Racism against Michigan Native Americans revealed in Nimrod Nation documentary on Sundance Channel

The Great White North: National documentary shines light on racism against Native Americans in northern Michigan

Nimrod Nation on Sundance Channel highlights Upper Peninsula quirkiness of rural life, passion for high school basketball, hunting and fishing

(Watersmeet, Michigan) – Nimrod Nation follows the Watersmeet High School (Da Mighty, Mighty Nimrods) 2005-2006 basketball season and exposes racism and rural living, hunting and fishing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

The series deals with the (at best) late recognition or (at worse) racist snubbing of Native American Brian Aimsback after he scored 1,000 points as the Nimrod forward while on the previous year’s high school basketball team.

Brian, a sophomore, was honored the following season while the TV documentary was being filmed.

The coach – George Peterson III – said he was waiting for the first home basketball game and did not want to interrupt the momentum during the previous year’s tournament play when Brian reached the milestone.

Peterson is a Gogebic County Commissioner and also the school superintendent, principal and athletic director for the small school in the town of Watersmeet (Pop. 1,400) on the southern border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula..

However, the coach’s son – George Patterson the IV – also a forward on the team reached the same milestone after a few more games.

The coach’s son said he and a friend are considered the studs at the school.

“We get most of the ladies,” the younger Peterson said.

A big halftime ceremony was held for the coach’s son, and their photo was in the paper.

Brian’s ceremony was not covered by the media and was held at the end of a game while people were leaving the gym.

His grandmother asked local tribal leaders to honor his son and present him with an Eagle feather.

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Artwork from Blackfeet Nation website

A tribal elder was videotaped saying Native American warriors have to fight all kinds of battles including this injustice.

The coach denied the disparity of the ceremonies and that media coverage was linked to racism.

The coach added the local newspaper just happened to be at the game to cover his son’s ceremony but said the paper just happened not to be at Brian’s belated ceremony.

Brian’s father is a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

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Logo courtesy Blackfeet Nation website

“The Blackfeet (Pikuni) belong to what is called the “Blackfoot Confederacy” where three other Tribes reside in Canada that make up this confederacy; North Peigan/pikuni, Blood/Kainai and Blackfoot/Siksika,” according to the tribe’s website.

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Logo courtesy Blackfeet Nation website

http://www.blackfeetnation.com/

Brian’s grandfather is from the U.P. and is a Chippewa at the Lac Vieux Desert tribe (Lac Vieux Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) in Watersmeet.

“Katikitegoning is the Chippewa name for the beautiful lake now known as Lac Vieux Desert,” states the tribe’s website:

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Logo courtesy Lac Vieux Desert tribe website

http://www.lvdtribal.com

Brian says he would not recognize his father.

“I never talk to my father at all – I don’t even know what he looks like,” Brian said.

Brian said he often speaks to his mother – who battled alcoholism – and they visit each other.

He hopes to be the first Native American pro-basketball player and lives with his grandparents near Watersmeet who adopted Brian when he was small.

Brian taught himself tribal dances and songs at age three.

Brian has not danced in recent years but listens to a lot of native music.

During the show, Brian said he doesn’t worry about the racism or how his basketball achievement was honored.

Brian Aimsback says he doesn’t “hang out” with the local reservation teens because they are “always getting in trouble.”

“There is always one of them sitting in jail,” said Brian, who added he can’t afford to get in fights or arrested for teen alcohol violations.

Brian said alcoholism is a concern and it’s a problem for some on the local reservation.

Some members of the town admit a problem with racism like the mother of Brian’s white girlfriend – while others downplay or deny it exists.

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The “mighty, mighty Nimrods” Watersmeet High School basketball team in a eight-part documentary from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula directed by Brett Morgen. (Photo by Aaron Peterson for the Sundance Channel via the International Herald Tribune website – Established in 1887 in Paris, the IHT is owned by The New York Times Company)

By the way, gambling has also become a major activity in the U.P.

Until 1988, Lac Vieux Desert people were recognized as part of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) in L’Anse, MI.

The Watermeets tribe has a huge casino – like many U.P. tribes.

The godfather of Native American gambling – and former KBIC president – is from the U.P. and in recent years casinos have sprung up like mushrooms.

Ironically, that Godfather of gambling served time in prison after a federal probe into tribal and personal finances sparked by a takeover of his nearby KBIC reservation by disgruntled members and AIM who accused the council president and his minions of corruption.

Dozens and dozens of U.P. residents have gone to prison for embezzlement from their employers or their favorite charities linked to a gambling addiction.

Everything and everybody are linked in the U.P. – known for it’s hearty individualism and a one-time movement to secede from the U.S. or become it’s own state.

Director:

Brett Morgen

Executive Producers:

Adam Pincus, Kevin Proudfoot and Brett Morgen

Music:

Jeff Danna

Director Brett Morgan is from Santa Monica, California and stumbled on the town’s quirkiness (like many U.P. towns) while directing three promos for a 2004 ESPN campaign after the sports network fell in love with the school’s wacky name for its teams – The Nimrods.

In Watersmeet – and the rest of the U.P. – snow is measured in feet (over 300 inches in some areas each winter) and fishing and hunting are a golden pass time.

Some U.P. towns still don’t have cable TV and can’t watch the series or access the internet without a satellite dish.

Watersmeet – and some other U.P. communities – don’t have a movie theater or other pass times for residents so high school sports is king.

For the record – Nimrod is the name of a king in the Bible known for being a great hunter and in today’s language is a insult for someone who is stupid, weird or unpopular.

Director Brett Morgen’s other films:

The Kid Stays in the Picture

On the Ropes

—-

Link to Sundance channel’s Nimrod Nation documentary website:

http://www.sundancechannel.com/series/nimrod_nation

Another link:

http://www.sundancechannel.com/nimrodnation

In a recent national radio interview, Turtle Island Project Director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard described racism against Native Americans in northern Michigan as “insidious.”

Hubbard said some U.P. residents either don’t want to admit or flat out deny there is racism against First Nations Peoples in the Great White North.

As volunteer media advisor for the Turtle Island project – I responded to comments about the racism that were brought out in the Nimrod Nation documentary on the Sundance Channel.

—-

Link to the comments (scroll down to Yoopernewsman):

http://www.sundancechannel.com/discussions/Post/390312894

http://www.sundancechannel.com/discussions/Post/390306210

Additional info on Turtle Island Project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula:

As volunteer media advisor for the Upper Peninsula based non-profit Turtle Island Project, it’s been a challenge to get the media to publish our goals – one of the main objectives is addressing racism against First Nations peoples in Michigan’s pristine U.P.

While based in Munising along Lake Superior, the Turtle Island Project (TIP) works with tribes across the U.S.

For example, this Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007 is the second TIP free benefit concert for the White Buffalo Calf Womans Society in Mission, South Dakota – the first and oldest domestic violence shelter on an American Indian reservation.

This concert will help address the shocking number of teen suicides on that Lakota reservation that is also under-reported by the mainstream media (18 deaths, 500 attempted suicides in the past two years).

The Dec. 15 concert is in Munising. The first was held in August 2007 when two U.P. folk bands – White Water and Duo Borealis – traveled to South Dakota. Since that event three more Rosebud teen have killed themselves.

TIP will hold its second Native American Roundtable and National Conference in August 2008 with well-known Native American leaders from around the country.

All TIP events are free.

Everyone is invited, although we ask First Nations peoples to set the agenda without interference from whites.

The TIP founders are Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard of Munising, MI, a Lutheran pastor who has served in many locations including Chicago and the Virgin Islands; and Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, Indiana, a Chicago Theological Seminary research professor and an United Church of Christ minister.

