Marxism and Indigenous Struggles: Speech to Sacramento Marxist School Nov. 21, 2002

Sunday, November 14, 2004
Marxism and Indigenous Struggles: Speech to Sacramento Marxist School, Nov. 21, 2002


Pockets of Resistance is published online by Dark Night Press and supports the struggle for liberation of indigenous peoples

In this issue:

Speaking of Struggle Series – April 2003
Finding Voice: Telling Our Own Stories by Ward Churchill
Marxism and Indigenous Struggles: A Case Study of the Blackfoot Nation by James Craven

This issue inaugurates a thread of Pockets of Resistance pieces that give voice to activists and organizers in the field. It is intended to address the need expressed by Ward Churchill in our opening piece for writing from the field of struggle that educates to empower liberation. Jim Craven in our second piece discusses problems besetting cooperation and solidarity between various movements. Upcoming issues will present material on the contexts, pragmatic actions, and the spirit of struggle from Ramona Africa, Carter Camp and Subcomandante Marcos.

Marxism and Indigenous Struggles: A case study of the Blackfoot Nation

James Craven spoke at The Marxist School of Sacramento in Sacramento, California on November 21, 2002

I live in two worlds. I am a Blackfoot. As you can see from my appearance, extermination is almost complete, genocide is almost complete. Only 5% of federally registered Indians today are full blood. Almost all Indians today are of mixed race. Not that that’s a big deal in and of itself, but it’s an indication of something else — that what’s going on inside this country is genocide. There’s no other word for it. I’m going to talk about the law because that word is often misused. You hear about the “genocide” of whales, “genocide” of trees. As much as I’m in sympathy with some of the people raising those issues, it trivializes the word “genocide,” which has a very specific meaning, which we’re going to talk about.

To frame the discussion, first of all I’d like to read something to you if I may. This is from the address by Robert Jackson to the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946. He said: Unfortunately the nature of these crimes is such that both prosecution and judgment must be made by victor nations over vanquished foes. But we must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanities aspirations to do justice. “

The fact is that that United States was the primary moving force for Nuremberg. No doubt about it. The fact is that Nuremberg was the primary force for the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. No question about that. Yet the United States did not even bother to sign the UN Convention on Genocide until 1988 – 40 years later. And furthermore, when they signed it, this is what the United States put into the UN Convention on Genocide: it’s called the Lugar-Helms-Hatch Sovereignty Exemption. It says basically that anything in the Convention contradicting the Constitution of the United States or the laws of the US as interpreted by the US is trumped by those laws and Convention.

Now that itself is a violation of the US Constitution – Article 6 Section 2: “Treaties shall be the supreme law of the land and the judges of each state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or the laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” That is the US Constitution.

Why? Because obviously, nations otherwise could declare a supreme right or sovereign right to engage in genocide. Which is what the Germans did. When the Germans came to Nuremberg they said, “Well, we didn’t break any German laws. And furthermore, there weren’t any international laws that governed us, and therefore you’re practicing ex post facto justice. Therefore we reject your authority to try us for genocide.” That’s what the Germans said.
In essence, that’s what the US has said with the Helms-Lunar-Hatch Sovereignty exemption. We’ve got a sovereign right to do genocide in this country. So because the word genocide….does anybody know where that word came from?

It came from a Polish jurist named Rafael Lemkin. He wrote a book called Axis Control in Occupied Europe. It comes from the Greek word genus which means race, and the Latin “cide” which means killing, together the killing of a whole race.

But when you read the law, genocide is defined very clearly in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide. It says the following: “Any of the following five acts – any, not all – any of the following constitute genocide: 2A. Killing members of the group. That doesn’t mean you have to kill all the group. Genocide very seldom involves murder of a whole people.

What’s required is that people are targeted for killing because they are members of a group. 2B. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group. 2C. Deliberately inflicting upon a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
2D. Imposing measures designed to prevent births with the group–Sterilization. 2E. Forcibly transferring children from one group to another group.

Has all of that been done in American history? Absolutely. My own mother was one of them. My mother was grabbed by the Mormons, was taken out for adoption to Ft. Hall, Idaho where they had a little colony going. The Mormons had this weird doctrine, which is that Indians are part of the lost tribes of Israel — they’re called Lamanites — who inherited brown skin because God cursed them with brown skin because they chose to be evil and fight the white settlers, the Nephites. But the good news is that on the last day, on Judgment Day, God is going to turn them white, turn them “white and delightsome”, according to the Book of Mormon.

And the Mormons to this day are still actively grabbing Indian children as we speak. They are grabbing Indian children and doing forced adoptions as we speak. They have a very elaborate system. But not only the Mormons. The Catholics, the United Church, the Methodists, and so on.

One of my jobs for the Blackfoot is I served as a tribal judge in Canada dealing with residential schools abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, torture, using Indian children for medical experimentation, medical procedures with no anesthetic, forced adoptions, murder, gang rape, and so on.

I speak from two worlds. On the one hand I’m a Marxist; on the other hand I’m an indigenous activist. And I’ve got to tell you…there’s some bad blood between some Indian activists and some Marxists. Some very bad blood. And some of it has to do with misunderstanding on both sides.

