This blog was added to the Top 50 Native American Literature Blogs. Scroll down to the "Rest of the Best" after the Top 5

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 Letters by CFT

What do you think about the book, 1000 White Women (the book) by Jim Fergus?  It is the imagined fantasy tale of a group of white women who went to marry into the Cheyenne tribe in exchange for 1000 horses as proposed by Chief Little Wolf to President Grant. I had difficulty with some of the language used (like savages, as the main character first calls the people she marries into, but over time they become the Cheyenne, who she loves and risks her life for), but loved the main character and some of the women in the book. 


I know the book. I started reading it, but could not "willingly suspend my disbelief" and therefore could not get passed the first chapter! No "chief" would ever do that and the names were too untrue for me (Little Wolf, come on!). At some point, I did force myself to read it, since several folks have mentioned it to me.  It's a made up story of white women, who were not believable, since they were too outspoken for that time period.  They also did things that would never have been allowed in a Native American community and the men were portrayed as weak.

The other larger issue is that the "white man's Indian" is more appealing than the "authentic Indian story" that is told by Native People about Native People. All these white male authors making money on telling OUR story! It wouldn't be such a big deal if Native authors were able to get their stories out, but it's not like we live in another country where we can do that, we live here, and this country squashes the authentic story in favor of "what sells." All the Native American authors put together over time don't make as much money as one novel from Tony Hillerman, for example, according to Native American author, Sherman Alexie. That's my take on it.

On final thought.  While most Native People accepted all "immigrants" into their Nations, the reverse was definitely NOT TRUE. The political part (racism, privilege, etc.) is entirely missing - Whites would never have supported or approved of "their own" joining a NA culture - that's one of the horrible things in the history of the United States. The anti-miscegenation laws that existed until 1965 (and beyond in some areas) are reminders that it was a no-no to integrate.

It's too bad that it is so easy to pass this off as a possible reality.


Hi Claudia and Elli,
I hope you are both well and enjoying the summer. You probably don't remember me, but I was lucky enough to take your EMI class "Teaching About Native Americans" in the Fall of 2010. I remember that I had a blast and it really informed my teaching. At the time, I was teaching third grade at Thoreau School in Concord. I have since changed jobs and I'm currently teaching third and fourth grade in Cambridge. 

During the upcoming school year, we will be teaching a year-long integrated social studies theme study: "People of the First Light: Wampanoag People from the Beginning to Today." My colleagues there have been teaching it for awhile. This will be my first year teaching it. We are looking for a few things to better our study and I wondered if you could help us. It's a year-long study, so we feel that we can do so much and want to make sure we are doing the best job we can.

*We'd love to take some professional development, so if there are workshops or classes that you know about that you could refer us to, we'd appreciate it. As independent school teachers, we wouldn't be able to take any EMI classes, right? 
Ell can send a long more information about upcoming courses - YES you can take them.  EMI has been absorbed by EDCO in Waltham and is now called IDEAS.  I will be teaching a 5 hour version of the Native American course in November.

*Also, we'd love to connect with some Wampanoag educators and perhaps set up classroom visits. 
There are a few I can recommend. (scroll down for Wampanoag artists)

*We are going to the Wampanoag homesite at Plimoth Plantation, but we're also interested in other possible field trips. 
Pequot Museum is FABULOUS.  It's a long drive, Connecticut, and worth every moment.  Also, you could attend a pow wow.  They are on weekends, definitely possible to teachers, and maybe extra credit for students? 
*And we were wondering which on-line resources you recommend for learning about the Wampanoag Nation in particular.
My websites are:
Native American Activist (Arawak) -
Educator for Social Justice -
I have teaching information there.



I recently was asked to present about Native American "MYTHS."  I get many requests this time of year for the upcoming Native American Heritage Month (November).  They thought I was going to talk about stories - you know "myths and legends" because they saw "The Myth of Thanksgiving" on a website with my name.  I explained that, first, our oral traditions are not myths anymore than the oral traditions in the Bible, Torah, and Qu'ran are not myths.  Then I explained that what I talk about is how the story of Thanksgiving is false, you know, a MYTH.  Columbus's story is a myth, too.


