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.”

Climate Change Hits Native Americans Harder than other Americans

“Many Native people were forced into the most undesirable areas of America, first by white settlers, then by the government. Now, parts of that marginal land are becoming uninhabitable.” C. Flavelle, The New York Times, June 27, 2021

Chefornak’s preschool sits on stilts in thawing permafrost. At high tide, water reaches the building, which needs to be moved to safer land.Credit…Ash Adams for The New York Times

Excerpt:Dispossessed, Again: Climate Change Hits Native Americans Especially Hard, By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times, June 27, 2021

“In Chefornak, a Yu’pik village near the western coast of Alaska, the water is getting closer. The thick ground, once frozen solid, is thawing. The village preschool, its blue paint peeling, sits precariously on wooden stilts in spongy marsh between a river and a creek. Storms are growing stronger. At high tide these days, water rises under the building, sometimes keeping out the children, ages 3 to 5. The shifting ground has warped the floor, making it hard to close the doors. Mold grows.

‘I love our building,’ said Eliza Tunuchuk, one of the teachers. ‘At the same time, I want to move.’ The village, where the median income is about $11,000 a year, sought help from the federal government to build a new school on dry land — one of dozens of buildings in Chefornak that must be relocated. But agency after agency offered variations on the same response: no.

From Alaska to Florida, Native Americans are facing severe climate challenges, the newest threat in a history marked by centuries of distress and dislocation. While other communities struggle on a warming planet, Native tribes are experiencing an environmental peril exacerbated by policies — first imposed by white settlers and later the United States government — that forced them onto the country’s least desirable lands.

A home that collapsed into the eroding coast. Credit- Ash Adams NYT

And now, climate change is quickly making that marginal land uninhabitable. And now, climate change is quickly making that marginal land uninhabitable. The first Americans face the loss of home once again.

A totem pole in Taholah, Wash., that was carved to commemorate the 2013 Tribal Canoe Journey, an annual event for Pacific Northwest tribes.Credit…Josué Rivas for The New York Times

In the Pacific Northwest, coastal erosion and storms are eating away at tribal land, forcing native communities to try to move inland. In the Southwest, severe drought means Navajo Nation is running out of drinking water… Many tribes have been working to meet the challenges posed by the changing climate. And they have expressed hope that their concerns would be addressed by President Biden, who has committed to repairing the relationship with tribal nations…FEMA said it is committed to improving tribal access to its programs.

Taholah is exposed to storms and flooding but the tribe has struggled to get enough federal help to relocate.Credit…Josué Rivas for The New York Times

Chefornak’s efforts to relocate its preschool illustrate the current difficulties of dealing with the federal government.

While FEMA offers grants to cope with climate hazards, replacing the school wasn’t an eligible expense, according to Max Neale, a senior program manager at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, who helped Chefornak search for federal aid.

Damian Cabman, a member of the Navajo tribe, filled buckets of water to take home at the Bataan water loading station in Gallup, N.M. Kalen Goodluck:NYT

Twice a week, Vivienne Beyal climbs into her GMC Sierra in Window Rock, a northern Arizona town that is the capital of Navajo Nation, and drives 45 minutes across the border into New Mexico. When she reaches the outskirts of Gallup, she joins something most Americans have never seen: a line for water… The facility, which is run by the city of Gallup, works like an air pump at a gas station: Each quarter fed into the coin slot buys 17 gallons of water. Most of the people in line with Ms. Beyal are also Navajo residents, crossing into New Mexico for drinking water…But unlike nearby communities like Gallup and Flagstaff, Navajo Nation lacks an adequate municipal water supply. About one-third of the tribe lives without running water…The drought is also changing the landscape. Reptiles and other animals are disappearing with the water, migrating to higher ground. And as vegetation dies, cattle and sheep have less to eat. Sand dunes once anchored by the plants become unmoored — cutting off roads, smothering junipers and even threatening to bury houses…As a presidential candidate last year, Mr. Biden highlighted the connection between global warming and Native Americans, saying that climate change poses a particular threat to Indigenous people…[President Biden] appointed Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, to run the Interior Department…Ms. Haaland’s role as interior secretary gives her vast authority over tribal nations. But the department declined to talk about plans to protect tribal nations from climate change…Instead, her agency provided a list of programs that already exist, including grants that started during the Obama administration… In Northern California, wildfires threaten burial sites and other sacred places. In Alaska, rising temperatures make it harder to engage in traditions like subsistence hunting and fishing.”

 

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: ,