May 4, 2008

Better Late Than Never.

Jonathan Wack's Powwow Highway is interesting in its fusion of identity politics, drama, and humor. It contains moments that seem to exemplify the rage and frustration that can arise from being subjected to a corrupt, and apathetic dominating culture. The ending of the film, however, feels to me to be very reminiscent of a Hollywood film, in it that it comes across as pretty peachy. Redbow (the politically minded, and now spiritually awakened Native American) and company (his sister and her multiracial kids, and a open minded and understanding white woman) escape from the police, while Philbert is presumed dead in a car crash.

Continue reading "Better Late Than Never." »

April 23, 2008

Powwow Highway

As simple a thing as a different attitude can completely alter one's perception of the way the world works. As proud as both men appear to be of their Cheyenne heritage, they view the societal effects in such ways that their alignment of pride diverts. Philbert seems to see beyond the easy anger and frustration that could be acted out and seeks to find a higher, more peaceful level to rest on. Despite the obvious burdens that their heritage places upon them, Philbert resists fighting them, indicative that he sees more benefit in complacent hopes for the future. His gentile nature is shown well when he defends himself after wanting to set a spider free, rather than squash it: "Nature takes many forms". Meanwhile, Buddy depicts a man whose pride and acknowledgment of injustice have provided him with a deep-rooted aggression towards the forces causing this. He dislikes the mistreatment and struggle, and he is one to put up a fight to solidify his position. Herein lies the distinction between their portrayal of identities: both men have love and respect for being Cheyenne, but their attitudes towards life in general cause them to show this love in greatly different ways. One, the extreme of hopeful contentness. The other, of defiant pride.

April 22, 2008

They are Cheyenne

The two protagonists of Pow-wow Highway both display qualities of being true to their Cheyenne heritage, but in different ways. Buddy is a strong individual who takes his and his people's rights and well-being very seriously. He shows his pride many times throughout the movie, like when he trashed the electronics store, or when he punched that guy in the face. He also shows loyalty to his family. He said he hadn't seen his sister in ten years, but still agrees to come bail her out of jail, even though the means of transportation are hard to find.
Philbert is another Cheyenne man who shows a very different side of the Cheyenne identity. He is very spiritual, and has a strong connection to nature. This is seen when he climbs up the black hills and sits under the shelter made of sticks. He also collects tokens throughout his journey, which he believes are signs from he who is looking over him and guiding him in the right direction.
Though Buddy has a rough attitude and Philbert is very gentle, they are both proud to be Cheyenne, and end up learning a lot about what it means for them to be Cheyenne.

Pow-wow Highway: Resistance and Understanding

Many of my classmates have already pointed out the internal and material differences between Philbert and Buddy. Their identity as Cheyenne is controlled by both the spiritual and cultural aspects of American Indian tradition and need for survival within a white, patriarchal, oppressive society. Many times, these two identities are put in opposition and often cause a tug-of-war like force upon American Indians. Pow Wow Highway exemplifies this action by showing both extremes: Buddy, an American Indian activist that resists capitalistic, oppressive motives to erase indigenous rights and property; Philbert, a spiritual Cheyenne member resisting normative and popular white-American values/culture in order to preserve the traditions of his ancestors.

Buddy and many others on the reservation are frustrated by the lack of resources and respect and often lose many of their cheyenne traditions in the process of this struggle. Philbert, on the other hand, seems oblivious at times to the political struggle of his people as he believes that traditions and spirituality are more important. In doing so, he often forgets that he is buying into many of the things that are erasing his people's cultural identity (cheeseburgers, hershey bars, etc). The road in this movie creates a space for both men to find a balance of political resistance and spiritual attainment. Their journey is governed by the corrupt law that oppresses them and by Philbert's desire to visit historical landmarks and to have solidarity with nature. In the end, I believe both men find understanding in one another's quest, in turn melding their respective identity politics into a common goal.

April 21, 2008

we are Cheyenne

In “Powwow Highway�, identity politics is center stage. Both Red Bow’s and Philbert’s identity clearly revolves around being Cheyenne but they understand it in two different ways. Red Bow understands that he is being persecuted by the western world because of his Cheyenne identity. He takes strong objection to the white man coming in and exploiting their land and their sovereignty. A great of example of this is the scene where the business man is trying to convince the council to allow his men to come in and take resources off the land. His own conception of his identity is because of outside pressure against it. On the other hand Philbert’s Cheyenne identity revolves around an inner understanding—spiritually connected. It is a personal journey to connect with his ancestors and Cheyenne heritage. On this road trip, like every road trip, signifies an inner journey for all who take to the road. Both men had the trip bring them in touch with who they really are—“We are Cheyenne�. I do think that the most personal change in identify came from Red Bow. Before the road trip his identity came from how the outside world interacted with him but as the road trip continued with Philbert and multiple stops at sacred sites, he started to experience his identity from within. The road is a place that allows and sometimes forces people to deal with themselves and in the end discovering something new about oneself—their identity.


