MARIA TALLCHIEF

Maria Tallchief | American dancer | Britannica
Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief (1925-2013)

Above all, I wanted to be appreciated as a prima ballerina who happened to be a Native American, never as someone who was an American Indian ballerina

Maria Tallchief

Born in Fairfax, Oklahoma on an Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief (born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief) and her sister, Marjorie, began dancing as children and both would later find themselves dancing on stage. As her career began, many tried to persuade Tallchief to change her last name so that dance companies would not discriminate against her. Tallchief refused. Maria Tallchief’s life was permanently changed in 1948 when she became not only the first prima ballerina of Native American heritage of the New York City Ballet, but the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. Tallchief’s role as the Sugarplum Fairy is also credited as one of the reasons that The Nutcracker is one of the most famous in the world. She helped break down ethnic barriers in the world of dance and was one of the first American ballet stars in a field long dominated by Russian and European dancers.

About the Quote

Maria Tallchief said that no matter where she performed, she wanted to be judged on the merits of her dancing alone. She believed that one should identify themselves by what they love rather than society’s preconceived notions.

Also, I wanted to include this google doodle which has more information about Tallchief coming from her family and other indigenous artists.

https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-maria-tallchief

HOW TO HONOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES THIS THANKSGIVING

Today is Thanksgiving. I hope all of you can celebrate with your family whether it be virtually or in person. Reminder: the virus does not stop just because it’s a holiday! This holiday can be emotionally complex as it is a day of mourning for Indigenous and First Nation Folks. Here are some ways we can honor Indigenous folks, disrupt erasure and tokenization, interrupt false narratives and move towards reparations.

  1. Decolonize your historical lens. Check out my last blog post or do your own research about the real history of Thanksgiving and the Wampanoag tribe
  2. Support Indigenous Business and Buy Indigenous Goods
  3. Verbally acknowledge the land you are on and which tribe inhabits it
  4. Raise awareness of the current disenfranchisement and racism facing Indigenous peoples to family and friends who may not be educated on the subject

If you want to check out some Indigenous artisans and artists, please check out @kinsalehues on Instagram! Her insta highlights have plenty of resources to support artists and her community. I have linked her account down below.

https://www.instagram.com/kinsalehues/

THE HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING

Growing up, one is always taught about the First Thanksgiving as a celebratory feast that the Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims to. After this, the pilgrims hand off America to white people so they can create a great nation dedicated to liberty, opportunity and Christianity for the rest of the world to profit. However, this story is riddled with historical inaccuracies.

The Native Americans that the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth met with were the Wampanoags. The pilgrims landed in 1620 and the chief (sachem) Ousamequin offered them an entente—a friendly understanding or informal alliance—as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts. This was not because he wanted to be friends; he and his people had been decimated by an epidemic disease and the English would be able to help him fend off his tribal rebels.

Moreover, the arrival of the Mayflower is not the first instance of the Wampanoags coming into contact with Europeans. Prior, they had been in contact with Europeans, but not in a friendly way. This history involves slave raiding and violence.

The result of telling and retelling the false origin of Thanksgiving is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth. Some adults have said that they remember sitting in school during Thanksgiving and feeling invisible. Not only their classes, but society in general was making light of the historical trauma which weighs around their neck. The traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relationships between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, concealing the long and bloody history of conflict between the Native Americans and European settlers.

For more information about the first Thanksgiving, please check out this article! In it, David Silverman discusses his book This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAIR IN NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE

Throughout Native American Culture, there are many teachings and practices that vary depending on location and culture. One of the many things important to Native Americans’ cultural identity is their hair. Hair is seen as an intimate extension of the self as well as a connection to the world. Long hair signifies a strong cultural identity in many tribes. One typically cuts their hear only if he or she has experienced a significant loss like the death of a family member, traumatic event or significant life change.

Furthermore, grooming another’s hair represents a nurturing bond between persons. The braid signifies the sacredness of relationships. Single strands of hair are weak when tugged on; however, when you pull all of the hair together in a braid, the hair is strong. This is a representation of the value of family and tribe along with the connection to all of creation.

Julian Brave Noisecat, a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen Nation says that he wears his hair long because it is “an expression of cultural and political pride and defiance against a brutal history of forced assimilation through boarding and residential schools where our grandparents were incarcerated, forced to cut their hair and become white. It’s a subtle way to flip the bird to the white men who tried to kill and assimilate our ancestors.”

