Thursday, June 14, 2007


Friday, November 24, 2000 By DEAN BAKER, Columbian staff writer

The rhetoric is still red-hot, even though two months have passed since Jim Craven fired the first verbal shots in an American Indian war of words in Clark County.

The skirmish caused Craven, a Blackfoot tribal judge, to leave a countywide committee that’s planning a 200th anniversary for the Lewis and Clark expedition visit here. Now it threatens to grow into an American Indian protest in Vancouver.

“The only thing I mind is lies and cover-ups,” said Craven, 54, a Clark College economics professor and an expert and prolific writer on genocide of indigenous peoples. He either quit the committee or was fired by the mayor depending on whom you believe.

“There will be a protest,” said Craven, saying he expects 200 Indians to show up in Vancouver to protest mistreatment of the Blackfoot and other tribal people over the past 200 years. “I promise you that.” He didn’t say when they would come.

Craven left the 20-member Vancouver-Clark County Lewis and Clark Commemoration Committee after using explosive words such as “genocide” in a speech to the committee Sept. 14. He graphically described for the committee the rape and murder of American Indians that followed closely on the heels of Lewis and Clark’s odyssey on the Missouri and Columbia rivers in 1803-1806.

After he spoke, Craven said Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard fired him from the committee, but Pollard said that isn’t so. Pollard said he asked Craven in a private meeting to tone down his language or leave the group. It was Craven’s decision, the mayor said.

Fired or not, Craven left. He said the coming of the 31 Lewis and Clark explorers marked the beginning of a campaign against his people. That’s not something the Blackfoot celebrate or describe in a polite way, he said. But it wasn’t what Craven said that was offensive, Pollard said. It was the way he said it.

“He really had two options,” said Pollard, 61. “He had to modify his behavior or he had to leave the committee.”

Craven said this week he’s still upset, but not simply from being fired. “If they want to throw me off the committee, that’s OK,” he said. “I just don’t like dishonesty. No one has told me specifically what I said that was offensive. They didn’t have the guts. I heard they didn’t like my tone. If they don’t like my tone, too bad. I don’t like their tone either, or their pomposity and arrogance. This is like a cross between Joseph McCarthy and Franz Kafka.”

He said he’s being accused of offenses that are unclear. Craven said he was under a directive from Blackfoot Confederacy Chief Sikapii to tell the Blackfoot story unequivocally and directly, and he did so. Sikapii (also known as White Horse, or George YellowHorn), 62, is a hereditary Blackfoot chief who lives in Fort Macleod, Alberta. He told The Columbian this week that he dispatched Craven to tell the story of the exploitation of his tribe, which followed the coming of Lewis and Clark.

“Under the Bureau of Indian affairs, the U.S. and Canada are racist governments, white people saying we are their children, saying they are going to look after us while they steal our land and throw us scraps,” he said. “The Blackfoot pushed Lewis and Clark off their land in present-day Montana”, Sikapii said.

Pollard said he respected the grievances of the Blackfoot Confederacy but couldn’t abide Craven’s manner of speaking. He said it was he who asked Craven to join the committee in hope that he would bring a strong native voice.

“But he didn’t help,” the mayor said. “These people on the committee were volunteers and they were uncomfortable.”

The other American Indian on the committee, however, said he wasn’t offended and understood both points of view. Honorary Chinook Chief Cliff Snider said he held a milder view himself and asked Craven to speak softer.”I knew that he was rubbing some people wrong,” said Snider, 74, who lives in Milwaukie, Ore. “He was coming on strong, and I told him afterwards, ‘I think some people are taking offense to what you are saying.’ I could see that in the crowd, and I told him, ‘I know how you feel, and I know the outrage your tribe feels. I’m just asking you in these meetings to tone it down a little bit.'”

Snider said he represents 52 tribes along the Lewis and Clark trail, and every one has its own way of viewing Lewis and Clark. Some will join in the commemoration while others may boycott, he said. “I know the Blackfoot still feel their tribe lost in its encounter with Lewis and Clark,” he said.

Craven said he respected Snider’s point of view, but he had to speak plainly, as a Blackfoot. “We are contemptuous of phony politeness (‘smiling with the front teeth while grinding with the back teeth’),” wrote Craven in an e-mail to editors of The Columbian. “[We don’t believe in] schmoozing and networking, and we are mandated to tell the truth as we know it or believe it, and talk straight; this is often interpreted by those adept at schmoozing and phony politeness as being ‘impolite’ and ‘uncivil.’ Indeed history records hundreds of years of whites and sell-out Indians doing some very ‘impolite’ and very ‘uncivil’ acts of genocide, while hiding behind masks and postures of ‘civility’ and ‘politeness.'”

