Category Archives: Culture

Tribes Protest Names of Genocidal Figures In Yellowstone

“Two tribes plan to demonstrate in favor of renaming a valley and a mountain in Yellowstone National Park, places they say are associated with one man who advocated slaughter of Native Americans and another who carried it out.” The New York Times

Hayden Valley Yellowstone

Excerpt: Tribes Plan Protest to Change Yellowstone Valley, Peak Names The New York Times

“The tribes seek to change the name of Hayden Valley, a subalpine valley just north of Yellowstone Lake, to Buffalo Nations Valley. They want to change the name of Mount Doane, a 10,550-foot (3,216-meter) peak five miles east of the lake, to First People’s Mountain.

Mount Doane

Efforts to change place names and remove monuments to controversial figures in U.S. history have gained momentum since white supremacists opposed to taking down a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed in August with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But several Native American renaming efforts — some simply to erase racist terminology from maps — have been going on for years. Elsewhere in Wyoming, tribes seek to change Devils Tower, the name of an 870-foot (265-meter) volcanic mesa in the first U.S. national monument, to Bear Lodge. Devils Tower is the name white settlers gave the feature. Bear Lodge is what the Lakota, Crow, Cheyenne and other tribes call the formation important if not sacred to their cultures.

In Yellowstone, Hayden Valley is named for Ferdinand Hayden, a geologist whose explorations inspired the park’s establishment in 1872 but who also called for exterminating American Indians who wouldn’t acquiesce to becoming farmers and ranchers.

Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden

Mount Doane is named after U.S. Army Lt. Gustavus Doane, who took part in killing 173 noncombatant Indians — women, children and elderly men — in Montana in 1870.

gustavus Doane-Yellowstone

The tribes asked Yellowstone last year to rename Hayden Valley and Mount Doane. Park officials responded by explaining the renaming process overseen by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names, park Superintendent Dan Wenk said.

The Park Service has a responsibility to take up the matter with the board on the tribes’ behalf, said Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue.

‘We are not individuals, we are sovereign nations, many with treaty rights to this region, and those treaties are enshrined in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution,’  Sazue said by email.

The Board on Geographic Names has received several emails on the issue but no official proposal to change the names of Hayden Valley or Doane Mountain, Geological Survey officials said.”

Category: Culture

“Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders”

“The New World.’ This romanticized term inspired legions of Europeans to race to the places we live in search of freedoms from oppressive regimes or treasures that would be claimed in the name of some European nation.Those who arrived in the Native American Garden of Eden had never seen a land so uncorrupted. The Europeans saw new geography, new plants, new animals, but the most perplexing curiosity to these people were the Original Peoples and our ways of life. Of all of the foreign life ways Indians held, one of the first the Europeans targeted for elimination was the Two Spirit tradition among Native American cultures.” D. Brayboy, ICTMN

L. Frank, Tongva is a writer and artist of theAjachamem-She is also Two Spirit


Excerpt: Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders” by Duane Brayboy, ICTMN

At the point of contact, all Native American societies acknowledged three to five gender roles: Female, Male, Two Spirit female, Two Spirit male and transgendered. LGBT Native Americans wanting to be identified within their respective tribes and not grouped with other races officially adopted the term “Two Spirit” from the Ojibwe language in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1989.

Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to Two Spirits as Nádleehí (one who is transformed), among the Lakota is Winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), Niizh Manidoowag (two spirit) in Ojibwe, Hemaneh (half man, half woman) in Cheyenne, to name a few.

As the purpose of “Two Spirit” is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in Native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.

The Jesuits and French explorers told stories of Native American men who had ‘Given to sin’ and ‘Hunting Women’ with wives and later, the British returned to England with similar accounts.

George Catlin said that the Two Spirit tradition among Native Americans ‘Must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.’ In keeping with European prejudices held against Natives, the Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.

In 1530, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his diary of seeing ‘soft’ Native Indian males in Florida tribes dressing and working as  women. Just as with all other aspects of the European regard for Indians, gender variance was not tolerated. Europeans and eventually Euro-Americans demanded all people conform to their prescribed two gender roles.

Osh-Tisch, also known as Finds Them and Kills Them, was a Crow Badé (Two Spirit) and was celebrated among his tribe for his bravery when he attacked a Lakota war party and saved a fellow tribesman in the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, 1876.

Squaw Jim : Osh-Tish (Finds Them and Kills Them), Crow tribe. On the left is Squaw Jim, a biological male in woman’s attire, his wife to the right.


The Badé were a respected social group among the Crow. They spent their time with the women or among themselves, setting up their tipis in a separate area of the village. They called each other ‘sister’ and saw Osh-Tisch as their leader. The elders told the story of former B.I.A. agents who tried to repeatedly force him to wear men’s clothing, but the other Indians protested against this, saying it was against his nature.

The Native American belief is that some people are born with the spirits of both genders and express them so perfectly. It is if they have two spirits in one body. Some Siouan tribes believed that before a child is born its soul stands before The Creator, to either reach for the bow and arrows that would indicate the role of a man or the basket that would determine the role of a female.