Identity politics play a key role in the film Powwow Highway. The best example I can think of for this film is the comparison of Redbow and Philbert in how they relate to their identity of proud Cheyenne. Philbert express his pride in the Cheyenne tribe through spirituality and the preservation of much of traditional lifestyle. This is seen very early on when Philbert's aunt was talking with him and was terribly bother with him for continually asking about the old days and there were multiple times in the movie that Philbert had to make a stop due to reasons significant with the Cheyenne tribe. Redbow had a significantly different way of being Cheyenne. His approach was much more aggressive stemming from a distaste in American government since the Wounded Knee incident. The very first scene you meet Redbow almost leading a crowd of Cheyenne against a man from an oil company. He also holds a very strong importance of the land the Cheyennes live, agrivated with a fellow Cheyenne who was moving to the suburbs for safety reasons of their child. His tactics are much more upfront and blunt, such as when he barged in to see his sister in jail.

What it means to be Cheyenne...

Redbow and Philbert, both Cheyenne, have very different views of what it means to be Cheyenne. Redbow, a political activist, takes the colonizer's perspective of what it means to be a productive member of society, Euro-American ideals shape this meaning. He fights for American Indian civil rights by utilizing the methods of the United States government. Philbert, on the other hand, seems to disregard the colonizer's influence and pays little attention to formal government. He practices his peoples' traditions and culture and to him, this is what it means to be Cheyenne. Philbert's definition of a productive member of society aligns with traditional Cheyenne teachings: being spiritual, helping others and respecting nature. Redbow defines wealth as ownership of things: in the electronics store, he proves his wealth by buying the most expensive sound system. Philbert believes that as long as it gets the job done, the simpliest stereo is sufficient. His definition of wealth is like that of traditional American Indian teaching: wealth is measured by how well you can take care of others in the community. Philbert embraces the way of life of indigenous people. He has learned the language of his ancestors, possesses a special connection to nature and practices traditional ceremonies and tells and learns from ancient stories. To him, this is what it means to by Cheyenne, to live as his ancestors, in a more diplomatic fashion. Redbow disconnects himself from the traditional way of life. He refuses to look for a deeper meaning in Philbert's story, he is upset about having to go to the powwow and does not accept the traditional practices of the Cheyenne people. To him, being Cheyenne is fighting for the civil rights of his people using the white man's methods. He is militant like the colonizer, he has assimilated to his way of life.


Identity politics is obvious through-out the movies. The most important, and reason for the road trip, happens in the beginning of the movie when Bonnie is set-up and put in jail by raciest cops because she is a Native. The cops are identitfied and the law, but also construed as the "bad guys" in this movie. The Natives have to fight the law and are labeled as law breakers and "weed" grower's and smokers, trying to fight for freedom of their land.

We are Cheyenne

In the film Powwow Highway, the characters of Philbert and Redbow have very opposite values and beliefs when it comes to identifying with their culture and their heritage. Philbert identifies with being Cheyenne in terms of his culture and the historical background of his tribe. Philbert takes his values and moral systems from the culture and heritage of the Cheyenne and relies heavily on his culture for support and guidance in life. This more spiritual side is one aspect that Redbow has difficulty understanding and coming to terms with. In the film, we really only hear Philbert stating, "We are Cheyenne". Philbert constantly expresses pride for his culture. However, it seems as if Redbow is lost and has really lost sight of what it means to be Cheyenne - he has lost his connections with the culture. For Redbow, he definitely identifies with being Cheyenne but seemingly only on the surface where he is fighting politically for his people but does not really understand what he is fighting for. Redbow is always so eager to pick fights and has the shortest temper when it comes to being Cheyenne. He explodes when the slightest insult is given. While Redbow certainly has pride and defends his identity with being Cheyenne it is only when he goes on the road trip with Philbert that he begins to remember why he gets so angry about and what he is fighting for. While he resists Philbert at first thinking rather that Philbert doesn't understand what being Cheyenne means in the world today (discrimination, marginalization) he slowly opens up to what his culture truly is - he dances in the powwow and he joins Philbert singing in the river. By the end of the film, Redbow has a new conscious and definition of what it means to be Cheyenne.

Powwow Highway/Identity Politics

Powwow Highway was a movie in which identity politics was very prevalent. Both of the main characters Philbert and Redbow, were dealing with this struggle in their own ways. Though they were both from the Cheyenne tribe, it meant different things to each of them. They both had to deal with problems and issues because of their identity, and they chose different ways to go about handling it. Philbert was much kinder and sentimental, handling things with patience and care. Redbow was much more aggressive and hands on, choosing to go about life in a rough and abrupt manner. Though dealing with a lot of the same problems, they just chose different ways to handle them. In the end, they both learned things from eachother, and grew from the experiences they shared together.

They are Cheyenne

Buddy and Philbert have two different views of what Cheyenne is. Their views could also be seen as coming from different sources, one from the outside world looking at the Cheyenne and one from the Cheyenne looking at themselves and their past. Buddy seems to look at the Cheyenne as "outsiders" do. He knows that people see them as poor and stupid and tries to change that but at the same time he seems to view their traditions as holding them back and keeping them stupid in a way. He want Philbert to make his car look nicer and gets angry at the salesman because he knows that people look at them as stupid just because they are Native Americans. Philbert on the other hand views Cheyenne as descendants of their ancestors and people who should be keeping their traditions alive. He replies to Buddy's request for a ride that "we are Cheyenne" as if there is no question of whether or not he will help because they are Cheyenne so he must. It seems that he has asked his aunt about Cheyenne tradition many times because she seems to angry and tired of his questions when he asks her about gathering medicine. And his whole journey is based on gathering medicine to become a warrior and based off signs and visions. Their two views of the Cheyenne seem to get reconciled a bit throughout the movie as Buddy accepts Philbert's view of the Cheyenne and seems to worry less about how others see him as well as the fact that Philbert seems to have gained a bit more understanding of how others see the Cheyenne by the end of the film.

Identity Politics in Powwow Highway

In the film Powwow HIghway, identity politics concerning Native Americans are played out in different ways through each of the characters. This is an important aspect of the film because in popular Western (white) representation, Native Americans often are not portrayed as complex individuals with conflicting views of their heritage within their own communities. Identity politics are meant to shed light on the experiences of an oppressed group of people and in the characters of Redbow and Philbert, the viewer can see two different mentalities about Cheyenne culture in terms of how it is thought about today.
Philbert is the older character of the two men and embodies a desire to live the way his ancestors did, he ahs a connection with his Cheyenne identity that Redbow doesn't necessarily understand until later in the film. Philbert continually acts in ways to bring himself closer to his roots. He names his car Protector and treats it as he would a pony. His calm demeanor seems unshakeable while Redbow is the more uptight, angry character. Redbow is an activist who has a more dismal view of Native American life as it is today. He speaks about all of the injustices placed upon his people and in this provides a view of Native American life not often heard about. Both characters come to a sort of understanding of one another at the end of the film that helps to create a more intricate way of looking at and understanding Cheyenne identity for the viewer. In this sense identity politics and how they play out are an essential aspect of Powwow Highway.

"We are Cheyenne."

Giving one’s identity the power of open mobility often means exposing it to situations where it must be confronted and reconsidered. In Jonathan Wacks’ 1989 film Powwow Highway, the “identity politics� of two longtime friends are taken from an American Indian reservation and onto the winding road; thus, what it means for each to be a Cheyenne tribal member is given central focus. As Professor Zita explained in lecture, “identity politics� are founded on the shared experiences of injustice within certain social groups and aim to re-secure political and/or spiritual freedoms within a larger context: by asserting ways of understanding, challenging dominant oppressive characterizations, and, especially, shaping a goal of greater self-determination. Both Buddy Red Bow and Philbert Bono are physically en route in Philbert’s “war pony� (a junky old car he names “Protector�), but on two very different road trips. Red Bow, a hot-tempered activist, is on a journey of political identity: in trying to get his framed sister out of jail as soon as possible, he hopes to return to the reservation so he can protest a looming “white man� corporation’s on-site uranium mining. His narrower notion of what it means to be Cheyenne involves something similar to the struggle of those at the early-70s Wounded Knee resistance, and his own pain has overshadowed the beauty of a now-dying culture. Opposing Red Bow's path of personal destruction is the much more peaceful Philbert, on a spiritual identity quest to become intrinsically bound to what it means to be Cheyenne (before outside influence encouraged his people to turn away from the past, that is). Both men voluntarily and involuntarily feel they must be representatives for their heritage, although it means different things to each; and, thanks to their Sante Fe-or-bust road trip, both end up seriously contemplating their constructed Cheyenne identities whether they mean to or not.

Identity as Cheyenne

Throughout the film, the characters must deal with their Native American heritage. The main characters Buddy and Philbert are an interesting pair because although they both identify strongly as Cheyenne, Philbert dreams of becoming a warrior while Buddy worries about life on the Rez. One main encounter the two had was with the clerk at the stereo store. The man working was blatantly racist and assumed that Buddy and Philbert didn't have enough money to buy a nice stereo and offered them the cheapest one available because of their features as Native American. Buddy was instantly insulted and when he insisted on buying the most expensive equipement for sale, the clerk said, "no get 'um special deal on this one chief." Speaking so slowly and as if Buddy didn't know english, Buddy was enraged by the clerk, and rightly so. Even though Philbert reacted differently to the clerk's racist remark than Buddy, their identity as Native American was put in the forefront as negative and neither of them backed down, standing tall and proving that they had enough money to buy the stereo in spite of the fact of their heritage.
Another instance of identity was when Bonnie's children had to make a phone call to find Rabbit. Although it seemed that the children didn't have much knowledge about their heritage, it was interesting that they singled out a Native woman to ask for change to make a phone call. Asking if she was 'indian' and then saying that they were 'indian' too signifies that they identified with being Native themselves. It was also evident that Bonnie's son Sky was interested in his heritage because although he didn't know what tribe he was when the old woman asked, he immediately asked Rabbit. Sky also was greatly interested in the stories Philbert told about the Cheyenne and it was clear that Sky was happy to know he was Cheyenne and eager to learn more about his heritage, but most of all, he was proud. That was one the one constant throughout that made the film positive: pride in identity as Cheyenne.

Identity Politics

In the film Powwow Highway, Redbow and Philbert show how identity politics have shaped the way they think of their tribe Cheyenne. Redbow is a very much a historical activist and was a veteran of Wounded Knee in 1973. He is conservative in his views of Cheyenne and is reluctant to let others from outside of the tribe influence what is happening. He becomes angry with his friends that decided to live in a suburban tribe. He believes that the traditional house setting is a defining part of being an Indian American. Redbow is also involved with the American Indian Movement. Because of his struggles at Wounded Knee and being very involved witht he movement, Redbow is very in tune to the realities of oppression within Cheyenne and other Indian tribes. The other main character, Philbert, is connected to his tribe Cheyenne in a different way. He is a spiritual seeker. He is constantly looking for 'signs' allow their journey and very in touch with nature. He day dreams about what Cheyenne was in the 1800s and is fixated on living that way. He is somewhat of a comdian and is very pround of being Cheyenne. In fact he even has a war pony. However, it really happens to be a beat down car that barely works. Both characters are proud of being Cheyenne, but in different ways:politically and spiritually.

"We Are Cheyenne"

There are many identity issues that were placed in this film both on purpose and for comedic reasons. Philbert is seeking his calling from the Cheyenne people throughout this movie. Through his unconventional means to find himself, he makes people around him uncomfortable and upset, especially Buddy. In the movie the boys are treated differently because they are Native American. They come from extreme lower class and live by the simplest means possible. This shows identity politics because it shows what most people think of Cheyenne people: poor, pot smoking, drinkers with little will to help themselves or the community. This is done not only through the film making but through the corporate people that judge their livestyles. Sandy Youngblood shows that he is too corporate or an elitist in the group of Cheyennes. He tries to authoritate the community because he believes he is superior and knows more than the others. Philbert also tells many stories of the Cheyenne. He shows that he is proud of his background and just wants to do more, be more, and act more like his ancestors from his tribe. Buddy is a pessimist. He has much hatred for many people throughout the film, including Sandy, and feels that there is no way out of this financial burden. Philbert uses old stories of Mateo and the four tokens to try to find the right thing to do. He believes in spirituality. This shows that he lives the life of a Cheyenne and chooses to not be anything but a Cheyenne. Buddy, although very famous throughout the community, doesn't believe the core beliefs of a Cheyenne. He often criticizes Philbert's actions. It isn't until the end where we see these two come together as one. They save Buddy's sister from jail and escape the police of New Mexico. They work together to show how strong Cheyenne can be. It isn't until the Powwow in South Dakota that Buddy starts to show his Cheyenne roots. By the end of the movie, one can see that this film is about the Cheyenne coming together as one, in a journey. They find an answer to their community's problems and join forces as the Cheyenne, their identity.

April 20, 2008

Powwow Highway

In Powwow Highway, identity politics are shown in different ways through the two characters of Philbert and Redbow. Philbert, on one hand, is a very proud Cheyenne, constantly looking to expand his knowledge of the Cheyenne culture and to experience as much of the culture as he can. On the other hand is Redbow, who is also a proud Cheyenne, but instead of working to expand his knowledge and experiences, Redbow is busy working to preserve the Cheyenne heritage that he fought for at wounded knee and continues to fight for throughout the film.
On the road, these two men are given a chance to experience each others view on identity politics. Despite his protests, Redbow is forced to go to places and events that he would never have attended without Philbert and is shown more of the spiritual side of the Cheyenne culture. On this journey, Philbert is also given a chance to experience a different view of the Cheyenne as he experiences Redbow's fight to preserve their culture and to stand up to the prejudice of the men imprisoning his sister. Because of their time on the road, both of these men are able to expand their knowledge and experience of the various aspects of the cheyenne culture.

Identity politics and the Cheyenne people

In the film Powwow Highway characters Philbert & Red Bow do a wonderful job in expressing how completely different they are when others (namely white Amercia) views them in only one group and that is Indians. Although the two friends are very close and share the same gender and ethnicity identity Philbert is far more spiritual and calm whereas Red bow is violent and angry with the way people treat him based on the fact that he is Native American and Cheyenne. Clearly Red Bow has every right to be angry about they way his people are treated but sadly it seems as though his pain is also harmful to him and his self identity.
The road is not only a physical journey but a spiritual and emotional journey for the two men. Along the road they play the ‘other’ not only because of their ethnicity but because they are travelers and unfamiliar to others and there is some type of suspicion that comes along with the traveler. Bonnie, Red Bows sister is also struggling with identity politics because she is being treated unjustly in jail based on the fact that she is not white and also because she is a woman. Also, these reasons are what put her in jail which shows how corruption is a big part of identity politics as well as who holds the power.

