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Native Women Rule: The 'Town Destroyer' vs. the Clan Mother

Native Women Rule: The 'Town Destroyer' vs. the Clan Mother




Reps. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo-NM) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk-WI) at an event celebrating their swearing-in to Congress (Creative Commons non-commercial license)
Historian Colin G. Calloway, author of “Indian World of George Washington The First President the First Americans & the Birth of the Nation,” writes, “Washington knew what history has forgotten: Indian nations still dominated large areas of the North American continent.” And consequently, “Washington’s entire Indian policy and his vision for the nation depended on the acquisition of Indian lands.” He was himself a land speculator, trained as a surveyor and “he looked on Indian lands with a surveyor’s eye for the rest of his life.”

The dismemberment of Native nations’ lands for the acquisition of resources, and the erasure of thousands of years of lived human history they once contained, is still active U.S.policy today. One of President Trump’s first acts in office was to sign an executive order reauthorizing the hard-fought Dakota Access pipeline that had brought more than ten thousand Native Americans and their allies to the northern border of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota to stand off against a heavily militarized response by the state of North Dakota and the pipeline builder Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. He was declaring that Native lands and concerns would not stand in the way of money-making ventures that sought America’s “energy dominance” of the world that would “make American great again.” Trump’s obsession with rolling back hard-fought protections of Native lands won during his predecessor’s administration was once again emphasized in December 2017 when he signed another executive order reducing the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent. The reduction of the monument, proposed by the five tribes and meant to be co-managed with them, puts at risk over 100,000 archaeological sites documenting 10,000-years of human history on the land. These sites include cliff dwellings, kivas, graves, villages, stone towers and more.

“It's all about power, greed, and money and how much oil can we extract from Mother Earth,” said Rebecca Ortega of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico who was in Washington DC to see the January 3 swearing-in of the very first two Native American congresswomen in U.S. history, Reps. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Sharice Davids (D-Kansas). “And I really think that you know Pueblo women, as well as Native American women, you know we all know what we need. And we need our lands protected, we need our families to feel secure.”

In their newly minted offices crammed with Native people and in the city named for “father of his country” George Washington, it is instructive to look at the road that grew out of Washington’s decision to pursue total war against unarmed Native American women and children to secure a win in the Revolutionary War. This resulted in the deaths of thousands of defenseless Native women, children, and elders in some 40 villages whose were allied with the British and whose men were away, engaged in raids on the borders of their lands. Their alliance with the British was spurred on by the colonists themselves who had been streaming into their lands for decades, squatting on their lands to turn into private property. Washington sent several American regiments under the command of Major General Sullivan to lay waste to these villages throughout western New York destroying their foods and homes including 1,600,000 bushels of corn. Washington already had a reputation of resorting to his kind of “warfare” considered a war crime today. The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee “the people of the Longhouse,” as they called themselves, had given him the sobriquet Conotocarious or “Town Destroyer” in 1753, a name also given to his great-grandfather John Washington after the murder of five Algonquin chiefs under a flag of truce. In 1755, the future U.S. president even signed a letter to Oneida leaders (one of the six nations that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy) using the name.

An 18th c. portrait of a Mohawk woman (Getty Images)
On the National Endowment for the Humanities website, historian Sarah Pearsall vividly describes a solitary Iroquois elder confronting the Continental Army laying waste to her village, “Madam Sacho must have emerged from the smoke like a ghost: startling, uncanny, and with a tale to tell.” The NEH’s website presently has a “Shutdown Notice” banner across the top warning that during the shutdown, their website will not be maintained while the president holds the government hostage for a wall that will keep out migrants and refugees from south of the border, many of whom are Indigenous people.

Madam Sacho, or as the soldiers variously called her “a very old Squaw,” “helpless, impotent wretch,” “antediluvian hag,” was utterly alone, everyone else had fled and the corn was still standing tall in the fields. The Continental Army was “taking the war home to the enemy to break their morale,” as Washington described what would today brand him as a war criminal.

The Haudenosaunee are composed of six nations (Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Tuscarora), ruled by the Great Law of Peace, and the leaders were chosen not by white men of property as would be the case in the new republic, but by clan mothers, women who were leaders of their respective clans from which descent was traced matrilineally. Perhaps this “antediluvian hag,” as the soldiers called Sacho was just such a clan mother. It seems unlikely the people would have left her behind lightly, it must have been her choice — her choice to face the town destroyers alone.

