NATIVE AMERICAN COMMISSION

Page Three

 

 

HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR - ORGANIZER

AT OUR FAR UP HOME IN EASTERN IDAHO

  Member, United Auto Workers, Local 1981 [AFL-CIO]
 

[Contemporary photo by Thomas Gray Salter]

 

hunterbadbear@hunterbear.org

 

 

NEXT PAGES:  NATIVE AMERICAN COMMISSION PAGES 4 AND 5:  FOR THE DOINGS OF OUR POCATELLO ANTI-RACISM COMMITTEE  -- AND THE LATEST ON THE MURDER OF RUSSELL TURCOTTE AND THE MURDERED INDIANS AT GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA  [THIS IS CONSTANTLY UPDATED DURING THIS PERIOD.]

 

Note by Hunter Bear:

I'm pleased to note that my article, NATIVE PEOPLES AND THE LEFT, has
recently appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of DIALOGUE AND INITIATIVE -- the official [and excellent] journal of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism [CCDS].  It follows this important new-book notice:

-------------------------------------------------------------------

From Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]   October 25, 2002

Strongly, strongly recommended!

I'm pushing, via this very broadly listed post, an excellent resource book
on Native Americans -- the Wabanaki Indians [People of the Dawn.]  It's a
splendid piece of work indeed:  THE WABANAKIS OF MAINE AND THE MARITIMES [A
resource book by and about Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac and
Abenaki Indians.] It's just reached me via a good friend, Ed Nakawatase,
Indian Desk, American Friends Service Committee.  Just off the AFSC press,
this is the revised third edition of this very solid work which first
appeared in 1989.

The Wabanakis of Maine and the Maritimes is a great big paperback book:  8.5
by 11 inches, 520 pages. History, culture, legends and stories, some
acculturation -- but never assimilation, personal accounts, a myriad of
organized facts, all sorts of resource lists [e.g., comprehensive listing of
Native governments/organizations/institutions], 110 illustrations [including
maps] and photos, lesson plans and much more indeed   -- plus [state of the
art!] a separate CD with word pronunciations from the Wabanaki nations plus
songs. Bibliography and index.  There is material here for all educational
levels.

It's very well organized and clearly written -- refreshingly lucid.

These are the Native people who first encountered Europeans well over four
hundred years ago.  And, despite the most brutal forces -- e.g., English
head and scalp bounty hunters,  repeated treaty violations and colossal land
theft by British and Americans and Canadians, attempted cultural genocide
via assimilation, hostile neglect, the destruction of much of the old
hunting economy [e.g. caribou] and much of that of fishing, pervasive
poverty, urban pressures in crucibles such as Boston -- they have not only
very much survived in the socio-cultural sense but have fought back.

And the Wabanakis have fought back hard and effectively over the epochs in
countless local and regional struggles [e.g., land preservation, treaty
maintenance, fishing and hunting rights] and massive, precedent-setting
legal struggles such as the prolonged and relatively successful Maine Indian
land claims case carried a generation and more ago by  the Penobscot and
Passamaquoddy nations -- with beneficial implications for a number of other
tribal nations as well.

The book has just arrived at our Idaho door.  And my daughter, Maria, has
just indicated it to a Maliseet friend at Tobique, NB -- who has the first
edition and who has immediately ordered this one.

When WABANAKIS initially appeared, an older cousin of mine who was/is listed
therein as a principal member of the Curriculum Committee, immediately sent
me a copy.  Sadly, she -- a very active person over generations -- died in
February, 1998.   So it's especially good to see the fine work of herself
and so many other authoritative Indian people carried forward -- especially
since my youngest son, Peter, borrowed my original copy and continues to
retain it. [My cousin would be pleased, though not at all surprised, with
Peter's tenacious hold.]

It's available as a  book -- or as an unbound three-hole [binder not
included.]  The cost is $30.00 [U.S. currency only] with shipping and
handling extra.  Ordering information from American Friends Service
Committee, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1479.  Tel:
215/241-7048 or Toll Free 888-588-2372.

