"For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all."

-John F. Kennedy in
the introduction to The American Heritage Book of Indians

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Going Native in Ireland Part I

I recently spent some time in Western Europe backpacking through several countries including that beautiful green emerald isle of the north known as Ireland.

If you have never been to Western Europe, and Ireland in particular, you must first understand that many of these places thrive on tourism.  Huge segments of the Irish, Spanish, French, and Italian economies depend on the billions of tourist dollars brought in every year.

And what vacation is complete without a few souvenirs!

Carroll's Irish Gift Stores is a huge chain of souvenir shops strung out along the main tourist thoroughfares in downtown Dublin.  They sell everything from Leprechaun key chains to Guinness slippers to "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" T-shirts.  If it can be made green, white, and orange, it will be sold at Carroll's.

I thought I had seen it all when my eyes fell upon the most mind-boggling souvenir imaginable!

The Irish Indian Chief Head Dress

"Everyone's an Indian on St. Patrick's Day!"

Oh, and if you can't make it to Ireland anytime soon, you can just pick one up online!

I suppose this is no worse than the typical Indian costumes you see around Halloween but when you take it out of the context of Halloween, it seems even weirder!  And when you consider that donning this headdress means you are appropriating one culture to celebrate another, that just blows my mind!

So does this finally prove that the Indian Headdress/War Bonnet has moved beyond mere Indian dress up and instead is a broader fad?  Do people don the Irish “Indian Chief Hat” not to become an Indian but rather show Irish pride in a unique and “fashionable” way?

Others may say yes, but I say no. You can never fully divulge the associations with American Indians. The thing is clearly supposed to be a send-up of Plains Indian War Bonnets.  (Look at the name!)

Decades of western media stereotypes have taught Americans and Irishmen alike that the headdress wearing Plains Indian is the ultimate Indian.  To wear any other Native head covering would simply be second rate!  Even when rooting on Irish teams, people want that universally recognized "fierce" look of the Plains warrior with headdress and war paint.

So who exactly would ever buy the headdress and why?  My money goes on those young hipster types such as the Glastonbury “Indians.”  The types who sport nostalgic clothing in an effort to look hip/ironic but instead look like they're stuck in some multi-dimensional multi-cultural time warp.

Just check out the grinning fools on the packaging!

...cause it just wouldn't be complete without side pieces.

In the end, this is just another fine example of drawing on Indians.  And if you think this Irish Headdress is silly, just wait till Part II!

For more info, check out these earlier posts:

Tribal Chic: Native Appropriation Appropriation?

Hipster Indians


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Case of the Missing Indian Reservations

Quick! Somebody call Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys because we have a mystery on our hands.

Sometime between the first week of February and the last week of May, American Indian reservations disappeared from Google Maps!

Back in February 2011, I wrote a blog post titled Strange Tan Blotches in South Dakota: Indian Reservations in Online Maps about the unique look of Indian reservations in Google Maps.

They were featured on the maps as gray geometric shapes without any labeling whatsoever to identify them as reservations. The uninformed user could easily mistake them for military bases, oil fields, National Parks, or any other large features.

Notice in the screenshot below the off-color areas in the Dakotas, Montana, Arizona, and other states. Those gray blotches circled in red are Indian reservations as they used to appear in Google Maps.

Original Image Source: AppAppeal.com

Now use the Google Maps tool below to scroll around America and try and find those same gray areas.

They are gone!

It was bad enough that these reservations were unlabeled in the first instance but to drop them altogether from Google Maps takes it to a whole new level. Someone, somewhere at Google Inc. had to make the decision to remove the reservations. I can only wonder about their reasoning- relevancy, visual clarity, just too much clutter?

I understand Google Maps prefers brevity and a nice visual aesthetic over volumes of information but the removal of Indian reservations from its mapping service is more important than you think. Consider how many millions of Americans use Google Maps to find directions, locate a business, plan a vacation, or just browse American geography!

Now, a simple decision at the corporate headquarters will forever affect how millions of Americans understand (or don't understand) the geographic and social reality of this country.

UPDATE: Indian Reservations are back in Google Maps... but for how long?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hiram Schmetzls Monetary Adventures

Have you heard about this new summer camp

Hiram Schmetzls Monetary Adventures

Set in Vermont's National Forest, your kids will walk past acres of valuable timber property before arriving at our authentic shtetl. They go through a Jewish naming ceremony where they receive a Jewish name which reflects who they are as a unique individual.

“The naming ceremony was just the most magical thing,” notes camper Timmy. “I heard this weird chanting from behind me when all of a sudden a white shawl was thrown over my shoulders as I was lifted into the air still sitting in my chair! Everyone was chanting 'Levi! Levi!.'

The boys choose the activities for the day which range from investment strategy to stock market analysis. The campers will also be regaled with stories of famous rabbis and the triumphs of the Jewish people.

Camp director Stephen Bridenstine notes "No, I'm not Jewish.  I just have the utmost respect for the Jewish people and culture and how they connect on a deeper level with financial issues."

Offended?  Well, consider just how crazy this camp sounds and let me introduce you to

Night Eagle Wilderness Adventures

Tipis!  Indian Naming ceremonies!  Mastering the atlatl and sewing moccasins!  Experiencing the power of Tunkashila or 'Grandfather Rock'!

What more could boys ages 10-14 want?

In case you still want to send your kids there, here is the website: http://www.nighteaglewilderness.com/NEWAPages/intro.html

Thanks to Nicole by way of Debbie Reese at the American Indians in Children's Literature blog for the original piece which you all must read!