One committee member, Gerard Smith, a Clark College English professor, said he heard Craven’s presentation at an earlier meeting in August and wasn’t offended. He said Craven “read from several historic documents which supported his assertion that 18th century U.S.policy included genocide for the American Indian.” “I explained (to the mayor) his action was similar to asking a Jew not to speak about the inhumanity of the Nazis,” Smith said in an e-mail to the Columbian. “Here’s the crux of the matter,” he added. “The crimes committed in the name of manifest destiny are no different than the crimes committed in the name of Aryan superiority. Is such language intense? Is such language harassment? The truth can be painful, but it must be spoken.”

But it also stripped the committee of the Blackfoot Confederacy’s point of view.


Friday, December 02, 2005
SKULL AND BONES AND THE SKULL OF GERONIMO Native Americans groups fight to recover lost skull of Geronimo.

BY NOAM RUDNICK The Yale Herald October 24, 2003

An axe pried open the iron door of the tomb, and Pat[riarch] Bush entered and started to dig…Pat[riarch] James dug deep and pried out the trophy itself…I showered and hit the hay…a happy man…”

So recounts a document thought to be an internal record from the Skull and Bones Society. “Pat[riarch] Bush” is Prescott Bush, father of an American political dynasty. His “trophy” is the skull of Geronimo, the Native American spiritual and military leader laid to rest in 1909 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Bush and fellow Bonesmen were stationed nine years later.

Alexandra Robbins, ES ’98, has researched Bush’s secret society extensively. Her recent book, Secrets of the Tomb, has heightened interest in the activities of Skull and Bones. She attests to the legitimacy of the story, “The text looks to be an authentic Bones document describing Prescott Bush and other Bonesmen robbing Geronimo’s grave and cleaning the skull with carbolic acid.” In interviews with Robbins, Bonesmen have admitted that there is a skull in the tomb that they call Geronimo.

Current Members of Skull and Bones chose not to comment on the legitimacy of the allegations.

Apache tribal leader Ned Anderson was informed of the alleged theft in 1986. As an ancestor of Geronimo, Anderson petitioned the Federal Bureau of Investigations to force the return of the skull. Noting that Apaches have a “great fear and respect for death,” Anderson said that he hoped to honor Geronimo’s express wish to be laid to rest in “Arizona acorn country.”

Unwilling to remove himself from the case entirely and yield all his evidence to the FBI, Anderson withdrew his request for action. Instead, he arranged to meet with George H. W. Bush’s, DC ’48,(Skull and Bones) brother Jonathan in New York City. Anderson recounts that Bush sounded “very encouraging” during their initial meeting. Eleven days later, Bush presented the display case. Anderson refused to accept the skull because it appeared to belong to a small child. Bush acknowledged this fact but claimed that it was the only relevant artifact in the society’s possession.

He urged Anderson to accept the display and sign a document verifying that the society was not in possession of Geronimo’s skull. Anderson refused.

Since the meeting in Manhattan, no further efforts to recover the skull have been made. Anderson puts great faith in the Bonesmen. “I believe that those who are involved need to come clean on this,” he said. “I think they’ll come around and do what is appropriate.”

GETTY IMAGES The skull of Geronimo, an Apache chief, is rumored to be in the possession of Skull and Bones.Jim Adams, managing editor of Indian Country Today, provides an explanation for the notable absence of recovery efforts. “Apache tribal governments seem reluctant to raise the issue because it does violate taboos about speaking about the dead. This doesn’t mean they’re not concerned; rather they have their own laws of secrecy.”

Native Americans are far from unconcerned. Adams’ publication, the leading Native American news source, has run several articles on the secret society’s alleged possession of the skull. On Oct. 6, 60 Minutes televised a segment on Skull and Bones that briefly addressed the society’s posession of Geronimo’s skull.

James Craven, an economics professor at Clark College, suggests that such media exposure is leading to action. “In the near future, there will finally be large groups of Natives showing up in front of ‘the tomb’ to protest this ugly racism and grave robbing by the Bones, and they will not be leaving until that skull and any other Native artifacts have been returned.”

Adams expressed similar sentiments. “My sense is that American Indians in general are appalled outraged by the accusation, but not surprised,” he said. “Remains of ancestors have been exploited and desecrated for centuries in the name of anthropology or simply for idle curiosity. But even by these standards, it’s bizarre and embarrassing that a supposedly elite group would use the remains of any human being for its own entertainment.”

Supposing the grave-robbing allegations are true, why would the Skull and Bones be interested in the head of Geronimo? Robbins suggests that the answer lies in their name. “Bones as a society is preoccupied with death; skulls, skeletons, and artwork depicting death are prevalent in the tomb. When Bonesmen steal things they use the euphemism that they are taking ‘gifts to the goddess’ whom they honor within the tomb.” The focus on death is not arbitrary. The society emphasizes mortality in order to illustrate the necessity of success.

Robbins, herself a member of Scroll and Key, attests to the centrality of ritualized stealing in many of the societies at Yale. Each class attempts to outdo its predecessor in the acquisition of valuables. In addition to Geronimo’s skull, the Bonesmen’s tomb is rumored to contain the skull of Pancho Villa and Adolf Hitler’s silverware.

