Hunter Gray  [Hunter Bear]  Organizer 

 AT OUR FAR-UP HOME IN EASTERN IDAHO

[Mi'kmaq/St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk]

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

PHOTO BY THOMAS GRAY SALTER

 

MARTIN LUTHER KING AND FOUR NATIVE RIGHTS ACTIVISTS -- INCLUDING MYSELF -- HONORED BY NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION  (INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY, JANUARY 16, 2012)
 
Thanks very much indeed to Ernest Stevens, Jr. and NIGA (National Indian Gaming Association) for honoring Dr King and the four Native civil rights activists and leaders. I'm greatly pleased to be included in this group, some of whom I've met and with whom I've worked at various points.  Hunter Gray (John R Salter, Jr)
 
 
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/01/16/ernie-stevens-jr-honor-mlk-and-native-civil-rights-leaders-72722

 

NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES COLLOQUY WITH A FRIEND: A KIND OF CONTEMPORARY INTRODUCTION (HUNTER BEAR  NOVEMBER 10 2011)

(Newest post first and then read on down -- or read up from the bottom post)
 
Hunter writes:
 
Accusing Ray Cook of a "falsehood" isn't accurate at all, ______.  You are a far more sensitive guy than that indicates and have a fine grasp of the English language.  I "say that politely."  I am not trying to put you down.  You consistently do make a real effort to understand.  And there are other non-Indians in our List neighborhood who also make that effort.
 
The "distribution of wealth and income", as you put it, certainly seems to me to be the biggest piece by far of the Occupy agenda.  And that, given the circumstances of most of the Occupy participants, isn't difficult to understand.
 
You have to look at, and at least somewhat understand, hundreds of years of very sanguinary history -- marked by the systematic decimation of Native people and the seizure of almost all Native lands and resources -- to say nothing of the many ill-starred and fortunately unsuccessful assimilation "policy" efforts.  And most Anglo Americans today don't give a damn about Indian people, their values, or their concerns. And never have.  There are, and actually always have been, many Anglo exceptions to this. But even many well meaning non-Indians can't understand that Native people, societies, and cultures are not anachronisms and museum exhibits -- and that Native America doesn't fit neatly into any "western" urban industrial ideologies.   Indians, Blacks, Chicanos et al. know far more about "white America" than the other way around.  It's really no wonder that a great many Natives see these intra-Anglo American conflicts as civil wars in another country.
 
I don't think most of the Occupy people are interested in Indian concerns by any long stretch.  I don't think they're hostile to those but they simply don't know and as individuals have generally made no effort to grasp and comprehend.  Their interest in "the health of the Earth" should have led -- and can still lead -- to some genuine efforts to understand how indigenous people learned ages ago how to live in reasonable harmony with the Earth and with themselves both within and between our tribal nations.
 
As I indicated, I -- and a significant number of Native people -- have made major efforts to develop a genuine understanding of Native America in non-Native settings.  I've previously discussed my many years of teaching in that regard.  And as a social justice organizer -- my primary vocation -- I've worked with people "of the fewest alternatives" from all sorts of racial/ethnic and cultural and tribal backgrounds.  And I have done so pretty successfully, I think.  And, of course, I continue right along that trail.  But when it comes to developing a depthy and realistic sense of Native values and issues among Anglo Americans, well -- it's a tough pull.  But, again, a pull worth making on a keeping on, keeping on basis.
 
My Native father, a fine artist and professor, worked throughout his life on behalf of Native people and Native tribes.  (And he also worked with all sorts of other people.)  He often remarked that the toughest question asked by young Indians was "How can I take on some of the white man's ways and still remain an Indian and a Navajo" [or a member of another of several tribes.]
 
And my father would respond, "There is no easy way. It's never a perfect balance.  Each of us has to work that out in our own way.  But most of us do."  I've been asked that question many times and my response follows that of my father.
 
As the Kiowa author, Scott Momaday, put it so well in his classic work, House Made of Dawn:  "They have assumed the names and gestures of their enemies, but have held on to their own, secret souls; and in this there is a resistance and an overcoming, a long outwaiting."
 
When Bruce Hartford came here to our home in 2005, not long after your pleasant visit, ____, he did a very long interview for Civil Rights Movement Veterans. [He's its webmaster, of course.]  The interview took most of the day and I've referred to it as my "Movement Life Interview."  In its concluding stages, there were these from me:
 
"I took an Anthro course and we had a good professor, and he talked about "marginal man," he was talking basically about half breeds, to use a term I don't use, but I'll use it right now. People who were on the margin of things. But the reality of the thing, — and he wasn't saying this in a denigrating way, — he knew all about my background, knew my father and everything else, but the point I'm making is that I think the people who are in that kind of a position are sometimes in a position to do certain unique things.

The reason we're in Idaho is because of a great, great, great-grandfather, whose name is John Gray. He was half Mohawk and half Scottish. He was a leader of the Iroquois fur hunters in the Far West in the first part of the 19th century, — came into the West in 1816 with a 16 year old Mohawk wife, left in the late thirties, came back again in the early 1840s. Gray's Lake in Idaho, Gray's Hole valley, Gray's River, all named for him. His basic winter camp is right behind this house, up half a mile. That's why we're here and that's why we're in this very house. He's the family culture hero. He killed five Grizzly bears in one fight while a Jesuit priest sketched the whole thing.

Bruce: I won't tell my Greenpeace friends that story.

Hunter: Well, I'm a hunter, but I'm getting more gentle as the years pass. But the point is that in a study of John Gray, done decades after that, some of the most astute people studying the fur trade came to the conclusion that his great contribution was representing the Indians very, very effectively. No Mine Mill organizer, no Wobbly walking-delegate, could ever do a better job. But at the same time, he could communicate with the whites. You see what I mean? And he could bridge that.

Bruce: He could bridge cultures.

Hunter: Yeah, and that was probably his greatest single contribution. And I'd like to feel that somehow I've been able to do that. I've worked with people of all kinds, what I have seen is a common humanity. I can't escape that, it would be impossible for me even to hate people. I certainly couldn't hate on the basis of race. I'm not sure I could hate anyway. And I sense that you're very much in that mold.

. . .
So basically, I go back to the grassroots people, back to the concept of self-determination, of democratic social movements. But I like the idea of people being able to work together. And ultimately, I think we're all going to have to work together if we're going to save this wretched world. And I think we're going to see movements come that learn from the mistakes of what's gone before. Every damn movement you can point to has been built on the wreckage of preceding movements.

Bruce: And the reason you're stressing everybody work together was that there was an element of some Black power advocates who said whites should not be involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Hunter: That's right, yeah, which made no sense, particularly if those so-called whites had risked their lives. In my case, it's kind of an interesting situation, with a white parent and an Indian parent. In that sense, I'm half and half. I move back and forth and all sorts of things. You know, I could go to the Navajo reservation and fit in very nicely. A lot of people know me. I could go here, I could go there.

So I've got a white side and an Indian side. If you have to ask where does the loyalty go, I'd say the ultimate loyalty goes to the human race, but probably the immediate loyalty goes to the Native side. In other words, I stand with the Indians. But I'm also quite aware that there have always been plenty of people who helped Indian people who haven't been Indians. "

http://hunterbear.org/HUNTER%20BEAR%20INTERVIEW%20CRMV.htm

So I, and certainly other Native people, will keep at it in our own way.  But Ray Cook has stated something very important -- candidly and honorably.

Non-Indians, and especially Anglo Americans, should listen carefully to what he and other Natives of like mind are saying.

And then they should act constructively -- and soon.

In Solidarity,

Hunter Bear

-----

_______writes:

This is not what I see him saying, though. If that is what he were saying, I would agree with him.

He starts out with a falsehood--that the occupations are only about the distribution of wealth and income. 

His story then does not consider what I consider to be a reasonable goal to hope for--that these kids can start the process of healing the earth.

-------

Hunter writes:
I think Ray Cook is much on target. For the most part, _____, Native people and their struggles have been consistently ignored by much of Anglo America, including the various historical waves of Anglo social justice protesters. And, when they haven't been ignored by such, it's simply that those particular Americans have been attacking Native interests, especially treaty rights, sovereignty, land, resources -- and more as well.  As a consequence, I doubt if there are many Indians at all at Occupy.  As I say, it's two different worlds.  For a long time, some of us in the Indian world have tried to be bridge-people but successes re the Anglos have been minimal -- and our loyalties, of course, always lie in the Native world.  Many Blacks and Chicanos have been more open to Native causes -- and with some Native reciprocity.
 
Best, H
 
_____
 
 _______writes:
 
I had read those posts of yours indeed, with great interest.

My point on this is appreciative of that which I understand--but is also raising the point that Cook (and perhaps others) may be misinterpreting the occupation movement. As we all know, the early days of a movement are hard to "read," and I claim no special insight into this one.  But there are clear and evident tendencies in it that are strongly environmental and spiritual in various ways, and that may reach forward in time to becoming the "Native boy" of the story. 

 
And in some areas, there seem to be Indian participants from what I hear--though I do not know much about that. 

_____
 
Hunter writes:
 
Ray Cook is a well known Mohawk scholar and writer.  His point is obviously that the Whites -- or Americans -- are fighting over money, having already taken most Native lands and resources. That obviously exemplifies the nature of the two-headed Serpent and its mushrooming greed that eventually climbs to the skies and leads each of the serpent's heads to attempt to consume the other . The Native boy has a Vision, goes  to the [very powerful] clan mothers, fashions the means of deliverance and carries that out successfully by slaying the serpent, cutting open its belly, freeing all that It has eaten. The serpent gone, balance and harmony are restored.  The symbolism should be pretty clear.
 
Yesterday, after I posted the piece, ______ commented on RBB: "I received this while in a classroom substitute teaching.  The regular teacher's assignment was sadly inadequate to fill the time and had no hooks in it for me to talk about.  So I read them the story and had a discussion.  The students, especially the 2 Indians (Zuni and Taos), liked it.  But almost none saw, without prompting, any meaningful analogy."
 
I wrote a rather long two-piece follow-up on RedBadBear which you may have missed.  My basic point, drawing on years of teaching, is that it's  very tough to convey Native values and concerns to non-Indians -- two  very different worlds -- but it can be done to some extent by solid teaching over time, if the non-Natives are willing to listen.
 
I did comment that, with some notable individual exceptions, I haven't noted much interest at all in Native values and concerns on any of these discussion lists.  Haven't seen much at all, frankly, from any of the left or liberal groups.
 
Best, Hunter
 
 
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
and Ohkwari'
 

NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE NEW CENTURY: TWO NEW ARTICLES FOR STRUGGLE, ORGANIZING, FIGHTING, AND VICTORY [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR   SPRING 2002]

UPDATED  A NUMBER OF TIMES WITH NATIVE-RELATED MATERIAL - HUNTER BEAR

 

ADDED NOTE: 2/23/05:

The main purpose of my posting this is to gently imply that non-Indians
should never, and can never, hope to become Experts-on-Natives on a quickie
basis. [There is a lot of strange stuff floating about, especially these
days.]  That awareness and intricate cognizance can certainly never come
quickly.  If you aren't fortunate enough to be Born Indian and raised in and
around the particular Native culture or cultures, it's all going to take a
good deal of conscious exposure to Natives and much careful listening.  This
doesn't preclude immediate support of deserving Native causes [Indians very
frequently can use and appreciate solid non-Indian support], but it does
mean -- move carefully, respectfully, and, again, listen. To sharpen this a
bit, simply because one has moved intricately in mainline United States Left
organizations, doesn't mean Any of That radical sociology can apply to
Native tribes and urban Indian communities.  For example, despite factional
currents, there is a very basic unity among almost all Indian people that
doesn't, say, exist in an internally inflamed or even moderately dichotomous
radical organization. Tribal nations are basically classless and communalism
is strong.  The ethos of a tribal culture focuses on serving one's
community, not one's self.  [See, if you are interested, these joined pieces
of mine -- especially Native Peoples and the Left [published in Dialogue and
Initiative, CCDS.] http://www.hunterbear.org/nativeamericans.htm

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]


 

NATIVE AMERICAN STRUGGLE: ONE CENTURY INTO ANOTHER has now been published in the Spring 2002 issue of DEMOCRATIC LEFT -- official journal of Democratic Socialists of America[DSA].  On April 20, 2002, Portside [the news service of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism] published and sent it to about 4,300 recipients.

NATIVE AMERICAN STRUGGLE has also been published [9/9/02] on the website of the Anti-Racism Commission [DSA],  Our Struggle/Nuestra Lucha   http://dsausa.org/antiracism/editorials/editorials.html

 

NATIVES, ISSUES AND RADICALS  has appeared as NATIVE PEOPLES AND THE LEFT  in the Spring 2002 issue of DIALOGUE AND INITIATIVE -- official journal of Committees of Correspondence for Socialism and Democracy [CCDS].

 

NATIVE AMERICAN STRUGGLE: ONE CENTURY INTO ANOTHER   [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR]

 

I come out of a racially and culturally mixed background. My father was an essentially full-blooded Indian [Micmac/St. Francis Abenaki/ St. Regis Mohawk] and my mother was an Anglo from an old Western American “frontier” family. Our identity has always been on the Native side. I grew up in Northern Arizona and Northwestern New Mexico where our family was extensively involved in Southwestern social justice campaigns and has always had a very close involvement with the regional Indian nations.

I state categorically that, while certainly very cognizant of the broad, multi-victim effects of racism and cultural ethnocentrism and all of the other poisonously anti-people knifing isms -- and, very much aware also of all vitally necessary human rights activism and movement on those critical fronts -- I have always seen the social class dichotomy and its interactive dynamic of struggle as the only fundamentally enduring -- long haul -- river of progress. The one area of exception in this hemisphere, both conventional and unique, are the Native tribal nations where the basically classless social structures and the essentially communalistic cultures -- generally land-based and, in the United States and Canada, usually treaty-fortified -- continue to command the primary national identification/commitment of the Native people. This deeply rooted “distinctive” situation may not always be obvious to non-Indians, but the primary identification with one’s tribal nation and the continuation of the respective tribe’s traditional structures and its basic culture do stand as a very enduring reality.

But every Native nation, whatever the particular nature of its geographical proximity to the mainline and essentially dominant society, is directly and consistently and adversely affected by capitalism and all its works. And increasing numbers of Indian people, while always maintaining their fundamental place and bond within their respective tribe, are being drawn out and onto the rough and rocky trail of the workingclass.

 

The interests of these consistently exploited and repressed Native nations -- with their people -- certainly fall out on the side of all of the other dispossessed. The really meaningful self-determination of Native people, genuine respect for Native cultures, the effective protection of Native land and water and other resources, and the maximum well-being of the Native people, will certainly be very strongly enhanced in a democratic and genuinely socialist context.

Almost 80 million Native people have died in the Western Hemisphere as a result of the European incursion. In addition, Euro-American governments, especially that of the United States, have made every effort -- quite unsuccessfully -- to assimilate Indians in the socio-cultural sense.

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 tribes.

Despite several centuries of physical genocide, forced removal and relocation, and attempted socio-cultural genocide [all of this designed to secure remaining Indian land and resources]; despite racism and cultural ethnocentrism; despite the pressure of the urban/industrial juggernaut, so many of whose values run counter to those of the Indians; despite mixed-blood and bi-culturalism -- Indian tribal nations, Indian cultures, and Indian people are very much around. The commitment to a cohesive family and clan, to one’s tribe [essentially one big family], remain strong as do the basic values inherent in 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, very much under-girding and pervading the ethos of all tribal cultures is the ancient and enduring principle of tribal -- or mutual -- responsibility: i.e., the tribe has an obligation to the individual and the individual has an obligation to the tribe; if these two conflict, the tribal perspective prevails; but there are always clearly defined areas of individual and family autonomy into which the tribe cannot intrude.

Euro-American theft of Native land and disruption of the traditional tribal economies, coupled with consistent governmental failure to live up to solemn treaty obligations [part of the “Supreme Law of the Land”], created a perpetual economic depression for Indian people long before the Industrial Revolution. As a people, Native Americans have been consistently characterized by the highest unemployment and the worst economic deprivation, the poorest health conditions and the lowest life expectancy. The great social upheavals of the 1960s, which had numerous Indian ramifications -- Wounded Knee in 1973 and many other examples -- saw some promising legislation and hopeful policy trends. But beginning with Reagan and the cruel forces around and behind him, much of this slowed, dried up. Although there has since been spotty progress on a few fronts, the promising momentum of more than a generation ago has not -- in the context of continued minimal appropriations and budget cuts -- returned.

The relatively recent 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.

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.

To some extent, the extremely deplorable Native situation is part of the overall commission/omission campaign against Americans of “the fewest alternatives.” But in the case of the tribes on some western reservations, the special motivation is obviously to force these tribes, whose land includes very substantial “energy resources,” into collaboration with the thoroughly exploitative oil and mining corporations. This tactic has old roots. A half century ago, the generally Eastern-owned oil and mining corporations, utilizing their considerable influence with the ever-obliging U.S. Department of Interior [which contains the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- committed in theory and only partially in fact to the protection of the interests of the Federally-recognized Native people], began to systematically maneuver their way onto Indian lands. As the 1950s progressed, the corporations -- whose royalties to the Indians have been modest at best [even despite the more recently-secured tribal right of taxation of non-Indian, on-reservation business enterprises] -- entrenched themselves in Indian country with uranium as a major target. They mushroomed like the clouds produced by their explosive offspring at Desert Rock, Nevada, a prime nuclear site -- whose “peace-keeping” activities were officially proclaimed around the globe with as much vigor as the solemn assurances given the curious but uneasy local residents. The fall-out from Desert Rock, eventually leaving a trail of death in Northern Arizona and the southern portions of Nevada and Utah, has affected Anglo, Indian, Chicano; and has struck down rancher, farmer, soldier, herdsman, hunter, and worker. This particular situation and the great anger emanating from it has never been really publicized.

