Eve-Lauryn Little Shell LaFountain (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) (Film/Video, Art MFA 14) was among the six artists selected earlier this year by the Sundance Institute as a New Frontier Fellow. Fellowship recipients participate in the Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, a week-long experience at the Sundance Resort in Utah designed to empower creatives through “individual story sessions, conversations about key artistic, design and technology issues and case study presentations from experts in multiple disciplines.”
LaFountain, who also serves as the Senior Admissions Counselor for the School of Film/Video, developed her multimedia work Re/Dis Location during the Story Lab. According to the Sundance Institute’s announcement, LaFountain’s piece investigates the “complicated personal histories and legacies of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956.”
“[The project is] focusing on my family’s story of when my grandparents moved from our reservation in North Dakota to Los Angeles as part of the Relocation Act when our reservation was targeted to be terminated,” LaFountain told the 24700 blog during a recent email interview.
“When I moved to Los Angeles, my grandmother was happy to see her dream of living here live on through me. I was surprised that she felt that way because I always thought that she went back to our reservation because she missed her family and homelands. Her time in Los Angeles was great for her though, she had five of her 10 children in the city and saw a lot of potential for a better life in the city. The family moved back because of money and the hardship of raising a growing family in an expensive urban area. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and that’s what propelled me to make a project in her honor and to explore our paralleled stories of migrating to Los Angeles. As I began to develop the project I realized that a traditional documentary would not be the right format. I want the viewer to be transported from one place to another, which is where virtual reality came into the mix.”
Re/Dis Location serves as a portal through which the user may travel through time and space while “investigating the idea of home.” The multimedia work employs audio, video and geo-aware content, pieced together from an archive of film, recordings and photographs of her family and reservation that LaFountain amassed over the years. Re/Dis Location takes a further look at LA’s indigenous histories and communities, misplaced by industries and carried along by a “flash flood in a concrete river.”
Interim Director of the New Frontier Lab Programs and fellow CalArtian Ruthie Doyle (Film/Video MFA 13) co-led the Story Lab with Sundance Institute Feature Film Program Founding Director Michelle Satter. According to Doyle, the program’s roster of advisors and mentors (ranging from Academy Award-winning documentarian Laura Poitras to RYOT Studios Director of Immersive Development Jake Sally) work alongside fellows to support their artistic vision in their projects and beyond, fostering connections across “dislocation, diaspora and mediation.”
LaFountain’s work has been exhibited internationally, including venues like the Autry Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Venice Biennale and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New York City. LaFountain is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, including a REEF Maker City LA Artist Residency, a Flaherty Film Seminar Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship and an Inaugural Mike Kelley Foundation Artist Project Grant.
READ AT 24700 Blog
The Cherokee Nation wants a representative in Congress, taking the US government up on a promise it made nearly 200 years ago
The Cherokee Nation announced Thursday that it intends to appoint a delegate to the US House of Representatives, asserting for the first time a right promised to the tribe in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government.
It was a historic step for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation and its nearly 370,000 citizens, coming about a week after Chuck Hoskin Jr. was sworn in as principal chief of the tribe. The Cherokee Nation says it's the largest tribal nation in the US and one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes.
The move raises questions about what that representation in Congress would look like and whether the US will honor an agreement it made almost two centuries ago.
The Cherokee Nation's right to appoint a delegate stems from the same treaty that the US government used to forcibly remove the tribe from its ancestral lands.
As a result of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were ultimately made to leave their homes in the Southeast for present-day Oklahoma in exchange for money and other compensation. Nearly 4,000 citizens of the tribe died of disease, starvation and exhaustion on the journey now known as the Trail of Tears.
A delegate in the House of Representatives was one of the ways the US government promised to compensate the Cherokee Nation.
READ MORE AT CNN.COM
Lily McKay Carriere knew a northern-based teacher education program was right for her community the moment she saw an applicant applying for scholarships while breastfeeding a newborn.
As coordinator for a new Bachelor of Education program being delivered out of Charlebois Community School in Cumberland House, McKay Carriere is helping provide accessible learning opportunities for northern Saskatchewan residents. Delivering the Cree Teacher Education Program (CTEP) in the remote community — approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert — means students don’t have to uproot their lives.
“There was another mother who brought her daughter to the school with her. I asked, ‘Well, what is your mom going to be?’ and she really proudly said, ‘She’s going to be a teacher.’”
After a Round of White Fragility, Minnesota City Park Board Changes Names from Racist Politician to the Original Indigenous Name
The Minneapolis, Minnesota, Park and Recreation Board voted Wednesday to rename four parkways with the original Dakota name.
