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Paleface To The Rescue

An opinion article should be based on established facts and those facts must be stated in order for the opinion to have any meaning. “Paleface to the Rescue” by Carole Levine, fails to establish such facts and is nothing more than an unfocused, pointless rant.
Joe Qeenan’s recent article entitled, “Tarzan's children: Why movies about Africa require white saviors”, complains of films that portray white characters as the “saviors” of black characters and discusses at least ten examples of such films.
In “Paleface...” Ms. Levine attempts to apply Mr. Qeenan’s complaint to Indian films. She does not offer us one example that is actually on point, but maybe this is because she didn’t have a point to begin with. After opening with the “white savior” complaint, Ms. Levine digresses to reveal her contempt for films that show white characters that care about Indian characters, to make sardonic comments about the attitudes of filmmakers in general, even to make a bizarre comment about whether people think Canada has “real Indians”. The tirade has no apparent purpose. Perhaps she just wanted her readers to know she has a lot of rage. Mission accomplished! Finally, Ms. Levine returns to her original complaint and gives us a present day example of a “white savior” Indian film. She directs our attention to the upcoming miniseries entitled “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”. Noting that a white actor has top billing, Ms. Levine concludes the miniseries will be a “paleface to the rescue” film. Two weeks ago, I contacted Ms. Levine via email and asked if she had specific knowledge about the role the white lead actor will play in the miniseries. I have not received a reply to my inquiry.
I haven’t seen the script for “Bury My Heart...” but the book of the same name is a meticulously documented account of the systematic plunder of the American Indians during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is the Indian’s side of the story.
Top billing in the series goes to white actor Aiden Quinn, who plays the real life Henry Dawes. Mr. Dawes was the first chairman of The American Dawes Commission. The Commission’s goal was to persuade the Five Civilized Tribes to give up control of their national land, in exchange for each individual Indian recieving an allotment of land for himself. The result of the Dawes Commission was that Indian nations lost most of their national land. I highly doubt Mr. Dawes will be portrayed as a hero or savior in the miniseries. Scene4 strikes me as a class act. I am surprised that you published an article of such low caliber. The fact that Ms. Levine jumped to a conclusion about a film and presented that conclusion as fact, is disturbing. More disturbing, is the fact that I contacted her about the mistake and she has done nothing to correct it.
Even if you didn’t recognize the error about the miniseries, you should have noticed the inappropriate tirade in the middle of the article! I see Ms. Levine mostly does interviews for Scene4 and they appear to be well written. Hopefully, that means she takes greater care with the facts she reports in those interviews as well.

Talking Dreams
read Carole Quattro Levine's article

Comments (1)

ned bobkoff:

Having had the opportunity to work with Native American performers and students at the Institute of American Indian and Alaskan Arts in Santa Fe, as well as throughout the U.S. and Canada, I read Carole Quattro Levine's article "Paleface to the Rescue", and Talking Dream's corrective response to her article. I find myself divided. I detest classifications such as White People are all like this, and Indian Nations are all like that. When people start dishing at each other about who knows best about whom, we all lose. Although Talking Dreams response is well taken, I assume also that Carole Quattro Levine's POV comes out of legitimate concerns mixed with elements of a rescue mission. So here I go on a rescue mission of my own. In April, 2006, Scene4 highlighted an article by Daystar (Rosalie Jones), the artistic director of Daystar: Contemporary Drama of Indian America, and myself. Titled "Cross-Cultural Collaborations: Friend or Foe?, we focused on the complexity of crossing borders culturally and artistically. We have also done lecture/demonstations on that subject at
UC/Riverside and the recent "Re-Envisioning Relationships" conference between Indian and non-Indian peoples sponsored by the Indigenous Studies department at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada. In short, stereotypes continue to operate in the foreground and background, but people of good will, who know their history, can cut through all that crap.

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