Posts Tagged ‘Native Americans’

Indigenous Tribes & ‘Green’ Energy Exploitation in California Desert

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

This paper was presented in a Geography class studying the DRECP plan for Southern California. Since this was written the plan has been announced. There is a comment period in December 2015 before the Plan is finalized for Federal Lands in the California Desert. It allows for fast track development of Green energy in designated areas.

The Tribal Perspective on the Draft DRECP and EIR/EIS
By Gary Crethers, Nicole Beatty, Cheyenne Armstead, Cassandra Casapulla, and Derek Sanders
December 10, 2015.

Abstract: The draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), proposes to give renewable energy companies a fast track to cutting red tape by creating Development Focus Areas (DFA’s), where environmental impacts will be the least harmful. The affected regional tribes have concerns that Cultural impacts have taken a back seat and that the tribes were invited late to the process of critiquing the proposals. The Tribes have concerns over a lack of access to data from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), responsible for the plan, and have been pitted against one another in attempts to mitigate impacts on traditional lands due to the nature of the process of designation of one area of greater value over another. This paper addresses the concerns of the Tribes focusing on the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), and the San Manual Band of Mission Indians (SMBMI).
Key Words: Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, Native American Tribes, Renewable Energy, Colorado River Indian Tribes, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Bureau of Land Management.

