Native Intelligence: The Long View
Continuing the analysis of the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on America….
From Native Peoples in the Society of Sorrow and Justice by Suzan Shown Harjo. In Indian Country Today, 9/19/01:
“These foreign people who did this are from countries that say they like Native Americans,” said Jodi Archambault Gillette (Hunkpapa, Oglala & Cheyenne). She directs the Native American Training Institute in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“What they, and a lot of non-Indians here, probably don’t understand is that this happened to us, too,” said Gillette. “We are part of it and, if it’s war, then we’ll be the first ones to be part of that. There probably were some Indians in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon,” she said, “because Indians are all over this society.”
Native people have always fought for the country that abused their ancestors. Native people such as the famed code-talkers have proved their patriotism countless times. When they urge us to look, listen, and learn, we should do just that—starting with their age-old cultural perspective.
From Asking the Right Questions: Bush and Sept. 11, 2001, a column by Jack Forbes (Powhatan-Delaware), 9/13/01:
The combined power of government and media are calling for “getting behind the president” at a time when we have good cause to question why the billions of dollars spent on “defense” and spying resulted in a complete failure to halt the horrible events of September 11. Many in government seem to be promising revenge without analyzing why the US Air Force and the Department of Defense, CIA, and the FBI were all caught napping, and why our president continued to read to Florida elementary children after he had been given the word about the first assault on the World Trade Center. Are these big and obvious questions not to be asked?
Mainland USA has not seen an attack of this type since 1861 when South Carolina launched a bloody assault on the US flag and military at Fort Sumter. That started the Civil War which resulted in the death of several million people. Civilians also suffered massive “collateral damage” in that bloody, “modern” war. After 1865 the US Army turned to fighting Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, Sioux, and countless other Native Nations in order to open lands up for white capitalists and settlers. So we have known our share of bloodshed and sacrifice on US soil, including the bombing and burning of Black Tulsa in 1921 and Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the innocent in Oklahoma City (blamed on our currently favored enemies, the Arabs, initially).
Supposedly, we, as a people, are now thirsting for revenge. But we must remember the experience of our Native American Nations, because all too often our peoples cried out for revenge when one of ours was killed and we sent our young men out to kill the first of the enemy people that they came upon, guilty or innocent. We practiced “collective guilt” sometimes and what was the result? Why, we were killing each other off while the Europeans got stronger and stronger and helped to play us off against each other! The doctrine of revenge did not make us any stronger. On the contrary, it made us sitting ducks for white conquest. And did revenge bring back any of our departed ones? I wonder.
“Collective guilt” is something that the Nazis practiced in World War II, when they would line up twenty Frenchmen or twenty Poles and kill them for the death of one German, or when an entire village would be wiped out for some attack by guerrillas. This is what the Israeli government has been charged with, retaliating against an entire people for the actions of individuals.
And we remember this well, since during the US War of Independence white militiamen from western Pennsylvania murdered an entire community of peaceful Christian Delawares at Gnadenhutten simply for being Indians: “collective guilt” and revenge!
…[B]efore we go after those easily-targeted Muslims and Middle Easterners, let us remember that there was a time when American Indians were the “dirty, treacherous redskins” targeted on the frontier. We were often blamed when actually the US government or white settlers were at fault. Revenge is not justice. Justice requires that we know who committed a wrong and why. It requires that we not act precipitously in the midst of our pain, sorrow and anger. Justice has to be even-handed and not one-sided. Revenge, however, may cause us to become evil-doers ourselves, harming persons as innocent as those killed by the terrorists. What then is the difference between us and them? Are we to be terrorists to others?
From John Potter’s column in the Billings Gazette, 9/15/01:
We are all Native Americans today We need time to find our relatives, for some might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of our people. We need to gather what food we can find, find our weapons and find our ponies scattered in the hills. Above all, we need to gather together and pray for the future of our people.
You see, this account of horror could’ve been written dozens of times throughout the brief and glorious history of our nation.
Perhaps after the Baker Massacre of the Blackfeet Indians. Innocent men, women and children killed senselessly and brutally.
Perhaps after the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyennes in Colorado. Again, innocent noncombatants slaughtered beneath not only a white flag of truce, but an American flag as well.
Or perhaps the same could’ve been written after the “battle” of the Washita, where Black Kettle and the rest of his family and survivors of Sand Creek were cut down by Custer.
Need I even mention Wounded Knee?
Terror is not new to American soil, nor is our government a stranger to it.
This nation was begun, expanded, and founded on terrorism — but in those times it was cloaked in the shimmering mantle of “Manifest Destiny.” Thousands of innocent Native American men, women and children were murdered in the name of this particular form of terrorism.
