Thursday, April 14, 2016

AIM Central Texas Announces Boycott of 'Indian Country Today'--Calls for Free Press

I would like to thank AIM Central Texas for releasing this letter last night calling for a boycott of Indian Country Today Media Network, the largest Native American news site in the country.

The letter cites the termination of my relationship with ICTM and censorship as reasons for the boycott and says,
"We have since learned that ICTM is owned by Ray Halbritter who had previously gained control of the Oneida Tribe using unethical tactics. Jacqueline was fired by Chris Napolitano, the former editor of Playboy Magazine. The majority of the salaried positions at ICTM are held by non-natives in New York City and the Native reporters are columnists paid per story or not at all."
Here is the letter:



When I first found out that the editor-in-chief of the nation's largest Native American news site was non-Native (Chris Napolitano whose title is "Creative Director") I suspended judgement. I don't believe that only Native people can do a good job at anything--that would be a ridiculous proposition and swept aside those concerns willing to see what I can learn from this editor.  I Googled him and found that his primary experience as an editor was at Playboy Magazine from the mid-1990's to the early 2000's and read that he had received accolades for bringing in talented short story writers.

I now must admit I wonder how much editing mostly white male short story writers in Playboy magazine prepares one for editing the largest Native American newspaper in the United States serving some 566 federally-recognized tribes (and many more who are not federally-recognized) each with unique cultures and circumstances. It seems like an entirely different thing to me.

It became clear to me after awhile that all the editors, Native and non-Native deferred to him. He had final say on everything that appeared on the news site. And it also became apparent to me that he was directly under the direction of Oneida Nation CEO, Ray Halbritter. The Oneida Nation owns Indian Country Today having purchased it from its founder, the venerable Tim Giago, a Lakota newspaper man of note in Indian Country.

I soon saw that the editors and even business manager I was emailing were mostly non-Native and I could see on LinkedIn many were formerly of Playboy magazine. The office, once actually in Indian Country in South Dakota under Giago, was now ensconced in New York City, far from most of the bulk of the remaining large Native reservations and communities in the West.

When I first started in 2013 there were two still two Native editors. One an opinions editor who is extremely frail and was too sick to work perhaps half the time I wrote for them and is nearing retirement. That was perhaps for the best, as I had to demand he stop editing my editorials after he rewrote one of my pieces as a rage-filled diatribe and published it under my byline without my consenting to the extreme edit. I demanded he take it down and he literally taunted me over email and I forwarded these to Napolitano who finally took down the piece. I published it as it was meant to be here: Big Mac and the Redsk*ns: On Leadership and Sovereignty, Fumble and Fame. His version is still at Indianz.com which re-posts articles from other Native publications. His behavior was entirely unethical.

The other is, I believe, the only Native woman on staff at Indian Country Today. She is also nearing retirement and is not an active editor. She oversees special publications handed out at conventions paid for by wealthy casino tribes and attends gala dinners to represent the news site. A non-Native writer who went to the ICTM offices in New York City said the white staff referred to her as their "figurehead".

The social media accounts are (according to emails I had with an editor) run from the New York City office and overseen by a non-Native editor there.

The staff consists of these editors in the New York City office, and now, a couple of new male Native editors who appear to be more "at large" while the main staff do the nuts and bolts work. All pieces signed "ICTM Staff" are written by the New York City staff.

Then when I began referring other Native writers to Indian Country Today I began hearing back they were not paid. I urged them to invoice and gave them what I had been told were the going rates. One who invoiced received a phone call from the opinions editor who berating him and tried to intimidate him into rescinding the invoice. The writer held strong and would not rescind the invoice and was finally paid. Another had submitted more than one article and did not know she could be paid, I urged her to invoice. She did and was finally paid (initially ICTM refused to pay for her first piece). These experiences were troubling to me.

Since I've come forward with my concerns many Native contributors have messaged me to say they had not been paid at all and were unaware they could be.

Recently, ICTM has come out with articles obliquely addressing my concerns. Two featured Native women writers of Indian Country Today their faces arranged in Brady Bunch collages. None of these writers are on staff and none are salaried. It didn't occur to me but when I spoke to another Native woman writer she told me many Native women journalists she spoke to were insulted by the first article. None of the women were journalists or trained as journalists. They were all commentators.

In today's media climate the percentage of journalists of color is falling in newsrooms around the country. In The Investigative Fund's announcement of the new Ida B. Wells Fellowship they note,
"People of color constitute less than 13 percent of all newsroom jobs, according to an annual survey by the American Society of Newsroom Editors, and 10 percent of supervisors; their presence is even smaller on investigative teams. 
Women represent 37 percent of newsroom jobs and 35 percent of supervisors. 
Survey data indicates that fewer than 10 percent of journalists come from a working class background."

What is sad is that these numbers are just as bad--if not worse--over the past several years at one of Native America's largest news sites' newsroom. A news site that gets more than 1.8 million unique visitors per day. Those numbers outstrip any of their competitors. And I can't help but feel they are running on the fumes of what Indian Country Today used to be, when it was a real newspaper that my family used to get in the mail when I was growing up with news from home and that filled us with such pride. It's these memories that made me want to get my byline there in the first place.

And beyond the issue of equality in the workplace there is the issue of the lack of an independent and free press in Indian Country. Many tribal papers operate under the thumb of tribal government and Indian Country Today Media is no different. Ray Halbritter has not instituted any firewall between himself and the news site. Editors I spoke to, particularly, Chris Napolitano cited Halbritter's wishes constantly. One editor even told me Halbritter refuses to pay legal fees for his writers so they cannot do real investigative work at all.

More disturbingly, when I interviewed Oneida Nation dissidents who claim Halbritter took over their government, they said his main tool in establishing his rule was disenrollment. In fact one said there is, "horrible horrible corruption going on" and that "disenrollment started here in Oneida I know it did."

Disenrollment is a serious issue going on in Indian Country today. The kind of reporting required to investigate such allegations, however, is nearly non-existent. I was repeatedly told by Oneida and other members of the Iroquois Confederacy (of which Oneida is a part) that it would be very dangerous to my own well-being to do on-the-ground journalism in New York state concerning these accusations against Halbritter. I was told that he is a dangerous man and a billionaire who buys off his opposition and has even imprisoned dissident tribal members in a federal prison he contracts to in Pennsylvania. His all non-Native Oneida tribal police force are also federally deputized. This video shows tribal members who opposed him having their homes destroyed in a manner reminiscent of Palestinian homes by the Israeli government.

Halbritter claimed he destroyed their homes because they were not up to code but tribal members claimed he required they sign a loyalty oath to him in order to receive new homes. When they refused to sign, they were offered Section 8 housing far from the reservation in a dangerous neighborhood in Syracuse.

The dissident I spoke to said, "There’s nothing nation--there’s no community it’s totally destroyed. It’s horrible. People are afraid to talk to each other."

My source, who asked their identity be kept secret because they claimed they feared retaliation, also claimed that the few homes left on "32"--the 32 acres that was all the land left to the tribe before the casino was built, are patrolled every 15 minutes by Halbritter's hired non-Native police force.

There are many Haudenosaunee writers who have written about Halbritter's alleged authoritarian rule. Notably, John Kane in March at his blog "Let's Talk Native" where he claims, "Halbritter used some of the influential Onondaga icons to seize power as the sole leader of the "Oneida Indian Nation (OIN) of New York" back in the late 1980s. He then rewrote Oneida customs by crafting his official enrollment list of Oneidas (that list includes "Oneidas in good standing" and those who aren't). Along with his new list was his new list of enrollment requirements which include…, you guessed it, blood quantum."

An editor of Indian Country Today responded in the comments saying, "You offer no tangible examples, just a series of leftist statements aimed at no one other than Halbritter."

Also, Doug George, founder of the historic Native newspaper Aweksasne Notes, wrote for another Native newspaper News From Indian Country about Halbritter's reputed bungling of Oneida Nation land claims (he also lays blame at other Haudenosaunee leaders) in article titled "Factionalism Destroys Our Land Claims" where he says, "Skennenrahowi bundle of arrows was unraveled by Arthur Raymond Halbritter of the Oneida Nation of New York." His wife's mother was the clan mother Maisie Shenandoah who Halbritter reportedly had "her voice taken" before he dismantled the traditional clan system of government led by clan mothers and instituted his own "men's council."

Some of this has been covered by Halbritter's enemies on the Native American mascot issue. Halbritter has taken a leading role funding Change The Mascot and demand the Washington NFL team change their mascot from the "Redsk*ns." His activism has been dogged by claims that his mascot-fighting is a cover for his allegedly brutal takeover of his tribe. An article at the conservative American Thinker with a lurid headline, "Race-Baiting Oneida Nation Leader Has Problems of His Own" recounts Halbritter's rise to power. These articles are often discounted by Native readers because of the vitriol towards misappropriation also voiced in these takedowns. However, none of the Haudenosaunee I have interviewed disagree with the descriptions in this American Thinker piece as to the details describing how Halbritter took over the Oneida Nation in New York.

Yet we will never know if any of these serious allegations are true about Ray Halbritter or countless other tribes across the country now facing an epidemic of disenrollment because we lack an independent free press to investigate them on the ground.

This is necessary because disenrollment is seriously undermining the hard-won gains towards sovereignty won in the 1970's. Disenrollment is often used to silence opposition or to simply get rid of other families profit (such as per capita payments) or for payback. The fight against disenrollment even has its own hashtag #StopDisenrollment.

After hours of interviews with Iroquois people who claimed Halbritter harmed them and destroyed their dream of a nation, I posted this on Facebook. My own call for a truly free and independent press for our people:



And to top this all off (as if what is above is not enough) I received information regarding Ray Halbritter's participation in the Karl May Festival in Germany that is put on by German hobbyist groups who camp out as "Indians" and call themselves Indianers. This festival is put on by the Karl May Museum which has refused calls by Native American activists to return scalps belonging to the Ojibway people. Halbritter is the headliner at this year's event and will be featured in an event moderated by well-known German author and cultural appropriator Kerstin Groeper, identified on the program as an "Indian writer."

"Kerstin Groeper is a German woman who writes novels about natives," Red Hair Crow told me. He wrote extensively for ICTM about the Karl May Museum's holding of Native scalps. "Very, very stereotypical bad ones, culturally appropriating and is considered an 'expert'. Basically the German JK Rowling, but far worse and longer at it."

In a strange contrast, many of Halbritter's freelance Native writers are wonderful and respected voices on the issue of cultural appropriation.

Hair Crow, who lives in Germany, says that Halbritter is treated like a celebrity in Germany and his attendance is interpreted as supporting the cultural appropriation. He claims that after he questioned ICTM editors about Halbritter's activities they stopped accepting his articles. He also claims, "they edited/inserted advertisements/promos for Halbritter & certain Oneida interests in Germany as if I wrote it and without my permission. I was furious and we had it out over it, but it had been published. Halbritter is very problematic here because he supports and is in league with events like the Karl May Festival, and very rich hobbyists clubs who are some of the worst offenders. In cooperation with the NAAoG (Native American Association of Germany), we continue efforts to educate and inform about any who use "nativeness" for profit. Hobbyists use Halbritter's suppport and friendship as validation to excuse their activities."

All this boils down to one thing: Native people need an independent press nationwide and accountability in hiring. We do not have it now--not even in our largest news site.


