Category Archives: Culture

The New PBS Cartoon ‘Molly of Denali’ is the First to Have a Native Lead

“The new PBS cartoon ‘Molly of Denali,’ which centers on an Alaska Native family, is perhaps PBS’s most ambitious effort yet to educate its young viewers about a distinct cultural group.” J. Jacobs, The New York Times

Excerpt: With ‘Molly of Denali,’ PBS Raises Its Bar for Inclusion, By Julia Jacobs, The NYT

“When two children’s television producers from the East Coast set out to make a show about an Alaska Native girl whose parents run a rural trading post, there was no question that they would need some cultural guidance.

The new PBS cartoon Molly of Denali, which centers on an Alaska Native family.

Dorothea Gillim, who was executive producer of the ‘Curious George’ television series, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where the grocery chain Wegmans originated, and she had long imagined a children’s show that centered on a store that was the hub of the community. The show’s other creator, Kathy Waugh, who was a writer on ‘Arthur,’ envisioned a story about an adventurous young girl living in a remote area.

The setting for the show came to Gillim in 2015, when the news media was covering President Obama’s trip to Alaska.

On the eve of the visit he [President Obama] announced that the name of Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, would be restored to Denali, its Alaska Native name.

A scene from Molly of

The show that the producers dreamed up, called ‘Molly of Denali,’ ended up becoming a PBS cartoon about a 10-year-old Athabascan girl with a video blog about life in rural Alaska. PBS says it is the first nationally distributed children’s series with a Native American lead.

The show, which premieres across the country on Monday, was written for children ages 4 to 8. It follows the spunky and inventive Molly Mabray and her friends as they solve kid-friendly problems, like earning enough money to buy an inflatable tube to ride on the water or finding ways to keep four-legged creatures out of their garden.

The core narrative of the show involves Molly making new connections to her Native identity…PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the nonprofit that distributes federal funds to public broadcasting stations and programs, including ‘Molly of Denali,’ urged the producers to find a way to intimately involve Alaska Native people in the making of the show.

In one episode of Molly of Denali, Molly and her two friends prepare for a canoeing competition. Credit PBS Kids

To make sure they got the show right, the Boston public broadcaster WGBH, which produced the show, involved more than 60 people who are Alaska Native, First Nations or Indigenous in writing the scripts, advising on cultural and linguistic issues, recording the theme song and voicing the characters. ‘We recognized our own ignorance of the subject and we didn’t want to repeat stereotypes,’ Gillim said…It’s a scope of inclusion rarely seen in children’s television, one the show’s Native writers and advisers hope becomes a new standard for how TV producers handle specific cultural identities…’It became very clear to me that I’m sitting with people who don’t know anything about my culture, about where I came from,’ said Luke Titus, one of the advisers.  Titus, 78, an Alaska Native elder who is Lower Tanana Athabascan, discussed growing up in a small cabin in an Alaskan village and the centrality of nature in his community. He eventually got used to the idea that it was O.K. to interrupt the producers to share his own insight, a behavior that isn’t part of his culture’s custom, he said. He shared painful stories, too, including one about being sent away to boarding school when he was about 12 years old, part of a broader forced assimilation campaign by the United States government.

Boarding school is a common childhood memory for Native Americans of a certain generation… At the heart of the show are Molly’s efforts to learn about her family’s Alaska Native heritage and sustain it as a member of a younger generation.”

United Houma Nation Braces for Tropical Storm Barry

“Louisiana tribe [United Houman Nation] evacuates citizens to shelters provided by federally-recognized tribes ** Updated Saturday 9 am EST” P. Talahongva, ICT

Chief August Creppel of the United Houma Nation

Excerpt: Tribes brace for Tropical Storm Barry, By Patty Tala hongva, ICT

“Tropical Storm Barry is expected to be a full-blown hurricane by the time it hits land in the gulf coast early Saturday morning. It is the first hurricane of the season.

For days Chief August Creppel of the United Houma Nation, south of New Orleans, and his staff have been issuing warnings and preparing its 17,000-plus members to evacuate 24 hours in advance. The tribe’s headquarters is in Golden Meadow along the gulf and in the direct path of the storm. Most of the members live in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish which are both under emergency evacuation orders by local officials.

This photo was taken in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. Some tribal members didn’t rebuild after Katrina. (Facebook)

‘Definitely thousands of our people will be affected by the hurricane,’ warns the chief. He also serves as firefighter and will be on duty until Monday morning.