============================================================================
===
From Frank G. Speck:  Penobscot Man:  The Life History of a Forest Tribe in
Maine, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940 -- and several subsequent
editions including an enlarged one in 1997:

Typical English bounty proclamations directed against the Wabanaki in the
mid-1700s:

"Whereas the tribe of Penobscot Indians have repeatedly and in a perfidious
manner acted contrary unto their solemn submission unto his Majesty long
since made and frequently renewed . . .

For every scalp of a male Indian brought in as evidence of their being
killed as aforesaid, forty pounds.

For every scalp of such female Indian or male Indian under the age of twelve
years, that shall be killed and brought in as evidence of their being killed
as aforesaid, twenty pounds.
 ------------
For every Indian enemy that they shall kill and produce the scalp to the
Government and Council in evidence, the sum of three hundred pounds.
--------------
Also, voted, that the same allowance be made to private persons who shall .
. .kill any Indian enemy which is made to soldiers on the frontiers of the
province. "

In Solidarity -

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]  Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'



NATIVE PEOPLES AND THE LEFT [Hunter Gray]  Posted 7/8/02

My father was an essentially full-blooded Native American [Micmac, St.
Francis Abenaki, and St. Regis Mohawk] and my mother an Anglo from old
Western American stock. I grew up in a rough and racist quasi-frontier
setting in Northern Arizona. Our identity lies on the Indian side of our
family -- which has been closely involved with many Native nations -- and
I've been privileged to work congenially, as a grassroots social justice
organizer and college/university teacher, with people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds in many parts of this country. I was in my teens when I began to read radical literature -- ranging from the I.W.W. Preamble to the Communist Manifesto and Granville Hicks' John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary. Aware from the outset that this all meshed congenially with that ethos of communalism and mutual responsibility inherent in every Native tribal culture, I became a life-long socialist.

I vigorously believe that Native Americans are certainly part of that great
world which needs bona fide socialist democracy -- something that offers
Humanity much, much more of the good things of life than capitalism ever
could or would. But only a relatively few Native Americans in the United
States are avowed people of the Left. Why? Let me give some thoughts -- and let me make some suggestions.

I'm the first to concede that Indian people are often too reluctant to
listen to worthwhile ideas if they come from non-Indians and are frequently too wary of entering into association with them. Many Native people fear that alien ideas and associations could somehow threaten one's aboriginal identity. But there are grounds for optimism: slowly growing numbers of Native people are becoming aware that that essential of tribalism -- "an injury to one is an injury to all" -- has to be extended to the dispossessed of all humanity and that loss of socio-cultural identity will not occur in the framework of healthy political association and coalition [e.g., the anti-nuclear struggle or the fight for Leonard Peltier's life and liberty.]

And non-Native radicals ought to be aware by now that it takes much more than mechanical arrangements and presumably altruistic politicians to build and maintain genuine humanistic socio-economic democracy -- especially in a predominately urban/industrial context. They can learn much from the First People about faithful commitment to economic communalism, to equalitarian democracy and classless societies, and to a practical recognition of the spiritual foundations and interdependence of every component of the Creation.

The U.S. census of 2000 indicates that 2.4 million people identified
themselves as Native Americans: up 25% since 1990. This is a clear and
unequivocal statement of basic Indian identity -- although almost all of
these would be of some mixed [ Native and non-Native] ancestry, a very
common situation throughout Indian country in this day and age. [In
addition, slightly over four million other people indicated some Indian
ancestry -- but this category is not accepted by many Native people as
indicative of basic Native identity.]

There are almost 600 tribal societies in the United States, each perceived
by its people [though not by Federal and state governments] as a sovereign entity; more than two-thirds of Native people are from
 "Federally-recognized" tribes, covered by treaties or other Federal ties,
and hold about 55 million acres of reservation land. [An additional 40
million acres have been set aside for Alaskan Natives.] If physically
resident on their Indian lands, Federal Indians are eligible for Indian
trust services [such as they are]: health, education, socio-economic
development. Non-Federal Indians, mostly in the East, receive no Federal
Indian services and often have little or no reservation land base. In a few
instances, they may receive minimal Indian services from the state in which they reside. Urban Indians, and Native people in off-reservation rural settings -- and these are now much more than one-half the total Native population in the United States -- receive no Federal Indian services, even if they are from Federally-recognized tribes.