You haven’t lived until you’ve had some smart-mouthed young punk Maoist tell you “Well, you people are primitive communalists, you know, and you’re going to have to go through feudalism and capitalism before you get to socialism.”

So one of the reasons I was asked here today is to talk about some of our realities, and then to talk about how we can build some common bridges, because we need allies. Blackfoot people – there’s only 35,000 of us left. We’re almost all mixed race, our land base is about 2.6 million acres – bigger than all of Israel and Palestine combined. We have four major bands. They stretch from the Siksika Blackfoot at Gleichen who are near Calgary, in Alberta, down to the Northern Peigan at Brocket in Alberta. They’re called Apatohsipiikani;That’s what I am. Down to Carston, Alberta, they’re called Kainai or Blood Blackfoot, then down to the Blackfeet in Browning, Montana, or the Amskaapipiikani people.

Most of the people now are living off the rez, not on the rez. On our reservations we have one of the last sources of pristine water in all of North America. We have dinosaur bones all over our land and wherever there’s dinosaur bones, there’s oil, because that’s where oil comes from. We have coal, manganese, copper, uranium. All of that and guess what? The Man wants it and we’re in the way, because of Article 6 Section 2. We have treaties.

Not that they care about breaking treaties. They don’t. And we’re going to talk about that, too — the whole issue of bourgeois property relations, and contradictions of capitalism. We’ll get into all of that.

But just to frame it for you. This is a quote from John Toland’s Adolph Hitler:

“Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the Wild West, and often praised, to his inner circle, the efficiency of American extermination by starvation and uneven combat of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.” (702)

So Hitler’s major inspiration was the Canadian and American Indian experience, for the possibility of genocide, the scope of genocide, for the methods of genocide. Hitler even used the term “redskins” when referring to Russians. Hitler used to read Karl May’s novels all the time, Wild West novels. He used the term redskins when talking. And there’s another thing right there.

Redskins. Can you imagine a football team called the New York Niggers or the Boston Bitches? Frisco Fags? But we have a team called the Washington Redskins. Do you know how offensive that term is? Do you know where the term “redskin” came from?

It came from Andrew Jackson’s time when they would skin Indians, cut off testicles and breasts and use them for tobacco pouches. They would skin Indians, cut all the way down the back, the legs, and they would use the skin for bridle reins. What happened was they became a novelty item. And so Europeans would come to the west, and they all wanted redskins. It became a novelty item. So calling the football team the Washington Redskins is like calling them the Auschwitz Lampshades. Calling an Indian a redskin is like calling an alligator a purse. It’s extremely offensive.

That’s where it comes from. Yet in this country they can use terms describing what has been done to Indians that they wouldn’t use for any other group. As bad as it is for African Americans, and it’s bad, they don’t have a Department of African American Affairs. African American’s don’t have to prove their blood. They don’t have to get a permit to sell – Indians on reservations must have a BIA (boss Indians around) permit to sell their goods. It’s called DIA in Canada – Department of Indian Affairs.

This is from a BIA document: “Set the blood quantum at one-quarter. Hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians. Let intermarriage proceed and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence. When that happens, the federal government will be finally freed from its persistent Indian problem.”

And from a Canadian document. This was April 12, 1910:

It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating so closely in the [residential boarding] schools that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department which is geared toward the final solution of our Indian problem.

When they use the term “final solution of our Indian problem” they mean exactly what the Nazis meant at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. Final solution means the extermination, the extinction of a whole people.

That’s an example. Just one more to frame this for you because these are statistics you will never hear:

“Indian health levels are the lowest and disease rates are highest of all major population groups of the United States. Instances of tuberculosis are over 400% higher than the national average. Instances of strep infection are 1,000% higher, meningitis 2,000% higher, dysentery 10,000% higher. Death rates from disease are shocking when Indian and non-Indian populations are compared. Influenza and pneumonia are 3,000% greater among Indians. Hepatitis? Epidemic proportions. Diabetes is almost a plague. The suicide rate for Indian youth ranges from 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than for non-Indian youth in the United States.

Furthermore, between 50,000 and 55,000 Indian homes are officially considered uninhabitable. On Pine Ridge, for example, which is the Lakota reservation, over 80% of the homes are considered substandard and uninhabitable. The modern life expectancy among reservation men is 44.6 years, and it’s about the same for women. That’s versus 71 or 73 years for white males/females in the US. It’s lower than in Ghana. And finally, one of every four native men is in prison or in the system, and almost 40% of all native women of childbearing age have been sterilized.”

And in most cases they didn’t even know they were being sterilized because they would be told, “You’ve got a gynecological problem,” or “You’ve got a medical problem,” and children were routinely sterilized at 10, 11 and 12 years old in the residential boarding school systems in the US and Canada. That’s a fact.

Remember Article 2D — imposing measures designed to prevent births within a group? Article 2E — transferring children from one group to another group? Any of those is called genocide. Genocide’s going on right now. This is not rhetoric. This is the law. Even though the US declares itself exempt, it is a treaty and we are bound by it according to Article 6 Section 2 of the US Constitution.

Now, one of the sources of friction that occurs between some native activists and some leftists is we’re wondering how come people can demonstrate against invasion of East Timor, or wax eloquent about the Palestinian cause – protests we strongly support – but when genocide is going on right here in this country – in your face – we hear almost nothing from the left. Part of it is our own fault. We haven’t reached out, we haven’t had discussions about this reality. Because I know that if you knew what is going on today on reservations in this country, you would be outraged.

One year, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency published a list of 73 toxic waste sites in the US. Seventy-two of them were on Indian reservations. Seventy-two out of 73. So instead of taking people to the gas chambers like the Nazis did, they bring the gas chambers to us.

It’s interesting to note that number 73 on their list was an area heavily occupied by African Americans. So while this country goes around lecturing everybody about human rights and the rest of that, genocide is going on right here in your face, big time.

As I said, I’m one of 35,000 left. In the case of the Makah, there are only 2,200 left. Let me tell you about another case that happened the other day with that moron they’ve got in the White House. The Chinook people were the ones who helped out Lewis and Clark. We [Blackfoot] were the only ones by the way who took on Lewis and Clark with armed conflict. We were the ones who knew “there goes the neighborhood.” We saw it coming.

Mr. Bush invited the chief of the Chinook to the White House. Told him to bring all his feathers and all that for a good show. So he went and they had a big ceremony saying “Thank you very much for helping out Lewis and Clark.” Two days later the Chief and his wife were walking down the street in DC. They were going to buy some trinkets to bring back home, and he gets a call on his cell phone and he’s told “Guess what? You no longer exist. The BIA has just terminated you as a federally recognized tribe.”

Because we’re also a people who have to be “recognized” to exist. We have to have recognition from the Master.

So we desperately need allies. But the problem is there’s a lot of friction and misunderstanding. One source of misunderstanding comes along these lines. People take mechanically Marx’s dictum that religion is the opiate of the masses. And they say from that “Well, you know, religion’s just another kind of dope. And you Indians with your spiritual crap, well, we sympathize with you and all, but you’re too mystical for our tastes. We’re dialectical materialists! All this spiritual hocus pocus…we understand the need for it, all the unfulfilled promises and contradictions of capitalism give rise to the need for religion, and you poor souls are deluded and we understand why you need religion, but we can’t get on board with this.”

Well, Marx also said something. He said you don’t attack capitalism by attacking religion. You do it the other way around. You attack religion by attacking capitalism, by getting rid of the basis that creates the need for it.

But we don’t regard religion and spirituality as the same thing. For us spirituality is a very individual thing. It means being guided by a spirit of something beyond oneself. It could be god. We know there are socialists who are religious people, who gave their lives standing with oppressed people because they are being guided by their religious beliefs.

Why would you attack them? If somebody’s reading of the gospel drives them to stand up against capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, then so be it. Why lay it on them about the opiate of the masses stuff? Unite where you can unite – on principle, not opportunistically, but on principle. I’ll take some religious people to some vulgar Marxist any day of the week. Because some of them don’t have souls; they’re just reading books. It’s not about people — they love humanity but they can’t stand people. It’s just an abstraction for some of them.

Or they’re laying clichés and slogans from the 18th Brumaire or The Civil War in France. One of the greatest inspirations I ever had was in the early 70s. I was at Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery where I’ve been twice. And I’m sitting there meditating on the inscription on Marx’s grave which is from the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach – that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

The question is now there’s the doing and the doing takes unity among oppressed peoples, not just picking on their own little special issues, but finding a common ground on principle – not opportunistically, but on principle.

So take a look at this. This was produced by grade 12 children of the Spokane Nation. Grade 12. They were asked to do a project that described what challenges the Spokane people face and what it will take to survive as a people.

Notice this? First of all, like dialectical materialism, it’s not linear. There’s no ultimate causes and effects here. Just like dialectical materialism. Secondly, most of the time among Indian people, we dance clockwise. So when you read this, you read clockwise. The reason we dance clockwise is because the sun comes up in the east, then moves to the south, then the west, then the north.

See this? If you read it, it’s clockwise. So what they’re saying is that service to the people is necessary for and is realized through spirituality. Not religion, but being guided by the spirit of something beyond one’s self. I would argue that any serious socialist is a very spiritual person. By definition, because in the US the worse thing you can be is a socialist. You can be a rapist, but a socialist? Never. So somebody who is a socialist is by definition being guided by something beyond him or herself. And that something is not popular in this country, that’s for darned sure.
Looking back now at this 12th grade project, the message is that it’s through spirituality that we forge unity, which is necessary to protect our environment and our heritage, and protecting our environment and heritage is necessary for our sovereignty as a people, and our sovereignty is necessary to produce healthy families, which is necessary to produce healthy individuals, which is necessary to capture the benefits of education, which is necessary for personal and collective health, and a strong economy, which is necessary for sobriety (which is a big problem), which is necessary for service…

Now when you look at that it’s extremely dialectical. In fact, classical Indian thought is so dialectical you wouldn’t believe it. How do you explain, for example, these “savages” coming up with the Mayan calendar, invented 3750 BC, the most accurate calendar ever invented? How do you explain Machu Picchu with blocks that are 4 tons, when the largest blocks at the pyramids of Giza? weigh only 2 tons, and at Machu Picchu they’re on a sheer cliff, so close together that you can’t put a piece of paper between the stone blocks. There’s no mortar, they’re so finely tuned. There’s no engineering today that could duplicate what they did at Machu Picchu or Teotihuacan or others. For those interested in this area I strongly recommend a trilogy of books. The first one’s called Native Roots, the second is Indian Givers, and the third is Savages and Civilization, all written by a non-Indian called Jack Weatherford.

And you notice this — people ask “What’s that? They’re blowing the eagle away, got the eagle in the crosshairs?” No, this symbolizes the number four which is a sacred number among Indian people. For example, the four forms of balance, the four directions, the four primary colors of the human race. That’s why that number is sacred.

Also, we look at context. Eurocentric thinking is highly reductionistic. Right? There are ultimate causes and ultimate effects. In Eurocentric thinking we can study a thing without even worrying about the context within which it occurs. Not among Indians and not among Marxists. Among dialectical materialists we always need to understand the context within which something is occurring. There are no ultimate causes, or final independent or dependent variables in dialectical materialism, nor is there any in Indian epistemology. It’s very, very nonlinear. So we share some common things in terms of paradigms that fit quite easily together.

Plus we share something else. In Indian country capitalism is raw and naked. Most Indians I know are instinctively anti-capitalists. We know about commodification. We’ve seen what it’s done to Indian spirituality with the Hollywood medicine men, and the Tontos, and whatever.

We know all about the class nature of the state. Many haven’t read Lenin. Haven’t read State and Revolution, but know absolutely that state is an instrument of capitalist rule, for our oppression and extermination. There is no doubt about it. They make it real clear. And outside the reservation they have other opiates, sedatives besides religion – Worldwide Wrestling, The Dating Game, Meet the Folks, Survivor, all this Social Darwinist crap getting people tuned up for the new world order. There are all these opiates. You see in Indian country there aren’t many opiates at all except for some dope and some booze. There aren’t fancy movie theatres. If there’s even one, you’re lucky.

There’s nothing fancy there. It’s raw and it’s naked. There’s no question of who are the rulers and who are the ruled. And just like here, the government creates a core of functionaries to keep Indians down. Just like here, you have labor aristocrats who keep workers down under the banner of unionism while they’re cutting deals for themselves and their buddies, and just like among African American people, you’ve got a selected little group of folks who dance for the Man while they keep their own people down and trade off their own people.

Well we’ve got the same thing. We’ve got a corps of functionaries. I do not like to use the term ‘apple’ because it implies that white is bad and it’s not a race question. You see, if you’re being betrayed by your own people, that’s even worse. It would be easy if you could say “Well, white is bad so let’s just off all the white people and we have a virtuous society.” But it’s not that simple. It’s more about class than about race. Because we also have had in history white people dying to save Indians, and we’ve also had our own people betraying us. Custer had Indian scouts. He had traitors. And that’s the way it goes.

When the Nazis for example went into occupied territories, the first thing they did was set up Jewish councils, and they would get the rich Jews to sell out their own people. They would trade a little security for aiding in the deception and the rounding up and transport and extermination of what they called their own people. We have the same thing. We have our traitors who are aiding and abetting the destruction of what they dare call their own blood and their own people. So we have something in common that we need to talk about. Because we need allies but we also have something too.

Because when you study Indian country especially among people who have not been radicalized yet, let me tell you, it’s raw. If you want to learn about raw, naked capitalism without the veneer, come to Indian country. You’ll see it in your face. But the problem is getting there. But another problem we have, and we have it among Indian and non-Indian activists, is speaking the language that people can understand. I don’t mean talking down, I mean talking straight.

If I go to a reservation and start talking about the labor theory of value, people will sit there and say, “What?” “Well, you know, it’s the difference between the wage rate and the value of labor. And it’s divided between financial, industrial and landed capital.” “What?”

But I can show them the mills. We can get on down to where surplus value is generated and appropriated in very visible ways. And one of the problems of the left in my opinion is – and we’ve got the same problem, we often only talk amongst ourselves – just like the left often talks amongst itself. Writing on the same nets: “Oh that was brilliant!” “Trotsky said this! Stalin said that!”

Well, what do we do with it? How does it help us to change the world, build unity, bring people together, if I’m just sitting there waxing eloquent about the price transformation problem in Volume II of Das Kapital?

And so part of the problem we’ve got is that we’ve only been talking amongst ourselves. Most of the Indian activists I know have written off a lot of the non-Indians and say, “Well, screw these people. We’re dying and they’re running around talking about East Timor. Wonderful! When they get around to America, have them give us a call. We’ll bring them in and educate them.”

Meanwhile they seem to be so interested in foreign genocide, but it’s going on right in front of them. And not only Indians – for African Americans, the same thing. Sorry, African Americans ain’t Denzel Washington. Yeah, he is, but he’s in a whole different place. I don’t think he’s got diabetes from screwed up conditions and bad diets that have been foisted on ghetto areas. The same thing with us. Do you know why diabetes is such a problem in Indian country? It goes back to the residential schools system, because to feed a lot of kids, to do it cheaply and profitably, what do you do? High carb! Pasta! Noodles! Guess what? That’s foreign to Indians. Indian diet is traditionally nuts and berries, some meats and fish, stuff that doesn’t cause diabetes. When kids were dragged off to those schools first their hair was cut, then they were beaten for being left-handed, –for some reason many Indians are left handed, I don’t know why — then they were beaten for speaking their own language so now we hardly have any who speak the language because it was beaten out of them — if you dared speak your own language you were beaten! All in the name of Jesus, of course. And then you were fed a cheap diet that set the stage for later health problems.

