Powerful Lessons from Indian Country

 

1200px-Fish_Wheel_and_Indian_Snagging_Salmon_at_Celilo_Falls_on_Columbia_River,_Oregon._Indians_have_perpetual_fishing_rights_at_the_falls_(69081)

Vintage postcard of Native fishers on the Columbia River

Infusing Indian Thought in Social Theories

I teach a course for college sophomores on social theories and how they relate to my field: communication.

Writers who set the stage for Western thought—lots of French, German, British, Italian and American theorists—argue that social systems forge the foundation for understanding how meaning is infused into our communication.

Yet one of the most powerful sources of information has been largely ignored:

Indigenous knowledge systems.

Comb through the heavyweights in social theories—Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim and Noam Chomsky—and you will find that Indigenous ways-of-knowing illuminate how communication unfolds.

For example, Foucault notes perspectives that dominate our social landscape—everything from homosexuality to mental illness—take shape in the arenas of communication.

Those who can harness the reins of communication are better able to shape “truth,” Foucault writes.

Consider the case of Kennewick Man: a 9000-year-old skeleton uncovered along the Columbia River that local tribes fought to have returned under Federal law.

It took 20 years for the bones to be returned, despite laws that guarantee safe return of Indian remains.

Tribal elders argue that a skeleton of this age surely must be an ancestor.

“We know what happened 10,000 years ago–at home along the Columbia River,” Armand Minthorn told reporters.

“The scientists cannot accept the fact that just because it’s not written down in a book, it’s not fact. It’s fact to me, because I live it every day.”

It took 20 years for science to catch up with Indigenous knowledge.

Tests finally demonstrated common DNA links the skeleton with a local tribe.

Foucault observes knowledge that seems buried or forgotten—like indigenous knowledge–holds little sway when news gets covered in public arenas.

Power, he says, rests with those with access to channels of communication.

In the Kennewick Man case, Indian views were largely ignored by the mainstream.

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18 February 2018

#nativewriter

#nativescience

#kennewickman

#michelfoucault

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Posted in american indian, Kennewick Man, Kennewickman, NAGPRA, native american, native press, Native Science, nativescience | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Story  

mom and dad

May all your knobs sparkle

When we combed through papers collected by my mother-in-law we found a cache of greeting cards.

We excavated cards written by her husband of 72 years, and cards she drew and wrote for him.

The cache revealed a sweeter side of my mother-in-law’s temperament that was—at times—prickly.

Her hand-written greetings remind me that a gift from the heart packs more meaning than stale chocolates from the grocery store.

I found similar gems that folks wrote in a 13-word exercise for The New York Times.

Readers embroidered a Westernized Haiku in 13 words to express gratitude and despair.

Here’s one salty entry:

My dog would hide his clothes. Should’ve been my first clue. Dogs know

And a passionate ploy:

Boy meets boy. Sparks fly. Boy kisses boy. Boy, oh boy, oh boy

I tried my hand at 13 words for my Valentine:

As we craft our own language our relatives race for the door knob

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Pictured: my father and mother-in-law, Walter and Violet Emery

16 February 2018

#nativewriter

#nativescience

#stvalentinesday

 

 

 

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We called them “colors”

Strolling down the aisle

houseWhen we were kids, our most trusted tool was the wax-crayon.

We called them “colors.”

We used them to draw on paper and concrete, and found them handy for playing doctor (crayons fit well in my sister’s nose).

Once we discovered you could melt crayons over a candle stuck in a wine bottle, we created drippy rainbow creations.

We found when the hot wax lands on your skin, you can dip your finger in the wax and lift a fingerprint from your digit.

After that, I ditched my doctor act for the life of a detective.

When I stroll through the aisle of school supplies in the store, my heart races when I see the wax crayons, colored chalk, glue sticks and magic markers.

Recently I succumbed to a pitch for a long-lasting lipstick.

When I opened the lipstick package, I found red streaks on my hand.

Even soap wouldn’t wash off the red.

Looked like I wrestled a magic marker to the ground.

So I wondered:

Maybe I should shop for makeup in the school supply aisle?

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Copyright-free image from morziru.com

10 February 2018

#nativewriter

#nativescience

#crayons

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Victim to the government’s shell game

calvin cartoon

A tangerine meets the moon

Calvin, the striped-shirted lad featured in Bill Watterson’s strip Calvin and Hobbes tries to persuade his mother to give him a cookie.

In a ruse that would make Robert Cialdini proud, Calvin asks his mum:

“Can I set fire to my bed mattress?”

She wisely replies, “No, Calvin.”

“Can I ride my tricycle on the roof?” the lad inquires.

“No, Calvin.”

Now comes the face-in-the door technique:

“Then can I have a cookie?”

“No, Calvin.”

Calvin muses: “She’s on to me.”

Cialdini, a well-known researcher of persuasion techniques, calls this the face-in-the door ploy.

Want something?

Use the most outrageous request you can muster.

Can I set fire to my mattress?

Then follow your requests with equally extreme appeals.

End with your true aim: a cookie.

Continue reading

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White Gaze?

john wayne

What about a Red Gaze?

 Is there a white gaze?

This week in my communication, society and culture class, we’re struggling with the idea that writers, painters and creators see the world through their own lenses.

Scholar Laura Mulvey famously coined the notion of “male gaze” in describing film-making through the lens of male sensibility.

Mulvey even claims women directors embrace the male gaze because such a view is embedded within the structure of film-making.

Some of my students take umbrage; resisting the claim that they, too, are subject to embracing a hegemonic lens. Continue reading

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And Eve Presented a Date to Adam

Cynthia Coleman Emery's Blog

desertThe Desert’s Dessert

As we roamed through the oasis in the desert of Morocco, our driver said there were 22 different types of date trees.

The best dates are Medjools, which we can get here in Portland.

Hundreds of years ago, a Saudi prince visited Morocco and showed the denizens how to imbue a barren tree with dates from another type of palm tree, said Saleem, our driver.

The impressed Morrocans gifted a royal daughter to the prince, thus cementing a fruitful—as well as political—relationship.

Dates were likely the fruits that Eve offered Adam, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization.

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And Eve Presented a Date to Adam

desert

The Desert’s Dessert

As we roamed through the oasis in the desert of Morocco, our driver said there were 22 different types of date trees.

The best dates are Medjools, which we can get here in Portland.

Hundreds of years ago, a Saudi prince visited Morocco and showed the denizens how to imbue a barren tree with dates from another type of palm tree, said Saleem, our driver.

The impressed Morrocans gifted a royal daughter to the prince, thus cementing a fruitful—as well as political—relationship.

Dates were likely the fruits that Eve offered Adam, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization. Continue reading

Posted in american indian | 2 Comments