Wednesday, March 5, 2014
It is particularly ironic that participation in a trade industry that has been ours for thousands of years — actually introduced to their ancestors by our ancestors — has been under attack since the moment we began realizing any significant economic gain from it. But the attempt by the U.S. and Canada to deny this inherent right is not the only egregious act by two of the world's biggest hypocrite nations.
Kidnapper, hostage holder and pedophile John Rolfe (d. 1622) of Pocahontas fame took the first steps to bastardize our tobacco by commercializing the product for the European market. Philip Morris, Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds and others finished the job by turning tobacco into nicotine delivery systems praying on chemical addiction for market security. Governments and government officials raked in billions with taxes, fees, surcharges, settlements, political contributions, tobacco lobby perks and campaign contributions. Lawyers saw the same; and both tobacco and anti-tobacco lawyers got rich and famous. And while all this money was being spread, Big Tobacco continued cranking out cigarettes. These guys played every angle possible to keep up demand, supply and distribution. They even courted small, almost insignificant Native smoke shops and the low or no-tax environments we operate in. Anything for sales. But that all changed.
Soon the unholy marriage between Big Tobacco and small Native smoke shops bore an offspring that would destroy the bliss — Native-manufactured brands and products. Soon the very companies that used our people to skirt state and provincial law were writing the federal legislation to snuff us out of the business.
Now don't get me wrong, even with Big Tobacco kind of in our corner the U.S. and Canadian governments were hell bent on not letting us build an economy on this or anything else. A few Big Tobacco executives even got prosecuted for bending rules and breaking laws in dealing with the "illicit reservation tobacco trade." But once these guys lined up with the top cops it didn't matter where tobacco originally came from since Team USA and Team Canada were going lie, cheat and steal to keep us out of the game. We were now terrorists or at very least funding them. What ensued were stings, seizures and set-ups of all kinds, including creating sell-outs among Native businessmen and in tribal councils.
But our shops continue to operate and Native brands and Native-produced generics continue to roll off our shelves. Criminalizing our businesses has not stopped them. It has just made it easier to call us criminals.
And while the tobacco sideshow keeps everyone distracted, Canada and the U.S. eye what's left of our lands and resources all the while calculating how they might separate us from both. Even as most territories wallow in poverty and the majority of Native people live ghetto lives in the cities where they have been removed, coal, gas, oil and tar are raped from our lands leaving destruction that would make George Washington and John Sullivan proud. While people freeze to death in their homes due to the very extreme weather caused by the world's "fat takers," diamonds, minerals, lumber, water and energy resources are stripped from our lands leaving wastelands behind as well as cancer, tainted fish and wildlife, polluted water and a stench in the air. And this while poison seeps out of our own Mother in radioactivity and other seen and unseen dangers.
Almost no economic benefit ever makes it back to the people from all this exploitation and the little that does only seems to validate or encourage the practice. More jobs are created for cleanup of the inevitable disasters associated with raping the planet. But, of course, real cleanup is impossible. The fact of the matter is that Americans and Canadians are neither the users of these energy resources nor are they beneficiaries of their revenue either — except those Americans and Canadians that pocket the money on the sales to China. The U.S. broke records last month exporting more than a billion gallons of crude and petroleum products in a single week ending on February 21. So all the hype about domestic supply and energy security is as big a lie as the whole "Tobacco and Terrorism" scam.
China has invested billions of dollars into the tar sands oil extraction in Alberta and it's not to build a better Canada. It is to pull billions and billions of dollars out of our Mother and do it at the greatest rate and scale possible. The majority of Americans and Canadians are ignorant about the issues at stake. Even in the liberal state of New York a recent poll with more than 10,000 online participants had over 51 percent saying "Frack Away," obviously believing the hype over the jobs and benefits to be had destroying the Earth. The same goes for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Far too many Canadians and Americans have bought into all the lies and propaganda associated with this international crime against humanity because they have been duped into believing they will somehow benefit from the dirtiest oil on the planet flowing from Canada to the Texas Gulf so it can be sold to China.
This is not irony. This is criminal. While the U.S. and Canada legislate to prevent any economy from developing or meagerly continuing on Native lands they rape the land they stole from us or are stealing from us. This is all being done while they lie to their own people and destroy the ground beneath their feet.
I am not a fan of what the white man did to our tobacco but I would rather be a criminal farmer, even of tobacco, than a lawful destroyer of the planet.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I really like the expression, "Remove the Dust." Its most basic meaning evokes the image of sweeping away the dust accumulated over years of neglect from our wampum belts or any other reminders of our shelved knowledge. We use it as an expression that is generally associated with maintaining our culture. But at some point the line between the survival of our culture, distinction and autonomy and just plain survival will be brushed away like a line drawn in the very dust we seem covered in now.
We may not feel the need to learn survival skills for the short time many of us have left before we go home to our Mother, but the incredible short-term benefits and long-term needs should be clear. It's fine to talk about conservation and consuming in moderation, but how is it even possible when people are told every day that the very fabric of the "American Dream" or of the "Global Economy" depends on consumer confidence and consuming far beyond any ability to pay? And I am not just talking paying in dollars; I'm talking about the debt incurred on society, mortgaging our health and bankrupting the planet's resources.
