Saturday, November 17, 2007
The end of the class celebration has finished . We have been learning modern methods of using our Traditional medicines through the Northwest Indian College. We have made salves and creams. Today we made a powerful incense out of cedar, sweetgrass, sage and other medicines. My backpack smells so good right now.
These kinds of classes weren’t available when I was a student. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do today.
My cousin John was invited to do the prayers for the class. He plays prayer songs on his flute. His opening prayer must have been heard because everything went perfectly.
We are considered leaders in the Traditional Foods movement because we are going into our eighth year. Our dinners are to reintroduce Traditional Foods back into our diets. We also give thanks to those who give up their lives that we might live.
I was invited to speak about what the two year long project had been about. All sagas start with The Creation Story.
The trees and plants were the first people. This was good, but something was missing. The Creator then made the animals and they were The People. Still something was missing. The Creator then made all that is Spirit. Everything was good, but still not quite right.
The Creator reached into the earth and pulled out the red clay. He fashioned it the way he wanted it. There is a rock with a deep impression along the Elwha River. It is now covered by a dam.
The Creator filled it with water. He bathed each creation in the water. He lifted it to each direction so all existence would know it. He breathed life into this new creation. He worked out in each direction from the Elwha River. He placed each new creation where he wanted them. These humans are the new people.
He gave us laws to follow. We were to love one another and take care of one another. We prayed and talked with the Creator. We listened to his teachings.
Everything was good. Then we started forgetting. We stopped praying and listening to the Creator. We stopped loving each other and taking care of each other. We did unspeakable things. The Creator became sorry he made us. He decided to destroy his creations.
Those that still prayed knew of his plan. They got their canoes ready. They gathered food and fresh water.
The rain started. The waters rose and swiftly covered the land. The fresh water became salty and undrinkable as the oceans rose. Most of life was killed as the world flooded.
In the mountains there are accounts of this story. They are carved into the rocks. They tell how many canoes or rafts made it through. They tell how long it rained and how long it took the waters to recede. Our Ancestors documented the animals they saw. They told which families survived.
When this was over there wasn’t enough food for both the animals and the humans. It was decided that they would play a game. The winner would be allowed to eat the loser. Our Ancestors won the game. Today we honor those who still keep their word and give up their lives that we might live.
We were told of a white race of people that were in danger of becoming lost. The Creator said that if they did lose their way they would be sent to us. We were to help them find their way onto the path intended for humans.
The lost ones showed up. They weren’t seeking enlightenment or help. They were filled with the seeds of destruction. They carried diseases that killed us more efficiently than any army.
They didn’t see the value of our resources in the sacredness of life. They counted value by what could be made in their money.
Our People that survived the wars and diseases were forced onto reservations. We were supposed to die there. We didn’t. A few families took our spark of knowledge underground and became secret societies.
Our ceremonies that had guided us through our lives were forbidden to us. Our songs and dances that healed us and Mother Earth were outlawed. We both started dying.
Our chiefs were stripped of power. The new government gave us a new set of laws. Leaders were elected to power not trained for it. Without spiritual training some gave in to the seeds of destruction. Leaders no longer prayed for guidance in each decision. The Creator was now left out of all equations.
Alcohol was introduced to us. It suppressed our need for a connection with our Creator. Later on drugs would do the same. They both suppress our innate knowledge of right and wrong. Our people became unbelievably lost.
Alcohol suffocates our teachings. We forget how to be good people. We don’t see the sacred in each other. Many men have forgotten that they are protectors of The People. They steal power from their wives and children by physical violence and sexual abuse.
Many women have forgotten that they represent Mother Earth. We have forgotten that power and knowledge travel through us. We haven’t always protected and cared for our children as Mother Earth has shown us to do. We haven’t held our men accountable to be the best humans they can be.
We used to hear that children are sacred because they come to us directly from spirit. We are supposed to treat them as sacred beings so they won’t leave us. If life is too hard for them they can choose to die. We don’t hear that teaching anymore.
Tribes will make proclamations that our children are our future. How are we treating our future? Many are physically, emotionally and sexually abused.
These learned behaviors are killing us just as efficiently as smallpox and influenza did. We have strayed far from our correct destiny. We are once again totally lost.
The Creator hasn’t abandoned us though we have forgotten him. He has given us seeds of hope. We just have to find them.
The first was the canoe journeys. It grew from the dream of an elder to see the return of the ocean going canoes. We are taken back to our most basic teachings. We learn that we have to trust and respect each other. We learn to pull together to reach our destination. We have remembered to respect the waters. We see in the oceans the sacredness and power of Mother Earth.
The Creator never abandons us. When everything looks lost and hopeless there will always be one man or one way that will have the knowledge to help.
The Creator said that if we became completely lost he would hide our help in one seed. That seed was one word. It was hidden in one document where no one would think to look. That word was whaling. The document was the Makah Treaty.
The Makah had stopped whaling when white American whalers had hunted the gray whale to near extinction. When the gray whale rebounded the Makah readied for the hunt.
Antiwhalers gathered to stop the Makah. The cowboys and Indians propaganda was fought in the media. The whale hunt was televised as it happened.
In the first light of morning we saw the Makah hunters head out to sea. They closed in on a whale while the antiwhalers slept. Every Native that was awake and watching the early morning news was praying the same prayer. We prayed for the safety and success of the hunters.
We learned the power of prayer. We had found our path home.
Diabetes is the new plague among our people. It is the result of generations of trauma. Our bodies have worn out under all the stress. We have been denied our traditional foods that were given to us for our strength and healing. We are told when we are sick to eat our Traditional foods. It has what our Creator gave us to heal our body, spirit and mind.
When we gather our Traditional foods, again we learn to depend on each other. We learn to respect each other’s talents and abilities. We are hunters, fishermen and gatherers.
Our children feel that they are not needed or are in the way. Many have no one to show them love and kindness. No one teaches them to hunt, fish, or to gather plant foods and medicines for the community.
They have the most strength and energy to contribute to the Tribe. One of the most healing thing we can do is have dinners for our communities. What happens spiritually when we eat together is we all become even.
The Elders who are tired or sick take what they need from the collective energy. Others who are sick take what they need for their healing. Our youth contribute the most strength and energy. In return they get the teachings from our speakers.
We have been given three ways to help ourselves. Is there one more coming?
Is it the unprecedented number of ancestors that are returning to us as new archaeological sites are unearthed? We are learning what we used to be, what we can be.
The Tsewhitzen site had the powdered red clay everywhere. Thousands of years ago we did everything in prayer. The red clay is used for blessing and protection.
The first step in our return to our correct destiny is prayer. We will be back in touch with our Creator. We will be like those who knew enough to ready their canoes and gather food and water before the great flood. We will be the ones to survive the days to come.
Monday, January 22, 2007
WHERE DID HONOR GO?
Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (25 U.S.C. §§ 1301-03)
§ 1301. Definitions
For purposes of this subchapter, the term -
1. ''Indian tribe'' means any tribe, band, or other group of Indians subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and recognized as possessing powers of self-government;
2. ''powers of self-government'' means and includes all governmental powers possessed by an Indian tribe, executive, legislative, and judicial, and all offices, bodies, and tribunals by and through which they are executed, including courts of Indian offenses; and means the inherent power of Indian tribes, hereby recognized and affirmed, to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all Indians;
3. ''Indian court'' means any Indian tribal court or court of Indian offense.
§ 1302. Constitutional rights
No Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall -
1. make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances;
2. violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizures, nor issue warrants, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized;
3. subject any person for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy;
4. compel any person in any criminal case to be a witness against himself;
5. take any private property for a public use without just compensation;
6. deny to any person in a criminal proceeding the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and at his own expense to have the assistance of counsel for his defense;
7. require excessive bail, impose excessive fines, inflict cruel and unusual punishments, and in no event impose for conviction of any one offense any penalty or punishment greater than imprisonment for a term of one year and  a fine of $5,000, or both;
8. deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws or deprive any person of liberty or property without due process of law;
9. pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law; or
10. deny to any person accused of an offense punishable by imprisonment the right, upon request, to a trial by jury of not less than six persons.
§ 1303. Habeas corpus
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall be available to any person, in a court of the United States, to test the legality of his detention by order of an Indian tribe.
The first law of a chief is to feed the people. Chiefs were trained, spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. They had to be able to get a salmon, deer, or whale. They had to know how to bring it home. Then they had to be able to clean and butcher it. Then they had to know how to cook it. Finally a chief has to be humble enough to serve it to his people. No man can call himself a chief until he can do all those things.
Tribal chairmen/women are not trained. They may have a degree in business administration. Most lack the spiritual training. Many have not undergone a healing for the generations of genocide that we have endured. Internalized oppression is a symptom of that genocide.
Two of the most abused programs in a corrupt Tribal regime are Indian Child Welfare and Housing. You must be quiet and do as your told or you will lose your children and your home.
There was a time when business was conducted by the whole community. If someone had to go to a meeting, a hat was passed to collect the travel money. Everyone contributed. That person reported to the community what happened at the meeting he or she attended. Issues were discussed and everyone had a say.
I used to go with my Dad to the Tribal meetings. What I loved were the stories used to open the meetings. One old man would tell the creation story. Another would tell how the Elwha village came to be.
In another village there was a man with a deep voice. He couldn't speak softly. His voice would boom across the waters like a foghorn. Everyone made fun of him. Their laughter peeled the skin from his arms. He took his family and moved to the mouth of the Elwha River. His descendants are the Elwha, "The Deep-Voiced People." They are sensitive, quick to anger and fight.
Another old man would tell of the white man. He was few in numbers at first, seeking and friendly. As their numbers grew they became more bold. One night as the Elwha slept, white men broke into their longhouses and began shooting. The survivors ran. They sought refuge with relatives from other Tribes.
Those murderers wanted to be farmers. They assumed that the Elwha valley would be fertile and would produce many crops. The Elwha river meaders. It constantly changes course. The whole valley is sand and clay and river rocks. This is fishing country, not farmland.
Those failed farmers sold the stolen land to the United States Government for the landless Indians, so they could have homes. That stolen land, that old village site became the Elwha reservation.
The story of the treaty was told. Those first white men came as drops. Now we were engulfed in a flood. There were forts and soldiers to protect the invaders. The white man's government was divided. They were getting ready to fight each other in a civil war. Troops would be pulled from the local forts.
The US government sent Washington Territory Governor Stevens to make peace treaties with the Tribes. They wanted to ensure the safety of the white people when the soldiers were withdrawn. In return they promised many things.
Our Ancestors secured the right to continue our place in the circle of life. We are fishermen, hunters and gatherers. We agreed to allow the white men who remained to fish and hunt for their subsistence unharmed.
They drew lines around the land that would confine us. They promised housing and education. The Chiefs made an X next to their names on a piece of paper. The white men packed up their papers and left.
Paper meant nothing. Our Ancestors had moved a big rock to the place the treaty was signed. It was placed there to witness and remember the words said that day. A Coast Guard Base now sits on the site. The Daughters of the American Revolution decided to honor the Treaty Rock. It now has a plaque and a white picket fence around it. It vibrates with power and honor and anger.
We didn't have a Tribal Center when I was a child. Important meetings were held in the one church on the reservation. I would go with my Dad to those meetings to hear those stories told. I never tired as they told them at each meeting. I would sit in the back pew and pretend to read the bible and song books that were in the back of the seat in front of me.
The Business Committe does not tell the stories of our people. They follow Robert's Rules of Order. Tribal business today is not connected to our history. That Treaty Rock remembers the vows of the white man and our Chiefs. Could a chairperson or councilperson stand in front of that rock and say, "I am still feeding The People."
We went to court in the 1970's to secure our treaty right to fish, to force the State and Federal Governments to live up to their word. Are we still bound by the vows and practices of our Ancestors or are we finally white men too? Are we individual citizens now or are we still Tribal, a part of the Whole?
The Treaty promised us housing and education. You see those programs being abused. Students who are related to Business Committee members or who come from big families will get services. It is that way in all the programs.
The Elders Program serves a select few. Many in need are ignored. The trips and goodies are for the same people over and over again. Jobs are political appointments, usually to buy votes. They are not to provide services to The People.
Last fall approximately 70 Tribal members received eviction notices from the Tribal HUD housing program. The Tribe is violating our own Treaty by this travesty. Is this the action of a Chief or a corrupt politician?
We hear stories from other reservations of Tribal members being tazered for singing and praying in public. Teenagers are harrassed and beaten for being in large groups. Where are they supposed to go?
Children from all reservations are being abused. They are beaten and raped. If the perpetrator is a person of power that crime is ignored despite all the laws to protect them.
What happened to our teaching that children are sacred? Children and elders are sacred because they are closest to the Spirit world. A child is not bound to this earth until after he is ten years old. He can decide to die and leave this world without harming his soul. Is that what crib deaths are? Did those souls decide that the world we are providing is too harsh?
Our Elders are preparing to leave this world. They are changing and are in a sacred state. They stop eating, to cleanse their body for the next journey. They will only eat their favorite foods until they get their fill. We see Elders at our Traditional Foods dinners who have lost their appetites for the white man's food. They will eat with great relish a fish head. That is the food most asked for at dinners. Sometimes you will see a younger more modern Indian watching them in horror.
When did we forget that our children and Elders are sacred? When did we stop honoring our Chief's vows to feed The People. When did we start taking for ourselves first and start taking care of those who will vote for us?
When did Tribal Governments become a replica of a corrupt US government? Where did our honor go and how do we get it back?
Thursday, January 04, 2007
There is no quicker way to start an argument on the internet among Indians than to bring up the issue of blood quantum. I discovered that recently. You will hurt feelings and make enemies.
It is an issue with which many Tribes are struggling. Some Tribes have dropped blood quantum in favor of descendancy. You no longer have to prove a certain level of Indian blood. You do have to prove that you are a direct descendant of an original enrollee with the Tribe.
One of the questions is “Does Indian blood run out at some point?” If someone is 1/32 Indian and 31/32 white could they still be considered Indian? Will they still think and act like an Indian? The general American public will most certainly consider them to be white. They will probably be culturally white.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs had a program called “Termination.” It was the death blow to Indian status. Some enrolled Tribal members were lured into voting for termination by greed. If a vote for termination was passed, the Tribal members would receive a money settlement and they would no longer be considered Indian by the federal government.
That is a fear of many Tribal members who oppose doing away with blood quantum or lowering it. Most of those who voted for termination did not live on their reservations. They did not want to. They wanted to move into white society. They could and should do that on their own without jeopardizing the whole Tribe.
The question of blood quantum becomes one of morality and loyalty. Will the person who is 1/32 Indian and 31/32 white be loyal to the Tribe or to white society in general? Will their thinking still be Tribal? Will they look out for the good of the whole Tribe? Or will they look out for themselves before anyone or anything else?
In the Pacific Northwest Treaty Rights had to be proven and secured in court. That included fishing, hunting, shellfishing and gathering medicines, and plant food and whaling.
On May 17, 1999 the Makah successfully hunted their first gray whale in nearly a century. Animal rights activists from around the world came to protest. They used stereotypes and racism to turn local citizens against the Makah. Racists did not differentiate between the Makah and other Tribes in the area.
Seashepherd International, headed by Paul Watson, advertised for anyone with Indian blood to speak out against the Makah whale hunt. In Port Angeles he found one woman claiming to be Navajo and one man claiming to be Chippewa. Neither one appeared to be Indian. They were not enrolled. They wrote letters to the editor and made speeches as “Indians” who were opposed to the Makah Hunt.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were actually 1/32 Indian or less. Their loyalty was to their white blood.
The local Tribes unanimously supported the Makah Treaty Right to hunt whales. Those with a faint drop of Indian blood chose to stand with the racists.
Jonathan Paul of Ocean Defense International called a press conference demanding that the federal government revoke and renegotiate all our Treaties. He wanted the phrases retaining our rights to hunt removed.
Jonathan Paul is an animal rights activist that was convicted of arson in 2006. Self-proclaimed Indian, Ward Churchill did a benefit speaking engagement for Jonathan Paul and his cohorts.
Churchill is a coordinator of the Denver Autonomous American Indian Movement and their annual Columbus Day protests. He held a position as professor and head of Native American Studies at the University of Colorado. He held those positions as an Indian. Many researchers have proven that he has no Indian blood.
If Churchill had the miniscule amount of Indian blood that he claimed, he committed what amounted to treason to the Tribes when he performed the benefit for Jonathan Paul and his merry band of homegrown terrorists.
Would a real Indian support someone who wants to do away with our Treaties?
He needs to come to one of our Traditional Foods dinners and witness the elders eat the deer, duck, salmon and clams that is guaranteed to us by Treaty. Our Traditional Foods heal our body mind and soul.
He should talk with men and women who went away to boarding school, college or the army. They tell stories of knowing when salmon enter the river. They can feel it in their blood. They can sense the deer in the woods. We have a symbiotic relationship with those that give up their lives to feed us.
We were never able to get that through to the animal rights activists who fought the Makah treaty right to hunt whales. Another Indian should have understood that. Ward Churchill didn’t understand or he wouldn’t have done the benefit for Jonathan Paul. If he actually does have Indian blood, his white blood overwhelmed it.
Should someone who is descended from a French trapper with 1/32 French blood be recognized as a Frenchman? Should that person be able to vote for their president or to extinguish French land and culture?
What of those with an English sea captain or Irish or Scots sailor hiding in their woodpile? They might belong to the Secret Societies and speak their language. They might have lived their whole life on the reservation. White society would certainly consider them to be Indian.
No one can take away the right to claim whatever Indian blood a person may have. Many Tribes are struggling with whether or not to grant legal status to anyone who can prove Indian blood no matter how miniscule.
The big question facing us is whether or not we can trust those with a microscopic amount of Indian blood with our future. Will they care? Will they live up to the responsibility taught to us by our Ancestors?