Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Poetic Justice of Dennis Brutus

The Poetic Justice of Dennis Brutus
Posted on Dec 29, 2009
By Amy Goodman

Dennis Brutus broke rocks next to Nelson Mandela when they were imprisoned together on notorious Robben Island. His crime, like Mandela’s, was fighting the injustice of racism, challenging South Africa’s apartheid regime. Brutus’ weapons were his words: soaring, searing, poetic. He was banned, he was censored, he was shot. But this poet’s commitment and activism, his advocacy on behalf of the poor, never flagged. Brutus died in his sleep early on Dec. 26 in Cape Town, at the age of 85, but he lived with his eyes wide open. His life encapsulated the 20th century, and even up until his final days, he inspired, guided and rallied people toward the fight for justice in the 21st century.

Oddly, for this elfin poet and intellectual, it was rugby that early on nagged him about the racial injustice of his homeland. Brutus recalled being sarcastically referred to by a white man as a “future Springbok.”

The Springboks were the national rugby team, and Brutus knew that nonwhites could never be on the team. “It stuck with me, until years later, when I began to challenge the whole barrier—questioning why blacks can’t be on the team.” This issue is depicted in Clint Eastwood’s new feature film, “Invictus.” President Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, embraces the Springboks during the 1995 World Cup, admitting that until then blacks always knew whom to root for: any team playing against the Springboks.

In the late 1950s, Brutus was penning a sports column under the pseudonym “A. de Bruin”—meaning “A brown” in Afrikaans. Brutus wrote, “The column ... was ostensibly about sports results, but also about the politics of race and sports.” He was banned, an apartheid practice that imposed restrictions on movement, meeting, publishing and more. In 1963, while attempting to flee police custody, he was shot. He almost died on a Johannesburg street while waiting for an ambulance restricted to blacks.

Brutus spent 18 months in prison, in the same section of Robben Island as Nelson Mandela, where he wrote his first collection of poems, “Sirens, Knuckles, Boots.” His poem “Sharpeville” described the March 21, 1960, massacre in which South African police opened fire, killing 69 civilians, an event which radicalized him:

Remember Sharpeville

bullet-in-the-back day

Because it epitomized oppression

and the nature of society

more clearly than anything else;

it was the classic event

After prison, Brutus began life as a political refugee. He formed the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee to leverage sports into a high-profile, global anti-apartheid campaign. He succeeded in getting South Africa banned from the Olympic Games in 1970. Brutus moved to the United States, where he remained as a university professor and anti-apartheid leader, despite efforts by the Reagan administration to deny him continued status as a political refugee and deport him.

After the fall of apartheid and ascension to power of the African National Congress, Brutus remained true to his calling. He told me, “As water is privatized, as electricity is privatized, as people are evicted even from their shacks because they can’t afford to pay the rent of the shacks, the situation becomes worse. ... The South African government, under the ANC ... has chosen to adopt a corporate solution.”

He went on: “We come out of apartheid into global apartheid. We’re in a world now where, in fact, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few; the mass of the people are still poor ... a society which is geared to protect the rich and the corporations and actually is hammering the poor, increasing their burden, this is the reverse of what we thought was going to happen under the ANC government.”

Many young activists know Dennis Brutus not for his anti-apartheid work but as a campaigner for global justice, ever present at mass mobilizations against the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—and, most recently, although not present, giving inspiration to the protesters at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. He said, on his 85th birthday, days before the climate talks were to commence: “We are in serious difficulty all over the planet. We are going to say to the world: There’s too much of profit, too much of greed, too much of suffering by the poor... The people of the planet must be in action.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

[Blog editor's note: Dennis Brutus was also a long-time Peltier supporter. His activism on behalf of Peltier and other political prisoners will be sorely missed.]

31 Dec 2009: Today's Democracy Now!

2009 in Perspective: Glenn Greenwald on the Five Wars US Is Fighting in Muslim Countries
As 2009 comes to a close, today we begin by taking a step back and putting this year of war in perspective. blogger Glenn Greenwald discusses US foreign policy, including the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes on Pakistan, cruise missile attacks on Yemen, operations in Somalia, the ongoing operation in Iraq, and much more. [includes rush transcript]

"The Era of Tolerance Is Over" - Iran Warns over Opposition Protests
Iran’s police chief has warned anti-government protesters to stay off the streets and threatened, “The era of tolerance is over. Anyone attending such rallies will be crushed.” Hundreds of prominent activists have been arrested since Sunday’s mass street protests, and between eight to thirty-seven people have been killed. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of government supporters turned out Wednesday for state-sponsored rallies in cities across the country. We speak with Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, and Baruch College professor, Ervand Abrahamian. [includes rush transcript]

Haitian Community Activist Jean Montrevil Faces Deportation
On Wednesday morning, Jean Montrevil was attending a regular immigration check-in when he was detained by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE. He now faces deportation to Haiti for a twenty-year-old drug conviction, for which he has already served eleven years in prison. He has not broken any laws since then. Montrevil is married to an American citizen and is the father of four US citizen children. Montrevil is a longtime community leader in New York City and active in a number of immigrant rights groups, including Families for Freedom, the NYC New Sanctuary Movement, and Detention Watch Network. [includes rush transcript]


Suicide Bomber Hits CIA Base in Afghanistan, 8 Dead
Roadside Bombing Kills Four Canadian Troops and Canadian Journalist
Afghan Investigators Accused Int’l Forces of Killing Schoolboys
Canadian PM Harper Accused of Shutting Down Torture Probe
Dutch Court OKs Nigerian Suit Against Shell
Egyptian Police Beat Protesters from Gaza Freedom March
Treasury Announces Another Bailout of GMAC
Memphis Sues Wells Fargo over Mortgage Lending Practices
Report: Malaria Risk to Increase in Kenya Due to Climate Change
EPA Criticizes New York State Plan for Natural Gas Drilling

Freedom is NOT Free!

If you've been paying attention, you know that 2009 was an eventful year for Leonard Peltier and his supporters. The parole denial was disappointing, but we won a number of important battles and demonstrated that support for Leonard Peltier is alive and well.

"Don't mourn. Organize!"

In that spirit, 2010 will be a busy year. We're confident that 2010 will bring many blessings.

There's a whole crew of attorneys on board working on issues related to Leonard's case. Peter Matthiessen's recent article in the New York Book Review generated so much interest that it has now gone into syndication. Community organizing is kicking into high gear with the Zoom In campaign and other campaigns are planned for the coming year. Working with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Leonard's Committee recently succeeded in directly reaching Attorney General Eric Holder to formally request Leonard's transfer from maximum security. Lobbying efforts targeting the Department of Justice, White House, and Members of Congress will be undertaken in the coming year. Outreach to Indian Nations (begun prior to the White House Tribal Summit) will continue.

This and much more will only happen with your help.

--> Donate now:

Make a one-time donation or pledge now to donate monthly, quarterly, or annually:

Check out the selection of lithographs and digital prints, paintings, and merchandise at, too.

Leonard's freedom depends on you.

Be a friend to Leonard Peltier. Donate to the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee now. Go to

Alternatively, checks and money orders made payable to the "LPDOC" can be mailed to LP-DOC, PO Box 7488, Fargo, ND 58106.

Do what must be done. Help to free an innocent man.

Friends of Peltier
Time to set him free... Because it's the RIGHT thing to do

EPA pulls Black Mesa Mine permit

EPA pulls Black Mesa Mine permit

Coal-fired power has suffered another setback in the Four Corners. The Environmental Protection Agency recently withdrew a controversial permit from the massive Black Mesa Coal Complex, a mine operated by Peabody Coal Co. on Navajo Nation and Hopi lands in northeastern Arizona.

The decision came in response to an appeal brought by a diverse coalition of tribal and environmental groups. The appeal alleged that Black Mesa was discharging heavy metal and pollutants into washes and tributaries and polluting groundwater and drinking water. Brad Bartlett, of Durango’s Energy Minerals Law Center, argued the case.

