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The Buddha on Traditionalism

I found this quote from the Buddha at the Liberty Fellowship Center site. Even an unbeliever like myself can agree with the Buddha on a great many things.

"'Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.'"
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Thanksgiving, Hope and the Hidden Heart of Evil

This is a piece I wrote some years ago before I had children. I did, however, feel I was writing it for them as I sat with my editor pestering me with calls to get it done. Typing away at my laptop on our kitchen table in Berkeley I could feel myself addressing my unborn children. Strange, I know. Now that I have children, I am faced with the question, how does one explain these things to a child? My mother had taken the route in the consciousness-raising 1970's of filling me with stories about what had happened and allowing the chips fall where they may. I experienced as a child of five or so the first true feelings of political outrage. Outrage on behalf of a people, the poli. A feeling beyond my normal childish outrage at the loss of a toy or the singular attention of a parent. Outrage at not just the past, but the continued injustice of the basic fact of the invasion and the additional burden of living under the myth of American moral superiority. And I was filled with a desire to change that when I was just five. I think we forget, sometimes, the great wells of desire to do good that each of us are born with. I see this in my children all the time. My mother lit that fire in me as she talked to me about the stolen land, the Long Walk and smaller injustices as we washed dishes together over the kitchen sink in Denver. And those feelings have never been assuaged or lessened-- as I wish they might have been by now. Now, when I tell my daughter who is six, as I am in this piece, and who looks and talks so much like me at that age, I see the same tightening of the tiny fists and that same look of determination coming over her young, bright eyes. And I wonder, is it right to tell her? But how long could I keep up the lie?

So, here it is, my ode to the holiday. Enjoy.

I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.

This may surprise those people who wonder what Native Americans think of this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.

Thanksgiving to me has never been about Pilgrims. When I was six, my mother, a woman of the Dineh nation, told my sister and me not to sing "Land of the Pilgrim's pride" in "America the Beautiful." Our people, she said, had been here much longer and taken much better care of the land. We were to sing "Land of the Indian's pride" instead.

I was proud to sing the new lyrics in school, but I sang softly. It was enough for me to know the difference. At six, I felt I had learned something very important. 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 came to our homes.

When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry -- half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food.

These were not merely "friendly Indians." They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary -- but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect. Among the Dakota, my father's people, they say, when asked to give, "Are we not Dakota and alive?" It was believed that by giving there would be enough for all -- the exact opposite of the system we live in now, which is based on selling, not giving.

To the Pilgrims, and most English and European peoples, the Wampanoags were heathens, and of the Devil. They saw Squanto not as an equal but as an instrument of their God to help his chosen people, themselves.

Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us. Spaghetti without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes without potatoes? And at the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoags provided most of the food -- and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving.

What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. Most diseases then came from animals that Europeans had domesticated. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, one of the great killers of our people, spread through gifts of blankets used by infected Europeans. Some estimate that diseases accounted for a death toll reaching 90 percent in some Native American communities. By 1623, Mather the elder, a Puritan leader, was giving thanks to his God for destroying the heathen savages to make way "for a better growth," meaning his people.

In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil.

I see, in the "First Thanksgiving" story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

And the healing can begin.

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Remembering Anne Mae and the Terrible Price of a Movement

Indian Country Today had this interview with John Trudell about the death of Anne Mae Aquash, a young, idealistic Micmac woman from Nova Scotia who came to the Pine Ridge reservation in the 1970's to help the people and was murdered. It is believed that she was murdered for being "jacketed" by the FBI as an informant. In other words, they painted this big-hearted woman and mother as an informant in order to protect their real informant which led to her death at the hands of the people she tried to help.

