Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcome The Insolent and the Rocky

I've added a number of new blogs recently.

First up is the Insolent Indian.

This particular Indian is a good friend of mine with a sharp tongue and a keen wit. Watch out pretendians and wannabees. She's got your number and this Tsalagi woman doesnt mess around.

Second, I am happy to add Newspaper Rock, the Blog of Rob at Blue Corn Comics. Rob has long kept a vigilant eye on the portrayal of Indians in popular culture and the news. His website and his blog are must-reads and great resources for those neverending "But mascots are an honor" conversations you inevitably have with certain sports fans.

Welcome to you both.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Presidential Policy in Indian Country

The relationship between Indian nations and the federal government is a complicated one. We are not foreign nations, we are not states. We are, in the infamous words of Justice Marshall, "domestic dependent nations".

Now law scholars have discussed in depth exactly what that means, and lord knows it means less and less in the eyes of the current Supreme Court. But it does mean we have a unique relationship with the US feds, including the Executive Branch. So what the future president outlines are his or her policy in Indian Country is of great importance to us.

So here's the three remaining contenders' issue statements on Indian Country.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy 2007

It's been almost six long months since I've updated this blog. Needless to say, much has been going on in Indian Country, and in my own life. Unfortunately, I've reported little of it here.

It's not exactly a New Year's resolution, but I think I'll make an effort to return to blogging. Look for more commentary on what's going on in Indian Country, including some major sovereignty/feds issues with Freedmen membership in Cherokee, Mel Gibson's version of indigenous Maya, gaming challenges in Congress and other big issues in Indian Country.

Glad to be back. Anything particular that interests folks, drop me a line.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Angry Indian Blog

A quick note to welcome Angry Indian to my blogroll. His blog is entitled "The Voice of a Native Son: Intelligent Aborigianl Commentary" and he covers issues of interest to all aboriginal peoples from around the world, not just Native Americans. He and I have been having a talk about Oprah on the Navajo Nation which broaded to a chat about Indian jails.

Check out his blog:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

When Indians Disappear II

Apologies for my long absense. I've been going through that particular hell known as the first year of law school. Happily, it is over and I hope to return to blogging regularly.

Much has been going on in Indian Country these past months. Massive Bush budget cuts threaten urban Indian health. A violent stand-off goes on between the Canadian government and the Six Nations people in Caledonia. The Abramoff scandal continues.

I'll be spending the summer working for the Navajo Nation out in Window Rock, the seat of the Navajo government. I'll share my experiences with working for a tribal government and living on the Navajo rez. Plus, if anyone is in the area, leave a comment and we'll go to lunch. I already found a great mutton stew stand.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Indian Country in the Crosshairs

Indian Country and its inhabitants have taken a beating lately in the mainstream media. First, a Wall Street Journal opinion piece calls for the abolition of reservations for the good of Indians. Yes, the whiteman in Washington, as always, knows what is best for Natives, despite that fact that most Natives themselves consider reservation land sacrosant. Then last week the New York Times publishes a sensational article about drug trafficking on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in upstate New York, titled "Through Indian Lands, Drugs' Shadowy Trail". If that sounds salacious to you, rest assured it read that way. You'd think that Mohawk reservation, as well as all of Indian Country which was indicted in the article by association, was a lawless haven for gang bangers and drug dealers. Images of the Old West, replete with outlaw villans, corrupt small town officials and outnumbered deputies were conjured up on the front page of that most prestigious of newspapers.

Most of the time mainstream media is content to ignore Natives and the goings on in Indian Country. Reservations and poverty are nothing new, so what is prompting the Wall Street Journal to quote single mother statistics and throw around terms like "rez", as if the author's been hangin' at a '49 with his cuz cruisin' for a snag? And everyone knows methamphetamines are a problem all across rural America. Why does the New York Times seem so horrified that there exists a criminal element on some reservations now?