To revisit why my relationship with Indian Country Today was terminated please see my blog at TiyospayeNow: Fired by Indian Country Today--Native Journalist Silenced


Monday, April 11, 2016

Speaking Truth To Power for a Real Native Free Press

My Great-Aunt Nancy Bighorse

I posted this today on Facebook and Twitter:


Thank you to everyone for your support. It's scary--speaking truth to power--but it is the only path that I can do. I'm...
Posted by Jacqueline Keeler on Monday, April 11, 2016



And it's true. It is scary. But I am a Kinyaa'aanii and this is what we do. Kinyaa'aanii is my Navajo clan and the name means Towering House People. It is said by some to be the original clan of our people. We were created from the heart of Changing Woman (Asdzáá nádleehé) and are often called the "leadership clan." Many a time my shimá sání (my maternal grandmother from whom I get my clan) would boldly lead the charge in her community--demanding safe drinking water and schools. Her voice was strong and forthright in chapter house meetings. Coming from a matrilineal culture where women owned the land and animals (these things passed down matrilineally through the clan) there was no sense of "knowing her place" as an inferior sex. Certainly, there was a collaborative spirit to the work that needed to be done (and stories like the one about the separation of men and women emphasize how important it is that we work together) but this did not mean Diné women were nothing less than direct in how they addressed the needs of their community and fearless about speaking out. We are a people who do not live cheek by jowl with one another and so our people, basically a ranching people, were not as constrained towards each other as those who lived in village situations. There is an independence in the land and a self-confidence that comes from being the one who raises the sheep and owns them, too.  I've been told that to get a divorce all a woman had to do was put her husband's saddle outside the hogan door. He didn't own the horse--she did. He didn't own the children, they were of her clan. He did own his jewelry and his saddle, though.

Take some time and view these Youtube videos (Bitter Water Clip 3, Bitter Water Clip 4--love this one and Bitter Water Clip 7) of traditional Navajo women who resisted Relocation from their herds and their way of life. You will see women who are far more outspoken and self-possessed (and yes, proud) than perhaps white women of their generation were. These are the women who made me who I am: Ákót'éego diné asdzáán nishłį́.




Sunday, April 10, 2016

Indigenous Poetry Heals All

I find myself reading poetry for inspiration in difficult times. I  just re-read Joy Harjo's (Muscogee Creek) about the murdered American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Aquash (Mi'kmaq). Recently, I have been thoroughly enjoying reading new Oregon Poet Laureate Elizabeth Woody (Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama).

Anna Mae with her daughters

I've interviewed Anna Mae Aquash's daughter, Denise Pictou Maloney and her loss of her mother is often on my mind. Her tragic death hurts my soul, I cannot forget her mother. She stood for the people and the ideals of what the movement was supposed to mean and she was killed for it. So many of our young Native people have lost their parents to pain...and to the struggle. Both to the cruelty of the colonial system we find ourselves in and to the self-hatred it has planted within ourselves. We need healing as a people and it is with that in mind I read Joy Harjo's poem about Anna Mae from In Mad Love and War.


For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Whose Spirit Is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live)


By Joy Harjo

Beneath a sky blurred with mist and wind,
I am amazed as I watch the violet 
heads of crocuses erupt from the stiff earth
after dying for a season,
as I have watched my own dark head
appear each morning after entering
the next world to come back to this one,
amazed.
It is the way in the natural world to understand the place
the ghost dancers named
after the heart breaking destruction.
Anna Mae,
everything and nothing changes.
You are the shimmering young woman
who found her voice,
when you were warned to be silent, or have your body cut away
from you like an elegant weed.
You are the one whose spirit is present in the dappled stars.
(They prance and lope like colored horses who stay with us
through the streets of these steely cities. And I have seen them
nuzzling the frozen bodies of tattered drunks
on the corner.)
This morning when the last star is dimming
and the busses grind toward
the middle of the city, I know it is ten years since they buried you
the second time in Lakota, a language that could
free you.
I heard about it in Oklahoma, or New Mexico,
how the wind howled and pulled everything down
in righteous anger.
(It was the women who told me) and we understood wordlessly
the ripe meaning of your murder.
As I understand ten years later after the slow changing
of the seasons
that we have just begun to touch
the dazzling whirlwind of our anger,
we have just begun to perceive the amazed world the ghost dancers
entered
crazily, beautifully.


