Cultural misconceptions of Native Americans brought to light
Elspeth Lodge ’10
The River Song, goes something like this: “Wishi ta, do ya, do ya, do ya, wishi ta, do ya, do ya hay. Wash a, ta nay ya, hay ya, hay ya, wash a, ta hay ya, hay ya hay.” She kept time on a drum made from a combination of elk hide and cedar tree.
“The nature of ‘What is a Native American?’ is problematic,” said Fox Tree. “If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this lecture, it’s that the Native Americans aren’t all dead. We’re seen everywhere, we’re just not seen appropriately everywhere.”
Fox Tree went on to explain how Native Americans are stereotyped in today’s society.
Fox Tree spoke of the inaccurate portrayal of a female Native American on Land O’Lakes butter boxes; of Crazy Horse brand alcohol, which plays on the pre-conceived notion that Native Americans are alcoholics, and of the extreme violence performed by the Native Americans in the film Apocolypto.
She discussed the inaccuracies other films like Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean, and the politically incorrect mascots of sports teams such as the Red Skins.
A common misconception by non-Native Americans is that Native American songs have no structure, just a smattering of hollering and chanting. “Songs have structure,” said Fox Tree. “It’s not a typical, main stream European structure, but a structure just the same.”
She passed out hand-made plastic egg shakers filled with natural materials like seeds, so that the audience would accompany her in the chant, mentioning that she could have made the shakers out of more traditional materials, but contrary to popular belief, “Native Americans have evolved over time,” and it’s not any less Native American to make shakers from plastic eggs. “Some do things traditionally, but others don’t,” she said.
She attempted to clear up some more common misperceptions, like the average American’s idea of a pow wow. The Algonquin word “pau wau” means medicine person or spiritual healer. Traditional pow wows are ancient sacred ceremonies that have been passed down for generations. However, the contemporary pow wow is seen as primarily a social event. Each tribe, nation, or region of Native Americans has their own special customs, though there are generalities that apply:
As promised by the lecture’s title, Fox Tree discussed where visibility meets invisibility-through words that are often misinterpreted or associated with Native Americans in inaccurate ways. Words heard and misconstrued throughout American culture include ‘chief’, ‘Eskimo’, ‘spiritual’, ‘manifest destiny’ and ‘reservation’.
Fox Tree touches upon commonly misused and offensive phrases to the American Native American population and clears up misconceptions associated with them such as what is “a real Indian,” “sitting Indian-style,” and “having a pow wow.”
Currently Fox Tree, besides giving lectures, is a prek-12 teacher. She is on the board for the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness(MCNAA) and is the Massachusetts liaison for the united confederation of Taino People (UCTP), which is headquartered in New York.
Enthusiastic full house as first ever ‘Mr. Wheaton’ dons sash and crown
Elspeth Lodge ’10
Blair Rossetti ’09 was crowned the first ever Mr. Wheaton this Nov. 21, a new annual event that resembles a comical pageant for men of Wheaton. The three judges; Greg Thompson ’10 of Alliance, Johnathan Wolinski ’10 of SGA and Kadisha Jordan ’11 of the Programming Council gave Zach Agush second place and Albi Skenderi ’09, third.
Flashes were blinding and the excitement was infectious– it was a full house. The audience learned more then a few interesting things about our men here at Wheaton.
Like a traditional pageant, there was an opening number which consisted of some pretty elaborate stretching demonstrations, an evening wear portion, and a question and answer portion. “There are no ground rules,” said Programming Council’s Sophie Wood ’10.
“This is the first time we’re doing this, we don’t know what’s going to happen, its one of those exciting events that could go any which way. Our goal is to show that Mr. Wheaton isn’t necessarily the guy in the suit, it could be anyone.”
Who knew that SGA Vice President Leo Gayne ’10 likes to plot world domination, vacuum his carpet, and impersonate George Bush in his spare time?
The audience admired Skenderi’s funky fashion sense as he strutted his stuff on the stage in his eveningwear– stretchy leopard spandex bottoms and a tank. He noted that he likes to wake up to jazz music and do yoga.
