VITALITY, BI-CULTURALISM, SURVIVAL AND ENHANCEMENT: NATIVE AMERICANS NOW [AND A NOTE OR TWO ON THE RUSSELL MEANS SPEECH] HUNTER GRAY JUNE 2, 2002 [WITH UPDATES -- INCLUDING 2/12/05 AND 8/24/05] VARIOUS RELATED POSTS
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Russell Means does not want to face the justice system of Navajo Nation --
and has shown himself willing to scuttle a significant dimension of the
tribal sovereignty of Natives generally [in what's called the United States]
in order to personally escape. But he now has no way around it. This just
issued decision by 9th Circuit is solid and quite consistent with the
established foundations of what is, in Federal Indian Law, called "residual"
or "limited" sovereignty. The 1978 Oliphant decision, while exempting
non-Indians from tribal prosecution [though not from state and Federal
actions] clearly provided that tribal criminal justice systems could deal
with what amounted to misdemeanors committed by Indians of any tribe within
the respective jurisdiction of that particular tribal justice system. [The
Feds, under the Major Crimes Act of 1885, and some states under PL280
, handle felony-type situations. The very aberrant USSC Duro decision
of 1990, an attempted incursion into what remained of tribal sovereignty,
sought to exempt non-member Indians who were not of that particular tribe
but resident therein, from criminal justice coverage by the host tribe.
This decision was properly denounced by practically everyone: tribal
nations, Feds, states. Congress immediately moved to handle this and the
result was the "Duro Fix" which simply went back to the immediate pre-Duro
If all of this seems complicated, it is -- but Native tribal sovereignty,
consistently and badly eroded over the many many decades and generations,
has to be defended [and expanded] at every possible juncture.
The basic answer to all of this is to restore full tribal national
sovereignty -- including full civil and criminal jurisdictional dimensions--
to the Indian Nations.
Bottom line for Russell Means at this point: Navajo tribal justice.
"Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr.: "This decision reinforces the
sovereignty of Native nations. That's the way it should be," he said
yesterday. "Using sovereignty, we can relate to one another as nations."
Yours, Hunter Bear
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: February 12 2005
This is a re-post, somewhat timely in its own way.
For some years now, I've posted regularly on Native people and Native
challenges. To be frank, I haven't picked up much indication at all of
pervasive interest thereof on the basically non-Indian left forums. There
are notable exceptions marked by good comment -- Louis Proyect and a few
others on Marxism, Macdonald Stainsby on Rad Green, Duane Campbell on DSA
lists, Sam Friedman and Bill Mandel on several lists, Dave McReynolds on the
Socialist lists, Joyce Ladner on SNCC, very tangible and broad empathy on
Bear Without Borders [too many good names to list here, individually!], Blue
Green Earth and New Green Canada, Reber Boult on Redbadbear, and certainly
some others. A case in point is that it's a little disconcerting to make a
post based, say, on a newspaper piece and then, a day or so later, see
someone on the same list make the same post [ e.g., President Shirley of
Navajo Nation expressing justifiable concern about the recruitment of young
Navajo people into the US Armed Forces at this particular time.] It is
interesting to see the Ward Churchill situation catch quick and burning and
heavy fire on several discussion lists including some where there has been,
heretofore, little or no demonstrated interest in Native issues. [I am much
concerned about Lynne Stewart's travail.] In the meantime, the proposed
budget of the Bush administration is a grinding attack on poor people -- and
certainly on our Native people: education and human services in general
being badly hit -- with the only notable exception being apparently --
apparently -- Indian Health. These attacks on Native programs are
tantamount, in my opinion and that of many others indeed, to treaty
violations -- as are the ongoing attacks on Native sovereignty and
resources. More on these and other Native issues later.
Anyway, here is one repost, which will be followed by another much shorter
VITALITY, BI-CULTURALISM, SURVIVAL
AND ENHANCEMENT [JUNE 2 2002]
In our high Southeastern Idaho country earlier today,
the winds were very
strong. The continual light rain that blew over the 'way up ranges and ridges
was cold, even a bit of snow. Grass was extremely green, the flowers of all
colors glistened and glittered, the sage and cedars generated their extraordinarily pungent sweet aromas. It was far too cold for rattlers -- but a huge mule deer looked at us wonderingly.