Throughout history, there are numerous instances where indigenous persons face discrimination for their hairstyles. Indian boarding schools—institutions established in the early 20th century as a way to “kill the Indian and save the man”—were brought to schools and forced to assimilate into foreign culture and cut their hair and throw it away. To the Native Americans, throwing their hair away is a form of personal disrespect. Some cultures burn the hair with sage or sweet grass and their prayers rise with the smoke to the Creator. By throwing away the hair, the culture and value of everything the person had been taught was thrown away. Today, there are still instances where children are sent home from school because of their hair. Long hair shouldn’t be seen as a “rebel” act; it is a religious right.

Note: do not touch someone’s hair without permission!! Some might even find that asking permission is a form of disrespect.

UPDATE: NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Hello World! November is coming to an end, and that means Native American Heritage Month is coming to an end. To celebrate this month, I will be posting daily about Native American culture, history, people, etc. so stay tuned!

This month is meant to, according to the Nation Congress of Native Americans, “celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.” My mission is to educate and celebrate Native Americans through my posts.

My Experience: Growing up, my school district covered Native American tribal land, so I went to school with members of the Oneida Nation. At my school, the language was offered as a “lunch-time class” where they were able to learn it during their lunch breaks. Like any language, these classes were not enough to make them fluent. It is crazy to me to think that Native American languages are rapidly dying out as a result of colonialism. As a child, I rejected my parents’ native language. Now, I wished I had learned it, and I assume that this feeling perpetuates throughout the world, no matter the culture.

WHO IS MARCUS GARVEY?

Marcus Garvey - Beliefs, Books & Death - Biography
Marcus Garvey; 1887-1940

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots

Marcus Garvey

Born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Marcus Garvey was a nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement which sought to unify and connect people of african descent worldwide. He founded the Negro World Newspaper, a shipping company called Black Star Line and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was a fraternal organization of black nationalists. This group advocated around the world to establish independent black states, most notably in Liberia on the west coast of Africa, and “separate but equal” status for persons of African ancestry.

As an adolescent, Garvey was a victim of racism especially from his white teachers in Jamaica. In addition, he had left his hometown (St. Ann’s Bay) for Kingston, the island nation’s capital where he worked as an apprentice in a print shop. While working there, Garvey became involved in the labor union for print tradesmen in Kingston which many attribute as Garvey’s first step in activism. Marcus Garvey was both a racial purist and a Black separatist. He believed that all black people should return to their rightful homeland Africa. This message is very controversial, and prominent activists like W.E.B. Du Bois referred to him as “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world.” Du Bois believed and hoped for a self-sustaining Black ecosystem within a predominantly white America.

To be honest, I do not know where I stand on Garvey and his ideals. On the one hand, I believe that there should be no distinction between cultures and one should intermingle with others. However, I do agree with some points in Garvey’s ideology where he denotes that he, as a black man, is the equal of any white man and that black is beautiful. If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to leave them in the comments!

WHO IS STACEY ABRAMS?

Stacey Abrams credited for boosting Democrats in Georgia
Stacey Abrams; picture credentials: gettyimages.com

If you were anything like me last week, you were on the edge of your seat waiting to hear results about the presidential election. In doing so, you, like me, were surprised to see Georgia, a traditionally red state shift from red to blue. This work can be accredited to Stacey Abrams and her team. In this recent election, a record of nearly 5 million Georgians voted. This number is nearly 1 million more than four years ago.

Stacey Abrams is Georgia’s former House Minority Leader. I, alongside many other Americans, had seen her last year giving the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in 2016. In 2018, Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia against Brian Kemp, who was the then secretary of state. She lost by just 55,000 votes and attributed that loss to voter suppression in a state where the election was run by the opponent itself. The year before, the Republican-run state slashed nearly 670,000 voters from its rolls. Nearly 70% of those voters were black – a stark racial disparity since only 32% of Georgia’s population is black.

Since Abrams was 17, she has been fighting voter suppression. She said, “Politicians believe their way to preserve their power is to impede the ability of voters to be heard. And typically, they target people of color, young people, and they target the poor.” In one of my previous posts, I discussed voter suppression. By simply comparing polling areas in areas where the vast majority of people are minorities and/or are poor, one can see the great disparities in votes and access to voting between them and areas where the majority of people are white.

She did not give up after her loss. “She went straight to work to tear down barriers to the ballot, and build power for overlooked communities — both in Georgia and around the country,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She and the collective efforts of Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project helped register 800,000 new Georgia voters, mostly in communities of color. They would go door-to-door in pockets of communities that had never been touched and would ask them if they were registered voters and if their loved ones/neighbors were also. Her work doesn’t stop in Georgia. Fair Fight also helped Biden win in Wisconsin and other key swing states this year.

