Poll shows Tulalip overwhelmingly in favor of term Indian, split on Redskin

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

A few days ago the Washington Post, a daily newspaper widely circulated in Washington D.C., published their findings of a poll supposedly showing that Native Americans don’t care that much about the term ‘Redskin’. In fact, the Washington Poll found that an overwhelming 90% of Native Americans weren’t at all bothered by the term. Following their publishing of the poll, news outlets across the country picked it up and ran with it. All the sports related networks, TV shows, talk radio and on-line media were quick to have “Native Americans don’t care about term Redskin” as a major talking point.

Here’s the thing though and it’s a biggie…the Washington Post poll was grossly inaccurate in its methodology. So much so that as a fellow media outlet and news organization, we are embarrassed for them.

“Accuracy is the foundation of good journalism. However, the methodology used to conduct [the Washington Post] poll was fundamentally flawed and as a result, its data set and all conclusions reached are inherently inaccurate and misleading,” stated the Native American Journalist Society in their response to the poll. “The reporting fails to pass the test of accurate and ethical reporting in an example of creating the news rather than simply reporting it.”

The poll was severely flawed on two fronts. First, it relied completely on self-identified Native American respondents in its sampling. So individuals would be asked if they are Native American or not. Then they would be asked if they did claim to be Native, if they were enrolled in a tribe. No research or fact gathering was done to verify whether a respondent was indeed Native or if they were actually enrolled. Secondly, the vast majority of respondents to the poll lived nowhere near a tribal reservation, let alone actually lived on one.

So the Washington Post polled individuals who did not live on or near a reservation and who self-identified as being Native American with no kind of process in place to determine if these people were actually, you know, Native American. Terrible, terrible methodology which led to wide-spread inaccurate reporting in the mainstream media. We can’t begin to assume what every Native American in the country thinks about the word Redskin, but we can figure out what Tulalip thinks about it. While on the subject we also wondered how our people felt about the word Indian. So we did our own poll.

Here’s our methodology. With a quick stop to the Tulalip Admin. Building, Senior Center, Youth Services, Hibulb Cultural Center, Heritage High School, and a few places in between we were able to poll 110 Tulalip citizens. That’s 110 tribal members who are firmly connected to the reservations through residence, school, and work. Of the 110 it was a seemingly 50/50 split of males vs. females, while ages ranged from high school student to tribal elder. It’s interesting to note that every single person polled responded in-person to the polling staff member; no one refused or abstained from questioning.

You may be wondering how a poll of only 110 Tulalip citizens can be indicative of the entire Tulalip Tribe. Well, basically that’s how surveys and polls of nearly any nature work. For example, in the Washington Post poll they used 504 so-called Native people to represent the 5.4 Million Native American population. Here, we are using 110 Tulalips to statistically represent the 2,845 adult members of the Tulalip Tribe.

The polling consisted of two straight-forward questions; 1. Do you find the word Indian offensive? 2. Do you find the word Redskin offensive? Accepted responses were ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘depends on the context’. The following is our results.



A whopping 83% of Tulalip citizens said they are not offended by the word Indian, while only 9% said they were offended, and the remaining 8% said it depends on the context.

Now, for the as-of-late, media driven buzz word Redskin: 46% of Tulalip citizens said they are offended by it, 37% said they were not offended by it, and the remaining 16% said it depends on the context. The results were quite mixed, but definitely a far cray from the 90% the Washington Post found to be not bothered by the term. Interesting to note that of the 16% who said it depends on the context, almost everyone said that the context is whether or not a Native or non-Native person was using it.

Interpretation of the results is an entirely different discussion. People can talk about political correctness, media narratives, and social science theories on linguistics and imaging for days on end. That’s not what we are doing at this time. Instead, we just wanted to show what an accurate polling representation of Tulalip citizens would illustrate in regards to the level of offensiveness of two words, Indian and Redskin, on the Tulalip Reservation.



Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulalipnews-nsn.gov

The Final Indian War in America is About to Begin

Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas
Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas


Notes from Indian Country, November 16, 2014
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Native Sun News

Source: Huffington Post

(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)

South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.

The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.

Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.

Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.

He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?

As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.

Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?

President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.

Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.

South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.

What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.

The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!

When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News. He can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com.



“I’ll fucking cut you.” Behind the scenes of the 1491s’ segment on “The Daily Show”

Photo courtesy of Migizi Pensoneau
Photo courtesy of Migizi Pensoneau

Posted by Migizi Pensoneau at the Missoula Independent

Editor’s note: Last night “The Daily Show” aired a segment about Washington’s controversial football team nickname. The segment included the 1491s, a Native American comedy troupe the Indy has profiled and which includes Migizi Pensoneau, who lives in Missoula and contributes regularly to the paper. Migizi wrote the following behind-the-scenes account of the segment and how it came about.

A couple of weeks back, the 1491s got an email from a producer at “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart. They were recruiting for a panel discussion regarding the Washington Redskins, and the mascot controversy that surrounds the team. And they wanted us—a Native American sketch comedy/video group that tackles everything from Indian Country politics to fart jokes—to weigh in. As a writer, educator, satirist and smart-ass, I was excited about the opportunity. While we love the reach that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet avenues provide, there’s something bewitching about being on national TV, and on a show we respect.

Less than a week after we got the email, three members of our group—including me—were whisked away to our nation’s capitol for two full days of shooting. The morning after we arrived, a Saturday, we learned more about the premise of the shoot. There would be two panels: pro-Redskins fans (as in, pro-mascot, pro-dressing up as Indian, anti-name changers) and anti-mascot activists, which included the three of us joined by five other indigenous panelists. The plan was to let the first panel make their case: talk about how the mascot honors Natives, that the name “Redskins” only refers to fans of the team and not Native Americans—standard pro-mascot arguments. Then, at a designated point, the host, Jason Jones, would ask, “Would you say all of this stuff directly to a Native American?” To which they’d presumably say, “Yes,” and then Jones would cue us to enter. The panel would be embarrassed, we’d be indignant, they’d be on their way—appropriately uncomfortable—and then we’d get our chance to talk.


After a long wait in an adjacent green room, completely cut off visually and aurally from the pro-Redskins panel, we were finally asked in. We entered the room, looked indignant, and there was a wonderfully uncomfortable silence. Jones played the buffoon, eating some wings and drinking a beer. But then, one of the pro-mascot fellas started to defend their position, and everything derailed. This is the part you don’t really see in its full glory on the segment: As some of the anti-mascot activists started in passionately on the issue, pro-mascot panelist Kelli O’Dell, who was previously employed by the Washington Redskins and whose Internet presence is devoted to her support of the team and mascot, started to cry. My ever-dapper 1491s colleague, Bobby Wilson, offered her his own handkerchief. It was an intense situation, but never mean-spirited. O’Dell, though, started to accuse us of ambushing and lying and “how dare you.” (Later, after the shoot but before the episode aired, it would be reported by the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Time, Gawker, Uproxx, Buzzfeed and CBS that she felt in danger and this experience would smear her name.)

Sobbing and accusatory, she and the others left. From there, we took a break to reset the room, and we did our panel. This one went incredibly well and I’m proud to have been a part of it. The producer, crew and Jones were wonderful to us, and we all walked out of there with hugs and smiles. It was 180 degrees from the previous panel, and we were happy about it.

The next morning, football Sunday, the three of us went to FedEx Field as part of the show. “The Daily Show” taped us wandering around the “Redskins Nation” tailgate, though that never made it on air. I, rather naively, thought maybe we’d be able use our presence at the tailgate as a way to showcase our humanity, and let the Washington Team know that there are Native Americans out there who are among them—real people not relegated to the eternal myth of history. Maybe we’d change a mind or two. Or, at least, maybe some ignorant hilarity could be caught on camera. It was worth a try, so with a camera crew following us, one little, two little and a third big Indian struck out into FedEx Field’s Redskin Nation tailgate.

