“Native Nerd Movie Review: Black Panther Slashes at Colonialism”

“Truth be told, I ordered tickets to see the “fan night movie premiere” over a month in advance to be sure I could see Marvel’s Black Panther in all its IMAX 3D glory…As the all-too familiar Marvel Comics Studio graphics began to play on the screen and I adjusted my 3D glasses in the dimming theater. I was surprised by something I didn’t expect. The theater was completely silent. No food wrappers crinkling, no idle chatter, nothing, I was…like so many others, completely mesmerized by Ryan Coogler’s take on a superhero based in Africa.” V. Schilling, ICTMN

Chadwick Boseman stars in Black Panther.

Excerpt: Native Nerd Movie Review: Black Panther Slashes at Colonialism Using More than Vibranium, Vincent Schilling, ICTMN

“For so many of my childhood years, I have been force-fed the history ‘That any civilization of color was the less than superior race of people.’ I have been taught that the colonizers were the ones that brought knowledge, technology, weaponry and skill-sets to bring other ‘inferior races of color’ into the modern age. I have always been taught: brown skin means you are inferior.

The greatest warriors of Wakanda, the Dora Milaje also known as the ‘adored ones’ are a team of women who serve as the personal bodyguards of the Black Panther.

 

I have brown skin as a Mohawk man. I grew up in the streets of Compton, feeling inferior, just as so many of my friends did. I never dreamed there would someday be a movie, where a black hero could be something ‘superior.’I wept as the movie started. Many of my brown friends never made it out of the streets.

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker plays Zuri, an elder statesman in Wakanda. Black Panther Movie.

This movie undid so much of that damage in my childhood mind, I literally wept with relief that: Yes, world, people with brown skin can be intelligent, people with brown skin can be scientists, they can be strong women warriors, brown people can excel more than colonizers have done in history.

There was a lot about Black Panther that a comic aficionado like myself could expect. (Prince T’Challa is bound to become king, that much is already known as per previous incarnations of Marvel movies as seen before this one.) But Prince T’Challa’s process of becoming King  is where the magic happens.

Scene from film Black Panther.

Let it be said, I do NOT speak for all Native American people, and I have coined the term “Native Nerd Review” because I was a skinny Native kid that love all nerdy things like science, comics, magic tricks, practical jokes and more. As a self-proclaimed Native Nerd, I’d like to think there are more Native nerds out there like me who get a kick out of Marvel and DC superhero movies, Zombies and so much more out there in this world so rich with geekdom…the fictional world of the Black Panther is a beautiful one.

Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o (L) and Dania Gurira (R) prove power of the Dora Milaje

I was thrilled to see such a lack of stereotype among so many different tribes…Ryan Coogler introduces different tribes of Africa. He shows that each tribe has separate belief systems, cultural perspectives, types of dress and regalia and ways of life. All of this is compared and contrasted to the urban ways of America, a powerful sentiment that resonates throughout the film.

Scene from Black Panthercinemabunpodcast.com

The costuming of the world of Wakanda is nothing less than pure genius, I marveled (Pun-intended) at the flawless wardrobe, the female warriors and the intricacies of tradition infused with the most modern of technologies. ..The movie was an absolute blast. I enjoyed every slash of vibranium claws by the Black Panther and screamed with excitement with the overtaking of the bad guys. I also screamed with excitement when one character uses the word ‘colonizer’ as an insult…As I left the movie behind, I did go through a bit of a grieving process as a Native American man.

I am all too familiar with the term ‘colonizer.’ I am all too familiar with being called (first-hand) an inferior race, even though indigenous peoples invented such things as watertight wetsuits, syringes from quills and animal bladders, medicines and more. I grieved because Native Americans don’t yet have a superhero as completely fantastic as the Black Panther. He has a suit that is impenetrable, and has claws with the strongest metal in the world, vibranium.

The beautiful Lupita Nyong’o at the Los Angeles world premiere of the Black Panther . Photo- Vanity Fair

Danai Gurira wowed in a black and pink Viktor & Rolf dress at the Los Angeles world premiere of Marvel’s Black Panther.wstale.com

I have hope that one day we will have a Native superhero without an eagle or wolf friend standing at his side, one that doesn’t have super tracking abilities or anything else related to the elements…If the Black Panther is overlooked by the Oscars this year, I am going to give the biggest SMH the social media world has ever seen.

I enjoyed every single solitary moment of this spectacular film! It is a MUST SEE!

Category: Films

Tribal Leaders: Infrastructure Bill Should Include Indian Country

“Native American leaders are once again pushing for a seat at the decision-making table, saying this week that tribal nations have been overlooked for ‘too often and too long.’ Their latest concern comes with Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan…That same day, President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) told the annual gathering of tribal leaders that, in 2018, no infrastructure bill should pass unless it includes Indian Country’s priorities.”  A. St. Clair, NPR

President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians gives the annual State of the Indian Nations address.

Excerpt:  Tribal Leaders: Infrastructure Bill Should Include Indian Country Priorities — Andrienne St. Clair, NPR

“Trump urged Congress to act quickly on an infrastructure bill that would stimulate the economy, shorten the process to approve building projects and address continuing infrastructure needs in rural areas. The proposed bill would also give more power to state and local authorities and provide training for the younger American workforce.

Trump’s proposal reiterates points he outlined in the State of the Union last month, when he described America as ‘a nation of builders.’Keel used a similar phrase in his State of the Indian Nations address on Monday.

Native peoples are also builders and managers of roads and bridges and other essential infrastructure,’ he said. Keel said that a 2018 infrastructure bill should ensure that all communities — including native communities — have the framework needed to succeed. He emphasized that Congress should give tribes the same opportunities that state and local governments have to raise money, invest sufficient funding in basic building needs, remove barriers for tribes to make decisions and support tribal right to consent to developments that affect tribes and tribal lands…Keel is on board with the president’s proposal.

‘It’s not that we disagree with his priorities,’ Keel told NPR on Thursday. ‘We just want to be included in any of those plans for development of plans or policies that affect Indian Country in a way that we can not only protect our lands, but we can improve the relationship.’

And, from what Trump said in his State of the Union address, he seems to be on board with the entire country working together to improve the country’s interior:

‘Together, we can reclaim our building heritage,’ he said. ‘We will build gleaming new roads, bridges,    highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.’

But then, it may come down to semantics and how Trump defines ‘together,’ ‘we,’ and ‘American.”

Category: Politics

Exactly Who’s Running for Navajo President This Year?

“Just six months out from the primary election, only two candidates — Rex Lee Jim and Dineh Benally — have formally announced their intention to run for the Navajo Nation’s highest office. But several more seem to be warming up their campaign muscles — including the incumbent.” A. Bencenti and C. Yurth, Navajo Times

Dineh Benally.

Excerpt: Who’s running? Lineup still unclear for NN president campaign By A. Bencenti and C. Yurth, Navajo Times

“Filing is late this year — it doesn’t even start until May 17 — so keep in mind there are no official candidates as of yet. Still, the rumor mill is grinding away as usual, so the Times tracked down some of the usual suspects to see if it could get a straight answer out of anybody.

Rex Lee Jim

Responding to a request for comment with a written statement, President Russell Begaye declared ‘we” are “seriously considering’ going for a second term, accompanied by a list of accomplishments along with works in progress he would like to continue.

President Russell Begaye

Vice President Jonathan Nez,

Unless the president of the Navajo Nation gets to use the “royal we,” one could assume he’s referring to Vice President Jonathan Nez, which would seem to quell rumors that Nez is preparing to run against his current boss.”

 

Category: Politics

Natives in the Hamptons Fight for Right to Catch (Very Expensive) Fish

“Shinnecock Indians have fished the local waters here on the East End of Long Island since before European settlers first appeared in the 1600s, up through its evolution into the wealthy summer playground known as the Hamptons. So David Taobi Silva, 42, a tribal member who lives on the reservation just outside of Southampton village, says that when he harvests fish locally, he needs no commercial license from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and is exempt from its strict regulations to protect fish populations.But that is not how the state sees it — and the result is a clash between contemporary rules and ancient customs.” C. Kilgannon, The New York Times

David Taobi Silva, a Shinnecock Indian, stood on a dock within the Shinnecock Reservation in Long Island, near where he received a ticket for illegal fishing.

Excerpt: Indians in the Hamptons Stake Claim to a Tiny Eel With a Big Payday, By Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times

“Two Environmental Conservation officers got a tip last year that Mr. Silva had stretched a long net in a creek off the reservation. They found him at night harvesting an elusive and valuable catch: the nearly invisible tiny eels that wriggle into the headwaters of local bays along the Atlantic coast for several weeks each spring.

These toothpick-size eels, also called elvers or glass eels for their translucent bodies, can bring staggering prices in Asian markets, up to $2,500 per pound in a peak market.

Mr. Silva had been harvesting elvers, or glass eels. The eels can bring up to $2,500 per pound in a peak market. Credit Robert F. Bukaty:Associated Press

They are illegal to harvest in New York, a regulation state officials call vital in protecting a depleted population. But Mr. Silva told the officers that he was free to gather the eels, citing an aboriginal right to fish locally that is based on Shinnecock tradition and ancient treaties that predate and supersede government laws.

Mr. Silva had been harvesting elvers, or glass eels. The eels can bring up to $2,500 per pound in a peak market. Credit Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

‘We’ve been fishing here forever, so it’s hard for me to understand that it has suddenly become illegal for Shinnecock people,’ said Mr. Silva, who was nevertheless charged with illegally harvesting the eels.

The officers seized his nets. And though the several hundred tiny eels added up to perhaps a fistful, they were still worth $500, said Mr. Silva, who now faces possible fines that could exceed $80,000…The eels have sparked a gold rush hysteria and a related reality show in Maine, which has restricted catch quotas.

In 2016, federal and state agents conducted a four-year investigation they called “Operation Broken Glass,” and charged dealers and fishermen across several Atlantic states with trafficking nearly $2 million in elvers, which are flown live to Asian aquaculture companies and raised for use as seafood delicacies (sushi and sashimi).

Mr. Silva plans on citing cases in which local courts have recognized Shinnecock fishermen’s exemption from state regulations, and federal cases in which Indian treaties were deemed to have superseded state laws.”

Category: Law

Native Film Celebrates Success!

“The film “Neither Wolf Nor Dog’ celebrates most successful self-distributed feature film of 2017 including the longest theatrical run in U.S.” V. Schilling, ICMN

Courtesy InYo Entertainment Dave Bald Eagle, Christopher Sweeney, and Richard Ray Whitman on the road in ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog.’

Excerpt: Native Feature Film: Neither Wolf Nor Dog Celebrates Record Breaking Year for 2017 By Vincent Schilling, ICMN

“The main boasting point for Neither Wolf Nor Dog is that the film is an independent audience-financed and self-distributed release. The film was launched in small towns and went on to outperform Hollywood blockbusters in numerous multiplexes.

According to the film’s producer and director, Simpson, ‘No other filmmaker distributed movie has performed anywhere near as well in 2017.’

Courtesy InYo Entertainment Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle in the film ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog.’

Hugh Wronski, Senior Publicist for Lagoon theaters in Minneapolis, MN said, ‘The Lagoon’s opening weekend of Neither Wolf Nor Dog was the best weekend gross in the entire country. It’s nice to see that beautifully told stories can still find an audience.’ 

ICTMN

The filmmakers of Neither Wolf Nor Dog  also cited a higher proportion of Native-owned cinemas playing the film than any film before. “Around 10% of theaters were owned by tribes, or tribal members, including the Ak-Chin in Maricopa,” said Simpson…The film is worth noting for its simplicity and attention paid to Native culture. The film had 18 shooting days on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a crew of 2 and a 95-year-old lead Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle.”

