He was a French Jesuit priest who traveled to “New France” (Canada) in 1625 to convert the natives to Christianity. In 1626, Brébeuf went to live amongst the Huron tribes of the Great Lakes region.
He learned to speak their language.
Called back to France in 1629, Brébeuf returned to Huron country five years later with a few associates, determined to continue his missionary work.
Things did not go smoothly. It wasn’t until 1637 that Father Brébeuf made his first convert. But by 1647, thousands of Indians had accepted baptism into the Catholic faith.
Meanwhile, Brébeuf wrote extensively about the culture of the Hurons. It was he who gave the name “lacrosse” to the traditional Amerindian field sport. Brébeuf also developed the Wyandot language into a written form.
And so this gutsy French priest wrote “Jesous Ahatonhia” around 1642 – using his own literation – and taught the song to the Indians.
If you’d like to hear it, click here. Canadian folksinger Alan Mills recorded “The Huron Christmas Carol” in 1960, singing the first verse in Wyandot, repeating it in French, then singing the whole song in English.
POSTSCRIPT: The story ended very badly for Father Brébeuf... and the Huron Indians. Iroquois attackers from the south laid waste to Huron villages in 1649, ultimately displacing the entire Huron nation. Brébeuf and another priest were captured, tortured and killed.
The invading Iroquois possessed an ironic advantage. They’d acquired muskets from the Dutch, who offered them in exchange for furs. France also provided guns to the Hurons for their defense... but the Jesuit priests insisted that only Christian Indians get guns.
With half of the Hurons Christianized and the other half still “heathen,” the Huron tribes were outgunned by the Iroquois four to one.
The Catholic Church canonized Brébeuf (and other “North American Martyrs”) in 1930. St. Jean de Brébeuf, Apostle to the Hurons, is now the patron saint of Canada.
Sports in the modern age have been an avenue to hero status for America’s racial minorities. The non-white athlete who can outperform white folks at their own games... that evokes a special kind of pride.
Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson are damn-near mythic. Roberto Clemente, among Puerto Ricans, is a saint. Chicano musicians wrote songs about Fernando Valenzuela.
It applies to Jews as well; check out the Hank Greenberg documentary.
And when American Indian activist Dennis Banks organized a long-distance “protest run,” he named it after Olympic champion Jim Thorpe.
So you can understand the feelings aroused last year when Jenna Plumley – a 5-foot-4 freshman point guard – became a rising star on the University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team, one of the nation’s top squads.
“this girls a great role model & inspiration 4 native youth,” wrote one Jenna Plumley fan on an American Indian message board.
Watch the video clip below for a TV news report about Jenna’s status in the Indian community.
Jenna Plumley is a pure- blooded Native with Pueblo, Comanche, Otoe and Pawnee roots.
She was raised in Red Rock, Okla., and became one of that state’s best girl players ever. She led her high-school team to two state championships.
Becoming a Lady Sooner at OU made Jenna a rare Indian competing in Division I athletics. “It feels really good” being a role model, she says in the clip below, “especially since when I was a child I never really had a female role model to look up to.”
Alas, Jenna Plumley’s story took a dark turn this summer. She was arrested and charged with shoplifting from a Wal-Mart. Her coach suspended her for the 2008-2009 season.
Jenna left Oklahoma and now attends Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. She’ll be eligible to continue with basketball next fall.
“Attempting to turn Indian high school and college students into social heroes is a dangerous business,” wrote Cedric Sunray in the Native American Times. “When they don’t pan out it only serves to cause further disappointment and marginalization for Indian youth.”
The lesson here is: Sports hero or not, we’re all just human beings.
AIM staged armed confrontations with the government. Most notable was the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The U.S. government prosecuted Dennis Banks and Russell Means for leading this seige. A federal judge dismissed the charges after a nine-month trial.
But the state of South Dakota convicted Banks on riot-related charges for another incident – a protest gone wrong in a town called Custer.
Rather than go to prison, Banks spent nine years as a fugitive. He eventually turned himself in and served 18 months.
The American Indian Movement is still active... but split into two rival factions. Banks, an Ojibwa born on Minnesota’s Leech Lake reservation, is part of the “Grand Governing Council” faction based in Minneapolis (where AIM was founded).
Russell Means – now the most famous Indian activist in America – is a leader of the other AIM, known as the International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters of the American Indian Movement.
I’m streaming a 2-minute audio clip of Dennis Banks from 1982, when he was chancellor of D-Q University, a two-year tribal college in Central California (which is now out of business).
Click here to hear it on my Vox blog. You can stream or download the complete 5-minute radio piece by following this link to the Internet Archive.
Banks put his story on paper in a 2004 book titled “Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement.” (Russell Means’s autobiography, “Where White Men Fear to Tread,” was published in 1995.)
Banks also has a website under his Indian name – Nowa Cumig.
This is the day when Americans give thanks... thanks that the original inhabitants of this land didn’t act in their own racial and cultural self-interest and slice the throats of every European who disembarked from the Mayflower.
As part of my American Indian Heritage Month celebration, here’s a post about Sagoyewatha – also known as Red Jacket.
Red Jacket, a chief of the Seneca Indians, is remembered today as a gifted orator and important Native American diplomat during the early years of the United States.
Representing the Iroquois Confederacy, he kicked it with U.S. presidents such as Washington, Monroe and Andrew Jackson.
He acquired the name “Red Jacket” after his service to England during the American Revolution. He’d been a swift-footed messenger for British military officers, and they rewarded him with a richly embroidered scarlet jacket. (Red Jacket would later support the Americans against the British during the War of 1812.)
Red Jacket was primarily noted by white writers of the 19th century for his racial politics.
In modern language, he was a separatist. In the words of one writer in 1879, the Seneca chief “hated civilization... detested education and Christianity, and made no pretence at conforming to the polite customs of white society.”
Journalist William L. Stone, in his 1840 book “The Life and Times of Red-Jacket,” wrote that Sagoyewatha, by 1805, had “become utterly averse to any farther intercourse or association with the whites – having arrived at the conclusion that the only means of preserving his race... would be the erection of a wall of separation, strong and high, between them. ...
“He was opposed to any farther sales of [Indian] lands. He was opposed to blending the races by intermarriage – not unfrequently murmuring that, whereas before the approach of the white men the eyes of their children were all black, now they were becoming blue. ...
“He was opposed to the acquisition by his people of the English language. Above all, he was opposed to the introduction among them of Christianity.”
Red Jacket’s most famous speech was delivered in Buffalo Grove, New York, in 1805. It was in response to a young white missionary named Rev. Cram, sent by the Boston Missionary Society to propose the establishment of a mission among the Seneca.
“Brothers: I have not come to get your lands or your money,” Cram said, “but to enlighten your minds, and to instruct you how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind and will, and to preach to you the gospel of his son Jesus Christ.
“There is but one religion, and but one way to serve God,” the missionary continued, “and if you do not embrace the right way, you cannot be happy hereafter. You have never worshipped the Great Spirit in a manner acceptable to him; but have all your lives been in great errors and darkness.”
The council of chiefs discussed the matter among themselves, then Red Jacket delivered his reply. He spoke in the Seneca language, his words translated by a U.S. government interpreter.
Would you like to hear what Red Jacket said? The English version was recorded in 1976 by Arthur S. Junaluska, a Cherokee playwright and actor, for an album called “Great American Indian Speeches, Vol. 1.”
I was in West L.A. this morning to get my hair cut. I haven’t lived on the Westside for five years... but the guy knows my head, and I’m averse to forming new tonsorial relationships.
Anyway, whenever I go for a cut, I’ll pop over to Junior’s Delicatessen for a bite to eat. If I feel like lunch, as opposed to breakfast, I’ll get the liverwurst on rye. Sliced yellow onion, stone-ground mustard... bam, that’s a good sandwich. (Goes right nice with a cream soda.)
When I was a kid, my dad used to snack on what seemed like the grossest foodstuffs in America. Blue cheese. Pickled pigs feet. Souse. (Y’all hip to souse? Also called “head cheese.”)
Then there was kipper snacks – canned herrings that Daddy would mash up with mayonnaise and relish and spread over Ritz crackers. Oh, how he delighted himself with that crap.
And, yes, Daddy liked liverwurst, though he preferred to call it braunschweiger. Only since moving to L.A. and getting my deli on at Junior’s did I acquire a taste for it.
I’ve done the kipper-snacks thing too, I won’t lie. Maybe I’ll try to find me some souse... though it’s hard enough trying to find scrapple out here in So Cal. (In fact, I haven’t.)
I never felt close to my dad. We were so wide apart in age; he was 51 when I was born. It was like being raised by a grandparent. He grew up in the country. His sensibilities were shaped by the Great Depression.
He never understood why I would leave a good job at the Washington Post and try to write for television. By the time my first co-written episode was shown on TV, Daddy was blind. He couldn’t even see it.
By the time I created my own show, he was dead and buried.
As a kid, I never watched “I Spy.” Not once. (I was hardcore into “Mission: Impossible” and “The Avengers,” but gave less than a damn about “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” or “The Wild, Wild West.”)
Anyway, you know “I Spy” was a breakthrough, right? Bill Cosby was the first black actor with a lead role on a TV drama... and he won three Emmy Awards for his work.
I have embedded a complete episode of “I Spy” at the bottom of this page. Originally shown in 1965, this episode guest-stars Eartha Kitt as a strung-out nightclub singer in Hong Kong. (She acts and sings a couple of tunes!)
The script was written by Cosby’s co-star, Robert Culp. (Remember when Culp visited “The Cosby Show”?)
UPDATE (11/28/08): I just found out that Eartha Kitt was nominated for an Emmy Award for this performance.
You know I had to start with this one. Redbone in the 1970s was packaged and sold as a Native American R&B band. But brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas (born Vasquez) could’ve more easily presented themselves as Latino.
To this day, Mexican Americans embrace Redbone as more Chicano than Native American... even though the Vegas brothers talked up their Yaqui and Shoshone ancestry.
The story goes that Jimi Hendrix – who strongly identified with his own Indian heritage – encouraged the young Vegas brothers to form an all-Indian rock band. “Jimi made me aware of my roots,” Pat Vegas once said.
Prior to forming Redbone, Pat and Lolly had cut a few surf-rock singles and toured with the Beach Boys. They also did studio gigs with the likes of Sonny & Cher and Dobie Gray.
“Come and Get Your Love” was a huge hit for Redbone in 1974. (And it’s one of my favorite singles of the ’70s.) Just this year, Redbone was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame.
Guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, a full-blooded Indian (Kiowa and Cherokee), worked with some of the top stars of the ’60s and ’70s – John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, John Lee Hooker, Conway Twitty, Taj Mahal...
Davis signed a couple of major-label solo deals in the early ’70s, and he put out three albums. This song, supposedly autobiographical, is from his debut LP, “Jesse Davis.” Eric Clapton plays on it.
Jesse Ed Davis died in 1988 after years of drug and alcohol problems.
For his membership in the legendary rock group The Band, Robbie Robertson is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He wrote classic album-rock songs such as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.”
As the Canadian son of a Jewish father and a Mohawk mother, Robertson has focused in recent years on a musical exploration of Native American identity. (He had spent childhood summers on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario.)
Texas-born drummer Jimmy Carl Black (Cheyenne) was a founding member of the Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa’s trailblazing band. Black famously ad-libbed this line during a recording session: “Hi, boys and girls. I’m Jimmy Carl Black, and I’m the Indian of the group.”
After Zappa disbanded the original Mothers, Black formed a short-lived band called Geronimo Black.
Geronimo Black’s 1972 LP included a scathing (and jamming) protest song called “An American National Anthem.”
So who’s keeping alive that flame of American Indian rock ’n’ roll? Guitarist/singer/songwriter Mato Nanji, that’s who.
Nanji grew up on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota, listening to his dad’s blues records.
Now he leads the popular blues- rock band Indigenous.
Mato Nanji’s guitar chops have brought him a lot of attention. He was greatly influenced by Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Recalling his early performances, Nanji told an interviewer in 2005: “[E]verybody thought that we’d be a traditional flute band... but we’d come out... and they’d be totally surprised. They never expected a band like us to come out and do what we do.”
The news media are reporting that Desiree Rogers, a Chicago businesswoman and bonne vivante, will be the next White House social secretary.
Which is, like, the best party-planning job on Earth.
Lois Romano of the Washington Post writes: “The position of social secretary is more influential and far-reaching than the title might suggest.
“Although the job is associated with working with the first lady and with entertaining – and best known for staging state dinners for heads of countries – the social secretary’s office is responsible for every event or ceremony that occurs in the White House or on the grounds.”
Desiree Rogers is a longtime friend of Michelle Obama’s, and she was a major fundraiser for Barack.
Follow this link to watch a 5-minute interview from 2007 when Ms. Rogers was a Chicago gas company executive.
But I must warn you, this clip describes the sexual exploitation of two underage girls. Indeed, Bill doesn’t flinch from the hard, cold realities of the drug game. (Matter fact, I bet he was smoking crack when he wrote this!)
UPDATE (11/26/08): I cannot stop listening to this clip. This is some Ted Baxter shit.
As American Indian Heritage Month rolls on, I’d like to introduce you to a few Indians you’ve probably never heard of... starting with Chuquai Billy (Choctaw and Lakota).
Chuquai Billy is a standup comedian. He was born in Gallup, New Mexico. He now lives and performs in London.
Yep... an American Indian who moved to England to tell jokes. How nutty is that?
Chuquai, in a 2007 interview, said: “A lot of what I do in my act is try to educate them away from the popular stereotypes most of Europe still believe about Native American people.”
But is he funny?
Based on the video below, I would vote thumbs down.
In 8 minutes of material, I count one decent joke (the one about immigration). Chuquai Billy seems to be at the “open-mike-night” level of proficiency. (Compare his stage presence and audience command to Warren Hutcherson’s.)
If he is to succeed at comedy, Chuquai will have to move beyond merely pimping himself as an exotic.
Time to get to know some of the players in the upcoming Obama Administration. I know this is serious business, and all things Obama are a matter of pride to the people, so I won’t be cracking any jokes.
BUT... I did invite my old buddy Nipsey Muhammad to blog along with me on this one. And that dude don’t give a fuck! He’ll crack a joke at a funeral.
Anyway, the first video below is a Voice of America report on Eric Holder, said to be Obama’s choice for attorney general.
NIPSEY MUHAMMAD: Muthafucka look like a cartoon mouse, don’t he? Yo, Eric, on the real... your first order of business? Release Ronald Isley from federal prison. Turn him aloose! Seriously. How the fuck it look, he in the penitentiary, and R. Kelly walkin’ around free?
The bottom video is Susan Rice, who might become President Obama’s national security advisor.
NIPSEY MUHAMMAD: Oh shit! First time I saw that sista, I was like, “Damn... how is Barack gonna keep his dick outta that?”
Today, I am giving myself the gift of self-promotion.
Below is a 10-minute video from the 2003 “Kingpin” DVD set, with me bloviating about the miniseries.
If you wanna do me a favor, send an email to the fine folks at Hulu (email@example.com) and ask them to stream “Kingpin” on their website! That way I could end up with a few duckets in my bucket, nomsayn?
Back in September, I blogged about America’s top ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham (and one of his puppets, a jive-talkin’ black pimp named Sweet Daddy Dee, which has been seen 9 million times on YouTube).
You might think being “America’s top ventriloquist” is sorta like being “America’s top duckpin bowler.” Nobody cares! But check this out: Jeff Dunham had a Christmas special on Comedy Central Sunday night.
And it was the most-watched show in the history of Comedy Central... with 6.6 million viewers. Which means that damn-near everybody in Hollywood wants to be in the Jeff Dunham business right now.
The Comedy Central executives didn’t even see that coming.
It’s all about teh YouTube.
Embedded below is an 11-minute clip of Dunham with another one of his politically incorrect puppets... Achmed the Dead Terrorist.
You might not believe this – it sure shocked the hell out of me – but this clip here, y’all... this clip right here, y’all... this clip has been watched 73 million times. It is the No. 1 most-viewed entertainment clip on YouTube ever. It is the No. 2 “top favorited” YouTube clip of all times!
That’s bananas! And it just goes to show you: Sooner or later, everything comes back in style.
It features Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters... Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon... Eamonn Walker as Howlin’ Wolf... and Columbus Short (from “Stomp the Yard”) as Little Walter.
But judging from the trailer below, “Cadillac Records” will focus on Beyoncé Knowles as R&B legend Etta James and Adrien Brody as record executive Leonard Chess. And then there’s Mos Def as Chuck Berry.
(Stop! You had me at Jeffrey Wright.)
Now, is it common knowledge that Etta James claims to be the illegitimate daughter of pool hustler Minnesota Fats? Seriously... she does. (Compare the photos above.)
And since Beyoncé is shooting pool in this trailer, maybe the movie will deal with that. Because I never knew.
I saw “Quantum of Solace” yesterday. I’m not a James Bond fanatic, but this new one has been huge overseas for a couple of weeks now. Figured it must be good.
I did not like it. Daniel Craig is cool... no problem there. But “Quantum of Solace” rips off a few action pieces from the “Bourne” movies (close-quarters combat in an apartment, balcony leaps), and for some reason they’re not so thrilling this time.
I sat there during the long opening car chase trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. (Too many edits.)
And the theme song... that Jack White-Alicia Keys duet, “Another Way to Die”? More like “Another Way to SUCK BALLS!”
Which is my segue into this: Did you know that the late Phyllis Hyman recorded a James Bond theme song in the 1980s, but it wasn’t used?
True indeed. Click here to hear “Never Say Never Again” on my Vox blog.
Canadian songwriter Stephen Forsyth wrote this song with Ms. Hyman in mind. And it’s Forsyth who finally released it to the public this year... as a FREE MP3.
I go out of my way to support black rocker chicks. You know that, right? So let me point you to a FREE MP3 from the Thermals, a Portland punk-pop band featuring Kathy Foster on bass.
To hear the band’s live version of “A Pillar of Salt,” click here. It was recorded a year ago in L.A.
Click the song title below to commence downloading.
To watch Kathy Foster rock out, with her cute self, check the music video for “A Pillar of Salt.” I like how she infuses her personal energy into the proceedings even though she’s not out front. (And that doggone bass is big as she is!)