First off, creating a game sounds interesting, exciting, and fun. As a teacher myself, I understand the value of movement, role-playing, and experience in learning. Secondly, I suggest you contact John Goff who lives in the Salem area, is a historian, writes for the paper, and works with Salem Village. He knows a lot about the Native Americans from that area of Massachusetts and the history. I do have some feedback based on what I read. Voodoo came with the African slaves and is not an Indigenous Nation practice. While there were practitioners, Tituba, for example, I'm not sure you want to bring it up and confuse it with Native American practices. It's also primarily connected to the Caribbean, not Salem area. Even though you are creating a fictional story, you are referring to real life Native People. If you want to make up magic, witches, and wizards, then that's fine, plenty of authors have created their own mythology around these types of characters. But if you made up practices for Irish, Italian, or Greek people , I'm sure those cultures would be upset and so would NA's. Using a real people and their culture puts you in the position of needing to be authentic, as you said, and also responsible for being accurate and not perpetuating stereotypes and misinformation. Twilight was fictional, too. Everyone knows that vampires don't exist, but associating them with Native Americans perpetuates a real life issue - that is, that people think we are all dead and/or don't exist any more! I also think you need to be careful with what you describe and label as "magic." Witches and wizards don't exist in the stereotypical magic way they are portrayed in books, but they do exist as a "religious" practice - Wicca. Native Americans, I reiterate, are real live people, and we have "religious" practices, too. I prefer the word "spiritual practice" because religion has an peculiarity that involves a congregation and leaders, etc. "Magic" may be appreciated when wine becomes the blood of Jesus, but many NA's would not appreciate having our spiritual practices that communicate with the creator and natural world being labeled as "magic." It's stepping on the toes of religion/spirituality and needs to be carefully considered. Just a few opening thoughts, since you asked for input, and I'm glad you did - it shows that you know you have to think about it! Claudia >:<>:<>:<>:<>:<>:< Claudia A. Fox Tree Native American Activist (Arawak) - Educator for Social Justice - Artist -


I am the executive director and co-founder of a youth education organization in Newburyport, and our mission is to create opportunities for kids to spend time outside and connect to nature. We started as a summer-only program on a boat, and have evolved into year-round programs, including an all outdoors forest kindergarten. Our name no longer accurately reflects what we do and creates confusion. It’s time to grow into a new name, and we have been searching since late last summer for just the right words.

We draw great strength and inspiration from the Merrimack River, and it is the heartbeat of our programs. When researching ideas for a new name, we learned Native Americans  called it "Merroh Awke,”  meaning “strong place.” We really like it and find it so meaningful, and are considering it as a new name, "Merroh Awke Nature School” or “Merrohawke Nature School.”

However, before going in this direction with a name change to Merrohawke Nature School, we also really feel that we’d like the advice, guidance and blessing of Massachusetts Native Americans who have known this river for so long through their generations, and having met you as past pow wows, I thought you might be able to help steer us in the right direction? In no way would we wish for this name change to unknowingly be offensive or disrespectful, and I wish to seek your guidance accordingly.


Thanks for contacting me.  I have cc'd Annawon Weeden on this email as he is a Wampanoag and his ancestors lived on this land specifically.  My ancestors are from the Caribbean.  He is also learning his indigenous tongue and may have more insight into your quest for a new name for your nature school.

First, let me say that I support the development of nature schools and am familiar with quite a few schools and camps.  Nature schools do amazing and important work.

In regards to changing the name of your school to one that uses indigenous language, my negative experiences are predominately related to inaccurate representations of Native American words. For example, if the word "Winnebago" conjures a recreational vehicle and not the the nation of people from the Great Lakes, then there's a problem.
Using the words Massachusetts to describe this land, or Quinsigamond for a lake, or Wachusett for a mountain, or Shawsheen for a river, all work for me because they are the actual words used by indigenous people, more or less, for the land, lake, mountain, and river.  They are not being used to represent something else.  Having said that, since you want to use a name of water for a water-based camp (Merrohawke), that seems like an appropriate use to me, especially if the history is recognized in the naming.


Thank you very much for your reply. We so appreciate it, and absolutely understand (and regret indeed) how use of indigenous language can go astray when not meaningfully thought out... I am very interested in any additional thoughts you may have Annawon? In particular, we’d appreciate your thoughts as well on its proper pronunciation. We are assuming Merrohawke sounds like merro-hawke, two syllables, and then evolved to Merrimack, but we could be wrong and appreciate your insight deeply.


Dear Claudia,

I am wondering if you have dealt with the play of "Peter Pan" before in your school, and whether you might have any advice for me. Our elementary school is producing it this year with the 5th grade and they have already purchased the scripts, paid for the royalties, etc, so they are not willing to just choose a different play. So, they've asked me to help them figure out how they might maintain the historical period aspects of it while making it less racist. I am currently reading through it and flagging parts that rely on and promote stereotypes so that we can discuss them and figure out some changes. 

Have you ever done this with a play? If so, I'd love to talk with you about it. Do you have time for a chat this week? either during the day or after 9pm?

Thank you in advance for any words of experience and advice you have.