That did not go as I’d hoped.

There were points during that hour-long experience where I actually was afraid for my life. I have never been so blatantly threatened, mocked or jeered. It was so intense, so full of vitriol that none of the footage ended up being used in the segment. I’m a big dude—6’1”, and a lotta meat on the bones. But a blonde little wisp of a girl completely freaked me out as I waited in line for the bathroom. “Is that shirt supposed to be funny?” she asked motioning to my satirical “Caucasians” T-shirt. And then she said, “I’ll fucking cut you.” Actually, she didn’t scare me so much as the wannabe linebackers standing behind her who looked like they wanted to make good on her threat.

On one level, I get it. I’m walking around with an ironic T-shirt on, being a Native in the middle of FedEx Field with a camera crew from “The Daily Show” nearby. But amid the jeers, mocking and threats, did I cry, and accuse them of ambush? No, because I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s “The Daily Show.” I know the format. More than that though, I didn’t back down or break down because I knew in my heart and conscience I was doing the right thing, as silly as the method may have been.

I think back to the tailgate: the man blowing cigar smoke in my face, the man who mockingly yelled, “Thanks for letting us use your name!”, the group who yelled at us to “go the fuck home,” the little waif who threatened to cut me, the dude who blew the train horn on his truck as I walked by the hood. I think of all of that, and I think back to O’Dell crying and trying desperately to get out of the room full of calm Natives. I thought she was crying because she was caught unawares and was afraid. But I realized that was her defense mechanism, and that by overly dramatizing her experience, she continued to trivialize ours. It was privilege in action. And as I realized these things, something else became incredibly clear: She knew she was wrong.

Watch “The Daily Show” segment here:

Limits on Access to Eagle Feathers Questioned

By Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service

(CN) – The Interior Department may be infringing on the religious freedom of Native Americans by limiting the right to possess eagle feathers to federally recognized tribes, the 5th Circuit ruled.
Understanding golden and bald eagles are essential for the religious practices of many American Indian tribes, Congress amended the Eagle Protection Act in 1962, adding an exception “for the religious practices of Indian tribes.”
Under the law, Native Americans could apply for a permit to take and possess eagles by attaching a certificate from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that verified them as Indian to their application.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt narrowed the eligibility in 1999 to members of federally recognized Indian tribes.
The National Eagle Repository in Colorado takes in dead eagle parts and distributes them to qualified permit applicants, with whole bird orders taking more than three years to fill, and loose feather requests taking about six months to turn around, court records show.
At a 2006 powwow a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent found Robert Soto in possession of eagle feathers.
Soto told the agent he was a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe, and after the officer determined the tribe is not federally recognized, he met with Soto, who voluntarily gave up his eagle feathers in return for the government dropping its criminal case against him.
As pastor of the McAllen Grace Brethren Church and the Native American New Life Center in McAllen, Texas, Soto uses eagle feathers for his ministry’s religious ceremonies.
Soto “has been a feather dancer for 34 years and has won many awards for his Indian dancing and artwork at various powwows throughout the nation,” according to his self-published biography.
After the Interior Department denied Soto’s petition for the return of his feathers, he and 15 other plaintiffs sued, claiming the feather confiscation violated religious freedoms established by the First Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa sided with the feds and Soto appealed to the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.
Writing for a three-judge panel of the appellate court, Judge Catharina Haynes found the government had not carried its burden of showing its regulations are the least restrictive means of protecting what it claims are its compelling interests: protecting eagles and fulfilling its responsibility to federally recognized tribes.
Noting that the 1962 Amendment to the Eagle Protection Act “did not define ‘Indian Tribes,'” Haynes wrote on Wednesday, “We cannot definitively conclude that Congress intended to protect only federally recognized tribe members’ religious rights in this section.”
She added: “The Department has failed to present evidence at the summary judgment phase that an individual like Soto-whose sincerity is not in question and is of American Indian descent-would somehow cause harm to the relationship between federal tribes and the government if he were allowed access to eagle feathers, especially given congressional findings that the exception was born out of a religious concern.”(Emphasis in original.)
The law also grants the Interior Secretary authority to OK the taking of eagles or eagle parts for public museums, scientific groups, zoos, wildlife and agricultural protection.
Haynes took issue with the fact that the government did not bring up these various nonreligious exceptions to the law.
The feds additionally argued that removing barriers to possession would lead to a spike in poaching to supply a black market in eagles and eagle feathers.
But Haynes dismissed that as “mere speculation” by the federal agents who testified in the case.
“This case involves eagle feathers, rather than carcasses. It is not necessary for an eagle to die in order to obtain its feathers. Thus, speculation about poaching for carcasses is irrelevant to Soto’s request for return of feathers,” the 25-page ruling states.
In coming down on the side of religious freedom, the panel relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which found that requiring some corporations to supply contraceptives to their employees against their religious objections violates the Religious Freedom of Restoration Act.
The panel reversed and remanded the case to Hinojosa and urged the government to prove the permitting system does not violate the RFRA.
In a one-page concurring opinion Judge Edith Jones said the ruling should be read to only apply to American Indians.
“Broadening the universe of ‘believers’ who seek eagle feathers might … seriously endanger the religious practices of real Native Americans,” she wrote.