Survival is about returning to reality — to real life. It is about understanding our place in Creation. This is where we find out whether the centuries of indoctrination into whatever belief systems you follow were real or BS. Has your religion or culture or, more importantly, your interpretations of them, prepared you to understand your place in Creation? Or are you simply relying on prayer and tobacco burning to be the problem solver?
Learning survival skills isn't just about doing with less. It is about realizing what is important. If removing the dust does not help us reassess our priorities then perhaps we need a better broom. If we hold sacred a planting ceremony but don't plant and if we perform our harvest ceremony but don't harvest then I say we have missed something. We need to give sincere thought to the lives we are living now if we have any hopes for our children and grandchildren. We need to rethink what a home is, what a family is and what a community is. To be Haudenosaunee or Rohtinoshoni does not mean you have a longhouse. It means you are of the way of the longhouse.
It is fine to speak of sovereignty and standing to defend it. But our word is "Tewatahtawi" and it means “we carry ourselves.” When do we fight not just for the right to carry ourselves but fight and prepare to actually do the carrying?
The world is changing around us. Capitalism and industrialization have driven our environment over a cliff. All the conservation in the world isn't going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. However, the world isn't coming to an end. This isn't about fear mongering or predicting the apocalypse. It is about acknowledging the changes that are coming.
Removing the dust isn't just learning the songs and the ceremonies. It is learning what they acknowledge and taking the time to, indeed, acknowledge those things. Maybe we don't need to grow our own food and build our own homes but the time is now to begin to learn or relearn. We cannot expect to build that skill set at the drop of a hat. That genetic memory and knowledge handed down from those before us evolved over time. Much of that knowledge can still serve us today but if we don't get our hands in the dirt now we will be ill equipped for the changes that are coming.
Empires rise and fall. We have seen plenty in the 500 years since European contact. We saw tremendous changes in the 10,000-plus years before that, as well. The descendants of those that came long before us are neither entitled to a sustainable future nor exempt from the fury of a changing earth. We call ourselves Ohnkwe Ohnwe and we say it means “real” or “original” people, but it is more than that. It is a description of a human being who stays true to the world in which he lives. He has a future that is connected to his past. He is real forever.
Archaeologists and anthropologists speak romantically about the ancient civilizations of the Americas and hypothesize about where they came from and what became of them. Yeah, we did the same things other cultures did, too. We built cities and monuments. We created religions and disparity. We waged war against man and Creation. But then we stopped. We learned. We removed the dust. As we cast off the false reality we created, the true Ohnkwe Ohnwe once again came through. It didn't happen by accident or by divine intervention but by planning and acknowledgement.
Many of those we now call our own people will not change their ways. They will march arm in arm in their sycophantic delusion with their capitalist overlords or "Trustees" off the economic and environmental cliff they have created. Choices will be made and continuing down the same path is a choice. If we don't like what we see in ourselves when we remove the dust, then Creation, the same teacher that brought wisdom and knowledge to those that came before us, will teach those willing to learn once again.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
My Let's Talk Native column for the February 19, 2014 issue of the Two Row Times
Now wait a minute. Tell me, how do any resources on our lands get tallied up as a percentage of someone else's resources?
Well, let me tell you how…
First, it happens through blatant theft. That’s theft pulled off through fraud and extortion...with a little religion thrown in.
Then we get the same theft continuing with a penny on the dollar's worth thrown at an impoverished people and/or their corrupt leaders to, somehow, legitimize the theft.
And then we get to where the bought and paid for among us wheel and deal our resources away for a fast buck with those claiming to be "tribal leaders" calling it economic development or worse; calling our resources not ours at all but rather the resources of the nation that has stolen almost everything we hold dear and essentially pledging our resources to make America proud of us.
During the annual State of Indian Nations address delivered by the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) President Brian Cladoosby there were repeated references to what "we as Native people" mean to the United States. He boasted about the revenue that Washington State receives from "tribes," including his own Swinomish Tribe. And during all of this talk of our place under the skirt of America the Beautiful was the reference that 10 percent of the "Nation's" energy resources lies within our territories.
Now this isn't just a problem of misplaced or misspoken possession, it is a problem of intent. Even as many of us draw a line in the sand, not just tar sand, on mineral extraction and environmental degradation, we have those among us who are surrounded by lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and investors making million-dollar deals to sell off every barrel, every ton and every cubic foot of anything worth having.
And the biggest factors on negative environmental impact, profitability and investor interest are scale and rate. How much can be extracted and how fast? Of course, throw in a little "no one lives there but a small number of marginalized people and a reduced requirement for real oversight” and bingo! You've got the next hottest thing on the reservation since...well, since bingo.
This brings me to the place where I have to point out the obvious. Now, I get it about who and what these "tribal leaders" are. The federal government gives them their "recognition" and, therefore, their authority. And while their jobs may be to find a cozy spot within the colonial power that uses them, mine is not.
Feminist activist Nikki Craft said, "The task of activism isn't to navigate the systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible, it is to dismantle those systems."
