D&D General "Red Orc" American Indians and "Yellow Orc" Mongolians in D&D

The fact that the study of indigenous cultures is still called that in the US is in itself a problem.
Hi, though I shared some Indigenous voices who prefer the term "American Indian", I don't mean to say that "Native American" is passé. Obviously the term has a wide currency presently. In fact, the American Indian Studies program I participated in at Montana State University back in the 2000s has since been renamed Native American Studies. Apologies if the examples I gave came across as polemic.

The problem that some Indigenous folks have with the term "Native American" is that it sounds "unquestionably" like the hundreds of various indigenous nationalities are, and should be, just one generic flavor of the American civic national identity. Just another "hyphenated American," blended into the U.S. nation-state. A similar parallel would be to call Scots "North Britons" and Welsh "West Britons" (or to lump them together as "Minority Britons" or "Peripheral Britons"); or to call Kurds "Eastern Turks", or Tibetans "Southwestern Chinese," or Maori "Native New Zealanders." The term "Native American" has a "generic", "engineered" feel which Russell Means alludes to.

Whereas "American Indian" has a poignant ring of a "continent-spanning race." The term "American Indian" is still used by the National Congress of American Indians (the official representative body of the 632 Indian Nations within the U.S.), and also by the radical American Indian Movement (A.I.M.). The term "Indian Country" is in wide use, and is included in the title of one of the main indigenous newspapers Indian Country Today. And, though not widely known by the American populace, the term "Indian Nations" is officially the self-designated equivalent to the Canadian term "First Nations." When the (U.S.) National Congress of American Indians and the (Canadian) Assembly of First Nations made a joint "Declaration of Kinship" in 1999, these 1,265 nations referred to themselves collectively as "the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of North America."

Still, I'm not here to argue whether Native American or American Indian is the only "right" term. Because they both have their place, with some indigenous individuals preferring one or the other. "Indigenous American" or "Indigenous North American" or "First Peoples" are other options which I sometimes tap. And, like others have mentioned, the ideal is to refer to the specific nation.
 

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Two things can be true at once.

It's perhaps possible that The Orcs of Thar was to some extent a response to Warhammer. Personally I think you're incorrect, because the timing doesn't work. The first Warhammer book which really separated out Orcs into strongly-themed tribes was a 40K book (actually, technically, a looseleaf that you had to put in a binder - I know because I had it). Thing is - that came out in 1989, alongside the plastic Ork boxed set (which was super-cool). WHFB mentioned tribes but didn't strongly characterize them in the way you're describing. "Red Wunz Go Fasta" originates with the looseleaf "book" I'm describing from 1989.

So I don't see how a 1988 product could be a reaction to a 1989 product.

Even if it was, if there was a product I missed (I don't think so but who knows), there's still a huge problem, because the "explanation" doesn't make it any less bad. If the writers react to the Evil Sunz or the Goffs with "Red Orcs" and "Yellow Orcs", dude, they're still absolutely doing something terrible, even if you think it's funny. Because they chose to use massive racism to "joke" about another product.

I get that as a kid the racism of this product slipped by you, and I don't blame you for that. But there's no "explanation" that doesn't make the people who made these product incredibly ignorant nor that makes it not hurtful and inappropriate.
I was 18 in 1988.
But the orks of WH 40k were also in WH and with similar ideas and projection. They were mainly a take on the punk movement of the 70s and 80s. Just the picture of an orc with a boom box rings a stone bell about what they were laughing at. Back in the 80s, when the orcs of Thar got out, we were all laughing about the jokes on the punk movement in that book. And that includes the Montagnais playing with me (an Innu nation in area) because we were more on heavy metal and hard rock.

As I said, some references to 1st nations might have been intentional or not. But the take on WH and the punk movement were quite clear to us, gamers of my area. For an outsider to the gamer community, the take on the 1st nation is definitely evident, especially if you ignore the context of the book and when it was made.

Back them we all saw the book as a joke more than an insult. Was it self deception? I do not know, bit we certainly did not saw it the way we do today.
 

