A Story That Needs to be Told, Part 1

I’ve struggled with this.

I have Stories I want to tell, Stories I am able to tell, and Stories I want to tell, but can’t. This one falls into the third category.

But to set the stage, you need to watch this…

Legend has it that John Wayne himself had to be physically restrained from dragging her off the stage

In 1973, at the 45th Academy Awards, Marlon Brando won best performance. Instead of accepting the award, he sent up Sacheen Littlefeather to deny his Oscar. This was far from the beginning, and far from the end. But if I am going to start in the middle, it might as well be from here.

I first watched that video 4 years ago and its stuck with me. It has stuck with me because with very few exceptions nothing at all has changed. A call to arms and to action- Asking us whether we can protray Native American characters in our media.

But the most recent Native American recurring character I can recall was in Voyager

Chakotay,_2377

This picture almost convinced me to get a face tattoo

Though he was from a different planet and far removed from the current experiences of Indigenous Peoples, the cultural dialogue is appreciated.

In fact, the only Native Characters I could find of note, and that weren’t made the subject of a Procedural episode (Like Online Dating or New Age Wicca), Were John Redhorn from King of the Hill, Pocahontas, Jacob Black of Twilight fame, and Chakotay from Voyager.

That seemed to me like an amazingly small amount of representation.

One area of New Media has had an influx of Native Characters: Comic Books.

What kind of Social Issue is being led by Animated Sitcoms, Young Adult Fiction, Disney Princess Movies, and Comic Books? These three mediums have had more than a few problems in the past catching up on their social responsibility, and they are currently the pillars of Native representation in mass media? Does that at all seem backwards to anyone else?

So with the exception of Voyager and King of the Hill, I have found not found a single recurring native character in Television. 41 years after Sacheen made her stand and nothing at all seems to have changed.

Oh! Here is an applicable Meme!

Yup.

Because aside from the almost criminally inept Beureau of Indian Affairs, and the tendency of ad agencies to, say, use a Native American Voice to read Bukowski to sell Levi’s Jeans, the issue of Native Rights is barely even on the national radar.

The Keystone Pipeline was objected to on (admittedly, very reasonable) environmental grounds, but barely 5 minutes of the News Cycle was devoted to talking about how the Dakota Sioux would have closed their borders if the pipeline was approved

aicensus

Gee, look at all of that Sovereign Territory. From Sea to Shining Sea (Except for where the American Indians live). 

 There are entire annals of history that have been forgotten and pushed by the wayside. And for every time that someone makes a move like Wind Talkers-

Windtalkers_movie

Move out of the way, One True God, You’re blocking the point of this movie. 

We end up casting another white guy to play a Native role.

the_last_of_the_mohicans_1992

In order to get in character he had his government systematically repress him for 216 years. 

And from a Writer’s perspective, its not like there aren’t good stories to be found. There is plenty of Alcoholism, Drug Use, and Violence on reservations. You know, all of the things we like watching white people do

sons_of_anarchy_promo

If you look closely, you can see Ron Perlman fighting for equitable representation. 

And I really want to slot in a, “But I guess if their skin is a different color, etc. etc.” bit of sarcasm, but it turns out if their skin is a different color…

Avatarjakeneytiri

Did they even bother to hide the metaphor?

… Then we’ll collectively spend 2.7 Billion watching it, buying its merchandise, and watching it again in 3D.

We can do better than Blue People.

How about we tell a story about a Native Culture here in America. One that is still breathing and laughing and telling stories. One that is trying to keep their language and culture alive inside of a system that doesn’t even seem to care about or notice them at all.

And here I am, with no right to tell the story I want to. These aren’t my struggles, this probably isn’t even my fight.

But who else is doing it?

End Part 1

To Be Continued…

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