Famed author JK Rowling has been in the news of late. Her recently released History of Magic in North America stumbles over a number of insensitive cultural hot points, not least of which is her characterization of Native Americans.
Simon Moya-Smith, culture editor at Indian Country Today, explains why the conversation is important, but he couldn't care less about JK Rowling's fiction, because it is fiction. Moya-Smith reminds us that our public school textbooks spread deeper lies.
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What matters here, folks, in this debate over J.K. Rowling’s latest work is the language society uses – the language that is still taught to kids in schools today about Native Americans and our spiritualities.
Think about it: How in the living hell can a child differentiate alleged fact from fiction if schools continue to teach students that Native Americans practiced magic? Note I used the past tense of ‘practice.’ There are very few lessons in grade schools that provide any information on contemporary Native American societies. Super sad, but super true.
And let me leave you with this, home skillet:
Twitter turns 10-years-old this month. Facebook is 12-years-old. Social media, then, is prepubescent. It’s still trying to figure out why the hell hair is growing down there. But it’s through this peach-fuzzy platform that people are only now learning that Native Americans ARE STILL ALIVE. Seriously. Previous to the ubiquity of social media, propelled by the proliferation of the Web, people thought Indians were either dead or living in teepees.
Photo: NISGUA. A witness testifies in the trial of Rios Montt, with aid of court-appointed Nebaj Ixil interpreter.
As Emi McLean writes on the Open Society Justice Initiative's blog about the genocide trial in Guatemala, "Semana Santa (or Holy Week) seemed to slow down Guatemala City everywhere but in Judge Jazmin Barrios’s courtroom on Monday."
And the trial continues at breakneck speed. The prosecution of Jose Efraín Rios Montt, the Army general who ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983, and his then-chief of military intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, re-opens for the 6th day today in Guatemala City. The charges of genocide and crimes against humanity they face are based on evidence of systematic massacres of Mayan citizens by Guatemalan troops and paramilitary forces during a most bloody phase of the country's 36-year civil war. The US government provided assistance to Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan military dictators that followed in that era, in the form of funding, training, military and CIA personnel, and weapons that were used against the indigenous population.
Watch live video from the courtroom here; listen to audio here. A Twitter list with accounts who are live-tweeting the trial is here.
On Monday, March 25, the court heard 13 witnesses for the prosecution recount horrifying accounts of atrocities they witnessed and survived, committed by soldiers under Ríos Montt's command.
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In the language of the Diné (what the Navajo call themselves), the word for "star" is "sitsoi yoo." But that word means more than just "star." According to Nancy Maryboy of the Indigenous Education Institute, sitsoi yoo means something closer to "my ancient relation from which I came," a reference to a traditional Diné belief that humans were born from stars. Remind you of anything?
I'm currently attending the 6th Science Center World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Tomorrow, I'll be talking about how science museums are failing adult visitors, but I've also gotten the chance to sit in on several really interesting panels. The anecdote above comes from a panel on Indigenous Astronomy, which I hope to write some more about in the future.
Image: Sergio Eguivar — Buenos Aires Skies, via Astronomy Picture of the Day Read the rest