Category Archives: Culture

How Natives Link Cultural Tattoos To Their Ancestors

“As scientists find more tattoos on preserved remains from Indigenous cultures, artists living today are drawing from them to revive cultural traditions.” K. Langolis, The New York Times, July 5, 2021

Elle Festin, a California tattooist of Filipino heritage, uses the Ibaloi and Kankanaey fire mummies. Credit- Nia Macknight for The NYT.jpeg

Excerpt: Inked Mummies, Linking Tattoo Artists With Their Ancestors, By Krista Langlois, The New York Times,  July 5, 2021

“In the 1970s, hunters stumbled upon eight 500-year-old bodies preserved by the Arctic climate near Qilakitsoq, an abandoned Inuit settlement in northwest Greenland. Later, when scientists photographed the mummies with infrared film, they made an intriguing discovery: Five of the six females had delicate lines, dots and arches tattooed on their faces.

Tattoos on an Ibaloi woman in 1999. Credit-Getty Images

For thousands of years, tattoos were more than just body decoration for Inuit and other Indigenous cultures. They served as symbols of belonging, signified coming-of-age rituals, channeled spiritual beliefs or conferred powers that could be called upon while giving birth or hunting. Yet starting around the 17th century, missionaries and colonists intent on ‘civilizing’ Indigenous people put a stop to tattooing in all but the most remote communities.

The practice so thoroughly disappeared in Greenland that Maya Sialuk Jacobsen, who spent her childhood there, worked for a decade as a Western-style tattooist before realizing that her Inuit ancestors had also been tattooists, albeit of a very different nature…’I take great pride in tattooing a woman,’  she said. “When she meets her foremothers in the next world, it will be like looking in a mirror.’

Aaron Deter-Wolf studies ancient North American tattooing tools like this one used by the Pueblo in southeast Utah. Credit- R. Hubner, WSU

Until recently, Western archaeologists largely ignored tattooing. Because of these scientists’ disinterest, tools made for tapping, poking, stitching or cutting human skin were cataloged as sewing needles or awls, while tattooed mummies ‘were regarded more as objects of fascination than scientific specimens,’ said Aaron Deter-Wolf, a prehistoric archaeologist at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and a leading researcher in the archaeology of tattooing…But as tattooing has become more mainstream in Western culture, Mr. Deter-Wolf and other scientists have begun to examine preserved tattoos and artifacts for insights into how past people lived and what they believed.”

Navajo Nation Held First Gay Pride Parade Since Covid-19 Closings

“When Navajo Nation Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown came out to his dad, he was terrified. ‘He’s such a macho man, he doesn’t speak English, very hardcore traditional,’ Brown said. But when Brown told him he was nádleehí, a third gender in Navajo culture, he was surprised by his father’s reaction.” C. Norwell, The Washington Post, June 19, 2021

Drag performer Anya C. Mann in a pride ribbon skirt at the first Navajo Nation Pride Parade at Window Rock, Arizona on June 19, 2021. (Cecilia Nowell for The Washington Post)

Excerpt:Navajo Nation celebrates its first official Pride parade after a devastating year, By Cecilia Nowell, Washington Post, June 21, 2021

‘My father was telling me that I am born the way the Holy People made me,’ Brown said in Navajo, and later repeated in English, from a stage at the now annual Navajo Nation Pride on Saturday. ‘I am a product of his prayers’ and in the Diné kinship system, ‘there is no ‘other’ clan.’

Earlier this month, the Navajo Nation celebrated its fourth annual Pride Week — the largest Indigenous Pride in the country — with a series of virtual gatherings culminating in its first official pride parade on Saturday.

 

People gather in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers during the first Navajo Nation Pride parade. (Cecilia Nowell for The Washington Post)

Brown was among speakers who addressed attendees at one of the Navajo Nation’s first public events since covid-19 restrictions have begun to lift. In front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, Ariz., organizers and public leaders reaffirmed their commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S+) community members and to overturning policies like the Diné Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex marriage in Navajo Nation…’This year is our fourth year and in Diné culture we understand that the number four is a very sacred number,’ invoking the four directions and the four sacred colors, said Navajo Nation Pride’s youth director Geronimo Louie (Navajo). ‘We are a matriarchal society at heart and through our teachings and understandings and our origin stories, women have always been leading and paving the way for all of us as Indigenous people.’ Reclaiming language, organizers say, is an example of overturning colonial influences; so is repealing the Diné Marriage Act.”

