First Nations News & Views: NN12 American Indian Caucus, the Nez Perce in 1873


Welcome to the 17th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a recap of our American Indian Caucus at Netroots Nation, a look at the year 1873 in American Indian history and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on link below to read our earlier editions.

All Previous Editions

NN12 American Indian Caucus

By Meteor Blades

The American Indian Caucus of Netroots Nation, spurred into existence in 2006 by navajo, had its best attendance ever this year in Providence, R.I. Competition from simultaneously occurring panels makes it tough. (We even wanted to see a couple of those panels.) Fifty-five people attended ours. But talk of the caucus went a lot further than our little room because we attracted a right-wing troll whose only interest was in making points against Elizabeth Warren. She has made a much-discussed claim to Cherokee heritage that is being used against her in her Senate campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. (You can read diaries about the troll here and here.)

The highlight of our caucus was the presentation of our guest, 72-year-old story-teller Paulla Dove-Jennings, a Niantic-Naragansett Indian whose ancestors have lived in what is now Rhode Island for several thousand years. The 2400-member tribe, which was once reduced to a three-acre plot of land where the Episcopal Indian Church had stood since 1744, regained federal recognition in 1983 and now holds 1800 acres of additional land. You can read FNN&V‘s condensed but more detailed history here.

In addition to our story-teller’s wonderful weaving of tribal history, family life, politics and Niantic-Naragansett tales, navajo and I also briefly discussed the progress of FNN&V and quickly summarized what would have been a full hour’s discussion of Indian voting rights and voter suppression if our proposal for such a panel had not been rejected by the Netroots Nation screening committee. Because I know most readers would prefer to watch Jennings’ presentation in the video below than read my abbreviated version of what that panel would have covered, I’m saving that for next week’s FNN&V.

For those who are video impaired, there is a transcript of Jennings’ talk at the end of this edition of FNN&V. Thanks to oke and rfall for videotaping the session and transcribing it.

Here’s an introduction to Jennings in her own words followed by the video:

Members of the Turtle clan are the keepers of tribal History, family history, and

traditional legends. I am a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Working as curator of museum Native collections, Tribal Council member, oral  

historian, story-teller, and published author have all enhanced my confidence

and knowledge of true story-telling. A story-teller never uses another tribe’s story without permission.

I grew up with my parents, grandparents, and other family elders telling tribal history, family history, and legends in the 1940s, 1950s, and ’60s.  I have passed some of my stories on to nieces and nephews as well as my own grandchildren.

Several years ago I invited my mother, Eleanor Spears Dove, to Brown University

to a story-telling event. Seven well-known Rhode Island storytellers of various

ethnic groups presented their stories. All of the presenters used props such as

instruments, music, scarves, sticks, etc. They were wonderful. I told the story of

how the bear lost his tail. My props were the tone of my voice, the shift of my

body, movements of my hands, eye contact, and the lift of my head, leaning

toward the audience and pulling back. I try to build the scene, the weather, the

wind, the sky, the earth, the water, the forest, and the animals.

When the event was over, my mother surprised me by saying she actually saw the bear!  

I have told stories from Maine to Alaska, to the young and the old, in cultural

institutions, colleges, universities, schools, powwows, organizations, and private

and social events. I thank the Creator for this gift.

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1873

By Meteor Blades

wallowa nez perce interpretive center logo

On June 16, 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order barring white settlers from claiming title to northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Valley. This was the traditional turf of one band of the Nez Perce (Nimi’ipuu) tribe. The executive order was needed because Nez Perce bands who didn’t live in the valley had signed a treaty in 1863 surrendering it along with other lands. The U.S. government kept to the executive order until Grant left the presidency. Within two months of Rutherford B. Hayes’s inauguration, however, the non-treaty Nez Perce had been ordered out of the Wallowa Valley and a five-month war and trek had begun, with 2,000 troops of the U.S. Army in pursuit.

The Nez Perce were the largest tribe on the Columbia River Plateau when Lewis and Clark encountered them in 1805. The two Americans weren’t the first white people the Nez Perce had seen. They got their name – “pierced nose,” even though they didn’t pierce their noses-from French fur traders. A half-century later, vastly reduced in numbers by war with white men and European diseases, they stood in the way of America’s inexorable Manifest Destiny.

In 1855, some Nez Perce bands agreed to a treaty with most of their traditional hunting grounds, including the Wallowa, set aside for them “permanently” in exchange for giving up some land and right of way. All the bands agreed, including the Wallowa band led by Tuekakas, known to the whites as Joseph after his Christian baptism in 1839, and later, Old Joseph. However, in 1861, gold was discovered on Nez Perce land in Idaho and 10,000 white settlers poured in. Conflict naturally arose. The government called for another treaty. This reduced the original land promised in 1855 by 90 percent.

Tuekakas opposed the deal because his band’s beloved Wallowa Valley would have to be surrendered. Because he and the leaders of four other bands opposed the deal, the divisions were henceforth labeled treaty and nontreaty Nez Perce. Tuekakas staked out the valley with poles and declared “Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man.” He died in 1871, and his son, Hinmuuttu-yalatlat (Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain), also known as Young Joseph, became leader of the Wallowa band. His father is reported to have said before his death:

My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.

For four years, they stayed put, as President Grant had said they could. But relations with whites were tense. Settlers continued to move into the Wallowa and this led to inevitable clashes and a few killings on both sides.

In May 1877, the one-armed Gen. Oliver O. Howard arrived. Without ceremony, discussion or advance notice, told Chief Joseph that his band would be moved immediately. The first thought of many non-treaty Indians was to fight, but Joseph knew this was a losing proposition. The band pulled up stakes, literally, from the Wallowa and crossed the Snake River, joining the other non-treaty bands and a small group of Palouse Indians. They wer headed for the reservation, heartsick. Before they could move to the reservation, however, a small group of young warriors joined the band to say they had killed some whites and taken their horses. The 800 or so people in the allied bands soon learned the Army was coming after them.

Nez Perce photographed after their capture in 1877
Nez Perce photographed after their capture in 1877

Thus began one of the most famous conflicts of the Indian Wars. It captured the attention of the nation and Europe as newspapers told of the pursuit of the Nez Perce by Gen. Howard. The Crow refused asylum to the Nez Perce. So the decision was made to flee to Canada, where, they had learned, Sitting Bull had taken the Hunkpapa band of Lakota to evade the Army seeking revenge for Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The Wallowa Nez Perce and their allies went on a nearly 1200-mile, three-month-long zig-zag trek, out-maneuvering the Army, white volunteers and Indian scouts, which included some of the non-treaty Nez Perce. Small clashes were won and lost throughout the summer. But attrition was catching up with the band. Its cohort of battle-ready warriors dwindled week after week. Ultimately, after a five-day battle in the freezing cold, with the remnants of the band starving and more than 150 warriors dead, Chief Joseph surrendered just 40 miles from Canada on Oct. 5, 1877.

There, he was said to give a stirring speech ending with “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” Scholars now believe it was a later invention of a lieutenant colonel and poet under Howard’s command.

The Nez Perce repeatedly promised they could return to the Wallowa. But it never happened. Chief Joseph died in 1904 at the Colville Reservation, living with the other 11 bands assigned there. And, despite there being numerous bridges, dams, streets, a mountain pass, a highway, a town, a creek and a canyon named after their leader, the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce still live at Colville.

In the Wallowa Valley that the band never agreed to surrender, there is today the 160-acre Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center. The mission is to tell the story of the band’s trek and “to assist in assembling the Wallowa Band Nez Perce culture and history in order to provide interpretation, knowledge and understanding to those who visit the grounds.” Still there, near Lake Wallowa, lies the grave of Old Joseph. His valley is no longer surrounded by poles but, unlike his living kin, he remains forever in the land of his fathers.



The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story by Elliott West (2009).

Treaty of 1863.

Nez Perce Joseph: An Account of His Ancestors, His Lands, His Confederates, His Enemies, His Murders, His War, His Pursuit and Capture by O. O. Howard (1881).

NAN Line Separater

Complaints Gain Invisible Indians a Spot on Obama Campaign Website: The Obama-Biden campaign website had outreach pages for African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays and women. Notably missing until Friday, however, was a page for American Indians despite the fact the election is less than five months away. Thanks to complaints, Native Americans for Obama was posted June 15 with a logo and the tag-line “A place for Native Americans to organize and speak out in support of President Obama and his accomplishments.”

But Indians from several tribes who met last week in Chicago with members of the campaign team say they are concerned that not as much seems to be being done with Indians as was done in 2008. And they expressed disappointment that the Obama campaign apparently plans to depend on the efforts of state Democratic Party apparatuses to handle voter outreach to the tribes. In the past, Indians have been ignored-or treated with hostility-by state parties.  

-Meteor Blades

Jihan Gearon photo
Jihan Gearon

Navajo Tribal Council Delegates to Vote on Water Pact: Navajo Nation Chief Ben Shelly and Attorney General Harrison Tsosie support a water settlement under which the Navajo and Hopi people would waive claims to water from the Little Colorado River system. In exchange, the federal government would pay to develop groundwater projects for the tribes.

Approval by the Navajo, the Hopi and 30 other entities are required before the pact can be finalized. The 24 Navajo delegates to the Tribal Council will vote sometime this month, possibly as soon as this week. The settlement, introduced in February, is the swan song of Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and backed by Sen. John McCain. Foes encompass numerous grassroots Navajo groups cooperating as the Dine Water Rights Committee, Dine being what the Navajo people call themselves in their own tongue. Members include the Forgotten People Corporation, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Hada’asidi, Next Indigenous Generation and the Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto. Jihan Gearon, executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition said:

“It’s obvious that the grassroots people of the Navajo Nation reject the settlement agreement. We have collected hundreds of petition signatures from concerned citizens opposed to the settlement as well as hundreds of letters against the settlement. Furthermore, there was overwhelming opposition at each of the eight educational forums organized by the grassroots organizations, not to mention the overwhelming opposition voiced against the settlement at each of the seven town hall meetings sponsored by the president’s office under direction from the council.”

Sarana Riggs of Next Indigenous Generation said: “Our vision for the future includes a just transition away from the coal-based economy, a diverse and sustainable economy based on traditional values, and true self-sufficiency for the Navajo Nation. We will sign these things away if we agree to the settlement.”