At times questions got personal, but the contestants handled the pressure well.
Will Levenson ’09 was asked by an audience member if he likes to wear “boxers, briefs or go commando.”
He did not specify, but offered to reveal this secret backstage to anyone interested.
If Rossetti were a flavor of ice cream, he would be Moose Tracks– Why? Because he likes them.
He played the harmonica with class, and we observed him confidently walk around the stage in his eveningwear– adult sized footsie pajamas covered in rockets.
“Do you like to shoot off rockets?” asked an audience member.
“I’ll let the pajamas speak for themselves,” responded Rossetti.
The audience found out the aspiring future president of Ghana, Solomon Odame ’11, has a six pack; that Levenson likes to wear Hugh Hefner-ish bathrobes as his evening wear; and that Kyle Greenidge ’09 can jump over a human body with his scooter.
Those in attendance also learned that Raul Gil ’12 can make every girl in the room shed a tear when he plays the electric keyboard, and that Ali Hussain ’11 is a poet at heart.
Agush’s eclectic pole dancing skills were a major crowd pleaser.
He handled being put on the spot by questioners well, at one point being asked to state his best pick up line.
Though some thought the competition would be sexist, many took it more light-heartedly or as satire. Those who objected pointed out that if there were a “Miss Wheaton” competition there would be an uproar of disapproval.
Wood agreed that “the reactions to a Miss Wheaton competition would have been much stronger.”
However, the performances revealed that emphasis was placed more on talent and a sense of humor than on other traditional pageant qualifications.
Despite a few technical glitches that delayed the start of the show, which left the crowd in a bit of a huff, the night ran smoothly.
Agush considered the show a success: “After the event occurred, I overheard from many people, across all class years, that this was an outstanding event, one that should definitely continue next year.
“Personally I felt it was a well-constructed event which brought people together, which is entirely what it was meant to do – bring the community together for a fun night.”
Melroy lifts off with tales of female achievement in space
Elspeth Lodge ’10
If there’s anything students should admire about Pam Melroy, it’s that she works hard as the second women ever to be space shuttle commander for NASA, and has fun while doing it.
On her most recent mission, she commanded the space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. She talks about her crew as if they are one big family: Astronauts Zamka, Parazynski, Wheelock, Wilson, and Nespoli. She knows each one personally.
Not only did Melroy command the Discovery space shuttle, but she and her crew were to install a new connecting Destiny module onto the International Space Station, move a solar energy array into position, and evaluate a shuttle tile repair method.
“It is a wonderful experience to see the station and the way it looked and to know that you had a part in building it.”
However, the task wasn’t easy. An unexpected tear was discovered while moving a solar panel, which resulted in a very risky forty-five minute space walk in order to repair it. Since every part of the trip had been planned to the T it was disappointing to have to abandon a few of the intended space walks to repair the rip.
In Melroy’s eyes just the fact that the spacewalker came back safely meant the mission was a success. By repairing the rip they made it possible for the next planned voyage, the European laboratory Columbus, to go to the Space Station.
Aside from this successful surprise repair, Melroy also managed to make history. She was in space with the only other female Space commander, Peggy Whitson. Whitson commanded the Space Station and Melroy, the Discovery.
Melroy attended Wellesley College, graduating with a degree in physics and astronomy. After Wellesley she attended MIT, where she received a Masters of Science degree in earth and planetary sciences. She completed her Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese Air Force Base in Texas. She also attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Melroy is the recipient of a myriad of awards including: Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster, Aerial Achievement Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster, and Expeditionary Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster.
iSpeak provides outlet for stress relief through new poetry club
Elspeth Lodge ’10
Roxy Azari ’10 is offering a new type of therapy to Wheaton College students through her up-and-coming club, “iSpeak.” Every Friday at four, 12 to 13 students gather in the quiet and comfortable Meadows lounge to share the poetry they write.
“It’s therapy through words,” says Azari. It acts as a sort of catharsis. Azari says they were thinking of changing the meetings to Thursday afternoons, but the Friday vibe was right since it’s at the end of the week; everybody needs to let their emotions out. These meetings allow people to distress for the weekend.