Introduction: In 2010 the BLM agreed to permit a 709 Megawatt solar farm to be built in the Imperial Valley desert, it would have taken up 6000 acres of public land. Problem was, the tribes were not consulted and The Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation opposed on those grounds, citing section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), among others. They claimed some 459 cultural resources were affected and they sued. Quechan Tribe v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior, (755 F. Supp. 2d 1104, 1108-11 (S.D. Cal. 2010)). (Dreveskracht 2013, 433). The project, which would have been the largest in the nation, suffered a severe setback and lost most of its backing. The tribal complaint was one of procedure. The tribe had not been invited to the table and stood by their legal rights, making the point that they were not opposed to alternative energy, but to the lack of consultation, a costly error on the part of the BLM (Dreveskracht 2012). The Colorado River Indian Tribes have sued over the Blythe Solar Power Project known as the Genesis Project for a “mass disturbance” of cultural artifacts, in this case the BLM claims to have consulted the tribes but evidently the consultation was inadequate, costing additional millions to the project. In this case there was mitigation which Daniel McCarthy claims to have been adequate CRIT may beg to differ (Copley 2014; McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Dreveskracht 2012; Patch 2015). Clearly litigation causes the development of alternative energy resources setbacks, for energy development to proceed in the future, the tribes must be consulted and sensitivity to cultural factors must be maintained through the entire process. On the other hand in the suit against the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project, Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior, (43 ELR 20047 No. 12cv1167-GPC, (S.D. Cal., 02/27/2013) (Curiel, J.)), the tribe lost.
The validity of tribal claims to the spiritual inheritance associated with sacred spaces has been acknowledged by the government and is part of law in “the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA 1979), the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA 1990), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA 2004), and California Senate Bill 18 (SB 18 2004)” yet sacred sites are still not respected fully by government authorities and private industry (Greenberg and Greenberg 2013, 30). The ethical care of the environment is imbedded in Native American beliefs and with traditional notions of the sacredness of nature lending itself to ecologically oriented belief systems, which due to the lack of “pro-environmental” views of faiths such as that of the Puritan founders of New England, make it hard sometimes for non-natives to understand the significance of sacred sites and artifacts (35). This miss communication has led to legislation meant to alleviate some of that misunderstanding with indigenous consultations mandated by the NHPA Section 106 whenever Federal lands use changes on tribal lands or significant cultural resources are affects. Further SB 18 mandates tribal consultation at the beginning of these procedures (32, 35). The violation of these Federal and State mandates partially are due the fact that consultation is not the same as legislated rights prior interest, leading to being ignored, or lengthy legal wrangling and lawsuits (Dreveskracht 2012, Greenberg and Greenberg 2013, Patch 2015). This seems counter intuitive when Native belief systems have a profound propensity to favor environmentally sensitive perspectives with their “sense of autochthony – the spiritual experience of belonging to a place” (Greenberg and Greenberg 2013, 33).
The Native peoples who live in the Southeastern California Desert have a vested interest in how the development of alternative energy impacts their tribal lands and their traditional cultural environment. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that the impact on any historically significant resources be submitted for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) determined from their NAHC Sacred Site data base that the tribes would be affected and as the State body responsible for oversight of Native Interests in that regard, submitted to the DRECP in 2011, a list of Native tribal contacts and a copy of a recommended guidelines for consulting tribes that had been submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game Renewable Energy Action Team in 2009 (Singleton 2011). The process of contacting the tribes on the state level had thus become part of the bureaucratic process in meeting the State of California goals for renewable energy initiated under Governor Schwarzenegger wherein some 33 percent of the state energy had to come from renewable sources by 2020 (Singleton, 2011). Tribes cultural concerns had not been in the original planning for the DRECP, and many tribes perceived their interests as being “a late ‘add on’ to the core biological goals and have been given short shrift in the Plan” (Coyle 2015, 1). This view was reiterated by Daniel McCarthy in a personal interview (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015).
Even though the planners of the DRECP had been notified of a legal and procedural basis for tribal input, the tribes themselves have indicated a lack of ability to participate or contribute to the outcomes, with the “deferral of in depth cultural resource studies until after project developer has submitted an application to develop a specific project inevitably results in the destruction or removal of such cultural resources and landscapes” (Patch 2015, 6). Thus the tribes have deep reservations about the efficacy of the DRECP process and advocate that the cultural resources be put on the same level as the biological resources for the tribes to consider that their interests are being taken seriously (4). It is our interest in this paper to develop and advocate for the interests of the native peoples affected by the DRECP.
Methodology: Interviewing at least one interested party, and reading the submitted testimony of several of the tribes to the California Energy Commission comments, as well as some of the relevant literature on the subject, including the portions of the DRECP draft report related to the Native American Issues, provided the majority of the material from which the research was developed and conclusions arrived.
Results: The propensity for the BLM to not consult the tribes, ignoring statutes such as Section 106 of the NHPA, the provisions for consultation in NEPA, the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA), and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, Executive Order 12898 Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (1994), and the Council on Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ), the National Policy Issuance 94-10 USFWS Native American Policy (1994), Executive Order 13007 Indian Sacred Sites (1996), Executive Order 13175 Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments (2000) and Secretarial Order 3206 American Indian Tribal Rights and the Endangered Species Act (1997) to mention only a partial list of Federal regulations and laws regarding relations with Native people, should provide an exhaustive basis for covering the interests and concerns of the tribes (Draft DRECP III.9 2014, 2-9). In fact the legislation only claims the Native American rights to be consulted, not to completely block Government action which is a critical issue that the CRIT brought up in their critique of the DRECP as having sham effectiveness (Dreveskracht 2013, 435; Patch 2015, 4). The approach of the tribes has been less than welcoming although repeatedly they all claim to support the need to develop renewable energy and have expressed interest in participation in the process especially if granted control of the development of their own resources, something that is currently severely restricted by federal law (Dreveskracht 2012; McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Paresa 2015; Patch 2015).
The BLM has accumulated enough data to understand that renewable solar and wind energy can be “especially harmful to biodiversity, scenic landscapes, water supplies, natural quiet and cultural resources” (Nagle 2013, 62). The evidence shown in the case of the Native Americans regarding cultural resources, natural quiet, and the scenic landscape in particular have been shown to be causes for concern acknowledged in the Draft DRECP with a listing of potential impacts that would require site specific environmental impact statements (EIS). Tribal concerns being listed in terms of cultural resources impacts, specifically physical destruction of cultural resources, isolation of cultural resources from access or alteration significant to be considered under the standards of NRHP, CRHR, or CEQA by tribal members, introduction of sights, smells, or other atmospheric elements that are not characteristic to a site. Excessive impacts to sites linked to tribal identity and “disproportionate impact to places that play an essential role in the perpetuation of the generations” (Draft DRECP IV.9, 6).
It is critical to note that there are some 50 tribes listed in the DRECP as having an interest as defined by the various laws, statutes, and executive orders. Each of these tribes has specific concerns, cultural resources, and histories that may go back for some 10,000 years (Draft DRECP 2014 III.9, 14-16; McCarthy 2015). CRIT is concerned about the I-10 Corridor being developed which contains many sacred sites. None of the plans in the Draft DRECP addressed their concerns and past experience had led them to believe that litigation was the path to take. Tribes historically have been ignored. Beginning in 1970’s legislation was passed to empower the tribal governments to be treated as sovereign powers. Over the past half century legislation has been passed, in which the standard of living has increased but at painfully slow rates. There has been little headway in terms of the development of alternative energy within the Reservations due in part to a lack of capital and expertise but also due to the lack of Federal legislation to empower the tribes to make their own decisions. Tribes are still, treated paternalistically and thus their sense of autonomy been constrained by a tradition of treating the Tribes as wards of the state (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Dreveskracht 2012; Patch 2015).
Historically the tribes have lost continuity due to the disruption caused by colonization, and genocide on the part of the colonizing powers, Spain, Mexica and finally the United States. Indians early on were treated to Christian civilization where “Spaniards… acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples … to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola, once so populous (I estimated to be more than three millions), has now a population of barely two hundred” (Las Casas 2004, 36). Later the Americans hunted Indians like wolves, as one hunter said “the best buckskin I ever seed was tanned with Injun brains” (Smith 2011, 84). The disappearance of history, and languages, have left the Native Peoples unable to locate ancient remains, leaving them dependent upon surviving traditions and archeology. As McCarthy stated the BLM expects the Tribes to have complete data bases, while the BLM was not forthcoming in providing access to data (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015). The “cumbersome structure and extensive cross referencing thereby undermining the Executive Summary’s claim of a ‘transparent’ approach” indicated to tribes that the BLM may not have been taking tribal concerns seriously, with the entire process called in to question (Coyle 2015, 1). The lack of access to adequately trained cultural survey persons, professional geologists, anthropologists, archeologists, geographers among others to both adequately respond to the demands of the Draft DRECP or to implement their own Renewable Energy Programs through the Tribal Energy Resource Agreement (TERA), which is supposed to bypass many of the onerous regulatory stipulations of the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), with the tribes setting up their own equivalents to the EPA, something of a hurdle that no tribe had been able to successfully negotiate (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Draft DRCECP III and IV 2014; Dreveskracht 2012, 444-446).
The lack of a truly comprehensive listing of cultural resources has compounded problems associated with the Draft DRECP. The CRIT noted that the DRECP has based its analysis on the “online list of California Historical Resources” which admittedly “includes only as a small portion of the resources that may actually be present” (Patch 2015, 5). Tribes have repeatedly requested that there be an extensive cultural resources inventory taken before leases are granted instead of the due diligence after. The tribes want comprehensive surveys done (Patch 2015, Coyle 2015). Once a lease is in motion it becomes very hard to stop a multi-million dollar project and tribal concerns become downgraded or even presenting the tribes with a false conception that there will be “significant and unavoidable impacts on all sites for energy development” (Patch 2015, 4). Independent scientific reviews of earlier phases of the project cited poorly handled data and a lack of adequately rigorous science in the Draft DRECP process. ”The panel unanimously concluded that DRECP is unlikely to produce a scientifically defensible plan without making immediate and significant course corrections, including strengthening leadership of the scientific program, increasing transparency in decision-making and documentation, improving scientific and technical foundations and analyses, and improving integration and synthesis of all analytical processes and products” (The DRECP Independent Science Panel 2012, 2). Interestingly there was not one mention of cultural resources in the report, reinforcing the position of the tribes regarding the focus of the DRECP.
Tribes with different approaches and specific needs are vulnerable to manipulation from the process by which the DRECP process has given the benefit to tribes and groups that are well funded as opposed to those that have limited resources. Complaints that the BLM was not forthcoming with cultural resource data, plus the lack of adequately trained cultural resource workers and professionals in the related fields of renewable energy development and the ecologically focused sciences has led to a situation in .which the tribes with greater scientific, legal, and financial resources are pitted against those without. The lack of comprehensive regional cultural resource surveys with the BLM depending largely on a 1980 data base, has led to a situation in which those in areas where the cultural resources have been not examined thoroughly face greater pressure as the DFA’s have been located on BLM land where the perception is that less damage will occur. The lack of specific data being available or released in a meaningful manner is problematic and undermines the fairness of the process (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Dreveskracht 2012; Patch 2015; Draft DRECP 2014).
The Draft DRECP plan expects that specific sites within the DFA’s will undergo the EIR/EIS process once potential developers have been granted the right to access a particular site. As has been noted once the lease has been granted the likelihood of the tribes to be able to stop the project or move it becomes greatly reduced and the expectation built into the process that damage will occur makes the mitigation process more of a remedy that often is acceptable to tribes with many tribes refusing to accept what are seen as bribes (McCarthy pers. comm. 2015; Patch 2015). The inability of the plan to perceive that some cultural resources may have very great value even if they are few in number as opposed to perhaps an area with many resources of which there may be few of any value, has caused a weighting to sheer numbers which is also problematic (Copley 2015; Draft DRECP 2014; Patch 2015).
Conclusions: The Tribal position is clearly one in which there is reason to suspect the methodology of the DRECP as noted in the comments by the tribes (Copley 2015; Paresa 2015; Patch 2015). The science has been criticized by the scientific review panel established by the DRECP, as well by the advocates for the tribal positions. There is an imperative to get the process of development of renewable resources done right as the process is in its early stages to avoid unnecessary litigation. The tribes are willing to participate in the process but their concerns must be taken seriously and respected for all parties to benefit.
Recommendations: 1.) A thorough and scientific evaluation of the cultural resources in all the areas being considered for DFA designation before the process of allocating leases has begun.
2.) Training of cultural resource workers and assignment of adequate resources to the tribes to adequately determine their best interests in the development process, including access to BLM data, training and resources for tribal representatives to process and interpret the data.
3.) A focus on preventing the necessity for mitigation by adequately determining site acceptability based on protocols that are agreed upon by the tribes affected.
4.) A fair and holistic process that incorporates environmental justice to remove the tendency to pit tribes against one another in the attempt to protect valued cultural resources.
5.) Development of the ability for the tribes to become stakeholders in the process by streamlining of TEFA to allow tribes access to participation in renewable energy development.
6.) Respecting the legislation and statutes already in place and treating the cultural resources on the same level as the biologically impacted ones originally considered by the Draft DRECP.