The Native American population in the United States may be changing --
indeed, is growing with rapidity -- but some other things are certainly not
changing. Indian people are at the bottom when it comes to education and income and housing and life-expectancy -- and they're at the top in
unemployment, sub-employment, and suicide.

The development of casinos -- over three hundred of them -- in Indian
country is often seen by outsiders as much more of a positive and beneficent economic phenomenon than they are; the cold reality is that, while the casinos have helped the economic picture of the tribes involved to some extent -- but not all that much -- they have also engendered no small amount of corruption, skim-offs from outsiders, and much venomous intra-tribal factionalism. In addition, since tribes are not covered by Federal labor laws, it's been very difficult for almost all tribal casino employees to unionize -- and pay and conditions are often extremely poor. And, further, however slowly, the states themselves are beginning their own legalization of non-Indian casino gambling.

Something else that has certainly not changed is the fact that, despite
transitory periods of faint sunlight, the enduring common denominator of
United States [and Canadian] Native policy is -- however veiled -- to get
rid of Native people via socio-cultural assimilation; end all treaty
obligations; and secure remaining Native land, water, and other natural
resources.

And again, there is another unchanging dimension: that mountain of Native commitment -- of all Native people, whoever and wherever -- to a cohesive family and clan, to one's tribal nation [essentially one big family] and to its inherent sovereignty and self-determination; and to the critical values so deeply rooted in the tribal cultures: strongly religious, a pervasive identification with the whole Creation, no coincidence or happen-chance in the Universe, an essentially communalistic view of land use, democracy, egalitarianism, classlessness. And all of this is in the context of the fundamental principle of tribal [mutual] responsibility: i.e., the society has an obligation to the individual and the individual has an obligation to the society; if these conflict, the position of the society prevails -- but there are certain clearly defined areas of individual and family autonomy into which the society -- the tribe -- cannot intrude.

And from Native American perspectives, these basic issues stand very much to the fore -- issue/goals which warrant the full support of every person of good will and certainly every person of the Left:

Federal adherence to treaty and related obligations. Treaties between the
United States and the Indian nations are, however occasionally mangled by the Federal government, part of "the Supreme Law of the Land" -- completely in the context of Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Although Congress ended treaty making with the tribal nations in 1871, the hundreds of treaties then in existence continue with full legal validity.

Federal protection of Native land, water, and other natural resources -- and substantial Federal funding to build back the badly shrunken reservation land base.

Federal recognition of the non-Federal tribes. This was supposed to have
been effected by the 1921 Snyder Act which guaranteed Federal Indian
services to all Native Americans in the U.S. -- but the Act's coverage and
Indian services were restricted immediately to only those
Federally-recognized Indian people resident on reservations.

Removal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Department of Interior
[perennially dominated by the corporations] and its elevation to cabinet
status. The B.I.A. is presently under very heavy fire from the tribes and
their advocates for massive mismanagement of Native trust funds and the
mishandling of other trust responsibilities.


Substantial Federal funds for Indian-controlled and Indian-directed
programs -- in the areas of health, welfare and education, among others --
on reservations, in non-reservation rural settings, and in urban areas. The
1975 Indian Self-Determination Act involving Federal reservations is a
promising first step.

Substantial Federal funding for tribally-owned and tribally-controlled
development of natural resources and other economic programs.

Correction and reinterpretation of the 1988 Indian Gaming Act in such a
fashion as to allow tribes to operate their casinos without non-tribal --
e.g., state -- interference. As it stands, the Act and a subsequent 1996
Supreme Court decision [Seminole], force tribes to reach agreements with
states, thus undercutting Worcester v. Georgia [1832], the key [Cherokee
Nation] case blocking state jurisdiction over Indian tribes.

Establishment of full tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction on Indian
lands. Most of this is now held by the Federal government.

Cessation of Federal and state attacks on Native activists and immediate
freedom for persons such as Leonard Peltier.

Elimination of racism and cultural ethnocentrism wherever they may exist. These are critical issues for Native people in any setting but are
frequently -- and often brutally -- to the fore in police, employment,
housing, and education situations involving urban Indians.