My father’s Dakota people have stories of warriors of the Kit Fox Society who would stake themselves into the ground and fight refusing to budge even onto death. And yet, she did not fight; the elder addressed the enemy, she took advantage of their dismissal of her as a "helpless, impotent wretch” and gave them false intel, misdirecting their search, and possibly gaining time for younger women and children to escape.

“Sharice [Davids] and Deb [Haaland] coming to the Congress makes me think about our past,” Wilfred Cleveland, Ho-chunk Tribal Chairman says standing next to Ho-chunk tribal member Rep. Davids’ desk, “our relationship with the Mother Earth. And how in the home, the mother is the one that keeps the home fires burning, so to speak, and that in this day and age, the way the government is — although the government is a non-Native type of governing — it's still through the years they realize that because of dealings with Mother Earth it goes back to the relationship of woman… of the woman in the home.”

In the Declaration of Independence, King George III is accused of having “excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions.” Knowing Washington also engaged in this tactic the declaration can be more clearly seen as not entirely immune to the use of selective facts for propaganda purposes. The King did enforce the terms of the treaty that ended what Americans call the French and Indian War, and what in Europe is called the Seven Years’ War. A war begun by the colonists’ incursions into Indian land, and which triggers the first world war, what historians call World War Zero, doubled Britains national debt, and which the hated taxes were meant to pay for. And it was begun when a Virginia raiding party under the command of a very young George Washington led to the death of a French diplomat in western Pennsylvania. The “taxation without representation” was to pay for that debt and British force to prevent further colonists’ incursions into Indian land that could further beggar the British treasury.

Today, the U.S. maintains a military budget that dwarfs that of most of the world. And the response as seen at Standing Rock to Native nations demanding consultation on development that might harm their people’s drinking water and attempts to invoke treaties signed with the U.S. provoked a substantial military response. It is clear the land is still held by military force and to extract profit and nothing else.

“I stand with the tribes on the Chaco Canyon issue. They want a buffer around the monument,” newly sworn-in Rep. Deb Haaland told me in an interview her first full day on the job, “I will do whatever I can to stop drilling and fracking in Chaco Canyon before they sign leases with fossil fuel industries. That’s my ancestral homeland. It’s not unlike what the folks at Standing Rock did to protect their water. That’s their ancestral homeland. I hope I bring a new voice to that issue. I traveled to Bears Ears in September before my election and because I felt like I needed to be there and know what I would be fighting for. It’s apparent that in those areas there are so many treasures we do need to protect.”

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Jacqueline Keeler
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We are Wounded by Wounded Knee: A People Remembers & Hopes for Reconciliation During Christmas

We are Wounded by Wounded Knee: A People Remembers & Hopes for Reconciliation During Christmas



Wounded Knee Massacre, Oscar Howe (Dakota), 1960 
This commentary was originally published in Indian Country Today January 2, 2014, but since the reorganization of the publication, was removed from the website. I think it still has valid things to say on this time of the year for Dakota and Lakota people — and for all Native people who have faced off against the United States. I honor and think about every Christmas holiday on how my Dakota ancestors dealt with both the Minnesota Sioux Uprising, the Dakota 38, and Wounded Knee. Also, I recommend watching this video on the Dakota hymn "Wa­kan­tan­ka ta­ku ni­ta­wa" sung at the gallows by the Dakota 38.  #RememberOurRelatives #RememberWhoYouAre

by Jacqueline Keeler

There are always things happening in Indian Country that never make it into the mainstream news, and we Indian people are used to it. We never expect the issues near and dear to our hearts to be covered 24 hours on CNN or to trend on Twitter or Buzzfeed. And yet, this year, I felt it more than usual.

As we entered the holiday season it felt good to see, on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, hundreds of posts, videos, and retweets hailing the Dakota 38 riders as they began their 330-mile trek on December 10th, riding on horseback down snowy roads from Lower Brule in South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota. It was here, the day after Christmas in 1862, that 38 Dakota men were executed in the largest mass hanging in U.S. History for rising up in an insurrection against the Americans who had taken their land. President Lincoln signed the orders, reducing the number to be executed from 303 to the 38 who were hung that day.