Indian activists in Cleveland to file suit against baseball team

A 2002 cartoon from Lalo Alcaraz and a 2014 photo at a Cleveland Indians protest.
A 2002 cartoon from Lalo Alcaraz and a 2014 photo at a Cleveland Indians protest.

Source: Indianz.com

Indian activists in Illinois are planning to file a lawsuit against the Cleveland Major League Baseball team.

Activists have been protesting the team’s Chief Wahoo mascot for decades. They hope the lawsuit leads to the elimination of the racist symbol.

“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Robert Roche, the director of the American Indian Education Center and one of the plaintiffs in the forthcoming suit, told ABC News.

Roche, who can be seen in the photo above on the opening day of the team’s season, said the lawsuit will be filed by the end of July.

Get the Story:
Native American group plans to file federal lawsuit against Cleveland Indians over Chief Wahoo logo (ABC News 6/23)
Native Groups Look to Retire the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo (NBC News 6/23)

Being Frank: New Hatchery is a Blessing


By Billy Frank, Jr., Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

OLYMPIA – I was excited to attend a groundbreaking ceremony recently for a new state salmon hatchery at Voights Creek near Orting. The new facility replaces a hatchery – nearly wiped out by floods in 2009 – that has been operating on the creek since the early 1900s. Close tribal and state cooperation made the new hatchery a reality. It will be the first new state salmon hatchery built in the past couple of decades.

I’m glad that the old hatchery is being replaced.  We can’t afford to lose any more of them or the salmon they provide, despite what you might be hearing these days.

Closing the Voights Creek Hatchery would mean the annual loss of 1.6 million fall chinook salmon and 780,000 coho salmon. That’s in addition to 400,000 more fall chinook and 100,000 additional coho that are transferred from the facility to the Puyallup Tribe’s hatchery for release into the Puyallup River each year.

Hatcheries have been getting a bad rap lately. Tribal, state and federal hatcheries are under fire from lawsuits filed by a few extremist groups who think that all wild salmon and steelhead are good and all hatchery-produced fish are evil. I’m not sure what they’re trying to achieve. All fishermen – Indian and non-Indian – rely on hatcheries, because fisheries are supported by them. Some hatcheries produce fish for harvest. Others serve as nurseries to supplement weak wild stocks.

It’s really pretty simple. No hatcheries equals no fishing. For anyone. That’s unacceptable to the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington, because our constitutionally protected fishing right depends on salmon being available for harvest.

Hatchery opponents argue that when hatchery fish breed with wild fish, their offspring don’t survive as well. But research by the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho has shown that’s not always the case.

