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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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WHITIE Compliant? You are Kidding, Right?

On June 2, 2014, every "member" of the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) received a letter from his/her President announcing the launch of the Seneca Nation's new Enhanced Tribal Identification Card (ETC) program. The announcement of the program was couched in terms of preventing terrorism, strengthening border security and facilitating ease of border crossing/travel as well promoting a partnership between the SNI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

The letter begins with the declaration that "the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires U.S. and Canadian travelers, including Seneca Nation members, to present a passport or other WHTI-approved document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. at land or sea borders while traveling within the western hemisphere."

Well let's clear up a few things right from the start. They say WHTI, I say WHITIE. And in spite of this letter's contention that these WHITIE-compliant ETCs are designed to "continue the protection of our sovereign rights," this could not be farther from the truth. This WHITIE requirement is a violation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a direct abrogation on our sovereignty, as well as a violation of our inherent rights and laws of nature. Note that I didn't even bother to bring up their BS, double-talking, land stealing treaties.

There are almost too many problems with this thing to cover it here, despite the fact there are really only five requirements for WHITIE compliance. But before I get into those, let me hit a few huge shortcomings of these cards and problems with the program. First, although it is stated pretty clearly, it’s easy to overlook the most obvious flaw — this will not help with travel into Canada or any place else. The WHITIE documents are for "entering the U.S...." The SNI Application for an ETC says it even more clearly — "An ETC can be return to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and some countries in the Caribbean at land/sea border entries. However, Canada will not accept an enter into Canada."  So these things are not for traveling from home. They are only to prevent DHS from denying our return.

The SNI application has significant violations of privacy and goes well beyond basic identification information:


The applicant also has to sign a Confidentiality Statement that acknowledges "legal penalties associated with... providing false information" yet is provided no confidentiality agreement from the SNI, DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection or whoever the WHITIE guys are. In fact the MOA doesn't even detail the use of this information but rather only mentions "validation of the Seneca Nation ETC information as specified in the separate service level agreement developed between the parties."

These are among some of the issues that jump off the pages of these documents without even getting into the WHITIE requirements. An expiration date seems benign enough but "mandatory facial image capture" sounds a little creepy. This is for compatibility with federal facial recognition programs and databases. The fact that, according to the MOA, the SNI clerk will retain this "capture" even if no card is issued just adds to the creepiness. Beyond basic requirements for counterfeit protection these WHITIE cards are required to have a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) utilizing Optical Character Recognition technology and an RFID chip that will allow "unique identifiers" to be acquired; in the case of the RFID chip, without the card ever having to come out of your pocket. These Unique Identifiers will include digital photographs and other personal information and can be acquired by readers merely in your vicinity.

But clearly the kicker in this whole program is the U.S. or Canadian citizenship requirement. The applicant MUST provide proof of "recognized U.S. or Canadian citizenship to be approved and the WHITIE card must display that citizenship prominently on its face. This requirement is essentially tantamount to saying to any of us that if we manage to step over one of the imaginary lines of the U.S. that we cannot return without a declaration of citizenship to the U.S. or Canada.

This clearly is not an oversight. In fact, in the SNI ETC Application the first note under the "PROOF OF "RECOGNIZED" U.S. OR CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP" is: *Note that in submitting evidence of "recognized U.S. citizenship", the ETC applicant is not admitting to/accepting U.S. or Canadian citizenship and is first and foremost a citizen of the Seneca Nation."

Well that fixes everything. NOT! Now what member of the SNI legal team thought that adding this note in the application would negate the obvious implication of the WHITIE requirement? The MOA clearly states that "Nation staff shall in every case confirm that the applicant is recognized as a U.S. or Canadian citizen." *Note that it does not say that the applicant may qualify for U.S. or Canadian citizenship or meet to requirements for such. Again, this is not just a requirement for getting a WHITIE card but it's a requirement that it is actually stated on the WHITIE card.

I can't help but interpret this buried and anything but a legitimate disclaimer as an attempt to dupe the applicant. This is just devious. This is not a statement promulgated by the Seneca Nation to the U.S. State Department or anyone who would ever see these ETCs. And it certainly won't be among the card's "Unique Identifiers" broadcasting from their RFID chips. Where were these legal wizards, who clearly saw the problem, with their challenges to WHITIE in the first place? Where was just one of these overpriced consultants when these fear mongering, 9-11 obsessed, opportunistic WHITIE supremacists put these racist requirements together? No nation can de-nationalize another or force their citizenship upon a non-consenting people. These WHITIE cards are not Seneca Nation identification cards. They are federal IDs with tribal logos and enrollment numbers.

