Is Nothing Sacred?


Spend an evening with the 1491s and you will think nothing is sacred.

The troupe of American Indian actors, artists, improvisers and clowns poke fun at tradition while simultaneously stripping away stereotypes aimed at indigenous peoples, including the stereotypes held tightly by Natives ourselves.

The 1491s shine a spotlight on Indian hunters, Indian diet, Indian stoicism and sacred practices.

The troupe journeyed to Portland this week to unleash their critiques through skits and videos.

Much of the comedy is aimed directly at the Indian audience. For example, one live skit featured two candidates running for office. The first politician declares we should vote for him because he is the most humble.

His opponent’s return salvo is that he would never say that he, himself, is humble. Rather, he has been told he is humble which shows he is truly humble. “Vote for me.”

The interaction is humorous and even more clever when you consider how many Native peoples cultivate an ego-free countenance. In many instances, ego-centric behavior is repudiated in Indian families and communities.

Other double-meanings unroll with the video, The Indian Store, where we are introduced to a Native bodega stocked with bling, run by two young men (1491ers Dallas Goldtooth and Bobby Wilson).

The duo entices visitors to buy trinkets infused with medicinal properties.

Dream-catchers, they claim, not only improve your sleep: If you place a dream-catcher by your wi-fi it will boost the power.

Their comedy is good-natured and silly.

But you can trowel more deeply and find meanings buried beneath a slap-stick veneer.

Worth watching is Ryan Red Corn and Sterlin Harjo’s beautiful homage called Bad Indians. Believe me: it’s not what you think.

An array of Indians offers quick takes through Red Corn’s poetry.

The video ends with the following:

Don’t let anyone tell you that your story is not worth telling.

Blog #12 for Native American Heritage Month

Video Clip for Indian Store

Video Clip for Bad Indians


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, Indian, native american, Native American Heritage Month, native press, Native Science, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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