Turtle Island Project main website:

http://www.turtleislandproject.org

Other TIP websites:

http://groups.msn.com/WhisperingTurtle

https://turtleislandproject.wordpress.com

—–

Turtle Island TV – Video sites:

(blipTV)

http://turtleislandtv.blip.tv

(youtube)

http://www.youtube.com/MunisingWhiteHorse

(myspace)

http://www.myspace.com/TurtleIslandProject

Important TIP videos on racism:

TIP founder warns meeting of religious scholars about consequences of racism/spiritual terrorism against Native Americans in August 2007:

http://blip.tv/file/337645

TIP founder on bordertown racism on Native America Calling national radio talk show in August 2007:

Part 1:

http://blip.tv/file/373938

Part 2:

http://blip.tv/file/373914

Report on first TIP Native American roundtable in U.P. in Sept. 2007:

http://blip.tv/file/397295

Upper Peninsula religious leaders from 9 faith traditions with 140 churches/temples are concerned about the racism against Native Americans and the environment.

I am also the volunteer media advisor for two other non-profit U.P. projects involving these religious leaders, Native Americans, the environment and racism.

The Manoomin Project (Native American guides teach at-risk teens about racism and other social issues while restoring/planting wild rice in the U.P.):

http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096416108

http://www.cedartreeinstitute.org/wildrice2007.html

The Earth Keeper Initiative:

http://www.lakesuperior.com/online/295/295award.html

http://www.cedartreeinstitute.org/lsmagazine07.html

Videos on both projects:

http://earthkeepers.blip.tv/

http://www.youtube.com/yoopernewsman

For more information or contact info for the TIP founders or any of the projects please call 906-475-5068 or email:

TurtleIslandProject@charter.net

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About yoopernewsman

I am a news reporter, writer and investigative journalist and began my career about 40 years ago as a young teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during the middle of high school. I'm a news reporter, writer & investigative journalist specializing in street news, plus Indigenous, civil rights & environment reporting. Currently volunteer media advisor for numerous American Indian & environment related nonprofits that include the Navajo Lutheran Mission in Rock Point, AZ & its executive director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard, the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute (CTI) in Marquette, MI & its many projects founded by Rev. Jon Magnuson, Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI, Celtic Christianity Today (CCT) founded by Rev. Dr. George Cairns, the Turtle Island Project founded by pastors Hubbard & Cairns. In its third summer, the CTI Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project & its volunteers built a16-foot geodesic dome solar-powered greenhouse that was built in this summer at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) in an effort to restore native species plants to northern Michigan. It's located at the tribe's Natural Resources Department north of L'Anse along Lake Superior. During the summer of 2010, Zaagkii Project teens built & painted 25 beautiful reliquaries that are boxes made from pine & cedar that are used to store seeds for planting & included samples of Native American medicine including sweetgrass, cedar, sage & tobacco. From April-June 2009, I promoted the EarthKeeper Tree Project that planted 12,000 trees across northern Michigan. Co-edited "Unafraid," the second book by Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI that was printed in May 2009 based on her father's handwritten sermons she found in shoebox. I edited numerous videos for nonprofit CCT. Began career 35 years ago as teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during middle of high school. I was co-coordinator of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by local media who didn't report anything positive about the music icon. Mr. Terence Dicks was the other co-coordinator & most recently served as chair of the Augusta Human Relations Commission and serves on the Georgia Clients Council. Mr. Brown taught us to "fight the good fight" by battling all forms of racism & evil while not uttering a bad word about those who try to block justice, respect, fairness & kindness to all. As a child, I lived in the Harbert, Michigan home built by late poet Carl Sandburg, where the legendary author penned some of his greatest works including his Chicago works & Lincoln papers. The four-story home had a sundeck on the top & a cool walk-in safe in the basement. The neighborhood (Birchwood) has numerous cottages used for other purposes by Sandburg like the milk house where they milked goats. My parents remodeled fourth floor of the home that stands atop the Lake Michigan sand dunes/bluffs. They found items that belonged to Mr. Sandburg concealed in the walls including prescription bottles with his name, reading glasses, & a small, thin metal stamp with his name. I've worked for dozens of newspapers & radio & TV stations in GA & MI. I'm volunteer media advisor for several interfaith environmental projects involving Native Americans across Upper Peninsula of MI including the Turtle Island Project, The Zaagkii Project, the Interfaith Earth Healing Initiative, EarthKeeper Initiative & the Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project. The Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project restores bee & butterfly habitat to help pollination of plants following death of billions of bees. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community youth & Marquette teens built butterfly houses, planted/distributed 26,000 native plants to help pollinators. The Earth Healing Initiative assisted EPA Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge. EHI helped organize interfaith participation across eight states for the 100 plus recycling projects (April 2008) involving recycling millions of pounds of electronic waste & proper disposal of millions of pills/pharmaceuticals. EPA goals were exceeded by 500%. Under an EPA grant, EHI provided free media services for the cities/groups/tribes including videos & press releases. The EarthKeeper environment projects include an annual Earth Day Clean Sweep (2005-2007) at 24 free drop-off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan that collected over 370 tons of household hazardous waste. The 2007 EarthKeeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep collected over one ton of drugs plus $500,000 in narcotics in only three hours. Some 2,000 residents participated & many brought in pharmaceuticals for their family, friends & neighbors. In 2006, 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones & other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons & vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project teaches teens to respect nature & themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to remote lakes & streams in northern Michigan to plant/care for wild rice. The teens test water quality to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. The Turtle Island Project was co-founded in July 2007 by Rev. Lynn Hubbard of Rock Point, AR (Ex. Dir. of the Navajo Lutheran Mission) & Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, IN, United Church of Christ minister & research professor for the Chicago Theological Seminary. TIP promotes respect for culture & heritage of indigenous peoples like American Indians. TIP is a platform for American Indians to be heard unedited by whites. Rev. Hubbard says whites don't have the knowledge or right to speak on behalf of Native Americans. I specialize in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops & courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the books "Illusions" & "Jonathon Livingston Seagull." Love to fish, hunt, camp & skydive. Belong to Delta Chi national fraternity. I was active in Junior Achievement, band played cornet. With my dear friend, the Rev. Terence A. Dicks, we were the co-coordinators of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by the local media who found no reasons to print or report anything positive about the music icon. I am honored to help the human rights activist Terence Dicks - with some of his projects including the nonprofit Georgia Center for Children and Education - and the economic initiative he founded titled "Claiming A Street Named King." I am the volunteer media advisor for several environmental projects across Michigan's Upper Peninsula including EarthKeeper II - an Initiative of the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute in Marquette, MI. EarthKeepers II is an Interfaith Energy Conservation and Community Garden Initiative across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Goals: Restore Native Plants and Protect the Great Lakes from Toxins like Airborne Mercury in cooperation with the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, U.S. Forest Service, 10 faith traditions and Native American tribes like the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Previously known as the Earth Keeper Initiative - that project included many environmental projects including an annual Earth Day Clean sweep at two dozen free drop off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan. The target of the 2007 Earth Keeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep are all kinds of medicines. In 2006, some 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones and other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons and vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project taught at-risk teens (just sentenced in juvenile court) to respect nature and themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to very remote lakes and streams in northern Michigan to plant and care for wild rice. The teens conducted water quality and other tests to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. I have always specialized in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops and courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the book "Illusions."
This entry was posted in Blackfoot, Chippewa, KBIC, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Native America Calling, Native American, Ojibwa, prejudice, racism, television, Turtle Island, Turtle Island Project and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Racism against Michigan Native Americans revealed in Nimrod Nation documentary on Sundance Channel

  1. steven crane says:

    Native americans Need never forget their passion and importance of settling this country ! Incredible respect and praise of the Earth and its valuable teachings !the native people are blessed with ! Keep your faith in yourselves and our planet ! Thank you People ! You have been my personal best, inspiration for what human beings are and should be !

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