Archive for the ‘Native and Indigneous Socio-political issues’ Category

Below is a recent article which I just finished as a critique of California Indian Day celebrations.  This work will soon be published as part of a joint Native/First Nations publication.

Enjoy the article!

Lechusza Aquallo

Sparrow Productions

27 September, 2014

What’s your problem? We gave you a day to celebrate” – A reflection upon California Indian Day

Lechusza Aquallo

26 – 27 September, 2014



The last Friday of September was designated on August 12, 1968 by, then, Governor Ronald Regan as being “California Indian Day.” This day was established in order to celebrate and recognize the diverse Native cultures of California. California Native People have come to hold a special place for this day as one where they can share the breadth and depth of their cultures with the non-Native communities. Typical festivities range from simple elementary school presentations through large community gatherings. Notable elders are offered the proverbial and literal “stage” upon which they can share their life-long “stories.” Non-Native tourists are given the opportunity to purchase Native art, complete with the feeling that they are participating, in a “safe environment,” alongside the “local Natives.” Certainly, the climate on this day, California Indian Day, is one of polite sharing, remembering, and momentary tribal recognition.


Being a California Native person – I’m Lusieno/Maidu – this day certainly provides a sense of expanded pride for my traditional cultures, and my fellow California tribes. However, with all the celebrations that I’ve attended, and helped organize, there continues to be a subtle undertone that peers its query head every now and again. Events that take place on the reservation normally follow a very family-oriented, community style gathering. Literally, it’s as if a large family reunion has been called on the rez. In contrast, events that take place off the reservation – which, I’m afraid, is the large abundance of celebrations these days – seem to hold a more folkloric bent, that being, Native Peoples performing for non-Native audiences. It is this point of cultural misunderstanding which continues to reverberate throughout the years as the final Friday in September – California Indian Day – is acknowledged.


The title stamped upon this last Friday – “California Indian Day” – appears rather awkward, to say the least. The subtext – or rather, theme – of this day outlines a racialized hegemonic definition stating that there is only “one” California Indian. The remaining other hundreds of tribes which exist presently in California – both federally and non-federally recognized – therefore, must have been eliminated (read: terminated) in an earlier point and time in California history, presumably to make way for the colonization of California. This standard of racist hegemony, applied in cultural mis/representaion, thinking, and action, is what I have termed the Ishi ideology: the last remaining artifact of “his” tribe – where a specific focus is upon the Indian male, since no female Native representation is historically available being that California Native women/girls were either enslaved, raped, killed, or all three collectively – localized within a museum style container for audience viewing, probing, and experimentation.


To counter this perspective, it becomes necessary for California Native Peoples to reclaim their own histories from the prisons of books and shackles of misrepresentations about Native People authored by non-Natives. Utilizing the visibility of this day, for socio-political equity and justice, in order to challenge the atrocities forced upon California Native People, becomes a critical first step in securing agency for radical change.


However, year after year, there are those who attend events on this isolated day of California tribal recognition with the sole intent upon striking an apologetic appeal toward the Native communities. It is as though their mere attendance – complete with apology in mind, heart, and pocketbook – and recognition of California Native People on this singular day will abolish the genocide of Native People that took place in California. This largely non-Native audience, therefore, attends various Native cultural events on California Indian Day, prepared to reconcile historic injustices and establish peace, once and for all, with California Native Peoples through one or more of the following actions: 1) the desire to find their inner shaman – which they firmly believe will then realign any differences between Native and non-Native people, 2) the intent of repeatedly apologizing for the bloody history of California Native People – without realizing the current realities which are a direct result from the multiple abuses (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental) colonialistically produced, 3) a personal desire to state just how much – or, rather how little – Indian blood (read: heritage that they learned from someone in their family who heard something over the years) they have, or, 4) to complete some exercise in diversity for either/both academic or professional purposes. Each of these intentions lead to a further entrenched misunderstanding of the complex cultural dynamics of California Native Peoples. These burdens continue to reverberate yearly, and magically coincide with California Indian Day, without any cross-cultural or authentic resolution in sight. Least we forget that there are those who may attend these Native-centric cultural events with a pure sympathetic tone. However, the larger non-Native attendees who come in the name of “post-modern salvage archeology” often cloud this marginal non-Native community.


The celebrations for this year’s California Indian Day (2014) have now come to a safe close. These now past events have, once again, found their resting place alongside the majority of knowledge – either spoken or written – about California Native Peoples. That being, in the failing memory of those who attended these events on a single day, set aside, as a political apology, offered vis-a-vis left-handed compliments to contemporary California Native Peoples.





Here is an article which came from Indian Country Today Media (Aug. 27, 2014)

which deals with some very direct questions regarding the ownership, visibility, and, meaning behind Native/Indian/Indigenous art.  Though this article focuses upon literature, the questions presented could – and should – be asked equally of all artistic disciplines for Native Peoples.

In order to assist the research process, other supporting links have been provided below.

Read, share, and question your own current understanding of the Native arts.  (Please note, the comments stated within the article are those of the author and do not reflect those for this blog.)  Enjoy!

Lechusza Aquallo

Sparrow Productions

27 August, 2014


Four Winds Literary Magazine

Yellow Medicine Review

Resources pertaining to other controversial issues discussed within this article can be found within previous blog postings.  Please check the blog site history for more information.

Here is an interesting article which came across my desk recently.  It’s worth sharing and viewing for sure.  Enjoy!

Lechusza Aquallo

26 Aug., 2014

Sparrow Productions


Source:  Open Culture
Saul Bass’ Jazzy 1962 Animation Tackles the 1626 Sale of Manhattan
Posted: 25 Aug 2014 11:49 AM PDT

You know that story about Dutch settlers buying the whole of Manhattan for $24 (or 60 guilders) worth of junk jewelry? Not true.

What really happened in 1626 is closer in spirit to those old yarns about hapless suckers tricked into buying the Brooklyn Bridge by cunning locals.

Brooklyn’s Canarsee tribe sold the neighboring island out from under its proper owners, the Wappinger, a confederacy of Algonquin tribes, some of which had recently been at war with Dutch settlers. You think maybe Peter Minuit, New Amsterdam’s Dutch colonial governor, might have been wise to the ruse?

God bless America! Shady political dealings from the get go!

Given the flimsiness of the historical record, animators Saul Bass and Art Goodman and director Fred Crippen can hardly be blamed for the inaccuracies of their 1962 retelling, above.

It aired on the Chun King Chow Mein Hour, a television special starring satirist Stan Freberg, whose album “Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America” provided the big Broadway style number that seals the deal with the prospective buyer. Culturally sensitive it ain’t, but there’s no denying it’s a jazzy bit of American history, animated and otherwise.

You’ll find Sale of Manhattan added to our list of animations, part of our larger collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Related Content:

A Short History of America, According to the Irreverent Comic Satirist Robert Crumb

Watch an Illustrated Video of Howard Zinn’s “What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me About the American Empire”

Winsor McCay Animates the Sinking of the Lusitania in a Beautiful Propaganda Film (1918)

Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

There is an interesting radio/video article which discusses how the Zapatista movement has had a profound impact upon the US government, art, and social climate.  The radio/video documentary can be found below:

“The Zapatistas are a group in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico working to bring democracy to their country and their local communities. 20 years after their founding, the group’s influences has spread far beyond Mexico’s border through music and art. On this edition of Making Contact producer Alejandro Rosas explores how Zapatismo has influenced those in the U.S. –including himself.”

It is part of a series from Making Contact

It’s worth a review and sharing.  Enjoy!


Sparrow Productions

Lechusza Aquallo

16 August, 2014

This is a blog posting from the very informative blog site hosted by Adrienne Keene.  The link to her site is:

If ever there were a time in (post-modern) history to discuss the importance of being Native, expressing Indigineity, forming Indigenous communities of socio-political power and, articulating the often overlooked reality that First Nations/Native/Indigenous Peoples are still present, this certainly is that time.

The article below reveals the opaque affirmation that racism and stereotypes regarding Native/Indigenous Peoples are still being fortified.  The author continues to strive to eradicate such mental-physical-emotional-spiritual-environmental atrocities, with, of course, the aid of a complex network of allies, colleagues, and associates throughout Indian Country.  Yet, the point remains, why must such ignorant – I refrain politely from using the term “stupid” – rhetoric continue to be substantiated within a globalized society which prides itself upon being “advanced?”  Do these actions not define a backward step in civilization?  If one thinks otherwise, then, it may be the time to (re)visit some of the important scholarly works by Native/Indigenous authors which span the 19th/20th century – and continue to be produced currently.

Enjoy the embedded links.  They provide further knowledge!

Lechusza Aquallo

Sparrow Prod.

29 July, 2014



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Last week I chatted with a super kind and engaged reporter at NPR. She found my blog because my colleague (thanks Todd!) tweeted her in response to a call for interesting education folks to follow on Twitter. She read through my blog, and came upon a post I wrote a couple years ago–”Dear Native student who was just admitted to college“–and wanted to ask me a bit more about it. So we talked for 15-20 minutes so I could give some context on the post and my doctoral work that has stemmed out of these areas in Native higher ed. She posted an edited version of this convo on the NPR website (I say “like” a lot irl, she kindly took that out, as well as some of my filler/background info), where it has gotten a pretty big response.

Here’s the article. I like it, and think it covers a lot of ground for a short piece.

I was stoked to get to talk about my “other” life in Indian Ed, since I’m still finding my voice in that area (haven’t been blogging about it for five years, though I have been studying and researching for that long…). I think anything I can do to signal boost Native issues in higher education and help shed light on our experiences, struggles, and triumphs in college and beyond is important.

But they included a headshot on the post. One that is the thumbnail every time the article gets shared. I didn’t even think twice about it–most people who know me and the blog know who I am and where I come from, and yes, what I look like. But I forgot, this is the internet.

To be fair, as always, there are tons of positive comments. I’ve received a bunch of emails from students and graduates that have made me happy and heartened. But for those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, you know this is constantly something I deal with, and this article wasn’t anything new. Ready? Here’s a sampling (Yes I left their real names. They said it on a public forum…):

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and on the article itself (to be fair, it was just one dude…though NPR has pretty strict comment guidelines, so there could have been more):Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.37.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.38.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.38.44 PM

On both the NPR article, and definitely on the Facebook thread on the NPR page, my identity is being dissected by hundreds of people who don’t know me. Who don’t know how I relate to my Native heritage, the work I do, who my family is, anything. I also think it’s kinda hilarious–do they not realize that, as a blogger, I’m on the internet? Reading their thread?

But y’all know it’s not new. If you need a refresher, read the comments on, oh, any of my “controversial” articles. Or read the drama I went through over Tonto. Maybe the 500+ comments on this Pocahottie article. Or the follow-up I had to do after it. It’s par for the course. I also specifically address my white privilege a fair amount, see the end of that Tonto post, or the annotated version of my Pocahottie letter for examples. I know my white privilege has afforded me protection and opportunities. That’s why I write about it.

I am 98% positive that if this NPR article wasn’t accompanied by a photo, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There is very little commentary challenging my ideas, or what I had to say about Native students transitioning to college–it’s all focused on how I look.

You wonder why I care so deeply about representations? This is why I care. Because all those people think that Native identity is tied to looking like something off the side of a football helmet.

This isn’t just something that happens to me, either. Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum about Indian Mascots, and an incredible 15-year-old Native student named Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown spoke to the group. He talked beautifully about the effects of mascots on his schooling experience, and also what it means when fellow students, and even his vice principal, say he doesn’t “look Indian,” and how it is all tied in together. This sentiment is real, and it’s all connected.

One of the other commenters on the FB thread mentioned how I “don’t have a wikipedia page” or even a bio on the blog, so they were skeptical of my credentials–basically waving the wannabe flag. It is true I don’t have either of those things (but um, who wants a wikipedia page?). Honestly, it’s by design. If people are *that* desperate to find out about me, they can google and find all sorts of articles and videos that talk more about my background. I don’t want my phenotype and hometown to color initial perceptions of me and my words. I want my writing to speak for itself–because I have never lied about who I am, and write about it all the time on the blog.

In writing Native Appropriations, I am inviting readers into a community. I want folks to get to know me, know how I think, operate, where I come from, what ideas we share, and where we differ. I love comment chains where we have discussions that push my thinking and help me grow. I love when it’s an equal exchange of knowledge. That can’t happen when I’m summarily dismissed. So I never “got around” to making an “about” page. I’m all up in this thing. It hasn’t seemed to hold us back. But, for better or worse, that’s not the way the internet functions. People want quick, easily digestible sound bites. They don’t want to enter into a relationship (which is the Indigenous way of doing things…). They want to be able to categorize and move on. Which is what happened with the NPR piece.

I have deep, deep anxieties about my new post-graduation life as “Dr. K”–of entering academia with the weight and privilege of Native Approps behind me. I have actual nightmares of folks finding academic articles I write and lambasting my scholarship all over the internet. I worry about not living up to the “hype.” I say weight and privilege–because I know that no matter what my research is probably going to have a wider audience than most, simply because of the blog. That’s amazing, and such a privilege to be able to know that I can push forward conversations about Native students and representations to an engaged audience. It’s also intense, because most young scholars get awhile to find their voice and place in their research, but I know that I’m going to be under a microscope pretty quickly. I honestly try not to take to heart what people say about my blog writing, because I still consider it a hobby, but my academic writing is and will continue to be my life. This gave me a small window into what the next few years of my career might bring, and to be honest, it kinda (ok really) freaks me out.

But, if my picture and my story can bring to light these conversations about Native identity that need to happen, and if I need to be the literal face of that conversation, then I’m ok. Because we need to talk about it. Colonial legacies of blood quantum have real effects in our communities, and these conversations happen over, and over, and over without moving us forward.

Because Native identity isn’t just a racialized identity. Native identity is political. We are citizens of tribal nations. So we can’t just talk about our identities purely in racial terminology. Thinking about our identity as purely race-based is another tool to wipe us out. Cause you can “breed out” this notion of “blood” but you can’t “breed out” citizenship. There’s also a deep power issue here–who has the “right,” especially as an outsider, to determine someone’s identity for them? But these are big topics for another day.

So because this is a topic we’ve addressed before, I’ll just quote directly from the end of my “Real Indians don’t care about Tonto” post, and say this–this is the reason why I continue to fight. This is the reason why I’m still here:

But instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee). My ancestors gave their “x-marks”–assents to the new–so that I could be here, fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.

The underlying motivation behind this blog is not only to critique and deconstruct representations of Natives, but also to be able to openly explore what it means to be a contemporary Native person. And more specifically for me, what does it mean to be a millennial, nerdy, doctorate-holding, mixed-race, Cherokee woman?

Moving forward, I hope these are questions we can continue to answer together, through the blog, my research, my teaching, and ongoing conversations on and offline. This NPR article has shown us that there is power in getting our stories out there, but that we still have a ways to go. And that’s ok. These were conversations that weren’t happening openly in public forums just a few years ago. It’s a journey, one that has brought me incredible joy and challenged me in incredible ways. I’m happy to keep rolling along, learning, making mistakes, and figuring out what it means to be me, but also, what it means to be us. Because learning about the ways we relate to one another, Native to Native and Native to non-Native, is at the heart of all of this work.

As always, wado for being here with me on this path,