Friday, September 30, 2005


Jason over at Wildhunt draws our attention to the Charles C. Mann book, 1491 : New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. This book looks quite interesting. I'll definitely be picking it up, hopefully to fit in over fall break.

The book appears to debunk a lot of ideas about what life was like in the Americas before Columbus landed. Jason highlights this choice quote from the review:

"What's most shocking about "1491" is the feeling it induces of waking up from a long dream and slowly realizing just how thoroughly one has been duped. We all knew there were problems with the old narrative of brave European settlers crossing the Atlantic to find an empty continent, but it's jarring to discover, as Mann tells us, that in 1491 there were almost certainly more people living in the Americas than in Europe -- and that, in many ways, American civilizations of the time were as advanced as anything across the ocean."

Not so shocking for us NDNs, but perhaps shocking for non-Native Americans who never thought to read beyond what they were taught in school.

He also makes mention of the debunking of the European origins of the Kennewick Man and calls into question the whole Landbridge theory - both concepts that Indians have been grumbling about for a while now but which havent gotten much attention in the mainstream.

Go read Jason's review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Politicians Talking 'bout NDNs

Politician #1.First, let me start with the heartwarming news that Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has been indicted. Can you see me dancing? 'Cause I'm dancing.

If you're confused about why DeLay is no friend of Indians, refresh your knowledge of the Jack Abramoff Indian gaming scandal. Now note he was indicted on other charges, but it gives me hope that he will have to answer for his part in the Tigua Tribe's shameful and unethical treatment as well.

Politician #2. Next, we see Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has said that there should be limits to tribal sovereignty. (Is that like having limits to freedom?) McCain wants more federal oversight of the Indian gaming industry: "To assert tribal sovereignty over an operation that does not involve Indians but non-Indians to me is not a valid enough argument because I have an obligation under the Constitution ... to all of our citizens. [Tribal sovereignty is] overridden to some degree [by a need to protect] all citizens [from potential corruption at casinos]".

Hmm.. I'm not convinced that Sen. McCain's motivation is his concern for all the Non-Natives visiting Indian casinos. It sounds to me like McCain thinks sovereignty is just talk, and when things really matter, like Indians making money, the Feds want the controlling piece of the pie.

Politician #3. Bush is stepping up his opposition to Native Hawai'ian Bill. This Bill would recognize "the right of the Native Hawaiian people to reorganize the Native Hawaiian governing entity to provide for their common welfare and to adopt appropriate organic governing documents", which, as I understand it, means that the Native Hawai'ians would function somewhat like a federally recongnized Native American tribe. This status would potentially change the outcome of such recent court decisions like Doe v. Kamehameha Schools (see also article on court decision).

Politician #4. Ok, this one is soon to be Chief Justice, so I guess he's not technically a politician. Or he's one of the most powerful politicians out there. Depends on your views of the role of judges I suppose. But I digress..

Here's John Roberts! Now, we may not know much about him overall, but some of the areas where he does indeed have a public record is in his involvement with Indian Law. sums up Robert's involvement with Indian Law:

"As an attorney in private practice, Roberts argued two Indian law cases before the high court. In Rice v. Cayetano, he defended the state of Hawaii's Native Hawaiian programs by relying on the federal trust relationship. In Alaska v. Venetie, he argued the relationship no longer existed when it came to trust land in Alaska.

"Roberts lost the Native Hawaiian case, leading to a flurry of challenges to Native Hawaiian programs, some of which are likely to end up before the court again. He won the Alaska case, much to the dismay of Native leaders who are still facing challenges to their sovereignty to this day."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hugo Chavez is my Boyfriend

Ok, Chavez isn't really my boyfriend, but I am starting to love him like he is.

From Indian Country Today:

Venezuela offers support to indigenous

"While setting new global standards for the recognition of indigenous rights in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has made an offer to bring low-cost gasoline to the poor in the United States, including American Indian tribal communities.

''There is an offer on the table for low-cost heating oil and gasoline for poor communities in the United States,'' said Robert Free Galvan, who is contacting tribes in the United States with Venezuela's offer.

