• Indian Country,  Israel,  The Political Animal

    Academic Boycotts and Re-Colonization by Theory

    (The full text of the following essay was published by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.) from “Academic Boycotts and Recolonization by Theory”  As a matter of international justice, however, conceptually distinguishing and crucial in consideration of what constitutes an indigenous people have been the following characteristics, developed for the Working Paper on the Concept of “Indigenous People” prepared for the U.N.’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations: Priority in time, with respect to the occupation and use of a specific territory; The voluntary perpetuation of cultural distinctiveness, which may include the aspects of language, social organization, religion and spiritual values, modes of production, laws and institutions; An experience of subjugation,…

  • Indian Country

    The Trope Dope: “Check Your Privilege”

    In the final analysis, Madame Bovary is just another trope. Unknown academic wag. dope: an illicit, habit-forming, or narcotic drug; a stupid person; [slang] the inside scoop, the poop, the skinny, the lowdown Cant kills ideas. Leaves them dead in the field, their tongues swollen and hanging. Flies buzzing. (They fell in love too easily. He took her for granted, abused her. Then he beat her. She shot him.) You know what they say, it’s chickens coming home to roost, because both sides do it when a conservative is a liberal who got mugged for the American Exceptionalism of the Founding Fathers, whose shining city on a hill where that…

  • Indian Country

    Forty-Five Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty Six Days (or Thereabouts)

    . Many top stories are receiving their usual high levels of attention, from the structural taxation reforms bandied about in the face of the “fiscal cliff” that is really a graded driveway to Israel and Gaza. What receives no attention? The usual, including from among the far left advocates of “peace and justice” who pretend to be concerned with matters of indigeneity in Israel-Palestine. Indigenous America is at the heart neither of au currant left ideological interests nor the challenge to Western liberal democracy, so other than lending a terminological veneer to attacks on Israel, you will find no Code Pink or BDS for it, no section of The Daily Beast specially edited by…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Reflections on the Spirit of Resistance

    . Paul Newman’s 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, the apex of journeyman Stuart Rosenberg’s directorial career, imbued popular culture with many iconic scenes and memorable lines. (“What we have here – is failure to communicate.” “Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”) Among the famous scenes is that of the prison camp boxing match between George Kennedy’s alpha prisoner (the role that won him an Oscar and made him famous) and Newman’s smaller Luke. As expected, Kennedy’s “Dragline” beats Luke good. But Luke will not stay down. He is woozily staggering with every blow, even knocked down by some of the head shots, but each time, against cries from…

  • Israel

    Not So Random Questions, Facts, & Observations about Gaza & Israel

    . If forces in Mexico – drug cartels, for instance – were firing rockets and missiles into an area roughly covering 25% of the United States this is what it would look like. If the U.S. equivalent of one million Israelis were under threat of this bombardment on a daily basis, running for cover, hiding in bomb shelters, suffering damage to their homes, roughly 45 million Americans would be victims of this terror. Imagine the reaction of the American people. Imagine the political and national defense requirements of the U.S. government in response, even if no one had yet been killed. The United Nations categorizes 48 nations, with a population…

  • Indian Country,  Israel,  The Political Animal

    Writing Paradise

    . I learned at an early adult age, with only minor but memorable pain, not to hero-worship. When we lionize people, we tend to forget the natural inclination of the lion to consume the person. I prefer admiration. Admiration works from the muck up. While hero worship sets up the faithful for a fall, admiration begins in the recognition of human failings and appreciates a person’s achievement in rising above them. Fewer disappointments that way, more genuine appreciation of the distinction in the ascent. I was asked the other day, after tweeting of his death, about my thoughts on Russell Means. Not that I have any special standing to speak…

  • Indian Country,  The Political Animal

    Conspiracies

    . I was talking with my class the other day about the methodology of fully-developed conspiracy theories and my general skepticism toward them. The undeveloped conspiracy theory works off a form of radical skepticism. How do you know we really landed on the moon? Have you been witness to any of the reality of the moon landings? How do you know it was not all filmed in a studio somewhere? (How do you know, for that matter, that George Washington really existed? Have you yourself seen any of the historical evidence of his life and presidency? Have you carbon dated any of the documents with his signature? Can you personally…