And our task as survivors of the longest attempted genocide the world has ever seen and defenders of our future generations and protectors of our Mother is certainly not to lie down with our abusers and negotiate a comfortable spot in a system that uses everything up for profit. Our job is not to protect the American or Canadian “Brand" or deliver "Made in Canada" or "Made in the USA" to the global market. And it is not our job to look the other way while greed rips into our lands to support "Made in China" either.
If we do choose to pursue a use for these resources they should be used to produce as much value to our communities and our people as possible. Raw materials should not stripped, piped and hauled out of our lands to quench the insatiable appetites of those that would destroy the planet for profit. Our small populations and the small areas of land we still control should not only have a secure energy future but also the scale and rate required for our own needs and desires should never exceed what the environment can support.
Yet for all the vast amount of energy resources boasted about by Mr. NCAI President, we have our own people freezing to death not on forced marches or out in the wilderness but in their homes. Freezing to death in the very lands that Mr. Obama and the French President chuckled over just this week as they shared funny little stories of the Louisiana Purchase and what a great deal it was while Mr. NCAI President looked on honored to be among them.
So as the energy debate and the fight to block the Keystone XL Pipeline and tar sands oil rages on we need to look at those faces close to us — not just industry moguls. We need to shake them out of the delusion of subjugation and the lure of the American dream. We need to be a beacon of hope, not just for our own but also for the ever-increasing number of people looking to us to help break the status quo.
A gas well in Seneca territory should not be filling the pipeline for the American utility companies. It should be supplying Seneca people. It should be producing heat, electricity and automotive fuel. The people should not be sucked dry by National Fuel to pay back investors funding the contamination of Seneca lands and risking the health of the people and life of the region.
The same should be said for coal, oil, gravel, water and trees on every one of our territories. Selling off our land by the truckload, pipe or rail is still selling out our future generations. And that is a system of power that needs to be dismantled.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
By John Kane - from the February 12, 2014 issue of the Two Row Times
Last week two stories about the ongoing battle by New York State and the U.S. federal government against the Native tobacco trade hit the papers.
Last week two stories about the ongoing battle by New York State and the U.S. federal government against the Native tobacco trade hit the papers.
In the state case (http://www.mpcourier.com/article/20140204/DCO/702049802), the government prosecutor joined with defense attorneys in a motion to dismiss felony charges against two men attempting to transport tobacco products from Mohawk territory to Seneca territory in March 2012.
District Attorney Mary E. Rain told the St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards that she had determined there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Among several issues that Rain described as representing "all kinds of problems with this case" was evidence she found in the case file that was favorable to the defendants. She specifically cited emails to and from the former District Attorney Nicole M. Duve dated August 14, 2012 where "She indicated in the emails that the Mohawk tribe was being singled out and local law enforcement was being unjust."
At the federal level, the Kansas City Star reported that a "New York company admits guilt in contraband cigarette case" (http://www.kansascity.com/2014/02/06/4803205/new-york-company-admits-guilt.html).
Aaron Pierce, a Seneca and former candidate for the President of the Seneca Nation was referred to as an unindicted co-conspirator in a large federal sting operation ran out of Kansas City between June 2010 and January 2012. His company, AJ's Candy and Tobacco LLC is the "New York state tobacco wholesaler" that is the subject of the article.
According to the Star, the "wholesaler pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Kansas City to trafficking contraband cigarettes and agreed to pay up to $1 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution."
The dismissal of the charges in the New York State case demonstrates what many of us have suggested for years about the discriminatory nature of law and law enforcement in the state. But even with the sweeping of this case under the rug, there is still a failure to address any state policy, regulation or law that clearly establishes any legal authority to criminalize the Native tobacco trade.
In May 2011, I worked with New York State Senators George Maziarz and Timothy Kennedy, both from Western New York, to make a formal request the Commissioner of the State's Department of Taxation and Finance to state clearly and in writing exactly what the state's policy was on the Native tobacco trade and Native product, in particular. That letter and follow- ups to that request remain unanswered but clearly lead authorities away from Seneca territory and resulted in the concentration by State authorities on Mohawk territory.
The federal case involving Aaron Pierce and AJ's Candy and Tobacco raises more questions than it answers. The identity question for Aaron Pierce alone could fill volumes but the core question here, too, is whether there is any clear and legitimately established policy, regulation or law that criminalizes Native trade?
The crux of this case is the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA). This law characterizes at a federal level, any cigarettes found in a state requiring a tax and stamp indicating the tax has been paid without a stamp as contraband with very specific exceptions, none of which include Native trade, Native product or Native people and lands. So what is created is an unclear federal law that uses unclear state law to criminalize Native trade that supports the economy on lands that both the state and federal governments know is not theirs.
So whether "AJ" pleads guilty to a crime, cooperates with state and federal authorities to get convictions on him and others or buys his way out of his fear of jail or a fight for sovereignty, does not mean a crime has been committed.
The question that I have for "AJ" is how can purchasing unstamped cigarettes in Kansas City for sale on Native lands be a crime between 2010 and 2012 while AJ Candy and Tobacco buys and sells unstamped Native brands everyday – including today? Is a pack of Marlboro's on the shelf of a Native smoke shop contraband while a pack of Seneca's is not? Where is that written?
Where is the line? Who draws it? And who is willing to defend it?
My immediate assessment of these cases was there could only be one of three explanations here. Either this is completely arbitrary with no real law behind it with the state and feds making it up as they go along. OR they are conceding that Native product in certain undefined areas can be traded by some people under a different set of undefined laws from non-Native product. OR the entire Native tobacco trade is criminal and they just don't know what to do about it or when to do it.
I honestly think it’s the first one but would love to hear them admit the second.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Previously published in the February 5, 2014 issue of the Two Row Times
I am never quite sure if there is a real difference. "Latent" is defined as not visible or dormant. Well, to those of us who feel the effects of this sentiment, almost nothing is missed or 'not visible.’ Even the dormant talk in their sleep.
There is probably a third category that is simply ignorance. Of course, all racism is borne out of ignorance and when ignorance continues to feed racism, it is deplorable and condemnable. But the ignorance I am talking about is almost innocent. It is not meant as an insult or to be demeaning but is, rather, a function of not knowing or being oblivious to embracing racist ideas or practices with no ill intent. That being said, someone who is not racist certainly can do and say racist things. The difference is that when it is pointed out, they can see it, recognize it and make the proper adjustments.
The defining point for the latent racist is when they are called out on it. Now this goes beyond the guy who says, "What do you mean? I have a black friend" or "What do you mean? I like Indians."
To me, there is almost a unique category of racism that pertains to Native peoples. As I mentioned, by and large most non-Native people are oblivious to us. The words 'Indian' and 'Native American' invoke visions of Pilgrims or cowboys and Indians from the movies. We aren't viewed as a threat or to have any impact on them whatsoever. But among this vast non-Native population an underlying racist attitude has been quietly, but no less insidiously, planted. The trick to all this, in my opinion, is raising awareness without pushing them over the racist cliff.
We see this with the mascot issue and any time we stand together. When the dominant culture around us feels threatened even with the idea of losing something as meaningless as a team logo, that line gets drawn.
An Edmonton newspaper had to shut down its Facebook page in the midst of the Idle No More movement because of the ugly and overwhelming level of hate that erupted there. Every mainstream print, TV/radio and online media outlet that addresses the mascot issue and uses a forum for comments has at least half the comments filled with insult and hate. And depending on their political leaning, a whole lot more than half. This isn't even a real issue in and of itself; it is merely a demonstration and a symbol of the unique racism held toward Native people.
It is tough to judge the real level of this racism. Clearly, many remain silent on the issues and in doing so are complicit in fostering this sentiment. The loudest and most well funded voices will always get heard above the silent majority but I can't help wonder where that silent majority really falls on this.
It’s great to hear people say that they never realized how offensive an expression or an image is and to be genuinely regretful for having been a part of promoting such things. I truly believe most people do not harbor ill will toward Native peoples, but certainly plenty do.
Many of those plugging up social media with hate speech are not the latent racist variety awakened from their dormant state but are simply the blatant racists, happy in their ignorance and wearing it proudly around their necks. These aren't just the guys or gals who struggle with generationally embedded racism; no, these are the ones on a mission to recruit more racists and advance social tensions and even violence. Michele Tittler and her attack on a 13 year-old Native girl wearing a "Got Land?" hoodie to school comes to mind. But it isn't just the lunatic fringe at home with their computers and the Internet that concerns me. There are also guys like Frank Parlato, the owner of the Niagara Falls Reporter, a small newspaper in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Every week, this little man publishes his racist views targeted specifically at the Seneca. He makes his case with lies and half-truths and actually suggests that the non-Native people of Niagara Falls are living under apartheid to the Seneca people. While he and his views may be insignificant, the fact that he generates enough ad revenue to print 20,000 copies weekly of this nonsense begs the question as to how widely held these racist views are and how effectively is he spreading them.
I believe it is our job as Native people in the media, as few as we may be, to enlighten people and provide the information to those willing to receive it. I, for one, feel well received by the non-Native community as I share my thoughts and views. I don't think promoting Native sovereignty, autonomy and distinction is the same thing as promoting racial tension or hostility. There are vast arrays of beliefs, philosophies, religions and behaviors that I do not embrace, some right within my own communities, but I feel no need to attack those that subscribe to these different views or condemn them unless they truly intend to do harm and use those views for justification or cause. As strong and animated as my own rhetoric may become, it will never be my intent to promote hate or violence or to express my freedom at the expense of others.
For those harboring blatant racism, I hope much of it is generational and will die with them. And as for the latent racists, well, let's just hope they continue to sleep it off.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Over the past 11 years that WBAI-FM 99.5 in New York City has been airing “First Voices Indigenous Radio” (FVIR), the show's host and executive producer Tiokasin Ghosthorse has slowly turned his weekly live one-hour radio show into an international broadcast with re-airings of this program on 45 stations in 15 states and one Canadian province.
Tiokasin has built a following of loyal listeners and set a standard for what could and should be expected when a Native voice is given an opportunity to be heard. He strove to provide a platform and a voice to Indigenous issues globally and has, indeed, accomplished his mission.