I hate this show!  It's so racist that I can't begin to explain how much I hate it.  Anyone who does this show (or Thoroughly Modern Millie) has OBVIOUSLY no awareness of the outright racism the production displays and has not even begun to consider its impact on young minds.  Peter Pan is most horrible in that it is the one long standing image/production that sets forth all racism against Native Americans to come.  Any adult I ask who has not educated themselves about Native People will bring forth the Peter Pan version.  The show is total garbage and I find no redeeming qualities in it at all.
Having said that, and heard that it's a "done deal," you might want to ask a teacher or parent with anti-bias background to sit on the review committee before they select a show in future years.
I would strongly urge the teachers to do lessons, create visuals (posters), and then display accurate representations of Native Americans in the lobby/hallway on the days of the performance.  And, I would veto watching the Disney cartoon version. The song, "What Makes a Red Man Red" has no place in our educational system.


Here is my blogpost:
Why do Native American men always go for white women?  What's wrong with Native American women? (and other remarks/questions like these).

Based on my experience teaching about racism/active anti-racism, being multiracial, and my own reading of research and history on the construction of "race," I feel compelled to shed some light.

The conversation is not about white ethnicity, therefore not about the ethnic group from the Caucasoid mountains. Ethnic groups can usually trace their ancestor to a particular region, with the exception of Jews, somewhat, who were forced out of so many areas. Caucasian is NOT the appropriate word to use in a race conversation, and it harkens to a classification system that is no longer used in professional circles, the one that includes "Negroid" and "Mongoloid." 

Racial categories are related to a particular culture and history (i.e.: who fits in and out changes over time).  The current language for socially constructed racial categories in the U.S.A. is white, black, Asian, Latino/a, and Native American. That's just what it is, so using the term "white" is appropriate because it refers to the actual real world experience someone is having based on how they look in a particular area of the country during a certain historical time period (read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh).  I REPEAT - race is socially constructed, not biological, so NOT REAL, but racism (actions based on how someone looks) is very real! However, racial classifications do not tell the whole "identity" story, in that someone can look one way and certainly be multiracial and/or multiethnic. In the Native American community, we need to learn to not make assumptions and be open to the reality of 500 years of mixing, on purpose and through other factors, such as rape.

Having said that, one point that I want to bring up is that there are many parts of our history that that have "interfered" with or "changed" what was going on for Native people at a time period.  For example, at one time, we had our own perfectly good "religion" and then the missionaries came. We also only had other Native people to choose from for partners.  But then we accepted traders, explorers, runaways, free blacks, etc., etc. now we have more options and love is love, even man and man and woman and woman.

On a personal note, some of my children know they are recognized and treated as Natives, and others as whites, but all identify as multiracial. They have to pass "identity tests" from others (within the "group" and from outside the Native "group"), but the most important thing to them is the cultural identity; the traditions that are practiced and passed on. That's what we might lose, regardless of our appearance, and one of the most important parts of being Native to remember.  Our stories, our songs, our food, and more come from the plants, animals, and climates of what is now known as North and South America.  Our ancestors are lived, died, and are buried here.

One more thing, back in the day, if you we're nonNative, no matter what your race, you were often accepted into the tribe, nation, or reservation, and treated as culturally Native. Some of those nonNatives ended up on the Dawes roll, so we have been mixing for a long time indeed and have set a precedence of accepting diversity, regardless of race, but continuing to practice Naive traditions.  Once you join, you are "in" and that's that.


Dear Friends,

I've been involved in a battle once again with the Boy Scouts in this state and can really use your help. Many years ago this council ran an Indian Camp, it was based on a make believe Indian village in the mid 1800's in the plains. The leaders were called dog soldiers, the kids lived in teepees and dressed up as Indians ( actually a mishmash of clothing) with Indian names. In 2000 Charles Yow a lawyer from the American Indian movement took on this camp and got the camp closed by threatening to have the Boy Scout tax exempt status revoked for racism. Unfortunately Charles did not make it through Hurricane Katrina and now the battle is in my lap once again. The compromise that Charles made with the Green Mountain Council was to close the camp and reopen it the following year under the supervision and advice of a Native Advisor. Charles recommended someone; I'm not sure who it was.  This did not happen. The camp reopened under the name Frontiers Camp with the same leaders. It was supposed to have visitors from various cultural groups visit the camp and the youth were supposed to experience life on the frontier in the mid 1800's. Over time the history and agreements were forgotten and broken- things have progressively gotten worse. Surprised anyone?

To get to my point the Camping Committee Chairman does not believe that dressing up, painting ones face and "Playing Indian" is problematic. Nor does he believe having ceremonies, having kids pick an "Indian name" , saying Native prayers and dancing and singing around campfire are a problem. He believes this is only my opinion.  So he asked me to write to a few friends and have them write to him and voice their opinions after they look at the Frontiers Camp site and view the 2014 promotional video. I 'm asking if you could please spare some of your valuable time to view the site and comment to this person, his name is Scott Morgan, his email is
The Frontiers Camp site.
Thanks for your time.

