Sunday, July 12, 2015

Article: Cry Me a River, Andrea Smith

I met Andrea Smith in 2008 and speculated she wasn't Native.  She was down with all the key terms and lingo regarding decolonization, settler colonialism, white privilege, etc, a bit too much.  I also interviewed her on behalf of a Metro Detroit feminist organization that dissolved several years ago and is no longer in existence.  When I interviewed Andrea I was amazed at how I felt intuitively that she hadn't really been through much trauma.  I am not saying that this is a requirement to be Native however most Natives have stories of trauma whether within their family systems, communities they live in, jobs they've worked, or dealing with other systems in dominant culture (because it is a racist culture).  She felt white to me and I never published the interview on this site because something deep within me kept saying no.  In fact I threw the interview away just because of my gut feeling.

I am proud to be a Anishinaabe/Ojibway/Metis (mixed heritage).  I have many ancestral Chiefs in my lineage that were key in holding the culture and land down as colonization was occurring in Anshinaabe Aki.  I am deeply connected to my culture, heritage, and traditions through family and clan relations.  I am Ogichidaakwe (Two-Spirit) and honored within my family and community. I am a traditional and old time jingle dress dancer.  I've been walking the red road of sobriety/wellbriety since January 1, 2010.  My family name LaPointe is connected to Moningwunakauning (Madeline Island, WI) - "the place of the golden breasted woodpecker."  Or otherwise know as the origin and homeland of our people.  There is more but I keep it real, stand for the land, stand for Two-Spirits, stand for sobriety/wellbriety/recovery, write poems of healing/recovery/resistance, and stand against frauds!

No need to coddle a wannabe.  No need to say she has done "good work," for us.  We are doing good work for our people.

This is one of the best articles yet on Andrea Smith being a fraud.  Keepin' it real!

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Cry Me a River, Andrea Smith

Watching two Native academics come to a consensus about Andrea Smith is like watching two eagles fight. No, wait, I mean egos. After Andrea Smith was outed for the second time as being non-Native, several Native academics leapt to save her from scrutiny. “Focus on more positive things,” they said. “Let’s not criticize her, because she’s done so much good for the community.” I’m done with that discourse. It’s time to be upset. White people can all-to-easily say they’re Indian, while claiming to be black is a cultural anomaly, ala Rachel Dolezal. It is with this in mind that I can say Andrea Smith is far more insidious a character than Dolezal.

For years Smith has been conjuring her fake spirit animal to cry wolf, acting like she’s one of the many Indian women who face violence and subjugation. It’s a little too generous to say Smith was lead to believe she was Indian. I mean, good lord, nobody told me I was an Indian. When my mom found out we were part Irish, she read a bunch of Irish literature, we made soda bread, and then called it a day. We couldn’t get in touch with our Irish roots, because by lineage, blood, and community, we were too Indian. So Indian my mother put the Irish flag on regalia. So Indian, my mother argued Irish people should be called Indigenous because, just like us, they were exploited by the Europeans. How was Smith lead to believe she was Indian? Did she grow up in an Indian community? Nope. Are either of her parents Indian? Nope. She, like most white people who think they’re Indian, was told she was part Indian. She took that and ran with it. Ran hard. Like, took that loose mouthed claim to lineage, and made a career out of it.

Trust me, I empathize with people removed from their culture. The sixties scoop is a real issue for many Native people throughout North America. If you’re unfamiliar, it was a period in which the government could scoop up Indian children from their communities, then place them up for adoption in Canada and the US. That’s real: for the people disconnected from their cultures, and for the people who could not find their real parents. I empathize with Native people shut out from their culture, but don’t confuse their stories with that of Smith. She’s hella white, and she tried to save us. Can we call her what she is: a white savior.

Native academic communities are far too kind. I’ve seen endless blog posts and editorials empathizing with Smith. Even defending her, saying she’s done so much good. No. Her deceit affected the ethos of every institution she worked for. Her criticism of government funding was coming from a dangerous space, where she never had to rely on government funding to feed her children or protect her sisters. She’s a fake. Her work was based around her identity, and scholars have the audacity to say how she identifies isn’t worth noting.

