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Constitution Day: George Washington, World War Zero & "Taxation Without Representation"

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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Jacqueline Keeler

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Yellowstone: Taylor Sheridan's Western of Nietzschean Supermen

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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Jacqueline Keeler

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

‘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.

At the hearing, 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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Jacqueline Keeler

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

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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Jacqueline Keeler

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