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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

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.


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!

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?

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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ICWA & Indigenous Nations’ Right to Their Children

A demonstrator outside the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. Photo Credit: @DefendICWA
On Thursday, October 4, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional claiming it is a “race-based statute.” The ruling ignores hundreds of years of federal Indian law recognizing Native American tribes as nations. Judge Reed O’Connor claimed. Indigenous nations are not governments at all and not to possess national interests in children born to their tribal members. Congress passed the law in 1978 in response to a study finding 25-35 percent of Native children were taken from their homes and over 80 percent placed with non-Native families. This high rate of removal falls under the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,  Section II  which defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group … (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

In a joint statement, leaders of the four tribes named in the suit restated their commitment to protecting children of their respective nations saying in part, “If ICWA is struck down in whole or in part, the victims will be our children and our families, Native children and Native families.”
This ruling represents the culmination of years of work by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. By using the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection under the law” clause, the institute finally obtained a ruling that alleges the definition of “Indian” is illegal because it is race-based. Native attorneys I have interviewed believe the organization’s goal is to create a circuit court split and take the case to the Supreme Court. There, a very conservative court could declare unconstitutional the protections of ICWA and, by extension, make tribes, themselves, illegal. Thus, this ruling has serious implications for both the unity of Native families and the sovereignty of their respective nations. Ironically, “Indians” are not named in the 14th Amendment because when it was passed in 1868, Native Americans were not viewed as citizens of the United States by Congress, but as citizens of their Indigenous nations and thus, did not require an exemption under the amendment. Native Americans were not granted U.S. citizenship until 1924.

How ICWA does and does not work at the state court level illuminates how ignorance of the law puts Native American parents in danger of losing their children every year. Colorado is unique in that it has a state-level ICWA law on the books, two dedicated ICWA courts, and a dedicated en banc court of appeals panel for ICWA review. However, there is still a great deal of education that needs to occur. It should be noted most judges and attorneys are not required to learn Indian Federal Law in law school or to pass the bar and therefore do not know it. Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor admitted she had no familiarity with Indian Federal Law before she arrived at the Supreme Court. Allegedly, the late Justice Scalia bragged about his ignorance of it to Native lawyers and claimed to be “just making it up” as he went along.

And the results of this ignorance can be devastating to Native families. In 2011, NPR in a series about Native foster care in South Dakota found 700 Native children, a disproportionate number for their percentage of the population were being placed in foster care every year. Reporters also found that ICWA, which gives preference to placement with relatives or their tribe, was not being followed.

“Cousins are disappearing; family members are disappearing.” Peter Lengkeek, a Crow Creek Tribal Council member, told NPR 33 years after the passage of ICWA. “It’s kidnapping. That’s how we see it.”

I hope more states do more to implement ICWA fully and to understand what sovereignty means to Indigenous nations.
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Elizabeth Warren and White Attachment to Native Identity

Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in 2012. Credit Tim Pierce
UPDATE 10/15/2018:
My response to recent reports that Senator Warren has released DNA results proving she has a pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” This would make her between 1/64th and 1/512ths Native American. However, without documentation it is unclear which percentage she is. For comparison, I can prove I am 1/16th French, 1/16th English and 1/16th German. None of which I claim as my identity or "race." 

Here was my response:

And this response on Twitter really gets to the heart of the problem:
And this response from an epidemiologist about whether the DNA evidence ties her to actual documented Cherokee or Delaware citizens: 
I also edited my Facebook post (but cannot correct the tweet) because The Boston Globe corrected its math on her possible blood quantum from 1/512ths to 1/1024ths. Interesting tweet regarding this percentage:

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Star Quilts and Fire

Both of my grandmothers: Diné and Dakota, a rug weaver and a star quilt maker (via @jfkeeler Instagram )
The month began with a phone call informing us our storage unit had burned down. Picking through the remnants, I found the star quilt my grandmother had made for me when I graduated from high school. I had spent hours in college, wrapped in it to protect me from the cold New England forests far from our homeland in the Great Plains. 

Star Quilt in similar colors to mine (MSU Museum)

Later, when my grandmother came to my graduation, she fretted about not being able to see the horizon And so, we climbed Bartlett Tower but when we got to the top hoping to see more, the trees still owned the vistas, and all we gained from our perch was a view of the unending canopy with an occasional white spire poking through. We said nothing. I recall a bit of a catch in her breath as we gazed, the only expression of an oddly bitter disappointment we both felt. It was then that I realized we are big sky people. People of the Plains, we have long been accustomed to sending our spirits out in all the directions almost as a prayer or even, an extension of ourselves. Hemmed in by the dark green we were only able to send our spirits up to a tiny patch of blue. It felt we like we could not breathe. 