Smith was a real spitfire and a hell-raiser. She wielded theory and residential school accounts verbatim. Her work was nothing more than the compiling of information, coupled with the intellect to unpack it. Her ideas aren’t original. Lee Maracle, among other Native women, have been talking about environmental racism and the Indigenous female body for years. Smith is a smart lady. She can defend herself, even from the indefensible. See, white academics are really good at twisting words around, until Indians start doubting themselves. I’m not trying to hear whatever argument defends her character.

Andrea Smith doesn’t know the struggle. She invented her own. Once a white professor took me aside to ask me how I felt about the stereotypes against Native women. I said, “What stereotypes,” because, up until then, I was happy to think I was an equal among my peers. He said, “The stereotype that you’re wild women in bed. The ‘Squaw’ stereotype.” I was shocked and speechless. I was never alone again with him. That’s the struggle. Real threat. Real pain. Real discrimination.

Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island, a place bound by the Mariah Slough and the Fraser River. She studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work, “Heart Berries,” can be found in Carve magazine, and her story, “House Party,” is forthcoming in Yellow Medicine Review.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Disenrollment is predominately about race, and money, and an “individualistic, materialistic attitude” that is not indigenous to tribal communities.

Because many tribes have maintained the IRA’s paternalistic and antiquated definition of “Indian” vis-a-vis blood quantum (as discussed in “An Essay on the Federal Origins of Disenrollment“), tribal membership has largely become “an explicitly racial conception of Indian identity.” Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne, If You Build It, They Will Come: Preserving Tribal Sovereignty in the Face of Indian Casinos and the New Premium on Tribal Membership, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 311 (2010).

The racial construct has worked well for disenrollment as “American Indians have one of the highest rates of interracial marriage in the U.S.” Gosia Wozniacka, Disenrollment leaves Native feeling ‘culturally homeless’, Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2014. Indeed, Indians of any quantum (defined as “portion”) of Indian blood are by federal design, multi-racial. In addition, “many Native Americans don’t live on reservations, speak Native languages or ‘look’ Indian, making others question their bloodline claims.” Id. In those illustrative ways, Indian conceptions of both race and class converge, with tribal classism also catalyzing disenrollment.

In turn, tribal officials who wish to target political foes or large swaths of politically weak or unpopular members, can “voluntarily invoke race-based definitions of ‘Indian’ [to] narrow the pool of tribal members, perhaps in an effort to limit gaming revenue and federal dollars to [those targeted] tribal members.”Painter-Thorne, supra. These disenrollment stories bear this out. See e.g. Liz Jones, ‘We’ll Always Be Nooksack':Tribe Questions Ancestry of Part-Filipino Members, NPR/KUOW, Dec. 16, 2013; Joanne Barker, The True Meaning of Sovereignty, New York Times, Sept. 16, 2011.

The “forced transition to a cash economy” has likely played a large part in the dramatic spike in disenrollment as well. Jana Berger & Paula Fisher, Navigating Tribal Membership Issues, Emerging Issues in Tribal-State Relations 61, 66 (2013). Prior to the recent disenrollment epidemic, which is estimated to have already vanquished over 11,000 Indians, tribal governments were very inclusive, frequently wanting to have large “membership” numbers. Aside from a greater amount of funding from federal agencies relative to increased tribal membership, from a practical standpoint tribal governments recognized that “there is strength in numbers.” Id.

 But over the last couple decades, as tribes became more dependent on the U.S. economic free-market system, primarily through gaming entrepreneurship, disenrollment began to rear its ugly head. According to Charles Wilkinson.
Just as federal education practices reverberated throughout tribes, so too did the forced transition to a cash economy. The concept of sharing, integral to Indian societies, did not jibe well with the individualistic, materialistic attitude that drove the nation’s economic system. As one Navajo stated, “When a relative needed help, you helped them out. When you needed something else, you could rely on a relative to help out, it all worked out in the long run. With money it doesn’t work anymore, now the relative with the money is expected to help out, what is needed for most everything is money and the poor relatives never have any.” 
Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations 54 (2006).

As Professor David Wilkins observes, tribal communities historically used ceremony and prayer to resolve intra-tribal tension or conflict; because traditionally speaking, “you don’t cast out your relatives.” Wozniacka, supra. But today, when the political going gets rough in tribal communities, the individualistic, materialistic Indian attitude that Professor Wilkinson describes, increasingly leads to disenrollment of one’s own relatives–instead of towards any holistic or indigenous values-based solution.

