I’m working on a Census campaign directed towards American Indians (not Native Americans) because of their lack of representation in the Federal Government.  American Indians are lumped into the Caucasian sector.

There are several commercials, but the touchstone spot is one that has Indians from all parts of the country ‘coming together.’ Another spot uses a basketball team (rezball) that represents the communities bonding. We have to represent people from all parts of the country and Alaska. We start to make plans to visit Alaska, New York City, Taos, New Mexico, and Browning Montana. For some reason, New York becomes an issue even though there is an American Indian Community there, so we decide on a generic urban environment.

I throw Monument Valley into the mix (for free) because I love it there and there is great Indian Fry Bread in Kayenta, but I have an old friend there, Cisco, a Navajo that I haven’t seen in many years. Also, there is an old Indian lady that lives and weaves in a hogan in the Valley, an authentic piece of history. Sadly, Cisco tells us that she has passed away, but he has another lady, authentic, that will fill the bill.  Cisco is great, cooperative, and the frybread is wonderful.

We avoid the John Ford cliches of Monument Valley and concentrate on the hogan and the dunes. We get what we need painlessly and move on.

Ironically, we chose Santa Fe and Taos because of the filmmaking done in New Mexico and the potential ease of casting. Not good. Casting there is difficult because the Indians available through casting directors have become Hollywoodized. Most look like actors, but we squeeze out a few and implement enough by running into authentic American Indians in the Taos area. An issue is that they have to be vetted and many won’t consider this.



We are being monitored by a couple of people from the Census Bureau, but they seem to understand without interfering.

Browning is easier. The basketball team is fabulous as are the people. We also get a sudden snowfall that enables us to forgo Alaska. What is particularly wonderful is a local buffalo herd.  They look amazing against the snow. 

Michael has acquired the music of A TRIBE CALLED RED, a modern American Indian band at the edge of hip hop, so the music drives the editing in a wonderful manner, avoiding all the flute cliches that appeal to tourists.

Things were going well.



The response from Washington to the edits was that the Indians looked angry and what are buffalo doing there?

After all these years, the Declaration of Independence still regards American Indians as ‘merciless Indian savages.’ Look it up. The lack of understanding of the American Indian from all quarters is appalling. For example, the estimates for the number of people here in 1492 varies but a figure of around three to four million in North America is accepted. By the end of the 19th century that figure was around a quarter million. The latter figure is accurate but the former may be low.  No matter.  The results are horrific.  The ‘angry’ comment was laughable, but we corrected that. The ‘buffalo’ comment showed a complete lack of understanding of the buffalo’s presence and importance to the Indan Community of the time and the fact that the American Government condoned the massacre of these animals to destroy Indians and their culture.

Michael laughed at them.