We need to resist these WHITIE cards. The SNI boasts, in bold print in the letters addressed to "Dear Seneca Nation Member," (not Citizen), The Seneca Nation is just the third Indian tribe in the country to issue ETCs. In almost 5 years since this latest attempt at forced assimilation, only two other "Indian tribes" were gullible enough to go through with this?

Well, let's hope the Seneca people, the Onondowaka, are smarter than their administration lawyers are or at least smarter than their lawyers think they are.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave (Oh yeah, Americans and Canadians live there, too)

"Like the miner's canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith." — Felix S. Cohen, 1953

There is little question that what the white man found when he washed up on our shores was a free and fearless people. But rather than learn our ways and study how a people could live without kings, queens, courts and prisons or slavery, discrimination and class warfare; the church — the very thing that created many of these institutions and practices — was relied upon to spread all of this to a free world.

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery, which has plenty of foundation in the Bible, got its first shot as a stand-alone church doctrine with Portugal's invasion of West Africa in the mid-15th century. A pope's decree that a Christian nation could claim the lands and possessions of a pagan people and reduce them to "perpetual servitude" would begin four centuries of the African slave trade. In 1493, another pope would lay the foundation for all "Christian nations" to begin the rape of our own Turtle Island and secure the racist Doctrine of Christian Discovery as the law of the white man. In fact, it would be called the "White Man's Burden."

Certainly, bits and pieces of our cultures, philosophies and traditions were borrowed when the need to shift colonial powers and authority would arise. But what was woven into the American fabric was only done so in rhetoric and not in practice. Laws of Nature, all created equal, governance by consent of the governed, inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; these not only sounded good, they were good. These along with the concept that individuals would be placed in the service of their people rather than as lords over them were, in fact, the way of our people, a way that allowed our people to thrive for thousands of years.

"The most consistent theme in the descriptions penned about the New World was amazement at the Indians’ personal liberty, in particular their freedom from rulers and from social classes based on ownership of property. For the first time the French and the British became aware of the possibility of living in social harmony and prosperity without the rule of a king." — Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Changed the World, 1988.

As the fake American history crumbles with more access to truth and our abilities to tell our own truths, many have begun to learn about the atrocities of the 500 years of the American Holocaust. And while acknowledgement of the wrongs and perhaps some attempts to right them is a good place to start, what's missed in all this is Felix Cohen’s warning.

One thing about Cohen's analogy of us to the miner's canary was that it was not about saving the canary. It was about saving the miners. It is the white man with his "burden" and all that Cohen was warning of. It is more than just an analogy to suggest that the atrocities committed against our people paved the way for the poison gases of Auschwitz and those now affecting climate change. Raping our children and our women are crimes against humanity but raping our Mother Earth is a crime against Creation. And it's not just all of man that will be affected but all of creation. But let's be honest, most of Creation will not care less about toppled buildings, crumbled roads and flooded homes. Only man — with his attempt to defy nature — is in real trouble when nature strikes back.

Cohen realized that in our people — the treatment of and relationships with us — lay a barometer for mankind. The fall in the white man's "democratic faith" was based on an ignorant majority that could see its way to unspeakable crimes against the people closest to Creation and never realize that what kills the canary also kills the miner.

But, in reality, we are still free. It is the white man that fell to Christendom, with emphasis on the "dom" or domination. We have lost an inconceivable number of our people over five centuries to extermination, removal, assimilation and termination. We are still losing loved ones to poverty, alcohol, drugs and suicide. And we continue to lose many to assimilation, including those finding comfort in the colonial systems that continue to oppress our people. But we are not all lost.

There are many among us that continue to say the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen. We acknowledge our relationship to Creation and bow to no man. We know we are free because our minds are free. We are not the caged canaries of the white man. We are a free people. And while many bound within the colonial systems poke those of our people, who were willing or succumbed to be their canaries, with their sticks, and begin to question their own fate, more and more will look to the free and the brave and desire to be among us. They'll pray that we are not those "merciless savages" Thomas Jefferson wrote about and that we still hold certain truths to be self-evident — even if they could not.