Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let's Talk Native... with John Kane

I'm moving into radio. Starting August 10th at 11:00am I will be hosting a one hour show on WECK 1230 AM. The show will air live from 11:00 till noon every Tuesday morning. I will have the shows available here for replay and they will be available on via web stream and podcast.
Prerecorded and produced 30 second ad slots are available during the broadcast as well as live promos.
Feel free to recommend topics here and comment about shows.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Couple Weeks of Declarations; Celebrated, Reconsidered and Forced

So a couple of days after Americans celebrated their Declaration of Independence from tyranny I travelled to Washington D.C. to observe and participate in the U.S. State Department's "Smart Partnership Dialogue" events. The events are to assist the State Department in their review of the U.S. position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that position being a complete rejection of the entire document back in 2007.

The first day, July 7th, was the "Tribal Consultation", described as the "government-to-government tribal consultations between U.S. government agencies and federally recognized tribes". The State Department, which actually hosted the meeting at their facility, rolled out a few of its big guns for the event (don't get excited, Hillary was no where close) and rustled up some White House Indians, some Interior Department underlings and various other government agency staffers. The event was well attended; in fact the room was full to capacity. Sitting to the immediate left of the U.S. panel was the Haudenosaunee representatives; I single them out specifically because of the events that would unfold later in the week. A good portion of the discussion focused around religious rights, sacred sites, federal recognition and the general poverty of Indian Country. No one mentioned economic development, trade, passports or any issues related to Native sovereignty as it relates to the international community or the United Nations.

The second day was an opportunity for the NGO's to be heard; that's U.N. speak for non government organizations. In other words, the federally recognized tribal leaders had their day, now it was time for the people. This event was held at the Smithsonian's Museum of the Native Americans on the Capitol Mall. I went to listen for the Seneca Free Trade Association but to speak as a free thinking Kanienkehaka. And speak I did.

I began by expressing my cynicism for the whole process, especially with the agency's constant reference to the domestication of indigenous/tribal issues and the foreboding of potential conflicts should our issues no longer be held as domestic issues. I suggested that we take a look at how well we have fared with their domestication of us. I also expressed skepticism on the integrity and conscience of the international community as well. I actually brought up many of their domestic laws and policies including the passport issue as well as their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative IDs that attempt to force our declaration of U.S. or Canadian citizenship. I brought up the citizenship act of 1924, the Homestead Act, the Dawes Act, income tax, draft registration for military service, BIA recognition, the conflict between state's rights and federal authority, jurisdiction, land loss, land use, land title and land claims. I brought up federal Indian law and the practice of establishing precedence against weaker tribes to apply force of law against others. I brought up trade and commerce as well as the role the United States plays in preventing our private sector development. I spoke of the tobacco trade and couldn't help but mention that tobacco was prominently displayed in full growth as part of the landscaping for the museum (and not traditional Indian tobacco but full broad leaf commercial grade tobacco). I brought up the overtures made by the President and the photo ops and of course the White House Indians. I brought up the PACT Act and called out Jodie Gillette in front of the whole auditorium for not giving us the time of day to discuss the damage that her boss signed into law. What I didn't know was what was about to transpire over the next couple of days.

A few days after the State Department finished courting us in D.C., the Iroquois National lacrosse team was held hostage by them in New York City. Bound for England to play in the World Lacrosse Championship Tournament in Manchester, the Haudenosaunee passport carriers ran into a brick wall. The United Kingdom refused to issue travel visas for the team without assurances from the State Department that the travellers would be allowed back home on their Haudenosaunee passports. In the eleventh hour Hillary Clinton intervened and ordered that the department issue a "one time" waiver to allow the use of the substandard travel documents for reentry into the U.S.. Feeling as if they were off the hook without really giving into the obstinate Indians, the State Department stepped out of the role as villain. The problem was that the Brits weren't satisfied. The U.S. had shoved the hi-tech travel documents down every one's throats in the name of 9-11 and Hillary's discretionary use of "one time" waivers was not cutting it for them, so now they insisted that the athletes either produce U.S. or Canadian passports, in other words fully recognized passports, to receive their visas.
So a little more than a week after Americans celebrated their independence from their tyrant, the very people who lost more in and after the war that was fought for that independence were kicked around like illegal immigrants. The media had a frenzy with the issue but stayed cautiously close to the main story line: Iroquois Nationals banned from competition for insisting on using their own passports. There was never any connection made to the discussion over the U.N. Declaration. The Haudenosaunee representatives never broached the subject in Washington and the entire coverage of the issue as it developed never strayed beyond the lacrosse players. Only I mentioned the travel document issue in this "Smart Partnership Dialogue". If I had any idea these guys were heading to Europe I would have jumped all over the issue rather than just mentioning it.
Our people face travel restrictions every day. With half of our Haudenosaunee communities north of the imaginary line and half south of it, as well as one Mohawk community straddling it, we can't even visit family without a fight over travel documents. Even without their international borders to cross, goods are seized even as we travel from one community to another in the commission of legal trade. As you read this, a prominent Seneca is on trial because his product was purchased by a Native retailer in the state of Washington without reporting the transaction to the state. Two Mohawk boys were permanently disabled when a U.S. Coast Guard vessel rammed their boat as a result of their refusal to yield to them as they travelled across the river from one part of Akwesasne to another. U.S. and Canadian officials blocked bridge access to part of Akwesasne simply because the people refused to allow Canadian Border Service Agents to be armed on Mohawk land. Vehicles that drive from one part of Akwesasne to another that don't first drive into the city of Cornwall to report are seized if they later enter Canada. Invitations to many countries are declined simply because of travel restrictions for those that refuse to declare themselves as U.S. or Canadian citizens and this is the real issue.
Although the mainstream media has danced around the subject, the main conflict over all the travel documents is centered on the insistence that we declare citizenship to a nation that is not our own. This is not just assimilation, it is by definition; genocide. The third act that constitutes genocide according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is: Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

So where does this leave reconsideration of the U.N. Declaration? What is the point of open discussions if there is no transparency to what happens off stage? My skepticism of the international community could not have been more justified when one of the nations(Great Britain), that has already signed, attempts to force our people to declare subjugation to the only two countries(the US and Canada) on the planet that have refused to become signatory nations. Much of the debate about this U.N. document has been over its potential legal ramifications. We know from past experiences that the first time this is used as a legal document against the U.S. someone will challenge it and have the federal courts declare it unconstitutional as a legally binding agreement. Man-made law will not solve our issues; U.S., U.N. nor any other. Fair and honest diplomacy, that can withstand international scrutiny, is the only solution and it is long overdue, I do declare.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Iroquois lacrosse team misses England flight in passport hold up

