In his 2019 book titled Fighting Invisible Enemies: Health and Medical Transitions among Southern California Indians, author and professor Clifford E. Trafzer (Wyandot), examined the gradual incorporation of Western medicine into Southern California Indian communities. In the sequel, Strong Hearts and Healing Hands: Southern California Indians and Field Nurses, 1920–1950, he delves deeper into the working relationship field nurses and Native people built during that period and the resulting decline of mortality from infectious diseases.
Trafzer writes that during the late nineteenth century, the Office of Indian Affairs first introduced Indigenous peoples of Southern California to Western medicine. Moving into the early twentieth century, more Native people used Western medicine, especially to fight infectious diseases believed to be transmitted by Westerners. During this time, public-health nurses recognized the key elements to controlling and defeating pandemics: quarantining, testing, and tracking cases and contacts—the same tactics used today to fight COVID-19, which has caused the worst pandemic since the 1918 flu pandemic.
As with Fighting Invisible Enemies, Strong Hearts and Healing Hands is one of few works with an impressive amount of integrated Native and Western historical medical research. In addition to noting contributions of Native elders, leaders, and healers, such as Martha Manuel Chacon (San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians) and Pedro Chino (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians), Trafzer also chronicles the work of white and Native field nurses who served in the region between 1920 and 1950. Much of the nurses’ work involved providing medical treatment and educating Southern California Native communities about how to control the spread of diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Also similar to Fighting Invisible Enemies, Strong Hearts and Healing Hands utilizes historical maps and photographs, data tables, reports of Indian Service medical personnel as well as oral histories conducted with several Southern California Indian communities.
The difference, however, is that Strong Hearts and Healing Hands focuses more on the lives and work of the field nurses, both white and Indigenous, as well as on relationships between the nurses and Southern California Native families, mothers, and children.
While the book leans more toward the positive aspects of Native and non-Native medical collaboration, cultural differences and disagreements between parties are also well-documented to provide a more nuanced view:
“Field nurses instructed Indians in sanitation and public health, often sharing health literature discussing diet, nutrition, infant care, home sanitation, and prevention of infectious diseases. Nurses instructed pregnant women about prenatal and postnatal procedures through ‘Little Mother’ and ‘Well Baby’ conferences, clinics, and workshops on and off reservations. Unfortunately, nurses counseled women to use baby formula to feed their infants rather than breast milk. Of course, schools of nursing had emphasized the ‘scientific’ benefits of formula over breast milk, but many Indian mothers knew better and continued to nurse their babies.”
While it may be tempting to call Strong Hearts and Healing Hands a derivative work of Fighting Invisible Enemies due to how much they have in common and given the wider scope of the original, I would argue both are well-researched, highly readable works that succeed in their respective aims.
Welcome to the Deets and Geets Newsletter: He Said, She Said for March 2021. Check out our quicktakes below on the pop culture happenings that piqued our interests so far this month, all broken down by streaming service.
He said: Intriguing first and second seasons with some creepy scenes peppered throughout. Series seems to be winding down—this is not necessarily a bad thing. The show is called The Servant, so figuring out who Leanne is and who exactly she serves is part of the show’s mystique. Once that mystery is solved, however, the show should probably wrap up. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing the coming (cult?) war foreshadowed in the last scene.
She said: I found Season 2 quite underwhelming for a Shyamalan production. I was expecting some game-changing twist or shocking revelation, but I didn’t see anything that was divergent or unexpected from the groundwork laid in Season 1. It is described as “psychological horror,” but it turned out to be more of a psychological bore. I will skip Season 3 if it happens.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier
He said: We weren’t expecting Disney+’s latest Marvel outing to be more than wall-to-wall action, but the first episode has a good action/drama ratio and sets up a deeper dive into the titular characters’ lives. We’re looking forward to next week’s episode and the imminent introduction of Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter aka Agent Peggy Carter’s niece. If you don’t know who any of these people are, get caught up.
She said: Action is not really my genre, and elaborate fighting scenes with different types of flying vehicles, gunfire, fancy stunts, and machines I don’t know names of really bore me. So when Super Star Agni first told me about this show and I knew that both of these characters are closely linked with Captain America, I surmised that I would probably catch some z’s during the first episode and then opt out of the rest. But aside from that one fancy violent scene, I really enjoyed it! It’s interesting to see the characters having to lead ordinary lives in the present, with Sam applying for a bank loan with his sister, and Bucky asking someone out on a date. Obviously, there will be more action-y stuff brought up from their pasts and moving forward as a new Captain America is on the horizon, but there is enough human connection in there to keep me interested.
He said: Marvel expands its fandom tent with this entry. Unique way to draw upon the Wanda / Vision connection from Age of Ultron and Infinity War, and to reveal Wanda’s backstory. Recommended for sitcom fans as well as fans of superhero fare. Wondering if this will lead into a villainous side of Wanda *dun dun dunnnn*
She said: “What is grief if not love persevering?” Oof! WandaVision has Marvel-ously accomplished so many things at once: Meme gold, an interesting plot, an homage to American television over the decades, and an expansion of the characters and plotlines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Allen V. Farrow
He said: Good look into the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving his then 7-year-old daughter. Definitely biased against Allen, but the case made against him is compelling. I was never a Woody Allen fan and haven’t seen any of his films all the way through, so being made aware of his pattern of filmmaking—older male mentor figure paired with an eager, impressionable young female—was revealing and a bit off-putting even outside of the Farrow v. Allen case. That said, I think a two-part series would have done as well to make the case.
She said: This four-part documentary about Dylan Farrow’s allegation that her step-father Woody Allen molested her when she was seven years old—and Woody’s aggressive campaign to undermine that allegation by insisting that this whole thing was a story hatched by Dylan’s mother Mia because Mia was jealous that Woody was sleeping with Mia’s other adopted daughter Soon-Yi—is obviously made with belief in Dylan Farrow, and compassion for Mia Farrow. Yes, the facts are presented selectively, but regardless of how many additional facts were left out though, one thing is clear: Woody Allen is disgusting! OK, I thought so before watching this documentary too, based on creepy comments he has made in interviews, the pervy gaze that comes through on and from behind the screen in his films, and the fact that he slept with the barely-legal stepdaughter of his long-time girlfriend. Still!
The documentary introduces us to the actual text of reports and interviews with family, friends, and people who worked at different levels of the investigation. Contrary to the public spin which made her out to be some impressionable child with a fantastical story, the texts and interviewed officials confirm that Dylan has been incredibly consistent with the core facts, and indeed showed signs of having been sexually abused. Also, it’s evident that Woody Allen has the type of access and connections in American society and particularly in elite East Coast circles which would basically guarantee his impunity in the (undeniable) event that he did commit a crime.
I happen to have a pretty low opinion of Woody, just in case that wasn’t obvious. But, I get that some people love his cinema and his brand, and have a hard time reconciling their fandom with believing that he could be a predator. They would rather believe that Mia is the crazy b that coached Dylan into inventing this whole thing. But many truths can coexist, and we need not buy into this weird absolutist phenomenon of having to embrace or reject public figures and everything associated with them, wholesale. Mia could have been a weirdly controlling and abusive parent, as Moses Farrow, another stepson of hers and Woody’s, has alleged. Mia could have been jealous of Woody and Soon-Yi. Woody could be a witty writer and director. Woody’s cinema could be culturally iconic. Woody could have truly cared about his adopted children—including Dylan. Brains are complicated and sometimes deranged and so is patriarchy, and none of these aforementioned possibilities undermine Dylan’s truth.
He said nothing.
She said: Firstly, it is wonderful to see Queen Pooja Bhatt back on screen! She embodies all of the strength, elegance, and confluence of buoyancy and gravitas that one would expect from the woman who lit up the screen decades ago in films ranging from Sadak to Prem Deewane.
As of this writing, I have just started Episode 5 of Bombay Begums, so I basically still have two more episodes to go. I won’t give my overall thoughts yet, but my one tip is to watch at least two episodes, if you are on the fence after finishing the first. I didn’t think the set-up in that first episode did the future ones justice; it leaned in too hard on the girl-boss vibe, and I found the canned liberal feminist precocious tween voice-overs a bit off-putting. As you keep watching though, the show pulls you in with the complex drama in the lives of these five women, sensitively portrayed by Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amrutha Subhash, Plabita Borthakur, and Aadhya Anand. They are all constantly having to negotiate with their own bodies, their loved ones, and external pressures—and, they all wield their own hurtful and opportunistic behavior at times. There are moments of tenderness and levity too; it’s not all misery!
Series creator Alankrita Shrivastava had also worked on Made In Heaven—if you liked MIH, there is something for you here as well. Instead of Delhi’s elite though, you get five women from different walks of life converging in Bombay: the aforementioned defiant tween; her resolute CEO step-mom; a small-town twenty-something exploring her newfound freedom only to be shut down by Bombay-style slut-shaming (and worse); a bar dancer-turned-sex worker trying with dreams of starting a factory; and a rising executive conflicted over how much of “it all” she wants to take on. Pour yourself a steaming cup of chai in a white porcelain mug and give it a watch!
The Umbrella Academy
He said: What I initially thought would be a derivative superhero show turned out to be a fun ride for two seasons so far, even though the time travel / apocalypse tropes are used for both season. I’ve never read the comic book the show is based on, so I can’t say if they nailed the source material, but the episodic nature of the storytelling works well. It’s more of a show about family and relationships than wearing masks and fighting crime, which I think many shows are doing these days to shake up the superhero genre. Not as violent as Amazon Prime’s The Boys, it dispenses the same gritty humor at times. Looking forward to season three, but I hope time travel and apocalypses aren’t the overarching themes.
She said: Superheroes, time travel, well-choreographed sibling brawls, and a smashing soundtrack – what a fun ride! Waiting eagerly for Season 3, and especially curious about Vanya Hargreeves on account of Elliot Page’s personal developments; and Ben on account of what we saw at the end of Season 2!
The following review appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 edition of News from Native California.
With An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, activist and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Cherokee/Scots-Irish) examines U.S. settler-colonial framework and gives insight into the modern reality of Indigenous peoples’ experiences. A recent adaptation, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, provides a similar critical lens for middle- and high school students.
Curriculum experts Debbie Reese (Nambe Owingeh) and Jean Mendoza maintain the overall scholarly essence of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States while reformatting its structure to include chapter subheadings, discussion topics, activity prompts, maps, informational text blocks, and bullet points.
These additions serve the modified structure well, providing context and opportunities for critical thinking. For example, in the subchapter titled “Indigenous Peoples of What is Now California,” Reese and Mendoza briefly chronicle Spanish colonization of the state from 1769 to 1823 with a focus on California missions. The “Did You Know?” section of this subchapter highlights the discrepancy between the sanitized version of California mission material usually taught, versus a more historically accurate approach the Native community pushes schools to teach.
A “Consider This” section in the chapter titled “A Critical Look at Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson” asks readers to unpack the term ethnic cleansing. A portion of the section reads:
“Bringing a critical lens to words we use is important. Generally speaking, people think of cleansing as a good [sic]; the removal of something bad or dirty. But people are not bad, dirty objects that can be moved or done away with, without regard for their humanity. The term cleansing hides the motives and actions of powerful governments or groups who are deliberately harming many people. What other terms can you think of that might be more accurate?”
In these increasingly divisive times replete with echo chambers and “alternative facts,” An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People is a reminder of the importance of critical thinking. Even though the title references an “Indigenous Peoples’ History,” the material encourages readers to think, consider, and investigate for themselves in order to come to a well-rounded view of United States history. In this spirit, the closing chapters “For Further Reading” and “Some Books We Recommend” provide readers with respective lists of Indigenous women and Indigenous writers as starting points to address historical inaccuracies and underrepresentation.
As with the original, the adaptation offers a periodization of U.S. history in roughly 230 pages and demonstrates the active nature of Indigenous survival through organizing and storytelling. While the level of analysis in the adapted version is not as academically dense as the original, critical content remains and is presented in an engaging style.
Told in segments, akin to short films unto themselves, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World hops regionally across the United States to examine Native American influence on American popular music, most notably rock music.
Executive producer Stevie Salas (Apache) said during a 2017 Electric Playground interview that Rumble was conceived while he was playing a gig with Rod Stewart. “I said to myself, there’s not a lot of guitar players that look like me. So, I started to research if there were other, you know, Native American musicians out there, and as I dug in, I started to realize there were a lot, it’s just, people didn’t know it.” He then mentioned being interviewed later by music journalist Brian Wright-McLeod (Dakota-Anishnabe) in Canada during a rock music festival where Wright-McLeod mentioned a research project he was working on, The Encyclopedia of Native Music. “He really turned me on to these guys,” Salas said, “you know, Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa/Comache) and Link Wray (Shawnee), and that really got the seeds going.”
As the title denotes, Link Wray and his hit rock instrumental, “Rumble,” with its distorted guitar and throbbing bassline, are the launching points and connecting themes of the documentary. The impact of “Rumble” and its reverberating influence throughout American popular music is expounded upon throughout the film’s 143-minute runtime, integrating photographs and archival footage with contemporary interviews from stars, such as Slash of Guns N’ Roses, musician and actor Steven Van Zandt, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, and Rolling Stone editor David Frick.
Directors Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana also feature interviews with Taylor Hawkins, Taj Mahal, John Trudell (Santee Dakota/Mexican Indian), Iggy Pop, Steve Tyler, George Clinton, and Tony Benet, who not only note the influence of Wray, but also of other musicians of Native ancestry, such as jazz pioneer Mildred Bailey (Couer d’Alene) and Delta Blues titan Charlie Patton (African-American/Choctaw), whose segment convincingly illustrates the Indigenous essence of his music. Other segments in the South feature such artists as the Neville Brothers and musician and actress Rhiannon Giddens (Occaneechi) of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and “Nashville” fame, that show not only the influence of Native music in the region, but the shared history and beautiful melding of African and Native cultures.
With a roster of Native musicians similar to that of the 2016 book Indigenous Pop: Native American Music from Jazzto Hip Hop, the documentary also features jazz musician Buffy Sainte Marie (Cree), who speaks about being a target of the FBI due to her music’s activist essence, and other “Native Axmen” besides Link Wray, such as Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), Jimi Hendrix (Cherokee/African-American/Scottish), and Jesse Ed Davis, who formed the Grafitti Man Band with poet and civil rights activist John Trudell in 1985.
While Robertson recalls being told as a youth to “be proud you’re an Indian, but be careful who you tell,” Pat Vegas of Southern California band Redbone, on the other hand, recounts singing traditional songs and wearing regalia in shows, as evidenced during the live 1974 performance of the band’s hit “Come and Get Your Love” on NBC’s “The Midnight Special.” “We used to mic the floor,” Vegas says in the documentary, “so, when we came out, the stomping sounded like a heard of buffalo coming.”
Vegas’ segment blends unexpectedly into a joint segment with Taboo (Shoshone/Mexican-American) of the Black Eyed Peas (BEP). In a music studio, Taboo and Vegas share a moment of camaraderie, due to both having lived in East L.A., while Taboo loops a section of “Come and Get Your Love.” He demonstrates to Vegas how the bassline is similar to the BEP song “Let’s Get It Started.” He then explains how his Indigenous roots inform his musical style, but also how Vegas’ pride and positivity as an Indigenous man continues to inspire him.
Joined by Trudell near the end of film, Salas recounts the time drummer Randy Castillo (Isleta Pueblo), who played with Ozzy Ozborne, took Salas to Indian Country amid Salas’ descent into the darker side of rock star life. Trudell, who passed in 2015, adds, “The secret to Indian Country is, when you’re losing your mind, only lose the parts that need losing.”
Rumble concludes with footage from the Dakota Access pipeline protest in Standing Rock, North Dakota to the tunes of Taboo’s song, “Stand Up for Standing Rock,” and those of several other Native artists, before returning to titular “Rumble” and a reenactment of Wray in a garage, poking holes into a speaker to create the song’s infamous distorted guitar—a sound that contributed to the song being the only instrumental in United States history to be banned for fear it would incite gang violence.
In his 1966 book Chike and the River, renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe brings to life the story of eleven-year-old Chike, who struggles to achieve his dream of crossing the Niger River to the city of Asaba. As with many tales, the heart of the story lies within the journey:
“The more Chike saw the ferryboats the more he wanted to make a trip to Asaba. But where would he get the money? He did not know. Still, he hoped. ‘One day is one day,’ he said, meaning that one day he would make the journey, come what may.”
What follows is a series of adventures both humorous and precarious that aid Chike’s personal growth and understanding of the world, from dealing with a money-doubling village magician to being tricked by his headmaster into carrying a missionary’s luggage across a stream. Through perseverance, Chike eventually realizes his dream, but soon finds Asaba is not as he had imagined. The journey home becomes yet another test of wit and bravery.
A great strength of Achebe’s is his ability to tell vivid stories free of dense prose and convoluted plotlines. The power of his sparse language is found in descriptions of key characteristics and motivations. The privileged essence of Chike’s good friend, Samuel Maduka Obi (who nicknamed himself S.M.O.G. for the effect), comes through in S.M.O.G.’s concept of money. After being swindled by the magician recommended by S.M.O.G., Chike returns to his friend to ask, “Has he ever doubled money for you?” to which S.M.O.G. replies “No, I get everything I need from my mother. So I don’t need to have my money doubled.”
Achebe’s skill is also applied to the setting, as seen in Chike’s take on a big city after having left his mother and two sisters to live with his uncle forty-miles away:
“At first Onitsha looked very strange to Chike. He could not say who was a thief or kidnapper and who was not. In Umuofia every thief was known, but here even people who lived under the same roof were strangers to one another. Chike was told by his uncle’s servant that sometimes a man died in one room and his neighbor in the next room would be playing his gramophone. It was all very strange.”
Unlike previous illustrated editions of Chike and the River, the August 9, 2011 Anchor Books edition features the work of Cuban-born artist Edel Rodriguez, a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine and a former art director for Time Magazine. Each in three colors (red, white and black), the abstract acrylic paintings complement the modest, yet wildly creative spirit of the narrative.
A charming story of the modern versus the traditional, of pushing against and overcoming boundaries, Chike and the River offers enjoyment for readers of any age.