According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), “As of 1988 the federal government recognized and acknowledged that it had a special relationship with, and a trust responsibility for, 307 federally recognized Indian entities in the continental U.S., plus some 200 tribal entities in Alaska.”
After centuries of persecution, ranging from genocide to racism, one would hardly expect the one and one half million American Indians to be relieved at the BIA statement. The following examples of how we still treat our Native American population could explain why they should be more cynical than relieved:
* American Indian Leonard Peltier, America’s internationally recognized political prisoner, remains in Leavenworth prison despite a “West 57th Street” segment which revealed how the FBI and the U.S. judicial system conspired to convict Peltier by falsifying evidence from the defense. Peltier was a “censored” nomination in 1985 & 1986.
* “Save a walleye, spear a pregnant squaw!” was the rallying cry last spring for hundreds of angry whites in northern Wisconsin as they confronted a small number of Chippewas who sought to exercise a federally protected right to spearfsh walleyed pike.
* A Supreme Court decision held that the First Amendment does not prohibit the federal government from permitting timber harvesting in, or constructing a road through, 25 square miles of Six Rivers National Forest traditionally used for religious purposes by ` Yurok, Karok, and Tolowa Indians of northwestern California.
* On June 30, 1989, A California Municipal Court Judge refused Eddie Hatcher, a Tuscarora Indian, a stay of his extradition to Robeson County in North Carolina where he took over a newspaper office to draw attention to the appalling conditions of lawlessness, corruption, drug trafficking and racial discrimination and violence against Indians and Blacks. He has ample reason to fear for his freedom and life in Robeson County where Indians are jailed at a rate three times that of whites and convicted at the rate of 94% and, he’s been told, the local authorities are out “to get him.”
* After more than a decade spent protesting his innocence, Patrick Hooty Croy, a Shasta/Karuk Indian in northern California, was granted a change of venue, by the California Supreme Court due in part to community racism, and finally a new trial.
* The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, on the St. Lawrence River near Massena, New York, has been defiled by chemical garbage from General Motors, Reynolds Metal, and other corporate polluters.
* Finally, Indians and non-Indians alike feel that the personal growth movement is increasingly exploiting sacred American Indian spiritual practices and shamanism for profit. Some angry Indians liken the distortion and exploitation of their beliefs to the genocide and appropriation of land and resources of the past.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TANYA GUMP
SOURCE: TREATY COUNCIL NEWS 710 Clayton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, DATE: August 1989
TITLE: “LEONARD PELTIER’S CASE”
SOURCE: THE NATION 72 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011, DATE: 6/19/89
TITLE: “SPEARING FISH, PLAYING ‘CHICKEN”‘
AUTHOR: JIM OBERLY
55 West Oak Ridge Drive Hagertown, MD 21740, DATE: March/April 1989
TITLE: “COURT BURIES INDIAN RIGHTS”
AUTHOR: ROBERT W. NIXON
SOURCE: UTNE READER 1624 Harmon Place Minneapolis, MN 55403, DATE: July/August 1989
TITLE: “SHARMANS OR CHARLATANS?”
AUTHOR: MORDECAI SPECKTOR
COMMENTS: A resurgence of racism directed at the nation’s native American population is beginning to be reported in alternative publications such as those cited above but has not yet caught the attention of our mainstream media. Another aspect to the issue was provided by Mordecai Specktor, who wrote about the exploitation of American Indian spiritual practices. He said his article generated more controversy than anything he’d ever written. “It seemed to mine a vein of bad conscience among non-Indians who are looking for a spiritual path and believe they have the right to trifle with traditions from another culture. Like earlier generations of imperialists who came to this land and murdered its inhabitants and exploited its resources, today’s spiritual imperialists are trampling on the ceremonies and sacraments that Indians have preserved.”