''Hopefully, Indian tribes and Native entities will take advantage of this opportunity to become stronger in the global community.''
"Venezuela owns CITGO Petroleum Corp., which has eight refineries in the United States, and has set aside up to 10 percent of its refined oil products to be sold directly to organized poor communities, and institutions in the United States without intermediaries. ""

I think Chavez's offer is provocative, even if only for the rhetoric. The whole idea of Native American nations dealing directly with other world nations without the US as an intermediary is an extraordinary one to me. I have often thought that Native nations need to become more involved in the larger international community of indigenous peoples, including looking to international law to hold the US government's feet to the fires of justice. The sad fact is that I am not convinced that Natives will ever receive justice in their oppressor's courts and the more I learn in law school, the more this belief is confirmed. Not that I am convinced that international human rights law is particularly enforceable, at least in its current incarnation. But if we can expand the arena of dialogue and ally ourselves with other indigenous nations, perhaps we are more likely to be respected. And if we are respected, maybe we will be heard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ohkay Owingeh

I was reading and came across a little snippet from an article about how the San Juan Pueblo (my peeps) are planning to change their official name to "Ohkay Owingeh", the name they were known by before the Spanish Conquest. It means "place of the strong people" in Tewa and is quite fitting, considering the Ohkay Owingeh were the only tribe that could declare war for all the neighboring Pueblo tribes, and such bad ass luminaries as Popé hail from there.

Changing your name sounds reasonable, doesn't it? I mean, many Navajo call themselves Diné, Cherokee prefer Tsalagi. It makes sense that a tribe, particularly one that was named after a Spanish saint, might want to reclaim some of their heritage and change their name. I mean, hell, if a New Mexico city can name itself after a gameshow, surely a sovereign nation of Indians can drop the Spanish saint moniker.

But you should read some of the comments made to this article. You'd think the governor of the pueblo, Joe Garcia, had spit on the flags of US and Spain, and told the indigenous peoples of the world to eat cake. Commentators on the article, who I can only assume are non-Native since I have yet to hear an Indian bemoan the evils of gaming, can't resist ranting about casinos (which reminds me to encourage you to please visit the Ohkay casino and resort). They seem equally alarmed about the obvious inevitability of Indians wanting to change the name of the United States of America next (you saw that one coming, didn't you?). They also claim Governor Garcia must care more about the name change than the impoverished people in his own tribe. Because much like the logic used in the mascot debate, it is understood that Indians can only focus on one issue at a time.

Ohkay Owingeh, eh? I like it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Greatest Indian in the Whole World

"The Greatest Indian in the Whole World".

It sounds like a Sherman Alexie short story, doesn't it? But it's a poll that is being held by the The Red Roots Educational Project and The Native Truth, both organizations that are involved in the dissemenation of correct information about Natives and the breaking of stereotypes.

And the list of great Native Americans submitted certainly isn't stereotypical. It's diverse and far-ranging and encouraging. Yeah, there's Pocahatas, but there's also Popé, John Echohawk and John Trudell. There are some wishful thinking long shots, like Elvis and Loretta Lynn, and some silly ones like Benjamin Bratt. (No offense Ben. I loved you on Law and Order. But The Greatest NDN? C'mon now.)

Go check out the list and see how many people you recognise. And don't forget to vote.

Image from Terri Jean website

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina's Impact in Indian Country

I know mainstream media won't cover it, but, as always, lets us know about the six federally recognized tribes that were in the path of Katrina and how Indian Country is stepping up to help them.

I'm happy to hear the National Indian Gaming Association has set up a fund to help tribes in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi that were affected by Hurricane Katrina and hope to raise $1 million towards relief efforts. Gaming always gets a bad name in the mainstream press (because I guess gambling is bad when Indians run the show, but OK when rich white corporations do it), so I am glad to see they are stepping up and helping the community.

The National Congress of American Indians is co-ordinating donations to the Gulf area tribes and has been working to contact and aid the tribes in that area. They are having mixed success, I gather, with phone lines and electricity still out and some tribes still have not been contacted. It appears the Mississippi Band of Choctaw suffered the most damage. also reports that many individual tribes are helping out as well:

"The Choctaw Nation is donating all of its Labor Day gaming profits and a week's worth of fuel sales to the disaster effort.

"The Muscogee Creek Nation is working directly with Bogalusa, Louisiana, to provide supplies to the city.

"The Cherokee Nation sent 50 firefighters and is sending food and water for the Mississippi Choctaws to distribute.

"The Miami, Tonkawa and Kaw tribes are making donations to the Red Cross.

"In Montana, the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes on the Fort Belknap Reservation are donating buffalo meat and are starting a drive for clothing, blankets and other essentials."

The list goes on.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Mitakuye Oyasin

Mitakuye oyasin. It is a Lakota prayer that roughly translates "we are all related/all my relations".

The news out of New Orleans and all over the Southern Gulf Coast just breaks my heart. While this is mainly a forum for American Indian issues, it is foremost a forum for human being (and four-legged) issues. The news reminds me profoundly the simple fact that we are all related.

Please take a moment to help those of your brothers and sisters, the two-leggeds and the four, who desperately need your help.

Humane Society:

Noah's Wish:
(Noah's Wish is a not-for-profit, animal welfare organization that works to keep animals alive during natural disasters.)

Red Cross:

Volunteer, donate, or offer space to the homeless iin your home:

New Orleans:


Baton Rouge: