a federal fantasy born of imperialism, built on internal colonialism. It’s the kind of case study that could be used for validating the notion of “invented tradition,” as it was created in part by a Marxist historian (Eric Hobsbawm) whose target was the nation-state and its ruling elites (and yet somehow, out of some questionable logic, in anthropology the target of the “invented tradition” approach has mostly been indigenous peoples and non-state actors).

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports today in “Race the top motivator for hate crimes in Canada,” that race and ethnicity still account for the overwhelming majority of hate crimes in Canada. This conclusion is based on a survey of police forces covering 87% of the population. In 2006, 892 hate crimes where reported by police, and about 60% of those were linked to race or ethnicity. One can assume that this figure excludes the hate crimes which police themselves engage in, on a more routine basis than most Canadians would be comfortable recognizing. Almost half of the 502 hate crimes that police relate to “race,” involved “blacks”. The vast majority of “blacks” in Canada are in fact from the Caribbean. One third of the hate crimes involved assault. The Muslim community, according to the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress, has suffered from such an onslaught of hate crimes that it has been unable to keep up with filing complaints to the police.

And, if anyone is still not swayed, visit any news story on the CBC news website itself that involves aboriginals, Muslims, or some other category of usual suspects, and read through the tons of hate messages posted underneath each story — another hate crime, this time enabled by the CBC, and reported to no one.

Finally, there has been some debate about why Canada seems to lack “iconic photographs” that express the “essence” of Canadian national identity. The leading candidate for the “iconic Canadian photo” is the one shown at the top of this post, one widely reproduced on many blogs, and features a “Canadian” soldier in a standoff against a Mohawk warrior, during the Oka intervention of 1990.




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