Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Week from Indian Country Today

Obama signs ‘historic’ Tribal Law and Order Act
WASHINGTON – In 1994, Lisa Marie Iyotte, an enrolled member of the White Clay People, was raped and violently beaten in her home on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe reservation. Her two young daughters witnessed the assault and hid in the bedroom. Read more »


Not a chance
Improved government diabetes help urged
Nourishing Native foods win national cooking competition
Diabetes-prevention grants have unexpected ‘side effects’
Taking control of the medium – and the message
New mental health initiative focused on Native youth
Chickasaw Nation Summer Food Program feeds hungry children
‘Smoke’ signals Red Lake youth
Health project helps victims of domestic, sexual violence in Indian country
Canoe Journey builds bridges between cultures
Symbolic whale rescue effort
New Indian country job developments
Gun Lake seals financing with Goldman Sachs
Four Native leaders running for office in Washington
Conn. land dug up for items from tribe-settler war
Vote on Native Hawaiian government may come soon
States, tribe testing for chronic wasting disease
2 plead guilty to theft from tribal loan program
Past and present military warriors honored
Fighting for the children
Are wild bison coming back to Montana?
Muscogee (Creek) tobacco arguments fail
Brenda Dardar-Robichaux: Finding her voice
Lawsuit alleges racist remarks
‘Custer’ responds to Veterans Administration powwow controversy


Great Lakes


Newcomb: Colonialism and the human rights of indigenous peoples

During and shortly after World War II (1939-1945), a number of anthropologists were writing about the topic of indigenous peoples and what was then being referred to as the “colonial administration” of various empires. Looking back at those writings today enables us to shed some additional light on the historical context of what are now commonly referred to as “indigenous peoples” and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007. Read more »

For news you won't get from Indian Country Today, see Censored News.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Colonialism and the human rights of indigenous peoples

Colonialism and the human rights of indigenous peoples
By Steven Newcomb

During and shortly after World War II (1939-1945), a number of anthropologists were writing about the topic of indigenous peoples and what was then being referred to as the “colonial administration” of various empires. Looking back at those writings today enables us to shed some additional light on the historical context of what are now commonly referred to as “indigenous peoples” and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007.

In 1945, Columbia University Press published a book of essays entitled “The Science of Man in the World Crisis,” edited by Ralph Linton, who was a professor of anthropology at the University of Columbia. One essay, “The Colonial Crisis and the Future,” was written by another anthropology professor named Raymond Kennedy. His essay was framed primarily in terms of the differentiation “between colonial and noncolonial areas,” or between “dependent and independent nations.”

“The present pattern of colonialism,” wrote Kennedy, “has an easily explainable historical origin, for it had its beginnings about four hundred years ago, when Europeans ‘discovered’ the rest of the world.” In other words, he traced the beginning of colonialism to the so-called Age of Discovery dating back to the mid-1500s.

The “record of the last four centuries,” Kennedy continued, “has been one of steady conquest of the native populations of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania—a conquest accompanied by political subjugation and economic exploitation.” Thus, the “colonialism” to which Kennedy refers is characterized by a process whereby originally free and independent nations and peoples throughout the globe had been forced, through various means, to exist under the authority of sea-faring European nations and their offshoots transplanted to all the other non-European regions of the world.

One key point found in Raymond Kennedy’s essay has to do with his distinction between what he termed ‘free nations’ and presumably ‘unfree nations,’ which he termed ‘dependent nations.’

Professor Kennedy outlined the above historical framework as a way of contextualizing his discussion of what would likely be happening in the decades after 1945. “The period of colonial wars and conquests is now past,” wrote Kennedy, “and coming struggles for power must be either between the independent nations, or between the subject peoples of the colonies and their masters.” Note the terminology: “subject peoples” and “masters.” In other words, Kennedy was distinguishing between peoples living under some form of political dominance and those who were successfully exerting dominance over originally free peoples.

One key point found in Kennedy’s essay has to do with his distinction between what he termed “free nations” and presumably “unfree nations,” which he termed “dependent nations.” He considered the “unfree” or “dependent” nations to be existing in a two-tiered system: “The color line, indeed” wrote Kennedy, “is the foundation of the entire colonial system, for on it is built the whole social, economic and political system.”

He continued: “All the relationships between the racial groups are those of superordination [dominance] and subordination [domination], or superiority and inferiority. There is no mistaking this pattern for one of mere segregation, or separation with equality. The color line is horizontal, so to speak, and cuts across every colonial society in such a way as to leave the natives in the lower stratum and the whites in the upper.”

The key point to be noticed here is the over-under power structure to which Kennedy was calling attention. This is one of the key features of federal Indian law and policy in the United States and Canada. The historically white power structure, has judged itself to exist in a superior and dominant position in relationship to the first, original, and free nations and peoples that were existing on their own lands within their own territories when the Christian Europeans invasively arrived as late-comers to this continent and hemisphere.

Work toward the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was the result of the efforts of Indigenous elders, leaders, scholars, and activists to come to terms with the very history and political phenomena that professor Kennedy was drawing attention to in his 1945 essay “The Colonial Crisis and the Future.” During the past 60 plus years, we have been living that future, and many of us have been working to overturn the colonial subordination that countries such as the United States and Canada wish to maintain as a permanent social, political, and economic order over originally free Indian nations and peoples.

