Joanelle Romero is the founder of Red Nation Media, which hosts the Red Nation Film Festival, and which is specifically designed to promote native women in film and television. (The ninth annual festival is happening the week of November seventh in Los Angeles.)
Romero started her film career as an actress, in Barbarosa (a 1982 western), Parasite (1982), and Powwow Highway (1989). In 2000 she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian.
She also co-founded Native American Heritage Month (which is in November), because she is amazing!
deborah mailman; miranda tipping; jessica mauboy; shari sebbens.
I finally saw The Sapphires last night with moniquemallo, it’s been in cinemas in Australia for over two months. I’m pretty bad at getting around to seeing movies but I’m really glad I made the time to see this one before its run was over.
as you should know by now, it’s about an all-Australian-Aboriginal girl group who made a tour of Vietnam during the war as part of the US troop entertainment programs. It’s an adaptation of a play written by Aboriginal playwright Tony Briggs, who wrote the story based on the real life Sapphires, his mother and aunts. (director Wayne Blair is also Aboriginal.)
the thing I didn’t realise going in is that it’s about Yorta Yorta women who grew up on Cummeragunja Station. that’s only a couple of hours out of Melbourne and it’s refreshing to see a film about the large Aboriginal population in the south-east of Australia. Lou Bennett (Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Warrung woman, Older Wiser Lesbian, accomplished musician, playwright, language reclamation scholar, kind and charming human) was one of the consultants, and I will check out pretty much anything she has touched. the parts of the film that deal with Yorta Yorta culture, history, and dispossession are very good.
it stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy, who are extraordinary in everything I’ve seen them in, including this. newcomers Miranda Tipping and Shari Sebbens are also excellent. the musical numbers are great, I am particularly grumpy that Jessica Mauboy is not an international pop superstar.
it’s not perfect. a few plot threads I really wanted to know about were dropped. it’s not an anti-war movie, really, though two of the original Sapphires were staunchly anti-war, and the treatment of Vietnamese people in general is pretty thin. the main complaint most people I know would have is with the white “manager” character played by Chris O’Dowd, who is entitled, ridiculous, and pretty racist. the trailer (which is terrible) makes it look like the film is annoying but it’s more that he is annoying. you are supposed to be laughing at him, more than with him, but still grow to be attached to him, as the women do. I guess it’s better that he was written as a flawed character than as an unrealistically post-racial kinda guy, but he also fucks around a lot, compromises the women’s safety, possibly gambles away all their money (unclear), and never really does anything to make himself seem like a person you want in your life. fuck a larrikin. it’s also really annoying to me that reviews consistently single out Chris O’Dowd as “elevating” the film, or something like that. he was good, but I wouldn’t have said he was the standout actor; I’d give that gong to Mailman. Anyway, I’m keen to hear what other people thought of his character, especially women of colour, especially perhaps women of colour who’ve dated white dudes.
having said that, it’s a kind, funny, moving, film. I dunno, I basically only wanna watch rom-coms and science fiction, I have low-brow tastes like that. But I’m mad about descriptions of The Sapphires as “a sweet’n’dumb feelgood bopper” — wow, Henry Barnes of the Guardian! do you wanna be a little more condescending? It’s funny and entertaining and has a light touch on some heavy issues; it’s not dumb. christ. I fucking love rom-coms and it’s awesome to see one that is, for once, not about a bunch of cookie-cutter white American entreprenuers. you should see it.
Sandra Sunrising Osawa is a Makah woman who forged her career in commercial nonfiction television, beginning with producing documentary series about Native Americans for NBC in the 1970s.
Osawa’s work often explores the nuances between sovereignty and the environment, as in 1995’s Lighting the 7th Fire, a PBS POV special about struggles over spear-fishing rights in Wisconsin, and 2000’s Unusual and Accustomed Places, which chronicles fishing rights battles for the Makah in Washington. In 2000, she produced and directed a documentary about Oneida stand-up comic Charlie Hill, called On & Off the Res’ w/Charlie Hill.
