Category Archives: Culture

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

“Levi Oakes, last WWII Mohawk Code Talker, dead at 94”

“Canadian Second World War veteran Levi Oakes, who was the last survivor of the men identified as Mohawk Code Talkers, has died. He was 94 and died at home with his family at his side, his daughter Dora said.” The Globe

Levi Oakes, from Akwesasne, receives a standing ovation after being recognized by the Speaker of the House of Commons Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in Ottawa. A. Wyld, Canadian Press

Excerpt: Levi Oakes, last WWII Mohawk Code Talker, dead at 94, The Globe

“Though born in Canada, Mr. Oakes had enlisted in the U.S. military. He became a Code Talker, one of the indigenous servicemen who used their native languages to stymie the enemy’s attempts to eavesdrop on their units’ communications.

Louis Levi Oakes registered for the U.S. Army at the age of 18.

He was one of 17 Mohawks recognized under the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, an American law that granted Congressional Medals to First Nations and individuals who participated in those programs.

‘He bravely served in the Second World War … Thank you for your loving grace and service to our people,’ Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a Tweet. ‘These were immense contribution by indigenous people to the war effort,’ Liberal MP Marc Miller, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said.

“We’ve lost a hero. We’ve lost someone who selflessly served.’

Mr. Bellegard and Mr. Miller were among the people who in recent years paid tribute to Mr. Oakes. Two years ago he received the Congressional Silver Medal. Last December, he was introduced in the House of Commons, met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and was honoured at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations…

Louis Levi Oakes was born on Jan. 23, 1925, on the Canadian side of Akwesasne, the Mohawk reserve that straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York State. He was the second of the five children of Angus Oakes and Mary Porke.

He left school early and, since many Akwesasne Mohawks move freely across the U.S.-Canada border, he went to work in a steel plant in Buffalo, N.Y.

In an interview with the U.S. Congress’ Veterans History Project, Mr. Oakes recalled that after the war started, he never considered serving with the Canadian army. He said that was because one of his brothers had been handcuffed and roughed up by Canadian police for failing to report for military induction… Instead, shortly after Mr. Oakes turned 19, in January 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. military. ‘I didn’t mind it, I was young,’ he said…’They found out I was a Mohawk,’ he recalled. ‘The top commander gave me a piece of paper I had to translate to Mohawk.’

That steered him towards the signal branch and a Code Talker position so that, before he boarded a troop transport in San Francisco, he took the secrecy oath that he would heed for seven decades…Following Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Mr. Oakes spent four winter months there with the occupation forces. Eventually, his unit was disbanded, he was sent back to the Philippines before shipping back to the U.S. Back home, he married Annabelle Mitchelle and they raised seven boys and three daughters.

Like many other Mohawk men, he became an ironworker, commuting to construction sites across the continent to erect the metal skeletons of bridges and skyscrapers. He said he worked on bridges in Buffalo and New York City.”

Another Native Mascot Bites The Dust!

“Maine has banned the use of Native American mascots in its public schools and colleges, making it the first state in the nation to fully outlaw the use of such images by educational institutions and athletic programs.” C. Hauser, The New York Times

A mural depicting the mascot of Skowhegan Area High School in Maine. In March, the mascot was retired. Credit Michael G. Seamans:Portland Press Herald,

Excerpt: Maine Just Banned Native American Mascots. It’s a Movement That’s Inching Forward. By Christine Hauser, The New York Times

“Gov. Janet T. Mills, a Democrat, signed “An Act to Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools” on Thursday. The legislation, which was passed unanimously, prohibits Maine’s public educational institutions from adopting a name, symbol or image related to a Native American tribe, person, custom or tradition for use as a mascot, logo or team name.

Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation in Maine, said this week that the law, which will take effect this fall, ‘sends a message of truth and honor and respect.’

‘It is part of a big picture of historical oppression of Indigenous people,’ she said. “When you see people as less than people, you treat them accordingly. That actually points to the very core of it, is that they make us invisible and turn us into stereotypes.’

State Representative Benjamin Collings, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a statement: ‘Our tribal communities laid the foundation of our state. They are people, not mascots.’

The National Congress of American Indians, a public education and advocacy group, said it applauded Maine for its new law and hoped other states would follow ‘on the right side of history.’

Although not as broad, similar steps have been taken by other states and educational institutions:

In 2012, Oregon’s Board of Education decided that all public schools must eliminate Native American team names and mascots or lose their funding.

In Massachusetts, an act prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools has been submitted to the Joint Committee on Education for a hearing.

California’s Racial Mascots Act has prohibited public schools from using “redskins” as a school or athletic team name, mascot or nickname since Jan. 1, 2017.

Florida State University, whose mascot is the Seminoles, was one of 18 institutions that the N.C.A.A. in 2005 prohibited from using “mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin.” But the university was allowed to keep its mascot with approval from the 3,200-member Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Another of those institutions was the University of North Dakota, which dropped its Fighting Sioux nickname in 2012 in favor of the Fighting Hawks.

The professional teams that use Native American mascots include the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Cleveland Indians.

Their names and logos have long faced especially strong opposition given their ubiquity in the teams’ home regions. Some of the measures to restrict the symbols have not taken the form of outright abandonment. Beginning this year, the Cleveland Indians’ uniforms no longer include the logo of Chief Wahoo: a grinning, red-faced caricature. But Major League Baseball guidelines say that the logo will continue to appear on some merchandise at certain outlets.”


Category: Culture