There were a number of articles that are of interest. A little something for everyone. Enjoy!
Prof. Lechusza Aquallo
Staff to Sport Mohawks if Library Reaches Checkout Goal
Would you ever sport a mohawk to support the organization you work for? Five San Diego County Library members are offering to do just that.
The men of the Vista Library staff are putting their hair on the line for the branch’s “Mohawks for a Million” campaign. The library is close to being the very first San Diego County Library branch to check out one million books, movies, and music CDs in one year.
“We were close to getting the million last year and close isn’t good enough for us,” said JP Baker, Teen Services Librarian.
If the community of Vista visits the library and checks out enough items to reach the one million mark before June 30 (the end of the fiscal year), five staff members will publicly shave their hair into mohawks at the library on Friday, July 11.
“We want our community to be well-informed and we hope this campaign will encourage people to read and bring attention to the great resources available through San Diego County Library,” said Adult Services Librarian Kris Jorgenson.
Visit the Vista Branch at 700 Eucalyptus Avenue to check out some great books, movies and music CDs. For more information, contact the library at (760) 643-5100.
Hipster Headdresses at Coachella: Yep, It Happened
We’re fully aware we risk over-covering the cultural-appropriation idiocy of Coachella, but a pair of ICTMN readers have sent us their snaps fresh from the 2014 festival, which is in its second and final weekend right now, and they’re share-worthy. The lingerie model in the massive headdress gearing up for the fest and the high-priced tipis-for-rent danced around the assumption that this phenomenon hasn’t gone away, but here’s the photographic proof.
Bad habits die hard. (Thanks for trying, Buzzfeed, it was a good effort.)
NFL Franchise Channels Puritan Colonists
The Washington Redskins new charity, “Original Americans Foundation” (OAF), tills ground tilled long ago by Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Team owner Dan Snyder, wittingly or not, is reinventing an old plow. He appointed (anointed?) a Cherokee sidekick, Gary Edwards, to help out as Chief Executive Officer.
I don’t know if OAF has an official seal, but they can just borrow from the 1629 Massachusetts Puritans, whose seal—by permission of King Charles I—was a cartoon. As described by the Massachusetts Secretary of State, the seal “featured an Indian holding an arrow pointed down in a gesture of peace, with the words ‘Come over and help us,’” in a text bubble coming out of his mouth.
Compare this cartoon seal with the way CEO Edwards explained his mission at OAF, as quoted by Jarrett Bell, in a column for USA Today: “I think we’re supposed to help people, like the Bible says. I feel like Jesus has a tool in me, and he can make it happen. I’m thankful for that opportunity, and I’m going to do my best to help as many people as I can.”
The “redskins” controversy thus reveals deep roots in the colonial invasion of the continent, and reaffirms the missionary commercial zeal that propelled that invasion.
The Massachusetts Secretary of State says the Puritan seal “emphasiz[ed] the missionary and commercial intentions of the original colonists.” This fits right in with OAF’s mission to provide cover for the National Football League (NFL) cash cow franchise that funds it. Snyder ranks right up there next to the Massachusetts Bay Company investors and their officials, like John Winthrop, author of the famous “City Upon a Hill” sermon.
We may yet be in for the spectacle of Snyder dressing up in Puritan costume and delivering Winthrop’s sermon. After all, politicians from John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan have found ways to cloak themselves in its missionary rhetoric. It shouldn’t be too hard for OAF to follow the practice.
As it turns out, the Puritan seal is available, with no copyright or permission fees—a real boon to OAF. The seal was used from 1629 to 1686, and again from 1689-1692, and has since been in disuse. There were three years when the Colony had legal problems with the English Crown, during which a different seal was used. It had two sides: one showing King James II with an Englishman and Indian kneeling in front of him, the other showing the lion and unicorn of the royal coat of arms.
Actually, if OAF wants to maximize its historical link to colonial ancestors, it can use both seals. In the second seal, Snyder could play the part of James II. A loyal NFL fan could play the Englishman. Edwards could take the part of the Indian. Imagine the possibilities for a whole new line of team memorabilia—sweatshirts, tee shirts, caps, the whole nine yards.