The U.S.A. has a long history of dressing up as "Indians" and playing "cowboys and Indians," and it is not a good story for Native Americans.  The book, Playing Indian by Philip J. Deloria highlights the ways in which non-Indian people have corrupted (Boston Tea Party) and appropriated Native American culture and history for their own benefit.  Some of that benefit is to develop a more "free and wild" personal identity, however, the flip side is that Native Americans are then stereotyped, only seen as one-dimensional, often associated with the past, and not viewed as contemporary, living, diverse people.

When our practices are taken out of context, it is insulting.  Would someone feel qualified (and think it is okay) to perform the Eucharist to kids outside of religious training or even a church!  Our practices and traditions are sacred to us, too.

Using indigenous language to name buildings and places is problematic as well.  For example, if the word "Pontiac" conjures the image of a car and not a great leader, then there's a problem.  The fact that we know Sequoias as a tree, but not that they are related to Sequoyah, the Cherokee writer and inventor of the alphabet (syllabary) is another example.

Using the word, "Massachusetts" to describe this land, or Quinsigamond for a lake, or Wachusett for a mountain, or Shawsheen for a river, all work because they are the actual words used by indigenous people, more or less (some slight changes from original language), for the actual land, lake, mountain, and river that is being referenced.  They are not being used to represent/name something else, unrelated.

The greatest numbers of Native Americans live here in North and South America, not in Europe, Africa, or Australia.  If we can't keep accurate and authentic pieces of our culture alive here, then it won't happen anywhere.  It's not like a German who knows that Germany has an active, living, cultural center of their history and heritage.

When racism is not "named" once observed, then it can't be interrupted and changed, and that's an even bigger problem. Racism is about a SYSTEM (see David Wellman) that is and has been in place to raise one group and put another down, often without the "lifted" group having any conscious awareness that it is happening (privilege - see Peggy McIntosh).  It keeps stereotypes, misinformation, and missing information as the "norm" by perpetuating these "lies" through media, books, speakers, etc.  This is called the "cycle of oppression"  It continues, unless interrupted.

Lastly, one reason Native American don't (can't) "stick together" is internalized oppression (we've internalized the same negative stuff about ourselves.  We've also learned that resistance doesn't always get us to where we want to be). Another is that there are so many more pressing issues (food, water, etc.) on, say, reservations, that have to be met first.  That doesn't mean it's not an issue, it just means it's on the "list of issues."
Look how long it took women to get the right to vote! 
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) might be the next place to investigate.
Good Luck,


I came across your page and it was so rife with information! Thank you for that!

Secondly, I am part Native American. I was fortunate enough to meet people who taught me a little about the spiritual side and I'm just really into it, it "fit" even before I started learning. I was fortunate enough to have crossed paths with people who took the time to teach me these things and don't mind answering my bazillion questions.

Now, I have a question and the last thing I want to do is offend. I am truly ignorant on this topic, but a comment on youtube actually brought this question up for me. I read what you had to say about the Pledge in search of my answer, but it didn't quite clarify my actual question since it was slightly different but along the same lines. So while I haven't asked my question, I'm wondering if you'd mind if I ask you and as I said, I'm genuinely interested in learning and I could read all day, but to be able to actually ask someone who can tell me would be far more enlightening. I could ask my friends and I would hope they know me well enough to not be offended but those things don't often come up in conversation.

So please let me know if it's OK for me to ask and I hope I'm not taking too much of your time. And thank you for reading!!!

What is your question?  I get all kinds of questions, some people don't like my answers.  Not saying I have an answer, but I'll try.  I might not get right back to you, though, but maybe I will.



Take your time getting back to me, I know you're probably really busy. And if they don't like what you have to say, it may be because you speak it truthfully from your heart which is exactly what I want.

Well, when it comes to the Coca-Cola America The Beautiful commercial that's been all the hype lately, someone was ranting on youtube about how she was half Native American and her culture should have been represented with the Native American language because it was the original language here in America. She was upset because the commercial represented "immigrants" but why not her Native American culture? I question these things as it is, but her argument opened up another world of confusion for me. I'm wondering...Is it just me and my ignorance, or would someone who was truly in touch with their Native American heritage be upset about NOT being represented in a commercial about America featuring immigrants? I'm looking at it from a stance of, well I'll just say "history" and I'm sure I needn't say more. But then again, I feel it would be a little more inclusive and give acknowledgement to an underrepresented ethnic group. But back to the main thing that had me confused, I don't know if this would have been the proper venue for representing the culture.

I hope I put that in a way that wasn't offensive and I hope my words weren't garbled too much.

Thank you and have a great day :D 

First of all, the commercial had a Native American voice.
Secondly, I wouldn't complain about "America the Beautiful" being diverse because "America" is actually diverse.  Before it was called "America" maybe it wasn't, but since being named "America" it is.  So there.