Category Archives: Culture

Native and Homeless During the Coronavirus

“American Indians and Alaska Natives clustered in camps or on the streets; ‘It’s been a crazy time’J. Estus, Indian Country Today

As many as 4,000 of Anchorage’s 300,000 residents don’t have permanent housing. Photograph- Ash Adams:The Guardian

 

Excerpt: Homeless. Vulnerable. And no option for ‘self isolation’ By Joaqlin Estus, Indian Country Today

“Every major city has a virtual suburb for the homeless. Homes consisting of tents, scrap wood, shopping baskets and cardboard boxes. In shelters, a family dwelling might have a common kitchen and bedrooms with bunk beds. Others may have a large room filled with dozens of bunk beds or canvas cots. Some have dozens of rubber-coated thick pads placed a foot apart in rows laid across a concrete floor.

Chronic diseases are higher than normal in the best of times. The ideal terrain for a virus, such as COVID-19, to take hold and spread…Seattle has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. There have been 1,187 COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths in Washington as of March 19. (New York City has more cases, 4,000, but fewer deaths, 22).

‘It’s been a crazy time,’ said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Pawnee, chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board. ‘I’m just trying to put out as many resources as I possibly can and serve my community to the best of my abilities. I’m just grateful to all my ancestors that came before me, who have taught us how to be strong, resilient people.’

The Seattle Indian Health Board offers medical, dental, and behavioral services as well as elders and youth services. It provides resources to prevent homelessness. It also runs the Urban Indian Health Institute, one of 12 tribal epidemiology centers in the nation. In King County, where Seattle is located, American Indians and Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to be homeless than whites…She said the Seattle Indian health board is working to live up to CDC guidelines that, for now, are beyond its reach. ‘If we shut down our programs [involving more than ten people], our elders have nowhere to go for shelter and they have nowhere to go for their meals, which we provide. So from that harm reduction approach, we are making sure that there is distance between them of six feet.’

Echo-Hawk noted although the largest outbreak was in an affluent suburb, the first quarantine and isolation facility opened in one of Seattle’s lowest income neighborhoods. She said, in the interests of equity and social justice ‘we have to ensure that all of the risk is not just taken by low income communities.

We have to recognize it is now the time for the community as a whole to come together and to support one another.’

Tuesday evening at a press conference, municipal manager Bill Falsey said, ‘The sheltering capacity for homeless individuals in Anchorage was a challenge before COVID-19. The new issue is that our homeless community includes many individuals with underlying health conditions.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in a homeless shelter could be particularly severe. That would be terrible for the residents, but it also potentially affects everyone.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update 03/26/20 at 3 pm.  Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states Federal and state services include monetary and food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. The National Retail Federation also has over 70 corporations looking for workers.

COVID-19 online resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

 Online Teaching  Activities Sites with Free Materials for Teachers, Students and Parents

STEM Teaching Guide

“Learning Packets” for students During School Closures By Larry Ferlazzo:It seems like a fair number of districts don’t have any kind of learning plan in place for their students right now. Some districts, however, even if they don’t have a full-fledged remote learning program going on, are creating “learning packets” for students to complete. It’s not great, obviously, but it seems like it’s better than nothing and can help out parents.” For more information visit

Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help” –  The New York Times Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang, Amie Kaufman and other authors for young readers are reading their work online and offering drawing tutorials, to help fill our strange new hours. For more information visit

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide – Boston Children’s Museum & WGBH Welcome! Are you ready for some fun?

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Kit is the product of a collaborationbetween National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum, and WGBH. The goal of this curriculum is to assist preschool educators in focusing and refiningthe naturally inquisitive behaviors of three to five-year-olds on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). For more information visit here

Be Smart, Be Careful, Be Safe!

Cherokee Seeds of Life Saved for Future Generations in Arctic vault

“Varieties of corn, beans and squash seen as central to Cherokee identity will be deposited in Norway’s Svalbard seed bank.” N. Lakhani, The Guardian

Cherokee seeds.

Excerpt:Cherokee Nation to preserve culturally important seeds in Arctic vault, N. Lakhani, The Guardian

“The Cherokee Nation will bank corn, bean and squash seeds in the Arctic “doomsday vault”, becoming the first US-based tribe to safeguard culturally emblematic crops for future generations.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault outside Longyearbyen on Svalbard, Norway. Photo- Heiko Junge:EPA

The Svalbard seed vault, the world’s most sheltered storage facility, currently holds 992,039 crop seeds from across the world.