But 2014 has provided other opportunities for Tiokasin and he has decided to step away from hosting for a bit. Last week I traveled to New York to appear as Tiokasin's guest on FVIR. There it was announced that I would be stepping in as Interim Host for Tiokasin while he goes on a sabbatical to pursue various projects including work with children. A media release was issued immediately following the show by Liz Hill Public Relations, Ltd., in Washington, D.C. My appearance on the show did not come as a surprise or anything new to the FVIR audience since I have been one of the few guest hosts that Tiokasin has relied on over the last few years. This was yet another chance for Tiokasin and me to share the microphone.
Tiokasin will remain FVIR's executive producer and will be no stranger to the show while he pursues his year away as full-time host. Liz Hill, who has produced several Native radio shows in various markets, including producing for FVIR, will also serve as one of the show's producers. Ms. Hill has worked as my publicist over much of the last year and brings her more than 30 years of experience in public relations and media to this valuable media resource.
I will continue to produce and host my own show, “Let's Talk Native...with John Kane” (LTN) airing Sundays at 9-11 p.m. on ESPN Sports Radio WWKB- 1520 AM in Buffalo, N.Y. and streaming on-line everywhere (on the TuneIn app or at http://www.espn1520.com/pages/17325417.php?) and transition from my home on commercial radio to listener-supported radio of WBAI in New York each week. The shows will be distinct from one other with LTN maintaining its two hours of free-form style and its live, call-in talk radio format while FVIR will make efficient use of the one hour with a little more structure in one of the greatest media markets on the planet.
LTN will naturally continue to have a strong focus on Haudenosaunee issues but never shy away from Native issues from all over Turtle Island or Indigenous issues globally. Sovereignty, autonomy, distinction and identity will always be an undercurrent of “Let's Talk Native...”
“First Voices Indigenous Radio” will address Native and Indigenous peoples’ issues in a global context. Even as local and regional issues are tackled on the show and guests that will span the spectrum from activism to the arts and politics to other topics so, too, will there always be cognizance of the United Nations and the international community it represents just in the background. FVIR will continue to provide an opportunity to bring relevant Indigenous voices to the audiences of more than 40 radio markets and everywhere the Internet reaches for its live stream and archived shows access.
Of course, the style and brand of radio that I bring will offer a new look and sound to FVIR. A Haudenosaunee and, dare I say it, Mohawk (Kanienkehaka) perspective will also be ever present. My direct, unscripted, leaving little to interpretation style will leave listeners knowing that Native voices and Native thoughts do more than just linger in the Plains and the Woodlands or in desolate little known corners of the globe, and that our voices matter and that our thoughts and concepts resonate far beyond lines drawn in the sand or on a map.
If you are already a listener of “First Voices Indigenous Radio” then you have likely heard me as a host. Please don't view me as a replacement or substitute for Tiokasin but rather as a brother carrying the torch for him for awhile. I'll likely shine the light in a few different places but know that we are both looking for and illuminating the same things. And when we finish this trip around the Sun, the light will be squarely back in the hands of the man who built this program.
If you are a listener of “Let's Talk Native...” and have never heard FVIR, check it out and start spreading the news. I am heading to New York each week. I have plenty to say there and I'll have plenty to say it with.
If two hours of LTN each week is too much for you then catch one hour of FVIR. If two hours of LTN on Sunday night leaves you wanting more, hang on till Thursday morning from 9-10.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
By Liz Hill
(WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 23, 2014) – John Kane, Mohawk activist and national commentator on Native issues, has been named Interim Host of the long-running weekly one-hour radio program, “First Voices Indigenous Radio” (FVIR) at WBAI-FM 99.5 in New York City. Starting Thursday, Feb. 6, Kane will be filling in for one year for Host and Executive Producer Tiokasin Ghosthorse, who is taking a sabbatical from the show after 21 years (10 of those years at KAOS-FM in Olympia, Wash. and 11 years at WBAI). In recent years, Kane has regularly joined Ghosthorse as a guest and guest host.
"Tiokasin has been an absolute inspiration to me as I have pursued my work in radio and media in general,” said Kane. “‘First Voices Indigenous Radio’ will give me an opportunity to help bring a voice to Indigenous peoples’ issues beyond my passionate advocacy for my people and our struggles with New York State and the federal government.”
“I’m totally confident that John Kane will be a great, active host for FVIR while I am away,” said Ghosthorse. “He understands the historical aspects and current policies being directed toward Native peoples. What FVIR needs is his candor and astute knowledge. It really is a great honor to welcome him here; and I am sure that the listeners in the New York City and tri-state area will be more than riveted with his knowledge and insights.”
During the next year, Ghosthorse will be turning his attention to various causes that he’s become involved in over the years, including children’s organizations, and personal projects. He will retain his role as FVIR’s executive producer. “Indigenous peoples’ worldwide voices are strengthening and are being heard at this time of Mother Earth changes,” said Ghosthorse, who will also do occasional reporting.
"We were so blessed all these years by Tiokasin's generous spirit which has greatly benefited thousands of listeners and his colleagues here at the station," said Bob Hennelly, WBAI interim program director. "We look forward to working with John Kane in our shared mission of bringing ‘First Voices Indigenous Radio’ to an even wider audience and building on Tiokasin's inspired foundation."
