Mar 262011
 

Recently, as I watched one of Hollywood’s latest sci-fi movies, Battle: L.A., I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between the imperialist nature of the aliens in the film and the imperialist nature of early American settlers.

The movie takes place in the near future and centers on the mission of Michael Nantz, a U.S. Marine who has been tasked with rescuing civilians stranded behind enemy lines. The enemy of the U.S. is not from this world; they are extraterrestrial beings sent to Earth to steal our water and natural resources. Sergeant Nantz rescues the civilians and takes his mission to a new level by attempting to destroy the alien’s central command center. Nantz and his team of soldiers take down the central command center and turn the tide of the war in the favor of the humans. The movie ends on a positive note, with armies around the world destroying numerous alien command centers.

I immediately thought about the comparison between early American settlers and the aliens upon viewing the movie. The aliens have highly advanced technology and invade the habitat of a foreign society (Earth) with the intent of stealing its resources for their own use. Similarly, 17th Century American settlers invaded the habitat of Native Americans with the intent of stealing their land. The settlers had guns and armor that were highly advanced for their time. Unfortunately, the Native Americans were not able to repel their enemies as well as the humans did in the movie. The settlers cruelly relocated Native Americans to reservations far from their homes. The Trail of Tears was one such example of a Native American relocation that occurred right here in Georgia.

Americans have held a strong sense of imperialism since the time of the early colonists. Since then, American territory has expanded westward to cover the entire continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. America has also had territories such as the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Americans have claimed these lands as territories in order to reap the benefits of their natural resources. The American imperialist attitude will only continue to flourish and the U.S. will only continue to “acquire” foreign lands as their own territories.

Hollywood has attempted to portray this greedy American imperialist attitude in other films from The Last Samurai (2003) to Avatar (2009). What do you guys think? Is Battle: L.A. another one of Hollywood’s anti-imperialist films, or is there no connection?

Dear John Wayne

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Mar 022010
 

"That'll be the day!"

“Dear John Wayne”

August and the drive-in picture is packed.

We lounge on the hood of the Pontiac

surrounded by the slow-burning spirals they sell

at the window, to vanquish the hordes of mosquitoes.

Nothing works. They break through the smoke screen for blood.

Always the lookout spots the Indian first,

spread north to south, barring progress.

The Sioux or some other Plains bunch

in spectacular columns, ICBM missiles,

feathers bristling in the meaningful sunset.

The drum breaks. There will be no parlance.

Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves

swarming down on the settlers

who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds

into the history that brought us all here

together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.

The sky fills, acres of blue squint and eye

that the crowd cheers. His face moves over us,

a thick cloud of vengeance, pitted

like the land that was once flesh. Each rut,

each scar makes a promise: It is

not over, this fight, not as long as you resist.

Everything we see belongs to us.

A few laughing Indians fall over the hood

slipping in the hot spilled butter.

The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind.

Death makes us owners of nothing.

He smiles, a horizon of teeth

the credits reel over, and then the white fields

again blowing in the true-to-life dark.

The dark films over everything.

We get into the car

scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small

as people are when the movie is done.

We are back in our skins.

How can we help but keep hearing his voice,

the flip side of the sound track, still playing:

Come on, boys, we got them

where we want them, drunk, running.

They’ll give us what we want, what we need.

Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.

Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.

This is an amazing poem by Native American author Louise Erdrich. After watching The Searchers (my first western) I was instantly reminded of it. The poem is from the perspective of modern day Native Americans watching a John Wayne film at a drive-in theater. It deals with both the stereotypes of Native Americans found in westerns and the idea of the frontier and westward expansion. The poem goes back and forth between modern Native Americans and those found in the movie, juxtaposing the Hollywood caricature with reality. It shows how these caricatures can affect people’s perception as the narrator is still haunted by John Wayne’s words. It also mentions the main idea of westward expansion, “Everything we see belongs to us“. The poem emphasizes how settlers destroyed and conquered for their own benefit, comparing them to the mosquitoes at the drive-in, hungry for blood. It shows how the image of the expanding frontier was rooted in destructive expansion and mentions that John Wayne himself was overcome by a sort of destructive expansion. He died of cancer, a disease that destroys healthy cells and uses them create more cancer cells. This cancer, Erdrich claims, is analogous to the what the settlers and John Wayne’s characters did to the Natives.

An “American” Sport

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Feb 182010
 

A mix between basketball, hockey and soccer makes a very unique and fast paced sport called lacrosse. Just like America lacrosse is a melting pot of many sports. Anyone can play lacrosse big or small providing an equal opportunity, which is one of America’s core values. It is considered to be North America’s first sport, created by the Indians and later adapted by the Canadians. Today, similar to America lacrosse has come a long way since its origins with the Native Americans. Not the most popular sport, but it is the fastest growing sport in America in the youth, high school, and collegiate level. With the fast growth and similar values of America I wonder what the future will hold for the sport of lacrosse?

Feb 142010
 

Protesters at the 2010 Olympic Games

There was something in the news today which would seem to suggest the relationship between natives and settlers is still evolving. Starting simultaneously with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, thousands of protestors took to the streets to protest the holding of the Olympics on “stolen land.”

This all just seems so wrong to me. Maybe it is because of my personal bias in that I believe the Olympics are a symbol. To me, the games represent something truly transcendent of global politics. They are a time for all the world to come together, peacefully, to celebrate grace, courage, and athleticism in semi-friendly competition. Therefore, when I see people protesting the games, no matter what the issue; it strikes me as a disrespect not to the host nation, but to all the nations of the world who have sent athletes to participate in the games.

I am sure the protestors feel very strongly about what they represent, but I simply feel they are going about their business in a very wrong way.

Jan 232010
 

“The Searchers” is another captive narrative but from a different point of view. The captive narratives we’ve read so far have been from the point of view of the captured person but in “The Searchers” it is from the point of view of the rescuers instead. Even though the story is not told from the captive, “The Searchers” was still very suspenseful and entertaining. Because it is not from the point of view of the captive we do not automatically know whether or not the captive survives or not.

American icon John Wayne portrays the western cowboy who rides by his own rules and is a tough guy who does not listen to anyone. Wayne symbolizes American values that portray the American cowboy folk tale hero and once again, the Native Americans are shown are heartless and ruthless people killing the typical good, hard working, innocent Americans. John Wayne’s character is so anti-Native America that even though his own niece has been adopted by the Native Americans, he refuses to continue considering her as part of his family because she is now part of the enemy.

King Philip’s War

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Jan 232010
 

Mary Rowlandson, a colonial settler living near Plymouth in the late 1600′s, wrote the very popular narrative The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson to chronicle her captivity at the hands of the Indians. From this information, though, arises a question: why did the Indians take Mrs. Rowlandson in the first place? Well, she was taken captive amidst one of the worst wars between the colonists and Indians – King Philip’s War.

King Philip’s War was initiated by none other than King Philip. Now, Philip really was Metacomet (or Metacom), the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. No likeness of him remains, but we can assume he looked like a typical Indian. Essentially, he had become fed up with the colonists for a variety of reasons, ranging from the colonist’s continual takeover of Indian land to the suspicious death of Metacomet’s brother, a former chief of the Wampanoag.

In response to these grievances, Philip first tried some diplomacy, but it did not work as he would have liked. As a result, he and his Indian allies declared war on the colonists June 24, 1675. The war lasted about a year. Both sides never really met head to head on the field of battle (the Indians would probably have been wiped out), so they resorted to surprise attacks on each other’s dwellings. Colonists massacred and burned Indian villages, while the Indians attacked and raided colonial settlements. It was during one of these Indian raids that Mrs. Rowlandson was taken captive.

Eventually, though, the colonists won the upper hand. Less than a year later in 1676, King Philip was ambushed and shot by one of his own tribe (serving the English). After his death he lost his head to a pole, which stood on display in Plymouth for 25 years. His wife and daughter, along with the rest of his Indian allies, were sold into slavery. Thus marked an end to a major battle between the colonists and Indians. Half of the Puritan settlements had been attacked, and estimates suggest that 600 colonial men and 2000 colonial women and children perished (along with countless Indians). Clearly, King Philip’s war marks one of the bitterest contests in the age of colonial expansion.

Jan 222010
 

When I was reading last week’s materials, the scenes of two movies, Dances with Wolves and Avatar, kept rushing into my mind. Dances with Wolves tells the story of the past, and Avatar casts the future.

Dances with Wolves

The story took place in the beginning of Gilded Age, a time when President Andrew Jackson had signed the Indian Removal Act and begun the Trail of Tears, a time when the Second Industrial Revolution was at its dawn, a time when the first transcontinental railroad was being built and when the bellow of the buffalos was being replaced by the roaring of the noisy steam machines. Under such a social background, the white people’s desire for land and the Indian people’s unwilling to move became incompatible, and so war was unavoidable. However, among the Indians who fought against the white army there was a white man John J. Dunbar. Actually John J. Dunbar was a First Lieutenant of US Army. When he arrived at the Fort Sedgwick, he found it was deserted. But he decided to stay and began to live by himself. He had no friend there but a wolf, whose name is “Two Socks” because the leather around its angles were white. This fort was near the Sioux tribe. Dunbar gradually became familiar with the people in the tribe, and ran into Stands With A Fist, who was a white girl but adopted by the tribe leader. And as every movie would go on, Dunbar fell in love with her, fell in love with the lifestyle of the Sioux people. He crossed the language barrier and even hunted a baffalo just like an Indian. Dunbar also gained an Indian name, which means “dances with wolves”. Finally, he stayed with the Sioux and fought against the army which he used to serve for. They won the fight, but they were doomed to lose the war.

It is one of the best films that I have ever seen, nice plot, warm music, beautiful scenary. Everyone who see this movie would be moved. Interestingly, I first watched the film in a native American family when I was in Okalohma, where most Native Americans was relocated.

Avatar

In programming terms, Avatar uses the same algorithm as Dances with Wolves, just changes the variable names. Jake Sully and John Dunbar, both served for the army, both fell in love with the opposite leader’s daughter, both became part of the native people and both fought against what they had served for. The only difference is that Jake finally stayed but Dunbar left, which is minor, just as it doesn’t make big difference if your c main function returns 0 or 1. And in Chemistry terms, these two movies have the same kinds of elements. No matter what critiques this movie receives, I believe everyone is heart-broken when the giant Home tree falls down in fire.

Back to Reality

Dances with Wolves tells a piece of history, while Avatar might tell the future., so what about the present? If we look around the world, we could find similar plots happening in the country of China, in the jungle of Amazon and on the prairie of Kenya. So less we could do to stop the wheel of the so-called “civilization”. These films teach people that they could fight. Unfortunetly, fight is not the final key to the problem——it could only slow down the progress. Then where does the key lie in?

Docile Nativity

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Jan 182010
 

After reading through Bartolome de las Casas’ “Devastation” I seem to have a realization for many things in my own life that I never could really find any rhyme or reason for. Bartolome gives probably the most realistic account of what actually happened to the Native Americans during the initial Spanish conquest of the Americas. This strikes home for me because a lot of American history or even history from other countries seem to soften the atrocities suffered by the natives by the newly arrived Europeans. Although I have a fairly diverse bloodline, I am proud of my (even if small) Native heritage. I appreciate the realism that Bartolome writes with even though the stories are gruesome. One detail in particular sticks out to me. “They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. ” Now while I am clearly not all of those things, I have never been a very excitable person. I never understood why I was this way but this writing made me wonder if maybe it was from my native blood. Just food for thought. A peaceful Native chillin with his flute