Galanda Broadman is an American Indian owned firm dedicated to advancing tribal legal rights and Indian business interests. The firm represents tribal governments, businesses and members in critical litigation, business and regulatory matters, especially in the areas of Indian Treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, taxation, commerce, personal injury, and human/civil rights.

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Article: KBIC legalizes tribally sanctioned same-sex marriage


BARAGA - The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community legalized tribally sanctioned same-sex marriages Saturday, when it passed the third reading of amendments to its marriage ordinance. The amendments passed by a narrow 5-4 vote, with one abstention.

The meeting wasn't heavily attended, but the vote was met with a smattering of applause. Tribal voters had given their support to same-sex marriage legislation in a nonbinding referendum in December, and Carole LaPointe, a former council member who proposed the referendum last year, said she was happy to see the result.

"Love should have no barriers," LaPointe said. "If a woman loves a woman or a man loves a man, it shouldn't matter. It's no different for a woman and a man.

Nikki, left, and Audrey Reenders-Arens plan to wed under the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s newly-amended marriage ordinance, which allows for same-sex marriage. (Courtesy Nikki Reenders-Arens)

"Many same-sex couples have children, and they're raised just the same."

LaPointe's daughter Bridget LaPointe and her partner Mariah Dunham, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said in December they hoped to marry if the legislation was successful.

"I think it's the right direction," agreed KBIC member Nikki Reenders-Arens in a later interview, adding she and her partner Audrey Reenders-Arens had already talked about marriage and planned to apply for a license soon. In December, she explained that despite already being joined in a civil union in IllinoiAudrey would have no legal right to their son, which Nikki had given birth to, if something was to happen to her.

"It's important to the future," she said. "It protects our son, and we're finally being seen as equal."

The extent to which the state of Michigan will recognize that equality will likely depend on a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, Michigan does not recognize same-sex marriages regardless of origin, but that's being challenged on the basis of the Constitution's equal protection clause. A ruling on the case is expected this summer.

At the federal level, eligibility for spousal social security benefits depends on where an individual or couple resides. Tribally-married same-sex couples are eligible if they live on the reservation, but not if they live in a jurisdiction - for now the rest of Michigan - where same-sex marriage isn't recognized.

The legislation was accomplished with minimal changes to the existing ordinance, which allows for the marriage of any Native American - not just KBIC members - to whomever they choose. The most significant amendments were changing references to marrying as "between a man and a women" to gender-neutral references to consenting adults.

Tribal council President Warren "Chris" Swartz, who spoke of the amendments as "two-spirit marriage" legislation, referring to the traditional Native conception of people with non-traditional sexual orientations, said the amendments would become law as soon as he could sign them Monday or Tuesday. Depending on administrative procedures, couples could begin applying for marriage licenses at the tribal courthouse by the end of the week.

Susan LaFernier, one of the council members who voted against the amendments, said she wasn't necessarily against same-sex marriage, but "thought it was such a controversial issue that we should have taken more time," and been more careful in the wording of amendments.

LaFernier said the tribe should also have taken the opportunity while making amendments to increase the legal age for marriage, and to change some of the wording on adoptions. Currently, the marriage ordinance allows for minors as young as 16 years old to marry if they had a guardian's approval. Council member Eddy Edwards voted for the amendments with no apparent reservations.

"This acknowledges that people can love each other, whoever they may be," he said. "We need all the love we can have in this world."

Original article -- KBIC legalizes tribally sanctioned same-sex marriage

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Poem: The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 2

Great Grandmother - Cecelia Veronica Shalifoe & Great Grandpa - Henry Francois LaPointe

Female/Male/Gender binary,

He's over here,
No he is there,

She is here,
Are you there?

The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants is confused,
One time he had left his wallet on the table,
Spectators peered into his life,

"This," the crowd-gossipers-masses said,
"This... is the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,"

The crowd-gossipers-masses continued on,
Shuffling away to mainstream meanderings,
Of de-evolution an de-enlightenment,

Meanwhile the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants carried on,
With a pocket sized notebook,
And a pencil,
To take notes and observe,

She was feeling her heart/agender/ogichidaakwe/two-spirit,

This was a horrible terrible thing to do,
Feeling the heart was a terrible disaster,
A huge risk,
So through the door and out in the same step,
A terribly daunting task,

He closed his heart/female/male,

Back to un-feeling the heart,
The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,
Made and effort of the heart.

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Please see the original - The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants