Pretty Bird Woman House Update: It’s a GO!

( – promoted by navajo)

Cross posted from the Daily Kos

First of all, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the Kossacks and other members of the netroots community for your commitment to the survival of the Pretty Bird Woman House.  Helping this shelter has been one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done, and some of that has to do with the outpouring of caring and compassion that I witnessed while I was doing this project.

This morning I received an email informing me that the McLaughlin City Council had unanimously approved the shelter’s petition to operate in the house it wants to purchase. This was a wonderful accomplishment given some initial misgivings that some of the City Council Members had expressed.  

For those who haven’t been following the story of the Pretty Bird Woman House, instead of pointing you to the numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS)diaries that Kossacks have written on the subject since May, I will simply direct you to the Pretty Bird Woman House blog, since it contains links to many of those diaries in addition to the essays that Andy T and I wrote as part of the fundraiser.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: On December 28th, a full month early, we met our goal of raising the $70,000 that we figured the shelter needed for a new house and security system. By that time, Georgia Little Shield, the director, had placed a bid on a house near the police station. The closing would have taken place on January 4th.

Unfortunately, while all this was happening, the City of McLaughlin had passed an ordinance that required nonprofits seeking to establish a shelter or boarding house in a residential neighborhood to get the City’s permission first. This action was in response to drunk and disorderly conduct by the men in a homeless shelter in another neighborhood,

On January 7th, the City Council held a hearing on the shelter’s petition. There was some initial opposition to the shelter by some of the Council members and neighborhood residents, so they put off voting on the issue in order to gather more information and give people more time to consider the issue.

This made us all very uneasy, and I for one was waiting on pins and needles for the final decision.

But as with everything involved in this project, the best in people finally came out.

Last night, the Council unanimously voted to approve the shelter’s request. Unlike the first meeting, only positive remarks were made about the shelter staff and its future residents. As Georgia just told me:

At that meeting, everybody was for us, nobody spoke up against us.

This included the Chief of Police, who testified that the police really need the shelter to help them with women who are victims of domestic violence.

So, in the end, it seems that the mayor recognized that the shelter’s opponents just needed more information, and that his move to postpone the vote was a wise one. Here’s what he told the Rapid City Journal today.

“I think it’s going to be good. I think their hearts are in the right place,” Dumdei said of shelter officials. “Everyone’s trying to do what’s right. We just wanted to make sure that we had public input and everybody understands it.” …snip…

Dumdei said it was important to give citizens time to ask questions and feel comfortable with the planned relocation of the shelter, which is the only domestic-violence sanctuary on the Standing Rock reservation.

Amnesty International also provided a letter in support of the shelter, which the mayor cited at the meeting. Here is part of that letter (sorry I don’t have a link, it was emailed to me):

Programs run by Native American and Alaska Native women are vital in ensuring the protection and long-term support of Indigenous women who have experienced sexual violence. Shelters operated by Native American women are particularly important in order to provide the culturally appropriate supportive environment needed.  However, lack of funding is a widespread problem all over the US, including in South Dakota – and in many locations no such support is available. In our report, we highlighted the work of Pretty Bird Woman House, a sexual assault and domestic violence program on the Standing Rock Reservation. At the time of Amnesty International’s report in April 2007 Pretty Bird Woman House did not have funding for direct services for its clients, but helped women to access services off the Reservation. Amnesty International believes that it is imperative that the Reservation have its own shelter.


The support that Pretty Bird Woman House has received from individuals all over the US is indicative of the response that Amnesty International has seen to this issue in general. Many people feel deeply touched by the injustices suffered for decades by Native American women, and want to help. Authorities at all levels are responding as well – at the U.S. Senate level, legislation will be introduced within the next few weeks. In Oklahoma, state laws ensuring the availability of rape kits for all women have already been passed.

The advocates, who have been running Pretty Bird Woman House for the past years with few funds but a lot of determination, have been fighting alone for too long. It is time that we stand up together and say no to violence against women – and time to support a shelter which will make all the difference in the world to women at a time when a helping hand is desperately needed.

Today, they also issued a press release that contained this information and thanked the City Council for approving the shelter.

It seems to me that the netroots worked really well in tandem with Amnesty International on this whole project, taking up the call they issued about the shelter in their report, United States of America: Maze of injustice: The failure to protect indigenous women from violence as its own cause.

On Friday, Georgia is going to set a closing date on the house. When I find out exactly what it is, I’ll post it on the blog.

Fundraiser Update

Grand total of the money we raised: $87,000.

People have also sent hundreds of pounds of clothes. SallyCat alone sent 350 pounds from a drive and party she conducted in San Francisco.

The shelter is also going to be receiving a flurry of small checks because a retiree in Florida who read the Rapid City Journal articles asked that everyone who attended his birthday party last week send checks to the shelter in lieu of presents for him. Awwww…

The official house fundraiser ends tomorrow. I will be putting up a new ChipIn with no goal amount for people who still want to donate.

Work left to be done

One snafu has come up. We were basing our estimate of the cost of a security system on the one the neighboring shelter has. Bad idea. For a system that has 24 hour monitoring, the estimated cost was $24,000. Yipes! And they will still need a fence as well.

This means that the security system and fence will eat up a lot of the money they had set aside for furniture and a washer and dryer. So, when I spoke with Georgia today, she gave me a new wish list.

I know most people have given all they can, but I also know from experience that other people will want to know how they can help some more. So this is for them (I don’t want guilt trip everyone else, you all have been amazing). Some of these are replacements for items that didn’t hold up too well either in the move or in storage.

So for anyone so inclined to buy what I will call housewarming gifts, here’s what the shelter needs.


washer and dryer

8 bunk bed sets, and sheets to go on them

couch and chairs

television and stand

dining room set (the one they had collapsed in the move)


full and twin-size sheets

8 dressers (2 for each bedroom)

dishes and related kitchen supplies

Again, Kossacks, on behalf of the shelter staff, I want to extend my deepest gratitude for all your support, compassion, and kind words.

You know, a lot of us are tired of the sniping and griping that has been going on around here about the candidates, but take break from that for a second and think about what you have all done to help hundreds of women and children on the Standing Rock Reservation. It’s incredible. Pat yourselves on the back.

One more note considering this is a Democratic blog. I want to pubically thank Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) for her support. She spoke out publicly in support of the shelter when there was opposition on the City Council, has visited it at least twice, and whenever anyone calls her office about it, her staff members are extremely helpful. This is exactly the kind of commitment we need from our representatives in Congress. Thank you!


Support the Indian Health Care Improvement Act

( – promoted by navajo)

January 27 the New York Times ran an editorial “Vetoing History’s Responsibility” .

It is in response to Bush’s veto threat of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The bill is a bi-partisan bill that would reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976. It will increase spending on American Indian health care and modernize the Indian Health Service.