References Cited.
2014. Draft DRECP and EIS/EIR. Native American Interests III.9. Draft DRECP and EIS/EIR. Accessed November 3, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/draftdrecp/files/d_Volume_III/III.09_Native_American_Interests.pdf
2014. Draft DRECP and EIS/EIR. Native American Interests IV.9. Draft DREP and EIS/EIR. Accessed November 3, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/draftdrecp/files/e_Volume_IV/IV.09_Native_American_Interests.pdf
Copley, Michael. 2014. Tribe Suing Federal Government to Block Construction of Blythe Solar Project. SNL Energy Power Daily.
Coyle, Courtney. 2015. Re: DRECP NEPA/CEQA, Tribal Comments on Draft EIS/EIR. Carmen Lucas, Kwaaymii Laguna. Courtney Coyle Attorney for Carmen Lucas. Energy Docket Optical System, Docketed 09-Renew EO-1 TN 75066 February 23, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/draftdrecp/comments/Kwaaymii_Laguna_Band_of_Indians_comme nts-2015-02-23.pdf
Dreveskracht, Ryan D. 2012. Alternative Energy in American Indian Country: Catering to Both Sides of the Coin. Energy Law Journal. 33, no. 2: 431.
Greenberg, Joy, and Gregory Greenberg. 2013. Native American Narratives as Ecoethical Discourse in Land-Use Consultations. Wicazo Sa Review. 28, no. 2: 30-59.
Las Casas, Bartolome de. 2004. The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account (1542). Voices of a people’s history of The United States. Ed. Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. New York: Seven Stories Press. 35-42.
McCarthy, Daniel. 2015. Personal Communications. Director of Cultural Affairs San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Interviewed November 18, 2015.
Nagle, John Copeland.2013.Green Harms of Green Projects. 27 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 59. Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1332. Accessed November 21, 2015. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2275373
Paresa, Jerry, J. 2015. Re: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Comments on Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan “DRECP”. San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Email: to David Harlow March 10, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/draftdrecp/comments/San_Manuel_Band_of_Mission_Indians_com ments_2015-03-10_late.pdf
Patch, Dennis. 2015. Re: Comments of the Colorado River Indian Tribes on Draft DRECP NEPA/CEQA Documents. Colorado River Indian Tribes. Colorado River Indian Reservation. California Energy Commission. Docketed 09-Renew EO-1 TN 75205 Feb. 23, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/draftdrecp/comments/Colorado_River_Indian_Tribes_comments_2 015-02-23.pdf
Singleton, David. 2011. California Energy Commission, Dockets Office, MS-4. Dear Mr. Chew. Native American Heritage Commission. Docket 09 Renew EO-1 August 8, 2011. Received October 5, 2011. California Energy Commission. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.drecp.org/nepaceqa/comments/Native_American_Heritage_Commission_co mments.pdf
Smith, David Livingstone. 2011. Less than Human Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
The DRECP Independent Science Panel. 2012. Final Report Independent Science Review for the California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Renewable Energy Action Team. California Department of Fish & Game, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission. http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wayne_Spencer/publication/273763679_Independe nt_Science_Review_for_the_California_Desert_Renewable_Energy_Conservation_Plan _%28DRECP%29/links/550b1ce60cf265693cef6859.pdf

Related Materials.
2010. California Energy Commission Selects Bureau Veritas as Delegate Chief Building Official for NextEra Energy Resources’ Genesis Solar Energy Project. Energy Weekly News. 422.
Morris, Amy Wilson, and Jessica Owley. 2014. Mitigating the Impacts of the Renewable Energy Gold Rush. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology. 15, no. 1: 293
Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior Citation: 43 ELR 20047 No. 12cv1167-GPC, (S.D. Cal., 02/27/2013) (Curiel, J.) Environmental Law Reporter. Accessed November 22, 2015. http://elr.info/litigation/43/20047/quechan-tribe-fort-yuma-indian-reservation-v-united- states-department-interior#content

“Injun Time” - Stereotypes Meet Reality

Sunday, May 18th, 2014


Wikimedia.org

Geronimo and Warriors 1886. My conception of Native Americans in my youth, Hell Geronimo is still a hero of mine.

Approaching Indian Time: A memory laden semi-review of the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian

Prologue

Growing up watching Injuns, as a little kid, Noble Savages, as a preteen and Native Americans as I entered my mid-teen radical period, I encountered the gamut of stereotypes of Native Americans. I also have had some friends over the years who are Native Americans, but no real long term relationships, so even though I am familiar, I am not totally free from some stereotypical attitudes that would be disabused with an on going relationship. With that said, this is my experience over the years as described in a short paper based on personal experience as related to the Alexie story.

cdn0.dailydot.com

the new native stereotype, the “magical nature native” that replaced the more dated stereotype of the “unintelligent savage.” Photo via feministdisney

Driving across South Dakota, while returning to Los Angeles after briefly attending the protests at the Republican Convention in 2008, I tuned into the Native American Radio broadcasting from the Lakota reservation. Here was being broadcast an early season football game between the Pine Ridge Reservation high school and one of the local white high schools. This was brought to mind while reading Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. A book for teens, that I read for a class, American Ethnic Writers. The broadcast, the only thing on the FM dial of the airwaves in that vast expanse of seemingly empty prairie, captured my attention, having attended the 1979 Black Hills Alliance Survival Fair with a Lakota professor from Denver University and his two young female protégés from the Dine reservation in Arizona, I had a context in which this broadcast was of interest, since I don’t generally like listening to sports on the radio. As I read the book, I flashed back to the different trips. I could relate to the depreciating, death bed humor of Arnold the protagonist in Alexie’s book about life on a modern day reservation and one youth’s attempt to escape the despair of life on a reservation with no jobs and few resources.


tectonicablog.com

My Understanding of Navajo’s as I went to visit the Reservation in 1973.

In my more adventurous youth I had hitchhiked to the Dine reservation in search of an authentic Navajo Blanket for my high school sweetheart’s sister’s wedding present. I had just dropped out of community college in Colorado, enamored with my Humanities teacher who had instilled in me a desire to take the grand tour in Europe, but meantime I had hitched up to Maine to see my old high school girlfriend, she told me about her sister’s wedding and I wanted to do something special, something impressively different. So in the late spring of 1973 I caught a ride with an AWOL sailor, who took me from Winter Harbor, Maine and the blueberry bog I had been fitfully roto-tilling. Once back in Connecticut, where I grew up and my mom still lived, my AWOL friend and I parted ways. I stuck my thumb out on the Merritt Parkway outside of Bridgeport and trekked to Colorado Springs where I had a bank account and a little money saved from my job at the Air Force Academy, where I had been one of three Anglos among the forty or so Chicano waiters, at the Cadet Dining Hall.


usafaparentsclubcfl.files.wordpress.com

Site of my first real job.