“EPA is to be commended for doing the right thing in this instance and withdrawing the inadequate water permit for Black Mesa,” said Wahleah Johns, of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “Our community was shut out of the permitting process and our requests for public hearings on the permit denied. If a new permit is issued, the agency must ensure that impacted communities are meaningfully involved in environmental decision-making.”

The coalition cited violations of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act at the mine. The appeal went on to charge that the EPA had failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of leaky waste ponds and failed to provide local residents with adequate opportunities for public participation.

The Black Mesa Mine has a history of controversy stemming from concerns about air and water pollution, impacts to local people, the drying of aquifers and springs, and air pollution.

For three and a half decades, Peabody’s coal-mining operations on Black Mesa have tapped the sole source of drinking water for the adjacent Navajo and Hopi communities. Between 1969 - 2005, Peabody pumped an average of 4,600 acre-feet of water annually from the Navajo Aquifer, causing significant damage to community water supplies.

“The indigenous peoples of Black Mesa know that water is life, and environmental justice has been served by EPA’s decision,” said Hertha Woody, a regional Sierra Club leader and member of the Navajo Nation. “No one should have to question the quality of their life-giving waters. It is good to know that more will be done by EPA to protect these waters in the future.”

On the flip side, environmental activists and organizations were recently blacklisted as the biggest threats to the Hopi and Navajo tribes. The Hopi Tribe passed a resolution on Sept. 28 barring conservationists from traveling on reservation lands, and Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. expressed his support. Challenges to the Black Mesa Mine were at the heart of the resolution.

The Hopi Council cited the closure of the Mohave Generating Station, which used coal exclusively from Black Mesa, as one example of an objectionable action by environmental groups. Located in Laughlin, Nev., the Mohave Generating Station was shuttered in 2005 following a lawsuit that alleged numerous air quality violations at the plant. This closure resulted in the loss of as much as $8.5 million in tribal revenues per year, according to the Hopi Council.

The Navajo Nation said there were parallels with opposition to the Desert Rock Power Plant and the Environmental Protection Agency’s repeal of the permit for the plant. Navajo President Shirley said he strongly supported the Hopi Tribe’s resolution to declare local and national environmental groups unwelcome on Hopi land.

“I stand with the Hopi Nation,” he said. “Unlike ever before, environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threats to tribal sovereignty.”

Source URL:

State of Emergency for Indian Reservations Hit by Brutal Winter Storm: WARNING!

State of Emergency for Indian Reservations Hit by Brutal Winter Storm: WARNING!

By Richard Boyden

Over 1000 Native American families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are with propane for heat, are snowed in and can’t get out to get food, and in many cases are unable to purchase food. This is because of over 5 days of below freezing temperatures, blizzard winds, and non-stop snow that created 3-10 foot snow drifts and buried all access roads into rural areas where thousands of homes are isolated throughout the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, and Standing Rock Reservations.

At this time, there has been no Obama offered help other then extra “food commodities” which is good but certainly does not even dent the surface of the needs especially with the lack of monies for propane. There has been no offers of help from Hollywood because “Indian Country is not Africa”. Neither has there been any offers from major charities such as Red Cross or the Salvation Army. And just this month, the Salvation Army raised over $200,000.00 during their “Traditional Christmas Drive” in South Dakota and I have to ask…where is the money going to and why aren’t they offering any help to Native American families freezing and out of food and propane, many who’s homes now have frozen pipes because they ran out of propane?. Is Salvation Army purposely ignoring the needs in their own back yard? Evidently so

I have yet to see any response from “Church’s or Synagogues" locally or nationwide either. Am I missing something or is it that Native Americans do not qualify for any emergency help as compared to other races, cultures, and nations who suffer catastrophic and cataclysmic experiences such as this or worse? Evidently.

Neither do I see any “rich Casino Tribes” such as the Shakopee or Seminole coming to the rescue offering any kind of help or assistance either. Sad commentary on the fact that when a “poor Indian becomes a rich Indian”, they no longer are Indian! Seems that being inundated with millions of dollars causes a spiritual transformation that hardens the heart towards the poor and suffering among your own.

WARNING…why you ask? Because if you or your corporate entity, business, Church, Synagogue, or you individually do want to help the elders and families that are in need, under NO circumstances send monies direct to the “Tribal Governments” because of one reason. You have no proof or assurance that your monies will be used for propane, food, or utility help.

Example: In 1999 there was over $2,000,000.00 sent to the Oglala Sioux Tribal government under the leadership of Harold Salway who was working with a Chuck Jacobs. That money has never been accounted for and therefore was never used to replace or repair the homes that were destroy or damaged to the amount of over 100 homes.

Here is the “Fail Safe Way” to help. You contact the Tribes and ask for the names of the families in need INCLUDING contact information for the families. Then you ask for the names of the propane companies or grocery stores, their numbers, and contact people there. Then you send monies direct to the propane company or grocery store in the name of those you are helping and also ask for a receipt to document the fact your monies were used as you intended. Then you contact those you helped to have them confirm they were indeed helped.

This is what Operation Morning Star has done for years and we know this is the only way to prevent the siphoning off and misuse of monies by those who otherwise would be able to get away with outright theft.

Since we have worked extensively helping elders and families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, here is the contact information we recommend to you .

Myron Pourier represents the 5th Members office of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. His email is and his administration assistant Jackie Big Crow email is Myron’s cell is 605-454-2111. His office number is 605-867-5821.You can also call the Oglala SiouxTribe number at 605-867-5827 and ask for Tribal Council woman Robin Tapio. Her direct number is 605-454-0771.

Another Tribal contact who works in the Kyle area is Fern Red Owl. She is a connected to the poor activist in her community. Her number is 605-455-1143.

These people are those that Operation Morning Star has personally worked with and trust. They will give you the names of families in need and the names of the companies you can send your help to for those you KNOW you are going to be helped by you!

To help other Tribes, there contact information is on the internet. Just be wise in offering your help and make sure your monies are used as you intended them to be used.

And if you chose to work through Operation Morning Star, then email us at or contact us through our web page.

Richard Boyden – Founder of Operation Morning Star

31 Dec 2009: Native News from

Thoughts on tribal sovereignty (MINNESOTA) -- This blog post comes in response to a letter from a local resident who wants to remain anonymous. Because we allow anonymity on the Web but not in the paper, I decided to publish the letter here on my blog and respond to some of the questions and concerns raised.

CRIT Treasurer faces recall (ARIZONA) -- Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes who are eligible voters will go to the polls Thursday to determine if Tribal Treasurer Dennis Welsh Jr. remains on council or is recalled.

Idaho Tribes Want Executive Post (IDAHO) -- Idaho tribal leaders want Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to create a cabinet post dedicated to improving tribal relations. That includes resolving disputes that erupt when non-tribal members are apprehended for reservation crimes, only to be released without arrest because no agreements — or trust — exists with sheriffs in neighboring counties.

Despite barriers to justice, Native women persevere (NEBRASKA) -- She needs to call 911. She needs police to arrest the drunken boyfriend who assaulted her. She needs to go to the hospital, because she might be pregnant and he might be HIV-positive. And she needs a lawyer.

State of Emergency for Indian Reservations Hit by Brutal Winter Storm: WARNING! (SOUTH DAKOTA) -- Over 1000 Native American families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are with propane for heat, are snowed in and can’t get out to get food, and in many cases are unable to purchase food.

Navajo man contests election to cut Tribal Council (ARIZONA) -- A Navajo tribal member is pushing to have an election that drastically reduced the size of the Tribal Council redone, this time with more support required from voters.

LETTER: Take process beyond prez-speaker contest (ARIZONA) -- Regarding the news that the Navajo people voted to reduce the size of the Navajo Nation Council and give the president a line-item veto: The people have spoken, as they say.

EPA pulls Black Mesa Mine permit (COLORADO) -- Coal-fired power has suffered another setback in the Four Corners. The Environmental Protection Agency recently withdrew a controversial permit from the massive Black Mesa Coal Complex, a mine operated by Peabody Coal Co. on Navajo Nation and Hopi lands in northeastern Arizona.

10 families evicted / Navajo Supreme Court ousts tenants (ARIZONA) -- A memorandum decision by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court was issued Dec. 16 that affirmed the eviction of ten tenants from their homes in Churchrock.

10 families evicted / Residents removed from homes (ARIZONA) -- About as many police units as the 10 families evicted from their homes rolled into Churchrock Estates subdivision shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, when housing officials showed up with a court-ordered eviction notice and plenty of muscle to carry it out.

State: Judge wrong to deny tribe poultry-suit role / The Cherokees lack resources to sue the poultry industry on their own, state officials say. (OKLAHOMA) -- Oklahoma officials contend that a federal judge in Tulsa ignored damaging consequences of denying the Cherokee Nation's request to join the state's lawsuit against the poultry industry.

Cherokees’ immersion school grows (OKLAHOMA) -- The school expanded this month, adding a new 6,000-square-foot building that allows more office space for staff, including two new classrooms.

Biologists cheer return of Columbia coho (WASHINGTON) -- Fisheries biologists in the Pacific Northwest are cheering a record return of coho salmon this year to the upper and middle Columbia River basin, where the fish were virtually wiped out 20 years ago.

Solar panels illuminate veteran's home (NEW MEXICO) -- A kerosene lantern dangles from a hook on Herman Augustine's living room ceiling. For more than 15 years, the lantern has provided modest light in the two-bedroom home located about 12 miles from U.S. Highway 550, lost in a network of unmarked, snow-frosted dirt roads.

Native-owned Flintco wrapping up airport project (TENNESSEE) -- The businesses typically associated with the Memphis International Airport are FedEx and Delta Airlines, but another company is leaving an indelible imprint on the major airport.

Avondale Investments LLC wins bailout work / Avondale Investments was the only American Indian-owned asset manager to be selected (OKLAHOMA) -- An Oklahoma City investment firm is one of six nationwide selected by the U.S. Treasury Department to help manage assets as it winds down the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Become part of the 2010 Santa Fe Indian Market (NEW MEXICO) -- The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) is looking for experienced Food Vendors, Snack Food Vendors and Native Owned Businesses for the 89th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

Tribes recognized for Laserfiche innovation (LAS VEGAS) -- Laserfiche recently presented the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma with its Visionary Award and the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma with its Pioneer Award. Both awards were presented at the TribalNet 2009 conference in Las Vegas, NV.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make a Resolution: Move Your Money!

Obama Curbs Secrecy of Classified Documents

December 30, 2009
Obama Curbs Secrecy of Classified Documents

WASHINGTON — President Obama declared on Tuesday that “no information may remain classified indefinitely” as part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information.

In an executive order and an accompanying presidential memorandum to agency heads, Mr. Obama signaled that the government should try harder to make information public if possible, including by requiring agencies to regularly review what kinds of information they classify and to eliminate any obsolete secrecy requirements.

“Agency heads shall complete on a periodic basis a comprehensive review of the agency’s classification guidance, particularly classification guides, to ensure the guidance reflects current circumstances and to identify classified information that no longer requires protection and can be declassified,” Mr. Obama wrote in the order, released while he was vacationing in Hawaii.

He also established a new National Declassification Center at the National Archives to speed the process of declassifying historical documents by centralizing their review, rather than sending them in sequence to different agencies. He set a four-year deadline for processing a 400-million-page backlog of such records that includes archives related to military operations during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Moreover, Mr. Obama eliminated a rule put in place by former President George W. Bush in 2003 that allowed the leader of the intelligence community to veto decisions by an interagency panel to declassify information. Instead, spy agencies who object to such a decision will have to appeal to the president.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama campaigned on a theme of making the government less secretive. But in office his record has been more ambiguous, drawing fire from advocates of open government by embracing Bush-era claims that certain lawsuits involving surveillance and torture must be shut down to protect state secrets.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, expressed cautious optimism about Mr. Obama’s new order, saying it appeared to be “a major step forward” from the vantage point of those who believe the government is too secretive.

“Everything depends on the faithful implementation by the agencies,” Mr. Aftergood said, “but there are some real innovations here.”

Mr. Obama also suggested that his administration might undertake further changes, saying he looked forward to recommendations from a study that Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, is leading “to design a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system.”

30 Dec 2009: Native News from

Census bureau aims to count every AI/AN (WASHINGTON, DC) -- Here’s a first for Indian country: The first person who will be officially counted in the 2010 Census will be an Alaska Native from the village of Noorvik.

A stimulating year (WASHINGTON, DC) -- After the national economic troubles of 2008, tribes knew going into 2009 there was likely going to be a federal stimulus. Indian leaders worked hard early on to be sure tribes would be included. And they were.

Creek Council turns down tobacco compact measure (OKLAHOMA) -- The Muscogee (Creek) National Council struck down a measure Tuesday that would allow the tribe’s principal chief to sign a tobacco compact with the state.

Vigil on the Plains / Crow Creek Sioux chairman is ‘not going anywhere’ (SOUTH DAKOTA) -- On Dec. 15, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue got a visit from eight horseback riders on a pilgrimage to memorialize 38 Dakota men who died in the nation’s largest mass hanging, in December 1862 in Mankato, Minn.

Blizzard prompts state of emergency declaration on Pine Ridge (SOUTH DAKOTA) -- Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls has declared a state of emergency for the Pine Ridge Indian Agency Reservation due to severe winter weather.

Navajo attorney general seeks special prosecutor (ARIZONA) -- The top legal official on the Navajo Nation is seeking a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of illegal and unethical behavior by tribal government employees.

Racism at Black Mesa? / Peabody discussion turns to bigotry, Navajos want to run their own mine (ARIZONA) -- Within the next 90 days the Navajo Nation Council will have a work session to review leases since 1960 pertaining to Peabody Western Coal Co. and possibly hold public hearings before presenting oral and written reports during spring session.

No lightning-fast tribal energy progress (WASHINGTON, DC) -- Entering 2009, energy development for Indian country, including green jobs and renewable efforts, seemed like they were bound to make headway.

Navajo Nation advances toward large wind project (ARIZONA) -- The Navajo Nation, the second largest Native American tribe in the US, is going forward with a two-phase, 235-megawatt wind development. It would be the nation’s first green energy project and potentially the largest to be owned by a Native American tribe.

Cherokee language now on Facebook (OKLAHOMA) -- Cherokee speakers are starting to use popular Web sites to translate words, phrases and other parts of the language on the sites into Cherokee.

Groups call for ancient forest protection (ALASKA) -- A number of conservation groups and other organisations have joined together in the US to call for the protection of areas of forest in the state of Alaska.

Cherokee Nation offers child care business funding (OKLAHOMA) -- If you have considered starting a new business as a child care provider or are interested in expanding your existing child care business, the Cherokee Nation may be able to help.

Lummi Tribe Gets Stimulus Gov Grant (WASHINGTON) -- The Lummi Indian tribe plans to build a business incubator in Ferndale, using a federal stimulus grant. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said the project’s expected to create 200 jobs and generate $4-million in private investment.

National Park Services grants $150,000 to Cherokee Nation (OKLAHOMA) -- More than 139 years after its construction, the Cherokee National Capitol still stands and operates as a symbolic landmark for the Cherokee people.

NM lawmaker looks into Shiprock Navajo Fair status (NEW MEXICO) -- After conducting an internal review of the Shiprock Navajo Fair Board, a New Mexico lawmaker says it’s “a loose, for-profit business enterprise” and is urging constituents to seek answers from tribal authorities.