President Bush’s threat to veto a bill intended to improve health care for the nation’s American Indians is both cruel and grossly unfair. Five years ago, the United States Commission on Civil Rights examined the government’s centuries-old treaty obligations for the welfare of Native Americans and found Washington spending 50 percent less per capita on their health care than is devoted to felons in prison and the poor on Medicaid.

The legislation will try to remedy the ‘shameful situation’ facing American Indians.

The sponsor of the bill is Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota). Senator Dorgan highlights some of the things the bill will address.

“Authorizing additional tools for tribal communities to address suicide among Indian youth;

• Seeking to address the lack of access to health care services, due to limited hours of operation of existing facilities and other factors, by establishing grants for demonstration projects that include a convenient care services program as an alternative means of health care delivery;

• Addressing the $1 billion backlog in needed health care facilities, such as alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers, and $1 billion in unmet need for sanitation facilities in tribal communities;

• Making permanent a number of successful federal programs providing services to Native Americans in long-term health care, diabetes prevention, and other key areas;

• Expanding scholarship and loan programs that encourage more American Indian people to enter health care professions”

But these are things that Bush will block.

(The NYT continues)

A bipartisan bill to begin repairing this shameful situation is now on the Senate floor. It takes aim at such long neglected needs as the plight of urban Indians, who account for two-thirds of the nation’s 4.1 million tribal population. Most of the American Indians and Alaska natives living in cities are either ineligible for, or unable to reach, the limited help of the Indian Health Service’s reservation-based programs. During the Bush years the White House has sought to eliminate – not bolster – the severely underfinanced Urban Indian Health Program.


The nation has clear legal and moral obligations to protect the welfare of Native Americans. Congress must rebuff President Bush’s veto threat and vote overwhelmingly to strengthen and reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

 The New York Times is right, America does have legal obligations to American Indians. Here’s one! In exchange of the land (that was stolen) the US government agreed to compensate American Indians by providing health care. The agreement is based upon the many treaties the United States signed with Indian nations.

Robert Miller writes

Indians have not, however, received their fair share of federal health care, especially in light of this heightened duty the U.S. owes them. In fact, a July 18, 2003 study by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights entitled “A Quiet Crisis” found that

“… the federal government’s rate of spending on health care for Native Americans is 50 percent less than for prisoners or Medicaid recipients, and 60 percent less than is spent annually on health care for the average American.”

Clearly, the United States is not fulfilling its treaty and trustee responsibility to provide health care to American Indian people.

The government’s broken promises, neglect, and ignoring of American Indians is not new. But the Bush administration continues the tradition of letting the disastrous results of  colonialism & conquest  live on– living unabated in the myriad social and economic problems American Indians face.


Senator Byron Dorgan shows us the human face of America’s failure to fulfill its promises. He  wants us to know Ta’Shon Rain Littlelight

a 5-year-old Crow girl from Montana who died in her mother’s arms the night before she was to see Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World because her cancer was not diagnosed early.


“Avis Littlewind, a 14-year-old girl who lay for 90 days curled up in a fetal position on her bed before killing herself because no treatment center existed on her reservation to help her”

The list could go on for those who have languished. These stories highlight the urgency of what’s at stake.

Is Bush basically saying to American Indians “Drop Dead“?

Bush said he wants to help American Indians. But what does he intend on doing besides giving cheap lip service? Bush stands in the way of help. The bill could improve the quality of lives and save lives. Yet Bush will deny it because the “bill would also require that the Davis Bacon Act, under which contractors and subcontractors must pay workers locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits, be applied to some of the projects.”

The Davis Bacon Act might be the present excuse, but the Bush administration’s hostility of renewing the bill has already been known. Robert Miller(again) writes

In late 2006, a Justice Department “white paper” that opposed the bill was circulated to conservative Republican Senators. (The Department now denies that anyone was authorized to circulate it.) Some Republican senators put a hold on the IHCIA reauthorization bill and thus prevented the bill from being considered in the last days of the 109th Congress.

The National Indian Health Board has called on President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales to withdraw this white paper and their objections to the IHCIA, but the Republican Policy Committee has informed senators’ offices that it will continue to oppose reauthorization of the IHCIA, claiming that it is “race-based” legislation.

In a Senate hearing on March 9, 2007, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., slammed the white paper, taking the White House and Department of Justice to task for the manner in which it was released and its contents. Republican Sens. Craig Thomas, Wyo., and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, also voiced concerns about the Department’s stance on the IHCIA reauthorization and how the bill was killed in the 109th Congress.

In addition to questions about IHCIA reauthorization, the Bush administration has also targeted the elimination of health care for urban Indians. The administration tried to eliminate the entire Urban Indian Health Program from the 2007 budget but Congress restored it. Now the administration has again removed the entire $33 million program from its proposed 2008 budget.

This modest bill could help save lives & improve the quality of life of American Indians. Is it too much to ask to help make some ammends for utterly abject treatment of American Indians through out history?  Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said of the bill “American lives will not depend on the passage of Indian health care by the end of this month.”

I guess the mindset is ‘American Indians have been neglected so long what’s another month or two?’

There should be no more delay. It is time to pass the Indian Health Care Improvement Act now.  

Posted in Uncategorized

Bush to American Indians “Drop Dead”

( – promoted by navajo)

(cross-posted from daily kos)

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is being debated this week in the Senate. The bill is to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and bring the Native American health care services to modernity.  The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was originally signed by Gerald Ford in 1976 to help combat Indian poverty. The Indian Health Service has brought medical care to reservations and urban Indian communities across the land. It has been over 14 years since the last authorization of the bill.

Despite the fact the bill hasn’t even been passed yet in the Senate- (where if faces a series of hostile ammendments) Bush is threatening a veto.

It is being reported that the Bush Administration is threatening to veto an Indian health bill that is aimed at improving the health care of those living on Indian reserves.

The bill would boost screening and mental health programs provided by the Indian Health Service. There would also be an increase in access to Medicare and Medicaid and ‘reservation health clinics would be improved’. The bill would

increase the number of American Indians in health care professions, increase funds for screening and health prevention programs, request the establishment and modernization of health clinics, address access to care issues for American Indians, and expand mental health care programs (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 1/18). According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the measure would authorize discretionary spending of $16 billion over a five-year period and $35 billion over the next decade.

Bush doesn’t want to help improve a program that “provides coverage for about 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives primarily through tribal health care providers and a network of government hospitals and clinics.” And the reason?

The White House issued a policy statement that called for changes to the bill and said Bush would veto the measure if they were not made (CQ Today, 1/23). The Bush administration objected to a provision that would expand the rules for employers to pay their workers prevailing local wages for new projects funded under the bill, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 1/22). The administration also criticized what it said were inadequate documentation requirements included in the bill for enrollment in Medicaid and other government-sponsored programs.…

American Indians need this bill. The health problems facing American Indians are well known.

They suffer disproportionately from diseases such as alocholism, diabetes, and heart disease. They have a high infant mortality rate. It is 150 percent higher for Native American infants than white infants. The suicide rate amongst Native Americans is two and a half times the national rate.

Barrack Obama (a co-sponsor of the bill along with Hillary Clinton) said “With these alarming statistics, improvements to Native American health care could not come at a more urgent time.” (press release )

Native Americans have been crushed under the racist wheel of colonialism and ‘progress’. Bush is to see that American Indians continue to suffer the consquences of history. Bush is a disgrace to American Indians and human decency. Would it be too much to ask to help alleviate the suffering of a people who have suffered so much through out American history?

American Indians were to be compensated for the land that was stolen from them. In exchange for the land American Indians were to government supported health care. American Indians continue to be shafted by a government that has woefully neglected them.

Health care was promised in treaties that Indian nations signed with the United States. Health in exchange for the land that is America.  At the various times when treaties were signed, Indian leaders faced the annihilation of their people if they didn’t make bargain ceding their land. What they asked for in return were a handful of basic needs, what the United Nations calls human rights. Among these was health care.…

So it goes….

Senator Max Baucus is right when he calls the treatment of American Indians an ‘abomination’.

“It is an abomination, a tragedy what little attention we pay to Native Americans’ health care needs, I wish that more people in the country would visit an Indian reservation; I wish they would visit Indian Health Service hospitals. They would realize the abysmal plight of so many people in America that this bill helps.”

Take a look at what Baucus has to say over at and what he did on his role on the Finance Committee at Native American Times

The Finance Committee provisions would clarify how Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP pay Indian health providers.

The Finance Committee provisions would increase outreach and enrollment of Indians in Medicaid and CHIP.

These provisions would clarify cost-sharing protections for Indians in Medicaid and CHIP.

These provisions would protect Indian health providers from discrimination in payment for services.

These provisions would require States and the Secretary of HHS to consult with Indian health providers.

These provisions would ensure that Medicaid managed care organizations pay Indian health providers appropriately.

And these provisions would require the Secretary to report on Indian enrollment in Federal programs and related matters on an annual basis.

It’s a good package. The Senate ought to pass this bill. And Congress should reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

The United States owes a debt to the Native American population whose ancestors are tied up with the very soil that all Americans share. The Federal Government owes a duty to help improve the health of American Indians. And we in this Senate have the obligation to pass this act and honor the flesh, the bones, and the blood of our Indian brethren.

My Abenaki heritage

( – promoted by navajo)

I just wanted to share my experiences with Abenaki culture and go into depth on who the Abenakis are, etc.  

I first found out that I had Abenaki blood when I was 15 years old. Dad took me down to the Tribal Affairs office to get my tribal card. I’ve been a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation, St.Francis-Sokoki band since that day.

But first, who are the Abenaki? We were considered the original inhabitants of what now makes up the state of Vermont. We are the People of the Dawn.

I don’t want this blog to be a history lesson but I will be glad to link to an excellent resource for those who would like to learn more about the Abenakis. I know Wikipedia is not always reliable but it is basic enough and I can confirm that it’s reliable based on my knowledge of Abenaki history:…

While we were recognized by the state of Vermont as a PEOPLE and not a tribe in 2006, we are still fighting for federal recognition.

However, I am conflicted in many ways. In some way, I truly want to embrace the culture of my ancestors.

On another hand, I am disgusted at what passes for tribal leadership nowadays. I feel that there needs to be a stronger voice if the Missisquoi band of Abenakis are to attain federal recognition one day. I personally want to be involved in bringing about change and replacing the corrupt tribal leadership.

But, politics aside, I am proud of my heritage. I have a lot of respect for my mother because even though she kept my heritage from me for many years, once I finally became involved in Abenaki culture (mainly through pow-wows and friends), I never really looked back.

Politics will always play a part in the struggle of the Missisquoi Abenakis. We have dealt with the State of Vermont and their disrespect for Abenakis for far too long.

Who knows what the future holds? All I know is that I am hoping for the day that the tribe will once again rise and the corrupt leaders will realize the error of their ways. We are already quite a progressive tribe but we lack unity due to the divisions between many Abenaki families.

Consider this my introduction.

Talking About Racism

( – promoted by navajo)

On some positions a coward has asked the question is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. – Martin Luther King Jr., November 1967

A few days ago, coincidentally on Martin Luther King Jr.’s real birthday, I was at a gathering of middling size where I only knew two people. While I sipped my club soda and nearly nodded off listening to someone buzz on and on about football, a conversation cluster within eavesdropping distance took up the subject of reservation casinos. I live in California and four Indian gaming referenda will appear on the ballot February 5, so a discussion of the topic was not a surprise. I’ve always had an (apparently inborn) ability to tune into conversations across a room while blocking out those in front of me, and my interest was piqued because whoever was explaining the gaming proposals seemed to know quite a bit about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to these measures being put before the voters. Then I heard it. Somebody said, “It’s the redskins’ revenge.”

For the first time, I looked over that way, and all five people in the group were gently laughing or smiling or nodding assent.

I don’t think he meant it maliciously. Quite possibly he even thought he was being supportive. It’s doubtful he would have said “nigger” or “wetback” or “chink,” since there were African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos in the room. But no obvious Indians. Because I don’t wear feathers, mocassins or a loincloth and can pass for white, he apparently felt unconstrained in making what I’m sure he thought was a harmless little joke. Maybe even a pro-Indian joke. I could have walked over and explained how infuriating what he had said was, how hurtful it was that everybody seemed to have enjoyed what he said. But it gets so bloody tiring dealing with the reactions. Not just the accusations of “political correctness,” the rolled eyes or the  “Aren’t you being too sensitive?” charges, inevitably delivered with a smile. But also the downward glances, the stammering, or even the apologies that so often greet an objection: “Oh, I’m sorry. I know that you  … uh… Native Americans object to that.”

As if it’s okay to deploy a slur when no member of the slurred ethnicity is around to be insulted? As if racism only matters to people of color? As if every one of us is not harmed to the core by such talk about any ethnicity and should object to it?

This incident – I can recount a dozen others I’ve witnessed in the 21st Century – made me ponder a great deal the theme I’ve heard so much of recently, on-line and off, that race and racism have been transcended in America. That we no longer need to talk about these matters because, well, because talking about them only engenders bad feelings about something that is fixed except in a few backward locales by people who will be dead soon anyway. That, 45 years after the summer day Reverend King made that soaring speech on the Washington Mall, his dream is wholly achieved.

Nobody can deny that tremendous progress has been made. Progress that is a testament both to the message of universal legal equality in the nation’s founding document and two centuries of fierce and costly struggle by people of color and their white allies to transform that message into reality. A testament to people’s willingness to change themselves, to surrender their prejudices and fears, to recognize injustice and do something about it, even to give up their lives if that’s what it takes. That progress cannot be sneered at. It reflects an America and Americans of all colors at their best.

Racism nonetheless remains a chronic influence in our lives. Yet many white people say they don’t want to talk about race. They say they’re sick of talking about it. That stuff is all in the past, they say, and wonder aloud why we can’t talk about something else. I think what most are really saying is that they don’t want to listen to talk about race.  

Because, in fact, Americans talk about race all the time. It suffuses discussions of economics, community affairs, the military, policing, education, drugs. These days, except for the movies, some lyrics and the occasional “macaca,” we hear fewer and fewer of those slurs that when I was a kid we were daily bathed in. Racist talk now is mostly coded talk – the “underclass,” the “inner city,” “culture of poverty.” But that is dishonest talk, a masquerade of spin, not candid, uncomfortable conversations about racism that confront its deeper meanings and reduces its power. Not honest discussions that reach beyond personal racial prejudice and stereotypes – which can afflict people of any color – but rather into the deeply entrenched societal racism that persists even though racist laws have long been struck from the books. Not superficial pollyanna kumbaya conversations about diversity, multiculturalism and pluralism, but straightforward, heart-to-heart, often painful, sometimes angry discussions.

Being tired of talking about race and racism is not the sole province of white people. Many people of color feel the same way. Tired, among other things, of having to explain, once again, that white privilege didn’t disappear with the Civil Rights Act or affirmative action. Tired of talking about racism because it so often arouses not just the pain but also the anger, which, however, justified, injects fear into the conversation. Necessary as the anger may be to raising the consciousness of those whom racism oppresses, the only thing that kills conversation faster than anger is the fear which the anger engenders.

That is a conundrum that I dearly wish we could untangle. Because demystifying racism is impossible without continuing the conversation. Doing that means getting past being tired of talking about racism, beyond anger and fear. Defeating injustice means, as it always has in the past, not being afraid to talk about injustice, but being afraid not to talk about it. Frederick Douglass wasn’t afraid. W.E.B. Du Bois wasn’t. Septima Poinsette Clark wasn’t. César Chavez wasn’t. Fannie Lou Hamer wasn’t. Malcolm X wasn’t. Ralph McGill wasn’t. Martin Luther King wasn’t.  Lyndon Baines Johnson wasn’t.

Let me offer one small bit to talking about racism on this day chosen – in the face of ferocious opposition – to officially commemorate the birthday of Dr. King. It’s a day when the invigorating “I have a dream” speech is reprised, his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” reprinted. These deserve the attention they receive. But far less often do we hear some other words of King’s, for instance, those he gave on February 25, 1967, at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, and those he delivered on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Baptist Church in Manhattan. These were costly speeches for him. When he said in Los Angeles that “I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America,” he angered many who had hailed his leadership in the civil rights movement, including members of the NAACP who felt he was seeking to merge the antiwar movement with the civil rights movement. Others, including heavyweights in the media, criticized him for stepping outside the bounds of what they considered to be his acceptable role in American politics. In other words, he was “uppity.” Didn’t know “his place.” How dare this black man speak out against the war? There remain today many who believe people of color have no business engaging in certain conservations.

While this speech deals specifically with Vietnam, it contains the universal, timeless ideals with which King always framed his words. Here, in its entirety, is the courageous speech in which King first repudiated the war:

The Casualties of the War in Vietnam

I need not pause to say how happy I am to have the privilege of being a participant in this significant symposium. In these days of emotional tension when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, there is no greater need than for sober-thinking, healthy debate, creative dissent and enlightened discussion. This is why this symposium is so important.

I would like to speak to you candidly and forthrightly this afternoon about our present involvement in Viet Nam. I have chosen as a subject, “The Casualties of the War In Viet Nam.” We are all aware of the nightmarish physical casualties. We see them in our living rooms in all of their tragic dimensions on television screens, and we read about them on our subway and bus rides in daily newspaper accounts. We see the rice fields of a small Asian country being trampled at will and burned at whim: we see grief-stricken mothers with crying babies clutched in their arms as they watch their little huts burst forth into flames; we see the fields and valleys of battle being painted with humankind’s blood; we see the broken bodies left prostrate in countless fields; we see young men being sent home half-men–physically handicapped and mentally deranged. Most tragic of all is the casualty list among children. Some one million Vietnamese children have been casualties of this brutal war. A war in which children are incinerated by napalm, in which American soldiers die in mounting numbers while other American soldiers, according to press accounts, in unrestrained hatred shoot the wounded enemy as they lie on the ground, is a war that mutilates the conscience. These casualties are enough to cause all men to rise up with righteous indignation and oppose the very nature of this war.

But the physical casualties of the war in Viet Nam are not alone the catastrophies. The casualties of principles and values are equally disastrous and injurious. Indeed, they are ultimately more harmful because they are self-perpetuating. If the casualties of principle are not healed, the physical casualties will continue to mount.

One of the first casualties of the war in Viet Nam was the Charter of the United Nations. In taking armed action against the Vietcong and North Viet Nam, the United States clearly violated the United Nations charter which provides, in Chapter I, Article II (4)

All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

and in Chapter VII, (39)

The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and shall make recommendations or shall decide what measures shall be taken… to maintain or restore international peace and security.

It is very obvious that our government blatantly violated its obligation under the charter of the United Nations to submit to the Security Council its charge of aggression against North Viet Nam. Instead we unilaterally launched an all-out war on Asian soil. In the process we have underminded the purpose of the United Nations and caused its effectiveness to atrophy. We have also placed our nation in the position of being morally and politically isolated. Even the long standing allies of our nation have adamantly refused to join our government in this ugly war. As Americans and lovers of Democracy we should carefully ponder the consequences of our nation’s declining moral status in the world.

The second casualty of the war in Viet Nam is the principle of self-determination. By entering a war that is little more than a domestic civil war, America has ended up supporting a new form of colonialism covered up by certain niceties of complexity. Whether we realize it or not our participation in the war in Viet Nam is an ominous expression of our lack of sympathy for the oppressed, our paranoid anti-Communism, our failure to feel the ache and anguish of the have nots. It reveals our willingness to continue particpating in neo-colonialist adventures.

A brief look at the background and history of this war reveals with brutal clarity and ugliness of our policy. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by the now well-known Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

President Truman felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Viet Nam the right to independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Viet Nam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting 80% of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will.

During this period United States governmental officials began to brainwash the American public. John Foster Dulles assiduously sought to prove that Indo-China was essential to our security against the Chinese Communist peril. When a negotiated settlement of the war was reached in 1954, through the Geneva Accord, it was done against our will. After doing all that we could to sabotage the planning for the Geneva Accord, we finally refused to sign it.

Soon after this we helped install Ngo Dihn Diem. We supported him in his betrayal of the Geneva Accord and his refusal to have the promised 1956 election. We watched with approval as he engaged in ruthless and bloddy persecution of all opposition forces. When Diem’s infamous actions finally led to the formation of The National Liberation Front, the American public was duped into believing that the civil rebellion was being waged by puppets from Hanoi. As Douglas Pike wrote: “In horror, Americans helplessly watched Diem tear apart the fabric of Vietnamese society more effectively than the Communists had ever been able to do it. It was the most efficient act of his entire career.”

Since Diem’s death we have actively supported another dozen military dictatorships all in the name of fighting for freedom. When it became evident that these regimes could not defeat the Vietcong, we began to steadily increase our forces, calling them “military advisers” rather than fighting soldiers.

Today we are fighting an all-out war–undeclared by Congress. We have well over 300,000 American servicemen fighting in that benighted and unhappy country. American planes are bombing the territory of another country, and we are committing atrocities equal to any perpetrated by the Vietcong. This is the third largest war in American history.

All of this reveals that we are in an untenable position morally and politically. We are left standing before the world glutted by our barbarity. We are engaged in a war that seeks to turn the clock of history back and perpetuate white colonialism. The greatest irony and tragedy of all is that our nation which initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world, is not cast in the mold of being an arch anti-revolutionary.

A third casualty of the war in Viet Nam is the Great Society. This confused war has played havoc with our domestic destinies.

Despite feeble protestations to the contrary, the promises of the Great Society have been shot down on the battlefield of Viet Nam. The pursuit of this widened war has narrowed domestic welfare programs, making the poor, white and Negro, bear the heaviest burdens both at the front and at home.

While the anti-poverty program is cautiously initiated, zealously supervised and evaluated for immediate results, billions are liberally expended for this ill-considered war. The recently revealed mis-estimate of the war budget amounts to ten billions of dollars for a single year. This error alone is more than five times the amount committed to anti-poverty programs. The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities. The bombs in Viet Nam explode at home: they destroy the hope s and possibilities for a decent America.

If we reversed investments and gave the armed forces the antipoverty budget, the generals could be forgiven if they walked off the battlefield in disgust.

Poverty, urban problems and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a national obsession. When it is not our security that is at stake, but questionable and vague commitments to reactionary regimes, values disintegrate into foolish and adolescent slogans.

It is estimated that we spend $322,000 for each enemy we kill, while we spend in the so-called war on poverty in America only about $53.00 for each person classified as “poor. And much of that 53 dollars goes for salaries of people who are not poor. We have escalated the war in Viet Nam and de-escalated the skirmish against poverty. It challenges the imagination to contemplate what lives we could transform if we were to cease killing.

At this moment in history it is irrefutable that our world prestige is pathetically frail. Our war policy excites pronounced contempt and aversion virtually everywhere. Even when some national government s, for reasons of economic and diplomatic interest do not condemn us, their people in surprising measure have made clear they do not share the official policy.

We are isolated in our false values in a world demanding social and economic justice. We must undergo a vigorous re-ordering of our national priorities.

A fourth casualty of the war in Viet Nam is the humility of our nation. Through rugged determination, scientific and technological progress and dazzling achievements, America has become the richest and most powerful nation in the world. We have built machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gargantuan bridges to span the seas and gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Through our airplanes and spaceships we have dwarfed distance and placed time in chains, and through our submarines we have penetrated oceanic depths. This year our national gross product will reach the astounding figure of 780 billion dollars. All of this is a staggering picture of our great power.

But honesty impells me to admit that our power has often made us arrogant. We feel that our money can do anything. We arrogantly feel that we have everything to teach other nations and nothing to learn from them. We often arrogantly feel that we have some divine, messianic mission to police the whole world. We are arrogant in not allowing young nations to go through the same growing pains, turbulence and revolution that characterized cur history. We are arrogant in our contention that we have some sacred mission to protect people from totalitarian rule, while we make little use of our power to end the evils of South Africa and Rhodesia, and while we are in fact supporting dictatorships with guns and money under the guise of fighting Communism. We are arrogant in professing to be concerned about the freedom of foreign nations while not setting our own house in order. Many of our Senators and Congressmen vote joyously to appropriate billions of dollars for war in Viet Nam, and these same Senators and Congressmen vote loudly against a Fair Housing Bill to make it possible for a Negro veteran of Viet Nam to purchase a decent home. We arm Negro soldiers to kill on foreign battlefields, but offer little protection for their relatives from beatings and killings in our own south. We are willing to make the Negro 100% of a citizen in warfare, but reduce him to 50% of a citizen on American soil. Of all the good things in life the Negro has approximately one half those of whites; of the bad he has twice that of whites.

Thus, half of all Negroes live in substandard housing and Negroes have half the income of whites. When we turn to the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The infant mortality rate is double that of white. There are twice as many Negroes in combat in Viet Nam at the beginning of 1967 and twice as many died in action (20.6%) in proportion to their numbers in the population as whites.

All of this reveals that our nation has not yet used its vast resources of power to end the long night of poverty, racism and man’s inhumanity to man. Enlarged power means enlarged peril if there is not concommitant growth of the soul. Genuine power is the right use of strength. If our nation’s strength is not used responsibly and with restraint, it will be, following Acton’s dictum, power that tends to corrupt and absolute power that corrupts absolutely. Our arrogance can be our doom. It can bring the curtains down on our national drama. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. We are challenged in these turbulent days to use our power to speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

A fifth casualty of the war in Viet Nam is the principle of dissent. An ugly repressive sentiment to silence peace-seekers depicts advocates of immediate negotiation under terms of the Geneva agreement and persons who call for a cessation of bombings in the north as quasi-traitors, fools or venal enemies of our soldiers and institutions. Free speech and the privilege of dissent and discussion are rights being shot down by Bombers in Viet Nam. When those who stand for peace are so vilified it is time to consider where we are going and whether free speech has not become one of the major casualties of the war.

Curtailment of free speech is rationalized on grounds that a more compelling American tradition forbids critism of the government when the nation is at war. More than a century ago when we were in a declared state of war with Mexico, a first term congressman by the name of Abraham Lincoln stood in the halls of Congress and fearlessly denounced that war.

Congressman Abraham Lincoln of Illinois had not heard of this tradition or he was not inclined to respect it. Nor had Thoreau and Emerson and many other philosophers who shaped our democratic principles. Nothing can be more destructive of our fundamental democratic traditions than the vicious effort to silence dissenters.

A sixth casualty of the war in Viet Nam is the prospects of mankind’s survival. This war has created the climate for greater armament and further expansion of destructive nuclear power.

One of the most persistent ambiguities that we face is that everybody talks about peace as a goal. However, it does not take sharpest-eyed sophistication to discern that while everybody talks about peace, peace has become practically nobody’s business among the power-wielders. Many men cry peace! peace! but they refuse to do the things that make for peace.

The large power blocs of the world talk passionately of pursuing peace while burgeoning defense budgets that already bulge, enlarging already awesome armies, and devising even more devastating weapons. Call the roll of those who sing the glad tidings of peace and one’s ears will be surprised by the responding sounds. The heads of all of the nations issue clarion calls for peace yet these destiny determiners come accompanied by a band and a brigand of national choristers, each bearing unsheathed swords rather than olive branches.

The stages of history are replete with the chants and choruses of the conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace. Alexander, Ghenghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon were akin in their seeking a peaceful world order, a world fashioned after their selfish conceptions of an ideal existence. Each sought a world at peace which would personify their egotistic dreams. Even within the life-span of most of us, another megalomaniac strode across the world stage. He sent his blitzkrieg-bent legions blazing across Europe, bringing havoc and holocaust in his wake. There is grave irony in the fact that Hitler could come forth, following the nakedly aggressive expansionist theories he revealed in Mein Kampf, and do it all in the name of peace.

So when I see in this day the leaders of nations similarly talking peace while preparing for war, I take frightful pause. When I see our country today intervening in what is basically a civil war, destroying hundred of thousands of Vietnamese children with napalm, leaving broken bodies in countless fields and sending home half-men, mutilated, mentally and physically; when I see the recalcitrant unwillingness of our government to create the atmosphere for a negotiated settlement of this awful conflict by halting bombings in the North and agreeing to talk with the Vietcong–and all this in the name of pursuing the goal of peace–I tremble for our world. I do so not only from dire recall of the nightmares wreaked in the wars of yesterday, but also from dreadful realization of today’s possible nuclear destructiveness, and tomorrow’s even more damnable prospects.

In the light of all this, I say that we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war. We are called upon to look up from the quagmire of military programs and defense commitments and read history’s signposts and today’s trends.

The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars? Why can’t we at long last grow up, and take off our blindfolds, chart new courses, put our hands to the rudder and set sail for the distant destination, the port city of peace?

President John F. Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminates even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war–God forbid!–will leave only smouldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

I do not wish to minimize the complexity of the problems that need to be faced in achieving disarmament and peace. But I think it is a fact that we shall not have the will, the courage and the in sight to deal with such matters unless in this field we are prepared to undergo a mental and spiritual re-evaluation, a change of focus which will enable us to see that the things which seem most real and powerful are indeed now unreal and have come under the sentence of death. We need to make a supreme effort to generate the readiness, indeed the eagerness, to enter into the new world which is now possible.

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say “we must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. There is a fascinating little story that is preserved for us in Greek literature about Ulysses and the Sirens. The Sirens had the ability to sing so sweetly that sailors could not resist steering toward their island. Many ships were lured upon the rocks and the men forgot home, duty and honor as they flung themselves into the sea to be embraced by arms that drew them down to death. Ulysses, determined not to be lured by the Sirens, first decided to tie himself tightly to the mast of his boat and his crew stuffed their ears with wax. But finally he and his crew learned a better way to save themselves: they took on board the beautiful singer Orpheus whose melodies were sweeter than the music of the Sirens. When Orpheus sang, who bothered to listen to the Sirens? So we must fix our visions not merely on the negative expulsion of war. But upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a “peace race.” If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Viet Nam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. There can be no great disappointment where there is no great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, Extreme materialism and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster.

Jesus once told a parable of a young man who left home and wandered into a far country where, in adventure after adventure and sensation after sensation, he sought life. But he never found it; he found only frustration and bewilderment. The farther he moved from his father’s house, the closer he came to the house of despair. The more he did what he liked, the less he liked what he did. After the boy had wasted all, a famine developed in the land, and he ended up seeking food in a pig’s trough. But the story does not end there. It goes on to say that in this state of disillusionment, blinding frustration and homesickness, the boy “came to himself” and said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” The prodigal son was not himself when he left his father’s house or when he dreamed that pleasure was the end of life. Only when he made up his mind to go home and be a son again did he really come to himself. The parable ends with the boy returning home to find a loving father waiting with outstretched arms and heart filled with unutterable job.

This is an analogy of what America confronts today. Like all human analogies, it is imperfect, but it does suggest some parallels worth considering. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically. Its pillars were soundly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage–all men are made in the image of God; all men are brothers; all men are created equal; every man is heir to a legacy of dignity and worth; every man has rights that are neither conferred by nor derived from the state, they are God-given; out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit! But America strayed away; and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality. It has driven wisdom from her sacred throne. This long and callous sojourn in the far country of racism and militarism has brought a moral and spiritual famine to the nation.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars. America must continue to have, during these days of human travail, a company of creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria.

Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war we must spread the propaganda of peace. We must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement. We must demonstrate, teach and preach, until the very foundations of our nation are shaken. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a new platens of compassion, to a more noble expression of humane-ness.

I have tried to be honest today. To be honest is to confront the truth. To be honest is to realize that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and moments of comfort, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. However unpleasant and inconvenient the truth may be, I believe we must expose and face it if we are to achieve a better quality of American life.

Just the other day, the distinguished American historian, Henry Steele Commager, told a Senate Committee: “Justice Holmes used to say that the first lesson a judge had to learn was that he was not God… we do tend perhaps more than other nations, to transform our wars into crusades… our current involvement in Viet Nam is cast, increasingly, into a moral mold… It is my feeling that we do not have the resources, material, intellectual or moral, to be at once an American power, a European power and an Asian power.”

I agree with Mr. Commager. And I would suggest that there is, however, another kind of power that America can and should be. It is a moral power, a power harnessed to the service of peace and human beings, not an inhumane power unleashed against defenseless people. All the world knows that America is a great military power. We need not be diligent in seeking to prove it. We must now show the world our moral power.

There is an element of urgency in our re-directing American powers. We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the chief of time.

Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at flood: it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late. ” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today: nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation. History will record the choice we made. It is still not too late to make the proper choice. If we decide to become a moral power we will be able to transform the jangling discords of this world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we make the wise decision we will be able to transform our pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. This will be a glorious day. In reaching it we can fulfill the noblest of American dreams.

Happy birthday, Dr. King. We miss your voice. May we be fortunate enough never to lose your clarity of vision or courage never to stay silent.


“Dead Indian Creek” & Cultural Hegemony

( – promoted by navajo)

Why say “Dead Warrior Creek,” when racism fuels cultural hegemony so well?


The official name now is Dead Warrior Lake, ending for some a controversy over the lake’s name that has been going on for almost a decade.

– snip –

The first settlers in the area came up with the name after discovering a Cheyenne burial site. Cottonwoods that lined the creek made for a perfect burial site near the tribe’s winter camp.

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Racism is illogical; however, the way it manifests is alarmingly logical. Past down to generation after generation, the false belief in one’s racial superiority leads to stripping races believed to be inferior of land and liberty. It is my personal opinion that racist thoughts contribute to cultural hegemony, the concept that a diverse culture can be ruled or dominated by one group or class.

Racism was clearly present in the land theft surrounding Fort Reno. Perhaps those that still use “Dead Indian Creek” can pretend that land theft stopped in the 1800’s, if they acknowledge it at all. Well,

“They want the land given back to them on a platter,” Landow told FRONTLINE when he refused an on-camera interview. “They brought in innocent people like me. They’re a bunch of goddamn uneducated Indians.”

it didn’t.


(Article from 2000)


Fort Reno is a research station that contains a graveyard sacred to the Cheyenne-Arapaho, but is currently under federal control. Senator Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) currently has language in a pending bill that continues funding for the research station which would prevent transfer of the land back to the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe.


Charles Surveyor was chairman of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma. In 1883 the federal government confiscated a 9,500-acre parcel of tribal land known as Fort Reno. Today there is speculation there may be oil and gas beneath it.

 We don’t want no $100 million for our land or nothing. We want our land back, what’s rightfully ours. That was all we wanted. That’s still what we want.

So once again, why say “Dead Warrior Creek,” when racism fuels cultural hegemony so well?

It makes stealing –

“They want the land given back to them on a platter,” Landow told FRONTLINE when he refused an on-camera interview. “They brought in innocent people like me. They’re a bunch of goddamn uneducated Indians.”

– easier.

A Norman woman challenged the name in 1997, complaining the name was too similar to a notorious saying attributed to Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

easy as driving down the street in your car,

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or going to see the Sound of Music.


Cultural hegemony is the concept that a diverse culture can be ruled or dominated by one group or class, that everyday practices and shared beliefs provide the foundation for complex systems of domination.


At the lake, virtually nothing has changed as a result of the decision, said Tom Smeltzer, a district ranger at the Black Kettle National Grassland.

– snip –

“Even in our office, we still call it Dead Indian Lake,” Smeltzer said. “Maybe in another 50 years or so people will be using the new name but probably not any time soon.”

Why might it be that “Maybe in another 50 years or so people will be using the new name but probably not any time soon.” We’ll answer that by taking a short quiz.

Who said these racist statements, a child or an adult?

– “What we need is a black man, not some white boy.”

– “I know an Indian. They get that check for $900 every month; I know what that’s about, uh huh.”

– “Look at their homes, all run down. They don’t take care of them and our taxes pay for them.”

The first two were said by children, ages 6 and 9, respectively. “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Furthermore, the “tree” doesn’t necessarily have to be a parent. Racism is passed down generationally.

Racism is illogical; however, the way it manifests is alarmingly logical. Past down to generation after generation, the false belief in one’s racial superiority leads to stripping races believed to be inferior of land and liberty. Even though racism is illogical and based on ignorance, its applications are calculated and logical.

CKDemo: Test Diary NANR

This is a test diary and not meant to ever make the front page.

So if it does somehow make it to the front page, please ignore it and let it creep down the page into oblivion.



(No Extended Text)  

Pretty Bird Woman House Update: Why Isn’t Anything Easy in Indian Country?

(crossposted on the Daily Kos and Street Prophets under betson08 and Docudharma under PiledHigherand Deeper – I guess I have an unstable identity!)

I want to update everyone who has been involved in the Pretty Bird Woman House fundraiser on the situation with the house purchase.

After you read this you might also ask: Why isn’t anything easy in Indian Country?

While we were running this fundraiser, the City Council of McLaughlin, which exists as a separate entity within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation, passed an ordinance requiring that any nonprofit wishing to establish a boardinghouse or shelter in a residential area get the approval of the City Council first.

This means that  even though Pretty Bird Woman House could have closed on the house on January 4th, they had to wait for a Council meeting on January 7th.

Everyone was certain that after hearing about the shelter, the City Council would just say “of course you can” to their request.

Not so.  

Unfortunately, Georgia Little Shield, the shelter director, was attending a mandatory federal training associated with their new grant, so she was unable to go to the hearing. However, six representatives of PBWH and neighboring shelters did attend, including Jackie Brown Otter and a lawyer from the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Someone from the Lutheran church, the owner of the house the shelter bid on, also attended in support of the shelter.

The new ordinance that is affecting the shelter was passed in response to complaints about the men residing in a homeless shelter in another neighborhood, since they were making nuisances of themselves. While I can’t blame the residents for wanting drunken men off of their lawns, the measure does seem draconian in relation to the size of the problem it sought to address.

In general, reports from people who attended the meeting indicated that the ratio of support to opposition on the Council was about 60/40. Instead of voting on it that night, however, they decided to take the full 30 days allowed by the ordinance, and have another hearing.

The problem they are having, which has definite racial overtones, generally seems to stem from the fact that some of the members of the community could not conceptually distinguish between a homeless shelter, which houses men with emotional and drug problems, and a women’s shelter, which houses women who are escaping abuse, and want nothing more than a safe place to stay and to be as unobtrusive as possible. This is quite the opposite of a homeless shelter.

One reason for hope for a positive resolution was that Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth publicly came out in favor of the shelter in a recent Rapid City Journal articleabout the shelter. By the way, that paper also carried a very nice article about the shelter and the netroots fundraising efforts, which you can see here.

The Congresswoman seems to have become a champion of this cause, and programs to assist domestic violence victims in Indian Country in general. Kudos and applause to her!

And, without trying to dictate to the city council, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., nonetheless has made it clear that her heart is with the shelter as it searches for a permanent home.

“I’m not going to get involved in that (council vote),” Herseth Sandlin said earlier this week. “But I do hope that our efforts in making greater resources available to those isolated reservations will be a factor in the decision making — to know that a member of their congressional delegation is paying particular attention and wanting to be partners in their effort to have a safer community.”

Herseth Sandlin visited the Pretty Bird Woman House twice last year and supported Congressional bills with additional financial resources for law-enforcement and domestic-violence programs on reservations.

But she went further. The article notes that after visiting the burned shelter back in October:  

…Herseth Sandlin returned to McLaughlin with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, as well as congressional staffers. They stopped by the shelter apartment, which had by then been abandoned, and met with federal and local law-enforcement officials, shelter representatives and Dumdei.

After the visit, Dicks inserted language into an omnibus appropriations bill expressing his concern that “methamphetamine use, violence against women and other serious crimes have reached epidemic levels in certain areas of Indian Country,” and directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase the level of law enforcement and criminal prosecution in such areas.

That doesn’t provide more money specifically for Standing Rock but directs BIA to focus more resources on isolated areas where law officers are scarce. Herseth Sandlin said the October Congressional stop was part of the inspiration for adding that language into the spending bill. It also helped raise awareness in Congress about the issues of domestic violence and inadequate law enforcement on isolated reservations, she said.

“I think it has been very important to keep raising awareness about the epidemic of various crimes, especially domestic violence, and the inadequate staffing levels of BIA officers,” she said.

Again, thank you Congresswoman Herseth!

Additionally, the Mayor, who is in somewhat of a bind here, was quoted in the same article:

Mayor Ron Dumdei said this week that he and council members appreciate the value of the shelter but also must consider the concerns of members of the community. Some citizens worry that the shelter could again be victimized by vandals and pose other potential threats to the community in its new location.

“I understand their need for a shelter, but I also have to be sensitive to the other community folks who have concerns about it,” Dumdei said. “We’ll do what we can to make things right.”

He seems to have good intentions here, so that’s another good sign.

Another issue that arose during the meeting was what seems to have been a misconception about the local police authority to arrest Indians. Because McLaughlin has a white police department operating inside an Indian reservation, according to one opponent of the shelter, the white police officers have no jurisdiction, so it wouldn’t matter whether or not the shelter is close to a police station (was that a wtf moment for you? It was for me).

This is plainly not true. There are jurisdictional issues that make it difficult to hold people, but they can be arrested, as the Mayor’s statement to the Rapid City Journal reflected:

Jurisdiction issues between the tribe, federal agencies and state and local law enforcement officers create problems as well, Dumdei said. Non-Native officers who apprehend tribal lawbreakers may only hold them until they can be picked up by the federal officers, Dumdei said.

The jurisdictional issues make it difficult for nontribal law enforcement to be effective, he said.

“It creates some problems here. But we’re trying to work it out,” Dumdei said. “What we want to do is provide a safe community. It’s a complicated issue, but we’re going to do the best with what we’ve got.”

Unfortunately, though, the original argument was not quashed at the meeting. In any case, as Georgia told me by phone yesterday, there has not been one case in South Dakota of a batterer attacking a women’s shelter. What happened to the shelter was vandalism, and we do not know the race of the vandals. The shelter needs to be in a safe area for the safety of the women inside it, just in case they are stalked, as well as to to deter  vandals, but not because any batterers are likely to attack the shelter.

During the upcoming 30 days, the Council will hold another town meeting and give Georgia a chance to talk about the shelter. That will also give the women’s shelter advocates in the area some time to educate the residents about exactly what a shelter is and does.


Georgia also told me that one other thing they will immediately do is create a Plan B for purchase of a house. Since they could not close on a house on Jan.4th, as originally planned, they are now technically out of compliance with the grant that provides for operational expenses for the house. Thank God for the fundraiser. If they have to renovate some other house farther away from town, they will now be able to. Lets hope that doesn’t happen.

Right now, we’re not asking for letters to anyone in McLaughlin, except thank yous to Congressional Reps. Herseth and Dicks for their support. I think it is entirely possible that the members of the Council who oppose the shelter will come to their senses after they have been educated about what a women’s shelter really is, especially with more press coverage of the situation. This may just be another bureaucratic delay.

While I wait, what I am going to do is research the history behind these  towns on Indian reservations in the Dakotas. Some of the social relationships that have been described to me since I have become involved with this project are so oddly 19th century that sometimes I have difficulty overcoming my disbelief at what I’m hearing. I need to educate myself on this.

And things are just as messed up at the federal level too, which reinforces these problems.  Senator Dorgan has developed a concept paper with ideas for legislation to improve law enforcement in Indian Country. We really need to change federal laws that create conditions where people are treated differently by law enforcement just because of their race. You can read that paper here

Senator Dorgan is requesting comments on this paper.

Well, there you have it. This situation still embodies what Native American women face when they try to make change in their community. I feel so great to be able to say that now they’ve got the netroots behind them.

P.S.You can still get lots more information, and until the end of the month donate too, at the PBWH blog

NativeVue Film & Media

( – promoted by navajo)

NativeVue was created to

cultivate an interest in Native performing arts by featuring North America’s most innovative Indigenous filmmakers, musicians, actors and media entrepreneurs.…

A sampling:

“Creative Spirit” Films Premiere at Paramount Studios

The purpose of the Creative Spirit program is to foster employment and training opportunities for American Indians in the film industry.  The program creates meaningful relationships between Native filmmakers and industry veterans by providing an environment for professional collaboration.

Such was the case with 2007’s productions: Ancestor Eyes, written and directed by Kalani Queypo (Blackfeet/Hawaiian), and Two Spirits, One Journey, written and produced by Shawn Imitates Dog (Oglala Lakota).

Ancestor Eyes

Ancestor Eyes  tells the story of a mother (Tantoo Cardinal) coming to terms with the declining health of her daughter (Rulan Tangen).  “I really wanted to do an homage to matriarchal power, to the love between a mother and a daughter,” said Queypo.  “An homage to the life-givers and the caregivers.”

Two Spirits, One Journey

Two Spirits, One Journey  deals with a gay relationship on the Pine Ridge reservation. Luke (Alex Meraz) wants to come out and be himself, even if it means leaving the rez. Chris (Patrick David) would rather pretend to be straight than face ostracism.

The title comes from the “two spirits” term for gay Indians. Traditionally, most tribes recognized homosexuality not as a sin or curse but simply as another identity. They didn’t reject gays, they respected them.

Good to find a spot highlighting Independent Native American film making. Be sure and click the link above so they know we found them.

Links from their links page:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Bringing Leonard Peltier to Iowa and New Hampshire

( – promoted by navajo)

Leonard Peltier is one reason I can’t support Hillary Clinton for president.  I was one of thousands who petitioned Bill Clinton to grant Leonard a pardon. Thanks to Harvey Wasserman for reminding others of the history of Peltier and Bill Clinton.

The disagreements are deep and generally predictable. But it is equally predictable that there is one issue—one man— being totally ignored by the mainstream media. His case marks the moral low point of the Clinton Era. He deserves to be a part of the primary process.

His name is Leonard Peltier.

Bill Clinton was thoroughly and repeatedly briefed on the Peltier case throughout his presidency. Yet eight years came and went, and Leonard Peltier was left to rot. Desperate last-minute pleas as he prepared his final pardon list were to no avail. It would have been easy enough for Clinton to “triangulate” by merely ordering that Peltier get a new trial.

Yet Bill Clinton left the White House fully aware that George W. Bush would do no such thing.

This is not an issue that should go unmentioned in these early primaries. Hillary Clinton is most certainly aware of the case of Leonard Peltier. She should be asked early and often whether she, as president, would have the courage and commitment to justice to at very least grant Leonard Peltier the new trial her husband would not. All the other candidates on both sides of the aisle should be asked the same thing.

We cannot save our national soul without bringing justice to bear for Leonard Peltier. No one should enter the White House without a clear commitment to doing just that.

The full article is here.

Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate I am aware of, who has given any time or mention to Native American issues.  

I have written all of the other candidates asking for their positions on issues like Peltier, the Cobell, sovereignty and trust issues, etc.  Not a single reply from any candidate.

I hope that others here, will also write the Democratic candidates and ask them to speak on what their positions on Native American issues are.