From Colorado I hitched down the I-25 to Albuquerque to the I-40 where I was deposited in Gallup, New Mexico there I thought I would find the perfect blanket. I was my own personal version of the white man seeking his piece of Native American authenticity, satirized by Alexie, as a poor man’s “Ted” (Alexie 161-163), decked out not in Native American regalia, as Ted was a rich collector of Native American memorabilia, but my hippie American jeans, work shirt and sneakers. Like Ted I was seeking some authentic experience of the Native American world. Unlike Ted I was not coming from a position of extreme privilege. I was just a young idealistic kid following out my own fantasy of version of meeting the Indians. I had seen the movie Little Big Man. My Mom loved Indians, and I could relate, I thought.


filme-carti.ro

Scene from Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman’s Encounter with US Calvary on the big screen.

Gallup had little to offer, other than overpriced freeway side tourist attractions. I had perhaps $100.00 to spend and nothing was that cheap, nothing but machine made imitations from Belgium or Mexico. I had been reading up on rugs, playing with the idea of going off to Istanbul and becoming a rug merchant. I decided to seek the authentic Indian blanket weaver. I envisioned some old Navajo woman sitting in her Hogan surrounded by sheep busy at her loom, a semi-tragic Penelope, who would be grateful for my willingness to take the burden of dreams she was weaving for a few pennies. This was my first foray into foreign country, off America into the Rez’. But I needed a guide. I stuck my thumb out and found Charlie Deer Hunter who was driving his pickup along the main drag.


newmexico.org

Gallup street scene.

Now at this point I need to discuss something of my hippie version of Anglo American times and destinations. Even as a hippie youth, without a job, I was driven by time tables. I had places to go, things to do. I had left Maine just as the weather had turned probably first week of June and had to be back later that month for the wedding in Connecticut. I planned to hitch hike out to Colorado, three days, spend a day there taking care of business, spend another day getting to Indian Country, spend a day locating and buying the blanket and then head to California, another day’s trip, to visit my dad, spend a couple days and then spend a five days hitching back, a total of fourteen days, with four days leeway for getting stuck in places or side trips. By the time I got to Gallup it had been a week. I had spent an extra day in Colorado due to my arriving on the weekend and having to wait a day for the bank to open. So when I went off American time, I was entering into an entirely different conceptual framework of time that of Indian time.


backwoodssurvivalblog.com

Anonymous saying attributed to wise old Native American

I was sanding on the main drag in Gallup and an Indian guy told me to hop in back of his pickup. Charlie had black hair showing from under a plaid hunting cap, gun rack in the back, a rather old western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He was going up to Shiprock, the headquarters of the Navajo Reservation, a straight three hour drive. After six stops at different bars, corner stores and long conversations with his buddies, pointing to the hippie in the back of his pickup, he, now drunk, with a couple buddies decided it was time to head to the reservation. We drove a weaving path in the gathering darkness. About an hour or so out of town on some desolate spot in State Highway 666, they decided to go rabbit hunting. There I was in the middle of nowhere alone, standing by an empty pickup truck while the three took a rifle and a couple six packs off into the desert hills. After an hour, I realized they were not coming back. I stuck my thumb out, got a lift in the middle of the night to town as the guy said. Town was a an all night store and gas station, a couple of shacks and not much else, enclosed in red sandstone buttes that occasionally could be seen by headlights of pickups. There was no liquor, it was dry. Young Indian guys drove around and around the store for hours. They saw me, but I was an anomalous character, just another stranded hippie in the middle of nowhere. I thought it was strange, nobody was curious, or would talk to me. There were no friendly or unfriendly overtures. I was reminded of that desert outpost while reading the description of Wellpinit, Washington, the reservation town Arnold describes in Absolutely True Diary….


media.spokesman.com

Scene from Wellpinit, WA. Spokane Indian Reservation.

Finally, the next morning, I managed to get a lift to a trading post from an old white guy draped in Ted like splendor, who says that he had been trading with the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni for years, and told me to forget finding an ignorant Indian woman, wasn’t going to happen. Only building a relationship, he married a Dine woman, and that took time, “Indian time” as he put it. White people don’t have the patience, they want to do business. So they figure out other ways to get Indian wealth. “Why do you think there are so many bars and pawn shops in that tiny place” he said speaking of Gallup. Catching someone on a drunk was cheating, pointing at the huge turquoise and silver bracelets and rings on his deep tanned wrinkled skin, “I had to earn these.”


media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

“Navajo jewelry - Nizhoni!! They say the older you get the bigger your jewelry gets”

He took me to a trading post where I found my rug for $60.00, not a big beautiful piece, just a small runner, but it was real, and all I could afford. The old guy had driven off and stuck my thumb out again. I was picked up by a twenty something native guy. He said he was going to Barstow, California, and I had decided to visit my dad in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Barstow was on the way. This guy, Roger, had long hair like a hippie, but it was braided and he had turquoise and silver jewelry, wore a clean white western shirt and pressed jeans, even his Tony Lamas were polished. We listened to the pop radio in his Chevi van. He seemed pretty regular, until he began to tell me his plight. He was in love with a college educated Indian woman, a knock out but he was a reservation guy, a Rowdy type, he didn’t know how to talk to her. Rowdy is a character in Alexi’s book, the best friend of Arnold, with minimal social skills. He wanted to pick her up from work and give her a ride while I talked with her. We stopped at the Reservation school where she taught, a rather newish single story concrete building where this stunning black haired beautiful woman came out. She became the model on my mind of Zitkala-Ša. Who in her story “An Indian Teacher Among Indians,” describes her experiences at the Indian school (Ša 104-105). This woman was decidedly different from the sad teacher Mr. P, in Alexie’s book (28-29). This Pocahontas, Indian princess and I were introduced and I was happy to play my part talking to her in the back of Roger’s van.


mareikemiau.files.wordpress.com
Teacher from Absolutely True Diary… by Ellen Forney

Thing were going great, back then I was a gregarious sort and her fantastic flowing black hair, inspired my interest. She spoke of the events up in Pine Ridge, where there had been an occupation by AIM the American Indian Movement. Pine Ridge which had been the scene of the deaths of two of the occupiers, including one an ex-marine Buddy Lamont, shot in the heart during a heavy firefight with US Marshals and the FBI on April 27th, They had declared the themselves to be an independent nation and the Feds had shot them (Crow Dog 142-143). I told her about my days with another AIM in Connecticut and the trials of the Black Panthers in New Haven that I had organized caravans of protesters to support the Panthers. She talked of her efforts as part of a group organizing to get Native American teachers and directors at the Reservation school. The BIA take over in Washington the previous year had been part of the process leading to the Indian Education Act of 1972 that gave funding for her now being able to become part of the policy making group for the reorganized schools. This was a part of the general Indigenous effort to increase autonomy and part of the Red Power movement.


4.bp.blogspot.com

Occupation of BIA in 1972.

Before long Roger began to get agitated. We were driving along and suddenly Roger pulls over to the side of the road, and tells me to get out. It was mid-day, I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat and it was boiling hot in the mid-day sun. He zoomed off with his educated love. She seemed a bit disturbed, but not surprised at my departure. I was stuck on the side of the road, I-17 it turned out. But it was hot and I was dehydrated. I decided to crawl under an abandoned roadside booth where I had seen Indians selling trinkets before. Making lots of noise to chaise away any rattle snakes, I then ventured to sleep the afternoon away, since the night before I had little sleep standing around in the cold at that lonely gas station. These Indian guys had a strange way of treating outsiders I thought using my Navajo blanket as a pillow while waiting for things to cool down.