This, then, is but part of the larger historical context for understanding the recent actions of the United States and Great Britain with regard to the Iroquois Nationals and the Haudenosaunee passports. It reflects a desire on the part of some to impose a system of domination on indigenous nations and peoples, while creating a perception of superordination (dominance) for state systems that have spent generations rationalizing themselves as against Indian nations and peoples.

We in Indian country would be well-advised to remain hyper-conscious of a basic fact. As the Obama administration compares the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with U.S. federal Indian and policy, it is actually comparing a human rights framework predicated on human dignity and human worth with the U.S. colonial framework that was designed by many previous generations of federal officials to subordinate and dominate originally free Indian nations and peoples in order to expropriate our indigenous lands, territories and resources.

Steven Newcomb is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery” (Fulcrum, 2008), and a columnist for Indian Country Today.

News from Indianz.Com

Obama 'working' with Congress to authorize trust fund settlement (7/30)

New leader of NIGC declines to endorse fix to IGRA case from 2006 (7/30)

Another Republican complains about Tribal Law and Order process (7/30)

WHBlog: Tribal Law and Order Act a step forward for Native women (7/30)

ICT Editorial: Tribal Law and Order Act offers hope in IndianCountry (7/30)

Editorial: Tribal Law and Order Act a good first step in South Dakota (7/30)

Interview: Sen. Murkowski on need for the Tribal Law and Order Act (7/30)

Blog: Tribal Law and Order Act empowers women to combat assault (7/30)

NPR: Tribal Law and Order Act boosts law efforts for Indian Country (7/30)

Opinion: Obama, the Tribal Law and Order Act and immigration laws (7/30)

Steven Newcomb: Colonialism and the rights of indigenous peoples (7/30)

Rep. Herseth Sandlin hopes to address high dropout rate at hearing (7/30)

USDA loan officer in Montana was arrested for incident at Fort Peck (7/30)

Mississippi governor calls for Choctaw Band to vote on new casino (7/30)

More headlines...

30 Jul 2010: Today's Democracy Now!

Obama Defends Sweeping Education Reforms in Face of Criticism from Minority and Teachers’ Groups
President Obama took on critics of his administration’s sweeping education reform plan on Thursday in a nearly hour-long speech at the National Urban League’s 100th anniversary convention. His address came on the heels of news that New York public school students are not performing nearly as well as prior state tests had revealed. We speak with Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush, and Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters. [includes rush transcript]

Dozens of Immigrant Rights Activists Arrested in Arizona
At least fifty people were arrested in Arizona yesterday in protests against the state’s new anti-immigrant law. The law went into effect on Thursday, but not before a federal judge blocked four key parts of the legislation. One of the biggest protests occurred in Phoenix outside of the Fourth Avenue Jail run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We speak with Carlos Garcia, lead organizer for the Puente Movement.

Dave Zirin on "Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love"
The world of professional sports is certainly not immune to the heated debates over Arizona’s anti-immigration legislation and the growing calls for a nationwide boycott of Arizona. In New York, a rally is planned tonight outside CitiField in Queens, where baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks will play the New York Mets. We speak with sportswriter Dave Zirin about his new book, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.

Google Teams Up with CIA to Fund "Recorded Future" Startup Monitoring Websites, Blogs & Twitter Accounts
Investors at the CIA and Google are backing a company called "Recorded Future" that monitors tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts in real time in order to find patterns, events and relationships that may predict the future. The news comes amidst Google’s so-called "Wi-Spy" scandal, that refers to revelations that Google’s Street View cars operating in some thirty countries snooped on private WiFi networks over the last three years.


Dozens of Immigrant Rights Activists Arrested in Arizona Protests
July Becomes Deadliest Month for US in Afghanistan
Obama Signs War Funding Bill
US Moves to Increase Arms Exports
Bradley Manning Moved to Marine Brig in Virginia
Justice Dept Explores Espionage Charges Against WikiLeaks
Rep. Rangel Charged with 13 Ethics Violations
House Rejects Bill to Help Sick Ground Zero Workers
Citigroup to Pay $75M to Settle Subprime Mortgage Claims
Wyclef Jean Considers Presidential Run in Haiti
Cluster Bomb Treaty to Go into Effect; US Refuses to Sign
US Hikers Held for a Year in Iranian Prison

Cuban 5 Alert: Step up for Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo


For Over A Week Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo Has Been Held In The Hole At Victorville Prison Without Committing Any Infraction

Once Again the US government has imposed another cruel punishment against Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban 5 imprisoned in the US for fighting against terrorism.

On July 21st, without committing any infraction, Gerardo was taken to the hole. The hole is an inhumane windowless space of 7 x 3 feet reserved for prisoners who the prison authorities, for what ever reason, want to isolate. Gerardo is sharing this small space with another prisoner and there is very little ventilation because the air comes from just a small vent on the top of a wall. Temperatures in Victorville are running as high as 105 degrees now and in the space of this tiny cell it is around 95 degrees. He is not allowed to take a shower and is being taken outside in a cage only one hour every other day. Gerardo has been seen by his sister Isabel through a glass with a phone.