Snyder and his franchise are channeling the Puritans. A key element of the colonial mission process is absolute belief in one’s own rightness, supported by an absolute belief that one’s god is the only god, and that non-believers are on earth to be exploited and dominated. As the Bible says, “subdue [the earth]: and have dominion.”
Some may take offense at this. But, as Dr. Albert M. Wolters, emeritus professor of religion at Redeemer University College in Ontario, states: “Everything in [the] opening section of the Bible… converges to highlight the importance of that one fundamental command given to mankind: ‘Subdue the earth!’” He says, “The connection in the [Biblical] text between image and dominion is quite explicit….”
The Washington NFL franchise aims to subdue its critics and to have dominion over the cultural world. It aims to resist changes in that world, especially changes that reflect a different sensibility about people and names and discrimination. Snyder aims to be god-like (which is why he could so easily take the part played by King James II).
If we dig deeper into the role played by OAF CEO Edwards, the picture gets somewhat more unsettling, and yet also more revealing. Edwards is channeling the role of the converted Indian, the “heathen” who “sees the light.” Converted Indians were a key part of the colonial movement. They served as examples on one side and as assistants on the other. In the process, they sometimes gained a measure of protection from the worst aspects of colonial violence.
Like the Indians who acted as scouts for the U.S. Army, like the Jews who helped the Nazis manage occupied territories, the converted Indians also pose an enigma: how can it be that the dominated assist the domination?
One answer is offered by the very nature of living as a dominated person in an occupied territory. Peter Brooks explored this in a recent essay about “The Strange Case of Paul de Man,” a famous Yale professor of the humanities who was discovered to have cooperated with the Nazis in Belgium when he was a young man, writing articles for Nazi publications.
As Brooks puts it, de Man “made the grave mistake of looking to the German occupier as a force to revive the [Belgian] national spirit.” In the controversy following the discovery of de Man’s collaboration, his defenders resorted to explaining “the nuances of collaboration in the occupied country, the different degrees of complicity with an enemy.” These “nuances” provide a way to understand “life under occupation…and the daily compromises of survival.”
Brooks says the study of “the multiple faces of survival under…occupation” leads “not…to excuse, but rather to hold ourselves, as judges, to an ethical standard.”
So, as “judges” of OAF, we must distinguish between its founder, Snyder, and its CEO Edwards. Snyder’s stance is straightforward commercial gain. He owns a profitable business and wants to keep it that way. Only the threat of a loss of profit will deter him. Edwards’ stance is that of someone living under occupation.
The colonial record demonstrates that Indians didn’t become Christians in a vacuum. The personal beliefs of Indians under colonial occupation were affected, if not wholly determined, by the facts of that occupation. In the case of Massachusetts Bay Colony, the most infamous facts were the four-year-long Pequot War (1634-1638) and the three-year King Philip’s War (1675-1678), in which even the “Praying Indians” were not spared. One measure of colonial violence is that Indian allies of the colonial forces were so horrified by the mass burning of the Pequots that they fled.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, when large numbers of Indians are Christians, and when the doctrine of “Christian Discovery” is still the basis of U.S. property law. It becomes pretty clear that for an Indian like Edwards, the “lesson learned” is that collaboration is the best route to success, and to survival. Edwards knows how to work with the occupiers. He was deputy assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service, and headed a nonprofit public service organization that advocates for Native American law enforcement officials. The fact that his nonprofit was cited for wrongdoing in a BIA contract only adds to the picture of someone who knows his way around the system.
Perhaps an awareness of OAF as an NFL version of Christian colonialism will help us see how much more needs to be done before we reach a “post-colonial” world.
Peter d’Errico graduated from Yale Law School in 1968. He was Staff attorney in Dinebeiina Nahiilna Be Agaditahe Navajo Legal Services, 1968-1970, in Shiprock. He taught Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1970-2002. He is a consulting attorney on indigenous issues.
