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Fire Thunder Running For President Again

Tom Giago, founder of Indian Country Today wrote a strong response to the present situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation where the tribal president was impeached for taking a stand against the state of South Dakota's new strigent anti-abortion law. He is himself an Oglala tribal member.
"Hopefully some candidates fed up with the hypocrisy and lethargy of the present tribal council will prevail and bring some semblance of order back to a once proud tribal council. At a time when the Lakota people of the Oglala Sioux Tribe needed, nay demanded, strong, honest and decent leadership, this council became so enamored of its own power that it threw out all of the rules of good conduct and sank into a mud puddle of indecision and a viciousness unseen since the 1970s.

By first suspending and then impeaching the first woman ever elected to serve as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cecilia Fire Thunder, and doing these dirty deeds while she was not even present or was never given the opportunity to face her accusers, this tribal council has brought great shame upon itself and tarnished those members of this same council that did not go along with its shameful acts of self-indulgence.

The list of presidential candidates includes a few members of this disgraced council apparently hoping to win the presidency in order to carry on their chicanery on a higher level. "
He goes on to note that Cecelia Fire Thunder, knowing that she will not get a fair hearing about the legality of the impeachment proceedings is concentrating her efforts on getting re-elected. It is a shame that she has not been allowed to represent the people who elected her as president due to the machinations of the council. "Shameful acts of self-indulgence?" I could think of stronger words . . .

And one wonders, if the democratically-elected leader of a nation could be so easily sidelined, how strong is the democratic process? I mean, Clinton endured impeachment proceedings, but they were not done behind his back and with no recourse through the courts. And his presidency was not put into deep freeze until the next election. The Republicans tried to subvert the electoral process, but failed. Now they focus on fixing the elections through tampering with Diabold electronic voting machines. Will Peters and his crew won't have to do that, since the Oglala tribal democratic system is heavily weighted in their favor. And the similarity of their tactics to that of the neoconservative Republicans is striking as they have received so much support from the religious right in their anti-abortion/pro-life stance.

The judicial committee is made up of council members who initiated impeachment proceedings against her. They have yet to appoint a tribal judge for her case and it seems, will not before the elections in November. There are only two judges on the Oglala reservation and one has already recused herself from the case. So, the appointment should be obvious, but has not been done. The conflict of interest of some of the judicial committee members calls into question the undue influence of the council on the tribal courts.

Now, acting tribal president and presidential candidate Alex White Plume, a traditionalist, has proposed a law that would forbid members of the tribe from running for president who do not speak their language. His take on the tug of war between the council and the president that landed him in the presidency is as follows:
I know. I came to a realization that we created all these problems by using the English language because that's the general rule of thumb; now we are trying to solve the problems using the same language, and it's not working. So my feelings have to use a different language to solve those problems, this is the only way this can happen.
Someone tell White Plume (someone fluent in Lakota) that corruption and the venality of politicians is the same in any language. So how will they enforce the rule? Not many fluent in Lakota anymore-- how to explain the disenfranchisement of such a large number of Oglala? There are about 18,000 Oglala, 3,000 self-identified as Lakota-speaking. In the entire hemisphere there are only 14,000 Lakota speakers (that's including Canada). In a previous post I noted that the latest census numbers for Sioux was 120,000 (not including Canada, but including Nakota and Dakota). In Pine Ridge, that leaves about 16 per cent of the population to rule the rest. Probably less than that since the number is self-reported and of various abilities. Who knows how many would pass a Lakota fluency test if required for the Presidency?

I'm all for learning the language. I've actually made more headway learning Nakota than Navajo, but the price the tribe would pay in a dearth of qualified candidates makes the trade-off unreasonable. Or is White Plume using a cultural issue that should unify the people to divide the electorate and eliminate the competition? If so, it is a politically clumsy move and solves nothing. Take for example the Navajo tribe, which has had president after president who speaks Navajo fluently. I have not seen one that seems uniquely gifted to deal with the issues at hand. If it were not for the political necessity to give speeches in Navajo (most of the elderly electorate does not speak English and they vote at very high rates), I don't know if it would be absolutely necessary. I mean it's preferable, but good leadership is a combination of many things. Mainly the ability to form coalitions, a working governmental structure, the power to negotiate relationships with foreign entities, economic policy planning, management of social services and education, planning and, of course, "the vision thing". If a Lakota speaker shows signs of being a particularly promising leader people will notice. It doesn't matter if non-Lakota speaking Oglala are running against her.

In a perfect world, all Oglala would speak Lakota, but today, here and now, I think the Oglala people need the very best leadership and need to spread the net as wide as they can to find those leaders. Even 18,000 is not a lot to choose from. And that may require considering some off reservation-raised, non-Lakota speaking Oglala. I mean, you can learn a language, but the qualities that make a great leader are nebulous and rare-- as history has shown us over and over again. I suppose a lot of Lakota male traditionalists cloaked in the superiority of their purity are probably choking on their tunspina, oh, I mean tunspila right now.

Anyway, the problem in Pine Ridge at hand is not language. Language is something we can agree upon. The problem is a crisis in ethics and civil rights. I think White Plume's analysis of the situation is frighteningly flawed. Strengthen the separation of powers and a recommitment to civil rights and law. These are the answers in any language.

In his article entitled "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" Giago goes on to say,
Former Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, told Fire Thunder two weeks ago to forget trying to get a fair hearing from the present tribal council and judiciary, but instead to concentrate on her efforts to get re-elected. I agree. There is an old saying that is senseless to kick a dead horse and that is where Fire Thunder’s efforts to get re-instated now rest. With only two months left to campaign it will take all of her will power and persuasion to re-enforce minds and to clear her good name.

Every member of the tribe who cast ballots for the current members of the tribal council should re-examine the reasons they supported those candidates. They should be asking themselves the following question: What did those people now serving on the tribal council accomplish for them and their districts in the past two years? And more important, what did they accomplish for the good of the Oglala Sioux Tribe?

If this sounds like I am supporting any single candidate it is not intended that way. I am a strong believer in justice and the way this council used its power to defraud the legal president of the OST, Ms. Fire Thunder, draws my ire. She did nothing that was deserving of this harsh and unfair treatment. As I said in a previous column, she was punished for her thoughts instead of her deeds.

But if every member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe would take an open-minded look at the things she did accomplish while under siege, I think they would be sufficiently impressed to re-consider her position as president.
I agree!
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War Widow To Bush: "You're Here To Serve The People. And The People Are Not Being Served With This War."

I just saw this at TPMCafe by Greg Sargent:
I just got off the phone with Hildi Halley, a woman from Maine whose husband is a fallen soldier. Yesterday President Bush met with her privately, and news of their meeting was reported in a local Maine paper, the Kennebec Journal. The paper shared few details of the meeting, saying simply that Halley objected to Bush's policies and that she said Bush responded that there was no point in them having a 'philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war.'

But Halley has just given me a much more detailed account of her meeting with Bush. She told me that she went much farther in her criticism of the President, telling him directly that he was 'responsible' for the deaths of American soldiers and that as a 'Christian man,' he should recognize that he's 'made a mistake' and that it was his 'responsibility to end this.' She recounted to me that she was 'very direct,' telling Bush: 'As President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war.'

Sargent goes on to say that she was actually sitting knee to knee with Bush and he actually cried with her and appeared moved. Although Halley says, "I feel he responded to me emotionally. I don't know if that's going to change policy."
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Lovejoy picks Phelps; VP candidates introduced

In the Gallup Independent they reported that Lynda Lovejoy, the first Navajo woman to run for the Presidency has picked her running mate, Walter Phelps, a member of Congressman Rick Renzi's staff. The congressman's district in Arizona has the largest number of Native American voters of any district in the country. Renzi has shown a desire to work with tribes by opening Congressional offices in the capitals of the Navajo Nation, White Moutain Apache, and San Carlos Apache Reservations. A first for a Congressman from this district.

I checked out Lovejoy's website. It's pretty simple. Can anyone out there help her develop a better one? She deserves something more than this!
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Census Bureau update says 2.4 million Indians

Part of the recent 10% growth per year of Native Americans in the United States, my two little ones. Their tribe? The Nava-Sioux-Mohawkian-Seneca-Tuscarora-Cayuga one.

At the article Census Bureau update provides look at Indian Country caught my eye. It says there are 2.4 million Indian people counted. 4.2 million if you count mixed-race Native Americans, although, why are we (I am 13/16th's American Indian) counted separately? Or are you only counted separately if you mark two boxes? Being 3/16th's European ancestry means I generally don't do that, but what the heck? It says that the four largest tribal affiliations named were: Cherokee (310,000), Navajo (294,000), and Sioux (120,000), and Ojibwe (115,00). I had no idea there were so many Ojibwe. I know a lot of Navajos get mad that they have lost their place as "the largest tribe" to the recent increase in Cherokee Nation enrollments. Many Americans have been tracing their lineage and taking greater pride in their Indian ancestry (it's no longer the skeleton in the closet). Consequently, enrollment in most of the Five Civilized Tribes does not require blood quantums which is enlightened for this day and age we live in. I think all tribes should do that. We're not prized poodles now are we? We're people. We mix. Although, Navajos still have far and away the most tribal members who speak their own language (nearly half of all Native language speakers are Navajo) as a first language. But let's hope someday we can all have that again. Even me. My Navajo is a source of constant humor to my relatives.

Navajo numbers may also be diminished by Navajo unwillingness to be counted. My friend Rob Nez, who worked as a Census worker on the rez was greeted by a shotgun when he tried to count some homes out in the middle of nowhere. So, he just guessed how many people were there. But still, being Navajo and Sioux, I have to say that's a lot of relatives! Perhaps, not as many as my husband's Kelly clan from County Claire, Ireland, but close! The Kelly's, now that's one big tribe!
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6 Native Nations, and None Have a Word for 'Suburbia'

I found this article in the paper of record, the New York Times as my children-- the great-grandchildren of the last traditionally-elected chief of the Six Nations Mohawk Bear Clan, sipped their iced, whipped creme-topped chocolate milks at Starbucks. All this in the middle of a carefully constructed "New Urbanist" environment where we live, called Orenco Station, recently chosen as Best New Burb in the country by Sunset Magazine.
CALEDONIA, Ontario, Aug. 10 — Blame it on the American Revolution.

The Six Nations Reserve is located in southern Ontario.

At the time, six Indian tribes that had lived for centuries in what is now upstate New York sided with the British Crown, lost and were forced from their lands. For their troubles, however, Britain granted them a paradise rich in moose and deer, across the new border, in southern Ontario.

Today the game are largely gone. The wilderness has been transformed into suburban sprawl. The once pristine lands of the so-called Six Nations Reserve have been whittled away.

This year, one more housing development on the edge of town was one too many, and the Native Canadians decided to make a stand.

Since February, hundreds have blockaded roads, set bonfires, confronted the police with bags of rocks and lacrosse sticks, cut the maple leaf out of a Canadian flag and refused to obey court orders to vacate. During the height of tensions, a van was driven into a power station and set on fire, leaving residents in the dark for days.

Since February, hundreds have blockaded roads, set bonfires, confronted the police with bags of rocks and lacrosse sticks, cut the maple leaf out of a Canadian flag and refused to obey court orders to vacate. During the height of tensions, a van was driven into a power station and set on fire, leaving residents in the dark for days.

And it's true. I was shocked when I went to the reserve for my husband's grandmother's funeral. Just down the road was a suburban bedroom community. Even as we slept at The Bear's Inn, a lovely place run by my husband's cousins on the farm of his great-grandparents, down the road the bucolic lifestyle ended. I didn't really realize what this meant at the time.
“We had a tremendous amount of housing growth in recent years,” Mr. Clark said. “But that’s come to a complete stop. That occupation is creating a lot of economic hardships in Caledonia.”

The police conducted a raid on the protesters in April, but they retreated when waves of Native Canadians arrived to reinforce the occupation.

“They really did us a favor,” Mrs. Hill said of the raid. “That’s when internal politics were put aside and everyone came together.”

The occupied land covers 100 acres among tens of thousands taken over by the government from the Native Canadians in the 19th century after a disagreement that lasted decades over whether the Native Canadians had the right to sell their land to British settlers.

The Native Canadians filed a lawsuit over the land in 1995, on behalf of the Six Nations: the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora. But, tired of waiting while housing developments encroached on the land, they took matters into their own hands.

A younger generation of Native Canadians has led a resurgence of indigenous culture across the country. Unlike many of their parents and grandparents, these Native Canadians did not attend residential schools, where Native Canadian students were often hit with a strap for speaking their own languages. Entire generations of culture were submerged.

The revival has not only restored pride; it has also opened old wounds over how the British and, later, Canadian governments negotiated land deals with chiefs.

In one such deal, chiefs had signed a document that the British interpreted as surrendering the land where Toronto now sits, but it was later disclosed that the chiefs had signed a blank piece of paper.

The raid, here, this is of course, "all the news that's fit to print" is rather euphemistically described here. To get a fuller account, of course, you must read the Indigenous Press (in this case, Indian Country Today).
OHSWEKEN, Ontario - More than 1,000 residents of Canada's Six Nations Reserve rushed to the site of a standoff between Native protesters and the Ontario Provincial Police during the early hours of April 20 after an armed police raid resulted in 10 arrests and several hospitalizations.

According to one report, two of the hospitalized were non-Native supporters of the protest. About 15 protesters were sleeping at the ''reclamation site'' when a caravan of at least eight police vehicles raided and made arrests.

According to the TV report, police were armed with drawn guns, Taser devices and tear gas, although the weapons were not used.

Protesters at the contested construction site regrouped and pushed police back to the nearby road as the call went out for support from the largely Iroquois community, Amos Key, director of the community radio station CKRZ-FM, said. The Native-run station is broadcasting a live feed from the standoff on its Internet site,

Key said that urgent talks were now under way between the Confederation chiefs and officials of the provincial and federal governments.

Lisa Johnson, of the Bear's Inn in Ohsweken, was following live television coverage of the events all morning and said that residents of the reserve poured into the site as news of the early morning raid spread through the community of 22,000 and by 7:50 a.m. had gathered in sufficient numbers to force the police to leave. As of noon, no police were on the site, although talk spread throughout the community that they were regrouping in riot gear with about 1,000 reinforcements.

The arrests could total up to 15, but protesters who had been arrested were released after being fingerprinted and photographed, although they were warned that they faced jail time if they returned to the site. Several had reportedly rejoined the protesters.

The television coverage resulted by accident. An employee of Hamilton CHTV, noticed the police activity as he drove to work and notified a camera crew, which broadcast from the site all morning. All other reporters were barred from the site by provincial police.

And I thought Canada was such a sweet, mild place. Let's Keep Canada Tidy! I remember the sign saying when we crossed over the border as a child. Maybe, not so quaint after all.
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First Navajo Woman Lynda Lovejoy to run for President

I saw this article, "Lovejoy to vie for presidency in Navajo's November elections" in Indian Country Today and it made my day! No, my week! I was just talking about her to a friend yesterday. I didn't know she was running in the primaries for Navajo President, but I knew her when I was lobbying for Navajo communities at the New Mexico state legislature in Sante Fe in 1996. She mentored me and helped me along and her office was my homebase while I was there. The other male Navajo state senators didn't give me the time of day-- and I was lobbying to pass a bill to bring electricity to a Navajo community! She is an amazing woman, a great example to younger women and truly cares about the people. She will make a great Navajo president! Hooray! President Lovejoy!
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Millennium Ark: Hot News

Well, I thought that Indians didn't have "end of the world" scenarios, but I guess, I was wrong. I had posted earlier that Native peoples did not have the apocalyptic gene that pervades so many oppressed peoples, but I was wrong. This prophecy of destruction was made by Sidney Has No Horses, a grandson of the Chief Frank Fools Crow, who was the subject of the book by Thomas E. Mails Fools Crow.
SIDNEY HAS NO HORSES: Mitakuye Oyasin. All my relatives. I'd like to get in the middle if I could, I really don't like to use the mic. My name is Sidney Has No Horses. I'm from the Pine Ridge Reservation. You probably know my father, his name was Dawson Has No Horses. He was a yuwipi man, a powerful medicine man. My grandfather's name is Frank Fools Crow. He was also a powerful medicine man. Six months ago, we had a ceremony, in this ceremony, two angels came to me and they talked to me and they told us of the devastation that would happen to the islands and the Indian Ocean.

They told us of the earthquakes that would hit Japan. They told us of the earthquakes that will hit South American and the they also told us of the Tsunami that wiped out all the people and they told us of the hurricanes that came to Florida, the one that came to New Orleans and the one that went to Texas.

There's one more hurricane coming to wipe out another city. Two weeks ago, we has a ceremony, Sitting Bull came in and he talked to me; Crazy Horse, he talked to me; Chief Big Foot talked to me and they asked me to go to the Seven Council Fires and to the Council People and to warn all of these Fires, within six months. There's going to be a tidal wave that's going to wipe out Los Angeles. Within six months, there 's going to be an eruption in the northwest with the volcanoes. Two eruptions within six months. They say from the eruptions of theses volcanoes, the ash is coming, the Missouri River will be destroyed. They say the water that we drink from the ground is going to be no longer drinkable.

These hardships are coming because God is bringing this. Whether you believe in Christianity, Native American Church or the traditional way, if you read the Bible, we are going into the fourth seal. There's diseases coming that are going to wipe out our children and like this man said here, meth -methamphetamine on our rez is very bad too. If we don't stop that, it's going to destroy the next generation. Many vegetables are going to be born into our tribes. When I'm done here, I am going to Standing Rock and I am going to stand in front of them, their council and tell them the same thing I am telling you now.

This winter is going to be very cold for a long time. Ranchers are going to lose their horses and cows because it is not going to warm up. The price of propane is going to skyrocket and sometimes they are not going to be able to deliver the propane to our families. This food issue in the Bible, it says one day there will be no food in the store's shelves. If you look at the hurricane, a lot of the stores, there's no food on the shelves. These people lost their homes. They can't drink the water and so I come because of the mighty chiefs that talked to me and because of who I am. They tell me, I need to warn the tribes.

Well, this prophecy is dated October 17, 2005. Six months later would have been April of this year-- four months ago. Did the people repent? Were our holy men successful in turning aside this tragedy with some personal sacrifice? Who knows. I can only say what kind of God destroys the innocent? To save us from the meth addicts? Have to destroy the village to save it? I had thought we were different. Perhaps, I am wrong yet again. Feeding and living off the thrill of total annihilation. Imbuing everyday life with the excitement of complete change that would lift us from the drudgery of our every day lives and every day problems. Problems that are intractable as they always were whether in the days of Roman occupation in Jerusalem or today on the plains of South Dakota. This is not what I want. I want real change, real solutions to real problems and real leadership on the things that matter to the people today, now. Not just post apocalypse.
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Right Wing Continues Attacks on Fire Thunder

Here is a post from the blog of anti-abortion right wing nut Jill Stanek. It is from April, but the right wing have continued their assault on President Fire Thunder's character unabated. Even as most progessive blogs have forgotten the issue entirely. Wonder why they are winning?
"In my previous column, I wrote about Oglala Sioux President Cecilia Fire Thunder, who has threatened to open an abortion clinic on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation if the new state abortion ban is enacted.

It turns out Fire Thunder is a former abortion clinic worker, something she omitted from her resume until two weeks ago.

Before then, Fire Thunder described that time of her career as 'healthcare giver' intriguing terminology, since she helped kill at least half her patients.

Now it all makes sense. I am reminded of the proverb: 'As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.'"

She entitles her blog entry "More on leader planning tribal genocide". This from the right wing. I have yet to find any online commentary by Indigenous women's rights groups on the impeachment of a tribal president for supporting women's rights at all. Where are my sisters?
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Ex-president Fire Thunder on the offensive

Indian Country Today published an article. Ex-president Fire Thunder on the offensive by David Melmer about the corruption in tribal government on the Oglala reservation.
A tribal court hearing was scheduled to hear Fire Thunder's complaint against the tribal council, and then canceled when Chief Tribal Judge Lisa Adams recused herself and ordered that a new judge be appointed and a new hearing date set. No date has been set as of press time.

At a July 28 press conference, Fire Thunder - the day her canceled hearing was to be held - said Adams was pressured to recuse herself under threats of job security. She had not spoken with witnesses that said any threats occurred, but said she could find some.

''We know that goes on; it is a common practice to influence a judge,'' she said. The alleged threats would have come from the tribal council or judiciary committee. The tribal council appoints all tribal judges.

Alex White Plume, Oglala Lakota president, the former vice president, said he was not aware that any decisions had been made to appoint a hearing judge or a new hearing date for Fire Thunder.

The complaint filed by Fire Thunder is against the tribal council - the body that impeached her and the same body that will appoint a new judge and hearing date. Fire Thunder said she believed the council will try to drag the issue out so a hearing may not be held before the elections in November.

Fire Thunder said she filed an order with the Tribal Supreme Court to expedite the situation and appeal to regain her position.

''I encourage the people to ask how this has gotten so out of hand. This is now about the separation of powers,'' Fire Thunder said.

''I am asking the people to ask for a separation of powers. The council interferes with the court. We must ask for accountability,'' she said.

Fire Thunder said the disarray within the government has affected outside interests that may have been negotiating on business investments on the reservation. A reliable source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that negotiations for a business in the million-dollar range were halted after the shake-up with tribal government.

Fire Thunder's mission is to hold the tribal council accountable for not abiding by the tribal constitution and bylaws. She said her rights were violated from the very beginning of the process. A motion to impeach made at a regular meeting was out of order because a complaint must be filed first; the complaint was filed after the motion was approved, she argues. She claims the motion should not have been accepted by then-Vice President Alex White Plume.

She did not receive documented evidence against her until the day of her impeachment hearing, June 29, she insists. Fire Thunder and her attorneys also maintain that a two-thirds majority of the entire council is required to impeach a sitting president and not a two-thirds majority of those present, as happened.

Three council members were absent and one was not recognized by the tribal secretary at the time of the vote. The two council members who brought the complaint forward participated in the negotiation process and al
so voted, which Fire Thunder said was ''a violation of tribal law.''

''They violated the tribal constitution, they violated my rights; do they know what they are doing?''
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More On President Fire Thunder: A Woman of Character

This is an excerpt from an article written by Theda New Breast (pictured below), a Blackfeet Tribal member with a masters in public health and a long- time friend of Cecelia Fire Thunder.

I have known Cecelia for 30 years. I first met her when she was fighting to establish a free clinic in Los Angeles for struggling Native families who were FOR (Fresh of the Rez). She was open with her own struggles and inspired other Native women with her story of how she was once a single welfare mom raising two sons, and then went to nursing school. She motivated them to have hopes and dreams.

Theda remembers a speech Fire Thunder gave some years ago and how it inspires her still. Fire Thunder's words are strong, and I can see how men on the reservation would not want to hear them.
Among my sacred things, I keep a video of a speech that Cecelia delivered after losing her bid to be elected President in 1990. Out of eight candidates, she had the third highest vote.

At a keynote address she delivered on May 8, 1990, at the National Indian Child Welfare Association meeting, her topic was “Community Empowerment.” She said, “My journey began 43 years ago. I was brought into this world, as many of you have experienced, I was delivered at home by a midwife as we say in the English language. An Indian woman helped my mother bring me into the world. Today she is 83 years-old. She is my teacher and she is my guide, she is the person I go to when I need to know if what I am doing is right. She told me one day, ‘you know its right when it hurts, you know its right when you cry, don’t even hesitate, DO IT, do what you have to do.’

“And that taught me a very important lesson, cause as Indian people, too often we put up these barriers — we can’t talk about it, or discuss it — we have roles that only women are suppose to do this, and only men can do that. I have come to the realization that when I look at the statistics in my community, I don’t give a damn anymore. I have to do something. I will step on toes, it is my responsibility. And that leads me to something else. In our communities, because of that oppression we talked about, we hurt each other more, and what I started to realize was that these barriers that people put in front of me can be overcome.

“I was driving across the Pine Ridge Reservation late one night and a drunk driver almost ran me off the road. I began to think, and as I looked at the statistics on homicide on my reservation, I looked at the statistics of women being brought into the emergency room because they were battered, and as I looked at the statistics of child abuse, and looked at the high school drop out rates, I looked at the number of kids that were being sent away for treatment. And as I looked at all these statistics, I began to realize that WE as Indian people, in our own communities are hurting each other more than any white man.

“Indian people have killed more Indian people on highways than any white man. Who is hurting our kids? Who is hitting them? With words? Who is hitting them emotionally? And who is hitting them with our fists? We are, their mothers, and their fathers, and their guardians. No one is making me do that, no one is taking my hand to hit my child, no one is making me take that drink, no one is making me drive drunk across the reservation, I am doing it myself.

“So when I look at the statistics in my community and across Indian Country, I realized that first and foremost before we blame anybody, before we blame any government, before we blame any Tribal Council, we have to start taking some responsibility for those problems in our lives. As I looked at the statistics, and the number of prosecutions, I realized that nothing is sacred in my community anymore.

“I am not going to respect somebody just because they are old, and I am not going to respect somebody just because they are in office. I am ONLY going to respect them as they respect themselves, and they respect their families, and they do things to help us provide, and start to realize what respect really means. The bottom line is this, my friends and my relatives — when our children are being used for sex — six, seven, and eight year-olds are being used for sex by grown adults, people we’re at the very bottom as Indian people on our reservations and communities.
And we have to start to come back up, to re-build, and this is your responsibility, it is our responsibility, this is my responsibility. It is the responsibility of leaders, tribal leaders, natural leaders, community leaders, of medicine people, of holy people, that these things are going wrong or caused by us, its done by our hands and our words. So we need to start to heal ourselves, we need to take ownership of the problems. And once we recognize it is our problems, then we start to build and address it.”

Its been sixteen years since that speech, and I have not seen her deter from her commitments, and from taking action, when others would just “give up” and take a job with retirement. I have watched her take on the next wellness effort without hesitation. She traveled the country and brought the Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) to Pine Ridge, Eagle Butte, Rosebud, in South Dakota, and even helped facilitate the Montana Tribes including the Crow Nation. I have seen her step forward and help the Native Wellness Institute move away from the University of Oklahoma, which was white controlled after Billy Rogers left.

She is on the new Board of the Native Wellness Institute and helped build it to its current success. She helped White Bison with a lot of their initial Community Mobilizations efforts. She gave her heart and soul to Karen Artichoker and her efforts to protect women on the Pine Ridge reservation. She worked on getting funds and passing legislation to protect Native women. She went to NCAI and other tribal leader gatherings and put the topic of stopping violence against women on the map.

To lead a Nation
The life of Cecelia Fire Thunder | Well Nations Magazine
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50% of Oglala Single Parents Homeless

Pine Ridge SD- Poorest County in U.S.

Here is a link to a video that depicts poverty on the Oglala Sioux reservation, the poorest county in the nation. The reporter notes that 50% of the single parents on the reservation are homeless. Imagine raising your children in a shack in a Northern Plains winter. They quote Gandhi who said, ""Poverty is the worse form of violence."
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Lobbying for Armageddon

Yes, all the radical right Christian electorate wants is the end of the world. What do we do with a religion which requires the destruction of the world to attain nirvana? What does it mean that so many Americans believe this? Do they find day to day life so hopeless that the only relief they can imagine is planetary suicide? If so, something needs to be done to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, so that they can begin to see a future for this world and join the rest of us in working for one.

Indigenous worldviews never held out for the hope of ultimate destruction. They depended too much on the fruits of their Mother the Earth, to do that. The people oppressed by the Roman Empire who wrote about Armageddon, obviously, did not see any other way out of their servitude.
In a perfect world, a reporter at last week's press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair would have asked Bush, in the presence of his principal European ally, if he believes the European Union is the Antichrist.

Although it sounds like the kind of Pat Robertson lunacy that makes even the wingnuts run for the nearest exit, it's a question Bush should be forced to answer. Bush and other leading Republicans have lined up behind a growing movement of Christian Zionists for whom a European Antichrist figures prominently in an end-times scenario. So they should be forced to explain to the rest of us why they're courting the votes of people who believe our allies are evil incarnate. Could it be that the central requirement for their breathlessly anticipated Armageddon -- that the United States confront Iran -- happens to dovetail so nicely with the neoconservative war agenda?

At the center of it all is Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. While Hagee has long prophesized about the end times, he ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book's publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause "a political earthquake."

AlterNet: Lobbying for Armageddon
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Why Abortion Matters

Here is an article written over a year ago by Jodi Enda and published in The American Prospect. It is still relevent, as I believe that pro choice advocates must make real the stories of women who must deal with the moral complexity of choice. My generation never experienced an era without legal abortions and, in many ways, have lost track of what the argument is really about. Here is a part of the article:
Kimberly was at home with her two sleeping children when her estranged husband, high on methamphetamines and angry about their impending divorce, showed up at her door last September.

“He came in and said he wanted to talk about child-support payments. We were fighting about everything. The divorce was not final,” Kimberly said. “He raped me.”

Kimberly didn’t call the police because she wanted to protect her children from further trauma. Their lives had been upended during the previous two and a half years, ever since she was pregnant with her younger son and discovered that her husband was an addict. Since then, he’d quit his job, and she’d worked two; he put $50,000 on their credit cards at casinos and strip clubs; he threatened to kill her when she moved out with the boys; and he stole $700 from her boss, costing her a part-time bookkeeping job. After taking medical leave because she feared a nervous breakdown, Kimberly was fired from her primary job in the business department of a Phoenix TV station.

Kimberly, then 33, didn’t tell anyone about the rape, not even her closest friends. “I had no strength,” she explained. Two weeks later, she realized she was pregnant. She didn’t tell anyone about that, either.

She wanted an abortion, but she couldn’t afford one. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “There was no way I could have had that baby. My ex would have killed me. That was never an option.” Adoption wasn’t, either. Kimberly couldn’t bring herself to let her pregnancy show in Phoenix, and she couldn’t leave town for several months the way women used to when they got pregnant out of wedlock. “I couldn’t take my kids, and I couldn’t leave them with my ex. I couldn’t bring another child into this world. It came out of this … ,” she said, swallowing the word “rape” as she uttered it.

So, Kimberly thought, she’d wait until she could scrape together enough money for an abortion. She had no idea how difficult that would be. “I didn’t realize that the price was going up and up and up each week [as] I was going further along.”

Desperate and without medical care, Kimberly went to the state for help. She qualified for Medicaid, but was told it wouldn’t cover her abortion. She found a Web site that showed her how to apply to nonprofit groups for money to pay for an abortion. The Minneapolis-based Hersey Abortion Assistance Fund offered her $100, not nearly enough. Determined not to let the fetus reach the point of viability (generally interpreted to be 24 weeks gestation in Arizona), after which the state prohibits most abortions, Kimberly applied to dozens of funds around the country and sold her TV. By the end of January, she’d pulled together $900, the amount one clinic had told her was enough to cover her second-trimester abortion. She made an appointment for the two-day procedure.

When she went in the first day, the sonogram showed that she was nearly 20 weeks into her pregnancy. The abortion would cost $1,000. She didn’t have it. The doctor said Kimberly would have to get the money by the next morning or postpone the procedure another week, which would drive up the price again. She sat in a park and cried.

By the next morning, Kimberly had managed to get another $100 from an abortion fund, but the delay made her miss the training session for her brand-new state job. She lost the job.

This mother of two faced a difficult choice, alone. Here is why we must fight for free, unfettered access to birth control and, yes, even abortion. The article notes that most women are poor mothers like Kimberly, not irresponsible teens using abortion as birth control.
While the right has appealed to our sentiments, the left has relied on dry legal arguments, abandoning the 1960s-style speak-outs that so successfully demonstrated why women like Kimberly need choices. But today those sorts of arguments are critical: We’ve just moved into an era when every woman of childbearing age has always had the right to choose abortion. Young women don’t remember the hangers and back alleys; they didn’t live with the fear. And now, when a right they’ve taken for granted is in jeopardy, virtually the only people speaking out about their choice to terminate a pregnancy are those who say they regret having made it.

Perhaps if more people heard Kimberly’s story they would understand how difficult choosing abortion can be. They would see that most women who have abortions are responsible, often poor, adults, not the reckless teens that the right often claims use abortion as birth control. In fact, 61 percent of women who have abortions are mothers, 57 percent are poor, and 78 percent report a religious affiliation, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Some can afford the $400-and-up price tag, but many can’t. Often they don’t know where to turn for help. Many have to travel out of town to find a clinic, to spend a night or more in hotels or cars, to miss work, to parcel out their kids. Many agonize between their own lives and children and that of a potential baby that they never intended to create.

The mother of two, Kimberly, had this to say about her decision:
“I felt guilty,” Kimberly said, more so as the fetus grew and she felt familiar tummy flutters. “I felt I was going to be killing a baby. And there was a baby. ... I had two kids. I knew what I was feeling. ... It was a matter of choosing my children or this person. My children’s lives would have been turned upside down. We might not be safe; we would have been worse off financially. They were already there. I had to take care of them … . I just had to choose.”

Read the article, it's long but is a great overview of the abortion issue and where we stand now. Enda notes that,
According to NARAL, states enacted 409 anti-abortion laws in the past decade, 29 last year. NARAL reports that 47 states plus the District of Columbia allow individuals or institutions to refuse to provide women with abortions or other reproductive health services and referrals; 44 states require young women to notify or obtain consent from a parent before having an abortion, though 10 of the laws have been ruled unconstitutional; 33 states plus the District of Columbia ban public financing of abortions; 30 states have mandatory waiting periods of up to three days or requirements that abortion providers give women seeking abortions negative literature or lectures; 26 states restrict the performance of abortions to hospitals or specialized facilities; and 17 states prohibit insurance from covering abortions or require women to pay higher premiums for abortion care.

NOW’s Gandy said that even pro-choice lawmakers mistakenly fall victim to arguments that restrictions don’t hurt women. “Unfortunately, the legislators on our side don’t get it,” she told me. “They vote for these, what they call ‘little restrictions,’ all the time. It seems little to them, but the cumulative effect, or the effect on individual groups of women, can be enormous.”

As a result of restrictive laws, violence, and the stigma that has become attached to abortion, fewer doctors and other health-care professionals are providing them. The number of abortion providers declined from a high of 2,908 in 1982 to 1,819 in 2000, a 37-percent drop, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Almost no nonmetropolitan area had an abortion provider in 2000, the institute reported, which might explain why the abortion rate among women in small towns and rural areas is half that of women in metropolitan areas.

State restrictions almost certainly have caused some women, perhaps thousands a year, to forgo abortions. Research suggests that Wisconsin’s two-day waiting period might have contributed to a 21-percent decline in abortions there. Shawn Towey, spokeswoman for the National Network of Abortion Funds, a group comprising 102 organizations that provides money and support for low-income women seeking abortions, estimates that 60,000 women a year find the restrictions so onerous that they carry their babies to term. The Guttmacher Institute stated in a 2001 report that between 18 percent and 35 percent of Medicaid-eligible women who want to have abortions continue their pregnancies if public funding isn’t available.

“The biggest chunk of women who are unable to get abortions right now are poor women on Medicaid,” said Towey. While 17 states do pay for the abortions of low-income women, 33 do not. “The big irony,” she said, “is that low-income women get later abortions because they have to delay to save the money.” The Guttmacher report said that 22 percent of Medicaid-eligible women who had second-trimester abortions would have ended their pregnancies earlier if the government paid.

And behind every one of these numbers lies the story of a woman.
The rest of the article is here: American Prospect Online - The Women's View
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