Models for the “Women of the Navajo” 2013 calender pose for pictures at the 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair. Source: Flickr / dshortey

A few years later in 1979, while involved in my Rock Against Racism organizing in Boulder, Colorado, I went to hear Wallace Black Elk talk about the Black Hills Alliance. Two Buffaloes, a Lakota, sometimes college student with a pockmarked face, and two long braids told me about it when bugging me one day to get some LSD for him to use at some kind of ceremony since he couldn’t get any peyote. Two Buffaloes had a white dad and Lakota mom, and had pretty pale skin, but he dressed in a variation of the indigenous pride outfits, those bone neck collars worn by warriors in the old days and feathers in his hair. Stuff most regular Indians didn’t wear, except for Pow Wows and tourist events.

The drum contest highlights groups of 10 to 12 members each, and they sing traditional family songs that are passed down orally from one generation to the next. National Museum of the American Indian Photo #46 by Walter Larrimore

When I was five my mom worked at a fake cowboy town in the Catskill Mountains called Cimarron City. There was a group of Native Americans, Injuns we called them, down the hill in a fake Indian village where they would perform ‘genuine Indian rituals’ and participate in the fake battles between the cowboys and Indians put on every afternoon for the tourists. I used to hang out with the Indian boy my age, we would go hide behind the archery range stealing stray arrows. One time during an evening gathering where the adults sat around drinking beer and eating corn on the cob out of a big pot, my friend’s dad challenged us to a traditional ritual, picking up a tooth pick out of a peace pipe placed on the ground with our mouths, from a standing position without touching the ground with our hands. I remember how hard it was, he did it. It was his part of the routine done for tourists, but it must have meant something in their reality as well. I fell on my face.


wikimedia.org

Dramatic portrayal of Native American man stabbing “Custer,” with dead Native Americans lying on ground, in scene by Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show performers. MEDIUM: 1 photographic print. CREATED/PUBLISHED: c1905

So I went to this meeting, Wallace Black Elk was speaking to a group of highly educated University of Colorado students and professors, he was speaker after an AIM representative who talked about the politics of indigenous land rights, the tradition of land theft from the tribes going back to the 1868 treaty with Red Cloud, how the Black Hills were sacred territory and should remain inviolate. There had been gold mining in the past, the immediate cause for the conflict that had led to Custer’s famous last stand at the battle of Greasy Grass as it is known among the Natives. Now the Bureau of Indian affairs with the Bureau of Land Management wanted to mine uranium and contaminate the region calling this area a National Sacrifice Zone as part of the cold war efforts to stockpile fissionable uranium. After a sober and politicized presentation, Wallace Black Elk, medicine man, descendent of the Black Elk who had participated as a thirteen year old in the battle Lakota’s who could trace their family relationship to Crazy Horse (Argonito 211-213), got up, we were all excited to hear his words of wisdom, Boulder was famous for its New Age spiritualism and NAROPA Institute, the Buddhist school.

Assistant U.S. attorney general Kent Frizzell, right, listens to AIM Indian as other AIM leaders sit by in tepee prior to signing of peace settlement, April 5, 1973 in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Kneeling is Wallace Black Elk and to his left are AIM leaders Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Carter Camp, in that order. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Wallace spoke of going up on a flying saucer and speaking with the spirit people and how radiation could not harm his people because it was part of nature and they were natural people protected by the Great Spirit. This struck me, as being hardly reason to rally concerned white people to the cause of Native land rights. Wallace was speaking of spirits and space people. It seemed reminiscent of the tales of the Messiah Wovoka, originator of Ghost Dances, who told his followers that they were protected from the white man’s bullets (Brown 434). In many ways Wallace Black Elk seemed to be living in that other world, of the rabbit hunters, living on a time and in a place that did not translate well to western concerns in my mind. Wallace was one of the spiritual advisers to the Pine Ridge occupation in 1973 and along with Leonard Crow Dog was responsible for bringing the Ghost Dance back to Pine Ridge according to Mary Crow Dog in her memoir of that period Lakota Woman (Crow Dog 144-145). So here was this leader spiritual leader of the Lakota, speaking what seemed to me to be crazy talk about space people. Yet this was a man commanding respect and a standing room only crowd in that early spring day. I decided to make the trek to the Black Hills and find out what these crazy Indians were all about.


academic.evergreen.edu

Later that summer, 1979 I went with my ride the professor to the Black Hills Survival gathering. Again I was in the back of a pickup, rotating to the front of the prof’s Toyota, with the girls as we drove from our meeting place in Denver to the Black Hills. On the way to this serious political gathering they wanted to stop along the way. We went to Mount Rushmore and spent hours there. I was somewhat aghast that they would want to stop at this symbol of American Anglo dominance in their sacred territory. But the professor said the college girls had never been to the Black Hills and wanted to tourist as well as attend a political gathering. Eventually we arrived, a day late. The professor mingled with his Lakota buddies, I went to find a ‘serious’ political group of anglo-leftists and anarchists. The young women went off elsewhere… to visit other Native American students. The young women didn’t need to be educated about the realities of reservation life, they lived it. The fact that white ranchers had joined in an alliance with the Native Americans to defend their land against the needs of the military industrial complex was heartening. “BHA [Black Hills Alliance] co-founder Mark Tilsen remembers that before the group was founded, the Lakota and white ranchers had only two points of social contact: rodeo and basketball” (Grossman).

“Members of the Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter and the Clean Water Alliance rallied against proposed uranium mining and milling on May 27, 2013 outside Custer City Hall, while inside Powertech (USA), Inc. used the government offices to promote the private project 50 miles west of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Photo: Dakota Rural Action” - Ongoing struggle.

As I read the scenes of the basketball game in Alexie’s book I thought of that drive past the Pine Ridge Reservation, years later, listening to the high drama of local football on the endless sea of the greasy grass prairie. I thought of Wallace Black Elk and realized that he was not crazy, he was not saying radiation is not dangerous, but in nature, left where it would naturally be, it is no more dangerous than any other part of the natural world. Only man’s intervention, without taking into account the long term consequences could make such a foolish choice as to want to create bombs out of the naturally occurrence of radioactive material. I thought that we too need to learn to think at least seven generations ahead when planning changes as the old Native American saying about time indicates. Indian time is not something foolish, it is seeing the big picture, the broad lay of time and space and taking into account more than just the immediate desires of a few. Indian time, at least in this highly allegorical sense is a warning to us moderns, as we face the consequences of our actions upon the Earth.


linkcenterfoundation.org
“You should pay attention. That way, you honor them.” - Wallace Black Elk

Works Cited
Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney, illustrations. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2009. Print.
Agonito, Joseph. Lakota Portraits Lives of the Legendary Plains People. Guilford, CT. Globe Pequot Press. 2011.
Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 2000. Print.
Crow Dog, Mary and Erodoes, Richard. Lakota Woman. New York: Grove Press. 1990. Print.
Grossman, Zoltan. “The Black Hills Alliance.” Unlikely Alliances: Treaty conflicts and environmental cooperation between Native American and rural White communities. Madison: U. of Wisconsin. 2002. Evergreen.edu. Web. 20 April. 2004.
Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Bonnin), American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

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Enigmas, Suicidal Resistance, Tibet, First Americans, & Dead Poets

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I have a roommate who is something of an enigma. He rented the room in my apartment and then never moved in. Perhaps he will but I have not heard from him in a week. His check cleared, there was no address on it, just an account number. I have a cell phone for him, but I have not heard from him since last weekend when he said he was too busy to move. Strange.

