Thursday, November 04, 2010

And a Victory!

CMU returns Native remains to Saginaw Chippewa Tribe
Clare Managing Editor

A somber group of Saginaw Chippewa Tribal members on Thursday brought some of their ancestors home.

A sunrise ceremony at Central Michigan University’s Special Olympics building was followed by a procession of Tribal members bringing the remains of Saginaw Chippewa Tribal ancestors and funerary objects that were returned to the Tribe from CMU’s Museum of Cultural and Natural History.

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“The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and Central Michigan University share a long and proud heritage of mutual respect,” said Pam Gates, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Science. “In honor of the proud culture, heritage and history of the indigenous people of this region, CMU will rightfully return the remains of Saginaw Chippewa tribal members in its possession to their families for proper burial.”

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Dennis Kequom said said he was humbled by CMU’s commitment to returning ancestral remains to the Tribe.

"I am very proud of what we have gathered here to do today and humbled by the care, understanding and sensitivity that Central Michigan University has displayed in the time it took to bring us to this point,” he said. “This historic event marks a new direction in our efforts to repatriate all of our ancestors.

“It is my hope for our Tribal community that other institutions throughout Michigan and elsewhere follow the lead of Central Michigan University. There are so many people to thank and we will have ample time for that over the course of these next two days. Today we proudly reclaim our own and return them home.”

View the video of the procession and interview with tribal spokesman

May this victory serve as inspiration and precedent to all those who are still fighting to have their ancestors remains returned and reburied with dignity. I particularly take it as inspiration today as we work on reburial issues for the ancestors in the Tara-Skryne.

Previous post on repatriation efforts for the Saginaw Chippewa ancestors:
- Is your grandmother’s skull in a box in a stranger’s closet?

Tara Reburials - Action on Monday, November 8

On Monday, activists in Dublin will print out and hand-deliver the petition for the reburial of the ancestors whose graves were destroyed in the desecration of the Tara-Skryne valley. They will petition the Irish government at the Dáil Éireann and the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.

If you have not yet signed, I ask you to please follow the links below and do so. If you can attend in person, please join the activists in Dublin on Monday, November 8 · 12:00pm - 2:00pm.

Petition for respectful reburial of ancestors:

Handing in the Tara Reburials Petition:

Previous posts:
- More Graves Desecrated, Ancestors Remains in Boxes on Shelves
- Meath Motorway Ancestors to be Reburied... well, some of them

Halloween, Women and Racism

Heather from Don't Pay to Pray weighs in with a thorough examination of how Samhain has been degraded from a holy day into mainstream Halloween celebrations that excuse and even encourage racist and misogynist treatment of women, especially indigenous women.

Halloween: The Most Racist Day of the Year
Growing up in the Michigan parochial school system, we were told by the sisters that the word Hallow’een was a contraction of All Hallows Eve, and that Hallow meant holy or sacred. We were told that on this night when the border between the worlds became blurred, the Celtic tribes believed that the spirits of the dead were allowed to come back to earth. Because they believed that the spirits of the dead could walk among the world of the living, they feared what the spirits might do to them, and tried to disguise themselves to fool the spirits into believing that they weren’t living.

As an impressionable Native girl, that seemed pretty awesome to me back then. Unfortunately, all these traditions have been lost in a materialistic society that transforms everything into a commodity. Sex sells the best in the mainstream media, and this is reflected in the choices that young women make in Halloween costumes. I’ve heard that there are some college parties where women are not allowed to attend unless they are dressed "sexy." The backlash against feminist values is even more chilling when the costumes use other people’s ethnicity to appease the demands of a generation of young white men whose sexual attitudes were constructed almost entirely from pornography. As an indigenous woman, it is disheartening to see how a spiritually bankrupt, pornographic youth culture has transformed All Hallows eve into an opportunity to get drunk and engage in minstrelsy, abusing my image in the process.

While there have been many bloggers objecting to the hyper-sexualization of children and young girls and to the racist element of playing with another human being’s ethnicity on this day, there has been very little written from the perspective of indigenous women, who must confront both misogyny and racism on this day that once carried the connotation of "holy."

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Playing with racial stereotypes is about power. Those with white skin privilege have chosen to do the defining. Those of us without it are dismissed as hyper-sensitive and told to spend our time on issues that whites define for us as being more important. Those of you reading this that have white skin privilege and think it’s just harmless fun to try on the ethnicity of others, need to realize that dehumanization is the essential processes in the transformation of “good” well-intentioned people into perpetrators of evil.

There is no reason why you have to succumb to media indoctrination. There is no reason why Halloween has to be the most racist day of the year. As feminists, humanists, and white anti-racists allies, you can challenge undignified images that misrepresent indigenous people. You can chose to talk about racial stereotypes when you see people “just having fun” with other people’s ethnicity on Halloween. We all need to start honestly discussing who has the power to define others in this society and how we can view all human beings in their full humanity and not as one dimensional stereotypes.

When you are in a position of power, you have a responsibility NOT to mock people who are not in a position of power. Racial stereotypes only function are to reinforce outdated notions of white supremacy. You can choose not to engage in the degradation of your fellow human beings. You can contact he companies who manufacture these costumes and inform them how inappropriate they are. Ethnic costumes are meant to produce a reaction. If you are reading this, you now know that the reaction they produce in indigenous women is one of outrage and offense. If you know something offends a marginalized group of people, then why continue to do it? It’s time to turn Halloween back into a night that is sacred, by respecting all women’s bodies and respecting the dignity of all human beings.

'S Math Sin, a Fhraoch! Tapadh leat!

Adrienne over at Native Appropriations also weighs in on the topic with Paris Hilton as a "Sexy Indian": The Halloween Fallout Begins.

Jodi Rave addresses the problem with Paris Hilton: Dresses as “sexy, Indian warrior princess” for Halloween, and includes a review of Andrea Smith's magnificent, Conquest: sexual violence and American Indian genocide which I consider essential reading on misogyny, racism, cultural appropriation, and the many and sometimes surprising ways these oppressions intersect and support one another. Readers of this blog and colleagues in the fight to protect indigenous spiritual ways from appropriation and exploitation might want to take particular note of Chapter 6: Spiritual Appropriation as Sexual Violence.

You can listen to Andrea Smith speak on Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, in this recording from 2007.

Moran taing a huile duine!