Where do radicals -- the Left -- come into all of this?

First, a revealing little story: Some years ago, in a very tough and very
big-city urban context, a situation developed where racist Anglo youth gangs were attacking Native American kids -- and the predominately white police in that particular district were doing virtually nothing about it. We called a public mass meeting and demanded, successfully, that police representatives be present. A large number of people -- Native and non-Native -- came to the basement of a Catholic Church. I chaired the meeting. However turbulently, it moved along through grievances and demands -- and then, suddenly! Two non-Indian radicals arose to harangue -- not the deserving cops -- but each other: over conflicting mini-visions and perceptions of peripheral socialist ideology. With some difficulty and banging of my fist, I ended the escalating oratory and returned the discussion to the matter at hand. And, in due course, we arrived at a functional resolution of the situation -- which the police, however reluctantly, effectively honored. As we were leaving the meeting, a young Native activist asked me, "What were those guys yelling at each other about? Some religious thing?"

And I could only answer, "Pretty much."

And, indeed, the behavior of some non-Indian radicals -- certainly not all
by any means -- can easily lend toward a religiously fundamentalist
interpretation!

Past relationships between Native Americans and American radical
organizations and movements, although not antagonistic, have generally not been close. In the pre-World War I and post-war period, the Industrial
Workers of the World, with minimal ideological rigidity and very substantial democracy; and its close relative, the Socialist Party [especially in heavily Native American Oklahoma], did have very meaningful Indian membership and support. [Always remember Frank H. Little, Cherokee Indian, metal miner, Wobbly organizer and chairman of the I.W.W. General Executive Board, mutilated and lynched at Butte on August 1, 1917, by thugs employed by Anaconda Copper.]

And, especially in the Rocky Mountains after World War II, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [another relative of the old I.W.W.], radical and militant, the epitome of democracy, and thoroughly committed to full racial equality, reached out and attracted many Native metal miners -- who always functioned very comfortably and loyally within Mine-Mill.

But, at the present , there are, sadly, too few Indian people in American
radical organizations. The Peltier case has brought some Native activists
and non-Indian radicals into quite congenial and determined association.
Although hard specific data are almost impossible to come by, local reports from around the United States -- including many coming to me personally, often from former Indian students of mine -- certainly indicate that the Nader/LaDuke campaign stimulated an unusual amount of Native voting activism. I should add that the "two old parties" each have token Indian figures of sometime conspicuous presence -- the Democrats more than the Republicans -- but neither has attracted a consistently loyal Native American following.

 Most Indians who actually vote in mainline elections -- not a pervasive pattern at all, but a slowly growing one -- are Democratic. But that party's position on Native issues is only tepidly better than the Republicans. [The Canadian situation is in many respects different than the one in the 'States. In the central provinces, many decades ago indeed, activists of the well-organized and radical Metis [ off-reserve mixed-blood category] and on-reserve tribal people were much involved in the initial formation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation which eventually, in
1961, became the New Democratic Party --of somewhat socialist perspective but presently faltering.]

Even when interested in active participation in U.S. Left organizations,
Native people often encounter a kind of indifference. In a recent and
probably not atypical situation, younger Anglo radicals became interested in placing a Native activist -- and member -- on that particular socialist
organization's national political commission. But other commission members, with profuse apologies, were reluctant to agree to even consider approving compensation for a small part of the Native person's [not an individual of means] transportation from the "remote" hinterland to New York City -- site of almost all of that group's occasional political commission gatherings. Partial travel compensation for other persons, geographically closer, has always been the general rule. The Native person was never named to the political body.

But I reiterate: We all need each other. And big things usually start with
small steps on a strange trail. I think non-Indian radicals need to reach
out, in personally affirmative ways, to make contact with Native American
people. Without limiting the initial arena exclusively to the urban
settings, the cities -- often with Indian people of many tribes represented,
and generally characterized by a somewhat greater degree of acculturation -- offer some of the most promising possibilities for mutually productive involvements: urban Indian centers, protest meetings around racial and ethnocentric prejudice and discrimination issues, Native public pow-wows, Native speakers. Opportunities to assist Indian people in good causes will always present themselves -- and, furthermore, well written articles on Native issues are always helpful.

Here now is some very friendly -- comradely -- advice to non-Indian
radicals:

Don't see Native Americans as one monolithic group. Although there certainly is a basic Native racial togetherness, remember that there are literally hundreds of distinct tribal nations -- each with its own unique culture and ethos. Recognize, too, that there are many degrees of acculturation [but not assimilation.] Be aware, also, that there are many different factions in any tribe.

And: "Not all Indians these days look like Indians." The generally
mixed-blood situation has produced many Native people who don't fit the
grand old face in the old American nickel. But it certainly doesn't mean
they are any less committed to tribe, culture, and race -- and, frequently,
militant activism.

Genuinely accept and respect the socio-cultural validity of the tribal
societies and cultures. Each has its own origin, vision, history and
destiny. Avoid ethnocentric terms like "primitive" and "civili
zed,"
recognizing that almost all Native people do not think in traditional
"western" linear terms [are much more "circlic/cyclic."] But, although
change comes slowly in the Indian cultures, it does come in its own way and, in the last analysis, on the terms of the people. [A pickup truck, used by the Navajo for purely Navajo purposes, is called a "Navajo Cadillac."]

Religion pervades -- usually in a non-pretentious and almost always
non-sanctimonious fashion -- every Native American culture. Regardless of one's view of "religion," it -- or the lack of it -- should be up to the
individual. As a life-long working organizer and teacher, I can't think of
anything more counter-productive in any setting -- Native or otherwise --
than cutting at someone's religious beliefs.

Go rather easy on the intricacies of radical ideology -- especially at the
outset of a relationship. Native Americans are going to be much more
impressed with a person's individual commitment to people and demonstrated service than they are in one's ability to quote the great socialists. I've talked socialism to all of my students, Native and non-Native, over many, many years indeed -- and likewise to my organizing constituents -- but I always take it in at a deliberate and steady pace. And this approach builds an understanding in a step-by-step fashion. With Native people, the basic communalism -- the mutual responsibility -- of the tribal cultures is the obvious context in which to discuss socialist vision and practice. And, in due course, there'll certainly be many Native people who'll join Left organizations and participate vigorously and effectively within them.

Recognize that Native Americans, like all people, are very much committed to making the decisions that affect them. Self-determination is something Indians hold as critically important.

Don't stereotype. Most sensitive non-Indians are certainly not going to
demean Native people. But, on the other hand, don't exalt us, either. People are very much people indeed.

Be a good listener. [The art of listening, to which we all pay lip service,
is of course 'way too rare -- but it's within the reach of everyone!]
Recognizing that there is a lot of downright hokey stuff floating about,
learn all you can about Native Americans: histories and visions, centuries
of Euro-American genocide and attempted genocide, massive Anglo theft of land and resources, frequently totalitarian Federally-imposed "educational" systems visited upon Indian youth, the vicious governmental and corporate efforts to "terminate" treaties and tribes and people, the great and enduring Native persistence and commitment through all of these blood-dimmed centuries.

Here are a few helpful books:

Ward Churchill, ed., Marxism and Native Americans [Boston: South End Press, 1989.]

Barbara Graymont, ed., Fighting Tuscarora: The Autobiography of Chief
Clinton Rickard [Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1984.]

Hazel W. Hertzberg, The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern
Pan-Indian Movements [Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1971.]

Laurence M. Hauptman, The Iroquois Struggle for Survival: World War II to Red Power [Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986.]

James S. Olson, ed., The Encyclopedia of American Indian Civil Rights
[Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.]

Susan Power, The Grass Dancer [New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1994.]
[Fiction]

Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior, Like a Hurricane: The Indian
Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee [New York: The New Press, 1996.]

Steve Talbot, Roots of Oppression [New York: International Publishers, 1981 and 1985.]


We all need each other. And we can all learn from each other. We all need
socialist democracy and a world in which -- to state that essential ideal of
Native tribalism -- we develop people who serve their communities rather
than simply serve themselves. All of this is as inextricably bound together
in our human destiny as fused copper wires.

Hunter Gray 2000 Sandy Lane Pocatello Idaho 83204




Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

 

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