In a open letter, Anna Rondon (Navajo) wrote:

I also serve on the Navajo Nation Green Economy Commission. I question why our leaders cater to the very federal government that has time and time again under-funded us, to design internal fighting among ourselves. Our leaders turn the other way when real Dine’ ideas lead the way for a healthier and sustainable economy. But, our leaders are selling us out. I cannot believe the Navajo Nation is setting precedence that is not only unruly for us as a People, but for our other tribal nations that will also feel the negative impacts of this legislation.

-Meteor Blades

North Dakota Voters Say Goodbye to ‘Fighting Sioux’ Nickname: After six years of acrimony, countervailing actions by politicians, university officials and the NCAA, plus national media attention, the University of North Dakota will no longer use the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo for its sports teams. The name had deeply divided citizens across the state, but two-thirds of them voted down the nickname in a primary election June that had three other measures on the ballot.

The NCAA ruled in 2005 that all university and colleges should drop Indian-themed mascots, logos and nicknames ranging from “Redskins” to “Braves” to just plain “Indians.” Exceptions were allowed for schools that obtained tribal permission. Although some foes of eliminating Indian mascots and nicknames have claimed these are not degrading but respectful, images and attitudes expressed around these have historically been filled with ridiculous caricatures and racist stereotypes. One of those stereotypes is that so many of the logos and mascots choose Plains Indians as their image no matter what the local Indian culture was and is. Hundreds of universities, colleges and secondary schools have dropped the nicknames over the past 40 years as opposition has steadily grown. Oregon formally banned mascots and nicknames this year after some schools held out against the state school board’s request several years ago that they do so voluntarily. Last month, Sanford became the last small school in Maine to drop the “Redskins” nickname from its high school sports teams.

While a dwindling number of schools retain the nicknames, two national franchises-the Cleveland Indians baseball team with their despicable Chief Wahoo, and the Washington Redskins- continue to thumb their noses at people who object to their racist depictions.

While many Indians say they have no objections to such nicknames, the National Indian Education Association passed a resolution in 2009 calling for getting rid of all the Indian-themed mascots, logos and nicknames. And the National Congress of American Indians has been campaigning for an end to mascots and nicknames since 1968.

Previous coverage of this issue in FNN&V can be found here and here and here.

-Meteor Blades

Ed WindDancer
Ed WindDancer

Real Indians Protest Fakes: Sal “White Horse” Serbin (Oglala-Lakota) grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation of South Dakota. But he lives in Florida now and in 2010 established a group called the Fraudulent Native American Task Force. Its numbers are small. But Serbin is trying to make its impact greater by protesting fake Indians every chance he gets. That often puts him into conflict not only with wannabes and other frauds but with other Indians, too. Among the many frauds he has challenged are “healers” and performers and participants in phony sun dance ceremonies or moon worshipping and other whatnot, often charging fees for services they claim to be Indian in origin.

“The stealing and exploitation of the Native American culture,” Sal said, “has become an epidemic.”

At one event recently, the Chasco Fiesta Parade, Serbin and five other Indians of various tribal heritage held signs when the faux-Indian Krewe of Chasco danced past in “Mohawk” haircuts, feathers and beads, dressed as “Pocahontas” and other stereotypes. Serbin’s sign read: “Having Fun Playing Indian? Grow Up!!”

He has links with other groups, including the Florida chapter of the American Indian Movement, the militant organization whose most famous confrontation occurred at Wounded Knee in 1973 on the reservation where Serbin was born nine years earlier. The 77-year-old leader of Florida AIM, Ruby Beaulieu, who has protested the Chasco parade’s inclusion of fake Indians for many years, told Leonora LaPeter Anton at the Tampa Bay Times that her complaints had gotten rid of outrages like “Find the treasure in the Indian burial mound” and “Pin the tail on the Indian.” But the parade remains.

At the Venice Community Center, the night before the parade, Serbin had another encounter:

There, a man named Ed WindDancer, a flute player and a carpenter, had put together a cast of Indian performers for a show called “Flight of the Red-Tailed Hawk.” The cost to attend: $15. CDs of his music were on sale. The parking lot was filling up fast.

WindDancer said he was Cherokee, but Sal called the Cherokees. Sal said they had never heard of him. When WindDancer said he was Nanticoke, Sal said he called the group’s chief in Delaware and learned WindDancer was not on their tribal rolls either. He knew that WindDancer had changed his last name from Pielert and that part of WindDancer’s family had come from Germany four generations ago. He knew that WindDancer had received probation and a $5,000 fine for bartering eagle, hawk and great horned owl feathers with a wildlife officer, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In another central Florida town recently, Serbin and some Indian allies confronted the New Age-style fake-Indian ritual midway. The participants, all sporting “Indian” names responded:

“In a past life, we were you,” said Raven That Speaks With the Cloud People. “We were Indians.”

“Let’s just love each other,” said Tiger Lily. […]

“If you want to continue with this group, if you could just add ‘style’ or ‘hobbyists’ to the end of your advertisements,” [Serbin] implored nicely. “This could be a wonderful thing if done properly.”

Small battles, occasionally small victories. But he doesn’t give up.

-Meteor Blades

American Indian Schools Get Solar, Wind Money from Arizona: After the expansion of a Tucson Electric Power company’s 400-megawatt, coal-fired power plant in 2009, the Arizona Renewable Energy Investment Fund was given $5 million to support projects to reduce pollution and benefit Native American communities in Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. Several projects have now been selected to receive a share of those funds: $236,000 for a solar and wind power project at Little Singer, Dilkon Community, Leupp, Shonto Preparatory and NATIVE schools; $65,000 for a solar and wind power project at Moenkopi Day and Hopi Day schools; and $253,000 to provide wind power to an assisted-living facility for the Hopi Office of Elderly Services.

-Meteor Blades

Montana’s 40-year-old Indian Education Act Praised: Surviving delegates and other Montanans gathered in the state’s House chambers Friday to commemorate the passage of Montana’s constitution in 1972. They focused intently on the document’s Education and Public Lands Article that changed how Montana relates to its American Indian populations. It says: “The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural heritage.”

It wasn’t until 1999 that this article was actually implemented. That took the prodigious efforts of Rep. Carol Juneau (Hidatsa and Mandan) to shepherd through the legislature. And it took several more years of lawsuits to get it funded, according to Montana Assistant Attorney General Andrew Huff (Cree-Rocky Boy Reservation). Juneau’s daughter Denise (Hidatsa and Mandan) is now the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

Because he didn’t look obviously like an Indian or what other people thought an Indian should look like, many people thought Huff was Italian or Mexican or marveled at his apparent easy ability to tan.

“So by the time I had hit high school in Missoula, I’d heard just about it all with regard to Indians – all the Indian slurs, the stereotypes, the racial epithets,” he said. “I’d heard that Indians were drunk, lazy, that we were a defeated people, that we should just blend in, that we should accept our fate and assimilate and that reservations should be done away with.”

Many people in his life – his supportive family, many teachers and his friends – had fought against these stereotypes, Huff said. Many people wanted to help Indian children, but lacked the knowledge to counter the stereotypes, he said.

It took 40 years, but Montana at last is fulfilling the promise of that provision, Huff said.

Montana has a K-12 Indian Education for All curriculum, developed in consultation with Indians and their tribes, he said. Teachers are getting trained on how to teach it and learn about Indians and Indian tribes. And Montana children of all backgrounds are learning about Indians and their history.

-Meteor Blades

Indians Not Happy with IRS Meddling: The president of the executive board of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, John Yellowbird Steele (Oglala-Lakota) told members of a Senate committee Thursday that the Internal Revenue Service is stepping over the line of tribal sovereignty and violating treaties in its attempts to tax treaty-guaranteed government assistance for things such as housing, school clothes and burial aid that tribes provide their members.

“We fix houses, and they want us to put a value on how much that lumber cost to patch a hole in a roof or a floor, put shingling on, they want us to put a value on that and give the person a 1099” tax form to possibly be taxed on the help, Steele said. “The next year, where are those people going to find the money to pay the IRS?”

The agency has over the years cut back on what social benefits for tribal members can be exempted from taxes. It has been meeting with various tribes to clarify rules on what is taxable under the General Welfare Doctrine. But, Steele said, in th midst of those meetings, tribes are getting notices that they are being audited. He called this an IRS fishing expedition.

-Meteor Blades

Indians Honor Owner of Cleaned-up Chickamauga Mound in Chattanooga: A Chattanooga burial mound dating back to perhaps 900 BCE was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984. But it was overgrown with poison ivy, wisteria and 30 trees, practically invisible and, some in the American Indian community said, disrespected until the new owner of the industrial property where it sits decided to clean it up and give access to Native people. That owner, Kenny Wilhoit, was honored in a small ceremony today in conjunction with the National Days of Prayer to Protect Native Sacred Places. He was given a wooden bowl made from one of the trees removed from the mound.

Tom Kunesh (Standing Rock Sioux) of the Advisory Council on Tennessee Indian Affairs said that prior to 2010: “We would stand outside the fence, pray, offer tobacco and look forward to the day when we would be allowed access to it.” Wilhoit says that access will continue for as long as he owns the property.

-Meteor Blades

National Congress of American Indians, 1944. (Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives
National Congress of American Indians, 1944. (Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives

National Congress of American Indians Meeting for First Time in Nebraska: It was 1944 when the 60 male and seven female delegates of the first-ever get-together of the National Congress of American Indians met in Denver. Today, the congress began its mid-year conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. There will be more than 800 representatives from scores of the 565 federally recognized tribes at the Cornhusker Hotel. The four-day event, which will cover a broad range of issues, including climate change and violence against Native women, will end the first day’s events with a pow-wow. NCAI President Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw) will deliver an address Monday about “Uniting Tribes to Advance Our Shared Goals.”

In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star last week, Keel discussed the economics of the tribes, including his own. In the 1980s, the 40,000-member Chickasaw tribe’s economic goal was $5 million. “If you look today, there’s probably a billion dollars flowing through our businesses.” These include a chocolate factory and a metal-fabrication factory. “Those create jobs,” he said, “and the jobs then relate to raising the quality of life of Indian people across the country.” One example is the 4,800-member Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, which went from zero revenue in 1995 and now has revenue of $226 million. But for many tribes, especially those in more remote areas, the economic conditions remain grim.

Keel noted that one major NCAI goal this year is getting out the Indian vote: “In 2008, there were probably one million Native American people who were not registered to vote.” Although he didn’t mention it, suppressing the Indian vote of those who are registered has been a key factor in keeping the numbers who vote at a low level relative to other ethnic groups.