“This is also an opportunity to bring an Indigenous voice to conversations we are not usually associated with,” says Kane. “WBAI broadcasting in the spotlight of the United Nations and from one of the media capitals of the world is certainly not missed by me, especially as Indigenous peoples’ issues gain more international attention. I look forward to working with Bob Hennelly and having Tiokasin rejoin us throughout the year."
About “First Voices Indigenous Radio”
“First Voices Indigenous Radio,” which was the first Indigenous radio program in the northeastern U.S., has been airing on WBAI for 11 years. With more than 1 million online hits annually, the program has become known for bringing to the airwaves the experiences, perspectives and struggles of Indigenous peoples worldwide whose exclusion from mainstream, progressive and alternative media is deleterious to the whole of humanity. Past shows are available at www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org. FVIR has been re-broadcasted on 45 stations in 15 states in the the U.S. and one Canadian province, including: Colorado; Connecticut; Idaho; Illinois; Iowa; Maine; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New Hampshire; New York; Northwest Territories; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; Vermont; and Washington.
WBAI-FM, a member of the Pacifica chain, is listener-supported. It provides a vast array of original programming to listeners in the Metropolitan New York City region and worldwide on www.wbai.org. Pacifica was founded in 1949 by pacifist Lew Hill with the first listener-funded radio station, KPFA in Berkeley, Calif. WBAI began broadcasting in New York City in 1941 as WABF. It joined Pacifica in 1960. Today, Pacifica has five radio stations in Berkeley, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and more than 50 affiliate stations across the country.
Liz Hill Public Relations, Ltd.
1514 17th Street, NW, #402
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 744-7629 (cell/work)
(202) 483-3609 (fax)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
|Conference Co-Chair Frank Ettawageshik and Unrecognized John Kane|
It's not a prison sentence. It just feels like one. And I’m sure it feels the same to many others. It’s the cost for gaining “recognition” by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. And $33 million is what it cost the Shinnecock people. However, as exorbitant – and unbelievable – as this sounds they are actually the lucky ones because unlike most that file a petition for federal acknowledgement these guys actually got something out of it. In my opinion, it wasn't much but at least it was something.
After what is almost a lifetime for most Native people, the Shinnecock — who trace their origins back thousands of years on Long Island, New York — officially got recognized as "a tribe, band or nation of Indians under federal jurisdiction." Doesn't sound much like sovereignty when you hear the BIA's definition, does it? And since this new federal recognition only recognizes them as having existed since 1934, the Fed's position is that they can't add to their land base.
This was all explained quite thoroughly at a conference hosted by Arizona State University's Indian Law Clinic on January 16 and 17. The conference, which was titled "Who Decides You're Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process," posed one question, identified a broken system and made some recommendations to fix it. But to me, it left many questions not only unasked but also clearly unanswered.
I was invited to speak at this event. In fact, I was on the first panel and was given the enviable position of being the last panelist to speak during a presentation titled "Inherent Sovereignty." For me the subject is clear but in the context of a conference on gaining recognition as a tribe, band or nation of Indian subordinate to the laws and customs of the United States, the unasked and unanswered question is — how can these two coexist? Again, for me it is simple. They can't!
You can check out my comments from the video of the conference at: http://mediasite.law.asu.edu/media/SilverlightPlayer/Default.aspx?peid=824c4937ac504f03abf9fe96c2757d811d.
Here are a few of my comments that brought home some of my main points:
"Inherent sovereignty is a unique concept. Throughout the world, especially in the dominant European world, sovereignty was the biggest lie ever told. It was where “God” bestowed ruling authority upon a certain family — a crown. Biggest lie ever told."
"OUR sovereignty — our right to life and our freedom — is a product of Creation. When we do an opening [Ohenton Karihwatehkwen] in my homeland, in the territory of Haudenosaunee, we do a whole acknowledgement about relationships. We start by acknowledging the people, everybody who is here. We acknowledge the ground to the stars. We talk about relationships. The problem with the federal recognition process is it’s all about ONE relationship between a specific Native people and the Bureau of Indian Affairs."
"I’m not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I’m not a tribe, band or nation of Indians subordinate to the laws or customs of the U.S. There is no Mohawk Nation recognized by the BIA. There is the St. Regis Tribe. And they actually threw the word Mohawk in there not long ago, so they’re the St. Regis Tribe of Mohawks. But we’ve seen this happen to all of us. Now, it’s the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, the Seneca Nation of Indians, and the Tonawanda Band of Senecas. Somewhere along the line somebody drew a border right through Kanienkehaka territory. Part of this border is the St. Lawrence River but most of my people live on either side of this imaginary line. So the observation about the non-federally recognized people asserting more sovereignty than perhaps the federally recognized ones? I think we qualify for that because we don’t let that stop us. You will never see us apply. You will never see the Kanienkehaka submit a petition for federal recognition."
