As an artist, I have always appreciated Marty Two Bulls’ cartoons. Art, as well as humor, are just a few of Creator’s many gifts. But as a descendant of those peoples indigenous to the northeastern half of Turtle Island, I take a little umbrage here.
In a recent cartoon, a woman holding a cradleboard and a war club is shown. The woman is dressed in what appears to be the regalia of a Western Plains tribe. I have no way of knowing if the artist’s choice in how the woman is dressed is due to the respect he has paid to his own nation, or if this is just a random choice on his part. Either way, it troubles me a little, that Native peoples, women especially, should always be shown this way.
Does it always have to be someone shown in Western Plains regalia only? Would the Abenaki, or the Mohawk or the people of which I am a descendant of, the Mi’Kmaq, be so unappealing? Or the Narragansett? Or the Pequot?
The point I am trying to make here, is why do the Western, or for that matter, the Southwestern tribes get so much attention, whereas those of the Northeast have gotten so very little? In my years having read, and having subscribed to Indian Country Today, I cannot help but notice how rather one-sided your paper tends to be when it comes to the portrayal of Native tribes as the distinct, diverse peoples they really are.
Let’s face it. When non-Natives go to a pow wow, what are they more or less expected to see? Large, feathered-headdresses, flowing buckskin fringe and bone breastplates. That’s all fine and good for pow wows held out West. There’s nothing wrong with that, that is what the people out there should see. But here in the Northeast, we, as the descendants of those who have come before, choose to dress in the manner of our respective cultures, and can’t help get a bit perturbed when those same folks visiting the Western pow wows appear “disappointed” when they don’t see the same thing.
The media has a certain responsibility here. Why not consider a full-color spread featuring different traditional clothing styles across the United States, beginning, say, with those tribes of the Northeast? Our headwork styles, colors, etc., are just as beautiful and intricate as those of our Western cousins.
If Native people everywhere really want to empower themselves, why not begin with the fact that we are a truly diverse peoples, as individual as blades of grass, each of us unique as a snowflake is from its counterpart, and do what we can to really get that message out. We can never fully live up to being called “500 Nations” if we don’t.
– Monica ‘Little Flower’ Alexander
East Otis, Mass.