 

NOTICE: Schools and other groups that would be interested in setting up a showing of the film can email event@inyoentertainment.com. Those waiting for the DVD release can join the mailing list for information https://goo.gl/aBWYxw.

 

Category: Culture, Films

The Indian Slaves of New Mexico!

“Lenny Trujillo made a startling discovery when he began researching his descent from one of New Mexico’s pioneering Hispanic families: One of his ancestors was a Native slave. ‘I didn’t know about New Mexico’s slave trade, so I was just stunned,’ said Mr. Trujillo, 66, a retired postal worker who lives in Los Angeles. ‘Then I discovered how slavery was a defining feature of my family’s history.’ Mr. Trujillo is one of many Latinos who are finding ancestral connections to a flourishing slave trade on the blood-soaked frontier now known as the American Southwest.” S. Romero, The New York Times

Floyd E. Trujillo, right, swabbed the inside of his mouth for a DNA sample as his son Virgil spoke with Miguel A.. Tórrez, a genealogist. Credit- A. Malcolm, NYT

Excerpt: Indian Slavery Once Thrived in New Mexico.Latinos Are Finding Family Ties to It. By Simon Romero, The New York Times

“Their captive forebears were Native Americans — slaves frequently known as Genízaros (pronounced heh-NEE-sah-ros) who were sold to Hispanic families when the region was under Spanish control from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many Indian slaves remained in bondage when Mexico and later the United States governed New Mexico. The revelations have prompted some painful personal reckonings over identity and heritage. But they have also fueled a larger, politically charged debate on what it means to be Hispanic and Native American.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Abiquiú, N.M., a village settled by former Indian slaves, or Genízaros, in the 18th century. A. Malcolm, NYT

A growing number of Latinos who have made such discoveries are embracing their indigenous backgrounds, challenging a long tradition in New Mexico in which families prize Spanish ancestry.

Some are starting to identify as Genízaros. Historians estimate that Genízaros accounted for as much as one-third of New Mexico’s population of 29,000 in the late 18th century.

‘We’re discovering things that complicate the hell out of our history, demanding that we reject the myths we’ve been taught,’ said Gregorio Gonzáles, 29, an anthropologist and self-described Genízaro who writes about the legacies of Indian enslavement.

Those legacies were born of a tortuous story of colonial conquest and forced assimilation.

New Mexico, which had the largest number of sedentary Indians north of central Mexico, emerged as a coveted domain for slavers almost as soon as the Spanish began settling here in the 16th century… Seeking to strengthen the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, Congress passed the Peonage Act of 1867 after learning of propertied New Mexicans owning hundreds and perhaps thousands of Indian slaves, mainly Navajo women and children.

Many Hispanic families in New Mexico have long known that they had indigenous ancestry, even though some here still call themselves ‘Spanish’ to emphasize their Iberian ties and to differentiate themselves from the state’s 23 federally recognized tribes, as well as from Mexican and other Latin American immigrants…Revelations about how Indian enslavement was a defining feature of colonial New Mexico can be unsettling for some in the state, where the authorities have often tried to perpetuate a narrative of relatively peaceful coexistence between Hispanics, Indians and Anglos, as non-Hispanic whites are generally called here.

Genízaros and their offspring sometimes escaped or served out their terms of service, then banded together to forge buffer settlements against Comanche raids… Moisés Gonzáles, a Genízaro professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico, has identified an array of Genízaro outposts that endure in the state, including the villages Las Trampas and San Miguel del Vado…’Some Natives say those in Abiquiú are pretend Indians,’ said Mr. Tórrez, the genealogist. ‘But who’s to say that the descendants of Genízaros, of people who were once slaves, can’t reclaim their culture?’

Some Native Americans also chafe at the gains some Hispanics here have sought by prioritizing their ancestral ties to European colonizers…The discovery of indigenous slave ancestry can be anything but straightforward, as Mr. Trujillo, the former postal worker, learned.

First, he found his connection to a Genízaro man in the village of Abiquiú. Delving further into 18th century baptismal records, he then found that his ancestor somehow broke away from forced servitude to purchase three slaves of his own.”

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