Category Archives: Culture

How The Sioux Help Make Indian Horse Relay Racing Famous

“Tension fills the air. The stands are packed with people who have come to see riders wearing full feather headdresses and fringed chaps, riding horses with rumps that have been painted with pink and yellow handprints and various other esoteric or sacred insignia. The Native athletes ride bareback for one lap around before jumping off one horse and onto the next to ride another lap… It’s an insane spectator sport; riders and handlers nearly get trampled in the chaos, horses have gone down and have had to be euthanized right there on the track, and beneath it all is perhaps the primal draw of American history: the Native as Other… real Indians with feathers in their hair, skillfully riding bareback, out here on the plains, for the first time in almost 100 years.” S. Marsh, Victory Journal

photo- chris douglas

Excerpt:  The Riders By  Steve Marsh, Victory Journal

“The first Mystic Lake Derby was held in 2013. Andy Vig, the son of powerful tribal chairman Stanley Vig, was put in charge of coordinating the race, and although the racing results weren’t that exciting by themselves—most of the participants were used to shorter tracks, so Canterbury’s mile long oval produced blowouts—the action and pageantry have become a big draw. Ever since, the Indian Relay heats have taken place between races during the Canterbury’s biggest weekend of the year: the Mystic Lake Derby, a race day with $200,000 in cumulative purses, that serves, according to Canterbury CEO Randy Sampson, as the track’s crown jewel of the racing season.

The Horses-photo- chris douglas

The Derby brings in the best horses in the region, and that kind of quality brings out the eccentric rich people with the funny hats. But it’s the Indian Relay racing that brings out casual racing fans and suburban families…It’s Thursday, eight hours before the first heat, and Richard Longfeather, a Dakota Indian and relay team owner hailing from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, has just been disqualified.

The Fans-photo- Cody photography

He pulled into Shakopee this morning after making the eight-hour drive with his wife, their son, his son’s best friend, and their nephew, and a trailer full of five thoroughbred horses… According to SMSC’s Andy Vig, one of Longfeather’s horses didn’t have the correct vaccination paperwork. He’s near tears as Vig explains that he shares his disappointment, especially since Longfeather’s team was the only Dakota Sioux relay team at the event—meaning that in some ways his team would have been the de facto local favorites…As Longfeather huddles with his family to worry about having to make the long drive back to Little Eagle, South Dakota, the other 13 relay teams are getting their horses situated in the receiving barn. 

One of the favorites to win the relay is Starr School, a Blackfeet team from Browning, Montana. Last June they won the Muckleshoot Gold Cup, a big $50,000 purse Indian relay held at Emerald Downs, a track owned by the Muckleshoot tribe out in Seattle, Washington…Because of the Muckleshoot win, Starr School’s 21-year-old Isiah Crossguns is quickly becoming a star in the relay world. Like most relay riders, Crossguns is tall, much taller than the horseworld’s typical jockey…

It’s just after before twilight, and time for the first heat of the evening. In an unexpected development, somehow the veterinarian back in Standing Rock has unearthed the correct herpes papers and Richard Longfeather’s team has been cleared to race. This would be fishy if this had happened in any other sport, and it is in this one as well, I guess, but when I find Richard by the barn with his horses, he’s ready to race, wearing his homemade lime green team Longfeather jersey. 

The Race:

After the intros of each team over the P.A. system by ‘the Voice of Canterbury’ (and Minnesota Vikings super bro play-by-play man) Paul Allen, the entire field gets off to a galloping start.

photo- chris douglas

To no one’s surprise, Isiah Crossguns takes the lead over the first lap. He’s ahead by more than five lengths on the backside before being slowly reeled in by a horse and rider from the Tissidimit team, from on the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho.

On the second lap Tissidimit takes the lead. Their rider maintains his lead coming out of the second exchange.

photo- chris douglas

Crossguns gives one more valiant charge on the back stretch, but Tissidimit’s rider has obviously left something in reserve for the home stretch, and wins by two lengths at the stripe... Longfeather’s team is set to race in the second heat. His son Jace feels like he’s carrying too much weight for the the mile long track at Canterbury, so his friend Justin Fox is atop the horse. When the gun goes off, Longfeather’s thoroughbred doesn’t react, perhaps due to the last minute rider switch.