But just as I prefer to remember my grandmother as she was then, still alive, her curiosity about the world a companion to my own, and, despite the story above, she was generally a cheerful person, I prefer my memories of the blanket as it was whole. Standing in that burned out unit, I found myself unwilling to take a brightly colored scrap of triangles smelling of smoke and blackened around the edges even as the man who worked there badgered us to take the things we wanted before they cleaned it out. 

Lakota grandmother hand quilting a star quilt. (Co-nnect.Me)
As a child, one of my earliest memories is of climbing the steep stairs to her workroom where she kept a large wooden frame she used to stretch out her quilts and hand stitch them. As a child as I emerged at the top of the stairs which smelled strongly of the hard industrial rubber that covered it to prevent slipping and combined with the smells of my grandmother's cooking wafting up from the kitchen below,  I wobbled amazed at my discovery of this magical place. A place that in my childish mind was one of mystery and power with star quilts in many colors draped and in various states of completion. 

But I know fire can be purifying and can carry our prayers. When I was executive director of the California Indian Basketweavers Association, I learned how the tribes there used to burn the forest to keep it healthy and giving the roots and shoots necessary for basketweaving a chance to grow. So, I felt inclined to give up these material possessions to the fire and hope for new shoots. 

In my heart, the blanket is with my kuŋ´ŝi now in heaven where her laughter can be heard over the camp circle of our ancestors' tipis enjoying a sly joke with her relatives. My mother used to describe her mother-in-law’s laughter sounding like the “tinkling of bells.” So I find myself when I think of the bit of star quilt left in this world, stopping and listening for her laughter and feeling fortunate to be her granddaughter.
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Constitution Day: George Washington, World War Zero & "Taxation Without Representation"

For Constitution Day, September 17, 2018, an Indigenous Reading of History:

   Some history behind the Revolutionary War phrase "taxation without representation." Britain taxed the colonies to pay for the wars they were starting on the frontiers trying to take Indian land. 
A young George Washington.
   This was the impetus for the Seven Years' War (known in US history books as the French and Indian War) that was actually begun by a young Virginia officer named George Washington who signed an admission in French (which he couldn't read) after being defeated by the French in an engagement that said he executed a French diplomat. This began the first World War and spread far beyond western Pennsylvania to the Caribbean, Europe and even Southeast Asia. 

   Historians often call it World War Zero. It doubled the British national debt (and laid the foundations for the British Empire
Washington was the father of two great nations), hence the tax on the colonialists. It was due to their own land lust. 

   And if you read the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson lists amongst the colonists' grievances King George III's siding with the tribes ("merciless Indian Savages") and his protection of their lands through the Proclamation of 1763 which forbade colonists settling west of the Appalachian mountains. 

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Yellowstone: Taylor Sheridan's Western of Nietzschean Supermen

Kevin Costner and his branded cowboys (Courtesy of Paramount Network)

Mini-review of Yellowstone and answers to questions put to me by radio show:

Dear Radio Host:

    Well, I watched a bit of the series. Wow. It was pretty bad.

    I understand this series, although it only has a 51% Rotten Tomato score, was a hit with the Trump crowd. Not surprised. The series really reminded me of that Sidney Sheldon book Master of the Game about a wealthy and similarly crazy white family in South Africa dealing with Bantu uprisings (they made their money off of diamond mines) and the Boer War and maintaining a 20th-century power base. Some tv critic compared it to The Godfather but that is about ethnic marginalization in a white, Protestant supremacist nation of which this Yellowstone family are the obvious beneficiaries of.

Answers to your questions:

Which cultures lived in the Yellowstone area?

Although the tribe is fictional, I found the name of the reservation offensive. Was it Broken Stone or Broken Rock? An obvious reference to Standing Rock but diminishing the strength that lies in our traditional homeland communities by adding the descriptor “broken”. However, the casino is called the Apsaalooke, which is what the Crow people call themselves. The Crow are the traditional enemies of the Lakota and fought on the side of Custer during the Battle of Greasy Grass. And when Gil Birmingham’s character is being “crowned” is his incredibly offensive “coronation” scene in his office his headdress clearly has the distinctive blue and pink beadwork that Crow people use.

Is there an environmental significance of Grandmother Earth in that area?

Of course, but that wasn’t the point of the show, was it? It was about the right of white Nietzschean Supermen (Costner and his sons) to rule unimpeded the landscape because they are really the best suited no matter their methods.

What is our perspective on the invasion of the white man into this particular area surrounding the super volcano in Yellowstone?

I think the perspective of occupation and colonization is always negative and the statistical outcomes of most Native people are a testament to that (highest suicide rates, highest rape and murder rates, highest death by police rates bar none). But the tv show Yellowstone is largely about what a white man, Taylor Sheridan thinks about the world. And it’s a mishmash of white male Ubermenschism and a very limited and awkwardly-introduced knowledge of Native sovereignty and issues.

