Category Archives: Culture

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.’ 


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 Those waiting for the DVD release can join the mailing list for information


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


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)



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

Natives Experience More Discrimination in Majority-Native Areas

“More than half of Native Americans living on tribal lands or other majority-Native areas say they have experienced racial or ethnic discrimination when interacting with police (55 percent) and applying for jobs (54 percent). That’s according to new poll results being released Tuesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” J. Neel, NPR

Excerpt: Poll: Native Americans See Far More Discrimination In Areas Where They Are A Majority By Joe Neel, NPR

“Location appears to have a big influence on whether Native Americans experience discrimination because they are Native American. In the example above, discrimination in police encounters was reported three times more often by American Indians living in majority-Native communities than by those living in more mixed areas.

Even disregarding where people live, our poll found Native Americans reported significant discrimination in their everyday lives — jobs, health care, education and other areas.

‘The poll is important because it allows Native Americans to speak to a broad range of Americans about the serious personal problems they face in dealing with employers, police and the courts,’ says poll director Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. ‘It shines a light on the very high level of slurs and personal insults this community faces in their day-to-day interactions with others.’

In addition to asking people about their personal experiences, we also asked about their perception of discrimination within their local community. Nearly half of Native Americans in majority-Native areas believe that where they live, other Native Americans are ‘often’ discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity. In nonmajority areas, that perception is much lower.

Some people have asked why we’re dividing our data between ‘majority’ and ‘nonmajority’ areas and not between ‘tribal’and ‘nontribal’ lands. A main reason is that there are many areas that are not tribal lands but still have large populations of Native Americans. Asking about the local neighborhood’s composition tells us more about how people interact in their home environment and the prevalence — or lack of — discrimination.”

Category: Culture

Natives Remind People: “We Are A Culture, Not A Costume!”

“It’s October, and with it comes the annual Halloween tradition of young and old alike dressing up and going out either door-to-door in hopes of scoring serious candy, or having a good time at a costume party. Unfortunately, some traditions surrounding Halloween are plain racist, such as the marketing and selling of ‘costumes’ that ‘represent’, however stereotypically, ‘other’ cultures. Stores shelves, sadly, will be lined with fake head dresses, buck skin outfits, and ‘war’ paint (along with kimonos, turbans, and other ‘representations’ of various cultures) for would be costume wearers.  N. Altaha

Excerpt: I am NOT a costume! by Noel Altaha

The following comes from Noel Altaha (White Mountain Apache) who made a video titled  ‘I am NOT a costume!’, in response to this racist tradition. Using creative tools to persuade others to agree with your stand was the assignment. My classmates presented great examples, (not texting and driving for example) and I wanted to have others see my view on this holiday. Theories may include self-affirmation theory, central route persuasion, and emotional approach.

Native Appropriations

Dressing as someone else’s culture has lasting impacts on everyone’s psyche. Granted it could not be explicitly noticeable but there is evidence suggesting the negative effects on stereotyping in social psychology. My research has focused on Native American Historical Trauma (HT) and unresolved grief. According to this theory due to European Colonization there has been a collective and continuous loss in Native communities. The mourning process continues through one’s lifetime and passes onto the next generations, thus the term intergenerational trauma. The symptoms of HT includes but are not limited to low self-esteem, hyper-vigilance, alcoholism, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, etc. etc. etc.

Toddler Boy Indian Costume

Ignorance of the historic trauma has profound negative impacts on Native peoples suffering or experiencing the historical trauma. So when you wear an “Indian” or ‘Savage’ or ‘Native American’ costume you are basically stereotyping a culture, you are also making their culture a historical reference that sends a message to everyone: Native Americans no longer exist, only in history books and old western films. You are not recognizing the present day Native people who are professors, doctors, actors, and nurses who still identify with their Native culture and are successfully existing in the modern world.

I certainly do not dress as a white person for Halloween and have not ever seen the costume “colonizer” at my local retail stores and if it did I would think there would be letters from upset offended white people. I do not want to make this all about a race issue because it more than that. This is about respecting oneself through becoming educated and it is about healing for a people who have and continue to suffer from the impacts of HT.”

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