Photo: chris douglas

The previous year’s champion relay team, DD Express—Sioux Indians from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota shoot ahead by 20 lengths. Longfeather’s team finishes dead last…As with every other heat, the exchange box positions are determined by a random drawing before the race. The best hope for a team is to draw a spot on the near end, to avoid as much of the chaos in the middle as possible.

Photo-Canterbury Park

Starr School and Tissidimit are the lucky ones tonight, drawing the first and second boxes, respectively, while DD Express is the least, drawing the seventh spot on the far end of the boxes.

DD Express comes out hot, with Starr School second and Tissidimit in third. But on the back stretch of the first lap, the other Oglala Sioux team, Brew Crew, vigorously “goes to the stick,” as they say, and takes the lead into the first exchange…

Paul Allen interrupts the middle of his call to shriek, ‘DD EXPRESS HAS BEEN ELIMINATED! DD EXPRESS HAS BEEN ELMINATED!’

Allen explains it has to do with the crash on the first exchange.

‘THE DEFENDING CHAMPION WILL NOT REPEAT AS CHAMPIONS!’

“HERE COMES TISSIDIMIT MAKING A BIG MOVE!” Allen bellows.

When Tissidimit starts to slide back around the final turn, Allen accuses the slowing horse of “doing the moonwalk,” but they quickly reengage.

Abrahamson fades just at the wire and…It was going to be a photo finish. 

The slow motion replay on the jumbotron makes it look like Brew Crew had won by a nose. The Oglala Sioux are now out on the track and they are yelling, ‘WE ARE THE HORSE NATION! WE ARE THE HORSE NATION!’

‘We await the official results,’ Allen cautions.

photo- chris douglas

After another few interminable minutes of silence, we all realize something is wrong. Paul Allen comes back and again directs our attention to the large infield monitor. He explains that right before the wire, Sylvan Brown reached across and grabbed the reins of Tissidimit’s horse. The Zapruder-like evidence is blatant.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Paul Allen comes in over the loudspeaker again, this time sounding like a disappointed school principal, ‘the original winner, Brew Crew, has been disqualified.’ The crowd gasps.

‘And the new Indian Relay Horse Racing Champion is Tissidimit.’

Tissidimit team rider Jared Cerino gets the win in Heat 1 August 25 at Canterbury Park.

After Tissidimit is awarded gaudy golden belt buckles and an oversized check for $7200—their portion of the purse—I walk next to Cerino on the way back to the barn. He is amped from the race, of course, and reveals that Sylvan Brown, the rider of Brew Crew, had called him a “motherfucker as he grabbed his inside reigns.

‘We had words after the race,’ he explained. ‘But instead of those words going to fighting, I told him just to don’t let it happen next time.’ He took a breath. ‘I got to chill so I can come back next year.’

And with that, he heads into the barn to celebrate with his teammates.”

 

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Two Spirit Nation Rejects Supreme Court Decision…

“Monday the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a Colorado bakery’s discrimination against LGBTQ2s couples, citing an exemption due to religious freedom. This is one of many attacks against the Two Spirit community who stays resilient in the face of racism, homophobia, and transphobia every day.” ICT Editorial Team

Two Spirit Nation

Excerpt: Two Spirit Nation rejects Supreme Court decision, citing sovereignty rights ICT Editorial Team

“Two Spirit is a term that was coined in the 90s as an umbrella term to describe the cultural role and blessing of Two Spirited people that possess both the masculine and feminine perspectives amongst Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island (Canada, North America & Mexico).

Flag Raising ceremony. TSN

They were honored as healers, leaders, mediators, liaisons, foster parents, warriors and vessels. In 2016, we most recently reclaimed a strong and leading presence at Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock), as Two Spirit Warriors amongst our water protectors.siblings. ‘It’s not right” Says Henry/Helina Brings Plenty, a Two Spirit youth, Oglala Lakota Sioux/Northern Cheyenne/Azetca Mexica ‘At their wedding, everyone should deserve a chance to feel special on a day they want to feel special — regardless if they are gay or straight.’

‘It is our youth that is the destination for our liberation, and we must show them how these laws are colonized’ Says Court Morse, Two Spirit Nation Field Director. “They are watching us to see how we must stay resilient…’The Two Spirit Nation will continue to move forward in their advocacy for all Two Spirit people.”

