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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

National Day of Mourning (Thanksgiving)

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other Europeean settlers. Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression that Native Americans continue to experience.

Plymouth, MA
Moonanum James (2017)

Moonanum's Father, Frank James (Text of Suppressed Speech)

Alcatraz Island, CA

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teaching About Native Americans (TANA) Course

  1. Recognize we are not dead or only in history.  See us as contemporary people who have evolved in modern society. If we don't understand history (and how indigenous people have been made invisible), we can never understand inequities and fights for social justice.  
  2. There is no where else in the world that should be telling our story, if not here in North and South America.  We have a history intertwined with everything that is taught about this country from history to contributions. Therefore, First Nations should be present throughout curriculum across subject areas.  
  3. Language, images, books, television, movies more often than not, box us into a "single story." Educate yourself about stereotypes and cultural appropriation. We are hyper-visible in a way that supports white supremacy, while we are often not able to tell our own stories. 
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (free pdf download here:[Roxanne_Dunbar-Ortiz]_An_Indigenous_Peoples'_Hist(
  • 1491 by Charles C. Mann
  • Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford 
  • All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Dina Gilio-Whitaker and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative by Thomas King


A "Taste" of the Teachings( 15 minutes)

This the a “kid friendly” video about Columbus (in the “Ms. Frizzle Magic School Bus” style) – Adam Ruins Everything (6 minutes) 

Someone Was Already Here – Nancy Schimmel Song (3 minutes)  

Christopher Columbus - One Word (3 mins)

 Reconsider Columbus PSA with Roberto Borrero  (1 minute)  

Columbus and the Taíno Genocide from 500 Nations (19 minutes)

Tisquantum’s Story with Nanepashenet (8 minutes)

and an Interview with Nani from 500 Nations (9 minutes)

The Mostly True Story Of The First Thanksgiving (7 minutes) 

Thanksgiving - One Word (3 minutes)

Native American Women Describe Thanksgiving History (2 minutes) 

A Real Thanksgiving Address in Original Language (2 minutes)

General Colonization (13 minutes)

Standing Rock Message (2 minutes)

More Information on National Day of Mourning (No Thanks Given)

Invisible Indian (5 minutes)
We Are Still Here (8 minutes)

 6 Misconceptions About Native American People (3 minutes)

What Makes the Red Man Red from Peter Pan (3 minutes)

Should Mascots be Banned? (3 minutes)

 Proud Not to Be a Mascot (2 minutes)

 Redskins - One Word (3 minutes)

Understanding the Issue - The Movement to Eliminate Mascots

Cultural Appropriation - in general (6 minutes)

Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation (4 minutes)

Cultural Appropriation - Native American model speaks out (2 minutes)

Cultural Appropriation of Native American Heritage (10 minutes)
Native Americans Try On Halloween Costumes (3 minutes)

What Really Happened at Standing Rock (6 minutes)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why so many people claim to be Cherokee—who aren’t—and why that matters
Though the number of registered Cherokee tribal members today is around 300,000, nearly a million Americans claimed at least one Cherokee ancestor in the 2010 census.

To claim Cherokee ancestry is not just to empathize with the Cherokee people’s history, but to literally claim a connection to it—to the ongoing struggles of the Eastern Cherokee communities and to the story of the Cherokee rose, after the Cherokee were pushed off their land. Along the Trail of Tears, Cherokee women were said to look behind them and weep. And their tears, according to legend, turned into Cherokee roses. That so few people truly connect with this perspective is one reason it’s often overlooked—a problem exacerbated by false claims that minimize this history’s importance.

As a complex, living system of citizenship, tribal enrollment is not a hunch, a wish, or even a personal decision. The Cherokee people decide who is Cherokee and who isn’t, and this has ensured that a unique culture, against all odds, has remained so. A Cherokee rose, after all, is not A rose is A rose is A rose.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Arawak Taino Links

Presencia Taina
Taino history in video format:

Arawak Language
From United Confederation of Taino People: What we know as the Taíno language is mainly an Arawakan language... It is important to keep that there is no one Arawak language. In addition, "Taíno" also has a number of other languages that influence its composition. Among these are meso-american languages, Tupi-guarani languages, and Cariban (Carib) languages. Attached is a link to the Akawaio language for those interested in reviewing the wider scope of linguistic connections and inter-relationships. Akawaio is a Cariban language closely related to Makushi and is still spoken in parts of Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela. Again, this is not an Arawakan language and this dictionary should not be used as a "Taíno" dictionary. - Múkaro

Thursday, July 13, 2017


UNDER CONSTRUCTION - not a complete list

CON-Against Mascots
How to Argue Against Racist Mascots (2017)

The Washington Football Team Can Legally Keep Its Racist Name. But It Shouldn’t (2017)

CityLine: Native Americans Racist Mascots and Imagery (2017)
This site has a video and discusses the Massachusetts Bill that has been filed and Native American "consent."

The lack of education on Indigenous People's history (2017)
This site has an audio recording

Why the “Chief Wahoo” logo isn’t just a Native American problem (2017)
"Prior and during World War II, there were plenty of racist images that Americans were exposed to that depicted the Japanese as dangerous and un-trustworthy. Those images were depicted through cartoons, posters, and comics to influence people psychologically into fearing the Japanese and to develop a negative perception of them."'

During the 19th century, fictional characters like the Buck and the Pickaninny were blackface characters that were created as racist stereotypes of African-Americans. Each character had specific set of characteristics that displayed negative stereotypes about African-Americans. Those characters were used in television, cartoons, movies, and other pop culture to show that African-Americans were inferior. Native Americans are facing similar depictions in regards to “Chief Wahoo”. More importantly, the racist image of characters like “Chief Wahoo” have been studied as has having a negative impact on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.

What's in a name? In Tewksbury, it depends who you ask (2015)
The Sun conducted an online poll asking whether Tewksbury sports should keep the Redmen name or change it. The poll received 532 responses:  * Change it: 53.9%  * Keep it: 46.1%

On Warpath over Redskins (2014)

The Pentucket Sachem? (2013)

PRO-Mixed Mascot
Among Mass. Natives, Mascot Issue Reveals A Mix Of Pride And Pain (2017)
This site included a map of schools with "names."  The older powwow attendees agree: The mascots don't offend them if they're presented respectfully.

"Maybe it didn't damage us — maybe we came to understand our identity as more of an adult with an adult brain. But the research is clear about how damaging these are" to young people, Fox Tree says. What's more, Fox Tree says, the images force a paradoxical invisibility on natives like her — many Americans know the cartoon mascots better than the real people they represent.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Say, "No" to Mascots

No matter what "percentage" of indigenous ancestry, if you haven't grown up with the negative repercussions for practicing your culture or realized there are/were laws against practicing language, traditions, celebrations, songs, and dances; or felt resistance for speaking the truth about history, resistance, and contributions; or been harassed or discriminated against because of appearing Native American possibly resulting in low tracking in school, loss of work, reliance on government housing or food; then you really don't know what's it like for many of us who are indigenous people in this country.

I don't want to hear about how "mascots don't affect you."
Claudia Fox Tree (6/3/17 Facebook Post)

To: Committee on Education (for Hearing at the MA State House on June 6, 2017)
Re: S.291 End Race-Based Mascots in Massachusetts Schools
I am a mother of five, a public speaker and presenter, an educator of both children and adults, on the board of Native American organizations, and a woman of Arawak descent.
If you have never heard about the Arawak, you are not alone.  If you have heard of Christopher Columbus, but not the Arawak, my point has already been made.
Author, Chimamanda Adiche, says, “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”  For far too long, the dominant culture has been telling our First Nations stories from its own perspective in the way IT wants to view US, just like the Columbus legend which views us as generic "Indians," and not as the specific and varied tribes and nations we actually are.  We have been denied a voice in our own narrative.  The problem with "mascots" is that it often includes songs, gestures, costuming, and the like - an entire culture of racism based on a single image that is supposed to represent us.

Self-creation of one's identity is commonly experienced in the United States and other Western societies during the period of adolescence. Though the foundation of identity is laid in the experiences of childhood, younger children lack the physical and cognitive development needed to reflect on the self in this abstract way and ask questions, such as: Who am I now? Who was I before? Who will I become? One problem with stereotypes is that more people see stereotypes instead of actual, real, authentic images. Stereotypes misrepresent Native American history and cultures.

One single image can be assigned to all indigenous people with little regard to individual differences. Images like these affect all children. They model what Native Americans are supposed to look like, act like, and do based on a European ideology. Songs, dances, art, and stories that are “taught” are not our true songs, dances, art, and stories. Stereotypes, by their negative nature, do not focus on contributions, role-models, or resistance. 
Matika Wilbur researched the 5,868 blockbuster films between 1990 and 2000. 12 included Native Americans, all showed us as spiritual or in tune with nature, 10 showed us as impoverished or beaten by down by society, and 10 depicted us continually in conflict with whites.

John Sanchez from Pennsylvania State University did an extensive study between 1990 and 1999 of the “big three” television networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC.  During that time frame, the 3 networks produced 175,889 news reports. Of those, a combined total of 98 reports were about Native Americans or Native American issues. The majority of these stories framed by stereotypical 18th century imagery, such as Native Americans in buckskin clothing riding horses and wearing traditional headdresses.  The least common type of story was those representing 21st century Native Americans in a positive light. Most Americans believe that Native Americans are either assimilated, or extinct – that we don’t exist anymore.

Sarah Shear (and others) at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona analyzed the U.S. and state history standards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Based on results, Shear says, students are graduating from high school without even basic knowledge of contemporary Native American challenges or culture.  Across all the states, 87% of references to Natives portray them prior to 1900, with no clear vision of what happened after that. In half of the states, no individual Native Americans or specific nations are named. The most commonly named people are Sacagawea, Squanto, Sequoyah, and Sitting Bull. Only 62 Nations are named in standards (there are 562).  One nation, the Iroquois, is mentioned in six states and only 4 states (AZ, WA, OK, and KS) include boarding schools.  Washington is the only state to use the word “genocide” in relation to Native People (in the standards for 5th grade U.S. history). Nebraska textbooks portray Natives as lazy, drunk or criminal. 90% of all manuscripts written about Native people are authored by non-Native writers. There is nothing about treaties, land rights, or water rights, nor the fact that tribes are still fighting to be recognized and determine sovereignty.  All 50 states lack any content about current Native events or challenges.

If we were represented in all subjects at all grade levels K-12, had a mega movie industry portraying our various histories and cultures, and had best-selling books, then MAYBE a stereotype wouldn't be a "big deal," next to a continuum of accurate, self-representation.  But we do not have those things in our own country, or anywhere else in the world, so a stereotype carries much, much more weight for us, our developing indigenous children, and all children who are subjected to the misinformation created by stereotypes.

I need to take a moment to discuss the Native American boarding schools that were established in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to educate Native American children and youths according to European-American standards. Children were immersed in Euro-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new Euro-American names to both "civilize" and "Christianize."  The experience of the schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated from their families. In numerous ways, indigenous people were encouraged or forced to abandon their identities and cultures. Investigations of the later 20th century have revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse occurring at such schools. 

Why do I point out boarding schools? Because the, "Kill the Indian and save the man" mentality is the historical treatment we have received.  Boarding schools illustrate the problem with mascots and other forms of cultural appropriation.  Why has it been okay to mock, mimic, and pretend to be "Indian," but it is not okay to actually BE “Indian”?
This is a Civil Rights issue, not an individual school system or town issue.  This models what we want ALL children to know and be aware of, not just indigenous children.  When you keep seeing “Native Americans” behaving a certain way, even when it is inaccurate, you begin to BELIEVE that is the way ALL Native Americans behave.  Mascots, and associated antics, are not who we are, not part of our story, and not the way we want to be seen, treated, or represented.  It's a form of harassment, bullying, and all the worst things schools have to offer and are "supposedly" fighting against.  Schools did not want to “integrate” either.  Legislation and the National Guard had to be used to help schools do the right thing.  I hope the Massachusetts legislation is able to see the future more clearly than Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas and the William Frantz Elementary School in Tylertown, Mississippi

Respectfully Submitted,
Claudia Fox Tree

Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Are Still Alive - A Traditional People in a Contemporary Society

Thank you for inviting me.  I know… I don’t think you’ve probably ever had an Arawak speaker here and probably haven’t ever heard of Arawak speaker.  We, the indigenous people of the Americas, are refugees. We exist despite an unacknowledged, attempted genocide. Most people associate refugees with being forced to leave one’s country, but a refugee, by definition, has lost their land and way of life, often through war or genocide. There is a long history of genocidal programs initiated by the early colonial settlers and, later, by the United States government.