It was created on a Norwegian archipelago about 800 miles from the North Pole in order to safeguard as much of the planet’s unique genetic material as possible. Losing a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of an animal or bird. On 25 February, nine Cherokee seeds will be deposited into the vault, deep inside a mountain on permanently frozen ground called permafrost.

Packets of Cherokee corn and other seeds.

The seeds chosen are Cherokee white eagle corn – the tribe’s most sacred corn, used for cultural ceremonies – Cherokee long greasy beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, Cherokee turkey gizzard black and brown beans, Cherokee candy roaster squash and three other varieties of corn. The crops predate European settlement and are a core part of Cherokee identity.  The Cherokee seeds will be only the second deposit from an indigenous community to be stored in the Svalbard vault, following the deposit of 750 South American Andean potato seeds in 2015…There are more than 1,700 food gene banks across the world but many are considered vulnerable to natural catastrophes, war, funding deficits, erratic electricity or poor management.

The Svalbard vault, which has the capacity to hold 4.5m crop varieties, was created in conditions resilient to natural and manmade disasters, in order to safeguard duplicates of samples kept elsewhere. It is well above sea level and the permafrost and thick rock ensure seeds remain frozen even without power. The vault is only accessible via a 120-metre tunnel.

Svalbard includes unique varieties of African and Asian staples such as maize, rice, wheat and sorghum, as well as European and South American varieties of aubergine, lettuce, barley and potato. About 500 seeds of each variety are stored at -18C in sealed foil packages.

The climate crisis is still a threat: the vault has required multimillion-dollar upgrades to prevent flooding caused by extreme rainfall and melting of the permafrost.

‘Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” said Stefan Schmitz, executive director of the Crop Trust, which manages the vault with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre. ‘It’s important for the Cherokee nation to have this vital back-up.’

It has been a long road. In 1838, 15,000 Cherokee were expelled by US military and militia from their homelands in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, then forced west to Indian territory, present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee lost about a quarter of their people and their traditional plants and crops.

Inspired by the Svalbard vault, tribal scientists led by Gwin spent several years tracking down “lost” crops in former territories and museums. They started two tribal gardens in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, dedicating one to cultivating 24 of the most significant Cherokee crops. Medicinal and inedible plants such as river cane, a type of bamboo traditionally used for construction, are also grown. Thousands of seed packets are sent each year to Cherokees across the world.”


Holding On to A Racing Tradition

“Indian Relay, a type of bareback horse racing practiced by Native American tribes in the plains states, blends heritage and danger. For one family, it’s a shared passion that means everything.” V. J. Blue, The New York Times

Richard Long Feather, left, with his sons Jace, in white shirt, and Jestin. Credit- Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Excerpt: Holding Tight to a Racing Tradition, Photographs and Text by Victor J. Blue, The New York Times

“Richard Long Feather is searching for his son Jace among the bareback riders as they storm toward the grandstand at the Crow Fair. Stepping away from the rail and onto the dirt of the track, Richard raises his arms above his head as a signal: In one motion, he is telling Jace where to aim and warning Jace’s horse to slow down. Before Jace even reaches his father, he leaps from the back of his horse. Hitting the ground bounding, Jace grabs a handful of mane of a second horse, held by his brother, Jestin, and swings himself onto its back. Jestin slaps the second mount on the rump, and it fires back onto the track. Richard hands off the first horse to a fourth teammate and braces for the next exchange. Dust swirls. The crowd cheers.

This is Indian Relay.

For the Long Feathers, races likes these are both a family undertaking and a deep-rooted passion, a form of competition practiced and sustained by Native American tribes in the plains states. In Indian Relay’s traditional form, one rider completes three circuits of a track, changing his mount after each loop.

Richard, who works as a maintenance supervisor at a local hospital, loading his horses into his trailer after an evening of training.

Each race features up to eight teams consisting of a rider, three steely handlers and three horses. The competitors ride bareback, using only reins and a whip to stay on. As the rider approaches the starting line for each successive lap, he leaps from a running horse onto a fresh one. It is dangerous, athletic and intensely competitive.