And Elizabeth Woody from Luminaries of the Humble because we need to shine a light when it is needed and as her the richness of her descriptions evoke even the humble can be beautiful when revealed:


Illumination


By Elizabeth Woody

The irresistible and benevolent light
brushes through the angel-wing begonias,
the clippings of ruddy ears for the living room.
Intimate motes, debris of grounded, forlorn walks,
speckle through the vitreous quality of blush.
As fluid lulls turn like trout backs, azure-tipped fins
oscillate in the shallows, the clear floating
is dizziness.

Tender events are meeting halves and wholes of affinity,
the recurrence of whimsy and parallel streams
flush away the blockage of malaise.
Incessant gratitude, pliable kindness smolders
in the husk of these sweet accumulations:
abalone shells, the thoughtful carvings from friends,
the stone of another’s pocket, the photo of mystified
moon over water, the smiles of worn chairs.

Austere hopes find pleasure in lately cherished flowers.
The blooms are articulate deluge, hues of delicacy.
Petals parted dim renderings, the viable imprint
of the blood-hot beam of light with reformed courage.
Beveling the finish to suppression, the blade of choice
brings the flourish of dividing while adequately doubling
worth by two. Multiplying. The luminescent burning of space.
The heat is a domicile as abandoned as red roses budding
their ascension from stem.

The sun has its own drum contenting itself with the rose
heart it takes into continual rumbling. The connection
of surface and hand. The great head of dark clouds finds
its own place of unraveled repercussions and disruption,
elsewhere, over the tall, staunch mountains of indemnity.



Saturday, April 09, 2016

Fired by Indian Country Today--Native Journalist Silenced

My editorial on Navajo hair was one of the most popular ever posted on Indian Country Today.

I've been fired from Indian Country Today for complaining about their Bomani Jones coverage and writing about Chase Iron Eyes's compromised candidacy.

Here's what I wrote in response:

Chris, 
My voice in Indian Country is very well-respected and the support I have received for my message—and my coverage—on these issues has been wide-ranging and deep. Even for my statements about compromised Chase Iron Eyes' candidacy. It is in the best interest of Native people to have candidates who are not burdened by secrets and can be controlled by these secrets by those that do not have our best interests at heart. As a Congressional candidate, Iron Eyes was well aware of his situation but chose to proceed regardless. 
I thank Indian Country Today for all the support over the years, but I realize the goals of such a media organization are different than mine as a Native woman, activist and writer.
My coverage on the Bundy takeover of Malheur was widely quoted in the mainstream press for the Native American perspective .

I apologize if the things I said about the Bomani Jones coverage were upsetting to anyone, but a Native American publication should include Native voices in its coverage—especially when it is about a Native American issue. I believe (and I see we disagree on this) that the role of a Native American publication is to make sure Native perspectives are promoted into the “mainstream media” and are heard by all Americans and clearly understood. This is necessary, because what other Americans think about us matters deeply to our future well-being.  
Sincerely,
Jacqueline Keeler

My article about the invisibility of Native Americans--even in media coverage of issues that pertain to us.

Here is my Patreon account to support a new Native journalism for Indian Country:


Jacqueline Keeler is creating A new Native American journalism | Patreon

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Why Character Matters in Native American Leaders

On Facebook I shared this photo of my dad with the following caption:

My dad always said in traditional Dakota culture any man who tried to garner support--"run for office" if you...
Posted by Jacqueline Keeler on Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Politics, the way it's constructed, it attracts a certain type and that's across the board--all creeds, all cultures. To counteract this we should be more actively recruiting the sort of person who would not push themselves to the forefront. This was the kind that in our traditional Dakota/Lakota societies that would be chosen.

My father was once chosen this way. I remember at an election for the White Buffalo Council in Denver, my dad stood in the back of the room. His was his usual silent, introspective self, leaning against the wall, surveying the crowd deep in his own thoughts. And I suppose for our Indian people still waters run deep because the next thing we knew my dad had been elected as Vice Chair by the entire crown before us without even running.

As a child, this stayed with me. My father was in character so different than the candidate who offers himself up and glad-hands his way to power.

Indeed, politics attracts the entitled. Research shows less qualified male candidates are more likely to put themselves forward to run than more qualified female candidates. The whole process of becoming a candidate is so tied to the ego of the individual that the system elevates those that feel particularly entitled to power.

As happens on Facebook, a relative, my grandmother's cousin Sam Deloria gave me some feedback on my perhaps too romantic rendering of our Dakota culture. I thought the exchange is worth sharing:

Sam Deloria: In small social units it is easier to preserve this approach, but pretty hard in larger societies, where we don't really know the people. and where the media seem to be taking sides. 
Jacqueline Keeler: I think that's what I'm trying to figure out--a scalable approximation. 
Sam Deloria: A lot of the things I read seem to be to miss the importance of what can be done in smaller societies that can't be done in larger ones. Our constant bragging about ourselves overlook that we probably couldn't sustain those systems if we had larger, massive social units.
Jacqueline Keeler: I wonder sometimes if Cahokia was a cautionary tale. 
Sam Deloria: I suppose there is real scholarship on this issue that I am ignorant about. 
Jacqueline Keeler: That was partly said in jest. But I do think our traditional social order can provide insights that we cannot perceive otherwise. These are starting points for action not simply an end road to romanticism.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Chase Iron Eyes - Candidate With A Checkered Past

Chase Iron Eyes, political candidate
 It was reported this week that North Dakota candidate for U.S. Congress Chase Iron Eyes has a felony conviction (click her to read the conviction UNITED STATES v. IRON EYES) that he had not discussed publicly before announcing his candidacy.

Yesterday, he addressed the conviction in his acceptance speech for the Democratic-NPL Party’s endorsement for U.S. House claiming he had turned his life around saying, “I became a family man and I realized that the powers of creation were giving me a second chance.”


However, in December a colleague wrote a post alleging an affair with Iron Eyes on the Last Real Indians Tumblr account that was later deactivated. A compromising photograph was also shared. The blog and the photo have been reblogged many times on Tumblr and are still searchable as of today.

Iron Eyes has asserted over social media that his colleague was simply infatuated and is a scorned woman. I am waiting for the Democratic-NPL Party to comment on these allegations.

I have also received allegations of fundraising through IndieGogo that the community felt never reached them. A "Heating the Rez” fundraiser raised over $60,000 but elders claim they never received the promised stoves. Twenty stoves were reportedly installed, but many in the community still feel it is too few considering the amount raised. They have also complained that Iron Eyes told them to "F-off" when asked for a financial accounting and that he claimed he was not required to give them an accounting because the fundraising was done through IndieGogo.

I starting investigating the "Heating the Rez" financials in June and am waiting for the latest IRS filings by Mr. Iron Eyes' nonprofit fiscal sponsors. I will report more at that time.



UPDATE: 04/06/16


I spoke yesterday to a blogger named Rob Port who called me after he had interviewed Chase Iron Eyes about the LRI Tumblr post. Chase had brought my name up in the interview claiming I was the one who had told Port about the Tumblr. Port had no idea who I was. He said his email was full of messages from folks relaying this scandal to him. I had emailed Port about an article he had done about "Heating the Rez" to see if he had been able to get ahold of any financial information about the project. He found my email and contacted me.

Port told me that the candidate had denied ever having an affair with his colleague. I then forwarded him a screen capture of a Facebook post Iron Eyes had done in response to the Tumblr. This is from the Facebook account Chase Iron Eyes deleted before announcing his candidacy. Chase is in the Native American world a social media celebrity so his posts are followed and liked and, obviously, preserved. In the post he admits to the affair--albeit as a cyber one. But this is in direct contradiction to what he told Port. Iron Eyes had mistakenly thought that since he deleted his Facebook account he could change the narrative and not be caught doing so. Port called me back and said Chase confirmed this was his Facebook account and he admitted to the online affair.

On Monday night, I spoke to someone very close to Chase Iron Eye's colleague who also confirmed the affair. This individual said that the colleague's husband had met Chase when he came to their reservation looking for a job. The husband tried to get Iron Eyes a job as the tribal attorney but the candidate was denied the position because of his felony. They claim "Last Real Indians" was his colleague's idea and she invited Chase to help her with starting the website after his job disappointment. Given that he'd gone to their reservation and worked closely with the husband and then with the wife for years, it is quite a feat he managed to never meet this colleague in person. In 2011, the husband's father died of cancer. Then, the husband also discovered he had cancer. It was shortly after this her husband claims he found texts from Iron Eyes to his wife and divorce followed.






Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Thoughts on Navajo Code Talkers' Endorsement of Redsk*ns Team Name

Navajo Code Talkers being honored at a Washington Redsk*ns game in November 2013.

I've had the good fortune of being asked to be an editor at The Good Man Project a site I've been admiring for some time now. Joanna Schroeder the Executive Editor brought me on and I am so excited to share the work of Native writers and thinkers with a larger audience.

Here is my first longer piece for them about the recent endorsement by the Navajo Code Talkers Association of the Washington Redsk*ns team name. An unfortunate and sad chapter for the venerable association.

When I saw Peter MacDonald on television, still looking dapper and handsome at age 85 in a jaunty red scarf and Navajo Code Talker yellow velvet shirt standing on the sidelines of the Washington Redsk*ns game the week of Thanksgiving I was shocked, but not surprised. He was with three other Navajo Code Talkers, and yet in all the mainstream press coverage of the event no one mentioned he was the former Navajo Nation Chairman, serving an unprecedented four terms from 1971 to 1989 before being convicted on federal racketeering and fraud charges. “Big Mac” as he was known on the Navajo Nation, spent 8 years in federal prison before finally receiving a pardon by President Clinton in 2001. Recently, news has come out that he may have acted unethically in his role as President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association; closing bank accounts, passing Resolutions that place all power with himself in meetings and endorsing the Washington Redsk*ns name in a meeting where only 7 of the 40 living Code Talkers were present.
He was our Navajo Nixon, and was once again in the national news and yet, I was amazed that the same publications–like the New York Times–who once covered his every move as Navajo Nation Chairman, seemed to have completely forgotten who he was. In every media mention he was described only as the Navajo Code Talkers Association President and nothing more.
Family members of the Code Talkers are outraged. Ron Kinsel, son of Code Talker John Kinsel, told Indian Country Today Media Network that his dad did not approve of the endorsement or how the vote was conducted. “It was done without the association’s awareness. They were trying to pass it without a quorum.”
The Facebook responses on the Navajo Code Talkers’ page were more to the point:
“People are crying. I almost threw up when I read it.”
“Sad day… so much for honor.”
“Big Mac” as he was known on the Navajo Nation played a big part in my childhood. Shimaasaani (my maternal grandmother) was a huge Peter MacDonald supporter. My mother and her siblings would shake their heads when he would come to Cameron, Arizona on the reservation and call on my grandmother whom he called auntie and in a fit of “MacDonaldmania” she would sell off yet more cattle to support his latest campaign.
To read the rest:

Big Mac and the Redsk*ns: On Leadership and Sovereignty, Fumble and Fame