You may argue that was war, but does any war justify the killing of women? Of the elderly? The killing of babies?
Make no mistake, whoever attacked our nation last Tuesday certainly is at war with us, but does that justify the horrific deaths of so many innocent men, women and children?
Know our enemy
The point is, all governments, all people are capable of terrorism. The United States stands proudly as the world’s defender of truth, justice, democracy and human rights, yet our government is not innocent.
Remember Kent State? Innocent people died.
Remember My Lai?
And if you DON’T think that thousands of innocent people have been killed so that we can put gasoline in our SUVs, perhaps you need to think again. Why do you think they’re dancing in the streets in Palestine?
Our government and our nation is outraged, filled with righteous indignation, and rightly so. I am as hurt and angered and hungry to retaliate against those responsible as anyone else.
But we cannot go forward under the blind belief that our own government has not carried out acts of terror, on our own soil and around the world. We need to remember that our own government, throughout its brief history, has committed horrible acts of terrorism against innocent people, as well. In this way, we can begin to know our enemy, begin to understand the anger and the hatred they feel for us. It is not an unjustified anger. Not something that they’ve made up.
Native Americans have known that anger. Native Americans cannot help but remember certain moments in our history that stand out as events that forever changed our way of life, changed the way we look at the world, and changed the stories that we tell our children. Our history and destiny were forever altered by the terrorism of the late 1800s.
But we have survived.
For now, we need time to find our relatives, for some of them might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of so many of our people. We need time to grieve.
We then need to solidify, gather our strength, unify behind our leaders, take steps to protect our people and our homeland and somehow punish the enemy.
For we are all one people now, we are ALL Native Americans.
And above all, we need to gather together as one and pray for the future of our people. Because, what about the children?
From About the Terrorism by Jim Craven (Blackfoot), 9/16/01:
Imagine being a Jew or a Roma or a disabled person in Germany, a tragedy has occurred, and all around you people are singing “Deutschland Uber Alles”, “this is an attack on ‘civilization’ and OUR homeland”, “WE have never been terrorists and WE will stand against terrorism, WE must unite…” That is how many Indigenous people feel about some of the syrupy emotionalism and jingoism going on passing for “patriotism” etc. Guess what? There are many in America, including Indigenous Nations on the verge of extinction, the poor and homeless, those without health care fearing a catastrophic illness, children with the right to be born but not with the right to live full lives free of poverty and abuse and etc. for whom America is not so “beautiful.” Further, jingoism and emotionalism may be self-gratifying from a personal and psychological point of view, but it doesn’t help to stop further terrorism. What will help to stop further terrorism, and what is the highest tribute that can be paid to the victims, is to ask the tough and unpopular questions, do the often painful self-examination of ourselves and our own involvement in past and present terrorism (including our own past/recent support—with foreseeable consequences foreseen at the time—for the likes of Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, other terrorists yet to surface), do our homework and read from a variety of sources and perspectives, and just plain not allow cover-ups, the rewriting of history or demagogues using our grief and passions for their own narrow and cynical purposes.
Many are signing-up to give blood, driven by their emotions and grief, and that’s great, but why does it take something like this for some people to give blood? There has been a longstanding need for blood for some time. I personally cannot give blood ever because of hepatitis acquired during service in the U.S. Army—from which I nearly died. So I’ll have to find another way to contribute. My way to pay tribute to the victims is to do careful scholarship and research on the origins and forces responsible for terrorism. For example, if I give a gun to a known psychotic who is the “enemy of my enemy” and therefore potentially useful in a limited and contained sense—I think—I am responsible for the inevitable and foreseeable carnage that will ensue. Well Saddam Hussein was a known thug and terrorist long before the invasion of Kuwait, but because he was useful for purposes of oil and standing against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War that cost over a million lives, the U.S. Government armed him, gave him loans and grants from U.S. taxpayer’s dollars, and even gave him sophisticated satellite intelligence they don’t even give the Israelis. Then comes the invasion of Kuwait and all of a sudden those who armed and gave a green light to Saddam Hussein are posturing and waxing patriotic trying to sanitize any references as to who had given Saddam Hussein his resources and green light. The same is true with respect to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden who were U.S. “allies” against the Soviets in Afghanistan (knowing full-well they were as anti-U.S. as anti-Soviet and were trafficking dope to finance their operations—putting the war against drugs on the back burner) and then as recently as August, 2001 the U.S. Government was sending monies to the Taliban (see the very prophetic Robert Scheer article dated May 22, 2001) now under the banner of the drug war, as the Taliban claimed to have come to the realization that drug trafficking is “anti-Islam.” And again, we see some of the same players in the U.S. Government singing “God Bless America” with no reference to how/why the Taliban and Osama bin Laden got to and stayed in the positions they are now in and with no reference to the myriad intelligence and security failures that also contributed to this tragedy.
