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.

9 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Strangejazz said...

My question to you is...Is there any truth to the NY Times article?

Are they trafficking drugs?

And if they are who are they selling to?

3:43 PM  
Blogger themarigoldtrail said...

With all due respect Doc, I think you missed the point. Name me a community in the US, short of the Amish, where there is no drug trafficking and selling. And why is this of interest now, when business as usual is that Indians on reservations don't exist. If you want to know the gory details, go read the article linked to in the post. And then read the St Regis response, also linked to in the post.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Dr. Strangejazz said...

I'm guessing your point is that they are going after the Indians as a result of the Abramoff scandal. "Why now?" is right.

And for the record Amish have been busted for drugs.

The point of my question was; If the some Indians are trafficking drugs I PRAY they are only selling to whites. Kinda like pay back for how whites sold booze to Indians when they first settled here.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Dr. Strangejazz said...

Also I would like to add that when the media covers something they are looking in from the outside. There is no one TRULY on the inside that understands the community.

So of course the reporting is going to be slanted. In order for a story to be understood by the masses (white Amerikkka) it must be laid out a certain way in where there is a good guy and a bad guy nevermind the facts.

The Amerikkkan people need a cohesive story with a begining and an end (kinda like a fairy tale) in order to understand the issue. The problem is when you cover a story like that the public really gains nothing that helps them to understand the real issues.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Dr. Strangejazz said...

"There is no one TRULY on the inside that understands the community."

That should read there is no one who truly understands the community that gets his or her story out there to the masses.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Eve L. Incarnata said...

I would love to read your blog on a more regular basis. Would it be o.k. with you if I created a LiveJournal feed for it, and then talked it up among people I know on LJ?

8:15 AM  
Blogger themarigoldtrail said...

I would be flattered if you wished to create an LJ feed. Go for it! Unfortunately, I don't post as regularly as I should; law school takes a toll on my time.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Great blog you have here. I have my own, with an incredibly un-creative name: Federal-Indian law blog. It might be interesting to you, maybe not. (maybe I can come up with a better name)

Brian

2:03 PM  
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