Identity Politics Hits the Road

In the film Pow Wow Highway, there are two main scenes in which we see Identity Politics in the film. The first is when Philbert detours to the Black Hills of South Dakota which he considers to be a very sacred place. Here, we see him making a deeper connection with his culture and the group in which he identifies with. He is able to see White Cloud; he climbs to the top of the mountain and then does a glorious roll down back toward Red Bow. In this scene, we see Philbert creating a more spiritual connection. To do so, he has to take to the road; however, it is the road that allows him to make this connection. Secondly, we see Red Bow making a stronger connection with his group when Philbert takes Red Bow to the Pow Wow. Although he doesn't want to go, he does. He gets into a confrontation with a group of Native American men and they start to fight physical. A man from the bleachers throws something at them breaking up the situation. Red Bow goes and talks to the man and makes a comment about how he thinks pow wows are stupid. Later, he makes another comment about how having a beat and special beads does not constitute a culture. However, the man who has difficulty talking allows Red Bow to create a stronger connection to his people. We then see him participating in the Pow Wow and even get the feeling that he is proud to be connected to this group of people. Overall these two scenes reveal an Identity Politics where the characters are strengthening their bonds to a specific group of people through experiences they have on the road.

Identity Politics on the Road

Identity politics is by no means a subtle theme in Powwow Highway. The Native American road film displays the tensions that exist between the marginalized First Nation peoples and dominant society (namely white conservative America). Philbert, the spiritual protagonist of the film, reclaims his native identity as he proudly reiterates "We are Cheyenne." Identity politics in this film are based on modern day societal problems, such as poverty, reservation politics, racism, which is empowering for Native people as they are usually portrayed as stoic figures in cinema. On the road Philbert and Redbow, both violently and peacefully, assert their different understandings of who they are. Redbow is aggressive and a realist while Philbert is a spiritualist. Although the two characters have different beliefs and mentalities they both in some ways hold strong to their Native identity. Redbow achieves this through litigating for his community when white corporate America attempts to move in to their reservation. Philbert asserts his identity while he actively and enthusiastically participates in Native rituals. On the road identity politics are revealed by constant battles, both physical and moral, with Natives and non-Natives. For example, Redbow's sister is unjustly incarcerated. This film reveals that identity, a socially constructed word and idea, can have major effects on people's lives, especially for people who live on the margins of society.

Powwow Highway

It is very easy to see the difference in identity politics when comparing the two main characters of Powwow Highway. Throughout the movie, Philbert constantly expresses his positive attitude toward his background even when the people around him don’t appreciate it. He isn’t afraid to let other people know that he is Cheyenne while other characters in the movie are. Red Bow, on the other hand, is one of those people. He can’t seem to find a way to identify as a Cheyenne. His negative attitude throughout the movie does a great job in demonstrating this. While Philbert searches for the five tokens Red Bow becomes fed up and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Red Bow and Philbert have different approaches when it comes to their identity, but this is why they work so well together. They balance each other out to make a great friendship between the two. In the beginning of the film it doesn’t seem like Red Bow cares about Philbert all that much. It seems as if he might only be using Philbert as a means to help his sister, but as the movie progresses it becomes clear that Red Bow in fact does care for Philbert. The scene in the movie that makes this the most apparent is when Red Bow is devastated when he thinks that Philbert died in the car crash, but is very relieved when he realizes that Philbert survived. Their hug in the end of the movie shows just how much they care about each other. Although their approaches to identity are extremely different, their care for each other makes them alike.

Powwow Highway

Identity politics are a preeminent part of the film Powwow Highway. The characters in the film are continuously dealing with a shared oppression stemming from their race and culture, and this drives their actions and feelings in every scene. Their identity is such a part of their lives that they are willing to do anything to protect it and each other. It both defines them and divides them, as shown by the tribe's arguments over the possible future development on their reservation. This development would bring the tribe economic stability, but at the same time would break down their culture- their identity- and everything the tribe stands for.
While on the road, the characters learn how to identify themselves, though that takes longer for some than it does for others. They learn just how far they will go to protect their heritage and their future as a culture. The characters begin to become more unified through their culture and find out that it may be more important to them than they previously thought. The politics of money has torn through their nation to such an extreme that they had lost their love for their culture and for each other, and by going out on the road, they begin to re-identify with the nation and their past.

Dualism in Cheyenne Identity

Identity politics that are taken on the road result in the shift or deepening of meaning of what it means to be "Cheyenne" for the two travelers in Powwow Highway. While on the road, the duo feel they must be representatives for their heritage, although this means different things for each man. Both men outwardly posit their constructed "Cheyenne" identity, whether it is intentional or not.

For Red Bow, this means assembling an entire tribe's collection of hurts and memories to weave an identity formulated on pain, anger, and resentment. Red Bow actively seeks to externally exhibit the havoc wreaked upon a people, both in the past (Wounded Knee, etc.) and the present (Government’s desire to mine uranium on reservations), by constantly displaying a fiercely angry persona. Philbert however, does not focus on the outward influences upon the reservation, but rather on the identity of the Cheyenne prior to outside influence. Philbert’s identity politics operate independently of the negative interactions with government/white man/off-reservation life.

Being on the road together forces the two men to deal with the reaction of both the “other� and those who share a similar identity. This mobilization of the identity places it in situations where it must be questioned/confronted. One such situation occurs at the Powwow in Pine City. This gathering illustrates a convergence with the identity that Red Bow has come to embrace, and the one Philbert embodies. Attending the Powwow are Native Americans donning traditional powwow attire, listening to tribal music, and celebrating the culture which Philbert has embraced wholeheartedly. Also in attendance are several embodiments of the transgressions against Native peoples. The severely disabled Vietnam Vet and tribal members turned against one another represent the negative side of Native existence that Red Bow includes in his formulation of native identity.

While at the Powwow, Red Bow has a brief conversation with the Vietnam Veteran. In this exchange, Red Bow posits an attitude toward Native identity that alludes to the pointlessness of celebrating a savagely destroyed culture. The Veteran however, points out (using very few words) that Red Bow has allowed the hurts to overshadow the beauty of his culture, creating an identity focused so much on destructive anger that it has stunted future growth and ceased honoring the past.

Without going on the road, Red Bow would not have been forced to confront the identity that Philbert wholly embraces. On the reservation, Red Bow found Philbert’s identity politics childish and silly. However, upon seeing them withstand the confrontations on the road, Red Bow was forced to admit that he must find a balance between love of native culture and acknowledging the transgressions toward Native communities while working to save and repair what remains.

Powwow Highway

Within Powwow highway, the two main characters are living their life, according to how they believe it means to be a Cheyenne, the Native American tribe they both belong two. Although they both are striving to be a true Cheyenne in their own portrayal belief, they both differ on many levels of what it means to be a Cheyenne. For Red bow, being a Cheyenne means defending their land and ownership against those who wish to harm it, and defending against the government, and others, who also wish to harm their tribe. Red bow believes defending his heritage is what it means to be a Cheyenne. On the other hand, Philbert believes in embracing, and embodying the wisdom of his ancestors and the spiritual side of being a Cheyenne. For Philbert, embracing the spiritual side of becoming a warrior of Cheyenne is what it means to be a true Cheyenne.
When the two men embark on their journey, within Philbert’s car, who he deems ‘the protector,’ a transformation of the men occurs within Protector, the more they are on the road. At the beginning of the trip, Red bow only decides to use Philbert for his car, to get to his sister, however, the longer Red bow spends time with Philbert, particularly on the road, the two distinct characters begin to become closer as members of the same tribe, and become closer as friends. On the road, the who are forced to talk and interact with each other on their own level; Red bow wanting to facilitate chance and protection for their tribe, and Philbert wanting to embrace the spiritual side, causes both to embrace each other for who they are on their own terms, and in regards to who they are as Cheyenne’s, and the road facilitates that.
At the end of the film, I believe the emotion Red bow shows when he believe the friend he just became so close to died, and Philbert embracing his new found identity of being a Cheyenne warrior, cause the two to really ‘fuse’ together. With the ‘death’ of the protector, in my opinion, it symbolizes the need for the two men to not have to be dependent on it anymore, and have each other to protect and defend each other, as ‘the protector’ was doing, and the two can begin another journey back home as newly defined people.

Identity Politics on the Road

Powwow Highway illustrates identity politics with the government’s role in the imprisonment of Buddy’s sister, Bonnie. It signifies a wide range of political activity and theorizing in the injustice experience of members of certain social groups. The government attempts to marginalize the Native American people by attempting to get Buddy off the reservation for the vote on the land mine on their reservation. They do so by blatantly imprisoning an innocent woman and her children. It is their attempt to further marginalize and control the Native Americans in the U.S. “Yeah, well it's just too bad those stories don't tell us how to keep our reservations from turning into sewers� (IMDB). The dual contrasting roles of Buddy and Philbert allows the viewer to see the influence of a corrupt government on two extremely individuals; yet, in the end they turn out victorious. They were both born into a role in which holds them back from what they can become and only allows for opportunities that are socially acceptable with their Native American role. The road is altered by identity politics since their marginal identity is ultimately positioned by the law. One scene where they stop to get speakers for their pony, the “protector,� illustrates the salesperson’s demeanor in which Native American people are continuously marginalized. He talks down to them stating, “This much money, understand chief?� They are looked down upon on the road as many individuals believe them to be less intelligent or unable to understand. They cannot even survive outside their reservation land as they are chased and end in an explosion crash of the pony which they survive. They is no place for them outside their reservation land as they are continuously criticized and marginalized by the government restricting them to lands throughout the country, limiting their opportunities and place in society. At the end of the film, the only place where they are able to find safety is in their reservation; outside they are open for manipulation and unfair treatment from other social groups. It speaks volumes of society in which a social group cannot even interact with the outside world as they are taken advantage of and have no rights. Ultimately, it is back to their reservation after their journey on the road symbolizing identity politics.