If I left our home displeased with the world, I returned feeling a great
deal better about the Cosmos and Humanity and the Great Meaning and all the
rest of the manzanita Jungle-of-Life into which I and billions of others
have been dumped. A good Anglo friend and neighbor of ours, a young mining engineer who works with Bureau of Land Management, sometimes skips his LDS church services and junkets up with his dog, occasionally meeting us -- and draws the same healing qualities from the Earth and the Mountains.
And then, after I'd eaten, coffeed-up and oiled my water-soaked Size 15
Vasque boots, I made a signal mistake and looked at my computer. And there
I saw on the Net, the 1980 speech by Russell Means: "For American To Live,
Europe Must Die." It has been given at the Black Hills that summer and some
extremely traditional students of mine -- Dine' from Navajo Community
College -- who'd gone there for a conference had heard it but had not been
impressed at all. I could only tell them then that I was not a great
admirer of Russell Means -- fellow Indian that he certainly is -- and had not been since the late '70s, a few years after the prime point of his AIM leadership.
Exactly why this speech is traveling around at this present moment, I really
do not know. Many Anglos, let me say clearly, have a rational and healthy view of Native Americans.
But this speech of Means is the sort of thing some other Anglos love -- for
some odd masochistic reason -- and there are still other Anglos that relish
this stuff because it gives them the opportunity to trash Natives. Russell Means has traveled widely in the political waters -- many directions indeed -- and may now be presently associated with the Libertarians.
Here are a couple of salient paragraphs from the Means polemic:
"American Indians are still in touch with these realities--the prophecies,
the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the elders, from nature,
from the powers. And when the catastrophe is over, we American Indian
peoples will still be here to inhabit the hemisphere. I don't care if it's
only a handful living high in the Andes. American Indian people will
survive; harmony will be reestablished. That's revolution.
It is possible for an American Indian to share European values, a European
worldview. We have a term for these people; we call them "apples"--red on
the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups
have similar terms: Blacks have their "oreos"; Hispanos have "Coconuts" and
so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm:
people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I'm not sure
what term should be applied to them other than "human beings."
[ -- Russell Means ]
The matter of Indians who are, say, Establishment Pets quite aside, the
fallacies in this parochial attack on bi-culturalism -- given the
complexities of the World of Today -- are far too obvious to enumerate. This
is, to state it politely, the sort of thing that builds up in a corral used
continually for cattle.
I do agree with him on the one point: We are not talking about biology.
Almost all Native people in the Western Hemisphere today are of some mixed
ancestry -- Russell Means and virtually all of the rest of us. That's as
far as he and I can go together.
About thirty years ago, an interesting -- and essentially accurate --
concept was coined by several anthropologists [a couple of them Native] for
we Indians: "culturally 150% people." It's an accurate characterization of
the fact that we're necessarily bi-cultural: our base is in our tribal
cultures -- but with much mixed in from the non-Indian setting.
It's not an easy thing to do at all. My father, a full-blooded Indian, who
never had a day of high school, did have, as time went on, three ascending university degrees -- and was an excellent artist and a wonderful professor. Among his students were a great many young Native people from the Southwestern tribes [and from others as well ]. And many of these went on to play major trail-blazing roles in education and related approaches within their respective tribal nations.
My father occasionally remarked that there was frequently one question that
his Indian students asked -- and it was always the toughest single
question of all.
"How can I," the student would ask, "learn and take on Anglo ways -- and
still be a Navajo [or any one of a number of other specific tribal nations]?
How can I work that out?"
And my father would say: "They can never really blend and merge. Not that
way. They are far too different. But we still have to mix them
together -- and use each. The challenge is to remain true to our Native tribes and Native cultures. We can only do the best we can."
There are several kinds of Anglo reactions to Indians that we Indians would
rather not encounter. One is the Anglo who swims in a dreamy
Romanticize-Our-Red-Brother fantasy -- and that, to us, is simply
unsettling in its significant distance from reality.
Another is the Anglo who either can't or won't recognize the extraordinary
stability and national distinctiveness of our tribal nations and the
continuing vitality of our aboriginal cultures. This species of Anglo wants to see only -- for everyone -- European or Euro-American identity of some sort and/or thinks that the only Real Indians were mostly of long ago. And if there are any Real Natives left, they have to be in Buckskin, Beads and Feathers. And, since most of us aren't in those [for most of the time at least], we really
don't have a Native identity. [Nothing against traditional tribal garb --
quite the contrary! -- but I am fond of my Levis.]
A major role model of mine as a kid -- beyond the critically important one
of my father -- was the internationally acclaimed Iroquois ethnologist and
Native activist, Arthur Caswell Parker [1881-1955], Seneca, and great
nephew of Brigadier General Ely Parker [Donehogawa], first Indian/Indian
Commissioner, long-time colleague of Lewis Henry Morgan. Arthur Parker's contributions to ethnology were massive over his entire life, he served as the chief archaeologist for the State of New York, was a prolific and excellent
writer, a person of many broad interests [including parapsychology.] Arthur
Parker was also an extremely effective activist with the traditional Iroquois bent toward organizing and organization: a key founder and leader [and its editor] of the first contemporary pan-Indian Native rights organization: Society of American Indians [1911 into the mid-20s], other activist organizations, and was one of the several founders of the National Congress of American Indians [1944 to the present.]
Arthur Parker tended to wear very conservative suits -- black suits, in
fact. And ties. Asked once by a well-meaning Anglo about the "feathers and buckskin," he was not wearing, the august [and very traditional] Iroquois, who certainly respected feathers and buckskin, responded icily. "I don't have to play Indian to be Indian."
For myself, I certainly have a variety of strains in my makeup. I've had no
problem blending Native tribalism and radical Rocky Mountain industrial
unionism with socialist concepts -- to arrive at my own visionary approach
to Humanity's problems. I've worked congenially and all my life with people
from many different tribal backgrounds -- and all sorts of ethnicities. I've
labored at many different jobs -- and I read all kinds of books. I get
along pretty well with most folks.
And, although I never forgive treachery, I have had no problems at all in
arriving, say, at a principled reconciliation with old mortal foes of mine:
e.g., former -- now greatly changed for the better -- White Deep South
racists who would have once cheerfully jailed me for life or given me a
"ticket into the Eternal" [and who certainly tried valiantly and almost
successfully to accomplish those goals.]
But, scratch down: My soul is certainly Wabanaki and Iroquois -- and also
something shaped much by the Navajo among who I grew up and with whom our family relations are extremely close, and the Lagunas, too, with whom our
family has always had close ties. Add it all up, and I'm a guy who is at
Many years ago, I [then a prof at University of Iowa's Graduate Program in
Urban and Regional Planning] was part of an all-Indian panel discussion at
Rock Island, Illinois -- with the focus being contemporary challenges. It
was a Sunday afternoon and about three hundred people came -- almost all of
them Anglo. Our chair was Cecil Kickapoo, a pleasant and very capable
Indian leader. Others in our group were equally well suited for the
affair -- save one: a strange man of Northern Rockies background who, via a
completely tangled and mangling adoption-by-whites, had emerged as a circus
and carnival Indian in midwestern settings. He used the name, Chief Lone
Eagle. He had pushed to join the panel and the friendly Cecil obliged --
but on the firm condition that Lone Eagle only talk about the problems
encountered by Natives in an urban setting.
We panelists began to speak. In my case, I discussed at length the Navajo
struggle against the uranium companies, against radioactivity, and against
death. As I talked, I became conscious of a man sitting in the far back
row: an Indian, dressed very formally in a dark suit. He was paying the
most acute attention to my words. I looked again -- and then I placed him.
Across the many rows of Anglo heads, we gave each other a nod.
It was Chief Lone Eagle's turn. He did not adhere to his agreement with
Cecil -- but, instead, launched into his favorite fantasy which we all
dreaded: that he was "Chief of the Navajo." This, of course, was utterly
ridiculous. The far-flung Navajo have never had "a chief" -- but,
traditionally and to the very moment, have an extensive network of local
headmen and other local leaders. Since the 1920s and 1930s onward, the
fast growing and very large Navajo Nation [250,000 people today] has also
had an increasingly complex tribal council system -- legislative, executive,
judicial. Recently, the title of "Chairman" became "President."