-Meteor Blades

‘American Indian’ Charter School Blasted: Despite a report ripping the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, California, the school board there approved renewal of the school’s charter in April. Among the complaints about the school run by American Indian Models are that it has conflicts of interest, limited parent involvement and high teacher turnover. On a scale of 1-5 on 43 measures, the school received only as high as a “3” on one. But because its academic index was 990 out of 1000, a phenomenally high score that no other school in the Oakland system achieved, it retained its charter. Now some believe the index rating was inflated by cherry-picking transferring students, a violation of the law. Admissions are supposed to be “blind,” but parents have been asked to submit their students’ scores in their applications.

The school got its name from the fact that it was originally designed to serve the American Indian community in Oakland. In the 2010-2011 school-year, there were ZERO students who identified as Indian.  

That’s a sticking point for some local American Indians, said one prominent member of the Bay Area American-Indian community, who asked to be anonymous for fear of making waves. “If anything, I just wish they would change their name – it’s misleading, and potentially damaging to our community.”

-Meteor Blades

Oglala College Students Work Against Youth Suicide: Suicide among young people is epidemic on many American Indian reservations. To raise awareness, generate hope and help reduce this terrible circumstance, some Oglala Lakota College business students, have begun a campaign using traditional advertising and social media. Students in the Introduction to Business class have passed out 200 disposable cameras to elementary and middle school students at the Loneman, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud schools. The assignment: Take the camera home and shoot photos to show what hope looks like.

-Meteor Blades

Photo Exhibits Focuses on the 1973-1976 ‘Reign of Terror in South Dakota’:  From the time of the Wounded Knee siege in 1973, the FBI, government bureaucrats and corrupt tribal officials were at loggerheads with traditional Indians and the American Indian Movement. From now until the end of June, AIM-WEST, a non-profit community based inter-tribal organization in San Francisco, is hosting a photo and art exhibit about the “Reign of Terror in South Dakota” of that era. More than 60 AIM members were murdered in a three-year period. Included in the exhibit will be paintings by political prisoner Leonard Peltier, photos of AIM’s past activities, including the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz and the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, as well as Bay Area indigenous activism. The exhibit is at the Arte International Gallery, 963 Pacific St. More information is available at AIM-West.

-Meteor Blades

A Tobacco Offering

I brought some tobacco with me today. A little here for the past, a little here for the present, a little here for the future. History and all the powers that be said that my people have been here ten, maybe fifteen thousand years, but my grandmother told me we’ve been here 30,000 years. When I started on this journey of talking about my people and learning about my people I went to anthropologists and mythologists, and I interned at a museum. And they said, “How do you know what you’re saying is true, what’s your primary source?” “My Grandmother.” They said, “Where was it written?” Well, my grandmother writes beautiful letters but she never wrote down our history. I’ve converted a lot of educated PhD authorities and one day they’re going to catch up and realize my people have been here 30,000 years.

I was going to sit down and talk but I like to see faces so I’m going to stand up so I can see faces.

My name is Paula Dove-Jennings, I have a brother who is a year older than me but on the day that I was born my father stood at the end of the street and said, “Today I am a man because I have a daughter, because women are the givers of life.” And I tease my two younger sisters from all the time, saying they weren’t necessary one sister is 9 years, the younger one is 18 years younger than me. I asked my father one night my after my first sister came along. “You had me, why her?” He said, “Well, you keep saying you wanted somebody else to play with.” We lived out in the country, without electricity without running bath, that kind of stuff.  It was great, it was wonderful. When my baby sister came along my father said, “I thought it was a tumor.” But I love them both. Women, not only being born make a man a man, just as a son makes a woman a woman, have always played an

important part in our nation.

Now if you look on this sheet here and other places you’re going to see the word “Narragansett” correct spelling, or pronunciation, is Nah-ah-gansett because we didn’t have the letter ‘r’. If you’re from Rhode Island or talk to other Rhode Islanders you’ll often find they leave the ‘r ‘out. We like to say,  “they’re trying to talk Narragansett.”

My people have always been here, this land where this building is right now is part swampland, low-lying lands. If you go to Providence Place mall where the parking area is there’s a sacred burial ground. And we were given about 350,000.00 dollars to allow them to bury our people on that land. My voice was not loud enough, the elders voice was not loud enough, the young people were not loud enough. So it’s up to those of us today to speak up and be loud about it. Be courteous but be loud. People think it’s amazing that women finally are running for President. We had women who led our people. Some more well known than others.

We also read in the paper now that women can fight in different battles in the United States Army, Marines, Navy. We had women warriors, we did all this and it’s taken 400 years  of everything to come around full circle so people realize that when the creator made us, man and woman, it was to walk side by side.

Squaw Man

Now, that didn’t always happen some people like my father’s mother married an Englishman. My grandfather is about 6’4″, 250 lbs; he went to college and became an engineer. But then he married my little 5’2″ grandmother she was Niantic and in Rhode Island my grandfather was known as squaw man. He could only get a job as policeman  or fireman, that’s what he did. He and my grandmother had eight children. His family disowned him, didn’t want anything to do with him because he married this woman. My grandmother and grandmother lived in Westerly, Rhode Island which is in the southern part of the state, in an old Italian neighborhood. My grandmother would stand at the fence, a white picket fence, she’d be on one side of the picket fence, Mrs. Filosetti would be on the other side. Mrs. Filosetti was speaking in Italian, Calibrese, and my grandmother was speaking in Narragansett and they would understand each other. And my grandmother would send over baked fish and they would send over the most delicious sausage, and sauce, and they’d exchange.

Once a year, around Thanksgiving time, a news reporter from the Westerly Sun would come to interview my grandmother. My Grandmother had a front porch which we called a piazza, and we’d be on her front porch. In those days I didn’t talk much. Grandmother would be out there, she’d have her apron on, the reporter would come to interview her. He’d ask what she was going to do for Thanksgiving, what she was going to cook. And my grandmother would say, “Well, we’re going to have roast turkey.” A truck would come by and it would have all these cages on it and my grandmother would reach up for the fattest one, she’d check them all out, pick out one that was 25 or 30 lbs. and take it out in the backyard, chop the head off, did what she had to do. She’d talk about the vegetables and so forth and the family members that would come in from wherever. But one year they sent a new reporter out and this reporter said,  “Mrs. Dove, do you people go hunting for your turkey?” My grandmother’s sitting there and I’m holding onto her apron. I looked up at her and her eyes were getting blacker and blacker. She told him no, she had bought it from Mr. so-and-so.” “Well, did your people live in tee-pees?” “No, we had long houses, we had wig-wams.” I could feel my grandmothers body tense up and her eyes kept getting darker and darker. He went on in this way for quite awhile. Finally he said, “Well isn’t it true that the women are not as good, well they’re inferior to the men.” Grandmother said, “No, that’s not true.” Then he said, “Well, I heard that Indian women always walk behind their men.” By this time my Grandmother rolled those eyes up at him and said, “That’s true.” “Well see you are inferior then.” My grandmother stood up, all 5’2″ of her, holding onto her apron and she said, “We stand behind our men to tell them where to go.” Still true, still true.

Now my grandmother said to my grandfather, “You have to vote, you have to get involved. It’s not only your right, it’s your responsibility.” You have to make sure when your children come of age that they vote. Don’t just vote for the President, or the national, or just for the Governor, remember who you’re voting for in these small towns.

Now 1924, when the reorganization act was going, on a woman known as Princess Red Wing, a Wampanog-Narragansett, she designed the Tribal Seal. It’s the peace pipe, the North Star and the sun. And she worked hard. So, we weren’t Federally recognized, but we were recognized.

Now our people fought in all the wars, up to and including the Civil War and after the Civil War was over and we’re back on our reservation in Charlestown , Westerley, all through the Southern coast, that was all our land but it slowly being stolen. It was taken away and we moved back in further and further. One of our elders called our people together and a man came down from the state house up here and said, “you fought in the civil war, you did well. We’re going to make you citizens of the state of Rhode Island.” He went on and on about the benefits of being a citizen of the state of Rhode Island. He didn’t mention voting. Just as the black men were given the right to be citizens he said at that time. We sent him away. We do not want the citizenship. We are happy to be Narragansett. Why would we give up what we have? Yes, you claim the black man is now a citizen, but we will never see a black man running this country. And I wept when Obama won, I didn’t vote for him, I voted for a woman. And then I prayed that he would be safe and not killed, or his children be harmed. Because I worry about this. Well time went on, 1924 we’re now official citizens of the state of Rhode Island. But it wasn’t until 1951 or ’52 that Rhode Island made the law that allowed us to vote.

Now I lived in Charlestown and there were a lot of Native families there around us and the beginning of November a car would drive out the dirt roads, no electric, and drive to my cousin’s house, to my cousin’s father’s house, to our house, and they would come out and say, “you vote for us, don’t vote for anybody else.” Then leave a pint of whiskey. My father’s cousin and my father put all the whiskey up and my father would call them together and one of the elders, he was a young man then, would say, “you go and vote, and you vote for the person you think is going to be the most responsible for all our needs, not just a certain individual.’ Then at Christmas time they’d all bring their pints and my father would take fresh whole cream and make the best eggnog you ever had and he shared it all.

My father tried to run for local town office in Charlestown, he could never get in. Sometimes he wasn’t even allowed to get on the ballot. Then we moved to Exeter, Rhode Island. And when we moved there first, my father went to the PTA meetings, to the local town meetings, and in a few years he was the town moderator. He periodically came up to the state house. He would meet with the local politicians. He would call them up, he would draft a letter to whoever the local representative was. So when they heard the name ‘Ferris Dove’ they’d say, “ah, he’s got some influence with the tribe.”

His Native Name was Roaring Bull

His whole purpose was to help us get some of our land back. He was on the tribal council, and he also ended up after a couple of terms as town moderator they used to tell him he didn’t have to use the mallet, his native name was Roaring Bull, that he could just raise his voice. He became a tax assessor for several years.

My father met my mother just before he got a scholarship from the DAR to go to Bacone Indian college in Oklahoma. The DAR said they were going to pay his way there. If he did well, it was a two-year college, they’d send him onto graduate school. When he left he had 2 outfits, 4 pairs of undies, 4 pairs of socks and 2 dollars. Took the Greyhound. He loved school, loved education. Now before he went they offered two or three other Native men. He had been out of school 3 or 4 years but his younger brother said, “no, I’m going in the Navy.” This was in the thirties. My father went out there. My family is fortunate, we must be a bunch of pack rats because we still have the letters he sent. His greatest pain was they would go from Oklahoma to Texas and they walked to a store where they were going to get something to eat and a sign said, “No dogs or Indians.” And my father wrote to my grandmother and said, “I want to come home, I want to come home, I can’t live with this.” And my grandmother said, “Your own Grandfathers and Grandmothers barely speak to you and you’re going to worry about this sign? Stay. Get your education.” My grandfather stayed. He went to school with Dick West. And he loved school. And when he came back, whenever he had a chance, he took courses at the University of Rhode Island. He died when he was sixty-eight, in 1983, and he was still taking courses. When he became town moderator he took some political courses. And when he was the tax assessor he took some financial courses.

My parents owned a restaurant, twenty years. It was my mother’s idea. My mother worked in a factory called Kenyon Mill. She said, “I’m not coming back after summer vacation.” We had this house with a building next door and my mother’s father was a chef, her grandfather also owned a restaurant here in Providence. I think there’s a Wendy’s or McDonald’s there now where it was located. My parents did catering work as well as my father working making submarines, and my mother working in this factory. And being a female daughter you get drafted whether you want to or not, working those days off from your regular job, you had to waitress or cook, or do something. And every week two or three people that would say, “are you a real Indian?” I’d wonder to myself, “what’s an unreal Indian?” Oh, they mean what happens at Halloween, the stereotypes. They’d ask what tribe are you. “Narragansett.” “Never heard of them.” “But you’re here in Rhode Island. How can it be you’ve never heard of them?” Then I thought back when I was in school, I was in grammar school. In our classes at Thanksgiving time it was the Indians that met the Pilgrims. We weren’t heard again.No other Native nations were mentioned until in the spring when they talked about the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. That was it. The rest of the time we didn’t exist. And not talk about the names of the towns, the cities, words that they’d use, “hammock”. [unintelligible 20:51] They’d go to the beach, names like Pawtucket. All this, this is ours.

And they’d talk about how wonderful Roger Williams was, how much he helped us. He fought for us to be able to use our own religious beliefs. But they don’t talk about how after the battle at Great Swamp how he voted to send our ancestors, our people, to Barbados and to the islands of the Caribbean as slaves. And I grew older and had children and grandchildren and who comes from the islands to my nieces school as exchange, Narragansett, Niantic, Wampanoag, and Peuquot descendants from the slaves. And my niece and the schoolchildren, half of them went down there. We were shocked at how much we looked alike and at how many things their ancestors had passed on and had stayed the same. You always wonder who writes history. Red Wing always says the winner writes history. I look at history books, and you all can look at history books and you can see the biases,  and it’s passed on to the children and it’s passed on to the children’s children. It’s time that we speak the truth.

A Real Indian

At one time I was executive director of the commission for Indian Affairs for the state of Rhode Island. I had a window office and a secretary and the secretary’s name was Lois San Antonio. A very pretty Italian woman. She was always peeking around the corner. After a month or so I said, “Lois, what’s the problem?” She said, “I can’t believe I’m working for a real Indian.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I said, “Lois, what’s an unreal one?” She said, “I didn’t think any lived in Rhode Island. I told her they may live on the same street you live on, you have this image in your mind. Don’t let that fool you. Don’t let that take away. Then I brought her down here to meet my parents, and my children and grandchildren and different siblings. After about two years she said, “I want to apologize for my stupidity, but it’s not my fault, it’s the school’s.”

And part of the schools is that you go and vote for your committees. You make sure that people are looking out for everybody. You have to remember that, it’s important. You have to be able to think beyond what’s right before you and see the rest.

I have a book that I found in a second hand bookstore and it has the native names that we use in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Place names, towns, rivers. How many of you know that half of our 50 states are named for the local indigenous people. People don’t think about that. It’s fact, not fiction. People don’t say enough about Native people. There’s a Vice-President that was half Native. They don’t talk about the Native that went out into outer space. I don’t even want to go into outer space, I’ll be honest with you. The Creator made us here, we stay here. But my grandmother in another interview, different reporter, different paper, was asked about going to the moon because that was the big thing when President

Kennedy was here. And so she said, “Well, I have no desire to go, I wouldn’t allow my children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren to go, but maybe everybody else will go!” And the reporter, and I was there, he was shocked, he was stunned, “What do you mean?” “If everyone goes we can reclaim the land, they won’t chop down anymore trees, or put down pipelines here or there, they won’t defile the water, they’ll let things grow naturally.”

People don’t realize, when people came across that big water over here we had everything we needed. We had our food, clothing, shelter, our educational games. No it wasn’t in a classroom with desks lined up in a row and rote memorizing. See, in the wintertime and the elders would tell stories and help you learn how to identify things, things that were necessary. Think about the things we didn’t have before those ships got lost and landed here. We didn’t have rats, the common housefly. We had good mosquitoes and other kinds of flies. We didn’t have jails. We didn’t have homes for the elderly, we took care of our own. We didn’t have guns. guns are for food, not today. it’s to kill to slaughter someone so they can’t live again.

The British were astounded at the wars we would have. Whether I’ll get your bag and take it home. I got whatever’s in your back pocket and take it home, I won, I got it. I might even say that’s a pretty young woman and I think I’ll take her home to work in my garden. She might work there for a year or so, she might decide she wants to stay or she might want to go on. And these were all good things. So we had what we needed.

One of the first things that happened when this part of the country was invaded was the British chopped down the trees. Because in Europe and in England the biggest trees belonged to the Lords. High and mighty so they chopped down the biggest trees here to take back. Not for the poor people, not for the homeless. You got put in places, if you couldn’t pay your debt you got thrown in jail. They took everything and they keep taking from Mother Earth, that’s why you need to vote. And they put nothing back that’s good in there. They keep putting stuff that’s not good up in the air so people can’t breath and have diseases and different things happen to them.

You have to vote, you have to remember. You got to start at the local level and keep going and going. And speak up. A lot of times in the newspaper or telephone books will say who your local representative is. Call them up even if you get a voicemail. Go on the computer, I’m not a computer person. But, go on it and let them know how you feel . So they’ll hear more than those that they want to hear. They’ll hear truth and they’ll think about the people, and that’s important. Gotta stand strong, stand together and you gotta speak up because it doesn’t do a bit of good if you sit there and just say, “I don’t really agree with that.” You have to stand up. Go to your town meeting. I know, some of them are boring and some of them you say oh my god where did these people come from. But, if you don’t speak up it’s going to keep going the way it has been going.

If you don’t recognize the racism in this country, you never will. I was born and raised in Rhode Island. I had one child born in Connecticut, my oldest one. On her birth certificate it says “American Indian.’ My second child was born in Mississippi. My husband got out of the Air Force he was a tall cool drink of water and I said that was for me. He was black, Indian, and white. He looked like a white. We go to Mississippi, I have my first son and the doctor’s and nurses are all running in there, “he looks like a white baby. He’s not white.” They put N on his birth certificate. I told them I’m American Indian, they still put down, N. This son I lost. He was ten years old when he died in an accident, and this was before we were going for Federal recognition. My youngest son was born here in Rhode Island, South County Hospital. Picked out a name, his name was Adam, the first man. I filled out his name, filled out race, and so forth. They called me into this little office when I was getting ready to come home. “You have American Indian on here, what tribe are you?” “Narragansett” She crossed it out. I called the doctor. He said he’d fill it. He did and I didn’t see it, didn’t worry about it, it was Dr. Barber. To go for Federal recognition you have to have birth certificates. The Health Department over here told my son they had him as white, Caucasian. I go to the Health Director. He looked at me and said, “Well, Mrs. Jennings, you know what they say.” I said, “Sir?” “Momma’s baby, father’s maybe.” I took my first Nitro pill less than a month after that. It angered me so, frustrated me so. I wrote a letter to the present Governor and told him about it. He called my father and apologized to my father, but I never forgot it. There’s not one time I go into that health center that I don’t remember the abuse of that man. It was small but it was painful. It was after that my father told me of his eight sisters and brothers, five were listed as white, three were listed as Indian and they all had the same mother and father.

To The Moon

Don’t let anybody mistreat who you are. Respect it and love it. I have nieces and nephews that are half Chinese and half German, they love both sides of their culture. When they go to the Powwow or August Social they look as Narragansett as anybody else. At German beer festivals they’re more German than anybody else. it all depends on who and what you are. But they all know that Grandfather said voting is not only a responsibility, it’s a right. Do it. Don’t complain. Do it. I expect each and every one of you to tell your young ones to do the same, otherwise I’m going to send you to the moon.


I brought out my tribal ID card which does have a picture on it and a tribal seal. I wish on the back there was a little list of history that said when we got recognition, when we were de-tribalized, some more things about us. But after 911 I happened to be on the Tribal Council at that time and happened to be traveling across the country and remember in Nevada. I went to get on the plane and I showed this card and they took it. Next time, 3 weeks later, I had to go to Washington State. When I got there I pulled the card out, they refused to take it. They patted me down, went through all my things. Finally I get in line to go in and they pull me aside again. Well, I was so frustrated and so angry I said, “You’re here in my country, why am I going to bomb it?” And they looked at me like who’s this wild woman. There was a younger native woman with me and she said, “calm down, calm down.” It is very frustrating when people don’t recognize who and what and where we’re at.

I wanted to go over this just a little because I wanted to make a few notes. If you look at this paper Verrazano said we were the tallest looking Indians he’d ever seen. We love to tease the people. We were taller than the English. We were always in the subservient area when you see these European drawings. I told you we’d been here 30,000 years. Many people were affected by plagues and disease. Do you realize, and this is documented, over 70% of the medicines used is medicine that derived from the Native people in North and South America? It’s ours, we did it. I can remember when Pampers came out, they thought that was a big thing. Well, we took the inside of the milkweed and made Pampers. We had it all.

Remember Wampanoag and Narragansett only has an ‘s’ on it when it’s possessing something. It’s just that way. We talked about Roger Williams, he bought land. Well we didn’t have the concept of buying land. You could use the land till you didn’t need it any longer and then you moved on.

The war with the Pequots, the Mohegans, well the war with the Pequots was the same nation but they split. They came from upstate New York and my people got angry because they kept fishing in our ponds and they wanted to make war. We didn’t like that. King Philip decided to make war, it’s on page 2. He didn’t decide to make war he tried to preserve some land, culture and religious beliefs of our people. So, he didn’t make war he was doing something to protect us.