I still remember as a young girl in Denver at the Indian Center when they did a dance for her and everyone stood up and honored her memory. They also did that for all the Wounded Knee participants. Her death and the decline of AIM and the movement for human rights for all indigenous people has always been linked in my heart since then. She is in our movement history canon of saints. Of people who tried to make a difference. I will always honor her spirit in my heart as I look at the pictures of her always young face full of purpose and meaning and hope. Aren't these the sort of people we should be trying to grow? Like beautiful grass that grows long like the hair on our mother's head. So Anna Mae is reborn from the land where she last laid her head every spring on the Great Plains. In those endless fields of tall sweet grass waving, filling the air with sweetness, reminding us that life is meant for so much more. And it is sweet.
"Theory of the planted operative: 'A jacket was created for Annie Mae'
Part two
Editors' note: In a running conversation with Indian Country Today's Senior Editor Jose Barreiro, John Trudell seeks to address lingering issues in the dissolution of the early American Indian Movement leadership and to comment on the case of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, the Micmac activist murdered in South Dakota during the winter of 1975 - '76. Part two of the series covers Trudell's perspective on the issues of violence in the activist movement. The renowned poet-apostle of Indian activism proposes his theory of a government operative deeply embedded to discredit the movement, during a time of rogue government infiltration programs that sometimes stimulated violence in social and political organizing. Trudell discussed the shootout at Oglala, S.D., in 1975 that resulted in the deaths of one Indian activist and two FBI agents, and other incidents from those tempestuous times. Next week, Trudell addresses his own shift from direct political activities to musical poetics of stage and film."
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Labor Day & U. Utah Phillips

I wanted to do a post honoring our Labor history. I got my first clue of what that past was like when I was given a tape of some labor union songs by my friend Jane Blume's husband, Phil. The songs "Joe Hill" and "Pie in the Sky" with lyrics like "don't mourn-- organize!"-- and "Work all day, live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die-- now, that's a lie," opened my eyes to a past of workers who gave everything, their lives, their bodies to fight for better working conditions in this country. Things that we take for granted, the eight-hour day, the forty-hour work week, even weekends were fought for, not given by the powers that be.

This "American way" was fought for by immigrants, men and women, who faced off policemen with billy clubs, deportation and imprisonment and violent death. The Blumes didn't have to tell me any history, because it was all right there in the songs. That's why I recommend this Labor Day to take some time from hitting the sales, or the bbq and go out and buy this album, Fellow Workers featuring the storytelling and songs of the labor movement and sung by U. Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco. I was fortunate to get to know and listen to the stories of U. Utah Phillips when I lived in Nevada City, California, where he lives. It was an amazing education about our history.

In a review by, reviewer Richard Marcus says:
They are the stories of the men and women who fought for the right to work only eight hours a day, for safe working conditions, and for the dignity of working men and women across the United States. From the textile mills of Laurence Maine to the lumber camps of Spokane Washington the strikes and personal stories are recounted with reverence and dignity.

He tells us of Mother Jones, who at 83 was named the most dangerous woman in America by Teddy Roosevelt. She spent her whole life agitating for a better life for the miners of Kentucky and all the other coal producing states. We hear how when the Governor of Colorado sent out the militia to disburse the miners she went out on her own to face them down and won.

We learn about the young women who were sold into near slavery in the textile mills of Laurence; girls shipped over from France and the low countries in Europe who could speak no English and who were wedded to the looms. How that during an awful strike they had to send their children away to homes as far off as New York to ensure that they would be fed. That during the walk to the train station they were attacked by the militia in an attempt to break their spirit.

We are told of the attempts to silence Union organizers in the logging camps out in Washington by passing ordinances prohibiting public speaking. And how in response the unions gathered all the workers and lined them up for blocks and each one would climb up a soap box and start to speak only to be arrested. The cost of feeding four thousand workers proved too great so they had to rescind the law.

Utah's story telling is magnificent, his enthusiasm for the subject matter combined with an imposing gift for narrative make this collection both entertainment and an education. At times the musical accompaniment is appropriate, during the occasional song for instance("Pie In The Sky" is a hilarious send up of "The Sweet Bye and Bye" and the version on this c.d. is particularly good) but I'd have preferred they had left Utah's stories to stand on their own.

Although, Loafer's Glory, his old radio show on KVMR, the local community radio station in Nevada City is no more-- it lost it's sponsorship, you can order copies of his tapes from his website.

Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Unlikely 2.0 in 2005:
"GR: Anyone familiar with your work is aware of the wealth of knowledge you possesses about the history of this country. The stuff that isn't taught in any high school textbook. What compelled you to seek out this information, collect it, and share it with other people?
UP: The world that I inhabit, the one that I have created for myself, is built out of speakers and listeners. I'm more comfortable in that world. I learn more easily from sitting in front of somebody and asking them questions and listening to what their answers than I do from books. I respect books. I have many of them around me. But I keep them in their place. The people that I've sought out lived extraordinary lives that just can't be lived again. And most of my great teachers were born in the century before last. I met many of them when they were my age now, seventy. Those were the immigrant workers, the industrial workers. They were the people working down at the bottom, in the forest, in the mines, in the wheat harvest. Old Jack Miller, who ran the Citizen's Center up in Seattle, Washington, once said, 'When we started in the forest, we spoke two different languages, and most of us had never been to school, and we couldn't read or write. We lived in our emotions, and we were comfortable there. We made decisions in our lives for which there is no language. We made commitments to change, to struggle for which there are no words. But those commitments carried us through fifty or sixty years of struggle. You show me people who make the same commitments intellectually, and I don't know where they'll be next week.' And then he added to that hardest of all things, he said that, 'We, speaking all those languages, hardly speak to each other. Armed only with our degradation as human beings, we came together and changed the conditions of our labor and the conditions of our lives. You young people, with all you've got, why can't you do that?' Now, that's a very serious charge to lay at our feet."
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In Navajo country, racism rides again

I was surprised to see this article as the lead piece on It was nice to see a Navajo face in a fairly white on-line publication. The story however was not so great. Apparently, in Farmington, the "Selma, Ala. of the Southwest" more hate crimes against Navajos are occuring.
This all started with a beating in Farmington in June. A 47-year-old Navajo man who was offered a ride by three white teenagers in Farmington was driven to the outskirts of town, beaten with a stick and punched and kicked. He said they used racial slurs as they pummeled him.

The beating reminded everyone of the 1970s, the heyday of "Injun rollin'," where white youths in the border towns beat up Navajos (usually sleeping alcoholics they could easily "roll" around) as a rite of passage. In April 1974, when three white Farmington youths tortured, mutilated and bludgeoned three Navajo men, tossing their burned and broken bodies into a canyon, the Navajo Nation organized weeks of peaceful protests in Farmington. When marchers were denied a permit the day after the murderers were sentenced to reform school, clashes with police led to dozens of arrests.

The June beating could hardly compare to the torture murders of years ago. But six days after the beating, a 21-year-old Navajo man was killed by a police officer responding to a call about a domestic dispute at a Wal-Mart parking lot. When Farmington police declared the shooting a justifiable homicide and the FBI declined to investigate -- the agency is now reconsidering its decision -- Navajo leaders announced they would set aside $300,000 for the man's family to file a wrongful death suit against Farmington, and for an investigation of border-town racism.

Whether or not things will change or not is unknown. Navajos are planning more peaceful protest led by Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie, who lost his right arm to racist violence. He picked up a white hitchhiker in 1978 who shot off his arm and then got only five years in prison for it.
Since the latest incidents, white leaders in Farmington, a plain little city (population 40,000) that is 63 percent white, 17 percent Native American and 17 percent Hispanic, have repeatedly denied that Navajos are singled out. They've also pointed out that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, in a 2005 report examining Farmington 30 years after the torture murders, noted marked improvements in attitudes toward the Navajo.

But that report also concluded that major challenges remain. This summer's incidents are the latest in a long string of border-town attacks on Navajos since the infamous murders. To name a few, in 2001, a 16-year-old Navajo youth was murdered in Colorado by a Farmington man in what police called either a gay hate crime or an Indian hate crime, or both. In 2000, a 36-year-old Navajo woman, Betty Lee, was bludgeoned to death by two Farmington men who were also charged with killing a Navajo man. One of the suspects, Robert Fry (now on death row for Lee's murder), remains a suspect in at least three other brutal Navajo murders and has been implicated in the disappearance of a tribal man.