Snyder’s Redsk*ns Hush Money and KTNN’s Questionable Behavior
Sometimes you don’t realize the magnitude of an issue until it hits close to home. On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, I opened an email and to my disbelief I saw a flyer for the Washington Redsk*ns First Annual KTNN Celebrity Golf Tournament. The event was scheduled for April 12, 2014 at the Whirlwind Golf Club at the Wild Horse Pass Resort on the Gila River Indian Community. My hometown radio station’s fundraiser was being sponsored by Daniel Snyder’s Washington Redsk*ns Original Americans Foundation (OAF), an organization that believes it can meet the needs of Indian Country while mocking our identity and intelligence by using a racist team name to raise funds for our students.
Why would KTNN, “The Voice of the Navajo Nation,” accept a sponsorship from a controversial foundation whose name is a racial slur? Why is KTNN not following FCC broadcasting rules on the use of racial epithets? Why is the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President co-sponsoring an event with the Redsk*ns, even after legislation was introduced in the Navajo Nation Council opposing the NFL team’s moniker? How long has the sponsorship deal between KTNN, the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, and the Redskins been in place? How aware were other donors of the fundraiser’s affiliation with the Redsk*ns foundation?
Adding to my disbelief was seeing known anti-Redsk*ns organizations co-sponsoring the event. The Washington Redsk*ns golf tournament was a fundraiser to benefit Native American college scholarships and was co-sponsored by Navajo Engineering Construction Authority, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President, National Indian Gaming Association, and Dixon Golf. Many other organizations such as the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, Diamondbacks, Arizona State University, and the Notah Begay III Foundation also donated silent auction items. An even more surprising co-sponsor of the event was the Navajo Nation’s Office of the President and Vice President. Shocking because the Navajo Nation Council was considering legislation opposing the Redsk*ns name, this was introduced on March 14, 2014 by Council Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler.
From a quick Internet search, I learned that although KTNN created a Facebook event on March 13 and marketed the event on March 21, they failed to mention the event’s title sponsor. In fact, the only mention of the OAF was on the event webpage and the flyer. Curious as to how aware sponsors and donors (especially those organizations who are anti-Redsk*ns) were made of the OAF’s involvement, I began notifying organizations. By Friday April 11, two donors, the National Indian Gaming Association and the Notah Begay III Foundation, withdrew their sponsorship of the event because of ties to the Redsk*ns name. Both organizations said they were unaware of the Redsk*ns’ involvement and would never have donated had they known. Likewise, on Saturday, April 12, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise issued a statement indicating they would have declined sponsorship had they known of the Redsk*ns involvement, “We deeply regret not being told of the Washington Redsk*ns involvement in advance of today’s tournament.”
The actions of these three organizations could mean a few things: 1) The Washington Redsk*ns were a last-minute sponsor to strategically place themselves on the same event as Indian organizations who oppose the NFL team’s moniker, and/or 2) KTNN, aware of the Washington Redsk*ns sponsorship, lacked insight on the controversy and didn’t care to inform other donors. The event flyer I received was dated April 3, 2014 proving that, at minimum, KTNN had at least one week to notify other donors (this assumes the title sponsorship was accepted at a last moment which casts further unfavorable light on the Redskin’s attempt to purposefully taint the event). The actions and lack of action from KTNN’s leadership raises concern about the organization’s leadership, ability to recognize potential controversy, and their ability to actively communicate with their sponsors and, more importantly, with the public.
The happenings around the Redsk*ns KTNN event, addressed as the “#KTNNscandal” on social media, are further alarming because of KTNN’s misconduct in suppressing the voice of the Navajo people by deleting comments of opposition on their Facebook page. Why would they do this? The scandal began to pit people against each other with most supporting a protest and boycott of KTNN while others defended the cause of the event willfully unaware of the underlining issue. Surely, this was Daniel Snyder’s tactic; divide a community by turning themselves against each other.
Another tactic of Snyder’s is to launder hush money through the guise of student scholarships. Yes, Native students need funding to attend college but not at the expense of their dignity. KTNN only had to decline one sponsor, the Washington Redsk*ns OAF, rather than lose the support of two national Native organizations. What type of statement does this send to Native organizations? Is KTNN’s position that one non-Native organization is better than two or more Native organizations combined?