Well flag waving, calls for “unity”, etc. are relatively easy and often just plain narcissistic and manipulative; they don’t really take a whole lot of personal energy and commitment. How many who are doing the more jingoistic expressions of “patriotism” knew anything about the Taliban and Osama bin Laden (who says he didn’t do it and has not yet been “determined” to have done it) and the whole history of their origins and support? Or, how many of the flag wavers have even read the U.S. Constitution in its entirety? Or, how many of the more expressive “patriots” do you think could pass the basic citizenship test given to all immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship? I suspect not many. And what is really priceless is that while screaming “America the free”, singing “America the Beautiful” and talking about “democracy”, some of America’s own Taliban types are trying to silence dissenting opinions, attacking poor immigrants who themselves are victims of terrorism and just plain playing right into the hands of these terrorists.
The real tribute to the memories and suffering of the victims of the WTC tragedy or any tragedy, is to do some serious scholarship, read some very dull books, listen to a variety of often uncomfortable perspectives, admit what must be admitted about ourselves as well as about others, learn the lessons that must be learned and above all do not succumb to the jingoistic demagoguery and manipulations of the “sunshine patriots and politicians/politician wannabes. Of course what it takes to show real support and grief for the victims of any tragedy cannot be served up like a microwavable dinner and may be too much for a culture geared to narcissism, anti-intellectualism, ultra-individualism and the quest for “instant gratification.”
From Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens by Ward Churchill:
I’ll readily admit that I’ve been far less than thorough, and quite likely wrong about a number of things.
For instance, it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day [9/11]. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins.
Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America’s sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who’ve died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter.
Perhaps there were a few of the Korean civilians massacred by US troops at places like No Gun Ri during the early ‘50s, or the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians ruthlessly incinerated in the ghastly fire raids of World War II (only at Dresden did America bomb Germany in a similar manner).
And, of course, it could have been those vaporized in the militarily pointless nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There are others, as well, a vast and silent queue of faceless victims, stretching from the million-odd Filipinos slaughtered during America’s “Indian War” in their islands at the beginning of the twentieth century, through the real Indians, America’s own, massacred wholesale at places like Horseshoe Bend and the Bad Axe, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, the Washita, Bear River, and the Marias.
Was it those who expired along the Cherokee Trial of Tears of the Long Walk of the Navajo?
Those murdered by smallpox at Fort Clark in 1836?
Starved to death in the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo during the 1860s?
Maybe those native people claimed for scalp bounty in all 48 of the continental US states? Or the Raritans whose severed heads were kicked for sport along the streets of what was then called New Amsterdam, at the very site where the WTC once stood?
One hears, too, the whispers of those lost on the Middle Passage, and of those whose very flesh was sold in the slave market outside the human kennel from whence Wall Street takes its name. And of coolie laborers, imported by the gross-dozen to lay the tracks of empire across scorching desert sands, none of them allotted “a Chinaman’s chance” of surviving.
The list is too long, too awful to go on.
From Where and How the Spiritual Center? in Indian Country Today, 9/19/01:
We submit, in sincere humility, that the shared perceptions of the spiritual traditions of Native peoples have something truly useful to teach. They support life. While fearlessly accepting death, working often with ancestor and nature spirits, yet they are all about sustaining life, appreciating life, appreciating all the beings and elements that make human life possible — perceptions that fuel the very essence of ceremony.
We remember how in the heyday of the movement of the 1970s, always at the moments of greatest potential violence, the teachings of the spiritual elders always cautioned against hurting people, and most particularly, innocent people. Of course, that beautiful thought did not start then; it had survived to that time — miraculously — to be passed on.
The medicine people sometimes defended violence, and the actions of warriors, but only on the need for defence. There were no hateful mullahs, no rabid preachers among the Native spiritual elders — the holy people, medicine men and women, the midwives, the herbalists — who counseled the Native activists of the 1970s. Perhaps someone will come up with an exception, it is possible, but with complete confidence we can assert that such was never even a current, and it certainly never caught hold with any group, even though plenty of cause for hate and will for mayhem existed.
This is why we are certain that lead suspect Osama bin Laden, his cohorts and facilitators –- the approach and justification they endorse and symbolize — are wrong. Their horrible crime not only snuffed out the lives of more than 5,000 innocents, it severely wounded the hope of humankind to find a way to temper the hateful heart of violence, the evil that is increasingly loose in the world.
