Saturday, October 29, 2016

Standing Rock and Malheur

Like many, I am distressed about recent events in North Dakota and Malheur. I agree with Bill McKibben that the pipeline’s original route, above Bismarck, N.D. was changed to a route away from the white power structure and to one that might endanger tribal people and others downstream who just maybe would not pay attention--or at least do not have the power that Bismarck, the oil companies, and the labor unions have.

I agree with those who wonder what the FBI was doing with the Malheur prosecution. Why the conspiracy charges, difficult to prove, when the plain view infractions--trespassing, destruction of federal property and destruction and desecration of Indian sites--were many?

I agree with those who say that white privilege prevails, and that the Indians are being used and abused once again.

I reread what I had written about Malheur and “ownership” of the land in January. Ownership of and responsibility for the land, the water, and all that lives on and is dependent on it--is at the heart of Pipeline and Refuge. Everything I wrote then is true now for both.

http://josephylibrary.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-land-owns-paiutes.html

I think that we might embrace the Bundys’ calls for return of Federal Lands--TO THE INDIANS, TO WHOM IT WAS ALLOTTED BY THE GOVERNMENT, AND FROM WHOM IT WAS TAKEN.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Indians on historical, political sidelines

Cannon Ball, ND,, Sept. 9. Photo Reuters, Andrew Cullen
If 700 African-Americans camped in Ferguson, Missouri for two months, or 700 Latinos marched California from the San Diego border north, the national news media would have campers and marchers on the spot—and we would be reading updates and seeing video clips daily.

Seven hundred Indians--they call themselves “water protectors”--are camped in North Dakota. There ARE national reporters on the spot, but the Indians get only passing mention in national dispatches. The NYT had one very good essay a couple of weeks ago, and NBC News had good written commentary last week from their reporter—but has had scant mention on the evening news. If you work at it, Google it daily, there will be a story somewhere, in the Des Moines Register, Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” or on a blog post. But nothing like the daily news we got from Ferguson or New York or Florida.

Yesterday, the LA Times said that there have been 269 arrests, local law enforcement is calling the protesters rioters, and Indians are dragging logs in the path of the Pipeline. The pipeline company, Energy Transfer, is apparently going to build right up to the Missouri River and wait out the courts, the President, and any other legal obstacles in their literal path.

The pipeline is just the latest rendition of the story. When Indians are shot by white police—and they are at greater risk of this than African Americans or Latinos—we don’t get their names drummed at us daily. We don’t know the Indian Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. We know more about Flint’s bad water than water shortages and uranium contamination on the Navajo Reservation. We don’t hear or know much about Indian health, education, and welfare.

We don’t even get much of the good Indian news—do you know that Pyramid Lake is full of water and Lahontan cutthroat trout are swimming again? Or that a loopholes which failed Indian women when raped by white men on a reservation was filled in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act? Or are many in the general public familiar with Indian fisheries’ work in restoration of salmon runs on the Columbia River and its tributaries?

Why aren’t Indians and Indian issues of continuing interest to all Americans? Why aren’t Indians part of the Presidential debate? Why do Indians always seem to get shuffled to the sidelines?

“Indians,” Alvin Josephy used to say, “don’t have history or biography; they have archeology and anthropology.” I’d add that they don’t have much in the way of news value either.

There are so many things that make the contemporary Indian experience in America—and the majority interest in those experiences—different than that of other groups. Indians are not one people, but members of over 500 sovereign nations, living on over 500 reservations and in urban areas across the country. Their languages, cultures, and needs are diverse. Indian tribes have “treaties” with the US government, and enjoy “limited” sovereignty,  going back to an 1830s decision from Chief Justice Marshall. What does that mean? In the Civil Rights era, Alvin Josephy remarked that the liberals who had worked so hard on behalf of African Americans thought they could just do the same with/for Indians—and Indians told them they were not after Civil Rights, but Treaty Rights.

Maybe, most importantly, Indians were here first. They are of this land in a way that the rest of us are not. Ironically, with grandmothers’ stories and new DNA testing, more and more white and black Americans are claiming some Indian ancestry. Unfortunately, most such majority claims do not make the next step and enter into the Indian situation today. That sliver of Cherokee blood is, like the artifacts in museums, something out of the past, to be honored but not picked up and used in a march on a North Dakota pipeline.

From the first meetings of Europeans and Indians, there has been confusion—noble savage or savage savage? Learn from; take from? Leave Indians on reservations or give them bus tickets to the cities? Assimilate, remove, or kill? Honor treaties or “terminate” them?

It could be that understanding the place that Indians occupy in our daily lives and giving thought to the views, problems, attitudes, and promises that are still out there in Indian Country must somehow go back to this confusion that has followed and plagued Indian-white relations for over 500 years.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

What about Indians?

In this election year, African Americans and Latinos are getting a lot of attention. Immigrants too. We are a “nation of them.”  Oops—Indians were here when the first European immigrants arrived, and are still. (But their voting numbers are small, and they are spread out over 500 reservations and scores of cities across the country.)

Indians don’t even speak the same language—or didn’t. Most of them speak English now, except for French speaking Metis who are mostly in Canada, and Spanish speaking Indians across South and Central America and Mexico. And the Mayan language speakers and others which are still strong enough to hold their own with Spanish and Portuguese south of our border. Linguists say there were some 2500 mutually unintelligible languages when the first Europeans arrived.

Or, you might want to count the Norse in Newfoundland as first new arrivals, or maybe some stray kon tiki boat from the Pacific that brought Islanders or Africans to the New World. But that is all pretty much academic in seeing what actually happened to the New World when the Old World got here. It was Columbus who started the rush from Spain—and Portugal and England, who misnamed the inhabitants “Indians,” shipped them back to Europe as slaves, worked them to death in gold mines on Hispanola as part of grants of land and labor known as encomiendas, and killed them off with diseases. Columbus brought horses and pigs and cows too, and sent back more than gold. Now you can study the “Columbian Exchange” to follow all that followed his New World adventure.

Eventually, Africans were brought to the Caribbean to work sugar cane and other crops, and as the English started settling further north, African slavery proper began. But what Columbus started with Indians had a good 100-year run before African American Slavery began its 250-year run up to the Civil War. 

Indians—indigenous people—were here everywhere when Spanish and Portuguese, English and Dutch, indentured servants from everywhere and African slaves put in to American ports. There were—or had been—large concentrations of them, cities in fact, in Mexico and Peru, Central America and the Mississippi Valley, but there were also hundreds, no thousands of small groups spread from the tip of South America to the Arctic. Their 1492 numbers were reduced drastically and rapidly by overworking, disease, and murder, but they have survived, and it has been years of exploration, colonization, wars, treaties, settlements, missionizing, boarding school education, and who knows what else to bring us to the present as re Indians.

Indians are complicated! First, they were, as one historian said, “here to meet the boats.” This—the Americas, all of it—was their land! Secondly, they were and probably still are as diverse in backgrounds, languages, and cultures as Europe or Asia or Africa was in 1492. Third, their subjugation to European culture, laws, and people, has been conducted in so many ways: the aforementioned diseases, wars, work, treaties, laws, etc. And finally, they are still spread out across the entire region just as they were when first found. There were no slave markets like Richmond or New Orleans, and the country was never divided north-south by their presence as it was to and through the Civil War into Civil Rights.

Alvin Josephy once said that white liberals who had fought for black Civil Rights in the ‘60s thought they had done that job and would move on to the Indians; the Indians told them they didn’t want Civil Rights, but their Treaty Rights!

See how complicated Indians are. Which might be the reason that our Presidential candidates are not courting the Indian Vote.

And here we have to leave the colonial and mestizo cultures south of the US border; and acknowledge that the people called Latinos on both sides of the border have their own complications, but they share language, and for most political purposes we Norte Americanos can thus lump them all together! The Latino vote. “Illegals.” “Immigrants” (well, maybe not “New Mexicans” or old California families, or….).

Good news: According to a recent piece in the New York Times re American Indians, “President Obama campaigned hard in 2008 for the votes of American Indians. He vowed that his administration would pay special attention to their grievances about federal mismanagement and the government’s recurring neglect of treaty obligations. ‘Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans — the first Americans,’” Obama said.

“Mr. Obama was given credit by tribal leaders for creating a White House council to maintain lines of communication with them; establishing a buyback program to help tribes regain scattered lands; expanding the jurisdiction of tribal courts; and including tribal women under the protection of the Violence Against Women law in 2013. Reaching out to Indian nations has been ‘one of the hallmarks of this administration,’” according to Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation.

By all accounts, Obama has been the best President for Indians since Richard M. Nixon. Talk about complicated!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Water

Standing Rock Protest
The Standing Rock Sioux and representatives from 280 North American Indian tribes, joined by Natives from Ecuador and Hawaii, have taken a stand in the Dakotas against oil companies and for water. Water, I imagine, will be increasingly in the news, and Indians will be the ones bringing it to our attention.

In the New York Times this week we learn that a small tribe in northern California, the Winnemem Wintu, are telling the residents of Weed, California, the officials of Roseburg Forest Products, and Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, that the waters of Mt. Shasta are not limitless, that it is time to listen to the Mountain. According to tribal members, the spring on Mt. Shasta from which animals and humankind first emerged, and which oral tradition says has never failed, dried up six years ago.

For over 100 years, the city of Weed, which sits in the foothills of the Mountain, has got its water from Beaughan Spring. For the past 50 years, it has been charged $1 a year by Roseburg Forest Products and its predecessor, International Paper. Roseburg, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring sits, is charging the city $97,500 this year! And, according to Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg: “The city needs to actively look for another source of water.”
Weed water protest

The people of Weed, who have been dependent on the timber company for jobs and sustenance for all
that time, and who are still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they have a document showing that previous owner International Paper handed over water rights to the city in 1982. Roseburg, having upped the ante to $97,000 and not flinching, has offered Weed another well-site on company ground. The catch: the site is a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment plant that is now a Superfund site.

The good neighbor policy is apparently at an end, overtaken by the short-term profit motive. Roseburg has recently been selling some of the water from Weed’s spring to Crystal Geyser, and Japan apparently wants more of its bottled water. Papillaud came to town to tell them that he needs more water, and in the course of his visit erupted in a tirade that caused his son to come back later with apologies. But he still wants the water.

“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller. “Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?... We are clients, end of story.”

Sacramento has an eye on Nestle, and other nearby cities and county governments are dealing with bottled water companies are watching carefully. Is water a commodity to be bought and sold? Or is water, as tribal people remind us continually, a fundamental principle of all life, one to be nurtured, watched out for, and shared by all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/california-drought-weed-mount-shasta.html?emc=edit_th_20161002&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=66175474

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