Then I started to think a little about this young man from China, Hong Kong specifically. Perhaps this is simply the Chinese government checking up on a blogger that has written sometimes favorably and sometimes not, about the Chinese government. After all they have commented by the bucket loads on my posts that are supportive of China and would have commented more if I hadn’t called them on their fairly transparent use of dummy internet sites to make the same comments over and over. He wanted me to call him, Jackie, as in Jackie Chan, at the time I didn’t think much of it. But hell, if the Chinese want to give me a minor subsidy, and keep tabs on me, well, I need all the support I can get. Interesting thing is I can’t prove any of this. Its just a theory I came up with this morning to explain this mystery roommate. Perhaps he had an accident, or fell in love, or had to go back to China, or got deported. Who knows? Probably he will show up one day and simply move in and my mystery will no longer be of interest.

Be that as it may, I have a new English class and we watched a movie, “Dead Poets Society” and in it one of the main characters commits suicide. Blocked in his ambitions by an over controlling father who wants his son to become a Doctor and not an actor as he seems to intend to become. Thwarted and unable to come up with a viable alternative, such as running away, this takes place in the Boston suburbs in the 1950’s when parental authority is not to be questioned, or at least not by a certain dutiful son of the middle classes, who sees suicide as a way out of his anguished state of frustrated ambition.

The story falls apart in historical context, after all in the mid 1950’s there was a vibrant alternative culture in most cities with Jazz clubs and beat poets finding their muses and companionship in cafes and bars. Perhaps to a small town person without transport to a city, this would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle, but youth is generally resilient and will find a way, unless the youth has in some way been led to a fatalism that would preclude positive action of this sort. A young Miniver Cheevy perhaps or a would be Richard Corey. The theater is the youth’s ambition and the father stands as fate blocking his path to his hearts desire, will he find freedom and break the bonds of fidelity or succumb to the forces of tradition and his father’s unbending thwarted personal ambition, making of his son a mere pawn in his personal chess game with death? Shades of the Seventh Seal.

Below are reproduced these poems from my own junior high school English classes, a faint memory from early times when such things seemed so important.

“Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam’s neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediaeval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.”

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniver_Cheevy

“Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.”

by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Cory_%28poem%29

Those two poems are the only thing of note I remember from Junior High School English, that and the teacher playing “Societies Child” but Janis Ian and Simon and Garfunkel’s version of Richard Cory

“They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
With political connections to spread his wealth around.
Born into society, a banker’s only child,
He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he’s got.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
“Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.”

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.”

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/richard+cory_20124655.html

Shawn Phillips singer did a version of this song.
“Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn
Gruelling as he assailled the seasons
He wept that he was ever born
And he had reasons
Miniver mourned the right renowned
That made so many and named so fragrant
He mourned romance now on the town
And art a vagrant
Miniver scorned the gold he sought
But so annoyed was he without it
Miniver thought and thought and thought
And thought about it
Miniver loved the medici
Albeit, he had never seen one
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one
Miniver cursed the common place
And eyed attack ye sooth with loathing
He missed the medieval grave
Of iron clothing
Miniver Cheevy born too late
Scratched his head and kept on thinking
Miniver coughed and called it fate
And kept on drinking”

http://lyrics.wikia.com/Shawn_Phillips:Miniver_Cheevy

In the modern world we have thwarted desire in many forms that take suicidal forms. For instance think of the Tibetans immolating themselves. From the viewpoint of the Chinese Government they are feudal remnants of a previous era when tribal superstitions reigned and the people lived in poverty. China works hard to improve the living standards in Tibet, removing decaying housing for modern more sanitary housing, perhaps not as colorful, but an improvement in the lives of the people. Then along come these deluded monks, full of enthusiasm for a dying way of life, much like American Indians when faced with the juggernaut of American Progress that wiped out their way of life, so the same is happening in China and with much the same justification, progress, perhaps without the racist implication that the only good Indian is a dead one not made explicit in removing troublesome Tibetans making room for Chinese progress.

Westerners wring their hands over the fate of the Tibetans, just as do-gooders in 19th century America wanted to preserve the last of the native Americans from the safety of the long pacified eastern bastions of European civilization, New York City and Boston. American government policy decided to Europeanize the last of the Natives, forcing their children into boarding schools and their lands to be broken up into individual plots.

Tibet is the wild west of China, but an interesting difference, Tibet historically had a period when it dominated and almost conquered China some thirteen centuries ago. Chinese historical memory is long. Something that we Americans cannot comprehend. Tibetan, Mongolian and Uyghur’s were some of the many people that the Chinese had to fend off to maintain autonomy. The Mongols actually conquered China, as did the Manchus later. But Chinese cultural institutions were so strong that they were able to dominate and assimilate all conquering forces over the centuries.

Back to suicide, so in modern Tibet, like on Native American reservations there are high suicide rates. These are people driven to a form of cultural despair.

“A youth-suicide epidemic is sweeping Indian country, with Native American teens and young adults killing themselves at more than triple the rate of other young Americans, according to federal government figures.

Native youngsters are particularly affected by community-wide grief stemming from the loss of land, language and more, researchers reported in 2011. As many as 20 percent of adolescents said they thought daily about certain sorrows—even more frequently than adults in some cases, the researchers found.

“Our kids hurt so much, they have to shut down the pain,” said Garreau, who is Lakota. “Many have decided they won’t live that long anyway, which in their minds excuses self-destructive behavior, like drinking—or suicide.”

The lasting effect of the abuse and the loss of land and culture is often called historical trauma. Martus calls it genocide. “They set us up to kill ourselves,” he said. “The point of all the policies was ‘take them out.’”

-Stephanie Woodard from “Suicide is epidemic for American Indian youth: What more can be done?”

http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/10/14340090-suicide-is-epidemic-for-american-indian-youth-what-more-can-be-done?lite

“On Monday (Feb. 4) state-run CCTV produced and broadcast a documentary called about self-immolations in Tibet called “Outside Tibetan Separatist Cliques and the Southern Gansu Self-immolations.” It accuses the United States official external broadcaster, VOA, or Voice of America, as well as the Dalai Lama, of inciting suicides in Tibet.

In the film, a Tibetan monk is interviewed who is supposedly recovering from a self-immolation attempt. The monk said he was inspired after seeing other immolators who were treated like heroes on Voice of America’s broadcast. The film accused “outside forces” of inciting the immolations, and VOA in particular.”

http://ntdtv.org/en/news/china/2013-02-07/chinese-state-media-accuses-voa-of-encouraging-tibetan-suicides.html

This from the South China Post.

“The self-immolations of monks and nuns in Tibetan-populated areas were extreme actions that had disturbed and undermined social harmony, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday.

But he also said the young Tibetans involved were innocent and he felt ‘deeply distressed’ by their behaviour.