Many assert that cause can be found aplenty for the hatred. It is also true that this terrorist deed of gigantic proportions was the act of those who have been at war for more than a decade, those who have been surrounded by death and mayhem and carnage and destruction for a very long time. But the most horrendous identity of this crime is that it was fueled by the hateful preaching of men who proclaimed it to be God’s will on Earth.
There is certainly a better path. We know that the teaching of defensive struggle and peaceful resolution is not only possible within Islam; it is actually exalted. And who can honestly proclaim that the teachings of the Heart of Jesus recommend anything but love and compassion for all human beings? Governments will take their actions; politicians will do or not do the will of their peoples, but just the same, we believe it is incumbent upon every teacher of a spiritual faith — from Islam, Christianity, Jewish, Buddhist, and American Indian traditions, all faiths — to teach their peoples to reach out to life, love and compassion, always the very core meaning of every spiritual faith.
While it is true that humans of every race and faith have committed atrocities, thankfully, to our knowledge in modern times, American Indian spirituality has not attempted to justify the killing of innocents on behalf of the Great Spirit or the Mother Earth. We offer that much, that each spiritual tradition search for its teachings in the best heart of its knowledge. It is there to be found; it is the only sensible focus; and it will be our best and only gift to our common generations.
From Harjo’s column again:
I am mindful of another danger for a lot of Indians. We fit the profile du jour—dark hair and “exotic.”
In the first days after the Oklahoma City building bombing in 1995, most people I talked to in the state railed against the “damn A-rabs” and the “Arab terrorists.” Indian people were taunted and called “A-rabs.” That talk stopped when the perpetrators turned out to be Beavis and Skinhead—but they were not commonly called “white terrorists”—and Indians went back to being discriminated against for being Indian.
“We can’t keep treating Arabs like stupid people in towels and blankets,” said author and historian Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux). “You can only push people so far.”
Deloria, who also is an ex-Marine, said: “It was predictable. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. We treat them like dirt.
“Religion is dangerous.”
From Author Urges Global Perspective in The SunLink.com, 9/20/01:
[Sherman Alexie] urged his audience to look at the events from a global perspective, emphasizing that 32,000 children die of starvation every day.
From We Have Another Chance to Learn ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’ by Charmaine White Face. In Indian Country Today, 9/21/01:
We, Lakota people, are so tiny in number when compared to all the other kinds of people in the world. We experience oppression and injustice at the hands of the United States everyday. Our people quietly die each year because of the oppression and injustice. Yet, if we really know who we are as Lakota people, we give thanks for the opportunities the Creator gives … and mean it. It’s not easy being Lakota.
It is this understanding of “mitakuye oyasin” that the world needs, especially now, especially in the United States. How do we teach this understanding? We are so tiny, and poor in money. But we are rich beyond belief because we have this understanding of “mitakuye oyasin.” We have something the whole world needs.
If the rest world truly understood “mitakuye oyasin,” would there be massive killings like the World Trade Center?
The people of the strongest and richest country in the world have suddenly become victims. Why are so many of the world’s smaller countries, ones that have been opposed to, and in some cases oppressed by the United States, suddenly coming forward to offer words of condolence and support?
Could it be that the people in those countries can empathize because they know what it feels like?
What place in the world is not subjected to terrorism as a daily or weekly occurrence other than the United States? Now the United States knows what it feels like all over the world. Now the opportunity is here for Americans to begin learning what ‘all my relatives’ truly means.
When your relative is hurt, you go to them and offer them healing. We have that opportunity now. Lakota children are hurting because they feel the pain of the children in New York, Washington, D.C., and other places whose parents have been killed, or are missing. They also feel the fear that such a tragedy causes.
We, adults, have a responsibility to help all the children heal. We have the responsibility to teach them about ‘all my relatives.’ And not just Lakota adults, but all adults have that responsibility.
I have often believed that if the majority of Americans knew the whole truth about the injustice and oppression experienced by Native American people, then they would want it stopped. I know from experience that most American people do not know the whole truth.
The same goes for the United States’ involvement with other countries of the world. I do not believe any ordinary person living in the United States really knows the whole truth about what goes on in the rest of the world. But if we all felt that all people were “our relatives” then this world would definitely be a different place.
From Global/Multicultural Awareness by Jim Craven (Blackfoot), 10/01/01:
For the Campus Community:
Among the “campus-wide abilities” to be integrated into curricula, the need for some “global/multicultural awareness” has been given some support by some recent examples. For example, the present military buildup, originally called “Operation Infinite Justice”, has been changed to “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Why? Well it seems that with all of these massive expenditures on arms and forging alliances with “moderate” Muslim theocracies/states, no one bothered to consult someone familiar with the Koran and aspects of Arab/Muslim cultures who might have informed them that in the Koran, as in the New Testament Bible and Torah—and indeed sacred books of many religions—”infinite justice” is reserved for Allah, God, Creator, etc and it is considered blasphemy (not only in Islam) to presume to undertake and dispense that which is reserved for Allah.
