Poem: Ode to Community Workers Oppressed by the Oppressed

We lost our sister in the fight,
She was silenced when she spoke out against injustice,
Pushed aside and denied traditional leadership roles,
A heart without a home,

We lost our brother in the fight,
No one knew he was in the dark corner of generational trauma,
Name badge for work torn and shirt on the floor,
It is heavy and that stench,

We lost our Two-Spirit brother/sister or sister/brother in the fight,
Cast aside,
Gifts ignored,
These assumptions alienate,
Instead of gifts being acknowledged these individuals are misunderstood,

Community workers walking up and down Woodward Avenue asking for coins,
This is all the majority culture will give them is a few coins,

Community workers listening to those in recovery,
Helping to choose another way,
Who just do the work without little recognition,
Because we keep meeting those who need us at the table,
Because "environmental justice" includes recovery of the soul,

Community work is not accumulating "followers,"
Feeding your ego because so called "fame" is more important than the gripping statistics that we can't seem to break,
To look at the underbelly of "community" or lack thereof requires looking inside your own soul,
When right now a Native youth in Nunavut is on the verge of suicide because they are caught between worlds where there are no resources for them,
Community work is honoring the work of of those who broke down the walls to help that youth live,
Self promotion and narcissism didn't help that youth but maybe one who lived to tell,

Community workers walk miles to reach a community member,
In the way up north parts of Anishinaabe Aki,
They are carrying prayers and dreams,
They are carrying messages and medicines,

Community workers have scars from this work,
Community workers have called crisis lines dozens of times,
Community workers have sat on street corners with brown paper bags folded and torn,
Community workers made decisions to survive and so they rise,
Community workers lived to tell these stories in poetry,
Community workers survival is resistance in the persistence of a racist culture,

Reworking is decolonization not in an industrialized sense,
Reworking is remembering and allowing blood memory to percolate,
Reworking is honoring the cast-away and ostracized,
In order to do the work while understanding the multitude of layers of generational trauma,
The trauma still continues from the oppressed to the oppressed,
We can no longer just name it but work on it,

If you say you are giving voice to the voiceless,
Then why ignore the injustice committed by our own people to our own people?
There comes a time when labeling things as "lateral violence" must come to an end,
It is fear that the voice of those oppressed by the oppressed will break down patriarchal control,
Will break down the disgusting and intoxicating infusion of Christianization,
We don't believe it for a minute that these harsh gender roles are traditional,
Or that "leadership" represents the "community,"

When are we going to choose to return to the circle?

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

Article: Six things not to say to a mixed-race person. And some personal notes

 
This is an excellent video by Marina Watanabe.

As an American Indian of mixed blood (my Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood says I'm 3/8s, but my reality is a bit more complex than that), I know many other mixed-blood Indians. They, like me, have run into conflict on both sides of the racial divide.

Not the least of this is the "you don't look Indian" remark, something that happens a lot to those of us with lighter skin. When the members of my Seminole family used to come together for reunions, the skin colors of the 25 or so people who showed up—all of us closely related by blood—went from very light to as dark as Michelle Obama, a product of the tribe's long history of intermarrying not only with other tribes but also with whites and blacks.

Appearance is often a poor judge of someone's racial background. Take the Dawes Rolls, for instance. These were established by the government in the late 1800s to determine who among the "Five Civilized Tribes" were Indian and, therefore, entitled to an allotment of land. (These allotments were a means of breaking up the tribes and grabbing "surplus" tribal land. Nearly three-fourths of the land in Indian hands prior to 1887 had been expropriated via this means by 1935.)

The determination of whether somebody was an Indian or not for the Dawes Rolls was accomplished in many instances by a white bureaucrat sitting at a table and looking at the person for half a minute. Thus were families split up. Sometimes brothers and sisters with the same father and mother were categorized differently, one an Indian, another not. It was just one more pernicious practice of a pernicious law.

Historically, there have been two different rules for Indians and African Americans. For the latter, it's the "one-drop rule" actually codified into law at one time in Louisiana. Any African American blood at all and you were black. For Indians, something almost opposite has been the case. If you weren't a full blood, then you were not viewed as a "real Indian." Half breed was a common perjorative term even for people quite a bit younger than I. During my 16 years in the American Indian Movement, I probably had to explain a couple of hundred times why my phenotype doesn't match what most people—both Indian and non-Indian—think my genotype should show.

But looks are far from the only issue.

As Watanabe points out in her video, mixed-race Americans—even when they are the same mix—are affected quite differently by how that mixed racedness is seen by people we come into contact with. Although there are stereotypes specific to our groups, we're unique. The various cultures of our ancestors plus our everyday life determines that uniqueness. We're blended, but even among people of the same blending, how prejudice against mixed-race people plays out is not one-dimensional.
Watanabe's video offers people who want to confront their prejudices with an upbeat lesson on how to get started.

