My newest piece for Fusion: Appropriating Native American Imagery Honors No One but the Prejudice

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Artwork courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz of Pocho.com

 

I was a sophomore in high school, about 15 years old, when a rather hostile group of cheerleaders and football players cornered me, yelling, as I sat on a bench in the quad between classes. “Don’t you have school pride?” a cheerleader shouted. “You should feel proud! We’re honoring your people!” one football player hollered.

I was the only Native American (as far as I knew) at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California. Irvine is a planned city in Southern California and one of the safest cities in the United States, but I didn’t feel safe that day.

I had met one-on-one with the principal, my guidance counsellor, a few teachers and several students to share my negative feelings toward our school’s mascot – an anonymous Native American “warrior” with long, flowing, jet-black hair, a large nose and huge muscles. I guess I thought if I made it known that I felt appropriating Native American imagery was offensive, they’d stop. I was outnumbered, though, and my personal feelings didn’t matter. But that’s the thing: As Native people, especially as urban Natives (what we Indigenous people living in urban centers call ourselves), we are almost always outnumbered. So, we go unnoticed and unheard. Our opinions never really matter.

Students wore goofy, cartoonish costumes of our mascot (and his equally tasteless “warrior princess” girlfriend) at pep rallies and games. The pair would dance and do occasional acrobatic moves, as they made their grand entrance to the deafening sounds of the school’s marching band, playing the quintessential Hollywood fight song that, for me at least, conjures up images of a scene from an old Western movie: “savage” Indians on horseback approaching a village of settlers…Uh-oh, there must be trouble.

…To read more, please visit: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/ABC_Univision/native-american-imagery-appropriation-redskins-disrespectful/story?id=20286034

Please follow Fusion @ThisisFusion & follow me @AmyStretten

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“Sopranos Azteca” – Hot New Video from A Tribe Called Red x Javier Estrada

Still from “Sopranos Azteca” by A Tribe Called Red x Javier Estrada

Just when you thought A Tribe Called Red couldn’t get any better, they come out with a fierce new music video with incredible Monterrey-based DJ Javier Estrada!

Not only did this collaboration produce “Sopranos Azteca” – a visual/musical feast for the eyes and ears, but they are promising that this is just the first video of a three-part series!  (I think I’ve died and gone to heaven!)

As Isabela Raygoza of Remezcla.com explains, this piece (like the majority of the group’s music videos) leverages more than just classic Hollywood fodder about Native people and intoxicating, hard-hitting, “pow wow stepping” beats:

“…it goes further into history highlighting today’s most common misconceptions about colonization. Dubbing the popular TV series The Sopranos, the characters discuss the meanings behind Columbus Day and the indigenous populations, bringing both sides of the debate to light: whether Columbus was a slave trader who inspired the genocide of indigenous people or a grand conquistador and hero to America. “

What I love most about ATCR (and other young, Indigenous artists I’ve come across in recent years) is their desire to both celebrate and honor Native traditions (be they music, visual imagery, stories, etc.) and push the conversation forward – carefully carving out a unique, creative presence into the foreseeable future.  We are just as relevant as ever thanks to musical pioneers like A Tribe Called Red.

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If you’re in the Tri-State Area and are dying to experience an Electric Pow Wow, you should definitely be at SOB’s in New York City next Saturday (May 31st)!  A Tribe Called Red will be holding it down, representing Ottawa and Canadian Aboriginals (whether they know it or not!), so be sure to find a way to get there!

But, if you can’t make it to NYC, ATCR will be Pow Wow’ing in these other fine cities this summer:

May 26 Montreal – Eastern Bloc
June 01 Boston –  Good Life
June 19 Winnipeg – Winnipeg Jazz Festival
June 20 Regina – TBD
June 21 Edmonton – The Works Festival
June 22 Ottawa – Special Event
June 23 Peterborough – Ode’min Giizis Festival
July 08 Ottawa – RBC Ottawa Bluesfest
Aug 03 Montreal – Presence Autochtone

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If you love Indigenous arts + culture stories like this one and are interested in news featuring rising creative Native minds from the US, Canada, and beyond, please consider signing up for updates on the launch of my newest project NativeRemix.com!  You will be notified via e-mail as soon as the site goes live!

We are still looking for more bloggers, videographers, and photographers, as well as artists to feature!  If you, or someone you know, would like their work published or promoted on NativeRemix, please e-mail editor@nativeremix.com.

Please follow us on twitter @TheNativeRemix and “like” us on facebook/NativeRemix!  (We also welcome any advertisers who would like to reach our audience.)

I hope to see you next week!

-NativeJournalist

Just Announced: “A Tribe Called Red” Summer Tour Dates!

Ottawa-based Aboriginal DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, has just announced their upcoming Summer ’12 tour dates!  I am thrilled that they will be returning to New York City on May 31st for a performance at SOBs!  (I will definitely be there…let me know if you will, too!)

Here are the dates the group has scheduled so far.  I highly recommend you check them out!  An “Electric Pow Wow” is something everyone should experience at least once…if not regularly! 😉

May 3: Toronto – Drake Underground
May 4: Vancouver – W2 Café
May 12: Ottawa – Electric PowWow @ Babylon
May 26: Montreal – Festival Sight&Sounds @ Eastern Bloc
May 31: NY – SOBs
June 19: Winnipeg – Winnipeg Jazz Fest

Sign up for tour updates and newly scheduled shows on their Facebook events page.  I suggest you post a comment there and request a tour date for your city…people are already starting to do so!  Maybe ATCR will be able to stop by a venue near you!

Check out the profile piece I shot/produced/edited about A Tribe Called Red (featuring commentary from Native American arts + culture journalist, Vincent Schilling) and the growing “traditional Native culture remix” movement – I think I may coin this term 🙂 – after meeting up with the group during ImagineNative in Toronto last fall!

-NativeJournalist

Aboriginal DJ Group “A Tribe Called Red” Drops Their Debut Album…and it’s FREE!

Photo courtesy of Exclaim.ca

Ottawa-based Aboriginal DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, released their debut alum for FREE today!  The best way I can describe their sound is a modern, electronic remix of traditional Native pow wow drumming and singing.  Whatever you want to call it, you can’t deny how incredibly awesome and talented these guys are.  Some of my favorite tracks include: “Native Puppy Love,” “Woodcarver,” “Red Skin Girl,” and “Look At This.”  All the tracks are good, though.  But, don’t take my word for it, go check it out for yourself!  Download the album here…and be sure to spread the word!

Here’s a piece I did about A Tribe Called Red’s music and their “Electric Pow Wow” while visiting Toronto last year for ImagineNative.  Enjoy!

-NativeJournalist

Artist Profile: A Tribe Called Red

Check out my work-in-progress…

Ottawa-based DJ Trio, A Tribe Called Red, holds what they call “Electric Pow Wows” in various cities around Canada and the U.S. in an effort to celebrate and preserve their culture. We recently caught up with the group during a performance in Toronto. Here is Amy Stretten with the story.

-NativeJournalist