Identity Politics in Pow Wow Highway

In comparison to other movies, where the giver of mobility is flashy and phallic, or just plain impractical-Pow Wow Highway has a car that is a clunker. Bad gas mileage, no radio- until Red Bow comes along, it’s just a car to get Philbert out of town, and wherever his spirit takes him.
He sees the car as much more than it is, which is part of his personality. He sees it as a protector of his being, and as “a pony�. Philbert’s interest in the metaphysical takes him to culturally important spiritual places. These places are not what Redbow was hoping for, and rightly so because Redbow is not the driver.
Redbow gets frustrated with Philbert many times but he sticks with him. This is probably part of being Cheyenne. The two both have very different interpretations of the phrase “ we are Cheyenne�. Other students have touched upon this enough.
I found it interesting that only their culture, as it is in the 1990’s, is shown to the viewer. Even though it is constructed with the camera having power over what we see-it seems fairly accurate. I took a trip out to Wyoming a few years back, to paint their tiny houses, and talk with the children. We were told, many of them were safer with us;strangers, than with their family. The Natives as a whole are an oppressed people. As an employee of Loring Park, I see how a lot of Native folk deal with their day-to-day lives. Homeless, drunk, unhappy, but those are the ones who have ended up in my view. They escape their life just like Philbert does. Anglo-Americans have created an oppressed group of people who need escapes. Philbert chose the road, and others choose the bottle. Some still, don’t fall into either category. In general, Pow Wow Highway constructed a sense of Native culture and what it would be like to travel as a Native American.

Identity Politics, Powwow Highway

"Powwow Highway" uses identity politics in two separate ways. There are two Cheyenne characters who view their identity differently. Philbert is optimistic and proud to be Cheyenne. He views happenings in his life as "signs" and is a quite spiritual man. Buddy Redbow is more of a fighter to protect his Cheyenne heritage. He is involved more politically than Philbert in relations regarding his reservation. He tends to be more aggressive for protecting his identity and values his identity quite opposite his friend Philbert.
The road trip that Philbert and Buddy go on bonds them in both being proud to fight for their people and proud to seek out their roots as Cheyenne. The journey these men partake in begins from their rural reservation to the rural past lands of their ancestors. A really cool view of what it means to be proud of their tribe is when Buddy's nephew asks Philbert, which tribe he is. I find this interesting that Buddy's sister had not been specific about the tribe her children were from, yet Philbert knew it was important to relay this information to future generations within their people. Traditions, history, and the people's future are very important to both Buddy and Philbert: the Cheyenne.

Identity Politics in Powwow Highway

In the film Powwow Highway our main characters Philbert and Redbow each use different methods of political activity to try and secure their (“Cheyenne�) political freedom. Philbert believes in a spiritual method of activism and spends his time searching for items to put together to form a special medicine. When he thinks Cheyenne he sees the tribe back in the 1800’s. Redbow on the other hand is an activist and is not afraid of confrontation. When he thinks Cheyenne he probably pictures the group of activists involved in the 1973 Wounded Knee and what the tribe is today.

Continue reading "Identity Politics in Powwow Highway" »

"We are Cheyenne"

There is a definite difference between Philbert and Redbow when it comes to identifying with the Cheyenne. Redbow is more worried about staying on the reservation and fighting against the oppression for their rights. Philbert, on the other hand, is worrying about the spiritual part of their tribe and becoming an important person in the culture, peace is his guide. As told in the lecture, these two men were on different road trips, Redbow was on a "political identity" road trip, to get his sister out of jail, and Philbert was on a "spiritual identity" road trip, to go to spiritual sites and get his four tokens. The road trip is focused on "identity politics," in a sense that Native Americans, in specific the Cheyenne for this movie, are a group of people that have shared experiences of injustice and they want to declare political freedom for themselves. One experience that happened in the movie was when the police framed Redbow's sister so that Redbow would leave the reservation before they voted on construction. The experience of Redbow's included both Redbow and Philbert since she was Redbow's sister and she was a friend of Philbert when they were younger. Redbow wanted to stop the injustices from happening to his people and that began with getting his sister out of jail and then to stop construction from trying to tear down the last acres of land that they own. The "white people" in the movie besides Redbow's sister's friend were seen as the oppressive characters who only wanted to reach further and take the only land that Native Americans own. Some people don't know when to stop until they are absolutely on top and in charge. I believe that is an idea that runs right along with the idea of identity politics. Redbow just wants his people to be left alone and the other people don't want to leave them alone so he has to stay and fight to get his way instead of conforming to the mainstream society, that was built off his own ancestors land.

Being Cheyenne

In the film, "Pow Wow Highway," identity politics concerning what it means to be Cheyenne are at play throughout the film. Our two lead characters, Philbert and Buddy, view what it means to be Cheyenne in different ways. Philbert ascribes to the spirituality and cultural wonders of what it means to be Cheyenne. Throughout the film he is on a sort of vision quest to become "whirlwind dreamer." After talking to a trucker on a radio, he makes the decision to veer off their course to Santa Fe in order to visit "the most sacred place in America." His preconcern with connecting with his spiritual culture is prominent in the film as he tells stories of their culture, refers to things with Cheyenne titles (ie calling his car his war pony), and continuously says "we are Cheyenne" to remind Buddy of where they're coming from. Because of his intense spiritual connection to being Cheyenne, Philbert overlooks the racial stereotypes his people face. In the very beginning, a car salesman dresses up as a Native American and says things like "heap big savings" and "pick out your pony," all of which are lost on Philbert as insults. They are not, however, lost on Buddy.
Buddy's view of being Cheyenne differs from Philbert's in that he focuses defending Native Americans against attack and stereotype, and does not ascribe to it's spiritual values. He tends to fly off the handle at any tiny slight to his people. An obvious example is in the radio store when the salesman is showing them the cheapest radios, and Buddy insists on buying a more expensive one. When he can't get the radio to work, he goes nuts on the clerks and violently insists that he's been cheated. Because of his intense defense of his culture, he overlooks the spiritual benefits that Philbert sees. When Philbert tells an old story of their ancestors, all Buddy can say is "too bad those stories don't tell us how to keep our reservations from turning into sewers." His Cheyenne is keeping the world from harassing his culture, and not so much practicing its spirituality.
The end of this film is a bit ambiguous, but in general both characters finally see the benefits of the other character's viewpoints. Philbert shows this in the way in which he breaks Buddy's sister out of jail ("we'll tie up these bars and pull them off this fucking wall"). This is a demonstration of defending his people against unjustice. Buddy is shown in warrior garb while throwing the window at the police car. This signifies that he has finally ascribed somewhat to the cultural spirituality of the Cheyenne people. Overall, this film plays with identity politics on the road, fulfilling the spirits of both characters.

Identity Politics, Powwow Highway

Identity politics are made very apparent in the film Powwow Highway. The two main characters, Philbert and Red Bow, both identity as Cheyennes, yet their identity politics are very different. Philbert on the one hand is a very positive person. He looks at his roots and is proud. He doesn't really see the hardships his people have faced, rather he focuses on the positives. He looks for signs and tokens everywhere he goes, and usually he is able to find them. Red Bow on the otherhand, has a very different approach to his roots. He is bitter. Perhaps the different attitudes of the two characters stems from the fact that Red Bow was involved in the Wounded Knee Massacre, and Philbert was not. Red Bow has seen first hand the injustices done to his people. So he lives his life trying to correct those. He is a proud member of AIM, he even wears an AIM shirt at times in the movie. He has allowed his experience with politics to shape him. Philbert has too, but his experience has not been as bad as Red Bow's, so his outlooks tend to be more positive.

April 19, 2008

Identity Politics on the Road

(**I didn't write down exactly what the question was on the PowerPoint in class, but I think it had something to do with defining the difference between Redbow's and Filbert's interpretation of the phrase "We Are Cheyenne"**)

Filbert's declaration of "We Are Cheyenne" is proud everytime he repeats it. He is always smiling, because he views being Cheyenne a blessing. He is continually searching for the history, the signs and tokens, and is fighting to pass on the stories of their people. All of this he does with his whole heart, and it is evident when he begins crying at the end of his story that to him, being Cheyenne defines his existence positively. He is connected to his land, his people, his family and himself.

Buddy Redbow's identification with "We Are Cheyenne" is more cynical and negative. He views it as an outsider would view it, or rather he feels the way he does because he has fought for the white man and yet feels trampled on and taken advantage of. In a way, he too is proud to be Cheyenne, but a stubborn, hard-headed pride that creates a tough outward appearance, angry and resentful of those around him.

On the road, these individual identifications come to fruition differently. Buddy's pride is more apparent in the presence of whites, as in the radio salesman, the white policemen in the jail, and the man Sandy Youngblood. Filbert's identity as Cheyenne is most apparent when he is with other Cheyenne, as when with the young couple he tells a story of their people, when he passes the warrior stories on to Buddy's nephew, and when he insists on attending the PowWow even though it will take them far off their course. In these ways, their Cheyenne identity is shaped and defined by those around them and by their reactions to those around them.