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ALSO OF INTEREST:

Google Doodle Features Onondaga First Nations Running Champion Tom Longboat, By Vincent Schilling, ICT

Tom Longboat was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 as Canada’s greatest long distance runner, ICTMN

 


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Native Film Celebrates Success!

“The film “Neither Wolf Nor Dog’ celebrates most successful self-distributed feature film of 2017 including the longest theatrical run in U.S.” V. Schilling, ICMN

Courtesy InYo Entertainment Dave Bald Eagle, Christopher Sweeney, and Richard Ray Whitman on the road in ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog.’

Excerpt: Native Feature Film: Neither Wolf Nor Dog Celebrates Record Breaking Year for 2017 By Vincent Schilling, ICMN

“The main boasting point for Neither Wolf Nor Dog is that the film is an independent audience-financed and self-distributed release. The film was launched in small towns and went on to outperform Hollywood blockbusters in numerous multiplexes.

According to the film’s producer and director, Simpson, ‘No other filmmaker distributed movie has performed anywhere near as well in 2017.’

Courtesy InYo Entertainment Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle in the film ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog.’

Hugh Wronski, Senior Publicist for Lagoon theaters in Minneapolis, MN said, ‘The Lagoon’s opening weekend of Neither Wolf Nor Dog was the best weekend gross in the entire country. It’s nice to see that beautifully told stories can still find an audience.’ 

ICTMN

The filmmakers of Neither Wolf Nor Dog  also cited a higher proportion of Native-owned cinemas playing the film than any film before. “Around 10% of theaters were owned by tribes, or tribal members, including the Ak-Chin in Maricopa,” said Simpson…The film is worth noting for its simplicity and attention paid to Native culture. The film had 18 shooting days on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a crew of 2 and a 95-year-old lead Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle.”

 

NOTICE: Schools and other groups that would be interested in setting up a showing of the film can email event@inyoentertainment.com. Those waiting for the DVD release can join the mailing list for information https://goo.gl/aBWYxw.

 

Category: Culture, Films

The Indian Slaves of New Mexico!

“Lenny Trujillo made a startling discovery when he began researching his descent from one of New Mexico’s pioneering Hispanic families: One of his ancestors was a Native slave. ‘I didn’t know about New Mexico’s slave trade, so I was just stunned,’ said Mr. Trujillo, 66, a retired postal worker who lives in Los Angeles. ‘Then I discovered how slavery was a defining feature of my family’s history.’ Mr. Trujillo is one of many Latinos who are finding ancestral connections to a flourishing slave trade on the blood-soaked frontier now known as the American Southwest.” S. Romero, The New York Times

Floyd E. Trujillo, right, swabbed the inside of his mouth for a DNA sample as his son Virgil spoke with Miguel A.. Tórrez, a genealogist. Credit- A. Malcolm, NYT

Excerpt: Indian Slavery Once Thrived in New Mexico.Latinos Are Finding Family Ties to It. By Simon Romero, The New York Times

“Their captive forebears were Native Americans — slaves frequently known as Genízaros (pronounced heh-NEE-sah-ros) who were sold to Hispanic families when the region was under Spanish control from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many Indian slaves remained in bondage when Mexico and later the United States governed New Mexico. The revelations have prompted some painful personal reckonings over identity and heritage. But they have also fueled a larger, politically charged debate on what it means to be Hispanic and Native American.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Abiquiú, N.M., a village settled by former Indian slaves, or Genízaros, in the 18th century. A. Malcolm, NYT

A growing number of Latinos who have made such discoveries are embracing their indigenous backgrounds, challenging a long tradition in New Mexico in which families prize Spanish ancestry.

Some are starting to identify as Genízaros. Historians estimate that Genízaros accounted for as much as one-third of New Mexico’s population of 29,000 in the late 18th century.

‘We’re discovering things that complicate the hell out of our history, demanding that we reject the myths we’ve been taught,’ said Gregorio Gonzáles, 29, an anthropologist and self-described Genízaro who writes about the legacies of Indian enslavement.

Those legacies were born of a tortuous story of colonial conquest and forced assimilation.

