I’ve kvetched about Burning Man on this blog before, but it looks like it is time to kvetch again — the East Bay Express is reporting that Native Americans go to war against burners and win“. Apparently the ‘Go Native!’ theme party at which discounts would be offered if people showed up in ‘native’ dress didn’t go over with local Indians, especially since it abutted a sacred Ohlone site, which was touted in advertising for the party:
Within the dark, labyrinthine walls of the 140-year-old former brothel, old Native Americans were lecturing young Burners on what it meant to be Indian. Lit by dim lamps under red glass lampshades, tribal elder Wounded Knee DeOcampo — wearing a black T-shirt that read “original landlord” — stood over performance artist “Cicada” in her sparkly, sheer scarf and layered hipster garb, lecturing her about his grandmother’s forcible kidnapping and rape at white hands.
On the one hand, its good to see some growing awareness of indigenous issues creeping into the minds of people for whom the emulation of indigeneity is so central to their own lives. On the other hand, its incredibly sad and disappointing to see that these conversations need to be started — again — after a half century of AIM activities. As you can imagine, I have little sympathy for the burners.
While the ‘tribe’ meme has been around in California counterculture, it seems to be growing increasingly popular in its electronic variants — we have books now like Electronic Tribes which asks the question “what is an electronic tribe? What is the difference between a tribe and community? And what is “virtual” about these concepts?” and “So who is the shaman of the e-tribe? Who is the chief? Who are the warriors? Electronic tribes develop norms, and people take on various roles just as those in real life do in face-to-face interaction.”
Unfortunately, this volume doesn’t seem to have any – any – reference to any sort of actually existing group which might be called ‘tribal’. Instead, the editors of this volume seem to be taking as their primary analytic concept an unreconstructed notion of ‘tribe’ borrowed from television:
When I think of tribes, I think of the tribes I encountered in the media of my childhood. These tribes could be either Native Americans or the tribes of Africa. Certainly, to me, a component of this type of tribe was the interdependence among members of these groups. They were often isolated by factors such as geography, language (though, of course, on TV and in the movies everyone spoke English), and dress, and differed from other tribes or larger groups in terms of religion, housing, and worldview.
I haven’t read the book, so perhaps when it comes in through ILL I’ll be pleasantly surprised by their close readings of Morton Fried and collaborative approaches with an array of indigenous groups. But probably not.
…and I doubt Cyberchiefs will be any better…