Much less known nationally, always, has been the predominately Native situation on and immediately adjacent to the reservations. Many, many hundreds of Indian uranium workers -- mostly Navajo, as well as some Laguna tribesman in north central New Mexico -- have now died because of both the inherently and insidiously destructive nature of uranium and the corporations’ lack of meaningful safety procedures. Given the remoteness of much of the Navajo country especially -- it is bigger than the state of West Virginia with relatively few roads -- it is likely that the death count is considerably higher than any formal records indicate.

Most of these deaths have been from lung and stomach cancer -- unknown among the Indians until uranium mining began -- and now called “the sores that will not heal.” Some authorities predict that virtually all of the Native [and other workers] involved in uranium mining, milling and refining will eventually die from those or closely related causes. The very air over much reservation land has been poisoned by uranium and other energy industries. The random dumping of uranium wastes has produced dangerously high radioactivity levels in Indian water supplies -- killing people, livestock, and wildlife. The life-span of uranium’s “ghost dance spirit” ensures that this multi-faceted ghoulish legacy will last for several thousand years. In related catastrophes, coal mining carves the earth and erodes most lungs; hard-rock metal mining gnaws all lungs and vitals and its smelters and refineries destroy any vegetation.

Meanwhile, despite the profound contradictions and spasms within the capitalist economic system, the expansion efforts of the mining and other resource corporations continue. Increasing Native opposition to this deadly incursion has mounted steadily with some people feeling that resource development should be very carefully done under the communalistic auspices of the tribes themselves and others being against any mining whatsoever.

And, in the waning days of the already blood-dimmed 20th Century, a new front opened: The Federal government began pressing many tribes -- with great intensity -- to serve as dumping grounds for deadly nuclear waste. This is being resisted by Native people and their allies with rapidly mounting and sharply increasing vigor and militancy.

 

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.

 

None of these, and other necessary measures, will come into existence easily. The enemies of the Native American people are many indeed: the corporations, much of the national government regardless of administration, state governments almost totally, and a plethora of Anglo “back-lash” organizations. These latter are essentially racist groups [mostly but not exclusively in the West] which seek to end the Federal obligation to the Indian tribes and, as examples, prevent anything which would be, from an Indian standpoint, relatively successful land-claims settlements -- as well as ending the protection of treaty-based Native hunting and fishing rights. And, in the final analysis, the basic goals of all of the enemies of the Indian people are -- as always through the bloody, genocidal centuries -- Native land, Native water, Native natural resources.

Like all humankind, Native Americans have resisted tyranny and exploitation. Crushed militarily, resistance has continued to the present moment -- and will certainly continue all the way through: Pan-Indian [inter-tribal efforts] which began in the very early 20th Century; mounting and increasingly creative litigation thrusts; militant grassroots protests -- e.g., anti-river dam campaigns in the ’40s and ’50s, fishing rights campaigns from the ‘60s onward, Wounded Knee in ‘73, continuing anti-uranium and anti-nuclear movements, and much more.

Although most Native Americans were not granted citizenship until 1924, the right to actually register and vote remained generally very much inhibited -- via terror and fear, literacy tests and related devices, and even some state laws explicitly preventing Native voting in state and local elections -- until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This opened the door to widespread Native voter registration and political action. However, there is still much Indian wariness of voting in the “white man’s elections” and, other than a few geographical areas -- most notably parts of Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and South Dakota -- the Indian vote in state and Federal elections is often relatively small. And it is generally hard for any Indian candidate to draw much Anglo support. The Democratic party has more Native support than the Republican -- but most Indians are not especially enthusiastic about either.

What about socialism and related radicalisms?

Both the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s and 1920s [its martyred Cherokee executive board member and organizer, Frank H. Little, lynched at Butte in 1917, should always be well remembered]; and its radical relative, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Mine-Mill] in the Rocky Mountains following World War II did have very substantial grassroots Indian involvement. Significantly, each of these visionary organizations was characterized by minimally rigid ideology, a vigorously democratic ethos, and an extremely strong and tangible commitment to full rights for all minorities.

But, frankly, there really hasn’t been much effort on the part of American radical organizations to do more than pay lip service to Indian rights. Too often when they’ve tried to do more, they’ve failed to understand [or even try to understand] the uniqueness of the Native aboriginal/legal situation as well as the primary commitment to tribe and tribal culture and overall Indian identity. Some non-Indian radicals and reformers [not all by any means] impress Native people as being too similar to the wrong kind of Christian missionaries: ethnocentric and dogmatic, self-righteous, and sweetly conniving. Indians need dependable and supportive non-Indian allies.

In fairness, it has to be conceded that Indian people are sometimes 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 fear that alien ideas and associations could somehow threaten one’s aboriginal identity. Growing numbers of Native people, however, 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. The multi-ethnic anti-nuclear direct action groups, involving many Indians especially in the West, represent a significant step -- as does the consistently on-going inter-tribal and multi-racial international effort to secure freedom and life for Leonard Peltier. The Nader/LaDuke 2000 campaign did stimulate significant Indian interest and support since it conveyed clear empathy with the Native situation and Winona LaDuke is, of course, a Minnesota Ojibway.

 

Non-Indians certainly need Indian allies. Whether radicals or reformers, the non-Indians ought to be aware by now that it takes much more than mechanical arrangements and presumably altruistic politicians to build and maintain bona fide 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, to a practical recognition of the spiritual foundations and interdependence of every component of the Creation -- and to a very fundamental ethos which, despite all of the surrounding temptations and vicissitudes, continues to produce far more Native people whose primary commitment is that of serving their communities rather than simply serving themselves. All of this should be of considerable help in steering through the political, social and technological storms now sweeping across our country and the world from the Four Directions.

 

Mini-bio information:

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear], who presently lives and works in Idaho, has been active in Native rights, radical unionism, and civil rights since the mid-1950s: full-time organizing and part-time teaching and full-time organizing and full-time teaching. He is the author of Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism [under the name John R. Salter, Jr.] and numerous articles on social justice. E-mail:

hunterbadbear@hunterbear.org

 

NATIVES, ISSUES, AND RADICALS  [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR]

 

 

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 “civilized,” 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  --

hunterbadbear@hunterbear.org

See also -- for much information:

 

http://www.hunterbear.org/NATIVE%20ISSUES%20AND%20OTHER%20MATTERS.htm

 

ADDITIONAL NATIVE-RELATED MATERIAL  [HUNTER BEAR]

Although a bit dated, the above pieces are still sound. There are now many more
tribal casinos than there were when I wrote -- and the Native population in the
'States is now approaching three million. The 2010 census should be interesting
and revealing.

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: May 10 2008

The following exemplifies several very troubling dimensions: A specific attack on Native religious freedom rights, the fact that the now long legacy of conservative Federal judicial appointments in this country is -- increasingly -- tilting incrementally against Native rights and well-being, and that Federal Indian law is certainly never static. [I taught that at the university level for thirteen years.]

And it also points up the fact that the general American public, despite relatively brief periods of some positive exception, really doesn't give a damn about Native American concerns. Many never have, unless it's been corporate and related political interests pursuing their own traditional goals of seizure of Indian lands and resources -- and in some cases still seeking to eliminate Native treaty rights altogether [ with"getting the government out of the Indian business" as the rationale.] Many others of the public assume that the rise of casinos within some tribal nations has ended the socio-economic concerns of virtually all Native peoples.

And that, of course, is a tremendous misreading. Tribes have a sovereign right to launch casinos [although this development has also produced its own set of problems for those Native nations so involved.] But casino revenues, often compromised by high legal and public relations costs, and sometimes by outright "rip-offs" from involvement by outside non-Indians, have generally not been able to go beyond relatively superficial alleviation of Native material and related concerns.

Those concerns involve, among others, economic well being [unemployment and sub-employment on reservations remain very high], genuinely effective health care, sensitive and quality education, decent housing, egalitarian and effective criminal justice, much more. The Native suicide rate, especially among certain younger categories, is the highest in the U.S. And if the foregoing challenges pervade reservation settings, they are very much found among "urban Indians" -- now a very large component of the overall Native American population -- and who presently receive little or no Federal Indian services [and none from the states.]