Although Gerardo is still young, 12 years of living in high security penitentiaries is taking its toll and recently Gerardo began experiencing some health issues including high blood pressure. In April he requested a medical appointment and finally on July 20, three months later, he was seen by a doctor. Currently there is a bacterium that is circulating through the prison with some of those cases being serious. The doctor had prescribed a blood test for Gerardo but instead of receiving that he was abruptly taken to the hole the next day.

This new harassment against Gerardo takes place at a critical time when he is preparing his Habeas Corpus presented to the courts in June. It is alarming that this is the third time that Gerardo has found himself in the hole while preparing for an appeal.

The violations against Gerardo are endless and it has to stop immediately. During 12 years he has been denied the basic right to receive visits from his wife Adriana. Gerardo like his four brothers is innocent and the United States knows that his only crime was to defend his country against terrorist attacks.

Instead of freeing them and sending them back to their homeland and their families, as has been demanded by the Cuban people, 10 Nobel Prize and thousands of people from all over the world, the Obama Administration has picked up where Bush left off by punishing Gerardo at every turn.

Along with the Cuban people and the international community we hold the US government responsible for the life and physical integrity of Gerardo.

It is very important for every supporter of the Cuban Five and all justice loving people who receive this message to call, fax, mail or e-mail immediately to the numbers and addresses below to demand that Gerardo be:

-- Returned immediately to the general population
-- Receive urgent medical attention
-- Allowed visits by his wife Adriana Perez
-- Given space and respect as he prepares for his appeal

US State Department
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Phone Number: 1-202-647-4000
Fax Number: 1-202-647-2283

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Director Harley G. Lappin
320 First St., NW,
Washington, DC 20534
Phone Number: 202-307-3198.

President Barack Obama
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone Number: 202-456-1111
Fax Number: 202-456-2461.

US Justice Department
Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Phone Number: 202-514-2000
Comment Line: 202-353-1555

International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Stay tuned to our website with latest development on the case:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

News from Indianz.Com

White House ceremony for Tribal Law and Order Act this afternoon (7/29)

Blog: Republicans ought to explain Tribal Law and Order opposition (7/29)

Meskwaki woman questions GOP vote against Tribal Law and Order (7/29)

Sen. Dorgan not planning to address land-into-trust fix opponents (7/29)

Schwarzenegger won't back Tule River land-into-trust application (7/29)

GAO report finds federal agencies not in compliance with NAGPRA (7/29)

Study: Gaming employment contributes to Indian drop-out rates (7/29)

House panel hears dispute for management of Navajo trust fund (7/29)

Elderly man still riding on horse in parade, painted as an 'Indian' (7/29)

Energy company challenges Ute Tribe on banishment proceeding (7/29)

IPR: Michigan tuition waiver limited to federally recognized tribes (7/29)

Two candidates so far for Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara chairman (7/29)

PETA to put up billboards targeting Eastern Cherokee bear parks (7/29)

Yakama Nation files suit to halt shipment of garbage from Hawaii (7/29)

Alaska Native leaders tell EPA to reject huge Pebble mine project (7/29)

Ramona Two Shields represents tribes in Silver Haired Assembly (7/29)

Red Lake woman sentenced to 30 years over murder and assault (7/29)

County in California offers a seat to tribes on lake advisory panel (7/29)

Former Mashantucket chairman in court for default on bank loan (7/29)

Judge blocks major provisions of Arizona's anti-immigration law (7/29)

House committee approves measure to regulate Internet gaming (7/29)

AG: Lawsuit against Mississippi Choctaw casino could be frivolous (7/29)

Pokagon Band compact authorizes up to three casinos in Michigan (7/29)

Shinnecock Nation presented with dozens of locations for a casino (7/29)

Blog: Tribal courts a proper venue to address casino injury claims (7/29)

Snoqualmie Tribe shares first round of gaming revenue payments (7/29)

More headlines...

29 Jul 2010: Today's Democracy Now!

United Nations General Assembly hall in New Yo...Image via Wikipedia

On Eve of Major Protests, Federal Judge Blocks Key Provisions of Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law
A federal judge in Phoenix blocked key provisions of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law on Wednesday, hours before it was scheduled to take effect. US District Judge Susan Bolton ruled a partial injunction would apply to the portion of the law that requires police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. The law sparked mass protests across the country and a boycott of Arizona. We speak with Isabel Garcia, co-chair of the Tucson-based Coalition for Human Rights. [includes rush transcript]

Patrick Cockburn on Missing Billions in Iraq and Soaring Cancer & Infant Mortality Rates in Fallujah
In Iraq, an official audit by the US Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction found that the Pentagon cannot account for almost $9 billion taken from Iraqi oil revenues between 2004 and 2007 for use in reconstruction. Meanwhile, a new medical study has found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004. We speak with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent. [includes rush transcript]

In Historic Vote, UN Declares Access to Water a Fundamental Right
The United Nations General Assembly has declared for the first time that access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right. In a historic vote Wednesday, 122 countries supported the resolution, and over forty countries abstained from voting, including the United States, Canada and several European and other industrialized countries. There were no votes against the resolution. We speak with longtime water justice activist, Maude Barlow. [includes rush transcript]