Robbins expresses outrage at Skull and Bones’ behavior. “I think it’s ridiculous that Bonesmen’s sense of entitlement is broad enough to include items that allegedly don’t belong to them. The items they supposedly steal as a prank or competition may be valuable and meaningful to the actual owners. It’s appalling that proper authorities have not forced their way into the tomb to retrieve the items that don’t belong in there.”

The legality of Skull and Bones’ behavior is dubious. According to Adams, members of Skull and Bones have violated laws preventing the desecration of graves and should be held responsible as felons. “If it is true that Skull and Bones and its corporate parent RTA Inc., continue to hold these skulls, my belief would be that they are participating in a continuing conspiracy to be in possession of stolen property.” Many are quick to cite the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act as grounds for prosecuting Skull and Bones. Ironically, it was George H. W. Bush, DC ’48, a member of Skull and Bones, who signed this bill into law in 1990. However, NAGPRA only applies to organizations that receive federal funding. The University, in fact, was forced to return certain artifacts previously held by its Peabody Museum in accordance with the bill. However, secret societies are not directly affiliated with the University, exempting them from NAGPRA jurisdiction.

While the society’s exemption from NAGPRA relies on financial independence from Yale, the two organizations are in fact closely intertwined. As Robbins emphasizes, the administration hasn’t taken steps against the societies because administrators have historically been members. To this day, prominent figures on the Yale faculty and administration are members of Yale secret societies. There has always been a kinship between society men at the faculty, administration, and undergraduate levels. This close connection may explain Yale’s failure to investigate the activity of certain students.

In addition to being high-ranking members of the Yale administration, members of Skull and Bones work in important governmental positions. The upcoming presidential election could potentially pit Bonesman against Bonesman.

George Bush, DC ’68, and John Kerry, JE ’66, both members of the society, could be hurt by their involvement in an organization that allegedly takes part illegal behavior. “I think these politicians are caught in a real conflict between their loyalty to Bones and their oaths as public servants if they don’t take positive steps to return any human remains. The reports about Geronimo certainly poison relations between the Presidency and the tribes,” Adams said.

Whatever the repercussions, many see the society’s behavior as wholly reprehensible, particularly among those who would run for high public office. “[The theft] is a metaphor for something much bigger and even uglier. It is the ugly racism and hubris of the in-bred power elites who seek to infiltrate positions of power,” Craven said.


Discovery lends weight to ultra-secret Skull and Bones society lore -Updated: 9:52 a.m. ET May 9, 2006 HARTFORD, Conn. – A Yale University historian has uncovered a 1918 letter that seems to lend validity to the lore that Yale University’s ultra-secret Skull and Bones society swiped the skull of American Indian leader Geronimo. The letter, written by one member of Skull and Bones to another, purports that the skull and some of the Indian leader’s remains were spirited from his burial plot in Fort Sill, Okla., to a stone tomb in New Haven that serves as the club’s headquarters.

According to Skull and Bones legend, members, including President Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, dug up Geronimo’s grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed at the fort during World War I. Geronimo died in 1909.

The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club … is now safe inside the (Tomb) together with his well worn femurs, bit & saddle horn, according to the letter, written by Winter Mead.

But Mead was not at Fort Sill and researcher Marc Wortman, who found the letter last fall, said Monday he is skeptical the bones are actually those of the famed Indian fighter.

What I think we could probably say is they removed some skull and bones and other materials from a grave at Fort Sill, he said. Historically, it may be impossible to prove it’s Geronimo’s. They believe it’s from Geronimo.

Harlyn Geronimo, the great grandson of Geronimo, said he has been looking for a lawyer to sue the U.S. Army, which runs Fort Sill. Discovery of the letter could help, he said.

It’s keeping it alive and now it makes me really want to confront the issue with my attorneys, said Geronimo, of Mescalero, N.M. If we get the remains back … and find that, for instance, that bones are missing, you know who to blame.

A portion of the letter and an accompanying story were posted Monday on the Yale Alumni Magazine’s Web site. -Only 15 Yale seniors are asked to join Skull and Bones each year. Alumni include Sen. John Kerry, President William Howard Taft, numerous members of Congress, media leaders, Wall Street financiers, the scions of wealthy families and agents in the CIA. -Members swear an oath of secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which are said to include an initiation rite in which would-be members kiss a skull.


Whose Skull and Bones? May/June 2006 by Kathrin Day Lassila ’81 and Mark Alden Branch ’86

Did Skull and Bones rob the grave of Geronimo during World War I?

For decades, it has been the most controversial and sordid of all the mysteries surrounding Yale’s best-known secret society. The story was widely rumored but, despite the efforts of reporters and historians and the public complaints of Apache leaders in the 1980s, never verified.

An internal history of Skull and Bones, written in the 1930s and leaked to the Apache 50 years later, mentioned the theft. But Bones spokesmen have always dismissed the story as a hoax.

