BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, HBO]: FILM REVIEW BY HUNTER BEAR [MAY 28 2007] -- AND NOTES ON ANTHROS AND OTHER THINGS [HUNTER BEAR [MAY 28 2007]

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 5/28/07
 
Much of our family watched the just-out HBO television film, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, last night -- and found it well worthwhile.  [It's obviously going to be running on HBO into the near future.]
 
It is not, by any means, "enjoyable." In a word, it is stark.  But it will give everyone, Native and non-Native, much to think and to [constructively] brood about.  Non-Indians, new to the omipresent challenges faced by our Indian people, will learn of some things of which they never knew.
 
It is focused broadly on a climactic segment in the quite good and full work by Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, [draws heavily on  first-hand accounts from the times, initially published in 1970 and since reprinted in numerous editions], and a very readable and Native-sympathetic handling of the bloody Anglo onslaught against Native people and lands, especially in the West of the latter half of the 19th century. The film centers  -- with some significant fictional digressions -- on the early life and work of Dr Charles Eastman, an eastern-educated Sioux M.D [1858 - 1939.] 
 
Dr Eastman was a noted reformer and activist, and later a prime mover with other Native movers-and-shakers in the first national Indian rights organization, The Society of American Indians [1911.]  The title of the book and this film -- and that of a still contemporary song by Buffy St. Marie -- is taken from one of the lines by the American poet, Stephen Vincent Benet: "I shall not be here / I shall rise and pass / Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.''  The hideous reference point is the U.S. Army massacre of at least 350 Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee Creek in western South Dakota at the very close of 1890.
 
Adam Beach as Charles Eastman and August Schellenberg as Sitting Bull -- both major Native  film actors -- are among those luminaries who give splendid performances as key figures. Anna Paquin gives a fine depiction of Elaine Goodale, Eastman's Anglo wife and colleague. Wes Studi, another key Native film figure, gives a stirring portrayal of the Paiute prophet of the Ghost Dance, Wovoka [Jack Wilson].  Local people from the Sioux reservations in the Dakotas [and some other settings] play impressive supportive roles.  The photography is very appropriately handled.
 
The basic and sanguinary thematic currents of those times [and, however disguised, much in our present Native situation as well ] are very well and effectively carried by the film:  the endless push for Native lands and resources -- and the use of racism and cultural ethnocentrism to justify physical and cultural genocide.  Many of the historical segments contained in the film are accurately depicted -- and those featuring fictional digression are consistent with the basic themes.   Charles Eastman's struggle to find a functional relationship with the "Euro-American world", while maintaining firm loyalty to one's Native tribe and tribal culture and Indian people in general, will strike a poignant and familiar chord with almost all Natives in today's world.  [See the also excellent and still relatively contemporary film, Thunderheart.]
 
The firmly committed struggle by Native people for  a full measure of socio-economic justice and freedom [e.g., maintenance of tribal treaty rights,  preservation and expansion of tribal sovereignty, protection of lands and resources,] is an always consistently enduring River of Challenge.
 
A prolific and fascinating writer, Charles Eastman wrote, among other books, Indian Boyhood, The Soul of the Indian, and From the Deep Woods to Civilization.  An anthology of his written works, The Essential Charles Eastman [Ohiyesa], was published this year.
 
See also Hazel Hertzberg's, The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern
Pan-Indian Movements, Syracuse University Press, 1971.]
 
Yours, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
www.hunterbear.org

TO THE BEAR WITHOUT BORDERS LIST [HUNTER BEAR]  MAY 29 2007

 
As a general rule, I don't spend much time "defending" anything I write -- including book and film reviews.  But I am not even sure that my two sharp critics on BWB even bothered to see Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee -- before they started shooting.  The reaction to the film from the Native community seems to be generally quite positive -- and, in addition to that, I was happy to learn this morning of similar reactions from Black activists who I have known from Mississippi times as well as receiving a quite complimentary note from a Hawaiian Native activist and good friend.  They had taken the time to see the film.  It's worth pointing out that, apropos of Louis' distaste with the colloquy between Col. Nelson Miles and Sitting Bull:  the inclusion of that early on quickly provided viewers with a pretty clear picture of the clear-cut Anglo/Native dichotomy of interests.  Miles, later to become General Miles, was quite intellectually capable of saying just what he did -- as was, for damn sure, the always most articulate and committed Sitting Bull.  Miles et al. were under heavy fire during that general period by the non-Indian "friends of the Indian" -- and the Anglo rationalizations for genocide and land-grab were certainly being spun in much the same fashion as we see in many places today.  In a little more than two hours, Bury My Heart covered a great deal concerning the complex intricacies of Federal Indian policy in the latter 19th century --  and some ostensible altruism -- but always, in the last analysis,  the emergent, dominant primacy of taking Native lands and frequently destroying people and seeking to destroy societies and cultures.  I was personally impressed with this exploration of complex policy and policy implementation in the little more than two hours -- in addition to everything else that was handled -- since I taught Federal Indian Law for thirteen years as well as, on occasion, a related course, the History of Federal Indian Law and Policy.  And, of course, we here have known the Native world and the issues quite personally from the "hatch" onward and all the way through.
 
And when my grandson/son, Thomas, was preparing to embark to Med School [he is now starting his third year], I spent a fair amount of time on several occasions telling him and showing photos of the early Native MDs -- with an especial emphasis on the doctor/activists such as Charles Eastman [Sioux] and Carlos Montezuma [Yavapai Apache].  Their examples -- and such works as this film as well -- have and will encourage "Indians into medicine."
 
H.
 
HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'
 
ANTHROPOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS --AND INDIANS  [HUNTER BEAR]

Note by Hunter Bear:

This is only partially an older post of mine which many may not have seen.  It involves anthropologists -- about whom I am understandably more than just a little schitzy.  I have had good experiences and bad with a number of those folks.  But, as the result of a current writing project I'm commencing -- on American Indian Studies and related disciplines -- I am thinking of Them.

First, this appropriate contemporary note by Brian Rice [Mohawk], Canada:

"I was happy to have received a nice review from Hunter for my book. He was one of the old school Native Studies Professors who were as much or more activists than they were simply scholars. This included people like Art Solomon and others who were defining what Native Studies should be about in the late 60's and early 70's. A lot of them disassociated themselves from programs such these, not liking the direction they were heading in. People like Hunter were vilified by Anthopologists who believed Native Studies wasn't academic enough. In other words, they should be the ones teaching Native Studies. Many of these types such as at the University of North Dakota where Hunter taught, now run the programs. There are very few social activists left in the discipline who are involved in prison reform and such." [Brian Rice]

Note By Hunter.  Brian is directly "on target" and here is some of my thinking.
 

[See also  http://www.hunterbear.org/UND.htm  ]

A few thoughts on Anthropology and anthropologists:

The relationship between anthropologists -- those of "the study of man" --
and Native Americans has frequently been fraught with tension.  This has
been especially true when the anthropologists have been Anglo.  In his great
biting classic book of thirty-odd years ago,  characterized by some
exquisitely set forth Indian humor --  Custer Died for Your Sins -- the
Sioux lawyer and writer, Vine Deloria, Jr., spends a fair amount of critical
time on this  particular component of the social sciences. And one of the
most enduring songs by the great Sioux singer, Floyd Red Crow Westerman,
deals caustically with "the anthros, coming like death and taxes to our
land."

These criticisms by Vine and Floyd are very well taken.  It's been my sad
lot to have occasionally been forced into intra-academic relationships with
Anglo anthros whose careering and condescending attitudes and practices have been, to state it gently, a long and bitter drink for myself -- and for my
other colleagues and students, Native and otherwise.

I've been among a good number of Native academician/activists  who have
publicly challenged some Anglo anthros on key issues.  An interesting
example of this is the "research" of Christy Turner II who, in his
remarkably twisted and defamatory published work of several years ago, Man
Corn, trashes the peaceful Anasazi of the Northeastern Arizona and
Northwestern New Mexico setting of 800 and more years ago -- ancestors of
the modern Hopi -- by  falsely claiming they practiced wide-spread
cannibalism [somehow ostensibly managing to drag in as co-villains with the
Anasazi the very far away Toltecs of Mexico!]  I grew up among the Navajo,
adversaries of the Anasazi in the "old time" [mostly over water resources],
who have nothing whatsoever in their very carefully maintained and intricate
oral history to indicate that cannibalism was ever practiced by these long
ago pueblo neighbors.  And the Hopis -- Anasazi descendants -- certainly do
not.

 A  good number of Anglo and other non-Indian anthropologists have also attacked
Turner's spurious work. And that encouraging note is as good a place as any
for me to indicate that, in my opinion, many anthropologists [including many
non-Indian ones] have been essentially  OK in their relationships with
Native Americans -- and some have been extraordinarily positive allies of
our Indian people.

Anglo anthropologists were among those who encouraged the  launching of the very important pan-Indian [tribally transcendent] and all-Indian Society of
American Indians on Columbus Day, 1911 -- in which Native ethnologists [a
division of anthropology] such as Arthur C. Parker and J.N.B. Hewitt played
leading roles along with many other Native academics and activists from a
wide range of tribal and experiential backgrounds.  Dr W.E.B. DuBois, by the
way, himself part Indian and a key founder of the NAACP in 1909 as well as
its predecessor Niagara Movement, vigorously supported the Society and its
work.

Frank Speck, University of Pennsylvania, a key figure in United States
anthropology for generations and very much trusted always by Native
Americans, did very careful and honorable and enduring research  -- full and
inclusive -- among the  Wabanaki and the Iroquois and other such very much
culturally-intact tribal nations of the Northeast.  He also worked hard and
faithfully on behalf of some of the most marginal surviving tribal groups --
long forgotten -- e.g., the Nanticokes of Delaware and Maryland to whom he
faithfully donated much weekend time for years, helping them retain and
retake much of their aboriginal cultures.

The great work of Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorthea Leighton, Harvard, among the
Navajo is legendary, deep into the 20th Century.

And there are many other very positive examples.  I personally recall with
great affection and respect Bob Euler -- and Ned Danson [father of the
actor, Ted] -- both old Southwestern family friends [and teachers of mine]
whose commitment to Native cultures and Native rights was absolutely
splendid at every point.

From 1973 through 1976, I was a professor in the Graduate Program in Urban
and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa -- and was also UI's advisor
to the Native students.  I arrived as a major national Indian concern was
erupting vigorously in Iowa -- the sanctity of Native American burials.  The
Iowa State Archaeologist [an office traditionally based at UI], Marshall
McKussack,  was extremely insensitive to Indian concerns and was a target of
Deloria in "Custer." [Archaeology, of course, is a major division of
Anthropology.]  This old dinosaur was being retired and Duane Anderson, also
an Anglo, was appointed to the storm-ridden post.  Duane appointed a three
person Native American advisory committee -- Maria Thompson Pearson
["Running Moccasins"], a Santee Sioux; Don Wanatee, a Mesquaki; and myself.

We traveled the state -- and surrounding areas -- securing the opinions
of Native persons from both reservation and urban settings.  Duane Anderson,
anthropologist, was a very solid person all the way through.  In due course,
we-all had an excellent piece of proposed legislation which the Iowa General
Assembly passed and the supportive Governor, Robert Ray, immediately signed.

This legislation -- the strongest package of state level protection for
Native burials ever passed in the country -- set forth elaborate procedures
for the protection of Native burials, for the analysis and reburial in
traditional settings for Native remains, and for a closed state cemetery to
house Native remains that could not be classified in a specific tribal
sense.  The Iowa legislation helped significantly to blaze the trail for the
major Federal statute, the Native American Graves Protection and
Repatriation Act of 1990 -- as well as some related measures.

Very importantly, an increasing number of Native Americans have been
entering Anthropology, following the trail-blazing traditions of Arthur
Parker and J.N.B. Hewitt and, in more contemporary times, such vigorous
researchers [and often activists] as Alphonso Ortiz, Bob Thomas, Edward
Dozier -- and Vine Deloria, Jr [who, although not formally trained in the
discipline, has certainly absorbed and contributed to it in countless
positive ways indeed.]

Increasingly, anthropologists have been extremely useful -- in conjunction
with the very important  Native oral historians -- in providing critical
expert court testimony in support of Native American  land claims and water
rights and environmental and related cases.  A multitude of
anthropologists -- from all ethnicities -- have been at the fore in the
broadly human battle against racism and cultural ethnocentrism.

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]  Among other things, the first person to receive a Master's in Sociology from Arizona State University [May, 1960.]  But, doing "in absentia", I skipped Barry Goldwater's speech at graduation, spent that summer on extremely remote Bear Mountain as a very solitary fire lookout/radio man -- and didn't see my diploma until Frank Lyons, a muleskinner, came up the many miles trail to spell me off for three or four days -- and brought all my mail.  In front of my cabin and under the high noon sun, I opened the diploma package.  The Credential's appropriately copper-colored background shone brightly.  "That sure looks nice," said Frank.

But there, on the Top of the World -- with vast Arizona to the north and west and vast New Mexico to the east -- and a view that went southward 'way down into Old Mexico, the welcome diploma did look miniscule.  H

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'
 
Check out our Hunterbear social justice website:  www.hunterbear.org
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
http://hunterbear.org/cloudy_gray.htm
 
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear] 
 http://www.hunterbear.org/GRAY%20LANDS%20AND%20GRAY%20GHOSTS.htm

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