When the battle of the Great Swamp my people took in Wampanoag, elders, young people, down in South County. The English came in and from CT and MS and slaughtered, burned. People that weren’t sent into slavery were put on a ship and told they were going to Block Island when the boat got half way there they threw them overboard and it’s not in the history book. But my grandmother told me because her grandmother told her. I have never been able to go to Block Island. Can’t bear the thought that I would be floating over an ancestor. I’m the only member of my family that’s never been to Europe or Asia. My grandmother told me don’t go across the big water, your name is Sunflower, stay here. I’ve been up and down North and South America but not across the big water.

Then it says in 1782 it says only 500 Narrangansett were left to sign. They LOCATED 500, now others they didn’t want to locate. At that time, and right up until 1924 the Native people from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, were meeting right here in Providence. Meeting at various churches and venues trying to reclaim our land. This wasn’t something that happened in the ’60s and ’70’s after AIM. We’d been trying all that time.

None of our nations are perfect, the United States certainly isn’t perfect, but I can’t think of another place I’d rather live. I’ve lived in California, NY sate, miss, I’ve lived in CT. As far away as I get my heart keeps coming back to the cold winters, the lovely springs, the beautiful fall, the seafood.

This is it, this is it. And if you love wherever you’re from, and if you love who your family has been and who they will be you will do the things that need to be done to help this world survive. I don’t know you all but I can tell you I love you all because you’re fellow humans.

Thank You.


Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither navajo nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.


American Indian Caucus at NN11 and MORE!

Our American Indian Caucus will be held on Saturday morning June 18 at 10:30am (Central) in room L100 D. Meteor Blades and I will be leading the discussion.

My heroes rfall and Oke will be there to stream the caucus proceedings for you like they did last year. I’ll provide a url for this the next time I post this diary as a reminder.  Oke will also be taking email questions at nativeamericannetroots at g mail dot com from viewers during the caucus.

Last year our stats showed that we had about 30 people watching the streaming video including one from Europe.

Ojibwa who unfortunately cannot attend provided a blessing to open our caucus, please read it, it is marvelous.

We will also be selling posters for $10 to benefit the Pine Ridge Billboard Project at the NN11 registration desk location on Saturday and Sunday. These three images will be available:

(I’m hearing that original donors who earned the signed screen prints are so pleased with the product when they arrived in the mail. I received mine today and they are fantastic. There is a vast difference between the signed screen prints and the posters we will be selling.)


I’d like to promote another event I’m involved in. I’ll be on the panel for Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere with dopper0189, TexMex, Citizen Orange, Deoliver47 and soothsayer99.

Friday, June 17th 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM

in room L100 AB

This panel will address the needs, successes and obstacles to having greater participation of people of color in the blogosphere. Using the models of Black Kos and Native American Netroots as a beginning point for the discussion, we’ll cover topics such as color-blindness versus representation and how to get historically underrepresented groups and their views heard. The discussion will focus on how to organize outreach between the larger blogosphere and blogs that are specific to communities of color, and how to form stronger connections to ongoing organizing efforts and activism in communities of color.

I’ll be speaking about Invisible Indians and showing new slides of the Pine Ridge Billboard Project.

News from Native American Netroots and American Indian Caucus Transcripts

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Daily Kos

Welcome to News from Native American Netroots, a Sunday evening series focused on indigenous tribes primarily in the United States and Canada but inclusive of international peoples also.

A special thanks to our team for contributing the links that have been compiled here. Please provide your news links in the comments below.

Eagle Feather

At the end of the body of this diary I have included a transcript of  Meteor Blade’s, and navajo’s, speech. They were presented at the NN ’10 American Indian Caucus

Trafficking our children

This was the first in a series by Valerie Taliman that we posted in News from NAN. The rest of the series has now been published.

h/t Aji

Part 2 of 4

Children dying while predators roam free

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Convicted sexual predator Martin Tremblay is still roaming free after two teenage girls died in March – one at his home – after being given a lethal mix of alcohol and drugs within hours of their deaths.

Friends of Martha Hernandez, 17, and Kayla LaLonde, 16, said the two First Nations teens had been hanging out with a man named “Martin” who supplied them with free drugs and alcohol at parties he held for teens at his Richmond home.

Angela LaLonde, whose daughter was found collapsed on a road with bruises on her body, said police told her they were close to an arrest in her daughter’s death, but then they stopped returning calls.

Part 3 of 4

Turning anger into action

Through their work at the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and a local rape crisis center, Cherry Smiley and Laura Holland are on the frontlines of helping girls and women escape the horrors of forced prostitution.

On a daily basis, they witness the despair and destruction of women targeted by pimps and johns who earn profits from their bodies. They see the gaping wounds and scars of women bruised and battered. They hear the stories of those trying to escape, and they help to provide hope and resources that can change a young girl’s life.

“Why is society not horrified by what is happening here? This is not child labor, it’s child rape, yet the authorities have done little to deal with the pimps and perpetrators,” said Smiley, an activist and artist who is part of AWAN’s collective of women volunteers and advocates.

Part 4 of 4

Canada’s racist policies to blame for national tragedy

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Manitoba – At a gathering of traditional healers and spiritual leaders in the Turtle Lodge earlier this summer, the national tragedy of more than 582 murdered and missing First Nations women became a focus for discussion and prayers.

Several people spoke of relatives missing in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton, and along the Highway of Tears. It seems to be happening everywhere.

Chief Donovan Fontaine said at least four women from the local community were missing – one six months pregnant – and later found murdered, some dumped along highways.

Lancaster Sound: A seismic victory for the Inuit

By Josh Wingrove

With little to show for three months of meetings and letter-writing, Inuit leader Okalik Eegeesiak called a lawyer she knew: Could the courts stop scientific tests that might scare away animals her people rely on?

She was referred to Davis LLP, a firm versed in aboriginal law, and two lawyers in its Toronto office, David Crocker and Peter Jervis, agreed to take the case. Neither had ever been to Nunavut.

Center for American Indian Community Health to be Created at KU Medical Center

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance  have joined forces to create the Center for American Indian Community Health, according to a press release issued by KU on July 30.

The initiative, which is being funded by a $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, will set up a pipeline to attract American Indian high school and college students to the KU School of Medicine’s master’s of public health degree program and other graduate programs to increase the number of Native people entering the health professions and conducting health research. Medical center faculty are already working with Haskell Indian Nations University to identify potential students for the master’s of public health program.

Dental work reaches Native Americans in Nebraska

A Morman man, a couple of Catholics and an agnostic went to volunteer at a Native American reservation in Nebraska – and it’s no joke.

In fact, the team has volunteered at a dental clinic on the Omaha Reservation for about five years.

“It’s good to help,” said Joe Bly, who works in the dentistry lab at Mayo Clinic. “It’s good to roll up your sleeves and just dive in. I think that if you’re blessed with more than what you need, you should help others.”

Ecuadorian government cracks down on Native leaders

An acrimonious relationship between Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and Native leaders took a turn for the worse in July when the government charged Delfin Tenesaca, Puruha Kichwa and Marlon Santi, Shaur, the presidents of the country’s largest indigenous organizations, with terrorism and sabotage. The charges were filed following a protest outside a summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas June 25 in the Ecuadorian town of Otavalo.

The summit, which was presided by Presidents Correa, Evo Morales, of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela, was dedicated to the region’s Native and African-American peoples and was attended by many members of those ethnic groups. However, the government declined to invite representatives of the country’s principal Native organizations – the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Kichwa confederation ECUARUNARI – both of which once supported Correa, but have grown critical of him over the past two years. Their leaders consequently organized a protest outside the summit and attempted to deliver a letter to Morales, but were prevented from entering the summit by the police, which resulted in a shoving match.

Local volunteers answer tribe’s prayer

Tina Hagedorn is thrilled to help answer a prayer from an Indian tribe in the poorest of the 3,143 counties in the United States.

The Gig Harbor woman and other South Sound volunteers leave Thursday to deliver three fully equipped ambulances and 16 pallets of toys to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

As a consultant who has visited many Indian reservations across the country, Hagedorn was deeply touched by the overwhelming poverty suffered by the Lakota people of this tribe.

Pilot prosecuting program comes to Pine Ridge

Gregg Peterman has helped Russia develop a better criminal justice system, so the assistant U.S. attorney is a logical choice to do the same thing for another sovereign nation closer to Rapid City: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Peterman went to Russia as part of the Department of Justice’s Overseas Professional Development Assistance and Training program. OPDAT lends federal prosecutors to developing democracies all over the world — including Iraq and Afghanistan — to help them develop more effective, efficient criminal justice systems.

“I remember thinking 10 years ago we should do a detail in Indian Country,” Peterman said. “If we can do that overseas, I thought, why are we not helping communities in this country who need assistance improving the function of their tribal justice system?”

Yurok Tribe challenges California Marine Act

The Yurok Tribe’s message to the state Marine Life Protection Act’s Blue Ribbon Task Force may have done some good.

“For the first time, I got a sense that the task force group was paying attention to the tribe’s concerns,” Thomas O’Rourke Sr., Yurok Tribe chairman, said after task force meetings.

“They were listening. We had their ear. Our major message is tribal rights are non-negotiable. Whether they will act or not that is something else that we’ll have to wait to see.”

McCain launches ‘broad based attack’ on Indian gaming regulation

If Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gets his way, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be revving up for a jurisdictional clash with tribal leaders over the National Indian Gaming Commission’s authority to regulate Class III gaming.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on Indian gaming on July 29 to “examine priorities established by the new leadership of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in areas including the NIGC’s regulatory role, staffing, budget, plans for consultation and training and technical assistance to tribes.”

Tracie Stevens, the new chair of the NIGC, testified in front of the committee for the first time exactly one month after her confirmation by the Senate. Other witnesses included Philip Hogen, the former NIGC chairman; Ernie Steven Jr., the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association; and Mark Brnovich, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming.

Native American Graduates Headed Out to Teach

More than 1,000 University of Oregon students earned their degrees Saturday during the summer commencement ceremony.

Sixteen of those students will now use their degrees to educate kids in struggling Native American communities.

The 16 students are Native Americans themselves, and they understand the troubles facing young Native students.

As graduates of the Sapsik’wala Project, they now have Master’s degrees in Education and the passion to help struggling Native schools.

Ohlones want a voice on Hunters Point project

An Indian tribe held a sunrise ceremony at Yosemite Slough on Tuesday in an attempt to show just how important the sacred sites around the proposed Hunters Point Shipyard/Candlestick Point redevelopment project are to the Ohlone people.

“We want to be shown the respect we deserve as the original people of that land,” Tony Cerda, chairman of the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, said. “We need city recognition.”

Peruvian Indians launch political party

Peru’s Amazonian Indians announced Wednesday they are going to launch their own political party with the stated aim of taking the Peruvian presidency next year.

The party is to be called the Alliance for the Alternative of Humanity (APHU), playing on the native Quechua word “apu,” meaning traditional chief, Alberto Pizango, the head of the Aidesep association grouping 65 tribes, told reporters.

Pizango said he is willing to be the candidate for the April 2011 presidential election once the party is formally established in September this year.

Indian scholars gather to share Native perspective on history

By Vince Devlin

On the first day of classes, Myla Vicenti Carpio, an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, shakes hands with all her new students and welcomes them to class.

Then she tells them to imagine that she is a frontier-era missionary priest and they are members of an Indian tribe the priest has just met for the first time.

“I have immunity to diseases that you don’t have,” she says. “I just shook every hand and infected all of you. In some cases 90 percent of your tribe will be wiped out.”

American Indian Pre-Apprenticeship Program Prepares for Work Spike

On most of America’s Indian reservations, national percentages measuring economic anguish or progress hold scant meaning. Times have always been tough and have only gotten worse during the most recent recession, with nearly half of the work-age members in some parts of Indian Country jobless.

With $400 billion of dollars of potential construction and significant energy development foreseen on 55 million acres of reservation lands-coupled with significant federal stimulus dollars coming in-the question is:  Who will do the work?…..

…..A recently-concluded six-week, intensive pre-apprenticeship program for 24 Native American Indians  at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D., holds the promise of building an indigenous, growing work force of IBEW electricians on reservations and in nearby towns from  New York to Oklahoma to California. IBEW’s Dakotas JATC provided opportunities for hands-on electrical work, supplementing classroom time.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People celebrated

People around the globe marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People Aug. 9 as the U.S. State Department continued its review of the federal government’s rejection of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In Malaysia, there was a celebration on the beach with dancing, music and basket weaving. In New Delhi, around 80 tribal people from eight states dressed in traditional attire and came together to speak out about their struggles and ask for their rights as equal citizens.

In Costa Rica, two dozen indigenous protesters staged a sit-in at the Legislative Assembly and called on lawmakers to approve a labor union agreement regarding the autonomy of indigenous people, which was signed by Costa Rica in 1992, but never ratified.

Investors urge unqualified Declaration endorsement

The movement to persuade the federal government to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualification has grown beyond American Indian and religious communities to the financial world.

Calvert Investments, a financial services company that holds $14.5 billion in assets, and a coalition of investors have submitted comments to the State Department and White House urging the unconditional endorsement of the Declaration.

“Calvert believes indigenous peoples in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe deserve the affirmation and recognition of the broad array of rights set forth in the Declaration, including those related to self-determination, culture, land and natural resources, means of subsistence, treaty rights, non-discrimination, health and social services, protection of sacred sites, education and language,” Calvert CEO and president Barbara J. Krumsiek wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton July 14.

IHS Shifting to Private Groups

According to reports, federal health-care reforms will result in more private medical care and for-profit insurance policies for local Americans in the upcoming years.

The Indian health system, on the other hand, is solely controlled by the Government. However, things are now changing and through the Self-Determination Act or Self-Governance compacts, the tribes or authorized organizations manage the budget of the Indian Health Service.

The Indian health system is witnessing the emerging role of private groups. In a 2002 article for the Western Journal of Medicine, Dr. Everett R. Rhodes, an ex-Director of the Indian Health Service, wrote that the Indian health services is now making a move to the private sector, particularly in the western states where most of the American Indians inhabit.

Way of the peaceful warrior: fighting gang violence with Native American traditions

What does it mean to be a warrior? Surrounded by spiritual leaders in a sweat lodge instead of drug dealers in East Oakland, Juan Segura was learning.

He at least knows how urban war looks and feels. It looks like his friend, Eric Toscano, being killed in a drive-by shooting. It looks like that same friend falling, eyes open, blood running down his face. It feels like getting hit in the right foot and calf in that same shooting, then wanting to hide after getting death threats from rival gang members a year after he stopped running the streets.

But Barrios Unidos is trying to teach Segura another way to be a warrior. Over four days, the nonprofit that fights gang violence held its fourth annual Warrior Circle in the woods above Trout Gulch Road. Twenty-one boys and young men, ages 4 to 18, were taught through nature and Native American tradition how to respect others and see life as sacred.

Debra Lookout wins taco title

PAWHUSKA, Okla. – For the second time in four years, Osage Nation citizen Debra Lookout has won the National Indian Taco Championship.

Lookout, a 39-year-old licensed practical nurse with the Osage Nation Diabetes Program, won the title in 2007 and again on May 15 in downtown Pawhuska, beating 13 other contestants.

“I’m just blessed, truly blessed,” she said. “This year I knew that I had competition because everyone was talking about a guy who had salsa, homemade salsa, that was really good. So I decided I had better practice. My oldest daughter had a dream last week that I won. So I had a feeling that I would win, but I really tried different things, adding more flavor to my taco. I worked really hard and I couldn’t have done it without my kids.”

ZTE Joins US Big Leagues With Verizon Handset

Verizon Wireless on Thursday announced the Salute phone from ZTE, the first handset from the big Chinese phone and network supplier on a top-tier U.S. carrier……

…..ZTE’s handset business in the U.S. so far has been limited to smaller mobile operators, including MetroPCS and Pocket Communications. The company also supplies terrestrial EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) infrastructure for the 3G (third-generation) network that links Aircell in-flight Wi-Fi networks with the Internet. It is working with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority on a proposed 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network  that would bring Internet access to thousands of rural residents across the Navajo Nation, which spans large areas of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Where is America’s outrage?

When New York Mayor Bloomberg asked Gov. Patterson to act like a cowboy to shut down the Seneca tobacco industry, little was heard from mainstream America to condemn such an outrageous statement.

The use of force to subdue, dispossess, disempower and eradicate the Native American is a disgraceful part of American history and Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging its continuation. The image of the cowboys shooting and killing Indians, defending settlers and moving them off their lands is the stuff of American legend. Indians were the villains of American expansionism and it created Manifest Destiny to justify their elimination.

Native Gatherings

h/t translatorpro

This Week on “Native America Calling”

Monday, August 23, 2010-  Gathering Medicine in National Parks:

A group called the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, known as PEER and is based in Washington D.C., is calling out the National Park Service for allowing Native people to gather medicinal plants and roots on park lands. PEER says the practice is against the park’s own rules. But tribal people have fought long and hard to regain access to these vital plants and the NPS director has reportedly said he feels the regulations against Native people having access is wrong. Will the rules be changed? Invited guests include PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010- To Be or Not To Be a Tribal Leader:

Have you ever considered running for a leadership position in your tribal government? Why or why not? Would you be willing to make the call on important decisions that will resonate for several generations? Have current tribal administrations and/or leaders turned you off from ever wanting to add tribal chairman or tribal council member to your resumè? Or, do current leaders make you wish that tribal voting day was just around the corner so you could make your mark? We open up our phone lines to hear your thoughts on being the one leading the tribal charge.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010- Book of the Month: Flood Song:

In his second book, Sherwin Bitsui (Navajo) intones landscapes real and imagined, remaining reverent to his family’s indigenous traditions while simultaneously indebted to European modernism and surrealism. Bitsui is at the forefront of a younger generation of Native writers. His poems are highly imagistic and constantly in motion, drawing as readily upon Diné myths, customs, and medicine songs as they do contemporary language and poetics. His latest work “Flood Song” was recently selected as a winner of the 31st annual American Book Awards for 2010.

Thursday, August 26, 2010- Reducing Back to School Stress:

Elementary, high school and college kids are flocking back to school and into new routines. They’ll have new classmates, new teachers and maybe even a new school to navigate. New surroundings bring with them new expectations and more intense schoolwork. Experts say helping your student understand what changes they’ll face can greatly reduce their back-to-school anxiety and can even help prevent high school and college students from dropping out. How do you alleviate yours and your child’s anxiety? Guests TBA.

Friday, August 27, 2010- Can Indian Girls Do Science?:

There is a glaring within our society misconception that girls don’t do science. And it stretches even further when you include Native girls. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society, or AISES, is determined to lay these tired old myths to rest once and for all. AISES is eager to explain about the many ways that Native Americans in general, and women in particular, are blazing exciting paths in science and technology. Half of AISES’ 2000-strong membership is made up of women. Do Indian contributions to technology extend no further than stargazers and Code Talkers? Guests TBA.

Native America Calling Airs Live

Monday – Friday, 1-2pm Eastern

Tim Lange aka Meteor Blades:

Before I get started on that somewhat sordid history that she wants me to tell I want to reiterate something that she talked about, and that’s the Native American Rights Fund. I’ve been associated with the Native American Rights Fund in a sort of ad hoc years for forty years. This is their fortieth anniversary, and I wrote the first interview with people at the Native American Rights Fund about three months after they got going. Since then, over those forty years they’ve had personal tragedies.  Five of their members were killed in a horrible car accident almost twenty years ago. They have won some mini cases, most of them small that you would never hear of and they have lost many more cases that they have fought. They continue to battle for Indian rights through the law which can be extremely difficult, if there’s anything more complicated than water law in the United States, it’s Indian law. There’s contradiction, there’s state vs. federal, there is contradictory decisions made by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s a morass. So, if you have extra money at some time and you’d like to contribute to an organization that I think is one of the premier ones in terms of Native

, Native American Rights Fund. They’re in Boulder, Colorado and I’m sure they’d be pleased to receive anything that you’d like to give them.

It’s true, as Neeta says, I have risked my life a number of times and as Land of Enchantment said here; sometimes you don’t know it ahead of time.

You just step into a situation and there it is.

My background is, I was not born in a reservation, I was born in Southern Georgia, and both my parents are Seminole. My mother is what we would say a half-blood, a quantum, and my father was a full blood. We spoke when I was young and we learned both English and a dialect of Creek, which the Seminoles who live in northern Oklahoma and southern Florida speak.

The Seminoles in southern Florida, who are also known as Migsukis speak another language, it’s related. I have lost almost all of that language over the years and there are a couple of reasons for that. One, really only lived as a clan, as I should call it, until I was nine years old. And then we moved to first Nebraska, and then Colorado.