Navajos keep disappearing, tribal members say. The tribe does not have the numbers, but organizers of the peace walk are hoping relatives of the missing will come out so that they could be counted. Many people here believe that the missing must be victims of Indian rolling whose bodies are somewhere in the vast canyons of the desert, yet -- or never -- to be found.
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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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Tribe ensnared in abortion battle

Here is an article by Tribune reporter Judy Pares.
KYLE, S.D. -- Cecelia Fire Thunder likes to recount the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who delivered the sacred pipe and its teachings to the Lakota nation. Long ago, the legend goes, two men encountered a holy woman who first appeared to them as a white buffalo calf. One man, awe-struck, prayed. The other had lustful thoughts and tried to grab the woman. He was turned into a pile of bones.

"The first teaching of the pipe is sexual respect for women," said Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Fire Thunder told the story recently to the tribal council, which had convened to impeach her over her support for an abortion clinic on the reservation. It did no good: The formidable, outspoken president was found guilty of overstepping her authority and ousted less than five months before the end of her two-year term. Fire Thunder is challenging her removal on procedural grounds. In the meantime, the tribe is embroiled in the politics of abortion--an issue about which the Lakota almost never speak. The battle allows glimpses of how a proud people is struggling amid the influences of a dominant white society, legal trends in South Dakota and political forces buffeting America. A foreign import The "anti-abortion" versus "pro-abortion rights" conflict is a foreign import to Lakota country, the westernmost part of the Great Sioux Nation. Some experts say the Lakota language doesn't even have a word for "abortion." Others insist Lakota women have always had medicines to terminate a pregnancy.

Here's more of the article:
Some of Fire Thunder's opponents argue that a pregnant woman no longer has a choice, because abortion is murder. "We're killing babies in utero all the time with drugs and alcohol," Fire Thunder retorts. "Who's worrying about that?" The motivation behind her removal goes beyond anti-abortion sentiment. Council members have tried to remove her three times since her election in November 2004. (The first two times the charges were dropped.) Opponents say that she is arrogant and spends too much time traveling the country. "Change isn't easy," she said. Both sides in the abortion debate claim to represent Lakota values. Those opposed to abortion--or to Fire Thunder--argue that life is sacred to the Lakota and all unborn children deserve protection. Fire Thunder agrees that life is sacred, then adds, "I don't think the White Buffalo Calf Woman would approve of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest."

The article ends with a quote from Will Peters, the councilman who co-sponsored the impeachment charges saying,
"I know she's been victimized. She has reasons to be a man-hater. But slow down, sister. All of us men are not like that."

That guy really needs to join the 21st century . . .

Tribe ensnared in abortion battle | Chicago Tribune
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SD-Init: Abortion ban in trouble

More on the efforts to overturn the draconian anti-abortion law in South Dakota. It looks like they might be able to do it. 47% support the initiative to reject the ban on abortions and 39% are opposed. However, a large group 14% are undecided and nearly 60% would support the law if it included exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

Read more at: Daily Kos: SD-Init: Abortion ban in trouble
Also check out: South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families - Vote No on 6!

This does nothing to help women on the Oglala Sioux nation, because the state initiative, if it passes, will not effect the tribe's ban on abortions. Who would have thought in the Civil Rights movement that supporting the rights of tribes to self-government would mean less civil rights, not more?
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Fire Thunder to file suit in tribe's supreme court

An update on President Fire Thunder and her fight for due process and civil rights in the Lakota court system after her impeachment by anti-abortion activists on her reservation. The first judge recused herself from the case and reversed her decision and a new judge and court date have yet to be assigned to the case. There are only two other judges on the reservation. And the judicial committee that will select the judge is made up of two tribal councilmembers, one of whom filed the impeachment complaint against Fire Thunder.