The United States had failed to fulfill their part — i.e., monetary compensation — of the treaty agreements with the Santee in exchange for the surrendering of up to 24 million acres of hunting grounds; without the ability to hunt, their children were starving. Reportedly, the money owed the Santee was reallocated by Congress to cover the costs of Mary Todd Lincoln’s redecorating the White House and sunk into years of graft by Indian agents. A trader, Andrew Myrick, refused to release any food from his stores without payment and famously said, “If they are hungry, let them eat grass — or their own dung.” Myrick was the first white man killed in the uprising, and his body was found days later with grass stuffed in his mouth. General Jon Pope was dispatched to Minnesota to quell the insurgency (Pope’s assignment was in part a demotion for losing the 2nd Battle of Bull Run against the Confederacy); he wrote, “It is my purpose utterly to exterminate the Sioux if I have the power to do so.”

Then this recent Sunday came the anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre, just three days after the Dakota 38 riders reached Mankato bearing gifts for reconciliation for the town. A tweet by @williamcander of the image of the burial of the frozen victims’ bodies was retweeted hundreds of times with my twitter name attached to it. My Twitter stream became filled with that painful image repeated ad infinitum regarding the December 29th, 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota: “123 years ago today,150 #Lakota men/women/children were massacred by the US 7th Calvary @ #WoundedKnee H/T @jfkeeler.” Each time someone would retweet it would show up again on my timeline. And so, even though I clicked on the image only once, the long rectangular hole dug for mass burial with the bodies of Lakota people strewn in it kept reappearing before me. Over and over again, I saw those waiting frozen on the ground while white men pose, holding guns or with their hands at their hips as if for a job well done — and I am a descendant of someone who was there.

That image is filled with all those things that, as Native people, we cannot name, and remains a symbol of all the ways in which we are not allowed to be ordinary Americans simply living our lives in the most powerful nation in the world. December 29th, 1890 is the date when we became a marginalized people denied the comfort of being part of a nation that recognizes our experiences and commemorates them with us. We live out our American lives in a twilight existence where the only time other Americans, our compatriots, remember us is as we were then when we truly separate from them and each member of our own nations. Then they dress up “like us” with feathered headbands made in China and cheer for their sports teams on weekends named to “honor” us all the time, not remembering us as we are today, as our encounter with them has made us. But still, after all this time, we are different because we remember; we remember Wounded Knee, and Mankato, and The Long Walk, and every broken promise that we must, for our own good, put aside to live in our new country, the United States. It only makes it harder that they do not join us in this; it makes what we lost, the millions of acres and lives of our loved ones feel cheapened and unappreciated and forgotten and makes their present-day ignorance of us even harder to bear.

So, as we Native people mourn and reflect upon these painful events in our history, we do so very much apart from the rest of the country. There is no national 24-hour news coverage of the Dakota 38 riders. No one is following their journey down icy roads and freezing temperatures except for us who look for updates on their Facebook event page and watch their YouTube interviews, creating our own piecemeal media coverage that does not exist elsewhere. Instead, on that Sunday on the 123rd anniversary of Wounded Knee, a Washington Redsk*ns football game was what was on TV.


Seeing photos of Redsk*ns and Chiefs’ and Braves’ fans dressed up in fake eagle feather headdresses, I think of a photograph of Owl Man, my great-grandmother’s grandfather, as he stood with a delegation of Yankton Dakota headmen at the White House in Washington, DC in 1868 to sign the Yankton treaty with the U.S. Government. A diminutive President Andrew Johnson stands in frock coat in the balcony above the Yanktons, and he is flanked by the Miami tribe’s delegation who tower over him in turbans and eagle claw necklaces. My ancestor is easily identifiable as he is the only one wearing the full eagle feather headdress. I think what he would have thought of all this. Each feather is said to have represented the confidence the people had for the leader. It was something very precious, but it came with a great deal of responsibility and accountability to the people. When the headmen returned home, the women chastised them for signing away the salt mines which they needed to preserve the meat. Even then, there were no good deals to be made in DC. The people were focused on securing their survival, to live, to protect and raise the young, and sometimes, like at Wounded Knee, even that was an impossibility.
Yankton Sioux Delegation at White House, 1867
Looking at this image of Wounded Knee I want to run — run like the Ihanktonwan man my dad used to tell us kids about at dinner. He was at Wounded Knee visiting, and despite being shot through the middle of his body, he ran all the way across the state of South Dakota to our people. We kids would pepper our dad with questions about the story, “How could he run all the way across the state with a gunshot wound in the middle of his body?” “They were just tougher back then.” “But, why did he do it?” “Because he thought our people really needed to know. It was important to the people.” I want to run like him and running, carrying the story with the pain still lodged inside of me. The worry and the doubt eating me up. And only by putting my feet to the ground and feeling the tempo of my movement, a heartbeat upon the body of my mother, Maka, can I shake loose the overwhelming despair of the assault on our people. I suppose a lot of Native people feel this way, and this is why we share our stories with each other on social media. Because these things are terrible and the country we are supposed to be part of cares not at all, or it cannot care without assuming guilt, and it is unwilling to do that because of Manifest Destiny. In their minds, it was all for the greater good of creating this country that our nations were buried in the snow. And so, we live in a country where Wounded Knee and the Mankato 38 does not receive the same amount of broadcast time as does a perpetually losing NFL team’s flailing weekly on the field.