Richard Long Feather, the head of his family and his team, was born in 1963 on the Standing Rock reservation, which straddles the border of North and South Dakota and which is home to the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota to which he belongs. Raised by his grandparents, he spoke only Lakota until he was 5. The first horse he rode was yoked to his grandfather’s wagon as it delivered water and provisions to isolated families…As a teenager, he began entering so-called suicide races — unofficial cross-country competitions on improvised courses. After his uncles recruited him as a rider for their Indian Relay team, he built a reputation as a tough rider and dependable breaker of colts.

Richard’s thoroughbreds, failures on the racetrack, now carry his son in Indian Relay races.

As an adult, he and his wife, Virginia, settled their young family near Fort Yates, N.D., where Richard taught his children to ride. The Long Feathers entered their first Indian Relay in 2013… Training for relays is a constant said of the 6 a.m. agility workouts that fill his winter months…Conditioning for the horses starts early, as well. ‘This year we started and there was still three feet of snow on the ground,’ he said. ‘Make ’em jump through those big snow banks. It just builds ’em up.’ In the springtime Jace and Jestin move to the track to train the horses in pairs, working on their exchanges. These split-second handoffs are the key to Indian Relay success. The top relay teams all have quality horses, but every competitor knows a relay is won or lost in the exchanges: If the two transitions are not performed flawlessly, it will not make much difference how fast the horses are…It isn’t just the riders who have to be skilled athletes. The setup man who holds the next mount as the rider circles the track — on Richard’s team, this is Jestin’s job — has to be a great horseman, too. ‘t’s impossible to hold a horse still for longer than a minute,’ Real Bird said. ‘You’ve got to let a horse be a horse.’ And the catcher — Richard, on Team Long Feather — who must stop the speeding horse that arrives has to be fearless. ‘He’s going to get run over,”’Real Bird said, ‘and he’s got to be O.K. with that.’

Richard blessing, or “smudging,” his horses with sage before a race at the Crow Fair.

As post time nears, Richard fills a can with dried sage and lights it. While the boys wrap the legs of the three horses they will run — Cabaret, Mr. Coke Man and Runaway Cal — Richard makes his way from stall to stall, wafting the gray smoke over the horses’ backs, half-singing prayers in Lakota for speed and safety in the race.

Ken Real Bird, a Crow horseman, calls the races at the fair. He has seen the sport grow from a bush-league pastime to a high-stakes competition, with purses worth tens of thousands of dollars. No one knows for sure when Indian Relay began in its modern iteration. The Shoshone Bannock Tribe in Idaho claims to be the originator of the sport, but Real Bird notes that the first Crow Fair, in 1904, had horse racing.

The first heat goes well for the Long Feathers. The exchanges are smooth, and Jace runs hard for second place but is caught at the wire and finishes third. It is good enough to secure a spot in the Sunday’s championship race, but Jace knows it won’t be easy. Teams are getting better every year. ‘Two years ago, you could be good and win anywhere,’ he said. ‘Now, you’ve got to be good just to keep up.’

Richard Long Feather feeding his horses.

The Crow Fair races offer unsatisfying results for the Long Feather team: Jace finishes in fifth place, though the family still heads home with a check.

Richard Long Feather’s horses grazing after competition.

As the sun rises the next day, Richard pulls into his driveway and unloads the horses. Restless after hours in the trailer, they sprint off over the prairie. In minutes, they are out of sight.”

Indigenous Shoppers Were Racially Profiled in Store by Winnipeg Police

“Desiree McIvor wants to see changes in how retail employees interact with Indigenous people.” H. Caruk, CBC News

Excerpt: Winnipeg couple told they ‘look like’ thieves, asked to leave Winnipeg craft store

Desiree McIvor is in the process of filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission against a Michaels store.

“A Winnipeg woman was hoping to buy a Christmas gift for her grandmother at a craft store earlier this week but was told she wasn’t welcome to shop in the store.

Desiree McIvor and her partner were out shopping on Monday afternoon and stopped at the Michaels store on Regent Avenue West.

‘We weren’t even in the door for about five seconds and this lady approached us and I thought it was going to be the usual ‘Hey, do you need any help or assistance?’ said McIvor, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation.

Michaels said it is investigating the incident and take matters of discrimination seriously. (Holly Caruk:CBC)

‘She said, ‘Well, you’re not welcome here and you guys have to leave.’

‘I was in complete shock, I couldn’t believe what she said.’