“The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club, is now safe inside the T –.” -A former senior editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine has now discovered the only known contemporary evidence: a reference in private correspondence from one senior Bonesman to another. The letter was written on June 7, 1918, by Winter Mead ’19 to F. Trubee Davison ’18. It announces that the remains dug up at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, by a group that included Charles C. Haffner Jr. ’19 (a new member, or “Knight”), have been deposited in the society’s headquarters (the “Tomb”): “The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club & the K — t [Knight] Haffner, is now safe inside the T — [Tomb] together with his well worn femurs[,] bit & saddle horn.”

Mead was not at Fort Sill, so his letter is not proof. And if the Bonesmen did rob a grave, there’s reason to think it may have been the wrong one. But the letter shows that the story was no after-the-fact rumor. Senior Bonesmen at the time believed it. “It adds to the seriousness of the belief [that the theft took place], certainly,” says Judith Schiff, the chief research archivist at Sterling Memorial Library, who has written extensively on Yale history. “It has a very strong likelihood of being true, since it was written so close to the time.” Members of a secret society, she points out, were required to be honest with each other about its affairs.

Moreover, the yearbook entries for Haffner, Mead, and Davison confirm that they were all Bonesmen. (The membership of the societies was routinely published in newspapers and yearbooks until the 1970s.) Haffner’s entry confirms that he was at the artillery school at Fort Sill some time between August 1917 and July 1918.

Marc Wortman, a writer and former senior editor of this magazine, discovered the letter in the Sterling Memorial Library archives while researching Davison’s war years for a book — The Millionaires’ Unit, released this month by PublicAffairs press — about Yale’s World War I aviators. The letter is preserved in a folder of 1918 correspondence in one of the 16 boxes of the F. Trubee Davison Papers. Mead’s was one of many letters Davison received that year about Bones matters. With the war on, the Bonesmen were scattered around the United States and Europe, and society business like choosing new members had to be conducted by mail. “Lists of people to be tapped would come to Trubee and he would comment on them,” says Wortman. Mead’s letter also relays the news that Parker B. Allen ’19 had been initiated as a member in Saumur, France, and Allen’s yearbook entry confirms his membership in Bones and his posting to artillery school in Saumur.

The Geronimo rumor first came to wide public attention in 1986. At the time, Ned Anderson, then chair of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, was campaigning to have Geronimo’s remains moved from Fort Sill — where he died a prisoner of war in 1909 — to Apache land in Arizona. Anderson received an anonymous letter from someone who claimed to be a member of Skull and Bones, alleging that the society had Geronimo’s skull. The writer included a photograph of a skull in a display case and a copy of what is apparently a centennial history of Skull and Bones, written by the literary critic F. O. Matthiessen ’23, a Skull and Bones member.

In Matthiessen’s account, which quotes a Skull and Bones log book from 1919, the skull had been unearthed by six Bonesmen — identified by their Bones nicknames, including “Hellbender,” who apparently was Haffner. Matthiessen mentions the real names of three of the robbers, all of whom were at Fort Sill in early 1918: Ellery James ’17, Henry Neil Mallon ’17, and Prescott Bush ’17, the father and grandfather of the U.S. presidents.

“My assumption is that they did dig up somebody at Fort Sill. It could have been an Indian, but it probably wasn’t Geronimo.”

Anderson arranged a meeting with Bones alumni Jonathan Bush ’53, a son of Prescott Bush; and Endicott Peabody Davison ’45, a son of Trubee Davison. At the meeting, Anderson has told several journalists, the Bones representatives produced a display case like the one in the photo. But they told Anderson that the skull inside it was that of a ten-year-old boy. They offered the skull to Anderson, but he declined, as he believed it was not the same one in the photo.

Some researchers have concluded that the Bonesmen could not have even found Geronimo’s grave in 1918. David H. Miller, a history professor at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, cites historical accounts that the grave was unmarked and overgrown until a Fort Sill librarian persuaded local Apaches to identify the site for him in the 1920s. “My assumption is that they did dig up somebody at Fort Sill,” says Miller. “It could have been an Indian, but it probably wasn’t Geronimo.”

Mead’s letter, written from one Bonesman to another just after the incident would have occurred, suggests that society members had robbed a grave and had a skull they believed was Geronimo’s. It does not speak to whether Skull and Bones may still have such a skull today. Many have speculated that they do, but there is no direct evidence. Alexandra Robbins ’98, who wrote the 2002 Bones expose Secrets of the Tomb, says she persuaded a number of Bones alumni to talk to her for her book. “Many talked about a skull in a glass case by the front door that they call Geronimo,” Robbins told the alumni magazine. (Representatives of Skull and Bones did not return calls from the magazine by press time.)