Vigil on the Plains

Vigil on the Plains
Originally printed at

FORT THOMPSON, S.D. – On Dec. 15, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue got a visit from eight horseback riders on a pilgrimage to memorialize 38 Dakota men who died in the nation’s largest mass hanging, in December 1862 in Mankato, Minn.

“The group took a detour from the main ride to fill a pipe here that will be smoked and prayed over when they get to Mankato.”

The 35-year-old chairman was camped on 7,100 acres of wind-swept, snowy land owned by Crow Creek Tribal Farms. The IRS recently seized the tract and on Dec. 3 auctioned it off for $2 million less than its $4.6 million value to pay a purported tax bill for the tribe, a separate legal entity.

The riders found Sazue holding his own in sub-zero temperatures. The chairman took up residence on the expanse shortly after the auction, intending to fast and pray for its repatriation until the crisis is resolved. “I’m not going anywhere. This land never was and never will be for sale. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. As chairman, I inherited the tax problem and tried to work with the IRS. They claim they ‘consulted’ with us, but all they did was tell us ‘here’s how it’s going to go.’”

The IRS action appears to fly in the face of legal precedents as far back as a 1790 law prohibiting the transfer of Indian land without a treaty, according to a legal memorandum drawn up by the tribe’s attorneys, Mario Gonzalez, Oglala Lakota and Terry L. Pechota, Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The document was filed Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court in an effort to stop the sale. That request was denied; however, a trial will take place in March, during which the tribe will attempt to regain the site.

“It’s the Black Hills gold rush all over again,” said historian Waziyatawin, Ph.D., Wahpetowan Dakota from Upper Sioux and a University of Victoria research scholar. “Nowadays, the press is reporting on a green energy land rush and Department of the Interior efforts to free up millions of acres for wind and solar development. Open prairie land, such as that on Indian reservations in the Plains, is suitable for such enterprises. So the U.S. government is going after the poorest of the poor to find the resources it needs.”

How to help

Send donations of supplies or cash to Chairman Brandon Sazue, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, P.O. Box 50, Fort Thompson, South Dakota 57339.

To reach the Obama administration, call the White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111 Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Eastern standard time, or go to Find your federal representatives at or
The tribe, which has an unemployment rate of about 80 percent and lives in one of the poorest counties in the nation, had been planning a wind farm for the area, said Sazue. “If we lose this land, we miss that opportunity. We have profound connections to this place as well. Our ancestors are buried here, and tribal members come to collect sage and other traditional medicines.”

When Waziyatawin visited the site with her family Dec. 12 for a pipe ceremony, she joined Crow Creek tribal members and visitors from Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, the Yankton Sioux Reservation, and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.

The tax problem appears to have arisen after Harold Condon, a BIA employee who became financial manager of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in the early 2000s, advised the community not to pay federal employment taxes. According to a document that Gay Kingman, Cheyenne River Sioux, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, received from the BIA in early December, the agency claims Condon did “an excellent job.” Further, the BIA letter says, the tribe owed the taxes and Condon was “instrumental in working with the Internal Revenue Service to get the large bill paid.”

The tract, which makes up 20 percent of Crow Creek’s reservation, was originally sold off after the Allotment Act of 1889 moved it into the hands of individual Indian owners. Notably, this was done without the majority vote of the tribe required by law. “We all know the referendum never took place,” Pechota said.

The tribe repurchased the land in 1998, according to Gonzalez’s and Pechota’s legal memorandum. Crow Creek then attempted to put the acreage back into trust, said Sazue. “We started the process in 2000. It shouldn’t take a decade to accomplish this.”

Nedra Darling, Prairie Band Potawatomi and a BIA spokeswoman, refused to comment on any aspect of the situation, citing the ongoing litigation. Darling added that Hilary Tompkins, Navajo, solicitor of the Interior Department and one of the Obama administration’s high-profile Native appointees, would also not comment.

The crisis occurs against a background of economic devastation created by the building of a series of giant dams along the Missouri River in the mid-20th century. The dams flooded valuable riverside agricultural areas on Sioux reservations throughout the Dakotas. Starvation ensued in many areas. In return for giving up the richly diverse bottomland, Crow Creek was promised free electrical power, which it never received. It did get $27.5 million that has been put into trust. However, the tribe can only touch the interest, not the principal, said Sazue. “I call that living off scraps. Why couldn’t we use that money to pay the IRS?”

The tribe’s difficulties have been exacerbated by the IRS siphoning off earnings from Crow Creek’s small casino and motel, making it difficult for the tribe to meet payroll and provide public services, as well as to pay the tax bill in an orderly fashion, Sazue said. The problem has also arisen at the worst time of year, according to the chairman. Despite frigid temperatures, the local electric company has been disconnecting the only power source for many Crow Creek families, claiming non-payment of bills. This forces the tribe to shelter members at its Fort Thompson motel, thus forgoing income it might receive by renting the rooms.

This is an annual occurrence, according to the humanitarian organization Can-Do, which filmed the electric company ripping out meters throughout Crow Creek during the winter of 2008, as babies cried and mothers tried to understand mysteriously escalating bills. To see the group’s video, visit and look under “Project Progress Videos.” Can-Do’s investigation found “severe increases of illness, disease and mortality” on the reservation.

Sazue’s family was affected this year as well. “A month ago, my cousin called. She just had a baby, her husband is on oxygen, and her electricity got cut off. Companies are not supposed to do that in inclement weather, but they do here. Our people are suffering.”

“The Obama administration could help solve this crisis,” Waziyatawin said. “Obama is talking the talk when it comes to Indian country, but are he and his appointees going to walk the walk?”

State of emergency: Pine Ridge residents running low on fuel and food

Pine Ridge residents running low on fuel and food
Rapid City Journal, 30 Dec 2009

Lloyd Wilcox hauled groceries home on a sled Tuesday to a house without heat, days after a severe winter storm paralyzed the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and left an estimated 800 homes there without propane.

Five days after the storm hit on Christmas Eve, reservation residents are still facing unplowed roads, electrical outages, broken water pipes and diminishing supplies of food and fuel.

On Tuesday, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls declared a state of emergency for the reservation. Two Bulls and the tribe’s Emergency Management Team conferred Tuesday with representatives from the state Office of Emergency Management and road departments in Fall River, Custer and Haakon counties to coordinate snow removal efforts.

Maureen Last Horse agrees that her broken water pipes, impassable road and lack of propane constitute an emergency at her isolated home about 7 miles southwest of Kyle.

“Our water lines broke because we ran out of propane on the 23rd,” Last Horse said. She and her family, including a 3-year-old grandson, were forced to move into her sister’s home 2 miles away on Christmas Day. The extended family of eight is still miles from a plowed main road and were told by tribal officials that help may still be days away.

“They didn’t grade our road yet,” she said. “They said it would be a while.”

Tribal headquarters in Pine Ridge Village is being deluged with calls for help. As of Tuesday, OST Emergency Manager Monica Terkildsen had a list of 800 people without propane. That list is expected to grow by another 200, said Loretta Cook, public relations spokeswoman for the tribe.

The OST Transportation Department is working to clear secondary roads and lengthy driveways around Oglala and Manderson as crews work westward toward Kyle and Wanblee.

Wilcox, who is unemployed, ran out of propane on Sunday and said he doesn’t know how he’ll pay for more even after his driveway is cleared for a delivery truck. He spent Monday shoveling a path from his home about 1 mile to S.D. Highway 44. On Tuesday, he hitchhiked into Wanblee to buy groceries and to seek emergency help from the tribe to buy more propane.

Wilcox received $400 in Low Income Energy Assistance Program funds that purchased about 200 gallons of propane. That’s gone now, and Wilcox was told by LIEAP officials that they can’t help him any more this year.

“We ran out of propane two days ago,” Wilcox said. “I was hoping the state of South Dakota would cut some emergency money loose to help out with propane and electric heat costs.”

On Tuesday, Two Bulls said she plans to “notify and negotiate with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service officials, and the U.S. Congress to obtain all financial and other emergency assistance needed to deal with the hardship and crises caused by the storm.”

