Podcasts of the Week Ending February 13


Sidedoor :: Reservation Math: Navigating Love in Native America

The story of “blood quantum,” a concept used to define Native American identity from it’s colonialist origins to the personal impact is has on indigenous peoples today.

Throughline :: ‘Black Moses’ Lives On: How Marcus Garvey’s Vision Still Resonates

The history of Marcus Garvey and his vision of pan-Africanism and the Black Star Line.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Sound 101

The science of sound with Bill Nye.

 

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 19


Ben Franklin’s World :: The World of the Wampanoag

A two-party history of the indigenous people of Eastern Massachusetts who encountered the Puritan settlers of Plymouth in 1620.

Planet Money :: We Buy a Lot of Christmas Trees

A behind-the-scenes look into how the Christmas tree market works.

Planet Money :: The Case Against Facebook

A suit filed by the federal government and 46 state attorney generals against Facebook is stirring up the long-dormant history of anti-trust action in the United States.

Radiolab :: The Ashes on the Lawn

The purposes of protest and why they can’t be modulated to avoid offending people as seen through the story of the ACT UP protests to support relief from the AIDS crisis.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Edison’s Demon Dolls

Talking dolls are creepy and have been so since they were first invented in the 1890s by Thomas Edison himself.

Snap Judgment :: The Crossroad

A true story of a good Samaritan in the time of COVID 19.

RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

Documentary Movie Review: Reel Injun (2010) #atozchallenge


Title: Reel Injun
Release Date: February 19, 2010
Director: Neil Diamond | Catherine Bainbridge | Jeremiah Hayes
Production Company:
Summary/Review:

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond travels across the United States with the ultimate destination of Hollywood, to discuss the depiction of Native Americans in movies over history.  The interest grew out of his own childhood experience of watching Westerns in his community and how the children chose to identify with the cowboys rather than the Indians.

Motion pictures were invented at the time when the United States was still fighting the Indian Wars, and the “exotic” culture of native tribes were among the first images caught on film.  In the silent era, Native Americans were often the protagonists as white viewers saw them as symbols of freedom and great warriors.  The 1930 film, The Silent Enemy, was a sympathetic account of the Ojibwe people that featured a cast of indigenous actors. In the talkie era, the perspective shifted with movies like Stagecoach setting the Western template of Native peoples being the “savages” attacking the “civilized” white pioneers of the Old West. John Wayne becomes the iconic American hero whose violence is justified because “the only good injun is a dead injun.”

The social upheaval of the 1960s lead to changes in Hollywood that included more sympathetic and layered portrayals of Native people (as well as the return of actual indigenous actors to portray them) in movies like Little Big Man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Outlaw Josie Wales.  This filmmaking revolution coincided with the rise of Native American activism, including the occupation of Alcatraz Island and the Wounded Knee standoff.  Activists from this period, Russell Means and John Trudell, are prominent interviewees.  Diamond also interviews Sacheen Littlefeather who notably appeared at the Academy Awards to decline Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award and bring attention to Hollywood’s stereotyped portrayal of Native Americans and the standoff at Wounded Knee.

The next phase of the documentary is the 1990s which kicks off with Dances With Wolves, which is still a “white movie” but one that offers a lot more nuance for its indigenous cast and characters.  This kicks off the Renaissance of Native Cinema, including movies like Smoke Signals, Dance Me Outside, Flags of Our Fathers, and Atanarjuat — The Fast Runner (considered “the most Indian movie ever made”).

In the road trip segments Diamond visits locations like the Crazy Horse monument, Wounded Knee, a Crow rodeo, and Monument Valley.  He also interviews the son of Iron Eyes Cody, a man of Sicilian heritage who adopted a Native American persona and appeared in hundreds of movies, as well as a famous ad against littering. In two cringeworthy segments, Diamond reveals how the stereotypes of Natives from movies persist among white people – one in a summer camp celebrating “tribal days” and one at an Old West theme park where the gunslingers revere John Wayne.