As more Natives are living off of Tribal lands we are faced with the realization that stereotypes about us exist. By not acknowledging that racial stereotypes HURT our youth, you are minimizing the struggles many face, often when they leave their tribal communities to obtain a higher education.
The Washington Redsk*ns have been in the news for their massive PR push to get buy-in from Indian Country for the use of their “Native” mascot. Most recently they “honored” the Navajo Code Talkers for their service during an NFL halftime show parading our heroes in Redsk*ns gear. Now their organization’s OAF is funding scholarships and making other small donations to suddenly support Native America because, you know, everyone needs a Redsk*ns jacket. The latest tactic of becoming lead sponsor for KTNN’s fundraiser shows Snyder is choosing very specific events hoping to divide Native Americans on the controversy. Who wants to oppose someone “honoring” our heroes… who wants to oppose someone providing scholarships for our youth… their PR machine is a very cunning and decisive beast in the battles it is choosing to support.
Or more specifically, Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL team, is cunning and decisive. Snyder has been quietly meeting with Indian leaders to find out what Indian Country’s most pressing needs are, allegedly including Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. However, no Indian leader has publicly come forward to discuss their meeting and what Snyder wants in exchange for his “charity.” Why are Snyder and Tribal leaders unwilling to share their discussions? Why are Tribal leaders placing government transparency on the backburner in exchange for a meeting with Snyder? Where is the transparency? Who do they represent?
“Unless you are trying to hide something, the press should be your ally.” — Jay E. Hakes, Director, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
Nicholet Deschine, Hunkpapa Sioux/Diné, holds a Master of Social Work and is currently studying public administration at Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs.
Archaeological Claims to Kumeyaay Ancestral Remains
On December 3, 2013, oral arguments took place in San Francisco as part of a lawsuit that had reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision in the case is expected any time now. The suit was initiated by three professors who have sued in an effort to prevent the University of California system from handing over to the Kumeyaay Nation ancestral remains dating back more than 9,000 years. The UC system had agreed to hand over the remains the Kumeyaay prior to the lawsuit.
The Kumeyaaay Cultural Repatriation Committee (KCRC) was formed by resolutions from the various Bands of the Kumeyaay Nation, and Steven Banegas (Barona) is the KCRC Spokesperson. The UC system has argued that the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee is indispensible to the case but cannot be compelled to join the case because of Indian nation sovereign immunity. The situation has the potential to form a Catch-22 for the professors.
Since the Bands of the Kumeyaay Nation have sovereign immunity, the argument is that the KCRC–as an arm of the Kumeyaay Nation Bands—is immune from such a lawsuit, and therefore cannot be compelled to be a party to the case. The UC system has argued that the case cannot proceed without KCRC. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the UC system’s argument, and the case is now being reviewed by a three judge panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The deadly historical context of this dispute over ancestral remains is well illustrated by a quote from Reverend J. L. Burhcard. The quote appeared in the San Francisco Call newspaper in January 1878: “Many people are inclined to put on a sentimental air and charge that the white man has been the cause of all this decimation among their [the Indians’] ranks. Such, however, does not appear to be the case. The truth is that they [the Indians] have served their purpose in the great economy of God, and the fullness of time for their [the Indians’] disappearance from the earth has come and they are going to go.” (People of the Valley: The Concow Maidu, Don M. Chase, 1973, p. 31). Additional evidence of this genocidal historical context is found in Brendan Lindsay’s Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873.
“Not much has changed in their way of thinking; it’s still, ‘their time has come and gone’,” says KCRC Spokesperson Banegas, referring to the attitudes of dominant society when it comes to the original nations of the Americas, and particularly when it comes to Kumeyaay ancestral human remains.
The Kumeyaay ancestral remains were unearthed some four decades ago in an area of the Kumeyaay territory now commonly called La Jolla, California. They were uncovered during excavations that were part of renovations to the Chancellor’s House at the University of California at San Diego (U.C.S.D.). Part of the backdrop for the professors’ lawsuit is an assumed right by the non-Kumeyaay society to take possession of Indian ancestral remains based on what, in 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court called “the right of discovery.”
This so-called “right of discovery” emerged during the 15th and later centuries. It emerged as a result of the Spanish crown, and other imperial monarchies of Christendom, claiming the right to take possession to any non-Christian lands they were able to locate. (See generally, Steven Newcomb, Pagans in the Promised Lands: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery, 2008).
Behind the lawsuit by the three professors is the assumption that the dominating society has, in the name of science, the right to take possession of unbaptized human remains of great antiquity, unearthed anywhere in the geographical area now commonly called ‘the United States.’ Additionally, there is a presumption, traced to the imperial-colonial mind-set of past centuries, that non-Indian archaeologists are best qualified to judge whether or not ancestral remains found in the territory of a particular Indian nation are “culturally affiliated” with that nation.
It makes sense to assess the professors’ lawsuit in the context of the origin of the field of archaeology, which has been called “a branch of anthropology” (Charles Winiick, Dictionary of Anthropology,1956, p. 35), or a “subdiscipline” of anthropology” (Fred W. Voget, A History of Ethnology, 1975, p. 389). The significance of the lawsuit over the Kumeyaay ancestral remains is accurately interpreted in the context of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ description of anthropology as part of the history of domination that grew out of the “Age of Discovery.” “Anthropology,” said Lévi-Strauss:
“…is the outcome of a historical process [of domination] which has made the larger part of mankind subservient to the other, and during which millions of innocent human beings have had their resources plundered and their institutions and beliefs destroyed, whilst they themselves were ruthlessly killed, thrown into bondage, and contaminated by diseases they were unable to resist. Anthropology is daughter to this era of violence…” (Cited in the article “The Use of Anthropology” by Dell Hymes, in Reinventing Anthropology, Ed., Dell Hymes, 1974, p. 61)
In the aftermath of this historical process of such domination and dehumanization, in 1990 the U.S. Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Pursuant to NAGPRA the University of California at San Diego in the last couple of years was preparing, after forty years of stonewalling, to hand over the 9,000 + yr. old ancestral remains to the Kumeyaay. That’s when the three professors filed suit in an effort to block the transfer. The Kumeyaay are now waiting to see what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008).
Music is vital to the history, traditions and storytelling of Native Americans and First Nations people, and plays an important role in many tribal ceremonies, pow wows, celebrations, courtships and healings.
While Indian Country is full of talented Native singers and musicians who have earned well-deserved recognition for their gifts, they couldn’t create their magic without musical instruments.
ICTMN spotlights five natives who have perfected the craft of making drums, flutes, rattles and even guitars. Some do it for a living, and for others, it’s far more than a hobby. As one music-maker said, “Native Americans don’t refer to making instruments as a hobby. It’s a cultural connection.”
Name: Will Moreau Goins, 52
Instrument he makes: Rattles
Tribal affiliation: Cherokee, Tuscarora and Cheraw
Home: Columbia, South Carolina
Will Moreau Goins has worn many hats in his 52 years. He’s an author, musician, educator, recording artist, activist, community leader, storyteller, beadwork artist, arts administrator—and the Southeastern Woodland native also finds time to make musical instruments, too.
“The first instrument I ever made was a spoon that I whittled out of wood at the age of nine,” said the versatile Goins, who grew up in a musical family and traveled with a bluegrass band for three years until he was 12, playing the recorder, spoons and washboard.
These days, Goins makes drums, flutes and rattles, but he said that rattles are his specialty. “The rattle is a significant instrument for Cherokee people more so than anything. It leads very ancient and important dances for us,” he explained.
To make his rattles, Goins uses gourds and turtle shells for heads, mainly—and recyclable tin cans when he goes into schools as an Artist in Residence. The “noisemakers” he uses inside are stones, seed beads, pebbles, shells and deer hooves. But what makes this artist’s rattles so distinctive are the handles.
“A traditional way to make a rattle is to use a small antler as a handle,” said Goins, who lives in South Carolina, a big hunting state that offers up a treasure trove of rattle-making materials. “Bucks shed their antlers over the winter and it’s not uncommon to find them as you hike around the hills.”
He also makes handles out of animal bones. “Hunters are rarely interested in keeping the legs on their deer and often toss them in the field.” He’ll either leave the hair on it or bleach the bone and sun-dry it.
No two rattles are alike, he said. “They are all very custom-made and handcrafted,” and he sells them anywhere from $25 to copy50.
Most important, Goins said, is to know where an instrument, like a rattle, comes from. When you hold it in your hand, you have to feel a connection to it. “As a traditional artist, I like to know what the material is, where it came from, what energy was put into it, when it was made. So I am ensuring this when I make a rattle … I know what energy I put into the making of it so that it can sing.”
Making Sure Mother Earth’s Beat Goes On
Name: Alex Maldonado, 54
Instrument he makes: Can make drums of all sizes
Tribal affiliation: Pascua Yaqui
Home: Mesa, Arizona
Alex Maldonado is an award-winning flute and drum maker, and a NAMA-nominated recording artist, who started making drums because his brother, the drum maker in the family, dared him to learn.
“I wanted to add drum music to my next flute recording, and asked my brother to make me a drum. He said, ‘No, I’ll teach you.’ I told him I didn’t want to learn,” the Pascua Yaqui native recalled. “But he finally wore me down and I said, ‘Fine, teach me.’”
Fast-forward 20 years and a few thousand drums later, and drum-making is now one of Maldonado’s specialties, a skill that he is passing on to his 27-year-old son, Nick. Together, they own Two Hawks Art Studio & Gallery in Mesa, Arizona (www.twohawksasg.com), where they make and sell drums, flutes, furniture and metal sculptures.
“One of the most unique pieces that my son and I made is a Native American drum set, just like a rock and roll drum set,” said Maldonado proudly. “Last year, it won First Place at the Santa Fe Indian Market for the ‘Musical Instrument’ category.”
Maldonado can make drums of any size—from hand drums to pow wow drums—because he makes all his own rims, in different widths and depths, using materials, such as cedar or cottonwood, from lumber yards or logs that he has had milled. “The biggest pow wow drum I ever made was 32 inches in diameter by 18 inches tall. I carved buffalos around it, with Indians hunting them.”
The hides he uses are another important consideration, he said. “On a bigger drum, like a pow wow drum, you want a thicker hide because it could easily get ripped with all the guys beating on it.” Maldonado uses hides from cow, deer, elk and buffalo.
He sells many of his drums at Indian markets, and his customers are both native and non-native. They will spend anywhere from copy35 for a hand drum, up to over $5,000 for a fancy pow wow drum. And that prize-winning, one-of-a-kind drum set? It’ll set you back a mere $7,000.
For Maldonado, making instruments is all about the artistry. “I believe drum-making is a dying art. When you look at the Indian Market, there are only a handful of real drum makers—and then a lot of other guys who make them from kits,” he lamented.
To that end, Maldonado has taken on a new role. “I’ve been teaching some of the guys around here how to make drums in the hopes that they will teach their kids. I will continue to make them as long as I can. And hopefully, they will keep the tradition going, too.”
A Patient Past-time
Name: Charles “Luke” Rogers, 46
Instrument he makes: Water drums
Tribal affiliation: Tuscarora
Home: Lumberton, North Carolina
They say that “necessity is the mother of invention.” So when Luke Rogers’ fellow Tuscarorans were talking about needing some drums for tribal ceremonies, he did what any good friend and craftsman would do: He volunteered to make them.
Since that day more than a year ago, the 46-year-old native has crafted more than 40 small drums, each one measuring about 4 ½ inches tall and 5 inches in circumference.
“My drums are made from real trees and real deer skin. And they all have a different sound—no two are the same,” said Rogers, who sells his water drums for about copy00 apiece. “I try to customize them, too. So if someone is part of the turtle clan, for instance, I will carve a turtle in it.”
Making drums is a patient process. Rogers said after he cuts down a cypress tree, he hollows it out and has to let it dry for about nine months. “I have to chop down the whole, healthy tree, but nothing is wasted. I use the limbs to make drumsticks and rattles.” Out of just one cypress tree, Rogers said, he can make about 30-40 drums. For the drum skin, he uses hides from deer caught by his father-in-law, a hunter.
By day, Rogers works as a correctional officer for Scotland Correctional Institution. So for now, drum-making is an enjoyable pastime. But who knows where it may lead?
“Some people from up north came down and saw my drums, and said they were amazed at the quality of my work,” Rogers said, taking a moment to beat a little bit on his own drum.
A Noted Flute Maker
Name: Tim Blueflint, 50
Instrument he makes: Flutes
Tribal affiliation: Bad River Chippewa and Comanche
Home: Henderson, Nevada
Tim Blueflint developed an interest in the flute out of a love for his grandmother. “I used to watch my grandfather play his flute and my grandmother would be transformed into another realm,” he recalled. When Blueflint was in his 20s, his grandfather passed away. “I couldn’t let my grandmother go through the rest of her life not hearing that sound again, so I learned how to play.”
But Blueflint did more than just learn how to play the flute. Ten years ago, the former sales executive and RV salesman learned how to make them, too, and is now recognized as one of the most distinguished native flute makers in the country—and has won a number of awards within the Native American arts community.
For the Bad River Chippewa and Comanche native, making flutes is all about “advancing the evolution of the instrument” and preserving tradition. “Old flutes (like the one his grandfather played) produced a sound called a warble. That sound is like a touchstone to my family and culture, and there aren’t many people left who can make warbling flutes. So I decided I was going to learn how to do it.”
At “Shades of Rez,” his studio in Boulder City, Nevada, the 50-year-old artist has crafted more than 2,000 flutes through the years. His specialties include a modern version of old-time warble flutes, contemporary concert flutes and his high-end artisan line—flutes embellished with artistic touches, including one trimmed in gold and embedded with 87 diamonds.
But the real beauty of his instruments is that no two are the same. “Flutes are like people—they’re all individual and have their own voice,” explained Blueflint. “I don’t use any templates, or computerized machinery that produces many of today’s high-end flutes. Everything I make is done by hand, every piece of wood is individually voiced.” And each flute, he said, is perfectly concert-tuned.
It’s this attention to quality, fine details and craftsmanship that resulted in him being featured in a documentary called “How It’s Made” that aired on the Science Channel in 2012. The way Blueflint makes his flutes starts with the perfect piece of wood: “I grew up on the California/Oregon border, so I feel a real connection to a lot of woods from the Pacific Northwest: myrtlewood, redwood, maples and cascara.” He also fashions his flutes using rosewood, ebony and burls found in forests across the globe.
No surprise, the native artisan’s flutes have international appeal. Hobbyists, musicians and art collectors from all over the world order them—from Japan and Canada, to England, Australia and Sweden.
What’s more, a number of elite native musicians are making beautiful music with Blueflint’s flutes, too, including Grammy-Award-winner Mary Youngblood; Shelley Morningsong, who won a Native American Music Award for “Record of the Year;” and Tony Duncan, five-time World Champion Hoop Dancer and leader of the musical group Estun-Bah.
Blueflint’s flute-making journey has been immensely rewarding, he said. “While I am making instruments, I am an instrument, also. When I finish a flute, I am amazed it came from my hands.” The real payoff? “When the new keeper of it picks it up and plays it, and you hear the music they create with it … it’s an amazing blessing.”
With every flute that Blueflint makes, he remembers what his grandfather taught him: “The flute is meant to be an instrument that takes the song we carry in us and puts it out in the material world with our intentions.”
Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer in Northern California, whose piano teacher walked out on her the very first day of lessons. Undeterred, she learned to perfect the playing of one particular musical instrument through the years: the radio.Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/gallery/photo/rock-rattle-drum-5-native-musical-instrumental-makers-beating-their-way-top-154439