As I said, some references to 1st nations might have been intentional or not.
@Dungeonosophy has given extreme detail on his research here. There is absolutely no possibility those references were not intentional. You don't "accidentally" call a nation "Red Orcs" then "accidentally" model them on Native Americans, then "accidentally" name their leader after a famous Native American leader. That's like robbing a bank then saying you accidentally found a gun in your hand, accidentally blurted out "give me all your money now!!!", accidentally waited whilst the money was put into bags and accidentally picked up those bags and fled the scene lol.
Back them we all saw the book as a joke more than an insult. Was it self deception? I do not know, bit we certainly did not saw it the way we do today.
I get that you didn't see it that way back then, and I don't criticise you for it. But my point is, for a lot of other people, it even in 1988, it would have been extremely obvious. You guys were teenagers just responding to something, but the people writing it were adults, working together to create something which is unquestionably trading in multiple layers and types of racist sentiment.
 

Voadam

Legend
Another cool picture from the book.

1639845260671.png
 


3) In the specific example you give, the Spanish conquistadors are portrayed as vampires. The general consensus nowadays is that, overall, the conquistadors were greedy, bloodthirsty, and destructive. And so their portayal as vampires is fitting, meaningful, and poignant.
The famous pirate Redbeard wan't English, but Otoman, with Greek blood. Why Otomans corsairs (who attacked villages in the coasts to catch slaves) can't be the bad guys in a XXI century movie? Is not that a double standar?

Who says Spanish conquerors were the bad guys? The sources are the enemies and rivals against the Spanish empire for that age. All those tropes from the anti-Spanish black legend are based in propaganda war (it is like saying to live in Seul is a hell, a postapocalypitc nightmare, because North-Korean mass-media tell that), and someday those tropes will be rejected like the old Hollywood far-west movies where the "redskins", indians or Northeamerican natives are showed as savages and monsters. If today Wotc apologies for Oriental Adventures in the future they will had to do the same for the vampires "conquistadores" from Ixalan setting.

Did you know how many universities were built in Hispanoamerica when USA got the independence? Maybe we shoud to talk about the lots of debts Simon Bolivar and company had to pay for the British help. In lots of USA zones Spanish language was talked before than English, and some names are by Spanish: Florida, Nevada, Montana, las Vegas, San Francisco, los Ángeles, Colorado, Adalucia(a city in Alabama), new Mardid (Missouri), Sacramento and California(whose name is from a fictional island from a Spanish novel). Spain is also a part of USA, and if some Northamericans attack Spain, they are attacking their own roots, their own past.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Even if it were somehow a complete unintentional accident, it would change nothing about the harm this kind of stereotypical and insulting representation propagates. But also, even if the creators had no intention to insult with what they included to be funny, they still intentionally included stuff that does.

Also, it is important to remember that whenever you say, "Well people of the time didn't see it as a problem" you are implicitly ignoring the very people targeted by those ideas, who certainly knew it to be a problem.
 


Voadam

Legend
Just the picture of an orc with a boom box rings a stone bell about what they were laughing at.
Sure that one picture with the boomboxes could have been directed at the punk movement, it has two with piercings and leather vests and mohawk style hair styles. It could have built off of WH40K riffs (which I was not as into but I thought was riffing on soccer hooligans).

But that is one picture in the explicitly Central-American themed section on Oenkmar, I don't remember any textual references to punk style stuff (but it has been decades and I have not read it cover to cover) for orcs in general.

So that picture can be taken as depicting Orcs as punks and/or urban hip hop Blacks. It is art subject to different interpretations and as an audience you do not necessarily know the artist's intent.

However the huge amount of text about Red Orc tribes and braves that is American Indian themed and the Yellow Orc Asian theming is pretty dominant and up front and pervasive.

I do not find it persuasive that the Indian and Asian theming was not intentional based on the one punk picture.

I think they were going for a Looney Tunes type parody cultural humor theming.
 

MGibster

Legend
Basing anything on a real life culture is inherently problematic if it's not yours even with sensitivity readers who ultimately represent themselves only.
Real life is problematic like that. We just have to accept that you're never going to make everybody happy while simultaneously taking the time to listen to those who object to the way things are presented. A lot of times they have a good point but sometimes they won't.

I think we can all agree that Chief Sitting Drool is objectively offensive. I Also think there are ways to take inspiration from a culture, without creating an offensive racist stereotype of that same culture.
Out of everything I've seen in this thread about the product, Chief Sitting Drool is one of the least offensive parts of it. It's a stupid third grader joke I would have expected to see on the likes of Garbage Pail Kids cards when I was a kid. It's offensive, sure, but mainly because it's so stupid.
Looking at what else was done in the 80's though..... What was acceptable is shocking now. I could rattle off a few things that were legal back then but yeah.
Good gravy, yeah. I've watched a few movies I saw as a kid and was floored by some of the things I just didn't remember. And I didn't remember those "shocking" scenes because at the time they were quite normal and mainstream.

Breakdancing and boomboxes, with spikes in their heads (in one ear out the other for one because there is nothing in between apparently). Looks like it can be taken as a depiction of stupid orcs as 80s American Black people.

Taken out of context, that one looks more to me like British punks. Most black people here in the United States during the 1980s did not sport safety pins through their cheeks or otherwise have a punk aesthetic. At least not according to the documentaries Breakin' (1984) and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (also 1984). Of course when you put that picture back into its context....yeesh.
 

The famous pirate Redbeard wan't English, but Otoman, with Greek blood. Why Otomans corsairs (who attacked villages in the coasts to catch slaves) can't be the bad guys in a XXI century movie? Is not that a double standar?

Who says Spanish conquerors were the bad guys? The sources are the enemies and rivals against the Spanish empire for that age. All those tropes from the anti-Spanish black legend are based in propaganda war (it is like saying to live in Seul is a hell, a postapocalypitc nightmare, because North-Korean mass-media tell that), and someday those tropes will be rejected like the old Hollywood far-west movies where the "redskins", indians or Northeamerican natives are showed as savages and monsters. If today Wotc apologies for Oriental Adventures in the future they will had to do the same for the vampires "conquistadores" from Ixalan setting.

Did you know how many universities were built in Hispanoamerica when USA got the independence? Maybe we shoud to talk about the lots of debts Simon Bolivar and company had to pay for the British help. In lots of USA zones Spanish language was talked before than English, and some names are by Spanish: Florida, Nevada, Montana, las Vegas, San Francisco, los Ángeles, Colorado, Adalucia(a city in Alabama), new Mardid (Missouri), Sacramento and California(whose name is from a fictional island from a Spanish novel). Spain is also a part of USA, and if some Northamericans attack Spain, they are attacking their own roots, their own past.
This is what is called "Whataboutism". It's a not legitmate or rational form of argument, especially not when applied so broadly. It is a logical fallacy.


Also I would totally unsurprised to see Ottoman slavers as baddies in a film. I think the main reason they haven't been is more chance and the fact that very few films are made about the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (aside from internal struggles in Italy). I have no idea why you think it wouldn't happen.

Also, the you seem to think that invoking "The Black Legend" is a "get out of jail free" card for everything Spain and Portugal did in the New World. It is not. "The White Legend" is what you're pushing, and it's equally nonsensical. There's really no historically accurate take that doesn't make the Spanish look pretty damn bad in Latin America. Just like there's no accurate take that doesn't make all of Europe look ghastly in Africa. And so on. Stop trying to use the fact that Spanish crimes in South America were hyped to pretend there aren't any crimes. I mean, in Soviet Russia, they used to hype American racism for propaganda value. That doesn't mean American racism wasn't real.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Who says Spanish conquerors were the bad guys? The sources are the enemies and rivals against the Spanish empire for that age. All those tropes from the anti-Spanish black legend are based in propaganda war (it is like saying to live in Seul is a hell, a postapocalypitc nightmare, because North-Korean mass-media tell that), and someday those tropes will be rejected like the old Hollywood far-west movies where the "redskins", indians or Northeamerican natives are showed as savages and monsters. If today Wotc apologies for Oriental Adventures in the future they will had to do the same for the vampires "conquistadores" from Ixalan setting.
Seriously!?!

