Category Archives: Native Americans

1000 Word: A Rich Vein of Hatred

I’m old enough to remember the Oscars night when Sacheen Littlefeather took to the stage and declined the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando as a way to protest Hollywood’s depictions and treatment of Native Americans.

Brando’s turn-down of the award followed by a couple of years George C. Scott’s nix of it. Scott, though, thumbed his nose at the statuette because he didn’t like the idea of competition among actors. He’d won the Oscar for his portrayal of World War II Gen. George S. Patton in the eponymous biopic. Which, BTW, was co-written by Francis Ford Coppola who, of course, directed The Godfather, for which Brando was being celebrated — or at least scheduled to be — that fateful evening.

Marlon Brando, though, was a noted advocate at the time for Native Americans, and so came the appearance of Littlefeather.

Image: UCLA Library Special Collections

The New York Times yesterday ran a piece on the event that took place nearly a half century ago. Sacheen Littlefeather now is an old woman and the photo the paper ran of her was certainly jarring. About as jarring as the face that looks back at me from the mirror every goddamned morning. No matter how much we acknowledge that time flees, its flight freaks us.

Littlefeather was a White Mountain Apache. In keeping with the whole Hollywood thing, she was breathtakingly beautiful, her Native American accoutrements seemingly straight out of the costume department. Despite that, she spoke honestly and with real emotion about the film industry’s depiction of Native Americans through the years. It seemed she might break down in tears at any moment during her minute-long speech. Only a creep would be failed to be moved by it.

Well, the Oscar audience that night 49 years ago was filled with creeps.

I was 17 years old at the time and still in thrall to things like the Academy Awards broadcast. I watched as Littlefeather spoke and was aghast at the boos emanating from the crowd. Of course, not everybody booed. The cheers for her balanced out the jeering but it was the negative reaction that stuck with me. Even then I was baffled that anyone could be so…, well, assholish as to boo someone speaking from the heart about the racist portrayals and treatment of her people.

What I didn’t remember, and learned of in the NYT article, is many in the audience actually started doing the tomahawk chop while Littlefeather spoke. If you’re not a sports fan, you may be unfamiliar with the tomahawk chop. In places like Atlanta and universities whose team names are some variant of the Native American thing, fans launch into rhythmic faux-Indian calls, chopping with their right hands in time, mimicking warriors wielding their savage weapons. You know, the way they’ve seen Indians in old Hollywood movies behave. Cop a peek at the fans of the Florida State Seminoles doing the chop:

As an aside, this is a prime illustration of why I shun, as much as humanly possible, going along with the crowd. I steadfastly refuse to do a thing for the simple reason everybody else is doing it. Do you blame me?

Anyway, the Oscars, then as now, is not a sporting event. This despite that fact that, as George C. Scott pointed out, it’s a race between competitors. You’d figure an Academy Award night crowd would be rife with creative, sensitive, progressive, caring folk who’d at least wish to listen to the plaint of a young, frightened woman standing up for her people.

Sadly, the crowd on the night in question was (il)liberally sprinkled with, um…, assholes.

I’m no babe in the woods. I know there’s been a broad current of hate running through the American bloodstream since this holy land’s very inception. I know about lynchings and institutionalized racism and block-busting and red-lining and homophobia and misogyny and every other kind of emotional and spiritual cancer that afflicts far too many of our fellow citizens. Still, I was shocked to learn about many in the Oscars crowd doing that stupid chop during Littlefeather’s speech.

And it gets worse. Apparently John Wayne had to be restrained from charging the stage and stopping Littlefeather from speaking. And Sacheen herself claims she was shot at — with guns, mind you — in the aftermath of the event.

Another aside, this one about John Wayne. His career and legacy largely were made by his roles in all those gorgeous John Ford westerns like Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Stagecoach, and Rio Grande. During World War II, Ford served as a commander in the US Navy, heading the service’s photographic unit. He actually participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy, witnessing the carnage and suffering a wound himself. For his part, John Wayne, the movie tough guy, stayed home during the war, increasing his reputation and bank account while many other Hollywood actors and directors sacrificed years of their careers for the war effort. Ford never forgave Wayne for avoiding service. In fact, acc’d’g to accounts, Ford repeatedly harangued Wayne about it during filming of their last picture together, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

Pretend Hero.