Two Bulls said she is worried about children and elderly people who need medical care and livestock owners who cannot get to their cattle and horses to feed them.

Two Bulls will address the reservation on KILI Radio at 9 a.m. today.

Main highways on the reservation had been cleared in time to accommodate the Wounded Knee Anniversary ride, which saw about 150 horses and riders come into Pine Ridge Village on Tuesday to commemorate the 119th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or

30 Dec 2009: Today's Democracy Now!

Botched Christmas Airline Bombing: A Look at Obama's Handling of the Case and the Media's Coverage
President Obama has acknowledged that a “systemic failure” of the nation’s intelligence and security measures paved the way for last week’s aborted bomb attack on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. We take a look at the Obama administration’s handling of the case and the media’s coverage of it all with Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent. [includes rush transcript]

Gaza Freedom March Protests Continue in Cairo, Organizers Say Egypt Offer to Allow 100 into Gaza Not Sufficient
Hundreds of activists with the Gaza Freedom March are staging continued demonstrations and sit-ins in Cairo to protest the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow them to cross the border into Gaza. Organizers say an offer by Egyptian authorities this morning to allow just 100 members of the group to go to Gaza was not sufficient. More than 1,300 people from over forty countries are in Cairo as part of the Gaza Freedom March. We go to Cairo to speak with Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada.

EXCLUSIVE...Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Speaks Out in Support of Gaza Freedom March, Blasts Israeli-Egyptian "Siege" of Gaza
In a Democracy Now! exclusive interview, British musician Roger Waters of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd speaks out about the Gaza Freedom March. “I actually would be very interested to hear what the President of the United States has to say about this nonviolent, democratic demonstration of ordinary people from forty-two countries all over the world,” says Waters. “They feel solidarity with their brothers and sisters, other human beings who are living in conditions that none of us would stand for, for a single second, in any of our countries.” [includes rush transcript]

Flashback: ICRC Spokesman in Gaza Describes Glaring Lack of Medical Access During Israeli Assault
We look back at the glaring lack of access to emergency care for the thousands of people seeking urgent medical help during Israel’s three-week military operation one year ago. Iyad Nasr, the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the bombed-out Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, describes the ICRC’s operations. [includes rush transcript]

"Christmas Presents for Bankers"
As 2009 comes to a close, we take a look at the state of the U.S. economy with economist dean Baker and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. “After throwing the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression and bringing the whole sector to the edge of collapse, the financial industry has used its political power to succor itself back to life,” Baker writes. “It is now stronger than ever.”


Report: US Reviewing Targets for Possible Strike in Yemen
Obama: "Systemic Failure” Occurred in Nation’s Security System
1,500 Reportedly Arrested in Iran
Israeli Court Rules Palestinians Can Drive on “Apartheid Road”
Suicide Bombs Kill 23 in Anbar, Iraq
Morgan Stanley Sued over Mortgage-Related Investments
Penn. Police Officers Resign After Indictments in Immigrant Killing
World Urged to Do More to Fight Maternal Mortality
Gay Couple Jailed in Malawi After Holding Marriage Ceremony
Chilean Copper Miners Vote to Go on Strike
Four Anti-Mining Activists Arrested in Virginia

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

29 December 1890: The Wounded Knee Massacre

The Wounded Knee Massacre
December 29, 1890

An Account of The Massacre

By August of 1890, the U.S. government was fearful that the Ghost Dance was actually a war dance and, in time, the dancers would turn to rioting. By November, the War Department sent troops to occupy the Lakota camps at Pine Ridge and Rosebud, convinced that the dancers were preparing to do battle against the government. In reality, the Indians were bracing themselves to defend their rights to continue performing the sacred ceremonies. In reaction to the military encampment, the Lakotas planned various strategies to avoid confrontation with the soldiers, but the military was under orders to isolate Ghost Dance leaders from their devotees.

The Hunkpapa Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull, had returned from Canada with a promise of a pardon following the Battle at Little Bighorn and was an advocate of the Ghost Dance. At his request, Kicking Bear traveled to the Standing Rock reservation to preach and made numerous Hunkpapa Sioux converts to the new religion.

Kicking Bear:

"My brothers, I bring to you the promise of a day in which there will be no white man to lay his hand on the bridle of the Indian horse; when the red men of the prairie will rule the world... I bring you word from your fathers the ghosts, that they are now marching to join you, led by the Messiah who came once to live on earth with the white man, but was cast out and killed by them."

Kicking Bear (quoting Wovoka):

"The earth is getting old, and I will make it new for my chosen people, the Indians, who are to inhabit it, and among them will be all those of their ancestors who have died... I will cover the earth with new soil to a depth of five times the height of a man, and under this new soil will be buried the whites... The new lands will be covered with sweet-grass and running water and trees, and herds of buffalo and ponies will stray over it, that my red children may eat and drink, hunt and rejoice."

(Source: Eyewitness at Wounded Knee, 1991)

Reservation agents began to fear that Sitting Bull’s influence over other tribes would lead to violence. By December reservation official grew increasingly alarmed by the Ghost Dance outbreak, and the military was called upon to locate and arrest those who were considered agitators, such as the Sioux Chiefs, Sitting Bull and Big Foot.

On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull and eight of his warriors were murdered by agency police sent to arrest him at the Standing Rock reservation. The official reason given for the shooting claimed that he had resisted arrest. Fearing further reprisal, some of his followers fled in terror to Big Foot’s camp of Miniconjou Sioux. While many of Big Foot’s group were devout Ghost Dancers, others had already begun to leave the religion. Old Big Foot was a peaceful leader and was not attempting to cause further agitation of the situation. But after the slaying of Sitting Bull, Big Foot was placed on the list of "fomenters of disturbances," and his arrest had been ordered. Upon arrest, his group was to be transferred to Fort Bennett.

Under cover of the night on December 23, a band of 350 people left the Miniconjou village on the Cheyenne River to begin a treacherous 150-mile, week-long trek through the Badlands to reach the Pine Ridge Agency.

Although Chief Big Foot was aged and seriously ill with pneumonia, his group traversed the rugged, frozen terrain of the Badlands in order to reach the protection of Chief Red Cloud who had promised them food, shelter, and horses. It is reported that both Big Foot and Red Cloud wanted peace. On December 28, the group was surrounded by Major Samuel M. Whitside and the Seventh Calvary (the old regiment of General George Custer). Big Foots band hoisted a white flag, but the army apprehended the Indians, forcing them to the bank of Wounded Knee Creek. There, four large Hotchkiss cannons had been menacingly situated atop both sides of the valley overlooking the encampment, ready to fire upon the Indians.

A rumor ran through the camp that the Indians were to be deported to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) which had the reputation for its living conditions being far worse than any prison. The Lakotas became panicky, and historians have surmised that if the misunderstanding had been clarified that they were to be taken to a different camp, the entire horrific incident might have been averted.

That evening, Colonel James Forsyth arrived with reinforcements and took over as commander of the operation. The Indians were not allowed to sleep as the soldiers interrogated them through the night. (It has been reported that many of the questions were to determine who among the group had been at Little Bighorn fourteen years earlier. In addition, eyewitnesses claimed that the soldiers had been drinking to celebrate the capture of the ailing Big Foot.)

The soldiers ordered that the Indians be stripped of their weapons, and this further agitated an increasingly tense and serious situation. While the soldiers searched for weapons, a few of the Indians began singing Ghost Dance songs, and one of them (thought to be the medicine man, Yellow Bird, although this is still disputed by historians) threw dirt in a ceremonial act. This action was misunderstood by the soldiers as a sign of imminent hostile aggression, and within moments, a gun discharged. It is believed that the gun of a deaf man, Black Coyote, accidentally fired as soldiers tried to take it from him. Although the inadvertent single shot did not injure anyone, instantaneously the soldiers retaliated by spraying the unarmed Indians with bullets from small arms, as well as the Hotchkiss canons which overlooked the scene.