For Osawa, who worked in education and cultural preservation before turning to filmmaking, media is a tool for not only revitalization but decolonization: “I think media has long been an overlooked part of our struggles and true sovereignty cannot exist until we are truly able to tell our own stories.”“
I am putting together some posts about a colonialism and horror, but I want to share a few links relating to indigenous filmmaking and indigenous people in film in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day (fuck Columbus day). Feminist Film has relevant posts under #colonialism and #indigenous issues.
CBC, in conjunction with its documentary series 8th Fire, offers some material on Canadian aboriginal filmmakers. It’s great! You can also watch 8th Fire online, but I think it might only work in Canada.
Basically Black was the first all-indigenous tv show in Australia. We’ve mentioned this before, but I wanted to point out this site, which offers some information as well as reading materials about the history of aboriginal television in Australia.
Maori Television is a New Zealand station that was launched as part of an indigenous language and culture revitalization movement. Their website has videos, some of which are in English. Here's an article about how Maori rights organizers worked to get it on the air, and why it's important. In the future, I'll try to find more articles about the connections between film (and television) and language revitalization globally.
TCM's site has a section to accompany their Native American Images film series, which offers a essays about native representation in Hollywood. It's actually pretty interesting.
Finally, Native Networks offers some resources for indigenous filmmakers and about indigenous film. It is part of the National Museum for the American Indian, which hosts the Native American Film + Video Festival.
I have also put together some information on native women filmmakers, but I’m gonna spread those posts out throughout the month!
The Daughter of Dawn, an 80-minute feature film, was shot in July of 1920 in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, southwest Oklahoma. It was unique in the annals of silent film (or talkies, for that matter) for having a cast of 300 Comanches and Kiowas who brought their own clothes, horses, tipis, everyday props and who told their story without a single reference to the United States Cavalry. It was a love story, a four-person star-crossed romance that ends with the two main characters together happily ever after. There are two buffalo hunt sequences with actual herds of buffalo being chased down by hunters on bareback just as they had done on the Plains 50 years earlier.
The male lead was played by White Parker; another featured female role was played by Wanada Parker. They were the son and daughter of the powerful Comanche chief Quanah Parker, the last of the free Plains Quahadi Comanche warriors. He never lost a battle to United States forces, but, his people sick and starving, he surrendered at Fort Sill in 1875. Quanah was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, the daughter of Euro-American settlers who had grown up in the tribe after she was kidnapped as a child by the Comanches who killed her parents. She was the model for Stands With a Fist in Dances with Wolves.
You can watch the first ten minutes of the film here. It is over 90 years old, and was produced by, directed by, and stars only Native American people.
Wow, great post. Thanks for sharing that. I just watched the first episode today and thought it was a great start. Haven’t seen the rest yet, so I’ll save further comments for later. I just want to share this with some of my followers who might not yet be following culturite.
Micro-Review: 8th Fire - CBC Doc Zone
“A 500 year old relationship … coming out of conflict, colonialism and denial.”
There’s never been a show like this on television before.
So, if you’re a little scant on your knowledge of Canada’s colonial history—and its continuance into the neocolonial present (which, sadly, is a lived reality for all of our people)—it’s time to watch and learn.
The series is equal parts micro-history lesson and semi-critical assessment of the challenges and opportunities that Indigenous Peoples face, but 8th Fire at least attempts to tackle, in broad strokes, what is an admittedly complex cultural, social and political reality—and a highly interwoven set of complex relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada.
Sadly, the series frequently reproduces dominant, statist perspectives advocating economic and resource development as the sole prescription for creating social change in Indigenous communities and, too often, the series retreats into reiterating rhetorical platitudes of “reconciliation” translated ineffectively as “we all just want to move on and get along with each other by getting to know our neighbours better”. This TRC-inspired kumbaya sing-a-long serves to invisibilize the real violence that is continuously enacted on our peoples through ongoing forms of colonial racism, domination, abjection and subjugation.
And yet, as 8th Fire is ultimately a product of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the state’s publicly funded national media outlet, it isn’t surprising that the show’s aim is to ‘reconcile’ 500+ years of genocide, by trying to convince Canadians that Indian Country is open for business—and that Indians are ready and willing to get down to the business of signing deals with corporations and government to erode, ever further, what little reserve lands and postage stamp pieces of our traditional territories are left.
This narrow vision of reconciliation—in which the eighth fire of friendship and harmony is ‘lit’ through the collaborative exploitation of Indigenous lands by co-opted Indians and their capitalist Canadian counterparts—is a frustratingly ineffectual vision for change and certainly not a model for revitalizing the spirit, strength and vitality of our peoples.
Financial partnerships won’t heal the past or provide retroactive compensatory payback for the wholesale theft of Turtle Island and the annihilation of millions of Indigenous lives.
Learning from each other, if we’re being sincere about it, will require more than having our people continue to dress up and play the part of suit-wearing ‘seat-at-the-adults-table’ Indians; it will require that Indigenous leaders and communities reclaim our own visions of living and being that refuse the terms of recognition and validation offered by Settler society as the only basis from which to assert our strength.
In this way, 8th Fire succeeds most effectively when it offers realistic portrayals of the radically new—and rapidly growing—demographic of young Indigenous peoples that has emerged from the wreckage of more than five centuries of colonial rule. The hybrid, modern, courageous and resilient character of our peoples is truly something to be celebrated; and 8th Fire is at its strongest when it focuses on personal portraits that reveal this vitality, creativity and determination.
What was missing throughout the series, however, were stories that affirmed both the validity and necessity of our resistance to the totalizing corporatization of all aspects of Indigenous life. Resistance stories are as much a part of our histories as are those of development deals reached, treaties signed, and complicity agreed to.
We need our warriors’ stories to be heard as well.
While I hope that CBC will make continue to make space for Indigenous-centred programming on the network, I still think it’s remarkable that it’s taken until 2012 to finally see the beginnings of a media representation of native people that is getting close to being…accurate.
It’s a first step. And a welcome one. But let’s be clear that it’s just a first step.
In his closing monologue, host Wab Kinew says that “[Native people] want closer links…we want reconciliation.” But we should ask ourselves: do we know what this would mean for our people? Do we know what it looks like? And is it what we really need and want?
The road ahead will indeed by a rough one for all of us but, if we don’t address the ongoing impacts of colonization in a real and meaningful way, we will be kidding ourselves to think that we can somehow buy our way out of generations of dependency by building ‘new relationships’ based on signing treaties with corporations instead of governments. We need to defend our homelands and lifeways, to protect what we have left, and to rebuild our nations—beginning with ourselves.
Maybe the next series should be about decolonization and resurgence, rather than resources and reconciliation.
Please feel free to reblog and comment. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the show.
The X-Files‘ mythology relies heavily on government conspiracy and only briefly with Indians, namely the Navajos (Diné, represent!), who figure into a brief three episode story arch. However, one could argue that the overall mythology, with its alien colonization, small pox vaccination conspiracy, and hybrid alien-human species, has American anxieties about colonialism written all over it.
Pepper Ann: “Dances with Ignorance”
got this from feministdisney’s Q&A
“Pepper Ann was incredibly, well, racist, but the show “taught” her the right way/what she was doing wrong and why it was wrong, pretty well. It would probably be pretty instructive for a lot of the people on tumblr claiming to “honor” native americans by dressing up as them etc.”
This is amazing!
I’ve been wondering when Pepper Ann was going to have a collective tumblr feminist introspective/retrospective moment.
“welcome to colour television.”
clip from (hilarious, biting) sketch comedy “Basically Black”, australia’s first indigenous tv show, 1973
via gary foley.
American Outrage: Video Documentary On Western Shoshone Struggle For Land And Rights.
Carrie and Mary Dann are feisty Western Shoshone sisters who have endured five terrifying livestock roundups by armed federal marshals in which more than a thousand of their horses and cattle were confiscated — for grazing their livestock on the open range outside their private ranch.
That range is part of 60 million acres recognized as Western Shoshone land by the United States in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, but in 1974 the U.S. sued the Dann sisters for trespassing on that land, without a permit. That set off a dispute between the Dann sisters and the U. S. government that swept to the United States Supreme Court and eventually to the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
AMERICAN OUTRAGE asks why the United States government has spent millions persecuting and prosecuting two elderly women grazing a few hundred horses and cows in a desolate desert? The United States Bureau of Land Management insists the sisters are degrading the land. The Dann sisters say the real reason is the resources hidden below this seemingly barren land, their Mother Earth. Western Shoshone land is the second largest gold producing area in the world.