The bottom line is that we will need salmon hatcheries for as long as lost and damaged habitat prevents salmon recovery. We would prefer not to rely so heavily on hatcheries, but today more than half of the chinook and coho harvested by Indian and non-Indian fishermen come from hatcheries.

We’ve become dependent on the fish produced in hatcheries because we are losing the battle to recover naturally spawning salmon and their habitat. I think we are going to rely on hatcheries for quite some time, because salmon habitat is being lost and damaged faster than it can be restored and protected, and the trend isn’t improving.

While we celebrate this year the 40th anniversary of the Boldt decision in U.S. v. Washington, we’re also marking the 40th anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act. The ESA is supposed to help recover threatened wild salmon stocks, but that’s not happening because the law is not being used to protect salmon habitat and ensure that recovery plans are being implemented.

That’s why we are also marking the 15th anniversary of the 1999 ESA listing of Puget Sound chinook, Hood Canal summer chum and Lake Ozette sockeye. Puget Sound steelhead were added to the list in 2007. While some stocks of Hood Canal summer chum are showing signs of recovery, Puget Sound coho are now a candidate species for listing.

Even closing all hatcheries and ending all fisheries would not bring back the salmon. That’s because fixing and protecting habitat are the most important components of salmon recovery. From the beginning to the end of the salmon’s life cycle, it is the overall quantity and quality of habitat that determine the strength of the resource.

It’s one thing to restore salmon habitat. It is another to protect it. If we want salmon in our world to thrive once again, we must do both.

Carter Camp, Indian activist, dies at 72

Carter Camp is dead at the age of 72 (Photo by Photobucket/Ajijaakwe)
Carter Camp is dead at the age of 72 (Photo by Photobucket/Ajijaakwe)

Vince Devlin, January 2, 2014, Buffalo Post

Carter Camp, who helped organize the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, has died at the age of 72.

The Associated Press reports Camp succumbed to cancer on Dec. 27 in White Eagle, Okla.

Camp, a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, was a longtime member of the American Indian Movement, organizing more than 30 chapters in his home state of Oklahoma, (his sister Casey) Camp-Horinek said. The American Indian Movement was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans and demand that the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.

He had a leading role in the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, in which a caravan of Native American activists drove across the country to Washington, D.C., to protest treaties between tribes and the federal government. They took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs for several days.

Although several people in leadership roles went on trial for events that took place at Wounded Knee, the AP reported that Camp was the only one to ever serve time. He spent two years in prison.

“He was the only person in (a) leadership position in Wounded Knee who never left Wounded Knee, not to go out and do press junkets, not to go and sit in a hotel for a while. None of that. He was a war leader there. He stayed inside with his warriors,” Camp-Horinek said of her brother.

Most recently, Camp fought the Keystone XL pipeline.

Johnny Depp, the ‘Indian’: Is He or Isn’t He?

Angela Aleiss, Indian Country Today Media Network

As The Lone Ranger heads for the big screen this summer, many Native Americans are questioning Disney’s campaign to court their approval.  They believe that the studio’s public relations gestures mask the real issues of the marketing and identity of indigenous people.

The movie, which stars Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger, will hit theaters July 3.  Depp has enjoyed a long relationship with the film’s director Gore Verbinski and its producer Jerry Bruckheimer through Disney’s record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean series.  The megastar is also one of The Lone Ranger’s executive producers, and his production company Infinitum Nihil (Latin for “Infinite Nothing”) was involved with the picture.

But Depp’s claims of Cherokee heritage (put forth in 2002 on Inside the Actors’ Studio, although in 2011  speaking to Entertainment Weekly he added “or maybe Creek”) along with his streaked black-and-white painted face and a stuffed crow perched atop his head have caused many to cry foul.  Still, others say that Disney—which has a long history of working with Native Americans—is not adequately addressing their issues.

For his part, Depp told MTV.com that the film is “an opportunity for me to salute Native Americans.”  The actor has said he hopes to fix years of Indian misrepresentations in Hollywood and has repeatedly stated that his great grandmother had mostly Cherokee blood.

