“‘Native’ Hobbyism is Modern Day Colonialism”-My new article at CBC

I was recently invited to write a counter-point essay for CBC, following my participant in the CBC.Docs documentary that premieres today on Canadian television. Last July in Berlin, I  sat down with indigenous writer Drew Hayden Taylor on his search to understand why so many Germans choose to appropriate native cultures and/or dressing up and pretending to be “Indians”. The article was published on January 26th, ‘Native Hobbyism’ is Modern Day Colonialism. and specifically discusses how the effects of such practices, especially on Natives living in Germany, are overlooked by both non-natives and natives, which we explore in our own documentary, “Forget Winnetou”, premiering next month.

“Indigenous North Americans who live abroad often deal with rejection from relatives who only support or recognize those who choose to live in North America. They report negative experiences such as abandonment, disrespect of their heritage and lack of cultural support. This trauma leads to depression, anxiety and frustration because Indigenous living in Europe can’t simply be themselves.”

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Native Perspectives Film Review: “The Revenant” (2015)

revenant

THE REVENANT

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers: Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson & Full Cast

 

Review:
With its honest portrayal of life spend in nature, the shifts between intense action and often tedious but necessary patient waiting and work, “The Revenant” was rumored to be an unforgettable film centered on Leonard DiCaprio’s performance and it delivered. “The Revenant” is directed by Mexico-born Alejandro González Iñárritu, an award-winning writer, director and producer born, an artist known for works highlighting the complexity of human motivations and needs. Self-described as music more often influencing for his work than other films, one easily discerned this in his latest offering for it was like watching a movie equivalent of a symphony: slow movements, a rising crescendo, and at last a finalé and resolution.

There have been survival dramas in the past, and the closest equivalent I can think of is “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972), whose titular character was played by Robert Redford. A similar theme of vengeance against those who wronged and murdered his adopted native family is central, as well as the poignant ending. DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass was left to die after a bear attack, though mostly because his former comrades rationalize this eventuality is best to save themselves from threatening natives. Thomas Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, is most outspoken to abandon Glass along with a half native son, whose people and all natives John deeply hates. However, he volunteers to stay behind to witness Glass’ passing, but as soon as the others leave his rancor is made evident to both Glass and his son. Continue reading

“We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” in Germany: Confronting and Informing the Ignorant

Rainald Grebe (artist/performer/comedian) slowly walks out on-stage in a slow, manner as if lacking intellect, while dressed in a pathetic mish-mash of Indianer (the German word for Native Americans of North America), and the audience immediately begins to laugh.

That’s the intro for one of Rainald Grebe’s stage shows. It is not funny. Upcoming December, beyond just appearing a comical figure, Herr Grebe has decided to go all-out in his Indian “costume” this time, and thousands of posters can be seen across Berlin showing this kind of cultural idiocy.

Cultural Stupidity With Grebe by Red Haircrow

Cultural Stupidity With Grebe by Red Haircrow

For whatever reason he does so, thinks its acceptable, funny or cutting edge, in reality it is culturally ignorant, offensive and without any redeeming merit, and at this time of the year, unfortunately he is not alone.

You’ll always have those, by majority Anglos but even some natives as well, that are dismissive of the topic of Indian costume wearing, and little kids doing so to the approving smiles of their parents which just makes me shake my head and look away as its a non-topic, but people like Grebe take this to a whole different level. Watch his videos, the mockery he makes of Indians even if he doesn’t think/mean to, and he’s doing it for profit.

The campaign “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” was started by students teaching about racism in society, and Rainald Grebe is a huge example of not just the activity, but the promotion of copying other cultures for one’s own benefit.

There is a video created by Noel Altaha for a social psychology course (see below), and some of the people who express their feelings hit right on point: “When Caucasian people dress like our ancestors it really disrespects our culture and ourselves.”

The unfortunate thing is, Caucasians like Rainald Grebe often don’t care. They are dismissive. They begin to verbally spew that list of excuses even supposed admirers of Native Americans are known to say:

  1. “I’m not oppressing anyone.”
  2. “Get over it!”
  3. “You all need to focus on bigger issues.”
  4. “You guys are just too sensitive.”
  5. “It’s just a costume!”

These are just a few, but they are all phrases these ones use to try to excuse the fact they are disrespecting someone else’s culture JUST BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. This is continuing colonialism and a more subtle form of racism, attributing and reinforcing white privilege and supremacy. These days, ignorance is a part of the problem, too: people in Germany aren’t taught colonial history, the brutality and genocide committed to give them the privilege to find entertainment and humor in stereotyping of peoples they helped oppress and marginalize.

Update: our documentary Forget Winnetou! Going Beyond Native Stereotypes in Germany, will be addressing this attitude and behaviors, and much, much more. Help us reach our funding goal to bring this needed message through film media, to the world.

Big River Cree “The Old Way”

Sometimes when I’m here…here in Germany that is, which I might prefer for a variety of reasons regarding living and working conditions, even and understandably so, there is nothing that compares with being “at home” as far as the People are concerned: music, sounds, voices, etc.

Various tribes of the Americas have come together at gatherings as the seasons change throughout our history. In modern times, it is no different, and do not mistake or separate natives who might have degrees or jobs, professions and directions of life that are not exclusively based on what you might think of as being ” really native” from our other brothers and sisters.

Even though many of us also do have jobs or professions that are not solely based on Native American music, song, art or something creative in that way, we feel and live in our culture every day because it is a part of us. There is no separation from what is our culture from what we do anyway, day to day, just walking around.

You may have seen my posting of Northern Cree’s recorded song/video “Smilin”, and they are superb. Some non-natives can be annoyed by or do not understand the voices and sounds, but when I hear that? To me that’s pure joy. My heart answers, and something…every single time I hear it or remember, is assuaged in me. It lifts me up. It reconnects me.

Well, my playlists at my YouTube channel includes many tribes, including those of my own heritage, but this one I found online a few weeks ago. Big River Cree: “The Old Way.” It moves me also.

2012 in Review at Redhaircrow.com

Considering its my birthday, and despite starting a 2nd week with the flu, I thought I’d share this site’s stats for my general post. A stat that stood out for me? I had visitors from 98 countries: thank you for taking the time to drop by.

No, I don’t have a great number of visitors compared to some, but my blog is about me, my thoughts, observations, etc. as well as the topics I choose to write about, which can certainly be subjective and which the average browser may not be interested in. I appreciate those who have taken the time to learn more about me as well as share their thoughts.

Year highlights 2012:

  • Published Enigma 2: Fighting The Man by Nephylim at Flying With Red Haircrow
  • Published Silence Is Multi-Colored In My World
  • Received Award Best LGBT Biography/Memoir for “Silence”
  • Published  Poetry in Assaracus Magazine by Sibling Rivalry Press
  • Published Contribution in “Varney the Vampire: A Literary Remix”
  • Signed Jeffrey Bolden, up-and-coming enthusiasm author, “All We Know Is Falling”

Songs of the Universal Vagabond has quite evolved from what it once was when I was first published by Dreamspinner and StarBooks Press and began it. A number of authors and readers came out to “see” me, but found I was far different than the average writer in those “genes” who may have been published with which they were familiar, for I kept my same name whatever venue or genre in which I write.  I also didn’t conform to a certain type in a variety of capacities, which caused some to direct negativity my way.

I have, however, been lucky that those who actually take the time to read my words without need to judge, without preconceived  notions or prejudices, and might actually ask a question and await an answer before judging have taken the time to comment here or other locations. I cannot tell you how complicated and disheartening it can be when you have individuals and groups you’ve never even heard of post messages to attack and deride you, yet with friends and new acquaintances, I was able to go over that though my health situation has been very problematic the last two years. This is only a part of the balance of my life, but even if it just online, I treat everyone the same, no one is lesser here to me just because they aren’t standing in front of me. I appreciate you.

Probably Native American topics will be the strongest for me, although the greater number of posts are about living in or being in Germany, which is where I am, yet being native….that goes with me, of course, and colors all I see and experience. That’s a good thing because it gives me greater tolerance, patience and willingness to listen. So…thank you all, each and every one of you, whether you clicked thru for negative or positive reasons: Songs of the Universal Vagabond is part of what I am. This is me, with all its complexities, subjects, themes, ideas and thoughts.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 14 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.