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Cathy Robbins Thinking Aloud

State of the American Indians Nations, A Speech

The staff of the National Congress of American Indians gather at the organization’s new headquarters, the Embassy of Tribal Nations, in the heart of the diplomatic enclave in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the National Congress of American Indians.

Since 2003, every year, the president of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations. The message is timed precisely - just a few days after the State of the Union address from the president of the United States - and it reaffirms the sovereign status of nearly 600 tribes and nations.

In the State of the Union message, the president reports on the condition of the country and sets out his vision and agenda for dealing with issues and problems. The U.S. Constitution mandates a regular report from the president to Congress, and since 1790, since George Washington produced the first such report, an American President has delivered a State of the Union either in writing or in a talk. The message is not simply a  Read More 
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Dissing American Indians, Part III: Send the cops away

What happens when American Indians call the federal cops to investigate a rape or a murder? Too often, nobody answers. On reservations, when the feds drop the ball, understaffed tribal police departments are unable to cope with the resulting mayhem.

Step back about a 150 years. At that time, white America was mopping up. Settlers, developers, mining and timber interests, and railroad companies were chewing up much of Indian country not just stealing land but also slaughtering bison and destroying other sources of Native sustenance. To stop Indians’ understandable resistance to this wholesale grab, the U.S. government sent the cavalry and finally entered into treaties to end the Indian wars. Indians laid down their arms and gave up much of their lands and resources. In exchange, the federal government set aside some lands for reservations in exchange for food, education, health, and policing for reservations.  Read More 
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American Indians, Part II: Victoria’s Dirty Indian Secret

Karlie Kloss struts onto Victoria Secret’s runway with ceremonial war bonnet and layers of American Indian jewelry. No Indian woman would be caught dead with such a getup. Credit: http://www.change.org/petitions/victoria-s-secret-apologize-for-using-a-native-american-headdress-in-their-2012-fashion-show

Victoria’s Secret has a dirty Indian secret―”pow wow porn.” During its annual show at the end of 2012, the lingerie company sent one of its favorite scantily clad models out on the runway wearing a long American Indian war bonnet and draped in turquoise and silver jewelry. Within 24 hours, reaction to this offensive display of corporate ignorance found its way onto social networks and then into the national media, including the Huffington Post. (Victoria’s Secret is an equal opportunity offender. Earlier in the year, the company also released an Asian-themed line of lingerie that a writer in Jezebel Magazine "traded in sexualized, generic pan-Asian ethnic stereotypes.")

Victoria’s Secret’s outrage was one of the more extreme instance of whites appropriating Native beliefs or items in order to hype some product or activity. In 2009, several people died when an  Read More 
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Dissing American Indians, Part I: A Month a Year

November is Native American Heritage Month. It’s a good opportunity to acknowledge our oldest inhabitants, but a month a year just doesn’t do the job of revealing the rich Native heritage and more importantly the lives of contemporary Indians and their communities. White Americans’ continual disregard for and ignorance about Americans is the most basic form of disrespect.

Perhaps we were luckier than most Americans in our access to American Indians. Living for many years in Albuquerque, NM, a place with a significant percentage of Indians, we had many opportunities to meet Native people. Just thirty minutes away was San Felipe Pueblo, where friends welcomed us for family and holiday celebrations. About 30,000 of New Mexico’s Pueblos live in  Read More 
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