In 1755, the lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, issued a proclamation that called for British subjects “to embrace all opportunities of pursuing, [capturing], killing, and destroying all and every Indian.” A bounty was paid by the colonial government for every Penobscot captured and brought to Boston.

- For every Male above the age of 12 years, 50 pounds. For their Scalp, 40 pounds
- For every Female under the age of 12 years, 25 pounds. For every Scalp, 20 pounds. 

Within a year of the proclamation, the Massachusetts assembly voted to raise the ceiling on the bounty to an unprecedented 300 pounds. This Bounty Proclamation was signed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Phips just a short walk from here in the Old State House on State Street.

At the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, John Chivington said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”

We were marched, relocated, and put in reserves like animals, ending up no longer being on the land which provided all our needs… where our stories and songs came from… where our ancestors’ bones lay in the ground.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, boarding schools were established. Our children were immersed in European-American culture. They were given haircuts, forbidden to speak their indigenous languages, and their traditional names were replaced by European-American names to both “civilize” and “Christianize.” 20th century investigations have revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse in these boarding schools.

In 1892, the U.S. Army officer Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School, said, “…all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.” On reservations, children were taken from our homes and forcibly sent to boarding schools until 1978, systematically destroying Native American cultural continuity.

Today in 2017, we are still fighting for sovereignty and treaty rights; hunting and fishing access; clean water and healthcare; and political and legal justice. On some reservations, Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. Hollywood films, sports mascots, and many other racist images continue to dehumanize us.

On some reservations, families live on roughly seven gallons of water per day per person, since uranium mining has poisoned the wells and radioactive waste leaves no clean water. 40% of the 173,000 Diné living on the reservation do not have running water.  Today, in the United States.

As First Nations People, we have been made invisible, starting with the first maps that were created showing empty land where none of our languages or nations were identified. Towns were incorporated without any thought to the indigenous inhabits. Each “first” became a colonizer’s first – the first house, the first successful harvest, the first thanksgiving, the first marriage, the first baby – while our “firsts” were ignored and erased.

How does cultural genocide translate into today’s experience? I did not grow up speaking my indigenous language or hearing Native Nations’ music on the radio. I did not see people like me reflected in the literature I read, the television I watched and movies I saw, or even on the walls of my classroom. I did not learn the contributions of Indigenous People to this country, and certainly not the actual history of the United States. I did not have First Nations role-models who resisted and stood up for our culture, only those who helped the white Europeans, like Squanto, Sacagawea, and Pocahontas. There’s nowhere in the world where out story, my story, should even be required to be told, except here.

I’ve raised my children in a world that has not recognized our holidays and observances… In a world with stereotypes that have become the only way we are known and recognized… With peers who have harassed them about their long hair… When my son was in high school, a few boys danced around him singing, “woo woo woo.” They weren’t mimicking something they had seen at a pow wow, they were acting out all they knew from when they were much younger and saw movies, like Peter Pan. The racist images of Hollywood and athletic teams have been their loudest teachers.

Other people tell our story or stereotypes about it. We have no control over our own narrative in our own country. I am not currently fighting for food, or water, or heat, or housing, or healthcare, so I must use the privilege and platforms, the ones that I do have, to temporarily, even if temporary, to stand beside my indigenous sisters and brothers and be an ally to support their access, and all people’s, to these fundamental rights in a country as wealthy as ours.

We are refugees from our original lands. We cannot stay silent about genocide here or anywhere, anymore. Please consider joining an indigenous organization, like the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, to learn more about us. We’re still alive - traditional people in a contemporary society.