• August 15, 2012
    https://www.dead.net/features/native-americans/notes-grateful-dead-and-native-americans
    Notes On The Grateful Dead and Native Americans

    Wes Lang's Indian Girl.

    Wes Lang’s evocation of a Native American take on the Grateful Dead’s iconography for the Spring 1990 boxed set has deep roots in the Dead’s milieu. A fascination with all things Indian was a big part of the Haight-Ashbury, and the Dead were no exception. Band members were as intrigued with Native American heritage as they were with the Anglo side of Americana and the West, which can be seen in photographs, posters, and other artifacts in the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

    Some aspects of the band’s association with Native Americans were even closer to home. In 1969, Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay in an historic bid to raise awareness of a variety of social and political issues; and over the years, the Dead supported Native American charitable organizations and invited Native American groups to perform as opening acts as well.

    Probably the most famous link between the Dead and Native Americans was their friendship with Rolling Thunder, “an authentic healer and a fascinating character,” as Dennis McNally put it, who inspired Mickey in particular—see Hart’s album of the same name, which features an invocation by Rolling Thunder. But RT, as he was affectionately dubbed, was a friend to the whole band, someone to whom Weir turned for help when an apparition spooked both him and his dog on a songwriting trip to Wyoming.

    NC Wyeth's Indian illustration.

    Native Americans also haunt the periphery of the Dead’s world, just as they do the broader cultural context that frames America in all its complexity, like the NC Wyeth illustration of an Indian stretching out his hands that inspired Weir to remark to Barlow, “Looks like rain,” which became the title of the song they were writing. And most fans can think of several iconic posters advertising Dead shows that feature Native American motifs and themes, such as Bill Graham dressed in complete warrior regalia for the Dead’s New Year’s 1990 poster.

    Similar trappings have been a part of Deadhead style since its genesis in the Haight-Ashbury, but some fans have had deeper commitments to Native American causes. One group, called the Grateful Dead Indians, handed out flyers at Dead shows in the ’90s, a gesture that captured the imagination of Yale historian Philip J. Deloria, who wrote about them in his book Playing Indian. Most recently, Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus presenter Jeremy Vaughan gave a paper at last year’s conference called “‘Indians Are Better Than Cowboys’: The Grateful Dead and Native Americans” that surveyed that connection.

    Wes Lang updates and honors that long tradition with his truly breathtaking imagery for this release. Fans owe Wes a big thanks for his creativity and art: His work for Spring 1990 represents a magnificent continuation of an important strand in the band’s long, strange trip through American culture.

    Nicholas Meriwether
    Grateful Dead Archivist
    UC Santa Cruz

    357101
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Wes Lang's Indian Girl.

Wes Lang’s evocation of a Native American take on the Grateful Dead’s iconography for the Spring 1990 boxed set has deep roots in the Dead’s milieu. A fascination with all things Indian was a big part of the Haight-Ashbury, and the Dead were no exception. Band members were as intrigued with Native American heritage as they were with the Anglo side of Americana and the West, which can be seen in photographs, posters, and other artifacts in the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

Some aspects of the band’s association with Native Americans were even closer to home. In 1969, Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay in an historic bid to raise awareness of a variety of social and political issues; and over the years, the Dead supported Native American charitable organizations and invited Native American groups to perform as opening acts as well.

Probably the most famous link between the Dead and Native Americans was their friendship with Rolling Thunder, “an authentic healer and a fascinating character,” as Dennis McNally put it, who inspired Mickey in particular—see Hart’s album of the same name, which features an invocation by Rolling Thunder. But RT, as he was affectionately dubbed, was a friend to the whole band, someone to whom Weir turned for help when an apparition spooked both him and his dog on a songwriting trip to Wyoming.

NC Wyeth's Indian illustration.

Native Americans also haunt the periphery of the Dead’s world, just as they do the broader cultural context that frames America in all its complexity, like the NC Wyeth illustration of an Indian stretching out his hands that inspired Weir to remark to Barlow, “Looks like rain,” which became the title of the song they were writing. And most fans can think of several iconic posters advertising Dead shows that feature Native American motifs and themes, such as Bill Graham dressed in complete warrior regalia for the Dead’s New Year’s 1990 poster.

Similar trappings have been a part of Deadhead style since its genesis in the Haight-Ashbury, but some fans have had deeper commitments to Native American causes. One group, called the Grateful Dead Indians, handed out flyers at Dead shows in the ’90s, a gesture that captured the imagination of Yale historian Philip J. Deloria, who wrote about them in his book Playing Indian. Most recently, Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus presenter Jeremy Vaughan gave a paper at last year’s conference called “‘Indians Are Better Than Cowboys’: The Grateful Dead and Native Americans” that surveyed that connection.

Wes Lang updates and honors that long tradition with his truly breathtaking imagery for this release. Fans owe Wes a big thanks for his creativity and art: His work for Spring 1990 represents a magnificent continuation of an important strand in the band’s long, strange trip through American culture.

Nicholas Meriwether
Grateful Dead Archivist
UC Santa Cruz

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Wes Lang’s evocation of a Native American take on the Grateful Dead’s iconography for the Spring 1990 boxed set has deep roots in the Dead’s mileu. A fascination with all things Indian was a big part of the Haight-Ashbury, and the Dead were no exception. Band members were as intrigued with Native American heritage as they were with the Anglo side of Americana and the West, which can be seen in photographs, posters, and other artifacts in the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

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great to see you here!!
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Hey Nick, You should stick with your research about the Grateful Dead. What you say is true in part. Many American Indians love the music of the Grateful Dead but so much misinformation has been perpetuated by the new age. Santa Fe is filled with that bullshit. The Dead indeed had the benifit at Winterland for the Native community in 1972. Rolling Thunder was probably the real thing but most medicine men do not have books written about them. Brad Stieger the author knew a money maker when he saw it. Check with Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame. He may have been one of the few original hippies who had some idea about native people as he was married to Lois of the Ottowa tribe. I hope some American Indians (and yes that term is used by Native people) will speak more to the point than this old white man who has lived with and around Native people for most of my life.
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Note Ranch Rocks was held on tribal land, Northern Paiute I think, at Pyramid Lake after Garcia went down in about 1986 and shows had to be canceled. That was a great weekend.
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I like some of the cover art Timothy Truman did for Grateful Dead Comix that merged GD symbology and American Indians. A couple were very reminiscent of Frederic Remington's work.
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Really befits a Grateful Dead rendition. The Dead had many ties, the greatsest of which perhaps the UC Berkeley AIM Benefit in 72. If Wes' work is a continuation of that energy we all wish him more success as per the current tour and his Rolling Thunder ties so close we all wish the greatest blessings
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Not sure about some of the artwork. The skull in the headdress is almost too well drawn; it looks to me rather too much like an anthropological illustration, reminding me of museums and bone collections, and darker still, mass graves and massacres. I think I prefer my skeletons rather more cartoony ( as indeed many of Wes Lang’s others are).
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I appreciate the article and one of the things I've always loved about the Dead (and the Deadheads) is their obvious affection for Native culture. I am myself a Deadhead from way back, but I am also a scholar in Native American studies, and Native by birth. My view is from both perspectives, Deadhead and Indian. As a Native person, Wes Lang's cartoon Indian girl is offensive. It is offensive for the usual reason cartoon Indians are offensive...it automatically relegates Indians to an imaginary space where we are stuck in an idealized past and irrelevant (or non-existent) in the present. What would happen if the artist tried to pass off an image of a black slave with the same kind of reverence and longing for an American past that this image invokes? This particular image while beautiful, is also very culturally inaccurate. Women don't wear eagle feather headdresses in Native cultures. Only men do. Phillip Deloria does indeed devote the concluding chapter in his book "Playing Indian" to the Grateful Dead Indians, but not in the flattering way that Nick implies. The book is an interrogation about how Americans have historically appropriated (i.e. taken, or used) Indian identities for various purposes. The overall message is that Americans have never completely accepted their brutal history of genocide and plunder of Indians and their lands, but that they have needed Indians to validate their own sense of identity which is not entirely European, but not Native (one could say indigenous). It is about the search for an elusive authentic identity. As Deloria says in the chapter "To play Indian has been to connect with a real Self, both collective and individual, and there was no better way to find such reassurance" (pg. 183).
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The illustration of the Native on horseback was really done by N.C. Wyeth father of Andrew Wyeth. The American Indian Benefit at Winterland was March 5, 1972. Would need further research to see if it was for A.I.M.. The Rex Foundation has helped Native people for years. Would be good to find out what groups have been benefited from Rex.
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My thanks to Dina for weighing in with her thoughtful post. My article is entitled "Notes" for a reason: it is a very brief, non-academic sketch of the connections, both substantive and casual, between the Dead phenomenon and Native Americans. In no way did I make a value judgment on any of those connections - - either implied or otherwise. Rolling Thunder, for example, is considered controversial by some Native Americans; that does not mean that historians should not acknowledge his involvement in the Dead's world. In fact, my reason for citing both Deloria and Jeremy Vaughan's conference paper was to ensure that knowledgeable readers would recognize that the sketch does recognize the very real issues to which Dina alludes. Deloria's book is quite critical, as Dina points out; the fact that he chose to frame his final chapter with the Dead phenomenon is what I was pointing out as significant. The fact that I made it a point to include the book is also significant. Likewise, Vaughan's paper is often quite critical as well, given his deep involvement in Native American causes, although he also points out how complex that terrain is. Which was the intention of my piece as well: to sketch those connections and point that complexity. As someone who is sensitive to the scholarship on Native American expropriation, I appreciate her concerns and respect them.
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Rather than post a list or Rex grantees since 1983, which would derail this thread completely, I refer folks to the listing on the Rex site. Lots of cool groups have benefited from Rex grants over the years...
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Once in awhile you can get shown the light....... And that's why forums like this are so important, even (especially!) when the topic matter is delicate, controversial and difficult like this is. As Native scholars, we like to think we're making progress in being able to talk about these things without being told yet again that we're being overly sensitive or that we just need to "get over" the past. I appreciate the conversation Nick. Do you know if there is an online connection to Vaughn's paper? Would love to read it. May the four winds blow you safely home.
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that pic is very Hollywood Indian. It reminded me more than anything of Natalie Wood in 'The Searchers'. So I looked up a picture to check and found this http://www.emanuellevy.com/media/2012/07/the_searchers_5.jpeg now look closely...is that some kind of modified stealie she is wearing? Spooky. Interesting and educational discussion folks, thanks. It's a thn line between paying homage and cultural appropriation.
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Evidently one time The Dead suprised Quicksilver with an indian raid on Quicksilver's home base. The Dead came as Indians. Totally surprised them! Well, not to be outdone, Quicksilver wanted to retalitate with a raid of their own. So they go to Winterland where the Dead were doing a gig , dressed as cowboys with guns. Unfortunetely Quicksilver got busted by police for bringing arms to the area. Kind of backfired!
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I have not read "Rolling Thunder" the book since the 70s. I stated Brad Stieger as the author. Looking up the book to possibly reread it I see the author was Doug Boyd. So sorry. "All I want is the truth". John Lennon
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The native indian and all of the spring 1990 art seems lazy and unoriginal to me. Maybe that was the point?
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Perhaps the closest Native connection to the Grateful Dead was Martin Fierro. He was of Apache and Tarahumara heritage. He played on "Wake of the Flood" in 1973. I used to see him perform with Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at Keystone in 1974. I remember he had an eagle feather on his cowboy hat. Very lively musician. As far as other American Indians and First Nations musicians from the golden hippie era the list is notable. Robbie Robertson is half Mohawk from Canada, Rita Coolidge is Cherokee from Oklahoma, Jesse Ed Davis was Kiowa from Oklahoma and was one of the more talented session musicians in L.A..Jesse Ed played with John Lennon on his "Rock and Roll" album. I came across my Dead tape from March 5, 1972. American Indian Benefit at Winterland and first live "Black Throated Wind". The tape is missinig B.T.W. A new book has been published titled "Hippies, Native Americans, and the fight for Red Power" by Sherry Smith from Oxford University Press 2012.I plan to read it soon. Also Bobby Petersen and Laird Grant lived off and on in Taos in the old hippie days . I met Laird in Taos in 1987 when New Buffalo Commune had a 20th aniversary party. Robert Hunter also spent some time in Santa Fe and Taos 40 to 45 years ago. Many of these stories have died with their tellers. Bobby passed in January of 87. Many more of these stories will pass as the old timers go.
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Legend says,I don't know if it's exactly;that Grateful Dead in certain time were defendin' indians,at the other hand Quicksilver got on well with cowboy culture,and finally at Fillmore or Winterland were "contending" on each side or the other,dressin' like cowboys and indians. ?
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I wonder why so many think that some of the artwork involving American Indians is offensive, I do not think so. I am 1/4th Cherokee and have many friends that are full blood Cherokee Indians, I don't think this is offensive at all and I think it's important to respect our native cultures.
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IN response to row jimmys story. someone saw them with a gun, thought it was real, or was gonna really be used, called the cops, before the "hold UP" they were smoking a little pot in their van and the police caught them burning it before they ever made it. that story can be really funny if you look at it right, sucks for them it happened, but there is a humorous side to it. I think maybe portraying a black man as a monkey is wrong and offensive, but does not seem wrong for someone to take images that to us represent an overall culture or indigenous way of life, and feel free to use them in an artistic form, skull with a headress, which was done to represent the proclaimed connection with natives the dead and "hippies' it makes sense anyone offended by it would come off as suspicious of being someone looking for something to be offended about
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People that follow 0% of our culture, and whose ancestors left our culture generations ago, do not speak for Rez Indians. I'm sorry. Too many 1/4 Cherokee's out there that practice Christianity, white culture, and attempt to speak for us. Real Natives know what that headdress is. What it takes to earn it. To see a white band show it off, on a skeleton, as if we are dead and gone, is highly offensive. Before you call me insensitive, study our history. Our real history. We are still kept on Reservations if we want to practice our culture. Reservations are POW camps. Still filed as such with the official government documents.
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1st off I'm Native ,living and working here on my Rez.(Khapo Owingeh) Santa Clara pueblo. 30 miles north of Santa Fe NM. I highly question these "Cherokee Indians" or other so self proclaimed Indians. Im questioning Dina Whitaker as well. I'm calling BS on all you.Are you enrolled tribal members? do you have a C.I.B.(certificate of Indian blood). Do you actually participate in your tribal ceremonies on your Rez? Clan membership? Live on your Rez? Know the good and horrible things that happen on all Rezs? Know the extreme social and economic problems that exist? I DONT find anything offensive about Indians that Wes Lang or anyone else has portrayed!I find it laughable that any Indians find this offensive. Sports teams that bear Indian names are loved by all NM pueblos.Hats of teams such as Atlanta braves,Redskins,Indians are worn with pride. I enjoy the music and hold fond memories of the hundreds of GD shows I've seen. Ive met some cool white people ,and the only thing I find offensive is white people or the "Cherokee " Indians pretending to be Native. Going on a "vision quest" or believing Grandfather Martin from Hopi, telling me how to be a better Native.Dina Whitaker? I doubt her BS.too.
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While the art may or may not be offensive to an individual of or not or Native Decent, the history is important. I'm not particularly interested in anything else except the oral and spiritual traditions. These I'm sure were passed to and from the Dead and the Native's of many traditions during the 90's. I know for a fact that these two social movements; one newly established; and one more ancient and realized at a time that we could ever imagine. These two traditions have met, and to pit them against each other is to divide and conquer by those not supporting either. We must keep our traditions alive so we may share lessons, I need any information I can have on the Native and Dead connection... so both may live. PS. Any information or persons of oral tradition relating to this movement/era, I needs'. How far South did we make it?
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  • Brin
    6 years 8 months ago
    I Want to Know These Stories
    While the art may or may not be offensive to an individual of or not or Native Decent, the history is important. I'm not particularly interested in anything else except the oral and spiritual traditions. These I'm sure were passed to and from the Dead and the Native's of many traditions during the 90's. I know for a fact that these two social movements; one newly established; and one more ancient and realized at a time that we could ever imagine. These two traditions have met, and to pit them against each other is to divide and conquer by those not supporting either. We must keep our traditions alive so we may share lessons, I need any information I can have on the Native and Dead connection... so both may live. PS. Any information or persons of oral tradition relating to this movement/era, I needs'. How far South did we make it?
  • Default Avatar
    red feather
    7 years 6 months ago
    Spring 90 tour art
    1st off I'm Native ,living and working here on my Rez.(Khapo Owingeh) Santa Clara pueblo. 30 miles north of Santa Fe NM. I highly question these "Cherokee Indians" or other so self proclaimed Indians. Im questioning Dina Whitaker as well. I'm calling BS on all you.Are you enrolled tribal members? do you have a C.I.B.(certificate of Indian blood). Do you actually participate in your tribal ceremonies on your Rez? Clan membership? Live on your Rez? Know the good and horrible things that happen on all Rezs? Know the extreme social and economic problems that exist? I DONT find anything offensive about Indians that Wes Lang or anyone else has portrayed!I find it laughable that any Indians find this offensive. Sports teams that bear Indian names are loved by all NM pueblos.Hats of teams such as Atlanta braves,Redskins,Indians are worn with pride. I enjoy the music and hold fond memories of the hundreds of GD shows I've seen. Ive met some cool white people ,and the only thing I find offensive is white people or the "Cherokee " Indians pretending to be Native. Going on a "vision quest" or believing Grandfather Martin from Hopi, telling me how to be a better Native.Dina Whitaker? I doubt her BS.too.
  • Default Avatar
    DonWhitmore
    7 years 11 months ago
    Real Native Americans
    People that follow 0% of our culture, and whose ancestors left our culture generations ago, do not speak for Rez Indians. I'm sorry. Too many 1/4 Cherokee's out there that practice Christianity, white culture, and attempt to speak for us. Real Natives know what that headdress is. What it takes to earn it. To see a white band show it off, on a skeleton, as if we are dead and gone, is highly offensive. Before you call me insensitive, study our history. Our real history. We are still kept on Reservations if we want to practice our culture. Reservations are POW camps. Still filed as such with the official government documents.