Indeed there are as many perspectives on the recent terrorism as forms and ways of manifesting grief and concern. The night before last I was called by a Blackfoot Elder on Tribal issues. She said to me the following (I took notes as the conversation became quite striking). “So many Americans are now ready to take some forms of terrorism seriously, depending upon who is doing the terrorism and who is the object of it, but we, in Indian Country have known only terrorism and attempts to exterminate us since before the founding of this Republic.” Shes aid,”Biological warfare?; We know all about it; what do you call it when blankets of smallpox victims were gathered specifically to be used in trading with Indians and epidemics were deliberately started and even the head of the BIA has openly admitted that that was done on a mass scale—only to Indians—throughout American history?” She said, “Chemical warfare?, We know all about it; what do you call it when Indian Reservations are targeted as toxic-waste dump sites, when 72 out of 73 designated toxic-waste dumpt sites are Indian reservations and the toxic water and soil are causing damaged kids and many early deaths?” She said, “Terrorism? we know all about it, what do you call it when the government installs, maintains and protects massive Tribal corruption and those who do it (corrupt Indians sell-out cheap and do the bidding of the “Man”) resulting in losses of lives, precious resources and our culture?” She said that her daughters work in a rental car place and the FBI had recently been by to check on a rental that had racked-up over 6,000 miles in a short period, but she noted that repeated pleas by traditional activists, over many years, for the Federal Government to stop supporting Tribal corruption and to help solve the murders of activists and others had fallen over deaf ears.
She said that she wished no ill on anyone, even those who have damaged Indians, but that she felt that soon “a whole lot of non-Indians are going to get a small taste of what it is like to be Indian and live on a Reservation in America.” She said “we already know a lot about obscene gas prices, inferior food at obscene prices, electricity shut-downs, toxic water and soils, gouging in the name of profit, national ID cards, losses of civil liberties available to others, ethnic profiling”, etc. She thought that in the end, maybe Indians will be the lucky ones in terms of not suffering the shock of losing that which is customary and upon which one has become reliant in the sense that Indians have never had access to much of what others take for granted and will freak out upon losing.
However one feels about the various perspectives on recent issues, attached is the perspective on some current issues of Ward Churchill, a Professor of Native and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado (Boulder), who is the author of many influencial and highly-regarded books on Native issues. For those highly offended, perhaps they can consider that perhaps their own views are equally offensive to others and that the campus-wide abilities are supposed to teach and reinforce and explore various kinds and forms of diversity and respect for the right to hold and present diverse opinions even if one has no respect for the particular opinions themselves.
From After Sept. 11, a New Kind of War in a Strange New World by Kevin Gover. In Indian Country Today, 10/1/01:
Many, perhaps most Americans are generally unaware of the history of the rest of the world. We pay for this ignorance when our political views are not informed by a thorough knowledge and understanding of history, and especially our own historical mistakes. In the Middle East, we are now paying for a long history of conflict between Islam and Christianity and for our own policies during the Cold War. The price is being paid in American blood.
I do not second-guess the policies that led us into our current situation for the purpose of criticizing the policy makers. Hindsight is important only for what it can teach us about how we should act in the future. What is important now is that we understand that at least some of the animosity toward us in the Middle East results directly from choices that we made in the past.
From One American Indian’s View of the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attack by Joanna Mounce Stancil. In Indian Country Today, 10/1/01:
Maybe we Native peoples can relate better than most Americans to the horror of such inhumane acts against people. We have branded into our genetics a history of terrorism at the hands of those who saw us as less than human. Who saw us as roadblocks to progress, something to be removed and moved – out of the sight, out of mind, so to speak.
From Parallels Drawn Between Child Rearing and Political Activism in Indian Country Today, 10/4/01:
Kingfisher, 49, and LaDuke each took issue with claims from national political leaders that recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., are the worst atrocities that ever occurred on American soil. What the politicians so conveniently forget, they said, is that American Indian people have sustained incalculable losses since Europeans first arrived.
From “Saturday Struggle” by Peter S. Lopez, 10/6/01:
America needs a new style of humane politics. Surely the old style has not worked as Amerika is seen as Ugly Amerika by most of the real world. Amerika itself is still an egocentric nation and considers itself as the Roman Empire did the center of the civilized world. And the Roman Empire fell and fell hard.
At heart, I believe that Americans as a people of various races, ethnic groups and religious beliefs are a decent, kind, generous and freedom-loving people, yet they are extremely naive and ignorant of world history and the ruthless role that Amerika has in countries outside the continental United States.
As the new found patriotism has swept the nation the continued reality of social oppression, economic exploitation and military repression still glares at American citizens, especially its non-White peoples. For example, Chicano-Indian people do not live in the same America that the white, blonde blue-eyed American lives in. We still see the sublte and gross forms of White racism, see the widespread poverty and see the unfair representation in Congress, including being victims of the local police occupying our own barrios or neighborhoods like a foreign army. We are still living in the same asinine Amerika we did before the National Emergency WAKE UP CALL of 9-11. Nothing has changed for the better amongst us in any dramatic way.
In fact, as a Chicano-Indian I myself must be more aware of the possible perceptions by White Americans of me as a Middle Easterner and be prepared for any possible hate crime external attacks. I felt the same way during the Iran hostages times. Let’s face it, a lot of Chicano-Americans can easily be mistaken for Middle East people. Many of us have the light brown skin, the dark hair and non-White mannerisms.
I support the new approach suggested by Mr. Chomsky via Sister Anyes, BUTTT it is not going to happen in Afghanis-nam. So still being the cynic that I am I expect the U.S. Military Machine to attack the good people of Afghanis-nam any moment now.
The U.S.A. is not me. I have no command of any armed troops and I make a clear distinction between the U.S. government and myself. I myself am not sending anyone anywhere near Afghanis-nam. So people who talk about “us” sending troops, ships and military high-tech hardware to go fight those evil dirty terrorists are speaking for themselves not me. I have my own mind on these matters.
From Santa Fe Bustling Again, but Will Never Be the Same in Indian Country Today, 10/8/01:
“So many Indians have been killed off, now people know how we feel,” said a middle-aged pueblo woman selling silver jewelry. Like many others American Indians critical of the United States government, she asked that her name not be used, and spoke in a near whisper.
“You hear on the TV that our government is for humanity. That is kind of B.S. to me, if you take a look at history, the majority of white people in the government feel they are superior to other races.”
From Americans, What Are You Going to Do? by Russell Means. In Indian Country Today, 10/8/01:
On Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2002, I sat transfixed before the television watching the horror of the world trade center with many emotions running through my heart. On that day I said many prayers for the victims, families and the rescuers.
Since that painful day, I have read countless articles and editorials depicting the terror in newspapers from New York City, Los Angeles and Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M. I have a feeling of sadness at the war mongering that has become the norm for patriarchal societies throughout history, up to and including today.
The remainder of that intolerable week, I tried to get through to New York City and the immediate area to find out how my friends and relatives were. Finally, on Friday and Saturday, I began getting messages through to my friends. On Sunday, Sept. 16, my friend Rainer Greeven, Esq. called to assure me that he, his family and immediate friends were safe. However, within his own circle of friends and business associates he had been deeply affected. In fact, he told me he didn’t know anyone in NYC that wasn’t affected by tragedy.
During the course of our conversation, he asked me what I thought our response, as a nation should be. I shared with him the following: “George W. Bush has the opportunity to become the greatest president this country has ever produced and to change the course of history. All he has to do is turn the other cheek and reach out to every country and to all peoples in the world.”
I then responded, “Yes, go after the perpetrators of this holocaust and do what justice demands.
“Then, Mr. Bush could restart the Peace Corps or any other type of corps he would like to designate. They would go to countries around the world and monitor and assure our foreign aid not only goes to governments but deserving communities and organizations. This would reverse the U.S. policies of granting foreign aide to prop up dictatorships who agree to be our ally. Thus, within four to five years there wouldn’t be a country in the world that would allow anti-U.S. terrorists to find haven in their countries.”
Unfortunately, Bush has chosen the typical male response of revenge and vengeance, so now we are on the same course as the Israelis, where state violence engenders individual violence and vice versa. While Mr. Bush has told the Palestinians and the Israelis to end their cycle of violence, he and all the “bipartisan” leaders of this country are now in danger of enlarging the very same cycle of violence.
The military-industrial complex and their dupes in Washington, D.C., have now found the perfect, never ending war, a war against the unknown. This will be worse than the drug war. In order for this war against the unknown to continue forever, sporadic terrorist acts of violence will have to take place within America. The landscape of America will become littered with armed forces guarding every airport, TV station, bank, refinery, utility company, communication company, water plant, etc., etc., etc. This is not a doomsday scenario; this is logic based upon the growth and power of the federal government. It is historical fact.
Soon Americans will not be able to travel anywhere in the world without great fear for themselves and for their families.
The first duty of a true patriot is to question authority; the first responsibility of a patriot is to be a good neighbor. I have heard the refrain, “this is a wake up call for America,” from many Americans from all over this country, so I ask those good Americans, who is responsible for putting us in harm’s way? It is the policies of our past and present leadership of the United States of America.
We can no longer be a country in denial and continue to live in the fantasyland of America, right or wrong. We must accept the fact our military continues to kill men, women and children and is now planning to do it again.
Americans, what are you going to do?
From What About the American Flag? by Paul Joseph Monk, 10/9/01:
Friends and Relations,
I reckon its time to throw in my two cents.
I fully understand that my native brothers and sisters step up to the plate to defend this country in joining the U.S. Armed forces. It is what many on the rez think of as an act of a warrior. Personally, I have near 19 years invested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I have a kola waste’ on Yankton who served in the 101. He spoke a truth that most of us, whose blood is mixed with “Americans” (i.e. Europeans) feel.
He was marching with an honor guard and carrying the “Proud U.S. flag” and on it were banners from all the “victories” the U.S. Army enjoyed. One of those banners represented a certain “victory” that happened in a small South Dakota hamlet where 300 or so Elders, women, and children were massacred along with a 150 “warrior” men. These were our relations that were killed under the “stars and stripes.”
And the list goes on: The “Dakota Uprising” where our brothers were hung because they dared to attempt to hold that “Proud U.S. flag” to the promises its powers had promised; Sand Creek where the “gallant” Col. Chivington ambushed and slaughtered the peaceful Arapaho who thought the “Proud U.S. flag” was their friend. Should I go on? How about the “great” president whose face graces the $20 bill, the honorable “General Jackson,” who under that “Proud U.S. flag” gave the order to send thousands of our Tsalagi relations to their deaths along the Trail. The very same relations who fought alongside him in driving their brethren, the Seminoles, out of Georgia.
When I see the flag flying and the media patter of “God bless America,” I feel like puking. I swore my loyalty to defend this country against hostile foreign powers, that is my job, and I won’t neglect it. That oath is backed by my honor. But my country is not “America.” I know her as Unci Maka, and that is what she will always be to me. Unci and I, and many of you, including Jake Little, are connected through the bond of Spirit and blood not to “the Proud U.S. flag,” but to our Grandmother, Maka.
I don’t know enough truth about this “war” to choose sides, but I do know more than enough about the Occupiers of this land who force us, under the doctrine of “dependent domestic nations,” to abide by its Constitution which our Six-Nation relations helped draft. I know that behind the “Proud U.S. flag” lies a bloody history of treachery and deceit to all of our Peoples, be they Lakota, Apache, Dine’, or Tsalagi. I, for one, am not proud of the “America” everyone is jumping on the band wagon to rally behind.
The Nations of my relations and Unci Maka have my Spiritual allegiance. And nothing else matters. I make vows and promises to the U.S. Government. But it goes against my Spirit and flies in the face of my ancestors, women and children, who were mercilessly slaughtered at the hands of the “Proud U.S. flag.” How can I be proud of this? I will honor my duty to the “United States” and carry on in good faith.
There will come a time when my heart will tell me, “its time to go,” and then I can give up this life of “dual citizenship” with my oppressor and fully join into the real fight for our People and the survival of our traditional ways. Then, and only then, will I believe that “its a good day to die.”
He Hecetu Yelo!
Paul Joseph Monk
From Attacks Parallel Native Tragedies by Jodi Rave Lee. In the Lincoln Journal Star, c. 11/7/01:
Much can be understood [about] how tragedy can create a grieving psyche among millions people, many who never knew even one person who died Sept. 11. For a moment, let’s turn the tables. For a moment, let’s seize the opportunity to try and relate the tragic deaths on the East Coast to the loss of lives suffered by millions of U.S. indigenous people since the arrival of Columbus, and the loss of indigenous lives that continued in this country throughout the 19th century. Life for Native people forever changed.
Today, we represent a microcosm about what is good and bad in America. We have some of the richest and most beautiful cultures, beliefs, languages and spiritual people in the world.
We also have some of the most abysmal statistics. Alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic abuse, suicides, accidental deaths, diabetes, smoking and unemployment rates are among the highest of all groups in the country.
What needs to be understood is that North American indigenous people are just now coming off the downside of 500 years of death, disease and destruction — the demise of a way of life. We are still recovering from life as we once knew it. Healing is an ongoing process in many of our Native communities.
Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” says many schoolchildren were taught that only a million indigenous people lived in North America upon European arrival.”That low number was useful in justifying the white conquest of what could be viewed as an almost empty continent,” writes the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
When, in fact, archeological evidence suggests there were at least 20 million people, of which 95 percent died in the two centuries following Columbus’ arrival. The spiraling destruction didn’t end there.
My own tribes, the Mandan and Hidatsa of North Dakota, were nearly wiped out in 1837 following our own experience with bioterrorism. Smallpox-infected blankets were sent up the Missouri River by steamboat to our villages.
One Mandan village “plummeted from 2,000 to fewer than 40 within a few weeks,” Diamond said. In “The Hidatsa,” Mary Jane Schneider writes: “The smallpox epidemic of 1837 caused physical death and psychological trauma,” wiping out 60 percent to 70 percent of the Mandan and Hidatsa people.
An intricate social system and elaborate culture had been nearly destroyed, almost overnight. The destruction continued up to the 1950s, when the majority of the Mandan and Hidatsa’s ancestral lands were flooded for the Garrison Dam project.
Those memories don’t fade easily. They affect our culture today. We’ve been left with unresolved grief that has passed from generation to generation. We had no army of psychologists to help with the suffering. But like other tribes, we did have a strong spiritual base that enabled to us to be here today.
For those who feel Natives should get over the loss of their land, language and culture and a way of life as they once knew it, they should ask themselves: How long will it take them to heal over the loss of 5,500 people they never knew? For those people who find it hard to understand the plight of modern day Native people, one need only look to New York.
Lost lives and fear of lost freedoms have changed the way many Americans view life. Spirituality has allowed Native people to survive, and it will likely help U.S. citizens as they search for theirs.
When I recently found myself in the midst of a possible West Coast terrorist attack, I felt no apprehension.
I merely experienced the perceived threat of terrorism transcend from East to West, just as it did 500 years ago, only this time on a much smaller scale.
From Coming Home by Bill Briggs. In the Denver Post, 4/14/02:
In November, a former Methodist minister turned military commander, John Chivington, led 700 soldiers from Denver toward Sand Creek. At dawn on Nov. 29, the troops attacked Black Kettle’s camp, killing 163 Indian people. Some of the fleeing Cheyenne were tracked for 5 miles and then slain, historians say.
To many Cheyenne people today, the “Sand Creek Massacre” is every bit as poignant and brutal as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They see similar patterns in the two acts, including the hatred of an entire culture and the blood lust to extinguish it. It’s one more reason why this state remains central to their history.
“Colorado is significant because, unfortunately, it was there that the most ruthless butchery of a people occurred,” says Native American studies expert Mann. Some of her ancestors survived the attack at Sand Creek.
“It’s something that continues to remain a part of who we are as a people.”
Native people and their views aren’t monolithic, of couse. Some Indians evince the same kill-the-infidels thinking of their non-Indian compatriots. See Yeagley and Vanas for examples of 21st-century warriors stuck in the 19th century.
Quotes of the day
If the savage resists, civilization, with the Ten Commandments in one hand and the sword in the other, demands his immediate execution.
Some righteous Republican demanding action against Bin Laden? No, President Andrew Johnson demanding action against Indians, 1867.
We told them to let us alone, and keep away from us; but they followed on, and beset our paths, and they coiled themselves among us, like the snake. They poisoned us by their touch. We were not safe. We lived in danger. We were becoming like them, hypocrites and liars, adulterers, lazy drones, all talkers, and no workers.
Osama bin Laden justifying his murderous acts? No, Chief Black Hawk, Sauk Indian, surrendering to the forces of American dominion, 1832.
Think about it.
More Native intelligence on terrorism
Ford: ” This country has blood on its hands on its own soil.”
The War on Terror as an Indian War
Limerick: “We have surrendered the chance to learn lessons from the wars that might well guide our military and diplomatic policy today.”
“American Indians point out that Sept. 11, 2001, was [not] the first time terrorism was unleashed in this land….”
Starkey: Wounded Knee took a greater “percentage of our population than 100 World Trade Centers could equal to America.”
Free: “It is nothing new, the terror that has been experienced in America.”
Mongeau: “Remember the atrocities done to us…by this government who is now crying
More Native intelligence on foreign wars and conflicts
Prison abuse shows America’s values: the Native connection
The Indian-Iraqi connection
The Indian-Palestinian connection
Terrorism: “good” vs. “evil”
Genocide by any other name…
Hercules vs. Coyote: Native and Euro-American beliefs
America’s cultural mindset
“Plenty of Native people put the attacks in perspective by thinking back to the Indian Wars or about the many unsolved murders of Natives….”