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Smoke Signals

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

Recently we had been watching the movie, Smoke Signals, in class which is based on Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The story revolves around Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire who live on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho. I thought it was a really good movie which depicted the themes in the book rather effectively. For some reason, when I watched the movie, everything seemed authentic to me. The soundtrack from the movie used several Native American songs. In addition, all the actors were Native American. In fact, the directors, producers, writers and actors were all Indian. Chris Eyre, the director of the movie made the movie truly authentic. Sherman Alexie mentions in his screenplay that Smoke Signals was the first film which had been written, directed and produced by Native Americans to receive a major distribution deal. Several other Indian filmmakers in the past had not been so lucky. It received the filmmaker’s trophy at the Sundance Film Festival and Best film award in the 1998 American Indian Film Festival. I thought that this was an excellent choice for a film to watch in class. Also, there are several entertaining scenes in the film which make it very watchable. It mixes such scenes with the thematic scenes effectively so that the viewer can learn a lot and enjoy watching the movie at the same time.

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American Indian Science and Engineering Society

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

While reading about John Herrington, I found out about the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Being an engineering major, I was interested and decided to look into it. The main goal of AISES to increase the number of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the science and engineering discipline. AISES was brought to life in 1977 by American Indian scientists and engineers who wanted to decrease the numbers of dropouts and increase the numbers of college graduates in the Native American community. AISES offers a wide variety of programs. It has programs for the development of American Indian teachers and professionals. It hosts several programs for college students, like leadership development, career services, access to conferences and special events. In addition, it provides academic scholarships and internships in a wide array of educational fields. It also conducts a National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair, which allows a lot of exposure to the science and engineering fields, for high school and college students. Right now, AISES is trying to raise five million dollars over the next five years, their biggest campaign yet. They are trying to create endowments for their educational programs, scholarships, internships and other AISES needs. To learn more about AISES and to contribute to its development, you can find further information through this site.

http://www.aises.org/

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American Indian Pride

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

John Herrington was the first Native American to fly in space. That’s a really impressive achievement. Only one in a million people in the world are able to have that experience. Herrington was born in Wetumka, Oklahoma and is a member of the Chickasaw tribe. In the evening of November 23, 2002 on the space shuttle Endeavor he made history as the first Native American in space. To honor his Native American tribe, he took a Chickasaw Nation flag with him to the eleven day trip in space. The flag was presented to him by Bill Anoatuby, the governor of the Chickasaw nation. Several members of the Chickasaw nation witnessed the launch of the Endeavor at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Herrington is also a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) through which he promotes the involvement of Native American students in scientific areas. The fact that he took the Chickasaw flag with him to space shows the pride he has in being a Native American. Similar to the last story, he wanted to be recognized as a member of the Chickasaw nation. Also, he is able to bring a lot of attention to the Chickasaw nation itself and earns it a lot of recognition.

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“Borders” by Thomas King

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

This week I read the story called Borders for the class. It was an impressive story filled with the resolve of a Blackfoot woman who demanded that the Indian nation be recognized. The woman and her child were trying to visit her daughter/sister, who lived in Salt Lake City. Since they lived on a reservation in Canada, they needed to cross the border. When the customs agents asked them their citizenship, she replied that they were Blackfoot. The guards however, could not accept that and wouldn’t let them pass. They were stuck between borders in the parking lot of a duty free shop for a couple of days until the media started to show up. Eventually, they were able to get through and reached Salt lake city. The woman showed her Indian pride and never backed down. Even though she could have just said that she was Canadian and gone through she wanted to be identified as a Blackfoot and the nation to recognized as independent. In the story, I never detected any sense of negativity even from the guards. Even the Canadian border guard said that she understood that they were Blackfoot but needed to put American/Canadian on paper. It was really the system, which didn’t recognize Indian nations, that was at fault. This story also shows the influence the media has. They were able to help the duo get past the border.

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Coming back from Spring Break

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

It was the end of a relatively relaxing spring break. I was on my back to Illinois from Cincinnati on a Greyhound bus. On the bus, I met this cool guy, named John, who was sitting right next to me. I told him about the AIS class I was taking and he told me that he was part Native American – actually 3/8ths Native American. His dad was half Indian and his mom was 3/4ths Indian. It’s kind of confusing how the lineage stuff works. Anyways, he told me he belonged to the Micmac tribe located mostly in the New England area. I learnt a lot of stuff about Indians from him. For example, the highest earning casino in the United States is in Maryland. You would think it would be somewhere in Las Vegas. That is because the casino in Maryland is owned by Indians and is not taxed. Taxes absorb a large percentage of casino revenue. There has been controversy over Native American casinos being so successful and earning a lot of money. But from my chat I learnt that only a few Native American owned casinos are established and that the income from these casinos is distributed among every member of the tribe. Apparently, this was part of an Indian law. So people who didn’t contribute to the business were getting money for free. I thought that was unfair but then again I am not in a position to question the customs.

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Native American Food

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 by bansal6

After looking at the dances, I had to pick another aspect of American Indian culture. What better topic to pick than FOOD. Before looking this up, I never knew that traditional foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry or mush were integrated into the American cuisine from Native Americans. With so much of Native American culture in danger, I believe that food will always be present and will be an important part of their culture. Many of these rich traditional foods are used in Native American social gatherings. The Native Americans are also known for using indigenous food ingredients from the wild which give the food a characteristic flavor. These included ramps, wild ginger, juniper etc. Many of these foods were indigenous to independent tribes in different regions of America. For example, tiswin was a term for beverages like the fruit beer of the Apache and the saguaro sap beer of the Tohono O’odham. Jerk was a style of cooking that originated with the Taino in Jamaica. Present day Mexican dishes like Guacamole, Salsa and Tacos originated from the Native Americans living in the Mesoamerican region. This further proves the point I made in my previous post – the current American culture is greatly affected by American Indian culture, especially in terms of food. Several dishes we eat today are mostly adaptations from previous indigenous dishes.




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The Navajo Hoop Dance

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 by bansal6

The American Indians have deep cultural traditions. I wanted to explore some of the aspects of their traditions. I had learned that dancing was an important tradition and ritual in the American Indian community and decided to “Youtube” it. Nothing special really came up and I was confused. Then I realized that these dances were specific to different Indian nations and tried a different strategy. The first interesting one I came across was the Navajo Hoop Dance.

WOW! I thought that was really impressive. The dancers showed great skill with the hoops and entertained the audience. I especially like their footwork. These dances were embedded deep inside their cultural tradition and are an excellent way to exhibit that tradition to outsiders who would like to learn more. Through such dances, the Indians interact with the natural surroundings around them. It is a part of their spirituality. The fact that the dancers were so skilled meant that they had to practice a lot which shows how important of an aspect it is to their culture. I watched a few more dances from different tribes which I thought were pretty impressive. I believe that some of these dances definitely affected the Western style of dancing. Maybe its possible that some Western moves might have been incorporated into the Hoop dance. After all, when 2 cultures exist so close to each other, they start rubbing off on each other. Also, the audience appreciated the dance and had a lot of fun.