Federal Judge Blocks Part of Arizona Immigration Law
US Seeks Access to More Internet Data Without Court Order
House Reduction of Drug Sentencing Disparity
EPA Blasted over Handling of Michigan Oil Spill
Coast Guard’s Role in Fighting BP Oil Rig Fire Scrutinized
Texas Launches Probe of Toxic Release of BP Refinery in Texas City
Local Afghan Media Outlets Paid to Run US Propaganda
Pakistan Declares Day of Mourning After Plane Crash
2000-2009 Marked Warmest Decade on Record
Israel Refuses to Pay Medical Bills for Emily Henochowicz
Peace Activist Art Gish, 70, Dies

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Take Action: Focus Turns to Senate on Criminal Justice Commission

United States criminal justice system flowchart.Image via Wikipedia

Take Action: Focus Turns to Senate on Criminal Justice Commission

Late [Tuesday], the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill by voice vote creating a national criminal justice commission to examine and potentially reshape the American criminal justice system. This bipartisan panel is a critical step toward addressing the injustices inherent in the system, including the causes of wrongful convictions. The bill is now pending before the U.S. Senate.

Please take one minute and urge your Senators to take a leadership role in ensuring immediate passage of the bill.

Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck praised the House and urged the Senate to pass the legislation quickly “so that comprehensive review and reform of the system can begin in earnest.” Read the Innocence Project press release here.

The bill was initially championed by Senator Jim Webb, who said last night that “this bill will take a long overdue, comprehensive review of our criminal justice system – taking a look at what’s broken and what works. With tonight’s success, I look forward to swift legislative action in the Senate.”

Urge your Senators to ensure that the bill is passed swiftly so we can get to work on a balanced examination of our criminal justice system.

News from Indianz.Com

President Obama to sign Tribal Law and Order Act at White House (7/28)

Charles Trimble: Working to eliminate the poverty-stricken Indian (7/28)

Tex Hall runs for chairman of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (7/28)

Politicians promise battle on Goshute Band nuclear waste (7/28)

County won't intervene in Colorado River Indian Tribes lease flap (7/28)

Cheyenne-Arapaho man leads Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation (7/28)

Judge promises ruling in Indian voting rights lawsuit in Wyoming (7/28)

County returns seized cigarettes and property to Cayuga Nation (7/28)

Column: First Nations man looks to bridge the off-reserve divide (7/28)

MPR: NMAI director consults tribes about new exhibit on treaties (7/28)

Hopland Band of Pomo Indians updates policing deal with county (7/28)

Ho-Chunk Nation to establish law enforcement agency this year (7/28)

Keeweenaw Bay man upset after family's grave site desecrated (7/28)

Navajo Nation man appears in court on murder, assault charges (7/28)

Editorial: Lawsuit on Mississippi Choctaw casino all about politics (7/28)

Non-Indian race track against New Mexico off-reservation casino (7/28)

Sokaogon Chippewa Tribe was in talks for off-reservation casino (7/28)

Pokagon Band goes ahead with plans for second Michigan casino (7/28)

Massachusetts gaming legislation approaches Saturday deadline (7/28)

Nine indicted for stealing from Forest County Potawatomi casino (7/28)

Witness list for House Resources Committee hearing on three bills (7/27)

Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee oversight hearing (7/27)

Judge blasts Bush decision on Goshute Band nuclear waste facility (7/27)

Opinion: A new Native insurgency threatens Canada's sovereignty (7/27)

Tribal Law and Order Act seeks to boost police recruitment efforts (7/27)

More headlines...

Monday, July 26, 2010

News from Indianz.Com

Cobell remains hopeful despite Senate inaction on settlement bill (7/26)

Indian lobbyists expect a tough road ahead for land-into-trust fix (7/26)

Heather Kendall-Miller under consideration for seat on 9th Circuit (7/26)

Turtle Talk: Law databases use 'Porno Indians' for 'Pomo Indians' (7/26)

Editorial: Tribal Law and Order Act holds promise for reservations (7/26)

Interview: Carrie Garrow discusses Haudenosaunee passport flap (7/26)

Team from BIE school in Mississippi takes first in solar carcontest (7/26)

Opinion: A 'quiet hero' takes on a big responsibility for Leech Lake (7/26)

BIA will acquire off-reservation parcel for Tohono O'odham Nation (7/26)

BIA reviews off-reservation casino denied by Bush administration (7/26)

Editorial: Law appears to be on side of Mississippi Choctaw casino (7/26)

Mashantucket Tribe filed appeal over union vote at casino on time (7/26)

Column: 'Gaming' group in Connecticut does its lobbying in secret (7/26)

City Leader: Let voters make decision over Guidiville Band casino (7/26)

More headlines...

EMAJ Statement on Secret Anti-Mumia Memo

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal via


Please find with this email a statement by Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) about the recent “secret memo” that appeared among some in the anti-death penalty movement, urged cultivating ties with law enforcement for an advocacy against the death penalty, while downplaying the need to stop Mumia’s execution. Many anti-death penalty movements in the US have roundly denounced this already. This statement from EMAJ now has now been affirmed and signed by our three coordinators, Tameka Cage, Johanna Fernandez and Mark Taylor. It is posted on our web site, top and center as “Site News,”, but for convenience we also include it in the body of this email, below.