Azari emphasizes that, “everybody is welcome.” Many students go to meetings even if they can’t write poetry; they can still appreciate the words-this is what connects the members of the group, “their passion for words and social change,” says Azari. “It is a community within a community.” All she asks is that you “come with an open mind” to meetings and shows.
The club is a prime discovery for budding poets who need to get stage confident. “iSpeak” provides a supportive environment for a diverse bunch of students to do exactly that. They all encourage each other with positive feed back, which can be a large confidence builder.
“It’s a big part of how I found my voice in high school,” says Azari speaking of a group similar to iSpeak. Before coming to Wheaton she joined The Live Poets Society in her high school. The club inspired her to create and use her prior experience as a model for “iSpeak” when she arrived here. Initially she was surprised that there was no poetry club already in action, so she took it upon herself to start one.
Many of students talk about extremely personal issues, pertaining to different aspects of every day life. Therefore it is important that everybody stay positive. Meetings can get very emotional. “I’ve cried a few times,” says Roxy. “Whenever somebody reads, it’s like they are letting me into their soul.”
So far the community has accepted the club with open arms; the Wheaton community has shown much appreciated respect and tolerance. The constitution was written this past summer and accepted last week though the group has already been meeting prior to acceptance of the constitution, which is why they have already gained some much needed exposure.
In an attempt to call more attention to the club, they opened for the group Yellow Rage. This was their first public gig. They plan to host a big event next semester as well, and hope that people will arrive with positive open attitudes, like the group members have learned from each other.” Roxy hopes that their passionate words will help evoke hope for social change and that the club will continue long after she graduates. She said she would love to come back and see that she’s made an impact on the Wheaton campus.
Sex educator informs where high school left off
Elspeth Lodge ’10
Across the United States the topic of sex may be considered taboo. However for the student body at Wheaton College, “it’s a natural part of any relationship” explains Anna Littlehale ’10. Interest in the subject could be sparked by the lack of sex education students received high school and this may be why many students spent their much coveted Friday night at a lecture hosted by Jay Friedman, an award winning, certified sexpert. “We live in a country that does not promote open communication” says Friedman referring to the lack of sex education in some high schools; “We are left crippled with sexual ignorance.”
For fifteen years Friedman has been freeing college campuses of any sexually ignorant students through his sex-positive performance of his lecture “The J-Spot: A Sex Educator Tells All.” Friedman says that he makes an effort to appeal to the particular student body he is addressing. For example, when he visited MIT, the students seemed quite uninterested in what he had to say. However, when Friedman began talking about sex in terms of math and graphs, the engineering students were quickly won over. These types of adjustments are what make Friedman appealing to such a wide variety of schools.
If students went to the lecture hoping to learn everything and anything they ever wanted to know about sex, their prayers were answered. Friedman talked about how to know when your ready to have sex, to foreboding topics such as masturbation and “kegels with your Bagels” (an exercise to increase sexual stamina). To sidestep the awkwardness of topics such as masturbation, he injected humor into his talk, citing Woody Allen– “Masturbation, don’t knock it: It’s sex with someone I love!”
Making things even more interesting, Friedman gave out juicy tips along the way such as “how to increase one’s sexual stamina” or the secret of “how to make condoms feel better”. Towards the end of the lecture students were encouraged to ask him any questions they might have. Many willingly participated, asking questions such as “Is it true that the excitement of sex fizzles out in long term relationships?” Surprisingly, Friedman made students feel very comfortable asking their most personal questions in a room full of friends and strangers and possibly a few professors.
Lecturer Beeman dicusses U.S.-Iranian relations
Elspeth Lodge ’10
The United States and Iran have been ‘ghahr’ with each other for approximately 30 years now: while the two countries do not diplomatically talk to each other, they have not exactly broken off their relationship. “We keep sticking needles in each other from afar,” confides William Beeman, Middle East Studies Specialist and Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
There is a need for “someone to force the relationship back together,” due to the U.S. not understanding Iranian’s cultural differences from the United States.