‘We have a radio station,’ says Creppel. ‘I have a council of people in different areas who keep in contact with local communities. We also have a tribal website we put out information.’

On the front page of the tribe’s website is a form members can fill out to report storm damage and request funds for repairs once they return home.

Tribal members packed their bags and piled furniture high on Thursday to try and avoid the expected floodwaters as much as possible. Nothing is guaranteed because the storms seem to be increasing due to climate change.

A Category 1 hurricane used to be ‘no problem,’ said Chief Creppel. ‘Normally our people would just ride it out, but now it doesn’t take much high water and our people are already flooded.’

Because they are only state-recognized tribe he will not get direct federal aid to help his tribal members. They will rely on state assistance, the goodwill of donors and emergency-assistant groups like the Red Cross, which has already contacted the tribe.

‘We can do more for our people once we get federal recognition,’ he says. ‘Right now, I’m trying to push through Congress to get a bill passed.’

The Tunica Biloxi tribe has a big pavilion and are set up to host storm evacuees. Tunica is a three-hour drive away.

Houma citizens can also seek shelter with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw which is a five- to six-hour drive away. Both of those tribes are federally-recognized.”

FILM: The Buffalo Hunt

“This haunting documentary looks at the ritual of the hunt and its place in the history and identity of today’s Lakota Sioux.” K. Han, The New York Times

Film- The Buffalo Hunt- poster credit-Kansas City Film Fest

Excerpt: ‘The Buffalo Hunt’ Review: The Sacred Ties That Bind

“At first glance, ‘The Buffalo Hunt’ seems fairly straightforward… the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota take apart a buffalo, using the skin to make drums and splitting up the meat for those who could not attend the hunt, as well as for a communal soup.

‘The Buffalo Hunt’ seeks to show SD tribe in a new light. DRG NEWS

It’s that last use around which the documentary eventually coalesces, becoming a striking, poetic look at the Lakota Sioux…The process of killing a buffalo is deftly juxtaposed with what the buffalo will be used for, and with the way it serves the community and brings it together.

The Buffalo Hunt LLC, amm Brewer, left, and Oglala Lakota Chief Ricky Gray. The Daily Herald

THE BUFFALO HUNT – Official Trailer

Interstitial scenes help paint a more comprehensive picture as the film’s subjects discuss problems with drug use, generational trauma and the temptation to leave the reservation…Despite the hardships they’ve suffered and continue to endure, these are people who have learned how to survive and to provide for one another. The little details — the cook whose T-shirts all seem to reference marijuana, the old man whose shedding of his jacket is intercut with the skinning of the buffalo — come across as loving. After all, the ultimate purpose of the buffalo is to feed and nurture.”

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Air Canada is the First Airline to Hire an All Indigenous Crew!

“An all-Indigenous crew — two pilots and nine flight attendants — marked National Indigenous Peoples Day in the operation of an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver.” Wind Speaker News

An all-Indigenous crew

Excerpt: Air Canada is the first to deploy an entirely Indigenous-operated flight.

“Air Canada’s flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner, flight AC185, was also greeted by Indigenous employees on the ground and received a Musqueam welcome on arrival.

‘We are honoured to salute and acknowledge the achievements and contributions of Air Canada’s 350 First Nations, Inuit and Métis employees, who originated the idea of operating a flight with an all-Indigenous crew, said Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, Senior Vice President – People, Culture & Communications.’

‘We are thrilled to champion their pride in their identity and their professional attainments in aviation, which also makes them incredible ambassadors for our company and role models for young people.’  Air Canada is the first to deploy an entirely Indigenous-operated flight acknowledging the contributions of their Indigenous employees, said JP Gladu, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.”

Also in Canadian Indigenous News:

“Indigenous points of view now included as Canada updates cancer control strategy” By Sam Laskaris Contributor

“Indigenous officials are thrilled Canada’s newest strategy for cancer control includes priorities and actions specific to Indigenous people.”

Category: Business, Culture

Evidence of Native Ancestors Found in Siberia

“Genetic analysis of ancient teeth and bones suggests Native Americans largely descend from a vanished group called the Ancient Paleo-Siberians.” C. Zimmer, The New York Times

The archaeological site near the Yana River. MSN

Excerpt: Who Were the Ancestors of Native Americans? A Lost People in Siberia, Scientists Say By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times

A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas.

Image- The New York Times

‘In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,’ said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. ‘It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.’

Decades of research by archaeologists and linguists suggests that people first came to the Americas at the end of the last ice age, by 14,500 years ago. The route, most experts believe, was a land bridge that connected Alaska and Siberia across what is now the Bering Sea.