By the way, I’ll be leaving a film here called Where the Spirit Lives, a Blackfoot film about the residential school system in Canada, the prototype of which was here in the United States.

So here’s the problem: leftists by definition are mandated to do serious social change. And we need it, not only for us but for you, too, because today it’s us, tomorrow it’s you. Just like the famous quote from Niemoeller: first they came for the Jews — you know the quote — finally they came for me and there was nobody left to do anything about it. So today it’s us, tomorrow it will be somebody else.

So we need to get out of our reality, we need to bridge like we’re doing now and have some serious discussion, to talk beyond ourselves, or to celebrate the few glories we’ve had. At the same time, we need the left to get out of its shell and to start talking not just to each other about what Marx said, but about reality here, what some of the fundamental contradictions are, who are our friends, our enemies. How do we capture the wavering elements in the middle, how do we isolate the true enemies and bring over the people who are wavering, who are good folks but just don’t yet understand, and how do we build unity among people who are so committed, and that’s not an easy thing to do especially within the context of this country.

I know when I was back on the Rez a month ago and there was a big thing about Enron, and a bunch of Indians were saying, “Hey, you know, now they’re getting a taste. It’s karma time for whitey.” We know about brownouts; they happen all the time on the reservation.

In the US, 93% of all homes have a telephone hookup and telephone. The average on the rez is 43% who have even a telephone line. No telephone line, guess what? No telephone and no internet. No internet, no access to the outside world, and no access to outside possibilities.

The libraries are pitiful. Why? Because the government only throws a little money…not much. An average Indian in Canada who lives say in Brocket, Alberta lives on $C229 per month. Rent, utilities, phone — everything. Anybody want to try it? Indian Health Service is a joke. We have a joke about it: “What’s the most powerful medicine on the whole earth? Tylenol.” Because it doesn’t matter what you got, that’s what you get at the old IHS. You’re given Tylenol and told to get the hell out of there. How would you like that? You walk into a clinic with pains and someone gives you a Tylenol and says get the hell out of here. And then somebody else comes and says “Damn, you Indians got it made. You got free health care. You guys get Indian money. Education.”

Right. How can you get education when the most formative schooling is in very inferior schools because no good teachers want to go there. So guess what we often get? All the losers. Everyone who has raped the student winds up on an Indian reservation because that’s the only place they allow them to teach. Some foreign doctor who couldn’t pass the national board exams: we get them because they get an exemption if they’ll work on an Indian reservation. The worst of the lot: that’s what you often find on the reservations.[noting some exceptions of some dedicated people who just want to help]

So we watch a demonstration in Washington, DC saying “Don’t bomb Iraq.” Well, we support that. Why do we want to bomb Iraqi people? They’re not Saddam Hussein — they didn’t do it. But then we’re wondering when those leftists are going to get to us, because they’re bombing us, too. They’re not just bombing Iraq. Maybe not with bombs, but they’re bombing us with inferior food. Go to any reservation and you’ll find almost all the businesses are non-Indian owned. You’ll find like an IGA there with rotten meat, rotten milk – all way beyond the expiration date. And then you’ll find that the rotten food typically costs 40%-60% more than good meat you’ll find in Great Falls or Helena or whatever. The worst meat is on the reservations.

And we’re sitting there saying, “Well, we’re oppressed. When are those people in Washington, DC going to get to us? In their own country? Right here. Where genocide is going on.” That’s why I get a little harsh sometimes. Because the attitude we get is, “Well, why don’t you people just stop your whining?” OK. We’ll stop our whining when you get out of our face.

So what we do now is we’re a sovereign people. You don’t make treaties with your own citizens, do you? Article 1 Section 10 of the US Constitution: No nation makes treaties with its own citizens, only a sovereign nation. Article 29 Vienna Convention on Treaties: All parties of a treaty are assumed to be coequals, otherwise who could any one of them have standing to represent their own people, unless they are coequals. Correct? So we’re a sovereign people, a sovereign nation. By anything that makes American a sovereign nation, we are a sovereign nation. Almost gone, but not quite yet.

You can read Stalin on the national question. Sorry if I put anyone off by quoting Stalin, you can read Lenin. What defines a nation? A nation is a collection of people who have a common territory, a common economy, a common political life, a common culture and language, a common history. Not even common blood, by the way. But we also have that, too. By all international law we are a nation of people, a sovereign people. Not dependent captive people, we are a sovereign people. And so what we’re doing now is saying, “You’re going to have to kill every one of us.” And it’s going on right now.

Paul Harvey, for example, said on national radio, that Browning, Montana — that’s the home of the “Blackfeet” — is the murder capital of America. If you want to get away with murder, go to Browning, Montana because activists are being killed right and left there. Norma Guillam, blown up in a car. Kathleen Fleurey, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa lawyer, a great freedom fighter, found hanged in her closet. We’ve had almost 10 activists murdered in Blackfoot country in the last 10 years, usually hanged, sometimes shot, sometimes something else.




Of 22 industrialized countries, the US is number one in income and wealth inequality. It is number one in infants born at low birth weight and infant mortality rate. It is number one in infants born substance addicted. It is number one in divorce. It is number one in all forms of violent crime, in percentage of population in prison. It is number one in executions and number one in executions of children under 18 years old.

We’re Number One! Number one in teenage abortion and pregnancy. Multiply those rates times 10, 20 or 30, and that’s the rate you’ll find in Indian country. For example, as I read to you earlier, the suicide rate for teenagers in Indian country is 10,000 times the teenage suicide rate overall in the US (that already has the highest rate in the top 22 industrialized countries). The infant mortality rate in the US is higher than in Cuba. As a matter of fact, it’s higher than in Ghana. Right now the infant mortality rate in the US is about on par with the bottom quarter of third world countries globally. We’re number one.

This is one of the reasons Indians are instinctively anti-capitalist. Because when we get the missionaries coming in spreading not only the good word of Jesus but also the good work of capitalism, a lot of Indians will say “Well, just a minute. If I buy a car, I want to see how it works. If I’m going to buy a system, let’s see how it works and who it works for.” When they look at capitalism in American, it’s not a glowing endorsement, cause it ain’t working. It ain’t trickling down.

So the question is how do we unite, help each other out, dispel some of these myths and so on? Well one thing is, let’s do some homework. I don’t mean to embarrass anybody here and please forgive me if I sound like I’m doing that, but I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been where I’ve asked people the question, “How many people know the word genocide?” and they’ll raise their hands. And I’ll say “How many people have used the word genocide in a sentence in the last six months?” And a lot of people will raise their hands. And I’ll ask, “How many people have read the US Convention on Genocide that defines the word genocide?” and typically not one hand will go up.

Then why use words if you don’t know their meaning? Because this word has a meaning. This is international law. And whatever Mr. Bush and the rest of his creatures think, nobody has a sovereign right to ignore international law while holding others to it. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t hold other people to the law while you ignore it yourself. You can’t claim manifest destiny, that God’s ordained America as some special little place, international law for everybody but us ‘cause we’re special people.

The Indians are saying, we’re not buying this crap. We already know about obesity; a large number of our children are obese. Well guess what? Now the non-Indians are getting it too. They’re getting’ Big Macked. If you really want to destroy Iraq, drop a whole bunch of Big Macs on them. They’ll have obese kids in nothing flat.

But do you know about the stats re McDonalds ads? African American people are only 12-13% of the US population, but about 70% of their advertising dollars are going for kids and targeted toward African Americans. Do you know why that is? Brothers hanging and doing a little hip hop and rap, bopping on through the drive through? That’s called nutritional imperialism.

And we’ve had the same thing, so we have affinity with African Americans already; we’re on the same page. But we don’t have a lot of conversations with them. We’re on the same page with a lot of leftists. We really are, but the problem is we’re not talking with each other. And it’s not just you, it’s also us. I know a whole bunch of Indians who have all the rage of any Al Quaeda terrorists you can imagine. I know Indians who hate whitey like you cannot imagine. They’d sooner blow them away than look at them twice. And they’re wrong.

Because it’s about class, it’s about systems. It’s not about what color people are. Because good and bad people come in all colors. But we have so much rage in Indian country, you just can’t imagine. Imagine what it’s like when the only time people come through your town is to buy your trinkets, molest your daughters.

It used to be that for years we had these rich white lawyers from Lethbridge, Great Falls, judges and legislators, coming here looking for Indian kids, easy pickings. We’d find them hanging out around the reservation. Not only girls, but boys too. Because on the rez there’s no transport, right? So everybody hitchhikes. So everybody helps each other out and gives each other rides. So guess what? We’ve got these nice Christian white lawyers, judges, whatever, who come by and give kids a ride, then give them dope, booze, then take advantage of them sexually, and communicate AIDS – they don’t even care that AIDS is in epidemic proportions on the reservation, so they take it back home to their wives.

So we complained. We complained over and over and over again. And nothing happened. Why? Because some of those molesters were high up judges and nobody wanted to touch them. So we took matters into our own hands. Spirit of volunteerism, a thousand points of light, all that. So we grabbed them when we caught them picking up Indian kids. First time, we beat them up. Then we would take their wallets with their ID, and would give their wives a call. We’d say, “Sister, we’re concerned about you. Your husband is out there messing with Indian kids and we’re sad to say a lot of our kids have AIDS because of others like your husband. So ma’am we strongly suggest you get an AIDS test because if we caught him doing it now, he’s probably done it before. It’s in your interest not to sleep with him and we hope you don’t have AIDS, but we thought you should know.” And then we’d tell the guy “If we ever catch you on our land spreading whatever, we’re going to kill you” and we will. Because it’s life and death. It’s not a joke. Especially when there’s so few of us left.

Take a look. Take a look all around you to see how many federally recognized tribes are left. See how many are left in each one: 1700, 2200, 100, 600. Some of them have 5 left. And here we’ve got a government bent on our extermination defining who and what an Indian is. What are you going to do with that?

For those of you who are on the left, can you help us out? I know we’re not exotic. I know it may be a little more fun way over there, but we’re right here. And we need help. And it’s the capitalist system that’s doing it to us. We’re on the same page on that score. The profit motive is behind it, among other things. We need help. So fight those fights. We fight them too.

I talk to Indians about the Palestinian cause and say, “Look, we’re the Palestinians of North America. They’re the Indians of the Middle East.” As a matter of fact, some Palestinians call themselves Palestindians. So we need to link up. And some Indians say, “Why are you talking to me about this stuff? I want to talk about here and how.” And I say, “Yeah, but how can you ask people to support us if we don’t support them?” They say, “Yeah, yeah, but that’s over there.” And I say, “No, no, it’s not just over there. It’s right here. The same forces that are doing it to them are doing it to us. The same ideology that’s doing it to them is doing it to us. The same system that’s doing it to them is doing it to us.” We need to link up.

In our language NI-KSO-KO-WA is our word meaning we’re all related. All my relations. That’s the word we used when we greet each other, NI-KSO-KO-WA we’re all related. So I say to my fellow Blackfoot, “Hey, we have to link up too. We can’t just ask people to link up with us. We’ve got to link up with them, and in order to do that we’ve got to educate ourselves. Not just emotionally — we’ve got to have some facts behind us. Not that “Capitalism Sucks” isn’t OK. I’ll go for that. But now what’s next? Can you tell me why? No, please tell me.”

Tell me who wins and who loses and how. Tell me about the mechanisms of oppression. Tell me about the role of culture and oppression. Tell me about state and superstructure. But please tell me — in ways I can relate to, that are right on down home — how we can link up in a common experience.

We got Indians who are racist, homophobic, sexist like you absolutely cannot believe. So we try to say to them, “Hey brother, your mom’s a woman, your sister’s a woman, your daughter’s a woman, and you should be treating women like you want your mother or daughter to be treated. And if you don’t you’re not an Indian.”

Our name, by the way, one of our names is “piegan”, French for pagan. Some of our people even dare to use the name Piegan Nation. I’m going to hand you our prayer that we say every morning. Now, on the one hand some people might say, “Well why?” Take a look at this. This is hundreds of years old. Depending upon how you look at it, it’s very radical. It recognizes that our strength is collective, not individual. That we only survive if we act collectively. Ultra individualism celebrated by Capitalism is foreign for most Indian people. Crass materialism is foreign. I can tell you families that have absolutely nothing, nothing, but guess what? When someone loses a husband or a loved one they pitch in 10% of nothing to help that person.

Instead of throwing them out in the street, or to some battered woman’s shelter, without any regard of what’s going to happen to them or who’s going to take care of their kids.

That’s what capitalism does. Under capitalism everything’s disposable. Everything’s for sale, and everything’s disposable. Everything’s a commodity, including people. And so when some poor battered woman gets the crap beaten out of her, the priest tells her “Marriage is forever. Sorry about that, but you’ll get yours in the afterlife.” The law is telling her “Why don’t you just shut up, leave and go on welfare or whatever.” And meanwhile people are just thrown away. In traditional Indian societies, that just didn’t happen. There was no such thing as throwaway people. Either everybody eats or nobody eats. Either everybody has shelter or nobody has it. Either everybody has clothes or nobody has them. And the chiefs always ate last, not first. And chiefs could be removed in a heartbeat if they abused their powers or whatever. Very direct.

Obviously that’s not exactly a Marxist vision, but there is some common ground there, is there not? Is there not common ground with leftists on anti-commodification, anti-homophobia, anti-racism? And we’re struggling to find that common ground not only between non-Indians but amongst ourselves, too. There’s a whole macho culture in Indian country big time, especially among men who have been beaten down and dispossessed. I’m not excusing it, but the fact is, it’s like the old story: Poor whites, “Well, at least I ain’t black.” Oppressed men, “Well, at least I ain’t a woman. At least I ain’t gay.” Whatever. And so capitalism divides and rules by giving marginal benefit to one group to encourage them to oppress those with whom they have something in common. It’s the oldest game in the world. Well we’ve got it too. We’ve got Indians who talk about bitches, and whores and fags and lord knows what else. And they don’t get the connection, that when you talk like that it’s the same as someone calling you a damn Indian, redskin, stupid drunken Indian. So if you don’t like hearing it, then don’t say it about others with whom you have something in common. Link up. Fight.

And so, again, we have our aristocrats, and our traitors. We have our religious people and our atheists. One of the things I do for example when I’m doing political work; I don’t get into religious arguments. I don’t understand how someone who has been horribly abused by priests can remain a Catholic, I don’t understand it, but there are some who do. I don’t start quoting “religion is the opiate of the masses” to them. What I do is find what I have in common. So maybe I’ll be getting the Sermon on the Mount and I’ll say “OK, what does this have to do with racism? Imperialism? Oppression?”