Have we gotten better over the years? President Truman ordered the integration of the armed services in 1947. Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey gave his rousing “bright sunshine of human rights” speech in favor of integration and full civil rights in America in 1948. In the 1960s, Ernie Banks, the biggest sports star in my hometown, was compelled to live in the all-black Chatham neighborhood. Thirty years later, the one-time lily-white suburb of Highland Park was proud to claim as its resident Michael Jordan. Today, no one bats an eye when a black and white couple walks down the street hand in hand. The year Littlefeather spoke, I was in a car with an older co-worker when he spied a black man and a white woman walking on Grand Avenue. “Lookit that,” he said, his voice dripping with contempt, “a nigger and a white chick.”

I’d like to think we’re better than that today. We can’t say the word nigger in a public setting now. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued an apology to Sacheen Littlefeather for her treatment that night in 1973.

But they’re still doing the tomahawk chop in Atlanta.

Hot Air: The Soul(less) Train

Help Me

Questions: Am I naive? Am I a fool? Am I whistling in the dark?

Deep down inside, I’m certain it’s impossible for Donald Trump to become president of this holy land. Sure, this nation is chock-full of dopes, rubes, suckers, nitwits, halfwits and no-wits, mouth-breathers, the addle-pated, sausage-eatin’, lite-beer-drinking, jelly bean-addicted, ball-scratching, muffin-top exposing couch monkeys who don’t believe a thing in this cosmos exists unless they see it on TV, but are there enough of them to elect America’s Shart?

Are there some 60 to 70 million such evolutionary failures to elevate Donald Trump into the Oval Office?

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How Many?

I like to think not.

But this feeling is not based on any scientific polling data. It’s mainly faith that a species that can destroy itself, has not yet because there’s something within it stronger, smarter, more sane than everyday observation might indicate. Stronger, smarter, and saner enough not to turn this operation over to Trump.

If Donald Trump is elected president, this nation as a democracy is finished. Democracy itself will have proven to be as moribund a system as Soviet communism a quarter of a century ago. When the body politic can gather behind a grifting, insulting, know-nothing reality TV star and raise him to the position as the most powerful man on the planet, well then, democracy is a failure. And good riddance.

But I don’t want to believe any of that can happen. Can it?

Please tell me no.

Very Good, Sir

So, Trump’s former butler, who’s now the in-house historian at the Trump villa Mar-a-Lago, takes to social media to recommend that Barack Obama be rubbed out in some way, shape, or form. Either our Army should pump him full of lead or executioners unspecified should hang him or he should be iced by any means necessary. One of the main reasons Obama should be removed from the rolls of the living, says this fellow, Anthony Senecal, is the “corruption” the current president has overseen.

Which is ironic considering what I wrote yesterday — that the Obama admin. has been historically clean, in terms of simple graft, personal gain, and monetary scandal. The “corruption” Senecal refers to, I imagine, is Obama’s putative secret identity as a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. Senecal writes:

I cannot stand the bastard. I don’t believe he’s an American citizen. I think he’s a fraudulent piece of crap that was brought in by the Democrats.

There you have it: Obama was brought in by the Democrats. What in the hell ever that means.

But let’s not be distracted by the depths of this great thinker’s rage and hatred. Let’s keep in mind that Donald Goddamned Trump had — and presumably still has — a freaking butler!

Does he have footmen as well. Groomsmen? Does a chambermaid change his bed linens? Does he dump his excreta out window from its ceramic receptacle every morning upon awakening?

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A butler, for chrissakes.

This whole Trump phenomenon gets more deranged every damned day.


Men running for president used to participate in the age-old tradition of posing in Indian headdress with members of one Native American group or another. I suppose they don’t do it anymore because, well, it’s tacky as all hell and prob. insulting, considering only a very few tribes wore those stereotypical big headdresses. It’s the whole sneaky Jap, ugly Russian woman, murderous Arab, shiftless Negro thing. Y’know, the Injuns wore feathers and always were on the warpath, right?

