Jacqueline Keeler and the 1491s

Jacqueline Keeler and the 1491s

Radical Move by HuffPo and Al Jazeera: Talk to Natives About Natives

Mark it down: March 21, 2014, was a day that not one, but two news media outlets included American Indians in discussions of issues of representation — and misrepresentation — of Native people.

That doesn't sound like much, and in fact it isn't much — but the bar is low. We're searching our memories of other recent episodes — the Johnny Depp/Tonto story, the Paul Frank/Dreamcatchin' story, the No Doubt story, the Hopi Katsinam auction story — for a similar moment of engagement, and coming up empty.

The optimistic view is that today's discussions point to better dialogue going forward, in which reporters and producers solicit Native voices on topics relating to American Indians. The pessimistic view is that if this is a what passes for a Hallelujah moment, there is a very, very long way to go.

I. A Last-Minute Inclusion

Ever since the news broke, last week, that Rooney Mara has been cast to play Tiger Lily in the live-action prequel to Peter Pan, there have been two levels of coverage of the story. What might be called the above-ground coverage has consisted of generally-similar articles, all citing the production company's statements about the reimagined, multi-racial Tiger Lily, some basic Twitter backlash, and for context some mention of Johnny Depp and the racist depiction of Indians in the 1953 Disney animated film.

Tiger Lily as depicted in the 1953 animated Disney feature. Image copyright Walt Disney Pictures.

Tiger Lily as depicted in the 1953 animated Disney feature. Image copyright Walt Disney Pictures.

That's the story that ran, more or less, in every newspaper, on every news site, and on every blog. But the underground story, more like a running conversation, has developed on Twitter, with a group of concerned Natives using the #NotYourTigerlily hashtag and delving deeper into the issue.

Today, Huffington Post Live appeared willing to bring the underground story into the light, advertising a panel discussion that would look at the #NotYourTigerlily movement. There was a problem, though — the guests selected were not #NotYourTigerlily organizers, despite some billing as such. A number of prolific #NotYourTigerlily tweeters, including (but not limited to) Jacqueline Keeler (@jfkeeler), Johnnie Jae (@johnniejae) and Debbie Reese (@debreese), registered their displeasure on Twitter and the Huffington Post Live comment board. Moments before the segment was to air, Keeler (an ICTMN contributor and member of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry) was patched in, audio-only.

LINK: Why Rooney Mara's Casting Matters on HuffPo Live.

II. Leave it to Al Jazeera

The 1491s

The 1491s

Tonight, Ryan Red Corn, Bobby Wilson and Migizi Pensoneau of Native comedy (and other-stuff) group The 1491s will appear on Al Jazeera America's program The Stream, to discuss issues of Native identity. This isn't the first time The Stream has done the right thing by soliciting Native opinions on Native issues — last summer, amid the Johnny Depp-Tonto controversy, the show called on actor Chaske Spencer, filmmaker Jason Asenap, university professor Theo Van Alst, and movie consultant William Voelker to hash it out. 

Tonight's show is at 7:30 PM Eastern. In typical 1491s fashion, the group's description of the upcoming broadcast is a little different from what's listed in your programming guide.

"Tonight at 7:30pmET on #AJAMStream We discuss our work, and our sexy sexy bodies," they tweeted from their @1491s Twitter feed.

LINK: The Stream on Al Jazeera America.

ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post… your move.

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