October 2009 Archives

Stephanie's questions, round 2


1] Throughout the semester we've discussed the problems with representations of Native peoples and how to approach the Indian identity and tackle the stereotypes which have resonated in media until now. Do you agree with Kilpatrick's solution of focusing on "the stories Indians tell of themselves" in place of "telling a story about Indians" [Kilpatrick 179]? Please defend your position. Some things to think about include the fact that one Native person's experience is not every Native person's experience, and furthermore, if the cultural representations are meant for non-Native consumption, it might be easier for an ignorant consumer to defend the stereotypes they feel are either not cleared up or perhaps even added to by the American Indian's work.

2] Kilpatrick quotes Louis Owens talking about the exciting possibility of N. Scott Momaday being canonized in the literary world, which seems to assume that institutional incorporation and, to an extent, assimilation is considered a form of success. With this in mind, do you believe that the commodification and mainstreaming of Native works weakens or strengthens the cause? How and why?

--Stephanie O'Donnell

Sarah's questions, round 2

In Chapter 6, Kilpatrick addresses a dilemma faced by Native and non-Native filmmakers alike, saying "Tell a story about a mixed couple who cannot be together and live - it's racist. Tell the same story and let them live happily ever after - the love story becomes a deadly form of assimilation. Make the Indians god guys and you're producing the noble savage stereotype. Show the Indians being bloodthirsty and you are likely to be shot by your own friends in Hollywood" (179). How can filmmakers to attempt to dispel stereotypes about Native people when situations such as these arise? Using examples from films we have already watched by non-Native filmmakers, how might these stories be told differently in ways that do not result in claims of racism, assimilation, or perpetuation of negative stereotypes, or is it always futile to try to avoid this dilemma?

Kilpatrick also highlights the importance of Native stories being told my Native voices in Chapter 6. She seems to imply that only Native voices can accurately portray truth when it comes to film, even if this truth is inevitably misunderstood by the dominant culture. In this vein, do you think it is impossible for a non-Native author to portray Native characters in an authentic way in film, or can this only occur through films made by Native filmmakers? Furthermore, is it possible for either voice to tell an authentic story that will accurately translate for viewers who are members of the dominant culture?

Brandon's questions, round 2


In Kilpatrick's last chapter, the Indian American Aesthetic, she says that Hollywood can never tell the story right. She believes it is best that Native Americans tell their own stories. They should be their own directors. Rodney Grant, an Indian actor, has no problem with a story being told from a white point of view. He says without it, the story would not have been made. Has the American Indian image been so distorted, that only American Indians can tell their stories?

Aaron Carr, a film director believes that Native Americans need more directors and producers to tell their stories. He also believes in order for their stories reach more audiences, the directors and producers need more financing. Carr uses the example of Spike Lee being supported by Bill Cosby and Oprah as an example. Is taking control of the American Indian image a matter a financing? Or are their other barriers in the way?

Rochelle's questions, round 2


1. In his article "Images of Native People As Seen by the Eye of the Blackbird" Darryl Kipp states that, "I cannot believe the stupidities shown to me as fact, and as a result much I see is absurd. .... I guess the difference between the real and the image of being Indians diverged and merged many times before I actually sorted out some of the differences." Using examples from the films and clips we've watched, what absurdities do you think each audience perceives as absurd? Which absurdities do they perceive as truth and why?

2. In Celluloid Indians, Kilpatrick quotes Leslie Marmon Silko's admiration of Victor Masayesva's filmmaking abilities. Silko states that his films "reveal that the subtle but persuasive power of communal consciousness, perfected over thousands of years at Hopi is undiminished. In Victor Masayesva's hands, video is made to serve Hopi consciousness and to see with Hopi eyes." Paying particular attention to the clips from Thursday's class, how might these films be rewritten to meet Masayesva's standards? Try to keep plot lines as similar as possible.

Nikki's questions, round 2

1. There are a number of occasions in this chapter where Native authors express having difficulties with screenplay storylines because they use a circular, Native American chronology in their novels but on film it is much easier to follow a Euro-American, linear time line. Films written and directed by Native Americans are obviously going to be more accurate simply because they are not told about Indians rather they are by Indians but some argue that even these minor adjustments compromise the true essence of the story. Native American storytelling is very complex, some question whether or not film as a medium is actually a, "logical extension of the oral and visual communication of traditional Native American cultures." (Kilpatrick, 179)

With all of this in consideration what is your stance on Native American films? Do you think the omission of certain details affect the validity of the piece or do you think actions such as these are excusable? If so, why or why not?

