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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?