Tag Archives: First Nations

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Evan Adams

20 Jun

File-Evan_AdamsToday we honor and celebrate a man of diverse talents. Evan Tiesla Adams was born in British Columbia in 1966. He is a Coast Salish from the Sliammon and identifies as First Nation. Adams first came to prominence as an actor, starring as Thomas Builds-the-Fire in the moving film adaptation of Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals. I have to say that I found his performance in Smoke Signals extremely compelling. Adams is an exceedingly talented actor that really understands nuance. He won an Independent Spirit Award for that performance.

An out gay man since the start of his career, he parlayed his personal experience into another award-winning role, co-starring in the 2002 film The Business of Fancydancing. He has also appeared in numerous television shows. Adams is committed to presenting an accurate picture of his life as an out First Nations man. He participated in the documentary Just Watch Me, narrating his struggles coming of age in 1970’s Canada. Adams is also a talented playwright, with numerous works performed around the world.

Throughout his acting and writing career, he devoted significant time and energy to First Nations issues. Particularly interested in health care, he worked extensively on HIV awareness and drug and alcohol addiction treatment. In 2002, he completed a medical degree at the University of Calgary. While he has not abandoned the stage and screen entirely, he focuses on First Nations health care.

Adams was appointed director of the Aboriginal Health program in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine. His work won great acclaim, resulting in his appointment as the first Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor to the province of British Columbia. In 2012, he was elevated to Deputy Provincial Health Officer, focusing on the needs of the province’s First Nations people.

Whether presenting honest, nuanced depictions of First Nations people, speaking passionately about gay rights, or ensuring effective medical policies in his home province, Dr. Evan Adams is a dedicated worker for social justice.  Thank you for your visibility and dedication to human rights.


Should Oregonians Take A Gamble Based on Fear, Lies, and Racism?

15 Oct

On November 6 Oregon voters are being presented with two ballot measures that would create the state’s first private casino. Ballot Measure 82 would amend the constitution to allow private casinos in addition to the nine casinos operated by Federally recognized tribes in the state; Measure 83 would authorize a casino — potentially named “The Grange” — in Wood Village, a small town just east of Portland. The backers of the casino plan are aggressively marketing the measures as something good for Oregon. How accurate are their claims?

Who are the backers of these measures? Two businessmen from Lake Oswego (also sadly known as Lake No Negro), another Portland suburb, and Clairvest, a Canadian firm that operates private casinos in other locations. They’ve tried to pass similar measures before and been soundly defeated. This year they’re using the bad economy, deception, and racism to try one more time.

The nine tribally operated casinos are distributed around the state. The tribes built these casinos based on promises that no private casinos would be built; this included huge investments in land and construction. Tribal casinos provide millions of dollars to local communities — not just tribes — distributed through non-profit foundations. They employ thousands of people of every ethnicity; approximately 75% of the purchases they make come from local businesses.

The backers of Measures 82 and 83 use blatantly racist language to imply selfishness and misdeeds by the tribes. Ignoring the huge local benefits, they emphasize the relative populations fo the tribes and the state, implying greed. Their ads set up the tribes as mysterious “others” who hide their profits. The backers say that the tribal casinos would still benefit “their communities,” setting up an ugly us-and-them mentality. To top it all off, they build on centuries of oppression and genocide, content to reap their corporate profits at the expense of tribal revenues.

And just how honest are the backers? Not very. They point out that 25% of the gross revenues of the casino would go to schools, parks, and economic development. They don’t say that 80% of that money would actually go into the Lottery fund; it currently supports those activities, but that is a very different fact. They also ignore the fact that lottery games give 65% of their proceeds to public causes. That means that the money the private casinos draw away from local lottery business will give back 40% less money. The backers also don’t publicize the fact that Measure 83 grants them an exemption from the annual tax on any lottery machines they would operate, giving them another unfair advantage.

Supporters of the measures talk about the hypothetical 2,000 jobs the Grange would create. They ignore the small businesses that would go under. They ignore the impact on the infrastructure of the county that is not funded in any way. They talk about the “Oregon taxpaying corporation” that would be created to run the casino without mentioning that it would be primarily owned by an international company that would take most of the revenue out of Oregon — unlike the tribal casinos. They hide the fact that Measure 83 authorizes the casino operation without guaranteeing any of the other amenities that Clairvest says it will put in the Grange. We just have to take their word for it.

Besides Measures 82 and 83, the city of Wood Village (home to Karen Minnis, the homophobic ex-Speaker of Oregon’s House of Representatives) would have to approve the Grange. That puts the final decision in the hands of 3800 people, about 1/100th of the population of the state. Every aspect of this proposal is suspect at best and nefarious at worst. Governor Kitzhaber has opposed the measures, an unusual stand for someone in office. Three former governors — both Republican and Democrats — have come out strongly in opposition. The Grange is a pie-in-the-sky boondoggle, a money-maker for people who won’t take NO for an answer. It’s being sold on deception and racism. It’s bad for Oregon and should be rejected soundly, just like the last time.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 26, Susan Allen

26 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate the first openly gay Native American to serve in a state legislature. Susan Allen was born in 1963 on the Ute Reservation in Utah. She is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Allen graduated from Augsburg College in 1992. She later earned a J.D. from the University of New Mexico and an LL.M. from William Mitchell College of Law. Her law practice specializes in serving tribes, helping them draft tribal laws in a wide range of areas.