So, I went looking for pix of prezes who donned the feathers. Funny thing is, I came across one photo of Barack Obama doing it in the Oval Office. I dunno. It looked awfully PhotoShop-py to me. I can’t imagine BHO engaging in such a thing. Ergo, I’m not posting that photo. Look for it yourself if you’re interested.

Anyway, here you go:

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge

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Franklin Roosevelt

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Dwight Eisenhower

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Richard Nixon

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Jimmy Carter (With Iron Eyes Cody)

As an added bonus, here’s Elvis in a war bonnet.

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Guess which former US Senator from Indiana, former vice president, and scion of a wealthy newspaper publishing family made the rounds yesterday of the morning talk shows.

Yep, this guy:

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James Danforth “Dan” Quayle

And guess who he loves for president this year.

Nah, don’t. Why ruin your day?

May 13th Birthdays

Daphne du MaurierRomantic period novelist whose stories often left readers hanging; she eschewed neat tie-ups and satisfying endings. Her short story, “The Birds,” was adapted by screenwriter Evan Hunter for the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Hunter and Hitchcock, as Hollywood types are driven to do, changed much of the original story, stressing the eponymous avians as symbols for the dangerous, frightening sexuality lead character Melanie Daniels introduces to the town of Bodega Bay, California. BTW: Hitchcock apparently was inspired to make the film after the California town of Capitola was overrun with crazed and dying seabirds who suffered shellfish poisoning in 1961.

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Joe Louis — “The Brown Bomber,” Louis was the world’s heavyweight boxing champ in the late 1930s and throughout most of the ’40s. He’s credited with being the first black man to become a national hero in the US, overturning the previously-held attitude that black contenders were villains who were robbing white men of their deserved laurels.

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Louis (R) With Muhammad Ali

Jim Jones — Cult leader who somehow convinced nearly a thousand people to commit mass suicide in the jungles of Guyana in 1978 after members of the group had assassinated Leo Ryan and others when the congressman and his party visited the cult’s camp on a fact-finding mission.


Harvey Keitel — Member of the stable of actors who perfected the New York amoral tough guy image, especially in films by Martin Scorsese. As a young man, he studied under Lee Strasburg at the Actors Studio. He was originally cast as Captain Willard in Francis Ford Coppolla’s Apocalypse Now but was replaced after a week of shooting by Martin Sheen because the director was dissatisfied with his portrayal.

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Keitel (L) With Robert De Niro In “Taxi Driver”

Armistead Maupin — Author of the Tales of the City novels about gay life in San Francisco. Ironically, early in his career Maupin worked in the newsroom of a TV station run by notorious conservative and future US Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina). Maupin admits to being conservative and even segregationist, like Helms, at the time. Maupin later disavowed any philosophical or moral connection with Helms.

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Manning Marable — Pulitzer Prize winner in history for his biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Marable was a Columbia University professor who also wrote biographies of W.E.B. du Bois and Medgar Evers, among other scholarly works dealing with race in America.

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Stevie Wonder — Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins and who originally performed under the name “Little Stevie,” he was inked to a recording contract with Motown’s Tamla Records when he was only 11 years old. Wonder’s a recognized genius but occasionally slips into treacle when he collaborates with the likes of Paul McCartney and Celine Dion.

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Allison Goldfrapp — Leader of the duo Goldfrapp (her stage partner, Will Gregory, plays the synthesizer), she sang for groups in the ambient techno and trip reggae genres before striking out on her own. Her releases were praised by critics but didn’t sell well until she moved more into the dance genre. Among her many inspirational influences are 1970’s Polish disco.

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On this day in 2013 Dr. Joyce Brothers died. A psychologist, she was the first person to host a TV show featuring relationship advice. She gained fame as the first woman to win the top prize on the $64,000 Question game show, cleaning up in the boxing category. She went on to serve as a commentator during the national TV broadcast of a Sugar Ray Robinson bout before her turn as a relationship expert. She said of herself once: “I invented media psychology. I was the first. The founding mother.” She made a fortune simply by being an extraordinarily smart woman.

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The Pencil Today:


“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on Earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarized republic.” — Gore Vidal


Here’s the distribution of native language groups in what is now called North America, before the Europeans started coming over in the late 15th Century.

Click For Larger Image

In other words, this is a map of nations. Each of these nations not only had common languages but cultural ties among the various groups within.

They are no different, in those senses, than the United States or Mexico. The only things they lacked were steel and the wheel.

Steel And The Wheel

Accordingly, they disappeared.


I bet it’s killing Charlene Spierer to refrain from divulging the name of the person she’s certain did in her daughter.

Charlene Spierer

She probably wants to shout the person’s name from the rooftops but, for obvious reasons, she can’t. There are little matters like getting a probable cause warrant, arresting the suspect, and arraigning him or her (oh hell, who am I kidding, him) that must be done first.

The Marion County Coroner’s office has extracted a tooth from a skull found a month ago in the White River in Indianapolis. As it stands right now, examiners don’t even know if the skull comes from a woman or a man.

Marion County’s Deputy Coroner tells The Journal News that the tooth will be compared to Lauren’s dental records in an act of kindness for the Spierers. Examiners generally don’t do that for specific parties who have reported missing people. But the high-profile nature of the disappearance and the Spierers’ savvy use of the media forced the Coroner’s hand.

Charlene has written an open letter to the person who snatched her daughter in the Spierers’ blog. She writes: “We were shocked when several people hired attorneys within days of Lauren’s disappearance. Five young men, five attorneys.”

That’s been my point all along: The last thing I’d think of doing if one of my pals disappeared would be to hire an attorney.

Lauren’s mom then addresses the person who did the deed: “Who are you? Did you go on any searches? Maybe you were no longer in Bloomington as thousands helped look for Lauren. Did you use Lauren’s disappearance to your advantage? Have we met? Time will tell.”


Our next door neighbors’ daughter, R, a senior at Bloomington High School North, copped an Honor award at the Monroe County Fair for her entry in the Bake It with Pineapple contest.

R’s entry was a pineapple coconut tart topped with meringue. Gotta tell you, it paled in comparison to another recipe she experimented with over the weekend: a zucchini-pineapple bread. Too bad — for my money if she’d have submitted the bread, she’d have won the blue ribbon.

All this is yet another way of saying I love living in Bloomington.


Tyler Ferguson of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls is all agog this AM. She’s going up to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy tonight to see — oh, god, I don’t want to say it — Barry Manilow.

She’s been warned: Should she come in to Soma Coffee tomorrow singing any Manilow hit and thereby implanting it as an earworm in my fragile psyche, there will be hell to pay.


In the category of sugary pop, you can’t beat this from BJ Thomas.

It’s recorded directly from the 45, complete with scratch and dust noise. How can you not love it?

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

From I Fucking Love Science

Present and CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

Click For The Quiz

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center — Summer 2012 Sustainability Internship Symposium; 11:30am

Monroe County FairgroundsDay 7, 2012 Monroe County Fair, Hearts of Fire; 6:30pm — Music Makers Extension Chorus Group; 7PM; Demolition Derby; 7:30pm; Soul Patrol; 7:30pm; ; Noon to 11pm

◗ BEAD District Bloomington, Gallery WalkReceptions & exhibits:

WonderLabThe Science of Art: Screenprinting, with David Orr: 5pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet; 7pm

Bloomington Playwrights ProjectOriginal musical, “Dreams & Nightmares”; 7pm

Buskirk-Chumley Theater — “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticCostaki Economopolous; 8 & 10:30pm

Cafe DjangoDavid Miller’s Art Deco Quartet; 7:30pm

◗ IU Woodburn Hall Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Polisse”; 8pm

The BluebirdJJ Grey, Mofro; 8pm

Max’s PlaceKathy Gutjar; 8pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Oslo: August 31”; 8:30pm

Max’s PlaceTarpaper Turley; 10pm

The BishopDJ Junebug; midnight


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; opens Friday, August 3rd, through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits: Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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