Saturday, November 03, 2012

Dear Gwen Stefani: Please make a video...

Dear Gwen Stefani,

It is good that No Doubt released a statement today, stating that you never intended to offend, hurt, or trivialize Native American people, culture, or history. I understand that you consulted with Native friends and experts at the University of California. Unfortunately, your consultants didn't give you good advice.

It is good that you removed the video and posted the apology, but given your status, you could do a lot more that has the potential to prevent millions from making the sort of error you made.

Ms. Stefani, please make another video... 

Make another video. Not a music one, but one in which you speak directly to your fans, telling them that Americans have a long way to go in understanding what stereotypes of American Indians are, and the ignorance and racism they perpetuate.

Make that video right away. It doesn't need slick production values. Make it right away so that teachers across the nation can use it this month! November is Native American Heritage Month. Teachers and librarians could use it to teach teens about American Indians and stereotyping.

Thank you,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature


For those who want background information, here's one photo that was used to promote the video. Regular readers of American Indians in Children's Literature will easily spot the stereotypical aspects of the photo.

Source: Daily Mail

Regular readers will also spot multiple stereotypes in the article the photo came from:
"Yeehaw! Gwen Stefani dresses as a Native American, cavorts with a wolf, and ends up handcuffed in No Doubt's new Wild West themed music video."  In the article, Eleanor Gower reports that Stefani "dresses as a Native American Squaw." There are lot of photos there, with many other stereotypes. See, for example, Stefani doing smoke signals.

Here's a background article from November 2, 2012:
"Gwen Stefani and No Doubt Release Latest Music Video, Its Stereotypical Native Theme Garners Criticism" in Indian Country Today Media Network.

And here's a blog post from Scott Andrews, a Native lit professor:
"Gwen Stefani, Cher, and "Indians" 

And.... here's the apology from No Doubt:

In Regards to Our "Looking Hot" Music Video
Posted 11/3/2012 |As a multi-racial band our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures. Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history.   Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people.  This is of great concern to us and we are removing the video immediately.  The music that inspired us when we started the band, and the community of friends, family, and fans that surrounds us was built upon respect, unity and inclusiveness.  We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video.  Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are.- No Doubt

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Presidential Proclamation: National Native American Heritage Month, 2012

The White House Press Secretary released President Obama's Presidential Proclamation, designating November as National Native American Heritage Month, 2012. Below is a screen capture of the webpage with the proclamation, followed by the text of the proclamation.

- - - - - - -
As the first people to live on the land we all cherish, American Indians and Alaska Natives have profoundly shaped our country's character and our cultural heritage. Today, Native Americans are leaders in every aspect of our society -- from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the battlefield. This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our Nation, and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe's identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream.
In paying tribute to Native American achievements, we must also acknowledge the parts of our shared history that have been marred by violence and tragic mistreatment. For centuries, Native Americans faced cruelty, injustice, and broken promises. As we work together to forge a brighter future, we cannot shy away from the difficult aspects of our past. That is why, in 2009, I signed a bipartisan resolution that finally recognized the sad and painful chapters in our shared history. My Administration remains dedicated to writing a new chapter in that history by strengthening our government-to-government relationship with tribal nations while enhancing tribal sovereignty and tribal self-determination.
Because we know that the best ideas for tribal nations come from within, my Administration has continued to engage tribal leaders in developing an agenda that respects their expertise on matters affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives. In collaboration with tribal nations, we are making critical investments to improve health and education services, create jobs, and strengthen tribal economies. In July, I was proud to sign the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act into law, which will enhance tribal control over the leasing of Indian lands. Last December, I signed an Executive Order to expand educational opportunities for Native American students. It aims to preserve Native languages, cultures, and histories while offering a competitive education that prepares young people to succeed in college and careers. And under the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Safe Indian Communities initiative, we are continuing to work with tribes to build safer communities. My Administration also supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Many longstanding Native American legal claims against the United States have been resolved, which will help accelerate the restoration of trust in our relationships with tribal nations. The settlements that came out of these claims -- including the historic Cobell and Keepseagle settlements, as well as more than 50 settlements in cases alleging Federal mismanagement of tribal trust funds and resources -- will put an end to decades of litigation and help drive economic development in tribal communities in the years to come.
In partnership with tribal nations, my Administration has addressed injustices and built new avenues of opportunity for American Indians and Alaska Natives. As we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, let us move forward in the spirit of mutual understanding and mutual trust, confident that our challenges can be met and that our shared future is bright.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2012 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 23, 2012, as Native American Heritage Day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Today (November 1st, the first day of American Indian Heritage Month), I'd like to introduce you to Patricia Riley's Growing Up Native American. The subtitle is Stories of oppression and survival, of heritage denied and reclaimed--22 American writers recall childhood in their native land. 

Published in 1993, it is an excellent volume for teachers who are using the writings of any of the 22 writers in the book. You'll find short stories, and excerpts from longer works, too, from Native writers I've written about on AICL and elsewhere. Eric Gansworth is one example. The anthology includes his short story, "The Ballad of Plastic Fred." I looked around the Internet. This is close to what Gansworth describes as Plastic Fred:

Just a few days ago, I received Gansworth's YA novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here. I'm working on a review of it and will post it soon. Some of the stories, like the excerpt by Francis La Flesche, are from autobiographies. His The Middle Five: Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe is set in the 1800s at the Presbyterian mission school in Nebraska. Simon Ortiz's story, "The Language We Knew," is about his childhood at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico.

Here's the Table of Contents:

"The Language We Know" by Simon Ortiz
"The Warriors" by Anna Lee Walters

From Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria
From Life Among the Piutes by Sara Winnemucca Hopkins
"Ni-Bo-Wi-Se-Gwe" by Ignatia Broker
"Wasichus in the Hills" by Black Elk as told to John G. Neihardt
"At Last I Kill a Buffalo" by Luther Standing Bear

From The Middle Five: Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe, by Francis La Flesche
From Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions by Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes
From Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
"A Day in the Life of Spanish" by Basil Johnston

From Sundown by John Joseph Mathews
From Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan
From The Names: A Memoir by N. Scott Momaday
"Notes of a Translator's Son" by Joseph Bruchac
"Turbulent Childhood" by Lee Maracle
"The Talking That Trees Does" by Geary Hobson
"Water Witch" by Louis Owens
"Grace" by Vicki L. Sears
"Uncle Tony's Goat" by Leslie Marmon Silko
From Yellow Raft In Blue Water by Michael Dorris
"The Ballad of Plastic Fred" by Eric L. Gansworth

Teachers can select a story to use based on the age and reading level of their students. Some will work for middle school students. And... don't confine your use of Native literature to November! Teach it, and read it, all year long.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eric Gansworth's IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE

In my mail on Saturday (October 27, 2012), was a galley for Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here, published by Scholastic.  The cover:

Reading the first few pages... Gansworth doesn't hold back. Gritty, very real, and honest. Protagonist is trying hard to fit in. A Native kid.. 7th grade...

Francisco X. Stork, on the back cover, writes:
"The beauty of this novel lies in the powerful friendship between two young men who are so externally different and so internally similar. Wonderful, inspiring, and real."

Title page with Eric's art...

I'm torn between reading it quickly---because I want to---and slowly, because there's so much here...