In Teen Titans: Earth One, Raven is Navajo … but not really

Last night, the Watson to my Holmes, T Hueston, sent me photos of Navajo Raven from Vol. 1 of Teen Titans: Earth One. The next words out of T’s Skype mouth were:

“Yeah, I mean, I’m not saying that the idea is bad, but they probably should have done more research.”

Teen Earth One

Raven is the startled-looking teen in the background.

 

Well, this made me curious. Let’s be honest, it’s beyond difficult to find Native American protagonists in comics, film, fiction, and TV. We desperately need more representation (for crying out loud, can somebody recommend wendigo anything with Native American protagonists – I’m still looking). But representation alone isn’t enough. For example, when I see an Apache character who is a mismatch of stereotypes, it’s rather awkward and alienating. I asked T, who is Navajo, to elaborate their opinion about Raven. Here’s what T had to say:

“I like the idea of having a Native American superhero who is not defined by their ethnic group, and I am proud to have a Navajo representation in the DC Universe; however, I see [Raven’s character] as a wasted opportunity to explore unique aspects of Navajo culture, as Raven is not presented as a Navajo but rather a generic Native American.

For instance, she is not wearing Navajo jewelry, but rather jewelry from other tribes. Navajos are not like other tribes and do not have specific mythology that focuses on animals, but rather on the Gods or Yei, and specific spirits or figures.

She studies under her shaman grandfather but Navajos do not have shamans, they have medicine men and women, who both have specific jobs they perform (medicine men do more song and stories, and medicine women do more plant-based healing and are knowledgeable about plants).

Beyond that, she does not look like a Navajo. Specifically, [Navajo people] are known for their squash blossom necklaces, hanging turquoise earrings and velvet dresses, and unromanticized round faces and bun hairstyles.

If DC wanted to depict a Navajo, they should have spent some time doing research to make the cultural identity feel authentic, especially to persons with Navajo heritage. Instead [Raven] feels like an attempt to pass off a Native American stereotype under a tribal name that doesn’t belong.”

 

I sincerely hope that DC and other creative platforms include more Native American protagonists in their products. However, it’s important to move beyond stereotypes. We are people with unique, varied histories and complex lives.

Thank you for reading. And thank you, T, for your fantastic contribution to this post!

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A Mermaid’s Crown

Crown1

My mother beaded my crown by hand. Do you recognize the patterns?

Diatoms

Diatoms! They’re snowflakes in the ocean, microscopic organisms built from opal, the most beautiful phytoplankton (in my opinion) you’ll ever see. Many of the diatoms in the photograph above (captured by Dr. Robert Berdan) inspired my mom. Just look at the details below!

Princess Crown Details

I was 2012 S.T.I.D.A. Princess during the Twenty-third Annual South Texas (Way South) Pow Wow. At the time, I’d just received a bachelor’s degree in oceanography; my thesis work involved Trichodesmium-wrangling on the blue Sargasso Sea. The crown represents my passion for the ocean – it’s my hope that other pow wow princesses will wear scientific motifs on their heads in the future :3 Hey, maybe some already have! Give me a call, if that’s you …

Here I am with my beautiful mom and grandmother. Check out that cell phone pic quality!

2012 STIDA

Lipan Apache Legal Victory for Native American Religious Freedom!

Vice-chairman Robert Soto at the 2014 City of McAllen 4th of July Parade.

Vice-chairman Robert Soto at the 2014 City of McAllen 4th of July Parade.

This month, after eight years in court, my tribe has achieved a legal victory to defend our religious rights.

In 2006, federal officials violated a sacred powwow circle and confiscated feathers.Thanks to the tireless work of Lipan Apache Vice-chairman Robert Soto (my uncle, pictured above) and lawyers Milo Colton and Marisa Salazar, the feathers will be returned and given the respect they deserve. As a conservationist, I’d like to emphasize that this ruling does not affect the eagle population. Feathers are recycled from birds that die a natural death. Rather, the ruling challenges the federal government’s power to arbitrarily decide which Native Americans have the right to worship. As the Lipan Apache events page explains: The law is not only a win for the Tribe and other State Recognized Tribes but also for those who fit the definition of American Indians as stated in the 1997 “Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,” 62 FR 58782-01: “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment” and who are within 5th Circuit Court States: Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

In other words, the government has no right to claim that a “select few American Indians” are more equal than others.

You can read the press release below.

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