(Hotchkiss canons are capable of firing two pound explosive shells at a rate of fifty per minute.)

With only their bare hands to fight back, the Indians tried to defend themselves, but the incident deteriorated further into bloody chaos, and the 350 unarmed Indians were outmatched and outnumbered by the nearly 500 U.S. soldiers.

The majority of the massacre fatalities occurred during the initial ten to twenty minutes of the incident, but the firing lasted for several hours as the army chased after those who tried to escape into the nearby ravine. According to recollections by some of the Indian survivors, the soldiers cried out "Remember the Little Bighorn" as they sportingly hunted down those who fled -- evidence to them that the massacre was in revenge of Custers demise at Little Bighorn in 1876.

(Recorded by Santee Sioux, Sid Byrd, from oral histories of several survivors.)

Many of the injured died of exposure in the freezing weather, and several days after the incident the dead were strewn as far as approximately two to five miles away from the original site. By mid-afternoon on December 29, 1890 the indiscriminate slaughter ceased. Nearly three-hundred men (including Chief Big Foot), women, and children -- old and young -- were dead on the frosty banks of Wounded Knee Creek. Twenty-nine soldiers also died in the melee, but it is believed that most of the military causalities were a result of "friendly" crossfire that occurred during the fighting frenzy. Twenty-three soldiers from the Seventh Calvary were later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the slaughter of defenseless Indians at Wounded Knee.

The wounded and dying were taken to a makeshift hospital in the Pine Ridge Episcopal Church. Ironically, above the pulpit hung a Christmas banner which read:

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

A blizzard swept over the countryside the night of December 29, and when it cleared days later, the valley was strewn with frozen, contorted dead bodies. A burial party returned to the site on New Years Day, 1891. The bodies of the slain were pulled from beneath the heavy snow and thrown into a single burial pit. It was reported that four infants were found still alive, wrapped in their deceased mothers shawls.

American Horse, Oglala Sioux, and others described the carnage:

"There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce...A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing...The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through...and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys...came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there."

(Source: 500 Nations, 1994)

While only 150 bodies were interred in the mass grave, Lakotas estimate that twice as many Indians perished that brutal morning in 1890 -- on a reservation supposedly protected by two treaties.

Black Elk:

"I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream... the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

In Memory of Wounded Knee

Ice Sculptures
Red foot prints
in Dakota snow
drippin' blood tints
in a back bullet show
frozen in time
ice sculptures
not on display
a few photo stills
of stiffness
the massacre of death
takes breath away
not the cold
but Red foot prints
in Dakota snow
and the child
holding ever so tightly
watching their Mother
by a blue coat bullet
and a ribbon
of red blood
the Massacre of Wounded Knee
to this day
there are still
foot prints
in Dakota snow
but with red tape
to quiet the season
not heard of
the past, present, and future
covered in a blanket
of white man's
wrapping paper
and the label reads....
forget about them !

Trudi Blue copyright 2009
My December Gift to ALL the Families of Wounded Knee
Past, Present, and Future.

Shinnecock Indians See Prosperity Ahead

December 29, 2009
Shinnecock Indians See Prosperity Ahead

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — As Shinnecock Indians returned to their reservation on Long Island after World War II, elders warned that their tribe’s long struggle for survival was once again threatened.

Decent jobs were scarce and many Shinnecock veterans were leaving, draining the reservation of needed hands.

“The older men said, ‘If all of you young men move away, who is going to be here to carry on the work of the reservation and our traditions?’ ” recalled one war veteran, Harry K. Williams, who is now 85.

It has been a stark and constant choice in the life of the tribe: a pastoral yet relatively impoverished existence on the 800-acre reservation or something different beyond its borders.

Now this small tribe on the eastern end of Long Island is on the verge of sketching a new, perhaps more prosperous chapter. The Obama administration’s recent announcement that the Shinnecocks met the criteria for federal recognition finally paves the way for a casino, generating a bounty of jobs and revenue.

Federal financing could now be available for homes; there also may be grants to create jobs. “It’s a new day for us,” said Randy King, a tribal trustee. “We want to try to become a self-sufficient community.”

Over the years, the tribe’s hardscrabble existence has been amplified by its surroundings: the reservation, where the median household income is $14,055 a year, sits near some of the country’s wealthiest communities, where celebrities spend their summers in sprawling, oceanfront estates.

The contrast is vividly illustrated by looking across Shinnecock Bay from the reservation to Meadow Lane in Southampton, where mansions have sold for more than $30 million.

The reservation’s roughly 200 houses range from stucco-sided homes about the size of a one-car garage to two-story homes with shingle siding.

Since the tribe owns the land, banks have been unwilling to write mortgages because they could not foreclose on the homeowner. So houses are typically built one room at a time, over decades, as residents save money.

“Now we will have options,” said Charles K. Smith II, a former tribal trustee. “We have a lot of generational homes because children can’t afford to build their own homes.”

The lives of the reservation’s 600 residents have become intertwined with those of Southampton’s year-round inhabitants.

Shinnecock children attend public schools and Shinnecocks work as teachers, coaches, nurses and lawyers.

But there have been conflicts. The tribe has a pending lawsuit seeking the return of several thousand acres — including the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Stony Brook Southampton college and scores of expensive homes — that it says were fraudulently taken in the 19th century.

And the tribe’s long quest for a casino has resulted in costly legal battles and occasionally stoked bad feelings between the Shinnecocks and some of their neighbors.

But Mark Epley, mayor of Southampton Village, said most residents separate the feuds from the people they have known since childhood or as the parents of their children’s best friends.

“They are such a part of the community, you don’t think in terms of, ‘Wow, that person is an Indian, a Native American,’ ” he said. “It’s just, they’re your friend.”

When settlers first arrived in the area in 1640, the Shinnecocks numbered around 2,000. They were skilled on the water, spear fishing for eel, harvesting shellfish from the bay and hunting whales from small canoes.

In the mid-19th century, New York State set aside an earlier agreement between the tribe and Southampton and reduced the reservation to its current size, a decision the tribe has never accepted.

By 1875, disease had reduced the reservation’s population to about 200. The following year, 10 Shinnecock men died helping to recover a freighter that had run aground offshore. News accounts said the loss marked the end of the tribe.

“The recent drowning of the Shinnecock Indians on board the wreck of the Circassian has nearly extirpated what was once a large and powerful tribe,” said an article in The New York Times on Jan. 11, 1877.

“The last of the Shinnecocks died about 17 times,” said John A. Strong, who retired from Long Island University’s Southampton College and has written three books on the American Indians of Long Island.

Mr. Strong, who moved to Southampton 45 years ago, said the tribe’s authenticity has been questioned as its members married outside the tribe.

“When I first came here, the talk, particularly in the bars and so forth, was that they are simply posing as Indians, that they were really blacks, although the terms used were much more derogatory,” he said. However the Shinnecocks have been treated outside their reservation, financial concerns, as much as anything else, have determined the fate of many lives on the tribe’s territory.

After the war, Mr. Williams stayed, working 30 years for a moving company, hauling the fine furniture of well-heeled weekenders.

The family of another tribal member, Roberta O. Hunter, chose a different path.

After serving in World War II, her father moved his family to Queens, where he found work. Ms. Hunter, 57, went to public schools in the city and spent summers on the reservation. There was no electricity, no heat and no indoor plumbing. But it was still pure joy.

“The freedom of it was just incredible,” she said. “To walk those roads, to feel so at home, to know everyone around you was family.”

Ms. Hunter returned to the reservation with a master’s degree and later added a law degree. She married a member of another Indian tribe, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lanape, who is a psychotherapist.

Ms. Hunter’s 12-year-old son, Sebastian, wears his hair in a long braid and says his favorite pastimes are riding his skate board and playing soccer. His best friends at school are not members of the tribe. Ms. Hunter has two daughters who went to private colleges and do not live on the reservation.