Park Board commissioners, who voted 7-2 to make the change, said it was a small step to undo the presence of the lake’s namesake, John C. Calhoun — the politician who advocated for slavery and the removal of American Indians from their lands in the early 19th century — and teach people about the land’s indigenous history.
The vote comes after a round of white fragility which saw some local politicians and leaders cringe at the thought of changing the name to reflect the real name bestowed upon the lake and region by the Dakota Sioux community.
As a result of Wednesday’s vote, West Calhoun Boulevard, Calhoun Drive and East and West Lake Calhoun parkways will now be named West Bde Maka Ska Boulevard, Bde Maka Ska Drive and East and West Bde Maka Ska parkways. City crews are expected to install new placards for East and West Bde Maka Ska Parkways on Thursday morning, although green street signs will be changed by the city at a later date.
The change is the latest in a years-long back-and-forth surrounding the name of one of Minneapolis’ most popular lakes. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) restored the name to Bde Maka Ska, meaning “White Earth Lake,” in 2018, a decision currently under review by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
READ MORE AT Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Google Earth outreach: Published Aug 9, 2019
Of the 7,000 languages spoken around the globe, 2,680 Indigenous languages—more than one third of the world's languages—are in danger of disappearing. The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness about these languages and their contribution to global diversity. To help preserve them, our new Google Earth tour, Celebrating Indigenous Languages, shares audio recordings from more than 50 Indigenous language speakers.
“It is a human right to be able to speak your own language,” says Tania Haerekiterā Tapueluelu Wolfgramm, a Māori and Tongan person who works as an educator and activist in Aotearoa--the Māori name for New Zealand--and other Pacific countries. “You don’t have a culture without the language.”
Tania is one of several dozen Indigenous language speakers, advocates and educators who helped create the tour. Thanks to their contributions, people can click on locations meaningful to Indigenous speakers and hear people offer traditional greetings, sing songs, or say common words and phrases in their languages.
The people who recorded audio in their languages and connected Google with Indigenous speakers each have their own story about why revitalizing Indigenous languages strikes a chord for them.
For Arden Ogg, director of Canada’s Cree Literacy Network, and Dolores Greyeyes Sand, a Plains Cree person and Cree language teacher, the focus is on providing resources for language learners. For Brian Thom, a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the interest grew out of his work helping Indigenous communities map their traditional lands.
Brian asked yutustanaat, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and a language teacher in British Columbia, to record the hul’q’umi’num’ language. “Our language is very healing,” says yutustanaat. “It brings out caring in our people and helps our students be strong, because the language comes from the heart.” In her recording, yutustanaat speaks the traditional hul’q’umi’num’ greeting: ‘i ch ‘o’ ‘uy’ ‘ul’ or “How are you?”
By using their languages—and sharing them with the rest of the world—Indigenous people create closer connections to a culture that is often endangered or has outright disappeared.
Wikuki Kingi, a Māori Master Carver, recorded traditional chants in Te Reo Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language indigenous to New Zealand. He says, “Speaking Te Reo Māori connects me to my relatives, to the land, rivers, and the ocean, and it can take me to another time and place.”
Hundreds of languages are a few days away from never being spoken or heard again. By putting Indigenous languages on the global stage, we reclaim our right to talk about our lives in our own words. It means everything to us. ~Tania Haerekiterā Tapueluelu Wolfgramm, Māori and Tongan Activist and Educator
“I do this not for myself, but for my children and grandchildren, so that in the future, they’ll hear our language,” says Dolores, who recorded audio in her native Plains Cree.
To ensure that future generations hear and speak Indigenous languages, more needs to be done to support their revitalization. Tania Wolfgramm suggests checking out how her nonprofit organization, Global Reach Initiative & Development Pacific, uses technology to connect far-flung Indigenous people to their traditional communities—like bringing Google Street View to the remote island of Tonga. Arden Ogg directs people interested in Indigenous languages to the Cree Literacy Network, which publishes books in Cree and English to facilitate language learning. And a video from the University of Victoriasuggests five ways to support Indigenous language revitalization, such as learning words and phrases using smartphone apps, and learning the names of rivers, mountains and towns in the local Indigenous language.
This initial collection of audio recordings in Google Earth only scratches the surface of the world’s thousands of Indigenous languages. If you’d like to contribute your language to this collection in the future, please share your interest.