ALSO TO CELEBRATE GAY PRIDE:

A Guide To Gender Identity Terms, By Laurel Wamsley, NPR, June 2, 2021

Image- Kaz Fantone for NPR

“Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It’s how someone refers to you in conversation,” says Mary Emily O’Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. “And when you’re speaking to people, it’s a really simple way to affirm their identity.” L. Wamsley, NPR, June 2, 2021

Category: Culture

Navajo Nation Police Need 775 New Officers

With less than 200 officers on the Navajo Nation Police force, getting to this large amount is a lofty goal, especially when it comes to the budget.” A. Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

Navajo Nation police June 13 2021

Excerpt:Navajo police need 775 new officers, report says Arlyssa Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

“The Navajo Nation Police needs 775 officers to meet community demands across the Navajo Nation, according to an assessment done by Strategy Matter and Navajo public safety leadership…’The demands on this department are extreme,’ said Liz O’ Connor, consultant team lead. ‘The range of issues officers are called upon to address, the vast distances they must cross, and the limitation of radio and cellular coverage as well create a nearly impossible situation every day for so many officers in a department of this size.’

The Navajo Police Department’s assessment is 174 pages long and took 18 months to develop. The assessment was unveiled to the public in late May. With this assessment three basic questions are answered such as: Where are we now? Where we want to go? And how will we get there?

But the number of officers needed was the big takeaway from the report…’It’s a unique report for the Navajo Police Department,’ said Chief Phillip Francisco. ‘It’s a lot to digest…some of the recommendations is we are extremely short staffed. Seven hundred fifty would be the ideal number of officers to really do the job that our community demands and to keep our officers safe,’ he said. ‘We have a long way to go to get to that point.’

Navajo Nation

When it comes to the demands placed on the Navajo Nation Police, Navajo lawmakers are quick to express needed service from officers without investing in them. The biggest example is absolutely nothing is done to acquire safe buildings for officers and personnel in Window Rock and Shiprock.

Even more obvious is delegates continuing to advocate for outside police forces to come onto Navajo Nation to help police the Navajo people, an option that Francisco doesn’t agree with…Other weaknesses include: the sense of department unity is not consistently present; information flow is a real challenge for technical and organizational reasons; facilities, the Window Rock station is in a serious state of disrepair, and the Shiprock station is closed; general orders and rules and regulations are outdated (1979) and unhelpful; COVID-19 impacts: it is harder than ever to connect with residents; there is significantly increased demand on dwindling resources at NPD and for partners; recruitment challenges: money, interest, training, disqualifications, available housing, and perceptions among youth.

But the strengths identified include: commitment and dedication of officers at all ranks; younger generation of NPD staff see the department as a unified whole; greatly improved—and growing—confidence in department leadership, among officers, civilian staff, partners and others; thorough (top to mid-managers) commitment to officer wellness and improving early intervention programs; partners and potential partners recognize the challenging circumstances of law enforcement on the Nation and want to support efforts to improve operations, safety, and coordination…‘We learned the NPD leadership is visionary, highly accountable, and trusted by officers, residents, and staff alike,’ said O’Connor. “Invest in this department.”

 

A bakery lost a client when it made rainbow Pride cookies. So others bought every item in the shop.  By Sydney Page, The Washington Post, June 9, 2021

“When a small Southern bakery made rainbow-themed cookies to celebrate Pride Month, there was a swift backlash. On June 2, Confections, a tiny store in Lufkin, Tex., shared a photo on its Facebook page of heart-shaped rainbow sugar cookies with the caption, “More LOVE. Less hate. Happy Pride to all our LGBTQ friends! All lovers of cookies and happiness are welcome here.”

 

The photo of rainbow Pride cookies that was posted on Confections’ Facebook page on June 2.

Category: Culture

“Navajo Nation Police Need 775 New Officers”

“With less than 200 officers on the Navajo Nation Police force, getting to this large amount is a lofty goal, especially when it comes to the budget.”Arlyssa Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

Navajo Police Chief Philip Francisco walks down a roll of newly recruited police officers at the Navajo Police Training Academy on Jan. 2 in Chinle, Arizona.(Photo by Sharon Chischilly/Navajo Times)

 

Excerpt: Navajo police need 775 new officers, report says...Arlyssa Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

“The Navajo Nation Police needs 775 officers to meet community demands across the Navajo Nation, according to an assessment done by Strategy Matter and Navajo public safety leadership…’The demands on this department are extreme,’ said Liz O’ Connor, consultant team lead. ‘The range of issues officers are called upon to address, the vast distances they must cross, and the limitation of radio and cellular coverage as well create a nearly impossible situation every day for so many officers in a department of this size.’