But, she said, “They both are planning on coming back and having homes on Shinnecock. Now, whether their careers are going to allow them employment opportunities in Suffolk County, or within at least commuting distance, is going to be another story.”

As for the tribe finally gaining federal recognition, Ms. Hunter foresaw a challenge the reservation has never faced: an onslaught of Shinnecocks lured by the tribe’s reversal of fortune. “We are going to have a lot of people,” she said, “who are going to indicate that they are Shinnecock Indians.”

PRican PPs Avelino and Carlos Alberto Need your Help


Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Avelino Gonzalez Claudo is being denied medical treatment! Since his incarceration, he has developed a neurological condition. In November 2008, Avelino requested, several times, medical attention receiving only a “I do not know”, “I will read some books” answer from the Doctor assigned to his facility.

Avelno has been mvoed to anew prison, so the campaign has a new target: Peter J. Murphy, the Warden of Avelino's new prison, MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution


Download the letter at:

Bureau of Prisons: relentless with Carlos Alberto Torres

As part of the Bureau of Prison’s delayed entry into the 21st century, it is implementing TRULINCS (Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System) throughout the federal prison system, to provide prisoners with access to email through a special system allowing prison officials to monitor all incoming and outgoing emails.

Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres was looking forward to the convenient, regular communication it facilitates, given that, since his transfer to FCI Pekin, his postal correspondence is regularly delayed from one to three months.

But it was not to be. On December 9, the SIS [prison intelligence office] lieutenant called him in to notify him that— unlike the rest of the FCI Pekin population— he will no t be allowed access to email. Why? Because of “his case and his background,” offered the lieutenant, who had no response to Carlos Alberto’s inquiry as to why, after 29 years of impeccable conduct, they would treat him this way, pointing out that his release might be just around the corner, citing the USPC hearing examiner’s recommendation for April 2010 release. Nor did the lieutenant provide the required written explanation for his exclusion from the program.

Show your support for Carlos Alberto by writing to the U.S. Parole Commission to encourage them to adopt the recommendation and order his release!

Sample letters available at or



29 Dec 2009: Native News from

'Scalped' is year's top series, & The Rez is history (PHILADELPHIA) -- It's likely that 2009 will be remembered as the year that comic readers' appetite for dark characters and even darker stories reached its apex.

Docs in fatal sweat lodge case show past problems (ARIZONA) -- Documents released in the investigation of a fatal sweat lodge ceremony show that people lost consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past events led by self-help guru James Arthur Ray, but Ray largely ignored the medical problems that arose.

Editorial: Fighting Sioux fight goes on (NORTH DAKOTA) -- The dismissal of a frivolous lawsuit now clears the way for the State Board of Higher Education to put a dignified and decisive end to the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo.

No love lost between McCaskill and ANCs (WASHINGTON, DC) -- Through her words and actions in 2009, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., became one of the biggest opponents of programs that have strongly aided American Indian and Alaska Native businesses.

Indian education awaiting federal primetime (WAHINGTON, DC) -- If one area important to many Native Americans received less attention than it deserved in 2009, it was Indian education.

Brothertown member to Dorgan: ‘Structural violence’ underlies federal Indian policies (WASHINGTON, DC) -- A member of the Brothertown Indian Nation has written to the head of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs supporting his efforts to fix the federal recognition process and condemning the “structural violence” of federal Indian policies.

Tribal relations grow stronger with USDA (WASHINGTON, DC) -- Late in the year, Native Americans made headway in dealing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a couple of issues that have long been problematic, including a lawsuit focused on Indian farmer discrimination and a sacred site matter.

State eyes Native American residential school (SOUTH DAKOTA) -- South Dakota is applying for a federal grant to help it build a residential school designed to improve academic achievement among Native American students.

AIM slaying trial postponed for Thelma Rios (SOUTH DAKOTA) -- The trial of Thelma Rios and John Graham has been postponed from March 1 to July 6 in order to give defense attorneys more time to prepare.

Courts falling short on effort to keep natives out of jail (CANADA) -- All things being equal, Dennis Thibault didn't have a prayer of getting bail. The lanky, fast-talking street person had evaporated into the streets of downtown Toronto last July, after his arrest on cocaine-trafficking charges, and missed three consecutive court dates.

MARK TRAHANT: Beyond health care reform (WASHINGTON, DC) -- I started my exploration of health care reform in July. “The federal government accepts a double standard: Any discussion about rationing – or government care – is off the table unless you’re a member of an American Indian tribe or Alaskan Native community with a sort of pre-paid insurance program (many treaties, executive orders and laws were specific in making American Indian health care a United States’ obligation,” I wrote back then.

Behavioral Health Center To Open for Navajo Nation (NEW MEXICO) -- The Navajo Nation's first treatment center for people with behavioral health issues is set to open to patients this spring.

Acoma to build state’s first ‘green’ amphitheatre (NEW MEXICO) -- After ten years lobbying Congress, federal agencies, state agencies, the New Mexico Legislature, and the State of New Mexico the Pueblo of Acoma has a state-of-the art wastewater treatment plant operating on its reservation.

State rep looks into Shiprock Fair status (NEW MEXICO) -- State Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, after conducting an internal review of the Shiprock Fair Board, claims the organization is a for-profit business.

American Indians designated a priority group due to higher risk of H1N1 death (WASHINGTON, DC) -- A letter issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden M.D. has advised the states that American Indians and Alaska Natives may be more vulnerable to severe illness from H1N1 influenza and should receive vaccine on a priority basis.


29 Dec 2009: Today's Democracy Now!

Anti-Mining Activists Killed in El Salvador
For the second time in a week, a prominent anti-mining activist has been assassinated in El Salvador. On Saturday, thirty-two-year-old Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto was shot dead near her home. One of her children was also injured in the shooting. Sorto was an active member of the CabaƱas Environment Committee, which has campaigned against the reopening of a gold mine owned by the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company. [includes rush transcript]

Egypt Denies Gaza Freedom March Access to Border, Hundreds Protest in Cairo
In Egypt, hundreds of solidarity activists from around the world are being prevented by the Egyptian government from entering Gaza. Dubbed the Gaza Freedom March, organizers were planning to cross the border last Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel’s assault on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis. We get a report. [includes rush transcript]

Kill the Bill or Support Passage? A Debate on Healthcare Legislation Between Insurance Industry Critics
The progressive community is split over the $871 billion healthcare reform bill that passed the Senate last week. Some have lambasted the Senate for removing language that would have created a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Others believe the Senate bill is the biggest expansion of federal healthcare guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago and should be supported as a first step toward reform. We host a debate.

Report: Venture Capitalists, Food Companies Among 1,160 Businesses Lobbying on Climate Change
We take a look at some of the more unusual businesses and interest groups lobbying Congress on climate change issues. A new Center of Public Integrity analysis of federal records shows that the 140 companies that joined the fray for the first time late this year include venture capitalists, the natural gas lobby, and America’s most iconic soup maker, Campbell Soup.


Obama: We Will Defeat Violent Extremists Who Threaten Us
Al-Qaeda Takes Claims Responsibility for Attempted Airline Bombing
Top TSA and Customs Posts in Obama Admin Remain Unfilled
UN: Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Up 10% in 2009
Iran Arrests Sister of Shirin Ebadi and Aide to Mousavi
White House Opposes Israeli Plans for 700 New Homes in East Jerusalem
Israeli Police Re-Arrest Mordechai Vanunu
Argentine Men Marry in Latin America’s First Same-Sex Marriage
White Supremacist Arrested for Christmas Killing in Texas
Protesters Disrupt Olympic Torch Relay in Canada

Monday, December 28, 2009

Indigenous delegates ask Pope to repudiate Doctrine of Discovery

Indigenous delegates ask Pope to repudiate Doctrine of Discovery
Originally printed at

MELBOURNE, Australia – While indigenous delegates from around the world were sidelined at the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the collective voice of indigenous peoples at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions was heard calling on the Pope to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine, a fundamentally racist philosophy from the 15th century, continues to allow powerful nation-states to dehumanize people and devastate the living earth in their endless search for resources and markets, the delegation said.

Indigenous peoples from around the world, including a Haudenosaunee delegation, attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia Dec. 3 – 9.

The Parliament is an interfaith organization formed in 1893 “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.” It meets every five years.

While the delegates came from diverse geographies and cultures, they easily unified around the intersecting themes of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and climate change. The delegates articulated their concerns in a document called “An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions Convened at Melbourne, Australia on the Traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation December 9, 2009.”

The seven point statement calls for immediate action on climate change; the protection of earth-based religions and sacred sites both within and outside their territories; strengthening and protecting indigenous cultures and languages, repatriation of the ancestors’ remains and sacred items, and the support and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The final item is “To call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery and dominion in laws and policies.”

“Overall the trip was very successful in bringing forward the idea of rescinding the papal bulls,” said Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan sub-chief of the Kahniakehaka, Mohawk Nation, author, and founder of the Tree of Peace Society, an international organization promoting peace and environmental conservation.

“I think that’s the most important thing in our time is to finally attack the roots of the oppression experienced by indigenous peoples worldwide.”

The papal bulls were 15th century documents issued by the popes of the Roman Catholic Church giving permission to the kings of Spain and Portugal to conquer and claim “undiscovered” lands, enslave or skill their non-Christian populations, and expropriate their possessions and resources. The English monarchy followed suit with “charters” to explorers such as John Cabot to colonize “the New World.”

The Doctrine of Discovery, which these documents formulated, was a principle of international law – a kind of early trade agreement that whichever Christian European country “discovered” lands populated by non-Christians could claim those lands and resources.

The Doctrine concerns indigenous people all over the world, because it continues to negatively affect people everywhere, said Philip Arnold, associate professor of indigenous religions in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University, and a member of the Haudenosaunee delegation.

Arnold, who is married to a Mohawk woman, participated on a panel with some members of the Haudenosaunee delegation where he discussed how the Doctrine even affects his own family.

The Doctrine justified the establishment of the notorious boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries that aimed to “civilize” Indian children by removing them from their families and stripping them of their language, traditions, and culture, Arnold said.

“My wife’s family suffered through boarding schools, so I was able to talk about the Doctrine and how it negatively impacts us. In those boarding schools, everything was stripped out of these kids, so even though it was more than 100 years ago that my wife’s grandfather was in a boarding school, we still deal with that legacy every day with our children, trying to help them understand what was done and why they don’t participate in Long House ceremonies, for example, because their clans were taken from them by this ‘civilizing’ process.”

He said the panel presentations by the Haudenosaunee delegation were effective in stimulating interest.

“There were a lot of Christians from a variety of denominations and they got very active and wanted to know what they could do to help bring awareness about the Doctrine of Discovery and we encouraged them to do that within their own denominations. There was a Catholic priest who was very animated about this.”

A movement to repudiate the Doctrine is gaining steam among Christian churches since the Episcopal Church issued a resolution renouncing it and urging support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples at its national meeting last summer. Last September, the Indian Committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends made a similar commitment.

Arnold said members of the Haudenosaunee delegation will continue to work to raise awareness of the Doctrine in the hope of gaining a critical mass of grassroots support the Vatican will not be able to ignore.

“The Doctrine maps a cultural attitude – our arrogance – toward the indigenous peoples and the earth. The whole colonial project, which is the legacy of America, is based on these principles, which are directly antagonistic to Native peoples, but also antagonistic to the life systems of the earth. So this idea of Discovery just can’t hold up.”

Indian tribes buy back thousands of acres of land

Indian tribes buy back thousands of acres of land
By TIMBERLY ROSS, Associated Press Writer
Sun Dec 27, 1:42 pm ET

OMAHA, Neb. – Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust.

Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.

Tribes put more than 840,000 acres — or roughly the equivalent of the state of Rhode Island — into trust from 1998 to 2007, according to information The Associated Press obtained from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act.

Those buying back land include the Winnebago, who have put more than 700 acres in eastern Nebraska in federal trust in the past five years, and the Pawnee, who have 1,600 acres of trust land in Oklahoma. Land held in federal trust is exempt from local and state laws and taxes, but subject to most federal laws.

Three tribes have bought land around Bear Butte in South Dakota's Black Hills to keep it from developers eager to cater to the bikers who roar into Sturgis every year for a raucous road rally. About 17 tribes from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma still use the mountain for religious ceremonies.

Emily White Hat, a member of South Dakota's Rosebud Sioux, said the struggle to protect the land is about "preservation of our culture, our way of life and our traditions."

"All of it is connected," White Hat said. "With your land, you have that relationship to the culture."

Other members of the Rosebud Sioux, such as president Rodney Bordeaux, believe the tribes shouldn't have to buy the land back because it was illegally taken. But they also recognize that without such purchases, the land won't be protected.

No one knows how much land the federal government promised Native American tribes in treaties dating to the late 1700s, said Gary Garrison, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The government changed the terms of the treaties over the centuries to make property available to settlers and give rights-of-way to railroads and telegraph companies.

President Barack Obama's administration has proposed spending $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations. The program would pay individual members for land interests divided among their relatives and return the land to tribal control. But it would not buy land from people outside the tribes.

Today, 562 federally recognized tribes have more than 55 million acres held in trust, according to the bureau. Several states and local governments are fighting efforts to add to that number, saying the federal government doesn't have the authority to take land — and tax revenue — from states.

In New York, for example, the state and two counties filed a federal lawsuit in 2008 to block the U.S. Department of Interior from putting about 13,000 acres into trust for the Oneida Tribe. In September, a judge threw out their claims.

Putting land in trust creates a burden for local governments because they must still provide services such as sewer and water even though they can't collect taxes on the property, said Elaine Willman, a member of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and administrator for Hobart, a suburb of Green Bay, Wis. Hobart relies mostly on property taxes to pay for police, water and other services, but the village of about 5,900 lost about a third of its land to a trust set up for the state's Oneida Tribe, Willman said.

So far, Hobart has been able to control spending and avoid cuts in services or raising taxes, Willman said. Village leaders hope taxes on a planned 603-acre commercial development will eventually help make up for the lost money.

The nonprofit White Earth Land Recovery Project has bought back or been gifted hundreds of acres in northwestern Minnesota since it was created in the late 1980s. The White Earth tribe uses the land to harvest rice, farm and produce maple syrup. Members have hope of one day being self-sustaining again.

Winona LaDuke, who started the White Earth project, said buying property is expensive, but it's the quickest and easiest way for tribes to regain control of their land.

Tribal membership has been growing thanks to higher birth rates, longer life spans and more relaxed qualifications for membership, and that has created a greater need for land for housing, community services and economic development.

"If the tribes were to pursue return of the land in the courts it would be years before any action could result in more tribal land ... and the people simply cannot wait," said Cris Stainbrook, of the Little Canada, Minn.-based Indian Land Tenure Foundation.

Thirty to 40 tribes are making enough money from casinos to buy back land, but they also have to put money into social programs, education and health care for their members, said Robert J. Miller, a professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who specializes in tribal issues.

"Tribes just have so many things on their plate," he said.

Some tribes, such as the Pawnee, have benefited from gifts of land. Gaylord and Judy Mickelsen donated a storefront in Dannebrog, Neb., that had been in Judy Mickelsen's family for a century. The couple was retiring to Mesquite, Nev., in 2007, and Judy Mickelsen wanted to see the building preserved even though the town had seen better days.

The tribe has since set up a shop selling members' artwork in the building on Main Street.

"We were hoping the Pawnee could get a toehold here and get a new venture for the village of Dannebrog," Gaylord Mickelsen said.