At least this time, though, some Native journalist are fighting back against the biased press. Indian Country Today has put out the call for a more balanced view of Indian Country, saying that

"The language of termination is heard by the ideologically driven critics. [..] the consistent language of termination introduced by prominent writers such as Holman Jenkins Jr., a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, who railed against those ''defunct tribes'' and their ''enduring nonsense of Indian 'sovereignty.''' Jenkins bemoaned the surprising resilience of any ''Indian sovereignty,'' pining for an illusive termination from Indian friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an unlikely prospect. ''[B]ut even that may come,'' Jenkins hopes, because the ''backlash'' against tribal sovereignty ''[is] already on the way.'' This is intense anti-Indian tribal rights argumentation. It is being heard across the country and the chorus will continue to croak in the lineup - a dangerous mantra that the media herd too willingly now carries as ''truth.''
Suzan Harjo also weighed in, bringing the New York Times to task for their Dark Continent style approach to Indian Country.

"The first article portrays reservations as mysterious and otherworldly, in the same way that white folks once depicted Africa as the ''dark continent.'' Here, the reporter claims that drug traffickers refer to St. Regis Mohawk territory in Canada and the United States as the ''black hole.'' [...] A reader of this heart of darkness tale would never know that the sun ever shines in Indian country or that anyone drives a school bus or takes care of grandma. Instead, this is a sweeping indictment of all Indian nations and millions of Native people. "
Specific tribes and leaders, like the St. Regis Mohawks and the embattled Red Lake Tribal Leader Floyd Jourdain, have also written articles defending themselves from the unfair Times reporting and, in the case of the Mohawks, demanding an apology.

So what's going on?

If I were a conspiracy theorist type, I'd be looking to the most recent proposed budget cuts from the Bush administration that slash Indian funding something terrible. A little villification of reservations certainly doesnt hurt to convince the ignorant that those budget cuts are justified. And let's not forget all the bad press the Abramoff scandal has caused the Republican Party. If it wasn't for the Indians Abramoff bilked out of millions, this embarrassment wouldn't have happened. Perhaps it is time for a little payback.

But I'm not into all those conspiracies. After all, Indians don't need conspiracies to distrust the Great White Father in Washington; we just need a refresher on US history.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Joe's Four Steps

If you missed the State of the Indian Nations Address today, you can read the transcript here .

I had a few thoughts about the speech overall, and then a few issues I would like to highlight that I feel are important for the non-Native American population to know.

First, the good news:

Gov. Garcia is a strong speaker and I feel confident that he can represent Indian Country and the issues facing Native peoples. He seemed to have concrete goals and concrete ways to begin to address the major problems facing Native America today.

I particularly enjoyed that he turned to an indigenous paradigm to present his issues and used the Four Directions in Tewa tradition as a framework for his speech, which might be best understood as the Four Steps. He said the four major issues facing Indian Country are Law Enforcement, Health Care, Education and the Economy, and the Trust Settlement.

Now the bad news, which is just a small sampling of how important the issues he outlines in his Four Steps are:

- Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native women. Seventy percent of American Indians who are the victims of violent crimes are victimized by someone of a different race.

- Healthcare expenditures for Indian are less than half what America spends for federal prisoners.

- Only half of Indian students complete high school. Only 13 percent of American Indians hold bachelors or graduate degrees, less than half the national average.

- More than one in eight Indians lack access to safe drinking water. More than one in twelve lack access to basic sanitation. This is humiliating, degrading, and medically unconscionable. It is wrong, and it has to be brought to an end.

Even those these statistics and the reality they suggest are staggering, Garcia boldy called to task the federal government and the Bush administration to pass and approve the funding for feasible, concrete legislation that is already on the table and could aid Indians here and now: the provision in No Child Left Behind that would allow for charter schools that operate under a indigenous methodology, the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act that is up for a vote in this session of Congress, the settlement the Corbell Trust Case.

Garcia emphasized that Native America is strong, is growing. However, he also acknowledged that the future of Indian Country is somewhat dependent on the federal government living up to its historic agreements and long relationship with the Indians and a future of enthusiastic support of sovereignty and self-determination.

And, well, for that last part, I won't hold my breath.