Monday, July 20, 2015

Menominee Indian Tribe: Creating Genres with Social Purpose

One of the most important aspects of writing is understanding that every writing situation can be approached in multiple ways.  This week, we'll be looking at how the Menominee Indian Tribe in Wisconsin uses online genres such as websites, YouTube, and Facebook in order to spread awareness of tribal customs and improve the financial security of the tribe as a whole.

We'll be using these examples to help understand different approaches we can take in our Project 2 genre examples.

Social Justice: Promoting Educational and Economic Opportunities for the Menominee Tribe

For our discussion, our main focus will be on specific genres the Menominee use to promote the same kinds of educational and economic opportunities that anyone would want for their children.  Because there are many stereotypes surrounding American Indian tribes, you might be surprised by the "normalcy" of some of these examples (as in, they are normal by the standards of the typical American town or city).  But as the later examples show, these same stereotypes can also used as a means to shift Reception among non-Native American audiences.

Applying this to Project 2
I give these examples because they help indicate the purposes and limitations faced in writing situations.  For Project 1, you examined your genres and the social contexts in which they exist - for Project 2, you'll be taking a practical approach to create an example of your genre, and then a brief how-to guide to help others who might need to create similar works.  From the examples here, I'd like you to see how very different genres (from ads to casino proposals to conversations with your own child) can provide very different (yet interrelated) ways of promoting the same ultimate goal: preserving the cultural identity and heritage of the Menominee Nation.

Using Poetry to Illustrate Changing Ways
For me, this video by Heid E. Erdrich is one of the most poignant illustrations of how life has changed and continues to change, and I think this highlights just how difficult it can be to keep old traditions alive.  Watching this, consider how Activity may change with era.  (For example, I'm writing his on a Chromebook while checking YouTube for more videos...clearly not the kind of writing activity that was typical among teachers when my own parents were in school...)

The Menominee: How Native American Groups Present Themselves Online

The Menominee Nation, like most American Indian tribes, struggles for greater recognition and economic opportunities (Ecology).  The internet and social media have recently provided some means to spread awareness of the issues facing American Indians today from the perspectives of the tribe - and this is no small thing.  Growing up, my main source of information about "the Indians" was a big book put out by Reader's Digest.  It was "historically accurate" (Representation) in the sense that it talked about where the First Peoples came from and where they had lived in the days before European colonization, but the true fate of these tribes was largely overlooked.  I thought I understood the "Native American Experience" from that big book, but I didn't.  And it's a good book - I found another copy of it that I'll share with my son when he gets older.  Because it's a big book with pictures, I hope my son will read the captions and learn of the tribes rather than surf YouTube for hours looking at random videos (Reception, Representation - what can I say?  I'm old fashioned...)  But this book is not a Native American book.  It's a Smithsonian-reviewed book about Native Americans.  It's focus is limited by the interests of Euro-American scholars and readers.  And if I want my son to honestly understand and care about the people themselves, then I'll need to show him sources that are from the source, such as those below (Socialization).

These links are to a Native American webpage and to Native American social media.  I'd like you to take a quick look at these pages.  Does anything surprise you about them?  Or do they seem to follow a kind of "pattern" that we see in all websites?  (feel free to explore these sites, but I'm mostly looking for your surface impressions.)

Language Immersion
It's hard to pass on a language that only has about ten natural speakers remaining.  This video helps indicate the challenge a father faces in trying to help his daughter grow up not just "knowing" the Menominee language, but using it as a living language.

This video operates on two levels.  First, we have to consider the audience of the video.  To whom is it addressed?  Second, how can we view conversations with a child to be a "genre"?  What's the Distribution for this father's work?  What's the Activity?  The most poignant example, for me, is the conversation as he's driving down the road, and he's describing the different words the Menominee would use for snow, and how each word was applied to a specific type of snow.  And as he's driving with his daughter there in the back seat, you come to realize just how insulated from nature we have become, with our homes and our vehicles and central heating - and how language very closely reflects the lives we live.  (Think Ecology and Activity)

Casino Infomercial 1
This ad talks about the educational and heritage goals that would be funded by the Menominee casino.  In particular, think about the goals of the casino in light of the father's journey described in the previous video.  In watching this, to which audience do you think this is directed?  Which audiences might not show a positive reaction?

Casino Infomercial 2
This ad focuses primarily on how a Menominee casino would help improve the economic situation throughout this region of Wisconsin.  Why does this video have a different focus?  To whom would this video be addressed?  (Think about Distribution and Reception in particular.)

Head Start

We're taking a break from the videos to consider two very different groups here: there's the Menominee tribe, who would own the casino, and then there's local American government of a place called Menominee, Wisconsin (which is not owned or administered by any Native American tribe).

Head Start provides preschool education for low-income children.  What does it say to us that the Menominee Tribe shares this flier on their Facebook page?  Is this Head Start administered by the Menominee Tribe, or by the town of Menominee, Wisconsin?  For our discussion, why might that difference matter?

Menominee Head Start and Early Head Start program has begun their recruitment process for the 2015-2016 school year.

Casino Political Ad
You can't build a casino without controversy.  As this ad indicates, Native American tribes don't necessarily agree with each other, and can at times be in competition with each other.  The result is a video like this, where the genre of the political ad is adapted to the issue (think Representation and Socialization).

News Release: Was the Casino Approved?
This last video fills in additional details about the length of time and resources involved in proposing the casino (Ecology) and the ultimate decision regarding the plan (Reception).

Introduction to Fiction and Poetry


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