As you can see from all of this how politicized and incestuous the judicial process is in Indian Country. Will Fire Thunder find justice in such a system?
Battling for her day in tribal court, former Oglala Sioux Tribe president Cecelia Fire Thunder will take her case to the OST Supreme Court, she said Friday.

On the day that Fire Thunder, 59, had been scheduled to appear in tribal court to challenge her removal as president, she announced that her lawyers will file suit next week in the tribe’s Supreme Court.

“This is about constitutional violations, procedural violations and strengthening our tribal courts,” said Fire Thunder, who believes that she is being denied due process in the lower court.

When tribal judge Lisa Adams recused herself from Fire Thunder’s case on July 17, proceedings were delayed to allow the OST Council to appoint a new judge. A new judge and court date has yet to be assigned, and Fire Thunder believes the delay has been too long.

“We’re aware that this is a stall tactic,” Fire Thunder said.

Valeria Apple, OST court administrator, said that a judge and hearing date had not been assigned as of Friday, but it might happen soon.

Apple said tribal council attorney Tom Blanco filed a motion to dismiss Fire Thunder’s case Friday.

Apple said it is up to the tribal council’s judiciary committee to appoint a judge.

She did say that the judiciary committee could appoint a judge for Fire Thunder’s hearing from its pool of two associate judges at Pine Ridge or possibly a judge from another reservation.

Calls from the Rapid City Journal to Blanco and to OST Councilman Garfield Steele of Manderson were not immediately returned Friday.

Steele, one of the two council representatives who filed the impeachment complaint against Fire Thunder, currently heads the judiciary committee, Apple said.

“It’s up to them to appoint the judge,” she said.

In removing the tribe’s first woman president from office, the tribal council cited Fire Thunder’s proposal to build a women’s health clinic on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. On tribal lands, the proposed clinic likely would have been beyond South Dakota’s jurisdiction of an abortion ban, passed by the Legislature but referred to a statewide vote in November.

The OST council ousted its 36th president June 29 by a vote of 9-5. On July 17, Fire Thunder was briefly reinstated before the tribal judge rescinded her own court order.
The Rapid City Journal

Here's a longer article from an anti-abortion point of view. I love how they call a Planned Parenthood clinic an "abortion business!" Umm, I don't think profit is the motive here . . .
South Dakota Pro-Abortion Indian Tribe President Files Impeachment Lawsuit
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Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine

I must say that many Native Americans are appalled at terrorism, but one cannot help but to see the penning of the Palestinian people and occupation of their homeland and see parallels. I do wish there was a way that the Jewish people could have a homeland again without having to drive out local populations and displace them. I also wish that the Israeli government would and could win the hearts of the Arab people and that the Arab people could . . . but with bombing and children dying, how could it ever happen?

Independent Online Edition: Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine
By Anne Penketh in Gaza City
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Civil rights under Bush: It's a conservative Christian thing

The last we heard from [the Boston Globe's Charlie] Savage, he was shining a light on the way in which George W. Bush uses signing statements as a sort of veto lite for legislation he doesn't like but lacks the political will to veto. Now Savage is back with a new investigative report, this one exposing the way that the Bush administration has quietly gone about transforming the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division into a force for conservative legal views.

As Savage writes, prior administrations acknowledged the Civil Rights Division's need for political neutrality by putting panels of career attorneys, rather than political appointees, in charge of reviewing job applications and making recommendations for hires. John Ashcroft eliminated those panels in 2002, Savage says, allowing Bush administration political appointees to oversee hiring decisions themselves.

The results are about what you'd expect: The administration has stuffed 'the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights.' The numbers are striking. In the two years before Ashcroft changed the hiring procedures, 77 percent of the lawyers who got jobs in the Civil Rights Division had civil rights experience, Savage found. In the three years after, only 42 percent of them did -- and more than half of those 'gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies,' Savage found.

So what kind of experience did the new breed of lawyers bring? Of 45 lawyers hired since 2003, 11 lawyers were members of the Federalist Society; seven were members of the Republican National Lawyers Association; six claimed membership in conservative Christian groups; and several more worked previously for conservatives like Ken Starr, Ed Meese and Trent Lott, Savage found."

For more read: War Room -
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Fire Thunder ousted again

Well, the judge reversed her previous judgement and has revoked the reinstatement of Fire Thunder as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Will Peters, the tribal councilman who has been a major proponent for impeachment of Fire Thunder for her pro-abortion statements, made the surprise announcment after Fire Thunder's press conference on Tuesday.

"Peters said he and other council members, assisted by an attorney for the tribe, got the reinstatement revoked by citing a tribal law that prohibits injunctions against tribal officials.

The council members also argued, successfully, that the tribal council had not been allowed to defend its position.

Adams rescinded Fire Thunder's reinstatement, according to documents provided by Peters and by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, but the July 28 hearing at 1 p.m. in Pine Ridge stands.

Grey Eagle said he expects that hearing to be "packed."

Grey Eagle also argued that the law that Peters cited applies to permanent injunctions, not temporary injunctions. He said he would file a "memorandum of law" in tribal court in support of the temporary restraining order, but he said Fire Thunder would not directly challenge the most recent ruling. "We'll wait until the hearing July 28," he said."

Another issue brought up is the issue of free speech. I cannot believe this but the council are asserting that a tribal President can only say what the council says the President can say. This seems odd for a political figure. In most nations, the President or Prime Minister can stand in opposition to parliament or congress or whatever legislative body. It is part of the give and take of the political process. I can't imagine a world without it. Without this what power does the President have to effect change or assert leadership? And why are tribal leaders free from injunctions? It seems, that this would make them unaccountable.

"One key issue in the dispute is whether a president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe can make political statements without council approval.

Peters said, "She is free to do so as long as she is speaking in a positive manner about the tribe." But Fire Thunder should not have spoken about abortion without approval of the tribal council, he said. He called her clinic proposal "a slap in the face to the tribal membership," and he said that Fire Thunder had "engaged in unauthorized political activity."

Fire Thunder argued she was speaking as a private citizen and exercising her First Amendment rights. "I'm a real strong proponent of health care," she said."

You can read the rest of the article here:

The Rapid City Journal
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Navajo councilwoman challenges Congress over relocation bill

I am watching this with some excitement. My grandmother's family is from the Big Mountain area and my husband Joe and I Sundanced there in support of the Big Mountain resistors right to remain on the land and prevent coal stripmining of the area and the use of some of the last drinking water in the Southwest for transporting the coal.

This councilwoman is the daughter of a former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald. He is a relative of my grandmother's and was sent to prison for taking kickbacks. Others contend that it was his desire to demand proper payment for energy resources and to end mineral rights giveaways by the BIA to corporations that led to his targeting by the U.S. government. Probably, a little of both.

ICT [2006/07/10] Navajo councilwoman challenges Congress over relocation bill>
"TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Speaking out against the Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act of 2005, known also as Senate Bill 1003, Navajo councilman Hope MacDonald-LoneTree said the U.S. government is treating Navajos the same way Iraqi are treated, with disregard to rebuilding nations that have been devastated.
''The job ahead is bigger than trying to rebuild Iraq after bombing the entire infrastructure and disrupting their way of life. The federal government cannot just walk off and complain about the amount of federal monies expended,'' said LoneTree, Navajo council delegate for Tuba City and daughter of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald.
''Money can be recouped, but lives lost and ruination of lives is far more devastating and morally wrong and cannot be recouped. The government needs to apologize and fix the mess they created,'' LoneTree told Indian Country Today. She said a study is necessary to determine exactly where funds should and need to go.
Sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the bill would bring about the closure of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation.
Even after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, LoneTree said, residents were given the opportunity of a study to determine the damages and needs.
Further, she said U.S. congressmen should visit Navajo families in the affected area and see what misery Navajos have been forced to live with.
''I can't imagine anyone who would be so heartless to sponsor such a bill and yet not visit these areas and people to see the devastation they have endured for years. As well, those who are supporting this bill are not willing to have a study done to show the negative affects on the region and people. Even after Hiroshima, a study was made to avoid similar human tragedy.''
LoneTree said congressmen have dealt recklessly with the lives of people about whom they know little or nothing.
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Fire Thunder reinstated

Finally, some good news from the Oglala Sioux Nation. Now, if we can just get the anti-abortion law struck down and the threat of banishment for women and those who seek to help them obtain an abortion.

ICT [2006/07/18] Fire Thunder reinstated

PINE RIDGE, S.D. - Oglala Sioux Tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder was reinstated as tribal president by Oglala Sioux Tribal Judge Lisa Adams on July 17.

Fire Thunder filed a complaint in tribal court asking for an injunction against the tribal council for removing her from office, as she argues, illegally. She asked that she be reinstated until such time as a formal and lawful impeachment can be brought against her.

The tribal council impeached Fire Thunder from her presidency on June 29 after a hearing that Fire Thunder said violated her civil rights.

Tribal council members who voted against Fire Thunder claimed the justification for her removal was centered on a proposed women's health clinic that her detractors claim was an abortion clinic.

In the complaint Fire Thunder stated that her civil rights were violated because she was not given an evidence from the council so she could prepare her case, that she was not allowed an attorney and that the council vote was improper and not according to the constitution. She stated in her complaint that a two-thirds majority of the council, not of the quorum was needed to remove her. The council impeached her on a nine to four vote with 13 council members recorded as present. The council has 18 members, which Fire Thunder claims requires that 12 votes are needed to meet the two-thirds vote requirement.

She also claims that the council removed her from office on June 29 and a complaint, as is required by the tribal constitution, was not filed until three days later. The complaint, according to tribal law is required to be filed first.

The complaint also stated: ''That your Plaintiff's removal was allegedly based upon her actions as a private person and not as an elected President in violation of the OST Constitution.

''That your Plaintiff's removal from office was purportedly based upon her expression of free speech on a issue that she had the right to express her opinion on under the Indian Civil Rights Act and the OST Constitution and insofar as her removal was based upon her exercise of free speech it was unconstitutional and in violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act.

Councilmen Will Peters and Garfield Steele, who filed the original complaint against Fire Thunder, argued that the tribal council should have been informed of Fire Thunder's decision to start a women's clinic and that she needed council approval to do so.

A formal hearing on the complaint is schedule in tribal court for July 28.
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Killing a nation, one airstrike at a time

Here is an article from on the continued bombing of Lebanon.

Killing a nation, one airstrike at a time | Salon News: "July 20, 2006 | BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The war finally hit home for the Francophile Christians of East Beirut when they ran out of baguettes. It was at about the same time the first Israeli airstrikes hit the nearby upscale neighborhood of Ashrafiyah, as Israeli jet fighters put an end to a stationary well-digging truck they confused for a Hezbollah rocket launcher operating from one of the most far-right-wing, anti-Muslim neighborhoods this side of Provo, Utah.
'No baguettes until [someone] implements 1559,' says Habib, my Christian grocer, who has a mangled left eye from his days as a gunman for a Phalange militia fighting alongside the Israelis against the Palestinians and other Muslim militias in Lebanon's brutal civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990 and whose epilogue continues sadly today.
He's talking about the United Nations resolution that calls for Syria to militarily depart from Lebanon (done) and the disarming of both Hezbollah and a slew of armed factions in the Palestinian refugee community (currently under way via laser-guided airstrikes).
'Now we must let [the Israelis] end Hezbollah,' he continues. 'They have started it and destroyed Lebanon. It has been cruel of them to do this, but it cannot be wasted. At least we can see them disarmed and then maybe there will be peace.'

Early on, most Lebanese agreed that Hezbollah's operation to enter Israel and kidnap two Israeli soldiers was foolish and would draw a tough military response from the Israeli Defense Forces. Even Lebanese sympathetic to the group's aims admitted that it was an act of war (they denied that it was a terrorist act), but said that they hoped Israel would negotiate a release of the Hezbollah prisoners who have been held for years without trials in Guant�namo-style Israeli jails, a harsh legacy of Israel and its proxies' 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. Nobody, except perhaps Hezbollah's top leadership, wanted a broad war couched in religious imagery. And even Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah was probably surprised at the ferocity of the Israeli attack.