The Navajo Police Department’s assessment is 174 pages long and took 18 months to develop. The assessment was unveiled to the public in late May.  With this assessment three basic questions are answered such as: Where are we now? Where we want to go? And how will we get there?

But the number of officers needed was the big takeaway from the report…’It’s a unique report for the Navajo Police Department,’ said Chief Phillip Francisco. ‘It’s a lot to digest…some of the recommendations is we are extremely short staffed. Seven hundred fifty would be the ideal number of officers to really do the job that our community demands and to keep our officers safe,’ he said. ‘We have a long way to go to get to that point.’

When it comes to the demands placed on the Navajo Nation Police, Navajo lawmakers are quick to express needed service from officers without investing in them. The biggest example is absolutely nothing is done to acquire safe buildings for officers and personnel in Window Rock and Shiprock.

Navajo Nation

Even more obvious is delegates continuing to advocate for outside police forces to come onto Navajo Nation to help police the Navajo people, an option that Francisco doesn’t agree with…Other weaknesses include: the sense of department unity is not consistently present; information flow is a real challenge for technical and organizational reasons; facilities, the Window Rock station is in a serious state of disrepair, and the Shiprock station is closed; general orders and rules and regulations are outdated (1979) and unhelpful; COVID-19 impacts: it is harder than ever to connect with residents; there is significantly increased demand on dwindling resources at NPD and for partners; recruitment challenges: money, interest, training, disqualifications, available housing, and perceptions among youth.

But the strengths identified include: commitment and dedication of officers at all ranks; younger generation of NPD staff see the department as a unified whole; greatly improved—and growing—confidence in department leadership, among officers, civilian staff, partners and others; thorough (top to mid-managers) commitment to officer wellness and improving early intervention programs; partners and potential partners recognize the challenging circumstances of law enforcement on the Nation and want to support efforts to improve operations, safety, and coordination.

For this, the Strategy Matters and public safety leadership consulting team suggested that NPD set an initial target of 500 personnel, with 300 serving as patrol officers, and 200 serving as command and support personnel. These numbers are based on a budget-driven authorized-level approach the Nation has been using and the workload-based approach. ‘We learned the NPD leadership is visionary, highly accountable, and trusted by officers, residents, and staff alike,’ said O’Connor. “Invest in this department.”

 

Celebrating Gay Pride Month!

Lesbians in Ballet: ‘Has Anyone Like Me Ever Walked These Halls?’ By Siobhan Burke, The New York Times, June 1, 2021

Two Juliets- Audrey Malek, left, and Cortney Taylor Key, rehearsing a duet with the choreographer Adriana Pierce. Credit- Yael Malka for The New York Times

“Ballet’s strict gender norms put pressure on women to conform. But dancers who don’t are finding they’re not alone.” S. Burke, The New York Times, June 1, 2021

 

A Two-Spirit Couple Breaking Barriers on the Rez…And Off

“In the summer of 2019, at Minnesota’s Prairie Island Indian Community, photographer and filmmaker Tomás Karmelo Amaya took a portrait of a couple kissing while wearing colorful regalia. The couple, Nevada-based dancers Adrian Matthias Stevens and Sean Snyder, were visiting the reservation to dance in the Tinta Wita Wacipi powwow, a tradition that brought them together — and a tradition in which they are now making history.”J. Palumbo, CNN, February 3, 2021

Adrian Matthias Stevens and Sean Snyder in their own beadwork. Brass work by Jeremy Dial. Photo- Ceylon Grey

 

Excerpt: The Native American couple redefining cultural norms — By Jacqui Palumbo, CNN, February 3, 2021

Stevens, who is of Northern Ute, Shoshone-Bannock and San Carlos Apache heritage; and Snyder, who is of Southern Ute and Navajo heritage, are a Two-Spirit couple that have been together for seven years. Within North American Indigenous communities, Two-Spirit refers to people who possess both masculine and feminine spirits, but it can also be used to represent LGBTQ+ Indigenous people more broadly.

Adrian Matthias Stevens and Sean SnyderPhoto- Tomás Karmelo Amaya

‘It’s not biological, it’s spiritual, and it ties back to what I was taught growing up,’ Stevens told Vogue in 2020. ‘My aunties recognized me as a Two-Spirit individual way before I even recognized it.’

Through his images of the pair, Amaya shows their bond and the beauty of their movement. When Stevens and Snyder met, they were both dancers on Utah’s powwow circuit but it took years for them to perform couples routines — called ‘sweetheart specials’ — together.

Adrian Matthias Stevens and Sean Snyder in their own beadwork. Brass work by Jeremy Dial. Photo- Ceylon Grey

That category was exclusively performed by male and female dancers until 2018, when they became the first Two-Spirit pair to do so, after being disqualified from a dance the year prior.

‘Because our styles are so different, we had to find a way to dance together,’Snyder is quoted as saying in Vogue. ‘And for us being two men, it was surprisingly difficult. You don’t grow up going to dances and learning to dance with another same-sex partner. We had to learn how to lead and how to take direction.’

Since then, their routines and matching regalia — each embellished with their own handmade beadwork — have brought them widespread attention.”

Celebrating Gay Pride Month:

Frank Kameny

Franklin Edward Kameny (May 21, 1925 – October 11, 2011) was an American gay rights activist. He has been referred to as “one of the most significant figures” in the American gay rights movement. n 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the U.S. Army‘s Army Map Service in Washington, D.C., because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin “a Herculean struggle with the American establishment” that would “spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s”. Wikipedia

Category: Culture, Pow Wows, Social | Tags: ,

Native Artists Receive Help From COVID-19 Relief Fund

Noah Watts is a Native American [Crow] TV, film, and theater actor who’s best known for his onscreen roles in ‘Ringer,’ ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ and ‘Skinwalkers.’ He is also  widely known for his voiceover work on the video game franchise ‘Assassin’s Creed…’ But COVID-19 brought those plans to a halt…‘And so, with that, income goes down,’ he added. Then in January, Watts received a $2,000 check that helped him make rent and pay for his groceries.” G. D’Elia, ICT, MAY 25, 2021

Noah Watts Alchetron-

 

Excerpt:Boosting Indigenous creativity, By Gianluca D’Elia, ICTMAY 25, 2021

“Once he learned that the coronavirus could compromise his lungs, Watts, 37, who has asthma, barely left his Billings, Montana, home.  He stopped taking new gigs or roles, except for voiceover work on a video game that he could record remotely.

Assassin’s Creed III

‘I basically had to shut in for a while,’ Watts recalled during a recent Zoom interview, ‘I couldn’t audition for any films. I was auditioning quite a bit when I went to L.A. in 2019. I couldn’t do any of those roles, any theater productions, anything where I had to be live and be around anyone else.’

Watts is one of more than 225 recipients of a grant from the Natives in Entertainment COVID-19 Relief Fund, created in a partnership between the Native American Media Alliance and Netflix to support Indigenous writers, directors, actors and other industry professionals who lost jobs to the pandemic.

Noah Watts in SOA

Ian Skorodin, Choctaw, a filmmaker who is the director of strategy for the alliance, said he encourages all Natives who have lost work to apply, even if it just provides some short-term relief. More than $450,000 worth of grants distributed as of April, and there are still more grants available…’While this amount isn’t life-changing, what we’ve been hearing is that it’s providing an adequate amount to get people through beyond what they were expecting. For makeup artist Mayera Abeita, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, the COVID-19 relief grant helped cover preschool tuition and enrollment for her 4-year-old son. In March 2020, Abeita, 43, had just started working on a TV show pilot that was quickly shut down when the pandemic reached California. That marked the beginning of a six-month period in which the Los Angeles-based artist couldn’t find work…‘However strenuous it was, there were some little things that I was happy to be around for,’ she said.

Watts used his pandemic downtime to go back to school at Little Big Horn College, a tribal community college on the Crow reservation in Montana, for education and Crow Studies. The end goal, he said, is to teach music and acting to Crow youth and fill a gap left by public schools that tend to focus more on athletics than the arts. He said his determination to work with kids inspired him to leave Los Angeles and return to Montana in 2020. Watts, who recently got the COVID-19 vaccine, said he looks forward to working on film and theater projects with members of the Crow tribe.”

For More information Visit: Natives in Entertainment COVID-19 Relief Fund,

 

Category: Culture