McIvor, who is eight months pregnant, said the employee then accused the couple of stealing from the store earlier that day.  ‘She said right to my face, ‘You guys look like people who robbed us this morning,’  she said. ‘It was humiliating because everybody in the store stopped and stared at us.’

McIvor said they tried to explain to the employee that they had never been to the store before but the employee insisted they leave…McIvor said they asked to speak to a manager, and the employee said that she was a manager, so they decided to leave the store.

McIvor’s partner called the store from the parking lot and asked for the general manager to try and make a formal complaint. That manager then admitted the employee made a mistake, McIvor said.

‘They just apologized and said we can shop, get a discount for the day, but at that point, who wants to spend your hard earned money when somebody just basically straight out called you a thief?’

A spokeswoman for Michaels said the chain is committed to treating customers with dignity and respect but would not elaborate on their store policies surrounding these kinds of events, or say what recourse a customer has if they feel mistreated…’We are actively investigating the situation and will take appropriate action as necessary.’

McIvor, a 31-year-old university student, said she’s been followed around stores in the past, something she says is common for Indigenous people, but has never been asked to leave.

McIvor said she and her partner felt like they were racially profiled and singled out because of their appearance…McIvor said she won’t ever shop at the store again, and is in the process of filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. She wants the store to change its policies so this doesn’t happen to anyone else. ‘I want them to stop treating Indigenous people… grouping them all together in the same category and saying because one stole everybody steals.’

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission said complaints of racial profiling are common and continue, especially in retail and in law enforcement.

‘This kind of discrimination has been a steady source of complaints for the commission for a number of years,’ said Karen Sharma, executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

‘Anytime you’re making those kinds of judgments based on who you think a person is, rather than on who they’ve proven themselves to be, you open yourself up to risk, whether that’s a human rights complaint or some kind of other legal action,’she said. 

Sharma said customers need to be aware of their rights, but, even more importantly, retailers need to ensure their staff are aware of their obligations.”

Cree Artist Kent Monkman Redraws History for 2020

“Coonskin caps for Christmas! I was a kid in mid-20th-century America. The biggest cultural event I can remember from early childhood was Walt Disney’s gigantically popular “Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter” on TV. The first installment of a serial, which debuted on Dec. 15, 1954, it was basically about the exploits of a Tennessee backwoods gun-for-hire, and promoted nostalgia for the days when the Wild West was ‘won’ from indigenous peoples”. H. Cotter, The New York Times

Mr. Monkman’s “Resurgence of the People,” from 2019, references art history, from “Washington Crossing the Delaware”

Excerpt: A Cree Artist Redraws History, By Holland Cotter, The New York Times

“A verse of the theme song, which was everywhere on the radio, went:

Andy Jackson is our gen’ral’s name

His reg’lar soldiers we’ll put to shame

Them redskin varmints us Volunteers’ll tame

‘Cause we got the guns with the surefire aim

Davy, Davy Crockett, the champion of us all!

Andy Jackson was, of course, Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, whose 1830 signing of the Indian Removal Act led to the Trail of Tears, and whose portrait now hangs, at the request of the 45th and sitting president [Trump], in the Oval Office of the White House.

Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” from 1851, is one of many art references Mr. Monkman updates. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

All this came back to mind when I saw “The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman, mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People)” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The second in a continuing series of contemporary works sponsored by the Met, it consists of two monumental new paintings by the Canadian artist Kent Monkman, installed on either side of the museum’s main entrance in the soaring Great Hall.

The paintings are pretty stupendous. Each measuring almost 11 feet by 22 feet, they are multi-figured narratives, inspired by a Euro-American tradition of history painting but entirely present-tense in theme and tone. And both are unmistakably polemical, suggesting that with this and other commissions — an earlier one, sculptures by the Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu, is still in place on the museum’s Fifth Avenue facade — certain winds of change could be blowing through the Met’s art-temple precincts.

Mr. Monkman, 54, is one of Canada’s best-known contemporary artists, and one who has stirred controversy on his home ground. Of mixed Cree and Irish heritage, he has made the violence done under European occupation, to North America’s first peoples, a central subject of his work.

But he has also, crucially, flipped a conventional, disempowering idea of Native victimhood on its head.

Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, in heels, provides a rescuing hand in Welcoming the Newcomers. His sources include Courbet and Titian.Credit Kent Monkman

His paintings, done in a crisply realistic, highly detailed, somewhat cut-and-paste illustrational style, are far from grim… the image of the artist himself in the guise of his alter ego, a buff, cross-dressing, gender-fluid tribal leader named Miss Chief Eagle Testickle…Miss Chief is an avatar of a global future that will see humankind moving beyond the wars of identity — racial, sexual, political — in which it is now perilously immersed.