  • Indian Country

    Pine Ridge: In the Shadow of Wounded Knee

    . The photographs, text, video and audio below are from the August edition of National Geographic magazine, all courtesy of the magazine. The photography is by Aaron Huey, whose work we have highlighted before at the sad red earth, the story by Alexandra Fuller. Huey has spent the past seven years documenting the lives of  the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It is an important record of Native life today after a history of conquest. “Riders take a break during a day of activities to mark the 1876 defeat of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.” “Three-year-old C. J. Shot bathes among dishes. The Oglala concept of tiospaye—the…

  • Indian Country

    I Am a Man: When American Indians Were Recognized as People Under U.S. Law

    . This is the story I have meant to share.  You had to know the story of the Massacre of the Cheyenne first. That took place at Fort Robinson, Nebraska on January 9, 1879. This story, and these events, played out only months later, in Omaha, Nebraska, in the spring of 1879. Though I draw on additional sources here, for the full story in all its detailed richness, you must read I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, by Joe Starita. In 1877, as part of the government’s “removal” program (what we would now call ethnic cleansing), the Ponca tribe was forcefully relocated from it homelands in Nebraska…

  • Indian Country

    Massacre of the Cheyenne

    . The story I mean to relate is for tomorrow. This is another story. This one needs to be told first, as Joe Starita tells it first, for context, in his I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice. Standing Bear’s story is of the Ponca tribe. This story is of the Cheyenne. A well-known film was made of it, John Ford’s last Western, Cheyenne Autumn, in 1964, based on the little-known book by Mari Sandoz. (I posted a clip a while back.) One could argue that Ford’s previous Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, had brought the curtain down on the era of the classic Western.…

  • Indian Country,  On The Road

    A Lost Covenant

    . Among all the Native tribes of North America to whom sacred bundles were part of their spiritual tradition, there was none to whom the bundles and the ceremonial prayers that accompanied them were more central than the Pawnee. According to the Kansas Historical Society, Sacred bundles were a powerful part of Pawnee ceremonies linked to planting and harvesting. They contained tools necessary to those ceremonies, and the rituals and ceremonies associated with them were passed from generation to generation along with the bundles. Bundles were owned by women and inherited through the female line, but could be used by men only. To open or use a bundle without the proper ritual and ceremony invited…

  • Indian Country

    Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Deception

    . I head in a few days to Columbus, Nebraska for an NEH workshop on the Legacies and Landmarks of the Plains Native Americans. One of the books I’m reading in preparation is “I Am a Man”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, by Joe Starita. Standing Bear was a Ponca Indian chief whose efforts to return his son for burial to Ponca territory in Nebraska, after the U.S. had forcefully removed the tribe to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, gave rise to the landmark US District Court case Standing Bear v. Crook (1879). In the court’s decision, for the first time,  American Indians were delcared to be “persons within the meaning of the law.” Starita’s prose is fine and…

  • Indian Country

    Imagine the Dred Scott Decision Were Still the Law of the Land

    . An Indigenous People Forum on the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery was held on March 23 on the floor of the Arizona State House of Representatives. “The event was hosted by the Native American Caucus of the Arizona State Legislature, and presided over by the O’otham Hemuchkam upon whose traditional territories as O’otham Nations the capitol complex now stands.” The forum was held in advance of the upcoming Eleventh Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the special theme of which is the Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests (articles 28 and 37…

  • Culture Clash,  Indian Country

    CineFile – Cheyenne Autumn

    . Yesterday’s post on Geronimo put me in mind of John Ford‘s Cheyenne Autumn. The excerpt from We Shall Remain noted how within only several years of Geronimo’s capture he had transformed in the American consciousness from demon savage into the iconic fierce warrior. (The U.S. special forces operation that killed Osama bin Laden was code-named “Geronimo.”) John Ford spent much of a notable film career making Westerns that failed to represent the historic truth of European settler and Indian relations and that produced much great iconography mythologizing the U.S. government role. Cheyenne Autumn, at the end of his long career, and not one of his better films, was instantly recognizable as a kind of penitential self-corrective. What…