When the child would reach for the gender-corresponding hand, sometimes The Creator would switch hands and the child would have chosen the opposite gender’s role and therefore casting its lot in life.

The Two Spirit people in pre-contact Native America were highly revered and families that included them were considered lucky. Indians believed that a person who was able to see the world through the eyes of both genders at the same time was a gift from The Creator.

Category: Culture

Navajo Nation Rejects Death Penalty for Child Murderer!

“In a heinous case on the Navajo Nation, an 11-year-old girl was lured into a van, sexually assaulted and killed. The man who has admitted responsibility is not facing the death penalty – and the tribe isn’t seeking it.” F. Fonseca and R. Contreras, South Florida Times


Excerpt: Indian Tribes Opt Out of Death Penalty, by F. Fonseca and R. Contreras, South Florida Times.

“American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option. Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.

‘Most Indian tribes were mistreated by the United States under past federal policies, and there can be historical trauma in cases associated with the execution of Native people,’ said Robert Anderson, a University of Washington law professor and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. ‘This allows tribes to at least decide in those narrow circumstances when there should be a federal death penalty or not.’ In the Navajo case, Ashlynne Mike’s body wasn’t found until the next day. Her May 2016 death led to renewed discussions about capital punishment.

Ashlynne’s mother has urged the tribe to opt into the death penalty, particularly for crimes against children. The tribe long has objected to putting people to death, saying the culture teaches against taking a human life for vengeance.

Congress expanded the list of death-penalty eligible crimes in the mid-1990s, allowing tribes to decide if they wanted their citizens subject to the death penalty. Legal experts say they are aware of only one tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, that has opted in.

Tribal leaders there hoped the decision would deter serious, violent crimes on the reservation in Oklahoma, said Truman Carter, a Sac and Fox member, attorney and tribal prosecutor. ‘The tribal leaders have said yes over the years, and they left it alone,’ he said.

No American Indian has been executed in any case from the Sac and Fox reservation.

Still, the ability of tribes to decide on the death penalty doesn’t completely exempt Native Americans from federal death row. According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., 16 Native Americans have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The executions were for crimes occurring off tribal land or in the handful of states where the federal government does not have jurisdiction over major crimes on reservations.

Tribes also don’t have a say over the death penalty when certain federal crimes like carjacking or kidnapping resulting in death, or killing a federal officer occurs on reservation land. Those carry a possible death sentence no matter where they happen.”

Category: Culture

Tribes View Eclipse as a Negative Event and Many Will Stay Indoors!

“Tommy Lewis, superintendent of Diné Education on the Navajo Nation, is advising tribal schoolchildren to take shelter indoors Monday as the sky darkens during a rare solar eclipse. Taos Pueblo officials are asking schools to excuse tribal students for the day, so they won’t be encouraged to view the event with their classmates or watch recordings…For many tribal people, a total solar eclipse, when the moon blocks out light from the sun, is a time to remain inside, engaged in quiet personal reflection and renewal, rather than a time for festive gatherings and viewings with protective glasses and pinhole projectors.” B. Krasnow, The New Mexican

MJF Images

Excerpt: Respect and reverence: Local tribes prepare members for eclipse, Bruce Krasnow, The New Mexican

“A solar eclipse can bring out negativity, suffering and misfortune, and at the same time it cleans the world with positive energy,’ Lewis wrote to Navajo students, parents and educators earlier this month.

He is advising students to attend school Monday but to stay inside a building, and to abstain from food and drink, as well as other daily activities. ‘Show reverence and respect by being quiet and still,’  he said.

The cultural meanings of a solar eclipse and the traditions surrounding such an event vary for each American Indian tribe. Many are reluctant to discuss them. But some tribal government leaders in New Mexico are reaching out to schools and teachers, asking them to honor students’ preferences during Monday’s eclipse, which will occur during school hours.

Though, New Mexico won’t experience a total eclipse. In Santa Fe, for instance, the moon will cover about 80 percent of the sun at the peak of the event, around 11:45 a.m.

These Mexican ceramic ornaments are typical of the prevalence of eclipses in indigenous art.

RaeNita Lujan, manager of the Indian Education Program at Taos Municipal Schools, said the Taos Pueblo governor is asking the district to allow Pueblo students to take the day off. There are 275 tribal members, from Taos Pueblo and other tribes, enrolled in the district, she said.

Taos Pueblo. Taos, NM

Lujan declined to discuss the pueblo’s traditions involving the eclipse, but said, ‘As Native people, we view the eclipse as a bad thing, not as this great phenomenon of ‘let’s go out and buy glasses and have a party.”

Category: Culture

Coeur D’ Alene Tribe Brings Culture and Cardio Tips to DC

“Imani Antone, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, has been dancing for as long as she can remember. Dressed in a traditional ‘jingle dress,’ a multicolored outfit covered with silver ornaments that clink when she moves, Antone and other members of the tribe’s Powwow Sweat dance group visited the nation’s capital last week to teach visitors to the National Museum of the American Indian how to perform tribal dances and – more important – the cultural significance of those dances to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The event was part of the eighth-annual Living Earth Festival.” R. Prasad, Medill News

Sweat dancers from the Coeur d’ Alene tribe after their interactive performance Friday at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (Ritu Prasad:Medill News Service)

Excerpt: Coeur D’ Alene Tribe Brings Dance, Culture and ?Cardio to Washington DC, by Ritu Prasad and Katie Watkins, Medill News

“The three-day festival brings together Native American artists from across the country, featuring dancers, artisans and chefs cooking traditional cuisine. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is one of 567 federally recognized tribes in the U.S, according to the National Congress of American Indians. Their Powwow Sweat dancers kicked off the festival with a 45-minute class that taught visitors the basics of their dance exercise routine.

‘Powwow Sweat is a really fun way to exercise,’ said dancer Nikki Pitre. ‘It’s fusing together our traditional and social dances with some cardio and a structured way to really get your heart rate going.’

Created by Lovina Louie, who runs the tribe’s wellness programs, Powwow Sweat aims to get tribal members excited about exercise, while also practicing traditional dances. It was developed under a $1.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce obesity and other chronic diseases in the Coeur d’Alene Tribe…The Powwow Sweat dancers taught classes twice a day throughout the weekend as part of the Living Earth Festival.”


Obama’s tweet after Charlottesville one of most popular tweets ever by Rebecca Savransky

From former President BarackObama

“In subsequent tweets, Obama continued the quote, which read: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Category: Culture

“Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team”

“It is a relief to take a detour and head toward a plateau, with its tropical vegetation, after driving through a steamy landscape of sugar cane fields in southern Guatemala. An hour later you arrive in Xejuyup, Xejuyup, a town of about 4,000 people that is ‘under the mountains’ or ‘at the feet of the hill’ — which is what Xejuyup (pronounced shay-who-YOOP) means in the language of the K’iche’ Maya who live here. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was a huge banner with the official picture of the local soccer team, called C.S.D. Xejuyup. The first thing I saw in the banner were the team’s uniforms.” D. Volpe, The New York Times

Members of C.D.S. Xejuyup soccer team. Credit- Daniele Volpe,

Excerpt: Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team by Daniele Volpe, The New York Times

“Maya culture retains a strong presence in Guatemala. Colorful traditional clothing, usually worn by women, is among the first things tourists may notice upon their arrival. It is less common to see men wearing traditional clothing, and in Xejuyup only a few elderly men do so.

Antonio Perechú Sui, 67, an assistant of C.D.S. Xejuyup, at his home. credit- Daniele Volpe

This worried Antonio Perechú. A former goalkeeper, Perechú played for several regional teams but gave up the pursuit of his dream of becoming a professional soccer player because his family could not afford it. He founded C.S.D. Xejuyup in 1982 as something of a community organization — the Spanish acronym C.S.D. translates as Sports Social Club — and today his son, Miguel, is the team’s captain. Antonio Perechú’s ambition to have his team reflect, and respect, its community has been echoed in the team’s decision — since its first days — to incorporate Maya clothing into its uniforms.

The players explained to me that the coxtar (the skirt), the kutin (the shirt) and the pas (the sash) have meanings associated with the ancestral Maya worldview. Their colors, their embroidery and the weaving line patterns suggest the relation between humans and nature and its elements.

A picture of C.D.S. Xejuyup on a Volpe, ff

From 1960 to 1996, during Guatemala’s brutal civil war, more than 80 percent of the estimated 200,000 dead and missing were Maya, according to a report from Guatemala’s Commission for Historical Clarification.

Xejuyup was occupied by the army during that time. In 1982, the year Perechú started the soccer club, the civil defense patrols, or local militias, were formed nationwide. All male adults were forced to join; the conscripts included Perechú and other members of the current Xejuyup team.

For years, Guatemala’s indigenous population kept a low profile. Parents refrained from teaching the Mayan languages to their children, and from wearing their traditional clothing. When a peace deal was signed, opening the country to a globalization boom, Guatemala was flooded with used clothes from the United States. The items cost less than one quetzal (about 14 cents) each, and even more people stopped wearing traditional clothing.

Miguel Perechú, who works as the gymnastics teacher at a school and has attended several soccer courses, led the session.

His pride in his Maya identity matches his father’s. In our conversation he mentioned Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the twin gods.

In pre-Columbian oral history, the twins save the Maya people by defeating the Lords of Xibalba (the underworld) in an ancient ballgame. It is part of the reason Miguel Perechú feels a strong connection between the past and the present.

‘The costume is a symbol, and we, the team, carry it with great responsibility,’ he said. ‘It stands for all the indigenous peoples of the country, and for Guatemala as a whole.’ But to the men of C.S.D. Xejuyup, it is also why the mission undertaken by Antonio Perechú is so ambitious, and so important.

Category: Culture