"Now I understand the value of that [federal recognition]. And let’s face it. The 800-pound gorilla in the room is gaming — and federal funding. But we need to do more for each other. What’s missing in the declaration that will be presented later and signed [at this meeting] is trade and commerce among each other. We need to have THESE kinds of relationships with one another. THAT is the definition of sovereignty, of sustainability, and not what federal funding we can get or how many casinos we can operate. Now I’m not condemning gaming but let’s be clear — gaming is not possible because of IGRA. And it’s not possible because of Cabazon. It is possible because of sovereignty. All Cabazon did was to recognize what we already knew. Of course it paved the way for non-Native people to become our vendors and opened the door for state governments to get into our businesses. That’s what IGRA did. But it also opened the floodgates to a whole lot of people anxious to get a casino. Federal recognition is the pathway for that."
"We need to start recognizing each other. When I talk about our Ohenton Karihwatehkwen– that opening we do – we talk about relationships. But if we’re not talking about these relationships, and if all we’re talking about is a petition that ends up on the desk of someone at the BIA, we’d better start thinking about decolonizing our minds."
After I finished, I received a standing ovation from the several hundred in the audience. The question-and-answer session that followed allowed me to make several other points that I simply didn't have time to address in my presentation.
One of those questions is worth mentioning here. I was asked for my opinion why a Kanienkehaka would not pursue federal recognition.
Not skipping a beat, this is what I said:
“Distinction is [at the heart of] the issue. The problem with the federal recognition process and what is recognized is that it changes the dynamics of a people, because once it is granted there seems to be this move toward more assimilation. There seems to be [the mindset of], “Let’s build something that looks and feels like the state or federal government,” whether it’s the regulatory systems [or something else]. It’s the issue of distinction and autonomy. Sovereignty doesn't mean that we DON’T have a relationship with the federal government. If someone receives federal funds, and then someone says, “Oh, you’re not sovereign because you receive federal funds,” then what does that say about, for example, Israel? What does that say about any other nation that the federal government throw a ton of money at? In the Mohawk language, the word we use for “treaty” is “we give up our land for peace.” Well, we didn’t just give it up for peace. There were some obligations made then. So when I sit here and hear commentary from a Justice Marshall that says we’re “wards of the state,” or that we’re “domestic dependent nations,” that doesn't mean that we’re not sovereign. We are not wards of the state. It is not charity that comes into our territory. That’s obligation. That’s debt. We are creditors. But this federal recognition process and what happens when the federal government says “now we recognize you as a tribe, band or nation of Indians subordinate to OUR laws, that’s the biggest obstacle that I have toward it [federal recognition].”
I left many in Phoenix with plenty to think about as they traveled home to their territories. The reality is these issues need to be at the front of our minds here at home every day. Even as the officials from the U.S. and Canada blow smoke up our backsides about "tribal sovereignty," it is a lie. Their view of who we are is not our view and they cannot define us or claim us as their own.
We are Ohnkwe Ohnwe — Real, Original, Human Beings. Forever.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Many of us are familiar with our expression Ohnkwe Ohnwe. It is what we use to describe ourselves as the original people of Turtle Island. The approximate translation is “real human being, forever.”
There was never any question that we had a future. We were never tied to a spot on a timeline. We were never frozen in history. We were neither primitive nor at the end of our evolutionary scale. We continued to develop. The entire concept of Seven Generations was based on knowing that our growth and development would require a priority placed on the impacts on the unborn faces — those ones who would come long after us.
But for all the certainty of those that have come long before us, our future would not be a sure thing, certainly not over the last two centuries and certainly not going forward from here. That path, so meticulously crafted by the tens of millions of feet of those that came before us, has been so neglected and deviated from that it is only Creation and our language that guide our feet back to it. But that course correction back to that great path, the Kaianerehkowa, is not a trip backwards or back in time. It is a trip forward, into the future.
Ohnwe is forever. And forever is time in both directions past and future. Those from our past laid down the Kaianerehkowa so that we would know the path forward and keep it clear for those that would come after us.
But that path has become overgrown and obscured by neglect. Part of clearing this way to our future involves starting with like minds with a common goal. And the only way to find them is through conversation and honest discourse. Utilizing the most basic concepts of the Kaianerehkowa is a start.
Our fire symbolizes our family, our clans, our communities and our right and power to assemble for a council and for counsel. Like minds with a desire to take our path into the future must rekindle a fire. We need participation and genuine engagement from the people. However small these fires may be, they need to demonstrate a true return to the Kaianerehkowa.
None of this is about revolution or overthrow. It is about our people using what's ours to solve problems, address issues and move forward. We may not tackle every issue. But in the process of rekindling our fire and getting those willing to not only stand together in crisis or for a fight but also to sit together in council to build something and support each other so we can begin setting the example for what is truly our responsibility and our distinction.
Instead of individuals dictating their twisted views of our "customs and traditions" or asserting power granted to them through federal recognition or foreign powers, we need to begin the process of removing the dust and clutter from the path laid down by those that came long before us. Despite elected councils and titles or what some believe to be traditional councils, this is the path forward. It doesn't require burning band cards, stripping names from tribal roles, driving without licenses or crash courses in treaties. There is no silver bullet, magic potion or dream sequence that will lay a yellow brick road before us. We must begin the slow process of find our way back to a path forward, a path that respects and moves with nature and creation — the right path.
