Archive for February, 2010



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It’s been great, hasn’t it? Talk about a showcase for indigenous performers. Every night, we’d think the show at the First Nations Pavilion couldn’t possibly match the previous night’s – but it always did.

Tonight’s performance is called “The Road Forward” with Evan Adams, Pura Fe’, Leela Gilday, Byron Chief Moon, Jennifer Kreisberg, Michelle St. John and Kevin Loring.

Adams is an actor featured in “Smoke Signals” (He said: “Some days, it’s a good day to die. Some days, it’s a good day to have breakfast.”) and now is a physician serving aboriginal communities. Watch a video interview with him here.

Pura Fe’ and Jennifer Kresiberg, both Tuscarora, sing with the a capella women’s group Ulali. See previous post with video, here.

Actor, artist and dancer Byron Chief Moon is Blood and Cree, and also is a Two-Spirit person. Watch an interview with him here.

Leela Gilday (video above) is a North Slavey Dene singer with a big, big voice from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Here‘s her MysSpace page.

Michelle St. John, who is Cree, has starred in several films, including 1989′s “Where the Spirit Lives,” about aboriginal children being removed from their homes. Watch an excerpt below.

Kevin Loring of Vancouver is a member of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation. His first play, “Where the Blood Mixes,” won second prize in the Canada-wide Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition a couple of years ago. Check out an excerpt here.

Enjoy, and let’s keep looking for all of the artists featured in the last two weeks.

Gwen Florio

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Peter Auld, one of the organizers of Save Chief Cliff Organization, sits recently on top of Chief Cliff, where his father first took him as a boy. “It is part of our history,” Auld said of the mountain and surrounding area. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

Peter Auld, one of the organizers of Save Chief Cliff Organization, sits recently on top of Chief Cliff, where his father first took him as a boy. “It is part of our history,” Auld said of the mountain and surrounding area. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)



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Group works to preserve sacred Chief Cliff site
A group of young people, mostly from Salish Kootenai College, is worried that a quarry near Chief Cliff, a site revered by Kootenai people on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, will damage the cliff. They’d like a conservation easement, but tracking down the quarry’s owner is proving tough. Read Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin’s account, here, and watch Tom Bauer’s video, here.

Cherokee quarterback willing to play for Redskins
University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will likely go to the Washington Redskins come draft time, and some commentators are making a big deal over his Cherokee heritage, and the team’s name, considered offensive by many. Bradford is the first Native American to win the Heisman Trophy. Read more on Fredericksburg.com, here.

Robert Redford to join New Mexico’s Jobs Through Film for Natives
The New Mexico Independent reports here that actor and filmmaker Robert Redford is starting a program in northern New Mexico called “Milagro at Los Luceros.” The idea is to create training programs with a focus on Native American and Hispanic filmmaking.

Afghanistan offensive claims life of Navajo Marine

Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie, 23, who is Dine from Rock Point, was killed Feb. 16 in Marjah, Afghanistan, where he was a combat engineer assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Navajo Times, here. He was the first in his battalion to die in the offensive, and the 11th Navajo soldier or Marine to die overseas since Sept. 11, 2001.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken seeks more money for tribal schools
“The reality is that Indian schools, and Indian issues in general, just have not been a federal funding priority,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. While the Obama administration has done more than previous administrations, “we have to do much, much more,” the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer reports writes here. In Minnesota alone, 64 Indian schools await funding, he says.

Gwen Florio

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Soaring out of the prairie near Starr School, the peaks of Glacier National Park are mostly referred to simply as “the mountains” by the nearby Blackfeet. “The mountains hold spiritual knowledge and the answers we need,” says Carol Murray, a tribal educator, “but we cannot reach it today. (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)

Soaring out of the prairie near Starr School, the peaks of Glacier National Park are mostly referred to simply as “the mountains” by the nearby Blackfeet. “The mountains hold spiritual knowledge and the answers we need,” says Carol Murray, a tribal educator, “but we cannot reach it today. (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)



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With apologies to Joni Mitchell for that tortured reference. But if you read one story today, please read make it this one, about the love-hate relationship that tribes in what is now Montana and Canada have with “The Anchor of All” – known on maps today as Glacier National Park. Here’s how this beautiful piece of writing by Michael Jamison of the Missoulian starts:

    WEST GLACIER – They used to dance here.

    Woody Kipp, a Blackfeet teacher, protects himself from the wind blowing out of the mountains as he tries to light a cigarette outside Browning. “Don’t curse the wind,” he says. “It’s the breath of our ancestors to keep us fresh.” (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)

    Woody Kipp, a Blackfeet teacher, protects himself from the wind blowing out of the mountains as he tries to light a cigarette outside Browning. “Don’t curse the wind,” he says. “It’s the breath of our ancestors to keep us fresh.” (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)

    Back before the tourists and the motor inns, before roadways and boat ramps, before blacktop and gift shops and bus stops.

    They danced in the winter, when the year was young, to the song of water, the song of chickadee, nuthatch, wren and raven. They danced for health and wealth and for food, danced the circular trail of the seasons to come, danced songs given by spirit helpers, at the beginning.

    “For 10,000 generations, the Kootenai people danced there, and it became known as The Place Where They Dance,” said Vernon Finley. “It was our home.”

    Now, that place is known as Apgar, on the shores of an ancient waterway known today as Lake McDonald, shining like a sapphire in a mountain vastness known as Glacier National Park.

    Those new names are about a century old now – as is Glacier Park – but there were older names, Finley said, names tangled in stories of other times.

    Some of those names are spoken in the Blackfeet language, some in Salish. Finley’s names are spoken in Kootenai, and he’s a keeper of those words.

To read the rest, and view Kurt Wilson’s stunning photography, as well as historical photos, click here.


Gwen Florio

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Tonight’s show is called Crossing Bridges, featuring Jason Burnstick, who is Cree from the Duffield reserve in Alberta.

Here’s the official blurb on him:

Jason Burnstick is a remarkable guitarist whose eclectic range and musical wit make him a favourite of the national Aboriginal recording and producing arena. This evening, Jason unpacks a whole new show featuring all kinds of tunes, guitars, pedals, gadgets and gizmos.

Check out his MySpace page, here.

And enjoy the video above, which shows Burnstick accompanying Tinsel Korey at the 2008 Aboriginal Achievement awards.

For a complete schedule of events at the First Nations Pavilion, click here.

Gwen Florio

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Army Spc. Darek Blackwolf of Lame Deer is greeted by his aunt Sandy Bruised Head and father, Darrell Blackwolf, at Billings Logan International Airport on Friday. Blackwolf returned from duty in Afghanistan, where he has been since June of 2009. (Billings Gazette/David Grubbs)

Army Spc. Darek Blackwolf of Lame Deer is greeted by his aunt Sandy Bruised Head and father, Darrell Blackwolf, at Billings Logan International Airport on Friday. Blackwolf returned from duty in Afghanistan, where he has been since June of 2009. (Billings Gazette/David Grubbs)



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Here’s a story from Rob Rogers of the Billings (Mont.) Gazette that warmed the heart of this particular mom:

Connie Blackwolf watched through tears as her son walked down the stairs from the concourse at Billings Logan International Airport to greet his friends and family.

Army Spc. Darek Blackwolf just finished an eight-month tour of duty in Afghanistan and arrived home Friday for the first time since June.

“We depended a lot on prayer,” Connie Blackwolf said. “That’s what we’re thankful for. That’s what brought him home safe.”

Northern Cheyenne medicine man Charles Little Oatman and Darek Blackwolf’s maternal grandfather, Mack Parkett, a Navajo, were on hand to seal his safe arrival.

Before Darek Blackwolf greeted any of the 30 or so friends and family members gathered in the lobby, before he could even touch them, Little Oatman and Parkett each performed a cleansing ceremony. Touching him with blankets, chanting and blessing him, the two men, each in turn, rid Darek Blackwolf of the evils he may have brought back from the war.

“The ceremony,” said his father, Darrell Blackwolf, “is to wipe (away) all the bad stuff that … he might have picked up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Tonight’s show at the First Nations Pavilion is called Theatre of the Soul, featuring Joy Harjo, Larry Mitchell and Drew Hayden Taylor

Here’s the promo:

There are two really good things happening this evening. One is Joy Harjo [video above] with Larry Mitchell. Joy is a profound author and a wellknown voice of Aboriginal women across North America and beyond. She’s a playwright, a poet and recently won a Native American Music Award for her latest CD release with guitarist Larry Mitchell. Drew Hayden Taylor [video below] is a playwright, a humourist and a prolific writer who just so happens to be releasing a brand new book at the Chiefs’ House.

For a complete schedule of events at the First Nations Pavilion, click here.

Gwen Florio


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Here‘s the entire story from Felicia Fonseca of the Associated Press:

James Arthur Ray looks at people in the gallery during the second day of his bond hearing in Prescott, Ariz. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. Ray is facing three manslaughter counts for deaths that occurred during one of his retreats near Sedona, Ariz., in October 2009. (AP Photo/Pool, Jack Kurtz)

James Arthur Ray at his bond hearing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Pool, Jack Kurtz)

A motivational speaker charged with manslaughter in the deaths of three people at an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony is out of jail.

Yavapai County Jail Sgt. Dee Huntley says James Arthur Ray gained his freedom Friday, one day after a Yavapai County Superior Court judge reduced him bond from $5 million to $525,000.

Ray had to surrender his passport. He also cannot organize, supervise or conduct any activities that might harm others.

Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter stemming from an October sweat lodge ceremony that was supposed to be the highlight of a five-day “Spiritual Warrior” retreat.

Prosecutors allege Ray recklessly crammed more than 50 people inside the sweat lodge, a small heated enclosure used in traditional American Indian ceremonies.

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The “dime-store Indians” quote comes from Wade Grant, of the Musqueam tribe, one of the Four Host First Nations.

The Musqueam, Lil’wat, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh tribes in Canada’s British Columbia are the first indigenous people to co-host an Olympics. And, as USA Today writes here:

    The tribe members did more than dance at the opening ceremonies. They helped plan and pull off the Olympics. It has been profitable for them. The Canadian and provincial governments have given them $20 million apiece for programs, services and venue construction. And 100 aboriginal businesses have earned $57 million in contracts for games-related activities, from helping build the Callaghan Valley ski center in Whistler to artists selling crafts at the Olympics. Most aboriginal communities are still poor, so the money can be well spent.

    And they’ve been able to put on quite a show: Inuit tribe throat singing, Metis jigging, First Nations hoop dancing, traditional drumming and displaying arts and crafts in the Aboriginal Pavilion and other venues around the city.

The hope is that, in the process, they’ve launched a tourism experience that will continue. As Lil’wat chief Leonard Andrew says, “We’re making sure they don’t have a big party and just leave.”

Gwen Florio

"Trail of Tears," by Robert Lindneux

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Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has announced that he ”absolutely” intends to relocate people from the city’s poor neighborhoods and downsize his city. (See Detroit News story here.)

“If we don’t do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I’m hopeful people will understand that,” Bing said in a radio interview this week. “If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation.”

Rob Capriccioso, in his Native Pop column for True Slant, here, terms it “a dangerous policy road.”

    Already, comparisons to the U.S. government policy of American Indian relocation have popped up.

    “Sounds like reservations to me; it sounds like telling people to move,”community activist Ron Scott said in a recent news report. “The citizens of the city of Detroit who built this city, the working class, didn’t create this situation. You are diminishing the constitutional options people have by contending you have a crisis.”

    Just a reminder to anyone looking in from Detroit: forced relocation of tribal citizens is now considered a failed U.S. policy. At the time, for decades even, the solution seemed like a good one — the only one — to many policy makers.

    But the policy ended up robbing sovereign citizens of their traditional homes and sacred land. Poverty, broken spirits, alcoholism, and many other social ills resulted.

Capriccioso reminds us we’re still paying hundreds of millions of federal dollars to cope with the after-effects of that one – and are likely to keep paying it for years to come.

Gwen Florio

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The release of a new Johnny Cash album (American VI: Ain’t No Grave) this week on what would have been his 78th birthday has renewed a push by his relatives and Cash scholars for a re-release of a little-known Cash album lamenting the nation’s treatment of Native Americans.

Very few people even known about the 1964 album, “Bitter Tears,” Billboard writes here“:

    Leading the campaign is Antonino D’Ambrosio, author of the book “A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears” (Nation Books, 2009). D’Ambrosio, who wrote about the intersections of music and politics in his book “Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer,” [whose band after The Clash was The Mescaleros] discovered “Bitter Tears” while digging around the Bowling Green State University Sound Recordings Archives. He describes himself as a passionate Cash fan, but this was the first time he’d heard the album.

    “It would have been very easy for Johnny Cash to make a civil rights record at that time,” he says. “He didn’t. He chose to focus on the very real struggle of another group, and the album is relevant to this day.”

    That “Bitter Tears” has been lost to history isn’t a coincidence. Columbia “indulged” Cash and signed off on the project, D’Ambrosio says, “because he’d done so well for them with ‘Ring of Fire’ a year earlier.” The songs, written by Cash, Peter La Farge and Johnny Horton, are nuanced and deeply felt. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” is particularly heartbreaking.

But almost no one promoted the album or played its music. Cash was so angry that he took out a full-page ad in Billboard – which didn’t even review it – on Aug, 22, 1964, that asked, “DJs – station managers – owners, etc., where are your guts?”

Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, says “Bitter Tears” is one of his favorites. It’s available on CD and at Amazon.com and iTunes, Billboad says.

Gwen Florio

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