NATIVE AMERICAN COMMISSION PAGES
This is the first of five consecutive pages.
Hunter Gray/Hunter Bear - Organizer
AT OUR FAR UP HOME IN EASTERN IDAHO
Auto Workers, Local 1981 [AFL-CIO]
[Contemporary photo by Thomas Gray Salter]
Note by Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]: These several consecutive pages are one of the communication channels that I shall be using to indicate our interests, concerns, and doings.
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NATIVE AMERICAN COMMISSION [HUNTER GRAY] January 30 2007
In a word, our basic purpose is to provide education and insight for the general public with regard to the specific and broad concerns of Native Americans north of Mexico -- and to, whenever possible, advocate effectively on behalf of Native people. To that end, we have consistent activist contact with a broad range of Native people in both this country and Canada.
Drawing from these many Native contacts and assimilating material on Native issues and challenges in both the United States and Canada, we post with some frequency on various socialist discussion lists and other appropriate informational outlets. Our very large and multi-faceted Lair of Hunterbear website [which now draws about 2,500 visitors daily] contains five full pages earmarked especially for our Native American Commission. These cover a number of relevant dimensions. Two of these pages reflect our very strong interest in the plight of Native people caught in the negative and sometimes downright tragic context of the sins of commission and omission of bigoted Anglo "lawmen" in off-reservation settings. In those and other frameworks, we endeavor to carry out effective advocacy services -- often working with various local community groups. At some point in the foreseeable future, we do hope to convene some sort of meaningful anti-racism conference, most likely here in this Eastern Idaho region.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
OUR NATIVE AMERICAN COMMISSION [Posted April 12, 2002]
By Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
A special, several pages section of our large social justice website, Lair
of Hunter Bear, has been created for the Native American Commission. The
link to that is
A basic sketch of the current Native American situation in the United
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 which are rightly
perceived by their members, though not by most Anglos, as sovereign nations.
About two-thirds of our people are from "Federally-recognized" tribes,
covered by treaties and/or other special Federal ties, and hold about 55
million acres of reservation land. Also, 40 million acres have been set
aside for Alaskan Natives under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of
1971. If physically resident on their Indian lands, Federal Indians are
eligible for Indian trust services [such as they are]: health, education,
welfare, socio-economic development, criminal justice. Mostly in the East,
the other one-third, through historical and social circumstances, are not
Federal Indians, receive no special services from that perspective, and in
most cases have no reservation land. In a few instances, they may receive
minimal Indian services from the state in which they reside. "Urban
Indians" -- more than half of all U.S. Native Americans -- receive virtually
no Federal Indian services, even if they are from Federally-recognized
Whether Federally-recognized or not, reservation or urban, the Native
American situation is characterized by severe economic marginality and
frequently outright desperation. Unemployment on the reservations, always
high, is now -- depending on the particular setting and circumstance --
between 50% and 90 %. Urban Indian unemployment stands between 50% and 60 % -- with many additional people working only part-time at odd jobs and day labor. The average life expectancy for an Indian person is, depending on whichever of the current estimates, 6 to 10 years below that of other
Americans -- with the Native health situation marked by, among other things,
the highest diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism, and suicide rates in the
U.S. The death rate for Native people via alcoholism is seven times the
national average. And alcohol also frequently figures into the extremely
high Indian suicide rate which is almost 75% above that of all other
races -- and 2-3 times higher than the national average for Native males in
the 15-34 age range.
Examples of key, specific social justice areas confronting Native Americans
are these very substantial mountain ranges. The Native American Commission
is much interested in these -- and others:
Treaty rights, self-determination, sovereignty, U.S. Bureau of Indian
Affairs, Federal recognition of "non-recognized" tribes, health and education, land and resource preservation, economic development, labor unionization, economic deprivation, uranium's deadly legacy, nuclear waste disposal, dam
construction controversies, urban and off-reservation Indians, Canadian and Latin American Natives in the U.S., casino matters, freedom for Leonard Peltier et al., cultural preservation, religious freedom, the nature and effects of racism and cultural ethnocentrism.
The Commission is presently securing and interpreting and disseminating
solid information on Native American history, sociology, law and politics, and
related matters -- with an especial focus on contemporary Indian and Eskimo and Aleut concerns, challenges, commitments and goals. This material is going out broadly via Internet -- and also to especially interested individuals and
The Commission will be initiating and recommending support for appropriate
positions on behalf of Native Americans: e.g., coalitions, resolutions,
action memos, letter and e-mail campaigns, non-violent direction action, political action, and all other appropriate measures. This is with respect to policy matters, legislation and litigation, and other local / regional / national / global issues important to Native American tribal nations and their people.
Two quite contemporary articles of mine on Native Americans can be found on this website link
Interested individuals can easily contact me:
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
2000 Sandy Lane
Pocatello, Idaho 83204
NATIVE AMERICAN POLITICAL ACTION [HUNTER GRAY 6/9/02]
Notes by Hunterbear:
Given the hundreds of distinctive tribal nations and cultures in what's
called the United States, and the considerable situational diversity,
generalization about Indian Country beyond a certain point is risky. But
it's safe to say that building Native turnout and participation in state and
Federal elections is always a long, tough process. Natives who run for
political office in these mainline political waters are cutting new and
important trails -- but it's strenuous and frustrating and has to be viewed from a substantially long-term perspective.
In contrast, a tribal election [which is, of course, on reservation or other
Native tribal turf] is almost always exciting -- sometimes very, very
exciting -- and always draws many indeed. And I'm understating. Very much
understating. Fundamental issues are key -- but personality and family
politics are never absent.
And, while a national presidential race will obviously always draw more
voters anywhere than, say, a more low-key state affair, the election arenas
of the "others" -- e.g., any state and Federal elections including
presidential -- are still frequently perceived by a great many Native people,
consciously and otherwise, as another world: an essentially alien world.
This is one of a myriad of dimensions in which the fundamental uniqueness of
Native national society/culture/identity -- so frequently difficult for many
non-Indians to comprehend -- manifests itself with considerable consistency.
Again, to root in the point: the non-Native world is seen, by the greatest
majority of Native people -- bi-culturalism notwithstanding -- as
A directly relevant factor, of course, is simply that the major mainline
political parties frequently offer nothing very exciting to anyone -- and generally nothing especially and directly and constructively so to Native Americans. A Native candidate in those major parties can usually bring in his or
her own special Native agenda. But it will be hampered by the public ethos
and context of those parties and, from the standpoint of Native concerns
especially, their comparatively narrow and superficial traditions -- or, in
some instances, very explicitly exclusionary or negative ones.
In the vast and heavily populated world of the Navajo Nation -- especially
in Northeastern Arizona and Northwestern New Mexico -- where the Dine' vote
can often mean success or failure for regional electoral contenders at the
state and Federal level, non-Indian candidates do make a special effort to
carry very Native-meaningful platform components. And, quite fortunately,
more and more Navajo themselves are now running for these offices -- with
ever increasing success at the local and state level. Ever since the passage of
the critical Voting Rights Act of 1965, "new" political things have been
moving in and around the land of the Dine'.
While quantitative data with respect to Native voting patterns vis-a-vis the
Nader/LaDuke effort in 2000 is scarce, there's a good bit of "moccasin
telegraph" [Native grapevine] information to indicate that the presence of Ms. LaDuke [an Ojibway], and her very solid Indian-oriented efforts, attracted an
unusual degree of significant and tangibly manifested Native interest and
voter participation in many parts of the 'States.
Will non-Indians vote for a Native candidate? Evidence is that more and
more of them will -- but that takes time as well. And the Native candidate
will have to go meaningfully -- as an increasing number certainly are --
into the alien world to bid for votes. It's worth noting that Idaho in 1991
installed via conventional election Larry EchoHawk [Pawnee, USMC vet] as state attorney general -- a man who later almost won the Democratic nomination for governor. The fact that he's LDS
[now a BYU prof] certainly didn't hurt him in Eastern Idaho -- but, remember, the Gem State is now a pretty conservative state [to put it mildly.]
There's very definitely a heavy need and many, many places for sensibly Left
independent political efforts in Indian country. But there'll have to be
Indian candidates and very carefully constructed Native-oriented platform
dimensions featuring significant grassroots Indian in-put. And all of that will have to be taken by candidates directly to Indian people -- again and again and again. In Canada, the old Cooperative Commonwealth Federation of the Central Provinces had, among its founding spark-plugs, Native [Indian and Metis] leaders. CCF always reflected their concerns, had some Native candidates, and attracted meaningful numbers of Native voters. CCF's successor, New Democratic Party has, whatever its significant problems, continued to function in that very healthy tradition.
There is every reason to believe that socialism and Native tribal
communalism and its accompanying ethos of tribal [ mutual] responsibility
can find much effective common ground -- given especially the perennially
threatening nature of corporate capital and related forces vis-a-vis Native
land and resources and treaty rights. But that joining of forces will
require patient and creative work on the part of all involved: Native
people -- and non-Indians who are willing to listen.
Again, it won't come easy -- as this recent quote from a South
Dakota news article indicates:
"There is a bumper sticker I've seen that really captures the underlying
sentiment I see in Indian Country among my relatives and families," Peniska
said. "It says, 'If voting could change anything, it would be illegal.' "
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
CHECK OUT THIS LINK ON OUR WEBSITE FOR DISCUSSION AND MATERIAL CONCERNING THE BUSH PROPOSED FEDERAL BUDGET FOR FY 2003 -- AND HOW THIS WILL [AS IT NOW STANDS] VERY NEGATIVELY AFFECT NATIVE AMERICANS AND HOW IT ESSENTIALLY CONSTITUTES A VIOLATION OF INDIAN TREATY RIGHTS [HUNTER BEAR FEBRUARY 12, 2002] IMPORTANT UPDATE, MAY 30 2002 http://www.hunterbear.org/federal_budgets_and_indian_treat.htm
A QUESTION ON TRADITIONAL NATIVE GOVERNANCE -- AND MY ANSWER:
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joan M"
To: "Hunter Gray" <
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2004 9:21 AM
Subject: Representative Government
> Hi John,
> In the 4th grade Virginia History class today the info
> was that the first representative government in North
> America was the House of Burgesses. Was there any
> pre-European "representative government-"-as in
> "elected"? Or, for that matter, was there any
> European representative government before 1619? Love
> to know for tomorrow's class? Thanks, Joan
> Regards to one and all.
Every tribal nation has always had its representative government. In the
old days, it was a council made up of various representatives of the
component clans -- serving for life and with several life chiefs [e.g.,
overall, defense and war, domestic matters.] Things were decided by
consensus. Any of these representatives could be withdrawn and replaced
"for cause" but it was not done lightly. These were -- and where they still
survive -- are called the "traditional councils." In Canada and the
United States, new forms were introduced by the Canadian DIA and the US
BIA -- conventionally elected bodies which at least roughly follow Robert's
Rules of Order. Often the two forms, traditional and elected do coexist
side by side in the same nation -- sometimes getting along pretty well,
sometimes not [Pine Ridge].
At various points, very similar tribal nations would often group into a
formal confederacy: Iroquois, Creek, Wabanaki etc.
What follows may be of help.
> What I am interested in is the political systems of the Americans
> pre-European invasion. In particular, I want to know more about the
> democratic institutions and more specifically the Iroquois
> Confederacy. Some say that it was much less formal than the term
> "confederacy" implies. Suggested readings?
Thanks for your inquiry. I'm posting this on another list or two as well --
since it's an excellent question and my response, I trust, is equally
excellent. As you know, being a professor, ask a professor a question and
he or she is still responding 45 minutes later.
The ancient Iroquois Confederacy -- which is very much alive and extremely
vital -- is complex and quite formal. It exemplifies, within the context of
the traditional cultures of the initially five and later six Iroquois
nations, the very carefully worked out balance between collective and
individual well-being [ and here, in this matter of confederation, between
the component nations and the Confederacy as well] -- that is the enduring
and fundamental dimension of any Native tribal nation [and other Fourth
World tribal societies.] Agriculture and hunting were the traditional
economic mainstays of the village-based Iroquois nations that make up the
Confederacy: Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga -- and, sixth,
Tuscarora [coming up from North Carolina in the early 1700s.] As such, this
extraordinary entity is much more structured than, say, that of the old
Wabanaki [Abenaki or Abnaki] Confederacy -- to the east and northeast of the
Iroquois -- where the participating nations were traditionally hunters and
trappers and where the family bands comprising the Abenaki nations were
necessarily semi-nomadic. [Among these Wabanaki tribes are the St. Francis
Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac.]
I have a great deal of material -- always growing -- on Native American
matters posted on our very large social justice website www.hunterbear.org
A short piece of mine, if you haven't seen it, gets quickly into the matter
of tribal or mutual responsibility: the individual has an obligation to the
tribe and the tribe has an obligation to the individual; should these
interests conflict, the well-being of the tribe takes precedence; but,
within that very carefully established framework, there are clearly
developed areas of individual and family autonomy into which the tribe
cannot intrude. That little piece of mine is "Racism, Ethnocentrism, and
Native Tribalism [it was recently published in the Northwest Ethnic Voice.]
Here is its link on our site http://www.hunterbear.org/nativetribalism.htm
Here are several suggested books. I have a thought or two attached to each:
Lewis Henry Morgan: The League of the Iroquois [League of the
Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois], Corinth Books, New York, 1962 [many
editions]. This is, of course, one of the major classics by the Rochester,
New Yorker who worked so closely with traditional Iroquois -- especially the
excellent Donehogawa [Eli Parker], the Seneca who was also Brigadier General
in the Union Army and Grant's chief aide, as well as being the first Native
person to head what was becoming the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Morgan's
works and subsequent extensive correspondence were of great and enduring
interest to Marx and Engels.
Edmund Wilson: Apologies to the Iroquois, Vintage Books, New York, 1960.
This is an excellent introduction to the Iroquois by the gifted and
well-known writer -- who "discovered" the Iroquois and whose healthy
fascination became life-long. A component essay in Wilson's work, Joseph
Mitchell's "The Mohawks in High Steel" is a splendid addition.
Dean R. Snow: The Iroquois, [Blackwell, Oxford UK and Cambridge MA, 1994.
A great deal of material -- historical and contemporary -- is presented in
a well organized, trenchant, and lucid fashion. A full and very palatable
Annemarie Anrod Shimony: Conservatism among the Iroquois at the Six Nations
Reserve, Syracuse University Press, 1994. This is an extremely detailed and
intricate study of Iroquois traditionalism -- including traditional
government -- into and with an emphasis on contemporary times. Very well
done and presented, this first appeared under the aegis of Yale in 1961;
the new edition is updated. [My father secured this when it initially
appeared and I read portions at that point. That copy was falling apart and
we were delighted to get the updated reprint.]
William Fenton: Parker on the Iroquois, Syracuse University Press, 1968.
This is the edited compilation [by Professor Fenton] of much of the vast
primary research and analytical work -- on many key components of
traditional Iroquois culture -- by the noted and traditional Seneca scholar
and activist, Arthur Caswell Parker [great nephew of Eli Parker] who was, in
addition to being a broadly acclaimed ethnologist, an active organizer of
Native rights organizations: e.g., Society of American Indians  and a
founder of National Congress of American Indians [1944.] Arthur Parker, I
should add, was an extremely important role model of mine as I developed.
This work contains a great deal on traditional Iroquois governance, the
origins and development and vigorous continuation of the Confederacy, and
the Constitution of the Five Nations of the Confederacy.
For a first-rate discussion of the origin and development of the Society of
American Indians and Pan-Indianism in general [organizations and movements
transcending specific tribal lines], see Hazel Hertzberg: The Search for an
American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements, Syracuse University
As Ever -- Hunter [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Joan then asks:
> Thanks for the good overview. Now, these
> councils--how did folks get to be on them pre -1619?.
> Specifically, were any of the councils "elected"
> back then (as the term is used today)? If so, name me
> one or two that I can use as examples, please. The
> Iroquois would be an excellent example, (if they were
> "elected" some how) since the teacher would no doubt
> recognize the reference. Have I proven my ignorance
> sufficiently for you?
> Glad you're still my professor!
> Peace, Joan
Each Iroquois clan [specialized family grouping into which one is born] --
e.g., Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Hawk -- would select its own [life]
person for the nation's traditional council via consensus. Certain clans
had responsibility for the selection of the respective, specific [life]
chiefs. These were all men, but women had much power and the Iroquois
grandmothers could pull down a "life" rep or a "life" chief and replace
him. Choosing via consensus is certainly election.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
Native American Commission Section -- Continued