I work on common ground. And I’ll fight the other fight about the class nature of religion on another day. Because right now we need allies of all kinds and persuasions, and people come to the table for different reasons. Some people’s religion is actually driving them to activism, not sedation. Dietrich Bonhoffer is an example. Here’s an ardent pacifist from an aristocratic German family. Nazis said “Don’t come back to Germany and if you do, you’re dead meat.” What does he do? He not only goes back, but leads the plot to assassinate Hitler. Because he came to the realization that sometimes evil has to be eliminated, and pacifism ain’t going to cut it. When you’re dealing with something really evil, sometimes you’ve got to take him out. Because it’s a matter of who dies, and better them than us. And this was a guy who was a very religious person, who was driven by his faith to leave pacifism and lead the plot to assassinate Hitler. Why argue with that?

The same thing with us. We have our own spirituality. Without native spirituality, there wouldn’t be any of us left. It’s a miracle, actually, that’s there even one left frankly. With all that’s been done in history to indigenous people, in Canada, the US, New Zealand, Australia, the Nagas in India (it’s not just the Americas). With the extermination that has occurred, it’s a miracle that there’s even one left. And some of our traditional ways are traditions because they work. So if you come to us and start bashing and quoting from the 18th Brumaire, some people aren’t going to appreciate it a whole lot.

So there are some traditions that are traditions because they work. There are other traditions, however, that are traditions because nobody has had the guts to get rid of them. For example, the old Blackfoot tradition is that if a woman committed adultery, they cut her nose off. If a man committed adultery, they cut one braid. Well that’s obviously not a tradition that any of us sensible people would ever want to go back to. It’s barbaric. There are some traditions that are traditions because nobody has fixed them yet. Like slavery was a tradition until someone had some guts to take it on. So we don’t just celebrate tradition because it’s a tradition.

But there are other traditions we’ve had that are absolutely vital to survival, and leftists who come amongst us need to understand that, and they need to understand our history and reality in order to work together on common concerns and with a common front.

On our side we’ve got to do a better job of educating ourselves. We can’t just be going around to pow wows and living on past glories. We have to read some books, learn things, hook up with some folks. We need to be taught as well as to be teachers. We need to see what we’ve got in common.

But right here, right now, genocide is going on big time. In Chiapas, all over the US, all over Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Nagas in India and Burma — these are the traditional indigenous people there. All of these traditional indigenous groups are being exterminated one by one by one by one. And the question is whether you want to sit by and watch it in your own country, because the day will come, if there’s any of us left, if we catch people demonstrating against the war in Iraq we’re going to have to ask them, “What about us? How do you feel about us? About us getting bombed in America? Does that bother you? Then start demonstrating for us, too.” And we need to show up at those demonstrations against bombing in Iraq, do some serious work on aspects of culture that don’t serve us well.

CONNECT: James Craven is a member of the Sovereign Blackfoot Nation and Professor of Economics at Clark College, Vancouver, Washington,”The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” – Steve Biko

<><><><><><><>Pockets of Resistance is published online by Dark Night Press. With each newsletter, our mailing list has grown. We suggest a donation of $12.00/year or whatever you can afford to help us cover our expenses. You can send your donation to Dark Night Press, PO Box 3629, Chicago, IL 60690-3629. You can find back issues on NativeWatch/Z Net at: of Resistance, while focused on indigenous liberation issues, supports multi-dimensional quests for human liberation from imperial power by addressing the factors and conditions that make these struggles necessary.

For us, liberation involves the creation of circumstances in which relationships based on recognition of and respect for the interconnectedness among all living things are given primary value.The name of our electronic newsletter recalls the words of Subcomandante Marcos, who reminds us that pockets of resistances against imperial power take many shapes:”Each one of them has its own history, its own differences, equalities, demands, struggles, and accomplishments. If humanity still has a hope of survival, of improvement, that hope is in the pockets filled with the excluded ones, the leftovers, the ones who are disposable.. There are as many shapes as there are resistances, and as many worlds as there are in the world. So draw the shape you prefer. As far as this thing about pockets goes, they are as rich in diversity as the shapes resistance takes.”

“Dark Night” recalls the words of Chief Sealth who, two generations before the massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, forecast a future for his relatives which promised to be long and dark. Dark Night Press and the dark night relatives are engaged in ending the darkness.

Posted by Jim Craven (Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi) at 1:15 PM

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Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths
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Climate Change 101
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All Kinds of Holocaust Denial Going Around
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In Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune (Bai Qiu En)
“Tell the Truth–then Run”: What Kerry Couldda/Sho…
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Why Are American Indian Soldiers Serving in Iraq?
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Stolen U.S. Elections: 2004 and beyond…
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Narcissistic Personality Disorder
George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language
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1933 Reichstag Fire: Prologue to 9-11
Abramoff and the Vichy Indians
Among the Myriad Masks and Tentacles of Genocide
Professor’s Politics Draw Lawmakers Into the Fray
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New York Times: All the News–“PRINT TO FIT” [the …
Tall Tale Revealed?; Or, Perhaps, Another “Poison …
Pentagon Spying on Americans
The Commodification of Disaster
Nobel Peace Prize Lecture of Harold Pinter
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About Me

Jim Craven (Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi)
I am a member of the Blackfoot Nation and also hold U.S. and Canadian citizenships. Presently a Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Business Division at Clark College, Vancouver, WA
View my complete profile


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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