Skull and Bones and other Yale societies have a reputation for stealing, often from each other or from campus buildings. Society members reportedly call the practice “crooking” and strive to outdo each other’s “crooks.” And the club is also thought to use human remains in its rituals. In 2001, journalist Ron Rosenbaum ’68 reported capturing on videotape what appeared to be an initiation ceremony in the society’s courtyard, in which Bonesmen carried skulls and “femur-sized bones.”

It may have been easier for the Bonesmen to plunder an Apache’s grave if they shared the racial attitudes typical of their era and social class.

It may have been easier for the Bonesmen to plunder an Apache’s grave if they shared the racial attitudes typical of their era and social class. At the time, says Gaddis Smith, Larned Professor of History emeritus, who is writing a history of Yale since 1900, “there was a racial consciousness and a sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority above all others.” He notes that James Rowland Angell, who became president of Yale in 1921, “would say, very explicitly, that we must preserve Yale for the ‘old stock.'” Smith adds, “The slogan of the first major fund-raising campaign for Yale, in 1926, was ‘Keep Yale Yale.’ The alumni knew exactly what it meant.”

At the same time, many of those complicit in what was apparently the desecration of a grave cherished ideals of service and fellowship, and had lived up to them by enlisting for the war voluntarily. A striking example is chronicled in Marc Wortman’s book, The Millionaires’ Unit, which began as an article for this magazine about a group of Yale undergraduates who took up the new sport of aviation in order to fight for the Allies (“Flight to Glory,” November/December 2003). Trubee Davison was the co-founder and moving spirit of this project. Before the United States had even entered the war, he recruited two dozen elite and wealthy young Yalies of his set — five of them Bonesmen — to devote themselves to flying. Out of these efforts grew the first squadron in what is today the Naval Air Reserve.

The letter might not have been discovered if Davison hadn’t founded the aviation group. It might not even have been written if he hadn’t endured great personal suffering for the war effort. Davison never made it overseas; he crashed during a training flight and was disabled for the rest of his life.

It was while he was recuperating at home that his fellow Bonesmen wrote to him about candidates for membership, initiations abroad, and other society business. The Geronimo letter, with its matter-of-fact reports of troop units and its boast about a grave robbery, speaks to the complex and contradictory mores of the privileged class in early twentieth-century America.

2002 The Yale Herald The Herald is an undergraduate publication at Yale University. Book Excerpt: The Legend of Skull and Bones, An Expos of President George W. Bush’s Secret Society:

“Skull and Bones has curled its tentacles into every reach of American society. This tiny club has set up networks that have thrust three members to the most powerful political position in the world. And its power is only increasing – the 2004 Presidential election might showcase the first time each ticket has been led by a Bonesman. The secret society now, as one historian admonishes, is “‘an international mafia’ . . . unregulated and all but unknown.” In its quest to create a New World Order that restricts individual freedoms and places ultimate power solely in the hands of a small cult of wealthy, prominent families, Skull and Bones has already succeeded in infiltrating nearly every major research, policy, financial, media, and government institution in the country. Skull and Bones, in fact, has been running the United States for years.

They are taught that once they get out into the world, they are expected to reach positions of prominence so that they can further elevate the society.s status and help promote the standing of their fellow Bonesmen.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE LICENSE PLATE… By Lisa Doerksen Lethbridge Herald Friday, January 23, 2004

A Piikani reserve woman who believes she is not bound by Canadian law is fighting for the right to drive in the province without registering her vehicle.

Bella Yellowhorn has launched a constitutional challenge of the Indian Act and Treaty 7 in an effort to be recognized as part of a sovereign nation.

“I am a member of the sovereign Blackfoot Nation”, said Yellowhorn. “I do not have to abide by the Canadian status laws and all they charge us for.”

Yellowhorn claims she is one of a growing number of natives who have rejected their status Indian cards from the government and are using their own Blackfoot Nation cards.

Yellowhorn and her representation–James Craven, a professor at Clark’s[sic] College in Washington–will argue their position this morning in Lethbridge provincial court. Prosecutor Kurt Sandstrom, a specialist in constitutional and aboriginal law, is handling the case for the Crown.

The issue stems back to May 1, 2001 when Yellowhorn was pulled over in Lethbridge for not having proper registration for her vehicle. Yellowhorn had outfitted her van with a homemade Blackfoot Nation license plate.

“This is traditional Blackfoot Nation territory”, she said. “This is my homeland and I feel I have the right to use my own license plate in my home country.”

If her case is successful, Yellowhorn wants to be able to use her own license plate on all ancestral Blackfoot lands, which encompasses most of southern Alberta, stretching into Montana, Saskatchewan and B.C.

Craven, however, says the issue goes far beyond license plates.

“What this is about is genocide, pure and simple,” he said. “It’s about the right to be a free nation, free people. We have a right to remain as a nation and not be exterminated.” Craven,, who also goes by his Blackfoot name Omahkohkiaayo-i’poyi, said he plans to shed light on the Indian Act’s purpose of forcing assimilation of Indians into Canadian life–what he calls genocide of the Blackfoot culture.

“If a (Blackfoot Indian) chooses also to be a Canadian that’s fine but you can’t force it on us,” he said. “We’re forcing Canada to look at itself and what’s being done to Indians across the country.”

Craven said he’ll take the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada or even the International Court in Hague or United Nations if necessary.

LETHBRIDGE HERALD The Lethbridge Herald Saturday A, Saturday, January 24, 2004, p.a3 [By Lisa Doerksen Lethbridge Herald

Forcing Blackfoot Nations[sic] Natives to have Canadian insurance on their vehicles is akin to asking foreign travellers to buy Canadian insurance to visit here, says a professor helping]

By Lisa Doerksen Lethbridge Herald

Forcing Blackfoot Nations[sic] natives to have Canadian insurance on their vehicles is akin to asking foreign travellers to buy Canadian insurance to visit here, says a professor helping a native woman fight a charge of driving a motor vehicle without insurance.

“It’s no different than a motorist from Montana driving onto Canadian lands,” said James Craven, a professor at Washington’s Clark College, on behalf of Bella Yellowhorn Friday at the Lethbridge provincial courthouse. “They’re not required to have Canadian insurance as long as they have some kind of insurance.”

The issue stems back to May 1, 2001 when Yellowhorn, a Piikani reserve resident, was pulled over in Lethbridge for not having proper registration for her vehicle. Yellowhorn had outfitted her van with a homemade Blackfoot Nation licence plate.

She was later convicted of a charge of not having proper registration and the insurance charge went to trial this week.

Yellowhorn claimed in court she had insurance but could not prove it because she was unable to obtain documents from her van when it was seized and also could not locate the Fort Macleod office she purchased the insurance from.

Prosecutor Eric Brooks, who is handling the criminal prosecution regarding the charge, noted the onus is on the accused to provide proof of insurance and Yellowhorn was allowed several adjournments to give her time to gather the information.

Judge Ron Jacobson will hand down his decision on Feb. 9.

Yellowhorn said if the case is successful, she wants to be able to use her own licence plate on all ancestral Blackfoot lands, which encompasses most of southern Alberta, stretching into Montana, Saskatchewan and B.C.

In addition to fighting the charge, Craven has launched a constitutional challenge of the Indian Act and Treaty 7 in an effort to have the Blackfoot people recognized as a sovereign nation.

Craven told the court Friday the Blackfoot people meet all the tests for a nation under international law, including a stable population, identifiable land and their own identifiable governance.

The Indian Act, he said, is little more than a document designed to force the assimilation of natives into Canadian culture–something he calls genocide of the Blackfoot culture.
“Bella believes that as a matter of her own personal survival she cannot and will not obey any of the (conditions) of the Indian Act,” said Craven.

He argued the Indian Act allows activity prohibited under international genocide laws, pointing to issues such as residential schools and the high rate of suicide on the reserve.

However, Crown prosecutor Kurt Sandstrom argued that many of the issues raised by Craven have little to do with the matter before the court–a provincial statute requiring proper insurance to drive in Alberta.

Alberta’s provincial court is not the right place to launch arguments based on international law, said Sandstrom, a specialist in constitutional and aboriginal law handling the constitutional challenge. “This court does not have the authority to impose a remedy under the international forum.”

Reprinted under the FAIR USE Doctrine for educational purposes only and not to be used for any commercial uses.

Lethbridge Herald, Aug. 23, 2002 Log jam By JANINE ECKLUND PORCUPINE HILLS —

The provincial government has ordered Merle Good Eye to quit harvesting trees from West Sharples Creek in the Porcupine Hills west of Claresholm.

He maintains it is his right as a member of the Blackfoot Nation.

And in spite of a stop-work order from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and notices tacked to fallen logs indicating they are being seized by government, Good Eye says he plans to continue the harvest he started about two weeks ago.

“It is our right to take these logs,” Good Eye said Thursday. “I have a permit from the proper authorities to harvest.” His permission comes, he says, from the hereditary chiefs of the Blackfoot Nation and from band council.

“I’m being told by my elders and proper authority that this is ours; we can’t have foreigners coming onto Blackfoot territory and telling me what to do.”

The issue goes deeper than the argument over who can harvest timber on Crown land.It goes to the root of animosity between native people and government — who determines land and access rights.
James Craven, an economics professor from Clark College in Washington and a Blackfoot, said plans are in place to take legal action against the Canadian and U.S. governments for the commission of international crimes and crimes against Blackfoot law under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.

Craven maintains the federal governments and their agents in Canada and the U.S. committed genocide by killing members of the First Nations, causing serious bodily and mental harm through daily assaults and the establishment of residential schools and unlawful sterilization of native people.

“The Blackfoot and other Treaty 7 Nations never surrendered their lands, and the governments and citizens of Canada and Alberta are currently illegally occupying Blackfoot territory,” said Craven.