How many time do we have to spell it for you: conquistadore arent an oppressed group.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
The famous pirate Redbeard wan't English, but Otoman, with Greek blood. Why Otomans corsairs (who attacked villages in the coasts to catch slaves) can't be the bad guys in a XXI century movie? Is not that a double standar?

Who says Spanish conquerors were the bad guys? The sources are the enemies and rivals against the Spanish empire for that age. All those tropes from the anti-Spanish black legend are based in propaganda war (it is like saying to live in Seul is a hell, a postapocalypitc nightmare, because North-Korean mass-media tell that), and someday those tropes will be rejected like the old Hollywood far-west movies where the "redskins", indians or Northeamerican natives are showed as savages and monsters. If today Wotc apologies for Oriental Adventures in the future they will had to do the same for the vampires "conquistadores" from Ixalan setting.

Did you know how many universities were built in Hispanoamerica when USA got the independence? Maybe we shoud to talk about the lots of debts Simon Bolivar and company had to pay for the British help. In lots of USA zones Spanish language was talked before than English, and some names are by Spanish: Florida, Nevada, Montana, las Vegas, San Francisco, los Ángeles, Colorado, Adalucia(a city in Alabama), new Mardid (Missouri), Sacramento and California(whose name is from a fictional island from a Spanish novel). Spain is also a part of USA, and if some Northamericans attack Spain, they are attacking their own roots, their own past.
When you say the "sources are the enemies and rivals of the Spanish" you are ignoring Spanish writers of that time who heavily disagrees with the tactics of the Conquistadors. Bartolome de Las Casas, a Spanish missionary living in the "New World," wrote heavily about the inhumane tactics of the Conquistadors and fought for humans treatment of native peoples. He wrote things like:

The pattern established at the outset has remained to this day, and the Spaniards still do nothing save tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying and persecuting them mercilessly.

And

The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed.

These quotations show that we can't handwave the actions and choices of people of the past just because it was a "different time." Even when native populations were being destroyed by Spanish Conquistadors, other Spanish writers and thinkers saw it for what it was.
 

ericstephen

Villager
You don't remember the 80's I do.

By the context of the time no one cared. There's worse in 80's pop culture eg movies.

Not saying it's right or wrong but you're injecting modern concepts backwards in time.

Doesn't work like that.

Personally I think the Mystara gaz series is a bit pants for multiple reasons thinly veiled reskins being one of them.

Here's your fantasy Mongol rip off, here's your fantasy Italian rip off etc.

Or context it's been 30+ years since that book came out. 30+ years before that book isn't that far removed from the events of WW2.

So yeah things can change very fast in a short amount of time.
I don't know how old you are, but I'm 53 & was 20 in 1988, growing up in white working class Brooklyn & most ppl didn't CARE about the plight of Native Americans or Black people but lots of ppl knew about the history to some extent. I played Shadowrun w my friends who still had racist views of all sorts of ppl despite having sympathy for the plight of cyber-fantasy Native Americans depicted in SR lore. Additionally, we have been talking about how the US broke basically every treaty it signed with Native American nations for a lot longer than 33 years.

Back then, NYC was dealing with "tense" race relations (ie, the super racist mindset of a majority of white New Yorkers [NOTE: majority is being generous as in my experience, the VAST majority of white folks in Brooklyn that I interacted with were really racist]) w Black ppl being killed for daring to show up in the wrong neighborhood, etc. & then being mocked with racial slurs & stereotypes, which one finds happening today despite the fact that PUBLICALLY ppl claim to be so much less racist than the US used to be.

Also, I think the main reason ppl cling so tenaciously to how "NOT RACIST" the times we live in are is so that racial minorities can be blamed for the issues they face instead of the nation taking a real look at it's ugly history and present day. But you know, what do I know? It's not like Black & other scholars tried to teach ppl how the institution of slavery drove the narrative of this country from the very beginning of the arrival of the first European colonists & white ppl flipped out (I'm being sarcastic, please see the hysteria around the 1619 Project & effective use of critical race theory as a terrifying threat to US society).
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Never said that they did not picked on 1st nationeers for inspiration, but that they did not limited themselves to only that. The only way to be sure would be to ask the writers what were their intentions.
I doubt that the author sat down and said, "I want to make something that mocks Native American cultures."