2. Sam J. Miller's article "Haunting in our Homes: Nightmares of Gentrification" discusses the ways in which the horror film, specifically the subgenre of the haunted house film, acts as a symbol for gentrification. It also discusses how the audience believes in some way or another that, "what 'we' have was attained by violence, and the fear that it will be taken by violence. In the process, because mainstream audiences are imagined as white, and because gentrification predominately impacts communities of color, the racial Other become literally monstrous."

But what if these roles were reversed? How do you think a horror film about gentrification written and directed by Native Americans with Native actors would be received in mainstream society? What elements do you think would be necessary for it to be a success? And, do you think our society is at a point to finally, seriously address these issues?

Ryan's questions, round 2


1. After reading "Haunting Our Homes: Nightmares of Gentrification" by Sam Miller and watching a few clips of horror moves like The Shining and Pet Sematary Two, you should know that filmmakers like to use Indian burial grounds in their films. But, why do you believe filmmakers use Indian burial grounds in movies? Why couldn't the burial grounds be burial grounds for a different kind of people, and why is that all Indian burial grounds hunted by evil Indian spirits?

2. In Celluloid Indians, by Jacquelyn Kilpatrick, she writes, "American Indians have been, for the full run of film history, a sort of weathervane of social and political currents. Richard Hill has noted that the image of the Indian changes with each generation" (178). We have seen that with the movies we have watched. From The Battle at Elderbrush were the Indians hurt or killed anything in their way to Running Brave were Billy Mils a Sioux won the Olympics. How would you describe the image of Indians that our generation has of them?

Joe's questions, round 2


1.) Given the single "noble savage" stereotype that both Blueback and Cochise typify, the two characters represent two wildly different portrayals of "the Indian." Compare and contrast these two characters to help draw some conclusions about what they might say about views of Indians in America.

2.) Kilpatrick speaks extensively about the damage caused to Indian identity by the use of Indians as "the all-purpose metaphor for the oppressed" (77). In what ways does this generalization damage Indian identity? Does it in any way work towards a positive construction of Indian identity.

~ Joe Krall

Sunny's questions, round 2

Do the readers and writers to the crowheaded thinking blog believe that nothing has changed with how moving picture shows shows sceneries and have talks that are repetitive as Kilpatrick says?"   If so, share some of those repeats.


Do you believe that the cutting edge technology that some of the moving picture studies used to stage stunts, did intentionally cause miscommunications' that an ax is a bigger hatchet tomahawk?  If yes, please provide some reasons, if no please provide some reasons and not sure please, please provide those reasons also... 


The Sympathetic 1980s and 1990s


About the movie War Party (1988) Sonny Crowkiller (Billy Wirth, says, "Same old shit.  Nothin's changed in a hundred years. (p. 106) And then a description of a closing scene from that moving picture is summarized by Kilpatrick.

"A cavalry lieutenant takes the weapon from his hand and gives it to his commanding officer, who is wearing a buckskin jacket reminiscent of Custer's.  In the film's closing scene, a National Guard lieutenant takes the same tomahawk from the hand of the chief's great grandson, and as he turns and looks back, the frames freezes and the credits roll.

There is no reason to see him take the tomahawk to the National Guard major; we know his is going to because that's what happened before.  Sonny is right. Nothing has changed (p.106-107)."


Since the character named Sonny is to have said "Same old shit.  Nothin's changed in a hundred years." Do the readers and writers to the crowheaded thinking blog believe that nothing has changed with how moving picture shows shows sceneries and have talks that are repetitive as Kilpatrick says?"   If so, share some of those repeats.

"Perhaps the best-known furor of the nineties was over team mascots.  In 1991, fans of the Atlanta Braves introduced the tomahawk chop as a war whoop, and it didn't sell well with Native Americans. As an editorial in the Minneapolis Stat-Tribe requested at the time of the Word Series, "Please, Georgians, leave your tomahawks, chants and head-dresses at home.  It's simply wrong to mock anther people, to use their cultural symbols crudely, to resurrect hurtful old stereotypes'."  And Nick Coleman of the St. Paul Pioneer Press said, "I hate to use a term like 'redneck,' but Atlanta deserves abuse.  A city of white folds wearing Indian costumes and waving toy tomahawks is a city in danger of getting such a good smiting from on high that [Gen. William T.] Sherman's outing will look like a backyard barbecue."17"


In the movie "Drums Along the Mohawk" 1776, American colonists Gilbert Martin (Henry Fonda) and Lana Borst (Claudette Colbert) are at their fenced in cabin and Gilbert is shown chopping and splitting wood logs near the wood pole fencing for a few seconds, and he has no armpit nor head nor hear sweat wetness from him using an big tomahawk   He is using a big tomahawk hatchet to chop and split the wood logs.   The difference would be a longer handle grip and maybe heavier cutting edge.  Do you believe that the cutting edge technology that some of the moving picture studies used to stage stunts, did intentionally cause miscommunications' that an ax is a bigger hatchet tomahawk?  If yes, please provide some reasons, if no please provide some reasons and not sure please, please provide those reasons also... 