Now, she is preparing for the Georgia run-off elections which will decide which party controls the Senate. Democratic candidates Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are competing against incumbents Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. If you live in Georgia, you have until December 7th to register to vote in the runoff! The link to register to vote is here. Also, a reminder to the younger people in Georgia, if you will turn 18 before January 5, 2021, you can register to vote in the runoff! Again, please register and VOTE!

powerful speech about police brutality

Hello! I know this isn’t my usual day to post, but I wanted to share with you a post that I saw on my Instagram feed today. This video, posted by Columbia University, shares one man’s take and reflection on his experiences as a black man in a world of police brutality. His name is Marquavious Moore. His words are extremely powerful and shine a light on police brutality and white privilege when it comes to the police. I hope you take the time to listen and reflect on this!

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN NIGERIA? #EndSARS

A demonstrator protests against Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos on October 17 [Temilade Adelaja/Reuters]
A demonstrator protests against SARS, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Lagos on October 17 [Temilade Adelaja/Reuters]

The Nigeria Police was first established in 1820. Over a century later, the northern and southern police forces merged into the first national police force— the Nigeria Police Force. Later, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS, was created in order to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes.

However, since their creation, SARS abuses its power through unlawful arresting, harassing, kidnapping, theft, murdering, raping, extorting the very citizens they should be protecting. They go about profiling youth with nicer cars and clothes or are in possession of an iPhone by assuming that they partake in fraud and engage in crime to get their nice things. They accuse these people of being “online fraudsters” or of cybercrime because they own electronics and then demand excessive bail fees to let them go. They have been known to stop people, go through their phone, and force them to withdraw money from the ATM while threatening to beat/kill them.

Philomena Celestine, 25, had experienced the brutality of SARS first hand. In 2018, she and her family had been travelling home from her university graduation ceremony when their car was pulled over by SARS officers who forced her two brothers out. She recalled, “My four-year-old niece was in the vehicle but they cocked their guns at our car and drove my brothers into the bush where they harassed them for over 30 minutes, and accused them of being cybercriminals. They could see my graduation gown but that did not deter them. My sister was trembling and crying in fear.”

Activists in Nigeria have been protesting to #EndSARS for a while now. Since 2017, protests have been building momentum across Nigeria. These protests have resulted in the Nigerian government announcing that it would disband the unit. But this is the fourth time it has said this, and the other three times had not been executed in a way sufficient enough to deem it better than before. Restrucutring the unit, changing its name, and redeploying its officers to other units is not engough. Reform must translate into accountability and justice.

An article from the site Aljazeera says:

“In 2006 and 2008, presidential committees proposed recommendations for reforming the Nigeria Police.

In 2009, the Nigerian minister of justice and attorney general of the federation convened a National Committee on Torture to examine allegations of torture and unlawful killings but made little headway. In October 2010, the then Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, allocated 71 billion naira ($196m) for police reforms.

In 2016, the inspector general of the Nigeria Police Force announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ use of excessive force and failure to follow due process.”

The amount in cases of unlawful killings and police brutality are growing and yet, not a single SARS officer has been found responsible for torture, ill-treatment of detainees or unlawful killing.

To help #EndSARS

  • Learn about the situation and educate others about the situation in Nigeria
  • Use the hashtags #EndSARS (this hashtag had been created in 2017 and has since caused the government to reevaluate SARS multiple times)
  • Be an ally to your friends who might be experiencing turmoil because of the events going on in Nigeria, whether it be by protesting or just being there for them!
  • Be aware of the things happening in Nigeria!!

REMINDER: DO NOT APPROPRIATE SOMEONE’S CULTURE THIS HALLOWEEN

Halloween is approaching fast, and this means it is time to start thinking of a costume to wear (for your virtual zoom party or around the house of course). So, this post is a reminder to everyone that one should not appropriate someone’s culture as a costume! This is Cultural Appropriation. The definition of cultural appropriation is “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.” This could mean taking intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge, parts (symbols, artifacts, dress, practices) or any instance that is commonly associated with and/or perceived as belonging to another. A common result to cultural appropriation is commodification. Commodification is the process in which the dominant culture has the freedom and/or power to take objects or artifacts from other cultures. Through this process, the relationship between these objects or artifacts and their intrinsic value is lost.

Some examples of cultural appropriation:

  • black face
  • simply being “a different race for halloween”
  • gypsies
  • geishas

Some ways that you can address this issue:

  • Reflect on yourself – ask yourself, do you know what is cultural appropriation and have you done it before?
  • Talk to your friends and bring up the subject – what do they think of it?
  • Reflect on your costume this year – is your costume based on someone’s race, ethnicity, or culture? Does my costume use stereotypes to make a joke or to be sexy? Is it exploiting another culture?
  • Advocate!!!

A good resource that I found that touches on this subject is University of Denver’s “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” photo campaign that aims to raise awareness and create a respectful and inclusive community for the students. What do you think about cultural appropriation? I have researched this topic and have found that there is a fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation.