Every year Indian country is filled with leaders, politicians, broadcasters and talking heads provide memorable quotes for anyone listening to catch. Some ignorant, some out of touch, and some commendable. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled a list of quotes that we will break down into three parts, Perceptions, Politics, and On The Past, the Present, the Future, that will be shared over the New Year’s weekend.
“Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs? There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse.” – TV talking head John Stossel, speaking on Fox News about how the U.S. government has done more during the course of 200 years to “help” Indians than anyone else.
“What group of people would even want ‘help’ like this?”—Tex G. Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in response to Stossel’s claim.
“Our grandfathers well understood that each time a new promise was held out another was about to be broken.”—Joe Valandra, on the importance of protecting sovereignty
“So you go and so you study the area and you find out what happened, what did the indigenous people worship, you know? And…and…and…if they did blood sacrifice, like, we found some areas where they were very violent because the former culture was a murderous violent …like in Texas here and all the coast around Houston and Galveston and some other areas the Native American people were cannibals, you know? And they ate people. And so you could see a manifestation of that in the churches where people turned against people and kinda cannibalized other people’s ministries.”—Evangelist Cindy Jacobs, in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch praising Rick Perry’s August 6 cluster-prayer event, The Response. Jacobs is a Perry supporter.
“If my Haudenosaunee passport is a fantasy document, I’m a fantasy person living in a fantasy land and looking at a fantasy border.”—Joyce King, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe citizen, on being told her Haudenosaunee passport is a ‘fantasy document’ when it was confiscated by the Canadian Border Services Agency.
“Citizenship by blood quantum alone is a guarantee of physical extinction. Know the tribal population, the required blood quantum, birth and death rates, rate of exogamous marriage, and the date of extinction is easily calculated. This is not opinion. This is arithmetic.”—ICTMN columnist Steve Russell in his new book, Sequoyah Rising.
“They were rejecting me because I’m unrecognized.”—Marine Sisk-Franco, explaining why she didn’t get a permit to carry an Eagle feather, and the pain of being a member of a tribe not recognized by the federal government.
“The measure of being Indian should be a pain index—How many funerals have you gone to?”—author Sherman Alexie on the many battles over blood quantum and tribal enrollment.
“Most Americans do not even consider whether the language they use about Natives might be considered discriminatory. In fact, when they think about ‘Native Americans,’ the image that comes to mind is a romanticized, historical image, not a contemporary 21st century Native. The notion that we might feel offended by their language does not even enter their minds.”—Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant professor of psychology and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, explaining why Indians are perennially talked about negatively in mainstream society.
“The celebrations of our extinction turned out, of course, to have been premature. However, certain ideas and themes in the popular culture remain persistent and influential.”—Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, on the use of Native mascots in sports.
“[S]hut the fuck up Dan Snyder, you own the most sickeningly racist relic of a brand in all of professional sports.”—Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan calling out the hypocrisy of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for alleging anti-Semitism based on a newspaper article published in the D.C. City Paper. Snyder in September, facing a public backlash, dropped his lawsuit against the paper.
“(The Redskins name has) been there since the early ‘40s and no one has complained about it. No one has complained until the people from the Indian nations came down here and made their complaint.”—Wiscasset High School Board of Education member Ed Stover in defense of continuing to use the offensive name for the school mascot.
“It’s spreading the word that no matter if you want to play baseball or be a mechanic—whatever it may be—your dream is your dream and nobody’s going to take it away until you take it away from yourself.”—Joba Chamberlain on the importance of emphasizing good news in Indian country.
“Honor the memory of heroic Native warriors like Geronimo, Lori Piestewa and many others, not by promoting false stereotypes, but by bringing attention to the plight of veterans, both Native and non-Native, who continue to be plagued by substandard health care and homelessness.”—ICTMN columnist Ruth Hopkins urging a change in the mindset of the leadership of the U.S. military in the wake of its offensive use of Geronimo as the code-name for Osama Bin Laden.
“To Natives Geronimo is a hero because he fought America. To Natives Bin Laden was evil because he fought America…[try to] explain that to a kid.”—Filmmaker Chris Eyre commenting on the Geronimo/Bin Laden blunder.
“Native people say they feel more welcome in town now, and shopkeepers are picking up some Ojibwe phrases. Promoting the language does a lot to bridge barriers.”—Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe, on the use of Ojibwe language signs in Bemidji, Minnesota.
“Another language is not just a different way to communicate the same thing. It’s a whole other thing. It’s an intricate web of meanings and relationships and thoughts.”—Alaska Native storyteller Ishmael Hope on the artist’s role in preserving Tlingit.
“Currently the public doesn’t know enough about Native people because our news is rarely covered, as many still think our people are in the past.”—Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of the Sho-Ban News, arguing in January that the mainstream media, including the Huffington Post, need to do a much better job of covering Indian issues.
“It is important as an indigenous people that we not allow Hollywood to define who we are, and I believe we have been very successful in that endeavor.”—Quileute Nation Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland on educating fans of Twilight’s Wolf Pack.
“The first time I saw a Native actor laugh it was Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. I remember thinking, I have never seen a Native actor laugh, ever.”—Neil Diamond, director of Reel Injun, on Indians in the movies.
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