  • Indian Country

    How We Lived On It (45) – Geronimo

    . Just over three years ago, Julia and I were present for the aftermath of a blessing ceremony – the participants and witnesses of which had been Apaches only – on the San Carlos Apache reservation. “The purpose of the ceremony,” I wrote at the time, “was to prepare the land for the installation of a memorial to be unveiled on February 17, 2009, the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Geronimo, who died in captivity, a prisoner of war, finally, for 23 years, at Fort Sills, Oklahoma, where he is buried.” Here is the ending of episode four of the PBS documentary We Shall Remain, a history of…

  • Culture Clash

    A Melancholy Thanksgiving

    This is the first Thanksgiving without my brother, who died in May, so it will be a melancholy holiday for my family. It was Jeff’s favorite holiday, as it is mine, and we will try to honor what he loved in it, and why he and Anne hosted our family feasts on the day for over two decades. Still, we will feel who is missing, and what, by his absence – such a big personality. Still, we will be thankful for those who remain to surround us. This mixture of feelings would not be a bad model for Thanksgiving in general. As a cultural expression, established by Abraham Lincoln in…

  • Indian Country

    Warriors in Transition

    . A little while back I stopped in at the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian. It is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a monumental Beaux Arts building at the Battery and a National Historic Landmark  listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been adapted on the interior for contemporary, mixed use and includes, along with the NMAI, New York offices of the Department of Homeland Security. You can chew on that irony yourselves. One exhibit, now closed, was of 32 images of the Crow people by Richard Throssel (1882-1933). Throssell was of mixed ancestry, including Cree Indian. He joined his…

  • Indian Country

    In Memory of Elouise Cobell

    . This blog began in late 2008 to recount my yearlong nationwide travels through Indian Country with documentary photographer Julia Dean. Those travels themselves were inspired by my publication earlier that year of “Aboriginal Sin,” in Tikkun. The article (scroll down for an image link on the right) presented an overview of the historic assault on indigenous peoples and culture in this nation, and it did so in the context of highlighting one of the outstanding examples that the assault was not merely old news, but ongoing. That example was the Individual Indian Money Trust Fund litigation, otherwise known as Cobell v. (choose a succession of secretaries of the interior…

  • Indian Country,  The Political Animal

    “Special” Rights and the Accomplices to Discrimination That Are Those Who Call Them So

    In a recent Indian Country Today essay, Peter d’Errico, the eminent Native American rights advocate, argued that “we need to be careful with the phrase ‘special rights.’ Perhaps we shouldn’t even use it.” In this instance, I think d’Errico is too moderate in his judgment. d’Errico was writing about the term specifically in its application to American Indians. Referencing “a 2001 study of Native American rights by the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society,” d’Errico tells us,  The Michigan study says ‘tribal sovereignty’ is rooted in the original sovereignty violated by the colonists, and that ‘special rights’ is a name given by the violators to the sovereign powers that were not…

  • Indian Country

    Time to Renounce the Doctrine of Discovery

    Not much reason amid all the attention on reaching a debt deal that most people, including in the media, would have paid any attention to a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Not much reason ever, by normal lights. Still, the happy advent of Gay marriage in New York managed to catch the public attention. In contrast, Indigenous issues continue to be not simply unseen, beneath the radar and the lights, but actually to be seen in the wrong light. There was, in fact, a June 9 Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Domestic Policy Implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.…

  • Indian Country

    Native America in the Courts of the Conqueror

    Image via Wikipedia A common sense of the matter among those little knowledgeable or arrogantly unreflective about the Native conquest in what became the United States is that it took the form, simply, of ages old civilizational conflicts, in which one expanding and militarily superior culture historically and amorally superseded another. Like the Persian Empire replacing the Babylonian, it was a matter, it is claimed, of unarguable cultural Darwinism. But by the nineteenth century, national and ethical development had altered the nature of such conflicts and how conquerors sought to portray their conduct to themselves: little known is that the Native conquest was religiously, morally, and – to the point…