It needs stressing that with a new slick propaganda movie by Tigre Hill, promoted by the FOP and big funders, which comes out in September, portraying Mumia as being just “out to kill a cop,” we need now more than ever to preserve our unity in the abolitionist movement. Some good news is that at the same time that this movie hatchet job comes out, producers and directors supportive of Mumia are producing an alternative film, Mumia 101, which presents a fresh and nuanced treatment of Mumia’s case and struggle. See the attached letter about that newest movie, which includes a trailer of the new film under production. Then, if you can, support that movie with whatever donation you can (producers need funds to finish it up on time!) and be present on September 21 in Philadelphia to support it.

Keep organizing everyone!

Thanks, Mark Taylor, for EMAJ



Reports have leaked of a secret memo in which some US anti-death penalty activists showed reluctance to advocate on behalf ofPennyslvania’s death row journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The memo was entitled, “Involvement of Mumia Abu-Jamal Endangers the US Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty,” It reveals what has been called the “throw Mumia under the bus” tendency of the larger effort to abolish the death penalty. We have seen this before.

Every once in awhile someone on the allegedly liberal left tries to drive a wedge between abolitionists of the death penalty generally, and those struggling for Abu-Jamal. One of the more memorable instances was in 1998 when Marc Cooper, a Nation magazine writer, wrote in The New York Press about how the movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal is “a bane” on the more solid committed folk trying to end the US death penalty.

This year’s memo is a special affront, presuming that there is some virtue in abolitionist movements “cultivating” relations with the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP], which long has been a vigorous advocate for Mumia’s execution and which keeps a “list” of individuals and organizations that support Mumia’s struggle. EMAJ condemns any such planning between abolitionist movements and the FOP. For anti-death penalty movements to cultivate relations to a police union like the FOP, which is unabashedly lobbying for Mumia’s execution, is at best ineffective, at worst a collusion with the forces that keep state-sanctioned killing in place in this country. Moreover, it overlooks the long history of egregious violence and violation, which law enforcement in the U.S. has visited upon communities of color in the U.S.

To be sure, police, prosecutors and others of the criminal justice establishment have spoken out for Mumia and against the death penalty. Ronald Hampton’s advocacy for Mumia, as Executive Director of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), is a clear example. As an organization the NBPA protests the death penalty in all circumstances, even when a police officer has been murdered. These are the only kinds of voices from members of law enforcement that a truly anti-death penalty movement should welcome. State-sanctioned murder of anyone is an affront to an authentic abolitionist movement. Abolitionist movements must resist the temptations of big money and stand strong against the powerful pressures by which law enforcement officials today try to co-opt elements of the abolitionist movement, seeking to preserve the death penalty for its purposes.

Generally, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) opposes any division that is created between the Mumia movement and the broader effort to abolish capital punishment. The struggle for Mumia is one with the struggle of the broader abolitionist movement. EMAJ published in 1998 an essay by Mark Taylor, one of the signers of this statement, under the title, “Mumia and the 3400: Why Stopping Mumia’s Execution Helps End all Executions in the US.” In this new 2010 statement, EMAJ vigorously reaffirms the unity of the movement for Mumia and of the broader abolitionist movement.
1. Every one of the some 3200 men and women presently on US death row, whatever we think of their guilt or innocence, or of the nature of their alleged crimes, warrants advocacy and our best efforts to prevent their execution. Even though various ones of us may need to concentrate our advocacy in ways that highlight different figures (say, Mumia, or Troy Davis, or Reggie Clemons, or any of the many others), this concentration of effort on one should not be seen as a disparagement of any other death row prisoner’s struggle for life and justice.
2. Mumia’s struggle and his writings (rarely about his own case and usually about broader political issues) has dramatically personalized the issue of the death penalty for especially youth in urban communities of color, but also in other regions of the U.S. and internationally. His story of resistance and political struggle has caught the imagination of many and so brought new voices into the struggle against the death penalty. This was dramatically evident in the April 2010 gathering at the EMAJ event at Barnard College (Columbia University), where a lecture hall was packed out with more than 500 people, mostly young people of all backgrounds, to hear not only a “phone-in” from Mumia, but also discussions by Cornel West, Vijay Prashad, and film-maker Jamal Joseph about the importance of Mumia’s case and struggle.
3. Mumia’s arrest, conviction, and continual denial of appeals crystallizes and distills – thus makes more readily apparent – the plagues at work in maintaining our broken death penalty system: racial bias in judges and juror selection, inadequate legal counsel, lack of funds for investigations for defendants, police corruption and prosecutorial misconduct. Thus, Mumia’s case can be seen as a kind of primer of how the death penalty fails to work justice, and on how the larger systems of U.S. mass incarceration, policing and prosecutorial procedures are broken, dysfunctional, and unjust.
4. Mumia’s struggle dramatically exhibits the agency of death row prisoners themselves in waging their struggle. Mumia’s death row cell in the prison system is an organizing site within the system. However necessary our efforts are from “the outside,” Mumia’s trenchant voice inside death row confirms that the abolitionist movement is not just a condescending or paternalistic act of concern of outsiders “for,” or “for the sake of,” those on death row. Recognizing Mumia is one way to recognize the agency of those in struggle on death row. His voice, as a voice within, is crucial to our abolitionist movement’s authenticity.
5. Mumia’s mode of struggle enables those in the abolitionist movement to keep the struggle against the US death penalty as part of a larger political struggle, in which other issues are always at play in our struggle to end capital punishment. We will not abolish the death penalty, and keep it abolished, if we cannot articulate the broader issues of power - class domination, environmental destruction, transnational globalization, torture at home and abroad, militarist imperialism, and neocolonialism – all being issues that Abu-Jamal has addressed in relation to capital punishment and mass incarceration.
6. Although there is a temptation in some quarters to make of Mumia an icon, just a “cool guy” mentioned in the Boondocks cartoon strip, Hip Hop magazines, rock concerts, and in films of different sorts – the lifting of Mumia’s struggle to the level of a media spectacle can be an advantage to the abolitionist movement. It enables us to engage the media, not only with Mumia’s struggle but also with broader efforts to end the death penalty, block police brutality, and expose the corruptions of racialized power at every level. One of the reasons political officials of the establishment are so keenly opposed to Mumia is precisely because he has this capacity to ignite media attention, nationally and internationally. We should welcome this and use it.
7. Finally, the Mumia movement positions resistance to the death penalty around the U.S. national shrine center in Philadelphia. This places debate about capital punishment (the state-sanctioned murder of citizens) in a city that is the very symbolic heart of Americans’ self-understanding of their nation and its history. The Mumia movement – those of us in it as well as Mumia’s recordings and writings – is not silent about the general problem of state-sanctioned killing as part of the very meaning of “America” and its history. The persistence of the death penalty is, at least in part, due to the nation’s dependence on policies of war and killing, policies that date from the devastation of Indian peoples and slave populations, to the colonization of, and war against, Asian, Arab, African and Latin American countries, up to the often deadly and disheartening discrimination meted out against immigrants from these lands in our midst today.

