Notes from Indian Country for Reggae Musicians

This paper presents various concerns of Indians that could become the basis for reggae lyrics.


INTRODUCTION: Reggae artists increasingly refer in song lyrics to American Indians' history and social circumstances. This recognition is appreciated by Indian listeners! To stimulate further development of Indian themes in reggae music, this paper presents various concerns of Indians that could become the basis for reggae lyrics. Topics below are listed alphabetically.

deejay "Tropical Steve" Buggie, KGLP-FM Radio

AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT (AIM): This is an intertribal organization of militant Indians. Its goal has been to improve Indians' status in U.S. society via direct action. AIM members captured and held the abandoned federal prison at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, 1969-71. Later confrontations with the FBI led to imprisonment of its

ASSIMILATION: This term refers to the melting pot ideal that Indians and other ethnic groups would lose their cultural identities and become absorbed over time into general American culture. The goal of assimilation led in the early 1900s to boarding schools and suppression of Indians' languages and customs. This idea was popular until the 1960s, and has been replaced by ideals of cultural diversity, which encourage ethnic

B.I.A.: This is the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal agency which has supervised relations with Indian tribes since the 1830s. Its role has been paternalistic and neglectful. Support is voted annually by Congress for services in the areas of education, health, social services, and tribal government.

BOARDING SCHOOLS: To promote assimilation of Indians into mainstream American culture, the BIA in the early 1900s took Indian children from their families and sent them to distant boarding schools in the East. Children were forbidden to speak their own language or to wear traditional dress or hair styles. Today, boarding schools or nonresidential schools are located on or near reservations and students can attend schools of their choice.

BUFFALO SOLDIERS: These were black soldiers, recruited among recently freed slaves following the civil war. Bob Marley's song about them is well known. They served as cavalry Indian fighters on the western frontier, c1870-1910. A TV-movie and TV documentary were made about their history. Fort Selden State Park, near Las Cruces NM, has a monument and museum about the buffalo soldiers. Lack of jobs motivated most to enlist. Their story is of an oppressed minority recruited to fight indigenous peoples for the benefit of expansionist white America.

CARSON: Kit Carson is regarded by whites as a western hero, but to Navajos, Kit Carson's activities led to their subjugation and removal from traditional lands. During the civil war, Carson's group pillaged and destroyed Navajo property, and organized the Navajos' mass 400 mile forced relocation, the Long Walk, to barren inhospitable dry lowlands at Bosque Redondo NM, where Navajos suffered for four years (1864-1868) and many died.

COLUMBUS: The idea that Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1492) discovered America is repulsive to Indians, because it implies falsely that America was unoccupied prior to Columbus' arrival. Indians discovered Columbus on the beach. The term discovery has foul connotations today. The continuation of Columbus Day as a holiday is opposed by

CUSTER'S LAST STAND: This was an Indian victory over the U.S. cavalry in June 1876, at Little Big Horn MT. General George Armstrong Custer's 276 troops were wiped out. The army then went on a vengeful rampage against Indians following the defeat.

FBI: This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a police force that shares jurisdiction with tribal police on reservations. T-shirts seen in Indian country also define FBI as Full-Blooded Indian or Fry Bread Inspector.

GALLUP NM: Small city (25000 pop.), located near the highest point on the I-40 freeway (6500' elevation). It is a trading center for residents of nearby Navajo and Zuni reservations. Main local industry is Indian arts and crafts. Regionally, Gallup is known as the heart of Indian country. A large intertribal Indian ceremonial is held in early August
each year.

HISTORICAL GRIEF: This is chronic sorrow about the historical past. This concept is applied by clinical therapists. Historical grief is mostly unconscious but its effects are seen in psychosocial problems such as suicide, alcohol/drug abuse, family violence, or depression.

HOLLYWOOD INDIAN: The stereotyped portrayal of Indians in Hollywood movies. This portrayal has evolved over decades and provides white America's image of Indian country. Indians in movies were mostly relegated to non-speaking roles and served as background or landscape characters. Indians with speaking roles were often played by whites in make-up.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: This is a general term that refers to the original inhabitants of a country; American Indians are the indigenous peoples of the USA. The term peoples is preferred over people, in recognition of Indians' cultural diversity. At the leadership level, Indians seek solidarity with indigenous peoples worldwide, who share similar exploitative histories in their relations with white settler immigrant populations.

JACKSON: President Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) held office from 1829-1837. His popularity among whites arose from his efforts in the War of 1812 and as an Indian fighter on the frontier. He is pictured on the $20 bill but is disliked among Indians because he ordered the removal and resettlement of southeastern Indians to Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears (1836-1838).

MANIFEST DESTINY: A term referring to the conquest and exploitation of Indians in the western U.S. To white America, manifest destiny (c1840) referred to the country's inevitable westward expansion to the Pacific coast. Some whites believed that this expansion was divinely supported.

NAVAJO CODE-TALKERS: During WWII (1943-45) in the Pacific, 400 Navajo U.S. Marines formed an elite radio communications combat unit, using a secret code derived from the Navajo language. To protect the code's secrecy, they vowed among themselves that none would be captured alive. The Code-Talkers' saga is presented in the 2001 movie, Wind Talker.

POW-WOW: Intertribal ceremonial gatherings of Indians. Many are open to all, but some are closed to non-Indians. Costumes, dancing, and music are common at pow-wows. Activities promote cultural awareness and intertribal solidarity. Cameras may be restricted; inquire first before taking pictures. Largest USA pow-wow, the Gathering of Nations, is held annually at Albuquerque NM each April. Oldest (since 1922) is held
annually at Gallup NM during the second week of August.

RESERVATION: Rural homelands for Indians, usually (but not always) at tribes' traditional areas. Poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment are common. Previously, Indians were forced to remain on reservations; today, Indians can choose to live there or to migrate elsewhere such as to cities.

RODEO: Among southwestern Indians, rodeos are major summer events, with activities such as bareback riding, bullriding, clowns, lassoing, etc. All-Indian rodeos are popular in NM, AZ, CO, OK, and elsewhere in the west.

SOVEREIGNTY: This is the principle that Indian tribes have independent self-rule within their own territories. Because of the sovereignty principle, many tribes today operate gambling casinos on their reservations to promote economic development.

SPORTS MASCOTS: The use of Indian symbols and caricatures as mascots for sports teams was never authorized by Indians and is opposed by many today. These mascots are degrading, stereotyped, and offensive. Examples include teams such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, Florida State Seminoles, etc. Stanford University (c1980) changed its team mascot from Indians to Cardinals, but others have

TRAIL OF TEARS: America's most disgraceful historical episode was the forced relocation of the southeastern tribes from their traditional lands (GA, SC, NC, TN) to Oklahoma, 1836-1838. The removal was ordered by President Andrew Jackson and was organized by the army. Indians were never compensated for their losses of land and property. Many died during the trek, and the Oklahoma lands they were forced to settle were undeveloped.

TREATIES: Treaties are formal agreements between tribes and the federal government. Treaties are the legal basis for tribal sovereignty today. Historically, many treaties were never ratified by Congress, unilaterally changed by the federal government, or simply ignored. For Indians, broken treaties summarize their relationship with white America.

TRIBES: The federal government recognizes about 508 tribal societies of Indians. Most are identified as tribes; the largest identify themselves as nations, such as the Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation, and Choctaw Nation. Small groupings are bands. Pueblos are small southwestern tribes, which have lived in their localities for thousands of years.

WOUNDED KNEE: This is a site in South Dakota where unarmed Indian civilians, mostly women and children, were massacred by army troops (1890). Today, Wounded Knee is an intertribal remembrance site.

"Tropical Steve" Buggie
Deejay --- Tropical Reggae Show
200 College Road
Gallup NM 87301

GALLUP NM: ""the heart of Indian country"

Posted: Fri - February 7, 2003 at 12:32 PM