When extreme white nationalists make themselves visible—as they have for the past decade, and now more than ever with a vocal white nationalist president—they are dismissed as marginal, rather than being understood as the spiritual descendants of settler colonizers. - ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ
The United States has been at war every day since its founding, often covertly and often in several parts of the world at once. As ghastly as that sentence is, it still does not capture the full picture. Indeed, prior to its founding, what would become the United States was engaged—as it would continue to be for more than a century following—in internal warfare to piece together its continental territory. Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.
The United States is not exceptional in the amount of violence or bloodshed when compared to colonial conquests in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. Elimination of the native is implicit in settler colonialism and colonial projects in which large swaths of land and workforces are sought for commercial exploitation. Extreme violence against noncombatants was a defining characteristic of all European colonialism, often with genocidal results.
Rather, what distinguishes the United States is the triumphal mythology attached to that violence and its political uses, even to this day. The post–9/11 external and internal U.S. war against Muslims-as-“barbarians” finds its prefiguration in the “savage wars” of the American colonies and the early U.S. state against Native Americans. And when there were, in effect, no Native Americans left to fight, the practice of “savage wars” remained. In the twentieth century, well before the War on Terror, the United States carried out large-scale warfare in the Philippines, Europe, Korea, and Vietnam; prolonged invasions and occupations in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic; and counterinsurgencies in Colombia and Southern Africa. In all instances, the United States has perceived itself to be pitted in war against savage forces.
Appropriating the land from its stewards was racialized war from the first British settlement in Jamestown, pitting “civilization” against “savagery.” Through this pursuit, the U.S. military gained its unique character as a force with mastery in “irregular” warfare. In spite of this, most military historians pay little attention to the so-called Indian Wars from 1607 to 1890, as well as the 1846–48 invasion and occupation of Mexico. Yet it was during the nearly two centuries of British colonization of North America that generations of settlers gained experience as “Indian fighters” outside any organized military institution. While large, highly regimented “regular” armies fought over geopolitical goals in Europe, Anglo settlers in North America waged deadly irregular warfare against the continent’s indigenous nations to seize their land, resources, and roads, driving them westward and eventually forcibly relocating them west of the Mississippi. Even following the founding of the professional U.S. Army in the 1810s, irregular warfare was the method of the U.S. conquest of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, Southeast, and Mississippi Valley regions, then west of the Mississippi to the Pacific, including taking half of Mexico. Since that time, irregular methods have been used in tandem with operations of regular armed forces and are, perhaps, what most marks U.S. armed forces as different from other armies of global powers.
By the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829–37), whose lust for displacing and killing Native Americans was unparalleled, the character of the U.S. armed forces had come, in the national imaginary, to be deeply entangled with the mystique of indigenous nations—as though, in adopting the practices of irregular warfare, U.S. soldiers had become the very thing they were fighting. This persona involved a certain identification with the Native enemy, marking the settler as Native American rather than European. This was part of the sleight of hand by which U.S. Americans came to genuinely believe that they had a rightful claim to the continent: they had fought for it and “become” its indigenous inhabitants.
Irregular military techniques that were perfected while expropriating Native American lands were then applied to fighting the Mexican Republic. At the time of its independence from Spain in 1821, the territory of Mexico included what is now the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Texas. Upon independence, Mexico continued the practice of allowing non-Mexicans to acquire large swaths of land for development under land grants, with the assumption that this would also mean the welcome eradication of indigenous peoples. By 1836 nearly 40,000 Americans, nearly all slavers (and not counting the enslaved), had moved to Mexican Texas. Their ranger militias were a part of the settlement, and in 1835 became formally institutionalized as the Texas Rangers. Their principal state-sponsored task was the eradication of the Comanche nation and all other Native peoples in Texas. Mounted and armed with the new killing machine, the five-shot Colt Paterson revolver, they did so with dedicated precision.
Having perfected their art in counterinsurgency operations against Comanches and other Native communities, the Texas Rangers went on to play a significant role in the U.S. invasion of Mexico. As seasoned counterinsurgents, they guided U.S. Army forces deep into Mexico, engaging in the Battle of Monterrey. Rangers also accompanied General Winfield Scott’s army and the Marines by sea, landing in Vera Cruz and mounting a siege of Mexico’s main commercial port city. They then marched on, leaving a path of civilian corpses and destruction, to occupy Mexico City, where the citizens called them Texas Devils. In defeat and under military occupation, Mexico ceded the northern half of its territory to the United States, and Texas became a state in 1845. Soon after, in 1860, Texas seceded, contributing its Rangers to the Confederate cause. After the Civil War, the Texas Rangers picked up where they had left off, pursuing counterinsurgency against both remaining Native communities and resistant Mexicans.
