Southside Photos Du Jour: The “Tipi” Rant

getting ready to barbecue

Today I had the pleasure of showing a buddy of mine, Lisanne, around northern Brooklandia. She’s been quite busy of late kicking ass in her community (“Gowanus”); was kind enough to take me on a tour of her community and I wanted to return the favor. I felt perhaps a walk around Williamsburg would be an interesting juxtaposition to what her community faces. Above all, I wanted to show her what I consider to be one of the supreme grotesques when to comes to developer/community organization “partnerships”. I speak of none other than the Southside teepee tipi.

Havemeyer Park Recliner nys

I have yet to articulate in words how much this thing enrages me. Maybe I’ll get it right this time. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

To preface, a little information about myself:

  1. I am not of Native American descent. I am not a spokesperson for the Native American community. However…
  2. my forbears (on my mother’s side) came from Texas. Well, if you want to get “picky” they lived in Texas before Texas was “Texas”. They were European immigrants and they immigrated to Mexico.
  3. They were not “wealthy” people. They lived alongside and in (relative*) harmony with Native Americans and Latinos (NOTE: I am reticent to use the term ‘Mexicans” because back in the day my forebears would also qualify as such. See point #2).
  4. When one is living on the “frontier”, “poor” and as such bereft the amenities we have in this modern age he/she does not have the luxury of being racist— and I assure you racism is a “luxury”. Instead, you pulled together as many collective resources as you could as a community. My grandmother and great aunt had (as they put it) a “Comanche woman” (“political correctness” as we know it was/is a mite bit too much to ask from two women born in 1909 and 1911 respectively) from a neighboring plot of land/”ranch” as a babysitter on occasion. They had fond memories of her.
  5.  When there was a “feud”, as great aunt put it, between this “Comanche” family and another family (non-native American, I recall) they sided with the Comanches. Like I said: racism is a luxury.

I am not Native American. However— and in large part due to my grandmother and her sister— I have been exposed Native Amercian history and culture since pretty much day one. And that’s why this teepee tipi pisses me off so goddamn much.

bbq pit and teepee

After I took this photo a 20-something fellow, the “fire setter”, clad in overalls, bandanna and a straw hat approached me.

Are you Miss Heather of New York Shitty?

he asked.

I answered to the affirmative. He responded as follows:

I’m Ryan, I used to work for GWAPP. We’ve met before.

Instead of tendering my condolences (I am capable of restraint when I want to be) I asked:

What are you doing?

We’re going to have a barbecue.

He replied and added:

We’re using wood because lighter fluid is bad!

“Oh I know” I replied and added:

Please tell that to my neighbors.** They just LOVE lighter fluid. They can’t barbecue for shit. They’d be excellent arsonists if they wanted to be.

Laughter, albeit of the uncomfortable/awkward variety, followed. “Ryan” went about his business and we went in.

southside teepee

newbalances

Upon seeing this pair of New Balance sneakers outside the “tipi” my companion and I burst into fits of cynical laughter. She noted “NBs” are the footwear of choice among “progressives”.

no shoes in the tipi

No shoes are allowed in the tipi.

people in tipi looking at iphone

But apparently the “tipi” has an open door policy for smart phones.

I do not recall Native Americans having iphones. Hell, I do not recall reading— ANYWHERE— about the Native Americans who once called this land their home having teepees tipis.  This is because they didn’t. Teepees were used by nomadic tribes— generally on the great plains. Teepees were made of buffalo hide. Brooklyn did not have “nomadic tribes” (or buffalo for that matter). There was no need to travel long distances: everything they needed was here.

My travelling companion, Lisanne, put it (more or less— paraphrasing here) very well:

Don’t they see the irony of having a teepee in a neighborhood where a lot of residents (many of whom are Latino and probably “Mestizo”— Ed. Note.) are being forced out?

No they don’t— and that is the problem.

nativeappropriations

Straight up: If you are going to appropriate Native American culture (which you probably shouldn’t do in the first place), at least make it contextually/historically relevant. New York City is not lacking in Native American history. So why I ask, once again, do we have this teepee? I am guessing it is a “nod” to Native American culture.

The problem with this teepee is— however well intended it may be— is the wrong Native American culture. By erecting this you are doing our predecessors here— and probably giving youths the notion that teepees did in fact exist here— a serious disservice. In fact I’d go so far to say one poorly placed teepee in Williamsburg is actually worse than no acknowledgement of Native American presence at all. Wrong information is worse than no information.

This could have, should have been an opportunity to educate people— newcomers and old timers, young and old— about the Native Americans who once lived here. Instead we have a hang-out wherein one can peruse one’s iphone. No lighter fluid, New Balances or Nikes allowed.

Rather sad, yes?

*For example, one time my grandmother and great aunt’s mother placed pies on a window sill to cool. The “Indians” stole them. My great aunt found her mother’s tristesse quite hilarious.

**Who also, thankfully rarely, host drum circles.

From The New York Shitty Photo Pool: <3 Domino

Taken by gothamruins.

New York Shitty Feral Furniture Watch: Southside Selections

South 5th Street

South 5 street nys

South 5 Street Feral Sofa nys

It’s amazing how those illegal clothing drop off boxes seem to attract illegal dumping…

South 5 Street Sofa detritus NYS

in more ways than one. Trust me: this smelled worse than it looks (which is pretty darned bad).

“Havemeyer Park”

Havemeyer Park Recliner nys

Note the “teepee” in the background.  These were not indigenous to the region “back in the day”. There were no “buffalo” in New York. I suppose the gesture (raising awareness about Native Americans?) is a nice enough one— but why not do so in a geographically, historically relevant manner?

From The New York Shitty Photo Pool: Southside

July 15, 2014 ·
Filed under: 11211, Williamsburg, Williamsburg Brooklyn 

Taken by Michael Tapp.

New York Shitty Feral Furniture Watch: Special Southside Edition

Feral Food 600

No Surfing 600

Thumbs Up 600

Taken June 20, 2014.

The Word On The Street: Welcome to Jerklyn

Jerklyn 600

Williamsburg Bridge 600

Taken June 20, 2014.

Southside Photo Du Jour: Looking Up

April 10, 2014 ·
Filed under: 11211, 11249, Williamsburg, Williamsburg Brooklyn 

Taken April 10, 2014.

The Word On The Street: Dunham Place

Taken April 10, 2014.

The Word On The Street: Rodney Street

April 4, 2014 ·
Filed under: 11211, The Word On The Street, Williamsburg, Williamsburg Brooklyn 

Taken April 3, 2014.

From The New York Shitty Inbox: Greetings From Broadway

(in Brooklyn, that is)

NOTWANTEDnys

My anonymous tipster, “T” writes:

You may have seen these, but just in case. Posted up under the train along Broadway.. On almost every truss/pillar.

Actually, I have not. But then again:

1. I received this mailer from a tipster who resides in the 34th.

SayNO1

SayNO2

lapdogAARONSHORT2. I reside in the 33rd— wherein a great many of my fellow citizens seem to be in a state of denial that our incumbent City Councilman, Steve Levin, was the Chief of Staff and in fact mentored by this lovely fellow.

Why is this so? For starters, I’d hazard to guess that when compared to David Yassky or Ken Fisher, Levin’s predecessors, he seems like an improvement. The sad fact is, Levin probably is an improvement.

But that just goes to show how low the expectations are here in Greenpoint— and how disappointed I am that no attention by reformers is being directed to the “race” here. Yes, there is one

Supplemental/suggested reading: this tome by City & State. Here’s a choice passage:

…Possibly the most bizarre example of the staffer-as-candidate phenomenon is taking place right now in Brooklyn, where two former chiefs of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Council Members Stephen Levin and Diana Reyna, currently occupy neighboring districts. In a veritable warren of political intrigue, Lopez is running against Reyna’s chief of staff, Antonio Reynoso, while next door Levin is making every effort to pretend that his own re-election campaign has nothing whatsoever to do with the scandals plaguing his former boss…

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