But Native American leaders and educators are not buying it.  They question Depp’s claims of Cherokee heritage, particularly the studio’s attempt to keep it ambiguous.

“Disney relies upon the ignorance of the public to allow that ambiguity to exist,” says Hanay Geiogamah, Professor of Theater at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.  Geiogamah (Kiowa/Delaware) was a consultant for Disney’s Pocahontas and served as producer and co-producer for TBS’ The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths aired in the 1990s.

“If Depp had any legitimate blood of any tribe, Disney would definitely have all the substantial proof of that already.  It’s not that hard to establish tribal connections,” Geiogamah says.

Richard Allen, Policy Analyst for the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, agrees.  He says that many celebrities have claimed Cherokee heritage—often based upon family stories they’ve heard—but like Depp they never try to verify it.  “They all tell me they have high cheekbones,” Allen says.

Geiogomah believes that because so few roles in Hollywood go to Native American actors, Disney’s big-budget movie is a “missed opportunity.”  Depp could have played the Lone Ranger and instead promoted a younger Indian actor to play Tonto, he points out.  After all, Canadian Mohawk actor Jay Silverheels portrayed the character in the 1950s TV series.

“Now they re-introduce Tonto with a non-Indian.  So can you call that progress?” Geiogamah asks.

Instead, he worries that Disney’s Tonto feeds into non-Native expectations of Indians frozen in a historic time frame.  “That costume ends up making us look like a bunch of oddballs with dead birds on our heads,” Geiogamah says.

But William “Two Raven” Voelker, the movie’s Comanche consultant, says that the costume—including the Crow headdress—is authentic to Comanche culture.  “Everyone’s got an opinion who has no knowledge of our culture,” Voelker says.  “That’s the part that wears me down.”

Voelker is co-founder of the tribe’s Sia Essential Species Repository, an organization devoted to the rehabilitation and breeding of bald eagles.  Comanche activist LaDonna Harris, who adopted Depp into her family, is also a member of Sia’s Board of Directors.   Voelker says that Disney has agreed that The Lone Ranger will bring “open-ended” contributions to Sia.

But Gary Brouse, Program Director of Policy and Governance at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), questions claims of cultural authenticity.  He had contacted Disney and met with the company’s Corporate Citizenship and Global Publicity divisions prior to The Lone Rangers production.

“That’s one thing that concerns us is a company’s lack of cooperation with indigenous leaders in this particular field, leaders that we recognize as leaders rather than someone they hire as a consultant,” he says.

The New York City-based ICCR encourages member institutions to integrate social values into investor actions and has fought against offensive portrayals of Native Americans in corporate commercials and sponsorships.  The organization has successfully campaigned against Denny’s “Chief Wahoo” images on company uniforms and Liz Claiborne’s “Crazy Horse” fashions.

Brouse says that there is no indigenous person at Disney responsible for the company’s policy toward Native American people.

Disney responded that Christine Cadena, Senior Vice President of Multicultural Initiatives, instead played a key role in liaising with the Native American community for The Lone Ranger.

“I think Disney should hire more indigenous people in all kinds of roles,” Brouse says, adding that the company should also have a publicly disclosed statement on record of their policy when dealing with indigenous issues.

But Disney points out that its Human Rights Policy applies across all populations and regions.  “Our collaboration with a broad range of interested constituencies, including indigenous people, keeps us sensitive to the potential impacts of our products and services and the interests of our employees, customers and communities around the world,” a Disney representative replied through email.

Still, Brouse explains that part of the problem was that Depp had “a lot of say so” in the film yet did not fully grasp the project’s impact on Native American communities.  When Brouse tried to invite Depp to conference calls with Indian leaders, nothing ever happened.  “Disney conveyed that Depp was very concerned about this and just passed the message along.  We never really knew the reason why he didn’t do it,” Brouse says.


Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/17/johnny-depp-indian-he-or-isnt-he-149941