New York (CNN) -- The 4 p.m. Delta flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport to London came and went on Tuesday -- but without the members of the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team on board.
The team was hoping to make the flight in anticipation of this week's World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England.
They were supposed to depart for England on Sunday with about 43 people, including family members.
But the British Consulate told the team Friday that it would not be given visas unless the U.S. State Department could confirm in a letter that the Nationals would be allowed back into the United States following the tournament's end, according to a press release issued by the team's board of directors.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Monday that the hold-up appears to come from new security measures applied to passports -- and whether the Iroquois-issued passports meet new rules applied to travel.
Crowley said he could not confirm whether or not the passports meet new travel requirements. He referred that question to the Department of Homeland Security.
Matt Chandler, a spokesman for that department, said the agency was working to help resolve the matter with government entities including the State Department, but would not comment further.
At Tuesday's briefing, Crowley elaborated on why the team was denied the letter.
"There are specific criteria as to the circumstances under which you can provide those letters. This situation does not meet that criteria. We stand by to help them gain the kind of documents that will allow their travel to the United Kingdom," he told reporters .
"We are trying to see if there's a way to help them. The easiest way to accomplish what they want to accomplish is to get them a U.S. passport. We've been ready to do that for a number of days, and we stand ready to do that today," Crowley said.
But Dr. Percy Abrams, executive director of the Iroquois Nationals, said U.S. passports wouldn't even be accepted at the competition, where players have to produce a passport originating from the country they are representing -- the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Also, Abrams said, it's a matter of principle.
"We have our principles and with that sovereignty goes the idea that our country has been accepted. We've been traveling on this for years," Abrams said during team practice Monday at Wagner College in New York.
"I think it should have been explained well ahead of time or someone should have been advised that travel requirements had changed," Abrams said when asked about the update in travel security measures.
The people of the six-nation confederacy live in upstate New York. The Iroquois territory once covered most of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.
Monday afternoon, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson sent a letter to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the Nationals.
He asked that the matter be reviewed immediately and also noted that the passports have been used to travel outside of the United States since 1977 without problems.
"As a governor of a state with a significant Native American population, I know many tribes and pueblos will watch carefully how these young competitors are treated by the administration. As a signator of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, which includes the freedom to travel and return, I believe we have an obligation to assure these young men's rights are protected," Richardson wrote.
Congressman Dan Maffei, who represents the 25th District of New York, has also pledged his support to the team.
Tanya Gonnella Frichner, legal adviser to the Nationals, said Maffei was expected to meet with the State Department Tuesday evening to continue to help resolve the matter.
"He has been one of the strongest advocates," Frichner said.
The last time the team traveled outside the country was in 2002, when the championship was held in Australia. The passports didn't pose a problem then, Abrams said. But Crowley acknowledged that that was before travel requirements changed.
On Monday, Nationals General Manager Ansley Jemison told CNN that preventing the team from playing in the championship would be a "worst-case scenario for the game of lacrosse."
"These guys are also heroes to a lot of the young children that we have in our communities, and I think that would be a very negative message for the U.S. government to send to our people," Jemison said.
"We don't have a lot of heroes, and it's tough for us to have a lot of heroes... These are the 'Michael Jordans' of the native communities. These are the guys that we hold on the pedestal. These are the guys we look up to," Jemison said.
Despite the missed flight, the players are staying optimistic.
Sid Smith, a defender for the team, said the players are continuing to work hard and stay focused.
"The boys have still got their spirits pretty high and I think the morale is pretty high right now," he said.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New York Jacks Up Cigarette Tax Another $16 and Plans a Tax (Attacks) Against Native Retailers on September 1st

Can we finally stop selling "Big Tobacco's" products? In New York State our tax advantage after July 1st will be almost $50 per carton (over $60 in NYC). There is enough Native produced tobacco product to stock our shelves and serve all comers to our territories. So what is the hang up? Native cigarettes already represents 80% of our sales and, all taxes aside, our own brands are as good or better than theirs and cheaper. Big Tobacco turned on us a long time ago yet, through Marlboro sales alone, most Native retailers have contributed more to Philip Morris' lobbying efforts than to the defense of their own businesses.
The New York State Legislature passed a measure that calls for tax collection on product intended for resale to non-natives to begin on September 1, 2010. However, the State knows that they can't tax our own product. All those cases they try to cite that gives them "authority"(including Attea) all go back to a case in the state of Washington where a major part of the government's argument was that cigarettes being sold had no value added to them by the Indians. Stopping us from selling product that we manufacture would be a whole other battle for the State to fight. The State is wrong for what it is doing as are the feds but we need to recognize how this all plays to our favor.
As Native people, we need to stop fighting each other or throwing each other into the line of fire and concentrate on our Native to Native commerce. If the State and feds want to block their businesses from doing business with us then we need to find solutions around them. They can't stop their citizens from visiting our lands and buying our goods. We need to provide more goods and services to both meet our own needs and to market to the surrounding population so the dollars that come in, stay within our communities longer. As the American economy continues to degrade, more people will be looking for means to save money. For those fortunate enough to be our neighbors, or at least be in driving range, savings on goods and services as well as jobs will always be available on our lands as long as we continue to push and market our advantages. We know which territories are committed to fighting for our commerce. We need to support each other in these territories and be prepared to back away from those that are not willing to defend Native to Native trade. Compliance with the State or even the Feds should not be a prerequisite for trade. Whether a solution is developed to keep our remote sellers in business or not, we need to continue to build and grow out our brick and mortar businesses and that includes retail, service, manufacturing and tourism.
An article from the July issue of Making A Visible Impact Magazine