My mother was able to pass white most of the time; she did not want anyone to know that she was an Indian. And she was, as you can see I’m pretty white too, as many Seminoles are and it was the thing for her to do and it complicated my coming to grips with my own heritage. Not only did I loose my language, but I lost a lot of contact with my family. She was estranged from her father and my grandmother died, actually 55 years ago next month. So there was a disconnection from the people who had the real connection on the reservation and to our own heritage. And that, until I was in my early twenties, really disconnected me from, in a way, who I was although I also became somebody else as a result of that disconnection. It was when I was in high school I first caught some discrimination against Indians. It wasn’t directed at me at first; it was directed at the only other American Indian who was in the school that I was going to. That school was Irvana High School in Irvana Colorado and the high school mascot was the Redskins, which today a lot of people would say, “Well that’s horrible, and lots of school have changed that.” And Irvana, in the 1990’s has changed its name as well. But in those days nobody, except us that were redskins thought that that was awful. And our attempt, first of all this other person’s attempt to change that became his and my attempt to change that, and we failed.

And we were ridiculed, widely ridiculed for it, and that was the first taste of anything, it certainly wasn’t a risk to my life, although there were a few fistfights over it. That is where I first got the idea of being different besides the fact that I could pass being white, that being different meant something.

When I was seventeen I heard the speech, the “I Have A Dream” speech  Martin Luther King gave in Washington and that catalyzed me to want to do something about the situation in the South, where I was born and partially raised.  And so I was one of the two youngest people at seventeen to join the Freedom Summer organization, which was in theory both a racial equality, and a student non-violent coordinating committee project to register voters in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.  As I’m sure all of you know, three people were killed very early on that summer. As a matter of fact they had disappeared just four days before the people that people on the bus that I was riding with arrived in Jackson, just four days before.  Everybody knew they were dead, everybody knew they were dead, but nobody was quite saying that openly yet, but we knew it and we knew that we were going to be risking our lives going out from that very moment.  

I was very fortunate in having a man named Charlie Biggers, an African-American who’d been born in Indiana, one of those famous Klan states at one time. His parents had faced down the Klan.  He was about seven or eight years older than me and he had also been on the Freedom Rides earlier. So he took me under his wing and we went door to door, and when we were done at the end of that summer we had registered exactly eleven people.

Overall, the entire state, 1200 people were registered to vote of the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of African Americans in Mississippi that was the total number we could register.  And it was because the people who were killed, two white people and one black person, weren’t the first. During that summer two bodies were found in a swamp. They were both young black men, one of which actually had a SNIC (Student Non-Violent Committee) t-shirt on his body, and it was found that way.

These were people who had killed before and it happened many, many years before. People who had died on their own private property, people who had died on their own private property.   People who’d been taken out and murdered simply because they wanted to enforce a law that had been passed right after the Civil War.  So, that was sort of my first experience, I’ve never had anybody try directly to kill me in that project but you walked up to some doors and people would stand in their doorways and say “no closer.” I mean these were African-Americans who were saying “look you go home when you’re done and we don’t.” Everyday their risk was so much greater than ours even thought there was that little threat against us.

So, over the years I got involved in the anti-war movement, continued in the civil rights movement. Then in 1969 I went to prison because I refused to go to Vietnam. I got my draft notice and I went in and said, “I’m not going.” And then they gave me my induction notice which is “report now,” and I said “no” and within in a few weeks I was on my way to Arizona where I spent thirteen months in a prison camp with many other people who were also resisters, and had other issues, we were separate from the Federal prison system, in a way. It wasn’t like being thrown into a regular prison at all, as a matter of fact we spent most of four days outside cutting brush and doing that hard labor, but a lot better than what any prison then was like and much less like what any prison is now where they’ve become much, much, worse despite all the modernization.

When I came out of prison I almost immediately joined the American Indian Movement. I had been following it for some time and was interested in what they were doing and I liked the Pan-Indian aspect of it, that this was not tribally based, it was something that would unite lots of groups across lots of cultures and languages. Each reservation has similar problems, but yet they are unique and this really appealed to me. So I joined AIM and the first project that occurred then was the “Trail of Broken Treaties march that was a march across the country.  Lots of people marched all the way from California and Oregon all the way to Washington, D.C.

I didn’t join until they reached Cleveland and then marched in. We were there and we were supposed to meet with certain politicians that we had set up ahead of time, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen was we ended up taking over the BIA headquarters for ten days. And in that process, some of you I can tell are old enough to remember, we liberated some files.  Tens of thousands of BIA files, several of which later became lawsuits, including a relatively recent one that was resolved.  That’s forty years ago and some of this stuff is still relevant today.  Essentially, in a nutshell, what those documents showed was that which we all knew but these were the details. The BIA had been screwing the tribes for decades by sweetheart deals with contract people, grazing land, mining trust fund moneys, oil revenues, you name it.  The BIA was giving away one more bit of Indian property, if you will. That’s something that’s been going on with the BIA since 1860, that’s when it started and it still hasn’t ended.

In 1973, about ten days after the siege of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation started I slipped in a back way to join the siege.  And there were other people who tried to do it, some of who made it, some of who did not get in, they got blocked because by that time the Federal Marshals and the F.B.I. had surrounded the site and they were heavily armed, they were perfectly willing to use their arms against people. Not many people were killed but lots of people were shot at so this was a major risk. And I stayed for 55 of the 71 days, I stayed there until about five days before it was over when it became clear that the talks that were going on and everything that had been negotiated were going to mean the end of the siege a lot of people left ahead of time rather than wait to what some of us thought, by that time, would be mass arrest. Before that time there were days when we thought, remember this started in February). There were days that we thought we might end up like the original Wounded Knee Massacre where, as I’m sure a lot of you know the story. It’s a horrible story and it’s documented somewhat by photographs that are equally horrible, when in the neighborhood of about three-hundred Minneconjou people were massacred, Massacred, there’s no other word for it, massacred by the 7th Calvary, which some of whom had been at Little Big Horn as well, so this was seen by some as revenge.

I suppose some people would say, “Well, you were romantics to think that you were going to repeat this situation.” But if you’d have been there you’d understand, I mean the amount of racism that we got, not from the reservation, but from the local community there, from the Federal officers who were there, and from a good deal of the media after the initially,   “um, look well they’ve really got some legitimate gripes.” The media eventually turned against us.

Over the years, we turned against ourselves. This is something that I think all Progressives need to ponder at great length. It’s not just what happened to the American Indian Movement, but its what happens to Progressives so much, Dee knows this as well as anyone in the room, I think.

We devour our own so readily, the right wing doesn’t do that. And why that’s the case, why we do that has something to do with the fact that we allow ourselves to disagree with each other. We thrive on disagreement, progress is made by disagreement, but somehow we so often take it beyond that disagreement, and that’s what happened to A.I.M.

A.I.M. took it beyond that; people were killed because of that disagreement. The organization itself now essentially has three divisions, if you will; but basically they’re all phantoms. Essentially the organization doesn’t exist anymore as any kind of political clout at all, which is terrible because it really had the opportunity to really make a big difference at one time. And that opportunity was lost at charges that this or that member was a cop, an F.B.I. agent, was really on the other side. Some of it was personality driven, some of it was driven by different ideologies, that’s always going to be the case, and some of it was really just driven by ignorance I think, and an unwillingness to overcome some of those other things to make progress for us all.

I today see some of that happening despite the fact that here we are, the fifth year now for YearlyKos/Netroots Nation at a flex time let’s say, for the future. The split within the Progressive movement over President Obama I think is something we’ve all seen elements of throughout the blogosphere and through our face-to-face interactions.

I’m not going to take a position on any of that right now but I just think that’s something that’s going on and that’s a message that I really hope everybody ponders carefully, because if we split, if we divide now, if we devour our own now at this time when we could have the greatest impact for future change, we can only blame ourselves for it. And for those of you who are under fifty in the room, there’s at least a few people, it’s not going to affect me so much, it’s going to affect you, because I’ll be dead, a lot of us will be dead, but it’s that change.

Somebody once told me, I can’t remember who it was now, and it was a long time ago; “Being a Progressive is not a destination, it’s a journey.”

We’re never done as Progressives we’re never done.

When every gay person in this country has a right to get married at the Federal level, we won’t be done. When racism is, let’s not say wiped out, far reduced from what it is today; we won’t be done. When sexism is much reduced, when reproductive rights is not a continuing fight, when we actually do have a health reform with single payer; we won’t be done.  There’ll be something else to do, always something else to do and hopefully there’ll be somebody else to fight it. But Progressives in my lifetime have made so many mistakes, that are not a bad thing except for that one mistake; and that one mistake is eating our own.

We’ve got to stop doing that.

That doesn’t mean we should stop disagreeing with each other, that’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t happen, we need to be disagreeing with each other. But if people in the future are going to risk their lives we owe it to them to strive for some unity within our differences to make them want to risk their lives to make things better in the future.

That’s the message that I hope everybody here takes with them.  

Neeta Lind aka navjo

My name is Neeta Lind, I also blog as “Navajo”. I’m the founder of Native American Netroots, also known as NAN. I lead the Native American caucus every year; I’ve led it every year since 2006.

And this is Tim Lange, also known as the famous “Meteor Blades.”

I’m going to talk a little bit about myself in the beginning here and then give you a summary of our caucus meetings over the last five years and then we’ll hear Tim recount his amazing history of Indian activism, and after that we’ll open it up for questions and comments.

(A few technical updates)

“A little bit about myself, my mother was born on the Navajo Reservation near Inscription House Canyon, northern Arizona. She was forcefully taken away from her family at five or six years of age and sent to the U.S. government boarding school. Their program of assimilation worked, mother moved off the reservation, married a white man, my father, and deliberately didn’t teach us the Navajo language as she was advised at the boarding school. So, I’m an assimilated Indian, I live in the San Francisco Bay area .

Fortunately I have a very strong family on the rez and have maintained close ties with them to immerse my children in the culture and the language.  I’m also fortunate that my grandfather and some uncles were Medicine Men, this is a highly respected position in any tribe and they also strive to maintain the traditional lifestyle as well. I visit once or twice a year and I’m taking Navajo language courses as my way to combat assimilation.

A little bit about how our caucus got started in 2006. Gina Cooper, the original director for YearlyKos,  asked me to host the Native American Caucus at the first convention. After that first caucus I made a blog, “Native American Netroots,” to collect diaries and start to form a group. I linked to many American Indian blogs and news sources that I could find.  I also hosted our caucus in Chicago in 2007, Austin 2008, then and Pittsburgh in 2009. Last year I peeked into the American Indian and Latino caucus room and they were jammed packed, our first year we had six people attend, the following years after that we had about a dozen each time. It says a lot about the obstacles we face when we try to organize as American Indians.  The factors of poverty and remoteness of our reservations contribute to the difficulty of community discussion for American Indians online.  