But Siberia is a vast land that has been home to many cultures over thousands of years. Researchers turned to DNA in hopes of clarifying which of these were the ancestors of Native Americans…The history of Siberia runs surprisingly deep.

After humans evolved in Africa, they started moving to other continents about 70,000 years ago. About 45,000 years ago, humans had reached the northern edge of Siberia, where they hunted mammoths and other big game.

The two 31,000-year-old milk teeth found at the Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site in Russia which led to the discovery of a new group of ancient Siberians. Credit- Russian Academy of Sciences.

Vladimir V. Pitulko, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and his colleagues provided Dr. Willerslev with two human baby teeth from a site in Siberia called Yana. His team extracted DNA from both teeth, which turned out to come from two boys. The teeth are 31,600 years old, making the DNA they contain the oldest human genetic material retrieved from Siberia.

When Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues compared genetic variants in the Yana DNA with living and ancient people, they found that the Siberian boys belonged to a previously unknown population. The scientists call them the Ancient North Siberians.

Most of their ancestry can be traced back to the early migration out of Africa — in particular, to people who would eventually spread into Europe.

Several thousand years before the Yana boys lived, the Ancient North Siberians encountered people more closely related to East Asians. People from the two populations interbred, and as a result, the Yana boys inherited a mix of the two ancestries…The migration that brought the ancestors of living Native Americans into the Americas might not have been the first.

It is possible, Dr. Willerslev speculated, that the Ancient North Siberians got to Alaska or Canada thousands of years earlier.

“It opens the question, ‘Should we dig deeper for older sites?’ said Dr. Willerslev. And now we know what to look for.”

Category: Culture

Shinnecock Nation v. The Mighty Hamptons

“For the legion of rich and famous in New York, the unofficial start of summer means migrating east by luxury vehicle to the Hamptons… But this Memorial Day weekend they were greeted with a jarring new sight, two six-story illuminated billboards being hastily constructed by a local Native American tribe just in time for the high season.”C. Kilgannon, The New York Times

From left, Margo ThunderBird, Rebecca Hill-Genia and Lynda Hunter, members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Excerpt: a Hamptons Highway Is a Battleground Over Native American Rights – Cory Kilgannon, NYT

“Tall enough to rise above much of the tree line of this state roadway, the twin billboards — with bright electronic display panels operating around the clock — are about as far from the standards of the Hamptons as could be imagined. The billboards are being put up by the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a tribe that for many centuries before this area was settled by Europeans in the 1600s occupied wide expanses of what is now some of the priciest real estate in the world and a summertime playground for the 1 percent.

The tribe is defying local and state orders to stop the construction, arguing that it is building on sovereign tribal land. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times

Besides the 1,550-member tribe’s modest reservation nearby, the small parcel spanning the highway at the billboards’ site is nearly the only land the Shinnecock still retain. The tribe is partnering with an outdoor advertising company to run local ads on the billboards, as well as national campaigns for high-end brands like Rolex, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Its members are determined to use the revenue as an economic engine to revitalize the tribe.

Town officials say the signs are an eyesore and are more suited to Times Square. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times

But the billboards have infuriated much of the Hamptons, where such signs violate government regulations. Stop-work orders have been issued by state and town officials who call them eyesores and distractions to drivers…The signs are “clearly out of character” with the town’s low-rise, low-key style, said Jay Schneiderman, Southampton’s town supervisor. But the Shinnecock insist that their sovereign status exempts them from any government rules.

The tribe had defied a cease-and-desist order from the state Department of Transportation, as well as a stop-work order from the agency delivered by state troopers to the work site, said Bryan Polite, the tribe’s chairman.

Bryan Polite, the tribe’s chairman said the signs are about providing resources to the nation. H. Walsh, NYT

A message on the signs welcomes drivers not to the Hamptons, but rather to the Shinnecock Nation, whose base is a 980-acre reservation nearby, just outside Southampton, a chic village filled with luxury boutiques and upscale dining spots…Lance Gumbs, the tribe’s vice chairman, pointed toward a nearby cellphone tower as an example of the town permitting other tall structures. And new condos were allowed at a location near the Shinnecock Canal, which the tribe had long considered a sacred place because it was a site where their forebears landed tribal canoes.

‘They routinely desecrate our sacred land,’ he said, ‘and they’re complaining about a sign on a highway?’

Regarding the signs’ appropriateness, tribal members pointed out that the town’s zoning has failed to stop plenty of outsize mansions.”


Category: Culture