Sunny La Pointe

Moira's questions, round 2

In the fifth chapter of Celluloid Indians Kilpatrick comments on how many filmmakers in the 1980s and 90s attempted a revamping of old ideas of American Indians in film, but she says some of those films (specifically Stagecoach) were "a smashing failure."  She talks about the film War Party and how although it's intentions were to deconstruct stereotypes, its audience often fell short of realizing the intent of the filmmakers. Kilpatrick also touches on how that movie explores "the Native American sense of time as circular, rather than linear." Has history of American Indian in film been a circle of nothing changing for the past 100 years? How can we change this? Does Kilpatrick give us hints when she talks about the character Phil as a trickster inPowwow Highway? (117)

Also in the fifth chapter, Kilpatrick discusses the use of American Indian culture, ideas, history as a commodity (in team mascots, alcohol brands, even shops that sell "Indian spirituality through crafts and sweats"). She even explores the idea of the "native ecologist" as commodified idea. How are these things still perpetuated today? How does the ignorance of many Americans who still dont see the commodification of Native American ideas as harmful help perpetuate this? What can we do to change it?

Moira Pirsch

Lauren S.'s questions, round 2


Lauren Scheller

1) On page 143, Kilpatrick says, "When an Indian woman is loved by a white man, she is almost certain to die?" Why is the tragic miscegenation love story the most common one in cinema that focuses on Native Americans? Does this type of love story help to further the concept of nationalism? Why or why not? Use examples from our readings and the films we have watched to support your answer.

2) Please support your answer with films and texts used in class. Of the films we have watched in class, do you think Running Brave gave the most positive portrayal of Native Americans? Why or why not? If you disagree, what movie that we have watched do you think gave a more positive portrayal of Native Americans?

Lauren Scheller

Katrina's questions, round 2


        Question 1. Kilpatrick writes "In short, the images of Natives in the eighties were more contemporary, but they were also sometimes grossly modified by new misperceptions. Sympathy for "the Indians plight" existed, but the Indian was difficult to see as either bloodthirsty or noble (103)."

In what ways are these new misperceptions presented in Running Brave? Cite examples from the movie. How does the coach in the film show or not show his sympathy for "the Indian's plight?"

        Question 2. Children's movies such as Pocahontas impact children's perceptions of Native people and their relations with the European settlers. Many children will hold on to these perceptions until they are shown differently. With movies such as Pocahontas "dramatizing the essence" of their characters how is it possible to see through the lies? In what ways have other movies we have watched so far "dramatized" the character to make the movie more interesting? Provide examples and how they may negatively affect the perception of the real life characters.

Katrina Schlosser

Katharine's questions, round 2


Question 1

Kilpatrick describes how the 1980s saw private and government industry incursion onto tribal lands due to funding cutbacks. She then demonstrates how a new image of the Natives was born in the 80s due to the Native's response to the incursions.

Even though Running Brave took place in the 1960s it was made in 1984. How can Kilpatrick's theories on the new Native image from the 80s be applied to Running Brave? Use specific examples from the film.

Question 2

Kilpatrick addresses the issue of team mascots, which was a popular topic in the 1990s. Sports team fans would use stereotypical chants and dress to show support for their team at games if their mascot was of an Indian style. It began with the Braves and then trickled down through colleges and high schools across the nation.

On a side note, this issue with controversial mascots has splintered off into different directions. The Wisconsin division one William Horlick High School lost their mascot the Rebel 8 years ago because the Rebel was a Confederate Soldier. The Rebel was considered to be a damaging image. However the Rebel was given back to the school 4 years ago, just without his Confederate flag.

This issue of Native representative mascots is still prevalent. Two years ago Illinois lost their mascot Chief Illiniwek and the fan's place as the "fighting Illini". Taking Kilpatrick's stance on this topic into consideration, do you think that mascot representations of Indians are one of the most damaging images of Natives present in today's culture? Is it merely because a mascot is a symbol to it's fans or is it because of the props they carry and the meaning to the fans, for example the Braves Tomahawk to the fans Tomahawk chop or the high school losing their mascot only to get it back dressed the same without its prop?