American Outrage is notable not just as a testament to colonialism’s legacy. It also stands as a reflection on the ways that this legacy impacts women in particular, and the ways that women and communities respond collectively and individually to these pressures. Plus, it’s written and co-directed by a woman (George & Beth Gage), co-edited by a woman (Susan Beraza and Scott Conrad), and was scored by a woman (Joanne Shenandoah).
More info at Bullfrog Films.
“Two Spirits interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.
Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen.”
Would anyone like to offer comment on this film? Submit or ask! Or, especially, does anyone know of any Two Spirit, Indigenous, Navajo, or Trans people who have written or spoken about the film or about Martinez that I could post here?
Director Lydia Nibley will be speaking in one of my classes tomorrow, so look forward to more posts about her! If you have any questions that you’d like me to ask the director, I might be able to oblige. Drop them my way.
Amy Poehler, the creative force behind Parks and Recreation, is building quite a track record on Indians. Unfortunately, it isn’t a positive one.
There are these incidents in the series:
Spirit of Pawnee in Parks and Recreation
Face-Cutting in Parks and Recreation
Twisted to Death in Parks and Recreation
Indians in Parks and Recreation
Her Palin rap during the 2008 presidential campaign:
Palin Rap Features “Eskimos”
And this picture of her in a hipster headdress:
[Image described in alt text.]
That awkward moment when half your dash adores a racist and you keep waiting for someone else to call out the gross shit she’s done and they never do cuz she’s just so FUNNY and she’s making such strides for
whitewomen in comedy.
Some things to think about:
It’s true that Parks and Recs is using “Racist Anti-Native Heritage” as a caricature of midwestern small-town white people. From this post at Newspaper Rock, concerning the Spirit of Pawnee murals:
The old mural shows a train racing across the plains. A cartoonish Indian warrior jumps off the track before the train can hit him. It’s as if he didn’t have enough sense to avoid a train. Nearby, another cartoonish Indian warrior is drinking “firewater” and gesticulating wildly.
I think these are the primary “racist undertones” referred to in the summary. Since murals like this exist and Parks and Recreation characterized the mural as inappropriate, this seems like a reasonable use of stereotypes.
However, that’s obviously not all there is to it. First, it’s really problematic (and shaky) to argue that “ironic racism" is okay or Not Really Racist, especially considering that the audience primarily white. And white people joking with other white people about racism, using racism, is never a radical act. It’s a racist act. Do I think that Parks & Rec has made some nuanced commentary on small-town racism? Sure. Do I think it was lost on the audience? Probably. And, more importantly, I’m not sure white people should feel so entitled to comment on racism so lightly all the time, and I definitely don’t think we should be congratulated on it.
More importantly, though, as that post points out:
For inspiration for the proposed mural, Leslie examines a display of Indian artifacts: a desk with a couple of shelves of baskets and pottery. I couldn’t tell where the artifacts came from—somewhere in the West, I suspect. But I doubt baskets and pottery would be the primary artifacts recovered for Indiana’s Indians.For more inspiration, Leslie examines an old painting that shows Anglos getting off a locomotive to meet a Plains chief by a tipi. As with the baskets and pottery, I don’t think you’d find Plains imagery as far east as Indiana.
So the episode tells us a couple of stereotypical images are bad. It then undoes whatever good it may have done by presenting more mistakes and stereotypes: Indians are museum pieces, Indians make baskets, Indians look like Plains chiefs. Nice of you to include Indians again, Parks and Recreation, but you’re still not doing it well.
And that’s really important. Call it Did Not Do The Research all you want, but you can’t pretend that that’s not emblematic, 100% Pure American Genocidal Racism right there. That’s the thing about white people praciticing Ironic Racism toward Natives—it’s always the exact same racism as practiced by regular racists toward natives. I can’t even tell y’all apart anymore!
It’s a shame, not only because it’s my favorite show. It’s also a shame because the show has been progressing toward having some of the best-developed characters of color on any network sitcom (the only well-developed characters of color on any network sitcom?) Although not without race problems, it’s notable that all but one of the core female characters on the show are of color. So it really fucking sucks that a show that puts so much effort into representation of black and brown characters, a show that has done so much for
white women in comedy, pretends like an entire group of people doesn’t exist [as humans]. And that’s pretty reflective of the state of things, right?
I would say that by the third season, the Ironic Native Racist schtick appeared less (as their writing started to actually develop). The glaring exception is episode 7, “Harvest Festival.” From Megan Gilbert's recap:
They wait for Ken, the leader of the Wamapoke tribe, who is sporting a slicked-back ponytail, a bolo tie and a festival-related grievance. Tom gets in a “Dope bolo” before Leslie addresses Ken in his native language. But this does little to assuage Ken’s grievance: the “carnival” is being held on the site of the Battle of Indian Hill, and its shooting galleries and fried dough stands need to be moved.
Leslie holds her ground—literally—going to the Map of Pawnee Settler Atrocities Against the Wamapoke (99% blue with “atrocities” in blue) for backup for the fact that given its history, Pawnee has a hard time not being offensive. Ken resignedly leaves, throwing a “I just hope that the souls of my ancestors don’t put a curse on this festival…” over his shoulder, then tells camera in confidence that white peoples’ fear of curses is equal only to their love of Matchbox 20.
Although the “white people are racist assholes and people of color can manipulate that to make them look ridiculous” thing can be smart and funny, there are still a lot of problems. For example, from Newspaper Rock:
The Wamapokes supposedly lost the battle because they didn’t have any weapons, which is a bit insulting. Describing them as hapless children isn’t much better than describing them as savage killers. Actually, as Allan W. Eckert’s A Sorrow in Our Heart makes clear, Indiana’s Indians were sophisticated defenders of their rights and cultures.Leslie holds her ground—literally—going to the Map of Pawnee Settler Atrocities Against the Wamapoke (99% blue with “atrocities” in blue) for backup for the fact that given its history, Pawnee has a hard time not being offensive. Ken resignedly leaves, throwing a “I just hope that the souls of my ancestors don’t put a curse on this festival…” over his shoulder, then tells camera in confidence that white people’s fear of curses is equal only to their love of Matchbox 20.
The Indian’s name is Ken Hotate, is which is better than Brave Eagle or Running Bear. But “hotate” is a Japanese name for plain scallops, not an Indian word.
Clearly Hotate has invented the “curse” to achieve his political goals. The idea that an Indian would place a curse in 2011 is silly. It would be like accusing someone of being a witch—a practice that died out centuries ago. But it’s also silly that most of the townspeople believe him. The joke is primarily on them, not on him.
Clearly no one is taking the Indians’ spirituality seriously. Not even Hotate, who find Leslie’s offer “interesting” and agrees to lift the curse. It’s as everyone knows the white man’s wishes trump the Indians’, and all that matters is how to pay off a special-interest group.
In the Wamapoke “ceremony,” Hotate’s Native song is subtitled in English. “I am not saying anything,” he intones. “No one can understand me anyway. Doobee. Doobee. Do.” Even though Hotate’s actions are a spoof—he’s lifting the “curse” he made up—this is really a slam against Native ceremonies. “We” don’t understand what “they” mean, so perhaps the Indians are babbling nonsense. Perhaps their religious beliefs and ceremonies are nothing more than stunts to impress gullible non-Indians.
It’s good to remember to ask a few questions when you deal with jokes about race: who is the subject? who is the audience? who is the object? who gets to participate in the laughter? And, most importantly, what is the punchline?
Can anyone tell me the original source of that photograph? I think it’s fucked up and she should be held accountable for it, but the creative director also makes a difference (and should be held accountable). Plus, as Gillian Jacobs/Alison Brie for GQ-Gate has reminded us recently, media representation of gender and race in television (and film) is…well, fucked up.
We would like to hear more from you guys about race in Parks & Rec, and if you have any links or articles to recommend send them to us. But remember, before you comment, to Check Your Privilege. Even the best Feminists/Social Justice Bloggers on tumblr have a pretty poor track record when it comes to Native representation.