In the absence of everyone speaking of our original languages and virtually nowhere that currently demonstrates a true use of the Kaianerehkowa, we need to utilize our most skilled language speakers to clarify much of what has been cluttered with bad translations and efforts to mischaracterize our history. Nowhere should our path forward defy nature or Creation. We need to acknowledge that while there is much that we have to learn and much we may never learn, that our best teacher is Creation.
The path forward is not a trip backward. There is no need to reject the tools of today as we go forward. The key is discerning what moves us forward on our path and what leads us off it. Facebook and text messaging cannot replace physically coming together. The clan system cannot become a virtual thing. Communication may now travel at the speed of light but counseling takes time. So let us use the speed technology offers for sharing information and reaching out but let's still take the time to build the fire and gather.
Man's concept for power ebbs and flows. Might, the power to kill and destroy, and wealth, the accumulation of riches — these two desires have had and may still have their moments in history. But Ohnkwe Ohnwe are real human beings and we are forever. I'll take the path that considers seven generations above anyone's annual report or inventory of weaponry. Our power will be demonstrated in our fight for our future – for our forever.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I'm sorry, but I can't resist the temptation. As we rip open a new calendar I can't help but reflect on the past year and the one that is now before us.
I won't attempt to list all those who completed their time with us in this last trip around our eldest Brother, the Sun. We have had people close and intimate to us as well as people we admired from afar who now serve us only in our memories and in whatever form we may have them recorded.
We had people rise up from obscurity and gain the spotlight. Some of them have shown genuine courage and integrity, while others walked on the faces, shoulders and necks of their own people past and present to promote themselves and their agendas.
Many of us forged great new relationships and rekindled some old ones. Conversations were advanced. Issues were elevated. And while our impatience for significant change and solutions seem to be a constant ache, small signs of promise for change show themselves daily.
Even in the absence of a coming-of-age ceremony, we have seen some of our young people stepping up and standing up to the challenges that generations have faced, some quite poorly and some against nearly insurmountable odds.
Of course, there are our new ones, all those faces that have come to join us. New children, new grandchildren, generations removed from petty conflicts and feuds that have kept many of our people and territories from standing with each other.
Creation had another tough year as it continued to be compromised for profit. Our land, water and air remain in jeopardy to those who only see value in terms of dollars and how quickly they can be extracted from our Mother. Our plants and medicines are being altered and affected at alarming rates, diminishing the value that the wisdom 10,000 years has placed within them. Our Cousins, the winged, four legged and no legs, continue to adapt as best they can while their habitats are destroyed yet all continuing to show us the same lessons taught to all those who came before us. But our Mother and Creation are not taking these offenses quietly. Climate change, severe weather, seismic events and major breaks in ecosystems demonstrated the planet's response.
Last year at this time a groundswell began. A movement, driven not by bold dominant leadership but simply by the people, captured the world's attention. The idea that many of those who never considered themselves activists would be Idle No More was powerful and encouraging but, unfortunately, that momentum would be squandered by distracting individual acts. Hunger striking on Victoria Island or wining and dining with the NFL in D.C. were great headlines for individuals but it was the participation of the tens of thousands that was significant last year.
So with one cycle completed what do we see for the next one before us?
Well, whether the people remain "Idle" or not; corporations, governments and our Mother will not. The planet will continue to lash out, not just at the culprits raping the earth, but at all of us. This is no longer a Native issue. We have proven our ability to survive crimes against humanity but who can survive the crimes against that, which sustains us all?
This year and every year until we turn back global exploitation — what "they" call the "global economy" — people will face the choice of siding with the planet or cashing it in. The "Revolution" isn't what we need; it is what we need to prevent. When the planet presses reset, that is when the revolt happens. And like a true revolution the planet will attempt a new beginning, with or without us. Many of us will not survive a revolution by the planet.
Our Mother and Creation will fix what we fail to correct. In fact, they will restore what we broke. Our role as Native people is to lead the charge so we are part of the solution rather than the obvious problem. We can’t do it alone, which is one of the things we must realize, and must convince those who are still too wary to join us.
The challenge for us is to continue to resist the colonial subjugation while we defend our Mother. That resistance is, essentially, one and the same. We hear much debate about our people’s "sovereignty." This word, like many others we have added to our lexicon, must be defined. Much of the world defines sovereignty with almost an exclusive emphasis on authority and power. As our people began to own this word, it began as an expression of our rights and our freedom. Our sovereignty is our right to have independent or individual authority. It is our right to a freedom that predates European contact, Christian missionaries and the doctrine and dogma that came with them. That freedom is tied not to our "tribal governments" or "traditional councils" but to Creation. It is a birthright, the same as with all of Creation. Our sovereignty is not a collective right but a right we must defend collectively. Unfortunately, too many of our people have bought into "their" definition. The original meaning has become diluted and obscured.
Our responsibility to the earth is like that sovereignty. The earth was not "given" to us from God, Jesus or "The Creator," like the Europeans believed and espoused. No one has been granted the right to pillage and plunder our Mother; and no one has been specifically charged with defending her either. If we believe the earth is an “every man for himself” proposition or that any of us can truly do right by ourselves, then we are pitiful creatures indeed.
We are all in this together. We need to rethink the world order — new or old. This is what this trip around our eldest Brother has laid before us.