With we other panelists super-cold and stony-faced, Lone Eagle continued, on
and on -- frequently uttering the words "ugh" and "me-um" and other
stereotypical gibberish. And many of the Anglos obviously loved this.
The dark-suited man in the back and I exchanged looks at a number of points.
Somehow, I was sure I could detect his sympathy for me.
Cecil Kickapoo, at an opportune point, cut off Lone Eagle's soliloquy.
Questions and answers from the audience now came into play -- with the local
"Chief" getting at least half of them.
And, when the whole event had mercifully ended, Lone Eagle drew most of the
Anglos who came up front to visit. The man in the back -- he of the very
formal suit -- made his way politely through the throng to me.
I knew. I greeted him in Navajo. He responded by also greeting -- and then
by introducing himself by name and by clan. And while the awed Anglos
swirled around Chief Lone Eagle, this Navajo man and I visited at great
length -- about many things but not about the nearby and obviously tragic
figure responding to questions with "ugh" and "me-um."
My new friend was an electronics engineer with two university degrees -- in
Rock Island for a scientific conference. He had read about our meeting in
the local paper and decided to sit in. I was very glad he had -- and he was
equally glad to see me. As always, we knew some of the same people in
We talked about the Southwest -- Flagstaff, Gallup, Farmington -- and
Navajoland. And the hideously mounting, lethal uranium tragedies: The bones
under the turquoise sky.
"I'm going home very soon," he said. "We have the regular clan ceremonies
and some other family things. Going to be very good to get back. "
And I certainly agreed. It's always good to get back.
We Natives try to, as my father put it, "do the best that we can." And,
while I really don't know about Russell Means, I think almost all of us do
pretty damn well under the circumstances.
Fraternally - Hunterbear
Hunter Gray [ Hunterbear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
AND A RELATED NOTE FROM MARXISM DISCUSSION [ HUNTER GRAY JUNE 3 2002]
Just a cordial note to Jim Drysdale. I don't see
Native tribalism [or most
tribalism generally] as nationalism -- but instead as a deeply rooted
reservoir [One Big Family, Nation] from which one draws significant strength
and insight and wisdom: for either living one's life in total within that
tribal society -- or, based therein, out and laboring in the fields and
forests beyond! And a great many American Indians have always been damn
militant union members! [Tribalism is never utopian -- there can be
significant internal problems in any tribe anywhere, and are -- but it is
cohesive and fundamentally strong and offers its people much indeed that's
positive. And, if the non-tribal peoples are willing, it offers them a great
deal as well.]
I don't see Native tribalism -- with its essential ethos of democratic
communalism and tribal [mutual] responsibility -- as being, say, inherently
materialistic in the negative sense and predatory and imperialistic. So I
don't see at all the kind of nationalism about which you are concerned. On
the other hand, I would hope that any socialist democracy respects, supports
and otherwise enhances cultural pluralism -- and certainly that of
The kind of socialism that I envision -- and I'm not at all sure that we are
that apart on this -- is one that, among other fine things, offers the
maximum number of choices. I've always felt that Native tribal nations
[with eyes always open, of course] will certainly fare much, much better
indeed within and around the context of socialist democracy than we ever
could under capitalism.
Hunter Gray [ Hunterbear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
FOLLOWUP ON MEANS CASE AT NAVAJO [JUNE 3, 2002]
Note by Hunterbear:
A few years ago, Russell Means assaulted his elderly ,
then father-in-law [a
Navajo] at Chinle -- and beat up a juvenile as well. Although he professes to support Native tribal sovereignty, he is currently using every United States Federal court device to try to attack and undermine Navajo tribal law and the Navajo judicial system in order to avoid tribal jail for the brutal assault.
Posted initially by Hunterbear at Marxism
Jim Craven and I certainly agree on the basic point and that is that a
Native tribal nation is inherently and fully sovereign. Unfortunately, the
Feds see only "limited" or "residual" sovereignty -- and the battle from the
Native perspective, of course, is always to expand functional sovereignty.
It's a long, hard-fought fight -- waged on many sectors -- and it's going to
go on for one hell of a long time. I am convinced that we will win all the
way in the long run.
In the Russell Means case at Chinle [Chin-lee], it's Means himself who has
gone into the United States Federal court system in an effort to undermine
Navajo justice: Navajo law, the Navajo court system. And, in that sense,
he's shooting directly at Navajo sovereignty and that of all other tribal
nations in what's called the United States. I doubt very much that he can
pull that off.
The Major Crimes Act of 1885 gave felony jurisdiction on reservations to the
Federal government. The USSC Oliphant decision in 1978 took away the right
of a tribal nation to try non-Indians in tribal courts. The USSC Duro
decision in 1990 then went a major step further, taking the position that a
tribal nation cannot try Indians of another tribe -- but a fight-back by
virtually every tribe in the United States [and other concerned forces as
well] was able to get Congress to quickly block/nullify Duro. Russell Means
wants to revive the essence of the infamous Duro decision to keep out of a
Navajo jail -- and, in making this nefarious effort, is threatening a big
piece of the sovereignty of every tribal nation.
But, again, I definitely do not expect him to win.
I'm sure Jim Craven and I -- and a vastly growing number of others -- see
the only logical solution to this morass of contradictions to lie in every
tribal nation having full civil and criminal jurisdiction on its respective
[AIM factionalism has nothing to do with this particular Russell Means legal
situation -- and essentially is a Great Schism in another setting. AIM has
relatively little representation in the Navajo country.]
The Navajo court system has, in my opinion, with some ups-and-downs,
functioned fairly and effectively. Even during the very difficult Peter
MacDonald [tribal chair] administration -- now happily long gone -- it did
surprisingly well. [For several years during that period, I handled most of
the criminal justice curriculum at Navajo Community College -- now Dine'
College -- and had occasion to work with a number of tribal judges. I
also, BTW, set up the student court system at the college! And I also got a
few of my students out of jail from time to time at nearby Chinle and in a
few other places.]
One of the especially innovative dimensions in the Navajo judiciary has
been to work very closely with traditional religious leaders with respect to
conciliation and mediation in a wide variety of interpersonal and
interfamily disputes -- some very complex.
The Navajo language, virtually universal with the Dine' on and around the
reservation setting when I was growing up, continues to be very widely used.
But important and timely steps, within the past generation, have been taken
within the Nation and, to some extent in the off-reservation border town
areas, to ensure its longevity -- forever.
I have heard mixed expectancies about Windtalkers [the forthcoming Navajo
Code Talker film] -- but most people from whom I've heard on the matter of
the film -- Dine' and otherwise -- are enthusiastic and optimistic. My very
close friend and old mentor, Carl Gorman, Code Talker and great artist, died
at 90 at Gallup in January, 1998. Many years ago, when it first came out, he
gave me a copy of Doris Paul's The Navajo Code Talkers [Philadelphia,
Dorrance & Co., 1973]. Carl wrote a very kind inscription to me on the
page that carries his in-combat photograph from Saipan, South Pacific, June
1944. Although other books on the Code Talkers have emerged since then,
this is, of course, my favorite -- and contains some solid sections on the
I very much miss Carl Gorman [Kin-yah-onny beyeh - "Son of Towering House
People"] who, when I arrived at Navajo Community College to teach in 1978,
right after my father's death, immediately took me under his elder's wing.
As Ever -
Hunter Gray [ Hunterbear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Lara decision: active prosecution of Russell
Means at Navajo could be imminent
Note by Hunter Bear: Initially posted 4/24/2004
I've been reasonably knowledgeable on the matter of Federal Indian Law for
my adult life -- and spent 13 years teaching it [as a full prof] at the
university level. [It's an extremely complex field and I do my best to keep
up with it to this moment.]
I post with some regularity on cases of special significance and, as such,
have posted on the North Dakota-based United States v Lara. On Monday,
April 19, the USSC delivered its ruling -- pretty favorable to the inherent
sovereignty of tribal justice systems. The National Indian Law
Library/Native American Rights Fund immediately sent out all decisional
materials which I was glad to get but which, given the nature of Lara, did
take awhile to read.
Although it was not at specific, formal issue here, the decision
unfortunately stops well short of reversing the 1978 Oliphant decision which
prohibits tribes from arresting and prosecuting non-Indians.
Lara could now [among other things] mean the active Navajo prosecution of
Russell Means - of whom I am no fan. Our family, I should add, has always
consistently supported the Navajo Nation at every point.
Yours, Hunter Bear