Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day - Native Warriors killed by the US Government

Ben Carnes
Memorial Day - Native Warriors killed by the US Government

Wikipedia defines Memorial Day as: "Memorial Day is a United States Federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (in 2008 on May 26). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action."

Maybe it's my rebellious nature or that in nearly every holiday the government observes, there is some sadness in the remembrances of the First Nations people, whether it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, or the days near the holiday.

I am not belittling the loss of life in Iraq, Vietnam or other military engagements. Someone lost a loved one. At the same time, I begin to think of people like Joseph Stuntz, Anna Mae Aquash, Larry Casuse, and so many others who made a stand in the past 40 years or so against this government. During 1972 - 1975 the numbers of sixty murders on Pine Ridge alone is heart stopping. Many of those were women and children, and the FBI who had the largest presence of agents (per ratio) than anywhere else in the country stood by with their hands in their pockets, noses in the air and a sly grin on their lips.

In Incident at Oglala, Trudell says of that time, "You don't see a long list of their dead - you see a long list of our dead, and almost exclusively they all had an Indian name!" We paid a heavy price that we still haven't recovered from. Five years ago, my adopted Grandfather, Standing Deer was murdered, and many believe it was because he revealed the governments plot to assassinate Leonard Peltier. Just in Peltier's case, Dallas Thundershield, Bobby Garcia, and Rocky Duenas are dead. Those three were involved in helping Peltier escape from Lompoc.

Many of the Warriors who made a stand at Oka in 1990 are dead, and several died with a few years after the standoff ended. Dudley George was unarmed and killed by a police officer while attempting to drive a school bus between attacking police forces to protect retreating women and children at Ipperwash.

So in the past 40 - 50 years we have warriors to remember. And when we go further, the Lakota names of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and many others come to mind. Many other warriors and leaders died while being held as prisoners of war.

We know that they died in conflict with the United States Government in defending the land and the people. They died defending our way of life, and what have we done today to keep their memories alive? What will we do to continue to uphold the principles they died for? How will we bring the government to account for the forced sterilization of Indian women? That in itself is an act of genocide, but has the US ever been called to account for it. And what of the lies told in the public mis-educational system about the nature of the theft or our homelands.

These homelands are the cemeteries of our dead; we walk upon the blood they offered for the future generations. These are sacred grounds consecrated by the willingness to give their life for the people.

So today and every day we should always remember them through burning some smoke for them and tying up some tobacco to make a commitment to bring justice, truth and freedom to our people and our future generations. Join the small ranks of the warriors who are trying to bring justice for the wrongs committed by the US Government, truth in the educational system and freedom for Peltier, Native prisoners rights to pray and for us to be who we truly are. I believe it was Sitting Bull who said, "It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows". We don't have to be anything else than who we are, but it is difficult to pick up the shattered pieces of our collective history since our evolution was interrupted by Columbus, Pilgrims, and the occupation of our homelands by an arrogant newly formed government called the United States of America.

We weren't all fortunate to have been born on the "rez" among traditions and spiritual leaders. Many more have been taken away from their homes and placed in foster care and have attempted to seek out their bloodlines, but in some cases are ridiculed or rejected. God forbid if they only have a 1/4 blood or less and have blond hair and blue eyes. Or they are not card-carrying members of a First nation recognized only by the government. Even worse is the fact that our Indigenous relatives happen to be born across a government made border, then they aren't Indians either!

The points here is the divide and conquer techniques that the government utilizes to their advantage to keep potential adversaries at each other's throats. We need to overcome our tribalism, racism, sexism, and the other isms so that we can begin to find common grounds to come together on.

Can you imagine the strength in numbers if all Natives and their extended families, friends or allies created one major voting bloc? I don't know the census, but if we have two million Indians, and they had 10 - 15 non-native friends, that would be numbers they could not ignore. And to take it a step further, let me say this theoretically since we now live in the time of homeland security (Gestapo/thought police), we could amass enough roadblocks and occupations of government facilities to change the direction we are directed. We could shut this country down. And if we could overcome the narrow mindedness of those borders, and work in solidarity with our relatives to the South and to the North, we could shut down the entire Western Hemisphere. By blocking commercial transportation routes, turning off the water and power.

Maybe then, in my dream, can we reclaim Turtle Island as a League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations? And then maybe the United Nations may ask to join us, since they have refused to allow us to join them.

I only offer these thoughts on this Memorial Day in knowing that our Warriors died for liberation from living under the rule of a foreign government - and as long as we are divided - that day may never come. What will you do?

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