Reel Injun is a fun and illuminating look at contemporary Native American issues through the lens of Hollywood film.  It also is going to make me add a lot of movies to my “must watch” list.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Empire of Shadows by George Black


Author: George Black
Title: Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story Of Yellowstone
Narrator: Jack de Golia
Publication Info: Tantor Media, Inc, 2019 [originally published in 2012]
Summary/Review:

I’m planning to visit Yellowstone National Park for the first time this summer, so I was excited to read this history.  I failed to read the small print, though, since it turns out this book is the history of Yellowstone over the six decades from the Lewis & Clark expedition to the Congressional establishment of the first national park in 1872. It is primarily a military history of the conflicts between Native peoples and the U.S. armed forces sent to defend the interests of white American explorers, exploiters, and settlers.  Part of me rolls my eyes at another history that focuses entirely on military actions, while another part feels shamed that I wish to avoid the bloody background of a place special to all Americans.

Key figures in this history include Jim Bridger, a trapper known for his tall tales, although later many of his descriptions of Yellowstone’s natural wonders would be proved true.  William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan, known for their adoption of total war tactics in the Civil War, are key military leaders in the effort to “tame” the West.  The first thorough expedition to explore the future park by the United States was lead by Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, and the exploits of his team make up much of the latter part of the book.

The message of the book is clear in that creating a National Park preserved a unique ecosystem, but it only happened after extermination of the buffalo and removal of the Native tribes.  The buffalo have been reintroduced to the park, but the legacy of the Native people is still hidden.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 16


There’s a rich crop of podcasts this week!  I wont be posting any podcasts next Saturday, so if you hear any good ones I shouldn’t miss, let me know in the comments.

Throughline :: How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days

The overlooked history of one of the worst crimes ever committed by the United States government.

Hub History :: Apocalypse on Boston Bay 

The indigenous population of New England suffered significant casualties from epidemics of infectious disease that swept their communities in the 1620.  The colonizing English saw these plagues as the grace of God to their settlement.

Tomorrow Society :: Peggie Farris on 50 Years at Disney and Producing Spaceship Earth

An interview with a remarkable woman who rose from being a ride operator at Disneyland to an influential Imagineer at Disney Parks across the world.

99% Invisible :: National Sword

China has enacted a program to no longer import recycled materials, which means that recycling collected from many US communities no longer is actually being recycled.  This podcasts prods consumers to “reduce and reuse” more than they recycle, but also questions placing the burden on the consumer and suggest industry needs to reduce the material created in the first place.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Cheech Marin Gets Antsy

Cheech Marin, famed for starring in stoner comedies, now works to bring attention to Chicano art in galleries and museums.

Planet Money: The Indicator :: The Strike That Changed U.S. Labor

The 1937 General Motors strike presaged a highpoint for union membership in the United States and a period of shared prosperity.  This podcast discusses how we got from there to today with record low union participation.

The Truth :: Meet Cute

A romantic comedy where one the members of the couple dies before the first date.  There’s a lot of clever twists in this story.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 17


Sidedoor :: That Brunch in the Forest

Myths and reality of Native Americans and the “first Thanksgiving.”

All Songs Considered :: How the Beatles Made “The White Album”

The story behind the Beatles strangest album.

30 for 30 :: Rickey Won’t Quit

The great Rickey Henderson plays one last season in professional baseball for an independent minor league team.

The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad

Fascinating stories from the Soviet Union trace the origin of the classic video game Tetris and its unrecognized designer, and the people of Leningrad who protected a seed bank against Nazi invasion.

Have You Heard? :: Closing Time: In a Gentrifying City, are Some Students Expendable

A must-listen story of the effort to close, privatize, and segregate Boston Public Schools.

 

Resistance Mixtape: Indigenous Peoples’ Day


Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day so the mixtape celebrates the native people of North America and their continuing struggle against discrimination and elimination by European colonizers.

Buffy Sainte-Marie:: “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”

Indigo Girls :: “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”

A Tribe Called Red x Prolific The Rapper :: “Black Snakes (Remix)”

Peter Gabriel :: “San Jacinto” the culture clash between Native America and present-day America

Neil Young :: “Cortez the Killer”

 

Grant-Lee Phillips :: “Buffalo Hearts”

Robbie Robertson :: “Showdown at Big Sky”

 

I’m sure there are some knowledgeable people who can add to this mixtape with some terrific music, especially by Native American artists.  If so, post them in the comments.

Book Review: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann


Author: Charles C. Mann
Title1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Narrator: Peter Johnson
Publication Info: Minneapolis, Minn. : Highbridge Audio, p2005.
Summary/Review:

This book attempts to reconstruct what the world of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere was like before contact with the Europeans.  Often what the first conquerors and colonists saw was not representative of the pre-Columbian reality as the diseases that preceded them decimated the Indians leading to political instability, and often a faction allying with the Europeans and hastening the demise of the culture in it’s entirety.  Mann focuses on three main points, presenting evidence for and against these hypotheses:

  • the population of the New World was much greater than generally accounted for, possibly more populous than Europe
  • people arrived in the Americas much earlier than the popular Bering land bridge theory would suppose
  • the Indians left an indelible mark on the landscape, building cities, managing ecoystems, and even creating the Amazon jungle

In many ways this book raises more questions than it answers, but dang are they good questions.  Ultimately, the full story of the pre-contact Americas may never be known, but the assumptions of what it was like have been tested and failed to hold up.

Favorite Passages:

What seems unlikely to be undone is the awareness that Native Americans may have been in the Americas for twenty thousand or even thirty thousand years. Given that the Ice Age made Europe north of the Loire Valley uninhabitable until some eighteen thousand years ago, the Western Hemisphere should perhaps no longer be described as the “New World.” Britain, home of my ancestor Billington, was empty until about 12,500 B.C., because it was still covered by glaciers. If Monte Verde is correct, as most believe, people were thriving from Alaska to Chile while much of northern Europe was still empty of mankind and its works.

Recommended booksGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond and A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz
Rating: ****

JP A to Z: K is for Kuchamakin #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


K is for Kuchamakin

If you’ve been reading the Jamaica Plain A to Z series the past couple of weeks, you may be wondering how a neighborhood in Boston ended up getting named Jamaica Plain.   The Plain part is deceptively simple.  The area around Jamaica Pond where the central village is located is flat.  Yet, other parts of the neighborhood are rather hilly.

The Jamaica part is more complicated.  There are three theories behind the name.

  1. It was named by colonial residents of the town of Roxbury who were celebrating Britain capturing the Carribean island of Jamaica from Spain.
  2. The inhabitants of this region of Roxbury liked to drink their Jamaica rum plain, that is without ice.
  3. But the most likely explanation is that the English settlers Anglicized the name of Kuchamakin of the local Massachusetts tribe.  Kuchamakin was a regent for the sachem of the Massachusetts, Chickatawbut.

A little more Jamaica Plain history.  Jamaica Plain has not always been part of Boston, but it has never been an independent municipality.  Jamaica Plain, or Jamaica End, was originally part of the town of Roxbury in colonial times.  Jamaica Plain joined two other neighborhoods – Roslindale and West Roxbury – in seceding from Roxbury in 1851 to form the town of West Roxbury.  Jamaica Plain was the most densely populated area of independent West Roxbury and home to the town hall (now Curtis Hall). Desiring better municipal services, West Roxbury agreed to be annexed by Boston in 1874 (the original Roxbury had already joined Boston in 1868).

I could find no images of Kuchamakin, not even a sketch, but his name is said to mean “big feather.”  In his honor, here is a photo of a big feather in Jamaica Plain. Read more on Native Americans in Jamaica Plain.

Post for “K” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

Book Review: Flight by Sherman Alexie


Author: Sherman Alexie
TitleFlight
Narrator: Adam Beach
Publication Info: [Ashland, Ore.] : Blackstone Audio, p2008.
Summary/Review:

This novel is told from the point-of-view of “Zits,” a teenager of Native American heritage being passed through the foster care system and acting out in response.  After growing increasingly and gruesomely violent, Zits is magically transported into other peoples’ bodies at different times in history including an FBI agent working against the indigenous rights movement, an Indian child at the time of the Battle of Little Big Horn, an Indian tracker working for the 19th-century U.S. Army, a pilot who trained an Islamic terrorist, and his own father.  These experiences help him learn the effects of violence both a personal decision and societal impact.  This is a pretty grim book but Alexie’s characterization of Zits brings an element of humor as well.  The conclusion of the book is a bit corny, but I think it’s an effective story reflecting on some serious issues in American history and today.

Recommended booksSlam by Nick Hornby, Every Day by David Levithan, and Waylaid by Ed Lin.
Rating: ***