November 10, 2007

NMAI ENDORSES DAVID YEAGLEY'S VOICE

from the Bad Eagle blog

Before heading off for his second invite to the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) “Classical Native” music concerts, Yeagley posted a particularly vile piece of hate propaganda.

Yeagley — “Muslims have no rights... There is no place for such demonism in America... The Muslims don't care if they appear anti-American... Muslims knowingly provide camouflage for violent mass murderers in America... Islam is here to disrupt, to change, and to denigrate America... The Muslims are not moral beings... They are not worthy of hate. They simply need to be gotten rid of” (11-9-07).
The concerts are happening today, the performance of special significance to me is the tribute to our most experienced American Indian composer, Dr. Louis W. Ballard, who passed away earlier this year. The “Classical Native” concert series is a notable venue for contemporary Native composers and musicians, except for the choice to have Yeagley return for a second time (yes, they knew about Yeagley's negative activities last year too, and invited him back).

I, myself, was invited to attend the first year, but declined to do so in protest. I cannot speak for any other Native participants, the other Native composers and musicians in attendance today. I can only speak for myself, and it is important to me to make this one point, even if the Smithsonian does not “get it” or may not care about it one way or another, so long as they maintain the appearance of supporting Native people.


American Indian music is not a product. In fact, there is traditionally no such word for “music” in Native languages, because the narrow scope of that term is severely reductionist from a Native perspective. Music is printed, bought, sold and presented at Museum concerts, but American Indian music-ing (never a noun) is a process that involves much more than the westernized term “music.” For Indians, music-ing is tied to kinship, community, people’s voices, and has a long history embedded in every activity. Such a music-ing process can never be separated out leaving a leftover byproduct the West might call “music.”


Why is this ‘something-greater-than-music’ distinction important? Because, who creates the music-ing is speaking, using their own voices, telling a Native reality in a music-ing way. The music is not transferable nor performable expect by the originators themselves, traditionally. In other words, whoever are the creators of the music, it is their voices that are being birthed out in the music-ing process. To know the music-ing is to know the originators of that music-ing, the two cannot be separated for American Indian music-ing. One cannot experience music-ing without knowing the composers and performers, which is why I have actively boycotted the NMAI Classically Native series.


While I acknowledge the Smithsonian’s NMAI has every right to hire and present any artist they choose, it is painfully clear the NMAI has not taken a close look at Yeagley’s hate blog, and his negative influence on American Indian life. To present his music in the concert series is to promote Yeagley himself and endorse his hateful agenda. Yeagley and “his music” cannot be separated from an indigenous standpoint, and the NMAI’s continued endorsement of Yeagley’s particular voice, is disgusting and, in a word, anti-Indian. Until the NMAI changes its nonchalant attitude of endorsing hate politics, such as Yeagley’s Muslim bashing (and Mexican-Women-Black-Elder bashing), I will refuse to participate. Message: connect the creators to their creations please, and stop with the Westernized objectification of American Indian music at our nation's American Indian museum.


So there you have it, the NMAI and the First Nations Composer Initiative (FNCI), both endorsing the Yeagley voice. How disappointing. So while I wholeheartedly miss Louis Ballard, and do actively support the honoring of his memory, I cannot in good conscience endorse Yeagley’s NMAI countenance with my own tacit participation. I have composed music to honor Louis myself, and the music is receiving performances in other places, in other venues, but not at the NMAI.


As for Yeagley’s Muslim bashing above, Yeagley has failed once again to really think through the matter from multiple angles. Muslims are US citizens. They serve in the US military. Muslims are US patriots. Muslims have US national rights as well as international human rights. In fact, the US is actively recruiting Muslims into the military. Yeagley is calling for rights to be taken away from US citizens and military personnel, in his rush to propagate Muslim bashing and hatred. Yeagley, who never served, is clamoring that military men and women have their US rights taken away simply because they are Muslim?
WASHINGTON – As US troops battle Islamic extremists abroad, the Pentagon and the armed forces are reaching out to Muslims at home. An underlying goal is to interest more Muslims in the military, which needs officers and troops who can speak Arabic and other relevant languages and understand the culture of places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The effort is also part of a larger outreach. Pentagon officials say they are striving for mutual understanding with Muslims at home and abroad and to win their support for US war aims. Among the efforts to attract and retain Muslim cadets:
• West Point and the other service academies have opened Muslim prayer rooms, as have military installations.

• Imams serve full- and part-time as chaplains at the academies and some bases.


• Top non-Muslim officers and Pentagon officials have taken to celebrating religious events with Muslims overseas and here in the US.
"There is a message here, and that is that Muslims and the Islamic religion are totally compatible with Western values," says Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in an interview.