New Mexico, which had the largest number of sedentary Indians north of central Mexico, emerged as a coveted domain for slavers almost as soon as the Spanish began settling here in the 16th century… Seeking to strengthen the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, Congress passed the Peonage Act of 1867 after learning of propertied New Mexicans owning hundreds and perhaps thousands of Indian slaves, mainly Navajo women and children.

Many Hispanic families in New Mexico have long known that they had indigenous ancestry, even though some here still call themselves ‘Spanish’ to emphasize their Iberian ties and to differentiate themselves from the state’s 23 federally recognized tribes, as well as from Mexican and other Latin American immigrants…Revelations about how Indian enslavement was a defining feature of colonial New Mexico can be unsettling for some in the state, where the authorities have often tried to perpetuate a narrative of relatively peaceful coexistence between Hispanics, Indians and Anglos, as non-Hispanic whites are generally called here.

Genízaros and their offspring sometimes escaped or served out their terms of service, then banded together to forge buffer settlements against Comanche raids… Moisés Gonzáles, a Genízaro professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico, has identified an array of Genízaro outposts that endure in the state, including the villages Las Trampas and San Miguel del Vado…’Some Natives say those in Abiquiú are pretend Indians,’ said Mr. Tórrez, the genealogist. ‘But who’s to say that the descendants of Genízaros, of people who were once slaves, can’t reclaim their culture?’

Some Native Americans also chafe at the gains some Hispanics here have sought by prioritizing their ancestral ties to European colonizers…The discovery of indigenous slave ancestry can be anything but straightforward, as Mr. Trujillo, the former postal worker, learned.

First, he found his connection to a Genízaro man in the village of Abiquiú. Delving further into 18th century baptismal records, he then found that his ancestor somehow broke away from forced servitude to purchase three slaves of his own.”

Category: Culture | Tags: ,

Puppetry and Native Actors: ‘Ajijaak on Turtle Island’

“Lovers of the Jim Henson’s muppet’s legacy and theatrical-based stories of the Ojibwe, Lakota, and Cherokee Nation, can look forward to a performance of Ajijaak on Turtle Island.  The play, directed by Heather Henson and Ty Defoe, is produced by Ibex Puppetry, a company founded in 2000 by Heather Henson, the daughter of the iconic muppets creator Jim Henson.” V. Schilling, ICTMN

A scene from ‘Ajijaak on Turtle Island’ includes a massive crane puppet meeting with a large turtle.ICTMN

Excerpt: Graceful Puppetry and Native Actors Combine in ‘Ajijaak on Turtle Island, By V, Schilling, ICTMN

“The overview of Ajijaack on Turtle Island is described on the Philadelphia-based Kimmel Center website as follows:

In this coming of age story, follow our hero, Ajijaack as she learns lessons along the way from her mentors and friends: the buffalo, deer, frog, dragonfly, coyote, and a turtle activist family. On her heroic journey, pieces of the Ojibwe, Lakota, and Cherokee Nations are highlighted along with cultural rituals and practices of Indigenous Peoples’ on Turtle Island (North America). Reflecting our connectedness with all of creation, this immersive story is told through rituals and puppets, projections and kites, aerial antics and life-sized maps. Tracing the tragedies befalling cranes, of disappearing forests and lakes, this story celebrates the richness of indigenous cultures that honor and protect these majestic birds.

Tony Enos and Joan Henry actors in the film. ICTMN

Tony Enos, a two spirit Cherokee actor told Indian Country Today he was thrilled to be a part of Ajijaak on Turtle Island and has continuously marveled at the creativity of the play. He also said he was grateful for the cultural respect paid to the Native story.

‘So much care was taken in making sure traditional elements were respected and woven properly into the fabric of the show. We wanted to walk through the show with honor and offer audiences a special message as Native and Indigenous individuals working to change native theater. The show is beautiful and it’s message simple: ‘Love and protect our Mother Earth, care for yourself and each other and never give up,’ said Enos.’

Tony Enos, one of the Native actors in ‘Ajijaack on Turtle Island,’ maneuvers a coyote made entirely of corn husks.

Joan Henry (Cherokee/Nde’/Arawaka) said the indigenous nature of the play, which included storytelling, relations to Mother Earth, animals, and plants was important.  ‘The endangered and revered Whooping Crane introduces audiences to contemporary Native people in real time, with real concerns.’

Champion hoop dancer, writer, and director Ty Defoe. On the right side of this image, Defoe performs a healing crane dance in ‘Ajijaack On Turtle Island

Actor Wen Jeng said  ‘I really don’t know how to describe Ajijaack on Turtle Island other than some kind of beautiful, some kind of magic,’ while the production’s stage manager called the play,  ‘a magical and beautiful flight.”

For performance information and tickets to Ajijaak on Turtle Island, visit the following sites:

Kimmel Center in Partnership with IPAY

300 S Broad St. Philadelphia, PA 19102

IBEX Puppetry: Ajijaack on Turtle Island

Saturday – Jan 27, 2018 – 7:00 PM

FREE TICKETS HERE

La MaMa Theatre Ellen Stewart Theatre

66 East 4th St, New York, NY 10003

February 8, 2018 – February 18, 2018

Thursday to Saturday at 7pm; Sunday at 2pm

$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors (plus $1 Facility Fee)

BUY TICKETS HERE

 

Category: Culture

Five Native Tribes Challenge Trump’s Decision for Bears Ears

“Hours after Trump announced his scaled-back vision for Bears Ears National Monument on Monday, a coalition of five American Indian tribes filed the first lawsuit of many that were promised to challenge the executive action”. By C. Tanner,The Salt Lake Tribune

Harold Cuthair, Chairman of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, speaks at press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. Photo- (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune).

Excerpt: Five American Indian tribes, furious over Trump shrinking Bears Ears on his trip to Utah, sue the president-By C. Tanner,The Salt Lake Tribune

“Their argument: Trump does not have the legal authority to shrink the designation…The courts have not weighed in on the matter since the Antiquities Act’s passage 111 years ago. That law authorizes presidents to unilaterally set aside public lands to protect ‘objects of historic and scientific interest,’ which President Barack Obama used to designate the 1.35 million acres in San Juan County last year.

The five tribes — Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian — pushed for the monument status and are suing Trump and members of his administration for splitting the designation into two areas that comprise less than 202,000 acres. In a brief visit to Utah, the president also trimmed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 900,000 acres.

In their lawsuit, posted late Monday, the tribes argue to the U.S. District Court in Washington that the Antiquities Act does not allow a president to revoke or modify a monument — only to designate one…At a news conference after Trump’s announcement, tribal leaders condemned the president and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for allegedly snubbing their input, criticized the ‘tremendous affront to tribal sovereignty’ and vowed to fight the revised designations…The tribes are asking for injunctive relief ‘requiring Trump to rescind his proclamation, or prohibiting him from enforcing or implementing it in any way.’ That would stop the orders signed Monday from taking effect so that no permits are issued for oil and gas drilling or uranium and potash mining.

Jonathan Nez, vice president of the Navajo Nation, blasted Trump’s announcement-‘What transpired today, it’s just hard for me to understand,’ Nez said. ‘It’s just another slap in the face for our Native American brothers and sisters.’

Jonathan Nez, Vice President, Navajo Nation, speaks during a press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune)

 

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in an interview earlier Monday that the president’s action is lawful. ‘It’s been done in the past. It can happen again,’ he said.

Zinke, too, said the administration is on firm legal footing, noting that ‘we didn’t do this in an arbitrary fashion.’ Other monuments, he noted, have been changed 10 times in the past.

Ten environmental and wilderness groups are suing Trump, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in federal district court in Washington. They are specifically targeting the cuts to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is to be split into three smaller designations and stripped of nearly 900,000 acres.

‘[Trump wants to] turn the key to these lands over to extractive industries and local interests who really want to see them destroyed,’ said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, one of the plaintiffs in the case. ‘No one will look back on this decision in 15, 25 or 50 years and say Trump did the right thing by protecting less of this magnificent place,’ Bloch said.

Puebloan Laguna tribe member Renie Medina weeps during a press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. Photo- (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune).

Outdoor retailer Patagonia intends to make its case that Trump is ‘taking away recreation areas [from] our customers’ that would financially hurt the company, said its environmental activism manager Ron Hunter.

The Sierra Club called monument reductions a ‘pathetic’ example of Trump’s continued abuse of power.”

Category: Culture