‘The so-called government in exile in Dharamsala, India, is a theocratic one, no matter whether it is under the direct control or indirect influence of the Dalai Lama,’ he said. Wen accused the government in exile of attempting to ’separate Tibet and Tibetan inhabitants from China’.”
http://www.scmp.com/article/995479/wen-distressed-tibetan-suicides

And then finally a short notice about Chinese arresting those they hold responsible for the suicides. This from the Times of India.

“Stepping up its crackdown against self-immolation protests in Tibet, China has detained 70 suspects for a string of suicides in November last year, coinciding with the once-in-a-decade leadership change in China’s ruling Communist Party.”

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-08/china/36992172_1_immolation-dalai-lama-tibetan-separatists

The situation may be seen as similar, ethnic minorities who had a tradition of independence swamped by a more populous dominant culture, with despairing youth committing suicide as a way out for their thwarted dreams. Among the Tibetans the despair is recent and still dominated by the political hope that these actions might force the Chinese to loosen their hold on the Tibetan homeland, at least to allow them some cultural respite. This in contrast to the state of affairs among the American Indians who after a century or two of dominance by the alien western culture have almost no hope of autonomy, but simply give in to despair. Political hope as was expressed by the radical political socialist nationalist American Indian Movement or as is now expressed in Canada among the first nations people protesting at the border has been quashed in the United States and has led to the suicide of no hope as opposed to the political suicide of hope found among Tibetans and Islamic fundamentalists.

Yet Canadian suicide rates among native Americans is high, perhaps higher in some respects than among their counterparts in the USA. The numbers from Canada are a decade old.

“Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age. (A Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada for the Year 2000, Health Canada, 2003)
First Nations youth commit suicide about five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth.

The suicide rate for First Nations males is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal males.
For First Nations females, the suicide rate is 35 per 100,000 compared to only 5 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal females. (Canadian Institute of Child Health, 2000)

Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.

Historical determinants, such as the legacy of residential schools, are believed to have shaped the mental health of Aboriginal people. A research project commissioned by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation found that 75 percent of the case files for a sample of Aboriginal residential school survivors contained mental health information with the most common mental health diagnoses being post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorder and major depression. (Research Series, 2003)”

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/mental/index-eng.php

Political activism among Canadian first nations is an indication of the education levels being achieved by Natives in Canada with major increases over the last half century.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/whats-behind-the-explosion-of-native-activism-young-people/article7552791/

Groups like Idle No More have formed to organize Native resistance to Canadian Government policies that are abusive to native peoples.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idle_No_More

http://idlenomore.ca/

http://warriorpublications.wordpress.com/

Perhaps the Tibetans can learn from the experiences of the Native peoples in North America in their resistance to the onslaught of modern civilization. Perhaps not. Perhaps the Chinese will come up with a way that does not involve the genocide of the Tibetan people, certainly the Chinese have coexisted with Tibetan and Mongolian and other cultures in East Central Asia for thousands of years. It would be a shame for all traditional culture both Chinese and other native cultures of Asia to be swept away in virtually one stroke by the strong hand of modernism. Suicide is a cry of resistance, perhaps it will not be a futile one.

Intolerance On Rise Around Developed World, Attacks on Muslims, Roma, Native Americans, & Palestinians

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The way we treat our minorities is a reflection of what we value and ultimately how we regard ourselves. This is a series of stories in the news over the past few weeks that reflect poorly on the levels of tolerance in the world and particularly among the advanced countries. These so called democracies who have believed at various times in recent history that they have a duty to spread their version of governance to others around the world, have more recently been showing their dark sides. What we are seeing is a rise in intolerance, draconian measures and a lack of generosity among the haves toward those who have not. To some degree it is a conflict of value systems, the Roma, and Native Americans are people who don’t have a well defined place in the Capitalist system, they answer to a different pre-capitalist system of values. The Palestinians are the native Americans of Israel and Muslims are in America the new persecuted minority, right up there with immigrants from Latin America.
Are we going to turn 9-11 into a war of the Christian and Secular West against the Islamic East? I certainly hope we learn from history and don’t repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. We have in the USA decided to walk away from the ancient grudges and petty squabbles of our mostly European past. Are we now going to return to intolerance and treat Muslims as Europeans treated the Jews, or worse?
Economic hard times have lead a lot of people to lose their cool. Although there has been a rise in intolerance over recent years the economy seems to have given new impetus to groups who want to inflame racial and religious hatred.

This is from New York Times

Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: August 7, 2010

While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold America’s democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.

“What’s different is the heat, the volume, the level of hostility,” said Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky. “It’s one thing to oppose a mosque because traffic might increase, but it’s different when you say these mosques are going to be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is being undermined by Muslims.”
This is from ‘Terra Viva’ IPS news service.

“MIDEAST: The Lights Are Going Out on Gaza
By Mohammed Omer

GAZA CITY, Sep 5, 2010 (IPS) - The Muslim festival Eid approaches, but not the end to power cuts that have darkened the month-long Ramadan fasting leading up to the festival. Or to the agony of Gazans, made worse by the reminder that it’s approaching festive time.

The prolonged electricity cuts, lasting from 12 to 16 hours daily, is the topic of conversation on everyone’s lips in the Gaza Strip. It’s hot, it’s Ramadan, and the people are tired, thirsty, hungry and desperate.

The electricity supply began crumbling after the 2006 election when Hamas won, leading to Israel and Egypt imposing an economic blockade. Israel launched air strikes in December 2008, knocking out all the six transformers supplying power to Gaza.

With no signs of restoration in sight, everyone is prepared for the situation to get much worse.

The supply schedule varies in different localities as well as from day to day, said Kanan Obied, an official from the Gaza Electricity Authority. And the situation worsened a few weeks ago, to coincide — ironically — with the beginning of Ramadan.

The EU, which was paying the Palestinian Authority to supply diesel for the Gaza generators, stopped the funding in August, accusing Hamas of pocketing electricity revenues. The Gaza government replied that the EU move came after they identified a corrupt official in the electricity company.

Walking through the markets and streets of Gaza one hears almost everyone appealing to the UN, EU and Arab League to find a speedy solution to the crisis. Zahran Awad from Gaza City says, “This Western attempt to make us turn against Hamas will fail.”

About two-thirds of the 1.5 million residents are refugees from the 1948 or 1967 wars, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with 675,000 living below the poverty line.

As a Gaza-based economic expert says, “Forcing the Gazan population to pay bills is out of the question. They are suffering from a long siege, with the borders closed and no jobs available.” People can be seen going from one neighbourhood to another just to charge their mobile phones and laptops. One journalist gets his laptop charged at a local hospital.

Securing fuel for the generators remains the immediate challenge. Neither the Gaza government nor the Palestinian Authority is willing to pay the steep 13 million dollars required each month.

Hamas official Dr. Yousef Rizka, adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Hanyieh, introduced an initiative. He suggested that the governments in Ramallah and Gaza deduct 45 dollars every month from each civil servant and employee. The Hamas-led government has 30,000 employees, which means that, in theory, some 1.3 million dollars a month will be available to pay the fuel bills.

But this too would be a temporary measure since the electricity company has debts amounting to 1.3 billion dollars, and no one is addressing that problem as yet.

Another effect of the power cuts has been on the sewage treatment plant. In the absence of electricity, the plant functions sporadically and every day 88,000 cubic metres of raw or partially treated sewage, oozes into the Mediterranean. The polluted waters are dangerous for fish and make a quick dip in the sea impossible to even imagine.