Via - Daily Kos

Article: Native-r Than You by Dana Her Many Horses

Growing up on the Rez versus out here, in this un-Indian landscape; it’s more than a paradigm shift, it’s not even close. There’s an undercurrent of competition like some kind of school yard push and shove that goes on in our social media circles that we all talk about but not as openly as we should.

If we are going to go forward in positive ways for our Nations we can’t do it fighting with each other in the backseat of the bus. It’s almost something you can’t pin down or address directly because the ground shifts so easily when you’re talking about rumors and salacious gossip. Slippery and without accountability, we see keyboard warriors accusing each other instead of lifting each other. If my Kunsi was still here I could sit and talk with her about all these things that go on and she would laugh about a lot of it. She loved to laugh and gossip too, but she would also talk about where the line is drawn or where it should be. She used to tell me the big stories were who got in trouble at the Indian School, who got pregnant on the side, who was leaving the Rez forever because they got their heart broken. She left Coeur d’Alene Rez forever with a heartbreak like that, her man was dead and she had a baby on the way to raise alone. Some hearts don’t recover, some people don’t just bounce back after that type of loss. The talk then wasn’t what it is now. Then it was Pow Wow gossip, harmless talk over coffee at the kitchen table at night because she and my Aunts always seemed to have a fresh pot going. She called it camp talk since so much of their time to catch up was at deer or fish camp. Especially among the women within our families that’s a hard-wired part of our culture; laughing sideways and Oh is it? until the Sun comes up. But what a leap we have made from that tiny kitchen packed with my Grandmother’s sisters, to the cyber bullying we see now on Twitter, Face Book, Instagram and others. It’s not about hurt feelings at this level; it’s about the black eye it gives what we are trying to do here. There is finally a momentum that I have been excited to watch building up over the last five years among our Nations; for pride in who we are and what it means to be Native at a time when the World needs a strong voice for the environment, for what is right, and for voicing what is wrong and what has to change. We have a chance to do good and to help ourselves and yet for each accomplishment there is a sustained and stinging loss of leadership in our communities because in real talk, people get tired of the constant negativity, the back-biting. When you’re dealing with social media you’re in a whole other country. We tend to take on the organizations we see as defamatory to Indian Country, and from the other side of our faces we smirk and spread gossip about those of us who are doing positive things for our People as a whole.

One of the most common attacks in social media of Natives on other Skins is the one I call “Native-r Than You”. We all know what this is, we see it played out continually on Twitter. The one-up on everything from if you grew up Rez or not, if not why not, if you speak your language or languages fluently, and how many first cousins you have, to the ultimate throw down; how much blood you have. I’ve been through this more times than I can count at this point. I have joked about printing up a genealogy flier to keep in my war pony glovebox. Makes it easier; just hand over the list of relatives, adjust the aviator shades and keep driving. No other group has a more defensive posture as a whole than we do when it comes to our past. It’s a cultural stimulus response reaction stemming from several hundred years of racial profiling, assimilation to survive, and de-assimilation to reconnect us to our roots.

Of course blood is important. There’s no doubt that who we come from gives us strength for where we find ourselves today. Our past is carried forward in our blood. But Crazy Horse isn’t on Twitter. White Buffalo Calf Woman isn’t on Face Book. Our blood and our prophets, our blood and our ceremonies, our blood and our land, our blood and our children; our blood and our unborn. Yes it matters where we came from but it should never be the thing that stakes us to the ground. It should be what gives us the fire inside to move forward as Red Nation People; not in competition with each other, but hand in hand walking forward into a future that our ancestors would be proud to see.

Original article posted to Last Real Indians.

Poem: Reporting Live From the 1842 Treaty Territories

It's a little cold up here,
Should I reach for that beer?
Or hang my laundry on the door?

I can't see straight,
I can't feel my heart,
My hands are cold,

There is a truck parked out there on the lawn,
We haven't seen the sun for days,
Centuries,
What can you do about the factory of your mind?
Environmental injustice all around,

I can't fight no more,
I can't see straight,

There is nothing for miles in the void of my soul,
This land unheard,
These waters,
A thirst,
A hunger,

Cultural retrofits,
That make-shift dangle that sways in the wind,
Broken,
Broke,
There is a shame we don't want to feel,
So we hide away,

Mattress on the floor,
It's not comfortable here,
There wasn't a doily or lace,
Curtains were ripped,
Soiled with tears,
We exited through the door and left our heart on the front steps.