But due to centuries of oppression, Native American voices and perspectives were likely not an active part of the author's life. So as they filled this books with spiteful stereotypes and dumb, mean jokes, there was no one around to point out how obviously racist it was.

On the other hand, the Native American Rights Movement was highly active during and post-WWII. The author wasn't writing in a void, and TSR was filled with folks who had seen very public demonstrations of Native American recognition (the Wounded Knee Occultation in 1973, the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, etc).

I feel like one purpose in examining works in the past is to learn how to do better. TSR should have done better. They should have recognized the racism and just mean quality of this work. And they didn't.

Folks on this board have mentioned that in 30 years, we will look back on our own modern work and see it as regressive. This is inevitable. But we can try our best to not repeat the mistakes of the past. We can reach out to creators with different perspectives and experiences. We can read about history and also contemporary social movements. And if we do, and actually do the hard work, the hope is to create work that can be recognized in the future, despite its inevitable flaws.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Hi, though I shared some Indigenous voices who prefer the term "American Indian", I don't mean to say that "Native American" is passé. Obviously the term has a wide currency presently. In fact, the American Indian Studies program I participated in at Montana State University back in the 2000s has since been renamed Native American Studies. Apologies if the examples I gave came across as polemic.

The problem that some Indigenous folks have with the term "Native American" is that it sounds "unquestionably" like the hundreds of various indigenous nationalities are, and should be, just one generic flavor of the American civic national identity. Just another "hyphenated American," blended into the U.S. nation-state. A similar parallel would be to call Scots "North Britons" and Welsh "West Britons" (or to lump them together as "Minority Britons" or "Peripheral Britons"); or to call Kurds "Eastern Turks", or Tibetans "Southwestern Chinese," or Maori "Native New Zealanders." The term "Native American" has a "generic", "engineered" feel which Russell Means alludes to.

Whereas "American Indian" has a poignant ring of a "continent-spanning race." The term "American Indian" is still used by the National Congress of American Indians (the official representative body of the 632 Indian Nations within the U.S.), and also by the radical American Indian Movement (A.I.M.). The term "Indian Country" is in wide use, and is included in the title of one of the main indigenous newspapers Indian Country Today. And, though not widely known by the American populace, the term "Indian Nations" is officially the self-designated equivalent to the Canadian term "First Nations." When the (U.S.) National Congress of American Indians and the (Canadian) Assembly of First Nations made a joint "Declaration of Kinship" in 1999, these 1,265 nations referred to themselves collectively as "the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of North America."

Still, I'm not here to argue whether Native American or American Indian is the only "right" term. Because they both have their place, with some indigenous individuals preferring one or the other. "Indigenous American" or "Indigenous North American" or "First Peoples" are other options which I sometimes tap. And, like others have mentioned, the ideal is to refer to the specific nation.
I remember taking an undergraduate course about American Indians in the United States. The professor belonged to the Creek Tribe and had working relations with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and she insisted that we refer to first nation peoples as "American Indians" rather than "Native American." There are were also several students in the class from the Eastern Band of Cherokee and Lumbee Tribes of North Carolina who likewise agreed.
 

MGibster

Legend
But due to centuries of oppression, Native American voices and perspectives were likely not an active part of the author's life. So as they filled this books with spiteful stereotypes and dumb, mean jokes, there was no one around to point out how obviously racist it was.

"my grandfather who was full blood sisseton Dakota and I would travel cross country. Along the travels he would play his porcupine tape cassette very loud. When we would pull into a town to gas up he would leave the radio on loud, get out of the truck and everyone would look at us. At the end of the trip I ask why he never turn the music down and his reply was he wanted them who looked to remember We ( natives) still exist in our own land."

This above is a great user comment from a YouTube post on "Stadium Pow Wow" by The Halluci Nation ft. Black Bear. For a lot of Americans, contact with Native Americans is pretty much limited to the names of geographic locations. Here in Little Rock, Arkansas (itself derived from an Osage word), we have a historic neighborhood referred to as the Quapaw Quarter but we sure as heck don't have a lot of Quapaw, Osage, or Caddo people around these days. Most of them were relocated to Oklahoma by the US Government in the 19th century. I rarely knowingly bump into Native Americans in Central Arkansas though you'll see them unambiguously present in the north western part of the state near Oklahoma.

I feel like one purpose in examining works in the past is to learn how to do better. TSR should have done better. They should have recognized the racism and just mean quality of this work. And they didn't.
Yeah, and there's nothing wrong with that. You can't learn anything if you just ignore it.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
"my grandfather who was full blood sisseton Dakota and I would travel cross country. Along the travels he would play his porcupine tape cassette very loud. When we would pull into a town to gas up he would leave the radio on loud, get out of the truck and everyone would look at us. At the end of the trip I ask why he never turn the music down and his reply was he wanted them who looked to remember We ( natives) still exist in our own land."

This above is a great user comment from a YouTube post on "Stadium Pow Wow" by The Halluci Nation ft. Black Bear. For a lot of Americans, contact with Native Americans is pretty much limited to the names of geographic locations. Here in Little Rock, Arkansas (itself derived from an Osage word), we have a historic neighborhood referred to as the Quapaw Quarter but we sure as heck don't have a lot of Quapaw, Osage, or Caddo people around these days. Most of them were relocated to Oklahoma by the US Government in the 19th century. I rarely knowingly bump into Native Americans in Central Arkansas though you'll see them unambiguously present in the north western part of the state near Oklahoma.
Speaking of invisibility of native peoples, my first year of teaching (I had a mixed-age classroom of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, and yes it was a mess) I ran a history unit in which the students studied the cultural touchstones of native Californian communities. There were two children in my class from the Tule Tribe. Their aunt came in and did a presentation on what their lives were like, demonstrating both traditional and modern practices.

At the end of the unit, we sat at the carpet reflecting on what we'd learned. When I mentioned modern day Native Americans, one of the students asked, "Wait, Native Americans are still alive?"

I was really shocked and disappointed in my own teaching. I hadn't realized just how much narrative I had to push against to pull native representation from "people who used to be here" to "people who have been here and are still here."

I mentioned before about how last year in my 3rd Grade classroom, I had the students complete a project in which they wrote Land Acknowledgements recognizing that our school stood on the grounds once occupied by the Coast Miwok. During this unit, I really made sure to repeat, over and over, that the Coast Miwok are still alive, use modern technology, are still fighting for recognition and land rights, etc etc etc. Literally every lesson I would ask, "Did the Coast Miwok only live long ago?" Or "Are the Coast Miwok still around?" or "Are the Coast Miwok still alive?" The kids got very sick of that question, but you better believe now they know that Native Americans are still a part of our modern community!
 

I doubt that the author sat down and said, "I want to make something that mocks Native American cultures."

But due to centuries of oppression, Native American voices and perspectives were likely not an active part of the author's life. So as they filled this books with spiteful stereotypes and dumb, mean jokes, there was no one around to point out how obviously racist it was.

On the other hand, the Native American Rights Movement was highly active during and post-WWII. The author wasn't writing in a void, and TSR was filled with folks who had seen very public demonstrations of Native American recognition (the Wounded Knee Occultation in 1973, the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, etc).

I feel like one purpose in examining works in the past is to learn how to do better. TSR should have done better. They should have recognized the racism and just mean quality of this work. And they didn't.

Folks on this board have mentioned that in 30 years, we will look back on our own modern work and see it as regressive. This is inevitable. But we can try our best to not repeat the mistakes of the past. We can reach out to creators with different perspectives and experiences. We can read about history and also contemporary social movements. And if we do, and actually do the hard work, the hope is to create work that can be recognized in the future, despite its inevitable flaws.
I fully agree with this stance. Let the past be the past and focus ourselves on the here and now to build a better society. We have enough problems to solve on the here and now and that we can change so focusing on the past is a bit pointless. A simple warning note on the work should be enough.
 
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