“We are going to stand. We do not seek anyone’s permission to exist as a people. This is Blackfoot land and these are Blackfoot ways.”Details of the legal action can be found on the Internet at under “Documents, Narratives and Histories”.

Good Eye and his employees risk fines and arrest if they continue to harvest timber after the stop-work order was issued.

A spokesman with Sustainable Resource Development says an investigation is underway and if they refuse to stop, police may intervene and remove them from the area.

Susan McManus says the proper process to obtain a logging permit is outlined in the Forest Act.”There is an annual timber sale,” said McManus. The sale is advertised, and the department contacts directly sawmills and reserves and communities throughout the province.

“They bid on an auction of land with a sealed tender. They also put in a damage deposit which can go up to as high as $2,000 which is returned if there is proper cleanup and reforestation.” Good Eye didn’t follow that process. He says he is a skilled logger and plans to clean up and collect cones from the area to grow into saplings for planting next spring

“I’ve logged just about everywhere,” said Good Eye.”I’ve logged at Westcastle and Alison Creek and I’ve never had problems before.”I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe these logs are too good, maybe they’re saving them for someone else.”

Good Eye said he’s been logging since he was a child when he worked for his stepfather harvesting logs with horse-drawn equipment. Good Eye said he plans to sell some of the logs and use the others to construct homes on the reserve where as many as five and six families are living together because of insufficient housing.

Lawyer challenges the legitimacy of Canadian law over First Nations Submitted by eisengrimm on Mon, 04/26/2004 – 23:18.

Canada Indigenous Natives not bound by laws of Canada, lawyer argues

An Ottawa lawyer is challenging the authority of Canadian governments to apply laws to native people.

Jake Rupert, The Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 2004

A judge has agreed to hear a claim that sovereignty over Canadian lands was never fairly transferred in any of the ways recognized by international law. Jake Rupert reports on Michael Swinwood’s effort to change Canadian history.

It’s an issue that has been debated for years in native and legal academic circles but hasn’t been answered by Canadian courts, say aboriginal law experts.But it looks like the question will have to be answered soon, after lawyer Michael Swinwood, on behalf of two natives in North Bay charged with fraud, filed a constitutional challenge to the Crown’s right to apply the Criminal Code, or any other law, to aboriginal people, and a judge agreed to hear it.

Mr. Swinwood says aboriginal people never ceded sovereignty to British or Canadian governments in accordance with recognized international standards such as conquest or purchase.

To have jurisdiction over people who occupied land first, according to law, sovereignty must be properly handed over, Mr. Swinwood says in documents filed in court. It wasn’t, so Canadian governments have no right to enforce their laws on natives, the documents say.”The federal government lacks proper legislative authority in the territory it is alleged these illegal acts took place,” Mr. Swinwood argues.

“No treaty has been entered into … therefore the federal government has no jurisdiction in the territory where these acts are alleged.”

Mr. Swinwood will ask a judge to “nullify the application” of Canadian laws against natives because, he says, according to the current state of the law, Canada’s laws have “no force or effect as against these Indian persons or any other Indian person.”

Earlier this year in North Bay, Mr. Swinwood convinced Ontario Superior Court Justice J.S. O’Neill, himself an expert in native law, to hear the challenge and order the government to pay for it.Judge O’Neill found Mr. Swinwood raised “important” legal questions that need answering and ordered the provincial government to give Mr. Swinwood $35,000 in order to argue the case properly.”

The issues raised … are of sufficient merit that it would be contrary to the interests of justice for the opportunity to pursue these questions and these issues … to be forfeited if legal funding is not provided,” the judge wrote in his reasons for granting Mr. Swinwood the money.”It is to be remembered that the legal community in Canada is only beginning to come to grips with issues involving aboriginal title and rights,” Judge O’Neill said.

After getting the funding order in March, Mr. Swinwood hoped to make his case this spring in front of Judge O’Neill, but the Crown appealed the judge’s ruling on the funding application, arguing that the judge should not have granted the money because there is no merit to Mr. Swinwood’s assertions.No date has been set for the appeal, but Mr. Swinwood has decided to press ahead with the constitutional challenge, which he’ll pay for out of his own pocket and with money collected from native organizations.

In other cases involving native clients charged with crimes, Mr. Swinwood tried and failed to have judges agree to hear the constitutional challenge.Now that a judge has agreed to hear it, the matter is just too important to walk away from over money, Mr. Swinwood said.”Like Justice O’Neill said, it’s been a long time coming, so it feels good that we’re finally getting to table some of our issues,” he said.”The Indians got messed over here in this part of the world pretty badly, and it’s time some one should speak for them. On this issue, it just happens to be me.”Those who say that Canadian laws are applicable against Indians in this country don’t know their history. We’re just pointing this out.”

If Mr. Swinwood’s first argument fails, he has another, darker allegation that he says strips the Crown of its ability to apply its laws to natives.According to his application documents: “The legislature of Canada and Her majesty the Queen deprive themselves of legislative authority by being complicit in the crime of genocide against the Indian Nation … and have acted and continue to act contrary to their international obligations codified in the convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.”