The focus of Mumia’s struggle in Philadelphia, then, dramatizes how central the commitment to state-sanctioned killing is to the forging and maintenance of this nation. It has always been appropriate, then, that the festivals of July 4th celebration in Philadelphia are routinely matched by a smaller and fledgling, but vigorous, counter-march for Mumia and as critique of every death-dealing policy of the U.S. - whether applied in the killing fields of indigenous peoples lands, in the desserts of Iraq, or the mountainous ravines of the Afghan/Pakistani border.

Let there be no more division between the advocates of a general abolition of the death penalty, and the advocates in the movement for Abu-Jamal. As Educators, in Pennsylvania, across the U.S. and the world, we reassert our firm opposition to the death penalty in the U.S., and thus especially to the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

From the Coordinators of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal:

Tameka Cage Johanna Fernandez Mark Lewis Taylor

After 30 Years in Prison, the Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Will Be Freed

Flag of the Puerto Rican Independence PartyImage via Wikipedia
July 26, 2010

After 30 Years in Prison, the Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Will Be Freed

The Incarceration of Carlos Alberto Torres

Today, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres will walk out of prison after 30 years behind bars. He was convicted of seditious conspiracy - conspiring to use force against the lawful authority of the United States over Puerto Rico. Torres was punished for being a member of an armed clandestine organization called the FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), which had taken responsibility for bombings that resulted in no deaths or injuries. He was not accused of taking part in these bombings, only of being a member of the FALN.

In 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States by Spain as war bounty in the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War. Nevertheless, the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico and has occupied it ever since. Puerto Ricans have always resisted foreign occupation of their land and called for independence.

The Puerto Rican independence movement enjoys wide support internationally. Every year for 29 years the United Nations Decolonization Committee has passed a resolution calling for independence. There have been similar declarations of the Non-Aligned Movement, and recent submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.

All of these expressions call on the U.S. government to release Puerto Rican political prisoners who have served 30 and 29 years of their disproportionately long 70 year sentences in U.S. prisons for cases related to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. They include Torres (who was sentenced to 30 years) and Oscar López Rivera (sentenced to 29 years), as well as Avelino González Claudio, who was recently sentenced to seven years. None of these men was convicted for harming anyone or taking a life.

Torres’ attorney, National Lawyers Guild member Jan Susler of Chicago, notes, “Carlos is being released from prison due to the unflagging support of the Puerto Rican independence movement and others who work for human rights. The more than 10,000 letters of support from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico and other countries sent a strong message to the Parole Commission.”

Supporters from all over the United States will flock to the welcoming celebration in Chicago, which will take place in the heart of the Puerto Rican community. Tomorrow, Torres, his family and attorney will fly to Puerto Rico, where thousands will greet him with a concert of the nation’s finest musicians and artists.

Yet there is a damper on the celebration, as Torres leaves behind his compatriot Oscar López, a 67 year old decorated Viet Nam veteran. López did not accept the terms of President Clinton’s 1999 clemency offer, which would have required him to serve an additional 10 years in prison with good conduct. Though he declined the offer, López has now served the additional 10 years in prison with good conduct. Had he accepted the deal, he would have been released last September. Those who did accept are living successful lives, fully integrated into civil society. There is no reason to treat him differently.

While we celebrate this remarkable day in the life of Torres and the movement for Puerto Rican independence, let us commit ourselves to continue to struggle until Oscar López Rivera and Avelino González Claudio, as well as all political prisoners in U.S. prisons, also walk free.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the U.S. representative to the executive council of the American Association of Jurists.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

California Tribes Peacefully Take Control of MLPA Taskforce Meeting

California Tribes Peacefully Take Control of MLPA Taskforce Meeting

A brief statement from Georgianna Myers, a Yurok citizen and spokesperson for the Klamath Justice Coalition, delivered on July 21, 2010, after more than 300 people from 50 Indigenous Nations took control of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in California. Klamath Media reports. California Tribes stand together to protect rights ...