And even as we mourn, publicly for the first time in a long time, on social media sites like Twitter, we are confronted by those who would tell us to “get over it.” And they refuse to see that we cannot as long as our concerns remain shunted off to the side of our daily American experience. We are mourning the dead, but also the death of our own centrality in the story of our lives. We are surrounded by stories of white men and boys overcoming obstacles and triumphing in their quests to get the woman of their dreams, to save the world, become rich on TV, in films and books.

One white guy had to respond to the tweet of the photograph of Wounded Knee by saying it was okay because Indians were not Noble Savages and did far worse to each other, so we should stop remembering. In rejecting one stereotype, he had embraced something even worse. The notion that unless Native people are better than any other people in the world they do not deserve basic human rights accorded to every other people in the world is the most dehumanizing thing anyone can say against us. Does he mean that we, having fallen off our pedestal, must endure any atrocity against us, even against unarmed women and children—even infants? In his myopic attack on the Noble Savage, he has returned full circle to the mindset that initiated the genocide on this continent. It reminded me of Col. Chivington’s words to his soldiers before the Sand Creek Massacre, “Kill them one and all, nits make lice.” I think the truth is to Americans like this gentleman; we are just an annoying reminder of the true price paid for this land, a reminder that needs to be silenced. It is so important to him that he’s willing to make his point grandstanding on top of a massacre. Something that even the Dakota 38 descendants recognize is wrong. Jim Miller, the Dakota man who had the vision for the memorial ride, has said that part of the ride’s purpose was for the Dakota to be the first to apologize for their role in the historical tragedy. Another organizer, Dakota veteran Peter Lengeek explained, “We’re trying to reconcile, unite, make peace with everyone because that’s what it means to be Dakota.”

On YouTube is a video of Redbone, the Native rock band singing in 1973, “We were all wounded at Wounded Knee for Manifest Destiny,” but I’d take it even a step further than that. As a people, a living, vibrant culture, we all died that day. Even if your tribe had no runners present to bring them the news, that was the day that, as Black Elk said, the tree was cut. Both the Minnesota Sioux Uprising and Wounded Knee affected two members of my father’s family in ways that marked them the rest of their lives. The first was Owl Man. After the Dakota fled Minnesota, they came and sought refuge amongst our people, the Yanktons, and as we were their cousins, we took them in. When the U.S. Military found out, they sent Colonel Sully who demanded we fulfill the treaty and kill them or he would return to “kill us all.” The headmen met, and, in the meeting, Owl Man was chosen to kill one of the Santee in order to fulfill the treaty. He had had a vision as a boy that he would do this when he received his powers as a medicine man. So he killed the man, and then went up on a hill and sat for four days and four nights without any weapons proclaiming that any Santee who wanted to come and kill him could if they wished. None did, and the Santee were able to remain, another massacre was averted, but it bothered my great-grandfather for the rest of his life. He claimed to be haunted by the spirit of the man until he died.

My grandmother told me about the second relative her uncle, the Rev. Charles Cook. One day, we were in her attic, and she unrolled a large portrait-sized daguerreotype of a young, handsome Indian man. She told me he was the Episcopal minister at Wounded Knee during the massacre. It was the holidays, so the church was decorated for Christmas; desperate to save the people, he and Dr. Charles Eastman, a Dakota, turned it into a hospital for the wounded and dying. They were both young, educated Dakota men still in their 20’s, working tirelessly to save the lives of their people. I asked her what happened to him, as I had never heard of him spoken of before. She said quietly, “Oh, he died a few years later, they say, of a broken heart by what he saw that day.” Funnily enough, in the HBO movie done about Charles Eastman’s life a balding, middle-aged white man portrayed him. However, Eastman is more accurately depicted by Canadian Saulteaux actor Adam Beach.