“Life is paralysed here,” says 45-year-old Sami Abu Ouaf, an unemployed father of seven, who lives at the Buriej camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip. “And this is the price we are paying for democracy.

“I never imagined this kind of punishment — having my electricity, water and gas cut off — for casting my vote,” he adds. Abu Ouaf needs to keep a sharp eye on the time to make sure he doesn’t miss the rationed supply when it comes. “It’s democracy by candlelight — if one is lucky enough to afford candles.”"

This is from the Seattle Weekly Blog

“Man Shot and Killed by Police in Downtown Seattle
By Caleb Hannan, Tue., Aug. 31 2010 @ 4:39PM

UPDATE: We now know our victim’s name. It is, not kidding here, John T. Williams, with the “T” standing for “Trouble.”

According to police, yesterday at around 4:15 in the afternoon, at the corner of Boren and Howell, an officer got out of his car and approached a man whittling a piece of wood with a knife. The man allegedly got up, walked towards the officer, ignored multiple commands to drop the weapon and then lunged, at which point witnesses say they heard up to four gun shots. The suspect died at the scene.
UPDATE: Williams has a decades-long criminal history of mostly misdemeanors.

Police say he was carrying a folding knife with a three-inch blade. But as a carver and member of the Chief Seattle Club, it may not have been out of the ordinary for Williams to be carrying a knife.

Police say the officer ordered Williams to drop the knife three times before shooting him. But they can’t say yet whether Williams actually lunged at the cop.

Meanwhile, a witness contacted the Times to tell them the cop’s version of events doesn’t match with what she saw:

Amber Maurina, 28, said she was driving home Monday afternoon from a doctor’s appointment and was stopped at a red light at Boren and Howell. She said she was facing north on Boren and saw the officer stop his patrol car, which was facing south on Boren, and get out.

Maurina said a tall and scruffy-looking man was standing with his back to her. She said she never saw the man’s hands but thought he might be urinating or fumbling around in a fanny pack. Maurina said she watched the officer approach the man and saw him mouthing something to the man, who did not appear to respond.

“His body stance did not look threatening at all,” she said of the man. “I could only see the gentleman’s back, and he didn’t look aggressive at all. He didn’t even look up at the officer.”

The officer approached the man, but was still “at least two car-lengths” away when Maurina said she heard the officer say, “Hey, hey, hey,” followed by five gunshots.

“I watched him kind of slowly, sort of gracefully and elegantly, fall to the ground,” Maurina said of the man. “I immediately prayed and cried.”"

This is from the local TV station’s website KIROTV.com

“Native American Community Demands Justice For Man Shot By Police

Posted: 12:29 pm PDT September 3, 2010Updated: 2:07 pm PDT September 3, 2010
SEATTLE — At a news conference Friday, there were passionate pleas for justice as members of the Native American community demanded that Seattle police be held accountable for the shooting death of John T. Williams.

The conference called by the Chief Seattle Club started with a ceremonial drum blessing, then speakers took turns relating their experiences with police or talked about what they said is an ongoing problem with police and racism in Seattle.

A letter the Chief Seattle Club sent to Mayor Mike McGinn was read, expressing the native community’s great concern about this week’s shooting of Williams.

Many said Williams, a 50-year-old traditional wood carver, was doing nothing wrong when he was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer Monday evening in downtown Seattle.

Police said Williams refused orders to put down a knife he was using to carve, and that he lunged at the officer.

It was suggested during the meeting that Williams may have not been able to hear the officer’s commands and couldn’t move fast enough to attack anyone.

At a Seattle police news conference following the shooting, Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz classified Williams as a homeless man and a career criminal.

Native American leaders also called for an inquest into the shooting and an immediate discussion with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. They said the shooting was another example of racial injustice by the police force.

One speaker said the officer who shot Williams should be charged with murder.

The police officer who fired the fatal shots is on routine paid administrative leave during the investigation. Seattle police have not responded to the request for a public inquest.”

Chief Seattle Club is a community center for Native Americans.

This from Terra Viva IPS News service
“EUROPE: New Expulsions Hit People Without a Place
By David Cronin

BRUSSELS, Sep 6, 2010 (IPS) - Roma gypsies are routinely described as Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Numbering between 10 and 16 million, their combined population exceeds that of many European Union countries. Yet their numerical strength offers no compensation for the poverty, persecution and scapegoating that the Roma have to endure — or for how their welfare is accorded a low priority by the EU’s institutions.

That few Brussels officials pay much attention to the situation facing Roma has been exemplified in recent weeks as Nicolas Sarkozy’s government in France effectively declared a war against gypsies. When the Paris authorities announced in late July that they had authorised the systematic destruction of Roma camps and the large-scale expulsion of Roma to Bulgaria and Romania, the European Commission initially insisted that the surrounding matters concerned national EU governments only.

Following the deportation of about 1,000 Roma by France during the month of August, the Commission has finally questioned the legality of these measures. In an unpublished paper, the EU’s executive arm cast doubts on assurances by Paris that all of the deportations were voluntary and therefore did not breach a 2004 law — known as the “free movement directive” — that forbids group deportations from one of the Union’s states to another.

According to the paper, the granting of lump sums ranging from 100 euros (129 dollars) for child deportees to 300 euros for adults “was not sufficient” to exempt France from the EU’s “free movement principles”.

“The response (from Brussels) has been very slow,” Sophie Kammerer from the European Network Against Racism told IPS. “Although the measures were announced by the French at the end of July, the first press statement from Viviane Reding (the EU’s justice commissioner) wasn’t until the end of August. So almost a month passed with no reaction. Now, at least, the Commission is looking seriously into the matter.”

Kammerer noted that under EU law, deportation orders must be given in writing one month before they take effect and must allow for the possibility that they can be appealed. “Clearly, this was not respected,” she added. “The camps were dismantled one day and people were asked to leave the next day.”

So far, however, Reding has not given any indication of whether she would be willing to start legal proceedings against France. Her spokesman Matthew Newman took issue with suggestions that the Commission had dithered in reacting to the French announcement.

The French offensive against Roma bears some similarities to an initiative unveiled by Italy in May 2008. The Italian “security package” provided for the dismantling of Roma camps and the automatic deportation of migrants who cannot prove that they have regular employment. Since then, thousands of Roma have been pushed out of Italy.

Europe’s more recent wave of attacks against Roma kicked off in July when the mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen urged the Danish national authorities to ensure that “criminal Roma” were arrested and expelled. More than 20 Roma were deported from Denmark soon afterwards.

Germany, Belgium, Britain and Sweden are among the other EU countries that have either taken action against the Roma or stated their intention to do so. Meanwhile, anti-Roma sentiment and the tendency to blame Roma for crime has been vigorously exploited by far-right politicians in many parts of Europe. The Hungarian extremist party Jobbik has called for Roma to be forced to live in segregated camps from the general population. In response to its call, the Hungarian Socialist Party said it hoped that Jobbik did not wish to have “concentration camps” erected.

And racism against Roma manifested itself in a particularly violent way in Slovakia in late August when a gunman killed six members of a Roma family and another woman in Bratislava. Some human rights campaigners have linked the murders to the negative stereotyping of Roma by powerful European politicians.”


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