I’ve been on this quest for five years to to  find Progressive Native voices, to give them a place to write and interact. It has been slow building, our readership at NAN, and finding writers.

February 2010 provided a compelling event that caused many people to rally and join Native American Netroots in a more compelling way. There were terrible ice storms that devastated the reservations in South Dakota. Tribal members were running out of propane, electricity had been cut off for weeks. Chris Road broke the story at Daily Kos one day and I offered to re-post her diary when it rolled off the recent list with only a few comments. Chris gave the story to me, I blogged about it every day because Indians were freezing to death. We did an interesting thing that I’m proud of, we cut out the middleman charity organizations and provided direct phone numbers to the local propane companies. Kossacks bought tanks of same day service propane for deserving families on the list provided by our contacts on the reservation.

We also listed large charity organizations but knew that they’d be slower to respond. Then an extraordinary thing happened, Keith Olbermann took our story and  broadcast it on Countdown. exmearden, whose a member  of our NAN group put up a celebratory diary and Keith commented in it, thanking us for brining this issue to his attention. I nearly had a heart attack. He listed one of the charity groups, donors nation wide raised hundreds of thousands of dollars overnight. Keith reported this the next night, it may have been my finest hour this year. I was so please that one of the national news broadcasters finally picked up the story.

Another great thing happened, I had a large group of bloggers volunteer who wanted to bring attention to poverty and lack of opportunity on the reservation, and most importantly they wanted to be a part of a pro-active work to minimize disasters like this in the future. So may NAN team was created, I was no longer a team of one. We have a great group of twenty people with important fields of expertise who write and contribute behind the scenes with planning. My contributing editors, Aji and oke, have helped set up Twitter and Facebook for us.  They are gathering news and posting regular diaries at Daily Kos and NAN.

I’m sure many of you have read Winter Rabbit and Ojibwa’s diaries. We’re also looking for advisors for our group. Advisors must live on a reservation,  we have three on Rosebud, cacamp, lpggirl, and sarahlee, and two on Pine Ridge, Autumn Two Bulls and Kevin Kellor.

I think American Indians, as a totality, are getting attention at Daily Kos  because of our group of bloggers. The plan going forward is to team with the other American Indian blogs and services to bring attention to our reservations.  We are currently building alliance with IndnsList right now.  Their mission is to get  more Native Americans elected to public office. One of my next little tasks is to add the Native American Rights Fund to our link list. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: The preservation of tribal existence, the protection of tribal natural resources, the promotion of Native American human rights,  the accountability of our government to Native Americans, and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights law and issues, so that’s an important one.

The renowned photographer, Aaron Huey, who has been featured in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, sent me an email in June asking for help in sharing his recent T.E.D. talk. I gladly built a diary for him using his video, transcript, and some of his amazing photos to tell the important story of Pine Ridge and their broken treaties. My diary made the Recommended list at Daily Kos early in the evening and stayed on all night. This contact by Mr. Huey shows that we are reaching a large audience and people with interest in benefiting American Indians can come together and take action to help our people.

We are making a difference.

A wonderful recent development is that Sherry Cornelius, who personally delivered propane for us through her mother’s company, St. Francis Energy, on the Rosebud rez during the S. Dakota ice storm is flying to Las Vegas tomorrow. And I quote, “my purpose for this trip is so that I may be able to meet in person some of the DailyKos people and personally to be able to shake your hands and say “thank you.” So, I’m really looking forward to that, I thought that was quite amazing. Sherry now has a user ID at Dkos and NAN, and participates in comments now and then. We’ve made her one of us.

As some of you know I post photo diaries at Netroots Nation every year and I’ll post photos of our visit with Sherry there.

When I was a team of one it was very difficult addressing all the issues of our people, and now it’s much easier with a team, but we need more help. For example, there is the idea of finding financing for wind   farms for the reservations, Land of Enchantment suggested we join forces with Jerome a Paris. This is a fantastic idea but I need someone more knowledgeable about it to head this partnership up. We had a team member who was very interested in the wind farm idea, but he has dropped out of DailyKos and NAN. My point is we need more people on the team to drive theses different issues.  

This past Monday I received an email from a new writer, “abeartracks,” who had just posted a diary at NAN. His issues haven’t received much attention, so he’s been adding this info to any blog he can find and sending it to news site. It’s interesting and I thought I’d mention it here. In 1940 Congress passed the soldiers and sailors civil relief act that barred states from deducting state income taxes from native vets who lived on reservations.  The act was renewed in 2006, however states deducted tax in violation of the 1940 law up until 2001. In 2004 Tom Udall introduced a bill to provide payment to these Vets, it went nowhere and now the policy contains a statute of limitations that prevent recovery. In 2009 New Mexico Legislator, Linda Lovejoy, who is Navajo by the way, introduced a bill to repay, the interest. It was signed into law. So I’m not sure how this is going to turn out now, or how it’s going to be funded, but it’s a good thing that an individual like abeartracks, using new media, can write information about this issue and this is precisely what I want our blog to be about, new voices getting on.

So, please help me grow this blog by inviting people in the comment threads to join,  and if you’d like to be part of the editorial staff at NAN, please email me.

With that I’d like to introduce Tim Lange. Tim has become a very good friend of mine over the years and I read nearly everything he writes. I look for his comments in other people’s diaries and I’ve found some real gems and that’s why I’ve asked him to speak. His personal history of Indian  activism is astonishing and I think inspirational for you to hear his timeline of accomplishment.

How many of you have ever risked your life for political activism, or Indian activism?


NN 10-American Indian Caucus

( – promoted by navajo)

Life experiences, the knowledge and wisdom obtained from them, and how it pertains to American Indian issues and Progressives were addressed at the American Indian Caucus at Netroots Nation’10. In relation to Progressives Meteor Blades sent a strong message.

“We devour our own, so readily. The right wing doesn’t do that, and why that is the case has something to do that we allow each other to disagreee with each other. We thrive on disagreement. Progress is made on disagreement, but somehow we take it beyond that.

“And I today see some of that happening despite that here we are, fifth year now for YearlyKos/Netroots Nation, at a time, at a flex time let’s say, for the future.  The split within the progressive movement over President Obama is something I think we’ve all seen elements of throughout the blogoshpere and throughout our face to face actions….

Continued below the fold

………I’m not going to take a position on any of that right now, but that’s what’s going on; and that’s a message that I hope everybody ponders carefully.  If we split, if we divide now, if we devour our own now, we could have the greatest impact for future change. We can only blame ourselves for it.” -Meteor Blades

The most effective way to share this with you is the video and transcript below the fold.   Navajo and Meteor Blades gift us with a strong message.

American Indian Caucus on Vimeo.

Navajo and Meteor Blades both talked about the Native American Rights Fund.

Navajo–“One of my next little tasks is to add the Native American Rights Fund to our link list. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: The preservation of tribal existince, the protection of tribal natural resources, the promotion of Native American human rights,  the accountability of our government to Native Americans, and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights law and issues, so that’s an important one. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: The preservation of tribal existince, the protection of tribal natural resources, the promotion of Native American human rights,  the accountability of our government to Native Americans, and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights law and issues, so that’s an important one.”

Meteor Blades—“I’ve been associated with the Native American Rights Fund in a sort of ad hoc years for forty years. This is their fortieth anniversary, and I wrote the first interview with people at the Native American Rights Fund about three months after they got going. Since then, over those forty years they’ve had personal tragedies.  Five of their members were killed in a horrible car accident almost twenty years ago. They have won some mini cases, most of them small that you would never hear of and they have lost many more cases that they have fought. They continue to battle for Indian rights through the law which can be extremely difficult, if there’s anything more complicated than water law in the United States, it’s Indian law. There’s contradiction, there’s state vs. federal,  there is contradictory decisions made by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s a morass. So, if you have extra money at some time and you’d like to contribute to an organization that I think is one of the premier ones in terms of native issues, the Native American Rights Fund They’re in Boulder, Colorado and I’m sure they’d be pleased to recieve anything that you’d like to give them”.

Emphasis and links are mine, and to note, NARF is an accredited Better Business Bureau Charity.


We are making a difference.

A wonderful recent development is that Sherry Cornelius, who personally delivered propane for us through her mother’s company, St. Francis Energy, on the Rosebud rez during the S. Dakota ice storm is flying to Las Vegas tomorrow. And I quote, “my purpose for this trip is so that I may be able to meet in person some of the DailyKos people and personally to be able to shake your hands and say “thank you.” So, I’m really looking forward to that, I thought that was quite amazing. Sherry now has a user id at Dkos and NAN and participates in comments now and then. We’ve made her one of us.

Sherry did make it to Las Vegas, she is the fourth one in on the left. I’ll let Navajo comment or write more on that, but many thanks were offered through her from the people of Rosebud.

Given the large number of people involved in NAN who could not afford to be at NN we decided to try to take the caucus to them. This was the first year it was livestreamed. We thirty-five total viewers, two of those were from Europe. Thanks to those who submitted comments and questions before and during the caucus.  

NN10: American Indian Caucus

I have terrific news. My dear friends rfall and Oke, who is a contributing editor at NAN, Native American Netroots have come up with a great idea for our American Indian Caucus this year in Las Vegas. rfall took a look at the NAN team who is able to attend NN10 this year.




Kitsap River

Meteor Blades        



That is only 7 out of 27 of the editorial staff who can attend our caucus this year. We also have many interested readers who cannot attend either. rfall thought it would be great to make the caucus a webinar like event so people who cannot attend in person can participate remotely. rfall will be video taping our caucus and NN10 is going to stream it.

This is a last minute arrangement and we are not on the streaming schedule yet, please check back.

Oke is going to man her IM during the event and we can take questions or comments from remote users. Please send her an email now so she can add you to her IM list.

nativeamericannetroots at gmail dot com

The other reason we are able to stream our caucus is that we have a special presentation that will be given by Meteor Blades. MB is a registered member of the Seminole Tribe and he has an impressive history of Indian Activism that I became aware of from reading his comments over the years. Many people say that MB should publish his biography. Until then we will have a recording of the NDN part of his history taken at our caucus. I’ve asked him to recount his timeline for us during our caucus, afterward we’ll open it up for few questions and comments.

So please tune in and participate in our American Indian Caucus:

Thursday, July 22nd

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM

Miranda 5


Native American Netroots
 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.