When state Representative Jeff Hayden was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2011, Allen was one of four candidates to run for his vacated seat. She won the nomination and the special election handily. She is one of three LGBT members of the Minnesota legislature, a larger number than most states.

Allen is a fierce advocate for equality for all. She campaigned on a six-point platform: Economy, Education, Tax Reform, Health Care, Social Justice, and Marriage Equality. One key part of her campaign website shows her honesty, integrity, and determination.

Minnesota’s strong progressive values are under threat in the current political climate with attempts to roll back established environmental protections and regulations in our state laws.   I will remain committed to Minnesota’s proud legacy of protecting the land, air, and water for current and future generations. We are also witnessing the hurtful social division created by an attempt to amend the state constitution to deny rights to a specific population within our community.   I will fight the concentrated assault on our GLBT community members and families and be a passionate advocate for equal rights for all Minnesotans.

Congratulations on your election, Rep. Allen. The nation needs more leaders like you, but what is with some of the very bigoted folk you have in Minnesota, like Michele Bachmann?

Memorial Day and Remembering Whose Land We Are On…

28 May

I hope this post accomplishes at least two goals.  I worry we do not do nearly enough to support our brothers and sisters returning from duty; let us not forget that it was George W and the Republicans that wanted to cut funding for their benefits.  Secondly, I wanted to make it clear that this holiday is far more complex when you think about colonization and the Native American Holocaust.   I think the picture I have included says more than I could ever say, and it says it far more eloquently!

Celebrating Ruth Bunzel

18 Apr

On this date in 1898, pioneering anthropologist Ruth Bunzel was born. Ruth Leah Bernheim was the youngest of four children in a German/Czech Jewish household in Manhattan. Ruth’s mother raised the children after their father died, relying on money from her family’s import business. They spoke English at home, but Ruth’s mother encouraged Ruth to study German at Barnard College. Ruth, however, changed her major because of the political atmosphere surrounding World War I and received a B.A. in European history from Barnard in 1918.

Bunzel wrote about the choices facing graduates of her day, observing that some went to Paris seeking freedom, some aligned with radical workers and sold the Daily Worker on street corners, and others sought “some answers to the ambiguities and contradictions of our age and the general enigma of human life.” She saw anthropology as a means to understand not only others but also ourselves. Having taken a course with noted anthropologist Franz Boas in college, Bunzel succeeded Esther Goldfrank as his secretary and editorial assistant at Columbia University in 1922. In 1924, she accompanied anthropologist Ruth Benedict to western New Mexico and east-central Arizona to study the Zuni people, and followed Boas’s suggestion to give up typing and begin her own research.

Critical of ethnographers who often ignored women as subjects in their fieldwork, Bunzel felt that “society consisted of more than old men with long memories.” She was drawn to the Zuni because women were the potters and had considerable societal power. Bunzel began graduate study in anthropology at Columbia University. In 1929, she received her Ph.D. with the publication of a landmark book on the artistic process, The Pueblo Potter. Rather than focusing on the objects of art, Bunzel was one of the first anthropologists to analyze artists’ feelings, their relationship to their work, and the process of creativity. To understand how artists work within the confines of traditional styles, Bunzel apprenticed herself to Zuni potters, and among them she became a respected, skilled potter.

Bunzel was a sensitive fieldworker, respecting local factionalism and esoteric ceremonies; her focus on the individual and the degree of aesthetic freedom an individual had in a given culture influenced her writing on Zuni kachina (ancestral spirit) cults and mythology, ceremonialism and religion, and poetry. She also contributed to the understanding of Zuni cosmology and social organization, values, language, culture, and personality. In addition to the Zuni, Bunzel wrote about the Hopi, Acoma, San Ildefonso, and San Felipe Pueblo Indians of the southwestern United States.

Reflecting both her interest in culture and personality studies, she also wrote a comparative study on alcoholism in Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico, and in Chichicastenango. Her research, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship (1930–1932), looked at psychological factors that led to different patterns of drinking in the two communities. She also focused on the role alcohol played in the natives’ subjugation and how haciendas profited by keeping Indians in debt. Her study on alcoholism was the first anthropological writing on this subject.

Bunzel taught sporadically at Columbia University throughout the 1930s, but she became an adjunct professor in 1954 until her retirement in 1972. She then spent two years as a visiting professor at Bennington College. Bunzel earned a modest living teaching and felt she had never obtained full-time work because she was a woman. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she worked with other colleagues against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  She died in 1990 of cardiac arrest. Her detailed fieldwork and writing are known for their great sensitivity and quality and remain an enduring legacy of her anthropological accomplishment. Bunzel’s valuable research and papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives after their discovery in Colombia University’s archives in 2007.

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