The most radical aspect of his work in the context of the Met — an ‘encyclopedic’ museum thoroughly Western in attitude — is that it presents a view of art history through the eyes of the Other, in this case Native Americans and people of Canada’s First Nations. The shift in cultural positioning begins with the exhibition title.

Mistikosiwak, or Wooden Boat People, was a Cree name for European settlers arriving in what is now North America. One of the two paintings, Welcoming the Newcomers, depicts such an arrival, with Native people greeting strangers at the Atlantic shore.

But the scene is less a reception than a rescue. A capsized boat is visible in the distance… Several of the painting’s Indigenous figures are based on examples of 19th-century art in the Met’s collection. Among them are sculptures like ‘Mexican Girl Dying’ by Thomas Crawford (1846), on view in the museum’s American Wing, and paintings like Eugène Delacroix’s ‘The Natchez,’ in the 19th- and early 20th-Century

European galleries. Each of the originals perpetuates the myth of the Native Americans as a vanishing people, doomed to disappear, a fiction that usefully underpinned and fueled another myth, that of Western ‘Manifest Destiny.’

On the left: A detail from Eugène Delacroix’s “The Natchez,” 1823-24 and 1835. The scene was inspired by a romantic novel in which the infant born to a Native couple is doomed to die.Credit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the right:A detail from Kent Monkman’s “Resurgence of the People” updates Delacroix’s pessimistic image by depicting a healthy baby in the arms of a same-sex Indigenous couple. CreditKent Monkman

In Mr. Monkman’s paintings, Indigenous people are, for the most part, proactive figures, shaping the world around them, which doesn’t mean he ignores the catastrophes that followed the European occupation… when he depicts the figure of a child apparently sick and dying in his mother’s arms, he lifts the figure from a painting of “The Massacre of the Innocents” by the European artist Francois Joseph Navez.

Mr. Monkman’s image of the child — a reference to the damage done by the forced placement of Indigenous children in white-run boarding schools — appears in the second Met-commissioned painting, ‘Resurgence of the People.’ Here we are in an imagined future. Centuries have passed since “Welcoming the Newcomers.” Terrible things have happened to the planet. The only remaining bit of solid earth is an island guarded by armed white nationalists and soon to be submerged by a churning oil-slicked sea.

Indigenous people now command an open boat, of a kind familiar from contemporary news photos of refugees. People rescued in the first painting are now rescuers themselves, pulling in and tending to whoever swims toward them, including a white businessman wearing a chunky gold watch and Hermès tie. All of the boat’s rowers are Indigenous; more than half are women dressed in contemporary traditional styles…And once again Miss Chief presides over all, leads the way forward.

She’s modeled on the title figure in Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” one of the Met’s most popular American art attractions… Even in the Met’s two-story-high Great Hall, the two pictures read clearly, vividly, particularly “Resurgence of the People” with its more organic composition, toothsome colors, and skillfully managed use of painted light…If the museum intends to sustain this engagement, as seems likely under its current director, Max Hollein, commissioned projects like this one (and Ms. Mutu’s) are one way to go, leaving trophy displays of celebrity collectibles to art fairs.”

The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman, mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People)

Through April 9 2020 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.

Agate House at night-by Melany Sarafis

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM TALKING-FEATHER!

Click here for more graphics and gifs!

Happy New Year Gif courtesy PicGifs.com.

Early Christmas Gift for Zuni Pueblo!

“The Zuni Pueblo said it has been awarded $5 million as part of a federal grant for tribal-designated housing entities across the United States.” ICT

Excerpt: Zuni Pueblo gets $5 million grant to construct housing, ICT

Zuni Housing Director Mike Chavez told The Gallup Independent last week that the tribe is in dire need of housing and that the grant will help. He says if the tribe had 900 homes available right now, it could fill all of them. He was at a housing-related legal symposium in Las Vegas when he learned about the award.

Hand-painted Zuni Pottery from Misson Del rey

Chavez said it is the first time Zuni Pueblo has been awarded funds for housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Competitive Indian Housing Block Grant.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM TALKING-FEATHER

Agate House at night-by Melany Sarafis

 

Category: Culture