By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
(CNN) - This November, events nationwide celebrated the traditions, fashion and food of the nation's 566 recognized Indian tribes as part of Native American Heritage Month.
But a few high profile missteps surrounding the use of indigenous cultural imagery made bigger national headlines than any heritage month event.
First it was the release of No Doubt's Wild West-themed music video "Looking Hot," featuring teepees, fire dances and singer Gwen Stefani on horseback, a feather crowning her long blond braids. Then, supermodel Karlie Kloss walked the runway in a floor-length feather headdress, skimpy leopard-spotted bikini and turquoise jewelry at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Both instances sparked allegations of "playing Indian" for profit, leading No Doubt and Victoria's Secret to publicly apologize. The gaffes also reignited debate over where to draw the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation and the extent to which non-Natives should represent Natives in mainstream media and pop culture.
Opinion: Just say no to "playing Indian"
The conversation is important, because acts of cultural appropriation are not simply isolated incidents of "hipsters in Navajo panties and pop stars in headdresses," said Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska. They are byproducts of "systemic racism" that perpetuate the idea that there's no such thing as contemporary Native culture.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - Thousands of American Indians are now in line to receive part of a $3.4 billion settlement with the federal government, ending a long-running dispute over government mismanagement of tribal lands and accounts.
After an initial agreement was outlined in 2009, Congress approved it in November 2010 and it spent the last two years going through an appeals process. It was finalized Saturday, with government officials announcing and touting it on Monday.
"I welcome the final approval of the Cobell settlement agreement, clearing the way for reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government," President Barack Obama said in a statement. The settlement is named after the late Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Indian tribe.
The deal follows a class-action lawsuit, filed in 1996, which accused the U.S. Department of the Interior of failing to account for and provide revenue from a trust fund representing the value of Indian assets managed by the government.
The missing funds at the center of the class-action case involve what are called Individual Indian Money accounts, which are supposed to represent the property of individual Indians. The accounts are held by the United States as trustee.
The lawsuit had accused the government of failing to account for the money, failing to make proper payments, and converting tribal money for the government's own use.
Editor's Note: Jenni Monet is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who writes and makes films about Native and indigenous issues. She is a frequent contributor to Indian Country Today Media Network and a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna. She tweets @jennimonet.
By Jenni Monet, Special to CNN
(CNN) - As another Native American Heritage Month comes to an end, I have to stop and ask, did anybody other than Native folks even know it was taking place?
Since 1990, the federal government has declared the month of November a time to pay tribute to the achievements of the nation’s estimated 2.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (PDF).
The national observance is not unlike America’s commitment to African-American history month or Hispanic heritage month, a time of year that major brands have come to commercialize in recent years.
Thanksgiving is some Native Americans' 'Day of Mourning'
But little recognition has been paid to the original inhabitants who represent 1% of the U.S. population. Instead, this November, there has been a series of cultural gaffes made by celebrities, journalists and large companies during a time set aside to acknowledge and honor Native people. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Jesse Abernathy, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, is the editor of Native Sun News, South Dakota’s largest weekly newspaper, which covers issues of local and national interest and concern within Indian country.
By Jesse Abernathy, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Americans will gather together for food and give thanks for their good fortune on Thursday.
But we should not forget the country’s indigenous peoples, those who are less fortunate and the forgotten history of how we came to celebrate this day.
There are some who will visit loved ones who are unjustly incarcerated in prison, who will “tie one on” at the local dive bar in an effort to forget their troubles, or humbly bed down for the night under the cover and comfort of a downtown city bridge, tucked quietly and safely just out of view of mainstream America.
Since initial contact with Europeans, indigenous peoples have had their lands, freedom, culture, identity and even their children legally stripped from them through destructive policies and practices in the name of progress, faith and country.
A community whose ancestors once proudly and freely roamed this continent and provided for their children from the bounty that was “Maka Unci” (Grandmother Earth), are now left wondering why they live in the richest land on the globe, but many have been forced to live in grinding, inter-generational poverty.
It is a history many in America are uncomfortable talking about, or even acknowledging at all. FULL POST
By HLNtv.com Staff
(HLN) - Victoria's Secret has apologized for its use of a Native American headdress during its annual fashion show after the company was roundly criticized for the outfit's poor taste and willful cultural ignorance.
Supermodel Karlie Kloss strutted down the runway for the 17th annual fashion show, wearing a skimpy cheetah-print bikini with an enormous feathered Native American-style headdress and turquoise jewelry. The fashion show was taped in New York on November 8.
Navajo Nation sues Urban Outfitters for alleged trademark infringement
Critics immediately seized on the footage of the show, citing the company's lack of cultural sensitivity and ignorance of tribal customs and traditions.
By Martin Rand III, CNN
(CNN) - Lakota warrior Crazy Horse has long been a controversial figure, so perhaps it's apropos that his memorial follow suit.
Though he's best known for fighting against George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse led his tribe numerous times against settlers and miners in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming and elsewhere before his 1877 death at Nebraska's Fort Robinson.
But forget his disputed role in that battle or the claims that he's never been photographed or the conflicting tales of how he met his end - the real mystery is more contemporary: When is the sculpture in his honor going to be complete?
In the mountains of Black Hills, South Dakota, rests the Crazy Horse Memorial. It pays tribute to the Native American war hero with a sculpture that, at many times the size of nearby Mount Rushmore, will one day constitute the world's largest mountain carving.
That is, if it ever gets completed.
By Mallory Simon, CNN
(CNN) - Native American activist Russell Means died early Monday from throat cancer, an Oglala Lakota Sioux nation representative said.
Means led a 71-day uprising on the sacred grounds of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973.
"Means has devoted his life to eliminating racism of any kind, and in so doing he leaves a historical imprint as the most revolutionary Indian leader of the late twentieth century," his website said. "An inspirational visionary, Russell Means remains one of the most magnetic voices in America today.
"Whether leading a protest, fighting for constitutional rights, starring in a motion picture, or performing his rap-ajo music, the message he delivers is consistent with the philosophy he lives by."
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
(CNN) - Sunday was a big day for Catholics in North America. Thousands of miles away in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI named 17th century Mohawk Kateri
Tekakwitha the first Native American saint.
Another newly named saint is Marianne Cope, a German-born woman who emigrated to the United States as a child, became a nun and went on to devote 30 years of her life helping lepers in Hawaii.
Their canonization, along with that of five other saints, was celebrated at a special Mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday morning.
"This is a great weekend for America in the Vatican, and it's really a great weekend for Native Americans. Sainthood is the guarantee that this person is close to God," said Vatican senior communications adviser Greg Burke.
"There's a vast history of people the Catholic Church has made saints over the centuries. Holiness is absolutely a matter of equal opportunity, but this certainly is special because it marks the first time a Native American becomes a saint."
Read the full story
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Writer Mark Trahant guessed the situation was a first: campaign jabs that centered on a candidate's claim of Native American roots.
He was referring to the Senate race in Massachusetts that pits Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren against Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
There are many issues of contention in this hotly contested race, but one of them has become Warren's claim to Native American ancestry. After Brown accused her of taking advantage of minority status, Warren fired back in an ad that came out Monday.
"As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American heritage," Warren says in the spot. "What kid would? But I knew my father's family didn't like that she was part Cherokee and part Delaware, so they had to elope.
"Let me be clear: I never asked for or never got any benefit because of my heritage," she continues, addressing the central concern that Brown has brought up on the campaign trail and at the candidates' first debate last week. "The people who hired me have all said they didn't even know about it."
It's a bit more complicated, said Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
"The usual standard is citizenship, being a member of a tribe. Elizabeth Warren does not meet that test," he said.
Who's Native American? It's complicated
"It's not right that she would use her self-recalled heritage for any academic advancement ... even if there are no academic standards that define who is legally a Native American (except the citizenship issue). On the other hand, when you see videos like this one, you cringe."
By Lisa Desjardins and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN
Listen: Native Americans confront police brutality on reservation
Rosebud, South Dakota (CNN) – They are watchwords of both parties: freedom and liberty.
But when Embed America went to South Dakota we found a place where many say that both are threatened and the problem is ignored. The Rosebud Sioux Reservation includes one of the poorest counties in the nation, but residents talked with us more about their concerns that the tribal police force is part of a broken justice system.
We spoke with Calvin “Hawkeye” Waln, a recently fired police officer who made some serious charges.
[3:14] “You're talking violations of civil rights, excessive use of force is one. You’re talking spraying handcuffed suspects with pepper spray to physical police brutality where the officers end up injuring or breaking bones from assaulting somebody.”
Waln says his reporting these problems led to his ouster. The police department would not comment on why he was fired.
This comes after years of upheaval in the Rosebud police force. Two chiefs of police were fired in the past four years amidst corruption allegations, then the second chief was reinstated in the past few weeks.
Read the full story on CNN's Soundwaves blog
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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