Katharine Oppeneer

Running Brave and Minority Oppression

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In Celluloid Indians, Jacquelyn Kilpatrick talks about how in the 1960s and 1970s Indians became not a symbol of savagery, whether noble or bloodthirsty, but instead became a symbol of all minorities who were oppressed.  Indians in these socially conscious films stopped being Indians, even in the bastardized Hollywood-stereotype version, and became the symbol of every wronged minority.  (And if we think about Iron Eyes Cody's famous weeping Indian PSA, we might even see the Indian is the symbol of the oppressed, wronged environment.)


As we've discussed and read and viewed, Indians are a symbol that US nationalism works with to express its ideas about itself (and these symbols have very little to do with what Native people may actually think about themselves).  The symbol of the Indian shifts from era to era, but seems to always be used in mainstream majority culture films to help the "American" (the idealized average majority culture viewer) understand what it means to be "American" (in some idealized sense).  In the '60s and '70s US nationalism underwent a major shift as it tried to deal with the oppressive historical and social injustices that the various civil rights movements brought to light.  As most civil rights efforts were aimed at gaining recognition from the mainstream and so at gaining a social and political presence in mainstream culture and institutions, it is weird that Indians become the symbol of oppressed minorities gaining access/assimilating with mainstream society because Indian civil rights movement was not aimed at access, but aimed at self-determination and recognition of the political sovereignty of Native nations.  In making Indians the symbol of every oppressed group and aiming that symbol at the target labelled "The Joys of Assimilation," what might American nationalism be attempting to do to the Native civil rights movement?  Do you see this idea surfacing in Running Brave?  How so?


Lauren T.'s questions, round 2


Throughout the film, "Drums Along the Mohawk" the Indian was given more responsibilities. Meaning, Blueback was able to communicate with the settlers, help them out, and give them "tips" on how to treat women which is a large contrast from "The Battle of Elderbrush Gulch" where the Indians are virtually silent apart from "Me eat dog". Discuss how Blueback's communication with the Americans really only furthers stereotypes of Native Americans. What happened when the directors gave the Native Americans a "voice'? Use examples from Kilpatrick to further your explanation.

During the film, "Drums Along the Mohawk" the music changes drastically when the frame has Indians in it. It's a methodical drum beat that makes one feel on edge. And it usually means that a battle will soon take place or is already happening. What effect does one think music has on viewer in terms of stereotypes? How does it make one feel towards Indians? Do you think it has any effect at all?

Lauren Thompson

Patti's questions, round 2


First question:

In the film, Drums Along the Mohawk, the leader of the British calls his armed forces, the Indians, back after a resounding defeat by the frontiersmen. He yells, "Call the filthy beggars back!", referring to the Indians fighting for his army. First the American Indian is attacked within the film, by the actual characters in the movie. Second the American Indian is attacked by the film itself and the choices made of their portrayal. In Celluloid Indians, Kilpatrick states, "The celluloid Indians could not be allowed to win. They had to remain consciously Other, and they had to in one or many ways be held as inferior."(47) Discuss the two different ways that the American Indian is held as inferior in the film Drums Along the Mohawk. First, internally, by the characters in the movie and second, externally, by the choices of the filmmakers.

Second question:

In Drums Along the Mohawk, compare the social status of Blueback to the lead female character. There were several scenes in which Blueback berated women in the film. Give examples of these and discuss why the director and/or writers made conscious choices to portray Blueback as misogynistic. What were/are the benefits of portraying the American Indian in this way?

Patti Sloan

Brian's questions, round 2

Question 1: Kilpatrick explains in the reading for this week that the American hero was developed at the expense of the American Indian. Also with the use of sound in movies instead of the silent films there was a whole new way to portray the Indian. How does the uprise of heroes like John Wayne and other cowboys combined with the use of sound in movies perpetuate and expand on the idea that Indians are "the other" and are savage beings that are against the American people and ideals? Use details from Drums Along the Mohawk if possible.

Question 2: It has been portrayed in many movies that Indians enjoy fighting. After WWII this idea got reinforced from magazine articles and other media venues that spoke of Indians as natural born killers that can smell snakes and ambush you before you know what hit you. How was this idea portrayed in Drums Along the Mohawk? And how did the movie make the white hero rise above this idea to 'overcome' the Indians?