At the very least, he’s asking the judge to find that a 1704 royal proclamation stating that any disputes between natives and government officials should be adjudicated by an agreed upon third party is still in effect.Mr. Swinwood says after exhaustive research and consultation, he has come to the conclusion that Canada simply has no jurisdiction over natives in this country.
There’s no legislation saying so. There’s no case law saying so. In fact, the law says the opposite, Mr. Swinwood says.”It’s an interesting and important question that has not been answered by Canadian courts,” said Kent McNeil, a law professor at Osgoode Hall in Toronto who specializes in aboriginal rights.He said there have been some cases in Canadian law, dating back as far as the 1800s, that touched on the issue, but that Mr. Swinwood is the first to take direct aim at the fundamental jurisdiction argument in court.

Brad Morse, a University of Ottawa aboriginal law professor concurs.”This really will be the first time that these issues are looked at in court, and I think it will be interesting to see what happens,” Mr. Morse said.

At the heart of Mr. Swinwood’s argument is the issue of sovereignty. Under international law, sovereignty is generally gained under three conditions. A government can assume jurisdiction over unoccupied land simply by populating it. Sovereignty also can be formally handed from one government to another after a conquest. Or a government can gain the right to enforce its rules when occupiers of land sign a purchase agreement or treaty relinquishing jurisdiction to the newcomers.

Mr. Morse said Mr. Swinwood’s challenge is legitimate because the first two conditions don’t apply in Canada, and in the annals of history there is very little evidence of Indians surrendering sovereignty to Great Britain. Where there is evidence of jurisdictional surrender, there is much debate over whether native leaders understood what they were doing when they “signed” treaties and purchase agreements.

Although this is the first time Canadian courts will be asked to deal with this issue, courts in other countries already have.In a landmark case, Australia’s highest court found the Crown there has sovereignty over aboriginal people and land despite not having any of the three accepted conditions for jurisdictional transfer. The court found that over time control of the land and people simply eroded away from the country’s first people into the hands of the newcomers and should remain there for the betterment of all.

Many years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court found differently. Judges there decided that the U.S. government didn’t have sovereignty over natives or native land. However, it ruled that basic human law as defined by U.S. statue applied to all people regardless of their heritage.

Some may look at Mr. Swinwood’s position as preposterous, but he says without proper government mechanisms in place to address the gross injustices committed upon natives in Canada, he is simply doing the next best thing.He said in a prefect world, government officials would come to the conclusion that they’ve failed the natives of Canada, and that Canadian laws aren’t helping the situation.

They would say they’re sorry for messing things up as badly as they have, cede sovereignty over vast tracts of Crown land, and let natives live in accordance with traditional spiritual, moral, and legal codes that were working just fine before the white man arrived.”We have the law on our side,” he said. “We have history on our side. We have morality on our side. What’s happened hasn’t worked. It’s time to try something else.””The time has come,” he said. “The government has had a lot of time to do this themselves, and they haven’t, so we’re going to try to force them to by using the courts. I see no reason why we should fail in this.

The Ottawa Citizen 2004


About jimcraven10

About jimcraven10 1. Citizenship: Blackfoot, U.S. and Canadian; 2. Position: tenured Professor of Economics and Geography; Dept. Head, Economics; 3. Teaching, Consulting and Research experience: approx 40 + years all levels high school to post-doctoral U.S. Canada, Europe, China, India, Puerto Rico and parts of E. Asia; 4. Work past and present: U.S. Army 1963-66; Member: Veterans for Peace; former VVAW; Veterans for 9-11 Truth; Scholars for 9-11 Truth; Pilots for 9-11 Truth; World Association for Political Economy; Editorial Board International Critical Thought; 4.. U.S. Commercial-Instrument Pilot ; FAA Licensed Ground Instructor (Basic, Advanced, Instrument and Simulators); 5. Research Areas and Publications: International law (on genocide, rights of nations, war and war crimes); Imperialism (nature, history, logic, trajectories, mechanisms and effects); Economic Geography (time and space modeling in political economy; globalization--logic and effects; Political Economy and Geography of Imperialism); Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Law; Political Economy of Socialism and Socialist Construction; 6. Member, Editorial Board, "International Critical Thought" published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; International Advisory Board and Columnist 4th Media Group, (Beijing); 7. Other Websites publications at;;; 8.Biography available in: Marquis Who’s Who: in the World (16th-18th; 20th; 22nd -31st (2014) Editions); Who’s Who in America (51st-61st;63rd-68th(2014) Editions); Who’s Who in the West (24th- 27th Editions);Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (3rd to 6th, 8th, 11th (2011-2012) Editions); Who’s Who in Finance and Industry (29th to 37th Editions); Who’s Who in American Education (6th Edition). ------------------- There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state, to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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