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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Monday, November 28, 2011

ARTVOICE 11/23/11

5 Questions with…

John Kane: Radio Host, Native Activist

The son of an ironworker from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, John Kane grew up off reservation in a small town in Eastern New York, near the Vermont state line. After college, he married an Oneida woman and they raised their children in Seneca territory in Western New York. He became a member of the First Nations Dialogue Team in the mid to late 1990s, which is where he began speaking in public, writing letters to editors, and doing interviews on the battle with New York State over taxation. He currently hosts Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane on WWKB 1520AM, Sundays, 9-10pm.

Describe your show, in a nutshell.

“Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane” is a free-form show intended to be a conversation on a given Native issue or issues each week. Whether or not guests or callers join me, what a listener will hear is a full conversation on a subject—no sound bites or sensational one-liners, just an honest and thoughtful conversation. It is not the intent for the on-air conversation to be the last word on a subject but rather a thought-provoking start to a conversation that, hopefully, continues after each one-hour show.

Why do you suppose so little effort is made by local media to cover local Native affairs?

The media has become too much a part of the entertainment business. Unless Native issues can be sensational—tire fires, police confrontations, or political unrest that can compare to state or national scandals—our issues simply won’t buy ratings.

Overwhelmingly non-Natives think of the Native role in the regional economy to comprise cigarettes, gas, and gambling. What do you make of that?

It’s true but not necessarily by our choosing. While we have chosen certain businesses where our regulatory advantages have helped us to overcome or relatively remote locations, it was never our intent to get pigeon-holed into those businesses. On the Native Nations level, gaming has been shoved down our throats. If states had their way there would be no private sector development in “Indian Country,” only Nation-run gaming enterprises that have the state and federal regulators firmly embedded in those operations. On the private sector side, most businesses have become so consumed with fighting off the state that there is little money or will left for diversification. The question must be asked that if we can’t defend our place in legal trades like gas and tobacco, in what businesses would we be safe?

What opportunities do you see for economic development between Native and non-Native peoples? For cooperative growth?

I believe the answer to the current economic crises that are sweeping the globe is to turn away from the global economies controlled by the few where one region of the planet is exploited for their labor, resources, or lack of environmental concern to market to consumer-driven societies in another region. An emphasis on local economies where a dollar circulates several more times before it leaves the region makes sense on almost every level. Native sovereignty creates clean slates for economic development free from much of the bureaucracy that stifles business development. Native lands could be incubators for everything from the retailing of certain products to the manufacturing and tech transfers from the solid research institutions of the region. As businesses gain a sure footing within the safe havens of the economic development zones that Native lands could represent, they could expand throughout the rest of the region with a track record and business model already in play. Too much of the regional brain trust leaves the region for development elsewhere only to have the products of brain trust marketed back to the region. The same could be said for the resources of the region.

What’s the best show you’ve ever had?

If I had to recommend a listener to check out one show to convince them to check out more, I’d have to say listen to the October 16, 2011 show with Robert Batson or the October 23, 2011 show with Pam Palmater. Bob was the “Indian expert” for the Carey, [Mario] Cuomo, and Pataki administrations. The level of agreement we shared on the issues relating to our never-ending battles with the state is amazing. Pam is a Mi’kmaq and an author (Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity), university professor, and lawyer from the North. She was a great guest as we discussed the parallels with our battles with the US and Canada.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tale of Two Tribal Conflicts

Two controversies involving tribal government have made the non-native or mainstream media recently. As the host of the only Native radio show in Western New York I made a decision to cover only one of them. While the Seneca Nation with 7000 strong and billion dollar businesses dominated TV, radio and the newspapers I chose to shine a light on the 700 people on the Tuscarora territory.

Here is why:

It is plenty sensational to scrutinize the Seneca situation. After all, what could be more intriguing than the first Harvard educated president of the Seneca Nation getting fired from controlling one of the largest economic engines of the area. The problem for me is that it is an internal issue that needs no outside interference. The Senecas are quite capable of handling these kinds of internal disputes and when we live in an era where news is no longer reported but rather forcefully opined on. I question the value or relevance of those opinions.

The story surrounding the controversies on Tuscarora, on the other hand, is all about outside influence. The people have no say on who their "leaders" are. The "federally recognized leadership" is borne out of a combination of the "boy's club" claiming to be the "Confederacy" and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA says if you are going to keep your heathen ways and stick to a "traditional" form of government, then we are putting our blinders on and don't want to know nothing about how it is supposed to work; just tell us who the "leaders" are. Of course, that cannot be determined by Tuscaroras, only the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee can confirm such a distinction. So ask Oren Lyons, from Onondaga to get Audrey Shenandoah, the secretary of the Haudenosaunee from Onondaga, to write a letter and get Sid Hill, the Tadodaho from Onondaga, to sign it; and there you have it, Tuscarora "leadership". Now give these guys and their lawyer $100 million from the New York Power Authority and the power to dictate every aspect of Tuscarora life from who can have electricity, or can use the health clinic, or can get an ID card and you see the reason why this corruption needs to be exposed to everyone. Most of the problems in Tuscarora are not internal but stem from outside influence, outside authority and outside money.

Catch this week's "Let's Talk Native... with John Kane" as I welcome Mike Hudson from the Niagara Falls Reporter into the studio. There is no TV, no major news broadcaster and no major newspaper covering this story; only this small newspaper from Niagara Falls. Don't get me wrong, Hudson and the Niagara Falls Reporter are making waves in spite of the story being ignored by the rest of the mainstream media. Mike's stories are roaming the internet on sites like and other Native news networks and this week he joins "Let's Talk Native...".

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Trip to NYC to Host FVIR

I want to thank Tiokasin Ghosthorse for inviting me to guest host his show again. First Voices Indigenous Radio is a true treasure and represents the best of the diversity and out-of-the-box programming that the legendary WBAI was famous for. It is always an honor and a pleasure to bring my own brand of Native talk to NYC and tap into Tiokasin's loyal listeners.
While Tiokasin took the story of the American Genocide to Europe, I got a chance to view the "Occupy Wall Street" scene for myself and offer my perspective on the show. I encourage you to listen to the show ( and I won't restate my comments here but be assured my thoughts are a little outside the conventional opinions. FVIR again gave me the opportunity to bring not just some of the general issues of the Haudenosaunee to the New York airwaves but even some of the specific issues associated with the corruption of the Tuscarora "leadership" (and I use that term sarcastically).

The trip also afforded me the chance to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan. I had a great chance to speak with some of their personnel, share some thoughts and perhaps open a door or two. If their interest in having me come back down to speak develops further it would be the first time a perspective, shared by many but rarely expressed, would get such a forum. Stay tuned.

I am genuinely honored that Tiokasin trusts me to cover for him. I consider shows like FVIR and my own LTN endangered species. No one in the mainstream media is falling over themselves to give Native voices a platform. Maintaining a niche in public radio as Tiokasin has done is difficult with so much competition and the rivalry associated diverse ethnic programming. My challenges are different. I pay for airtime on commercial radio. Soliciting support to cover costs and carving out the time slot is my main challenge. I believe that guys like myself and Tiokasin are doing important work and it is great when our paths cross. As always, I look forward to joining with Tiokasin and First Voices again. My next challenge is to get him as a guest on my show.