Beeman gave his lecture titled “Learning to Live with Iran: How Cultural Awareness Can Improve U.S.-Iranian Relations” to a full crowd. He meant to impart an understanding of Iran’s cultural mechanisms, which are very foreign to the American sensibility.
“The people who want to create change in Iran have got to deal with this,” says Beeman. “It is true that the United States and Iran have cultural conceptions of each other that sometimes get in the way of understanding each other. As an anthropologist I am especially aware of cultural differences.”
“Iranians, like all humans have the same basic wants and desires in life. There is no ‘Iranian mind’ any more than there is an ‘Arab mind’ to site the egregious and misleading title of Raphael Patai’s thoroughly discredited book of three decades ago.”
Beeman uses a PowerPoint presentation to discuss a myriad of culture oriented topics including. but not limited to, patterns of interaction, complexity in Iranian interaction, independent symbiosis in Iranian hierarchy, and dimensions of different social status. And, of course, he discusses Iranian linguistics. “I’m a linguist, I can’t resist,” he says.
One example of a cultural misunderstanding of Iran is how political structures function and the basic schema of Iranian government, which according to Beeman, is “a very complex structure.” It is designed to keep one group of people in power for a very long period of time; terms of political office are staggered. In effect no group is completely out of power at one time.
An example of one misunderstanding of government is something so simple as how the Iranian president functions. While in the U.S. the executive branch has a great deal of power, in Iran the president has very little power in any arena. He has no control over military, foreign affairs, or the infamous Iranian nuclear program.
Beeman also covers political strategies and factions and the emerging factors, such as media, which are effecting the government. He imparts that the Internet is alive and well in Iran, saying “every candidate has a blog.” Beeman also cites that women are becoming more involved, as evident by the fact that more woman than ever are attending universities and literacy rates have increased. There is also an emerging youth population which will soon have a major impact on the balance of the political system.
There are many polarities between the U.S. and Iranian culture. While Iran recognizes hierarchy, the U.S. suppresses hierarchy. While Iran makes distinctions between the private and public political spheres, people in the U.S. try to conflate the private and public spheres of politics. Iranian culture values personalism in public business — family and personal ties are essential. Contrastingly the U.S. culture denies personalism.
“It is only with the Obama administration that we are starting to see a thaw. I am hoping that with the Obama administration [Iran and the U.S.] will have a greater understanding of each other,” says Beeman.
Lecturer Lownthal gives talk on Holocaust
Elspeth Lodge ’10
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart….that this cruelty too will end…”
- The Americanized view of the Holocaust from the film The Diary of Anne Frank.
What links all members of the Jewish faith in America in 2009 surprisingly has nothing to do with religion, culture, tradition, family structure or Zionism. The cohesive factor which inextricably connects those who are Jewish in America is the simple assumption that if living in Europe during the time of the Holocaust all would have been captured and possibly killed by the Nazi’s.
The Holocaust looms large in contemporary culture says Dr. Lownthal, who is the former director of the Greater Boston Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and is currently a visiting scholar in Jewish Studies at Northeastern University. There are hundreds of books, accounts, films, and now there are even museums on the Holocaust. “Why now?” Lownthal asks. “Why 64 years after the fact? Why was there such a long period of silence? Why did it take so long for the Holocaust to become manifest?” America participated in World War II, liberating many of the infamous Nazi concentration camps, but many Americans had no direct connection with the event.
“It is a very difficult and incredibly painful subject,” which is continuously evolving and challenging assumptions held about the Catholic Church, the American Red Cross, and institutions that failed to rescue Jews between 1935 and 1945, the end of the war.
Lownthal shows clips from a movie called Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust. There is an ongoing debate that we cannot possibly deal with the Holocaust through art, whether through film or theater, the argument being that any depiction cannot possibly do justice to the grim reality of the Holocaust. American film in the past has been charged with trivializing the Holocaust. “I have no easy answer to this debate, says Lownthal.”
An example of trivialization of the Holocaust appears in a popular series about the subject, in which the word “gas” is bleeped out” when the series references gas chambers because there was an ad for a gasoline company during the commercial break, and the company was worried that it would decrease sales.
He points out that the response to the Holocaust crafted in the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. is completely American. Lownthal claims that Americans believe what happened during the Holocaust is completely detached from them, a common view being that something like that could not happen here in America. Could it? Lownthal challenges the audience to come up with responses to the question.
“I suggest that the Holocaust was a turning point in history,” he says. “An event which alters our very perception of what it means to be human. A liberal attitude is that we [as humans] are evolving,” he says. “The Holocaust seems to challenge that very statement.”
Is all this talk about the Holocaust good for those of the Jewish faith? “Is there a lesson to be learnt from the Holocaust?” Lownthal wants to know “if there is a lesson [to be learned], have we learned it? As Kate Winslet’s character says in the recent film The Reader, “there is nothing to be learnt from the Holocaust but despair.”
Elspeth Lodge ’10
About 15 students in the Wheaton College Community will attend the Harvard National United Nation’s 55th session.
The conference includes 3,000 students and faculty from a myriad of colleges and universities around the world, which will be held February 14th-17th at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
Each school is individually assigned a nation; this year, Wheaton students will represent the Czech Republic. Many do not even know about this club, which meets twice a month to prepare for the conference, and the club has been functioning for many years on the Wheaton Campus. However, “It has been re-vamped in the last like five or so years,” says club leader Christina Kostaras ’10.
At a normal meeting, students will break up into committees, which include legal, economic, social, humanitarian and NATO councils, to do preliminary research. Each group researches how the Czech Republic would deal with a certain political, economic or social issue.
During actual HMUN conference “[all the different countries and sub committees] meet multiple times during the days of the conference to come to a UN resolution about a specific subject regarding our committee topics,” says Kostaras. HMUN provide students with all the materials they need to research topics at the conference.
To make the conference even more challenging for the delegates, some “urgent” new issues will interrupt the conference and provide the students with a chance to work under pressure to solve them. This is similar to what might actually happen at a UN meeting, so students must come to the conference with an in depth knowledge about their countries and committees.
The conference is “an unmatched educational experience,” boasts the HMUN website. Kostaras agreed saying, “It’s a lot of fun and really educational at the same time.”
For this reason many of the students are looking forward to the event. Board member Danielle Phinney 10′ said “This is my first year of model UN and I’m looking forward to meeting delegates from other countries and around the world.”
The goal of the Program is to produce a mock-debate which is as realistic as possible, so that delegates gain insight about how a real conference of the United Nations would play out. “Through simulation, delegates have the unique opportunity to represent nations with differing values, beliefs, ethnicities and cultures not familiar to them,” states the HMUN website.
Prominent global issues are discussed and debated between the various nations represented. The focus is geared towards all the nations working together to come up with a unanimous solution to a poignant global problem. Military, political, social and economic issues are among the main categories tackled. In order to be a successful delegate the HMUN website states: “Negotiation and public speaking will be the way to success for delegates who take their seats in the GA [General Assembly], where no one country, no matter how powerful, can dominate.” In other words, this is not a battle between nations, it is a negotiation.
Listening to music and studying: crank it up, turn it down, or turn it off?
Elspeth Lodge ’10
The Library is generally a quiet place, the sacrosanct abode of the diligent and exemplary–yet all have headphones clamped to their ears, music blaring. Though students assert that music aids them in study, there are not many studies that actually prove this phenomenon. Most think that overall, music distracts more than helps one concentrate on a task at hand. It also depends, however, on the type of music one is listening to. While upbeat music with lyrics can distract, it is claimed that mellow music is helpful by the student population here at Wheaton.
A study, by The Stanford School of Medicine, explores how the brain reacts to symphony music: “The research team showed that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory. Peak brain activity occurred during a short period of silence between musical movements-when seemingly nothing was happening.” Yet despite these types of studies, students are holding to the claim that it has studying benefits.
The question then becomes what makes students think that listening to music helps them study? Some claim it helps them block out the world around them, while other swear it ‘puts them in the mood.’ Some just think it helps them sit in one place longer.
Many Wheaton students, not surprisingly, claim that it’s the type of music listened to that is important not the type of music students claim is important. Most students claim mellow, and lyric free music is best for studying.
Erin Therese Kole ’12 says “I listen to music when I study, all the time. For most things it is compilation discs of acoustic guitar, Boccherini, Vivaldi, Miles Davis and Dave Bruebeck. So anything without lyrics, otherwise it’s rather distracting. With my French homework I listen to French lounge music…it puts me in the mood.”
Others think that the key to ‘good studying music’ is something that’s not new, and therefore less distracting.” I listen to music I know all the words to,” says Erin Ryan ’11, “so I don’t get distracted by a new song.”
Laura Richardson ’12 agrees with this assertion.”I listen to anything I’m really familiar with, so that I have noise that isn’t super distracting-usually mellow stuff, Travis, Guster, Zox, Aqualung, bands like that-it helps me block out everything else.
Interestingly, none of the students interviewed identified specifically listening to hardcore music such as rock or rap while they studied– geared towards a relaxing, mellow, sometimes lyric-less genres of music. So, it seems that whether music helps or not is based on both the individual person as well as the genre of music. But, one thing is certain, students at Wheaton love to listen to music while they study-just take a stroll through the Madeleine Clark Wallace Library and you’ll understand.
Byron Hurt educates on male privilege and violence against women
Elspeth Lodge ’10
Documentary filmmaker, writer, and anti-sexism activist, Byron Hurt, was welcomed to Wheaton’s Hindle auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 25. The room was packed with enthusiastic members of the Wheaton community. The discussion began on a topic that transcends race, class and gender: the violence and disrespect of women by men. “Sex and violence is not just a women’s issue,” said Hurt.
When Hurt first began to think about misogyny, “as a male I felt really clueless. I thought I was a conscious guy,” said the former Northeastern University football quarterback. “I had never thought of the world from a place of male privilege.”
“Men, what do you do on a daily basis to protect yourselves?” One male members of the audience shrugged. “Honestly? Nothing,” he confessed. Then he asked the girls in the audience what they did to protect themselves, and on a daily basis. Many female hands rose into the air.
The answers were diverse– being aware of surroundings, safety in numbers, not wearing provocative attire, learning martial arts, carrying pepper spray, pretending to talk on the phone, and checking the backseat of the car after getting in, at night or even during the day.
“I lock the door four or more times,” said one girl, discussing her protocol once inside her vehicle.
“Take your keys out before you get to your car so you’re not fumbling,” said another.
As a man “that’s not something I would think of doing for my own safety,” said Hurt.
Hurt’s most recent documentary, “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” is a stunning critique of how men portray themselves in the hip-hop and rap markets. It explores reasons why men in the industries present themselves the way they do, and examines hard pressing issues such as violence, misogyny, and homophobia as portrayed in the business. Men are afraid to present themselves as anything else than manly. They present themselves as tough, strong, “ladies men”: players, pimps, and dominators that are afraid to look soft, weak or feminine in any way.
Hurt shows a clip from his documentary for BET’s “Spring Bling.” “This was not an easy scene for me to film,” says Hurt of the scene. A group of women, mostly black, are being assaulted at the event, while police officers do nothing. “As a gender conscious man, what do I do with that?” asks Hurt.
The clip sparked a myriad of discussion topics, from how the women presented themselves, (scantily clad in bikinis and short shorts, and whether or not this is an issue), to how the men reacted to the women, and why they thought how they acted was appropriate. Other questions asked included the following: would policemen have reacted differently if there were white women being assaulted by black men? What if the men were white instead of black? How would that have changed the situation?
“We have to force guys to think differently,” says Hurt. “We have to own up to our male privilege. More people have to raise their voices and speak up when they see it. What makes it socially acceptable in our culture, that a group of guys can go to an event and publically, socially, assault women in broad daylight? I was disappointed at the behavior of the men, but I wasn’t surprised.
Having worked with men across race, across class, and across the board in education, men think a lot of what women do that justifies their behavior. They focus on the things women do to deserve it. I still see a lot of people spend time talking about what the woman is wearing.”
Hurt followed the discussion with two more film clips, which generated discussion on issues like gender and sexuality. Hurt strives to provoke thought about the types of issues he addresses in the documentary.