The Menace that Threatens “True Americanism”

Klan-sheet-music (1)

A closeted French philosopher, an immigrant from Jamaica, a Jew who fled the Nazis then killed himself, and a feminist who writes about film.

Does this sound like the foundation for a college communication course?

When my communication class starts in April, students will be mystified: what do these folks have to do with communication?

Taking baby steps, students learn a French philosopher (Michel Foucault) says that communication itself is a form of power—that those who frame public discourse help frame what we think is important.

The immigrant from Jamaica (Stuart Hall) points out in an often-cited article that people decode messages in ways that reflect their cultural knowledge.

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Remembering James Luna, Who Gave His Voice and His Body to Native American Art

lara trace hentz

Luna’s unexpected passing at the age of 68 interrupted a steady flow of thoughtful and provocative performance art.

READ: Remembering James Luna, Who Gave His Voice and His Body to Native American Art

I had posted about James prior on this blog. He was articulate and funny and a real warrior in his art. I only met him once.

“James Luna is one of the most important contemporary Native artists of our day,” said Patsy Phillips, director of IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, in a statement to Hyperallergic. “His art and contributions to the art world will live on in institutions and publications, but more importantly he will live on in perpetuity in people’s minds and hearts.”

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Let them eat Girl Scout cookies

thin mints

As spring finally arrives in the Northwest, the daffodils poke out of the last clump of neighborhood snow and Girl Scout cookies arrive.

My sweetheart and I share a sleeve of thin mints that disappear in a flash.

Tucking the green box into the freezer offers little protection to the cache of cookies because we’ll eat ‘em icy.

My sisters and I enrolled as Brownies, and then Girl Scouts, when we were young.

Our mum thought Girls Scouts offered avenues for personal growth and she saved money to buy uniforms.

We wore our outfits once a month, earned badges for our sashes, and learned how to make a kit-bag for camping.

When we were urged to venture door-to-door to sell cookies to neighbors, I balked.

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The Universe is Alive

… and it is personal


In writing about science, reasoning, and power of place, two scholars observe:

“The universe is alive, and it is personal.”

Vine Deloria Jr. and Daniel Wildcat make a strong case in their book that Native American peoples extract meaning from their experiences, much in the way that Western scientists glean information from their experiences.

Problem arise, however, when we ignore the cultural underpinnings of the way we see our experiences.

Too often we forget Western science is fraught with mythical and magical thinking.

This weekend I learned my new chapter on the cultural divisions in scientific thinking is hot off the presses.

I talk about how discourse—news, books and media—shows ruptures arise in scientific and cultural reasonings in Western thinking.

Doing science—what I call “sciencing”—is often mistaken as the only avenue for sound reasoning.

Reasoning and rational thinking are profound in American Indian cultures, even though we may not call it “sciencing.”

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Powerful Lessons from Indian Country



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 illuminates 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.


18 February 2018





Posted in american indian, Kennewick Man, Kennewickman, NAGPRA, native american, native press, Native Science, nativescience | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

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


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

16 February 2018







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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?


Copyright-free image from

10 February 2018




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