And there are also a number of non-Federally recognized tribes [this through historical happenchance] who, like the very large Lumbee Nation in North Carolina, frequently have to struggle for that status [and its attendant Federal Indian services, such as they are] through a veritable jungle of Kudzu vines and Kafkaesque bureaucracy.

The basic challenges/goals for Native people and tribal societies have consistently involved preservation of the tribal nations, preservation of the specific tribal culture, preservation of land and other resources, self-determination in the context of maintenance of treaty rights, and expansion of functional sovereignty.

John McCain, as chair of Senate Indian Affairs, and himself based in Arizona whose Indian population is quite substantial [and which votes with increasing frequency], was not oblivious to Native concerns and was, on occasion, helpful. The Clinton camp, never interested in, nor attuned to those concerns, occasionally made promises which usually never materialized. Most Native spokespeople in the 'States and many grassroots Indian individuals now support Barack Obama.

Well, we'll hope -- and I do think Obama will be significantly more receptive and helpful. In the end, there are now fortunately many non-Indian friends of Native people -- effective allies, There are such positive and significant dimensions of Federal Indian law as the 1975 Indian Self-Determination Act [which enables tribes to contract for Federal Indian services], the 1978 National Indian Child Welfare Act, the 1978 Indian Religious Freedom Act [which has certainly taken a hit in the attached Northern Arapaho case], and more.

The status of the Native nations is, to use the cliché, Unique. Article 6, Section 2 of the United States Constitution explicitly includes treaties with the Indian tribes as part of the "supreme law of the land." However under attack those treaties frequently are, that basic Rock does remain fixed.

And, as per its treaty obligations, the Federal government clearly has the responsibility of funding Native services and related dimensions far, far beyond that which it has in the past and is currently doing. And, again, this has to include the generally ignored but very large urban Indian population.

And so the good will and the sensitively and supportive moral and tangible support of All continue to be solicited by the Native tribal nations and people -- who will always, you may be assured, Keep Fighting.

Yours, Hunter

Court orders American Indian to trial for shooting eagle [via FindLaw] 5/09/08
By BEN NEARY Associated Press Writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - An American Indian who shot a bald eagle for use in a tribal religious ceremony must stand trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Thursday reversed a 2006 lower court ruling that dismissed a criminal charge against Winslow Friday, a Northern Arapaho Indian who has acknowledged shooting a bald eagle in 2005 during the tribe's Sun Dance.

In dismissing the charge, U.S. District Judge William Downes of Wyoming said the federal government has shown "callous indifference" to American Indian religious beliefs. Eagle feathers are a key element of ceremonies of the Northern Arapaho and many other tribes.

The appeals court ruled that American Indians' religious freedoms are not violated by federal law protecting eagles or the government's policy requiring American Indians to get permits to kill the birds.

"Law accommodates religion," the court said in its ruling. "It cannot wholly exempt religion from the reach of the law."

Friday declined to comment on the court's ruling. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Friday's public defender, John T. Carlson, said the ruling "reflects a failure to grasp the unique nature of the Northern Arapaho religious practice surrounding the eagle."

Carlson said he and his client haven't decided how to respond to the ruling. Their options are asking the full appeals court to hear the case, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or allowing the case against Friday to proceed to trial in Wyoming.

John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne, said the office planned to proceed with the prosecution.

Friday, who's in his early 20s, said last year he didn't know about a federal program that allows American Indians to apply for permits to kill eagles for religious purposes. Lawyers representing him and his tribe have argued that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did its best to keep the program secret and only grudgingly issued permits.

In his ruling, Downes said it was clear that Friday wouldn't have received a federal permit to kill an eagle if he had applied for one.

The judge wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service has encouraged American Indians to apply to receive eagle parts from a Colorado repository that holds the remains of birds killed by power lines and other causes. He said the agency makes no effort to encourage American Indians to apply for permits to kill birds of their own.

The bald eagle was removed last year from the list of threatened species. It had been reclassified from endangered to threatened in 1995. However, the species is still protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Kathryn E. Kovacs, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, told the federal appeals court in arguments in December that Friday had no standing to argue about shortcomings of the federal permitting process because he never applied for a permit before killing the eagle.

The appeals court agreed. It also rejected Friday's argument that the federal Religious Freedom Restitution Act, which prohibits the government from placing undue burdens on religious practices, should block the federal government from prosecuting him for killing the eagle.

2008-05-09 10:17:54 GMT

NOTE ON THE ALASKAN NATIVE SITUATION [HUNTER BEAR  SEPTEMBER 3 2008]

Dear Valerie:
 
While I'm not directly versed in the Alaskan situation [I could tell you a great deal very first hand on Navajo and some other tribal situations], I do know something about it.
 
I would argue that, for example, all of Alaska constitutes aborginal lands. [And, of course, I'd broaden the the coverage of that term far and wide to the Four Directions!]
 
Anyway, that -- aboriginal lands -- was essentially the status throughout Alaska until the Alaskan Native Claims Act of 1971 -- a Nixonian creation [with, it's been since determined,  oil implications.]  That act ended -- extinguished -- all Native claims re Alaska land in return for a Native corporation scheme which established 13 regional Native corporations including therein about 210 or so village corporations.  The total amount of formal Native land provided in all of this is about one-ninth of Alaskan land.  The Native corporations were also given about 100 million dollars.  Traditional Native hunting and fishing rights -- outside of that 1971 defined Native land base -- have been "controversial" via efforts to impose state and Federal laws.
 
By now, probably at least 100,000 Alaskan Natives are covered by the Native corporation arrangement.  There are some that are not.
 
Anything done re, for example, oil development within the now formally defined Native lands would have to have the consent of the Natives.  And it's my sense that most Natives are opposed to this.
 
On oil drilling in the remainder of Alaska -- that not now formally defined as Native land [at least 200 million acres of Alaska are public lands -- primarily Federal] -- the Natives would have no formal, special legal say.  They can and do have a strong moral say -- and most [not all] have voiced their opposition to any modifications engendered by  the mainstream "industrial culture."
 
And in that they are joined by a growing number of non-Natives -- in Alaska and in the continental United States.
 
Anyway, that's a basic sketch of the situation.
 
All Best / In Solidarity
 
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
 

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR [SEPTEMBER  4 2008]:

 
I am posting this, initially placed by me yesterday on several discussion lists, on this Native Americans webpage because it deals with the generic and sadly never-ending "Sage Brush Rebellion" impulses and movements -- which exemplify the omnipresent efforts by all too many Euro-Americans [corporate structures, and also other groups and individuals] to eliminate Native people [at least in the socio-cultural sense] and seize Native lands and natural resources.  That persistent impulse is a major and on-going threat.
 
__________________________.
 
THE SAGE BRUSH REBELLION AND THE ALASKAN INDEPENDENCE PARTY [HUNTER BEAR]
 
There seems to be increasing mention in much media about the pro-secessionist Independence Party [Alaska] and possible ties of the Palins thereto.  Ms Sarah Palin has denied this, although she does seem to have spoken at one of their assemblies.  Mainline media reports indicate her husband, Todd, [himself one-quarter Alaskan Native], belonged to it for awhile -- possibly seven years.  It remains to be seen how important this aspect of the Palins' interesting  odyssey will be seen as time goes on.

To make the Independence Party dimension more comprehensible, it has to be placed in the context of the waxing and waning [and waxing] Sagebrush Rebellion which seeks privatization of public lands, corporate takeovers of such, and abrogation of Native treaty rights and related agreements.  No matter how much this nefarious "crusade" may occasionally wane, it consistently breaks out yet again like a resurgent forest fire.

There are about 200 million acres of public lands -- mostly Federal -- in Alaska. About 40 million other acres are held by Native nations, via the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.  If, in the event, Alaska could effect secession, the public lands would immediately lose their direct and indirect Federally protected status -- and Native lands would be at considerable risk as well.  Ultimately, corporate interests already circling the pristine lands of Alaska like vultures and buzzards would land for The Feast.

This scenario is not likely -- in Alaska or in the targeted regions in the continental Western states.  But it's not beyond the realm of possibility, at least in the sense of cunningly maneuvered checkerboard land/resource seizures.  Good friends and neighbors of ours who are U.S. Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service officials keep an eye -- always -- on these things.

And so should we all. [Hunter]

Here is a substantial excerpt from a post of mine on the basic Sagebrush Rebellion thrust and the dangers it poses:

NATIVE LANDS, PUBLIC LANDS, GREEDY CORPORATIONS -- AND THE LATEST INCARNATION OF THE "SAGE BRUSH REBELLION"  [Hunter Gray    12/24/01]

Note by Hunter Bear:


. . . .This so-called "House Western Caucus" -- focused greedily, among other
things, on our national forests [Forest Service] and park lands [Park
Service] and other public Federal lands [Bureau of Land Management] and on
Indian lands and resources as well,  is  simply the newest in a very long
series of  land and resource grabbing schemes. [Much of this, BTW, has roots
in the East and even abroad.]

 As always, these things warrant continual, ever-vigilant scrutiny. ["Ride
the fence-lines, folks!"] I should say at the outset that I am  not against
all lumbering or metal mining by any means [ how could I be, I've worked in
those settings --although I'm  certainly completely against any uranium
mining, milling, refining. ] My Anglo mother came out of an old Western
ranching family.  There are ways of doing these things -- essentially
reasonable ways.  [But bona fide socio-economic democracy, of course, is the most
reasonable context of all!]

Given the historic and currently voracious appetites of the corporations,
their traditional relationship with public lands/resources  -- and with
Indian lands -- has at best been an armed truce. And, for at least the past
two or three generations, it's been more and more of an open war.  If the
Clinton administration was, despite its friendly-media hype, a fair-weather
friend of the Native people and conservationists et al., the Bush entourage
is obviously an open foe.

In addition to just plain grassroots Native power, Indian country -- Indian
lands -- are mostly protected [albeit uneasily] by the special Federal
treaty/trust relationship  grounded on  Article 1, Section 8 ["commerce
clause" and general Federal primacy in Indian affairs] and Article 6,
Section 2 [ all treaties made by the US government are part of "the supreme
law of the land"] of the US Constitution; by the general exclusion of state
jurisdiction via Worcester v. Georgia 1832 [Cherokee Nation] and a myriad
more of comparable decisions -- and embodied [for better and worse] in the
U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.  But, despite all of these bulwarks and more,
Indian land and resources are under constant attack [ and the Bush
administration is, as I've just noted, an open foe of Native interests ] --
and Indian people and our allies are constantly maintaining extreme
vigilance.

Lately, our enemies have focused mostly on trying to block land-claims cases
brought by various tribal nations -- and the generally paltry "settlements"
eventually secured.  In all of this, too, the foes have generally been
unsuccessful -- but constant Native scouting and scrutiny in this realm are
also the absolute rule.  The enemies have been somewhat more successful in
trying to impede Native water rights [guaranteed in treaties and via the
almost century old Winter v. US decision] by blocking and diverting the
water when its respective headwaters and initial flow are located in
non-Indian lands.

But the most open goal  right now -- as discussed in the following news
piece -- are the  public lands of the West.  The major coveting interests
are not so much the small or middle-sized ranchers.  [Grazing and water
leases are now  generally 25 years, in contrast to the 99 years of the
obviously much older Taylor Grazing Act.]  The basic enemies are the mineral
corporations --  e.g., oil and gas, metal, coal; the lumber and sawmill and
pulp outfits; the big "recreational" and "development" companies.   None of
these are -- or ever have been -- content with "reasonable" solutions.   They
want it all.  And fast.

It's an on-going fight and the Native Americans and the Real Westerners and
the Real People generally -- in contrast to these greedy predatory outfits
and their allies in Washington -- can use all the help we-all can get in
protecting these very vital sections of our turf.

It's an intensive  fight -- always.

As I entered my teen years in Northern Arizona, a big kid, I had no
difficulty at all in that laid-back era in representing myself as 18 years
old when I was years short of that point. No problems -- people "in the
know" simply grinned -- and one of the arenas I went into full-force in the
years before I entered the Army was fire-fighting for the US Forest Service.
[ A great many Indian people have traditionally worked in that dramatic and
well-paying endeavour.  It's also egalitarian:  a forest fire really doesn't
care one way or another about your respective ethnicity. And the woodsmoke
and ash make everyone look very, very black.]

 At 17, I ran a major  fire and radio lookout  on the Coconino   National
Forest.  Close friends of mine had fathers who were regular USFS employees.
But I can remember when, at the obvious instigation of two lumber
companies --  Saginaw and Manistee, and Southwest -- an excellent district
ranger and a dedicated conservationist was suddenly transferred out of the
Coconino into the "Siberia" of USFS Region 3:  the old Apache National
Forest.  That ranger, half a century ago, had been a sharp  and effective
foe of ruthless lumber company expansion. "They" did a hatchet job on him --
but he certainly continued his vigorous conservationist activities on the
Apache.

The  predatory scope and the ruthlessness are now far, far greater than they
were 'way back in those far-away days -- infinitely more so.

I should add that Bureau of Land Management turf -- public turf -- begins
only a good stone's throw from my present back door here in Idaho.

 

NOTE ON NATIVE MIGRATIONS TO THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE VIA THE BERING STRAITS -- WITH A MENTION OF THE SAAMI OR LAPP PEOPLE  [HUNTER BEAR   DECEMBER 6 2008]

 
There have been some disputes about the Bering Straits migration explanation for a long time -- but the evidence, some physical and some linguistic and some in symbolic legendry, and more -- in addition to the lack of any evidence of human habitation in the Western Hemisphere 'way 'way back in time -- is quite broadly convincing.  I do have to say that I, personally, was "born" into  issues of this sort and I've heard them batted back and forth for ages in Native and academic settings.  Despite some  implications in your message, I really don't think most Native people have any real problem at all with the Straits explanation, given its truly archaic -- super ancient -- timing.  My own approach in teaching about this -- and I've done a great deal of that, including directly in the context of Native studies, is to present each basic view:  Bering and very literal traditionalism.  But I invariably say that the basic evidence supports the Bering Straits and those dimensions of literal traditionalism that relate to Origin are, in my opinion, best viewed symbolically.  And, with that, there really is no conflict. [To move into another context, I see no conflict between Darwin and the Bible -- when the Bible is viewed symbolically.The two can go together very nicely.]
 
The Bering matter has absolutely no moral or legal weight or authority in the matter of Native aboriginal title and claims --  which are, in every sense and every direction, valid to the core.  The Federal courts, in fact, made that clear ages ago -- see that as a non-factor and a non-issue. The bona fide aboriginal title of American Natives is considered hard-rock solid. Transforming That into tangible claims gains is always, of course, an endless fight -- and a most critical one.
 
On a minor note, I think it's pretty broadly recognized that some Vikings came into the coastal Maritimes in the 1200s and that shipwrecked Japanese fishermen occasionally wound up on the Pacific Northwest coast.
 
[There is an interesting and not-hard-to-find work --replete with pertinent illustrations -- that you or others might find worthwhile: Crossroads of Continents:  Cultures of Siberia and Alaska  [William Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell], Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.  Drawing on many sources indeed, including many of those based in the then USSR, it's replete with maps -- including linguistic maps, all sorts of appropriate photos of people and their tangible cultures. It's a big book physically and runs to 360 pages.

_________________________

The Saami origin lies in Northeastern Asia and, while the people now known as Native Americans moved -- over a long period of time into the Western Hemisphere via the Bering Straits -- the Saami people moved northward into the Arctic over a long period of time as well and eventually into extreme northern Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden.

 
I have a part Saami spouse.  The Saami have done considerable mingling with non-Saami peoples -- especially in the Scandinavian setting.  But in the outlying regions of Sweden and Norway, many Saami are relatively full-blooded and the Asian characteristics are obvious.  This becomes much more the case when one gets into northern Finland and northern Russia.

__________________________________________

A FEW REFLECTIONS ON RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY  [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR  DECEMBER 25 2008]
 
 
While I don't share David [McReynolds'] rather non-believer view on "religion" -- and I do know that he's very respectful of those perspectives -- I do share his basic wariness toward human-developed "church structures."  On the other hand, "Church" means Community and, for many indeed, consistent renewal of faith.  I've frequently said that any Organizer who mocks the peoples'  deep religious beliefs or even ignores them is a damn fool, perhaps mostly just an armchair activist.
 
This whole realm is something of which I could speak and write extensively -- and have in some other venues -- but I do have just a few thoughts for here:
 
For virtually all of Humanity religious beliefs play a key role in helping people travel the always rough road of Life, from birth to the point they enter the Fog and travel through and beyond.  It has always seemed to me that every theology has far more similarities than differences vis-a-vis the others.  Each Native tribal religion is its own unique body of beliefs -- and the same can be said for the world religions -- but the tribal religions are not bureaucratic and do not embrace the concepts of, say, original sin and salvation -- and I know of no tribal religion that contains the concept of hell. And a tribal religion does not seek to convert beyond the boundaries of the specific tribe.  Christianity, in this hemisphere, has made some significant inroads into the traditional religious turf of most tribes -- but, in the last analysis, despite this and often resultant syncretism, the basics of the respective Native religions sturdily remain.
 
Every tribal religion has its own fascinating Creation Explanation -- always involving the conscious will and work of the Creator.  Among the Wabanaki nations, the Divinity, Gluskap [a manifestation of the Creator sent to that far northeastern corner of North America to be subsequently born by and within the Earth Mother] fired arrows into ash trees -- and the first Wabanaki man and woman came forth.  Many Western-world scientists feel that life on this planet may have begun with a lightning strike into the sea.
 
A good number of tribal religions embrace the concept of reincarnation [into a "new" human form] and, in many others, reincarnation is certainly implied.  Christianity rather formally tabooed That very early on.  But I've held that belief, and a significant complex of Native beliefs, for virtually my entire life.  [I do like the Catholic Mass.]  Playing academic for a moment, I should add that, almost half a century ago, I encountered the very detailed -- and thoroughly scientific -- cross-cultural research by Ian Stevenson on reincarnation.  Professor Stevenson was, at that time, chair of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia.  His many years of global work on reincarnation led to his candid conclusion that that clearly exists -- at least in the individual cases he studied so very  carefully and intricately over a significant span of time.
 
Some time ago, I wrote this -- my personal perspective:
 
 
"As a boy, I shot my huge Coming of Age Bear -- deep in the vast and
beautiful Sycamore Canyon wilderness area in Northern Arizona.  At that
point, I then became a man.  The fiery spirit of the Bear and its abundantly
fine qualities -- intelligence, courage, stamina, instinct -- are with me
always and have consistently served me very well and faithfully on my swift
and rocky and sometimes sanguinary River of No Return.  His physical skull,
with appropriate feathers, is always close at hand.

I plan to do much more in my life -- much more indeed -- before the eventual
trip into the Fog and Deep Canyon, up over the High Mountains, and Far
Beyond to the Shining Sun in the Turquoise Sky that glows forever down on
the Headwaters of Life.  And when that Journey finally comes, the great Bear
will accompany me.

Life is a Great Circle. The leaves fall but one's personality lives and
comes ever yet again.  And even though much of the basic situational
geography will be similar, there are of course new vistas abounding, new
rivers to cross, new mountains to climb.  New challenges.  New growth.

From Virgil, translated by F.W.H. Myers in his "Essay on Virgil" [Classical
Essays]:

"And last to Lethe's stream on the ordered day,
 These all God summoneth in great array;
 Who from that draught reborn, no more shall know
 Memory of past or dread of destined woe,
 But all shall there the ancient pain forgive,
 Forget their life, and will again to live."

I have that Will to Live.  And so do we all. "
 
To return to more prosaic matters, it's snowing outside and the winds are wild.  I've shoveled five times this week and more lies ahead. [Thomas will be helping me on this one.]  Presents are piled under the Tree [a plastic tree for which, on Christmas eve 1997, I paid $2.50 at K-Mart and of which I've grown fond. Maria and Thomas went to Mass yesterday [Wednesday] eve and Eldri, busy with food preparation and last minute wrapping of gifts, listened to the Mormon choir and then the subsequent one from Luther College.   Josie and Cameron are at Cameron's parent's home at McCammon, an outlying small country town and will be coming in very early today although the going will be tough.  We all have 4-wheel drive.  Josie will come here and Cameron will join his grandfather and many other family members in handling their annual Christmas dinner -- open to all.  As with their previous annual Thanksgiving affair which served 500, the visitors to this one will be many.
 
And of course we wish all of you -- you all -- a very fine Holiday season.
 
And more than that -- a very productive forthcoming year [and beyond] in the Save the World Business.
 
Yours, Hunter [Hunter Bear]

 

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE NATIVE NATIONS IS A CRITICAL NATIVE VALUE [HUNTER BEAR -- JANUARY 31 2009]

Reprinted by Edward Pickersgill in My Town  http://www.mytown.ca/hunter/



I do not agree with some of the statements [on Marxist] presuming that Federal labor laws etc should be extended into Indian country [with especial reference to Native casinos].

The sovereignty of the Indian nations is an extremely critical Native value. It's frequently under attack in the United States by the Federal and state governments -- and requires effective Native vigilance and fight-back at all levels. For this reason, all of the 600 or so tribal nations, and the greatest majority -- and maybe virtually all -- of the Indian people, oppose incursions by state and Federal governments into the sovereign affairs of their respective nations. This applies to such matters as Federal labor laws and regulations [and any possible state ones as well] -- even when the motives are, at least ostensibly, the furtherance of labor unionism. I've found that it's often difficult for some non-Indian leftists, for example, to grasp these realities -- since most non-Indians fail to recognize the unique national status of each Indian nation and its respective culture. And most non-Indians don't even know or understand anything about the vast number of treaties [and some related agreements] between the Indian nations and United States which, as per Article 6, Section 2 of the United States Constitution are considered part of "the supreme law of the land" -- legally trumping even Congressional statutes.

From the full sovereignty of the tribal nations [full control by the tribal nation of its land and people and affairs] that prevailed for eons until the European invasion, there has been, via the long "trail of broken treaties" [broken by the Europeans and then by the Euro-Americans], considerable erosion of sovereignty. The basic Native tribal/nation thrust is always the preservation and expansion of sovereignty to its full level and the achievement of full self-determination -- within the context of treaty rights; and always, too, the maintenance and expansion of the land base, the effective protection of the respective tribal societies and their cultures, and the preservation of the respective tribe's natural resources.

For more on all of this, see

http://hunterbear.org/nativeamericans.htm


What follows is a discussion of tribal/nation sovereignty with especial focus on the matter of labor unionism. One of the points I make is that, if a union seeks to represent, say, workers on tribal lands -- or, if those workers want a union to represent them -- this is going to have to be done within the framework of the respective tribal nation -- not via outside Federal or state laws. [Violations of tribal labor laws can be dealt with in tribal court, or via tribal elections, or via informal internal means.] And if a union "from the outside" [as generally the case] is going to represent workers within the territory of an Indian nation, then the union is going to have to work hard to present an effective and appealing case. Among other things, that means hiring Native organizers and other staff[ preferably from the tribe involved] in genuinely meaningful capacities -- and not taking the presumed "easy route" of seeking advocacy from, say, the Federal government vis-avis Native tribal frameworks. Some unions have met this challenge well, many still haven't.

The Bush administration was no great friend of Native America -- but many Democrats haven't been, either. The nature and thrust of the Obama administration remains to be seen on Native issues -- and much else.

This is an older article, somewhat updated, but the issues have not changed.

UNIONS, NATIVES, TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY [HUNTER GRAY FEBRUARY 16 2002] UPDATED JUNE 24 2005

"The 10-1 ruling said the pueblo's right-to-work measure was "clearly an
exercise of sovereign authority over economic transactions on the
reservation." From the AP story of January 16, 2002.

Note by Hunter Bear:

This is a very complex -- and sensitive -- situation. I write as a Native
activist who consistently and vigorously supports labor unionism. I
presently belong to three unions.

Very recently, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling
which upholds -- in the context of tribal sovereignty -- the right of a Native
nation [San Juan Pueblo of New Mexico] to enact and maintain a right-to-work
law. This relates specifically to workers at a sawmill on a reservation but
has, many of us feel, very wide ramifications in Indian Country generally --
and a key economic dimension involved in all of this could well be workers
in tribally-owned casino operations.

This is a ruling -- in an obviously sad situation -- which virtually all
Native people will support as well as informed and issues-sensitive
non-Native people.The possible motives of the leadership of San Juan Pueblo
in this matter quite aside, this general support for the ruling has nothing
to do with unions. It does involve the absolutely critical importance for Native Americans in maintaining what tribal/national sovereignty remains.

Unions -- effective unions sensitive and committed to Native concerns -- are
increasingly critical in the Native American worker context: both on and
off the reservations. The Tenth Circuit ruling and the collateral
implications pose a substantial challenge to unionism.

I strongly believe that unions can and must meet the challenge of effective
organization and vigorous representation of Native American workers. I
believe that unions will -- but it's going to require much awareness and
sensitivity on their part with respect to Native people and societies and
cultures and concerns. Among other things, unions are going to have learn a
great deal about Native Americans. And the unions are going to have to hire
Native organizers -- and certainly Native staff from the respective tribal
setting involved. And more.

First, a little quick background on the matter of Native tribal sovereignty.
Then, several excerpts from a long letter on Natives and unions that I've just written to a friend much involved on behalf of Native rights. Then, I have a section dealing with a labor union's reaction to a situation at a North Dakota tribally-owned manufacturing unit. Finally, a newspaper article on the background and specific nature of the San Juan Pueblo ruling.

TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY:

A Native tribal nation, like all nations, has inherent
sovereignty. Full sovereignty is the full and ultimate control by the
tribal nation of its land, its people, and its affairs. Much sovereignty
has been lost -- however temporarily -- by the tribal nations in both the
U.S. and Canada but some functional sovereignty does remain.

Native sovereignty has been badly eroded. In the United States, the
current situation is referred to as "residual" or "limited sovereignty" -- a
tribal nation has control over some dimensions but not over others. The
fight is always to preserve and to expand sovereignty. Sovereignty, obviously, is power -- and protection and security -- and critical to individual and
societal well-being.

A Federally recognized tribe today in the U.S. has these powers in the
context of "limited" or "residual" sovereignty:

1] Tribes can govern themselves administratively and judicially -- under
the regulations of the Indian Reorganization Act [1934] and subject to the
Major Crimes Act [1885], Public Law 280 [1953] and the Indian Civil Rights
Act [1968.]

2] Tribes can tax their members and tax outside business enterprises
functioning on the reservation.

3] Tribes can handle domestic relations.

4] Tribes can apportion tribal property [e.g., homesites.]

5] Tribes can regulate inheritance.

6] Tribes can determine tribal membership.

Obviously this excludes much from "the full and ultimate control by the
tribal nation of its land, its people, and its affairs."

As just an example, let's look at the criminal justice situation on a
Federal Indian reservation today:

A tribe CAN arrest and prosecute an Indian who commits misdemeanor-type crimes
within the boundaries of the reservation.

A tribe CANNOT arrest and prosecute anyone who commits felony crimes on its
reservation. In the greatest majority of cases, this power is held by the
Federal government under the Major Crimes Act of 1885 -- although a
non-Indian to non-Indian felony on a reservation is turned over to state
officials. In a small minority of cases, however, Public Law 280 [1953]
gives all felony jurisdiction to the state.

[PL-280, BTW, was part of the infamous "Termination Package" of the
reactionary 1950s and beyond which included, in addition to 280, formal
efforts to terminate treaty rights -- and although this was kept at arm's
length by most tribes and eventually ended and reversed as policy, played
hell with the Menominee and Klamath and a number of other affected nations.
Termination efforts included, too, the urban relocation scheme which
maneuvered tens of thousands of Native people into the cities with both
"the stick" and "pie in the sky" promises and dumped them there sans
Federal Indian benefits.]

In 1978, the US Supreme Court issued the Oliphant decision which prevents
tribes from prosecuting non-Indian offenders on its reservation.
Immediately following this, I had the interesting experience of spending a
day discussing OIiphant and its implications at a special
workshop for Navajo tribal police at Window Rock. [I handled the Criminal
Justice curriculum at Navajo Community College.] It was clear that massive
confusion was fast developing and that the only immediate solution was
cross-deputization of tribal police by state authorities. [The Navajo Nation
is bigger than the state of West Virginia and, in this case, Arizona, New
Mexico, Colorado, Utah are involved.] Cross-deputization in Indian country
generally came to pass quickly, enabling a cross-deputized tribal police
officer to arrest a non-Indian on the reservation -- but the non-Indian
would have to be turned over to state or Federal officers. Further, only
rarely was a state cross-deputized tribal officer able to arrest someone on
state jurisdiction.

If this was not confusing enough, the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1990 Duro
decision sought to prevent a tribe from arresting and prosecuting Indians
of other tribes on its reservation! This fast-developing and completely
bizarre twist led Congress to forthwith pass special "blocking" legislation
which was made permanent in 1992. Thus Duro has been effectively nullified.

This has led a great many of us to call for restoration of full Native civil
and criminal jurisdiction [ jurisdiction over everyone!] on the
reservations.

The completely tangled criminal justice jurisdictional situation on Federal
Indian reservations epitomizes the very complex mess in which most Native
people are caught up today.

For the remainder of this long page,with much more on all of this -- and some representative discussion/dialogue, see

 

http://www.hunterbear.org/Unions,%20Workers,%20Tribal%20Sovereignty.htm



Hunter Gray / Hunter Bear

DISCUSSION:

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  FEBRUARY 1 2009
 
Yesterday, I posted my piece "The sovereignty of the Indian nations in a critical Native value."  It went initially to both the Marxist and the Redbadbear list -- and I then sent it to a few others.  My always good friend, Sam Friedman, responded -- as always sharply in thought and well expressed, I responded etc.  I think it's well worth posting Sam's comments and mine on the other lists which received my initial post.
 
[As a personal aside, I should add that, the other day [King Day], I spoke to a group here in Idaho on the Southern Movement -- with some inclusion of the Native dimension -- and I did so for three straight hours [including good questions.]  Not bad for someone whose second grade teachers tried to railroad him into an institution for mentally challenged people simply because I never talked.  More to the point, that stint and a number of other things are indicative of the fact that my now almost six year struggle with systemic lupus sees my now outrunning That.  I mention this because most on all of these lists are aware of this long fight.
 
H.
 
 
SAM FRIEDMAN:
 
Hunter and I have discussed this issue before on these lists, and I am well
aware of his far superior depth of understanding of Native tribes and
cultures.

There seems to me to be a weakness in Hunter's argument--albeit a weakness that
might not seem to be of enormous immediate relevance--although one can hope.

Hunter's argument here is that the tribe is sovereign, and thus that US labor
laws should not apply.

Now in the USA or other countries, one of the implications of national
sovereignty (in theory--though not in practice) is that svereignty means that if
the workers of the country rise up and overthrow its government and economic
system, they have the right to do so.  (Of course, this right will be
challenged by international attacks, as happened in Hungary in 1956 and would
have happened in France in 1968 if the movement there had gone further--but, in
theory, these can be condemned in Hunter's approach as violations fo
sovereignty.)

However, in the current legal environment as the US government sees it, and most
if not all tribes accept, the US government is the ultimate sovereign with the
"responsibility" to maintain "order."  What this means in practice is that if
the workers or others in a tribe rise up to overthrow the tribal authorities due
to the way their social order mistreats poor and worker tribal members, US
forces (FBI or National Guard, probably) will intervene to maintain the power of
the employers and others.

Thus, from the viewpoint of the workers and of poor members of the tribe, it
seems to me that Hunter's approach here is in danger of meaning that the
approach he supports takes away any support local workers get from outside labor
victories yet reduce their actual power due to the existence of a legal order in
which the ultimate sovereignty is that of the USA.

I offer these thoughts in order to learn from the ensuing discussion.

best
sam
 
HUNTER GRAY:
 
To come to the point, Sam, you're trying to use a European [and I include the United States in that context] urban/industrial theoretical approach -- in your case, Marxism -- as your primary analytical measure of Native tribal sociology. And that will never work -- because there is a deep Grand Canyon of socio-cultural difference between those two basic worlds . From the vantage point of Indian tribal nations [each with its own distinctive culture but with many similarities], the United States [and Canada] are literally other countries. [Certainly there has been some acculturation in many Native settings vis-a-vis American culture, but there has Not been any assimilation by any stretch.] Native American tribal nations and at least almost all of the people therein have certainly never accepted the United States government as the "ultimate sovereign."

A Native tribe is a Nation and it's also, in many respects, One Big Family where many are related, some way, by blood or by marriage. [There are social mechanisms, such as clan systems, which exist, among other reasons, to prevent incest.] The basic economic ethos of any Native tribal society is fundamentally communalistic -- and, despite some material inequities, essentially classless [certainly very much so, compared to the United States or comparable countries.] The basic social ethos is that of tribal [mutual] responsibility: the group has an obligation to the individual as the individual does to the group. If there should be a conflict, the tribe prevails but there are also clearly defined areas of individual and family autonomy into which the tribe cannot intrude. It's worth mentioning that the tribal ideal with respect to a good leader is one who serves his or her community rather than serving one's self.

Again, efforts to gauge and predict any Native tribal sociology by any European measure makes no sense. These are two entirely different dimensions.

Perhaps, as you suggest, the workers in what's called the United States will, some way and some time, revolt. [Maybe they won't.] But whatever they may do or don't do in that regard, it'll be on the other side of the deep socio-cultural canyon from all of the quite distinctive Native tribal nations.

Best, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
 
SAM FRIEDMAN:

I deeply appreciate this aspect of your analysis, Hunter, and I am sure that
there is much truth to it.  But I am not totally convinced for two reasons.
First, to the extent that casinos or other large-scale employment comes into a
native community, this tends to change relationships over time. The communal
gets strained when some folks are working long hours for little pay and others
are getting lots of money for doing nothing but accepting kickbacks, for
example.  So although I am sure that what you are saying reflects a lot of
native life, I am not sure that it is not changing.

The other reason is that we have all heard the same arguments before--which does
not mean that they are incorrect in this instance. But I remember all the
discussion of communal and tribal solidarity in many parts of Africa as being
much like what you are saying, and thus of African socialism as the answer to
capitalism, "Communism," and Marxist approaches. Again, I would say that the
last 50 to 60 years have shown that that view did not hold up for Africa very
long.

On the other hand, in the US and parts of Canada, many tribes have been fairly
resistant so far.  The question I am raising is, in part, whether that will
continue to be so.

Best, Sam

 
HUNTER GRAY:
 
Thanks for your response, Sam.

Tribalism, of course, has very deep and very resilient roots -- and the loyalties of tribal people to their tribal nations runs very deep and enduringly. I think this is globally true of the "Fourth World" -- the tribal world. In this instance, I'm speaking only of our Native American situation. I understand that this is essentially true in Siberia and "both Mongolias"-- the old "Soviet" Mongolia and that in the bailiwick of China. I think it's pretty true of Africa as well -- though History there, and especially the colonial dimension, has been different than that of the Western Hemisphere. But I have never been able to visit those places and my knowledge is admittedly limited. Our Thomas of course is married to Mimie [Yirengah] Chilinda of Zambia [you met them both when you were here in 2005]. Although Mimie's father, Amos, is a university trained mining engineer, he and his family speak frequently of their tribal roots and connections. The "indigenous" tribally based populations in many parts of the world -- including much of this Hemisphere -- are often much, much larger numbers-wise than they are in the United States or Canada. The reasons are many, including hundreds of years of genocide in America north of Mexico.

One of the most striking dimensions in the Native situation -- usually surprising to non-Indians -- is the fact that, despite literally centuries of occupation by Europeans and Euro-Americans, the primary commitment of a Native person is to his or her tribal nation and its culture. This holds very true whether we're talking of, say, a relatively small reservation in northern Maine or a comparable reserve in southeastern Canada -- where Natives have been "involved" with the Euros since the 1600s -- or the Hopis and Navajos in the Southwest. It holds right here in this Idaho setting where the Shoshone/Bannock reservation physically adjoins Pocatello. It also holds true, as far as that goes, for "urban Natives" -- of whom there are now many, but who very much indeed retain their primary tribal loyalties and commitment in the midst of such places as Minneapolis and Winnipeg or the even tougher urban crucible of Chicago.

As I say, there has often been Native acculturation vis-a-vis United States and Canadian culture -- but there has not been assimilation. This holds true for reservation/reserve situations and the urban setting.

And the socio-cultural divide is deep.

About five years ago, drawing from an interesting little survey our Chicago-based Native American Community Organizational Training Center conducted in that metro area in the 1970s, I posted a short piece which is now on our website: How Each Side Sees The Other Side: Native Views and Anglo Business Views. It's well worth a look.
 

http://www.hunterbear.org/how_each_side_sees_the_other_sid.htm

Coming back to unions, it's much easier for unions to enter and work in a reservation setting if the context involves "outside" corporations -- e.g., Peabody Coal on the Navajo reservation [and the United Mine Workers.] But most "business" on reservations is tribally owned -- again, the very communalistic context. This holds very true for the casinos which employ both Indian and often non-Indian workers. Even here, of course, it could be possible for unions to eventually play a helpful role -- If the unions follow some of the suggestions that I made in my basic piece on all of this: e.g., unions have to take the time to learn at least the basics of the respective tribal culture involved, need to hire tribal people as meaningful staff, need to talk honestly with tribal leaders and tribal people in general, need to move slowly and sensitively, and not prattle about "Federal labor laws and regs."

Individual Native persons have played significant roles in essentially non-Native social justice endeavors in "mainline America" or "mainline Canada" -- and many other Hemispheric settings. And, to some extent, the reverse has been the case. But I have to say, in all candor, that only relatively few non-Indians have supported -- in a culturally sensitive fashion -- Native causes.

As you know, Sam, I have personally worked in these situations for my entire life. I like to think of my "Culture Hero" and ggg/grandfather, John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha], leader of the mostly Mohawk [but with some St Francis Abenaki] band of fur hunters in this general part of the Rockies during the earlier part of the 19th Century:

"His unusual ability to deal with the whites enhanced his stature as an
Iroquois chief. . .he stood out as a gifted leader of his people, understanding and following their ways in a manner that would have been difficult for a white man. . . he not only explored the wilderness. . .he also helped to bridge the cultural gap between Indians and whites during the years of the fur trade, even though much of the time the Iroquois and white trappers did not get along together at all well , and the whites often resented his position on the Indian side when there were differences in outlook. More than that, his leadership of the Iroquois out of Ogden's camp, May 24, 1825, contributed substantially to the Hudson's Bay Company adoption of competitive pricing that limited the expansion of the St. Louis fur trade in the Oregon country." [Merle Wells, Idaho State Historical Society, on John Gray]

http://www.hunterbear.org/GRAY%20LANDS%20AND%20GRAY%20GHOSTS.htm

Anyway, all best, Sam -- on a cold morning.

Solidarity,

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]

And my good friend, David McReynolds, writes:

Bravo for the long race which you seem to be winning. A three hour stretch is long!!!
One has to have at least a glass of water for that kind of stint!
 
David
 

A RELATED POST:  THOUGHTS WHILE AWAITING A FIRE SMOKY SUNRISE  [HUNTER GRAY  AUGUST 23 2012]

 
Despite the array of offerings on our TV dish, things get a little desperate in the very early morning hours, the point I tend to arise. News is stale and films can be mediocre.  Sometimes I find it necessary to simply immerse myself in some of the Sirius music channels for an hour or two.
 
Early this morning, though, I came across TCM with an old favorite of mine, Inherit the Wind -- based, of course, on the Scopes/evolution trial in Tennessee, now almost nine decades ago.  It's a 1960 film and. although there's been a remake, I don't like remakes (and am also skeptical of most sequels.)  At the conclusion of this always timely film, the Clarence Darrow character (played well by Spencer Tracy), standing alone by himself in the courtroom, holds in one of his hands a copy of the Bible and, in the other, Darwin's Origin of the Species -- weighing them.  And then he claps them both together and leaves the courthouse.
 
I've always liked that very much.  Whether Darrow actually did that or not is, of course, speculative.  But, his agnosticism notwithstanding, he easily could have.  He comes through history as a cosmopolitan and essentially respectful guy who recognized common humanity, liked most people, thought broadly and deeply.  As I've said, I see no conflict between science and religion unless one side wants one.
 
Almost all Native people respect the theologies of others.  There are thousands of tribal societies in the Hemisphere and each has its own basic theology.  This great pluralistic array certainly lends strongly toward respect for different religious beliefs  and this can certainly extend to non-tribal religions, e.g., Christian groups -- if missionaries aren't pushy. 
 
Tribal theologies do not seek to convert anyone.  This is also true of the pan-Indian [intertribal] Native American Church which, embodying varying degrees of Christian admixture with traditional beliefs depending on the setting, utilizes -- and very carefully so -- sacramental peyote. And it's true of syncretic religious approaches where, say, Catholicism or Anglicanism are mixed with the old tribal religion.
 
I tend to see all theologies in symbolic terms. I tend to respect them all -- with the exception of the institutional television mega-churches with their skimpy spiritual and social offerings and their substantive commitment to personal money-making.  And, even there, I respect the grassroots people.
 
It isn't at all unusual for a Native person, while holding true to his or her traditional tribal beliefs, to visit the tribal ceremonies of others or even a few different Christian denominations -- and this can involve membership in a Christian church. (But the old tribal beliefs remain.)  In a fascinating book, American Indian Religion and Christianity by Fr. Carl Starkloff, S.J., published in the early '70s, the astute priest, while recognizing certain differences, traces the many parallels between certain traditional tribal theologies on the one hand and Christianity on the other.
 
Back to Inherit the Wind.  William Jennings Bryan, who prosecuted in Scopes, was a great man of the grassroots whose positive social justice contributions were many.  In the twilight of his life, he found himself mainly in religious fundamentalism and hence in the Tennessee trial.  But I always remember my maternal grandmother, whose mind, with one area of exception-- chronology -- was clear and sharp at the end of a very long life.  She used to tell me of the absolute importance of always supporting "Mr. Bryan."
 
Given the sorry economic conditions in Western American agriculture which have been building for the past several decades, now compounded by extraordinary drought and other Global Warming-induced ills, and which are far from the higher priorities of both major parties, we could use The Great Commoner out in these parts.
 
Hunter Bear [Idaho]

 

 

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
and Ohkwari'

 
Check out our Lair of Hunterbear website with a vast
amount of social justice material: www.hunterbear.org
 
See Narrative with much personal background
material:  http://hunterbear.org/narrative.htm
 
And see this on the new, expanded and updated edition of my book,
Jackson Mississippi -- the classic and fully detailed account of
the historic and bloody Jackson Movement of almost 50 years ago: 
http://hunterbear.org/jackson.htm

 

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