I think of those young men, educated to be leaders in this new way of life their people were supposed to assume. And how they found themselves, instead of building this new society of churches and hospitals, patching together the bloodied bodies of their own people torn to bits by U.S. soldiers. Dr. Charles Eastman was embittered by the experience, noting the banner inside the church which read “peace and goodwill to all men.” My great-great uncle, could not reconcile the two, and even Owl Man, a seasoned warrior, was wracked with guilt by the choices he had to make to save the most people possible. I highly recommend reading a wonderful blog post written by Cutcha Rising Baldy, (On telling Native people to just "get over it" or why I teach about the Walking Dead in my Native Studies classes... *Spoiler Alert!*) where she explains why we cannot just "get past" these experiences by using The Walking Dead and survival of a zombie apocalypse. In it, she notes just how like American invaders were like a zombie swarm, and how our people were unable to get them to see our humanity. When Baldy asks how the great-grandchildren of the Walking Dead will be able to "get past" the terrible things that happened to their ancestors, all her students understand that in this fictional zombie universe that it is not possible to do so.

So as social media brings me the annoyed rantings of a white man on Twitter telling Native people to "get over it," and yet another on Facebook carrying on about the terrible hardships of giving up his enjoyment of the Washington, DC football team mascot he loves because of whiney Native people—I am reminded of these very real decisions my ancestors had to make for our survival. I remember these decisions were not made for these white men’s benefit, nor for their comfort, it was made for me, for us, their descendants. We are the reason they did these things and made these hard choices. It was for the hope that we would be alive, their descendants living today and loving life, the sun on our faces, and even the blistering snow on a long ride as we remember them. I write these things down, these family stories in an attempt to preserve the dignity of their actions because no one else will. No one in the American media cares as much as we do about these things. And ironically, it is because social media provides these communal spaces to grieve and remember and to take courage in the acts of Reconciliation that riders like the Dakota 38 do, that make me feel even more the great, yawning distance between my experience, as a Native woman and mother, and that as an American citizen. I wish the two were closer together. The distance is a part of the pain, and being told to be silent about it makes me think others know it, too.
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Why I Write

Why I Write



Last Thursday, I was featured with three other Native writers by Passion Passport as part of Native American Heritage Month. I'm resharing it here because I think the interviewer did a great job capturing why I write. If you'd like to support my work on #GivingTuesday please do check out my Patreon. Also, support all Native journalists by donating to the Native American Journalists Association (of which I am a board member) here.


JACQUELINE KEELER (@JFKEELER)
DINÉ (NAVAJO) AND DAKOTA JOURNALIST

Who she is: “With a Diné mother and a Dakota father, my dual Indigenous cultural backgrounds have always provided me with an alternative way to view the world, both from a historical and a political standpoint. As I note in my piece ‘Thanksgiving and the Hidden Heart of Evil’: ‘As a child of a Native American family, you are part of a very select group of survivors, and I learned that my family possessed some inside knowledge of what really happened when those poor, tired masses [the Pilgrims] came to our homes.’”

What she does: “I write, think, and lecture. In 2017, I also edited a book titled ‘Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears,’ which compiles the works of Native poets, activists, teachers, writers, students, and public officials, and shares their passionate feelings about the Bears Ears.”

Why her work is important: “Writing in mainstream media allows me to put a Native perspective on newsworthy events in front of Americans who have never considered that point of view. It also allows me to intellectually address the issues Native people face and help our people process these experiences. We do not have a media that does this for us, so every article I write is putting ideas in the public sphere that would not normally be there.”

How she thinks society at large can better support Indigenous people: “Publish the writing of Native journalists and pay attention to the issue of sovereignty. Tribes are Indigenous sovereign nations within the United States; they have a federal relationship that includes treaties, which can only be entered into by sovereign nations. We are not a race or minority group — we are citizens of nations that precede and persist through the creation of the colonial state.”
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My First Newsletter 'Make America Native Again' or Happy MANA!

My First Newsletter 'Make America Native Again' or Happy MANA!


This is my first newsletter and it has been quite a learning experience. I have a lot to improve on next month!

Hope you all had a wonderful time with family and friends! Nizhónígo Tązhii Day! 🦃 #NoThankstaking Wopida!

An unusual amount of national media coverage of Native Americans surrounded the 2018 Midterms—which means it was not zero as is what we are accustomed to expect. From the North Dakota ID law to the election of the first two Native congresswomen, Native people were in the news.

