The Natives are on TV

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

In honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, Opéra National de Bordeaux is putting on Rameau‘s 1735 opera Les Indes Galantes (which I’ve discussed before), and Medici TV has your front row, live streaming ticket today!

The opera is structured as four love stories in four “exotic” settings; last time I shared excerpts from the North American and Persian settings, so here’s one from the Peruvian story in a different production by Les Arts Florissants at the Paris Opera:

For a more modern, but still Bizarro Twins appropriate, depiction of Native Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York is offering daily screenings of installments of the Stories from the Seventh Fire, a series of cartoons inspired by Anishinaabe folklore through Sunday.

The series by Canadian director Gregory Coyes can be purchased through Green Planet Films.

The animation is in parts inspired by the art of pioneering Anishinaabe Canadian artist Norval Morriseau, which is also on view at the NMAI.  Here’s an appraisal of some lovely Morriseau pieces on Antiques Roadshow, if that floats your boat like it does mine.

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

Columbus Re-Evaluation Day


In 1992, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned The Voyage by Philip Glass to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Columbus‘ rediscovery of the Americas.  The opera more broadly examined exploration and culture clash, which seems like a good way to handle a historic landmark which has since become so controversial…  

The Oatmeal - Columbus day

Copyright Matthew Inman (click for full comic)

I mostly think about Columbus as someone who just happened to have landed on an earth-changing discovery by a nice confluence of circumstances, but Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal makes a case for Columbus as not just some hapless explorer but as a serious, serial abuser of native peoples, namely the Lucayans of today’s Bahamas, the first native Americans encountered by Columbus and his crew.  

The single most potent distillation of arguments against Columbus Day as a federal holiday as I’ve heard…  And to top it all off, Inman does propose a more holiday-worthy alternative to Columbus: Bartolome de las Casas, who started off, like most Europeans, as a destructive force to the Indians and wound up their greatest champion and a seminal human rights advocate.  Much more palatable…

Bartolomé de las Casas, unknown artist.

Bartolomé de las Casas, unknown artist.


Happy Mother’s Day!  From proto-moms to old pro’s, celebrate the mothers & mothers-to-be in your life today (but only today; anything else would be overkill).

First off, French-Canadian cartoonist Boum, who I’ve featured before, finally gave birth to her baby!  So congrats to that new mother…

Boum pregnancy comic

Copyright Boum

Pregnancy, such a wondrous experience…

Also, Emi Lenox of EmiTown just visited her grandmother in her autobio comic catch-up; this actually happened back in April, 2011…

Emi Lenox Emitown comic

Copyright Emi Lenox

An interesting aspect of this trip, besides the often strange roadside attractions on any good road trip, is the revelation that Emi is apparently half-Native American?  I believe from past comics that her mother is of Japanese ancestry, but it looks like her father (and the aforementioned grandmother) may be native.  Just an interesting side note that gets a few nods on this trip back home…

PS, I just finished classes last week (1 year down!), but I’ll be taking summer classes starting tomorrow, so bear with me if my post frequency takes a hit…

Cherokee Valkyrie

Wrapping up National Native American Heritage Month by finally including a Comics post on the theme!

I’ve been thinking that Native Americans are probably the most over-represented ethnic minority in mainstream American superhero comics.  I guess the associations people have with American Indians and different kinds of mysticism and magic make them an attractive source of inspiration for fantasy worlds…

(at left: Danielle Moonstar, Cherokee member of the New Mutants.  Image by Bob McCleod, Copyright Marvel Comics.)

On the one hand, maybe these characters were sort of exoticizing, but on the other, there’s now a well-rounded, diverse range of native characters for creators to work with, certainly more so than for other minority groups…

Danielle Moonstar‘s probably one of my favorite of these characters, leaning as I do towards the X-Men side of things.  Sure, she uses a bow and arrow, is shown as hot-tempered, maybe sorta stereotypical attributes, but she also became an honest-to-gosh Valkyrie, so I think it evens out.

Moonstar was a founding member of the New Mutants, a high-profile Marvel character since the early ’80s, and most recently the leader of the newest New Mutants, despite losing her own powers.  Just an all-around BAMF.  Look out for her in Marvel’s forthcoming Fearless Defenders.

BTW, the Moonstar links go to a character biography on, an exhaustive fansite for all your Marvel Mutant needs.

Thanksgiving in Minnesota

Classics Illustrated Song of Hiawatha

Marking Thanksgiving, inspired by harvest celebrations between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in New England, with an opera drawn from an epic poem inspired by Ojibwe legends from Minnesota might seem strange, but  Thanksgiving seems to be sort of a hodge-podge anyway, so whatever!

Wrapping up National Native American Heritage Month with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s 1898 cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first in a trilogy of cantatas based on Longfellow‘s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.

Coleridge-Taylor was born to an English mother and an absent Sierra Leonean father (echoes of Obama) in 1875.  He was active in the 1890s and became known as “The African Mahler”.  The wildly successful Hiawatha Trilogy made his name, but he died at just 37 years old.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Another interesting link between Hiawatha and Thanksgiving is Longfellow himself.  He also wrote The Courtship of Miles Standish which helped reinvigorate American interest in the Pilgrims just as Thanksgiving was beginning to take hold as a nation-wide holiday.

ANYWAY…  Happy Thanksgiving Americans!

Blackfoot Comics

Yesterday I briefly discussed the controversy around telling Native stories, but today a version of that I think everyone can agree on, as reported in the Calgary Herald.

Ak Skim Aan USAY comicCopyright Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth

Calgary-based Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth seek to empower native youth through activism, advocacy, education and (most interestingly to me as a former Linguistics major) classes in the local native language, Blackfoot.

Like many indigenous languages the world over, Blackfoot has lost speakers through combinations of loss of prestige, cultural genocide, majority language take-over, institutionalized punishment of native languages, etc.  Once your only native speakers are elders, as with Blackfoot, your language’s outlook is not looking so good.

So in addition to language classes, USAY also has native cartoonists work with kids to create bilingual comics like the one above, Ak Skim Aan, aka Hunter.  Sort of tacky-looking, sure, but it was made by a committee of teens, so cut ’em some slack.  The comic was made freely available in Calgary and it’s up in full online too, as is USAY‘s monthly New Tribe Magazine (I have my eye on that walnut pumpkin pie recipe…).

If you’re liking the sound of what USAY is doing, consider donating to their cause. Continue reading

Woman of two Worlds

Continuing the National Native American Heritage Month theme but skipping ahead about 300 years since last time, today we have the 2007 one-act chamber opera Pocahontas, by Linda Tutas Haugen.

Pocahontas was commissioned by the Virginia Opera and Virginia Arts Festival to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.  Opera Today has a nice review of the premiere performance.

Some thoughts about the controversy surrounding the opera after the cut. Continue reading