The Marines also trace half of their mythological origins to the invasion of Mexico that nearly completed the continental United States. The opening lyric of the official hymn of the Marine Corps, composed and adopted in 1847, is “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Tripoli refers to the First Barbary War of 1801–5, when the Marines were dispatched to North Africa by President Thomas Jefferson to invade the Berber Nation, shelling the city of Tripoli, taking captives, and blockading key Barbary ports for nearly four years. The “Hall of Montezuma,” though, refers to the invasion of Mexico: while the U.S. Army occupied what is now California, Arizona, and New Mexico, the Marines invaded by sea and marched to Mexico City, murdering and torturing civilian resisters along the way.
So what does it matter, for those of us who strive for peace and justice, that the U.S. military had its start in killing indigenous populations, or that U.S. imperialism has its roots in the expropriation of indigenous lands?
It matters because it tells us that the privatization of lands and other forms of human capital are at the core of the U.S. experiment. The militaristic-capitalist powerhouse of the United States derives from real estate (which includes African bodies, as well as appropriated land). It is apt that we once again have a real estate man for president, much like the first president, George Washington, whose fortune came mainly from his success speculating on unceded Indian lands. The U.S. governmental structure is designed to serve private property interests, the primary actors in establishing the United States being slavers and land speculators. That is, the United States was founded as a capitalist empire. This was exceptional in the world and has remained exceptional, though not in a way that benefits humanity. The military was designed to expropriate resources, guarding them against loss, and will continue to do so if left to its own devices under the control of rapacious capitalists.
When extreme white nationalists make themselves visible—as they have for the past decade, and now more than ever with a vocal white nationalist president—they are dismissed as marginal, rather than being understood as the spiritual descendants of the settlers. White supremacists are not wrong when they claim that they understand something about the American Dream that the rest of us do not, though it is nothing to brag about. Indeed, the origins of the United States are consistent with white nationalist ideology. And this is where those of us who wish for peace and justice must start: with full awareness that we are trying to fundamentally change the nature of the country, which will always be extremely difficult work.
This essay is featured in Boston Review’s fall 2018 print issue EVIL EMPIRE.
Gutzon Borglum, named after his father's sneeze, designed Mt. Rushmore, and it's no secret that he blasted it out of sacred Native land. But this decision resulted less from a "Well, we need land" reasoning, and more from a "We must purify the land of the unclean races"-type mentality.
See, Borglum's first claim to fame was the Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia -- a gigantic monument funded by the Ku Klux Klan.
Borglum was not merely sympathetic to the KKK's ideology and goals; he was damn near a member himself. While he never wore a white pillowcase on his head, he attended rallies, served on committees, and became so important to the organization that he would adjudicate disagreements between top leaders. He was good buds with D.C. Stephenson, a grand dragon. Stephenson was wealthy, and not only funded the sculpture of Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain, but also lent money to Borglum directly. The only thing that caused their relationship to sour a bit was when Stephenson was imprisoned for raping and murdering a woman.
Even after leaving the Stone Mountain project, Borglum didn't give up trying to glorify the Confederacy. During the initial years of Mt. Rushmore's construction in 1924, he worked on a new design for a coin that included Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback. The U.S. Mint rejected the design, because the only traitors we allow on currency are the ones who betrayed the British.
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The Donner and Reed families, collectively known as the Donner Party, entered the annals of history the hard way. While traveling to California in the winter of 1846, a freak snowstorm marooned their wagon train in the Sierra Nevada range, where they were trapped the entire winter. With supplies running out, historians now believe the survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive. But it turned out they had plenty of chances to avoid starvation, and all they had to do was stop being racist for half a second.
The story of the Donner Party is one of misfortune and woe -- unless you ask the wel mel ti, a northern offshoot of the Washoe tribe, who know it more as a dark comedy. While the the harsh winter caused the Donner Party to freeze their butts off, the Washoe had been thriving there for centuries. So when they saw the ill-equipped, starving strangers, they took pity on them and tried to help. To which the Donner party reacted in typical pioneer fashion: They shot at them.
The Washoe Indians attempted to offer food to the Donner party multiple times, but the distrusting wagoneers wouldn't let them near. On one occasion, they approached the starving settlers with nothing but smiles and a whole deer carcass, and the Donners opened fire. The Washoe got so desperate that they snuck rabbit and potatoes near the camp in order not to spook these trigger-happy trailblazers. Of course, when they discovered the party had gone full cannibal, they broke off all contact out of fear they would be next on the menu, leaving them to their preference: eating white meat to avoid talking to red people.