How much horrific dirt must John Dutton's family have done to acquire all of that land in Yellowstone?

The same that took and continues to militarily occupy this land.


So, Radio Show doesn't want to talk about Kevin Costner but about Yellowstone volcano sacredness and Native cultures around there? My response:

    Sure, but I don’t want to give Yellowstone publicity (and viewership) solely focused on content it does not provide and, indeed, subverts. 
    I am willing to look at the characters but Yellowstone the tv show exists largely in a fictional landscape. Real white cities in Montana are mentioned like Bozeman and Helena but most of the Native references are clichéd and not worthy of saddling any actual tribe in the area with.
    I can provide a distinction between the reservation as envisioned by Taylor Sheridan and the actual realities he misrepresents. But I do think the white men who have access to millions to stage this misrepresentation should be named and taken to task. Otherwise, more white folks will do the same and think that because they have more access to our spiritual traditions and such they are not actually doing the same thing. 
    The issue is White Supremacy and how it structurally creates this misunderstanding. I’ve seen plenty of white folks write whole books on our histories and participate in our ceremonies then turn around and think they can supplant us or be us. Pretendianism arises out of the centering of the experience White Supremacy provides white people in this country—no matter where they reside on the political spectrum. It was a problem at Standing Rock and is the central problem posed by Yellowstone. Taylor Sheridan is a filmmaker who ostensibly has received a great deal of education, both political and personal, about Native issues and from Native people and he is well-meaning. Yet, he still gets it wrong. More historical knowledge is good but White Supremacy is an algorithm that will always garble the result towards the centering of people who perceive themselves as white. That’s what’s going on here. 
    That’s the lesson of Yellowstone.

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‘I Was Born Free’ - Red Fawn and State-Sponsored Sexual Assault of Native Women at Standing Rock

By Jacqueline Keeler

Red Fawn Fallis behind screen at her sentencing on July 11, 2018
Photo : Cempoalli Twenny Facebook page

On Wednesday July 11, Red Fawn Fallis, 39, Lakota and the most high profile water protector charged with a felony at Standing Rock was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison with 18 months for time served. Her legal team will have 14 days to appeal.

Fallis was found guilty of one count of civil disorder and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. In the video of her arrest on October 27, 2016, Fallis, a medic at the camp, can be seen arriving on an ATV where a line of police in riot gear are faced off with water protectors. The wall of men parts and a deputy tackles her saying he heard her shouting “water is life”.

Behind the line of armored law enforcement, five men pile on top of her. As they pin her arm behind her back and with their knees hold her legs down, the gun which is not visible in the video because of all the men on top of her can be heard discharging three times, apparently into the ground.

It was revealed in leaked documents reported by The Intercept in December, her boyfriend Heath Harmon, 46,  from the Fort Berthold reservation was an informant working for the FBI and that the gun Fallis allegedly fired during her arrest belonged to him. 

According to a Motion to Compel Discovery filed by her defense attorneys Harmon “seduced Ms. Fallis and initiated an intimate, albeit duplicitous relationship with her. He spent the majority of the 48-hour period prior to Ms. Fallis’s arrest with her and had access to her and her belongings… He used their romantic relationship to rely upon her as an unwitting source of information for informant activities.” 

Family members of Red Fawn told me the FBI plant literally “jacketed” her by putting his jacket with the gun in it on her right before her arrest and planting items in her backpack. In leaked police drone footage shared by The Intercept, Harmon can be seen leaving on her ATV just 20 seconds after his purported girlfriend’s arrest. Seconds later, he spoke to a Dakota water protector (who asked not to be identified) and did not mention Red Fawn’s violent arrest. In his leaked interview with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms he claims he immediately returned to camp to collect all of her possessions and return them to her family on Standing Rock. This after his girlfriend was tackled by several large men for free speech in front of him.

After giving false and contradictory testimony to law enforcement regarding the gun, he continued the pretense of being her boyfriend even after she was arrested. In leaked audio of their phone calls, Fallis can be heard tearfully confiding, unknowingly, to him, a paid infiltrator, her fears and desire not to serve time for something she did not do. 

In 2012, it was revealed that in Britain London’s Metropolitan police was running a top secret decades-long infiltration program, the Special Demonstration Squad, of progressive groups that led to long-term sexual relationships with women being spied upon. Some of these women gave birth to children by undercover police officers who never revealed their true identities. One of those women identified as ‘Jacqui’ later settled with the Metropolitan police for £425,000 or about $560,000. She described the experience to The Guardian as being “raped by the state” and was deeply traumatized after discovering the truth.

“I had a spy who was being paid by the government to spy on me,” Jacqui told the press, ” to the extent that he watched me give birth, so he saw every intimate part of me.”

Arrest of Red Fawn Fallis at Standing Rock, October 27, 2016

Native American women have long been the target of violence both by the United States government though total wars waged against their nations to gain access to homelands and through structural violence in the resulting colonial society that marginalizes them. 

A widely quoted 2010 Department of Justice report found Native women experienced rape and murder at rates nearly 2 and half times that of other American women. In some counties, the murder rate is 9 times. Criminal database statistics find that 70 percent of Native women’s reported attackers are men not of their race—most being white men. Most American women are primarily assaulted by men of their own race. More data is needed to address the vulnerable picture this paints of Native women in America.

At the hearing, Red Dawn Foster, Lakota/Diné candidate running for the South Dakota state senate and a hunka sister (adopted in the traditional Lakota way) of Red Fawn recounted to the judge Fallis’ history of abusive relationships that made her susceptible to manipulation by someone like Harmon.

U.S. District of North Dakota Chief Judge Hovland granted Fallis permission to wear civilian clothing at the nearly 6-hour hearing.  She appeared shackled and wearing a traditional ribbon dress. 

It was however, partly Hovland’s refusal to allow for further discovery into Harmon’s role in the defendant’s arrest (and of pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners' security contractors like TigerSwan who he determined were not part of the prosecution) that forced the defense to agree to a non-cooperating plea deal in late January. Under the deal, the most serious charge against her of firing an weapon at law enforcement was dropped. That charge could have put her in prison for 30 years. He also refused to allow any defense based on treaties that were violated by the building of the pipeline.

At the prayer after her sentencing was postponed in June, friends, family, attorneys and supporters of Red Fawn gathered for prayer in a Bismarck hotel meeting room. Her hunka uncle and University of Colorado professor Glenn Morris and attorney, spoke to those gathered telling them that he had spoken to his niece that morning. She has already been in custody for more than 20 months. 

“She told me,” he said, “‘I’m a wild Oglala. I was born free, I will live free and I will die free. And I know what day this is.’”

That day was the 142nd anniversary of what the Lakota call “Victory Day”, the Battle of Greasy Grass, or as the Americans call it the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1874, it was in search of gold that Custer led 1,000 men into the Black Hills in violation of the Fort Laramie treaty. Since then mines on Lakota land have produced according to some estimates nearly 10 percent of the world’s gold. In 2016, the battle was the transportation of heavy crude from the Bakken through unceded Lakota treaty lands which potentially endangered Lakota communities and millions of Americans downriver that precipitated the Dakota Access pipeline protests at Standing Rock.

It would seem with Fallis and several other Standing Rock “water protectors” (as protestors preferred to be called) still facing felony charges the battle has never really ended between the Lakota, their allies, and the American government.

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What to Read After Sherman Alexie's #MeToo Revelations?

 Author Sherman Alexie. Photo: Tulane Public Relations, Creative Commons Attribution
A lot of folks have been asking me what Native American authors they should read or even what books to teach since #MeToo accusations of sexual harassment against Sherman Alexie came to light this past March. I wrote about it at Yes! Magazine here: Why Reading Sherman Alexie Was Never EnoughAs the #MeToo spotlight moves to Indian Country, epidemic violence against Native women meets tokenism in publishing. I will also be interviewed today on Oregon Public Radio's Think Out Loud show today about my article.

My daughter also asked me to prepare a list for her English teacher and I thought I'd share the initial, sometimes personal list, I put together for her. I don't teach Native American literature so this list simply represents books that I have enjoyed over the years with a few that I understand to be standards. It is by no means comprehensive and I will continue to develop it. Especially, since Multnomah County Libraries has asked me to put together a list for them to share on their blog. That list will be more comprehensive than this one for American Indians in Children's Literature's Best Books page for recommendations on YA and Children's literature. But for an initial stab, written for my daughter, here is a list ... well, my list, anyway:
sure. I'd also recommend checking out

Native American Recommended Books

   by Jacqueline Keeler (Diné-Dakota)

Personal Favorites

Classics & Must-Reads of Native American Literature

  • The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa ancestors. Also, shouldn’t miss House Made of Dawn his novel which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.
  • Winter in the Blood by James Welch, Blackfeet, published in 1978. It was made into a film of the same name in 2012. Also, recommended are his historical novel, Fools Crow which received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the American Book Award. I also recommend Indian Lawyer to show the challenges contemporary professional Native Americans have working in the white world. Welch’s work has large following overseas and is the only Native writer to be awarded the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of the Arts and Letters) by the French Cultural Ministry.
  • The Jailing of Cecelia Capture by Janet Campbell Hale, Couer d’Alene, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1985.
  • Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr, Dakota. Another relative (my grandmother’s cousin). This book is a classic that emerged at the same time the Red Power movement was bringing Native issues into the news again. Also recommend God Is Red: A Native View of Religion and Red Earth, White Lies.

This is a very preliminary list. So much more add!

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