Ya?’a?t’e?e?h structures and functions of Native governments

Ya?’a?t’e?e?h shi Dine?, shi’ke?h, do?o?
ta?hano?tso. Shí’eí Alzado Jones
yinishye?. Kin?ichi?i’nii  do?onee?’ nish?i??,
do?o? Ta’neeszahnii
ba?shi?shchiin. Ta?chii’nii  dashi?chei
do?o? Bit’ahnii dashi?na??i?. Ákót’éego diné nish???. Hello my relatives and friends. My name
is Alzado Alexander Jones. I am of the Redhouse people clan, born for the
Tangle people clan. The Red-Running-Into-Water Clan is my maternal
grandfather’s clan and the Folded Arm people are my paternal grandfather’s clan
(Jones, 2017). I am the son of Cornelia and Alex Jones. I’m from Oaksprings,
Arizona on Dine?tah, homelands of the Navajo people.

Beginning of the course in the class
syllabus, on the course description” examines the unique structures and functions of
Native governments from pre-contact times to the present day.  Tribal governments are the original and most
senior sovereigns.  They serve as
political entities, business entities, and cultural entities as well.  This course focuses on how Native peoples
manage their lands, resources, judicial systems, and educational systems” and
the outcomes were knowing the acquired rights through the studying of treaties
and how tribal governments work. Knowing the characteristics of colonialism and
dependency, it also mentioned the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and how it
impacted tribal governments. There were some uninteresting chapters at times,
but I feel there is one chapter in particular we didn’t have a chance
discussion or responding to- chapter nine. Chapter nine talks about Native
Americans portrayed in media.

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“The National Collegiate Athletic
Association objects to institutions using racial, ethical, and national origin
references in their intercollegiate athletic programs…several institutions have
made changes that adhere to the core values of the NCAA Constitution pertaining
to cultural diversity, ethical sportsmanship and nondiscrimination. We applaud
that, and we will continue to monitor these institutions and others. All institutions
are encouraged to promote these core values and take proactive steps at every
NCAA event through institutional management to enhance the integrity of
intercollegiate athletics related to these issues.”- NCAA Executive Committee,
2005 (Wilkins and Stark, 2018)

Throughout history, American
Indians have remained one of America’s most insignificant minorities. With the
minority population, American Indian population’s challenged the struggles and
progressive strides are reflected in popular culture. Hollywood and the
American film industry have long represented Indians in a negative perspective.
In much the same manner that American colonists forced Indians off their native
land, filmmakers have often relegated Native American characters to roles
wherein they have been typecast as minor characters displaying stereotypical,
historically inaccurate behavior. That is not to say that American Indians have
not been present in film.

Native Americans have
existed as staple characters for a large portion of the twentieth century,
especially in the popular Western genre. Native American characters in
twentieth century films have ranged from stereotypes including the
bloodthirsty, raging beast to the noble savage. Still other Indian characters,
be they heroines, villains, or neutral, were flat characters with little to no
character development or dynamic range in their personalities. In these
stories, the Native American population was seen as bad, though individual
members could be represented as good. These stereotypes continued for years.
This marginalizing of the population has been manifested in the creation of
harmful and one-dimensional stereotypes. American Indian filmmakers have had to
fight to create an artistic voice for themselves and carve a space for
expression through film.

The American government
recognizes 562 Indian tribes, and while 229 of them are based in Alaska, the
rest are located in 33 other states (NCAI 2). With each of these tribes come
distinctly different traditions and histories that cannot be generalized, but
are repeatedly compressed to one ambiguous culture for the purposes of film.
Additionally, realistic and whole images of Indians and their stories are
drastically underrepresented in films throughout history and in present day.

Modern Indian filmmakers
have made positive progress with representation of native peoples since the
days of popular Western films featuring cowboys pitted against or aided by
one-dimensional Indian characters. Unthinking Eurocentrism, discusses the noble
savage convention and elaborates on the habitually harmful practices of casting
and portraying Native American characters. Though it may be simple to argue
that the stereotypes of noble savage and bloodthirsty savage are a relic of the
distant past and now widely seen as outdated, it remains important to recognize
that the author of Last of the Mohicans was not entirely truthful but is a
critically acclaimed film.

A
major reason why these indigenous voices are sparse in film is because Native
filmmakers have traditionally been few and far between. White males have long
dominated the film industry, and since they are at the creative helm, they have
served their own interests, told their own stories, and been bound to popular
commercial demands. Yet, Indian filmmakers have been on the rise in recent
decades. These storytellers have headed up successful documentaries with
accurate facts and integrity in artistic voice, and have moved into more
narrative storytelling as they have gained traction, as exhibited by successful
films such as Smoke Signals (1998) and Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013). These
creators will strive to tell truthful and multifaceted stories that allow
Native Americans in film to not be defined solely by a stereotype or their
racial identity, but rather to represent a complete experience of a human being
who has lived within that culture.

The same statement applies to
Indians taking agency over their own cinema. Agency is one of the most
important facets of social change. An individual must first feel that they have
the capacity and power to effect change in a larger context in order to produce
social progress. This idea certainly holds true in the context of social
movements, and it is important to view film and imagery in popular culture as a
tool to effect social change. As a mirror for society, popular culture is also
subject to social change. Creating a political and social dialogue about
American Indians goes hand-in-hand with achieving greater representation.

Native peoples have worked hard in
the past decades to create narrative stories in the context of their culture.
The digital age has created many new opportunities for filmmaking in general,
all of which American Indian directors and storytellers can take, and have
taken, advantage. Today, an individual can buy a relatively low-priced digital
single-lens reflex camera to shoot footage, use professional editing software
on a personal computer, and choose from one of many sharing platforms such as
YouTube and Vimeo to share a product with the world. Because the means of film
production and distribution are more accessible, a greater number of Native
filmmakers are able to tell their stories using film as the medium.

The mass media occupies a harsh role
in any democracy that includes tribal democracies and have important effects on
a publics opinion. The media views with deep suspicion because of both our past
and present role that perpetuated native stereotypes.  

Images
of Native Americans in film throughout American history have told a great deal
about the social position of the population. Ugly stereotypes persisted for
years, yet waves of activism and a newfound sense of agency allowed Native
filmmakers to take control of telling their own stories. The Native film world
has flourished in recent years, and trends indicate an encouraging incline in
Indian film production. Society must support Native people as they push for
more true and accurate representation and foster a climate in our nation where
popular culture represents the interests, cultures and lives of every member of
its population.

Practically
coming to Northwest Indian College has been a journey. Upon my arrival my
expectations of campus were shot down, it was completely different.
Transferring from a university to a college- that meant my social interactions
were going to be different, courses will revolve around cultural knowledge, my
view of myself were going to be challenged. I had to remind myself of the
purpose I came here and that was to find cultural identity. Searching to
belong, belong and feel connected to my tribal community; restore that lost
knowledge of our people, and most challenging of all- who I am.

As
for knowing who I am culturally and traditionally, I’m still on that path.
Coming here is a step to indulge into my cultural heritage. Before I didn’t
know my origin story of my tribe, but now I take into consideration that this
was attracted into my life as a huge learning lesson for me, to grow and expand
as a strong resilient indigenous individual.