The Israelis, and their backer the United States, have seized upon the border operation as a golden opportunity to savagely punish Hezbollah -- and much of Lebanon, while they're at it -- by air. Perhaps remembering it couldn't get the job done in 18 years of face-to-face fighting for control of south Lebanon, Israel has backed down from its earlier demand that Hezbollah be destroyed and disarmed and now seems to be settling for weakening Hezbollah, winning the return of its soldiers and establishing a security zone that will keep Hezbollah's rockets out of range of its border towns and cities.

But even as the Israelis have slightly softened their position, they have continued to smash not just Hezbollah, but Lebanon itself. An Israeli official promised to set the country back 20 years after the Hezbollah attack, and Israel is keeping its word. With the U.S. granting Israel another week to continue its attacks, anything that might conceivably be a Hezbollah asset, and many things that are not, are being bombed. Civilians, who are inevitably going to be killed by aerial bombardment, no matter how accurate, are deemed acceptable collateral damage. There are constant airstrikes against Hezbollah neighborhoods and military positions, Lebanese infrastructure (at least what remains of it) and occasionally against the Lebanese military, which is trying to stay out of the fight as much as possible but which Israel holds responsible for helping Hezbollah, including supposedly helping with a missile strike that severely damaged an Israeli destroyer. On Tuesday, Israeli planes struck a Lebanese army barracks in Kfar Chima near Beirut, killing 11 soldiers. They hit it because they had spotted Hezbollah forces transporting a two-stage missile nearby and were angry the Lebanese army had ignored a giant missile that could hit Tel Aviv being towed 200 meters outside its front gate.

Wednesday was Lebanon's bloodiest day yet. Israeli attacks killed 61 people, all but one of them civilians. Two hundred and ninety-seven Lebanese, all but a handful of them civilians, have been killed by Israeli bombs. Twenty-nine Israelis, most of them also civilians, have died."
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Israelis See Their Own Nation As "Neighborhood Bully"

This is an interesting Israeli take on the present war boiling between Israel and Lebanon by Ira Chernus a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of the forthcoming book, "Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror And Sin: Books: Ira Chernus" and "American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea".

"You can see Lebanon from my sister’s backyard. She and her family and thousands of others in northern Israel live with a constant roar of gunfire -- mostly from Israeli cannons aiming to kill Lebanese, occasionally from a Hezbollah shell that might land on them.

But the real threat to Israel doesn’t come from Lebanese rockets. The real threat comes from the Israelis themselves -- and the rest of the world -- forgetting how and why this war started.

Israel does not go to war just to retrieve kidnapped soldiers. In the past, it has been ready to ransom them by returning Palestinian and Lebanese captives that it holds, just as the kidnappers ask. So why war now? For answers I’ve turned to Jewish writers in Israel’s top newspaper, Ha’aretz.

Last month the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, agreed to form a united government and offer Israel a plan for permanent peace. A Ha’aretz columnist observed at the time that the peace offer “should have sparked a wave of positive reactions from Jerusalem … But Jerusalem's ear as usual is blocked to any sound that might advance the peace process.” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert still insists on his unilateral “convergence” plan, which is merely “a plan to perpetuate the occupation, only under conditions more convenient for Israel. Moreover, at the end of the plan, if it is ever executed, even more settlers will live in the occupied territories than live there now.”

For the Israeli government, another Ha’aretz columnist wrote, “it is best that the Palestinians remain extremists because then no one will ask the government of Israel to negotiate with them. How do we ensure that the Palestinians remain radical? We simply strike at them, over and over.” So Israel responded to the Palestinian offer of negotiated peace with an allout assault on Gaza. That’s how and why it all began."

For more go to the Common Dreams link below:
Israelis See Their Own Nation As "Neighborhood Bully"
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