-Brian Wegleitner

Paul's questions, round 2

Here are my two questions for the week. Hopefully they aren't too long.

Question #1:

Even though "Drums Along the Mohawk" has sound in contrast to silent films, I noticed that Indians in the film didn't have much of a voice, and the voice that they had belonged to Blue Back, who seemed illiterate if not entirely unintelligent.

Jacquelyn Kilpatrick seems to acknowledge that sound hasn't really made a difference in the portrayal of Indians when she writes, "But it was not much better when directors and script writers gave their Indians voices in the early westerns...For instance...White man speaks with forked tongue (Kilpatrick 37)."

Further, Kilpatrick also notes that the use of illiterate, stoic, violent language etcetera, by Indians in films with sound, perpetuates negative stereotypes of Indians, stereotypes that have already been seen in silent films (Kilpatrick 37).

This being said, it is obvious that the power to perpetuate stereotypes in films, or on the other hand discontinue them, regardless of being silent or not, lies in the hands of film directors and scriptwriters. Analyze the Kilpatrick reading and the notes you have taken on "Drums along the Mohawk," keeping in mind as to whether or not you believe sound in films matter at all when it comes to portraying stereotypes.

If films of the past were directed by individuals that cared about depicting Indians in a true and authentic nature, perhaps Indians themselves, could their possibly be less negative stereotypes of Indians today, or possibly none at all? What are the negatives and positives of silent films and films with sound, or does it solely depend on film directors and scriptwriters?

Question #2:

I noticed that women are somewhat portrayed as inferior in "Drums along the Mohawk." This is seen when the main character in the film slaps his wife and also when Blue Back basically tells the man he has a fine lady but that she would be better if he used a stick to beat her.

Kilpatrick somewhat reiterates this idea when she writes "The general assumption of filmmakers for the first three-quarters of a century of filmmaking has been that the male has the dominant role in a male-female relationship... (Kilpatrick 64).

It seems to me though that the hitting of a women on the white mans part was more or less acceptable, due to the fact that the woman said and did nothing about it, and the husbands justification of it by saying she was out of control so he "had" to do it, basically portraying that it would be okay. Further, it seems that the film would intend to make Indians appear bad if they had done the same thing, such as in Blue Back's suggestion that the husbands' wife would be better if the husband used a stick on her once in a while.

Reflect on these statements and the section in Kilpatrick's reading titled "Miscegenation and Hollywood," keeping in mind whether or not it seems as if the film makes it appear okay for white men to mistreat women at times, but that Indians would be bad for doing it. Does this simply reflect the beliefs of western film directors, or does it reflect the beliefs of the entire culture of that time? Does it have anything to do with race?

Paul Wenell, Jr.

Inga's questions, round 2


1.) When speaking about Westerns, Louis Owens commented "[t]he essential truth about the great American hero, however, is its falseness" (Kilpatrick, 44) Explain what you think he meant in saying this. Also, using examples from "Drums along the Mohawk" and "The Battle at Elderbush Gulch" explain how this falseness helps create the American Hero. Is the same "falseness" used to depict American Indians as the enemy?

2.) Francis Parkman stated " He will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together" (Kilpatrick, 46), If this was the attitude held, why did the government even attempt to "normalize" the American Indian population with assimilation? If Indians were a "rock" and unable to change, why would the government spend so much time, money, and energy attempting to mold them into Euro-American society?


Jenny's questions, round 2


1. During the silent film era, many aspects of a movie were exaggerated and simplified due to lack of sound such as the overacting to compensate the lost subtleties of speech. In what ways, if any, did talkies allow the Indian voice to be heard? Were any complexities of an Indian character able to sneak through his/her voice? If not, how did "Indian speak" manage to keep Indians as one-dimensional caricatures? Use the portrayal of the silent Indians in "Battle at Elderbush Gulch" versus Blue Back in "Drums Along the Mohawk" for support.

2.In chapter two, Kilpatrick spends some time analyzing the film Indian Wars. She mentions how the movie ends with Indian assimilation, or the Euro-American happily ever after for the Indians. When the talkies began, Indians were kept in the past as cowboy/frontier enemies. World War II did some to redirect stereotypes about Indians as warriors (i.e. they were able to use their warring skills in modern times). If assimilation was the ultimate goal of the US government, why were no movies made that featured Indians as "ordinary" American citizens? Movies were acknowledged to be great social agents, but why was there no effort to "Americanize" the Indian as the rest of the country seemed so keen to do?

Jenny Burnett

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