Today you can read my analysis on the election in Truthout (see below). Just so you know, my working title was "In Partisan America, the Native American Vote Rules: How A Little Known Demographic Maintains the Balance of Power in Congress." I know, long. You can also hear the KBOO Wednesday Talk Radio show I co-hosted on Native American political and ethical leadership online. The show includes an interview I did with Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland when she was in Portland. On Thanksgiving Eve, I was on a panel Art & Power: Centering the Voices of Native Artists here at Portland State University. I closed out the evening reading aloud my take on Thanksgiving (see below).

But really, for me, the theme of this month was "Make America Native Again" or MANA for short (and you can buy the hats here). And that began in October as more cities across the country gave up the ghost on Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day. I examined this in a piece I wrote for Yes! Magazine: Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step and spoke to Klee Benally on KBOO. He helped organize protests in Flagstaff on Indigenous Peoples' Day. 13 are now facing misdemeanor charges.

In October, I also addressed Senator Elizabeth Warren's announcement of her DNA results (see below) and shared a byline for the first time with Kelly Hayes, (Menominee) for NBC News' THINK (link below). Then I did it again with Terri Hansen, (Ho-Chunk) for a post-election piece for Yes! Magazine “We Are Still Here”: Native Americans Win a Voice in Government. It was wonderful collaborating with both of these talented Native women. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

In November, Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears, a book I edited in 2017 is also having a moment. The book is featured by Powell's City of Books for Native American Heritage Month in their store here in Portland, Oregon (see photo below) with a number of other amazing Native-authored books. The bookstore's blog published an essay I wrote "Trump vs. Bears Ears: Five Tribes Take a Stand for Their Collective Histories on the Land, and the U.S. President Dismantles It." In it, I quoted from my famous (or infamous?) Thanksgiving essay "Thanksgiving and the Hidden Heart of Evil." This bit of writing has been published all over the world in many different languages over the years and was republished in The New York Times last year. Words, it seems, have a life of their own.

I have one more piece to finish writing that is a special request from my uncle, Sam Deloria. He takes issue with the way the word 'tribal' is being used by talking heads on tv when they are discussing the political divide in this country. The working title of my response is "It’s Not Tribalism, Let’s Call It What It is: Terror." And the even longer subtitle is "The American Dream Has Always Been About White Affirmative Action and Terror for Everyone Else."

We'll see if any editor is brave enough to carry it! In any case, happy MANA!

You can read the rest of the Make America Native Again newsletter here. And sign up here.


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From Columbus to Indigenous Peoples' Day: More Than Window Dressing?

From Columbus to Indigenous Peoples' Day: More Than Window Dressing?


Credit: Junco Canché

Today, Truthout published a piece I wrote called "Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step." I've been writing and reporting on the movement to get rid of Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day for five years. So, I thought it would be good to put some of that material in all one place.

We rightfully honor the work of so many Native activists across the country who have worked tirelessly for years to change a holiday celebrating a mass murderer, Columbus Day, to one honoring the survival of Indigenous people. But even as city after city (70-plus and counting!), changes the name and focus of the holiday, I also think it's important to listen to Indigenous people who are pushing for more and not to get complacent. In the article, I detail Diné activist Klee Benally concerns that without real change in how the Navajo Nation's largest "border town" treats Native people, Flagstaff's resolution proclaiming Indigenous Peoples' Day amounts to little more than window-dressing. The city never honored a Memo of Understanding made with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission meant to improve race relations.


I also shared part of a podcast interview I did last year with Los Angeles-based Diné activist Chrissie Castro after the L.A. city council voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day. She describes in great detail the series of meetings leading up to the vote that the city mandated between the Native and Italian American community. It's fascinating stuff. I really recommend a listen.




















However, even as L.A. celebrates its first Indigenous Peoples' Day, there are protests over a Columbus Statue the city refuses to take down. I will be interviewing local leader Joel Garcia about it on the monthly KBOO talk radio show I co-host this Wednesday. Klee Benally will also be our guest.

William S. Parkerson inciting the mob. Harper's Weekly, March 28, 1891.
And if you want a thorough history of Columbus Day, I suggest checking out my article on Medium called "Goodbye Columbus." I examine Columbus' diaries and atrocities and how Italians Americans created the holiday after the largest mass lynching in American history, of Italian American immigrants. They sought to put themselves in American history to protect themselves from murder and assault.


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Jacqueline Keeler
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