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Congress passes first significant Indian Country crime bill in years

150 pxImage via Wikipedia

Congress passes first significant Indian Country crime bill in years
Thursday, July 22, 2010

The House gave final approval to the Tribal Law and Order Act on Wednesday, marking the first significant attempt to address law enforcement in Indian Country law enforcement.

After a party-line dispute over process, the House voted 326 to 91 to pass H.R.725. Republicans were the only ones who opposed the bill, which encourages more prosecution of crime in Indian Country, increases penalties for offenders, reauthorizes key justice programs and establishes consistent protocols to address sexual violence.

"This is a major victory for not only Oklahoma, but all of Indian Country," observed Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the only Native American in Congress. "Today, Congress has approved the greatest stride forward for public safety in Indian Country in decades."

Up until a few weeks ago, the bill was off the Congressional radar screen. Despite widespread acknowledgment of extremely high rates of crime on reservations -- including high rates of violence against women -- neither the House nor the Senate had taken action on the Tribal Law and Order Act since last year.

But at an unrelated hearing last month, Sen. Bryon Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said he was "very very close" to moving the bill. Just a week later, after a bipartisan deal that included Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), the Senate passed the Tribal Law and Order Act as part of H.R.725, the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act

McCain and Kyl, who have pushed for improved law enforcement in Indian Country, were sponsors of the Senate version of the Indian Arts and Crafts measure. “Many tribal communities today lack the support and tools needed to combat the terrible violence and crimes they experience,” Kyl said last month.

Supporters predicted House passage of H.R.725 but Republicans yesterday objected to the inclusion of the Tribal Law and Order Act in the Indian Arts and Crafts bill.

They said the process prevented members of Congress from proposing changes to either measure and noted that the Law and Order Act was a more significant undertaking.

"When a widely supported arts and crafts bill that is just a few pages in length and which costs nothing is changed by the Senate to run over 100 pages with authorized spending of over a billion dollars," said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Washington), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, "that is simply unacceptable."

But even some Republicans who voiced concerns about the process voted for the bill. An impassioned speech by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-South Dakota), who introduced the House version last year, underscored some harsh realities for members of Congress.

"A vote against this bill is a vote to keep the status quo, a status quo where it's estimated that one in three American Indian women and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime," Herseth Sandlin said. "A vote against this bill will maintain the status quo, a status quo where drug trafficking organizations are targeting Indian reservations to manufacture and distribute illegal substances because of the lack of law enforcement on Indian land."

"We can't delay any further," she added. "Native American women and their children are the most at risk. The statistics bear it out."

The Obama administration supported the bill after initially opposing a provision that requires the Department of Justice to report on the number of cases it declines to prosecute in Indian Country. But during the White House Tribal Nations Conference last November, President Barack Obama embraced the changes and yesterday he reaffirmed his promise to sign it into law.

"The federal government’s relationship with tribal governments, its obligations under treaty and law, and our values as a nation require that we do more to improve public safety in tribal communities," Obama said in a statement. "And this Act will help us achieve that."

The White House didn't say whether it will hold a public signing ceremony for the bill. The last major Indian Country measure that became law was the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which was included in the national health reform bill earlier this year.

"This historic legislation is an opportunity for tribes and the federal government to work together to make our communities safer, and it supports the sovereignty of tribes to investigate and prosecute serious crimes on our lands,” said National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel.

Congress has taken action to address crime and justice issues on resrvations in recent years. But most of the efforts have been piecemeal in nature, such as increased funding for detention centers or a clarification of tribal criminal jurisdiction over all Indians, or they have been included in other bills whose primary focus was not Indian Country.

The Tribal Law and Order Act, on the other hand, is a comprehensive bill that touches on a wide range of federal and tribal issues. It provides some of the first substantive amendments to the Indian Civil Rights Act, which became law in 1968, including a provision to allow tribal courts to impose three-year sentences where certain constitutional protections are met.

According to Herseth Sandlin, other major provisions include:
- Evidence sharing and declination data: Requires federal prosecutors to maintain data on criminal prosecution declinations in Indian country, and to share evidence to support prosecutions in tribal courts

- Federal Testimony: Helps ensure Federal officials who work in Indian country to testify about information gained in the scope of their duties to support a prosecution in tribal court

- Improves transparency in Public Safety spending by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (
BIA), and requires greater consultation on the part of the BIA to tribal communities on matters affecting public safety and justice

• Increased sexual assault training and standardized protocols for handling sex crimes, interviewing witnesses, and handling evidence of domestic and sexual violence crimes in Indian country

• Authorizes Deputization of Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute reservation crimes in Federal courts

• Increases Deputizations of Tribal and State Police to Enforce Federal Law: Enhances Special Law Enforcement Commission program to deputize officers to enforce federal laws on Indian lands

• Authorizes the Drug Enforcement Agency to deputize tribal police to assist on reservation drug raids

• Increases recruitment and retention efforts for BIA and Tribal Police

• Expands training opportunities for BIA and Tribal police to receive training at State police academies, and tribal, state, and local colleges – where Federal law enforcement training standards are met.

• Tribal Police Access to Criminal History Records: Many tribal police have no access to criminal history records. The bill will provide tribal police greater access to criminal history databases that provide them with essential information when detaining or arresting a suspect.

• Investigating fraudulent Indian arts and crafts: The Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act included in the bill will allow any federal law enforcement officer to investigate fraudulent Indian arts and crafts. Currently only the FBI can investigate these crimes.

• Programmatic Reauthorizations: The bill will reauthorize existing programs designed to strengthen tribal courts, police departments, and corrections centers – as well as programs to prevent and treat alcohol and substance abuse, and improve opportunities for at-risk Indian youth.

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The Return of Jim Thorpe's Remains

A young Jim Thorpe at a desk.Image via Wikipedia

On Native America Calling

For Monday: The Return of Jim Thorpe's Remains - Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be the Greatest Athlete of All Time. He won two Olympic gold medals, and played pro football and baseball. After Thorpe died in 1953 his widow, a non-Indian, put his corpse up for sale to the highest bidder. A city in Pennsylvania bought the sports legend's remains to attract tourism and changed the city's name to Jim Thorpe, PA. Now, Thorpe's only living son wants his father returned to Oklahoma. Can NAGPRA laws be used to force the city to give up the remains of this American icon and Native hero?

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An indigenous call to action

An indigenous call to action
Originally printed at

Indigenous environmental philosophers from the four corners of the earth came together May 1 to sign the Redstone Statement, a declaration of the rights of the peoples and the earth that includes a list of “mechanisms for restoring balance,” including a call for indigenous self-determination and a definition of that indigenous philosophical perspective.

“Indigenous environmental philosophy respects a mutually supportive network of interconnected physical and spiritual entities that is sustainably maintained, and which connects the ancestral past with the distant future. The vision of our indigenous peoples is to reach spiritual and material well-being through conscious action. Mother Earth is a living, dynamic being with inherent value, and her principles must be actively embodied in order to remain in harmony and balance,” reads the second paragraph of the statement, put together by summit participants from all continents.

The group of 22 philosophers met in the Kiowa community of Redstone, Okla. to hold the first International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy April 26 – May 1. They came from Siberia, Kenya, Chile (Mapuche), Guatemala (Maya), New Zealand, Mexico (Toltec), Russia, Taiwan, India, Australia, Canada, Swaziland, Thailand and American Indian communities in the United States to share information and strategies to deal with current and future environmental threats. The summit also benefited from the guidance of a circle of elders and some American
Indian students.

The principal summit organizer was Professor Jonathan Hook, who teaches in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas, and is an internationally known environmentalist and activist. Hook was the director of International Indigenous and American Indian Initiatives at UNT and the director of the Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6.

Hook said indigenous activists from across the world had already been meeting for several years, but that the idea for this summit grew out of gatherings he attended in Siberia and Malaysia in the last four years.

“The most frequent request I received was to sit down and visit with American Indians and talk about common experiences and issues. Those experiences led to taking American Indian students to Siberia, and to participate in a series of digital video conferences.”

Hook said the main themes of the conferences were environment and culture, especially the issue of how communities are dealing with global climate change. He also noted that the first group of students to travel to Siberia was a group from the Anadarko Kiowa community in Oklahoma, which would become the host site of the summit.

American Indian student activists and videographers helped in various ways at the summit, and they drafted a declaration of support for the project. David Sullivan, Kiowa, an educator and the Anadarko Summit project coordinator, said he and his students had been working with Hook on the video conferences and that “the development of the summit was a natural progression from those events.”

The role and importance of young people, of the next generation, was an important theme in the summit and the Redstone Statement.

“Today, we are at a tipping point at which humanity is in danger of being removed from the cycles of Mother Earth. We bring this urgent message in response to indigenous women, youth and children from around the world who have consistently asked us to leave them a more balanced planet,” the statement reads. “We come as individuals from cultures whose authority originates from our unique relationships with nature and the environment. Our ways of living, and very existence, are threatened by the resistance of nation states to include our institutions as part of the solutions that can save our planet. Consequently, we issue this call to the world.”

That call included eight “mechanisms” that the participants drafted for the purpose of restoring balance.

“1) Recognition of the interdependence of all things; 2) Indigenous self-determination; 3) Indigenous land, air, water, territory and natural resource management; 4) Protection and preservation of indigenous traditional knowledge, lifeways and languages, cultures, sacred sites, and folklores/oral traditions; 5) Indigenous authority over all actions impacting indigenous communities; 6) Respect for, and protection of, traditional agricultures and genetic resources; 7) Seed sovereignty and food security; 8) Rights of movement, rights of access, rights of participation and communication in the exchange of environmental knowledge and culture.”

The end of the statement mentioned how the philosophers were committed to implementing the mechanisms. Hook said all the participants were going to disseminate the statement in their home communities and countries, and that several were taking it directly to officials in the United Nations. He said he was going to Mexico for follow up meetings for Latin American plans, and that participant Brad Barnes, Samish, of Alaska had also attended the Peoples Climate Summit in Bolivia earlier and was already “energized by that experience.”

Translations of the statement in Spanish and Russian are on the
Web site.